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PICKLED ONIONS AND RED SQUIRRELS

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We were always intent upon seeing a red squirrel

“Woman chokes to death on pickled onion”, screamed the headlines of the local newspaper. Another headline, further down the page, caught my eye – “Temperatures to hit 80 degrees – hotter than the Canary Islands”. Some things never change; I remembered the local newspaper as always being very good on headlines, but rather weaker on actual news.

Still, I did feel sorry for the pickled onion lady and her family, as well as reflecting on whether she would have survived if it had been a pickled egg.

I had just returned for a rare, but brief visit to my UK home town of Bournemouth for a book event. It’s not that I don’t like the UK; on the contrary I am still very fond of the country, it’s just that I am much happier living in the Canary Islands. I hoped that I had brought enough warm clothing with me. I needn’t have worried; the weather was perfect and allowed me to indulge in visits to places that I loved.

My first visit was to Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, during the next glorious sunny day. I had fallen in love with this special place as a child, and continued to visit the island each year for many years during my days as a teacher, with parties of chattering school children. We were always intent upon seeing a red squirrel, but in those days, no self respecting red squirrel would dream of making itself known to 60 children under the age of eleven, clutching a worksheet and asking when they could stop for a drink or the toilet during our walk across the island. This time, as I sat in the tearoom indulging in a Dorset cream tea, I actually spotted two baby red squirrels playing together on the lawn in front of me. It was a sight that I had waited to see for many years.

As I sat watching the scene in front of me unfold, I began to reflect upon another island – the island that has been my home for the last ten years or so, Gran Canaria, one of the seven main Canary Islands. Even after a day or two, I had already begun to long for home as I was once again feeling that the UK had become a ‘foreign country’ to me. The currency was unfamiliar, I was now driving on the ‘wrong side of the road’, and the town seemed busier and more frenetic than I previously remembered. Some of my favourite shops had closed, there were new roads, and all the shop assistants seemed to be from another country. Traditional, grubby buses that had once ploughed infrequently through the town’s streets had disappeared, replaced by smart, clean, colourful buses, with an unfamiliar name, which appeared every few minutes or so.

All too soon my brief visit to the UK was concluded, and I bought a selection of the usual expat treats that we cannot get at home. Sadly, I was flying with my least favourite airline; I had little choice at the time of booking, but hoped that their customer service had improved since the previous occasion. Sadly, I was wrong, and I was once again trapped in a cylinder full of people who had already drunk far too much alcohol before they boarded. Vodka and coke were spilt on seats with generous abandon, with cabin crew intent upon pouring yet more liquor down the throats of their young passengers. At least the cabin crew did not indulge in a novel game of “Throw and Catch the Toilet Roll” which had so entertained the staff, as well as infuriating passengers, on the flight to Tenerife the previous week.

I settled to listen to a selection of soothing songs on my phone; I was grateful that the ear pods cut out most of the shrieking cacophony of noise from the group sitting behind me. Foolishly, I bought a sandwich from the trolley, but the steward claimed that he had no change. I handed over a note and was promised that the change “would be brought to me shortly”. I never did receive the change, despite mentioning it towards the end of the flight. I did not really expect to receive it, since the same thing had happened to me on two previous flights with this airline. I began to ponder on how much staff salaries were boosted by this little scam. I did not complain; I was just grateful to be reaching home and getting out of this tube of insanity at the earliest opportunity.

Finally, we landed. The pilot played its usual trumpet salvo to announce that we had landed, as if it was some kind of celebration that he had actually managed to hit the tarmac in the right place. I escaped as soon as I could, vowing as usual, never to travel with this airline of nightmares ever again.

Overall, it had been a good visit, but once again confirmed to me that the UK was no longer home. I had no longings and no regrets, but was just so pleased to be at home once again on our island in the sun.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ (ISBN: 9780992767136). Available as paperback, as well as on Kindle, iBooks and Google Play Books.

iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.

© Barrie Mahoney

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/44174/

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