I am often asked why I love the Canary Islands, and Gran Canaria, in particular, so much and what prompted me to make this small Atlantic island our home.
Well, I could move into lyrical mode about the wonderful climate, beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain scenery, the unhurried pace of life and the friendly unassuming nature of the locals… All this is true, but the main reason for moving here is none of these, although they are all part of the cocktail that led us to start our packing and head for the islands some years ago.
For me, it was and still is, the ‘live and let live’ attitude of the locals, and most of the visitors to this island, that made this a special place, and worthy to call ‘home’. It has always been the case that most things are acceptable here, just as long as it doesn’t hurt or interfere with anyone else.
I wonder just how many of our visitors attend the ‘Welcome Meetings’ that used to be the delight of many tour companies some years ago? A cheap glass of sangria was supposed to earn oodles of euros in commission for the tour reps, but sadly I never found their sales patter that convincing. I recall one tour representative begging us not to take the local bus to Puerto Mogan, because apparently the locals travel on the bus with baskets of live chickens on market days. A 20 euro coach excursion would apparently be much less pungent… All stuff and nonsense, of course, as we all know that the locals much prefer to travel with a goat.
I contrast these islands’ attitudes to Austria, for instance, where the Viennese authorities have recently banned kissing on the train, alongside eating smelly food and talking too loudly. Well, I am not sure what the good people of Austria would think of travelling on a Canarian bus, but talking, and indeed kissing, quietly is certainly not on the agenda over here. I remain convinced that Spanish and Canarian children are born with a volume control that is permanently glued in the ‘Exceedingly Loud’ position. Most find it impossible to speak quietly, and why should they? After all, they have many interesting things to say. In any case, the mobile phone networks are not too good over here, and so it is essential to shout loudly at all times when making a telephone call.
If you should happen to venture to Austria for a holiday, do please be aware that you are now subject to an immediate fine of 50 euros should you happen to show your affection by kissing on the train. Husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, or simply a ‘bit on the side’; it simply does not matter whether it is a quick peck on the cheek or something more passionate; you will still be relieved of a crisp 50 euro note by a very cross man in uniform.
How about a nice bag of chips on the way home, a slice of pizza or, the Canarian’s favorite snack, a sticky donut? Sorry, but if in Austria it won’t just be an immediate slap on the wrists and a fine of 50 euros, but you will be thrown off the train by a specially appointed ‘jobsworth’, locally known as sheriffs, and they have a badge to prove it.
Apparently, these draconian rules have been introduced as a result of complaints from the good citizens of Austria, as well from the results of a public survey. Mind you, they might have a point since a couple were recently discovered to be having sex on board a train; well, I guess it is more spacious than having sex in a Mini. In another highly disturbing case, one wealthy couple took their pet horse, Helga, on the train for a ride. I find this a very disturbing story, since it is common knowledge that most horses will only travel first class nowadays. Sadly, both cases were judged as being far too serious for the appointed ‘jobsworth’ to deal with, but became police matters and the culprits were thrown into prison. However, I am not too sure what happened to the horse, but maybe she is still partying in Vienna.
Well, I know it takes all sorts to make a world, but I for one will be cancelling my holiday in Austria next year. Personally, I am really looking forward to my next journey on a Canarian bus.