Corona Rocks Children of the 80’s at Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife!

If you’re looking for the best party atmosphere in Tenerife, then you should definitely check out the monthly Children of the 80’s event at the Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife! This is an amazing experience for anyone who loves awesome dance, electronic and rock tunes, but is in the mood for something a bit different to today’s hits, because let’s face it you can hear current chart songs anywhere you go.

Instead you can enjoy a night of nostalgia as classic club tunes are belted out to the huge audience. Every song that is played is an instantly recognizable hit from past decades which gets everyone in the audience in the mood to party. Added to that is the awesome setting of the brand new luxurious Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife outdoor venue, with palm trees, cool lights, smoke machines, streamers and a huge stage!

It’s almost impossible not to have a great night with such a exciting venue and cool vibe. Clearly the crowd were loving the music being played by the DJs and there was a buzzing atmosphere. Things got even better when Corona, real name Olga de Souza, came onstage to perform her huge club hits!

Originally from Brazil, Olga gained huge fame after she moved to Italy and, under the stage name of Corona, released ‘Rhythm of the Night’ in 1993, the lead single of Corona’s same named album. This became a huge worldwide hit across many countries including Italy, the UK and the US and is still a classic guaranteed to get crowds moving in clubs today! Corona sung a number of her other big hits which the crowd here in Tenerife loved, including “Baby, Baby” which sounded great in this awesome venue!

Each of the brilliant Children of the 80’s monthly events is headlined by a music legend like Corona (last month was Kym Mazelle) and also includes DJ support from DJ trio ‘Dream Team Reload’ and the popular ‘Puretas Party’. As well as the singers and DJs there are also talented dancers dressed in colourful 80s clothes and huge screens with music videos for each song in the background, making this a dazzling night of entertainment that is not to be missed!

Next up is Ultra Naté on Saturday 13th May 2017 which promises to be a huge night as she has had some massive dance hits including “Show Me”, “Free”, “Desire”, “Get it Up (the Feeling)”. In 2016 she was ranked as the 12th most successful dance artist of all time!

For more details on all the upcoming Children of the 80’s events make sure to check out the website: and follow on social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.



State Visit will celebrate close royal and historic ties between the United Kingdom and Spain, says British Ambassador Simon Manley

The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, has welcomed the announcement of a State Visit to the United Kingdom from the 8th to the 10th of March 2016.

“The British government is delighted that Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain have accepted the invitation from Her Majesty The Queen,” said Mr Manley.

“This State Visit will celebrate not only the long and deep royal and historic ties between our two countries, but also our strong relationship as partners in the European Union, NATO and United Nations.  We enjoy close connections in terms of culture, trade, investment, security and defence. This is an opportunity to celebrate and deepen those links.”

This is the first State Visit by King Felipe and Queen Letizia to the UK. They will stay at Windsor Castle. The programme will be announced in due course.

The last State Visit was when King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia visited in 1986.  HM Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh returned with a State Visit to Spain in 1988.

Since then the Spanish and British royal families have paid a number of formal visits to each other’s countries. In 2002, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia attended the annual Order of the Garter Ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, including a dinner at Windsor Castle given by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

In 2011, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall paid a three-day official visit to Spain that was hosted by Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. A few weeks later Queen Sofia, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia attended the wedding in London of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

The British and Spanish Royal Families are directly related through the marriage of Alfonso XIII of Spain to Princess Victoria Eugenia, known as Ena, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, in 1906.  Victoria Eugenia is the great-grandmother of King Felipe.

Today, the United Kingdom and Spain are close partners in the EU, NATO and United Nations, among numerous international organisations; and cooperate together through the UN Security Council, of which Spain is a current member.

The two countries are also major partners in trade, worth a total of 40bn GBP in 2014, including British goods and services worth 14.6 bn GBP exported to Spain, and imports from Spain to the UK worth 26.1bn GBP.

Spanish companies have invested heavily in the UK’s open economy, including Santander, which employs more than 20,000 people in the UK; Iberdrola, which owns Scottish Power; and Ferrovial, which operates Heathrow and three other airports.

Nearly 300,000 Britons are registered as residents in Spain and 15 million visitors came from the UK last year, whilst an estimated 131,000 Spaniards are resident in the UK and two million visited in 2014.

The UK and Spain will also enjoy a major cultural connection next year, which will mark the 400th anniversary of the deaths of two of the countries’ most famous writers, William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes, who both died in April 1616.


The Beatles on Tenerife

Beatles on Tenerife

It was not until 15th October 1963 that the Daily Mirror introduced us to the word Beatlemania.

Accordingly there was no Beatlemania in evidence when three of the boys, Paul, George and Ringo, holidayed in Puerto de la Cruz between 28th April and 9th May of that same year.

In fact there was no reaction whatsoever.


That was then – but now is now and Tenerife historian Nicolas G. Lemus with a little help from his friends organised a 12 day Beatle bash to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this inconspicuous visit from three members of the group which was to become probably the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed act in the history of popular music.

The guest of honour at the opening ceremony was Klaus Voormann (below, right), one of a batch of people who can claim the title of the 5th Beatle. He had met the group during their stay in Hamburg. More importantly for this article, his father was having a villa built in La Montañeta on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz. After recording their first LP, Please Please Me, the boys needed a break and as Klaus was in Tenerife for the purpose of furnishing the villa the three Beatles thought it would be a good idea to join him.

During the opening ceremony both Klaus and Nicolas touched on the episode where the boys offered their services free of charge to perform a gig at the San Telmo Lido Night Club on the sea front. The British owner, David Gilbert, apparently refused, saying that he didn’t want a group of long haired youngsters at his exclusive venue. I spoke to David’s daughter, Melissa. She laughed. Refuse them he did – but not because of their appearance – he had no choice. This was Franco’s Spain and it would have been impossible to get the necessary permission in time, if at all. To take the risk would have been stupid. Police informers and the dreaded “work inspectors” were here, there and everywhere. The club could have been closed down.


Adrian McGrath and Klaus Voorman


We also had a guest speaker from Liverpool who is a guide on the famous Magical Mystery Tour Bus which shuttles visitors around the city pausing at birthplaces and venues, finally finishing at the Cavern Club. His name is Adrian McGrath (above, left), a lecturer with a difference – he’s fluent in Spanish, English and Scouse. The theme of his lecture was The Beatles – from Liverpool to Hamburg. But this was no ordinary lecture. Adrian added a little seasoning to his fayre which was the question – “What if”. There are many coincidences which occur during the early lives of the boys. Adrian pointed them out. Here’s an example: – What if George’s family hadn’t moved to Speke, where Paul was living, in 1950. What if George hadn’t won a place at the Liverpool Institute for Boys, which Paul was already attending, in 1954 causing them to travel on the same bus every day? They might never have met. The talk was littered with examples of synchronicity. A line from “All you need is love” – Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.

In Puerto we had our own “What if” to add. What if Paul had drowned off our notorious Martianez beach? This is a terrifying experience for anyone who’s been there and brings Stevie Smith’s poem, I’m not waving, I’m drowning, to mind. (No it wasn’t Sylvia Plath who, incidentally, had committed suicide in the previous February).

This is how Paul described the incident – I got washed out further and further away. I yelled for help but those blighters on the beach just didn’t seem to hear anything at all. Sure, it seems quite funny now, especially when I tell you that I nearly came to blows with George and Ringo when I did finally get myself back on shore. Truth is, though, I really did feel I’d had my lot out there. It’s pretty scary when you think you’re in serious danger of drowning.

One of the final acts in the celebrations occurred on a beautiful Sunday lunchtime at the Dinamico Bar, Plaza de Charco when an appreciative gathering, including some day trippers, was entertained by the Puerto de la Cruz Municipal Band playing Beatle’s hits. The band was superb. At our table there were a few moist eyes when favourites were played. Nostalgia ruled for a while but we pulled ourselves together for Hey Jude and performed our na-na’s in various keys.

Was the Beatle’s Celebration a success? Personally I thought that it could have been supported better by the ex-pat community, but the festival had not been pitched in that direction. It was a Spanish occasion and the organizers are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm. Nicolas G. Lemus, supported by the vice president of the Association of Hotels for the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Enrique Talg, has proposed to the island Government that Paul McCartney be declared an Illustrious Visitor to Tenerife.

My friend, local artist, José Desamers made the pencil on paper drawing (top) to celebrate the visit, with the Beatles leaning over the sea wall with the famous old church in the background. He acknowledges that he has included John Lennon but insists that it’s his tribute and he can do what he likes. José presented the original to Klaus Voorman.

And therein lies the rub. The Beatles didn’t visit Puerto de la Cruz, 50 years ago. They were one short.


César Manrique, The Awareness Of Landscape

Painter, sculptor, architect, and environmental crusader, Cesar Manrique is regarded as the father of modern Lanzarote but his influence touched all corners of the Canary Islands. As I learnt more about the man and his legacy at a new exhibition in Santa Cruz my mind wandered to the Parque Maritimo swimming complex a short walk across the Tenerife capital. The functional and stylish design was inspired by the great man and the park is adorned with samples of his work. I could have just as easily stretched my recall to the south of Tenerife and Plaza Cesar Manrique in Adeje and many points in between.

“Atlantic Ocean, my master, supreme and constant lesson of enthusiasm, passion, and freedom. My capacity of observation was tenacious in those summertimes.”

Observation was the key to Cesar’s work, he had a great love of his island and its people, early sketches, paintings, and photos showed locals working the vineyards, the salt pans, and the sea. The first of two floors reflected the rich colours and textures of a volcanic landscape that was born from eruptions between 1730 and 1736. Each alcove included a centre piece such as a model of the island, a video of the moving clouds, or a 3D frame of fishing nets. Where many would have seen destruction and burning, Cesar rejoiced in the creation of new shapes and rich colours left in the wake of fire and lava.

In the early 1960’s Cesar’s hunger for knowledge took him to New York and the Avant Garde movement, this phase of his work takes over on the second floor. Many of the paintings are abstract and surreal but his love of life and people still shines through. Travel added a new focus to Cesar’s life, he was determined to help Lanzarote develop sustainable tourism, years before it became a mantra for the industry. Returning home he worked closely with government to lay down basic laws and guidelines but first he made in depth studies of his island to assess traditional accommodation and to find out what new infrastructure was needed. Water supplies, communications, and even the airport featured in his plans to ensure the pieces all fitted together.

“My absolute worry was to defend the landscape and the environment, I believed habitat considered as a whole was an important factor since landscape and architecture can be perfectly integrated and adapted to the land.”

The exhibition includes sketches and plans for his building projects and there is even a recreation of one of his surreal designs, used here to link two of the display areas. Not everything Cesar created was purely functional, there is a sense of fun in much of his quirky landscape architecture. Each stage of his life and work is accompanied in the exhibition by background information and the published thoughts and teachings of Cesar Manrique in Spanish and English. The scope and diversity of the works here strike the right balance between the different mediums that Cesar worked in and give a great insight into the motivation of the man. On my visit there was a school party doing the rounds, it’s good to see his legacy carried on not only through his foundation but also in a new generation sharing his affinity with the diverse environments of the Canary Islands.

Cesar Manrique, La Conciencia del Paisaje; Espacio Cultural Caja Canarias, Plaza del Patriotismo, Santa Cruz; open Monday to Saturday 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm

Entrance €3 (free for clients of Caja Canarias, €1 residents)


Mrs Thatcher on Tenerife

Mrs Thatcher on Tenerife

On this historic day, our correspondent Ken Fisher gives an account of The Iron Lady’s visit to Tenerife shores. – Ed

On 28th December 2002, Baroness Thatcher and her husband Denis paid a visit to the English Library in Puerto de la Cruz. The Thatchers were staying in Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque in the South and were in the hands of the Guardia Civil for any journey they made, although they had a Scotland Yard protection officer accompanying them. Due to my festive season arrangements, I was unable to attend. However, in the wake of her recent passing and in the light of the subject matter of my articles, I have pieced together details of the visit from a couple of members who were present that day.

Mrs T leads them down the garden path (I can’t resist it! – Ken)

Where better to start than with the man who was the British Consul here at the time, Mr David Ward. He had been detailed to escort the famous duo whilst in Puerto and so I contacted him by email. Here is his reply:-

In December 2002, only a few months after my arrival in Tenerife as British Consul, I was to have the privilege of arranging a day for Mrs Thatcher in Puerto de la Cruz. Now in the House of Lords, Lady Thatcher had asked to meet the British community whilst she was here on holiday. The English Library and the British Games Club responded enthusiastically to this proposal and laid on receptions for the benefit of their members.

The first engagement was the Library where the scheduled time for the visit ran over by an hour or so. Lady Thatcher (in constituency mode) and her husband Denis enthusiastically worked the rooms learning about the history of the Library and its ongoing important role in the life of the community. It was only with great reluctance that a transfer was effected to the nearby Games Club premises where an equally excited and warm welcome was extended to the couple. Denis insisted on finishing his G and T and his conversation with Michael Hindley-Maggs on aerospace matters before following in Lady Thatcher’s wake! However it was the ever thoughtful Denis who later caringly recognised the signs when it was time for them to leave. His death the following year was to be a great blow to Lady Thatcher and her family.

A framed photograph commemorating the visit and a signed book can still be seen in the Library to provide fond memories to members of the Thatcher’s only visit to Tenerife.

The lady seen presenting the bouquet to Mrs Thatcher, Mrs Jane Stewart certainly has fond memories of the visit. She tells me that there were about 150 members and friends present. A buffet was laid on for all but the Thatchers gracefully refused to partake. It was rumoured that they had stopped for lunch en route, maybe at the Hotel Botanico. If this is so, her bodyguards were not invited as they tucked in merrily while their charges fraternized with the members. As she left the Library to walk to the nearby British Club, Mrs Thatcher spotted a group of members on the lawn and strolled across to acknowledge them. They gave her an appreciative cheer. Jane agrees with Mr Ward – Mrs T knew how to work a room.

This may have been Mrs Thatcher’s first visit to Tenerife but she had been to the Canary Islands before. In 1967 she was part of a Parliamentary delegation consisting of 4 M.P.s who were having a short stay in Las Palmas before travelling on to The Gambia to present the Speaker’s Chair to their newly formed Parliament. This was a common practice to show friendship from the British Government to all members of the colonies on reaching independence.

William Lucas (the father of John Lucas owner of Sitio Litre Orchid Garden) was the manager of Maritima Medway SA based in Las Palmas. He was informed of the visit and instructed to look after the party during their stay at the Hotel Reina Isabel on Sunday 24th and Monday 25th September. William, in turn, passed this on to his young daughter Rosalyn who, judging by the letters received, carried out her duties to perfection.

On her return to London, Mrs Thatcher wrote on House of Commons paper the following:-

Dear Mr Lucas and Roslyn.

Thank you for a wonderful time on the island. You have both gone to a great deal of trouble on our behalf and we have thoroughly appreciated it. I had no idea that the islands were so beautiful and we were lucky to have perfect weather.

We shall all look forward to seeing you in London and returning your hospitality.

A note addressed to the House of Commons, London SW1 will soon find us.I know that Johnny is writing to you sending the ashtrays. I just wanted to say a special thank you as I have seldom had a happier time.

Yours sincerely

Margaret H. Thatcher MP.

Note. – The ashtrays referred to were special House of Commons souvenirs, unavailable in shops.

William Lucas was an old hand when it came to entertaining ex- Prime Ministers. In 1959, when Winston Churchill visited the islands with Aristotle Onassis on the yacht Christina, Lucas was detailed to take care of arrangements. The letter he received later from Churchill’s Private Secretary was full of praise for his attention to detail. Eight years later, taking care of a future Prime Minister would have been a doddle.

Photos courtesy of The British Library


Poirot Meets the Saint on Tenerife

This month Ken is “Watching the detectives” as he uncovers how two famous crime writers found themselves on Tenerife and neither, it seems, succumbed to the island’s charms… Ed

Hotel Taoro, Puerto de la Cruz

Agatha Christie (1890 -1976)
In 2007, Puerto de la Cruz celebrated the 80th anniversary of the visit to the town of the renowned mystery writer, Agatha Christie. There was a week long programme of events including a guest appearance by Agatha Christie’s grandson, Matthew Prichard. Mr Prichard unveiled a bust in La Paz in honour of his grandmother. The La Paz area of town was chosen because she wrote a short story called ‘The Man from the Sea’ which featured the Cologan house. It was published in the collection entitled ‘The Mysterious Mr Quin”. We also now have a street, Calle Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie festival

1926 had proved to be an annus horribilis for Mrs. Christie. Following the death of her mother, her husband told her of his love for another woman which caused her to act in a strange way. In December, after abandoning her car, she disappeared for 11 days and, as a result, received a bad press. To escape from this stressful situation, in February 1927, Agatha, accompanied by her daughter Rosalind and secretary Charlotte Fisher arrived in Tenerife.

She stayed for a week in the Hotel Taoro but suddenly upped sticks and left

The explanation appeared in her autobiography written in 1973:

Orotava was lovely. The big mountain towered up; there were glorious flowers in the hotel grounds – but two things about it were wrong. After a lovely early morning, mists and fog came down from the mountain at noon, and the rest of the day was grey. Sometimes it even rained. And the bathing, to keen bathers, was terrible. You lay on a sloping volcanic beach, on your face, and you dug your fingers in and let waves come up and cover you. But you had to be careful they did not cover you too much. Masses of people have been drowned there. It was impossible to get into the sea and swim; that could only be done by one or two of the very strongest swimmers, and even one of those had been drowned the year before. So after a week we changed, and moved to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria.

Puerto still cannot control its weather but the César Manrique designed swimming pools and the Playa Jardin Beach have taken care of her second objection. It’s many years now since “masses of people” have drowned – if they ever did.

Agatha Christie, Mystery of Blue Train

Nevertheless, during her visit, the author finished her novel, ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train”. This was the turning point in her literary life. She made a decision – “I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing and aren’t writing particularly well. I have always hated ‘the Blue Train”.”

Agatha, sorry you were down in the dumps when you were here, but we still love you and will continue to honour your visit to our wonderful island.

Leslie Charteris ( 1907 – 1993)
Leslie Charteris also had his problems. He was born in Singapore of a Chinese father and English mother. Educated in England he had written his first published novel by the time he was 21. He moved to the USA in 1932 but was disqualified from permanent residence due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law which prohibited immigration for persons of “50% or greater” Oriental blood. So, every six months he had to renew his visa which may account for him spending the winter of 1935/36 in Tenerife researching for one of his Simon Templar novels…

The Saint, Simon Templar

What a busy time he had. No time to moan and groan. He was staying at the Orotava Hotel, in Santa Cruz and one day he came across the memoirs of the recently retired bullfighter Juan Belmonte, who had just had his autobiography ghosted. It was called ‘Juan Belmonte, matador de toros: su vida y sus hazañas” (Juan Belmonte, killer of bulls: his life and deeds). According to Charteris, he bought the English language rights and translated it immediately. The Orotava Hotel had a flat roof which he rented as a private sun deck to complete his translation. The man had style. His book was published in 1937.
In addition to this he seemed to have some fun with a certain General Franco. Here’s what he has to say about this:

He (Franco) was in exile there, plotting with his buddies, and more than once I had drinks with them in one of the waterfront cafés, which was run by a large German with a swastika in his buttonhole, who when he got loaded would proclaim loudly how Germany was going to rule the world. There were a lot of Germans with swastikas working there at the time, and the head waiter at my hotel, also a German, told me that they gave him a hard time because he wasn’t a Nazi. Franco didn’t let me in on his plans, but I thought that he was not a very bright character, and I was really surprised when he started his civil war. This shows you how sharp I am at picking winners…

Well, we know that two parts of the statement are correct – he was staying there when Franco was first exiled to Tenerife and he spoke Spanish fluently.
As for the rest, it will be great fun searching for the German bar owner with his swastika buttonhole.

It does seem to be quite a tall story but then again after he left Tenerife, Charteris claimed to have flown on the maiden flight of the Hindenburg passenger airship to New York in May of the same year. A check on the passenger list confirms this. He was 28 years old and his wife, who accompanied him, 24. At this early age he had written 18 Simon Templar Books. The 19th featuring Tenerife he called Thieves Picnic which was changed to The Saint bids Diamonds.

We’ll leave the final word to the man himself.

“My personal impressions of Tenerife as it was at the time, not very flattering, are all in the book”

He must have had a touch of the Agathas.

Quotes are from ‘the Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film, and Television” by Burt Barer


The British Match That Ignited The Spanish Civil War

As the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, continues to rake in revenue in US and UK box offices, Ken turns his Shifting Sands gaze to the real world of international espionage. Alerted to the story when reading John Reid Young’s ‘The Skipping Verger And Other Tales‘, Ken’s curiosity was piqued and he delved deeper to uncover an uneasy truth about how Franco managed to leave his base on Tenerife to lead the Spanish Civil War without alerting the authorities. ED

Did the British MI6 assist Franco to escape from Tenerife and lead the rebellion which led to the Spanish Civil War or was the General spirited away from the Canary Islands by right wing Catholic sympathisers? The research is hampered by many a smokescreen but here are the hard facts of British involvement as I see them.


General Francisco Franco was not made the Military Governor of the Canary Islands in March 1936 without reason. He was a thorn in the flesh of the newly elected republican government in Madrid. So some bright spark thought of sending him out of harm’s way to the far flung Canary Islands. Franco chose Tenerife as his headquarters. He spent the next few months, if not dodging bullets, at least wary of assassination. In the meantime the anarchists and communists of the republican movement had turned against the Catholic Church and acts of vandalism against the churches were increasing throughout Spain.

Over lunch at Simpsons-in-the-Strand in Piccadilly, Douglas Jerrold, the Conservative Roman Catholic editor of the English Review met with a fellow journalist, Luis Bolín, London correspondent of the monarchist ABC newspaper of Madrid. They were hatching a daring plot. Speed was of the essence.
Jerrold knew of just the man to carry this out.

Major Hugh Pollard had retired from the army and was living a quiet life in the English countryside writing books and employed by the Country Life magazine as sports editor. He and Jerrold were old friends and both men belonged to well established Catholic families. Jerrold spoke of the plan.

He told Pollard that they were looking for someone to take charge of a small plane which was to land in the Canary Islands. The plane would then be used by General Franco to fly to Spanish Morocco. The mission would have to be top secret. The flight would be registered as a pleasure trip and to add some credence to this, Jerrold suggested that a couple of girls should join the party.

Jerrold and Bolin had already organised the plane, a DH-89 Dragon Rapide chartered to the British company Olley Air Service at Croydon Airport. The pilot was to be Captain Cecil Bebb.

Pollard had to move quickly. Surprisingly he engaged the services of his 19 year old daughter, Diana, and a friend Dorothy Watson to act as his fellow joy-riders.

The plane took off from Croydon airport, near London on July 11th 1936. Pleasure trip? It was less than 10 years since Lindbergh had flown the Atlantic.


In order to avoid Spanish air space they flew by way of Biarritz, Oporto, Lisbon and Casablanca. The last hop was from Cape Juby to Gran Canaria.

Pollard and the girls caught the ferry to Tenerife and booked into the Hotel Pino de Oro. Pollard had been given a password in order to convince Franco of their authenticity and was instructed to proceed to the Clinica Costa in Santa Cruz and ask for Dr. Gabarda. The password was Galicia saluda a Francia (Galicia greets France). Gabarda paid no attention, possibly because Pollard pronounced this badly. However, the password written down, according to Bolin, was Galicia saluda a Franco (Galicia greets Franco) which makes much more sense as Franco was born in Galicia. Pollard told a reporter three years later that, when he gave the password, Gabarda looked scared to death. No wonder – he’d been confronted with an incorrect password. Pollard was told to return to the hotel and wait until he was contacted.

This happened almost immediately and Pollard confirmed to Captain Bebb he was to take the new passengers on to Tetuan in Spanish Morocco

To maintain a semblance of normality, just before he left Tenerife, Franco played golf with Mrs Moore, the wife of the director of Fyffes.

Franco made his escape. He took over the Spanish Army of Africa which heralded the start of the Spanish Civil War.

Hugh Pollard was an experienced member of the British secret services being a firearms expert who had served in wars and revolutions in Ireland, Mexico and Morocco, sometimes posing as a journalist. He spoke Spanish fluently. His comical lack of the command of the language must have been part of the act.
Luis Bolin described Pollard in his memoir of the venture as a bluff officer type who spoke no Spanish.

Pollard’s friend Douglas Jerrold was also a leading figure in MI6. Had the plot failed especially in these tempestuous times, Pollard and company would probably have been shot. The Catholic connection would have been too brittle to escape death, but it served to deceive their co-plotters ““ the Spanish monarchists.
But why on earth did this man include his daughter in such a dangerous mission? My only guess is that she had joined the service.

I can find no record of how they returned to Britain.

Captain Cecil Bebb also came across as being a simple adventurer. He lived to be 97 and in a television interview in 1983 declared that he had been “approached by a gentleman from Spain, who asked me if I was prepared to go to the Canary Islands to get a Riff leader who was to start an insurrection in Spanish Morocco. I thought what a delightful idea, what a great adventure.” Who are you kidding, Captain Bebb?
Both Pollard and Bebb were awarded medals by Franco at the end of the Civil War.


If Ken’s account has now piqued your interest, you can read the full story of how the whole dastardly deed was orchestrated in Peter Day’s revelatory account, ‘Franco’s Friends‘. ED

Dragon Rapide image courtsey of Arpingstone; Dragon Rapide poster courtesy of TVE


A Remarkable Family on Tenerife

This month Ken takes his Shifting Sands on a journey that relates how one remarkable family have woven themselves into the very fabric of Tenerife society, giving their time, energy and unrivalled knowledge of their adopted home to preserve its precious heritage. From the enduring enigma of Tenerife’s pyramids to the mysterious case of the camel bones, Ken introduces us to the Baillon family. Ed

Austin Baillon passed away on May 23rd 2012 at the age of 92. He is sadly missed by all who came into contact with him.

Casa Aduana, Custom House, Puerto de la Cruz

When Austin retired to the town of his birth in 1975, he set about collecting everything he could about the local history. He was a fount of knowledge for all the young historians and reporters who asked for his help. His door was also open to visitors from overseas in their various quests. Austin and Julia, his wife, rescued the old Customs House in Puerto de la Cruz from its dilapidated state and made it their home. His book Misters: britanicos en Tenerife is a pictorial masterpiece of life in the Orotava Valley at the beginning of the 20th century. However, Austin wasn’t the only member of the family to lend a helping hand to visitors and friends.

It all began when Alexander Baillon, Austin’s father, was the manager of Fyffes banana plantation in southern Tenerife at Hoya Grande. During the summer of 1915 he was visited by Dr. Earnest Hooton, an anthropologist, who had been sent by the Peabody Museum of Cambridge, USA to collect and bring back some Guanche remains. Hooton headed for the many unexplored caves in the south west of the island and, after being transported there by the Fyffe’s steamer, had the added good fortune of meeting Baillon

Alexander organized expeditions in the hills between Adeje and Guia de Isora in search of caves, most of which were difficult to reach. Employing the local men, who Baillon called “the chamois“, they soon collected all the samples which were necessary. These were boxed, labelled and prepared for shipment to the U.S.A.


Then disaster struck when the Governor rescinded the permission to Hooton to export the samples. He was reacting to protests in the press. Hooton was disconsolate. Baillon promised to help him. A sergeant of the Civil Guard arrived at the Fyffe headquarters with orders to confiscate everything. However, the sergeant’s heart softened (I’ll leave the reader to guess why) and he suggested to them to package all the bones that were surplus to requirements. He would then deliver them back to headquarters. Unfortunately, this deal fell through when both Hooton and Baillon refused to sign a sworn declaration declaring that the boxes delivered amounted to the complete stock. Hooton returned to America bone-less to tell his superiors that he’d failed. Baillon was ordered to deliver the boxes to the Town Hall in Adeje which he did.

Here the story takes a twist. The Secretary of the Town Hall was an ex-employee of Fyffes and very friendly with Baillon. The two hatched a plan. A few days later, in the dead of night, an identical number of boxes were delivered to the Town Hall, deposited there and the originals were returned immediately by the same means of transport. Baillon quickly shipped these to the Peabody Museum. There were no repercussions, ever. Alexander later explained that the replacement boxes contained bones of camels, donkeys and horses. In 1925, Hooton published, The Ancient Inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the book that established his glittering career in the field of physical anthropology.

Austin and Julia’s son, Andrew, continued the family tradition.
Gordon Kennedy is an organic farmer in California. He is also one of the foremost experts on the pre-Hispanic history of the Canary Islands and has collected a massive archive on all things written about the Guanches, the extinct indigenous race who were finally conquered by the Spanish in 1496.
Imagine his excitement when in March 1990 he read in a newspaper printed in Tenerife in English an article entitled “Pyramids in the South: The Mysterious Terraces of Chacona“. There were photos of stepped pyramid structures together with the declared opinion that these were of Guanche origin. Gordon needed to make contact and wrote 2 letters ““ one to the newspaper and one to the author through the newspaper. Neither received a response.

In a later issue Gordon was attracted to a headline – “Andrew Baillon makes sure the King of Rock is not forgotten“.
So Andrew was an Elvis fan too. Acting on impulse Gordon wrote a letter to Andrew saying that he needed photos of the pyramids situated in Guimar and in return promised to ship Andrew a parcel of Elvis memorabilia. The letter was addressed simply to Andrew Baillon, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife and sent more in hope than anticipation.
Gordon had no idea that the recipient was a member of one of the best known families in the north of Tenerife. Naturally, the letter was delivered.



In January 1991 Kennedy received a packet of photographs as requested. Gordon duly sent on the Elvis memorabilia to Andrew.
Gordon Kennedy when told of Austin’s death wrote, “They were a remarkable family”. They still are. Julia allowed me to read the unpublished memoirs of Alexander Baillon for this story.

Gordon has written a superb book on the Guanches called The White Indians of Nivaria

The above image of Andrew Baillon standing on top of the Chacona pyramid pre-dates Thor Heyerdahl’s connection with the Güímar pyramids and is one of the photographs in Gordon Kennedy’s collection .


Tenerife’s Golden Age of Cabaret

I’m so excited that my moving finger keeps hitting the wrong keys. Following up my mention of Go Pontinental in the last article, I was pointed in the direction of Eastenders star Polly Perkins and sent an email to her via her filter system – her son Tim Arnold. I asked Polly if she remembered her cabaret days in TenBel and her reply, almost by return, was an explosion of joy. So much so that here it is in full.

Polly Perkins

Hi Ken I hope this finds you well. I did cabaret for Fred Pontin through his booking agent Bridie Reid in the70s and 80s. Christmas in Tenerife was great. There were really excellent musicians in all the Pontins resorts – a definite plus and I always took my two sons along who also loved their holidays at Pontins in Torremolinos, Estepona, Greece, Morocco and Sardinia. Everything ran smoothly offstage and on – the bluecoats were hardworking and fun for the kids. The entertainment managers really knew their job. Mel Williams on the Costa del Sol and of course Shane Ritchie both top class entertainers. It was always live shows, top class entertainers and musicians – no backing tracks or miming!!! Possibly the last bastion of variety before the hype of the X factor type show.
Good performers, big names or simply first class acts. I loved it. What could be better than singing to an audience of happy holidaymakers in the sun? The food and facilities were pretty good too. A stint doing a Pontinental gig set me up for the months ahead. I even turned down a TV show and a pantomime rather than cancel my Pontinental season!!!!! Kind Regards Polly x


Polly Perkins

The first impression we get is that Pontinental was a massive operation and fun to work for. We also have to remember that for thousands of visitors this was their first trip abroad thanks to the new cheap charter flights. Fred’s whole idea was Blackpool with sun for £50. The Bingo stays in.

The second is Polly’s devotion to her sons which continues to this day and is returned in spades ““ I know.

I wondered what Polly had done between Cabaret and Eastenders and discovered that she’d starred in the ill-fated BBC series Eldorado as – oh no ““ a washed up cabaret singer.

Stars and Garter, Tenerife

Whilst Polly was wowing the happy punters in the South, I had a hefty share in a night club called the Stars and Garter in the Edificio Belair, Puerto de la Cruz. It was a non-profit making concern due to reasons too painful to mention. However, during its short existence we had a lot of fun.

Lennie Peters, of Peters and Lee fame, appeared there in April 1982, and filled the club nightly. I had arranged this gig personally but we needed continuity and after a brief interlude hired a booking agent in the UK. Lord luv us! I don’t know where he found them. But the disasters were not one sided.

Ricky Valance (Tell Laura I Love Her) came to do a week’s stint. One night he was late for his spot and we sent a waiter to look for him. Ricky was found stuck in the lift of the Belair – a quivering wreck (both the lift and Ricky). But he was a trouper and, a couple of slugs of cognac later, Ricky appeared on stage asking us to pass the message on to Laura; and no one was any the wiser. There was a loud cheer from the staff as he completed his hit tune.

“But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck
With his dying breath they heard him say
Tell Laura I love her tell Laura I need her
Tell Laura not to cry my love for her will never die

His hair turned white round about this time. Fair play to him though ““ he’s still going.

Talking of troupers, Polly worked at Battersea Funfair when she was 14 and at 15 became the youngest nude to appear at the Windmill, Still in her teens she was the first presenter of the cult TV show Ready, Steady Go. I have it on record that she taught the aforesaid Ricky Valance a dance routine to use in his act. She drew the short straw there.


Polly and I talked on the phone recently about the early days at Battersea. “I miss the hungry years,” I said, quoting from the song of the same title; “I don’t!” she replied adamantly. We both laughed.

Catch up with her at Polly Perkins

Credits: Above image of Rose Cotton © BBC EastEnders 2011/2012. Grateful thanks to Polly and her family for the use of their wonderful photos. Thanks too to Trevor Jones for the Stars & Garter image.


Shifting Sands, The London Boys

Whenever I tell someone how long I’ve lived on the island the usual reaction is ““ “Wow, I bet you’ve seen some changes!” Well ““ yes and no. Changes are much more apparent when you leave for a spell and then return. But memories can be recalled and you can surprise even yourself when you explore the shifting sands of time. Ken

This month’s Celebrities Corner features two London boys who left their footprints on Tenerife.


Tom Keating (1917 ““ 1984)

Whilst we lotus eaters in the north were living the dream, Lewisham born Tom Keating was slaving away at the easel in his villa in the southern village of Vilaflor (above) happily churning out Samuel Palmer pastiches. These were being delivered to London galleries and auction houses by his girl friend at an alarming rate. She provided the provenances simply by re-inventing her family history.

Palmer (1805 -1881) painted 80 landscapes of Shoreham, Kent. Keating painted 80 more. In 1972 there were 14 Palmers circulating in London. This raised eyebrows and questions. Fraud was suggested.

By the time Keating had been uncovered as the perpetrator in 1976, he and his girl friend had already split up and Keating was back in England.

Tom Keating was not sent to jail. His girl friend, Jane Kelly, died tragically young and you can follow the full story by reading Matthew Sweet’s article for the Independent, The Faker’s Moll.

Keating wrote a best selling autobiography called “The Fake’s Progress” According to his friends he didn’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

Many years ago I made a half-hearted attempt to trace Keating. The idea was to uncover one of his “Sexton Blakes” as he called his forgeries, hanging in a bar in Vilaflor, the highest village in Spain. Late in the day I found that he drank in El Médano on the coast. By then I was tired and fed up. Maybe I’ll try again soon.

Fred Pontin (1906 -2000)

Fred Pontin in Tenerife

Fred Pontin was proud of being a cockney. He told me so.

In the 1960s Pontin decided to expand his holiday business to sunny Europe to meet the challenge of the package holidays. The enterprise advised holidaymakers to “Go Pontinental”.

By the 1970s he was keen to expand Pontinental, so in 1972 Pontins acquired 6 new sites through the purchase of a Belgian holiday club. One of these was Tenbel at Costa del Silencio in the south. Get it? Ten”“Bel, Tenerife-Belgium. You could now ‘Go Pontinental’ to Tenerife.

By all reports this was not a great success but it’s difficult to find folks who stayed there. However, Fred was a great gambler in business and, as he had won the Grand National with his horse Specify the previous year, he must have felt his luck was in.

His other venture into Tenerife was in Puerto de la Cruz in 1977 when he introduced solar heating panels. The party took place on the lawn of Ray Baillon’s house in the Taoro Park. The installation was called Pontin’s Sunsoaker. I think the sun sank on that one.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and John Lucas asked me to greet Sir Fred and Lady Pontin in the Orchid Garden as he had been delayed in La Palma. Sir Fred was wheelchair bound but he and his wife, Joyce, were full of fun and enjoying themselves.

We immediately got on so well that I plucked up the courage to ask him if there’s any truth that during a Pontin’s reunion when a medical research charity were presented with a sizeable cheque, the recipient on behalf of the charity said in front of a couple of thousand Pontin’s campers ““ “I’d like to thank Mr Butlin”¦”¦”¦”
“Right”, said Fred (good name for a song).
Sir Fred also wrote an autobiography entitled “Thumbs Up” which was his gimmick on the Pontin’s TV advertisements and repeated in our photo (above). He died later in the year and was a lovely man.