A New Chapter for The English Library in Puerto de la Cruz

Those are our founding fathers“, says Ken pointing to the row of three portraits looking down on us from their elevated status above the bookcases of the reading room. “Pointing them out is what we begin our school tours with, if we can keep the children quiet long enough to hear us.”

Keep them quiet? In a library? Surely that’s a given. But there’s no wall of silence here in the English Library in Puerto de la Cruz. Where you might expect covert whispers there’s a quiet buzz of conversation and where you might look for bespectacled librarians despotically maintaining strict cataloguing systems, you’ll find sections that shift wholesale to make way for the ever-expanding DVD library, and a hand written note pinned to a bookcase that reads “Humour has been moved…”.

The English Library is not simply a repository for books written in the English language. For over a century it’s been a social hub for the British ex pat community for whom it has provided a source of knowledge, reading and entertainment along with a hefty helping of socialising, support and gossip exchange.

The First Edition
The first meeting of British residents of Puerto interested in the establishment of a library is recorded in ‘the English Library, A Brief History’ as being in 1900 when a Mrs Boreham, resident of the town, decided to put her habit of allowing friends and visitors to borrow books from her extensive personal collection onto a more formal footing. Ably assisted by the Parson, Reverend Humphries and the then Vice-Consul, Mr Peter Reid, the first order of books was placed, the library was named and the terms of Constitution were laid down. The following year Colonel Owen Peel Wethered pledged a donation of up to £500 including the site for a new library building. After some controversy, the proposition was accepted and work began on the building in Parque Taoro which today still houses the English Library.

I first visited the library six years ago when I was dropping off some magazines. At the time I was astonished at the existence of such an institution which appeared to occupy some parallel universe of England in the 1940s, staffed by genteel Brits who painstakingly hand wrote every title being borrowed into large ledgers while discussing the weather with their equally genteel customers. I felt as if I’d walked onto the set of a black and white Sunday matinee.

Revisiting the English Library to meet up with Ken Fisher who, until standing down at the recent AGM, has been President of the library for the past two years, some things hadn’t changed. Books were still being entered into ledgers by hand and the staff and clientele still appeared on the genteel side but there were noticeable differences. In the main reading room the large table was occupied by several people surfing the net on laptops, the bookcases on the long wall were filled with DVDs where previously video collections of TV sitcoms from the 1970s and 1980s had taken pride of place and outside, tables and chairs were busy with coffee drinkers enjoying the beautiful garden and warm sunshine.

Is the WiFi free?” I ask Ken.
Oh yes. In fact we have a computer support workshop now run by Peter and Mike.”
I tell Ken about my last and only visit.
Well we only got a telephone installed two years ago when I got elected as President. I insisted,” he admits. Heady progress indeed.

The Latest Edition

Under Ken’s auspices, the English Library has taken a leap forward and newly elected President, Brian Arnold (above), is confident the library will continue to go in the right direction.
We’re becoming a wider thinking library,” Brian tells me. “Catering to the needs of the English speaking community and finding ways to make their lives easier. We have good links with the British Consul for example and we’re a research resource for those ex-pats who over-winter in Puerto and don’t have access to WiFi or computers.”

Brian recognises that the days of being purely a lending library are behind them and that the future is bleak for the printed word.
I believe John Lewis were selling one Kindle every 30 seconds over Christmas,” he says. “You can’t compete with that.”

Installing free WiFi and offering computer self help workshops is just one of the ways the English Library is adapting to better meet the needs of its customers. An ever growing DVD lending library is another. Unfortunately it means that the reference library is becoming less and less used but there are still some classics in there, including all volumes of the first edition Oxford English Dictionary, and the library is a valuable resource for researchers and anyone who has an interest in the history of Tenerife and of Puerto de la Cruz. They also sell novels at 50 cents and one Euro – perfect for holidaymakers who haven’t yet discovered the joys of Kindle.

Financed entirely through subscriptions and fund raising events, the English Library is run by a team of dedicated volunteers who manage not only to keep the book lending and cataloguing efficiently but also organise two coffee mornings a week (Saturdays and Wednesdays), nine or ten guest speaker events over the course of the year, a couple of hog roast garden parties and an annual dinner dance.

Finding myself engrossed in conversations with friends old and newly acquired, time slipped all too easily away at the library and I began to understand why so many people found themselves drawn to its smiling faces and familiarity. It’s like popping round to a friend’s house for coffee and a catch-up and I suspect it won’t be another six years before I return.

Epilogue
The English Library; Calle Irlanda, 5; Parque Taoro, Puerto de la Cruz; (0034) 922 383 098; open Monday & Friday 3pm-5.30pm, Wednesday & Saturday 10am-1pm. Annual membership €30, membership for those only resident for part of the year €12.
The next speaker event will be on Feb 23rd at 12 noon when guests will hear about the Churchill and Onassis visit to Puerto de la Cruz. Tickets €5 including “our world famous buffet” to quote Ken. Booking essential as all 60 places are invariably taken up.

Editor’s Note: Fresh from his revolutionising of the English Library, Ken Fisher will soon be gracing the pages of Tenerife Magazine with memories of life in Tenerife from 40 years ago. Watch this space, as they say.

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The Corpus Christi Red Carpet on Tenerife

It’s June 1936. Francisco Franco is Governor General of the Canary Islands and is in La Orotava watching the Corpus Christi procession as it passes over the floral works of art.

Well known as a dissenter, Franco has been posted to the furthest and quietest outreach of Spanish governance to keep him out of harm’s way. If only they’d known then that most powerful of idioms – keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The authorities are expecting trouble, there have been whispers of an assassination attempt and the Guardia have a heavy presence, their cars parked beneath the magnolia frontage of Casas de Los Balcones. In the event, the procession passes quietly without incident.

Fast forward 75 years and on the 30th June 2011, the alfombristas of La Orotava will unveil the 106th carpet to be constructed in the Plaza Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square). During its existence this most fragrant of Canary Islands traditions has seen some important feet passing over its cobbled streets, not least those of the Corpus Christi procession to whom it owes its existence.

Rolling out the carpet
The feast of Corpus Christi had already been celebrated for over 300 years in Tenerife, predominantly in La Laguna where the day was marked by theatre, dancing and traditional games as well as pious acts, before the first petals were ever laid in La Orotava. The honour of being the first is attributed to Leonor de Castillo Monteverde who, in 1847, thought it would be a nice idea to decorate the road outside her home for the Corpus Christi procession to walk over. So successful was Leonor’s idea that the practice quickly spread to other parts of the island and her descendants still complete that section of road outside her home today.

In their 164 year history the La Orotava flower carpets have only twice been suspended, once in 1891 and again in 1897. Last year, despite the persistent rain that marred the whole proceedings, the people still turned out to make their flower carpets and to ensure that their 120 year unbroken record still stands.

The La Orotava Town Hall tapestry
Despite the popularity of decorating La Orotava’s streets for the procession, it was to be almost 70 years after Leonor’s radical gesture before the Plaza Ayuntamiento stained its face in the name of religious devotion.

The Corpus Christi procession began passing through the Town Hall plaza in 1913 but it wasn’t until 1919 when Felipe Machado and Benítez de Lugo took it upon themselves to carpet the square in flowers and vegetation that the tapestry tradition began. Before then, the only time the square had seen decoration was in 1905 when a floral carpet tribute had been laid to honour the Spanish Navy ensign.

On the 21st May 2011, work began on this year’s tapestry, the theme of which is the 26th World Youth Day which will once again bring the Pope to Spain. This year’s design will use 21 different colours to create 20 individual tapestries as a nod to the 20 years that this particular group of alfombristas have been the creators of the carpets and the latest generation of artists to continue the ethereal tradition that has characterised the town for so long.

The La Orotava Corpus Christi flower carpets take place on 30th June 2011.

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Feel The Passion In Adeje On Good Friday

No flash mob can match its impact, no computer game can outdo its intensity and no history book can deliver its raw emotional power. The Passion tells the harrowing story of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus and you can experience it in all its glory in Adeje on Good Friday, 22 April from noon.

It’s a piece of street theatre that will be played out in several towns across Tenerife but the tight palm tree shaded Calle Grande makes the perfect setting where over 10,000 people line the street as the story unfolds over two emotion packed hours. The preparation for The Passion involves a large part of the local population. Costumes and props are worked on all year and a cast of hundreds, including many children, spend hours rehearsing their parts. Even the animals have a role to play, with horses and cattle needed to set the scene.

Calle Grande becomes a living stage and as the church bells signal noon, trumpets herald the arrival of a Roman legion with centurions mounted on horses and others braving their sandals as they march in their wake. The emperor and his wife look regal and arrogant as they follow, carried on their thrones. All this happens at the top end of the street and there will be new vantage points this year as the revamped church plaza has finally opened.

Modern technology ensures that the crowds get to see and hear as the story develops at key stage areas en route. The Last Supper opens the show, the disciples seated around a large table are shocked to hear that one of them will betray Jesus. Head microphones relay the conversation to speakers placed along the route and film cameras capture everything for local television and a giant screen at the bottom end of the street. Powerful and moving it may be but it’s a well worn event for some of the older locals who take the relaxed option of watching from one of the bars that line the route.

Lamp posts, benches and balconies are much sought after for the best views as the epic moves on to the garden of Gethsemane where Judas reveals his true colours. Jesus is the only professional actor, all the other parts are played by well rehearsed locals. If that conjures up thoughts of village hall amateur dramatics, you will be surprised at the sheer scale of The Passion and its graphic realism. Once Jesus is sentenced in the court room, whipped and forced to carry the cross down to his crucifixion, the wounds and the blood clearly shock some of the onlookers.

The final scene is met with a hushed reverence as the cross is hauled up and Jesus nailed to it, only keen eyesight or a zoom lens will reveal the small gripping points the actor has to hold on to. This is not just a performance for the deeply religious, it’s a moving story that will make your senses tingle whatever your beliefs. As Jesus looks down and forgives those that have killed him there are many wiping away tears in the crowd. For the true meaning of Easter, an insight into local religious culture, or a superbly played out piece of theatre, this is one of the must-see events on the Tenerife calendar.

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Easter Traditions

A Moveable Feast
I have made several attempts in the past to understand why the dates of Easter vary year on year, after all, surely the date of Christ’s death and his resurrection are known and can be commemorated annually? But no, apparently the crucifixion took place on 15 Nisan (Nisan being the first month of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year) which in turn depends on phases of the moon. And here is where the problem starts. Phases of the moon vary season to season and year to year, what’s more, they don’t always obligingly fall on a Sunday which is when the Christian church would like to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

After centuries of contention, which incidentally still continues (the latest meeting of the World Curches Council held in 1997 proposed yet more reforms which were never implemented), the way to calculate Easter is this: find the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) which is usually the 21st or 22nd March, then look for the next full moon and Easter falls on the Sunday following that ““ simple.

Holy Week
In Spain, Holy Week which this year begins on April 17th, is the most important event in the religious calendar, even more so than Christmas. The week commemorates so many significant events in Christ’s life, from his arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In Tenerife, as all across Spain, Holy Week is a deeply sombre affair featuring masses, blessings and processions, the most important and reverent of which take place in the former capital of La Laguna. But you’ll find events taking place right across the island in Santa Cruz, Los Realejos, La Orotava, Puerto de la Cruz, Garachico, Arona and Adeje.

Holy Friday (Good Friday) is the most solemn of the events as the Church mourns the death of Christ. In La Laguna there are two processions featuring hooded penitents who wear the traditional capirote, or hooded conical hats to hide their faces, and barefooted monks whose ankles and wrists are manacled. The first of the processions, the Magna, leaves the Church of the Concepción in La Laguna at 5pm while the haunting Silent Procession takes place by torchlight at 9pm with the centre of the city plunged into darkness as a sign of respect. In Adeje, one of the biggest Good Friday events on the island is staged with The Passion, a re-enactment of the crucifixion involving some 300 participants and thousands of onlookers.

Easter Eggs and Bunnies
With Easter perpetually tied to the advent of spring, the humble egg has long been a feature of celebrations. From the use of hard boiled eggs dipped in salt water in the Jewish Passover Seder to the pagan celebrations of fertility and reproduction, the egg is a powerful symbol of the arrival of spring and nature’s awakening from the slumbers of winter. The association of re-birth and the dawning of the light that stems from both the religious significance of the resurrection of Christ and the pagan celebrations of spring also brings the bunny rabbit into play, their prowess in the reproduction business being a well established fact.

The chocolate Easter egg made its first appearance in the early 19th century but without the know-how to separate cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, using moulds to create the egg shape was a lengthy and lumpy affair. It wasn’t until the Dutch invention of a press in 1878 that chocolate moulds first appeared. Naturally, the Cadbury Brothers were pioneers in the industry, their first chocolate Easter eggs being made from dark chocolate and filled with sugared almonds. When they began adding decoration in the form of chocolate piping and marzipan flowers, the fashion took off and by 1893 there were 19 different lines in the Cadbury’s Easter Eggs range. It wasn’t until the turn of the century in 1905 that milk chocolate was launched with the Cadbury’s MilkO Chocolate. Today, milk chocolate Easter Eggs dominate the market.

Incidentally, if all this talk of Cadbury’s Easter Eggs has whetted your appetite for your favourite egg, your best bet for hunting down a real chocolate Easter Egg on Tenerife is to head to one of the out of town large supermarket chains where you’ll find a small selection of familiar names.

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The Carnival is Over, Tenerife’s Crazy Week of Fun in Pictures

It was loud; it was brash; it was colourful, it was crazy and it was even a bit wet. But most of all Carnival on Tenerife was a lot of fun and Tenerife Magazine was in the thick of the action to experience the best bits of Tenerife’s most outrageous week-long party.

First there were the queens. Naomi Cabrera Pulido was crowned carnival queen in Santa Cruz (photo courtesy of Turismo de Tenerife)…

…And Esther Yanes García, the girl with the smile that could melt a creme egg, was crowned carnival queen in Puerto de la Cruz.

Then the Ministry of Sound rocked the capital and over 100,000 people took to the streets to dance the night away at carnival street parties (this was only one street)…

…and this group of larger than life Scots threatened to drink all the beer”¦and eat all the pies.

Talking of food, it’s no wonder those guys got to be so big when faced with stalls like this in Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz.

The surreal Burial of the Sardine with its wailing widows has been outdone in the sheer spectacle stakes in recent years by the most outrageous event of any carnival celebrations on Tenerife ““ the Mascarita Ponte Tacón (High Heels Marathon). 50,000+ turn up for this one. This is one of the few photos fit for family viewing.

The Gran Coso Apoteosis (closing parade) in Santa Cruz had its fervour dampened by rain, but it’s counterpart in Puerto de la Cruz a few days later enjoyed warm sunshine, so no soggy feathers for the dancers this time”¦

“¦and much more in line with what “˜tourists’ like these two expect when they come to Tenerife.

And finally the whole thing was rounded off with some more wild and wonderful street parties, but there’s no picture for these”¦this time the camera stayed in the bag and the notebook remained in the pocket so that we could do what everyone else was doing ““ let our hair down and enjoy the last big carnival bash of 2011.

Carnival in the north of Tenerife is over, but carnival continues in Los Gigantes and Los Cristianos during the second half of March.

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Watch Los Tres Reyes (The Three Kings) Parade, La Orotava 2011

Tenerife Magazine was in the beautiful old quarter of La Orotava to film the arrival of the Tres Reyes (Three Kings).

In Spain, it isn’t Father Christmas who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve, but rather the Three Kings who, just as they brought gifts to the baby Jesus, bring gifts to children on the night before the Epiphany – January 5th.

In main towns all over Spain the Three Kings arrive bearing gifts of sweeties which are thrown to the crowds of excited children for whom sleep will be slow to come on this magical night.
In the morning, if they’ve been good they’ll find presents left by Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. If they haven’t been good, they’ll find a lump of coal, but remarkably it seems no children are ever less than as good as gold 🙂

In La Orotava, as in many places on Tenerife, the Three Kings arrive on camels and this year Balthazar got a bit of a scare as his seat threatened to slip off and his camel decided he was going no further until it was all sorted out.

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K9 Charity Race Night – November 26th

According to their website, K9 Animal Refuge currently has 75 animals looking for a home. Knowing that the volunteers there are always stretched to the limit, with probably very little time to keep the website updated, it is more than possible that this number is sadly out of date.

Even if the number is correct, the monthly cost of keeping that many animals in puppy chow, as well as veterinary bills and sheltering, is eye-watering.

Come along and support this worthy animal charity at a fun Charity Race Night hosted at The Globe, Costa Del Silencio.

Details are:

Event: Charity Race Night in aid of K9 Animal Refuge

Date: November 26th

Time: 20.00 hrs

In Aid of: K9 Animal Refuge

Where: The Globe Bar, Costa Del Silencio

Tel: Chris or Adam on: 637569770 or 617963814.

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