I write this looking out on Arrecife strand, with a lightness of spirit I may have lacked of late. The sun is high in the sky, the water is a perfect blue etcetera.
We arrived in Lanzarote on Monday evening, where we rented a car. I was the first to drive. I was never a big fan of driving and I don’t think I’ll be driving on the right-hand side of the road again any time soon. Thanks be to God, it was an exceedingly small car we rented, or the car would have careened off into a gorge at this stage. My travelling companion, Arbutus, has a masculine spirit when it comes to driving, and was eager that I engage in good traffic management. He told me to pull over and let the queues of cars that regularly built up behind me to pass. He used a phrase that is virtually meaningless to me – “right of way” as if it was a frequently used concept, as in “why are you stopping? You have the right of way.” or the slightly scarier “STOP! You don’t have the right of way here!”
For these reasons, Arbutus has done most of the driving here. And he is far better than me. Although he did once neglect to release the handbrake fully before starting the car and I felt like I’d scored the winning goal in an All-Ireland Final.
With Arbutus doing all the driving on narrow, winding, mountain roads I have found that I’ve turned into my mother. I don’t like fast driving and I heard myself uttering phrases like “you’re very close to the car on front of us”, “there’s no need to go so fast” and, to my eternal shame, “I don’t mean to nag, but the limit here is 60”.
We have spent at least an hour a day driving. And on our drives, we have been accompanied by Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Arbutus brought a CD from Ireland of Bruce’s latest work. Now, Bruce has some bangin choons that would be great for driving, but his latest album is somewhat less stadium-filling. I have grown to like it though. A bit like Stockholm syndrome, where hostages grow to be fond of their captors, I now feel a wee bit of tenderness for Bruce and his new songs that will never be hits.
We are staying in the tiny village of La Santa on the opposite end of the island from the resorts. The beaches are wilder than in the south and are mainly home to fishing boats, but also to Lanzarote’s surfing fraternity. The hostel we’re staying at is part of a surf school. The proprietor, Roberto, is the ultimate surfer, browned and healthy, with a weather-beaten face and a happy-go-lucky attitude. He has decorated the hostel with pictures of himself, in various states of undress, hitting the waves and goofing around.
He encouraged us to take surfing lessons, including free lunch and free wetsuits (his eyes slid down my body as he said the word “wetsuit”, no doubt thinking frantically if he had one that would fit). I can’t swim and have terrible balance at the best of times, so I imagine any surfing lesson involving me would be an utter disaster, but I was vaguely tempted: not because I found the idea of surfing in any way attractive, but because I quite liked the idea of telling people about how awful I had been afterwards.
We didn’t go surfing. We have instead had the most relaxing time that it is possible to conceive of. We have driven around and seen the main sites, we have had lengthy chats in cafés and pubs, we have idled the time away.
On Wednesday, we went to the newest of the tourist resorts, Playa Blanca. I imagine it is the kind of place that most of my friends would strongly disapprove of. There are lots of Irish pubs, souvenir shops and English newspapers. It’s not very “authentic”, whatever that means. I got to feel very superior, walking down the street thinking “Ha! We’re having a genuine cultural experience in our Spanish fishing village, while your holiday lacks any true cultural merit.” Good God, I am an awful prig.
Part two coming soon! Stay warm!