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Matthew Hirtes "Matthew Hirtes" (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)

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Inside the Tortilla: A Journey in Search of Authenticity (The Radical Routes Series Book 2)
Inside the Tortilla: A Journey in Search of Authenticity (The Radical Routes Series Book 2)
Price: £3.49

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eating Spain, 7 Sept. 2013
One of my favourite books about Spain is Mark Kurlansky's The Basque History of the World. Ever the evangelist, I was trying to explain its appeal to a Canarian acquaintance before they snatched it from my grasp, browsed at the index, and exclaimed, "Pah, it's full of recipes." However, Paul Read, author of Inside the Tortilla, like Kurlansky before him, realizes the importance of food to a country's people.
Instead of the Basque Country, the country in question is Al-Andaluz aka Andalucia. Moving from the costas in search of a more authentically Spanish existence, or as the author himself puts it, "Once I had broken away from the serpentine shopping mall that is unaccountably still called the Mediterranean", Read stumbles across "a small town in the 'Poniente' region, west of the city (of Granada)." I'm not going to give away its identity, although the author feeds the readers enough clues (Duck Soup, anyone?), so will refer it as Reid's given moniker, La Clave.
It's a place steeped in tradition where bars serve freshly-prepared tortilla rather than the standardized microwaved supermarket variety. Indeed, so key is food to the population that in 1861 there was even a Revolución de pan y el queso. Yes, you read that right: a Bread and Cheese Revolution, although more accurately it was a revolt of 6,000 armed peasants unhappy with their working conditions.
Read about, erm, Read twirling his Cuban heels at La Clave's many fiestas. There's also a fine section explaining the significance of the rather more sombre Semana Santa. As well as a cultural expert, the author's a dab hand at political commentary too, offering a summary of the Spanish political scene which is as informed as it's entertaining.
You will have surmised by now that this is not your typical expat handbook. Read's advice regarding relocation's more anecdotal than factual. So don't be expecting contact email addresses and useful URLs. But do bank on recited, perhaps even slightly reimagined, conversations with La Clave locals and fellow gourmets including firm friend, Andrés, a paragliding chef and the bank manager Read manages to secure a 100,000 Euro mortgage from. Plus a recipe for pipirrana. Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Sleeping People Lie
Sleeping People Lie
by Jae De Wylde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jae's Dark Places, 5 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sleeping People Lie (Paperback)
Back in my London days, I was deputy editor of the Official Chelsea Magazine. As a supporter it was a dream job and other fans weren't exactly slow to express their jealousy. To transform them from The Incredible Hulk back to Dr Bruce Banner, I would explain that the downside was matchday when I was reporting. For you just can't let yourself go in the press box.
Around the same time, I started to do some music writing. Now this was more like it. At a gig, no one knew you were press. Labels, ecstatic with my enthusiastic live reviews, started to post me promos.
I developed such a relationship with Domino that they continued to send me CDs to mainly rate and hardly slate after my relocation to the Canary Islands. So one day a copy of The Television Personalities' My Dark Places pitched up in my Las Palmas de Gran Canaria postbox.
For those that don't know, the band's one full-time member Dan Treacy was sentenced to prison after he shoplifted to fund his crack habit. So one suspects that the title might be more than a bit autobiographical, also taking into account Treacy's drug-induced mental illness.
And so on learning that Sleeping People Lie author Jae de Wylde had also lost a child like her central character Sloane, I began to fear she might have ridden the emotional rollercoaster she makes her literary creation take. Especially, as the novelist shares a Lincolnshire residence as well as travel-industry experience with her.
Regarding the plot, there as as many twists as a theme-park ride. Paris features prominently, firstly as the location for light flirting which builds into more-than-heavy petting. And then later, here's hoping I'm not giving too much of the storyline away, as the setting for something altogether darker and starker.
De Wylde has revealed that she believes her follow-up is an improvement on her The Thinking Tank debut. I can't agree. That was another bleak masterpiece, which included a depraved use of a policeman's truncheon. Having already awarded that book five stars, her second effort scores as highly. Meaning that it's the equal. De Wylde should be pleased. She's avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Zen Kyu Maestro: An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure
Zen Kyu Maestro: An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure
Price: £2.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As Much Going Loco in Spain as Going Local, 3 Jun. 2013
"Find Madrid in the atlas. Now find Barcelona. Now draw a line joining Barcelona to Almería and Almería to Madrid. You should have a triangle. We're somewhere in that triangle. Now look at all the names of places in that triangle that you've never heard of. We're in one of those places."

Meet enigmatic primary-school teacher Jeremy Dean who's swopped cosy Norfolk to take up a new position, with wife Linda, in a private, bilingual Spanish school. For which they have my sympathy. My first job after relocating to Gran Canaria was an English teacher in a private, bilingual Spanish school. The setting couldn't have been more dramatic, located in a majestic position surveying the island's rugged north coast. Every day, during break, I'd have to dig in my heels (literally) to stop myself walking down to the nearby cliff and into the raging Atlantic below.

Thankfully, despite an actual rather than virtual near-death experience of his own, the Deans' experiences are more comic than tragic. I could pick a quote from any page to illustrate the author's potential as a stand-up. However, I particularly enjoyed his description of lone English student Jake, the son of a fellow teacher, who's "got about as much Latin blood in him as a Pukka Pie."

Zen Kyu Maestro offers a lesson that a new life in the sun is no extended jolly. Dean recalls struggling adjusting to the decidely non-East-Anglian climate on his first day at school, "I feel like an ant being slowly cremated by a small boy wielding a large magnifying glass." The class register also gets him feeling hot under the collar with fiendishly-difficult names to pronounce. Or as Dean puts it: "Each name appears in front of me like a bear trap, and I fall clumsily into every single one of them."

Despite having lived in Spain for the past nine years, Dean teaches me things I didn't know. That it doesn't rain cats and dogs in Spain, but buckets ("Llueve a Cántaros"). That the expression "out of the frying pan, into the fire" translates as "Andar de Herodes a Pilato". Which means, "To walk from Herod to Pilate". And he does this throughout the book; this edutainment. To the extent that I actually wish I could be a seven-year-old-kid in one of his lessons. If only for a day.
Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Bloody Hell, What's An Alpaca?
Bloody Hell, What's An Alpaca?
by Alan Parks
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Alan and his Amazing Alpacas, 26 Dec. 2012
Introducing Alan Parks and his partner Lorna Penfold. They swapped Brighton, where Lorna was a dance teacher, for a new life breeding alpacas in Andalucía. As you do.
The title comes from Lorna's daughter Frankie and her confused reaction to her mother announcing her plans. Frankie and boyfriend Chris even join Parks and Penfold on their Andalucían adventure at first. Along with a menagerie of animals whose numbers go both up and down.
Andalucía may well be known as the frying pan of Spain but its wet winters are a contrast to its sultry summers. Discovering that it rained on the family's first day in Spain reminded me of my own experiences on Gran Canaria. An island where, despite a reputation as a holiday hot spot, you can be caught out by rain you'd thought you left behind in the UK.
I'd enjoyed reading Parks' pieces for The Telegraph's Expat Life, offering the perfect marriage between concision and detail. And most of BHWAA matches these high standards. However, the text could have done with some editing. The animal monologues, for example, should have been the first to hit the cutting-room floor.
As educational read as much as entertaining one, I learnt that Andalucía can get so hot, your eyelids sweat. That alpacas come in 22 different colours. That their babies are called crias. What fascinating facts will you discover? Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2012 8:54 AM GMT


Perking the Pansies - Jack and Liam Move to Turkey
Perking the Pansies - Jack and Liam Move to Turkey
by Jack Scott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flowered Up, 27 Nov. 2012
Jack Scott must be sitting on a goldmine. For apparently Perking the Pansies is his first book. I'm guessing he must have kept some diaries in the 20+years he spent in social care before relocating with husband Liam to Turkey.
Scott's definitely got an eye for the poetic. Here he is, describing seeing his future hometown for the first time: "As we breached the brow of the hill, we caught our first picture postcard glimpse of Yalikavak shimmering at the end of a lush valley below like randomly scattered sugar cubes on an overgrown lawn." E17, where the couple relocated from, it ain't.
There follows tales of expatlandia. Some of them comic, the characterization of some of the lower life almost Dickensian in detail.The rest tragic, including stories of abduction and, even, murder.
Jack and Liam play the expat game in Yalikavak. But by their own rules. Later, they immerse themselves in a more going-native-style adventure by upping sticks and moving to the largely expat-free Bodrum.
Born out of the blog of the same name,Perking the Pansies is an accessible read. Engaging in tone, it's like Scott's perpetually dipping into his wallet to buy the next round. Now how about those diaries, Jack? Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Fly Away Home
Fly Away Home
by Maggie Myklebust
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Home and Away, 4 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Fly Away Home (Paperback)
Only famous people write autobiographies, right? Erm, wrong. Remember James Frey and his chronicle of his addiction issues, A Million Little Pieces?
Except Frey was found to have embellished much of what at that time he purported to be true; for dramatic effect. Something I'm convinced half-Norwegian half-American Maggie Myklebust would never do. Her confessional, taking in an abusive marriage and near-death experiences, would surely pass any lie-detector test.
At times Fly Away Home is too painful to read. I winced as I could almost hear her ex-husband breaking her fingers as she recalls a life which often appears to be picking on her. A light literary touch though makes the page-turning easier, especially with passages like "with long blong hair parted down the middle, like curtains pulled open to reveal our faces."
Ostensibly, a verbal scrapbook of her family's American and Norwegian history, Maggie may well transport you back in time. Describing the premature birth of her father, Ludvig, she makes him sound like Tom Thumb: "He was so small they wrapped him in sheep wool, laid him in a cigar box and kept him warm on top of the oven." And despite everything Myklebust goes through, thankfully this is a story, as in the best fairy tales, with a happy ending. [...]


Walking the Canary Islands
Walking the Canary Islands
Price: £2.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling Man, 10 Sept. 2012
This is Alan Gandy's first book. And one suspects probably his last. Part extended blog post, part unedited diary entry, Walking the Canary Islands tells the story of Gandy's admirable 2012 charity walk which saw him traverse the length of every Canary Island - 407km in total.
Gandy, by his own admission, is no writer. He is a fine raconteur however, recounting anecdotes as if he's regaling you in his local. Which suggests a possible audio-book adaptation.
Having visited six of the seven Canary Islands myself, I was interested to discover if I was right to leave Fuerteventura to last. If Gandy's tale of encountering a homeless expat is anything to go by and of overbuilding in such a confined space, my judgement appears vindicated. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on La Gomera as I've only just returned from there and very much share AG's love of the place.
Gandy doesn't pussyfoot around. If he thinks someone or somewhere needs criticizing, he'll march straight in with hiking boots to the fore. This book makes a mark with its honesty which fills in the cracks of any pretensions to a literary style, although his theory that Spain and Eastern Europe are both police states is an interestingly-argued one.
Going Local in Gran Canaria How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


The Thinking Tank
The Thinking Tank
by Jae de Wylde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pause for Thought, 9 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Thinking Tank (Paperback)
As a writer myself and father of three boys, I rarely have time to read. However, as part of a summer holiday that was so late, it was already September, I found myself alone on a Treasure Island beach. Thankfully, I'd remembered to pack The Thinking Tank, a book I'd originally bought as a birthday present for my mother but, as family tradition dictates, had been graciously lent back to the buyer.
That night, I returned to the finca we were staying at with burnt lips and red, raw, sore skin. So gripped was I by this assured debut that I didn't reapply suncream as regularly as I should have, let alone utilize any lipbalm whatsoever. And so enchanting was the tale told that I didn't even notice until the screams of my wife greeted my return.
The titular tank is a hyperbaric oxygen chamber used by Sarah, the main character, to combat her Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Author Jae De Wylde, though, uses said chamber as a time machine of a dramatic device. The narrative is able to skip across generations as easily as across longitudinal divisions.
A definite page turner, you'll find it hard not to finish The Thinking Tank in one sitting. Or in my case, one lying. Just don't forget the suncream.Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Going Native in Catalonia
Going Native in Catalonia
Price: £4.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage to Catalonia, 28 July 2012
Going Native in Catalonia is the most enlightening of reads. A resident (expert) of the region for more than 20 years, Harris shares recommendations which other writers might wish to keep secret for their own enjoyment. For example, Reus, despite its size, is often overlooked by visitors to the area but what Harris writes about the town makes me want to base myself there for my next Catalonian trip.

At times, Going Native in Catalonia feels like a lecture, particularly in the exhaustive sections on architecture. However, forget the image of a dreary old professor drumming on about the history of Catalonia. Harris is more like a groovy lecturer, entertaining his students with off-curriculum references which educate at the same time.

Harris has fully immersed himself into his locale, revealing he's become a massive fan of Barça. A seemingly natural-born culé, he compares Real Madrid fans celebrating a goal to the response of their FC Barcelona counterparts in a two-TV bar he used to frequent. "Madrid's goals were celebrated with 'Olé' and flamenco twirls, whereas when Barça scored, "recalls Harris, "the tables were hit in a way that was full of restrained aggression and pride." "The Catalan reaction was less attractive than that of the Spanish, but much closer to how I naturally reacted myself."

Having consumed Going Native in Catalonia in one sitting, I now know a lot more about the author's adopted region. And not only that the Catalan word for cold is fred. A very human narrator, admirably many of the anecdotes shared by Harris feature the author with a beer in his hand. After all, the drinking stories are always the best.Going Local in Gran Canaria How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


Dancing Through History: In Search of the Stories That Define Canada
Dancing Through History: In Search of the Stories That Define Canada
by Lori Henry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.95

4.0 out of 5 stars The History Girl, 15 May 2012
Every Sunday I walk through Las Palmas' Pueblo Canario with my two younger sons Alex and Tom on our way to watch the kiddie-friendly show in Parque Doramas. Pueblo Canario's a mini theme park designed to replicate a traditional Canarian village. To lull the punters in, they feature performances from Canarian dancers who indulge in ceilidh-style routines while the band plays on.
That's as far as my knowledge of native Canarian dancing extends. Far more savvy about the Canadian dance scene is travel writer Lori Henry. Born with metatarsus adductus, where both feet are turned in, the family doctor recommended dance lessons to alleviate the problem as there was no surgical alternative. At just two years old she started Polynesian dancing lessons.
And so began a life-long love affair with moving her feet to the beat. In Dancing Through History, she explores the traditional dances of Canadia's original inhabitants such as the Inuit Drum Dance. Before moving on to discuss those introduced by the country's wide-ranging selection of immigrants including those originally hailing from the Ukraine.
Although obviously a massive fan of this particular art form, Henry is using this as a medium to explore Canada's history. In doing so, she barely puts a foot wrong. Forget about dancing in the dark, the author's bright prose ushers in the light. Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home


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