Saturday, September 25, 2010

About snot, elections, spring and fings

Hello friends, I’ve been a bit brain-dead recently. Was fighting a cold of cosmic proportions and I was (as always) amazed how much snot one relatively small nose can produce. I suppose all that stuff sits in your brain and makes it feel as though every little spark there was has been wrapped in cotton wool and is unable to attend.

About springtime and umbrellas

Almost by stealth spring has come to the southern hemisphere. The Equinox took place around 3.00 am Greenwich meantime in the night of the 22/23 September, and I was up and about at around 21.00 Lima time receiving it thoughtfully while munching on a sandwich and enjoying a nice cool Peruvian beer (they have some very, very good beers here, I promise). Even though that first spring day came in from the cold, the weather is keeping what the word ‘spring’ promises, and we’ve had some rather beautiful days with me here writing away at my desk being offered some spectacular views. (No, I won’t resist the impulse; I shall post a couple of the photos I took only about three days ago.)
In Lima, as you probably know, it never rains, and nobody owns umbrellas. What the natives call ‘rain’ is simply a cloud sitting on the ground and slowly spitting out its contents in all directions through the tiniest holes. One would look silly in Lima with an umbrella, but even if you didn’t care about that it would do you no good. That wet stuff comes at you from all sides. Did you ever encounter a cooling mist spray, delivered by ventilators? They have those in tropical and subtropical climes for terraces of restaurants and gardens... A bit like that.

Oh, that cloud with the little holes made me remember a po-im by Spike Milligan we used to like when we were young (!). I quote from memory so don’t get back to me telling me I got it wrong – I probably did. Here goes:

There are holes in the sky
Where the rain comes in
They’re ever so small
That’s why rain is thin

Saved by the (Marmite) bell
Just to lower the tension you must all have felt during the last few months: I have received a 500 g jar of Marmite. It was brought back to me from Spain by the good doctor. He didn’t get in touch with anyone because he was working like a mule AND he wasn’t in Madrid for the greater part of his short trip. He was mostly in Almería and Algeciras and if he wasn’t teaching or in meetings he was doing his magic, and if he wasn’t doing any of that he was dying in sweltering Madrid… it was August after all and most people had escaped the brutal heat anyway. Speaking of Marmite, my dear friend Loretta in the UK, after reading my last lament, sent me a jar which of course never arrived. I would have loved to see the face of the Marmite thief when he/she stuck his/her finger into its dark and sticky content and licked it. I figure that was punishment enough.

More on granny-dom
My guest bed will be occupied in October, November, January and probably February so far.
Not all of the time, of course, there are fixed dates. But it’s wonderful to see friends and family here in Lima. Talking about ‘family’ – you all know that I am the proud and loving granny of my daughter’s beautiful and good-natured daughter who now has a name: she’s called Blossom Belle. On 30 July they made it a double whammy: my son’s partner Saskia gave birth to Daphne, dark where Blossom’s blonde, and with a very naughty smile. Can’t wait to meet her. I am planning to travel in May 2011, again via Madrid, of course.

Lima Walks
A very clever Dutchman has started an activity called ‘Lima Walks’ and instead of telling you more about that I thought that the link to his website would be the easiest for anyone who is interested to know more about it AND the city. For the curious:

I remember that we had a load of those in London. They were usually themed. There was the walk following in the unlikely steps of Jack-the-Ripper and co., or night walks taking in all the haunted houses, parks, murky spaces in general and recalling what had spooked whom where; then there was one of my favourites: the ‘famous pubs’ crawl. No, not the 'famous' pub crawl. Visiting famous pubs. Well, we started to walk and crawled towards the end...

I love walking and I am discovering my neighbourhood on foot. It’s keeping me fit as well as allowing me to begin to come to grips with the geography of the place. Which reminds me: I have to call a neighbour. She lives in the building next to mine, and we met because she saw me studying my internet page with ‘our’ bit of Miraflores on it and wondered whether she could help. We chatted and discovered not only that we were neighbours, about the same age, but that we both love to walk. She is Polish and once upon a time married a Peruvian. The Peruvian is no longer around but she is and we promised to call each other and arrange to walk together. Ok. Shall do that next.

Feverish activities leading up to the election of Mayor of Lima
Lima is in the throes of the election of its next mayor. It’s an absolutely amazing spectacle and keeps me entertained. It started out relatively unspectacularly but the tone changed as did the intensity of the race as we’re coming ever closer to THE date (3 October). Some candidates have fallen by the wayside by now, some for lack of interest and one was kicked out because he didn’t really live in Lima! As far as I understand matters so far you have to live in a town at least for two years before you can become its mayor. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But apart from that little mishap, he did something very Latin American (I don’t think something like that is particularly Peruvian): amongst other successful schemes of siphoning off a little extra, he apparently had a road built that (at least then) never quite materialised, but he built toll booths which earned him around 14 million Peruvian Soles, all of which apparently have more or less disappeared. So now there are two ladies still slogging it out. Both are intelligent and would probably administer the city well. One is conservative and the other what we would probably call ‘socialist’. Here she’s representing ‘THE LEFT’ and may well win, which pisses a lot of people off something royal. So they’ve started dirty tricks campaigns against her and certain TV personalities (call them journalists) take sides and sling more mud.

In the streets a forest of election posters is shooting up. Every morning there’s another one, and the little bits of green we have are dug out indiscriminately to shove in the posts. You literally cannot see the wood for the trees; and not only that, but they tell you absolutely nothing. Nobody says “I’ll steel you blind” or “I’ll build schools” or “I’ll get rid of all those stinky old cars” – not likely. They just say, “Vote for me” and show their very best photoshopped white teeth in big smiles with thumbs-up gestures. Clever, no?

I can’t believe that under their expensive suits the European politicians are that much purer at heart and in mind. In any case, it’s fascinating to watch. Still, there is some excess in the Peruvian  criminal mind: just last night we saw a video from a security camera which showed the contracted workers of a company laying copper cables to provide electricity ripping them all out again at the end of the day to sell them somewhere. If that’s not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs...

Apart from that things are terrific. Barbara and I went last weekend to the Lima Flower Show  and she showed me Chinatown where we bought a lot of VUT = Very Useful Things for very little. Next week we’ll go to a market called ‘Polvos Rosados’ – I have no idea why they called it that or what it means – to acquire a stack of the latest films at five Peruvian Soles apiece (about 1.50 Euros). Yes, you guessed it. Not quite legal. In Peruvian that’s called ‘bamba’.

Peru rocks
As I wrote in at least one previous missive, Peru is on the up and up. Before I moved here, about six years ago I did my ‘recce’ and loved the place, of course. Now, over six years later, there is a new optimism, people are working, infrastructure for Lima is on the mayoral agenda and most Limeños have a new spring in their step. Have a look at these pages in the FT
Let’s hope it’s for real. The people here need a bit of a helping hand. They are willing to change.

Talking about infrastructure: they finished the bus on its special lane called ‘El Metrapolitano’. Not everyone is happy about it, and it certainly needs to be revisited in concept and form. But Lima does have its first proper public transport and that’s not where it’s going to stop. In the lives of a lot of commuters it will make a life-changing difference.

The markets are indicatorss as well, they are full of goodies and people. They are busy places and for any 'gringo' exotic l. I leave you with a few pix of the famous market of Surquillo inside and out. Some of the graffiti in Lima are of amazing imagination and quality and I couldn't walk past these without keeping them for electronic eternity. I leave pix of this discovery at the end of the blog.
A bit of luxury in La Rosa Nautica
It’s not the best and probably one of the most expensive restaurants in town, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and the setting is a dream. Barbara and I had a day without our men and decided to have a wonderful day all on our own. We even met a little monkey on the way in.

Newsie bits:

  • I have been to a wedding and a baptism, to the cinema and the circus (and, of course, the Flower Show). So I am beginning to be as ‘Limeña’ as any other. The circus, Landó, I was told does not just do what any circus does, they pick up problem kids with talent, offer them schooling and discipline and a profession that gives them selfrespect and keeps them off the street.
  • I am a bit more comfortable now with my second novel, had a problem getting my head around the ‘sequel’, but by now I have finished more than the first third and have given it a first edit. I know where everyone’s going and what they want to do. The characters have come to a point where THEY very often are telling ME what they want for the next chapter. Curious process this.
  • I think I promised you a report on my first Lima winter. It’s been f***g freezing. Not outside, that remains perfectly acceptable, but indoors. Nobody has central heating and consequently I have never, ever been as cold as here. I have to add that sitting in front of a computer a few hours per day doesn’t help. As soon as I move around a bit I’m ok. But everyone who comes to your house keeps their coats or jackets on – and you’re beginning to do the same ‘cause it’s just too too cold. This is not going to happen again. The next winter will see me prepared. I am not the suffering type.
  • We are no slouches when it comes to a bit of entertainment. Loads of galleries showing paintings and photography, there is dance (just now a tango group is here) and music – from Bon Jovi to Diana Krall; the Cirque du Soleil is just pulling down the tents, moving on. Don't you agree with me that this Martial Arts poster is particularly macho? Love it!

A couple of nights ago I felt – for the first time since I live here - the earth move. No, nothing to do with the doctor.  And it wasn’t a big, powerful, mind-blowing earthquake (or you would have known about it). Thank you, earth, for keeping it down in size. But even though gentle, it was quite a long-lasting one and rather disconcerting because by the nature of the beast I am a trembling-virgin. Did I just write that?

I think from here on it can only go downhill. So, good-bye for today. I hope to report in with a little more frequency.

To give you an idea how far downhill things can go with my stupid sense of humour (shared by my son), I leave you with a special one which made us both break up:

Why did the crab leave the disco early? Because he pulled a mussel. Boom boom. Till next time.