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Chestnuts, yet more rubbish and physical jerks! 

November may not be the busiest month in Puerto’s tourist calendar. Yes, there has just been a week full of events relating to Agatha Christie and her connection with the town, which I am sure were well received, but were personally not for me.

No, November for me brings thoughts of chestnuts (castanas), a month when the trees up in the hills are full of them and stalls are set up in the town to sell them roasted. It culminates with a festival day on November 29th when local kids make a noise (don’t they always?) by bashing pans and dragging strings of cans through the street.

Hardly the most enthralling subject to celebrate but then it doesn’t take much and after all, it is a tradition. And of course it is good to see the chestnuts cooking away in pots atop chimney-like braziers.

In the UK, roasted chestnuts are more likely to conjure up thoughts of Christmas. It is not that far away. Even here, the street lights are going up and restaurants already have decorated trees on their terraces. Bah humbug, is all I am prepared to say.

However all the old traditions are changing. In the past, I am sure the emphasis has been on the chestnuts themselves. This year they seem to be playing second fiddle and the stalls selling them should be more likened to temporary restaurants. They seem more intent on selling sardines, grilled pork, potatoes and of course local red wine. In a year which has seen the ever popular guachinches (ad hoc traditional Canary restaurants in family homes) forced to accept far more stringent legislation, these ‘tin shacks’, for want of a better description, seem to be allowed to operate with total disregard.

I have never been a fan of over-zealous rules and regulation yet there are circumstances where common sense should prevail and for me this should be one. Two of these temporary restaurants are in a very prominent public place yet where is the evidence of hygiene and health and safety? I have no wish to curtail their spirit of free enterprise; I leave that to the surrounding business owners, who, for the life of me, I can’t believe are prepared to accept it. Picture the scene just for a moment – hot coal fires unprotected and often left unattended, bottled gas grills on open tables, electricity supplied by cobbled together cables connected to the nearest streetlight. It is a recipe for disaster, or if not at the very least, injury. In a town where it is essential to have in your possession the correct piece of paper, with the right rubber stamp on it, how do they get away with it?

Elsewhere in the town, what have I noticed? I am going to talk rubbish again. Where does it go? Landfill, most of it, but that is not what I am talking about. It’s those little ‘chutes’ which the council is so passionate about. They are cropping up all over the town installed whenever there is a makeover.

Obviously it goes underground, at least a high percentage of it, but anything too large to fit simply gets left on the pavement but how are they emptied? I have never witnessed it. These days, I am no longer staggering around the town in the early hours, so have never seen it done – until recently that is. The first ones installed a few years ago have inevitably started to go wrong and as repairs are underway, all has been revealed. The rubbish falls into wheelie bins, that much was to be expected, there could hardly be a bottomless pit. To empty them, the whole contraption lifts up on hydraulics to street level and the bins are wheeled away to be emptied in the normal manner.

Why, is my immediate thought; overkill, being my second? We are a throw-away society and we are all guilty of creating far too much rubbish. I am firm advocate of the KISS (keep it simple, that is) school of thought. Why make such a simple task more elaborate or complicated than necessary. I am sure they will rue the decision when the expensive repair bills start to come in. Or is it that it is in every council’s mandate to keep as much as possible out of sight and hidden from the general public?

I am the first to admit when I am wrong. That sentiment alone may well have friends choking on their drinks but I have been proved to be wrong. I did say when they first installed the street exercise equipment in the old Avenida Generalissimo that it was a waste of money and would never be used. I think I said at the time it would become a target for local youths to vent their frustration on and it did, at least until it was replaced by something altogether more robust. It has survived and I have to say is in use, which far exceeds my expectations.

Ok, so the users may come from different genres but then it takes all sorts. There are those who use it properly and obviously get some benefit from it as a result of their exertions. Then there are those who think it would make a good holiday snap, the whole family taking it in turn to pose in a variety of positions while the designated photographer does his best. There are others who obviously think they should take more exercise; you see them making their way along stopping to check out each piece of equipment, perhaps trying it out for a whole ten seconds. I am sure they get to the top of the street and feel all the better for it. And then finally there are those for whom it offers total bewilderment. They’re just looking for somewhere to sit and are wondering if it will take the weight. What me, not likely, I will never go near it.

I may have been wrong about the exercise equipment but that hasn’t changed my opinion on the whole project. A walkway which is far too wide, diverting potential customers away from shop fronts. The service road, which, despite there being so much space available was built far too narrow for delivery vehicles to pass each other easily. No consideration given at all for the coach drivers who have to navigate the tight turns their way often barred by cars abandoned on hazard lights. But at least there are far more places where you can now enjoy a coffee alfresco.

By Brian Eldridge