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What impression are we giving of Puerto de la Cruz? 

I’ve received fan mail! No, maybe not of the ‘we love you Brian’ kind, but then to be honest I welcome any kind of reaction, even negative, because it just goes to prove that someone out there is actually reading what I write.

What is even better is that the writer of this fan mail has strong feelings and opinions of his own about what is happening in Puerto, and on a topic of which I have barely scratched the surface. So much so, I have decided to dedicate this month’s column to the subject and because he probably puts the message across better than I could I have included his letter in full. You can read it in a moment, but first, of course, I have to my ten pennies worth.

By way of an introduction, his concerns are centred on the state of and the upkeep of the town’s garden areas and the management of the town’s trees and palms.

Firstly, what I will say is that he has chosen to comment at what is probably the worst time of the year for the gardens. However, I have to agree that this year they are particularly poor and that the displays of summer bedding plants planted months ago have been eked out so they can be replaced with the plaque of the poinsettias, everyone’s favourite Christmas plant.

Secondly, he refers to the pruning back of the trees and palms; a practise which I have to say I am always amazed by. No, I don’t mean by skills involved, they will never win awards for topiary, but by the very fact that most trees, not all, seem to recover from the drastic cuts. Pruning appears to me, to be carried out purely for economic reasons, with scant regard for aesthetics or for the welfare of the plant, cut it back hard and they won’t need to return for a couple of years. I don’t know why, but ‘slash and burn’ keeps coming to mind.

A final word from me, have you ever noticed how on these pedestrian makeovers they plant mature palms so close to the buildings that once all the photos have been taken the hatchet men come along and remove most of the fronds. Not so in calle Quintana, much smaller specimens have been planted, but again that is probably due to economics rather than a change in policy.

That’s it, I’ve said my piece, so here as promised is the letter. I particularly like the last line and no, before you ask, I didn’t write it myself, it is a genuine, bona-fide, reader’s letter in its entirety.

“Hello Sr. Eldridge,

I enjoy your column, and lately I have been so angered by this Puerto government and how it maintains the town that I have taking photos to show some of what is going on but had no idea what to do with them or who to tell, but I thought perhaps you might be interested, and maybe you have thought the same thing.

I go to Santa Cruz and the city seems to be, overall, so well maintained, trees looking good – like trees should look, flowers planted and cared for, and grass mowed and green, but then you come to Puerto de la Cruz and see the opposite. How can someone get the job of overseeing the town’s lawns, gardens and trees without any seeming knowledge or interest in how to care for them all. And even more mind boggling is how can someone who is destroying the trees and not caring for the public garden spaces keep the job?! I would have been fired from any job I have had in my working life had I been as incompetent, not to mention how much these acts of environmental vandalism are costing us, the rate payers who live here.

I notice how the flowers, such as they are, and where

they even exist, are mostly sprangly, weed-filled or dead from lack of care. The grass is unmowed and they have been wasting money and time going around the town for months cutting trees and bushes back to stumps, killing many of them. They don’t simply prune trees that might have become a bit overgrown or with some dead wood in their canopy, as one would expect – no, they butcher them and hack them back to stumps!

Some three years ago they made C/ Hoya into a pedestrian street and lined it with full-grown Queen Palms but this government’s tree and gardens person has had them cut to an inch of their lives, killing several of these expensive to replace trees and creating a street without shade for the hottest part of the year, not to mention just how ugly these palms look. Instead of a full head of swaying, shade-giving fronds, they have been hacked back to just two, maybe three, and palms cannot stand that kind of butchering. It will cause, at the least, a constriction in the trunk and at worst, the death of the tree, which you can see in the photos. At least four of five have already died. They cut the magnificent and very costly Royal Palms along the recently redone C/ Mequinez so they don’t look very Royal now, but fortunately they didn’t hack them too far, I don’t think, but they certainly don’t look as full and beautiful as they shood be, and they give little shade.

In La Paz, on C/ Aceviño, there is a row of what once were beautiful trees with those lovely golden flowers but they have hacked ten of them back to stumps and killed all but two of them, and those two only have been able to put out a “bush” of sorts at the top – certainly nothing resembling a tree. How much did those trees cost and how much will it be to replace them, IF they replace them at all And those once magnificent Flamboyantes on the pedestrian walkway, C/ Quintana, near Plaza Charco (in front of the Columbus pastry shop and cafeteria), that were once something that always made me feel happy just seeing their delicate beauty, they hacked those back to stumps just before the heat so there was no soft shade from them and they look horrible. They look like they are going to survive, but how long will it be before they are beautiful trees again? Years!

And also on C/ Quintana, there is the Hispanic Centre where they have been putting in the new, dirty grey paving stones and they destroyed and removed the long planter box with the big tropical vines that looked so beautiful. Now there is nothing but the dirty grey pavement and an ugly red tube with some pipes in it to look at. What are they thinking? Removing that planter with the tropical vines was unnecessary and only added to the cost of the project without improving the looks of the street one iota.

On C/ San Juan, that they have butchered some Queen Palms to the extent that they have only two sickly fronds and look like they may not survive. Imagine coming here as a tourist and seeing these sickly and butchered trees, instead of swaying, beautiful palms of the imaginings. Another photo is of the stairway at the end of C/ Iriarte that is awful now. At least they have pulled most of the weeds by now, but it used to have flowers and was pretty well kept. No more.

And the streets are not being cleaned as well as should be.

The best this town has looked in years was when we had those few months with the Lady Mayor, after the previous Mayor passed away. He had presided over a poorly kept town as well with the streets and pavements looking dirty and public gardens and plantings unkempt and shabby. But within a short time after the Lady Mayor took office, after his death, the town began to look so much better – cleaner, and flowers appeared. I didn’t notice any trees being hacked back to stumps or killed then. But, alas, she was replaced in the last election by another male mayor.

Under the previous male mayor, when the town was looking so poorly maintained, I had three friends visit from Valencia for a couple of weeks. They had been here before several times and had liked Puerto, but they told me after the last visit that the town looked so poorly maintained and run-down that they wouldn’t come back again. I wonder how many others have decided the same. This town lives on tourists. It is nice to have a second Carneval etc. but if the town doesn’t look cared for what kind of impression will the visitors carry away with them, let alone those who live here.

I hope you might mention these things in one of your columns. You mentioned once you sometimes had a hard time thinking of things to write about.

Keep up the good work. Your columns are very entertaining, and really hit the mark.”

There you have it, a man after my own heart and a shared hate of grey concrete slabs.

I think the writer should remain anonymous, let’s call him ‘Disgruntled of Puerto’. My reason for this is twofold, for one, in places he is very critical, for the other, I’ll save him from the embarrassment of admitting that he reads my column, and far worse that he finds it entertaining.

Finally, because this is a bit of an epic, still he had a lot to get of his chest, but ‘sprangly’ will definitely be my new word for plants that as well past their sell by date. Unless, that is the paper,s spell-check edits out the word, which if it does would mean you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about.

P.S. I wonder what I can get him to write about next month. The great escape.