Words For All Book Launch

Because car parking spaces In Puerto Del Carmen are in notoriously short supply around the harbour, and because the surrounding streets are narrow and busy and somewhat steep for walking up and down among the crowds, especially for a not so sprightly anymore guy of seventy one (the previous day) we decided to only take our Micra from Play Blanca, and park about mid-route at the harbour of Puerto Callero. On our frequent holidays before coming to live on Lanzarote eight years ago, we used to refer to this, lovingly, as Millionaire´s Boatyard. Now that we are citizens of this island we walk around as if any one of these boats could be ours, and as if one of the spaces in any of the several good size car parks is reserved for us.

Nevertheless, we walked past the yachts in the marina and strolled instead through the rows of shops selling clothes and accessories for the sailors of those vessels. One mannequin was modelling an outfit of shoes, trousers, button-shirt, jumper, scarf and cap that I really liked,… until I realised the price tag I had thought was not too expensive for the whole caboodle was actually just the cost of the scarf. I hurried Dee along so that she wouldn’t make a similar mistake.

We rounded the corner form the shops out on to the harbour’s most far-flung seaward perimeter, to where the Water Bus, was waiting to offer us a ´taxi ride´ that would take us a bit further north to Puerto Del Carman. We had about a ten minute wait whilst other passengers came aboard. Like about ninety of the previous hundred days the temperature was in the early thirties, the blue sky was endless and the views from the open deck out to sea and across to Fuerteventura were fanstastic

However, as the boat vessel chugged into reverse and then spun round on a sixpence we were offered a view right up the coastline to our destination in Puerto Del Carmen. Some of the cliff top buildings of hotels, and houses nearly as big as hotels, were all gleaming white in the lovely sunshine, that also added an aged grandeur to the imperious and impervious edifices that could not be conquered. A gentle, cooling breeze saw what we English call white horses trotting across the ocean and there was enough swell and dip on the water to make the ride feel like we were on a children’s roundabout at one of the island’s annual funfairs.

There were single sail yachts around us, jet skiers, motor boats, para-glider riders and even small fishing boats completing a perfect Degas scene.

It was a lovely trip and certainly beat half an hour of driving round looking for car parking spaces, although of course had it not been height of the tourist season we might not have opted for what was quite a little adventure.

As our Water Bus turned into its destination of the harbour of Puerto Del Carmen, we fell into a conversation with a couple of holiday makers we overheard oohing and ahhing at the quaintness of a busy harbour full of working boats of all kinds, and marvelling at the colourful bustle of it all. Dee explained to them about how an annual festival, Nuestra Del Carmen, celebrates Our Lady Of Carmen, the Patron Saint of sailors and fishermen. This event attracts thousands lining the harbour walls and nearby beaches to watch hundreds of bunting-festooned boats of all kinds, from one man fishing skips to Boaty McBoatface type tourist trip boats, head out to sea. There is a lead boat, selected each year and carrying a statue of Our Lady to lead this flotilla out to sea to a suitable boat park visible to all those spectators on the shore lines. A priest on the lead boat delivers a Mass and blesses all boats at sea, and the boat then carries him back to the harbour with all the other vessels following closely behind. We invariably hear a good natured cheer for the priest, when he ´jumps off the boat and ´wades in the water´ (to quote the old spiritual song) back to terra firma.

Our story told, we disembarked the Water Bus with our forty or so fellow passengers. It was now around 4-15 pm but the event we were here to see wasn´t due to start until 7.00 pm, and the venue was only fifty or so yards away from our dis-embarkation point.

Fortunately in that fifty yard gap was a restaurant that looked perfect and which had obviously been hugely re-furbished since our previous visit. Where once had been a couple of rickety chairs, and an ice cream stall, there was now La Valeta Restaurant, sitting proudly on the harbour side, boasting a 360 degree panorama of the whole harbour and hinterland. So, then, time for a not so quick pint.

We were absolutely dead in between peak meal times of 1.00 pm and 7.00 pm, and this being a restaurant not a bar, our only fellow diners were four members of staff, having a snack and no doubt a well-earned rest after what surely would have been a busy lunch tme period.

I ordered a pint of beer, ´served deliciously cold, please´ and boy, it was, in a frosted glass. Dee asked for a dry white wine and the charming waiter offered her a tasting of a Lanzarote wine from Yaiza,….. she ordered it ! After about forty five minutes of watching a harbour at work and play we were ready to order food. The same waiter explained there was also ´fresh fish of the day including Sea Bass and, did he really say this, parrot fish? Something may have got lost in translation. there, though Dee tells me there is such a thing !

So, I settled for safety and ordered the ´broken egg´ which is not the scrambled egg you might think it is, but rather is a fried egg, or two, served on thinly sliced fried potatoes, with slices of sausage and red peppers all chopped up into a fry-up that might sound ´brunch-like´ but actually when done as perfectly as this, is dining at its Michelin Star finest. It was wonderful

My wife had the same, with the added tastes of octopus and prawns and caramelised onions. (no wonder she needed another glass of wine to what that down with !)

I wasn’t sure I had room for a dessert, but I wasn’t going to break the habit of a well-rounded life-time , so I ordered a creamy, ice-creamy dish recommended by our friendly waiter who seemed almost to be serenading us as he sang along to Spanish songs on the venue’s playlist. I also ordered a ´non-alcoholic´.

When I had finished my dessert, our waiter offered us a free ´shot´ but impressively remembered I was drinking non-alcoholic. He offered Dee a long list of powerful stuff for her to choose from (vodka caramello being her final decision) and then apologised he could only provide me with a blackberry as a non-alcoholic. I was slightly disappointed until I tasted,………it was so good, with titanic blocks of ice and fantastically refreshing.

We’ll be cack we told him, after we had settled a bill for only fifty euros !

For now, though, it was time for our poetry reading event, serving as a book launch of Palabras Para Todas, to give it the correct Spanish title (the language in which the book is written) and which we English might call Words For All.

As we stepped into the hall there were already thirty or so island residents milling around in the usual smart-casual style for such events, but we could see no sign of our friend Mercedes Mingeula, who we knew to be one of the organisers of this event. She made an elegant, but bustling entrance with several people obviously following her, and suddenly the audience had doubled. She obviously knew just about everyone in the auditorium as she moved around the room to them all to say hello. She came over to us, too, as Dee has been for several years a member of a weekly yoga group instructed by Mercedes. I know her too, and last year in November I interviewed her for these pages to preview the first Lanzarote Poetry Festival. I also recited at that festival a version of my own poem Doing The Spacewalk, the only English performer at the event.

We were thrilled when Mercedes called over Berbel, the co-ordinator and compiler of this great new anthology. When she noticed we had already bought a couple of copies of this new publication at the merchandise table she asked if she could take them to sign for us. She returned several minutes later, with the ornate ´signatures´ shown in our photograph.

When giving us back our signed copies she described the book to us as a collection of eulogies to women; both to individual women and to women as a species.

Of course it is common practice for poets to use women or a woman as their muse.

The “muse” in literature is a source of inspiration for the writer. This could be someone they know or a direct reference to the traditional Greek muses. E.g. The poet turned to his muse for inspiration.

The on-line Literary Hub reminds us that it is more than 125 years since the birth of Vita Sackville-West—poet, novelist, and noted muse and sometime lover of Virginia Woolf. Muses, in general, are a tricky proposal—there’s something inherently sexist about the trope of women being objectified and artified by men (see Ruby Sparks, etc.), but there’s no denying that a forceful enough emotion (or a forceful enough person) can change the course of an artist’s work. Artists and writers are often romantics, you know.

Plus, as a culture, we are bizarrely obsessed with the “truth” behind our favourite fictions, ever desperate to unpick inspirations, infiltrations, author’s disguises, and yes, muses—though whether this is a particularly useful way to evaluate art or not is up for debate.

This new compilation features only men writing in a tribute to women. and over 150 writers from all over The Canary islands have contributed original work to the book. Berbel is herself, a well known and much respected poet (and a great friend of Mercedes, (who would be the only female reader here tonight, standing-, in due to unforeseen circumstances).

It was interesting for me as an English poet, unable to understand a word of Spanish, to listen instead to the emotion and the cadence, and how the readers conveyed mood and emotion. Competetive poetry slams have become a big thing in England, but don´t always fit comfortably on the traditional poety recital scene., to which tonight´s event adhered.

Tonight’s readers avoided such dramatics and delivered in a way that allowed the words to speak for themselves. The dignitaries at the table would occasionally either preview or review a reading to make a literary point or social comment perhaps, and at least one reading was also hand-signed (are you reading this Katie Haigh?)

It was a good idea to have a question and answer session at the end from audience to readers. I have seen and heard so many of such sessions as these tumble over into squabble and argument but the top table trio that also included Jorge Liria, the editor of the book had no need to intervene in a polite debate.

This closing session of the evening reflected the overall professionalism of the whole event, and so I should also offer compliments to the ´sound man´ who not only controlled volume etc from his mixing desk at the side of the stage but also had to occasionally skip over to the microphone to adjust its height for the different readers: He did all this rapidly and unobtrusively. Even at the end when he was having to dart in and out of the audience to facilitate the q & a session, he did so in the same calm and professional manner.
All of the top table dignitaries of compiler, editor and a lady with a name or title I couldn´t catch made obviously informative interventions throughout the evening, and we left reflecting on how the event had had been delivered with just the right amount of gravitas and reverence.

We were amazed when we saw the scramble at the taxi rank, but we managed to tumble into a taxi (an automobile this time), and to leave the madding crowd far behind as we were driven to where we had left our car on the harbour at Peurto Callero. A ten euro fare including tip seemed fair enough, and as it was still only around nine o´clock there was just time for another beer and a glass of wine before we set off on what should have been a twenty minute journey back home.

However there was a festival on in Yaiza, (we could see the laser lights from miles away) and so the town centre, (a half mile stretch of road) was closed and were directed instead along the five mile outer ring road that goes behind the football ground.

Just what you need going home from a poetry-reading,……a f8ve mile di-VERSE-ion !!