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​Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Letters from the Canary Islands by Barrie Mahoney

'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

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​Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

It has been amusing to read comments about the islands’ weather in the press and social media over the last few days. Apparently, the Canary Islands have only just survived storm and tempest and all manner of tragedy. Flights have been cancelled, airports destroyed, cars and roads have been washed away and, basically all hell has broken loose on these ‘Paradise Islands’. According to the Mail, Sun and Express, life as we know it on these islands is about to come to an end. Hmm, really?

Fear not, the sun is out again today, and apart from a few more potholes in the roads, and some vigorous mopping of patios, life is more or less back to normal. It has been a bit wet, of course; some flights have been delayed for a few hours, but life continues in much the same way as it did before the rain. These islands do get quite a lot of rain each February, which is why flights and accommodation are usually cheaper than at other times of the year, and some years are worse than others. In short, there is nothing to get too alarmed about, but the tabloid press is having a field day about “Tourism Disaster in the Canary Islands”. Maybe they are talking about life in an alternative universe, or did they simply exaggerate a minor inconvenience to sell a few more copies?

Brits love to talk, and preferably complain, about the weather. Conversely, most Canarians that I speak to have welcomed the refreshing rain that has cleansed our streets from the dust and sandstorms (and dog poo) that have lingered from the summer months. The reservoirs, which were almost empty and were the subject of alternative ‘doomsday’ scenarios in the popular press, have been replenished and the islands’ forests and green spaces are actually rapidly changing from a dusty brown to a lovely fresh green once again. Everything smells so fresh and new again; what’s not to like?

Those reporting sensationalist stories and posting heavily doctored videos about the islands’ weather forget that few homes in the Canary Islands have the benefit of gutters, roadside drains, and even a damp proof course within the basic infrastructure to deal with an excessive fall of rain; we don’t usually need it. As a result, we do get a few problems from time to time, but it is hardly the stuff to get too stressed about. In true Canarian tradition, all is well after two or three days and any inconveniences are quickly forgotten.

For many holidaymakers, of course, the Canary Islands are the subject of dreams and heightened anticipation for a forthcoming holiday in the sun. It also costs a lot of money to get away for a few days, and who wants their dreams to be shattered? How dare anyone publish anything that detracts from this view of ‘Paradise Islands’. Indeed, I have read a number of comments from both residents and holidaymakers complaining that the local press should not be writing anything negative about the weather, because it is bound to have a negative impact upon the tourist industry. Fine, let’s just publish fake news, and forget all about reporting reality. Is that what tourists really want?

The truth that is often ignored is that these islands are not always the ‘Paradise’ that is usually portrayed by the tourist industry. We have our fair share of crime with murders, theft, stabbings, drownings, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, and partner, child and animal abuse are all reported in our weekly news. We boast of more drownings on these islands than any other region of Spain. The islands suffer from poverty, homelessness, require food banks, and face huge unemployment, as well as being the most unpopular region in all of Spain for the quality of employment opportunities. There, we have it; these islands are not always ‘Paradise’ that many like to claim they are, but are merely a romantic illusion of an idealistic world, which may help to fulfil fantasies during a couple of weeks’ holiday in the sun. If you think about it, they cannot be anything else; after all, flawed human beings live and work on these islands, therefore nothing can be perfect.

For much of the year, the sun shines, and tourists come and go. Many arrive pale and sick; some with colds, flu, depression and anxiety in a bid to forget their troubles, albeit briefly. For most holidaymakers, these islands help to refresh and replenish the soul, give inspiration, relaxation and much needed rest to troubled minds. For most of the year, they do a pretty good job, but let us also remember that these islands have their ‘off days’ too. Protection Status © Barrie Mahoney 
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