New Release: Alice Bailey Biography

I’m delighted to announce the forthcoming full biography of Alice Bailey, to be released on Wesak 7 May 2020 thanks to my obliging publisher.
The Kindle edition is available for pre-order. http://mybook.to/alicebailey
Paperback coming soon….
I have created a dedicated Facebook group for those who want to follow the story of this biography and Alice Bailey more closely.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/394500304830614/)
And here is the book page on my website – https://isobelblackthorn.com/alice-a-bailey-life-and-legacy/

ABOUT ALICE A. BAILEY: LIFE AND LEGACY

From tragic beginnings as an aristocratic orphan to becoming the mother of the New Age spiritual movement, Alice A. Bailey is one of the modern era’s most misunderstood occult figures.

Bailey’s journey is a story of faith, from orthodox Christian beginnings, through a protracted spiritual crisis, to a newfound belief in Theosophy. A mystic and a seeker, a founder of global spiritual organizations, and a surmounter of adversity, Bailey’s past is rife with injustices, myths, and misconceptions – including that she was an anti-Semite and a racist with a dark agenda.

With scandals and controversies laid bare, Bailey’s extraordinary life is revealed as a powerful, remarkable legacy.

Some background on the creation of this book

I say this is my life’s work and it really is. I was first urged to compose a biography back in 2007, a year after I was awarded my doctoral thesis at the University of Western Sydney for my comprehensive study of the Bailey books, when I scored a job with a high-powered literary agent representing Nobel prize winners and prime ministers and the like. Back in 2016, the now retired agent wrote me a rather exasperated email in response to mine saying “Isobel, I just don’t know why you won’t write a biography of Alice Bailey.” Sometimes you just have to do what you’re told. I ‘obeyed’, but the manuscript I produced lacked the sort of detail that makes for a good biography. So I transformed what I had into The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A Bailey.

As a result of that book, which serves now as a companion book to the biography, a door opened. The vital element that was missing until we met was trust. Suddenly, what seemed an impossible if essential task was made possible because of that trust.

There are so many I owe my gratitude to in the creation of this work, those who have given vital resource material willingly and bravely so that certain key moments in the story of the Bailey community post-1949 could be told. Photos have been provided, the Lucis Trust, the Agni Yoga Society and the School for Esoteric Studies provided their assistance, and a number of key individuals with certain specialisms read over chapters to make sure I had things sitting right and had not omitted anything vital. Thank you! I have mentioned you all in my acknowledgements.
I am sure more detail will arise, oversights come to light and revisions will be made – I have a very flexible publisher who will facilitate this – but for now, the moment has come and this book will be in the world sitting alongside biographies of HPB and the Roerichs and Steiner and Jung…
In the end I am left with one essential thought about Alice Bailey. She was her whole life a spiritual activist and it is that activism that so inspires me and so many others. My life has been touched and shaped by Alice and DK for many decades. What an honour now this moment is! LLP

Book Review: Jon Richter’s Disturbing Works Vol 2

About Jon Richter’s Disturbing Works

Another compendium of delightfully macabre stories by Jon Richter, author of Deadly Burial and Never Rest. Jon’s first short fiction collection was described as ‘Black Mirror meets Tales Of The Unexpected’, and here he brings you another chilling assortment of twisted tales encompassing killer creatures, terrifying technology, and scientific experiments gone horribly wrong… These dark fables are perfect for anyone who likes their reads short, shocking, and laced with a dash of black humour.

My Thoughts

This collection of dark tales gets off to a suitably disturbing start as family man Walter attempts to cope with the garbage in his town’s landfill site, a quarry known as The Pit  – the stench, the rats, the maggots, the flies. Walter isn’t happy. He sends his wife and children away to enjoy cleaner air. The mounting garbage, caused by a strike, is mirrored in internal filth, in corruption in local government. The story unfolds through the lens of several other characters, but the main character is really the quarry itself, brought to life in visceral detail, the reader doomed to smell the smells and hear the buzz of the flies. Richter majors here in revulsion and he does it well.

Throughout these ten stories the prose is taut; Richter writes with that necessary poise required of good horror. There is no flab here. The stories are infused with intelligence and insight, the prose filled with crisp dialogue and evocative imagery, such as the following from ‘The Truth’:

“I suppose what I’d experienced had been something resembling a breakdown: a feeling like choking, of being slowly dragged beneath the surface of a lake, bureaucracy and corporate politics tangled around me like discarded plastic ensnaring a helpless sea creature.”

As this second story progresses, I’m reminded very much of Ivor Cutler both in terms of wit and in toying with the absurd. I’m also reminded that so much talent fails to get picked up by mainstream publishing with its orientation towards volumes of sales which lends itself to sameness and formulaic storylines to feed the masses, Fifty Shades style.

All of the stories in this collection set out to disturb, revolt and amuse. If it’s originality you want, look no further. Jon Richter has a wry sense of humour that shines through the pages and at times has you laughing almost in spite of yourself. Disturbing Works Vol 2 is an immersive journey in what is my favourite form of horror: British black humour. Jon Richer is a rare talent and his works surely deserve to be read.

Author bio:

Jon Richter writes dark fiction, including his two gripping crime thrillers, Deadly Burial and Never Rest, and his two collections of short horror fiction, volumes one and two of Jon Richter’s Disturbing Works. Jon lives in Elephant & Castle and is a self-confessed nerd who loves books, films and video games – basically any way to tell a great story. He writes whenever he can, and hopes to bring you more macabre tales in the very near future, including his upcoming cyberpunk noir thriller, London 2039: Auxiliary. He also co-hosts the Dark Natter podcast, a fortnightly dissection of the greatest works of dark fiction, available wherever you get your podcast fix. If you want to chat to him about any of this, you can find him on Twitter @RichterWrites or Instagram @jonrichterwrites.
His website haunts the internet at http://www.jon-richter.com, and you can find his books at Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2OXXRVP.

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. Her dark fiction includes The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks

Exploring Jandía

How could I forego the invitation to visit Punta Jandía, Fuertventura’s southern tip. I’d already passed up the opportunity to visit Villa Winter and the village of Cofete due to the nature of the drive. But I was reassured that the drive to Punta Jandía was straight and flat and no big deal at all, even for fearful me.

It was not!

A windy narrow road heading south from Morro Jable soon gave way to a dirt track badly in need of grading. Pot holes and corrugations and dubious edges formed this wriggling snake of a road set halfway up the skirt of the mountain range. Like everywhere else on this island, there was nothing to break a fall. This road was not made for scaredy cats like me. But I held on tight and, after insisting we travelled at the pace of a snail, mustered as much confidence in my driver, the oncoming traffic, fate and life itself as I could manage. We passed the turnoff to Cofete and I observed the way that road hugged the mountainside. I even saw the lookout over Cofete. Very nice. I would never go there. Apparently, many get to the lookout, observe the even more confronting drive down the other side and turn back.

These old roads were built in the 1930s when General Gustav Winter was building his little German empire down this way. During the Second World War, Germany owned Jandía. It’s a dark and fascinating history, which I am sure to tell in a novel one day.

Eventually we exited the wriggly portion of the road and headed along a flat plain sloping gently down to the ocean. Not much further and we pulled up in the lighthouse car park.

It’s an iconic spot. You can tell that from the number of cars parked in the photo below. None stay long. All the visitors do what we did, have a good look around, take some photos, then get fed up being blasted by the wind and seek shelter and lunch in the hamlet in the near distance.

Jandía Fuerteventura

Situated on an isthmus, the lighthouse takes up almost the whole area at the southeastern tip of the island. While clearly impressive and still operational, we found the lighthouse building dusty and closed up and the best that can be said is it forms a bit of a wind break in certain spots.

Lighthouse Jandía Fuerteventura

Down here, it is all about the views and the ocean and watching where east meets west and the waves break from both sides. Mesmerising.

Punta de Jandía

The photo below looks to the west. The following, to the north on the other side of the isthmus.

I have tried to capture the magnificence of the view in the following shots. Apologies for my appalling splicing! The ocean was that colour. These photos have not been enhanced.

Jandía

After soaking in the exhilarating atmosphere we headed off, following tradition, to the fishing hamlet of Puertito de la Cruz, which makes a strong statement for its size. Here is all about staying in a highly remote location, the fishing of course, and eating. There is a row of permanent caravans with sturdy annexes which can be seen on the left of the photo below, featuring the outdoor eating of the first of three restaurants.

The second restaurant is tucked at the end of the hamlet’s little street.

I was amazed at how neat and tidy this little row of holiday houses looked. Must be holiday houses, surely? Surely no one actually lives here permanently?

We chose the third restaurant, El caletón, which enjoys the waterfront. Terrific on a glorious day. And here is another sculpture, looking the worse for wear.

El caletón Jandía

I am not big on food photos. Instead, I chatted with Antonio, the hardworking waiter rushed off his feet. He lives in Morro Jable and drives down to Punta Jandía every day to work. What a commute!

We lingered for what felt like hours before we drove off in search of the old airstrip. We found it – a stretch of level ground about the right width and length for a small plane – and I decided it did not merit a photo. Instead, on the other side of the road, the island’s bottom edge descends in low cliffs that meet volcanic reefs below. The first photo looks west, the next looks east to the lighthouse.

The west coast is dramatic. A portion of a volcanic crater descends into the ocean and there is no way of accessing the Cofete beach beyond. No idea if anyone owns the goats.

Cofete from south Jandía

The island’s southwestern tip ends in a door. Why ever not! It is the most extraordinary thing I have ever seen. None of us could decide if it used to belong to a former structure or if it is a sculpture in its own right, standing staunch and proud on its own plinth.

It’s Faro Punta Pesebre – in English, a lighthouse (faro) – or rather, a beacon warning of a danger point.

Punta Pesebre Fuerteventura

What was obvious, to me and to my day’s hosts Jill and Ian, was here was a place to get truly blasted by the wind. Unlike the gentler if dramatic shores to the east, the Atlantic ocean to the west is deep and dark blue and with its heaving swell it lets you know it would happily take your life if you let it, even on a calm day like this. Seemed like an ideal moment for the all important selfie.

On the return leg – which proved shorter and less confronting somehow, even though we were on the fall side  –  I managed to take one photo to give an impression of the road. I’m not sure I have really captured the full reality as you cannot see the land descending on the other side. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

The whole journey back I thought of Antonio and his commute.

Now, after the richest and most fulfilling holiday of my life, I must return to Australia, starting early in the morning when I catch a bus to Corralejo, then a ferry to Lanzarote, another bus to the airport, and on to Queensland via Barcelona, Doha and Sydney.

Thank you, Fuerteventura! And thank you, all my wonderful new friends.

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Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of Voltaire’s Garden, a memoir of building a sustainable lifestyle in Australia, and two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

A Day in Gran Tarajal

On Thursday, I caught the bus to the Spanish seaside town of Gran Tarajal on Fuerteventura’s east coast. I knew I was in for an adventure, the bus journey alone amounting to almost an hour of door to door scenery. I am a real sucker for scenery. Only, so many times on the journey I wanted the bus to pull over so I could take long lingering looks at the mountains with all of their curves and their jagged edges. To add to my frustration, the glorious views continued on both sides of the road so you never knew where best to turn your head and, since these are public buses, how to do so without drawing attention to yourself. The bus driver, it has to be said, was a touch reckless. He drove too fast, tailgated, overtook when it was scarcely safe to do so and threw the bus into curves. I was not the only passenger to find this alarming. When I arrived at my destination, a woman approached me and struck up a conversation about the bus ride. She was Spanish and thought I was too. I carried on replying to her without announcing I was English and not fully understanding her every word. The intuition comes in very handy in these situations. And we had a good laugh.

My host for the day was Kelly and when she appeared and interrupted us, I felt handed back to my own language. This was the first time we’d met and as we strolled through the town’s park, all beautiful green grass peppered with palm trees, we quickly discovered we had a raft of geographical connections. I warmed to Kelly immediately as a kindred soul without knowing why. I also warmed to Gran Tarajal, an authentic, Canarian town displaying oodles of civic pride.

The park soon gave way to the promenade and the beach and the ocean. These photos are not the best due to morning cloud, but you get the idea.

Sculpture Gran Tarajal Fuerteventura

The promenade widens then narrows and widens again beside acres of fine dark sand. It is a promenade filled with seats and street plantings and demands of its walkers a slower pace, a stroll.

Promenade Gran Tarajal

Gran Tarajal is wrapped around a bay. Looking up side streets is a reminder of how tucked in the town is, tucked in below cradling, steep-sided hills or small mountains whose arms reach out to form the headlands. The backdrop is far more impressive in real life.

Canarian house Gran Tarajal

I got the impression, confirmed by Kelly, that Gran Tarajal is a laid back, family-centred community of mostly Spanish workers. Here there’s another of the island’s murals.

Narrow lanes Gran Tarajal Mural Gran Tarajal

And of course, more sculpture.

Sculpture Gran Tarajal Sculpture Gran Tarajal

And here you can get a glimpse of how the 800 metre long beach is set up for activities of all kinds.

Promenade Gran Tarajal

Kelly suggested we walked on past the port  – all agricultural produce was once shipped from Gran Tarajal  – to the marina and when there she spotted her friend Georgie, who lives on a boat with her partner and their three small children. The boat was in dry dock needing maintenance. Georgie came over and we chatted through the fence. After a while she invited us for coffee and we sat around beside her boat. I marvelled at what it took to live a life at sea, let alone with three children. I didn’t even know what an anchorage was, such is my knowledge of maritime existence, and I had it all explained to me and gained an image of a very different kind of lifestyle. Hours slipped by and the early cloud gave way to a brilliant blue sky.

Marina Gran Tarajal

Eventually, we pulled ourselves away from what was for me an enchanting and memorable experience.

We passed more sculpture on our way back to collect Kelly’s son from school. Kelly was keen to take me back to her place.

Gran Tajaral

This time, we walked through the town’s streets and arrived at the seahorse fountain.

Gran Tarajal Seahorse Fountain Gran Tarajal

We collected Kelly’s son – memories of doing the same stirred as we stood waiting in the playground for him – then enjoyed a superb lunch at Kelly’s and a rich conversation with her and her partner Dean. It was then I discovered the deeper connection we shared. The couple are creating a sustainable lifestyle here on Fuerteventura, with off-grid solar, grey-water irrigation, trash-mulching and more. In about a year they have transformed their block with extensive vegetable gardens and orchards. When all the baby trees grow they will have an oasis. And they are smart, too. Their block is on a slope, descending to a natural flat-bottomed waterless dam. Their aim is to harvest as much water from that natural dam as they are able. Having created my own sustainable lifestyle in Australia, I resonated strongly.

I didn’t take photos of Kelly’s place; there’s always people’s privacy to consider. Just let it be known there are all kinds of people living on Fuerteventura doing amazing things. I was buoyed by this knowledge all the way back to Puerto del Rosario on the bus. This time I took the coastal route for more epic scenery, although I suspect I scored the same maverick bus driver!

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Read the rest of my  Fuerteventura travel blog here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of Voltaire’s Garden, a memoir of building a sustainable lifestyle in Australia, and two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

 

A Short Journey into the past in Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

Finding Puerto del Rosario Sculptures

Every time I walk around the little port city of Puerto del Rosario – the city of sculptures – I discover something new. Yesterday, I walked to the end of my street Calle León y Castillo, which took me straight down to the commercial port. The day was warm and it was a public holiday so the city was empty, everyone sleeping off the Carnaval celebrations of the night before.

I’ve been passing this iconic roundabout sculpture for weeks now. It’s called the ‘three bums roundabout’ in English, and the same in Spanish, more or less, although they say ‘the three female bums’. – Rotonda de las Culonas, a symbol of unity.

Three Bums Roundabout or Rotonda de las Culonas Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

Heading down past Plaza del la Paz, which is set up for open air events with an elevated stage backing onto the street, I reached the city centre. I love the grand old buildings, even though I know they represent Spanish colonialism, and I have no idea when the building below was built. The history of Fuerteventura since Spanish conquest and occupation of the island back in the early 1400s has been one of a blending of cultures, new Spanish landowners fathering children with majorero women. But the climate here is so dry and farming hard that many Spanish overlords preferred to live elsewhere and the population remained low. To give an idea, Puerto del Rosario is only three kilometres by five at its widest points.

I was on the hunt of sculpture, because through it, the majoreros are telling the world some of their story. On my side of the street I encountered this chap, El Aguador or water carrier. This was how fresh water was carried to the doors of houses in Puerto del Rosario right up until the 1960s. These containers carried about 15 litres each.

El Aguador Sculpture Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

A Detour into the Past of Canary Islands Travel Writer Olivia Stone

My sculpture hunt was sidetracked when I passed by this building. Back in the 1880s, British travel writer Olivia Stone came on a tour of the Canary Islands with her husband. Her travel diary Tenerife and Its Six Satellites is well worth a read.  The two volumes paint a vivid picture of the islands and serve as a vital historical document. When researching Clarissa’s Warning, which includes some of Olivia Stone’s mysterious story including her disappearance from public life, I discovered she had stayed in this building, then a hotel and now, sadly, a ruin. This building is in a prime location at the end of Calle León y Castillo. Something grand should be done here! But then again, would Fuerteventura want to spotlight a British couple who single-handedly stimulated the first tourist boom the Canary Islands experienced? Although it was not a boom that reached Fuerteventura. That said, Olivia Stone played an enormous role in documenting the traditional ways of the islands as she found them then, and somewhere, I feel some honour is due her.

Olivia Stone Fuerteventura Canary Islands casa ruinas ruins Fuerteventura old hotel Olivia Stone travel writer Canary Islands

I carried on, having reached the end of my street. The old and the new blend a little uneasily in this city, as is made clear a few paces on at the corner of Calle Ruperto González.

REl Charco

Back to the Sculptures of Puerto del Rosario

On this corner is another roundabout sculpture, Fuente de la Explanada, expressing the traditional values of the island.

Fuente de la Explanada Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

The promenade along the port contains a long row of sculptures. There’s this guy…

…and this giant shell.

And then, crossing back, I found this, a tribute to round-trip migration. The majoreros have migrated to other lands over the many centuries largely due to drought and famine, and now Fuerteventura is a multicultural island, receiving Brits, Germans, Italians, French, Russians, Latvians, Polish, Moroccans, Venezuelans and potentially one Australian…

Majoreros Fuertventura

Heading Back up Calle León y Castillo

I think I had my British guise on when I set off for my walk, as I wore no hat and had chosen the wrong time of day and it got too hot on the promenade. I hunted for a seat in some shade but there were none. So I headed back up the hill. Olivia Stone writes of how steep the roads up from the port are. Here you can see they are similar to San Francisco in places.

Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

I stopped to catch my breath in the shade a couple of times, and to photograph more of the charming old buildings.

Soon I was back at the church, Our Lady of the Rosary, which dominates the main square. Conceived in 1812 and built in 1824 and then continuing in 1835, today it is considered an historical monument.

Our Lady of the Rosary Church Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario

Walking up beside the church I found this chap, Suso Machín, an artist and writer who wrote extensively of his time in then Puerto Cabras in the 1930s.

Suso Machín Sculpture Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

Walking around Puerto del Rosario, I have gained a tremendously rich impression of what is important to Fuerteventura, to the majoreros and their cultural identity. They live quietly and modestly behind the scenes, letting all this street sculpture – there are over a 100 works around the tiny city – tell their story for them.

Join my Facebook group to keep up to date with my Canary Islands writing

You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

A Day in Fuerteventura with Photographer JF Olivares

Meeting Majorero photographer JF Olivares

I had only been on the island a day when JF Olivares – a friend I met on Facebook in 2017 and who inspired both my novels set on Fuerteventura – offered to show me some of his favourite places on the island. He’s a charismatic and passionate man and I managed to follow his Spanish for a good many hours, which is no small feat when you’ve just arrived after travelling for 44 hours.

The Secret Valley of Guisguey

We headed west from Puerto del Rosario to the village of Guisguey in a long valley, wide at first, but narrowing the further up we went into the mountain range the cuts the island in two for a stretch in the mid-north. Google Maps takes you so far into this enchanting location, but JF Olivares was taking me well beyond that. I was in for a serious back road adventure. I cannot describe how it feels to be amongst all this dry rock, except that whenever we stopped, which was whenever the road ran out and we had to turn around, we could hear only the wind and a few birds.

near Guisguey Fuerteventura

Heading from Caldereta to La Oliva

On the way back down the bumpy rocky road Juan pointed at some houses on the crest of the steep hill. El Time. I remembered my boyfriend and artist Pedro and our short-lived and passionate romance, and how he wanted me to move to Fuerteventura and live with him in El Time. It wasn’t to be as I was swept up by the infamous Miguel and installed in his house in Haría, Lanzarote, and my fate was sealed.

When we reached the main road we headed north a short stretch, turning off to La Oliva. When we reached Caldereta, a village I knew only because I found a charming old cottage for sale a few years back and toyed with buying it until I saw the dogs chained up beside the neighbouring farmhouse.

After a quick drive through La Oliva, Juan called in at a small grocery store for ham and cheese rolls. We ate our lunch standing beside Montaña Arena surveying the entire northern tip of the island.

Montaña Arena near La Oliva Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura – A Sensual Landscape Experience

I was agog the whole trip, drawn by sweeping curves, the sensuality of the landscape. Fuerteventura brings out the artist in me. I am sure if I lived here I would draw and paint. My photos cannot do justice to the scale, the atmosphere and the incredible silence of the island away from the tourists. Juan pointed out the ruins of aboriginal dwellings – little more than small circles of stones that were once huts. We talked and talked and my head bursts with fresh knowledge of the special culture of the indigenous people, the dark history of the Spanish overlords, and the lack of will of modern day governments at all levels to preserve the integrity of Fuerteventura and value it as so much more than a lot of dry dirt to be built on so that more and more can dip their toes in the ocean.

So pleased I managed to take this photo of JF Olivares, a man with a grand passion for his island.

Join my Facebook group to keep up to date with my Canary Islands writing

You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

The Sahara arrives in Fuerteventura

A Calima hits the Canary Islands

The Calima: I knew it would happen if I stayed here long enough. Maybe that is why I choose to be here for a whole month. I wanted to test how I would handle it.

Periodically, the Canary Islands get choked in Saharan dust that wafts over the ocean from Morocco. Hot dry winds tend to come with it, although today there is a temperature inversion, the dust acting as a shield from the sun. There is little wind at present. And the dust is thick, although not so thick as to blacken the sky. I watched the calima approach from the east this morning. In a few hours it had smothered the island. This is one of the worst I have experienced. You can feel it in your mouth. Can I endure it? Yes, but only by staying inside and closing the windows. It doesn’t sting the nose like bushfire smoke. But it isn’t healthy. Traditionally, I guess  this is why those living in desert climes wear scarves over their faces. I would do the same, living here on days like this.

I knew the calima was coming as I have taken to watching Canarian news in an effort to drench myself in Spanish.

About mid-morning, I decided I had to go out, even though I didn’t feel like it. After depositing my recycling in the communal bin on the corner of my street, I wandered back towards the park I can see from my apartment. I found Calle Lanzarote and thought it was quite lovely, even though the photo does not reveal its charm. You can see the haze making the sky dull.

Escaping into a Bookstore

Determined to explore more of the city – I have an awful habit of finding preferred routes and sticking to them, a habit I am determined to break – I stumbled on the island’s main bookstore, Tagaror. Downstairs was filled with children’s books and all sorts of items for school. Stairs led to another floor but there was no sign and I wasn’t that sure if it was private. I was about to leave when I summoned the courage to ask and was directed up to the main bookstore. I entered a large room that Oxford itself would be proud of, one half given over to fiction. I went to the non-fiction section and browsed the shelves. There was an Esoteric section, appropriately named for what it is, and not New Age or some other euphemism.

No Alice Bailey, the subject of my doctorate and mother of the New Age movement.

I did find probably the only book written in the English language in the store.

I felt embarrassed paying for it, especially when the assistant spoke to me in English. I have become awfully shy speaking Spanish. I need to take a bold pill. When I do summon the courage, the response is very positive, especially when I announce I am Australian.

While in the bookstore I made an important assessment. Tagoror is a bookstore for the local Spanish-speaking population. The two tables containing books of the Canary Islands featured two fiction authors, one who lives in Lanzarote and another who used to live in Fuerteventura and is now based in Gran Canaria. I doubt either sell many copies, but what was obvious was my books, written in English, would have no place there in that bookstore. Few English browsers would venture up the stairs. If my books were translated into Spanish and published locally then they might stand a chance of doing okay, but only if I lived here. And even then, I would have to find a way of gaining acceptance as a British-Australian, when culturally, the islands will rightly champion their own. I would have to navigate the terrain of cultural appropriation, not in the content of my fiction, but in my very presence as a non-Canarian author on the island. It seems an awful lot of effort to sell a few books. But is that what my role here, if I had a role here, would really be about?

Understanding Fuerteventura

My stay in Puerto del Rosario, as distinct from any of the many tourist towns on the island, has left me in no doubt that there are two Fuerteventuras. One comprises the tourism and the migrants (perhaps including the Spanish from the mainland), the other is made up of the local population, those born in the Canary Islands, and they live a life as much as possible entirely separate from the tourism they can scarcely avoid. It is as though, in Puerto del Rosario, through their determination not to cater for tourists, especially in the way they fashion their shops and cafes for themselves, they are making it clear they do not want to invite in outsiders. It’s a silent statement and it is very obvious. They don’t want to make it all that easy, not because they are hostile, but rather because they are holding on to their own cultural identity. And if Tagoror is anything to go by, there is a large educated reading public in this town, which serves to strengthen cultural identity and pride.

Of course, these are only my observations and speculations. I am going on brief impressions. But I am observant. And I am trying to imagine myself living here. How would I fit in?

Australia shares with the Canary Islands a love affair with all things local and as an author, I have come up against this many times. Local sells, because people love to read about their own place and tourists love to read about places they’ve visited. Hence travel fiction. Local also sells in cultures that feel invaded or vulnerable in some way, which applies to both the Canary Islands and Australia.

My problem is the only place that inspires me to write over and again is this island Fuerteventura, and it feels weird continuing in this vein when I live in Australia. I am caught on the horns of a dilemma. Should I relocate? I have been considering the possibility for three years. I only have a few months to make up my mind thanks to Brexit.

Alas my walk about town was curtailed by the thickening dust. I can still feel it in my mouth writing this. Normally, you can see the ocean in the first photo below.

Making a life-changing choice is never easy. Right now, my mind is as dusty as the horizon.

Incidentally, while in Tagoror I browsed a glossy hardback explaining how climate change would affect the Canary Islands. From what I could gather examining the various charts, the average temperatures here should remain reasonably stable. But the prevailing wind is shifting to the east and bringing with it more calima days, more days of Saharan dust.

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You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.