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.

A stunning review of Clarissa’s Warning

In this busy world of ours, authors can generally expect reviews of one or two paragraphs. Every now and then one comes along that is much more than that. I am delighted to share extracts from this very long and heartwarming review of Clarissa’s Warning by Kamal of Kiri Books.

“Set in the picturesque setting of an unspoiled island, Fuerteventura – one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa and Spain, the story weaves all the elements of an archplot in a masterly stroke. The story has a classical design with linear time-flow, causality, single protagonist, consistent reality, active protagonist, external conflict with the exception of the ending, which remains open. Sitting on the top of the story triangle, ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ demonstrates infinitesimal elan over its elements.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

Claire is a wilful character with a conscious desire. And she gets a chance to fulfil her desire, courtesy, the lottery-ticket. She has the capacity to fulfil her desire and is appropriately reflected by her independent decisions and strong-willed actions. She holds the cohesive bond with the readers with the glue of empathy. As the story progresses, gaps between expectations and result keep on widening, raising the conflict level and upping the potential of the climax. Placement of the crisis, along with the design, is suitable and controls length of the climax with a palpable fervour. The flashbacks are sporadic, fact-filled and meaningful; especially the flashback of Claire mother’s demise is very graphic and emotive.

The story has a riveting rendition of the Fuerteventura and its history – the belly juice of a beetle that made it preferred inhabitable area of the wealthy, the captivating array of social and personal lives through the lens of colonialism, and the abundance of beauty of nature and traditions. The dialogues are crisp, colloquial and contextual.

The subtext dominates everywhere. When Claire mentions there are five routes to Tiscamanita and she had taken them all, she establishes herself as an exploratory and inquisitive person. She wants to restore a ruin is, in a subtle and indirect way, symbolic of her fierce desire to mend her broken past….

Her unresolved grief, of her mother’s demise, make her inner substance resonate with the subliminal energies rather too fittingly…Sensing the opportunity, the spirits use her as a conduit to express their anguish, warn her, wreck her, take help from her, or plainly observe her.

The story navigates with the enlivened characters, each with a backstory and a brain of their own…The plot has plenty of twists and turns and the structure of scenes, tightly knitted in neatly separated chapters, is taut and spill-proof…

…The anticipation of the unknown and narrative integrity keeps the conflict cocooned and growing, to burst in the final scenes with brilliantly planted and spaced expositions. In the final acts, the veiled and vilifying esoteric elements snatch away the driving seat, chase Claire to run for her life, a sprint in which she discovers the version of truth that alluded her throughout. She welcomes her own metamorphosis, and comes at terms with becoming fearless after making eye-contacts with the ever-evading reality. The light of Mafasca and the legend of Olivia Stone heightened the curiosity-quotient in this tightly-packed thriller.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

A terrific and transforming piece of work by Isobel Blackthorn!