After days of torrential Yorkshire rain, it’s hard to believe that a week ago I was on Gran Canaria, basking in gorgeous sunshine. It’s one of our favourite holiday spots, and not just for its wonderful weather.
Thinking about it, most of our favourite holiday places are islands. I got the taste for them, I believe, when as a ten-year-old I went with my family to Guernsey, a magic place. Or maybe it was even earlier; I suppose I was about eight when my best friend and I found a small grassy island in the middle of the beck near our village, and decided it was “ours”. I don’t remember anyone else wanting it actually, it was too small to be useful, but we named it Romosinnif – an anagram of our surnames – and were very fond of it. I wonder if it’s still there?
Gran Canaria is somewhere Richard and I keep going back to, because it suits us down to the ground. For us, a good holiday doesn’t need wild parties; we don’t shop till we drop; we’d get bored silly lying roasting on a sun-bed each and every day. You can do all those things on Gran Canaria, but that’s not why we go.
Yes, of course we swim and enjoy the sun, and the occasional drink or three, and a good meal, preferably at a restaurant where the locals eat, so the prices aren’t aimed at tourists.
In fact getting off the beaten tourist track is what we enjoy, seeking out interesting places, especially with striking scenery. Gran Canaria has varied scenery all right: the seashores range from dunes to cliffs, there are lush valleys, arid moonscapes, high mountains, and the wonderful climate means bright flowers all year…OK, enough. I’m truly not employed by the Canary Islands Tourist Board, I just love the place.
It’s something more than scenery or weather that makes offshore life so special. It’s the people themselves. I’ve stayed on or visited dozens of islands, some around Europe, some in the Caribbean, and some further afield like Sri Lanka and both parts of New Zealand. I’ve realised that islanders are a breed apart. They’re independent-minded and self-sufficient; geography has made them that way, but even in these global-economy days, they still manage to keep a distance from “the mainland”, and like to do things their own way.
I assume this mindset strikes a chord with me because I was born and bred on an island too. Britain still keeps a feeling of aloofness from Europe, even today, with the Channel Tunnel, the Internet, and all. I’m aware this seems weird to many people who don’t belong to what Churchill famously called “our island race”. “Why do you Brits agonise about whether you’re part of Europe?” they ask. “Just look at the map!” Exactly…look at the map. We’re close to Europe, but still an island. What’s more we’ve got smaller islands around us, who keep their distance from “the mainland” – us – just as we keep ours from “the continent.”
Good luck to all islanders. However small the world seems nowadays, may we never lose our inbred liking for showing a bit of independence now and then, and doing things our own way.