A small rock in the Atlantic

All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

R.I.P. Florian Goebel

Florien was the project manager for MAGIC II, the second of the huge Cherenkov telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos. The telescope was due to be inaugurated next week, on the 19th. That's been delayed now, because somehow he fell from the prime focus tower in the dark last night. The tower is about ten metres (33ft) high, and Florien's dead.

I only ever had one conversation with him. He must have been very busy, but he took time out to help me with a magazine article. I always think that's the acid test of character: how you treat people who are of no possible use to you.

My husband worked for him for three weeks, fitting mirror segments to MAGIC II, and said several times how nice he was.

My sincere sympathies to his family.

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Monday, 8 September 2008

The Devil's Dance

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

As usual, the devil paid a visit to Tijarafe's annual fiesta.

It starts off like most fiestas. The village centre is off the main road, and on the way in, I passed mobile bars, blasting out music at full volume. The only surprise was that the music was drum and bass. When I reached the main square, higher up, I found it decorated with white bunting and packed with people dancing to the salsa band. I arrived at 2 am, and the crowd looked like it was just warming up.

Something I always notice at Palmeran fiestas - a lot of the younger people are pretty drunk, but it's very rare to see a fight. In fact I don't think I saw as much as a rude gesture in the hour and a half I was there.

Finally, at about 3:30 am, the giants and big heads appeared. These are standard carnival characters, and they wouldn't excite adults normally, but they're a sign that the devil will appear any minute.

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

The band launches into the traditional song, which goes something like, "Tra-la-la-la, the devil's coming soon." And then, sure enough, he appears.

It's a man wearing a metal suit covered with lit fireworks, and he heads straight for the middle of the crowd. Most of the jet is directed upwards, and I don't think you'd get serious burns if you got too close, but most people try to get away (I wouldn't wear your best clothes to this fiesta. I really wouldn't). Of course some people farther away try to get closer, so the result is a lot of pushing and shoving. I was glad to be on the stone wall at the side of the square.

Meanwhile the band is singing, "Tra-la-la-la, the devil's here now," and "Tra-la-la-la, the party's not over yet."

After about five to ten minutes of this chaos, the devil runs out of fireworks and goes away again. And then the crowd thins out pretty rapidly as people go home.

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Devil's coming tonight!

It's fiesta time in Tijarafe, and the devil should join the fun in the early hours of the morning. The Town Hall website says he'll arrive at 4 am. I've only been once in all the years I've lived here, and then the devil was two hours late. But then, punctuality is a virtue, so you can't really expect the devil to have, can you?

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