Shad takes a break in Tenerife

With its dry stony yellow and black terrain, the southern end of the island of Tenerife looks like the planet Mustafar where Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi fought with Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode III.  It marks a pivotal moment when a vulnerable boy corrupted by the evil influences of the Emperor turns on his beloved mentor and falls from grace.  As they duel, light-sabers crackle and buzz with energy while the volcanic landscape around them erupts and scorching lava turns the planet’s crust into a most dangerous battle ground.  Thankfully the only battle I had to face this trip was the one with the fridge door.  Said fridge belongs to two of John’s friends who often invite us over to their apartment by the beach in Golf Sur during the holiday season.  Much as I appreciate the invite, I do wish they would do something about securing feline friendly access to snacks and refreshments which includes having a fridge door that I can open with my paws.  Luckily my rumbling purr and ‘come hither’ eyes have the desired effect and I am usually able to get my sticky mitts on something tasty and revitalising in between naps.


This year’s trip to Tenerife was more exciting than usual following reports in the media of the island’s volcano Mount Teide getting ready to explode after a series of mini-quakes in the autumn.  Apparently seismologists recorded 98 micro-quakes sparking rumours that a mega-tsunami could hit the Atlantic Ocean if Mount Teide, the highest point on Spanish territory, decided to blow.  It was later confirmed that the movements were due to low intensity tectonic shifts rather than up-swelling magma and my concerns about ending up like Obi-Wan, fighting for his life on a bit of hot floating rock, were put to rest.  In fact, the mountain was very well behaved during our trip and looked especially beautiful draped in a white veil of snow.  We drove up the mountain side and stopped at a viewing point for John to take pictures while I watched a funny-looking tan-brown sausage dog scurrying round and round a snowman that his family had made.  He looked like a hyper-active Eewok (Star Wars fans will recognise this reference) but apparently it was his first time in snow so he had every right to be over-excited.

Shad feels poorly on his holidays

I’d like to start by wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2016.  Some people see in the New Year with a bang (noisy little blighters), others prefer to see the New Year in with decorum.  This year I saw it in with cystitis!  Not something I would recommend!  Sorry if that’s a little too much information for some people but all of us have bodily functions and I, even with my physical prowess, am no exception.  Don’t laugh at the physical prowess bit, I’m naturally optimistic!


It all started when John took me to my auntie’s house for a few days while he went to Tenerife to stay with some friends.  My auntie’s house consists of John’s daughter and her family.  She is a lovely lady who looks after me well and I have been to stay there a number of times before without any problems.  But this time I got stressed which I think was a consequence of being around the energetic miniature human that appeared a few months ago and missing my best bud and partner in crime John.  I’ll spare you the details of my clinical symptoms but anyone who’s had a kidney infection will know exactly how I felt.  I kept going in and out of the litter tray, yowling and desperately trying to spend a penny, and I had a few accidents which is most embarrassing.


John was very worried about me when he got the call from his daughter to say that I was not well and a trip to the vet ensued.  £90 later I was given antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and the difference was amazing.  Oh the joys of being able to perform one’s ablutions without discomfort!  I am very grateful to my auntie for looking after me but I was pleased to get home to familiar surroundings where the dulcet tones of my brilliant dad helped sooth my troubles.  Although his tones were not so dulcet when he got the vet’s bill!


I thought I’d cheer him up by sharing a few of his photos from Tenerife, Spain’s largest Canary Island situated 200 miles off the West coast of Africa.  It is dominated by a volcano called Mount Teide and covered in a reddish-brown rocky landscape dotted with pale green bushes, like the backdrop to Clash of the Titans from 1981.  While John visited a beautiful volcanic island with his pals surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean under a warm 20°c sun, I sat on the windowsill staring at the relentless pouring rain getting treats from my auntie while I nursed my hind-quarters!  So whatever you do this New Year, stay hydrated, try not to get stressed and enjoy the simple pleasures in your life.

Shad’s adventure at sea

With the wind in my fur and the rhythmic splashing of the water hitting the sides of the boat, I felt like nothing else mattered except the wild spirit of the open seas and the marine-life that lived within it.  I couldn’t believe that an ordinary black moggy like me was about to head out to sea and witness nature, in its own environment, and on water too.  How brave am I?!

Lundy Island

I was sitting in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat with orange sides and wooden benches to seat 12 people, courtesy of a great bunch of guys at Bristol Channel Charters in Ilfracombe, Devon.  As we chuntered out of the harbour to the wide-open sea, John held on to me and the skipper pulled back the throttle, much to the delight of the passengers who whooped and cheered as we zoomed along at 20 knots  towards Lundy Island.  John shouted “I feel the need”, and someone else cried, “The need for speed”.  (Famous quote from an iconic Tom Cruise movie made in 1986 for those of you too young to remember).


The shimmering sapphire sea twinkled all around and there was not a cloud in the pale blue sky as the shoreline disappeared behind us and an outline of the island emerged in the distance.  Suddenly the engines stopped which could only mean one thing – something interesting had been spotted.  We floated for a couple of minutes before the crew pointed to one of the best sights I’ve ever seen, dolphins hopping in and out of the water.  What a privilege to see these magnificent, inquisitive creatures playing and interacting with us, so friendly and trusting.  The boat engines started again and as we moved slowly towards them, they swam alongside us, weaving back and forth across the bow, leaping and diving.  This is known as porpoising – spectacular jumps alternated with swimming just under the surface of the water in a high-speed surface piercing motion.


We continued our journey towards the island which is only a mile across by 2 or 3 miles long and surrounded by high jagged rocky ridges.  According to the crew, there is a population of around 25 on the island, as well as a few thrill-seeking visitors that come to climb the sheer cliffs.  We took a tour of the island and as we cruised past the west side, the skipper said that there was nothing but ocean between us and America.  It brought to mind images of the first settlers that sailed across the Atlantic, possibly wondering they might fall of the edge of the world!  The seals favoured the eastern and southern aspects of the island which were dotted with rocky pillars and ledges perfect for the seals to bask in the sun, much like this seal splayed on its side like a mermaid.   Some of the seals were so well camouflaged that it was hard to spot them until they moved.  They were quite curious but kept their distance, poking their marbled grey labrador-like heads up out of the water to watch us, like some kind of sea-faring meerkats!


A friend of mine told me that his elderly owner went to Lundy Island way back in the 1940’s and saw a rich variety of bird-life there.  Unfortunately many of these birds have disappeared, but we were lucky enough to spot a handful of puffins in the water sporting their distinctive orange beaks.  There were also razorbills,oyster-catchers and guillemots, as well as kittiwakes, a small silvery gull with black wing tips and a yellow beak.


As we began the 12 mile or so boat trip back inland, I wondered how these animals survive in the wild and couldn’t help but admire their tenacity and resolve.  It makes me think how lucky I am to get my dinner out of a packet from the supermarket while nature’s wild inhabitants work so hard to be self-sufficient and make the most of the limited resources their environment provides.  But despite all the effort of surviving in the face of dangers such as predators or human threats, those dolphins had the time and the inclination to play with us and show us their beauty and agility.  I was most definitely impressed.