I look at the hostel across the street from me here in Las Palmas. A line of people outside smoking and chatting. I have only ever seen two people working there. I think what a great business. Its the hotelier in me. I cannot look at a hotel without sizing it up.
For the most part, I really enjoyed working in hotels. I was in my 30s before I started my hotel career. Up to then, I had done a number of jobs. Active compulsive gamblers which I was one of at the time will never have just one job. When we have no money we are dreaming of what we will win when we get our salary. When we get our salary we go missing. When we lose our salary in the betting shop we press the repeat button and the process begins again. The whole thing is like groundhog day.
My working life really comes down to during and after my gambling days. One of the more unusual jobs I did was as a cleaner in Germany in the late 1980s. During my gambling days. A guy came over from Germany to Dublin to interviews 100s of people. I remember it was in the old FAS office. I was good at interviews back then. You had to be able to bullshit when you are an active gambler. When I gave up gambling and became more honest I was not as good at interviews.
At the end of the day, I was one of the four chosen. I would say at the time I was one of the worse people he could have picked. I believed that until I met the other three guys. Two guys called Dave from Dublin. Dave 1 was the worse case of an alcoholic I have ever seen at a young age. Dave 2 was the biggest lier I ever met. Nothing he said was true. He told me that day he needed to get out of Dublin as a criminal gang had a hit on him for sleeping with the boss’s girlfriend. I found out later that he came from one of the poshest areas of Dublin. Then there was Con from Kerry. Con reminded me of the lion from the Wizard of Oz. Con was afraid of his own shadow and one of the most nervous people I have ever known.
The Z Team
So that was it. German efficiency picked the four worse guys that turned up for the interviews in Dublin. Off we went to Germany, not with our shovels but our brushes. Our mission to clean offices on an airforce base in Sylt.
Sylt is an island off the north coast of Germany. It is a playground for the rich and has a big casino. Not a great start for me the compulsive gambler. During our time there we became mini-celebrities. A lot of people knew about the four Irish guys on the island. I could write a book on it and a part of a blog post probably does not do it justice. Needless to say, it did not go well.
Paid once an eternity
One of the first problems was our salary. We got paid once a month. None of us had experienced that before. We waited the four weeks and when we got paid we were like cowboys hitting the town after a cattle drive. I had a casino to visit. Within a week we were broke. We repeated this pattern every month. It was during this time I first found Lidl. As we still had to eat we used to stock up with food. One of the best value items was a can of goulash for 1 mark. It used to feed the four of us for dinner. During weeks 3 and 4 goulash was the only choice for dinner. I will never forget seeing Dave the alcoholic cry as he said I hate that fucking goulash.
How dangerous can a pot of Goulash be?
Every month without trying we got into more trouble. We were asked to do more work. We had to clean a restaurant right next to a bar we used to drink in. To save going in early in the morning we decided to clean it after we left the bar at 5 am. So no one could see us doing it at 5 am we never turned on the lights. I cannot remember how many chairs and tables I fell over. The funny thing was we never received a complaint about our work there.
One day I was returning from work to the wooden house we lived in. Two fire engines passed me. I had a bad feeling. I was right. Con the Kerryman forgot he was cooking dinner and that was that. In a strange way, we benefited from the fire. We were told the insurance company would have to replace our clothing. The next day we came out of the department store as the best-dressed guys on the island with leather jackets and designer sunglasses. The insurance company also had to put us up in a new apartment.
As Sylt was a rich location the apartment was pure luxury. I remember smoking on the balcony and talking to a rich guy from the apartment next door. What were we doing in Sylt he asked. Working as cleaners I replied. The pay must be very good for cleaners he said as he walked away confused.
In Germany, they are a bit strict on fires. If they can prove a fire was started by negligence you can be prosecuted. One day we were taken to the police station. I was surprised by how many of the police officers already knew us. How was the fire started they asked again and again? We don’t know we replied. Well, we do know they told us. It was from the kitchen. Furthermore, we know what you were cooking. It was goulash. Dave the alcoholic roared at the top of his voice. I HATE THAT FUCKING GOULASH.
A disorderly retreat
All good things come to an end and so do all bad things. Dave the alcoholic was sent packing. He had fallen into a swimming pool we used to clean one too many times drunk. I have to admit I fell in a few times myself. Dave the lier had enough and came up with a story about how he had to go home to give his brother one of his kidneys. I asked what about the gang with a hit on him. If it came to him giving up his life to save his brothers life he would do it. I replied I hope the operation came before the assassination. I decided the island was too small from me and a casino. Con the Kerryman lasted the longest. With all the stress something in Con had snapped. He was no longer the nervous wreck he was at the start. He now had a look of a guy who did too many tours in Vietnam. At the start, Con was afraid of all of us. By the end, we were all afraid of him.
A kind of sanity
When I got my act together I applied to go back to higher education course. I had left school at 16. I walked out of an exam and I was asked by my teacher where was I going. Mind your own fucking business I replied. You will never see me again. Of course, he was the guy to interview me for the new course almost 20 years later. Welcome back, Pat. How did you remember me I asked. You never remember the good ones he replied.
After two years in Saint Johns college, I started working in Starwood Hotels in Cork. Looking back I was very driven man back then. I had so much time to make up. I quickly went from a reservation agent to a customer service agent. From working in the travel agent helpdesk to a team lead. From a manager to working in an area managers role abroad. As I look at the hostel across the street from my balcony I think back on my Starwood days. I long for that drive again. Maybe its the sun and the relaxed life Las Palmas can offer. Maybe there is a compromise possible. I would settle for 50% of that energy again in the sun.
Gran Canaria beyond the beyond the resorts.
Agaete and Puerto de Las Nieves.
Most people when they go to the Canary Islands go for one thing. Sun. If you are from a country that is not blessed with neverending days of Sunshine I understand why 7 days on the beach is just what you want. You may be missing out on something special.
Agaete Puerto de Las Nieves is a really special place. It may not get many tourist visits compared to the southern beaches but the locals love here. It is two parts. The town of Agaete is a really charming little town. Flowers make Huerto de Las Flores is a small botanical garden well worth a visit. You can also just walk just walk around the narrow streets of this small town. The small square is a great place to chill out and have a coffee.
The port area of Puerto de Las Nieve is just a 10-minute walk from Agaete. From here you can catch a fast ferry to Santa Cruz the Capital of Teneriffe. It takes just 90 minutes. The port area is a lot more than a ferry port. It has a lovely Stoney beach. There is also Las Salinas de Agaete. 3 walled natural swimming pools linked by volcanic rock. Also, the port offers a large number of restaurants where of course fish is the speciality.
One of the best times to visit Agaete is during Fiesta de la Rama on the 04th of August every year. Salsa bands. Dancing. Parades and a lot of fun are on offer. The participants walk around with branches of palm trees and walk to the seafront. Here they beat the branches on the sea. This tradition is from the old aboriginal days when this ritual was done to ask the gods for water. It is one of the most unique festivals on the island.
Where is it? Agaete is on the north coast of Gran Canaria just as you head down the east coast. It is just 20km from Las Palmas. One of the regular buses will take just over an hour from Las Palmas. From the south, it is best reached by car. You can take the motorway to Las Palmas and continue to Agaete. A more interesting route is via the interior of the Island.
What is happening in Las Palmas
The annual concert to turn on the Christmas lights in Plaza Santa Ana Las Palmas took place last Thursday night. The Plaza is in Vegueta the historic area of Las Palmas. There is always something weird about watching Christmas lights in your shorts and t-shirt. It beats watching it in the cold and rain.
The very popular yearly Playa Las Canteras Christmas Sand Nativity scene opened to the public this week. Over 2 million tons of sand were used to create the scene.
Las Palmas port remains as busy as ever. During the winter season cruise liners that usually sail in the Mediterranian change to the warm weather the Canary Islands. Up to four liners at a time can be regularly in the port between September and May. The liners sail between the Canary Islands. Agadir in Morroco and the Island of Madeira.
These weeks short video is from Playa Las Canteras. The best city beach in the world. Click here.
Join me on my journey.
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