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Letter from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

As some of you people may possibly be participating in a cruise to the Med. and Spain, and as I'm the only representative, I'd hazard a guess, of the class of '64 permanently living in a Spanish territory, I feel I ought to be saying hello to Philip Lee and anyone who may be taking part in the cruise being recommended by him, whose open invitation dated 12 October refers.

Friends, ex-classmates and contemporaries, greetings from a part of Spain, my second adopted country!

Yes, I have been living in Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands, since 2008. I had left HK for the UK fairly early in August 64, in fact only days after finding out I had managed to pass the old school cert. I think I might have been the first pupil from the class of 64 to leave HK; and I had spent the subsequent 44 years in old Britain.

The reasons that I have done yet another country swap are many fold, but the primary motive behind a second uprooting is the climate. 

In my opinion, Lord Byron, the 18th century English poet, wasn’t at all exaggerating when he famously said “The English winter, ending in July, only to recommence in August.”  The fact remains, not only had I been suffering from the vagaries of the English winter, the English summers did me no favours either.  For me, the eternal problem with summer in that ‘green and pleasant land that is Britain’, was grass pollen. Looking back, some allergy indications were already evident with me growing up in HK.  But then the occasional bouts of sneezing were nothing compared with the full blown symptoms I had to endure with all those summer months in the UK.

Then in 2005, I visited Lanzarote for the first time.  Within 5 minutes of setting foot here, I knew I had found a cure for my cold climate aversion and my hay fever allergy, all at the stroke of a pen, forever.  I am proved right. This island is so dry and arid that normal grass or lawn, which is the bane of most hay fever sufferers, simply cannot flourish naturally; and whatever plant pollen there may be, it's all blown away by the sea breezes. 

The climate here is the best that can be found anywhere in the EU, if not the world. There is no winter here because of the proximity of the Sahara Desert weather system, and the heat in summer is thankfully cooled by the Atlantic Trade Winds. It's no secret that even people in the north Spanish mainland call these islands “Las Islas Afortunadas”, The Fortunate Islands.  After all, summers in Madrid could be scorching and the winters could be brass monkeys, yes, even colder than London. But Philip has picked well with a tour in April and May, because it'll be springtime in Madrid.

There is nothing that will make me relocate again. I had spent years learning French as a stand-by in the 70's thinking I'd escape Old Blighty one day and opt for the warmer climes of southern France. (This explains why my nickname had become Pierre during the 70s).  But all that French went out the window when Spain joined the EU in 1986.  The weather here is even better than that of the French Riviera. You won’t believe the number of French, Italian, even American people who reside here. I have found the Spanish culture more laid-back, more agreeable. Spanish society is still relatively family orientated, comparatively more religious, more law abiding than mainly Protestant Old Blighty.  I can honestly tell you I feel a hundred times more secure walking the streets in Spain than those in the UK. Spain is still a predominately traditional Catholic country, not that much different from our roots and backgrounds tempered via WYK.    

¡Pués, saludos y hasta la proxima !

-- By Peter 'Pierre' Liu Man-ho 

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