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The short trousers of Canary Islanders’ law

After two years teaching on continental Europe I’ve recently found myself a job at an English school in the Canary Islands. By chance my initial temporary accommodation overlooked the island’s largest beach. Walking along the soft, tawny sands as the almost perpetual sun shines down through the palms can be quite a …. painful experience. The smell of burning foot flesh is something I’ll have to get used to. However, as a new colleague and I found out, this is not the only heat you feel on the beach.

Shortly after my arrival the two of us took a bat and ball out to the sand just in front of our block. The game was just getting started when a flash of sky blue attracted our attention. Leaning over the railings, decked out in polo shirt, peaked cap, black Bermuda shorts and even blacker shades, was one of the “Policia Local”. This beach cop obviously took as much pride in his job as his impeccably trimmed facial hair. He politely informed us of something in Spanish. Seeing our looks of total incomprehension he moved to broken English telling us we couldn’t play here and we would have to move up to the “feenish beach”. Now, the beach where we were was not crowded and we had found a spot well away from other sun worshippers, we weren’t disturbing anyone. We thought about challenging this jobsworth to a knockabout for our right to play. Not wishing to cause trouble however, he might crease his shorts, but mumbling with a disgruntled acceptance we moved about half a mile further up the beach.

Hotter sand and a rockier shore resulted in a more empty beach, “we’re ok here” we thought. However, just as we were breaking into a sweat, TWO beach police sauntered up and equally politely informed us that we couldn’t play here either. Now this was more than a little irritating. Did they have nothing better to do? Surely there was a local hawker to harass or some such undesirable. Anyway, tired of walking, we took a chance for  swim which, although refreshing, only slightly cooled the ire.

About an hour later, having laughed off our brush with “the law”, we wandered back along the palm fringed promenade. Little did we know that word of our miscreant exploits had been spread and blue-shirted clones began to emerge from all corners of the beach front. Walking a little faster now, we noticed not only police on mountain bikes but motorcycles too. Hang on a minute, this was really straining the point! What were we, the ping-pong Mafia?! Putting the bats up to hide our faces we legged it back to flat.

Over dinner that evening we noticed a distinct lack of judicial presence after dark. Even when our local, friendly crack addict lit up just outside our block and gamely hid his detritus in a nearby bin. Nor were they even remotely visible the following day when some loud-mouthed yob took umbrage at the price of fish and started hurling abuse at the shop security guard. Perhaps a better use for them would be to rid the sea-front of the constant scourge that are time-share salesmen.

I don’t mean to get too critical mind so I will mention a moment of glory for the boys in blue. Outside our local bar one evening a hubbub had erupted. People were gathered in fear, amazement and morbid curiosity as it was believed that someone was about to throw themselves from a high apartment balcony. This time the police did show up and in no time the crowd was dispersed and the scene becalmed. It wasn’t until the following day that we were told how they had talked the potential jumper out of ending it all. They had agreed to give him his ball back!

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