Last year, when lockdown rules prevented us from distributing the magazine, Gazette Life went exclusively online for three months. In the first of those digital issues, we ran a piece about a visit to one of the most popular sporting events on the island – the Bola Canaria Torneo de Abuelos Conejeros (The Lanzarote Grandparents’ Canarian Bowls Tournament).
We had headed down on a sunny afternoon just before lockdown to find out more about this event, which we’d been told was a bit of a spectacle. We were expecting a busy scene, but nothing prepared us for what we actually saw – scores of Canarians, almost all over the age of 60, gathered around several dirt bowling pitches where at least twenty games were in progress.
Most of the teams wore special kit that bore the name and colours of their home territory – green for Teguise, white for Yaiza, blue for Tinajo etc, – and they came from every corner of Lanzarote. One group, conspicuously wearing the bucket-shaped woven palm hats of La Graciosa, had sailed over from that island to take part.
They couldn’t have been more welcoming, and many of the participants were happy to pose for Sabrina’s camera, delighted that someone was taking an interest in their hobby. What none of us knew was that this would be the last gathering of its kind for a year. Like almost every other sporting event on Lanzarote, the tournament has been cancelled for several months, with no date yet fixed for its return.
Looking back now we noticed how Sabrina’s photos captured a time and a place that this island is still dreaming of returning to. The memory of that day – when hundreds of island’s pensioners converged on Tegoyo to try to thrash each other at Canarian bowls, drink and eat afterwards and, most importantly, chatter and socialise – lives on, and gives us a clear glimpse of what we’re fighting for today.
Let’s hope that some day soon we’ll once more hear the clicking and clacking of bowls, the hubbub of friendly, competitive conversation and see the abuelos dressed up and ready to roll.
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