Sheila Crosby

Sheila originally came to La Palma in December 1990...she fell in love with the island in the time it took to walk from the plane to the arrivals hall.

Sheila originally came to La Palma in December 1990, with a six-month contract to work at the astronomical observatory there. She fell in love with the island in the time it took to walk from the plane to the arrivals hall. It wasn't the sun after drizzly Britain, so much as the palm trees and the impossibly tall mountain range shimmering to the west.

Sometimes in winter you can get snow-capped peaks and banana plantations in the same photo

Next day, she bought an umbrella, because half of the Atlantic was pouring down on her head. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started, and a rainbow arched across the whole sky. By the time she got her camera out, the rainbow had gone and it was pouring again. Fifteen minutes later, she was eating an ice-cream in a pavement café, keeping a weather eye open. She found that, even on the wetter side of the island in the winter, the sun mostly shines, and she finished her ice-cream in peace.

In the months that followed, she explored La Palma and discovered why people call it a miniature continent. Sometimes in winter you can get snow-capped peaks and banana plantations in the same photo, and it's takes less than two hours to drive from a Martian landscape on Spain's newest volcano to rainforest that looks like a fantasy painting - just add a hero riding a six-legged horse in the foreground.

While English has at least twenty words for different kinds of rain (drizzle, pouring, cloudburst etc.), Spanish has at least five words for different kinds of party

In the end, her job at the observatory lasted for over 11 years before she was made redundant. By that time, she'd acquired a Palmeran husband, a child in a local school, and a half-built house. She'd also got a taste for local food, local fiestas, and local customs like having the party on the night before the public holiday, so you can dance all night and then spend half the next day sleeping it off. They have wonderfully imaginative fiestas on La Palma, where the Devil appears covered in lit fireworks, or the crowd throw tons of talc at each other, or they recreate a sea-battle on dry land. While English has at least twenty words for different kinds of rain (drizzle, pouring, cloudburst etc.), Spanish has at least five words for different kinds of party.

So when people asked if she was planning to leave the island, she told them she already had her ticket - for the concrete replica of Columbus's Santa Maria in Santa Cruz de la Palma. Yup, Sheila's going to leave La Palma when the Santa Maria sails.

she tried teaching English and translating, before finding out that what she really loves is writing and tour guiding at the observatory

In the end she tried teaching English and translating, before finding out that what she really loves is writing and tour guiding at the observatory. Her favourite trick is to gather the tourists under the 33ft-wide mirror of the biggest telescope in the world, and ask, "Now, does anyone have a telescope at home? Is yours bigger or smaller?"

These days Sheila is busy as a mother, fiction writer, photographer, tour guide, translator, and occasional English teacher. She's also busy writing an e-book about the astronomical observatory, which will be on sale at her site. Consequently she rarely gets time for her hobbies, which are cooking, laundry, and cleaning the house.

She combines her love of writing and her passion for La Palma in her blog at http://lapalmaisland.sheilacrosby.com, and you can read some of her fiction at http://sheilacrosby.com.
 
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