On the brink of retirement, John and his wife Sally are determined to end a life at the grindstone in grimy and wet Lancashire. Together with their beloved Jack Russell/Staffie cross, Freddie, a rescue dog from the local RSPCA, they embark on the journey of a lifetime and relocate to the island of Tenerife.
Selling up, they make the move to the north of Tenerife, a part almost unknown to the casual tourist – their very own hidden paradise, a world away from the 'tourist trap' that is the south of the island. Relaxed and surrounded by stunning coastal views, life in their new home, set amidst orange groves and banana plantations, is very different indeed! The weather is fantastic, the temperature idyllic, the people so friendly and the cost of living outrageously low… what more could they ask for?
Adjusting to life abroad, and all of the costs that come with it, are explained in the book – from buying a new home and sorting out living taxes, to integrating into the local community and taking the dreaded Spanish driving test. Follow John and Sally as they learn a new language and take on a couple of new hobbies, while Freddie takes off on some unbelievable (but true!) exploits with his new canine friends.
With a colourful collection of characters, travelling anecdotes that stretch from the English Midlands and all the way through mainland Spain in an old classic car, and some not so perfect moments that bring us back down to earth from time to time, this is a series of adventures that you will not want to miss.
Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands is an ideal read for those contemplating retirement, moving to the Canary Islands or an extended trip through Spain. The book will also appeal to any dog lovers and holidaymakers who enjoy an interesting story.
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“Reading John Searancke's superlative debut, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, about relocating to northern Tenerife brought back memories of my own emigration to neighbouring Gran Canaria. The only worry for John is that he risks endangering his unspoilt patch of Tenerife by being so effusive in his praise. Readers won't be able to help but follow his lead." Matthew Hirtes, author, Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home
The Self Publishing Magazine, Issue 32
Amazon, 4 July
An Octopus in my Ouzo: Life on a Greek Island (blog), 22 May
Interview in Island Connections, Edition 721 (16-29 May)
Island Connections, Edition 720 (2-15 May)
Goodreads, 14 May
Goodreads, 9 April
Goodreads, 7 April
Amazon.de, 14 May
"I was given this book by a friend and at first wasn't really inclined to read it. But when I had the right time and no other books to read, then I took this book in my hands. It fascinated me, the story is written so well and presents a lovely description of the minutae of life. It is a light read which is ideal for taking on holiday - for example, on a beach in Tenerife!"
The Gazette, the official Mercedes Benz magazine, May 2014
Bibliobetty Reviews, 30 April
Island Connections, The Canary Islands, 18 April
Cayocosta72 Book Reviews, 20 March
Female First, 22 March
Many in publishing bemoan the necessity of categorization. The sad thing is that this requirement of the retail trade can so easily deprive a particular “type” of reader, or “interest group” from some enjoyable titles. So I start by pleading with the trade not to restrict the book’s potential by over targeting it. In my imaginary bookshop Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands should expect success under Automobiles, Food and Drink, Animals and Biography, as well as Travel that the cover puts it under.
Extra people sharing a meal will sometimes enhance the enjoyment of it. Almost invariably the opposite is true of places. The author is aware of this danger, and while extolling the many attractions of life on Tenerife he is a realist. To enjoy what he and his wife Sally have obtained requires investment; for a start adequate Spanish. And he spares no detail when it comes to the idiosyncrasies, labours and frustrations of island life. No matter how deservedly widely read I don’t see this book encouraging a flood of unprepared and otherwise unsuitable immigrants.
But this is more than, and different from, a travelogue. This is the later-life true adventure story of a hard-working couple who decided to retire and up-sticks from Lancashire, moving themselves, their beloved rescue terrier cross, and their lives, to Tenerife, to the apartment they had already established as a holiday home.
Woven throughout are the reflections and observations, loves and hates, of the narrator and author John Searancke. Also a restaurant, and equally importantly loo critic, for the local English newspaper, John shares the many disappointments, frustrations and moments of delight and discovery that the seeker of honest food must experience. Although with no self-proclamation it emerges that he is more than a dab-hand himself in the arts of converting fin, fur and feather to fine food, even earning the acceptance of those rustic culinary locals whose offerings he admires.
John Searancke is also a self-confessed petrol-head. The book includes the migration of a lovely Mercedes roadster acquired specially for their new domicile. It is a splendid, left-hand-drive R129 300 SL. They collect it from the Birmingham dealer to drive to its new, underground home below Chez Searancke. The cherished car weaves its way into the story with a brio not un-reminiscent of it’s negotiation of northern Tenerife’s numerous hairpins as it conveys the reader though the “stunningly beautiful scenery” of the green and serene north of Tenerife.
Serene most of the time, that is. For though there is much eulogising about the many blessings of the Searanckes’ new Canaries life there is no glossing over the risks and frustrations of living on a Spanish-governed island created by a still-active volcano, and subject to the occasionally capricious Saharan climate not far off to the right of the map. He pulls no punches when describing a terrifying, and seriously destructive, November storm. Neither are we spared his description of the unpleasant and heavy dustings of fine Saharan minerals that regularly bless the Canary Islands
Minute detail of his dealings with the local and national bureaucracy are entertainingly and self-deprecatingly told, especially the whole business of importing, registering, owning and driving a car in Tenerife. For anyone contemplating driving even a rented car on the island many useful experiences and tips are shared; for example heaven help the roundabout pedant. You won’t stand a chance. But for anyone contemplating importing their own car for use on Tenerife I would judge this book to be essential reading. Interestingly, despite the most careful preparation, the Searanckes’ frustrations start at the point of departure from Birmingham when the local DVLA office almost locks them into a Kafkaesque trap that threatens the whole exercise. The highly-praised dealer comes to their rescue, guiding them through a sort of local procedural by-pass that enables them to immediately register and tax the car as planned, making it legal for the drive. Which goes to show that bureaucratic nightmares know no national boundaries, but the ones we’re unfamiliar with are what cause problems.
One of the challenges John has set himself is walking the fine line between a local restaurant guide and a more general travel biography. Because woven into the narrative are some delightfully told, and at the same time downright useful, reports of obtaining refreshment and nutrition when out. These range from the minor, a superb cup of coffee (and we all know times when there is nothing more important), to the surprise of a sublime, yet incredibly low-cost meal at a guachinche, or temporary restaurant whose license lasts only as long at the owners’ own wine of the latest year. And he covers one or two “upper end” restaurants that he would recommend for very special occasions. He achieves this by reproducing verbatim, and all in italics, extracts from, or complete reviews that have already appeared in his regular column in Island Connections, where this arrangement is helpful to both story and reader. Otherwise food and drink weave their way naturally through the narrative where they are not the main focus of an episode. Although for the non-foodie there’s quite a slab of restaurant criticism, the way the book is edited makes this easy either to skip altogether, or for the foodie for later reference. Even without these pieces the book remains generous. He also provides as an appendix a helpful contact list of featured establishments.
I was particularly touched by John Searancke’s writing style. I found it just a little, but engagingly wordy. Even the odd tautology, which can from other hands so easily irritate a pedant like me, somehow sat comfortably. There is something endearingly old-fashioned about the way he chats though the pages. And one or two passages even evoked for me a hint of Count Arthur Strong.
On the subject of Searancke the man, he brought us quite deeply into aspects of his personal history, and his domestic and family life. For example their dog Freddie is there with us all the time, even when the Searanckes are apart from him on trips. And Freddie’s illness and decline are most touchingly described. One finishes the book feeling like a trusted friend. Most commendably, practically every line gave me quite vivid pictures of where, who and what he is writing about; and I have never been there – scarcely glanced at a map. This is skilled writing: just enough detail to tickle the imagination, but no hint of overkill. For those who know Tenerife, the experience will, of course, be different but if anything even more enjoyable. There is something self-affirming about another’s perspective of familiar places; always something more to learn.
But I emphasise that an ambition or actual plan to migrate are not required to obtain great value from this thoroughly enjoyable book. I think it will appeal to those who love things Spanish, food or driving good cars. Anyone who cares about more than one of these will enjoy it all the more. I wonder what he’s working on now. I look forward to it.
by John Page
I want to live there, never been and want to visit everywhere in the book. It is also an excellent restaurant guide if you want to get away from the tourist traps
As another reviewer said, this is a portmanteau of a book - memoir, travel guide, restaurant review collection and all-round enjoyable read. I find as I get older that I read far less fiction. That's perhaps because I'm becoming very conscious of having less and less time left to read (and I'm not even retired yet ...).
But it's also because I'm weary of buying novel after novel promoted by the big publishing houses, and finding yet another hyped-up 'life-changing' piece of nonsense written with one eye on a potential film/TV rights deal. Some of the novels I've bought recently have been execrable - what I'd call 'books for people who don't read books'.
So I now try to find books written for the pleasure of writing, and if I learn something along the way, that's a huge bonus. John Searancke clearly didn't write this book because he had a late-life urge to become a celebrity author. But it's a cut above most 'let's move abroad' books because it has a genuine voice, and I didn't find myself proofreading and editing it in my own head. Not life-changing, maybe, but this author really did change his own life, and I like that far more than the novels I bought that hit the bestseller list.
by La Viajera Sola
A very entertaining book, full of amusing events encountered by this couple. The description of Tenerife left me wanting to visit the island. The descriptions of the out of the way restaurants and their locations that seem to be frequented mainly by the Canarians is fascinating and made my mouth water. We enjoyed this book so much we actually hopped on a plane and can say we were not disappointed. In fact one of the nicest holidays we have ever had. This was due to the contents of this book and is a must read before going to Tenerife.
by William S
I've read countless examples of 'let's move to a sunnier climate' memoirs, and it's a very variable genre. But John Searancke can write - he's a restaurant reviewer - so this one is a cut above.
And his move from England was carefully-planned, not a mid-winter whim. He's a colourful character, and knows how to tell a good tale. A lively read if you'd like to know more about Tenerife, or if you enjoy non-fiction that spans history, culture, and a realistic look at the ups and downs of a later-life move to the Canaries - the 'Fortunate Islands' of the title.
This author is a restaurant reviewer and it shows in his writing... no poor grammar, no spelling mistakes and the book has been proof read thank goodness! Nothing puts me off reading a book than errors on the first page.
This book tells the tale of a couple and their dog who actually make plans to do it right and move to Tenerife. It wasn't one problem after another although there were a couple of hitches.
Included in the book are restaurant reviews as the author was employed as reviewer "Warts and all" and this also included the toilets which for many people is important... We never eat anywhere without using the loos first and on more than one occasion we have told the staff that the loos lack soap, paper towels etc... only to see that the staff are using them too!!! Exit....
I have visited Tenerife many times its lovely to hear of places we've been to that are off the beaten track. It's a lovely book.
by Jill in Derby
"Sceptic" is my middle name so when "Dog Days in the Fortunate Islands" was recommended I signed into the old habit of being suspicious of holiday destinations. Why? Tenerife to me was bracketed with Magaluf and Torremolenos as destinations for the fish, chips and alcohol loving Brits. How wrong can a food loving Doubting Thomas be? VERY wrong. What an insight into the glorious life experienced by the author John, his wife and of course Freddie the dog.
John takes his readers wonderfully through the trials and tribulations of settling in the Northern Tenerife lifestyle, passing through hilarious experiences fitting into what seems to be a foody's paradise; yet not leaving his previously very colourful life behind.
A joyous, informative and almost home style read which should be enjoyed by all fellow sceptics!
by ELIZABETH HARVEY
A 5 Star Serendipitous Adventure!
Feeling burnt out after years of working hard and living under the grey, grimy skies of Lancashire England, John and Sally decide to make their dream come true: retiring permanently in a land of sunshine! As retirement beckons, they fly to Tenerife for a holiday and fall in love with the unspoiled northern part of the island. They make a list of “pros” and “cons” over a bottle of claret, and voilà! — a five year plan is firmly in place. They seek and obtain family approval, and get a nod from their beloved dog Freddie (who won John's heart when he peed on John's new shoes while being viewed for adoption at the local animal shelter). They sell their joint business venture, arrange a long lease for their Victorian home, and pack their belongings. All is clear for their departure to paradise!
Well, there are a few ups and downs—such as proving they have a right to purchase a car, dealing with reams of Spanish paperwork, taking a driver's exam on a weird rolling road machine, learning the lingo and the true meaning of mañana, and mastering the local “Canary” shrug. John Searancke's retelling of these and other seismic upheavals along the way make for a delightful read about enlightened people, with a plan, determined to make their dream a reality. And remind, or instruct, us that there is no paradise—only more serendipitous adventures.
by Susan Joyce