Living in rural Mallorca

Country life in an old Mallorcan finca

A bird’s eye view of rural properties on Mallorca

The Binissalem area of Mallorca from a helicopter.

The Binissalem area of Mallorca from a helicopter.

For five years of my independent radio broadcasting career in the UK, I flew over Oxfordshire on weekday mornings for an hour in a helicopter, reporting on the rush-hour traffic situation around the county. When I say flew, I wasn’t at the controls; that was a charming man we dubbed ‘Michael the Pilot’. Like many pilots, it seems, he had a well-modulated and rather appealing velvety voice (Michael’s certainly appealed to a large number of our listeners when he made the occasional contribution to the broadcasts). Perhaps a voice audition is part of the pilot selection process?

I loved these daily flights and the excitement of being up, up in the air, with the landscape spread out below us. They were the highlight of my working day and, when I moved to the BBC for a better opportunity, were something I missed more than I had expected.

Mallorca from the air

Having moved to Mallorca I began to imagine flying over the island and seeing its natural beauty from the air. I still often rush out of the house if I hear the familiar thrub-thrub of rotor blades, just to see a helicopter passing by.

So I wasted no time in accepting an invitation from Balearic Helicopters to view the new R66 Turbine Helicopter from the Robinson Helicopter Company, which was on loan from Sloane Helicopters in the UK for a week, to give potential buyers the chance to see it. The Boss and I combined a visit to the Sunday morning market and an artisan microbrewery at Santa Maria, before heading to Binissalem aerodrome (which we hadn’t even known existed), where the helicopter would be gleaming in the sunlight for all to admire. And she was a beauty.

Jonny Greenall, Balearic Helicopters’ affable chief pilot, used to run Sloane Helicopters on Mallorca, but Sloane is no longer on the island and Jonny has started his own business.  He and his team made an assortment of visitors that afternoon very welcome, providing a hog roast lunch and a rather scrummy banoffee pie. There were a few people in the group who already owned a helicopter and possibly were looking to upgrade; they were the ones asking the questions and cooing over some of the more exciting technical innovations.


Sloane Helicopters’ R66 Turbine Helicopter visits Balearic Helicopters on Mallorca.

And we’re off . . .

Once we’d all had a good look around and inside the 5-seater craft, Jonny announced that he’d be doing some short flights for those who were interested in going up. I promise that I didn’t trample anyone in my rush to reach a seat, but I was thrilled beyond most normal people’s comprehension to have the opportunity to go up.

Jonny Greenall flies the R66 Turbine Helicopter over Mallorca.

Jonny Greenall flies the R66 Turbine Helicopter over Mallorca.

Up in an R66 Turbine over Mallorca

Views of the Tramuntana mountains.

When my turn finally came, we took off and flew for a few minutes over the Binissalem area – probably best known for its vineyards, which look impressive from above. We also had a good view of quite a few fincas we passed over, which is why some prospective rural property purchasers take a helicopter trip to check out the surrounding area from above.

Fly before you buy?

Fly before you buy?

Even if you’re not planning to buy a place in rural Mallorca, if you can afford it, a helicopter flight over the island will give you a unique perspective of this beautiful Mediterranean island. If you look down and see someone waving enthusiastically from a rural finca in northeast Mallorca, it’ll be me . . .

To find out more about the R66 Turbine, check Robinson’s website.



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A sporting challenge in rural Mallorca

Sporting activities have occasionally affected us in the rural valley in Mallorca where we live. In our early years of living here, the circuit of an annual car rally that was part of a local spring fair included the narrow lanes around our home area. For several hours on one Saturday a year the lanes were closed to all other traffic, so we were either confined to our homes, or out somewhere, for the duration.

The first year we experienced this, a few motorists drove into our field to park their cars. There was a gap in the wall at the time, and our field was one of the few accessible places to leave a vehicle off the lane. We allowed these marshalls and spectators to park on our property, and settled down to do a little spectating of our own from our terrace.

Wheely fast

Road restriction notice

The car rally no longer comes our way but, a fortnight ago, advance road restriction notices were posted for the main road at the top of our lane. Because of the Thomas Cook Ironman 70.3 Mallorca, various roads would be closed for the cycling part of the event. The Ironman 70.3 is billed as the world’s toughest race. How could we not be there?

No, not taking part. If you don’t already know (and I had to look it up), the 70.3 relates to the number of miles travelled (which equates to 113 kilometres). The challenge includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run (a half-marathon). My own bike’s had two flat tyres for at least a year (which would have been the least of my problems), and The Boss doesn’t possess a bicycle. That’s why we wouldn’t be taking part.

Two for the ‘Tinman’ 4.6km

The competing cyclists would be whizzing past the top of our lane during Saturday morning, so we decided to have a little exercise of our own and walk up to see some Lycra-clad sporting excellence in action. The walk from our finca is only 2.3 kilometres, so our own challenge was more ‘tin’ than ‘iron’, but after a very long hot summer with not a lot of physical exercise, it was quite enough.

Making it look fairly easy . . .

Making it look fairly easy . . .

Apparently 2,500 competitors from 57 different countries took part in this year’s event and presumably all cycled past the top of our lane at some stage. We saw several dozen Ironmen – and Ironwomen – go by (the majority were already further ahead) before walking home again, exhausted from watching their efforts. I have no intention of pumping up my bike tyres any time soon . . .








Goodbye, chickens . . .


Some time ago I wrote about ses galines de sa rotonda  – the flock of chickens that had been living in the middle of a traffic roundabout at Plaza Madrid in Manacor for the past couple of years. After an unpleasant episode involving some stray dogs, our feathered friends were recently given a safe ‘home‘ by the local council. Bravo, I thought, at the time.

The island newspaper Diario de Mallorca wrote an article last month about the installation, designed to keep the chickens safe from prowling pooches. The article explained that if the flock grew to more than the usual 15-20 birds, any surplus would be relocated to Natura Parc. Fair enough.

But this week we noticed that the chicken hut has disappeared. And, it seems, so have all the chickens – unless anyone has actually seen them in recent days? Looking at various comments on their Facebook page (3,188 ‘likes’) – if my translation of mallorquín is accurate – all of our feathered friends have been sent to Natura Parc. They’ll be sadly missed by their many fans . . .

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Life behind bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’. (That nickname for the island’s prison must really annoy Mallorca’s real Hilton hotel, Sa Torre Hilton near Llucmajor). Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping some out . . . others in

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another maintenance job for the property owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .

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How about living in rural Mallorca?

We’ve met a lot of interesting people since we moved to rural Mallorca – and some of them also own fincas; it’s always good to talk to others who have a similar lifestyle to our own. One such person is a lovely lady called Kay Newton. Work, life, and the distance between our respective homes on Mallorca has meant that I haven’t seen nearly as much of Kay as I’d like to have done.

We met first at a lunch organised by a women’s networking group known as LACE. I joined this group fairly soon after moving here – not because I needed the advantages of networking with businesswomen, but because the only females living in my immediate vicinity were sheep, and I needed some girl talk! (I have, of course, since got to know the women who live in the valley).

Unfortunately for her many friends (she is a very popular, warm-hearted, and generous person), Kay and her husband are about to leave Mallorca for rather exciting reasons.  Their departure raises the possibility for someone to enjoy a new life – and potential business – in a finca on this beautiful Spanish island.

Here’s Kay to explain . . .

“I’m a personal development coach, author, and mum to two boys aged 18 and 21. Now we have an empty nest. My husband and I are currently undergoing a lifestyle change. After 30 years on Mallorca, and 20 years in the same house, we are about to move to a beach hut in Zanzibar! So our ‘dream life’ here in Spain is up for sale.”

So you are in effect going from an ’empty nest’ to ‘no nest’?

“At the beginning of this year I had no idea we would be having this conversation. This opportunity arose at Easter, and we felt we just couldn’t say no. The kids have left home, we have downsized and de-cluttered, and our lives now fit into two 20-kilo bags.”

What have your boys said?

“My eldest is following his passion in food and is currently a crew chef on board a private superyacht. My youngest is about to start three years at a UK university. The whole family enjoys adventures. It was a bit of a shock at first, yet I think they like the idea now.”

What do you love about Mallorca?

“I love the Mediterranean lifestyle and the weather of course. The Sunday Times recently voted it the world’s first choice as a destination to live. The close proximity to Europe makes it a wonderful holiday destination too. I love the fact that you can still find quiet beaches in August, and in the autumn and spring the mountain walks are spectacular. We have fabulous restaurants, great international schools, a large expat community – and, of course, living here at Can Jaume!”

Tell us about Can Jaume

“Can Jaume is situated in the centre of the island away from the tourist areas. It is in a rural setting yet has easy access to the city of Inca and the island in general. The 11,000sqm plot is all organic and the accommodation split in two. A fully restored farmhouse with four bedrooms, and the old milking shed is now a two-bedroom guest house. I am able to work from home as a personal development coach and Tai Chi instructor, and use the guest house for workshops and retreats when it is not rented out.”

So you are selling your dream?

“Yes, in effect, we are selling the dream lifestyle we lead here, not just a house. We have put together a package for the right person. Someone who wants to act quickly, get away from grey skies, perhaps, and someone who is excited about taking on a project with a proven track record. The package include the house, furniture, website, holiday listings, and coaching to help you through the setting up period. All you really need is to pack a suitcase!”

House for sale Inca

Living the dream at Can Jaume, near Inca, Mallorca. Photo courtesy of Kay.

More information can be found at:

The Boss and I wish Kay and James every success in their new life. Now, read the press release about the latest book written jointly by Kay and Pat Duckworth, available on Amazon Kindle  . . .

Five Quick Fixes For Empty Nest Syndrome: What every parent needs to know

Now that the excitement around the A-Level results are over, job vacancies being filled and university places being sorted out, it’s time to think about whether you and your young person are ready for the next stage – independent living and the empty nest.

There may be no statistical evidence to prove that empty nest syndrome exists, yet those experiencing it will vouch that it is real, emotional and often overpowering. Today, when we are in pain, we look for a quick fix, a magical pill to cure our ills.

In reality, we know there is no such thing as a quick fix, yet there are simple steps you can put into place immediately. Local writer and therapist, Pat Duckworth, has co-written a short book with coach, Kay Newton to provide parents with strategies to help readers successfully navigate this stage of life.

“Empty Nest is a time of transition for the relationship between you and your child as they develop into an adult. That parent/child relationship may be ending, but a new adult relationship is just beginning,” says Pat

Here are five of their tips:

  1. Is everything prepared? Does your young adult have all the skills they need to live alone?

Have you begun to think what you will do with your spare time? Have you all discussed and agreed ground rules for visits home in the future?

2.  Let go

We learn better by making our own mistakes. Now is not the time for ‘helicopter parenting’, for doing everything for your young adult. Let them go it alone. Let them fall. They will learn to pick themselves up again, just as they did as toddlers.

3.  Talk about money

Money plays an important role at this stage, yet it is often ignored and not talked about. Do you know your financial situation? Have you let them know what financial help you can give, and for how long it will last?

4.  Have a ritual

We celebrate all other stages of our lives, yet often fail to celebrate midlife and the next step in our family dynamics. Plan a celebration that will mean something to you all at this defining point in your lives, helping you all to focus on the future.

5.  Seek professional help

If you still cannot cope with day-to-day tasks two weeks after your nest is empty, seek professional help.


About the Authors:

Pat Duckworth

Cognitive hypnotherapist, author, speaker, workshop and retreat facilitator.

After a successful career in the Civil Service Pat took early retirement and re-trained as a cognitive hypnotherapist. Pat specialises in helping women find solutions to their menopause symptoms. As a professional and positive role- model Pat inspires 50+ women to make effective changes in their life, without necessarily using treatments that involve side-effects or contraindications.

Pat’s three books and work can be found at:

Kay Newton

Personal Development Coach, author, speaker, workshop, retreat and event facilitator,

Uniting and inspiring midlife women is Kay’s passion. For the past thirty years Kay has lived her dream life in Mallorca Spain. In September 2015 Kay is moving to Zanzibar Tanzania with her husband and a 20 kg suitcase, leaving both nest and adult children behind.

You can find Kay’s work at:



A safe haven for the famous Manacor chickens

I’ve written before about my wish to have a few chickens roaming around. It won’t happen – partly because we have seven outdoor cats and I’m not sure that chickens and cats go that well together. So to get my chicken fix, when we’re out shopping in Manacor, I look out for the residents of what The Boss and I (and probably a lot of other people!) have dubbed ‘chicken roundabout’. This grassy roundabout on the busy ring road is home to a number of chickens – who don’t seem at all bothered by the noise of the traffic.

I wrote earlier this year about what the locals call ses galines de sa rotonda. It was a sad post to write because it followed the weekend when the flock had been attacked by what were probably dogs roaming loose. Bodies and feathers littered the grass.

In subsequent months, the number of chickens seems to have increased – and we’ve often seen chicks pecking around at the feet of their mothers. It’s been encouraging to see the flock growing again.

Home cheep home

A day or two ago I spotted something that filled me with happiness: Manacor’s famous chickens now have a hen house in the middle of the roundabout! Food and water dishes are inside and the chickens and chicks must be much safer now that they can spend the quieter hours inside their new home.

I took photographs today, but didn’t go onto the roundabout itself for fear of chickens fleeing into the road and the busy traffic. I don’t know who supplied the hen house, but the Ayuntamiento de Manacor (town hall) has put up notices on it asking people not to feed the chickens or to disturb them. A telephone number is provided if anyone sees anything untoward happening on the roundabout.

If our local town hall has spent a little of our municipality taxes on providing this hen house, I have no problem with that. I’m just pleased that our famous feathered friends can sleep a little more safely at night. It was eggs-actly what they needed . . .


Footnote: When I wrote my original post on this subject, 2,876 people had ‘liked’ the Ses Galines de sa rotonda Facebook page. Today that figure stands at 3,169!


Writing cats and dogs . . .

My recent post ‘It’s a dog’s life on Mallorca‘ referred to an article I’d written about the Mallorca charity that rescues German Shepherds and other large dog breeds. If you’d like to read more about Dogs For U, the article has just been published in the online magazine ‘Insiders Abroad’.

Article about dog rescuers on Mallorca

Dogs For U in ‘Insiders Abroad’


The editor – having read this blog – initially contacted me to write about our cats, but I felt that an article about Dogs For U would perhaps raise awareness of their tireless work for unwanted dogs. The magazine accepted the idea, but also wanted to publish a collage of my photos of our cats in the same issue, which was pet-themed. And this week our furry felines have their moment of fame . . .

Cat photos

Our cats – published in ‘Insiders Abroad’


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Solar panels get their summer spruce-up

We’re great fans of our solar-powered electricity system. We can run our air conditioning all day without worrying about the next GESA electricity bill – although, of course, such a system does require a fairly hefty investment up-front, so it’s not (as some people suggest) really free power.

During the summer the system trundles along without too much input from us – correction, The Boss. Sure, he still disappears down to the dependencia (the building where batteries, invertor, and back-up generator are stored) every Monday, just to make sure there are no red warning lights flashing anywhere.

Hose at the ready

But during a long hot, extremely dry, and dusty summer, the solar panels do appreciate a little bit of TLC. Which is where The Boss, a ladder, a mop and bucket, and a hose come into play. This morning – just after 7am – he was up a ladder cleaning several months’ of dust and dirt off the panels, first mopping them with soapy water, then hosing off the suds. They’re gleaming clean now and probably soaking up lots more rays as a result.

If anything’s going to bring on the long-overdue and much-needed rain, this morning’s clean-up  should do it. Umbrellas at the ready, Mallorca?

A summer wash for our solar panels. Note the presence of Pip - always ready to assist.

A summer wash for our solar panels. Note the presence of Pip – always ready to assist.






A trio of birthday cats

Yesterday was the fourth birthday of three of our ‘glaring’ – the small community of cats that have made our finca in rural Mallorca their home. Jetta – a black cat that had ‘adopted’ us early in 2011 – had already produced a litter of four kittens at the end of March 2011. Two of those – Beamer and Dusty – are still with us.

Before we knew it, Jetta was pregnant again and this time there were five kittens produced on July 31st, 2011 – although it was some weeks before we had a glimpse of any of them. Her first nursery had been the old ruined casita on the other side of an old wall at the end of our field. For her next litter, she chose a different spot, but still close by, so that she could return to our place for her twice-daily meals and source of water, without leaving her little ones alone for long.

Of the second litter, we still have Nibbles, Chico, and Sweetie. Nibbles is very communicative and loves human company; one of his favourite activities is jumping onto a lap and being stroked. When he’s had enough he has a way of letting you know – which is why we changed the original name we’d given him – Left Patch (imaginative, eh?) to Nibbles.  Chico and Sweetie – even after four years with us – are still quite nervous around humans, but will allow us to stroke them while they are eating.  White Face and Baby Bear – the other two from the second litter – were around for several months before they stopped coming back for their meals.

Black and white kitten

Nibbles at 10 weeks old

Yawning cat

Not a sabre-toothed tiger, but the four-year-old Nibbles mid-yawn.

After the birth of her second litter, Jetta seemed to trust us enough to allow us to stroke her and, if she was in the right mood, pick her up. It wasn’t long before we scooped her up and took her to the vet’s for The Operation. No more kittens for her.

Sadly Jetta is now only a fond memory, as she went off one day and didn’t return. As with White Face and Baby Bear (and Bear from the first litter), we like to think that Jetta went off to find a territory she wouldn’t have to share.

We feel privileged to have had these lovely cats in our lives for the past four years. Here’s to many more – years, not cats!





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Another job for our Mallorcan plumber

If you’re going to live on Mallorca, it pays to have a good relationship with a plumber. Over the years we have been here we have spent a lot of money at our local plumbers. During our early time here it seemed that almost every problem we had with the house was water-related.

Cito and his team have come to our rescue many times. He’s had a few good plumbers (and electricians – as his company Ca’n Pedro does both) working for him over that time: Miquel Angel – who once found The Boss prone on the dining room floor with blood pouring from his head after his accident with the low lintel over the front door; Pep – who accidentally put a pickaxe through the cold-water pipe while trying to locate a burst hot-water pipe under our tiled shower room floor, and Rubens (also an electrician), who rescued us when a burst of my KitchenAid blender (I was making soup at the time) caused the whole electricity system to go phut.

Cito seems to be winding down his business a bit – perhaps with an eye to his future retirement – and today it’s Cito himself who’s working at the house, aided by his son-in-law. Yes, another water-related problem at the finca!

Who needs hot water?

Our house has two gas-powered acumuladores (water heater/storage units): one serving our shower room and annexe guest room; the other for the kitchen and our main guest bathroom. Naturally, the latter gets the most use; we had to replace it with a new one quite a few years ago.

The other one has quietly done its job over the years but, a week or two ago, after The Boss had attached a new gas bottle, the thing wouldn’t re-light. As it happens, the lack of hot water isn’t a problem at this time of year. Our water supply comes to the house from our water storage tank in overground pipes and the cold water has been arriving hot in our taps for several weeks, as a result of the summer heat. What should have been hot water in the heater unit was cold. Problem temporarily solved: we’d use the cold tap for hot water, and the hot, for cold!

Gas water heater and storage unit

Our acumulador had lost its looks as well as its functionality!

Cito to the rescue

Cito came out to inspect the water heater, and removed a sorry-looking part. He came back to us later with the news that a replacement part would cost a couple of hundred euros. As that water heater is at least 13 years old – we’ve never replaced it since we bought the place in 2002 – it made more economic sense to buy a new water heater.

Today it’s been fitted in the small cubby hole housing the water unit.  There was a slightly worrying moment when Cito announced that the door wasn’t wide enough to remove the old unit (The Boss had modified the entrance to the room and hand-built a new wooden door and frame a while ago).  For a horrible few minutes we imagined having to undo The Boss’s painstaking work, but Cito somehow found a non-destructive solution, and the job has just been completed.

Now we have hot water from the hot taps again. And, while the summer continues, also from the cold taps . . .



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