Plumbing Problems Strike Again

That’s not very pretty

Apart from Storm Gloria in January, this winter in Mallorca has probably been the mildest and sunniest since we moved here in 2004. Although we’ve had one or two air frosts, more than a few foggy mornings and, after dark, it’s often been quite chilly, most days have delivered blue skies, sunshine and warmth. Oh, we do love that warmth. Of course, it’s not normal for this time of year – and is probably the result of climate change – but I’m not hearing many complaints about this February’s weather in Mallorca.

All this spring-like weather has been making us think about the visitors we may have this year. Once we’ve sorted out the small matter of lack of a bath or shower in the bathroom of our main guest room.

Late last year, we noticed that one wall of our double-guest bathroom was showing signs of damp. Dampness is a common problem in Mallorcan properties, but this patch of damp wasn’t in one of the usual areas in our house affected during the winter months.

The Boss did his magic with a sponge and a bottle of organic apple cider vinegar, but a few days later the damp started showing through again. It was a mystery, until The Boss spotted the merest drizzle of water running down the tiles above the bath from the wall-mounted taps. In our experience, water is one of the most troublesome things in a Mallorcan property.

It was time for a(nother) visit from Sito, our friendly local plumber. One sledgehammer and a pile of broken wall tiles later, he discovered the source of the leak: a hairline crack in one of the pipes to the taps, buried into a rather thick wall. It appeared that water had been seeping into the walls for quite some time. Sito removed the tap-and-shower-head unit and did whatever plumbers do to fix this type of problem.

We had to leave the hole open to allow the sodden wall to dry out. Our dehumidifier (seriously, you need one of these if you live in Mallorca) has been working overtime and we’re now about ready to get our guest bathroom fully operational again.

All change

Because we’re unlikely to find wall tiles that match the existing old ones, we’re taking the opportunity to make some substantial changes to the bathroom. We’d often talked about removing the bathtub (never used as a bath, only as something to stand in when using the overhead shower). This is mainly because I worry that my dad – when he’s staying for his two holidays each year – may slip and injure himself getting in or out of the bath to take a shower. It was a project on the back burner that moved to the front one because of this leak.

We’ve always tried to use local tradesmen (like Sito) but, this time, local builders weren’t even interested in coming to look at the job and give us a quote. They’d rather be renovating whole houses or even building them, than tackling what, for them, is a relatively small job.

Finally, we had some success: a builder from the other end of Mallorca came up to see what needs to be done. Assuming he wasn’t put off by the distance he had to travel – or by getting lost on the way to our hideaway finca – we’ll soon have a functioning guest bathroom again. If not, there’s always the stream at the bottom of the valley – still full of water after Storm Gloria. Only joking…

Jan Edwards ©2020

Mallorca’s Countryside is Paradise on Two Wheels

A wheely good way to see Mallorca – if you’re not head down!

Through the open kitchen window I heard a German-accented “Halloooo?” calling hopefully from the lane outside our gates. It was another group of lost Lycra-clad cyclists needing directions to the Mallorcan resort of Ca’n Picafort, which becomes the base for huge numbers of visiting cyclists at this time of the year.

The cyclists who find themselves lost in our rural haven mistakenly assume it’s possible to reach the appropriate main road by means of the enticing narrow lane through our picturesque secluded valley. Like their many predecessors, they freewheeled down the lane at great speed, yelling with exhilaration and shattering the tranquillity of our bucolic idyll. They are somewhat quieter on the return journey, having arrived at the lane’s dead end right down in the valley and had to slog all the way back up the hill. Sometimes I wonder if we should buy a defibrillator – just in case.

What? No Formula 1 here?

Although it happened in our early years here, we still remember one strange Sunday afternoon encounter with a lone German cyclist, who spoke little English or Spanish. He was looking for a restaurant and became quite agitated when we explained that the nearest was some 10 kilometres away, in the town of Manacor. We gave him directions, but he seemed reluctant to leave.

It was a surprisingly hot day and his red face glistened with sweat, so we offered him a cold drink, which he declined. Then he spluttered: “Schumacher! Schumacher!”. I peered at the lean face under the cycling helmet, wondering if we were indeed in the presence of motor-racing greatness. Then the centimo dropped: he wanted to know what was happening in the F1 Grand Prix race that afternoon. He was unimpressed to hear that we had no television or Internet (at that time), so couldn’t update him on his fellow countryman’s progress, and after spitting out a string of German words, he hauled himself onto the saddle and was on his way.

Most of the cyclists we encounter, though, are pleasant (and grateful to find someone who knows the area and speaks English).

A wheel paradise

Mallorca is a pedaller’s paradise at this time of year and it’s easy to understand why. The climate is better than in Northern Europe – where many of the visiting cyclists come from; Mallorca has a superb road network of 1,250 kilometres (just over half of which are secondary or rural roads, carrying little traffic), and an extensive network of cycling routes.

The terrain of the island offers something for every level of experience and fitness: from the flat agricultural plains at the heart of the island, through to the switchback roads weaving through the soaring Tramuntana mountain range. Everyone – from the holidaymaker who wants to see the island in a more environmentally way, to the amateur athletes competing in events such as triathlons, to top pro cycling teams, Mallorca has it all.

Slow travel

Not everyone who comes here to cycle does so in Lycra. There are also travel companies catering for people who want a slower-paced holiday, cycling leisurely through glorious scenery on roads that are safer than back at home.

On one occasion, whilst pottering in the garden, we could hear English voices in the lane. We looked out of the gate and saw a middle-aged man and woman pushing their bicycles up the steep hill. They looked weary, so we invited them to join us for tea on the terrace – an offer they accepted with smiles on their faces.

We spent an agreeable hour or so chatting – during which we discovered that the man worked in Oxford (where I had worked in radio for ten years). Small world, eh? Although not serious cyclists, they’d been enjoying the beautiful scenery during their two-wheeled meanderings around northeast Mallorca. Like many cyclotourists, they intended to return to Mallorca. Perhaps the next “hallo” called from the gate will be theirs.

 

A Google search will produce details of numerous companies offer cycling holiday packages in Mallorca. If you’re coming to cycle here independently, here are three hotels geared up (sorry about the pun) to the needs of their guests on two wheels: Petit Hotel Son Arnau in Selva; Castell Son Claret in the Es Capdella countryside, and Finca Serena, in the rural heartland of Mallorca.

 

Jan Edwards ©2020

Did the Earth Move for You in Mallorca?

February in Mallorca brings almond blossom…and sometimes more

It didn’t for us. We were both sleeping soundly when a low-intensity earthquake happened in Mallorca during the early hours of Tuesday.

The ‘quake measured between two and three on the Richter scale (according to the National Geographic Institute), with its epicentre between the village of Petra and the town of Manacor, at a depth of nine kilometres. The same area suffered a much stronger earthquake in 1919.

A rude awakening…for some

It was around three o’clock this morning that vibrations woke sleeping residents in the area. If they slept through the gentle shaking, they probably woke when all the dogs in the neighbourhood began their concert of barking.

The good news is that the earthquake apparently caused no damage to people or property, although I imagine some of the good citizens of Petra will have had to straighten any pictures on their walls this morning.

The first we knew about the earthquake – which happened not too far from where we live – was reading about it on social media. I immediately went around the rooms of our home, expecting to find pictures hanging at jaunty angles, but there wasn’t a wonky one anywhere.

Sun and ‘snow’

It’s almond-blossom time here in Mallorca and we’ve had some beautiful weather to go with it. Temperatures have, in the past few days, been around 10 degrees Celsius higher than is usual for this time of year.

Although it’s a treat to have calm conditions and temperatures in the low twenties – especially after the recent destructive Storm Gloria – it’s another sign of climate change. As we drank our coffee outside yesterday, basking in warm sunshine, it was hard to believe that on February the 4th, 2012, snow fell all across the island (unusually, even in the capital, Palma de Mallorca).

An orange tree in Camp de Mar in February 2012

At the time, The Boss’s cousin and wife had just arrived in the southwest resort of Camp de Mar for a walking holiday. Their plans altered when they woke one morning to find the unexpected snowfall. Our drive down to visit them was quite memorable.

Almond blossom petals are the only ‘snowfall’ we’re experiencing at the moment; I imagine the ‘snowfall’ around Petra was somewhat heavier during the earthquake.

By the way, if you’re feeling a little envious of our warm weather, I should tell you that today is forecast to be seven degrees cooler than yesterday, at around 14 Celsius. That’s much more like February in Mallorca!

Jan Edwards©2020

‘Blue Monday’ Becomes ‘Grey Monday’ in Mallorca

‘Blue Monday’ is how the third Monday of January has been designated for the past 15 years.

Holiday dreams?

This all came about because of some ‘research’ done on behalf of a British holiday company called Sky Travel. Of course, this was designed to make us lust after sea, sand, and sunshine (or whatever other type of vacation Sky Travel was offering) and book ourselves a holiday. If only. Did they not read the memo that said we’re all broke in January?

I do remember January in the UK being rather a flat month: the weather; fading memories of the Christmas and New Year festivities (if not the expanded waistline), and a depleted bank balance, all made January feel like the longest and least appealing month of the year.

Party on, people

In Mallorca, however, it’s non-stop festivities for most of the month: after New Year, it’s Tres Reis (Three Kings), with January 6th being a public holiday. Ten days later, we’re back in fiesta mode (read about Sant Antoni here).

Edible celebrations for Sant Antoni (made by Manacor bakery/cafe Dulce de Leche).

The weather for much of this January has been quite pleasant, with blue skies and sunshine. The arrival of Storm Gloria – after Sant Antoni – was a blow for the capital, Palma de Mallorca. The city was gearing up for its biggest party of the year – the Revetla – in honour of Sant Sebastià (Palma’s patron saint).

On Sunday night, the eve of the saint’s day (the 20th is a public holiday in Palma), the city’s main squares each have a huge stage for live music that has thousands of people dancing under the stars, and cooking food over open fires dotted around the city. In the past, we too have danced into the wee small hours at the Revetla and (foolishly) attempted to BBQ food without the aid of appropriate tongs.

Grey, not Blue

Storm Gloria – Spain’s unwanted guest

By the time all these fiestas are over, January’s been a blast and the end of the month is in sight. Rather than ‘Blue Monday’, we’d have described yesterday in Mallorca as ‘Grey, Wet, and Wild Monday’: Storm Gloria is lashing Spain with a fury we haven’t witnessed for a long time. It’s a good thing the fiestas are now over…until Carnival in February.

Jan Edwards ©2019

Nibbles is nibbled again

Meet Nibbles. He’s one of the second litter of cats born to Jetta (a feral), in the old ruined house just over the wall at the end of our finca’s field. He is now eight years old and – like his remaining siblings – still comes to us twice a day for food.

There’s a touch of the sabre-toothed tiger about Nibbles…

When the kittens were born at the end of March 2011, we didn’t intend to give them names. We expected they would go off their own separate ways once they were weaned. My dad and Uncle Ray were fortunate to be staying here for a spring holiday when Jetta decided to bring her first kittens up to the house. They were just the cutest things and full of mischief and made that family holiday particularly memorable.

“That one has to be called Dusty,” Dad said, taking photos as the playful kitties performed their antics around a flowerpot on the front terrace. “With those eyes, he looks like Dusty Springfield.”

Before you could say Son of a Preacher Man, we’d named all of Jetta’s first litter: Dusty, Beamer, Bear, and Brownie.

We tried to catch Jetta and take her to be spayed, but the sleek black feral cat proved to be as slippery as fallen leaves on a pavement after heavy rain (and, boy, we had a lot of that in Mallorca on Tuesday night). A local tom cat had better luck catching her: before long she was pregnant again. And this time, she had five kittens – one of which was Nibbles. You’ll be relieved to learn that we did manage to catch her this time; I think she was too exhausted by her mothering duties to run away from us.

You can probably guess how Nibbles got his name. He does love a fuss and will often jump onto The Boss’s or my lap if we’re sitting outside. But when he’s had enough of being stroked, he lets us know by (sometimes) gently applying his teeth to the offending hand. These little nips remind us that, however affectionate he can be, Nibbles was born feral and is still an outdoor cat – although we had him and all the other cats neutered or spayed as soon as they were old enough.

If there’s going to be an unscheduled visit to the vet’s, it will almost certainly be with Nibbles. He seems to be one of those accident-prone cats.

A bite on the head for Nibbles

Ouch!

One day in August last year he came home with a wound on his head, looking sorry for himself. Off to the vet’s we went for treatment. We had to keep him indoors for a few days – a prospect that filled us with dread all the way home from the vet’s. How would Pip react to having another cat in the house? And how would Nibbles react to being kept indoors when he’d spent his entire life outdoors?

Somehow we got through those few days. The cats kept their distance from each other and, at night, while Pip stayed in the dining room and kitchen, Nibbles was in our large guest bathroom, with a ‘bed’, litter tray, and food and water. He entertained himself during the first night by shredding an entire roll of toilet tissue, which I’d forgotten to remove; the  bathroom looked like a snow scene the next morning. I think humans and cats were all relieved when, later that week, the vet declared him recovered enough to go out again.

And next, a leg bite

Almost a year to the date later, Nibbles arrived one evening, limping. He wouldn’t allow us to examine his back leg or pick him up. We couldn’t see a wound, so we thought he’d maybe landed badly after jumping down from a tree or wall. We set up a box with a blanket in it on the terrace, with water and food bowls alongside. We hoped he’d use the chance to rest in comfort and then we’d take him to the vet’s in the morning.

Of course, Nibbles was nowhere to be seen the next day. Or the next. He didn’t come for food at the usual times. We were worried sick about him, wondering if his limp had been due to something more serious. The Boss scoured our land – even venturing down the precipitous slope into our own valley, which is an impenetrable tangle of wild vegetation. We searched daily for Nibbles but didn’t see him for almost a week.

August was a very hot month and, if he were unable to walk to the terrace for food and water, we feared that he’d be badly dehydrated. We were both subdued, imagining the worst.

Then Nibbles reappeared – just like that. I spotted him drinking from one of the water features we have around the place. “He’s back!” I yelled with excitement to The Boss, who was indoors. Nibbles limped over as though he’d never been away, looking otherwise fit and well fed. We guessed that instinct had made him avoid the blazing sun, as he couldn’t trot along at his usual food-here-I-come pace, and he’d come to eat and drink during the night.

We managed to catch him and bundle him – with care – into a cat carrier and take him to the vet’s. Nibbles was a model patient and allowed the vet to examine his leg. Verdict: another bite. More antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain meds and another period of convalescence.

“These cushion things are quite comfortable.” Nibbles convalesces.

It was the same routine as before: Nibbles spent the nights in the guest bathroom – after I’d removed all toilet tissue. The window shutter (persiana) was closed but we left the window itself open for fresh air, as it was so hot. The next morning, we discovered that Nibbles had completely shredded the window’s mesh mosquito screen. What a mess! Apart from this, he enjoyed his convalescence – sitting in comfort on the sofa or a chair and even watching a bit of TV one evening.

Check out the neck

Nibbles didn’t wait another year for his next bite. Last week, as I sat writing a page or two of my novel, The Boss called out to me from the garden: “You’d better come and look at this!”

At some point since his breakfast that day, Nibbles had sustained another bite – this time on the side of his neck. Off we all went to the vet’s again. It was like Groundhog Day.

A week later, Nibbles is back outside and has made a good recovery. Fingers crossed, he’ll stay out of trouble for the foreseeable…

Jan Edwards ©2019

‘The Mallorca Files’ open on the BBC

The Mediterranean island we call home – Mallorca – is about to hit TV screens as the backdrop of another BBC series. It remains to be seen whether The Mallorca Files will do for interest in the island what The Night Manager did back in 2016, but I’d be surprised if those who come on holiday to Mallorca time and time again didn’t tune in to spot places they recognize.

Palma’s emblematic cathedral, La Seu

According to the BBC, The Mallorca Files is a “police caper” with a “rich humour and playful tone”, featuring the two chalk-and-cheese detectives Miranda Blake and her German counterpart Max Winter.

The Mallorca Files is scheduled for daytime viewing on BBC One, but will be available on BBC iPlayer for those who don’t or can’t watch TV during the day.  Ten 45-minute episodes – each involving a separate case – will be screened from Monday to Friday for the two weeks beginning Monday, November 25th.

Location filming for the series began in November 2018, just outside the town of Inca. Other locations include Palma de Mallorca, Pollensa, and Soller. Sadly, they didn’t choose our rural valley as a location. Perhaps next series?

New Zealand, Japan, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Benelux, France and Poland are among the other countries set to screen the latest BBC series set on our beautiful island of Mallorca.

You don’t need to wait for Death in Paradise to return (early in 2020) to the BBC for a fix of armchair-travel escapism: The Mallorca Files should fit the bill nicely, thank you.

Jan Edwards ©2019

 

Mallorca Hosts European Hot Air Balloon Championship

 

Balloons over rural Mallorca

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. We had a full-on – and fun – September, with family and friends who stayed with us at the finca; there were also other friends, staying elsewhere in Mallorca, with whom we met up to eat out. It was a thoroughly enjoyable month of good food, wine, company, and fun.

Back to work, I thought, as October began. Then wham! I went down with a heavy cold; barely recovered from feeling wretched, I launched into a project which took me out and about to interview and write about a few traditional artisans in Mallorca.

#AmWriting

With that project now finished, it’s time to crack on with my novel and catch up with posting here and on my Eat, Drink, Sleep, Mallorca blog – both of which have been rather neglected with everything else going on.

Until just over a week ago, we were enjoying an unusually warm and pleasant October, with only the occasional ‘off’ day. Then somebody flicked the ‘winter on’ switch and it was a hasty trip to buy logs for the Jotul stove.

A glorious autumn Saturday in Mallorca

Before we resorted to winter-weight curtains and socks, there was a wonderful autumn Saturday (October 26th). We got up early to go and watch hot air balloons. We do see the occasional distant hot air balloon from our home, because nearby Manacor is home to a company called Mallorca Balloons, run by Ricardo Aracil – but that day we were in for something special.

Ricardo was responsible for bringing the European Hot Air Balloon Championship 2019 to Mallorca – for the first time since the competition was launched in Skövde (Sweden) in 1976. The event is organized by the International Aeronautical Federation (based in Switzerland) and takes place every two years; 100 hot air balloons from 23 countries came to Mallorca to compete this year.

The European Hot Air Balloon Championship was as popular with spectators as it was with competitors and we were in a long line of cars driving towards the cloud of balloons rising over the countryside near Petra.

I find myself getting quite emotional when I see hot air balloons. It’s something to do with the tranquillity they exude: the slowness and peace (punctuated by the occasional burst of flame) as they travel. One day I shall try a hot air balloon flight – but I think I’ll wait for the warmer weather to return first.

 

Going to see the hot air balloons in flight was just the start of a memorable October Saturday. Later that morning we went to have a Terragust experience – which you can read about here.

We’re now in ‘winter’ mode here in rural Mallorca, but can look back at these two events and be grateful for a very pleasant autumn 2019.

Jan Edwards ©2019