No tea or coffee for Mallorcan tradesmen

You’d have to be very handy at DIY never to need a tradesman of some sort on Mallorca. Although The Boss has surprised me many times by his ability to turn his former-office-worker’s hands to a variety of tasks around our country finca, we’ve had our share of visits from plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and various ‘técnicos’ coming to install or fix things. And, in case you’re thinking I’m being sexist here, not one of these workers has ever been a woman.

We’ve noticed one major difference between workmen on Mallorca here and those in the UK: the locals don’t seem to need to be fuelled by hot drinks to get going.

I’d opt for the coffee if I were you

When I lived in the UK, I always offered any visiting tradesman a tea or coffee. Nobody ever refused, although those spending any length of time in the property rarely wanted a second mug of my tea; someone once told me I was the only person they knew who was capable of making grey tea. And it wasn’t Earl Grey!

My first memory of a hot-drink-fuelled tradesman was Bob, who – on several occasions – laid carpet or flooring in my home. The first time I opened the door to him, he said good morning and, before he’d even stepped over the threshold, asked: “What comes from Brazil?” Slightly taken aback by this strange question, I mulled for a moment: “Coffee?” “Thanks,” said Bob. “Milk and three sugars please.”  Our Bob turned out to be a constant joker, as well as an excellent carpet fitter.

A painter and decorator called Alan used to do a few jobs for me. He was a salt-of-the-earth character, good at his job (he loved decorating), and was super-trustworthy. Hearing his three-wheeled Reliant Robin roaring up the lane was my cue to switch on the kettle. Although I don’t drink tea (see above for the reason), I always had a large box of tea bags in the cupboard when Alan was due to start a decorating project. I’d make him the first one of the day and (for the aforementioned reason) he was happy to put the kettle on and make any subsequent cuppas he wanted. In volume terms he probably shifted more tea than emulsion.

Beware the Brits and their brews

It’s different here on Mallorca: we always ask tradesmen if they’d like a tea or coffee during their visit. And, without fail over the years, every single one has declined our offer. Could it be because they fear that Brits are going to serve revoltingly weak instant coffee, instead of the gutsy brew they’re more accustomed to in Spain?  Or perhaps my reputation for making barely drinkable tea has spread…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tortoise alert in rural Mallorca

Signs of spring are springing up all over Mallorca and, in our neck of the woods, these include sightings of Mediterranean tortoises. We’ve seen quite a few in the past couple of weeks, either plodding across the lane or negotiating their way across our lumpy land.

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

The spring o’clock alarm has raised this one.

These are dangerous times for the sleepy adults that have recently emerged bleary-eyed (I assume) from their winter hibernation. Life can be even more hazardous for the newly born tortoises as they are almost impossible to spot in the undergrowth.

Yesterday our part-time neighbours- and very dear friends – from Yorkshire told us they’d found three baby tortoises in their garden – each no more than the size of a British 50-pence coin. Sadly it’s all too easy not to spot these cute little creatures as they amble around the land; our neighbours fortunately saw their ‘foundlings’ before they came to any harm.

As a follow-up to my last post, if you’re planning to light a bonfire on Mallorca, please check the pile before setting it alight. In fact, if you’re lighting a bonfire anywhere this spring, it’s worth raking gently through the heap first: the heart of a large pile of vegetation makes a cosy winter refuge for hibernating creatures of all types.

 

 

 

Smokin’!

Driving down the lane from a trip to town yesterday, The Boss spotted an unfamiliar elderly lady walking with the aid of sticks, who paused near our old holm oak tree. Sadly we’ve experienced an elderly person – suffering dementia and wandering vaguely – before, so The Boss stopped the car and wound down the window to greet her and check that she was OK.

It transpired that the lady was visiting a neighbouring finca, where a younger woman was busy attending to a bonfire in the field. At the sound of conversation, this fire guardian came out into the lane and joined in the chat. Spotting that the woman’s hat was smouldering on top of her head, The Boss immediately alerted her to the fact. She threw the offending hat to the ground, stamped on it and proceeded to pat the top of her head urgently to extinguish any possible flames.  (All was well up there, in case you’re concerned).

This little incident was over in a matter of minutes and certainly wasn’t captured on camera. It’s a lesson to anyone though that bonfires can be dangerous things. Indeed, The Boss once set light to his own trousers without noticing, until things got a little warm down there. I didn’t get a photo of that either … but here’s a shot of our own finca’s now more-cautious fire-starter in action.

Bonfire

Smokin’ but no flames yet

 

 

Finding Mallorca’s “loneliest area”

The best-known walks and hikes on Mallorca are in the Serra de Tramuntana, but you don’t have to head to the magnificent mountains to enjoy great views and decent walks.

This morning began very windy but mild. The thermometer in the shade on the terrace was already registering 18 degrees C before breakfast, so we decided to brave the hoolie that was blowing and check out a walk we’d read about in a book I bought recently in Palma.

As we parked the car on the side of a quiet country road, near the small town of Sant Llorenç, the sun was shining out of a bright blue sky. It looked perfect, but for the trees waving from side to side like a swinging pendulum. I figured the few extra pounds gained over Christmas (which this year’s walking effort has not yet shifted) would act as a kind of ballast and stop me flying off like an umbrella-less Mary Poppins.

Old stone drinking troughs - a marker for the route

Old stone drinking troughs – a marker for the route

Our walk to the Muntanya de Calicant started on a dirt track leading up to a manor house with old stone drinking troughs beside it. Despite the fierce wind, a bonfire was burning in the garden – with nobody in sight anywhere it.

After a while we crossed a dried-up river bed and then began the more challenging part of the walk, as the path up to the Calicant mountain is pretty indistinct in places and, at times, we were pushing our way through long, almost pampas-like grass, to follow the path. It’s a really stony route and I recommend using walking poles. Actually, a machete for all the vegetation obscuring the route would have been useful…

Bucolic beauty

Bucolic beauty

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

Gone were the blue skies...

Gone were the blue skies…

"Humans! Didn't they see the weather forecast?"

“Humans! Didn’t they see the weather forecast?”

Our goal was the top of the Calicant mountain, from which we had read that the Bay of Alcúdia is visible, but we didn’t make it today. What had started as a beautiful spring-like (albeit very windy) day had turned into one threatening rain. Shortly after we reluctantly turned back – to avoid getting soaked – the rain began to fall.

Our book describes this as “one of the loneliest areas on the island” and we didn’t see any other people for the duration of the walk. They probably all have a better weather-forecasting app than we do…

 

 

Floods and high winds on Mallorca

It’ll be hard to believe if you know Mallorca only as a sun, sand, and sea holiday destination, but the island has had some pretty awful weather this January. We moved here in April 2004 and the recent spell of winter weather was the worst we’ve seen during our time here: snow, hail, thunder and lightning, wind, and rain. The timing of the bad spell of weather couldn’t have been worse, resulting in several of the events scheduled for the two main January fiestas being postponed or cancelled. So no animal blessings to photograph this year in Manacor…

Shut out the world

The worst of the rain, and wind came over this last weekend, when AEMET – the Spanish met office – warned people on Mallorca not to go out unless essential, as high winds and torrential rain were due. We shut the shutters and hunkered down, like two little moles in the gloom. The Boss sketched a few simple plans for building an ark – large enough for the two of us and our eight cats.

Rain hammered on the roof but only a small amount seeped into the house, under the front door. For some reason, front doors on Mallorca always seem to leak. (If you see a wooden board leaning at an angle against the door of a house on Mallorca, it means rain is expected and the board is to deflect the flow of water; that’s the hope anyway).

The results

The Serra de Tramuntana had almost 200 litres per square metre on Saturday and many other areas of the island had between 60 and 90 litres, resulting in large amounts of flooding in the central area – known as the Pla. Winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour battered Mallorca and caused quite a bit of damage.

At one point 34 roads on the island were closed because of flooding and the Coll de Sóller mountain pass was blocked by fallen boulders and trees. The two reservoirs in the mountains – seriously depleted of water after last summer’s long hot dry spell – overflowed.  Coastal areas – particularly in the north and northeast – were battered by winds and alarmingly high seas, causing some structural damage in places.

The new-look Son Serra de Marina

Yesterday, a brief pausa in the stormy weather gave us a couple of hours of late-afternoon sunshine, so we drove to Son Serra de Marina to breathe some sea air and see what devastation the weekend’s storm had unleashed. The sea was rough, but nothing like it had been over the weekend.  This virgin beach has been completely remodelled by the elements and it may be some time before it’s possible to walk from the car parking area near the restaurants Lago and El Sol towards Colònia de Sant Pere without wading through water from the engorged Torrent de na Borges.

Stormy Mallorca

The new-look Son Serra de Marina beach

The apparent ‘cliff’ on the right is sand, sculpted by the wind and sea

Mallorcan torrente

The swollen Torrent de na Borges has joined up with the sea

Walkers' signposts blown down along this popular hiking route

Walkers’ signposts blown down along this popular hiking route, now littered with debris

 

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Winter drawers on!

The Spanish meteorological office AEMET is forecasting strong winds, low temperatures, and snow for Mallorca over the coming days, for areas as low as 300 metres above sea level. That means that even parts of the capital Palma could see some of the white stuff. Apparently Mallorca is suffering the coldest January since 2005; we remember that one well (and not with fondness): it was our first winter here – and we had a leaky roof without insulation and no central heating.

On many winter days the temperature is comfortable enough to have our coffee and/or lunch outdoors on our most-sheltered terrace, basking in the warmth (sometimes even heat) of the winter sunshine. Our cats also like to feel the sun’s rays and take advantage of any warm places to snooze. Best not tell them what’s in store for the coming days.

Snoozing cats

Room for three cats only in this particular sunny spot

The Boss has just returned from the wood supplier we use in Porreres with a fresh load of logs for the woodburner, so we’re well prepared on the heating front. And we’ve just received a goodie-packed food parcel from our lovely Oxfordshire friends Kristina and Duncan – who visit us every year from the UK.

Fortnum & Mason goodies

Fortnum & Mason comes to rural Mallorca

No, they weren’t expecting us to be snowed in and unable to go out and buy any food; our box of Fortnum & Mason gourmet treats was their generous Christmas gift, which was somehow delayed in transit. If, by any chance, we do become snowed in, we won’t be going hungry…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Rat came a-calling

We spotted a dead rat in the lane near our home a day or two ago and it reminded me that we hadn’t seen a rodent – dead or alive – for some time. Thankfully. Having seven outdoor cats around the place is the best rat or mouse deterrent going.

Before the cats took up residence on our finca we tried a few measures to deter the rats and mice that we often saw around. The first was the large plastic owl (brought over with us from the UK) which we suspended from a branch on one of our almond trees. Our Mallorcan neighbours must have had a chuckle about that…as did the rodents, we imagine, since they weren’t the least bit put off.

There were electronic gizmos emitting an  unpleasant sound that only rodents could hear – allegedly. If they did hear anything from these gadgets, they didn’t seem at all bothered.

The Boss blocked up any inviting gaps and holes in the structure of our house and, eventually, we stopped hearing the creatures scuttling within the thick stone walls or under the roof tiles. We still saw them occasionally outside but I stopped worrying about them coming into the house.

rat

An unforgettable night

Look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition because, in spite of the various measures taken to make our home rat-proof, we had a four-legged, long-tailed visitor one night. I’m shuddering now at the memory of it.

I woke up suddenly in the depth of the night to the sound of scratching. It wasn’t The Boss – who was sleeping peacefully (little did he know …) – and it wasn’t our Birman cat Minstral, who sleeps at the other end of our one-storey home. What could it be? The noise became intermittent but closer so I shook The Boss until he groggily came to.

Silence had returned by then, of course. “Go back to sleep, you must have imagined it,” he replied after I’d explained my fears. “Nothing can get in here.” Minutes later the noise started again but The Boss didn’t stir. I listened carefully, trying to work out where the sound was coming from. The sitting room! Feeling brave, I climbed out of bed, grabbed my bedside torch and went to close the sitting-room doors. Whatever was in there could stay there until morning.

“What are you doing?” groaned The Boss when I slid back under the duvet.

“The thing. I’ve shut whatever it is in the sitting room,” I said confidently. “We can sort it in the morning.”

“You’re imagining things,” he replied sleepily, “just try and get back to sleep.”

And I did manage to drift off again. I know that because I was woken by The Boss yelling out some time later. Whatever I thought had been in the sitting room hadn’t; something had just run right across The Boss’s head! Yes, a rat.

We both jumped out of bed and scarpered to the guest room for the rest of the night – having made sure that the creature was confined to our room. All I remember of the next day was a lot of banging and crashing as The Boss tried to catch and remove the creature. And a long session afterwards with rubber gloves, buckets of steaming-hot water, and disinfectant.

A cautionary tale

So how did the rat get into the house? The original walls of our house are around 80cm thick, which means a deep recess between the windows and the external shutters (persianas). The Boss had closed the shutters at dusk from the outside, unaware that a rat had taken refuge within the recess. When it couldn’t easily escape it found its way into the house through a very small hole in the old mosquito screen (which we’d been meaning to replace). A very small hole.

The moral of the story: check those deep window recesses for unwelcome visitors before shutting your persianas. Fix those old mosquito screens. And adopt a few stray cats …