Season of mellow fruitfulness on Mallorca

Autumn arrived very suddenly this year on Mallorca. On the day the season officially changed, it was as though someone had flicked a switch and disconnected summer. It was off with the shorts and on with the jeans. We’re not really complaining because autumn has so far brought a decent amount of rainfall – something desperately needed on the island.

Within a few days of rain falling (at times, hammering down), our garden was re-invigorated: plants that had seemed on the verge of death perked up and sprouted new growth, autumn crocus popped up around the base of the birdbath, and flowers have bloomed again. What had recently been a parched rock-solid patch of garden is now lush with the dreaded heart-shaped weeds that return every year. After more than a decade of painstakingly digging them out individually, with a view to killing them off forever, I raise my hands in defeat, flying a white hanky on the handle of the garden trowel: “Enough!” The weeds are green. It’s the colour of a garden.

Not quite winter, not quite spring

This time of year is called ‘winter-spring’ by the locals and there are clear similarities to the official springtime. New growth, plenty of lambs frolicking around in the fields, and chirpy birdsong surround us. The big difference is that winter, rather than the warmer summer months, is to follow. The Boss is already making preparations to ensure we’ll be warm and draught free indoors.



The damp weather also brings mushrooms and toadstools. We find plenty on our land but, being nervous about identification of these various fungi, wouldn’t dream of eating any. But don’t they make great subjects for photos …





Follow the clues to locate rural properties on Mallorca

You could be forgiven for thinking that SatNav didn’t exist on Mallorca: all manner of methods are used to guide visitors to the homes of rural home owners on Mallorca.

A warm Hawaiian welcome ... in rural Mallorca

A warm Hawaiian welcome … in rural Mallorca

The above fake flower garland – now looking like a wilted version of the traditional Hawaiian lei after recent heavy rain – hangs over a post at the end of the lane into our valley. A few more were hanging along the route, although these have now disappeared. Such garlands are offered as a sign of welcome in Hawaii, so we assume they were leading guests to a good old rural Mallorcan knees-up.  Dress code: anything but a grass skirt, sir.

Bags, balloons, and boxes

We’ve seen plastic bags tied in bushes and trees to indicate the route that delivery people or workmen should follow to a property they’ve never been to before. A trail of balloons tied to posts and trees usually leads to a bunch of the things on the gateposts of a home where a lively children’s party is taking place. And a few weeks ago we saw the oddest thing yet (if only I’d had the camera): a number of large empty boxes perched at strategic locations, bearing a label with a picture of a fat leg of Spanish serrano ham. Someone had eaten an awful lot of ham to free up those boxes; presumably those who followed this trail of cardboard clues were not going to a vegetarian lunch ‘do’ …

Hi-tech/low-tech solutions

Of course, SatNav exists on Mallorca. We even acquired the technology when we had to change our car last October. One day we’ll figure out how it works. We once gave our GPS co-ordinates to some more tech-savvy friends who were coming for lunch at our finca for the first time. Some time after they were due, they phoned from a location more than 20-minutes’ drive away to say they were lost, and we had to talk them in. Maybe we won’t bother to learn how the SatNav works after all …

How do we now direct people to our off-the-well-driven-route home in rural Mallorca? Yeah, it’s a map, hand-drawn (by The Boss), emailed in advance to visitors. We save the lei for when they arrive …




Human encounters in rural Mallorca

Since we moved to our rural home on Mallorca, we’ve seen quite a few changes in terms of the people who live or visit the valley on a regular basis. We often reflect on times or conversations with those who have touched our lives here, but no longer do so.

The Naked Gardener

Wolf was one of the first to leave the valley during our time here. A friendly German opera singer (and singing teacher), he used to attend to the garden of his rented finca in the nude – good reason to keep well away from using  hedge-clippers! We dubbed him The Naked Gardener. A few years ago his landlady decided to sell the property, so Wolf and his elderly dog had to find a new home. Last seen, he was renting a place on the coast – but without a garden.

The naked truth

Margarita was the wife of Pedro, an elderly farmer with a rustic home in the valley and their main home in nearby Manacor. Margarita had inherited various small plots of land dotted around the valley and the couple used to move their flock of sheep around to take advantage of the several (and fairly scrubby) grazing options. We used to love the sound of the sheep bells clunking as the flock scuttled along the lane to their next meal.

In their happier and healthier days ...

In their happier and healthier days …

Pedro drove his tractor and Margarita perched behind him. In winter the slender lady seemingly wore every item of clothing she possessed to keep warm. They would occasionally stop at our gates for a chat, which always began in castellano but would, somewhere along the way, lapse into barely comprehensible mallorquín.

My favourite Margarita moment happened one day during one of these encounters. “You’re becoming more like a Mallorcan every day,” she said to me in Spanish, smiling. For a moment or two I thought she was complimenting me on my improving language skills but, oh no, she was referring to my increase in weight – and said it in a way that sounded like approval! Sadly, Margarita developed dementia and passed away last year, and Pedro is a rare sight these days.

Treats for Francisco’s donkeys

More recently we have missed some entertaining conversations at our gates with Francisco. Born nearby, he now lives in the north of the island with his partner, but kept his local connections by doing gardening and similar work for the owners of holiday homes in the valley. Francisco has been ill and unable to work for some months and we’ve missed his wicked sense of humour.

"I know this woman has carrots ...."

“I know this woman has carrots ….”

An animal lover, Francisco still owns donkeys in the valley and, in his absence, a German neighbour is feeding them. If we go for a walk down that way we take some carrots for the donkeys as an extra treat. No doubt these beautiful creatures are also missing Francisco too …


August ends but Mallorca’s summer isn’t over yet!

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Even after more than 10 years of living through August in rural Mallorca, this holiday month takes some getting used to each year. To start with, many of the shops and other businesses in our local town close for lunch and don’t re-open until the next morning. It’s a nuisance if you’re in the middle of a DIY job and run out of something vital to finish it. And that is why we recommend not doing DIY projects in August.

The heat is another good reason to down tools for a few weeks. August is the month when the locals head for the beach early morning or late afternoon. At the later end of the day, the tourists are just packing their beach bags and heading back to their holiday accommodation to freshen up for the evening when the locals arrive in groups to claim their spots on the sands.

Holiday home … just down the road

One thing that still amuses me is the number of people who live in Manacor but have a second home in Porto Cristo – around a 10-minute drive away. Many of them leave their main homes to take up temporary residence in the cooler air of the resort for August.

In the UK, it’s more usual for those with second homes to have them further away from their main residence. Former neighbours in Oxfordshire had a cottage in Cornwall. On occasional Friday nights they’d load up the car and head southwest in ever-increasing traffic jams, probably arriving just in time for a cup of tea before it was time to drive back for work on Monday. Having a second home just down the road has some merits …

Dipping into local life in Porto Cristo

This August we’ve again had the occasional morning swim in Porto Cristo. The east-coast resort has a town beach, so the passing traffic (road and harbour) means it’s not a tranquil spot, but it’s perfect for a bit of exercise swimming first thing. We can swim, have a coffee, and be heading home before the town’s roadside car parking charges come into effect at 10:00h.

We’ve enjoyed observing the local early-morning beachgoers. We’ve seen exercise classes on the sands for the elderly; excitable clusters of kids being supervised in various sporting activities, and senior chaps in swimming shorts walking from one end of the beach to the other, toes in the water, as they converse in an animated fashion.

But my favourite sights are the ‘bobulations’. Don’t reach for a dictionary, as you won’t find this word lurking within its pages; it’s a combination of ‘population’ and ‘bob’ – which I made up. These are the groups of local ladies (often of a certain age), who stand chest-high in a circle in the sea or, in deeper water, bob about (still in a circle). They just chat, little exercise is involved. Most wear a hat of some sort to protect their recently re-helmeted hairdo from the sun, but the sea rarely gets a lick at their locks.

August is now over for another year, but you can bet that full-time residents of Porto Cristo will be on the beach early mornings for a week or two more. We look forward to a few more mornings in their company …

Fiestas galore on Mallorca … except in the countryside

Fiesta bunting

Bunting time!

Living in the open countryside, we are in a fiesta-free zone. But in villages and towns all around Mallorca, July and August are the months to deck the streets with fluttery bunting, get out the stacks of ubiquitous white plastic chairs, and party hard. The locals either join in or get out of town (or the village) for the duration. We can choose which ones we want to attend.

The main components of these fiestas are usually music (local bands or DJs), food (anything from giant ensaïmadas and enormous paellas, to tapas or street food, served from vintage food trucks), and drink.

Party time in Sant Llorenç

On Friday night we attended a fiesta in the small town of Sant Llorenç, combining all three: the Sant Llorenç Boscana Craft Beer and Swing Festival. It was held in the square by the distinctive town hall building, one side of which was lined with stalls  offering around 20 different beers (no, we didn’t try them all).

Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva

Beer, anyone?


This was only the second edition of this particular festival. Apparently some lessons were learnt after last year’s inaugural event. One, was to bring in a refrigerated truck to keep the beer cold. The second was to provide some food to soak up the alcohol. On the opposite side of the square some local eateries and a bakery had set up stalls selling a few snacks, and someone known as Kitchen Guerilla was rustling up some sausages on a BBQ.

Strike up the band

Five swing bands were on the billing and an enormous professional-looking stage was set for the live music. Until the first band – Long Time No Swing – came on stage, we were treated to a performance by a strolling local pipe-and-drum group (xeremiers) and then a local batucada band.

Traditional Mallorcan music

Traditional Mallorcan music

The latter is a popular (and incredibly noisy) feature of many local fiestas. The drummers process through the streets followed by crowds of people – a bit like the Piper of Hamelin, but thankfully without the rats.

Eventually the stage came alive with the music of the first of five bands scheduled to play. We stayed to see Long Time No Swing and Monkey Doo – both terrific. When we left for home (around midnight), there were still three bands due to perform. Nessun dorma in Sant Llorenç that night!

Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Swing band Long Time No Swing

Long Time No Swing

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Monkey Doo

Lindy Hoppers are Sant Llorenç

What most impressed us about this night was the dancing. Dozens of couples took to the centre of the square to dance the Lindy Hop, and they seemed to know what they were doing. Unlike most dancing, this one seems to be done in sneakers – so no twisted ankles due to perilous platforms or soaring stilettos. What struck us – apart from the ability of so many locals actually to do the Lindy Hop – was the joyful nature of this dance. We couldn’t stop smiling as we watched.

Lindy Hoppers

… and Lindy Hop

At some point we spoke to a girl who was taking a break from the energetic dance and she told us there’s a popular Lindy Hop class run in the town in the cooler months. Ah, that would explain it. This time next year, The Boss and I could be Lindy Hopping ourselves. Just need to persuade him. And buy some sneakers.

And so to bed …

Unlike the good citizens of Sant Llorenç, we were able to leave the noise behind and go home for a peaceful night’s sleep. That’s country living on Mallorca for you …

By the way, if you love Lindy Hop, the Mallorca Lindy Festival takes place in Inca, at Fàbrica Ramis, from October 7th-9th.

If you’re thinking about a visit to Mallorca next August, keep an eye on the Boscana Cervesa Evolutiva Facebook page for the dates of the 2017 festival.

Fire in our Mallorca valley

Mallorca wild fire

The valley burns …

Mallorca needs rain. Not what a holidaymaker to the island wants to hear, but residents know that the land and reservoirs are desperate for the stuff. It’s very hot here too, and that doesn’t help the situation.

Add strong winds to the mix – such as those we’ve had over the past few days – and danger may not be far behind. As we sat drinking a late-morning coffee on the back terrace on Friday, The Boss spotted smoke in the valley … and it wasn’t from an early BBQ lunch.


Spot the helicopters …

Bonfires are banned in summer

Bonfires are not allowed during the hot dry summer months and the wind had whipped up the smoke to such an extent that this was clearly a wild fire. I rang the emergency services to report the sighting – and was not the first to do so. We country dwellers waste no time when it comes to spotting smoke or flames where smoke or flames shouldn’t be …

Firefighting kit in action 

This fire was a lot further away than the last one we experienced (a little too closely), but it was still frightening because of the speed at which it was travelling, fanned by fierce gusts of wind.

Four helicopters, four planes, 10 fire engines, and around 50 firefighters were soon on scene, working for several hours to get the fire under control and, eventually, fully extinguished. The sea is not far away from us as the crow (or helicopter) flies, and we watched the helicopters making frequent sorties towards the coast, where they would scoop up water in the enormous buckets they carry and return to release the load over the site of the fire.

Dousing the flames

The helicopter that attended the previous fire we experienced

It was a dangerous and difficult afternoon for these brave people who put their lives at risk every time there’s a wild fire. And ours was only one of EIGHT that burned on Mallorca on Friday …



Media calling Mallorca …

My UK broadcast media links have not been completely cut as a result of our move to rural Mallorca in 2004. On a few occasions BBC local radio stations have interviewed me by phone about some topical aspect of being an expat. I hope that my years’ experience of being a radio presenter have given me a good idea of what the interviewer wants from a guest contributor. It’s always fun to be back on radio in the UK, broadcasting from our country home in Spain …

The Only Way is … a Farmer and a Goat

Mallorcan farmer at work

TV-star-in-the-making? Far too busy.

This blog has also brought a few media requests my way. Recently, someone from the production team of UK reality TV show The Only Way is Essex (popularly abbreviated to TOWIE) contacted me. They were coming to film for a couple of weeks on Mallorca. Did I know a typical Mallorcan farmer here they could film? Oh, and would I be able to locate a goat as well? The mind boggled – not surprisingly, because there was no explanation as to how these ‘locals’ would be used in the filming …

‘Auntie’ Beeb abroad

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Our latest request for help came at short notice, when BBC News journalist Adam Kirtley arrived on Mallorca yesterday to do a story on the likely effects of Brexit on expats. Adam and I spoke by phone mid-morning yesterday and we arranged to meet outside Palma’s Sóller train railway station at 3pm. He said he’d be wearing a checked shirt and Geoff-Boycott-style hat. Despite the fact that he’d clearly mistaken me for someone who knew something about  the headgear of the former cricketer, I managed to pick him out from the crowds of sightseers emerging from the station.

Meeting expats

The Boss and I drove Adam down to Palma Nova, where we visited the Amadip Esment café and recorded some interviews. We then attended part of a meeting in the town hall in Calvià – the southwest municipality that’s home to Mallorca’s largest number of British expats.  There, British Consul General Lloyd Milen addressed an audience of Brits and listened to their concerns. Of course, there were more questions than answers – because it’s still too early to know what our home country’s eventual departure from the EU will mean for those of us who live abroad.

A bit of bureaucracy meant we couldn’t record any of the meeting itself (we didn’t have enough notice to obtain permission from the powers-that-be), but Adam was able to gain enough information for one of several reports he was compiling for BBC local radio and the World Service.

So I’m going to be on the radio briefly again in the UK, answering questions from Adam. And The Boss makes his BBC radio broadcasting debut …