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.

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 …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding supplies on Mallorca for DIY projects

Who goes shopping for DIY or building materials at 7am? We certainly don’t but, at that early hour last Wednesday, Mallorca’s newest DIY superstore BricoMart opened its doors on a new polígono, or industrial estate, just outside Palma. Needless to say, we were not there, wearing our jim-jams, clamouring for a bargain bag of mortar or rawlplugs in rainbow colours.

The rise of the big boys

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For weeks now, BricoMart’s billboard advertising campaign around the island had been sounding what’s probably the death knell for a few more of Mallorca’s traditional ferreterías – the family-run hardware/ironmonger stores we frequently had to visit for materials during the early days of doing up our finca home. How can these small but useful shops compete with the big boys? In and around Palma, we now have BricoMart, Brico Depot, Bauhaus, and two branches of Leroy Merlin. We have concluded that Mallorca’s inhabitants have become DIY-dotty.

Ferreting in a ferretería

When we moved here in 2004 there was no shortage of ferreterías in our nearest town, Manacor. Some were tidy, with everything clearly visible and displayed in a logical fashion. In others, we had to ask for what we wanted and the shop assistant would nod sagely, disappear somewhere to the rear of the premises to ferret around for a bit (which is not why these shops are called ferreterías), and reappear brandishing the requested item.  These were the places where you could tap into the shop assistant’s years of experience and, if the requested item was unavailable, he (it was invariably a male) would suggest a suitable alternative. If none of these useful shops could supply what we wanted, there was always the option of Palma’s two Leroy Merlin stores – the nearest equivalent to the UK’s Homebase stores.

Many of these small local shops have since closed – some undoubtedly because of the competition from larger stores. In Manacor, the first real competition was probably Hiper’s bricolaje. One place run by two brothers – a multi-floored emporium in the heart of town – closed down several years ago when the next generation of the family decided in favour of university and a more lucrative career than running a shop. Back in the days of shopping there, we would inevitably come home with a small gift, as well as the item we’d gone to buy. (This – like the bowl of free sweets on the counter for customers to dip into – was a common practice in local independent shops, but ended when the recession hit).

Service wins

Locally we still favour a particular ferretería in Manacor. It’s been there for years and so, probably, has most of the stock. But this family-run place understands personal service and that sometimes a customer needs only half-a-dozen screws, rather than a jumbo pack of 200. We go here for the friendly service, a bit of a natter (the owner does enjoy putting the world to rights), and because if those long-cluttered dusty shelves at the back can’t yield what we want, they’ll order it for us. And because, at 7am, they – like us – are not yet ready to start the day’s business.

 

A cat lover’s B&B on Mallorca

The Boss and I recently stayed at Finca Son Jorbo, which I mentioned in my last post. Here’s an article I wrote about our stay for Katzenworld.

Katzenworld

You won’t find a cat café anywhere on Mallorca, but any cat lovers visiting the Spanish holiday island will find their feline fix if they stay at Finca Son Jorbo.  Located on the outskirts of the market town of Porreres, this rural B&B is the home of English hosts Annie and Martin … and their ten cats.

cat warning sign cat warning sign

My heart did a little happy dance when I saw the sign at the entrance to Finca Son Jorbo: cats were about! And it wasn’t long before we saw the first one, a sleek black puss snoozing on a wicker seat in the shade of the main house porch, where our hosts were waiting to greet us.

A cat-alogue of adventures

Annie and Martin moved with their three cats from Birmingham to Mallorca in December 2003 to run their own B&B. Posy (then 18) has since passed but black-and-white cats…

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Shady experiences in rural Mallorca – part 2

Parasol or gazebo? We needed some shade from the sun on our rural Mallorcan finca terraces, but the parasols we’d had in the past hadn’t proved man enough to withstand the odd tornado or unexpected strong gusts that occasionally rip through our valley.

Finca Son Jorbo

Pretty gazebo on the terrace of Finca Jorbo’s Rosa apartment.

Gazebo then. We saw quite a few variations on the gazebo theme. Some were very attractive – like this one at Finca Son Jorbo in Porreres, where we recently stayed for a night’s B&B (much-needed respite after visitors). But none looked as though they’d survive on any of our exposed terraces.

In 2011, we found just the thing in Palma’s Leroy Merlin, one of those large out-of-town stores that we’re not that keen on, but sometimes resort to when all else local fails. Although the store didn’t have anything sturdy on display or in stock, by chance we spotted just the thing in a Leroy Merlin catalogue that was on display. It was billed as a Pergola Tenerife and had to be bolted to the ground. Well, that had to be strong, didn’t it?

We ordered our first one (for our small back terrace, most battered by the wind) and waited for Leroy Merlin to order and deliver it. It arrived in two huge packages: one for the framework, the other containing the actual canopy part. Did I mention how heavy the frame was? Being early in the season (we were planning ahead for the summer), there were no strong part-time neighbours around in their holiday homes to lend The Boss a hand. I ate a huge plate of spinach for breakfast, flexed my biceps, and went to his aid.

Erecting the thing was an interesting experience. Once The Boss had bolted the two side columns onto the terrace tiles, the heavy top bar had to be hoisted up and fixed across the top of them. Ladders (wobbly, one at each end), language (fruity), and luck (we didn’t drop it) were all part of the process. It was hard work, but worth it. So much so, we bought another one for the front terrace the following year and put ourselves through the whole process again.

Although the metal frame has (so far) proved invincible, the fabric coverings themselves had become very tatty by the end of last year; yes, the strong winds again. This spring we found a local company to make some stronger (we hope) replacement toldos. It took weeks to get a quote for the work and several more for the new ones to be manufactured and installed, but they finally arrived … after our first two lots of visitors had been and gone home again.

Installing the new covers

Installing the new covers

It’s been 35 degrees in the shade today. Phew. Perhaps what we should have bought was one of those canopies (seen on a few cafe terraces) incorporating a system that regularly squirts a fine cool mist over those beneath it. Having spent a small fortune on two new toldos, we’ll have to be satisfied with a session with the garden hose …

Terrace pergola

Shade at last …

 

 

 

Celebrating midsummer on a Mallorcan beach

On the day of the UK’s EU Referendum we did something we’d never done before – despite living on Mallorca for 12 years. Yes, of course, we voted on the in/out decision (having lived here for under 15 years we were still entitled – and had sent our postal votes several weeks ago). But we also took part in a popular tradition in Spain: la noche de San Juan, held on the eve of the feast of Saint John the Baptist.

This evening – June 23rd – is, for most, a magical celebration of midsummer: a chance to get together with friends or family, head to the beach, light a bonfire or some candles, share a picnic, and generally have fun – with a few little rituals in which to indulge (one of which involves leaping over the bonfire’s flames).

People starting to gather on Playa de Muro for San Juan

People starting to gather on Playa de Muro for San Juan

We chose to celebrate San Juan at a favourite beach restaurant: Ponderosa Beach on Playa de Muro, in the north of Mallorca, which – like several beach eateries – was offering something special. For that night they had two invited chefs – Ariadna Salvador and Pau Navarro – who created two tasting menus (one for vegetarians), with the option of matched wines. There was live music from the local Masé Jara Llinàs Trio and, following that, music was under the control of popular DJ Fernando Gullón.

A relaxed beach setting for summer dining

A relaxed beach setting for summer dining

It’s a place we’ve been to many times during the day for lunch, but this was our first time for dinner (so two firsts for that night then). We enjoyed a leisurely meal, with our toes buried in the sand beneath our table, as we gazed out at the lights around the Bay of Alcúdia and the people who’d brought their own food and drink to eat on the sands in front of Ponderosa Beach, in the light of bonfires and candles.

Having eaten a good dinner of several courses, we weren’t quite up to leaping over any bonfires, but did watch a party of people egging each other on to jump over the flames. One guy (who’d clearly forgotten his swimwear for the obligatory post-midnight dip) bravely – or foolishly – did his leap in the buff. We heard no screams so assume he survived intact …

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We headed home late, happy and relaxed, having felt the magic of this celebration of summer.

 

 

 

Shady experiences in rural Mallorca

If you have property on Mallorca with outdoor space –  a large expanse of (largely unusable) land like ours, a regular garden, or just a balcony or terrace – you’re going to need a means of seeking shelter from the sun. We love the sunshine, but it’s too darned hot (and risky) to sit in its glare for long.

Our rural finca has only one small covered terrace, in front of the annexe bedroom known as Ray’s Room (my Uncle Ray is one of the few people who stays in it, as it has only one single bed). This terrace is deliciously cool on summer afternoons as it’s swept by gentle breezes that come through the valley from the north. It’s the location of my trust hammock …

Parasols – para sol

Initially we used this small covered terrace as an al fresco dining area, but we had several other terraces at our disposal and relocated our dining area to a larger space. Fortunately the previous owners of our finca – who have become very dear friends and own an apartment in Palma – had left us a few old parasols to provide shade in these open areas.

Hombre, have we had some fun with these things. An early incident involved a rat that had climbed up to shelter inside a closed parasol (which we’d foolishly left outside for some time without a cover on it). Unsuspecting, The Boss opened said parasol, only for the rat to jump out, using his shoulder as a stepping stone to freedom. I still shudder thinking about it. Is it any wonder that The Boss warmly welcomed the various cats that have made our finca their home? Lots of cats = no rats.

Gone with the wind

We subsequently bought new parasols of what we believed were a better quality. They were certainly heavier to manoeuvre when we wanted to move them to maintain shade as the sun made its way across the sky; not too heavy to cope with a very strong wind though. On one occasion, an open parasol at the front of the house suddenly took off (à la Mary Poppins but without the attached saccharine-sweet woman), hit the roof as it blew right over our single-storey property, and landed in a crumpled heap behind the house. Another time, we came home from an outing with friends to find that a mini-tornado had cut a swathe through our property, uprooting furniture and, you guessed it, destroying another parasol.

Another broken parasol (photo by Duncan Matthews)

Another broken parasol (photo by Duncan Matthews)

We  had to find a sturdier alternative …

 

 

 

 

 

Five tips for home-in-the-sun owners hosting house guests

“Have you ever thought about running a little B&B?” It’s a question we’ve been asked several times since we moved to rural Mallorca. Our small finca really isn’t large enough for such an enterprise and, in any event, we have neither the inclination nor the energy to do so. So the answer is always an emphatic “no”.

That’s not to say we don’t have people staying with us for their holidays. These occasions are the closest we’ll ever get to running a bed and breakfast establishment, although our guests are always known to us – friends or family members – and we enjoy them being with us.

Having visitors to stay is a popular summer topic of conversation among expats and I’ve heard some horror stories. One friend told me just last week that she would now accommodate only those to whom she’d given birth; one can only wonder what experience led to that decision …

We’re now in our 13th summer here – every one of which has been peppered with guest stays. I pass on the following tips in the hope they’ll be useful if you too open your home-in-the-sun to house guests:

  • Allow at least a week between one lot of visitors leaving and more arriving. You’ll need to shoehorn any neglected activities – work, domestic duties, social life, exercise etc – into the gap between visits and these things will always take longer than expected.
  • If budget permits, using a local laundry service for bedding and towels will save time and effort (summers are too hot for ironing board marathons).
  • Visitors from cooler and wetter climes are often so thrilled to see that big yellow thing in the sky that caution is cast to the breeze and they end up with a dose of sunburn. Make sure they keep the sunscreen topped up and wear a hat. And nag a bit, if necessary.
  • If your visitors are flying with cabin bags only, they will probably appreciate your offer to buy locally any toiletries they may need during their stay. This saves them luggage space and the effort of finding airline-size-compliant potions and lotions.
  • To save any tug-of-war-over-the-bill moments when eating or drinking out with friends, consider having a kitty to which all parties contribute equally at the start of the stay, and top up as necessary. It’s fairer, helps with budgeting, and does avoid those awkward whose-turn-is-it? moments when the bill arrives.
And here's a kitty of another variety. Pip loves having people come to stay ... more fuss for her!

And here’s a kitty of another variety. Pip loves having people come to stay … more fuss for her!

If you have any tips relating to having house guests, please feel free to share: it’s only another three weeks before we’ll be back in hosting mode …

 

Jan Edwards©June 2016