Spring’s Here… But Not in Mallorca

We cannot complain. Mallorca’s winter weather was, on reflection, not too bad. Yes, we had some significant storms, strong winds, and heavy rain at times, but we’ve also often enjoyed al fresco coffees and lunches in warm sunshine on our terrace on several occasions. I’ve even been known to sit outside and have my breakfast (at about nine o’clock), while The Boss watches the morning news on TV. I prefer not to mix doom-and-gloom news bulletins with my home-made yogurt, fruit, seeds, and nuts!

Friday was a very cold day and, in the afternoon, hail fell for a while in our valley. Meanwhile, in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, winter’s last hurrah came in the form of snow.

Yesterday in our valley we had squally rain, strong winds, and low temperatures, serving as a reminder this is only the first day of the new season. Today, Sunday, the sun is shining (at the moment), but the wind is fierce and it’s very cold.

German tourists have begun to arrive in Mallorca for an Easter holiday (despite the rising number of Covid cases in their home country). I’m reminded of something an outdoorsy type said to us once: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.’ I hope these early visitors have packed for the conditions in Mallorca right now.

Equestrian neighbour Marc Rieke

The Reins in Spain

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I didn’t step outside the door yesterday, although The Boss had to do his usual cat-feeding duties. When it’s wet or cold, he feeds them extra to help keep them warm. Animals must be fed and some have to be exercised, whatever the weather, which brings me neatly to a relatively new neighbour in our valley, who has three horses on his land.

We met Marc Rieke late last year when he bought his house from Mallorcan friends of ours, who’d outgrown the property since becoming parents. Marc’s from Berlin originally and is a professional wigmaker and an equestrian. He’s made wigs and hairpieces for the movie industry – including for an acclaimed British actress – and is also a dressage rider, riding instructor, and saddle fitter.

With such an interesting background – and, like us, living in rural Mallorca – he was a perfect guest for my podcast. Have a listen on the link below.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

A Burning Need

Goodness, where is this year going? Although Mallorca is not in lockdown, restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed for what feels like ten years (at least to those of us who do all the cooking at home). Establishments with terraces were allowed to open these again from Tuesday, March 2nd – albeit with limited capacity and an obligatory closing time of 5pm. We’ve not yet been out for lunch, as the weather’s been dull and chilly for eating out, but we have had a coffee on a terrace – in a tiny bid to help a local business. Lunch out is on the agenda for next week, when I hope it will be a little warmer and sunnier.

The Boss and I have spent most of our time at home, although there have been the weekly food-shopping trips and coastal walks for some exercise and bracing sea air. The lack of variety in our daily lives has meant that time has seemed to pass quickly. Relatable?

Well, cue some major excitement! We had a bonfire. Yes, that’s what passes these days for a thrill around these parts. In truth, having a bonfire where we live is a heart-rate-raising activity, because it brings back memories of the wildfire that swept onto our land from a neighbour’s out-of-season bonfire which reignited without warning and spread like… you guessed it.

We hadn’t had a bonfire on the finca for almost two years, partly because we are able to have one for a limited period in the year (usually October to April, but dates can vary depending on the weather conditions) and we just didn’t get around to doing it when we were allowed. As a result, we had what looked like a scaled-down version of Mallorca’s tallest mountain, Puig Mayor – in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana mountains – near the end of our field.

The Boss was Chief Fire Master and he’s super-cautious, lining up a large, full watering can, and the garden hose unfurled and connected to the outdoor tap. Yours truly was there to provide a second pair of eyes on proceedings and, given how chilly it felt to me on the day, to enjoy the heat. From start to finish, our bonfire activities took around two hours – after which we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cookies for a good morning’s work.

‘That’s a long-overdue job off my list,’ The Boss said, with a sigh of relief, as we looked at the smouldering black circle of ash where once a mountain of garden detritus had stood. Perhaps it’s best I don’t tell him I’ve already started a new pile…

Update on Dusty

He’s forgiven us. Post-operation, Dusty is now coming for his meals at the same time as his siblings and we are able to stroke him again. Let’s hope no further trips to the vet’s are required.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Stockholm Syndrome in Mallorca

Can cats have Stockholm Syndrome? I recently wrote about our eldest cat, Dusty, having a biopsy and convalescing inside our home. He’s an outdoor (born feral) cat and we expected ructions when we kept him indoors for a couple of nights, but he appeared to cope well with his confinement.

Dusty in July 2011 sitting on the terrace

He’s an affectionate cat — but on his own terms. He doesn’t like anyone to pick him up, and won’t normally sit on a lap. But when the mood takes him, Dusty will come around if we’re outside, and rub his head on our legs to ask for a stroke.

During his weekend indoors, Dusty frequently nuzzled against us and we rewarded him with the fuss he seemed to want. Once, he even jumped onto the sofa and rested his front legs on my thigh and gazed at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. It made my heart flutter: was he a convert to lap life at last?

Alas, all changed when his confinement was over. For around a week, he ran off whenever he saw us approaching. Dusty — who waited patiently with the others for breakfast and dinner — would scuttle away when he saw us coming. Once we were at a safe distance away again, he’d return for his food.

This behaviour seemed in such contrast to the way he’d been when he was in the house. It made me wonder whether cats suffer from Stockholm Syndrome — the psychological response when hostages bond with their captors. Anyone know?

Diagnosis & Treatment

Dusty in July 2011

The biopsy results weren’t good: Dusty has a cancerous tumour in his nose: However, our vet Joana, explained a relatively new treatment — electro-chemotherapy — to remove these tumours (common in sun-loving white cats). She showed us photos of cats that had undergone this, and appeared positive about the outcome for Dusty, who is otherwise a healthy cat.

The procedure involves the use of specialist equipment to remove the tumour, and one dose of chemotherapy, both on the same day. The equipment is based in Valencia, but comes over to the veterinary hospital Canis in Palma de Mallorca for one week each month. We were fortunate in the timing of the equipment’s next schedule arrival on the island and they gave Dusty an appointment for Wednesday 3rd February.

All well and good. There was just the simple matter of catching a wary Dusty to take him to Palma. After much discussion, we decided to attempt this on the Tuesday, so that we’d have another chance on the Wednesday morning if our first attempt failed.

When we went out in the early evening to feed the cats, Dusty was waiting. Was luck on our side? Err, no. He shot off as soon as he saw us and disappeared down into the undergrowth in our valley. Stress! How could we possibly catch him when he was super-wary of our intentions?

Within an hour, Dusty was back in the house with us. I’d found him down in the field, stropping his claws on the almond tree trunk that fell during the recent storm. I spoke softly and crept towards him and was able to grab the scruff of his neck and carry him indoors. Suffice to say, he wasn’t impressed.

His procedure went without a hitch the next day, although he didn’t enjoy the car journey to Palma. He wasn’t the only one. I’d sprayed his carrying case with Feliway in advance, ostensibly to calm him for the journey. If that was calm, what would he have been like without it?

Dusty spent the next couple of nights indoors, making himself at home. So much so that the sofa became a favourite place to sit. He treated us to head nuzzles, purring, and lap time.

Unfortunately, Pip didn’t appreciate our temporary house guest at all and practised her tiger growl whenever Dusty was in her vicinity. On Friday lunchtime we were able to let Dusty out again. I opened the front and back doors of the house, so he could choose his exit but, for a few minutes, it looked as though he was reluctant to leave.

Needless to say, since he returned to his natural, outdoor habitat, Dusty has made himself scarce whenever we’re around. We’re hoping he’ll forgive us soon — and that his treatment will ensure a full recovery.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share two of my favourite photos of Dusty as a cute kitten.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca

The Mediterranean climate and the prospect of growing something more exotic than in a northern European garden are only two reasons many people who move to rural Mallorca become keen gardeners.

Caroline Fuller at work in the garden

My guest in this episode of the ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast is not only an enthusiastic gardener, but also blogs about gardening. In addition Caroline Fuller contributes a gardening column (and a pet column) to the island’s English-language newspaper, Majorca Daily Bulletin.

Caroline – who lives with her husband David (known as o/h in her blog), their dogs, and chickens – talks about their no-dig lasagne garden, the lessons she’s learnt about gardening in Mallorca, and how a pair of David’s pants revealed something interesting about their soil.

We chatted over Zoom – you’ll hear the birds in her garden – and I began by asking whether gardening featured in their decision to move to Mallorca.

If you’re on the island and keen on gardening, check out the Facebook group: Mallorca Gardeners.

Caroline’s newspaper columns The Potting Shed and Pet Bulletin are published in the weekend editions of http://www.majorcadailybulletin.com

Blog: https://carolinamoongarden.com/

    PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”
    COMPOSER: Jack Waldenmaier
    PUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)

Horrible Hortense Visits Mallorca

What’s with the weather around Europe this January? Snow has fallen in areas that rarely see the white stuff and, as I write, the UK Government has issued 137 flood warnings (flooding expected), one severe flood warning (danger to life), and 120 flood alerts (be prepared) for England.

Meanwhile in Mallorca

Mallorca’s weather seems to have been colder than usual for January. And today we had one of those weather events that stick in the memory. A meeting of storms over the area – including Storm Hortense – caused chaos. As we drove home from Manacor mid-morning, rain lashed horizontally across the road and hurricane-force winds battered everything in sight.

We arrived home and found one of our almond trees broken. Its leafless canopy landed in our lemon tree, which it damaged. A tall yucca tree in a large pot at the front of the house also snapped, and some smaller plant pots smashed as the fierce winds swept through. It’s not the first time we’ve suffered storm damage – and won’t be the last.

From Minor to Major

Our damage was minor compared to the 228 incidents reported by 3pm today to the emergency services. In parts of Mallorca, wind speeds reached 144 kilometres/hour. Numerous trees have fallen – some blocking roads, there’s been considerable structural damage to buildings, cars, and boats. Insurance companies will be busy for a while, dealing with claims.

It’s the perfect weather to stay at home, safe from the storms and from Covid. Spare a thought for those who won’t be able to – because they’ll be clearing up the considerable damage. There is always someone worse off than ourselves.

Have a safe weekend, wherever you are.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Cat Tales from Mallorca

Those beautiful blue eyes!

Our house has been a cat convalescent home again this weekend. This time our patient was Dusty – the eldest of the cats we look after – who had a biopsy on Friday. When we brought him home from the vet’s, we kept him indoors for a couple of nights to keep an eye on him and manage his post-biopsy medication.

We’re devastated that the poor boy has a tumour in his nose, and a piece of the tissue has been sent to Barcelona for analysis. We must now wait for the results to know the art of the possible in terms of treatment. I am praying it’s benign.

Dusty is the only remaining cat from the first litter of feral kittens, born on the other side of the wall at the end of our field. He’s almost ten years old and, other than a night in our guest annexe after he was castrated, has lived outdoors all his life – showing no inclination to come into the house.

He has an affectionate and gentle nature, in as much as he likes to rub his head against our legs and purrs with great enthusiasm. When I do some gardening, he often appears from underneath a shrub to keep me company.

But try to pick him up or put him on a lap, and we’re suddenly dealing with a sharp-clawed octopus. Catching him for the visit to the vet’s called, as usual, for subterfuge.

On Friday evening, Dusty was still subdued after his lunchtime op. We drove the ten kilometres home without a squeak from him in his travelling case on the back seat. A first.

Our guest annexe isn’t warm enough to use in the winter, so we brought Dusty into the house to recuperate. Considering the complete change of routine and lifestyle, he behaved well. He couldn’t settle for long on the first evening, wandering around the house and checking everything out. He viewed the log burner with trepidation – unlike Pip, who sprawls herself right in front of it – and when we turned on the TV, he shot out of the room. The news programmes have the same effect on me these days.

Pip wasn’t thrilled about our temporary guest but, after an initial growl at the interloper, she largely ignored him. We kept the two in separate rooms overnight and The Boss slept part of last night on the sofa, to keep Dusty company when he cried for attention. I didn’t hear a peep of any of this, sleeping through it all. It may have been sleep time for us but the hours of darkness are when outdoor cats are most active.

The weather’s not as cold today as it’s been of late and we’ve seen some sunshine. As I write, Dusty has gone back outside to his natural habitat. In a short while from now, he’ll be waiting with the other outdoor cats for his dinner.

As much as we’d like to keep him indoors until the biopsy results arrive, our vet didn’t know how long they’ll take – and Dusty would not appreciate an extended stay indoors. Not sure The Boss would appreciate another night on the sofa either!

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Happy New Year from Chilly Mallorca

How were your New Year’s Eve celebrations? I don’t think anyone was sorry to see the end of 2020 but, wherever you were, I hope you had a chance to reflect on any positive aspects of what was a really crap year for everyone.

Part of the traditional nativity display in Palma’s El Corte Ingles department store

Like so many around the world, we’ve lost people this year who were dear to us. My extended family said goodbye to two much-loved senior members, and two friends were lost to cancer.

I begin each year by making a list of highlights of the previous 12 months: fiestas attended, restaurants enjoyed, new experiences, friends and family who’ve visited, etc. I’m always surprised at how much has happened and been achieved, and this strengthens my sense of gratitude.

Will I make a list for 2020? It’d be short. But even amidst the gloom and bad news of the pandemic year, I have found things for which to be grateful.

Reasons to be Positive

In the spring, the eldest of my two brothers was diagnosed with prostate cancer – even before he had any symptoms. He’d been to his GP about an unrelated problem and, while there, the doctor suggested an overdue PSA test. Long story short, my brother had a major operation – at a time when some hospitals had postponed most non-Covid-related procedures. I thank the NHS that he made a good recovery, without needing further treatment. If you’re male, please take this as a reminder to ask your doctor for a PSA test if you haven’t had one for a while.

I finished writing the first draft of my debut novel. This was back in spring, and I put the manuscript aside for a few months, as is recommended, before I started editing and revising. In 2021 I intend to see it published by whatever means possible. Just the small matter of finishing the revisions first.

We found a new Internet provider (ConectaBalear) – albeit too late to enjoy all the exciting online activities available during the strict three-month Spanish lockdown. As a result, we had a Christmas Day Zoom with my dad (whom I haven’t seen since a family funeral in the UK just before lockdown), and my two brothers and their families.

I also launched two podcasts, after my Mallorca Sunshine Radio show was put on hold. The weekly show was all about hospitality and gastronomy, and we all know what’s happened to those sectors – particularly in places depending on tourism. Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is about other expats’ experiences of life in the countryside here; Authors in Mallorca speaks for itself, I think. I hope you’ll have a listen and even subscribe to future episodes.

Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter Living in Rural Mallorca

In this episode of Living in Rural Mallorca, hear Marc Rieke — a professional wigmaker and an equestrian  from Berlin — who now lives in the Mallorcan countryside with his dog and horses. Marc  talks about his reasons for moving to the island, meeting actress Helen Mirren, and his work with horses — both as a riding instructor and saddle fitter.Marc's website is currently in German only but is in the process of being translated into English and Spanish.www.mrforhorses.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)
  1. Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter
  2. Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca
  3. Ep 4 Karl & Vikki Grant – Creative Photographers
  4. Damian Wilson – Digital Creator
  5. Florist Joanna Walton

Louise Davis – Memoirist Authors in Mallorca

English writer Louise Davis wrote her debut memoir after retiring from her successful career as public relations manager for one of Mallorca’s best-known 5-star hotels. The beautiful La Residencia, in the mountain village of Deià, is today owned by the Belmond hospitality and leisure company but went through a few changes of ownership and management during Louise’s twenty-two years at the hotel. She drew on her memories to write ‘Hideaway Hotel – Secrets of a Mediterranean Celebrity Retreat’. Among other things, Louise talks about the challenges of writing memoir; editing after feedback; the positive experience with her chosen publisher, and a couple of memoirs she’s recently enjoyed reading.  My thanks to Belmond La Residencia for allowing us into the hotel to record the interview, even though it's not yet open  for the 2021 season. On the day we visited, maintenance staff and contractors were busy making sure everything will be ready for this season's discerning guests.‘Hideaway Hotel – Secrets of a Mediterranean Celebrity Retreat’ (pub Ant Press) is available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon. https://www.belmond.com/hotels/europe/mallorca/deia/belmond-la-residencia/www.antpress.orgIn Mallorca, you can buy Louise’s book at Kay Halley’s Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous. PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)
  1. Louise Davis – Memoirist
  2. Pete Davies – Debut Novelist (Crime Thriller)
  3. Dr James Rieley – Multi-Genre Author
  4. Dawne Archer — Memoirist
  5. Linda Ledwidge – Holistic Wellness Expert

Ooh, the Lucky Grapes!

New Year’s Eve in 2020 was low key in our house. TV reception was almost non-existent because of bad weather, so we read. The Boss opened a bottle of cava to toast in the New Year, but we almost forgot about the ‘lucky grapes’. This Spanish tradition, dating back to the early 20th century, calls for one grape to be eaten with each of the twelve clock chimes at midnight. It’s harder than it sounds and seedless grapes are recommended (as is peeling them in advance; note to self for next time).

I rushed to the fridge to fetch the two portions of grapes and, although we started a few seconds late, we managed to swallow them all before 2021 arrived.

The lucky part was that we didn’t choke trying to do so! Gotta find the positives where you can…

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year. Be safe.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Karl & Vikki Grant – Photographers

One of the many reasons we love living on the Spanish island of Mallorca is that it’s a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. It’s also home to many interesting people, with fascinating back stories.

I lap up these stories, although they sometimes make me feel as though my own life has been a little tame. I haven’t trekked across a desert, toured the world with a top band, or written a series of books, as some of my friends and acquaintances have. Hey, there’s still time though. (The Boss has a worried look on his face).

We’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with some of the people I’ve met through writing and broadcasting and one such couple features on the latest episode of my ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast.

Vikki and Karl at home, with two of their animals

Karl and Vikki Grant are talented commercial photographers who live in the Mallorcan countryside, where their finca is also the surprising home to a stylish photographic studio, also used for location shoots.

Their business Studio Mallorca offers creative photography, video, and website design. Their photography work includes fashion, food, nautical, property, and portraiture. Among those who have sat for them are Mick Jagger, John Cleese and, recently, Jeffrey Archer – who has a writing room overlooking the Mediterranean (I’m only a little envious) at his second home in Mallorca.

In episode 4 of the ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast, hear Vikki and Karl talk about their move to Mallorca, the surprises they found here, and the menagerie that’s almost de rigeur when living in the Mallorcan countryside. And if you enjoy listening, I’d be thrilled if you’d subscribe.

The ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast apps.

The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).

Jan Edwards Copyright 2020

Winter Drawers On in Mallorca!

We’ve had an amazing autumn this year in Mallorca. It’s sad that people who would usually enjoy a late-autumn break on the island weren’t here to enjoy the blue skies and pleasant temperatures we’ve recently had.

Our winter warmer

I’ve even eaten quite a few breakfasts sitting on the terrace, soaking up some early rays. The Boss tends to watch the UK news on TV at breakfast time and, with everything that’s going on in at the moment, that would probably give me indigestion.

Yesterday was the first day of winter – in meteorological terms. I prefer to think of winter starting on the astronomical Winter Solstice date of December 21st. Anything to delay the start of my least favourite season here in Mallorca – despite the allure of the log-burner, hearty casseroles, red wine, and Christmas.

And So it Begins

Whichever date you consider as kicking off the winter, the weather has decided it begins today. With a bang. Or, at least, a dollop of the white stuff.

Snow has already fallen today in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains – which isn’t too unusual for this time of year. For those of us living under 1,100 metres above sea level, it’s a grey, wet day with top temperatures barely in double figures and expected to fall to between three and six degrees Celsius later today. Oh, and did I mention the winds gusting up to 70kph in the northeast of Mallorca? Needless to say, breakfast was indoors this morning.

‘Tis the Season to be Supplementing

Commenting on the results of my recent blood test yesterday, my gynaecologist said my Vitamin D level was a bit low. I was surprised and explained that I’d been sitting outside having my breakfast on sunny mornings, with a view to increasing it.

‘Do you do it naked?’ he asked.

‘Er, no.’ I replied. ‘It’d probably frighten the sheep.’ For the record, the doctor wasn’t being pervy, but making the point that I needed to expose more flesh for longer to get sufficient benefit from an autumn morning’s sunshine.

‘Has she finished eating breakfast yet?’

I probably could breakfast outdoors in my birthday suit, as the neighbours would be unlikely to see me. But, hey, it’s winter now and far too cold. And besides, if I eat outdoors, our attention-loving ginger cat Shorty likes to leap onto my lap as soon as I’ve finished eating. Imagine the pain of those claws landing…

Welcome, then, to winter in Mallorca. And a daily dose of Vitamin D supplement.

If it’s cold where you are and you fancy curling up and listening to a podcast, I’d love you to check out Living in Rural Mallorca and Authors in Mallorca. You’ll find both available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and a few other players too.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2020

Damian Wilson, Digital Creator

Englishman and countryside lover, Damian Wilson, lives with his small menagerie of rescue animals in the rural heart of Mallorca.

He spent many years in the music business, and worked with artists including The Human League and Ace of Base; Damian was the A&R (artists and repertoire) executive for the latter’s Danish record company.

But Damian’s heart is in Mallorca and he talks about rural life, animals, and how he used his creativity at home during Spain’s tough spring 2020 lockdown. You’ll also hear about his production company Film Balear.

Episode 3 – Damian Wilson

The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).