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

How I Became a Speedy Swimmer

One of the many benefits of living in rural Mallorca – rather than on the coast – is the reduced chance of being stung by jellyfish.

The beautiful Mediterranean…

I’m sure that, if we were within walking distance of a beach, The Boss and I would be taking a regular dip in the Mediterranean. I would probably have been stung by jellyfish several times before now, but I made it to living here fifteen years before I was zapped for the first time in my life. Ooh, the pain.

We are sailing

My Dutch friend Sandra recently had her birthday and invited a few gal pals to spend that day on the charter yacht she owns with her husband. Four of us – including Sandra – enjoyed a lazy day of sailing,  sharing good conversation, Mallorcan wine, and the dishes that we’d each contributed towards our lunch that day.

We dropped anchor in an attractive bay, where Sandra’s husband – Captain Adriaan – showed us a nifty little app called ‘Grumering’. It was created by three Mallorcan friends to show information about the presence or absence of jellyfish – known in Spanish as medusas.

Jellyfish app

Using the app, anyone can add a notification to help other beach or boat users to avoid areas with jellyfish, or highlight areas that seem to be clear of the pesky little blighters.

The app suggested no reported sightings of jellyfish in the bay where we’d anchored. We’d have a swim here before lunch.

The Med was a little choppy that day, which made it harder to see what was in the water. Nevertheless, off I went, happier that the jellyfish app suggested the area was clear. I’d barely swum a few strokes when a horrible pain lashed my stomach, then my left thigh and calf and one of my fingers.

I’d never been stung by jellyfish before, but I didn’t need anyone to tell me what had happened. Even Michael Phelps would have been impressed by the speed at which I swam back to the yacht ‘Simmertime’ and hauled myself, shaking, out of the water.

Sandra quickly took on the role of efficient nautical nurse and did the necessary to remove the stingers and reduce the pain. Half an hour later, we were all sipping delicious Mallorcan white wine and enjoying lunch – which helped to take my mind off a deeply unpleasant experience.

Jelly stings – the gift that keeps on giving

Nine days later, the burning and itching of the stings suddenly flared up again and we sought advice. Our friendly local pharmacist said we should go to the hospital for treatment in the Urgencias department.

The doctor on duty looked at my wounds and prescribed a course of two different tablets and an ointment to apply twice a day. But that wasn’t all. He’d made a brief internal phone call and moments later a nurse arrived in the treatment room wielding a large hypodermic syringe. Having that jabbed into my backside soon made me forget the jellyfish stings…

 

 

For more about Sandra and Adriaan’s Mallorca sailing excursions on ‘Simmertime’, see here.

 

Jan Edwards ©2019

Our Cats in Mallorca

Yes, we still have cats, even though you won’t have read much about them lately (although there are occasional sightings on my mallorcajan instagram page). Our feline family now numbers six and, if you’ve read about our cats in previous posts, you’ll realise we’ve lost two. It’s heartbreaking when this happens.

We were devastated in April 2018, when Beamer – the alpha male of the outdoor cats – disappeared. This beautiful big black-and-white boy went off one day and didn’t return.

The evening before he left, he was sitting on the low wall separating our back terrace from the garden and seemed to be sniffing the air. Was he curious to find out what was beyond his territory? He’d always been much loved by his siblings, who came to him for washing, approval, and sometimes a bit of play. Perhaps he’d had enough of the constant attention from them?

We’ll never know what happened to Beamer, but it was out of character for this eight-year-old cat, who spent a lot of his time close to our house. Of course, we searched for him – as far as it’s possible to look for a lost cat in what’s a natural environment of open countryside and scrub vegetation. I spent many months last year hoping he’d stroll back onto the terrace for his food one day. I was convinced he’d come back but eventually accepted that he was gone.

In late July last year we had to say goodbye to our beloved Birman, Minstral. As they say in cricket, he’d had a good innings, being twenty-one years old at the time of his demise. We’d adopted him in the UK and brought him to Mallorca with our rescue Maine Coon, Smokey – who sadly died of leukaemia in our early years here.

Minstral was on medication and diet food for the kidney problem that often affects older cats; he’d been the most chilled-out cat we’d known, but let us know when he’d had enough. Twenty-one is a good age for a cat in Mallorca and our vet hadn’t seen one of such seniority at his practice. We brought Minstral home and buried him alongside Smokey in the garden. We had him for 17 years and I miss him every day.

Had we lost another?

What a yawn! Those teeth are made for nibbling

Nibbles – one of Beamer’s siblings, younger by just four months – is The Boss’s favourite of our cats. Despite being of feral origins, Nibbles likes to jump onto his lap and play the affectionate card for a few minutes…before living up to his name and nibbling any body parts he can reach (usually a hand).

On his eighth birthday (July 31st), Nibbles came for dinner as usual – but limping. He wouldn’t let us examine his paw and leg, and it was too late to take him to the vet’s that night; we set up a blanket in a box under our porch and placed food and water right next to it, so he wouldn’t need to venture far.

“We’ll take him to the vet’s first thing,” The Boss said.

Nibbles might have heard us say that: in the morning he was gone. We didn’t see him again for eight days and wished we had captured him and taken him into our house for the night. For a few days, The Boss scoured the countryside for him, even venturing into the jungle that is our valley-within-a-valley for the first time in many months.

“It’s impenetrable down there,” he said when he returned, defeated, sweaty, and covered with bits of vegetation. With temperatures at the time in the high 30s, we feared that Nibbles wouldn’t survive the heat if he couldn’t at least drink. An air of sadness and helplessness hung over us.

On Thursday, August 8th, we attended a start-of-the-grape-harvest party at a local winery. It was a fun evening, which proved to be a brief distraction from thinking about Nibbles’s likely fate.

The prodigal puss returns

Our cats were waiting on the terrace, as usual, for our return. They must recognise the sound of our approaching car and time their arrival to coincide with ours. The Boss will often top up their food bowls at this point and, whilst he went indoors to fetch the cat chow, I stayed outside.

One of the cats was standing on our solar-powered fountain, drinking from it. I thought it was Chico until I realised that the leg markings were those of Nibbles. He was home and, although still limping, had survived the heatwave. As we hadn’t seen him for a week, he had probably conserved his energy by limping to the terrace for food and water at night, when the heat of the day was gone. I scooped Nibbles into my arms and was holding him when The Boss emerged from the house, carrying the box of cat food.

“Look who’s back,” I said turning around to face him. We were overcome with joy at seeing this much-loved cat again – but disappointed to see that he was now walking on only three legs.

Nibbles spent the night indoors this time and, in the morning, we took him to the vet’s. He hates the car and howled all the way there and back. The vet diagnosed a bite on his leg, gave him an antibiotic injection that would last fifteen days, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine for us to give him each day.

He’s still indoors and has become quite the home cat – so far showing little interest in the outdoor world and plenty of liking for sitting on soft cushions and having food and water within a few paw-steps. He’s now walking on four legs, albeit still with a slight limp; by the end of this week, Nibbles should be back outdoors with his feline family. Domestic life will return to normal. As normal as it ever is when you live in rural Mallorca and have a semi-feral feline family.

Jan Edwards ©2019

Cold Dishes For a Summer in Mallorca

If you’re in Europe, you’ll be aware – from personal experience – that there has been a second heatwave. Yes, here in Mallorca, just as we were breathing a sigh of relief that the last one was over…wham!

As I write this, the sun has just disappeared behind some cloud; the weather is due to be cooler tomorrow and it seems to be getting in a little practice now.

No matter how cool it becomes over the summer months, little actual cooking is done in our finca’s kitchen. The ventilation isn’t good in there and using even just one gas ring on the hob makes the room feel like a sauna. I haven’t switched on the oven since the end of May. Our meals are a combination of cold dishes and food cooked on the BBQ (rather expertly, I must add) by The Boss.

Too hot for clothes?

On Wednesday this week – when the mercury was nudging 39 degrees C – I went to interview a mallorquín artist: a bachelor in his late fifties, whose rustic house didn’t appear to have changed over the thirty years he’s lived in it. How I missed the air-conditioned comfort of home, as we went from room to room looking at his numerous canvases – most of which were on the floor, stacked and leaning against lime-washed walls.

I thought I was going to melt in the heat. As he had taken some time to answer our knock on his heavy wooden front door – and was doing up the belt on his shorts when he did – I’d have bet money that he’d been all-but-naked before our arrival. It was far too hot in that house to wear clothes, if there were nobody else around to see your personal bits in all their glory.

Sticking to tradition

What? Watermelon in a gazpacho?

As the photographer and I were preparing to leave, to return to the cool of our respective homes, I mentioned (in Spanish) that I’d be making watermelon gazpacho that afternoon, as a neighbour was coming over for dinner. The artist looked horrified and told me – in no uncertain terms – that watermelon was for dessert and gazpacho should be made with tomato, onion, pepper, and cucumber; nada más (apart from seasoning and dressing, of course).

I explained that I’d found the recipe online in The New York Times and his eyebrows raised like a theatre-stage curtain. Over the years we have often found that mallorquíns – the older generation in particular – stick rigidly to culinary traditions.

“The proper ingredients are the same as for trempó,” he informed me, in Spanish, wagging a disapproving forefinger from side to side. The Mallorcan dish trempó is one of our favourites in the summer: a refreshing salad of these ingredients, made by chopping them up and mixing them with seasoning and dressing in a bowl.

Both gazpacho and trempó are dishes that we often have for a light lunch in the heat of the day. And it’s good to know that if we ever run out of teeth in future years (it could happen), we can just tip the trempó ingredients into the blender to enjoy the same flavours, in liquid form, as gazpacho.

I don’t think Mr Mallorcan Artist would approve of my plan to make a cherry gazpacho tomorrow. Let’s keep that one a secret…

Jan Edwards ©2019

Feeling the Heat in Mallorca

The Boss and I have taken to living like vampires. The doors and shutters (persianas) of our finca in rural Mallorca are closed most of the day and windows are firmly shut against the searing summer heat. We stay out of the bright sunlight and keep cool with our air conditioning. We’re so pleased we have a solar-powered electricity system: we don’t have alarming summer electricity bills to pay so can be liberal with air conditioning – until the sun disappears from the solar panels.

Mallorca – like other parts of northern Europe – had a heatwave in June. To be honest, I haven’t noticed that it’s ended yet. We have regularly registered temperatures in the upper 30s, in the shade on our terrace, and last night’s low, for instance, was 24 degrees Celsius.

On Monday morning I had to go to Palma and emerged from the railway station to feel fat drops of rain plopping onto my head. Sadly, this was not the start of a good refreshing shower, but what’s called cuatro gotas – four drops – which afforded little relief from the clammy heat.

But that night rain did fall. In the form of mud. This was our black car the next morning…

Looks like snow, but it’s mud.

Specific outings aside (and they’re usually in the evenings at this time of year), we have only daytime dashes outside to feed the cats (morning and early evening), take out the washing (which dries to a crisp in, oh, about ten minutes), or put the rubbish in the dustbin.

We save our time outdoors for the early mornings and the evenings (when, ironically, the heat of the sun may be replaced by the heat of The Boss’s Weber BBQ). These are the times when we are likely to see our cats, who hide away during the daytime. They each have their own way of keeping cool and two, in particular, amuse us. Nibbles likes to cool his nether regions by draping himself over the balustrade. Shorty – our gorgeous ginger – favours a cooling tummy dip in one of our several birdbaths (which also serve as drinking stations for our feline family).

Whatever it takes, find your own way to stay cool this summer. Early-morning swim at Portocristo? Don’t mind if we do…

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this post on July 13th and I’m pleased to say the humidity has eased off and temperatures are a little more comfortable.

Jan Edwards ©2019