Blowing Cold then Hot this Spring in Mallorca

Spring 2022 in Mallorca has been a bit different from the usual. It began unseasonably cool and grey. The Boss was reluctant to stop using the wood-burning stove and the electric blanket to counter the chilly evenings indoors. Both were in regular use until later in the spring than usual. Climate change? Or were we turning into wimps?

Then … BOOM! Someone flicked a switch. May heated up. And kept on heating up. AEMET – the Spanish met office – reported that the average temperature for May 2022 was three degrees above normal … and it was the warmest May of this century. It was also the second driest May since records began, which wasn’t great news for local farmers and keen gardeners. Oh, and we’ve had a lot of Sahara dust over the island too. Ask any swimming-pool owner how annoying that is! (Makes us grateful not to have one).

As I write in almost mid-June, we are teetering into the first heatwave of the year, fuelled by an anticyclone bringing hot air up from Africa. AEMET has said the summer of 2022 in Mallorca could be the hottest summer since records began. Even the UK is expecting higher-than-usual temperatures.

A Spring 2022 Return to Mallorca

Beach weather is here in Mallorca.
This is Cala Sant Vicente – Cala Molins

My dad came for a holiday in May for the first time since September 2019. Since we’ve lived here, he’d flown over from the UK every year for spring and autumn holidays … until the pandemic. This year he was determined to come and celebrate his birthday again here with us in Mallorca.

Many of us have been unable to be with family or friends for a long time. FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype have enabled us to see them but there’s nothing like hugging a loved one after a long time apart, is there? It was so good to have him here and be able to spoil him during his stay.

We record the temperatures daily at our finca, using a thermometer that’s in the shade all day. There was no day during Dad’s holiday when the maximum temperature fell below 30 degrees Celsius. It was his hottest holiday with us by far, but he never complained about the heat. He was with us in spring 2022 in Mallorca, on holiday once again.

A Useful Service for those with Poor Mobility

My dad is now 93 – an impressive milestone celebrated over an excellent lunch at Ponderosa Beach in Playa de Muro. Many of our friends are in awe of him travelling alone at his age (as indeed am I). But he has slowed down since we last saw him and suffers leg pains when walking more than fairly short distances.

With queues at airports due to staff shortages and Brexit-related changes, I wanted him to get through Palma’s Son Sant Joan airport as easily as possible and without the long walk to baggage reclaim. I booked the airport’s PRM (Person with Reduced Mobility) service through the airport’s website for his inbound and outbound flights. It’s a useful service to book for anyone with mobility issues.

Writing Again

I am 15,000 words into the first draft of my next novel, the sequel to Daughter of Deià. Motivated by my Dr of Accountability – to whom I am emailing my daily word count – I am writing (almost) every day.

On the subject of books, I’ve recently had two real-life stories included in a new anthology entitled Our Stories – compiled by our dear friend James B Rieley. Although the stories aren’t individually accredited, you’ll find mine as ‘A Close Encounter with a Cliff’ and ‘Being “That” Girl’. The 262-page book is available from Amazon.

Until the next time, stay cool! We’re trying to.

©Jan Edwards 2022

Another Challenge in Rural Mallorca

Some challenges are more challenging than others. And no, this isn’t The Boss. I took this photo at the weekend while walking between Betlem and Es Caló.

Last time I wrote, I hinted at an even messier clean-up than that which would follow Storm Celia’s generous Saharan dust deliveries. We were facing another challenge in Mallorca. The Boss had discovered a Big Problem in our dependencia – the outbuilding housing our solar batteries, inverter, and diesel generator.

The once-white wall behind the generator was now black. The exhaust pipe had become detached from something (the manifold, I believe). Instead of the noxious fumes being expelled through the exit pipe in the wall, they were staying inside and blackening the wall.

The company that services our generator and solar-electricity system sent their technician Alfonso to deal with the problem. And, wouldn’t you know it? He found another: an oil leak. He fixed the exhaust problem and said he’d return in a few days with the spare part needed to deal with the leak. Little did he realise he’d be back the next day.

And then there was no light

When we awoke the next morning we had no electricity – yet another challenge in Mallorca. The Boss and I did some head scratching (our own, not each other’s), after checking the fusebox in the house. Then, inverter manual in hand, we went to see what was amiss in the ‘workings’. After unsuccessfully trying the suggested troubleshooting methods, we gave up and phoned our service company. This involved driving almost to Manacor to get a decent mobile phone signal, as our home phone doesn’t work without electricity.

Alfonso (with the spare part we’d needed for the generator) and a colleague arrived about an hour later. They soon established that the problem was not the inverter but, ominously, ‘somewhere in the house’. Would we have to dig into the walls to source some random rogue wiring? Thankfully not. The answer would be found in the fuse board.

After a series of domestic equipment tests – one of which involved removing our oven completely from its housing so he could check the wiring behind it – Alfonso identified a problem with our water pump. Long story (and morning) short, Alfonso and his colleague replaced the broken part on the water pump, fixed the leaky generator, then left with a generous tip from The Boss.

We’ve yet to attack the blackened wall with cleaning products and a fresh coat of white paint, but that can wait. More pressing jobs, in the garden, are calling.

Dare I say that normal service has been resumed at our finca in rural Mallorca? Yes … I think so. (I touched my wooden desk as I wrote that, even though I’m not superstitious).

© Jan Edwards 2022

Celia’s Visit to Mallorca

Yellow is the colour of spring in Mallorca – but where’s the sun?

How was your winter? On our island, January and February were pretty good months in terms of weather. But March has been a different story, as it brought Celia’s visit to Mallorca – a stern reminder that winter wasn’t quite over.

During the first two months of 2022, our solar-electricity system lapped up plenty of sunshine and, although we had more frosts and some colder-than-usual nights, the warmer daytime temperatures meant we had lunch on the terrace quite often.

The Balearic Islands also had the third-driest February since 1961, according to the Spanish meteorological office AEMET. We had 94% less rainfall than the average for the month – which is apparently 44.2 litres. Overall, this winter was the driest on record – and probably one of the most worrying for Mallorca’s farmers.

March Brings Change … and Celia

Friends who recently arrived at their holiday homes may be regretting not coming to Mallorca during January and February, because the sun hasn’t had its hat on much since March began. Instead, we’ve had some chilly, windy days and much-needed rain. Spring has begun, looking (and feeling) more like winter. Meanwhile, back in the UK, the sun is shining and temperatures are warmer than average for March.

We braced ourselves for Celia’s arrival. Although she sounded as though she could be a benign, elderly great aunt, she was just a name. The name Portuguese meteorologists had chosen for an imminent storm.

Storm Celia began her journey northward over the Iberian Peninsula early last week, turning the Sahara-dust-laden sky over southern Spain a murky orange and coating everything in its path – even the snow on the Sierra Nevada – a fetching shade of pale terracotta. The Boss threw another log on the fire, and we braced ourselves for the big clean-up operation that would follow what was reported to be ‘an exceptional’ Saharan dust cloud.

But the sandy residues weren’t the only concern at our finca. After his usual weekly check of our solar-electricity system components, The Boss came back to the house with bad news. And we’d be needing more than a broom, a mop, and a bucket of water to deal with this latest challenge. To be continued.

©Jan Edwards 2022

Hot Water System is Restored

At last, we have hot water again in our kitchen and guest suite. For almost two months, we’ve been boiling water in the kettle to do the washing-up (the pots and pans that don’t fit in our counter-top dishwasher). But now the hot tap delivers as it should.

It works!

Different Types of Water Heater

Our new butane-powered water-heater is a calentador atmosférico. Our previous Saunier Duval heater was an acumulador. The latter heated and stored water to the set temperature, ready to supply hot water to the house within seconds. The new model heats water only at the turn of a hot tap. It takes a minute or two to get from ambient-temperature water (pretty cold in February) to hot.

The new Cronos Atmosférico Calentador a Gas (manufactured by Centro Confort) is smaller, neater, and easier to operate than our former water-heater. Maversa*, the Repsol agent we used in Manacor, chose it based on their representative’s visit to us and a discussion of our requirements.

No Go, No Flow

The técnicos did a neat job of the installation but, when it came to the crunch moment, they couldn’t make the thing work. Much head-scratching and instruction booklet-perusing ensued. We were on the cusp of having our problem solved … but not that day.

The two men were apologetic and suspected a manufacturing fault. They’d contact the company and let us know when there was a solution. As we watched them drive off, we wondered how long that would take.

So we were surprised to receive an early phone call the next morning. The técnicos were returning – somehow having solved the problem.

We’d have preferred an acumulador, but the price of a new one shocked us. Besides, when the warmer weather comes we won’t wait so long for hot water to flow from the taps. There comes a time each year – usually when I need to wash salad vegetables on a daily basis – when it’s impossible to get anything but hot water. Even from the cold taps.

Bodily Needs

Our two técnicos were very pleasant and, unlike any other workers who’ve come to our house in the past, they accepted my mid-morning offer of a coffee. One of them later asked if he could use the bathroom, because he needed hacer pis. He was, of course, welcome to use the loo … although I didn’t need to know why!

* Maversa‘s shop is on the Passeig Ferrocarril, in the vicinity of the Auditorium in Manacor (look for the Repsol name and branding). We found them helpful and tidy installers.

©Jan Edwards 2021

The New Water Heater Quest

Out with the old

A few days after my last post on this blog, we took action. Enough was enough. We needed a new water heater and didn’t want to wait any longer for one. No, I didn’t rip out the knackered, old water heater and deftly install a new one while following a YouTube instructional video on a handy iPad. Neither did The Boss.

Is There Anybody There?

We’d been checking WhatsApp almost hourly for days, looking for a response from our new plumber to the various messages I’d sent. Nada. Was the job too small for him? Was he suffering from amnesia? Lost his phone? Or, more likely, isolating because of Covid? Any of those could have been possible. We’d ruled out abducted by aliens.

I tapped out a final message asking whether or not he could do the job. And, if he couldn’t, I asked him please to bill us for the emergency call he made here on the Sunday before Christmas. We were so grateful to him for that visit. Still nada.

Looking Elsewhere

Since the job would start with sourcing a new gas-powered water heater, we found a local company that sells them – thinking they might suggest someone who could install it. As it happened, this company has their own technicians. One of whom was standing in the shop, between jobs, when we visited.

‘Could our technician come now to see what needs doing?’ the shop assistant said. You bet. We drove home with the técnico following in his van. When he left us that Friday lunchtime, we envisaged The Boss’s days of boiling the kettle to do the washing-up soon coming to an end.

The following Monday we had a phone call from the company: someone else needed to look at the job, in order to prepare an estimate, or presupuesto. The man arrived – accompanied by the original technician and a second one. Much head-scratching, measuring, and note-taking ensued.

Tale of the Unexpected

Here’s the thing to bear in mind when buying an old finca: existing installations may not meet current regulations. Noah himself might have installed our old water heater.

The gas-appliance regulations are stricter now and we’d need more than just a new water heater to comply. New copper piping (the existing piping is buried within the wall and couldn’t be checked), a change to the piping through the wall into the kitchen, and a ventilation hole drilled in the space where the new heater would be installed, were all additional items on the estimate that arrived the next day.

Would you believe it? Having approved the presupuesto, the very next day our plumber sent a WhatsApp, asking if we still needed the job done. I think that’s what’s known as Sod’s law. If he’d been a better communicator, of course, he’d have had the job.

©Jan Edwards 2022

In Hot Water? Not at our Mallorcan Finca

The English idiom ‘to be in hot water’ currently applies to several people in trouble for their actions. Think UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Duke of York, and tennis player Novak Djokovic.

I wish we were in hot water – but in a different way. You see, we’ve had no hot water in the kitchen or guest bathroom for a while. Before your nostrils wrinkle and you take one step back, I should add that our shower room has a separate water heater. Personal ablutions have continued in comfort.

The Sunday before Christmas, we had a Big Problem. Water was gushing out of the butane-powered water heater at one end of the house. After a couple of minutes of frozen panic, we switched off the mains water supply and eventually the gush became a dribble, and then drips.

Call the Plumber

Water-related incidents have not been uncommon at our finca. We found a brilliant plumber almost immediately we moved here. He’d been our ‘man who can’ ever since. Until he recently retired. It was unthinkable that friendly Sito wouldn’t be arriving with his bag of plumbing tricks to solve the water-pump problem we had in October. He did, however, suggest another plumber – who did a good job.

As the household’s only user of WhatsApp, it fell to me to contact Señor Fontanero about this latest plumbing nightmare. I tapped out a short message to him, apologising for disturbing him on a Sunday and giving a brief explanation of the problem. My hope was that he’d turn up on Monday morning. Even Tuesday. I didn’t expect him to reply to my message on a Sunday – and he didn’t. But he did turn up at the house within the hour. How impressive was that? What he did enabled us to have cold water at least.

Eating Out is the New Washing Up

We are still, however, waiting for him to supply and install a replacement water-heater. Which means we have had only cold water in the kitchen and guest bathroom for almost a month. Our plans to invite a friend to stay over for a night or two are on hold: he may be Dutch but he’s not Wim Hof!

It’s fortunate we have a dishwasher – albeit a small, counter-top model. But we still had to wash big pots and pans by hand, which meant boiling the kettle to fill the washing-up bowl. I must say The Boss has been remarkably tolerant about fulfilling his washing-up duties without the aid of piping-hot water from the tap. Although, come to think of it, he has suggested eating out more frequently than usual.

It seems that all plumbers are extremely busy and have more work than they can shake a pipe wrench at. If you’re ever thinking about a career change, becoming a plumber could be a lucrative choice.

Anyone have a spare copy of Plumbing for Dummies?

©Jan Edwards 2021

This December in Mallorca: Colder than Usual

Is it me – or has this month flown by? It’s been a colder than usual December here in Mallorca, after a very wet November.

December has certainly been a challenging month. We were unable to use our Jotul log burner for about five increasingly cold days, because of a problem with the insulation at the top of the stovepipe, where it goes into the wall. Our plan was to get some techie wizard in from the store where we bought the stove back in the day.

Sadly (for us), the store is so busy installing new stoves (I told you it was cold this December), they couldn’t send anyone out to us for five weeks. Five weeks! So we bought some insulation material, and The Boss brought the ladder into the house to do the job himself. He managed to sort out the problem before coming back down the ladder like Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins – but without the dodgy Cockney accent. Result.

The Builders are in …

‘Builders? Just before Christmas?’ I can almost hear someone saying that to us. Yes, we do have builders in. Although when I say in, I don’t mean working inside the house. That would be crazy so close to Christmas.

Builders working on beams
Beam ’em up!

In fact the two outside jobs concerned have been on the cards for many months but, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, had to be put on hold.

The covered terrace outside our annexe guest suite has beams holding up the roof. And two of the beams were rotten. Replacing them without having the whole roof collapse was clearly a job for professionals. Otherwise, it had the potential of being like a horizontal version of Jenga.

Our builders, Handy Hands*, removed the rotten beams (and thoughtfully cut them up so we could use them as firewood), replaced them with new beams, and sanded and treated all the others. A job well done.

Step This Way

Access to the lid of our water tank – cisterna – has been by ladder ever since we bought the finca. The Boss takes a stepladder to climb up to the tank each week to measure the remaining amount of water. The ladder is far from steady, standing on the uneven ground next to the tank. When Jaume delivers our water supply by tanker, we leave him the ladder so he can also climb up, dragging his giant hose with him.

As none of us is getting any fitter, there had to be a safer way. It’s in the form of a small flight of steps (and handrail) adjoining the tank. Handy Hands finished this important addition to our finca this afternoon. What a fantastic job.

It’ll be better for The Boss and for me (I do have a bad rep with ladders), but we’re happy for Jaume to think of that short flight of steps as his Christmas gift from us …

  • We are happy to recommend Handy Hands; contact them via their Facebook page.

Have a Merry One

Our tree December 2021

Covid is again impacting on Christmas in various ways (depending on where you are) but, in spite of the challenges we all face, The Boss and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a much improved New Year. Think positive and stay safe. As they say here, Feliz Navidad or Feliç Nadal.

©Jan Edwards 2021

How to Stop Painting Mallorcan Shutters

Persianas are the slatted shutters gracing the windows (and sometimes doors) of most traditional houses in Mallorca. They do an excellent job of shading the interior from the hot summer sun. If the windows are open (most open inwards here), the slats allow air into the house.

The old … minus a few slats

Visit any town or village in Mallorca and you could think many of the properties are uninhabited. People mostly leave their shutters closed on the street-facing side of their homes for privacy. Walk past though and you may smell drifting aromas of cooking and hear animated conversation or one of those melodramatic Spanish soaps blasting from the TV within.

On very wet days – believe me, we’ve had a lot of those this November – we leave our persianas closed. This protects our old doors and window frames from the worst of the rain. On these days, we feel like moles living without natural light. So it’s a relief after the rain to open the shutters and emerge blinking into the daylight.

Painting … with Treacle?

Persianas are usually made of painted or varnished wood; brown and green are probably the most popular paint colours in rural properties, blending with the natural environment. But the extremes of summer heat and winter damp (it’s not shorts and T’s year-round in Mallorca) take their toll. And that means periodic maintenance.

It didn’t take too much paintbrush-wielding for us to decide there had to be a better way. We painted ours in warm weather and the brown paint soon resembled treacle. More of it stayed on our brushes than was transferred to the prepared shutters. My clagged-up brush head was almost the size of my own head by the time I’d finished the shutter I was working on.

A Worthwhile Investment

Our alternative came in the form of aluminium shutters. The shutters at the front of our house are subject to the most sun damage. Some of the slats were loose or had already fallen out, so time was of the essence. We replaced those first, opting for brown, wood-effect aluminium shutters from Can Tovell in Manacor.

Replacing the rest of the old wooden shutters has been on a need-to-do-it-before-they-fall-apart basis. The price of aluminium has soared, which means the price of shutters has too. Sadly, not our income. Becoming a published author has not changed my life financially! Or any other way, except that there’s one more book to dust on the shelf.

We had two more sets of French window shutters replaced in the summer and any day now the last two wooden ones will be consigned to history. Shutter-painting is a thing of the past. Sadly painting ceilings isn’t …

©Jan Edwards 2021

Christmas in Mallorca – Dare I Mention it Yet?

Tree at the M House Hotel in Palma

Where does the time go? Not so long ago we were wondering if we should have another dip in the sea because the autumn weather was still warm. (The answer from The Boss was a resounding ‘no’). This week you find us in full-on winter mode: the electric blanket is back on duty and the Jotul wood-burning stove is now blazing. The weather this November has not been pleasant (understatement).

Palma Preparing for the Season

I went to Mallorca’s capital, Palma, yesterday for a meet-up with other writers on the island and saw signs of the festive season coming to life. The stacks of wooden panels piled in Plaza de Espanya were an indication that the Christmas market stalls – wooden open-fronted huts, or casetas – are being erected. Around the corner, the roast-chestnut vendor was seducing passers by with the evocative aroma of his wares.

Let There be Lights!

The festivities in Palma seem to start a little earlier each year. This year, the big switch-on of the Christmas lights there will be on Wednesday, November 24th at 8pm. This coincides with the start of TaPalma – a popular annual event showcasing tapas and cocktails, continuing until Sunday, 28th. The Spanish Met Office – AEMET – says we may even have snow in Mallorca next week, although it would probably fall in the mountains, rather than in Palma.

Fir-ly Interesting News

For our home in rural Mallorca, we invested in a high-quality artificial Christmas tree before we left England, not expecting to find any – fake or real – on the island. Christmas trees have since become widely available in Mallorca and you wouldn’t believe some of the ghastly colours of the artificial ones. We’ve stuck with our original tree. It still looks good, although it smells a little musty for a day or two after a year stashed in its storage box.

I’ve read that a landscape gardener from Berlin is bringing sustainable, rooted Nordmann fir trees in pots to Mallorca to rent or buy. I like the idea of having a tree we could plant in the garden after the festivities are over. With the agaves keeling over in our garden, we’ll have several gaps to fill.

Tempted by the prospect of a real fir-scented tree, we may check out the Christmas Forest at the rural hotel **Ses Cases de Fetget, near Son Servera. And, of course, the mulled wine that the hotel will be selling at the same time.

**The trees will be available on Fridays and Saturdays from November 26th & 27th to December 17th & 18th, from 12 noon until 8pm.

©Jan Edwards 2021

Preparing for Winter in Mallorca

But a Different Storm has Already Arrived

It may officially still be autumn but it feels like winter has arrived in spectacular style in Mallorca.

On Thursday, the northeast resort/port of Cala Ratjada suffered a freak hailstorm. It left the place looking as though a significant amount of snow had fallen. With COP26 happening in Glasgow, it seemed like a timely example of the sort of freak weather events we should expect more often in future.

Storm ‘Blas’ Brings a Winter Blast

Today, Mallorca is being battered by Storm ‘Blas’. Mallorca and Menorca are on orange alert for winds of up to 100km an hour and 14m waves. The Spanish Met Office – AEMET – says it’s possible the storm’s core has the characteristics of a tropical or sub-tropical cyclone.

It’s time to winter-proof the house, as best we can in an old property. I’ve taken down the cream sheers at our three sets of French windows and hung the thermal-lined winter curtains. I’ve also put back the rug on the tiled floor of the Library, where I do my writing; cold feet do not aid creativity in winter in Mallorca.

The duvet and electric blanket are back on duty, and it won’t be long before The Boss fires up the Jotul wood-burning stove – our main source of heat in the winter months. Our next job is to hitch up the trailer and go to the town of Porreres, to buy logs. But are we going out on a day like today? We are not.

November Can Be Quite Different

Facebook likes to remind its users of posts from previous years. Today, I noted that on this very date in 2015 my brother Steve was staying with us for a short break. The photos I shared on Facebook back then included one of Steve on a steamer chair on the terrace, clad in shorts and T-shirt and reading a book in warm sunshine. Others showed the BBQ ready to make our lunch, and Steve and The Boss paddling in the Mediterranean at beautiful Colònia de Sant Pere. Six years on, there’ll be nobody paddling in the sea around Mallorca today …

©Jan Edwards 2021