I’ve just realized that today is the ninth anniversary of our move to live in rural Mallorca. In some respects I can hardly believe it’s that long; in others, I feel we’ve surely had more than nine years’ worth of ‘interesting’ experiences.
I still remember that first day on Mallorca very well. We’d booked to fly over on the same plane as our two cats, Minstral and Smokey (our beloved Maine Coon, who sadly died as a result of lymphoma a few years ago). Just days before we were due to fly out, Smokey developed a strange cough, as though he were trying to dislodge something in his throat. We’d been decorating our cottage, so it occurred to us that the paint fumes might have irritated him, but took him immediately to our vet’s to be checked over.
Stress? You bet!
Long story short – we had several dashes to the vet’s over the next few days – it turned out that Smokey had a tumour in his throat. Our vet carried out a difficult operation, which we were warned might not work. The stress levels were stratospheric.
Fortunately, the operation was a success, and the tumour turned out to be benign. But there was no way that Smokey could fly; he needed to convalesce in the veterinary hospital. We decided it would be less stressful for Smokey if he had his pal Minstral with him, during the convalescence and the eventual flight to Mallorca.
So the pair of them stayed behind in the UK, while we reluctantly flew to Mallorca, to meet the delivery of our furniture – which had already left the UK. I flew back to the UK a few days later to collect the cats and take them to Gatwick, and we all flew back on the same plane.
A rude awakening
As it happened, it was probably as well that we were alone in our new home for that first night. We fell into bed, exhausted, with hopes of a 12-hour sleep, to help counteract all the stress we’d had. No chance. In the middle of the night, I awoke to hear someone – luckily, The Boss – working a trouser zip.
“What are you doing?” I hissed into the blackness (we’d never slept anywhere quite so dark, having had a street lamp right outside the cottage back in the UK).
“Can’t you smell it?” asked The Boss. “That horrible smell?”
I sat up and took a deep sniff, noting that there was a rather unusual aroma in the air. It had a whiff of something chemical about it. Moments later we were both up, moving from empty room to empty room, sniffing like bloodhounds. We sourced the strong pong to the kitchen, where we’d earlier used a gas stove-top kettle to make a bedtime drink. During that process, the kettle’s handle seemed to have been burnt and had slowly been giving off chemical fumes. We opened windows and doors, put the kettle outside for the night, and stood out on the terrace to gulp in the cool fume-free air.
And then we saw it for the first time. The inky black sky – no light pollution nearby – was strewn with millions of vividly twinkling stars. Even on the coldest and clearest of winter nights in the UK, I’d never seen as many stars. It was simply magical. The stress of the move, and that first weird happening in our new home, was forgotten as we took in the extraordinary night sky above us.
Being a bit of a romantic with a soft spot for nostalgia, I could have been tempted to mark our ninth anniversary with a spot of stargazing tonight. Alas, Mallorca’s covered in a duvet of thick dark grey clouds that aren’t due to leave us for a few days . .