A sting in the tale

"And is there honey still for tea?"

“And is there honey still for tea?”

The world’s honey bee population is in decline, but there seems to be no shortage of bees in our valley in rural Mallorca. Quite a few of the farmers around here have hives and we’re used to seeing bees in our garden, which seems to be the equivalent of one of the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants loved by the Mallorcans.

Rosemary, lavender, lemon and almond blossom, and various other flowers on our land attract the bees, and – given their important role in food production – we’re happy to see them. We also have quite a few bird baths around our land and the bees seem to like these too.  On a couple of occasions we’ve even had a swarm pass through our ‘airspace’: once, a large dark cloud of buzzing bees passed right over my head. I wasn’t stung but it wasn’t an experience I’d like to repeat.

We don’t expect to see too many bees at this time of year, but on Friday afternoon – lured out by warm sunshine – one stung the back of The Boss’s ear. We were eating lunch on the terrace and a fly had been making a nuisance of itself around us. So when The Boss felt something land on his ear, he swiped at it, believing it was the fly. Sadly for both him and the bee, it wasn’t.  He managed to remove the sting and I applied Betadine liberally to the back of his ear. An Ibuprofen later, to reduce the inflammation, and we thought that would be it.

And so to bed . . .

On Saturday The Boss’s right ear had swollen and looked red and angry, but he wasn’t in any pain, so he decided to let things take their course. But by Sunday morning, the whole area around his ear, including his neck and part of his cheek, had become swollen and hard. We decided to get it checked at the new Hospital de Llevant in Porto Cristo, and planned to follow our visit with a coffee and slice of cake in a favourite little café there (Magrana). The Boss had expected to be given an injection or a course of tablets, so we were both quite shocked when the doctor told him he was in danger of losing the cartilage in his ear without the appropriate treatment! After a battery of tests – surprisingly, none of them ear-related – The Boss was admitted as an in-patient for 48 hours’ treatment, resting in bed and attached to a drip.

He’ll certainly remember the end of 2013. And, hopefully, he’ll be allowed home in time to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. It remains to be seen whether the oral antibiotics he’ll have to take for a few more days will be compatible with a glass or two of cava to see in 2014. What I can tell you for sure is that we won’t be joining the local community of bee-keepers any year soon . . .

 

On the eve of 2014, I’d like to thank my blog followers and readers for being interested enough to read about our life in rural Mallorca. I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year.

 

Christmas in rural Mallorca

Our artificial Christmas tree - bought in Oxfordshire before we moved, but still going strong.

Our artificial Christmas tree – bought in Oxfordshire before we moved, but still going strong.

This is our 10th Christmas spent at our finca in rural Mallorca and, thankfully, it’s a very different Christmas to the first one we spent here. For a start, we’d only had electricity for a couple of weeks – and it still felt like something of a novelty. I still remember the joy of unpacking the electrical kitchen gadgets that hadn’t seen the light of day since we’d moved into the property at the end of April 2004. I also remember how cold and damp the house was: our traditional Mallorcan fireplace was our only source of heat, although it didn’t give off much of it, despite consuming logs at the rate of a child let loose in a sweet shop.

Cold turkey

On Christmas morning we prepared the turkey between us and stuffed it into the oven with a feeling of satisfaction. While the turkey was cooking we decided to phone family and friends back in the UK. We didn’t have a landline telephone back then – it took nearly three years for us to get a phone installed from Telefonica – so we had to use a mobile phone. Sadly there was no network coverage in the house (and there still isn’t), so we had to go outside and stand in the one spot in the garden where we manage to get reception. Unfortunately that spot requires us to stand on a low wall. Perhaps wobble would be a better verb than stand.

Despite the wobbling and the occasional loss of coverage (which required us to re-dial) we spent almost an hour outside catching up with our loved ones.  Returning indoors we expected to be greeted by the delicious aroma of roasting turkey, but nada. During our time outside, the butano in the gas bottle had run out and the oven was, by then, barely warm. Needless to say, Christmas lunch became Christmas dinner. And we’ve never since cooked a Christmas turkey without checking that there’s plenty of gas first. We live and learn . . .

However and wherever you spend this festive season, may it be a time of peace, relaxation and realization of what’s really important in life. Merry Christmas.

 

 

Fly-tippers not welcome in rural Mallorca

Our concrete water storage tank – or depósito – has a new metal lid. The previous one was rather ancient and the metal around the edge was literally fraying. It had become so ill-fitting that it recently fell down into the water tank itself, and the sharp edges pierced the plastic lining. Yes, more expense, for a repair.

A new lid was required and we headed to a small metalworking firm we’ve used before in Manacor. It’s not exactly on the beaten track, this place, but it always seems to be busy – which, in our books, is a good sign. The company delivered our new galvanized steel lid and frame last month. It’s been so well made that it’s a shame that only The Boss, Jaume the water delivery man, and birds passing overhead will ever get to cast their eyes on its artisan workmanship.

A job with a view 

The unusually wet November meant that The Boss wasn’t able to cement the new lid into place but, on Sunday, he set about the task with zeal. This was one job he was more than ready to cross off his ‘to do’ list; when the colder weather comes, standing on the top of our water tank – exposed to the north wind whipping up our valley – is not the place to while away any amount of time.

“It’s like being on the roof of the world up there,” he said, when he popped back to the house for our mid-morning caffeine fix. The view is pretty amazing, stretching right across the valley.

While he was working, The Boss had heard the sound of a vehicle slowing and stopping in the lane, by the holm oak tree at the corner of our land. It’s not a place you’d expect anyone to stop and, last time it had happened, we’d later found a tiny ginger kitten that had been dumped, so The Boss went to investigate. This vehicle was an elderly battered white furgoneta (van) with a Madrid registration, but there wasn’t a sign of the driver. A few minutes later, a short Moroccan man with a weathered face emerged like Indiana Jones from the dense forest of wild olive and mastic – to find The Boss waiting for an explanation as to why he was wandering around our land.

Man on a mission

The stranger said he was a qualified builder but couldn’t find a job, so had been reduced to driving around the countryside searching for scrap metal and other junk that he could sell. He told The Boss that an area of our land (almost inaccessible on foot to all but the determined, or desperate) had been a popular fly-tipping spot for years, although sadly – but only from his point of view – it seemed to have lost its appeal.

When we first moved here we realized that people had been stopping in the lane and hefting anything from old tyres to empty bottles into the undergrowth below. To this day, there are some old tyres in a particularly inaccessible location, in the deepest part of our small-valley-within-the-larger-valley. We even once saw something down there that resembled some unwanted sheep shearings in an old sack. Fortunately, since we’ve been in residence, fewer people are using our land as their dumping ground of choice, but fly-tipping in general is still a problem – and one that’s guaranteed to raise my hackles. There are plenty of places these days for the legitimate disposal of rubbish, so there’s really no excuse for littering the countryside of this beautiful island of Mallorca.

On that particular Sunday, pickings had been slim for the foraging Moroccan, but we had some rubbish of our own for disposal. The Boss  suggested that it would be a good idea in future to ask permission before venturing forth onto other people’s property, then, indicating the old metal storage tank lid, asked him in Spanish “Is this any good to you?”

Despite the poor state of the redundant lid, the man’s leathery face pleated into a toothy grin. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure – although I doubt he’d have made enough money selling that old thing to cover the cost of the fuel used for his foray into the countryside.

'Tyred' of fly-tipping

‘Tyred’ of fly-tipping

Trailer tales

When The Boss announced – prior to our move to rural Mallorca – that we’d need a trailer when we were living on the island, I did wonder whether this wasn’t a case of a desire for a new Man Toy. We certainly hadn’t needed one living in Oxfordshire. However, The Boss’s convincing case for owning a trailer once we were living in the Mallorcan countryside meant that we bought one before we moved, in case we couldn’t find a suitable one on the island. If only we’d known . . .

The Manacor area – in which we live – is largely agricultural and it seems that most country dwellers here have a trailer of some sort; we even regularly see one that has clearly been home-made: an old wooden fruit box that’s been mounted on a set of redundant pram wheels and is towed by an ancient moped ridden by an equally ancient man. There are plenty of more robust ones like ours too, and several places in the area where we could have bought one, as it happens.

Our trailer – manufactured in the Netherlands and bought in Oxfordshire – did, however, serve a useful purpose before we’d moved here. About a month before the Big Move, we drove our car and trailer down through France and Spain to Barcelona, where we caught the ferry to Mallorca. It was an opportunity to do some work on the finca and to bring some of our possessions with us in the trailer, in advance of the removal men bringing everything over. We shared the driving and I was surprised to find that towing the trailer didn’t present any particular problems (although I’m not sure I could have parallel parked the car/trailer combo, had I needed to!).

Bureaucracy rules . . .

But if you’re moving to Mallorca – or indeed the Spanish mainland – I’d recommend buying a trailer when you arrive, to save all the bureaucratic processes involved in importing a vehicle. Yes, although our trailer has no engine, it went through the same processes as our car in order to be registered in Spain, and the task took almost as long as it did for the car to be legalized. Our problem was that we had no ficha técnica, the official document detailing the full technical specifications of the vehicle.  We had all the paperwork provided by the retailer of the trailer – which included a brochure containing all the technical details required. But it wasn’t an official Spanish ficha técnica, and therefore didn’t cut any mustard with officialdom.

Long (and oh-so-boring) story short, we had to contact the trailer manufacturer in the Netherlands to obtain additional details to enable us to meet the legal requirements here. We then had to have our trailer measured and inspected by a local official who, having confirmed that the details provided by the manufacturer were correct, produced the necessary ficha técnica. But this was only one of some nine documents required to complete the registration of the trailer in Spain. With the benefit of hindsight, we would have bought the trailer on Mallorca.

But, despite my initial reservations about the need for a metal box on wheels, our trailer has been very useful. It’s an easy way to transport large unwanted items to the local Ecoparc (where we do our recycling); bring construction materials home with us (saving a delivery charge) and, several times during the winter, to collect logs for our stove from a wood yard. And the cats have found a use for it too . . .

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

 

We live a long way from a traditional British fish and chip shop . . .  but not as far as you may think. Visit www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com to find out about a great chippy in Palma de Mallorca.