Happy New Year from rural Mallorca

Christmas bauble

Our artificial Christmas tree spruced up for the festivities.

When we were planning to move to Mallorca we decided to buy a good-quality artificial Christmas tree in the UK for future use. We were pretty sure that finding a real Christmas tree for our rural Balearic island home would be as unlikely as winning El Gordo (‘the fat one’) – the hugely popular Spanish lottery draw that takes place each year on December 22nd.

We’ve still not won El Gordo (perhaps buying a ticket would help?), but only a few years passed before real Christmas trees started to appear for sale in garden centres and plant shops on Mallorca. They’re not as popular as they are in the UK – where we used to queue in the grounds of Blenheim Palace to choose and buy our tree. But, for the record – if you are planning to move to Mallorca (or spend Christmas in a holiday home here), you’re sure to find a real tree to decorate.

Without a real or artificial tree, all it takes is some imagination (and a bit of time) to come up with an alternative. Yesterday, in the hilltop town of Artà, we spotted a clever Christmas-tree-shaped decoration made from wooden coat hangers, decorated with bright baubles, in the window of a boutique.

But my favourite Christmas-tree-that’s-not-a-tree was this one – seen in a baker’s shop window in the same town. I give you . . . the ensaïmada tree.  The ensaïmada is the emblematic pastry of Mallorca – so what could be more appropriate?

Ensaimada Christmas tree

A tree with a difference!

My next post will be in 2016, so The Boss and I take this opportunity now to wish you a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading Living in Rural Mallorca during 2015!

 

 

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Cats on camera

The past few weeks have passed in a whirl and, although I have written several posts in my head about living in rural Mallorca, that was as far as it went. Perhaps the most frustrating of the recent events that have kept me away from writing what I wanted to was a problem importing photos into Adobe Lightroom – something I tried (and failed) to resolve (even with some helpful suggestions from friends) for three days.

It was hardly a major disaster in the great scheme of things, but annoying when I had captured an image that marked a significant milestone in the lives of our feline family. Thanks to a sainthood-deserving member of the Adobe customer support staff, the problem was finally resolved (after a few hours of on-screen chat and remedial action!).

Long-time readers of this blog will know about Pip, the tiny kitten that ‘arrived’ in our garden in September 2014. She has grown (and how!) into an adorable cat that’s full of fun, affection, and charm. It didn’t take her long to befriend two of the other cats in our feline family, Nibbles and Shorty, with whom she used to have fearless rough ‘n’ tumble play-fights on a regular basis when she was only a third of their size.

Pip has calmed down now and left those mad kittenhood days behind her. She eats with the rest of the gang and sometimes follows them down into the valley as they head off to their respective favourite spots for a snooze. But mostly she stays close to the house, sitting in the deep recess (the walls are 60cm thick) of our dining room window – a space she seems to have claimed as her own.

One of the family

There’s never really been any animosity between Pip and the other cats, but Beamer – the alpha male – always ignored her, and would simply walk away if she approached him. He was such a good big brother to the other cats when their mother Jetta went AWOL, that I always hoped he would do more than just tolerate little Pip. And then, just before Lightroom went loopy, I spotted something that made my heart sing: Beamer had jumped into the window with Pip and was giving her a wash! Once she was cleaned to his satisfaction – and after a little reciprocal licking – they curled up and slept together for the best of the day.

The pictures wouldn’t win any photographic prizes, but they won a place in my heart. And in the story of Pip.

Two felines

“You need a good wash, young lady!”

A snuggle of appreciation.

A snuggle of appreciation.

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Minstral our Birman lives the good life on Mallorca

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he's ever seen (on Minstral).

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he’s ever seen (on Minstral).

Our beautiful Birman cat Minstral is now eighteen-and-a-half years old – an age which amazes the good folk working at our local veterinary practice. They often tell us that Mallorcan cats rarely live that long; we have noticed that many of them (particularly in the countryside) are either feral or left to their own devices. Certainly there are many dangers lurking out there – among them being shot, poisoned, or run over. Sadly we have a couple of little burial spots on our land to prove it.

Of course Minstral is not the only cat in our lives: we have seven ‘adopted’ now semi-feral cats (although it would be more accurate to say that we were the ones who were adopted). They live outdoors and spend a lot of time around close to the house – returning twice daily (as a group) to be fed.

Minstral was a ‘bonus’ we brought to Mallorca when we moved here in 2004. In September 2001 we had been to Sussex to see a distressed Maine Coon under foster care, with a view to adopting him. He was with a woman who fostered cats, but also bred Birmans. I’ll never forget her house: a fluffy Birman cat or kitten was on every horizontal surface. Big blue eyes stared at us from every direction. Gorgeous.

Smokey, the Maine Coon (aged six), immediately took to us and we took him home. And Minstral too (aged four). The fosterer said that the pair had become inseparable and thought we should have them both to save any separation issues Smokey could have. Well, I wasn’t going to refuse, so neither could The Boss. We sadly lost Smokey to lymphoma a few years after we moved to Mallorca, which led to concern that Minstral would pine for his old pal. Fortunately, plenty of love and affection from us and a fair dollop of feline ‘la dolce vita’ prevented that.

Minstral has been an indoor cat all of his life. We were told by the breeder that he had no road sense at all and it would be unwise to let him out alone. He’s never been very bothered about going out, except for the occasional supervised stroll into the garden to chew grass, or onto the front terrace to sniff a greeting to some of the outdoor cats.  There’s no animosity between him and the others; it looks like a mutual appreciation that he and they are different.

Our recent visit to the vet’s – for Minstral’s rabies jab and annual blood tests to check his kidney function – brought good news. Like many senior cats, his kidneys are not working as well as they used to. He’s been on a special diet for some 18 months and has a daily dose of a medication designed to alleviate the condition. His latest blood tests revealed that his kidney function had slightly improved . . . testament to the great treatment our vet’s in Manacor have always given our extended cat family.

We came home delighted with the news. And Minstral? He celebrated by nabbing the prime spot on the sofa, in front of the log burner. According to http://www.catyearschart.com, Minstral is now aged the equivalent of 88 human years. If and when I make it to 88, I’ll be doing that too . . .