It’s hard to believe that we have lived here in rural Mallorca for 16 years. This milestone was clocked up on Sunday, April 26th. Sixteen years during which a lot has happened; although not so much in the last 45 days, whilst we’ve been on lockdown in Spain.
When we first moved here, one solar panel mounted on the roof provided us with electricity. This wasn’t enough to power sockets but, assuming the sun had shone during the day, gave us approximately two hours’ lighting (from dim 12-volt bulbs) in the evening.
We had no TV, radio, or Internet. My computer remained packed away until such time as there was something to power it. We had no house telephone – only our (non-smart) mobiles. But, frustratingly, there’s barely any mobile coverage in our valley. If, however, we stood in precisely the right spot on one of our walls outside, it was sometimes possible to rustle up a signal. That’s if we’d remembered to charge the battery on our phones (by plugging into the cigarette lighter in the car during trips out).
Power to These People
It would be eight months before we had ‘proper’ electricity (powered by 16 new solar panels in the field), and several months more before we had a house phone. Each development brought a wave of joy and appreciation for what we finally had.
Accessing the Internet from home took a lot longer. Several providers came out to our valley, looked around, shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, and said ‘Nunca‘ (meaning ‘never’) or ‘Imposible‘ (no translation required). Our valley may be beautiful, but it had One Huge Disadvantage.
Pork Bellies Anyone?
I worked in BBC local radio before we moved here. The computer on my desk in the newsroom – or in the studio, when I was on air – gave me access to any information I could possibly need, in the course of my job as mid-morning-show presenter. At any time, for instance, I could have told you the current price of pork bellies. (Wouldn’t that have made for riveting radio?).
Living in rural Mallorca, the closest I got to pork bellies was on a walk past the pig farm further down the valley. To say I felt distanced from the world as I’d known it, would be an understatement.
A few years later (yes, it took quite some time), a small company called WiFi Balears (now renamed Fibwi) was able to connect us to the Internet – thus changing our lives.
Life’s Online….or Not
Since the lockdown began, the whole of Mallorca has been living online. Whether it’s socialising, learning, entertainment, exercising, shopping or whatever, it’s all being done through the Internet in this time of physical distancing. By everybody.
I had promised myself that, during this lockdown, I’d take advantage of the opportunities to visit museums and galleries around the world, watch West End musicals, learn new skills, attend concerts, and more – all from home and online. And I would if our wifi signal were up to it.
When yet another attempt to do something new and interesting online fails for want of a decent signal, I try to adopt an attitude of gratitude: we’re a lot less incommunicado than we were back in 2004.
Jan Edwards ©2020