Eight years ago today I published my first post on this blog. I never intended to start a blog about living in rural Mallorca, but had previously been writing a series of columns called ‘Finca Fix-Up’ for a new local magazine. Sadly, the publication didn’t survive in what is a tough market.
The Birth of a Blog
A friend of mine was the editor and, when she told me about the magazine’s demise, suggested that I start a blog, to continue writing about our finca home in the Mallorcan countryside. And so I did. It wasn’t quite that easy, but WordPress didn’t take too long to learn.
Mallorca’s tourism is about to be reactivated. We’re nearly at the end of Spain’s State of Alarm, which began on March 14th and ends on June 21st. Today, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the country’s borders would reopen that day to Schengen countries (although Portugal has asked to retain the original planned date of July 1st).
Tomorrow, two planes from Frankfurt and Düsseldorf will land at Palma de Mallorca’s airport and disgorge German tourists (and owners of second homes here). These are the first arrivals for what was planned to be a two-week pilot scheme to test Covid-19 protocols. That’s now become a one-week pilot, as the border reopening date has been brought forward.
One more week to go then, until we reach ‘new normality’. We still don’t know when family and friends from the UK will be able to travel here – or, more precisely, when the requirement for quarantine in the UK will end, making it more likely that people will consider coming for a holiday.
Day-to-day life in rural Mallorca hasn’t been too different from life as it was before the pandemic. It’s always quiet where we live, but the absence of planes flying over the valley has been noticeable. An hour or so ago, as we sat outside reading on this warm Sunday afternoon, a plane flew over – such a rare sound now that we immediately looked up from our books and commented on it.
In Other News…
The biggest changes have been in our cat ‘glaring’ (collective word for cats, if you didn’t know). In the middle of April, Chico – one of the cats we’ve looked after – disappeared. He was nine years old and had always stayed close to the house – although he was nervous of humans (even the two who had fed him twice a day since he was a kitten). We haven’t seen him again and try not to think about why.
Sweetie has discovered one of the outdoor sofas
His departure has resulted in an interesting change in the cat colony dynamics. Since Chico left, Sweetie – the only outdoor female (we had her sterilized as soon as she was old enough) – has been spending more time on our finca with her other siblings (and Shorty, who’s not related).
Sweetie’s always had her own territory on the holiday-home finca of friends a short distance from our home. Whenever she was hungry she would walk down the lane and come to the cat buffet at our place. Usually she came when the others weren’t around, eating what she wanted, then scurrying back to her territory.
Recently, Sweetie has been spending a lot of time on our finca and now eats with her remaining siblings twice a day. Her character has changed too: she’s no longer nervous of us and will even sit outside the front door waiting for us to go outside. I’ve also managed to pick her up for the briefest of cuddles without suffering a facial-disfiguring attack. Yesterday, we saw the biggest change in this cute little cat: after dinner eaten on the front terrace, I walked to the back of the house and found Sweetie sitting on one of our garden sofas. This would have been unthinkable a few months ago.
We never noticed any antagonism between Chico and his sister Sweetie but it seems too much of a coincidence that, since he left, she has become a different – and much more relaxed – cat. Perhaps it’s a case of every cloud has a silver lining…
The outdoor sofas are back in use. Pip seems to approve.
The toughest lockdown rules in Europe are slowly being eased, and Mallorca (along with her sister islands) is in Phase 2 of the de-escalation. All being well, we’ll move into Phase 3 next Monday, 8th June.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will ask Spain’s Congress of Deputies tomorrow to vote for approval for one final two-week extension to the state of alarm, which came into effect in mid-March. After June 21st, we’ll be in that unknown but much-mentioned state of ‘new normal’.
What will Phase 3 mean for us? Never mind that. I have a far more vexing question that needs answering: Why, when we greet them during our wanderings in the lanes around our finca, do cyclists and walkers always respond in a different way from us?
If we say buenos días, they reply bon dia. If we try bon dia, we get a buenos días in response – or sometimes what sounds like a conjoined version of two greetings: holabondia. Sometimes, whatever we say, we get an adiós or an adéu – an economical way of saying both hello and goodbye: one word that’s as brief as our encounter. This is what happens when you live on an island where both castellano and the local Catalan dialect mallorquín are spoken.
Then there’s the other greeting that’s common amongst Mallorcans. It sounds like ‘wep’ – although it’s written as uep. I suppose it’s the closest equivalent to ‘hi’ and is often accompanied by a lift of the arm or an upward tip of the chin. This does feel like something very local and, to me, a somewhat masculine greeting – because I don’t remember ever hearing a woman use this.
Uepping Like a Local
Ooh, look, an ostrich!
Uep is a greeting I’ve used only to attract the attention of one relatively new neighbour. Taking one of our recent morning walks along a route we hadn’t trodden for months, we spotted the incomer: a young ostrich, strutting its stuff in a field of gobbling turkeys.
We stopped to look at it for a while and, hoping it would come closer so we could get a better look, I called out hola – a ‘hello’ used in both castellano and mallorquín. Our ostrich neighbour ignored us, so I tried uep and that did get a reaction: the ostrich ignored us, but the local greeting set the turkeys all a-flutter around the yard.
Maybe we should stick to our roots and offer the folks (and beasts) we meet a cheery English ‘good morning!’ or, given the part-Irish ancestry of The Boss, even a ‘top of the morning’. Now that would confuse the locals.