Damian Wilson, Digital Creator

Englishman and countryside lover, Damian Wilson, lives with his small menagerie of rescue animals in the rural heart of Mallorca.

He spent many years in the music business, and worked with artists including The Human League and Ace of Base; Damian was the A&R (artists and repertoire) executive for the latter’s Danish record company.

But Damian’s heart is in Mallorca and he talks about rural life, animals, and how he used his creativity at home during Spain’s tough spring 2020 lockdown. You’ll also hear about his production company Film Balear.

Episode 3 – Damian Wilson

The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).

Manacor Still in Lockdown

It’s the news that people in and around the town of Manacor were dreading: a two-week extension begins today to the fortnight’s lockdown imposed a couple of weeks ago, to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases. The Balearic government has also brought forward the curfew time from midnight to 10pm.

Eat Outside or Takeaway

We feel particularly sorry for the restaurants, cafes, and bars, who are unable to serve people indoors during this period. Despite the lovely weather we’ve been having during the day, the cool evenings may not be conducive to dining on a terrace. The food would soon be cold (plates are rarely warmed first here in Mallorca), even if diners themselves were dressed to keep warm. A number of places are offering takeaway food and, for some in Manacor, this is the preferred alternative.

Hey, Mr Postman

Our list of things-to-do when Manacor re-opens is growing by the day. First will be a visit to Correos (the post office), where we have our apartado (postbox); no postie makes his way to our rural neck of the woods. We imagine our little mailbox will be stuffed with letters, bills, magazines we subscribe to, and cards sent for my birthday – which happened after Manacor’s lockdown started. My thank you notes for cards received will be somewhat delayed this year!

A main concern is whether our UK bank will have written to tell us we can no longer have an account with them after the end of this year, when Brexit is finalised. Several UK banks have already informed British customers living in Europe that this is happening. Our bank has not yet made any announcement or informed us of a decision and we hope they haven’t done this by post, as it’ll be a fortnight before we get our hands on our mail. And Brexit looms…

Meanwhile we’ve found solutions to being barred from going into Manacor: we’ve eaten lunch in Porto Cristo and done our food shopping (and a local bank visit to pay a bill) in Can Picafort. Both excursions gave us a chance to enjoy being by the sea in the continuing good November weather.

But we’re looking forward to returning to Manacor and supporting the local businesses there.

Authors in Mallorca Podcast

During our time here, I’ve discovered there are many interesting foreigners in Mallorca who write books – of all types and genres. Why not talk to some of them and find out about their writing life and their works? Hence, the launch of my second podcast, Authors in Mallorca.

For the first episode I met up with British author Anna Nicholas, whose books about moving from a busy life in public relations in Mayfair to a rural home in Sóller have many fans around the world. I’ve interviewed Anna on radio before and she’s an entertaining guest.

If you’d like to listen, Authors in Mallorca is available now on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2020

Florist Joanna Walton

In England, Joanna Walton used to own a number of London flower shops. These days, home is a tucked-away country property, near the town of Artà, shared with her husband Anthony – who has a construction company on the island – and some much-loved dogs and cats.

Her Mallorca business, Joanna Walton Flowers, supplies floral arrangements and decorations for weddings and other celebrations, superyachts, and luxury villas.

Joanna talks about the changes she’s noticed in Mallorca since her first summer on the island some thirty years ago; the challenges of life here, and shares a tip for using those fallen pine cones often found in the Mallorcan countryside.

Find out more about Joanna Walton Flowers here.

The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).

Curfew & Curtailment in Mallorca

Thank heavens for the period of fine weather we’re enjoying in Mallorca now. It’s known as the veranillo de las rosas otoñales. This ‘little summer of autumn roses’ – I love the name – is the equivalent of what’s called an ‘Indian summer’ in English.

My David Austin climbing rose – blooming in late October

Spain being a Catholic country, you won’t be surprised to read that these periods of lovely weather are said to be bordered by saints’ days: September 29th (Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael) and November 11th (St Martin). Fingers crossed then that we have another couple of weeks in which to enjoy the type of weather that can be a distraction from all-things Covid.

Curfew Everywhere in Spain

The pandemic in Spain rages mainly everywhere. So much so that a national curfew was introduced from last Sunday. The curfew period was set by the Spanish government from 11pm until 6am, with regional governments allowed to tinker with these times if they saw fit.

If you’re someone who likes to be tucked up in bed by eleven, and doesn’t contemplate stepping outside again until it’s at least daylight, this curfew is unlikely to have much impact on your daily life. But, for many Spaniards – particularly those in big cities – eleven at night is when they may not long have gone out to socialise or eat dinner.

Not Good for Night Owls

The first time The Boss and I visited Barcelona (probably twenty-plus years ago), we couldn’t find a restaurant open until nine in the evening. By the time we’d finished dinner – in an otherwise empty restaurant – locals were just arriving there to start their meal.

On another occasion, I was the anchorperson on a video that the hotel group I worked for was shooting in Madrid. I was supposed to do a piece to camera outside the hotel after dark but the noise of traffic was so loud that we delayed the shoot until after a late dinner. We eventually filmed the link at two in the morning and, even at that hour, cars were still whizzing past as we filmed.

Under pressure from Mallorca’s restaurants and bars, the curfew on the island has been amended and is now from midnight until six in the morning, with the threat that the start time will revert to eleven if Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

Manacor in Lockdown

Manacor is our nearest town and it’s where we buy anything we need, recycle our rubbish, fill the car with diesel, etc. Yesterday Manacor was locked down for fifteen days.

Manacor is currently the area with the highest ratio of cases to local population in the Balearics, and it’s hoped that this latest measure will help reduce contagion.

It’s not the same as the national lockdown in spring. Businesses and schools remain open in the town and those who live within the set perimeters can go about their daily lives (including work) – although it’s recommended not to go out more than necessary.

Worst hit by this two-week lockdown are Manacor’s restaurants and bars. They can only serve customers on terraces (and with a maximum of 50 per cent of their normal capacity) and not indoors, and must close by 10pm. They are allowed to offer a take-away service; for restaurants such as the renowned Can March, which has no outdoor space, take-away is the only option.

Anyone who lives outside the borders of the locked-down area – which includes us – must stay away. Our heavy winter curtains will remain, for now, at the dry cleaners – another reason to hope this ‘little summer of autumn roses’ continues – and we shall have to wait to collect the picture to be framed that we took to a little business in Manacor.

Next Episode of Podcast Soon!

I had the most enjoyable of mornings yesterday talking to my next guest on the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast. You’ll be able to hear her soon. We sat outdoors to record the conversation, enjoying the natural beauty of the northeast corner of Mallorca. On the way home, I spotted these beautiful bucolic scenes.

Until next time, stay safe wherever you are, and give thanks for whatever’s good in your life.

Jan Edwards – Copyright – 2020

Storm Strikes Again at our Finca

Autumn arrived with a bang this year. Quite a few bangs, actually. Although this time of the year is when we expect thunderstorms, there seem to have been more than usual recently. Why should I expect something ‘normal’ in a year like 2020?

August 29th was the first big storm that sticks in our mind; this is probably because we’ve only just received and paid the eye-popping bill for the repair of the lightning-damaged inverter that keeps our solar-power electricity system going.

The latest storm a couple of nights ago appears to have affected our generator. It simply won’t start. This hulking (and noisy) beast usually kicks in automatically when the solar batteries are a little low in power – which happens when the sun hasn’t been on duty for a while or we use certain power-guzzling appliances.

Our recent top-up delivery of diesel for the generator.

Today we have sunshine, which means the solar panels are maxing out on sunbathing and our system can happily run without the generator – assuming modest use of power. But using the washing machine or the iron, for example, kicks off the generator however much sun is available.

Rugs at the Ready

Until the generator can be fixed, doing the laundry at home is off limits. Oh, and so are the air-conditioning units that do heating duty in the evenings at this time of year – when it’s not quite cold enough for a log fire (The Boss would disagree with that) but a little warmth is appreciated. It’s a cosy rug over the legs on the sofa for us for the foreseeable.

The big positive about all the rain we’ve had is that rural Mallorca has lost the veil of dust it’s been wearing over the dry months. Everything looks sparkling clean . . . except the contents of the laundry basket.

The stream at the bottom of our valley should be full of water by now, but I won’t have to resort to kneeling on its muddy banks to do the laundry. Thank heavens for gas-powered water heaters and a good-sized kitchen sink. Now, pass the Marigolds . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2020

Norbert Amthor of Finca Hotel Can Estades

Norbert Amthor is originally from Germany and lives and works on a beautiful finca in the southwest of Mallorca. He and his wife Christiane are the welcoming hosts of the rural Finca Hotel Can Estades, located in the countryside near the village of Calvià.

Norbert talks about the challenges of the first finca he bought on the island, explains how he came to be running a rural hotel, and has some advice for anyone wanting to move to Mallorca. You’ll also hear him reveal how he met his wife, what they enjoy about the island’s capital, Palma de Mallorca, and the pastime he loves that he took up only at the age of 59.

Find out more about Norbert and Christiane’s B&B hotel here.

The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).

Living in Rural Mallorca Podcast – Next!

October already! It’s when we start to think about taking long walks again – the heat of summer being over. It’s also the month I’m finally launching my Living in Rural Mallorca podcast, in which you can hear the experiences of other expats who have chosen to live in the Mallorcan countryside, as we have.

Mallorca woods walk
Walking season has arrived

I planned to start this podcast early in 2020. Then a couple of things happened: my beautiful Auntie Joan passed away and I returned to the UK for her funeral; then, just a few days after my return, Spain went into lockdown.

Thwarted by Weak WiFi

Several famous people started podcasts during the lockdown, using online facilities such as Zoom and Skype to record remote guests. Sadly, our WiFi was too feeble and we couldn’t even watch Netflix, YouTube, or join online family meet-ups on Houseparty.

But I was otherwise ready, having bought myself a new digital recorder (Zoom H2n, if you’re interested), sourced some theme music, and created my podcast label. The final piece in the podcast puzzle was finding a new Internet service, which has made many more online things possible for us. Oh, and a first guest.

Expat Interviews

My plan is to invite expats to join me on future episodes of this podcast to share their experiences of living in the Mallorcan countryside. These guests won’t be only from the UK, as my Living in Rural Mallorca blog has readers and followers from all around the world.

In my next post, you can hear the first episode of the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about the experiences of Norbert Amthor, who lives and works in the southwest of Mallorca.

Claims, Creativity, and Covid-19 in Rural Mallorca

Few passengers at Palma Airport when we collected our rental car

Almost two weeks have passed since hailstones the size of hens’ eggs destroyed our car sunroof. Fortunately, our insurance company didn’t quibble about the claim: on the Monday morning after the storm, they told us to take the car to their authorized claims assessor in Manacor.

From there, a taxi—the insurers arranged and paid for it—whisked us (at unnerving speed) to an eerily quiet Palma Airport, where we collected a rental car, which was also covered by the insurance. Línea Directa, in case you’re wondering. With any luck, we’ll have our own car back this coming Tuesday.

Don’t ask yet about the damaged inverter for our solar-powered electricity system. I’ll get back to you on that one. Whilst our broken one is in the repair shop, we have a loan inverter, so it’s business as usual in terms of electricity. No excuse not to do the ironing then.

Creative Distractions

Except that I’m busy doing more interesting things. Firstly, I’m working on the revisions for my debut novel which, it may not come as a surprise to read, features a radio presenter, cats, and Mallorca. I finished the first draft in late May and, following advice from other writers, put it to one side for a while (almost three months). Revising/editing is a slow but exciting process. I reckon I’ll be finished by Christmas. Christmas 2021. I jest… possibly. After that, my manuscript will be given the professional-editor treatment.

I am also excited about launching a podcast soon, in which I’ll be talking to other people who have chosen to live in rural Mallorca. I’m looking forward to hearing and sharing my guests’ own experiences and advice they may have for anyone planning to do the same. You’ll be able to listen to the podcasts here on this blog (assuming I master the techie requirements) and on the usual podcast apps.

The Second Wave

Beautiful weather again for lunch this week in Port d’Andratx with my friend Sandra

Keeping busy has been a distraction from the second wave of Covid-19. The Balearic health minister has today announced the closure of public play areas and suspension of children’s entertainment and activities for a 15-day period, to coincide with the reopening of schools. Some temporary measures the Balearic government introduced last month have also been extended for another 15 days; these include no smoking in public spaces; reduction of restaurant and bar capacities to fifty per cent, and the closure of beaches and municipal parks between 9pm and 7am (to prevent large gatherings of youngsters).

It’s not all doom and gloom here. Yesterday, the sunshine and blue skies had returned and I met my friend Sandra for a tasty lunch down in the southwest of Mallorca at Port d’Andratx. We chatted to a couple of young women from London who were also eating there. They had defied the British government’s advice against non-essential travel to have a holiday, even though quarantine will follow on their return. It was interesting to hear that they felt much safer from Covid-19 here in Mallorca than they did in London.

Be safe, wherever you are, and make the most of the last days of summer 2020 if you can.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Storm Drama in Mallorca

Weather warning, looking over the salt lake of s’Avall from Hotel El Coto’s roof terrace in Colonia de Sant Jordi

It’s not unusual for Mallorca to have storms in late summer. It’s as though all the heat and lack of rain build up, until they can’t be contained any longer and, like a volcano erupting, we experience an explosion of weather. This year it happened on Saturday (29th August). And things certainly went with a bang at our finca in rural Mallorca.

We were away on Friday night (celebrating The Boss’s birthday). It had been a hot week, and rain and thunderstorms were forecast for Saturday. At the time, we were looking forward to the prospect of rain for the garden and slightly cooler temperatures.

Gun-metal-grey clouds on Saturday morning encouraged us to head for home earlier than we would otherwise have done. An email from a follower of this blog, who has moved to a finca in our area, mentioned intense lightning at five o’clock that morning. Lightning and solar-powered electricity do not always go well together, as we have discovered in the past. During the drive home, the sky became more threatening and, as we turned into our lane, spots of rain began to fall and impressive fork lightning stabbed at the land in the distance.

Bouncing Ice ‘Bombs’

When we entered our home, our unspoken fears were confirmed: we had no electricity. Our inverter had already been damaged by the pre-dawn storm. Before we could mentally digest what this would mean for the rest of our weekend (no lights, phone, TV, etc), hailstones began pounding onto the roof of our house.  We looked out as chunks of ice the size of hens’ eggs bounced all around the place. All we could think was that if we’d set off as little as fifteen minutes later, I’d have been driving us home through that storm.

As soon as the hail and rain had stopped, we ventured outside to check the state of the house roof. Astonishingly, the terracotta tiles appeared to have survived the brutal onslaught. Turning our attention to the car, I spotted a dent in the bonnet—surprised to see just the one. Then I spotted the real damage: the hailstones had shattered the sunroof of the car. What a mess.

So, no electricity, WiFi, phone, or car. Thank heavens for our kind Swiss neighbour Brigitta, who allowed us to use her phone to call our solar-power company. And well done (and heartfelt thanks) to Taller Servera in Llucmajor, who delivered a loan replacement inverter early that Saturday afternoon so that we could have electricity until they can repair our own inverter.

It may be true that lightning never strikes twice in the same place but, over the years, it’s managed three strikes on our inverter.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Tribute to a Man who Loved Mallorca

My Uncle Ray couldn’t have been more appropriately named: he loved the sunshine and I’m sure he was never deficient in Vitamin D. It was a terrible shock, a couple of weeks ago, to learn that a heart attack had taken him from the many who loved him. My cousin Karen referred to our uncle as a ‘gentle giant’: he was a tall, well-built man, who stood ramrod-straight, took great care of his appearance, and was affectionate with his loved ones.

Ray was my dad’s younger brother (by two years) and, when I was growing up, our families lived a long way apart: his in Devon and ours in Cambridge. I didn’t really start to get to know him well until 2010, when he accompanied my dad on holiday for the first time, staying with us in rural Mallorca. It was the first of their thirteen holidays together at our place over the next few years. Sadly, his deteriorating eyesight put an end to Ray’s visits; his last was in September 2017.

His first visit to us in 2010 was the motivation for clearing our annex guest suite, which had been a neglected storage space ever since we moved here in 2004. With its own independent entrance and en suite shower room, it suited Ray perfectly. As an early riser (he couldn’t wait to feel that sunshine), he was able to open his annex door and be out on the terrace enjoying the freshness of the early-morning air. He repeatedly told us during his stays that he loved Mallorca and his room; he particularly enjoyed the cup of tea and biscuit I delivered to him each morning, in exchange for a ‘Ray hug’.

Rooms need a name so you can identify them in conversation. I’m writing this in what we grandly call ‘the library’; it contains a lot of books, but wouldn’t win any interior-design prizes for ‘best home library’. Our annex suite has been known as Ray’s Room ever since he first stayed and I think we’ll always refer to it thus. He has slept in that room more times than any other visitor, so it seems only appropriate.

Happy Holidays

Whenever we collected Dad and Ray from the airport, Ray would arrive looking more tanned than most of the departing holidaymakers and, over the course of a week’s holiday, he’d keep an eye on the progress of his tan.

He loved going out on our excursions, but was just as happy sunning himself on the terrace at home, lounging alongside his elder brother and sharing stories of their childhood and youth. He also enjoyed our outings for meals and drinks; his favourite tipple under the hot Mallorcan sun was a large beer, but he didn’t say no to a glass of wine or one of The Boss’s legendary G&Ts.

The brothers’ holidays in 2011 were particularly memorable: Jetta—the feral cat we’d been feeding for a few months—produced two litters of kittens. Her timing couldn’t have been better, as the kittens’ first adventures away from the area where they were born coincided with both of Dad and Ray’s holidays that year. The kittens kept us all entertained and charmed with their crazy antics.

I last saw Uncle Ray in March, just a week before the lockdown began in Spain. I’d flown back to the UK for the funeral of my Auntie Joan (Dad and Ray’s elder sister), never imagining then that I wouldn’t see him again. He would have been 90 next May and there would have been a family party (Covid-19 permitting).

Saying Goodbye … via an iPad

Today was Ray’s funeral in Devon, but we were unable to attend because of the UK’s quarantine requirement. Technology came to the rescue: my cousins had made it possible for us to watch the ceremony online, courtesy of a business called Obitus. The ceremony was due to start at 4pm but, when I logged on to the site a quarter of an hour in advance to check the connection, the link didn’t work. Our WiFi signal wasn’t strong enough.

At this stage, I had a wobble, fearing that we would miss the ceremony. I bashed out a Messenger request to our lovely Swiss neighbours, whose WiFi is more reliable than ours. For some minutes there was no reply and I realized they were probably having a siesta, entertaining friends, or enjoying their pool. Time was ticking by, so I tried the link on my iPad instead and re-positioned the router to see if it made a difference. At last, we were able to see inside the crematorium, where a photo of Uncle Ray beamed from a monitor on the wall.

Our Swiss neighbours replied then, having just seen my message. They offered the use of their internet and a quiet place to be on our own. I thanked them, explaining that we’d finally been able to connect at home, and I’ll always be grateful for their kind offer.

I never imagined that I would one day watch a family funeral online, at home, but it’s only one of many things that none of us could have imagined happening in 2020. It was painful to see the slumped shoulders and bowed heads of grieving mask-clad family members and not be able to exchange comforting words or consoling hugs (although the latter are forbidden anyway now). But what tore at my heart was seeing my dad saying goodbye to his last sibling and not being able to give him a hug or hold his hand during the ceremony, as I did at his elder sister’s funeral in March.

Wakes don’t happen online, of course, but I imagine that those who were able to attend Ray’s wake in person will have shared many memories of a dad, grandad, (very proud) great-grandad, brother, uncle, and friend.

And, when I’ve finished writing this post, we’ll open a bottle of Mallorcan rosado (from Mesquida Mora) and raise a glass (or two) to Uncle Ray – a man who loved his holidays with us in Mallorca.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Ray. We hope the sun is shining up there.

Jan Edwards ©2020