It had been a while since we last went to Manacor’s trotting track, but we were there mid-April and we’ll be back on Thursday this week.
No, we haven’t turned into keen horse racing fans, although we went a few times in our early years here to watch trotting races. We were usually with visitors, giving them a flavour of Mallorca’s style of horse racing. It’s very different from that in the UK. And it’s certainly not Ascot.
The Manacor hipódromo has become one of Mallorca’s Covid vaccination centres and, after a sluggish start to the vaccination roll-out, the going is now good. The Boss had a phone call informing him of the appointment for his first jab, which was given on April 19th.
And They’re Off…
I went along with him, curious to see the operation of the local roll-out in practice. We expected to find queues of people – socially distanced, of course – and to have to wait a while. No. We were in and out of the hippodrome’s ringside building in just over twenty minutes, including the fifteen-minutes’ monitoring period afterwards. I was impressed by the efficiency and kindness of the health professionals carrying out the vaccination programme.
The Boss took a Paracetamol and a good slug of water immediately after, as I’d read was recommended. He was fortunate to have no ill-effects from his Pfizer vaccination, apart from a slightly sore arm. Too sore to pressure-wash the terraces but not too sore to raise a glass of wine, you’ll be pleased to know.
My turn next: I’ll be on the receiving end of the needle this Thursday morning, so it’s another trip to the Hippodrome for us. I’m phobic about needles so I’m already dreading it. What are the odds I’ll faint at the sight of the nurse looming towards me with the syringe? All bets are off …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here in Mallorca, we’re about to move into Phase 2 of the de-escalation of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe. In Phase 1 (from May 11th) The Boss and I did pretty much the same as we did in Phase 0. We were allowed to – but didn’t – venture out to a bar terrace, lusting after that first coffee ‘out’ again (although we are very much looking forward to doing this), or meet up with ten friends – socially distanced, of course.
But we did have two enjoyable outings. Since lockdown started, we’ve had a fruit-and-veg box delivery from a company called Terracor/Terragust in Manacor. They’ve been delivering to us on Fridays but we had A Big Plan for Friday 22nd, so we went to their small farm shop (set up in an open-sided barn-like structure). What made this little shopping trip fun was that we were able – if we wanted – to pick our own peaches and nectarines from the orchards. Well, that sounded fun (we take our excitement where we can, these days).
On arrival, we were greeted by the now customary squirt of sanitizing gel. Anyone with shares in companies making this stuff is set to see big dividends, I imagine.
One of the team took us into the orchard, showed us which rows of trees had the sweetest fruit at that time, and told us what to look for in terms of fruit-skin colour.
As usual, the quality of the produce we took home was excellent. Those nectarines and peaches? They tasted all the more delicious, knowing that we’d plucked them from the trees ourselves.
Look at those tomatoes
Fresh-picked on the day
Bundles of joy for a keen cook
Terragust offers a really enjoyable farm-to-table experience during the summer months, which we can highly recommend. You can read about it here, on my other blog.
A Big Plan
On Friday, 22nd, we went out for lunch. Before lockdown began in Spain, this wouldn’t have been unusual. But things have changed, haven’t they.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing a novel. The idea for the novel had been in my head for a lot longer and a few thousand words I originally wrote years ago still lurk in my computer. The novel is set in Mallorca (natch) and the beautiful mountain village of Deià – where I had several lovely holidays, back in the day, with my very dear friend Sally – has a role in the story.
Well, I finally finished the first draft (80k+ words) a couple of days ago – the perfect excuse to celebrate by dipping our toes into the waters of eating out again. And it seemed appropriate to do it in Deià.
We had an excellent lunch at Es Racó d’es Teix (which has a Michelin star but offers a very reasonably priced set lunch on weekdays). It’s family run, with Josef Sauerschell in the kitchen, his wife Eleanor front of house, and their identical-twin daughters (that confused us) helping out. As we entered the garden terrace, there was a bottle of sanitizing gel, so we could treat our hands before sitting down.
On the terrace at Es Raco d’es Teix
Part of the restaurant terrace
Delicious starter of vegetables
Roast suckling pig
After a superb lunch – appreciated all the more because it was the first time we’d eaten out since mid-March – we drove down the twisting lane to Cala Deià, where we were the closest to the Mediterranean that we’d been since…you guessed, mid-March.
The Mediterranean at Cala Deia
From tomorrow, Mallorca moves into Phase 2 and the beaches will open again. For those of us who live here, we have a few weeks to enjoy them with fewer people on than usual – before the hoped-for influx of tourists, when the island reopens to international travellers in July.
The sea has never looked cleaner or more tempting than it does now. What has been forbidden fruit will be ripe for enjoyment from tomorrow.
Do you live or have a home in Bunyola, Mallorca? If so, Max – who has a home there and whose comment is below – would like to be in contact.
Here in rural Mallorca, we’ve been discovering the lanes of our valley again, now that we are permitted to walk beyond the boundaries of our finca. Each morning, we head off for a walk of about half an hour. It’s been a real tonic and a habit I hope we’ll continue.
After almost two months walking only around our own property, it’s been such a joy to be out in the open countryside, seeing what nature’s been up to in our absence – and encountering a few neighbours we haven’t seen for a long while.
One of this week’s memorable events was spotting a mare and her frisky foal in one of the fields bordering the lane down into the valley. The field belongs to a farmer called José. Because we know several people with this name, we’ve given each one a nickname – which is a common practice anyway in Mallorca.
A Handy Farmer
We refer to this farmer as ‘Hairy-Handed José’ – although not to his face, of course. He no longer lives in the house on his farm, but comes every day to tend his animals and whatever else Mallorcan farmers do to fill their days (and avoid helping their wives with the housework back at home in town).
The nickname came about because (a) this man’s remarkably hirsute – even the backs of his fingers are forested, and (b) his hands are huge, so it’s hard to miss them, given that Mallorcans (and most Latin-types) tend to wave them about as a side order to the spoken word.
A Horse with no Name
The foal’s mother. The foal was too far away to photograph on this occasion
A couple of days after spotting the foal – who gave a spirited little performance for my phone camera – we saw ‘Hairy-Handed José’ for the first time for more than the couple of months we’ve all been confined to home. He looked older and a bit thinner, but his hands were pleasingly as hairy as ever.
He stopped his car in the lane for a socially distanced chat. I was about to ask him what the foal was called when I remembered our first encounter, in our early months here. At the time, he had a huge black dog chained up just inside the gates of his farm. Every time we walked past it, the dog went mental, snarling and straining at its chain. I figured that if we knew its name, we could call it out when we passed, to let him know that we were friends not foes and there was no need for all the barky behaviour.
‘What’s your dog’s name?’ we had asked ‘Hairy Handed’ (our abbreviated version of his nickname) when we saw him out and about one day.
Translated, his reply was this: ‘Name? Name? He’s just a dog!’ Supposing that the foal in the field was ‘just a foal’, we didn’t bother to ask this time. We’ll choose our own name for it soon…
Almost two months have passed since we went into lockdown in Spain. From last Saturday we were allowed a new privilege: that of one daily session of exercise, or a walk (the latter within a radius of one kilometre from our home).
After our first walk up the lane – passing numerous cyclists huffing and puffing up the hill – we changed to another route. We’ve since walked down to the floor of the valley, as far as one of the bridges over the torrente (stream) that runs through our valley.
It’s a glorious stretch of countryside, through the farmland of mallorquín neighbours Llorenzo and Bárbara. We hadn’t seen either of them since the lockdown began (in fact we’ve barely seen a soul, apart from the nice man from Terragust delivering our picked-that-morning fruit and veg each Friday).
Bárbara was picking chard in their produce garden, close to the lane, as we went past and it was good to have a decent chat with her – albeit one observing a safe distance and without the traditional hug and cheek kissing.
‘I’ll leave some for you by the gate, for when you come back,’ she said to us in castellano, waving a bunch of enormous chard leaves as we returned to our walk. These are not wealthy people, and their generosity is touching.
The torrente in March 2019, which we walked alongside
In March 2019, we went for a (very) long walk with Peter (one of our part-time neighbours), following the path of the stream. The stream bed and the banks had been cleared of all vegetation by the local town hall, as a precautionary measure, following the devastating floods of October 2018. It looked horribly stark but enabled us to walk through fields that hadn’t been accessible before.
That long walk revealed new vistas of the valley and an abundance of ducks living in the area. Before turning back for home, we spotted an orange tree on the other side of the stream, in the garden of what looked like an abandoned property. Peter – wearing some very sturdy boots – waded manfully through the water to do a little scrumping. Sitting on the bank of the stream, feeling like naughty children, we really appreciated those juicy fruits before our return walk.
When we arrived at the bridge this week, we were amazed to see how overgrown the torrente had become. On one side of the bridge there was so much vegetation growing that we couldn’t see any water. Only a single duck – startled by us into a noisy take-off – suggested there was water somewhere down there. Looking in the other direction (see below), we could see water but also much vegetation. The path through the fields that we had taken was no longer visible amidst the undergrowth. What a change in just 14 months.
Close-up of the same stretch of the torrente.
Another Not-So-Close Encounter
On our way back from this latest walk, we saw a stranger working in the garden of the house just down the lane from our own. Having been starved of face-to-face contact with other humans for so many weeks, we stopped to talk to him – again at a safe distance – and found out that he was a gardener. We said we hadn’t seen our neighbour José Luis for a very long time. Was he OK?
The gardener told us that our unfortunate neighbour has developed an extreme pollen allergy: if he’s outside for more than a few minutes, his eyelids and lips swell. What a horrible affliction to have – not only at this most beautiful time of the year (IMHO), but also when many of us are now taking advantage of the freedom to go outdoors again for exercise or walks. No wonder we haven’t seen him.
If we didn’t already appreciate how fortunate we are to be enjoying The Great Outdoors once again, this would have been a salient reminder.
Mallorca Moves into Phase 1
Spain has begun a four-phase de-escalation of the emergency measures that came into force at midnight on March 14th. Each province of Spain will progress through these phases at a rate that’s appropriate to the local circumstances, but each phase is expected to last around two weeks.
From Monday, May 11th, Mallorca begins Phase 1 – as will Menorca and Ibiza. (The small island of Formentera entered Phase 1 last Monday).
Here are some of the things possible during this new phase:
Going out together in the car (so far, only one of us has been able to go out to the supermarket, bank, or pharmacy)
Leaving our municipality and travelling to other parts of Mallorca
Social contact with a maximum of ten people who don’t live with us – observing social distancing measures, of course
Shopping in places no larger than 400m²
Having a drink on the terrace of a bar (but not indoors)
Visiting a library or museum
Going to church
There are, of course, still restrictions, such as limited capacities in places that are re-opening. And although hotels are allowed to re-open, only guests who are lodging can use them – and there are some access restrictions.
As much as we love walking in our valley, the carrot on a stick for us is having a long walk on a seafront, followed by a coffee or cold drink on the terrace of a bar, looking out to the Mediterranean. Small pleasures. It’s not every weekend that you can say you’re looking forward to Monday…
Wildflowers growing on the side of the lane in our valley
Yes, it’s day 3,789 of lockdown here in Mallorca (Spain). Not really; it just feels a bit like it sometimes.
But there was A Big Change in this country on Saturday, as Spain’s restrictions – reported as the toughest in Europe – were eased slightly for adults. From Saturday, May 2nd, we were allowed out for exercise (sports) or a walk.
Of course, there are restrictions, such as dedicated time bands for going out; this is is designed to minimise the risk to those most vulnerable to the virus. For walks, we can travel up to a radius of one kilometre from our homes; exercise is not so restrictive, but must be done within the same municipality. We cannot hop in the car and drive anywhere to walk or work out. (Oh, how I long to walk beside the Mediterranean again).
Lucky to Have Land
We’ve not exactly been lazy during the lockdown. Exercising to online videos could have been an option if our wifi signal was better, but we opted to walk.
We’re fortunate that our finca has plenty of land. More than half of it is still virgin territory for me, as it forms a valley within our valley and not only are the sides of this mini-valley steep, they’re also perilous, as the land underfoot is just loose stones. I had a small taste of this danger in our early years here, when I ventured out and slid several feet, ending up in a heap on the ground – my unplanned descent broken by a well-located shrub. This required a hospital visit to check on very painful ribs which, fortunately, were just badly bruised, rather than broken.
From this limited personal experience, I know that one careless step could lead to hurtling down the side, through a tangle of wild olives and mastic bushes, to an uncomfortable stop at what is the long-dried-up bed of a stream. Andres and Guillermo, elderly brothers who lived in the valley as small boys, once told us they’d fished for eels down there. And that there had been peach and apricot trees for scrumping.
The rest of our land is not as dangerous. As well as the garden we’ve created, there’s a large flat field – which has become our walking track during lockdown. We don’t use the field for anything in particular, as it’s mainly layered with huge rocks and stones. The Boss used to get out his man toy (a bushwacker) to level the wild growth to the ground, but this marvellous piece of kit died last year and we have yet to replace it.
Almost since lockdown began, we have had a routine: 20 circuits of the field in the morning and 20 in the early evening. This was mainly to counter all the extra baking I’d been doing. We’ve missed very few sessions and, as a result, now have a well-trodden and compressed roundish track amidst what is now a field of waist-high (and in my case, some shoulder-high) wild grasses and wildflowers. You could probably spot it from the International Space Station, if you were up there looking down on our part of rural Mallorca.
Felines in the Field
The cats that share our finca have been visibly bemused by our routine. Shorty, our affectionate ginger, started to follow us but realised that if he just sat in the middle of our track, he would get a few terms of endearment and a stroke on the head from me each time we came around. The others just sit in the grass at the side of the track and watch us.
During these walks we’ve also discovered Dusty’s secret daytime hiding place. He has a spot in a dense cluster of wild fennel and a plumbago bush that we certainly didn’t plant, but which thrives in the ashy area that was once our bonfire site. You’d never know that he was there but, one day, we saw him stalking through the grasses and then disappear from view. It was as though he’d entered the door to a parallel cat universe. Now that we know his secret spot, we can just about see him as we pass by.
As the weeks have gone by, we have watched Mother Nature continue her spring tasks. Some wildflowers have died, to be replaced by new ones. This morning we spotted some pretty blue flowers that weren’t out yesterday. We’ve seen several tortoises and butterflies galore. These little details are so easily be missed in the daily pace of ‘normal’ life (remember that?).
On Saturday we used our allotted walking period to check on a couple of neighbouring holiday homes for their owners. It was good to see the land of other people’s properties for a change.
Yesterday, we walked up the lane for the permitted one kilometre. We didn’t expect to see many people out in the valley; but did spot a woman walking a dog in the distance and waved (but had no idea who she was).
What we did see were cyclists. Lots of them. In fact I woke up yesterday to the sound of cyclists yelling as they freewheeled down the lane. Our valley is a magnet for cyclists: it has a very steep and challenging gradient that has earned it a place on the route of the Mallorca 312 cycling event, which takes place at the end of April each year. (This year’s event has been rescheduled to October 10th, 2020).
Our rural valley is in the municipality of Manacor and it seemed that every cycling enthusiast in the town had taken the opportunity to escape on two wheels to the countryside yesterday.
Social distancing wasn’t as easy as it should have been, with huffing and puffing cyclists constantly passing us. In future, we’ll be wearing our black bandit-like masks…or continuing our field circuits, away from the sporty sorts.
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.