Lockdown Log – Day 26 – The Supermarket Sweep

Let’s hear it for home deliveries!

We’re fast approaching a month in lockdown in Mallorca. When it started, I had plans to do so many things, including decorating. There’s still plenty of time, though, because the lockdown is being extended to April 26th – another couple of weeks from the already-extended date of Easter Sunday.

The last time I left our finca was on March 14th, when we did our usual Saturday morning trip into Manacor. The good old days. Since then, The Boss has done the past two weekly supermarket shops, and local Manacor agricultural producer Terragust has delivered fresh produce to our rural home.

The Boss volunteered to do the supermarket run. I could tell that it was somewhat stressful, and not just because of taking the necessary paperwork, disposable gloves, sanitizer, and wearing a tightly wrapped scarf around his upper orifices – like a 21st-century Dick Turpin.

Aisle Call

I may be a writer, but my handwriting is shocking; I blame years of computer use. My handwriting could part-qualify me to be a doctor – a career path I’m very pleased I didn’t pursue, in the current circumstances. Only I can understand the scrawls on the shopping list I usually take on our forays for food. On those occasions, The Boss pushes the trolley and probably switches off mentally until it’s time to get his wallet out.

To make shopping easier for him, I typed out a list, in the order of which he would find the items located in the store. I pictured him whizzing around with his trolley (he’s usually in charge of it when we shop), plucking the required items from the shelves and dropping them into the trolley. Job done.

Alas, it wasn’t quite that easy. I received several calls on his mobile phone on both occasions, with various questions. What was the Spanish for linseeds? What did dried yeast look like? That type of thing.

Stepping Up to the Trolley

With Easter almost upon us, I decided I’d do this week’s shopping run. I hadn’t driven the car since March 9th, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my motoring skills an outing. Unlike the almost-deserted car park and store that The Boss had reported after his trips, yesterday was a busy day of pre-Easter shopping and I had to queue to enter.

I wore disposable gloves and a Mrs Dick Turpin-style scarf as I pushed my sanitized-handled trolley through the store. Every now and then, my reading glasses would steam up from the breath trapped by my scarf but, even visually challenged by the fog on my lenses, I could see that social distancing was Not Being Observed. I spent much of my shopping trip avoiding other trolley-pushers and muttering crossly under my breath, like a mad woman. By the way, muttering crossly under your breath, like a mad woman, is an effective technique to make people give you a wide berth.

A large number of shoppers were men, I observed, and most of them appeared clueless. I saw several apparently phoning home, from the exasperated ‘get me outta here’ looks on their faces.

I’m not a stock-piler – we wouldn’t have space to store stuff, even if I were – but I did decide to buy two of certain items, in the hope we could extend the time before the next shopping trip. It was with a well-filled trolley that I arrived at a till, where a friendly young lady wearing a clear perspex face shield gave me a bit of a turn when she told me how much my bill was.

Digit Dilemma

No worries. I extracted my Banca March card (which I almost never use), and duly inserted it into the machine. That was when I realised how difficult it is to tap out a PIN number wearing disposable gloves, with fingers that extend way beyond the length of your own. Three unsuccessful attempts later – although I was convinced at least the last one was correct – my card was rejected. (It was only when I arrived home that I realised the card had expired last November!).

I looked at the three packed Sainsbury’s trolley bags (brought over from the UK in 2004 and still serving us weekly) and envisaged having my purchases taken away from me. My UK bank account card came to the rescue; two unsuccessful attempts at its PIN number and I was on the brink of another card rejection. In a red-faced huff (it really was too warm to be swaddled in a lambswool scarf), I ripped off my right-hand glove and stabbed out the number on the terminal keys. I did, though, thank the cashier for her patience – and for being there in the first place. Judging by the look of surprise on her face, that didn’t happen very often.

Back in the safety of the car, I went a bit wild with the hand sanitizer before driving home. Shopping in the time of corona can be pretty stressful…

Jan Edwards©2020

Lockdown Log – Day 17 – is Dusty’s Birthday

Here we are on the last day of March already. In some ways, 2020 is flying by.

Gratuitous sunset shot – not that we’ve seen one like this here for a while

This perception is aided by the fact that lockdown has reduced our accessible world to our own homes. Without the punctuation points of going out for walks by the sea, shopping trips, restaurant meals, seeing friends, and even medical or dental appointments, the days are blurring into one another.

Flashback to 2011

But today, March 31st, is a significant date for us. On this date, back in 2011, Dusty – our blue-eyed outdoor cat – and his three siblings were born just the other side of the wall at the far end of our field. You can read about his mum, Jetta, here.

Dusty is the only one of the first litter of Jetta’s kittens who’s still with us. Nine years old today. It’s not a bad age for a cat that was born feral and lives outdoors. He comes twice a day for his food and, although he has his own little territory somewhere down the lane, he also spends the majority of his daytime around our property.

My Dad suggested the name; he and his brother Ray were here for their spring holiday in May 2011, when Jetta decided it was time to bring her kittens up to meet us all for the first time. What joyful days we had watching these little bundles playing on the terraces and in the flowerpots. Dad said that the blue-eyed kitten reminded him of Dusty Springfield – and the name Dusty stuck. Not sure what Ms Springfield would have thought about that.

A Character of His Own

Like all our cats, Dusty has his own individual character traits. He loves to spend time in our company. If I go into the garden to do some weeding, he will appear suddenly and sit and watch what I’m doing. He loves to rub his head against our legs and goes a bit gooey when you stroke him anywhere on his head or neck.

But Dusty won’t be picked up, sit on a lap, or come into the house. He sometimes appears later than the others for his breakfast and – although the cats’ food bowls are always in the same place on our covered terrace – he usually sits outside our front door until one of us goes out and escorts him – à la maître d’ – to where his food is waiting. It’s as though he doesn’t want us to think he’s taking being fed for granted. Amusing cat.

Anyway, happy birthday to Dusty. He, of course, has no idea it’s his birthday, or that he’s nine years old (in human years). In cat years, that makes him around 52.

To mark the occasion, here are a few photos of the birthday boy.

Jan Edwards ©2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 15

Here we are in rural Mallorca, just starting Spain’s extended period of lockdown, which was made official last week in Madrid. We’re now confined to our homes for another 15 days.

Ah, was it only two weeks ago that we believed (or hoped) that we’d be free today to go for a Sunday morning walk and coffee by the Mediterranean Sea? We were either wildly optimistic or a bit naïve; I’ll go with wildly optimistic.

Our optimism may have waned a little since then. Will it really all be over on Easter Sunday? Maybe. Probably not.

More to Stay Home

The Spanish government has announced tighter lockdown measures relating to working outside the home.

From tomorrow (30th – where did March go?) until April 9th (the 10th being Good Friday, and a public holiday), only those working in the following sectors may  leave their homes to go to work: foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, veterinary, opticians, hygiene products, the media, fuels for the automotive sector, tobacconists, IT and telecommunications vendors, pet food, internet vendors and dry cleaners. Banks will also remain operational. The service of motor mechanics will not be available to the general public, but restricted to freight vehicles.

I can think of a few creative friends who live in the centre of Palma and usually work from home. They will be relieved not to hear the constant noise of construction workers renovating nearby properties.

Home Thoughts

Whatever, we’re grateful for still feeling well. And well fed. I’ve never done so much baking in my life. The Boss did the weekly supermarket shop again on Thursday – list in hand and official documents at the ready in case he should be stopped by the police. I still have not left our property.

To counter all the extra carbs we’re scarfing down to keep our spirits up, we’re now settling into our daily exercise routine of stomping circuits around our field. This morning we encountered this chap out for his own exercise:

Doing his own (slow) circuits of our field

The Fruits (& Vegetables) of Mallorca’s Land

The highlight of last week for me was finding a home-delivery service for fresh produce. We usually buy our fruit and veg in a little greengrocer’s shop adjacent to the produce market in Manacor. We’ve shopped there ever since we moved to rural Mallorca but are not going into town at the moment – for obvious reasons. But we still want to support local producers.

Mallorca has a surprising number of local businesses offering home delivery services during this crisis and some online research revealed one that’s perfect for us: Terragust. All their produce is grown on land surrounding Manacor, our nearest town. Deliveries are only in the Llevant area of Mallorca. Terragust also organises some interesting events related to local agriculture and we attended one of these last year. You can read about it on my other blog here, if you’re curious.

On Friday – D (for delivery) Day – I was like a kid at Christmas. I couldn’t have told you if I was most excited about the prospect of a box of freshly picked vegetables arriving at home, or seeing my first human being – other than The Boss – in the flesh (clothed, of course, and gloved). And keeping his distance.

Santa Claus (alias Matias from Terragust) brought us a harvest-festival-worthy bounty of vegetables and fruit, and a loaf of home-made bread, for just 15 euros – including delivery. At least I won’t have to make any bread for a day or two. Whenever I have a spare few minutes (who thought there’d be lots of time to relax during lockdown?), I browse through my Delia Smith Vegetarian Cookbook for recipes to make the most of some of this bounty.

It’s almost lunchtime and, yes, we’re having a big healthy salad. This afternoon I have more biscuits to bake.

Stay well.

-oOo-

An Italian friend in Mallorca, whom I met through my Mallorca Sunshine Radio show ‘Table Talk’, sent me this video this morning, which a friend of the songwriter had sent him. I found it very moving (a few tears were shed) and hope you enjoy it.

 

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 8

A beautiful morning with mist in the valley – before the lockdown

Well, we’ve survived the first week of lockdown in Mallorca. Today is day 8, and Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has today announced that he will ask Congress for a 15-day extension to the current State of Alarm. They’re hardly likely to say no, under the current circumstances.

When the initial lockdown began, staying at home for 15 days almost felt like having an enforced holiday at home: more time to read, catch up on household chores, pamper ourselves, watch movies, get in touch with neglected friends, and tackle something we’d always wanted to learn. Realistically, though, 15 days of social isolation were never going to be long enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

Since my last post, we’ve kept ourselves busy. I’ve been researching and preparing weekday coronavirus update bulletins for Mallorca Sunshine Radio. It’s taken longer than I expected, as the Internet is running very s…l…o…w…l…y. But it’s not as if we have anywhere else to be right now. And it’s good to feel as useful as possible within the restricted conditions.

Although I am, as they say in the news business, “keeping across what’s happening”, I’m not recording bulletins this weekend. This meant a little extra time in bed yesterday and this morning, and a more leisurely paced day.

Life Online

For many, life in lockdown has become life online. We all want to stay in touch with families and friends: social media is coming into its own. We’ve been appreciating my Dad’s short Facebook posts in the morning (which are tinged with the gentle humour of a stoical person who grew up during World War II). He’s bought himself a new iPhone too so we can connect by WhatsApp. I am extremely proud of him.

I thought this time of social isolation would be a good opportunity to explore the gazillion possibilities to connect, learn, participate in something, and be entertained – all online. It’s not surprising that the Internet is creaking at times here in our valley, where the signal is not too brilliant at the best of times.

For an island that’s, in area, roughly the size of the county of Hampshire (UK), Mallorca is home to a huge number of creative and talented people. Some of them have come up with ways to engender community spirit, by facilitating online material or setting up Facebook Watch Parties – designed to help us learn new things, get fitter, be entertained, or simply cope with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of my Living in Rural Mallorca followers live or have second homes in Mallorca. If you’re one of these followers and aren’t already aware of the following Facebook groups, you may be interested in checking out the following.

Majorca Mallorca, At Home Together

Ivan Gonzalez Gainza and his partner Lara Corfield of Wine Industry presented a video on wine tasting

This Facebook group now has more than 1,100 members. It was set up by my friend and fellow writer (plus photographer/all-round good egg), Vicki McLeod, who is one of the most community-spirited people I’ve met since living in Mallorca.

Vicki and her very small team invite group members to contribute videos designed to teach, inform, or entertain other group members. If the Internet had been more reliable at home this week, we could have learnt some new skills.

I predict that group members will be raising their game in the kitchen department, as a result of the various cooking demonstrations this week. These have included making sourdough, home-made pizzas, overnight oats, and carob bites. There have been online quizzes and live concerts by local performers, as well as yoga, boxing, and other exercise lessons, and even a wine tasting tutorial video. The group is a place for members to share useful information – such as businesses in Mallorca offering home deliveries. I’d be riveted to it if our Internet were better behaved.

Online Community Immunity & Vitality Live Retreat

This is a group for those who want to improve their mental and physical well-being during the lockdown. This week I managed to watch two of their videos: Ruth and Eran, (from Palma eatery Santosha) making sauerkraut, and brewing ginger beer. The Boss can look forward to a probiotic boost soon – assuming the ginger beer bottles don’t explode during the brewing process.

Coping in the Countryside

The first barrowload of cut ‘swords’ to go down to the bottom corner of the field.

Yesterday, The Boss and I committed ourselves to some physical activity as part of our daily routine. We walked countless circuits of our field, with the intention of doing this twice a day. We followed our first session with some gardening and, between us, worked on sawing off and removing 52 ‘swords’ (they live up this name) from the bases of two of our monster agaves.

We’d have been doing the same thing today if it hadn’t been for the thunder, lightning, and lashing rain most of the day. Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re staying well.

Jan Edwards©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 3

A view from our finca in rural Mallorca in better times

Positivity took a bit of a slump yesterday. I woke up way before the birds and lay awake thinking about the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not usually a worrier, but these are not usual times. And this is not our usual Mallorca.

What would happen if The Boss or I showed symptoms of the virus? I made a mental note to make up the guest-room bed, so that if one of us had to self-isolate, we could do so immediately, without the hassle of having to ready the room in a hurry.

My mind was also whirring with concern for my dad, who lives alone in the UK and not close to any of his family. After the latest gloomy news from the UK, I decided to contact Dad later in the morning, when I was sure he’d have completed his ablutions, daily exercises (impressive), and eaten his breakfast.

In addition, The Boss’s aunt – who is 96 years old – is in a Birmingham hospital with a chest infection, after her carer found her collapsed at home last week. Would today be the day we’d receive her coronavirus test results?

When the alarm went off, worrying was off the agenda. I’m currently producing some daily coronavirus bulletins for Mallorca Sunshine Radio and the first goes on air at 8:30am. No lingering in bed, sipping my morning mug of hot water and lemon, for the time being. I have to fire up the laptop (always a tad sluggish first thing), squeeze into my wardrobe studio, and wake up my voice. Would you like to hear me yodel? No, I thought not.

Keeping Contact

After an exchange of emails with one of my brothers, The Boss and I Facetimed my dad (thank you, Apple) and, as usual, found him in good spirits and looking healthy. Dad was a child during WWII and experienced far greater deprivations than the ones facing us now.

He’s arranging online shopping for food and essentials and I spent some time researching a milk-delivery service for him. Yes, doorstep milk deliveries are coming back into favour in the UK and, environmentally, that’s positive news: glass bottles and electric delivery vehicles. The social aspect of daily deliveries to homes is also reassuring: if the previous day’s milk is still on the step, the milkman (or woman) will know there’s a problem.

Between us, my brothers, and all my nieces, we should each be able to give Dad some daily interaction. In this period of ‘social distancing’, any contact with the world beyond our own four walls is important.

At Least, Trying to Keep Contact

By midday, when I was preparing the lunchtime radio bulletin, the Internet was creaking under the weight of demand. With all educational establishments in Mallorca closed since Monday, children and students are largely learning online. Added to that load are the adults who are working online at home or trying to fill their days with one of a gazillion activities facilitated by the Internet.

The Highlights of Lockdown Day 3

  • The Boss’s aunt’s test results came back negative for the coronavirus. Phew.
  • Feeling that I was doing something useful by researching some things to help Dad through this crisis.
  • I learnt to make sauerkraut, watching an online class. I had a gut feeling it would be a good idea (probiotic humour).
  • Watching a YouTube video of a local opera singer on his Palma apartment balcony, entertaining his neighbourhood with a rendition of ‘O Sole Mio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ffpLosAFKI
  • Baking a batch of shortbread biscuits (which our crazy-thermostat oven didn’t burn). And comfort-eating most of them with The Boss.

My Top Tip of the Day

Don’t watch or listen to any of the current depressing news coverage after dinnertime. Not if you want a decent night’s sleep.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Days 1 & 2

Our rural idyll

Today is day two of Spain’s official lockdown. Yesterday, it was hard to believe it was happening. Here we were, in our peaceful rural paradise, enjoying the blue skies and warm sunshine. We had breakfast, coffee, and lunch out on the terrace – taking the opportunity to boost our Vitamin D.

If we’d been without any kind of media, we’d have been oblivious to what’s going on elsewhere. We are, if you didn’t know, probably the only two people in the developed world who didn’t find out about the 2004 tsunami until a week after it happened.

Back then, we had no TV, radio, Internet, or landline telephone – and no mobile coverage. Ignorance is bliss, they say. Now, every medium that exists bombards us with information…not all of it reliable or relevant.

The Sound of Silence

In terms of traffic, Sunday is our valley’s busiest day (but it’s all relative). This is when the grown-up offspring of our mallorquín neighbours return to the family home for a big gathering over lunch. Not yesterday. Lockdown means no visits to family or friends.

Dusty’s happy to have us at home all day, every day

We’re social distancing. It’s just The Boss and me – and our six cats – for the duration. And today, the Spanish government is saying that the lockdown period is likely to be extended beyond 15 days.

The prospect of a possible lockdown dangled like a carrot on a stick for a while. Fifteen whole days at home. Think of all the jobs we could do – like decorating. If only we had the paint to do it, eh?

There’s a raft of possible activities to fill our days, such as sorting out cupboards, photographs, and paperwork. I have a wardrobe that could do with some pruning (I need a bit more space inside it, for the reason you can read below). I also have a Kindle bursting with unread books, and a novel to finish writing.

Radio Daze

My gastronomy/hospitality radio show – Table Talk – has been pulled off air for four weeks. It’s hardly appropriate to broadcast about gastronomy and hospitality with all restaurants, bars, cafes, and hotels closed. Instead, I’m on duty researching and producing Coronavirus update bulletins for Mallorca Sunshine Radio. A couple of times a day I slip into my home studio (otherwise known as the guest-room wardrobe) to record my bulletins. Ah, the glamour of the media world!

Whereas yesterday was sunny and warm and made the whole lockdown thing seem unreal, nature has delivered the weather today to match the mood of the nation. It was raining when we woke up and now it’s just grey and a bit chilly. I wouldn’t fancy going out anyway.

Altogether Now…

‘What was that awful noise?’

Perhaps you’ve seen on TV news coverage that people across Spain are joining together each evening – in spirit, if not in person? It’s an act of solidarity to pay homage to health workers and those who are keeping essential services going. At eight o’clock each evening, we take to our open windows, balconies, or terraces to applaud these people.

Here in rural Mallorca, The Boss and I are taking part, even though it’s only sheep likely to hear us. As people have been doing in Italy, the Spanish will soon be breaking into song as well at this time. I think The Boss and I will stick to clapping: no need to frighten the sheep even more with The Boss’s singing (only joking, The Boss).

Spain’s Latest Official Stats

Today, Monday 16th, the official figures show that Spain now has 8,744 confirmed cases of Coronavirus – 60% of which are in the Madrid region alone. Deaths have reached 297. People in hospital number 3,815 – with 410 in intensive care. The country’s population is just under 47 million.

In the Balearics, 73 cases are confirmed (18 new cases diagnosed in the past 24 hours); four patients are in intensive care and there’s been one death. The majority of the cases are in Mallorca.

Jan Edwards©2020

Mallorca in Lockdown

Shorty’s pretty chilled about the lockdown

A few weeks ago – when we were watching as China succumbed to COVID-19 – I wouldn’t have imagined that countries in Europe would soon be in the grip of a pandemic. Disbelief set in when parts of Italy – and then the whole country – went into lockdown. I couldn’t bear to think about what it would be like to be confined most of the time to home (even though I do love our home). Well, we’re about to find out.

According to the World Health Organization, Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic, with Italy the worst affected. Spain is the second worst-affected country in Europe. At the time I’m writing this today (Saturday 14th), 44 people across the Balearic Islands have been infected with Coronavirus. Across the whole of Spain, the figure today is more than 6,000.

On Thursday I wrote most of a blog post about how Coronavirus was affecting Mallorca and the Balearics, and us in our rural home. It was quite a long post, which I hadn’t finished when I had to leave home to attend a press lunch.

At the time I started writing, the Balearic government had just announced measures to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Schools and educational establishments would close for 15 days from Monday (16th) and numerous sporting, social, and cultural events and facilities had been cancelled or postponed. Restaurants, bars, and clubs, with larger capacities, would also have to close.

When I came to finish the post yesterday morning, everything I’d written was about to change. I hit the ‘delete’ button and awaited further developments.

State of Alert for Spain

Yesterday, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the Cabinet would meet today to implement a ‘state of alert’ for 15 days for the whole country. (I learnt today that there are three categories for emergency situations: state of alert, state of emergency, and state of siege. What I’ve heard about panic buying in supermarkets here makes me think that some people are already in siege mode.)

These national measures come into effect at 8am on Monday, March 16th, to restrict the movement of people. Basically, we must adhere to social distancing, by staying at home.

The government has listed eight justifications for leaving home, which include: going to buy food, medicines, other basics, and fuel for vehicles; travelling to work and back (although businesses are obliged to allow employees to work from home); attending health centres, or going to a bank for money. Travelling around for pleasure is banned. Eating and drinking out are off the menu: only businesses providing essentials will remain open.

Public transport will continue, albeit with reduced services. The Balearic president would like to sever air connections with the Peninsular, but this has not been agreed so far.

Staying Positive

With all this going on, we are so grateful to be living in a rural area of Mallorca, where we have few neighbours, clean air, and plenty of open land around us. I don’t even want to think about what it would be like to be confined to a small apartment in a town or city. The expression ‘stir crazy’ comes to mind, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both divorce rates and pregnancies soared as a result.

What I am thinking about is how to use this enforced confinement in a productive way – such as pressing on with writing my novel or doing some home-improvement works with The Boss (I won’t share that with him yet).

I try to find something positive in any dire situation and, hey, I just found one: I was due to go to the dentist this week, but now the appointment will be cancelled.

Meanwhile, whatever the COVID-19 situation is wherever you are, take care and stay safe. This, too, shall pass. We hope.

Jan Edwards ©2020

How to drive on Mallorca’s off-the-beaten-track country lanes …

In a word, slowly. Living, as we do, a couple of kilometres down a country lane from a main(ish) road, we have become accustomed to the potential hazards of driving in rural Mallorca. It must be said – with the greatest of respect to Mallorcan drivers – that anticipation of the possible dangers that lurk, for users of country lanes, is sometimes lacking.

Road surfaces on Mallorca are generally very good. It was something we – and our visitors from England – often commented on in our early days of living on the island; even though our lane, at the time, was just a string of potholes linked together with bits of ancient asphalt. But even with a good road surface, driving in the country can present some challenges – particularly in lanes that are too narrow for cars to pass each other easily when travelling in opposite directions. Once, a neighbour’s son (a budding Fernando Alonso) missed our car by just a few centimetres because he’d been driving too fast from the opposite direction.

Here are some other things to watch out for on Mallorca’s roads:

Cyclists

Cyclists love Mallorca's rural lanes.

Cyclists love Mallorca’s rural lanes.

Mallorca is a magnet for keen cyclists and, during these cooler months of the year, many professional and amateur club cycling teams come here to take advantage of some excellent cycling conditions. If you’re driving, there’s every chance that you’ll find yourself crawling behind a Lycra-clad  peloton.  Or facing an oncoming one in a narrow country lane. Given the speed these bikes can travel, it doesn’t pay to be driving too fast.

The rabbit and the tortoise 

Our valley was full of rabbits when we first moved here and, what with the potholes and Bugs Bunny’s numerous friends, driving down our lane (particularly after dark) sometimes called for lightning reactions. The buck-toothed population has diminished in recent years (myxomatosis contributed to this), but rabbits do still suddenly shoot out onto the tarmac from the verges. As do their larger cousins, hares.

The Mediterranean tortoise is another creature you could encounter on your travels. They will often just retreat inside their shells when a vehicle approaches, so careful driving is needed to avoid squashing them.

Stone curlews

These rather inelegant birds give out a distinctive cry and we regularly hear their spooky shrieks at night as they fly over. After dark they also have a tendency just to stand around. Sometimes, even in the middle of the road. On one occasion, we had to brake hard to avoid hitting one that we’d been sure would take off as we approached. It just stood there looking defiantly at us until one of us got out of the car and approached it on foot.

Polyester-clad bottoms 

After a period of decent rain, there’s yet another potential hazard. Mallorcan country folk (often women; often wearing polyester pinafores) wander along the sides of the lanes, bent double and collecting the snails that have been lured out by the damp conditions.  Watch out for foragers – for snails and, in season, wild asparagus – particularly as you drive around bends, as they may not be visible below the level of the stone walls. Seemingly abandoned unfamiliar vans or small cars along a country lane may be an early warning sign of foragers who have driven out from a town or village for some of nature’s bounty.

Sheep

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

 

"Mum, wait for us!"

“Mum, wait for us!”

 

Sheep have a tendency to escape, because of their remarkable aptitude for climbing over dry stone walls. These woolly Houdinis can be a real danger if you come across them while driving too fast. And, take it from me, it’s almost impossible to shoo them back to where they came from. Another possibility is that you’ll encounter a shepherd moving his entire flock from one field along the lane to another field. There is no hurrying these beasts.

Horses

Horses came before cars ...

Horses came before cars …

In our valley we often see individual riders and also groups of people out with their horses. Occasionally you see a trotting horse – complete with trotting carriage – out for some exercise.

Random hazards

The above are all commonplace. Some of the more unusual hazards we’ve seen in our lanes have included a team of brightly dressed speed skaters (speed skating up the hill, no less), two donkeys that had escaped from their field and gone walkabout, and a couple of piglets that escaped from the truck transporting them from a nearby farm to their unfortunate destiny. Oh, how we cheered those two little pigs on in their Great Escape attempt … which sadly failed.

Motoring on Mallorca can be a really pleasurable experience: traffic is a lot lighter than in the UK, for example, and the island’s scenery and distant views are beautiful. But don’t spend too long gazing at the views if you’re driving … you  never know what may be ahead!

Jan Edwards ©2016

Life behind bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’. (That nickname for the island’s prison must really annoy Mallorca’s real Hilton hotel, Sa Torre Hilton near Llucmajor). Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping some out . . . others in

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another maintenance job for the property owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .

Mediterranean menace preparing to march

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

If you go down to the woods today, it’s not a teddy bears’ picnic you’re like to find, but the nest of the processionary caterpillar – at least, if the woods are mainly pine trees. These are the habitat of this crawling Mediterranean menace and these strange almost candyfloss-like nests are where they plot their manoeuvres. At around this time of year, they’re preparing to leave the nest to pupate in the soil and when they do, watch out!

We first saw these on the appropriately named Pine Walk in Puerto Pollensa. We hadn’t a clue what they were then (it was our first spring on the island) but watched in fascination as these hairy striped beasties marched across our path, nose-to-tail (do caterpillars have noses?), like a well-disciplined army corps.

Processionary caterpillars Mallorca

On the march on Puerto Pollensa’s Pine Walk

Keep your pets away

They look like the sort of thing that a small boy would want to collect and keep in a shoebox under his bed. But processionary caterpillars are definitely to be avoided, as their hairs are irritant to humans and potentially dangerous to dogs and other animals. And you don’t even need to come into physical contact with a caterpillar: when under threat, they shed hairs which can be unknowingly ingested.

If you have a dog that has come into contact with these wee beasties, be sure to get it to the vet’s as quickly as possible.

For the time being, dog or no dog, we’ll be giving pine trees a wide berth . . . and joining the teddy bears’ picnic on the beach instead.

©Jan Edwards 2014