Patience is a necessity when living on Mallorca

I’m not the world’s most patient person but, since we moved to Mallorca, we’ve realized that some things just don’t happen quickly here. We waited eight months to have an electricity supply; 18 months for planning permission for an outhouse in which to store our generator, invertor, and solar batteries, and seven months for permission to re-roof our ‘casita’ to stop the leaks every time it rained. It’s a good thing that I’ve never been one to chew my fingernails . . . I’d have been down to my knuckles by now.

This summer we decided to replace our old south-facing wooden front doors. They’d always been painted dark brown and it didn’t take long for the sun to do its work: fading the colour and burning off the sheen from the gloss paint. We decided to invest in new wooden doors that wouldn’t have to be painted, and would be stronger and more secure than the originals. We also considered replacing the inner front doors – also the worse for wear as a result of the sun’s fierce rays.

We found a company that seemed to offer just what we were looking for and a man came out to look at the job, discuss our requirements, and measure up. This was in July. In due course we received the quotation and, after a sharp intake of breath, decided to replace only the external doors. There was a visit to the factory to view and choose door furniture (handles etc, to you and me), and a 50 per cent deposit was paid.

“Gone to the beach”

But August got in the way. Not a lot happens on Mallorca in August that doesn’t involve beaches, swimming pools, and holidays. The factory closed for the month and we were told that our new doors would be delivered in September. In about the middle of September the man came back to the house to ‘check his measurements’. Our hearts sank.

On October 24th two helpful young men arrived with the new doors. They weren’t finished – they still had to have the special protective treatment applied – but this visit was to check the fit. All seemed fine. Until we realized that the holes for the handle and lock were on the wrong door. Oh dear.

Desperately seeking a solution

We visited the company to discuss the problem. The man who’d been out to our property didn’t remember what had been agreed as he’d “been on a month’s holiday” since then! It seemed that all the clipboard notes he’d scribbled during his visit to us had also gone on holiday – and not returned. We left him contemplating a possible solution.

Finally our doors were delivered and fitted last week. They look great and we’re really pleased that the company found a way to resolve the problem, without The Boss having to puff out his chest and get stroppy in Spanish.

But the story isn’t over yet. The new doors have been fitted with a modern brushed chrome handle, rather than the rustic-style door handle and keyhole that the (same) man had suggested at the factory. The very same rustic door furniture that we’d asked him to fit to our new doors. At least the bolts look rustic.

Patience. I just can’t get a handle on it . . .

 

The inner face of one of our smart new front doors.

The inner face of one of our smart new front doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer turns to winter on Mallorca

It feels like ages since I wrote a post on this blog. In the meantime both the weather and clocks have changed – and I’ve added a year to my age.  I’ve been super-busy, and have just completed a major writing job that has seen me up at the crack of dawn at the laptop and sometimes working until bedtime. After filing the last piece of copy for the job, an hour ago, I ran out onto the terrace and shouted an ecstatic “Yippee!”. My apologies to any sheep I might have frightened . . .

 

"What the Dickens was that noise?"

“What the Dickens was that noise?”

Last Saturday was my birthday and the weather for the whole weekend was sunny and warm. On Monday, during a brief coffee break on the terrace, The Boss and I agreed it was almost warm enough to wear shorts. It’s been confirmed by the boffins in the Spanish Met Office that the average temperature in October was the warmest on record for that month. We even managed a swim in the sea, something we’ve not done in that month previously.

Winter comes a-knocking

How things changed on Tuesday this week, when a cold front sliced across Spain and the Balearics. We were lucky in our area and didn’t suffer the hailstorms, thunder, and lightning that affected other parts of the island. But we had heavy rain and it has turned colder. I’ve resorted to wearing a cardigan for the first time in months, and plan to spend the weekend retrieving my winter clothes from their summer storage and laundering them.

The Boss, meanwhile, has been doing that man-thing: preparing the log burner for the next drop in temperature. Cleaning the flue and the stove itself, and renewing the rope-like stuff that prevents the escape of smoke around the door and the junction of the stove and flue, has occupied a few hours of his time – and left him looking a bit sooty. I can tell he’s itching to get the thing blazing again. But I’ve just checked the weather forecast and it looks as though our high could be 21 degrees Celsius again tomorrow . . .

Next time I’ll give you an update on the progress of Pip, the latest kitten to join our feline family.

 

Why thunderstorms and solar power are not a good combination

Until this week, we were having a rather unsettled spell of weather on Mallorca, with some much-needed (unless you were holidaying here) rain and some thunderstorms. The Boss and I quite enjoy watching a dramatic storm – and we do get a few – but we are always  wary about the damage that an electrical storm can do to solar power equipment. We have bitter experience, having suffered an invertor failure a few years ago during a particularly bad storm. The invertor was only three weeks old – and had cost a huge amount of money – so we were relieved to learn that the (expensive) repair was covered by our household insurance. And that our solar power system engineer would lend us an invertor until the repair could be done.

When he came back with our fixed original invertor,  he recommended that we switch off all our system equipment during future storms. So we now keep a weather eye open (pardon the pun) for any thunderhead clouds on the horizon or distant rumbling, and switch everything off if the storm arrives.

A rude awakening

This is fine during the day but, at night, it means somebody (and it’s always The Boss, because he’s gentlemanly like that) has to get up, go outside and dash down the field to the dependencia, where all the equipment is housed, to switch everything off. So thunderclaps at night don’t only wake us up, they can get us up too.

Four of our adoptees huddled in the window recess. Underneath three of them is little Peanut!

Four of our adoptees huddled in the window recess. Underneath three of them is little Peanut!

Hopefully last week’s overnight storm will be the last for a while. This week we’ve had temperatures in the low 30s (Celsius) and plenty of sunshine. Our cats disappear after breakfast to hide themselves from the heat – whereas, in stormy weather, they often like to gather together in the outside recess of our dining room window. As you can see, from a photo I took during last week’s bad weather, the pale ginger Peanut – the youngest of our adoptees – has been accepted by the rest of the family . . . even if it is only as a willing pillow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things you don’t expect to see in a Mallorcan country lane

We have been busy at our finca in rural Mallorca lately. The Boss cleaned our terraces with his new  Kärcher pressure washer, and they’ve never looked so clean. As with many tasks done around the finca, there’s a consequence job: the powerful machine blasted away not only a load of winter grime, but also some of the grouting between the tiles. Ho hum.

When I haven’t been working on writing jobs, I’ve also been outdoors doing jobs – including painting one of the small walls blasted clean (of its former paint!) by the mean machine. Most of my time outside though has been spent on the relentless Battle of the Weeds. It was while doing a spot of weeding yesterday morning that I saw something very unusual in the lane that runs alongside our property.

There have been other strange sightings here over the years. We once saw two donkeys walking down the lane like a couple of people out for a country stroll. That experience turned into an inadvertent case of donkey-napping – and one of the early posts on this blog.

And a little faster . . .

On another occasion – while our dear friends Duncan and Kristina were visiting from the UK – we saw something even more unusual: a team of speed skaters, dressed in tight bright Lycra, speed skating up the lane – having been driven to the bottom of the valley in the team’s minibus. We were exhausted watching them whizz up the hill. They appeared to take it all in their glide.

And even racier . . .

Yesterday, Good Friday, I saw something else memorable in the lane, while out in the battlefield (garden). To be honest, seeing three walkers isn’t unusual, as people do drive out to our valley to walk along the peaceful lanes. I could hear that they were German: two young men and a woman – probably in their late 20s or early 30s. The guys were dressed in the sort of clothes you’d wear for a walk in the country; the woman wore . . . a white bikini (and presumably shoes, although I couldn’t see her feet).

I’m far from a prude, but somehow a bikini didn’t seem like the most appropriate apparel for someone miles from the sea or a public swimming pool – and walking around countryside that’s largely inhabited by Mallorcan farmers (some of them on the elderly side and likely to have crashed their tractors at the shock of seeing so much flesh exposed in public).

We were once reprimanded by one of our Mallorcan neighbours for working in the garden on a Sunday – God’s day. Goodness knows what they would have thought of Miss White Bikini on a Good Friday!

If you were hoping to see a photo of her, I’m afraid I didn’t take one. I’m sure the woman felt embarrassed enough when she realized that the outing her friends had planned was a walk in the country – and not a trip to the beach . . .

 

 

 

 

Cleaning the terraces – the easy way

At about this time every year we start the process of getting the terraces of our rural Mallorca finca ready for the warmer months, and our usual alfresco lifestyle. We have three terracotta-tiled terrace areas and, before the outdoor furniture is brought out from its winter storage in our annexe bedroom, these areas have to be cleaned of the muck that accumulates over the winter.

It’s The Boss’s job. He’s the one with a pair of wellies. He’s always tackled this task with vigour,  using a large scrubbing brush and hose. I think he’s motivated by the prospect of long balmy evenings on the terrace with a bottle of good Mallorcan red (there are many of them – both wines and long balmy evenings) and something sizzling on the BBQ.

Another ‘boy’s toy’ for the collection

In previous years there have been murmurings about hiring a pressure washer for the job, but it’s never happened. This year he’ll be using one: The Boss is now the owner of a new ‘boy’s toy’ (although as he has pointed out to me, this is not a toy, but a serious tool).

While musing over the possibility of bringing some motorized muscle to this annual spring chore, we found a bargain on promotion at the Hiper DIY store in Manacor: last year’s model with all the spec tech of this year’s – for 150 euros less than the latest model. Who cares if it’s not the latest design? Ker-ching! Sold to The Boss.

Soon the sound of our pressure washer will echo around the valley. Let’s hope it doesn’t frighten the sheep . . .

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

A burning issue on Mallorca

The weather hasn’t been too cold so far on Mallorca this winter, although February is looming on the horizon and it’s the month that can bring snow and very chilly conditions. Even though the mercury hasn’t plunged too far down yet, we’ve kept our Jotul wood-burning stove going 24/7 since some time in November. The Boss likes to  “keep the walls warm”.  We’ve been quite warm too (and there were winters here when I thought I’d never say that).

In previous winters we’ve had to perform the routine task of cleaning out the stove pipe about once a month. It’s a tedious task – and a very messy one. We have to let the fire go out, then remove the metal pipe connecting the stove with the chimney entry point, and then clean out all the black gunk that’s accumulated inside, before putting the whole thing back together.

Making a pass or two 

Did I say ‘we’? Tut, tut. It’s actually The Boss who does the lion’s share of this cleaning job. He’s the one up the ladder cleaning the chimney access and taking the pipe outside to clean it out. I just stand at the foot of the ladder passing him the necessary implements, like a surgeon’s assistant: “bucket”, “large metal pokey thing” (I’ve no idea what it used to be), “small metal pokey thing” (ditto), and “mirror” (so he can see up into the chimney).  The whole job takes about an hour – time we could certainly use more enjoyably.

This winter The Boss gave the stove pipe and chimney a very thorough clean before lighting it for the first time. And, unlike previous years, we haven’t had to clean it again until today. The stove has a way of letting us know when it’s necessary – and it usually involves stinky smoke filling the room. It was today. Job now done.

We can only conclude that we’ve been buying cleaner-burning wood since we changed our supplier to one in Porreres. We also get more for our money there. And that’s always a burning issue.

Man at work

Man at work

Trailer tales

When The Boss announced – prior to our move to rural Mallorca – that we’d need a trailer when we were living on the island, I did wonder whether this wasn’t a case of a desire for a new Man Toy. We certainly hadn’t needed one living in Oxfordshire. However, The Boss’s convincing case for owning a trailer once we were living in the Mallorcan countryside meant that we bought one before we moved, in case we couldn’t find a suitable one on the island. If only we’d known . . .

The Manacor area – in which we live – is largely agricultural and it seems that most country dwellers here have a trailer of some sort; we even regularly see one that has clearly been home-made: an old wooden fruit box that’s been mounted on a set of redundant pram wheels and is towed by an ancient moped ridden by an equally ancient man. There are plenty of more robust ones like ours too, and several places in the area where we could have bought one, as it happens.

Our trailer – manufactured in the Netherlands and bought in Oxfordshire – did, however, serve a useful purpose before we’d moved here. About a month before the Big Move, we drove our car and trailer down through France and Spain to Barcelona, where we caught the ferry to Mallorca. It was an opportunity to do some work on the finca and to bring some of our possessions with us in the trailer, in advance of the removal men bringing everything over. We shared the driving and I was surprised to find that towing the trailer didn’t present any particular problems (although I’m not sure I could have parallel parked the car/trailer combo, had I needed to!).

Bureaucracy rules . . .

But if you’re moving to Mallorca – or indeed the Spanish mainland – I’d recommend buying a trailer when you arrive, to save all the bureaucratic processes involved in importing a vehicle. Yes, although our trailer has no engine, it went through the same processes as our car in order to be registered in Spain, and the task took almost as long as it did for the car to be legalized. Our problem was that we had no ficha técnica, the official document detailing the full technical specifications of the vehicle.  We had all the paperwork provided by the retailer of the trailer – which included a brochure containing all the technical details required. But it wasn’t an official Spanish ficha técnica, and therefore didn’t cut any mustard with officialdom.

Long (and oh-so-boring) story short, we had to contact the trailer manufacturer in the Netherlands to obtain additional details to enable us to meet the legal requirements here. We then had to have our trailer measured and inspected by a local official who, having confirmed that the details provided by the manufacturer were correct, produced the necessary ficha técnica. But this was only one of some nine documents required to complete the registration of the trailer in Spain. With the benefit of hindsight, we would have bought the trailer on Mallorca.

But, despite my initial reservations about the need for a metal box on wheels, our trailer has been very useful. It’s an easy way to transport large unwanted items to the local Ecoparc (where we do our recycling); bring construction materials home with us (saving a delivery charge) and, several times during the winter, to collect logs for our stove from a wood yard. And the cats have found a use for it too . . .

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

 

We live a long way from a traditional British fish and chip shop . . .  but not as far as you may think. Visit www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com to find out about a great chippy in Palma de Mallorca.