How I Became a Speedy Swimmer

One of the many benefits of living in rural Mallorca – rather than on the coast – is the reduced chance of being stung by jellyfish.

The beautiful Mediterranean…

I’m sure that, if we were within walking distance of a beach, The Boss and I would be taking a regular dip in the Mediterranean. I would probably have been stung by jellyfish several times before now, but I made it to living here fifteen years before I was zapped for the first time in my life. Ooh, the pain.

We are sailing

My Dutch friend Sandra recently had her birthday and invited a few gal pals to spend that day on the charter yacht she owns with her husband. Four of us – including Sandra – enjoyed a lazy day of sailing,  sharing good conversation, Mallorcan wine, and the dishes that we’d each contributed towards our lunch that day.

We dropped anchor in an attractive bay, where Sandra’s husband – Captain Adriaan – showed us a nifty little app called ‘Grumering’. It was created by three Mallorcan friends to show information about the presence or absence of jellyfish – known in Spanish as medusas.

Jellyfish app

Using the app, anyone can add a notification to help other beach or boat users to avoid areas with jellyfish, or highlight areas that seem to be clear of the pesky little blighters.

The app suggested no reported sightings of jellyfish in the bay where we’d anchored. We’d have a swim here before lunch.

The Med was a little choppy that day, which made it harder to see what was in the water. Nevertheless, off I went, happier that the jellyfish app suggested the area was clear. I’d barely swum a few strokes when a horrible pain lashed my stomach, then my left thigh and calf and one of my fingers.

I’d never been stung by jellyfish before, but I didn’t need anyone to tell me what had happened. Even Michael Phelps would have been impressed by the speed at which I swam back to the yacht ‘Simmertime’ and hauled myself, shaking, out of the water.

Sandra quickly took on the role of efficient nautical nurse and did the necessary to remove the stingers and reduce the pain. Half an hour later, we were all sipping delicious Mallorcan white wine and enjoying lunch – which helped to take my mind off a deeply unpleasant experience.

Jelly stings – the gift that keeps on giving

Nine days later, the burning and itching of the stings suddenly flared up again and we sought advice. Our friendly local pharmacist said we should go to the hospital for treatment in the Urgencias department.

The doctor on duty looked at my wounds and prescribed a course of two different tablets and an ointment to apply twice a day. But that wasn’t all. He’d made a brief internal phone call and moments later a nurse arrived in the treatment room wielding a large hypodermic syringe. Having that jabbed into my backside soon made me forget the jellyfish stings…

 

 

For more about Sandra and Adriaan’s Mallorca sailing excursions on ‘Simmertime’, see here.

 

Jan Edwards ©2019

Merry Christmas from Our Casa to Yours

 

Wherever you are, however you celebrate (or not) this time of year, The Boss and I hope that this festive period for you will be blessed with the company of loved ones, delicious food and drink, happiness, and peace. And, in case you’re wondering, Mallorca does not have any snow at the moment…

Merry Christmas!

Jan Edwards ©2018

So long, Sweetie…

When we took on the responsibility of caring for the feral cats that were born on our finca in rural Mallorca (in two litters to the same mum), we knew that some of them would one day no longer be with us – for whatever reason. We lost Brownie, as a very young kitten, when she jumped out of an old almond tree in the lane straight into the path of one of our neighbours as she drove home. Poor Maria – an animal lover herself – was unable to stop her car in time, despite driving relatively slowly. Brownie is buried at the bottom of our field, just a metre or two away from the very spot where she was born.

Quite some time later, Bear – a lovely black cat (born in the same litter as Beamer and Dusty, still with us, and poor little Brownie) – disappeared. Although we hadn’t been able to pick him up for a cuddle, he did enjoy a fuss and seemed perfectly happy around the finca but, one day, he didn’t come as usual for his breakfast or dinner. We never saw him again and were unable to find out what had happened to him. We like to think that he decided to strike out on his own and be independent, preferring this to the possible alternative fates.

Baby Bear and Right Patch were both from the second litter and they too disappeared while still quite young. We had expected some of the kittens to leave once they felt ready to be independent, as that would be natural cat behaviour, so we were pleasantly surprised that the rest stayed with us.

Searching in vain

One of the problems of losing a cat in the country is knowing where to look for it. In a village or town in the UK, we would have put a notice on lampposts or checked whether any neighbours had accidentally shut the missing feline in a garage or shed. But here, in our part of rural Mallorca, we’re surrounded by fields – many of which are overgrown, having been long abandoned.

For just over a week we haven’t seen Sweetie – one of the cats from the second litter. At the end of July she would have been six years old which, for a feral cat, is probably a good age – given the perils of rural life (hunters, poisoning, disease, etc). But Sweetie – like the other six cats that have adopted us and remain here – is no longer truly feral, as she has almost always come for her daily breakfast and dinner and to drink from the several water stations we maintain for our feline family.

Sweetie as a kitten

One for the ‘Lost’ poster…

Chilling out in our dining room window recess

Beamer’s bestie

The little spayed cat was always nervous around humans (including us) and would rarely allow us to stroke her (unless she had her head down in her food bowl). She had a very special bond with her older sibling Beamer though and they used to have regular mutual grooming sessions; at times, she would bury her head in Beamer’s tummy fur – as she and her other siblings of the same age had done for comfort, after their mother Jetta had abandoned her offspring.

Sadly, Sweetie wasn’t popular with Pip – the female kitten dumped here more than two years ago, changing the dynamic of the cat clan. Although we’d had both females spayed, Pip had recently started to hiss at Sweetie sometimes and even chased her away a time or two. Perhaps that happened once too often for Sweetie to tolerate?

She had long had her own territory on the finca of our neighbours and good friends Maureen and Peter, and came back to ours only for her food and water. Maybe she decided on a new life of self-sufficiency? We’ve called her and searched for her in as many places as feasible, but to no avail.

In the meantime, we miss seeing this shy little cat and watching those affectionate moments she regularly shared with Beamer. And we’re sure he’s missing her too.

Come home, Sweetie, if you can…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Mallorca 312 passes our rural finca

Earlier this week a placard was tied to a post near our home in rural Mallorca, warning us that the lane would be closed yesterday for about five hours from 14:00h because of a sporting event. The event in question was the Mallorca 312 – the most international of all cycling events held in Spain. Of the 6,500 cyclists taking part, 33 per cent were from the UK; presumably Mallorca had greater appeal to these Brits than Yorkshire, which had its own racing event (Tour of Yorkshire) happening yesterday.

Our lane hasn’t been closed since our first few years of living here, when the Manacor Rally used to come through the valley. We were forced to be either at home all afternoon or out somewhere for the duration. It was a noisy but entertaining spectacle and we could watch some of the action from our terrace, so we always stayed home. Souped-up rally cars and old stone walls occasionally had brief encounters and, after the local council had invested in building new walls for the community’s shared watercourse in the valley below us, the rally was moved to a new route.

Road closed!

Our lane closure yesterday wasn’t much of an inconvenience to us or our relatively few neighbours, but many people across Mallorca were cursing the event because main roads through the mountains and in the north and northeast of the island were closed to vehicles. Social media was buzzing with complaints and stories of delayed journeys, as well as triumphant messages from race finishers.

I certainly felt sorry for any holidaymakers who arrived on the island yesterday morning only to learn that the road to their destination was closed for several hours. Or those staying in places like Deià, forced to leave the village before 7am for an afternoon flight home, because the road was part of the race route and vehicular traffic was suspended for the morning.

Looking at Lycra

Meanwhile, The Boss and I walked up to the corner of our property during the afternoon for a prime view of cyclists coming up the hill. It’s a steep haul on foot and several of the cyclists evidently found it tough to negotiate.

One of our Mallorcan neighbours was already spectating with her son, seven-year-old grandson, and a couple of his friends and we joined them in clapping and encouraging the participants as they passed us. Also there were a female marshall (who must have been desperate for a pee by the end of the event) and an official photographer. We offered to make them tea or coffee, but they’d come prepared with their own food and drink.

I had my own camera with me and, having reviewed my numerous shots, I can tell you I won’t be changing careers anytime soon to become a sports photographer. Respect to those who manage to take sharp photos of sportspeople on the move…and look good in a hi-vis vest.

During our time as Mallorca 312 spectators we saw Lycra in every hue imaginable; it’s certainly a colourful sport. We heard quite a few English-speakers and, as we bystanders shouted out  ‘Ánimos‘  (which means encouragement), I did later wonder whether they might have thought we were calling them ‘animals’…

 

Text and photos Jan Edwards©2017

Media calling Mallorca …

My UK broadcast media links have not been completely cut as a result of our move to rural Mallorca in 2004. On a few occasions BBC local radio stations have interviewed me by phone about some topical aspect of being an expat. I hope that my years’ experience of being a radio presenter have given me a good idea of what the interviewer wants from a guest contributor. It’s always fun to be back on radio in the UK, broadcasting from our country home in Spain …

The Only Way is … a Farmer and a Goat

Mallorcan farmer at work

TV-star-in-the-making? Far too busy.

This blog has also brought a few media requests my way. Recently, someone from the production team of UK reality TV show The Only Way is Essex (popularly abbreviated to TOWIE) contacted me. They were coming to film for a couple of weeks on Mallorca. Did I know a typical Mallorcan farmer here they could film? Oh, and would I be able to locate a goat as well? The mind boggled – not surprisingly, because there was no explanation as to how these ‘locals’ would be used in the filming …

‘Auntie’ Beeb abroad

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Adam Kirtley in interview mode for the BBC on Mallorca

Our latest request for help came at short notice, when BBC News journalist Adam Kirtley arrived on Mallorca yesterday to do a story on the likely effects of Brexit on expats. Adam and I spoke by phone mid-morning yesterday and we arranged to meet outside Palma’s Sóller train railway station at 3pm. He said he’d be wearing a checked shirt and Geoff-Boycott-style hat. Despite the fact that he’d clearly mistaken me for someone who knew something about  the headgear of the former cricketer, I managed to pick him out from the crowds of sightseers emerging from the station.

Meeting expats

The Boss and I drove Adam down to Palma Nova, where we visited the Amadip Esment café and recorded some interviews. We then attended part of a meeting in the town hall in Calvià – the southwest municipality that’s home to Mallorca’s largest number of British expats.  There, British Consul General Lloyd Milen addressed an audience of Brits and listened to their concerns. Of course, there were more questions than answers – because it’s still too early to know what our home country’s eventual departure from the EU will mean for those of us who live abroad.

A bit of bureaucracy meant we couldn’t record any of the meeting itself (we didn’t have enough notice to obtain permission from the powers-that-be), but Adam was able to gain enough information for one of several reports he was compiling for BBC local radio and the World Service.

So I’m going to be on the radio briefly again in the UK, answering questions from Adam. And The Boss makes his BBC radio broadcasting debut …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnival in Manacor, Mallorca

Carnival is a time for fun and frivolity and, in our nearest town, Manacor, we like to be part of it. Well, at least be there to soak up the atmosphere, sway to the batucada beats, and take a few photos.

This year, for the first time, we went to see the children’s carnival, known as Sa Rueta, as well as the main event, on Saturday February 6th.

After watching the lively procession file past on Saturday night, we headed to our favourite Manacor cafe, El Palau, for a small libation (glass of Mallorcan wine). Two members of the staff were in costume but, like us, owner Nofre was in everyday attire. Seeing us come in, bundled up in outdoor clothes suitable for a cool February night, he joked: “Ah, you’ve dressed up as guiris!” A guiri is the colloquial name that the Spanish use for foreigners . . .

We’ve resolved that next year we’ll get ourselves costumes for Carnival. Something warm, like a gorilla or polar bear suit, seems appropriate. Or we could take inspiration from some of these photos?

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Up at six for the ‘spectacle of the eight’ in Palma Cathedral

Waiting in line to enter the Cathedral

Waiting in line to enter the Cathedral

Today, February 2nd, is the Christian festival of Candlemas and, in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, it’s one of two days a year when the city’s majestic cathedral – La Seu – opens its doors early allowing thousands of people to witness something known as ‘the spectacle of the eight’.  It’s something I have been longing to see for several years; today we finally managed it.

It did mean an early start: I was still dreaming sweetly when the alarm burst into life at six o’clock. I’m no stranger to early mornings – having spent six years of my life getting up at 3.30am to work on a breakfast radio programme – but I generally prefer a little more duvet-time during the dark winter mornings.

‘The spectacle of the eight’ happens when the sun shines through the cathedral’s large rose window, and projects an image of it onto the opposite wall, directly underneath its smaller rose window, thus creating the ‘8’. The alignment works perfectly on February 2nd and on November 11th (the Feast of St Martin) – but only if the sun shines. We drove through quite a bit of fog on our journey to Palma and were relieved to see clear skies over the capital.

The large rose window – for those who like a few stats to drop into conversation – has a surface area of 94m2 and a diameter of 11.85 metres. The 14th-century window has no fewer than 1,115 pieces of coloured glass, that sparkle like jewels in the sunshine. Looking at this, the other stained glass windows, and the cathedral itself, one can only marvel at what could be achieved in the days before CAD, construction plant, and regular breaks for a cuppa.

We joined a long queue of people waiting to file into the cathedral, which was already about three-quarters-full when we found our spot inside shortly after 8am. And then we all watched as the spectacle unfolded above us. Shortly after 8.30am there was a little applause as the alignment came into place. It was a magical moment we shared with young and old, locals and visitors.

If you’re visiting Palma at this time of the year (or in mid-November), it’s something that shouldn’t be missed in the beautiful ‘Cathedral of Light’.

My only regret? I didn’t take my Nikon camera (brain not in gear so early in the morning) and had to reply on Mr Apple for these images.

Almost at the door . . .

Almost at the door . . .

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The large rose window welcomes in the sunshine.

The large rose window welcomes in the sunshine.

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Always something to discover on Mallorca

Kay Newton is a friend of mine who also lives in a finca on Mallorca. Today, I bring you a guest post from Kay . . .

I have lived on Mallorca for nearly 27 years. You would think that by now I would know all of this little rock in the middle of the Mediterranean – and yet this past week has proved me wrong.

As the almond blossom flourished and the sun came out, I was indoctrinated into the world of hosting retreats. My home had to be cleaned from top to bottom. The breakfast and evening meals bought for and pre-prepped. Worst job of all was persuading my husband to let me have his seven-seater car. Permission was granted providing I cleaned it. He works on a building site … two days later with very sore fingers, it looked nearly new!

I have a wonderful friend who for many years has been telling me about her spirituality and beliefs. Some of it I have immediately resonated with, other bits I find different and I am still coming to terms with it all. Sue wanted to host a workshop and needed living space. Since she lives ten minutes away, we pulled together to create a very special event.

Gaiadon Heart Mallorca    http://inspirationforchange.es

Gaiadon Heart - Mallorca 2014

As well as Sue’s two-day Gaiadon workshop we went to Palma cathedral to see the ‘Spectacle of the Eight’. Twice each year on the 2nd of February and again on the 11th of November, the sun (if it’s a cloudless sky) shines through the main rose window and lights the wall below the the small rose window. Exactly one hour later both were in-line, creating a figure of 8, or the infinity sign. Well worth getting out of bed early and joining the crowds of people who had also made the effort.

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

During our guests’ stay, we also visited Sta Magdalena, Pollença, a crystal skull mesa in Calvía and one of the Talaiot sites on the island not far from my home in Inca. I have often driven past the signs for the Talaiot on my way to Sencelles, yet I have never stopped. These round stone structures were created by the Bronze Age megaliths and are well worth a visit. There are many Talaiot sites here on the island.

I can’t wait for the next retreat and an excuse to see more of this beautiful island!

Kay Newton is a Personal Development Coach – you can find her at http://SensiblySelfish.com

Mallorca + February = almond blossom

Almond blossom's delicate beauty

Almond blossom’s delicate beauty

February can be a cold month on Mallorca, but it can also be one of the most beautiful. This is the month when Mallorca’s thousands of almond trees burst into blossom (and show a hint of the new green growth that will rapidly follow). Those who know the island as a summer or autumn destination, but have never visited in this particular month are missing one of Mallorca’s most impressive natural events.

For those who do visit Mallorca at this time of year, a tour of the island’s rural interior offers plenty of photo opportunities and the delicate scent of almond blossom on the breeze (or, sometimes, the howling wind).

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

Mallorca has fiestas and fairs throughout the year and many of these firas are dedicated to produce from the island – including herbs, olives, sobrassada, honey, melons and, of course, almonds.

Step back in time

Today was the almond fair in Son Servera and, never having been before, we went this morning. We knew it was taking place in an old finca, and assumed it would be in the countryside outside the small town. Back in 1780, when it was built, it would have been. Today Ca s’Hereu has become incorporated into the town itself, with newer buildings around it. But once through the gates, the modern face of Son Servera is soon forgotten.

As you’d expect, stalls were selling a variety of products made from almonds, but there were also other foodstuffs available, as well as handicrafts. Wandering musicians played traditional Mallorcan music, and the local television cameras were there to capture it all. Perhaps you’ll spot us on IB3 TV news tonight? Just for a change, we weren’t caught on camera eating. We once appeared on the front cover of a couple of local Manacor magazines, gorging ourselves on ice cream at the town’s September fair; we only found out about that when several people we know in Manacor told us about our ‘starring role’.  Thankfully, we never did see what sounded like an embarrassing photo.

We decided to save our almond-munching until this evening, in the privacy of our own finca. What could be more delicious than a few roasted Mallorcan almonds with a pre-prandial drink? And more evocative of spring than the clouds of almond blossom decorating the island’s many orchards?

The venue for Son Servera's almond fair

The venue for Son Servera’s almond fair

Music, maestros, por favor!

Music, maestros, por favor!

Agricultural implements were on display.

Agricultural implements were on display.

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One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

All photos by Jan Edwards