And it’s me! My novel, Daughter of Deià, has had a gestation period longer than that of an elephant, but this month it’s come out into the world.
Last Saturday, I began to feel like a real author when I signed a few copies of the paperback version at Mallorca’s Universal Bookshop. Englishwoman Kay Halley’s book emporium in Portals Nous in southwest Mallorca is well worth a visit.
In case you missed my last post, I’ve donned my marketing hat – the same straw one I wear to do the gardening – to offer you what the publishing world calls the ‘blurb’.
What my novel Daughter of Deià is about …
When radio presenter Laura Lundon loses the job she adores – shortly after her beloved aunt’s death – things couldn’t get any worse. Until a long-kept family secret is revealed.
Stunned to discover she was conceived in Mallorca, home bird Laura faces up to her dislike of foreign travel to visit the Spanish holiday island … on a mission to discover her biological father’s true identity.
After gorgeous local photographer Carlos leads Laura to a shocking conclusion, she flees. So how does she end up in temporary charge of a Mallorcan cat refuge, despite knowing nothing about cats? She can cope with litter trays and needle-like claws, but not the wandering paws of the property’s randy landlord.
When Laura receives an eviction notice, the clock is ticking towards the day that she and the refuge cats will be homeless. Can she save them, and herself? Will the truth about her biological father’s identity have devastating repercussions? And will she ever be lucky in love?
If that sounds like an excuse to make a cuppa and curl up on the sofa for an escapist read, here’s the link to your local Amazon store: https://books2read.com/u/4Dx8ad. And of course, if you buy my novel Daughter of Deià, I’d be very grateful for a short review.
When you live off-grid in Mallorca, as we do, there are some necessary periodic tasks that have to be done to keep everything working as it should. One of these is to empty the septic tank. Eugh! I hear you say. Fortunately, this isn’t a job we have to do personally. We’d have run from the hills long ago if that were the case.
Once a year, we arrange for a specialist company to come and do the deed for us. A tanker arrives, complete with a huge reel of tubing. The tanker driver attends to the controls from within the vehicle; the other man (I don’t envy him), feeds the tubes in and out of the mouth of the septic tank, which is buried underground and accessed by a hatch door.
Remarkably, this unpleasant but necessary off-grid task doesn’t involve smells, spillages, or sounds that are likely to put us off our breakfast. Yes, these people have a habit of arriving at seven-thirty in the morning. This September they arrived a week earlier than expected. Keen, eh?
The job was all done within a quarter of an hour and the men and their tanker were soon on their way – one hundred euros and a ten-euro tip better off. Worth every céntimo, I must say. That’s one job out of the way until September 2022.
Another Task Completed … Almost
If you’re a regular reader of Living in Rural Mallorca, you may recall that I’ve been writing a novel. For quite a long time. Well, finally, it’s published and is now available on your local Amazon store. Daughter of Deià features radio, cats, and Mallorca – three areas in which I have quite a bit of experience.
My debut novel was published last Thursday, 2nd, but the hard work is by no means over and, like our septic tank, I am feeling drained.
Now I have to do the book’s marketing – something of which I have little experience. Please wish me luck.
I am grateful to everyone who takes a chance on me as a novelist and buys the book. So if you fancy a bit of armchair travel – or share my interest in radio, cats, and Mallorca – check it out on Amazon here. Thank you.
It’s officially here: summer 2021. In terms of the tourist season in Mallorca, it’s a late start – although some visitors from Germany began coming at Easter. At the moment we’ve seen few signs of many British tourists, because of the requirement for quarantine on their return home. From various media reports I’ve seen, that requirement could be lifted soon for those who are fully vaccinated. We shall see.
Our part-time neighbour and friend Vicky came to stay for a couple of weeks to check on her property and attend to things that needed doing. She had prepared for the subsequent quarantine by filling her freezer back at home.
The first thing to know about owning a second home in the countryside – a finca – is that there is always something to be done by way of maintenance or repair. A holiday in one’s rural second home usually begins with fixing things or organising a técnico to visit the property to sort out problems.
Some things, however, are beyond repair. One of those is the old cart we inherited when we bought our finca. Someone asked me the other day if we still had it. Yes, we do.
During the last winter we looked at its poor state and wondered whether we should remove it. The Boss feared it could collapse and banned me from weeding in the area, just in case. One day I spotted a lot of the creeping weed Galium acarine, sometimes known as sticky bob or sticky willy. We’ve been plagued with it this year and I’ve pulled out metres of the stuff from just about every area of the garden.
The dreaded weed was threading its way through the old bougainvillea which grows from under the cart. Well, that had to go, or I feared we’d have no beautiful bracts this summer to add colour to this patch of our land. When The Boss spotted me at work near the cart he came to join me and we tackled the weeding together.
Up close and personal, we discovered that although the cart has collapsed on one side, rocks (of which we have a lot) and the old bougainvillea are forming the equivalent of a girdle to keep it all in place. The cart lives on … and the tidying of the sticky bob that The Boss and I did has paid off, as you can see.
Busy, Busy …
Our friends Maureen and Peter, other part-time English neighbours, wrote to me a few days ago, pointing out that they hadn’t seen a blog post for a while. We’ve been busy.
There have been various appointments here and there – one of which was to organise new persianas – the slatted window and door shutters that are a common feature of Spanish properties. We had the wooden ones replaced at the front quite a few years ago and now it’s the turn of some of the shutters at the back of the house.
I’ve also been busy working on getting my debut novel Daughter of Deià published. Because I have little patience, I am leaning towards the indie publishing route. Traditional publishing takes a long time and that’s if you can even find a publisher who’ll take you on. It helps to be a celebrity, apparently. I’m not.
My research into self-publishing, or indie publishing, suggests I am at the base of a steep learning curve, but I love learning new things, so I’m girding my loins for the journey and looking forward to holding that published book in my hand.
Wherever you are, I hope your summer has begun well and that you have the pleasure of looking forward to a holiday, somewhere, soon.
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.
Eight years ago today I published my first post on this blog. I never intended to start a blog about living in rural Mallorca, but had previously been writing a series of columns called ‘Finca Fix-Up’ for a new local magazine. Sadly, the publication didn’t survive in what is a tough market.
The Birth of a Blog
A friend of mine was the editor and, when she told me about the magazine’s demise, suggested that I start a blog, to continue writing about our finca home in the Mallorcan countryside. And so I did. It wasn’t quite that easy, but WordPress didn’t take too long to learn.
It’s Day 40 of the lockdown in Spain. A third extension to the original state of emergency was approved in Congress yesterday, which takes us to 00:00h on Sunday, May 10th. The Spanish prime minister’s proposal received 269 votes in favour; 60 against, and 16 abstentions. I am not even going to think about whether this may be the final extension.
Instead, realising that we’d reached the 40th day of this current situation, I distracted myself by diving into the Reader’s Digest Wordpower Dictionary. This weighty tome makes an occasional efficient doorstep, in our grandly named ‘library’ (where I write), to prevent the French windows blowing shut; there always seems to be a breeze here in our rural Mallorcan valley.
But the book’s real purpose is to fill any wordsmith with wonder and a sense that curiosity has been satisfied. It’s a fascinating book to dip into when a few spare minutes present themselves to be filled.
Q is for Quarantine
I knew that the word ‘quarantine’ came from the Italian quarantino (which means ‘forty days’; quaranta being Italian – and, indeed, Catalan – for ‘forty’). As many people are in quarantine now because they have symptoms of COVID-19 – or have come into contact with someone who has the virus – it seemed fitting to delve a little deeper into the word’s history.
The Reader’s Digest Wordpower Dictionary told me that originally the word denoted a period of 40 days during which a widow – with entitlement to a share of her deceased husband’s estate – had the right to remain in his house. (Not sure what the poor woman did after the 40 days were up). According to a bit of legalese from 1628, if said widow remarried within the 40 days (which would be indecently hasty, IMHO), she would lose this right.
The word ‘quarantine’ in English has had its current meaning since the 17th century and, in 1663, none other than Mr Pepys referred to it in his famous diary, as a 30-day period. From then on, the word became used to describe a state of isolation, rather than a specific length of time – which would vary depending on the disease in question. Fascinating.
No Time for Boredom
‘Time to get on with some writing now,’ I told myself, replacing the book on the shelf above my desk until my next bout of etymological curiosity.
I wouldn’t want you to think that The Boss and I were twiddling our thumbs here, with nothing to do during this lockdown period. There are (still) rooms to be decorated, terraces to be cleaned, and garden furniture to be brought out of hibernation. And it’s World Book Day today, which demands that I spend some time reading a book – as well as writing one.
Is it true that time passes more quickly when living in Mallorca? It certainly seems that way and I was shocked to see that my last post here was back in February. What have I been doing all this time?
In fact, I did log on to write a post a few times but was faced with the new ‘block editor’. I’m sorry, WordPress, but I just couldn’t get on with it and gave up in despair. Today, I decided I would push myself through the ‘block-editor’ pain barrier. It was only then that I noticed down in the corner of the screen that I could switch to the original way of creating posts. Duh! So I’m back.
This wasn’t the only reason for fewer posts of late. Last year I signed up for a novel-writing course (sadly no longer available) with Penguin Random House. I loved it, although it took a lot more of my time than I expected. I had started my novel not long after we had electricity installed at our rural finca (end of 2004), but domestic life and other writing stalled progress. Until I signed up for the ‘Constructing a Novel’ course.
The novel is now coming along steadily. A large amount of it is still in my head, rather than recorded on my computer. Like many other busy people, I could do with a few extra hours in my day, but I’m no longer able to sacrifice sleeping time to achieve this.
I blame my earlier working lifestyle in the UK, rising at 3.30am to travel to Oxford for my early-morning radio show and then the breakfast show afterwards. For a few years, between my radio and my TV continuity-announcing work, I missed out on a lot of sleep. These days I function better with my full quota of eight hours. Perhaps I’m still catching up – or remembering the words of my doctor when, during a medical check, he warned me that my working lifestyle was not sustainable.
I do lots of other writing too, with a second blog – Eat, Drink, Sleep, Mallorca – and other scribblings to satisfy my urge to write. Sometimes I think it’s not more time that I need, but a hefty dose of determination and discipline to help me prioritise what I’m doing.
A friend is way ahead of me…
Love the cover…
I know quite a few people who are published authors and have to admire them for their achievements. One of them is our friend James B Rieley – a born raconteur – who used to live in Mallorca, but moved to the Caribbean to live on his yacht.
Life dealt him (and many others) the cruellest of blows, in the form of Hurricane Irma in 2017. More than 130 people died in that category-5 cyclone but James was fortunate to survive – although his beloved floating home didn’t. I remember reading a magazine article he wrote about that experience and it gave me the chills, thinking about the fear and devastation he and so many others faced.
Today, James has published a book about his life on the two islands of Mallorca and Virgin Gorda. It’s called Living on Rocks: A Memoir of Sangria and Cyclones and it’s on Amazon as a free Kindle download for a couple of days (after which you’d have to pay for it).
It must be such an exciting feeling to see your book available to the wider public, wondering how well it will do and what kind of reviews it will garner. It’s a feeling I plan to experience one day.
I really ought to return to my novel after publishing this post, but I had my free Kindle download of James’s book earlier today. And my hammock, in the shade of our finca’s covered terrace, seems a very appealing spot for a little reading…
Followers of this blog will have noticed a lack of posts recently, but that’s been down to time pressures. I started producing and presenting a new weekly radio show in Mallorca back in April and am also in the middle of an online novel-writing course. Then there’s other family and finca stuff…
Ten years after I had the idea for my first novel, I am finally making some progress in writing the story. You could have guessed correctly that the Work In Progress is set mostly in Mallorca – this island we love and call home.
My hope is that having made this endeavour public, I’ll be spurred on to keep writing until I can type ‘The End’. Meanwhile, The Boss and I are also trying to stay cool in the heat of the Mallorcan summer, amidst everything going on.
We had a visit from one of the local farmers the Sunday before last. Hairy-handed José (to distinguish him from any other José we know) came to tell us that a friend and neighbour from the valley had passed away on Friday and his funeral would be on Monday – the next day. Funerals happen very soon after someone dies here and I am amazed that the arrangements can be made and people informed in such a short space of time.
We wanted to pay our respects to the late Miquel, who had been a kind neighbour – particularly in our early years of living in the finca. Occasionally he would bring oranges in the back of his old white van from an orchard he owned somewhere. Most went to his sheep in the valley but he occasionally brought us some of the best-looking oranges, hooting his van horn outside our gate to alert us to his arrival.
On one occasion Miquel invited us to his apartment in Porto Cristo (just one of his homes) for a paella lunch with him and his wife. We felt honoured to be invited – particularly as some people had told us that mallorquíns don’t usually invite foreigners into their homes. That hasn’t been our experience, by the way, and we have enjoyed warm hospitality from several of our mallorquín neighbours.
When we arrived at their immaculate apartment for lunch, we were a little surprised not to smell anything cooking. Miquel’s wife was relaxing in an armchair and we all sat having a drink and a pleasant chat for a while. Then, suddenly, Miquel leapt up and said he had to go. We had no idea where to, but he returned shortly afterwards carrying a large paella pan covered with foil. He had ordered and collected a paella from….wait for it….the local Chinese restaurant! And it was delicious. That’s one of our favourite memories of Miquel.
What to wear?
We hadn’t been to a funeral in Mallorca before and had no idea what to expect. Our good friends and neighbours Maureen and Peter had known Miquel a lot longer than we had, so we arranged to go to the church together. But what to wear? Obviously something of a sober hue.
I remember reading guide book advice about visiting churches in a Catholic country: no shorts; shoulders – and perhaps upper arms too – should be covered. We also had to bear the heat in mind. Having discounted everything from my summer wardrobe, I resorted to black trousers and a dark-blue long-sleeved blouse from Jan’s Autumn/Winter-Every-Year collection. (I must buy some more clothes).
The Boss wore dark suit trousers, white shirt, black tie, and shoes – but decided that the suit jacket would be just too hot. It wouldn’t do to collapse, overheated, at such an occasion. Maureen looked suitably respectful in a long black dress and cardigan; Peter – whom we never see in anything but shorts during the summer – wore smart trousers, shirt, and shoes. The Boss loaned him a darker tie from a hoard that rarely sees daylight here. We were all appropriately attired.
When we arrived at the church, it was standing room only at the back – which gave us a good view of the congregation. What a surprise: there were lots of women of all ages in shorts and strappy tops or dresses, men in t-shirts and shorts, and comparatively few wearing dark clothes. Things have obviously changed since my days of travelling with a local guide book!
The short service was in mallorquín, which we didn’t understand, and was unlike any funeral we’d been to in the UK. We left the church rather bemused, but at least we had paid our respects to a man who, during his eighty-plus years, had clearly been well known and respected in a wide community. DEP (Descanso En Paz – Rest In Peace) Miquel.
Never too old…
Happier (and surprising) news reached us yesterday: our farming neighbour Pedro – allegedly 91 years old – has just remarried. He had been a widower since 2015. We have seen him occasionally in recent months on his tractor, but doubt that the new Señora Pedro will be riding ‘pillion’ on the ancient agricultural vehicle, as the late Margarita used to.
A recent writing project has left me feeling a bit ‘written-out’. I’ve scribed around 12,000 words in the past few weeks on this one project – in addition to other articles, and posts on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com. No wonder my computer screen has been gazing blankly back at me when I’ve sat down to write about our life in rural Mallorca. It was as tired as I was; my keyboard and I needed a little time apart.
So, as it’s spring, I grabbed my camera and headed into our garden and field, to take a few photos of the mix of cultivated and uncultivated delights that remind me why it pays to get off my writer’s bottom (well spread) and get out into Mallorca’s great outdoors.
I hope that, wherever you are, spring is making itself known to you too.
The view from the roof of our water tank … not somewhere I venture up to very often!
First-ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes – brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years’ time …
Yes, our septic tank did eventually develop an unpleasant leak, but we didn’t contemplate a move to Inca, or anywhere else on Mallorca. We had a new modern septic tank installed, but a little further from the house – and underground. The old concrete beast still remains, redundant. It’s ugly and serves only as a place where the cats like to stretch out (probably because it’s close to where their meals are served). Whatever remains beneath will be staying there.