It had been a while since we last went to Manacor’s trotting track, but we were there mid-April and we’ll be back on Thursday this week.
No, we haven’t turned into keen horse racing fans, although we went a few times in our early years here to watch trotting races. We were usually with visitors, giving them a flavour of Mallorca’s style of horse racing. It’s very different from that in the UK. And it’s certainly not Ascot.
The Manacor hipódromo has become one of Mallorca’s Covid vaccination centres and, after a sluggish start to the vaccination roll-out, the going is now good. The Boss had a phone call informing him of the appointment for his first jab, which was given on April 19th.
And They’re Off…
I went along with him, curious to see the operation of the local roll-out in practice. We expected to find queues of people – socially distanced, of course – and to have to wait a while. No. We were in and out of the hippodrome’s ringside building in just over twenty minutes, including the fifteen-minutes’ monitoring period afterwards. I was impressed by the efficiency and kindness of the health professionals carrying out the vaccination programme.
The Boss took a Paracetamol and a good slug of water immediately after, as I’d read was recommended. He was fortunate to have no ill-effects from his Pfizer vaccination, apart from a slightly sore arm. Too sore to pressure-wash the terraces but not too sore to raise a glass of wine, you’ll be pleased to know.
My turn next: I’ll be on the receiving end of the needle this Thursday morning, so it’s another trip to the Hippodrome for us. I’m phobic about needles so I’m already dreading it. What are the odds I’ll faint at the sight of the nurse looming towards me with the syringe? All bets are off …
Not everyone who moves to rural Mallorca chooses a home in the open countryside, as we did. This week I went to talk to Annie Verrinder, a popular wedding planner and celebrant, who lives in a rural village.
Annie’s lived in Mallorca just over 20 years and, for some of that time, home was in Palma, the island’s capital. These days her home (and office for A White Hot Wedding) are in the village of Alaró, close to the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
Annie is a true romantic – which is a prime requirement of being a wedding planner and celebrant. She’s passionate about what she does and any couple using her services for their own big day on the island can be sure of making memories to treasure for many years.
Tying the Knot in Mallorca
Mallorca is an idyllic location for a wedding in the sunshine and, before the pandemic, the weddings business on the island was booming. Everything is still in place for future weddings once restrictions have been lifted: passionate planners and/or celebrants like Annie, venues of every imaginable type, photographers and videographers, hair-and-make-up artists, caterers and cake-makers, musicians, and more. You can even have your wedding rings made in Alaró, as Annie told me when we chatted in her office.
Annie Verrinder is my latest guest on my podcast ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’. She’s a warm and caring person who qualified as a nurse, acupuncturist, and couples’ therapist but swapped healthcare, for work in the joyful business of romance, love, and weddings.
Annie explains why she came to Mallorca, why she left Palma, and talks about moving to the traditional Mallorcan village of Alaró. We chat about weddings, acupuncture, favourite places in Mallorca, and great scuba-diving locations. And more besides. One of Annie’s two beautiful cats even made a few contributions to the conversation!
You can hear this episode of ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ here.
We cannot complain. Mallorca’s winter weather was, on reflection, not too bad. Yes, we had some significant storms, strong winds, and heavy rain at times, but we’ve also often enjoyed al fresco coffees and lunches in warm sunshine on our terrace on several occasions. I’ve even been known to sit outside and have my breakfast (at about nine o’clock), while The Boss watches the morning news on TV. I prefer not to mix doom-and-gloom news bulletins with my home-made yogurt, fruit, seeds, and nuts!
Friday was a very cold day and, in the afternoon, hail fell for a while in our valley. Meanwhile, in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, winter’s last hurrah came in the form of snow.
Yesterday in our valley we had squally rain, strong winds, and low temperatures, serving as a reminder this is only the first day of the new season. Today, Sunday, the sun is shining (at the moment), but the wind is fierce and it’s very cold.
German tourists have begun to arrive in Mallorca for an Easter holiday (despite the rising number of Covid cases in their home country). I’m reminded of something an outdoorsy type said to us once: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.’ I hope these early visitors have packed for the conditions in Mallorca right now.
The Reins in Spain
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
I didn’t step outside the door yesterday, although The Boss had to do his usual cat-feeding duties. When it’s wet or cold, he feeds them extra to help keep them warm. Animals must be fed and some have to be exercised, whatever the weather, which brings me neatly to a relatively new neighbour in our valley, who has three horses on his land.
We met Marc Rieke late last year when he bought his house from Mallorcan friends of ours, who’d outgrown the property since becoming parents. Marc’s from Berlin originally and is a professional wigmaker and an equestrian. He’s made wigs and hairpieces for the movie industry – including for an acclaimed British actress – and is also a dressage rider, riding instructor, and saddle fitter.
With such an interesting background – and, like us, living in rural Mallorca – he was a perfect guest for my podcast. Have a listen on the link below.
Goodness, where is this year going? Although Mallorca is not in lockdown, restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed for what feels like ten years (at least to those of us who do all the cooking at home). Establishments with terraces were allowed to open these again from Tuesday, March 2nd – albeit with limited capacity and an obligatory closing time of 5pm. We’ve not yet been out for lunch, as the weather’s been dull and chilly for eating out, but we have had a coffee on a terrace – in a tiny bid to help a local business. Lunch out is on the agenda for next week, when I hope it will be a little warmer and sunnier.
The Boss and I have spent most of our time at home, although there have been the weekly food-shopping trips and coastal walks for some exercise and bracing sea air. The lack of variety in our daily lives has meant that time has seemed to pass quickly. Relatable?
Well, cue some major excitement! We had a bonfire. Yes, that’s what passes these days for a thrill around these parts. In truth, having a bonfire where we live is a heart-rate-raising activity, because it brings back memories of the wildfire that swept onto our land from a neighbour’s out-of-season bonfire which reignited without warning and spread like… you guessed it.
We hadn’t had a bonfire on the finca for almost two years, partly because we are able to have one for a limited period in the year (usually October to April, but dates can vary depending on the weather conditions) and we just didn’t get around to doing it when we were allowed. As a result, we had what looked like a scaled-down version of Mallorca’s tallest mountain, Puig Mayor – in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana mountains – near the end of our field.
The Boss was Chief Fire Master and he’s super-cautious, lining up a large, full watering can, and the garden hose unfurled and connected to the outdoor tap. Yours truly was there to provide a second pair of eyes on proceedings and, given how chilly it felt to me on the day, to enjoy the heat. From start to finish, our bonfire activities took around two hours – after which we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cookies for a good morning’s work.
‘That’s a long-overdue job off my list,’ The Boss said, with a sigh of relief, as we looked at the smouldering black circle of ash where once a mountain of garden detritus had stood. Perhaps it’s best I don’t tell him I’ve already started a new pile…
Update on Dusty
He’s forgiven us. Post-operation, Dusty is now coming for his meals at the same time as his siblings and we are able to stroke him again. Let’s hope no further trips to the vet’s are required.
Can cats have Stockholm Syndrome? I recently wrote about our eldest cat, Dusty, having a biopsy and convalescing inside our home. He’s an outdoor (born feral) cat and we expected ructions when we kept him indoors for a couple of nights, but he appeared to cope well with his confinement.
He’s an affectionate cat — but on his own terms. He doesn’t like anyone to pick him up, and won’t normally sit on a lap. But when the mood takes him, Dusty will come around if we’re outside, and rub his head on our legs to ask for a stroke.
During his weekend indoors, Dusty frequently nuzzled against us and we rewarded him with the fuss he seemed to want. Once, he even jumped onto the sofa and rested his front legs on my thigh and gazed at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. It made my heart flutter: was he a convert to lap life at last?
Alas, all changed when his confinement was over. For around a week, he ran off whenever he saw us approaching. Dusty — who waited patiently with the others for breakfast and dinner — would scuttle away when he saw us coming. Once we were at a safe distance away again, he’d return for his food.
This behaviour seemed in such contrast to the way he’d been when he was in the house. It made me wonder whether cats suffer from Stockholm Syndrome — the psychological response when hostages bond with their captors. Anyone know?
Diagnosis & Treatment
The biopsy results weren’t good: Dusty has a cancerous tumour in his nose: However, our vet Joana, explained a relatively new treatment — electro-chemotherapy — to remove these tumours (common in sun-loving white cats). She showed us photos of cats that had undergone this, and appeared positive about the outcome for Dusty, who is otherwise a healthy cat.
The procedure involves the use of specialist equipment to remove the tumour, and one dose of chemotherapy, both on the same day. The equipment is based in Valencia, but comes over to the veterinary hospital Canis in Palma de Mallorca for one week each month. We were fortunate in the timing of the equipment’s next schedule arrival on the island and they gave Dusty an appointment for Wednesday 3rd February.
All well and good. There was just the simple matter of catching a wary Dusty to take him to Palma. After much discussion, we decided to attempt this on the Tuesday, so that we’d have another chance on the Wednesday morning if our first attempt failed.
When we went out in the early evening to feed the cats, Dusty was waiting. Was luck on our side? Err, no. He shot off as soon as he saw us and disappeared down into the undergrowth in our valley. Stress! How could we possibly catch him when he was super-wary of our intentions?
Within an hour, Dusty was back in the house with us. I’d found him down in the field, stropping his claws on the almond tree trunk that fell during the recent storm. I spoke softly and crept towards him and was able to grab the scruff of his neck and carry him indoors. Suffice to say, he wasn’t impressed.
His procedure went without a hitch the next day, although he didn’t enjoy the car journey to Palma. He wasn’t the only one. I’d sprayed his carrying case with Feliway in advance, ostensibly to calm him for the journey. If that was calm, what would he have been like without it?
Dusty spent the next couple of nights indoors, making himself at home. So much so that the sofa became a favourite place to sit. He treated us to head nuzzles, purring, and lap time.
Unfortunately, Pip didn’t appreciate our temporary house guest at all and practised her tiger growl whenever Dusty was in her vicinity. On Friday lunchtime we were able to let Dusty out again. I opened the front and back doors of the house, so he could choose his exit but, for a few minutes, it looked as though he was reluctant to leave.
Needless to say, since he returned to his natural, outdoor habitat, Dusty has made himself scarce whenever we’re around. We’re hoping he’ll forgive us soon — and that his treatment will ensure a full recovery.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share two of my favourite photos of Dusty as a cute kitten.
The Mediterranean climate and the prospect of growing something more exotic than in a northern European garden are only two reasons many people who move to rural Mallorca become keen gardeners.
My guest in this episode of the ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast is not only an enthusiastic gardener, but also blogs about gardening. In addition Caroline Fuller contributes a gardening column (and a pet column) to the island’s English-language newspaper, Majorca Daily Bulletin.
Caroline – who lives with her husband David (known as o/h in her blog), their dogs, and chickens – talks about their no-dig lasagne garden, the lessons she’s learnt about gardening in Mallorca, and how a pair of David’s pants revealed something interesting about their soil.
We chatted over Zoom – you’ll hear the birds in her garden – and I began by asking whether gardening featured in their decision to move to Mallorca.
If you’re on the island and keen on gardening, check out the Facebook group: Mallorca Gardeners.
What’s with the weather around Europe this January? Snow has fallen in areas that rarely see the white stuff and, as I write, the UK Government has issued 137 flood warnings (flooding expected), one severe flood warning (danger to life), and 120 flood alerts (be prepared) for England.
Meanwhile in Mallorca
Mallorca’s weather seems to have been colder than usual for January. And today we had one of those weather events that stick in the memory. A meeting of storms over the area – including Storm Hortense – caused chaos. As we drove home from Manacor mid-morning, rain lashed horizontally across the road and hurricane-force winds battered everything in sight.
We arrived home and found one of our almond trees broken. Its leafless canopy landed in our lemon tree, which it damaged. A tall yucca tree in a large pot at the front of the house also snapped, and some smaller plant pots smashed as the fierce winds swept through. It’s not the first time we’ve suffered storm damage – and won’t be the last.
From Minor to Major
Our damage was minor compared to the 228 incidents reported by 3pm today to the emergency services. In parts of Mallorca, wind speeds reached 144 kilometres/hour. Numerous trees have fallen – some blocking roads, there’s been considerable structural damage to buildings, cars, and boats. Insurance companies will be busy for a while, dealing with claims.
It’s the perfect weather to stay at home, safe from the storms and from Covid. Spare a thought for those who won’t be able to – because they’ll be clearing up the considerable damage. There is always someone worse off than ourselves.
Our house has been a cat convalescent home again this weekend. This time our patient was Dusty – the eldest of the cats we look after – who had a biopsy on Friday. When we brought him home from the vet’s, we kept him indoors for a couple of nights to keep an eye on him and manage his post-biopsy medication.
We’re devastated that the poor boy has a tumour in his nose, and a piece of the tissue has been sent to Barcelona for analysis. We must now wait for the results to know the art of the possible in terms of treatment. I am praying it’s benign.
Dusty is the only remaining cat from the first litter of feral kittens, born on the other side of the wall at the end of our field. He’s almost ten years old and, other than a night in our guest annexe after he was castrated, has lived outdoors all his life – showing no inclination to come into the house.
He has an affectionate and gentle nature, in as much as he likes to rub his head against our legs and purrs with great enthusiasm. When I do some gardening, he often appears from underneath a shrub to keep me company.
But try to pick him up or put him on a lap, and we’re suddenly dealing with a sharp-clawed octopus. Catching him for the visit to the vet’s called, as usual, for subterfuge.
On Friday evening, Dusty was still subdued after his lunchtime op. We drove the ten kilometres home without a squeak from him in his travelling case on the back seat. A first.
Our guest annexe isn’t warm enough to use in the winter, so we brought Dusty into the house to recuperate. Considering the complete change of routine and lifestyle, he behaved well. He couldn’t settle for long on the first evening, wandering around the house and checking everything out. He viewed the log burner with trepidation – unlike Pip, who sprawls herself right in front of it – and when we turned on the TV, he shot out of the room. The news programmes have the same effect on me these days.
Pip wasn’t thrilled about our temporary guest but, after an initial growl at the interloper, she largely ignored him. We kept the two in separate rooms overnight and The Boss slept part of last night on the sofa, to keep Dusty company when he cried for attention. I didn’t hear a peep of any of this, sleeping through it all. It may have been sleep time for us but the hours of darkness are when outdoor cats are most active.
The weather’s not as cold today as it’s been of late and we’ve seen some sunshine. As I write, Dusty has gone back outside to his natural habitat. In a short while from now, he’ll be waiting with the other outdoor cats for his dinner.
As much as we’d like to keep him indoors until the biopsy results arrive, our vet didn’t know how long they’ll take – and Dusty would not appreciate an extended stay indoors. Not sure The Boss would appreciate another night on the sofa either!
How were your New Year’s Eve celebrations? I don’t think anyone was sorry to see the end of 2020 but, wherever you were, I hope you had a chance to reflect on any positive aspects of what was a really crap year for everyone.
Like so many around the world, we’ve lost people this year who were dear to us. My extended family said goodbye to two much-loved senior members, and two friends were lost to cancer.
I begin each year by making a list of highlights of the previous 12 months: fiestas attended, restaurants enjoyed, new experiences, friends and family who’ve visited, etc. I’m always surprised at how much has happened and been achieved, and this strengthens my sense of gratitude.
Will I make a list for 2020? It’d be short. But even amidst the gloom and bad news of the pandemic year, I have found things for which to be grateful.
Reasons to be Positive
In the spring, the eldest of my two brothers was diagnosed with prostate cancer – even before he had any symptoms. He’d been to his GP about an unrelated problem and, while there, the doctor suggested an overdue PSA test. Long story short, my brother had a major operation – at a time when some hospitals had postponed most non-Covid-related procedures. I thank the NHS that he made a good recovery, without needing further treatment. If you’re male, please take this as a reminder to ask your doctor for a PSA test if you haven’t had one for a while.
I finished writing the first draft of my debut novel. This was back in spring, and I put the manuscript aside for a few months, as is recommended, before I started editing and revising. In 2021 I intend to see it published by whatever means possible. Just the small matter of finishing the revisions first.
We found a new Internet provider (ConectaBalear) – albeit too late to enjoy all the exciting online activities available during the strict three-month Spanish lockdown. As a result, we had a Christmas Day Zoom with my dad (whom I haven’t seen since a family funeral in the UK just before lockdown), and my two brothers and their families.
I also launched two podcasts, after my Mallorca Sunshine Radio show was put on hold. The weekly show was all about hospitality and gastronomy, and we all know what’s happened to those sectors – particularly in places depending on tourism. Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is about other expats’ experiences of life in the countryside here; Authors in Mallorca speaks for itself, I think. I hope you’ll have a listen and even subscribe to future episodes.
Sylvia Baker de Perkal and her Californian husband Adam moved from banking careers in Madrid to live in the countryside near the Mallorcan village of Algaida. This was twenty-six years ago, and they still live in the same rural home they fell in love with when they came to look for a property on the island. Sylvia and Adam each have their own successful businesses in Mallorca: Sylvia is a highly qualified translator, specialising in legal and financial translations; Adam runs his wine importing company. Sylvia also devotes time to her passion for creating art; four of her canvases hang in a smart new hotel in Lisbon. Sylvia talks about sharing their environment with animals (some of which you'll hear in the background), the changes they made to their home when they arrived, how she integrated into the local community, what it's like to start a business here, and some of the illusions people have about living in Mallorca. http://www.sylviabakerdeperkal.com Facebook: Sylvia Baker de Perkal- Artworkwww.mundidrinks.comFor animal adoptions:Dogs 4 U https://dogsforu.orgAsociación Animalista https://gatosyperros.orgProject Love http://www.sinhogarmallorca.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI) LIVING IN RURAL MALLORCA podcast will be back in September 2021, after the hot summer break. Meanwhile, Jan Edwards's novel 'Daughter of Deià' – set in Mallorca – is now published and available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
Have you ever scrolled with a touch of envy through Instagram, seeing influencers flaunting fabulous freebies and their aspirational lifestyles? The reality of an influencer’s life is not always as it may seem, as my guest in this episode knows too well. In 2015, when comedian and writer Bella Younger created her alter ego Deliciously Stella – parodying clean-eating Instagram influencers – she had no idea it would lead to 150,000 followers … and a spell in The Priory clinic. Bella performed sell-out stand-up shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, authored the spoof ‘Deliciously Stella’ cookbook, and was twice named one of the Evening Standard’s most influential Londoners. Today she lives a very different life in rural Mallorca, where she finished writing her second book last year. Her mental-health memoir is very funny but is also essential reading for anyone who thinks they (or a family member) may be spending a little too much time on Instagram. ‘The Accidental Influencer: How My Need to Get Likes Nearly Ruined My Life’ was published by Harper Collins on May 13th.Hear Bella talking about her unusual route into the BBC, her process for her current fictional work in progress, finding peace and inspiration in Mallorca for her writing, snail racing … and more. ‘The Accidental Influencer: How My Need to Get Likes Nearly Ruined My Life’ is available now in bookshops and from Amazon, in Kindle and hardback formats. It's also available on Audible, narrated by Bella. Instagram @deliciouslystellaTwitter @bellayoungerPODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)AUTHORS IN MALLORCA will be back in September, after the hot summer break. Jan Edwards has been working on her novel – 'Daughter of Deià' – now published on Amazon.
New Year’s Eve in 2020 was low key in our house. TV reception was almost non-existent because of bad weather, so we read. The Boss opened a bottle of cava to toast in the New Year, but we almost forgot about the ‘lucky grapes’. This Spanish tradition, dating back to the early 20th century, calls for one grape to be eaten with each of the twelve clock chimes at midnight. It’s harder than it sounds and seedless grapes are recommended (as is peeling them in advance; note to self for next time).
I rushed to the fridge to fetch the two portions of grapes and, although we started a few seconds late, we managed to swallow them all before 2021 arrived.
The lucky part was that we didn’t choke trying to do so! Gotta find the positives where you can…
One of the many reasons we love living on the Spanish island of Mallorca is that it’s a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. It’s also home to many interesting people, with fascinating back stories.
I lap up these stories, although they sometimes make me feel as though my own life has been a little tame. I haven’t trekked across a desert, toured the world with a top band, or written a series of books, as some of my friends and acquaintances have. Hey, there’s still time though. (The Boss has a worried look on his face).
We’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with some of the people I’ve met through writing and broadcasting and one such couple features on the latest episode of my ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast.
Karl and Vikki Grant are talented commercial photographers who live in the Mallorcan countryside, where their finca is also the surprising home to a stylish photographic studio, also used for location shoots.
Their business Studio Mallorca offers creative photography, video, and website design. Their photography work includes fashion, food, nautical, property, and portraiture. Among those who have sat for them are Mick Jagger, John Cleese and, recently, Jeffrey Archer – who has a writing room overlooking the Mediterranean (I’m only a little envious) at his second home in Mallorca.
In episode 4 of the ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast, hear Vikki and Karl talk about their move to Mallorca, the surprises they found here, and the menagerie that’s almost de rigeur when living in the Mallorcan countryside. And if you enjoy listening, I’d be thrilled if you’d subscribe.
The ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast apps.
The theme music for the Living in Rural Mallorca podcast is titled ‘Lifestyles’. Composer: Jack Waldenmaier. Publisher: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI). All copyrights, licensing, duplication, and distribution rights for this music are held exclusively by Music Bakery Publishing (BMI).