Logdown Log in Mallorca – Day 51

Wildflowers growing on the side of the lane in our valley

Yes, it’s day 3,789 of lockdown here in Mallorca (Spain). Not really; it just feels a bit like it sometimes.

But there was A Big Change in this country on Saturday, as Spain’s restrictions – reported as the toughest in Europe – were eased slightly for adults. From Saturday, May 2nd, we were allowed out for exercise (sports) or a walk.

Of course, there are restrictions, such as dedicated time bands for going out; this is is designed to minimise the risk to those most vulnerable to the virus. For walks, we can travel up to a radius of one kilometre from our homes; exercise is not so restrictive, but must be done within the same municipality. We cannot hop in the car and drive anywhere to walk or work out. (Oh, how I long to walk beside the Mediterranean again).

Lucky to Have Land

We’ve not exactly been lazy during the lockdown. Exercising to online videos could have been an option if our wifi signal was better, but we opted to walk.

We’re fortunate that our finca has plenty of land. More than half of it is still virgin territory for me, as it forms a valley within our valley and not only are the sides of this mini-valley steep, they’re also perilous, as the land underfoot is just loose stones. I had a small taste of this danger in our early years here, when I ventured out and slid several feet, ending up in a heap on the ground – my unplanned descent broken by a well-located shrub. This required a hospital visit to check on very painful ribs which, fortunately, were just badly bruised, rather than broken.

From this limited personal experience, I know that one careless step could lead to hurtling down the side, through a tangle of wild olives and mastic bushes, to an uncomfortable stop at what is the long-dried-up bed of a stream. Andres and Guillermo, elderly brothers who lived in the valley as small boys, once told us they’d fished for eels down there. And that there had been peach and apricot trees for scrumping.

Stepping Out

The rest of our land is not as dangerous. As well as the garden we’ve created, there’s a large flat field – which has become our walking track during lockdown. We don’t use the field for anything in particular, as it’s mainly layered with huge rocks and stones. The Boss used to get out his man toy (a bushwacker) to level the wild growth to the ground, but this marvellous piece of kit died last year and we have yet to replace it.

Almost since lockdown began, we have had a routine: 20 circuits of the field in the morning and 20 in the early evening. This was mainly to counter all the extra baking I’d been doing. We’ve missed very few sessions and, as a result, now have a well-trodden and compressed roundish track amidst what is now a field of waist-high (and in my case, some  shoulder-high) wild grasses and wildflowers. You could probably spot it from the International Space Station, if you were up there looking down on our part of rural Mallorca.

Felines in the Field

The cats that share our finca have been visibly bemused by our routine. Shorty, our affectionate ginger, started to follow us but realised that if he just sat in the middle of our track, he would get a few terms of endearment and a stroke on the head from me each time we came around. The others just sit in the grass at the side of the track and watch us.

During these walks we’ve also discovered Dusty’s secret daytime hiding place. He has a spot in a dense cluster of wild fennel and a plumbago bush that we certainly didn’t plant, but which thrives in the ashy area that was once our bonfire site. You’d never know that he was there but, one day, we saw him stalking through the grasses and then disappear from view. It was as though he’d entered the door to a parallel cat universe. Now that we know his secret spot, we can just about see him as we pass by.

As the weeks have gone by, we have watched Mother Nature continue her spring tasks. Some wildflowers have died, to be replaced by new ones. This morning we spotted some pretty blue flowers that weren’t out yesterday. We’ve seen several tortoises and butterflies galore. These little details are so easily be missed in the daily pace of ‘normal’ life (remember that?).

Venturing Out

On Saturday we used our allotted walking period to check on a couple of neighbouring holiday homes for their owners. It was good to see the land of other people’s properties for a change.

Yesterday, we walked up the lane for the permitted one kilometre. We didn’t expect to see many people out in the valley; but did spot a woman walking a dog in the distance and waved (but had no idea who she was).

What we did see were cyclists. Lots of them. In fact I woke up yesterday to the sound of cyclists yelling as they freewheeled down the lane. Our valley is a magnet for cyclists: it has a very steep and challenging gradient that has earned it a place on the route of the Mallorca 312 cycling event, which takes place at the end of April each year. (This year’s event has been rescheduled to October 10th, 2020).

Our rural valley is in the municipality of Manacor and it seemed that every cycling enthusiast in the town had taken the opportunity to escape on two wheels to the countryside yesterday.

Social distancing wasn’t as easy as it should have been, with huffing and puffing cyclists constantly passing us. In future, we’ll be wearing our black bandit-like masks…or continuing our field circuits, away from the sporty sorts.

Jan Edwards©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 40

Rural Majorcan poppies

We’ve missed seeing the poppies this spring

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.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 33

Wisteria in bloom at Alfabia Gardens (photographed in a previous year). A spring sight that few will see this year.

Really? Day 33? I would never have imagined spending such a long time at home and going out only once in all that time. But here we are, Easter already over, and halfway through April. With the lockdown in Spain likely to be extended to almost the middle of May, this will surely be known as The Lost Spring.

We have a list of jobs to done around the finca and I’m itching to get on with them, so that there’s something visual that we can look at and say, that’s what we did during the lockdown. But Spanish tax returns loom and The Boss is mired in paperwork and spreadsheets. Must start gathering my own together soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making impressive (for me) strides with The Novel. Well, it was about time, as I had the idea for the story when I moved here in 2004. Much has changed from the original storyline, but I think that the long gestation period has been beneficial – and the writing of it takes me temporarily into a world where there’s no COVID-19.

By this evening, I should have reached 51,000 words. Only another 30k or so for that first draft to be done. Say it quickly enough and it doesn’t sound too bad.

A New Chapter for Chico?

People who know me may guess that cats feature in the story. And one of our cats – Chico – features in this latest blog post. And sadly it’s not good news: Chico has been missing for a week.

Chico was one of the second litter of ferals born to Jetta in July 2011 and, unlike his siblings, he’s always been wary of us (and any other humans). We’ve never done anything to hurt or scare him (except take him to be neutered when he was a kitten and old enough), but he’s always the one who waits at a safe distance until we’ve walked away from putting his food out. He’s also nervous of having his photo taken and, because of that, we have few photos of him.

Yet, he’s also been happy to sit in our dining room window recess, as long as we’ve ignored him, and spent most of the daytime snoozing somewhere within sight of the house.

We have no idea why he’s so nervous around people but have witnessed that, of all the cats, he is the one who’ll chase any ‘outsider’ felines who dare to intrude on his (shared) territory. Bravery lurks within.

Plenty of Questions; No Answers

It is nigh on impossible to look for a lost cat in open countryside – especially as we’re in lockdown and not allowed to go out of our property except for shopping etc. Losing a cat, in whatever way, is always upsetting. What’s happened? Are they lying injured or sick somewhere? Have they found a new home? Too many questions and no answers. All we can hope is that he’s safe and well on his solo adventure.

Here’s a coincidence: Chico’s departure was exactly two years ago to the day that our beautiful Beamer – the alpha male of the glaring – disappeared. Beamer was adored (visibly) by his siblings (and us). He enjoyed being around us when we were outdoors and loved to be fussed. But he still disappeared. As has Chico.

Could it be something to do with the arrival of spring? A touch of wanderlust inspired by the rebirth of Nature? For Chico, it’s not so much The Lost Spring, as lost in spring.

Be brave, Chico, and come back one day if you can.

 

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