Lockdown Log – Day 26 – The Supermarket Sweep

Let’s hear it for home deliveries!

We’re fast approaching a month in lockdown in Mallorca. When it started, I had plans to do so many things, including decorating. There’s still plenty of time, though, because the lockdown is being extended to April 26th – another couple of weeks from the already-extended date of Easter Sunday.

The last time I left our finca was on March 14th, when we did our usual Saturday morning trip into Manacor. The good old days. Since then, The Boss has done the past two weekly supermarket shops, and local Manacor agricultural producer Terragust has delivered fresh produce to our rural home.

The Boss volunteered to do the supermarket run. I could tell that it was somewhat stressful, and not just because of taking the necessary paperwork, disposable gloves, sanitizer, and wearing a tightly wrapped scarf around his upper orifices – like a 21st-century Dick Turpin.

Aisle Call

I may be a writer, but my handwriting is shocking; I blame years of computer use. My handwriting could part-qualify me to be a doctor – a career path I’m very pleased I didn’t pursue, in the current circumstances. Only I can understand the scrawls on the shopping list I usually take on our forays for food. On those occasions, The Boss pushes the trolley and probably switches off mentally until it’s time to get his wallet out.

To make shopping easier for him, I typed out a list, in the order of which he would find the items located in the store. I pictured him whizzing around with his trolley (he’s usually in charge of it when we shop), plucking the required items from the shelves and dropping them into the trolley. Job done.

Alas, it wasn’t quite that easy. I received several calls on his mobile phone on both occasions, with various questions. What was the Spanish for linseeds? What did dried yeast look like? That type of thing.

Stepping Up to the Trolley

With Easter almost upon us, I decided I’d do this week’s shopping run. I hadn’t driven the car since March 9th, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my motoring skills an outing. Unlike the almost-deserted car park and store that The Boss had reported after his trips, yesterday was a busy day of pre-Easter shopping and I had to queue to enter.

I wore disposable gloves and a Mrs Dick Turpin-style scarf as I pushed my sanitized-handled trolley through the store. Every now and then, my reading glasses would steam up from the breath trapped by my scarf but, even visually challenged by the fog on my lenses, I could see that social distancing was Not Being Observed. I spent much of my shopping trip avoiding other trolley-pushers and muttering crossly under my breath, like a mad woman. By the way, muttering crossly under your breath, like a mad woman, is an effective technique to make people give you a wide berth.

A large number of shoppers were men, I observed, and most of them appeared clueless. I saw several apparently phoning home, from the exasperated ‘get me outta here’ looks on their faces.

I’m not a stock-piler – we wouldn’t have space to store stuff, even if I were – but I did decide to buy two of certain items, in the hope we could extend the time before the next shopping trip. It was with a well-filled trolley that I arrived at a till, where a friendly young lady wearing a clear perspex face shield gave me a bit of a turn when she told me how much my bill was.

Digit Dilemma

No worries. I extracted my Banca March card (which I almost never use), and duly inserted it into the machine. That was when I realised how difficult it is to tap out a PIN number wearing disposable gloves, with fingers that extend way beyond the length of your own. Three unsuccessful attempts later – although I was convinced at least the last one was correct – my card was rejected. (It was only when I arrived home that I realised the card had expired last November!).

I looked at the three packed Sainsbury’s trolley bags (brought over from the UK in 2004 and still serving us weekly) and envisaged having my purchases taken away from me. My UK bank account card came to the rescue; two unsuccessful attempts at its PIN number and I was on the brink of another card rejection. In a red-faced huff (it really was too warm to be swaddled in a lambswool scarf), I ripped off my right-hand glove and stabbed out the number on the terminal keys. I did, though, thank the cashier for her patience – and for being there in the first place. Judging by the look of surprise on her face, that didn’t happen very often.

Back in the safety of the car, I went a bit wild with the hand sanitizer before driving home. Shopping in the time of corona can be pretty stressful…

Jan Edwards©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 15

Here we are in rural Mallorca, just starting Spain’s extended period of lockdown, which was made official last week in Madrid. We’re now confined to our homes for another 15 days.

Ah, was it only two weeks ago that we believed (or hoped) that we’d be free today to go for a Sunday morning walk and coffee by the Mediterranean Sea? We were either wildly optimistic or a bit naïve; I’ll go with wildly optimistic.

Our optimism may have waned a little since then. Will it really all be over on Easter Sunday? Maybe. Probably not.

More to Stay Home

The Spanish government has announced tighter lockdown measures relating to working outside the home.

From tomorrow (30th – where did March go?) until April 9th (the 10th being Good Friday, and a public holiday), only those working in the following sectors may  leave their homes to go to work: foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, veterinary, opticians, hygiene products, the media, fuels for the automotive sector, tobacconists, IT and telecommunications vendors, pet food, internet vendors and dry cleaners. Banks will also remain operational. The service of motor mechanics will not be available to the general public, but restricted to freight vehicles.

I can think of a few creative friends who live in the centre of Palma and usually work from home. They will be relieved not to hear the constant noise of construction workers renovating nearby properties.

Home Thoughts

Whatever, we’re grateful for still feeling well. And well fed. I’ve never done so much baking in my life. The Boss did the weekly supermarket shop again on Thursday – list in hand and official documents at the ready in case he should be stopped by the police. I still have not left our property.

To counter all the extra carbs we’re scarfing down to keep our spirits up, we’re now settling into our daily exercise routine of stomping circuits around our field. This morning we encountered this chap out for his own exercise:

Doing his own (slow) circuits of our field

The Fruits (& Vegetables) of Mallorca’s Land

The highlight of last week for me was finding a home-delivery service for fresh produce. We usually buy our fruit and veg in a little greengrocer’s shop adjacent to the produce market in Manacor. We’ve shopped there ever since we moved to rural Mallorca but are not going into town at the moment – for obvious reasons. But we still want to support local producers.

Mallorca has a surprising number of local businesses offering home delivery services during this crisis and some online research revealed one that’s perfect for us: Terragust. All their produce is grown on land surrounding Manacor, our nearest town. Deliveries are only in the Llevant area of Mallorca. Terragust also organises some interesting events related to local agriculture and we attended one of these last year. You can read about it on my other blog here, if you’re curious.

On Friday – D (for delivery) Day – I was like a kid at Christmas. I couldn’t have told you if I was most excited about the prospect of a box of freshly picked vegetables arriving at home, or seeing my first human being – other than The Boss – in the flesh (clothed, of course, and gloved). And keeping his distance.

Santa Claus (alias Matias from Terragust) brought us a harvest-festival-worthy bounty of vegetables and fruit, and a loaf of home-made bread, for just 15 euros – including delivery. At least I won’t have to make any bread for a day or two. Whenever I have a spare few minutes (who thought there’d be lots of time to relax during lockdown?), I browse through my Delia Smith Vegetarian Cookbook for recipes to make the most of some of this bounty.

It’s almost lunchtime and, yes, we’re having a big healthy salad. This afternoon I have more biscuits to bake.

Stay well.

-oOo-

An Italian friend in Mallorca, whom I met through my Mallorca Sunshine Radio show ‘Table Talk’, sent me this video this morning, which a friend of the songwriter had sent him. I found it very moving (a few tears were shed) and hope you enjoy it.

 

Jan Edwards ©2020

Motorsport Rally Comes to Our Valley

Rally sign

Unless you’re in a rally car, of course…

One of the reasons we wanted to live in rural Mallorca was the expectation of peace and quiet. I worked for quite a lot of years in radio and TV – environments where you’re subjected to sounds all day. My ears needed a rest.

We were quite surprised one morning during our first spring here to find that our back field had become a parking lot. Who were all these people who had taken advantage of a large gap in our old stone wall to park their cars on our property?

The answer came very soon: the annual Manacor motorsport rally was driving through our valley and the owners of the parked cars had arrived early to spectate. Finding nowhere to park in our narrow lane, they took the only obvious option. Mystery solved.

Revved and ready

Several years have passed since the last Manacor rally came through our area. Further down the valley, some of the water course walls had been repaired and we assumed the local council didn’t want skidding rally cars knocking them down!

Today, the engines were revving again. We had two weeks’ notice – via a large signboard – that our lane would be closed to all traffic except Rallye Llevant competitors between 8am and 3pm. We could either go out early and stay out until mid-afternoon, or stay put. We opted for the latter.

It’s quite exciting when something like a rally or other sporting event comes through our valley. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient for those of us who live here, but it provides some free entertainment and, when it’s all over, we get to appreciate rural tranquillity all over again.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

Snow on Mallorca? It Happens…

Snow on Majorcan mountains

Snow caps on the Tramuntana mountains, seen from our valley

For many who know Mallorca only as a hot summer-holiday destination, it may come as a shock to know that our beautiful island experiences some rather wintry weather at times. Back in February 2012, The Boss’s cousin and his wife came to the island for a walking holiday. Except that when they opened the door of their holiday accommodation one morning, a drift of snow awaited them. It’s not been that bad since (yet).

February is usually the coldest and dampest month and, for the past week, it’s been pretty miserable, with constant grey skies and rain in our part of Mallorca. We do need the rain, of course, to replenish the embalses – water reservoirs – for the long dry summers.

The annual Carnival celebrations were due to happen in Manacor last evening, but the powers-that-be decided to postpone the event because of the weather: yesterday was damp, dreary, and 4 degrees Celsius (although it felt colder in the wind). We think it’s the first time the event has been postponed since we’ve lived here. Carnival celebrations in Manacor will now take place this evening. What a difference a day makes. Today, the sky has been blue and the sun has shone. But, as the afternoon has progressed, there’s been a renewed sharpness to the breeze.

What to wear for Carnival

We usually dress up in ordinary warm clothes for this event but, last year, we took the plunge and went in costume – dressed in cowboy (and cowgirl) gear, along with our Dutch friends Sandra and Adriaan. We had a really fun night and I don’t recall it being particularly cold (although a glass or two of wine during the evening may have served as central heating).

Carnival in Manacor is always fun but, in costume terms, it’s not Rio. Far too cold for skimpy outfits in February! For anyone planning to dress up this evening, the ideal outfit would be a furry gorilla costume. Now, where can The Boss and I source a couple of those on a Sunday afternoon, I wonder?

©Jan Edwards 2018

Visca Sant Antoni! Manacor’s Favourite Fiesta…

Dimoni Mallorca

A scary dimoni in the streets of Manacor

Hello! And a belated Happy New Year. Mine unfortunately started with bronchitis, which laid me low at a time when normally I’m itching to get started on the new year. Colds, flu, and other assorted viruses are rife on Mallorca at the moment and it’s hard to avoid them. Unusually, I haven’t felt up to writing much – although I did manage to write a short story for an international fiction competition. If I win, I’ll invite you all round for a glass of cava!

Celebrating Sant Antoni

Fortunately I was just about well enough for our usual visit to Manacor last week for the Sant Antoni fiestas. The good folks of Manacor love this fiesta, kitting themselves out in the latest Sant Antoni sweatshirt, t-shirt, or other assorted merchandise printed with the current year’s Sant Antoni logo.

Merchandise for Sant Antoni

The 2018 Sant Antoni must-have, as modelled in Hiper supermarket

A day or so before Sant Antoni, heaps of sand appear in the streets: these are the locations of the bonfires that will blaze on the evening of the 16th January. Some of them will just be piles of logs but others involve a degree of creativity and handicrafting; these are the ones that will be judged in the annual competition to find the best bonfire.

During the afternoon of the day before Sant Antoni’s day, it seems as though the entire population is on the streets – strolling (or cycling) all over the town to see these creations before they go up in smoke that evening.

Better the dimoni you know…

Come the evening, the bonfires are eventually lit and the fun begins. People take meat and bread to cook over the torradas; these are informal barbecues, very often made from old metal half-barrels full of logs. The dimonis (devils) dance in a wild fashion through the streets and everyone has a great time.

It’s a night the youngsters of the town particularly enjoy and many of them wander the streets in chattering groups, clutching large bottles of what appears to be lemon Fanta. More often than not, it’s a Menorcan drink called pomada: a mix of Menorcan Xoriguer gin and sparkling lemon that is especially popular as a Sant Antoni tipple. Another much-imbibed drink is the bright-green Mallorcan herb liqueur known as hierbas. Mine’s a pomada, if you’re asking…

Ooh, another public holiday

On the saint’s day (January 17th) itself, Manacor has a public holiday. The local priest, however, doesn’t get a day off: he’s in Ramon Llull square blessing the animal population of the town and surrounding countryside. This is one of my favourite fiestas, when many people dress in traditional costume to accompany their domestic and farm animals on their slow procession past the priest.

The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Pot luck in Manacor

Our mission – which we had no choice but to accept – was to find a new flowerpot to replace the one that was recently blown over and broken by a particularly fierce gust of wind. Usually this would entail a trip to one of the garden centres in the area. I’ve written before about garden centres in Mallorca: I have yet to find one to match the gorgeous Burford Garden Company – a place in the Cotswolds I used to love visiting.

The trouble with garden centres in general is that I find it hard to leave them with only the one thing I intended to buy. And I am not a shopaholic by nature. Go in for a bag of compost and I’m likely to emerge with a pot or two of herbs as well. One local garden centre was selling large nets full of home-grown oranges for juicing…well, I couldn’t resist those, could I?

In one of the better local garden centres, I once bought a large mirror for the guest bathroom as well as a new trowel. Clearly it would be more economical to go straight to a terracotta pot manufacturer, cutting out the middleman (and their range of tempting goodies).

Traditional Mallorcan terracotta

Black wood smoke often billows from a local factory on the outskirts of Manacor and it was time to check the place out. The kilns weren’t fired up the day we visited but the place was already well stocked with terracotta flowerpots and pretty much anything else you could want made from terracotta (Mallorcan ceiling and roof tiles included).

Inside the terracotta factory

Tejar Bandris’s terracotta factory near Manacor

Tejar Bandrís is a family business of master artisans and Toní told us he was the third generation in the firm. As we were the only customers, he spent some time telling us that people come from all over Mallorca and beyond to buy from him. If you buy an old finca on the island and want some authentic terracotta features, this is the place to come. Soooo many things…. Focus, Jan!

Terracotta products Mallorca

Potty about the choice!

Terracotta goods at Tejas Bandris

These look attractive over lights on exterior walls

It didn’t take long to choose the perfect pot – handmade on a potter’s wheel. Although we didn’t see the wheel in action while we were there, just the thought of it took me back to my school pottery classes. I never did master the art of throwing a pot that didn’t look like a cheap souvenir of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (Demi Moore made it look so easy in Ghost).

English spoken here…

If you’re in the market for a well-made terracotta pot – or anything else fired in a kiln – it’s worth checking out Tejar Bandrís. Even though we’d be speaking Spanish, we’d only been there a few minutes when Toní asked if we were from England (why is it so obvious?) and, hearing that we were, said he’d like to practise his English for the rest of the conversation. Useful to know if you want to visit but don’t speak much or any Spanish.

At least we know where to go when the next gust of fierce wind wreaks havoc on our terrace…

©Jan Edwards 2017

August ends but Mallorca’s summer isn’t over yet!

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Porto Cristo beach in the quieter month of May

Even after more than 10 years of living through August in rural Mallorca, this holiday month takes some getting used to each year. To start with, many of the shops and other businesses in our local town close for lunch and don’t re-open until the next morning. It’s a nuisance if you’re in the middle of a DIY job and run out of something vital to finish it. And that is why we recommend not doing DIY projects in August.

The heat is another good reason to down tools for a few weeks. August is the month when the locals head for the beach early morning or late afternoon. At the end of the day, the tourists are just packing their beach bags and heading back to their holiday accommodation to freshen up for the evening when the locals arrive in groups to claim their spots on the sands.

Holiday home … just down the road

One thing that still amuses me is the number of people who live in Manacor but have a second home in Porto Cristo – around a 10-minute drive away. Many of them leave their main homes to take up temporary residence in the cooler air of the resort for August.

In the UK, it’s more usual for those with second homes to have them further away from their main residence. Former neighbours in Oxfordshire had a cottage in Cornwall. On occasional Friday nights they’d load up the car and head southwest in ever-increasing traffic jams, probably arriving just in time for a cup of tea before it was time to drive back for work on Monday. Having a second home just down the road has some merits …

Dipping into local life in Porto Cristo

This August we’ve again had the occasional morning swim in Porto Cristo. The east-coast resort has a town beach, so the passing traffic (road and harbour) means it’s not a tranquil spot, but it’s perfect for a bit of exercise swimming first thing. We can swim, have a coffee, and be heading home before the town’s roadside car parking charges come into effect at 10:00h.

We’ve enjoyed observing the local early-morning beachgoers. We’ve seen exercise classes on the sands for the elderly; excitable clusters of kids being supervised in various sporting activities, and senior chaps in swimming shorts walking from one end of the beach to the other, toes in the water, as they converse in an animated fashion.

But my favourite sights are the ‘bobulations’. Don’t reach for a dictionary, as you won’t find this word lurking within its pages; it’s a combination of ‘population’ and ‘bob’ – which I made up. These are the groups of local ladies (often of a certain age), who stand chest-high in a circle in the sea or, in deeper water, bob about (still in a circle). They just chat, little exercise is involved. Most wear a hat of some sort to protect their recently re-helmeted hairdo from the sun, but the sea rarely gets a lick at their locks.

August is now over for another year, but you can bet that full-time residents of Porto Cristo will be on the beach early mornings for a week or two more. We look forward to a few more mornings in their company …

The fiesta of fire burns this weekend on Mallorca

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

Life is never dull on Mallorca. If Christmas, New Year, and Three Kings were not enough celebrations for this time of year, this weekend is the Sant Antoni fiestas. January 16th – the eve of the Saint’s day – is when Mallorcans traditionally light foguerons (bonfires) in the streets and make elaborate effigies of the Devil to set ablaze. Mallorca’s famous dimonis take to the streets with their manic dancing and scary costumes, and people have a jolly good time, cooking food on outdoor torrades (BBQs). And because it can be surprisingly cold at this time of the year (although not this winter, so far), a few libations are usually taken – very often the famous bright green Hierbas de Tunel.

In our local town, Manacor, the Sant Antoni fiestas almost seem more popular than Christmas. For the past couple of weeks, stalls set up in town on Saturdays have been selling this year’s design of Sant Antoni sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats – and all at affordable prices.

The excitement is building. This morning, doing a few chores in town, we had to drive around a pile of earth in the middle of several roads, on which the bonfires for this Saturday night will be built. These piles will be increasing in number over the coming days. And several shops have incorporated Sant Antoni into their window displays.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Hiper's stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Hiper’s stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

If you don’t know (and I confess that I didn’t until we moved to Mallorca), Sant Antoni was an Egyptian monk who, in the desert, was tempted by the Devil – cunningly disguised as a woman. The iron-willed monk didn’t succumb to these womanly wiles, instead walking on hot coals to take his mind off anything else getting too heated!

All this happened a long way from Mallorca, but stay with me. On the island during the 10th and 11th centuries, many folk were affected by a horrible skin disease caused by a poisonous fungus attacking rye crops. No cure was known, but the Mallorcans followed Sant Antoni’s example of using fire to fight the Devil that they believed had caused the disease.

The disease is long gone, but the fires burn on every eve of Sant Antoni, as the backdrop to much partying. And, on the Saint’s day itself, Mallorcans head for the streets again – to take their pets and other animals to be blessed by the local priest.

After the festivities of this weekend, things will quieten down . . . but not for long: Carnival this year falls on the first weekend of February!

 

Goodbye, chickens . . .

DSC_0122

Some time ago I wrote about ses galines de sa rotonda  – the flock of chickens that had been living in the middle of a traffic roundabout at Plaza Madrid in Manacor for the past couple of years. After an unpleasant episode involving some stray dogs, our feathered friends were recently given a safe ‘home‘ by the local council. Bravo, I thought, at the time.

The island newspaper Diario de Mallorca wrote an article last month about the installation, designed to keep the chickens safe from prowling pooches. The article explained that if the flock grew to more than the usual 15-20 birds, any surplus would be relocated to Natura Parc. Fair enough.

But this week we noticed that the chicken hut has disappeared. And, it seems, so have all the chickens – unless anyone has actually seen them in recent days? Looking at various comments on their Facebook page (3,188 ‘likes’) – if my translation of mallorquín is accurate – all of our feathered friends have been sent to Natura Parc. They’ll be sadly missed by their many fans . . .

Of birds and beasts in Mallorca’s spring

Living in rural Mallorca and no longer having to commute into a city for work has given us more time and appreciation for the nature that surrounds us. We’re more aware of seasonal changes – and have become just a teeny bit obsessed about noting the ‘firsts’ of each season.

It’s been a good week for ‘firsts’. We went for a walk on Sunday and retraced some of our earlier steps on the Via Verde (or Via Verda as it’s known locally). This ‘green way’ is one of Spain’s network of eco-paths – conversions of disused railway line routes – and connects Manacor with the small town of Artà, in the northeast of Mallorca.

These feet were made for walking

The path opened without a great deal of fanfare in October 2014 and we began 2015 by resolving to walk the full length of some 29 km – in stages – during January. A spell of bad weather meant we didn’t finish until mid-February. But, hey ho, we did it.

Spring wildflowers on Via Verde, Mallorca

Wildflowers in abundance on the Via Verde, near Son Carrio.

Poppies on the Via Verde

Poppies on the Via Verde

The path looked very different on Sunday, with so much greenery around and swathes of wildflowers lining the route. Our latest walk gave us some ornithological sightings that were our ‘firsts’ of the season: a swallow (yes, this early) and a bee-eater.

In the past couple of days we have also seen our first tortoise of the spring, ambling through the undergrowth in an untamed part (one of many) of our land. It was Pip – the newest addition to our family of adopted felines – who discovered the creature, alerted by the rustling sounds from the foliage it was navigating its way through. A tortoise was clearly ‘the very first’ for this relentlessly inquisitive little cat, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it!

Tortie kitten in window

Inquisitive Pip seems to have heard something interesting . . .

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

An early outing for this Mediterranean tortoise

The sighting was good news. Our area is a natural habitat for the Mediterranean tortoise and we’re always pleased to see them surviving. No doubt there will be coin-sized babies soon, which means we have to tread carefully when we’re out on the land.

A cyclist’s surprise

First-time visitors are always surprised to see tortoises roaming freely around. Last autumn we heard a shout from the other side of our gates and opened them to find an English Lycra-clad cyclist with a concerned expression on his face.

“Have you lost a pet tortoise?” he asked, in a broad Mancunian accent, pointing back up the lane. “Only I’ve just seen one up there.”

We explained that the creature he’d seen was a wild Mediterranean tortoise and that sightings were quite common; he beamed in surprise. It reminded us – for the zillionth time – how much we enjoy living  in the Mallorcan countryside, in the midst of nature.

Our next seasonal ‘first’? Who knows? But you can be sure we’ll be as thrilled as we are every season . . .

Read more about the ‘Via Verde’ here in my article recently published in abcMallorca magazine’s spring edition, and online:

http://www.abc-mallorca.com/via-verde/