Month: July 2008

Money money money

Well, it’s not exactly a cheery subject but we do have to talk about it don’t we? Money makes the world go round, or is it Love? Well probably both if we’re being honest.

Monday I spoke to Oliver Neilson who is the head of news for Luna Radio, and an ex-city gent. He gave me the ‘idiot’s guide’ to the economy. Which I am hoping that he will write down and post on this blog as I don’t want to get it wrong. Basically it’s all America’s fault, handing out mortgages to people who then can’t make the payments, plus the cost of oil has more than doubled in the last year…… So is the economic situation hitting home in Mallorca? This week we’re going to find out…..

This week’s guests:
Mon: Oliver Neilson, Head of News, Luna Radio
Weds : Kate Mentink, Calvia Council
Fri: Daniel Chavarria Waschke. Engel & Voelkers

Moving to Mallorca – theme of the week

We’re talking this week on Luna Radio (100.3fm or listen online at about moving to Mallorca.

Monday I spoke to Tomas who is originally from Mallorca. He moved to Ireland when he was a teenager – he lived in Ireland for several years, and really loves it, but once his kids had come along he felt that he needed to return to Mallorca as he thinks the healthcare system is better here.

Tuesday I spoke to Danny Darcy. Danny moved to Mallorca when his kids were small. He wrote his song Barcelona Sky after he and his wife did the infamous Barcelona ring road. If you’ve not driven around the Via Cintura in Barcelona then try to avoid it – especially if you’re trying to make it to the ferry port to meet a boat! You can download Barcelona Sky at his website Danny told me that he loved living in Mallorca because of the positive feelings that emanate here.

Wednesday I spoke to Neil Crofts from He moved with his kids and wife to Mallorca last year. He works as a life coach and you can subscribe to his free weekly email newsletter at his website. Neil said that he felt Mallorca was a great place to live from a work point of view as it is very well connected to the rest of Europe.

Thursday I spoke to Jan Edwards, who writes the blog and Diane Foden who writes both of which writing about the insanities and unusual happenings which us ex-pats experience once we’ve moved to Mallorca. Jan had some good advice – if you’re thinking about moving here then rent first. Don’t just leap in with both feet and buy a property, rent and be sure.

On Friday I spoke to Becky from and she totally blew my mind with the amount of paperwork that is needed when you first get here. The system has recently changed and you need an EU Citizens Certificate before you can get anything else now…… Just speak to her, as I am no expert!

Moving to Mallorca

this is me, in case you didn’t know

Well, it was my four year anniversary, last week, of moving to Mallorca, and I felt that I should tell you my little story of how, and why, I ended up here.

The story can be split into parts, with the benefit of hindsight.

When I was a kid (before I turned ten and my father decided to buy a boat which meant all of our family holidays revolved around Poole Yacht Club and the English Channel), my father thought Spain was common. We never went to Spain on holiday, instead we would go to Malta or other places in the Med which offered good scuba diving (for him) and sunshine (for my mum) but Spain? Never.

Roll on a few years and I remember listening to my parents talking about travelling around the world, sailing in a yacht they had worked hard to buy and maintain.

Roll on again, to their divorce. Classic empty nest syndrome – oh, the kids have left home, do we still like each other? Er….

After my parents divorced (which is a whole other blog, which I won’t ever write as it’s far too messy and complicated) my mother headed for France, and my father headed for Mallorca, he’d been offered a job on the island, running a sailing school.

I couldn’t believe that he’d moved to Mallorca, surely that was the most common of all places to go? Wasn’t it full of lager louts and fat men in Union Jack shorts? (Although, I can recommend fat louts in UJ shorts, they are rather fun). I went to visit him a couple of months after he had moved to the island, and could not believe my eyes. Mallorca was the most enchanting place I could have imagined, I loved the mountains, the landscape, the beaches, the lifestyle, the people. I returned to London, to work, with a thrill. Cheap lovely holidays were on the cards for me. …..

Roll on again, not too far this time…

September 11 2001 does have a place in this story (as I should think it has in many peoples’ stories) – my boyfriend (bf, who I had met at the beginning of 2001) and I were staying at my Mother’s house in France when the planes hit the towers. We had no idea about it as we were gaily canoeing around a medieval moat in the Dordogne at the time (one of the rare occasions you will get me on the water these days). It wasn’t until later in the day when I received a rather misjudged and misguided text message from a good friend of mine that I began to realise that something had happened and that perhaps we should turn on the tv right now.

We didn’t turn the tv off again for 48 hours, we watched every second of those momentous and tragic events ….. My bf even knew someone who had died in the towers as he worked for a financial institution based in the States, whilst the bf worked in a satellite office at the top of the Canary Wharf Tower (could it be a future target for the same sort of attack?). On our return to London and our return to commuting to work everyday through the traffic and fighting against the tide of tube traffic, saying goodbye in the morning, every morning, became a rather more solemn and meaningful affair. In addition to that I had a couple of health scares, and just more and more pressure was piled onto the both of us at work. We offset it by being real London junkies – we knew every market, every museum, every interesting nook and cranny, intimately. But it was not shared by many of our friends, everyone was just too busy to really enjoy it with us.

Roll on a couple more years, and after a few more visits, and meeting my father’s friends, I came to realise that Mallorca was a very friendly place to be, that the spirit of the community was strong. After one visit I returned to work and someone who barely knew me commented immediately on how much nicer I was being, and how much better I looked. I couldn’t believe how transparent I had been. How obviously under pressure I seemed.

On my visits I met local Mallorquins, English, Dutch, Germans, French, Americans, Italians, and many other nationalities. I felt at home on this island, more at home here than I did at home (although, unlike many Londoners, I did actually know the names of my neighbours, on both sides of my little flat). The time came for me and bf (later to become husband) to go home from one particular trip. My father drove us to the airport where I actually broke down in tears as I simply did not want to leave.

On the plane back to London, bf and I examined why I felt so sad and so low. We concluded it was the lack of feeling part of my local community, and the draw of being included in something that I really missed.

I realised that I needed to escape, to grow, and to develop. I didn’t want to work for other people anymore, I wanted to work for myself, to be creative and to do my own thing. In short I wanted to have an adventure. Could Mallorca offer me these things? I craved something that the big city could not give – intimacy. (Although I’ve come to realise now, in 2008, that sometimes I crave that anonymity that the big city could offer, the freedom of movement, without bumping into people you know… I can’t remember the last time I was on a plane back to London without recognising the other passengers!). More importantly, I wanted a family of my own, and I couldn’t accept the idea that any child I might bear would grow up amongst a concrete jungle when I had grown up in such a paradisical setting – okay it was only Hertfordshire, but it was green and we were free to move around without fear.

And so, the great ‘Move to Mallorca’ project began. It was not an easy undertaking given that neither of us had any money, although I did have a flat in Walthamstow that I was loathe to sell. The flat however was not in a condition to rent out either, and neither were my bf or I really in a position to take on a new job in a new country…. given that we both had very language based jobs. So I retrained as a massage and beauty therapist, and my bf worried about the fact he wasn’t retraining as anything, but instead acted as backup – driving me to college, wiping my brow when exam times came round, and generally ignoring me when I became insufferable from the stress of having a full time job and a full time programme of lessons.

After two years, where the money was scraped together to make the flat into a nice rentable prospect, and I had sat, and passed (with distinctions, thank you), about twenty different qualifications, the time came to make some real plans and book some one way tickets.

We went to Mallorca for a quick trip, for my father’s birthday celebrations, where my bf met his future boss – just like that. I should have known already that island life is like that, but I hadn’t quite caught on. He met his boss, over a beer, where they both talked about their love of food, and one thing led to another and wouldn’t you know it, a couple of days later, over another beer or two, my bf had a job in a full on, very busy, professional kitchen (whilst I had just spent two years re-qualifying in a vocational profession, all he had to do was have a beer with the boss and, bingo). On one proviso, that he could return to the island in three weeks time to take up the post. No problemo matey. Seize the nettle etc.

A little matter of a London Marathon, which my bf had been training for, had to be achieved, plus he had to hand in his notice, and we had to have an engagement/birthday/bye bye, we’re off to Mallorca party. It was a whirlwind. A canapé of what was to come.

Bf moved on April 18th 2004, after completing the marathon. His parents came down to watch him run, and his Mum had a bit of a moment whilst ironing his shirts (we had to prevent her from m
aking him a packed lunch for the plane). I waved him off at Stanstead Airport with a huge sigh and a full heart, and headed back into my studies. I quit my job at some point in the next six weeks or so, after raising enough money to redevelop the scheme I was working on, and concentrated on getting the rest of us (me and two cats, one with a questionable heart – which is why I drove, rather than flew) to Mallorca.

It was 13 weeks before I began my physical journey, but by this time I had already been on a journey for a couple of years. I had bored anyone who would listen that I was going to be moving to the beautiful island of Mallorca. Sometimes I had to tell other people to believe it myself. But the day did finally come where, after some judicious chicken wire placement (thank you, Mark) in the boot of my car, I packed the cats, and my most essential belongings, into a Mini Metro, and headed for Portsmouth.

The trip went … okay. After an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo I reached my Mother’s house on schedule in the Dordogne. There was a bit of an atmosphere, four years on I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I think it had something to do with floors and varnish – she was preparing for her summer lets. The next morning I fished the cats out from underneath wardrobes, promised them that I wouldn’t make them do this journey again, attached them by special cat harnesses to the passenger seat of the Metro, took possession of a fried egg sandwich from my Mum, and headed South.

It’s quite a long way from the Dordogne to Barcelona, as I started to realise when I only had a couple of hours left to make it to the ferry port. And once I admitted that to myself I began to panic: what if I didn’t make it to the ferry before 16.00 which is when the fast ferry leaves, what if I had to wait until later that night when the overnight ferry would crawl across the Med? It simply wasn’t an option as I glanced across at my two hyperventilating cats. There was no way any of us could stand a third night on the road.

The Barcelona Via Cintura will remain with me for the rest of my life. The lack of road signs, the huge lorries, and the roadworks, all meant that I didn’t have a clue where or when I was supposed to leave the ring road to head for the ferry. I was not aided by ‘supportive’ phone calls from bf who rang me every twenty minutes or so to get updates on my progress. It disintegrated into me screaming at him to leave me alone so that I could concentrate on having a major car accident before reporting back.

Finally, finally, I managed to find the right exit. But it wasn’t so easy to get to the passenger ferry. I drove like a maniac, trying to find the Transmeditteranea offices, as of course, I didn’t have a ticket. Somewhere, somehow, a god, of some description, was watching over me as I did find the offices. Panicking and off-kilter entirely I ran into the offices to buy my ticket. I watched the clock slowly grind around to three minutes to four. Could I make a credit card payment, show the documents for the cats, and myself in three minutes? The man behind the counter picked up on my urgency and started asking strange, and laborious, questions in Spanish, which at the time I had no hope of being able to understand or to answer. Perhaps it was the murderesss glint in my eye that finally got him to step on it, but I managed to launch myself back into my steaming Mini Metro, and up a ramp onto the fast ferry at literally one minute to four. I was the last car on and the first car off.

As I came to a halt in the belly of the boat, and turned off the Metro’s engine, I was overcome. Heaving sobs of relief flooded out of me. I cried for a full five minutes before I could get a hold of myself. And so I completely missed waving goodbye to mainland Europe as I was having a moment in a Mini Metro, (not many people can say that).

After having made sure the cats were going to be comfortable, and not too hot, I went upstairs to the passenger deck. I bought one of those little cans of beer and sat down on a chair. I woke up two hours later in exactly the same position. Can of beer exactly positioned in my hand; I had not moved a muscle. I had simply passed out from the effects of stress and tiredness.

When I came round, having ignored the plaintive calls of my mobile phone, with beer intact, I immediately checked to see if I still had my wallet. Typical Londoner. (Although I know Barcelona is not a place for the gullible or the vulnerable, having heard enough rip-off stories about the place to fill a book).

Once the ferry had docked in Palma de Mallorca the trusty Metro was the first off pole. Rolling down the ramp onto Mallorquin soil, I don’t mind telling you I had another moment. I had no idea why I needed to be here, no real clue, really we’d been going on one of my ‘feelings’ for the past two years. My bf had turned down, and left, well paid jobs to work as a lowly assistant chef in a restaurant, and I had no job and no clue as to how I was going to make it all come together either. Little did either of us know how much was in front of us. As I answered his frantic call to tell him we’d arrived, all I could feel was achievement, having met the goal, with no idea why.

As I headed South West towards Andratx, my final destination, I heaved another sob, and squinted into the sun as it started to drop behind the Tramuntana Mountains.

Pity the Metro wasn’t a horse, as we could have ridden into the sunset.

Where the hell am I?

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather recently. Not sick exactly, just not on top of my game.

Perhaps it’s the sunshine. Or the enormous amount of Rosé that I seem to have to consume as soon as it gets hot.

I’m not sure. But after speaking to Tomas, my cultural correspondent for the show, I think perhaps, after all, it IS the sunshine. Tom used to live in Ireland, and hankers after the weather. I know, he needs his head examining doesn’t he? All that rain.

There’s a definate slump in activity as we slope towards the height of summer, and as the temperature rises you can expect a direct increase in shortened tempers and even shorter conversations.

I remember the first year that I lived in Mallorca: I watched in awe as my feet and ankles swelled whilst the temperature rose until I was immobilised by the heat. But since then it hasn’t really been a problem, I like it when it gets hot. But for some reason, this year, I can’t quite get it together. Amateur spiritualists have made suggestions that my moon is rising, my yang is in my yin, or I haven’t feng shuied my house to the nth degree, but actually I just think I’m a bit tired. But tired of what exactly?

It’s four years, last week, since I moved to Mallorca. I remember the hard work to get here, and the incredibly stressful drive through France and Spain with two hyperventilating cats, and then the overwhelming relief I felt when I finally got onto the ferry at Barcelona to make the final leg to Mallorca. It all sounds really romantic when I write it, but the actual reality is that living in Mallorca is tough. It’s not all Place in the Sun and moving documentaries. Sometimes it’s not much fun at all. At the moment we’re all starting to worry about the economy both here and in the UK.

Estate agents can’t quite bring themselves to admit that the low to mid range of properties are not moving as fast as they would like them to. Building companies are going bust left, right and centre. A plumber from the UK just bought Mallorca’s football team because it had to be sold due to the insolvency of its chairman. What the hell is going on? And what should we be doing?

Have we shot ourselves in our collective feet? Did we burn too many bridges? We’re committed to Mallorca, but is Mallorca committed to us?

I feel a theme of the week coming on.

Swimming Pool Safety

And now to the other topic which I have been banging on about recently.

Swimming pools – we’re not so used to them, us Ingles. Come on, admit it, swimming pools, outdoor and private ones that is, are just not that common in the UK. Well, they weren’t in Walthamstow when I left.

But in Mallorca, there’s plenty of them around and we need to keep an eye on them – they’ve got great potential for fun, and also for danger. So we need to take the whole subject rather seriously I’m afraid.

The statistics stack up – 400’000 people die every year in drowning accidents. I did some research into legislation for swimming pools in Spain and they’re nowhere near as stringent here as they are in France. If you own a pool in France it has to be fenced off so that little kids can’t wander over and fall in unnoticed by their parents and carers. It’s an EU regulation, so I don?t understand why it isn’t a requirement in Spain. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

I spoke to Becky from and she had a lot of helpful and practical advice to give:

  • It is a requirement of public pools to have their depths marked and for there to be a lifeguard on duty. There should also be a first aid kit available.
  • Don’t let your kids wear t-shirts in the water in lieu of sun protection as they can rise up over their heads. Just keep slapping on the sunblock.
  • Small children should always wear swimming nappies in the pool, if an number two accident happens then the pool should be completely drained as faeces contaminates the water

But it’s not just the water, it’s what’s in the water too which is a problem. If you over chlorinate your pool then you could be asking for trouble. Chlorine is being bunged into swimming pools all over the island and it can aggravate asthma and skin problems in kids, and adults. Basically, you’re swimming in bleach – but there are alternatives. You can try a new, kinder method using minerals, and again there seem to be EU regulations coming up which mean you will have to review your pool maintenance anyway. I spoke to Ian and John from this and they had plenty of scary things to say about chlorine – they are suppliers of mineral based pool treatments for the island. If we’re ever in the rather cosy position of having to worry about the maintenance of our swimming pool then I think I’d go for the natural and clever option rather than having blurry, stinging eyes…… it’s a no brainer really.

Jellyfish – look, don't touch

We were talking about Jellyfish on the radio and I’ve meaning to post some information about them – so, sorry for taking so long.

They look like blobs when washed up on the beach. But in the water jellies are graceful. They range in size from about 1 inch (2 1/2 centimetres) to 200 feet (61 metres) long. They have been drifting through the world’s oceans for more than 650 million years.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. They are invertebrates, relatives of corals and sea anemones. A jelly has no head, brain, heart, eyes, nor ears. It has no bones, either. To capture prey for food, jellies have a net of tentacles that contain poisonous, stinging cells. When the tentacles brush against prey thousands of tiny stinging cells explode, launching barbed stingers and poison into the victim.

Apparently, according to some people, we occasionally get stung by jellyfish because we reach out to touch them as they are so pretty. Well to me they just look incredibly creepy and I doggy paddle in the opposite direction whenever I see, or think I see, one. Yuurgh. Although I can understand why kids might find them attractive, and we do need to teach them to avoid the creatures as they can seriously hurt children.

So, if you get stung, here are some immediate steps to take:

A jellyfish fires its poison whenever its tentacles brush against an object. In humans, the poison usually causes a sharp, burning sensation that may last from minutes to hours.

  • Take note of jellyfish warning signs posted on the beach.
  • Be careful around jellies washed up on the sand. Some still sting if their tentacles are wet. Tentacles torn off a jelly can sting, too.
  • Wash the wound in salt water, not fresh water as that could release more poison.
  • Don’t rub the wound or cover it with any type of fabric as it can make the jellyfish stings spread.
  • You can pour ammonia, or even pee, on the wound to neutralise the sting. If you’re near a first aid station or a lifeguard on the beach then they might have some ammonia. If you’re close to a beach bar, just grab some vinegar. But if all else fails, just get someone to pee on you. If you’re really organised you can put a bicarbonate of soda and water paste on the sting,
  • See a doctor if you have an allergic reaction.

I spoke to a Marine Biologist, Shevi, from Marineland in Portals ( , and I’m hoping to go and meet up with her soon. She told me that Jellyfish are increasing in numbers and there are a number of potential reasons for this : the lack of predators (i.e. turtles and other creatures which would have eaten the jellyfish simply are not around in the numbers they need to be. Partly this is to do with the incredible amount of plastic bags and other rubbish floating around in the seas – the turtles, not known for their ability to recognise Tescos or Marks and Spencer bags, are eating these thinking they are jellyfish, then choking on them and dying. Nice). Also the sea temperature is rising and the jellyfish enjoy warmer temperatures. Although personally I don’t agree with that as you won’t catch me in the sea except in August when it finally feels like a warm bath.

This year in Mallorca so far, it’s been pretty cold in the waters. But the Jellyfish are on their way, look out for the word ‘medusas’ as this is one of the Spanish words for the nasty creatures.

UPDATE: So far (it’s now August 22nd) there has not been the jellyfish invasion that had been predicted. If I hear more, I’ll tell you.

Dance Summer School

Just to let you know that Pickles Ballroom is starting their first Summer Dance School at the studio from Monday July 14th through to mid September 2008. Children aged from 5-13 are welcome from 9am-2pm, Monday to Friday. They will be covering various dance styles, from Jazz, Modern, Ballet, Ballroom to Salsa and Hip-Hop, as well as opportunities for singing, drama and performance. Alongside this, they are also offering supervised activities including softball games, arts and crafts, films and books. Their teachers are experienced and qualified; prices start at 120€ per week with substantial discounts for additional children from the same family. Lunch can be included at a small extra charge. Hourly or Daily rates are also available. Please contact Ian and Anne on 606672419 for more information or to enrol your child. In the meantime, their evening dance classes, Pilates and Mums and Tots social group all continue over the summer in their air-conditioned studio – see their website for details.

Golf Summer School

The days at the Santa Ponsa Country club and Santa Ponsa 1 Golf course will be on a come if you wish basis.

21st July – 8th September inclusive

As of 21st July lessons will be at Santa Ponsa Golf 1 driving range every Monday at 10am untill 11am. Lessons are for any under 18 who wishes to come along.

The cost will be 15 euros per hour plus any range balls required (1 token costs 4,50 for 50 balls/1 or 2 tokens required depending on the child)

At 12 midday untill 1pm lessons will take place for younger golfers or beginners at Santa Ponsa Country Club, the cost will be 15 euros each including all equipment.

Mallorca Golf Academy are also organsing a “A day of Golf” for our young golfers.
This will entail 3 youngsters spending a day with their Professional Teacher Peter.
Pick up around 9am and transported to Golf Park Puntiro for a morning’s coaching and then 18 holes of golf with the teaching professional Peter Ledwidge.

The cost of the above will be 170 euros per golfer and we must have 3 in the group.

Available dates are 18th July, 24th July and 30th July, please call to book on 971 232878 or 669 188050.


‘What’s she saying?’ G’s Grandmother turns to me as if I am going to be able to translate my daughter’s babblings. G fixes her gaze on me and launches into another stream of complete nonsense accompanied by hand gestures and deeply serious facial expressions. ‘I haven’t a clue’ is the only reply I can give, as I truly don’t know what she’s on about.

I’m not exactly a baby expert you know, only having the one. So I don’t really know what to expect in the way of language development. My girl was born in Mallorca, she lives in an English speaking family, with English telly, music and books, and goes to a local municipal nursery where she is taught in Castillano and Catalan, and surrounded by other little Mallorquinas and Mallorquinos who are probably also growing up with at least two languages in their heads. She’s been at the nursery since she was a year old, which is almost two years ago now.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I know my girl is smart and quick – her sense of humour and understanding of what I am saying to her is absolutely on the button. I very proudly explain to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen to me that my daughter will be at the very least trilingual, and I hope she learns many more languages than that along the way. But right now she’s all over the place with what comes out of her own mouth.

Or is she? Perhaps it’s just me not understanding a little girl’s interpretation of the languages that are around her. I don’t know. And that’s what is frustrating me here. She is so desperate to communicate and talk to us, but most of what comes out is gibberish, to us at least. Which leads to the most almighty of tantrums and misunderstandings.

It’s galling when she hangs out with our Mallorquin friends, Tomas and Consul, who quickfire Catalan at her and she nods in assent whilst we gape in incomprehension. And even worse when we’re stopped in the street by a kindly, well-meaning neighbour who kicks off in Catalan again and G again enjoys a better conversation than we ever do.


I understand why Mallorca is so adamant that its schools should teach in Catalan, I do. It’s a cultural identity, one which was denied for so long by Franco. But isn’t it actually going to disable its young as they grow up studying predominantly in a language which isn’t spoken much outside of Catalonia (which, although of course it is the centre of the Universe, is not the centre of the Universe of educational possibilities for a bright, young thing – if they studied outside of the confines of Catalonia where Catalan is the prinicpal language, then how would they manage in Spanish, which would be their second language rather than their first? Does that disadvantage a student? Possibly).

I’m not fluent in Spanish, but I get by. I like to throw in the odd Catalan word here and there, to show willing, but really it’s so different to Castillano, that I don’t know when, if ever, I will truly understand it. Which leads me to my next worry….. what happens when G goes to school? How will I help her with her homework if I can’t understand it either? I’m not the only immigrant parent who suffers this indignity, plenty of my girlfriends with similar aged kids are in the same situation, and we’re going to have to figure out a solution before homework becomes important. Or cross our fingers that Mallorca will relax its stance on teaching mainly in Catalan and move over to the more international Castillano. I know that I am not alone in feeling that the insistence by the Balearic government for Catalan is misguided, you’d be surprised by how many local people also think it’s a foolish thing to be doing.

There’s a private school opening in September which is going to be teaching in English, German and Spanish…… which hits hard against my Socialist principals, and my need for my daughter to grow up in her local community. It’s not an easy decision, but something we won’t need to seriously think about until she’s bigger. For now, she’s going to the local school in the Port from September where she will learn in Catalan and Castillano and we will supplement that learning at home by teaching her to read and write in English.

When I first came to Mallorca, I considered the future which I hoped would have children in it, and it does, but I certainly didn’t consider the details which all currently seem to be in Catalan.