Month: July 2011

All the fun of the fair

When I was a kid we had a big recreational park at the end of our road. For most of the year we were free to enjoy the vast lawns, the swings, the paddling pool, the outdoor swimming pool, the tennis courts and the bowling green (to be honest, we didn’t ever go in the bowling green though, that was strictly out of bounds unless you were over 60 and wearing white).  We (my brothers and I) were quite frightened of the park warden, who seemed to be permanently grumpy: the zenith of that being the day when our dog brought down a model airplane and ate it. The dog was banned unless he was on a lead from that point on.  But there was something in the park that was scarier than the warden.

Every August bank holiday weekend the park was taken over by a huge county show, including a donkey derby and mini tractor racing, and yes, even a ‘best cake’ competition but the biggest draw was the funfair which came to life at night. Now, according to my mum (who worked in Health and Safety) this fair had to be run by cowboys and morons and if any one of us dared to get on a ride (which clearly, according to her, must have not been serviced and would be missing some crucial nut or bolt) then we would surely die after being flung 50 metres across the park into something hard and most probably pointy, i.e. the railings. This approach to funfairs was instilled in me from an early age: I was seven when we moved to the house with the evil fair up the road. The bumper cars were allowed, there always seemed to be a bloke with a fag in his mouth hanging off the end of ours; and the waltzers as well, they were more or less attached something solid, but if you were ever caught squandering your pocket money on something which swung around at great speed at anything above head height, well you’d better look for somewhere new to live.

This meant that mostly we had to entertain ourselves with trying to win goldfish on the Hook-A-Duck stall and eyeing up the candy floss sellers (it’s not a diet food is it? Cast an eye over your average candy floss seller, do they have their own teeth? My mum also had an opinion on that, but it was deemed less fatal than going on any ride which actually left the ground).

So, I had to jump over some old preconceptions this weekend when I took La Gidg down to the local fair in Port Andratx. The demonis in the Corre Foc still scare her, but the fair fascinates her. I am the other way around, so it was a real pleasure to share with her the things that I know do make a fair: please welcome to the Family Matters pet roll call of honour, Whizzy the Goldfish. It took two attempts to get him, but I was determined. And no, we didn’t brush our teeth after the candy floss, we can live a little dangerously, after all.



Bobbing along

I have a tune in my head: ‘Bobbing along, bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea’…. I have been singing it to myself for the past few days in an attempt to cool down. Mallorca seems to have skipped July and gone straight for the crazy heat of August. Que calor!

The best place to cool down is the local pool, and we’re blessed to have the municipal one just down the road from us.  It’s a bargain too, for the whole year, for a family to use the indoor and outdoor pools in the borough of Andratx it costs an incredible 100€.  La Gidg likes the responsibility of looking after her own membership card, and we like the fact that it costs less than 30c a day to go swimming.

This does throw up the issue of what to wear. La Gidg has got 6 different sets of costumes and kiddie bikinis, Ollie has two pairs of shorts (neither of them the hilarious budgie smuggler speedos that you see on some more of the optimistic male swimmers), and I have an elderly swimming costume which I guess I should replace. But what with? Looking in women’s magazines you can choose from many different cossies which apparently will ‘flatter your shape’. But they all come down to the same thing: 2 millimetres of lycra and a smile. It’s a fallacy surely, how can anything like that actually work? If you haul it in in one area, it has to poke out somewhere else. What I find works for me is shouting and pointing at something imaginary in the far distance and whilst everyone is distracted doing a runner to the pool. I have also become one of those women who doesn’t like to get her hair wet, so I don’t leap into the pool, but hurriedly scuttle down the steps tout suite.

But then, heaven. Like a herd of hippos having a mud bath, we stay submerged until everything goes wrinkly. Thankfully there is a bar which sells a mean G & T, and ice cream. If we would move in if we could.

That is not a possibility though, and work will insist on raising its persistent head. Strategically booking appointments in air conditioned offices with water coolers is the only way forward when out and about. Failing that there is always the option of sitting directly in front of a fan, but that doesn’t work so well if you have to answer the phone, ‘Where are you? You sound like you’re in a wind tunnel’.

In the end it’s all about mind over matter, so why not join me in a rousing chorus, ‘Bobbing along, bobbing along….’


So car sales have been on the slide for a full twelve months now. The Spanish car association ANFA said that sales are down by over 30% compared with June 2010. We know we’re all broke and having to make do and mend. Depressing isn’t it?

So you’d think there’d be some deals out there in the car industry. Well that’s why we thought so we went car shopping the other day. Following a thorough plough through the car websites (my husband’s speciality, as I can’t tell one car from another, I’ve got more important things to worry about) the search had been narrowed down to two likely candidates: both of which have showrooms on the Son Castello estate in Palma. So off we went, hopeful, frantically doing sums in our heads and practising our best ‘surely you can offer us a better price’ poker faces.

The first place we went to was shut for lunch. Let’s call it Showroom A. That was kind of annoying. Showroom B at least was open, and in we went. The car that my husband had earmarked on the website wasn’t out on display and we asked to see one. ‘Yes, come over here and see this one we’ve just taken delivery of,’ a promising start. We had a little tour of the car, it seemed pretty good, you know: four wheels, the normal amount of doors. How much is the car? We asked, expecting to start a haggle, to be told it was a full two grand more than the car advertised on the site. ‘We don’t sell that model in Spain,’ we’re told. What? It’s advertised on the Spanish version of the website. ‘Yeah,’ shrug, ‘I know. I could order it for you, it would take about seven months to get the car.’ And if we order this one we asked, pointing at the more expensive version of the same thing. ‘A week.’ Okay, don’t call us.

Back we went to showroom A. At least this time the doors were open, but no one seemed to be home. We looked around the cars, established that there might actually be one at the same price as advertised and paced around looking like we might have a few euros burning a hole in our pocket. No one appeared. Okay, time for a coffee. We’d come back.

Two con leches later we returned. Result! There were actual people in the salesroom looking like they might actually be able to sell us an actual car. Looking back that was a foolish presumption to make. The two sales people we could see were occupied with other potential customers, so we twiddled our thumbs for a bit and got in and out of cars, testing the leg room etc. Quite a lot of time went past before we realised that neither of these sales people had any intention of acknowledging us, not even a ‘Hola, please take a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute.’ I guess there might be some deals out there, if you’ve got the patience to wait for them. After half an hour of being totally ignored, we left. Car industry in a slump? Spain staring down the barrel of an economic crisis? I wonder why.