Month: November 2011

Rain? Pah!

So it persisted down last weekend, boy oh boy did it. We call it ‘money from the sky’ round these parts as it means we don’t have to pay Ramon to turn up in his big water truck (for some reason he always wears carpet slippers, I’ve yet to get to the bottom of that one) and fill up our cisterna as the rain runs straight off of the roof of our house and into the water tank.  I love a decent storm (complete with thunderous bangs and rattling windows) as long as I’m inside wrapped up in a snuggly jumper and sipping cups of tea whilst sitting by a roaring fire. I’m not alone in this view, I know. Unfortunately the rains started to fall on November the fifth, the same day as the Mallorca Cricket Club bonfire event and with the rain came the speculation that the long awaited fireworks display would be cancelled. Not so, rain does not stop play on this particular occasion, although it did test our resolve, could we really be bothered to brave the elements to go?

It was certainly a struggle to get myself, La Gidg and my husband out of the door and on the way to the party. Gidg was convinced that it was the worst idea ever, and was very cross at our insistence that she wear wellies and a raincoat. Even the promise of as many hotdogs and toffee apples as she wanted could not cheer her up. So it was in a black mood that we arrived at the cricket ground, but this miraculously started to clear as the rains ceased and the party began. The event is always well supported by local entertainers, and this year was no exception, plus of course there was the food: Mick and Spencer’s hotdogs, Jerry’s Hogroast and Wendy’s addictive gingerbread people and traditional Parkin. I’ve got to admit I’m really bothered about the actual fireworks (sorry), I was just happy to be eating and bumping into people I haven’t seen all summer. Gidg changed her tune completely and had a fabulous time, before crashing out in the car as soon as we left, truly exhausted with all of the excitement.

The MCC Bonfire Night party is reputed to be one of the biggest expat gatherings in Spain, I’ve heard that some years they have had up to five thousand people go through their gates! This year was the 17th time that they had organised the party and approximately 1’500 people came from all over the island to enjoy the occasion: good for them for not letting the prospect of some bad weather getting the better of them, very British! My congratulations go to the club for continuing this fantastic community event; they certainly work extremely hard to make it so successful and enjoyable. You can find out more about the cricket club here:


By Vicki McLeod

(first published Euro Weekly News 10th November 2011)

The three ‘R’s

La Gidg has just turned six, and is in Primary One at school. This is big stuff and has brought with it the beginnings of homework. I’ve been trying to instil discipline into my daughter: when she has homework to do it is done immediately before any fun stuff like playing with the cats or watching the evil ‘Tiny Pops’ on the T.V. In order to get around this she has been known to do her maths and Catalan homework in the car on the way home. Job done, right? Wrong. As this leaves me with my own personal mission for my darling girl that of learning to read and write properly in English. We do the bedtime story every night with mixed success. Some nights it’s a walk in the park, and other times it’s a total disaster ‘I don’t WANT to read it, I’m TIRED’. Okay, point taken, and we don’t push too hard. Let’s face it, she is learning to communicate in three languages simultaneously, but I do worry that her English reading and writing skills won’t be up to much unless I persist.

So I was very happy to meet Julie Staley from Kip McGrath Education Centre recently and get to know about her tutoring business which is based in Son Rapinya (at the Son Quint Golf Course). Contrary to some reports Kip McGrath is not a language school, in fact my husband said exactly that, ‘Oh isn’t that the language school?’ (An emphatic NO from Julie).  In fact, as La Gidg and I discovered last weekend it’s a place for kids to go throughout the week to improve their English, and their maths, as well as also offering support for Catalan and Castilian homework demands.

‘Mummy, what are we doing here?’ ‘The lady said that she had heard about how good you are at reading, writing and maths, and she wanted to meet you’ I bluffed, not wanting to say that I thought we might need a bit of leg up to get her reading in English up to speed. I shouldn’t have worried about whether Gidg would enjoy the session though as she was made to feel right at home. She loved the worksheets, the conversation, and the bespoke interactive games on the computers.

The outcome? As expected she needs a bit of help with reading in English, when she’s not being coached by her doting mama she struggles with the ends of words (let’s nip that in the bud then), but she aced the maths. So, off we will trot to Kip McGrath every Saturday morning for the next month, to see if we can get on track. I think I will learn as much about helping Gidg as she will about the pronunciation of English. But the last word should go to her: ‘Gidg what did you think about the place we went to on Saturday?’ She flips her hair and looks at the ceiling (when did my six year old enter her teens?), ‘It was cool, I got to play games on their computer’. Well, as they say, learning is easy, unlearning is hard.

Find out more about Kip McGrath here:

Manners maketh the motorist

I am on a mission. It may well be a one woman mission at the moment, but gather round brothers and sisters and let’s see if we can’t get something going here.

I want to instigate a ‘Just Say Thank You’ campaign for drivers. I’m trying to get past the irritation of giving way to another motorist but not being acknowledged for it, and instead have decided to lead the way in manners. So even when it is I who has been ‘patiently’ waiting (whilst muttering under my breath and drumming my knuckles on the dashboard) for an oncoming car to negotiate whatever obstacle is blocking our mutual path, it shall be me that will pop up my hand above the steering wheel briefly yet politely as the car passes. This is in the hope that I can instil a new habit around these parts of automatic ‘thankyous’.

Now we know that by and large the British are boringly polite, I can get at least two ‘pleases’, a ‘sorry’ and an ‘if you wouldn’t mind’ into the average sentence. And yes, I do hold the door open for other people. I think it’s the right thing to do, and my grandparents would rotate in their graves if I didn’t. I’ve also brought up my daughter to say the ‘please, thank you, you’re welcome’ mantra: she doesn’t get what she wants without those magic words. There was a time that I wondered if these words were an automatic response, did that mean that they were not meant sincerely, did it lessen their importance? But I don’t think so as politeness gets you such a long way, they’re like the grease in the conversation engine; they show respect to the other person. Don’t forget Aesop’s fable about the sun and the wind: who had a wager to see which one of them could disrobe a man; the wind blew fiercely and the man pulled his coat tighter around him, and the sun shone brightly and the man gladly took off his coat.

There are more advanced driving pleasantries which I’m not sure Mallorca is ready for yet, such as the one where you are being overtaken by a lorry on a motorway, and after they have got far enough ahead you give them a little ‘flash’ with your headlights and they know it’s safe to move into your lane. I once almost killed myself with that one driving at night when I changed my car headlights from ‘flood’ to ‘dim’ and the lorry overtaking me at the time took it as a signal to pull in front, whilst running me off the M1 into a ditch at the same time.

Perhaps together we can spread it around: just keep saying ‘Thank you’. I am hoping that in much the same way as Pavlov’s dog started to salivate whenever a bell rang that just the sight of another driver giving way will instigate an automatic Automobile Association salute. Alternatively I might just become known locally as that nutty woman in the Kangoo who likes waving.

(first published Euro Weekly News 27th October 2011)