Month: November 2012

New balls please

So, I am back in Mallorca, and after the all-you-can-eat extravaganza which was the UK, I am now on a diet in order to fit back into my clothes. What was here in the newspapers to greet me on my return? Only photos of our Minister for Tourism on a hunting trip: Sr. Carlos Delgado with a set of dead animal’s testicles placed on his head and blood running down his face. That put me off my dinner, I can tell you. I thought it was just the British politicians who were getting involved with animal gonads on questionable holidays with Z list celebrities, seems like the Mallorcan ones are getting in on the act too.

This is the same Sr. Delgado who on a recent trip to the UK for the World Travel Market was invited to a breakfast meeting by British tour operators. The tour ops roundly criticised the ruling bodies of Mallorca for not doing enough to solve the problems of Magalluf: the prostitutes, pickpockets and muggers, the frequent deaths of young people as they fall off balconies, and the terrible accidents that happen on Punta Ballena. The British tour operators bring hundreds of thousands of people to Mallorca every year, and they have stated that the safety of their customers is of the utmost importance, so Mallorca must do something about this.

And it is getting really difficult to understand how Mallorca is ever going to improve its standing with the UK tourist industry if they don’t get a grip on how the Brits feel about animals and how we feel about privilege and the abuse of the class system. Mallorca does have a class system, and most of us are on the lower rungs of the ladder whilst Sr Delgado is most definitely up there at the top. Why allow yourself to be photographed with animal genitalia on your head? How does that make you appear? When a PR client tells me that they don’t want to have a Facebook account because they don’t want to have ‘naked drunken photos’ of themselves posted on the site, I tell them that the simplest way to prevent that from happening is to not have the photos taken in the first place. A minister for Tourism should surely understand about first impressions and the media? I thought Mallorca was supposed to be restyling itself as a holiday destination for outside pursuits like cycling, climbing and sailing, perhaps he missed the memo.

In the past year the main stories that have been in the UK media about Mallorca are: Bradley Wiggins goes to Mallorca (great), David Cameron goes on holiday to Pollensa, (good) Kerry Katona goes on holiday to Portals (not everyone’s cup of tea, but still good coverage) young people are run over on Punta Ballena (bad bad bad, video went viral),  young people die when they fall off balconies after having drunk too much in Magalluf (terrible) and this week, in the Daily Mail, our Minister of Tourism wears testicles on his head (story went viral, hit the Daily Mail which apparently has one of the world’s most read websites…. bad with a capital B for Bollocks). Even tennis player Rafa Nadal normally our ‘good news’ story has been a ‘get well soon’ story this year. So perhaps rather than wearing them on his head Sr. Delgado may like to strap on a pair and get on with revitalising the tourism industry, or step aside and let someone else do the job.

New balls please, new balls.

(Come along now! Mallorca desperately needs a makeover in eyes of the international press and there are a handful of people independently working in PR (I’m thinking the delicious Sarah Drane of Purple Cake Factory, the awesome Anna Nicholas of ANA Communications, and the fabulous Dominque Carroll from the Foment Del Tourismo) on the island who are trying to do exactly that. I am going to join them and my mission will also be to get better coverage for our beautiful home. I will be organising press trips for journalists to come to the island in the new year, so if you have a business or would like to make a suggestion of somewhere they should visit whilst they are here then please click on the ‘leave a comment’ link at the top of this article). 

P.S. Image is taken from the Daily Mail website

P.P.S. The author’s opinion is not necessarily the opinion of any of her clients, yadda yadda.

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Culinary journeys

As I write this I am in the UK. Although I have never attempted space travel before, it does feel as if I have landed on another planet! I am trying to re-enter the atmosphere at as slow a speed as possible in order to appreciate all the differences, good or bad to Britain as I used to know it, and indeed Mallorca as I know it now. But goodness me UK haven’t you changed? Or have I just forgotten what it is like to be here?

First stop is Marks and Spencers food hall at the airport for a sandwich, and some interesting things called ‘Choc Bites’. Then it’s straight to Smiths for newspapers, and then on to the train. No one talks to each other on the train, that rule seems to have remained the same anyway. I turn my attention to my mobile lunch and nom down the sandwich (classic egg mayonnaise and cress on malted brown) in record time. Why can’t the Spanish make a decent sammie? They never have any moisture or freshness about them do they? And there’s no variety either, there’s only three choices, Jamon, Queso, or Jamon and Queso. Egg and cress isn’t asking too much is it? But then, I crack open the ‘Choco Bites’ and as I pop one into my mouth idly read the ingredients. I almost spit the bloody thing out (almost, but no, it is a sin to spit out chocolate) when I realise in this tiny, tiny, tiny slip of a thing there are over 200 calories. What? That means in the bag of 5 ‘Choco Bites’ there is a total of 1000 calories. I stuff them back into my bag. Make them last McLeod, I tell myself.

I have to change at Birmingham New Street station so I prepare to step out into the cold evening air, what I am not prepared for is the stink. The station reeks of diesel, everywhere, on the platforms, in the ticket office, waiting room, everywhere. Is that a new thing? Is this because I now live in the relatively fresh air of Mallorca that I am super sensitive to smell, or have railway stations just got stinkier whilst I have been away? I am lured again to the takeaway stands and soon enough am clutching a super sized cup of coffee and (sucker) two cookies. Thankfully these cookies don’t come with a calorie counter so I eat them in ignorant bliss, then dig out the ‘Choco Bites’ and think, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and they go the same way. To be honest, they weren’t all that, it’s only greed.

Eventually I reach my hotel, which is a Premier Inn. I am disappointed to not be welcomed by Lenny Henry, but soon enough I am installed in my new reasonably comfortable room and directed to the restaurant. Again I cannot resist my curiosity to see what is on the menu. I have to call my husband back in Mallorca to tell him what is on the menu: it is pie night, and not only that, it is All-You-Can-Eat Pie Night. He seethes with jealousy and tells me that he loves pies more than he loves me. So of course, I have to try them, but they’re not as good as I imagined they would be. And then I roll into my room for a night’s kip.

In the morning, I rock back down to the restaurant for breakfast, it’s another A-Y-C-E extravaganza – all you can eat bacon? Has the world gone mad? I decide not to call my husband again as bacon ranks higher than pies, which means he loves me more than my breakfast as well. The breakfast hits the spot, they even have crumpets, but I’m not hungry after yesterday’s eatathon. On my way to my first meeting I calculate that I have already consumed double the calories that I should have in the past 18 hours and I have another five days to go. Perhaps I should be walking to my meetings rather than letting the train take the strain.

Movember

Happy Movember to one and all! Yes, you read that correctly, this is Movember, not November, at least it will be in my house. Movember is a yearly event to raise awareness of men’s health issues and as such is responsible for the sudden appearance of furry growths on the top lips of many normally tonsured faces. Yes, November has become Movember because for the whole thirty days of the month men are encouraged to grow moustaches!

This for me is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand I love to call my husband’s bluff: he has on many occasions spoken about growing a D’Artagnan style moustache, or even a ‘Niven’, but until now has completely chickened out of the actual growing and sporting of said facial accessory. The closest he has ever got to having a moustache has been when he has taken his own sweet time in the bathroom shaving off his beard and perhaps just rested in between strokes of the razor to see what he would look like with a handlebar, or a Dali, or perhaps even a Super Mario Brother. But on the other hand, snogging a fella with a moustache, well, I guess everyone has to make sacrifices for charity and health awareness.

My husband has said that he would definitely do it if we were still living in London as plenty of his friends would be doing it with him, so this has led me to try to form the S’Arraco Moustache Club. So far I have not been able to recruit one single person, but I am determined as it starts today, Movember 1st. The rules are such: each ‘Mo Bro’  (that’s the cute name you get if you participate) must start the month clean shaven. For the entire month the Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache. There is to be no joining of the mo to the sideburns as that is considered a beard. And there is to be no joining of the handlebars to the chin as that is considered a goatee. And, (this is the best rule), each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman.

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the month of Movember and through their actions and words raise the profile of men’s health issues, such as prostrate and testicular cancer which is often still not spoken about as it is such a private issue for so many people. Some get sponsored to grow their moustache at the money goes to men’s health charities. At the end of the month there is often a party (I am using this as a way to encourage the Moustache Club: come on Bros! There will be Scotch eggs and beer!). ‘Mo Sistas’ are the women who support the Bros. The most supportive thing you can do is not, repeat NOT snigger at the early days attempts. Teenage ‘bumfluff’ moustache or full on ‘Tom Selleck’, it is the thought that counts.

Since its humble beginnings in Melbourne, Australia Movember has grown to become a truly global movement inspiring more than 1.9 Million people. Last year over 854,000 people  around the world got on board, raising GBP 79.3 million. Big steps have been taken towards changing attitudes and habits relating to men’s health around the world but there is still much to be done to catch up with the women’s health movement.  You can get more information at http://www.movember.com . If you are planning to a fundraising Movember moustache campaign in Mallorca then please let me know!

Press Play

Recently, whenever I have been asked how I am, I haven’t really known how to answer the question. I neither this nor that; neither up or down; neither happy or sad. It’s a curious position to be in, this neutral state. Meanwhile there are a lot of changes going on in people’s lives I know that, this seems to be the season of ebb and flow in Mallorca. People are leaving the island, others are getting new jobs, businesses are closing, and we are all changing our summer wardrobes for our winter ones. (There should be less ebb and more flow on the tidy campaign in my house, but even that seems to have paused).

So in preparation for the winter season I have been busy busy cooking up some interesting things to do at Mood Beach in Costa D’en Blanes which will hopefully keep us entertained. There are several things in the pipeline so please let me know if any of this tickles your cockles. I am preparing a Winter Fair, a Homes and Interiors Fair, a Wedding and Events Fair and a Pet Show. There will be language lessons every weekday morning (Beginners Russian, German and Spanish and intermediate Spanish too) starting in November. There will be some brunch and lunchtime events as well, and every week there will be an event on Thursday evening: I am planning to have a writers’ and book group, a regular live music event for acoustic musicians, wine tastings and of course The Supper Club.

The Supper Club has been going for almost a year now. It is a very friendly and relaxed group for people who would like to make new friends and possibly business connections as well. We meet once a month on a Thursday normally. Our next meeting is tonight (Thursday 25th October) at 7pm. It costs 15€ per session to be participate and this includes two glasses of wine or beer or soft drinks, and a supper plate, plus the speaker or presenter. This month we have Kate Mentink who will be speaking about her role as Assistant Director at the Centre Baleares Europa and the European Citizens Department. A lot of Mallorcan residents know Kate from her time as a Councillor for Calvia Council, so it will be good to get back up to date with her.

Also to update you on two very exciting developments recently: firstly my DJ debut went so well that I have been asked to do the whole thing again on Saturday November 17th so if you like 70s and 80s music and like to dance, then that’s not a night to be missed. And the choir had its first meeting last Saturday: twenty five people turned up for the first rehearsal, and almost all of them were women. So if you’re a fella and you would like to join a friendly and fun group then make sure you head down to Mood Beach this Saturday morning to sign up for the Mallorca Community Choir! Rehearsals are from 11am until 12.30pm.

So even though it feels as if I have hit ‘PAUSE’ it’s only to draw breath for the next big push! If there’s anything you are interested to join in with or want more information about then please get in touch with me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/vicki.mcleod or by email vicki@moodbeach.com.

Sing like you’re winning

‘The only thing better than singing is more singing,” said Ella Fitzgerald. I’ve got to say that I agree with her, I’ve always sang: in the car, in the shower, occasionally on a stage, mostly to myself, but since being a grown up I’ve never had the chance to sing in a choir. So I am filled with anticipation and excitement about this coming weekend as at 11am on Saturday October 20th we will have the first meeting of the newly formed Mallorca Community Choir. I think that being part of a gang, a group, a choir looks like a lot of fun. It promises to be a really uplifting experience, and I think there’s a few of us that could do with something to lift our spirits over the winter.  So why not give it a go? Absolutely everyone is welcome to come and see what it is all about. No experience is needed, and if you think you can’t sing prepare to surprise yourself as you will improve as you practice.

The choir leader, Emma Sweeney, has just moved to the island and is ready and eager to start. The choir won’t be expensive, the rehearsal space is being donated by Mood Beach Bar and Restaurant, and the subscriptions will be literally to cover the cost of buying sheet music and any other expenses that a choir might incur. The first meeting will be an informal get together to see how many people may be interested to join and to get to know each other. The meeting will be at Mood Beach Bar & Restaurant, Ctra Km 11 Palma – Andratx, Costa D’en Blanes. To help you orientate yourself: Mood is between Marineland and Sporting Tennis Club.

But what about you, does the idea of singing fill you with joy or dread? Did you know that singing is good for you?

Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, has studied developmental and medical aspects of singing for 30 years: “The health benefits of singing are both physical and psychological. Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being. Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.” Seriously, what’s not to like?

You can contact the choir leader Emma through http://www.mallorcatutors.com or just turn up this Saturday at 11am at Mood.

Musical memory lane

I was a teenager in the 80’s. I grew up with Duran Duran, Wham, Bronski Beat, The Smiths, The Jacksons, Madonna well not literally, but you know what I mean. Their music was continually playing on my little radio. I was a fanatical about it all. I would record the Top Forty on a Sunday evening, trying to pause the tape in between the songs so that I didn’t have to listen to Mike Reid wibbling on. And then of course there was Smash Hits. This magazine was the highlight of my and my friend Catherine’s week. We would pour over it, reading about our favourite bands, and of course drooling over the prettiest boys. We were both enormous fans of Duran Duran, and to save argument, or because it was convenient, we just decided to not fancy the same person in the band: so she had Nick Rhodes, the keyboard player, and I had John Taylor, the bassist. We think they would have approved of our choices.

Growing up though, I started to be embarrassed by my teens, and I dismissed the 80’s as a period of music which was best forgotten. But now I am beginning to come to terms with what a fantastic decade for music it really was, and what a lot of personality it had. This weekend coming, Saturday evening to be precise, there is going to be one of the largest ever reunions of tour guides to be held in Mallorca. The hard working people from ILG who worked here in that golden decade of tourism, the 80s, are getting together to party, talk and dance. Now you may find this a little bit out there, but I have always wondered what it would be like to be a DJ, I’ve presented radio shows before, and yes, there is music in them, but being a DJ is completely different. After leaning over several DJ’s shoulders and irritating them with stupid questions I made the foolish decision that it couldn’t be that difficult after all. So I have volunteered to be the DJ for Saturday night’s party: 70s and 80s classics only. Suits me fine.

Armed with a decade’s worth of Smash Hits and an encyclopaedic knowledge of music from 1975 to 1989, my DJ debut will be this Saturday night at Mood Beach. I’m planning a celebration of the music I loved and grew up with, and a boogie down memory lane. My colleagues and friends think it is hilarious that a 42 year old mother could want to be or even try to be a DJ. And you have to have a DJ name they keep telling me (DJ Mammy is currently their favourite) as they snigger behind their hands. Meanwhile to keep myself calm I keep secretly thinking ‘it’s just putting on records, right?’ We’ll see I guess. Please come along and support me, from 11pm on Saturday at Mood Beach in Costa D’en Blanes. Entrance is free.

Making business work

So, we’re almost back to normal. Or at least our version of normal. La Gidg is back to school full time and so this should mean that I can get all of my work in without having to burn the candle at both ends. Yeah, right *laughs hollowly.

Let’s examine again the situation in Spain. The current condition that the economy is in means that we all have to make savings and try to find ways of living on less as the government wants us to pay more taxes. This also means that we have to make sure that every hour counts. So why, please explain this to me, is the costs of my child’s care not counted as a business expense when I do my tax returns? She stays at school from 2pm until 5pm and that costs us in the region of 200€ extra a month. That includes the cost of her lunch and the playground supervisor, and then an after school activity from 4pm until 5pm. Now if I didn’t pay for that then I would have to pick her up at 2pm and then do what? Take her back to work with me? (This has happened on occasion and she is very good at sitting and colouring in, but it’s just not interesting for her, not healthy either, and certainly doesn’t look all that professional if you’re constantly in ‘take your daughter to work’ mode).  So it is a business expense. If I didn’t pay for it, I wouldn’t be able to work for the 15 hours a week that it covers. This drives me mad, and has done for years. I’ve asked every single politician I have ever met why they think that this is excluded from permitted expenses, and not one has ever been able to give me a sensible response.

So whilst my taxes increase I am still not permitted to declare either my child care or a portion of my mortgage: we have a dedicated office in our house but because we don’t have a separate door to the office, it’s not permitted. Well the gloves are off, and it’s time to start making some waves. These policies are anti-business, and sexist. How can any person, especially women (who are naturally entrepreneurial) seriously try to go into business for themselves when the obvious expenses that they would incur to make a go of the business are not allowed to be declared? And on top of that you have to pay over 200€ a month to be an autonomous worker, but if you lose work you can’t claim any benefits or help. Where is the encouragement in that? Where is the motivation to try? Especially when you hear the kind of stories that I do about people exploiting their contracts with their employers, or businesses not declaring their taxes, or people not even paying autonomo because “it’s just not worth it”.

Meanwhile, a young man I know just got the sack from his employers. He wasn’t made redundant, and he didn’t resign, he got the sack. If that was the UK benefits system he wouldn’t get anything, but in Spain, no: he gets sixteen months guaranteed benefits, and is on the ‘paro’.  It sickens and frustrates me. Where’s the encouragement Sr. Rajoy? Why should I continue to stress myself out trying to make my business work when you don’t seem to care? I know why, because that’s the sort of person I am. Is there anyone out there who feels the same way?

Pant Zero

With the autumn comes the need to change the family wardrobe around. We put away the summer stuff and fetch out the winter. There is a lag in the process of course, when you’ve got both out as you can’t tell from one day to the next if you are going to be most comfortable in a t-shirt or long sleeves, shorts or trousers. This makes my recent pseudo-housewife achievement even more remarkable: I managed to reach ‘Pant Zero’.

Pant Zero is when every single item of clothing, including underwear is clean and put away in a cupboard. There isn’t anything on the line, in the ironing pile in the washer going smelly, or in the basket waiting for any parts of the aforementioned to happen to it. To be honest, the ironing pile doesn’t normally exist in our house anyway – when we are visited by a female relative of a certain age it seems as if they have gone ironing mad. If they intercept and get their hands on the pile of dry, clean washing before it is sorted and folded and put away they seem to delight in ironing stuff that frankly in our opinion doesn’t need it: socks for example, SOCKS. Why? Answers please to the address below..

So I can’t tell you how accomplished and organised reaching knicker nirvana made me feel. If only I could apply this level of pristine military precision to every area of my life. Perhaps because my family’s pants are now clean and put away we will arrive everywhere on time, our taxes will be paid, we will put out the correct recycling on the correct night, we will remember to send birthday cards a week before the event, and many other admirable and ‘Superwoman’ like characteristics will suddenly become easy and natural to us.

I did meet someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety recently, this person had to clean their hands very frequently, and carried around with them a little bottle of hand sanitiser and wet wipes to do just that job. What a good idea thought I. Reflecting on this I realise that I might be going a little doolally, it is just as okay to go to a sink and wash your hands I told myself. Perhaps when the world gets even more out of control we will all start carrying around little bottles of Dettol, “Yes, Spain is in terrible debt, we can’t afford to eat but at least my family’s knickers are folded and my hands are clean”. It could happen. On the other hand (you see what I did there?) apparently chaos is part of being creative.  Or I could try to reach Pant Zero minus One or is that perhaps a step too far? This would be when you have everything clean and put away and you aren’t wearing any pants at all because even they are in the drawer lining up with their fellows. If you’re into army style folding and aligning everything in your knicker drawer then going commando could be where it’s at.

Ten golden minutes

The summer holidays are almost at an end. Parents all over the island are looking forward to breathing out and getting back to the old routine. Every year since La Gidg started at school it has been a three month long struggle to juggle work and keep her entertained and even (fancy that) try to enjoy the summer myself. I’ve never managed to achieve all three at the same time. And as the heat increases so my patience decreases exponentially.

This year I promised myself, my husband and my little girl that things were going to be different. My strategy? To plan a lot of activities so there was no chance to get bored, and not to work in August. Has it worked? I would say we have an eighty percent success rate. We have not had too many rows or moments where I thought I was going to explode with frustration and Gidg has actually wanted to go to her different activities. At the moment she is learning to sail at the yacht club in Port Andratx (a bit of a bargain at only 70€ for two weeks of lessons) and is loving it. She went to Kip McGrath in Palma as well and had a great time with the other kids making 3D models of cities. We had a great barbecue at home and had lots of adults and children over for the day to eat, drink and play. And we even went on an actual holiday to visit my mum in France, although my PC went with me.

One of the things I wonder about when Gidg and I do things together is how much of the event will she remember when she is older. I think about it a lot to be honest: will this be the thing that sticks in her mind, or will it be something banal to me that I don’t realise is important to her. If I ask her, what is your first memory she replies telling me she remembers being born! But then her next memory is of turning four and her “Princess Party”, but it’s vague. I can clearly remember holidays and events from the summer when I was six years old, so I hope this summer has been special in more ways than one, I think this will be the first year that she will properly recall when she is grown.

This struck me as I was surrounded by children playing in my back garden at dusk at the end of a beautifully sunny August Sunday. The kids weren’t arguing, they weren’t fighting over a Nintendo, they weren’t fixed to the goggle box, instead they were showing each other magic tricks and playing happily together. Their parents all looked on indulgently, with glasses of this or that in their hands, their bellies full from feasting on a successful barbie, smiling and sighing about how lovely everything was. It was perfect, before it all went wrong: somebody was accused of cheating or copying and half of them stomped off to watch a cartoon and the other half complained about things not being fair and the adults had to leap into action to break up the fight, but for that ten golden minutes in the summer of 2012, everyone was happy.

All together now

It seems rather fitting, what with it being the Paralympics starting this week to be doing something to benefit and encourage disabled people who live in Mallorca. Next week on Wednesday September 5th I’m getting together a group of young musicians to do a benefit concert for Aspace.

Aspace is a centre for people with cerebral palsy and other similar disabilities. They support babies and children as they grow up, and through school and continue to work with adults right throughout their lives. The organisation has been going in Mallorca for thirty five years. It was set up by concerned parents who felt that the educational and physical needs of their children were not being met. Back then in the mid Seventies there weren’t such things as ramps to get into buildings, or toilets big enough to get a wheelchair into, let alone the idea that someone using a wheelchair may be capable of holding down a job. Now the centre has grown and Aspace has over a hundred registered users of all ages. They offer a comprehensive service for people with disabilities and this means that they are helping disabled people integrate into school, and work and helping them to lead their lives to the full and enjoy themselves.

I have to declare an interest. I worked for many years in the UK in the theatre, in particular community theatre with different groups of disabled people (both physical and learning disabilities), so integration and inclusion are things which I really feel strongly about. And I think that local young musicians need to be encouraged and supported as they develop as well so hopefully this will be the first of a series of concerts we will do throughout the year. So that’s why I am organising a concert next at 7pm Wednesday September 5th at Mood Beach.

Local youngsters from the island will play a mixture of their own and others’ songs. Performers include Luke Evans, Giorgio Garrett, and the band Jipsy. The evening will be hosted by comedian Glynis German. The money we raise will go to the Aspace centre and will be spent on musical activities, I like that: musicians raising money for other musicians. To get hold of tickets or for more information contact me on vicki@moodbeach.com