Month: December 2014

Revolutionary Thoughts.

From Daily Tech

I had another of those conversations about running a business in Spain this week. It was with a good friend who runs a very successful photography business in Mallorca. When she started to live here she had a meeting with a gestor who told her the minimum amounts of money she would have to earn to make it profitable to be legal, and she said she almost didn’t bother trying. She’s a gifted photographer who speaks fluent Spanish and English and she is delivering a top notch service, you’d think that this would make it easy to make money. No, gestor fees, the taxes and the autonomos charges cripple a small business, it’s exhausting to have to keep your head above all of this and stay in front of your declarations, and that’s on top of your actual business and whatever that requires.

Now this week in Spain there has been a change in several laws. Firstly you may have heard about the Google News shutdown for Spain because the Government decided, (in a spectacular show of how little they understand the internet or promotion) that Google should pay to use any news clippings that they pull from newspaper websites. Then there is the new gagging laws whereby if I or you decide to peacefully protest, about what…? Ooh, let’s see perhaps we would like to protest about the ridiculous cost of running a small business in Spain or the corruptness of politicians… Well you can’t do that now, you can receive a fine of (are you sitting down?) 600,000€

It’s as if they are deliberately trying to disable us and make us more reliant upon the state, as if we’re all idiots who can’t think for ourselves. Or perhaps I am being too “conspiracy theory” about this, perhaps, actually it’s the Government are the idiots and really have absolutely no clue of how to get the country out of recession. Because we are still in a recession. There are 700,000 households in this country (how many actual people is that? 2 million people? Perhaps) who have no access to any income at all. AT ALL. They have dropped off the benefits radar and have nothing at all coming in because they have remained out of work for longer than they are entitled to benefits. How about incentivising these people to start businesses or work for themselves in a legal way? Wouldn’t THAT not only give everyone encouragement to start but get the economy moving again? Currently they are planning to give a very small new benefit to some of these households starting in January, but it’s not enough, more people need to be picked up, dusted off and presented with opportunities that they can legally take. We need a business revolution, and it needs to be more than just a discounted autonomo fee which is currently on offer, that’s not going to solve it.

There’s a general election next year: just around the corner. A change could be made to push Spain out of its malaise and backward facing policies, and into the 21st century like the rest of Europe. If you have the right to vote in that election make sure you look at the policies of the parties, and please, please register to vote at your local council offices, there is a deadline for registration so do it now.

First published in the Euro Weekly News on Thursday 18th December 2014

Winter Wonderland

Christmas lights, Palma, Vicki McLeod

We went skating last weekend at the ice rink in Palma. I say “we” what I really mean is that Gidg ice-walked around the rink whilst my husband and I looked on, grateful that she was over the age limit to go on without a responsible adult. Neither my husband or I can skate with any style at all, and we really don’t want to learn either. Bless her, she tried. Her mates were all better than her, including the ones who were younger than her, but she still gave it a serious go, and wants to go back again for another stab at it. There was quite a big group of us, ten adults and seven kids, and after we’d been at the rink we decided we wanted to go for lunch. In Palma. On a Sunday. Wow, that’s a tougher ask than you realise. I’d love to know where you, dear reader, would recommend for a biggish group to go on a Sunday in Palma for a reasonably priced (no Michelin stars or fancy pants required, just good decent nosh please). You can get in touch with me at As it was we ended up in a pizza place (nothing says Sunday more than a pizza … to be honest I felt a bit hard done by as my brain expects to see either a roast dinner, a BBQ or a paella on a Sunday) which was okay, I guess. The company more than made up for the rather dull lunch. It was a typical Mallorca winter Sunday full of friends, kids and laughs. And it was lovely to walk in the crisp air and look at the lights (and scoff a couple of churros with Chocolate de la Taza).

The electric blankets are now on the beds, and the wood burning stove has received its seasonal wipe down and fire up. Yes, the advent calendar (which I moaned about at length last week) is now in full swing, and I have attended three Christmas fairs already. Coming up tonight at Mood Beach (Thursday December 11th) there will be the “In the Mood” choir performing Christmas Carols in the bar, call 971 676 456 or email for times and more info. Then at the weekend you have the Binissalem Christmas Fair which is not to be missed, it’s great. If you like handmade and unique items then you have to go there for a mooch around. Of course there is also the traditional Christmas fair at Palma Nova (used to be Portals, then it was Santa Ponca, now it’s Palma Nova, but it’s still the one organised by Calvia Council) which will be on over the weekend. And then the one in my neck of the woods in Andratx: this Saturday sees the Plaza being reopened after its facelift and we will all be in there to see what, if any, improvements have been made. See you in Ses Rosses at about 8pm on Saturday night!

Vicki McLeod©2014

Meeting the neighbours.

Can Rei in the sunshine

I told someone recently that I didn’t really feel as if I lived in Spain because Majorca has such a strong identity for me. But you would think, having lived in Majorca for a decade, that perhaps we would have got round to at least visiting the other of the Balearic Islands, wouldn’t you? It smacks of a lack of curiosity, but in reality it was a lack of time, money and opportunity that had prevented me from visiting Ibiza and Formentera until very recently when I was invited to take my husband and daughter to stay in a (rather lovely) house in Ibiza for a couple of days. This was our first ever trip together where we have not been going to visit another member of our family somewhere in the UK or France, but it was also the trip that almost didn’t happen due to a huge workload and schedules. However, we did eventually make it on to a ferry with our car laden with food, clothes and (unfortunately) laptops so we could keep working during the time away.

We’d been told that Ibiza would be “totally dead” by the time we got there, the clubs would have had their end of season parties, and that would be that. “Sounds perfect” was our response as peace and quiet is what we were after, and it is exactly what we got. The house, Can Rei, (from was about five minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town (so not too far from civilisation and supplies) and down a winding country track. It’s set in its own private garden with a big pool which my daughter was in immediately, despite the autumnal temperatures. Really, we could have stayed at the house for the whole time we were there and been perfectly happy, but with a nine year old climbing up the walls to do something we had to get out and about and have some adventures.

First up was a trip around and about to see some of the places that we’d heard about. Think Ibiza, and you probably either think of the big clubs or hippies. So we went for the latter and wandered around the “Hippy Market” in Punta Arabi at Es Cana. It reminded Oliver and I of a warmer version of Camden Market. It’s certainly got a lot of interesting stalls with handmade and imported goods, mixed in of course with a bit of tat, but that’s always to be expected in markets. I liked the atmosphere there, but I can imagine it would be quite packed and difficult to get round in the season. It sounds obvious but as we were driving around the island in our trusty little Wagon R we realised that Ibiza had quite a different attitude to retail and visitors in general. Now and again along the road you could come across a rather interesting looking shop selling interior decoration, or eccentric garden items, and on the beaches it seemed that the regulations about how much you could build on a beach or run a business on a beach were much more relaxed than they are here in Majorca.


Elements, Benirrás Beach, Ibiza

We went to Benirrás Beach, which you get to by driving down through beautiful hills and valleys. This is not only a beautiful spot to while away a day, but also a great place to be for sundown when drummers gather to ‘drum down the sunset’. We found ourselves in a beach bar called Elements, which was very relaxed and informal, and proudly displaying on their signage that they were going to be open until December. Looking inside in their boutique we had a quick glimpse of the luxury end of the Ibizan dream, with astronomical prices for artwork and designer clothes, as you can imagine we didn’t hang around too long in there with a nine year who’d just had a Berry Smoothie and was covered in sticky juice.

Ollie and Gigi off on their adventures

We also went to Formentera for the day. If you’re thinking of doing that and you’re a Balearic resident then take some ID with you to get the discount: 26.80€ adult return. After a thirty minute crossing you’re on the island and the first thing to do is to get your hands on either a bike, a car, a mini moke or a scooter. I had originally suggested scooters when we were talking about going, but stood there in the rental office signing up I started to regret the idea, and desperately said maybe we might get a mini moke instead? But my daughter was having none of it and we hired two scooters for the day. I haven’t been on a scooter since my teens when I was the proud owner of one those that you actually can pedal as well as have a scoot around on, so in theory I knew what I was supposed to be doing. In reality it took quite a lot of wobbling around roundabouts at a snail’s pace before I started to feel okay. Meanwhile my husband and child were off like a shot. My feeble efforts, and my “own personal traffic jam” were made fun of for the rest of the day. Ho hum.

Platja Mitjorn, Formentera

Formentera was absolutely gorgeous as well, and the beaches which have the legendary reputation of being Caribbean-like in their quality were exactly that. I can report that the sand is as close to demerara sugar as it can get, and the water is crystal clear and turquoise: absolutely exquisite.  We went to Platja Mitjorn and stumbled across a hippy beach bar called Piratabus which has been going for thirty years in the same position on the top of some sand dunes overlooking a wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. I was quite saddle sore and stressed out from my own personal battle with staying atop of a scooter and very much needed a sit down and a little something: sitting with an ice cold “clara” watching some old boys playing draughts whilst the sun warmed my back, listening to some very good acoustic guitar being played somewhere in the background will remain with me as a highlight of my Formentera day out. Asking my daughter what her highlights were of our trip she lists the Can Rei pool, and the amazing beaches.

I’d often read and heard about the different personalities of the islands of Ibiza and Formentera. And conversations since our trip with friends who are more au fait with the history and style of the islands support our own experiences. So, after a decade of living next door, we’ve finally shook hands with the neighbours, and we loved meeting them. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another decade to go back round to borrow a cup of sugar, Demerara of course.


Normal service will be resumed

The medical form....

The medical form….

Regular readers of this column will have noticed that I have been anything but regular recently with my column, and for that I apologise. I’ve been getting to know the Spanish health system. Now it’s nothing to worry about, I’m not about to announce a terminal disease or a pregnancy but I have been coping with a new and unexpected development. I’ve become one of those people who has back problems, despite my indignant denial of the situation.

Which is how I found myself in Son Espases Hospital at 9.30am a couple of Sundays ago waiting for an MRI. There is a little known skill that a Britisher has to develop once they have moved to Spain: the ability to recognise their surname when a Spanish person pronounces it in a waiting room. You don’t want to jump up and cry “Ese soy yo!” and then be embarrassed to realise that they have in fact just called Senora Mendoza, crivens no, that wouldn’t do at all to draw attention to one’s self would it? On top of that there is the immense translation task which is the medical questionnaire, in Catalan. Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to Mallorca we very quickly had to use what was then Son Dureta Hospital for a mystery illness (which turned out to be a very nasty bout of reactive arthritis) I had to cart around an enormous Spanish English dictionary with me in order to be understand, much to the amusement of the nurses. At least now I can use the Google Translate App on my phone, (if you haven’t got it, get it, it’s free and very handy for tricky vocabulary. I didn’t know the Catalan word “imant” meant “magnet” for example).

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have an MRI. Although I’d seen plenty of them on Casualty, I still turned to my Facebook mates in the group “I have a question” to find out what advice they had for me. “You have to stay still but don’t panic”, “make sure you go for a big wee beforehand”, “it’s quite noisy but it’s okay they give you earplugs”, and “I played an alphabet game in my head to distract me” were the four most key pieces of advice that played through my head (wishing I’d remembered the advice about the wee), as I lay down on the trolley and slowly slid into the tube. I fought off the temptation to have a panic attack when I realised that I was in an expensive coffin-like structure and started to write this column in my head.  My friends were right, it is noisy, but the sounds themselves are very much like what you would expect to hear coming from a teenager’s bedroom: a repetitive twanging guitar sound, one note only, a stuck record (vinyl, remember them, even older than my massive dictionary) and a jack hammer. Well, depends on the type of teenagers you know I suppose.

I’ll be back next week. (See what I did there?).

Vicki McLeod 2014

From boys to men

Charlie and Orlando

Charlie and Orlando

I was never a brownie, or a guide, (I know, looking back that surprises me as well). But when I was a kid I just didn’t “get it”. I certainly didn’t want to dress up in an outfit that took its colour inspirations from the results of a bad curry and incredibly I didn’t want to join in. At all. Ever. What I wanted to do was be a cub, or a scout. But it wasn’t allowed, girls were not allowed to join. Which outraged my nine year old self. Now, as a grown up I can see the benefits of putting kids into single sex environments: I went to an all girls’ school which had the results of making me: a) totally useless around boys, which I suppose from a parents’ point of view is a bonus, and b) very good at spelling, with excellent exam results. The single sex environment worked up to the point where I finally DID discover boys, smoking, truancy and the fact that I could get into the centre of London on a tube pass and no one would notice as long as I was back in time for dinner. But that was thirty million years ago and times have changed. Now it seems to that it’s the boys who need help and encouragement to develop their skills and confidence. The problem being that there doesn’t seem to be a regular club or group which addresses these needs in a fun and suitable way for these boys who are growing into young men.

Sam Hyer wants to start a club for boys in the 10 -14 year age range on Saturdays in Mallorca. She is looking for someone who can act as a male mentor and who is available from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. Sam also wants to get in touch with mums and dads, who are interested in getting involved and helping their boys become well rounded men, learn new skills, and would benefit from and enjoy having a male role model to look up to. “We will be inviting men to come and impart their skills to the future men of the world, such as carpentry, building dens, archery, etc. So, anyone that has a skill or anyone that would like to get involved or participate please get in contact!” There will be payment for the mentor which will be raised from donations from the mums and dads of the boys that attend. It is a non-profit project. You can contact Sam on 627 262 210

Vicki McLeod 2014

Crafty Christmas


The Christmas packages have normally started to arrive by the middle of November. One from each Grandma, both for La Gidg, but both for my attention, arriving at a destination not our home address in order that I can sort them and stash them until the appropriate moments. Moment number one being December 1st when the advent calendars are revealed. I don’t mean to sound too much like Cleese and Palin but when I was a kid we didn’t have fancy pants advent calendars. We had one between the three of us, and there was no chocolate behind those doors, just photos of smiling reindeers and then on the ultimate day there wasn’t a photo of a present, NO there was a photo of the Baby Jesus, which is at it should be, isn’t it? You do remember what Christmas is about don’t you? My husband and his sister had the same thing, and therefore I know that I am not making this up or misremembering or in any way exaggerating. We also both recall being extremely happy and excited about our silly advent calendars when opening the door every morning was a major event. Then there was the year when our opposite neighbours in the street came back from a trip to Austria with an amazing present for my brothers and I, a calendar which hid an incredible secret, when the doors were opened there wasn’t only an image but a small sliver of chocolate pressed into the shape of Father Christmas! What magic this was to us (mostly, it was the seventies) innocent and naïve children.

Now it’s “de rigeur” that advent calendars should have chocolate in them, okay that’s fine. I can cope, I get it, and in fact if I can get there first, I want it. But this year’s parcels did not contain advent calendars, no they contained the next incarnation of advent calendars which seem to be “craft opportunities”. As far as I can tell the “opportunity” is for mainly for me and you could swap that word for “chore” and you’ve more or less got it. One is a box with 24 drawers in it and the other is bunting made out of scratchy hessian which has 24 slots both of which I am supposed to put surprises and prizes into every day. What’s happened to Christmas? Has it got all hessian wrapped as if it’s guilty about being the commercialised event that it is these days? “I’ve been bad; I must wear a sack and a badly drawn Father Christmas”. Bless them but have all the grandparents forgotten how crazy the month of December gets with all of the parties, and shopping, not forgetting work and how intense that gets as we get towards the close of the year. “We thought it would be fun”, yeah, I now have to remember to put something inside those slots every morning or be nagged into next week about what SHOULD be in there.

I’m not much better though, realising the absence after many years of the traditional advent calendars from the grandparents I picked up a simple chocolate calendar in the supermarket last weekend. I had a choice between Papa Noel and the Sacred Family. Which do you think I chose? I’ll give you a clue: ho ho ho.

The enemy within


When I was growing up breakfast time was always a battle. A daily war would be fought between my brothers and I about who would get the top of the milk and who would get the toy out of the cornflake packet. If you were having a good day you could score both, an okay day would be at least the others not getting a toy, and if you were having a really bad day then you would be the person with the black cornflake or rice krispie in your bowl. What is it about that? Even though there is probably nothing wrong with the offending nugget of cereal you probably wouldn’t ever eat it, would you? “Don’t be so silly”, we would be told by our grandma, “just eat it”. But there would be squeals of disgust and in some cases a bona fide reason to completely abandon breakfast all together. At least that’s how we would see it.

Breakfast in my house these days is a bit more of a random affair. La Gidg, who is now nine, is getting quite self-sufficient with breakfast and I am trying to train her to make healthy choices. Some of the cereals that we have in our house are muesli based and not the sugary options that perhaps she would really like to eat, so occasionally we have a tussle about what I think she should be having for her brekkie, and what she wants.

“Mummy! I am not going to eat this! It has black bits in it!” I instantly think of my middle brother and his firm stance about not eating unidentified weird bits in his cereal, and I transform into my Grandma. “Just eat it babe, it won’t hurt you,” I plead. “No, it has black bits in it, and they’re MOVING”.

That makes a bit of a difference.  I investigate. I pick up the bowl and immediately drop it on the floor. There’s a moth in my daughter’s breakfast. I cannot tell you how foul that is.

“Yes chick, you don’t need to eat that.” Once I have got over the disgust of finding a creature I try to work out where it has come from. I have a look in the cereal packet, nothing. Then I start to look in the cupboard and notice that yes, there does seem to be something living in there. Straight off down to the ferreteria, “I have “polillas” in my kitchen, what do I do?” The man rolls his eyes, shrugs and points me to an aisle with a variety of sticky bits of cardboard which are designed for the moths to accidentally fly on to. “That’s all you can offer me?” I think, surely if we can put a man on the moon we can control some moths in cereal with a bit more aplomb. But no, that’s it.

So now we are on moth patrol in our house. Every single dried food packet is in a sealed Tupperware container, as if it’s in an Ebola isolation tank. Thankfully, like the rest of Spain we seem to have been successful so far in containing the issue. La Gidg on the other hand is now a big fan of toast.

Vicki McLeod

A damp squib

images (4)

Last night I read a statement from the Mallorca Cricket Club which actually made me exclaim out loud. The Bonfire Night party which was scheduled for November 1st and had been going for twenty years has had to be cancelled due to “unforeseen and difficult circumstances”.  Over the years the event has grown and grown and has pulled in the support of some big businesses on the island and of course the helping hand of the local council, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the central government in Madrid who have clamped down on the particular requirements for any public gathering over three thousand persons. “We’ve become victims of our own success” is an understatement I think, but here’s some of the actual statement from Rob Hughes, Honorary Secretary, Frank Leavers, the Chairman, Eric George, Club Captain and Andy Diamond, the Club Treasurer.

“We were advised only last Thursday that certain a number of new ‘measures’ would have to be put in place before we would be allowed the proper certification to be granted. In all honesty, we could not comply with all of these rulings and given the huge costs of these ‘improvements,’ if implemented, it would be almost impossible to the club to financially ‘break even’ on this once a year family event. Indeed, if the weather should be against us over that weekend, it could be ruinous for the club given all the extra measures that would be needed for Bonfire Night to go ahead. Over the years we have prided ourselves on the fact that we have always kept entry prices low so that Bonfire Night was genuinely a family night out.

“Frustratingly for us at the club, we actually ‘wrote-the-manual’ that has kept everyone safe over the years and that same ‘manual’ has been copied by many other organisations looking to run community events. Nevertheless, central government has spoken and we would not be party to any attempts to ignore the rules and regulations. In short, it could be said that Bonfire Night at the Cricket Club has become a victim of its own success………but for many of us at the club this whole situation is grossly unfair”

Surely though there is an argument that this is a cultural event for the British? Just as various religious and cultural days are celebrated for other races and creeds, and are protected because of that, why couldn’t this special event have been given the same status? The “Nits de Foc” for example, are all about fires, and fireworks, and yes they are completely under control from the point of view of the Dimonis and the Fire Brigades, but they aren’t controlled as to the amount of people attending or where or how they interact with the fire. You are positively encouraged to “dance with the demons”! At the cricket club everyone is kept back from the bonfire by barriers and the controls around the detonation of the fireworks is strictly regulated.

As the overall future and new location of the Cricket Club still seems to be uncertain this event would also have brought them some precious funds for the coffers. What a shame, for them and for us, that we have probably now seen the end of an era, not go out with a bang, but fizzled out, like a damp squib.

Vicki McLeod 2014