Month: January 2015


Family Neilson McLeod in full Dragon Onesie Glory

Family Neilson McLeod in full Dragon Onesie Glory

Isn’t it cold in the sunshine paradise that is Mallorca? Do you remember your first winter on the island? Were you as amazed as I was at how horribly cold it gets here? There were some moments during that first winter when my husband and I kicked ourselves for not doing our homework properly, how could we not have known how damp and downright nasty it can get here. We barricaded ourselves into the room where our log fire was and took turns cuddling the dog to keep warm. If we hadn’t been given an electric blanket as a Christmas present we wouldn’t have a daughter now, and that is an actual fact.

It wasn’t that we didn’t have heating in our house; it was that it was ineffective, and expensive to run. Now a decade down the line we live in a different house, and we don’t have a dog. The cats aren’t so willing to be long term hot water bottle replacements, and also not as good.  So my husband and I have to run heaters under our desks to keep warm whilst sitting still for hours on end writing witty prose and photoshopping pictures. The Mallorcans used to put a heater under the kitchen table and then tuck the tablecloth around their laps, so we’ve modernised it. Which I suppose is how we managed to get an electricity bill which is 150% more than our normal bill. A whopping €577 for two months. And that doesn’t include the really, really chilly month of January. When the electric bill hit the mat both my husband and I started acting like our dads, yelling grumpily at each other to “Turn that off, shut that door, don’t forget the LIGHTS!!!!” Getting such a big bill has not been conducive to a harmonious home. It’s January after all: post-Christmas, no fuzzy happiness, and we’re deep, deep into tax return misery. Any second now the Hacienda is going to ask us for money which we’ve already spent on our electricity bill and the ridiculously expensive autonomos bills. Have you seen that information this week about the comparison between the costs of National Insurance in the UK and here? Six months contributions in Spain are 1650€ and the same six months in the UK? 78€ Things have got to change: we’ve been watching the events in Greece this week and wondering what will happen to Spain in the upcoming national elections, which we won’t be able to vote in, even though we contribute 20% of our income in taxes. Another thing which has to change.

Time to get happy, so let’s reach for the wine, although no, of course, it’s January so we’ve eschewed alcohol, and chocolate, and bread. Then there’s that moment when you look at each other and think “What the **** have we done?” Which is when I remembered that we own “onesies”. We bought them for each other in a flash of ironic Christmas shopping excitement in 2013. So now, when I am at home this is my office outfit, it keeps me warm, it’s saving on the heating, and apart from the tail getting in the way now and again, it’s very comfortable. So if you call me and I answer the phone I will have to try to keep the amusement out of my voice, can you guess what I’m wearing?

Who cares, as long as I’m not freezing.



Developing island networks in 2015

Glynis German, Happiness Cafe, Mallorca

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Glynis German this week on her show, The Happiness Café, for Sunshine Radio 106.1FM. It’s a bit strange to be interviewed when you are normally the interviewer so thankfully she asked me questions about subjects close to my heart: my family, Mallorca and blogging. As she was asking me why I had started my blog back in 2006 I realised it was because of my need to make sense of events that had happened to me since moving to the island. My husband, then boyfriend, and I moved here in 2004, we set up a business, he got reactive arthritis, we got married, we had a baby, I was run over by a car, the business went bust, and then we struggled with debts and then the crisis. Through it all I’ve written my blog and subsequently found a lot of kindred spirits and travelling companions through my favourite social media channels, Facebook and Twitter.  When you blog you enjoy the freedom of speech that not everyone around the world enjoys, so I think you should exercise your rights and sign up for a free blog at WordPress or Blogger or Tumblr. If you want some help organising your blog then there are courses online that you can do, or you can come to one of my courses, the next beginners’ course will be in February, or you can just learn as you go. Blogs aren’t just for sharing funny pictures of your cats, or writing about how your two year old loves to defy you (was one of my recurring themes when I first started) but you can also help to build your business up by writing articles about what you do. But we’ll examine those ideas a bit more in next week’s column.

It was when we set up our photography and P.R. business in 2008 that we really started to learn what it took to be successful in business in Mallorca: grit, determination, a sense of humour, flexibility, an understanding bank manager, a good gestor and a wide network of people.  This year I’m hoping to expand that network of people to include more and more residents (part and full time) of our lovely island, because really, together we are stronger. To facilitate this I’m going to start going to a new social and business networking group on the island. It isn’t just for women, or just for men, it’s not just at lunchtime or dinnertime or just drinks, or at 6 am in the morning when I am tucked up in bed. You don’t have to pay a grand a year to be a member, and you won’t be excluded because there’s already someone with the same profession as you in the group so you can’t join. It meets at places around the island at different times on different days so there’s a chance to meet new people you haven’t met before. Sounds really good doesn’t it? Well, at least I would like to go to that group if it existed. But as far as I can tell, it doesn’t. So, let’s form one ourselves. If you want to attend a new networking group then let me know by emailing me and judging on the responses we can take it from there.

Let’s get something off the ground that we can all benefit from!

What’s in a name?

Mallorca Tutoring Academy, Vicki McLeod

Back in September 2009 Julie Staley and Jay Hirons opened the doors to the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Son Quint Golf in Palma for the first time. It wasn’t long before I got to know and respect them for their professionalism, their standards and their ambitions. They set out to offer a very high standard in educational tutoring for children who either spoke English as their mother tongue and needed help maintaining a good level or children who were learning to speak English as a second language. I’m guessing that the first few years, just like for any new business, were challenging: it’s not easy to establish yourself on this little island, so many people come and go, and you have to keep working hard. But these gals certainly did that as they have just celebrated five years in business and rebranded themselves in the process. Just last week Kip McGrath renamed themselves Mallorca Tutoring Academy, with a fancy new logo and some big new ideas.

“We learnt so much about running a business here on the island”, said Julie. “Together with this knowledge and support from the franchise we have been able to develop the business you see today, and become a well-known part of the Mallorca educational community”.  The business formerly known as “Kip” manages to cater for a diverse range of clients from the age of four and up. Over the years of taking my daughter La Gidge to have educational support sessions there I’ve met kids who hail from all over the world that are now living in Mallorca and coping with its very particular language demands and educational peculiarities. The reason I take my girl to the centre is to get some help with her reading and writing in English, I didn’t want her growing up spelling things phonetically as that’s a difficult habit to get out of. If Gidg needs it in the future she can get help with her maths, her Catalan, Castellano, sciences, study skills, take her SATs and Cambridge language exams or study for “A” levels. MTA are now developing new services which include drama classes, a cinema club, and an expanded Senior Academy with a wide range of exams available for the students to take.  All of this as a support and supplement to normal school activities.

One of the things I really love about this service is that it means Gidge gets the benefits of being part of our local community as she goes to her fantastic local school where she’s taught in Catalan, Castellano and (to a lesser extent) English. She has Spanish mates as well as all the international kids who seem to have gathered in Port Andratx, we also have kids from all over the world studying at her primary school. But because of MTA she gets the benefits of 1:1 tutoring, a personalised approach to learning, and bags and bags of confidence.

They’re celebrating their rebranding this Saturday 17th January from 2pm at their centre when you can meet the MTA team, and loads of other educational specialists from around the island who will be available for free advice and assessments.


Mallorca Tutoring Academy

Golf Son Quint

Cami de son Vida 38

Palma de Mallorca


Telephone: +34 971 79 14 10