Month: June 2008

Lock up your daughters


Tinta and Herbie celebrating St Antoni Fiesta of the Animals, Jan 2008

This blog is developing into a bit of an ode to dogs, but really, I promise after this post, I’ll change the subject.

Tinta, the dachshund we’ve had since the beginning of the year, is all woman, if you know what I mean. We’ve not really been that bothered about that, until now that is. When we took her on my first question was to Riccardo, our friendly vet : when can I get her speyed? I’m not keen on adding to the dog population in Mallorca, there’s already too many abandoned animals who haven’t got a good home, and anymore just adds a burden. As we didn’t know much about Tint, Riccardo told me that we would have to wait until she came into season before he could plan for her operation. Having never had a girl dog before I wasn’t sure when she may come into season, or even if I would know what the signs were when she did. Well believe me, I know now.

She’s gone all tranquilo on us, as if she’s had pmt for the last six months and now, finally she’s got some relief. There’s no nastiness (I was half expecting to have to find a doggy tampon or whatever they use) instead she’s very happy and very relaxed. Nowhere near the normal amount of nonsense or attempts to escape. Bliss. That is until we caught on to what was actually happenning. She’s become the Angelina Jolie of the dog world – she is (apparently) sex on legs, at least to the local dog population.

There’s been a very keen, indeed dogged (excuse the pun) little fella sitting outside our front door for the past four days. I can’t believe his dedication as day in and day out he’s been there, looking hopefully at us whenever we went in or came out of our house. I think we’ve both felt a little sorry for him, and gave him some water to ease the heat of the day (it’s about 80 degrees here now) but not as sorry for him as our neighbours who mistakenly fed him on day two when we might have been able to convince him to go home. But no, he’s a gentleman of the road, and seems very comfortable hanging out and waiting for his Juliet to appear. Which she has, on a couple of occasions.


Tinta’s admirer
It’s quite sweet seeing them skipping down the road together, tails wagging and all in love with each other. (O says he has the song by Renee and Renata in his head, do you know the one ‘save your love my darling, save your love’ ?; whilst I have ‘Young hearts run free’ from the incomparable Candi Statton). But this Ahhhh moment is over in seconds as we collectively realise what may happen and swoop in to scoop up our errant virgin (at least I hope she’s still a virgin). O and I even toyed with the idea of letting her boyfriend into the house (he keeps asking) for about a minute and then saw the error of our ways – we know how difficult it is to raise one child, let alone 8 of someone elses. He is a handsome little guy though, like the boy version of Tint, she is short you know, so it would be hard to find a decent boyfriend……

But it is a little eerie, we’re being stalked. Our house is being staked out. Whenever one of us arrives home, he’s there. When we look out of our windows, he’s there, waving his tail at us. We can’t even open the front door without a reception committee – normally it’s only when we come into the house, not leave it.

I’m just going to check if he’s still there…….. Yup, he’s still there. Keeping the doorstep warm. Apparently girl dogs stay in season for about a week, so we only have another 3 days of house arrest before Tint stops smelling like Chanel for perro and we can all get back to normal.

Bugtastic

What exactly is the point of mosquitoes? I wonder this every year at this sort of time. We’ve all been getting along fine without them, then bingo, the little swines (or should that be, whines) pitch up and make my life a living hell. I hate them, they love me.

I wish I could give you the definative answer as to how to get rid of them. But I can’t. Instead I can only apply as many repellants as possible and hope that they work. So far I have tried all of the nasty smelly repellants that you can buy in the chemists (not a good fragrance for romance, believe me, and they taste even worse); we’ve got plug ins all over the house as well – not much use either in such a big house, and I am chugging down the garlic like it’s going out of business. I’ve found a natural repellant which smells like a spicy perfume, but uses loads of different essential oils, this at least seems to be waylaying the bugs until i can get the long trousers on.

Perhaps I should pray, or hum, or radiate good light or something, I simply don’t understand why they find me so attractive, especially when O seems to be completely oblivious to them.

So I instead I am concentrating on not itching – cold Aloe Vera and a strong will.

But actually I shouldn’t be worrying or indeed complaining about the mossies, as at least they can’t leave me with a lifelong disease. Which is what a mosquito bite can do to a dog, my dogs. I spoke to Riccardo, a local vet (http://www.clinicaveterinariapaguera.es/) who told me about Leishmania – it’s a disease which dogs can contract after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The best treatment is to prevent them being attractive to mossies – by making sure they wear repellant collars, and bunging on those repellant drops you can get from the vets. It’s quite a serious disease, and is lifelong once the animal has it, so it’s well worth making sure that you’re giving your faithful friends a fighting chance. It’s a shock to realise that they are at risk here, and there are a couple of other nasty things as well which I’ll write about when the time is right.

WHAT IS LEISHMANIASIS?
It is a disease that affects mainly dogs (and occasionally cats). It is transmitted by a blood sucking insect, mistakenly called a ‘sand fly’, but scientifically known as Phlebotomous perniciousus, and in Spain known as “ la enfermedad del mosquito.´´

Not all the Phlebotomes transmit leishmaniasis. It is also a misconception that our pets are at higher risk of encountering the disease on beaches! Areas with high humidity and thick vegetation are the ideal breeding spots for the phlebotomes, i.e. swampy areas and marsh lands. Unfortunately Mallorca is one of the areas in Spain with the highest prevalence of Leishmaniasis.

HOW DOES MY PET GET INFECTED?
For a dog to contract the disease it is necessary for the insect to bite them, and through the saliva at the bite site infect the dog with one of the larval stages of the leishmaniasis. Once in the blood stream the larvae finally develop a parasite that lives in the blood stream and replicates in organs such as the liver, bone marrow and lymph nodes. Unfortunately during its life cycle the parasite affects both liver and kidney function and in the long term it will inevitably cause death if left untreated. Clinical signs to look out for are: Skin ulcers, hair loss around eyes and dandruff, abnormal growth of nails, weight loss and lethargy.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Treatment is available to improve the quality of life of our beloved pets, but unfortunately it is not a cure, once infected it is for life. The treatment helps control the number of parasites in the blood stream, keeping them at a minimum hence not affecting the organs in such a way to be life threatening. The sooner the disease is diagnosed and treated the higher the rate of survival and better recovery of our pets. At Clinica Veterinaria Paguera we recomend an annual blood test to make sure that our patients have not been exposed to the disease, and if in the unfortunate case that they test positive we recomend treatment to control the possible development of the disease.

WHY IS IT ON THE INCREASE?
In past years, when the seasons were well established it was largely acknowledged that leishmania season started in early spring when temperatures rose, and humidity increased thus creating the favourable conditions for the phlebotomes to develop and live and then peak at the end of summer. But Planet Earth has been suffering global climatic changes, and we now cannot see clear divisions of seasons. We seem to now undergo a longer spring, short summer, longer autumn and milder winters, therefore prolonging the life cycle of phlebotomes hence making leishmania season longer! Until recently we would have recomended leishmania protection from early spring i.e. April/May until late October, but we now strongly recomend that you protect your pets for a longer period depending on the temperature and humidity.

Prevention although never guaranteed at 100% is always better than having to cure.

Your local veterinarian will be able to offer advice and guidance for prevention, diagnosis and if necessary treatment.

For further information, contact your local vet or
Clinica Veterinaria Paguera – Consultorio Veterinario Andratx
Riccardo Giglioli, Veterinary Surgeon L.V. MRCVS
Tel.: 971 689 525
SOS: 607 373 135
E-mail: info@pagueravet.e.telefonica.net
Web: http://www.clinicaveterinariapaguera.com/

¿dónde están los perros?

The dogs have gone awol. It’s past 23.00 and O is out looking for the little buggers. They’ve disappeared, off piste goat hunting, in the mountains.

He walks them every evening whilst I’m putting G to bed and reading (for the nnth time) The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Whilst I am convincing G it really IS time to go to sleep, O is yomping across the mountains which lie in a horseshoe around us whilst the dogs harass wild goats and make themselves unpopular with the locals. Animal ownership in Mallorca is a strange paradox. The Spanish don’t have the greatest image of animal care, but they are big fans of the dog. Oddly there is a tendency to own a dog which is kept at a finca in the countryside, frequently tied up which is a sad practice. It’s peculiar because there is even an annual fiesta (St Antoni) where they celebrate animals, the dogs are taken off their chains for the day and brought into the towns where they are blessed with holy water, sprinkled over them by a priest.

We have two dogs, a Breton Spaniel, and a Dachshund. The Breton is viewed appreciatively by the hunting, shooting, fishing elements of our village – he’s a big boy for his breed, and the breed is popular locally for its usefulness in those outdoor pursuits. The Dachshund is tolerated, but only just. She’s a bit feisty and a bit naughty, and just a little too keen on escaping out of our garden and running up and down the road barking at people walking, or indeed cars driving, past the house.

We found the Breton in a finca when he was about 6 weeks old. We were there for a party and as guests of the owners of the finca were required to do a tour of their outhouses which were home to a variety of farm animals, including goats, sheep and pigs. When we reached the pigsty where two enormous Black Pigs were snorting and snuffling around we were initially delighted to see a piglet, but on closer inspection realised that it wasn’t a piglet, but a puppy. The puppy had mistakenly found itself on the wrong side of the pigsty and we wondered aloud what would happen to it if we left it inside the pighouse…. didn’t pigs pretty much eat anything that got in their way? The puppy was swiftly removed from the sty and took up residence on the inside of my coat where he stayed. We didn’t mean to get a dog, but ended up taking him home with us….

A couple of years on and we (or I should say I) found ourselves in the position of having a garden and only the one dog to make a complete mess of it. So speed up the process we (or rather, I) decided that a second, smaller dog would be a great idea, to keep the Breton company. Wrong wrong wrong. She’s a complete nightmare. You can’t leave anything out in the kitchen as she leaps onto worktops to devour the leftovers, or even the beginnings, of a meal, she is Houdini returned in the shape of a dog and she loves loves loves to chase goats. So that is why O is out right now looking for them….. we haven’t seen them since 20.30. That’s three hours ago, and no sign of them, or O….. I’m idlly wondering what’s happenned to them as I chug through a copa de vino.

A glass of wine later and he is back, swearing. The dogs aren’t with him. And he’s adamant he’s not going back out to look for them again. So off I am going with my special dog whistle, my fingers crossed, and my jungle strength mosquito repellant on.

Post update: 12.48am Home, with two dogs who look rather pleased with themselves. I am covered in mozzie bites and there’s no wine left in the bottle, and no chocolate anywhere in the house. Oh the joys of dog ownership.

I like driving in my car

Living in London you don’t necessarily ever get used to commuting, but certainly you would expect to be travelling for about an hour each way to get to and from work.

And most of that would be at less than 5mph, sitting in the car, watching other motorists picking their noses, applying make up, and talking on their mobiles. So, given that we could drive from our house to Palma in about 20 minutes, when we first arrived in Mallorca we felt as if we’d come to an island where traffic jams didn’t exist. Our evenings out were often in spent in the city, but encouraging other people to join us wasn’t so easy. ‘Palma’s too far, why don’t we go somewhere closer?’ was a frequent response to our invitation for a meal out in the old town. Baffled by this attitude we would try to argue the point, repeating again how quickly we would be there, but oftimes to no avail.

But we did agree that the Mallorquin attitude towards roundabouts was just a bit too scary. Without the common agreement of driving on the inside lane until you needed to leave at the next exit I felt like yelling ‘BUNDLE!’ everytime I hit a roundabout. (And mentally make a promise to myself to look up the Spanish motoring laws to see if the habit of driving around the outside lane and cutting up other cars was actually taught to the novice drivers on the island). And then, thankfully, I’d make it unscathed through yet another game of chicken with a beaten up Axim. Soon we discovered the practice, or perhaps that should be non-practice, of indicating. It seemed to be a sign of weakness, by indicating what you were planning on doing seemed to give an advantage to your roundabout opponent.

There were also the legalities to be mindful of, keeping the right papers in the car, and having all those bits and pieces you’re supposed to use in case of a breakdown. But, living in the kind of disorganised chaos that we do, I doubt that I have ever had all of the right bits of paper in the car at the same time. Which was a bit of a problem when I was recently pulled over by the local police, strangely, at a roundabout in Palma. ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Where is your job?’ and then, the question I was dreading, ‘Where are your papers?’. I managed to find the insurance documents, the log book, and my residency card, but not my driving license. Thank god the ITV certificate is physically stuck to the inside of the windscreen as if not then I would have been in even more trouble. Wondering how much the fine might cost me, I smiled uncertainly at the copper. Wearing a helmet it was difficult to see if he was smiling back. ‘I’m really sorry, I haven’t got a clue where they are’ I covered, hoping for some sympathy and going for the ‘hopeless woman’ image. Which seemed to work. ‘I live in Andratx, next time I see you I want you to have the papers,’ he told me. I asked him what his name was, Victor, promised to do as he asked me (although mentally picturing the cardboard box full of paperwork I had got in the neverending ‘to do’ pile and hoping I might find it in there) and went on my way. It’s an odd state of pressure when your local policeman knows where you live, and is expecting you to sort something out and pronto. I don’t want to let him down.

Until I’ve found my driving license, when we’re invited to eat in Palma, I might just baulk and suggest somewhere a little bit closer….

You should keep the following items in your car:
Valid driving licence; residence Card, passport or European Citizen certificate; ehicle registration document;ITV, or MOT inspection certificate; proof of current vehicle insurance. A yellow, orange or red reflective jacket which you should be able to reach without getting out of the car; two red warning triangles; spare light bulbs and the tools required to fit them; a spare tyre, inflated and the tools necessary to change it; approved child seats for children under 12 and/or 150cm, and if you need corrective glasses for driving you must keep a spare pair in the car.

On the radio

Crikey, how did that happen. I’m the presenter of a radio show!
It was strange not to be on the school run, picking up G from her Guarderia, so I hope she gets it when she hears my voice on the radio.
You can hear me every weekday from 16 to 18.00h on www.lunamallorca.com or if you’re in Mallorca you can listen on 100.3fm. Today I kicked off as I mean to go on, with a variety of subjects, from Lily Allen’s disasterous hairdo (she should go get it sorted out at one of the excellent hairdressers we have hear on the island) to how awful mosquitoes are and how to get rid of them (I spoke to Trudi who makes her own natural mosquito spray and sells it at her shop in Palma where you can also get handmade soaps and creams, made entirely on Mallorca and with local ingredients – visit Calle Corderia 29, in Palma de Mallorca. If you’re up on your Facebook thingimijig then you can join the Gaia Bathtime Group which is at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9416159855 .
Tomas, my cultural correspondent (actually he’s my mate and we’ve known each other for ages!), and I talked about the fiesta San Juan and the upcoming fiesta San Pedro which happens at the end of this week. Both of which involve running with fire – the Carre Foc – so have a good time at those, but remember to keep your hair and skin covered when you do it, unless you want to smell like burnt dog!
From 17 to 18.00h i played my first round of Hits and Headlines – well done to Geordie Graeme and Fifille who were the only people to get the year right – 1996! Tomorrow we’ll do it all again.

Tomorrow, or possibly Wednesday you’ll get the chance to hear an interview with the fabulous Michele McCain – you can check her out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVrsv9bo4W4 on You Tube and on her site http://www.michelemccain.com/ . She will be playing for free on Thursday night at 21.30h at an open air concert in the Plaça de l’Artesania (Passeig per l’Artesania) in Palma.

The Friday Afternoon Beach Club

The small, but perfectly formed, tradition of the Friday Afternoon Beach Club resumed activities today.

Parents and kids gather together on our local beach late on a Friday afternoon to play, swim, build sandcastles, drink wine and talk. It’s an important ritual for us, marking the end of a school week, or welcome pause in the working week, to hang out, remind ourselves of why we live here, and have the same conversations over and over again. We always talk about how lucky we are to be here in Mallorca, and then some cynical soul (it was my turn today to take that role) will pipe up with the fact that it’s not down to luck but to sheer hard bloody work. Most of us work our asses off day in and day out to maintain a modest lifestyle on this holiday island, and the pay off is the living conditions that we can offer our kids – the environment, the small class sizes in the local schools, the opportunity for our babies to grow up speaking 3 or more languages. Is it all worth it, we ask ourselves, and always we come to the same conclusion, yes it is.

We might miss some fundamental things. like pension schemes and secure jobs, but the nature of Mallorca is such that these things are secondary to what we have deemed to be far more important in life. We have things in common with each other, an idealism about childhood, an urge for challenges, and for adventure, and an optimism about the future. We’ve thrown our careers into the wind and often what we’d not dared hope for has come back to us, presented in a different way. Take O for example, he worked for a large American bank in Canary Wharf in London. He’s often calculated what he might now be earning if he hadn’t left it four years ago to move to the island. But his original dream of being a photographer is now a reality, he takes the most extraordinary portraits of people, objects, buildings, landscapes, and he has discovered other talents that he may never had the opportunity to exploit as well. It’s impossible to second guess another dimension where he still works in Canary Wharf, would we have our daughter, would we be happy, where would we be living. But our current reality is pretty good.

And then we turn to watch our kids playing together in the sea, as the Meditteranean sun drops behind the mountains and lights the sky with a golden glow, crack open another bottle of cheap beer, and change the subject.

Graduation Day

It’s mayhem at the Guarderia. Their babies are growing up.

200 or so people are gathered to see the class of 2007/2008 graduate. Grandmamas and Grandpapis have bagged the best seats to watch the apples of their eyes parade.

Our daughter has been at the nursery for about 21 months. A year ago, when we watched the class of 2006/2007 graduate I would not have believed that she could have sat still with a silly hat on her head, but to my deep and misty-eyed pride, she does. Her class is first up, 20 kids walk in a crocodile from their classroom to the stage set up in the playground. They all walk in the same way – one step, stop, one step, stop; they all have their hands clasped behind their backs, and they are all looking with complete trust and confidence at Tia Maria, their teacher, who leads them onto the stage. I start to fill up as 1000’s of euros worth of cameras and video recorders are taken off of ‘pause’ and start to record the event for posterity. It’s a total scrum to get to see the stage, but I manage to find a vantage point where I can gaze at my daughter and bask in the pride that I feel for her as she accepts her diploma and gift from the council, doesn’t throw off her silly mortarboard-styled hat and behaves herself perfectly with her peers.

I’m surrounded by people who I have complete trust and confidence in, other parents who have supported me when I have needed help, and who I have supported too. The teachers at the nursery kiss and hug their charges, there is an air of celebration and achievement here. I simply can’t imagine how this scene could be replicated in the UK where teachers are not allowed to touch their pupils, where they cannot comfort them when they are upset or congratulate them when they do well.

The buffet has been contributed to by all of the parents, there’s plenty of coca, the cheese-free pizza like speciality from Mallorca, and there’s pastries, slices of chorizo, chunks of tortilla and crisps. The kids all head for the crisps and then the pop. Soon we have 70 under 3s buzzing on sugar and colourings. Time to go home.

Island Life May 2008

It’s been a terrible month for weather on Mallorca.

The worst since records began.

Normally May is a welcome reminder of the summer to come after a damp and chilly winter. However this month will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons – constant rain, grey skies and many, many car accidents on the slippery tarmac of the Mallorquin roads. ‘What’s happenning, where’s the sun?’ Complaints and comments abounded as island residents and holidaymakers alike had their days spoilt. Our English obsession about the weather spilled over and started to affect the Spanish. Some perversely said they liked the cold, wet conditions, but even they started to change their opinion as day after day it persevered. Environmentally aware folks started to mutter about Global Warming and its effects. On the upside, no one needed to have a visit from Ramon, the local water supplier, as all of our cisternas (wells) were full to bursting.

Beaches were deserted save for the most diehard of tourists who were determined to have a sandy holiday despite the torrential rains. Bars and restaurants seemed to be doing well as everyone took cover with a glass of something, but the British economy has started to bite the asses of the normally sanguine Mallorquin business owners and what is a normal complaint that there just aren’t enough holiday makers here, would actually seem to be true this time around.

Now, in June, the weather continues to be terribly changeable (just yesterday we had a code orange tornado warning) and on top of that we have a supplies crisis on the island. Due to the lorry drivers strike in Europe the stocks of fresh produce and fuel are rapidly running out in Mallorca. The fuel prices are rising, and on this island owning a car is a necessity as the public transport services are infrequent and inconsistent.

The older Mallorquins will probably be okay as long as they keep tending their fincas in the country (rather like the English version of an allotment, although much prettier and with more animals) where they grow vegetables and fruit and keep a collection of farm animals, normally including a pig or two, a goat and a couple of sheep. Although this will depend on them being able to afford to physically get to their land in the country.

But for the rest of us who have a small fridge and not a small holding, the living may not be so easy.

Time to change our habits, time to find alternatives.

Visitors

It wasn’t long after we’d moved from London to Mallorca that we started to recieve house guests. A steady stream of people came to rubberneck at what they percieved as our good fortune to have miraculously landed in a Meditteranean idyll (but with my Dad knowingly repeating his personal mantra to our guests: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’, they soon got the picture that it wasn’t an accident or fortuitous lottery win that had got us to where we were).

Whilst O got on with working as a chef in the middle of the summer in an extremely hot kitchen, and I spent days out promoting my new business, our guests were often left to their own devices during the day, and into the evening. Often, this was of no hardship to us, as some of our visitors we barely knew – the classic, ‘friend of someone you once used to work with’ scenario, or the second cousin of a distant relative. But some we did, and we were particularly looking forward to a visit from fellow Londoners (and all round workaholics), a friend of O’s and his girlfriend. We planned trips: a day out on my father’s boat, restaurant visits, Palma nightlife excursions and general jollyment. After the pressure and craziness of physically moving to the island we were very excited to finally have people visiting who we liked and enjoyed spending time with. But we were to find out that sometimes, even guests that you know well, you don’t really know at all.

Living in a rented (and falling down) three storey house in the town of Andratx meant we had plenty of space for people to stay, and I lovingly prepared the guest bedroom, which in my opinion was by far the nicest room: I loved the sun peeping through the shutters as you heard the faintest echo of goat bells in the morning. Perfectly peaceful ambience. I even ironed the bed clothes which were of embroidered white linen. So far from our haphazard London days, I wanted to try to be a good hostess.

It was with mutual delight that our guests finally arrived for their week long stay. We had a wonderful couple of days, drinking wine on the terrace in the evening, listening to mellow music and putting the world to rights. But then things started to go wrong, O and I couldn’t work out what we had done, but suddenly his friend’s girlfriend started to act strangely. She locked herself into the perfect guest bedroom for hours on end, and refused to come out. We were distressed to hear her crying. The couple would disappear off for the day and then on their return go to the bedroom and not come back out for our customary end of day terrace session with a couple of bottles of cheapo vino. My father’s boat trip was to have been a highlight, but the girlfriend just couldn’t shake herself out of her malaise and sat with a dark cloud over her head for the entire day, whilst the rest of us jumped off the back of the boat into the clear blue sea. We simply couldn’t understand it. Surely we weren’t such terrible hosts? Why didn’t she like us anymore? Were we being boring, talking about how great Mallorca was? O’s friend was apologetic, but would not explain what was going on, and I think we all started to wish the days away until their departure.

The mystery was finally solved a week after they had returned to London when I received a letter from her: in it she thanked us for our hospitality and with a painful air of embarrasment apologised for her unfortunate timing in deciding to come off of her anti-depressant medication whilst on holiday, trying to capture the simple happiness that O and I were also persuing that seemed to be so elusive to all of us in London . . . I know that after her rather bumpy start, she successfully stopped taking her medication.

We attended their wedding in Wiltshire last summer, it was an incredibly happy day.

Copyright VMcLeod 2008

The beginning

Mallorca isn’t just home to people retiring and living their dream life in the sun, it’s also the destination for many younger couples who are moving here to build a family life they feel they can’t achieve in the UK.

By VMc

My partner, O and I have lived in Mallorca since 2004. And we’ve answered the same set of questions time and again from inquisitive people we’ve met : what brought you to Mallorca, do you like it, will you ever go back. The answers are complicated, sometimes we give the long version, sometimes the short, it depends on how much in love we are with Mallorca at that moment. We were living in north London when we met in 2001, both my husband and I were single 30-somethings, living it up in the most expensive capital city in the world. Good jobs, great friends, fantastic social and cultural life. What on earth made us change our lives so dramatically? Why leave when you’re onto such a good thing? We wanted to have a family, in a kind of ‘at some point we’ll try’ kind of way, but knew that the very unleafy environment of Walthamstow was not what we would want for any offspring we may be fortunate enough to produce. We wanted to make and build our own businesses, but yet again, the competitiveness and expensiveness of London made the prospect of doing that very daunting. We wanted to live in a community, which a city the size of London wasn’t physically able to give, but we didn’t want to live in the suburbs and do a long commute everyday into the city, so living outside of London was never an option.

But the concept of living abroad was not on our agenda, we hadn’t even considered it. We just knew that we weren’t happy with where we were. A holiday to Mallorca in 2002 to see my father, E, who was already living here, was to be the moment of epiphany. Stressed out from struggling with the agressiveness of London, the traffic jams and the constant draw on our energies, we were unprepared for the gentle, friendly reception we recieived in Mallorca – both by the locals, and the ex-pat community which E had integrated into. The one week break finished with a road to Damascus conversion on the way back to the airport to fly back into the melee. Getting out of the car at Son Sant Joan I found myself in floods of tears with no real understanding of what was going on. A thorough debrief from my partner on the plane home lead to the realisation that I simply didn’t want to go back to London, but had to. Unlike so many people who I have met who told me that they’d come to Mallorca on a holiday, liked it and just didn’t get back on the plane again, it was to be a full two years before we raised enough money to be able to finally rent out our flat, pack our bags, bung the cats in a carrier, and make the two day dash across Europe in a Mini Metro to start our new life.

It’s not been a easy road since either, we were not prepared for the stresses of living in a foreign country; illnesses, accidents, tragedies, dramas and intrigues; the complications of getting married; the extreme highs and lows of expecting or having a baby; the gossipy (occasionally cruel) incestuousness of living in a small community or the reality of our own family life. Missing our friends, longing for Tescos, wanting desperately to be able to get the Sunday supplements with the English papers, wondering where the decent clothes, books and record shops are, with no chance of ever going to a Premiership match on a Saturday. And, oh yes, starting and running three businesses, and buying a house.

So why the hell are we here? It’s certainly nothing to do with the weather. And we’re a lifetime away from ever being able to retire and play golf or hang out on yachts. It could have something to do with the incredible support we have from our international group of friends and colleagues, it might also have something to do with the fact our daughter is growing up speaking three languages, and it may even have something to do with the fact that everytime I drive into the valley that we live in I have to stop and look at the view. Who knows, it’s complicated, but never ever boring. But then family life is, isn’t it?

Copyright VMcLeod 2008