Month: January 2014

PLAYING BY THE RULES

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We went “en famille” to our local music school’s piano recitals this week. We went to watch our little girl La Gidg who was playing along with all of the other piano pupils. She was number eight on the programme, eight of forty two. Gidg was feeling quite nervy, despite practicing a lot at home on the piano that Facebook gave us : thanks to a Facebook friend we had our baby grand donated to us three years ago, and then thanks again to other Facebook friends it was transported to our house for free! We have to live up to this; we have a promise to keep. We have been quite strict with her, I have insisted that she learn to play the piano and go to her weekly lessons which she grumbles about constantly, and music isn’t easy to learn, it’s another language really, with all of its rules and regulations. I know, I know: and the pushy parent award goes to…

Gidg managed to get through her piece, more or less. She stumbled over a couple of parts, but she didn’t give up, throw her hands in the air and storm off or cry. So, given that all of those things had happened during home rehearsals over the preceding week we decided to mark this one down as “a win” for the team.

Gidg was in amongst a mixed group of kids and teenagers, some of them also stumbling, and losing their way in the music, and some of them skipping merrily through the lot without a glance at the music or even their fingers, playing all sorts from “I’m a little teapot” to pieces from Swan Lake, and everything in between. Although it was quite tempting to just slip out the back of the auditorium after Gidg had done her bit, we stayed put. It’s not the “done thing” anyway is it? I think it’s important to show the same respect for the other young musicians as they had for Gidg. At least I thought so, unlike some of the other parents who, as soon as their little darling had tickled the ivories were bundled off back into the night. A shame really as there was some serious talent playing that night at the Andratx municipal music school. Yes you read that correctly, our local music school is run by the council. It’s strange isn’t it? The priorities that our local council have: they can’t afford to put traffic calming on the main road in our village, but they can afford to run a music college.

Despite that I’m glad that we have the school, it is fantastic opportunity to be able to study there, and it’s extremely cheap. 20€ a month gets Gidg a thirty minute piano lesson every week. If she can reach the standard of some of the other pupils then it would be amazing, having the ability to play an instrument is a gift that I would hope would stay with her for all of her life and that she may eventually appreciate. As we sat there in the darkened auditorium, with Gidg leaning her head against my shoulder finally enjoying listening to some sensitive, mournful and elegant piano playing I realised that not everything should be taught: some things should be felt to be understood, and that’s just as important as following the rules.

http://www.familymattersmallorca.com

Written by Vicki McLeod 

THE EUROPEAN UNION AND OUR RIGHT TO VOTE

From left, Senator Gari Dural, Mayor of Palma Mateu Isern, and President of the EPORE Kate Mentink.

From left, Senator Gari Dural, Mayor of Palma Mateu Isern, and President of the EPORE Kate Mentink.

Nobody can have failed to note that this year 2014 we are remembering the start of the First World War, a war so terrible that it was called “the war to end all wars”. It didn’t, and just 25 years later Europe and the world was immersed in another war of such huge proportions that millions and millions of young lives were once again lost in truly unimaginable circumstances.

Out of such horror, the leaders of the Western world made one wise decision, the creation of what was to become the European Union. The world has changed completely since those times, with the introduction of global communications, international trade and scientific development that can take us to the moon and cure crippling diseases. What has not changed is the human capacity for cruelty and aggression, whatever the cause they fight for.

The European Union, with all its faults, is a basic element in securing peace within the 28 countries it represents. Most of the more than 500 million citizens of Europe today do not have any personal experience of such wars. This is not a reason to forget them.

On the 25th May 2014, all citizens within the 28 countries of the European Union are called to vote for their representatives in the European Parliament. Incredibly there are many politicians who would have us believe that the European Union is no longer necessary in our lives, or is simply inconvenient for their own political motives. How easily and how quickly they forget. These elections in Spain on 25th May are enormously important for all of us living in Europe, and none more so than those of us who have had the possibility to live, work and retire in a country other than our own, thanks to being European citizens. To not participate actively by voting in these elections is, in my opinion, a total lack of respect for all who gave their lives in two World Wars to ensure “peace in our time”.

I ask EVERY NON-SPANISH EUROPEAN CITIZEN living here in the Balearic Islands to use just a few minutes of their time to register at their local Town Hall BEFORE 30th JANUARY to ensure their right to vote in the European elections. USE THIS RIGHT. HAVE A VOICE AND VOTE.

By Kate Mentink.

You’ve got to show up

Teatro Principal, Vicki McLeod, Mallorca, Phoenix Media,

I’ve told you before to join the Europeos Por Espana group. And here’s another example of why you should. Last Monday night, my daughter La Gidg with my husband and I accompanied a group from EPORE to the 59th presentation for the Premis de Ciutat Palma. It’s the yearly prize giving for cultural achievements in the city, and it’s quite fancy pants as it turns out.

Picture the scene in the foyer of the Teatro Principal: in piled local Mayor after Mayor after Mayor, it seemed as if every single area in Mallorca was represented that evening along with the European community (i.e. Kate Mentink and the gang from EPORE). There were plenty of “Grand Dame” looking ladies with furs (and I imagine major hairdressing bills), some blokes in suits of armour and ceremonial swords, and lots and lots of people. The local Spanish press were there in force, with TV cameras and plenty of snappers. And us.

I’d asked before if there were any particular dress code, as we have (shabby lot that we are) been caught out before when we’ve rocked up to an afternoon event in jeans only to be welcomed in by lounge suits and ball gowns. We were slightly smarter than usual in preparation for an evening at the Teatro Principal but you don’t really have to worry when you are in such a lovely building at a special event. If you haven’t had a chance to go inside and enjoy the space then do get yourself along at some point. It has been laid out to benefit the acoustics of the room, rather than the possibly more familiar theatre auditorium layout, which means there is a large open space for the sound to float through and plenty of boxes to sit in on the many levels. La Gidg saw the top of her music teacher’s head (her teacher did not believe her the next day when she told her that she had seen her, and only changed her mind when La G described exactly what she had been wearing and where she had been sitting. THAT’S how special it was to have been there).

Teatro Principal, Mallorca

It’s a privilege to be invited to these sorts of events, just after Christmas we were able to go to the Pregon at the Palma Council which was amazing as well. And it’s because we’re members of this association. It’s also vitally important that we show up. If as foreign residents of Mallorca you want to have a voice or want to be taken seriously, or want in any way to have an effect on the society that we live in then you’ve got to show up, and you’ve got to be seen to be there. Thank you to Kate and the people at EPORE for yet another chance to be there. If you want to join the association then visit www.familymattersmallorca.com for more information. I can highly recommend it.

You can find out more about joining EPORE by clicking this link. 

The true cost of living

Photo by Oliver Neilson, Phoenix Media Mallorca. Cloud PR We’ve been away, back to the UK for Christmas. The trip was okay, we made my parents in law happy because we were with them for the big day. But the weather sucked: floods, storms, more floods.  The trains were packed and delayed. And boy was it expensive. We met up with some old friends who also have kids; they work in the City doing the 9 to 5 (or more like the 8 to 7). In order to afford their lifestyle (okay house in a suburb, childcare for their two kids, a beach holiday every year) they have to take their children to something called a “Breakfast club” at 7am, which means they have to get out of bed at 5am. Then they go to work and do twelve hour days. Their kids are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner by other people, and then they go home and see their parents for an hour before bed. The only time they are together is at the weekend.

Well, we argued to ourselves, it’s not so cheap to live in Mallorca either these days. Did you hear this one? The autonomos charges are going up from between 2% and 20% depending on the size of your business. Or what about this one? That the price of bottle gas is rising again, and rumoured to be going to 23€ a bottle! The Government is clueless, they haven’t done enough to address the economic crisis that we teeter on the brink of. We earn less here than we would if were in the UK. My husband gave up a promising career in banking to move with me to Mallorca, we’d both probably be at a senior level somewhere in some organisation or other toeing the lines, wearing suits rather than jeans, never seeing our child, or each other. But, we counter argued, the lifestyle we have here we couldn’t afford in the UK.

This morning I woke my little girl up at 7.30am, we all had breakfast together in the kitchen then at 8.45am my husband made the ten minute journey to school and dropped her at the gates. Then I had a coffee with my husband before sitting down to work in our home office. I don’t earn the same sort of cash that our friends can scoop up in the UK, even though I probably do a similar amount of hours in albeit a different order (I do more work later into the night than they do, but then I don’t have to get up at 5am every morning), but I have things that money can’t ever buy. I have time with my daughter and my husband, and I do what I love.

So in the end, you have to weigh up what is going to cost you more. “Time is money” but lost time can never be found again, and as my husband is very fond of reminding me, there’s always the lottery.  

Ondine Palma Aquarium Day set to be a hit!

The Asociacion Ondine´s FUNdraiser & Awareness day at Palma Aquarium on the 19th of January is now completely full! 

The day will have a free kids’ tour of the aquarium whilst the adults will enjoy free entry to a presentation about Asociacion Ondine´s fantastic marine research & conservation initiatives in the conference room. Please note there is not free entry into the aquarium for the general public: the event is an RSVP event for invited guests only. This event and free guided tour have been funded by Absolute Boat Care and Asociacion Ondine with a great price offered by Palma Aquarium.

Should you wish to learn more about the local marine research & conservation Asociacion Ondine are conducting at the moment or about their future projects please do not hesitate to contact brad@asociacionondine.org or visit  their website at www.asociacionondine.org

Bah Humbug!

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

I went to see Isla Theatre Project’s production of A Christmas Carol last weekend in Palma. Did you catch it? You may have because the theatre was packed out the night I went.  You can get more information about the company at their website. Small but ambitious, I like their grit and determination and they deserve everyone’s support, so please pop over to their site and sign up for their newsletter.

The production was a highlight of our festive season, but I’ve got to tell you that my lowest point was shopping in the kid paradise, parent hell that is Toys R Us. It happens every year: I think I’ve aced Christmas and got all the presents and done all the jobs, we get past New Year’s Eve, I think I’m home and dry and that the new school term is just around the corner. I think that I’ve spent all the money on dumb stuff that I am going to have to spend, and then WHAMMO! There’s Three Kings. It wasn’t on my radar, but it’s certainly on my daughter’s. Somehow this year she had already written a letter to the Three Kings AT SCHOOL and that the kings “know” what she wants and that it is a secret. This then triggered a covert operation where my husband and I had to figure out or coerce her into telling us what she wanted in order that we could support a belief that we don’t share because we didn’t want to upset her.

What she wanted is what I loathe the most: those dreadful skinny ugly/beautiful Mattel dolls from Monster High. She already has six of the things, bought for her by a variety of doting relatives over the past year or so, she’s also inherited at least one from older girls who have grown out of them. Have you seen them? They are truly awful. They’re characters from a cartoon which are supposed to be teenage monsters at an American high school. The cartoon portrays the same dramas and relationships as regular teenagers: unrequited loves, petty disputes, bullying, but all of course with a happy ending where they all get to go to the prom. I know that “Draculaura” and “Clawdeen Wolf” and “Frankie Stein” probably aren’t going to look like regular teenage girls, because they are monsters, zombies, and vampires: the undead, after all. But these dolls have size zero figures, ridiculously long legs, enormous eyes and trout pouts. They are dressed like strippers in teetering heels and they all have fabulous hair, although that could be green or blue rather than a luscious blonde. The worst bit of all is that they cannot stand up on their own. They have to have plastic frames to lean upon in order to stand up. What does that say about the design? I just don’t like the idea that my daughter is into dolls which cannot even stand up unsupported. How is that teaching her to be a smart, independent, healthy young woman?

This was all in my mind when I was in Toys R Us last Saturday (yes, of course I would have to be there the day before Kings, elbowing fellow parents out of the way, losing my mind and seething about what she wants the Kings to bring her). So I ask myself, what are the other options? What alternative could I give her which she would like? To be honest, there were none. The other choices are simpering sweet perfectly pink girls (with fabulous blonde hair) or Disney Princesses (ditto hair) which are just as unrealistic as the monster dollies. So being stuck between a rock and a hard place which do you choose? Little Miss Perfect or Senorita Ugly/Beautiful? Bite the bullet McLeod and pay up. Welcome to the family “Abbey Bombinable”.

 

2014 begins

If you are looking The Mallorca Expat Commandments then click here and if you are looking for information about my blog courses then click here. 

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La Gidg on the beach, Jan 1st 2014

We’ve spent the first day of 2014 doing what we hope to do much more of throughout the year.  Namely spending time together and with family and friends.

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Winners!
Photo by Phil Rogan.

We kicked off our day with breakfast then boogied over to Portals Nous where we went for a very rapid dip in the Med. It was cold.  Not Ice Station Zebra cold, but chilly enough ta. (Photo by Phil Rogan).

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Grandad’s little horse, La Gidg and my Dad, Alaro Jan 1st 2013

Then we zipped to Alaro and walked up to the top and then down to the lamb restaurant Es Verger.

The weather was amazeballs (apparently that word is SO 2013 darling, but I like it,  so it stays) and everyone seemed determined to have a lovely day.

Setting intentions to spend better and happier times with my important people is perhaps the best and nicest resolution I could make.  All the others in my mind are all self improvement which just read like a list on how to “how to wreck your confidence”. So I won’t.

If you are looking The Mallorca Expat Commandments then click here.  

And if you are looking for information about my blog courses then click here.