living in Mallorca

THE s’Arraco Night of Art

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Did I see you on Thursday evening in my little village? In amongst the approximately 6000+ people who were stood outside of my front door? s’Arraco, which is between Andratx and St Elm down on the SW corner of Majorca, only has 2000 inhabitants, so for one crazy night every year our population trebles as we are inundated with visitors. There’s nowhere to park, you have to get a shuttle bus or a taxi from the nearby towns or walk, or cycle, or roller-skate, or hover board or do whatever you have to do to get there. Our village is full for that night and it’s so much fun that as soon as this year’s Night of Art is over we all start looking forward to the next one.
It started six years ago and has evolved into what Andratx, our local council, says is the most popular night of the year in the whole municipality. The organiser of the evening, Neale Sanders, told me that “Working with the council has been a joy, everything I need they provide, they fully support the event and give me all the help I could ask for. It doesn’t seem to matter which council it is , PP or PSOE, or any of the parties, they all think the Nit de l’Art is a great event. It’s really apolitical which is wonderful. I can’t thank them enough for what they do.”
Neale coordinates the more than 140 artists who exhibited on Thursday night, myself included, plus the musicians and other acts, and organises the programme and publicity. It’s probably quite a headache to do but he seems to always be in a good mood so I think he enjoys it, even the stress! But Neale’s and everyone’s hard work certainly paid off as it was a fantastic evening filled with energy, laughs, friends, and probably too many mojitos if my head was anything to go by on Friday. The event attracts artists from all over the island to participate and it is really fun to do. There really isn’t a spot in s’Arraco which doesn’t have some art in it on this evening. Sculptures fill the only town square, paintings are hung from many doorways and fences, gardens, shops and cafes are opened to artists to exhibit in, everywhere you turn there it is. And not just art work, but music as well. Ten bands played throughout the night on strategic street corners, acapella, jazz, Spanish, rock, swing, blues, world music and lots more. Plus street performers dancing with fire and walking on stilts, and performances in our little municipal theatre as well. There’s actually no way one person could possibly take it all in, but everyone tries and there’s a constant movement of people as they roam around the streets. As and when you’re in need of refreshment there’s food stalls run by local associations and our local restaurants. One of the restaurants, Es Raco de Puput said they’d served 1400 tapas!
To put into perspective how many people come to the Night of Art: walking from my house to the centre of the village normally takes five minutes, on Thursday evening it took thirty. It’s wonderful to realise so many people want to support art and culture and have a great night out in the middle of the week. Well done to everyone who exhibited and thank you to Neale for organising such a vibrant and fun party for our village. If you didn’t make it this year then there’s always 2018. Viva s’Aracco!

Mallorca Grapevine, 14 July 2017

THE WEDNESDAY GROUP

With the twiddlers and shawlsI popped past The Wednesday Group headquarters last week to take a couple of snaps of them before they broke up for the summer.

With the toysThis industrious bunch have been making toys for the Allen Graham Charity, knitted knockers for the Cancer Support Group to donate to people who need breast prostheses, and shawls for wheelchair users and twiddlers for people suffering from dementia for Age Concern to donate.

With the knockers

I’d never seen a twiddler before and I was quite fascinated by them. They are very pleasing to hold with chunky knit outside and a felt inside with plenty of different things attached to them to fiddle with.

A Twiddler, I'm very glad I don't need one, but I want one!Apparently they are used by people with dementia as a way to occupy their hands and it has a calming effect on anyone who is feeling distressed. I’ve got to say I’m glad that I don’t need one, but boy I would like one! The Wednesday Group will restart in September. Anyone who wants to join them is very welcome to go along and get stuck in. You can contact Kay Halley at the Universal Bookshop or call her on 971 676 116.

 

JIMMY CARR IS ON HIS WAY

Jimmy Carr is on his way!One of the most prolific joke-tellers of recent times, Jimmy Carr will be embarking on a mammoth world tour in 2017 and 2018. With an astonishingly vast repertoire and lightning-sharp delivery honed from fifteen years at the top, Jimmy is gathering a selection of his very best jokes along with brand new material for the ultimate comedy show, and he’s coming to Majorca in August to perform at the Auditorium on the 23rd!  Jimmy has been on the stand-up scene for a decade and a half. In that time he’s performed 9 sell-out tours, playing nearly 2,000 shows to over 2 million people across 4 continents. He’s won the British Comedy Award for ‘Best Live Stand-Up Tour’ and been nominated for the Perrier Award.

 

MICHAEL BOLTON PLAYS MALLORCA

Michael BoltonAnother gig I’m looking forward to is Michael Bolton who will be playing Son Fusteret on August 12th.  I recently wrote about Angel Flukes who will be supporting him and I’ve heard that tickets are selling well, so it’s probably time to get yours.

 

HEALTHY GOODIES AT A MA MAISON

Delicious carrot, orange and pumpkin soupIn my role as “person who overshares on Facebook about healthy food recipes and being kind to animals” I was invited along to A Ma Maison restaurant in Santa Catalina by the owner Saloua. She treated me to her new recipes that she is working on to offer to her clients who may want to eat more healthily, and plant based.

Beetroot tartareI was really impressed with her ideas, and particularly liked the beetroot tartare.

Saloua with her homegrown tomsSaloua grows a lot of her herbs and even some of her veggies out the back of her restaurant where she proudly showed me her kitchen garden.

 

THE NIT DEL ART, SARRACO

18767472_1163997700412316_351606726977054557_n

I don’t care if you think this is biased, but my perfect little village, S’Arraco in Andratx will be holding its Night of Art on the evening of Thursday July 27th. Put the date in your diary. It really is worth the trip over for a great cultural night out. There will be lots of live music, wine, food, and art to gawp over.

19702515_1193826144096138_8057866209205592366_n

Parking can get a bit tricky in the village and there will be a shuttle bus running from Andratx so park there and the bus over from in front of the Eroski.

 

VEGAN DAY OUT A SUCCESS!

Scott, the organiser of the Vegan Day OutWell done to Scott Adams who managed to pull off something brand new for the island,  a vegan festival!  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The location for the first event was at Son Amar in Palmanyola and featured workshops, stalls, cruelty free products, yoga, plenty of activities for children and some very interesting looking drinks! Apparently between 800 and 1000 people attended. Scott is already working on the next event which will be on August 23rd, location yet to be confirmed.

 

MALLORCA FASHION WEEK

slider-maria-barros-mallorca-fashion-weekComing up very soon from 26th to 28th July Palma will be inundated with models, designers, and I hope, plenty of air kissing. Yes it’s Mallorca Fashion Week, organised by the powerhouse which is Victoria de Vivero.  You can get your tickets for the shows online at www.mallorca-fashionweek.com

Growing up a writer

20049028_10154908909078507_1358458897_oIt’s a sweaty afternoon in Palma but Emily Benet arrives for our lunch meeting looking very cool and composed. She’s just got off the bus (rather than drive, she’s only just passed her test and Pierre the seven seater Citroen Picasso is a bit of a handful in Palma). We’re meeting to talk about her most recent novel, The Hen Party, set in Mallorca with the tag line ” A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.”  The story features film director, Kate Miller, who is in serious trouble: the entire cast and crew of a reality TV show “The Hen Party”  have gone missing whilst filming. Kate thinks it’s all her fault, well she hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines, but if she is to blame, why are the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears…. ? Emily’s book is a fast, fun, summer read full of comedy and drama and having read it myself, I’m going to tell you to get it because a) you’ll enjoy it and b) Emily is a local author, living here on the island and we should support her.

But, back to the interview, once we’ve ordered our lunches we get down to it.  Aside from living on the island for the past couple of years Emily is an author, journalist and award winning blogger. But her story starts way, way back when she was eleven. “I always wanted to be a writer, I wrote a book, Dandelion Abbey, about talking animals. But it wasn’t until I was encouraged to enter a writing competition by my English teacher at my school in Barcelona that I really believed I could do it. I won first prize, 350€!”

The daughter of a Spanish dad and a Welsh mum Emily was thirteen when they all moved to Spain. “I was determined to pass my Selectividad (the Spanish University entrance exams) because this boy at my school had said he didn’t know why I was bothering. And I did it.” As it was she found herself studying back in the UK at the University of East Anglia, but she didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere, and she didn’t like her surroundings either. “Everything was burgundy, the place looked like a Swedish prison”.  Emily was quickly frustrated by the lack of time actually being taught, only six hours a week, and for a determined, ambitious, some might say workaholic, writer, this was just too much to bear. She dropped out.  An ultimatum was posed, either she studied in Barcelona or went to help in the family business, a chandelier shop in London. She chose the shop. “I decided, I’m going to take a year and help my mum in the shop whilst I write THE novel”.  One year rolled into more but she didn’t stop working on her goal, “I went to creative writing groups and classes, I read A LOT. I found myself inspired by the daily things in life, a single overheard sentence on the bus can spark a “What if… ” in my brain. Then one day she went to watch a football game, Germany vs Spain, with her dad and she met her future husband who was to have an impact not just on her, but on her writing career.”  He suggested to me that I start writing a blog. This was 2008 and not so many people were writing blogs then, I decided to write a blog about my life in the shop. I called it Shopgirl Blog. But I wasn’t really a shop girl, I was a writer, a writer trapped in the body of a shop girl working in a shop”. That’s when things really started moving and Emily started to get noticed. “I posted a link to my blog on the Salt Publishing Facebook page, and I got a response! They were interested in what I’d written and wanted to turn it into a book.” The blog also became a TV pilot (you can watch it on You Tube). Then mega publisher Harper Collins picked up her next books, The Temp and Please Retweet. But as she quickly discovered despite being on the roster of a publishing house that didn’t mean they would do much promotion of her work.  So this time around, with The Hen Party, she’s going it alone.

She admits it hasn’t been easy, switching from being with a publisher to self publishing, but she realises now that she might have been better off doing it her way right from the start as sales for The Hen Party are already surpassing her previous novels. She attributes her success to make this switch to someone she’s never met, Joanna Penn, the host of a podcast The Creative Penn which interviews successful author entrepreneurs.  As Emily tells me, “The word entrepreneur has a lot of positive connotations. An entrepreneur sounds like someone who is driven, creative, has get-up and go. Unfortunately self-publishing entrepreneurs aren’t always met with the same admiration in the writing world. Self-publishing still has a lot of stigma – and I get why. People want the credibility of a big publisher. They assume if a big publisher didn’t print it, then it can’t be good. In reality, a traditional publisher might like the book but may not have space for it on their list. They may well have a similar author writing in the same genre. I didn’t wait until the very end to find out if a publisher wanted my book. It takes months and months for replies and the first so-called ‘rave rejections’ that I received convinced me the novel was good enough for public consumption. The book took me over a year with two massive edits so I wasn’t going to just discard it because three people liked it but weren’t sure they’d be able to sell it. I didn’t just hit publish once I’d made up my mind. It was important to me that it would be produced with the same care as a traditionally published book. Next, it went through a professional editor. After that, a proof reader. For me, it’s about being proactive about your career, treating it like a business and taking the wishful thinking out of it.  It’s about taking creative control of your project, getting fair royalties and being able to adjust prices and book covers if at first it doesn’t succeed.”  We talk at great length about book covers and she shows me the most recent version of The Hen Party, she’s not quite happy with it. I tell her to stop worrying about it, but then if it were my book I think I would be just as fussy. After all it represents more than a year’s work, and who can say that about anything they’ve done?

When our date is over we find it hard to say goodbye, and wander around the streets of Palma together for a while, until finally Emily decides she’d better go find her bus. As I head off I wonder how many new ideas for stories she’ll come up with on the ride home and pledge to take the bus a bit more often myself.

                                                                                                                                                                   

You can get Emily Benet’s books online at Amazon or at the Universal Bookshop in Portals.

Visit http://www.emilybenet.com for more.

The Grapevine May 20th

Calvia Rotary Club Success

Events in Mallorca

This year the Rotary organisation worldwide is celebrating the Centennial Year of the Rotary Foundation.It now comprises of over 1,200,000 members in more than 200 countries. The object of Rotary is to encourage the ideal of “Service above self”.  They take on projects at a local  level, but also international challenges: one of the main projects being the eradication of polio throughout the world. Every Rotary Club in the world has been asked to organize an event to celebrate their 100th birthday, and the Rotary Club of Calvia International is no exception.  All their members got together to enjoy a Charity Jazz Night at the Club de Mar in Palma proving that fundraising can be great fun as well.

The project was led by member and musician Geoff Frosell and his Dixie Swing Band.  Add superb Gourmet Food by Tomeu Caldentey, some excellent wines, and the wonderful atmosphere of the Club de Mar with night-time views over Palma Harbour and the Cathedral, and success was assured.  An international crowd of all ages gathered to enjoy the event, and support the cause.  As a result of the generosity of everyone, the Club was able to contribute €2,000 to the Rotary Foundation Centennial account, which will be doubled by the Bill Gates Foundation to €4,000.  Together with all the other Rotary Clubs, who are targeting a collection of 300 million dollars this year, this ensures the continuation of the programme to eliminate polio world-wide, as well as projects dedicated to the education of children in the very poorest countries of the world, and many others.

Why not go  along and meet them at the Bendinat Hotel any Monday at 13.30. Send an email to geoffmoorecaracol@gmail.com. For more information :  www.rotaryclubofcalvia.com

The Sea Soirée

Events in Mallorca

Photo credit Sofia Winghamre

Last Friday 12 May, Asociación Ondine hosted a Sea Soirée at Coast in Port Adriano to raise money and awareness for marine conservation in the Balearic Islands. A gathering of 160 people attended in support of the cause, and to enjoy a masquerade-themed evening of drinks, dinner and dancing.

Guests arrived in time for sundowners on Coast’s terrace against the backdrop of live music from Soundhold, followed by a colourful display of Brazilian dancing and acrobatics by the Capoeira Group. A three-course, sit-down dinner was then served by Coast’s finest chefs who specialise in a fusion of Asian-Mediterranean cuisine. (It is safe to say that seafood was nowhere to be seen on the menu!)

Events in Mallorca

Sea Soiree Photo by Sofia Winghamre

With the majority of attendees linked to the yachting industry to some extent, Ondine’s President Brad Robertson took to the stage to say a few words about the ethos behind the charity, and to encourage people to get more involved. While most people know of Ondine through the organisation’s famous beach cleans around Majorca, one of Brad’s main objectives is to emphasise their work towards reducing plastic pollution and establishing marine reserves.

“These efforts are directly related to the yachting industry,” he explained. “If we are going to continue to have yachts coming and enjoying the Balearics, then we need clean and healthy seas. Our generation has done some serious damage to the environment, however we are in a period where recognition of the situation is very clear, so we have a unique opportunity to turn things around. We are lucky enough to live in a pristine part of the Mediterranean, so we need to start appreciating it.”

One side to Asociación Ondine that many people are not aware of is its team dedicated to creating an efficient network of Marine Protected Areas around the Balearic Islands. The team consists of a group of scientists and professionals who played an integral role in the setting up of Sa Dragonera as a marine reserve. Brad urged that more of these are needed, and increased support of Ondine will help towards this. “It’s not my organisation, it’s ours, and if you care about the marine environment then we have created the right platform for you,” he concluded.

Following dinner, it was time to dance to more live music from Johnny and the Blue Valentines. A raffle and art auction commenced with some kindly donated prizes and beautiful pieces of art. For those that had the staying power, the party continued well into the night in Coast’s adjoining nightclub, with music from internationally renowned DJ Alan Alvarez.

Thanks to the efforts of all involved, an overwhelming €17,200 was raised over the course of the evening to help with Ondine’s work towards marine conservation. A special thanks is owed to the sponsors, without which the event couldn’t have taken place. These included Absolute Boat Care, aRikki, Cooling Towers, Doyle Rigging, Doyle Sailmakers, Ecoworks Marine, Electro Marine, iShine, JPL Yachting, Master Yachts, Medical Support Offshore, Nauitpaints, Planet Space, Superyacht Services Guide, Modesty Carpentry, Modesty Interiors, Beaumount Properties, Astilleros de Mallorca and The Islander.

Asociación Ondine’s simple vision to combine science, local communities and conservation to protect and improve local marine ecosystems around the Balearics is truly inspirational. The tremendous amount of money raised at the Sea Soirée is a testament to the yachting industry’s powerful ability to come together and have fun, all for this very good cause. The event is a beacon for the positive impact that the yachting industry can achieve and for that the Ondine team, and its generous supporters, should be applauded.

Tattoo Fest

Events in Mallorca

Photo Phil Rogan

Happening all over the weekend, and until next Wednesday May 24th the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival (www.traditionaltattoofestival.com) is quite an interesting place to visit. It’s designed to appeal to all ages as a  family event which allows members of the public to come and meet artists and performers from indigenous tribal cultures. A day pass is 10 or 15€ with children (u12) getting in free. Doors open each day at 12. You can find it at the Recinta Ferial in Santa Ponsa (opposite the windmill at the roundabout).  Come past and say hi as I will be there with fellow collaborators as we document the event and shoot some portraits of the indigenous tribes. Couldn’t turn down a chance like that now could I?

 

photographer Vicki McLeod, Mallorca

When life gives you lemons . . .

 

photographer Vicki McLeod, Mallorca

This article started as a quick follow up on something  I’d written for the Bulletin recently: Anita Vince had walked the GR221 with friends to raise money and awareness about breast cancer and I thought I’d put in an article about how to check your breasts and talk about the Cancer Support Group’s campaign to get all of us chicas checking our “lemons” (or melons, or mosquito bites, or boobs, or breasts, or whatever you’d like to call yours). I popped up a quick message on my Facebook, had any of my friends ever had breast cancer? I thought surely I’d get a reply from one or two people I knew. I wasn’t prepared for sixteen women and two men to answer me within an hour, all of whom had had breast cancer or had a loved one who had died from the disease.  I didn’t realise the extent of the problem, but I realise the power of letting people tell their own stories, so here they are.  I asked them all the same set of questions, here are their answers, in their own words.

How to check your breasts

There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. But it is important to know how your breasts usually look and feel. That way, you can spot any changes quickly and report them to your doctor.

Every woman’s breasts are different in terms of size, shape and consistency. It’s also possible for one breast to be larger than the other. Get used to how your breasts feel at different times of the month. This can change during your menstrual cycle. For example, some women have tender and lumpy breasts, especially near the armpit, around the time of their period. After the menopause, normal breasts feel softer, less firm and not as lumpy.

Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.

You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.

See your doctor if you notice any of the following changes:

  • a change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
  • a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • a new lump, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that is different from the same area on the other side
  • nipple discharge that’s not milky
  • bleeding from your nipple
  • a moist, red area on your nipple that doesn’t heal easily
  • any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and doesn’t go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)

Breast changes can happen for many reasons, and most of them aren’t serious. Lots of women have breast lumps, and nine out of 10 are not cancerous.

Get help

My thanks to all of the people that gave their time to appear in this article who had the courage to share their stories not only with me but with the Majorca Daily Bulletin readers as well.  Please get in touch with us if you would like to tell your story. If you need practical or emotional support as a person who has any type of cancer or you have a friend or loved one who has cancer then you can contact www.cancersupportmallorca.com or call their helpline on 659 887 455.

Ulrica Marshall

Photographer: Vicki McLeod

Believe that you will come through this.”

  • When did you first find out you had cancer? May 2006
  • How did you find out? I’d felt a lump for a while – maybe a month – but had dismissed it as I had two very young kids and breastfeeding plays havoc on your breasts anyway… Finally, my husband prompted me to go saying it just wasn’t right. I was still in denial holding onto that much-repeated statistic that 9 out of 10 lumps are benign. Mine, sadly, was not.
  • How did you feel when you found out? Terrified and in disbelief. I was so sure it was going to be nothing I’d brought my feisty 15-month old daughter to the biopsy. I was literally shaking when he told me that it had to come out (whatever it was) and I needed to go into surgery as soon as possible.
  • What treatment/surgery did you have? Lumpectomy – to minimise the damage to the breast – twice as there was still cancer in the margins after the first operation. 6 rounds of Chemo and 33 sessions of radiotherapy followed by 5 years of Tamoxifen. I quit after 5 years without doctors’ guidance as I was reading so many negative things about tamoxifen and I had done what I thought was enough.
  • How did it make you feel? Tired. Nauseous. Determined. Angry. Lucky – that my diagnosis was good after the operation. But mainly tired.
  • How did it affect your family? My girls were too young to really understand what was going on, though my eldest started hating cheese and refusing to eat it. I quickly gave up dairy after diagnosis and cheese was the biggest cut. So she clearly knew. My husband didn’t take it well. He was petrified. At the time of my diagnosis he had just been offered a job in Tokyo, which he’d accepted. I insisted he took it and went ahead of me – partly because he was flapping and it wasn’t helping me, but also once my 6 months of treatment hell would come to an end, I could make a fresh start in a new city (I was diagnosed in London) with no reminders of the zombie I was at that time.  
  • Tell me how you are now please…. I feel normal. In a good way. I no longer think of myself as limited by what I went through, not a victim or unlucky. It’s something that happened to me that does not define me. The experience improved my diet a lot and I remain non-dairy though I eat some meat these days – hard not to in Majorca. I exercise 4-5 times per week – but then I always did.  I try to remain positive and avoid stress and stressful situations as far as possible. I have been 10 years’ cancer free, so if it happens again it will be a new cancer. Who knows? Of course, I am still fearful before each check-up but not as much so as during the first few years.
  • Do you check your breasts regularly?  Yes but not necessarily methodically, but I am more in tune with my body now.
  • What piece of advice would you like to give to your younger self? Don’t stress so much. Otherwise, not a lot. Of course, I should have avoided dairy but it was not a unique cause of the cancer, it is just one of the few triggers that can be controlled and I did love those stuffed crust pizzas!
  • What piece of advice would you give to someone with breast cancer? Take control. I know doing so is hard in a situation where you have so little, but it helped me reading every book I came across – the one I eventually stuck with was “Your life in your hands” by Dr Jane Plant, which I referred to as my bible. Change your diet – the one area we can exert control – I firmly believe food is medicine and some foods are really helpful to aid treatment – such as eating an (organic, preferably) egg every day during radiotherapy. Finally, do fun things. Do anything to take your mind off ‘it’. I didn’t have much chance as I was taking care of two kids under 4, but that certainly left little time to dwell. Move forwards and be kind to yourself. Believe that you will come through this.

Anita Vince

 “I thought only old people had chemo!”

It was Easter and I was lying in my bed and doing a breast check and felt a small pea sized lump. Got it checked the following week as have private gynaecologist and he wasn’t concerned but said to come back in 2-3 months. Went back in June and it no longer looked like a lump with the ultrasound. It had little arms like it had developed its own blood supply. He wasn’t sure but was concerned. The next week I had a lumpectomy when he confirmed it was breast cancer. As I was relatively young and it was fast growing I’d need chemo and radio. I remember going to Mercadona after the second appointment in June when I had the op booked the following week and being devastated! I rang my husband and he wanted to know why the hell I was at the supermarket?! Go to a friends and he’d be back ASAP. I couldn’t work out why me? I ate healthily, exercised, didn’t smoke, or drink too much that often. I thought only old people had chemo ! My family were amazing. My sister and parents came to help and I had fab friends who came and did stuff when I couldn’t. My kids were obviously very worried for a while but I think we’re all stronger for it and my son in particular is extremely caring. My relationship with husband is also better. I didn’t work for a year. My hair falling out was also a big low. You appreciate the important things in life more and try to be a better person. I’ve realised we are all on our way to our graves but it’s about making the best time of while we’re here: loving relationships, family, friends, striving to do your best but taking the stress away. Life’s too short to miss opportunities and not stay positive! My advice to someone with breast cancer is to try to stay positive. Try all sorts of alternative therapies as some of them were great for me. keep open minded and try to eat super healthily when going through it

 

Leonie Thackray

“I feel blessed to have been given a third chance”

I found out two and half years ago after I’d had several mammograms ultra sounds and biopsies. I underwent my first mammogram as I wanted cosmetic implants and that’s what you have to do before they will go ahead When I found out I had it I felt very shocked and bitter as it was my third bout with cancer: I’d previously had Hodgkin lymphoma and the subsequent treatment involving radiation, chemotherapy and several invasive operations over a period of seven years starting when I was 16 and ending at 23. So I actually thought ‘why me again” selfishly. I had a double mastectomy my nipples removed and then implants . My body rejected the left implant resulting in several procedures including the removal of the tissue expander replacing implant and fat tissue from my body placed around the implants . My body rejected the implant as my chest area has radiated tissue damage from the previous Hodgkin treatments and it’s proven that it is very difficult to operate with success in that area . The operations were painful and I had to spend one summer with just one boob! But if I’m honest I felt very relieved that I didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation as I knew what was involved and really didn’t want to through it again . Also having one boob and no hair was not something I could imagine for me, being a little bit vain like most women if they are honest!

My family were obviously worried and concerned but equally know me and knew that I could dig in and deal with it as I had twice in the past. I feel lucky and blessed to have been given a third chance. A cat has 9 lives and all that. Do I still check my breasts?  I check underarms as I still have lymph nodes.

My advice is to step up and take control of things you can and let go of things you can’t. I believe everybody is  unique and how each individual reactS and dealS with lumps in the road along the way (no pun intended I’m not that clever) is different! It will never be as bad as that first prognosis. Be kind to yourself and also to those who choose to stand by you because it is actually harder for the people who love you than yourself at times. Take each day one at time. Good or bad. Remember you’re human and you can allow yourself to feel a bit sorry for yourself but don’t dwell there.

Lindy Tittle

“The treatment made me feel, sick, angry, furious, sad and eventually better.” 

I found out I had cancer in a dingy cubicle in hospital at queen Alexandra in Portsmouth in September 1999 , the whole process was hideous. I found the lump as I was drifting off to sleep. I was laying on my back my hands were resting in my chest and my little finger in my right hand touched a bit of chewing gum! Well it felt like chewing gum that had been chewed for a very long time and then stuck under a desk: hard really hard  So I felt it and tried to think of when I would have been in contact with a gum chewer. It was a long hard lump that went from the top of my collar bone right down to almost my nipple. I went cold and actually felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise, I knew for sure that I had breast cancer. A few days later I went to the doctor who was really angry with me for waiting, he made an appointment at “the one stop breast clinic ” for soon, he actually said make it soon! I went to the appointment, you have to bear in mind that you know you have cancer but you have to wait for the appointment. Eight days later I had the appointment, and then had to go back the next week for a biopsy, they needed to take a lump of my breast tissue and grow it. Then you go home and wait for 2 weeks for the lump to grow! Finally two weeks later they told me that I would need to have mastectomy. How did I feel when they told me? I felt relieved. I felt thank god for that, let’s put a plan together to fix me. The treatment made me feel, sick, angry, furious, sad and eventually better. I had good support: my best friend at the time had been diagnosed 6 months before me, we helped each other lots, she even picked me up from hospital after the mastectomy! But she died … I still feel very sad about that.

How did it affect my family: I was a single parent with 3 teenagers, my children pulled together and looked after me .. they would look in the Delia Smith cookbook go buy the ingredients and make food. I stayed in bed a lot .. the kids hung fairy lights around my bed ..( so I always had love hanging around) they loved me … they guarded me … and I am so very proud of them … we are a team.

Now I’m fabulous. I’m well. I also had to take Tamoxifen so to have gone on and had two more babies was very lucky. I have just finished my yearly mammograms. I do check my one remaining boob. I have since had a lump removed from it .. but I’m okay.

Piece of advice I’d give my younger self .. find my husband David and meet him sooner .. I have always eaten well .. by that I mean proper vegetables and fish and salad and meat ..I just think it was my battle .. everyone has something.. breast cancer was mine. The advice I’d give someone with breast cancer, know you will be better and eat broccoli… as much broccoli as you can. I still eat it pretty much every day.

Linda King

Photographer Vicki McLeod

“Hearing the news felt like falling through a trapdoor into a deep black abyss of devastation.”

I first found out in Oct 1995 after feeling sharp pain in my left breast and feeling some hardened tissue but not a defined lump. The hospital did a mammogram which showed no abnormality so they did an ultrasound which showed a 2.5cm lump. A needle biopsy was negative too but the surgeon decided the lump should be removed anyway. The lumpectomy was done and a week later when I went for the stitch removal I was told it was malignant. Hearing the news felt like falling through a trapdoor into a deep black abyss of devastation. It was a ductal infiltrating carcinoma so 10 days later I was admitted for a lymph clearance to check for spread. Modern surgery takes only the lymph node closest to the tumour but in 1995 the maximum number of nodes were removed (which means the lymph cannot drain properly ever again and my arm swelling). Luckily the cancer had not spread and so I only needed radiotherapy. I had to travel to hospital 40 miles away three times a week for 8 weeks, even though I was not allowed to drive myself it was exhausting.

My family were in total shock and feared for the worst outcome although my husband tried desperately to keep upbeat. I felt I was living in a pain-filled, anxious, brain-numbing bubble and losing weight. It was a very black episode in my life. However it taught me a valuable lesson – we all have plans and dreams we hope to achieve “sometime”. We decided that if I recovered we would put those plans into action ASAP! Now I am happy in my place in the sun! I now check my breasts during every shower. I would tell my younger self that stress and anxiety is often connected with developing breast cancer so try to relax.

My advice to those poor women who are currently fighting this cruel disease is that it is no longer a certain death sentence and treatment is now much more effective. Also to take care of yourself, don’t try to carry on being “wonder woman” and let your family and friends look after you for a change.

Zoe Austin York

Photographer Vicki McLeod 

“It made me worried for my daughter, for her future.”

I found out on the 2nd June, the day before my birthday last year.  As my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, I was convinced that no way would it hit both of us within a few months of each other, so I went to the appointment feeling really confident and had the wind completely taken out of my sails. How did I feel? Absolutely gutted.  I’d just been through it all with my sister and now it was my turn to go through it all.

I had had a routine mamo in February which highlighted a suspicious area, microcalcifications that could become cancerous, so I was scheduled for a second mamo in August.  When I told my gynae that my sister had been diagnosed, she said we won’t wait, we’ll book you in for an MRI now.  That lead to an eco (scan) to see if they could do a biopsy by eco, it wasn’t clear enough, so I had to have an MRI biopsy which wasn’t comfortable and turned my whole boob purple. I had a lumpectomy (a week later than the surgeon wanted, but I wanted my daughter to have finished school for the summer and not be worrying about me).  As it happened, delaying was good as  my boob was still so damaged from the biopsy it was like a bloodbath when they opened me up and the surgeon wasn’t convinced he’d got it all, by then I had two tumours. My oncologist wanted me to have chemo but I refused – the statistics didn’t stack up to me.  As she put it: it doesn’t help 80% of people, for 12% it’s too late, but it saves 8%.  As mine was caught so early, I didn’t feel I was in the 12% bracket or the 8% – time will tell.  But as the surgeon thought there was a bit left on my chest wall, I had radiotherapy, every day for a month, then started on Tamoxifen which I have to take daily for the next 5-10 years.  One of the side effects of Tamoxifen is cancer.  I don’t want to take it but felt it would give me a better chance. The radiotherapy wiped me out.  I had 9 days off work to recover from the surgery then started on radio at 9.30 every day, by 2pm I was exhausted so for the duration (August) I couldn’t work full time which was frustrating.  To me it was all an inconvenience, something to stop me living my life as I was used to living.

My daughter was gutted, not only did her Auntie have cancer, but now her mummy.  My partner John was very supportive and although he’s very against all of the treatments on offer preferring natural (cannabis oil) remedies, of course he supported my decision to take the radio.  My parents were distraught.  Dad blames himself (his mother died of breast cancer when he was only 13).

How am I now? Absolutely fine.  I feel fine.  It was only recently that I could wear a bra again, and I missed that.  I am a slow healer so until only 3 weeks ago, my boob was still too sore (damaged from the radio) for me to wear a bra.  I am still undergoing tests to see if the radio caused nerve damage due to a few issues that I have, but otherwise, I am carrying on my life and reminded from time to time if I overdo things that I am still not fully healed.

Do I check my breasts regularly? Daily!  I can feel the scar tissue inside the damaged boob, so constantly feel it to see if it’s gone down but otherwise I am happy that I am being very closely monitored.  We found out two months ago that my sister carries the BRCA2 gene.  Our oncologist reckons I will have it too, I get the results of my test sometime mid-late May.  This puts us at a higher risk for not only getting cancer in the other breast, but also ovarian cancer, so we now have 6 monthly gynae check ups.

It also made me worried for my daughter, for her future.  Especially if I also carry the gene, that gives her a 50% chance of inheriting it.  With the gene we have a 60% chance of getting breast cancer, 40% chance of getting ovarian cancer (the silent killer).  So of course I am worried about having passed it on to her and at the moment, as she’s only 14, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about this.

What advice would I give my younger self? I don’t know.  I think that knowing if I have the gene will help a lot, then I won’t blame myself for drinking or smoking so heavily when I was younger but I never felt a lump, it was so small when found under MRI that I couldn’t have felt it, so I don’t worry that I should have checked my boobs more often.

What advice would I give someone with breast cancer? Pfff, that’s a hard one.  To make sure you take someone else with you to the early day appointments as it’s impossible to take it all in.  Think of the questions you want answered, all the what if’s and make sure the person you take has good listening skills! As I’d been through it all with a friend before my sister, I knew what to ask so I kind of took over her appointments as she just couldn’t take it all in, we discussed her questions beforehand, so I knew what she wanted to know and made sure we got the answers. They don’t offer information here, you have to ask for it.  So make sure you think of what questions to ask and ask them, write down the answers and consider all of your options – don’t blindly follow just because they say you should have chemo – ask how necessary it is because I feel too many people go through it at such damaging consequences to the body, without it being necessary.

 

Terry Mott, husband of Kim               

 Terry’s wife Kim                                                                                                                    

My wife, Kim, was diagnosed in April 2004. She had just turned 40 in the previous February. She had decided to clean the conservatory windows one Saturday morning. While stretching to reach the top of the window she said she felt a sore tightness in her left breast. It was as she felt the sore spot she noticed a hard lump set quite deep into her breast. It worried her immensely on that Saturday and Sunday.  We went to see her doctor directly on the Monday morning and she referred her immediately to the Nuffield Private BUPA Hospital in Brentwood. We got an appointment on the same day and went there in the afternoon. They did X-rays and a procedure there and then to remove tissue for a biopsy. They asked us to return the following evening. At our appointment the following evening, we were told that she did indeed have breast cancer. It was an aggressive, non hormonal, stage 3 cancer.

The news left us numb. That’s the only adjective I can honestly use to answer that. I remember a stunned silence from both of us. There was no crying, there was no hysterical reaction. There was just a controlled numbness and an immense feeling of shock that seemed to, almost immediately, wrap us both in cotton wool. It was only years afterwards that I actually appreciated that shock can be a wonderful thing. Especially when you begin to realise what it enables you to do during a period of immense stress.

They decided that she should have 5 courses of chemotherapy prior to a full mastectomy. During that ten week period, the oncology surgeon referred her to a plastic surgeon and suggested the possibility of a full reconstruction during the same operation because he would have to be removing the whole of her breast. They strongly suggested that one major operation instead of two would be hugely beneficial. Kim decided that would be what she wanted and the two surgeons actually performed the operation together.

At the time of the surgery, the doctor said the chemotherapy had reduced the cancer to a mere ‘ghost’ of what it was. I remember him saying that the actual cancerous tissue was about the size of a golf ball and he suggested it would have been growing for at least a year to get to that size.

One of the most important things I remember from consultations regarding the reconstructive surgery was that the skin of her original breast had to have enough flesh still attached in order to maintain a blood supply to the skin. Fortunately they were able to do that and so the mastectomy and reconstruction was carried out successfully. She actually looked amazing. She even had a ‘nipple’ tattooed onto the reconstructed breast.

A week went by and results from the operation showed that all the cancerous tissue had been removed and she was officially classed as ‘in remission’.

All was going well until six months later when she found another small lump in her armpit, on the opposite side to the mastectomy. Again, she had it removed and the results showed it to be the same type of cancer again. This was critical as it meant the cancer had entered her lymphatic system. The gateway to the rest of the body.

Over the next 12 months she underwent further courses of chemotherapy. The cancer had spread to her liver, lungs, kidneys and bowels. She spent more and more time in hospital. Then she started to complain of headaches, something Kim never had. Scans showed the cancer had now spread to her brain. She underwent a course of radiotherapy but it was too late. She passed away a couple of weeks later on 16th August 2006 aged 42.

During the entire period of her illness, I honestly felt every emotion known to man. Each one as strong as is physically possible to take. But if I think about it now, the strongest feeling I had, as her husband, her life partner and her best friend was….. frustration. Frustration like I’d never known. A level of frustration I didn’t know was possible. It tore me into pieces. I was always the person to ‘fix’ a problem. It was my job to make everything okay again and I usually did.  And now, here I was and I couldn’t do a single thing to stop it or make it go away. I had to sit, hold her hand and watch as this awful disease slowly took hold.

It brought the family together and tore it apart at the same time. What made it worse was that it didn’t just affect our family. It was her friends as well. Kim had an abundance of ‘best’ friends, but each one of them only had one ‘best’ friend. Each one of those family and friends dealt with situation in a different way and trying to understand all their reactions simultaneously whilst going through it myself was tremendously painful and hard to cope with at times.  I was seen as the go between. The guy between them and Kim. It was incredibly hard to handle that as I only wanted to be there for Kim. She was my only concern. But then, each family has its strong members and thankfully they stepped up and gave me all the support I needed when I needed it most.

There were times when Kim would say to me “I don’t want anyone to see me like this” “please ask people not to come to see me” There were some family and friends who simply couldn’t understand that, and I have to say I took some hostility after she passed for ‘not allowing’ them to see their friend. It took some time to come to terms with that.

I think that you should live your life now. Tell someone you love them every day. And, never be afraid of doing the right thing. Even if this means some people not understanding you at the time. They will eventually.

I believe that, possibly, the best thing you can own is a clear conscience. And that comes from not having any regrets. Kim and I had a fabulous relationship based on trust and honesty. All throughout her illness, she never needed to doubt I was trying to do the right thing for her. She trusted me.  It helped me to eventually find acceptance after her passing.

Breast cancer doesn’t always mean the end. Survival rates increase and get better every year. Listen to your doctors and follow their advice. Also, look into all your options. Some holistic medicines may not be for you but think about them as a complementary treatment alongside the more mainstream prescribed by your doctor. It can’t hurt and the benefits they can offer may just make you feel better in yourself which can only help.

                                                                                                                                                               

Helen Pitt

“My heart pillow was a great help to me”.

I was heading off for my summer season on board the yacht I work on. The yacht was leaving from Palma to the South of France and luckily my captain allowed me to not do the passage and instead fly to the UK to see my mother overnight and then meet the boat in the South of France. After a good evening together and night’s rest I was up and showering when I noticed a lump on my breast which wasn’t there when I left Palma the day before. As soon as my Mother’s local doctor’s surgery opened I went to see them. The doctor agreed that it was something to be looked at as soon as possible. They then said it would take me a couple of weeks to be seen even with a private appointment but I could get to see a councillor while I was waiting. Luckily I have private insurance so I could get an appointment in France when I arrived there.  It was only a few days before I got my appointment but they were the longest waiting days. Within those days the lump got bigger and a hole then started to develop next to the lump. I went to have a mammogram in France and they confirmed that I had a tumour but not if it was cancerous. Further tests were needed.

I came out from the mammogram in shock even though it was obvious that something was wrong it still didn’t seem true. I called a good friend in the UK that had had breast cancer twice and asked advice from her experience and shed a few tears. I decided that I wanted my treatment in Majorca whatever it was going to be. When I arrived in Majorca I got several different opinions but they were all the same. It needed to come out as soon as possible.

The first thing was to have a biopsy of the tumour. This was one of the most uncomfortable procedures which I didn’t like and neither did the tumour. After being shot the tumour grew and doubled in size along with the hole getting bigger. It was as if it knew we were onto it. The results came in and it was confirmed it was cancerous. I was then booked for an immediate lumpectomy. They took 1/4 of my breast with the tumour but sadly they didn’t get it all. Another operation was needed. I decided that I didn’t want the risk of it not being taken completely and having chemo or radiotherapy so that I would then have a full mastectomy instead. I think it was very important that I elected to have genetic testing on my tumour. It was sent away to California as it didn’t exist here then. Two weeks later the results came back showing that with taking Tamoxifen for 5 years there was only a 12% chance of it returning and that chemotherapy would be of no benefit. Over 50% of people have chemo unnecessarily. There is now a company called Mamoprint in Spain that can do the same test though some insurance companies still don’t cover it. The national health and private health care in the UK now do. I know at least 7 people I have told about this that have not had chemo from having the same test.

To be honest I think I was in shock for several years. I was never angry or ‘why me’ but felt guilty that I hadn’t had to go through as much as other people. The people I was meeting then were going through chemo etc and I felt that I had cheated and not had to deal with as much. The mastectomy affected my self confidence more than I expected. I couldn’t bear to look at myself and hated showering. The turning point of this was to have a beautiful butterfly tattoo done using my scars to form the wings.

My family were devastated as I was the first in my family to have breast cancer. My sister said she couldn’t believe it as she had always thought of me as being indestructible. Most of my family had the same feeling and if it could happen to me then it could happen to anyone. My sister was brilliant and gave up all her annual leave to come over and stay with me and nurse me.

But now I feel brilliant! I have my regular tests coming up and then it will be every year. There is always a bit of a build up when the tests are due just in case something is discovered. I don’t think that once cancer has entered your life that it ever totally leaves you but you learn over time how to live with it and to feel so lucky to have the opportunity to do so when others don’t. Make the most of all that you have and relish life. Look after yourself as much as possible and don’t bring in any stress that is not necessary. I know stress is a big culprit and I have allowed it in my life on too many occasions and then you realise your health is everything not all the other things in life.

If you have any doubts if there is something wrong get it checked out as soon as possible. Early detection makes the world of difference. Don’t leave it. Get as many opinions as you want to confirm the treatments are the best for you. Speak to others that have been through it. Remember though that we are all individuals so that not all cases are the same and how you deal with it will be different from someone else. If you remain focused then you will find the best way for you, do it at your own pace and don’t rush your recovery because you feel you should.

 

Sabine Rooker

“I never trust a biopsy anymore”.

It was October 2008, I was 31 and my baby daughter was just three months old. I felt a lump in my breast. It felt like it was the end of the world. I was in shock, as if it was not happening to me

They did a biopsy, and afterwards told me to open a bottle of champagne as the lab said there was no cancer. I also had a mammogram when i felt the lump: they told me to come back in 6 months as they only saw some calcification so nothing to worry about. But I decided to have the lump removed anyway as I had to get a hernia in my belly fixed. So during my hernia surgery they removed the lump, and sent it to the lab. Four days later they told me it WAS cancer after all. It was a big shock. I had a second surgery to remove more tissue. Then I had a course of chemo and radiotherapy. And since then I have been taking Tamoxifen every day as the tumor was  hormonal

I felt quite okay during chemo, not sick at all, but very lucky and very tired.

I lost my hair so I had a wig, but it looked really good. I never went outside without it and I always had makeup on. I didn’t like it when people on the street looked at me, the cancer patient, with pity. I tried to live my life as normally as possible.

My baby daughter, Naomi, of course did  not notice anything, she was too young but my partner John was really in shock on the first day. He didn’t hear a thing the doctor said. These days we appreciate the little things in life. We think you should enjoy life now when you can, and don’t wait ‘till you get older (if you are lucky enough).

I am very well at the moment. I have every 6 months a mri and echo for the rest of my life as it runs in the family (my grandma, aunt and mother had it) They did a genetic test but did not find the brca1 or brca2 gene, but it is obvious that my family is at a higher risk. I never trust a biopsy anymore. If I had decided to leave the lump this could have been a totally different story.

I would recommend every woman to see a doctor when you think there is something wrong with your breasts. And get a second opinion if you don’t trust it. Looking back I would have chosen a different contraceptive option as I don’t think the pill is a very positive thing for women.

I would advise other people with breast cancer to stay positive, try to live your life as normally as possible. Don’t sit on the sofa crying the whole time feeling sorry for yourself as it makes you feel even worse. Inject your life with positive energy, and enjoy life as much as you can. You never know when it is over.

More Help

The Healthy Breast Programme Workshops.

These are offered on the first Saturday of every month at the Ra Ma Yoga centre in Palma on Calle Despuig 51. The mission of the programme is to educate women globally in ways to reduce their risk of breast cancer and prevent its recurrence. Subjects in the workshop include getting to know the breasts and the emotions connected to optimum breast health, recommendations on screening techniques, lymphatic system, immune system, hormonal system, detoxing, environmental contamination and concerns and how our bodies are connected to mother earth, living with purpose, the power of prayer and meditation and more. You can see more about the program on www.mammalive.net. The programme is open to any woman interested in learning about prevention and support in recovery and in healing a woman’s body. The workshops are run by Jeanne Lurie (www.lifeyoga.es).

Breast cancer support groups in Majorca: Un Lazo en Movimiento (Pink Ribbon in Motion)

www.unlazoenmovimiento.org, www.aubamallorca.com and www.almohadadelcorazon.com (the Heart Pillow project)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Mallorca, the Grapevine continues…

How was it for you? Christmas I mean. Have you come out the other side intact? I really hope so. We have work to do this year. But first, a recap of various healthy and/or drunken activities that I was able to be involved in over the festivities.

Christmas Eve at the Cathedral in Palma, Vicki McLeod photographer

Christmas Eve

Every year that we have been here for Christmas we’ve gone into Palma on Christmas Eve and had a wander around, looking at the lights, passing by the Cathedral (we always seem to coincide with the end of the German language service so my husband often bumps into real estate agents he knows!) and some kind of chocolate and churros stop off. This year we also stopped off outside of Nice Price and put some money in the tins of the Rotary Club who were outside collecting.

The Christmas Day Dip in El Toro, Vicki McLeod photographer

Christmas Day Dip

Another traditional (and let’s face it, unhinged) event for us is the mad dash into the sea at El Toro beach at midday. It’s been organised by Emma Conlin and Leon Blakely from Universal Nautic for as long as I’ve known about it. Everyone, including the pooches, were dressed up in Christmas outfits or fancy dress. One pug in particular caught my eye. There was much merriment, and brandy, and cava. We’d taken our little dog Basil along with us for an outing but completely forgot that the midday signal to run into the water was a firework. As I was knee deep in the sea ready to take the photo and my family were lined up to run like loons into the chilly waters no one was keeping an eye on our nervous dog. The firework went off and so did he careening across the beach and into the unknown roads of Port Adriano. Forty five minutes and many tears later we found him, or he found us, either way we were reunited. Thankfully!

The HIghland Games in Peguera, photographer Vicki McLeod

The Highland Games

A break from tradition for us on Boxing Day meant a trip to Peguera beach to join approximately 130 other people to take part in hilarious The Highland Games organised by local Scot and all round jolly lassie, Amanda Hibbert and her lovely family. We competed in teams in the various events including Wellie Flinging, a piggy back race, a tug of war and tossing the caber. I’m not going to lie, I’m very proud to tell you I was the overall winner of the women’s division in the caber toss. Finally, I have discovered my athletic gifts. We were joined on the beach by a German gentleman called Phillip who was dressed in Lederhosen, he participated enthusiastically, and said  that he learnt a lot about Scottish culture in the process.

Christmas walks in Mallorca, Vicki McLeod photographer

Christmas Walkies

I believe that most Christmas activities if they are not eating or drinking should involve being outside and that at least one dog should be in attendance. Hence I like to go to or organise plenty of walks and messing about, it’s a good way to burn off some mince pies, and also get out of the house and enjoy our beautiful island whilst everyone else is away visiting their families. We were joined by a good turnout of about thirty people for our “round the block” walk around the edges of our village. Some of the walkers hadn’t ever been to s’Arraco before and have subsequently been back a couple of times since to walk as they enjoyed it so much. Perhaps we should found the s’Arraco tourist board.

Orient waterfalls, photographer Vicki McLeod

A trip to Orient and the waterfalls

A place which I have often read and heard about but up until now had not had the chance to go to see are the cascadas between Orient and Bunyola. It did take some determination to make it happen, but I was not disappointed by the beautiful walk we were treated to. Again we took little Basil who behaved himself impeccably on and off the lead, and we were joined by more friends who were inspired to come along and explore. The actual walk is as difficult as you want to make it. You wander along a path from the road down to a stile and then another one which asks you to put your dog on a lead. Then you come to the river and stepping stones (which is where you might want to kick yourself for not wearing more waterproofed footwear, so take my advice and make sure you do) there you have to hop over a few stones and perhaps get a little damp in the process. Then another short walk through a forest which could have been taken straight out of a Tolkein novel and you are there alongside the waterfalls. When we were there we watched some canyoners abseiling down the rock face through the water gushing over the side, it looked exciting, but a bit too cold for me. My companions thought it looked like something they would like to have a go at, and the guides from “Tramuntana Tours” seemed very competent so perhaps they will go back and try. We kept walking for a while and then decided to turn back and return to the cars but we could have kept going for quite a while apparently. A fifteen minute drive to Alaro later and we were sat in the main square with glasses of wine and slices of pa’amb’oli. Very civilised.  We’re intending to go to more places this year which we have not been to in Majorca, it’s not exactly a 2017 resolution as much as the same one we’ve been making for years now and not managing to realise. Next up is the Barranc in Biniarix, and then Galatzo in Calvia. I’m determined to finally visit these places in Majorca this year and get to the really special spots which I haven’t been to yet.

What’s next?

January is normally a month that moves at a slower pace for me because of the weather, but still it’s a great time of year to be on the island. We’re looking forward to the St Antoni and St Sebastian fiestas and to slowly moving back to speed after a much needed Christmas break. But there’s always plenty coming up in Majorca to keep us busy. Just as I write my husband is starting to receive his annual phone calls from professional cycling teams arriving on the island who want him to photograph them training and racing. I have started a new project which I will be writing about on Sundays in the Majorca Daily Bulletin, and also on my website http://www.mallorcamatters.com. Happy new year everyone, my best wishes to you all, I hope you have a healthy and peaceful 2017.

January events in Mallorca

Mallorca dimonis, Vicki McLeod, photographer, Oliver Neilson

 

You may think that Christmas, and New Year AND Three Kings are over, and that therefore everything is back to normal in Mallorca, but you would be wrong as we still have two more fiestas to go this month, and we love them!
First up we have St Antoni this coming weekend. You will be able to join in at outdoor barbecues all over the island on Saturday evening. Some of the best ones are in my neck of the woods which is Andratx and S’Arraco, but you will also have places like Sa Pobla, Felanitx, Muro, Santanyi, Sencelles, Son Servera, Pollensa and Binissalem to check out as well. They are spread out over the weekend with some happening on Friday evening as well. The fiesta is split into two halves: you have the barbecue where everyone steals everyone elses’ sausages and gets drunk, followed by the Corre Foc, the fire run where recently inebriated people are invited to participate with people dressed up in really scary devil costumes and play with fireworks. What could possible go wrong?
Up in Sa Pobla on Saturday at about 5.30pm they will also have human towers which I have always wanted to see so I might make a dash to get up there, then at midnight in Sa Pobla will be their amazing fire spectacular with demons, dragons and drummers in Placa Major.
If that doesn’t get you going then there’s always something going on at the Auditorium and I understand that this weekend there is a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral with the Victor Ullate Ballet on Saturday evening. More information can be found on the Auditorium Palma website.

Then on Sunday 15 January you have to make your way to the church with your pet cat, dog, sheep, goat, hamster, whatever you have you should take along to be blessed. There are blessings in Biniali, Cala D’Or, Santanyi, Soller, and Andratx.
On the Monday the St Antoni fiestas continue in Alaro with a parade, bonfires and a correfoc in the evening. You can also go along to Deya, Maria de la Salut, Muro, Sa Coma, Santa Maria del Cami, Soller, Son Carrio and more action in Sa Pobla.
Then all attention is focused on Palma for the big San Sebastian parties. The Fiesta Sant Sebastia is one of the biggest festivals in Mallorca and celebrates the Patron Saint of the capital.
The big nights are around the 18th, 19th and 20th (the day of Saint Sebastian), with the main parties and concerts being held on the 19th. Other entertainments such as the Castellers de Mallorca and the fire runs (Correfoc – wear long sleeves!) are on the 20th January.
There will be exhibitions, music and parades for the duration of the festival and you’ll find all the details in the Official Programme (available about a week before the event).
This Thursday at Santosha Restaurant in Palma in their Sala Cinco they will have movie nights on Thursdays. This week it’s “Once” 12.1, and next week it’s “Forest Gump” 19.1 ( you should reserve though). And on Saturday nights they have live music during dinner.

This Friday there will be a live music movement meditation at Zunray in Palma from 20h30-22h30. It’s going to be a monthly event, but get in there quick as this is a great way to start off the year. There is also a weekly 5 Rhythms class at Ling Tai which is every Sunday from 6.30pm
You’ve also got the Palma Dogs fundraiser coming up. They’ve called it the “Beat the Meh, find your Woof!” Pub Quiz Fundraiser. It will be on Tuesday, January 17th at 7.30 at Atlanticos in the Old Town in Palma. You can have a team of up to 4, €2 each to enter. And there will also be a raffle at €2 per ticket. All proceeds going towards the various associations and individuals who work tirelessly to get owner less dogs out of pounds and into foster or forever homes. That’s organised by Caroline Stapley who regularly takes people up to the dog homes in Mallorca and takes the dogs out on walks.
On Saturday 21st Jan Tony from Bar Rosita’s, Calvia Village will be having his annual birthday bash, free live music Tony Paris, free buffet and lots of fun.
Of course, if you’re after a new year’s resolution and you want to get yourself fitter, healthier and take charge of your lifestyle then I can recommend you do the Whole Life Challenge. This is an eight week programme which starts on Saturday January 21st at CrossFit Mallorca. It incorporates diet, exercise and lifestyle enhancements such as beginning to meditate or taking time to spend with friends rather than your phone, small things which add up to a much greater deal. You can get more info by contacting on Facebook, just look for their page CrossFit Mallorca.
There will also be two detox workshops in January run by Ziva To Go, a vegan business which now has three locations on the island. Ziva’s founder, Petra Wigermo will lead the detox workshops. You can choose from one in Santa Ponsa on Thursday 26th and one in Santa Catalina on Saturday 28th. In both workshops you will be helped to plan your own detox and make decisions about how you want to approach it, learn about why it is good for you to do these things and also try out some different juice recipes which may be helpful for you. You can get more info and book up for that at any of the Ziva locations on the island, or find them on Facebook.
And if you want to get stuck in to some good works this year then you could either join up to The Wednesday Group which meets every, you’ve guessed it, Wednesday, in Bendinat. They are dedicated to making craft and knitted items which can be donated or sold on behalf of charities on the island and it’s also a fun and sociable way to learn new skills and make new friends. You can get more details from Kay at The Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous. OR you can go along to a meeting at The Boathouse in Palma on February 10th which is being organised by the Cancer Support Group as they are looking for people who can volunteer and help them with their ongoing work. You can get more information about that event on my website http://www.mallorcamatters.com along with all the rest of this info and more.

Good things come to those that wait

Alaro, ascent, Mallorca, Vicki McLeod

My daughter, affectionately known as La Gidg (new readers, please note, that’s not her real name) just turned eleven. When she was nine she fell over down a stoney track whilst we were out walking on Sa Trapa with a group of friends. She sliced her leg open across her kneecap and spent many months with a dressing on her leg, finally leaving a spectacular 2 inch by 5 inch scar and a big indentation where normally you would have some fat. At the beginning she was very self conscious of it, but after a while she stopped being so aware and let us make jokes about her almost losing her leg in a shark attack. That impressed some of the boys at school I can tell you. But we knew in the long run we’d have to do something about the enormous scar. It also took us a very long time to convince her that it was a fluke accident and that this shouldn’t stop her from coming on walks with us, last weekend she marched up to the top of Alaro (pictured) with me.

During the summer of 2015 we became obsessed with keeping her recovering skin away from the sun and it’s damaging rays with an elastic knee bandage. Day after day we had to be vigilant in order for the skin to not be permanently damaged. Then after the summer had gone we went back to the doctor to ask about what we could do to reduce the scar. Luckily for us this sort of procedure is available here, basically some fat is taken from another part of her body and put into the scar to smooth and fill it out.  We were told that we would be able to get her knee operated on to refill the indentation, she’s missing quite a lot of fat there, and finally today we received the call for her to go in next week for her operation. That’s about six months since the initial consultation. Now, I was about to start crowing about how good the health service in Mallorca is, but then I thought I would just check the waiting times for plastic surgery back in the UK. Guess what? They are the same. Does this mean I can compare the two services or not? I can’t make my mind up. I know that if we were living in the UK we wouldn’t have the access to our local GP in the same way that we do here, but the waiting time has surprised me. However it is the first time we’ve had to wait for anything for quite so long, in fact I had been revving myself up for a phone call to the hospital with my best Spanish practised (there’s nothing quite as intimidating as a telephone call when you’re not sure of your vocab). So at least I can strike that off my To Do list now. The op itself falls on Halloween so La Gidg’s costume for the evening is already decided, clearly she will have to go as a Mummy. Wish her luck for me please. She’s not looking forward to missing breakfast.

 

A Man For All Seasons

 

onboard-2

Eric Murray was a well known sailing teacher in Majorca who taught thousands of people how to handle motor and sailing boats over the years that he lived here in the Port Andratx area. He was a much loved and respected man, well known for his laid back and friendly attitude to everyone that he met. During the winter months you could often catch up with him having a coffee and watching the sunset with his St Bernard dog Remy by his side and at least one or two people having a chat. He was a great teacher, an adored husband, grand dad, and father, and he was my one and only Dad.

Eric was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, the only child of Margaret and James, in 1944. He met his first wife, Maureen, my mother, when he was 15, although he lied and told her he was 16. They nearly didn’t make it past the first date as he took her to the movies and embarrassed her by laughing very loudly throughout a Norman Wisdom film. She recalled recently that Eric decided that he wanted to join the RAF when he left school as he believed he would be able to take his German Shepherd dog, Lance with him into service, but when he went to the recruitment office to sign up it was closed. He eventually moved to London following her as she had been posted there by the civil service, and he joined the Metropolitan Police as a cadet. The first time was short-lived and he left. He worked briefly as a salesman for a business making vibrating armchairs, but as he didn’t make any sales, returned to the police.  Whilst a cadet he and his friend Rory were in Soho one night and rescued some “ladies of the night” from a burning building utilising a shop blind to help the women escape from an upper floor, winning themselves bravery medals for their actions. The details were never given to his mother Margaret due to the awkward questions that might have come about as to why he was in Soho in the first place…

recieiving-his-bravery-award

Eventually he graduated and found his way to the Special Escort Group which was a motorcycle division of the Metropolitan Police. The SEG provided motorbike outriders to such official events as state visits, protection of the Royal family, escorting money to and from the Royal Mint, accompanying dangerous or at risk prisoners to and from court, and also giving public displays of their precision and skill in handling the heavy motorbikes. Eric spent many years as a Sergeant in the division, always saying that he didn’t want to rise up the ranks of the Police Force as it meant he would no longer be able ride on a daily basis. He got to know many members of the Royal family, his favourites at the time being Princess Diana who he had a genuine soft spot for, and Princess Margaret who he found to be hilarious. One of his colleagues recently remembered that Eric would insist on them all being perfectly turned out even when it was raining, and would not allow them to wear the regulation waterproofed trousers as he had deemed them unsuitable attire for important state occasions.

Off duty he didn’t let the grass grow under his feet and he was always busy doing or learning something new. I personally remember being very impressed with him learning how to cook excellent and authentic Indian food from an original book by Madhur Jaffrey in the 1980s back when Dads, and in fact, men, didn’t really do that sort of thing. When he turned 40 he decided to learn to speak French, ran the London Marathon, and a couple more as well, and bet a friend of his £100 that he could stop smoking. He won the bet and never smoked again. He was also an ardent supporter of Greenpeace and an advocate for the World Wildlife Fund, something which all of his children continue to share.  His deep connection to the sea also won him the affectionate nickname of “Grandad Seaside” given to him by his grandchildren.

 

s28c-114031402411

Eric’s passions ran large, but one of the most enduring ones had to be the sea. Whether he was in it, under it or on it, there wasn’t a week where he wouldn’t in some way be interacting with it. Firstly he learnt to scuba dive, and along the way became the President of the London Branch of the British Sub Aqua Club. This meant many weekends at the English seaside and some entertaining and fun times with a large social circle, it also meant regular training sessions in a chilly swimming pool in North London to which he would take all three of his children to ensure that they were swimming to his standards. Any family holidays were by a sea in order for him to go diving and it was on one of these holidays in Malta that he rented a small sailing dinghy. He and I went out on it and he decided that the next thing to learn would be to sail properly. That was in 1979. He had had his first taste of sailing when he was 14, when he was selected by his school to attend the Outward Bound school at Gordonstoun in Scotland. I think this experience inspired him when he was older to support such initiatives as The Ocean Youth Club. But sailing in Scotland was a very different experience from the glistening and welcoming waters of the Mediterranean, and he instigated his plan to learn to sail as soon as he returned home to the family house in Bushey, Hertfordshire where we lived for many years.  A boat, a trimaran called Tryagen of Hamble, was purchased almost immediately and family holidays stopped being in the Med, and moved to the Purbeck coast where he kept his boat at Poole Yacht Club. He rapidly became the person who fellow sailors would ask for advice which he would dish out with kindness, patience and humour. But he didn’t only excel with sailboats, Eric also became a World Record Holder in Endurance motor yachts, sharing the title with the rest of the Brownridge Team for the fastest circumnavigation of the British Isles in a 28 foot rib in 63 hours and 32 minutes. They held the honour from 1993 to 2001, beating the Royal Navy’s previous record. Eric studied relentlessly to pass all of his Royal Yachting Association exams and eventually qualified as an instructor. This was to stand him in good stead when he retired from the police force in 1995. He set off on a long sailing journey with his son Campbell and some other crew, crossing the Atlantic and spending time in the Caribbean, this to be the first of several trips around the area.

In 1996 he separated from Maureen his first wife. After a brief stint as a private investigator and as a motorbike taxi for Virgin Airlines he came across a sailing school in Majorca called Solaris which needed an instructor and so he moved to the island, and didn’t look back. Eric soon became a fixture in the Port of Andratx and around the Club de Vela. First working for the previous owners of the school, and then several years ago buying it outright and running it as his own business. Typical of him he then set about learning to speak Spanish and reached a good level of competence. He loved Majorca and after meeting and marrying his second wife and soulmate, Trudi, he lived with her and her children in their house in the mountains very happily for many years.

Eric’s other passions were his cars, and he was an active member of the Classic Car Club here on the island enjoying touring around with Trudi, and occasionally picking his granddaughter Gigi up from school in one of them, much to the amazement of her school friends and teachers. Eric still loved to travel, going to many exciting and beautiful places, firstly with his family, and on his own, and latterly with Trudi who shared his passion discovering new experiences. He also continued to explore ideas which excited him, most recently starting to learn to fly a microlight plane and in the process making some headway to finally realising his dream of the RAF from many years ago. He was still planning to complete his pilot’s license when he was given a diagnosis of serious illness only recently.

Eric handled his death in the same manner that he lived his life, with style, courage and a sense of humour. He passed away on the evening of Sunday October 2nd with his “All Girl Team” around him: Trudi, his step daughter Georgia, and myself. He had been visited during the day by his ex wife Maureen, and by his close friend, Captain and colleague Dennis Evans who will continue to run Solaris Sailing School with the same standards and attention to detail that Eric had made it famous for. He also saw some of his children: Lewis, Campbell, Bradley (Bini) and Erica, Maxwell and Stephanie and their good friend Tom who he even high fived.

He wouldn’t want us to be sad at his death, he’d shrug his shoulders and say “That’s life”. Move on, don’t let it get you down and try your hardest to make the best out of everything. Even when the waves were crashing into the cockpit of the boat back in the days when my brothers and I would be sailing with our mother Maureen, he would yell “Super Sail” at the top of his voice whilst the rest of us were clinging to life jackets and ringing the coastguard.

with-some-of-his-family-on-alaro-new-years-day-2015

My dad, Eric was an exceptional person in many ways, and inspired many people to follow their dreams: regardless of your age or circumstances there is always a way. He would always tell me “The harder you work the luckier you get”, I hope that even after his death he will still continue to inspire everyone to listen to their hearts, try hard and enjoy life to the fullest. He will certainly continue to inspire me.

I know from the huge amount of private messages that my family has been receiving how many, many friends and fans, ex students, fellow officers and buddies he had, and that he was universally respected and loved. Eric leaves three natural children (Victoria, Lewis, Campbell), four step children (Jackson, Georgia, Bradley, Maxwell), six children-in-law (Oliver, Rachel, Jodi, Fiona, Erica, Stephanie), six grandchildren (Chloe, Callum, Alfie, Georgina, Leith, Arwyn) and one more (Wilson) on the way.

Eric did not want to have a sad, traditional funeral and instead Trudi and the entire family plan to have a big party which will fall on his birthday next March 2017. Anyone who knew him is very welcome to attend to celebrate and share their stories about his life.

Pet Pioneer

Dogs, Vicki McLeod. Photographer. Mallorca,

I’m in a field with about twenty dogs, and my friend who is a dog walker and thankfully in charge of them. It’s a bit crazy, there are big dogs and little dogs and in between dogs. There’s pedigrees and mixtures, and licky dogs and barky dogs. They are very excited because I’m new to them, and they all want to say hello. I’m here because I want to take some photos of a pioneer, Christina Kastin. The pack of dogs all love her, when she sits down on the bench to pose for a photo they all obediently gaze at her, they love her and she clearly loves them back.

You may not of heard of Christina yet, but she’s about to do something quite special for dogs and their owners in Europe. Christina has been quietly championing the rights of dogs on the island since 2007 when she first decided to convince every single council in Majorca to make some green spaces accessible to dogs. From this nugget of a big idea has come a much, much bigger idea: this November she intends to fly dogs and their owners from Sweden, Germany, France and the UK to visit Majorca on dog friendly holidays, and not only that, she intends to have as many dogs as possible travelling in the cabins of the aircrafts with their owners. When she pulls it off it will make history, spark a debate about pet travel, and revolutionise the tourism industry. But let her tell you in her own words….

Christina Kastin, Photorgrapher, Mallorca. Vicki McLeod, Majorca

“My name is Christina Kastin and I’m the founder of Harmony Travels. I was born and raised in Gothenburg in Sweden. I have lived in Spain since 1989 and for the last 15 years I have lived in Majorca.  I was the owner and partner of several businesses. but in 2006 I came to a turning point in my life so I took six months off to find out what I really wanted to do and that’s how my mission and my business Harmony Travels came about.

“Just like many dog owners I love being by and in the sea and in natural environments, and walking in the woods. However in Majorca this is a problem as we only have a few green areas in the local community which we can “legally” access. So my “mission” started in 2007 to increase access for dogs to green areas in Majorca. Basically you were not allowed to take your dog anywhere and where you were allowed they would always have to be on the lead. They authorities had forbidden dogs to be in any green zones, but they did not want them on the street either, so where should they be? The laws are contradictory because on one hand they say we must take care of our animals, and not make them anti social, but on the other hand they are not allowed to be anywhere, so how will they then learn how to be sociable with other dogs and people? Dogs were not allowed on the beaches either, even though they love the sand and water and suffer during the intense summer heat as we do.

Vicki McLeod, Photographer, Mallorca, Majorca“I decided that I was not going to let “them” ignore us, dog owners, any more:  something needed to be done and I was going to do something about it. I decided I was going to see the local politicians. As I started writing down my ideas in preparation for meeting my local mayor of the time, Sr. Carlos Delgado, I realised that my idea would be perfect to promote the winter tourism season here. As I kept on writing my ideas were flowing and suddenly I had a whole project on my hands. I wanted to create a place where people could come and relax in and bring their dogs if they wished. I decided I wanted to promote an awareness so that tourists and their dogs could come to this island and enjoy it all and connect with us residents and our dogs in a perfect harmony. The end  result would be a better understanding between people and animals and respect for the land. I first presented my ideas on June 5th 2007, which I later found out was “Environmental Day”, a good omen I hoped!

“I wanted to make a difference to the island I live on: for me, for the residents and our pets, for the tourists that come here, and above all protect the land from being exploited.”

And so began several years of campaigning and meeting with local councils, promoting the idea and changing minds for the good of dogs and their owners here in Majorca. All of it unpaid work which Christina undertook with great enthusiasm.

“It hasn’t been easy but my motto is, if you want something, go for it and let nothing (or no one) stop you!  So here we are, nine years later: many, and more are due, municipalities have made great changes; dogs can now access several beach areas during the whole winter, we have five all year round areas for them to go and swim in and in Palma we have seven buses admitting dogs. There are also more dog parks and more positive changes on the way. So dear dog owners the future is looking bright!” You can find details of all of the accessible areas by visiting her website http://www.guide4dogs.com and clicking on VILLAGES.

Vicki McLeod, photographer, Mallorca, Majorca

But now dear reader, and I hope keen dog lover, Christina’s new big idea needs your backing and support. She is planning four separate trips from Germany, France, Sweden and the UK in late October and November all arriving in Majorca and staying in a pet friendly hotel and taking part in excursions and activities which will include dogs and people. She is looking for sponsors and for people who would like to take part in her first ever weeklong event. After so many years of working for the dog owners she’s hoping that now she will be able to find support from them.

” I now need their help. With all the work done so far I feel the time has come to promote our amazingly beautiful island as a dog friendly destination, during our winter season, which is not very wintery at all but more like a great, and mostly, sunny spring”.

Personally I can see many ways a business could get involved with this project as well as individuals with their pets as I can imagine there will be an enormous amount of press coverage from international media. Christina’s vision, passion and determination have so far resulted in many changes on the island, and this next step is a big one but certainly one that she can do. She’s already met with airlines, and secured a pet friendly hotel in the Arta area and developed a lovely weeklong itinerary for the holiday.

 

So let’s see if YOU are the one who can help me by answering the below questions:

  • Do you live in Sweden, France, Germany or England?
  • Is your dog calm and good with other dogs?
  • Do you want to travel, during November, to Majorca (in the cabin) with your dog (up to 30kg)?
  • Do you want to be make history?
  • Do you want to help to make changes for yourself and other pet owners?

If you answered “Yes” to the questions above you  might end up being one of the very first pet owners to fly with its pet in a chartered plane only for dog owners and their pets, the first one in the world! There are obviously a limited numbers of dogs and people on the plane so it will be a first come first served system, if you are interested and want to find out more information about this trip please send her an e-mail to: christina@guide4dogs.com

You can visit http://www.guide4dogs.com for more information.