summer

That time of year

from: http://blog.timesunion.com/payitforward/all-susan-stricklean/2003/

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The summer holidays aren’t finished yet? Are you kidding me? There’s STILL another five weeks to go? WHAT? REALLY?

La Gidg, and I are struggling. We’re struggling with protracted (ridiculously protracted in my opinion, but you probably already figured that out) holidays, with the heat, with what she wants versus what I have to do, and with each other. Showdowns about tidying up her bedroom are happening on a daily basis, I fear that we may not get out of the vacations alive. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have kids of school age just exactly what a miserable thing it can be to have a child off school for three months whilst you are also trying to work for a living.

I have practiced and honed my argument about the length of the Mallorca summer holidays over many years now, so forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. We live on an island, the island’s main income comes from tourism which is at its peak during the summer months, most of the people who live on the island and have children at public schools on the island also work in the tourism industry or are in some way connected to the industry, which means that they are at their busiest in the middle of the summer, so why make the long school break coincide with this time? How can anyone enjoy this when they have to struggle with kids moaning and complaining about summer school (why don’t they ever seem to enjoy it?), you can’t work properly if your children are unhappy or not settled in their school. Why instead can’t we take a long break in December and January and February? You know what answer you get to this question? That it is too hot in the schools in the summer. I have two words: Air Conditioning. They have to heat the schools in the winter, why not just swap that attitude around?

Teachers and schools aren’t babysitters, and they’re probably the only ones who actually want to have three months off in the summer. But understand this, this the money that I pay for my daughter to attend summer school so that my husband and I can continue to work and earn money for our family and pay our taxes? Yeah, you guessed it; we can’t include it in our accounts and expenses. It’s almost as if the Spanish Government thinks that this is a luxury. It’s almost as if the Spanish Government thinks that the woman should stay at home and look after the children . . . ah, hang on a minute. . . Let’s start a revolution, I want to campaign for parents in business to be able to claim for their child care.

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Summer’s Mission

We decided,  as a family,  that we weren’t spending enough time together or indeed enough time enjoying Mallorca.  So, this summer we are going to go somewhere new every week and report back on it.  First up is somewhere very easy to get to,  Cala Cap Falco beach. It’s around the back of Magaluf on the way to the casino.  Have you ever been there? 

Summertime Special

It has taken me several years to come to terms with the length of the school summer holidays and this year finally I think I am prepared. I’ve learnt from bitter previous summer experiences that too much of a good thing is, well, not a good thing. Too much of the same summer school equals stress, difficulty in mixing with new kids, more stress, expensive but only runs for two hours a day, stressful and pointless. We’ve been through all of these scenarios in our time.

So we have mixed and matched this year. First off is a trip back to the UK to visit her paternal grandparents for a two week jolly around North Wales in a caravan. (Yes, we packed wellies, and jumpers and a coat). This involved flying on her own as an accompanied minor on a British Airways flight (well, nothing but the best for my girl, thank you). Gidg has been so excited about the idea of flying on her own she has been informing even complete strangers of her trip for quite a while now. In fact you may have been told if you stood next to us long enough in the queue in the supermarket. Mummy on the other hand was a tad stressed about saying ta ta. I was okay up until the actual day of the flight and then I had a wobble. But she made it safe and sound and actually pronounced the whole experience a bit ‘boring’!

Following this she will be off to summer school at Kip McGrath in Palma for a couple of weeks to continue to improve her reading and writing in English, and then the local summer school for a couple more weeks and then, Hallelujah! We’re off for a family holiday to France, and I shall be fulfilling my promise to myself that I will not be working in August, come hook or crook. I’m already finding June a struggle this year: imagine what kind of condition I could be in by August. So I will try to keep my promise to myself. Then she’s going on a two week sailing course which will take us neatly out of August and into September, and Bob’s your mother’s brother, back to school. Yay!

The part I haven’t forgotten from the past that it is really easy to get stressed out in the summer with work and childcare colliding with each other. All too soon La Gidg will be grown and she won’t want to go to the beach or the water park with her old mum or dad, so this year I’m really going to try to find the balance and make summer time special.

A nice cup of tea

So, it’s come to this. I have finally turned into my Great Auntie Flo who liked nothing more than a nice cup of tea and a sit down.  At least, that’s what I remember about her: we used to go on family visits to Aberdeen and sit in her darkened front room (only ever used for guests) drinking tea which had been mashed to within an inch of her life. And my grandma always drank her tea black, a throw back from the war when there wasn’t milk to spare to put in her cuppa. For me a cup of tea symbolises tradition, family, peace and quiet, safety.

But for a long time tea just wasn’t funky was it? No one who was ‘trendy’ drank tea, it was all about the cafe au lait, the cafetieres, the Starbucks, the double mochachino to go. It was getting a bit too French (who, by the way are terrible at making coffee) or perhaps too American (which was more about the bucket of coffee and the buzz). Well, hurrah, something good came out of the riots in the UK last week: we’re all drinking tea again.

Operation Cup of Tea came about as a direct response to the shocking scenes of destruction last week on the UK streets. Sam Pepper, a creative young fella, hit the nail right on the head last week when he launched his Operation Cup Of Tea on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging people to stay in and have a cuppa every evening instead of charging around the neighbourhood terrorising and burglarising the law-abiding citizens. So far over 300,000 people have joined the campaign. From this idea has come a charity which is aiming to raise money for the people affected by the lootings, and now, tea parties. Jolly D! Bring back the tea!

What’s not to like? Plain old water is plain old boring after a while, and we have to drink plenty of fluids in these current temperatures. I certainly don’t want to go the same way as Antony Andrews who overdosed on water back in 2003 causing himself to develop something called ‘hyponatraemia’, that is, he virtually drowned his body in water and had to be hospitalised. And of course, there is the consolation factor of tea, as Bernard-Paul Heroux said, ‘there is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice of cup of tea’.

I think it’s pretty smart to be drinking tea this time of year (and here I have to say that I am going to include hippy tea along with builders’): it’s refreshing, it’s cheap, it’s good for you and it doesn’t leave you with a banging headache the next morning. But it’s still not really a ‘going out’ drink is it, unless you count Long Island Iced Tea in there, but that’s frankly cheating because there isn’t a single tea leaf in the cocktail. So let’s start a tea campaign, and have tea parties, tea tastings, tea dresses, cucumber sandwiches, cream scones….. Good idea for a charity event here on the island…. hmmm…. tea-riffic! Watch this space.  Ching ching!

http://www.familymattersmallorca.com

Bobbing along

I have a tune in my head: ‘Bobbing along, bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea’…. I have been singing it to myself for the past few days in an attempt to cool down. Mallorca seems to have skipped July and gone straight for the crazy heat of August. Que calor!

The best place to cool down is the local pool, and we’re blessed to have the municipal one just down the road from us.  It’s a bargain too, for the whole year, for a family to use the indoor and outdoor pools in the borough of Andratx it costs an incredible 100€.  La Gidg likes the responsibility of looking after her own membership card, and we like the fact that it costs less than 30c a day to go swimming.

This does throw up the issue of what to wear. La Gidg has got 6 different sets of costumes and kiddie bikinis, Ollie has two pairs of shorts (neither of them the hilarious budgie smuggler speedos that you see on some more of the optimistic male swimmers), and I have an elderly swimming costume which I guess I should replace. But what with? Looking in women’s magazines you can choose from many different cossies which apparently will ‘flatter your shape’. But they all come down to the same thing: 2 millimetres of lycra and a smile. It’s a fallacy surely, how can anything like that actually work? If you haul it in in one area, it has to poke out somewhere else. What I find works for me is shouting and pointing at something imaginary in the far distance and whilst everyone is distracted doing a runner to the pool. I have also become one of those women who doesn’t like to get her hair wet, so I don’t leap into the pool, but hurriedly scuttle down the steps tout suite.

But then, heaven. Like a herd of hippos having a mud bath, we stay submerged until everything goes wrinkly. Thankfully there is a bar which sells a mean G & T, and ice cream. If we would move in if we could.

That is not a possibility though, and work will insist on raising its persistent head. Strategically booking appointments in air conditioned offices with water coolers is the only way forward when out and about. Failing that there is always the option of sitting directly in front of a fan, but that doesn’t work so well if you have to answer the phone, ‘Where are you? You sound like you’re in a wind tunnel’.

In the end it’s all about mind over matter, so why not join me in a rousing chorus, ‘Bobbing along, bobbing along….’

Our favourite free (or nearly free) family fun places in Mallorca

Our favourite free (or nearly free) family fun places in Mallorca

(as suggested by my Facebook friends today, in no particular order)

Cooler weather

  • ‘Walking to the top of the mountain where the Castillo of Alaro and end up in the restaurant munching lamb 🙂 Kids love it, we love it!’  (Benedicte Enbom Crofts)

Alaro Castle, is on top of the mountain of the same name. It is an ancient fort which has been in existence since the Muslim era. Alaro Castle was famously the only place in Mallorca not to fall to the invasion of the Moors when they invaded in the thirteenth century. These days it is a very popular walk. You reach the mountain, drive to Alaro and, towards the town of Orient, take the road leading signposted to Es Verger, where there is a restaurant and a parking area, There is an hostel at the top of the mountain where it is possible to stay the night if you want to have an adventure! More information and bookings on 971 182 112 Alternatively you can descend back to the car park and Es Verger which is famous for its lamb. www.mallorcaweb.com/reportajes/castillos-y-torres/castillo-de-alaro

  • ‘The fabulous playground by the cemetery in Palma (Puigpunyent exit) – the one which looks like a massive castle. Hours of fun….’ (BEC) (We think it’s called Ses Estaciones, but we might be wrong. See the map).
  • ‘Walking from Caimari to Lluch. Those that don’t want to walk, drive up with the paella pan and contents. Nothing better than arriving at the BBQ spot and finding hot food!’(Kay Newton http://www.SensiblySelfish.com)
  • Roller blading on the many paths we are so lucky to have here (BEC)
  • Giants, fireworks, dimonis – lots associated with fiesta, especially in smaller towns and villages, where families rule. Select according to age of kids. (Mike Goggin, www.mymallorcainfo.com)

Warmer weather ideas

  • Es Capdella swimming pool. Free to use, and has a great playground as well. Excellent and cheap menu del dia place as well – check it out at lunchtime during the week for the best deals. (Vicki McLeod)

  • Portals Vells beach – excellent for kids and nice beach restaurant (BEC)
  • Watching the boys surf at Son Serra de Marina from the bar terrace! (KN)
  • Camping at Lluc. (Nicky Tennant Brown)
  • Snorkeling in the dark at St Elm beach with under water torches! Fab! (NTB) (I’m really into this idea! Can’t wait for the summer to do it!)
  • The monastry in Valledemossa (Gaynor Riopedre)
  • Scuba diving at El Toro and the Malgrats (GB)

‘I don’t think I have ever lived in a place that offers so many fun things to do for families – both free and paying. The nature is fabulous and a good thing to get kids to enjoy from an early age and there are some great paying activities because of the tourist industry as well. How lucky we are!’ Benedicte, thanks for that!

Thanks to my Facebook friends for their suggestions! If you have a suggestion please leave a comment for everyone to see.
You can find me on fb at www.facebook.com/vicki.mcleod

Summer music in Mallorca

It’s the busiest time of year for many of the hotel singers, dinner entertainers and tribute acts on Mallorca: competently replicating Aretha Franklin or Robbie Williams, for example, pays the rent for many musicians living here, and despite the decibel levels row in Calvia, there is still a demand for live music. But what to do, as a member of the audience, or as the performer, if your taste for live music also extends to live, and original music? Especially if you are known for your expert renditions of Diana Ross, but want to be known for your own compositions; how do you change your audience’s perception of you, and indeed get any attention from a record company? Being taken seriously by the music industry seems to involve either being a) drop dead gorgeous, b) at least slightly madder than a box of frogs, or c) have a dad who happens to own a record company. Being prodigiously talented doesn’t always have much to do with it, and being based on Mallorca where it’s definately ‘big fish, small pond’ territory, can also limit you from getting ahead, unless you can make the right connections.

One such prodigiously talented musician is the delightful BiBi. A.K.A Bilonda, for her Motown and soul sets around the island (particularly popular at Mood Beach where she performs in their lunchtime Sunday Best sessions), she is also the composer of several tracks of her own, and subsequently leads a double life: one night she is Bilonda, getting the crowd up and rocking to classic songs, and on another night she is BiBi, performing her own works, with a 4 piece band backing her up. I caught BiBi at the new Harlem Café in Es Molinar (www.harlemcafe.es)last week. The Harlem Café has hit the music scene in Mallorca with a small bang, it’s early days yet to see if the venue can sustain its aims to have live music and entertainment six days of the week – bar prices and audience numbers will surely determine that, along with a varied programme to choose from.

It can be a leap of faith, to go from singing well known classics to your own songs, but performing to an audience of about 100, BiBi seemed to be completely at home with her own sounds of R&B, funk and soul. She cites artists such as Jill Scott and Erykah Badu as favourites of hers. Wearing a Jazz chica uniform of tight black dress and red beret, BiBi entertained her audience with her new tunes, which flowed seamlessly through the evening. A promising start for this brilliant singer. You can find more information at http://www.myspace.com/bilonda Look out for my favourites Growing Old and Whistleblower.

 

BiBi aka Bilonda, at Mood Beach

BiBi aka Bilonda, at Mood Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you remember Billy Bragg from your youth, then where were you on Saturday night? He performed at Bellver Castle to a largely Spanish audience. They say music is an international language, but I did wonder if the majority of the audience really understood him as his spoken English has a heavy Estuary twang, and his music is hardly what you would call melodic. However, it was a treat to watch the boy from Barking, small beer belly beginning to show now that he is in his fifties, rocking out and still as passionate about his beliefs as ever. Bragg was clearly impressed by his surroundings, and made several references throughout the gig to the Castle’s history. In fact, I have to shamefully admit to never having been inside of Bellver before this evening, and at the end of a week of the Perseid meteor shower, it was very pleasant to sit in the ancient castle gazing up at the night sky, occasionally catching one of the glimmering trails of light as Bragg sang about love and politics.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

Bragg spoke between songs about his life, and about events which had influenced him, inspiring the audience to begin to shout out requests, in particular for the song She’s got a new spell which was covered by Mallorcan band La Granja back in 1989 and won him his only award for songwriting. Other old favourites such as Levi Stubbs Tears and The Saturday Boy were interspersed with Woody Guthrie songs that Bragg was invited to write music for after Guthrie’s death. It’s impressive to remember (unlike other musicians and comedians from his generation) that this singer songwriter has collaborated not only with many other artists and managed to stay firm to his personal beliefs. Talking about being a young man, when he was working in a very racist culture, he felt that he couldn’t challenge what was being said until he went to a festival called ‘Rock against Racism’ where he realised as a nineteen year old that he wasn’t alone and could speak out. Still speaking out about injustices around the world he electrified the balmy air when he said, ‘I’ve learnt that I can’t change the world; singer songwriters can’t change the world, but their audiences can.’ He will be performing in Madrid and Barcelona in October. http://www.billybragg.co.uk

Upcoming highlights:

Gin Club
A stomping four piece band from Brighton with a sound that harks back to Muddy Waters and early Rolling Stones. Early rhythm and blues with a pop sensibility and a country twist.
Thur 20 Aug @ midnight, Shamrock, Paseo Maritimo, Palma
Fri 21 Aug @ 21.00, Sa Taronja Cultural Centre, Andratx

Nit de L’Art

Thursday 17th September – galleries across Palma participate in this annual art event. Expect thousands of culture vultures to hit the streets to participate.

Aaron Lordson

Incredible soul singer, familiar busker on the streets of Palma, will be performing his own songs. http://www.myspace.com/aaronlordson. Entrance free. http://www.aaronlordson.com

Sat 19th Sept 21.30h, Mood Beach Club, Costa D’en Blanes.

Vicki McLeod presents the Saturday Breakfast Show with Oliver Neilson on Luna Radio 100.3fm http://www.lunaradio.fm If you want to suggest a featured artist for the week please email phoenixmediamallorcaputtheswirlyatsignheregmail.com

Pretending to be grown ups

Our garden, more like a wildnerness right now…….

We’ve got a plum tree in the garden and a fence and a garden wall that are not really all that secure (Tinta has proved that fact at least five times a day whilst breaking for the border with her short lover).

The plums are ripe, unfortunately none of us are all that keen on eating them, so I came over all motherly the other day and actually attempted to make chutney. O in the meantime came over all fatherly and attempted to make the garden boundaries stronger. Neither of us were all that successful.

It was one of those beautiful, tranquil Sundays that we both long for – conveniently forgetting about the huge pile of paperwork and other stuff that needed to be done, we pottered agreeably with our chosen projects. The first hour went well. I collected plums and O tackled the wall, having decided that it was to blame for the dodgy fence. Our projects began to fall apart when he couldn’t find the right tools and I couldn’t be bothered to find a recipe for chutney. But nevertheless we laboured on happily, G playing inside and bimbling around.

It got hotter, and hotter, and our tempers began to fray: O made cement to stick the blocks together whilst I improvised with spices, sugar, a huge amount of plums and no pectin. I’d tethered Tinta up inside the house so that we could move freely from the garden into the house and back again without worrying about her escaping for yet another tryst with Romeo (who has now been camping outside of our doorstep for over a week). She took the situation well, having a nap on her bed and not making much of a fuss. I was feeling quite pleased with her until I went to check her and realised that she had disappeared – Houdini in dog form continues. O hadn’t noticed her doing a runner either and we had to hunt her down. She was skipping up and down the main road of our village with her tail straight up in the air, an air of triumph about her. Once we’d caught her she was banished upstairs, behind the baby gate at the top where she whimpered and moaned. Chutney making and wall repairing continued with an air of determination – we WOULD achieve what we’d set out to do.

It was with uncanny synchronisation that we both realised the same thing – the stuff we were making just wasn’t quite sticky enough. O gazed glumly at his ineffective wall, whilst I did the same with my very runny chutney.

Perhaps we weren’t cut out for this DIY lark after all. So after a bit of a grumpy moment we opened a bottle of wine, settled on the sofa with G, and watched the tennis instead. Rafa Nadal won, so it was a perfect Sunday after all.

………………

The chutney tastes pretty good, although you need to eat it with a spoon, and the wall is holding up, a fine example of bodge it building: O keeps threatening to go out one evening and actually make it look better, but in the meantime we have finally found a way of keeping Tinta in the garden – we’ve unearthed a metal gate which fits more or less into the corner of the L shape of the backyard – she is safe, we are more relaxed, Romeo is thwarted. But there will have to be a trip to the vet after she’s finished her season for a pregnancy test, and we’ll go from there…. I don’t think I can handle anymore parenting than I am already doing, especially if it involves puppies or chutney.