Sunday, October 28, 2007

From letches to leeches




In which I spend a week in Mallorca and spend quite a bit of time up a ladder

I had promised my daughter a trip ito Spain with her friend Laura, so we booked a few days (starting just before half term to save on air fares) to visit my mother in Mallorca.

She lives in a lovely old casa - but it is fairly primitive. No mains water (a well) and no mains sewerage (pose negro - the cess pit lies under the house) but nonetheless it is a lovely place. In the small village of Genova, in the hills above Palma, the house is a white-fronted single-storey building stuffed full of my step-father's collections - books, books and more books (plus some armour, a few old weapons and some weird and wonderful pictures and carvings).

We flew out late on a Wednesday night. The flight was fine - though Mel (nervous of flying) wasn't sitting next to me. I sat next to an artist and his wife. He showed me (briefly, we didn't really chat till near the end of the flight) some of his work. Modern, but I liked it! Check him out, I had a nice talk with him and his wife. They come from Bogotá, Colombia. I knew they were speaking Spanish, but it was very different sounding.

We arrived early Thursday morning and once the taxi had taken us to the casa, it was a case of heads down. The taxi driver told me there had been awful rains during the day (which Sally confirmed), but we were in Spain!! No fair - an English summer of rain and now...

The Thursday morning, however, the sun shone brightly, and did so all the way up until the final Wednesday. I even caught some sun! That's good for me, I don't usually do anything except go pink and peel or just stay plain white. As it is, I'm a darker shade of pasty than usual.

Thursday we did very little, spent time on the beach and just relaxed. The locals were worried that Laura and Mel would be 'frigio' in their shorts and skimpy tops, but no - this was warm for us! Mind you, their long legs nearly caused a few accidents as young men driving by looked at them instead of the stationery traffic ahead of them.

We travelled by bus, using the 'bono bus' discount cards. One trip was on a 'bendy bus' and we stood in the bend - a bit like the inside of an accordion I reckon. Though we spent a lot of time at the beach, I also helped out with some chores at the casa. I trimmed the palm tree, which means ascending via a ladder and then using shears to cut down the brown leaves and pull down the dead husks - and every one was full of that gritty black dirt that remains once the seeds or fruits (not sure what kind of palm it is) are dead and decayed. The smaller of the two palms was easer (and a variety of date, I'm sure), but even so I was showered in gritty black dust. I wore sunglasses and a hat as protection, but that didn't keep it out of my clothing (all the way down to my underwear!).

One day we went to Marineland down the coast a bit. We watched parrots do the things that parrots do not do, and seals do the things seals do not do, and dolphins do the things that dolphins do not do - in the wild. Is it right? To train these creatures, even though they are in captivity, to perform for us? I don't know. I know the centre does great rescue work on turtles and other marine life, but... it didn't sit right with me. I would not applaud the performance of a parrot 'dancing'. I saw it's clipped wings, it's eagerness to receive the food titbit as reward for its bizarre behaviour.


One day I took the girls into Palma to go shopping - yes! Watch out girls about! But, the Palma fashions were not to their taste (funnily enough it looked a bit English Country Aristocracy!) and 'It's cheaper in Primark' was the trademark comment. But we did find Alex a great jumper, and in a subsequent trip to Porto Pi (the nearest 'mall' equivalent) we did find them two nice jumpers too. Mind you, Laura left hers at the doughnut stand. We returned to Porto Pi though, and the girl on the doughnut stand produced Laura's bag and her jumper so it was worth the return trip.

We never drink the water from the taps at the casa because it comes from the well, then into a tank, then down ancient pipes into the house. "There's black bits in the water" Sally said. "Run the tap first for a bit." I ran the tap and the black bits 'wiggled'. There were leeches in the well! Only tiny ones, but even so. I went down to the shop and talked to the proprietor, Carmen. "Aminales en mi agua" I explained, and was understood. She produced a yellow bottle of stuff to throw down the well, showed me how much we needed to use.

So, well disinfected, I then had to climb on the roof and clean out the main water tank - no leeches actually in the tank, and hopefully no more now we'd put the stuff down the well. I didn't mention it to the girls.


I also painted the front lintel of the casa - back up the ladder again! 12 or 15 feet up, I was very careful to ensure the ladder was well seated, that I had a proper hook for the paint so I was stable and safe. I fixed the gutter too and trimmed the bougainvilla. I enjoyed it! Actually, it was more fun that lying on the beach, but the beach time was what the girls wanted. They did paint the well though. And the beach time did give me time to write - every day I did a 'diary' (far too long for the blog) so I have a record of the week.

We ate at Can Pedro's, a nice restaurant with traditional Mallorcan food. The first night we ate at Pedro I and the waiter added an extra drink and a non-existent dish to our bill which I challenged! Immediately rectified (and not reassuring at all, this had always been such a good restaurant). The second time we at at Pedro II (a second restaurant in the same time with the same owner) and this was much better. The girls looked great and turned heads yet again. Only 13 and looking (according to a 30 year old chap on the beach) "21, like Cameron Diaz". Very flattering, but maybe just a little scary too. The girls don't realise just how adult they look, how they may be mistaken for older girlst. I worry, but what can you do? Just watch, warn, and hope.

So, by the end of the week I had a tan, an understanding of how to kill well leeches, a paint-covered tee shirt and a throbbing finger where it was stabbed by the prickle from a palm leaf. The flight back was easy, the three of us sitting together this time. The man in the seats (he was alone in the row) had his headphones on and the 'chingkachingka' sound was starting to drive me crazy, but we got home in good time.

The jasmine smelled good at the casa, the sun was warm, and the sea (though I did not go in) a welcome sound. It was good to see my mother, to watch the girls playing bat and ball on the beach and to practice my awful Spanish, but it was good to get home - to Bryan, Alex, and hot and cold running (leech-free) water.
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