Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Ibiza

She never lets me down, Ibiza. With her magnetism and hedonism, with her charm and delight, with her wild nights and serene days. She always inspires me, leaving me with wanting more - leaving me exhausted but full of love, she ages me and takes years off my age.


Ibiza is Mallorca's little sister, just a couple of hours by boat - we can even see her from our house. I was insanely excited to be going to Ibiza for the third time, knowing what the island holds and how she affects me, to be celebrating a 50th birthday.

The first time I went to Ibiza was to celebrate a wedding of two beautiful friends - on a yoga platform, dressed in Indian clothes and overlooking the sunset of Beneras beach. There followed a week of parties and yoga, of booze and cleansing, of veggie food and Sunday drumming sessions.


The second time I went to Ibiza was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the wedding. We were all older, richer and much more badly behaved. Having been let off mothering-duties for 6 whole days the parties seemed more intense, never wanting to sleep knowing that real life was just around the corner.

The third time I went to Ibiza, last weekend, was a blast. We are nearing 50 now and perhaps should have been heading for a group walking holiday rather than Pacha, or maybe a tour of a vineyard rather than staying up until 8.30 in the morning.

She was fantastic this time - giving us local Spanish restaurants and crazily-priced ones, we chatted by the pool and partied in clubs, we wandered along seaweed strewn beaches and cuddled at dawn, we mooched around hippy markets and ate a BBQ with new friends. We were grown-up and childish, we felt love and peace as well as banging brains, we danced just like everyone was watching and no one was. It was out of this world.

Every time Ibiza, every single time.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

It's never 'Just a horse'!

She wasn't mine, but the shock was there - she wasn't supposed to go.

I didn't even know her long, but the tears flow.

She wasn't even human.

Just a horse.



With the kindest heart and deep chestnut eyes, which weeped each spring. With dinner plate feet and hard muscles telling a story of times past, with a slowness of gait and a promise of speed, with a gentleness so great with those little and new - and a feisty-ness so alarming when you thought you knew best.

A horse who knew only love, who's time just wasn't up.

Dear Poppy, I wish you could have lived a little bit longer so I could kiss your velvety nose again, touch your face and tell you how much you meant to me. Just one more time.

We all feel so very alone without you.

Run free big girl - wait for us on the other side.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Cats of Mallorca

Our fattie catties are approaching old age, sleeping plenty and looking a little haggard around the edges. Spring sunshine encourages them outside for a roll on the warm terracotta tiles and a mooch around the garden. They have plenty of cat spots on our mountain hideaway in Mallorca, places to snooze, in between gecko hunting and keeping the locals out of our property. I think they are pleased with their move abroad, having fitted in well to the customs and differences on the island, although I doubt they have learnt the language or got used to the foreign food - I wonder if they remember their Sussex beginnings.



And then there's the strays in our lives. They all live down the stables. There's Podge who turned up without a tail and full of tapeworms, there's Hairy Cat and Flash. There's the black and white one who is an irreguar but welcome visitor. Lavender who died. And our favourites - Teegy Babes and Jazzy Poo. They all hear the sound of my loud deisal engine and come running, demanding food before school and almost tame to cuddle.


Podge without a tail


Tiger Lily / Teegy Babes


Jasmine / Jazzy Poo

And because we feed them they have settled into the yard as though it's their own - despite the owners minor protestations. I therefore felt it was my responsibility to spay the girls and castrate the boys - if I could catch them. Teegy Babes was tamed by my youngest daughter who spent the entire summer with a piece of straw, playing with the curious kitten, slowly gaining her trust until they were the best of friends. The others were wild - but liked food.

The morning of the operation was upon us - the kids were apprehensive, the cat cages ready, the meat for enticing and some good thick gloves for me. Like a ninja cat catcher I got the two girls and shoved them unceremoniously into the cages and flung them into the back of the car - them yowling and leaping around their prisons with furious indignity. I did feel a bit bad, maybe they would have liked to have been cat - mamas. And off we drove.

"Mummy, the cat is out of its cage!" squealed the eldest.

I peaked a look in the mirror and the grey kitten was sitting on the back seat before flying around the car and landing on the dashboard. Indicators, mirror, break, pulled over - hazard lights on. Calm down kids please, Mummy needs to think here. Cat piss was going to happen any time soon. I hauled my stiff old body onto the back seat and prepared the cat cage for the second time that morning. By luck, Jazzy Poo was sitting, terrified, on the drivers head rest. Preparing the kids for some cat screaming and bleeding arms, I leapt on the kitten and hurled it into the upturned cage and locked it for sure this time.

All before dropping the kids off at school.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The hack

She moves off as I mount, keen to get going. Keen to march down the track and out of the farm where she stays, keen to look at everything around her in the spring sunshine. She takes in all the differences of the walk today, from how it was yesterday - noticing rubbish in the hedge, a fallen log in a field, egrets standing on the back of the sheep and the puddle on the road which has never, ever been there before. She spooks, she runs, she snorts, she looks left, she looks right - she rarely settles on our walks out into the big, wide world.



Kira is my feisty horse who has had a rough start in life. Despite her nervous ways I have learnt to sit still and let her have a good look at all around her. We walk past the donkeys who gallop over to say hello, she strains her neck to look at them and decides they pose no threat, long eared and beneath her - she walks on. The dogs to the right don't even get a look in, we know their barks and their non-threatening waggy tails. Hello doggies I call, they ignore me completely - not speaking any English I suppose - and continue their frenzy at the passing horse.

There is no greater smell than orange blossom; it beats freshly brewed coffee, baking bread and just-mown grass. The orange orchard to our left engulfs our olfactory senses, the heady sweetness lingers in the air while the uncollected oranges lay fallen and abandoned on the ground. She uses all her body to naviagte the steep hills and she baulks at the group of cyclists who whizz at speed, making the air whistle as they pass. She tenses as we approach the dog she hates, spooking predictably as he runs along the fence - every time dear Kira - every time.

She stands patiently as I talk to a new friend over a fence, in potted Spanish and plenty of gesticulating. I like him, he always admires my horse, as wonky and nutty as she is. We negotiate pigs, bouncy lambs, hectic hairy ponies in herds and the fiercest German Shepherd's who pounce against the fence - rattling it menacingly.

Tourists point at us, old men begrudgingly say 'bon dia' as they forage for wild asparagus in the hedges and walkers avoid us as she side-steps up the road to avoid a murderous plastic bag.

Her body relaxes as we walk the familiar mile back to her stable, I feel as happy as I have ever felt in my life. Just me, my horse, the spring sunshine and beautiful, beautiful Mallorca.



Saturday, 24 March 2018

Weather

You could tell they were on holiday, filling their trolley with cheap booze and by the vest tops they were sporting in 8C. The first tourists are arriving, full of hope and swimming costumes. There is a misconception that Mallorca is warm and sunny year round and to be fair, it is a whole lot nicer than the UK, who have had to deal with Beasts from the East. But March, oh March has been full of weather. Full of rain. Full of cold. Full of wind that whips round your face and creates monstrous plastic bags. Full of warm days where T shirts and sunnies are required. We've had it all, and now I am ready for a decent run of calm, of sun and of the gradual ascent to mental searing, blistering heat.

Today we have been treated to a whole day of rain. So much so, that our village Sheep and Goat Festival was abandoned in a torrent of water which ran through the streets, cancelling the dancing and tapas sharing, halting the goat admiring and beer drinking.

The horses spent all but an hour in their stables. Spot, who was born here in Mallorca, doesn't do rain. Grateful for the duvet day, he munched his hay with not a wet hair on his fat, hairy body. Kira, a girl from the north of Spain, is quite happy to stand in her corale, the water soaking her to the skin. The ducks came back to swim on the lakes created on the riding arenas, grateful for a few more weeks of puddles before they have to fly off to find a new watery home.


Sun


Snow


Rain


Violent sunsets


Windy palms

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Fear, at its deepest

I looked behind me and the ascent seemed vertical. I looked ahead of me and the descent looked like a sheer drop. I was completely frozen with fear. I had no phone, no idea how I was going to get off this mountain, the fog was descending fast and my 5 euro sunglasses were clouded with snow. I don't think I have ever felt so frightened, I didn't know what to do. I looked up, I looked down. I looked up and I looked down again, both options completely unattainable and finally Ava, my eldest daughter, snow ploughed at 5cm/minute crying - with snot dribbling out of her nose - towards me. At last she was with me, my baby - her mama. We hugged, helmets and skis colliding, so pleased to have found each other - now we could tackle it side by side.



Last week was our first try at skiing. We took the ferry to Barcelona along with almost all of Mallorca for Semana Blanca (literally meaning 'White Week'). The ski resort in Andorra was beautiful, we drove to the snow whooping with delight at the two metre drifts and the people flying off piste. I couldn't wait to try it.



Ski school lasted for precisely 2 hours. Ben, bearded and gorgeous, put up with our inability to slide down a hill, our ineptitude, our clumsiness - he had seen it all before. The two hours disappeared fast, as did Ben, and we were alone on the slopes. We skied down and took a lift up. We did it again and again. And again. And then drank beer congratulating ourselves on our skiing ability. How fun! How thrilling! (Actaully, How Easy! we thought)


So the next day we all headed for a Blue run, one up from a nursery slope and two down from the Black run - depending how you look at it. Ava hesitated and I was off - all my 2 hours of ski instruction disappearing in the blur of snow, speed and pine trees. I couldn't stop. I couldn't scream. I couldn't bail out as I had 2 metres of goddamn metal attached to my feet. The next bit of my life I have blanked, I actually have no idea how I came to a halt but I can assure you it wasn't pretty. And there I sat waiting for my daughter for 20 minutes, maybe more. 

On a mountain. With fog descending. With 5 euro sunglasses. With no phone.

With absolutely no idea how this was going to end.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Nearly over

It's been chilly for a while. Enough to wear a fleece and a scarf inside the house and for two duvets to be on the bed. There's no carpets, double glazing or central heating on this Balearic Island, the houses are made for heat - which to be fair, it is most of the time. We even had two days of rain in a row, some snow and frost on the ground. This morning, for the first time here in Mallorca, I had to defrost the car.

It will soon nearly be over, the winter. Not that it has been a tough winter at all. Christmas boasted t-shirt weather while 'Las calmas de enero' delivered the most glorious January of all. Not a drop of rain fell and day after day of blue skies and luke-warm sun led us all to believe that summer was merely around the corner. The horses enjoyed rug-free days and the stray cats were quickly neutered to avoid the inevitable spring kittens. The almonds blossomed, a little too early for likes of the farmers, and the fields became a vibrant green and yellow - a dazzling display for the eyes. More lambs were born, they seem to arrive year round here, and coffees were sipped outside on street pavements, sunglasses mandatory and fake-fur coats. There are so few tourists here; reminding me to enjoy the calm, the empty wind swept beaches and the easy parking. The tranquillity of the winter before the storm of the summer.


Empty beaches


T- shirt rides

As the island comes out of hibernation you can feel the season and vibe hotting up. The restaurants shake off their dust, the beaches are cleaned of the sea weed, terraces are painted, pools are cleaned and buildings are hurriedly finished.

Ready for the long, hot, crazy, hectic and gloriously fabulous summer.