The other night sitting on the terrace of Kingfisher restaurant, a new haven of calm and good taste in Port Soller, I mulled the cocktail menu. As it happens, on a hot and sticky summer night in Majorca, many are opting for refreshing gin and tonics either as an aperitif or digestif. An American visitor to my golden valley expressed incredulity yesterday when I told him that I had been relying on electric fans rather than air conditioning during this hot and humid summer in Majorca. Of course air-con has come a long way since Willis Carrier, an American citizen, invented the concept back in 1902 using ice and fans. In Spain although air-con is used widely during the hot summer months, it isn’t the norm to rely on it in day to day life.
Anna Nicholas is an award winning blogger and the author of five humorous books about living in rural Majorca. Some years ago, perhaps unwisely, I bought a distressed wooden sign that in the French language offered cats a warm welcome. No sooner had I hung it up by the front door than matted and forlorn moggies began mysteriously appearing in our garden, unsettling our own spoiled and much loved felines, as they seemingly sought safe refuge on our land. Inevitably like a would-be Francis of Assisi, I fed and nurtured those that arrived, carefully keeping their feeding zone away from our jealous domestic cats and giving them heaps of affection and attention. Outside a busy café in central Palma several hot and bothered waiters flitted about, taking hurried orders from regulars and locals while weary holidaymakers tried in vain to attract their attention. In the sort of temperatures that Majorca is enjoying (and I use that word advisedly) it’s understandable that those working in physically demanding jobs in the tourist industry should feel the heat.
In fact getting served in a busy bar or café in Spain during the height of the tourist season can take some nerve and a good dollop of patience. By contrast yesterday I stopped by La Vila, a new al fresco café in the port and was given a massive welcome by headwaiter, Abdul.
Everyone has an off day and in the sizzling summer heat exhausted waiters working long hours can sometimes justifiably lose their rag and sense of bonhomie. Every morning during the sizzling summer months when in the smudgy half light of dawn our eight cockerels begin tuning up, I peer blearily at my alarm clock and go back to sleep.
After a quick shower and two cups of black Darjeeling tea, I set to work at the computer tapping away with windows flung wide open and electric fan humming rhythmically at my side. In my mental memory box of eccentric childhood holidays abroad is the recurring image of a stifling and flaccid igloo tent that used to collapse at the slightest whisper of a breeze.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in the resort of Sousse in Tunisia, there has been much hand-wringing in the media and online forums about the risks of holidaying overseas, even in European zones previously considered a safe bet.
Every year thousands of Britons take to the sunny beaches of countries such as Greece, Turkey, Spain and Italy in search of a little sun and relaxation, hoping to cast aside the stresses of every day life for a week or two. Yesterday as I stepped over one of my inert cats that lay sprawled on the marble floor, it struck me that it can’t be much fun wearing a permanent fur coat in temperatures close to 40C. At my local electrical store the owner ushered me in and closed the door quickly in an attempt not to thwart the powerful air-conditioning. Old hands will suggest drinking copious amounts of water during the day, slathering on the sun protector and taking frequent cooling showers to cope with the heat. When it comes to food I, like others, practically live on gazpacho soup and tomato salads enjoying a full meal at the end of the day when the sun has sloped off to bed. By chance I happened to be at sea when the news reached me and with none other than Majorca resident and former British film director and TV producer, Gabrielle Beaumont, ironically a director of Blue Peter during John Noakes’s time on the show. Traditional bull-running, until now a popular pastime in Spain, might soon be under threat from a new and less controversial street game, known as ball-running or boloencierra, a made up term combining the words bowling ball and bull-running. In the last few years in the village of Mataelpino on the outskirts of Madrid, locals have embraced the exhilarating sport with great gusto, insisting that ball running is an activity that is safe for most age groups to enjoy.
It was back in 2010 that animal rights groups claimed a victory when they presented a petition of 180,000 signatures to the regional parliament, bringing about a ban- the second only issued by any of the country’s 17 regions. Last week a Majorcan friend popped round and in between scoffing several mince pies with brandy butter, told me about the problem of metal theft on the island.
Metal theft is prevalent in France and the UK, but somehow in my naivety, I hadn’t realised that the problem extended to my sunny neck of the woods.
In a previous blog I mentioned Jaume Jaume, a Majorcan sheep breeder who has a farm near Petra in the central part of the island. An island that relies on tourism for 85 per cent of its economy should take such occurrences very seriously. So, yes I’m worried about the grave robbers and the slaughtering of the lambs here on Majorca. Unlike in the UK firm, where a work party invitation that extended to family might have been quietly ignored, this office open house was rapidly descending into a creche. My friend and I had both been given a three-line whip by our husbands to produce our offspring for the party, which had been formally organised to celebrate the opening of new office space.
Every staff member with a child, or two, had gone out of their way to ensure that their family was well represented.
There’s a chance that I might need lower her expectations about her place in the corporate world further down the line. It is, for almost every employer and foreign mission here, classified as a hostile environment posting. There seems to be a sense from some outside that Nigeria is a nation of trick or treaters, like a constant Halloween of ne’er-do-wells hiding behind trees with grenades and credit card scanners.
When I am walking to the supermarket in Abuja (yes, you can walk down the street, something else friends often ask), I’m not rushing along in case someone comes and grabs me or shoots me or nicks my wallet.
My problem, if anything, is that everyone is so friendly: how am I, where am I going, is my husband well, what do I plan to cook this afternoon?
Sadly, many expats living here are bound by employer or embassy rules not to wander around, not to stay out after a certain time and not to go to some parts of town.
Instead you find yourself staying inside the compound, feeling increasingly isolated and knowing alarmingly little of your new home.
Clementine Wallop lives in Abuja, Nigeria, with her husband, many lizards and an accidental pet owl. It’s difficult to believe that in an era so twitchy, so risk averse and so hell bent on keeping the health and safety zealots happy, that the Valencia region of Spain could have got it so horribly wrong. Last month bacteria discovered in the plumbing system of the four-star Diamante Beach Hotel in Calpe, on the eastern coast of Spain, turned out to be Legionnaires’ Disease.


When two guests died at the hotel this January-supposedly from heart attacks-post mortem results proved otherwise and it was confirmed that Legionnaires’ Disease had been the culprit.
Were it not for the pub and the roadhouse providing long-distance drivers with drinks, pies and petrol, the town could not and would not exist.
Last week, the news came that the pub is up for sale, my former boss, Paul Collins, throwing in the towel after 23 years.
It definitely takes a certain kind of character to be able to cope with the extreme remoteness of the place. For the last 40 years ETA, or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom, has waged war on its own country in its desire to gain total autonomy for a tiny region which already has its own parliament, police force and collects its own taxes. It was during the sixties that ETA emerged as a student resistance movement bitterly opposed to the rule of the dictator General Franco whose oppressive military regime had seen local dialects and cultural traditions put firmly on ice.
He urged me to give it more careful consideration but the blue sky told me all I needed to know.
Listening to the distant rumble of explosives as we dined in a beach restaurant during the Gulf War. Annabel Kantaria is a journalist who moved to Dubai long before most people knew where it was. In other words, it’s a man-made tree that provides free WiFi and information services as well as eight high-speed phone-and tablet-charging points for the public to use at no cost. The idea of Dubai residents being able to recharge their phones or use the internet for free while at the park comes as no surprise to me. It’s the same on the mainland where gin bars are all the rage in Barcelona and Madrid with some specialist drinking dens offering as many as 50 varieties. In some frustration he recounted how at least two hotels he’d recently stayed at in Spain still resolutely relied on ceiling fans when it was obvious that air conditioning was the only way to deal with temperatures cruising 40C. The United States is the biggest guzzler of energy when it comes to air conditioning, using more than any other country. Now Americans can expect buses, trains, cars, offices, homes and public buildings to provide a cool atmosphere regardless of the temperature outside. Most of my Majorcan friends do not use it at night in their bedrooms, usually preferring ceiling or electric fans and open windows. First there are my musical frogs quacking like ducks and frolicking about in the pond beyond my window, the hissing of cicadas on their way to bed and last but not least the cry of the Scops owl. I wasn’t sure at the time whether to be more impressed by their reading ability or the fact that they could understand French. The heat was evidently getting to those serving as they mopped their brows and wore grumpy expressions.
Bar work is particularly onerous during the summer months in Spain and it’s easy to see why those on a ten hour shift sometimes find it difficult to keep a smile wedged on their faces while the sun beats down and they have barely a minute to catch their breath. Luckily in my local town of Soller, service is usually attentive and friendly although just this week, a bunch of Britons complained bitterly to me about the sloppy and dilatory staff at a leading restaurant in the port.
When I asked for a dish that wasn’t on the menu he cheerily told me that the chef would prepare it nonetheless and bent over backwards to be friendly and charming with every client that entered.
Still, with fierce competition in the hospitality industry it pays for businesses to play the game, garner a good reputation and keep the customer happy.
A few hours later cicadas are hissing, frogs croaking, querulous cats complaining and a hot sun is beating down on my pillow.
Barefooted and usually kitted in cool linen or cotton, I plough on until lunchtime when a salad or bowl of gazpacho is the order of the day. Consequently I came to loathe camping as a nipper and instead fantasised about staying in a caravan similarly to lucky friends of mine at primary school or better still, a wood cabin such as that I read about with delight in Little House on the Prairie.
And then, oh the excitement, another to spend the weekend with expat friends in a luxury woodland cabin in Hampshire. Few, until the massacre in Tunisia, would probably have ever contemplated that a lone gunman might target and indiscriminately kill defenceless sunbathers in a seemingly secure and well established holiday resort. This has been the hottest July that I can remember in Majorca and I’ve barely survived six days of it thus far. In Café Paris cheery waiter Carmelo was doing his best to dash from table to table as tourists fled the harsh sun and took refuge under cool cream parasols on the terrace.
Those of us who don’t have our own boats and yachts are often taken pity on by kind friends and offered little jaunts out to sea on hot clammy days.
Although a fair few homes in Majorca are equipped with air-conditioning, it is expensive and many consider it a less healthy option, so electric fans are the order of the day and any dark corner of a terrace or patio not penetrated by the sun.
The annual event involves the rolling of a 125 kilo giant polystyrene ball (as well as smaller versions) down the sloping streets of the village while residents run ahead in an attempt to avoid it.
Although in 1991 the Canary Islands were the first to outlaw bullfighting there was far less of an outcry because it had never proven popular with locals.
Spanish friends have tried valiantly, over the years, to convince me that the corrida, the bullfight, is an event of historic, aesthetic, religious and cultural significance but for me it is nothing more than an outmoded and voyeuristic blood sport.
Increasingly robbers have been targeting cemeteries and stealing copper, brass and bronze ornaments, plaques, statues, crosses and even altars. With the Spanish economy in meltdown and unemployment bobbing around the 23 per cent mark it’s perhaps not surprising that desperate people are committing desperate and dastardly deeds.
He contacted me over Christmas to say that persons unknown-most likely a gang of drunken youths from a local town-had entered his 800 acre farm in the dead of night and shot dead many of his baby lambs as they slept at their mothers’ sides. There can’t be many holidaymakers who would welcome the idea of gangs with rifles knocking off baby animals during the night with little or no redress. It indicates a chilling breakdown of society, a lack of humanity and community that would have seemed unthinkable even a decade ago. As we made do with dip and diet coke, the kids were furnished with a storyteller, bespoke board games, face painting, ice cream lollies and cardboard crowns. She was raised aloft for all to see, in a scene similar to the birth of Simba in The Lion King. That means high pay, extra leave, rest and recuperation breaks, flight allowances and accommodation on fortified compounds ringed with razor wire.
I had never been to Nigeria before I turned up with my suitcases, and sensational newspaper coverage can make you think twice about the wisdom of relocating here.
But the things people are scared of on my behalf aren’t the things that are actually worrying.


Living in a country with a terrorist insurgency isn’t particularly safe, but I lived in Britain in the 1980s and never wondered about whether the IRA would come for me in the night. I go home loaded with stories and chats and a freebie from the delicatessen at the shop, not worries about the perils lurking outside my front door. It shouldn’t have come as any real surprise because as far back as December the hotel and the regional authorities had been well aware that a problem existed. He went on to describe how the bar had presented challenges in the ordering process for the touring actors.
It may not be the rough-and-tumble place of 1980s celluloid Australia, but it is a lifeline for the toughest of breeds thrashing out a living in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.
1) Between the ages of seven and 13, I lived in 16 different places and went to six different schools. Although Franco died in 1975 the rebels continued their increasingly violent crusade to gain autonomy in the Basque region and also South West France which they claimed as their own. Its last attempt at a truce ended in 2006 when the group bombed and destroyed a car park in Madrid, and with it the peace process. ETA now claims that it is keen to put down arms and engage in a democratic process but can it be trusted? Preparing paperwork for your residence visa medical, for example, involved half a morning spent standing in multiple queues while you waited to see a form-filler, a typist, a translator, a form-checker, a cashier and sometimes even a dancing dog (but only on a Tuesday). In fact according to the US Energy Information Administration, 87 per cent of homes are equipped with the cooling units and let’s not even mention cars. In truth there have been times when I’ve shivered with the chill in American supermarkets and offices, preferring a more ambient temperature. There is another factor why air-con is used sparingly here and that is the ruinous cost of electricity. On a breezy night the tangy scents of rosemary and lavender waft through the bedroom window prompting the sweetest dreams. With some impatience they finally approached the tables of foreign guests and irritably began taking orders in English, huffing and puffing as they did so. I was dismayed to hear this as it’s one that I recommend quite regularly and the food is excellent.
And on the flip-side it is crucial for employers to ensure that staff members feel valued, take regular breaks, keep hydrated and eat during their shifts. Everyone wanted cold mineral water, juices and fizzy drinks laden with ice in double quick time and poor Carmelo toiled away, blotting the sweat from his face with a shirt sleeve.
The advantage of course is that one arrives at hidden coves with crystal clear waters so that swimming is a pure joy. In Madrid, a man was recently arrested for stealing an estimated €290,000 worth of supermarket trolleys which he sold to a local scrap merchant.
The only light relief in the gloom this Christmas was the news story about a Spaniard who robbed a petrol station and brought his dog along for the ride. I developed a huge respect for the danger and isolation they faced in their daily work, rounding up cattle. The June I was there after graduation, I finished work one night dishing out beer at the race course, where sand replaced grass, to find three people sleeping on our kitchen floor. A car bomb in Majorca in July 2009 which saw the death of two young Guardia Civil officers, seemed to be the death knell in negotiations between ETA and the Spanish government. Not surprisingly there has been a lukewarm reaction from both the regional and national government of Spain. As the plane doors opened outside the old terminal building, I stood at the top of the steps (no contact stands in those days), felt the warmth in the January air and said to him, “Yes, absolutely. India and China are joining the race and there has been a marked rise in consumer purchases than in previous years. On a recent visit to London I even wished I’d brought a jumper along to Waitrose given its cool demeanour. One sizzling summer I used air conditioning in my office most days and my eyes nearly popped out when the electricity bill plopped on the mat in September.
So much as at times I might toss and turn on hot summer nights and curse the unrelenting heat, the attraction of pure air still outweighs the benefits of air-con for me.
After all, a restaurant team that feels truly appreciated will take pride in its work and do everything in its power to make sure that the customer always comes first. How and why it happens at the same time every day I cannot say but come 2pm I yearn for a kip. In towns such as Madrid I have seen daring locals and tourists dipping their toes in ponds and fountains in an attempt to keep cool. This is the time of year when one can legitimately take siestas, enjoy long swims and show off a tan. It may be one of the most beautiful and poignant poems on the planet but there’s no escaping it. He was stealing two a day and was only discovered when police used GPS devices on the trolleys to track down the culprit.
Staff easily recognised the hound from the security cameras as it transpired that his master only lived 800 metres from the scene of the crime, which brings me not so neatly on to lambs.
If ETA really wants to be part of a peace process it’s got to cease the rhetoric along with the armed struggle.
Most of those featured were of the new botanical variety bursting with aromatic flavours and zest. Fans of air-con will insist that research has shown its many benefits not least getting a good night’s sleep, helping workers to function more efficiently and preventing deaths from heat strokes. I watched as exhausted stallholders valiantly touted their wares while the burning rays of a playful sun lingered sadistically on their faces and arms. Why did bullfighter, Ignacio, go into the bullring in the first place if he didn’t accept the risks? Only a month ago, twenty of his lambs were killed in the same manner and although the Guardia Civil visited the farm, nothing has stopped the perpetrators from acting again.




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