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.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Sant Antoni

I had butterflies in my stomach as I cleaned my long, leather boots. They hadn't been worn since my competing days on a large ginger thoroughbred horse in England - it felt like a lifetime ago. The bridles were sparkling, the numnahs freshly washed and I awoke far too early, excited about the day ahead.

For today was our horses debut. Not competing in dressage arenas or flying cross-country, but to parade the streets of Calvia in a procession towards the church - for all the animals of the village to be blessed by the priest. Today was the festival of Sant Antoni, Saint Anthony, who lived as a hermit from 251 to 356. Legend has it he once cured a terminally ill black piglet and now on the closest Sunday to the patron's day, animals are blessed in Saint Anthony's name.

We brushed their coats, combed their manes and oiled their hooves. They knew something was up and fidgeted as we got ready, the excitement building in their blood.

As we gathered in the town hall car park, the horses began shitting freely without the fear of fines and the intensity began to build. The pipes started playing, tractors arrived adorned with ivy-strewn carts full of little children dressed in traditional Mallorquin clothes. There were lambs and goats, dogs of every colour and breed, a very lame donkey and a few horses and riders. Kira's body shook as she took in the scene; the waving balloons, the dancing children, the swinging sausages from the carts and the sheer enormity of it all. She stood proud, eyes on stalks as Spot the pony jig-jogged in excitement, throwing his head about to the pain of his rider. 

As the procession began we wandered through the village, people taking photos and making lovely compliments about the horses, I felt ridiculously proud. Even a little emotional. Kira is the horse who has galloped down roads with me in fright into oncoming traffic, she has pinned me against walls and smashed my hand, stood on my toes, snorted in fear at plastic bags and spins and fights to go home - and now here she was walking calm, noble and impressive as though she knew it was an important occasion. As we waited for the priest to bless her, she kicked out at Spot to bloody well behave himself,  to the 'oohs and the aahs' of the crowd.

It was a truly magical moment.

....and Spot even made it into the islands paper the next morning. Fame at last little pony!

Monday, 8 January 2018

New year new goals

I love the new year, I always have. The relief that Christmas is over and summer is on its way gets me every time. The excitement as the bells chime and we kiss goodbye to the old and eat grapes welcoming in the new. The grapes eaten at new year is a great Spanish tradition, each of the 12 grapes represents the months of the year, to be eaten with each gong of the clock at midnight. Small grapes are needed, without pips of course, to be able to to swallow the good luck and fortunes of the coming year. It's fun and so much more refined than snogging strangers.

2018 is to be the year of achievements. We now feel settled and content on this special Mediterranean island, calling it home and feeling we belong. Of course the house needs reforming, the garden needs taming, the WiFi needs to arrive and the gas system changing - these achievements need to and have to happen. The personal ones are perhaps a little harder to attain. Like, learning Spanish once and for all. Like, cantering a 20 metre circle on both reins in a calm and balanced manner. Like, curing my back pain and being committed to the exercises. Like, walking the dogs who haven't got a home, volunteering my time which is elusive as ever. To name a few.

Happy new year everyone, may 2018 be a happy, healthy and peaceful one for you all.

Holidays in pictures

I've been too busy to write over the festive period, so I took lots of photos instead.

It is finally all over for another year

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

That time of year

Anyone who knows me also knows that I'm not a fan of Christmas. The magic is lost on me, amongst the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the Christmas fairs, the teachers gifts, the cards, the marketing madness, the organisational stress. I could go on.

I see magic in the everyday. The lambs that were born last night on the mountain with their umbilical cords swinging as they hurried to keep up with their mother. The vibrant sunrises and sunsets, a technicolor show every day for free. I see magic in the oranges and lemons which are abundant on the trees and the almonds which lay, uncollected, on the ground. The smell of my horses sweet breath and welcoming nicker every morning fills me with wonder and huge feelings of gratefulness. The frosty side of the field, the ever expanding tummies of the stray cats, the donkeys ee-aw and the wobbly hedgehogs who cross the road.

Magic in the morning

We are lucky here in Mallorca that the Christmas build up is less intense. There are a few Christmas markets, a carol concert or two, some pretty lights in Palma and a Christmas jumper day at school. I have managed all with little more than a deep breath and a good slug of rioja.

Magical balloons in Palma

With 5 days to go, you could almost say that I am calm.

Feliz Navidad a todos

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Flying free

She hinted she didn't want to ride.

P gets stressed at the thought of homework building up, forms that need to be signed and bags that need packing for the next school day - which is a sad state to be in when you are 9 years old. I knew as soon as I saw her, as she wearily left the classroom, that she was unhappy; there were 50 multiplication sums and 10 spelling sentences to do for the next day. P can't think, or process, or have fun, until the pesky school work is completed.

I persuaded her to trot around for 10 minutes on Spot who enjoys a little jolly. She rides well, little P, but I can see she doesn't always enjoy it. After a cajoled canter, I built a teeny, weeny, tiny jump.

Go on I said. You can do it. And she did! Quite spectacularly. Twice in fact.

She grinned, I praised her and hugged the pony for being so honest.

"How was that?" I asked

She thought for a moment and considered her answer.

"When you go over the jump it was like there was a big hammer, hammering down my homework into the jump!"

Wow I replied. How does that make you feel?

"Like an angel lived inside me" she said, flooring me with her reply.

My 9 year old daughter had just explained how horses made me feel. No matter how life is turning out, how blue my day has been or desperately unhappy I felt; when I am near horses, it's like an angel lives inside me and nothing else matters.

To the horse who put the angel inside me:

Rest in Peace Mr Fletcher, thank you for teaching me, for allowing me to feel, for your free spirit and wild ways. I will never, ever forget you. Run free you crazy ginger beastie and I'll see you on the other side for a mad gallop.

Fletch, who rekindled my love of horses, put to sleep this week

Friday, 24 November 2017

The next phase

I loved the milky babies, days out with toddlers to play farms and forests. I loved the relative freedom  of them starting school and being able to discover horses again for myself. I loved them growing up and developing strong characters and dislikes. Of them still believing in Father Christmas and needing to sleep in our bed if a nightmare arrived. I think I loved it all, but the memory is a marvellous thing and filters out the mundane and the boring. The photos taken are of happy times and milestones, like the first solid food and wobbly ride of a bike, they fool us into remembering a content and peaceful time. I really loved being a mum to little children. I'm just not sure I'm doing a good job of the next bit.

A is nearly 12, developing into a young woman at great speed. Her character from toddler-dom is still there, a kind and empathetic child, a loather of pain, a messy eater with a wide infectious smile for all. She tries hard at school, loves her pony with passion and has many friends.

And now she has a phone. And Instagram. And I don't like it, I don't like it at all.

It's not the amount of time spent staring at the screen, we are all guilty of that I'm afraid, but the influences and messages which pollute her child-like brain.

Maybe I am feeling a loss of control. The beginning of letting go, the start of her finding her own path with it's steep drops and craggy rocks on the way.

I try and help her with her friendship issues, I encourage her to talk about her worries, we discuss what to ignore and what to confront and we spend time together in silence - just brushing the horses or mucking out the stables. I want her to fit in and stand out as different. I want her to be strong but caring. I would like her to work hard at school but not to the detriment of her pleasures. I would like her to have a special friend but be kind to the whole class.

And of course I hope, hope so much, that she is happy.

Mallorca or Sussex, being a Mama is one of the hardest jobs of them all.