On show.

Vicki McLeod, photographer, Mallorca

I think if you are going to set a good example to your kids you have to lead the way. One of the things I want my daughter to absorb and embrace is the idea that we continually learn throughout our lives, we have the chance to change again and again.  Sometimes we can become interested in something which we didn’t think we would ever be able to do, and then by chipping away and finding people who can help you to achieve a goal, you get there.  This is how I have come to find myself with some of the skills and knowledge it takes to become a photographer. I love to look at images and I sometimes would have a lucky break and be able to take a good shot on a camera, but only in the past year or so have I really developed into someone who could describe herself as a photographer.

On Thursday night (tonight) in my home village of S’arracó at the Night of Art I am exhibiting some of my photographs. I’ve been learning how to take photographs with the help of my brilliant teacher Diana Hirsch (www.photoclasses.eu) who has taken me from enthusiastic amateur who doesn’t know what the buttons do on the camera, to someone who has now started taking photos as part of her job. And my very hard working hubbie (who does take photos for his job) who has had to endure me asking questions about shutter speeds and apertures, and then only half understanding his replies so I will then have to start all over again.  And the encouragement of people like Dilip, the editor for the Euro Weekly who probably didn’t realise how much his nods of “that’s a good shot” meant to me.

My photos are part of a series of images which I am trying to build over time. I’ve decided to call it “Tribes” because each group in the series is about a certain group of people and their rituals, beliefs, and celebrations. The ones that I will exhibit on Thursday night are an affectionate and intimate look at the inside world of competitive bodybuilding. I was very lucky to be invited by a friend of mine to attend a bodybuilding competition in Alcudia where I was given free rein to shoot photos backstage.

Is it art though? I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. I will be joining many other people as they put their work out for inspection on Thursday evening. The whole event is free to enjoy and is SO enjoyable, I really hope to see you there. It’s strangely nerve wracking though, will people like what I’ve done, will they understand why, will my daughter?  Will she just roll her eyes, in this new way that she has, and decry loudly that her mother is embarrassing her? Maybe I shouldn’t care either way.

We will be exhibiting in the playground near to the square, and I will be proudly putting my own work up beside my husband’s. You can see more information about the Night of Art at http://nitdelartdesarraco.blogspot.com.es well done to all of the artists and to the organiser of the event, Claire Lavriller for her patience and determination.

 

Vicki McLeod

Happy anniversary Mallorca

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Ten years ago last weekend I drove a mini metro through France to Barcelona, got lost, couldn’t find the ferry port, almost had a nervous breakdown, found the ferry port with 2 minutes to go, and arrived finally in Mallorca with two cats and a car full of equipment for my new business to join my then boyfriend, now husband, who had moved a couple of months earlier when he’d been offered a job. I can look back on that day, and still remember every single event in it: including the egg sandwich my mum sent me off with at 6am from her house in France, and the hyperventilating cats that didn’t stop complaining for the whole 48 hour journey from London to Palma.

Ten years on, and what has changed? Well, the signposts for the ferry off the Barcelona ring road haven’t improved by all accounts, my spoken Spanish still leaves something to be desired, and I have yet to actually lie down on a beach for long enough to get a real tan (it’s all tanning fakery if you ever see me any other colour except “pale blue with freckles”). Mallorca is still as beautiful as it was when I first fell in love with the place, and I am still friends with some of the people that I first met when I arrived. Some have fallen by the wayside, moved on or away, but this leaves room for new friends and new experiences: this something I had to learn to cope with, the transience of island life.

It’s not always easy to live in Mallorca, but I still love it. I love living here and watching our daughter grow up in a beautiful, natural way, speaking three languages, playing in the sunshine and in the sea, getting a great education in a nice setting with her school in Port Andratx and the fabulous people at Kip McGrath. Our daughter is developing into a young person with her own ideas and opinions, something which makes me very proud. My husband and I have been through business success, and failure, and success again, and we’ve become part of our community here on the island, trying to contribute in the best ways that we can. Sometimes we’ve thought about going back to the UK ourselves. We left behind good jobs with great prospects to move to an island where we’ve had to fight for everything we have, nothing has been easy to get. What about the future, where will we be in another ten years’ time? I haven’t a clue, but wherever we are I hope we will be living our lives to their fullest capacity and enjoying ourselves, challenging and pushing ourselves to do more things. When you see what you can do in difficult circumstances it certainly gives you the courage to keep trying to do more.

Does that mean we’re proud of what we have achieved? You bet your life it does.

English speaking volunteers sought by schools

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Last September state school teachers in Mallorca created upset and controversy with their strike tactics over the proposed introduction of English as a third language into the school syllabus. Almost a year on and things have definitely progressed.

Any change is difficult to introduce into such a large machine as the Balearic education system which has 400 schools and approximately 15,000 teachers, and it is for this reason the Regional Ministry of Education Culture and Universities has decided to introduce the role of “voluntario linguistico” to help the teachers and students make the transition.  This process started a few months ago with a meeting between representatives of local English associations and the Secretary General Guillem Estarellas (see photo). Now the unions have signed their agreement to the scheme, and it can go public.

What does this mean to us? It’s an opportunity for native English speakers with a couple of hours to spare every week to volunteer in their local school. Volunteers will be asked to give verbal support to teachers in the class; it will not require any preparation or even a good level of spoken Spanish or Catalan. The initial goal is to have volunteers starting in a limited number of schools across the island at the beginning of October. This is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in your local community and really help children to develop their communication skills.

If you would like to be put yourself forward then please email Kate Mentink as soon as possible on info@kate.es

A Magaluf Miracle

 

Cabbie 134

Cabbie 134

Like the best of us, I lose things from time to time, and forget things, and worst of all, I am late, for most things. Deadlines, meetings, school drop offs, school pickups. Ironically I was taken to my wedding by a very enthusiastic carriage driver who delivered me to the door an embarrassing twenty five minutes early. That was almost worse than being late, but that’s another story.

Last weekend I went out: that’s a rarity, I went out for no other reason than to have fun with my friends. We went for dinner (I was late) and then out out. Out as in, Magalluf out, also very rare. Drink was taken, dancing happened, and then when the time was right a cab was found and I shared a ride home with my friend Jonny. Sunday passed in a fog of what we like to call “wine flu”.  My husband, who has been working extraordinarily hard recently, was very patient and didn’t complain about my temporary self-induced disability, and by Monday morning everything was back to normal. Everything except the slow realisation when I was out working that I had lost my wallet. I couldn’t find it anywhere, and I also could not remember where I had last seen it. Surely it was at home, so when I arrived back in the afternoon I searched the place from top to bottom. Nothing. I turned the office over, the lounge, the bedroom, the kitchen, the car. Nowhere. It’s then that I started to think about all the things in my wallet which I wouldn’t know how to replace, or if I could be bothered. That very old residency card which has my photo on it which is now illegal but everyone still accepts, that UK driving licence card which I shouldn’t have any longer because I should probably have got a Spanish one by now, those health cards which took four trips to the health centre to get, the hand written reminders of CIF numbers for official receipts, the pointless loyalty cards which I still hopefully proffer to a variety of supermarket workers, wondering every single time what I actually get out of them, and last but not least, actual bank cards and money.

Then the process of coming to terms with the loss, whilst secretly hoping perhaps that it will show up. The long, yearning, hopeful glances around the room, looking again and again in the same place thinking “maybe it will show up here after all”. At midnight the thought struck me, of course, why hadn’t I thought of it before, the CAB! But that was two days previously, and the middle of the night. I had to admit that it was a very unlikely that my wallet was going to show up after this long, but Tuesday morning I rang the Calvia taxis office and asked. Incredibly, my wallet had been found in the back of the cab, and driver number 134 safely delivered my wallet back to me, completely intact with all of its pointless pieces of plastic which would have been so tiresome to replace. So, there you are: miracles do happen, thank you driver 134!  www.familymattersmallorca.com

Photo Credit Phoenix Media  (2 of 26)

Europe Day, (better late than never)

So Europe Day happened, well, AGES ago, and I just plain forgot to put the photos up. So here they are now.

 

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The three language conundrum…

Julie with her Spanish teacher students

Julie with her Spanish teacher students

Jay Hirons, Julie Staley and their team tutor at the kip McGrath Education Centre in Palma, specialising in teaching maths, English, Catalan, Castilian, business studies, and sciences to the bi and trilingual children in Mallorca. They offer classes outside of regular school hours and have established themselves as an important cornerstone of education for many of the island’s children who are studying at state and private schools. Now Kip McGrath has thrown open its doors to other teachers in order to help them to prepare to teach in English as well as Castilian and Catalan.

The Balearic Government created quite a stir in September 2013 when it initiated TIL, the decree which insists that students of the Balearic Islands’ compulsory education are taught in three languages, Catalan, Castilian and English. The intention is that the introduction of English as the third language will help Balearic students to communicate across Europe and will empower them to succeed internationally which although a noble aim is quite a demand to make.

Kip McGrath Mallorca, tutoring, private lessons Teachers went on strike in protest to this compulsory introduction asking how a Government could expect teachers to learn to teach in a third language in such a short time and with no support or training.  That’s a pretty good question and Jay, Julie and Martyn at Kip McGrath decided that it was time to show solidarity with their colleagues and lend a hand.

At the end of last year Kip McGrath launched a language scholarship programme designed specifically for their fellow school teachers in Mallorca, and the results have been fantastic. “We wanted to give back to our community so we deliberately reached out to the schools to offer our help. We didn’t know how we would be received but we are very pleased to say that we are currently educating a dozen educators” said Julie Staley.

The teachers who come from a mixture of primary and secondary schools are extremely dedicated, coming to lessons after their own school days have finished and settling down with the Kip McGrath teachers for language practice. Catalina Peňafor Valcaperros who teaches Contemporary History and History of Art at San Caetano in Palma is adamant that it’s worth the work: “Learning to teach in another language is a lot of work, but we do it because we love our job.”

It’s not as simple as just learning a language either as methodologies have to change with the language. Cristina Pons Anglada who teaches history at Arcangel Sant Rafel brings up a very good point: “Is the goal that the student learns the subject or the language? That’s the question that we have been wrestling with”.  Whereas Joan Ginard who teaches Technology and Physics at Aula Balear thinks that having to learn how to teach in another language is honing his skills. “I think being made to present my lessons in another language has made me a better teacher”.

All of the teachers who are studying with Kip McGrath are making progress. “We are tutoring them to Cambridge English First Certificate level. Some of them are already ready to take the examination and others will take longer to get there. But they are all improving” said Martyn.  And they are full of praise and gratitude for the generosity of the Kip McGrath tutors for committing time and resources to helping them. “It’s important to us that we participate and we know that children who we teach at Kip will also directly benefit from their school teachers have improved levels of English, so everyone wins in the end”, said Jay Hirons.

The process is not a quick or easy one though as Catalina wanted to point out. “Right now I can go to a class with only a piece of chalk. The transition period for me to teach in Spanish to teaching in English is going to be slow and difficult. We don’t even have the text books in the right language yet”.

You can contact them at http://kipmcgrathmallorca.wordpress.com/

Suzie Black, Dave Vegas, Shambhala Foundacion, Photographer Vicki McLeod

 A fresh coat of paint 

Graffitti art in Palma, Shambhala Foundation, photographer, Vicki McLeod

Young people in Majorca face dismal prospects, in fact many of them have moved abroad to be able to start and further their careers. They are seen as the lucky ones by the contemporaries that they leave behind, at least they have the option to look to other countries for opportunities. What about the youth who have not yet passed their final exams or have such poor school records and low self-esteem that a lifetime on the dole and living with their families. With little education and without basic qualifications, opportunities are limited. In despair many youths turn to a life of drugs or crime as they don’t see any other way of earning a living. The realisation of this sad fact struck one woman so profoundly that she decided to do something about it. Suzie Black, who has teenage kids of her own, couldn’t bear to see these young adults with no prospects and set about organising a project to help them.

“I couldn’t stand the idea that these young people would not have the chance to shine,” so a year ago, Suzie decided to create a project which would intervene and support the young people who were struggling in order that they could finish their exams and develop their self-esteem and find their way in life.  So she gathered together certified trainers and teachers, a psychologist, and a martial arts expert and started to offer sessions with a private tutor who took the young people through their lessons and a martial arts teacher, between them they have instilled a sense of determination and confidence which was previously lacking in these young people who society had left out in the cold. She called it the Shambhala Foundation. “I think that not only do we have a responsibility to our youth, we also have a responsibility to protect the island from any further decline”.

But this kind of project isn’t cheap. Suzie admits that she has been on a very steep learning curve in the last year as she has faced head on some real and urgent problems in our society here in Majorca and found apathy and paperwork where she hoped she would find real enthusiasm and help. “I need a committee to help me fundraise, I need people who are able to get together and do events which will attract the kind of sponsors we need. I know that I can get orchestras involved for example but I physically don’t have the time to do that as well as keep the project on the go. I am hoping for some funding from the Spanish government or maybe European, but I’m going for private funding as well. We are a registered charity and every penny that is raised goes directly towards the costs that we incur to help to improve the lives of the youths in the programme. I want to expand it this year to include more people.”

You have to have a vision in order to achieve this sort of dream but you have to be tough as well, and sometimes Suzie has had to face some difficult choices. She won’t let a youth continue in the programme if they aren’t respecting it and she has asked a couple to leave.  As the project has developed so it has become apparent that they needed to move from the original gym they were based out of in Santa Ponsa into Palma which is where Kem Vegas comes in. Kem Vegas (or Dave to his mum) has a sister living here in Majorca and that is how the connection was made. Suzie was introduced to him and an idea emerged that perhaps when he was next over visiting his sister Petrina that he may spend a day with the youths working on some graffiti art for the new gym. And so a plan was hatched and on one (very) sunny Sunday they found themselves in the Can Valero industrial estate with quite a lot of paint.

Vicki McLeod, photographer

Kem for his part grew up in the seventies as graffiti art was emerging as a way to protest and to express oneself. Kem was a very shy young boy and there was something about the anonymity of the process of graffiti art which appealed to him. “I started writing (graffiti) after seeing some skinheads and their drawings. It gave me a kick to see other people appreciate my stuff but they didn’t know who had done it. It felt very powerful to be able to do that”. As he got older and more experienced and grew in confidence he slowly began to take credit for his art and eventually went public. As was the way (and still is) graffiti can also be seen as defacement of private property and more or less all of his friends got into trouble with the police but he managed to stay out of trouble (a fact his mum is probably very happy about).

Vicki McLeod, photographer

It seemed fitting that an older, wiser artist visited Majorca and led a day of painting and art for the Shambhala Foundation. “In reality painting a wall is superficial, it’s just a fresh coat of paint, but the process of painting the wall is more profound than that, it’s about staking your claim on something, saying I was here, and we ARE here, still trying to make a difference. I know the project works, we have had good results with the combination of private tutoring and the discipline of martial arts for the young people”.

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But the project won’t be able to continue or to grow without more people helping Suzie to make the difference. “I need help, I can’t do it all on my own, I’ve managed to keep it going for a year on private funds and lots of coffee, but now I have to get other people involved who want to change lives for the better as well.”

You can email her at suziepalma@hotmail.com

Kem is available for private commissions and can be contacted on kemtwone@yahoo.co.uk

UPDATE:

After posting this blog post our friends at IbizaSummerVillas reached out to offer their support in raising awareness about Suzie and Kem and have featured them in their monthly news letter. Cheers! What could YOU do to help out?

Photos and text by Vicki McLeod

Endangered species

Vicki McLeod, copywriter, Oliver Neilson, photographer, Mallorca Bernardo Lliteras is passionate about bees. No one doubts he knows more than anyone else on the island about every aspect of apiculture. He has a library of over 300 books on the subject, hives full of honey and has collected so many historic objects from the art of bee-keeping around the world that several years ago Llubi town council gave him an old flour mill in which to create the island’s sole bee museum.

You can visit the Bee museum in Llubi, the personal tour is free, although due to the size of the place there is a maximum number of people allowed to visit at one time. Whatever the day of the week or the month of the year, whenever someone calls Bernat and asks about the museum, he travels from Palma and gives them the full guided tour for free. You can ask him about each and any of the pieces: each has a story, a small fragment of a jigsaw, but all this could be about to be thrown away. But it’s not sure for how much longer this will be possible as Bernat has to move his collection to a new location, destination currently unknown. And with no budget for the museum it’s doubtful that the collection can remain intact. The town council have decided it wants the building back to try and make some money from it. The electricity supply has already been cut off.

Bees, environment, Vicki McLeod copywriter, Oliver Neilson photographer, Mallorca When I go to visit him at the museum I am met by him and his children. It’s obviously a family affair and although Bernat is clearly the most passionate about his collection and his bees, all of his grown up kids support him and are full of knowledge as well.  There are around 200 objects through which you can see the development of beekeeping through the centuries including hives, extractors, masks, and more. It’s the result of more than thirty years of patient collecting: Bernat’s grandfather used bees to pollinate the family’s land but he passed away before he could teach Bernat, so Bernat taught himself through books. As he delved into the intricate lives of bees and the rich history of beekeeping Bernat started to discover curious objects and so his collection began. Soon not only was he finding objects in farms across the island but he was being given them.  Now he possesses objects which originate from Majorca and all over Europe and even Africa. Bernat’s collection of beekeeping equipment and paraphernalia not only stretches across continents it also goes far back in time to the mid-1600s when beeswax was more valuable than honey as it was used to make candles from: there was even a law which punished you if you adulterated the wax with animal fats. And so the bee museum was born partly out of necessity to have somewhere to store all these artefacts, and also to have the opportunity to communicate the vast knowledge that Bernat has to interested people.

Bees, environment, Vicki McLeod copywriter, Oliver Neilson photographer, Mallorca

Very old beehives

But why bother with bees? These days most of us know how important they are to the equilibrium of our planet’s ecosystem, and how endangered they are. Bees help to pollinate 75% of the world’s food crops, while honey, propolis, pollen and venom have extensive medicinal uses. Since the early 1990s billions of bees have been dying across the globe in a phenomena known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In September 2013 37 million bees were wiped out on a single Canadian farm. There are no wild bees left in Britain and the rest of Europe is also feeling the effects of CCD, which scientists believe to be caused through complex chain reactions between pesticides, fungicides and modern monoculture farming methods. The situation has become so acute that there is an international drive to help and encourage hobby bee-keepers in towns and countryside alike. Today city rooftops are buzzing. There are hives on top of the Paris Opera House, London’s exclusive Fortnum & Mason’s store, and many of the emblematic buildings of New York. Increasing numbers of “stingless” bees are being bred to help urban beekeepers to thrive. Although the bees have suffered horribly over the past 15 years, in much of Europe this is an exciting and dynamic time for budding bee enthusiasts. Even in the centre of Palma I have heard about hives of bees.

Bees, environment, Vicki McLeod copywriter, Oliver Neilson photographer, Mallorca

Traditional baskets

Up in Llubi the situation drags on, uncertainly. Bernat continues to painstakingly research the background of each object he has to establish exactly what the piece was used for and then display this information via photocopied sheets from bee keeping books with handwritten notes. But he needs somewhere permanent to house his collection, somewhere accessible, ideally he says he would like it to be in Palma as that is where he lives. Details of the great bee colonies of Calvia, hives used by African Masai warriors, reproductions of protective clothing from the 16th century, and endless curiosities from around the world may end up in a skip within a couple of months.

Bees, environment, Vicki McLeod copywriter, Oliver Neilson photographer, Mallorca

A beekeeping mask from Arta

“I have nowhere to keep them,” Bernat said sadly. “It’s 35 years of work, but it needs an area where things can be labelled properly, with interactive zones that can bring the stories alive.” For many Europeans a bee museum could become a fascinating stop on their winter tourism agenda, but with every passing day its survival looks less likely. I ask him what we can do to help, I think he probably needs an angel but Bernat says “Anyone can help, with their heart they can help”.  At the entrance of the museum there is a small statue of Saint Ambrolio, patron saint of apiculture. Both the bees and Bernat could use a little of his divine intervention right now.

Bernat teaches beekeeping and runs short courses. You can find the Bee Museum at “Museo de Apicultura de Llubí”. You can contact Bernat by email on meldeflors@hotmail.com or telephone 686 230 703.

By Vicki McLeod, with Stephanie Mason

Photos by Oliver Neilson

Dragonera Canoe Rescue

The kick off of the Dragonera Piragua (2013)

The kick off of the Dragonera Piragua (2013).

My husband loves canoeing; it seems to go back to when he was a kid when he would go canoeing with his family on holiday in France. Every year since we moved to live in Majorca in 2004 he has wanted to take part in the canoe race around Dragonera which is just down the road from where we live. Finally three years ago he got his wish and managed to borrow a canoe for the day and participate in the event. (In fact I have written about it before right here: http://familymattersmallorca.com/2012/11/09/simple-pleasures/)

Our lovely neighbours, Nick and Diane Morgan invited my daughter and I to go out on their boat and follow the race: everyone had a great day out. Ever since then we have managed to repeat this: Oliver goes on a begged/borrowed/stolen canoe, and we follow and have some fun bobbing around on the sea, in the sun, having a little picnic and enjoying the riches that the Mediterranean offers. This year, we thought, was to be no different.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

Setting out for a fun day on the boat with Nick and Ulrike.

The weather forecast for Sunday was that there might be some rain and lightning at some point but that this didn’t seem to put off the majority of the people who wanted to circumnavigate the island of Dragonera, indeed 742 people registered to participate and set off on Sunday morning at 9am. Over in the Port of Andratx we gathered for our jolly morning out and cast off “Flying Fish” an 8.5 metre Protector rib at 9.30am. Funnily enough I remember commenting that I had brought an extra t-shirt with me as I thought it might be a bit chilly out there, even though the sun at this point was blazing down on us. We were in good hands with skipper Nick Morgan who (aside from being a great neighbour) is also a very experienced sailor with over fifty years at sea racing sailing boats in various classes from dinghy up to over 50 feet and holding National, European and World champion titles. Nick describes his boat as the equivalent of a four wheel drive, it can go anywhere and do anything. It’s a versatile craft and is sometimes used as a camera boat for the Super Yacht Cup amongst other regattas. Little did we know that Nick’s boat was going to have to live up to its original purpose, as a rough sea rescue boat. Coming along for the ride was Sandy and John, (both retired teachers), Ulrike (who works in Port Andratx  in a doctor’s surgery), her partner, Tim (a builder) myself (an unfit desk jockey but trying to exercise a lot more regularly these days) and my little girl who is eight and probably fitter than the rest of us put together.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

Setting out for a fun day on the boat, you can see the swell rising in front of the bow.  This was taken minutes before our first rescue.

It was at about this time that Oliver says that the kayaks, which had been moving towards the northernmost point of Dragonera, were told by the Guardia Civil Coastal (the coastguard to you and I) to turn and go into the small harbour at Dragonera. Already many of the people on the kayaks had taken tumbles into the roughening sea and were being rescued by small dinghies which were being deployed by the organisers. The coastguard was there to make sure that no kayaks were going around the back of Dragonera into the open black water as it had been deemed to be too dangerous due to the weather turning and the currents. However, there was one big flaw in their plan, and unwittingly the crew of the Flying Fish were about to become local heroes. We didn’t realise that the race had been called off and as we approached the southernmost point of Dragonera (the other end to where the kayakers had been told to turn back) we saw the waves were beginning to swell.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

First two passengers, soaking wet and very happy to be onboard, at this point none of us realised how bad it was going to get.

We found kayakers struggling, (in retrospect I can’t explain why these people would have been there if the Guardia had been successful in turning everyone around) and we were soon being waved at to come to the aid of an older couple who were both in the water hanging on to their boat. The woman had on a buoyancy aid but had swallowed a lot of salt water and it was her that we dragged onto the Flying Fish first. “Como te llama?” I asked the lady, as I wrapped my beach towel around her, “Isobel, gracias, gracias a ti!” she replied. Isobel, I think, was Spanish and her companion, German. I could see the big Guardia Civil boat looming up behind them; it must have gone around the back of the island to check there was no one in trouble. The ramshackle crew of Flying Fish all felt quite pleased with themselves I think: we had helped out a couple of people in need, this was going to be a good story to tell down the pub and so we turned towards Sant Elm beach to get them back to dry land. “I wonder what you’ll be writing about this week,” joked John, and I thought to myself, yes Vicki take some photos. So I dug out my camera and took a couple of shots, wondering where on earth my husband was and hoping that he was okay.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

The weather beginning to turn.

As we rounded the point of Dragonera to head in towards Sant Elm we started to see more kayaks that were in distress. Within five minutes we had another couple on board and another kayak tied to the stern of the Protector which had begun to live up to its name. We turned to look behind us and saw the big Guardia Civil Coastal boat steaming off in the direction of Palma, it hadn’t followed us down the Easterly side of Dragonera and it didn’t get close enough to any of the kayakers to see if they needed help. This was to be the last we saw of any rescue boats or the race organisers’ boats for about an hour. It was when we found a dad and two kids being blown against the rocky side of island that I think we all began to think this was getting a lot more serious. We got the kids and put them inside in the little cabin where they sobbed with fright and Gigi and Sandy took care of them.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

The kids (left) with Gigi (right) trying to keep them calm.

As the weather worsened and we chugged slowly down the side of island dragging three kayaks behind us we found more and more people who were exhausted from paddling, who were in the water and couldn’t get back on to their recreational crafts or who were absolutely terrified and unable to move. As the waves got bigger and the wind speed and strength increased, as the rain and lightning started and the visibility decreased dramatically it became very clear to us neighbours on board for our fun day out that we were going to have to pull together to help as many people as possible.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

It’s about now that the lightning started.

We pulled person after person out of the water. Occasionally we would find a kayaker who was okay and able to continue but mostly we encountered people who needed help. I kept asking their names, but as soon as I had asked them and introduced myself and the rest of the makeshift rescue team I forgot them. Soon the kayakers were sitting in the well of the rib or on the inflated tubes on either side holding hands and comforting each other. This feeling of relief brought with it some moments of black humour about catching the Sant Elm Autobus and we joked about welcoming “Clientes Nuevos” on board, but the jollity didn’t last long as the weather continued to deteriorate and some of our passengers started to get seasick.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

More people happy to have been rescued.

 

I pulled a Spanish woman out of the sea who was floating in the water holding on to the paddle of her kayak. We needed her to swim a little towards us but she just didn’t seem to be able to manage it. I locked eyes with her and reached and reached for the paddle, as did Tim. We both got hold of it and she let go of it as if she was trying to hand the paddle to us. The shock, confusion and tiredness in her eyes was enough for me to get ready to jump into the water and grab her myself but the rib just bobbed close enough to her again and we managed to get hold of her and pull her by her shoulders into the boat. She sagged there, suspended between the tube and the seat unable to lift herself up so I did, I asked her name, gave her a hug and sat her down.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

More customers for the new Sant Elm autobus!

I did a head count, we now had a dozen people on board and their kayaks or canoes (I’ve never been completely clear of the difference to be honest) attached to various parts of the Flying Fish. It all started to look a bit like we were re-enacting D-Day. John found himself sitting on the bow talking with a Frenchman who was very upset about the lack of help from the official organisers. Looking around us none of us could understand why we had not seen any other boats out scouting for people who needed help. How could they have missed these people, a dozen and counting, that we had pulled out of the sea? I tried to take some more photos but the camera on my phone crashed and refused to work, somehow it seemed more important anyway to keep looking for more people who may need help.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe race

Looking out for more kayaks in trouble, about to start raining

Ulrike, Nick and I tried to keep spotting heads and paddles fighting through waves, or a flash of colour in the driving rain. We were all soaked through. I almost shouted out then realised what I was spotting was the wings of a seagull flying low over the steely grey water. Then we pulled another couple of fit looking young men out of the waves, they were exhausted as well and could not continue and my thoughts turned again to my husband. If these twenty-something guys were unable to paddle through the storm, would Oliver be able to get back to shore.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

Soaking wet, still scouting for more kayakers in trouble.  Tim is holding on to the outside of the boat because by now it is very full.

Eventually we managed to reach the quay in Sant Elm. We were not met by anyone with space blankets or given any sort of help, although there were a couple of Guardia officers there who helped people to get off of the rib and onto the quay. On the beach apparently more people were being treated for hypothermia.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

Finally arriving at the quay in Sant Elm, four of the seven kayaks in shot

If you read today’s press release the organisers think everything to do with the rescue operation went “perfectly”, well I disagree. Not wishing to sound dramatic but I truly believe that if we had not been there and done what we did that some of the people who we landed safely back on dry land would not have survived. No other boats (official or otherwise) came down the easterly side of Dragonera beside us and in my opinion that was their big mistake. In addition I was disgusted to hear today that a boat which runs from Dragonera back to Sant Elm refused to give passage to the people whose kayaks had been lost, insisting they had to pay or they were not allowed to board. Once we had got our cargo safely to shore my thoughts turned properly to my husband and after a barrage of phone calls he finally answered, “Hi ya! I’ve had an adventure!” “Wait until you hear about mine”, was my reply.

Vicki McLeod, Dragonera canoe rescue

The crew of Flying Fish, and now local heroes, (from left) Vicki, Gigi, Ulrike, Tim, Nick, Sandy and John.

We rescued 16 people, 14 adults and 2 children on the morning of Sunday June 15th.  It’s a testament to the skill, determination, teamwork and courage of a group of normal people that we were able to do what we did.

Now we really have a good story to tell down the pub.

Ollie, safe and sound with his souvenir t shirt and mug.

Ollie, safe and sound with his souvenir t shirt and mug.

 

This article was published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin on Tuesday 17th June 2014

The Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous celebrates a milestone.

Universal Bookshop, Portals Nous, Mallorca, Kay Halley

Kay Halley

The Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous has been there for about 40 years. It is a lifeline to many residents and tourists who are avid readers. When it changed hands two years ago none of the locals could have been prepared for the incredible warmth and friendliness of the new owner, Kay Halley. Universal Bookshop, Portals Nous, Mallorca, Kay Halley It’s a testament to Kay’s determination and passion that her little bookshop has been going from strength to strength ever since. Kay’s two year business plan has come to fruition through a lot of hard work and support from her contact with local authors, businesses and friends. It has to be said that you have to work hard and be innovative in the current economic climate  so Kay has increased the stock of study books and children´s fiction and also stocks the latest best sellers. She can guarantee delivery of books by tracking her orders from a major UK supplier; if you are buying a present then you can get it gift wrapped for free and she also now offers cash back through the Lyoness scheme. Universal Bookshop, Portals Nous, Mallorca, Kay Halley Kay has gone to great efforts to reach out into the local community and offer her shop as a place for people to get together. Not only does the bookshop sell books but it also  stocks yarns and knitting equipment which has enable Kay to teach school children how to knit. Kay also encourages local volunteers to get busy with their needles and make blankets for Mediterranea NGO. She is always ready to offer advice and help to get you started if you are feeling crafty. Plus the lending library has developed to include books in German, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch and Danish with a small number in other languages. Children can also borrow books. And she has kept the prices competitive making the cost of borrowing a book around €2.50. Universal Bookshop, Portals Nous, Mallorca, Kay Halley Kay however is not resting on her laurels and plans to expand her work in the community, and add one or two more products to her stock. She recently ran a book fair (at their invitation) in a school in Palma and they have made her a ´Friend´ of the school, which will enable her to work more closely with them and offer a substantial commission which is something she is able to do with organisations. Universal Bookshop, Portals Nous, Mallorca, Kay HalleyA nice gathering of well-wishers joined Kay to celebrate her two year anniversary recently with a lovely reception and a delicious cake.  Kay who really is passionate about passing on skills and knowledge and spreading the love of reading said “Thank you for the amazing support that I have been given since coming here, it means so much to me that it moves me to tears”.  Good luck Kay, and The Universal Bookshop, and here’s to many more celebrations!   You can read about the blanket project here: http://familymattersmallorca.com/2013/12/23/the-milk-of-human-kindness/