In 1929 when poet, Robert Graves, mooted the idea of relocating from England to Mallorca, his American writer friend, Gertrude Stein, famously opined, “It’s paradise – if you can stand it.” Those words continue to resonate with me as I contemplate my 20 years living on the golden isle.
And what exactly did Stein mean by that? Simply that for writers, life in Mallorca can be hugely distracting. So magical is the scenery, the relaxed way of life, glorious weather and wonderful array of things to do, that there’s seemingly little time left to actually get down to the job in hand.
Back in 2001, swapping central London for rural Soller in the rugged northwest of Mallorca was a thrilling proposition for my Scottish husband, Alan, young son Ollie and me. True, we had rather recklessly chosen to purchase a dilapidatedfinca, a country house with an absence of roof, bathrooms, water and electricity supply but, what the heck, it was going to be an adventure.
I was still running my public relations company while juggling work as a freelance journalist back in Mayfair but all that was soon to change. British expats often speak of the honeymoon period, that glowing window of opportunity when everything in a new destination looks, smells and seems wholly different from life back home.
For us it was a little different. We arrived to find the finca still in an unfinished state with piles of rubble littering the grounds and cheery Mallorcan builders chomping chorizo bocadillos around the half-finished pool. Meanwhile I was commuting back and forth to London each week on the recently introduced easyjet service from Palma to London.
Our four-year-old son, Oliver was the family member least affected by the move in the early days. In fact he took to life in our golden valley like a pato to agua. Within a few weeks he had joined the town’s football and tennis teams, was enjoying play dates, making Mallorcan chums in the plaça and delighting in the sunshine and our extensive gardens brimming with oranges and lemons.
Meanwhile we were struggling with the Mallorquí dialect, Spanish lessons, reserved neighbours, and frantically trying to juggle Oliver’s needs with those of the builders, work and, in my case, regular commutes to London.
However, unlike some newly arrived expats relocating to a new country, we were lucky to have a Mallorcan family on side. Some years previously, my sister had hired an au pair from nearby village Fornalutx, and Sari had become a close friend.
She was already back in Mallorca at the time of our move, and within months, helped us take charge of our lives. She introduced us to locals and involved us in every fiesta so that we soon became part of the community.
All the same, there were every day frustrations such as the mañana attitude of workmen. In time we became blasé, expressing delight whenever a builder or electrician pitched up within a few hours of the appointed time. When our curtain maker turned up six months late with our completed order, I was ecstatic, having totally forgotten that I’d ever recruited her for the task.
Soon our house began to resemble a real home, Alan created a wonderful garden of vegetables, fruit trees and beautiful Mediterranean plants, and I became more confident in the Spanish language. Happily I merged my communications agency with another company back in London, which left me free to explore the island, and to concentrate on journalism and writing books.
Photo: Anna Nicholas
In fact it was on one of those regular easyJet flights that I had the idea of writing about commuting between two countries, and my first book, A Lizard in my Luggage was born. Six books in the series later, life in Soller is blissful though busy. We have many Mallorcan and international friends, and get involved in a host of local activities as well as tending to a menagerie of 40 hens, two ducks, many cats and other wild beasties (such as tortoises and hedgehogs).
As a writer whose main subject matter is Mallorca, I have the enviable – and indulgent – task of visiting every nook and cranny of the island and meeting the most inspiring people.
The joy of Mallorca is that it enjoys many microclimates and different types of terrain – mountains, an agricultural heartland and sweeping seascapes and craggy coastal zones. Wherever you look, there is something of beauty and wherever you travel island wide, a new adventure beckons.
Back home in Soller I write in my basement lair that looks onto verdant orchards teeming with lemons and orange trees and beyond that, the Tramuntana mountains, a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Following on from my existing travel series, The Devil’s Horn, my first gentle crime novel set in Mallorca, has just been published. It is the first in a new series starring fun and eccentric Mallorcan sleuth Isabel and her pet ferret, Furo.
Gertrude Stein was right. There are countless distractions here on the golden isle, but any author worth his or her salt, could not fail to be inspired by the wonders to behold. Mallorca is a veritable Garden of Eden and a writer’s paradise. And yes, I think I can stand it.