But put them behind the wheel of a car and it's a different story. They become maniacs! Frothing, bumper-attacking maniacs. Of course all foreigners criticise the locals in the country they settle for being bad drivers, in fact all drivers criticise other drivers for being bad drivers, but I just find it surprising to see all this road rage amongst the calm and self possessed Mallorcans.
Why do normally mild mannered people turn into throbbing, screaming live wires of anger as soon as they have a gas pedal under their foot? I have a theory: A car, or rather, a driver, is like a baby. It has no words with which to berate the other driver, locked away in the little bubble as it is, so its only recourse is helpless rage. Tears would be undignified.
One country where foreigners (whitey) complain a lot about local drivers is China, and not without reason. But Chinese drivers don't seem to have much road rage; they don't have time.
One time hitch-hiking on a grey and rainy day in Tibet, the driver wore sunglasses and watched a film on an overhead monitor while driving, all the while rifling through his DVD collection and turning his head to chat leisurely with us. But I shouldn't have worried - this was on a straight, fairly wide road.
A few hours later we were driving across 5,000 metre mountains on a road are so narrow it could only accommodate one car, where one little mistake meant certain death; death by a thousand mile plunge. But I felt strangely safer, because that driver kept his eyes glued to the road.
I’ve experienced being in a car that crashed into traffic cones because the driver was busy texting, and I’ve spent more than one night on overnight buses keeping the driver awake because he kept nodding off and veering off the road. I’ve been in taxis trying to overtake trucks at the entrances of tunnels, or other cars near the tops of steep hills or at the beginning of a sharp bend.
These professional drivers (with the exception of truck drivers who mostly drive well, probably because they carry valuable cargo and not just humans) seem to think that nothing can happen now that they are safely within their little metal universe, and that other traffic is simply a nuisance to be conquered at all cost. As for questioning the absence of safety belts – “No need! The fine is only 1 yuan!”
Once in a taxi in the southern city of Guangzhou, I felt I was in some kind of action film like Speed. Not only did the driver try to overtake every car and bus in his way, hurtling at full speed and swerving wildly between lanes before slamming on the brakes just before the red light; he also drove with one hand and read the newspaper with the other.
That we were going along flyovers 30 - 40 metres above street level added a certain frisson, or... what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes, shit scared! But the driver got angry when I suggested putting his paper down. That time I was the one with road rage; passenger road rage. It was a good thing I could speak Cantonese, eh? How else would I have been able to give that suicidal - no homicidal because he was the only one with a seatbelt - maniac the old what for.
Now you can soon be arguing with taxi drivers in their own language, while sticking it to the Mandohooligans! They have almost got rid of the Tibetan language - now they have cast their hungry eyes on Cantonese.
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
In fact it's unusual for it to rain for a whole day without letup. I normally don't give a shit about the weather as long as it's not snowing, but I had just spent almost three weeks in Norway, where it also rained every day except three, during which I caught a nasty cold. I was well rained out, but instead of complaining, found solace in my new, leak-less dwelling.
Yes I was so happy to have found my new place on cool and happening Carrer de Robert Graves - so much better to live in a street named after a writer than a painter (Joan Miró) and a crappy one at that - a place where it doesn't rain in through the roof and no dirty water floods in underneath the main entrance and into the anteroom, below street level. Now I'm laughing at the torrential crap going on outside, although it's quite unpractical when it comes to dog walking.
However, my terrace did start leaking down on the car repair shop downstairs for the first time, but what do I care? The landlord's insurance will take care of it! Renting is great.
It was different in Hong Kong where I had to weatherproof my roof myself when the rain started dripping in through the concrete, but in all fairness, when it rained in Hong Kong it normally squeezed a year's worth of Mallorcan rain into a couple of hours, and it wasn't just the HK government's usual hysteria and over reaction when they sent out black storm weather warnings. It really was quite risky to go outside.
Hong Kong had fewer and fewer cobalt blue days in the last years I lived there, coinciding with increased pollution from mainland China just across the border. Burning blue sky days that were normally accompanied by temperatures up to 36 degrees, were rare enough to be much commented on and photographed.
One spring day on a dog walk I discovered a brand new tree that had never been there before. Or...? It turned out to be a flame tree, and I had never noticed it because it had never had the chance to bear flowers; they were normally always struck down by torrential rain in April...
In Mallorca it's the opposite, an overcast day with a few scattered drops during summer, elicits lifted eyebrows and comments. And where Hong Kong regularly has storms and typhoons bringing the city to a halt, torrential rain in Mallorca is so rare and surprising that people get caught out, as during a terrible on in 2018 where several people were washed off the roads and into the sea, never to be seen again.
So yesterday, the first rainless day in what had seemed like forever, had to be celebrated with a Sichuan meal. I cooked some delicious tofu to thank my friend P to look after Koldbrann while I was in Norway
and realised I hadn't cooked for people for so, so long! Not since August. This is an intolerable state of affairs, so I would remind everyone that Cecilie's Good Good Chinese Restaurant and Cooking Club has opened again in earnest, with all the wonderful flavours Sichuan province has to offer. And more! Yes more.
In addition to eating, you can also learn Cantonese. Two birds with one delicious, hilarious stone!
And if it should rain, we will be completely dry. I have walls! I have ceilings!
On behalf of the owner, not an agency, I proudly present Villa P, three floors of wonderfulness right in the middle of El Terreno in Palma de Mallorca.
Where do I start? Shall I start with the sea view, the closeness to Paseo Maritimo, transport and dozens of shops, bars and restaurants? Or should I perhaps dangle the biggest prize of all in front of you, that the house comes with a real, juicy, forever TOURIST LICENCE?
That's right! You can stay in the house, say, half the year, and then rent it out for a high price, without risking the government coming after you for having the wrong lightbulb or whatever. The house will really and truly be yours to do with exactly as you please.
But why wouldn't you like to live there all year round? There is a separate guest house with its own kitchen!
There are also four bedrooms, three bathrooms as well as a guest washroom, a balcony for each room (no windowless rooms), two terraces, parking, air con... OH! If I only had just over one million euros... But it's not expensive! With the tourist licence you will make the money back in a short time.
Why not an agency, you say? The owner has used two so far, but they are not, shall we say, super diligent. That's nothing new on this island. One would think that, after (and during) Covid they would put some more effort into making money, but no. They don't even call potential buyers who contact them.
So we decided to give the electric Internet a go. Just contact me here for more information and for viewing. No rent! Only buy!
In Hong Kong, where I used to live, the price for this 220 square metre house would buy exactly a studio flat, perhaps with a small bedroom and mini kitchen, the fridge in the living room, overlooking a concrete wall.
But, although ridiculously expensive, Hong Kong has one thing that Mallorca doesn't have: Cantonese. Not having Cantonese on hand is the hardest thing about living in exile, no matter how cheap the wine and coffee. The only comfort I have is being able to spread the Cantonese through the world, thus sticking it to the Party up north and also keep the Cantonese culture alive.
The price of electricity has doubled, so I'm afraid to use my space heater, and my last gas heater caught fire last winter and I'm afraid it will happen with the new one too and I no longer have a wood burner because I was forced to move out of my excellent old gaff with a wonderful big wood burner which I had installed on my landlord's suggestion but for which he never paid me back, kicking me out soon after because he was getting Covid divorced and wanted the house for himself.
Having just visited freezing Norway, my first trip abroad since November 2019, I was hoping to come back here to a few more weeks of balmy weather, for example like it was in December 2018:
But no. it's thermal underwear time, until April! Can't be lucky every year, I suppose.
But that's not what I wanted to write about. It was that scourge of European October of 'fall bak spring forward' fame; the damned daylight saving hour rigmarole. I wake up at 5, but it's supposed to be 4 o'clock? Or is it vice versa? It gets dark earlier, and light... earlier? Or is it later. One thing's for sure, both my dog K and I think it's the same hour as at was two weeks ago.
So I'm wondering: Now that electric light has been well and truly invented and, as far as I know, is widespread all over Europe, why do we still act as if it's 1784, the year Benjamin Franklin suggested waking up an hour earlier in summer to save on candles, as a joke? Why not have the same time all year round, and switch on the light when it gets dark, off again when light?
One good thing about Hong Kong: it's the same time all year round. Of course the winters are un-brutal there, with cold weather warnings issued when the temperature 'plummets' to 14 centigrades and it gets light and dark more or less at the same time all year round, but oh! How practical.
Another thing that's practical is to be able to speak Cantonese. No really! It's like playing an instrument, only less irritating for the neighbours. In fact, Cantonese sounds like angels dancing on a harp.
Additionally, being able to speak it means sticking it to the CCP no end! And there being one more of us and one fewer of them.
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
My long-term resident friends complain about the locals and their cruelty to animals, but in my neighbourhood at least, people mostly seem to treat their dogs very well - some even to the point of paying others to walk them.
When I lived in Hong Kong I noticed with some dismay that almost everybody paid others to walk them, and almost nowhere welcomed dogs. Children were brought up to fear them, with parents and grandmothers shouting "Dangerous! It will bite!" when the tiniest puppy hove into view. I know, because I brought up my first dog Piles (a pain in the arse) from he was one month old and could fit into the palm of my hand. Grown girlfriends shrieked and hid behind their masculine protectors when they saw Piles' little head stick out of my waist pouch. "Oh no! Dog! I'm afraid!"
Here in Mallorca it's almost too much the other way. Children are completely fearless and rush up to touch my Koldbrann, astutely commenting that he looks like a bear and wolf. Yes, I deeply regret calling him Koldbrann ("gangrene") now, but when I got him he was just called Wong Wong (woof woof in Cantonese, or possibly Yellow Yellow) and I had to come up with a new name. After Piles I thought it would be good to stay in the realm of afflictions, telling people that Koldbrann was a Viking name.
How could I have known that one day I would be living in Little Stockholm? Everybody knows Norwegian here! I should have called him Bjørnulf - Bear Wolf.
Anyway, not only children but adults too are interested in Koldbrann, and too right! He is a true elder statesman of fur. However - here are some tips on how to meet a strange dog. Or any dog.
1. Don't rush up and put your hand on its head. Imagine if an elephant did that to you. Dogs don't like having their heads pushed down, and they don't like big shapes bearing down in them from above. Who does?
2. Let the dog come to you. Crouch down and let it come and sniff you. Now you're friends!
3. If approaching the dog, do it slightly from the side with your turning eyes away, not head-on.
4. Always ask the owner first if your child can touch the dog. If yes, let the dog sniff the child, and tell him to touch only the back, sides and chest, stroking toward the tail. Don't touch the head, tail and paws.
5. Always ask the owner first if it's okay to give the dog a treat. If the child is doing it, make sure the dog is sitting down and in a calm state. Let the dog take the treat out of an open palm, not the fingertips.
6. Learn Cantonese! The self confidence this gives you, will make you better suited to take on a leadership role when you get your own dog! Mastering or even being able to say 20 words in a new language makes you stand up straighter!