It really does seem incredible...this is the 100th Letter from the Village...at last.

It is just about the end of the year, and I haven’t written in quite a while.  My apologies.  It isn’t because I have been in a coma or anything, I just have been busy doing what I like to do here.  Sadly, that hasn’t included spending as much time outside as I would like. 

This part of the Mediterranean has been caught in a rather nasty weather pattern of late.  It could be some of the nastier side effects of global weather pattern changes, it could be just bad luck, or it could be that I was a bad child.  All I know is that the weather has been less than nice.  This morning, after once again trolling through the various weather forecasting websites (all of which must be staffed by coin-tossing guessers) I eventually came across a site that showed the current flow of the jet stream.  Apparently this is the real problem that Mallorca has been dealing with.  Instead of the jet stream screaming from west to east along the higher latitudes, it is pouring down from the frozen climes of northern Europe and keeping us trapped in a set of persistent low-pressure cycles, which has brought the island what seems to be about 40 days and nights of rain.  Of course this really isnt’ the case, but it did rain pretty much of yesterday, and I awoke this morning to dead-grey skies and a constant drizzle.  Perhaps we are the new Atlantis...it sure is feeling like that lately.  Thankfully, Tomeu was here last week and brought me another ton of leña for the fireplace.

Today was a very good day otherwise.  I actually passed my driving road test.  Yes, I actually passed it.  This whole experience has been…well, an experience.  I wouldn’t say it has been anywhere near what I expected it to be, but at this point, I really don’t care.  But in case you ever find yourselves in this situation, you may want to ensure that you learn patience…I certainly have.  When I first registered for the “practicals” part of earning a driver’s permit here, I was told that, like the written theory tests, I would have to go through a driver’s school.  Okay, fair enough.  This did seem like a good way to keep the driver’s schools in business, but this is the way things are done here, so I signed up for behind-the-wheel lessons. 

Whilst I have had a driver’s permit since I was 16, and have never killed anyone with my driving, I was prepared to take a couple of lessons, if for no other reason than to find out what the test examiners would be watching for during the actual test.  So after two lessons, what I learnt was that you can never cross a solid white line (“James, think of the solid white line as a brick wall), and pedestrian’s always have the right of way.  I took the test.  I failed.  Why?  One of my wheels touched a solid white line whilst making a left hand turn.  Okay, fair enough.  I had been told, and still managed to touch one of the lines.  A fail did seem a bit drastic for just touching a line, but rules are rules.  My instructor asked me how many more lessons I wanted to take, and I – reflecting on my many years of driving and frustration with the ‘system’ here – responded that I didn’t plan on taking any more before my next road-test.  This proved to be a less-than-smart decision.  My next attempt at the road-test was even more ‘interesting’ than the first, and once again, I was told I did not pass, but this time for an even more innocuous reason.  And if that wasn’t enough, I was then told that by law, I would now need to pay an additional test fee, and take five lessons.  Yes, this is the law.  I was going to ask to see the actual statute on the books, but then figured that this would just alienate the driver’s licensing authority (something you do not want to do), so instead I just pondered the dynamics of the licensing system in Spain.  Let’s see: The more times you fail either the written or behind-the-wheel test, the more money you have to pay to re-take the test, as well as pay for the ‘lessons’ that are supposed to help you pass.  Not too much of an incentive to help people learn too quickly I thought.  The good news (I suppose) is that it keeps many many driver’s schools open, which keeps many many instructors employeed and keeps funnelling money into the coffers of the licensing authority.  This view was confirmed when I met someone who was on her 80the lesson.  Oh my God…EIGHTY LESSONS!!!!  And I was whinging about having to take seven.  What a money spinning system.

So today I re-took the behind-the-wheel test and passed.  Didn’t run over anyone, didn’t touch any white lines (I guess), and the best of all was that I didn’t vocalise my observations about the ‘system.’  The end result of all this effort and expense of euros is that now I will have a drivers permit in the country I have chosen to live in.  I am completely chuffed…now if I could only get the weather to improve.

I thought you might like to know what else I have been up to lately.  Yes, it has been graphic-arts time at Sol y Mar.  After doing my Christmas cards (an 8 colour serigraph that attempts to replicate the feeling of walking through the long, narrow gorge into Petra), I decided that it might be nice to put together a series of limited edition prints.  My inspiration for these editions was pretty easy – I simply decided to make prints based on some of the watercolours and pen & ink drawings I had made since moving to Sol y Mar.  Whilst this became a larger, more intense project than I had anticipated, I was pretty happy with the outcomes.  After several weeks, I had produced a folio that contained two prints based on the Compound series of watercolours, one print based on an extremely large watercolour of part of the gardens here, and several black and white prints that were originally pen & ink drawings I had done of some of the views of the Mediterranean shoreline at my house. 

And now, as the Christmas holidays are face approaching, I thought the very least I could do is to wish you all a fab holiday this year, with massive wishes for an even better year in 2009.



the woefully lost jet stream of today


what it is beginning to feel like here after all the rain




the island version of complete and utter torture



"El Jardin" - the watercolour


"El Jardin" - the print

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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, James B. Rieley