Last week, it was one of those "WTF?" moments. I know that in the past, I have rabbited on about the weather in these chapters on occasion. The reason that I have done this falls into one of several categories, including: a) I love the climate of the island, b) I love driving you into a state of high envy if you live where the weather is shite, c) the photos that accompany my weather-ramblings usually look pretty good. Well, as the saying says, what goes around comes around. The past two weeks have been more or less a comeuppance weather-wise. Now to be fair, the months of November, December, and even most of January, were pretty flippin’ wonderful. But equally to be fair, the island has been dry and we have needed some precipitation in order to avoid a drought this summer. So you would think that a little winter precipitation would have been welcome. In most situations, I would agree with that statement, but…the weather patterns lately have been less than nice and the desperately cold weather that has pummelled northern Europe managed to sink south and cover Mallorca. The operational word here was ‘cold.’ Actually, two words…’bugger cold.’ And if you paid attention in your physics lessons in school, you will recognise that precipitation plus bugger cold means the ‘’s’’ word. Yes, snow (but ‘shit’ also applies I think).
I can remember five or six years ago it did snow in Palma, but I think I was in some client meeting in London and missed it. Besides, by noon that day, the snow had all melted away and island life returned to normal. But this year, the snow was a bit more aggressive and the cold air from northern Europe (who received it from Russia according to the weather-people) has blanketed the island for two weeks now. And to make things even worse, the forecasts all say that it will remain cold for yet another week. Now if you are a regular reader of these chapters, you might be thinking, “he is such a weather whimp…and Mallorca still has better weather than just about any other place in Europe.” If you think that, you would be right. Fair enough. But part of being spoilt about the weather is that you want to continue to feel spoilt.
The weather has brought the classic good news-bad news tension. Good news…I have been using the chimenea (fireplace) nightly and the fires are both wonderfully warming and highly visual. Bad news…In the past two weeks I have gone through a half-tonne of wood whilst at the same time, running the heating system of Sol y Mar. More bad news…my firewood inventory needs to be chopped up into fireplace-sized logs, which I do. However, more good news…chopping all that firewood is better physio-therapy than going to hospital. So, other than I feel like the Michelin man with my jumpers, I am feeling pretty good (but would feel even better if the weather pattern would return to (my version of) normal.
And now, enough of this weather dribble and on to the real reason for this letter on this day. Today would have been my Aunt Peg’s 95th birthday. Peg was my father’s sister and a had a serious impact on my life…and impact that still can be seen when I do just about anything creative. Peg was an artist, and years ago, when I was 12 or 13 or some other rather young age, she had come with some of my family on a little holiday. My father had rented a cottage-like house in the woods in Gills Rock. Everyday, Peg would find some way to trick me into going off with her to paint or draw a picture of one of the commercial fishing shacks or boats that would be bringing in their catch of the day. After a couple of weeks, our holiday was over and it was time to pack up to go home again. At the time, I can remember my Aunt asking me if I would like to have her entire set of oil paints and brushes that she had been using.
Being a polite young man (don’t laugh), I said thank you, but did turn down the offer of the supplies. Have no doubt, the offer was intriguing, especially because I think I was really getting into the whole art thing by then. Peg reiterated her offer, this time reassuring me that she really wanted me to have the supplies. My father was sitting near by and was subtly observing what was going on. When Peg made her second offer, I noticed that he was peering over his glasses to see what I would do. Right. This appeared to me to be some sort of parental test, and once again, I said thank you but I couldn’t accept her kind offer. I knew I had done the right thing. Oh sure, I would have loved to have all her paints. After all, these weren’t just a set of 6 or 8 colours in shiny tubes combined with three or four spiffy brushes of marginal quality. These were a proper set of twisted and bent over tubes with paint smeared along the sides and about a dozen of seriously used high quality oil painting brushes. Just the fact that I had spent my holiday time watching my Aunt use them meant that I knew that with this kit, my painting expertise (pretty crap at that point in time) would improve. My painting skills would never match hers (even to this day this is true), but with that kit, it would have a chance of getting closer I thought. But I also had it clear in my mind that one of the big lessons that my father had firmly implanted in my mind – you don’t accept gifts from people who aren’t in a position to give them…or something like that – was still in force. Whilst I was keen to have the paints and brushes, I actually did feel good that I had said thank you, but no. It was then that my father got out of his chair and came over and with a little smile on his face, told me it was okay to accept the most generous gift of my Aunt Peg.
Peg was pretty special and as I have said, a huge influence in my life. Even today, I make my own Christmas cards, something that Peg always did. There is no doubt in my mind what, whilst I do like the creative part of making the cards, I know that it is Peg’s influence that is with me each year as I plot out the year’s card. She had a fab sense of humour (note the photo of her with a small Easter basket in her hair), and in later life, was a devoted step-mother to her family. But most of all, Peg was my artistic mentor. One year I even drove for over eight hours to see Peg, just to talk about screen-printing and doing water-colours. What a joy she was, and even though she passed away in 2005, her best friend Sue and I always toast her on this very special day. Feel free to join in....
evil snow, mucking up my fab terrace
the view of the side drive buried in the evil stuff
a mystical winter vista in Puigpunyent from La Antigua
and after a few days, the sheep were out grazing in the sun
one of the portraits in acrylic I have done of my brother
Peg (apparently) celebrating Easter with a basket on her head
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 James B. Rieley