If there is one thing I have learnt since moving to the village, it is that sometimes the older ways are the best to get things done. Good learning opportunities for me, but frustrating as well.
Learning opportunity number 1: How to deal with pest problems. Last year, whilst sitting on the roof terrace of La Antigua, I noticed that they sky was getting dark. This did seem a bit odd, as it was mid-day. It seemed even odder that the approaching darkness was accompanied by the sound of what seemed to be a jumbo-jet that wanted to land in my courtyard. It wasn’t until I opened my eyes that I realised what was occurring…it was (this is a good place for you to make the following sound – dah dah dah DAH)…a swarm of bees. For a moment, the movements of the swarm dazzled me and it weaved it way across the sky, rapidly changing direction causing the huge black cloud to make swirling patterns that were most impressive. This moment dissipated quite quickly when I realised that the swarm was only 5 or 6 metres away from me. I am still waiting for the Guiness people to contact me about reporting my world speed record for getting up from the lounger and getting inside.
After a few minutes, the swarm had gone and I ventured out to the terrace again, only to discover that the grupo de abejas (swarm of bees) had entered an attic air vent on the house across my street. I felt compelled to be a good neighbour and the next day told my neighbour. Job done. Good neighbour relations. Problem solved. Or so I thought.
This year, the bees were back and I decided to escalate my approach a bit. I went to the Ajuntament (town hall) and reported the bees, and after a few days of nothing happening, I tried again. This time I was told that I should call the Bomberos (fire department) and they would take care of the bee infestation. On my way home, I decided to primero habla con mi vecino otra vez (first talk to my neighbour, once again). I did stop in, finding the family sitting outside cleaning their pool. Well actually, the father was cleaning the pool and his wife and children were watching him. I explained that the bees were back, only this year, they were here with a vengeance. Okay, so as I don’t know how to say they were back with a vengeance, I told him that the bees were back and they were pissed off (which interestingly, I do know how to say). He told me that he would take care of it very soon. Wonderful. In the village, very soon could mean anything from the same day to sometime before he dies, but I was at pleased that we talked about it (actually I was pleased that he understood what I was saying…assuming he really did understand what I had said). That evening, whilst doing some typing, I heard this loud sound of whooshing air, sort of like the mother-of-all-aerosol cans was being emptied. I jumped up from my desk (okay, I don’t jump up for anything anymore) and went outside to see what was happening. It was my neighbour, standing on the very edge of his roof tiles, with a compressor-driven spray doo-wah filled with I found out later to be bee poison, doing what appeared to be hand-to-hand combat with the nasty little guys.
I had mixed emotions about the ensuing battle. From one perspective, I was happy that he was doing something about the bees, but from another perspective, I was terrified that he would slip and do a reverse-double-flip as he careened down on to my street. My fears almost came true as suddenly he dropped the spray thingy and began to do what appeared to be the funky-chicken. A bit odd I thought, until I realised that he was being stung by the bees that apparently were not that keen on being gassed.
He danced to a flat part of his roof and ripped off his coat and scarf, muttering something about being stung in his oreja (ear). Ooops. Whilst waiting for the bees to regroup (a polite thing for him to do), he began talking to another of my neighbours who had also come out to watch the festivities. Sadly for me, they were speaking in Mallorquin, and I was only able to pick up some of the conversation. What I did find out later was that the neighbour with the little bee infestation had been aware that there was a problem when his son noticed honey was seeping down through the ceiling in his room into a wardrobe! Well, duh.
After about ten minutes, he scampered back onto the tiles and went at it again, this time with a large hammer to break the ceramic vent in his wall that the bees had been using as a doorway to their attic hive. Teetering on the edge of the roof, you would have thought that his favourite movie star was Charles Bronson in Death Wish. By now I was contemplating what I could do to help. My options seemed to be, 1) be ready to call the paramedics when and if he fell of the roof; 2) go up on his roof to help with the bee assault; or, 3) go back inside and hope I didn’t hear any screaming. The DVD I watched was fabulous.
The next night, he was out there again, but this time he waited until it was dark out. His reasoning was that the bees would be asleep and therefore easier to kill. Right, as if the bees couldn’t hear the footsteps on the roof tiles and the sound of the compressor. By this time – this is after two nights of mortal combat with the little Kamikaze-like honey-makers – there was a literal mound of dead bees in the street, and a lump of honeycomb that he had dislodged that was the size of two human lungs. I decided that again, discretion was the better part of valour and went in to watch telly.
I can’t wait to see what his plan of attack is for tonight. I just know that my neighbour will be out in fighting kit again because no matter how many bees he has sent to pest Valhalla, the following day reinforcements appear on the scene. I found out from someone in the village that in Esporles (a nearby village), exterminators managed to annihilate a bee infestation that resulted in 50 kilos of dead bees and honeycombs. 50 kilos!!!! (For those readers who do not think in terms of kilos, 50 kilos is the same as one-hell-of-a-lot of weight) Nice. Now I don’t think of myself as a total wimp, but if I was the one with the pest problem, I would have followed the tried-and-true remedy; which is call Mr. Blair and request a nuclear air strike and then go to a hotel for a couple of days.
Learning opportunity number 2: How to determine what the weather will be. My friend John and I talk almost daily, and there are times when the focus of the conversation is our frustration of hearing conflicting weather forecasts. The most obvious way to find out the forecast would be to look in the newspaper, or watch the weather person on telly, or what we both tend to do, look online. Looking online has several options: there are a plethora of websites that have actual forecasts, there are some listings that have projections of what the weather in the rest of Europe will cause to appear here, and there are a small handful of visible and infrared satellite photos that can be viewed, giving an idea of impending cloud cover. I tend to like the satellite photos, as they show the actual cloud patterns. And whilst it is nice to see the massive swirls of storms as they cross the Atlantic, it would require an almost 24 hour per day viewing to stay on top of what the island weather will be.
For a while I decided that perhaps the best online forecasts are the ones that actually have temperature expectations, along with cutesy little graphics of either a smiley-face sun, the sun with a small cloud obscuring part of it, or a nasty-looking black cloud with a bolt of lightening creeping out of it. The problem is that there are quite a few sites like this, and they all seem to have conflicting information. One site will say that the next two days will be sunny and warm, and another site may forecast overcast days, and still another site may have sun one day and storms the next. If that isn’t enough, it is not that unusual to have the various sites have temperature variances of up to 5 degrees. This all seems a bit odd, as this is not an island the size of Australia and, as we only have one serious airport on Mallorca, logic would dictate that we only have one weather reporting station. I was thinking of giving you the web-site address for these various sites, but suffice it to say that their forecasting reliability would leave one to believe that they address names are things like:
- www.what-a-bunch-of-bollocks.com, or
- www.we-are-just-guessing.com, or
My frustration about weather forecasting information really only is an issue in winter and spring, as the rest of the year it is quite predictably sunny, but the past several weeks have brought a veritable potpourri of weather. As I am having houseguests next week, I thought I should get to the bottom of what the weather might be whilst they are here, so I went and talked to several village locals. After several conversations with neighbours and shop-owners, I discovered that there was consensus: it was going to rain this weekend. Okay, fair enough. Now I knew, but I was curious so I asked the next logical question; ‘how do you know it will rain?’ The responses to this rather brilliant but inquisitive question all seemed to revolve around something like, ‘because it will.’ Right. On my way home from my weather lessons, I looked to see if there were any tell-tale signs that I could learn from…like sheep standing on one leg, all reciting phrases from Don Quixote, whilst carrying mini-umbrellas. Nothing. Sometimes you just know I guess.
another brilliant morning in the village
a nice way to wake up
the entrance to the bee-hive from hell
day two, bees queueing up for the evening battle
contemplating the avoidance of bee stings
the best meteorologists
looks like rain (apparently)
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, James B. Rieley