Two hands, big heart.

Vicki McLeod, Dos Manos, Mallorca, Majorca, Palma Super Yacht Show, Palma Boat Show, environment, Brad Roberston, Asociación Ondine , Ondine Association Whenever I meet diving instructor Brad Robertson I know I am going to be inspired. I’ve written about him a few times over the years, and I hope that by now the MDB readers will have heard of Asociación Ondine which he founded along with a small group of dedicated people. Ondine takes its name from a mythical spirit, a mermaid, living underwater, and focuses on science, community and conservation with the aim being to protect and improve our local marine ecosystems. At the recent Palma Boat and Super Yacht Show Brad and the rest of the Asociación Ondine were on site giving out information about their activities and projects. I passed by for a chat.

"shark" Mallorca, Majorca,

“THAT” photo.

Vicki McLeod: Majorca’s been in the news in the past couple of weeks, did you hear about the “shark” spotted swimming in shallow waters near to Palma Nova beach? The tabloids certainly did, and wrote several scare mongering headlines about the “monster”. Taking a look at the photo it’s difficult for the untrained eye to know the difference between a shark and, well, a tuna

Blue fin tuna

Shark or tuna? Yes it’s a tuna!

Brad Robertson: Marine biologists have confirmed that this is indeed a Blue Fin Tuna. The Mediterranean is a spawning ground for tuna and there are a few locations where they might do this. The Med should really be a haven for Blue Fins, it does have its hotspots.

Vicki: Why was the fish in such shallow waters?

Brad: That doesn’t bode well for the tuna, they are not normally in so close to the shore, so it probably meant that it was unwell.

Vicki: There are sharks here though, and you’ve recently been swimming with them haven’t you? Should I be freaking out?

Brad: The presence of sharks in our waters is a very good sign that the sea life is improving. The Smoothhound sharks, reported sightings have been of up to 18 animals together, are potentially here to breed. They eat shellfish, they don’t have teeth, they grind their food, they are not harmful to us in anyway. This is a very good mate, in amongst all the grim facts: the Balearic Islands are one of the healthier areas in the Med.

Vicki: When you first arrived here you came with the idea that Majorca was pretty much dead underwater didn’t you?

Brad: I did, but since I have lived here I have been taken to some pretty magical places around Majorca. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now with Ondine if there wasn’t some hope that we could improve the situation. I’m here to help people find a healthy respect for the sea.

Vicki: How do we support it, how do we change it?

Dos Manos, beach clean up, environment, Mallorca, MajorcaBrad: Firstly, just go and take a look. Go and look underwater. Go for a swim, take a mask or some goggles and stick your head under the water. People will have mixed emotions: they will be surprised at the amount of animals and wild life down there, and distraught at the amount of plastics. That’s why we started the Dos Manos project. Dos Manos aims to encourage everyone to use their two hands to pick up litter from the beach and coast line of Majorca. It’s about raising awareness about marine debris and pollution. But it’s not “just” a beach cleanup. It’s underlying goal is to change mindsets. We know it will take generations to change attitudes, but Poc a Poc we are doing that. Anybody can do this, you don’t have to join an Association. Just go to the beach and collect rubbish. Take a photo of what you have picked up and then send us the photo. It’s an important activity for children to do as well.

Marine biologist Gabriel Morey, school visit, Dos Manos, Mallorca, Majorca We are going into schools to show them and teach them about plastics and the sea. We have taught them about how plastic is made, how it ends up in the sea, and how it affects animals. We take the kids down to the beach to do a scientific survey using a quadrant to accurately count how many pieces of plastic and micro-plastics there are present there. The results are always very worrying. The visits we have done have been very successful but we need funding and time in order to get this project going properly, both of which we are short of.

Vicki: And you’ve got the stingray survey going as well.

Brad: Yep, they went out today to start the tagging. But right now we are focusing on something which could prove to be very important to our island. We are trying to get the waters around the island of Dragonera to be declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Vicki: I thought that it already was protected.

Brad: No mate, that’s the land, the sea is not protected at all.  A ten strong group of prominent marine biologists and locals have put together a proposal which is being presented to the government asking for Dragonera to become an MPA.

Vicki: As our economy in Majorca changes and turns increasingly towards the more “sporty” and “luxury” ends of tourism so our interest to keep these resources should increase shouldn’t it?

Brad Robertson, Ondine, Mallorca, MajorcaBrad: One of the benefits that comes from having a healthy marine ecosystem is increased financial incomes: more fish to look at, means more divers and snorkellers, more visitors, more income. On an island where tourism is the biggest industry you’d think that a lot more attention would be paid to keeping the waters around it pristine. MPAs are the key and the soul of a sustainable economy when it comes to the sea. Every industry in our little island would benefit.  The main objective of our team is to create an efficient network of Marine Protected Areas around the Balearic Islands. Strategically planning by merging the financial benefits of healthy marine ecosystems, applied sciences and management strategies. We think that a reasonably well-managed network of MPAs in the Balearic Islands would be hugely positive for nature and society itself. A recent petition from the Town Council of Andratx has been put forward for a marine reserve to be declared in the waters of Sa Dragonera so we have presented a proposal for consideration during the phases of design, declaration and management of the new MPA. The proposal addresses aspects regarding the geographical perimeter of the MPA, the regulation of the main uses and activities to be developed within its boundaries, the surveillance and monitoring program, as well as co-management mechanisms to support the participation of the stakeholders involved.

Vicki: What can we do to help?

Brad: Support us, join our Facebook page, sign up to be a member. Go down to the beach and pick up rubbish. Show the powers that be that this is something we ALL care about!

Vicki: It occurs to me that you always have to make the financial argument for what you are doing, but the environmental argument is even more important isn’t it? It must make you frustrated that you can’t just focus on that.

Brad: You’d be amazed at how few adults are interested in looking after our environment. To get the attention of most adults you have to talk about how it will affect them financially. It’s always the kids that get it, not the grownups. Kids are really going to be the ones to make the difference.


If you are either interested in improving the economy in Majorca or want to protect the environment then either way Ondine needs your support and your two hands. Get involved, it matters.

To find out more visit To read more articles about people living on the island visit


A Life in Colour

Vivian Borsani,. Photo: Vicki McLeod, Palma de MallorcaWalk down Calle Fabrica in Santa Catalina and you will see restaurant after cafe after restaurant. It’s the (mainly) pedestrianised street in the heart of Palma’s trendiest area. What you might not expect to find is a narrow blue door at “13b” and behind it an artist’s studio and gallery, but this is exactly where Vivian Borsani works and exhibits her paintings, nestled in between Italian and Japanese restaurants. I’ve come to see her because she and another artist, Doris Duschelbauer, will be opening an exhibition of their work on Saturday 2nd May at 19.30.

As soon as I enter her workshop I am captivated. The space is quite narrow and the typically Mallorquin, but with some adaptations to the building to give her more light to work with. Vivian tells me the story of how she came to be there and it is a one of those “it just had to be” kind of tales that we all know and love. Indeed from the outset I also know that I am going to like both Vivian and her paintings, as they seem to reflect one another: both artist and her pictures are vivacious, charismatic and interesting. She makes me a cup of tea (Earl Grey with vanilla soya milk which is surprisingly delicious) and we perch on a metal day bed and chat.

Vivian Borsani,. Photo: Vicki McLeod, Palma de MallorcaVICKI MCLEOD: Well, where shall we start? Where were you born?

VIVIAN BORSANI: I was born in a very colourful country: Brazil!

Vicki: So when did you first start to paint?

Vivian: When I was possibly…. four? Maybe three? From when my memories began. As early as I can remember I was drawn to colours and light, and I was inspired by the fullness and possibilities of life.  I went to live in Germany when I was a little girl, and I really didn’t like it. I didn’t feel “at home” again until I came to Majorca when I was twelve on holiday, and then later when I moved to live here permanently.

Vicki: Did you study?

Vivian: Yes, I had a classical education in graphic design and then in textile design, while learning fine arts at the same time. My school in Paris was the national university for arts and crafts (Ecole National des Arts Decoratifs), so I could try out everything and then specialise in one subject. My father wanted me to chose something which would give me, in his opinion, a “proper job”, so I studied textiles, but all the time I was thinking I would be taught how to paint on to the textiles! I was wrong, I learnt to weave, to print, to design collections in different colour schemes. It was very disciplined and to escape I would disappear upstairs to the Fine Art department and paint. I made a good friend up there, (who is now the director of an Art Museum in Prague) who helped me, so that’s how I came to my art.

Vivian Borsani,. Photo: Vicki McLeod, Palma de MallorcaVicki: So then you became a full time artist?

Vivian: Well I had plenty of time in my life when I had to concentrate on my children, so only really now am I able to dedicate myself again to painting. But when I was a full time parent I was still painting, I would take my inspiration from things around me: fruits and flowers from the market, landscapes in Majorca when we were on excursions or just going to the beach. My painting is my escape to myself, in all the everyday life, children, husband, life… I could escape everyday for a few hours and be with myself, my colours, my themes, and myself…  All of the time though I managed to continue to exhibit my work, I’ve had shows here, and internationally throughout my career.

Now that my girls are grown up I have more time to look for the light on a building in Santa Catalina, or allow ideas to come into my mind. My paintings have become more abstract now that I don’t have to concentrate so much on my children, I can let go now more and be even closer to myself, and my inner worlds. I love to share that with the world around me.

Vicki: Do you find that you are constantly being inspired?

Vivian: I am a joyful and happy person and I love to express this through my paintings. Positive feelings, harmonious compositions, bright warm colours. I have had difficult moments in my life, my daughter’s illness for example, but even in these difficult moments I paint and get back to the beauty of life. It is like an inner melody that I hear constantly and I have to sing out loud! So YES!

Vicki: Tell me about Doris, the other artist who is exhibiting with you here.

Vivian: Doris is a fellow artist, originally from Germany who has lived in Majorca for 17 years. She exhibits regularly with other artists in Madrid. She has a very different style to me so we thought we would complement each other. We are very excited to be exhibiting together, we hope the opening will be a big success!

Vivian Borsani,. Photo: Vicki McLeod, Palma de MallorcaVicki: Have you found that being situated here in Santa Catalina has brought you to the attention of more potential art lovers and customers?

Vivian: Definitely. I have a lot of people coming in to see my work who are strolling around the area, they are often tourists and visitors to Palma so they are very international. I speak several languages so this is helpful then to be able to explain to them about my painting. I also work with interior designers so this is another potential market for me.

Vivian Borsani,. Photo: Vicki McLeodVicki: What is the process for your work?

Vivian: I start with a sketch, I find my inspirations at the moment in the forms of women, I like to do nudes, abstracts, I used to do more landscapes but I think I am moving away from that now. So then I start with the colours and the forms. I work with acrylic paints, sometimes with collage, pastels, paper, textiles, gold leaf and charcoal as well. But what I think I will be painting can transform into something else, like the paintings of flowers which turned into butterflies, they take on a life of their own and I don’t want to stop them from developing so I go with the flow! Occasionally I am not even sure at the end how I want to hang the painting, so I turn it around a few times to decide!


It’s then that a British couple pop their head round the door of the gallery, wondering if they can browse around and Vivian jumps up and welcomes them in. So interview over. I leave with a big smile on my face, and a new passion for Earl Grey with vanilla.

Vivian Borsani made quite an impression on me, I think she probably would have that effect on anyone who met her, she exudes energy, warmth and humour so I think you’ll like her. The exhibition “Luz y Colores” officially opens on Saturday 2nd May at 19.30 at Calle Fabrica 13 b – 07013 Palma de Mallorca. You can contact Vivian on 697 288 100. At other times Vivian is normally in her studio from 10.00 until 14.00 but call her first to check. She welcomes visitors to come past and see her work. Good luck to her and to Doris on their opening event.

You can read more articles about people in Majorca at

Text and Photos Vicki McLeod



The wandering DJ.

Andy Proctor Andy Proctor first started DJing when he was a teenager in Manchester. It was a good time, and place to start, influenced by the success of legendary clubs and nights, The Hacienda, Cream, Back to Basics. The combination of House music and the type of people it attracted made sense to him. “I like the way that everyone feels free and there’s no trouble”. With some friend he started running a night called “Development” in Manchester which soon gained its own following and became successful. “After parties” at his house after the night had finished soon gained their own popularity and name, “The Stretford Dogs Club” named because of Andy’s collection of mutts. All of this meant that he started to gain a fan base in other parts of the world. “I’d been putting my mixes online and they were getting picked up by people in Mexico and Majorca!” Combining these connections with a desire to move away from the UK meant that Andy was soon looking at moving to Majorca permanently. He was already familiar with the island having visited before, “I already knew how peaceful it is, and how beautiful” and made the decision to move a couple of years ago. Now he plays at Garito in Palma every month DJing his popular “Stretford Dogs Club” night as well as working with Sentados en el Techo who appear at a variety of different venues.  You might see, or more likely hear, him playing at the Ponderosa in the Playa del Muro, it’s one of his favourite places and is a beautiful place to spend a summer day, relaxing with a drink and watching the glistening turquoise sea.  He’s a well-travelled guy having roamed around the globe, working, playing, and visiting. I’ve known of Andy for a few years now, but not had the opportunity to meet him. We’re friends on Facebook which is where last December I started to see him posting some amazing photographs of a trip that he was on in Africa. Right then, I think, time to find out more about Andy Proctor. We meet in Santa Catalina, and over a rather unusual dinner (Creole, jury’s out) I grill him about his solo safari trip through Namibia and South Africa.

PHOTO Andy Proctor

VM: What possessed you to travel through those places on your own? Surely it’s really dangerous?

AP: (Grins, laughs). I travelled adhoc really; I researched where I wanted to go beforehand so I had a kind of plan. A lot of people think that going on safari is expensive but you can just drive yourself

VM: How did you get around? Surely you need to know where you’re going?

AP: Firstly I went to Etosha, which is the national park of Namibia; just the park is the size of Wales. You have to travel in a 4 x 4, there’s no way with those roads that you can travel in a normal car. I had one that you pitch the tent on top of the roof. I’d be sleeping out there on top of the 4 x 4 listening and watching all kinds of animals: leopards, cheetahs, oryx.  I´d just go to waterholes and park up and wait. I saw lions, buffalo, elephants, zebra, ostriches, rhinos. It’s all run by the conservation project in Namibia. I wanted to do something special on Christmas Day so I spent it with an African tribe, it blew my mind. But to be honest every day was amazing.

VM: Are there any similarities between our island and Africa?

AP: Majorca looks like South Africa, it has the same elements: the beaches, the mountains, the only thing missing are the animals.

AP:  I did travel through some very deserted areas though; you can drive for hours without seeing another person.  I went to the Skeleton Coast which is extremely remote in the north-west of Namibia, formerly known as the Kaokoveld. It’s incredibly dramatic, valleys, very rough terrain and dunes. It’s also an amazing place to see more wildlife. That’s where I lost my car keys.

VM: Really?! Whoops!

AP: I had a blowout on the top of a mountain on my last day of travelling. So I had to unpack the jeep and find the tyre, figure out how to change the tyre and then get it all back into the jeep. It took me hours to do it, in the blazing sunshine. I was running out of water, on my own in the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of it all I lost my car keys.

VM: So you were on your own in one of the most remote parts of the world, and you’d lost your car keys. Ooh, I might have started to panic a little.

AP:I’d been reading a lot of mindfulness books so I kept telling myself not to panic and to let things be and they would turn up. I was applying this technique whilst searching frantically for my keys, I slammed the boot door of the 4 x 4 closed and they were in the lock! The next day was New Year’s Eve and I was booked to DJ a party in Pretoria so I had to get moving quickly.

The truck, where are the keys PHOTO Andy Proctor

VM: How does a South African audience differ to a Mallorcan audience?

AP: The project, called House 22 that I was at is just full of local people. It was a fantastic night; the people love soulful, deep, authentic music, and that’s the most important part of DJing: that you go with the vibe of the people. So that night I played a lot of house and disco, bringing in a lot of Chicago and Detroit influences as well. It was a great way to end my trip, say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015.

VM: And what does 2015 hold for you?

AP: Well I’m living in a new place on the island so I’m enjoying that. Whenever my friends come to visit me in Majorca I try to take them somewhere they haven’t been before, they call me ProcTours! I’m always going out of my way to find new places. But I would love to go back to Africa again. Maybe one day I will move there and have a B & B.

VM: Book me in!  (Although I’m holding on to the car keys).

You can find Andy at

By Vicki McLeod


Mr Muscle

7H9A3051To look at photos of Rob Martin you’d think he was a bit of a beast, a huge hulking great sweaty monster. I mean, LOOK at him! But meet him in person and he’s just a pussycat, a hard core weight lifting, cross-fitting pussycat, but a pussycat all the same.

Rob moved to Majorca in 2006 and lives here with his partner and their two children. Originally from Essex he worked as a personal trainer in the UK before making the move over here. It was on a golf holiday in the States that he first came across the fitness philosophy that has revolutionised gyms and workouts around the globe: CrossFit. “I’d always been interested in new training methods so when I heard about it I wanted to try it right away”.

So it came to pass that his first ever CrossFit workout was in Las Vegas. “CrossFit immediately appealed to me because it is actually a sport. Coming from a rugby background, I love training but without a purpose, a goal, it can feel a bit pointless. I went in to that first class thinking I was strong, but I was completely wrong! There were girls there lifting more weights than me. It challenged me, everything was stripped away back to the bone, and there wasn’t anywhere to hide. It’s very humbling when your definition of your own fitness is challenged. Any weakness that you have is highlighted, you can think you’re the fittest but in reality you may not be all that strong. You could be quick but not flexible or able to lift weights, one or another of the three.”

Needless to say he did it, loved it, and was soon back to train to be an instructor. Rob then worked by incorporating the principles of CrossFit into his personal training for his clients, influencing and inspiring many other well respected trainers on the island in the process.

It was April 2011 when he opened CrossFit Mallorca. He then moved the business to bigger premises in Son Bugadelles and it has grown into a solid, busy and friendly community today. I admire anyone who can take their passion and inspire others as well, and build a thriving business in the process. It’s an impressive achievement of Rob’s and his partners, and a really good set up. This is where I catch up with him. As we talk there is a weightlifting master class going on in one corner of the industrial unit incredibly there aren’t many sounds of grunting, it’s all very calm and organised with five or six people stood waiting their turn to pick up some serious looking weights. Around us there are more weights, ropes, different pieces of equipment, medicine balls, kettle bells, all waiting for their turn to be used. I decide that we’d better start at the beginning. Allright then Rob, can you tell me what IS CrossFit?

7H9A3025“CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. It’s not a specialised fitness programme but a deliberate attempt to optimise physical competence in each of ten recognised fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

“The athletes are trained to perform successfully at multiple, diverse, and randomised physical challenges. It’s the sort of fitness demanded of by military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring total or complete physical prowess.

“They are trained to bike, run, swim, and row at short, middle, and long distances guaranteeing exposure and competency in each of the three main metabolic pathways.

“We also train in gymnastics from rudimentary to advanced movements to develop greater capacity at controlling the body both dynamically and statically while maximising strength to weight ratio and flexibility. We place a heavy emphasis on Olympic Weightlifting having seen this sport’s unique ability to develop an athletes’ explosive power, control of external objects, and mastery of critical motor recruitment patterns. And we encourage and assist our athletes to explore a variety of sports as a vehicle to express and apply their fitness”.

“The beauty of the sport” Rob tells me in his quiet, confident way, “is that it is completely scale-able, from a beginner to a top notch athlete. You can all be doing the same exercise but with modifications, weights or whatever. A good coach will know and show you the right progressions to do and in the correct manner”.  There’s an element of toughness running through people who do CrossFit: they don’t tend to give up. I get the feeling from him that Rob is not a quitter by any means. I also know from my own trainer that a good one will inspire you to keep going, as well as working on their own physical development as well.

CrossFit has a reputation of being potentially dangerous though, I say. Rob responds “Really people only get hurt when their egos get out of control and they push themselves further than they are capable of in that moment or if their coach isn’t looking after them. There are still some people working as coaches with little more than a weekend’s seminar, so check out the qualifications of your potential trainer before you begin”.

What about the teaching process at CrossFit Mallorca? “Any person who comes to train with us is assessed through our foundation course; we do one to one or one to two, very small groups, with a coach. We assess the fitness levels and then start to work on strength and conditioning”.

What are the keys to CrossFit? “Patience is important, and persistence. If you want to maintain your fitness level then you can’t let it go. When you stop it stops”.  What sort of exercises might you be doing in CrossFit? “Biking, running, swimming, and rowing. The clean and jerk, snatch, squat, deadlift, push-press, bench-press, and power-clean. Jumping, medicine ball throws and catches, pull-ups, dips, push-ups, handstands, presses to handstand, pirouettes, kips, cartwheels, muscle-ups, sit-ups, scales, and holds. They also make regular use of bikes, the track, rowing shells and ergometers, Olympic weight sets, rings, parallel bars, free exercise mat, horizontal bar, plyometrics boxes, medicine balls, and jump rope”.

7H9A2942But, I hear you cry, dear reader, what if I don’t want to be an athlete; I just want to be healthy? Well, you’re in luck. The truth is that fitness, wellness, and pathology (sickness) are measures of the same entity, your health. There are a multitude of measurable parameters that can be ordered from sick (pathological) to well (normal) to fit (better than normal). These include but are not limited to blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, body fat, muscle mass, flexibility, and strength. It seems as though all of the body functions that can go awry have states that are pathological, normal, and exceptional and that elite athletes typically show these parameters in the exceptional range. The CrossFit view is that fitness and health are the same thing.

There are other elements to the sport which are often adopted by its athletes: in particular an eating programme called the Paleo Diet. So called because of the cavemen it is inspired by.  CrossFit thinks that modern diets are ill suited for our genetic composition. Evolution has not kept pace with advances in agriculture and food processing resulting in a plague of health problems for modern man. Coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and psychological dysfunction have all been scientifically linked to a diet too high in refined or processed carbohydrate. Search “google” for Paleolithic nutrition, or diet. The return is extensive, compelling, and fascinating.

Rob for example chows down on a sizeable breakfast of eggs, with a spinach, avocado and banana smoothie on the side. It’s not so much as the amount of food as the type of calories that you are eating that counts. So what should you eat? “Base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That’s about as simple as you can get. Food should be perishable. The stuff with a long shelf life is all suspicious.” And the foods to avoid? High glycemic carbohydrates that raise blood sugar too rapidly. White rice, bread, potato, sweets, fizzy drinks and most processed carbohydrates.

One other element of CrossFit which makes it so compelling is the community feeling. The place where you train can become your second home, you might even see more of the other people you are training with than your own family. There is a team spirit and bond between the people who participate in CrossFit, and that is just as addictive as the strong endorphin release you get from exercise. The training is hard and challenging, and it makes you stronger not just in your body but in your mind, increasing confidence along the way.

Finally, CrossFit makes you into the ultimate all-rounder. It’s sort of Superman training, I joke to Rob. He’s a very competitive guy, participating most recently in a weightlifting event which he aced. And last autumn he won one of the twenty qualification spots in the CrossFit Athlete Games in Manchester, against 600 men, finally being placed second. Second? Ouch. Rob has a look of grim determination on his face as he patiently explains to me, “There was this one other guy. He’s French. In the end there were only four points in it over nine events”.

Given that Rob likes the team sport elements of rugby it must feel pretty isolated out there competing on his own. “Yeah, the individual games are a bit lonely, but I like the responsibility. If it goes wrong I only have myself to blame, I am 100% liable”.  Now he’s working towards the European Regionals in Copenhagen in May, “There are thirty places in the finals” That’s thirty places for thousands of hopeful entrants. You can expect that he will qualify. That French guy better watch out.

By Vicki McLeod

First published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin

You can take the girl out of Liverpool…

Ann Collins, Vicki McLeod, Palma, photographerIf you know the popular bar, Rositas, in Calvia, you will most probably have met Ann at some time or another. She works there part time with her partner Tony. But she’s only part time, so where does she disappear to when she’s not there? “Many of our regulars have no idea what my day job is, although one of them did ask Tony if I was like MacGyver!” she tells me, with a cheeky grin on her face. Well, go on then, tell us.

Ann Collins works as a development consultant in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. She is a Liverpudlian, born and bred. “When I was little I wanted to be a choreographer, then a hairdresser but I started my current career working in the civil service in Toxteth. I was there in the social security office for quite a few years before moving down to London. I had the chance to work in the new Child Support Agency, and I thought after years of being with the SS that it would be a positive change doing something good, but you know how that turned out! The CSA doesn’t have the greatest of reputations”. But Ann, in her role in Human Resources, started to develop a training and development scheme for government employees giving opportunities to them in different parts of the organisation. “It was a real success, the idea was that although we couldn’t give people promotions we gave them the experiences to see what was possible and inspire them to develop themselves. We focused on minorities: people who might not get the opportunities or even think they would be eligible for a job. I knew it was a success when I started to see these people applying for those jobs. It’s one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my career.”

It was from this that Ann got the chance to move to Number 10 Downing Street and run the Human Resources and Training Department. Blair was the P.M. “I was just a girl from Liverpool; I thought they’d be really snooty, but the people were fantastic, it was a great experience.” She found herself in charge of 200 people’s training needs and found it to be a fascinating place to work. “There wasn’t a hierarchy; if you had something to say then you were heard.”

Ann then worked as a consultant for a college for civil servants. The opportunity to work in areas of conflict, when it came, was out of the blue. “One day I was asked, ‘Do you fancy going to Afghanistan?’” And in 2005 she found herself in Kabul. “It’s a fascinating country, beautiful people, amazing. They have a very British sense of humour, very dry. Working with them was very humbling for me.” Ann helps governments of developing countries which have been in conflict. She puts governmental processes in place and works with them to organise their administrations to function in a modern fashion and she finds it very rewarding. “Their willingness and need to learn is incredible. Anything you do they’re very appreciative of. You also have to be careful not to admire anything or compliment something too much as you are liable to be given the object as a gift, the people are very generous.” Ann’s role in the project also inspires and empowers the local junior workers, and most proudly she tells me about Marianne, a woman in Afghanistan: “She was in the office during the day, and then would have to care for her family, preparing the meals and so on, and then she studied for her MBA at night, but by candlelight!” Marianne got her MBA which was a great moment of achievement for her, and for Ann.

Ann has travelled to and worked in some countries that most of us will never have the opportunity to visit: Iraq, Serbia, Palestine, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Sudan. But what’s it like to be there, in some of these places you might actually be at risk of kidnap or your life might be at risk? “The Foreign Office looks after us when we are in these places, but you have to be careful yes. One of my closest friends was blown up in Kabul.” I ask her what her mum would have thought of what she does, “My mum would have said: ‘What’s for you won’t go past you’. She would have been very pleased that I am doing a job which I love so much, and helping people in the process.”

What’s it like working in these places where they treat women very differently to Europe? “I’ve never had a problem, but you obviously have to be respectful to their beliefs. So I cover up.” But she’s not always completely appropriately dressed for the job. “I was in Iraq being transferred by army helicopter. I had to run across the tarmac wearing high heels pulling a suitcase on wheels, it was my ‘Legally Blonde’ moment. Then when I got into the helicopter I realised there were no doors on it and as it took off I had such a surreal moment hanging on for my life!”

She works very closely with officials in the government; at the moment for example she is working in Nigeria. “Sometimes I am teaching them basic management and communication skills, trying to teach them how to conduct meetings which will give more constructive results, teaching them how to speak to their staff. I influence office culture. I have to apply a lot of common sense; I’m really teaching them how to run systems. You have to be very practical and organised” But does she ever feel frustrated, is she making real progress? “You do get frustrated yes. I am on a three week on, three week off rotation, sometimes when you go back you are at square one again.” I ask about misconceptions that we may have about where she works, and she replies, “Ebola! Everyone thinks Africa is riddled with it, but Nigeria has handled it really well. The mayor is very switched on in Abuja, everywhere you go there are hand sanitisers”.

People don’t necessarily trust where money is going when they give to charity do they? Do you feel that the money is wasted?  “No, I don’t think it is ever wasted, the way that aid is given it must be managed properly. We can’t ever say don’t do it. It does make changes; it does change people’s lives. Look at Lagos and how it is developing; it’s one of the most ‘happening’ places in the world. You don’t hear any positive news out of Africa, but the reality is very different.

“Even if it is only one person that I train who changes their behaviour and management style if that means that the junior staff can learn in different ways then that’s a success. The people here go through things that we cannot possibly imagine. When I first went to Afghanistan I spoke to a senior, male, civil servant. He told me “we don’t do things very well but we’ve managed to keep things going through all of this conflict so don’t ever underestimate us.” It was the best piece of advice I have ever had.”

What does she miss when she is away? “I take a few home comforts with me, nibbles and chocolate. And we take supplies that the local people can use. We’ve helped local orphanages and even helped set up a school”. And what about Tony, does he worry about you? “Yes, of course he does, but he respects what I do as well. And if I wasn’t happy with my work then I would change I believe if you are doing a job that you love that’s the most important thing”.

You can read more articles about people on the island at

How to survive in the mountains in Mallorca

I’m lucky to know some really fantastic people in Majorca, after my daughter’s recent accident on a Sunday walk, my friend Steevi Ware wrote this article for us, and any other person out walking on the island. Steevi Ware has been a full on “Prepper” since 2012 but has always had a fondness for the outdoors lifestyle. His main passion lies in power production, water filtration and satellite communications. Here’s his article written with everyone in mind. And, Steevi is offering a FREE survival course to anyone who is interested so please get in touch with him via email:

Steevi Ware, Mallorca, Phoenix Media

Steevi Ware


How would you survive in the mountains if something happened to you or a companion? Worst still what if you were alone and there was no mobile phone coverage where you were? Well there are some simple steps you can take to make your life a lot easier should the worst happen.

The main things you need to do happen before you even leave your house for your trip. The first thing you should always do is tell someone your intended route and what time you should be back home. Failing to do this may mean no one even knows you’re missing or in trouble. A quick text message to a neighbour or an email to your family members means that if you don’t return when you say you will at least the emergency services will know where to start looking.

Secondly is to leave prepared. It might sound obvious but having studied numerous cases of survival, there isn’t one single thing that puts people in danger, it is normally a combination of small, what might seem at the time insignificant, details such as not having the correct clothing, your mobile phone battery being low and not having and navigation tools to hand.

Here is what I recommend you carry:

  • A Jacket. Needs to be lightweight and waterproof with a hood.
  • A jumper and a spare set of socks. No matter how warm it is during the day it can get cold at night, especially when it’s raining.
  • Good quality gloves and hat.
  • A hi-visibility jacket. Like we have to carry in our cars for breakdowns. It makes it easier to be spotted just in case you’re unconscious.
  • Water bladder 2 litres filled with just water. Needs to be water so it can be used to clean wounds.
  • Plastic bottle of water 500ml. As a back-up supply of water and vessel to collect more water on the way.
  • Fire kit in a waterproof zip lock bag. This could consist of a lighter, fire starter and cotton wool.
  • A whistle.
  • Mobile phone.
  • Alternative power source for phone.
  • Energy bars and nuts (high protein food). Not essential but important for morale.
  • Compass and map of local area.
  • Emergency foil blanket. 1 per family member.
  • Drinking straw. This can be used to drink water directly from rocks.
  • Small compact first aid kit.
  • 6 short bursts signify distress.
  • A mirror. For using the sun to attract attention.
  • Strong enough to pull a person if case they fall or to tie you together in fog.
  • Gorilla Tape. Thin small duct tape that has 1000 survival uses such as making a temporary splint for a leg or sprained ankle.
  • Good quality Knife. For general use and fire preparation.
  • Note pad and pen. To take note of your GPS co-ordinates as well as what treatment was administered and when.
  • Wind up torch. This gives you the possibility for continuous light without the need of batteries.
  • Let’s face it you can never have too many tissues. Not only for general use but also for fire lighting.

I have all of this and more in my eldest son’s hiking bag and other than the water it weighs no more than a kilo.

If one of your party sustains a deep cut or twisted ankle then knowledge of basic first aid is paramount. But for those of us too busy to take a first aid course, don’t panic technology is here to help. The St john Ambulance have a free app that will take you step by step through most minor incidents up to and including preforming CPR. The step by step guide has been designed for laymen to follow and offers clear instructions with diagrams.

Photographer, Vicki McLeod, Sa Trapa, Sant Elm, Mallorca Assuming you have done as much as you can but evacuation is needed, what should you do then? Well this is simple call 112. However what if you pull your phone out and there is no signal? Well don’t despair 112 might still work. But before you call the emergency services, there is something I recommend you do. If you are lucky enough to have a smart phone, go to location settings, you will be able to see your GPS co-ordinates, jot these down in exactly the same format as they appear on the phone. Then try and make the emergency call. If it won’t connect, turn 90º and try again and so on until you have completed a full square. The reason for this is that there may be a cell tower behind or to the side of you that when turning the phone’s antenna can just pick up.

Then say “Auyda / Help GPS …………” and give your GPS co-ordinates before anything else. The reason behind this is that all 112 calls are recorded. There might be just enough mobile phone signal to tell them where you are before the signal is lost.  At least that way they will know where you are to send someone out to find you. Then of course if the call holds, tell them the nature of the incident how many are in your party and any other information you can. Most importantly of all, stay calm and speak clearly. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish talk calmly in your native tongue.

Here in Spain you can also try to send a txt message to 112. The advantage of this is it will send when coverage is reached. Don’t rely on this method as you don’t know who’s at the other end.

If you’re on your own and you cannot get a signal I’m afraid you face the real possibility of spending a night on the mountains. This is where our 2 main points from the start of the article come into play. 1) whoever you told will notice you’re not back and alert the emergency services and 2) the kit you are carrying in your rucksack will be able to keep you safe until help comes.

When something stressful happens our body reacts in a very specific way, Adrenaline (Epinephrine) kicks in, our heart rate increases as well as our breathing.  This can be bad news if you have sustained a cut and are losing blood. The faster you heart pumps the quicker you lose blood so at the same time you are attending to you wounds, try to calm down. A very good technique is called square breathing this involves taking a breath in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds and waiting for 4 seconds. Adopting this method will help you easily to calm down.

Then take stock of your situation, you will need your wits about you to get through the next 24 hours.  In survival we like to refer to the rule of 3 which reminds us how long we can survive without certain things, it goes:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

And whilst 3 hours without shelter is probably a bit extreme for out mild climate here in Mallorca the rule of 3 gets us to prioritise what’s urgent in the order that it’s needed.

Photographer, Vicki McLeod, Sa Trapa, Sant Elm, Mallorca


So first things first: find shelter. If the injury you has sustained is serious you may well be going into shock which is a serious medical condition, you may have very little time until the Adrenaline wears off so every minute counts. Never try to complicate things, there are very few Bear Grylls or Ray Mears qualified people out there. So if you can find a natural shelter use it. There is no architectural price for shelter building your main and only focus is to get out of the elements. Another side effect of shock is risk of hypothermia so you will want to get a fire started as soon as you can. Carrying a disposable lighter in your rucksack or the type of lighter that is wind resistant is of paramount importance. Again there are no prizes for how you get a fire started so long as you do.  The easiest way to build a fire is in the pyramid format. You start with very fine tinder on the bottom (or our cotton wool and fire starter from out kit) followed by slightly larger twigs called kindling then gradually getting bigger until you have logs around the size of your upper arms. You don’t need anything bigger at this stage. Keep it fuelled and gather as much firewood as you can as you will be surprised at how quickly it burns.

Another advantage of fire is it can be seen from a great distance. The general rule of survival is 3 x lit fires next to each other signifies distress. But failing that, putting lots of greens on your current fire will produce a plume of smoke that likewise can be seen for many kilometres.


The next important step is hydration. It’s very important to stay hydrated during a stressful situation. So check how much water you have and make sure to drink regularly. I would say at least 50ml every hour providing you have enough to last a day or two.  Remember you don’t know how long you will be stuck in your current position. There are many different ways to purify water should you have access to it, such as boiling it for 5 mins. Despite what you might think water can be boiled in a plastic bottle or even a paper bag so long as the flame doesn’t directly touch the vessel and there is enough water on the heated side.  The fact of the matter is that even impure water might take around 5 -7 days to make you sick so if you need to drink just drink. Remember the drinking straw in our kit; use it to suck water from an overhead rock. Water naturally filters when passed through rocks so it would be a better way to drink water than for example a puddle.

To summarize, keep calm, take action and stay focused you will soon find out that having a routine will help not just physically but also mentally as well.

Follow the above steps and you will have the maximum chance of survival in the mountains.

The final advice I would offer is joining hiking group there are many out there some who charge and some that are free. Either way you will be safer with more people to help and chances are the route will be properly planned and no doubt you will have more experienced walkers a long side to help should anything go wrong. Remember the best way to survive in the mountains is not to take risks in the first place.

I know it’s a lot to take in but please don’t be put off walking in the mountains, we are blessed here in Mallorca with many beautiful routes which offer breath-taking scenery and are in fact very safe.

For anyone interested I can offer a FREE basic mountain survival course to cover not only all of the above but also what kit you should carry and why. If interested please register by emailing me or visit which is a not-for-profit website where I hope to share my survival skills.

Photographer, Vicki McLeod, Sant Elm, Sa Trapa, Mallorca


Nowadays you will find there are many devices and apps on the market that can help you with your hiking here are some that I suggest:

Spot Messenger:

The spot messenger is a satellite one way communicator with S.O.S function. If you find yourself in trouble push the S.O.S button and so long as you have line of sight of the sky, the message will be transmitted and someone will come looking for you. What’s great about this unit is the GPS co-ordinates are transmitted with the message so the emergency services know exactly where you are. There is also a tracking feature where every 10 mins your position is transmitted and people can follow your trip on a Google maps type browser. This particular unit needs to be purchased and has a yearly subscription. The other advantage of this unit is you can take out an additional insurance policy from GEOS which will send out a rescue team should local services not be able to attend immediately.

Delorme Inreash SE:

Like the Spot this is also a satellite messenger however it has 2 main advantages over the Spot. The main one being that it is a two way communicator meaning you can receive messages as well as send them. Not only is this useful for keeping friends updated about your trip but also in a survival situation you can advise the emergency services of what the issues are. Again this has a dedicated S.O.S button as well as a tracking feature. The subscription is monthly but you get a lot for your money and I personally won’t leave home without my one even if I am just going to the shops.

The other advantage is that it works of the Iridium satellite network which currently is the only network to offer 100% pole to pole global coverage. It means that if you are in a boat it will work in any sea in any country.


A GPS (Global Positioning System) handset is a great way not only to tell you where you are but also where the nearest town, village or more importantly where you parked your car in the case you find yourself lost. They normally have the option to plan your route upfront meaning you have less chance to stray and get lost. The carry an initial cost but as there is no communication facility there are subscription free. There are many makes on the market but if you don’t know where to start Garmin are a well-known brand with many levels of handsets.

Phone Battery booster:

There is nothing worse than running out of battery power on your phone as we mentioned above. With today’s “battery hungry” apps even a fully charged mobile can run out by the end of the day. I get around this by always carrying an additional power source. In fact I have 2. The first is a power jacket which is like a case for my phone, it slips on the back of the phone and when I turn it on will charge my phone fully. Other than the weight you can hardly notice it’s attached. Then the second is a solar powered trickle charged battery bank with universal charging cables. I strap this to the top of my rucksack meaning that whilst hiking its continually topped up and can charge my phone fully one and a half times.  On a sunny day it would also provide me with enough power to make an emergency call thanks to the solar panel.


Apps are a great way of being prepared most are free. Here are the ones I recommend:

  • St Johns Ambulance app:

As mentioned above a great first aid app that’s easy to use.

  • Rain Alarm:

A highly accurate rain app that hasn’t let me down yet it will show you the direction of the rain as well as the intensity, which knowing before it rains helps you better plan your route ahead and stops you getting caught in the open in the middle of a thunder storm.

  • One touch S.O.S:

For urban as well as rural areas, providing you have mobile coverage and your location services enabled pushing the big S.O.S button will send up to 3 pre-set messages out to your 3 chosen contacts to let you know you’re in trouble as well as where you are.

  • Find My Friends:

Again this app needs mobile coverage but it’s a great way to keep tabs on your family members. Even in the mountains it will transmit your location as and when the mobile signal is available. It also has an emergency feature.

  • Signal Finder:

This apps runs in the background of your smart phone so can cause battery drain but it will show you the location of the nearest signal tower, which is very useful if you need to make an emergency call.


New Year, New Yous (PT 2)

Last week we revealed the first batch of Resolutioneers who have set their intentions for 2015: Adam, who wants to take up fighting again, Aimee who wants to stop multitasking, Diane who has vowed to stop drinking wine, Yucca who wants to get back into her car again after having her leg amputated and Helen who is learning new skills in order to help the Cancer Support Group. This week we have the rest of the class of 2015. Wish them well, some of them have set themselves quite big goals.

Sally Trotman Sally Trotman

“I want to develop my singing career”

Sally actually has three resolutions. 1) To develop her professional singing career as a wedding singer and to keep her hand in she’s going to start going to Open Mic nights. 2) To find ‘Mr Right’ (does he exist I wonder, she’s hopeful) and to do that she’s going to join the local church choir which she hopes will be a good way to meet new people. And 3) To develop her Astrology work as she is also a professional astrologer and wants to get herself published in the UK. So three big steps for Sally.  Will she be in print in a UK paper by Easter?

Mathilde RecoqueMathilde Recoque

“I want to learn to play guitar”

Mathilde who runs Century 21 in the Balearics is from a large family. When she and her son went home for Christmas her sisters sat around the living room and played guitar for them. “I really wanted to join in; it’s so wonderful to be able to play an instrument. I’ve promised myself by next Christmas I will be able to play along with them”. Mathilde has enlisted the help of a very talented musician, Benji, son of Tracey Evans to help her learn, and she also has her friend Charlie who is ready and willing to help her. I’m expecting at least a version of Smoke on the Water by Easter.

Frank Leavers Frank Leavers

“I want to quit smoking”

When I catch up Frank he’s already stopped smoking. “23.52 on New Year’s Eve” he tells me. “I’d been meaning to do it for ages. I started smoking at 16 and I’m now 63. I’ve got to do it now, for myself, and my grandkids: we’ve got four and there’s another one on the way.”  I’ve always known Frank to be a smoker, but apparently a lot of others have been surprised when they find out about his vice, “I’ve always been discreet, lots of people didn’t know I was a smoker. I’ve never smoked in front of my grandkids but I did smoke in front of my children when they were younger.” He says he’s doing pretty well but thinks that he might start to struggle more when the summer comes along, “I used to like sitting in my back garden with a glass of wine and a smoke”. Like many smokers he wasn’t even enjoying it when he gave up, “It is part of the reason I’ve stopped, I feel quite glad, and I hope that I’ve packed it up for good. There used to be a kind of smokers’ camaraderie, you know you’d all go outside to smoke, but now I’m the only person going outside, everyone else has given up and you ask yourself, Why am I doing this? It’s pathetic.” Frank has one piece of advice for spouses of smokers, “Don’t nag. Nagging doesn’t work, it has totally the opposite effect”. Good luck mon brave, hope to see you at Easter still smoke free.

Richie Prior Richie Prior

“I want to get fit again”

I meet up with Richie outside of Nice Price in Portals. We’re there because we’ve decided they have the best crisp selection as they are his weakness. “I want to get fit and feel better in myself. I’m going to drop the crisps and restart Bikram Yoga which I do in Palma. I’ve run two marathons in the past so I know I can do it”. We talk about deadlines and goal setting and measure his waistline. He says by Easter he will have lost 10cm from his tummy. If you hear any rustling noises whilst he’s doing the Radio One Breakfast Show then you might want to enquire what it is he’s eating, hopefully not Wotsits.

Lesley Woodward Lesley Woodward

“I want to write a blog about my creative process”

Lesley is an artist specialising in embroidery and mixed media, creating collages using papers and fabrics – dyed, painted, stitched, or any combination of the above – usually layered and replete with elements of pattern. Her work includes framed wall pieces and wall hangings. Having been inspired by the book `Share like an artist´ she has decided to start a blog about her work. Showing and explaining the processes. A lot of the visitors to her website are from textile and design students and because she taught at The London College of Fashion she thinks this could be a worthwhile extension of her work. You can get her off to a flying start by liking her on Facebook: LesleyWoodwardEmbroideryMixedMedia Lesley hopes by Easter to have mastered the digital world, with a little bit of help from her friends and myself as well.

Julia Ball Julia Ball

“I want to start my dream business”

Julia is in the process of launching a Bridal & Communion Gown & Apparel shop. “I have off the peg designer gowns from England and Australia and bespoke dresses that I have designed, and all of the communion dresses will be bespoke. I have an occasions cart for hire for all events, bespoke jewellery, tiaras, and shoes. I really want people to enjoy the process of choosing the dress so we will be doing the fittings in a downstairs lounge in my new shop. I am really passionate about brides having the dress that they dream of wearing but at a reasonable price. I have done so much research that I know I can beat the wedding boutiques in Palma and offer a much better service”. On the day that I visit Julia she has just signed the lease for her shop in Cas Catala, on the same parade as the Allen Graham shop. “I want to open it in March, we will be looking for REAL women, not stick thin models, but real looking women who want to model for us. I’m SO excited!” So by Easter I am hoping to visit Julia and try on one of her frocks (being one of those non-stick thin women she’s looking for).


I’m going to chase up these intrepid “Resolutioneers” around Easter and see how they have got on so far. If you have anything you can offer them to help them on their way to achieving their goals then please get in touch. You can email me at