National disasters in any form always flag up immediate concern, whether a mindless mass shooting, an earth-shattering quake, a flood, or a major traffic accident. Yet, disasters on the home-front, although never quite so catastrophic, can also be equally disturbing. And I don’t mean island based disasters occurring here in Mallorca. I was thinking much closer to home. In fact, right in the home, which in retrospect might not seem comparable to front page headliners, but in their own small way, quietly devastating.
Most of my biggest disasters have always revolved around food and entertaining, so probably top of that list would be the big 'no show event!' When we first moved to Mallorca eighteen years ago, we were very British in our outlook, even though we thought we were being soooo uber Mallorcan, and invited a dozen locals to a formal dinner party in appreciation of their friendship.
Well, nothing wrong with that you might think! With years of entertainment experience in our wake, we went gaily down the English route, invited the group, then planned for weeks in advance. We wanted to impress our local guests with our infallible English flair, so created a five course gourmet meal to start at 8pm with cocktails on the terrace around 7.30pm, not realising at the time that most Mallorcans would consider that a late lunch!
9 O'Clock came and went. 9.30pm approached and we got twitchy. The canapés were decidedly miffed that no one had yet arrived. At 10 O'Clock we started phoning around. The excuses came innocently enough, without guilt or apology. “Oh, is it today?” “Sorry, Biel is at a funeral.” “Xesca has gone to a rock concert.” “Marti and his partner are in bed having a late siesta!” Marga had simply forgotten completely. Marilena and Jesus were in Minorca, etc. etc. We simply didn’t understand that party invites were taken so casually in Mallorca. Unless of course they are written in blood! You either turn up or you don't. It doesn't seem to bother the locals as they have grown up with that casual philosophy, and are very easy with the arrangement. But it did rather bother us.
Everyone we phoned suddenly panicked, quickly got ready, and in true Mallorcan style, rallied round wearing huge smiles not far short of midnight. The food was naturally 'a little over', but again, no-one was really bothered! They devoured the tired banquet, drank the drink, and chatted happily into the early hours having a grand old time. In fact, we couldn't get rid of them! Even our cat delivering a two foot long hairball, complete with sound effects, under the glass topped dining table didn't deter their enthusiasm. But then she did miss everyone’s shoes!
“We must do this again,” they said - not meaning the unsavoury spectacle of watching Missy throw up in slow motion. But we didn't! We quickly learnt that most Mallorcans don't really 'do' British dinner parties with formal set courses. They prefer a rustic lunch, an informal barbeque or an impromptu get together where you're not really missed if you don't turn up. Come to think of it, so do we now. All that stuffy etiquette is now a thing of the past. And it really is much easier all round for everyone involved.
Another disaster on the home-front involved raisin wine, which I made from a 'Drink Your Entire Garden' book, that was supposedly ready to imbibe within three weeks! Store it somewhere mildly warm, said the recipe, which incidentally made three bottles. Two of my bottles had corks. One had a screw top. I stored the miracle wine in the bottom of the airing cupboard, and two weeks later, curiously opened one bottle to see how the 'brew' was coming along. The screw top was the closest. 'Psssttttt!' came the gassy sound of air escaping as I unscrewed the cap. "Oh, it’s going to be a sparkling wine," I proclaimed, re-screwing tightly and replacing the bottle back with the others where they remained, completely forgotten.
Four months later, friends came round for dinner. Hugo was heavily into home made wine and presented us with a bottle of his vintage 'elderberry'. "Oh, I’ve made a sparkling wine," I boasted, suddenly remembering my fizzy effort in the airing cupboard. I returned with my screw-top. Cathy and Hugo were seated on our newly upholstered sofa. "Listen to this!" I exclaimed, hoping to re-create the delicate 'Psssttttt!' as I unscrewed the cap.
'BOOM!' Foaming wine shot from the bottle neck like a fire hose in one, seriously fierce, constant jet that simply wouldn't stop. Cathy was in the direct firing line and got drenched from highlights to heels. Eventually, the flow ebbed and I rushed to the kitchen sink with the culprit.
"Wow!" exclaimed Hugo. "You were so lucky." (meaning the sofa was safe) as Cathy had absorbed the entire bottle, which incidentally smelled and tasted like cheap brandy. "Lucky!" screamed Cathy, who spent the rest of the evening in my dressing gown, wringing out her hair. To this day she still twitches at the sight of a sultana!
The other two bottles we exploded ourselves outside, rather than involving a bomb disposal unit! Needless to say, I have never made 'raisin fizz' again, although hmm, now that I think about it…!
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