Are we defeated before we’ve begun the fight? | M.A. CAÑELLAS

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Last year, my sister and I had a cynical wager that as soon as Christmas loomed this year, a spectacular and scary strain of the Covid virus would suddenly appear like a malevolent genie and we’d all be shut down again. Miracles happen at Christmas, after all, and so it is that the new ‘nu’ virus (hastily re-named Omicron by WHO) has reared its Santa-capped head in time to destroy the festive season. Rumour has it that Nu was replaced because the following letter in the Greek alphabet would have been Xi, and giving the next nasty variant the same name as the Chinese president could have created a diplomatic disaster.

My family members currently reside in London, Poland and France and so I am wondering who will be able to join us at Christmas, given recent icy news blasts. The gloom and doom merchants are out in force. No doubt governments will soon advise that all festive gift packaging should be bordered in black as a mark of respect for those of us who will no longer be post the non-festive festivities. I was chatting to a doctor recently and joked that I had a book to write so hoped that I would make it past Christmas. He eyed me cheerlessly and said he hoped so too.

So, if we’re to believe the ever-so responsible world media, heavy cough, it won’t only be the turkey that’s well and truly stuffed this season and blamelessly we’ll have cooked our own goose too. None of us, despite having the vaccines, boosters and roosters, will feel safe with the nu you viral strain doing the rounds. It will be the reason and tinsel season for closed cafés and bars, restricted opening hours in shops, cancelled flights, and fear will course through the veins of the timorous like a wild and unstoppable forest fire.

“Are you worried?” asked a friend in London via Zoom, shaking with all the vigour of a chilled whippet. Frightened? I think back to my favourite words of Franklin D Roosevelt delivered to thunderous applause in 1932: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” We are in a maelstrom of our own making. Are we defeated before we’ve begun the fight?

It’s time to man and woman up and to think about how to navigate out of the current crisis with as much poise, sang froid and determination as can be mustered in spite of having no ultimate control. I think about all the crazy, dare-devil, absurd and life-threatening capers that I’ve participated in (voluntarily) around the world during my life and that I’ve survived. And yet recently, ambling along a well-trodden hike in the mountains, I badly fracture my wrist in two places. Life is hazardous, mean and black-humoured.

It plays with us, taunts us and ultimately has the last laugh but for heaven’s sake let’s have fun and be as brave as we can along the way. If we die on that journey, so be it. All I care about is knowing that I squeezed all the pips out of life, loved and lived well.

I will leave you with this from Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Boiling mad

It’s never nice to be taken for a fool and yet my husband and I came a cropper when we recently decided to have our annual boiler check. We have been clients of Baxi Roca for many years and the company engineers are always friendly and professional. This time, my husband mislaid Baxi’s telephone number and so sought assistance from the web. He rang what he thought was the company which sported a Baxi logo online and was told that Baxi engineers would arrive two days hence and that indeed we had an account.

Two South American men duly appeared, cleaned our boiler and also changed our thermostatic hand control. They charged close to €500 for their work. Ten minutes after their departure, the control stopped working. It was the weekend and the rains and cold weather had kicked in. Unable to control our heating, we had a miserable and chilly time but needed to wait until Monday for the office to re-open. Early on Monday, we discovered that we had neither heat nor hot water and in the blinding rain went outside to view the boiler. We discovered that these cowboys had left its door hanging open and cables were strewn on the ground.

We rang the company and they churlishly agreed to return in a day’s time. We had no heat or hot water - all due to their incompetence. The same two men returned, put the cables back in cavalier fashion, and shook the thermostatic control to get it to work. No sooner had they left than it failed again. They refused to return or compensate us.

Finally, after inundating one of the men with text messages, he furiously offered us another number which turned out to belong to the real Baxi Roca. They’d never heard of the two men and had not visited our home although they said they were due to visit for the annual check.

They sent a lovely engineer who checked our boiler and replaced the faulty thermostat. He warned us that pirates of this kind were operating in Palma and using their good name online. We are €500 poorer but happy that the real Baxi Roca saved the day. We will never lose the number again. The greatest irony is that it was on the boiler itself all the time.

Anna Nicholas’s seventh Mallorca travel title, Peacocks in Paradise, is now available to purchase at all good UK bookshops & via amazon. In Majorca it’s available at Universal Bookshop, Alameda shop in Soller and the Atelier in Fornalutx and in Palma bookshops.