We’ve just returned from our first foreign holiday as a family, having spent a week on the Spanish island of Majorca (or Mallorca, for the proud Catalans among you). I’m trying to convince myself it’s not the end of the world and that there are lots of good things about being back – and to this end I’ve compiled a list to remind me why it’s so good to be here. I’m slightly unnerved by the ease with which I did so though; perhaps I didn’t have as good a time as I thought…
Hot hot hot – it was regularly closing on 40C during the hottest part of the day. It’s easy dealing with the cold, you just put more layers on and find fun ways to expend some energy. But there’s only so much you can take off when it’s too hot, and sitting still has rarely been something that has appealed to me. One of my favourite days was when I spent most of it in our air-conditioned apartment watching the Olympics while everyone else went swimming. The damp, tepid summer’s evening on our return to East Mids airport was almost welcome.
I swim like a bowling ball – everyone has to have an Achilles heel, and mine is that I simply don’t float. I never learned to swim as a child and although I picked up some rudimentary skills later in life, I remain unable to swim aerobically and panic when I get water in my nose. I don’t mind spending a good amount of time splashing round in a pool, especially one which isn’t very busy as ours generally wasn’t, but there’s a limit and I hit mine a day before the end of the break.
Oily – when it’s 40C and you have the complexion of a Norwegian, it’s important to either cover up or slather up. Being in and out of the water meant I was having to apply sun cream three times a day, and spent most of the week feeling like an oven-ready chicken. By the time each day came to an end I was desperate for a shower.
Other people’s bathrooms – the apartment we stayed in belonged to a friend and was very nice, but I did long for my own shower. I know its foibles, I revel in its power, and most of all, I have a combi boiler so don’t need to remember to turn the hot water on an hour beforehand. Cool showers are a relief after a day in the sun but cold showers are evil.
Other people’s beds – unusually for a holiday apartment, our bed was king size, which, with me at over six foot and the heat meaning bodily contact was (largely) to be avoided, was a blessing. But the mattress was less than perfect (some very narrative dents) and the bad back I had at the start of the week got steadily worse throughout. Within two days of getting home it was gone. Possibly coincidence but I suspect not.
Air con – another absolute blessing given the merciless heat, but the need to have it on at night gave me a mouth like a gorilla’s slipper and every time I woke up I thought it was tipping it down with rain outside because of the noise. It probably contributed to that bad back.
Real money – there’s something about foreign currency that prevents you fully appreciating how much you are spending, even if you diligently work back each transaction you make. As a result you spend far more profligately than you would do in Torquay. Or Brighton. Or Hexham.
The Olympics – we watched a lot of this from our apartment and enjoyed every minute. I am an unashamed patriot and took great pride in the achievements not only of the athletes but of the many people who made the whole shebang go so well. But one of the reasons for timing our holiday when we did was so we would be back in time to be there in the flesh – both to experience the atmosphere, but also because we had tickets for one event, with my wife playing in her band at another event the following day. I am a fan of London anyway but what an amazing place it has been to be over the last week.
Flying visit – I love flying. I don’t like queueing, or eating the laughably poor food, or trying to wee while taking account of turbulence. I don’t like sitting next to people who are large, inconsiderate, smelly, loud, or an unfortunate combination of all of those things. I don’t like sitting on the plane while the pilot tries repeatedly to get the engine going, listening to Annie Lennox singing “Why” on repeat. But I love the sensation of take-off, I love being above the clouds in a perpetually sunny day, I love trying to recognise parts of the landscape beneath me, and I love coming in to land over cities at night. I enjoy the flight no less for being in the wrong direction, however much less the destination appeals.
Food – I’ve commented before (in the same article as above) that Spain is not a happy holiday destination for your everyday vegetarian. My wife has relented in recent months and will now eat fish when eating out, which makes a big difference, particularly abroad. But where we stayed had one decent eatery across the road alongside two rather poorer ones and then little else for several miles down the coast. We didn’t fancy spending much of the holiday cooking or driving, so the food was not a highlight. Only one thing on our minds on returning home – curry!
I’ve delved repeatedly into the curry stockpile for recipes through the course of the last couple of years, but curries help add variety to vegetarian food, so here’s another one to enjoy. My youngest likes this one as we make it mild, serve it with naan and tell him it’s Indian beans on toast.
Chickpea and spinach curry (serves 2-3)
- 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 300g young or baby leaf spinach
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1-2 green chillies, seeded and sliced
- 300g cherry tomatoes, chopped (or 400g tin of chopped tomatoes for speed but leave out half the water if so)
- 400g tin full of water
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- a few mint leaves, finely chopped
- handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- glug of oil
Fry onion and garlic in oil slowly until softened and starting to go golden. Add chillies, spices and salt, and cook through for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, then turn down heat when it starts to bubble, and leave for 4-5 minutes to soften the tomatoes down. Add the chickpeas, heat through, then add the water and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes or until chickpeas have softened sufficiently. Remove cover, stir through spinach, coriander and mint, and turn up heat for three minutes or so to bubble some of the liquid off and wilt the spinach.
Serve with rice if you don’t fancy the beans on toast approach.