Normal service will be resumed

The medical form....

The medical form….

Regular readers of this column will have noticed that I have been anything but regular recently with my column, and for that I apologise. I’ve been getting to know the Spanish health system. Now it’s nothing to worry about, I’m not about to announce a terminal disease or a pregnancy but I have been coping with a new and unexpected development. I’ve become one of those people who has back problems, despite my indignant denial of the situation.

Which is how I found myself in Son Espases Hospital at 9.30am a couple of Sundays ago waiting for an MRI. There is a little known skill that a Britisher has to develop once they have moved to Spain: the ability to recognise their surname when a Spanish person pronounces it in a waiting room. You don’t want to jump up and cry “Ese soy yo!” and then be embarrassed to realise that they have in fact just called Senora Mendoza, crivens no, that wouldn’t do at all to draw attention to one’s self would it? On top of that there is the immense translation task which is the medical questionnaire, in Catalan. Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to Mallorca we very quickly had to use what was then Son Dureta Hospital for a mystery illness (which turned out to be a very nasty bout of reactive arthritis) I had to cart around an enormous Spanish English dictionary with me in order to be understand, much to the amusement of the nurses. At least now I can use the Google Translate App on my phone, (if you haven’t got it, get it, it’s free and very handy for tricky vocabulary. I didn’t know the Catalan word “imant” meant “magnet” for example).

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have an MRI. Although I’d seen plenty of them on Casualty, I still turned to my Facebook mates in the group “I have a question” to find out what advice they had for me. “You have to stay still but don’t panic”, “make sure you go for a big wee beforehand”, “it’s quite noisy but it’s okay they give you earplugs”, and “I played an alphabet game in my head to distract me” were the four most key pieces of advice that played through my head (wishing I’d remembered the advice about the wee), as I lay down on the trolley and slowly slid into the tube. I fought off the temptation to have a panic attack when I realised that I was in an expensive coffin-like structure and started to write this column in my head.  My friends were right, it is noisy, but the sounds themselves are very much like what you would expect to hear coming from a teenager’s bedroom: a repetitive twanging guitar sound, one note only, a stuck record (vinyl, remember them, even older than my massive dictionary) and a jack hammer. Well, depends on the type of teenagers you know I suppose.

I’ll be back next week. (See what I did there?).

Vicki McLeod 2014

Sick notes

We have been besieged again with illness. But this time it’s not just us. Evil flu and cold bugs have been spreading around the island. Amazingly, only the women in our house have been affected. La Gidg and I were struck on Saturday afternoon. I think I prematurely sent her back to school on Tuesday as when I picked her up from school she still looked game, but no, within three minutes she was conked out on the back seat. Bad mummy.

It’s pretty normal isn’t it to have to work through illness, especially if you work online, or make yourself available to people to contact you online. Many of my messages in the past three days have read ‘Hi Vicki, sorry that you aren’t very well, could you just do this thing for me….’.  It’s only the click of a mouse after all, right? So I guess I only have myself to blame.  So instead of getting annoyed with myself for not taking some time off to get better faster I asked my Facebook friends for their cures for the common cold. Some of them are pretty sensible, some of them sound pretty unpleasant, but each of them apparently works…. it’s up to you if you try them!

There were plenty of votes for whisky, honey and lemon. Victoria Davis said ‘it won’t cure you but you’ll sleep!’ Natalie Jackson’s dad always went for alcohol and vitamin C although she goes for the more sensible Lemsip.

Quite a few went for garlic.  Belinda Shaw’s granddad used to put cloves of garlic into a bottle of whisky. Garlic, which contains a ­chemical called allicin, can zap the cold viruses that lead to infection.

There were also a lot of votes for cayenne pepper and other spices. Lord Martyn Rose chomps on hot chilli peppers and gets himself around a good curry, he swears by them. Another friend, Alison Garbutt, stands by honey with ground cinnamon. She said she’s been using it every day for over a year and hasn’t had any colds or flu. Certain spices have been found to be beneficial bug fighters, including cayenne pepper, which contains an active ingredient called capsaicin that beats congestion by thinning the mucus in your nasal passages so you can breathe more easily.

Lisa Bonner came up with an unusual one, which I think is a variation on the German ‘wear wet socks’ idea for coughs. She told me to put Vick’s Vapour Rub on my feet and put socks on as it stopped coughs immediately!

You might also want to get stuck into some chicken soup which Selena Garfield said was ‘like Jewish penicillin’.

My more sensible friend, and the only one actually qualified to comment as she is a nurse, Sally Luxmore, said ‘night and day nurse! The old saying is treat a cold and it will last two weeks, let it run its course and it will take a fortnight’. Sage advice there, basically she’s saying there’s nothing you can do. Just drink lots of fluids, get indoors, keep warm, and find someone to supply you with plenty of cups of tea.

If you’re up to it now might be a good time to go and check on any neighbours you have that are elderly, just pop in and say hello. If they’re feeling under the weather they might need a bit of support, so don’t forget to do your good deed!


By Vicki McLeod

Published in the Euro Weekly News 23rd Feb 2012

Que? by Vicki McLeod

I’ve got a big problem with my hearing. There are some things I just don’t seem to be able to catch. Low frequency sounds. It could be all that time I spent wearing headphones when I worked in the theatre another lifetime ago. Perhaps, just like I blew out the bass on the car stereo speakers one day when I played a Jeff Buckley song too loud on a long road trip, I’ve blown out my ear drums (that’s not a great idea, I hope that hasn’t happened, I’m still, ahem, waiting for my new Son Espases appointment). My husband, on the other hand, has crazy high pitched buzzing noises in his ears whenever he gets tired. Sometimes we cannot hear each other there’s so much background noise going on. Thank God there are other ways to communicate: well, you have heard about body language, and it is our anniversary. It’s ten years since we met. In a bar, I was singing in (back when I could hear), in Islington. Feels like yesterday, and another one of those lifetimes ago. So much has happened in the last decade, to us and to the world: financial disaster, marriage, baby, business, home buying, relocation, changing careers, twice, messed up modern families, environmental chaos, the need to own more stuff than you can actually use. Well, that and more, but I only have 500 words here.

So, perhaps this was an opportune moment for Lucy Egg to walk into my life. (I know, crazy name).  I came across her; she’s like a granny in a whirlwind, with attitude, at one of those networking events on the island (they are great, more on that another time). She’s a life and business coach who specialises in relationships. I tell her about mine, not just with my fella, but with my family. It’s all a bit messy. ‘Come on honey, you need to play more’. ‘What?!’ This is serious stuff here, Lucy, this is my life. ‘That’s why you shouldn’t take it so seriously’.  She runs a course on ‘Talking to Men’ which I’m going to go on, I know I need to improve my Spanish, but I also need to improve my ‘man talk’ or better still, my ‘man communication’ (it could be my ears, but I can’t entirely blame them).  So, when I should be celebrating my birthday in February (btw Aquarians rock) I will  be at Bodhana Wellness Centre in Portals trying to learn about how to create better relationships with the men in my life. (I’d like to find a course on ‘Figuring out who to be less mad at’, but she doesn’t run that yet).

In the meantime, how will we celebrate our anniversary? It turns out that we will mainly be flying to the UK and trying to not spend more money than we earn in Big Tescos. As the likelihood of accruing enough points is minimal, the thrill has gone. As ever, I’ll report back.

(published in on Thursday 20th January 2011)

Baby Blues

In the words of Alanis Morrissette, isn’t it ironic? Here we are celebrating the birth of a child 2000 years ago who was born to a poor family, and the Spanish government are in the process of taking away the ‘baby cheque’ for new arrivals born into similarly poor families.

If you know of someone who is heavily pregnant and due any day now don’t be surprised to find them chugging down curry, riding up and down in cars with bad suspension on bumpy roads and clearing out the local Farmacia’s stocks of castor oil. If you can deliver your bundle of joy by December 31st then you will still receive a rather tasty handout from the government of 2’500€, but after that? Sorry, no dice. Apparently gynaecologists have been hearing many pleas for birth inducement and tales of hardship, and we can only speculate how many midwives will not be able to tell the time when it comes to births on New Year’s Eve. Imagine delivering your baby one minute past midnight and knowing you’d missed out on enough money to keep your family going for a couple of months. (To pile irony on top of irony, by the way, not only did Sir Elton and David became proud fathers, Alanis also became a mum on Christmas Day).

Then we also have the old-new problem of bills: energy charges are about to ramp up another 10%, it is cold in Mallorca right now and babies need to be kept  warm and cosy. I have a friend who works in a soup kitchen in Palma, she’s told me about more and more Spanish people queuing for food, whereas before it was more likely to be immigrants from South America or Africa who needed some help. It’s all looking a little bit bleak isn’t it? How can we turn this around and make 2011 a year to look forward to? I’m a great fan of resolutions, but I won’t bore you with my (very predictable) resolutions, although having just spent some time in the wilds of France I can tell you that the ban on smoking in bars will definately work much better in the North of Europe than in the South. It’s far too cold to pop outside for a grouty round here, so I predict lots of people will either a) give up smoking all together or b) go into business as patio heater sales people and make a fortune.

It’s a bit of a sad way to end the year I think, and it looks as if we will all have to find new ways to survive and keep going in the next one. Sticking together, being inventive, working hard and keeping a smile on your face sounds a bit ‘jolly hockeysticks’, but I honestly don’t know any other way of doing it. But, hey, if you are pregnant then congratulations, and let’s be honest, when you’ve just given birth to your brand new baby would it even pop into your mind that you’d missed out on a handout when you’d just won the lottery?


There, but for the grace

There is sickness in our house this week: an awful viral lurgy which has flattened my little girl and has left us in a spin.

It started without any warning, a muttered ‘Mummy?’ followed by an ‘Exorcist’ style projectile vomit session whilst at a child’s birthday party. No fever, no ‘I don’t feel well’, just a hell of a lot of yellow matter on the floor. It was a shock, to her and to me, but now I can see a pattern as exactly the same thing happened at exactly the same time last year. Is it August? Have school holidays made her ill? Is she allergic to having fun (or birthday parties)?

Our doctor (Fernando, he looks a bit like ‘Lurch’ from the Adams Family, but much more communicative) examined her and said ‘It’s a virus, it’s very common at this time of year, give her the water from boiled rice, and these powders with more water to keep her hydrated, if she keeps being sick take her to the hospital’.

She’s a tough chicken my daughter, she doesn’t get sick very easily, but this one is nasty. I struggle with her being ill, it’s hard to know what to do for the best, and she struggles too as she is not used to it. She hates taking the rehydration powders, complaining that they are ‘sour’; we have to make deals with her to get her to take them. She sleeps, then she wakes up, throws up, and becomes bored, tearful and grumpy, then she gets tired and wants to sleep again. When you see your own normally healthy, happy (occasionally maddening) child spectacularly ill, it’s important to try to keep things in perspective.

Earlier in the week I was involved in a meeting to do a fundraising event on September 30th for Respiralia (an organisation here in Mallorca which supports children with Cystic Fibrosis). CF is a genetic disease which affects the lungs and ultimately shortens the life expectancy of the sufferer to their early thirties. At the meeting we set a ‘wishful thinking’ target of 10’000€ to raise on the night. It’s possible, only a few months ago I was involved with a benefit dinner for a very sick little girl and her family which raised well over 11’000€. But part of me wonders if we can do it again, it was such a huge effort, can we repeat it?

I also wondered what we would have done if our daughter had needed the help Respiralia, I don’t know. What I do know is you have to count your blessings, knuckle down with the table plan, start begging for raffle prizes and try to help. Dear reader, if you can help, then don’t be shy, please do. Get in touch with the Euro Weekly News.

(first published 17 August 2010)

Fitness in Mallorca

After some rather unkind comments about how fat I was getting, I decided to do theme of the week on Fitness a couple of weeks ago.

Here are the contact details for the people who I spoke to:

Katie Handyside
Personal Trainer and Nutritionist
Tel: (+34) 636 322 959

She told me that the best thing to do was get moving doing something that I really enjoyed…. just bung on the ipod and get out and about. Any small changes contribute towards a bigger change. She recomended finding motivational music and getting out early in the day so that the exercise was completed before the rest of the day kicked off.

Alexandra Swindells
Clinical Hypnotherapist
Tel: (+34) 620 266 212

Alex told us about the benefits that hypnotherapy can have in helping with motivation to get out and get moving. She also gave us an interesting insight into what it feels like to be under hypnosis.

Anne Mawson
Pickles Ballroom
Tel (+34) 685 593 150

Anne and her partner Ian run Pickles Ballroom in Magalluf. They host Latin In Line classes which individuals can go along to without a partner and enjoy dancing to latin music. She said that it’s often easier to exercise in groups. The Latin in Line classes are pòpular for the benefits you get from dancing – not just fitness, but also increased alertness, and a mood lifter.

Dr Michael Stoma
Tel (+34) 971 676 334

I initially spoke to Dr Stoma about the basic health checks you might like to do before you embark on any particular exercise programme – blood pressure in particular is important, But we then went on to talk about his impending trip to Ghana with physiotherapist Jayne Coombs – they’re off to initiate the set up of a physiotherapy centre in the Dagme Hospital….. So when they return for their travels I hope to speak to them on the air.

If you would like to donate any supplies such as bandages or orthopadic supports please contact Jayne Coombs at 667732992 or to make a donation to the Physiotherapy Clinic Project, East Dagme Hospital through