Peacocks in Paradise by Anna Nicholas
This book begins as it continues, with full immersion into Anna and “the Scotsman’s” world of house and huge garden in Mallorca. Married with a son who is travelling the world, Anna is a keen explorer of her adoptive country and its wildlife. She has work online, and gets fully involved in local life, from greeting the delivery people while out on a run, to spending time with the producers of local drinks, soaps, edibles and much more. Anna is a runner and a walker, who with a friend takes on challenges such as climbing the local peaks with all the issues of a varying landscape. Her home and garden includes an orchard and room for hens, cats and even an attention seeking peacock. They adopt all manner of animals, including abandoned kittens and “broken wings”. She has conversations with Johnny, the biggest of the toads who spends much of the year on the pond.
This is a gentle exploration of a lifestyle which many would envy, even though Anna only sees her British friends rarely. She has a genuine concern for those creatures who cannot find a home elsewhere, though sometimes knowing it will cause problems, such as tiny kittens who will need frequent feeding. She gets involved in local environmental activities, such as beach cleaning and helping raise awareness of the plight of sea turtles. It is a detailed and lovingly written book in which Anna and her husband enjoy local drinks with friends and the olives, tomatoes and other local produce. It is a very positive book packed with seasonal and other activities, details of walks and climbs, and the multitude of creatures that cause all sorts of challenges in the house and attached land. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
There are lots of themes that run throughout the book, such as the Scotsman’s inability to work the coffee maker and his show of reluctance to take on any more animals. Fortunately there are those friends who will offer alcohol and the couple share a similar pun based sense of humour. Anna still has contacts in Britain who need her advice and input, including a hypochondriac teacher and a semi-scrupulous businessman called Greedy George. She gives advice to a local character on his diet and exercise, while visiting an award winning olive tree. This is a plentiful island with lots of fruit falling from every tree and plant. Anna and her friend Alison go for long walks and hikes on the local peaks with and without guides, and the landscape becomes a large part of the book. There is a contrast with Anna visiting a friend who manufactures soap using as many local products as possible. There are problems with flooding in the orchard and rescues of animals, vehicles and more. There are many technical descriptions of alcohol production from fermentation to sampling the finished product.
Anna has a fine way of presenting information that is carefully researched amongst the gentle humour of local misunderstandings. It is an entertaining and enjoyable book which describes a lifestyle where animals are fed, small mysteries such as missing chillies are solved, and wealthy business people are sorted out. It reveals a genuine love of an unusual countryside, and the desire to celebrate a variety of activities. In a sense it is travel writing, but is much more in the sense that it looks at those who have chosen to immerse themselves in a country with all its possibilities. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in a lifestyle dominated by animals, landscape and the possibilities of friendship in a land of plenty.