Tunnel Visions

It may not be a phenomenon specific only to Mallorca, but there are a large number of underground passages and tunnels burrowed into the island’s underbelly. Think of the Roman aqueducts, part over- and part underground, or the Quanats and wells of Moorish origin. Think of the coal mines and the underground Marès quarries. Think of tunnels and shelters built by resistant citizens during the Guerra Civil, the Spanish Civil War. Think of tunnels and caves burrowed by prisoners of war during the Guerra de la Independencia Española (also known as the Peninsular War) below the Castell de Bellver or simply think of fresh water channels and waste-water tunnels built 200 years ago, before the start of the industrial revolution. The Military burrowed extensive tunnel systems into the coastal defense set-ups during the Forties. In Palma, there were extensive underground tunnels for trains of goods and chattels. Nowadays, you have a vast hydraulic waste collection system crisscrossing Palma’s underbelly. I suppose I could go on and on.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to descend into part of the intricate water tunnel system beneath the town of Felanitx. There are two distinct channel systems in Felanitx, both dating from 1830 or thereabouts. One is a grid of water tunnels starting from the Font de Santa Margalida (well) opposite the parish church and reaching to well below the Plaça d’Espanya. Until 25 years ago, these shafts could be accessed and traversed whilst nowadays one can only go as far as the entryway of the tunnelled system. The other grid is a network of tall tunnels for waste water sewage, running the length of both, Passeig d’Ernest Mestre and Carrer de Ses Eres.

I hold an invitation to explore a mile-long tunnel system of Quanats not far from here, in Ses Aigues. I have been there and seen the entry ducts but, as yet have not descended into the tunnel system. If and when I do pluck up the courage and overcome my unease about feeling claustrophobic, I will report back to you.

The photos were taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 30th, 2012. The time was 10:08:04 and 10:11:02, respectively.

Tunnel Visions

Stephen Hawking in Mallorca

Three weeks ago, the popular scientist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking celebrated his 70th birthday. The author of A Brief History of Time was diagnosed with severe symptoms of a type of motor neurone disease from the age of 21. A survival for more than ten years after the diagnosis is unheard of for this illness. In fact, his doctors said at the time that Hawking would not survive more than two or three years.

In 1951, when Stephen Hawking was 8 years old and long before the disease had manifested itself, he came to visit Mallorca for a period of three months. His mother Isobel had just separated from Stephen’s father, Frank Hawking. She came to stay in Deià with her three children on recommendation of Beryl Pritchard, the wife of Robert Graves, the author. Isobel Hawking and Beryl Pritchard had both been studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St. Anne’s College in Oxford.

Several pages are dedicated to Hawking’s visit to Mallorca in the book Wild Olives, Life in Majorca with Robert Graves (ISBN 0-7126-7474-8) by William Graves, the oldest son of Robert Graves and Beryl Pritchard.

The photo shows Stephen Hawking (left) and William Graves in Cannelun, Robert Graves’ house in Deià, in 1951. The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of robertgraves.org.

Thank you very much.

Stephen Hawking in Mallorca

Of European Shags and Eastern European Thugs

I went back to the scene of our bag-snatching robbery yesterday in Es Molinar on the off-chance of finding a stolen laptop computer or else, a sign of the culprits. Instead, I found an idyllic scene of a flock of seagulls and a covey of European Shags (Latin: Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Castellano: Cormorán Moñudo), also known as Common Shags, being members of the cormorant family. The birds were waiting for a catch of fish, I suppose, before I saw them flying away, oblivious to our plight.

For those of you who might be interested in the petty crime scene in Mallorca’s capital, we were alternatively pointed to some housing estate of gypsies, to Latino gangs, to the drug scene of Son Banya, to the Moros and the Palma gangland made up of Eastern European thugs. But so far, no luck. Today, in the very early hours, we will try our luck at the Car Boot Sale in Consell. Wish us luck.

The photo was taken in Portixol, Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 28th, 2012. The time was 14:47:21.

Of European Shags and Eastern European Thugs

Mallorcan Almonds

Almonds in Mallorca are not in full bloom quite yet but, the first signs of the imminent beginning of the almond blossom season are apparent all over the island. The mild January weather helped the crop albeit there was a severe lack of rain so far. There may be plenty of almonds this year of a smaller size than usual, unless we get some rain in February. As it happens, rain is forecast for today and tomorrow and snow is forecast in Mallorca’s higher regions above 400 m from tomorrow night.

Our daughter baked a cake last night as a birthday token. She used almond blossoms as part of the decoration (see photo below). The flowers are edible.

The kernels of the bitter almond (Amygdalus communis) are a good source of amygdaline. According to both, Oriental Medicine and alternative medicine, these kernels are anti-carcinogenic. In Chinese pharmacology, the pits are classified as a drug rather than food as they contain cyanide (hydro-cyanic acid). They are used medicinally and are said to combat cancer, stimulate respiration, improve digestion, help reduce blood pressure and arthritic pain and give a sense of well-being. Don’t take my word for it; I am a blogger, not a doctor. If you have any health problems of the kind mentioned above, please consult your doctor.

The town of Son Servera usually holds the Fira de la Flor d’Ametler at the beginning of February. I have not found any dates for this year’s event, yet. If the date and the event get confirmed, I shall let you know.

The photo (top) was taken near Lluchmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 26th, 2012. The time was 15:19:01. The photo (bottom) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 27th, 2012. The time was 19:02:20.

Thank you, Onna.

Mallorcan Almonds

The Twilight Zone

I am happy to report that in almost 25 years of living in Mallorca I have never suffered from any lawbreaking.

Which is actually not quite true. I had my car broken into, windows smashed, some 20 years ago, on two occasions. Once an expensive leather jacket was stolen, and the other time, a cheapish car radio. Then, we had our country house broken into, again on two occasions, also some 15 or 20 years ago. But none of these burglaries or break-ins brought any serious material losses with them; the emotional damage might have been a different matter each and every time.

Yesterday was different, though. I suffered, or rather my female companion suffered, a pretty cold-blooded robbery attack, bang in the middle of  the Palma suburb of Es Molinar, on a relatively busy street, not too late at night. The assault made us feel as if we were in a bad movie, a bit unreal really, a bit like in the Twilight Zone.

What I wanted to tell you about, though, is how the law dealt with it, and this is the good news about an otherwise unpleasant experience. First, we went back to our car. Then we proceeded to the nearest Guardia Civil station known to me. There were three guards at the entrance to the post, a male and two female, all uniformed and armed to the hilt. We were not invited in but told that we would have to make our way to the Policía Nacional as the Guardia Civil would not deal in such criminal matters. When I inquired about the nearest Policía Nacional station there was quite a bit of humming and hahing, as if the officers were unsure as to where to send us. Eventually we were directed to the Paseo Mallorca. That’s were we went.

We were not allowed into the main building there but were redirected to a separate entrance dealing with Denuncios. We were dealt with in a friendly and efficient manner, although I have to say that we spent the best part of two hours reporting the juvenile bag snatching. We were given telephone numbers and a free phone line to cancel the stolen credit cards and mobile phones. We were given competent advise and a courteous treatment. My companion could not present identification as all that was stolen together with passport, mobile phone, laptop computer, camera and whatnot, but hey, her Spanish residence number came up on the screen in no time and, presto, the rest was easy. Two documents were fashioned with five copies each, a total of 20 signatures between the Denunciante and the police officer, and some 20 stamps were impressed upon the papers.

Halfway through the lengthy procedure I need to go to the toilet. There were, apparently, no such facilities in the building. I was directed to a bar some way away, as all the closet ones were closed at this time of night (23h00). When I found the bar, a group of youngsters, not older than 21 or 22, was cheerfully assembled in there, all seemingly tattoo embellished. On second glance I spotted from their t-shirts that they were in fact all CNP officers (Cuerpo Nacional de Policía), albeit of the Motorbike Brigade, and quite obviously off-duty by now.

If you ever needed to have your handbag and/or laptop stolen, it might not be less painful here in Spain but it would seem more relaxed, more human and more colourful. And the bag snatchers, three youngsters of no more than 15 or 16 years of age, seemed full of canny, street-wise chutzpah. In a way I admired their astute temerity.

If you are offered a newish Mac Book Pro with a French keyboard at a knock-down price here in Mallorca, any time soon, please let me know.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 8th, 2011. The time was 23:03:49.

The Twilight Zone

The Matança Monologues

I went to the theatre in Manacor last night, to see Acorar by Toni Gomila. It was a bit like The Vagina Monologues but instead of sexual tribulations it was about Mallorca’s favourite pastime, the Matança (slaughtering the pig). I liked the one-man monologue performance very much even though it was in colloquial Mallorquín and not always easy to absorb. But the show was very well acted and well set-en-mise. The house was packed; apparently Manacor has quite a long-established theatre tradition. If you should happen to like the native idiom and favour a passionate discourse about some essential Mallorcan character traits, you can line up for tickets in Capdepera (January 27th), Santanyí (January 28th), Manacor (January 29th), and soon in Lloseta, Artà, Porto Cristo, etc. (February dates to be confirmed). The author is performing the clever script himself.

I was disappointed though for a different reason. I had imagined that the performance would be given at the new auditorium in Manacor, inaugurated only recently. I am feverishly up in arms against the idiocy of building a new theatre cum concert hall facility in a place like Manacor when the very town has a superbly equipped and well-functioning theatre with four salas of different sizes and capacities, only built some 20 or 30 years ago. Apparently, the new auditorium has cost 6,000,000 €, not including the usual cost overruns, and excluding the technical installations. It may be for this technical deficiency that The Matança Monologues had to be put on at the old theatre. Now Manacor has a multi-million venue which they can’t use until La Crisis is over and done with. Politicians are very good at wasting the taxpayers money and in getting their priorities wrong, again and again. Idiots.

The photo was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Spain. The date: January 25th, 2012. The time was 21:12:19.

The Matança Monologues

Haute Couture, Made in Calonge

This may or may not interest you. I am writing about it because things like the following interest me.

There is a small village between Felanitx and Cala d’Or with probably the world’s highest concentration of fashion designers. The pueblo is called Calonge; it belongs to the jurisdiction of Santanyí. Calonge has no more than perhaps 980 inhabitants, but, hey: Calonge is home to two of the more eminent fashion designers that the world of Haute Couture fashion has seen over the last 20 years or so.

The older one is called Miquel Adrover (1965). He went to New York in 1995 and started designing his own woman’s fashion collection in 1999. Between then and 2004, he presented eight collections in NYC (see photo above). He was nominated for the Vogue Fashion Award in 2000 as the best avant-garde designer of the year. Some of his fashion designs are held in the V & A Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Bellevue Art Museum in Washington and the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in Madrid. In the aftermath of 9/11, Miquel Adrover abandoned the US market and returned to Europe. He currently works and designs for a German fashion label, Hess Natur.

The younger one’s name is Sebastian Pons (1972). He went to London in the 90s to study at the Central Saint Martins College before he started to work for Alexander McQueen. In 2003, he joined Miquel Adrover’s team in New York, where he debuted in 2004 with a collection during the New York Fashion Week (see photo bottom). Later this week, Sebastian Pons will travel to New York where he will present his latest designs during the New York Fashion Week, all hand-tailored in Calonge by friends and family members. My wife and our younger daughter were shown some of his latest creations yesterday. I wasn’t there and no photo of the recent designs can possibly be published until after the NYFW presentations.

Both photos shown today are of fashion designs from the 2004 and 2005 collections, respectively. The images were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of migueladrover.com (top) and thefashionspot.com (bottom).

Thank you very much, and

moltes gràcies.

Haute Couture, Made in Calonge