Magaluf

Rotary Walk Success

748A1522“Walking Works Wonders” was the theme of this year’s Charity Walk organised by the Rotary club of Calvia International and over 350 people turned out on Saturday 21 October to make sure that it does. There were over many schoolchildren from the eight International Schools taking part as well as adults, not overlooking a large contingent of canines who joined in too.

748A1553The walk was planned by the Rotary Club with very close collaboration from the Ajuntament of Calvia, the police and an army of volunteers from the Club and other associations on the island. There was a 10km walk for the older children and the fitter adults (and the more energetic dogs) from the Sports Centre in Magaluf to the Agora School in Portals and back. The less young and children and some dog walkers did the 2km walk from the same starting point went but went down through Magaluf and back. All of those walking enjoyed the warm sunshine weather and the social atmosphere.

748A1531The aim was to raise a substantial sum of money for three charities – RANA which focuses on help to prevent child abuse of any description, JoyRon, which raises money for children in the Balearic Islands and in this case, money will go to help meet the cost of constructing and fitting out a cinema in Son Espases for children who are undergoing palliative care. Last but by no means least, money raised will also go to Association Ondine which is trying to preserve the marine environment in the Balearics for the benefit of future generations. Three very worthwhile causes.

748A1527This year too, in association with Association Ondine the Rotary Club Calvia International sought to discourage the use of single use plastic bottles and promoted the use of reusable bottles by providing free water at the start/finish and mid-point of the walk: another positive step by the Club to help others and the environment.

748A1521The International Schools are the main contributors to the walk, not only from their participation on the day of the walk itself but through the young children in the infant schools of some of the schools walking in the grounds of the Schools. Money was raised not only by the Rotary Club charging a registration fee to enter the walk (the fee included some food and refreshments on completion) but a lot of the walkers were sponsored by parents, friends and colleagues.

748A1493After the walk, everyone enjoyed the refreshments and entertainment provided by Izzy Newman and children from BIC as well as a belly dancer. Some even joined in the performance! Casa Corazon a beautiful luxury property development in Son Gual sponsored the after walk refreshments  (www.casascorazon.es), Generali, the insurance company covered the walk’s public liability insurance as they do every year (www.generali.com), Spectrum IFA (www.spectrum-ifa.com) sponsored the water, and Nice Price donated chocolately treats (www.niceprice-mallorca.com).  The Town Hall in Calvia provided their full support for the event.

748A1470Club President thanked all participants for generously giving up their time and the various sponsors for their contribution. It will take time to determine how much money has been raised, currently they have received 5000€ but it is likely that the three charities which are to benefit will not be disappointed.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our Nit de Foc

s’Arracó, forest fire, Mallorca, Oliver Neilson

The view from our office window
Photo by Oliver Neilson

Friday 26th July 2013

4.30pm I’m in Palma with my daughter when I hear about the fire. It’s burning vigorously in Sa Coma which is a few miles away from s’Arracó where we live. Every hour or so I call my husband, who is at home working, and then I start to see my neighbours posting photos on Facebook and Twitter of big, big bellowing clouds of smoke. A quiet anxiety begins to niggle away at me and I ask my husband to get our cats inside, and put them in a room where he can quickly put them in a travel box if need be. The hours go by. The fire moves closer to our house and our village which only the day before had been the stage for a brilliant Night of Art attended by thousands of people.

7.30pm My husband calls, he has to go out to see a client, so he releases the cats and leaves for Bunyola in the middle of the island.

9.30pm My seven year old daughter and I head for home. In Palma the sky is already dark. I know that the fire fighters in the helicopters can’t fly at night as it is too dangerous, so the fires will continue to burn unchecked. But I don’t truly appreciate what this is going to mean.

As we journey home we talk about the fire. I don’t want to frighten my little girl but I also don’t know what to expect. I ask her what three things she would want to take from the house if we had to leave quickly. She says “The three things I would take are Mummy, Daddy and Toffee” (her favourite toy). I explain that she was already on my list. We reach the crest of the hill: the town of Andratx is laid out before us. The sky is on fire. We both gasp.

I start gabbling, over and over, “oh my god, oh my god”. I drive slower than I usually would  through Andratx towards our village as I am not looking at the road; I am looking at the fire. The hills are glowing red, it is as if there is molten lava running down them and I can see flames. We are in a 4D volcano disaster movie. It’s incredible to look at, is it really okay to even be this close to the fire?

We drive from Andratx towards s’Arracó. The sky darkens and I start to think that our village has got away with it. Up, up on the winding country road to the top of the valley bowl, but as I turn the car into s’Arracó I have to slow down to a crawl. The landscape to the right of the village is alight.

When we get to our house which is on the main road of the village I am not surprised to see that all of my neighbours out. It’s a sharp contrast to the 24 hours before when we were all out celebrating the Night of Art and having a wonderful time at our home grown cultural fiesta. Tonight should have been a night to rest after our big party; we were all feeling a bit bleary already.

My opposite neighbours, Carlos and his family, are all on his first floor balcony window gazing at the flames. He is shirtless and wearing only his underpants: the air temperature is still tropical even though it is now 10.30pm. I hear him talking about his land, which is what he is looking at, it is on fire. He keeps animals up there and he hasn’t been allowed by the police to go up to release them.

As soon as we go into our house the cats appear. I decide not to feed them as I want them to stay close in case we need to evacuate. They lie on the cool tiles in the kitchen, chilling their bellies.

My daughter and I pack her things: a change of clothes, toothbrush, Toffee, and two more things special to her. We put them all in her pink suitcase and leave it by the door. Then she watches some TV and ignores the fire. I don’t. I can’t. Every time I look out of my home office window the flames are getting closer to us and filling the view. It’s compelling.

My friends and neighbours in the village keep in touch with each other through Facebook. We are taking photos and updating each other. The roads behind our village which travel off into the hills towards St Elm are closed and the properties there are evacuated by the Guardia. I hear of one family who are told to get out of their house and not expect it to be there in the morning. I don’t feel fear or panic, I feel numb. I can’t comprehend it.

I pack more things. What would we take if we had to evacuate? Passports, papers, work things, computers, cameras, clean pants, cats. Where would we go? We get offers from a lot of friends; we know we will be okay for somewhere to stay. I look at the contents of my house. We have a piano. What if it was burnt? Would the keys be left behind like the instrument’s teeth?

I speak to my father who lives in the Sa Coma valley and has decided to stay in his house with his wife. He thinks the wind has changed and they aren’t in any danger. I decide to believe him as he understands a lot more about wind directions than I do, given that he is a sailor .

11.30pm. The wind is picking up. I stand in our back garden and watch the hills glowing red with patches of embers. It’s beautiful to look at, but deadly to be in. I wonder about the animals that are in harm’s way. The wind is blowing from behind the fire directly towards our house and the rest of the village. The possibility that we will have to evacuate seems very real.

We watch and we decide that if we can see flames on the hills closest to us we will go.  One of my friends on Facebook tells me that if the smoke stings our eyes that it is time to hit the road. Our community vigil begins.

The flames creep over the hills and continue to travel towards St Elm. My friend who lives there reports that Sa Trapa is on fire as well. She is watching and waiting for her time to move as well.

We are in limbo. It’s as if we are all expecting a birth. We are waiting for nature to take its course. I keep busy and tidy the house; I put out the rubbish to be collected, which seems ironic as who knows what is going to happen? Perhaps by the morning there won’t be a house. I pack and prepare as if we are going on a holiday. It feels the same: putting plants in the bath, and doing a load of washing.

12.30pm We sit, we wait, we drink tea. There are a lot of people on the streets, a lot of cars moving around and doors being slammed. Our neighbours are loading their cars as well. Another of our neighbour’s sons is trying to find a safe place to park their car, it’s a classic Mini Moke and he is under strict instructions to get it away.

1.30am Water trucks drive down our street, one after another after another. The hydraulic brakes all hissing at the same point on the curve of the road.  Standing in our garden I can see the tongues of flames licking the palm trees in the distance.

2.30am I lose count of the number of water trucks, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty trips? The police are on the street again. It is the height of summer but the smoky air in s’Arracó makes it smell like winter and Christmas. The hours pass and the flames rage.

4.30am The wind calms and the fire begins to redirect itself.

5.30am The bin men pass by and I smile to myself as they stop to collect our trash. Hope prevails.

6.30am Daylight comes and with it the wind begins again. We can’t see the extent of the damage to our beautiful valley as everything is wrapped in a thick veil of smoke, but I can still see flames. The helicopters start to fly again.  I hear that our friends’ evacuated houses are okay, and it’s then that the tears come.

7.30am The suitcases are still by the door, but we decide to feed the cats. We pray for the wind to be still. The local cockerels start to crow.

First published on Sunday July 28th in the Majorca Daily Bulletin

Summer’s Mission

We decided,  as a family,  that we weren’t spending enough time together or indeed enough time enjoying Mallorca.  So, this summer we are going to go somewhere new every week and report back on it.  First up is somewhere very easy to get to,  Cala Cap Falco beach. It’s around the back of Magaluf on the way to the casino.  Have you ever been there? 

Over the limit

What are we going to do about Magalluf? The violence, vandalism and crimes that are being committed in the area just seem to be getting worse and worse. I think I am right to be truly distressed by the events over the past week: another two deaths from balconing and an appalling hit and run incident. On Sunday evening there were apparently about 1000 young people walking on ‘The Strip’ (Punta Ballena, the main road where most of the bars are). A man was trying to drive his Range Rover car through this huge crowd of people and as you can expect wasn’t getting anywhere fast. The crowd apparently started banging on the windows of the car which spooked the driver who then put his foot on the accelerator and knocked down and ran over five young people. The driver didn’t then stop, no, he drove away, and was subsequently arrested two days later. Yes, he may have been provoked, it must have been frightening to be in a car with drunken youths banging on the windows, but two wrongs don’t make a right and some of these young people were seriously hurt.

The road shouldn’t have been open to traffic in my opinion, it used to be closed to general traffic and was controlled by the police: you needed to have a residents’ permit to get access to the road after dark. Surely they should return to that practice? According to Calvia Council the ‘cleaning up’ of Magaluf has already started with the arrest of the unlicensed masseuses on the beach, the ‘looky looky’ men and the prostitutes. Well, I was in Magaluf on Tuesday evening for the Mallorca Rocks gig, and I can tell you there were definitely plenty of prostitutes and ‘looky looky’ men still in action. The planned gentrification of the area has begun with the high profile and ostentatious opening of new businesses recently, but unless you’re in a bubble and transferred to the door of said high class establishments wearing your rose tinted glasses I don’t know how you can fail to notice the fact that next door you can still buy cheap booze in a bucket and drink it with a load of young men all wearing identical mankinis.

The first I knew of the hit and run incident was when a smart phone video of it started to go viral and was doing the rounds on Facebook. Hardly the greatest advert for our island, huh? I’d must rather it was the Estrella Damm ad which had made us all feel so proud that we live here. Funnily enough, that’s an ad for booze too…

Holiday crisispoint

I was driving through Magaluf last weekend when a man walked out in front of my car. He was lucky as El Topolino (my ancient Polo) doesn’t go very fast anyway. But there was something about the way the guy was conducting himself that really stuck in my mind. It could have been the fact that he was walking around in broad daylight in the smallest pair of budgie smugglers that I have seen in a long while. What is it about being on holiday that makes normal people think it is okay to go shopping with only their underpants on? Or perhaps it was the fact that he did literally saunter across the road in front of me ‘It’s okay I’m on holiday, nothing bad can happen to me here’.

It’s that false sense of security that holiday makers get. I don’t know if it is the weather that makes them feel relaxed, the lack of, or change of, routine, possibly an increase in booze consumption. But whatever it is, it makes regular people act as if they have been spellbound by their vacation. That’s okay if you’re walking around in the land of milk and honey where nothing bad ever happens… but we know this isn’t true. There have been some seriously unpleasant things going on in Magaluf already this season: three young people have died in three separate accidents where they have fallen from balconies or stairwells, and several inebriated men have been mugged by gangs of prostitutes.

We can’t change the behaviour of the tourists, they’re on holiday, and they’ve got the ‘nothing bad will happen’ attitude. We need to wrap these people up in cotton wool; we need more police on the beat in the resort to keep the peace and to keep people safe. We should be doing what we can to make sure our visitors stay safe on holiday and have a good time without being preyed upon by gangs of thieves or ending up in hospital or worse. Yes, it’s all very well putting a warning on the Foreign Office’s website, but that’s not going to have any impact on the people who go to Maga on holiday. The only purpose that serves in reality is to act as an ‘I told you so’ riposte after the tragic event has occurred.

Apparently the balconies are the standard height for European hotels. I just read this on a tour operator’s website: ‘Please take extra care on balconies after drinking alcohol’. It’s just not going to make any difference. How many people who are out on holiday are going to think to themselves ‘Ooh, hang on, I’ve just drunk ten pints and ten tequila shots. I must make sure I take extra care on the balcony’. Now I’ve heard that the Hoteliers are going to write ‘guidelines’, it’s just another document to say ‘Not our fault, we accept zero responsibility’. No. We have to keep these people safe. If the current accident frequency continues there could be twenty deaths by the end of the summer season. Come on Calvia Council, and the local Hotelier Association, and the Balearic Government. Stop having meetings about this problem, and get something done about it.

http://www.familymattersmallorca.com

Smart versus stupid

What seems like a very long time ago, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I lived in London. At the weekends we liked to go out and wander around the city, taking advantage of the free museums and galleries, spending hours walking through markets, looking at buildings, eating fine food. Then one day, when we had intended to go to a very high brow exhibition of something or other, we found ourselves caught in a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the South Bank. It was grim, the rain made the pigeon poo on the pavement really slippery and all of a sudden we didn’t really care about going to see some artist we’d never heard of and ran hell for leather for the nearest tube station. One thing led to another and we discovered ourselves stood in front of an advert for a kids’ movie, it was for Shrek. It tickled us that we had set out to see some fancy art and now we were eating popcorn and watching a movie about a green ogre. And so, Smart versus Stupid was born (although we could have called it Pretentious versus Simple Fun, but that doesn’t sound as good).

Wind forward a few years, and we don’t really get much opportunity or time for museums and wandering around cities, but last weekend we thought we’d take in a gallery, it wasn’t beach weather that’s for sure. La Gidg was quite keen to go, but once we got to the gallery in Palma, none of us were really all that impressed with it. We tried to get our money’s worth, but there wasn’t much to look at, and up popped that memory of Smart versus Stupid. One thing led to another (including a torrential rainstorm, fittingly, which meant that option 2 of riding around Palma on an open top bus, something we still haven’t done, will have to be shelved until another weekend) and we collectively agreed that Simple Fun would probably be more in keeping with what we wanted to get out of our Sunday.

Off we went to the lovely Tom Brown’s Restaurant in Magalluf where we all had roast dinners and pop, all for the grand price of 30€ all in (including jelly and ice cream). Then La Gidg and I played mini golf whilst Oliver watched Mark Cavendish win his green jersey and the final stage of the Tour de France.

Happy mum + happy dad + happy kid = happy days.

We’d like more suggestions of simple, cheap and fun family things to do in Mallorca. If you’ve got an idea then please leave a comment at http://www.familymattersmallorca.com