Andratx

THE s’Arraco Night of Art

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Did I see you on Thursday evening in my little village? In amongst the approximately 6000+ people who were stood outside of my front door? s’Arraco, which is between Andratx and St Elm down on the SW corner of Majorca, only has 2000 inhabitants, so for one crazy night every year our population trebles as we are inundated with visitors. There’s nowhere to park, you have to get a shuttle bus or a taxi from the nearby towns or walk, or cycle, or roller-skate, or hover board or do whatever you have to do to get there. Our village is full for that night and it’s so much fun that as soon as this year’s Night of Art is over we all start looking forward to the next one.
It started six years ago and has evolved into what Andratx, our local council, says is the most popular night of the year in the whole municipality. The organiser of the evening, Neale Sanders, told me that “Working with the council has been a joy, everything I need they provide, they fully support the event and give me all the help I could ask for. It doesn’t seem to matter which council it is , PP or PSOE, or any of the parties, they all think the Nit de l’Art is a great event. It’s really apolitical which is wonderful. I can’t thank them enough for what they do.”
Neale coordinates the more than 140 artists who exhibited on Thursday night, myself included, plus the musicians and other acts, and organises the programme and publicity. It’s probably quite a headache to do but he seems to always be in a good mood so I think he enjoys it, even the stress! But Neale’s and everyone’s hard work certainly paid off as it was a fantastic evening filled with energy, laughs, friends, and probably too many mojitos if my head was anything to go by on Friday. The event attracts artists from all over the island to participate and it is really fun to do. There really isn’t a spot in s’Arraco which doesn’t have some art in it on this evening. Sculptures fill the only town square, paintings are hung from many doorways and fences, gardens, shops and cafes are opened to artists to exhibit in, everywhere you turn there it is. And not just art work, but music as well. Ten bands played throughout the night on strategic street corners, acapella, jazz, Spanish, rock, swing, blues, world music and lots more. Plus street performers dancing with fire and walking on stilts, and performances in our little municipal theatre as well. There’s actually no way one person could possibly take it all in, but everyone tries and there’s a constant movement of people as they roam around the streets. As and when you’re in need of refreshment there’s food stalls run by local associations and our local restaurants. One of the restaurants, Es Raco de Puput said they’d served 1400 tapas!
To put into perspective how many people come to the Night of Art: walking from my house to the centre of the village normally takes five minutes, on Thursday evening it took thirty. It’s wonderful to realise so many people want to support art and culture and have a great night out in the middle of the week. Well done to everyone who exhibited and thank you to Neale for organising such a vibrant and fun party for our village. If you didn’t make it this year then there’s always 2018. Viva s’Aracco!

January events in Mallorca

Mallorca dimonis, Vicki McLeod, photographer, Oliver Neilson

 

You may think that Christmas, and New Year AND Three Kings are over, and that therefore everything is back to normal in Mallorca, but you would be wrong as we still have two more fiestas to go this month, and we love them!
First up we have St Antoni this coming weekend. You will be able to join in at outdoor barbecues all over the island on Saturday evening. Some of the best ones are in my neck of the woods which is Andratx and S’Arraco, but you will also have places like Sa Pobla, Felanitx, Muro, Santanyi, Sencelles, Son Servera, Pollensa and Binissalem to check out as well. They are spread out over the weekend with some happening on Friday evening as well. The fiesta is split into two halves: you have the barbecue where everyone steals everyone elses’ sausages and gets drunk, followed by the Corre Foc, the fire run where recently inebriated people are invited to participate with people dressed up in really scary devil costumes and play with fireworks. What could possible go wrong?
Up in Sa Pobla on Saturday at about 5.30pm they will also have human towers which I have always wanted to see so I might make a dash to get up there, then at midnight in Sa Pobla will be their amazing fire spectacular with demons, dragons and drummers in Placa Major.
If that doesn’t get you going then there’s always something going on at the Auditorium and I understand that this weekend there is a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral with the Victor Ullate Ballet on Saturday evening. More information can be found on the Auditorium Palma website.

Then on Sunday 15 January you have to make your way to the church with your pet cat, dog, sheep, goat, hamster, whatever you have you should take along to be blessed. There are blessings in Biniali, Cala D’Or, Santanyi, Soller, and Andratx.
On the Monday the St Antoni fiestas continue in Alaro with a parade, bonfires and a correfoc in the evening. You can also go along to Deya, Maria de la Salut, Muro, Sa Coma, Santa Maria del Cami, Soller, Son Carrio and more action in Sa Pobla.
Then all attention is focused on Palma for the big San Sebastian parties. The Fiesta Sant Sebastia is one of the biggest festivals in Mallorca and celebrates the Patron Saint of the capital.
The big nights are around the 18th, 19th and 20th (the day of Saint Sebastian), with the main parties and concerts being held on the 19th. Other entertainments such as the Castellers de Mallorca and the fire runs (Correfoc – wear long sleeves!) are on the 20th January.
There will be exhibitions, music and parades for the duration of the festival and you’ll find all the details in the Official Programme (available about a week before the event).
This Thursday at Santosha Restaurant in Palma in their Sala Cinco they will have movie nights on Thursdays. This week it’s “Once” 12.1, and next week it’s “Forest Gump” 19.1 ( you should reserve though). And on Saturday nights they have live music during dinner.

This Friday there will be a live music movement meditation at Zunray in Palma from 20h30-22h30. It’s going to be a monthly event, but get in there quick as this is a great way to start off the year. There is also a weekly 5 Rhythms class at Ling Tai which is every Sunday from 6.30pm
You’ve also got the Palma Dogs fundraiser coming up. They’ve called it the “Beat the Meh, find your Woof!” Pub Quiz Fundraiser. It will be on Tuesday, January 17th at 7.30 at Atlanticos in the Old Town in Palma. You can have a team of up to 4, €2 each to enter. And there will also be a raffle at €2 per ticket. All proceeds going towards the various associations and individuals who work tirelessly to get owner less dogs out of pounds and into foster or forever homes. That’s organised by Caroline Stapley who regularly takes people up to the dog homes in Mallorca and takes the dogs out on walks.
On Saturday 21st Jan Tony from Bar Rosita’s, Calvia Village will be having his annual birthday bash, free live music Tony Paris, free buffet and lots of fun.
Of course, if you’re after a new year’s resolution and you want to get yourself fitter, healthier and take charge of your lifestyle then I can recommend you do the Whole Life Challenge. This is an eight week programme which starts on Saturday January 21st at CrossFit Mallorca. It incorporates diet, exercise and lifestyle enhancements such as beginning to meditate or taking time to spend with friends rather than your phone, small things which add up to a much greater deal. You can get more info by contacting on Facebook, just look for their page CrossFit Mallorca.
There will also be two detox workshops in January run by Ziva To Go, a vegan business which now has three locations on the island. Ziva’s founder, Petra Wigermo will lead the detox workshops. You can choose from one in Santa Ponsa on Thursday 26th and one in Santa Catalina on Saturday 28th. In both workshops you will be helped to plan your own detox and make decisions about how you want to approach it, learn about why it is good for you to do these things and also try out some different juice recipes which may be helpful for you. You can get more info and book up for that at any of the Ziva locations on the island, or find them on Facebook.
And if you want to get stuck in to some good works this year then you could either join up to The Wednesday Group which meets every, you’ve guessed it, Wednesday, in Bendinat. They are dedicated to making craft and knitted items which can be donated or sold on behalf of charities on the island and it’s also a fun and sociable way to learn new skills and make new friends. You can get more details from Kay at The Universal Bookshop in Portals Nous. OR you can go along to a meeting at The Boathouse in Palma on February 10th which is being organised by the Cancer Support Group as they are looking for people who can volunteer and help them with their ongoing work. You can get more information about that event on my website http://www.mallorcamatters.com along with all the rest of this info and more.

Stand up for James.

James, ready to rock

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t find myself amazed and grateful for the life I am living. One of the great things I get to do is to meet interesting people doing unique things, and so this week I met 18 year old James Fitzsimmons. James has been living in Mallorca since he was a toddler. He lives in Andratx with his mum Sharon. One day, when James was eleven his friend rang him up and asked him if he wanted to go kayaking, James said yes, and literally the rest is history. He found a sport which suited him and he it, and very soon he was out on the water as often as he possibly could be. He started to compete and rose through the ranks of his peers to start winning Open Water Kayak races as a junior. And now as an adult, in the Under 23 category he is already winning competitions against older and more experienced “paddlers”.

James now has the opportunity to go to Tahiti and compete in the World Championships (or “World Champs” as he endearingly calls it). His training schedule is relentless and his dedication is impressive, but when you hear that he is doing it with very little organised or formal coaching or support then you begin to be really, really impressed with him. Since turning eighteen and becoming legally an adult, he doesn’t get the same sort of help as he would have done when he was seventeen and younger. Which is an incredible shame. So James’s mum Sharon is fighting to raise the funds to get her son to the South Pacific to compete. If you want to show your support you can join in at Sa Vinya in Es Capdella, Calvia on Sunday September 20th from 16.00 to 20.00 where there will be a fun fundraising event for James (they are planning to put his kayaks in the swimming pool and invite people to try to get into them, it’s much harder than it looks, so there could be a few splashes!). Sponsors for logos on his boat are also being sought to help him raise the 4000€ he needs to get to the competition. When you look around and see so many disillusioned young people it’s wonderful to see one so driven and quietly determined to succeed. Please support or sponsor James and wish him luck in his big World Champ. You can do this by contacting Sharon Grange (jamessurfski@gmail.com 639385874) or Izzy Newman (639693922) or by visiting the Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/Surfski18

A very long weekend

After what has been an extremely long weekend (normally that would be something to look forward to) I am relieved to think that perhaps all of the fires are out now and we can resume our normal lives. Last week I was telling you about the Nit de L’Art in my little village, s’Arracó which is in the Andratx area. Little did we know that the next day we would be hitting the headlines again for our own personal Nit de Foc (night of fire). After a sleepless night watching the hills which surround our village burning and then three more days of constant helicopter flights and Twitter updates with the fire spreading to St Elm and back up to Estellencs and over to the Galatzo estate some things have become very clear to me.

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500 portions of salad
(No sign of a Big Mac though)

1) If you are going to have a natural disaster don’t worry about catering as the local people will literally bring crate upon crate of food until you are begging for them to stop. “No more bocadillos!” was one of the Twitter updates from our local council where the operations room was. We saw photos of mounds of fruit and vegetables, stacks and stacks of boxes of salad, buckets of bottled water.

2) Don’t believe anything unless you have seen it yourself or it has come from an official source. Really. Gossip spreads like wild fire (I know, couldn’t be helped), and is just speculation. It only frightens people more.

3) If you haven’t already been to the Sa Trapa area of St Elm and had a walk up there to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and views, well you’d better get in touch with http://www.gobmallorca.com the local environmental group here on our island which will be getting the rehabilitation project for the area underway in September. The area is stunning but has been severely damaged by the fire and now resembles the surface of the moon. You can visit their website and sign up to volunteer right there on the front page. The site is in Catalan but if you can’t read Catalan then view it through an internet browser that does instant translations and you will be fine.

4) Our local community has balls of steel. Everyone stuck together, offered help and stayed calm.

5) We are extremely lucky to have such amazing fire fighters, both on the ground and in the air. What an incredibly brave group of people.

Matthew Clark

Thank you. 

6) The guy who started the fire by accident did so by disposing of smouldering embers from the previous night’s bbq. It was not a German resident burning stubble in his garden. (see point number 2).

For now, let’s appreciate and care for what we have been blessed to live amongst, please don’t throw cigarette ends out of your car, don’t burn rubbish in your back garden and don’t leave a BBQ unattended. It really can happen, just like that, and don’t we all know it now.

Stay safe. Vx

(P.S. I’ll tell you about the Night of Art and the “peg crisis”, and the Stand Up Comedy course, Wendy, brown trousers and performances next time).  

P.P.S. Thank you to Matthew Clark for the amazing photo of the airborne firefighters.

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