An aerial view of a beach bar and burned land in the background, as a wildfire burns on the island of Rhodes, Greece July 27, 2023. REUTERS/Nicolas Economou | NICOLAS ECONOMOU


The last few days have thankfully been a little cooler in Mallorca but the sight of wildfires across Europe and in Greece, in particular the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, underline how easily homes and wildlife can be destroyed by fire. Summertime has its benefits but many drawbacks in hot countries. Fires can be started so quickly with unextinguished cigarette butts, barbecues, and prohibited bonfires. Rule-breaking iso so often the name of the game and few think about the consequences. In Mallorca, anyone who starts a fire, even if unintentionally, can end up with stiff fines and a prison term. There are many holiday renters around my neighbourhood, and I always warn those I meet about properly ensuring that they extinguish barbecues. I also advise not dumping spent ash on the ground or in rubbish bags and to ensure that it is thoroughly cold before disposing of it. Some may think this is obvious advice but it’s amazing how many come a cropper through ignorance.


Shop till you drop

It came as quite a surprise to learn about the huge shoplifting epidemic in the UK. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), shoplifting has risen by 26 per cent in the last year with 8 million incidents being recorded, amounting to £953m lost to theft. And yet, approximately just 21,000 prosecutions have been made, with the majority of those caught, allowed to leave stores empty-handed without punishment or at worse, handed small fines, thus avoiding the courts.

Aside from individual shoplifters, there are also criminal gangs raiding owner-run shops all over the country, brazenly walking into stores and carting off stock while the helpless and intimated assistants look on. The police seemingly do nothing so fewer incidents are being reported and larger stores are having to take matters into their own hands by increasing the amount of electronic tagging of goods and hiring more security staff. This is all fine for powerful and lucrative retail chains but what about small owner-run shops which don’t have the sort of revenue to employ heavies at the door?

Why the problem has escalated so badly in recent times is puzzling. Obviously, the cost-of-living crisis is a factor but BRC and other experts in the field believe it’s also to do with opportunism and the simple fact that shoplifters now have a licence to steal. If they know they are untouchable and will not face prosecution, they can act with impunity. At best, they can expect a slap on the wrist while police officers munch safely on buns down at the local cop shops.

The likes of Tesco, Aldi and the Co-op are now tagging simple foods such as coffee, milk, ketchup, chocolate bars, honey and dishwasher tablets while Waitrose is taking on more staff to roam stores and to engage with customers thereby acting as a constant yet positive disruptive deterrent. The last thing thieves wants is a helpful store member tailing them during their shopping journey.

One of the most enterprising thieves on record was a woman who stole numerous items across a range of stores and then coolly returned the goods for refund. She made hundreds of thousands of pounds from the illicit activity. Whatever one thinks, you’ve got to give her ten on ten for sheer chutzpah.

FILE PHOTO: Premiere of "Barbie" in London

A living pink doll

As a child I loathed Barbie dolls. My teacher mother wouldn’t have dreamt of allowing toothpick-thin and anti-feminist pink Barbie into our home but it wouldn’t have bothered me anyway. I wasn’t one of those little girls who liked human replica toys and I was a tomboy. In truth, at one point I did have a big baby doll that rolled her eyes and smelt of rubber. That was a short-lived phase though as teddy bears were my thing. I had a massive collection of all sizes and shapes, and I still have my first ever bear.

So, when I heard about the new pink-tinged ‘empowering’ (how that overused word makes me cringe) Barbie movie I have to admit to rolling my eyes and inwardly groaning. Still, cynical journalist friends in London tell me that though the film is the ultimate politically correct ride, it is nonetheless hugely uplifting with some wonderful humour, thanks to actor Ryan Gosling who plays Ken. Above all, contrary to the old Barbie of my childhood, this one apparently stands for feminism and appears to have a bit of nous, even perhaps a flicker of a brain in her empty little blonde head. Talking of Barbie’s head, the only thing I do recall liking about my friends’ Barbies, was how the hair could be pulled out and lengthened from a button in the doll’s scalp. So, the jury’s out. Will I be going to watch Barbie the movie anytime soon? I don’t think so. But at Christmas, if the family decides to upload some silly festive fun films, Barbie might just make the cut.