People sunbathe on El Arenal beach.

People sunbathe on El Arenal beach.

27-05-2020ENRIQUE CALVO

Yeehawww!!! On Monday, May 25 our beautiful island of Majorca entered phase 2 of recovery from this dreaded durge, C19. And part of that revelation meant certain beaches were once again opened to the public. The welcomed announcement was also accompanied by a plea from Palma Mayor, José Hila that we do not ALL go to the beach on the very first day; and hopefully, that simple request didn’t fall on deaf ears. It’s almost like telling sheep not to eat the grass! But hey, the weather wasn’t too ‘beachy’ on Monday so distancing wasn’t really put to the test.

Majorcan culture absolutely adores a family beach bash, yet unlike their British and German counterparts, (under more normal circumstances) they generally tend to hit the sand much later in the day than their paler, European cousins! Have you noticed that in the heat of a regular summer you rarely see a local turn up on the beach until well after 4’0 clock, often much later, when the sun has mellowed and the temperatures have become more tolerable? Unless of course, it’s an all-day Sunday Balearic bonanza, complete with paella pan and more folding chairs than a pop up restaurant! Let’s just hope people behave this coming weekend!

During a normal summer season, the beaches become less crowded after 4pm because most of the invading tourists have packed up to leave, scheduled to shower, slap on the after-sun, and glam-up in time to bag an early table at their favourite seafront restaurants!

Meanwhile, the locals are in no such hurry, and have only just started to arrive, Majorcan style, with everything but the kitchen sink - folding tables, chairs, picnic cloths and cold boxes from which they produce never-ending supplies of bread, cold meats, sausages, cocas, hunks of cheeses, olives, tomatoes, beer, wine, fruit, juices, ensaimadas, doughnuts and the obligatory uber-jumbo 10 kilo bag of crisps for the ‘niños’. Crikey! All that, and there might only be the three of them! The Majorcans certainly know a thing or two about organizing a trip to the beach, and how to really enjoy themselves.

With the current ‘safe distance’ protocol of 2 metres supposedly in place, distancing at any beach resort is always going to be a huge headache. It’s simply not in the Majorcans’ mind set to think about confining themselves within an invisible radius, especially at a beach, or consider their every move while staying away from others. And as the phase 2 beach protocol also allows a maximum of 15 persons in one group, to me, it appears to be an obvious exercise for disaster, particularly if the odd ‘cerveza’ is involved! In anyone’s book, 15 Majorcans together at a beach = 1 fiesta! Let’s just hope I’m wrong!

However, with the absence of tourists hogging the sands, there should be a bit more space all round, giving the locals a much needed opportunity to let down their hair, yet hopefully not their guard; particularly as there have been winning reports of a decline in the current number of new virus infections. It would be tragic if careless crowds, in their excitement, cause a spike of C19!

Back in the UK it’s much worse, and the beaches over the Bank Holiday weekend were mindlessly and disastrously overcrowded. It makes me truly wonder what it’s going to take to make these Covidiots realise that C19 is not a movie or a video game but real life in real time. Wake up UK and see sense!

Unlike the Majorcans, who generally go to the beach for a social get together with friends and family, the majority of Brits hit the beach merely to get a ‘killer’ tan. But surely no sun tan is ever worth dying for? And let’s face it, a tan fades. The grief at losing a loved one lasts a lot longer!

I remember, back in the day, when we used to go on family holidays to the seaside, and spend every single day on the beach regardless of the brutal inclemency of the British weather. It was a seaside holiday after all, and come rain or shine we would be on that beach, under Mum’s orders, staring at the startlingly grey channel. We had ear muffs and scarves for really cold days, plus the obligatory wind breakers which Dad set up to resemble a small refugee camp! Now THAT was socially distancing. There were five of us in our family, and our wind-breaker fortress meant that once inside, we were miles apart from anyone else who was brave enough to set up a rival camp alongside. We even had a corridor to access our marked territory, plus my two elder sisters stood guard at the entrance with plastic spades and yellow buckets on their heads, so we were well protected from the outside world.

I remember thermos flasks filled with hot tea and spam sandwiches spiked with pickle. There was usually a slice of cake somewhere, or a wagon wheel to fight over, but nothing like the Mediterranean feasts the Majorcans produce. Since living here though, we have tended to copy the locals. And when the island is virus free we shall visit the beach with more of a gastronomic hamper than back in those old vintage days, when crisps came in one flavour, and you seasoned them yourself with salt from a little blue paper twist! Mind you, I have no intention of beaching anywhere at present, and quite happy to leave the urgent beach trip to those who can’t wait and feel they absolutely must!

Hopefully, over the next few months, when everything calms down and normality is once restored to our lives, there will be plenty of time to enjoy an idyllic day on the sand gazing dreamily at the turquoise sea. But as Palma Mayor, José Hila advised, there is no need for the entire island to suddenly rush in a mad panic to the coast, and recklessly cast two months of cautious protocol to the wind on a whimsical outing. The beach is not going anywhere! A beach is for life . . . not just for lockdown! We just have to be patient and take the island’s recovery safely, and very slowly. Things will get back to normal much quicker if we are sensible and don’t push too hard too soon!

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