Every week Frank Leavers our man with the dirty Mac and half empty glass of inexpensive vino is looking at what lies just below the sophisticated gloss of island life. Come on folks; tell our Frank what’s really happening in Majorca.
We were talking to some friends the other day when we realised that it was during July 2000 that we came to live permanently on the island. I clearly remember the conversation over breakfast one Saturday morning of the spring of that year when the wind and rain were coming in sideways at our home in the UK and we finally decided to live permanently here in Majorca. I have to say that it wasn’t quite the leap in the dark I sometimes liked to pretend it was - but, a hugely important decision all the same. Although Julie’s parents had retired to the island in the 1980’s and we had bought a holiday apartment during 1996 we thought long and hard before we committed ourselves to this life changing move. Happily, both of our careers were ‘portable’ and of a freelance nature and so our move wasn’t a precursor to retirement, but more a change of direction in our lives. Indeed, looking back twenty years, we have both lived in our present house on the island, which we bought in December of that year, longer than we have lived anywhere else in our lives.
A very different place
In many ways Majorca is a very different place now to what it was twenty years ago. It could be that we have changed in that time rather than the island - so, perhaps it is a mixture of the two! It was in my experience that at the beginning of the new millennium that Majorca’s expatriate community was dominated by retirees - or maybe that was my own experience as we sought to find our own friends and settle into our own working lives. It could be said that in terms of our own experiences of the past twenty years, will now change completely given the pandemic and the knock-on effects that will affect us all at every level whether it be for work or leisure - or just in the way that Majorca positions itself over the next couple of decades.
Nevertheless, this is not to say that attitudes and social interactions within our ‘communities’ hasn’t been evolving during the time I have lived here. For instance throughout the ‘noughties’ it was obvious that the profile of British expats (perhaps all expats?) was changing rapidly. Younger couples and their families arrived on the island, freed by technology the need to go into an office every day - and with the emergence of aggressive budget airlines, it was possible to live a double life here in Majorca alongside cheap air fares and plentiful flights from almost every corner of the United Kingdom as regional airports flourished.
The comings-and goings!
I have certain friends, who work in certain industries - who keep me abreast of the comings-and-goings of potential British ex-pats moving in - or, moving out of the island at any given juncture. It is really quite surprising what will trigger a person/family to come to the island and equally interesting what will make them move in the opposite direction.
The one thing that I have noticed, is that whereas at one time expatriates by their very nature would join - groups, clubs, and other institutions - apart from a few exceptions, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In fact, you wouldn’t have to think very hard to start to reel off a list of venerable institutions that were formerly popular on the island - that are no more! However, before we all become depressed at this undoubted modern reality, my own children tell me that social, theatrical, religious and sports clubs that used to be the very foundation of local communities in the UK barely exist anymore, apart from those maintained and developed by determined parents - and then when the kids ‘fly away’ so do mum and dad.
Twenty years on and I never seem to tire of island life. But that maybe just a consequence of the ageing process and others younger than me might be as keen as I was twenty years ago to make my mark whether it was professionally or socially. I suppose this ‘loop of life’ is quite easy to understand and monitor - but, will Covid-19 change anything, somethings - or perhaps everything?
One thing that it has changed at every level of society and that is a certainty. Who would believe that in a little under a year we have gone from so-called ‘saturation’ - to ‘spot-the-tourist’ in one foul-swoop? Also, as a knock-on-effect of this new reality, the certainties of the past are no longer certain in any shape or form. In the past weeks, I heard it said that tourism will be back and booming by Easter of next year. On the other hand, some naysayers are saying that it will take at least three years to get back to any sense of normal - and by that time, we could be all be seeking that newest of cliches - i.e. the new normal.
What is best for the island?
It is with this sense of anticipation, that I start my third decade living here in Majorca. Perhaps, as some believe - this pandemic will force us all to look afresh at what we are doing to the environment and in terms of Majorca this might not be a bad thing at all.
So then, in my 20th year of living here, everything may well change. Personally, I think we will need to take a long hard look at ourselves and what we want from life - and perhaps, what we are prepared to pay to make sure we take a more rounded view of what we want - and perhaps more importantly, what is best for this island - an island we have the privilege to live our lives upon. Let’s hope so!
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