A local muse in Majorca once told me that every year on August 28, the summer temperatures suddenly drop, and we begin the slow slide into a cooler, much welcomed and more appreciated autumn.
It’s a wonderful ideal to hang onto, but ‘Maria the Muse’ obviously told a bit of a porky pie! She also told me that if you plant an almond tree beneath the light of a full moon, you will always reap an abundant harvest, and your grandmother will probably bear ginger twins! The jury is still out on both of those!
Yet generally, I like to think that the world, along with all its advice from local muses or other, is not only fair but honest, and I tend to believe exactly what people tell me.
Apart from a recent email I received from Nigeria which said that if I forwarded all my bank and credit card details along with appropriate passwords etc. to a Mr Obongu in Katawangu, I would inherit at least 6 million pounds from an unknown, African benefactor. How brilliant was that? And shame on me for thinking that with the millions of charitable donations the Western world has contributed to Africa, this might be some kind of heartless, uncharitable scam!
As you can imagine I was over the moon with the prospect, and couldn’t wait to immediately supply all the relevant details to Mr Obongu! Sadly, what gave the game away was that Mr Obongu actually spelled Peter with a ‘B’, addressed me as Miss and thought I was living on a pension in Lemington Spa! Shame on YOU Mr Obongu or whoever you are!
I rather hoped that my Nigerian saviour would have at least got my name and gender correct. Phew! That was a close call! I was ALMOST taken in. Don’t think so! But what a ridiculous try!!!
But like I said, mostly I believe what people tell me, especially here in Majorca. After all, why would anyone want to lie? I like to think I’m smart enough to know when someone is pulling my leg. That’s why I didn’t believe the local farmer who told me he bred chickens with four legs, but they ran so fast he couldn’t catch them!
Yet ironically, I believed the plumber when he said he could come on Monday! Of course, he didn’t turn up. But another local muse pointed out that he only said he ‘could’ come, and not ‘would’ come! Please note, there is a subtle difference! It was also pointed out that the plumber never specified ‘which’ Monday, so I obviously got it all wrong by waiting in for him all day. My fault entirely!
Obviously, not everyone or everything falls into that ‘grey’ area of noncommitment, but my general finding is that it happens here quite a lot. Trying to pin someone down to a specific hour/day/week/month is like trying to prise open a crab’s bum with a bus ticket!
The culture here in Majorca seems totally shy of confirming anything, unless it is absolutely life threatening. Being brought up in the UK with a stoic commitment to your given word, the vagueness surrounding any obligation to a specific ‘arrangement’ here is outstandingly frustrating to say the least. No-one is ready to commit, on any personal level, and if they do then it’s not a 100% guarantee of such. It is genuinely meant at the time! Yet sadly, not an honest guarantee!
Mind you, if you phone through to most technical or construction operatives with an emergency, they are there in a flash; serious superheroes who cheerfully turn up any hour of the day or night, to help. That’s just how things work here. It seems they come when they want, but are always there when you really need them.
Relating my own personal experiences, the only time workman ever seem to turn up on time is when I am running late myself, off somewhere, and haven’t quite got back for the exact time of the ‘said’ appointment, secretly praying for them to be delayed. It’s called ‘Murphy’s Law’, or maybe I’m on some kind of secret wind-up hit-list. I’m not sure!
My personal favourite is the delivery man. Not only are courier/delivery companies reluctant to specify any time, or sometimes even a specific day for delivery, they have this annoying habit of keeping you dangling for days, then surprising you when the driver rings up saying, “Hola, we’re here, outside!” when you are in fact an hours drive away, on the beach, or shopping in Palma. It’s an unnecessary shame really, because they turn up so full of good cheer (unless you get Miserable Miguel ) and can’t understand why you are not as delighted as they think you should be at their disorganised arrival! But this reluctance to commit is all part of the big picture when weaving life within the tapestry of Majorcan culture. It’s in their genes. Honestly!
Even socially, a majority of Majorcans still find it impossible and uncomfortable to commit to a private event or occasion, unless of course you are a ‘blood relative’, in which case they wouldn’t ‘expect’ you to commit to an invitation in the first place, but just take it as read that you might be there, if you can – no strings! This way it doesn’t impose on anyone’s freedom of movement, or challenge anyone’s free ‘choice’ to change ones mind at the very last minute if a better offer turns up.
When we first moved here to the island over fifteen years ago, we often invited our new Majorcan friends for lunch, supper or drinks, but noticed that they seemed very timid to accept an invitation that was a week or two away, and often appeared indifferent to the idea, which could easily have been interpreted as being bad mannered or rude.
They would wave a nonchalant hand at a dinner invite, saying: “Maybe after the summer. Maybe after the fiestas. Maybe after Christmas. But definitely ‘maybe!’” It wasn’t a resounding, enthusiastic ‘yes!’ But then it wasn’t quite a disappointing ‘no!’ either. It was just the Majorcans using delaying tactics, because they couldn’t think up a convincing excuse for committing to something so far ahead as a week, without upsetting anyone.
We quickly learnt that Majorcans prefer to act more impulsively. And the word they respond to most, believe it or not, is not mañana, but ‘NOW!’ So, “come round NOW!” is always a good one, and more likely to guarantee a positive result.
The Majorcan habit of avoiding any guarantee to tie oneself down is based on their tradition of honour, and even today their word is generally their bond! So in a Majorcan’s eyes, it’s better not to give your word, if you might just have to go back on it. They don’t really want to give a definitive ‘Yes!’ just in case! Just in case of what? you might ask! Well, probably, in case the plumber suddenly decides to turn up! You never know!