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 Mallorca.
A brand new cliché has sprung up here in the United Kingdom regarding lifestyle and in particular where people are choosing to live and work. With a snappy title that explains everything, it seems that ‘Flexible working equals flexible living’ and many people appear to want to re-calibrate their lives to some degree or another. With many people working from home for the past sixteen months or so, it was perhaps inevitable that many would seek to reassess their lives in the context of Covid-19.
For instance, my own son started a new job in the spring of 2020 - and as of now, he has yet to sit at his desk as he has been working from home in all that time. Indeed, he has also yet to meet any of his colleagues face-to-face and tells me that his pre-pandemic concept of work, and a working life in general, has changed completely in that time. Other members of my extended family are in a similar situation and it appears to me to be the ‘new normal’ in modern life in the United Kingdom. Yes, working from home has its benefits, but - it also has many drawbacks.
My daughter tells me that she misses the camaraderie of office life and was delighted when told that she and her workmates would be expected to attend their office in the city centre once a week. Nevertheless, her office building is up-for-sale and her employers will be shifting their operation out of town in the next few months. Plus points? No daily train journey and the costs of that daily commitment, plus - she doesn’t get a chance to mooch about the city centre of a lunchtime, but saves quite a lot of cash on sandwiches, coffee and shopping!
Minus points? The aforementioned shopping ‘In town’ - but most of all she tells me of the vague feeling of entrapment, or perhaps more accurately, the enforced isolation of working from home with two young children looking for attention, but only getting waved away, as in - “ Be quiet, mummy is working.”
On the move!
Following on from this theme, it seems that many people in the UK are seeking to move out of the major cities and relocate, not in the suburbs as in the past, but away from the urban lifestyle altogether. This is because among other reasons, if you don’t have to be in an office in a city centre anymore - ‘Why do we have to live there?”
Furthermore, a house in a pleasant district of London, Birmingham or Bristol will be worth a considerable amount of money - more than enough to buy yourself something very nice in the countryside as the daily commute to the office in the centre of town is not a necessity anymore for many British people. Nevertheless, leading on from this new reality is the fact that the people who can even contemplate doing this so called ‘flexible living’ are by their very nature financially, comfortably off.
This in turn will eventually put pressure on the cost of housing and amenities in places such as Devon and Cornwall - indeed, just about anywhere that has a pleasant environment in the countryside, or views looking over sea and sand. Perhaps you can tell, that I have been reading a detailed report of the financial and social effects of thousands of middle class families exiting their homes in the big cities, only to turn up looking for property in - say…a pretty seaside town.
I don’t think you need to be a financial genius to work out the knock-on effect of this type of social mobilisation. Within months house prices start to climb steadily and with this phenomenon there always follows an angry local reaction from communities where young people can’t afford to live in, or even live nearby their families anymore.
Mallorca - are we out of balance as well?
If you think about it, this scenario has similarities to what has been happening in Mallorca for quite some time. Indeed, before the pandemic this very subject was very much ‘At the top’ in terms of political debate, particularly amongst those concerned about how young Majorcans and their families could actually afford to buy, or more likely rent a home - at a reasonable rent/cost. I suspect that in the near future, this difficult subject will raise its head again. Ask any estate agent based in Mallorca and they will tell you that the housing market is very busy indeed.
It seems that northern Europeans such as Germans and Scandinavians are seeking out top of the market properties in fashionable parts of the island. In terms of Palma there has been a relentless rise in property values, alongside rental costs, that for the main part, financially exclude most young working people from living in the city of their birth. I don’t think that you need to be described as some sort of political revolutionary to admit that - the system as it now stands, is very much out of balance with the needs of society in general.
Changing for the better!
Moving once again to the situation in the United kingdom at the moment; it is as if Covid-19 and all its works has realigned society in a number of ways. Not just in terms of the work/life balance of the past and the certainties that system encouraged, but - in terms of the way that ordinary people see their lives developing over the next decade and beyond. As we slowly, but hopefully emerge from the current set of social circumstances, I like many others believe that the day-to-day world that we currently exist within will have changed considerably. Let’s hope it will be for the better.