It would of course depend on meteorological conditions, but where do you suppose that lilos end up? I once fancied that from the bay of Alcudia in the island’s north, they would be washed up in the south of France and stored in some warehouse or other in the general vicinity of Toulon. But there may be a similar facility near Barcelona.
Who can say what happens to lilos. Storage there is unlikely to be. Not of the kind for migrant boats that occupy a space at Palma’s municipal dump. What is the fate of these little boats? Is the town hall anticipating that someone will come along and reclaim them?
While the Maritime Safety Agency and the Guardia Civil are kind enough to take care of the little boats adrift off Cabrera and add them to those that turn up on a Santanyi beach, there is presumably no such intervention for lilos and absolutely no prospect of their being reclaimed. Do they just float around on the Mediterranean forever? It’s a great mystery and a question that has vexed me for many a year.
A gust of wind, and a lilo that hasn’t been secured to the beach by ropes and iron stakes driven into the sand will be lifted up, tossed into the sea, and bounce away towards the horizon. Recriminations there are often aplenty, as a young child, in floods of tears, is chided by a parent for having been less than observant while supposedly on lilo vigilance duty.
Another parent may have valiantly gone in pursuit, calling to swimmers some way from the shore to intercept the bounding inflated plastic object or urging the lifeguards to head off on jetskis. But even if a brave bather gets close enough, the inherently cumbersome nature of the lilo, especially if it has a stiff breeze behind it., will foil a dive like that of a goalkeeper saving a penalty. The lilo skips out of the way. France, here it comes.
It could of course be that as the lilo becomes becalmed, the coastal cleaning service comes to the rescue. How much of the plastic taken from the sea is lilo? I would have thought that the service categorises plastic items, but if it does, the environment ministry doesn’t offer the information. Out of 4,623 kilos of plastic collected from Balearic coasts during August, approximately 100 kilos were lilo. That would be a statistic worth knowing; it would probably be much more than 100.
But this would assume that the lilos had indeed been stopped in their tracks by a sudden cessation of the breeze. The coastal cleaning service, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t venture onto the high seas; its name would certainly indicate not. And experience of observing a fleeing lilo suggests that it is unlikely to be found near to the shore. One can stare for as long as it takes for the lilo to no longer be seen. It has reached the horizon, where it takes its chances against a ferry or a ship loaded with cement.
For the tearful child, there will be the hope that parents relent and do not carry out the punishment of on no account returning to the souvenir shop and buying a replacement. If parental sympathy is forthcoming, however, the new purchase could be more than just a conventional lilo. Inflatables destined for the beach (and eventually for the south of France) come in many guises - the smartphone lilo, the cutesy cartoon animal lilo, the smiling dolphin lilo, the grinning dinosaur lilo.
Oh such happy days are returning. Lost for much of last summer, there is once more the morning regimental procession of lilos marching in formation towards an Alcudia bay beach. And then there is the procession returning from the beach, that of the surviving lilos that had been under strict surveillance or securely fastened.
It’s all to do with technology, isn’t it. The contemporary lilo is a wonder of advances in lightweight technology. There never used to be the problem of the rapidly disappearing lilo. That’s because, once upon a time, the lilo was like the football of bad memories. It was so heavy that it would brain you, assuming, that is, you were clouted across the head with it, a feat in itself given that it required a forklift to move it. And the antique lilo was like the Ford Motor Company - any colour you liked, so long as it was a muddy, indeterminate blue, a long way from the array of pinks, yellows and lilacs of today.
The astonishing thing about the lilo of old was that it actually floated. It may not be remembered fondly, but it was indestructible and it never ever bounced off to the high seas. The breezes could blow all they liked, but the old lilo wasn’t budging. No wind was strong enough to shift it.