Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm A Cowboy, On A Steel Horse I Ride

It's not Southfork but it is a ranch. I was there the other day. Rancho Grande. Big ranch in a small country, well island. There is though a touch of the wild west even if we are heading to the east of Mallorca. Wild, as this is just land, dust, mountains to the back, dunes away towards the beach at Son Serra. Otherwise there's the house, in which one might anticipate Ben and the boys pondering the Ponderosa - Hoss and Little Joe, the two least likely of television brothers until Coronation Street tried to claim that Steve and Andy McDonald were twins. But of course there are no Cartwrights, only Pepe and the rest. And past the house is the terrace and the vast barbecue before one gets to the little zoo, the wagons, the swans, the peacocks and parrots and all those horses. The land, the ranch stretches away, and one awaits the arrival of an imaginary posse or Wyatt, Wild Bill or Jessie. I'm a cowboy; I'm wanted dead or alive.

Take the entrance track and there's a cowgirl on horseback to greet the visitors and to usher them towards the photo shoot. One of the first times I went to the ranch, a group turned up and one of its members started belittling the head and shoulders photos with a cowboy hat. Forget your cynicism. And maybe you'll forget a lot more as the sangria flows, the barbecue is stoked and the music starts. There used to be the single worst act I have ever seen in Mallorca at the ranch, and that is saying something. But he was that bad he was brilliant. And keep forgetting that cynicism and stomp with the line-dancing. There is music, much of it cowboy-themed; Natasha Bedingfield seemed somewhat incongruous the other day. In this vast open space there is not too much worry about neighbours and limiters, the music drifts out towards the darkness where somewhere is the sea and the moonlight riders.

This is the most friendly of places. I'm standing by the queue for the photos and a quad bike comes bumping across the raw-sienna earth. "Hombre." It's the Spanish learnt from Westerns. Hombre, amigo. On the straight stretch of road heading out of Can Picafort towards Son Serra is a sign off to the left which bears the words "El Paso". It's not John Wayne but Pepe on the quad; I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride. Another time I was standing at the same spot and this boy asked me if he could stroke a horse. Sometimes you detect a sadness, and it was touching as the horse blew gently. Animal therapy.

Some things come and go, but there has been a Martorell family horse business since the early '60s; it used to be in Puerto Pollensa. Forty-five years and they issued a photo souvenir to celebrate. Grainy photos of Pepe and his father, a shot in the streets of Muro in from 1966 and from 1973 by the Molins bay at Cala San Vicente, and then to today and the animals, the dancing and the cowboys.

I bumped into John-Michael this morning. A lot of folk know Michael; one-time Bar Bamboo, then he ran Dreams for a period and was at Epcot after that. How is it all going? Ok, but shit. Why's that? Break-in. First-floor flat around the Magic area of Alcúdia. A couple of grand swiped off a credit card plus DVD player, PC ... .

You kind of expect tourist places to be more of a target in summer, but by no means exclusively. One neighbour had a break-in two Augusts ago; another, kitted out with state-of-the-art security (well now anyway), woke up to find an uninvited guest in the early hours. My place was done in February; more like you might anticipate as there's no one much about. I have a cricket bat, my old Gunn and Moore. It has a fine sweet spot. For one with a reputation as a Chris Tavaré dogged opener, the time I got in one good stride to an opening quick and with not much effort watched the ball sail far and far over his head into some Cambridgeshire woodlands was testimony to its good middle. It's heavy as well, a 3-pounder. It stands in a convenient position in the house.

There was that politician recently who said that the "crisis" might result in more crime. Could be, I guess. One thing is that there are going to be more this winter who have not done the required number of months to qualify for unemployment benefit. Michael was saying that it's not as if this is the first time there has been recession; it will be about the fourth in four decades. In the past people have just struggled through as best they can. But people change and the number of people increases, and so the temptations and the opportunities change and increase. It's not though that it's a case of robbing from the rich. The million-euro and much more villas have tended to be the magnets; not only them now, according to the Guardia. Anything will do.

Yesterday's title - "Jump Around" ( The Robin Williams connection? Among the schmaltz of Mrs Doubtfire was a funny scene of a kids' party with this as the music. Today's title - I never got it with this band, but this was damn good.


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