Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Know My Place: Magalluf

It was some time since I had been to Magalluf. Coming in along the coast from Palmanova, was to realise that it still has the power to, depending upon your perspective, inspire and overwhelm because of the towers of hotels and the claustrophobic tight roads with bars that seem to topple from the pavements, or to horrify, for much the same reasons.

Depends upon your perspective. This about sums it up. How you look upon Magalluf, how you look upon other resorts. The first time I went to Magalluf, I thought the place was mad, a modern bedlam that made no sense. The most powerful initial image I had was turning a corner and seeing Benny Hill in front of me. You still expect Fred Scuttle to appear at the doors, offering a salute and wearing a lascivious grin as scantily-clad 18 to 30-ers (the female variety) hare towards the beach in speeded-up motion. Like the rest of Magalluf, Benny Hill, if only by name, is completely and compulsively crackers.

But of course, Magalluf makes perfect sense. As with other resorts, its sense is one of being fit for purpose, this purpose being the one it has chosen for itself. It knows its place in the order of things. Yet, it is this order which deals it a death by a thousand cuts and criticisms, many of them delivered by those who barely know the place or who don't know it all, and occasionally by what is unfortunately highlighted by the media.

Who among you remembers the sketch on "The Frost Report"? The one with John Cleese and the two Ronnies. "I look down on him." "I look up to him." "I know my place." If Mallorca's resorts were comedians from a 60s' review show, then somewhere like Puerto Pollensa would be Cleese. Magalluf would be Ronnie Corbett. Alcúdia would probably be Ronnie Barker, essentially lower middle-class but with aspirations towards something greater.

But even this metaphor is inaccurate. It makes an assumption not only about the resorts but also about the people who go to them or indeed live in them. Just because you're Ronnie Corbett and are endlessly saying "Sorry" doesn't mean you are barred from Puerto Pollensa. A cat can look at a queen and all that. But there are plenty of cats knocking around the bins of Pollensa, and rather more queens in Magalluf. Probably. So, that's another metaphor that doesn't really work.

A metaphor, or more a simile really, is that Magalluf is like Blackpool. Unfortunately, for the ones who would make this comparison, so too is Alcúdia. Or at least, this is how the criticism goes. It is one of a kind of collective presumption of prejudice, a conspiratorial knowingness of condemnation. Oh well, we all know what Magalluf is like, when of course we don't. We think we do, and it is Blackpool.

For all the Blackpool shorthand, strangely enough, neither Magalluf nor Alcúdia is like Blackpool. And what, pray, is meant to be wrong with Blackpool anyway? No, Magalluf is like Magalluf, even if Alcúdia is sometimes reckoned to be like Magalluf, but never the other way round. You see, that Ronnie Barker place in the scheme of things is not so completely inaccurate.

Recent events in Magalluf merely conspire to confirm what is believed. But stuff happens. What conclusions do we, for example, draw about Pollensa from the fact that an octogenarian allegedly deliberately drove over his wife or that another eighty-year-old, a female, was attacked in her home? I'm not sure that we draw any. With Magalluf, though, it's a different matter.

The resorts of Mallorca are highly diverse. Their differences add to an overall diversity on the island, of landscapes, towns and of people. But one feels there is a desire to somehow standardise Mallorca and to do so along some idealistic lines. Where does Magalluf feature, for instance, in a coffee-table-style advertising for Mallorca? It doesn't. And it doesn't for the very good reason that it doesn't conform to an image. Yet, by neglecting it, a major aspect of the island's diversity, and its tourism, is shunted into the background, shunned even. It is a neglect that says to Magalluf, and it is not alone, that you should know your place.

Well, it does know its place. It's there on the coast in Calvia, resplendent in its hotelmania, gloriously bar crazy. It may be nuts, but all power to it for being so.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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