Friday, August 09, 2013

Summer Days Of The Living Dead

Muro town is typically one of the hottest places in Mallorca. It in fact holds the record for having registered the highest ever temperature on the island - plus 44 degrees in July 1994.

Just look at that number. A thermometer value of over 44 degrees is a temperature at which human existence is threatened. Mercifully, the temperatures in Mallorca only rarely exceed 40 degrees, but were they to for any length of time, then the casualty wards and the undertakers would struggle. Yet, for all that such excessive temperatures are not the norm, excessive values are regularly reported. When a reading is taken in the sun, then these are hardly surprising.

Over the weeks of this summer's heatwave, Muro's neighbour, Sa Pobla, has recorded the highest temperature, one of over 40C on 27 July. The interior towns are hotter than the coastal resorts for fairly obvious reasons, but at times the degree to which the interior degrees are greater is striking; it can be anything up to four or five degrees.

A brief report in "Ultima Hora" yesterday confirmed that Muro and Sa Pobla are Mallorca's hottest spots (or are during the current heatwave). What do the people of these towns do when the thermometer has gone over the 100 Fahrenheit mark and is edging towards the 40 mark in new money? Very little is the answer. And what is done is done before it gets too hot to do anything.

For those of us who live and work in Mallorca, arranging days according to how hot it is going to be is a familiar story, assuming you are in a position to be able to arrange your day in such a way. The best time to do work that requires concentration is the early morning, but this brings with it attendant problems. Getting up early requires going to bed early, but no one does.

Siesta is supposed to compensate for this burning of both ends, but it only does so if you are able to have a siesta or indeed that you are able to fall asleep during the day. I, for one, cannot. Or not for any longer than a couple of minutes.

Sleep deprivation is what causes what you get come August. Workers, bar owners, many tourists enter a state of the living dead. They don't suffer from heat exhaustion as such, just the exhaustion brought about by lack of sleep, some of which is self-inflicted. At the height of summer, at the height of the temperatures, 24-hour party people come out to play, and even those who don't want to join the party become a part of it; nights and nights with far too little sleep.

It is the heat, though, which is the main cause of the debilitation and enervation, and for those in the interior the heat is that much more debilitating. Think for a moment and wonder if climate change were to produce what it is said it will, how hot it might be.

In an interior town such as Muro the afternoon heat is colossal. The shallow wetlands of Albufera, far from supplying a cooling effect, have the opposite effect. One study of wetlands discovered that daytime temperatures within and by wetlands can be higher by two to three degrees. This may well help to explain why Muro and Sa Pobla are typically Mallorca's hottest places.

Years ago, I found myself in Muro at around two o'clock on one particularly savage afternoon. It may be the mind playing tricks, but I'm sure that the square in front of the church wasn't paved then. Maybe I imagined it not to have been or maybe I had been affected by the heat. But I remember it as though it were a scene from a spaghetti western. Unusually for a square, it doesn't have bars or cafes surrounding it. There was not a soul to be seen. The place was dead, totally dead. And baking hot and dusty. I expected a Morricone soundtrack to play and Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef to suddenly appear menacingly at one corner of the square. Or Rik Mayall and Peter Richardson to materialise from behind the church and ask "tell me, amigo, what's the meanest, nastiest hotel for two mean, ugly, gunslinging bastards like us to stay in?".

It was how one imagined Spain to be, and it didn't disappoint. It was hellish, merciless and unrelenting heat. It was heat that was unprecedented, when temperatures really were heading into the mid-40s. It was July 1994. A summer day of the living dead like no other.

Any comments to please.

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