Monday, December 28, 2015

Oddities Of 2015

Some examples of the varied and sometimes unusual past and present in Mallorca that appeared in my Enjoying Majorca column in the Bulletin.

The alternative fiesta of Sant Canut that competes with Palma's Sant Sebastià in January. "Being a saint, sort of, Sant Canut comes in the form of an image to be carried by the faithful. Dressed in a white, druidic gown with very long black hair, he holds an oversized joint; a very oversized joint."

The Portol (Marratxi) sardine tradition for the end of Carnival. "The Portol sardine, as is the case with some sardines elsewhere, doesn't actually get buried. The Mallorcans enjoy nothing more than setting fire to something, and little excuse is needed for a festivity to feature a roaring bonfire. The comedy sardine is toast, its final moments being marked by the sound of a trumpet reveille."

The "picadors". Not the lancing horsemen of the bullfight, but ... "The picador was the sleazy, smarmy, greasy Latin lover, the tourist gigolo of legend. He wasn't a myth. He genuinely did exist. And there were few places where he existed in greater number than in Mallorca (of the 1960s)."

Mallorca's bulldog spirit: its bulldog. "This canine, which came from guard dogs that were on King Jaume I's ships, is considered to be the only dog that is native to Mallorca. Its name is the Ca de Bou: bulldog. It has another name, and that is the Dogo Mallorquín."

The Duke of Swing. "A waiter in the San Pedro (Puig de Sant Pere) area of Palma. His name was Pedro (or Pere) Bonet." He was born in 1917 and at the start of the 1930s he began to be exposed to the music and entertainment of Fred Astaire, Django Reinhardt and the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. "Bonet de San Pedro was to eventually join this unofficial royalty: he became the 'Duke of Swing'."

The weirdness of Hairy John. "Sant Joan Pelós, Saint John the Hairy. He has been around for centuries and on the feast day of Saint John (the Baptist), he prances around in Felanitx once more, wearing his strange mask and then handing out carnations to the spectators. His whole demeanour, his whole idiot-dancing style, plus the flowers make him a dead ringer for a flower power hippy of the late 1960s."

Moscari's bachelor boys and girls. The day of Santa Anna (26 July) is also the day of the "Fadrí" in Moscari: bachelor boys and bachelor girls, aka "fadrins" and "fadrines". No one seems to know why this day is as it is, but whatever the origins, at ten in the morning the "Fadrí Major" appears: the chief bachelor boy. He carries a reed adorned with ribbons and flowers and is joined by "fadrins" and "fadrines" in traditional dress. 

The Embala't of Sencelles. "There is little about it which makes much sense. What have mobylette motor cycles got to do with anything? Who knows, but there they are from some time after midday, hurtling around the streets while their riders are fired at with water pistols. The streets and roads get semi-flooded and will later on have more water deposited on them when the bales of packed hay arrive in town. And these come thanks to two teams - a male and female one. The two bales are then wheeled into the town's centre and unwrapped. This is when the battle kicks off. What does it entail? Nothing, other than chucking hay and smothering someone in it."

The Esporles sweet fair. "A giant sweet shop and a magician's bakery. Sugar, cream, chocolate, custards, this is a wonderland conjured up by some candy wizard. This is Esporles on the first Sunday in October: Mallorca's tribute to all our yesterdays of the pick 'n' mix and the corner shop with its penny-costing flying saucers and pink shrimps."

Jimi Hendrix in 1968. "The story of the Sgt. Pepper's gig has it that Hendrix cracked the walls with the volume that came out of his Marshall and Sound City speakers. Those attending were mostly British tourists. Hendrix was all but unknown in Mallorca, save for the likes of various locally based musicians, among whom were a couple of members of Los Bravos. After the performance - legend has it - Hendrix was involved in a night of decadence with four Swedish young ladies."

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