Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grease Is The Word

The Greasy Mile, The Dollar Mile, The Golden Mile, The Mile, Pere Más i Reus, Pedro Más y Reus, Bellevue, The Strip, Ciudad Blanca, The Centre of Alcúdia.

One area; so many names. The tourist knows it mainly as Bellevue or The Strip; the tourist, generally speaking, believes it to be The Centre of Alcúdia. The town hall, the tourist office, maps know it as Ciudad Blanca. The Spanish, sometimes, know it as the Dollar Mile. The road itself is Pere Más i Reus or Pedro Más y Reus. No-one ever actually refers to it as the Golden Mile. The local (Brit) knows it as The Greasy Mile, the simpler The Mile, or around Bellevue.

But most of these names are inaccurate. The Mile monikers allude to the road (Pere Más i Reus or The Strip), but it is the area that is greasy or dollar or golden; it is the area that is Bellevue or the Centre.

What’s in a name? “Greasy” is something of a pejorative, but it is one tinged with affection. It is an end-of-pier nostalgia, a greasy spoon, a greasy caff; it is the sun-kissed today of childhood yesterdays in Littlehampton, Margate, Scarborough and Morecambe. Grease is the word; it’s got truth, it’s got meaning. From our pasts we create an amused present; a living tribute to a transported culture. It is possible to view its unlovely facades through irony-tinted glasses. The Mile is the archly-cynical post-modernist’s heaven of the something so bad, it’s good; “Neighbours” without Kylie, save for the Kylie-karaoke wannabes and the army of Kylie-christened young mothers with Jordans in the HGVs of baby-buggies.

There are those who know The Mile, and those who don’t. To know The Mile is to wallow in its grotesque, its vibrancy, its pathos. This is culture, if not one the tourist authorities have in mind. It is culture which nearly all carries an import stamp. Where the coloured girls sing “do-be-doob, do, do-be-doob, do, be-do” and braid Africa on to small Caucasian heads; where the coloured girls’ boyfriends sell the Coldplay of white-man’s rock for a handful of euros; where the bars are branded by geography or by traditional British pub names that have found new expression along the Mile - The New Inn, The Crown, The Prince of Wales; where the Abba-isation of entertainment has spawned the tribute act and the croaking of a karaoke, consigning flamenco and ball de bot to quaint sideshows in the “other” Alcúdia.

There are those who sneer at The Mile, but they do not know The Mile. This sneering is the nose-in-the-airist’s look-down-the-nose patronisation; the past anti-aspiration of a newly reconstructed petite bourgeoisie for whom the tapa and the feigned regard for a “real” Mallorca is de rigueur.

The Mile is belly, cellulite, tattoo, plait, laughter, fun, beer, Fools and Horses, bacon, cholesterol, disco. The Mile is Blackpool insofar as Blackpool has a Golden Mile, but it is Blackpool because of its subconscious campness. The Mile is Eurovision, innuendo, ooh-er missus, kiss-me quick. A living museum, a vital relic, The Mile is arguably contradiction: the collision between the contemporary and Eric Idle’s Torremolinos, in which all remains intact save for the supplanting of Watneys Red Barrel by John Smiths. But The Mile is not contradiction. It is continuity, celebration, commemoration. It is holidays remembered. It is holidays now.

Grease is the word. The Mile. Long may it live.

Yesterday - Wayne Shorter. Today’s title - who sang it?


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