Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sand In Your Shoes

I wonder if Dido still has sand in her shoes. It's some fourteen years since she informed us that she did. Two weeks away and the whole world should have changed, she intoned, adding that she would leave it until tomorrow to unpack. Like so many before and since, Dido was unable to accept her return to normality. Like so many before and since, she had returned home with part of the beach.

Around the same time as Dido was lamenting her lost fortnight, I came across a sign on a beach (Playa de Muro's rustic Es Comú, if you must know), which very kindly asked its visitors to not leave with the beach. In other words, it noted that the sand was valuable and could one ensure that as little of it as possible (if any) was taken with one on leaving.

At the time, I found this sign ever so slightly absurd. Does anyone willingly leave a beach with sand? There is, after all, all that vigorous shaking of towels, etc. that goes on. Yet it is impossible to leave without sand. Is one supposed to add some form of mobile hoover to all the other paraphernalia that makes its way onto the beach in order to vacuum up the sand and then deposit in a nice recycled heap? One might do, but one can also be sure that, having completed this task, the northeasterly will blow and cover the towel with yet more sand.

The last thing anyone wants to take away from a beach is sand. It is extraordinarily annoying and, as Dido discovered, it can linger well beyond the check-in at departures. So, while signs can remind us all of the necessity not to take it away and inadvertently affect endangered biodiversity (or whatever), it's reasonable to suggest that these signs are somewhat redundant.

There again, they do act as reminders of the importance of sand while letting visitors know that the sand isn't theirs. It's our (Mallorca's) sand, and Mallorca is where it should stay, preferably on the beach. A problem is, though, that there are all manner of people other than your normal beachgoers who are getting in on the beach act and then disappearing with sand. More than that, they are taking the beach over, staking it out, treating it as though it were theirs, when it most certainly is not.

A couple of days ago, I drew attention to the fact that one cannot trespass on certain beaches for reasons to do with heightened environmental sensitivity or with the possibility of being shot by the military. Such limitations are fortunately few and far between. Beaches are freely available, and so is the sand. A pleasant sandy cove. Where could be better than to have a wedding?

One is tempted to think that this is all the fault of the Benidorm TV series. There they all were on the beach. The riff-raff tourists (and residents) had clearly been ushered away. Madge and Mel were there to be married and would have properly tied the knot had The Oracle not crash-landed on Mel. Ever since, beaches of whatever type and wherever have become the locations à la mode for uttering the I do's (or their equivalents).

Über-environmentalists Terraferida, for whom I do have some time, have returned to social media with their latest tourist "massification" production. A wedding on a beach at a cove near Colonia Sant Jordi has got them into their latest lather. Now, without knowing the intimate details of the wedding arrangements, I'm nevertheless guessing that there wasn't a great phalanx of security keeping the riff-raff away. I'm also guessing that it wasn't at a time of day when the beach might possibly have been packed ("massified") by other tourists, having away with the sand. I'm also supposing that there was nothing to stop the wedding having been held, because Terraferida have pretty much said this. The Costas Authority, they insist, shouldn't be giving generalised permission for such an event, which comes as news to me as I had thought express permission was needed. Didn't James Blunt get into a bit of bother over his wedding reception on a beach?

Anyway, permission or not, what was the big deal? As far as Terraferida were concerned, the wedding was representative of the takeover of beaches. Moreover, it was organised by a foreign company (apparently). And, not that Terraferida specifically stated this, once the wedding was finished, all the guests plus happy couple would have been legging it with valuable sand. The beach had been massified, it had been ecologically endangered, and foreigners, to boot, were to blame.

Terraferida do make valuable contributions. I often agree with them, but they run the risk of alienating those who might otherwise be sympathetic by potentially trivialising their cause. Sand, it is safe to say, gets in your shoes.

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