THE new year is well under way and let’s face it there’s never a dull moment here in Mallorca.
Whereas in Britain January is dull and quiet here it seems to be one festival after another with everyone turning out to enjoy whatever is on offer.
Here in the north we’re really going for it.
Last year at this time we were barbecuing sardines on Formentor Beach in the snow, luckily it’s been a lot warmer this year, during the day at least. Watching the various Spanish celebrations, as a Brit you just can’t help shaking your head while muttering something about health and safety.
As far as I can see there just isn’t any that you’d notice. Last Saturday evening for instance, Pollensa had the local children dancing around under continually lit fireworks, with naked flames everywhere, it went on for a very long time and the only protection they had was to put their hoods up, provided they had them, presumably to stop their hair catching alight.
Before this was the Three Kings procession, where horses and floats come through the town after dark, throwing sweets to everyone.
These sweets are hard and really hurt when they hit you and yet there were little toddlers gleefully jumping in front of moving vehicles to grab handfuls of them.
At the time of writing we are about to have the ‘Fires’ a speciality of the North and pretty much a completely health and safety free zone.
As I write there are heaps of full sized tree trunks all over the northern towns. These heaps are for bonfires and are placed in front of and very close to shops and flats and are always under power cables, trees and balconies. The flames from these reach great heights but no one seems in the least bit worried. Last year it was incredibly windy and on the sea front the flames were blown horizontally across to a restaurant and melted their rather stylish plastic chairs. Extremely loud fire crackers go off everywhere and it is advisable not to be standing too close to these if you value your hearing.
The day after these fires is the ‘Tree’. If you haven’t seen this it is frankly incredible. The participating towns choose a suitable local tree, fell it and remove all branches.
After this with great ceremony it is brought to its new resting place where it is erected and covered with some sort of lubricant. A bag of money or a live chicken is attached to the top and local lads, encouraged by crowds of cheering locals and vast quantities of alcohol, attempt to climb to the top and claim their prize.
Actually there isn’t any money now and for the first time it won’t be a real chicken either but that won’t stop anyone. These trees are very high and I’ve seen guys climb over each other in their enthusiasm to be the first to the top. It’s terrifying yet exhilarating to watch, you don’t want to look but can’t tear your eyes away. I’ll let you know how it goes.
As we all know it’s not just the festivals that lack health and safety protection here. I was watching the trees being trimmed the other day. A man was at the top of his ladder, not wearing hard hat or safety harness, no one securing the base of the ladder, holding the tree with one hand and holding a chain saw in the other. He was stretching to cut branches and to my eyes it was just madness, the word safety just didn’t cover it.
Has anyone been hurt during these festivals? Not that I know of. Is anyone bothered about working conditions and their implications? It doesn’t seem like it. Would these things be allowed in the UK? Not a chance. Which is right? I’ve no idea but without health and safety you do get to enjoy the most amazing festivals. Apparently, the trick is to wear old clothes that you don’t mind catching alight and don’t stand downwind. I’ll give it a go.