In front of us in the jetway to the Thomson 737 in which we would fly to Mallorca was a young woman with one of those non-pictorial tattoos consisting only of text. Was it a favourite line from Shakespeare, or from the Bible, or from a Katy Perry song, or something one of the latter-day multimedia gurus — a Deepak Chopra, perhaps — had uttered on one of this appearances on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. We couldn’t make out what it said, as it was mostly obscured by her blouse, but were pretty sure it didn’t say, “Do not resuscitat” or “This space for rent”.
We couldn’t really understand why the young women hadn’t gotten it on her chest, or down one of her lovely arms. It wasn’t backward, so she wouldn’t have been able to read it in a mirror even if she’d been Linda Blair, circa 1973, and she demonstrably was not. If the idea of it was to reassure or enlighten another, was she not sabotaging herself wearing anything other than a halter top? Thus, it was in a state of minor (as in forgotten before we’d even reached our seats, and we were in the first row behind the cockpit) befuddlement that we began our annual October holiday.
Why do we holiday in October? Because, with chilly weather right around the corner, resorts drop their prices almost out of sight of where they were in midsummer. The problem being that sometimes the chilly weather beats us to a particular destination, and we wind up, as we did in Sharm el-Sheikh five years ago, spending most of our holiday huddled under blankets, watching the same nine news clips on BBC and CNN over and over until we’re able to narrate them along with the announcers.
The problem with places like Alcudia, the Mallorcan neck-of-the-woods where we were bivouacked, is that there’s hardly a trace of anything real. The streets are lined with souvenir stores selling brightly coloured plastic crap and restaurants called, for instance, Old West Tex Mex Steakhouse. (Which, I’ll grant you, is a big step up from those offering Full English Breakfast to those who can’t go eight mornings in succession without gorging on the flesh of murdered pigs.)
That said, I’m not sure that I dislike the plastic crap emporia more than I did those parts of Palma’s gorgeous Old Town lined with boutiques selling tasteful, overpriced designer crap bearing the logoes of all the usual suspects — Hugo Boss, Donna Karan, Emporio Armani, et al. I could never love anyone proud to wear a designer logo.
On our second day, we signed up for a tour called Western Encounter, only to be left behind at our first stop, the beautiful, tragic (because it exists only for tourism) mountain town of Valdemossa, in which Fred Chopin was said to have come from Poland in hopes of his consumption getting better. The tour guide said we would meet back where we disembarked the bus at 11:30. We were of course there at 11:25, as we’re that sort of person. There was no trace of our bus, the tour guide, or any of the misshapen old folks (most probably younger than your correspondent) with whom we’d ridden up from Alcudiam and we felt as though in an episode of The Twilight Zone. We finally managed to get home six hours later, after the bus we boarded in Porto de Soller managed not to hit any of the 25,000 cyclists who seemed so intent on slowing our progress through the mountains.
I will confess that, while in Valdemossa, the pretty decorative letter and number tiles for sale in every shop inspired me to propose that we name our little house (as many Brits do), and buy the pretty tiles to spell out its name on our front door. But Dame Zelda thought Slime Is the Agony of Water — Jean-Paul Sartre unwieldy, and at 1.30€ per tile, it was going to take a bite out of our lunch budget, so we sadly reconciled ourselves to continuing to think of our house simply as 49.