When people relocate to Soller and it’s Hidden Valley they can be heard asking questions about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ areas to live. They know they want to be here but they can’t work out which is the posh end of town. Coming from North London’s, Kentish Town, I can take you down the streets that in my childhood would have been considered ‘not nice places to live’. They are very different today as the old criteria is more difficult to apply with gentrification. In Soller the centre of town is made up of large and small village houses. All very similar on the outside and veritable palaces within – it is difficult to identify a poor end of town. I have had this conversation with locals who think my question is absurd. This is a town where a palace sit next to a carpenters workshop and an ice cream factory chunters away in the basement of a prestigious block of flats. Living and working are usually done in Soller within minutes of one another. Village house Entrada’s make excellent conversions into shops and hairdressing salons with plenty of room to live upstairs and this is considered the norm. So when the question comes from relocaters about the ‘right’ place to live in Soller I am at a loss to give an answer.

The Fiesta, this weekend of ‘Estiradors I Es Celler’ makes my point. This is an area (coincidentally where my daughter and her family live) which has a thriving community association – the ‘Association de Veinats dels Estiradors I es Celler.’ They have a lively five day fiesta every year with a community supper, karaoke for the children and a grand ball with music and dancing from our local dance groups before the community take to the dance floor. The celebration area is created from the local car park and the barbecue is prepared in the swing park adjoining. ‘ Estiradors’ are ‘stretchers’ -usually fishermen who stretch and repair their nets and this is the hard working tradition of the area. They are a fiercely proud bunch and enjoy the autonomy of their fiesta each year to remind Soller who they are. They feel strongly about local issues and especially about the new parking regulations in town which will affect them. The new parking meters have been vandalised three times now and there has been a delay on their start date until this week because of the rebellion. Angry words have been exchanged and the ‘Stretchers’ of Soller are not telling the police who might have been responsible.

Now they are spoiling for confrontation over the poor playground of the area. If you went to the Fiesta this weekend you will know it was the place where the theatre group Calabruix performed. This area has a couple of desultory swings and a creaking see saw and has been in need of an overhaul for years. This year, spurred on by the ‘success’ of the parking meter war the ‘Stretchers’ are insisting that promises are kept about the installation of new equipment for this playground. As far as they are concerned the Town Council are going back on their promises and they want immediate action for the children of the area. The fine houses of Estiradors are often home to English celebrities in August who have been known to take to the microphone during Fiesta. They keep a very low profile on local issues as they have such a strong band doing it for them.

Estiradors is one of six named areas in Soller and is known also for it’s proximity to the Cemetery and the mountain walks above it. The locals here think they live in the very best part of town so near to the Centre but only minutes from the rugged mountain walks of the Tramuntana.
There are other areas of Soller which are just as proud but their stories are for another day when I’ve helped the latest incomers decide where to live. I am gently encouraging them to leave their English way of thinking at the airport and open their minds to what is really here. Soller is not and never will be a ‘little England’ in terms of housing or attitude. It’s not better or worse it’s just different. If you can get your head round that you have a fighting chance of making it here. The number of relocaters this Autumn are up on previous years and I know that this is a conversation I am going to have many times before the end of 2012. I will try not to ‘stretch’ the truth, I really want them to be happy here.

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