The swallows have all but gone, just a few stragglers left soaking up the last rays of early winter sunshine. They have booked the last flights to regional airports back in the UK before the closed season schedules begin in earnest. Our Soller swallows are those who arrive, settle and then at the first sign of the mountain cold head off somewhere else. It may be they just return home for the winter and Christmas festivities and then come back again in the spring. Some people are tired after a heavy summer of working and they are heading off for cruises and warmth elsewhere to prepare themselves for next season. Then there are those who are just broke and can’t face another winter trying to survive in Soller. Seasonal work has come to an end and unemployment benefit is fraught with conditions and delay before you receive your first months money. That is always supposing that you have paid enough into the system to be entitled at all.
As I write we have Soller friends who are processing their applications to emigrate to Australia. Others are reversing the dream they once had and returning to the benefit system of the UK. Still more are taking up IT opportunities with the German companies who have come knocking on Majorca’s door. There is an unprecedented demand for the IT literate young people of Majorca to settle themselves in Berlin, Hamburg and other major German cities. When the new electrical store opened in Palma at the beginning of the month it is said that the 120 new vacancies created attracted over 12,000 applications. This is the sign of desperation that is bubbling under the surface at present. Any financial reserves working people had last winter have been used up and this is the ‘reality winter’ that is forcing tough decisions.
For every sad ending there is a new beginning for the new Soller arrivals of 2012. They are an enthusiastic bunch who made their relocation plans fully understanding that Spain was in the grip of the ‘worst recession ever’.
For the most part they are financially self sufficient and not looking for the contracted job that is like goldust here. Some have a retirement nest egg, funding for a new business idea or are just plain rich. Some are running away and will have their Soller time until they can face the realities of life again. They will all have a learning curve but it won’t be whether or not they can afford to eat tonight or heat their homes. The trolley in the Eroski supermarket for food donations for the hungry is a constant reminder that life is difficult for many here in the Hidden Valley.
Soller is now slipping well into November which is the oddest month of the year in my opinion. Hotels, restaurants and some tourist shops have all closed. The 1st November was the date when the hoardings went up on many of the beach restaurants and the shutters came down. Some of them are just closing for holidays and will be open again by Christmas but for others this is it until February 2013. The weather is glorious again after the recent deluge and there are still people swimming in the sea, the restaurants that remain open are doing a roaring trade. The walkers and cyclists are enjoying our fabulous autumn and early winter and so are we. It just seems strange that when there are so many visitors around that the resort still closes up. It is as if November 1st is a fixed date in their minds on which the season must end – whatever the weather and visitor numbers.
It all comes down to decisions in the end, to stay or to leave, to open or to close, to eat or not. These are are all the decisions that affect Soller people and the rest of the island as it takes on its winter coat. The biggest problem is the lack of house selling mobility – there is no doubt that if houses were selling there would be droves of people leaving. Many ‘stay as you are’ decisions are made because of the lack of property sales.
My Soller estate agent friends say they can detect a change and that more house sales have progressed this month than in the past two years. They are quietly optimistic about 2013. This is a view shared by a private chef who works in Soller – she says that she is already fully booked for the season next year. An interesting slant that could change the future for so many.