The people of Bunyola live on the other side of The Coll de Soller – our mountain. Many of them work in Soller and most are related to someone in Soller. This is a joined community separated by a very large mountain. When the Soller Tunnel was opened in 1997 the powers that be in their wisdom decreed that the people of Bunyola had no special rights. The Soller and Fornalutx people were able to pay a reduced fee to go through the tunnel which they eventually got back from central government. The theory was that the residents of the Hidden Valley should not be penalised for living there. Exceptions were soon created and precedents set as the Government realised it couldn’t charge Teachers and Doctors who were allocated to Soller a tunnel fee. They had no choice over where they were allocated and this in turn set precedent for other ‘essential’ workers and for children who came into Soller each day to go to school. Exceptions were made and the list just got bigger and bigger. The people of Bunyola have always felt that they should have had the same rights as the Sollerics and have protested this fact for as long as the tunnel has been in existence. This week the Ombudsman of Majorca decided that the people of Bunyola are right and they should be entitled to exactly the same privileges as Soller people and that the money they have paid over the last sixteen years should be refunded.
A hollow victory as far as the refund is concerned – what they are owed will be added on to what is already owed to the Soller people since the government have stopped refunding the money owing to lack of funds. The principle is very interesting and we are all waiting for the outcome as the Ombudsman can only make recommendations and it is up to the law makers to have the final say on this issue. It is fair to say that the Government does not usually argue with Ombudsman – he is there as the appointed arbiter of fair play. So as the victory shouts went up and the pats on the back to the organisers of the long demonstrations were given, the long wait begins.
We are enjoying the finest ‘January Calms’ that any of us can remember. This is local weather folk lore to describe the beautiful days of January when the wind is non existent and the sky is as blue as can be. The smoke from bonfires just goes straight up and fog lingers because there is not a puff to blow it away. This is known locally as the January Calms and describes this past ten days perfectly.
The walks of this time of year took me down to the sea and gave a vision of what the summer is going to be like because everyone is working hard to get it ready. The eyesore on the Repic Beach of the derelict water-slide that has been there since the 1980’s was receiving a lot of attention as I went past. The bonfire and trees around it were being cut down and engineers were seen examining the structure. We are all hoping that this will be the year that the steel monstrosity finally meets its end. The boring story of the Hotel Rocamar doesn’t need telling again but an announcement was made this week that the derelict hotel will be demolished in March. (Please don’t write to me to say that was what they said last year too – I know …)
This week we celebrate with the rest of Spain the fiesta of San Antoni. He was reputed to be kind to animals and a supporter of rural life so I’m not sure where the demons come from. They do love a demon in Soller and my youngest granddaughter has made her demoni mask at school ready for the bonfire, barbecue and demons dance in her Port of Soller school. Soller Square is the location of the City’s Sant Antoni Barbecue, dance and fiesta on Thursday 16th January. The City provides the bread and builds the fire pit for cooking – bring your own meat and wine and join us in celebrating. New rules for this year have banned firecrackers for this celebration but we will have to see if people can resist the bangs that normally accompany the fire and masks.
On Sunday 19th January from 3.30 pm the only place to be is in the Square in Soller. We have a surreal event where the equestrians of Soller parade themselves and their horses in all their finery and race against one another up the main streets. They gallop and hit the ribbons strung across the road above their heads to the loud cheers of the crowds. This is after the parade of the animals who are all being blest by the local priest and sprinkled with holy water. All animals are there from dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, snakes, goats, sheep, baby donkeys. The parade can go on for some considerable time as the priest takes his job very seriously and gives each animal a certificate to say its been blest.
It is at times like this I have to pinch myself that I am really here in the Soller Valley with one foot in all the traditions of the past and the other firmly in 2014 which is getting under way beautifully. Hope to see you at our fiesta this weekend – you are most welcome.