Charity begins at home in Soller
Photographs by RACHEL FOX
The Soller Valley had a late start to Christmas.  The new Christmas tree with its poinsettia sculptures and silver lights was still being erected last Thursday in time for the ‘switch on’ ceremony on Friday.  We have had a make do and mend Christmas tree for the past few years in Soller – it matched the mood of everyone watching their budgets and that included the City Council of Soller.  The Ladies of Minerva (Soller’s answer to the W. I) created a green wrap around tree that looked like a dalek.  We all understood the point and respected their work.  It looked great when its lights came on after dark it was only in the day time that it looked an apology for a tree.  This year it’s all different and the fresh flowers everywhere lend an opulence which has been missing for a good while.  There is a note of optimism in the City as many new businesses take their place and Soller consolidates its title as being the Cultural Centre of the Tramuntana – as defined by UNESCO.
The other side to the Christmas cheer of Soller is all the hard work going on behind the scenes.  It is known that there are 400 families in Soller without income and the City, Caritas and the Red Cross do all they can to ensure that these people are looked after.  This group join over 50,000 people on the Island of Mallorca with no income who are dependant on charitable donations.  The concerned people of Soller are working very hard for those who need it. An appeal was launched at the weekend for a month long collection of items for babies from food to nappies and everything else appropriate for the under threes.  Can Prunera – The Museum of Modern Art in the Lluna is a daily collection point and the posters have gone up everywhere asking people to be generous.  The Port of Soller Association have been collecting toys and goods for local children and the sacks currently have over 50 donated gifts.  They continue to collect through December and are very anxious that every child receives a present when the three kings visit.  The Solidarity second hand market takes its place during the Christmas Markets selling goods for local charitable causes. The desire to help one another is publicly evident.  There is also a huge amount of unseen work going on with the schools keeping a watchful eye out for those who are struggling.  School meals are a lifeline for some children and the concern is very much for them during the holiday times and systems are put in place via the Social Services of the City.
The Christmas Market takes over from the weekly one on a Saturday for the next few weeks.  ‘Expo Nadal’ was launched this weekend with reduced fares available on the Soller train to bring in the crowds.  This was the only weekend that the train could be a draw for the city.  From 9thDecember to the end of January 2015 the train is retiring for a little rest and recuperation to the engine shed.  This is a time for staff holidays, cleaning and repairing the trains and working on the tracks. The shopkeepers are not happy about the depletion in visitor numbers that this brings.  This is the third year that the train has had such a long break and the effect on the City is marked. The financial balancing act is a tricky one and you can see why the train has a break at this time of year.  For Sollerics the tourist argument just doesn’t wash they still consider the train as a transport system for the people of Soller and they feel outraged when they don’t have access to it.
The weeks that the train is off the rails often coincides with a change in the weather here in the mountains of the Tramuntana.  We all remember the Saturday a couple of years back when Soller was cut off by snow.  The train was off the tracks, the Soller Tunnel was closed because of the snow and icy conditions and we were  marooned in our own little island.  We all came out to play and gathered in the square or under a blanket in a café drinking hot chocolate.  It was a winter wonderland morning that is still spoken about with big smiles and great affection for our neighbours. We were all in it together and the weather was our link.  So far, as this year marches on towards Christmas we have more need of canoe than contemplating snow.  The rushing torrents of water down the mountains after recent rains are spectacular and the reservoirs are almost filled to the brim.
I leave you this week with a great thought which has brought me much pleasure in the contemplation.  I visited clients last week in Deya who run a very successful Estate Agency.  They told me that their business plan included a percentage of the fee they earned on each house sale would go to charitable causes in particular to help issues of homelessness and unemployment.  Some of this money has already filtered through to charities in Majorca with much more to come.  This for me was truly the spirit of Christmas 2014 joining all the hard work of so many people in here to make a difference.

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