Elena Davis is 100
Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin
Tuesday 21st July 2015
Photograph by Rachel Fox
Happy birthday Elena – enjoy your party tonight and all the other celebrations that are planned to mark this majestic birthday. Elena might forgo her poker game or drive into Palma this week because she will be busy partying with the many that have travelled to be here in Soller for this special occasion. I am not exaggerating when I talk of Elena driving herself into Palma for her weekly card game with friends. In her case 100 is the new 70 and her independent life continues as it has always done. The Red Cross in Soller gave her a Careline Buzzer to wear so that she could press a button if she needed any help. They did this in honour of her age not of any incapacity and she accepted it because it would have been churlish not to even if she has no intention of using it.
Elena Davis is the author of the book Witches, Oranges and Slingers which tells the story of her half a century on Mallorca . That book was published six years ago so her time in the Soller Valley has now topped 56 years. I recommend the book to you as a series of reminiscences of a bygone age when many adventurers found a home in the Soller Valley and never went back. Elena was a native New Yorker working for a charity and living a serious, hard working life in the bustling metropolis of her home country. It was an adventurous friend – Escha Bledsoe – the violinist – who persuaded her that she might like the Mediterranean island on which she had a house – Majorca . Elena set sail from New York to this island via a stopover in France . The year was 1959 and it was a journey that would change her life for ever.
First stop for Elena was in Villa Rua a house in the L’horta district of the City. This was the first of many homes in the Soller Valley which finally led to the one that defined her and made her an honorary citizen of Fornalutx. Elena along the way had decided that this was where she wanted to spend the rest of her life and she needed to work and learn the language to enable that to be a possibility. She taught English to local children, she administered the estates of absentee landlords in the Soller Valley . At one time she held over twenty powers of attorney on behalf of the property owners for whom she worked and then there were the books…
Elena is known in these parts as the lady who ran the English Library in Bar Turismo in Soller. English books were goldust here at that time. Amazon deliveries hadn’t started and the Kindle hadn’t been invented so books were magic. Elena started collecting the books that holiday makers left plus donations from other residents and then eventually there was enough money to buy books and have them sent to Bar Turismo for the daily library service. Every morning Elena in her ‘librarian’ mode would preside over the records and absorb the local gossip and adventures of her fellow English speaking Sollerics. The café society of Soller was born here amongst the books, the gossip and the intellectualisation of the minutiae of life. It was here that the development of – Elena as Ms Fix It of Soller and Fornalutx happened. The unravelling of the messes that some people got into became the norm for Elena and she was the first person many turned to when they needed help.
Elena at this time had relaxed into the Majorcan way of life and absorbed the culture and unwritten rules that governed village life. She attended concerts all over the island and thought nothing of driving over the mountains in the pitch black to concerts in Pollensa returning at 2 or 3 in the morning. She enjoyed the simple fresh diet and the health giving properties of the sun and was always pleased with herself that she had chosen this island and its people to live amongst. As retirement beckoned it was time to devote many hours to the work of ESRA on this island. ESRA was formed in 1980 and existed as a support and charitable organisation for its members in addition to a being a social network. Elena was a board member and in charge of Social Services. In time this became the Age Concern that we know today on the Island . She became the treasurer and journalistic contributor to many of their publications and this became her third age occupation.
The library continued for over thirty five years and ran side by side her work with Age Concern. Elena, not content with that workload decided that in retirement she would concentrate on getting her tennis back up to standard. Regular tennis was then a big part of her life until she was well into her eighties when aches and pains took over and the tennis racket was reluctantly put away.
Elena left the Island for holidays and became an intrepid traveller. Her trips to London to watch Wimbledon on the TV were part of my North London diary of the time. I knew of this lady and all she did for many of my friends who owned properties here. The lack of television in Fornalutx meant that Elena’s friends would make sure she had somewhere nice to stay in London where she could sit glued to the tennis by day and enjoy the local restaurants at night. The tennis days were gentle in comparison with her visits in the 1990’s to Peru , India , Indonesia and Thailand . She was in Sri Lanka on 26th December 2004 and witnessed the tsunami first hand. Her life has always been a hard working adventure and this has continued into her advanced age.
The day came a few years ago when the mutterings of friends and Doctors was heeded by Elena and she gave up her village house in Fornalutx and moved into the centre of Soller. She now lives in an apartment with a balcony view of everything happening in the square. She has a special dispensation from the Town Council as they allow her to park her car in the official spaces opposite her apartment block. The annual medical she has to allow her to drive seems to be no problem and the car waits outside the door so she can shop, attend concerts and play poker!
Elena has lived through many eras here in the Soller Valley . The friends of her middle years were many authors, musicians and poets that made their life here in their struggling years. She remembers many parties and gatherings where everyone was broke and all took a contribution towards the party food and drink. She recollects an era of dependence on each other and not on the toys of the 21st century. She also appreciates the pleasures of 2015 on the music and opera channel that her TV is permanently tuned to these days and the connecting pleasures of the internet and Skype.
Elena is a glorious institution of the Soller Valley , she arrived and worked her life so that she could support herself in a country not her own. The accolade of the Fornalutx town council when they made her an ‘Illustrious Citizen of the Soller Valley’ was a high honour for her and one she didn’t feel she deserved. Those of us who have known her and all her work over the years would beg to disagree. Elena came on an adventure and enjoyed the ride so much she never wanted to get off.
Today marks her 100th birthday and friends and family are here to celebrate with her in Can Reus in Fornalutx tonight and then at another party in the site of the English Library in Bar Turismo later in the week. These dates have been in the diary for a very long time and the sense of excitement in the air in Soller is tangible. We are all delighted to share this great day with Elena who is loved and known in her place in Mallorca – The Soller Valley.
Happy 100th Birthday Elena xxx