First, a couple of apologies.  The title of this letter does sound a bit like a Robert Ludlum book - no connection whatsoever.  And then there is that first photo.  Taken with my iPhone, held up to a pair of binoculars - right...I promise not to do that anymore.  Okay, enough...

It is Spain, and things are a little different here. Not everything, but clearly some things are different in other parts of the world I have lived in.  One difference manifests itself quite often…and that is public holidays.

In the UK, we have Bank Holidays.  This terminology was developed long before British banks went on mental holidays where they decided to not do anything that was worthwhile apparently.  In the 1870’s, someone thought that bankers should have a break once in a while from all that stress of counting money, and over time, these original four days became the current eight.  Now of course, bankers use the time to celebrate the fact that when they are closed, they can’t muck things up any more than they currently have been.

Spain took the concept of public holidays a bit further.  Here we have sixteen public holidays.  Quite a few of these are probably a result of the church, with the country basically shutting down to celebrate San Juan (St. John); San Pedro y San Pablo (St. Peter & St. Paul); Santiago (one of my favourites as it is the celebration of St. James, the patron saint of Spain); and the Immaculada Concepcion (Immaculate Conception). 

When I first moved here, I thought this was pretty brilliant…more than one holiday each month.  Not a bad thing.  But then I moved to Mallorca, where we have not only these holidays, but a few that seem to be specific to the islands.  In Mallroca, we also celebrate holidays for San Sebastian, (20 January), Dia de les Illes Balears (Balearics Day, 1 March); Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday); and Segunda Fiesta de Navidad (St. Stephen’s Day).  This plethora of holidays escalates even further as some communities on the island have their own holidays as well. 

Now I must admit that often, faced with the prospects of an island culture that has 20-plus days per year where everything shuts down, it can be a mix of good news and bad news.  The good news is that no one is supposed to be working (but the entire concept of work here is often suspect anyway).  The bad news is that on any of these days, it is a bugger to find any stores open.  Of course, this isn’t a serious problem unless you get caught out with an empty refrigerator on one of these days.  When I first encountered this little problem (it does seem like a little problem if your refrigerator is not empty), I decided that I would always ensure that I have enough food in the house to last through any siege of holidays that the local government could devise.  This clearly has led to the fact that my kitchen shelves do take on the appearance of a supermarket for the certain non-perishables that I tend to consume. 

This morning, after relishing my tea and toast, I began to think about what to make for dinner.  I usually don’t think about this until my stomach is screaming out for sustenance in the evening, but it is overcast and drizzling today, and my mind began to ponder what I could do to occupy myself later in the day.  I settled on which culinary delight I would whip up, but then realised that I was missing several component elements of the soon-to-be-feast.  Bugger…today is the first of May, which means it is Labour Day here.  Which means that everything is closed.  Which means I wouldn’t be able to whip up my dinner-delight.  Which means I just wanted it more.  So, being a man on a mission, Miranda and I set out to find a market that was open. 

Luckily, there is a local market only a few kilometres from the house, and they were open.  Actually, they always seem to be open.  Quite obviously, the owners either A) Have no respect for the government’s public holiday missives;  B) Lost their calendar’s and had forgotten that it was a holiday;  C) Are concerned about the people who may run out of some food-stuff and stay open to serve them; or D) Are blatantly greedy.  I am not sure which is correct, but I tend to think that letter D could be spot on.

Regardless of their motives, the market was chocker-block with people, all apparently planning parties to celebrate the holiday.  I wound my way down the aisles, desperately trying to find what I was looking for before someone else scooped it up.  Instantly chuffed, I had found what I was looking for, and then whilst standing in the incredibly long check-out queue, I also plopped some impulse purchases into my basket…as you do.

So now I am home again and everything is put away…and have already changed my mind about what to make for dinner.  So instead of making my previously planned food extravaganza for the evening, I have decided instead to help out my chosen government by coming up with some additional holidays to celebrate.  I want to make the entire holiday thing easier for those key decision-makers who figure out which days each year deserve to be considered public holidays. I am a resident here; I pay taxes here; and I have obtained my Spanish driver's permit (although I am not sure how that plays into anything other than having done that should be worth something other than being able to drive legally.  It is my responsibility and my self-determined right to help the government sort this out.  High on my suggestion list would be to hold a celebration on any day that’s name ends with a ‘Y.’  Good. Job done.  Can I have a kip now?


the Queen Victoria, as it cruised past Sol y Mar the other day



some of my visitors today



very tempting for a swim


early light for breakfast



takes my breath away

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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, James B. Rieley