Book lovers – and even those not remotely interested in literary pursuits – expressed shock and profound sadness at the sudden passing of one of Soller’s most colourful and much loved characters, the one and only Margalida March Pizà, proprietor of Calabruix, the town’s bookshop.
When I first arrived in the Soller Valley I was delighted to discover the little Aladdin’s cave that hugged a corner of the cobbled shopping street, Calle de Sa Lluna. As I opened the door, a small bell tinkled above my head and Margalida, bespectacled, wiry and rather headmistress-like at the far end of the shop, eyed me critically. Seeking her advice about a Catalan school title for my son, she broke into fast paced Mallorquí and I struggled to keep up. It was then that I first noticed the wicked glint in her eye, the amusement at seeing a foreigner drowning in an unknown dialect. I remember feeling frustrated that I didn’t have enough fluency in the language to make myself properly understood and from that moment on, vowed to learn some Catalan.
Gradually Margalida grew used to my frequent visits to her emporium. I’d ask her for obscure titles that I needed as research for my own books and she became interested in the subject matter. Soon she began to introduce me to fascinating titles about Majorcan emigration during the 19th and 20th century and to Catalan poetry, fairy tales, historical works and the art of gloses, traditional Majorcan ditties used in song and at fiestas, and often saucy in content. Marga warned me to tread carefully when I came to her for information about the Spanish Civil War and how it had affected local Sollerics. She furnished me with excellent reading material but told me that the pain for many was still raw, and she herself disliked talking about such dark times in the country’s history.
But perhaps what I loved most about Marga was her irreverent and dry humour. She ribbed me mercilessly when I used the wrong Catalan word and refused to speak with me in Castilian Spanish. She told me with a wide grin that it was the only way for me to learn the Mallorqui language that she loved so passionately. Aside from recommending tomes to me, Marga sold copious copies of my own books about Majorca. She was happy that I loved her rural valley, its culture, history, traditions and people.
When my last title was launched locally I invited her to the party. She tutted and told me that she had nothing to wear and didn’t attend swanky events. So desperate was I for both her and her partner at the shop – also named Margalida – to attend that I even jokingly offered to lend her a frock. That’s when she rolled her head back and chortled and promised to come. Of course she proved to be the life and soul of the party and arrived in chic and understated attire.
A visit to Marga’s bookshop was always a joy and one filled with laughter, and inevitably I’d leave the premises with a smile and a bounce in my step. It therefore seems impossible to believe that this highly intelligent, wonderfully warm and vibrant woman has disappeared from our lives. Forever.
And in my grief at her loss I could kick myself that I never asked her why she chose the name Calabruix for her shop, meaning hail. I thought long and hard about it and wondered whether a play on words might have appealed to her sense of humour as calabruix could possibly be translated as the witch’s cove or even refer to the pretty yellow herbaceous plant of the same name. Perhaps I’ll never know but what pains me most, is that I never had the chance to hug my friend goodbye.
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