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Wednesday February 27, 2013

In recession hit Spain giving up is hard to do

Actress Julia Roberts might not have had a hair malfunction living in Spain

Recently I stopped to greet one of the town’s beauticians who plies her trade at a popular local hair salon. I suggested that business must be at an all time low given the state of the economy but she shook her head and laughed. She told me that if there was one thing a Spanish woman would never forfeit it was her regular depilación, body hair removal and essential beauty treatments which also included hair styling.

It got me thinking about all those other regular indulgences enjoyed by locals in Majorca that might have to be put on hold in the current economic climate. Here in Soller, weekend treats include coffee with friends in the plaça, dinner at a seaside or mountain restaurant, a trip to the cinema in Palma or if a match is on, attendance at the Iberostar Son Moix football stadium. Small every day pleasures tend to involve food and drink, socialising, smoking and being able to afford the local newspaper. Big spenders might contemplate a holiday away from the island once or twice per year or making a substantial purchase such as buying a car, replacing a well worn household appliance, or sprucing up the garden with new furniture or barbecue.

After a little investigation I can safely say that despite downbeat media reports to the contrary many are clinging onto small hedonistic pleasures with limpet like resilience. My friendly garage mechanic declared that even though business is gloomy he will not give up his favourite daily puros, cigars, neither will my builder neighbour forgo his merienda, a mid morning snack in the local bar with his workmates comprising beer or wine and chunky Serrano ham roll. He described it as his daily life saver. A local cleaner told me that she and her husband had stopped dining out because finances were very tight but that she refused to abandon her weekly cheerful coffee get-togethers with her middle aged girlfriends on market day. And depilación? Of course, that was a given!

Most Majorcans I know have decided not to take holidays either on or off the island and many will work longer hours to keep the wolf from the door but their view is that the simple pleasures of life must somehow be retained. Local pensioners for example have a penchant for day tripping together. They pay a minimal amount to join a cheap, all inclusive coach trip to another island town and view this as a social need rather than a petty indulgence.

The car and large domestic appliance trades are understandably sluggish and construction of any kind is on its knees. Another casualty of the recession is live football. With ticket prices soaring to €150 for some matches, it’s hardly surprising that an increasing number of Majorcans now squeeze into local bars to watch local team RCD Mallorca being thrashed via the flat screen. At least they can just about afford a beer to mop up their woes.

Interestingly in straightened times one small habit is being broken in my town-the purchase of newspapers. These days in my favourite bar, regulars head for the pile of assorted free press rather like penguins homing in on a swarm of krill. Still, despite a few temporary constraints, it’s comforting to know that most Spaniards are bravely trying to retain the little excesses that, after all, make life worthwhile.

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