INTERLUDE IN SPAIN
Everyone knows Mallorca. They’ve been there on holiday, haven’t they?
Well. Suzy and I, plus daughter Sophy and two cats, Angelo and Chloe, were
deposited by a friend at the foot of the Calvario’s 365 steps in Pollensa.
Calvarios are streets where the Stations of the Cross are marked and form
the route of the penitents during the Easter religious ceremonies. The Pollensa
one also had this chapel at the top of the hill. After the penitents had climbed
to the chapel they returned down the escaleta or flight of 365 steps, a very
important ceremony of the Catholic church. The Penitents are all cowled and
are led by a figure bearing the cross. It is, and it is intended to be an awesome
sight, and is the only time you will hear silence from a Spanish crowd.
A similar silence came from our friend, watching from his driving seat as
we lugged our bags and the two cats’ cages up to No 17. These houses, that
cluster along the lower part of the escaleta are tiny, cute and quite basic.
Downstairs a living room with a tiny kitchen, bathroom and loo outside in the
patio. Upstairs, two bed rooms. We set up home, let the cats out to prowl
suspiciously about while we sat and had a coffee and took stock at what we
Sophy, 15, was still recovering from the actions of her parents who had
just taken her away to a foreign land, torn her away from all her friends and
wrecked her life. At least it was high summer, the season was in full swing
and she was still on holiday until September. It was not as though this was a
strange land either. We had holidayed in Pollensa several times and even
knew people here. And it was divinely warm.
We took chairs out on to the steps of the Calvario, as did many other
people. It was a moonlit night and, on the wall opposite moonflowers were
breaking out while we watched. Suddenly Angelo, our white cat, noticed on
the steps a little further up, another white cat. Angelo was still young and
playful. He ran up the steps softly and joined the other cat. We all watched
silently in the moonlight while the night flowers broke out on the wall and the
white cats played together under the moon. I shall never forget it.
Ramon and his brother owned a thriving garage where I had come in the
past with various motoring troubles. Eventually, over the next ten years, I
bought three cars from him, but that was business. Ramon’s main interest was
In Pollensa, there were two main sources for music ; the church choir (el
coro) and the town band (la banda).
Ramon’s principal area of interest was the band in which he played bass
tuba, or more strictly, the helicon, or sousaphone, a vast apparatus that
encircled your body and ended in a great bell over your head. I loved it when
he called this instrument “mi aparato”, which he did without a trace of
The town band was like thousands of other bands that you find in every
village, town or city throughout Mediterranean countries. Most are pretty
awful, making up in power what they lack in tone. In Spain, although the
band has a series of duties for which there is a state stipend, I don’t think
anyone joins it for the money. It’s the honour. Being in the band confers
status; one can legitimately call oneself “un musico”.
Throughout the year one can hear the band parading through the streets
and performing some ritual music associated with whatever saint is being
celebrated on that particular feast day. All civic functions from the installation
of a new mayor to the blessing of a new fountain are attended by the band.
There is, of course, a uniform that goes with the job. The Spanish love
uniforms, the more gaudy the better. But in Pollensa, though smart, the
uniform was modest, and nobody wore a cap.
Because the Spanish are night people rehearsals are late, not starting till
10pm and lasting for a couple of hours, and these are held every week through
the cooler months. There are no rehearsals in July or August so when they
start again in the autumn there is a noticeable falling off in quality due to lack
My introduction to the band was gradual. It took at least a year before I
had anything practical to do with it. In the meantime I tended to hang about it
like an old groupie so that, after being introduced by Ramon during a
rehearsal, they all knew that I was also a musician and thus a friend.
Ramon was a character. A bit like a stooped Peter Sellers, he had been
quite a ladies man in his earlier days and had an appreciation for the ladies in
general. Fortunately it was reciprocal. He was such a charmer, and of course,
so useful, being a first rate mechanic. Anybody who drove a Fiat or a Seat
would probably have dealings with Ramon; his garage was the centre for
these cars, which one in every two Spaniards drove.
Pollensa’s fiesta is in August. When we first arrived the whole place was
en fete for a week or so, with dancing in the plaza on a couple of nights. The
music was provided by various pop groups alternating with a really good band
from Dominica. I had always thought of Cuba as the great Caribbean music
centre but they told me Dominica was better. It was a terrific party. These
people knew how to enjoy themselves and Pollensa was a rich town, able to
afford the best when the best was needed, though being Catalan they liked to
get their money’s worth. Canny folk the Catalans.
During fiestas the town band would have its duties. Every morning early,
the village would be roused by the alborada. I had come across this word in
connection with Ravel’s ‘Alborada del Gracioso’, so I knew it was a morning
song. Pollensa’s alborada was a sort of fanfare, a short, bright traditional
piece they had played for years, and if you were anywhere nearby when they
stopped to play, you were out of bed all right.
One morning there was a high wind. I came across the band doing its
round of alboradas with Ramon and his body-encircling sousaphone at the
rear – walking backwards. From time to time he would glance over his
shoulder at the rest of the band to check he was on course, and when he saw
me he acknowledged me with a heavenward lift of the eyebrows.
Later we met at the club. “What was that all that about?” I asked him.
“You mean the walking backwards? It’s the wind. When it blows too
hard, there’s more coming down the chimney than I can blow up it. Can’t get
a squeak out of it till I turn around. Then its fine, so long as I don’t trip over
and dent ‘mi aparato’.”
The bandmaster was due to retire and a new man was hired; another
Ramon, this one Ramon Juan. I shall call him Ramon 2 to avoid confusion. A
quiet, rather studious man from Valencia, he was a clarinetist in the municipal
band in Palma, the capital. It took a while but eventually we did quite a lot of
things together and he still emails me sometimes.
As the autumn drew on we arranged for Sophy to attend the International
School in Palma. After a month of going to the beach, meeting several boys
and girls from several countries, staying up late and enjoying a freedom that
she hadn’t enjoyed before, she was already a changed person. She could hold
a conversation with an adult and hold their interest, for apart from being a
lovely girl she had both intelligence and charm. I wanted her to speak Spanish
and we had found a family with connections to the school where she could
board during the week – the Rotas. Mme Rota was Danish and her Spanish
husband was a journalist working in the City. They, too, had a daughter at the
With that settled we moved house. Then, as we had found a house to live
in that needed a lot of modernising, we decided to house-sit for the winter.
Some friends introduced us to Wilson Carter, the owner of a large house
just outside Pollensa. He never stayed in Europe during the winter but
preferred to live in the Dutch Antillies on the island of Bonaire, where he
could continue his hedonistic life style of getting drunk and partying. Good
old Wilson. He was OK- a lush, but always pleasant.
His house was big, luxurious, and provided you kept the furnace roaring,
warm. Also, it was a fabulous place to party, with an indoor jacuzzi and an
outdoor pool on a huge terrace. And being on top of a hill, it had a long view
out to sea. We called it Ca’n Kitsch. Suzy and Sophy loved it; so did visiting
One half-formed idea I had was to start painting, so I started by sketching.
Spain is a painter’s country and Pollensa is typical. Every year there is a large
exhibition (the “Certamen”) during the local festival and the area has been
well-known to painters since the 20s, when a group of them formed around
Anglada Camarasa and Dionis Bennassar and established “The Pollensa
School”. To day, Bennassar’s son and possibly half a dozen other painters still
live there and the village has two major art galleries.
Combined with the annual art exhibition there is a music festival with
concerts in the large and beautiful cloister of the Santo Domingo church.
Here, every week throughout the summer there are recitals and concerts
featuring world famous artists.
I have seen Monserrat Caballe and Jessye Norman, Andres Segovia,
Ruggiero Ricci and many other famous artists perform at this festival. For the
25th anniversary concert I wrote a piece for la banda, “Musica Festiva” which
was performed there in 1986.
During the next two years I began a project to record in drawings as many
traditional features of life in the area, many of which were disappearing as
they were superseded by more modern methods. Features like water wheels,
olive presses and water mills were included together with interesting old
buildings until I had a book, “Pollensa Antiga” or Old Pollensa, which I had
printed and sold. I also had an exhibition where I showed paintings and the
original drawings from the book. A busy time.
I had a couple of musical friends that I met in Mallorca. Reiner von
Harrach played flute in la banda and Alberto Portugheis was an Argentinian
concert pianist who often came to stay in the village. Reiner was a masseur
and a bit of a hippie but very keen on music. He said to me one day, “Larry,
you know I don’t understand English Music at all. Can you play me some and
I thought for a moment and chose “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan
Williams and put it on the record player. We listened through to the end with
Reiner concentrating hard, his brow furrowed in his efforts to discern a deeper
meaning behind this apparently superficial, pleasant sounding music.
After it was over, there was a long, thoughtful pause followed by a deep
sigh. “Ah, Larry, you know I shall never understand this music.”
I was amazed, “But, Reiner, there’s nothing to explain. It’s about a bird,
He shook his head again, “Ah yes, I know that. It’s the inner meaning that
He was convinced no one could be that simple and I couldn’t persuade
him. He was determined to be mystified. It’s a good job I didn’t put on
something really heavy like Havergal Brian’s “Gothic Symphony” or
something by Harrison Birtwhistle.
Alberto Portugheis I met in the home of a German friend who had a house
on the beach at Alcudia. During the war, the previous owner, a senior officer
in the Luftwaffe had bought it during the time the Germans used Pollensa Bay
to keep some flying boats. When this officer saw the way the war was going,
he took a flying boat down to Alcudia, went ashore and disappeared into his
house to wait out the end of hostilities.
Alberto gave recitals round the area and even tried to found an Arts
Festival in Alcudia, which is a different sort of place from Pollensa, mainly a
holiday resort, and mainly for people who don’t go to arts festivals. Alberto
loved cooking and often invited people to his rather bleak house for a meal.
On one occasion he invited a dozen of us to crowd into his tiny living room
for a bouillabaisse. He had forgotten to lay in any wine so a couple of us were
dispatched to buy some while he busied himself with the meal. After we got
back with the wine, Alberto served his bouillabaisse, a pile of bones and
overcooked flesh. While we were trying to eat this disaster, Alberto cheerfully
announced, “Dear friends, I must leave now. I have to be at the airport in an
hour”. And left. As we were clearing up the remains of the meal I noticed
Alberto had left his passport behind.
As our time in Mallorca went on, the effects of living in lotus-land began
to make themselves felt. We had planned to buy a house, but ended up
changing our minds and renting. Perhaps it was just as well, because when
Sophy left school, having taken her GCSE and baccalaureate together, Suzy
and I were coming to a parting of the ways. And in 1985, she left me.
For some time I had been in contact with the cultural authorities in Palma
and with the help of Ramon 2, had met the director of the Palma band. This
band had two uses; firstly it had all its usual duties at the sort of functions I
described earlier, but secondly it also provided the woodwind, brass and
percussion sections of the Palma Symphony Orchestra. I offered to do some
arranging for them.
My first assignment was Stanley’s “Trumpet Voluntary” which went
down very well though, as usual, they attributed it to Purcell. I went to their
rehearsals and got to know a lot of them. This was a splendid band. The city
of Palma could afford to pay musicians well and, with the extra work with the
orchestra, it was a good job, and I was paid.
The culture people liked my idea of a concert of English music. There are
so many British residents in Mallorca as well as the huge mass of British
tourists that visit these islands every year, they could see it could be a popular
concert. And so it was. I chose Delius’s “Brigg Fair” to open the concert.
Then came a new piece, Howard Blake’s clarinet concerto with the first
clarinet of the band as soloist. For this, Howard himself came to Majorca and
gave him a run through, which was very helpful. He also attended the concert,
which of course the audience adored.
After the interval we finished with Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”, which
was not only unknown to most Spanish members of the audience but also to
most members of the orchestra. I had six rehearsals, the first two being for
The strings were the weakest section and very below strength. Some of
them were probably amateurs such was the shortage on the island. They were
scared by the Elgar because there are some tricky passages in these variations,
but fortunately Elgar himself was a violinist and all his writing for strings is
quite sympathetic once you’ve had a good look at it.
There was one moment that sticks in my mind during these rehearsals. We
were trying out Variation 12, also known as BGN. (All the variations in
Enigma have initials or pet names. BGN was Basll Neville, Elgar’s cello
It starts with a lone cello. After this brief introduction come one of those
broad melodies that are so characteristic of Elgar. Starting in the cellos it
slowly grows and grows until the whole string orchestra is playing it. At that
moment I noticed my lead cellist, Martina, openly crying, and several others
too, under the spell of this magnificent but hitherto unknown music.
After it died away there was a silence. Martina finally spoke, “How is it
possible we do not know this wonderful music?”
I felt so grateful to have brought it to their attention. I also thought, “Wait
till you hear ‘Nimrod’ with the whole orchestra”. And when we played it for
the first time it was indeed a great moment.
At the concert, the final and longest variation was played with such style
that, as the audience rose to give them the ovation they deserved, I felt this
modest orchestra had outplayed itself, something I have seen Elgar do to
1985 was the year of “Music in Europe” and I had a conference with both
Ramons about what we should do. We decided to celebrate St Cecilia’s day
using a large choir and an augmented band in place of an orchestra. This
meant not only inviting the Pollensa choir but adding two more choirs to it,
one from Soller and one from Buñola, so we would have about 120 voices. To
augment our band we invited the band from Lluchmajor. Altogether we
invited about 200 people to participate. And they all accepted.
In Spain, collaboration on this scale between towns is not easy to achieve
so in early September we had a conference. I had always felt confident of the
Lluchmajor band because the bandmaster was a friend of Ramon 2 and played
with him in the Palma band. It was the choirs that needed careful handling
and for this we asked Bernabé. As well as being the manager of one of
Pollensa’s three banks and a potential source of funding, Bernabé was a bit of
a diplomat. So we all sat around a table to consider what to do. I had already
decided what pieces I wanted to do using all three choirs but we now decided
to flatter the choirmasters and their choirs by giving each of them their own
moment of glory; ten minutes on their own, with their own choirmaster
They departed to their villages and towns to choose their own
programmes whilst I set about arranging the music for the whole ensemble. I
wanted something famous and rousing to get everyone excited. My first
choice was The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah”. Then, as a quiet
piece to contrast, I chose The Humming Chorus from “Madame Butterfly”,
quite a tricky one, this. Lastly, Gloria all’Egitto from “Aida”.
The final programme looked like this:
|Overture, Carmen||Bizet||Combined bands|
|Solo choir.||Soller choir|
|Chorale prelude||J.S.Bach||Combined Bands|
|Hallelujah Chorus||Handel||Full Ensemble|
|Solo choir.||Pollensa choir|
|Overture, Zarzuela||Irruaxiga||Lluchmajor band|
|Overture, Tannhäuser||Wagner||Pollensa band|
|Solo chorus||Soller chorus|
|Gloria al Egittto||Verdi||Full Ensemble|
It seems quite a big chunk of music and it was; it took over two hours.
The programme was to be repeated in each of the four towns taking part, and
before each concert there would be a full rehearsal at each site to accustom
everybody to each new venue.
My orchestral manager, Ramon 1, had also volunteered to be head copyist
which was a big job. Fortunately, Bernabé and the bank’s duplicating
machine came to the rescue. The first task was to photocopy all the choir parts
from the vocal scores and get them off to the various choirs as quickly as
possible so they could start to learn them. I set about arranging all the band
music as well as the operatic stuff; I had set myself quite a job here but I
enjoyed it. This was fun!
We had about nine or ten weeks till the first concert in Lluchmajor. It was
time enough, though not any too much, and after a rehearsal with our choir I
heard the choirmaster gloomily prophesy, “This will never come off”.
I was quite cross with him for his defeatist attitude. “Of course it will
come off, and it will be terrific”, I told him. Though honestly, I wasn’t too
We started with the Hallelujah chorus. Voice by voice, four bars or so at a
time, over and over. It was slow work but there was a buzz in the air,
everyone felt it including me. At the end of the first evening of endless
repetition I asked for all the voices together for just the first phrase: “Al-le-lujah
– Al-le-lu-ja – Al-le-lu-jah – Al-le-lu-ja…. AL-LE-EE-LU-OO-JAH!” Just
that, but with all four parts.
Almost like children they started to applaud themselves at the sheer
magnificence and power of the music. It was a great moment when they all
realised how marvellous they could sound. That was when I could see this
coming off and why I came down on that gloomy choirmaster for doubting
Now for the band. Same sort of routine; checking for wrong notes and
poor intonation. Faster progress, because these guys could read music, but a
slog nevertheless; over and over, each time a bit better than the last, until
finally they’d got it.
As the autumn passed, we slowly built up their confidence
and the quality
of sound improved. Each week, Ramon would call the other two choirs to
report progress which seemed to be even better than ours. Soller and Buñola
were both bigger than us and both choirs had been in national competitions
where the Buñola choir had distinguished itself.
I decided we would have two general rehearsals in Pollensa before the
first concert. The first rehearsal would be the first time we had the whole
ensemble, choirs and bands, together for the first time. Arranging the disposal
of about 150 singers into ranks took quite a while, although everyone was so
keen and excited that they were very co-operative. The two bands sat in front
of the choir, facing each other with both band masters leading their respective
band, clarinets and other high reeds in the middle; then saxes, horns,
trombones and the two basses on either edge.
There was excitement as a set of timps brought from Palma joined the
percussion. Finally, Margaret and the grand piano were fitted in opposite the
percussion. She would have to be a harpist too, and anything else we needed.
We managed to run through all the big numbers and I tried to find time for
each choir to rehearse one number from each of their individual programmes.
Now we had to practice the staging. First the bands would play the Overture
from Carmen, then the Soller choir would enter and perform their set and
afterwards divide in the middle and by a cunning set of moves retire and
reform again as part of a bigger choir. I can’t remember the actual moves but,
although they took ages to get right, they worked.
“That’s it, everybody. Thank you and goodnight. Second rehearsal next
In Lluchamajor, early on the day of the concert, we had a third rehearsal,
mainly to practice the staging. Just a few bits to play and sing to get the feel
of the place – didn’t want to wear out those voices. The concert was in the
parish church, and being the first was very exciting. And very successful too.
Lluchamajor being quite a big town there was a large audience. There was
a huge ovation at the end with lots of bows. Then off for a drink and some
Each concert was a revelation for the audiences even more than the choir.
I’m sure they had never heard anything so magnificent performed in their own
villages by their own people.
The concert in Pollensa was timed to coincide with St Cecilia’s day. The
church was magnificently decorated with a special stage made to hold the
choir. And it was filmed and recorded.
After each concert there was a big reception with champagne and loads of
wonderful food. It was a “A Fete Champetre” Or Country Feast. Talked
about for years – “you remember that time they brought a choir and 2 bands
here, etc, etc,”
After the concert in Pollensa, word began to spread around the island and
the newspapers started covering the tour. Earlier, when we were looking for
financing for this project, we were having trouble getting it. The Mallorcans
are pretty close people when it comes to money, but, as the project began to
attract attention and there seemed to be good publicity to be got out of it,
more and more backers came forward to offer support.
So the tour proceeded. And next week would be Soller’s turn.
Soller is on the north coast of the island, in a valley, cut off by a range of
mountains. There is a road, but we had a different idea. We would arrive in a
special train; there was a railway connecting Soller with Palma and on the
way one of the stops was Buñola. Everybody met at Buñola to catch our
special train, everyone in high spirits. The concert was a big success –
applause, applause, bows, and more applause – flowers presented and the MD
got a huge branch of nectarines, for which Soller is famous. They were
delicious. Next week, Buñola.
But next morning I got a call from Ramon. “Amazing news, Larry. The
mayor got a call this morning from the President in Palma.” (The Balearic
islands are a state within a republic. Once these islands were a separate state
with a series of kings. It is in recognition of this former realm that it still has a
President. And this was the man who had called.)
“He wants us to do the show in Palma at the Auditorium.” Ramon
“Isn’t that marvelous?”
It certainly was. The Auditorium de Palma was where I’d given that
English concert; modern and elegant with good accoustics, it seated 1500. If
we did no more than bring our audiences from Lluchmajor, Pollensa, Soller
and Buñola we would almost fill the place.
I don’t want to forget Buñola in all this excitement because, although it
was the smallest venue of the tour, and the smallest church, it went off just as
well as the rest. But obviously, Palma was beginning to dominate our
thoughts. By now we were so well rehearsed that each concert got better and
better, and this would be the big finale.
Musically speaking, this was everyone’s finest experience up to that point
in their lives. In the band there were several good trumpets; young adolescent
lads who were a bit cocky about things. When they came across the great
Verdi chorus that contains that wonderful trumpet tune, possibly the best tune
ever written for the instrument, they were thrilled with it and gave it their all.
For the concert in Palma I decided to display them to best advantage. I had six
trumpets between the two bands, so I put two of them on either side of the
choir so that they were above the rest of the band, then let them go. They
responded magnificently and were encored, so we had to do the latter part
again. Those kids were the heroes of the night.
In retrospect, I see that I’ve written a lot about those concerts, but when I
remember the fun and the glory – yes really, glory, of those nights of musicmaking
I realise this was what life’s all about. It’s probably the best thing I’ve
ever done and gives me the warmest glow to know that I gave the members of
those choirs and bands a look at themselves being magnificent. Bravo
During the last two years I lived in Mallorca I did a couple more things
with the local musicians. One was another concert to combine our choir with
They wanted to do Vangelis’s “Chariots of Fire” for Piano, Choir and
Band. And I also had to teach the choir to sing Parry’s “Jerusalem” in phonetic
English thus: “And did xos fit in ainshunt taime wok apon Englands…..etc”.
Amazingly, it worked.
I also started “Eolo”, a wind instrument group, to play chamber music
around the island. Despite their association with the orchestra, the woodwind
players in the Palma band appeared not to know the huge repertoire of music
available for wind bands. They were a bit cool to the idea till we started to
rehearse Mozart’s C minor octet, one of the finest he wrote. Then the
enthusiasm kicked in as, of course, they were getting paid for these concerts.
Eventually, over two years, we did about six concerts including one in
Pollensa. I conducted these concerts, knowing that chamber music needs no
conductor, but the group seemed to want someone in front of them waving a
stick, especially as all this music was unknown to them. When I left, I told
them I hoped that they would keep the group going but I doubt if they did.
You had to have time to organize these things and they had pretty full
I didn’t get paid for these concerts or the big choir concerts all over the
island. I did it because I wanted to do something worth while. When they
asked me back subsequently to do more concerts and I quoted a fee plus
travelling expenses, there was a great silence as they realised what these sorts
of shows really cost to put on!
My last hurrah was in Pollensa and I have already mentioned it. The
Pollensa Music Festival was started by Philip Newman, an Englishman. He
realised if he could start concerts here, he had the perfect venue, the Cloister
of Santo Domingo.
This beautiful cloister is where the winning pictures of the “Certamen”
painting competition were hung. It’s 60 yards square and surrounded by
covered walkways. The centre of the cloister is open to the sky with the Puig
mountain as a backdrop. To combine into the three arts of painting, sculpture
and music was a masterstroke. Bravo Philip Newman!
By 1986 the Pollensa Music Festival had been in existence for 25 years
and the Festival committee wanted to start the season with something local. I
wrote a celebratory piece called, rather pompously, “Musica Festiva”. It
featured the Pollensa band and those trumpets that brought the house down in
Palma, though now we had eight of them which this piece needed.
Around the cloister on the first floor are the rooms of the retirement home
that Santo Domingo has become. The south end of the courtyard was the stage
on which the band played. To the left, at one of the first floor windows I
positioned two trumpets. To the right, also at a window, two more. At the
opposite, north end of the cloister at a third window, two more. That left me
with the last two trumpets for the band itself.
The first time we ran this through, I invited the committee, and some
friends including Leon Spierer, the leader of the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra and a longtime Pollensa resident, to listen and comment. We called
the six first floor trumpets “La Fanfarria”.
After a brief flourish by the band, the first pair of trumpets start their call.
In bursts, the band with another flourish, and now the second pair start their
call joined by the first pair. They play together until the band interrupts them
for a moment. Then the third set of trumpets, far away behind you, which is
joined after a few moments by the second pair, and then the first, so all
trumpets are ringing round the courtyard like a huge carillon. Then finally the
band burst back in with the main theme which continues with interjections by
the fanfarria through several sections, until, after a long climax, there is a last
triumphal flourish on all eight trumpets and the piece ends with a huge
The listeners loved it (they said). And after this came the rest of the
programme. By this time the band had improved a lot and we had been joined
by some key players from Muro, a small town nearby so the show went off to
Something I shall always remember were the annual reunions of all the
bands in Mallorca given by a different band each year; 40 bands of around 25
players plus their families is between 1500 and 2000 people. The last one I
went to was in Lluchmajor where they cooked paella for the whole crowd on
three huge open fires, each one with a tall metal tripod, and hanging by three
chains from each tripod a metal paella dish at least ten feet across.
A fire truck brought water and twelve men with oars (I’m not joking – real
boat oars). They stood, four men to a dish, ready to assemble the ingredients.
First a gallon of olive oil to each dish. When it’s hot, in with two kilos of
chopped prime pork mixed with rabbit. Let it take colour then add two kilos
of chopped onion. Let it all sizzle together for five minutes before adding two
kilos of mixed carrot, french beans and red peppers. More sizzling before the
piece de resistance: a large sack of rice. Let this all mull for a bit before
bringing the fire truck over and adding about 25 gallons of sea water, maybe
Now we realise why it’s four men with those oars. Standing north, south,
east and west, the four start rowing the wet rice round and round until it starts
to swell. Now for the final stage. Into this mixture add a few kilos of gamba
prawns mixed with sliced squid, and a kilo or two of crab claws, plus the all
important saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, say three or four
ounces of it. (Don’t ask me what that will cost!)
When all is ready, stand back while a crane approaches to lift off the
paella, which I guess will weigh at least a quarter of a ton, and place it on a
stand ready for serving. And off we go, feeding of the two thousand, a truly
They say that the bigger you make a paella, the better it gets. I know this
to be true; it was wonderful. And some people had seconds.
During the concert of English music, when Howard Blake was in
Majorca, we had talked about a problem he was having getting some of his
music finished. I had flown back to England and met him in London. I asked
him if I could help him sort this tangle out and offered to take a piece back to
Majorca to work on. He agreed, and suggested I should come back to London
with it finished, then work for him till everything was done. With Howard
paying me to do all his work, it was my chance to get back to England, for
which I shall always be grateful.
So at the end of 1987 I left Mallorca and a part of my life behind. It was
the end of an era.