Palma: Do you ever find yourself trying on other people’s lives, wondering how it would look and feel to be them and have their take on the world? Maybe you never waver, never have wandering thoughts like this. But during my final days in Palma, I found myself doing this a lot. Did I want to be the Swedish man who clearly lives here year-round, whose PA arrived after walking his dog and who glistened with all the stamps of at-ease wealth? There was something about his manner that made me think that I could do without this particular life-swap. Would I instead prefer to be the person signing the contract for perhaps the best-positioned and most carefully crafted triplex apartment in the city? Well, it would be a dream to live in a home by Ohlab architects (my generous site guides) but seeing as I’m struggling to organise a tiny new home, actually I will survive as I am.
Then I went to the studio of the potter Paparkone, who has become a friend over the years. The last time I had been here was just before the pandemic hit and he had helped (really helped) me to make a cup and saucer. I’d said I would be back in weeks but some 19 months had intervened before I found myself climbing back into his atelier, over the barrier that keeps his labrador from straying. Yet there, sitting on the shelf, was my now fired and glazed effort. The whole atmosphere was one of purpose, of beautiful things being perfected slowly. Could I become a potter, I wondered? Would I be good at gaining a skill that requires such patience, dexterity and tactile sensitivity? The answer was clearly no. But it’s fun to insert yourself into these pictures, if only to decide that you are lucky with things as they are and that the world is definitely a better place without you behind a potter’s wheel.
London: Two people speaking to each other and just getting along. Woman number one is explaining that she has just attended her company’s diversity training and that the section on microaggressions was revealing as she hadn’t understood that you shouldn’t compliment a black person’s haircut. “Why?” asks woman number two. “Is it because you risk exoticising people?” There’s a bit of debate but woman number two sounds a note of caution. “Honestly, I think you should just be true to what you think and pay the compliment.” As you will have guessed, woman number two is many things but among them is that she is a highly successful woman of colour.
The attempts by businesses to shut down all manner of conversations at work in a bid to avoid any risk of complaints, let alone a lawsuit, have left many people unsure what they can say, even when all they are attempting to be is kind. And this can only be counterproductive – people will think it’s better to stick with those who look and behave like them rather than trigger some unforeseen anger while making new links. But because there’s money to be made from this consultancy-driven rule setting, it’s unlikely to stop any time soon. And no this is not an endorsement of racist language or of people not being challenged when they say something that you find uncomfortable. It’s more a belief that, when it comes to saying that someone looks happy, or great after their holiday, most people will be delighted.
Palma: And you can only speculate what the consultants would have to say about this as an afternoon office treat. For the past few years there has been a craze in Spain for waffles shaped, well, like penises. (Please be very careful if you decide to Google this for further information; you may see bits of Spain that take your breath away.) It started in Madrid and Barcelona, and now chic Palma is getting in on the act with several new outlets. They also make a female version. But rather than linger longer on this big growth sector, I will leave the last word to a local news website which says more than enough in one sentence: “The shop sells 17cm penis-shaped waffles in various flavours and colours and the owners say bigger ones will be available soon.” And, no, I did not imagine life as a franchisee.
London: It has been announced that Oxford Circus, one of London’s most famous spots (for no particularly pleasing reason) is to be turned into a “an Italian-style piazza”. Don’t start. There will be no gargoyles, no splashing fountains, no old folk lingering over coffee, no fresh-veg stand; it’s going to be pedestrianised. The Italians should trademark the piazza concept because the glories of their squares are too often mocked by the laying down of some paving stones over tarmac or the installation of some out-of-a-catalogue street furniture, with cities then claiming that the result is something akin to Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori. Now this is the sort of offensive urbanist language that really could do with some consultant policing. It’s quite shocking how people think they will get away with it.