Sunday 26 July 2020

Letter from Deià

Friday's Leap in the Dark featured the following from my old friend David Holzer, known to Leapers as 'Yoga Dave'. 
With a serendipity that took my breath away he revealed at the end as you will see that the day - 24th June - had a particular significance. He has kindly allowed me to share the text he read. My thanks to him.

Letter from Deià

On my first ever morning in Deià, in late April 1997, I swam out into the middle of Cala Deià, the rocky bay below the village. When I paused for breath and looked down at the ghost fish nosing through the waving fields of bright green Posidonia grass, it was as if I was suspended in liquid air.

I remember letting my gaze drift up from the boulders on the beach to the olive terraces to the tip of the village church tower to the mountain bowl in which Deià sits to the empty sky and feeling weightless and eased out of the flow of time.
Later that day, Lali and I made love beside the ruined pirate tower on the clifftop as a storm moved in. Seven years later, her sister, one of her twin sons and I scattered her ashes from the headland on the other side of the beach. A month or so later, we burned her diaries so another sister, a writer, couldn’t get her hands on them.

Before we left the fire we’d made, Lali’s sister picked a fragment of paper out of the ashes. On one side it read ‘burned’, on the other ‘honoured’.

We never got round to placing a marker to Lali in the village churchyard so Cala Deià is where I go to gather my memories of her.

My plan was to walk down to Cala Deià but, by the time I stepped off the airconditioned bus from Palma and lowered my mask so I could breathe easily for a moment, it was already too hot to spend any time walking in the sun.


The person calling my name was my Columbian friend Maria. She was back on the island to allow her 10-year-old daughter to spend more time with her father.

Maria is studying family constellations. She leads people in ayahuasca sessions, calls ayahuasca ‘grandmother’.
As she explained how family constellation work is all about seeing patterns, which is what ayahuasca allows you to do, her patterned mask kept slipping down over her snub nose.

We were interrupted by Emma, who had been my five rhythms dancing teacher, and I drifted off into the village.

It was late morning now and I thought I’d have breakfast at Sa Font Fresca which has a large terrace overlooking the lower part of the village, the Clot, where Lali lived in the 1970s among painters, writers and musicians that included Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen.

The Clot is in shade for much of the morning. Over different summers, living in the Clot, Lali’s twins went out of their minds. The path that would have taken me down to Cala Deià begins at the bottom of the Clot.

Jackie, an anthropologist and writer who has lived in the village since the late 50s, was taking coffee on the terrace of Sa Font Fresca.

We talked about what it had been like in the village under lockdown. ‘I saw no-one for a couple of months,’ she said. ‘And suddenly there are all these people. It’s a bit of a shock.’

As one of these people, I felt a little guilty.

‘I always relax when I come here,’ I said. ‘It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.’

‘Be careful you don’t relax too much.’

Jackie told me that the latest famous person to buy a house in the village was Donovan, the Hurdy Gurdy Man. Donovan has had a house in the south of Mallorca for many years. I interviewed him before he performed at La Casa de Robert Graves, now a shrine to Graves.

As he burbled away, his accent shifted from mid-Atlantic to Irish to Scottish and in and out of the third person: ‘So there was ol’ Donovan a wandrin’ down the road with Gypsy Dave.’

After my lunch of tumbet, a kind of Mallorquin ratatouille or moussaka, I strolled up the village main street. The actor Llewellyn Parr, dressed down in expensive shades, a red neckerchief and denim shirt sat on his own in front of a bar, mask dangling from one ear. He looked lost.

Llewellyn is a pal of my painter friend Hugo who has lived in the village since 1978. Hugo, who reminds me of Freddie Starr, has his own reasons for having fond memories of Lali.

I spent the afternoon nattering with Hugo in his living room. Next to me a painting of James Dean was propped up in a chair. A huge painting of Robert Graves at a Romanesque lecturn against a blue sky dominated the room. Graves looked like a cross between a ring-battered boxer and an emperor who has survived many intrigues.

Hugo told me it was Jason Donovan who’d bought the house.

A little unsteady on his pale pins after drinking four glasses of Soberano brandy with chocolate milk, Hugo walked me down to the bus stop.

The bus follows the coast for a while before the road turns inland to Valldemossa. Beneath the cliffs, turning blue as a light mist descended, the sea shifted as if something huge stretched below its surface.

I met Gabi, my Hungarian partner Erika’s sister, on our local beach. Near where she was lying, a group of Latin Americans danced drunkenly to reggaeton booming out of a speaker that belonged in a nightclub. The last of the sun bronzed their wobbling, badly tattooed bodies.

We walked back to my apartment over stained, crumbling paving stones, past rotten tooth bars and shuttered shops. 
And, wrapped around my neighbour’s front door handle is a white plastic crucifix.

Today is Robert Graves’s birthday. He would have been 125. 

No comments:

Post a Comment