As we teeter on the brink of another long hot Deiá summer, I thought it wise to hip you to a vital piece of village etiquette I learned many years ago. Never apologise.
One August morning, after a night of gleeful mayhem, the only piece of which I remember involved shutting a tiny woman in the refrigerated cake cabinet of a restaurant, I made the terrible mistake of apologising for my behaviour. My apology caused more offence than whatever it was I thought I’d done. Deiá is the only place this has ever happened to me.
I’ve thought long and hard about why this might be the case and I’ve come up with a kind of theory I’d like to share.
Live on this island long enough and you’ll suspect that the way the Mallorquins avoid confrontation has evolved as a method of co-existing peacefully in a confined space. If a Mallorquin does have a problem with you, they’re far more likely to issue a denuncia, a private criminal allegation, than confront you directly.
You never know who issued the denuncia so it’s impossible to find out whose nose you’ve put out of joint – a highly effective control method.
Deiá’s Bohemian code
Many of the artists, poets, musicians and black sheep who have descended upon Deia over the years have come from bywords for licentiousness like London, New York, Paris or Berlin. At the risk of sounding pompous, the village attitude also grew out of the Bohemian code, as found in Greenwich Village or Soho. For denizens of the wilder bars and clubs, the ultimate manifestation of cool was to be unshockable. High standards evolved when it came to outrageous behaviour. If you wanted to go down in Boho history you had to surpass the masters who, of course, never apologised.
By saying sorry for whatever I thought I’d done, I’d shown myself to be hopelessly uncool and a thorough disappointment to the person to whom I was apologising.
Everything is permitted
Back in the days before Facebook, there was also enormous opportunity to reinvent oneself in Deiá. And, in the words of Hassan-i-Sabbah that became one of the mantras of the 1960s, if ‘nothing is true, everything is permitted’. The myth of the village gave some people a kind of permission. (But, it has to be said, this came – comes? – at a great cost. It’s not all fun and games.)
The history of Deiá is studded with characters who were splendidly not at all what they seemed. To pick one of these at random, how about Wes Brunson, brief Svengali and kickstarter of Mister Head, the band featuring Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt that morphed into Soft Machine? In the superb biography of Robert Wyatt by Marcus O’Dair, Different Every Time, it’s claimed that ‘Brunson not only carried knives and a gun but also believed himself the seventh incarnation of Christ – and would stand in the path of oncoming traffic to prove it’. Where are you now, Wes?
In this fabulous context, apologising can also be seen as a kind of vulgar display of ego. If I think I’m so important that my misbehaviour has the power to offend you, I’m implying that I’m cooler than thou. We can’t have that, especially if you might only be here for the summer.
To live outside the law
When Bob Dylan wrote ‘To live outside the law you must be honest’, he coined another of the great 60s mantras. I take it to mean that if you’re dropped into a place where the conventional rules of behaviour don’t exist and no-one’s going to police you, it’s up to you to find your own internal good behaviour compass.
And if you do commit an absolutely appalling indiscretion – one you’re never going to be secretly proud of, which thoroughly lacks class – pack your bags and leave town before the sun rises. At least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve become part of the Deiá legend.