The Balearic Crossword
After all the exotic excitement of the Trans Siberian and Japan, I have settled for a familiar location with very familiar company for the last leg of the Great Relaxation. Majorca is a favourite family haunt: it has great beaches, stunning mountains (they are not very high, but have mountain-like peaks – is there a minimum height for a mountain?) and dependable dry heat. In many ways the story of our Majorca is intertwined with its namesake, Majedie: We have been coming here almost every year since the business was well enough founded for us to afford the outlay of a villa with a pool. Drinking in the mountains in the evening light (so different from the ubiquitous tablet/computer/smartphone screen) has always represented the real year end for me, taking me away from the minutiae of each daily business challenge, each small ball dropped and allowing a proper taking of stock. And, thanks largely to the efforts of my colleagues, that stock has risen steadily from those early days. How thrilling.
There is also time for proper reading outside the straightjacket of the pink pages: I have read David Kynaston’s excellent series of social histories on post war Britain, Anna Funder’s astonishing book on the East German secret police, “Stasiland”, Max Hastings’ book on the end of the Pacific War, “Nemesis” and Robert Service’s History of Modern Russia. Oh, and the book that all us middle aged men read, “Stalingrad” by Anthony Beevor – the fifty shades of grey for husbands.
Another ritual unique to the Hazlitt sojourn in Majorca is the crossword. Due to the aforementioned pink page (and Economist) straightjacket, and the fact that I am, frankly, monosyllabically tired by the end of each working day (what a delightful husband), these “mind games” (as the excellent Times iPad app calls them) are not attempted at any other time. It is with great gusto that Karen and I open the relevant page each morning, dreaming of its subjugation by lunch. Oh no. With every passing year we seem to get worse, or at least the setters get more fiendish: you have odd clusters each day, where knowledge of Greek philosophers will get you three clues, and, bizarrely, three clues all asking for a “small burrowing animal (6)”. Then there is the classic mangling of the typeface on the app whereby apostrophes become a^, or maybe it is meant to be? Hmm. All in all, we gently drift away from it as the morning progresses, the siren voices of google ringing in our ears. Perhaps it will keep the Alzheimer’s away for another year.