Updated: Oct 22
Families of North London Jews bought the flats in cash: They wanted a Zionist enclave.
Olf flew to Palma on the 8h15 with a heavy suitcase. He met the architect, a lovely English chap, and the financier, a shady man with gold chains. They showed him a large house with goats running around on a cliff facing south. And they explained that here is where his apartment would be. Olf sniffed the air, it smelt of goat. Olf liked goat. So he shook the gentlemens’ hands and dropped the suitcase of 50 pound notes next to a freshly made goat turd, and turned on his heels to catch the 17h45 return flight to Heathrow.
The year was 1958. The 'to be' apartment was just outside Palma, nestled between the cultural paradise of Magaluf and the millionaire yachts of Portals. Or simply put, between the Ralphs and the Lees.
In 1960 Olf took the family to see the brand new apartment and the first thing Frieda his wife did before she entered, was to put a Mezuzah on the doorpost. The two children Barbara and Thomas went straight to see the communal pool overlooking the sea, in the very place where the goats had been frockling a couple of years before. Only Olf walked inside, he picked up the new owner's inventory and started in the spare bedroom.
Billy was not a fan of suitcases no matter how sophisticated the wheels were. She always carried everything she needed in a rucksack and these days she only booked one way tickets. She wanted to be sure she could always make a quick get away, and those little wheely devices no matter how clever their reverse steering, just couldn’t handle stairs.
She wheezed up the second flight of stairs and dragged the big lump to the door of 417. She was about to turn the key when she noticed the broken Mezuzah on the door post. Not having the foggiest idea what it was, she googled - object affixed to doorpost. The answer came back - 'Mezuzah, protection for the house and inhabitants against evil.' Well thought Billy, I’m in the right place. And silently she thanked her late step-father Thomas.
The year was 2020 and Covid had struck. Whilst humanity starred at news bulletin on pixelated screens trying to understand the new world order. Billy planned to photosynthesise in the Mallorcan sun and connect with the Universe that way. But there was no denying, the apartment had an odd feel. Clearly unchanged since the 60s. She found unwrapped flappers and rolling pins, still in their packaging. Who uses a rolling pin these days anyhow? thought Billy. What a mothball, oddball of a place. It was dated yet new.
Billy didn’t let the lace curtains and the crusty tea towels bother her however. She had come to have a chat with Mother Nature and that she could do around the lopsided pool on a cliff facing south. After a couple of weeks of practising this routine, a toddler tottered down to the pool with his dad. Conversations with the Universe were temporarily suspended as the toddler ran rings around the pool with dad at his heels.
The thought came to Billy that it really was an inconvenient shaped pool for a toddler or anyone for that matter to run around. The words just fell out of her mouth. At 37 she still hadn’t developed a filter between thought and speech.
The toddler’s dad looked up sympathetically, “I couldn’t agree more”. On his next lap round, “You should take it up with my father, he was the architect!”
And that, thought Billy, is exactly what she would do - take it up with the architect.
“Where can I find him?" she hollered.
It was lap 13 and the toddler had shown no signs of tiring, “720 - he kept the apartment with the best view”. And with a wink he was gone, the toddler had finally fallen over with dizziness.
So later that day, Billy hauled herself to the 7th floor and knocked on the door of 720. An elderly Spanish lady let her in and ushered her to a frail looking man on the balcony looking out at the pool and the sea. And what a view it was. This was Tony, the charming Englishman and it being 4 o'clock, they settled down to a cup of Tetley's. Billy explained she was an artist and was interested to know what had inspired the design of the building.
Tony described his life before. He and his wife had lived in a big house with many goats on this patch of land, they had children (one of which was the gentleman at the pool with the toddling grandson) and lived a happy peaceful island life. Then one day a financier, Asaf made him an offer for the land he could not turn down. As part of the deal he would be the architect of the 750 apartment development.
But he and Asaf had very different ideas. Asaf wanted smaller apartments and more of them. Tony wanted more communal spaces and proper health and safety standards. When the construction was finished and all the apartments sold mainly to Jewish families for cash. Tony contacted Asaf for his share of the money, but Asaf had disappeared. The only thing he could salvage was a small apartment on the 7th floor that he had been using as an office. Essentially, as Tony was overseeing the delivery of concrete, Asaf was laundering the contents of suitcases.
Tony’s face turned a shade darker, “But what really gets my goat, is if I’d known he was going to swindle me, I would have insisted on a central air conditioning system! We still only have a fan, can you imagine? I can't afford to install my own aircon!”
Billy thanked Tony for his time and was getting up to leave, when the peculiar shape of the pool came into her line of vision.
“One last thing" she said, "the pool - it's a very odd shape - what inspired it exactly?”
Tony’s lips were just about to slurp on a mouthful of Tetley's, when he froze. The tea cup trembled in his hand.
“Oh I’m sorry, I didn't mean to be imprudent…”
“No no” said Tony, “it's just that we filled in the original pool after what happened in that first year in1960. And well with no more money left I got the cheapest contractor to build a new one, turned out he couldn’t read plans... but no one seemed to care, all the Jews had packed up and left by then, after what happened.”
“After what happened Tony? What happened in 1960 that you decided to fill in the original pool?”
Frieda plucked a hammer and 2 nails out of her handbag. In 1960 you could travel on planes with such items. She lined up the Mezuzah and struck the first nail into the door post. Bull eye.
Olf was in the ensuite ticking off items. 1 Bidet - his inventory said there was a bidet. He looked around, there was no bidet. He made a note.
The children looked out at the pool, the sea behind it and the abandoned zoo of blown up animals by the sun loungers. It was late in the day. No people. No signs.
Nothing in Willesden Green had ever looked this exotic.
Barbara, the precocious older sister, said “I’m going in”
Thomas, a sunny boy, “we should ask mum and dad first Barbara”
“Oh stop being a baby, I'm ten and a half and the St Hilda's front crawl champion. So I’m going in.”
Barbara threw her clothes off. She was blinded by the low sun, so she felt for the pool's edge with her toes and curled them over, just like she had done the week before when she won a red rosette. She raised her arms above her head.
Thomas marveled at the speed at which his sister had undressed. It took him twice as much time just to untie his shoelaces. Anyway he was more interested in a toy car that was poking out from behind a sun lounger. He forgot his sister and sat down next to his new friend and started to play.
Olf was counting wall sockets, one, two, ahh number three was suspiciously loose.
Frieda lined up the second nail at the top of the Mezuzah.
Thomas was engaged in a heartfelt conversation with the car, he had decided they would be going on a test drive, he pulled it backwards.
Barbara made the final preparations for her dip, she touched her toes, raised her arms up high and dove head first into the blue paradise.
Olf was tutting to himself, marking the location of the loose socket on his plan, when he jumped backwards as -
Frieda let out a toe curling scream, the hammer had missed the nail and split the Mezuzah down the middle as -
Thomas jumped with joy as the toy car propelled forward at lighting speed into the swimming pool as -
The lifeless body of his sister floated to the surface of the shallow end, surrounded by a film of blood, smashed brains and a toy car.