Thursday, October 29, 2009

Probably Just Thieving, Probably Just Smoking

If you happen to have a villa and rent it out, there are a number of things you need to bear in mind. One of these may not be the fact that someone might just be helping themselves to the contents. It is not the first time one has heard of such a thing, but a woman has been up before the beak, charged with 51 counts of theft from villas of a "high level", says the report from the "Diario". Apparently, she worked for estate agencies and cleaning companies, and had some 200 keys which were used to gain entrance to properties - and cleaning up, so she had hoped - in the Gotmar and Almadrava areas of Puerto Pollensa.

The report itself is quite funny, as it plots how the Guardia came to suspect the woman who has been detained. I say "funny" because, given the concentration of the sites of the robberies and the obvious similarity of circumstances - often empty properties where it would have been known when they would be occupied for rental or otherwise - it beggars belief that anyone could really have believed that they might get away with it. But then there are obviously those who do, like the woman who has been arrested.

Whither smoking? And smoking in bars and restaurants? This is a subject, the exact rules about which have become more confused the more the law gets changed or imposed. The Balearics have their own interpretation, one that differs to national law. But this does seem about to all change.

At present, a bar in Mallorca, if it is less than 100 square metres, can opt - in its interior - to be smoking or non-smoking, which means, almost invariably, that it is smoking. More than 100 square metres and there are meant to be two zones. Strictly speaking, these should be physically separated, but often they are not, making the presence of two zones - next to each other - a nonsense, and also meaning that the division is often ignored.

Along now comes the idea that smoking inside will be allowed but only if food is not being served, and by food this would mean even something like a bag of crisps. As there are very few places that do not serve food, the consequence of this should be clear - there will be no smoking inside. Terraces would still be exempt, maybe.

Or at least, the above is what one is being told. Don't necessarily assume that this will all come about, or that, even were it to, it would be pursued with vigour. The separation requirement has not been the subject of great scrutiny, but one is led to believe that any further change to the law - one that would ban smoking in "public spaces" - would be implemented more strongly.

One is, though, as always, in unclear waters. The definition of public spaces would include terraces, as surely it would also include beaches. Or would it? To make matters more murky, or indeed smoky, restaurant owners are seeking compensation for work they carried out - in those instances where they actually did - to create physical barriers for smoking and non-smoking zones under law changes four years ago.

Whatever the final result of all this apparent uncertainty, it would seem that smoking in Mallorca is unlikely to ever be the same. Local government figures suggest that smoking is a habit of only some 25% of the population - figures one might find hard to believe - but one might also consider tourists, be they smokers or not. The fear might be that effectively banning smoking from bars would add to the hardships bars have had to endure over the years and that it would come in at a time of difficult economic circumstances. Perhaps. There again, perhaps it might prove positive.

For some tourists, however, this may all prove to be a step too far. Tough laws in the UK? No problem. Go to Mallorca and you can light up where you like - more or less. But if the law were to be changed? Cue voices of discontent, those of ones who still seem to believe that things should be different elsewhere. Like the fact that a three-course meal and wine should be less than a fiver (and I'm not referring to the menu of the day in the rare cases where such a price might apply), so the expectation is that similar rules to the UK shouldn't apply. Or the fact that tobacco price increases were, for some, scandalous. They weren't. The most swingeing increases were for particularly low-priced products, such as rolling tobacco. The scandal was those who were complaining because they had been paid for "orders" from people back home, only to find that their profit margin was eroded because of a sudden increase in duty.

Yesterday's title - The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper's) Today's title - this comes from something quite staggering, and spiritual (clue's in the last word).


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