Saturday, May 31, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca almost safe after Las Palmas win

Real Mallorca 2 : 0 Las Palmas
Vital that relegation-threatened Mallorca got a result against promotion-seeking Las Palmas, and defender Agus almost gave Mallorca a perfect start, striking the woodwork with a header on quarter of an hour. Mallorca were generally on top without making any dominance count until, three minutes after the break, a header was on target, Nsue putting Mallorca ahead. And, after 61 minutes, Israeli striker Hemed put Mallorca two-up. Las Palmas, pushing to secure a play-off position, pretty much bottled it. Mallorca were much the better side and played one of their best matches of the season. Relegation cannot be completely ruled out, but Mallorca, with this win and climbing to sixteen with 50 points, have probably made their Segunda participation safe.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 3 to 4 during the day. Possible storm.

Fine, sunny morning, and while the general forecast is for sun all the way, the shipping forecast, with mention of a possible storm, suggests otherwise. The outlook does seem rather more settled than things have been of late.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 22C. Sunny enough day - no sign of that sea storm - but moderate temperatures.

Son Bosc All Over Again?

Two weeks after highlighting Muro's "model town hall", there is more evidence of good things at the council and also evidence of Muro suddenly having found itself propelled very much into the spotlight. The good housekeeping that has left the town hall with zero debt has not, as mayor Martí Fornes said a fortnight ago, meant that there is no investment, a package of just over two million euros spend having been proposed by Fornés's coalition administration, including 400,000 euros to be spent, subject to agreement from higher authority, on the first phase of the "boulevard" in Playa de Muro. This apart, an issue which has raised itself is one that had appeared to have been forgotten about. And it is one that will be destined to once more kick off all the debate and argument that surrounded it in the past. It is the building of the golf course on the Son Bosc finca next to Albufera.

The town hall's tourism plan, approved thanks to the coalition's majority at the council, mentions the golf course as part of potential development in 2014 to 2015. A report is to be presented in January next year, so there is nothing, as yet, which indicates the restarting of work on the finca that was stopped during the last regional government's administration.

At the heart of the argument over Son Bosc has been the environmental consequences of the course being built. All manner of flora and fauna have in the past been invoked as reasons for it not being built. They include everything from a rare orchid to the mating habits of a bee-eating bird. The construction has been referred to international bodies, such as the Ramsar wetlands secretariat, as well to national and Mallorcan governmental bodies. Experts on this and that have been consulted and have offered opinions. The views of politicians and hoteliers have been made clear, those of the former being pro and con, those of the latter being firmly pro.

The course's promoter is a company which comprises shareholders from hotel companies. The largest shareholder is Grupotel. Fornés used to work for them. But although hotelier interests are to the fore and although Son Bosc would naturally entail transformation of the land, does it automatically follow that those interests would be especially harmful to the environment and eco-system? There is now a great deal more sensitivity applied to the building of golf courses than might once have been the case. Consequently, a course can be created in such a way that it is in harmony with the immediate environment.

Son Bosc has really been a tale of political dogma and fighting as much as it has been an argument over the environment. At one point during the last administration (PSOE-led), it looked as though the course would happen, and indeed work did start. However, the moment that President Antich threw the Unió Mallorquina out of his coalition and installed Gabriel Vicens of the PSM Mallorcan socialists as environment minister, the development was likely to be halted. And so it was. The PSM and the UM hated each other's guts, and Son Bosc was one of their battlegrounds.

Fornés will know that he has a battle on his hands in having the finca's development declared as being in the island's general interest. He might hope for regional government support, but with elections moving closer, would the PP risk any more potentially negative publicity than it already has? Doubtful. The chances of the course ever actually being built must still be considered slim.

Index for May 2014

Bikinis - 15 May 2014
Can Picafort nautical sports and club - 23 May 2014
Complementary offer confederation - 7 May 2014
Eco-tax - 6 May 2014
Education conflict - 25 May 2014
Football and tourism - 14 May 2014
Giants of Mallorca - 22 May 2014
Holiday lets (private apartments) - 5 May 2014
Ironman - 9 May 2014
Jaume Sastre, hunger strike - 28 May 2014
Land law chaos - 20 May 2014
Llorenç Roses Bermejo, Palmanova - 12 May 2014
Magalluf 25 years ago - 21 May 2014
Mallorca land legislation - 13 May 2014
McDonald's Spain Brekkie Wrap ad - 26 May 2014
Microbreweries - 3 May 2014
Muro town hall - 16 May 2014
Museums - 18 May 2014
New tourism policy - 1 May 2014
P2P tourism - 8 May 2014
Partido Popular discount card - 17 May 2014
Partido Popular voting against oil prospecting - 11 May 2014
Podemos and European elections - 27 May 2014
Pollensa wine fair and wine history - 2 May 2014
Primark and Mallorca's retail history - 30 May 2014
Prostitution and violence - 4 May 2014
PSOE: the future - 29 May 2014
Son Bauló dolmen - 19 May 2014
Son Bosc golf - 31 May 2014
Stone fair - 24 May 2014
Wine Days Mallorca - 10 May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

From COP To Primark

I'm trying to think of the year. Was it 1964 or 1965? When the Sainsbury in my by-then home town of Camberley ceased to be a sort of High Street deli with porcelain walls that were reminiscent of a public lavatory and became a supermarket. Its modernised upgrading was due entirely to the development of the new town centre. Sainsbury was the first proper supermarket. Tesco followed, as did Presto (for those of you who can remember Presto before it was Safeway-ed).

Supermarkets in Britain were an invention of the 1950s, largely thanks to Jack Cohen, a one-time tailor from the East End, reinventing his pre-war Tesco stores. They were representative of the new consumerist society in much the same way as mass tourism was. And in a similar way to tourism, they operated according to a mass production model adapted for the service sector. And when the mass became so great, urban planning allowed for their relocation to the out-of-town retail park, signalling crisis on the high street. No sooner had Brent Cross Shopping Centre opened than the road to Wembley was abandoned by shopping supporters switching their allegiance to the retail stadia of the North Circular Road.

The story of Mallorca's retail development is not dissimilar. It differs mainly in the development having occurred much later. Recent relaxations of planning regulations have facilitated a further increase in the number of commercial centres, predominantly out-of-town. Primark's arrival in Carrefour's new centre in 2016 will be one further example of this and an example also of an internationalisation of Mallorca's retail sector which had long given the impression of being antagonistic towards foreign investment.

The commercial centres have not all been greeted with open arms. When Media Markt, the German electrical goods giant, opened its Palma store, there was a campaign against it and in favour of small shops in towns out in the sticks. It was a campaign with more than just a slight hint of xenophobia, but it was, nonetheless, an understandable one. Communities, like those which existed along Britain's high streets, were and are threatened by a concentration of commercial centres in the greater Palma conurbation; this threat exacerbated by Mallorca's small size and so ease of transport.

But Mallorca's commercial centres are, again like Britain, an extension of how retail competition evolves and can leave smaller retailers trailing behind, struggling to adapt or out of business. When Sainsbury opened in the new town centre in Camberley, competitors along the high street which didn't adapt were affected. Mac Fisheries, Cullen found the going tough. And the story of competition from larger stores, i.e. supermarkets, in Mallorca is largely the story of one man - Francisco Lavao.

He wasn't from Mallorca originally but from Tetuán, a district in Madrid. He came to Mallorca at the age of ten in 1952. He was to go on to form a chain of supermarkets. Their name was COP. Lavao was the first true supermarket entrepreneur, and his story is a remarkable one. In 1977, the supermarkets having suffered in the wake of the oil crisis, he upped and left Mallorca. He fled to Argentina with a suitcase stuffed full with fourteen million pesetas. Three years later, he was extradited to Spain in order to stand trial on a charge of unlawful bankruptcy that had brought about the collapse of the COP stores. The most astonishing aspect of this story is that Lavao, who seemed genuinely remorseful, picked himself up and started all over again. His new supermarket venture took its name from the words "servicio" "y" "precio". SYP.

If Francisco Lavao was arguably the man who created Mallorca's supermarket sector, it was a businessman from Asturias whose company was to give Mallorca its best-known retailing name, that of the department store El Corte Inglés.

There is a connection between El Corte Inglés and Tesco insofar as the Madrid store was originally a tailor's shop, established in 1895. The Asturian Ramón Areces Rodríguez bought the shop in 1935. It was the start of the creation of a retail empire. Yet, despite the fact that El Corte Inglés is so well-known in Mallorca and that its reputation might suggest that it has been long-established here, the Avenidas' store isn't even twenty years old. It wasn't opened until 20 September, 1995. In the same year, the company bought fifteen commercial centres from Galerias Preciados, one of them having been the Jaume III store. It had taken eleven years for the building and then opening of the Avenidas' store to become a reality. The administrative process to permit it had started in 1984.

Such administrative processes don't now take as long. Permissions for commercial centres are generally easier to obtain. And Primark will be a beneficiary. The latest chapter in the story of the changing face of Mallorca's retailing.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.30am): 15C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 settling Northeast 3 around midday.

Partly cloudy start and heavier cloud likely later, bringing rain. The weather may start settling down more after tomorrow, as the outlook is generally good, albeit that temperatures could be up and down.

Evening update (20.45): A high of 23.9C. A funny old day, threatening rain now and then but producing no more than a few drops.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 16C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4 easing Variable 2.

Quite cloudy and some chance of more rain this morning. An unsettled pattern to the weather remaining into the weekend.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 22.5C on a day of mostly sun but occasional cloud.

In With The New: PSOE

So, farewell, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. You always seemed like a pleasant enough chap. A benign uncle with a hint of the oppressed hidden in your Gulag facial growth. But none of this helped in your turning around your party. As you said of the Euro elections, "the results are bad".

He should have gone after losing the election in 2011. But Spain's political parties can tolerate losers. Perhaps he had hoped that he might emulate Rajoy. A two-time loser but third time lucky, maybe only tolerated because he knew where the bodies were buried. One day they might be exhumed.

PSOE were given such an almighty great kicking in 2011 that a fresh start was demanded. The party flunked it. Faith was retained in Zapatero's faithful old retainer at a time when the party's face needed a clean shave and some reinvigorating moisturiser to rid it of its beardy socialism image. It could have done with a female face. It might now get one.

It's not as if the left in Spain is going mainly down the drain. The Euros proved as much. But PSOE's leftness had been centred and obscured by a Blairite chameleon form that it had adopted. No one quite knows what it stands for or where it is going. At least with Rajoy you know what the PP stands for, even if you might prefer it to sit down or curl up in a corner and put itself to sleep.

The strong performance of the left does, however, have to be placed in some context. Spaniards are good voters when it comes to their own elections. They turn up. Electoral abstemiousness of a Euro kind will be replaced by polling bingeing. The left will probably still perform well but the astonishing success of Podemos is most unlikely to carry through to the national or indeed regional elections. The right-wing press is already sharpening its knives and hunting for the hatchets. Sr. Iglesias will find his ponytail chopped off in his prime moment of seeking to influence prime ministerial selection.

The left vote is fragmented. PSOE have to know where they are amidst the pieces of this fractured jigsaw. Left, centre, right. Where exactly? They need new ideas but above all they need a new image. Austerity may have been the order of the day and the order of Brussels - one with which PSOE would have had to conform - but if there was to have been austerity, far better if it had been delivered to a suffering Spaniard as the fait accompli it was always going to have been by a face less austere than Rubalcaba's or indeed Rajoy's. Brighten up, PSOE; brighten up, Spain.

PSOE's performance at the Euro elections was nothing short of disastrous. The 23% of the vote it achieved was the lowest it had ever attained. The leader of its Euro campaign, Elena Valenciano, recognised that it was very bad. There are only degrees of badness with which PSOE can take any solace. Rubalcaba thought the results were merely bad. The very bad of Sra. Valenciano surely rules her out of the running as a successor to Rubalcaba. No more losers, PSOE. And consequently, perhaps, no Carme Chacón, who lost out to Rubalcaba in the race to succeed Zapatero. At least she has said that there is a need for PSOE to change. Indeed, but change into what?

It may change into an Andalusian model of PSOE socialism, that of the Andalusian president Susana Díaz. Some reports suggest that she is already nailed on, though she has suggested that she will continue in Andalusia. There again, declarations of brazen ambition at times of party mourning might not go down well in PR terms.

If not Sra. Díaz, then possibly Eduardo Madina, PSOE's secretary-general in Congress. I have previously played up his prospects, though a correspondent of mine has taken issue with me. He would be a Zapatero Mark II. Would the party want another Bambi or Bean? Possibly not.

There has been an inevitability that PSOE would find itself needing to find someone to lead it into the next elections in 2015. I had forecast that Rubalcaba would have been gone, and now he has, albeit he will limp on, dead man walking, in aiming weak blows to the PP body in Congress until a PSOE phoenix rises from the ashes of another electoral conflagration.

The inevitability was partly because of the failure to grasp the nettle at the end of 2011. It has also been because the electorate is fed up with a two-party system that stubbornly refuses to make itself transparent and accountable. The PP has to look at itself, too. The Euro elections were nothing to do with Europe. They were to do with Spain. Podemos may get scattered to the winds by the time of the national election, but there are other parties. New image time, PSOE.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 16C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 occasionally Variable 2 to 4 during the afternoon. Storm and rain possible.

Sunny but some cloud. The forecast is for rain and storm and for the same tomorrow morning. Quite warm though with southerlies dominating.

Evening update (20.45): A day of a couple of storms, though not heavy ones. The storms may have passed, even if the general forecast notes they will be around into tomorrow morning. The high today has been 24.6C.

Who Is Jaume Sastre?

The story is a simple one but also an heroic one. It is the story of a man willing to defend his language and the quality of education of his language by depriving himself of food and undertaking a hunger strike, which is now almost three weeks long. It is a story which lends itself to a simplicity of reporting, to the heroism of this gesture, because the heroism and the self-inflicted suffering are the stuff of good stories. Yet behind every story there is another story. Behind the gesture of one man, there are questions, and one of them is - who is Jaume Sastre?

We know him as the teacher on hunger strike, the teacher from the secondary school in Llucmajor. He is listed under the Catalan language and literature department. Sastre Font, Jaume, tutor, library co-ordinator. But what more do we know of him? Is it important that we know anything more of him? Or is the heroic, courageous gesture all that matters?

Jaume Sastre has been closely involved with the establishment of two entities. One was formed early last year. It is the Assemblea de Docents de les Illes Balears. It was created as a means of defending schooling in Catalan and of confronting measures to relegate the Catalan language by the Balearic Government and principally, therefore, by José Ramón Bauzá of the Partido Popular. (I have, incidentally, quoted and paraphrased this last sentence from a blog by Martí Gasull i Roig, a founder of the Platform for the Language - Catalan, that is.) He had awarded the Assemblea a "prize". He is one of several who have, including the main defenders and promoters of Catalan in the Balearics, the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB).

The other entity has been very much longer established. It dates back to 1995. It is the Lobby per la Independència, a body which advocates the independence of the Catalan Lands. It states on its website that it is "an organisation created in November 1995 which has as its prime objective the independence of Mallorca and of the whole Catalan nation". This is an extraordinary website, packed full of information. The "menu" items are far too many to list, but they include ones for "fascism", "Bourbons" (i.e. the Spanish royal family), "neo-Nazis", "Spanish inquisition" (which is not the old one but a current one), "Rafatxa Nadal" (Rafa Nadal renamed as Rafa-fascist). On and on and on the list goes. Numerous "fascists" are identified, Air Berlin are Nazis, many a "foraster" (mainland foreigner) is fingered in legal, political and media circles and is typically styled as being, you guessed it, a fascist.

There are also menu items for Pedro J. Ramirez and for "La guerra de piscina". These are related to the remarkable legal battle that Sastre engaged in with the now former editor of "El Mundo". It was all to do with a swimming-pool that had allegedly been built illegally at Ramirez's property in Costa de los Pinos. It was a battle which finally resulted in victory for Sastre when the Balearics High Court ruled last year that the pool was on public land. If some of the sentiments offered on the Lobby's website might seem offensive, then so are those directed at Sastre by Ramirez. "Racist". "Xenophobe." "Fascist." There is a long section devoted to Ramirez's views of Sastre.

Behind the story of the hunger striker, therefore, is another story. The website Fotolog has an entry about Sastre from April 2009. Its headline refers to the "contemporary Mallorcan revolutionary". Is that what Jaume Sastre is? A revolutionary?

The cause of independence for the Catalan Lands is one that has, or appears to have, very little support in Mallorca. If one takes the regular Gadeso surveys of public attitudes and the public's "identity" as indications, then the almost total absence of identity with the Catalan Lands in those surveys would seem to reflect this lack of support. Yet, the policies of the Partido Popular government give the impression of being directed at an enemy within which, at most, exists on the margins of local society.

One has to distinguish between the language issue in teaching and the independence movement. There can be support for Catalan but none for independence. Indeed, the surveys, set against the general parental preference for Catalan, back this up.

The conflict that has consumed education may have started out as a conflict over a system of teaching (itself debatable), but it has ceased to be that. The Assemblea has moved it on, and one of its prime movers was one of the prime movers behind the Lobby for independence. Jaume Sastre. 

Sympathy, yes, because of the way that the PP has gone about the whole wretched language teaching affair. Sympathy, yes, for the defence of Catalan. But is there more to the hunger strike? And another question. What about the students at Llucmajor's school?

* The photo is of Jaume Sastre (left) and the former mayor of Pollensa, Joan Cerdà - one of a series of photos of visitors he has received - posted on 26 May on the blog which is tracking his hunger strike:


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 4

Bright enough start to the day. Should remain mostly fine. Following yesterday's storm, which broke around 2pm and caused some localised flooding, there is more poor weather predicted for tomorrow and Thursday.

Evening update (18.30): A few rumbles of thunder this afternoon, but no more. A high of 24.3C. Thunder tomorrow, though.

Can We?: The startling rise of Podemos

Something strange has happened. While Nigel Farage and UKIP were causing a political earthquake and Marine Le Pen was reviving the good old days for the Front National when her old man put the wind up Chirac, the political right in Spain eked out a narrow victory, one only in terms of numbers of Euro seats. Of the 54 seats, the Partido Popular (with sixteen) was the only recognisably right-wing party to gain any seats. The Coalición por Europa, with three, is a mish-mash of left and right, while the UPyD (Unión Progreso y Democracia), which won four seats, is of the centre. Of the remaining 31 seats, PSOE got 14, while no fewer than six parties of the left (in their differing varieties) swept up the other 17.

Of these six parties, the performance that was the most stunning was that of Podemos (We Can), a party which is barely four months old and which was born out of the "indignados" movement. Some three years after the 15-M (15 May) demonstration in Madrid unleashed nationwide support for a movement which had as its focus corruption, the party system, unemployment and the banks, that movement became a political force of its own on Sunday. It won five seats. It was remarkable.

Podemos has been nicknamed "Pablemos" after its ponytailed, university lecturer leader, the 27-year-old Pablo Iglesias. Pablemos. We can Pablo. Pablemos-speak has risen out of social media. The party is a success of Twitter and Facebook. It is a success that should send shivers down the backs of the political establishment.

Iglesias does not see the Euro success as the end. It is only the beginning. He wants an alternative government, one in which Podemos would play a part, but might such an ambition be realised? In order to answer this question, one has to ask whether the Euro vote is anything more than a protest vote that will wither when it is time for the national election and for the two-party establishment to reassert itself.

It is a question that will be asked in several other European countries, because the European elections have witnessed the rise of all manner of small parties, mostly all well to either the right or the left. This is either evidence of discontent with Europe or with political systems in individual countries or both. Or it is simply evidence of protest voting for something which may not appear to matter as much as a national election.

Nevertheless, the established parties have to take note. It has long been said of the internet that it has had the power to democratise information. It has also been said that it has the power to disrupt conventional politics through the exercise of popular democracy. This is now proven to be so, and Podemos is clear proof. Parties with an existence of only four months are not supposed to succeed in elections. They do now.

The PP and PSOE can spin the results for all their worth, but the elections are evidence of the widespread disillusionment with a two-party system castigated for its inherent corruption, lack of accountability and lack of transparency. For PSOE, both nationally and in the Balearics, the election results are nothing to be overjoyed with. It is a party which still gives the appearance of being in disarray or worse, i.e. a complete shambles. Yet, with 22% of the vote against 27.5% for the PP, were there to be a similar pattern in the regional elections next year, it would surely form a government, assuming other parties of the left, including Podemos, were minded to join a coalition. Podemos, with slightly over 10%, has risen from nowhere to be the third most voted-for party in the Balearics. I say again, remarkable.

But why has Spain witnessed the emergence of a small, popular left-wing party and not one of the right? There are small parties very much of the hard right, but they have achieved nothing electorally. An answer may lie with the establishment. For all that it is described as being "centre right" (for purposes mainly of media convention), the PP harbours some seriously right-wing elements. It might be said that the Balearics have revealed these, albeit to suggest that the truly hard right is a factor locally would be some way wide of the mark. Nonetheless, in a policy such as that regarding language, there is not much by way of clear blue water between the PP and the small far-right parties and movements.

Do we conclude that there is little space for a popular right-wing alternative because the established system gives the right sufficient voice? Perhaps we do conclude this. We might, indeed can also conclude, though, that the left is split wide open. PSOE were arguably the bigger losers on Sunday. Podemos? Yes, we can.

Monday, May 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South and Southeast 2 to 3 backing Northeast by the afternoon. Rain and storm probable from the morning.

Pleasant enough start but a storm is due later. Getting sunny after that by the late afternoon. Outlook - ok for tomorrow but rain again on Wednesday.

Just A Game Of Futbol: McDonald's in Australia

The football World Cup is almost upon us. Advertising by official sponsors of the tournament has already arrived, and not everyone is happy with it. McDonald's, presumably in the absence of any Brazilian restaurants, is the official restaurant of the tournament. To mark this involvement, the burger giant is taking the radical step of temporarily dispensing with its usual french-fries dispenser. New designs will take the place of the traditional box and will come with a mobile app game, to boot.

This dramatic departure from tradition is all about communicating with Millennials, says McDonald's senior director of global marketing. This is a generation which loves art, unique customisation and McDonald's french fries. Does it really. The senior executive vice-president global chief brand officer of McDonald's (which is a hell of  a long job title) says that it's all about "bringing fun, innovative programming to our customers and celebrating our shared love of futbol".

Whatever you say, Misters senior director of global marketing and senior executive vice-president global chief brand officer, but wait one moment. What is it that we all have a shared love of? Football? No, futbol. That's what it says in the quote I have lifted from Spain has come to dominate world football, and it would now appear that the Spanish language has taken over and turned football into futbol. Or maybe it only has done in McDonald's-land. (There should, some of you might appreciate, be an accent over the u, but let's not get too pedantic.)

But hang on another moment, does the non-appearance of the accent, if only in the article, imply something more political? The word is identical in Catalan except for one important difference. There is no accent. Well, well. Its absence almost certainly doesn't imply anything political, but in these linguistically-fraught and correct times, one can't be too careful. Just as one can't be too careful about the type of image one wishes to portray in an advert. Which brings me to the spot of unhappiness.

Down under in Australia, McDonald's, in good Aussie tradition of giving any name some matey version, is known as Macca, which is not to confuse it with a one-time bass player from Liverpool who, in the dim distant past, was once any good. And Macca, as it states on its Aussie website, is "kicking off with an exciting line-up that'll be sure to score goals with your tastebuds". Kicking off the World Cup, that is, with a quite lamentable string of football clichés. Sorry, futbol clichés.

Macca has a series of TV ads. They are to promote World Cup specials for different countries. There are only a few countries for which there is a Macca special - Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, doesn't appear to merit one - but of the few countries, the Spanish entry has caused a bit of a fuss. It's that cliché thing again, this time as in clichéd national stereotyping.

The ad is for the Spain Brekkie Wrap, a delicious-looking item that features sausage, scrambled egg and ketchup. It is only fifteen seconds long, but the ad manages to pack in as many clichés as are possible in such a short period of time. In the ad there are two what one guesses are futbol commentators. Commentator one announces the delicious contents before breaking into "olé, olé, olé" and inspiring commentator two, till then sour-faced and bearing a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein with a matador's hat on, to become animated, stick a rose in his mouth and mime the playing of a flamenco guitar.

While one might conclude that the ad's crime is in being rotten as opposed to being offensive, commentators who have posted on McDonald's España Facebook page are in no doubt that it is both rotten and offensive. "Is anyone going to do something about it? Can we sink any lower?" "Are you not ashamed? Spain, its culture, people and products deserve respect." "The advert is demeaning to Spanish and Hispanic culture. Then there's the sandwich. Two shitty sausages masquerading as chorizos with scrambled egg without seasoning. This is a Spanish sandwich?" "The advert is a disgrace. It ridicules us."

At least one poster points out that the ad is not intended for broadcast in Spain and so says that it is not offensive just ignorant. But his is the only comment with a moderate opinion among the others. The strength of these opinions, not that they are likely to have any impact, do serve to remind us all, including McDonald's, that we live in a joined-up world. What's good for Australia is not good for Spain, and moreover, the Spanish are going to find out and have done.

The World Cup, the global game, the global media of social networks. If only it were just a game of futbol.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Girona 1 : 1 Real Mallorca

Another match, another coach (Olaizola, the third this season), and another disaster probably on the cards. Girona were in a relegation spot before the match, Mallorca one place above relegation, so there was everything to play for. Mallorca came out the stronger, Nsue having a good chance after just three minutes. Both sides had penalty claims ruled out and Mallorca seemed to run out of steam around the half-hour mark, and sure enough, goalkeeper Aouate recalled by Olaizola, made a hash of things three minutes before the break, allowing Migue to put Girona ahead. A touch of fortune for Mallorca after quarter of an hour of the second half, Jandro being sent off for a second yellow, and that changed things, as did the introduction of Geijo. Hemed produced two saves in quick succession by Girona's Becarra and then, with twelve minutes left, Geijo equalised with a header from Martí's corner. Though Mallorca were all over Girona, the winner didn't come. Had it, then you would have thought Mallorca would have pretty much made themselves safe. As it is, they stay in eighteenth, one place above relegation and with two more matches to go. (Alaves, in a relegation place, are away against second-placed Eibar later, so are unlikely to create a change in position.) Unfortunately for Mallorca, the last two matches are both against sides with genuine play-off ambitions, Las Palmas at home and then Cordoba away on the final day of the season.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 16C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Northeast 2 to 4.

Grey and some heavy cloud. Strong chance of rain this morning, improving later. Storms forecast for tomorrow. Unsettled for much of the week with temperatures down.

Evening update (19.00): There was some rain this morning and it was quite chilly for a while (down to 14 degrees at one point), but things recovered to give a good deal of sun and a high of 22C. Cloud coming back now, though.

The Educational Week Of Madness

It was another week of total madness courtesy of the teachers and the education ministry. It did in fact start with sadness. The death last Sunday of Sebastià Serra, the leader of the STEI-i teachers' union, did not herald a period of respectful quietness, albeit that five hundred or so people stood in silence for half an hour on Monday in front of the government's Consulat de Mar HQ. They were being quiet by way of protest rather than by way of remembrance. Their silence, they hoped, would act as a means of finding a solution to the "Great Conflict", that of education.

One had started to think that all the carry-on over trilingual teaching and whatever other grievances the teachers could drag up was dying down. But no. He almost certainly won't die, or one hopes not, but Jaume Sastre, a teacher at Llucmajor's secondary school, has been on hunger strike since 8 May. It has been his way of seeking a solution to the "Great Conflict", whatever it is, because one fears we no longer really know. It certainly hasn't got anything to do with the teaching of English, or doesn't appear to have.

All manner of people and organisations got involved with the "Great Conflict" last week. They ranged from the United Nations to the Mallorcan hoteliers federation to the Balearics College of Lawyers to the Balearics Business Confederation. We haven't heard from Real Mallorca football club yet, but they have had other things to worry about, like getting relegated. Most of these organisations called for dialogue, but what is this dialogue meant to be about? Is it trilingual teaching, Catalan, the law of symbols, what exactly?

The letter to the UN, sent by supporters of Sastre at the Assemblea de Docentes (teachers' assembly), did at least shed some light. His hunger strike is "in defence of public education, of its quality and in Catalan". Ah yes, in Catalan. The regional government, the UN has been informed, has been acting in an "authoritarian and repressive" manner and has been doing so for the past nine months.

With the UN unwittingly dragged into the affair, the "Great Conflict" began to assume crisis proportions of a potentially global scale. Into the fray, therefore, stepped Inma de Benito, newly elevated to the vice-presidency of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation. It, the "Great Conflict", does not offer a good image of the islands to the outside world, she announced, but didn't add any words of advice as to how the conflict might be resolved. Quite why she came to be involved is a mystery, but she might just reflect that mugger-prostitutes on the streets of resorts and total hotelier antagonism to the rental of private holiday accommodation also don't offer the best of images to the outside world.

She did, however, suggest that President Bauzá knows what he has to do. Of course he does. He once said so, as in: "We know what to do and what we do and why we do what we say we are going to do, and we will continue doing what we have to do even though some do not think that we will do what we said we would do." Yes, he really did say this. Donald Rumsfeld would be proud. 

Bauzá's infamous we know what we're doing monologue was hauled out by the Assemblea in one of a series of videos it put out during the week under the general theme of "de-constructing Bauzá". They were intended to reveal his demagoguery, his lies, his "contradictions, dialectical traps and rare oratorical skills". And the president wasn't the only one to be accused of lying. There was, as always, also Joana Camps. She is constantly lying, said an Assemblea spokesperson, noting that the turnout for a strike on Thursday was 15% and not the 0.7% which Joana claimed. Oh yes, there was a strike, and then another one on Friday.

Joana, meantime, found that another battle front had opened up, one that involved her native Menorca. It was a "personal attack", she explained, in saying that a "denuncia" by the Assemblea had no chance of succeeding. The attack had to do with thirty-two trips she had made during eight months as education minister. Of the thirty-two, thirty had been to Menorca.

Sadly also for Joana, the leading member of the parliamentary awkward squad, Manacor's Antoni Pastor, also had a pop at her. The one who is responsible for the application of TIL is the president, he said. "You are a simple, necessary collaborator." The front, the fallguy (woman), the stooge. At least Pastor speaks some sense amidst the madness.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 18C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4.

Lovely morning again and should be lovely for much of the day, but there is cloud rolling in which looks as though it is going to be around for several days. There is a chance of rain tomorrow and into the next week with temperatures set to fall to the low-20s.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 23.1C. Not as warm had been forecast, therefore, and there is a distinct feel of change to the weather: potentially stormy for the next few days.

Not Dry: Mallorca's stone

Mallorca has a fair for just about everything. While many of the fairs are designed to excite taste buds or a desire to buy something to mess around on water with, some fairs can sound altogether less exciting or enticing. A celebration of stone might well be thought to fall into this category. But think again. Mallorca wouldn't be what Mallorca is without stone. It's reasonable to say that most places wouldn't be, but Mallorca is defined by its stone, by its different varieties that have adorned its architecture, by the white stone, the yellow stone, by the stone of pre-history, by the stone which shapes and marks out its landscape. Mallorca is stone as much as it is sea and sand.

In Binissalem they honour stone; the eleventh stone fair is taking place this weekend. It is an occasion for the not untypical accompaniments to a Mallorcan fair - giants, music of different types, demons banging drums, dancers dancing the ball de bot, and food (rabbit and noodles in Binissalem's case) - but it would not be the occasion it is without something on which it can be built. Stone.

Binissalem has its own stone variety. What is quarried there, technically one understands, is a marble. Its colour varies from dark blue to light beige, and a principal use of this local quartz-veined stone is for flooring. The stone at the fair will not be Binissalem's alone and nor will the stone products be solely those for building purposes. There is a highly innovative stone craft movement in Mallorca, one pursued by younger artisans, that has given rise to exceptional new designs. Some of these were exhibited at the Pollensa Fair last November, and Binissalem will also be showing them off.

But there is a much more traditional stone industry in Mallorca, evidence of which can be seen on its landscape. It can be walked on, walked over or even walked through, if you are an animal of the right proportions. It is the dry stone of Mallorca.

Dry stone working is a very old craft on the island. A class of worker known as the "marger" is said to have been noted among occupations at the time of King Jaume's conquest in the thirteenth century. More certainly, it was documented two centuries later. The marger is a dry stone worker. The occupation still exists of course, but it had been under threat. In the 1980s, because of a lack of demand and because of an aging profile of dry stone worker, it was in danger of disappearing. So, in 1986 the Sóller School of Margers was formed. Its primary objective was instruction to help with the restoration of dry stone walks. The Council of Mallorca developed on the work in the Sóller and has since instituted training programmes, especially aimed at younger people. There may not be a huge demand for original dry stone working, but there is significant demand for restoration work. The promotion of dry stone walks has helped to bring about the demand. It has been a good example of tourism, heritage and employment combining for their mutual benefit.

Though there is a question mark as to when the marger occupation was first noted, there is clear evidence that it was an occupation in the times immediately after the conquest, and that is the dry stone paths, which are reckoned to date from the thirteenth century. From the following century, there is also evidence of dry stone shelters having been built. These were created for a variety of purposes - as refuges, for storage, for animals and for housing workers such as charcoal burners, seaweed collectors and even snow gatherers, who also had the use of dry stone snow houses, those in which ice was stored and that was to be used in the making of early ice-cream with almonds.

But it is the dry stone walls which are probably the most visible examples of this old craft. They came in different forms rather depending on why they were built, for example for land or crop demarcation or for enclosing livestock. The latter - sheep, pigs, goats and game - were considered in their construction; hence why there are gaps to allow them through. There are also smaller gaps so that water can pass through them.

Stone, as the theme for a fair, may seem a little dry, as it were, but it most certainly isn't. It is bound up with Mallorca's history and with its present and future. In its different types and with its different purposes, it is hugely important. And it is on show in Binissalem.

Friday, May 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.30am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 to 3 during the morning.

A good morning. Clear skies and hopefully staying clear and not clouding over with the odd drop of rain as there was yesterday. The outlook for Sunday has improved, though it is expected to be cooler and still with a possible shower.

Evening update (19.45): Fabulous day, quite breezy but extremely pleasant, which is not what can be said about Sunday. The forecast has reverted to what it was - quite a strong chance of rain - while next week in general is looking less than wonderful.

Forty Years' Wait: Can Picafort

Of the northern resorts, Can Picafort can sometimes be overlooked because of the attention paid to its wealthier neighbour along the bay in Alcúdia or to that of the resort in the next bay of Pollensa. In one sense, this lesser attention has been justified. The Can Picafort marina does not match the grandeur of the Alcúdiamar or the splendour of Puerto Pollensa's yacht club. But things are changing in Can Picafort, and one of the more obvious changes is the presence of the new Club Náutico.

The story of the club is one that dates back many years. It was in fact founded in 1949 when a group of summer vacationers established the "Club Nàutic de Can Picafort". In the 1970s, the founding members of the club came up with a project for the development of the marina, one that was meant to have come to fruition the following decade. What the members hadn't bargained on was that funding problems led them to lose control over the project, of the marina and so of the possible development of the clubhouse.

The financial problems arose in 1972, leading to years of degradation of the marina. In 1985, work having been paralysed for all that time, the club's board sought the financial help of the tourism sector in the resort. A company, Puerto Deportivo de Can Picafort S.A. was formed, but there then followed more than two decades of legal dispute and further financial problems. These were such that the club was brought to the point of bankruptcy. It had a contract with the company, which comprised tourist businesses and hoteliers locally, to perform work on the marina's development. The lack of work that was done finally led the club, which held the concession for the marina all this time, to go to court, claiming breach of contract. Having been the concession holder, however, it was the club which was liable for costs and for fees for the marina's use, and not the contractor. It was these liabilities which nearly caused the bankruptcy.

In 2008, a court in Inca considered the case and a year later issued a ruling in favour of the club and against the contractor. The court ruled that the contractor should pay the mooring fees that the club had been paying. There were appeals - to the provincial court in Palma and then to the Balearics High Court. It ratified the decision of the Inca court. At the start of 2011, the contractor was instructed to vacate the port area completely. It was only then that serious work to improve the marina and to build the yacht club could begin.

Even then it wasn't all plain sailing, so to speak. Santa Margalida town hall opposed the building of the clubhouse, arguing that such a development was expressly forbidden under local planning regulations from way back in 1986. However, the Ports Authority gave permission, and its decisions countermand those of town halls.

Eventually, 41 years after the financial problems first arose, the Club Náutico building came into existence.

The tortuous and tangled story of the club acts as a prologue for what is taking place this weekend. Can Picafort now has its club and it wants to make itself better known as nautical sports destination, just in the same way as Puerto Alcúdia - especially Puerto Alcúdia - has over the past few years. Any disagreement that there was between the town hall and the club has been set to one side. They are both engaged in promoting this weekend's first Nautical Sports Fair and Gastronomy (calamari) Fair.

The fair is, therefore, a celebration of the hoped-for future of Can Picafort as a nautical sports resort and of that complicated past. Forty odd years is a long time to wait.

Programme in English:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 4 veering Northwest around midday.

Fine and rather breezy start to the day. Sun today, temperatures buoyed by southerlies for part of the day. Outlook - staying good until Sunday when rain and thunderstorm are on the cards.

Evening update (22.45): High of 27.1C but the highs tumbled quite a bit during a breezy and greyish afternoon.

The Giants Of Mallorca

Anniversaries are occasions to be celebrated by some advance sprucing-up, some improvements, some restoration. Everything has to be right on the night or the day, including ensuring that a piece of ear that has gone missing is returned to where it should be, next to the face.

On 20 July this year, Sa Pobla will, as is customary, be honouring the feast day of its patron, Santa Margalida. One of the main attractions on the day will be Margalida. Not the saint Margalida, but the giant Margalida. She is one of a male and female gigantic couple. She takes her name, unsurprisingly, from the saint. Her partner, Toni, is named after Sant Antoni, ancient Egyptian monk, hallucinator of devils and inspiration behind the January night of fire.

The Sa Pobla giants first appeared in 1984 at the Santa Margalida fiestas. Thirty years on, they are being given a touch-up, a clean-up and a replacement. The piece of Margalida's missing ear will no longer be missing. Toni and Margalida will be able to perform their "dance", safe in the knowledge that they are once more fully intact, have been lovingly re-glossed with paint and have had bumps and scratches, accumulated over three decades, de-bumped and de-scratched. Local artist Andreu Company will have seen to it that they have been restored to their original painted papier-maché and wooden glory.

The origins of Toni and Margalida were not in Sa Pobla. They weren't made there and nor were giants invented there. They were assembled at a workshop for fiestas in Zaragoza (yes, there really is a workshop for fiestas) and shipped across to Mallorca, a pair of giants to tread a similar path and dance a similar dance to that which giants had performed well before them. The first Mallorcan giant was that of Sóller way back in 1630.

But Sóller cannot claim to have been where giants first turned up at fiesta time. Over two hundred years before, in 1424, Barcelona had arranged for a giant to appear at the celebration of Corpus Christi. Or rather, the church had arranged the giant's participation. It was all a way of providing some additional entertainment and so attracting greater numbers of the faithful. The tradition of the giant was, therefore, linked to Corpus Christi, but the giant wasn't the only entertainment. Other objects appeared as well, one of them having been the eagles of Pollensa. No one is quite sure when that tradition started. It is said to date from mediaeval times, in which case it was centuries before Pollensa first acquired a giant - at the end of the eighteenth century.

Sóller's 1630 Corpus Christi celebration was not confined to the adoption of a giant. The town also introduced "capgrossos" (aka "caparrots" aka big heads). Once Sóller had got in on the giant act, momentum was such that it took a further 23 years before Sineu got one. But, by 1734, Palma could boast four pairs of giants, and in 1763, Sant Llorenç took the revolutionary step of giving a giant a name - Puput (after the bird presumably).

Giants come in different styles. There are five main groups of Mallorcan giant. Perhaps the most traditional is the farmer's husband and wife, and it was Inca which first had a peasant pair - Abdó and María. (Abdó or Abdón is one of the town's patron saints.) Sa Pobla's Toni and Margalida are part of this farming wing of giant traditionalism. Of other groups, there are giants who have been inspired by legend and tales and those who reflect local trades or crafts. Capdepera has a fisherman and a "llatadora", a female worker of palm fronds to make wicker products. A further group is made up of historical figures, such as Calvia's King Jaume I and his wife, Violant d'Hongria (Hungary). The fifth group is a sort of miscellany, examples of which are Manacor's Vicenç, who is a Moorish soldier (he has a farmer's wife as a companion or perhaps she is his wife), and Muro's two pipers, Toni and Joan.

The giants are gigantic enough to stand, in the cases of Sa Pobla's Toni and Margalida, 3.9 metres tall, which is, for those still not entirely up to speed with metric measurements, 12 feet, nine and a half inches. They are, therefore, slightly less tall than if two Steven Finn cricketers were to be joined together. Their measurements appear, as do those of other giants, in their "ficha técnica". They both weigh 50 to 52 kilograms, which seems rather imprecise. Or do they put on weight occasionally?

Still, it is just as well that they don't weigh an awful lot as they do have to get moved around a fair bit, which probably explains why a bit of ear can go missing. They travel over land and sea as well across Mallorca to gather and dance together. The wonderfully weird giants of Mallorca.

* Photo of Margalida and Toni is from

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 backing Northeast by midday.

Grey, a bit breezy and muggy, should clear later and give some good sun. The outlook has changed with the prospect of possible rain tomorrow and, looking further ahead, some unsettled weather later in the coming weekend.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 29.2C, pretty warm therefore, but humidly so.

Everything Is Upside Down

"Todo patas arriba". Everything's upside down. Or everything's in a mess. It is a legend that is splattered across the front cover of a magazine and over two photos of building work which is taking place on the streets of a resort in summer. This is a very interesting magazine. So interesting is it, that I am devoting much of this article to translating parts of articles from it. Let's start with the editorial leader.

"Never again. The situation, which is unfortunately shown on our cover, should not be repeated: the main streets, the most touristic, with work being done in July and August! Unbelievable. Unheard of. Our visitors cannot hide their amazement. How can this type of work be done during these months? Ah, Spain is different, my friends; you know that. We don't believe that this would happen in any other tourist country, least of all in Europe.

"We know the town hall's explanation. In winter, building companies are too busy to deal with our needs. You have to catch them when you can... But that's not our problem. It is one for the representatives we elected for four years, to make our lives better and to not mess up and cause significant damage to businesses."

On another page, there is an article with a headline which says that 1,300 million (pesetas) are to be spent on changing an image.

"(The deputy mayor) has explained to us that the town hall wishes to beautify the resort. 'We are aware of the need for an urgent change of image. We want to literally upholster the resort in green. Pavements with trees, benches, new lighting in an area where the "hooligan" currently sits. (One avenue) will be transformed into a true boulevard with fountains, benches, trees and plants.' "

The article's author is sceptical. All this is to be done within three years. "We'll see," he concludes questioningly. There will be municipal elections well before the three years are up.

There is also an interview with the local police officer who is responsible for the organisation of police resources. It is under the headline "Restructuring of the municipal police". The restructuring has come about, says the officer, in order to take account of specific needs in the municipality. There are four main priorities. These are the "venta ambulante" (looky-lookies), "tiqueteros" (PRs), night-time noise and public order at night as well as security on the beaches. The police on the beaches will be plainclothes cops. They will mingle with the holidaymakers and their mission will be to prevent the venta ambulante and any type of (unlicensed) service on the beach. The police hope that their presence will act in deterring these illegal activities. "Rather than a repressive action, it will be a preventative action."

Elsewhere, there is a short letter to the magazine which reads: "Friends and neighbours, as the new spokesperson for the neighbourhood association, I hope for the collaboration of all residents, working together as an association of friends in this time of crisis in order to cure all the ills in the area, to beautify and enrich it and enhance our local heritage".

Moving on from the contents of this magazine, it might be noted that on 8 May this year there was an item from a website in which the PSOE opposition criticised the start of building works in resorts during the tourist season. The opposition said that there was indignation among businesses and neighbours and concluded that the lack of planning by the Partido Popular was inconceivable when such work should be done in winter.

It might also be noted that a plan for resort beautification has now been drawn up and will include a true boulevard as part of a change of image. It might further be noted that beach security is such that there now has to be illumination of the beach, while it might also be noted that a newspaper recently ran a report into a territorial battle between tiqueteros. Total war, said the report.

By way of explanation of these notes, the PSOE opposition was criticising building work that had started in Magalluf, the true boulevard (finally) is included in the Meliá plan to make Magalluf up-market, the illuminated beach is that of Magalluf, the PRs' battle is around BCM Square.

Nothing really changes, does it. Nothing has really changed, has it. Even the odd name is the same. The name of the letter-writer from the neighbourhood association is José Tirado. I am guessing he is the same Pepe Tirado of the Acotur tourist businesses association. It is a guess as I can't be one hundred per cent certain. There again, it was all a very long time ago. The magazine I have quoted from was "Entre Tots". Its date? July-August 1989.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The HOTguide for Alcúdia and Pollensa 2014

Already posted on The Hotguide blog (, for double coverage, a note here as well that the summer 2014 HOTguide for the north of Mallorca is available as a PDF for free download. The online version is compressed, so the quality is not the same as with the original, but is still, hopefully, good. Go to:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South and Southeast 4 to 5.

Nice, sunny morning, but cloud is due to build up by the afternoon and there is the possibility of a thunderstorm this evening.

Evening update (19.15): Rain and storm have arrived as predicted. Likely to persist into the early hours. The high today, a steamy 27.1C.

Chaos On The Land

Chaos. It's an overused word but its overuse is understandable. More or less anything which moves, stands still, communicates, is displayed, is built, is decided upon is subject to the chaos that ensues from Balearics law-making. Chaos. It exists everywhere. In schools, in apartment blocks, on land. It is the chaos of confusion, lack of clarity, ill-defined drafting, lack of attention paid to existing legislation or of decentralised interpretation, further regulation and approval. Chaos.

The C-word was being thrown around at a meeting at the university over the weekend that was attended by the technical people at town halls and the islands' councils who will have the task of making sense of the new Ley de Suelo, the regional government's land law. It is meant to come into force later this month. There isn't a cat in hell's chance of a key element of this law being enforced so soon. It could take one, two years. Perhaps never. The current legislature will have finished by the time that procedures are such that implementation might be possible, and by then, who knows? Another government, a different complexion, an alternative law or a conflicting interpretation of this new one. You can already hear the sound of the secretaries at the Balearics High Court or the regional Consultative Council madly scribbling in dates for arbitration, ruling and legal opinion for the the next several years.

The key element is the amnesty on illegal buildings on "rustic" land in the Balearics. In theory this amnesty seems straightforward. A "pardon tax" will be paid to make the property (of older than eight years) legal. It will amount to 15% of value in the first year of the law's application (25% in the second year). But while the law may have come into force on paper, it will not have done in practice. When might the first year begin, therefore? From 29 May or from when local authorities have finally managed to themselves apply it, assuming that they ever do?

Planning decisions, which would now include signing off on the amnesty, are made not by regional government but by the town halls. They, however, have to wait for the islands' councils to get their regulatory bottoms in gear, formally adopt the law and set out its implementation. Each of them could implement the law differently. It seems insane but it is quite possible that a property in Mallorca, which is granted the amnesty, would not be were it in Menorca. Why?

That's because Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera are likely to be more restrictive than Mallorca. They will in any event be more restrictive in the meantime, as they will continue to apply an existing and old law - that for rustic land which dates back to the mid-1970s. But once they get round to introducing the new law, they can adopt more restrictive measures because they have it within their constitutions to do so. In one way it's not a bad thing, as the main reason for the existence of the councils in Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera is a check against Mallorcan dominance and Mallorca-led legislation. In another way it's not a good thing, as it creates confusion because of differing interpretations.

Of the four councils, only Mallorca has thus far started the drawn-out process of putting procedures in place, ones which, once the councils have done their part in writing them down, are then handed over to the town halls for their consideration, comments, amendments, changes. This is why it is highly unlikely that the new law will be fully implemented before the swearing-in of the next regional government, and were that to be something other than the Partido Popular, it might just kick the amnesty into touch. Chaos indeed.

While the amnesty seems to be a pragmatic solution to the problem of all the illegal buildings, it can also be seen within the context of the PP government's desire to mollify discontent out in the "part forana" sticks. It is partly a political amnesty, therefore, even if it appears, indeed is, sensible. But it is far less sensible if all it achieves is the chaos which is being predicted and the inevitable demands made on court time.

It might also be considered somewhat hypocritical. 30,000 illegal buildings on rustic land. 40,000 perfectly legally built apartments in tourism areas. The former are given an amnesty. They may possibly be converted into rural tourism accommodation, thanks to the permissive regulation of the 2012 tourism law which envisages greater rural tourism. The latter? 40,000, 30,000, it doesn't really matter. Let's just say that there's a lot. A lot of properties which exist beyond the law because the government refuses to bow to common sense and apply similar permissiveness to that which is being rolled out on the estates of rural Mallorca.

Monday, May 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4 veering South by the afternoon.

Gorgeous morning and gorgeous all day (or should be). Southerlies likely to make things feel warmer. Outlook for the week is generally fine with the possibility of a shower tomorrow.

Evening update (19.45): Breezy at times, but a fine day. A high of 25.2C.

The Dolmen Of Son Bauló

Generally speaking, Mallorca's urban planners have shown sufficient sensitivity towards the presence of the island's archaeological heritage that they have managed to keep it a discrete distance from their urbanising tendencies, albeit that significant amounts of this heritage have either succumbed to nature and have  disappeared and been buried or to the destruction of man in times when they knew no better and to further destruction by man in times when they should have known better. Much has been bulldozed out of existence or built on, never to be seen again.

A good example of this urban separation between ancient and modern is the Pollentia Roman town in Alcúdia. It sits on its own, molested by little more than a road that runs past one side and the proximity of a parking area of such primitiveness that it might have been developed in Roman times. There again, the planners would have had a pretty shrewd idea that the ruins were there even before excavations started. Not that this had stopped previous generations who saw to it that all the secrets of Pollentia will never be revealed.

Some of this heritage is a great deal older than Pollentia and is also a great deal more visible. Mercifully, it hasn't, for the most part, been subjected to the artificial insemination of development, and nor was it in those days when man really couldn't have given a tinker's cuss about some old rocks lying around. Nevertheless, in its contemporary environment this ancient heritage can find itself all but rubbing a rocky shoulder with urbanisation. Ancient does lie close to modern, an example being the Talayotic remains in S'Illot. The best one can say is that at least tourists get to appreciate the existence of this ancient heritage. They can't really avoid it.

But S'Illot is not without its sensitivity, and this is very much more than can be said for the total lack of respect that has been shown to the dolmen of Son Bauló. This ancient burial site is a close neighbour, a far too close neighbour, of Can Picafort's industrial estate. Santa Margalida town hall, which owns the dolmen land, has come up with the idea of affording it a tad greater respect and so granting it some privacy. They're going to put some hedges up as well as some information panels to explain what it is, which should be helpful for those coming and going at the nearby warehouses.

The town hall does of course see this initiative, which will set it back some one hundred grand, as being representative of sustainable tourism, a term which can be used to mean whatever you want it to mean, so long as it is touristically correct. One can but hope that the town hall is right, but the dolmen, not exactly vast, is unlikely to attract great numbers of sustainable tourists, deterred by the otherwise unsustainable existence of factory, workshop and warehouse. Still, hats off to Santa Margalida. Their heritage heart is in the right place. It's just unfortunate that the dolmen heritage happens to be in the heart of an industrial estate.

For all this, the dolmen is important. Assigning it a precise time in the past has proved not to be easy. There are wild fluctuations as to when it is believed that it was created and there is also debate as to whether it can be linked in more or less direct historical terms to the far better known and far more extensive necropolis burial site not so far away at the coastal edge of the Son Real finca. The reporting of the dolmen's provenance is such that it might have been created at any time from the fourth to the second millennium BC. Getting a precise handle on its origins would be useful in furthering understanding of early Mallorcan settlement. It is believed that there was no permanent inhabitation until the third millennium BC, but it is also accepted that there was transient occupation, that of temporary visitors who were probably attracted by the island's wood, before this; perhaps as far back as the sixth millennium BC.

Mallorca has an astonishing amount of prehistoric sites which lend themselves to a greater understanding of Mediterranean culture in the very distant past. Respecting, albeit belatedly, the Son Bauló dolmen is the least that can be done. But how sad is it that so much of the past has been made invisible to contemporary investigation and examination. The more recent past, that of the Romans of Alcúdia's Pollentia, has thus far been revealed through excavation to be less than ten per cent of its former existence.

The chances are that we will never know the true extent of Pollentia, but it is worth trying to find out, just as it is worth trying to find out about even more ancient Mallorcan civilisation. It may be on an industrial estate, but great respect to the dolmen.

* Photo from:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3. Rain from the morning.

A grey morning. Rain expected. Warm though. Improving tomorrow with a reasonable outlook for the coming week. Temperatures in the mid to upper-20s.

Evening update (22.00): There was some rain, not a lot, but the temperatures were way down. A high of only 18.9C.

The Day Of The Museum

Today is International Museum Day. It was established in 1977 by the International Council of Museums, and its president says that "museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, co-operation and peace among peoples", which as a statement of principle sounds rather like the one which used to be offered to explain the virtues of tourism. It's a principle which does still apply, though you would be forgiven for thinking that it no longer does. As resorts, if we are to believe the most doom-laden predictions, will some time in the near future become their own museum pieces, there will be even less cultural exchange and enrichment by those enjoying no more than the hotel branded culture of an all-inclusive. Though even resorts, abandoned by the masses and turned into museum pieces, would still have life. As the vice-president of the Council of Mallorca said in launching Mallorca's contribution to International Museum Day, "museums are living institutions". 

There are a lot of museums in Mallorca, some of them good or excellent, others less good. The good and excellent adhere to the concept of being a living institution, while others betray the occasional failing of museums, which is to attempt to drain all life from themselves. But this is the lot of museums the world over. Some are vibrant, others are moribund. In Mallorca, there is the odd example of museum which shows little sign of life (one thinks, unfortunately, of Inca's rather less than successful footwear museum), but let's not dwell on the negatives when there is much that is positive.

In fact, Inca's museum has been given some life since the appointment of a new director last September, and it is one of a number of museums which is engaged in the exchange of pieces as part of today's celebrations. Others include the Pollensa Museum and the fine Manacor History Museum. The big museum guns are also participating in International Museum Day, such as the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation, Can Prunera in Sóller and the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. And another, the History Museum at Bellver Castle, has truly embraced the modern era by making available a mobile app through which can be heard explanations of items in the museum.

Technology has been a boon to museums. It has breathed new life into many by providing interactivity, through which it can be confirmed that they are indeed living. It has also been a necessity. Wandering around some vast hall with no one breaking into more than a whisper, staring at bits of old rock, is, let's be honest, a bit passé. But it doesn't have to all be technological bells and whistles. The old and the new can combine, so long as what's on display is good, and Es Baluard is pretty damn good. It has, on the one hand, the extraordinary "Sound Resonances" of Hayden Chisholm and, on the other, artistic links to the not so distant past courtesy of artists involved with the early twentieth century Mallorcan movement, such as Santiago Rusiñol and Tito Cittadini. There are also a couple of painted works by Aligi Sassu, who was normally associated with sculptures (he did the weird "horse" on the roundabout in Alcúdia). One is "The Church of Alcúdia".

The good news is that most of Mallorca's museums aren't austere, dull places. They also make a valuable contribution to tourism. To give an indication of numbers, it was estimated that there were 735,000 museum visitors in 2009, which represented a rise of almost 5% over the previous year. This figure will almost certainly have risen more since then. Es Baluard, for example, experienced an increase of over 5% last year. And the museums can benefit in more ways than just through the numbers coming through the door. The Miró Foundation, for instance, raises around 100,000 euros a year through sales of merchandising and other products at its shop.

But these are the big museums. The numbers are, naturally enough, very much lower for smaller ones. The Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation in Alcúdia registered 5,394 visitors in 2009, but then it isn't in the centre of Palma and it isn't an operation which is only interested in making money.

The commercial aspect isn't, though, the focus of International Museum Day. It is a celebration of museums' contribution to the island's culture. There are thirty taking part. The weather's good, but then so are the museums.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca fail to ease relegation worries

Real Mallorca 0 : 0 Real Jaén
Hardly worth taking note of, given momentous events involving Atletico and Barça, but for the record ... two poor teams, but with relegation worries played out a nil-all draw. Alfaro had a clear chance for Mallorca in the first half and Hemed hit the woodwork in the second. But Mallorca didn't exactly dominate. They are one place and two points above the relegation zone, but there are games to follow.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 occasionally 4.

Fine morning. Sunny today but there is a chance of rain tomorrow and of it lingering into Monday.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 22.5C. Rain looking more likely tomorrow now.

The Language Of Discount Cards

A while ago, I drew attention to what was then only a moderate row over the Partido Popular having launched a discount card for members that could be used at some 300 businesses which had signed up to the scheme. During the week, what had been moderate went very immoderate. Language-wise that is. The row went ballistic, kicked off by a call for a boycott of the businesses launched by the opposition PSOE and Més parties.

The chronology of events is worth itemising. Firstly, Dani Ruano of Foto Ruano, one of the businesses, released a video in which he apologised for having become involved with the scheme. He said that it had been an error but one made in good faith. He had thought he was helping (by offering some customers a discount) and would have done the same regardless of which political party it was. He went on to say that he was taking measures to disassociate the business from the "blue card".

Ruano was indirectly echoing a point that the small to medium-sized business organisation PIMEM was making, namely that businesses were likely to be harmed by associating themselves with the card. PIMEM, for its part, said that it did not support the card. Another business organisation, the Confederation of Balearics Businesses, weighed into the argument, suggesting that it would be wise were the card to be withdrawn, that it shouldn't have been launched but that the damage (to businesses) was already done.

It was then that the debate got totally out of hand and the language became immoderate. In the Balearic parliament, the PP's spokesperson, Mabel Cabrer, launched an attack on the opposition, comparing them to Nazis and the hounding of businesses linked to the scheme to the Nazi practice of placing the Star of David in Jewish shops. This, unsurprisingly, led to the whole matter kicking off big time. Francina Armengol, the leader of PSOE, filed a complaint, stating that Cabrer's words had been "unworthy of the victims of the Holocaust". The Més leader, Biel Barceló, was outraged, and even Baltasar Garzón, the esteemed ex-judge (but also a PSOE sympathiser), got involved, calling the card an "electoral fraud".

President Bauzá then stepped into the fray, defending the card and accusing the opposition of not understanding the notion of "freedom", as in free choice. He managed to drag the language argument in by comparing attitudes against the cards to those against the free selection of teaching language. And that argument, the teaching one, was further brought into an increasingly absurd debate when Cabrer said that she was seeking an apology from the opposition for having released an image of Bauzá as Hitler when the government had issued its infamous trilingual teaching decree in September last year.

All the while, and in the background, there was the more technical issue of whether the card was legal or not. But such mundane matters as legal ones were being forgotten because of the Nazi blitz that Cabrer had unleashed. Eventually, she apologised.

The legality of the card in terms of political party funding is, in a way, a separate issue, though PSOE, which is investigating whether businesses in the scheme are also contractors to the government, may well be digging up a hornet's nest that could make life even more difficult for the government. But the card itself, as I said before, seems fair enough. Plenty of organisations, including political parties and unions, have such schemes in other countries (Britain, for instance). This is Mallorca though, and so the PP's card has been styled as a means of, in effect, seeking to buy electoral support. It has, as things have turned out, been a mistake. One has to ask if the PP consulted business associations before the scheme was launched, as they were making it clear that they didn't think it was wise. More than this, though, has been the language. The Nazi reference was cheap and ridiculous, but it was symptomatic of the often puerile way in which politics are conducted in Mallorca. If Bauzá had the guts, he would sack Cabrer.

Friday, May 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 5.

Sunny but some cloud around. Another pretty good day, but with northerlies keeping things fresh. The weekend? Sunday is forecast to be cloudy with the small chance of a shower.

Evening update (20.15): That fresh old breeze kept temperatures in check. A high of 22.1C. Nice day, though.

Muro: The New Model Town Hall

Muro is a town which generally goes about its business without making a great deal of fuss or drawing a huge amount of attention to itself. Gone are the days when the grand old men of Muro's politics would clash and when things would rarely appear to be sweetness and light. Both of them also had their well-publicised legal problems. Miguel Ramis, the founder of Grupotel and one-time mayor, was disqualified from public office over a land matter, while Jaume Perelló, another ex-mayor, was sentenced to a year in prison because of vote-rigging. There are of course still the occasional spats, but by and large the town hall avoids being named in dishonourable dispatches and conducts itself in an unfussy and efficient manner. So efficient is it, that it is only one of two town halls in Mallorca to have no debt.

Other town halls in the area still have alarming levels of debt, despite some years of austerity. Alcúdia's and Santa Margalida's are roughly the same, edging towards four and a half million euros. Pollensa's is a bit under four million. Sa Pobla has a whacking great 10.35 million. So how is it that Muro manages to owe not a centimo? Basically, it is all down to good housekeeping. Mayor Martí Fornes has explained that running a town hall should be like running your home finances. You don't spend more than you can afford. It all sounds remarkably like Margaret Thatcher and remarkably sensible.

There was a debt, some two million euros, a few years ago, but it has been whittled down to nothing through prudence. It is not as though there aren't investments, just that they are closely controlled. The efficiency stretches to payments to suppliers. Muro takes, on average, a mere sixteen days to pay up.

Muro's financial position may all be a function of size (roughly a third the population of Alcúdia) and of a large number of mainly up-market hotels from which healthy revenues can be obtained, but however it is managing to keep the debt to zero, it can be held up as something of a model town hall for others to aspire to.

Meanwhile, the town hall is taking measures to improve security on beaches and to tackle the problem of the illegal massages which are offered on the beaches. Calvia town hall has taken a lead in respect of the latter by putting out to tender a number of massage tents on various beaches in the town. Muro is following suit, as is Santa Margalida (aka Can Picafort). It is a pragmatic response in face of a problem that is not easily solved. It might appear to be easy to solve, but as Santa Margalida's mayor, Antoni Reus, has pointed out, the local police can confiscate the oil and the towel but an hour or so later the massage girls are back again. It's a familiar story, akin to that of the "lookies". Issuing fines isn't much use, as they don't get paid.

Muro will have two massage tents this summer, while Santa Margalida will have four. Though it might be hoped that some of the trade that the illegal massage girls have until now exploited will prefer to have an authorised beach massage, will it mean the end of the illegality and the sheer nuisance factor? Somehow, you would doubt it.

On beach security, Muro will be installing safes with the sunbed and parasol units. Or rather, the concessionaires who supply the sunbeds will be installing them. Doubtless this will have meant higher tenders for the sunbed lots on the beaches. The concessions are good revenue-earners for both Muro and Santa Margalida town halls, but they have also had their share of controversy. One can but hope that the safes will not be the targets of any vandalism. Both Muro and Can Picafort have a bit of form when it comes to sunbeds being vandalised. Not, it would seem, by ne'er-do-well tourists or local lads with nothing better to do, but by rivals.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 May 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 17C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 easing Northeast 3 by the afternoon.

Bright and clear morning. Northerlies like to give a fresh feel as they were yesterday, especially by the sea. Should be sunny all day. Weekend outlook good.

Evening update (21.45): A keen old breeze at times today. Plenty of sun, but the breeze kept the high down to 22.3C.

Bikinis Past And Present

When, in 1959, the mayor of Benidorm decided to take the establishment on, he probably couldn't have realised what he was unleashing. Or probably he could. What mayor Pedro Zaragoza did was to permit the wearing of bikinis. He was denounced by the Guardia Civil, threatened with excommunication by the Archbishop of Valencia, sought an audience with General Franco and, no doubt to everyone's surprise, opposition to the bikini was dropped.

So, Benidorm was where the bikini revolution started, but the decision to allow bikinis didn't mean that Spanish beaches were suddenly all exposed to similar quantities of additional bare female flesh as Benidorm's was. Things tended to vary from resort to resort, as was the case in Mallorca. There remained the thorny issue of the Guardia taking exception, so the Spanish tourism ministry had to assure foreign tour operators that, though there was no general law permitting the bikini, the boys in green would not be going around hassling female tourists in a two-piece.

The most influential voice in bringing about greater liberalism and thus the generally accepted practice of bikini-wearing was Manuel Fraga, who was made minister of tourism and information in 1962. This dual portfolio made some sense. Though the masses were starting to hover in the skies over Mallorca and the Costa Brava, Spain's reputation was hardly terribly positive. A key aspect of Fraga's information remit was one that dovetailed with tourism. It was information in the propaganda sense of information. Mallorca and the Costas were to benefit from a more benevolent, benign and Benidorm-liberalised image, and one of the images, to the horror of the Catholic conservative class, was the bikini.

Part of Fraga's propaganda was the use of the film industry. This wasn't entirely novel as the regime was already using films to portray Spain in a better light ("El Cid" was an example). Fraga had less grand notions. There was to be no epic but rather a series of films which featured the two elements of the new tourism industry - sun and beach. One of these films was released in 1962. It starred Elke Sommer. Its title was "Bahia de Palma". It was a romantic comedy in which Sommer played Olga, an heiress socialite with a vicious tongue, opposite Arturo Fernández, a concert pianist who had lost the will to play on account of heart break.

The film was apparently a success. Eager Spanish cinema-goers were repeat visitors to the movie theatres. In Germany - Sommer was/is German - the film was also a success but under a different title, "Spiel und Leidenschaft" (play and passion). Seemingly, it never made it to British cinema screens, and so the British film fan could not enjoy the sight which made "Bahia de Palma" a sensation: Elke Sommer in a bikini.

The title was, though, misleading in that not all location shots were in Palma Bay. Andraitx, Formentor, Santa Ponsa and Valldemossa all featured as well, but these additional locations only helped to do what the film was really intended to do, which was to promote Mallorca. By allowing the odd shot of a bikini, the regime's censors, no doubt advised by Fraga, permitted a promotional coup two times over: one of showing off Mallorca and its beaches and the other of showing what a tolerant and liberal place Spain was after all.

Despite its apparent success in Spain and in Germany, it is not a film that has gone down in the annals of cinema history as having been of any great merit. But it does find a place in that history because of the landmark bikini. It may have been propaganda but it was pragmatic propaganda. Fraga knew the value of greater liberalism and understood that foreign values were different to those of the sexually repressed Spain of that time. Whether the establishment liked it or not, and most didn't, for Spain to reap the full benefits of tourism, it had to lighten up.

This was all fifty-two years ago. An awful lot of bare flesh has since passed under the tourism bridgehead formed by Elke Sommer, but the amount of bare flesh now on show is, so we are led to believe, out of control, hence the "bikini law".

Fraga knew a thing or two about how to handle the media. He was from a different time, but in some ways it might be good were he still around. He might just get the message across correctly. I was asked the other day about the restrictions on wearing bikinis in Mallorca. There are none, only those which Palma are introducing, and which even there are not intended to stop bikini-wearing in the immediate vicinity of the beaches. Somewhere the message is going wrong, and it is, moreover, a message which seems peculiarly of the past. I wonder what Elke Sommer thinks. Bahia de Palma, bikinis verboten.

* Photo: Elke Sommer, "Bahia de Palma".