Monday, June 30, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 18C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 July - Sun, 28C; 2 July - Sun, some cloud, 29C; 3 July - Sun, some cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 4 veering occasionally South.

A noticeably fresher morning. Clear skies and due to stay clear. The outlook is for temperatures in the upper-20s with sun and occasional cloud through the week.

Evening update (18.45): Well, there was a fair bit of cloud at times, gone by the later afternoon. A high of 28.3C.

No Frills Excursions

There May Be Chaos Ahead: Opinion poll

There is a great deal of water to yet pass under the bridge before next spring's regional elections, but if the polls are to be believed, the late-summer and winter storms will flood political torrents that pour under "puentes" of Mallorca, wash away the stagnant and accumulated detritus, cleanse and purify them with a collective can-do but also leave a mud so deep that some are stuck or sink. The poll just conducted by the Balearics Institute of Social Studies on behalf of "Ultima Hora" will mean José Ramón Bauzá and the PP thrashing around in quicksand, desperately grabbing at any passing safety rope in an attempt to haul themselves out of a political mire, while Francina Armengol and PSOE struggle up to the neck in fear that they will be consumed by the mucky waters of time and disappear from view. Glug. Glug.

This is what the poll suggests how the Balearics parliament would look after the next election: the PP, 27 seats, down eight; PSOE, 14 seats, down four; the Més leftist, nationalist, greenist group with six seats, up one; and in fourth spot, up five from zero, would be Podemos. Yes we can. With the remaining seven seats distributed between the United Left, El Pi, the UPyD and one for the Formentera wing of PSOE, the picture which would emerge, were this poll to be replicated at the elections, would be one of such potential chaos that the Balearics might be all but ungovernable.

The maths are such that a coalition would have to be formed in order to get a minimum of thirty seats and thus form a majority. For the PP, it might seem that it could derive support from the centrist UPyD and the regio-nationalist-conservative El Pi. They could bump the number up to thirty, but though certain aspects of their political philosophies might coincide, they are wide apart in other regards. The UpyD, a relatively new party, wants to be an alternative to the two-party system. How could it sell out that idea and join with the PP? Jaume Font, the leader of El Pi, is said to have mended bridges with Bauzá but then there is Antoni Pastor, who most certainly has not. El Pi, in any event, totally rejects Bauzá language policy and attitude towards regionalism.

If the PP were unable to gather partners around it, then what of a PSOE-led coalition? Well, it's possible but would require the support of virtually all the other parties including, and most significantly, Podemos. It, rather like the UPyD but totally unlike it in character, wants to break the two-party system. The idea of it ever forming part of a coalition of which PSOE were a part seems almost inconceivable. But then Podemos hasn't as yet in its very brief existence been confronted with "realpolitik", one which strikes at its very purpose. If it has ambitions of being a legitimate political force, then it is going to have to compromise. Even if it does or it doesn't, one feels that its success at the European elections merely sowed the seeds of its own destruction.

For PSOE the outlook is bleak. The confirmation of Francina Armengol as leader has done nothing to improve its prospects, and there was never any good reason to believe that her victory would improve them. Armengol was president of the Council of Mallorca under the last PSOE-led administration. People don't forget. Or rather, they would prefer to forget those who are discredited or representative of previous failure. Armengol offers nothing new, but PSOE badly needs to be seen as renewed.

The PP, which has been disintegrating into fragments of pro- and anti-Catalan and pro- and anti-regionalism, could yet retrieve the situation. There will be those in the party who know or think they know how this could be done. Would there be a coup to oust Bauzá? Even if there were, who would take over? The party might just be so damaged that it can't retrieve the situation whoever leads it. Not next year anyway.

All this leaves one other option, assuming a grand coalition between the PP and PSOE would be a total non-starter, and this is that a majority coalition cannot be formed by either side. It has not been untypical for a major party to fail to get a majority, but in these instances there has been sufficient support to create a majority through coalition. The possibility exists, however, that even this might not be achievable next year. Town halls in Mallorca can and do operate with minority administrations, but could a government? It has happened, but only because the Unió Mallorquina was thrown out of the PSOE 2007-2011 pact in the final year of that administration.

Things can change between now and next spring, but if they don't, then the Balearics could end up without a government.

Index for June 2014

Abdication of KIng Juan Carlos - 3 June 2014, 7 June 2014
Archaeology tourism route - 25 June 2014
Balearics' education conflict - 23 June 2014
Bellevue and tourist treatment - 4 June 2014
Biniali and traditional games - 1 June 2014
Brochures - 20 June 2014
Civil War: exhumation of bodies - 17 June 2014
Compatibility: President Bauzá - 15 June 2014
Flying car ferries - 10 June 2014
Gaming law in Balearics - 24 June 2014
Hoteliers federation falling out - 2 June 2014
Jaume Sastre and President Bauzá - 16 June 2014
King Felipe - 21 June 2014
La Gola, Puerto Pollensa - 13 June 2014
Magalluf not like northern resorts - 6 June 2014
Mallorca Song Festival - 14 June 2014
Miquel dels Sants Oliver - 18 June 2014
Pere Capellà - 19 June 2014
Princess Cristina and Judge Castro - 29 June 2014
Regional election opinion poll - 30 June 2014
Roads, buses and Mallorca's history - 9 June 2014
Sant Joan and midsummer - 22 June 2014
Selva "herbes" fair - 8 June 2014
Shipping history in Mallorca - 11 June 2014
Spanish students on Mallorcan holidays - 26 June 2014, 27 June 2014
Surfing - 5 June 2014
Tourism strategy in Mallorca - 28 June 2014
World Cup - 12 June 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 30 June - Sun, 30C; 1 July - Sun, 29C; 2 July - Sun, some cloud, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North and Northeast 4 to 5 easing 3 by later afternoon.

Some cloud around this morning and there is likely to be cloud for much of the day but with no obvious chance of rain. The fall in temperature that had been forecast for today seems to be much less of a possibility.

Evening update (19.00): Once the cloud lifted in the afternoon, a nice day, and it was indeed cooler after all. A high of 26C.

No Frills Excursions

Judge Dread And The Infanta-cide

He rides a Lawmaster motorbike. He patrols Palma Mega-City One. He dispenses instant justice. Be afraid, be very afraid. Here comes Judge Dread. Dreaded by members of royal families everywhere. Especially Spanish ones.

Judge José Castro, judge of the people, hero of the people, a comic-strip legend roars into the Palma courts on his trusty steed, his high-cylinder "moto". The sword-wielding, Kendo-practising judge issues his 167 tablets of stone, his "auto". Moto, auto, whatever. Zap, pow, Judge Dread has spoken, and the word is Infanta-cide. Somewhere in Geneva, the Infanta Cristina, just returned home from the day job with the La Caixa bank foundation, shudders with horror. She has someone to comfort her, though. The Queen Mum, recently relieved of royal duties, has arrived to be at her side. Sofia hasn't seen Cristina for a while. Her daughter wasn't around for the abdication or the proclamation. She is the sidelined royal. The "new" royal family doesn't, strictly speaking, include her. Sidelined royal. Airbrushed royal? Dispensable royal? Judge Dread thinks so. He has dispensed his justice.

But who is this? Into the OK Corral of the Palma courts strolls a fearless lawman. Sheriff Pedro Horrach, a fighter of corruption, just like Judge Dread. But only one of them, on this day, can audition for Elliot Ness. Has Horrach switched sides? This is their Tombstone. Their duel, their gunfight. Horrach, the prosecutor but defender of the Infanta. Castro, her accuser.

Horrach, till now the Untouchable, is risking all. He is lining up against the people's hero. But then Castro is also risking all. Or is he? Horrach has years to go to retirement. Castro could call it a day today if he wanted to, his reputation intact. Their duel has only just begun. Former allies now separated and staring at each other across the Court's Corral, the intense heat of summer burning down on them. Who will be the first to flinch? Go for your denuncia, shouts Castro. Condemn me for abuse of position, if you dare.

Persecution of the Princess, claims Horrach, who has never wavered from his view that there is no case to answer. Disrespect has been shown to me, counters Castro, who adds: "A judge can lose impartiality, just as a prosecutor can lose impartiality. This is an inherent human risk. But I do not believe that a judge is more vulnerable than a prosecutor to losing impartiality."

Partiality or impartiality, the duel will continue at least until the Audiencia court in Palma decides if Castro's indictment, his Infanta-cide, will stand. But who's to say that its decision will be the final word? No one.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 22C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 29 June - Cloud with sun, 30C; 30 June - Sun, some cloud, 26C; 1 July - Sun, some cloud, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4 backing Southeast 4 during the morning.

Expect a fairly roasting one today, southerlies pushing African air up. Cooler temperatures for tomorrow, which had been forecast, may come as breezes switch. With cloud predicted for tomorrow, there may be the risk of a storm.

Evening update (19.45): A whopper today - high of 34.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Ripping Up The Tourism Rulebook

In 1970 Richard Branson did something unusual. He started selling records by mail order. The adverts for this suddenly appeared in the "NME". It was new, it was innovative; it broke rules. That the following year Branson opened the legendary store above the shoe shop on Oxford Street didn't make the rule-breaking any less. It was an assault on the cosiness of HMV, Woolies and the department store record department.

I was, if you like, a Branson babe. I bought by mail order. I used to go to that old store above the shoe shop. Over the next few years I got to know a number of people who worked for Virgin's retail business and for the record label. Not everyone was complimentary of Branson. Not everyone liked him. But one thing he was good at was allowing ideas to flourish, to allow others to take charge of them and to develop them. He enabled change and constant innovation and evolution. The record label reflected this. After four years of existence, Virgin ripped up its own hippyish rulebook. The anti-Christs of music, The Sex Pistols, spat into life.

Constant innovation and evolution, and these were co-ordinated according to a unified brand. Branson may have gone on to irritate the pants off you (and me) because of his often ineloquent self-publicity, but give the guy his due. It wasn't single-handed, even if it might have seemed so, but he made a difference. A very big difference. He created a brand of possibility, of alternative aspirations, one for which the business option of "doing nothing" was struck from the corporate lexicon, if indeed it had ever appeared in it.

In 1970, at the same time as Branson was ripping up the record retailing rulebook, Mallorca was, despite a relatively short number of years of its tourism industrial revolution, already "mature". It still had enormous scope for growth, which did occur and massively so, but the basic Mallorcan proposition, the brand, was already betraying signs of crisis. Mallorca was the Woolworth of holidaymaking. It was essentially naff, familiar through its own saturation, and conformist. You couldn't go into Woolies and buy an armful of American West Coast albums. At Virgin you could. In Mallorca you could come and find a beach, sun and sangria, and the offer was essentially the same wherever the tour operator decided you were going.

Despite the undoubted streak of entrepreneurialism which characterised its early tourism, both knowingly and unknowingly Mallorca became a victim of its own success. It was, in business terms, a first mover. If there were an appreciation of what this meant, then it was one which emphasised the advantages. Mallorca was the first to mass tourism market. Thus it would always reap the benefits, right? Wrong. Business is full of examples of first movers which, because they became bloated and lethargic, allowed their advantage to wither. More known would have been the constraints of Spanish statism. The regime may have allowed tourism to flourish but it did so according to a rigid notion of what this tourism meant. It is absolutely no coincidence that Mallorca (and Spain) arrived kicking and screaming into the twentieth century because of two mass industries - tourism and car production. It was Fordism for the swinging sixties, and for tourism this meant any colour so long as it was sandy, bluey and the blood red of sangria.

The shock of the oil crisis was what was meant to have changed things. But it didn't to any significant extent. The next shock - the death of Franco - led eventually to autonomous government. This ushered in the closest that Mallorca has ever had to a tourism entrepreneurial politician, Jaume Cladera, but far from a reinvention or an alteration of thinking to permit constant innovation and evolution, Cladera ended up having to invent a rulebook which hadn't previously existed. Legislation followed legislation followed legislation. Though some of this was good and is still good (Delgado's 2012 tourism bill wasn't all bad by any means), regional government spawned atrophy through hyper-lexis, the antithesis of conditions for constant innovation and evolution.

You want someone who will break the rules for Mallorca. Instead, you have what is essentially a tourism technocracy. Rather than constant innovation, there is constant attention to the minutiae of plans which conflict with each other and of the inevitable piles of legislation. Nothing much happens because nothing much can happen. But perhaps we overestimate the ability of any one person or one body to effect change. Mallorca may have long been a mature tourism destination, but its maturity is still only relatively youthful. The future hasn't been written, therefore. And this is the essence of the problem. No one knows what that future is or should be. Perhaps when they work it out though, they could advertise it in the "NME".

Friday, June 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2014


Morning high (8.15am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 28 June - Sun, 32C; 29 June - Sun, some cloud, 26C; 30 June - Sun, some cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3 backing South and Southeast 4 by midday, locally Northeast.

Another fine morning and the forecast is for sun all day, but then yesterday's forecast was out somewhat: it was cloudier than had been predicted with the occasional rumble of thunder in the afternoon. The outlook is for cooler weather from Sunday.

Evening update (20.30): Warm. A high of 33.3C.

No Frills Excursions

Nights Of Noise

Yesterday, I sent Alcúdia's tourism councillor an email in which I suggested that she might like to go to the Bellevue complex and in particular the area by the Fedra blocks and witness for herself the nightly gathering of Spanish students waiting to be ferried off to their club (Menta). It's safe to presume that she did not take up the suggestion.

For the record, this is how things go. Last night was not as rowdy as previous nights had been, but it was still rowdy - eventually. It had seemed as though perhaps the message about the noise had been taken on-board. The coaches appeared to have started arriving earlier and to have started therefore leaving earlier (from around 11.30pm). There looked as though there were more people engaged in some form of control and organisation. Indeed, up until roughly one o'clock, there was nothing that could have been deemed unacceptable. There was noise, but only for the most part the low noise of chatter. The behaviour was generally that good that bottles were even being deposited in litter-bins.

But at around one o'clock, things changed. And it probably isn't too difficult to figure out why. The longer some of the students have to wait, are still in the accommodation, the longer the window of drinking opportunity. The pattern of Spanish youth going out for the night is well set. They drink cheap booze, sometimes in the form of the street botellón, prior to getting to the clubs, where they drink virtually nothing. Drink meets large groups means rowdiness.

I spoke to three people who were supervising. One of them was a security guard. I had assumed he was a member of Bellevue security. He wasn't. His job was to look after the "chicos", presumably to ensure that there were no "incidents". When asked about hotel security, he said there wasn't any, which was something of a surprise. He might not have been right. There had been other what looked as though they might have been security earlier. They were no longer in evidence. Whether they were hotel staff or not, I couldn't say. The two others were "co-ordinators" of the groups. One of them said that any complaint would have to be taken up with head office, i.e. the tour company, Finalia in Barcelona.

All three of them seemed somewhat taken aback that anyone would come and ask them to explain whether they felt it was acceptable for there to be levels of noise which, in other circumstances in Alcúdia, would not be tolerated. Taken aback, but then none of them were in a position to make any real observation. They were just doing their jobs. A classic example of there being no one with any real authority being in charge.

The final coach left around 2am. Despite the coaches seeming to have started to arrive earlier, the process of moving the students off site went on to the same sort of early-morning time as it had previously. Now morning, there is a gathering of students waiting to depart. No noise, but have they been up all night? Quite probably. Oh well, youth can handle such privation.

The issue is not the fact that Spanish students are in Alcúdia having a holiday. It is an issue primarily of the nature of Bellevue. Ideally, if there are large groups of youngsters all with the same needs to go out at midnight to enjoy themselves, they should be in a hotel for they and they alone. One which can contain and organise the groups more effectively and not allow them to disrupt the "convivencia" of a wider community. But as Bellevue is as it is, the sprawling campus that it is, with different blocks all open and with some in proximity to residential accommodation, such effective organisation is nigh on impossible.

Let's be clear, Bellevue does have its fair share of rowdy regular tourists. But not on this scale. The hotel would typically classify itself as a family hotel, but it has introduced a tourist niche that does not conform with this classification. The complex may be suited to having different types of tourist in different parts, but only if those different parts are somehow fenced off, made separate in order to lessen the impact of so many young people being on site at one time.

The number is high. When I saw the July occupancy figures for the hotel (dated 22 June), I was surprised to see that, on 1 July for example, the number of guests on full board exceeded by almost 400 the number on an all-inclusive package. I think I begin to understand why this is and why full board guests all but disappear from the mix after 4 July. The security guard told me that he was going to be around until 5 July. It all figures now. The number of full board guests declines after 1 July, but on that date it is listed as amounting to 1,298, more than a third of the entire occupancy of the Bellevue complex.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2014


Morning high (8.15am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 27 June - Sun, some cloud, 30C; 28 June - Sun, 30C; 29 June - Sun, some cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 locally Northeast during the afternoon. Possible rain and storm from the afternoon.

Lovely morning with far less chance of cloud coming later on, so a glorious and hot day. The outlook is good but with temperatures falling a bit from Sunday.

No Frills Excursions

Organised Irresponsibility: Students on holiday

It is quarter past one on a midweek morning. A security guard gets into his car and drives off. He had been hanging around for an hour or more. Long enough to have seen the police car drive past, turn round and go. Now he has also gone. Meanwhile, the noise continues.

On Facebook, Shaggie, he of Shagalluf, posts something under the title of "Calvia council stop fooling yourselves". He is referring to "havoc" being caused by some 2,000 Spanish kids along Magalluf's strip. His post would be something which I would normally notice with only passing interest. But I take much closer interest than normal. He talks about the absence of police and about underaged kids out on the streets at night.

Spanish kids are like kids anywhere. There is a misguided notion, one typically held by a category of expatriate who is not in touch with the realities of the streets or the resorts, that Spanish kids, unlike their British counterparts, are incapable of misbehaving, getting drunk or creating noise or havoc. There are degrees of noise and havoc, granted, but let's nail the canard once and for all. Spanish kids can asbo along with the kids of other nations. And why not? They're kids.

Perhaps mercifully I was never part of a small invasion force of hundreds or thousands of my peers. There weren't organised student holiday tours back in the day. Not of the type there are now. They come from the mainland. They are packaged according to educational type. There is the holiday for kids at secondary schools celebrating the end of the summer term; the holiday for kids at the end of their Baccalaureate; the holiday for university kids (aka adults). There are those who are under age in that they are not eighteen; those who are eighteen or older. Thousands of them. In different resorts. Magalluf, Arenal, Alcúdia.

Quarter past one in the morning. The noise has been going on, as it has over successive nights, from around midnight. It is noise of shouts, screams, chants, claps, firecrackers. The noise of the botellón, the mass drinking party. The noise that could be expected from hundreds of kids. They come in waves, just as the noise comes in waves. It rises, it falls.

This is Bellevue in Alcúdia. Where else. On its outer limits the majority of the students - Baccalaureate ones, the elite ones - are housed in specific blocks of this vast holidaymaking campus. They are not alone. There are other tourists. Nearby there are the residences of the Siestas. 

Alcúdia has local ordinances, just as other towns have ordinances. Since the time that it became an "eco-tourist" resort in the 1990s (a pioneering concept), it has adopted measures for environmental protection, of which noise pollution is one. Alcúdia abhors noise, especially noise after the midnight curfew. In theory.

Yet, there is no curfew in Bellevue. Not a curfew of movement, of association, of gathering. Not a curfew of size of gathering. Not a curfew of noise. Quite the opposite. This is noise organisation. From midnight, there is the sound of the multitudes. It growls like thunder, crashes like thunderclaps, bombarding the steamy night air. The sound of the students gathering for the coaches which come and go in convoy until two in the morning. The sound of the Baccalaureate asbos.

"Convivencia" is a word in Spanish which means co-existence. It is one which is used widely. It is used in legal terms, in moral terms and in terms of responsibility. Convivencia is all but a part of the nation's Constitution. It is a theoretical concept, one often breached in practice. Its application is devolved to institutions of government and to representatives of commerce. Its intention is social harmony. Mutual respect. Living together. Co-existence.

What destroys convivencia is not students enjoying their holidays. The destruction comes from a lack of institutional responsibility, a failure in duty of care, an absence of accountability and of admission. It is not just institutions of local government - Calvia, Alcúdia town halls, for example - it is also commercial organisations, such as one driven to create occupancy of a vast complex that would, in late June, otherwise have to face occupancy of well under 50%, just as it currently has to for mid-July. The commercial need dominates. Business comes from wherever business can come from. Even if the late-night organisation of this business shatters the desired calm of convivencia. The truth is that no one gives a damn, no one could care less at town halls or in business. They, those who decide, who grant permission, who book, who organise, never see or hear. They never hear the noise. They are blind to the consequences. They are the ones who are responsible, but ultimately irresponsible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2014


Morning high (8.15am): 22C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 26 June - Sun, some cloud, 28C; 27 June - Sun, some cloud, 27C; 28 June - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 veering Northeast by the afternoon. Possible rain and storm from the afternoon.

Sunny morning with clear skies, but there could well be some rain and a storm this afternoon, more materialising than did so yesterday when it got very heavy by the afternoon. This rather unsettled pattern should go after today.

Evening update (21.45): A high of 29.7C. Got fairly cloudy later on but no rain or storm.

No Frills Excursions

Ancient Secrets: Mallorca's archaeology

European Cultural Routes Transfer Experiences Share Solutions. A very long title that is abbreviated to CERTESS and which refers to "an inter-regional project prepared by twelve regional partners of ten European countries, financed by the European Regional Development Fund and implemented under the INTERREG IVC programme". God, how the EU loves its meaningless acronyms.

To try and make sense of what this means, it is a project to establish a common framework for developing cultural routes, combining "good and best practices and governance instruments to formulate ten route implementation plans, all targeted to foster sustainable cultural tourism in their reference areas". No, this doesn't really help, does it.

Whatever it all means, the Balearics Tourism Agency is party to it. The agency is one of the partners. And it has dragged the Balearics environment ministry into a sustainable CERTESS project. Yes, there is a new initiative to tackle tourism seasonality while at the same time being environmentally correct and sustainably touristic. It is a pilot plan to create an archaeological tourism route.

What one assumes this doesn't entail is tourists being invited to come to Mallorca, get down on all fours and start rummaging around in archaeological digs. Being a rummager requires more than just an ability to be like a dog digging up a bone. You have to take courses on rummaging. No, what it appears to be is a way of giving what already exists a different name. A route name. Mallorcan and Spanish tourism loves its routes as much as the EU loves its acronyms. Routes for wine, routes for culture, routes for religion, routes no doubt for roots.

There have, however, been rummaging tourists. Son Real near Can Picafort has established something of a trend in this regard. American archaeology students have been invited to volunteer to spend summers at the finca with its ancient burial sites. And they have come, filling a gap of discovery that has lamentably been created by regional governmental indifference to this gem of pre-history and of Mallorca's antiquity.

Indifference or not, the government's tourism agency wishes to further promote Son Real and other archaeological sites on Mallorca and the rest of the Balearics. Which is a laudable enough aim, but one that raises the question as to what the agency and government have been doing to promote all this archaeology up until now. There is a lot of archaeology on Mallorca, a lot of important and ancient sites, but many of them have, for tourism purposes, been largely ignored.

The best known and most developed of the sites is the old Roman city of Pollentia in Alcúdia. It most certainly has been promoted but even it doesn't receive (or hasn't received) the attention which it should do. Not so long ago, I was asked to supply an English translation of the various parts of the site - the Forum, the Theatre and so on. Was this the first time that a detailed explanation had been made available? I wasn't aware of there having been one previously.

Mallorca doesn't have a history that places it in the same league of for example Crete when it comes to ancient Mediterranean culture. The island was not a great cradle of civilisation, but it is nevertheless important in fostering a better understanding of that culture, both pre-Roman and post-Roman. Pollentia reinforces what is very well known of Roman times in general, but it also has secrets yet to be revealed about the period after the Romans left, new surveys casting doubt on the accepted wisdom regarding Pollentia's fate. Specifically, there is a Byzantine-style wall which is reckoned to date from the fifth century. If this is so, then this may change that accepted wisdom, i.e. that the Byzantines didn't appear until the following century and that Pollentia was not abandoned when the Vandals arrived.

But it is the older pre-history which is in many ways more important. There is still plenty of inexactitude which surrounds the origins of the ancient Talayotic sites and only hypotheses as to what existed on Mallorca before these. When was Mallorca genuinely settled by human occupation? It is thought that there would have been people on the island from the fifth or even sixth millennium before Christ, but that they did not settle. They were only transient. But little is understood of this transient population. Of the later established population there is a wide variance in times given to sites, even those which are close together, such as the necropolis at Son Real and the dolmen in Son Bauló, itself only now being shown a certain amount of official respect.

The idea for an archaeology route is a good one. But it is something which needs to be backed up by genuine support for the efforts being made to reveal the island's ancient secrets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 25 June - Sun, possible shower, 29C; 26 June - Sun, some cloud, 27C; 27 June - Sun, some cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3 occasionally Variable.

Clear morning with just some light, patchy cloud. Possibility of a shower later, with a rain system moving from the mainland, and a similar possibility tomorrow as well. Otherwise, sunny and quite hot.

No Frills Excursions

Placing A Bet: Balearics gaming

Persian Lancer was the horse's name. The jockey was Doug Smith, the race was the Cesarewitch. The year was 1966. It was the year when my role as betting oracle was well and truly confirmed. Persian Lancer won at 100-7. I don't recall ever getting any of the winnings, which may have been why I ceased to be a betting oracle. But I went out on a high, the disbelief that I had turned up yet another winner the subject of considerable discussion by my father, builder Sid and other mates as well as by my grandmother and her coterie of pensionable-age flutterers.

It had all started two years previously. Family friends owned horses. They went to the races. So did I. For the first and only time. Sandown Park. 1964. I would have gone through the card had Owen's Sedge not collapsed and died as it was making its run for victory in the Whitbread. From that moment on I was regularly consulted for betting oraclism. I rarely failed to deliver. God knows how. 

It would be nice to say, if only for rather romantic purposes, that my subsequent adolescence was thoroughly misspent on frittering away pocket-money. It wasn't. I had peaked early. I wasn't even a teenager when I gave up betting. It could only have gone downhill from the triumph of Persian Lancer.

I have absolutely no interest in betting and gambling. Yes, I can willingly throw away two euros a week on a Euromillions lucky dip, but that hardly counts, while I eschew the dubious attraction of the monotonous child chanters of El Gordo. My total lack of interest in betting makes it hard for me to get enthusiastic about changes to Balearics gaming regulations, but I appreciate that I am probably in the minority. Mallorcans, Spaniards are European champions when it comes to the money they're willing to part with on gambling, and not far behind them are the expats and their bets in bars, all illegal; but then it wasn't so long ago (1977) that pretty much all gambling in Spain was illegal, save for the lottery.

The Brit bar betting scene faces a threat. Under the new gaming law in the Balearics, upwards of a hundred "betting shops" are likely to be created. Placing betting shops in inverted commas is appropriate because they won't be standalone shops. They will be incorporated, for the most part, into existing gaming salons, of which there are getting on for a hundred at present. There may be others, such as at the Casino (and the second one, as and when it is finally decided where it is going to be). These "shops" will require investment of in the region of thirty to forty thousand euros in order to introduce the technology: screens and what have you.

Of course, it will all rather depend on what these "shops" will offer in terms of what can be bet on, but in theory there is no reason why some of them couldn't offer betting facilities for a market that is broader than just a Mallorcan one. In 2011, national legislation harmonised the situation on online betting and in the process not only established the requirement for .es domain names but also established betting on foreign sport as very much part of the gambling scene - the legitimate one. English Premier League football can be bet on online, so it will surely also be a feature of the "shops".

Horseracing, British Isles horseracing, is another matter. A canny operator should recognise that there is a market, but betting on the sport may be more confined to the Spanish variety, of which there isn't a huge amount and which divides into flat racing and trotting. This said, the local trotters in the Balearics are looking forward to a bit of a windfall from the new line of betting shop.

Money, and no surprise, has been at the heart of changes to legislation nationally and locally. When the Spanish Government reformed its law in 2011, foreign betting companies who came into the .es market were faced with handing over goodly amounts of back tax. That they did so with little fuss was an indication of the potential gains from what is supposed to be a gambling-mad nation.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the possibilities that the new legislation offers. Bingo companies aren't for one. They say they won't be integrating the "shops" into their halls for fear that they will take away from their core business. It might seem as they would suffer from "cannibalisation" of the existing product, but betting, as with anything else, is an exercise in good marketing. The bingo companies might benefit from being more open-minded.

Wherever these "shops" are located, I shall not be frequenting them. My betting career ended many years ago. But if you fancy a tip for the Cesarewitch, well, you never know.

Monday, June 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 24 June - Sun, possible shower, 30C; 25 June - Sun, possible shower, 26C; 26 June - Sun, some cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 settling Northeast 3 during the morning.

Steamy sort of morning, there having been some rumbles of thunder overnight. Should be a mainly fine day and a hot one. Chances of showers over the next couple of days.

Evening update (18.45): Heavy day. Felt hotter than the high of 30.4C.

No Frills Excursions

Power Struggle: Balearics' education conflict

A week ago the Balearics president, José Ramón Bauzá, made what was to turn out to be a telling observation. The unions, he said, had been overtaken by the Assemblea. The unions to which he was referring were the teaching unions. The Assemblea was the Assemblea de Docents. Bauzá ruled out negotiating with the Assemblea because it, unlike the unions, did not have "valid interlocutors"; those charged with talking to the employer - the regional government in this instance - and validated under industrial relations law to do so. The Assemblea is not a union.

What Bauzá meant by the unions having been overtaken was that the Assemblea had assumed the leading role in the education conflict. It has been doing the running - in a totally different direction to that in which the government has been running - and setting the propaganda agenda. The unions, though not left behind, might be perceived as having been struggling in the Assemblea's wake. The narrative had become one written by the Assemblea and not the unions.

Around the time that Bauzá was making his observation, Jaume Sastre called off his hunger strike. Barely had Sastre had time to sip his first soup for forty days than the education minister was preparing to do what she hadn't - meet with the unions to discuss the ongoing conflict over trilingual teaching. A victory for Sastre? No.

The Assemblea is a fairly recent creation. It is only about eighteen months old. Jaume Sastre was one of those who was involved in the founding of an organisation whose prime purpose is the defence of Catalan in Balearics education. Yet such has been the rapid rise of the Assemblea, such has been its onslaught against government policy, that it has assumed the status, if only in the public's perception, of being the principal interlocutor, when it is in fact nothing of the sort. Its propaganda has been hugely successful. Sastre's hunger strike was, if you like, the pièce de résistance of this language resistance movement.

Bauzá's observation was telling because not only was he recognising how significant the Assemblea had become, he was also acknowledging what is the other story of the whole education conflict, one which has been mainly buried but which is now coming out into the open. The conflict has not solely been one between the education ministry and the teachers. It has also been one between the teachers in the form of the Assemblea and the teachers in the form of the unions.

In an interview after he had finished his hunger strike, Sastre was asked how a "radical" proposition, such as the Assemblea, could have come into being. His response was as telling as Bauzá's observation. "Because the unions have distanced themselves from the staff rooms. They failed to recognise the way that the tide was going."

Prior to the hunger strike, and this was something which I and other commentators had mentioned, it appeared that the conflict had, if not gone away, at least died down, as the unions seemed willing to accept some movement by the government. Indeed, throughout the hunger strike, references to the scale of the conflict seemed disproportionate. What actually was the conflict any longer? Was it in fact one between the Assemblea and the unions?

The meeting that the education minister, Joana Camps, had with unions last week was pretty cordial. One union representative might have suggested that it was all for show, but nevertheless there was apparently a certain level of harmony. In light of Bauzá's observation, was this really surprising? He might not be the biggest admirer of unions, but better the devil he and Joana Camps know. The meeting, coming so soon after the end of the hunger strike, was a reminder to Sastre and the Assemblea who calls the shots for one side in negotiations. It is the unions. The meeting was a case of divide and conquer, one that had been set up by Bauzá's remarks, and the unions were only too happy to participate. 

When the teachers' strike was called in September last year, the unions and the Assemblea were all singing from the same hymn sheet. The Assemblea couldn't have called a strike, but its membership was firmly aligned with the unions who could. Something has happened since then. Has it been some form of power struggle between the unions and the Assemblea, the former alarmed at being "overtaken" or usurped by the latter?

On its blog entry for 18 June, the Assemblea refers to statements by the government designed to create friction between the unions and the Assemblea. Perhaps the government has, but 18 June was the day when Camps met with the unions and when cordiality appeared to exist. Since then, Sastre has made his remarks about the unions. Has the government created friction or did it already exist? 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2014


Morning high (6.15am): 20C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 23 June - Sun, some cloud, 30C; 24 June - Sun and cloud, 26C; 25 June - Sun and possible shower, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3.

Some slight cloud first thing, otherwise clear and calm. A warm day ahead. The prospect for the next two to three days is a little unsettled but chances are that nothing will come of any forecast for a shower or two.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 30.1C, the sun having fully come out in the later afternoon after there had been a fair amount of light cloud through the morning.

No Frills Excursions

Saint John: A movable feast

The town of Sant Joan rarely attracts a great deal of attention. This past week, for less than positive reasons, it has been attracting attention. But while the archaeologists have been undertaking the careful search of the remains of victims of Civil War murder, the people of the town have been otherwise engaged in preparations for the fiesta of Sant Joan. When your town is called Sant Joan, it would be impossible not to celebrate the fiesta. But hang on a minute, does the town celebrate the fiesta? Yes but no.

There are fiestas for Sant Joan in several Mallorcan towns - Calvia, Deià, Mancor de la Vall, Muro, Portopetro and Son Servera - but there aren't in Sant Joan. Or rather, there are, but only partially in order to celebrate the summer solstice and the birth of Saint John the Baptist. The town's Sant Joan fiestas are in fact at the end of August. Sant Joan Degollat. The day of the beheading.

So, why does the town opt to honour the saint's gory end rather than his birthday? The reason, so it would seem, lies with traditions of the harvest. Until 1919, there was a midsummer Sant Joan fiesta, but because the local farmers were so busy in the fields and didn't have time for enjoying themselves, they moved things to the end of August.

Albeit that 29 August marks a rather unfortunate event, Saint John losing his head, there is at least a sound reason for moving the feast. Other movable feasts have less obvious justification. Those for Santa Catalina Thomàs being a good example. The saint was born in May, died in April, was beatified in August and was canonised in June. Logically therefore, Valldemossa, where she was born, celebrates her in July. Even more logically, Santa Margalida's La Beata in her honour takes place in September. Feasts can indeed be movable, and the reason why Santa Margalida does her in September is the same reason why Sant Joan does Saint John at the end of August. The harvest.

Santa Catalina is, however, a rather unusual saint in that she is a sort of commoner saint. You won't find her in the Bible because she wasn't born until the sixteenth century. Perhaps, therefore, it is easier to move non-Biblical saints' days around. Just find a date that suits everyone and have a fiesta.

Someone who most certainly did feature in the Bible was Jesus. In Alcúdia, he has a feast which was moved for no obvious rhyme nor reason. Sant Crist, an alternative title for Jesus, occurs on 26 July. Once every three years. Yet, the background to this celebration is something which happened on 24 February, 1507. This was the day when an image of Christ apparently sweated blood and water and performed a miracle, ridding Alcúdia of all manner of plague, pestilence, famine and what have you. So, why July and indeed why every three years? It was a decision of the local church, one on cost grounds. Sant Crist was tagged on to the town's Sant Jaume fiestas as a way of saving money, while the decision to hold it once every three years was because Sant Crist became a seriously big deal for the whole of Mallorca. Alcúdia couldn't cope with all those pilgrims descending on the town every year.

But to return to John the Baptist and to better times when he still had his head, Sant Joan does have a midsummer celebration: Sol que Balla, the sun dance. On 24 June, the townsfolk, and especially the town's children, watch the sun rise and have a dance, and the bells of the church are rung.  As such therefore, the celebration isn't anything to do with John the Baptist. It's one of those happy coincidences that he happened to be born at the same time as the summer solstice occurred, which has allowed there to be two celebrations in one ever since.

The solstice element of Sant Joan fiestas around Mallorca is no better celebrated than in Calvia. The tradition of wearing white, having a picnic on the beach, lighting candles (or starting a fire), taking a cleansing and purifying dip in the sea at midnight has caught on elsewhere, in places where there is no Sant Joan celebration. Strictly speaking, starting fires on the beach are not allowed at any time, let alone around midnight on 23 June, but it is quite possible that you might encounter one or two. This is, after all, the night of the fires, an ancient ritual for the solstice.

Whatever you do for midsummer's night and for the fiestas of Sant Joan, enjoy yourselves, but don't go losing your head.

Photo: Sol que Balla from Klaus's Mallorca Photo Blog, June 2009,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia And Pollensa - Puerto Alcúdia Sant Pere Fiestas

The fiestas in Puerto Alcúdia start tomorrow (Sunday, 22 June) and climax a week later on the 29th with the procession of the image of Saint Peter in the evening, followed by the flotilla in the bay and finally at half past midnight the grand fireworks display. In a change to the programme in recent times, there is no nighttime pirates party at the port end of the Paseo Marítimo but instead a beach party on Saturday, 28 June, which starts much earlier - at half eight. The programme in English:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 22 June - Cloud, 30C; 23 June - Sun and some cloud, 26C; 24 June - Sun and some cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4, locally Northeast 3.

Calm and clear morning. A hot one in prospect, though the forecast has changed, suggesting that tomorrow will be mainly cloudy but still hot.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 31.2C.

No Frills Excursions

One Remarkable Week In Spain

Goodness, what a week this has been. History has been made. Scarcely believable things have happened. There have been new dawns, new orders but seemingly no orders for new curtains. Yes, it has been a truly remarkable week. Joana Camps sat down and spoke with the unions.

Not that the unions were overly impressed. It was all just a photo opportunity for the education minister, they reckoned. But what an opportunity. One for Joana to display THAT hairstyle. All she needs are some bushy sideburns to complete her retro Noddy Holder circa 1974 look. "Ma-Mama weer all crazee now," she probably didn't inform the unions, but had she, for once her linguistic cock-up would have been justified and indeed accurate.

The meeting with the unions was, naturally enough, seen as something of a victory for the hunger-striking teacher, who finally succumbed to the temptation of someone wafting vegetable soup under his nose. And thus, the Great Conflict edged towards becoming the Less Than Great Conflict. Or, because the school holidays are now upon us and no one will be paying any attention to the Conflict for the next three months, they may as well sit down and do what they should have been doing. Talking. In whichever language they prefer. And just as an aside, I have a question. The hunger-striking teacher. Was he being paid? Or how does that all work exactly?

Less earth-shattering have been events in Brazil, where Spain's world domination was brought rudely and suddenly to an end. A nation was plunged into mourning and despair. It must have been like this when Cuba was lost in 1898. And there was also the highly un-Spanish lack of leaving everything to a mañana of many weeks or months in the form of the rapidity with which a new king was ushered in. The big question on the nation's lips was - where would Felipe, Letizia and the nippers be living now? "Zeleb", the celebrity website, had the answer. They'll be staying put at at their modest, five-bedroomed, four-million-euros-worth Pabellón del Principe, so there would be no need for Letizia to get herself down the local IKEA and order new curtains for the Zarzuela.

Speculation was rife as to what Felipe's sudden promotion would all mean. One consequence could be an end to the Catalonian conflict. Spain's kings might traditionally not have spoken Catalan (for fairly obvious reasons), but the new man does. His Joana Camps trilingualism (he's fluent in English) was taken as the chance for him to somehow broker a deal between Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia's Artur Mas, though quite why the fact that he can speak Catalan should mean a resolution of the independence issue was lost on some - me, at any rate. But were it to mean a resolution, then this would truly and eventually cap what has indeed been a very remarkable week in Spain.

Friday, June 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 21 June - Sun, 31C; 22 June - Sun, 27C; 23 June - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 2 to 3, locally Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

Lovely morning and lovely, hot day in prospect. All looking good for the weekend.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 32.1C. 

No Frills Excursions

The Last Days Of The Brochure

The hoteliers in the bay of Alcúdia clubbed together in order to produce a magazine for this summer season. Its name, unoriginally, is "Bahia". It's a nice enough publication, but why did they bother? Why, in this day and age, would you go to the trouble of introducing a new publication and printing it when all the information is or can be made available online?

The magazine forms part of a wider discussion of print versus digital for tourism and travel information, and with much of what is printed, it is a case of perpetuating what has existed for years. Longevity in printed form isn't in itself a strong reason for continuation, so there has to be another reason for still bothering with the printing presses, be the publication new or old. And that reason is a pretty simple one. Demand.

One of the more obvious types of tourism publication that would seem destined for being consigned to print history is the travel brochure. What's the point of it any longer? The information is readily available digitally and the holiday is readily bookable online. Moreover, the nature of the market is such that prices are flexible. Print is not flexible. Put a price on a holiday and no sooner is the brochure available than it is out of date.

The fact is, however, that, despite technological advances, the majority of holidaymakers still make bookings with the aid of a brochure. The majority may be dwindling to the point that it is becoming a minority, but roughly 50% of tourists (British ones, it should be pointed out) have yet to be convinced to abandon the brochure's traditional attractions.  

The demand is still there. But is it because half the population remain wedded to print and averse to the internet? That seems unlikely. More likely are the facts that brochures are of course free and that an armful of them make for a pleasant way to while away a wet winter's afternoon dreaming of summer sun. And there is the further fact that brochures, as with other publications, are physical and aesthetic comfort blankets in an age of constant media upheaval, change and innovation.

Not all old technology just fades away. Some of it, the more transient of technology, does. The Walkman is an example. It was usurped and no longer served any purpose. But print is not transient. It is so ingrained in the collective psyche and culture that it is most unlikely that it will ever fade away. There again, for all of those who remember the good old and much more straightforward days of brochure hunting and browsing, there are also those who have no such nostalgia: if it ain't digital, it ain't worth looking at.

Travel agencies are going to try their damnedest to ensure that the brochure doesn't go the way of all Walkmans. Without brochures, their businesses would be stripped of a large chunk of their reason for existing. But they may have to face up to realities. The brochure probably will fade away. And sooner rather than later.

With its passing would go years of travel tradition. And that tradition, where Mallorca is concerned, goes back to 1908, for it was in that year that the Mallorca Tourist Board produced its first brochure.

The decision to publish a brochure had been taken at the end of 1906. One reason why it took until July 1908 for it to appear was the cover. This required that someone did a painting. Faust Morell Bellet was the chosen painter, and he chose a scene of Palma as seen from El Jonquet. The brochure was printed in Switzerland, which may have been because the Swiss were well versed in the requirements of tourism; people used to go to Switzerland on their holidays back then.

It was printed in Castellano and French (an English version came out the next year), and the French version tells us what the prevailing notion of tourism was in 1908. Although Miquel Sants del Oliver had seen a future in summer tourism, the brochure proudly announced "Majorque, station d'hiver"; Mallorca, winter resort.

Other brochures followed, and they weren't all as lavish as the 1908 one. It had, after all, cost 2,816 Swiss Francs for 20,000 copies. The word "brochure" was in fact adopted to refer to a low-cost, reduced-quality publication. The first of these featured a grainy photo of the Caves of Drach on its cover. For its French audience, the brochure told them that the "ideal" winter resort of Mallorca was only 36 hours from Paris.

The future of the brochure hangs precariously from an ever shortening thread. When the thread finally snaps, all that will be left will be this nostalgia. One for the days when a photo meant a painter labouring long over one scene rather than the moments' effort of brightening, saturating and filtering with Photoshop.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 17C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 20 June - Sun, 30C; 21 June - Sun, 28C; 22 June - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3, locally Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

Things back to a settled norm after the storms of the past couple of days - heavy in parts of the centre and south of the island but not so in the north. Some cloud today but mostly sun. And hot with southerlies dominating.

Evening update (20.45): High of 28.6C. 

No Frills Excursions

I Am Of Mallorca, Catalan Island

"Amid the sea, my land rises to touch the sky, that leaves in the Sierra, flags of blue. I am Balearic, I am of Mallorca, Catalan island. All of my past that history puts away, the dye of glory, the Grand Catalonia. In the deep roots of my people, a conqueror is carried by the wind, the ship that left the moorings of Salou following the four bands of the flag. I am of this race, ancient and giant, that scares from the seas the Saracen people. I am of the Fatherland of the brotherhoods, Joanot Colom, old ancestors, heroic defender of traditions that drowned in blood, Austrians and Bourbons."

This is part of a poem, the next verse of which starts "heroes of Mallorca, Catalan heroes", that is entitled "I Am Catalan". Apologies for any translation mistakes, but it's a reasonable attempt in expressing the sentiments of something which could quite easily be written nowadays but was in fact written just a short time after the outbreak of the Civil War. In a few lines, it is a poem which manages to pack in references to Mallorca's natural environment - the Sierra of the Tramuntana - and to key moments in history, i.e. the conquest by Jaume I, the Germanies ("agermanats") uprising led in Mallorca by Joanot Colom, and the War of the Spanish Succession, with all the consequences that this had for Catalonia and Mallorca.

The poem was written by Pere Capellà. He died sixty years ago, and there will be events to commemorate his death, especially in the towns of Algaida and Montuïri as well as Palma later this year. He lived in all three. And the remarkable thing about Pere Capellà is that he ever got to live in Montuïri and Palma and that he managed to die of natural causes at the early age of 47.

As other prominent members of the Republican Left party in the Balearics were shot, it is quite possible that Capellà, who was the leader of this party in Algaida, would have also been shot. To make him an even more likely target for the firing-squad, it wouldn't have gone unnoticed that his literary career had taken off in 1931 when he had penned "Cançons republicanes" (Republican songs). However, when the coup took place, Capellà was able to flee Mallorca and head for Barcelona. He fought for the wrong side and was in Madrid when the city fell to the Nationalists. He was arrested and sentenced in 1940 to twenty years' imprisonment.

But it is at this point that Capellà's story took a turn that in some ways contradicts what might generally be thought about post-Civil War Mallorca. For starters, he served only three years of his sentence. He was released on parole and returned to Mallorca but not to Algaida. The authorities there were reluctant to let him come back, fearing that things might kick off with the local Falange. So, the town hall in neighbouring Montuïri let him come to their town. He was to live there for eight years before moving to El Terreno in Palma, and by that time he was a celebrated dramatist as well as poet.

His involvement with the theatre was through a company called Artis. In 1949, this company staged a production in Palma's Teatre Principal. It was a great success and it was attended by officials from the Franco regime. Despite the difficulties presented by the political system, he was able to write using colloquial language, which meant Mallorquín. He also wrote for a newspaper under the pseudonym Mingo Revulgo, initially in Castellano but then in Catalan. The name was taken from what had also been the pseudonym of a writer of satirical verses who had criticised the Castilian king, Henry IV, in the fifteenth century. These verses were known as "glosas", a word from which the Mallorcan "glosador" folk performer comes, and Capellà was himself also a glosador.

It was evident, even earlier than when Capellà was staging his theatre productions, that glosadors were tolerated by the Franco regime. Though Capellà would have preferred to have been using Catalan and not the colloquial language, it was better than having to use Castellano. But it was clear from his poem, "I Am Catalan", where his sympathies lay, i.e. with a greater Catalan nation. As such, he was expressing precisely the views that some today express. His theatrical work, through expedience rather than desire, used the colloquial language, which is precisely what the Balearic Government would today prefer to Catalan.

The Franco regime wasn't entirely stupid. It couldn't afford to alienate local cultures, and so it allowed Catalan dialects. Capellà was an accomplice in this, though he would have hated having being so. But in having being so, he wrote more than just plays or poems. He wrote, against his instincts, the sub-plot of today's contentious and tragi-comedy play - Mallorquín versus Catalan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 19 June - Sun, 29C; 20 June - Sun, 27C; 21 June - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North and Northeast 2 to 3 veering South by the evening. Rain and possible storm.

Rain overnight, heavy in places, giving a greyish morning with the threat of further rain and storm. The yellow alerts are still in place, but the weather system from central Europe which has produced the unstable weather will be pushed out by southerlies later and give sun and a return to better conditions for the rest of the week.

Evening update (22.00): Decent day. Fresh breeze and sun. High of 26.2C.

No Frills Excursions

The Man Who Invented Tourism

In Can Picafort is a road which, like others, goes in a straight line in linking the thoroughfare of the Carretera Artà and the Paseo Colon and which adds to the criss-cross grid layout of this part of the resort. Along this road are some pine trees which hang over the road itself and partially obscure a hotel. It is the Farrutx, named after the cape at the eastern end of the bay of Alcúdia, the tip of one of three giant claws - Pinar and Formentor being the others - between which are one enormous bite and one lesser bite of coastal crescents eaten by the voracious appetite of the sea. These bites are the bights (German, "Bucht") of Alcúdia and Pollensa, the bays of Alcúdia and Pollensa.

Can Picafort is a case example of two styles of resort urban planning in one. Though the whole of it is called Can Picafort, it is really two resorts in one. Can Picafort was created according to the grid system which stops abruptly around about where the marina is. The rest of the resort, Son Bauló, is the original resort, with origins dating from the 1930s. Its layout is totally different. Its circular style is evidence of a quasi-garden city design approach, the dominant planning philosophy of the 1920s and 1930s before 1960s' modernism brought with it the Milton Keynesian new town grid.

The name Can Picafort has existed since the end of the nineteenth century. It comes from what was little more than a shack that belonged to one Jeroni Fuster. It was called "Picafort", derived from words to refer to the strong itch from a mosquito bite. But there was little or nothing in Can Picafort until the 1960s. Photos show the early formation of the grid road system; sand tracks that led to the beach in the late 1950s. One of them, the main one, is now Via Suisa. At its beach end were once dunes. 

Son Bauló, as a tourist area, is thus much older. As Can Picafort as a whole developed in the 1960s, Son Bauló dominated, which was unsurprising as its basic infrastructure had been in place thirty years before, a product of the drive to create resorts between the world wars but one that had its roots some thirty or forty years further back in time.

Let's go back to that road with the pine trees and the Hotel Farrutx. Its name is Miquel dels Sants Oliver, a name that will mean little or nothing to guests at the hotel or to any tourist or indeed to many residents. In the small town of Campanet, they have started commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Oliver, who was born there in 1864. Later this year there will be further acts of celebration.

Oliver was a journalist. For a time he was also the editor of "La Almudaina", a newspaper that was founded in 1887 by his father. He was known for many things, but it was articles that he wrote in that newspaper in the early 1890s which made him a hugely important figure in the development of Mallorca's tourism. At the same time as Jeroni Fuster was lending the name of his shack to what was to become a major tourist resort, Oliver was setting out principles for a whole new industry - tourism.

It could be argued that Oliver invented Mallorca's tourism because what he, with remarkable vision foresaw in his articles, was tourism for the spring and summer seasons. It was to be some years before hot-weather tourism truly caught on, but Oliver's vision ran counter to the thinking of the time, that tourism was something for the mild winter. He wrote those articles against a background of economic crisis in the island's agricultural sector, the result in part of the phylloxera plague that struck grape vines. He saw the necessity for diversification, and tourism was that diversification. For it to be successful, though, there needed to be great improvements to infrastructure. His thinking directly led to the founding of the Majorca Tourist Board in 1905, though when we speak - in English - of a tourist board, we underestimate what this meant. Its Spanish name is more meaningful: Fomento del Turismo, the development of tourism, which was to be development in all facets, one of which, some years later, was the creation of resorts, such as Son Bauló.

Of course, what Oliver could not have foreseen was what came in the 1960s. He would probably have been horrified. Tourism visionary he was, but he was also sympathetic to rural traditions, such as those of his home town, and to the natural and unspoilt environment, like that of the bays in the north. Would he have liked his name to have been given to a road with a hotel called Farrutx in a resort built on dunes? Unlikely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 20C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 June - Storm and sun, 27C; 19 June - Sun, 24C; 20 June - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 3 to 4 veering North and Northeast during the morning. Some rain or storm.

A bright, sunny morning but rain and storm expected later, there being alerts in place for both and also for tomorrow. From Thursday, the weather pattern returns to a more settled one.

Evening update (22.30): The storm banged around intermittently this afternoon without producing anything dramatic. A high of 28.5C, but a low also of 18.5C when the weather closed in. Alerts still in place for tomorrow.

No Frills Excursions

Digging Up The Past: Civil War

They started digging for bodies on Monday. In an old part of the municipal cemetery in Sant Joan, an area of grey earth with a couple of palms and some shrubbery, partially enclosed by a low cloister with chipped pillars, they began the careful process of exhumation. DNA samples will be taken. They will confirm the discovery of the bodies of Miquel Salom, Joan Gual and Jaume Gual, three middle-aged farmers.

Puntiró in Palma has a golf course. It was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It lies next to the old road to Sineu. If you carry on from Sineu, the next town you come to is Maria de la Salut. In October 1936, the three farmers and three others walked from Maria to Palma. They didn't make it to their destination. They were shot in Puntiró. Victims of the Falange, they were Republicans who had been turned in by neighbours. Their bodies were buried in the cemetery in Sant Joan.

The three others who had been made to walk to Palma that night in October managed to escape. One of them was to later testify that it was a Llorenç "Llebro" who shot the three men. One victim had shouted out, "do not kill me". The bodies were left in a well in Son Fred in Sencelles. They were found and taken to Sant Joan, where the local justice of the peace registered them as "unknown". They were placed in what was a communal grave in Sant Joan, the one which now has an unremarkable collection of plants growing on it. Some weeks later, on 28 December, relatives of the dead men claimed their identification but the bodies were not disinterred in order that confirmation could be made. Seventy-eight years later, following pressure from the association Memòria de Mallorca, the digging began on Monday. It is the first exhumation of its kind in Mallorca.

Six years ago, Judge Baltasar Garzón ordered the exhumation of mass graves. He was searching for evidence of slaughter by Franco's Nationalists. Three of these graves were in Mallorca - one in Calvia and two in Porreres. For his trouble, Garzón ended up being disqualified as a judge. He had exceeded his powers and had broken the principle of the amnesty, the legal forgetfulness that prevents Spain from truly coming to terms with the truth of its past. Work on exhumation started but was then paralysed by court order. It still is paralysed. Despite this legal obstacle, the Sant Joan grave, because of the association's insistence, the wishes of the families and the support of the town hall, is being exhumed.

There are reckoned to be 44 mass graves in Mallorca which contain perhaps as many as 2,000 bodies. 24 of them are in cemeteries, such as those of Calvia, Porreres and Sant Joan. Twelve others are in ditches by the sides of main roads. Four are in wells. And four more are under beaches, one of them being in Sa Coma, near to one of the two landing places used by Captain Bayo for his ultimately doomed expedition to wrest Mallorca from the Nationalists.

Sa Coma is in the municipality of Sant Llorenç. Just a bit north of Sa Coma is the resort of Cala Millor, part of which is in Sant Llorenç as well but with the other part in Son Servera. In Son Servera, at the last elections before the coup of July 1936, a Republican Left candidate had been voted in. It is thought that this was the reason why cruelty which occurred in Son Servera was as it was to later be. It is also said that in municipalities on Mallorca's Llevant coast there had been traditions of leftism and Republicanism, a product of discontent with landowners and the "cacique" political bosses that had been evident for many years.

The story of what happened in Son Servera in the lead-up to the coup and between it and the Bayo landings and the consequences of those landings has been detailed by the Memòria de Mallorca association. In one particularly chilling passage, it speaks of the events of the night of 16 August when the Nationalist colonel Unamuno said that he wanted the "jails emptied". These were the jails of Manacor to which Republicans had been taken. Two hundred were shot that night. "In the morning heat, there was an unbearable smell of burnt human flesh." The bodies are supposedly in the Manacor cemetery of Son Coletes.

The number of men from Son Servera who were shot during the Civil War was 52. Others lost their lives in different ways, while many more were placed in concentration camps. The occupations of the 52 have been noted. A doctor, a teacher, a shoemaker, a carpenter. But most were simple farmers. Just like the three men from Maria de la Salut whose bodies are being exhumed in Sant Joan.

Monday, June 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 17 June - Sun and rain, 28C; 18 June - Sun and storm, 22C; 19 June - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 easing 3 during the afternoon. Rain and storm possible.

Mainly cloudy morning, quite breezy too. Rain likely this morning, improving later. Staying unsettled for the next couple of days.

Evening update (19.15): Turned out nice again, a high of 26.1C. But ... yellow alerts for rain and storms tomorrow. 

No Frills Excursions

Presidential Stubbornness: The hunger strike

Whatever one makes of Jaume Sastre's hunger strike over the Balearic Government's education and language policy, there can be no doubting his strength of conviction. People don't go without food for a month for nothing and so put their well-being and lives at risk.

There is an irony in the Sastre cause, and it comes in the form of some of those who support him. An activist for Catalan Lands independence, Sastre's political philosophy is, in this regard, the total opposite to that of some of them, such as those from the Partido Popular. But take this radical philosophy out of the equation and what one has, or so it would appear, is broad backing across the political spectrum for what he has gone on hunger strike to defend - Catalan and its role in education.

President Bauzá is being called upon to negotiate in order to put an end to the conflict that still engulfs education in the Balearics. Among those who have been doing the calling are Cristòfol Soler, who for a time in the 1990s was a PP president of the Balearics, and Jaume Cladera, the islands' first tourism minister under the PP's president Gabriel Cañellas, someone else who has been less than impressed with the current president's stance. Soler has made a point of supporting Sastre from the start of his hunger strike. The two men would differ completely on the issue of independence, but on language they are as one.

Though not vocal in being critical of Bauzá, Soler has clearly disagreed with him pretty much through the whole of his legislature. The differences lie not just with language but also with the philosophy of regionalism. Soler's PP of the 1980s and 1990s was firmly pro-regionalism and firmly pro-Catalan; Bauzá's PP appears indifferent to regionalism while having made little attempt to disguise its hostility towards Catalan.

Can one style this as a clash between the old and new guards in the PP? Up to a point perhaps, but there are plenty within the new guard of the current PP whose sympathies match those of Soler. Some have spoken out, though none has been as vocal as Antoni Pastor was. The mayor of Manacor, booted out of the party, may just possibly be the presidential candidate next year for the El Pi regionalist-nationalist party, having said that he will not carry on as mayor. That would provide a fascinating and hugely entertaining battle with Bauzá were the two of them to both be presidential candidates.

Increasingly, one has to ask whether Bauzá will indeed be a candidate. Is he in fact a liability? If he were to steer away from the controversies which he generates and focus the narrative on the core issues of the economy and employment, he might well be considered worthy of being given another go. But he doesn't allow there to be such a focus. His stubbornness might be applauded by some, but it can also be nuanced as the digging of an ever deeper hole. The public, generally speaking, don't back him over language or over education.

Having been let off the incompatibility hook by the Balearics High Court, Bauzá, rather than engage in some triumphalism at this victory, should take the opportunity to be magnanimous. He said after the PP's rotten performance in the European elections that the party had to be more "humble". He needs to take the lead, therefore. It was reasonable enough to criticise the opposition for having hounded him over a matter - the alleged incompatibility - that had been blown out of proportion, but it was not reasonable, in the context of newly discovered humility, to appear triumphalist. Magnanimity is called for, and it can include a willingness to embrace the concerns of Soler and others.

Bauzá has said he won't negotiate because there is someone who will, namely the education minister Joana Camps. Unfortunately, no one takes her seriously. It is not she who has sought the conflict or who drives it. Everyone knows who has and does. And this refusal to negotiate has now assumed a more serious dimension. It has been suggested that the conflict is now a humanitarian one, the consequence of Sastre's hunger strike.

It is a conflict which also has the power to go deeper, to be enduring and to create future problems. Lost in all of the arguments, lost in the hunger strike, lost in Bauzá's stubbornness is what the schoolchildren of the Balearics think. Try putting yourselves in their position and in conditions of their impressionability. They see a teacher willing to perhaps commit suicide over a point of linguistic principle. Tell me that this doesn't influence their future views and I'm afraid I wouldn't believe you.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 16 June - Sun and rain, 28C; 17 June - Sun and rain, 26C; 18 June - Sun and rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4, rain and storm from midday.

A close morning with some cloud around. There is the chance of rain and possible storm later, but the forecast in general has improved a bit for the next few days.

Evening update (19.15): Bit of a storm this morning. Not too heavy though. Nice later. A high of 26C.

No Frills Excursions

"Compatibility" Bauzá

The result was 3-2. It wasn't a World Cup match but the score on the board by the judges in the Bauzá Pharmacy Challenge. The compatibles squeezed home against the incompatibles, thus meaning that the president avoided a possible penalty shoot-out of incompatibility. The compatibles won the day, but were they the old contemptibles? Leaders of opposition parties found the decision difficult to understand. Why had the criteria changed?

The Pharmacy Challenge was the one brought by PSOE and Més to the Balearics High Court. It had to decide if Bauzá should be deemed fit to be "Capability" Bauzá, capable of remaining as president by being "Compatibility" Bauzá. Was he incapable and thus incompatible because of his pharmacy business interests? This was the question and the challenge laid down by the opposition.

Majority victory secured, the opposition's difficulty in understanding stemmed from the fact that a one-time PSOE health minister had been considered incompatible by the same court on much the same grounds, i.e. that she still had a pharmacy business once she became minister. There is, one supposes, one fairly obvious difference between the two cases - Bauzá isn't the health minister - but the opposition were none too impressed with m'luds' verdict. They are minded to appeal and so drag the whole affair on and on.

Without going into the tedious minutiae of the Bauzá case and of that which involved Aina Salom, the socialist ex-health minister, there does seem to be a bit of discrepancy between the two decisions, but the case against Salom, which had been brought by the PP when it was in opposition, did seem stronger. If only for appearances' sake, was it right for a pharmacy owner to be health minister? Pharmacies do, after all, rather rely on the regional government and the regional health ministry.

It is reasonable for opposition parties to seek to ensure compatibility, but short of finding evidence that Bauzá's pharmacy was gaining unfairly or had unusual contracts with the government, what really was the problem? The case against him has always had a slight hint of desperation about it; desperation to find anything with which to finger him. The most suspicious aspect of the affair was that Bauzá failed to register his business interests. It was an error, apparently. Or so said the then government spokesperson, Rafael Bosch. If it was an error, it was a fairly major one, but the judges were not asked to consider this error, only the issue of compatibility.

No sooner had the judges decided, than Bauzá was on the offensive, attacking the opposition for having spent much of the current legislature attempting to slur him and telling them that they would have better spent their time doing some work. He has a point. Moreover, if the opposition does indeed insist on appealing the decision, might it backfire on them? Would it appear to at least some of the electorate like vindictiveness? They would do well to drop the matter and do as Bauzá has advised.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 June 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 June - Rain and sun, 29C; 16 June - Rain and sun, 23C; 17 June - Rain, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3 veering Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning.

Very warm overnight and a warm morning. Hot and sunny today, but from tomorrow things don't look that good for a few days, rain around until later next week.

Evening update (20.45): A high of 32.6C. Some cloud at times. Likely to be more tomorrow.

No Frills Excursions

When Mallorca Had A Pop Festival

Summer, we can safely say, is here. When the temperatures hit the thirties, everyone hits the beaches and the summertime hits start to pump out from speakers, radios and I-things. If music be the ice-creams of summertime love, then play on. Music goes together with summer as much as bucket meets spade and sun shines over beach. And this music comes in many a Mallorcan mode. It is played back, karaoke-ed and tributed and it is also live, rock, dance, jazz or classically vibrated on a violin. The Bellver Festival has been reawaken from its estival hibernation of 2013, Mallorca Rocks rocks, The 1975 ensure cars smell like chocolate, Sa Pobla will syncopate a jazz August and David Guetta will raise the Titanic in Palma in the same month. All musical life is to be found in Mallorca.

But one thing that Mallorca doesn't have - more's the pity - is a true music festival. One like they have in Benicàssim on the mainland where, for four days next month, the headlining acts will be Tinie Tempah, Kasabian, The Libertines and Paolo Nutini. Yet, go back to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summers past and there used to be a festival. The first one took place fifty years ago in July 1964.

One says festival, but it wasn't what we now think of as a festival. Newport may have had its jazz and folk and Dylan being booed, but Monterey, Woodstock and the Isle of Wight had all yet to happen. The Mallorca Festival of Song did not boast a line-up of major international artists. Franco's lot were ok when it came to the non-threatening likes of Cilla Black, but they were unnerved by long-haired young Britons with guitars, sharp suits and anarchic lyrics which declared that she loved you. They relented and admitted Los Kinks to Mallorca in 1966, but otherwise they wanted predominantly homely, happy, Spanish acts who could be guaranteed not to engage in Dylanesque protest.

The Mallorca Festival featured, therefore, acts local to the island and artists from the mainland as well as "safe" performers from other countries. Who, for example, can forget the Italian Tony Dallara and "E Colpa Mia" who stole first prize in 1970, fending off Pedro Luján with "Cocktail Mallorquín"? Well, pretty much everyone can forget, it would seem. The festival is one of the great forgottens of Mallorca's musical past, yet it ran for seven years until 1970 and it took place slap bang in the tourist land of Playa de Palma.

The festival was in fact a contest. The first one in 1964 was spread over six days from 7 to 12 July, and the winners were Frida Boccara and Luís Recatero with a song in French, "Quand Palma Chantait". Frida, those of you with long memories and a sad knowledge of Eurovision might recall, went on to be one of the four co-winners in Madrid in 1969 (one of the others having been Lulu). In 1966, Tony Dallara - yep, him again - stormed to victory with "Margarita", though this particular festival is apparently better known for what was the most popular song of the festival: "Vuelo 502" by Los de la Torre. (I'm not quite sure what the difference between most popular and winner was, but there clearly was one.)

By 1967, the sentiments of the songs were clear. They were firmly touristic. Lea Zafrani and Los Dogers warbled the praises of "Las Chicas de Formentor", which was something of a change from the poetic praising of a Formentor pine tree, and Los Dogers (dodgy name) teamed up with Los Stop to give the world - a small part of it anyway - "El Turista 1,999,999", which was either a sort of dig at the number of tourists coming to Mallorca by then or, more likely, a celebration of the number. Either way, Loses Dogers and Stop were not pre-empting Prince and multiplying him many times. They were not partying like it was one million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.

The last festival was the one held in 1970. One might take Tony Dallara at his word and blame him for its demise, but the fact was that, after the great enthusiasm with which earlier editions had been greeted, later ones suffered from dwindling interest. The point was that, despite the best attempts by the Franco regime to limit the foreign musical invasion, it had invaded. A revival was planned later in the 1970s but nothing came of it. Fifty years on from that first festival, with a very, very different musical environment, might it not just be time to consider reviving it again? There is, after all, a very much larger potential audience nowadays. El Turista 9,999,999.