Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia And Pollensa - Alcúdia Fair

The first of the main autumn fairs in the north of Mallorca takes place in Alcúdia from 3 to 5 October. The "mediaeval" fair, introduced last year, is returning along with the longer-standing elements of the fair, such as its craft section and animals' zone. Something new this year is "Gastrobirra", which highlights beers from microbreweries, including Alcúdia's Beer Lovers. There will also be a demons' fire-run, not something the fair has had in the past. The demons will be those of Capdepera; oddly enough perhaps Alcúdia doesn't have its own demons' gang.

Full programme in English: http://thehotguide.blogspot.com.es/2014/09/alcudia-fair-2014.html

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 September 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 28C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 1 October - Sun, rain, 28C; 2 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 3 October - Sun, rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 later in the day. Possible rain and storm.

Some rain overnight but not heavy, the alerts are still in place for rain and storms, though there should be a clearing of the weather by the later afternoon. A mix of sun, cloud and possible showers over the next few days and remaining warm.

Evening update (19.00): All in all, it's been a pretty good day. No worries about storms or rain, plenty of sun, a high of 29C.

No Frills Excursions

Should We Blame PSOE For The TIL Fiasco?

Prior to the regional election in 2007, Francesc Antich, the leader of PSOE, was asked about trilingual teaching in the Balearics. Antich responded by saying that all schools should have access to teaching in Catalan, Castellano and English, but he added that his party would not be issuing any laws or decrees on the matter.

The question about trilingual teaching had cropped up because a pilot system was in operation. Introduced by the Partido Popular government of Jaume Matas from 2003 to 2007, there were a total of 26 schools, mostly private, which were undertaking teaching in the three languages. The Matas government had toyed with trilingualism but only to an extent that other regions of Spain had - Catalonia and Valencia, for example, where there had been limited experimental systems for some years. The only region in Spain at that time which had anything like an established system was the Basque Country; it had started experimentation back in the early 1990s.

It is important to understand that these systems were voluntary ones started in these regions. There had never been any mandated requirement for there to be trilingual teaching, either from the central government or from Europe (the latter has no competence for directing what language or languages should be used for teaching in schools in the European Union). Nevertheless, they were a reflection of a growing desire to improve and widen language skills across Europe and of multi-lingual teaching systems in certain parts of Europe, mostly of a limited nature rather than nationwide or fully formalised.

The Matas scheme had run up against a couple of significant obstacles. One was the lack of English ability among teachers. The other was the cold reception the idea got from the STEI teachers' union, one that had long been dominated by a nationalist element (nationalist in terms of Mallorcan nationalism and so with a distinctively pro-Catalan bias). STEI was certainly not open to an expansion of the Matas pilot scheme.

Under this pilot, the schools which had dabbled in trilingualism had divided teaching hours up so that education was 40% Castellano, 40% Catalan and 20% English. Had he won the election in 2007, Matas (or someone else in the PP once Matas ran into his problems with the courts) had planned to extend the scheme to all schools. He lost and so he never did and was also unable to implement a training programme for teachers (part of which would have involved language training in the UK).

Antich won the 2007 election. Or rather, his party won sufficient seats in parliament to be able to cobble together a coalition that was known both as the "pact" and as the "hexagon" of six nationalist and leftist parties.

Even had Antich been in a stronger position in 2007, would he have been inclined to have continued with trilingualism in some form or another? When he said in answer to that question just before the election that there would be no decree, he was referring to a decree that the Matas government had issued in 2006 which had paved the way for trilingualism to have been introduced (possibly) for the school year starting in September 2007. He was not minded to accept a decree issued by the PP, but that didn't appear to mean that he wasn't open to some form of trilingualism, if only as a continuation of the pilot.

What happened though was that, having formed his hexagonal government, Antich scrapped the Matas project. He said, famously and vaguely, that there would be "English for all but without reducing the presence of Catalan". In 2008 his government went further. It issued its decree by which Catalan would be the only language in Balearics schools.

It is easy to overlook what happened during the Matas and Antich administrations when considering the fiasco with trilingual teaching (TIL) under the Bauzá government. The TIL battlelines had been drawn in 2007 and made wider by that 2008 decree. When it came to the 2011 election, Bauzá, despite what he claims, did not expressly say that a PP government would introduce TIL (the manifesto doesn't mention it as such). Had he made his intentions clearer and had he adopted a style that was more inclined to dialogue than diktat, there might not be the mess there now is. Bauzá can and should be blamed for the fiasco, but Antich and PSOE should also share the blame, as must the teachers. They were fully aware of what Matas had introduced and had intended. Bauzá was equivocal, but there was always the likelihood that trilingualism would come back onto the agenda, and it did.

PSOE could have been more broadminded in 2007, but driven by a determination to undo the Matas experiment and with its coalition partners in mind, it wasn't. It missed an opportunity. And if PSOE form the next government, history will no doubt repeat itself.

Index for September 2014

Alcanada - 20 September 2014
Almonds - 21 September 2014
Catalonia independence - 22 September 2014
Cristòfol Soler - 11 September 2014
Dishonourable Balearic Government - 27 September 2014
Formula One in Mallorca - 5 September 2014
Holiday lets - 6 September 2014, 12 September 2014
Hollywood greats in Mallorca - 16 September 2014, 17 September 2014, 18 September 2014
La Beata procession politicisation - 9 September 2014
Loryc and early years of Mallorcan motoring - 24 September 2014
Magalluf and police corruption allegations - 3 September 2014, 15 September 2014
Magalluf drugs operation - 14 September 2014
Mallorca Day and Day of Virgin of Lluc - 7 September 2014
Mateo Isern versus President Bauzá - 8 September 2014
Mayors and electoral reform - 1 September 2014
Moors and Christians fiestas and Unesco - 25 September 2014
Oktoberfests in Mallorca - 28 September 2014
Playa de Palma/Magalluf obsession - 2 September 2014
Resort regeneration - 13 September 2014
Sewage plants Playa de Muro/Son Bauló - 4 September 2014
Storms - 10 September 2011
Tourism volume reduction - 23 September 2014
Tourist spend fall - 26 September 2014
Trilingual teaching - 30 September 2014
Vita Delta closure - 19 September 2014
Unstable government under Bauzá - 29 September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 September 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 20C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 30 September - Storm, sun, 28C; 1 October - Rain, sun, 23C; 2 October - Sun, rain, 24C.

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

Alerts still in place for rain and storms for today and tomorrow. The outlook for the week remains unsettled, though there may be more way of sunny weather than had previously been predicted later in the week.

Evening update (18.45): A very close day. Some sun at times and then a storm and rain came in during the afternoon. Absolute deluges in parts, inland around Pollensa in particular. On the coasts not so much. But more is probably on its way.

No Frills Excursions

Is Instability The Norm For Balearic Government?

Jaume Matas, much though he has become reviled, was not an unpopular president of the Balearics. He was also a president whose second administration between 2003 and 2007 was marked by its stability. He enjoyed having a parliamentary majority, and his cabinet remained virtually unaltered throughout the whole administration. There were only two changes - to the agriculture and fisheries and work and training portfolios. Whatever instability the administration had came after it had finished: ex-ministers implicated in wrongdoing or now banged up.

The administration that succeeded Matas's was that of the "pact". Francesc Antich of PSOE headed a hotch-potch coalition government that relied on the support of the Unió Mallorquina (UM) and the Bloc (what is more or less now the Més grouping of PSM Mallorcan socialists, greens and what have you). This unholy mish-mash seemed destined to be anything but stable, and as things turned out it was highly unstable, but not because they couldn't all work together. The reason for the instability was the UM faction and it caused there to be four tourism ministers during the administration. The first, Francesc Buils, resigned because of a squabble within his own party and not the government. The second, Miguel Nadal, had to go when he was implicated in corruption investigations. The third, Miguel Ferrer, was in the post for barely a month when the investigations became so intense that Antich booted the UM out of the coalition. Ferrer was cast adrift as was Miguel Grimalt at environment.

If you look back at the different administrations since the first regional government was formed in 1983, you will find that the first two administrations were very stable. The third was less so, and the reason why was a clash between the PP and UM coalition partners and the president, Cañellas, and Maria Munar in particular. Munar was dismissed, but the administration carried on in reasonable shape despite this crisis. The government of 1995 to 1999 was peculiar in that Cañellas, implicated in the Sóller Tunnel case, was forced to resign after only a month. His successor, Cristófol Soler, was president for less than a year, and had to go because he was a bit too Catalanist for others in what was a PP majority government. Apart from this internal wrangle, it was a stable enough administration under Matas. The first Antich pact, 1999-2003, had its squabbles but it remained calm enough. The occupiers of portfolios such as tourism, education, health, finance, environment did not change.

So, as you consider the seven administrations before the current one, the picture is one that might be thought normal. Reshuffles or changes are common practice in governments anywhere. There have been some clear cases of abnormality in the Balearics, most obviously because of the UM during 2007 and 2011, but the overall pattern cannot be said to be one of a history of instability; it has been the opposite for the most part.

But then we come to the current administration. Bauzá, like Matas, has had a parliamentary majority, but unlike Matas he has failed spectacularly in using this majority and maintaining stability. Because of events last week, this is an administration which can boast having thus far had (and there are still some months for this disaster area of a government to go) three health ministers, three education ministers, two tourism ministers, two finance ministers, three public administration ministers. Are there any more? Possibly, but we've lost track.

This is an administration of such dysfunction that serious questions have to be asked as to why; indeed questions are being asked within the PP as well as by others. How is that Bauzá has presided over such a calamitous administration when he had the same electoral benefits as Matas?

There is no one reason alone, but when one looks for reasons they all point to one thing, or rather one person: José Ramón Bauzá. Everyone surely accepts that he faced a mountain to climb because of the economy which he inherited, but it has been in other areas that the instability has arisen and the discontent allowed to fester. Above all else, Bauzá became something that the PP didn't think it had selected. Bauzá was not Carlos Delgado, which was why he became leader. He was not an anti-regionalist, anti-Catalanist, aloof fanatic. Or so the party thought. And as his administration has lurched from crisis to crisis, he has wanted to be puppet-master, installing the likes of Joana Camps, and thus making the crisis ever worse. Thank God he has had the sense to appoint Nuria Riera to education, a diplomatic and sympathetic face who might just save him. But it won't save him from what will be his legacy: the most unstable of all the Balearic governments.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 29 September - Rain, sun, 28C; 30 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 1 October - Rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 4 increasing 5 during the morning. Alert for rain and storms in northeastern coastal areas.

The threat of a rather grim day today - we'll see. Alerts for heavy rain and storms during the day, the rainy weather continuing into tomorrow and the days after.

Evening update (19.00): Regular rain throughout the day and a good deal of it but never heavy. More what you might call good rain that gives the earth a good and even soaking. Occasional sun but not much. A high of 23.9C.

No Frills Excursions

The Imported Tradition Of The Oktoberfest

Much as I seek through this particular column to focus on Mallorcan culture, traditions and what have you, it has to be acknowledged that the cultural calendar is not exclusively Mallorcan. There are traditions which can't accurately be referred to as traditions because of their recency, but they are traditions through import, those which owe nothing to Mallorcan culture. And one such is the Oktoberfest. From the middle of September to the middle of October, the island is awash with beer, and this is beer of almost exclusively Germanic origin, promoted to tourist and resident alike through the inevitably clichéd images of large steins of lager, a mädchen in her dirndl and an orgy of Oktoberfest typography, some of which is more likely to be Old English. But let's not worry too much about font accuracy and correctness. It is the last thing that the punter is interested in. He (or indeed she) only has eyes for an enormous glass of foaming liquid.

Today in Can Picafort they'll be downing the last of the Paulaner at the first Oktoberfest to have been held in this resort of kleines Deutschland. It has been, I think I'm right in saying, one of a series of movable beerfest taken to the more remote parts of the island, i.e. those which aren't Playa de Palma or Calvia. Cala Millor had it, and now Can Picafort has had it. But it has been an Oktoberfest which is small beer when set against the über-fest of Arenal's Megapark and indeed Palma and Santa Ponsa's beery love-ins.

The Oktoberfest in its Mallorcan guise is more than simply an event to which the travelling German, missing out on the real thing in Munich, can attend and drown his sorries at not being in Munich. It is a means of prolonging the season and adding dynamism to tourism and promoting a particular resort. This at least is what Joan Monjo, the delegate for Can Picafort at Santa Margalida council, had to say about his beerfest. And it may well be all of these things, assuming it doesn't move somewhere else next year.

This imported cultural tradition does seem to go down quite well with the natives. When the Santa Ponsa fest used to be held in the not so kleines Deutschland of Peguera, it was reckoned that at least 60% of the drinkers were Spanish. But Peguera had represented something of a cultural shock. There was a priceless piece in the local press which explained with something approximating alarm that beer is not served in quantities less than half a litre. The Spaniard, reared on the thimble of the caña, was exposed to the massive attack of the German "mass", and he drank deep and repeatedly, liberated from the junior measure.

This autumnal beer bombardment does have to be seen in a wider context of the Mallorcan beer tradition, such as it is, and, to be honest, it isn't much of a tradition, save for the fact that a great deal of beer is consumed. There hasn't been a brewery of any great size on the island for over fifteen years. The old Damm brewery, which had originally been the Rosa Blanca many, many years before, closed in 1998. But in more recent times, there has been the rise of the microbrewery and the artisan beer. So celebrated has the artisan beer become that, starting on Friday next week, the Alcudia fair will be giving such beer a great deal of prominence. The fair will open at 6.30pm on Friday evening, and there will be a dedicated sub-fair for artisan beers. Moreover, as the fair progresses, there will be a sort of workshop to demonstrate how to make artisan beers, which all sounds a bit like the long-held British obsession with homebrewing and the potential for terribly messy accidents when there is a minor explosion. And as if this wasn't enough, there will also be visits to the Beer Lovers microbrewery, conveniently located next to the town hall.

The microbrewery has encroached into territory dominated by European corporates like Heineken. It certainly did so during Beer Palma, a Maifest of beer devotion back in May with nary a dirndl in sight. This was more of an indigenous beer occasion to which the corporates were invited guests. But the local beers are unlikely to be making their presence felt in the Oktoberfests. Uprooted from Munich the fest has been but woe betide, for the German stickler, that the beer fails to pass the Reinheitsgebot purity test. Weizen, helles and dunkel. The lederhosen will be there in spirit if not the actual wearing. "Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit." And try translating that it into Mallorquín or Catalan or Castellano.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 September 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 18C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 28 September - Rain, storm, 28C; 29 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 30 September - Rain, 24C.

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

Just a slight risk of a shower this morning, otherwise a fairly good day in store, but the same cannot be said for tomorrow or for the coming week. Alerts for rain and storms tomorrow, and rain set to dominate into next week.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 27.5C. Nice day. Tomorrow won't be.

No Frills Excursions

Most Dishonourable Governments: Balearics

Cast your minds back if you will to the so-called green taxes that the Balearic Government had proposed. You will remember that the proposal incurred the wrath, among others, of mighty retailers. These were taxes which had the full approval of the president, José Ramón Bauzá. Mysteriously, though, the economy had recovered sufficiently for them not to be introduced. Someone with an economics background had cocked up. Who was that? Ah yes, the former finance minister, Pep Aguiló. Stitched up like a kipper. He didn't resign, he was sacked as Bauzá sought to save face with natural supporters in bug business. Around the same time, another to be hung out to dry in the increasingly strong sun of Mallorcan spring was Rafael Bosch, the former education minister. He was at least partly honourable. He didn't buy in wholeheartedly to the trilingual teaching scheme. He was too much of a "Catalanist", chirped Jorge Campos of the way-off-to-the-right Circulo Balear and one with the ear of Joserra. Bosch was sacked as well but was given a nice little governmental earner buried away somewhere doing something related to the islands' economy. Off you toddle, Rafael, and keep your mouth shut.

Joana Camps, the education minister, has now resigned. Honourable? Nah, not a bit of it. The honourable thing would have been for her to have never accepted the education portfolio in the first place. As an estate agent, her knowledge of education was as deep as mostly everyone else's. She had once gone to school. (Bosch was more of an education expert.) But you can't blame someone for having ambition even if she was so far out of her depth that it was impossible to see the bottom and that she came to dig for herself a trench as bottomless as the Mariana.

Well, it wasn't all her fault, this business with the High Court declaring procedures to do with the introduction of trilingual teaching (TIL) illegal. Bosch had been minister when the first decree was introduced. So he was, but he wasn't when the Court pronounced procedures to have been illegal last September and he hasn't been while Joana has been failing to defend the indefensible. Dishonour barely does this government justice. Some other words that have been thrown around are "infantile" and "disobedient".

The government simply cannot just go around disobeying the Court or passing further decrees within hours of the Court finding against it, which is exactly what it did last September and thus produced the final straw which broke the teachers' back and sent them out on strike for a month. To carry on believing it can apply TIL while it seeks an appeal from the Supreme Court in Madrid is ridiculous. And who is to say that the matter would stop with the Supreme Court anyway? This is a government which has brought itself into disrepute. It is almost, through its infantile behaviour, allowing the radicals among the teachers to get off scot-free, which they most definitely shouldn't be. And at the head of this dishonourable government is Joserra. He should resign, but he won't. He has placed the very much more credible Nuria Riera in charge of education in the hope that he can save his skin. But his own party is full of those who are lining up against him. Will there be a putsch?

Friday, September 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 19C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 27 September - Cloud, sun, 28C; 28 September - Cloud, rain, 24C; 29 September - Rain, sun, 24C.

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

A quite good day forecast with plenty of sun and it may be one to make the most of as the unsettled and rainy weather is set to persist well into next week.

Evening update (23.45): A high of 25C. Not too bad today, some quite good sun but also occasional cloud. Looks as though Ironman in Alcúdia should get away with it tomorrow, but Sunday seems distinctly iffy.

No Frills Excursions

The Worry Of A Fall In Tourist Spend

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is not someone you would necessarily expect to crop up in a tourism article, but what he said earlier this week merits that he does. Draghi suggested earlier this week that recovery in the Eurozone was losing impetus, pointing to a stalling of growth during the second quarter and to indicators through the summer which have been weaker than expected. This economic performance cannot of course solely be attributed to activity in the tourism sector, but tourism does play a key role in measuring this performance.

Questions are often asked about the tourism spend statistics which get trotted out with monotonous regularity and which, for many, appear to bear little relationship with evidence on the streets and terraces of Mallorca's resorts. These statistics are far from perfect, but it needs to be remembered that their principal function is one determined by the Bank of Spain and, by association, the Central Bank and European institutions. They feed into economic performance measures, and so when, as was the case in July this year, Spain shows a slight fall in tourism spend (1.3%), there is cause for a few eyebrows to be raised and for foreheads to be furrowed.

This fall in expenditure seems odd because the number of tourists has been at record levels, as they have been in Mallorca. So, how does one explain the decrease? The simple answer is that tourists are spending less, but this isn't only because tourists are being more careful with their money while on holiday. They are also staying for shorter periods. Overnight stays for July and August combined rose by only 0.2% (a figure for Spain as a whole). When tourist arrivals increase by almost 9% (as they did in August) but overnight stays barely increase at all, you get what is in fact the situation. There is simultaneously a mini-boom in the number of tourists and a contraction in tourist expenditure. And it is this contraction that concerns Draghi and should also concern the national government in Spain and the regional government in the Balearics.

The announcement by Spanish finance minister Cristóbal Montoro of some relaxations in the pipeline on tax has been very welcome, and in the context of tourism, these may well filter through to the domestic market, which has already shown good signs of recovery this summer and which has been helping to fill the void left by a significant fall in Mallorca's Russian market. But Spain can't affect the expenditure of tourists from other countries. Draghi is calling for "unconventional measures" to counteract a lack of credit, and it would certainly appear to be the case that unless there is more credit (and more employment) in the Eurozone (and the UK) the contraction in tourist expenditure will continue, thus producing an unwelcome cycle which might ruin some of the good work the Rajoy administration has been doing. In addition, there is the Russian question. This market, hampered by obvious events, by sanctions and by the exchange rate, is enduring a genuine crisis, reflected by the numerous bankruptcies of Russian tour operators, many of which were not on a firm financial footing anyway. The bankruptcies will only help to further deter Russian tourism to the island and to Spain, and with everything else occurring in Russia and Ukraine, next summer is looking distinctly uncertain.

So, there is a double whammy of what had been a rapidly growing market being in crisis and of expenditure contraction in stable, long-established markets. Record numbers of tourists might sound all well and good, but records or not, there are some serious questions to be asked about next summer.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 September 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 18C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 26 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 27 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 28 September - Cloud, rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 and 5 at intervals.

Rain early on but should clear to give a mainly fine day, but the unsettled pattern will persist into the weekend and next week.

Evening update (20.00): It did clear up and gave a reasonable day, but not as warm as had been forecast. A high of 24.3C.

No Frills Excursions

A New Moors And Christians Battle?

It was a strange old day in the Congress of Deputies on Tuesday. The shameless Rajoy announced the withdrawal of the abortion law reform and the justice minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, architect of the reform, was left high and dry and so promptly resigned. If this was a matter of controversy and for dissent, there was a decision by Congress that wasn't. Unanimity prevailed. They all agreed. The fiestas of the Moors and Christians will be nominated for inclusion in the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Familiar as we are with the annual set-tos involving Moors and Christians in Mallorca - Pollensa, Sóller most notably - the mock battles and other forms of celebration of fights between forces of Christianity and Islam take place across Spain. There are reckoned to be some 400 towns and villages which indulge in a spot of Moor versus Christian, and the Spanish Government wants Unesco to recognise the whole lot of them.

The historical basis for the Pollensa and Sóller battles differs from many other Moors and Christians clashes. They are both of the sixteenth century and as such are removed by some three hundred years from epic battles that were part of the "Reconquista" and which, through their re-creation, are among the best known on the Spanish mainland, such as the Moors and Christians of Alcoy in Alicante when Saint George supposedly put in an appearance and scared off Moors who were engaged in a right old bundle with James I of Aragon, famed of course for his conquest of Mallorca, something which Santa Ponsa's version of the Moors and Christians recognises.

Santa Ponsa is, therefore, from what one might describe as the classic era of Moors versus Christians warfare. Pollensa and Sóller are from a wholly different era. The Reconquista was over, and the Moorish incursions that they represent were of a time when the Ottomans were battling to dominate the Mediterranean. Dragut, he of Saracen piratical fame in Pollensa, was very much more than some opportunistic pirate. He was the supreme commander of the Ottoman navy. While the people of Pollensa proudly celebrate the victory of Joan Mas, it has to be said that events in Pollensa in 1550 barely register in the long list of very much more important battles in which Dragut was involved.

One snag with the proposal for Unesco recognition is, therefore, the fact that there is a lack of historical consistency as to the origins of the fiestas. Congress, though, is wrapping them all up together in arguing that they are a "playful tribute" to the different cultures which does not emphasise the victories of one side over the other. Congress also argues that the fiestas' tradition needs to be safeguarded, though given that the fiestas in Mallorca (as an example) have never been in ruder health, it is difficult to understand what they need to be safeguarded against, and the same applies to mainland fiestas like that of Alcoy, which was declared as being of international touristic interest by the Spanish Government as long ago as 1980. There are other fiestas which have been declared as being of international, national or provincial touristic interest.

Or does one detect in this a concern that political correctness might disrupt the fiestas' tradition? Perhaps so, but if there is any politically correct move to somehow do away with the Moors and Christians, it is keeping pretty quiet. Nonetheless, it might be noted that there are events which involve elements which would be considered offensive to Muslims, such as burning a stuffed image referred to as Mohammed and throwing it from castle battlements.

Congress insists that the fiestas are a deeply rooted tradition and that public awareness of them demands their safeguarding. This may indeed be the case, but Congress must also surely be aware that the Reconquista model of the fiestas, as opposed to the Ottoman model, resonates with the history of the Caliphate, albeit that the Caliphate had disintegrated well before, for example, Jaume I was assisted by Saint George. There are those, one fears, who would be bound to look to make political capital or more out of a Unesco recognition, despite Congress's legitimate belief that the fiestas are only playful tributes. Indeed, there may well be those who consider the very nomination provocative.

Unesco may, therefore, find itself in an awkward position. It is evenhanded in making its awards across all sorts of cultures, but this diversity might be deemed to be an obstacle in accepting the nomination for what, let's face it, does represent the triumph of one side over another. If it felt that it was in a dilemma, then there could be a way out. An award for a whole host of fiestas with their competing historical origins might be considered to be too broad. Tricky.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 18C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 25 September - Rain, sun, 27C; 26 September - Sun, cloud, 22C; 27 September - Sun, cloud, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3. Rain at times and possible storm.

Another mixed bag likely today with rain a possibility but also a fair amount of sun with a storm possible overnight or into tomorrow morning. Outlook remains rather unsettled.

Evening update (22.15): Mixed bag it was. Ok during the morning but from the afternoon on periodic rain and storm. A high of 28.7C but down to 18 and 19 at times.

No Frills Excursions

The Grand Years Of Mallorcan Motoring

October 1900 is a month that has significance in the history of transport in Spain. It was in that month that the first motor car was registered: a three-wheel Clement. José Sureda y Fuentes, a retired naval officer, was its owner, The vehicle was a hundred kilos in weight and it boasted two and a half horsepower. It was given the registration PM-1. Yes, the first motor vehicle to be registered in Spain was registered right here in Mallorca.

There is an old photo from the collection "Fotos Antiguas de Mallorca" which shows a car of rather greater sophistication on the mountain road from Lluc to Inca. The year that the photo was taken was 1923. One of the curiosities of this photo is that the car is being driven on the left. Cars in Spain have always been driven on the right, haven't they?

Well actually, they haven't. In Madrid, they were driving on the left until a change was made to the right in 1924, a move which brought the city into line with Barcelona. But elsewhere, the rule was not well observed either way. It wasn't until the 1930s that a formal national rule was introduced, and right it was.

The early years of motoring in Spain, those of the first quarter of the last century, were marked by haphazard rule-making, some rather grand motor manufacturing and some shortlived attempts at cracking the market. Driving on both the left and the right was indicative of the anarchy that prevailed on the roads. A reluctance to actually register cars - PM-1 was comparatively unusual in this regard - reflected an owner desire not to pay tax. A month before PM-1 was registered, the "Regulation for the service of cars on roads" had been published. It was widely ignored for several years.

But what were those early drivers actually driving? The rudimentary Clement was soon joined on Mallorca's roads by a more advanced vehicle. It had four wheels for  a start. It was manufactured in Barcelona and it was the Hispano-Suiza 10CV. It appeared on the roads for the first time in 1904 and by 1908 the company was so successful that it had to find proper and large premises.

The car in the photo on the Lluc-Inca road may be a later Hispano-Suiza. It is possible to detect on its bonnet what may be the distinctive stork that became its symbol. It was a car manufacturer of some distinction, and not just because of the stork. Among its clients was King Alfonso XIII, but his patronage was to prove to be a mixed blessing. He ceased to be a client when he went into exile in 1931, and the company was looked upon disapprovingly during the Second Republic because it was associated with the aristocracy. It made a comeback, and the official vehicle that took Franco on his celebratory parade in Madrid in 1939 was an Hispano-Suiza, but in 1946 it became part of the nationalised ENASA.

But while Hispano-Suiza represented the years of grand motor manufacturing, there was a motor company whose short life exemplified enthusiasm for the still new industry and the uncertainties that came with it. A technician from Renault turned up in Mallorca. His name was Albert Ouvrard. He made contact with two businessmen - Antonio Ribas, whose interests were mainly in shipping, and Rafael de Lacy, who represented the Belgian Minerva car brand on the island. In 1920 they formed a company, the name of which combined the first letters of their surnames - Lacy, Ouvrard, Ribas y compañia. The company was Loryc, Mallorca's first motor manufacturer. In November of the following year, a car with the registration PM-507 took to the roads. It was the first Loryc model to be registered and it was not unlike an Hispano-Suiza. Then came a sports model that was nicknamed the sardine. It was powerful, it took part in races and it pushed Loryc into the top five by sales of brands in Spain.

But no sooner had success been gained than it was snatched away. The elimination of tariffs on finished cars and a quadrupling of them for components caused the company's demise. It had been going for only three years when the factory doors were closed in 1923.

All this was a long time ago. Now, the Loryc is returning. "We are back" says the legend on a restored Loryc. A German enthusiast and businessman, Charly Bosch, has revived the brand and given it an electric motor. It will appear in Mallorca next spring. Its price, 45,000 euros. When the Loryc factory closed in 1923, its vehicles were being sold for as little as 5,000 pesetas; the cost of its Citroën engine alone had risen to 4,500 pesetas. It's no wonder that the old Loryc didn't survive.   

* Photo: Find Fotos Antiguas de Mallorca on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 18C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 24 September - Sun, rain, 28C; 25 September - Rain, sun, 22C; 26 September - Sun, cloud, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 backing Northeast 2 to 3 during the morning. Risk of rain and storm.

A good deal fresher thanks to the rain, and highs coming down to more typical values for this time in September. Alerts still in place for rain and storms, but so far, although there has been a decent amount of rain, there has been no heavy storm. An unsettled pattern for the next few days and cooler.

Evening update (19.30): Well, a good old amount of rain and some crashing of thunder after what had been a pleasant sunny morning. More rain on the cards for tomorrow and Thursday. A high today of 27.4C. 

No Frills Excursions

Reduce vs. Increase: Tourism volume

There are various themes related to Mallorca's tourism which crop up with regularity and those which surface far less regularly. The first category includes the controversies surrounding all-inclusives, off-season tourism and holiday rentals, while the latter includes the subject of tourism volume. These controversies would naturally form a part of any discussion of tourism volume, but the complexities raised by each of them in isolation are not of the same order of complexity entailed in the consideration of tourism volume. It is more complex because any adjustment to this volume pre-supposes a fundamental change in the nature of Mallorca's tourism, were there to be a planned reduction in the number of tourists, which is typically what the volume debate means.

It was reported last week that the Confederación de Patronales Turísticas de Baleares (CPTB), which is the body which represents a host of non-hotel, complementary offer businesses, had called for a reduction in tourist numbers. It hadn't and it has tweeted to that effect, just in case there was any misunderstanding. The call for a reduction came from the Més political grouping, one that combines the PSM socialists (with their Mallorcan nationalist beliefs) and others on the left, including the Greens. The CPTB had in fact only expressed a desire for tourists with greater purchasing power. Més agreed but wanted fewer of them.

Over the years, there have been discussions about the nature of tourism and about its mass in Mallorca. One can go back to the fallout from the oil crisis in the 1970s in order to discover the first really serious discussion. The shock of a sudden decline in tourist numbers (it took four to five years for numbers to recover) led some to wonder if this unexpected reduction might not in fact be beneficial. Such a thought didn't linger. Come the 1990s, and there was a boom in construction that didn't match that of the 1960s but nevertheless contributed to a major increase in tourist numbers. Economic advancement demanded ever more volume and ever more mass.

But some politicians were uneasy. Maria Antonia Munar, the president of the Council of Mallorca, was one of them. Another was the tourism minister in the first Antich PSOE administration from 1999 to 2003, Celesti Alomar. Munar made references to the need for more "quality" tourists over mere quantity. Alomar went further. He even spoke of the end of mass tourism.

No one has ever gone as far as Alomar, but the question of volume has continued to be an issue which has bubbled under the tourism surface without ever erupting into a full and frank debate. It is one that should be had, but because of its complexity and potential negativity it is studiously avoided in political circles. The complexity is such that any strategy for reduction would have to be considered alongside a strategy for what would compensate for any reduction.

Why should there be a reduction in any case? The stock answer, and the one which Més subscribes to, is the resource one. Land, services, the environment cannot cope with more volume or even with the existing volume. But is this true? What actually might be considered to be the point at which the volume of tourism is too great, and has it indeed been reached or passed? One of the foremost authorities on the subject, Dr. Ivan Murray at the university in Palma, has been unable to come up with what should be the ideal tourism population, except to have noted that twelve million tourists spread across the Balearics constitute "an aberration without comparison in the whole world".

It might be considered to be an aberration, but how can one be certain that it is? Where Murray is on firmer ground is when it comes to the contribution that this volume makes. He has discovered, among other things, that in 2008 a 35% increase in tourist numbers over those in 2003 had been required in order to realise the same level of tourism expenditure five years before. It was a discovery that was to prove to be not that dissimilar to one that the hoteliers federation were to make. But where the hoteliers wanted more tourists, Murray argued there should be fewer.

It has been known for years that there is a percentage of tourists who are either neutral in terms of their "profitability" for Mallorca or who represent a loss. As it costs more to service these tourists than they contribute, then why not cut them adrift and so reduce the tourism volume? It isn't as easy as this, though, and one reason why not is that politicians, regardless of what some might have said, cannot be boastful if numbers fall. Increases are what matter. They are the stuff of political machismo.

Monday, September 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 September 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 23C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 23 September - Rain, storm, 27C; 24 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 25 September - Rain, sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 veering Southwest and West 2 to 3 later in the day. Rain and storm likely.

Alerts out for rain and storms today and tomorrow, with the rain forecast to be torrential at times (there is an amber advice for the rain). Unsettled until Thursday.

Evening update (19.00): Fair amount of rain on and off since around 11am. Currently raining quite heavily again. Storms and heavy rain due to last until around midday tomorrow. A high today of 25.4C.

No Frills Excursions

The Accidental Independentists

At the same time as Scotland was raising cheers or weeping tears and as Alex Salmond was falling on his dirk of honour, the Catalonian parliament overwhelmingly approved its law to permit a referendum which isn't a referendum on independence; they've given it a different title. The national government will refer the consultation to the Constitutional Court in anticipation of the Catalonian law being deemed illegal.

Comparisons between Scotland and Catalonia are both relevant and irrelevant. An act of secession (or not) is the simple comparison, but the sets of baggage are too dissimilar to validate a direct comparison. Just one item in this baggage is the historical notion of nationhood. Scotland was once a country in its own right. Catalonia never has been, despite what some nationalists would contest to the contrary. The competing legalities of asking the people to decide are indicative of these two sets of baggage. One, Scotland, was predicated on the principle that union is not inviolate. Where the Rajoy administration is concerned, union is inviolate.

Comparisons are more meaningful in that both Scotland and Catalonia have involved miscalculations and misjudgments and that both have subscribed to an adaptation of Denis Healey's first law of holes. "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." This is a well-enough understood principle - the deeper you find yourself, the more difficult it is to get out.

Did Salmond ever really want an independence vote? Or did he only really want greater autonomy? When the suggestion of an arrangement akin to that which the Basque Country enjoys in Spain was rejected, he found his options to be limited. His independence gambit might now be deemed to have been a miscalculation, but David Cameron's gambit certainly was. Cameron appeared to believe that the referendum would resoundingly and once and for all kick the notion of independence into grass longer than that to be found in the rough on a Scottish links golf course. He very nearly paid for this miscalculation.

Though Salmond's desire for independence may all along have been equivocal, his head and his heart came to rule. It was independence or nothing, albeit that he may have been placed deeper in the hole through Cameron's bluff.

Artur Mas, unlike Salmond, has faced no such bluff. He has plunged into a hole entirely of his own making and has discovered that a force over which he has no control has rewired a calculating head not untypical of a technocrat and has defrosted a heart of independentist frigidity. Salmond outed himself as an independentist because his public political image demanded nothing less and because he had several years ago placed a train on the tracks that was impossible to derail. Mas, a closet independentist at most, has arrived at the point of sanctioning an act of illegality - the consultation - because of a miscalculation which outed his reluctance and because of his inability to get out of the hole that he has dug.

Almost two years ago, Mas called an election in Catalonia. At that time he was experiencing a decline in popularity because of austerity measures that his government had introduced. In September 2012, there had been a massive pro-independence rally on Catalonia Day. Mas took this as a signal to attempt to boost his flagging popularity with an implication of playing an independence card that he didn't believe in. This was his miscalculation. He hadn't expected the result of the election. His party, the CiU, lost seats and lost its overall majority. Mas had been rumbled by the electorate. It was impossible for him to renege on independence, because he was forced to make a pact with the pro-independence left-wing in order to form a government. Ever since, he has been cast in a role of populist that does not fit him in the way that it fitted Salmond very well.

What Mas really wanted was a better financial deal for Catalonia. Like Salmond, he eyed up the arrangement that the Basques have. Through the peculiarities of history, the Basques have tax-raising powers that nowhere else in Spain does, with the exception of Navarre. Rajoy wouldn't agree to such an arrangement, just as Cameron wouldn't. The roads to independence referenda were thus paved in a similar fashion - with the gold of prospective tax revenues.

Rajoy will continue to do all that he can to prevent a Catalonian independence vote, but though he will cite the law and the Constitution, he has to be aware of a dynamic which Cameron is only now appreciating. Centralised government - and Rajoy is a centraliser both by act and by instinct - is increasingly being rejected and not just in the UK or in Spain. Catalonia will not get its independence, but, and like Scotland, it has to be given greater control of its own affairs. And that, ultimately, is what both Mas and Salmond have wanted.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 September 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 22 September - Rain, storm, 29C; 23 September - Rain, sun, 22C; 24 September - Sun, rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Southwest 4 to 5 by the afternoon.

Starting off quite good today but clouding over and there could be some rain. Tomorrow it definitely will be wet, alerts in place for storm and rain. The outlook for the week is rather unsettled with temperatures down to the mid-20s.

Evening update (19.00): A high of bang on 30C. Hazy sun for much of the day but thunder and some rain in parts during the afternoon. Storms can be expected overnight and for the next couple of days.  

No Frills Excursions

Almonds And Underwear: Saint Matthew

They were getting their kit off in Bunyola yesterday. Not all of it. Decorum demands that underwear remains, and the invention of a modern tradition turns such decorum into an event - "correguda en ropa interior", the run in underwear, though it might be noted that correguda does also mean something else. It is probably best that I don't mention what. It was the tenth staging of the bra, panties and pants party, it having been started by a group of the town's "jóvenes" in 2005. (Well, you wouldn't have expected the town's "ancianos" to have initiated such an event.)

Saint Matthew, he of Apostle fame, was not noted for parading around in his boxers or revealing Calvin Kleins. It is doubtful that he would have approved of the Bunyola brassiere bout, but modernity decrees that antique apostles are stripped down and varnished with baby oil. In Bunyola, at any rate. It's the Sant Mateu fiestas, but knickers to old Matthew and all hail the new saint - a hip dude Matt or Matty in Modus Vivendi.

Matthew was many things in terms of his saintly patronage, but the list of his sponsorship did not stretch to underwear or indeed to almonds. In Santa Margalida, where barely a week seems to pass without some fiesta or other, they're at it again, and this time they've run Saint Matthew up the fiestas' flagpole and given him a delicious bag of sugar-coated almonds to munch on.

This is the almond harvesting season, and Santa Margalida has, since 2012, combined a fiesta which had been paid little attention to in the town - Matthew's - with the almond and come up with its "mostra de l'ametla", a grand almond show. It is a town which has a strong interest in the success or not of the almond harvest, as was highlighted in 2012 when there were genuine concerns about the health of the local almond trees. These were anxieties caused by the presence of a fungus that had been attacking the trees and which first really became evident on the island in 2008. It is a disease which has principally affected trees in the Llevant region, especially around Sant Llorenç. Decaying trees in Santa Margalida were more the victim of drought rather than fungus, but the concerns raised two years ago led to a greater awareness of the need to pay trees, especially older ones, rather more TLC than had been the case.

The almond tree has long been a feature of the Mallorcan landscape, and it is of course especially so when it is in blossom in February, but the almond only really became an agricultural force in the nineteenth century when almonds as a crop gained popularity once farming land was reorganised into smaller plots. In 1820, there was negligible almond production, but forty years later almost 6,000 hectares were devoted to its cultivation. Mallorca's almond production contributed to Spain being the world leader, a status that was lost in the late 1970s when the US, and in particular California, overtook Spain as the dominant global producer of almonds. Competition and the enduring impact of old provisions under the Common Agricultural Policy wreaked havoc with Mallorca's almonds as much as any disease. In a period of only six years from 2005, agricultural land devoted to almond production was slashed by over a half.

Great efforts have been made to at least stabilise the situation, and with some success. There has been very little loss of further cultivated land, but the disease has not made stabilisation any easier, especially when carobs, as an alternative crop, have been unaffected. The Santa Margalida fair has to be seen, therefore, within the context of these various threats to the almond and to food-manufacture traditions that it has brought. And one of the most obvious traditions is that of ice-cream. At the fair today there is a workshop devoted to the making of almond ice-cream.

It's hard to place an exact date on when ice-cream manufacture started in Mallorca, but in the eighteenth century it was being made for the Can Joan de s'Aigo chocolate and ice-cream parlour in Palma. The original Sr. de s'Aigo, so the story goes, used to get ice and snow from the Tramuntana mountains and mix it with almond milk. Nowadays, almond ice-cream is a mainstay of the ice-cream freezers of the island's supermarkets.

Yesterday evening in Santa Margalida there was a procession of lanterns for Saint Matthew. They were made from melons and pumpkins and not from almonds - it would be pretty tricky to do so, just as it would be tricky to make underwear from almonds. Saint Matthew has provided the pretext for fiesta events that have nothing whatsoever to do with him, but forget Matthew and concentrate on the almonds. All day today in Santa Margalida there will be special almond dishes as part of its "Picametla" gastronomy event.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 21 September - Sun, rain, 31C; 22 September - Rain, storm, 24C; 23 September - Rain, sun, 23C.

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

Well, things had to break some time and they will do tomorrow. Today should be mostly fine, but rain due to come in tomorrow, causing temperatures to drop significantly.

Evening update (19.00): Steamy sort of day. Sunny but mainly hazy-cloud sun. High of 31.9C.

No Frills Excursions

A Place Called Al

Pompeu Fabra was an industrial engineer. He was also, perhaps strangely for an engineer, a man of language. In 1932 a dictionary was published. It was the "General Dictionary of the Catalan Language" and was the culmination of other work, such as the 1918 "Catalan Grammar". Fabra was responsible for these publications. The 1932 dictionary was the official word (or words, many of them) on Catalan for over 60 years before the first dictionary from the Institute of Catalan Studies was published.

Fabra didn't have anything directly to do with Mallorca, but he was certainly in contact with various language scholars and writers on the island. As a consequence of producing his grammar and his dictionary, Fabra was an extremely important person. He still is. Yet his name, one fancies, is one that will mean little or nothing to the general visitor to the island. Even if that visitor is aware of his name having been used for a street or a square, it will still mean very little.

Alcanada is a small place. There is very little there. What passes for its centre is revealed to you as you gingerly manoeuvre your car past a house which juts out into an already narrow road and as you hope for dear life that there isn't a damn great bus or a gaggle of tourist pedestrians around the blind corner. Successfully having managed not to hit anyone or anything, you see to your right a low wooden fence behind which is a small parking area. For someone as celebrated as Fabra should be, this seems an unremarkable tribute. A car park has been named after him. Well, not exactly. The car park, strictly speaking, is the Plaça Pompeu Fabra. It is a square without any clear indication that it is a square. Indeed, it is a rather inconvenient triangular shape.

The square-triangle-car park forms the anything but bustling heartland of Alcanada. Pass through it and you come to La Terraza and its chiringuito, the restaurant perched over an invitingly clear kaleidoscope of greens swirling within blues. It's the end of the bay of Alcudia which offers a view of the bay that isn't interrupted with the sight of the twin towers of the old power station, the rather unlovely relic hidden a couple of kilometres or more away that acts as a contrarily welcoming host as you make your way from Puerto Alcudia into Alcanada.

To the other side of Pompeu Fabra is another restaurant, Es Faró, and the apartments that take the Alcanada (or Aucanada if you prefer) name. Another wooden fence runs to one side of the apartments. It marks the limits of a wooded, shaded area and of the road that carries on to the golf course, the one of Trent Jones design and Porsche family ownership and with its own restaurant. Add the all-inclusive Hotel President, a couple of small supermarkets, a small beach, and you have all you need to know about Alcanada.

Except of course, there is more. Well, there's the lighthouse for one thing - the faró - the lighthouse which sits on a small islet (or illot in Fabra's native) and to which, thanks to the shallowness of the bay, overnight guests once upon a time used to walk, carrying picnic and bedding paraphernalia above the calm sea. They weren't proper guests. They weren't really supposed to be there. But those were days when no one took much notice. They do now, and no, you can't go and have an overnight picnic.

Around the time that Pompeu Fabra was publishing his dictionary, an American in Mallorca was making a name for himself for a different reason. He was Arthur E. Middlehurst. Not a great deal is known about Arthur, other than that he was an urban planner and architect who specialised in a "Californian style". It would appear that he was part of a literary, cultural and somewhat Bohemian set that sprang up in Mallorca in the 1930s. He would have been well aware of the cultural movement that Fabra's dictionary represented. It isn't known with any certainty, but the square in Alcanada probably acquired its name in the 1930s in recognition of the dictionary, for it was in the early part of that decade that Arthur was set to oversee the development of a garden-city style resort, i.e. Alcanada.

Whatever it was that Arthur had in mind for Alcanada, it didn't really materialise and certainly not as a resort of any significance. The resort that did begin to take shape, courtesy of Pedro Mas y Reus and Jaime Enseñat, was down the coast past the port of Alcudia. Who knows? Perhaps history might have been different and Alcanada would have become more of a centre for tourism. It is a place that has a geography that might be considered not dissimilar to Illetes in the way that it climbs in different tiers. But it wasn't to be.

For the visitor, and indeed for many residents, Alcudia means one thing when it comes to tourism. It is an erroneous perception based on the architecturally less than lovely Mile and on the category of tourist that the Mile attracts (itself something of a misguided generalisation). Alcudia is several places, not the one. And Alcanada is one of these several places; a place of summery somnolence far removed from the touristic pleasure park that radiates out from Bellevue. What is its appeal? Sebastian Sanchez, director of the apartments, sums it up easily and in one word. "Tranquilidad." Tranquility, quietness, translate it as you wish, it amounts to the same thing. The translation is not difficult, but every now and then the name of Alcanada can cause a problem. It isn't a small place that has been transported from Canada. It isn't a small place called Al. Al, Canada.

Friday, September 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 September 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 20 September - Cloud, 31C; 21 September - Sun, rain, 28C; 22 September - Rain, 25C.

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

Well, today looks as though it will be the last good day for a few days. Cloud coming in over the weekend and rain at the start of next week.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 32.5C, so hot but more cloud today. Change is coming. 

No Frills Excursions

The Vita Delta Fiasco

Through the period of economic crisis, some hotel chains ran into financial problems. Mostly, these were solved by selling off specific hotels or giving up leasing arrangements through which chains managed establishments. Some hotels closed earlier in the season than had previously been the case in order to save costs, but hotels actually closing during the season while they still had guests in them, well that didn't happen. Crisis supposedly over, it now has happened, and it has happened at the Vita Delta Resort in Puig de Ros, just down the coast from Arenal. On Monday, the hotel closed with some 200 guests staying there. Their reaction was, as you might expect, not very positive. Turfed out of the hotel, they were finding it difficult to get alternative accommodation; tour operators and Vita were not, so guests complained, being very helpful.

It might be said that these guests should have known. But then they were guests not employees. Vita had announced to staff that the hotel would close on Monday. Despite this, the hotel was still taking bookings at the weekend. Its website now says that the hotel is closed for the season and will not re-open until 4 April.

So, what is all this about? A hotel chain that has got into financial difficulty? Or just one hotel that has had specific problems? There is a bit of both of these, but then there is also the fact that Vita's president, Josep Maria Morros, was sent to prison in July faced with charges that included unpaid tax, unpaid social security, falsification of documents and fraud.

The alarm bells were going off earlier in the summer, and they weren't all to do with fraud allegations. Earlier this summer, the town hall in Santa Pola in Alicante ordered the closure of Stella Maris hotel in the resort. It was on administrative grounds. Vita, the town hall said, did not have the necessary documentation to indicate that it should be running the hotel. Other Vita hotels in Spain have had issues, and the staff at the Delta have been operating for the past few weeks in the knowledge that things were far from ok. They have not been paid properly and the hotel itself is in significant debt to social security. It is being said that there will be an announcement on Monday. It could be that Vita will go under.

Whatever the background, the Delta's closure is a potentially damaging event. A four-star hotel with a seemingly good repeat customer base has had to throw those customers out. It may only be one hotel, but one hotel (not through any fault of the staff who have been just as badly treated) which creates such negative publicity is one hotel too many. The regional tourism ministry has been all but silent on the affair. It needs to get involved and seek to limit the damage.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 September 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 19 September - Sun, cloud, 31C; 20 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 21 September - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 4, predominantly East.

More hot weather in store today. Things remaining fine into and through most of the weekend, but the local met office seems pretty certain that things will change by Monday, and there is rain forecast for both Monday and Tuesday.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 32.6C. Felt fresher at times because it wasn't as sunny as it has been and there was a breeze. Still not, though.

No Frills Excursions

Hollywood And Mallorca - Ava Gardner

Of the Hollywood greats who attached themselves to Mallorca in any particularly prominent fashion in the 1950s, Ava Gardner's greatness was greater than others. Unlike Errol Flynn, her star was still in the ascendant, her fame enhanced - sort of -by her marriage to Frank Sinatra. That marriage, her third and last, was her longest (six years). But it was as shaky as the two previous shorter marriages to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw. Ava Gardner, member of Hollywood royalty, a renowned beauty and a femme fatale, separated from Sinatra after just two years of their marriage. They finally divorced in 1957, by which time Gardner had been living in Madrid, on and off, for six years. If Mallorca was able to shine with the glow of some Gardner stardust, Madrid was able to beam with headlights full on. But that - the glow from the stardust - was and is a myth.

It was said of Gardner that she drank Madrid for fifteen years (she moved to London in 1967) and that there was no man in Madrid who had not slept with her or who had not drunk in the same bar as Ernest Hemingway, with whom she was friendly. Just one of the stories about her time in Madrid involved the exiled former president of Argentina, Juan Perón. She lived above Perón in an apartment on the Calle Doctor Arce. He denounced her because of the noise from the parties that would take place night after night.

The Ava Gardner association with Mallorca began in 1955. In that year she visited Robert Graves in Deya for the first time. There was, and neither of them sought to deny it, a great deal of mutual attraction, but it went no further than that. In his poem "Not to sleep", Graves expressed how he felt and how insomniac he became when Ava came to stay: "Will she be wearing red, or russet or blue; Or pure white? - whatever she wears, glorious; Not to sleep all the night long, for pure joy."

The relationship with Graves and his family should have afforded Gardner a Mallorcan reputation that was of a more sophisticated nature than that of Errol Flynn. Perhaps it did, but her Madrid reputation was not lost as she crossed the sea to the island. This said, while there are documented tales of Flynn and his drinking, a greater discretion has been shown towards Gardner, though as I noted in yesterday's article, Riki Lash has intimated that in addition to alcohol she was partial to the odd joint as well.

Gardner's Mallorca connection was, in truth, never that strong. Of tourist destinations, it is fair to say that Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava has made far more of a connection (there is a statue to her that overlooks the sea). It was here where Gardner first fell in love with Spain. She came to make the film "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" in 1950. James Mason was her leading man, and among the cast was a bullfighter-turned-actor called Mario Cabré. Stories of a romance between the two may only have been for publicity, but during the time she was filming she began to develop other passions, very Spanish ones - those for the bullfight and flamenco.

On the face of it, therefore, Gardner might have seemed ideal for giving a more positive image of Spain to the wider world. But that wasn't the case. Ex-president Perón was not the only one who objected to her partying. The regime was not exactly enamoured of her either. She represented everything that it rejected. Single, divorced, a drinker, a woman of questionable morals, she may have been a celebrity whose fame went round the world, but hers was not an image that the Franco regime craved. When Hemingway, one of her closest friends and allies and who was a regular visitor to Spain, committed suicide in 1961, her relationship with the regime became ever more tempestuous. The Minister for Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga, famously stood her up when she invited him for drinks. She wasn't to leave Spain until 1967, but as far as the regime was concerned, it would have been happy to have seen the back of her well before she did ultimately go.

There is a good deal of rewriting of history where these Hollywood greats and their Mallorcan promotional role is concerned. Gardner, for one, was never cultivated as some sort of "face" of Mallorca. The regime may have wanted Hollywood and the film industry to have helped it with its image, but this was help sought on its terms. Gardner and her reputation were not among those terms. She may have spread awareness of Mallorca among Americans, but as far as what were to become the key tourism markets, her involvement with Mallorca, together with Flynn and others, had negligible influence.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 September 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 September - Sun, 31C; 19 September - Sun, cloud, 29C; 20 September - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 5 easing during the morning to Variable 2 to 3.

Some light cloud early on, lifting to give another good day. Looking ahead, there may well be a change by Sunday and Monday with rain being forecast for the latter.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 34.1C. Another evening when there is virtually no air. Horribly sticky.

No Frills Excursions

Hollywood And Mallorca - Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn is remembered with a good deal of fondness in Mallorca. In 2009, to mark the one hundredth anniversary of his birth and fiftieth anniversary of his death, a number of articles appeared in the local press which, for the most part, overlooked negative aspects of his life and recalled a star of whom it was said that if there had been medals to be handed out to illustrious visitors who increased the profile of Mallorca throughout the world, then he would have been a recipient.

Flynn may well have raised Mallorca's profile, but the Mallorcans with whom he had contact - and there were many - perceived Flynn through a Mallorcan's eye. It wasn't necessarily the same eye through which others perceived him. How much Flynn really succeeded in raising the profile is, with hindsight, debatable. Indeed, it might be questionable as to how much the island would have wanted him to have raised the profile.

In yesterday's article, I said that Flynn was a regular vacationer. He was, but there was more to it than simple breaks from filming. Though he made various attempts at reviving his acting career through the 1950s, the truth was that by 1950, when he happened to come across the island, he was already washed up. There is a poignancy with yesterday's article which looked at Johnny Weissmüller's association with Mallorca. Both Flynn and Weissmüller were typecast, the latter far more so. Once the enthusiasm for swashbuckling and jungle stories had waned in Hollywood, there was nowhere for either of them to go. And for Flynn, the decline was swift, often undignified and often played out in Mallorca. He didn't holiday in Mallorca so much as hang out and get drunk.

Flynn's drinking was the stuff of legend, but not everyone subscribed to the view that he was a drunk. Riki Lash, interviewed in 2009, said he never saw Flynn drunk, but then there was the story, related five years ago, of Flynn going off on a hunting expedition to Son Serra de Marina with a group of locals from Maria de la Salut (the year was probably 1953). A bottle of his favourite drink, vodka, accompanied him on his day's shooting, not that alcohol featuring in a Mallorcan party day out was all that unusual. And any possible excess wouldn't have concerned the good people of Maria unduly when, following the hunt, Flynn arranged for a chicken dinner to which most of the population turned up just to get a glimpse of the Hollywood star.

Two years after that series of articles and so perhaps with less of the rose-tinted lens focussing on Flynn, "Mallorca Magazin" spoke, among others, to Martin Xamena, director of the Bon Sol hotel in Illetes. Flynn had a villa in Cas Catala (it was demolished in 1989) and there are photos of him dining on its terrace which date from 1955. Xamena, then a small child, remembered him as being very nice but also remembered that he always had a drink in his hand. The Bar Tirol in Palma was a favourite haunt of Flynn's, and the story goes that on one occasion he got so drunk in the bar that he had to be carried out unconscious. Another anecdote from that German article concerned a boozy trip out on Flynn's yacht, "Zaca", during which Flynn, having taken on board far too much, fell overboard and into the sea. For all this, in Illetes, his memory lives on. There is of course a plaque in his honour there.

Flynn was not alone in having been a Hollywood star who overindulged in Mallorca. Ava Gardner, looked upon perhaps rather differently and considered more refined owing to her association with Robert Graves, was known to like a drink or two herself, though Riki Lash offered an alternative view in that 2009 interview. Her drunkenness was famous, he remarked, but he didn't think that she drank more than usual. What seemed like drunkenness, he observed, was often actually a marijuana high.

Through the Mallorcan's eye, Flynn was no doubt good news. But the relationship wasn't as positive as it might have been. To a potential tourism market, especially an American one, Flynn was an outcast from Hollywood and his reputation was tarnished. He may have been, where the Mallorcans have been concerned, a bit of a lad and a genial good bloke, but was he the right image for the island? Some still maintain that he was, and a comparison is made with a later Hollywood star, Michael Douglas. Flynn was accessible in a way that Douglas hasn't been, but then Douglas's contribution to Mallorca has been of a very different order.

There again, maybe the image was right and always has been. It is one that has cultivated the obsession with celebrities in Mallorca, while maybe Flynn's drinking was to pave the way for what has come since.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 September 2014


Morning high (5.30am): 25C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 17 September - Sun, cloud, 31C; 18 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 19 September - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Northeast 3 increasing Southeast 4 later in the day.

Still no real sign of any break in the weather. Just the chance of some rain later and overnight, but at present any storm activity is very localised and isolated. General outlook staying good, and today will be hot with a load more sun.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 31.3C. Quite cloudy this evening and breezier than it has been.

No Frills Excursions

Hollywood And Mallorca

They've been remembering the time when Tarzan came to Mallorca just lately. He didn't swing in on some jungle vines and take up residence in a tree house atop a pine. He landed at the airport, no doubt sampled the produce of vines and settled for more comfortable accommodation, such as the hotel Taconera in Cala Ratjada. Tarzan was Johnny Weissmüller. He came to Mallorca on three successive summers - 1971 to 1973 - having first been invited, so it is said, by Errol Flynn.

Remembering is one thing, getting the remembrance right is another. Weissmüller certainly did come to Mallorca in the early 1970s, but as for the Flynn connection, well, the recollection has it that Weissmüller was invited in 1969, which would have been pretty difficult, as Flynn had been dead for ten years by then.

Weissmüller was one of numerous Hollywood stars who found their way to Mallorca in the 1950s and 1960s. It would appear that, unlike some others, he was a pretty much down-to-earth sort of a guy - not something you might have expected for someone who had spent almost his entire cinematic career up a tree. He would go out and meet the locals, even spending time with Sa Pobla's drum and cornet band. But if he hadn't been aboard the Flynn yacht that would typically navigate the summery waters of 1950s' Mallorca, he would, by comparison with others from Hollywood, have been something of a Johnny-come-lately.

Flynn was, to no small extent, responsible for this Hollywood interest, albeit his association with Mallorca was an accident. In 1950, en route to Gibraltar from Monte Carlo, bad weather caused him to seek safe haven, and he found it in Pollensa. He wasn't the first to be captivated by the island's north coast, and so for the remainder of that decade, he became a regular visitor. Flynn's yacht, "Zaca", was about as legendary as the man himself, and this yacht may or may not have had fellow Hollywood legends on board. Orson Welles, Ava Gardner (and maybe Weissmüller) were among those who supposedly joined Flynn on his cruises around the island.

Of these stars' links with the island, the best known are probably those of Ava Gardner because of her not infrequent stays with Robert Graves in Deya. But there is a lesser known story about Ava and Mallorca, and it is one to do with a singer who was big news in the 1960s, Johnny Valentino.

Johnny, who is still with us and still performing, met Gardner in Madrid. He met her and fell in love with her. To this day, however, he refuses to be drawn on what the full extent of their relationship may or may not have been. Johnny, by the way, acquired his stage name because he once lived in Peguera where a neighbour was Natacha Rambova, the one-time wife of Rudolf Valentino. 

Of Orson Welles, not a great deal is known of his association with Mallorca. He was far more intimately associated with mainland Spain. Welles's last film, "F For Fake", supposedly contains scenes shot in Mallorca, but there is no evidence that it did. Ibiza was used as a location.

What can be said of these Hollywood greats is that their relationships with Mallorca and Spain were not the product of the close ties between Hollywood and the wider cinema industry and the Franco regime which developed in the 1950s. Flynn, for example, just happened on Mallorca by chance and then chose it as a subsequent holiday destination. The links with Hollywood were far more formal and systematic than that.

When reference is made to Spain's economic miracle of the 1960s, it is often overlooked just how important American influence had been well before this. US foreign policy plus very specific commercial interests, such as those of American Express and Hilton Hotels, had been at work from the early part of the 1950s. And when the Franco regime looked for an influential means of propaganda, it found a willing accomplice in Hollywood, though it must be said that it was a relationship not without some reservations. The regime's Ministry of Information and Tourism believed that American film studios were "the sector most easily penetrated by Judaism and communism".

Nevertheless, the relationship was such that in 1959 the American film producer Samuel Bronston relocated his entire production operation to Madrid. He was responsible for "The Fall of the Roman Empire" and, more notably, "El Cid". The regime was so delighted with the latter that it was officially declared to be a film in the "Spanish national interest". 

Such epics were a long way from Johnny Weissmüller's output. His Tarzan days were years in the past. When he came to Mallorca in the '70s, he hung out with a drum and cornet band. He was still a star but that star had long waned.

Photo: Errol Flynn and "Zaca".

Monday, September 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 September 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 16 September - Sun, cloud, 31C; 17 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 18 September - Sun, cloud, 30C.

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

Some cloud to be expected at times today but of a light variety. Still hot and mostly sunny. Yesterday, however, didn't feel as oppressive, despite southerlies coming into play. The week's outlook appears to be one of much of the same.

Evening update (19.00): An inland high of 33.2C. Couple of degrees lower by the coast. Touch of rain around but that's all.

No Frills Excursions

Soho To Punta Ballena

It was an exposé by "The Times" in 1969 that started it. Corruption within the Metropolitan Police in London was of such a scale that it was like "catching the Archbishop of Canterbury in bed with a prostitute". Three years later, a further exposé, by "The Sunday Mirror", revealed that the head of the Flying Squad had been on holiday with a Soho businessman and all-round villain by the name of Jimmy Humphreys. He and his wife, Rusty, a former stripper, were known as the king and queen of Soho, though there was also an emperor, Bernie Silver, who had mentored Jimmy.

The Met Police corruption of the '60s and the '70s was to a large extent centred on one small part of central London. Soho, the district of clubs, dives, strip joints, porn shops and prostitutes, was a gold mine for the powerful and for the corrupt. Jimmy and Bernie had the Obscene Publications Squad (OPS) in their pay. Jimmy and Rusty made a fortune, though Jimmy resented the fact that the fortune was not as large as it might have been; it was lessened because of the amount he had to pay the police. One of those policemen was the head of the OPS, Detective Chief Superintendent "Wicked" Bill Moody, who was so bent that he established an unofficial licensing system. New porn shops could only open with the agreement of Humphreys and Silver and with weekly payments made to the OPS.

The press exposés led to a change. In came Sir Robert Mark as the Met Police Commissioner and he brought with him Detective Chief Superintendent Bert Wickstead. It was he, Wickstead, who found the pretext with which to collar Jimmy, and once collared, Jimmy squealed. Loudly and repeatedly. The supergrass's evidence resulted in the conviction of numerous police officers and spawned "Operation Countryman", a wider investigation into police corruption which also embraced the City of London Police but which was ultimately to lead to no convictions.

It was said of Jimmy Humphreys that he had gained that much money from his porn businesses that he didn't know what to do with it. So much money, and it came from one small part of a city, a small part that was controlled by a few whose businesses were those of clubs and sex.

Remember what Manu Onieva once said. That he wished there were ten Punta Ballenas. So much money. How much money is shifted in Punta Ballena? Jaime Amador of "Preferente" quotes one source. "There is too much money in play." Too much money in one small part of Calvia, one small part of Mallorca that is dominated by clubs and sex. One small part where there is, to quote Paul Smith of Carnage, "a war of large businesses against small businesses".

The revelations are coming thick and fast. The police chief in Marratxí, Antonio Ledesma, arrested on Friday, and Calvia's police chief, José Antonio Navarro, were allegedly involved with what "Ultima Hora" calls a "bogus" gestoría. Such activity, whatever the nature of the gestoría, is incompatible with their police duties. Then there are the activities of this gestoría, those involving the taking on and laying off of staff with businesses along Punta Ballena, a service for which one business has admitted paying 6,000 euros bi-monthly in black.

When the police corruption affair first surfaced, it was suggested to me that it would all be quietly forgotten in a couple of days. I didn't think so. I didn't think so for one moment. The anti-corruption prosecutors are far too independent for that to happen. Moreover, and despite what one might think of Mallorca and Spain, these are not the days of the late '60s and 1970s when information was strictly controlled and when it required truly campaigning journalism in order to root out the truth. The Magalluf allegations are of the contemporary age. There is far too much at stake for there to be some sort of whitewash.

But think of those days some forty or more years ago. Think of Bill Moody and his unofficial licensing system. Think of how smaller and new porn businesses were dominated by Humphreys and Silver. And think of the web that was eventually discovered. It was a long time ago and in a different country, but some of the ingredients are not dissimilar.

It took ages in those days for evidence to be amassed. A source close to the Magalluf investigation says that "they have never had so much documentation in a corruption case". These are very different days when it comes to unearthing potential evidence. The investigation already has more than a thousand emails to consider. They are emails to and from politicians, businesspeople, police officers. Think how differently things might have been had such technology existed when Mark and Wickstead vowed to clean up the Met. And think who else might have been implicated.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 September 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 21C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 15 September - Sun, cloud, 31C; 16 September - Sun, 28C; 17 September - Sun, cloud, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 increasing 4.

At least the night was a little bit fresher than of late. Today, more of the same, plenty of sun and southerlies entering the equation which mean potentially Saharan air adding to the stifling conditions.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 33.4C.

No Frills Excursions