Thursday, August 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2017

Morning high (6.21am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9. Sun with minimal cloud
Three-day forecast: 18 August - Sun, from 32C to 36C depending on area; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 20 August - Sun, 28C

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

Evening update (20.45): High of 32C.

The Legal Hypocrisy Of Rentals

Adlai Stevenson was a great of American politics. He was the US ambassador to the UN for five years. His intellect and reasoning wouldn't go amiss in today's America.

That's by the by. Stevenson provided many a quote. One was: "A hypocrite is the kind of person who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation." Never let it be said that there isn't hypocrisy in politics. There's a great deal of it in Spain. Madrid is considering the chopping down of legislation designed in part to conserve but also to preserve - a society's well-being. If it does so, then it will speak of conservation: the status quo.

The additional hypocrisy is manifest. The Partido Popular has for years sought to prevent any liberalisation of the holiday rentals' market. It refused to do so in the Balearics. It has refused to do so elsewhere. The PP of national government in effect washed its hands of the looming boom in rentals by delegating legislation to the regional governments. A regional government, the Balearic government, has legislated. Now the PP is playing the constitution card. Conserve the status quo. It would wish to do so because it has been wholly inadequate in managing an issue that affects the whole country.

The Balearic rentals' legislation was probably always destined to find its way to some court or other. The Aptur rentals' association has yet to make its move, but it signalled before the passing of the legislation that it would be considering a legal challenge. There were two main reasons: conflicts with national law in respect of tenancy and of the so-called horizontal property regime (which at its most simplistic refers to living in apartments).

To be fair to Madrid, it does have a duty to ensure that regional legislation does not invade the competence of the state, if the state has superior competence for a particular matter. But exercising the right to challenge regional law and to take an appeal before the Constitutional Court can appear to be influenced by political thinking and differences. Bullfighting is a clear example.

The problem, constitutionally, that the Madrid government created with rentals is that it acknowledged regions' powers. Statutes of autonomy enable regions to determine policy with regard to tourism, and Madrid made clear that it was up to the regions to come up with their own rentals' laws. There was a total lack of foresight, not least because the government failed to modify its laws that could facilitate those of the regions. The Balearic government has asked Madrid to reform the tenancy act and to establish the principle of a minimum let. Madrid has vacillated and now seems stuck in neutral. Tourism chiefs - the minister and the secretary-of-state - have appeared to be working from different scripts. One says there won't be reform; the other says she'll be looking into it.

Madrid, interestingly, hasn't cited the two laws that Aptur has. It has referred to the law on the internal market, i.e. a nod in the direction of Brussels. While its potential appeal to the Constitutional Court has to do with specific articles in the Balearic legislation, it is this reference which hints that the court may - if it is asked to make a ruling - suspend the whole legislation. It would then have five months to decide whether or not to make the suspension permanent.

These legal niceties aside, one comes back to the apparent hypocrisy. The PP would be adopting a stance that it has long fought to avoid. The Balearic legislation, it could be argued, is over restrictive while at the same time hanging out something of a carrot of licences to come. But in principle it isn't so different to what the PP established under law.

The PP were accused - rightly enough - of favouring friends in the hotel industry. They are now lobbying Madrid to get a grip and establish some form of coherent national policy and law on rentals; just as the regions are also. The government has to take account of social developments - the saturation and now the protests. If it's in any doubt as to what is to blame for saturation, then it can ask Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá. Aptur may claim that rentals are not to blame for saturation, but it's difficult to disagree with Escarrer when he says that they are.

We now have the leader of the PP in the Balearics, Biel Company, saying that his party is open to a review of its stance on holiday rentals. Without giving an idea what this might mean, he has at least acknowledged market dynamics. The Bauzá government, of which he was a member, failed completely in recognising the realities.

Meantime, Madrid seems intent on conserving something to which the PP has been antipathetic. Yes there are market realities, but so there are also social realities.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 17 August - Sun, 30C; 18 August - Sun, 31C; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 30C

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

Big day today for Sant Roc, aka and variously Saint Rock, the closest fiery manifestations of whom are in Alaro and Cala Ratjada. Pretty hot in other ways as well today.

Evening update (20.15): High of 33.6C.

The 40-Year-Old Prediction Of Anti-Tourism

George Doxey may not be well known but he is important: where tourism is concerned, that is. Doxey was responsible for devising something that came to be known as Irridex. This might sound like treatment for mosquito bites or liquid for cleaning the loo, but it was an index - the irritation index. Forty-two years ago, George Doxey modelled the rise and fall in a society's affiliation with and affection for tourism. His model is probably only now truly being put to the test.

Think what it was like in 1975. Mallorca already had mass tourism, but it wasn't anything like on the scale it now is. Figures from the time show that in the Balearics as a whole there were around 3.6 million tourists per annum. There were 223,000 hotel places. Mallorca had the lion's share of both. By 2016, the number of tourists for the Balearics was up to more than 13 million. In Mallorca alone, the number of hotel places was around the 300,000 mark. The government wants to cap the total of all places in Mallorca at something over 435,000.

The mass has therefore advanced significantly since the time that Doxey was compiling his index. Also in 1975 there were continuing concerns about a downturn. The effect of the 1973 oil crisis took a few years to reverse. Mass had, for the time being, peaked or was being lowered. It was the year that Franco died. While there had been plenty of comment about and worthy research into the harmful impact of "Balearisation", this was not comment of the streets. Two years later, awareness took to the streets for the first time. Democracy had ushered in protest against the voracity of development, and not just for tourism. The Dragonera demos were staged.

Regardless of this nascent protest, the oil crisis had exercised minds. It disrupted the progression that George Doxey had set out. His was a four-stage model of societal attitudes towards tourism development. By 1975 Mallorca was certainly no longer at stage one - euphoria created by the anticipation of tourism benefits and from meaningful contact with tourists on a grander scale than had been the case prior to the "boom" of the sixties. It was probably somewhere between stages two and three. The second step is apathy, with tourism viewed as a source of income and investment. The third is annoyance - misgivings about the tourism industry because of increasing numbers, development and high levels of foreign investment.

Attitudes were modified because of the realisation of the harmful impact of recession on what by then had become the island's principal industry. Such modified attitudes, it can be argued, have prevailed for years. They would certainly have been around during the economic crisis that took hold in 2008.

Now, however, one can witness the presence of Doxey's fourth and final stage. Antagonism is defined as irritations with tourism being expressed verbally and physically. Politeness gives way to this antagonism. Tourists are seen as the cause of the problem. How prophetic Doxey had been.

There is another model, one that is far better known than Doxey's. It deals with the economics of tourism. Richard W. Butler produced his model five years after Doxey had come up with his. It was essentially a variation on the product life cycle model that business was already familiar with. Butler's model can be combined with Doxey's. The fourth stage of antagonism coincides with Butler's fifth stage of stagnation and potential decline. Implicit to Butler's stagnation are the ideas that tourist numbers have reached their peak, that capacity has in fact been exceeded, that tourism creates problems for the environment and society (and possibly also for the economy), that tourist resorts engender a sense of divorce from their realities - residents feel alienated, therefore.

None of this is earth-shattering insofar as Butler (Doxey less so) is tourism studies 101. Anyone who has ever taken a tourism course knows about Butler. Anyone in tourism industry management knows about him. Anyone in tourism government should know about him. The caveat of "should" is key. Butler and Doxey require the strategic management of tourism. Governments have singularly failed to do this. All the theory was established decades ago. Only now are governments waking up to the practical consequences.

The economic crisis, like the oil crisis of the seventies, was a blip. As it abated and the mass of tourism grew in comparative terms like never before, Doxey's antagonism began to kick in. One can chastise the Balearic government for its handling of tourism policy, but underlying this is (or seems to be) an appreciation of both Butler and Doxey. In order to prevent decline, there needs to be rejuvenation, even if this means a downward correction in the numbers of tourists. Magalluf, it might be said, is a stuttering attempt at this. Managing antagonism, however, is a different matter altogether.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 21.8C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 August - Cloud, sun, 32C; 17 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 18 August - Sun, 34C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4, swell of one metre.

Happy Assumption. All fine for the Can Pic duck swim and pyromusical - loads of bangs in the bay.

Evening update (19.30): Didn't go totally according to plan as there was a fair bit of cloud at times. High of 32.6C.

The Nickname Which Became A Resort

They put up a plaque in Can Picafort the other day. It was to Llorenç Fuster Quintana. Llorenç died in 1899. There was another Fuster who passed away sixteen years before: Jeroni. Both had the nickname "Picafort". I'm guessing that Llorenç must have inherited it.

The story of Jeroni is central to the story of Can Picafort. He did, after all, give it the name. While he had the nickname, his shack was seemingly known as Picafort. Something to do with the strength of mosquito bites, supposedly. And quite believably. In the nineteenth century those bites could kill. There is in fact a completely different explanation - cholera - and also more to the story of why Jeroni went to live on the uninhabited coast of Santa Margalida some time in the mid-nineteenth century (probably the 1860s).

It's normally said that he was of humble stock and couldn't afford to live in the town. Well, he was from humble stock, but it would appear that he was given a job. He was the coast watchman. He was there to look out for clandestine activity. Smuggling, in other words. And Santa Margalida was to become famous for the biggest smuggler of them all - Joan March, he of Banca March fame.

Llorenç must have been a relative because the plaque is more or less exactly where the shack once stood. Jeroni had four children and is said to have been aged 105 when he died: a remarkable age for those times. He would indeed have been of fairly advanced age when he took that watchman's job.

There were actually two shack-type houses. The other was the residence of Llorenç Dalmau. His nickname was "Barret" (hat). He lent his nickname to the Clot d'en Barret, which is in the same area. It's also near to the Mar y Paz Hotel (Apartments).

Before Can Picafort there were two estates - Son Baulo and Santa Eulalia (aka Eularia). Son Baulo, it is often overlooked, was really what came first. It was partially developed as a garden city in the 1930s. In Can Picafort there was very little development. Nowadays, Son Baulo tends to be treated as part of Can Picafort, which it is in administrative terms, but part of it went into the development of Can Picafort in the 1960s. Can Picafort was really the estate of Santa Eulalia, and some might even today refer to the beach as Playa Santa Eulalia.

The Mar y Paz sits in the area of the resort where a notional boundary lies between Can Picafort and Son Baulo. It has a notable role to play on 15 August every year. It is from the Mar y Paz where they dive in to swim after the ducks. It's a symbolic choice, given the legacy of Jeroni Fuster and Llorenç Dalmau and also because it was the Son Baulo end which gave Can Picafort the ducks' swim.

The swim, also known as the release, dates back to the 1930s. It is normally said that the ducks (real ones, which they no longer are) came from the Son Baulo torrent and were gifts of a landowner to workers who had to swim for them. Well, a different version is that they also came from a Santa Eulalia landowner. Moreover, it wasn't poor workers who were necessarily swimming for them. It was young people in general.

This discrepancy is just one way in which the tradition of the duck swim has failed to ever truly be established in totally accurate fact. There isn't even any mention of it in what is otherwise an extensive history of Santa Margalida that the town hall produced some years ago. There's no question that there was a duck swim, but there is nothing definitive either as to exactly when it started or its continuity. Did it take place every year?

This matters to an extent because of the ambitions that remain for reviving the swim with real ducks. The law is most unlikely to be changed from being able to prove one hundred years of uninterrupted use of animals in a fiesta event, but if the threshold were to be lowered - which is what some would like in Santa Margalida - there would still be a problem of verification. Very little has ever actually been documented about the swim.

But it was around in the early 1960s; that's for sure. At the start of that decade, there were 173 residents in the whole of Can Picafort (including Son Baulo). There were, however, over 300 dwellings - chalets, villas, cottages. This was somewhere which grew because of summer holiday homes, most of them owned by Mallorcans, though there was also some foreign ownership: I know a German family whose chalet dates from that time. And there were other Germans.

The duck swim was therefore the highlight of the holidays in August. It is why it still is a highlight, because of all the families who have continued to summer in Can Picafort. The ducks are now plastic, but the tradition remains in the resort that takes its name from a nickname.

* The image is of the famous poster for the 2008 fiestas. The boy wearing the Power Rangers' mask was an acknowledgement of those who had released real ducks the year before, which was the first year that ducks were prohibited. They had worn Power Rangers' masks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 17.9C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 16 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 17 August - Sun, 32C

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

A fine morning and a fine day to come.

Evening update (19.45): High of 31.3C.

The Rentals' Panic

Panic. This might be one way of describing it. Despite the provisions of the holiday rentals' legislation having been known about for weeks in advance of the law's enforcement, only now is the reality kicking in.

An alternative position is that things will calm down and the government won't act in as draconian fashion as it appears to be. This attitude is wishful thinking. The Aptur holiday rentals association is under no illusion. Remove ads for short-term apartment rentals on various websites immediately. Don't even think twice.

Puerto Pollensa, as we all know, stands to be greatly affected. But so also do Alcudia and the other bay resorts. Consequently, there is a great deal of chatter on social networks dedicated to the different resorts. And some of it is highly misleading, while the "keep calm, it'll sort itself out" message only clouds the situation. Listen to Aptur, it is an association which knows exactly what it is talking about. Follow its advice; no one else's.

I'm afraid that the misleading content persists in, for example, saying that an owner will be ok if an apartment has a licence. How many more times does it need saying? There is no such thing as a licence to rent out a private apartment to tourists. There never has been and the chances of there being licences in the future are, in my opinion, fairly low.

Once the zones for new holiday rentals are determined, my guess is that there will be only a limited number of licences available for the coastal areas of the two bays. Although it hasn't stated this, the government (and Council of Mallorca) will prefer to have zones for licences away from the coasts and thereby give a boost to tourism in the island's interior. It can't state this as specific policy in law, because if it did, it would run into the same problem that emerged in the Canary Islands. The regulations there were that rentals could only be licensed a certain distance from the coasts. A court told the Canarian government that it couldn't apply this because it was a breach of competition.

So there is, I'm afraid, a great deal of uncertainty as well as panic. Meanwhile, there is evidence of one-time holiday rental apartments being re-marketed as long-term rental, which is and always has been perfectly legitimate. There is talk of apartments being offered for a minimum of a month only. This gets round the 30 days minimum period in the legislation, though how practical it might prove to be is debatable. Moreover, even with a month-long minimum rent, an apartment still couldn't be openly marketed as being "touristic". Only if a licence is issued at the end of the current twelve-month moratorium for all new holiday rentals' licences would it be possible to market the apartment in this way. And much, indeed everything, will depend on the Council's zones, which is before one gets to issues such as standards required by the tourism ministry, individual meters, communities' rights of veto, licences of only five years duration that presumably would have to go through a process of renewal. Plus, there will be the cost to register an accommodation place - 2000 euros, it would seem.

I understand that some agencies are considering taking enquiries from known customers. They would then act as intermediaries with the property-owning clients. Nothing would be advertised, but the short-term renting would continue, until, that is, the inspectors find out.

A black market would therefore flourish (if flourish is the right word). Lets wouldn't have to rely on sites like Airbnb because of portfolios of clients that have been built up. It would be a risk, but one that some may wish to take. Let's hope they don't get dobbed in by a neighbour.

The notion that many of the short-term lets will become long-term rentals is not one that "experts" in the real-estate market subscribe to. Yes, there will be some, and there already are, but one can appreciate the logic that there wouldn't be a whole load: apartments were bought for holiday let purposes. These experts believe that the main options will either be the black market or selling. A sudden flood of apartments on the market? You can probably guess what that might mean for prices.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 August 2017

Morning high (7.13am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 14 August - Sun, 30C; 15 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 16 August - Sun, cloud, 32C

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

Clear morning sky. Should be a mostly cloudless day.

Evening update (20.15): Very nice. High of 30C.

Pin The Tail On The Tourist

Esporles. What do we know of the place? It is home to La Granja, it has a sweets fair every October and Mick of the Council was its mayor for ten years. Since ascending to the presidential throne at the Council, Mick and his cultural vice-presidential compadre Frank (Miralles) have been bigging up the island's fiestas. They are a means for tourists to get to know the real Mallorca, the authentic Mallorca. Not, therefore, the Mallorca with roads with all-summer-long jams, with every last piece of the streets of old Palma crammed with visitors, with locals ejected from their dwellings by Airbnb, with youthful tourists leaving trails of vomit between Magalluf and Playa de Palma. No, this is the authentic Mallorca with tranquil village squares cooled by Tramuntana breezes and where visitors can engage in cultural exchange with the locals and discover the limitless joys of bread with oil and tomato and of ball de bot, little-jumping folk dancers.

Esporles does have tourists. Not huge numbers but numbers nonetheless. They are swelled by cyclists overrunning the tranquil squares in springtime and excursion trips to La Granja. The right sort of place, in general though, for the Mick'n'Frank vision of touristic cultural harmony and appreciation of the rich and long history of the Island of Calm to flourish. However.

There are two bits to Esporles: the old bit and the new bit. The latter of these, Vilanova, has had its fiestas. Jolly little affairs, they will be more of an occasion for the indigenous population of the new bit than for outsiders. Which may be as well. Each year, the fiestas use a mascot for promotion. This mascot is the Boc, a goat. The poster took the word Boc and came up with "OverBOCking". How clever. Then there was a game to be played. Was this in the style of the "jocs tradicionals" that feature so heavily in village fiestas and can allow visitors to understand the traditions of jewel races and spinning tops? Well, it depends what you mean by tradition. There is a new tradition. A new craze. Everyone seems to be playing it. And so in the new bit there was "hunt the guiri".

The guiri of the poster didn't, it has to be said, look like a typical tourist. Certainly not one along Punta Ballena. He was an Inspector Poirot type of character carrying a rolled-up beach umbrella (not that you really need a beach umbrella in Esporles). Anyway, if the guiris could be hunted down, there would be a free supper for the winner. Goodness, they know how to make their own fun in the new bit.

No, it wasn't xenophobic, which had been a criticism. It was all a spot of humour with an ironic touch, said the organising committee, that took "massification" and holiday rentals as its themes. And humorous it no doubt was. Absolutely no offence was meant or indeed caused. It was all just a variation on a "joc tradicional" that isn't necessarily one here in Mallorca. Pin the tail on the donkey, with a tourist as the substitute. Mick'n'Frank, as far as one is aware, haven't commented.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 August 2017

Morning high (6.55am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 13 August - Sun, 29C; 14 August - Sun, 30C; 15 August - Sun, cloud, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 to 4. Swells of between one and two metres.

Some cloud around first thing and may be about during the day. Decent enough, though.

Evening update (20.45): High of 29.2C. Cloud, then sun, then cloud ...

Candida Of Llucmajor

In terms of land area Llucmajor is Mallorca's largest municipality. Given its size, you might think it would be responsible for one of the island's grander fiestas. But Santa Candida tends to get a bit lost amidst Moors and Christians roaring around the north of Mallorca and the mid-August bangs and wallops for Sant Roc and the Mare de Déu d'Agost. In fact, it is said that Santa Candida is a somewhat solemn affair, which isn't entirely accurate. It has its night parties like other fiestas, but it is true that the religious aspect does carry rather greater weight than others.

This is due to Santa Candida herself, about whom there is - not untypically for saints - a spot of confusion. Being an August fiesta, this isn't one for Santa Candida María de Jesús, whose feast day is tomorrow. That Candida is a modern saint, who died on 9 August 1912 and was canonised in 2010. The Llucmajor Candida is very much older and her story is, in some ways, similar to that of the patron of neighbouring Palma, for whom there are altogether more riotous fiestas in January.

Palma's Sant Sebastià was, like many other saints, a victim of the Emperor Diocletian, whose contribution to Christian genocide outstripped more or less all the other pre-Christian emperors. Candida similarly fell foul of Diocletian. Also like Sebastian, there is a saintly relic, more than the one in fact. While Sebastian's bone supposedly brought about an end to the plague in Palma, Candida's relics are not known for having had any notably miraculous powers.

Three hundred years ago, on the day of Sant Bartomeu (Bartholomew), i.e. 24 August in 1717, the succentor of Palma Cathedral, one Josep Cardell, brought from Rome what were apparently relics of Candida. Well, there were those around who were prepared to authenticate them. Two days later, they were donated to the parish of Llucmajor, Sant Miquel (after the the archangel Saint Michael). Candida was thus installed, along with her relics, as the town's co-patron; Miquel is the other, and the original primitive church named after him dates back to 1235.

So the story goes, Candida was married to Arteme (or Artemis). He was a jailer in Rome. The couple had a daughter, Paulina, who was apparently possessed by demons. An exorcist, called Peter, was called in. His main advice to Artemis was to worship Christ as God. This would help to drive out the devil in Paulina. And this, more or less, is what is meant to have happened. Paulina, no longer possessed, joined her parents in converting to Christianity, an act that was to seal their fate.

A magistrate, acting under persecutory imperial orders, demanded that Artemis hand over a whole load of prisoners who had converted to Christianity and had been allowed to escape. Artemis didn't. Which was just one mistake, where the magistrate was concerned. And he, the magistrate, was doubly infuriated by the fact that Peter avoided an awful fate thanks to an angel who freed him. Artemis was beheaded. Candida and Paulina were thrown into a dry well and buried alive because of heavy stones placed over the well.

This jolly tale is therefore the background to Candida's relics, to her having attained co-patronage status in Llucmajor and to the fiestas. And the fiestas shouldn't actually take place in August. Candida's day is in fact 6 June. So, what prompted the fiestas to be allocated to around the second Sunday of August? Farming is the answer, and Llucmajor even now, courtesy of its grand land area, is highly agricultural, even if it is more known for accommodating part of the resort of Arenal and the headquarters of Air Europa.

The second Sunday of August was (is) between some crucial harvests, e.g. apricots and almonds. It is not the only fiesta for which the date was governed by agricultural activity. For example, Santa Margalida's La Beata (Santa Catalina Thomàs) being on the first Sunday of September owes a great deal to historical local farming activity.

Tomorrow, Sunday (13 August), is therefore the big day for Candida. But it won't be riotous. There will be giants, there will be pipers, there will be ball de bot. And there will also be the dances of the cavallets cotoners. As a tradition, these dancers faded away before being revived in 2000. They are in fact one of the very oldest of Mallorca's folk-dance traditions: Llucmajor's cavallets rival Arta's and Palma's in this regard. They were a Franciscan import from Barcelona in the mid-fifteenth century, and their name is derived from the Guild of Cottonmakers in Barcelona, to which ownership of that city's cavallets was ceded in 1437.

Santa Candida - fairly solemn but not overly, and certainly highly traditional.

* Photo of the cavallets cotoners from Viquipèdia.

Friday, August 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 August 2017

Morning high (6.14am): 17.8C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 12 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 13 August - Sun, 30C; 14 August - Sun, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 5 backing East 4 to 5 around midday. Swells of between one and two metres.

A very much cooler night. Outside chance of some rain this morning. Otherwise the unsettled phase is passing.

Evening update (20.00): Cloudier than had been forecast. High of 28.4C.

What Is The Real Shock For Tourism?

Now that they've gone and done it there is almost a sense of shock. It's the immensity which can seem shocking, but do 30,000 illegal tourist rental apartments constitute immensity? This is the number that the tourism ministry reckons that there are in Mallorca.

If one assumes that these 30,000 apartments can accommodate four people, they represent 120,000 places. Another figure that the ministry has been desperate to let us know is the limit that there is to be on all (legal) tourist places on the island: 435,707 (isn't such precision a thing of wonder). The illegal apartment places therefore equate to more than a quarter of this legal figure. Or put another way, they are 25% more than there should be. Immense? I leave that to your own judgement.

More than shock, there is a sense of bewilderment. There is also, inevitably, confusion. The most bewildered are the unfortunate tourists who have booked apartments. There is no best time to introduce legislation, but the rentals' law has come in at the height of summer. People are naturally concerned that they may lose their holidays.

The Aptur holiday rentals association has issued advice to remove all illegal apartments from websites. The threat of fines will exercise many a mind. There will be owners who, to put it crudely, will be bricking it. There are of course those who argue that fines of up to forty grand won't get paid because of legal challenges and even lobbying of Brussels. Perhaps. But who is going to risk that the fines don't stick? Besides, it's not as if there weren't already fines; only that the level has been bumped up.

In isolation, the enforcement of the rentals' law wouldn't be particularly shocking. We have after all known for months that it was coming. But this enforcement isn't in isolation. The timing may be bad for poor tourists worrying about their reservations, but the law has come in against the timing of other events.

The president of the federation of travel agencies associations has described the anti-tourism protests as fascistic. The Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) hasn't used the word fascist, but it has alluded to it. It has written an open letter to Arran in which it compares their protest actions (and the protests of others) to the "great tragedies of the twentieth century". The greatest of those tragedies was fascism.

The protests haven't of course gone unnoticed abroad. Abta and the European Tourism Association (the leading association for tour operators) have both commented. The foreign media have picked up on them. In Spain, they have become an issue for Congress. The Exceltur organisation is calling for an urgent meeting of the Spanish Tourism Council. And while Palma and Barcelona have been at the epicentre, San Sebastian in the Basque Country finds itself embroiled as well. Graffiti was daubed on the Basque Tourism Agency's building on Wednesday.

It could prove to be the case that this is all a flash in the pan, but the protests have an air of coordination. They aren't unique to Mallorca or Spain, but it is here where the focus is centred. It is here where the protests are becoming a matter for the state to get a grip on. The haven of safety away from terrorism in parts of the Mediterranean can appear to be less of a haven. It's terrorism without the violence, though concerns are being expressed about an escalation.

We have other issues, such as the passport-control queues, though these seem to now be being dealt with: passengers are whizzing through. Another is price. This isn't something that has suddenly emerged, given that the prices of holidays have been going up and indeed went up sharply this year. But for some tourists who are now looking ahead to 2018, there is a suddenness. Prices seem to be going through the roof.

Anecdotes on social media about giving Mallorca a miss because of the prices hardly constitute scientific research, but there are anecdotes from people who have been loyal to the island for years and years. They are looking at alternatives. At some point, the anecdotes might actually represent a critical and proven mass.

So ironically, all the fears about mass - tourism, that is - could be dealt with by the operation of the free market, the very market under attack from the protesters for having created saturation. Moreover, so it is being argued, the elimination of the illegal places could push hotel prices up even higher.

We can get wrapped up in all the agonising about a few idiots who are going around putting stickers with anti-tourism messages on hire cars, when in fact the real shock is to be seen on websites. Not adverts for holiday rentals hurriedly being deleted, but prices for holidays. Concern? Not for the government, as it will be hailing the limits on tourist numbers.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 August 2017

Morning high (6.42am): 19.9C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 11 August - Cloud, sun, 28C; 12 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 13 August - Sun, cloud, 30C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6 easing Variable 2 to 4 in the afternoon. Waves of three metres decreasing in the afternoon.

There has been rain and could be some more. Quite windy too. Brightening up in the afternoon.

Evening update (20.00): There was some more rain. Cleared up reasonably enough. High of 26C.

The Apartment Rentals Wolves Are Howling

So, have you removed your advert for an apartment rental in Mallorca from Airbnb? Or from any one of the 83 websites in total over which the tourism ministry is hanging its sword of rental Damocles? Like the websites themselves, you are probably ok until the week after next. The ministry has given the websites a short period of grace to get their accommodation house (apartments) in order. After that, let the fines begin.

It's finally happening then. For years (at least since 1999), successive governments have issued dire warnings each summer about illegal apartment rentals. We all got so used to these stern statements of intent that we came to assume - rightly enough - that they were the crying of wolves. Not now. The wolfpack is on the prowl, and it doesn't even need to leave the office. Website A. Click. Apartment without tourism ministry registration licence number? Click. What shall we fine? Twenty grand? No, go on, let's make it 40 grand. Why not? Click and kerching! The tills of fines revenue ring in the summer air. What lovely loot for the government.

Yes, if you fail to take that advert down, you can anticipate being the provider of a nice little earner for the Balearic administration. It'll be of very little use you trying to wriggle out of it. True, there is a defence. But how can you possibly make it stick, especially as the burden of proof is all yours? It's rented out under the tenancy act, you maintain. Really? Where's the contract? This is point number one. How many of these short-term not-so-called holiday rentals have ever been formalised with a contract?

Second question. Has the visitor paid a deposit, understood to be the equivalent of a month's rent? Well, has this allegedly non-tourist done so? Erm, not as such. Third question. Can you prove that this tenant is not a tourist or traveller? You what!? This is the killer question. It will be almost impossible to prove. Indeed I struggle to see how it can be possible at all. The tenancy act defence is thus rendered totally useless. Redundant. Meaningless. Here, have a fine.

The days, therefore, of the occasional inspector from the tourism ministry or tax agency turning up and frightening tourists who were totally unaware that they were in illegal flats are more or less passed. There will probably still be some knocking on doors, but life has become so much simpler for the inspectorates. Isn't internet technology wonderful. It most certainly is. All those nice websites allowing owners to advertise their flats. All those nice websites opening their doors to the inspectors. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Where do my sympathies lie? On both sides to varying degrees. The government had to act, especially once it became clear that it and whole communities were being eaten by Airbnb. As previously noted, the legislation wasn't going to be like it is. It's all that wonderful internet technology that is to blame. The government suddenly became aware that it existed, as it also became aware of a certain amount of social unrest and Podemos prodding it with a housing emergency pointed stick.

Owners, not all of them, have been getting away with it for years, especially the more corporate variety. Tourists, who are not and never have been to blame, were unknowing participants in an activity not entirely legal. No wonder some might have been shocked when the occasional inspector pitched up in the past. It's not as if anyone was ever going to advise them as to the legality or otherwise. They are now advised. The news of the legislation, the fines is all over the place.

For all that the government needed to intervene, there is nevertheless a sense that it has taken an almighty great sledgehammer to the nut. One of the government's problems is clear. How can it distinguish between a tenant who is a genuine family member and one who is not? I would feel very sorry for any owner who lets his or her family use a flat and gets caught up in all this. Hopefully, some common sense will prevail.

Then there is the owner with one or two apartments who has been renting out to tourists for years either in accordance with the tenancy act or not. There may have been some stretching of the law, but this type of owner now also faces being penalised.

The appetite of Airbnb, however, has meant an impression of everyone getting in on the act, skirting the law and - in certain instances - gobbling up whole portfolios of apartments. At least, though, some apartments will be made legal after the twelve-month moratorium on issuing licences. The question will be where, while certain provisions in the law will in any event automatically exclude them.

But for now the wolf is not crying. It is howling.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 9 August 2017

Morning high (6.15am): 23.9C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 10 August - Cloud, sun, 27C; 11 August - Cloud, sun, 28C; 12 August - Sun, cloud, 30C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 6.

Moon shining brightly out of a mostly clear sky just before dawn. Due to cloud over later. Rain is possible overnight.

Evening update (20.45): Certainly cooler. High of 29.1C. Still on for some possible rain overnight and into tomorrow.

Legitimising Tourismphobia

You probably won't have heard of the Fundéu BBVA. It is a foundation that was created in 2005 by one of the main news agencies, Efe, and the BBVA bank. Fundéu stands for Fundación del Español Urgente. It coordinates its work with the Real Academia Español, the director of which is the foundation's president. The academy supplies the last word on Spanish usage; its dictionary is of biblical proportions in defining what is correct.

"Urgente" means urgent, but in the context of the foundation it has nuance. Emergent is another meaning. Unlike English, for which words are dreamt up and become common usage without any body truly determining their legitimacy or not, Spanish (like French and other languages) has a form of language arbitration. It is the academy which is the arbiter.

Efe's involvement is key to the purpose of the foundation. The news agency seeks to clarify emergent usage and how it is presented. The foundation has, therefore, issued an edict in respect of one of the new words of the moment. "Turismofobia" is perfectly legitimate usage. Moreover, it is not necessary to place it within quote marks or alternatively to italicise it. Turismofobia is here, because Efe and the foundation have decided that it is.

The anglicisation of this - tourismphobia - has been rarely used. I don't know that I can claim to having been the first to have used it, but in 2011, when I did for the first time, it most certainly was new and seemingly unheard of in English. Six years ago, however, it had emerged in Spanish. And Spain, from what I could ascertain in April last year, was still one of the very few countries to have discovered this phobia. Italy was probably in fact the only other. In that country there has most obviously been the phobia in Venice.

Being Spain, there has to be acknowledgement of separate languages. In Catalan it's the same, save for the substitution of a vowel, but Basque is something else. It is "turismo borroka", and I'm reliably informed that "borroka" means fight as opposed to phobia. The actual meaning isn't especially important; the existence of the term is what is.

The Spanish word is, in a way, somewhat misleading. Regions such as Madrid, Andalusia and the Canaries insist that "turismofobia" isn't present. But it is in Catalan-speaking regions and now also in the Basque Country. Nevertheless, the word is on the lips of many a Castellano speaker, including leading hoteliers and politicians: the national minister for tourism, Alvaro Nadal, regularly refers to it.

Accepted and repeated usage brings with it ever broader awareness and diffusion. Tourismphobia has become a social reality, even if it is impossible to say how deep the phobia is or indeed how widespread it is. But the mere fact of its media legitimacy reflects its presence. And there are those who are only too willing to exploit this presence.

Arran in Mallorca maintain that they are not about tourismphobia. Tourism is not going to disappear, they acknowledge, but it needs to be controlled and regulated. It is causing many problems, just one of which relates to workers. Their conditions need to be improved.

In truth, there aren't many sectors which would disagree with the need to improve conditions, including the hoteliers. But the Arran manifesto of expropriation of this, that and the other is quite plainly ridiculous. What will the workers be doing if a sizable chunk of tourism was to disappear? This manifesto, it needs noting, isn't Arran's. It comes from the political party the group claims not to be formally linked with - the CUP in Catalonia.

The bout of tourismphobia that has been recently witnessed is, in my opinion, as much to do with the politics of the agitating far left as it is with tourism per se. Tourism provides a useful and convenient means through which to express this agitation. There are almost quaint echoes of the chaotic situation during the Second Republic, when anarchists were as crucial to the downfall of the Republic as others. Arran are sort of current-day heirs of that anarchy.

It is no coincidence that the Basques are now in on the act. San Sebastian is a city which has witnessed significant tourism growth in recent years. Similar fears about saturation exist there as they do in Palma, but San Sebastian isn't on the same media radar as Palma or Barcelona. Hence, there is the group Sortu, who want to place it on this radar.

It is Catalans and Basques who are fuelling this phobia, and it has to be seen within the context of independence demands. The CUP isn't an irrelevant party: it has ten seats out of 135 in the Catalonian parliament. It has its agenda and it wants to spread it to Mallorca.  

Tourismphobia, Efe has clarified, is here. The question is whether it is here to stay.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 August 2017

Morning high (6.18am): 28.4C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 9 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 10 August - Cloud, wind, 26C; 11 August - Cloud, 27C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 5 to 6 in the afternoon.

The cold front coming in from the mainland will reduce temperatures from tomorrow, but some unsettled conditions expected for today: showers possible this afternoon.

Evening update (20.00): Clouded over in the afternoon and the temperature has dropped in areas by as much as eight degrees. High of 34.5C.

The Independence Of Anti-Tourism

It is perhaps easy to over-exaggerate the anti-tourism actions of Arran. Elements of the UK media - there's a surprise - have done so by their traditional resort to hyperbole. The Palma "attack" provided useful images to support the headlines. Without the flares and the smoke, those images would not have had the same impact. A great deal of "terror" can be spread with the odd flare.

Arran, it is understood, have some 500 members in total. Thirteen of these are said to be in Mallorca. Thirteen. Hardly what you would call, to borrow a current buzzword, "massification". The group denies that it is some sort of youth wing of the Candidatura de Unidad Popular (CUP), the far-left Catalonian political party. It is part of a broader left-wing independence movement. This hasn't stopped the CUP paying fines that Arran members have incurred.

Small the numbers are, but size doesn't matter if you get the publicity right: it's all about the flares. What must have narked Arran was the fact that it initially didn't get any. Despite José Hila having said that the town hall was unaware of what took place on 22 July, one finds that hard to believe. Whether it was aware or unaware, there was a gap of more than a week before the images of the flares flared up. Arran made sure of that.

The delay may have been strategic. The release of the images were on the back of news about incidents in Barcelona. For Arran, for the CUP and others within this independence movement, the Palma restaurant attack was evidence of fraternal and coordinated promotion of independence for the Catalan Lands. The flares of Palma extended a hand of warm greeting across the Mediterranean Sea to the brotherhood in Catalonia.

The anti-tourism protests cannot, therefore, be divorced from the politics of the radical, independence-agitating left-wing. Hila, and how some might now wish he was still mayor, has been the only politician from the left to recognise the Palma incident for what it was: an act of opportunism, the framework for which was the theme of the moment - tourism saturation. Hila, careful not to be seen to be critical of partners at the town hall, also said that there needed to be strong condemnatory statements. One took this as meaning that it wasn't for him, having recently relinquished the post as mayor, to issue such statements. Eventually, his successor, Antoni Noguera, said that 22 July was "reprehensible".

But Noguera and also the tourism minister Biel Barceló (both from the same party, Més) couched whatever condemnation they were willing to display with modification. Barceló shares concerns about saturation and massification, even if the type of protest is not the way to demonstrate these concerns.

Herein, however, lies much of the rub. The political narrative of saturation that has existed over the past couple of years in Palma and Barcelona has proved to be fertile ground for unrest. Arran have merely further politicised the already political. The tardiness of response to events in both cities speaks to political sympathy for the views if not the actions of the radical left. Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, eventually issued a condemnation. It appeared as though it almost had to be coaxed out of her.

Over the past twenty-four months or so since new, left-wing administrations emerged in Barcelona, in Palma and at the regional Balearic government, the narrative has advanced significantly. So also have the legislative tools for supporting this. It needs remembering that when Més came into government in 2015, the party was intent on reforming rentals' legislation that had made legal apartment holiday rentals impossible. Like PSOE, Més had been critical of the previous Partido Popular government because of its hostility towards apartment rentals and its unwillingness to countenance more liberal regulation. Més, in "anti" terms, had the hoteliers in their sights.

In Barcelona, the saturation theme pre-dated the elections. After the elections, though, issues in Barcelona transferred themselves to Palma and to Mallorca. Airbnb was top of the list. The narrative and the consequent legislation have therefore moved to a situation where housing, employment, the environment, the whole concept of sustainability, coexistence between tourist and resident have converged. The Balearic legislation wasn't initially going to be as complex or as restrictive as it has turned out to be. Barceló and others were caught out by Airbnb and the political arguments emanating from Barcelona.

To all this are now added the demands for independence plus a smattering of anarchy. In Catalonia these demands are real ones. In Mallorca they are a pipedream of some on the left. But this independence desire has ratcheted up the narrative surrounding tourism. It is this which Arran are tapping into. One can over-exaggerate what happened because of the lack of independence sentiment, but a tourismphobia, promoted however unwittingly by some of Mallorca's politicians, is less exaggerated. "We are all tourists," Barceló says in defence. Yes, and so also, strangely enough, do Arran.

Monday, August 07, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 7 August 2017

Morning high (7.11am): 22.4C
Forecast high: 34C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 8 August - Sun, cloud, 33C; 9 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 10 August - Cloud, 29C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4 veering South in the afternoon.

A new alert for high temperatures again today.

Evening update (20.45): High of 36.1C.

The Present Day Remains Of Gabriel Alomar

August is the month when Mallorca seems to fall asleep. It takes itself off to a beach and dozes under a somnolent sun. It shades itself on terraces and falls drowsy listening to the gentle rustle of bougainvillea; the breezes, desperately sought, lessen the soporific heat. It wakes from another night of fiesta revelry and decides to turn over, willing a re-energising for yet more nighttime partying to come.

August isn't always like this. It wasn't, for example, in 1936. The heat of high summer was the hell of war. A victim of that conflict was Gabriel Alomar Villalonga. He wasn't a victim through death but, like many others, through exile.

Alomar was born in Palma in 1873. He grew up in Mallorca but was to leave the island and move to Barcelona. He was to become a journalist, a writer, a politician and a diplomat. Mallorca couldn't satisfy his views. It was a conservative land. It is less so now. In Barcelona he was able to join the movement for Catalan nationalism, one that nowadays has ambitions for enveloping Mallorca and the Balearics in a mythical territory - the Catalan Lands. Enduring conservatism of the island, diminished to a degree, today supplies only modest incentive for such ambitions.

Before the war, Alomar became the ambassador to Italy for the Second Republic: Italy, a country gripped by fascism. Alomar would have witnessed at first hand something of what was to overwhelm Mallorca and Spain. When the war broke out, Alomar was back in Spain and in Madrid, for the time being still the seat of government for the Republicans. He signed up to the manifesto of adherence by Mallorcan intellectuals to the culture of Catalonia and to the broader manifesto of Catalans in favour of the Republic. In 1937 he went to Cairo as the commercial attache. It was to prove to be a fortuitous appointment, though he was to die in Cairo on the seventh of August 1941 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery.

His name was largely forgotten, but it was to be remembered as the nascent revival of Catalan culture in Mallorca took its first tentative steps under Franco: the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB) came into being in 1962. Alomar had been one of the standard bearers of Catalan Republicanism, and when the Franco regime ended, his name was well and truly revived.

Thirty-six years after his death, his remains were brought to Mallorca. They arrived in 1977 on an August day that coincided with when he had died. Around one hundred people gathered in silence at the airport. The cask was covered in the Catalan flag, and the mayor, Paulí Buchens, handed it to Alomar's son, Victor. He said that the burial of the remains in the cemetery of Palma should be a simple act not to be exploited by any particular political group. "My father is heritage of the history and people of the islands."

As tourists flew into Mallorca in that August forty summers ago, they would have had no knowledge of this ceremony or of Alomar. Tourism followed a path quite separate from the recent history of the island. Tourism wasn't totally divorced from the island's culture, but the culture it was served was mainly that as it had long been: the trips to Valldemossa and such like. Tourism was also on its branch line of development, one distinct from the environment. Forty summers on, and there is vastly greater awareness of all these, and the awareness that was to be fostered for tourism and tourists owes a great deal to what happened in that summer. Alomar's remains were just one aspect.

In June of 1977 the first elections of the democratic era were held. Against this background there was a whiff of revolution. In July of that year, as an example, the magazine of the federation of revolutionary communist youth groups was demanding that its voice be heard and was advocating advances in sexuality and ecology. A group calling itself "Denúncia i Control Contra la Destrucció Ecològica" was formed. The environmentalists GOB were to the fore in the occupation of the island of Dragonera, protesting at proposed development. Police confronted some 500 Dragonera protesters in Palma's Plaça Espanya. Rubber bullets were fired.

It was a summer that marked a watershed. Environmental awareness was raised to a level that it had never been, but there was also the confirmation of the presence of the counter-establishment, which today finds expression through at least some of the island's politicians. Gabriel Alomar's remains were symbolic. No one political party did claim them. But at the meeting on 6 August that was held to organise the return of the remains, the parties were joined by various groups - the OCB, GOB, the Congress of Catalan Culture. A cask of remains was a symbol of the future, and in a sleepy August in 2017 it is also a symbol of the present.

* Photo of Gabriel Alomar from Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 6 August 2017

Morning high (7.05am): 26.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 7 August - Sun, 33C; 8 August - Cloud, 32C; 9 August - Sun, cloud, 29C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing 3 by the evening. Swells of one to two metres.

Forecast for the coming week currently suggesting a notable drop in temperature on Thursday. We'll see. As for today, more of the same.

Evening update (20.15): Breezier and not nearly as hot. High of 30.6C and little difference inland and on the coasts.

The High Summer High Jinks Of Cabrera

You know how it is. You're a member of an everyday European royal family and you're swanning around on your modest yacht. You're admiring the turquoise, crystal-clear waters of the marine reserve national park of Cabrera. You look admiringly at the velvety white sands of the small archipelago's beaches. But you know that you can't go and "privatise" these beaches by installing some handsome tents and loungers because some oik from Terraferida will be lurking in the undergrowth with a smartphone.

So, you continue on your untroubled way. What about a picnic on board? A little light lobster washed down with some Moët Chandon, for example? Very agreeable. Your man servant is preparing the dish and chilling the champagne, and then what goes and happens? The Guardia Civil happens, that's what. The force's marine service roars up to your yacht, takes one look and apologises. "Sorry, your Majesty. We mistook you for being Algerian. You haven't by any chance seen any illegals, have you?" "They went that-a-way."

With this, the Guardia takes off in hot pursuit of north Africans in far less modest crafts. Hundreds of them, all milling around Cabrera in the forlorn expectation of hitching a ride to Palma. If you're going to land illegally, Cabrera is really the last place to choose. You might continue on your way to Colonia Sant Jordi on your little boat, but you might be forced to fork out an arm and a leg for the eco-friendly vessel that normally does the crossing. And that'll blow a massive hole in the budget for eventually getting the train, having also taken the ferry, and heading for Marseille (other French destinations are possible).

Following this brief disturbance, you return to your tranquil navigation only to then get a message on your Twitter feed. It's from Vince Vidal, he of the regional environment ministry. To your horror, Vince has issued a decree: "The days of Moët and lobster in Cabrera have passed." Nervously, you look around at other modest yachts and wonder if the Terraferida/GOB oiks have commandeered one of them and are aiming long lenses in search of Moët and lobster evidence.

Once more, though, you are able to relax. Vince is aiming his ban at the Partido Popular. Given his Mésite eco-nationalist credentials, you should of course have realised that it was the PP incurring his wrath. And Vince, let's be clear (one assumes) is not a champagne and lobster man: more frito (an abundance thereof, which should of course be referred to as frit rather than frito) and a crate of Saint Mick.

And what exactly have the PP done to awaken Vince from a hard-earned, high-summer slumber? Well, to be honest, the PP haven't really done anything. But a bloke called Joan Pocoví has. Not being intimate with the minutiae of Mallorcan politics and business, you request your man servant to consult Google. It turns out that this Joan fellow once paid for PP politicos to indulge themselves in Moët and lobster in Cabrera. And one of those politicos is the now leader of the PP in the Balearics, Biel Company, who was Vince's predecessor as environment minister; he held this post when enjoying the bubbly.

Joan and Biel, it would seem, are mates. Joan, moreover, is on the Hacienda's radar in respect of the PP's dodgy, so-called B accounts. Vince has been informed that this Joan sort had apparently co-opted a worker with the environment ministry's Ibanat agency to give him a ride to Cabrera. Which was the sort of thing that Biel had also once done when carrying the cool boxes with the champers and the lobster. Vince was incandescent: "We will take decisive measures: we will start by punishing the worker who messes up the good work of Ibanat."

You, being a liberal type of royal and a generally good egg, think that this sounds a tad over the top. But no, Vince is determined to expunge the memory of the Moët days and insists that he will not tolerate this type of behaviour.

Later on, you learn that Biel believes that there have been half truths. "I am not used to commenting on half truths," he states, despite the photographic evidence of Joan arriving at Cabrera. The PP, you further discover, have gone into full-on social media mode. Their "artillery" is taking aim of Vince, who responds by forgetting his normal Catalan and giving a boost to trilingual teaching. In English, he says: "Keep Calm and Love Your Company."

What can this mean, you wonder, especially as you are pretty handy when it comes to the old Anglo. You're unsure, as is mostly everyone else. And despite Vince's fury and the PP artillery, no one much pays this latest champagne moment a great deal of attention. It is high summer after all. Silly season and all that, as well as being a time to take to the water: royal families, PP benefactors and Algerians. "No, they went that-a-way."

Saturday, August 05, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 5 August 2017

Morning high (6.30am): 23.6C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 6 August - Sun, 30C; 7 August - Sun, 32C; 8 August - Sun, cloud, 32C

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

The alert for high temperatures and heat risk is still in place.

Evening update (20.15): Inland high of 35.5C; on the coasts, 33C.

The Impact Of Rentals' Legislation On Pollensa

The Council of Mallorca has a plan for intervention in tourist areas. The acronym is PIAT. This plan forms the basis of decisions to be made on the allocation of zones for additional tourist places under the recent holiday rentals' legislation.

Included in this plan is a map of what is described as the "non-regulated offer" of places for tourist stays. There are certain hotspots, varying shades of orange and red showing areas with the highest number of non-regulated (aka illegal) places per square kilometre. The centre of Palma is the hottest. The red becomes purple: plus 1,000 per square kilometre. Playa de Palma and parts of Calvia have orange or red. Apart from these, the greatest concentrations of darker oranges turning red are on the bays of Alcudia and Pollensa. Most of Alcudia is covered with red or orange. Can Picafort has a red area. Puerto Pollensa is red. This denotes between 250 and 500 illegal places per square kilometre.

The Council says that the two northern bay areas, Palma and Playa de Palma are the island's leaders when it comes to illegal offer. The Council and the government's tourism ministry have them all in their sights. But neither Puerto Alcudia nor Puerto Pollensa (Playa de Muro and Can Picafort for that matter) has been categorised as a so-called mature resort. The ones which are include Playa de Palma, Magalluf and Cala Millor. In these resorts there can be no increase in the overall number of tourist places (hotels, rentals, anything). While this doesn't exclude there being new holiday rentals' places, it makes the creation of new ones very complicated. In order for there to be new ones, the equivalent number have to be removed from the market.

So this situation doesn't obtain in the bay areas. Nor does a further categorisation - that of being "saturated". The mature resorts are all said to be saturated, i.e. they have enough tourist places as it is. In theory, therefore, and subject to the principle of zoning, there can be additional tourist places, e.g. rentals, once the twelve-month hiatus with registration for licences ends.

This may sound like good news, but not necessarily. Resorts such as Magalluf and Cala Millor already know (more or less) where they stand. The bay areas do not. Reading between the lines, one feels that the Council and the tourism ministry have something up their sleeves, and that is because of the high level of illegal offer.

There are marked differences between the bays in terms of accommodation. In Alcudia, the percentage of legal holiday rentals' places is around 20% of the number of hotel places. Alcudia has more than three times the number of hotel places in Pollensa, where, uniquely, the number of legal rentals' places is higher than hotel places.

The Council and the tourism ministry may just take the view that the roughly 9,000 legal places in Pollensa are sufficient. Puerto Pollensa could simply be excluded from the zones. This wouldn't mean the loss of existing legal places but it would mean that there can't be any more.

There is of course a determination to get to grips with the so-called illegal offer. Underlying this is a political necessity to not be seen to be giving a form of amnesty to what has been illegal. The legislation, again in theory, offers the opportunity of legalising apartments that have been marketed "outside the law". The practice, one feels, will be somewhat different. The councillor for land, Mercedes Garrido, who is responsible for defining the zones, has pretty much said that currently illegal accommodation will remain so. In other words, there won't be the chance of making it legal.

The Council hasn't defined exactly how many illegal places there are in Pollensa or Alcudia. It has only given the range per square kilometre. One can, though, make an estimation. The municipality of Pollensa has a land area of almost 152 square kilometres. Not all of Puerto Pollensa or indeed Pollensa and Cala San Vicente are in the 250-500 bracket. Allowing for this and taking a lower average of, say, 150, the total of illegal places would be more than 22,000, a figure which is almost certainly inaccurate. But would around half this number, the majority in Puerto Pollensa, be unrealistic? At an average of four places per property, if these are added to the existing legal supply, one begins to understand why there is something of a housing shortage in a municipality with some 11,500 actual dwellings.

Over the years, and especially once the 1999 tourism law was passed which prohibited apartment rentals, it has constantly been said of successive governments getting tough on the illegal offer that this would have a serious impact on Pollensa's economy. This impact is drawing closer.

The illegal supply in Pollensa has in a sense filled the void of the comparatively low number of hotels. With all the various provisions in the legislation at their disposal, such as overcoming the tenancy act loophole (which admittedly is a nonsense), the Council and the tourism ministry could eliminate a significant chunk of accommodation. And there would be little prospect of a new government of the right - the PP - reversing this, given its previous track record on apartment rentals. The impact is about to be felt.

Friday, August 04, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 4 August 2017

Morning high (6.42am): 23.3C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 5 August - Sun, 32C; 6 August - Sun, 30C; 7 August - Sun, 32C

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

A cooler morning by comparison with yesterday's record temperatures. Yellow alerts in place for heat for today and tomorrow, but the wind pattern is shifting northerly (today at least), which should reduce the oppressive sensation.

Evening update (19.45): Still hot. High of 35C.

Condemn The Silence: Anti-Tourist Attacks

So, where exactly were certain politicians and associations on Wednesday? The news had broken on Tuesday about the Arran anti-tourist attack in Palma on 22 July, but the response was silence. During Wednesday morning I trawled through Twitter and the accounts of Biel Barceló; David Abril (one of the most prominent tourism spokespeople in Més); Més itself; Podemos; Aurora Jhardi of Podemos in Palma; Antoni Noguera, the mayor of Palma; GOB; Terraferida. Not one single mention. When the government finally put up the director-general of tourism, Pilar Carbonell, to make an utterance, she was hardly enraged. Yes, the government rejected the attack, but to then witter on about the need for social and economic balance (which the government is seeking) really didn't cut it.

Was everyone on holiday? Well, Barceló wasn't. He was in the midst of a media interview. Snatches of this appeared on his Twitter account. The holiday rentals' bill will bring guarantees for all those involved; the island councils have been given time for rentals' zoning; the number of tourist places will be controlled ... . Blah, blah, blah. How many more times does he need to say this? Meanwhile, where Arran were concerned, zilch.

Another question that needs asking is: why was this attack with confetti and flares on a restaurant in Palma not mentioned before? It only came to light because Arran made it come to light. More than a week had elapsed. Did no one know about it? The police certainly did, as also did the restaurant manager, various restaurant guests, and undoubtedly a whole host of others, including the owners of boats that were also affected. Palma's Moll Vell is hardly a quiet little backwater.

One has to assume that the town hall was aware of what happened. Was it silent because it didn't wish to draw attention, fearing harm to Palma's tourist image? That is possible, but once it was known about, there needed to be a swift and stern response. There wasn't.

Barcelona town hall had been likewise reticent with regard to the Arran attack on a sightseeing bus. Stung by critical media comment and another attack - the slashing of the tyres of bikes for tourist hire - it suddenly sprang into life, announcing "zero tolerance". Meanwhile in Palma.

Arran are a very, very minority group. Previously, they have been known for attacks against the monarchy, such as the burning of a photo of the King in Palma last December. They have now latched on, in opportunist fashion, to tourism. They are seeking publicity, quite obviously so. They can be ignored for being juvenile irritant idiots, but publicity-seeking by small minorities has the potential of assuming greater significance. Arran's interventions have meant an escalation of so-called "tourismphobia". They as an organisation may be rejected by virtually everyone, but that doesn't make them or the sentiment go away. The failure of the town hall and government (and others) to have issued a forceful condemnation on Wednesday merits as much condemnation as the attack itself.

In business, they refer to crisis management and the process of communications for dealing with PR disasters. The government and the town hall have no such process. Arran can be exaggerated and will be exaggerated, but this doesn't mean silence. It means dealing with negative PR. Questions must be asked of the lamentable lack of crisis management, and these questions become even more pressing as other regional governments - Andalusia, Madrid, Valencia - have all had their say about events. So, why not President Armengol or Vice-President (and tourism minister) Barceló?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 3 August 2017

Morning high (6.46am): 34.3C
Forecast high: 34C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 4 August - Sun, 32C; 5 August - Sun, 33C; 6 August - Sun, 31C

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

You would think that records have been set for overnight temperatures. It had in fact been up to 36 locally around 2am. Amber alert for heat today.

Evening update (20.15): Sa Pobla has banged out another 40.5C high today. Coastal high of 39C. At quarter past eight, still up around 34-35C.

The Deserts Of Summer

It has been quite hot recently, which is an understatement. The maximum (and this article was written on Tuesday) has been 40.5C. This was in Sa Pobla on Sunday. Sa Pobla is typically one of the hottest of weather hotspots on the island, although it doesn't enjoy (if that's the right word) the honour of having registered the all-time record. Its neighbour Muro achieved this in July 1994: the highest official temperature ever in Mallorca was 44.2C. It was that hot that on the same day - 4 July - Lluc in the mountains sweltered with 42.6C.

We are of course regaled with tall tales of current temperatures having matched Muro's record or even surpassed it. Quite probably so, if the wrong measure - direct sunlight - is taken. There can seem to be almost a desire to claim such exceptionally high temperatures as some type of badge of honour. Look, it's 45C!

Be careful what you wish for, and all that. At least in Mallorca it has never got as hot as on the mainland. Unreliable measures suggest that 50C was registered in Seville in 1876 and 1881. The more reliable ones suggest that the highest was recorded last month: 47.3C in Montoro, Cordoba. In 1994, Murcia knocked out 47.2C.

The Aemet met office, bless it, issues its long-range forecasts for the summer and is always suitably vague. This summer's effort said that the heat would be normal, that there would be the odd heatwave and that there could be a certain instability from the middle of August. Never!? Who would ever have thought that? For the record, 15 August two years ago was that bad that the Can Picafort duck swim had to be cancelled. The rain wasn't the problem; the mad state of the sea was.

The question is - what is normal? Despite the mid-August hiccup in 2015, that was a very hot summer. So was 2016. It's possible that this one could eclipse all others, and the pattern since May has been very similar to the unbearable summer of 2003, which was so hot (and not just in Mallorca and Spain) that people were expiring. Prior to 2003, one can go back to the phenomenal heatwave of 1994 and also to 1983 to find examples of very hot summers.

Because there have been exceptional summers in the past - the ones of 1876 and 1881 must have been, even if the records were unreliable - are the summers now being experienced just one of those things that nature serves up? Perhaps they are. Or perhaps not.

Mallorca is lucky in that there aren't the kind of extreme conditions in parts of the mainland. Take the area around Cartagena, for instance. That's in Murcia, with its all-time high that may or may not still be a record. The summer of 2015 produced something of an agricultural disaster; for farmers with almond trees at any rate. Thousands of trees died off not because of pest but because of the excessive heat. The trees were in effect being roasted. They are now planting less and less in the countryside around Cartagena. And what does get planted has to contend with the extremes: Murcia was more badly affected by last winter's floods than Mallorca was.

The rain was welcome, but the lack of precipitation has been evident for some twenty years. The area is becoming increasingly like a desert.

According to researchers who have had their work published in the journal Science, within seventy years from now the current desert conditions in the south-eastern part of Spain will have spread greatly. The Iberian Peninsula will be divided into two along a line from Lisbon in Portugal to Alicante in Valencia. South of this divide will be desert.

We are of course used by now to all manner of predictions as to the consequence of climate change, e.g. rising sea levels, and are also used to those who have their heads in the sands in denial. In Murcia's interior, they needn't worry about drowning  (not in summer anyway); on Murcia's coast and on the coasts of other parts of Mediterranean Spain, they should worry, if the sea rises as much as it is feared that it might.

Evidence for the advance of desert on the mainland seems irrefutable, and the national government is just one body that is stuck in the sand. There has been no update of the national action plan against desertification for ten years. It might take a while, but the seat of government may wish to reactivate this plan when it realises that temperatures in Madrid are on a par with what they are now in north Africa.

In Mallorca, there isn't such an extreme, but it is argued that the Mediterranean will warm up more than any other part of the globe because of climate change. Hot summers? Yes, and getting hotter.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 2 August 2017

Morning high (6.41am): 26.9C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 3 August - Sun, 36C; 4 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 5 August - Sun, 32C

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

A cloudy morning again, and cloud expected most of the day. It'll be steamy and sweaty in the narrow street when the Moors and Christians clash in Pollensa this evening.

Evening update (20.30): Punishing. A high of 39.4C in Pollensa. For once, the coastal high was almost the same - only one degree lower.

Terrorising The Tourist Bus

Imagine that you are a tourist taking a trip on the sightseeing bus in Palma or even one (of seemingly several) in Alcudia. You are enjoying the sights. Here is the Cathedral. Or there, in Alcudia, is the site of the old Roman town of Pollentia. While you are enjoying this ride, you are suddenly shocked. More than just shocked. You are scared witless. Four terrorists wearing hoods have leapt onto the bus.

On Thursday last week, tourists in Barcelona were presented with just this scenario. They thought the attackers were terrorists. They weren't. They were four members of Arran, the revolutionary youth movement. A Dutch tourist, with his children, certainly thought they were terrorists. He told a radio station that he had believed they were.

The sightseeing bus had its tyres slashed. Graffiti was daubed on it. The principal message was that tourism kills the neighbourhoods, i.e. the local residential areas which are meant to be for the people of Barcelona. They have been invaded by tourists. By holiday rentals. By Airbnb.

The incident occurred by the Camp Nou football stadium. News of it only emerged almost three days later. The town hall, the police had given no notification of its occurrence. It was, however, noted on social media, not least by Arran themselves. Tourism, the group averred, damages the working classes. And in case anyone wasn't getting the message or thought the bus invasion hadn't taken place, they supplied video evidence.

Arran is linked to a political party known as Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP). Of the extreme left, the CUP advocates anti-capitalist Republicanism, bank nationalisation, Catalonian independence and Spain's exit from the European Union and NATO. The CUP has ten seats (out of 135) in Catalonia's parliament. Either directly or via Arran, it has associations with Valencia and the Balearics, where another link is via Endavant, the socialist organisation for national liberation.

Both Arran and Endavant were involved with the latest display of anti-tourist sentiment in Palma last week. As such, therefore, one can't wholly rule out there being a repetition in Palma of what took place in Barcelona with the sightseeing bus. The two cities are, where anti-tourist protest is concerned, pretty much joined at the hip. But Barcelona is where this protest has been much stronger. There was a previous incident involving the sightseeing bus (blocking its way so that it was stuck for a considerable time). There was a protest against Harmony of the Seas when the giant cruise ship sailed for the first time from Barcelona's port. There have been occupations of apartments and anti-Airbnb banners shown. In May this year, several hotels were "attacked".

In their social media statements, Arran stated that the bus attack was not "tourismphobia". Rather, it was a defence against "barriocidio", which can be translated as something like a form of neighbourhood genocide. The working class is condemned to "misery" because of mass tourism. Arran therefore is fighting against a "predatory and murdering" tourism model. This model creates jobs that are only insecure and temporary. It gentrifies cities. It benefits only a few. There is the need for an alternative and sustainable tourism model.

When one considers all of this, some of it could have been said by Balearic politicians, certainly those of Més or Podemos. In Barcelona, the town hall is headed by Ada Colau. Her grouping, Barcelona en Comú, is a coming-together of her own movement against evictions and political entities of the left. It isn't Podemos but it has some similarities.

One of the councillors with Colau's grouping is Agustí Colom. He is responsible for employment, business and tourism. Faced with what happened with the bus - the town hall having not even previously acknowledged the incident - he has said that the town hall is looking to see if there is any basis for legal action. The impression given is that the town hall is in no desperate hurry to establish the facts and therefore the need for such action. It is being suggested that the town hall will brush it all off in the same way it did with the "attacks" on the hotels, which were more or less categorised as having been a bit of fun.

The bus incident wasn't terrorism in that no one was targeted and no one was hurt. But it was terrorism insofar as tourists were terrorised. To even hint that it was only some youthful revolutionary high-jinks would be utterly irresponsible. But are administrations, such as Barcelona's and perhaps also Palma's, creating the environment for this type of terrorising? Why was Barcelona town hall so apparently reticent in recognising what took place? For fear of damaging the city's tourism image? And where, one might ask, could it lead?

Palma should take note. Some of its councillors should be very careful with what they say.

* Since writing this (on Monday), the town hall and the Catalonian government have said that they will take action against the bus attack. They have also denounced another incident involving Arran: tyres on bikes for rental to tourists in Barcelona were slashed. Jaume Collboni, the second deputy mayor, says that the incidents of "tourismphobia" are expressions of xenophobia that are to be condemned. Barcelona is a "democratic and open city" and there will be "zero tolerance" if similar incidents occur.

On 20 July, Arran were also behind an attack on a restaurant in Palma's Moll Vell. Confetti was thrown over clients and their food and flares were let off.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 1 August 2017

Morning high (6.35am): 25.9C
Forecast high: 34C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 2 August - Sun, cloud, 34C; 3 August - Sun, 36C; 4 August - Sun, 31C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4 backing Northeast in the afternoon.

Rather better forecast for today in that the highs aren't threatening to reach what had been hinted at previously. It should also be mostly sunny rather than cloudy. However, it is very cloudy first thing and muggy.
A change in breeze pattern that had looked as though it would cool things slightly from tomorrow now doesn't seem likely.

Evening update (20.00): Cloud around throughout the day. Inland high of 37C; coastal high of 33.7C.

The Modest Benefits Of Saturation

Saturation. The word first really became popularised in tourist terms two summers ago. It was applied primarily to Palma and in particular to the impact of cruise ships and of cloudy days, when hire cars bring masses of additional tourists to the city and clog the roads. Since then, it has become all-embracing, with Airbnb and its like having been fingered along with Aena and airport traffic. Mallorca is saturated.

The simple view is that this is purely a phenomenon of high summer. This is too simple. Saturation, as in far more tourists than have been typical in the past, occurs from the springtime. This earlier "invasion" should be perceived as a positive. By and large it is. But the elevated numbers of people, the increased volume of traffic (hire cars, transfer coaches, delivery trucks), the additional pressures on beaches and resources, the distortion of the market for accommodation, the higher level of airport movement create their perceptions. Whatever the arguments about tourism quality versus tourism quantity, the perception is of vastly greater quantity, and the perception is not wrong.

In order to gain an appreciation of this perception, there are the surveys. These attempt to give scientific insight to saturation. While the surveys, conducted in accordance with accepted standards for accuracy, reveal their conclusions, they are subject to a further pressure caused by saturation: the degree to which the discussion of saturation is in the public domain and the propaganda that comes with it. If you ask people for their perceptions, then they will answer with guidance that influences these perceptions.

The latest survey by the Gadeso researchers discovers, inter alia, that 80% of Balearic citizens perceive that the islands are saturated. This sensation is felt fractionally more in Mallorca and Formentera than in Menorca and Ibiza. There is a 75% or above perception when it comes to main roads (including motorways), to excessive use of resources, and to beaches and their access.

The survey doesn't compare like with like. In September last year, Gadeso found that 80% of citizens had perceived increased saturation. The current survey doesn't ask about an increase. Saturation has, if you like, become an embedded reality. Or this is one way of interpreting the results.

Another survey by Gadeso, this one conducted in June, asked tourists in Mallorca what they thought about services, infrastructure and so on. The results of tourist surveys tend not to show great variance from one to another, but there were a couple of indicators worthy of mention. Compared with the previous year, access to beaches had slumped from 4.7 to 4.1. Asked about "massification" (which can be used interchangeably with saturation), this was rated more negatively than in 2016 when there had been greater negativity than in 2015. The increase in negativity was, however, up by three times.

Bear in mind that this was in June, so not the height of the summer. Yet here were tourists themselves complaining about a sense of increased saturation and of overcrowding at beaches. In addition, they rated cleanliness notably lower, and this, one has to conclude, may well owe at least something to there being more people.

Returning to the latest survey, one of the more extraordinary findings relates to the strengths of tourism. Under a half of those surveyed (48%) agreed that it is the basis of well-being. It is difficult to discern of this was well-being in general or at an individual level. But either way, for the islands' principal industry to be considered in such a way seems almost bizarre. Or does this finding in fact reveal an ambivalence towards tourism? People aren't sure whether it's positive or negative.

And from a negative point of view, further findings on jobs and incomes speak volumes. A mere 22% said that tourism generates jobs. Only 20% felt that incomes will rise this year. More than 80% believed that there is excessive dependence upon tourism.

The tourism-employment equation is fundamental to all the discussion of tourism quality versus quantity. While the government seeks to pursue policies designed to alleviate saturation and its consequences for the environment, roads, services and the rest, it speaks in only vague terms about redistribution of wealth, raising the quality of employment and economic diversification. The government, in truth, is trapped in the same corner that others have been. It fully understands that there is far too much reliance on tourism, but addressing this reliance in any meaningful way is a challenge without obvious solutions.

Saturation won't necessarily persist if there is a correction in Mediterranean tourism and geopolitics cease to be less influential than they have been. Then what? Where the citizens in the survey are concerned, saturation has been only modestly beneficial. The government can talk all it likes about generating quality employment. But what about employment, period?

Monday, July 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 July 2017

Morning high (6.06am): 22C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 August - Cloud, 37C; 2 August - Cloud, sun, 32C; 3 August - Sun, 32C

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

Quite likely that highs inland will touch 40C again today. There are significant variations with coastal temperatures, for which the forecast high of 33C will probably be more accurate. As for tomorrow, there is an amber alert whereas it is yellow today.

Evening update (20.00): Not as hot as yesterday. A high of only 37.4C.

The Very Best Of The North Of Mallorca



The coming week demonstrates just how vibrant popular culture is in the north of the island. It is a week marked by two festivals and one of the grandest of fiesta occasions not only in the north but on the whole island. The Sa Pobla Jazz Festival starts today, the first concert for the Pollensa Music Festival is next Saturday, and on Wednesday - and really needing no introduction - it is the Moors and Christians battle in Pollensa. It is a week during which the north shows itself off to Mallorca and beyond.

The Sa Pobla Jazz Festival celebrates its twenty-third staging. The festival, rather like Pollensa's, ran into some problems during the years of economic crisis. They were financial. The festival has long prided itself on attracting international artists and on presenting them for free. Such a principle was almost inevitably going to run into obstacles at some point, which is what happened. The cost of the artists, of their travel and their accommodation was just one of the financial concerns. So much so that the festival was threatened. Until, that is, sponsorship and collaborative arrangements were put in place. A brief dalliance with charging (a meagre three euros) no longer applies. The concerts are once more free.

This year's festival shows how it constantly evolves. There is a return to spacing out the main concerts rather than their being concertinaed into successive days, but there is also a whole series of "off festival" concerts, which means that the whole season lasts much longer than previously. From today until Sunday, 27 August there will be a concert every evening in the Plaça Major.

Starting things off is veteran saxophonist Ernie Watts. His remarkable CV owes much to legendary drummer Buddy Rich. Watts was the lead sax player in the Rich orchestra. Over the years he has played with various other jazz legends - Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Pat Metheny - and on a broader level with Marvin Gaye, Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones. With his quartet he has more than twenty albums under his belt.

The second main concert is on Wednesday, 9 August. Richard Bona - bassist and vocalist - explores the crossover between African music and American/European jazz in a mix called Mandekan Cubano. He himself is from Cameroon rather than Cuba. Guilia Valle is Italian but lives in Barcelona. She is one of the most creative bassists on the whole international jazz scene. Her trio, which performs on 16 August, includes the top-rated Menorcan pianist Marco Mezquida.

A few years ago, the Pollensa Music Festival looked doomed. Founded in 1962 by British violinist Philip Newman with the help of key figures at the Club Pollença and town hall, the festival lost funding from the regional tourism ministry. The government was cutting back because of crisis, and cultural events took a hit.

A great deal of credit for the festival's survival has to go to its former director Joan Valent. World renowned for his film scores, Valent was brought in as its saviour. He called in favours from his many contacts, who included the British pianist and composer Michael Nyman. The festival's future was secured.

But not everyone was happy with how the festival was developing. Valent broadened its scope, even including gastronomy. It was a Mexican theme one year that attracted certain criticism, not least because Valent spends much of his time in Mexico. The criticisms, however, were very unfair. The festival owes a great debt to him, including the fact that he dipped into his own pocket.

No longer the director, the organisation of the festival is now a collaborative exercise, and its focus has returned solely to the concerts. The first, on Saturday, 5 August, features the Gabrieli Consort, a choir and period instrument orchestra founded and led by its artistic director Paul McCreesh. The Gabrieli mission is "to challenge common and accepted perceptions of classical music, and to re-invigorate and innovate in order to sustain the relevance of these great pieces of art in the twenty-first century".

Amidst all this music, we have the climax to Pollensa's La Patrona. The Moors and Christians will battle it out as they do every year from seven in the evening on 2 August. There is total continuity with the final day of the fiestas - it's the same each year - from the Alborada at five in the morning to the Thanksgiving following the battle and to the fireworks. One of the great days of summer, if not the greatest.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 July 2017

Morning high (6.34am): 21.1C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 31 July - Sun, 33C; 1 August - Cloud, 36C; 2 August - Cloud, sun, 31C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 3 to 4.

Locked into a wind pattern from the southeast which is generating the high temperatures, this may swing northerly by midweek and cool things down a tad. A good night tonight for the fireworks in Playa de Muro.

Evening update (19.15): High of 39.9C inland in Sa Pobla: up to six degrees lower on the coast.

When The King Met Balti

Do you suppose that when the King's packing for his summer hols he thinks to himself who on Earth are the Mallorcans going to drag out for me this time? One guesses that he doesn't need to as he is already well aware. The Royal Household presumably has a sort of regional politician ProZone software analysis replete with video footage to put on DVD for his Majesty. The King will know in advance how to play the Mallorcan politicos.

He's getting used to it. Francina and her ilk are a piece of cake, as they conform to the norm for the smiling photo opportunities. Others are less so. Previously the King was confronted with Xe-Lo. Why doesn't His Majesty, rather than splash out for the Almudaina thrash, spend it all on soup kitchens for the downtrodden citizens of Palma, she inquired of him. The question hadn't, though, prevented Xe-Lo attending the thrash and eating all the pies.

Balti is another thing altogether. How often does the Royal Household arrange audiences for the King and haul in the bass guitarist from a heavy rock band? Not too often, one would think. What do they talk about? Does Balti offer tips on Converse footwear? Might the King (and Queen) think about kitting out the nippers with such informal feet furniture? We'll find out tomorrow when the family does its annual photo pose in the Marivent Gardens (appropriately closed to the general public). If it's anything like last year, Balti will be disappointed. The royal 2016 collection was like a Marks and Sparks summer pastels range with a slight nautical theme for him and her and the kids. There was certainly no sign of any Converse.

The King, you may not know, does Facebook, though one suspects that someone does it for him. If he really did it, one might expect one of those hilarious (sic) interventions on statuses which goes - That awkward moment when you ... (add as applicable). In the King's case, it would be - That awkward moment when you are presented with an extreme Republican with hair down his back and a pair of Converse sneakers. To which, if it were really him and his friends, Tizzy might reply - "You ok, hun?"

In fact, the King might want to have a word with whoever at the Royal Household does his Facebook page. There are four snaps of him with the happy politicos. And they are all obviously happy. Francina is positively radiant and beaming. Balti is clearly delighted. Mick of the Council is pleased enough with himself, while Noggin of Palma town hall bears the contented look of someone who has just been made mayor (which he has). The King on the other hand ... .

But if one looks carefully at the King's status with these photos, one finds in the accompanying texts that Francina, Mick and Noggin are, respectively, D.ª Francina Armengol i Socías, D. Miquel Ensenyat Riutort and D. Antoni Noguera Ortega. They are therefore either Dona or Don. But with Balti it's just Baltasar Picornell i Lladó. No Don for Balti. Perhaps he had requested there shouldn't be. Either way, we should be told.

* The King on Facebook: https://es-es.facebook.com/FelipeReyfelip/