Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Yes indeed, a very happy new year to all - all working and living here and of course who will be visiting in 2007.

Coming up over the next day or so, when I’ve sobered up, the annual awards of the year. Not to be missed.

Nothing much to say other than cheers, and have a good one, but here are two little gems that I noticed over the couple of days.

On tattoos - a must (it would seem) for most who visit Alcúdia and increasingly Pollensa - Philip Howard in “The Times”, responding to a question in his “Modern Times” column. “I think they (tattoos) display vanity and epidermal infantilism.” Don’t ask me to translate.

And then there’s the always wonderful Jeremy Clarkson. In “The Sunday Times”, reflecting on Tony Blair’s stay with Robin Gibb and people’s choice of a holiday destination: “Anyone who goes to France votes Conservative. Anyone who goes to Italy votes Labour, and anyone who goes to Spain has, at some point in the recent past, held up a post office.

Love it.

Lucky grapes, and have a belting new year.

Index for December 2006

6-0-6 - 13 December 2006
Air tax - 7 December 2006
Alcúdia - 19 December 2006
Alcúdia Auditorium - 29 December 2006
Andratx - 3 December 2006, 6 December 2006, 19 December 2006, 30 December 2006
Ayers, Kevin - 29 December 2006
BBC - 13 December 2006
Bougainvillaea - 9 December 2006
Carretera Arta - 6 December 2006
Cats - 9 December 2006
Christmas - 23 December 2006, 26 December 2006
Corruption - 3 December 2006, 6 December 2006, 19 December 2006, 30 December 2006
ESRA - 23 December 2006
Expats - 13 December 2006, 23 December 2006
Five Live - 13 December 2006
Football - 13 December 2006
Giants - 19 December 2006
Guardia Civil - 3 December 2006
Hidalgo, Eugenio - 3 December 2006
Holidays - 6 December 2006
Hotels - 9 December 2006
Iberostar Albufera Park - 9 December 2006
Internet - 13 December 2006
Language - 13 December 2006
Magaluf - 23 December 2006
Matas, Jaume - 3 December 2006, 6 December 2006
Motorway - 21 December 2006, 23 December 2006
New Year - 29 December 2006, 31 December 2006
Palma Airport - 21 December 2006, 30 December 2006
Pane y Vino - 6 December 2006
Pizzeria - 6 December 2006
Playa de Muro - 9 December 2006
Policlinica Miramar - 9 December 2006
Political parties - 3 December 2006, 6 December 2006
Radio - 13 December 2006
Radio London - 13 December 2006
Road accidents - 21 December 2006, 23 December 2006
Roads - 6 December 2006, 21 December 2006
Rodriguez, Jose María - 30 December 2006
Service - 9 December 2006
Supermarkets - 23 December 2006
Tattoos - 31 December 2006
Tourism economics - 21 December 2006, 30 December 2006
Traditions - 19 December 2006
Via Cintura - 21 December 2006
Weather - 6 December 2006, 7 December 2006, 19 December 2006, 21 December 2006, 23 December 2006, 26 December 2006, 29 December 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Panto And Pants Down

The panto season is upon us. Yes, even in Mallorca. And they flocked to the parliament building yesterday to see this year’s smash hit farce. Slapstick humour at its finest as Jose María Rodriguez, challenged to deny he had tipped off the Andratx mayor, repeatedly said he didn’t do it. “Oh yes, you did,” kept coming the opposition’s riposte.

But presumably the trio accused of having their pants down (bribery and money laundering) were not there, nor was Captain Hook, the PP’s leader Jaume Matas, who was accused by the socialists of making Rodriguez a scapegoat. “BEHIND YOU, HE’S BEHIND YOU!”

Anyway, while we wonder if they’ll all live happily ever after, good news on the tourism front. Confirming this year’s record number of visitors, tourism boss Joan Flaquer has announced that 12,272,323 tourists came to the Balearics this year during January and November. Hats off for such precision counting! And that number represents a 7.4% increase over the same period last year.

Of this 12million+ figure, only half a million did not arrive by air. This wholly unremarkable bit of info clearly impressed “The Bulletin” who captioned a shot of people at an airport (Palma’s, one presumes) with this: “Most tourists visiting the Balearics prefer to arrive by air”. Brilliant.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Kevin Ayers

New year is nearly upon us. Always more of a gig than Christmas round these parts. You can check out times and stuff on the sister blog for What’s On (in the menu). Apart from the midnight craics in Alcúdia and Pollensa on the night of the 31st, there is something happening on the 30th which for any ageing hippy who might be reading this will bring back memories.

Kevin Ayers. Remember him. Yes, the Kevin Ayers, a survivor of psychedelia, one who begat The Soft Machine and was a contemporary of the likes of Syd Barrett. To be honest, I didn’t think he had survived, but he has, and he’s playing the Auditorium in Alcúdia. God knows what he’ll be like now. He did have his moments way back then, most of them not with The Soft Machine who were one of the most unlistenable-to and boring acts of the early prog-rock genre. But here he is, still doing his stuff, and in Alcúdia of all places. And if you’re really interested, visit

Weather note: all that rain meant that some 211 litres per square metre dropped on Pollensa trhoughout December, 27% more than average. There, knew you’d appreciate that little stat.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Molt D’Anys!

The diabolical weather duly brought reports of the havoc that was wrought. The north did suffer more than most of the rest of the island, with many a basement flooded. My neighbour has a sizeable basement - or, in effect, an underground car park - which always captures a fair old amount of water, so there is a pumping system to clear it all out (and flood the road, as the drains can’t cope).

But the awful weather suddenly, miraculously almost, changed over the night of Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was just perfect. Clear blue skies and warm - a remarkable contrast that has continued today.

Boxing Day is a holiday here; it is actually the second day of Christmas. In keeping with, for example Germany, there are two days of Christmas. Accordingly, the general greeting - in Spanish - is “felices navidades” (“happy Christmases”) as opposed to the singular “feliz navidad”. Though if you’re doing the Catalan, you can get away with just one Christmas, as in “bon nadal”, though the most common greeting one hears is “molt d’anys” (which sounds liike molt dines). This means literally “much of the years”, and while it is used at other times, it is prevalent around Christmas.

And to show what a Mallorcan Boxing Day looks like, here’s a shot. Well, at least here’s a shot from the back of the Palace de Muro hotel, looking across the pier by the Esperanza towards Puerto Alcúdia that was taken this morning.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas

To everyone out there, a very merry Christmas, with a special greeting from the Alcudia "horse".

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dreaming Of A Wet Christmas

Jeez, this weather is not getting any better. The wind coming in from the sea is that strong you can barely move against it. There was some nutter kitesurfing this afternoon. Thunder rumbles now and then, downpours are regular; driving is a nightmare. There was another motorway accident yesterday - three killed near to the Consell turning between Inca and Palma.

You might think that the lousy weather is what makes things so quiet at present. But not so. The last Saturday before Christmas. You might think the shops, especially the supermarkets would be packed. Not the case. At half ten this morning, the local Eroski Syp had about a dozen customers. Christmas just ain’t such a big deal, albeit that the supermarket had bowed to the seasonal plague of Christmas muzak - Bing Crosby’s “A White Christmas” and all.

A further reason for the quietness is that a lot of the Brits who live here decamp to Magaluf for the annual ESRA Christmas shindigs (if one can use such a word). ESRA is the English Speaking Residents’ Association, a worthy body in many respects, one that does good works and that helps those in need, but - personally - a Christmas (in Magaluf) with a bunch of expats; not my cup of tea, thank you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Black Thursday

I had an appointment in Palma at ten this morning. Had. Didn’t make it. I was in two minds anyway. The appalling weather was still at it - high winds and heavy rain - but I thought it might be brighter closer to Palma. It was - a bit. But then there was ... the gridlock. For the third time in the past ten days or so, much of the road system in Palma was at a stop. I should have known than to stick in a queue for half an hour before deciding to turn back (itself not that easy on the motorway here). That queue was to get onto the Via Cintura in the Andratx direction. Nothing doing. Nothing doing for a seriously long period of time.

I don’t know what the cause was. An accident almost certainly. No motorway is immune - anywhere. But there is much about the road system here that doesn’t help. Entry and exits taking the same slip road for instance; the closeness of entry slips to divisions in the road. That was the combination that was the seen of a recent accident, and you can see how easily it can happen. As you come to the end of the motorway from Inca before joining the Via Cintura, there is an entry slip, and just past it the road divides - one way to the airport and Palma centre, the other towards Andratx. If you’re not in the right-hand lane for Andratx, you have to cross, and hope to God that something’s not entering at speed from the slip.

The driving here may be manic, but the road system’s pretty lunatic, too. Result - BANG! Bang, and gridlock.

So, I thought I’d start these pieces wirh headlines instead. Hence, “Black Thursday”. Well, if the “Bulletin” can get away with its naff hyperbole so can I. There was another example today. “British Tourism Falls ....” Er yes, the number of passengers from Britain passing through the airport last month was down 8%. Big, bloody deal. And in the report that followed, there was a highly pertinent “however” that introduced the fact that the Balearics will be a popular destination over the forthcoming holiday period. Headline-grabbing. Well ok, but ...

Not that the Balearics will prove to be that popular with folk coming for Christmas if this weather doesn’t get its arse in gear. Truly dreadful.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When Giants Dance

Traditions, traditions. Mallorca has its traditions. I’ve spoken of them in the past. We are entering a period of strong local tradition - the Kings, Nit Bruixa, Sant Sebastià. On Sunday, there was a little bit of revived tradition - in Alcúdia. The giants danced for the first time in many a year. The giants are to the town of Alcúdia what the beach is to the resort. They help to define the town. They stand in front of the town hall during the summer fiesta of Sant Jaume, and now they can dance once again, thanks to some nifty remodelling. And of course people go to see them dance, as they go to see the Kings arrive or go to be chased by the devils of Sant Antoni Eve.

What do we British have? I’ve said it before. Very little. Even something like Hallowe’en has been overtaken by the Americanisation of trick ‘n’ treat (albeit that some areas especially in the north of England have long had their own celebrations such as “mischievous night”). Somehow I couldn’t see the population of, say Basingstoke, pitching up to watch some dancing giants. Too sophisticated for that sort of malarkey.

The Andratx scandal rumbles on. One of the central characters - Jose María Rodriguez - has been forced to issue a denial that it was he who tipped off the mayor. But it also would seem that his phone was being tapped prior to the police intervention.

And weather ... Grey and greyer, at least in the north. The clouds are hanging permanently over the mountains, and it has been very, very wet these past two days. Yet this morning - in Palma - it was clear. One of the island’s oddities is that there can - on occasion - be a very distinct north-south divide weather-wise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Language / Radio

Spain, it would seem, is the second-favoured destination (after Australia) for Brits seeking to escape the ghastly British climate and other negatives, such as marauding ASBO cases and Ant and Dec. Unlike Australia, however, Spain does not have “Neighbours”, cricket or a predominantly English language (setting aside any bastardisations of English down under and the insidious encroachment of the “moronic interrogative” - as Rory McGrath dubbed it - whereby some finish sentences with a questioning up-stress). It is the absence of English that makes life in Spain a tad difficult for some. All that nice weather, but why do they have to speak foreign?

Learning a language, or rather learning the language of the country in which one resides, seems to me a matter of - at least - courtesy. It does also have some practical advantages, such as being able to tell people eating Ritz biscuits at reception desks that they are being rude. But for many expats - and there are great numbers of them here - getting to grips with “the native” extends to no more than a handful of words and phrases - if that.

Now, I make no pretence to being fluent in Spanish, while my Mallorquin is non-existent, but I have made the attempt with the dominant lingo (castellano or Castilian to use the anglicised term). I can conduct business in Spanish, moan at people in Spanish, read newspapers in Spanish.

There are reasons why expats do not learn the language very well. One is sheer laziness. Two is an expat culture of surrounding oneself only with other expats (the ghetto mentality). Three is embarrassment with trying to use the language - and failing. Four is the difficulty.

It is difficult. No one can say it’s easy. It is also a fact that the older one gets, the more difficult it becomes. But it’s not impossible.

Problem is that for many English-speakers, Spanish (for which also read most other European languages) has not become a “lazy” language like English. For instance, whereas verb conjugation in English requires little change, Spanish does. For anyone who either didn’t learn French at school, or has forgotten it or who never took it in the first place, the concept of elements of a verb being different is a tricky one to get your head around. Then there is masculine and feminine, adjectival endings, the use of the present to mean the future. And they say Spanish is one of the easier languages (it is compared to some - German or, God forbid, Czech or the impenetrable Finno-Ugric tongues).

There are plenty of courses available. I know people, for example, who attend classes in Puerto Pollensa. The problem with classes - of anything up to 20 people - is that everyone is at different levels and personal teacher help is low. I learnt with a teacher one-on-one. Much better. It costs, and you have to do homework, but it was worth it. Moreover, I learnt in a structured way. Now, the language teaching industry will say that everyone has different learning styles. True, up to a point, but I defy anyone to really come to terms with a language unless they understand the structure - which means grammar and syntax.

Someone said to me when I was first here. “Oh, I can teach you, just from a few phrases ...” Bollocks. So, after a minute I was able to say “cómo estás”. Great. Did I know the root of estás? Did I know that it might not be appropriate in all circumstances? Did I know that there are two verbs “to be” in Spanish, and the difference between them? Did I stuff.

And so you get this rather bullshit approach to teaching. It doesn’t work. But maybe for those expats who would rather - having been here for some years - still only hang out at expat bars, make shop assistants try and understand their English, or get someone along to always translate, it’s good enough. There again, why not try Australia ...

So much for the above. I haven’t gone native. I haven’t totally embraced Mallorcan culture. I have my connections with England. I listen to BBC radio. I can get a buzz hearing the road reports on Five Live’s Drive. Operation Stack. M25. A406 Staples Corner. H-hmm!

Five Live is usually my radio channel of choice. Sad git that I am, I also get a buzz from listening to the footie phone-ins. Trouble is, 6-0-6 is crap. Not what it was in the days of the peerless Danny Baker. But I still listen, or rather I don’t. Because it is often 7:30-0-6 (or 8:30-0-6) if you take into account the hour’s difference. And then there are the times when the Beeb’s streaming (of events like Premiership games) is blocked to international listeners, and remains blocked because some twat has forgotten to switch it back on again, so you can’t hear the subsequent programmes either.

But there is redemption ... of sorts. Radio London. Ok, you have to be a one-time London boy like me, who supports Spurs. But Saturdays when Five Live still has its commentary for Charlton v. Reading (which of course you can’t hear even if you were mad enough to want to), and puts back 6-0-6, you can go to London and hear Tom Watt. He’s rubbish, absolutely useless, but he’ll do. (Never was a better insult uttered than when Dirty Den called him - or rather Lofty - a “doormat”, but that’s something else.)

Thing is, after Tom Watt, Radio London has Gary Crowley. Remember him? Brilliant, if breathless. From new stuff like Jack Penate to old, old stuff like The Ronettes. Too much. “And then I kissed him ...” And at another time, London has Norman Jay. Terribly egotistical. “When I was ... (this that and the other)”, but boy what a selection. Current dance music to Chris Montez. Can you believe that? Fab gear. Oh and D. Baker in the afternoons.

Don’t know what got me on to all of this, but I enjoyed it anyway. Pip, pip!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Service / Winter walk / Hotels

I have had cause before to rant against service here, and here I go again.

This whinge concerns the Policlinica Miramar. Now, this is in Palma, and is where you tend to get sent when the Hospital in Alcúdia doesn’t have the facility. I was there to confirm authorisation for the minor op to remove the melanomas I referred to a while back. So I went to the desk of the insurance company at the clinic. It was all dealt with easily and efficiently enough, except ... except for the fact that the girl behind the desk was munching on a box of Ritz biscuits. More than this - while attending to me, a friend of hers came up, they started chatting, and she offered the friend a Ritz. Didn’t bloody ask me. That’s service for you.

Despite warnings of dire weather again today, it has been splendid, and right for a beach walk. The sea was calm, and the light extraordinary. One of the pluses of the recent wind is that the views are clear and bright. And one never ceases to notice something new. Looking out across the bay from Playa de Muro towards the hills above Arta and to the headland by Cala Ratjada, the light was catching the green of the forest past Can Picafort. I had not noticed this before, but it stood out quite vividly, as did the settlements of Son Serra and Colonia. One can stand and stare at this for ages; at least I can. Like the caballo (horse) promontory at Cala San Vicente, the view is quite awe-inspiring.

Then walking in the quiet roads back of the beach, you see all the cats and kittens. There are loads of them; nearly all strays, but they do a job. Occasionally I have to remove the remains of their work from the garden - a tail here, a rat’s head there, bits of entrail forming an ant feast. Disgusting, but it’s better than having a rat in the house, which once happened. And there’s the flora. The bougainvillaea lasts well into autumn and early winter. There is one house close by that has three huge bushes of it climbing over the front wall; each a different colour - mauve, crimson and and a sort of russet-orange. Fabulous.

There were more cats hanging around near to the start of the forest past Alcúdia Pins. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise and the work going on at the Iberostar Albufera Park. You wonder at the sheer amount of work that goes on in maintaining the standards and quality of hotels here - and the Iberostars are outstanding hotels. There were huge skips full of doors, most of the rooms look as though they have been gutted, while some of the ornate balustrades have been demolished. Last winter, the Iberostar Dunas Park was totally redone, resulting in the designer-style feel of what is now the Iberostar Playa de Muro Village. Whatever the result of the work at the Albufera Park, it will be splendid. It is a strange feeling of being a part of this economic life, if only through observing the work that is put in, knowing that in a few months there will be a new set of tourists who will arrive and think “oh, this is nice” (or more likely “ganz herrlich”).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Weather / Air tax

Well disappointingly, my prediction of “The Bulletin’s” headline proved inaccurate. There again, the main force of the storm was felt in the north, not in the south, i.e. Palma. And given the Palma-centric nature of the local media ...

The front page was given over to apparent anger at Gordon Brown’s announcement of an increase in air tax. For instance, British Airways call it “a blunt instrument”, while an Easyjet spokesperson was on Five Live yesterday, saying that it fails to take account of cleaner aircraft. Well yes maybe, but this is something we are going to have get used to I’m afraid. I doubt that a five-quid hike in tax will deter people from coming to Mallorca, but it may reduce their spend a bit more - which ain’t such great news. What the taxman taketh away, he taketh away from something else as well.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Roads / Weather / Corruption / Pizzeria

As mentioned back on 1 and 16 November, the Carretera Arta in Puerto Alcúdia is receiving a bit of a facelift, and - wonders will never cease - the dire road surface is being attended to. At present there are sections of the road that have been resurfaced, and one assumes and hopes that these sections will be joined up, and that drivers won’t any longer have to move all over the road looking for bits that aren’t pitted.

When the hot weather kicks in in spring, it always comes as a bit of surprise; one forgets just how hot it gets after the winter months. And so it is in reverse. After weeks of mild, at times hot, weather, the first blast of chill air comes as a bit of a shock. And so today we have that first blast, with snow forecast on the tops, and a whole bunch of rain. The change in weather coincides with the first of two holiday days this week. Today is constitution day. Somewhat perversely, tomorrow is a normal day, and then Friday is another holiday - for immaculate conception. Accordingly, many opt to make it a three-day holiday; hardly surprising. The thing I don’t get is how come immaculate conception is 8 December? How did that all work?

Andratx update: Jaume Matas, the PP head of the Balearics government, is denying that he had any part in alerting the Andratx officials. Surprise would be if he said he had. Notwithstanding this denial, the opposition is calling for his head and for a statement by the national leader of the PP.

New restaurant mention: there is now a new pizzeria - Pane y Vino - opposite Comics and Little Britain in Puerto Alcúdia.

Wo-aah! What was that I was saying about the weather. It got nice around lunchtime, then mid-afternoon ... Jesus. Back in the safety of home, there was a noise. Thought it was something upstairs. Looked out. A tree from the neighbour’s garden snapped off and right across the road. I got soaked through trying to shift it - too much for one person - when two guys came round the corner and between us we managed to move some of it, and then the fire boys pitched up with their saws. What money on “The Bulletin” wheeling out its regular headline “What A Day / Night” (delete as applicable)?

2001. That was it. 2001. December. The big storm here. Don’t anyone tell you it’s always lovely weather in Mallorca.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Corruption / Index for November

Murkier, and murkier. The Andratx case is taking more twists than a Mallorcan mountain road. Seemingly, someone gave a tip-off to those targeted by the investigation. All those who might be responsible for such a tip-off are denying it: the Guardia, the Partido Popular, and the opposition socialists. Whoever did make the tip-off succeeded up to a point. Some documents have been either totally or partially destroyed.

In the days leading up to the arrest of Sr.Hidalgo, the now ex-Mayor of Andratx, he met with both Jose María Rodriguez, the General Secretary of the PP, and Jaume Matas, the Balearic government leader (also PP). Both deny giving a tip-off.

Meanwhile, there was - apparently - an anonymous call made to the government claiming that other councils were to be raided, something denied by the Guardia. Quite why the PP have said that there was this call is a bit of a mystery, though the socialists (PSOE-PSIB) believe this was to pre-empt the matter being reported to the police.

As for the socialists, the PP seem to think that they were given information about the operation in Andratx. Why do they think this? Well, it also turns out that the director-general of the Guardia and National Police here was a former member of the Balearic government when the socialists were in power, and remains a member.

Air travel - 6 November 2006
Alcúdia industrial estate - 16 November 2006
All-inclusives - 9 November 2006
Andratx - 29 November 2006, 30 November 2006
Blog anniversary - 1 November 2006
Building work - 16 November 2006
Carretera Arta - 1 November 2006, 16 November 2006
Christmas presents - 4 November 2006
Climate change - 2 November 2006, 6 November 2006
Corruption - 29 November 2006, 30 November 2006
Costa Nord estate agency - 16 November 2006
Environment - 2 November 2006, 6 November 2006
“Euro Weekly” - 9 November 2006
Guardia Civil - 29 November 2006
Hidalgo, Eugenio - 29 November 2006
Jabon Bon - 4 November 2006
Jenkins, Simon - 6 November 2006
La Placeta - 16 November 2006
Little Britain (supermarket) - 4 November 2006
Lu-Lu’s Bistro - 3 November 2006
Massot, Jaume - 29 November 2006, 30 November 2006
Money-laundering - 29 November 2006
Pollensa Fair - 3 November 2006, 8 November 2006
Pricing - 9 November 2006
Promotion - 3 November 2006, 8 November 2006
Property - 30 November 2006
Restaurants - 1 November 2006
Reviews, hotel/restaurant - 12 November 2006
Roads - 1 November 2006
Scam - 12 November 2006
Season’s end - 3 November 2006
“Sunday Times, The” - 12 November 2006
Tourism economics - 1 November 2006, 9 November 2006, 16 November 2006
Weather - 16 November 2006, 29 November 2006, 30 November 2006
Websites - 12 November 2006
Winter tourism - 9 November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Corruption / Weather

Well, more on the Andratx story. Seems that Sr. Massot, the planning chief, operated his own property business as well. Now, why would he do that? Moreover, Interpol’s been brought in as there are connections with bank accounts in Switzerland and France. All starts to get a tad murky. Apparently, other Mallorcan municipalities are also under suspicion, though neither Pollensa nor Alcúdia is one of them.

More worries also about the image that all this gives. Despite my positive spin yesterday, there is a real issue here, not least if it turns out that people have bought properties on land that was not registered for building purposes. That is a worry, and it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in Spain (which is why one needs to be ever so careful when buying in Spain).

And weather ... November was warmer than usual, by up to and over 3 degrees in certain places. Global warming, I’m telling you ... global warming.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


For all you fans of this blog who might have wondered why there has been silence for a bit - well, I was in England, and not just in England but also taking a rest from the Internet. For those of us whose work revolves around the Net, it is good to get a break from something that can become too all-consuming.

So much for that. Back in Mallorca, and there is a ripping scandal unfolding in Andratx on the island’s south-west coast. The mayor, Eugenio Hidalgo, has been arrested on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering. For Spanish watchers, this will probably come as little surprise. However, the regularity with which those in public life are being collared is both alarming and reassuring. A senior police officer in Palma was recently arrested for taking bribes. Back on 6 September, I reported that the head of the Balearics Guardia Civil was under investigation for misuse of funds. On the mainland, there was the scandal that hit Marbella (surprise, surprise) earlier this year.

Arrested along with Hidalgo was Jaume Massot, the Balearics director-general for planning. Apparently, some 40 people are under suspicion.

This all has to do with alleged kickbacks in the classification of land for building, while the money-laundering charge has also to do with the possible purchase of winning lottery tickets in the days before winners’ names were published. Hidalgo claims that his wealth came from winning a Christmas lottery, but was it his ticket or someone else’s?

Of course, he has not been found guilty, nor has Massot, but the arrests have led to some soul-searching here regarding the image of the island. But it isn’t just a Mallorcan problem; it is a Spanish problem.

My take on this is that there is still a feeling - held by some - that it is ok to flout rules in the hope that mates in high places will take no action. In Hidalgo’s case, he was once a member of the Guardia Civil. If he had felt that this was a good cover, then he was wrong. It is the Guardia’s Serious Fraud Squad which is pursuing the investigation. The fact also that the scandal is headlining across Spain means that there is unlikely to be a lack of transparency.

While acknowledging that corruption can occur anywhere, this latest case highlights - possibly - the last throes of the old way of thinking. I have commented before on the immature nature of Spanish democracy, which is not a criticism but a fact. Corruption is a facet of the undemocratic society, and Spain is still only 30 years into its learning curve. More worrying would be the lack of will to pursue corruption. But this is not the case. The strength of actions, led by the Guardia, to tackle corruption is evidence of a strengthing institutional basis that is fundamental to a functioning democracy. (It should also be noted that both Hidalgo and Massot are associated with the Partido Popular, the ruling party in the Balearics.)

Whither Hidalgo? Who knows? But the case, far from being seen as a negative comment on Mallorcan life, should be seen as a positive - one that may finally rid the island and the country of the mentality that it is acceptable to treat the rules as options.

Weather note: November has seen almost unbroken calm and warm weather. But that old thing of the month’s end bringing a change is at it again. Overnight, there was lightning and thunder, and the temperature has dropped significantly, bearing in mind that Sa Pobla was registering 24 degrees three days ago.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Building work / Tourism economics / La Placeta

Winter time. Time for construction.

Most building work is not permitted during the season, so there is always a flurry of activity out of season. Just some of the main bits of work are the development of Alcúdia’s industrial estate, the roundabouts on the Carrtera Arta in Puerto Alcúdia, and the redevelopment of Costa Nord’s offices also in Puerto Alcúdia.

Much of the groundwork for the industrial estate seems to have been done, the road layout now quite discernible; the roundabout at the intersection of Puerto Alcúdia and Playa de Muro has been roughly laid out awaiting its actual construction; the old Costa Nord office has been totally demolished and will be rebuilt. Meantime, the estate agency is in offices on C/. Barques next to Es Cap Roig. One trusts that when the new building is done, one will be able to close the door properly.

More predictions of an even better season next year come from MyTravel and TUI, though the latter concedes that there may be a slight increase in all-inclusive offers.

Another change of ownership to announce, also in Pollensa. La Placeta restaurant is now under Katie and Marshall, and they offer a more British-style menu which looks extremely enticing. The previously rather drab interior has been given a bit of a facelift, largely via the simple expedient of not arranging the tables like in a classroom. There is an altogether lighter feel to the place. And La Placeta does benefit from its position on the small square next to the church. The hotel has not changed hands.

And the weather ... It really has been remarkable. I bumped into Andy from MYCT (Mallorca Yacht Charter Training) today, and he was in flip-flops and t-shirt. But word is tomorrow it all changes.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reviews scam

Here’s something really interesting; something really interesting I’m surprised it’s taken so long to be exposed. “The Sunday Times” reports today on a “scam” whereby reviews of hotels and restaurants are posted onto various websites, not by discerning guests but by owners or marketing companies operating on their behalf, or by those with an axe to grind or to knock the competition. Well, tell me something surprising.

Among the sites mentioned is TripAdvisor, one of the biggest. The shock - to me - is that anyone is shocked, except of course that biased info is being offered, which isn’t always fair in love, war and business. There are sites, like HolidayTruths, which - it seems to me - do their utmost to weed out unreliable posts and stick to those from the punter. But of course even those aren’t really that reliable. One man’s meat is another’s vomit, or something like that.

I have an interest in all this. On the main websites, as linked here, such as, comments can be made about named establishments. There are also forums. Frankly, and maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I have always been a tad wary of forums as they can be abused, so one has to watch posts like a hawk. And that’s the thing. If you’re going to go down the route that Amazon set in train all those years ago, and accept reviews or comments you have to be prepared to scrutinise every one. And that I do, though even then you can’t be entirely sure, except if something is so gushing or so critical, you have to question it. That’s why, for instance, I email back - I suspect not everyone knows their email address can be accessed (as with the charmer who said of one restaurant’s chefs that they were all pigs and working illegally) - and sometimes it bounces, or sometimes it is anonymous, or sometimes you just know ...

Most sites will claim to be moderated, but there is moderation, and there is automation and moderation. I practise no automation. I won’t say that nothing will get past me, but I’ll do my damnedest to stop it.

Weather check: after several days of glorious weather, a shift to a bit of grey, but still pretty pleasant for the time of year.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

All-inclusives / Tourism economics

There are times I wonder about the local published media. Back on 30 September I referred to the non-story about dog-fouling in Alcúdia that “Euro Weekly” had produced as a front-page splash. In the latest issue there is something about all-inclusives: they should be banned. Hmm, interesting you might think, until you become aware that the call for this ban comes from the owner of a bookshop in Palmanova. Now, she’s quite entitled to her opinion, but that opinion carries no weight; certainly not enough to base a newspaper item around. What can we expect next? Lenny of Bar Poop in Magaluf* calls for British troops to be pulled out of Iraq?

If it were, let’s say, the Balearic Tourism Minister making such a call for ban, then it would merit some attention, but seriously this ... Ok as a letter, but as an article?

To make matters worse, the same lady is then quoted as saying that the government should influence tour operators in order to boost winter tourism. They can influence all they like, but a key reason why Mallorca is no longer a significant winter destination is because people can fly to warmer climes that much more cheaply than they used to be able to and because people are offered that much wider a choice. That’s tour operators for you.

And then ... she also calls for a cap on prices.

Oh, gawsh. If one wishes to, one can go back to 30 August when the subject of price controls came up, and I begged to differ.

But what I also wonder, taking account of this gem of an item and the previous front page story, is whether I am guilty of an irony by-pass. Are they intended to be ironic? Must be.

Now, I might be open to a charge that what I blog is just my opinion, and that would be right. But blogging and newspaper reports are two different things. Newspapers form opinion far more strongly than certainly this blog ever will, and so there is an obligation to be journalistic not just in choice of source but also in the pursuit of balance.

(* As far as I am aware, there is neither a Bar Poop in Magaluf nor a Lenny.)

Anyway, to weightier matters. Rafael Nadal, well-known Mallorcan tennis-player, pitched up at the Balearics stand at the World Travel Fair in London to lend support to Joan Flaquer (the tourism minister) and his chums. It is not known if Rafa had anything to say about all-inclusives, Iraq or global warming, but Sr. Flaquer waxed favourably about the prospects for 2007 tourism, despite rises in hotel prices. The major British and German operators are pointing to rise in demand; the level of Brit tourism to the islands is expected to be up by two to three per cent. Record year. Record year. Same old record. But if the all-inclusives were to be banned ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pollensa Fair

Well, managed to get hold of a copy of the fair leaflet - thanks to Shirley at Waves. Have translated it as best I can given my almost total absence of Catalan/Mallorquin. As ever, the publicity is hardly linguistically-friendly but also as ever an arm and a leg has been spent on producing it. In the size of a CD cover, it comes in a plastic CD-style holder. Bearing in mind Pollensa town hall’s seriously in the red, it does seem a tad OTT.

Anyway, that arm and a leg. The cover shows what is thought to be the arm from some doll or other. I don’t know what the hell it is; looks to me like a plumbing implement or a sex toy. Utterly strange.

For the programme go to (What’s On Blog). The fair starts 10 November and closes 13 November.

Monday, November 06, 2006


The environment. Suddenly this has zoomed into prominence on this blog. Already this month I have alluded to the potential impact of rising sea levels in the north Mallorca area. And by the way, when I spoke about the coastal areas of Playa de Muro and Can Picafort maybe being overwhelmed by the sea, I failed to point out that 300 years ago the sea did encroach.

But there is another thing. In “The Sunday Times” (5 November), the admirable Simon Jenkins discussed the implications of the Stern report. In essence, he argued that - inter alia - the cost of mobility, especially air travel, must once again become the privilege of the rich. The emissions created by cheap and an abundance of aviation fuel have to be tackled. One way of doing so is to pass on the costs of curbing climate change to the individual, thus creating much higher costs of air travel. This runs counter to a free market, something of which Jenkins is generally a wholehearted supporter; it also runs counter to the growth of cheap air travel. It is cheap air travel that has helped to make overseas holidays affordable to those who were previously excluded - on the grounds of price. It is cheap air travel that now fuels - as it were - the holiday industry. It is cheap air travel that brings with it the record numbers passing through Palma Airport and the need to extend the airport’s terminal.

Take away that cheap air travel, and this can only be done by significant governmental intervention co-ordinated across nations, and we would never again witness a record year of visitors to Mallorca, as has been the case this year.

Some while ago I outlined the use of the simple SWOT technique as a way for businesses to assess themselves. The “T” refers to threats. Here is one such. Not just a small “t”, but a whacking great big one. Make air travel that much more expensive, and all the gripes about the impact of all-inclusives will seem like playground spats. This would be grown-ups’ stuff. The impact on economies such as the local one would be immense.

Is there anyone thinking about this? Spanish Government, Balearic Government, Mallorca council, local authorities, tour operators, airlines, hotels, island’s businesses? Richard Branson is at least looking to start a discussion, from which British Airways has notably excluded itself, but as for others - if they are not thinking about all this, I suggest that they start.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Christmas presents

Christmas presents. AAAGHH! Every year, it just gets more difficult. And for those of us planning to take pressies back to Blighty, the news that Palma Airport is to come under the new hand-luggage restrictions as from 6 November means that choice gets that bit more tricky. For the sake of avoiding any hassle or carrying too big an item of hand-luggage, out really go the breakables that might otherwise have been taken on board. So, the only thing is to go small, go unbreakable and pack it in the suitcase. Some help is at hand - the Little Britain mini-market features Aurora’s soaps. Now, Aurora is taking a back-seat at Little Britain to concentrate on the soap business started by her daughter in Inca. Called Jabon Bon, the soaps are quite remarkable, so much so that they are getting orders to supply from across the island. But the packs of soaps make great gifts, and they are easily transportable. The mini-market each Saturday morning on the terrace in front of Little Britain in Puerto Alcúdia.

Friday, November 03, 2006

End of season / Lu-Lu’s / Pollensa Fair

The season over, and the weather just seems to have given up. Nothing dramatic, just a sudden slip into the middling grey mixed with some sun that can be something of the norm, temperatures down to about 18 degrees. At least the mosquitoes seem to have pissed off, for which one should be extremely grateful. They were barely about for most of the summer, but in September and October they made up for their earlier inactivity in a frenzy of biting, though there appears to be little evidence that the tiger mosquito has crossed the seas from the mainland - yet.

For some, the season’s end is a new experience. Kevin at JKs in Puerto Pollensa was saying how places like the Miramar hotel were open one moment and then suddenly closed the next and there was nobody around. It is a curious thing - the season’s end; for those of us living here it does take a bit of adjustment from the constant bustle of the previous seven months. It is almost like a bereavement: one moment it’s there, the next moment it’s gone, but life still carries on.

A change of ownership in Pollensa. The former Tetera, then The Tavern and 7 under Darren, and more recently still 7 under “Military Intelligence” Tony, has transformed itself into Lu-Lu’s Bistro, with Chris and Lucy. And very nice it looks, too. A new menu and a cosy feel should make it go well during the winter months.

One beef that has knocked around on this blog has been the lack of promotional material in different languages produced by the town halls. Absence of languages and absence of material at all, at least in the case of Pollensa’s fair, which is coming up. I spied a copy of a little brochure in Pollensa’s Cafë L’Illa, but it was the only they had, so I had to take my dirty paws off of it. So, I trooped round to the tourist office and asked Pep for a copy. He didn’t have one; nor could he find anything on the marvellous (!?) town hall website. Hey ho. Anyway, when and if I get one I’ll translate it and shove the info onto

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Sir Nicholas Stern’s report into the impact of climate change is as welcome as it is deeply alarming. I am not a rabid environmentalist. Like many I suspect, my environmentalism burrows gently under the surface, a largely neglected Swampy creating an itch I can’t quite eliminate. But I have started to take more notice. Those stand-by devices are now all switched off; the kettle is filled with what water is needed; any thoughts of a 4x4 have been turned off.

All small things in the wider system, but a worry is just how swiftly the environment could now change. In Britain, the temperatures for September and October were up by an average 0.7 degrees; we have just registered the hottest Mallorcan October on record. Of course it could just be “one of those things”, but the scientific community (and others) seem to think differently. A 2-degree increase in temperatures would wreak some pretty damaging changes.

The sea. The sea levels would rise. Coastal areas would be at risk. I live by the sea. Many people in Mallorca live by the sea. Many people in Mallorca live at sea level. Many people who live at sea level in Mallorca have very expensive properties. Many people who live at sea level in Mallorca can find no sea defences next to or near to where they live.

Imagine: a society (Mallorca) which - apart from fishing - used to find no use for the coast. Areas like Playa de Muro and Can Picafort were untouched; they were useless - nothing could grow. And then they found a use - tourism, hotels, luxury houses, less-than-luxury houses. And then one day ... the waters come.

Simple answer is to move. But so perhaps should many others, leaving behind worthless houses, worthless hotels and worthless land.

Far-fetched? Could you say for sure it wouldn’t happen?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tourism economics / Roads / Blog Anniversary / Index for October

And so it was, after all, a record year. Mallorca and the Balearics received more visitors than at any time in the past, the Mallorcan numbers up by nearly 9% on last year, largely thanks to the Spanish and German markets. Moreover, spend was up, despite what everyone was saying. If businesses aren’t reaping the benefits then one has to draw certain conclusions, setting aside the all-inclusive influence: that there are too many businesses, and so demand is spread across too great a supply; or that prices are too high; or that quality isn’t that great. On 24 October, I reported that restaurant spend appeared to be down. So, if overall spend is up but that in restaurants is down - relatively - then perhaps it is a price issue.

A couple in Alcúdia who have been here for many a year and sampled many a restaurant maintain that, save for certain dishes in certain restaurants, they would not recommend one restaurant in Alcúdia. Bit harsh, I think, and these things do tend to be a tad subjective. But they also say that things are overpriced and that restaurants are cutting corners.

Whatever the reasons though, there is a dynamic at play that no-one seems able to explain satisfactorily. As next year is meant to be as good - in terms of numbers (or even a bit better if Thomas Cook can be believed), then maybe we will start to get some real answers.

One of this blog’s targets has been the state of some of the roads locally, e.g. the carretera from the Magic Roundabout in Puerto Alcúdia. Well, it seems that there is some fair bit of work going to be done. A report doesn’t actually say that it will be resurfaced - though it badly needs it - but that there will be the introduction of more crossing-points and a new roundabout at the top of the Greasy Mile. The crossing-points are fine; trouble is, no one takes much notice of them. But if the risk of crossing the carretera can be reduced, the road development is to be welcomed.

And today is the first anniversary of this blog. It is, and always will be, somewhat eclectic in its coverage; it is, and always will be, a mix of hard facts (albeit that they are subject to some scepticism), opinion, and a touch of - at times I hope - humour. It is also a reflection of things that I am told, some of which have to be discarded as tittle-tattle or downright libels.

Anyway, I’ve looked at the index entries that are presented each month, and which I guess give a flavour of some of the more important topics I deal with and also some of the relatively shortlived ones and some of the less likely. The two most frequently indexed subjects for the year were weather and tourism economics, the latter being one of the reasons for starting the blog - namely to look to try and create something of a reference for what is such an important issue locally. Other regular entries were for driving and accidents (much of it shameful), all-inclusives (which some also categorise as shameful), and smoking/tobacco (and that was a “burning” topic for much of the last 12 months).

Those subjects that lasted only a fairly brief time were jellyfish, and the invasion that never was, and the World Cup, especially the bizarre coverage on the La Sexta television channel. Then there were some “targets”, such as Stupid Fat White Men (and the obesity issue) and “holiday brains” as well as baby buggies and beach tents, the ensaimada, Ecuadorean pipe musicians, the Garbi hole, and Elvis impersonators.

One topic that ran for much of the 12 months was the Pollensa branding exercise and the website - - which finally, after much slagging-off here, seems to now be available in different languages.

There was sadness - much of it to do with road deaths - the boys killed near to the Cala San Vicente turn, the Thomson reps run down in Puerto Alcúdia - and then there was the passing-away of Manolo of Costa Nord, the death (in a road accident) of William Giverin Sr., and the departure from the local scene of Ben Layton (and Michelle) and Liliane Delmas.

And finally there were mentions of bars, cafés, restaurants, shops, hotels etc. - not all of them honourable but usually so. Here’s the roll-call of those establishments that have been name-checked here: Algar, Bar Mallorca, Bar Pepe, Barquita, Brunel, Bon Camí, Bony, Boy, Burger King, Caliu, Calvari, Campsa Garage, Can Tomas, Canny Lad, Cas Capella, Chess, Chivas, Club Pollença, Colber, Columbus, Comics, Costa Nord, Crédito Balear, Cultural, Dakota Tex-Mex, Dreams, El 7, El Mojito, Epcot, Eroski Syp, Foxes, Galeria Joan XXIII, Gran Café (in both Puerto Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa, the former now L’Illa), Guru, Habitacle, Hospital d’Alcúdia, Hotels/Aparthotels etc - Alcúdia Pins, Alcúdia Suite, Bellevue, Club Mac, Coral de Mar, Daina, Delfin Azul, Don Pedro, Dunas Park, Eden Playa, Estrella de Sur, Flora, Garden Lago, Habitat, Iberostars, La Moraleja, Lagomonte, Las Gaviotas, Niu, Orquidea Playa, Parc Natural, Playa Esperanza, Playa Garden, Pollensa Park, Siestas, Sunwing Resort, Viva Alcúdia Sun Village, Viva Bahía - Iona, Irish Tavern, JKs, Jam Bar, Jokers, Juma, Kashmir, Kudos, La Sala, L’Illa, Lineker’s, Little Britain, Llomgar, MM Foods, Makassar, Mestizo, Mulligans, Nag’s Head, Neptuno, O’Hara’s, Olivers, Open Holidays, Rancho Grande, Rose and Crown (which was closed all summer), Sa Pobla Cricket Club, Sa Taverneta d’es Moll, Scuba Mallorca, Special Divers, Tango, Temple, Tiberi, Tukys, U Gallet, Vogue Properties.

And who has had a personal name-check? Here is a list of local folk, celebs, dead people, bands that have all appeared during the past 12 months:

Bryan Adams; Florian Albert (former Hungarian footballer); Luis Aragones; Danny Baker; Julie and Michel, Barquita; The Beach Boys; David Beckham; Captain Beefheart; Ben, formerly of Jacks and Comics; Richie Benaud; Alastair Black, Germany; Tony Blair; Suzanne, Bon Camí; Garry Bonsall; Francesc de Borja Moll; Cati, Boy; Manuel Bragado (“Estrella del Sur”); Marcus Brigstocke; Gordon Brown; John and Em, Brunel; Graham Burgess (former cricketer); George W. Bush; Mick Channon; Ian, Chess/El 7/Iona; Christian, Campsa Garage; Billy Cobham; Christopher Columbus; Julio and Matt, Comics; Chick Corea; Manolo, Costa Nord; Mateu Crespí (politician); Marjorie Dawes; Jack Dee; Liliane Delmas, Aguafun; Francisca Díauno de Abril (April Fool); Michael Douglas; Paco, Dreams; Michael, Epcot; Samuel Eto’o; Enrique Fajarnés (politician); Percy Faith and his Orchestra; Joan Flaquer (Balearic Minister for Tourism); Louise Foster, Vogue Properties; James and Karen, Foxes; General Franco; Fresh Prince of Bel Air; Geralt (director of Crédito Balear branch that was closed after a raid); George Giri (“Daily Bulletin”); William Giverin, Kudos; Monica Gonzalez (“Ultima Hora”); Tim Hames (“The Times”); Jimi Hendrix; Ian Hislop; Jane and Kevin, JKs; Simon Jenkins (“The Times”); Josep, Pollensa Tourist Office; Anatole Kaletsky (“The Times”); Gabriel, Kashmir; King Juan Carlos; Jürgen Klinsmann; Anna Kournikova; Trevor and Stuart, La Sala; Riki Lash (“Daily Bulletin”); Leapy Lee; Gary Lineker; Wayne Lineker; Aurora, Tony, Steve, all of Little Britain; Dave and Polly, MM Foods; Juan, Makassar and Tiberi; The Mamas and the Papas; Tomas, Marinas in Cala San Vicente; Jaume Matas (leader of the Balearic Government); Ian McEwan; Kenneth McKellar; Jonathan Meades; Lt-Gen Mena; Jim Morrison; María Antonia Munar (head of the Mallorca council); Mungo Jerry; Rupert Murdoch; Ardal O’Hanlon; Mick et al, Olivers; Matthew Parris (“The Times”); Pau, Supermarket Colber; Jonathan Pearce; Graham Philips (letter writer to the “Daily Bulletin”); Elvis Presley; Gori, Rancho Grande; The Residents; Cliff Richard; Right Said Fred; The Rubettes; Manu, Sa Taverneta d’es Moll; Julio Salinas; Pere Sampol (politician); Martin Samuel (“The Times”); Sant Sebastià; Maria Sharapova; Sandie Shaw; The Style Council; Sylvia; Derek Taylor (former cricketer); Hugh Thomas (author); The Thompson Twins; Throbbing Gristle; Fred Trueman; Brian Wilson; Harold Wilson; Steve Wright; Mike Yarwood; The Young Rascals; José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Index for October 2006

Bars - 6 October 2006
Bonsall, Garry - 19 October 2006
Can Ramis - 19 October 2006
Car-rental tax - 26 October 2006
Cycling - 6 October 2006
Driving - 2 October 2006, 6 October 2006, 18 October 2006
Elvis Presley impersonators - 3 October 2006
Energy - 29 October 2006
Ensaimada - 22 October 2006
Environment - 29 October 2006
Fire station - 18 October 2006
Foreign Office - 10 October 2006
Gotmar - 19 October 2006
Noise - 6 October 2006
Obesity - 12 October 2006
Palma Airport - 6 October 2006
Parking - 19 October 2006
“Part Forana” - 19 October 2006
Payment - 24 October 2006
Power station - 29 October 2006
Rape - 10 October 2006, 12 October 2006
Rental-accommodation regulations - 18 October 2006
Restaurants - 24 October 2006
Road accidents - 6 October 2006, 29 October 2006
Ryanair - 6 October 2006
Season’s end - 19 October 2006, 30 October 2006
Speeding - 18 October 2006
Tobacco selling - 26 October 2006, 29 October 2006
Tourism economics - 11 October 2006, 18 October 2006, 22 October 2006, 24 October 2006
Trafico - 2 October 2006, 6 October 2006
Weather - 2 October 2006, 10 October 2006, 12 October 2006, 22 October 2006, 26 October 2006, 30 October 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weather / End of season

And as I was saying (22 October), this is the hottest October on record - at least according to the nearby Sa Pobla weather station. Today it has been 27 degrees, or 81 in old money. But a number of us have put the long trousers on once more - almost out of habit for the time of year; shorts are still really rather necessary. Strange, given the heat, that everything is now shutting down big time. Some places will close tomorrow, and after that ... very quiet. The roads are even now showing a difference, the drive along the carretera from Puerto Alcúdia to Playa de Muro is pleasant for the first time in many months. The clocks going back on Saturday night change things, too. The sun dips that much earlier (well, an hour more or less), and it’s dark by around 6.30 in the evening, so even if one is able to get some rays on the admittedly rather chilly beaches one needs to be in situ pretty early; none of this going to the beach at 5 o’clock like in the summer.

The winter is expected to be even quieter than before with only one tour operator maintaining anything like regular offers through the winter. Mallorca has never been that busy in winter, but now - as there are so many alternatives for people to choose as winter destinations - Mallorca has less appeal. The weather may be blissful right now, but it won’t last.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Environment / Tobacco sales / Road accidents

The European Union’s environment commission has issued national figures for emissions. They make pretty grim reading, especially where Spain is concerned. It is predicted that by 2010, Spain will have exceeded its 1990 levels by 51%; the increase permitted under Kyoto is 15%. This is attributed largely to extreme weather, for which read heat, and the burning of fossil fuels. Though parts of Spain do get very cold in winter, the general requirement for fuel-burning is to run summer (and winter) air-conditioning (heating) units. The level of demand can get so great that there are outages - as occurred in Mallorca during the roasting summer of 2003.

There is something absurd about the environmental contradictions here. The nature reserve of Albufera abuts Alcúdia, being contained within the municipalities of Muro and Sa Pobla. This is an area of ecological sensitivity. The new industrial estate is being built on its Alcúdia border. As previously mentioned, environmental measures for the new estate will be - so we are told - more or less exemplary. Fair enough. Yet next to the site of the industrial estate is a whacking great power station, a power station that is run on coal; coal that is transported in dirty trucks from the port of Alcúdia. I make no claim to being any sort of expert, but I cannot help but feel that some economic re-thinking could come up with a solution to power most dwellings and other establishments with direct solar power. One thing Mallorca does have a lot of is sun; the reason why so much air-con is needed.

There is also an issue regarding housing stock. Much of it is simply not designed well enough or insulated sufficiently (if at all) to combat the winters. Even when it is quite warm outside, houses can be freezing inside. Wood-burners are one thing, but otherwise the need is for oil, electricity or - the most ridiculous of all - butane gas. Which leads on to the preponderance of space-heaters. Cafés with terraces use these through the winter. Lord alone knows what damage they do.

Still at least the authorities are trying. There are currently subsidies on offer from the Balearic Government to trade in old appliances - fridges, washing machines etc. 80 euros discount for acquiring a Class A energy-efficient replacement. No mention of air-con units though. One positive thing - at least there is no need for any heating yet. Indeed the duvets have had to be put back in the wardrobes; it is still very warm.

Further to the report on a possible amendment to the tobacco-sales regulations, the central government’s Balearics representative has hinted that there could be “measures” taken against the Balearic Government if it goes ahead with its proposed amendment.

And on the roads ... the death toll on the main roads has gone down since the introduction of the licence points system, but the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed has gone up this year - quite markedly. No doubt this is partly down to rank bad driving, as with the death of the Thomson reps back in May, but motorcyclists (and cyclists) can be every bit as much at fault. The trick of “under-taking” by motorcyclists is an accident waiting to happen, and the flagrant disregard of just about every rule of the road by cyclists ... oh, don’t get me started.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Car-rental tax / Tobacco sales

As this blog closes in on its first anniversary (1 November), it is somewhat coincidental that an item I ran in the first entry - the proposed car-rental tax - has cropped up again, if only for it to be reported that there will be no car-rental tax, which frankly is just as well.

As for an issue that emerged early this year - the ban on tobacco sales outside of licensed stores - there appears to be some back-tracking, in that sales of cigarettes are likely to be allowed in a new category of “tourist shop” but only from vending-machines. Well, I suppose it helps the shopowners who have been hit by the restrictions up to a point, but personally I still believe that the restriction of sales of cartons of cigarettes to the “estancos” is a form of monopoly.

And with a few days left of October, the weather is still quite remarkable - warm verging on the hot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Payment / Restaurants

So I go to a client last Friday with an invoice. Come by Monday morning for payment, says he. I duly go. No payment. He has forgotten. Come back tomorrow, i.e. today. I go back. Girl in the office knows nothing about it. I call him. Ok, I’ll call her and she’ll pay. He calls. She wonders if I have a copy of the invoice. No, I’d left it here on Friday. She looks. Can’t find it. Can I come back with a copy later ... . And so it goes. Another client - the invoice was left and dated 5 September. Was due to be paid 15 September. It wasn’t. The partner (there’s always a partner) hasn’t left a cheque. Payments are always made 15th of the month. So I am back in October. Did I not give you the number of the partner, says client. No. Oh. I call the partner. Let me speak to the client. And so it goes.

It isn’t that they won’t pay, but they are indicative of an organisational malaise that sometimes makes me wonder how businesses here can ever function.

And this latter case was a restaurant. According to the latest load of figures, the number of clients going to Mallorcan restaurants this season has increased by 5% over last year, with those in Alcúdia at around 10%. Cheery news indeed, except that the amount spent has dropped, something we already knew, or at least had guessed at.

The heads of the Mallorcan Restaurant Association and PIMEM (the association of small to medium-sized businesses) say that this is evidence of a better year and of the positive effect of more weekend breaks (Alcúdia incidentally had the highest number of weekend stays in September in any Spanish tourist area). It is also pointed out that restaurants in tourist areas had been hit by all-inclusives, though this type of offer is “diminishing”. Is it really? I find that hard to believe.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ensaimada / Weather/ Tourism economics

I don´t know, am I missing something? Back on 14 August I had a dig at the ensaimada, the local pastry “delicacy”. Mallorcan Ensaimada Day has just been celebrated. Without wishing to sound unduly harsh about one item of local cuisine, I can think of many other foods that are worthy of devoting a day to rather than the ensaimada. Does anyone find it anything better than dull and fattening?

With no obvious change to the warm weather over the next few days, this October could become the hottest on record. Despite the blip mentioned on 12 October, it has been a fine month, and the final week of the season - for the English half-term - looks as if it should be ok.

September saw 1.5 million visitors coming to the Balearics, an increase of just over 6% on the same month in 2005, with the German market being particularly strong. Apparently 8.9 million international visitors came to the Balearics in the first nine months of the year.

Friday, October 20, 2006

End of season / Building works / Gotmar residents

And so the season starts to run down, some places having closed, the weather beginning to take on its autumnal feel. In Playa de Muro, the Alcúdia Suite Apartments already have whitewashed windows, the Chinese in Las Gaviotas has its windows plastered with newspaper. Such closures give the place a strange feel even to those of us who live here; for tourists it must be even odder, as though they are intruding.

And yet there are a lot of people still around. Scottish half-term and holidays in certain German states see to that. In Puerto Pollensa, JKs Bar had a packed crowd for the Celtic match on Tuesday evening. The English half-term now kicks in and, after that, that will pretty much be it - and the Mallorcan winter will have officially started.

Many months ago I mentioned the value of the “Part Forana” freebie newspaper. The current issue is once again quite useful, assuming you can understand the Spanish. There is a report on the start of work in converting the Can Ramis building in Alcúdia; this is the rather ramshackle affair by the taxi rank and market square in the old town. It will become the new location for the tourist office (a blessing as the existing one can be a tad difficult to find), and there will be a cafateria and shelter for those waiting for buses.

There is a different form of building due to start in Puerto Pollensa, namely the establishment of a proper parking lot on what is the waste-ground opposite the site of the new school. There will also be a “green zone” and a children’s park.

A rather grainy photo shows a gathering of the Gotmar (Puerto Pollensa) residents’ association. Not a thing generally worthy of note here, except that the photo shows (just about) the president addressing the masses, this being none other than Garry Bonsall, dentist of this parish. As Gotmar is home to Spanish, British and Germans, it is a sound choice of representative as Garry is fluent in all the languages, and can even do your bridge work in several languages.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Updates / Fire station

Some updating. Latest figures of cheer - September hotel occupancy in Mallorca rose by over 4 per cent this year.

The two-week crackdown on speeding in the Balearics netted over 400 drivers, albeit that this represented a mere 1.8% of vehicles that were checked.

The holiday rental-accommodation regulations resulted in over 2,200 applications for official registration, the greatest number (about a third of all) being in Pollensa. The English reporting of this still refers to “flats”, though the Spanish refers to “viviendas” (dwellings), and I’m still a tad confused given what was reported here on 9 September, namely “that apartments are not covered, i.e. the regulations are focused on villas etc.” Oh well, presumably those who have registered know what they have registered.

Alcudia is geting its own state-of-the-art fire station, which hopefully will cut down on the number of “bomberos” who race up and down the carretera out front of where I live - they come from Can Picafort, which is the nearest station at present for the area. The new station will be close to the by-pass that runs at the back of Bellevue, its exact location meaning that if you happen to be staying at the likes of the Garden Lago, Lagomonte or the Macs they could more or less turn the hoses on without moving.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Weather / Rape / Fat People

Ah yea, of course there was I saying how wonderful the weather was - even agreeing with Helen, the delightful lady who works on reception at Alcúdia hospital yesterday, that October is one of the best months - and then it goes and absolutely pisses down today. Great banks of blackness rolling in from the Tramuntana mountains and wallop, huge torrents.

Sad to say that, despite the Portuguese charmer being banged up, there has been another rape incident in Alcúdia. FO, over to you.

On the back of last night’s wretched loss to Croatia, we can at least console ourselves that the English (indeed British) lead Europe in one thing - the size of their bellies. Official stats show the Brits to be true European-, nay world-class when it comes to fatness. The Spanish, despite rising concerns as to the amount of junk food consumed (and a long-held addiction to snacking, especially crisps) are quite some way back, level-pegging with the Germans, which may come as a surprise when one considers some of the whales that get beached here from Germany every summer. But there again, a stroll down the Greasy Mile of an evening, and one can see only too well for oneself what the problem is. Time for Marjorie Dawes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tourism economics

On the back of what his boss, Jaume Matas, had to say (reported 30 September), tourism minister Joan Flaquer has announced that Balearics tourism has indeed fully recovered, as evidenced by the fact that tourist spending - for this season - has increased by five per cent. Well ok, I suppose we have to take his word for it, though how this figure is actually evaluated I haven’t a clue, and of course many people won’t believe it, or if they do believe it, won’t feel that they have been the beneficiaries. But whatever, 2006 is set to have been one of the best summers of all. Depends how you measure it though, doesn’t it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rape / Weather in October

Rape. Not a nice subject to raise. But there again there are some less than nice people knocking around. A Portuguese has been detained on suspicion of the alleged rape of at least two women in Puerto Alcúdia.

Now this subject was the cause of a little friction between the Balearic Government and the Foreign Office earlier this year, i.e. when the FO posted news of rapes in Calvia. It wasn’t that the FO was advising against going, but the authorities here felt too much was made of the problem. To some extent they were right: it is unfortunately something that can happen anywhere. But a warning is still surely appropriate. As far as I can see, the FO has made no mention of the Alcúdia attacks.

October is often one of the year’s best months, if the weather is like it is at present. It is not too hot - about 25 degrees or so - and sunny, and there are far fewer people around. While the beach is still a reasonable option, the sea is getting cooler, and the breezes that are so necessary in high summer become more chilly. Towards the end of the month and then into November, the sea air will start to feel a bit damp as well, making the beach nigh on impossible.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Palma Airport / Noise / Driving

And so Palma Airport is to undergo a further extension, this being a sort of mini-terminal in a development of the existing arrivals hall. Jolly good, no doubt they’ll be able to boast further increases in the numbers coming in next year, but the airport will not be getting any business from Ryanair. Too expensive, says the Irish low-cost airline of Palma. Now this may be a negotiating ploy, who knows, but Ryanair is sufficiently well-minted to be making Aer Lingus a takeover target and to accept the costs of flying into and out of the likes of Heathrow.

A while back I reported on some old buffer whingeing about the noise in Puerto Pollensa. It seems that the even more sedate old town of Pollensa has its noise problems, too. These are caused by bars such as the very lovely Columbus in the Plaça Major, or rather by people at and leaving said bars. Now, it ‘s not as if bars in Pollensa didn’t exist before. There has been - for some years for instance - Jam Bar, off the square down a side street. The fact is that if you give permission for a bar that is located right close to residences then noise is always likely to be an issue. In the port, the trio of Chivas, Tukys and Kudos, which are all next to each other, get all sorts of complaints. Hardly surprising given where they are. But what on Earth do people think is going to happen: that punters leave at 3 in the morning, or whenever, speaking in hushed tones after imbibing a couple of mugs of Horlicks?

Eighty dead on Balearic roads thus far this year. Despite the hopes that the new points system will alter driving habits, there is concern that going on a half of those killed were wearing neither seat-belts nor helmets. I don’t get the not wearing of such protection, apart from machismo and, in certain cases, teenage bravado. Though it happened in England, the teenage son of James and Karen from Foxes in Puerto Alcúdia recently suffered head injuries in a collision on his moped; he had a helmet on but it was resting on his head not pulled down, something one often sees here (if a helmet is being worn at all). Let’s hope Trafico gets tough on this, and perhaps also on moped and motor-bike drivers who weave in and out, cut up on the inside and generally cause problems. Oh and cyclists as well. Bet they don’t. Bet they don’t do anything about cyclists riding in the wrong direction; cyclists who go through reds; cyclists who come straight out of side roads without looking. Many drivers here need bringing to account, but there are an awful lot on two wheels who need to be, too.

Rant over.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Elvis Presley impersonators

A Lash moment. Why are there so many Elvis impersonators in Mallorca, asks the sage. Has something to do with his (Elvis that is) being the “king” and something else, whatever it is.

Well, I am neither American nor into his eighties - as is the Lash. I can concede that Elvis, in his very early days, had something going for him; a rebelliousness, a musical style, a sexual excitement. By the time I became aware of music - and I’m a child of the sixties - Elvis was already a parody, with his ludicrously affected vocalising.

It got worse. Elvis became a fat, bloated cabaret artist; a drug-addled, burger-addicted, fat, bloated cabaret artist. And that was how he died. Why is he so impersonated? Sometimes for affection, and I apologise to fans who might disagree with my appraisal, but often because parodies are so easy to impersonate. Why, for instance, could so many people in the ‘60s and ‘70s impersonate Harold Wilson? Because they liked him? No. Because Mike Yarwood took the piss so effectively.

I once saw a board outside a restaurant in Puerto Alcúdia that advertised an “Elvis”. It went along these lines: even if you don’t like Elvis, this is a great evening’s entertainment. Let’s highlight that: “even if you don’t like him ...”.

Elvis’s longevity as a target for impersonation has little now to do with his early brilliance; it has everything to do with the ease of targeting his sad decline. Elvis impersonators rarely dress up as Elvis as he was in the late ‘50s; they dress up as Elvis in Las Vegas - as the lump he had become.

There again, there were so many other awful examples of brilliant young men-turned-zombies who died too early and do not attract Elvis’s interest. Jim Morrison, for instance. But this was not for lack of charisma. Despite his drug addiction, Elvis’s enduring role in providing a business for those who make white, sequined bomber jackets was partly that he became “safe”, unlike others who succumbed so sadly to the horrors of drugs, like Morrison or Hendrix. But more than that he was a grotesque. And the grotesque is the stuff of impersonation, comedy and satire. Ask the guys who do Little Britain.

Driving / Weather / Index for September

The introduction of the licence points system has given Trafico a bit more teeth, and they’re preparing to bare them over the next fortnight, with checkpoints and speed traps in place, some of which will be hidden, others announced. This is good, and what I’ve been calling for, but it depends how they implement them. Put them by roundabouts and I don’t see how they can be effective; place them randomly along carreteras, different matter. Having said this, if Trafico would act, even the roundabout can catch some out. Here’s an example:

There is often a Trafico control at the roundabout by the Esperanza complex in Playa de Muro. So there was this Sunday. I was going along at 60, there was a bus ahead, just by the roundabout and starting to move out. A taxi overook me - at speed. The driver presumably hadn’t appreciated that the bus was on the move. The taxi just managed to squeeze between the bus and an oncoming car, went staight across the pedestrian crossing, onto the roundabout and away - all at excessive speed. Trafico? Didn’t bat an eyelid.

Weather report. Perfect. Very warm, the sea on Sunday was flat until mid-afternoon when the wind whipped up, as it often does in the afernoon. October. Wonderful weather. Makes you realise why you live here. And then this morning there was a thick fog, or more likely a mix of sea fret and heavy mist coming from Albufera - all that coldish air colliding with warm water. But it felt like an English autumn morning, which was kind of nice, and then the sun kicked in.

Index for September 2006

Administration, in - 3 September 2006
Alcúdia Fair - 30 September 2006
Balearics economy - 16 September 2006, 30 September 2006
Balearics Government - 30 September 2006
Beaches - 3 September 2006
Communication - 26 September 2006
Crime - 8 September 2006
“Euro Weekly” - 30 September 2006
Guardia Civil - 6 September 2006
Immigration - 16 September 2006
Language - 6 September 2006, 8 September 2006
Mañana - 26 September 2006
Matas, Jaume - 30 September 2006
Open Holidays - 3 September 2006, 16 September 2006
Palma Airport - 9 September 2006
Parking - 6 September 2006
Police - 6 September 2006
Pollensa Council - 30 September 2006
Population - 16 September 2006
Puerto Pollensa - 3 September 2006
Rental accommodation regulations - 9 September 2006
Skin cancer - 13 September 2006
Smoking - 3 September 2006
Stupid fat white men - 21 September 2006
Taylor Woodrow - 8 September 2006
Tourism economics - 3 September 2006, 9 September 2006, 16 September 2006, 21 September 2006, 26 September 2006, 30 September 2006
Weather - 6 September 2006, 13 September 2006, 16 September 2006, 26 September 2006
Websites - 26 September 2006 - 26 September 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tourism economics / Local newspapers / Pollensa Council / Alcúdia Fair

Jaume Matas. Haven’t given him much of a mention here despite his being the leader of the Balearics Government. The other day he made his pitch during the annual state of the Balearics debate in the local parliament. During this he congratulated himself and his government on restoring tourism as the driving force of the Balearic economy. Well, good for him. The figures do indicate that tourism is once more buoyant, and it’s true that the government is quite proactive in getting its message out, but we come back - as ever - to the nature of that tourism, and the degree to which it is bolstered by the all-inclusive with its attendant problems.

I have had cause here to point to some of the oddities of local publications, notably those in English. This is the front-page headline of the current “Euro Weekly” - “Clean Up Or Clear Out”. All very striking. What’s the story? Well it’s about dogs fouling pavements, especially the one at the back of the beach in Puerto Alcúdia. Fine, except that the whole “big story” is based on one lady and her family’s experience. Not even someone well-known, just a regular, ordinary tourist. From this, the paper conjures up a front-page story. Staggering.

Apparently Pollensa town council had a budget deficit for 2005 of some 800,000 euros. Maybe that’s why they can’t afford someone to get the typing right on its Wonder what that - and all the Ç branding stuff - has cost?

Alcúdia Fair is taking place this weekend. It is a popular but curious thing - part agricultural and trade fair, part traditional Mallorcan fiesta, with oddball stuff such as a slot-car championship thrown into the mix together with late-night music events. Despite this diversity, or perhaps because of it, it is one of the best of the local events as so much is packed into a short period of time, rather than rambling on as do some of the main fiestas. A personal nomination would place the Alcúdia Fair alongside the Pollensa Patrona as the two stand-out events of the year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tourism economics / Mañana / Websites

Happy days - the Balearics, with over 92%, was the area of Spain with the largest hotel occupation in August, Alcúdia registering nearly 97% occupancy. There then, everything’s all ok then.

That was Saturday’s news. Today we learn that the first eight months of this year have seen the best ever tourist numbers in the Balearics, while the number of people arriving by air - to the islands - is up by some 600,000 over last year. Great. Wonderful. What are they all spending?

More poor weather at the weekend, a mini-tornado causing havoc though the north of the island got off relatively lightly compared to the likes of Port Andraitx in the west. But for now, it’s ok. Warm.

Mañana. This word means morning and tomorrow. It is also English for “some time, maybe”; so it is in Spanish. A client who has owed me a fair sum for a year or so (whose invoice might I add was declared and tax and VAT duly paid; he had given me two cheques that bounced) has started finally to cough up. A chap who works at his place joked with me about “mañana”. He thought it was distinctly amusing when I pointed out that the mañana in this case had lasted for a year. Mañana is one thing, communication is another. Getting people to do anything - answer emails in particular - is a nightmare here. It affects all sorts of people. I left an enquiry with my lawyer about something two weeks ago. Nothing. I asked my printer about their invoice. Nothing. Is this now a general malaise or is it just another example of mañana?

Oh yes, update. For those of you haven’t been paying attention, this is the town hall’s extravagantly publicised website which was - until recently - only offered in Catalan. Well now it isn’t, in that it does now offer other languages including English. Quite honestly it is not worth the shout; there isn’t much and what there is suffers from the old problem of poor English or maybe just typos. Accomodation? Yes, one “m” is here. Sevices of interest - whatever they might be - they are there, too, minus the “r”. Poor. For English coverage go instead to (linked on the right here) or

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tourism economics / Fat people

Everything must go! Everything must go!

It would appear that the tour operators (TOs) are offering some real bargains in order to shift holidays for what is - one operator admits - a difficult end of season. Now, this really does not chime with what we were led to believe, making one ever more suspicious of the figures and messages that the authorities churn out. However, there is - or would seem to be - another factor, i.e. the package holiday is taking a knock from the independent traveller. This is what is being “blamed” for a shortfall in the sale of package deals this autumn, and yet not so long ago we were also told that holiday lets in parts of the island were down. What is going on? Does anyone really know? Or are just fed a diet of total bollocks?

The answer to that is almost certainly yes. Anyway to make matters even less ducky, winter tourism is set to be lower than usual, to which one might well enquire what winter tourism. The fact is, and I’ve said it before here, Mallorca is not really a winter destination. The TOs can get people to go to the Canaries for the simple reason that it is warmer.

Another little matter about this season is the fact that all the talk about people abandoning Turkey because of bird flu and coming to Mallorca turned out to be crap as well. They did turn their back on Turkey to some extent but opted for Greece instead.

After the deluge and floods, the weather has returned to something like normal. Very pleasant in fact, though the first duvets of the late summer are now needed.

The obsession in the UK with the national obesity problem is understandable; if, that is, one takes a sizeable (literally) proportion of the temporary inhabitants close by and along the Greasy Mile as being representative. Stupid fat white men and stupid fat white women. Not everyone, of course, but man alive you could be excused for thinking the whole of the UK was about to sink under the weight of blubber if what one witnesses around there is indicative. The other day I encountered a slight traffic problem. Well not slight really, fairly big; in fact fucking enormous. There was a family-sized tub of lard attempting to pedal a trike over the admittedly rather steep little bridge halfway along the Greasy Mile. Could they make it? Could they heck. But when you’re looking to shift several hundredweight of lard it’s not surprising. All one can do as a driver behind this less-than-heaving mountain of human flesh is to stay put at the foot of the bridge and wait for it to finally dismount and push itself over the summit.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weather / Tourism economics / Balearics economy / Open Holidays

More weather. Great downpours have been occurring, the temperature is down to around 20 degrees. The mainland has really copped it in the neck, and some parts of the island have been particularly hard hit. And still there is a general weather warning.

It happens pretty much every year, at pretty much the same time, despite what my neighbour reckons. Was it last year or the one before? Around the middle of September, it rained so hard and heavy here there were things floating along the road outside where I live. It’s depressing in some ways. You know the season is coming to an end, but the awful weather gives it a feel not so much of closing but of collapsing.

But there’s always next year. Here we go, some early 2007 figures. And what do you know, it will be even more of a record year than this has been - allegedly. Thomas Cook are predicting a three per-cent increase over this year, so long as hotels don’t push their prices up too much, which is a strongly coded message from Thomas Cook to them to say that they won’t tolerate higher prices. Five per cent is as much as Thomas Cook will accept as “this year we have reached a limit in demand and capacity”. Eh? If they’ve reached a limit in demand, how will there be a 3% increase next year? Oh well.

(* Quote from the Majorca Daily Bulletin.)

Some general economy stuff. The annual economic report (for 2005) from the bank La Caixa shows that immigration to the Balearics rose by some 16% between 2000 and 2005. Alcúdia experienced one of the highest overall population growths of all - 30% in that period, compared with 11% in Pollensa, 4% in Muro, 14% in Sa Pobla and a pretty sizeable 22% in Santa Margalida (which includes Ca’n Picafort). An interesting bit of trivia. Apparently there are - or were in 2005 - 338 bar/restaurant businesses in Alcúdia and 223 in Pollensa. So, now you know. Also on things economic, the Balearics saw a fall - of 0.1% - in its retail price index, placing inflation at a current 3.7%.

An addendum. The assets of Open Holidays (see 3 September) have been acquired by, also trading as

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Weather / Skin cancer

Selective memory. It plays tricks.

I have a neighbour. She has been living on my urbanisation in Playa de Muro for 40 years. I spoke to her about rain the other day. Oh, no, it doesn’t rain in September. Yes, I said. It can rain very heavily. Oh no, she said.

Last night there was the most almighty storm. It was not the worst. In Alaró in the centre of the island there was total mayhem. One dead.

Selective memory.

Something personal. I saw the dermatologist today. I knew what was wrong, and he confirmed it. They’re doing the biopsy.

Skin cancer.

Only superficial, it is not a big deal. At least I don’t think so. But it might have become so.

There was an unexplained sort of blistering. This then grew a bit and joined with a freckle. The freckle started to grow. It itched occasionally. I knew what it was, and so it was.

Sun. You can’t really avoid it here after all. But to anyone who has a slightly unusual skin complaint, just go and get it looked at. It will probably be as everyday and swiftly treatable as my little melanoma - I hope.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rental accommodation / Tourism economics

The regulations on rental accommodation (last reported 25 August) seem ever more confusing. I spoke with the boss of a company that manages and arranges holiday lets. Not only did I get a copy of the tortuous “law” and accompanying documentation, I also got the view that apartments are not covered, i.e. the regulations are focused on villas etc. Pollensa town hall, it would appear, has said (to this particular company) that apartments are not included, or at least that they cannot rubber-stamp aspects of the regulations as they might apply to apartments.

This is not surprising; the documentation makes reference to “vivienda unifamiliar aislada”, which literally means cut-off (i.e. stand-alone) single family home. To apply and certify such property there are various hoops that owners need to go through, and being an owner is signiifcant. If one is not the owner - e.g. of a whole block of apartments but of just one - no application can be made as the regulation requires a statement of such ownership.

My view is that if an apartment owner cannot comply with requirements in the documentation, this does not mean he or she can just turn a blind-eye; on the contrary, the inability to comply may mean that apartments simply cannot be offered as holiday lets - period.

There is then also the issue as to how all this might be enforced, as responsible technicians from the Ministry of Tourism need to enter properties and check on quality/safety aspects.

God knows what all this really means. It strikes me as a bureaucratic nightmare.

More back-slapping on numbers through the airport. Not only did Palma register more than 3 million passengers in August, it is set to see a similar number in September. This is being interpreted as more excellent news, with high hotel occupancies. Maybe, but the visitor spend is still key. You can have all the passengers in the world, but if they don’t dosh up sufficiently...?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Taylor Woodrow / Language / Crime

Taylor Woodrow. A well-known name in the construction industry. They are building on what was the Garbi hole in Puerto Pollensa that caused so much amusement back in April. They have a slogan, an ungrammatical slogan. It is: “We build in Spain since 1958”.

Now, setting aside any attempt at possible post-modern grammatical irony, how can they come up with something so wrong? English grammar, and English language, is sometimes subject to flexible usage (for flexible, read wrong, as in the use of the present perfect by football managers, players and pundits - “He’s crossed the ball, and the boy’s put it in the back of the net” - when they should be using the past tense for a completed action).

Strictly speaking, the slogan should read: “We have been building in Spain since 1958”, i.e. the present perfect continuous to imply that they will be continuing to do so. Bit of a mouthful admittedly, so the abbreviated “Building in Spain since 1958” would be acceptable.

The answer to this lies - I assume - in that Spanish grammar has been applied. While there is a continuous usage in Spanish, the expression of actions begun in the past and continued in the present is done with the use of the present tense. Hence, literally in Spanish, it would read: “(Nosotros) edificamos (or construimos) en España desde 1958”. A twist here is that in one of the Spanish past tenses - there is more than one - “edificamos”/”construimos” is the same, so it could also read “we built”.

Either way, it isn’t correct. Maybe there is some attempt at irony here after all, or at least an attempt at being funny. Or maybe someone’s just ballsed up.

Well, what was I saying about crime? The Balearics has the third highest level of crime among regions of Spain. Now, much of this is as a consequence of the huge influx of people during the summer. The argument being made here is that Madrid needs to recognise that the all-year population (of around one million) is a red herring when it comes to the crime problems of summer. Hence, central government is being lobbied to provide greater funding for police and Guardia Civil.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Guardia Civil / Parking / Language

Well, my thanks to the Bulletin for some interesting stuff today.

Firstly, collar-felt time. Collar-felt time big time, laddy. Not your average Joe crim, but the head of the Balearics Guardia Civil who - allegedly - has been siphoning off Guardia funds for building works that have never been done. He was duly sacked yesterday. I’m not saying anything; not another word.

It is rare indeed for me to find anything of note in Riki Lash’s musings, but I have to go along with him when he attacks the on-the-spot fines for tourists (and also those fines for foreign residents) who don’t understand road warning signs. He argues that car-hire firms should give information as to what these signs and symbols mean. Fair enough, methinks.

There is also a letter from a lady who received a parking ticket in Santa Ponsa. The deal was this, it would appear: the hire car was legally parked with a piece of paper on the dashboard stating day and time of parking. Yet a police officer still slapped a ticket on the car. The curiosity about this is that the driver had to write out the time on a piece of paper. This sounds remarkably similar to the system in operation - after a fashion - in the parking area by the marina in Puerto Pollensa. Here one is meant to write out the time, parking being limited to an hour and a half. And yet I seem to be the only one who does this. The last couple of occasions I’ve parked there, I’ve looked at other cars. No notes about times. Yet there is still a sign (not immediately obvious it must be said), explaining that this is indeed what you need to do. Frankly it’s a daft arrangement. Why not have a machine that issues a ticket? Or at least have large signs explaining what to do. Then there is a practical point. What if you don’t have something to write with? Nuts, I reckon.

The writer of the letter suggests she won’t be coming back. An over-reaction? Well maybe, but I have some sympathy. I once watched an incident involving some German tourists in Alcúdia. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what they were meant to have done wrong - it was that they had turned left where they shouldn’t have - but the police officer was pretty abrupt. “You pay now!” They really did look quite upset, and I couldn’t blame them. I don’t really blame the police officer either; he was only doing his duty. But - and moving to a different point - his language was not good enough to communicate in a half-pleasant fashion. Consequently, the encounter was highly negative for people who looked like they wouldn’t say boo to a goose (i.e. very decent and up-standing) and who also might have thought twice about returning.

It is the case here that any significant dealings with the local plod require a translator for which the tourist has to pay. I don’t know that this is right. In a tourist area I believe that there should be sufficient numbers of police officers who can speak at least English; and some German would come in handy, too. Any language trainers out there?

Forgot to mention that - weather-wise - August was officially cooler than average, which will come as no surprise. September has seen a return to warmer and more humid weather, though - as yet - there are no signs of the occasional massive storms that can gather around this time of the year.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Open Holidays / Tourism economics / Beaches / Smoking

A bit more trouble on the apartment/villa front. Though applications for the correct certification are expected to come flooding in by the 26 September deadline, one company - well-known in Pollensa especially for marketing this sort of accommodation - has gone into administration. Open Holidays had the administration filed on 31 August. It rermains to be seen as to what the future may hold, though it is easy to imagine that the confidence of both property owners and those renting will have taken a knock.

August hotel occupancy in Mallorca stood at 95%, so the hoteliers say, an increase of 2.5% over last year. The number of people visiting the Balearics in total has risen by just over half a million during the first seven months of the year. Oh well, there you go.

Beach problems in Puerto Pollensa. The strip along the main paseo (Anglada Camarassa) leading to the pinewalk is one of only two beaches in the whole of Mallorca to have been declared deficient according to the weekly analysis. The pong is rumoured to be caused by sewage from one of the hotels. Yuck.

The deadline for premises to adopt smoking measures has passed. In the Balearics, those bars/restaurants etc of less than 100 square metres do not need to physically separate smoking and non-smoking areas. Those of greater size do, with the creation of, for instance, a wall. However, the authorities appear to be taking a softly-softly approach, and there is some talk of other means of “separation” being used, e.g. air curtains and extractors.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Crime / S’Albufera / Index for August 2006

And then there is violent crime. A British youth staying in Puerto Alcúdia is apparently in a coma after getting into a fight with some other Brits. I don’t know if there are any crossed wires here, but if not and it is therefore a separate incident, I was told this morning that a girl was beaten up in the Bellevue vicinity last night.

All is seemingly not well at S’Albufera. According to an environmental group, the nature park is suffering from “progressive decline”. There has been no director in situ since April, there is no promotion of the park and there are inadequate technical staff. All of this is rather a pity, especially as the Targeta Verde Magazine, from the Balearics Foundation for Sustainable Development makes such a noise about S’Albufera in its summer edition.

Index for August 2006

Albufera - 31 August 2006
Alcúdia Jazz Festival - 30 August 2006
Alcúdia’s industrial estate - 14 August 2006
All-inclusives - 13 August 2006, 16 August 2006
Barquita Restaurant - 21 August 2006
Beaches - 11 August 2006, 13 August 2006
British tourists - 21 August 2006, 31 August 2006
Ca’n Picafort - 13 August 2006
Crime - 30 August 2006, 31 August 2006
Desalination - 9 August 2006
Driving - 2 August 2006, 13 August 2006
Ecology/environment - 11 August 2006, 14 August 2006, 31 August 2006
English breakfasts - 2 August 2006
Ensaimada - 14 August 2006
Fresh juices - 2 August 2006
Holidayforums - 13 August 2006
Jazz - 30 August 2006
Jellyfish - 9 August 2006, 10 August 2006, 17 August 2006, 22 August 2006
Language - 22 August 2006
Palma Airport - 8 August 2006, 11 August 2006, 25 August 2006
Playa de Muro - 11 August 2006, 25 August 2006
Price controls - 30 August 2006
Rental accommodation - 25 August 2006
Sunbeds - 25 August 2006
Terrorism - 11 August 2006
Tourism economics - 16 August 2006, 25 August 2006
Twister - 14 August 2006
Water - 9 August 2006
Weather - 2 August 2006, 7 August 2006, 8 August 2006, 14 August 2006