Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I live opposite the S’Albufera nature reserve. For those who don’t know, this is the vast area of protected wetlands that lies largely in Playa de Muro but which extends inland to the northern-most part of Sa Pobla. Albufera is home to all manner of flora and fauna; the other morning there was a right noise - it was the water buffalo. Someone I know who works here says there are no buffalo. There certainly are. As there are also all manner of migratory birds, some of which form huge swoops of song and flapping.

Albufera has been dogged with some controversy. A while ago I mentioned that a report had criticised the lack of technical staff, upkeep and a director. Well, there is now a director who has just reported that more than 100,000 people visited the park during 2006.

I don’t know if that’s good or not, albeit the figure is up some 35% apparently. Unsurprisingly, the peak periods for visitors are spring and autumn. In summer, the numbers are less. Too hot. That’s one reason. The other? Too little interest. Sorry, but your average summer tourist ain’t gonna go wandering over in Albufera when he can be soaking up the sun by the pool. Shame, but there you go.

Some other stuff ... The resurfacing of the Carretera Arta in Puerto Alcúdia and Playa de Muro goes on apace - finally!!! And the weather note: after all the glorious weather (ever since Christmas Day), it looks like it’s collapsing. Quite a bit colder. Hey ho, maybe it’s the usual end-of-January weather belly-up.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Clippety-clop, some cyclists shop

Ah yea, they’re back. Cyclists. Great pelotons of Germans aping Jan Ullrich or Erik Zabel. Clip-clop, clip-clop; the supermarkets are alive with the sound of cycling foot furniture - a Holy Grail of horse-hoof coconut-shell karaoke heading for the bananas and the Ritter Sport*.

And shouting. Yes, shouting. On the roads. Shouting. They must have got it from the Mallorcans.

“Achtung, Horst, hier kommt ein grosser Lastwagen. Achtung ... AARRGHH.”

Well, that’s not quite how it happens, but you probably get the picture; three-abreast cyclists, one dirty great lorry, one dirty great lorry’s horn. More shouting. “Arschloch, Arschloch.”

And what do you know, the cycling season has barely even begun. Oh to be in Mallorca now that the cycling spring has Vorsprung durch Rad-Technik.

Not that any infringements of two-wheel road usage are likely to be stamped on by Trafico, especially not at present as they seem to be conducting some form of work-to-rule. All about pay apparently. And this also at a time when new set speed traps are to be introduced on main roads from Palma - one such road being that to Inca, which presumably means the motorway. The deal with the speed traps is that they are to be placed at particularly bad black spots. Five of them.

Fifty, maybe. Five hundred even. Five? Make a well-known phrase or saying involving the following words: wind, the, in, plus the gerund form of the verb to piss.

Mind you, bloody marvellous weather for cycling. Marvellous weather - pretty much - for lying on the beach. Staggeringly good at the moment. It won’t last, I’m telling you, it won’t last. Come the end of the month. Just like the last two years.

* As a footnote, one of the German slogans for Ritter Sport is “Quadratisch. Praktisch. Gut.” Literally - square-shaped, practical, good. Surely only the Germans could come up with a promotion for a chocolate that stresses functionality.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

“If You Can’t Stand The Heat ...”

“It was hotter than Hooker in Heater today, and hotter than Heater in Hellmouth, where the high was a hundred and thirty-three degrees.”

You, what?

The above comes from a weather-report spoof on the long-ago album “Everything You Know Is Wrong” by the American comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre. It just came to mind as I mulled over the prospects of Skegness becoming the new Magaluf and the Med becoming too hot for tourism.

More dire environmental prophesying.

Back in early November (entries of 2 and 6 November to be precise), I picked up on the Stern Report and its warnings regarding climate change. I spoke of the dangers of rising sea levels affecting unprotected coastlines here, such as in Playa de Muro. Now we have another warning - this one from the European Commission. This latest report predicts that - during this century - the Med will become “unbearably hot”, so much so that people will no longer flock to the beaches, as they will be able to enjoy Mediterranean conditions in ... well, Skeggy.

It’s long been said that an impact of global warming will be to make Britain and northern Europe that much warmer. The question no longer seems to be if but when. The problem with climate-change predictions is that their actualisations are too far off. “Oh, it’ll be all right, something’s bound to turn up.” That seems to be the reaction of many. But what if nothing does turn up? What if this warming kicks in that much earlier? What if, say, in ten, twenty years time, Mallorca is regularly notching up 40+ degrees in summer, the point at which the heat not only becomes intolerable, it becomes downright dangerous?

What is that about a goose and golden eggs? The airline industry and its partners the tour operators will have helped to have created an irreversible change (not that they are the only ones who should carry the can). But they will have contributed - largely unwittingly until relatively recently - and then they will find that there is no demand for Mediterranean holidays. Too damned hot. They will leave behind wastelands - decaying hotels, derelict bars, destroyed economies, deserted villas.

Whither Mallorca in such a scenario?

The seas will come again and reclaim the coastal plains, rendering what land remains worthless, subject as it will be to ever more encroachment and erosion; as worthless as it was considered until only the last sixty years or so. All the greed and prosperity will be washed away. People will return to the hinterland to pick over what is left of a shattered economic model that saw tourism as its wealth-creator, its greed-creator and finally its destroyer.

Have a nice holiday this year.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Three Kings

Today is Three Kings or Epiphany if you prefer. Yesterday evening there were celebrations across the island, the “Kings” arriving, e.g. by boat into the port of Alcúdia (always perishing down on the pier waiting for them - no different this year). But just what is the deal with the Kings?

The deal is thus: 6 January is the day designated as the one when “los reyes” (the kings) or “los tres reyes magos” (the three magi, aka wise men) arrived, having followed the star, and offered gifts to the baby Jesus. In terms of local tradition, kids put out their shoes (and or stockings) overnight of 5 January; this is the equivalent of Santa here, with present-giving taking place on the 6th.

So much for the background. As often with this blog, there’s an angle, a coincidental angle. Why does so much here hang on coincidence? Discuss.

Anyway, yesterday I was loading the car with stuff from the Eroski Syp supermarket. As I was doing so, someone said “hello”. Who he, thought I. Smartly dressed - tie and hat - English, in his sixties with a wife shaped like and sounding not unlike Janine Duvitski (of - inter alia - “The Worst Week of My Life” fame). No idea who they were. Just said hello, and engaged me in conversation. Staying at the Estrella - till May. That’s a long stretch, said I. The response was not what I expected. It was a non sequitur. “We are Christians. Gideons.” Then something about the difficulties relating to the siesta break and people’s occupation with work. “Er?”, I thought.

Despite having been alerted by the “we are Christians” gambit, and being a civil sort, I asked if they would be going to watch the Kings’ procession. Possibly. And then some more of the unexpected. The Kings aren’t named in the Scriptures. In the Book of Daniel there is reference - fairly accurate in historical terms (allegedly), but no names - or so they said.

And yet, though I didn’t wish to enter a debate on the subject, I had always thought their names were known - Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. But then I don’t really do religion.

Well, they were really very nice people, and I wished them a happy new year, and then as a parting gift I was given ... a copy of The New Testament and Psalms. What can I say? Well, it is the time for gift-giving.

Happy Kings.

And just to make a weather note: beautifully clear blue skies - distinctly chilly at night but warm by day. Typical for this time of year, if the last two years are anything to go by.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies And Statistics

Never let it be said that I cannot offer praise where it is due. Having granted “Euro Weekly” the honour of the lousy journalism award for its one-time front-page story, the latest issue redeems the paper somewhat. The headline is:

“Holiday record claim is an ‘insult’ to traders”.

This refers to the announcement of the 12.2 million people that came the Balearics way during the first eleven months of 2006. Quoting an albeit unnamed bar owner in the south of the island, the article says that the figures are being used to mask the “shortcomings” of the government. It doesn’t actually say what those shortcomings are, but one gets the point. Pertinently, the fact that Spanish tourism was up by nearly 23%, while British tourism had gone up a mere percentage point tells us a lot. The bar owner says: “Unfortunately tribes of Spanish pensioners do not put money into the till.” How right he is, and not necessarily only the pensioners, though they are an under-spending phenomenon. There is one bar in Alcúdia where they tell them to piss off for the simple reason that they clutter the bar up, spend next to nothing and expect, nay demand, freebies like crisps and olives.

The bar owner goes on: “Anyone can read what they want into figures.” Well, amen to that; I was saying as much during 2006. The emphasis of the feature then shifts to winter tourism. Magaluf is described as a “ghost town” in winter and a cut-price, all-inclusive area during summer”. Sounds familiar. It could also be said of Alcúdia. Warming to his theme, he continues: “we need quantity but we also need quality”. Where have I heard that before? Yes, right here - on this blog.

So, in a nutshell, the article savages the complacency of Sr. Flaquer and his numbers-game, calls for an alternative to all-inclusives and for more winter tourism. Couldn’t really have put it better myself. The only thing is: why is the bar owner not named?

But elsewhere in the paper, we get - on facing pages - not just one columnist of the year as voted for (apparently) by readers but two, namely someone using the moniker Boadicea and our old favourite Leapy Lee. Well, I admit I don’t pay that much attention to the paper, but how many other columnists are there? And what, in all truth, does a one-hit wonder like the Leapster do to deserve this title? Rants on about (favourably) the somewhat summary nature of justice in Saudi Arabia in decrying the procrastination of the British legal system. Strewth.

More interestingly, there is mention of the development of the terminal at the airport which should see less congestion and less of a trek for passengers, especially those travelling with low-cost airlines who, at present, face a long walk to baggage reclaim and the exit. The work is set to be completed by the end of 2009.

Also, there is a thing about an allegedly “racist” poster that has appeared around the island. The poster reads: “Productes de Mallorca: Els mallorquins són els millors”. This translates as - “Mallorcan produce (or also products). The Mallorcans are the best.” Now, you could read this as claiming that the Mallorcan people are the best, but that is not what is being said. It is the products that are the best. Whether one agrees with that is largely beside the point. But people seem to have got themselves into an almighty lather over nothing. Once more quoting an unnamed source (a resident of Puerto Pollensa who wished not to be named - why?), the article bangs on about the offensiveness of the posters and multi-culturalism versus nationalism, blah, blah. A load of noise about nothing. Forget it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Awards Of 2006

And so here they are - The AlcúdiaPollensaBlogspot Annual Awards. After the first two, things take a turn for the worse...

The Best New Idea Of The Year: The nautical and sepia fairs in Puerto Alcúdia. (report of 1 April)


The Best New Bar Of The Year: JK’s in Puerto Pollensa.

The Worst Publicity For A Bar Award: Lineker’s in Puerto Alcúdia
Lineker’s Bar takes its name not so much from Gary but from his brother Wayne, though the connection with Gary has surely been fundamental to the development of the “brand”. Wayne has been a bit of a naughty boy, 200 grands’ worth of a naughty boy in fact. 200 grands’ worth of undeclared wads in suitcases of a naughty boy to be precise. And now he’s serving a term. (25 April)

The Most Shortlived Appropriately Named Chef Award: Oliver at Oliver’s
Olivers in Puerto Pollensa - has lost its Oliver. I’ll not go into the reasons, at least those that have been reported to me. But it’s knackered my line about the serendipity of there actually being a chef called Oliver. Not anymore there ain’t. Oops. (2 June; the restaurant had opened on 1 May)


The Daily Bulletin Award For Historical Inaccuracy: Discussing Christopher Columbus’s origins,
“The Bulletin” gave us this:
“Theories include claims that Columbus ... was born in Genoa, Italy in 1491.” Quite a feat for a one-year-old to have then discovered America. It also says: “What we do know, however, is that on May 20, 1606, he died in Valladolid”. Right place, wrong century. It was 1506, and he was 57 at the time. Oh dear, let’s just put it down to typos. (14 January)

The Lousy Journalism Of The Year Award: Euro Weekly
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. (30 September and also 9 November)


The Special Bryan Adams Award For Murdering What Was Already Lousy Music: Ecuadorean pipe players
So next time I’m trying to avoid a market and I hear the strains of canned Ecuadorean “Everything I Do ...” piping its way across a hot square, I will take one of the offending pipes and oblige by indeed doing it for them and placing it in a part of the anatomy perfectly moulded and sculpted to accept a pipe. (27 May)

The Naff Entertainment Award Of The Year: Elvis impersonators
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. (3 October)


The First Choice Contribution To Local Culture Award: Rep at a Puerto Pollensa hotel
Rep: “What’s this photo of?”

Me: The Calvari steps.

Rep: And this?

Me. The pinewalk, here in Puerto Pollensa.

Rep: Oh, yes I must go there some time.

How long has she been here? Two months. How close is the pinewalk to the hotel in question? Three minutes at a stretch. (19 June)

The Most Contentious Issue Of The Year Award: All-inclusives
There is no doubt that the AI attracts - in part - a low-rent market. We’ve heard enough of fighting and bad behaviour, of drunkenness, of kids hyper on Coke overdoses to know that such low rent exists. But it is not the whole truth. Far from it. There are plenty of people who opt for the AI for sound reasons. Some of them would rather go for something else, but the advantages are clear. (20 July)

The Greatest Aid To Father-Child Bonding While On Holiday: The baby buggy
A side effect of this buggy-based mass tourism is that fathers have discovered a whole new way of bonding with their small offspring. They bond through the medium of plastic and aluminium. (2 June)

The Find Some Totty To Promote Mallorca Award: Anna Kournikova
The ITB travel fair has been showcasing the Balearics and a certain Ms Anna Kournikova who - it would appear - is now the face of the Balearics. Why an average Russian female tennis-player, God knows. ... At the ITB, Mallorca has been working hard to promote itself as a place for active holidays (golf and tennis) and for cultural, gastronomic and leisure tourism. All well and good, but what about the low-grade tourism stuff? Does Anna Kournikova pitch up at an all-inclusive and get bladdered? I very much doubt it. (10 March)

The Sculpture Of A Tattooed Tourist Award For A Tourist With Poor Taste: Trev 69
Puerto Alcúdia. Bloke. T-shirt says “Trev” “69”.
There are several words that spring to mind, but there’s one in particular. Six letters, begins with T and ends with R, and it’s not Trevor. (21 May)


The Destruction Of The English Language Without Any Apparent Attempt At Irony Award: Taylor Woodrow
Taylor Woodrow. A well-known name in the construction industry. They are building on what was the Garbi hole in Puerto Pollensa. They have a slogan, an ungrammatical slogan. It is: “We build in Spain since 1958”. (8 September)

The Most Curious Environmentally Correct Award: “We need the sand”; Playa de Muro’s environmental protection
The notice informing us of this ends with a further request, namely that when people leave the beach could they kindly dust all the sand off themselves and their belongings, as the sand is needed. Strange thing to ask. How much sand can one person carry away with him or her? But that’s ecological sensitivity for you. (11 August)