Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Discomfort of Strangers

Mallorca is like “Neighbours”. Well, up to a point. People don’t suddenly start living in a different house and generally don’t go missing for a couple of years after a visit to the seaside. But they do ... just go. Now, this is all ancient Neighbours’ history, as I haven’t seen it for years. But there was the time - for instance - when Shane just went. “Shane’s gone to Perth.” I think it was Madge who revealed this. One moment there, one moment gone. And others ... they always went to Perth, or Brisbane. In Shane’s case, we knew nothing of him until he pitched up in “The Flying Doctors” (which was probably where he really went). Sometimes there were set-piece departures, like Kylie’s, but normally ... zippo.

Mallorca makes for transience. The summer population is one thing. The all-year is another, which makes departure seem all the more perfunctory. People leave for a variety of reasons. There are those who need to make a rapid exit; I know of some. The need is often financial or illegal (or both). There are others who find it is not the paradise they hoped for. Then there are those businesspeople who find it’s not what how it was described in the brochure. I have a good friend - he has, or rather had, a restaurant. I’ve never really known why he came here. Maybe he doesn’t either. It wasn’t as the brochure had it, or rather as it was sold to him. He has gone. Just gone. One moment here, one moment gone.

He said that he could just pack up the car and head back for England. But he had his cats to worry about. They had been his companions; he couldn’t and wouldn’t just give them up. He had started to “passport” the cats, but for five of them it was quite a procedure. Chances were he would have gone to the south of the mainland, taken a bar. It wasn’t really him. He loved running his type of restaurant. He made the one here a success by insisting on quality of cuisine. He was successful in England, before his problems got in the way. I won’t say what they were.

I say “success”. The restaurant was a success - in high season. Out of high season, it struggled. He was told that there was business for nine months. It was bollocks. He trusted. Had I known him when he was taking it over, I could have told him it was bollocks.

“Ah”, you might say. “But what about the accounts?” What accounts? Yes, there are often some form of accounts. But that is not the whole story here. There are accounts, and then there is black. And then there is just bollocks. Bollocks and bullshit.

He also encountered this shit on the mainland. He placed a deposit on a place. When he returned, he was told - by the agent - that the price had gone up. Wanted his money back. Couldn’t. That’s how it is in Spain, he was told. What a scandal.

This friend. He had no real need for companionship, except for his cats. He just wanted to run a business, a business for nine months a year, a business that would occupy him, reward him. It was a nine-month pup. A three-month cash cow. He trusted. Perhaps he was a fool. That would be hard for me to say; he is a friend after all. But he wasn’t the first, he won’t be the last.

Mallorca is transient. Not just for those who come to live a dream. Also those who sell - and bullshit - that dream. Because they often just go, too.

I last heard from this friend about, when was it, two, three weeks ago. He was in Barcelona. Now I don’t know. Now I hope he’s ok. I could identify this friend. Some, well, quite a few people here will know him. Some will know the background to his travails. I’ll keep my powder dry. But ... I know. I know all there is to know.

Weather stuff: man alive, is it good. Stupidly warm sitting at 1919 in Puerto Pollensa today. Well, so what happened to winter?

Index for February 2007

Abranaxus - 5 February 2007
All-inclusives - 5 February 2007, 6 February 2007
Architecture - 15 February 2007
Blogs - 24 February 2007
British tourists - 6 February 2007
Business failure - 28 February 2007
Burglary - 24 February 2007
Café La Sala - 24 February 2007
Carretera Arta - 11 February 2007
Climate change - 11 February 2007
Crime - 24 February 2007
Conjuring - 5 February 2007
Cycling - 11 February 2007
Environment - 11 February 2007
Grupo Boulevard - 5 February 2007, 15 February 2007
Guardia Civil - 24 February 2007
La Placeta - 11 February 2007
Language - 15 February 2007
Playa de Muro - 15 February 2007
Roads - 11 February 2007
Tourist behaviour - 6 February 2007
Weather - 15 February 2007, 24 February 2007, 28 February 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007


There was this piece of glass. Quite a big piece. It was lying on the lawn. What some people will chuck into a garden, I thought huffily as I walked from the car. And then I saw.

Later, that evening in fact, I found what was like a jemmy. It was on the low wall in the front of my neighbour’s house. That must have been it. The Guardia Civil officer had been unclear as to how the shutter had been ripped open.

He had parked his vehicle by where I later found the jemmy. He also didn’t notice the traces of blood on the net curtain. Or maybe he had. I didn’t notice them till later. Entering and exiting through a broken window could draw blood; it could also make a piece of glass get entangled in clothing. But when you have a small bag with an expensive digital camera, maybe you don’t worry too much. What do I know?

That was all. Just the camera, and roughly five euros in loose change. To whoever it was. Tough shit, arsehole. Don’t bother in future. There ain’t no money here.

Crime. Yes, there is. The lady officer at the Guardia the next day said it does tend to be like this as the season approaches. People arriving, looking for work, not having any money. Maybe that’s what she meant. What do I know?

Well, I do know that all my immediate neighbours have had the same problem. And now so had I. Life in Mallorca.

Nicer stuff. There’s another blog in Alcúdia. It’s originator is Trevor from the fine Café La Sala in the old town. Check it out. All about the café. Link can be found in the links list. Oh, nice photos of the café, Trev.

First lilywhite body of the season. The really rather warm weather produced it. Chap, purplish shorts, white legs, white torso, walking along the paseo in Puerto Alcúdia. And there was I in jacket, shirt and t-shirt beneath the shirt.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dodgy English

Sometimes I wonder. It’s this English thing. And it’s this aesthetic thing.

I have had words before about this English thing. Like Taylor Woodrow’s “we build in Spain since 1958”. Ungrammatical, innit. I haven’t had too many words about carbuncles and architectural naffness. But now they come together. A kind of symbiosis. Except it’s not a carbuncle, but an expression through construction that highlights the poverty of what surrounds it.

I’m talking Grupo Boulevard, one of the area’s most prominent enterprises. Now, they did get a bit of bad PR over the Dakota restaurant at the start of the Pinewalk in Puerto Pollensa, and they duly subdued it.

Some eighteen months in the building, Boulevard’s seemingly corporate edifice is now about complete, a glass-fronted, black-grey-silver-tinted statement amidst the generally hideous row of “locals” that someone had the lack of foresight to allow to be developed in Playa de Muro. Hats off to Boulevard. The building, out of place though it is, is a distinct improvement. It would be just fine in a city’s financial area. In Playa de Muro ...?

How did planners ever get Playa de Muro so wrong? There you have splendid hotels - the Iberostars for example - but then you also have that row of non-descript, uncharismatic locals, and then you also have the total absence of a “centre” that might make Playa de Muro a place to which people would gravitate, as opposed to pass through.

Undeterred, Boulevard have erected their building. “Precioso,” is how a one-time employee described it. Perhaps. But while it may well be an improvement, how come - and here’s this English thing (eventually) - how come the name? “Boulevard Building Center”. I am not alone in thinking it sounds like a DIY store. Could they not have just run the name past an English-speaker (native preferably), and realised it sounds wrong? That’s this English thing. They’re not alone. Taylor Woodrow’s another. There are many more. Is it so difficult for local businesses (or multinational builders) to find an English-speaker who could point out the error?

Sometimes I wonder.

Weather note: Brilliant. Warm. Lovely. Blissful. Won’t last.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More Road Non-Sense?

Given the criticism that had been heaped onto the state of the Carretera Arta in Puerto Alcudia, it seems a tad chary to slag it off now that it has been resurfaced. But. In seeking to facilitate pedestrian crossing, there are crossing-point islands, most obviously the one shown here in front of the Ivory Playa hotel. Fine. They are needed. But. The potential problem is that the road narrows to the sides of the islands, cutting out the cycle lanes. I was aware of this problem this morning. There was a line of cyclists. I had to give way. No problem in that, but I fear it might be a problem. Additionally, the island is right by the exits/entries to the Ivory Playa/Campsa Garage and Eroski Syp roads, which means cars turning right or crossing the main road. Maybe there will be pedestrian crossings painted onto the road (not that they really mean much here). Maybe there’ll be speed-calmers. We’ll wait and see. But at the moment, despite the best intentions, I can see this all ending in tears.

And while I’m on the subject. The new roundabouts along the Carretera, while also welcome, have their own problem. The one at the road to Palma for instance. There are two lanes coming towards the roundabout along the main road, but the roundabout is wide enough to accommodate only one line of traffic. Again, especially given the at-best inconsistent behaviour at roundabouts here, I fear problems.

Seems I was quick off the mark in raising the potential environmental disaster that could befall Mallorca as a result of climate change. Based on information from NASA, the consequences of a one-metre rise in sea levels has been plotted on Google maps. Doesn’t make for happy reading. Flooding would reach Sa Pobla and Muro. Worse than I had inferred before. Really, if you’re thinking of buying that lovely villa on the beach, you just might want to think again. Having said this, one metre is an awful lot.

New ownership note: so much for the shortlived ownership of Katie and Marshall at La Placeta in Pollensa. They’re out of there. Harvey’s in.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How To Enjoy A Holiday

Sharp observers of this blog will know that - like many another blog - I do, from time to time, have something to say about local media or to base some of my stuff on what appears therein. Till now, I have never lifted a whole piece. But I’ll make an exception now, but only in translation from the Spanish.

There is a free newspaper that doesn’t venture north, but is available in Palma. I got a copy today. It’s called ADN. At the back there is a column called “The End” (really, English title). Not a Doors-type “The End” (my beautiful friend), just an end column. One Montserrat Dominguez.

This is what it says today (this is a slightly abbreviated version anyway):

“ITV is showing a series called ‘Benidorm’ which relates - in comedic fashion - the adventures of a group of tourists. The action centres on an all-inclusive complex. The tourists neither have to leave (this complex) nor do they have to eat paella. Did I say paella? (asks Montserrat). Excuse me: the Brits enjoy fish and chips, porridge, baked beans and other specialities of their cuisine; they don’t try local dishes. Why would they risk this, given that their surroundings reproduce a scene in which they have pubs, music, tobacco and drinks.

Why then do they come to Benidorm, to Mallorca, to the Costa Brava or to the Canaries? A walk along the coast shows us (the Spanish) that they can pass through hundreds of urbanisations without hearing a word of Castilian, Mallorquin or Catalan, or even worse, without discovering a cold beer, a slice of tortilla or a good pa amb oli. The Swedish, German or Irish ghettoes on our coastline are a wonder of mimicry.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves our own question though: in the Caribbean, all-inclusive complexes proliferate, and thousands of Spaniards seek out an exotic environment which doesn’t ruin, one jot, their own blessed routines. The French do something similar when they go to their Club Meds. What happiness! To travel thousands of kilometres to feel just like being at home.”

Well, setting aside any dodgy translation, what Montserrat is getting at is that all tourists do what the Brits are notorious for and have been for decades; it was the early ‘70s after all when Eric Idle and the Monty Python gang did the piss-take based on “Watneys Red Barrel”. But she’s right to bemoan the fact that all too few tourists seem to want to escape their familiar surroundings and enjoy the local culture. Some do, but the majority appear not to. That’s largely how it is here, especially for those ensconced in all-inclusives. She might have chosen some of her examples more carefully; I think cold beers can be had in all-inclusives - many of them in fact - but I know the point she’s making.

Happy hols!!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Abracadabra ..

It seems so long ... Silence from your favourite blog for too long. It’s a quiet time of year. It’s quiet, unremarkable; like the weather. It’s time for spending a bit too much time over a coffee in cafés. But it’s a time for gathering some interesting bits of information. Here are some ...

All-inclusives ... chastened perhaps by the all-day and all-night drunkenness, shitting in the pools and whatever, the Mac hotels in Puerto Alcúdia have dropped the 24-hour all-inclusivity. Let’s see. But also, in the more genteel Playa de Muro, both La Dorada and the Esperanza have dropped the all-inclusive offer. Good for local businesses, especially as Grupo Boulevard’s glass edifice comes closer to opening - Dakota Tex-Mex, Gran Cafe and all.

And now for something completely different ... You don’t get too much that is different here. A bar is a bar is a bar, and Elvis impersonator is .... (fill in the rest). So a different form of evening entertainment - in Puerto Alcúdia - is to be noted. Abranaxus opened some two to three months back. It’s run by a chap called Felipe. It’s a bar, but the difference is that he does magic shows. He showed me some card tricks today. No way could I say how he did them. He has this small show area, with a camera showing his hands onto a screen. It’s a good idea. I hope he does well.

Index for January 2007

Awards of 2006 - 1 January 2007
Climate change - 11 January 2007
Cycling - 13 January 2007
Environment - 11 January 2007
“Euro Weekly” - 4 January 2007
Leapy Lee - 4 January 2007
Palma Airport - 4 January 2007
Posters - 4 January 2007
Racism - 4 January 2007
Roads - 23 January 2007
S’Albufera - 23 January 2007
Speed traps - 13 January 2007
Three Kings - 6 January 2007
Tourism economics - 4 January 2007
Weather - 13 January 2007, 23 January 2007