Tuesday, July 31, 2007

American Pie

Having rather despaired of Playa de Muro last time, some good news. The town hall has produced its document for its annual fiestas in four langauges, including English and German. So, good on them. The Playa de Muro gigs dont compare with the scale of those in Alcúdia and Pollensa, but then Playa de Muro doesn’t have the size or the history. Go back 40 years or so, and there was pretty much nothing there other than sand, dunes, scrub and Albufera. I must do a proper history of the place, especially as I have a neighbour with photos from that era, but that’s for another time and probably place.

Also on fiestas or events at least, I should have mentioned that the annual Sa Pobla Jazz festival started yesterday. There is a gig each week during August. Information for both Sa Pobla and Playa de Muro is on the WHAT’S ON BLOG.

A few days ago, the executive-chairman of the airline BMI, Sir Michael Bishop, was interviewed by “The Bulletin”. Given BMI’s membership of the Star Alliance, alongside the likes of Air Canada, United Airlines and US Airways, one could argue that he was being a tad self-serving when it came to suggesting that the USA and Canada could become a “good market” for Mallorca. But his views are worth considering.

North America is a negligible market at present. It is rare to hear an American accent here. But with a network operating through Heathrow as a hub, there may indeed be merit in promoting the island (and the Balearics as a whole) to this market. The anticipation might be that it would bring in a more “quality” form of tourism. For quality, read doshed-up. It is not a market that should be ignored.

But it is not as if it has been totally ignored. For some years now, Michael Douglas has been beaming out of leaflets for Valldemossa and the Costa Nord. His attraction may not have proved to be fatal, but nor has it exactly given life to a market that, while it “does” Europe, does it in daily doses, and for which a detour to an island is only worthwhile if it comes with a guardsman wearing a bearskin. There again, maybe I’m wrong. But I can’t somehow see Gary from Indiana and his family treading the Greasy Mile of an evening in search of a karaoke bar.

QUIZ - Well, last time’s answer was The Cure. Geoff offered what would have been an excellent alternative (which would have made him the second Guest Titlist) in Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night”. Today - oh too easy, but what were those good old boys drinking?

Airlines - 31 July 2007
Alcúdia marina - 12 July 2007
American market - 31 July 2007
Balaixa - 23 July 2007
Balearic Government - 18 July 2007
Bars - 10 July 2007, 11 July 2007
Beach umbrellas - 6 July 2007, 15 July 2007
Beaches - 24 July 2007
BMI - 31 July 2007
Can Picafort - 15 July 2007
Carabela Apartments - 26 July 2007
Carretera Artà - 14 July 2007
Climate change - 20 July 2007
Council of Mallorca - 8 July 2007
Euro Weekly - 17 July 2007, 27 July 2007
Fiestas - 10 July 2007, 17 July 2007, 21 July 2007, 24 July 2007, 31 July 2007
Foxes Arms - 10 July 2007
Hotels - 23 July 2007, 25 July 2007
Hurricanes - 20 July 2007
Jellyfish - 14 July 2007, 26 July 2007
JKs Bar - 11 July 2007
Kites - 24 July 2007
Leapy Lee - 17 July 2007
Lynham, Jane and Mike - 12 July 2007, 21 July 2007
Markets - 12 July 2007, 14 July 2007
Menu of the day - 23 July 2007
Mosquitoes - 26 July 2007
Motorways - 8 July 2007
Nadal, Rafael - 8 July 2007
No Frills Excursions - 17 July 2007
Patrona - 24 July 2007
Personal names - 20 July 2007
Playa de Muro - 15 July 2007, 29 July 2007, 31 July 2007
Politics - 8 July 2007
Pollensa - 23 July 2007, 24 July 2007
Pricing - 4 July 2007
Puddle Duck Elite Collectables - 12 July 2007
Puerto Pollensa - 10 July 2007
Railways - 18 July 2007
Restaurants - 23 July 2007, 27 July 2007, 29 July 2007
Road accidents - 6 July 2007, 14 July 2007, 27 July 2007
Roads - 8 July 2007
Sa Pobla Jazz - 31 July 2007
Sant Crist fiesta - 17 July 2007, 21 July 2007
Sant Jaume fiesta - 17 July 2007
Steak House Carabela - 27 July 2007
Sunbeds - 15 July 2007
Sunwing - 25 July 2007
Tipping - 10 July 2007
Tourism economics - 5 July 2007
Tourist spend - 29 July 2007
Virgen del Carmen fiesta - 10 July 2007
Weather - 23 July 2007, 24 July 2007
Websites - 23 July 2007, 25 July 2007
Weever fish -27 July 2007
www.thealcudiaguide.com - 25 July 2007
www.thepollensaguide.com - 23 July 2007, 25 July 2007


Sunday, July 29, 2007

10:15 Saturday Night

I don’t normally talk about trivial matters such as what I do on a Saturday evening, but for once I will. I was having a curry at New Delhi in Playa de Muro. What a dismal experience. The food was fine, the company was fine. But the restaurant ... Two tables were occupied in the whole of the two-and-a-half hours spent there. Two tables. Last weekend in July. High season.

There are any number of reasons. Lack of spend. All-inclusives. But this part of Playa de Muro looks pretty dismal.

Empty units with for-sale signs. A bar and restaurant - open and running - but both with for-sale signs. The terraces are mostly empty. There is a lack of life, a lack of light even. They have had the life sucked out of them. They have little more to offer. And what they did has been sucked up by the Boulevard DIY centre where the tex-mex is doing ok and there are people at the café. The shop lights shine and welcome the moths of tourists like runaways drawn to the city lights and away from the drabness and ordinariness of provincial life.

But lacking the funds of Boulevard, these other places - caught between the rock of rents and overheads and a hard place of low spend - cannot (apparently) even shine out brightly to attract custom.

And there, on the other side of the road, are the opulent Iberostars, radiant, glowing, temples of exclusive all-inclusivity, tying their worshippers by cocktail and third-rate cabaret.

There is a view that every year is not as good as the one before. Last year was better, the one before was better still, and five years before the streets were ticker-taped with euros being crunched by those wearing diamonds in the soles of their shoes. 

It was always better. Go back ten or twenty years, and there was an alchemy that could turn the mere dross of a Saint Mick and a burger into rivers of gold and the riches of kings.

It is of course questionable that it was ever really THAT good. But if one uses the evidence of one’s eyes, at least when it comes to one part of one resort, one has to ask - was it ever really THIS bad?

Quiz - Last time. Harry Potter, the latest of course. Today’s title? Who?


Friday, July 27, 2007

The Deathly Shallows

And now we start to make the news. Remember the piece about the side road in Puerto Alcúdia; it being a potential death-trap (14 July, “The Bitter Sting Of Tears”). There it is - in a rather different form - in the current “Euro Weekly”. No, no, they haven’t nabbed it. Nothing like that. They were sent it. A combination of my words, Karen at Foxes’ instigation and John’s camera. The only slight problem is the headline, “Accident Waiting To Happen For Cyclists”. Well, yes, cyclists could have an accident, but it was more to do with a car going too fast and smacking into an inattentive tourist. But, no matter, at least it’s there.

There I was talking yesterday about the non-jellyfish alert, and now there is a rather more ominous marine threat. Courtesy of another piece in “Euro Weekly”, it seems that the weever fish, a really nasty bit of work, is making its presence known near Mallorca’s beaches. While this most unpleasant chap is not uncommon, his numbers are up, as are the number of stings, and the fish has been reported in Alcúdia Bay and off Son Serra de Marina.

As the weever hides in the sand, often in shallow water by the water's edge, it might well be worth taking the precaution of wearing something on the feet. Flip-flops would probably not be sufficient, but something like those shoes with the quite thick, airy soles and the holes over the top of the foot (that everyone’s wearing this year) could do the trick. Anyway, watch out, weever’s about!

Quiz. A carabela was a three-masted sailing ship from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Columbus used carabelas. Misunderstood? ‘Twas The Animals, for which Geoff was very grateful!! Today’s title? Everyone must know where this is taken from and adapted.

And given this burst of carabela stuff, here’s another RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK. It is ... STEAK HOUSE CARABELA

Where: Avenida Reina Sofia, Puerto Alcúdia, opposite the Carabela Apartments.

What: Alcúdia’s best barbecue (well, that’s what the publicity says). Chateaubriand. Very generous portions.

When: Every day.

Who: Tomas is the top man here. José and Julie, also to be found at Nova Marina, are the owners.

Why: Excellent location for hotels like the Vivas Tropic and Golf, Alcudia Garden and Coral de Mar. Just over from the beach. Good-sized terrace.

And finally, I am indebted to Alastair who, given the combination of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Stingray on these pages these past days, mailed me a youtube. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua_wCMywEM0. Cut and paste to see the classic sketch that took the mick out of Thunderbirds.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

One of the satisfactions of doing this blog is when folk email me. Very often this is with quiz answers, but not always. I prefer that people email, rather than put comments on the individual posts for two reasons: a) these comments can be anonymous, which can also mean someone with an agenda, and b) if the email contains something of note I can then use this in the post itself, thus giving it more prominence. And it so happens I have received such an email. It comes from James who picks me up on yesterday’s reference to the Carabela Apartments. I quote:

“To put someone off the Carabelas due to the reasons you stated are fairly short-sighted. Firstly the rubbish area is three bins with some recycling banks, limited if ANY pungent smells come from this area and you will know that they are emptied regularly. Secondly "refurb" - yes I agree the outside of the buildings are in need of a re-paint, although these where professionally re-painted three years ago they are again due to be done. But surely the inside of the apartments which by and large are of a VERY high standard and the location should count more as to whether or not the exterior needs refreshing or there are a few bins outside on the main road.

Anyhow keep up the good work with the blog - I do enjoy reading it.”

As I said to James in reply to his email, I am delighted to be corrected. And I happen to agree with everything he says. The location of the Carabelas is excellent and the overall standard of the apartments themselves is very high. I know for a fact that they are in high demand, both from visitors and potential purchasers. So, yep, it’s a fair cop, and thanks to James for his helpful comments.

Summer would not be the same here without malevolent little creatures whose main purpose for their existence seems to be to cause harm to humans. Jellyfish and mosquitoes. “The Bulletin” goes with a front cover headline today “Jellyfish Alert”. Except, there isn’t really an alert. Any plague has yet to materialise, partly perhaps because of attempts to scoop the jellyfish up before they get too close to the shores. So, I’m not quite sure what the fuss is about, although the piece does say that chemists have run out of the jellyfish protective creams, which I think I had already alluded to on 14 July (“The Bitter Sting Of Tears”). As for the mosquitoes; it’s hard to fathom them out. Back in May and much of June, they were a damn nuisance. But for some three weeks or so, there’s been hardly sight nor buzz of them. What is more of a problem this summer is flies. Their peak period has always been from September till December. Not this year.

And your starter for ten ... What is, or was, a carabela? In view of the Carabela exchange, today’s title. Who sang it? Yesterday - The Greaseband.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

With A Little Help

Yea, now they’re all getting in on the pop quiz idea. “The Bulletin” today offers tickets to Joe Cocker in Palma if you can answer a Cocker-related question, the answer to which is Ringo Starr. That answer - along with today’s title - will tell you what the question was.

But this leads me to ... A couple of days ago I chronicled an email exchange there had been on thepollensaguide.com. Help. Yes, we help. In the words of the BBC’s one-time slogan: “It’s What We Do”. Going on in the background. On the different sites, especially thealcudiaguide.com. Someone wanted to book for Sunwing in Alcúdia. Couldn’t get an English website. We went. Asked. Got the address. But you can’t book unless you’re Scandinavian. Shame. I can think of some hotels in Alcúdia that I would prefer to have a weekend with the Taliban than stay at. But Sunwing isn’t one of them.

Someone was concerned there was no air-conditioning at their hotel. This surprised us. We went and asked. There is air-con in all rooms at the Sol de Alcúdia.

Someone wanted advice as to where to stay. Had a specific enquiry about the Carabela Apartments. We went. Found the block in question needed some refurb and was next to the rubbish area. She chose the Venecia instead.

Someone wanted an interior hotel with a pool. We checked. Got them a fortnight at Posada de Lluc.

Someone was arriving at midnight at the airport. We put them in touch with Majorca Airport Transfers. “They are great to deal with.” Not our words.

Someone asked ... Well, there are plenty more where these came from.

With a little help. Doesn’t earn a cent. But, boy, is it satisfying.

Anyway, Joe Cocker. Give me Jarvis instead any day, but needs must ... What was the name of the group fronted by Joe in the mid-60s before he got by with a little help from his friends? Yesterday: Dick Van Dyke ok, but David Tomlinson was the main chap, "Mary Poppins" the film.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

So much for what I was saying about the flat sea yesterday. Really whipping in today and windy. But this is not a weather report. Remember what I was saying about beach umbrellas and accidents. Well, add to beach umbrellas, beach kites.

Now we’re not talking kites as we knew them. Flimsy bits of paper or plastic glued to a shaky frame of balsa-wood. These kites are industrial. They are the beach-bound bastard cousins of the kites that kitesurfers use. Smaller than those but built with frames to withstand a nuclear attack, or certainly to withstand smacking into some hard beach at the speed of a VW cabriolet from a local car-rental firm hammering along a side road and into a passing drunk. And they smack into the beach with a heck of a thud. Missed me by a whisker. Really startled me though. Lying there knees up, eyes closed. It could have been between the knees. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Last year, I waxed if not lyrically but slightly nostalgically about beach life as it was. In the days before the entire contents of Toys ‘R’ Us and Milletts got dragged onto the beach and deposited or erected thereon. When you could lounge in a stupor and be under attack only from a passing gull dropping its payload. Not now. Now you need body armour and headgear. In fact, a cricketer’s protective equipment - from box to helmet via chest and arm protectors would not go amiss for the contemporary beach.

The German girl who nearly neutered me was very sorry. And if I’m honest, had I fancied her a bit more I might have forgiven her completely and got up to give her a lesson - in kite-flying, that is. But I didn’t. So I didn’t.

Starting on the 26th of July is the jolly shindig that is the Pollensa Patrona festival. I’m not sure if an English version of the programme is available, but the tourist office very kindly sent me an elaborate PDF document. As usual it was in Mallorquín. But, as usual, I’ve translated it, and it’s on the website and the What’s On Blog. The big event is on the 2nd August, the simulation of the battle between the Moors and the Christians. Catch it while you can before political sensitivities put a stop to it. (The Moors got their bottoms slapped, and Moors are/were Muslims. That’s why.)

Quiz: It was Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as Derek and Clive. Today’s title: The film should be easy enough. But who, effectively, was the lead singer?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Are You Handy?

Are we handy? Not ‘alf. There’s what we do behind the scenes. It is hidden from view. We get all sorts of enquiries to our main websites, and we deal with them personally. Sometimes, we go and find out, and there will be an example of this coming up in a day or two. While we are delighted to point people in the direction of advertisers, that isn’t the first thought. We hope that we help. Below is a correspondence that may well also prove very useful to visitors coming to Pollensa or Puerto Pollensa. The correspondence was via www.thepollensaguide.com

ENQUIRY: What a great website. We are off to Pollensa. Please can you recommend some restaurants that offer good value for money. We have three children so eating out can be expensive. Love the idea of menu of the day and good food at a reasonable price. It would help to have the names of 5 restaurants save us wasting time looking. thanks.

REPLY 1: Thanks for contacting us and for the compliments.

You say you are going to Pollensa, but not sure if you mean by this Puerto Pollensa. The two are some distance apart. But no matter. For menu of the day, this tends more often to be offered by less touristy restaurants.

In Puerto Pollensa, I know of El Posito in Calle Llebeig, Bon Profit and La Vall in Calle Vicenç Buades. None of these are actually represented on this site, but I can vouch for each of them. If you like pizzas, I would recommend Little (Italy) which is on the pinewalk. Their pizzas are not expensive but really good. You might also want to try some well-priced tapas at Neptuno, which is on the corner of Ctra. Formentor and Calle Migjorn.

In Pollensa town, there is Celler El Moli on the outskirts of the town not far from the Roman bridge along Calle Mar. This does a very popular menu of the day and is inexpensive. In the centre of Pollensa just close to the main square is Eu Centro, another that does a well-priced menu. Near to the monument to Costa i Llobera are two places - Can Miguel and Monument - which offer menus though I don't know a lot about these.

One thing to be aware of. Menu of the day is usually lunchtimes only (lunchtimes extend to around 3:30 here). Sometimes there are special evening menus as well, but often the restaurants revert to the normal menu.

REPLY 2: That is really great.  We are based in Pollensa old town but will be going to Puerto Pollensa too. Thanks very much.

REPLY 3: Pleasure. Have a great time. Will you be in Pollensa first week of August?
That's when the Patrona fiesta takes place. Very lively! (Edit note - Patrona finishes 2 August.)

REPLY 4: We are there from 31 July to 5 August. I noticed in Pollensa there is a classical festival on Saturday 4 August starting in the square in Pollensa town centre. Not sure about any others. Oh one other question. We are staying in a town house in Pollensa with no pool! Not bad because we are near the beach but do you know any hotels that allow you to use their pool if for example you had lunch there?  Just a thought.

REPLY 5: Of the hotels in Pollensa only two have pools - the mega expensive Son Brull, and Posada de Lluc (only a small pool). Another option might be the lovely Balaixa restaurant, which is on the main road going towards Puerto Pollensa (behind the Eroski supermarket). They have a decent pool and do a 3-course lunch Monday to Saturday for 15 euros (wine included). If you go there, say hello to Mandy or Arnie and mention we put you onto them!!

By the way, Balaixa also have a bistro near to one of the beaches in Cala San Vicente. As an alternative to Puerto Pollensa, you might want to nip into CSV (which is between Pollensa and the port). Pretty place, especially the lower part where the bistro is.

There are different events going on in Pollensa. The Patrona is one, there is also the Festival of Pollensa which has a couple of concerts each week till the end of August.

REPLY 6: Yes knew about Balaixa. Thought we would do that on the Saturday. Maybe I will book now via email. I also see they have a bistro in Cala S Vincent. We have been before and the kids love jumping off the rocks so when we go there we shall eat there definitely. Can't imagine eating a three course meal though and then wanting to go for a swim!!!!

Thanks for everything and will say hello to them for you.

You wouldn’t expect there not to be some other angle for today’s title. It is this. Today the sea was as flat as your hat in Playa de Muro. Blissful. Idyllic. The varying shades of turquoise could be viewed without the usual turbulence of waves. The wind was down, you could hear the laughter, shouts and screams from the children in the sea. You could also hear ... someone talking on a mobile. In the sea. Walking in the sea. On a mobile. Why the title? In Germany, the mobile is called the “handy”. Does this justify a quiz question? Yep, you betcha. The title comes from a sketch from a record by the alter egos of two very famous British comedians. Who were they?
Last time. It was of course Norman Cook aka Fat Boy Slim. (He was originally Quentin and changed his name to Norman for some reason.) Malcolm Bradbury was the author.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The History Man

I am, for my sins, a history scholar. Or, at least, I have a history degree. History continues to fascinate. And living in a different society, there is a whole new history to learn. But I wonder how important history is to many visitors, or indeed to many of those who have decided to live and work here. My guess would be, not very. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Whatever, here is a very short history thing. On 26 July this year in Alcúdia, there is the 500th anniversary of the Sant Crist miracle, an event that takes place every three years.

As the name implies, the celebration is of Christ. The deal is thus:

In 1507, Alcúdia and indeed the whole of the island was enduring a time of famine, plague and warring between competing dynasties. To add to this, Alcúdia had a threat of drought, which, in turn, threatened the harvest. In order to try and combat this, the local clergy and justices, organised a procession. It was to be a form of begging or pleading procession, the centrepiece of which would be an image of Christ on the cross, crafted from wood. The hope was that an adoration of and pleading to this image would lead to some form of deliverance from the misfortune that had befallen the local people.

The image was taken from the cave of Sant Martí, which is at the foot of the Puig (hill) Sant Martí, which overlooks Alcúdia. On returning to the cave, it was noted that the image oozed water and some drops of blood. This was subsequently confirmed by the religious men. The upshot of all this was that the next harvest was one of the best for many years, thus cementing the miracle of Sant Crist into local history, tradition and folklore. Whether you believe it or not (and as with most of these alleged miracles, they are implausible at best), is not really the point. The fact is that it is part of local history, mythology one might even venture. And it gives the clergy a chance to dress up and walk through the streets and for there to be a bit of a do.

And as to why every three years. In 1697 the then rector of the Sant Jaume church decreed as such. Moreover, they shifted the actual date from 28 July to 26 July, which also happens to be the date of Santa Anna.

So, now you know.

From the sublime to the, well not ridiculous, but quite different. Just a note to say that Mike and Jane Lynham - Mr and Mrs Puddle Duck as they are often referred to - had their leaving thrash at the Crew Bar last night. The boat is about ready, we saw the photos of the place, and in a week or so they will set sail for a new life in Bulgaria.

Quiz: Simple Minds from the title track of “Street Fighting Years”. Norman “Hurricane” Smith who worked with The Beatles and Pink Floyd and had some truly dire hits of his own. What is with it Normans requiring alter egos? Name a famous one who was/is a mate of Paul Heaton’s. (This particular Norman was not actually originally Norman.) And a literary question: who wrote “The History Man”?


Friday, July 20, 2007

Here Comes A Hurricane

Yet more climate change worry. Last week’s “The Sunday Times” carried a report about the Mediterranean becoming a hurricane zone. All to do with the sea warming. Naturally, this could have serious consequences for Mallorca, as could other aspects of climate change that I have noted in the past on this blog.

But there is a greater concern than the mere environmental impact. If the Spanish weather authorities were to need to name hurricanes in the style of the Americans, they would run out of names. Unlike the UK and the USA where you can, more or less, inflict any embarrassing name you like on your offspring, in Spain you can’t. There are only so many names that can be used. Accordingly, you couldn’t force your child to suffer a lifetime of shame by calling them “Moon Rocket” or “Dog Breath”, or some such. Ever wondered why ever other male in Spain is called Juan or Pedro? Well, now you know. I guess they could increase the pool by using Catalan versions, e.g. Joan or Pere, but they would soon run into problems with certain letters, like K for instance. No Kylie, Kayleigh or Keanu for the Spanish. Kike, and that’s about your lot (and even that comes from Enrique).

So one can but hope that, for the sake of Spanish children in generations to come, hurricanes do not occur, or they might just have to change the naming rules.

Quiz: Last time’s answer - The Rolling Stones, “I Wanna Be Your Man”. Today - the title comes from a song by which Scottish rock band? And a secondary hurricane question. He worked (as engineer and producer) with two massive groups in the ‘60s and had his own hits as a singer. Who was he?


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How’s About That Then?

You get some real crackers, I’m telling you. The new Balearic Government of Mr. Antics (who now shall be known as Frantic) is to oversee - and I quote “The Bulletin” here - “a legislature...hallmarked by being known as ‘The Age of the Train’ ”. Grand stuff, if it comes off, as the existing line north, which currently terminates at Sa Pobla, would go on to Alcúdia and Cala Ratjada.

But seriously, “The Age of the Train”. Jimmy Savile will be back, appearing on Mallorcan TV, bling and cigar to the fore. Only 25 years after it was the age of the train in Britain, but Jimmy probably needs the work.

(Please add your own Jim inflections as you read this.) “Now then, now then, now then, I have had a letter from a young sir in the lovely island of Majorca who wants to know if I can fix it for him to build a new railway. Well, young Francesc, I know just the person, and here he is - Sir Richard Branson.”

On a more serious note, it is fine to try and develop the rail system, but I somewhat doubt that any development would make much of a dent in the current road usage. There is also talk of another track to Inca, but even with this, the rolling stock that can be carried by the lines is not great and nor are the trains that frequent. Moreover, what Mallorca could also benefit from would be a rail system that allows for freight to be carried, but that just simply will not happen in a place this size. If one takes the local issue of the coal that is transported from the port of Alcúdia to the power station, it is an environmental absurdity. Heavy vehicles pouring out God knows what pollutants - up and down the roads in constant shuttles. A railway would be ideal, but it won’t happen.

Quiz: “Hello, John, Got A New Motor?’” Correct for all who got it. Today: Jimmy Savile presented the first (and indeed last) “Top Of The Pops”. Which group was the first act on that first show, and what song did they do?


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


There has been a fine spat going on between Alexei Sayle and our old mate, Leapy Lee. A less likely combination one could hardly imagine; one, a reconstructed communist and comedian of repute (The Young Ones, OTT, The Comic Strip etc.), the other, not.

For those of you who do not know, Leapy pens a weekly column in Euro Weekly. It is often provocative. There is nothing wrong with being provocative, but provocation has to be tempered to lend it some charm. Otherwise, it is wholly one-dimensional and, as such, worth less than a fig. One can think of numerous columnists who provoke - Simon Jenkins, Boris Johnson, Matthew Parris, Simon Hoggard (from the political arena); Danny Baker, Victor Lewis-Smith, A.A. Gill, Martin Samuel and, yes, Alexei Sayle (from a sport/entertainment arena); Rod Liddle, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn, all of whom can rant for England and can be utterly outrageous. These columnists represent a broad church of political leanings. But what all have in common is that they are either informed, intellectual, humorous, tangential thinkers, ironic, sharp observers, or often a combination of all these things.

Now I don’t expect local expat newspapers to be of “Fleet Street” standard, nor do I expect their contributors to be. I can understand the constraints on such papers. But I do expect at least one of the qualities I list above when it comes to contributions. What I do not expect is the equivalent of the pub bore who sidles up to you and earholes you for fifteen minutes on God knows what.

I must just say I think Euro Weekly is not too bad. It has its moments of curious reporting, as I have noted before on this blog, but it’s a well put-together paper, and I like Gordon, the guy who runs it on the island. Which brings me though to this spat.

Alexei Sayle, writing in The Independent, had a right old go at Leapy. To give a flavour of this, I quote: “Yes, that’s my idea of the perfect columnist, some expat singer with a criminal record and views tailor-made for his audience of drink-sozzled, golf-playing Costa Brits.” I only know this and can quote it because Leapy, having taken umbrage (understandably I guess), repeated it (along with much more) in his column. Now I would have thought that, having been the target of a vitriolic hatchet-job, you might prefer to keep it quiet. No, not Leapy. He goes ahead and reproduces it, for which we should be grateful. Had he not, we might never have known.

Just to say that the Sant Jaume and Sant Crist fiestas are coming up in Alcúdia. Information on the What’s On Blog. Sant Crist happens only every three years, and this year is the 500th anniversary - some malarkey about sweating blood and tears and turning them into water, or something like that.

Also on the What’s On Blog, you will find some regular offers from our good friends at No Frills Excursions, based in Puerto Alcúdia. So, here is a Service of the Week thing - NO FRILLS EXCURSIONS:

Where: Avenida de la Playa 13, Puerto Alcúdia and various sales outlets around and about, plus web: www.nofrills-excursions.com.

What: Excursions all over the island, such as Marineland, Palma, Soller etc. Also local events such as the Alcúdia Bar Crawl.

When: Er, this doesn’t quite work like it does for bars, but no matter - something every day!

Who: Seamus and Toni are your men. Then there is Lisa and numerous others.

Why: Low-cost but high-quality excursions with a strong personal touch, well-informed and friendly guides who make for a great experience.

Quiz: So, what was Alexei Sayle’s hit record? (One thing he has in common with Leapy is that he, too, was a one-hit wonder.) I forgot to mention that Troy Tempest was modelled on James Garner. And as for 200 Motels etc, it was Frank Zappa, though strictly speaking the song lyric came from a collaboration with Captain Beefheart (the album “Bongo Fury”). The lyric referred to the 200th anniversary of American independence.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

200 Motels

And more on beach umbrellas. Beach umbrellas and sunbeds. In Can Picafort and Playa de Muro there is a little local issue regarding the numbers of umbrellas and sunbeds on the beaches. In Can Picafort, part of the beach (in Son Bauló) has had a different problem - there not being any. But the issue on the main beach and in Muro is that there are too many. Seems this has all to do with the fact that when the concessions are being sorted out, there are secret tenders handed to the town halls. There are about four main concessionaires, and they try and outbid each other for the various “lots”. Obvious you would think, but the bids are excessively high in order to get the lots. So the town halls trouser a goodly sum and then wait for additional income through fines. That’s because the concessionaire, having handed over so many folding notes, puts out more sunbed and umbrella sets than are prescribed. Why? In order to coin back the outlay. The fines are doubtless budgeted for in the concessionaire’s business plan. They are not ordered to remove the excessive numbers of sunbeds; just fined. And they, the concessionaires, continue to charge about 8.50euros - per use - for a sunbed and umbrella set. Anyway, the local residents and neighbourhood groups have had enough, and have complained, grounds being that there is less “public” space, i.e. beach, and more and more commercialised space.

The 200th post to this blog was recently attained. Seems like 2000. Anyway, to celebrate here is a 200 quiz. “200 Motels” as a title is in honour of the fact that between Alcúdia, Pollensa, Playa de Muro and Can Picafort, there are at least 200 hotels or other such establishments, if not motels. This was the title of an album by whom? And then there is also this lyric: “She's 200 years old. So mean, she couldn't grow no lips. Boy, she'd be in trouble if she tried to grow a moustache”. Who? The answer is the same for both questions. And what is the lyric’s reference to? Yesterday - Band Aid. Of course.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Bitter Sting Of Tears

So there was this really useful article in “The Bulletin”. Spoke about a cream that protects against jellyfish stings; before you go in the water. Great, one thinks. Then one reads it again. There’s something missing. Something quite important. The name of the cream. Nowhere to be found.

Anyway, I went to the friendly chemists in Playa de Muro. Said I’d read this article. Ah yes, but it’s “cortada” (finished) for this summer. Demand presumably. Have a look. Oh no, there is some. So I got a bottle. It is from the ISDIN range of sun protectors. Comes as a sun cream, factor 25. Protects against jellyfish, it states, though it also says to avoid going into waters infested with jellyfish. So, it’s ok for the odd jellyfish, not a plague. But at least it’s something. If this is not the cream mentioned in the article, maybe someone can let me know, and I shall put the information up here. Email, as always, to the address below.

Update on a previous item. I quote from 28 March:

“Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the Carretera Arta. Well, no it’s a crap idea - the red track I mentioned last time. Karen from Foxes was giving the situation a good once-over and was muttering darkly about drivers using it rather than cyclists, which begs the question - what is the point of it?”

Well, Karen was going on about this again today. And absolutely rightly. Just to give you a picture. As you come from the Magic Roundabout going towards Playa de Muro, there is a red lane which is clearly marked “bicicletes”. This lane then cuts down from the main carretera. The point is that cars and coaches are using this, and then hammering along the side road that runs in front of Foxes, the chemists and Epcot. And I stress “hammering”.

The problem seems to be that no-one is absolutely sure what is and isn’t allowed. The sign suggests cycles only, but there is nothing to say that vehicles are prohibited. Whatever the situation, this cut-through is seriously dangerous if it is used by vehicles going at high speed, which is often the case. We need to find out more, because it’s going to end in tears as there will be a serious accident here before long. For anyone who is staying at the Delfin Azul and other nearby hotels, or just walking on that side road or across it, please take great care. It seems obscene that right at the spot - on the main road - where one of last year’s worst accidents took place, the side road could become a death-trap.

Re markets. I mentioned the other day that Playa de Muro now has two markets a week. Sorry, I got that wrong. The Saturday market has now moved to Mondays. And weather word ... could be hitting 40 degrees this weekend.

Quiz: Congratulations to Anne Marie in Dublin who not only got Stingray but also got Gary Miller: “What are these strange enchantments that start whenever you’re near”. What a cracking record that was. Additional quiz question: which actor was Troy Tempest modelled on? And today’s title - from what famous song does this come?


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Marina, Aqua Marina

Or possibly it could be “On The Boardwalk”. Whatever. The thing is that down in the Alcúdia marina (Alcúdiamar) there is a daily evening market. Now, this sounds all well and good, and probably great for the likes of Chili and Varadero, but it ain’t so good for the regular shops in the port. Naturally, you stick some stalls up alongside the boats, and the tourist punter will be attracted like the moth to the flame. But it is good for the port, some might say. Brings people in. Perhaps so, but then they mill around that part of the port - and no other. Besides, you have to ask - how many bloody markets does any place need? Alcúdia town has two; two whacking great big ones per week. Playa de Muro has added another day, so there are now two there as well.

The curse of this marina market was not necessarily a factor, but it could have been a final straw had the decision not already been taken. I’m referring to Jane and Mike Lynham’s move from Alcúdia and Mallorca. The Puddle Duck shop certainly gets no favours from this market. Anyway, they’re out of here, which a number of you probably already know. Bulgaria. Yep, Bulgaria. Where you can shop for a week for what it costs to buy a packet of 20 here. Well, not quite, but you get the drift. So, we shall miss them, and wish them well. And the MYCT Crew Bar will be the rendezvous for the final knockings on Friday, 20 July.

Quiz - Julian Cope, ok, but it was the band I was after: The Teardrop Explodes. And the film? In the video you see a shot of Jack Nance from David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” - weird and horrible. And so to today’s. The title is a song from which TV show? And who sang it?


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Won’t You Accept My Reward

Seasoned visitors to this blog amongst you may recall the 2006 awards (if you don’t, they appeared on 1 January this year). Anyway, amongst the winners was JK’s Bar in Puerto Pollensa; indeed JK’s was one of only two - how can I put it - sensible winners. The award was for best new bar of 2006, an award that was repeated in the “El Puente” tourist guide for Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa, for which I can claim some responsibility. Now, it takes a busy bar owner or two to take a month or so to get truly up to speed with some things. Like noticing that this award has been mentioned in the guide. But that says a lot, a lot as to why JK’s got the award. Because it is a very hard-working bar. To cut to the chase, they’re thinking of blowing up the award thing in the guide, and posting it outside as a form of plaque. Damn good idea, too.

So, in recognition of this, and because it’s been a while, here is the latest BAR OF THE WEEK - JK’s, Puerto Pollensa:

Where: Ctra. Formentor, Puerto Pollensa, close to Tango’s and next to the back entrance to the Miramar.

What: Family-run bar but not a family fun bar, with a very good menu of freshly prepared food and two enormous screens that show all the sport.

When: Every day 12:00 till 24:00.

Who: Jane and Kevin, with Cecilia and occasional assistance from Ellie and Charlotte.

Why: Utterly reliable, very friendly, in total contrast to the doom of “The Cavern” that preceded it.

Oh, I tell you this quiz thing’s taking on a life of its own. So here goes. Geoff points out that the “I can call you” question was too easy, which it was, but rightly adds that Chevy Chase in the video sounded remarkably like Paul Simon. The name was of course Betty, or Beddy if you prefer the American style. Alastair, meantime, tells us that “sospan fach” means little saucepan in Welsh, which indeed it does. (James had also got in on the sospan explanation.) Tasha has been overwhelmed by her mention with respect to Talking Heads and has had to take to her bed.
I couldn’t think of anything with award so reward is the nearest I could come up with. So, the line in today’s title - who sang it? Great, great record. And a double reward if ... In the video for this song was a visual reference to what truly weird film?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hey Big Spender!

Having derided the local tourist authorities for not getting out fiesta information in English, praise is due to Pollensa for doing just that for the fiestas of Virgen del Carmen which kick off today in Puerto Pollensa. If you can’t lay your hands on the leaflet, the info is also to be found on the What’s On Blog or under Fiestas Pollensa on www.thepollensaguide.com.

First there was the Guest Quiz Inquisitor, now the first Guest “Titlist” Of The Day. (I’m not sure that titlist exists, but hopefully you get the meaning.) Anyway, the honour is bestowed on Al (Alwyn), he formerly of Sospan Fach in Magalluf/Palmanova, now of Foxes in Puerto Alcúdia. The singer of the title is easy, but it comes about as a consequence of what Al is thinking of initiating at Foxes, namely a National Tipping League. Now, some days the tipping is good. Some days though it’s not so good, hence today’s somewhat ironic (if not hacked off) title. Al, you should all know, is a worthy cause, so do hand over those pocketfuls of loose change. Otherwise it’s the workhouse.

There is a point here though regarding tipping. The British “norm” is 10%. A question one often gets asked by those new to these shores is “how much should I tip?”. The answer is, there is no standard answer; you just tip what you want, or don’t if you want to raise Al’s hackles.

Anyway, I reckon there should also be a sweep on who comes top of the Tipping League. In the absence of hordes of Yanks (who are generally pretty generous in this regard), I’m inclined to think - at risk of offending others in Britain and elsewhere - that the English would come out on top. But what do I know?

So - quiz. No prizes for knowing the singer of today’s title. An alternative title could be “You Can Call Me Al”, but what can I call you? Ah, come on, easy. Jackpot time for the last quiz. Tasha was the first to get “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads.

And ... cultural, linguistic quiz time makes its first appearance. What the fach does “SOSPAN FACH” mean?


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Same As It Ever Was

The changing of the new political guard is now complete. Along with Mr. Government Antics (Antich, the socialist leader of the Balearic Government), we now also have one Francina Armengol taking over as president of the Council of Mallorca. Promising her doors would be open to the man in the street (I bet they bloody aren’t; I know, I’ll try, and see where it gets me), she has kicked things off by kicking into touch a second ring road for Palma, the Inca-Manacor motorway and new golf courses and tourist/residential growth.

Seems ‘twas ever thus. Take the conservatives out of the equation (the PP) and populism rules. Now, I’m not that bothered to be honest. The golf courses, more tourist/residential stock, I reckon I can go along with. The roads, I’m not so sure. There is in all of this an environmental dimension and something abstract in the sense of preserving Mallorca. If this is what the Mallorcans want, then fine. It’s just - the road infrastructure in and around Palma is bad. It has inherent inefficiency; it is a hindrance to productivity; it is typical of a still backward-looking society of mañana and siesta and lousy service. But hey, that’s Mallorca. Or is it? I’m not so sure. Then there is the safety angle. Ok, there have been some really bad smashes on the Inca-Palma motorway - one just last week - but motorways are generally safer than the main roads, where the nutters really rule and Trafico stands at roundabouts rather than getting amongst the nutters. But hey, that’s Mallorca. Or is it? I’m not so sure.

Very nearly but not quite. Bryan Adams fan Rafael Nadal just missed out at Wimbledon. Manacor’s favourite son didn’t quite do it. Get a better playlist for your iPod, Rafa. That’ll do it.

Quiz: It was a corker. And the answer was ... Thunderclap Newman. Thunderclap Newman, man alive. So to today's title. Reflecting the static nature of Mallorcan politics, this is a line from a song by, I think it fair to say, a ground-breaking American rock band. Name the song and the band.


P.S. Acknowledgement due to “The Bulletin” for information in this piece.

Friday, July 06, 2007


There are things that occasionally trouble or intrigue me. It happened today.

It was windy on the beach. Umbrellas were flying. It was then that I wondered. Has anyone ever been killed by a beach umbrella? On the one hand, the spiky bit isn’t usually that sharp; on the other, if the wind lifts an umbrella with sufficient force and at sufficient velocity it could do some serious damage. What would happen if, say, an umbrella were to remove an eye? It may seem unlikely, but ... . Who would pay? Indeed, would the owner of the offending umbrella be liable?

This all reminds me of a time in the south of France when a group (make that a crowd) of nudists, irate because the local plod was attempting to intervene in (i.e. stop) their regular evening, er, entertainment in the dunes - I don’t think I need to spell it out - responded to the police’s action by showering them with beach umbrellas being used as javelins. Apparently it did the trick. Until, that is, plod deployed dobbin. Sounded like splendid fun. Wish I had actually seen it. But the point (as it were) was that the police were sufficiently concerned by the potential harm that the beach umbrella could cause to beat a temporary retreat.

Of course if the umbrella is actually lobbed at someone, it would - presumably - be classified as an offensive weapon, but I still wonder. So, if anyone can enlighten me as to the legal situation regarding accidents-by-beach-umbrella, I will be very grateful.

Different form of accident. Road. Guess which road? Oh yes, the Carretera Arta. Now I did say - ages ago - that these new roundabouts are a bit tight. This may have been a factor. That, and excessive speed, I’d wager. By the Pointed Thing Roundabout, someone had hammered into a couple of parked cars and some trikes. I can well imagine. Too quick through the roundabout. Found it was too tight. Hit the island, Crash, bang, wallop. It wasn’t pretty.

Quiz: Well, everyone got it. Abba. Today’s title. Man, is this a good question. Which group, generally remembered as one-hit wonders (because they were) released a single with this title as a failed follow-up to their one great hit? (Clue: it wasn’t anything to do with noted (?) Mallorca-frequenting one-hit wonder Leapy Lee.)


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Money, Money, Money!

Daft or what?

It has been known for this blog to present tourism statistics. It has also been known for the rip to be taken out of these statistics. So, here are some more.

For the first five months of this year, tourist spend increased by 1.1 per cent. Moreover, the average spend was 809 euros, a fall of 0.1% on the same period last year.

Well, I am impressed. You probably won’t be. This stuff comes from our old mates at “The Bulletin”, so thanks to them. But what is unclear is what the spend is per tourist. The 809 euros figure is for tourist visit. Does that mean family, one person, or what? The length of stay is also an issue.

I suppose it’s pretty academic. The word is still that tourists are spending less - at least in these parts - so you can have statistics coming out of your backside, and they’re irrelevant.

Just a linguistic point, “Bulletin”. In British English, we say per cent, not percent. Sorry, but these things matter.

Anyway, this blog doesn’t just report, it finds out. So, I’ve been on the Net, looking at forums. This is, as ever, highly unscientific, but here are a couple of comments:

“We never spend more than €500 in a week in Spain even when we stay half board.”

“I’m going AI for 1 week with my boyfriend and we are taking 500 euros between us.”

And then if you consider comments which relate to spending on cigarettes (and you want to stand in a tobacconists to see the wads that get handed over), you start to form a picture. People are seemingly spending less on restaurants (not necessarily on bars), are relying on the board arrangements, be they half-board or all-inclusive, and using the spare cash for fags and the odd excursion.

Unscientific, but indicative.

Quiz: The title from yesterday was adapted from “Selling England By The Pound”. Genesis. Again. Sorry about that. Don’t know why they keep muscling in here. Today’s title? Very easy. Who sang it?


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Selling Mallorca By The Pound

Can someone tell me how long the pound (as in pound sterling) has been the official currency in Spain?

The answer is of course that it isn’t the official currency. The euro is, in case you haven’t noticed.

So, why therefore does one supermarket show - in large numbers - its prices in pounds, with the euro amount in smaller print in the corner of the card?

Might it be that because the pound number will always be lower, substantially so, customers are being enticed by an apparently low figure. Only when they see the smaller print do they realise that the large figure is not the euro amount.

Below is a photo that shows this. Hopefully it is large enough to show everything.

My thanks to Gordon for bringing this to my attention. If anyone else has anything of similar note, just send it in. To the email address below.

Quiz: It was of course Chris Rea. Today’s title is adapted from which album title?


P.S. You will see the look of the blog has changed. The old black background was a tad difficult. There are now other features that I hope to include; as and when I can figure them out.