Friday, August 31, 2007

Don’t Look Back In Anger

Santa Margalida. The town of which Can Picafort is a part. It’s an unremarkable place, not one that attracts much in the way of tourism. Unlike the old towns of Alcúdia and Pollensa, it is not a particularly pretty place; it does not have the arty atmosphere of Pollensa or the landscaped splendour from Pollensa’s Calvari or the imposing walled heritage of Alcúdia. Yet it does have one claim. The fiesta “La Beata” is one of Mallorca’s most traditional. It celebrates the beatification, in 1792, of Catalina Thomàs who, so the legend has it, was tested by the devil to abjure God and to fall into the satanic abyss. Or something like that.

For many locals, La Beata is an event more significant than Christmas or New Year, being one with which they can most closely identify. Anyway, on 2 September this year’s procession will take place, promising “new vitality”, whatever that might be.

Of course, being a fiesta jolly, it cannot fail to have its other events of a more secular nature. Amongst others, tomorrow night, is a series of concerts with various groups, including Oasis. That’s what it says. On the poster. Oasis. It is not as it seems.

(Acknowledgement to “Part Forana” from which some of the above is taken in translation.)

It seems somehow appropriate that today, 31 August, I should be talking about a legendary saint. Today is of course the 10th anniversary of the death of someone to whom some have granted the status of modern-day saint. Everyone wants his or her piece of Diana ten years after; everyone with an angle, a conspiracy, a royalist or non-royalist agenda. Everyone obsessed with a personality cult, obsessed with what-ifs, with beatifying or demonising her. She is, therefore, an industry for the malicious, the reverential, the lunatic, the cynical, the worshipper. Whatever she really was, and I’m certainly not going to add my views, I will never forget the shock having turned on the radio that Sunday morning ten years ago. Whatever she really was, I defy anyone to say that they were not also shocked and saddened. Whatever she really was, why - as the Bishop of London says - the “regular reports of fury at this or that incident”? As for now: can we not just let it go?

Yesterday - Isley Brothers, a good shout, but it was Notorious B.I.G. Today - Oasis were at number one in the album charts on 31 August 1997. Who was at one in the singles chart?


Index for August 2007

1967 - 2 August 2007, 3 August 2007, 6 August 2007
Alcúdia - 14 August 2007, 20 August 2007, 27 August 2007
Alcúdia Jazz - 26 August 2007
Alcúdia Pins - 20 August 2007
All-inclusives - 16 August 2007, 18 August 2007
Andratx - 29 August 2007
Balearic Government - 26 August 2007
Bars - 1 August 2007, 10 August 2007, 17 August 2007, 28 August 2007, 30 August 2007
Beaches - 17 August 2007
Bodegas - 23 August 2007
British products - 28 August 2007
Café Bony - 1 August 2007
Can Picafort - 2 August 2007, 18 August 2007
Can Vidalet - 23 August 2007
Canny Lad, The - 17 August 2007
Carretera Arta - 7 August 2007
Children’s entertainment - 19 August 2007, 28 August 2007
Climate change - 3 August 2007
Diana Princess of Wales - 31 August 2007
El Laberinto Giant Maze Fun Park - 19 August 2007
Elvis impersonators - 9 August 2007
Estate agents - 27 August 2007
Excursions - 19 August 2007
Fiestas - 2 August 2007, 18 August 2007, 21 August 2007, 31 August 2007
Floods - 22 August 2007
Football - 10 August 2007
Golf Alcanada - 9 August 2007
Hotels - 20 August 2007, 28 August 2007
Indian Palace - 3 August 2007
Interest rates - 2 August 2007, 27 August 2007
Jazz - 26 August 2007
Jellyfish - 6 August 2007
La Beata - 31 August 2007
La Gola - 26 August 2007
Lilos - 29 August 2007
Manhole covers - 15 August 2007
Mortgages - 27 August 2007
Museums - 27 August 2007
Naturism - 17 August 2007
Palma metro - 22 August 2007
Patrona - 21 August 2007
Piccadilly Bar - 28 August 2007
Playa de Muro - 17 August 2007, 20 August 2007
Pollentia - 27 August 2007
Property market - 27 August 2007
Property prices - 2 August 2007
Railways - 26 August 2007
Restaurants - 3 August 2007, 9 August 2007
Road accidents - 17 August 2007
Roads - 7 August 2007, 15 August 2007
Rodríguez Castelao, Joaquín - 29 August 2007
Rubber ducks - 18 August 2007
Santa Margalida - 31 August 2007
Sea - 6 August 2007
Soller - 28 August 2007
Storms - 14 August 2007, 21 August 2007, 22 August 2007
Supermarkets - 23 August 2007, 28 August 2007
Television - 10 August 2007
Tobacco - 15 August 2007
Tourism - 11 August 2007, 14 August 2007
Tourism economics - 6 August 2007, 7 August 2007, 15 August 2007
Tourist spend - 2 August 2007, 6 August 2007, 7 August 2007
Vamps - 30 August 2007
Water - 26 August 2007
Weather - 14 August 2007, 21 August 2007, 22 August 2007, 24 August 2007, 28 August 2007, 29 August 2007
Wine - 23 August 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kitchen 100 Degrees, I Love That Summer Breeze

And it did reach 100 degrees, in Sa Pobla at any rate. Then the wind came and it wasn’t any longer. Ah well.

And a windy old evening it was down Greasy Mile way yesterday. But didn’t deter those who turned up for the surprise 50th birthday for Lesley (Canny Lad and Vamps). Here is the lady herself with Leighton, one of the chefs from Foxes who’s escaped the kitchen, at the Vamps party.

Do I detect a Bar of the Week coming on? Sounds likely. VAMPS:

Where: C/. Astoria, next to Bells Disco, Puerto Alcúdia

What: Adult bar. No, not your lap-dance stuff, but for 18s+. Cocktails, karaoke, stand-ups, live acts (Vamps is one of the few places you can get live rock music).

When: Every evening/night 21:00 till whenever.

Who: Les and Lesley from The Canny Lad. Vamps is their other place.

Why: A change from the usual family bar. Quite different from much of the Mile. Good music from one of the most advanced sound systems.

Yesterday - Westlife in tribute to Frank Sinatra. Today - it’s a line that goes “The city under seas. Kitchen 100 degrees. I love that summer breeze. I’ll stand in it until it freeze.” Who?


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summer Wind

Is there anything sadder than a lilo making a dash for it? The wind picks up suddenly. The lilo seizes the moment, and within the time it takes a small child to bawl out, the lilo is heading for France. It’s an uneven contest. A lilo with a following wind can out-manoeuvre even the strongest of swimmers. It bounds across the sea, a Barnes Wallis of inflated plastic bouncing on top of the waves.

As yet another one took to the high seas this afternoon, I saw it differently. White, it was no longer a lilo, it had become “Rover”, pursuing Number Six. By hook or by crook it was going to track him down. Then I went back to my book.

Well there are some sadder things. An Alcúdia celebrity died yesterday. “El coralero de Alcúdia”, Joaquín Rodríguez Castelao, failed to recover from the effects of decompression during a dive. Quino was a renowned diver, considered one of the world’s finest.

And so to the weather. Even hotter, Sa Pobla closing in on the 100 mark yesterday.

A good while since the ex-mayor of Andratx has been mentioned here. Some may have wondered what happened to him after the scandal erupted over corruption. Well next month will see some more action on the case, but meantime he has put a house on the market. Not any old house. A house worth 2.9 million euros. Hmm.

Some questions do surprise. I had thought “Piccadilly Collection” was rather obscure, but not so. Steve at Little Britain was one who thanked me for managing to Squeeze in a mention yesterday. Today’s title - well, it was a boy band, but the original was by ...?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Piccadilly Collection

Weather panic over. After the early arrival of November last week, summer is back, so much so that the summer’s high was recorded in Sa Pobla yesterday - 36.4, or around 98 in old money. The sky has assumed the grey-blue that is indicative of late summer Mallorca heat. Haze. There’s another storm on the way, I’d wager.

Seasoned readers among you may recall a piece about “English” products at the Eroski Syp supermarket (17 April 2007, “I’m Jake (Or José) The Peg). There was a special promotional day, about which I had to say (amongst other things): “On the display are – amongst other items worthy of avoiding – … Hula-Hoops. Yes, Hula-Hoops. The crème de la crème of English products, the Hula-Hoop.” Well, the Hula-Hoop is clearly in great demand, as Eroski is now saying that sale of British (the union seems now to have been made) products is up by 10% this July and August. Can’t say I can be counted among that 10%. These British products. They tend to put them on separate displays with strings of Union Jacks, the “them” predominantly being bottles of Sharwood’s curry sauces. Very British. If they want to do something really useful, they could get some decent bacon or mince. Meantime, get yourselves down to Steve and Urbano at Little Britain in Puerto Alcúdia. Now they really do have British products.

Is Mallorca about to become the new Dubai? Soller, which has been undergoing something of a boutique-isation, is set to be the site for the most luxurious hotel in Spain. The company behind the 7-star Burj-al-Arab hotel in Dubai is due to manage the converted Sa Talaia complex. Well, great. But will they be having Elvis acts, karaoke and Supergirl? Bet they don’t. So the guests will have to get themselves over to Alcúdia. Get themselves down the Greasy Mile. Here’s where they should go - BAR OF THE WEEK - PICCADILLY:

Where: Avda. Pedro Más y Reus, opposite Bellevue.

What: 08:00-09:00 - face painting and kids’ colouring-in; 09:00-10:00 - children’s games and prizes with Supergirl; 10:00-11:00 - music quiz for the adults and drawing competition for the kids; 11:00 - karaoke , and on ...with dressing-up of kids and adults.

When: Every evening/night 20:00-03:00.

Who: Ben and Sara are the entertainers.

Why: Good old family fun and entertainment courtesy of two of Alcúdia’s best-known, popular and hard-working entertainers.

Is there a website? Yes, there is Ben’s own site linked here (check the links list).

(Thanks to Ben for permission to use the photo.)

Last night I was at the Piccadilly. It wasn’t that late but Ben was sweating his cobs off already. It’s hard work this entertaining caper, you know. Anyway, what’s all this with a music quiz? Whoever heard of such a thing? I really screwed up on the skittles, having been keen to win my glow-band, but now I realise the best technique is to just welly the ball. Forget back-spin or doosras or such things.

Just one other point. The Piccadilly’s right at the end of the Greasy Mile. I hadn’t appreciated until last night, wandering between the bar and The Red Lion at the Siestas, just how dark it is down there. The wilderness that was once Tropical Minigolf has made it so. It’s a great shame that such a large site should have been closed for two years, but that’s probably the nub of it. It is a large site and it is also “green” - can’t be built on.

Yesterday - no, not The Beautiful South but The Housemartins “Build”. Today’s title is the name of an album by ...?


Monday, August 27, 2007

It’s Build A House Where We Can Stay

There’s a new museum on the way. The Alcúdia town hall has agreed that the central Culture Ministry (in a consortium with the town hall, the Balearic Government and the Mallorca Council) will take responsibility for the construction of a new Pollentia Museum (Pollentia being the Roman town). This will be sited opposite the school (close to Mercadona and next to Sa Romana restaurant) on the Calle Pollentia. The hope is that this will offer something more dynamic than the current small museum next to the Sant Jaume church. Well, we’ll see. To be brutally frank, the current museum is a tad unimpressive, so anything would be an improvement. With the mooted arts and sciences museum on the site of the old power station by the commercial port (23 May: Red Rain), the new building will give - in the words of Ultima Hora - “a great impulse to cultural tourism in the north of Mallorca”. Maybe. I’m yet to be convinced, though if the power station site really does have something exciting, that impulse could yet be realised.

The hike in interest rates coming from the European Central Bank is having a negative effect in the sense that - obviously - mortgage repayments have risen substantially. Moreover, according to the head of the association of Balearic estate agents, the interest rises have caused a fall in demand by as much as 20%. While defaults are not necessarily going to happen, the Spanish central bank has nevertheless called on banks to try and prevent defaulting (which has, presumably, to mean a limit on credit). Putting this in context, there has been an annual 7% increase in the granting of loans/mortgages over the past three years. So, while the property market has been buoyant, the worry is that it has been predicated - as in other countries - on too-easy credit. Talking to local estate agents, it is clear that the market has, certainly at the lower and middle ends, all but ground to a halt.

Yesterday - Joni Mitchell. Today’s title is a line from ... ?


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Hissing Of Summer Lawns

More on the projected railway to Alcúdia. The Balearic Government seems not - as yet - to have acted on my suggestion to co-opt Sirs Branson and Savile (18 July: How’s About That Then?), but nevertheless it’s full steam ahead. Or should that be full electric ahead? Truth is it’s neither. Though the train project is one of the “big things” of the new government, it is highly questionable whether anything will be done within the lifetime of this government. Studies are being talked about; there is a problem in that plans for the island never envisaged this form of rail development; urbanisations and industrial estates have been put up as artifical barriers.

Thinking about any extension from Sa Pobla, the only route that comes to my mind would be one that circles Sa Pobla, and then follows the road to the Pollensa roundabout and then the new road to Alcúdia. Where it would go then, I’m not sure, but perhaps it could cut across and end up somewhere near the Auditorium. But not without a lot of difficulty. As the Ultima Hora points out, any project is not a “camino de rosas”. Maybe it could carry on alongside the road to the Horse roundabout with a terminal there.

There again, I’m not a civil engineer, so what the heck do I know. Anyway, in addition to the train, there is some idea of there being a linked tram service to the port, which could then also go onto Playa de Muro and Can Picafort. And where, pray, would that go? Still, it’s all very interesting but chances of it happening must be remote.

An extra issue is that it can take forever to get agreement. The Alcúdia industrial park was fifteen years in the offing, so has been the plan to upgrade La Gola in Pollensa to a form of inland marine park. That now finally has the green light, but much of the delay for projects here stems from the regular shifts of government, locally and nationally. So, as for the railway, don’t hold your breath as you may be waiting a long time for a train.

And while on water in Pollensa, there is meant to be a crackdown on excessive domestic use of water. Pollensa does have problems with water, though I wonder whether owners of lush gardens will feel inclined to turn the hoses and sprinklers off.

Yesterday’s Guardia presence on Playa de Muro may have had more to do with a drowning, I’m sorry to have to say.

Better news. The annual Alcúdia Jazz festival is about to get under way (look for info on the WHAT’S ON BLOG). The first gig is on 31 August at the Biblioteca Can Torró with the singer Esther Bosch and the Tià Cardell Group who offer a form of jazz with pop-rock crossover. Not as international as the Sa Pobla Jazz Festival, the programme this year does though include the Boston-based Human Feel who will play the last gig on 29 September. Another act is Pedro Iturralde, one of the prime movers of jazz flamenco. For those who think flamenco can be either ultra-miserable or a lot of fast guitars, clapping, and stamping of feet, the jazz version is far more interesting and often more melodic.

Yesterday - Hedgehoppers Anonymous. Water sprinklers, jazz, it must be today’s title. The album was not by a jazz artist, but it had strong jazz overtones with The Crusaders being featured. Who was it?


Saturday, August 25, 2007

It’s Good News Week

Well, at least the weather has improved enough for the beaches to be, if not packed, then well-attended. And near me in Playa de Muro attended also by the Guardia and a television crew (to be precise one person with a camera, but crew will do). What were they doing? Not sure; you don’t exactly walk up to the Guardia and enquire, but there was some chap with a clipboard and documents. Could have been more on the sunbed/lounger over-provision (15 July).

Some while ago, ages ago it seems, I mentioned the attempt to eradicate illegal holiday apartments. There has been more activity on this recently, with owners rushing to get their properties legalised, only for their applications to be rejected (in not every case, but in a majority). I bring this up because a correspondent to “The Bulletin” makes some pretty strident comments on the subject. He makes a very valuable point, namely that this form of accommodation has a benefit in that it offers high-value, year-round tourism, while those renting this accommodation are the sort of people who will go out. He finishes - “their (the people doing the renting) spend bears no comparison to what a typical hotel bed contributes”. Well said, I reckon.

And while on hotel beds. More “good news” statistics. Apparently the tourist season is exceeding all expectations. Ah yes, of course it is. Anyway, July’s hotel occupation for Alcúdia was 95% and Muro’s nearly 97%. What strikes one, well me at any rate, is the imbalance between Spanish and other tourists. You might recall my saying that the whole tourist season is being buoyed by an increase in Spanish tourism to Mallorca, a form of tourism that does tend to have a high spend (not that everyone would agree with that, but be that as it may). Yet look at Alcúdia, and the number of overnight stays during July were as follows - 8,439 (Spanish), 650,949 (foreign) - and for Muro they were, respectively, 35,004 and 515,965. As I pointed out on 7 August, the congratulatory noises regarding Spanish tourism were unlikely to be echoed on the streets of Alcúdia. I didn’t realise by how little. To put this into perspective, the proportion of Spanish to foreign tourists (per overnight stay) in July in Palma was about 1 to 5. In Alcúdia it was 1 to 77! The overall proportion for the island was around 1 to 11. Enough said.

Finally, just a quick word of consolation to Jane and Kevin at JKs Bar in Puerto Pollensa who have had a flood. All will be back and in order by tomorrow. It never rains, it pours. And Puerto Pollensa got it in the neck more than anywhere.

The Smiths everyone should have known. The other one was The Corrs “Would You Be Happier”. As a counterpoint to yesterday and because of the “good news” (allegedly) about the season’s numbers, who recorded today’s title?


Friday, August 24, 2007

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

Today is the fiesta of Sant Bartomeu in Alcúdia. It celebrates the harvest, and there is a procession with melons scooped out and used as lanterns. The lanterns would have come in use this morning. Grey.

There are few things worse than crap weather on holiday, except perhaps watching England losing to Germany while the weather’s crap on holiday. Misery. Forlorn, bedraggled, terminally hacked-off tourists dressed for the beach and served a dose of bank holiday in Skegness dark skies and rain. Well, at least the rain stopped this afternoon, though tomorrow’s forecast on Yahoo has a set of five leaves. Wind. Great for the kitesurfers out in numbers as they can’t collide with some inattentive child on a lilo. At least they offer some form of entertainment to tourists in search of something, anything to do.

The trouble is there is so little to do when it rains. Everything has to close. Even the restaurants are hard-pressed as they rely on their terraces. No-one wins. Everyone’s pissed off. Cue Steven Patrick ...

Yesterday - Eagles “Hotel California”. Today - well, I’ve given it you already, but everyone knows the title. Don’t they? So here’s a weather-lyric question. “You’d be wonderful if it wasn’t for the weather.” Who?


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Please Bring Me My Wine

Wine. Ah yes, relaxing on the terrace, a chilled white in hand, the sun over the yard-arm. Or an evening of sampling the fare of an especialista en carnes with a fine vino tinto. Think Spain, think a vanilla-flavoured Rioja, an aroma of blackcurrant, or something or other. Mallorca has its own wine industry with local grapes and the universal Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Much of the island’s wine industry is centred on the town of Binissalem near to Inca, and towards the end of September there is the annual Vermar fiesta to celebrate the harvest. There are some very good local wines, the best being in the “reserva” class. The everyday plonk is not much cop, to be frank.

Go into a supermarket here, and you will find rows of Spanish and Mallorcan wines. Prices for these are rarely that good, for anything drinkable that is. A reasonable red will set you back around 6 euros, but it won’t be brilliant. Making a comparison with the shelf-loads of wines in a British supermarket - usually excellent and often at a similar price (in pounds) - and there is no comparison.

One reason is that supermarkets sell only Spanish and Mallorcan wines. Tourist supermarkets may offer some New World or French, but the main supermarket chains seem immune to the notion of a free market. Buying wine in supermarkets can, therefore, be quite disappointing here, surprising perhaps as wine is a staple. Look for a decent white wine in a supermarket, and you’ll be hard pressed. One of the more palatable, at a good price, is the Torres Viña Sol, 4.65 euros at Eroski (and avoid the tourist supermarkets - at the Boulevard DIY “hypermarket” in Playa de Muro for instance, it’s a whole 40% more expensive at 6.50). But even this is hardly nectar. Otherwise ...

To get some superior quality, it can be worthwhile hunting down a bodega and buying direct. Close to Pollensa, for example, there is the Can Vidalet bodega which does a very decent Blanc de Blanc (which is a Chardonnay blend). A bit pricier at 7.50 a bottle, but it’s worth it.

So, here’s a first for the blog - BODEGA OF THE WEEK - CAN VIDALET

Where: Ctra. Alcúdia-Pollensa PMV-220-I, km. 4.85, Pollensa (take the Alcúdia road from the cockerel roundabout coming into Pollensa).

What: Reds (Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), whites (Chardonnay, Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Negre) and rosés (Chardonnay).

When: Monday to Friday 09:00-13:00 / 14:00-18:00.

Who: Vintner Klaus Knebel and marketing director Sarah Trappe.

Why: Apart from the excellent wines, there are different wine-tastings and tours at the bodega’s marvellous location in the countryside outside Pollensa in the shadow of the Puig María.

Is there a website? Yes: Online orders can be made.

Yesterday - James T. Kirk he was, and he was a legend, but he didn’t just murder “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, he hung, drew and quartered it. Today - this is a line from another famous song. It continues - “He said. We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969”. Group and song?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It’s August, Jim, But Not As We Know It

The best laid plans. Only a few months after opening, the Palma metro has notched up what may be a notable first in the history of metros. Not being an expert on these things, I can’t be sure, but it could be that it has attained the status of the shortest time it takes for a new metro system to be shut down owing to floods.

Now you would have thought, wouldn’t you ... . It is not as though you don’t get rain in Mallorca. It is not as though you don’t get great torrents of the stuff in a short period. Somehow though, someone seems to have ovelooked this fact. And what happens?

It was one station in particular that was affected, but sufficient to bring to a halt the service between Palma and the university. This station is near to the station for the train to Sóller, and the “Ultima Hora” paper couldn’t help but point out that the over-a-hundred-year-old train was running normally. Bit unfair perhaps, but we get the point.

The cause of the flood was yesterday’s storm, which had an impact in the north, too. Near to the Platja d’Or hotel in Puerto Alcúdia, there was a particular problem, and the bomberos (firemen) were pumping again there today. That was because it chucked it down for close on four hours this morning.

Last August was pretty variable, but this year it’s as though September has arrived early. It’s August, Jim, but not as we know it.

Yesterday - Crowded House. Good enough for ‘60s gurus to be among the prize-winners. Today - no prizes for knowing from where the title is adapted, but William Shatner has a place high in the echelons of all-time musical turkeys. It was a Beatles song. Which one?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Always Take The Weather With You

A mother and father of a downpour this morning, following a drab yesterday. Maybe the late-summer storms are here already. Whatever.

Weather. If there is one thing that people want to know about, it is the weather. “What’s the weather like in (choose your month)...?” I get it all the time, and all I can do is say what it was like last year. Go to various sites, and you’ll find all manner of pretty useless information. “I was in Alcúdia/Pollensa/Can Picafort (choose as applicable) 15 years ago, and it ...”. But even last year means little. There is no certainty with the weather, and the forecasts can be misleading. True, the storm today was on the cards, but you would have thought - from the forecast - that it would be like that all day. It’s been great.

I understand all the fretting about the weather. However stoic one might be, however much one might say, “oh well we can always go to the bar”, if the sun don’t shine, one is mightily hacked off. It’s what people come for after all. And then when the weather is lousy, as it was yesterday, the car-hire offices are packed and the bus stops as busy as Arab bazaars. But you can bet that all those people trying to get a Scenic for the day would rather have had a view from the beach than that of scenic countryside.

Among those who have come through on the email is Ren Powell, who contacted me about the Patrona fiesta in Pollensa. Anyway, upshot of all this is that she has sent me some photos of the event, and very good they are, too. So, here are a couple. Thanks very much, Ren.

Yesterday - Blur. Today’s title? Easy.


Monday, August 20, 2007

And I’m Pins And I’m Needles

When is Alcúdia not Alcúdia?

When it is Playa de Muro.

Does this matter? I believe it does. That Playa de Muro is a form of extension of Puerto Alcúdia is undeniable, but it still isn’t Alcúdia, especially if you are billeted at the likes of the Alcúdia Pins hotel.

I live quite close to Alcúdia Pins. There used to be a telephone box outside the house. Mercifully it has been removed, though it was quite instructive to hear people calling home and bemoaning the fact that they were miles away from anything, that there was nothing to do and that they wouldn’t be coming back.

Let me tell you also about the two blokes I once gave a lift to who had got off the bus near the Esperanza by mistake and had heavy cases with them. I took them to their hotel - the Playa Garden. “Is it far to Alcúdia from here?” I had to break it gently.

I have fielded many an enquiry about Alcúdia Pins (and other hotels by the Eden Center). They all tend to be along the lines of “We’re going to Alcúdia and will be staying at the Alcúdia Pins. But we’ve heard that it is a bit far from the centre”

You bet your life it’s a bit far. About 8 kilometres a bit far.

Now, this is not a go at Alcúdia Pins or any other of the hotels. They are all pretty damn good, and the area itself is quite pleasant. But it is remote. The problem is that these hotels are often said to be in Alcúdia or indeed promoted as such. There was an ad in “The Sun” not that long ago. “Two weeks at Alcúdia Pins, Alcúdia.” You get a similar thing on some tour operator sites and on holiday sites.

I will concede that it is convenient to refer to Alcúdia. I do this myself sometimes. Simple reason - Alcúdia is better known. But this convenience can mean a sizeable inconvenience for those who do indeed find themselves a “bit far from the centre”.

You might say well they can always go to Can Picafort. Indeed they could, but that isn’t really the point. They have been sold Alcúdia and they haven’t got it. That’s the point. The other thing is this “centre” notion. The overwhelming majority of tourists believe that the so-called Bellevue area IS the centre of Alcúdia. It’s understandable as that is where the majority stay. It’s understandable for other reasons, but maybe I can deal with those some other time. Whether “centre” is the correct description or not, there are plenty of folk who want to be able to enjoy the attractions of the Greasy Mile; plenty of them at Alcúdia Pins.

Let me stress I am not claiming any misrepresentation. As I say, the use of “Alcúdia” is convenient, but I would rather this convenience was put to one side and a bucket-and-spade was called a bucket-and-spade, or a Playa de Muro a Playa de Muro.

There wasn’t one yesterday because of the Laberinto special. Going back two days therefore - it was C.W.McCall and “Convoy”, which will always - regrettably - bring “The Hairy Cornflake” Dave Lee Travis to mind. Today - the lyric goes “I got my head checked by a jumbo jet ... When I feel heavy metal and I’m pins and I’m needles”. Who?


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ten Years Of Giant Maze Fun


If you go down to the woods next to the beach in Playa de Muro, you will get a pleasant surprise, or maybe even a shock. Water monsters, wacky wizards, crazy clowns, pirates of the Mediterranean, jokers, witches and fairies. They are all lurking under the pines in the El Laberinto Giant Maze Fun Park which this year celebrates its tenth year.

The brainchild of Jake Boas and his family, El Laberinto started in Menorca in 1995, and was then recreated in Playa de Muro, Jake and his brother Jason building the maze that occupies all of 1500 square metres just a few paces from the renowned beach in Alcúdia Bay. And it is a real feat of construction. The precision of the wooden panels allows the maze’s layout to be changed, and this precision is to a matter of millimetres. This impressive site is the foundation for one of northern Mallorca’s foremost attractions.

The maze is more than just a case of getting lost or of escaping, there are games to be played as well, such as the memory game that requires you to remember pictures you have seen as you try your best to get out. But if getting lost is not bad enough, you may have to contend with the sudden appearance of a water monster who will soak you if you are not quick enough. There are now though allies in your encounters with the monsters - the pirates of the Mediterranean who will help to chase them off or to attack them from the new castle situated in the centre of the maze.

El Laberinto is very much geared to family entertainment, especially obviously to children, and it draws its “victims” from both a local and a tourist market. A favourite for groups and parties, El Laberinto each year attracts gangs of excited children from Alcúdia who participate in the annual “viu l’estiu” summer series of events organised by the town hall. The maze’s popularity among tourists can be summed up in the words of one parent: “Our kids can’t get enough of it. We’ve been back almost every night, and each time there has been a different character and challenge.”

So, as the giant maze celebrates its first ten years, here’s to the next ten years: ten years which give you plenty of opportunity to, in the words of El Laberinto, GET LOST!

The El Laberinto Giant Maze Fun Park Fact File:

Where is it? Calle Anecs, Urbanisation Ses Fotges opposite the Grupotel Alcúdia Suite, Playa de Muro.

How much is it? 7 euros a go for adults and children, but if you come for a repeat visit, keep your ticket and you will get 50% discount.

What ages does it cater for? All, but little ones definitely need to be accompanied.

What times does it open? Every day from 10:30am till 10:30pm. May to October.

Can I get any refreshments? Ice-creams, sweets and drinks.

Can I find out more? There is a website -

(This article will appear in the next issue of “Euro Weekly News”.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This Here’s The Rubber Duck

Curious. Silly season. During the annual Mare de Deu d’Agost fiesta in Can Picafort, they “free” rubber ducks. Those wacky Mallorcan traditions. From what I can make out, the rubber ducks have replaced live birds. However, not everyone seems to accept this. Consequently, there has been a fair old rumpus because some “masked men” let go some live ducks this year - illegally. Apparently the poor old plod were unable to identify these masked men as they were busy on traffic duty. Still, there’s a photo in the paper that might help them.

Following on from the piece about all-inclusives of 16 August, I got an email from Anne Marie. Here’s what she had to say:

“On the subject of all-inclusives, I think they're bad. I can see your point about good value for the family limited to August, kids to cater for etc, but isn't it very limiting to be stuck in the same place day in, day out? Personally, I think it would be something akin to torture having to eat in the same surroundings with the same people all the time. Surely part of the holiday experience is to get out and about, try different restaurants, shop in the markets for lovely fresh fruit and veg etc?”

As I said in my reply to Anne Marie, I agree wholeheartedly. I try very hard to be fair to all-inclusives and to those holidaymakers who love them. If you go back over the months you will find that my views of all-inclusives have moderated. At one time, I considered them to be the devil’s work, but I have had so many people advance their advantages that I have changed my opinion. But only in the sense that I can recognise well the financial benefits. Otherwise I stand by what I have always believed - that a place with a decent infrastructure, a place that is safe, a place that is not remote does not need all-inclusives. And I certainly agree with Anne Marie that the holiday experience should involve getting out and about.

There is a lot of emotion surrounding all-inclusives. Local businesses detest them because they harm trade. Many a holidaymaker defends them with a passion. It is not true that all people staying at all-inclusives never leave the premises or never try a different restaurant or bar. But a number do rarely venture out. And even those who do go out, are not eating out every evening. Why would they?

The all-inclusive has become something of a pejorative, not only because of the effects on local trade, but also because of some of the clientele. Stories of bad behaviour at certain all-inclusives here are legion. Not everyone is badly behaved, not everyone gets pissed all day every day, not everyone lets their kids run riot. But some do. Not every hotel with an all-inclusive offer gets a bad press.

I try to be even-handed. In a wider sense, the all-inclusive is a form of change, a form of market-driven change, market-driven change within the holiday industry. The problem is how does the local market adapt, faced as it is by this change. No-one has a good answer, because - short of just shrugging shoulders or giving up - there is no good answer. The market power in this market change resides with the tour operators and, to a lesser extent, the hoteliers. The local trader is impotent. This may all be free-market economics (which I am inherently in agreement with), but this particular market is out of balance.

If anyone has differing views, I would be delighted to hear them. If you support all-inclusives or if you don’t, let me know.

Yesterday - The Doors, “Riders On The Storm”. Today - the title comes from a dreadful record. Who did it and what was it called?


Friday, August 17, 2007

There’s A Killer On The Road

Anyone looking to buy a bar? We’ve got one. Well, not we, but Les at The Canny Lad who has put the bar up for sale. Reason? Vamps, the other bar, has been a success and they want to devote their time to that. Fair enough. Anyway, the details are available on the site, go to Businesses For Sale.

It doesn’t get any better. It gets worse. Despite the tougher regime with points on licences etc, the number of deaths on the Balearic roads refuses to go down. The first half of August saw a rise from 108 to 126. I don’t know the reasons for all these deaths, but I reckon a conclusion can be drawn. Anyone used to the roads here will know. Recklessness and speed. At the same time as there has been some congratulation as to the number of infractions that have led to licence points, there is something clearly wrong. And I’ve said it before. Grabbing drivers for not wearing seat-belts and so on, standing around at roundabouts, this is all well and good, but it does not address the real problem. Trafico cannot be everywhere, but surely their time is better spent being out on the roads. That way, maybe, just maybe, they might make more of an impression.

My beach is Playa de Muro, the bit between Alcúdia Pins and the five stars. It is never that busy, but it is a regular family beach. I’ve seen it on rare occasions before, and there it was again today - bloke, kit-off. Now personally I couldn’t give a damn; indeed kit-off is more comfortable than kit-on. But I’m not so sure that tackle-out is necessarily appropriate on your everyday family beaches. Not that anyone seemed that bothered. Maybe this is because most holidaymakers here are German. It’s just that the chap was so obviously out of place. Takes some guts I reckon.

I’m really not sure what the deal is with beach nudity. I was under the impression that it was ok anywhere, but the tourist offices in Puerto Alcúdia and Playa de Muro were both aghast when I suggested this. So, I don’t know. There are beaches here well-known for naturism, but otherwise ... .

Yesterday - U2. And Anne Marie quite correctly got it. Today’s title. It is a line from a very famous song. And it is ... ?


Thursday, August 16, 2007


Remember a few days ago - 7 and 8 August to be precise - and the stuff about how well restaurants were meant to be doing and about the “minority” of places that are suffering from all-inclusives. Minority, my arse. Well, here’s something more. “The Bulletin” runs an interesting piece today on a report by the local small and medium-sized businesses organisation. Limited though its poll was, the results of talking to 47 restaurants are clear enough: the majority of places on the island are doing less well than last year, with parts of Alcúdia and Can Picafort the worst affected. The blame is placed on two things - the late start of the high season (in mid-July) and all-inclusives.

I don’t know. I’ve always thought high season to mean from mid-July till end August, i.e. coincidental with UK school holidays. I’ve certainly never considered June to necessarily be high season. But be that as it may. From a common-sense perspective, one would have to believe that the all-inclusives are the main reason for less business. There are, however, other factors, like higher interest rates, and then there is one I have heard before, and it was confirmed this morning when I was having a chat with a neighbour who runs a place here. He was saying that May and June weren’t bad. July was ok, but August has been less good. I heard the same thing about July and August on the Greasy Mile yesterday. This neighbour has a clear view on the situation. It is the nature of the tourist. You would think - August, great, all those tourists knocking around, but think again. It’s that typical August tourist. As the neighbour says, that tourist does not have or spend very much money. He can understand it; so can I. Chap, family, two or three kids. If he’s British, he is almost forced to come in August since they got tough on taking kids out of school in term time. In August when the holidays themselves are at their most expensive.

The blame being attached to all-inclusives is understandable and undeniable, but - and I’ve said it before - all-inclusives are not the whole story. They are, in some ways, a convenient Aunt Sally. I have every sympathy with restaurant-owners whose businesses are suffering. I would rather there were no all-inclusives. But for that chap, that typical tourist with his family, the all-inclusive can be his route to affordability.

Something, one feels, has to give. And I’m not sure the results will be very pleasant.

Yesterday - Knew that Geoff, our ‘60s guru, would get The Nashville Teens. Strange name as they came from Surrey. Today’s title - in recognition of the less than good news on the restaurant front - whose song is it? And I’m not looking for Michael Jackson.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tobacco Road

Reasons to be cheerful, part three. Yes, more reassuring numbers on the tourism front. September and October are due to be excellent, apparently. The September prediction for Mallorca suggests a rise of almost 4% over last year, with hotel occupation at 90%. October will be roughly the same as last year - at 60% occupancy. Lovely, lovely statistics.

You may not remember, so I will remind you. One of the reasons for stopping tourist supermarkets selling tobacco in bulk and letting the licensed tobacconists have the market to themselves was that this would improve health. In fact I think it was THE reason. Well, what do you know, the value of tobacco sales in the Balearics has increased by near enough 12% over the same period last year, a rise only partly explained by an increase in tax.

The fact is that, while the Government may have had a concern for the health of the indigenous population, it is quite happy for the rest of Europe to cough and cough up for something that is incredibly cheap by comparison with other countries. Average UK prices are 205% higher than Spanish.

I never bought this whole health argument when the right to sell tobacco was taken away from the supermarkets. And I still don’t. All it has done is to make it a bit more inconvenient for tourists to buy, but they still carry on buying. All this stuff about tourist spend, how much of it goes on tobacco? Now that would be an interesting statistic.

Here is the news from Alcúdia: the item for the town in today’s “Ultima Hora”. It concerns a manhole cover on the Via Corneli Atic (which is the road that links the Magic and Horse Roundabouts). Apparently it moves if vehicles go across it at sufficiently high speed. Can’t say I have noticed, but there again I try and miss all manhole covers here in any event. Of course it could be dangerous. Otherwise though, there is no news.

Yesterday - “Sometimes (Lester Piggott)” by James. No, I never understood what the Lester Piggott thing was about either. Today’s title. It was a hit for which ‘60s British act.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Calling “Come On Thunder”

More joyous statistics. Mallorca’s hotels enjoyed an average occupation rate of 94% in July, and the best results were to be found in the north. Right here. Can Picafort - 99.8%. You’d think that would make everyone very happy, but it probably won’t, given the all-inclusives that are, for instance, the Viva Holiday Village and the Clumba Mar. Alcúdia enjoyed the same level as last July, whatever that was.

Tourists can be strange. There seems to be amongst some - Germans especially - a perception that everything is fair tourist game, and that includes gardens and houses. The standing and staring is one thing (and staring is something of a German national past-time), but actually entering a garden or a house is quite another. I have a neighbour who has put up a wall around her house. Not a high wall, but a wall nevertheless. There were two sets of trespassers that she was most determined to deter - dogs and tourists.

I know of someone in the old town of Alcúdia who lives close to the church. The door to the house is now always locked or at least closed as it wasn’t uncommon to find someone in the house having a look around. To a point, one can understand this. The town houses of the old town often have their doors open and, because they are generally attractive, one can appreciate why a tourist might wish to venture in, or to stand at the entrance and have a good old “nosey”. One can appreciate it, but it is still a bit of a cheek.

This same person in Alcúdia has also had to contend with the problem that is the lack of public toilets. One day, this elderly lady came to the door and asked if she could use the toilet. Taking pity on her and her advanced years, she was admitted only then to be sent packing when the old girl called out to her mates across the way who all started to descend upon the house with the same aim in mind.

There is a disturbing reassurance that comes from a storm, especially a storm at night; a satisfaction from watching a storm from the safety of a terrace - the neon flashes, the erratic daggers, the sudden appearance bringing it closer. The Mallorca summer storm. It is an entertainment all of its own. It brings loud noises, flashing lights, a rush of fear and excitement. And it’s all for free.

Well, I really seem to have started something with the last quiz. I didn’t know there were so many grammarians. Anyway, the line from “The Bulletin” contained not one but three errors, although two are kind of understandable. It should have read: “70 per cent of the population wants to see fewer tourists”. Percent (one word) is American usage, the verb conjugation is determined by “the population” (singular entity), and if you can count something it is fewer, not less. Not bad though for an English-language newspaper.
“Far From The Madding Crowd”. Thomas Hardy wrote the book, but the line comes from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy In A Country Churchyard”. Where else can you find a blog that one day has football songs, the next day Gray’s Elegy?
Today - the title comes from this lyric: “There’s a boy leaning against a wall of rain, aerial held high, calling ‘come on thunder, come on thunder’ “. The group and song?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Never Far From The Madding Crowd

Too many people, making too many problems. “The Bulletin” reports on a report which discovers that residents of Mallorca and the other islands feel there are just too many damn tourists in summer. No pleasing some people. To be fair, they are not saying that they don’t want tourists - you bet your life they’re not wanting that - but that the concentration in summer causes overcrowding and saturation.The solution would be to spread tourism out, the favoured options being congresses, cycling, cruises and cultural tourism. A load of c-words it would seem. One might well ask, what does a congress do for tourism, or indeed a cruise (which surely takes people off of the island), but perhaps I’m missing something. And put more cyclists on the road, and there will be even more complaints about them than there are already.

The simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of tourists come to Mallorca, and would continue to come to Mallorca, for one key reason - hot sun. They do not come - in great numbers - to admire architecture or historical artefacts. Alcúdia’s Roman town - “some old ruins that we didn’t bother with” was one comment I once came across. Let’s be blunt, most tourists couldn’t care less. Sun, sea, sand, sex, sangria. A load of s-words, in other words. That’s what they care about (in varying degrees admittedly). The hoteliers know this, the tour operators know this, the airlines know this, the restaurant- and bar-owners who close by the end of October know this.

A true year-round tourism market would be wonderful, but dream on.

Today there is a language question. What is wrong with this (it comes from “The Bulletin”)? “70 percent of the population want to see less tourists”.
And a literary question. Today’s adapted title should be familiar, but where does the correct version come from originally?
Yesterday - Steve Lillywhite. New Order’s “World In Motion” was the best of course. Those who suggested “Blue Is The Colour”, “Ossie’s Dream” and “Ally’s Tartan Army”. No, no and no.


Friday, August 10, 2007

It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming Home ...

A matter of hours now. Only one sleep. What have we been doing with ourselves all this time? It’s back. Premier League football. The bars will be alive with the sound of Sky boxes, “go on my son”, and “another round of John Smith’s, mate”. Never mind all this fannying around on beaches, tomorrow is when the summer starts. This is what we save up for; this is what we want; this is football on holiday. And if you support Wigan, this is where it all goes very wrong.

At least the footy will boot the fillers off the bar TVs. Can someone explain to me the fascination for “Only Fools And Horses”? I was passing a bar off the Greasy Mile yesterday morning. It could have been one of many others and not just in Alcúdia. There were Del Boy and Rodders. While the punters were tucking into their fry-ups, they were also being fed a diet of the Trotters. Why?

Ok, ok, anything to get the punters in. But why always Fools And Horses? I would just love it if a bar were to put on an old episode of “The League Of Gentlemen”. It would clear the bar quicker than you could say “NOT LOCAL”. Which is presumably why it isn’t shown, and also why I don’t run a bar.

Tonight is the occasion of one of the greatest of the summer events - the Can Picafort all-nighter. Knocks spots off of all the other party do’s. Weather’s just about holding up for it. It is, I’m afraid, looking very much like last August.

Yesterday - Kirsty MacColl. Today - she was married to whom? And also. Not so much a quiz, more a question. Today’s title is easy, but was it the greatest footy song of all time?

And another myspace and another female singer - Nancy Elizabeth - this time from Wigan, so there’s one thing to be thankful for if you’re from Wigan -


Thursday, August 09, 2007

There’s A Guy Sings Down The Bar Swears He’s Elvis

Oh no, we are but a week away from an anniversary. Normally I might set this as a quiz, but I can’t wait.

16 August 1977. Elvis. As a board.

First it was a celebration of 40 years ago, now it’s 30. I remember it well; an initial moment of shock and then a concern about what punk band was playing the Greyhound in Fulham and were we having a curry.

You might ask, why bring this up. Well, Elvis is deeply engrained into the local psyche, or at least into the local how-do-we-get-the-punters-through-the-door psyche. I don’t have a problem with bars drumming up business, nor with drumming it up with some dodgy doppelganger lip-curling his way through “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, nor indeed with the artists themselves earning some euros (not all of them are dodgy; indeed some are quite good, but that's not the point). What I do have a problem with is this Elvis thing, period. I wonder whether Elvis would have thought - back in Nashville in the ‘50s - that it would be pretty cool for some cabaret act in 2007 to be impersonating him in a hotel entertainment area or bar in Alcúdia or Pollensa. No, I don’t reckon he would have. Nor, I suspect, would he have thought this once he himself had become an average cabaret artist, nor when he was lying on his bed in Graceland taking his last barbiturates.

Doubtless that arch Elvis and Elvis-impersonator apologist - Lash, R. - will celebrate all this. ‘Fraid I won’t. I won’t repeat it, but if you want to look back at 3 October last year, you can read why.

Following the huge success of the Indian Palace restaurant review (3 August), Seamus returns in our new feature - CULLEN’S CULINARY CORNER. Today - GOLF CLUB ALCANADA:

“There were two of us for lunch and we thought we would try something nice. The golf club has a nice terrace and also an air-conditioned dining-room when it is too hot. It was a bit cloudy today but we ate inside anyway. There is also a 180-degree view of the bay of Alcúdia, from Alcúdia to Betlem.
“They have an a la carte menu which is quite expensive by Alcúdia standards and also a snack menu that looks of a very high standard and reasonably priced. They also have a menu del día (daily special menu). They have a very good chef as all our food was of a really high standard and well-presented.
“I had foie gras to start, which was excellent, and a home-made lasagne that was for sure home-made, as the pasta was 100% fresh and tasty. My girlfriend had a ricotta cheese mousse salad and goulash soup, both were excellent. We had a half bottle of wine, a rioja. The bill came to 74 euros, expensive for Alcúdia but worth it I think.
“This is a nice place to eat and the staff were very friendly and spoke in English to my girlfriend and in Spanish to me. I also noticed a group of Spanish grannies and they had menu del dia; it looked great - bacalao (cod) and a white wine sauce. It came very quickly as well.
“This is a very nice place to enjoy a nice lunch. Don’t go in a rush and enjoy it.”

Well done to all who got Carole King. Today’s title is based on whose hit record?


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It Might As Well Rain Until September

What was that about watching flowers in the rain being the last thing you could do here at the moment? What does it do? Rains. Grey skies and rain. Uncanny. I checked the entry for 8 August last year. Rain. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of last August which was distinctly variable.

A bit more on yesterday’s piece about the record year. “The Bulletin”, which sometimes uses items from the previous day’s “Ultima Hora”, ran yesterday’s news today. I’m glad they did, because I had overlooked something yesterday, so much so that I went back and checked the original. Sure enough there it was, namely a source referring to the fact that some areas of Mallorca have suffered from the effects of all-inclusives, but that these were IN THE MINORITY. I put this in caps as it comes across as being dismissive, in effect saying, well don’t worry about places like Alcúdia and Can Picafort, the rest of the island’s all right, Jack. Except of course it isn’t just Alcúdia and Can Picafort.

But herein lies the rub about these statistics. They do not take account of situations locally. They sound good, but they disguise as much as they reveal.

Yesterday was Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction. Today’s title? Who wrote it and had the original hit? And after Candie Payne yesterday, another hot tip also from Liverpool - Ladytron. Their myspace -


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It’s Got To Be, Perfect

Well more statistics if you can bear them. “Ultima Hora” today reports that it is indeed a record year. The front-page headline blares out: “The Balearics register the best tourist season in the last ten years”. With the exception of the increasing (or should that be shrinking) basket-case that is Menorca, the other islands have been faring well, Mallorca topping the league with up to 95% hotel occupancy, business profitability up by as much as 5% and activity in the restaurant sector up by 10%.

But scratch beneath the surface, and what do we find? The restaurant figure is skewed by a 15% increase in Palma alone. Not Calvia, not Alcúdia, not Pollensa. Palma. Moreover, the occupancy (and that restaurant activity) is assisted by the strength of Spanish national tourism, with the British market somewhat down.

While the figures can allow a collective pat on the back for those organisations and authorities that thrive on positive numbers, the increases are not necessarily universal. Spanish tourism, while not inconsequential in the north, does not fill the bars along the Greasy Mile nor indeed many an establishment in Puerto Pollensa.

So, as always, one takes these figures for what they are not - an accurate reflection of the local market. 

One of this blog’s most popular themes, especially since the redesign of the road. I have to be honest and say it isn’t as bad as I had anticipated. The slowing of the traffic seems also to have brought a hitherto unknown courteousness when it comes to letting people cross the road - at crossing points. It is the non-crossing points that are the problem. Despite the increase in the number of crossings and the islands without actual white lines, you still encounter people appearing from nowhere in the middle of the road. It may come as a surprise, but jaywalking is an offence here.

Despite the apparent best intentions of the road’s planners, there is no accounting for people’s bone-idleness. There again, one does have to question the positioning of some of these crossings. One, like that where people walk from the boat that ferries them over from Bellevue to the beach, is eminently sensible. Another, or rather one that doesn’t exist, is that in front of the Delfin Azul (for which read also Port d’Alcúdia and Alcúdia Beach). Yes there is a pedestrian crossing up the road a bit; yes there are a couple of crossing islands close by. But behaviour isn’t like that. “I’ve walked up this road, I want to cross this big one, so I’m going to cross it here, not there.” And so they do.

And just on those crossing islands. I used the one near the Delfin Azul one day. There I was on the island. To my right, a line of traffic at the head of which was a Trafico car. What do you know? Trafico stopped, and waved me across. What fine people they are.

Thanks to all who suggested 1967 records. And thanks also to those who replied to yesterday’s quiz. One of the most popular yet. It was The Waterboys “Whole Of The Moon”. Which brings me to today’s: Briefly The Waterboys counted among their number a female singer who had a number one hit with her own group. Who was she and what was the group?

The latest of this blog’s contemporary music recommendations. Don’t know what it is with female singers, but here we go. Candie Payne. There’s a myspace:


Monday, August 06, 2007

This Is The Sea

Today’s leader in “Ultima Hora” refers to the fact that 2007 “is going to be a record year”. Elsewhere, it reports that turnover among businesses situated in Mallorca’s tourist areas will increase by 2.7% over last year (also a record year, you may remember).

Here we go again. Congratulatory statistics, but what do they mean? If, for instance, the turnover figure includes revenue for hotels then there should be some disquiet when it comes to tourist spend. This is because many hotels increased their prices this season by around 4%. Put that into the equation, and things don’t sound so great. But as ever, getting any real sense out of these stats is a pretty forlorn task.

This is an island. A small island. The wind is a constant. A constant change. A north-easterly four days ago and then Friday a full-on northerly. The roar of the sea was so great it woke me, making me wonder if the fans were still on downstairs. The waves were not that high, but there were red flags anyway. And so of course people ignore the flags and the lifeguards. If there is one thing you don’t mess with, it is the sea.

I have seen people hauled from the sea. I have known people taken away by currents and undertow. You live by the sea, and you know the sea. Not everyone does. The sea says: you want to fuck with me, go ahead, and I’ll fuck you up. They don’t come back unless tangled with seaweed. But they keep on trying to take on the sea, and failing. And they will always fail, because the sea will always win.

And the other thing with the change in wind. Blows jellyfish in. There they were, beached. There was this little girl hollering. And still people challenge the sea.

MORE 1967
Jefferson Airplane “Somebody To Love”, The Beach Boys “Heroes And Villains”, The Moody Blues “Nights In White Satin”, Spencer Davis Group “I’m A Man”, The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset”, Traffic “Paper Sun”. Also The Beatles “All You Need Is Love”. Does anyone else remember the broadcast that featured this? Was it the Earlybird satellite? The Beatles were one thing. Wasn’t there a thing with a woman giving birth in Sydney, too? Forty years ago. It was cutting edge. The broadcast that is, not the giving birth.

Last time. The Move’s “Flowers In The Rain” was the first record played on Radio One on 30 September 1967. Thanks to Geoff for finding that The Bee Gees “Massachusetts” was the second. Today. This is an album title, the best-known track from which has the lyric: “You came like a comet, blazing your trail. Too high, too far, too soon. You saw ...” Who?


Friday, August 03, 2007

Watching Flowers In The Rain

The last thing you’re likely to be doing here at the moment. God, it’s hot. Anyway, more environmental worries. All a bit behind the times, but better late than never. “Euro Weekly” quotes sources which suggest that climate change will destroy Spanish beaches, tourism and thus the economy. We’ve been here before. Here was what I said on 11 January this year:

“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.”

Or on 12 March this year: “Doesn’t sound too good, does it. No more Mallorca holidays, no more Mallorca villas by the sea, no more Mallorca. 40 years. Half a lifetime.”

First there was the Guest Quiz Inquisitor, then the Guest Titlist, now the Guest Restaurant Reviewer. And it is none other than our old chum Seamus at No Frills who, quite out of the blue, filed a review of INDIAN PALACE in Puerto Pollensa. Now it just goes to show that a restaurant doesn’t have to be advertising on one of our websites to get its name mentioned. Whereas Everest and Kashmir, both of them fine establishments, are on, Indian Palace is not. Doesn’t mean the review would be turned away. Anyway, I thought of modifyng the review as a RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK thing, but decided to leave it more or less as is. So, here it is - kind of like a “Winner’s Dinners” without the pomposity or indeed Michael Winner:

“I’m not really one to write reviews but the meal I had the other night deserves one.

“I like all types of food and the other night I was looking forward to a good old pizza in the old town. As usual I was late and my girlfriend decided to start walking. I picked her up near the bar Ses Muralles (near the Ford garage in the old town) and she goes let’s have Indian! Where I ask? Puerto Pollensa! Shit - miles away. It’s 21:30 by this stage so of we go.

“We went to the Indian Palace near the Hotel Miramar. I’ve eaten in this place before and it was good, but this time it was worth writing about.

“We had poppadoms and sauces. Starter - prawn puree, a really tasty prawn dish.

“Main - chicken korma, delicious sauce and tender chicken; chicken biriani, absolutely wonderful; and of course two nan breads and chips plus one water, three Cobra beers and one Coke.

“The whole lot was 42 euros. I think that this is very reasonable considering Puerto Pollensa prices. The guy who runs the place is called Papu and I think his wife does the cooking (she is a very good chef I think). I have to admit this was the best meal I have had in ages, staff friendly, cheap and great quality.”

The 1967 revivalist fervour has brought these other suggestions: The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever”, Aretha Franklin “Respect”, Small Faces “Itchycoo Park”, The Doors “Light My Fire”, The Turtles “Happy Together”. Geoff recalls the summer of 67 at Jaywick Sands (now, there would be an entry for weird places as I discussed some while back) and the music of, inter alia, The Move. So, today’s QUIZ question: What particular moment of fame did The Move experience in September 1967 (see today’s title)? Yesterday was of course Scott McKenzie.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

If You’re Going To San Francisco

Welcome back to the Department of Fatuous Statistics. The first six months has seen the level of tourist spend on the islands increase by some 5%. In real terms, this equates to a spend - per day, per tourist - of 99 euros. What is unclear, and these statistics are rarely clear, is whether this spend takes into account the actual cost of a holiday. If not, the 99 (let’s call it 100 shall we) doesn’t sound that bad. But I’m unconvinced. Recently, elsewhere on the internet, I gave some info to a chap coming to stay in Alcanada. His budget for him, his wife and two kids was 130-140 euros per day for all four of them, or 35 euros per day, per tourist. This isn’t a huge amount if you start to weigh up costs of meals, transport (necessary in Alcanada), drinks, the odd excursion, hire of fans perhaps, a bit of shopping, more drinks. But it still adds up, over a fortnight, to something a bit short of 2000 euros. Now, that’s quite a lot of money.

And still one hears that things are slow. The tourist offices are a good gauge of activity, and the one at the top of the Greasy Mile reports that the number of enquirers is down, especially amongst the Brits and Germans. What is holding up is the Scandinavian market (if one takes enquiries as an indicator). But with increased mortgages in Britain and a less favourable exchange rate, one can understand things being slow.

A different angle on mortgages - local ones. As mentioned some while back (15 June: I’m Forever Bursting Bubbles), interest rates are on the rise and are expected to continue to rise. This has already had an impact on property prices, in parts of Palma at any rate. There, prices are down by as much as 30% (sorry, another statistic), so there does appear to be a trend towards a correction in the property market, which is long overdue.

Added to the WHAT'S ON BLOG is a list of stuff for the fiesta fortnightish in Can Picafort, one highlight of which is the all-nighter party, shifted this year to the sports arena.

One of the beauties of doing a blog is that you can do what you like - well, within reason. So, indulge me. And I only ask because I know how surprisingly popular all this music and trivia quiz stuff is on this blog.

I heard Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” last night. Forty years. 1967. Forty of your whole years. It was summer then; it’s summer now. But this was 1967. I was twelve. Bournemouth. Hippies in the Winter Gardens. Two years before my first experience of Mallorca (Arenal, if you must know, and I can still remember what looked like a shanty town at the back of the hotel).

But 1967. In no particular order, in addition to “See Emily Play”, Procol Harum “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, The Supremes “The Happening”, Keith West “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera”, The Young Rascals “Groovin”. Rose-tinted glasses I know, but they don’t make summers like 1967 any more. Anyone else any recollections, especially of the musical variety, so long as they don’t involve Engelbert Humperdinck.

Quiz stuff - Yesterday, The Ronettes and The Searchers. Today’s title. It was the anthem of 1967. Who? Easy, I would reckon.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sweets For My Sweet

Following the jelly-bean incident at the last test between England and India, I can tell you that members of the SPCC (Sa Pobla Cricket Club) are rightly indignant. Buff, buff, buff. It wasn’t like that in their day, when one could have expected canapés, other finger-food and occasionally a full three-course lunch with wine to have graced the wicket. But that’s modern sport for you. Anyway, talk of sweet throwing naturally brings me to our irregular BAR OF THE WEEK feature. Why’s that, Andy, I hear you ask. Because José throws sweets, that’s why. Here’s the sugary nugget that is CAFÉ BONY:

Where: Plaça Miquel Capllonch, Puerto Pollensa, better known as the market or church square.

What: Mega drinks, leading UK and Spanish beers, salads, sandwiches, snacks, and the unique Bony atmosphere.

When: Every day, normally from about 11:00am, except Wednesdays, when it is - in Bony language - leg-over.

Who: José is the man with the clothes-pegs on his trousers, and Pablo the sane one. Then there are the girlies.

Why: Great location in the square. A brilliant café in many ways, as José knows how to work his audience, sorry, customers.

Is there a website? Well, sort of. Under construction and maybe will be for while, but it is, something that trips easily off the tongue.

And apropos the whole American malarkey from yesterday, my mole all things American, Carol, recently back from Florida, tells me that the size of the American lard-mass is now so substantial that even a queen bed is barely sufficient to accommodate your average Yank. So, there’s another issue for Mallorcan tourist authorities to worry about were there to be an American invasion, to say nothing of the crush on BMI and the excess-baggage charge.

A rare thing, and all the better for it, but some may recall my mentioning of Laura Veirs. Well, make sure to tune in to Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2, from 20:00 UK time (21:00 Spain) on Thursday. For those of you not up to speed in Spain, you can hear this via the steam internet.

Quiz: Forgot yesterday. The BMI angle. Where is this lyric borrowed from? “BMI, BMI, BMI little baby, my one and only, baby my darling, BMI baby now, ow-ow, oh-oh-oh-oh.” Forgive me, I am long out of the UK, but did BMI never use this as an ad campaign? And if not, why not? And today’s title? Who recorded it? Yesterday - those good ole boys were drinking whisky and rye.