Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Suntans Of Swing

The Mallorca council has turned down the development of a golf course and hotel on Son Real. For those who may not know, Son Real is an area of historical and archaeological interest outside Can Picafort. Within its orbit is the ancient necropolis. And someone wanted to build a golf course and hotel on it.

The Santa Margalida town hall accepts the decision and indeed believes that the tourist potential of Son Real, intact and environmentally correct and preserved, can be promoted. Which does rather beg the question - has it not been before? I can’t help but feel that maybe the town hall might quite have liked the plan to be approved, though it’s hard to see, especially with the strength of the environmental lobby here, that it could ever have been brought to fruition. Which also begs a question - did anyone seriously ever think that it would be approved?

Golf in Mallorca: it seems like a natural symbiosis. A bit of untaxing sport, practise your swing and chip, an agreeable climate, suntan as you play. More importantly, golf promises high-net-worth patronage. It is something of a Holy Grail for winter, all-year, minted tourism. Nice work if you can get it. Quite nice revenue stream as well, if you can get it. For all that a bunch of old stones might get the odd enthusiastic tourist (sorry, that is a philistine view but realistic), those stones don’t generate strong cash flows. A golf course and hotel on the other hand ... .

This dodgy weather of the past few days has indeed been dodgy - it’s official. Yesterday, for example, the temperature was down by 7 degrees compared to the norm, and Palma registered the lowest night temperature for September since 1964.

Yesterday - Matt Monroe. Today’s title - adapted from ...? Very easy.


Friday, September 28, 2007

From Russia With Love

This is the season for statistics. I may have described them before as being “fatuous”, but they do serve a purpose if only for me to be able to point out apparent inconsistencies. Let’s take the case of Russian tourism, a market perceived as being well doshed-up and therefore of interest to any a tourist-based economy. Yesterday, I noted that Russian tourism to the Balearics in the months to end-August had risen by just over 4%. This is a figure provided by a Balearics organisation for investigation and touristic technologies - CITTIB. Today, “The Bulletin” reports the Balearic Minister for Tourism as saying that in the first seven months (i.e. till end-July) that figure was up by 12.4%. Now, there isn’t actually a discrepancy here, because if one adds the numbers for August alone, the total - for the EIGHT months - is just a touch under 23,000 (in line with the CITTIB figures), the Minister pointing out that the figure for the SEVEN months was 15,769. I hope you’re following all of this.

But what the Minister has done is to report a healthy percentage rise for seven months and not take into account the fact that Russian tourism in August fell by over 10% over 2006, hence the 4% figure for the EIGHT months. 12.4 sounds better than 4.2, I think it’s fair to say. Which just all goes to show - as ever - that you can prove whatever you want with statistics. Fatuous? No, that’s unfair, but they should be read and interpreted with caution.

Apparently there is a travelling exhibition going around designed to promote awareness of “fair trade” coffee from central America. Worthy stuff, but mention of coffee prompts me to spotlight someone who has contributed hugely to the Mallorcan and Spanish holiday and life experience. Indeed without him one could argue the whole experience would not be quite the same. Achille Gaggia. Who he?

Gaggia was a Milanese bar owner. In 1938, he patented the Espresso coffee machine. The smell of freshly-prepared coffee is satisfying enough wherever one is, but add that smell to the warmth of a morning on holiday and it is highly evocative. Gaggia said that the machine “makes it quite difficult to make really bad coffee”, something I wouldn’t necessarily concur with. There are places hereabouts that make fabulous coffee. Why it should vary so much I don’t really know, but - and by all means offer alternatives - the coffee at Cas Capella in Alcúdia takes some beating. Don’t ask me why.

(Source for Gaggia reference: Peter Hennessy, “Having It So Good: Britain In The Fifties”, Allen Lane, 2006.)

Binissalem is currently enjoying its annual wine and grape fiesta - the Vermar. This is a jolly old thrash. People tread grapes, roll in them, throw them, get smothered in them, and with all the rain around they make wine in the process. Given that sampling is an obvious feature of the event, best not to take the car, which is why No Frills’ day out to the Vermar on Sunday would have been an ideal excuse. But I can’t make it. Damn.

Yesterday - As rightly pointed out by Anne Marie just back from Puerto Pollensa, it was Rex Harrison. The female part was Julie Andrews in the stage version of “My Fair Lady” but not Audrey Hepburn in the film. As Aud was not reckoned to be much of a singer, the vocal was actually Marni Nixon. Today’s title - who sang this Bond theme tune?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stays Mainly In The Plain

Want rain? We got rain. Not so much in the north, a mere 4 litres per square metre in Pollensa, but in Lluchmajor 79 and in Palma over 50. And what happened? Right. The metro flooded. Again. This is a shambles. It would be a laughing-stock if it weren’t so serious in terms of the investment and now the disruption (actually it is a laughing-stock anyway). “Ultima Hora” reports that the design faults are far from isolated, saying that, in one instance, “the metro entrances are orientated against logic” (that’s a poor translation, but you get the drift).

Despite the fact that August occupancy rates were down, the overall performance for the year to end-August has seen a rise in the numbers coming to Mallorca by air, an increase of 4.3%. This prompts “The Bulletin” to a characteristic bout of headlining - “Tourism Record”. But if you delve into the figures for the whole of the Balearics, you discover that this increase is largely explained by Spanish tourism - up a whopping 21.4%. As I have explained before though, this does not translate necessarily into good news in the north of the island, as the numbers of Spanish visitors are comparatively low.

British numbers are up, at just under 3%, but the German figure is down a fraction. Interestingly (or maybe not interestingly, depends on your point of view), the two nations with the highest percentage increases are France and Denmark, while the much-vaunted new money from Russia shows only a 4% increase.

What I don’t quite understand is this - two days ago, I pointed out that hotel occupancy rates for August in the Balearics were down by nearly 2%, yet the number of visitors in August was up by almost 6%. Where were they all staying? In holiday lets? Maybe they were, but the discrepancy in the figures does make me wonder.

Oh, and coincidence time (how often does this blog seem to revolve around coincidences). There was I suggesting Air Berlin might sponsor Mallorca, and blow me there is an announcement that the airline is to extend its routes this winter. Only a matter of time ...

Yesterday - UB40. Today’s title - well, it doesn’t stay mainly in the plain; it falls mainly on the new metro, but who, by George, sang the famous line - “The rain in Spain stays ...”?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There’s A Rat In The Kitchen

Little things. These little things, these little bits of animal and insect life. The mosquitoes have not really made the comeback I had anticipated. You keep the plug-ins plugged in and the spray sprayed on, but they have been only a minor nuisance since June. With so much rain around (and it poured again this morning), snails are crawling and silvering their way across the terrace, climbing into the shutter doors, attaching themselves to the legs of the terrace furniture or the garden gates. There is a particular snail-like thing that I don’t quite understand. Just an elliptical shell with barely anything else. It lies around and gets crunched underfoot.

And then there are frogs or probably they are toads. Just small mites, they hop in for a bit, get some tangle dust caught on their legs and then hop out again. They are also, I suppose, a thing of the wetness, a friendly amphibian to replace the friendly reptilian lizard. Today it became actually quite cool, cool enough for a touch of heating. And when the weather turns, the most ominous thing to look out for is the rat. There was once one in the kitchen. Stood in the middle of the floor. I managed to get into the back utility room, where it hid behind the washing machine. There was me, hitting the machine with a broom, trying to shift the damn thing, which I did. It lunged at me. I’d never had a rat lunge before. But eventually I chased it out, Nora-Batty style with the broom, and it scurried off into the undergrowth and ivy.

The problem with these little things though, these toads, these snails, is that they get destroyed. Crushed, or maybe even, in the case of toads get caught by a cat (I don’t know, do cats chase toads?). And once crushed, they become a meal. Ants. Ants are the real little sods. You never know where they are going to appear, so you are chasing around with a large can of Zum exoceting them into oblivion, and then some other battalion of the ant army pitches up because a small toad’s been left dead outside the front door.

These little things. These little bits of wildlife. These little bits of Mallorca.

Yesterday - Prefab Sprout. Today’s title?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You Give Me Faron Young Four In The Morning

It’s four in the morning. What’s that noise? It’s not a normal noise. It’s the noise of machinery, throaty peeping horns, raised voices. Bleary-eyed, one staggers onto the upper terrace. Yellow lights, man with luminous pointer and jacket, talking into a two-way. Further down the carretera more yellow lights - they approach slowly and eerily out of the night’s darkness.

They are resurfacing the carretera from Can Picafort to the bridge in Playa de Muro. At four in the morning. Sensible, in a way, unless one wants to sleep.

The smell of tarmac being laid obliterates that of the usual drift of gas from Albufera, a truck appears with another chap in a luminous jacket who is placing cones. Everywhere, the orangey-yellow flashes light up the night. The heavy machine lumbers slowly, depositing its steaming goo, the vapours a mist unlike the more common autumnal one that creeps across the wetlands.

Five in the morning. Six in the morning. Then it is quiet. Until tonight.

Can’t complain really, the resurfacing is badly needed. But ...

Statistics update. August. Well, the Balearics had the the highest hotel occupancy rate for the various parts of Spain (which surely isn’t that surprising). But the overall numbers were in fact down, in Mallorca by almost 2%. So, not such a record year, perhaps. Or maybe it was.

And. More rain about. We wait with some amusement for more stories of the flooded metro. Meantime, the political name-calling has started. It’s all the fault of the former government of the Partido Popular, allegedly. What about the firms who actually constructed it though?

Yesterday. Quite appropriately for somewhere with an ETA (Elvis tribute act) fixation, it was Elvis, though personally I’d go for ZZ Top. Today - “Four In The Morning” was Faron Young. But who gave us today’s title?


Monday, September 24, 2007

Viva Can Picafort

Apparently some wag put Belgium up for auction on eBay. Bidding reached 7 million quid before it was withdrawn. I’m not sure if this was because it was overvalued or because it failed to meet the lot price. Either way, a cracking wheeze, and one that reminds me of the story (which I have never known was actually true or not) that some years ago a group of German businessmen offered to buy Mallorca.

Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that this has actually happened, given the ubiquity of Germanic realty operators, but as far as I am aware the island remains part of Spain S.L. But a gripe of Mallorcan politicians over the past few years has been the lack of dosh that Madrid is willing to cough up in order to keep the island in a suitable condition for Germans to come and sun themselves (oh, and Brits and Irish and Swedes etc, even Belgians).

Nevertheless, short of the island actually being bought outright, I feel something of a trick is being missed here. Sponsorship. If it’s good enough for sports grounds, it must be good enough for a whole island. At a stroke, any funding deficiency could be made up through the simple process of rebranding and indeed renaming the place. Air Berlin Mallorca for example, though it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as, say, the Emirates or Reebok Stadium.

And why stop with just the island? Given that the main tour operators are now all under German ownership, there could be Thomson Pollensa, First Choice Alcudia, TUI Can Picafort, Neckermann Cala Ratjada. They could form a football league and play each other - My Travel Cala San Vicente 3, Airtours Cala Bona 0.

Maybe these sponsors could drag in other sectors of German industrial might, Siemens for instance, who could probably put right the mess that is the Palma metro which is to be closed indefinitely owing to the small oversight of the likely ingress of water into something built below ground level when it rains a bit and there, seemingly, not being appropriate measures to prevent it.

Sadly, I fear it won’t happen, if only for parochial reasons. But what would there be to stop Spanish firms? Iberostar Playa de Muro, a distinct possibility, or instead of TUI, Viva Can Picafort. Brilliant. They could even have their own song, taken from ... ah, that’s today’s quiz question. People would flood in.

All these things need is just a bit of imagination ... .

Yesterday - “Hobart Paving” by the wonderful Saint Etienne. Today - well, it’s easy isn’t it? Viva ...?


Sunday, September 23, 2007

With A Paper Folded Outside The Loo

The loo, the bog, the crapper, the pit, the dunny. Powder my nose, point Percy at the porcelain, visit the little boys’ room.

The toilet is an institution in British and Anglo-Saxon consciousness. Different parts of Britain offer different motifs for the place and the act, as do different parts of the US and Australia. The toilet for all that it represents, at its base level, merely defecation and micturition, is democracy in action, or perhaps in motion. It is a symbol of equality, founded on bodily function. The toilet, especially the public toilet, is engrained into British culture and British psyche. The late Marcus Merriman, an ebullient history professor at my Alma Mater, wrote about the public toilet. More noted for his work on Mary Queen of Scots, this Anglophile American was nonetheless impressed enough by the English (and British) affinity with the public loo and its architecture to direct research into such a study. And rightly so. Though the magnificent glazed tiling of, for instance, London’s old Victorian stations, has been widely vandalised by the arrival of sanitised whitewash and aluminium, the WC remains a visible sign of a history of public hygiene. But more than just a symbol, the public loo is a Briton’s right. Even if no relief is consciously required, a public toilet suddenly evokes a brain-to-bladder-or-bowel reaction that demands one “just nips to the loo”.

In Mallorca, there is no such heritage. If a national emblem of Great Britain were to be a public privy, the Mallorcan equivalent would be a tree or a wooded place, adorned preferably with an abundance of dock leaves. Or alternatively, it would be a bar or restaurant.

Need a public loo in Mallorca? Generally impossible. List three of the most frequent questions asked of tourist information offices, and among them will be “where’s the loo?”. The absence causes disorientation for the British tourist, used to getting a spatial bearing through the location of the nearest lav. For some, the non-availability is a sign of backwardness. Forget the preserved and restored historical monuments, the well-constructed and attractive marinas and promenades. These are nought in terms of achievement when set against the lack of a public pisser.

While many bars will happily oblige gratis someone with cross-legged desperation, not all do. Some charge. Some even require that one asks for a key, and then charge. Except of course if one stops for a drink, which means that in some short future while the whole exercise has to be repeated. Go for a day out, and it is an endless round of drink-now, pee-a-bit-later. The best solution, and the one with more luxury than the average bar, is the hotel, unless one is in the old towns of Alcúdia and Pollensa where the “petit” hotels don’t afford the level of anonymity that a large one of some 900 guests might. It is not that there are no public toilets, just that they are rare and situated in the most unlikely places. Go for a ramble through the forest between Playa de Muro and Can Picafort, and you will stumble across a two-cubicled hut that only those with a most pressing requirement would entertain.

For restaurants in Mallorca, the toilet is usually a purely functional necessity. It is uncommon for it to be a thing of beauty. One particular restaurant’s loos have received critical remarks - I haven’t yet published them and probably won’t. But this is not always so. On a first visit to Can Costa in Pollensa after William had taken it on, he was keen to point out the splendour of the WCs. And they were just that, in keeping with the fineness of the restaurant itself. But there again he’s British. Natch. A less-resplendent but still welcoming toilet is that at L’Ombra, also in Pollensa, also run by Brits.

Which all leads me to believe that here is a rich vein of research. In honour of Marcus Merriman, the search is on for the finest lavatories in northern Mallorca. Anyone with any nominations are welcome to email me.

And somewhat in keeping with today’s theme ... It duly peed it down yesterday, especially in the south where, once more, the new metro was flooded (see previous 22 August: It’s August, Jim, But Not As We Know It).

Yesterday - Manic Street Preachers. Today’s title - struggled a bit to think of a toilet reference, but here’s a corker, which also features the line “Rain falls like Elvis tears”.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

So When You Hear This Autumn Song

And so autumn - otoño, tardor. Autumn has less significance than it does in, say, Britain; it is less a state of mind here and less an immediately natural shift. In the same way, primavera (spring) impacts less on the local mindset. Whilst calendars may dictate the start of the seasons, their physical manifestations are far less clear, compared to Britain (or at least to seasons in Britain as we knew them). Some blossoms emerge in January here; the fall, such as it is, is later and far less apparent given the fact that evergreens boss the tree world. And now, the grass grows prodigiously, replenishing itself after the weeks of baking sun. Only harvests tend to compare.

Autumn, for most people, does not really exist. Summer, in the sense of the tourist season, lasts till the end of October, whereupon it is winter until the end of April. The summer can, and often does, stretch to the end of October. Last year it did. It was still 27 degrees at the end of the month. So the heat does not necessarily get turned down, but right at the moment, the sun is largely obscured by cloud. Warm, it is not really summer. So maybe it is autumn. For the tourist, still hankering after a tan, a pool and a beach, this is twilight summer. Neither one thing nor the other. Caught between. The microcosmic tourist state of Playa de Muro reflects the tourist dilemma, confronted by this seasonal dusk. With ample sun, it seems quiet. Turn the sun down, or obscure it with cloud, it seems busy. People walk up and down the side road parallel to the carretera in search of ...? Very little in all truth. It is the often unanswerable question for somewhere conceived with one thing in mind - sun, and hot sun at that.

Perhaps some will find an answer in the fascination of Albufera, but for most the answer is sought in a bar perhaps, football perhaps, turning round and going back perhaps, then going out on the same walk again perhaps. Endlessly, people look for something. You can tell also that twilight summer is here by the fact that the “Muro Express”, the land-going train, is full on its first runs after the siesta. In real summer, daylight summer if you like, it is empty. More looking for something.

This dilemma is to be found replicated elsewhere, though here it seems more acute, given the remoteness of Alcúdia Pins. It makes one realise, again, that for all the fine thoughts that may underpin future tourism plans, such as Plan Turismo 2020, there is one thing above all that determines satisfaction - the one thing governments and their conferences cannot control.

Last time - Blackbird. Today’s title?


Thursday, September 20, 2007

In The Dead Of Night

Extraordinary stuff going on on Playa de Muro beach. The story about the sunbeds situation has cropped up a couple of times already this summer, the most recent being 1 September: “Oh Superman Where Are You Now?” in which I mentioned the fact that Muro council face fines for the over-provision of sunbeds and beach umbrellas. Well now, and not for the first time, things have turned a tad ugly.

One of the concessionaires operating the sunbed lots has had more of his sunbeds slashed. This occurred yesterday some time during the early morning. This concessionaire has had a total of 574 sunbeds wrecked. It will have cost him, he says, 40,000 euros to repair them.

The apparent criminality of these actions is one thing, the other is the potential damage it does to reputation. Imagine if you happen to come down to the beach one morning only to find that sunbeds are unavailable because someone has come along and cut them up in the dead of night. Doesn’t sound too appealing. It does sound as though someone needs to get a grip on the situation.

Back to the future. Following the claim put forward in the last piece on this blog regarding a potential doubling of the number of tourists by 2020, the Balearic Government’s conference, under the title “Plan Turismo 2020”, has moved to increase “added value” in the tourist sector with fewer tourists and higher income. A strategic centrepiece of this is an investigation into the role of development and innovation into increasing the quality and sustainability of the islands’ tourist model. The Government, it would seem, is also keen to promote hotel tourism over residential, about which I have reported before, not least in connection with the registration requirements being placed on holiday lets (itself in part driven by the hotel industry).

The thing is that we have been here before. Higher-quality tourism, less overall tourism and more money. It’s as if the tape is on constant loop. As one who used to be steeped in management and business speak in a previous publishing guise, I have become inured to much of this speak, not to say downright cynical. Added value, strategic positioning ... grand words and phrases. And when governments assume the language of the MBA I become even more sceptical (and I actually have an MBA qualification). The question is where’s the beef.

From what I can make out of the participation at this conference, it is not clear if certain stakeholders (sorry, management speak) are being engaged, such as the representatives of the restaurants, bars, shops etc. And what of the tourist himself? Whilst governments can, if they so wish, switch on or off the level of tourism, ultimate power lies in the market, namely the consumer (the tourist) and the tour operator.

(Source for some of these two items: “Ultima Hora”.)

Last time. Test tube babies. Geoff puts it at 6565, which would mean that Zager and Evans were only some 4,500 years out. But, hey, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Today’s title - what sang in the dead of night?


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In The Year ...

This year has been slightly better than last year, according to the Mallorcan hotel federation. So, rejoicing all round. Perhaps. But if 2006 and 2007 have been “record years”, it could be you ain’t seen nothing yet. Miguel Hernández Magán is an expert in the hospitality industry. In today’s “Diario de Mallorca” he is quoted as saying that by 2020 the number of tourists to the Balearics will have doubled, which, on the face of it, sounds like good news. The problems would lie though in the infrastructure, specifically the transport system and most obviously - in the case of all of the islands - the respective airports. Over and above that, however, would be issues related to, among others, water. This is already a problem in, for example, Puerto Pollensa.

Hernández is a representative of a group that looks at the sustainability and quality of tourism, this group having adopted the concept of “holidays for all”, which would mean people from all parts of the European Union, and - he believes - an end to the inconvenience of the current seasonality of tourism. This, in turn, would help relieve the congestion reported a bit over a month ago (11 August: Never Far From The Madding Crowd). But would it really put an end to this? I find it hard to believe. Were it not to, then to accommodate (literally) this doubling of the tourist population would require a significant increase in hotel stock. Given that places like Alcúdia and Can Picafort are already “hotelled-out” (if one can use such an expression), it could be that other as yet undeveloped centres would become so. Son Serra de Marina, anyone?

Yesterday - U2. Today. Continue the title and you get 2525. Could have been Prince’s 2020 or some reference to England’s useless cricket team. But no, it’s Zager and Evans. And here’s the question. What prophesy in that song has already been realised?


Monday, September 17, 2007

Where The Streets Have No Shame

The street name is emblematic. It is a tarmacadamed tribute, a remembrance in rows of houses or offices. It is rarely appropriate. The street name is a convenience of geography, town hall bureaucracy or post office identification.

The Mallorcan street name is part-historical, part-meteorological, part-maritime, part-astronomical, part-botanical, part-religious, part-geographical. It is street name in any other place, distinguished by its local relevancies. It is street name, occasionally, that is non-constant. Depending on past fluctuations between the competing bodies politic, the Mallorcan street name has Castilian or Catalan (Mallorquín) nomenclature.

In Pollensa, one of the roads by the Plaça ca les Munnares that leads into Jonquet has two different “names” barely 20 metres apart - Pio and Pius - popes by any other name, or names, or languages. Occasionally, the street name disappears. Up to a couple of years ago, there used to be a road in Can Picafort, Dunes, that was misrepresented in that maps showed it to be a different road. The road name was subsequently eliminated completely.

Roads can be two names in one. The Carretera Artà, which stretches from the Paseo Marítimo in Puerto Alcúdia along the coast, is - at different points - the Avenida Reina Sofia, the Avenida Juan Carlos, the Avenida de S’Albufera, the Avenida Platges de Muro. Or is it? No-one quite knows if these “avenues” refer to the main road (the Carretera) or the side roads that run parallel, or both.

Where the streets have no name might be a better idea. Rarely here is a location defined in terms of its street name. Direction is made by reference to “next to so-and-so hotel”, “near-to-such-and-such” restaurant. Landmarks are used liberally - just by the Magic roundabout, near to the Caprabo supermarket. Rarely, if ever, is a street name used. Ask someone the name of the next street from where they are living, and they will not know.

The Mallorcan street name has its cachet, especially that with an historical connotation. But the streets to which these names are attached rarely do honour to history. Important figures of the Spanish empire are to be found on the streets here. Reis Catòlics remembers Fernando and Isabel, dubbed the Catholic Kings by the Borgia pope Alexander. The deluded discoverer of what he believed to be the western passage to Asia, Cristofol Colom (Columbus) is a frequent beneficiary. But Reis Catòlics in Pollensa is an unremarkable road, Cristofol Colom in Alcúdia just a short lane off the constitution square.

One of the most celebrated Mallorcans is/was Ramón Llull. Born in Palma in the thirteenth century, Llull was variously an author (in Catalan), mystic and - most intriguingly - an early dabbler in what might be described as a form of computing. He was not involved with air-conditioning or refrigeration, yet his side street in Pollensa is home to one such a business. He might be more pleased to learn that this same street houses the Trencadora restaurant, itself a part of the Peter Maffay foundation.

Roger de Lluria was not Mallorcan. He wasn’t even (like Columbus despite the ongoing claims to the contrary) from Spain. He was in fact from Naples, but was an admiral in the Aragonese fleet of the late thirteenth century. Roger’s street, notable (if that’s the word) only for an estate agency at one end, joins the Calle Joan XXIII and the bypass in Puerto Pollensa.

Francesc de Borja Moll is of more recent fame, having died in 1991. He was actually from Menorca, but was a notable figure in Catalan linguistics, having written widely in the language and having compiled a dictionary of the various strands of Catalan (on which he collaborated with Antoni Maria Alcover). Borja Moll’s street in Puerto Alcúdia is pot-holed, has a Guardia Civil office at one end and nothing else. Antoni Maria Alcover runs parallel next to a petrol station. The presence of a school between Borja Moll and Alcover hints at a meaningful monument, though the roads themselves are without note.

And stretching back into antiquity, there was Quinto Cecilio Metelo (deprived of all his o’s in Catalan) who founded the Roman town of Pollentia in 123BC. His street in Alcúdia, vaguely at least close to the site of Pollentia, is a back street of zero consequence or charm. Often littered with broken vehicles, it is more reminiscent of a sink estate.

Where the streets have no name. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, it is so everywhere, and no-one uses the names anyway, but it is a shame where the streets also have no shame.

Yesterday - The Jam “That’s Entertainment”. Today’s title (or rather the original from which it is adapted)? We have had them only quite recently.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Police Car And A Screaming Siren

You knew something had happened. The traffic does not go that quiet mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Then the sirens, the competing modulations of police and ambulance wail.

A couple and their baby had been knocked down on the road towards Can Picafort. Apparently they had looked to cross the road, and ... . Not dead, but serious.

These roads. The one between Can Picafort and Alcúdia Pins has no pavement, it passes forest to the beach side and Albufera to the land side. Get a combination of pedestrians, bikes and cars at high speed, and there is likely to be trouble. Not that this was the cause yesterday, but as with many roads here, accidents are waiting to happen.

This particular stretch of road is also used by pedestrians at night, returning from Can Picafort to Alcúdia Pins. There are other stretches here that are similarly dangerous for those on foot, such as that from Puerto Pollensa towards Club Sol, or that between the Cala San Vicente turning and Puerto Pollensa. And there is an absence of street lighting.

Though yesterday’s accident occurred during daytime, at night the conditions for accidents are increased significantly. There is one aspect that I can’t quite get my head around. If drivers (and passengers), when cars break down, are obliged to wear luminous jackets, why aren’t others? It doesn’t add up. Many’s the time I have been startled at night by a pedestrian suddenly caught in the headlights or by a bike with no lights or Sam Browne. Were there pavements along these roads, it wouldn’t be an issue, but as there are not, then it is.

Just to say that the rain from the storm a couple of nights ago may have largely avoided Playa de Muro but it didn’t avoid Puerto Pollensa, which - if anywhere is going to get in the neck - is the place.

Yesterday - “Silver Star” was the first Four Seasons’s hit that did not feature Frankie Valli on lead. The missing words were - “back at school”, meaning Rod Stewart and “Maggie May”. Today’s title - is the first line from what song?

And an up-to-date music recommendation, not had one for a while. The Besnard Lakes from Montreal. No myspace as far as I know. Their album “Are The Dark Horse” is on Jagjaguwar Records. Very good.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

“It’s Late September And I Really Should Be ...”

Vuelta al cole. Back to school. Same phrase, same adverts, but here there is a marked difference when it comes to the start of the new school year. Firstly, it is much later than in Britain, but more interestingly it invites pages and pages of copy and photos in the local press - happy, smiling faces, some less than happy smiling faces, queues of traffic. Don’t think for one moment that the school run is confined to Britain. One of the issues the papers concern themselves with is how well, or not, the traffic police are doing in managing the panzer divisions of SUVs descending on the local primary or secondary.

Reporting on the return to school has also emphasised the fact that the start has gone ahead with classes opening “with normality”, as though opening without normality would be what one might expect. But why all this interest? The start of the school year, like fiestas and Christmas, are the same every year. Same time, same sets of photos. But that’s probably the answer. The sheer normality of the “event”, the sheer déjà vu of pictures of kids at school gates or of fiesta demons or dancers is the underlying continuity of community that the Mallorcans revere and celebrate so well: continuity of community and family. Vuelta al cole can teach others a lot of lessons.

And on fiestas, an update on the bizarre happenings in Can Picafort during the Mare de Deu d’Agost fiesta when live birds were released by people in masks (18 August: This Here’s The Rubber Duck) amidst the rubber surrogates that turned the sea into a vast child’s bath-time. Or rather, there is no update except to say that the police have been unable to identify the perpetrators. “Who was that masked man?”

Cruelty to animals is an issue taken increasingly more seriously here, though I am unclear exactly as to the alleged cruelty to the live birds in Can Picafort. What of all those doves that get boxed up and then released at major sporting events? Or perhaps that has been banned as well. There is a more substantial argument about cruelty in the case of bullfighting; indeed it is irrefutable, I should have thought. I know the arguments about culture, and one is wary as a foreigner of being critical, but I’ll just say that the decision by the national Spanish television service to remove bullfighting from its “sports” reporting is perhaps a step in a more humane direction.

And weather. The mid-September storm duly arrived, a couple of days later than normal. Yesterday evening was almost suffocatingly sweaty and not just because of the sweat of anxiety surrounding England’s mauling at the hands of South Africa. During the night, the skies were ablaze with lightning, but the storm, mercifully, dumped most of its load out at sea. It was a monster.

Last time - Frankie Valli. Now Frankie Valli was the lead singer with The Four Seasons, and a Guest Quiz Inquisitor, namely Geoff, wants to know what was unusual about The Four Seasons’ hit, “Silver Star”. Good question this. And today’s title? Complete the line from this famous song. What was it? And who sang it?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grease Is The Word

The Greasy Mile, The Dollar Mile, The Golden Mile, The Mile, Pere Más i Reus, Pedro Más y Reus, Bellevue, The Strip, Ciudad Blanca, The Centre of Alcúdia.

One area; so many names. The tourist knows it mainly as Bellevue or The Strip; the tourist, generally speaking, believes it to be The Centre of Alcúdia. The town hall, the tourist office, maps know it as Ciudad Blanca. The Spanish, sometimes, know it as the Dollar Mile. The road itself is Pere Más i Reus or Pedro Más y Reus. No-one ever actually refers to it as the Golden Mile. The local (Brit) knows it as The Greasy Mile, the simpler The Mile, or around Bellevue.

But most of these names are inaccurate. The Mile monikers allude to the road (Pere Más i Reus or The Strip), but it is the area that is greasy or dollar or golden; it is the area that is Bellevue or the Centre.

What’s in a name? “Greasy” is something of a pejorative, but it is one tinged with affection. It is an end-of-pier nostalgia, a greasy spoon, a greasy caff; it is the sun-kissed today of childhood yesterdays in Littlehampton, Margate, Scarborough and Morecambe. Grease is the word; it’s got truth, it’s got meaning. From our pasts we create an amused present; a living tribute to a transported culture. It is possible to view its unlovely facades through irony-tinted glasses. The Mile is the archly-cynical post-modernist’s heaven of the something so bad, it’s good; “Neighbours” without Kylie, save for the Kylie-karaoke wannabes and the army of Kylie-christened young mothers with Jordans in the HGVs of baby-buggies.

There are those who know The Mile, and those who don’t. To know The Mile is to wallow in its grotesque, its vibrancy, its pathos. This is culture, if not one the tourist authorities have in mind. It is culture which nearly all carries an import stamp. Where the coloured girls sing “do-be-doob, do, do-be-doob, do, be-do” and braid Africa on to small Caucasian heads; where the coloured girls’ boyfriends sell the Coldplay of white-man’s rock for a handful of euros; where the bars are branded by geography or by traditional British pub names that have found new expression along the Mile - The New Inn, The Crown, The Prince of Wales; where the Abba-isation of entertainment has spawned the tribute act and the croaking of a karaoke, consigning flamenco and ball de bot to quaint sideshows in the “other” Alcúdia.

There are those who sneer at The Mile, but they do not know The Mile. This sneering is the nose-in-the-airist’s look-down-the-nose patronisation; the past anti-aspiration of a newly reconstructed petite bourgeoisie for whom the tapa and the feigned regard for a “real” Mallorca is de rigueur.

The Mile is belly, cellulite, tattoo, plait, laughter, fun, beer, Fools and Horses, bacon, cholesterol, disco. The Mile is Blackpool insofar as Blackpool has a Golden Mile, but it is Blackpool because of its subconscious campness. The Mile is Eurovision, innuendo, ooh-er missus, kiss-me quick. A living museum, a vital relic, The Mile is arguably contradiction: the collision between the contemporary and Eric Idle’s Torremolinos, in which all remains intact save for the supplanting of Watneys Red Barrel by John Smiths. But The Mile is not contradiction. It is continuity, celebration, commemoration. It is holidays remembered. It is holidays now.

Grease is the word. The Mile. Long may it live.

Yesterday - Wayne Shorter. Today’s title - who sang it?


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Give Us This Day

Today is? The day it normally rains gatos y perros in September? The day England go out of the European Championships? The day to celebrate Mallorca?

At the moment, there is no sign of the 12th September storm, and one can but hope that England don’t screw up. The only certainty therefore is that today is Mallorca Day, except no-one seems to know much about it. As it is one of the few “days” that doesn’t require most things to close down, and is therefore not a holiday, then it is likely to simply pass people by. Last year they tried to give the “day” a boost by giving out free flags. This year there is no such gesture. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of understanding as to what the “day” is all about. It is in fact a commemoration of 12th September 1276 when the then kingdom of Mallorca was granted a form of constitution. So, now you know.

Meanwhile, the Andratx case, now back in full investigative swing, has added an unlikely person to the list of those being investigated. Selina Scott, remember her? Allegedly there is some “irregularity”.

Yet more on Crocs. I was at the Miramar clinic in Palma today for a scan. Lasers, and all manner of electrical stuff flying around. Well, it didn’t break down or seem to be interefered with. No evidence of any static electricity gumming up the works. The bloke who was doing it had a really nice pair of blue Crocs.

And on a sort of personal note. Anyone who has read the profile thing that comes with this blog will have seen my mention of Weather Report. Joe Zawinul, the keyboard-player with the band (and prior to that with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis) died yesterday. Ah well.

Yesterday - Nirvana of course. Today. Rather than a title question. Weather Report was essentially two musicians. Zawinul and which sax player?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Smells Like Mean Spirit


There are all manner of smells here. Here is odour, fragrance, olfactory assault. A vanilla or perhaps strawberry of non-specific origin is the sweetest. The darker, the more evil smells are manufactured from gases. The raw sewage is sometimes to be smelt, but mercifully rarely, but from the sewers comes gas and from the wetlands a form of marsh gas. There is often a burnt smell, but not of something actually burned. These smells offer a curious reassurance, some are not unpleasant once the sense is accustomed to them; they are nasal entertainment, a nocuous nosegay, a sensory comfort.

This morning there was an evocative smell. It was not the normal burnt smell. It had sugar. It was intoxication. It was the smell of brewery, though there is no brewery. There was light mist and a stillness. It was the smell of early-morning light mist and stillness of years ago. It was the smell of Guinness at Park Royal that used to hang over west London. Where it came from, I do not know.

A factor in keeping the currently uncertain property market buoyant, according to the Bank of Spain a while back, is demand from overseas. Well, this may not be as positive as they think. According to Ultima Hora, the level of foreign investment in Balearic real estate has taken a heck of a tumble - by some 34%. This is attributable, in part, to the lack of new dwellings (really!?) and to developments elsewhere in Spain where whole colonies are built next to golf courses. Now personally I wouldn’t want to live next to a golf course, but there again I don’t play golf. But for all this, there is a new development - next to the Pollensa Golf Course.

And mention of Pollensa. A most curious thing. There was a gathering outside the town hall, local folk complaining about alleged aggression and attacks on locals by two specific members of the local police, themselves not local. NOT LOCAL! (Sorry, I can’t help this League of Gentlemen thing that crops up now and then.)

Last time - Peter Frampton. Yea, I know, a bit obscure, but I don’t just throw this stuff together, you know. The hours that I put in. Some ingrate says, I don’t know what that title is...

Where was I? Ah yes, today’s title is adapted from something very easy.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finding Nothing But Warmth At Fig Tree Bay

Do I give a fig? I do. Figs. Higos. The fig of memory was a dried part of the range of to-be-avoided Christmas fare alongside sprouts, Stone’s ginger wine and Turkish delight. The fresh fig of the present is a to-be-coveted complex nectar. The other day I was given a tray of figs from a finca close by Santa Margalida. Delicious, they are a small meal in themselves. They are just one of the fruits or, in the case of figs, false fruits that grow here, along with the pulses, cereals and vegetables.

The Mediterranean diet, of which Mallorcan food forms a part, has long been recognised as being one of the most healthy. In addition to its benefits in warding off heart disesase, the diet is now also being promoted as a means of limiting the debilitating effects of arthritis. The fibre-and-calcium-rich fig, high in antioxidants, is also believed to be helpful in preventing cancers, something it shares with the equally remarkable pomegranate (“granada”).

Medical care grows and is processed all around you in Mallorca. To the likes of the fig and pomegranate, add, for instance, the olive oil and the cholesterol-busting almond and chick pea, the latter a staple of the Spanish diet for centuries. Why do they go and mess it all up with something as downright health-malevolent as the ensaimada? Probably for the same reason as I, having gone more or less native with diet, still get a full English down my neck now and then.

Cruise holidays are growing in popularity, there having been a 25% increase in the number of passengers coming in and out of Balearic ports, Palma being by far the most popular. There has been talk knocking around of Alcúdia being a port of call for cruises. Notwithstanding the fact that it would probably necessitate some upgrading of the commercial port, it doesn’t somehow have the same ring (or should I say vista) to it as does Palma. There you are confronted by the vast marina and the splendour of the cathedral. In Alcúdia, the journey in by sea reveals the chimneys of the old power station. But I suppose if Lord Rogers gets to build Millennium Dome II on the site, that journey might be more impressive.

Of course one thing that is impressive is Alcúdia’s beach and bay. A few years back it was voted the best on the BBC’s Holiday programme. The Ultima Hora newspaper does this series entitled “Vamos a la playa” (let’s go to the beach) in which reporters check out beaches around the island. Today they report on Álcúdia, and quote some mainland Spanish tourists. The verdict: there is no other beach that equals Alcúdia in Spain.

And talking of beaches. My bit is distinctly quieter, especially for a Sunday. Gone are the local families who picnic on the beach on a Sunday. It’s not the sun, that’s still belting, but the breeze now has a slight edge to it. A fickle chap your local. Fairweather beachgoers. You can carry on going till November.

Last time - Tears For Fears. Today’s title?


Friday, September 07, 2007

Sowing The Seeds

And following on from yesterday. There was a bit of a jolly with worthies attending a conference on the need for innovation. A good excuse, as always, for some nice photos of politicans and others, listening (intently?) to the worthy speeches. The upshot of all this was that there needs to be innovation in Mallorca and the Balearics. Yes, I think we kind of got that. And that there needs to be much investment in human capital, which is management speak for training. The thing is that there is neither a tradition of innovation here nor a natural focal point to facilitate it. Nor is this necessarily a land of entrepreneurs. The structure for allowing innovation to flourish demands physical representations such as science and technology parks, financial impetus in the form of seed funding, a mental approach that does not squash risk, and good training and development. Whether Mallorca is ready for any of this, or capable of it, I don’t know.

And then there is government spending. Madrid has agreed to cough up a tad over 400 million euros for new road projects on the island, many of them designed to alleviate the numerous bottlenecks around Palma. All of this will be very much welcome. As I pointed out on 8 July (“Same As It Ever Was”), “it’s just - the road infrastructure in and around Palma is bad. It has inherent inefficiency; it is a hindrance to productivity.”

As promised, I duly studied feet at the Hospital d’Alcúdia. Yep. Crocs. Great swamps of them. White ones, blue ones, pink ones. Not the colours of the rainbow, more a washed-out or sun-bleached Union Jack range of colours. Can’t say that any life-saving equipment was being interfered with, but - as coincidence would have it - another hospital story has emerged (from “Euro Weekly”); allegedly someone died because an emergency call button was not functioning at the Playa de Muro hospital. One of my neighbours is a director there. Don’t think I’ll be bringing it up in conversation somehow.

Yesterday - Simply Red, “Money’s Too Tight To Mention”. Today’s title - it’s another song title with a missing couple of words. Who?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Been Laid Off From Work

August unemployment levels in Mallorca were the highest for more than ten years. You might think with all that seasonal work that summer would be a time of high employment. Yes and no. The current set of unemployment figures are related not to seasonal work but to the ending of various construction projects. It isn’t necessarily doom and gloom as there are plenty of potential projects in the pipeline; indeed planned investment in public works, as set out in official bulletins, is up by nearly 60%, while the private sector, including hotel modernisation, is knocking out good figures as well

But the rise in unemployment highlights an underlying weakness of the Mallorcan economy. The non-residential construction sector has buoyed both the local and the national economy for the past decade or so. European money and advantageous interest rates have assisted the modernisation of infrastructure - roads, hospitals, schools etc. - that has transformed the island and much of the mainland from what was little more than Third World status at the start of the 1990s. So construction has been both necessary and vital in creating the economic boom of the past few years.

There are though clouds on this economic horizon, notably the interest-rate situation, turmoil in the credit markets and the potential for bust in the economy as a whole. Though planned investment in public work is high, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will be implemented. Both government and the lenders (the banks) are facing a squeeze. “ ‘Spain's economic growth will slow down next year as turmoil in credit markets undermines investor confidence and stokes uncertainty’, Pedro Solbes, finance minister, said yesterday.”

Though the Zapatero government has sought to tighten public spending, politicians of all hues, at national and local levels, have generally adopted a spend ideology which, though it has created many benefits, has neglected structural deficiencies within the national and local economies and the business sector as a whole. In the Balearics, the level of investment in research and development is the lowest of any part of Spain; productivity has fallen every year since 2000 (with the exception of 2003); and training and development is lacking. These are not problems confined to the Balearics. " ‘Spain has not tackled a fundamental problem, its declining productivity,’ says Jordi Canals, dean of the IESE business school in Barcelona. ‘We are stuck in the middle, a high-wage economy with no ability to innovate.’ “

Taken as a set of competitiveness indicators, these leave much to be desired. Were there to be a drive to attract inward investment (apart from the sideshow of the residential real-estate sector), such lack of competitiveness would be a serious obstacle. While the average salary in the Balearics is a little above 18,200 euros net, the additional social costs (social security is typically around one-third of salary) are also a deterrent to such an investment. The question arises though, investment in what?

Take away construction and tourism and there is not a lot left. Sure, there are plenty of support industries and others, but they are highly dependent upon activity in these prime sectors. Even the agriculture industry faces its own problems with respect to cheap imports. While poor harvests are hard to prevent, technological investment and increased productivity can help to create the circumstances for greater competitiveness. It is not as though all these imports come from cheap sources. The almond market faces competition from, of all places, California.

A downturn in any one of these sectors is harmful. Were there to be simultaneous downturns in each sector, Mallorca would face difficulties. Add, if you will, climate change to this potentially volatile mix, and there is scope to question the island’s sustainable economic model unless there is diversification. But into what?

(Acknowledgements for some of this:, Ultima Hora.)

I do, from time to time, look at what is being said on the myriad holiday froums lurking on the internet. I wouldn’t normally lift like this, but I can’t help it. Here is what someone said the other day:

“Why do the British like to go all the way to Mallorca to spend the day drinking in a bar watching reruns of Only Fools and Horses? With their big bellies jutting out and no tops on, it so does not look nice.”

I don’t know the answer to that. All I would say is that I am quite heartened that someone else raises the Fools and Horses thing (10 August: It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming Home ...).

Yesterday was Jimmy Nail. Today’s title - it’s the first line from a song by?


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Crocodile Shoes Are Crying Too

Continuing the celebration theme (if one can call it that) of recent days, there are two sort of celebrations in Puerto Pollensa. The first is the 70th anniversary of the sea-plane aerodrome. This is now the base for the fire-fighting Canadair aircraft, itself celebrated in sculpture form on the Caprabo roundabout. The second is that, forty years after provision for it was made, the new road from the coast that will hook up with the by-pass to Formentor is taking shape (it will actually be ready next summer). The road will pass through Llenaire and Pinaret, and the anticipation is that more of the front-line will be pedestrianised.

There, bet you feel better for knowing all that. To matters of greater import, and I am very grateful to Ben (at Piccadilly) for passing this on. Crocs. Geox. You know the shoes. Everyone and his dog has a pair. I have a pair. But there are Crocs and there are Crocs, at least there are here. It so happens I know the guy who has the distribution concession for the island. He does not deal with the imitation Crocs. I spoke to a chap at a sports shop earlier this summer, and asked about his shoes. Were they originals, I asked. Oh yes, said he. Like fuck they were. While they are cheaper, they don’t have the essential quality that the originals have - that airy feeling. So, anyone seeing some “Crocs” for 12 euros here, be sure they are not the real thing. But back to Ben as he has sent me this thing from “The Sun” which says that Crocs can be harmful to health in the sense that medical staff wear them and they can give off static electricity that affects life-saving equipment. Ben points out he saw them being worn at the new hospital in Inca. I have seen them at the hospital in Alcúdia. And not just nurses, doctors as well. Moreover, the Crocs pose a potential health and safety threat in that syringes could be dropped though the holes (as you do).

I have an appointment at the Alcúdia hospital this Friday. I shall be inspecting feet closely.

Yesterday - Bon Jovi. Today’s title? Clue. Dec (or was it Ant) once had a child role in a series featuring this singer. Pretty easy this I reckon.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cross Road

One of the great pleasures of living here is that one can observe, at first hand, the behaviours of different nationalities and cultures. Forget all that oh it’s a generalisation stuff, generalisations are generally accurate. Let’s take the matter of pedestrian-crossing etiquette. Firstly, one has to assume that a car has stopped at a crossing, which, if the car is being driven by a local or German, it probably hasn’t. But therein lies part of the rub, I suspect.

Your Brit, used to gestures of courtesy and used to cars stopping, is the most effusive when it comes to what I’ll call PCE. Car stops, Brit crosses, hand is raised, waved, kept raised, kept waved, head nodded in thanks. Partly this is probably because your Brit knows not to expect the car to stop, so the demonstrative show of thanks is all the more extravagant.

And then there’s your German. Car stops. Tentative movement of feet. Po-faced, the German PCE involves progressing at moderate pace whilst all the time staring at the driver. No hand raised, well maybe occasionally, but otherwise just staring. Now this is not rude, it is a German trait, staring that is, but the PCE is also a manifestation of the fact that a car stopping is not high on the agenda.

And then there is the Spaniard’s PCE. Car stops. No movement. Look bewildered. Finally advance - slowly. Make no acknowledgement whatsover. Stop halfway, get out mobile phone, or simply engage someone coming the other way in conversation. Ignore the sound of car horns.

Don’t believe me? You should.

Yesterday - Style Council, “(The) Long Hot Summer”. Today’s title - an album from?


Monday, September 03, 2007

Just Passed Me By

September. End of summer. One of Ian McEwan’s saddest stories was called “End Of Summer”. September. Holidays over. September has a simple alliteration - sad. It’s a sadness part nostalgic - new school year, darker evenings, changes to TV schedules, heavier dews, the start of the fall, misty mornings of Indian summers. This is not a nostalgia confined only to the past or to England; it is also a present and here in Mallorca. September. Though the sun and heat remain, there is a perceptible change. Though the season has some weeks to run, the press refers to the “fin de la temporada”. Though September is usually a month of plenty for the bars and restaurants, owners start to see an end, start to count the days to taping up the facades for winter.

The beach, though still busy, now has the spectres of the past months; the ghosts of those who have passed across the sand, briefly met and befriended. A holiday villa here and there has had its terrace stripped of furniture. A Mallorcan-owned seaside second home has been evacuated, its occupants returning to Palma or the hinterland. An apartment has had its “se alquila” sign re-posted onto the door.

The people start to change. Earnest septuagenarians with spindly legs and backpacks lope through the streets of the old towns; couples, with no need for July or August, stroll along the quieter shores; older Germans, baked the colour of mahogany after a summer by a Bavarian Baggersee, oil themselves for a final leathering.

September. The end of summer, even though summer continues. September. And you think - where did it all go?

Yesterday - the missing words were “of oil”, meaning therefore Billy Bragg (his one-time roadie was Andy Kershaw). Today’s title is a line from a song preceded by four words, summer being one of them; these four words contained the song’s title. By?


Sunday, September 02, 2007

It’s All About The Price

How much does it cost for a tourist in Mallorca? I’ve spoken about this before, and we get a lot about tourist spend. In a piece on 5 July (Money, Money, Money!), I noted that average tourist spend was 809 euros. I was sceptical as to what this actually represented, but in today’s “Ultima Hora” there is a feature that seeks to break this spend down. The caveat for this is that the feature is biased towards Palma and its environs and probably to the Spanish tourist, but it concludes that the average weekly spend ranges from 600 to 800 euros, the difference largely depending on the type of accommodation. The upper limit of the spend on hotels is given as 525 euros for a week (for a four-star), with three-stars given as 392. So obviously the cost of accommodation is the single biggest item, but the article also included the cost of excursions and of food and drink.

Extrapolating from this to the situation for your average Brit, German or other tourist in Alcúdia, Pollensa or Can Picafort is not easy, but I’m inclined to think that the Ultima Hora figure is a bit on the low side. I say this as there is a greater cost for transport to and from the airport and also a greater spend on food and drink than the Spanish tourist more minded to do with a menu of the day and more minded not to guzzle his or her way through several large cold drinks. There is also one vital element the article does not consider - tobacco.

So, interesting, but by no means definitive.

I do not want to bang on about Diana, and thought I would not have reason to mention her again, but there is something rather odd about the Spanish reporting; odd, in that members of the Royal Family are no longer Charles, William and Harry, but Carlos, Guillermo and Enrique. Enrique! It’s not even that Henry is his name. But why does the press change the names? In Britain, does Juan-Carlos become John-Charles? For others, the press cannot make any “translation”. Gordon Brown, for instance, remains Gordon, there being no equivalent unless you take the Spanish “gordo” (for fat). But Tony Blair was never Antonio Blair, so why change the royals’ names? Strange stuff.

Yesterday - “Land of Confusion”, Genesis. Sorry, I said there would be no more Genesis. But there was. Today’s title - this is an incomplete line (missing two words) from a British folk (sort of) singer, whose one-time roadie has broken a restraining order. Who?


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Oh Superman Where Are You Now?

I don’t know, I get pretty confused. All this statistical stuff. We’re back to the subject of how well, or not, restaurants have been doing this season. On 16 August (“Bad”), I referred to a survey by the small and medium-sized business organisation which suggested that restaurants, notably in Alcúdia and Can Picafort, were doing less well than last year and that the apparent late start of the high season was one of the factors (together with all-inclusives). So, what are we supposed to make of another survey emanating from the same organisation which suggests, in the case of Puerto Alcúdia, the opposite?

Restaurants in Puerto Pollensa and Puerto Alcúdia have had increases in numbers of up to 15% and up to 10% in spend. This contradicts the earlier report. Moreover, the latest survey says that June and July were better than August. Fair enough, I said this on 16 August, but this does also contradict the earlier report’s finding that the allegedly late start to the season was a reason for poor performance.

As I say, I don’t know, albeit that poor old Can Picafort is consistent - down by as much as 10% of spend.

And so to a follow-up to the issue I raised on 15 July (“200 Motels”). This concerned the over-availability of sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach at Playa de Muro. Now it seems that Muro council could be fined because there are too many, which would be passed to the concessionaires, already liable to fines from the council itself. Confused? Well, check back to 15 July for a bit more of an explanation.

Muro council is very much in the naughty chair at the moment because of the presence of dogs and horses on the beach and harm to the dunes. Well, well, here’s something else I had previously brought up (24 May: A Horse, Of Course). Something odd happened a couple of months back. I went to check the information board on my bit of beach in Playa de Muro, and it had gone. Disappeared. Now, that board for sure had a no-dogs sign, so why was it removed? Very odd.

As to the dunes, I’m also a bit confused. As far as I am aware, the dunes form part of the nature park and are therefore the responsibility of the relevant ministry. Indeed the sign that was put up when part of the dunes were roped off made this clear; there was the Government’s motif and that of S’Albufera. The criticism of the council specfically refers to the “elimination” of the dunes. I suspect that this does not envisage the head of the council standing at the water’s edge Cnut-like trying to ward off the waves. All I can think is that this suggests that the dunes have been built on or are being used for some reason or another. There is no doubt that this is the case, in the sense that hotels (and houses) have been built on what were dunes, but that is historical. What are they going to do? Plough the bulldozers into a few Iberostars? I don’t think so. Otherwise, the dunes aren’t, from what I can see, used for anything except for the Balnearios, which have also been there for years.

Confused? I am.

Yesterday - Will Smith “Men in Black”. Today’s title: it is a line from a song that echoes the theme of this piece.