Friday, November 30, 2007

How Can I Be Sure?

The local papers all go with the news that, after the months of rumour and denial, the hospital in Alcúdia is to close: at the end of December. (See previous: 4 November: And When I Woke Up In My Hospital Bed). The managing director, who had until recently been saying that rumours of closure were just that, rumours, has now come clean. The reasons for closure centre on the fall in the number of patients since the opening of the Inca public health hospital, a lack of specialists and the obsolete nature of some of the hospital’s equipment, the latter being something - one would have thought - that the Juaneda group who run the hospital would have been aware of for some while. Most of the hospital’s employees and its operations - in the general sense of the word - will transfer to Juaneda’s Hospital General de Muro. Alcúdia’s mayor still hopes that there might be a reconsideration, but this is no sudden consideration for closure; it has been on the cards for ages. The hospital will become a home for geriatric care.

Part of me says I don’t know what the fuss is all about. At a personal level, the Muro hospital is closer, and so long as it honours my health-insurance company, it really makes little difference; indeed it is better. But for many who use Alcúdia, they will want to be sure as to which insurance companies apply. I was in the hospital in Alcúdia the other day. I met a Mallorcan couple who I know well (there is another aspect to the hospital; though private, it is very much part of the community, and one invariably meets at least one person one knows, but be that as it may). I mentioned to this couple the fact that the hospital might be closing. It was the first they had heard of it (they live in Can Picafort, and maybe news doesn’t really travel that far here), and they were taken aback as their insurance company - the same as mine - does not list Muro in its annual brochure of centres. It’s ok, I said, Muro hospital has it (the insurance company) listed on its website. These are not people who would ever look at the internet, let alone a computer. So Juaneda face a PR issue, one of letting people know how it affects them. I can well imagine people beating a path to the Hospital d’Alcúdia looking for assurance that they will be able to use Muro.

Although the Inca hospital is not that far, I do wonder how the closure might impact on tourists. Go to the Hospital d’Alcúdia in summer and there are no small number of tourist casualties of varying sorts. The Muro hospital doubtless has the same; now it will likely to have to cater for all of them. I hope they’ve thought about that.

How sure can one be on the local beaches? For once, this is not an environmental issue, but a safety one. Apparently there are 42 beaches around the islands that fall into the high-risk category when it comes to drowning; the “Diario” has a map - there are four in Pollensa, one in Alcúdia, two in Muro (Playa de Muro) and three in Santa Margalida (Can Picafort and maybe Son Serra). It does not itemise the beaches, but it is not difficult to know which ones they are talking about. For instance in the case of Muro, the “two” must be the beaches either side of where the “torrent” exits into the sea by the Esperanza complex; for two, read THE beach. The at-risk beaches are not therefore necessarily tucked-away coves. Quite the contrary, they are some of the most populated, which is part of the problem; that, a lack of appreciation of sea conditions and the work of the lifeguards (which needs to be made easier).

I know of at least three drownings near me in Playa de Muro this summer. Yet you would hardly think of the sea there as risky; it is shallow, there are no rocks. But there are, as always, currents, and - in parts - a lot of people. I wrote briefly about the dangers in August when the sea was particularly turbulent (6 August: This Is The Sea). The sea - we adore it, but we should always fear it.

Yesterday - “Refugees”, Van Der Graaf Generator. Today’s title - one point for the singer who had the number one, but a big bonus for knowing who did it originally.


Index for November 2007

Albufera - 12 November 2007
Alcúdia’s old power station - 23 November 2007
Alcúdia’s power station - 6 November 2007, 7 November 2007, 10 November 2007
All-inclusives - 9 November 2007, 28 November 2007
Archaeology - 10 November 2007
Architecture - 21 November 2007
Autumn fairs - 5 November 2007, 12 November 2007, 14 November 2007
Balearic economy - 5 November 2007
Balearic Government - 1 November 2007
Beach-bars - 3 November 2007
Beaches - 3 November 2007, 6 November 2007, 7 November 2007, 30 November 2007
Blog second anniversary - 1 November 2007
Boats - 27 November 2007
Building - 10 November 2007, 20 November 2007
Cala San Vicente - 10 November 2007
Can Picafort - 15 November 2007
Cartoons - 14 November 2007
Casinos - 25 November 2007
Ceuta - 5 November 2007
City breaks - 14 November 2007
Climate change - 3 November 2007, 10 November 2007
Clínica Juaneda - 4 November 2007, 30 November 2007
Coastline - 6 November 2007, 15 November 2007, 21 November 2007
Condohotels - 22 November 2007
Culture - 24 November 2007, 26 November 2007
Demolition - 6 November 2007, 21 November 2007
Dijous Bo - 12 November 2007
Don Pedro hotel - 6 November 2007
Drownings - 30 November 2007
“El Jueves” - 14 November 2007
Energy - 11 November 2007
Environment - 1 November 2007, 3 November 2007, 6 November 2007, 10 November 2007, 21 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Euro 2008 - 22 November 2007, 24 November 2007
Expatriates - 24 November 2007
Ferrer, Miquel - 13 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Film - 18 November 2007
Football - 22 November 2007, 24 November 2007
Gatamoix - 12 November 2007
GOB - 1 November 2007, 10 November 2007
Golf - 1 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Gran Escala, Zaragoza - 25 November 2007
Grupo Femenía - 4 November 2007
History - 12 November 2007, 15 November 2007, 18 November 2007, 26 November 2007
Hospital d’Alcúdia - 4 November 2007, 30 November 2007
Hospital General de Muro - 4 November 2007, 30 November 2007
Hotels - 6 November 2007, 9 November 2007, 13 November 2007, 17 November 2007, 20 November 2007, 21 November 2007, 22 November 2007, 29 November 2007
House of Katmandu - 8 November 2007
Housing - 1 November 2007, 11 November 2007
Iberostar - 13 November 2007
Illegal building - 3 November 2007, 6 November 2007
Inca - 12 November 2007
King Jaime 1 - 18 November 2007
King Juan-Carlos - 11 November 2007
Language - 24 November 2007
Llull, Ramón - 25 November 2007, 26 November 2007
Marinas - 27 November 2007
Melilla - 5 November 2007
Moorings - 27 November 2007
Mountains - 19 November 2007
Nationalism - 13 November 2007
Nautical tourism - 27 November 2007
Paco de Lucía - 16 November 2007
Palma - 14 November 2007
Playa de Muro - 15 November 2007, 28 November 2007, 30 November 2007
Political parties - 13 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Pollensa fair - 14 November 2007
Pollentia - 10 November 2007
Promotion - 16 November 2007
Roman remains - 10 November 2007
Royal Family - 14 November 2007
Sa Pobla fair - 14 November 2007
Satire - 14 November 2007
Snow - 19 November 2007
Son Bosc - 1 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Theme parks - 25 November 2007
Thomson - 20 November 2007, 22 November 2007
Tour operators - 17 November 2007, 20 November 2007, 22 November 2007
Tourism statistics - 9 November 2007
Tourism strategy - 14 November 2007, 16 November 2007, 17 November 2007
Tourist spend - 8 November 2007, 28 November 2007
Tramuntana - 19 November 2007
TUI - 20 November 2007
Unemployment - 7 November 2007
Unió Mallorquina - 13 November 2007, 23 November 2007
Water supply - 13 November 2007
Winter in Mallorca - 7 November 2007, 11 November 2007
Winter tourism - 2 November 2007, 8 November 2007, 17 November 2007, 19 November 2007, 20 November 2007, 22 November 2007, 29 November 2007
World Travel Market - 12 November 2007, 13 November 2007, 14 November 2007
Yachting - 27 November 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

East Was Dawn

One can praise the editor of “The Bulletin” for keeping awareness of Mallorca’s winter-tourism difficulties to the front of people’s minds. He speaks about it again today, comparing the closed nature of Mallorca’s resorts and its hotels and shops with eastern England where hotels and shops stay open through the winter, the hotels bolstered by offers such as mystery weekends.

This is not really comparing like with like. It would help to know exactly where in eastern England he is referring to, but - for a kick-off - East Anglia has things of appeal: “Constable country” (to echo what I mentioned before about Shakespeare and the Brontës); the Broads and the Fens; historic cities and towns such as Cambridge, Ely, Thetford, Bury St Edmunds; the coastal walks at Dunwich and Southwold; birdwatching at Minsmere; Sutton Hoo; Orford Ness; castles, abbeys, houses and grounds. It is an area of appeal to both the national and the international visitor. The weather may not amount to much in winter, but at least the visitor knows not to expect very much in that respect. There is also a major promotional source for areas of England that is often unrecognised - it is the work of the National Trust and English Heritage. The National Trust has 3.5 million members. Visit its website and see how many sites it has in East Anglia.

Mallorca just does not have the profile that an area such as East Anglia does, certainly when it comes to off-season tourism.

Hotels in England may find things tough in winter, but it is not the norm for them to close; nor do coastal towns and their shops shut down. Take somewhere like the borough of Great Yarmouth. Population of 92,000. These people need shops; they probably also need hotels for the likes of wedding receptions and other celebrations. Many of these hotels tend to be quite small; 50 beds might be typical, just over one-tenth the average size of a hotel in Alcúdia. That they may offer special events such as mystery weekends is just part of a mix for businesses who operate with a different set of criteria to a large Mallorcan hotel with just one - summer sun. They do not operate at the kind of scale of most Mallorcan hotels that makes opening the latter in winter economically unviable.

Where I would agree with the editor is when he says that he believes it is not “in many people’s interests that hotels and shops remain open”. The ease by which fixed-contract employees can obtain benefit in winter, the money that can be generated in the summer months both militate against staying open. There are other factors, most importantly perhaps the tour operators, but maybe there is also the fact that people in the UK might just prefer a weekend break without having to get on a plane and to enjoy the “scenic countryside” (of a previous editorial) that Britain has in abundance - just a thought.

Yesterday - “Hello Goodbye”, The Beatles. Today’s title - a very lyrical lyric that continues "coming alive in the golden sun”; it’s a line from a hauntingly wonderful song by? Clue, ‘cos you will need it - they did the original theme tune for Radio One.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Say High, You Say Low

Good or bad, bad or good. You pays your money, and you takes your choice. Or rather you may not take a choice if you happen to be a small trader. The summer season: successful or not successful? “Ultima Hora” does run interesting series. Like its studies of the beaches of Mallorca, it is now asking around the resorts how well the season went. Today is the turn of Playa de Muro. The results are not difficult to predict - the town hall and the hoteliers thought it was good or at least acceptable; the traders thought it normal or bad. Two sides, one coin.

In the high season of July and August, there was more or less total occupation in the hotels, of which there are a significant number - 32 to be precise. Attaining 100% occupation is a cause for celebration. The mayor of Muro is duly happy, the head of Grupotel (with four hotels) is similarly happy; only the head of Muro’s tourism sounds a negative - he concedes that there appears to have been a reduction in tourist spend. And that, of course, is what the traders are saying; one also reckons that the quality of the tourist has fallen. These are familiar themes, and could apply to most resorts in Mallorca.

As ever, it is the all-inclusive which takes the blame; and equally as ever, no-one really knows the full story as to the actual number of all-inclusive places - it is anecdote rather than hard information that takes precedence. The traders in the article are not exactly representative, neither is a bar nor restaurant owner, and a sample of two hardly makes for scientific certainty. But it is an indication, as was my piece at the end of July (29 July: 10:15 Saturday Night), which mentioned the fact that on one evening at the height of the season a restaurant in Playa de Muro had only two tables occupied.

The quality of tourist angle is one hears more and more. I find this insulting. Let’s call a spade a cash cow, quality tourism is a euphemism for moneyed tourism. Don’t spend or can’t spend, and the tourist is branded with a low-quality stamp: made in China and not in Germany. I don’t recognise this qualitative affront in Playa de Muro. There are, as a proportion, significantly more four-star hotels in Muro than in Alcúdia; there are no vast all-inclusive ghettoes such as the Mac complex with its unquestionable segment of economy class; the only five-star hotels along the coast in the north are in Playa de Muro. Opting for all-inclusive at an Iberostar four-star is hardly a sign of lack of spend (on the holiday accommodation at any rate).

There is another issue, and one I have referred to before. Playa de Muro has neither a promenade nor a centre; it lacks a focus. That it basically straddles a main road has created a by-pass of ambience. For many, it is looked upon as being the “quiet part” of Alcúdia, despite the fact that it is not Alcúdia. The road hints at something else, and there is a something else - the port and The Mile in Alcúdia. People do not come to Playa de Muro in the evenings, they leave it.

I wonder if there is not another dynamic at play - the growing discernment of the tourist. I once read a comment by someone staying at the fine Playa de Muro Village. They took a look around, didn’t much care for what they saw, so opted to eat in the hotel. That implies the restaurants are no good, which is not the case, but the strip on the Albufera side from the Esperanza roundabout up to the Alcudi-Mar and Las Gaviotas hotels does not look that inviting. Even someone from the town hall told me it was “feo” (ugly). One of the traders refers to Playa de Muro as a “beautiful area”. It is. There are the natural advantages of beach, forest, wetlands together with the artificial ones of often splendidly attractive hotel stock. Then there are other bits - like that strip. It is something that badly needs some attention, something that perhaps the town hall should be addressing. But while they can boast of 100% occupancy, I wouldn’t bank on it. Even without 100% occupancy, I wouldn’t bank on it either.

Yesterday - Chris de Burgh. Today’s title - line from...?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ship To Shore

Just not enough space. Familiar problem, but this is not a land issue, rather a sea one. Moorings. The Balearic Government, as reported in “Ultima Hora", recognises that there needs to be a doubling in the number of moorings around the Balearics to cope with demand.

Nautical tourism is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. This seems rather odd. In the immediate northern area, each of the main centres - Can Picafort, Puerto Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa - has a marina, and there are others in Bonaire and Son Serra. Sailing is no small minority leisure activity. According to research for the Royal Yachting Association, some 2.5 million people took part in some sailing activity in 2006. (“The Times”, January 2007.)

Boat and yacht ownership is a rich man’s game. The cost of buying the vessel is one thing; the costs of mooring and maintenance are others. The high demand for moorings places them at a premium and at a price. Of course you don’t necessarily need a Bavaria 37 yacht, a small second-hand speedboat could be enough, but there are still those add-on costs.

The use of the boat is another thing entirely. There are few boatowners who actually use their boat for any longer than a few weeks a year, if that. I know people here with boats who complain that they have not been able to get out at all during the summer. What’s the point of having one then?

A growth area is that of co-ownership. In Puerto Alcúdia, for instance, both Challenger and Slice allow groups of owners to share a boat and to be able to use it for a set number of weeks. This spreads the cost of ownership and gets rid of many of the attendant hassles, not least of which are those dealing with the local port authorities and marina operators. Even so, it is not exactly cheap, but it does overcome the faintly absurd situation by which an expensive boat is tied up for weeks on end unused.

Nautical tourism has another side to it. The typical boatowner or yachtie and his chums are seen as, and often are, high net worth consumers. The higher the net worth, the higher the tourist spend; or so the theory goes. And the actual numbers are far from insignificant. At present, the annual value of Balearic nautical tourism is estimated to be 544 million euros; the number of nautical tourists nearly 300,000. The expansion of marina facilities, the increase in the number of moorings and the need for more dry-dock maintenance areas all come with an environmental price attached. What doesn’t? But my guess is that the government will find a way around this. Just think - 2.5 million people, or even a fraction of that number - loadsamoney.

Yesterday - The Who. Today’s title - song by an Irish chap; had one really big hit.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Who Are You?

Ramón Llull. I referred to him yesterday and have before on this blog. It is not just Herr Link, to whom I also referred yesterday, who would like to promote Llull, the Mallorcan council is keen to do likewise - as an iconic figure in Mallorcan history in attracting quality and cultural tourism. Well maybe. The problem is obvious: outside of some intellectual circles in other countries, the name of Llull would mean nothing. Llull does deserve greater recognition, if only for the fact that he developed that early system of computing theory, but his writings in Catalan, his philosophy and science remain largely unknown - to an audience outside of Mallorca or Spain. Nevertheless, within those intellectual circles, he has been branded “a great European”; arguably he wrote the first European novel - “Blanquerna” (1283); he wanted more emphasis on the study of Arabic (which he spoke) as a means of converting Muslims to Christianity, while also seeking a unification of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Llull is no minor figure in European history - quite the contrary - but his reputation is minor in the minds of the majority in other European countries; to be more accurate, it is negligible. Ask non-Spaniards here who Llull was, and most would not have a clue, other than as a name given to streets (17 September: Where The Streets Have No Shame).

In seeking to promote Llull as a figure for attracting tourism, the council is starting from a point of almost total lack of awareness. Think of Llull as a brand, and the recall would be more or less non-existent. Compare Llull to historical and cultural figures in other countries and elsewhere in Spain, and the challenge is obvious. Shakespeare has massive international brand awareness, for example, and has lent his name to a “country”, as have the Brontës. In Spain, which names spring to mind? Dali, Picasso, Gaudi; for the visitor to Barcelona, Gaudi’s architecture is a visible presence in the same way as Wren’s is in London, or Michelangelo’s artistic and architectural work is on show in Rome. Llull, in his polymathic way, is comparable to few - da Vinci would most certainly be one, but da Vinci would register right at the top of this brand awareness, and not just because of Dan Brown.

There is an unfortunate aspect to Llull; how he met his end. That he succeeded in persuading some major universities of the time, e.g. Oxford, to undertake Arabic learning, did not prevent him from being stoned in Algeria and dying from his injuries. In current sensitive times, one wonders how well his Christian martyrdom might play in the eyes of some.

The brand awareness of historical figures is something gathered over years; over centuries, in some cases. Llull may have died 700 years ago, but he does not have the benefit of those centuries of awareness. The Mallorcan council can try, but it will have to be something spectacular to induce tourism; not just some museum to a largely obscure figure in history.

Yesterday - Shirley Bassey. Today’s title - song by? They have featured here only very recently.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bond Themes

“Me llamo Bond, Jaime Bond, zero-zero-siete.”

Bond looks into the mirror in the room of one of the 32 hotels, adjusts his bow-tie and white jacket, sips his Martini and then slips away, intending to make for the Casino Royale, one of five casinos that comprise “Gran Escala”, somewhere in northern Mallorca. As he makes his way around the vast complex, he is taken aback. Is that John Wayne - “truly he was the son of God”? And that shady KGB agent, he looks remarkably like Vladimir Putin. “What are they doing in these casinos?” thinks Bond. Wayne he could count on, but Putin? What threat could be lurking for the numbers of innocent people here at Gran Escala, a proportion of the 12 million that come each year? But then he realises that they are not real; they are just actors, one from the Roman casino, the other from “Spyland”.

12 million visitors a year, a site that will eclipse EuroDisney, a couple of hours flying from England, huge numbers of jobs, a new version of Las Vegas, a haven for gamblers from the UK and Spain alike, with five theme parks and those 32 hotels to boot.

In your dreams, Mallorca, in your dreams. Or maybe in your nightmares, Mallorca. The Gran Escala is the working name for a complex planned near Zaragoza on the mainland. The environmentalists don’t like the idea, but a number of politicians, attracted by the injection of money and the employment, do. The article in today’s “Sunday Times” makes it clear that it is not, as yet, a done deal, but were it to be then it could be a nightmare of another sort for Mallorca, certainly where the limited winter season is concerned.

This theme park idea. Where have I heard of this before? I know. Right here. On this blog. It has actually been mooted in the past. And it has of course been turned down. Why? The environment. The environment and an abstract retention of the past - a Mallorcan equivalent of John Major’s old maids, cricket and warm beer.

So the mainland maybe gets the gig, while meantime Mallorca struggles on in winter with its closed hotels, rejected golf-course applications, some brave attempts like the Aquarium in Palma, handfuls of walkers, and groups of cyclists who enrage many and mean precious little in terms of real business. And then there are the other ideas that only nibble at the edges of the winter-season biscuit. Here’s another one. In yesterday’s “Brisas” magazine, there was an interview with a German (Jörg Link) who has lived in Mallorca since 1975; his father had bought a house in Son Serra de Marina two years before. He is an enthusiast for the works and thoughts of Ramón Llull, one of Mallorca’s most prominent historical figures. He is planning a centre devoted to Llull. It is a fine idea. I would go. Llull deserves far more attention than he has. But it won’t bring in a load of people. Now a Llull theme park with a heavy techno element in recognition of his role as a founder of computing theory; a theme park combined with the history of King Jaime I, more or less Llull’s contemporary. Maybe we would be getting somewhere. Meantime, the projected complex on the mainland will both shake and stir.

Yesterday - Big Country, “In A Big Country”. Today - not related to the title as such; the question is which artist or artists, apart from John Barry, has/have performed more than one main Bond film song?


Saturday, November 24, 2007

In A Big Country Dreams Stay With You

With no British teams qualifying for Euro 2008, what option of support is there for the expat? Spain is the simple answer, but for the great majority I doubt that it would be an option. Why not? People live here; why not support its national team? It’s a bit of a variant on the Tebbit cricket test, and most would fail it. No matter what the degree of the expat’s assimilation into Mallorcan (Spanish) life, the home-country bond and sense of nationhood endure. This is no condemnatory forever-Englander or “we’re British” stereotyping; it is human nature, something that crosses national divides and is therefore common to those originally from other nations.

The degree to which expatriates throw off the baggage of “home” intrigues me. To an extent it can be determined by social circumstances, e.g. by marriage, but even then it is tempered. I have a friend who has lived in Spain for almost 30 years, has a daughter in Spain, speaks the language fluently and yet is still very much English, reads English newspapers, supports his old football team from England and wouldn’t dream of lending his support to a Spanish side.

One encounters a certain holier-than-thouness among expats when it comes to their assimilation; it is marked by factors such as assertions of numbers of Spanish acquaintances and as to the frequenting of non-British establishments. Yet some of these can barely speak the language after several years of residing here. And even when patronising a “local” bar for a coffee or a beer, there is still usually a British newspaper in front of them.

True assimilation only occurs with a full understanding of language and an embrace of a different culture. If it happens at all, it is rare. Learning the language is not easy for many, while for many working expats their lives often revolve around English-speaking environments: the British bar-owner has mainly English-speaking clientele; he has little time to attend lessons and then little time or opportunity to practise the language. What language that is learned is piecemeal, fragmented and without a grammatical framework or an appreciation of linguistic nuance. Without language there is no culture.

Convenience is another huge influence. It is convenience of communication and association. Mallorca is “convenient” as the expat is never far from another one. There is the convenience of the “printed-in-Spain” newspaper available every morning, the convenience of satellite and of British news, sport, soaps and reality TV in the living-room or bar, the convenience of the internet and of web radio, the convenience of conducting a common and shared experience with a peer group that is the stuff of social intercourse - be it a chat over a coffee or supporting the England football team.

This is no criticism. I go to British bars. I speak English probably the majority of the time. I read English papers on the internet. That I also read Spanish papers is part of what I do. I suspect, like many expats, I cherry-pick what I want to from local life and culture. I live in a different and big country but I still have dreams of England winning something. That said, I do want Spain to win Euro 2008 - if only because, like England, the national side is a bunch of serial losers and because it would be one heck of a party; sorry, make that fiesta.

Yesterday - Cream, “Politician”. Today’s title? Another Scottish outfit.


Friday, November 23, 2007

I’m A Political Man

Alcúdia’s mayor, Miquel Ferrer, may have moved a step closer to becoming the new leader of the Unió Mallorquina (UM), the nationalist party whose exiting leader is now president of the Balearic parliament. Until quite recently, it had looked as though Miquel Nadal (from Palma) would be that new leader (as noted on 13 November: Part Of The Union), but he has picked up his ball and withdrawn from the succession race - for now at least - citing dirty tricks on behalf of his two main rivals, Ferrer and Guillem Ginard of Campos. No matter where it is, a familiar story of political in-fighting.

Ferrer denies that there is a split between Palma and the rest of the island in the context of this political battle, but - retaining some caution ahead of the final decision perhaps - he has stated that his “obligation is to Alcúdia”, whatever that might mean. I don’t know Ferrer personally, but I have seen him often enough. I have said before that a strength of the local nature of Mallorcan and Spanish politics is that the mayor is visible. Inevitably, there are those who don’t have a good word for him, both in the town and elsewhere; a commentator in “Ultima Hora” describes him as a “born conspirator”. Perhaps so, but how many politicans are not.

This statement of obligation does though hint at the existence of a Palma/rest of island divide, and it reflects a facet of Mallorcan society that many visitors would be unaware of. It is hardly surprising that the island’s and indeed the Balearics’ main city should be a focus, but there are often rumblings about Palma-centricity at the expense of other parts of the island, and it is not Palma alone, as the perception is one of Palma and its rich neighbour Calvia (Magaluf, Santa Ponsa etc.) versus the rest.

Whatever the truth of the political intrigue, I quite hope that he does secure the leadership; and then let’s see the strength of his obligation.

Meantime, Ferrer has a diversion in the redevelopment of the old power station (27 October: Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect). It is a not insignificant diversion; a diversion of some 21 million euros in fact, the level of financing needed to bring it into being as an arts and science museum. Am I alone in finding it slightly odd that the architect pitch process has been undertaken and completed without financing of some sort in place?

Another local difficulty limps on - the Son Bosc golf course project in Muro next to Albufera (26 October: And They’re Messing With My Heart). A technical report argues against the licence to develop the golf course as the bulk of it would fall within a protected area. Seems pretty clear then. But there are local politicians who want to go ahead; the UM locally supporting it (which is quite intriguing as one would assume the nationalists would be against). The ongoing debate about Son Bosc does raise an issue of wider consequence. Golf is one of those things that has been promoted as a future tourist winner for the island (winter tourism and all). Other parts of the island have been declared no-go areas for golf courses, and one suspects that further mooted projects would run into similar objections. The Son Bosc case is quite important as it highlights the tension between environmental concern and economic development, which is perhaps the greatest issue facing Mallorca.

Yesterday - Chris Isaak. Blue? Puerto Azul - azul is blue. Today’s title - line from a song by? Famous blues group of the ‘60s.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Blue Hotel

There are times when I almost lose the will to live, and not just because of England’s football team, about which more below. One more time with feeling, my friends, one more time ... winter tourism (or rather the lack thereof), “Euro Weekly”, unnamed spokesperson, “some help from the politicians and big tour operators would be welcomed”. For God’s sake - what? Offer a solution not a constant reiteration of the problem. Why the heck should the tour operators help?

Today’s EW piece refers also to the statement from the Mallorcan Hotel Federation that there are 250 hotels open on the island over the winter. I don’t know how they get to this figure, but I suspect there is a clue in what the tour operators are offering in winter. Thomson for example, who will not be flying into Palma from mid-January to end-February, have their winter offers. Among these are the Puerto Azul hotel in Puerto Pollensa. You cannot book this hotel in say December, but you can in March; Easter is early in 2008, in March in fact. March is winter, all of it in tourist-season terms. That’s probably how they get to that 250 figure. So, I have sympathy for those challenging this statistic. I also have great sympathy for those who would like to keep their businesses going and being profitable over winter, but I do think a bit of reality needs to come in; no, make that a lot of reality.

There is, however, a potential move afoot which may impact positively on year-round tourism, namely the introduction of so-called condohotels, meaning - I assume - that people could own their own rooms or more likely apartments in certain hotels. Could be a good idea.

Anyway - football. One positive that can be drawn from the fact that none of the teams from the British Isles will be competing in Euro 2008 is that there will be no excuse for holidaymakers staying at home for the footy and not coming to Mallorca. There again, no England, no Scotland, no Ireland etc., no crammed bars for matches. Can’t have it both ways, I suppose.

Yesterday - Billy Fury was the one I was thinking of, but there were others. Bobby Vee or Bobby Vinton I think. Goffin and King song anyway. Today’s title - apart from naming the artist, what specifically in today’s piece is “blue”?


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Don’t Lead Me Halfway To Paradise

Yesterday’s headline title - “Rip it up and start again” - could equally apply today. Yet more on the regeneration of the coastal areas of Mallorca. The “Diario” reports on an architect’s proposal for the transformation of the frontline in Palmanova. The proposal envisages, among other things, the destruction of three hotels. The thinking behind it - to restore the paradise-like nature of the beach, sea and the mountains beyond; a paradise state that existed before the mass construction of thirty and forty years ago.

This is fantasy land, or is it? That there was unchecked development in the formative years of mass Mallorcan tourism is undeniable; that the coastlines were subject to the erection of blots on the landscape is also undeniable; that there is a move to righting these wrongs is also undeniable. But what of the practicalities?

Architects, once emboldened, could doubtless turn their eyes to other parts of the coastline - Alcúdia, for instance. Let us just presume that some bright architect has a vision for the reversion to a paradise state along the bay of Alcúdia. That vision includes the destruction of hotels. In Alcúdia alone, setting Playa de Muro to one side for the moment, there are four hotels or complexes that might be said to be threatened - Sunwing, Ciudad Blanca, Paraiso de Alcúdia, Condesa de la Bahía. All of these abut the beach; two others - Orquidea Playa and Eden Alcúdia - might be said to be “safe” as mainly only their gardens edge towards the sand.

Let us presume that these hotels were condemned. At a stroke some 12% of Alcúdia’s capacity would be destroyed; three out of these four account for getting on for 3000 places. Let us now also presume the same or another architect had a similar vision for Playa de Muro. Half the hotels would be wiped out. This would be economic insanity.

It won’t happen. The cost of expropriation would be prohibitive; the cost in overall economic terms incalculable; the cost in lost goodwill among hoteliers, tour operators and tourists irredeemable. Forget it.

Yesterday - Yes indeedy, Orange Juice (Edwyn Collins). Today’s title? Different singers to choose from.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rip It Up And Start Again

Something that is overlooked in the whole debate about winter tourism is the level of building that occurs in the off-season. For most of the summer season there is a moratorium on much building work in tourist areas, for which read much of the island. This building - be it of dwellings, offices, public places etc. - occurs mainly in the off-season months, i.e. through the winter. This is building to meet the demand of a growing economy. And then there is other construction and civil engineering that has to take place out of season to upgrade an infrastructure that is still lacking in some respects. Over recent years, the centres of Can Picafort, Puerto Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa have all been ripped up - in the case of Puerto Pollensa every year, it would seem. The work has been vital in improving the likes of drainage and sewage. More is needed if the money is ever forthcoming to facilitate it - like tackling the shambolic state of some of Puerto Pollensa’s roads.

Were there to be a far greater level of winter tourism, this work would either not go ahead or, more likely, co-exist alongside a tourist influx that would have to lump the fact of building work, something hardly conducive to a positive tourist experience.

Hotels also use the off-season for building. Whilst by no means all hotels are worked on over the winter, there is a good deal that does go on. One might legitimately argue why there needs to be so much work, and I confess it is something that baffles me, unless that is some hotels were not up to standard in the first place. There again, some hotels are quite old, and some must take a hell of a pummelling in summer - just one indication, I have remarked before on the piles of old and new mattresses that are a common sight outside hotels as part of their refurb. I have also remarked on how the likes of Iberostar seem to be engaged in a process of continuous improvement - the guts of the hotels being ripped out and renewed. Moreover, there is a drive to upgrade the general hotel stock. TUI Germany is wanting 4-star facilities as a norm. For TUI Germany, read also TUI UK, in other words Thomson and now also First Choice. TUI is also keen that hotels can boast eco-friendliness as part of its marketing, whatever that means, though presumably it would require at least some alteration work. Add to this, there is the fact that some hotels may well face the need to do some reconstruction under the coast-regeneration initiative; some terraces and pools would have to be demolished and re-sited.

One hears talk of how things used to be, of glory days when apparently the streets of Mallorca were thronged with winter tourists. Yes, there was a time when there more, a time before the competition of other destinations got in the way. Again it might be argued though that these greater numbers were catered for adequately enough. But perhaps that was a time when the tourist was a less discerning consumer, a time also when tour operators and indeed politicians were less discerning. For the time being, tectonics and tarmac dominate winter, and not the tourist.

Yesterday - The Beatles, “Back In The USSR”. Today’s title - song by a Scottish group.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Show Me Round Your Snow Peaked Mountains

Snow. The recent snowfalls were, for Mallorca and for November, relatively heavy; they even inspired the BBC to announce that people were ski-ing on the island. Well yes, but don’t get any thoughts about Mallorca becoming a ski destination.

The surprise is perhaps that people express surprise that there is snow here. Among those who have never visited Mallorca, that is understandable but for those who have it is far less so. What after all are those bloody great big mounds forming a spine along the west of the island? The highest of the mountains - the Puig Mayor - is 1,445 metres.

It rarely snows that much and some winters hardly at all - last winter for instance. But it is far from uncommon to see whiteness on the tops of the Tramuntana range. Typically it does not snow below around 500 metres, but it can and does, though at sea level it is pretty freakish.

That surprise might be expressed does, I fancy, put the position of Mallorca’s mountains into perspective. Though summer visitors do indeed take trips into the mountains, were one to ask a selection of them to place the following in order of what they associate with Mallorca, see where mountains and mountain scenery would come - sun, sea, beaches, bars, mountains. I don’t think fifth would be far from inaccurate.

This all links back to what I have been saying about winter tourism and especially the marketing of the common perception of Mallorca as part of that winter tourism (or indeed marketing that seeks to alter that perception). The mountains do not form a part of that common perception, in my opinion. To try and market them as an aspect of winter tourism could probably only be as a supplementary item. The Tramuntana range is no Sierra Nevada. I have a brochure for the local equivalent of Air Miles. Among the offers in Spain, being marketed to a Spanish audience, are some mountain destinations - spas and hotels in Cantabria and above Valencia. Mallorca?

Yesterday - Dire Straits. Today’s title - a line from? Very famous group.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Making Movies

Jaime 1 - the movie. Jaime, Jaume, Chaime, James - choose your language - same one-time Aragonese king, conqueror of Mallorca, vanquisher of Moors. Shooting is just starting, Tim Roth is starring, though not as Jaime.

This is not Hollywood. The film is to be directed by a Valencian; the producer is from a Valencian studio. Still, it will be an international fim, shot in English. It will be the tale of arguably the most important figure in Mallorca’s history, albeit that he was born in Montpellier, France. Quite what the film will cover I have no idea, but I somewhat doubt that it will delve too deeply into the fact that Jaime was, among other things, a massive figure in establishing the Catalan language; he was a patron of this, making it the official language and himself writing in the language.

Some of the filming will occur in Mallorca - in Palma and Santa Ponsa to be precise. That it is not to be some huge Hollywood costume-drama blockbuster is a shame in a way. What could be better than a major international film using Mallorcan locations for attracting ever more tourists (hopefully of a winter variety). Perhaps, therefore, this is another potential solution for Mallorca’s winter woes. Or maybe a soap opera. Classy boats, intrigue, back-stabbing, bitchiness, fraud cases, poseurs in the yacht clubs - yes, Howards’ Way goes to Mallorca. But then they did a soap set in Spain - the wonderfully awful Eldorado. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t give it another go. Tell you what, I’ll write the script. Piece of cake.

Yesterday - The Fortunes. Today’s title - album by?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Here It Comes Again

Winter tourism. Here I go again. And I go again because the English media here is going again, and again, and again. Letters to the editor of “The Bulletin” bemoan the dead streets, a piece in “Euro Weekly” calls for more political action - again, again. So many demands for something to be done, so much vacuity of solution. “Euro Weekly” quoted a local businessman (who?, local to where?). Rather than swanning around at the World Travel Market, politicians should be beating a path to hotel owners’ offices and persuading them to stay open. Or something like that. And hey presto - the bar and restaurant tills are alive with the sound of euros.

But this political persuasion. Attack the links further down the tourist food chain rather than those at the top (the tour operators at the London trade fair). Fine. How? What would persuade a hotelier or several to stay open through winter, stay open and pay the wages, the taxes and the social security, pay the energy bills, pay the suppliers ... ? What would persuade hoteliers to do all this as an act of social responsibility so that some bars and restaurants could also stay open and pay the wages, the taxes etc. But it would not be mere social responsibility, it would be business sense - keep the hotels open and the people will flock in. Really?

But again this political persuasion. What form might it take? There is but one form that would make bottom-line-oriented hoteliers take note. Money. Ok, let me run this one by you. The Government decides that it wants if not all then a goodly proportion of hotels across the island to stay open the whole year. It makes a pact with the hoteliers. Given the amounts paid out in unemployment benefits, it agrees to pay some of these benefits as a contribution to wages in the off-season; or it agrees to a form of tax or social security break for the off-season. Something financial to incentivise the hotels to stay open. It might save the Government a bit, it might contribute to overall economic well-being, it might bring added tax revenues from the on-sales of tourists consuming in the wider economy, it might activate an otherwise sluggish local consumer market by creating a bit more disposable income. Let’s assume the Government could do this without falling foul of any European law which prohibits what might be interpreted as a state subsidy for the private sector.

So a greater number of hotels stay open. Then what? The political persuasion has to continue (or rather it should have started further up the tourist chain in the first place). The tour operators. Despite the growth of do-it-yourself (DIY) holidays and internet bookings, hotels are still dependent upon the tour operators: it is they who contract the hotels and it is they from whom the hotels derive much of their business. It is also they, the tour operators, who contract the airlines. Even where they are vertically integrated with their own air operations, I find it highly unlikely that the air divisions would operate in any way other an as profit centres. The airlines in turn have to contract with the airports. And so it goes on ... .

Tour operators are far better than governments and politicians at judging what their business should be. They model demand, shape demand, respond to demand. They supply that demand for winter tourism through a multitude of offers, of destinations, of long- and short-haul, of sun, snow and not so-much sun. Like powerful High Street stores dominate the manufacturers in the retail chain, so the tour operators hold the power in the tourism chain. Though they will always say that they are acting according to consumer needs, it is they who decide where people go and what they are offered.

The persuasion has to be directed at the consumer. Keeping hotels open is a product-led strategy, but this would be part of the equation. Persuading the consumer requires a huge challenge of altering perceptions as I have noted before, of marketing, and above all of provision - of attractions, of entertainment, of things to do, of shops that are open when you want them to be. With the best will in the world, taking a group of people for a walk up a mountain (one of the Winter in Mallorca offers) is not going to bring in the hordes.

Winter tax breaks and other financial incentives for hotels and their staff, the expansion and development of major attractions, massive marketing (both through traditional channels and the internet), reduced costs of landing rights for airlines in winter, the establishment of major events that could be added onto the natural advantages of winter fiestas such as Sant Antoni, public-private partnerships in the development of some of these. These are just some ideas. They would need to be planned for over a several-year period in order to assess the impact, but much of this could be introduced in the short-term. I am offering a solution. How about others?

Yesterday - The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Today’s title - song by a drippy ‘60s act is the one I’m looking for.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Pick Up My Guitar And Play

Is Paco de Lucía the tourist image that the Balearics needs?

This is a question posed in today’s “Ultima Hora”. The Spanish guitarist is now the new face of the Balearics. That Paco may prove to be a “magnificent ambassador” for the islands I will not question, but I will pose the question that will come to many lips - who is he?

In the past there have been various faces knocking around as promotional hooks for the Balearics and Mallorca - Michael Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, Anna Kournikova. Like them or not, at least most people have heard of them; Paco on the other hand. I suppose in all of this is the idea that Paco will represent something a tad more cultural than the likes of German supermodels or over-hyped Russian tennis-players. That Paco is arguably Spain’s most famous flamenco guitarist and that he has taken flamenco to a wider audience and crossed-over into other musical forms (e.g. into jazz with the likes of John McLaughlin) is not in dispute, but I ask how many people among the general mass of British tourists could tell you who he is. Were his appointment, if one can use such a word, as the face of Balearic tourism solely for Spanish consumption, then all would be fine, but the gig he’s been landed with was being pushed at the London World Travel Market, from which follows the conclusion that he is the international face of Balearic tourism.

Can someone tell me what exactly does being the face of Balearic tourism entail? Does Paco front some ads or what? Come Boxing Day, and there it is, a TV ad for the Balearics, shots of turquoise seas and a grinning waiter pouring some sangria before gleefully trousering some euros and up pops Paco strumming a few chords before saying in good Fred Pontin style - “Book early”. No, I don’t think so either.

Weather - winter has arrived. Cold and wet. Apparently the Dijous Bo day at Inca yesterday was pretty well attended. Brave that’s all I can say.

Yesterday - Barbara Streisand, “The Way We Were”. Today’s title - a line from?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memories Light The Corners Of My Mind

I went for a trip down memory lane earlier today. It was a journey to Can Picafort and Playa de Muro that started over 40 years ago. The memory lane was mainly made of sand. The starting point was a house in Can Picafort opposite an open space on which now stands the Clumba Mar hotel. The lane from the house to the sea was uninterrupted by other buildings; there was a clear view and a clear walk to the beach; the lane was of sand. There was open space then; open space and forest and dunes. Can Picafort comprised but a handful of houses, shops and bars, but one hotel that was genuinely a hotel (what is now the Miramar). One of the bars was on the beach which extended back further than is now the case before the dunes were flattened. That bar was demolished and they built the Hotel Sol. The marina was a harbour with the occasional rowing-boat and fishing-boats.

Then there was a second house in a clearing in the forest in Playa de Muro, the forest that used to extend all along the coastline and which is now but a fraction of what it once was. This second house, dating from 1968, was the first in the urbanisation. There was a street of sorts, made of sand; it ceased to be of sand only a few years ago around the same time that the telephone cables were installed. Permissions for this second house were applied for in Palma as there were no local town halls then. This second house was a kind of pilot house for subsequent development; the building materials came from a hotel, a hotel on land owned by the family who had claim to the terrain from Playa de Muro up to Alcúdia. The hotel was the Esperanza, named after a girl from that extended family. This second house has now been finally finished; at one point it eventually had proper foundations laid as originally it had been built on sand.

The two houses tell a story of different generations of one family, a story getting on for half-a-century old that began in one of Can Picafort’s few houses before the roads were criss-crossed, before the frontline wrecked the dune zone, before the nearly half-a-century of hotels were constructed; a story also of the cutting-down of the forest in Playa de Muro and the building that now leaves but about half-a-dozen plots without a house, an apartment block or hotel, a story of the eventual completion of infrastructure to enable basic communication which only a few short years later has been superseded by broadband.

The two houses tell a story not so much of the changing face of Can Picafort and Playa de Muro but of their total development. And now the politicians talk about the recuperation of the coastlines.  

Yesterday - The Cure, “Friday, I’m In Love”. Today’s title? Fabulous song from a film.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

But Friday Never Hesitate

Despite my scepticism, word coming from the World Travel Market suggests that Mallorca can expect a “spectacular” increase in the number of British tourists in 2008 especially those coming all year round for city breaks - for which, read Palma. I shall bow to this word. Undoubtedly the availability of low-cost air travel and the wide use of the internet for travel booking in the UK are helping to promote this form of tourism, though I remain to be convinced that Palma holds greater attractions than many other destinations. But even allowing for the fact that it does, tourism coming into Palma for a long weekend does virtually nothing for places like Alcúdia and Pollensa.

There is to be a major promotional campaign in collaboration with tour operators and airlines to bring more people to all the Balearic Islands in the low seasons of September to November and March to May, the promotional emphasis seemingly being the cheapness of travel.

Back on the autumn fairs. There was this sound-off thing in “Ultima Hora”. While bemoaning the chaos of parking in Pollensa for its recent fair, the commentator was otherwise full of praise (parking in Pollensa is chaotic at the best of times). He found though that there was a lack of knowledge among craft exhibitors in Pollensa as to the upcoming fair in Sa Pobla, decrying the lack of publicity and lack of dynamism and implicating Muro (which had its fair last weekend - at the same time as Pollensa) as well.

He may well have a point. Living closer to both Sa Pobla and Muro than to Pollensa, I am always fully aware of the Pollensa event as I am of Alcúdia’s fair. It is easy to get information for things going on in Pollensa and Alcúdia, but for Muro and Sa Pobla ... .

For the British, with a tradition of satire from Jonathan Swift (albeit he was half-Irish) to “Punch” and “Private Eye” and, moreover, a tradition of debunking its institutions and their representatives, the case of the “El Jueves” cartoon might seem somewhat odd. To remind you: the magazine was charged for publishing a cartoon which ridiculed the Crown in the form of Crown-Prince Felipe and his wife. This is an offence in Spain. The editor and cartoonist have now been fined.

Inevitably, the prosecution of the magazine’s personnel has led to accusations that the case has been pursued as a means of limiting press freedom and freedom of expression. This is not so. The judgement makes it clear that there are limits, and the magazine crossed these. It is the law and not the specific case that places limits on freedom of expression. Spain is hardly unique in having such limits. Whether these limits need to be stretched by a change to the law is another matter; the publicity surrounding the case might be said to have caused the Royal Family more harm than the original cartoon.

Yesterday - The Strawbs. And for those currently on a roll ... Today’s title - one for weekend-breakers, a line from what song, together with “Saturday wait, And Sunday always comes too late”.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Part Of The Union

Water. Of the utilities, water provision is arguably the most important. It is why the regular water “outages” are so hard to deal with. They never last that long, but they are frequent, usually in the mornings, disrupting showers or washing-machines. I rang the company this morning. Weren’t aware of any cut to supply, but a “técnico” would have a look. Never saw a técnico but the water came back on again after about an hour. Just one of those small trials of local life that really should not have to be.

Noises emanating from the World Travel Market are all very positive. If proof were needed of the importance of the British market, it has been there in abundance - in addition to the politicians, the top people of TUI, Thomas Cook and the Iberostar hotels have made their way to London, and have combined to declare that 2008 will be another excellent year. There is another side to this. If proof were needed of the importance of the tour operators and the major hotel chains to the Balearic and central governments, it has also been there in abundance. The politicians alienate these businesses at their peril, and so when the president of Iberostar announces, as reported in the “Diario” that the recuperation of the coastlines is a “political responsibility” and not one for the likes of Iberostar to assume, one well imagines that the politicians take due note.

There are few more impressive figures in Mallorcan life than Miquel Fluxà, the Iberostar president. He has presided over a highly successful international hotel chain that locally in Alcúdia and Can Picafort and more so in Playa de Muro is a byword for quality as it is elsewhere. Yesterday I was looking around the work going on at the Iberostar Albufera Playa. The interiors are being gutted and refurbished. Its neighbour, the Albufera Park, was similarly refitted last winter; the old Dunas Park became the remodelled Playa de Muro Village the winter before that. Continuous improvement - the old maxim of the quality movement.

And a bit more on politicians, or to be more precise political parties. The Unió Mallorquina (UM - Mallorcan Union) has celebrated its first 25 years. The UM is a nationalist party dedicated to the preservation of facets of Mallorcan (and Balearic) life, the customs, the language and so on. Its achievements cannot be underestimated. Its representatives hold positions of some power in Mallorca, the departing president was the head of the Mallorca council and is now president of the Balearic parliament, the mayors of both Alcúdia and Pollensa are UM. The Alcúdia mayor, Miquel Ferrer, has been in the running to take over as president of the party, but to the annoyance of Ferrer supporters who see his main rival, Miquel Nadal, as being too Palma-centric and being “of the past”, Nadal looks set to be the new president.

For many British expatriates, were they even to have an interest in local or indeed national politics (which generally they do not), the UM would not, I suspect, be the party of choice; that, one might presume, would be the Partido Popular. I declare no interest other than the fact that the UM has demonstrated that a nationalist party can build respectability in a relatively short period. UM nationalism is no militancy. Mallorca and the Balearics have no separatist tendency nor are they a part of any grand Catalan autonomy. Coincidentally, a survey in today’s “Ultima Hora” refers to the fact that the Balearics rank joint fourth among the regions of Spain in terms of how much the people of these regions identify with Spain (the Basque land and Catalonia being right down the list). It is perhaps a curiosity that this affinity with Spain co-exists with such a strong local political voice.

Yesterday - For all old Moodyists everywhere, The Moody Blues. Today’s title - who?


Monday, November 12, 2007

Days Of Future Passed

More fairs. Fairs of differing kinds.

In London the World Travel Market fair opened today. It signals the opportunity for the Balearics to press further their claim on the hearts of the vital British tourism market. The other day the editor of “The Bulletin” expressed a concern about the prominence that Balearics leader Francesc Antich was giving to tourism. Well Antich is one of the delegation pitching up in London. Perhaps that gives the answer.

The fine weather has brought out the hordes to the various autumn fairs. One other that is ongoing is the fair in Inca. “Dijous Bo”, which I take to mean good Thursday, is - like many events here - a several-day affair and not just a dijous. This is the grandest of the island’s fairs. Like the fiestas, the fairs represent a cultural aspect of Mallorcan life that many would no longer recognise in Britain. There is a civic pride in the fairs; they are to be found across the island in all manner of locations during the autumn. And there is something more than just pride; there is an assertion of the qualities of the towns and the island. The “Diario” waxed lyrically in Mallorquín on this: “a fair is not a commemoration of the past; a fair is the exhibition of the present and of the future, a demonstration of the capabilities of the people of one place in today’s society”. Blimey.

Past or not, the island’s fairs do offer a continuity with years gone by, with the island’s history. I said the other day that Mallorca’s history is a side-show compared with that of the mainland. This is the case, but it doesn’t make the digging into this history any less worthwhile. The “Ultima Hora” weekend supplement “Brisas” often features items about the island’s history. The most recent is no different. It highlights the story of a community formed in the final quarter of the nineteenth century in the Albufera area. This community was known as Gatamoix. It came about under a law which permitted the colonisation of coastal areas for the purpose of creating productive agricultural areas. The story of Gatamoix, its founding and its subsequent decline, is linked to a British company which undertook to dry out parts of Albufera. It is a story of dealing with what was an unhealthy place because of malaria, and of confronting the problems of salt and of maintaining the dried-out parts of Albufera. The community lasted for less than fifty years, and all that now remains is one house.

History: it’s all around you; just a case of finding it.

Yesterday - “Our House”, Crosby, Stills and Nash (Young had yet to join). Today’s title - album by?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

I’ll Light The Fire, You Place The Flowers

The weather so benign there were people in swimwear on the beach today hardly sounds like the introduction to a piece on winter heating, but it is appropriate. An absurdity of Mallorcan winters is that it is often warmer outside than inside. The reason for this is simple, and it is a reason that makes somewhat absurd some of the environmental and housing debate that I have referred to recently.

Much of Mallorca’s housing stock is inadequate for winter. Only relatively recently has there been a move towards anything like proper insulation and damp-coursing. The norm is neither. The old stone buildings, attractive and romantic that they may be, are usually freezing cold in winter. More modern buildings are similarly cold. The wooden-framed doors and windows in much housing are often sure makers of draughts.

Stone flooring, lack of carpets, large single-paned windows or terrace doors - these all make sense in summer, but in winter they are a nonsense. The solutions to the coldness of much of the housing are: expensive air-conditioning units, noxious and vapour-making butane heaters, ineffective electric radiators, wood-burning chimneys, oil-based central heating. Ah but a wood-burner is so cosy. Yes, if the space is enclosed and not subject to draught, but even then most of the heat escapes up the chimney anyway. Butane heaters - give off a fair amount of heat but also give off a significant amount of water, requiring an electricity-draining dehumidifier. The dampness of much property in winter also requires these dehumidifying monstrosities. Coal is shipped from South Africa to supply the power station for electricity that disappears through radiators and heaters that cannot compensate for the illogic of interior design, exterior thinness and draught holes.

None of the solutions is optimal unless housing design and materials are themselves optimal. That open-plan living-room with a marble stairway and an attractive large window heading towards the landing? Great in summer, a nightmare of lost energy in winter.

It occurs to me that perhaps some practical solutions need to be found - like insulation. Perhaps they are the unsexy side of the environmental and housing debate and, unless I have been missing something, they are not subjects widely addressed. I think it is about time they were.

Imagine if you will a meeting of the Commonwealth heads of state. One of the less-savoury of these heads is mouthing off about something. The Queen, not amused, interrupts and tells the head to put one’s sock in it. Couldn’t happen, could it. The Queen maybe not, but King Juan-Carlos is not so reticent. To Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez at the Ibero-american gathering in Chile he said: “¿por qué no te callas?” (why don’t you shut up?). Brilliant. The King, I suspect, has said what many others would have liked to.

Yesterday - “Mercy Mercy Me”, Marvin Gaye. Today’s title? It’s the first line from a song about a house by a famous group.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

What About This Overcrowded Land

Further to the “Ultima Hora” piece about the Roman pottery remains in Puerto Alcúdia (27 October: Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect), the paper is now reporting that further sampling has been ordered to ascertain if the site near to the Coral de Mar hotel is indeed that of Pollentia’s port. At present there is an open mind, one possibility also being that the remains could simply be from dumped excavation debris.

Whilst archaeological intervention halts one residential building project, environmental intervention (or rather outcry) has not stopped another. In Cala San Vicente, the demolition of the old Can Colom in the Cala Molins part of the resort has started, much to the disgust of environmental pressure group GOB and others. In its place will be apartments and a swimming-pool that, according to GOB, will lead to the destruction of an important forest area. I don’t know. Instinctively I am on the side of the environmentalists, but the constant opposition is wearisome. There is a sense of here-we-go-again, that perhaps they doth protest too much, that every part of land is important in some way, that wolf is cried when there are bigger beasts to be wary of.

Also on the environment, and back to the plans I referred to on 6 November, I had a chat with an engineer from the power station in Alcúdia, asked him what was with all this stuff about relocating the power station. His reaction - one word, eight letters, begins with “b”. The investment that has already been put into the power station would be a strong argument for doing nothing, and as he also pointed out, it may be that they get a round to relocation in fifty years or so, when they’ll have to because of the rising water level.

Elsewhere, more doom-mongering. “The Bulletin” gives prominence to rising temperatures and drought, the “Diario” also to rising temperatures - an average of 4.83 degrees over the last 100 years in the Balearics - and lower total rainfalls but more torrential outbursts. The Balearic Government minister for the environment says that no-one is any doubt as to climate change, except for one politician, by whom I presumes he means Mariano Rajoy (24 October: It's My Party) who will doubtless be still insisting the Earth is flat while the waters lap around the perimeter of the Alcúdia power station.

Yesterday - New Musik. Today’s title - a line from one of the greatest of all environmental songs.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Living By Numbers

So the Balearics did enjoy a record year. Between January and September there was a plus 6% increase in the number of visitors (11,5 million in total - 8.3 million to Mallorca by air). That’s the good bit, but, as today’s “Diario” points out, there was a fall in spend of seven per cent. This confirms what has been widely observed during the season. If the trend this year has been for less spend, might this trend continue? While 2008 is still expected to be another good year, in terms of numbers, the negative effect of higher mortgages and of the credit crisis is likely to be more significant next year. One cannot help but form the impression that a decrease in spend is an ongoing trend.

All-inclusives are widely blamed for this decrease, but I’ve been here before; they are not the only cause. There would appear to be some good news in this regard for traders. According to more figures, there has been a backward movement in the AI offer during the high season; it represents only 2.5% of the total hotel offer on the Balearics. This may be so, but there are areas of AI concentration. In the “Diario” report, mention is made of the Llevant and north of Mallorca. It perhaps depends how one reads the report, but it seems to say that there are eight establishments in these two areas combined which offer AI ( it could also be read as meaning eight in the north). Llevant is the area of the east of the island from Artà down to Manacor. North is Alcúdia, Pollensa and Can Picafort. Whatever the meaning, to suggest that there are only eight hotels offering AI is misleading. (The information comes from the Balearic Government.)

Take one example - the Iberostar chain of hotels. Have a look at its website. How many hotels does it have in Alcúdia, Playa de Muro and Can Picafort? Eight. How many of its hotels in Alcúdia, Playa de Muro and Can Picafort offer AI? Eight. It is not the only form of board, but it is most certainly on offer. I seem to think that in at least one of these Iberostar hotels, AI is mandatory in high season. So that is eight hotels of just one group.

There is a definition issue here. When the report speaks of eight establishments, it means eight that offer AI and only AI - exclusive all-inclusive in other words (which might be considered a contradiction in terms depending - again - on how you read it). Generally though the picture regarding all-inclusives is more positive - for those who would rather see the back of them. The total number of exclusive AI hotels is 36 in the whole of the Balearics.This figure is down, as is that for hotels which offer AI as an option (such as the Iberostars), but it should be noted that these hotels represent 13.4% of the total. The number may be falling, but it is still significant. And that percentage only hints at an average - where the concentrations are, the figure could be, and I suspect is, quite a bit higher.

There is another issue. In Alcúdia, for instance, some of the biggest hotels are all-inclusive - exclusive all-inclusive. Even one that is not exclusive - Bellevue - has a substantial AI offer; 30% is what one hears. Bellevue has nearly 4200 beds - 1260 AI possibly. Lagomonte from the same group (Hotetur) is AI only - 542 beds. The three Club Mac hotels - Jupiter, Saturn, Mars - are exclusive AI: 2000 or so beds between them. The Condesa de la Bahía is exclusive AI - 1000. The point I’m making is that between six hotels, the number of AI guests is around 4860. I have worked out, based on 47 other establishments in Alcúdia, that the average hotel size is 445 - just under 21000 places*. In other words, 11.3% of the total number of hotels in the sample accounts for nearly 19% of the total number of places - that’s 19% on an exclusive all-inclusive basis (the Bellevue 30% treated as exclusive). Add on those guests taking up AI at other hotels, and the figure rises. To what, who knows?

The thing is one reads that the number of AIs is only 2.5% (or 13.4% depending on definition), and it maybe doesn’t sound a lot, but break it down by hotel, and as importantly by number of guests, and the figure changes dramatically. Statistics - who’d believe ‘em.

* Without wishing to get too detailed: The total sample was 53; Bellevue was double-counted in the 6 and the 47, and its non-AI figure is included in the 21000. (6 of 53 = 11.3%; 4860 of 25860 = 18.8%.)

Yesterday - Robbie, who else. Today’s title - song by a Brit group, not very successful, sort of a Human League-ish type.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let Me Entertain You

How quickly nature reclaims.

Drive along The Mile and see the dried leaves on the abandoned terraces and in the entrances. Weeds will appear, the leaves will mound up more. This is winter. So many places, so pathetically neglected. There is art though in the sense of dereliction; like the set of a post-apocalyptic film.

This winter tourism dilemma will not go away. It arises every year, arises at the same time every year, arises at the same time every year with the same lack of prescription. The cry goes out for the politicians to do “something”; always the politicians’ lot. “The Bulletin” mentions the fact that mainland Spanish resorts operate year-round, so why not in Mallorca? It’s a fair question. But then look at what you have to do on the mainland, and the scene is a bit different. Stay, for instance, on the Costa del Sol and it is possible to visit Granada, Ronda, Gibraltar; Seville even. Much as Mallorca would promote its heritage, it is an historical sideshow compared with the mainland. More importantly, there are those destinations elsewhere - the better weather of the Canaries, the ease of travel to Florida, the Caribbean and Egypt. But I said all this on 2 November.

The politicians are important, very important, but others need to work towards a prescription. “Euro Weekly” refers today to the intention of House of Katmandu in Magaluf to expand. A themed golf course is planned (there is an association between House of Katmandu and Fantasia as it is) and there are other offers in the pipeline. They want to create “a major entertainment centre” and “do something instead of moaning” (about the winter tourism situation). Good. Business has to be seen to drive a prescription. Whether they will be allowed to is another matter. I wish them luck.

Yesterday - Blood Sweat and Tears. Today’s title? Oh, I am so good to you.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sometimes In Winter

Right now you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is not winter here. Of course, it isn’t; it’s autumn. But as I’ve said before, come the end of October, it’s winter where the tourist seasons are concerned. There again - clear blue skies, warm sun. This can’t be winter. The virtual absence of tourists confirms that it is, as does the activity around the unemployment offices. Queues of people. At least they make for a certain life about the place.

These queues. All these people going to claim their “paro”. It looks kind of humbling, but it’s not. And it is all sorts of people. There is no stigma. Indeed quite the contrary. The paro is almost like work. Do your months in summer and then cut along for the winter months of government benefit. It’s routine, it’s normal, it’s part of the work pattern. There is almost a professionalism to getting the paro. You see folk with nicely prepared files and document holders as though they were going to make some sort of marketing presentation.

What is there to do though? Once the season ends, it takes a few days to adjust to the sheer nothingness. But this isn’t actually the case. Over the next few days and weeks in November are the Pollensa, Muro and Sa Pobla fairs. There is the series of “Hivern a Mallorca” (winter in Mallorca) events - guided tours of the likes of the Roman town, to the beaches of Barcares and to mountains; concerts and theatre. In December there are the fiestas in the first week and then Christmas and new year. January has Three Kings and Sant Antoni, and come February things are starting to get in gear a bit. Winter - not so long. (Note: I have started to enter Hivern a Mallorca events on the WHAT’S ON BLOG again.)

Just further to yesterday. Why are they wanting to relocate the power station? What does this have to do with the coastline? The answer is I don’t know. What I do know is if you put it anywhere else and if it relies on coal as it currently does, you will continue to get the environmental damage from the filthy trucks that move the coal around. And what’s with this more than five-square-metres business? How do they figure that out? What are they going to do - mark out lots on the beach of a sufficient area, and when they get filled up turn people away? So much for access to all that public area.

Yesterday - Dido. Today’s title? The one I’m after is from which American horns-based jazz-rock act of yonks ago.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I’ve Still Got Sand In My Shoes

Don’t worry. They’re not going to stop you using the beaches. Quite the opposite in fact. Beach liberation and an end to de facto privatisation of the coastline! The people’s beaches!

The Environment Ministry has spoken. Its plan for the sustainability of the coastline has scrutinised hotels, dwellings, swimming-pools, beach-bars, nautical clubs; even the power station in Alcúdia and the military base in Puerto Pollensa have come under its low-energy-bulb spotlight.

To recap. The Government (central that is) could use the law to remove any property that has been built in what it considers to be an illegal fashion on public coastline. This affects much of the island. The additional background to this is the environmental damage that has been caused (and is being caused) by development that has gone hand-in-hand with Mallorca’s success as a tourist destination. And then there is climate change. A fifteen-centimetre rise in sea level by the middle of the century poses its own threat to beaches such as Alcúdia and Muro.

Demolition of hotels is perhaps the greatest headline-catcher. In the north one hotel is likely to get the swinging-ball and bulldozer - Don Pedro in Cala San Vicente. In the south there are, apparently, four beaches which are not accessible because of hotels. Solution: knock the hotels down.

The report recommends relocating the power station in Alcúdia (not the old one, the new one). It also recommends privatising the port of the military base in Puerto Pollensa (for reasons that escape me) and modification to or the re-siting of two nautical clubs in the south. And what was I saying the other day about people on beaches? Seemingly there are numerous examples of beaches where individual space is only five square metres when it should be between seven and twelve, a cause for ecological alarm in its own right because of the pressure this crowding creates. Presumably the liberation of the beaches will help to spread the load.

“El País”, from where some of the above comes, says that half-a-dozen hotels are targeted for demolition on three islands, not just on Mallorca (but when the paper starts to itemise these, along with the threatened hotels which block access, the number rises). Don Pedro though would be no surprise; this has been spoken about for ages. The hotel-demolition “headline” is a bit overplayed; the greatest threat to hotels is where they have say swimming-pools or terraces on public land.

What is not being talked about is wholesale demolition of residences (other than reference to “chalés irregulares”). Indeed the focus for private residences is more where these have created private areas in denying public access to the coastline, as in the case of the Costa de los Pinos on the east coast; the houses themselves are not the issue, pools and gardens are.

I had rather expected something more dramatic. Talk of “paradise and chaos” and “barbarism” is hyperbole. The proposals are, in certain instances, long-term, such as the relocation of the power station, and one wonders whether that would happen. Cases such as Don Pedro are not new. The beach-bars are soft options. Maybe it is just politicking after all.

Yesterday - Bruce Springsteen. Today’s title - which emoting songstress?


Monday, November 05, 2007

County Fair, Everybody In Town’ll Be There

All rosy on the economic front, it would seem, growth in the Balearics set to be 3.1% this year and similar next year. A good tourism year is one of the reasons for this growth. Though the effects of the credit crisis have had no real impact this year, might they next, especially among the key British and German markets? That, for the moment, is something of an unknown.

The season may be over, but not everything grinds to a complete standstill. The autumn fair season gives the island an impetus, and this weekend it is the turn of Pollensa. Fairly normal fare for a fair here - exhibitions, handicrafts, things for kids, music, animals. All good stuff. Sunday is the really hectic day. Events are listed on the WHAT’S ON BLOG.

How many people know that there are parts of Africa that are forever Spanish? Or maybe they won’t be forever. And because of today’s visit by King Juan-Carlos, more people will be aware of Ceuta and Melilla.

These are two towns in Morocco. Between them there are some 150,000 people. They lie quite some distance apart along the coast of Morocco, Ceuta opposite Gibraltar. There are plenty of people who would rather they were no longer Spanish - Moroccans mainly.

Think about it. Hastings and Torquay on England’s southern coast, parts of France not the United Kingdom. Put in those terms, the continued Spanish control seems absurd, an anachronism of empire. But then there is a part of Spain that is British - Gibraltar - and perhaps it doesn’t sound so absurd.

Yesterday - “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, The Pogues (orig. Eric Bogle). Today’s title - who? (Clue: American, very American.)


Sunday, November 04, 2007

And When I Woke Up In My Hospital Bed

Is Alcúdia about to lose its hospital? The rumours have been circulating for months. The “Diario” ran with this yesterday, and the report did little to quell those rumours.

The company that runs Hospital d’Alcúdia also runs the Hospital General de Muro, close by in Playa de Muro. With the recent opening of the public health hospital in Inca, one could argue that one private hospital in the area should be sufficient.

The Diario refers to this company as being Grupo Femenía. From what I can make out, this is right only up to a point. Last year, the Juaneda network reached agreement with Femenía to manage its centres; the Muro hospital has always been Juaneda. The incorporation of the Femenía centres was part of an expansion to make Juaneda the main player in private health care in Mallorca. Take a look at its website, and one finds much being made of “expansion”. For it to now be considering closure of Alcúdia seems a little surprising, given that management philosophy. There again, consolidation is a perfectly sensible management action, even if it appears to run counter to the main strategy.

Alcúdia’s mayor says that there will be a meeting to clarify the intentions, adding that there are agreements and obligations in respect of services at Hospital d’Alcúdia that have to be rendered, though - as the paper points out - he doesn’t elaborate as to what these are.

If the quality and availability of health care is unaffected or indeed improved by consolidation, it should not matter, but one suspects there is a degree of kudos lurking here. Alcúdia’s prestige might be knocked by Muro being home to the one hospital in the north.

Were the permanent population the only issue, then there would not be much need for debate. But it is not the only issue. Femenía was founded on the notion of providing health care in tourist centres. At present, the Alcúdia and Muro hospitals cater for the vast tourist population in the north as well as the permanent population. Irrespective of the opening of the hospital in Inca, one does wonder whether the closure of Alcúdia would create a strain.

Talking of the Diario, I must just mention something from its website the other day. On its home page was a photo of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez kissing model Naomi Campbell’s hand. Sweet. Immediately above the photo (and it was immediately above; there was no break between the two images) was an advert. It was for an escort service offering beautiful models for all events in Mallorca. I had to click both images to make sure that they were indeed separate. Coincidental or ...?

Yesterday - Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”. Today’s title - it’s a line from which song? Clue: Perhaps best known is the version by an Irish group; the song itself has an Australian connection.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nobody On The Beach

A retreat of the beach by between six and twelve metres by 2050.

This is just one of the conclusions of an Environment Ministry report highlighted in today’s “Ultima Hora”. The beach in question is on the bay of Pollensa, which must mean Puerto Pollensa.

The report recommends immediate action and the adoption of a new model for the management of the island’s coastline to take account of climate change. But climate change is not the only issue exercising those charged with overseeing coastline protection. There are numerous examples of building on the public areas of coastline, by implication illegal building. This follows on from what I noted on 30 October about the Spanish Government’s intention to invoke legislation against such building. The parts of coastline that have the most cases of this are the bays of Pollensa and Alcúdia. Specific mention is made of “chiringuitos” and “balnearios” (which for English purposes can both be called beach-bars) as well as other buildings, parking areas and pools. There are also concerns regarding residential building in Formentor and Cala San Vicente.

This is not the first time that the beach-bars have come under the gaze of the coastal protectors, but now it could be that something will be done. It is also not the first time that the issue of public beach area has cropped up - it was a part of this summer’s whole sunbed and beach umbrella fandango on the beach of Playa de Muro.

Illegal, or allegedly illegal building is hardly a revelation in Mallorca or indeed elsewhere in Spain. If the beach-bars contravene, then legally they should go. But how desirable would that really be? That they occupy public area is probably indisputable, but they also offer a public service in that public area. Walk along the bay of Alcúdia from the port as far as the furthest reaches of Playa de Muro’s urbanisation, and there are numerous beach-bars. Few, if any, could be said to be limiting public space on what is after all a generally deep beach (at present, at any rate) or on dunes where they reside alongside other buildings. Make them relocate beyond the 100-metre limit, and where would they go? Take another couple of cases - the chiringuitos in the coves of San Juan and San Pedro in Mal Pas. They can only be where they are - more or less next to the water’s edge. Take them away and what would happen? Might people be less inclined to go to the beaches here, might they still come and create more of their own damage of litter?

Doing away with the beach-bars, or placing them somewhere well-removed from either the beach or the sea cuts away at another of the rather abstract attractions of beach-and-sun holidays. There is a romanticism to a beach-bar and its proximity to the sea. Similarly, there was a romanticism to being able to sit on a terrace bar till two in the morning with some musical background until the universal midnight curfew was effected. Maybe these beach-bars are illegal, but I for one would not like to see them disappear.

Are the beach-bars environmentally damaging? Of course they are. But all human intervention on the coastlines or beaches damages the environment. I once joked about the sign on the rustic beach at Playa de Muro which asked for people to brush off the sand, but it’s a fact that you go lie on the beach and you will remove some sand. Similarly, if you walk along the beach, you will remove some sand. The outcome of the environmental case would be to make beaches no-go areas: nobody should be on the beach.

The retreat of the beach is quite another issue. If it is as great as is being suggested (and it could well be much greater), the question of beach-bars (and other building) will start to become irrelevant anyway.

Yesterday - China Crisis. Today’s title - it’s a line from? (Clue: it’s quite a famous “summer” song).


Friday, November 02, 2007

Wishful Thinking

I fear there is a Grand Delusion. It is a delusion of wishful thinking.

Mallorca’s winter tourism. Let us not talk about what it might once have been, but do let us talk about what it is and what it might become. I was given some figures for a major tour operator’s customers coming to Mallorca - the volume for the months of November to March is roughly 10% of the total for April to October.

The Grand Delusion stems from a belief that this 10% can be somehow magicked up ... up to what? The Grand Delusion envisages cultural, natural, gastronomic, sporting and shopping tourism. These are largely peripheral. Mallorca’s strength is also its weakness. Its strength is its being a destination for sun and beach tourism. It is a strength by association, whether by the family tourist, the lad-and-ladette Magaluf brigades, the romantic couple, or even by those who do seek more than just a tan and a hangover. The weakness is that it is associated, by the majority, with its core business, something that allows rival destinations to be at the head of the check-in queue when it comes to departures for a winter holiday.

Go to a travel agency and see what the brochures offer. Winter sun destinations, city breaks. The tour operators are no fools. The Canaries, the Caribbean, Egypt; Rome, Prague, Barcelona.

Mallorca is caught in a double bind; it is neither winter sun nor city break. Palma is lower league compared with the Premiership of, say, Barcelona. All the other peripheral aspects are competing with destinations that often have stronger claims. Under the Grand Delusion, we are offered, in the case of Alcúdia, an arts and science museum. Has anyone asked tourists or prospective tourists how many of them would be enticed to come off-season for an hour or so wandering around it?

The editor of “The Bulletin” today argues that more could be made of “excellent shopping facilities, ... fine restaurants, scenic countryside”. More could indeed be made, but this is brochure talk; it offers nothing that cannot be obtained in many other places. He also asks for a “little imagination” in order to attract greater winter tourism. The problem is that any imagination that is being applied at present is constrained by a set of offers which face significant competition. There should not be a “little” imagination: there needs to be a lot. Half-jokingly, I have referred before to there being a Center Parcs or two. Maybe this needs to be serious. Maybe there needs to be a huge theme park or two. It won’t happen.

Mallorca’s strength - its association with sun and therefore mass tourism - should be made to work for the winter as well. All the other things just chip away at the edges. The Grand Delusion errs by wishing a Mallorca that defies a general perception. It’s wishful thinking.

Yesterday - All Saints ( reference All Saints Day) - sang “Black Coffee”, one of the best “girl-group” songs, in my opinion. Today’s title - which Liverpool group ?


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Black Coffee

Relax. It’s a day off. At least it is here. Pour yourself a coffee. It’s the second anniversary of this blog. Two today! Talking well with only the occasional tantrum.

The past twelve months have seen plenty of weather, plenty more road accidents, plenty more debate about the tourism market. These are blog staples. The past twelve months have also witnessed a growing climate-change and environmental concern, an outcry over the redesigned main road through Puerto Alcúdia, corruption, and strange stories of beach umbrella and sunbed subterfuge, of supermarket alcohol being priced in pounds, of masked men in Can Picafort and Crocs shoes in hospitals. The past twelve months have brought trivia in the form of the quiz, essay pieces (The Mile, street names, public toilets) and a growing interaction. To all those of you who take the time to communicate, a big thank you; it is most gratifying, whether you offer bouquets or brickbats, agree or disagree, get the questions right or wrong!

Moving on, or should that be moving up? How was the Balearic Government to tackle the problem of making available the “thousands of dwellings” that I spoke about on 26 October? Where land is a finite resource, the sky is infinite. Building up is the answer. The government is proposing to developers that, in return for building more apartments - upwards - they can sell them - downwards. More flats, lower prices. A brilliant intervention in the free market, or ...?

Meantime, the environmental group GOB is worrying that the government might not stick to its intention not to build on rural land. In fact GOB is doing a lot of worrying at the moment. The group has hit on the idea of an international internet campaign to pressurise the government into not granting licences for the development of the Son Bosc finca in Muro as a golf course. The principal worry - the site is Europe’s most important for a particular orchid, orchis robusta (from what I can make out it is the only one). So that’s the environmental threat I wondered about. Now we know.

Just what is GOB? The name crops up time and time again. Like many of the best organised pressure groups, GOB is relentless in its publicity and activity - gobby one might almost say. The initials stand for Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa - Balearic group for ornithology and the defence of nature. If you are interested, the website is

Yesterday - Black Widow. Today’s title - it’s a song title; what association does it have with today? (Check yesterday for a clue.)


Index for October 2007

Accident blackspots - 7 October 2007, 25 October 2007
Albufera - 10 October 2007, 26 October 2007
Alcúdia v. Pollensa - 16 October 2007
Alcúdia commercial port - 22 October 2007
Alcúdia Fair - 3 October 2007, 6 October 2007
Alcúdia’s old power station - 27 October 2007
Animals - 1 October 2007, 3 October 2007, 10 October 2007, 22 October 2007
Antich, Francesc - 26 October 2007
Architecture - 27 October 2007
Autonomy, Mallorcan - 29 October 2007
Balcony accidents - 9 October 2007, 24 October 2007, 25 October 2007
Balearic Government - 26 October 2007
Barcarés - 10 October 2007, 11 October 2007
Bars - 15 October 2007, 29 October 2007
Bats - 10 October 2007
Beatification - 28 October 2007, 29 October 2007
Bellavista (optician) - 17 October 2007
Can Picafort - 9 October 2007
Catholic Church - 28 October 2007
Charities - 3 October 2007
Christopher Columbus - 11 October 2007, 12 October 2007
Climate change - 21 October 2007, 24 October 2007
Coastal properties - 30 October 2007
Cooper, Sara - 24 October 2007, 25 October 2007
Día de la Hispanidad - 12 October 2007
Environment - 26 October 2007
Excursions - 8 October 2007
Expatriates - 18 October 2007
Franco, General - 28 October 2007
Golf - 26 October 2007
Gore, Al - 24 October 2007
Hallowe’en - 31 October 2007
Ham - 14 October 2007
Holes - 2 October 2007
Holidays - 12 October 2007
Housing - 26 October 2007
Island tour - 8 October 2007
Jamón serrano - 14 October 2007
Kissinger, Henry - 24 October 2007
La Victoria - 10 October 2007, 11 October 2007
Local government - 30 October 2007
Local politics - 4 October 2007
Market saturation - 29 October 2007
Media - 18 October 2007, 25 October 2007
Morer Vermell - 10 October 2007, 11 October 2007
National anthems - 4 October 2007
Newspapers - 18 October 2007, 25 October 2007
No Frills Excursions - 8 October 2007
Over-development - 26 October 2007
Pins i Mates Restaurant - 2 October 2007
Politics - 4 October 2007
Pollensa town hall - 30 October 2007
Pollentia - 27 October 2007
Prices - 29 October 2007
Property prices - 29 October 2007
Protected species - 1 October 2007, 3 October 2007
Quality - 29 October 2007
Quality of life - 26 October 2007
Rajoy, Mariano - 24 October 2007
Restaurants - 2 October 2007, 22 October 2007, 29 October 2007
Road accidents - 7 October 2007, 25 October 2007
Roman remains- 27 October 2007
Royal family - 4 October 2007, 13 October 2007
Rugby World Cup Final - 20 October 2007
Season’s end - 23 October 2007
Son Bosc - 26 October 2007
Spanish Civil War - 28 October 2007, 29 October 2007
Spanish Government - 30 October 2007
Spanishness - 12 October 2007, 13 October 2007
Sunglasses - 17 October 2007
Taxes - 30 October 2007
Tennant, Jacqueline - 19 October 2007
Tornado - 5 October 2007, 6 October 2007, 18 October 2007, 19 October 2007, 21 October 2007
Tourism statistics - 24 October 2007
Tourism strategy - 26 October 2007
Tourist offices - 9 October 2007
Victoria’s Animal Refuge - 3 October 2007, 22 October 2007
Weather - 1 October 2007, 5 October 2007, 6 October 2007, 17 October 2007, 18 October 2007, 19 October 2007, 21 October 2007, 28 October 2007, 30 October 2007