Monday, March 31, 2008

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Dogs. Here's one of those subjects that highlights the huge gulf between practice and the theory of law in these parts. Did you know that dogs are always meant to be on a lead when out and about? You wouldn't think so, rather like you wouldn't think mobile phones are not meant to be used when driving, rather like you wouldn't think cars are not meant to be washed in the street, rather like you wouldn't think you are not meant to cross roads except via a crossing-point of some sort. All kinds of things. All kinds of not meant to be, but are.

Along Puerto Alcúdia's carretera this morning, I had to stop three times to let a dog trot across this main road. Three times, three dogs, short space of time and road. And not one of them raised a paw to thank me. Bloody ingrates. Can't be British dogs, that's for sure.

I had thought to mention one particular dog and one particular dog's owner, and one particular bar where this particular dog heads for as the particular owner is often to be found there lunchtime-ish. But I'd better not. Really nice dog, this particular dog. Seems to manage to get out and trek the kilometre or so to where he thinks he might find his particular owner. (Does a dog think? Probably not.) This particular really nice dog wouldn't look so cute following a collision with a fast-moving bumper.

I imagine I can mention the local colour from Eroski, as he must be well-known to the local plod, he and his doggy troupe. One afternoon at the Pointed Thing Roundabout, there was almost a major incident to which the unleashed kennels that follow him around were a contributory factor; in fact, they were the factor. They are really nice dogs, too. One hopes they continue to be.

Near me, there are two large hounds that belong to some German neighbours. They were out for their afternoon stroll, minus leads, then broke into a bound and attempted to lick me to death. I have nothing against dogs at all, though I would rather prefer to choose when and if I am to be the target of big-dog saliva.

Oh another thing, some big dogs and some not so big dogs are also meant to be muzzled. Has anyone here ever seen a dog muzzle?

And following up the big question posed on 29 March, Jamie at Foxes may have the answer, at least where the Chinese are concerned. Fruit machines. That's where they hang out. William, who is sort of from Twisters Bar and is Dutch, confirmed that in Holland this is also the case, and related the story of when the guilder moved to the euro and there were queues of Chinese filling fruit machines in Holland with guilders that may or may not have been declared. So now we know at least part of the answer.

Yesterday - "Jumping Jack Flash", Rolling Stones. One of those very strange coincidences. Yesterday, I posted the blog entry and then got Johnnie Walker on Radio 2. Know what record was playing? Damn strange stuff, I tell you. Today's title - where's this from?


Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's A Gas, Gas, Gas

Two coincidental but quite illuminating pieces from "The Bulletin" point to the part played by transport in polluting Mallorca. Much of it is self-evident, but it does highlight how dependent the island is on motorised transport. The head of the natural gas foundation points out that people here are "unused to using public transport" and that this public transport is "underdeveloped". He also says that the fleet of rental cars has risen by 40,000 in the past four years (from 20,000 to 60,000), though it is a bit unclear to where he is referring. In the other piece, it is said that this fleet increased from 20,000 to 65,000 between 1992 and 2007. As always, a bit of editorial inconsistency, but the point is still clear - there has been a substantial rise. Moreover, the number of taxi licences (in Palma) has not increased since the early '80s and the number of school buses has decreased.

Mallorca is an island built on the motor car. It has the highest ownership of cars per head of population in the whole of Europe. It is largely understandable though. Outside Palma, even were the metro actually operating (which it is still is not), the public transport network is not good. Trains are largely useless, though the proposed extension from Sa Pobla to Alcúdia would be welcome. Buses can be ok, but when they press the reserve buses into service during the summer, you want to try driving behind some of the exhausts that belch out filth.

As a result, the idea of converting buses to natural gas, in Palma at any rate, is also welcome. Natural gas is on its way to the island, which should be an advantage not just for some transport but also for household consumption which still relies on the vapour-full butane gas, though God knows what this might mean in terms of pipeline laying and therefore ever more roads and streets being ripped up in order to create the infrastructure.

However much the authorities may wish to see a move towards public transport, they will have a heck of a job. This is four or five vehicle per household land, not just two. And where, one might well ask, would any further public transport be built? At the same time as concern is being expressed regarding the growth in the island's population (demanding more housing etc), the pressure on land use comes from all manner of needs - and don't forget the strength of the eco-lobby that would put obstacles in front of most land development. Natural gas may be useful, but only up to a point.

Yesterday - Alicia Keys. Today's title - where's this from?


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Like You'll Never See Me

The things that get mentioned over a coffee or whatever. Some of you will know Grizz, in fact many of you will know Grizz, aka Minty for those who have ever been to the Alcúdia Beach. So Grizz says that there has been something bothering him for a couple of days. It is - why do you never see Indians, Chinese or Africans in bars? You do of course see them in the street, but as he raised the question, it occurred to me, no you don't see them. Siraj, from Puerto Alcúdia's Taste of India I once saw in the Eroski café, and there was once a couple of African chaps at Café del Món, and only the other day two Chinese guys were playing pool at Sandra's Bar, and of course Izzy from what was then Agra used to have his "pure beef sausage" at Foxes, but otherwise ... Working, I suggested. Or maybe they are beamed in to the place of work and then beamed out somehow.

I guess though it is that they do work, and that's more or less it. I found out a while ago that there is this cadre of Indian restaurant waiters and kitchen personnel knocking around Spain, most of them actually from Bangladesh, who get whisked over to take up posts locally. The assumption I have is that they put in the hours and then look after their wages rather than going out and blowing the lot, unlike many of the Brit seasonal workers who could, in theory, save up for the fallow winter months but don't.

The reliability of staff is an endless problem here. There are those who come for some bar or other work who see this as a means to an end, the end being to go out on the razz and to get the end away, and find it hard to struggle in (if at all) at nine or ten in the morning, having been at Bells or wherever till six or so. This reliability thing is not just a problem among the Brit workers, it is also very much a Spanish one. A shopowner in Puerto Pollensa who I know well told me yesterday that this guy he'd employed had gone off on a sick as soon as he got his contract sorted out. When he returns, he will - in all likelihood - find himself out of a job. I was once in the office of a company that has a number of cafés. The desk was littered with documentation relating to personnel, and the girl there was moaning about the lack of responsibility of people (Spanish) that they take on and then lose or have to lose.

So perhaps all bars etc should employ just Chinese staff. Grizz has maybe hit on something.

Yesterday - The Stranglers. Today's title - very recent (the title finishes with "again"). Who?


Friday, March 28, 2008

Always The Sun

Another day, another report. This one says that over 70% of holidaymakers coming to Spain prefer a beach and sun holiday to other forms of holiday. I'm not sure if this is a statement of the bleeding obvious or if it is surprising; one might have expected the number to be higher. There again, one judges these things on the Mallorca experience, and were the same study to be performed here, one suspects that this 70%+ would indeed be quite a bit higher. No, make that, one would know that it would be quite a bit higher.

The difference lies in what the mainland has to offer. While the report points to the fact that "cultural" tourism is doing well, one would - again - be surprised if it were not. Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, just a few places that have much to offer in a cultural way. One supposes that the Mallorcan tourism worthies look longingly at the mainland cultural tourist masses and think ... wouldn't mind a bit of that. But one just keeps coming back to the relative lack of a strong cultural heritage that would create a meaningful volume of alternative tourism, alternative that is to the beach and sun, which is the Mallorcan image.

To different matters, well one in particular. I have mentioned here, once or twice, Café del Món in Playa de Muro, which previously was Robin Hood. Georgi, who runs it, is basically knackered, so he's got it up for traspaso. If I knew anything about bars, I reckon I'd snap his hands off. But I don't, and if you remember me suggesting that bars, rather than showing old episodes of "Fools and Horses", should put on "The League Of Gentlemen", does rather speak volumes for my lack of knowledge. However, at a traspaso of 15,000 and an annual rent of 13,000, I reckon this is as close as anyone will get to a bargain (unless I'm completely misunderstanding him, and I do have a bit of a problem with the Argentinian accent). Seating, all told, for about 45, near to hotels, good winter trade. Not bad. Even without the winter business, this sounds ok. So if anyone fancies it, mail me.

Yesterday - Everything But The Girl. Today's title - song by punkish group who weren't punks.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


At times I can't help feeling that I am a bit ahead of the game. That will sound terribly immodest, but the most recent warning about climate change - and its impact on Mallorca - and the consequent reporting of this, is somewhat old news. The fact that Mallorca, and the Balearics, stand to suffer more than most places because of climate change is something I spoke about - when it was, God knows. But there has been yet another report, and this time some of the media has picked up on it, and expressed concern. Bloody right they should be concerned.

The Balearics are at 40 degrees latitude, bang on the line for the most dramatic effects of climate change - apparently. Unlike some, for instance the failed presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy and our old mate Leapy Lee, both of whom seem to believe it's all a load of tosh, I do take the issue seriously and can well believe much of the evidence.

That there have been previous periods of warming is not a reason to assume that the current cycle is purely natural. That different camps of scientists attack each other across their learned journals is also not a reason to assume that this current cycle is not man-made. The increases in temperatures locally are already quite significant, and for 40 degrees read 40 years as a kind of ball-park for when the real impact may be felt. Some way away of course, but not so far that it doesn't begin to have an immediate effect, not least on the planning of what goes on around the heavily populated coastlines of Mallorca and on the planning of tourism going deep into this current century; the rising sea levels would make us need to head for high land perhaps. But I have said all this before, and now others are. Good. Let's have a proper discussion then, shall we?

And on a totally different subject, but kind of linking to "high land", one of the pleasing aspects of this blog is when folk mail me, quite out of the blue, let me know what's happening in their lives and wishing the blog well and also wishing people here well. I had one such mail in the inbox this morning. It was from John who used to run The Highlander in Puerto Alcúdia and who's missing Alcúdia. Apart from anything else, he said to wish everyone a good season, and anyone who's run a bar or done anything of a seasonal nature here will know that good wishes are often needed. And he'll be over in April and hope to see people.

Yesterday - "Drive", The Cars, which became associated with Live Aid. Today's title - ok, so John's missing Alcúdia. Who did this? Very well-known (and brilliant) and a previous quiz target.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Who's Gonna Drive You Home?

"Cyclists, blah, blah, cyclists all over the road, blah, blah, cyclists going the wrong way, blah, blah." It didn't actually say this, but a letter to "The Bulletin" was along these lines. Crikey, never heard of this problem before. But not that I will disagree. I have said as much myself here on many an occasion. Someone said to me the other day that cyclists "play games". Pretty dangerous games, taking on a Mallorcan car driver, or indeed a car driver of any nationality. Cyclists here are untouchables. You touch them, or rather your car touches them, and you are at fault, even if they have ridden straight at you on the wrong side of the road. It's an uneven playing-field or open road if you prefer.

There are certain stretches of road that tempt both cyclists and drivers into ever more dangerous games. Take the road going from Can Picafort to Son Serra. Much of it is nice and straight and relatively quiet. The local Alonsos hack along as though it were the Mulsanne straight and the cyclists treat both lanes as their own personal fiefdom. Like many other stretches of road, it is an accident in the making.

I'm not here to defend drivers. There are enough arseholes here who defy defence, but many a cyclist might well be defined with an abbreviation - F.T. I'll leave it to you to fathom out what F.T. stands for. Maybe there is some mathematical equation that measures the level of F.T. It is related to the size of the brain that determines awareness of and courtesy towards others. F.T. = X (brain) divided by A + C. Or something like that.

While on roads, the bit of the carretera going towards Can Picafort from Playa de Muro, newly laid out with chicanes and whatever, is to be a 50kph zone between the months of April and October. Fair enough I suppose. But some bits of road at 50kph do seem especially slow. I had some practice today. Behind a driver of exceptionally advanced years. Still, 50 it will be, so you have been warned.

But so much for the joys of roads. Never let it be said that I do not respond to being corrected. Someone emailed me about the number of "relax houses" in Alcúdia. Apparently, there are seven, not four. How about that? Seven knocking shops in little old Alcúdia. You don't get this sort of information in your average brochure you know.

Last time - "Woodstock", Joni Mitchell. Today's title - Who did it? And what made it particularly and rather oddly famous?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Half A Million Strong

Some of you will of course be aware that I have had my moments of taking the rip out of elements of the local media. I have sort of taken a step back from this, partly because it could appear repetitious and rather petty and also because - in the case of "The Bulletin" - I have something akin to admiration for a daily newspaper that can be maintained for what is a pretty small market. Which is not to say it doesn't still have its moments, like today. In the leader, the editor refers to the growth in population in Mallorca and the Balearics. He describes the fact that there will be some 1.2 million people on the islands as an "outrageous situation". How can this be outrageous? The population growth may be creating a difficult or delicate situation, but outrageous? Are we outraged that there are, or will be, 1.2 million people in the Balearics? I'm not, but there again I'm one of the incomers who, along with so many others, has led to a population growth.

This is not the first time I have spoken about the population rise here. On 19 December last year ("Everyday People"), I said that the daily increase is around 80 people per day, many of them people moving to the islands. I also pointed out that, in the case of Mallorca, the island is roughly the size of Essex but with a significantly lower population, except that, at times in summer, the actual number of people on the island may be nearer to the numbers who reside in that county. Add on the transient workers and the tourists and, at a peak, it might be that there are some 1.5 million people knocking around. And they need medical services and roads, to which the editor refers. He goes on to say that there is a need for better planning to cope with the growth in population. But it is here that the problem arises. That more roads might be needed, that better rail systems might be needed, that more schools, hospitals and houses might be needed are all legitimate quests, but where do they go and how do the politicians cope with the competing demands of satisfying population growth and the environmental lobby? Politicians may also like the population increase as it can bring with it further wealth creation and demand. But there is a tipping point. Quite where that is, I wouldn't know. Any planning has to be a multi-faceted investigation of population studies, economic welfare, quality of life, environment, resources, infrastructure, innovation, employment - the list is extensive. For all I know, the current population may be inadequate.

The one thing of which there can be reasonable certainty is that the population will not decline (at least not until climate change makes the island too damn hot). Immigration, from the EU at any rate, is straightforward, and Mallorca is an attractive destination. The market does not place obstacles in front of such migration, nor does the market place constraints on factors such as car ownership (and therefore the demand for roads); it is worth bearing in mind that Mallorca has the highest per capita level of car ownership in Europe. But the market itself runs up against walls, such as the environmental one.

The situation is not outrageous, but it does require a planning and political approach that is rigorous and joined-up. And it is here one wonders about the political will or wherewithal, given the factional nature of a political system that requires a trade-off between what can seem to be mutually antagonistic philosophies - the Conservatives, the Socialists and the Nationalists.

Last time - Dido. Today's title - well, add the half a million at peak times. Who wrote it?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Life For Rent

When they go on about new and different tourism markets, the emphasis is - as you will well know if you've been coming to this blog for many a month - on culture, sport, gastronomy etc. But there is one sector that appears to be doing very nicely thank you but that never gets a mention by the various authorities. Hardly surprising, given the nature of it, but on the back of the gay-sex scandal featuring the Palma councillor and his visits to gay bars, it's good to know that the girlie bars are also well-frequented. That's the nature of the tourism. Sex tourism to Mallorca. Don't get much about this is in official circles, but apparently it's thriving. Can't imagine why it doesn't get more prominence though, having said that, there has been some press talk on the subject, not least in the German freebie with the confusingly Spanish title "El Aviso".

According to this paper, Balearics sex tourism is worth between 300 and 400 million euros a year, which sounds like an awful lot of money being handed over for some rumpy. How do they actually measure this anyway? And can we really accept that top-earners in the industry are taking over 100,000 a year, albeit that much of it then finds its way to others?

They talk about sex tourism, and by implication this suggests that there are those flocking to Mallorca for precisely this purpose. It is something I find quite difficult to believe, but perhaps the Internet is instrumental in fuelling this alternative (and seemingly lucrative) line of tourism. Maybe the authorities should get on the bandwagon - Magaluf has long been known as "shagaluf"; why not brand the whole island similarly?

It's not as if the island is short of venues for such tourism. There are, for example, four that I am aware of in Alcúdia, but I'm not naming them or saying where they are. A couple of years ago, I wrote about an approach to advertise one "relax house". I turned it down. Alcúdia is a family resort, not a bordello on the bay. And so of course the tourist authorities would want to distance themselves from such tourism, despite the money it attracts - if one believes the figures.

Last time - "Man", The Smiths. Today's title - album by?


Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Well as suggested yesterday, a bit of a break, but I'm on BlogMV today -

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This Charming ...

Charming. Not always a word that comes out sounding sincere, but I've got a place that fits the word, a place and the girls running it - and when I say girls, I do of course mean ladies or women. It's hard to know what the correct usage is as "girls" is quite acceptable here, as in "chicas". But so much for the apology for being non-PC. Where was I? Ah yes, charming. And more positive after yesterday's story of abandonment. Doubly positive as it's a place that has been given a really good makeover inside, and it looks great. On the pinewalk, Puerto Pollensa, the name - Los Pescadores. Angie runs it, with her sister. What really nice people, and I mean that most sincerely, friends (using my best Hughie Greene voice, which was not necessarily sincere, but is in this case).

A restaurant on the pinewalk. Boulevard may be colonising Puerto Pollensa with any number of tex-mex joints sprouting up all over the place, but on the pinewalk it is still possible to get restaurant charm. Pescadores was always a fairly decent place but it did need some work, and it has had it. Along with the cracking pizza place of Caryl, Rafa and Michele, Little (Italy) - though the Italy is not meant to be used - here are two places blessed by location on top of the beach and looking out over the bay, though today, the wind whipping in and cold, it was not really the day for the terrace.

And on Puerto Pollensa restaurants, a word about Sal i Oli, joint winner of best new restaurant of 2007. It is still Sal i Oli in essence but the name has changed to L'Almirant, which is the same as the original L'Almirant. Confusing I know. But the new L'Almirant is a Tapas and Beef Club, whereas the original L'Almirant was just tapas. There. Glad I've cleared that up.

Easter is here. Today is Holy Thursday, which is a bit of a gig in these parts: re-enactment of Last Suppers and various processions and the like. All part of the Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is in fact longer than a week. Though an irreligious sort, I shall be taking a slight rest over the Easter weekend, unless something really grabs me. So I apologise in advance if the normal daily dose is absent. Happy Bunnies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This Was

In the Spielberg film, "Empire Of The Sun", Jamie, having been separated from his parents following the Japanese invasion, returns to his home. Already it has taken on an appearance of abandonment, there are leaves in the pool, the garden seems untended. I thought of this yesterday. I knew that it was for sale, but I was taken aback when I drove down the familiar narrow lane with the bracken and grass to the sides and parked. There was a broken tree, the top half lying horizontal on top of bushes, the terrace was empty, the swimming-pool I didn't actually look at but I imagined it as in the film. The doors to the converted farmhouse were shuttered. It looked forgotten. The lack of attention had made it lose the attractiveness I could recall.

I came out of the lane and drove around the back. There was a time when, albeit in cliché terms, I had described this place as an oasis. And it was. A quiet location away from the main road, mountains around, it always looked a picture in a photograph especially with the brilliance of blue. It could still be, but that oasis feel has gone. Whereas before there was nothing as such just sort of finca land, now there is an industrial estate. This converted Mallorcan farmhouse, surrounded by main road, the blaring red of the Eroski Syp supermarket and the industrial area.

Some people had it in for them. There were some rather nasty things posted about the place. I don't know the ins and outs, and I'm not really interested and was not interested. Whatever the basis of all that, it was a gorgeous restaurant, those multi-coloured candles, waxing the sides of bottles, the white-linen-covered chairs, the terraces with their plant pots.

This place was Balaixa.

Yesterday - Cher. Today's title - first album (from the late '60s) by which band?


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bang, Bang

Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Can't park. Anywhere near.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Puert-oh Pollen-sah.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Disaster year as every year.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Ripping up roads. Ripping up bars.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Pollen-sah town.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Can't park. Anywhere near.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Carreter-ah Can Pic.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Laying roads. Closing roads.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.
Cyclists f****** everywhere.
Bang, bang. Head against wall.


Yesterday - Sir Harry Webb of Cliffrichard. Today's title - "shot me down". Who?


Monday, March 17, 2008

Wired For Sound

I walk the streets. This street, next street. I walk the streets, and often I don't get to the end of the street. It happens all the time. Bump into somebody or they bump into me, or call out from a bar as I pass. Today it happened, several times, like many days. I was going along the road by the car parking in Puerto Alcúdia, taking care of falling masonry and heavy equipment barging its way across the pavement. There was this lady. No, I didn't recognise her. It was the rather racy outfit and the sunglasses, and then she told me. Of course, she used to work at La Villa.

La Villa is one of Alcúdia's numerous Chinese restaurants, but it is arguably the best. Put it this way, it features in a recent a la carte type publication. Not something that your bog-standard Chinky would normally aspire to. I have been going there for years, taking photos there for years. And that was the thing. She had worked there for 15 years and was wondering if I had a record of her time there. It is really quite odd what you get stopped in the street and asked.

Then there was earlier in the day, passing Sandra´s Bar, and out runs Bill and is keen to show me something. Head phones. Head phones, as in headphones in clubs and discos and anywhere else that they might be useful. First I'd heard of the idea. The deal is that clubbers (or others) get a set of wireless headphones and they can hear the music through them. Sounds a bit odd to me, but there is a big plus point in that clubs and bars that give out too much noise and too many reverberations can now get round this by having, supposedly, total silence save for the muffled sound of headsets. Except it wouldn't be silent. Firstly, there would be people screaming their heads off trying to talk to each other and secondly I can't quite imagine a club without music booming out - without the aid of headphones. But apparently it is already a bit of a thing, and so Bill's looking to get it off the ground in Mallorca. Fair enough. Here's the link that tells you how it all works - - and here's Bill's number, 637 987 576.

The idea may have legs. Bars have become hamstrung by rules on noise, especially that which means they have to use limiters on music volume. So these headphones could be a good idea, even if it does seem a tad bizarre.

Yesterday - Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield. Today's title - wouldn't find him down a club nowadays, one imagines.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's A Scandal

Here's a strange old thing. A Palma councillor has become embroiled in a scandal whereby he has allegedly used 50 grands' worth of council money as payment for visits to bars and clubs - not any bar or club, these are gay venues. Sounds like a lot of money, you might think, and it is. I suppose it's not too difficult to figure out what some of the money may have been spent on.

The press is lapping it up, so to speak. Had the money gone on the attractions of girlie bars, the scandal would, I suggest, still very much be a scandal, though it might have received more of an "oh, he's a bit of a lad" reaction. Today the front page of "Ultima Hora" has a grainy photo taken by a mobile, which apparently shows Rodrigo de Santos, under a headline bearing the words "orgies" and "drugs". It's all the gift of the Gods for the media. The trousering or rather untrousering of the council's moolah seems almost irrelevant now as gay sex, rent boys and drugs all come to prominence.

There are aspects of Mallorcan life of which I am largely unaware. I knew that there were gay bars in Palma, but that's all I knew; thanks to the reporting I could now tell you where you could go and receive favours in return for cash, either one's own or a town hall's, but I won't. Mallorca, the Mallorca of Alcúdia and Pollensa, does not have a gay scene. The scene, which is low-key compared to Ibiza, is centred on Palma pretty much alone. Apart from something of a gay bit of beach in Playa de Muro, the north is gay-lite. A few years ago, I was told about a lesbian couple who would get a bit too friendly at some apartments in Puerto Alcúdia and in front of the children. The apartments are no longer for holiday rental, and the person who told me, disapprovingly of this, was himself gay. It is not something one could otherwise imagine witnessing on an everyday basis here.

However, Mallorca, and Spain, have a relaxed attitude towards homosexuality, or at least that is how it appears. The new maturity of the country's politics, echoed in the PSOE's recent election win, demonstrates that the populace can accept liberal policies such as those on same-sex marriages. Spain has been dubbed a "Nordic" country in the Mediterranean for this very reason, and this in a country of the macho and the Catholic Church, albeit that the latter has a diminishing influence. The scandal, and the prurience that it inspires, is not a reflection of attitude, it is a reflection of the media knowing a good story when they can sell newspapers. It would be the same in Britain; actually it would probably be a lot more sensationalist. That the councillor may have frequented gay clubs is of course part of the "shock" value of the story. But it should not overlook the fact of pocketing a sizable wedge of public money. What he did with it is, in some ways, beside the point.

Yesterday - The Hollies. Today's title - it was one of those songs that along with which duo revived whose career?


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Just One Look

An arm and a leg. You go to a new place and think to yourself "jeez, how much have they spent on this?" Even some less plush restaurants and bars require the handing over of significant amounts of folded notes to get them to the state demanded, and these are on top of the costs that may have been occurred in paying for the traspaso. The Taste of India guy in Puerto Alcúdia, Sirajul (commonly known as Shearer), has dibbled up a cool amount to convert a shop on The Mile into a kebab place. I won't say how much, but it's a fair old wedge. And this is just a kebab cafeteria.

Down in the port, of Alcúdia, there is one newly made-over restaurant that has also had a fair amount lavished on altering the interior look and on the furniture and covers. This used at one time to be La Trattoria del Puerto before Mauricio upped and went to Alcanada and set up Momo. It's now Samira, which apparently is the name of an Egyptian goddess and comes with a logo of the eye of the goddess - her look. And yes, you might have guessed it, there's an "of the week" coming along, but before I get to that, it does make you realise just how much is involved in realising a particular style of restaurant - it's the look, the look not so much of love but of a labour of love to get it right and fork out accordingly. In addition to work on the interiors and so on, there is the making of the sign, the artwork to support this, the menus and cards and all the rest that are branded with the new artwork.

Sometimes of course, you can just turn the key and everything's as you might want it, and in the case of bars this can often be the case. But if a new name and image are wanted, the money involved mounts up.

The fairly constant turnover of ownership is a blessing for all the suppliers of this marketing. You begin to think that Mallorca's economy runs on this turnover. If ownership were stable over many years, the sign-makers, the decorators, the interior designers and all the others would be out of business.

It's not as if every restaurant or bar makes huge amounts in return for all this investment. Some, especially the longer-established places, do and may also benefit from old rental agreements that are less onerous than many to he had now. Reputation is of course essential. I was speaking with a restaurateur off The Mile yesterday. Very well-known. I was asking him about menus for special events, so he showed me them. They started at 25 euros a head and went up to 80 or 90, and he reeled off four separate such events he has booked in the next few weeks for anything up to 300. Even at 25 a pop, that's a very healthy return. For 300 people, it equates to 7500 euros - for one event, one event in the low season. There are restaurants that struggle to make this in a week in the season.

Money out, and money in, and hope to God or a goddess the latter is bountiful.

Anyway, here it is - Restaurant Of The Week. SAMIRA.

Where: C. Pins, Puerto Alcúdia, right by the main parking in the port.

What: Pastas, pizzas and tapas, all freshly made. In Spanish, they are referred to as "artesanal" which doesn't really translate. It is like the English "artisan" for skilled worker but is used to mean a kind of craft work. The best translation is probably hand-made but this sounds a bit daft in English. However, it is quite accurate, and I have watched the hand-making taking place.

When: Every day lunchtime and evenings.

Who: Javier and Nadia.

Why: Atmospheric place inside with three separate parts, pleasant smallish terrace onto the street. Nice young couple and I really hope they make a go of it. Try it out. If you like creative pastas and tapas, it's well worth a visit.

Yesterday - Bob Monkhouse. Today's title - Manchester, '60s, who?


Friday, March 14, 2008

Celebrity Squares

"I'm a celebrity, look at me." There is little sadder than the celebrity who insists on shouting his or her celebrity from the rooftops or from the newspaper and magazine pages than the media themselves that fuel the whole phenomenon or those that the media insist are fascinated by all this stuff - the reader.

Mallorca's media, the mags and papers, love all this stuff. Why? Who gives a damn? This weekend, we are told, a bunch of knights are pitching up in Deia: Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber has invited the likes of Sirs Roger Moore and Michael Caine to his 60th birthday thrash. Good for him. I, for one, couldn't care less. The only thing one could say is that at least these are A-listers, which is more than can normally be said for the Mallorcan celebrity.

Some of these celebs are not so much obscure as totally in the dark. They tend to be entertainers who may or may not have made it beyond a cabaret evening somewhere on the island. I haven't a clue who they are and have nil interest in knowing who they are. Then there are those celebs with some claim to fame, usually prehistoric. Take Tom O'Connor for instance. He's the turn at a "celebrity lunch" taking place at the end of the month and will doubtless provide the local press the opportunity of filling some copy with a gushing report. When you can't think of something better to write, then find a celeb, any old celeb, and hammer out a page or two. When Ron Atkinson was here for a charity do last summer, he got three pages (or was it four?).

Mallorca has of course been helped by the real celebs. The house buying of German super models and tennis players and of the likes of Michael Douglas all conspired to give Mallorca a more up-market image, but the C-listers and those who do not even make a letter of the alphabet are just frippery. Their celebrity is shallow, as is the interest in them.

Well I was looking for an excuse for this, and yesterday's quiz question sort of gives me it. Apropos of very little, other than as a continuation of a theme earlier in the week, namely socialist politics, Alastair has told me that the chair of the Dutch socialist parliamentary party is called Martinus Kox. Nothing exceptional about this, but apparently he insists on being known by a diminutive of his Christian name ... Tiny. Tiny Kox. And diminutive would be about right. Just as well he 's not a celeb.

Yesterday - Alistair. Today's title - who was the presenter?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Crystal Tipps And ...

This is becoming SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS column. Two more of them today. What's going on?

Anyway, firstly let's go with MARCO'S AUDI. This is Marco from Puerto Alcúdia's Engel & Völkers office. A man sworn to the Audi mark, but who finds himself with a fleet sufficiently large that he can dispose of his treasured S4, 2.7 Biturbo. It's got the lot - 4x4, GPS and all that - 155,000 kms on the clock, 1999, perfect condition, and it will be, because he looks after his cars, does Marco. Give the man a ring on 699 777 910. 12,500 euros o.n.o. (That's the motor above.)

Secondly, and for something utterly and totally different - CRYSTAL SKULLS. You heard me. Not Crystal Tipps, crystal skulls. Talk of propitious timing, what with the new Indiana Jones film being ... and The Crystal Skull. In May, there is to be a conference and workshop event in Alcúdia all about crystal skulls and their spiritual healing. It is a subject about which I know absolutely nothing, so I am indebted to Gina for bringing this all up as she sets about marketing the event and for giving me some idea as to what it is all about. I quote:

"Legends from around the world describe crystal skulls as an inheritance from ancient times. Crystal skulls are believed to “talk and sing” and to store and transmit messages for all sentient life. They are seen as messengers of light and portals to help us on our journey towards a higher vibrational state of being. Metaphysically, the symbol of the skull represents the higher mind. To attain the higher mind of spiritual awareness and psychic ability, we must be released from the thrall of the lower cognitive mind.

"The lost civilization of Atlantis is also said to be part of Mallorca and the Balearic Islands. Stories about crystal skulls and Atlantis have always gone hand in hand, thus this will be the perfect energetic location for this event and our meditations.

"Activities will include workshops and lectures by key experts on crystal skulls who will share their profound wisdom and healing to those who attend, along with a sacred "mystery tour" to be disclosed that week."

So there you go. The idea is for the conference to take place at the Auditorium in Alcúdia with participants and workshop leaders staying at Bellevue. The full programme and further information - about prices and so on - are listed on the WHAT'S ON BLOG (click on the link in the links menu).

Yesterday - Men They Couldn't Hang. By the way, the question about Beach Baby Beach. All The Rubettes answers were of course wrong. There was but one with the right answer, no less than Soulmaster Geoff. Still can't believe he liked the song. Today's title - and?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Smugglers And Bounty Hunters

People come and people go. Bars, they come and they go, too. Some though have been the same for that long that they seem part of the furniture - if a bar can be described as furniture, which almost certainly it can't be. Take somewhere like the Smugglers in Puerto Alcúdia. Barrie's been there since 1995, so when something of an old-timer chooses to move on, it seems more significant than those bars that do just come and go.

And so an era has ended, and the Smugglers moves on, now in new and capable hands. So, as you might expect, it is an excuse for a Bar of the Week moment - The Smugglers Bar, Puerto Alcúdia.

Where: C. Torreta, Puerto Alcúdia, down the side of the Piscis Hotel.

What: Family bar with all the beers and spirits plus breakfasts (from 09:00 in the season), lunch and evening specials and snacks with good English staples like fish 'n' chips on Fridays and roasts on Sundays. Sports TV.

When: Every day, 12:00 till late at present but with that earlier start for breakfasts when the season kicks in.

Who: Philip, wife Lindsay and mum Sheila.

Why: Feels like a pub, looks like a pub, basically it is a pub. Family run for families in a good location right in the port and convenient for the marina and for hotels such as the Alcúdia and Viva Tropic in the port area, but also an attraction for those coming into the port from further afield - Bellevue and Playa de Muro.

Is there a website? Yes, needs some updating but it is

AND - SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT second day in a road. Little Britain Supermarket has its Easter offers available, so there's a whole load of info about this on the WHAT'S ON BLOG (link in the menu here).

Yesterday - well, you might have said The Rubettes, but it wasn't. Very Rubettes like, it was in fact The First Class who, let's face it, were anything but. Today's title - well, no bounty hunters as far as I know, but this was a live album by a group with a great name (Poguesish).


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beach Baby Beach

I don't know. Would you take your laptop onto the beach? Sand flying everywhere, hands covered in sun lotion, the glare making the screen invisible. Presumably there will be some covered area, but the idea of a Wi-Fi zone on Puerto Alcúdia's beach seems a tad unnecessary. Can we not do without the Internet (and our mobiles come to that) just for a bit? Seems we can't.

This is just one idea that the town hall have dreamt up to transform the beach into what verges on a hotel on the sand. A chill-out area with sunbeds, whatever that is, kiddies' play areas; add the Wi-Fi and it could be just like a hotel but with a giant pool (the sea).

All this is reported on today in "The Bulletin". It goes on to mention new access ways for the disabled and showers (which are fair enough). There is also to be a tannoy system to inform the sunlovers of events taking place on the beach, which sounds ominously like "Hi-De-Hi". Will Gladys be inviting the masses to a knobbly-knees contest by the beach bar? It seems a bit contradictory as well. There you are, relaxing in the chill-out area, and then comes a blast over the PA. "Good morning, campers, at 11 o'clock there will be a Donkey Derby in front of Sunwing." And because Alcúdia is such a cosmopolitan place, the announcements will have to be in several languages, or maybe they'll just do them in Spanish so no one will have a clue what's going on.

I mean, I can see where they're coming from. Information and access to information are no bad things as such, it's just - is this all necessary? The help for the disabled and the showers, absolutely, but splashing out a million or so euros to be able to say that Alcúdia is the first beach to offer all this sounds a touch vain. As for this chill-out area, if this is meant to be a kids-free zone, how do they stop the kids entering it? Children, strangely enough, have a habit of just wandering into places. Are there to be warders with grim faces patrolling the chill-out areas, shouting at an errant infant - "oi, you, 'op it". Except of course it would be "fuera, fuera" and a small child upset by this nasty man, breaking down into a bawling fit. So much for a chill-out area. There's one other thing. It is already the case that a day out on the beach involves transporting the entire contents of a Currys shop - mobile, MP3 player, digital camera, digital camcorder. So adding another item, a laptop, just about completes the set, save for a 42-inch screen television and home cinema system. All this kit though adds up to a tidy sum in terms of value. I just wonder if the addition of laptops might not be tempting for those of a light-fingered orientation.

But being a beach thing, nothing can be done without the say-so of the beach jobsworths, the authorities that give consent for anything that moves or stays put on a beach nowadays. Beach being public space and in the protected zone 100 metres or so from the coastline, nothing gets done without a stamp of environmental approval. Not that anything that is being proposed sounds particularly intrusive in this regard, though I am sure they'll find something. Wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't. Noise pollution. Those tannoys. Hmm.

Yes indeed, a special announcement to say that No Frills Excursions will be open for trips from 15 March this year, a good deal earlier than in the past. For obvious reasons, like not everywhere being open, the March and April programme will not be as full as the main-season programme, but there is still a goodly amount on offer. Go to the WHAT'S ON BLOG to see what there is.

Yesterday - The Intruders. "Win, Place Or Show". Today's title - a truly awful record by?


Monday, March 10, 2008

And The Winner Is ...

So in the end the economy and the shooting of Isaías Carrasco did not persuade the Spanish electorate to boot out the PSOE regime of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The PSOE actually increased the number of deputies in Congress, as indeed did the opposition PP. The socialists now start the horse-trading with the minority parties, but they are assured of another coalition government and four more years in power.

The killing of the socialist councillor Carrasco, attributed to ETA, was, some said, likely to sway the voter towards the PP and towards its leader Mariano Rajoy who had made much of Zapatero being soft on terrorism. When the election was first announced and the potential threat of terrorism influencing the result was therefore raised, I argued that were there to be an act it might work in the PSOE's favour. If anything, this may indeed have happened. The electorate, this time round, has recognised the role of terrorists for what it is, a cynical means of attempting to undermine the democratic process, and the electorate has rejected this role, in the same way that it has rejected Rajoy's assertions regarding a lack of toughness on the part of Zapatero.

The failing economy gave the electorate a reason for booting out the PSOE, but it has stood by the party, which makes one wonder if the liberalism shown by the PSOE during its first four years is something that appeals to current-day Spain. Rajoy and the PP appear too much something of the past, of the Church and conservatism; the PSOE is more in tune with societal trends even if these bring it into conflict with the Church over issues such as divorce and same-sex marriages. The PP, despite spinning the result as being "satisfactory" in that they increased the number of deputies, has some soul-searching to do. Like its British Conservative counterpart, it needs to broaden its appeal and to find a leader who is more sympathetic than Rajoy.

That's the politics, but what of election night itself? The television presentation is, in some respects, similar to that for a UK election. Various graphics and computerised "swingometers", but two presenters who looked like they were presiding over the Eurovision Song Contest is not quite what one might expect of Dimbleby and Paxman. Then there were the abbreviations. They love abbreviations here. The election was therefore "E08" (elecciones 2008), the date was 9-M (9 March). The studio pundits were arranged in front of their own individual laptops, peering into them as though they were a bunch of people working in an estate-agent's office (what do estate agents find so vital that they have to look constantly at a PC screen?). The female moderator of the pundits had scrubbed up nicely. Looked a million dollars in fact. Perhaps she should have been presenting Eurovision.

There are none of the excruciating vote readings like in the UK, with the recording officer stumbling over the numbers and the nutter from the Monster Raving Loony Party wearing a Teletubbies outfit. Everything gets channelled through something called a data centre where another well-scrubbed female presenter reels off boring statistics and people mill in the background drinking beer. There are though gatherings of supporters at HQs, both in Madrid. But being Spain, the flag-waving supporters are all out in the street under huge posters of Zapatero and Rajoy with the inevitable DJ pounding out some music and a production cheerleader getting the masses to wave their flags more enthusiastically whenever the camera pans onto them.

Personally, it doesn't really bother me who has won. Most expats, I would guess, would have preferred a PP victory (if they had a view at all, which in most cases they would not have) and then only because of potential tax cuts. Impression is all important in politics, and it is impression that would have guided me had I had a vote. To this end, I am glad that Zapatero has won.

Yesterday - The Clash. Today's title - a line from a rather daft soul song.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

This Is England

When they talk about commitment to a country, as in commitment to that in which one lives, there is one thing that cannot be re-committed or from which the old commitment can be taken. Sport. The Spanish national football team may have my support for the coming Euro championships but only because of the absence of any British Isles representation. It's sort of like the Tebbit test, and I fail, as do pretty well all other localised Brits. Get behind a football team here? Real Mallorca? Couldn't give a damn except if maybe they were good enough to make a European championship and Spurs got to play them.

It's a strange thing this sporting affiliation through distance. It's as though you are a spectator watching the spectator watching the game. There is a sense of third-hand engagement. Much of the involvement becomes imaginary unless glued to Sky for hours on end. Even the Internet doesn't always give an element of the first-hand as streaming of many sports commentaries are blocked outside of the UK. Perhaps it's just as well. Having endured Matt Dawson frothing at the mouth at England deciding that a bit of wind and rain was sufficient to not bother playing against Scotland in Edinburgh, it would have been too much to then hear Geoff Boycott having paroxysms as England succumbed to the might of a bowling attack that would struggle to make the County Championship a few hours later.

You can still feel the pain of dire English sporting performance but it doesn't somehow hurt as much from a distance. The occasional shafts of light - Tottenham's Carling Cup win, Aldershot being ten points clear in the Conference and likely to rejoin the league from which the team was dumped for non-footballing reasons - seem, nevertheless, to glow with less intensity than they might. It's support without involvement, commitment without the responsibility of suffering; as though one can pick and choose the degrees of fan-based intensity safe in the remoteness from ever having to actually subject oneself to high and lows at The Lane, The Recreation Ground, Lord's or Wembley.

There are those who do of course very much wear their shirts with pride, and not only the tourists. On a match day a bar can be filled with expat-clad kit replicas. Even the walls wear their shirts with pride. But the tribalism of individual team support does not create the sense of unity that is to be found in a bar when one of the national teams is playing - and usually being humbled. For all this though, one still feels disengaged. It's the distance thing again. So the shrug of the shoulders when Wilkinson makes another hash of a kick or Harmison launches the ball into the slips is ... just that, and you go on about living your life at a distance because perhaps it doesn't matter quite as much.

Yesterday - "What Have You Done For Me Lately", Janet Jackson. Today's title - single by; they had a mention here quite recently?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Soap Opera Says

"It's like a soap opera." Life among the expat is often described thus. There is a grain of truth in this, even if, as a rule, airplanes do not crash and kill off half the cast, Pammy does not wake up to discover that the death of Bobby had apparently been all a dream, and a Harold Bishop doesn't suddenly return having been lost at sea for a few years or a Dirty Den emerge some time later from a canal. It's an all too easy metaphor that has become a cliché, but it doesn't stop us making it.

The BBC's glorious failure of an expat-in-the-sun soap, "Eldorado", was not a bad idea per se. It flopped for various reasons. Many of the actors were anything but; the inclusion of every nationality under the (Spanish) sun made for a dog's breakfast of a cast list, and this cosmopolitanism prevented audience identification. But there was another reason. The characters, the British characters, were too middle-class. The longevity and success of "Eastenders" and "Coronation Street" have been founded on working-class characters and environments.

Were there to be a soap opera set in Alcúdia or Pollensa, Alcúdia would have to be the location, Puerto Alcúdia especially. Set one in Pollensa, the old town in particular, and it would be more like "Dynasty" - all big hair and big money. The concession to ostentation in an Alcúdia soap would be the boat world - "Eastenders" meets "Howards' Way" from whence a bling-ridden grease ball like Ken Masters would be forthcoming.

"Expats". That'll do as a title. Straight to the point and rather ominous. Personal tensions, conflicts, jealousies, a bit of bed-hopping and chuck in the scope for misunderstandings with the indigenous community. Expat soap would be easily cast. A Phil and Grant? Little could they have realised that they would clone so many, and not just among British male tourists. Den and Angie? Yep. Brassy, hard as nails but heart of gold Bet Lynch? Most certainly.

The other thing about "Eldorado" was the lack of real grit. Other than perhaps the alcoholic Drew, there were no down-and-dirty personalities. Even the "baddy", Marcus Tandy, was too polished - he was like Michael Portillo meets Den.

There is a soap to be made here, but the BBC would never contemplate such a thing again. Maybe we will have to do with the book of the soap. Or just a book. Now there's an idea.

Yesterday - Fat Boy Slim when he was Pizzaman. Today's title - the lyric goes on ... "you've got one life to live". Which US pop/R&B female singer?


Friday, March 07, 2008


When I spoke a while back about Alcúdia being like Blackpool, or rather The Mile being like Blackpool (24 January "Walk A Mile In My Shoes"), I didn't touch on the restaurants along and off The Mile. To hear or read some comments, you would think that it is burger and chips the whole length of the Bellevue strip. Now burger and chips there are, but there is a whole load besides. The Mile's restaurants may not be your typical Mallorcan in that they don't tend to go in for goat, vegetable tumbet and arroz brut to any great extent (in fact not at all), but there are still some fine examples of good troughing to be had.

The Mile is top and toed by two examples of different food but both of good quality. S'Amfora, which is actually on the main carretera, is a long-established restaurant that is arguably the closest you might get to authenticity in The Mile in that it offers tapas as well as some fine grill dishes. At the other end of The Mile, down by the Siestas, is a new place, L'Italiano, which, as the name implies, is Italian. But it is not your everyday pizza joint, even if they do do pizzas. The menu is far more varied and what you might expect of a proper Italian restaurant.

Alcúdia is weighed under by "pizzerias". Many though are misnomers because, although they have pizzas on the menu, they do more besides. The pizzeria name can often give a false impression. Somewhere like Luna's Grill along The Mile shouts out "pizzeria", but most people who have ever been there will talk about the giant kebabs for which it is far more renowned. A place with "grill" in its name creates for itself an unintentional problem by confusing matters with the pizzeria tag. But, as most parents will know, the availability of pizza is all-important, and so the restaurants co-opt the description in order to cover all bases. At least one presumes that is why they do it. La Traviata, off The Mile, is another case in point. It is a tad more exclusive than other restaurants in the zone but it also embraces "pizzeria" alongside its steak house and "asador" (grill, or spit to be more accurate) persona as well as its tapas and paellas.

Despite the apparent abundance of pizza, The Mile is far from being a Blackpool of fast foodism and grease and chips. The often used Greasy Mile moniker does perhaps allude to a sub-standard level of cuisine, but it is misused; indeed it is wrong in most instances. Authentic Mallorcan no, but good what one might call "international" food, yes.

And a restaurant of the week, here's a shout for L'Italiano:

Where: Avda. Pedro Mas y Reus 40, Puerto Alcúdia opposite Bellevue.

What: Genuinely Italian cooking. Pastas and pizzas yes but also meat and fish dishes. The menu of the day a few days back offered osso bucco. Top quality wines as well. Evening special menus during the season.

When: Every day.

Who: Sandro and Domenico. They are Italian. Not the greatest command of English but they manage, though I had to point out on their menu of the day board that you don't say "frieds squids". But hey, they're Italian.

Why: Classy sort of joint. Good-sized terrace for the warmer weather. Italian-run, you can be sure this is the real McCoy or maybe that should be Maccoieo or some such.

Yesterday - Leonard Cohen. Today's title - album by a DJ who, at the time, was known under a different name.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Then We Take Berlin

Another holiday fair, another chance for the Mallorcan tourist roadshow to hit town. Now they take Berlin, as every year for the ITB fair, perhaps the most important of all the holiday trade fairs given that Mallorca is almost a state of Germany. All the VIPs are pitching up, including Balearic Government top man Francesc Antich, who has been putting it about at these fairs. Respect to him, and so much for those who have criticised him for not placing tourism at the heart of his agenda. As far as I'm aware, there has been nary sight of nor guitar-chord from the current "face" of Mallorca, Paco de Lucia. I did wonder what being a face of Mallorca did actually entail. Not much it seems, but if he does turn up and does a swift karaoke spot, then my apologies.

Noises from Berlin suggest that this year's German invasion will be every bit as good as last year's. With the Brits also holding their own, and despite the gloom surrounding the economies of Europe, the soon-to-start season would seem to be in reasonable shape. The main concern is mainland Spanish tourism, but as I've pointed out before this is of minor consequence for the north of the island.

At the fair they are still banging on about what Mallorca has to offer all year; still banging on about the same old stuff. Someone told me that some 25,000 German cyclists come to Mallorca over the late winter and early spring. This may sound a lot, but when you consider that the whole visitor "population" for the year is around 11 million, you get a sense of the perspective. Nevertheless, cycling is one of the all-year attractions Mallorca is parading in Berlin together with the other usual suspects and now also Nordic walking. They keep on adding these other bits and pieces to the whole non-high season mix. A little bit of this, a little bit of that; it's like Del Boy and Rodders. Mallorca courtesy of Trotters Independent Trading Company, Peckham and Berlin.

Yesterday - Supergrass. Today's title - this follows "First we take Manhattan". Which Canadian recently returned to a musical career after a stretch as a Zen Buddhist monk?


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Moving, Keep On Moving

And so they come. Another season beckons and once more they come. They come, looking for work or to take up offers they have received. Every year they come. New faces, new hopes, new chances for fun. Reps, bar and restaurant workers, chefs, entertainers, kids clubs' nannies, yachties' helpers, shop assistants. They all come. They are the constant that is always inconstant, the transient and the peripatetic, the young looking for a good time and a just adequate wage, the older who seem to drift from resort to resort in search of ... . Sometimes you are never quite sure.

I have this image of a diaspora of resort refugees carrying their belongings in a battered suitcase from country to country, endlessly seeking the chance to serve some beer or fry a burger. It seems a strange life of mobility and rootlessness. A season here, a season there. This is a labour force at some kind of fringe of economies, dislocated from conventional life, traversing the Mediterranean as though they had become stateless. These are the hardened ones. The others, the youngsters who make up the majority, are different. Theirs is a simple motivation: a bit of work and a lot of partying - they hope. In truth it's the other way round, and often they get disenchanted when they discover that a bar owner does actually want you to turn up on time, look as though you have not been out till six in the morning and to work eight hours or more. And once they have hired you, they don't want you walking out or feigning "the sick".

But this would be unfair to many of the kids who come here. You meet some and think how on Earth do they keep it going. The entertainers especially. For months on end, the similar routines, just the faces of the audiences change. Somehow they do keep going, and for the most part they keep smiling. You know something, I'm full of admiration.

And totally unconnected with all the above ... I dropped by Café del Món in Playa de Muro for a coffee. Georgi was watching Nordic skiing on the TV. It really was skiing and not some geriatric Germans shuffling along with pretend skis over the pavements of Alcúdia. Anyway, the ads and trailers came on, and there was one for "Little Britain", as in the comedy show. Yes, "Little Britain" is on Spanish TV. I guess characters like Emily, Daffyd, Sebastian and Bubbles work ok in any country, though I'm not so sure about the mini Dennis Waterman. Georgi said it was very funny, it was like, and he paused, paused a bit more, it was "like Benny Hill". There you go, I'm sure Messrs Lucas and Walliams will be pleased to know that there is a part of Majorca in which they are known as the new Benny Hill.

And also ... a note about another bar that's opening up. Festas Bar in Puerto Alcúdia from tomorrow.

Yesterday - Bob Dylan. Today's title - brilliant single by a Brit band from, er, about eight years ago or so.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blowin' In The Wind

Is it normally this bad? I don't remember it being so. Pollen. All over the damn place. The terrace looks like the tide's been in and deposited a load of sand. It gets inside. Open the car window and the black leather trim is blasted to take on the appearance of an abstract painting, all streaks and bits of yellow and green. Whoever thought that those holes in the leather would look cool didn't take into account the insinuative nature of Mallorcan pollen. Don't they have trees and bushes and stuff in Japan?

Perhaps it's the summer in winter we've been having. At times it has been pretty damn hot, so thanks God there's a storm brewing and some rain will come. Only problem then is that the pollen will turn to glue. Oh and one other thing. Washing. Put the washing out, and you know that white t-shirt. Looks like the whole of the Norwich City kit - shirt and shorts.

But to other matters, and something of a celebration as the blog now starts to spread its wings. Can a blog have wings? Maybe not. Whatever. It's like Cheers spawning Frasier or some such. Blog - the spin-off. My good friends at Majorcan Villas have given their site a make-over and there now is BlogMV, as I've dubbed it. So long as I don't get too bogged down with doing specialist in meat ads, it could be there will now be two regular different blogs, or similar blogs, and maybe exactly the same if I am struggling for time. But then it wouldn't be like a spin-off. So I'll try my best to keep them different. The link to Majorcan Villas, and therefore Blog MV, is in the links menu.

And just one final thing. Today's "Bulletin". Back page. Headline. "Wacky Races". Reference to the Classic Car Rally that I spoke about on 1 March and in which I used the wacky races line. I don't know, am I becoming like "The Bulletin"?

And one final, final thing. I was doing these labels things that go with each entry, and put in Pollen and then Pollensa. How about that? Pollen-saaaahh. Atchoo!

Yesterday - Isaac Hayes. Today's title - oh come on, this is dead simple.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Never Can Say

I was having a chat with someone today about language. It's a familiar chat. New people come to the island, open bar, don't know lingo, feel a bit of a prat etc. Common, very common. Some will just say, "oh, there's no way I'll ever learn this" and just give up. Some, genuinely, don't have the time, and time is an issue. Some get on ok.

A point about language learning is that it is more difficult the older you get. It's a case of unlearning if you like, because what you know in your own language is basically hard-wired and you think using that hard wire. Another side is that there needs to be a structural form of learning, which is grammar and syntax. Grammar, Spanish grammar, appears more formal than English, but the main problem is that many British people have never really learned their own grammar, or rather they lack the wherewithal to explain their own grammar. This is not the case in other countries where grammar teaching is more central to education.

So then folks say, "oh no, I can't be doing with all this grammar". Seems boring. Personally I don't think so, but that's just me. Avoiding this structured approach, people pick up (they hope) tidbits of Spanish without necessarily knowing the structural roots. I think I've mentioned this before. Something like "¿cómo estás?". It's a basic form of greeting, but it needs some explanation to point out that "estás" is the familiar you form of one of the verbs "to be".

Anyway, maybe there is some help at hand. From "The Times" recently was an article about the use of mind mapping to learn a language. Without delving too deeply into the psychology of this, the basic idea is that one uses colours and pictures to create an association with words. There is a traffic-light system, green denoting the words that are the same or nearly the same as in English. In Spanish there are quite a lot. Words that end "ción" are often just like English - "información", for example. The pronunciation is different, but the word is basically the same. What's horrible in Spanish? "Horrible". Possible - "posible", just drops an "s". But both sound quite different.

Mind mapping was developed by a Brit called Tony Buzan. To be brutally honest, I am a bit sceptical. Like a nearish neighbour of mind mapping in terms of "new age" quasi-science psychology - neuro-linguistic programming - it has its doubters. Part of the reason for this though is that there are any number of charlatans running around claiming its benefits like the old time medicine shows. The writer in "The Times" reckons that, after eight weeks of her CD-based course, she was speaking Italian with a reasonable grasp. I can see how mind mapping would help with vocabulary, but I have only her word for saying that it also helped develop syntax and grammar. I don't know how that would work.

The thing is though that, after eight weeks of two one-hour per week personal Spanish lessons, I was speaking Spanish with a reasonable grasp. I didn't have to bother with colouring pens and drawing pictures. I knew how to use the main tenses, vocabulary was quite good, I could formulate sentences. Each to their own, but if the mind mapping seems a good one for you, then Collins publish the book and CDs under the name "Language Revolution" (Spanish version). At twenty quid, maybe worth giving it a go.

Yesterday - The Smiths. Today's title - last word's missing, it was The Jackson Five but the best version was by which beast of soul from the '70s?


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Meat Is Murder

One of the things I really must do some time is to create a proper database of all the blog entries. The problem is, you see, that I think about something with which to entertain you and it then occurs to me - haven't I done this? So it is today. The other problem is that occasionally I do compile a piece and then decide not to use it. And I suspect this is the case, because can I find it? Anyway, so much for my organisation, or lack thereof.

Some of you may know that I pass my time creating small works of art in the form of adverts for the likes of restaurants and bars. When you go and see a restaurant for the first time, there is a process of information gathering. What is it about your restaurant etc, etc.? If it's Spanish-run, I normally know the answer before it comes, or at least one of the answers. "Specialists in meat." That's the English translation. The restaurant sells itself on the basis of being - a specialist in meat. Now, call me old-fashioned, but, unless a restaurant states specfically that it cooks only fish or vegetarian dishes, I sort of expect that maybe they do meat. It doesn't occur to me that they might specialise in meat as meat is, in my experience, fairly common in restaurants. But no, many a restaurant will announce, quite clearly, it is a meat specialist. Listen to local radio and there will be any number of jibbering formulaic ads for restaurants, some voiceover Charlie or Carlos, excitedly extolling the virtues of Restaurant X, a specialist in meat. The following ad will have more subdued, chilled muzak to create, one presumes, a more serious and intimate image, but there will be the same Carlos now doing a husky voice turn but still specialising in meat.

It makes me wonder if there is some historical reason for this. Perhaps it was once the case that, with the exception of the village goat being served up once in a while, restaurants were specialists merely in sacks of potatoes and a cabbage. I can't think of any other good reason why there is this contemporary insistence, except for a me-too thought process. Once upon a time, a restaurant advertised itself as a specialist in meat, and the rest thought - oh, that's a good idea.

When the Ford Motor Company "invented" quality in whenever it was - the late '70s I think - as a means of promoting Granadas, Sierras and the like, the rest of the marketing world realised that they too would have to boast about their quality. Now everyone does it, and it means absolutely nothing.

I do sort of try to suggest that maybe there is something a bit more to say than the meat specialism deal. But then one runs into the "home-made" or even "hand-made" line: try this cow, and here's one I made earlier. Whatever. They're happy enough, and what the client wants, the client gets.

One other thing you do also tend to encounter is the dodgy translation. The restaurant owner proudly shows you a card or menu or some promotional thing and there it is - rotten English assaulting the eyes. Priceless some of it. "Flesh on the tenterhooks." Some of you might recognise which restaurant this is from. It's one I know very well. Their cards had this tenterhooks faux-pas as a translation (if one can call it that) for tender meat. Lord alone knows how the sap of a printer who boldly said they did English got to this. Well, yes, they did do English. They slaughtered it, hung it and then cooked it to a crisp. At least this particular restaurant didn't claim to be a specialist in meat, though the meat is very good and tender, but not on tenterhooks.

Anyway, if you're off to a restaurant this evening, you can be sure of one thing. Wherever you go, to pretty much whichever restaurant, you will get meat, and meat, moreover, from a specialist. Enjoy your meal.

Yesterday - R. Kelly. Today's title - album by? Easy stuff.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bump 'n' Grind

Sleeping policemen. Was it "The Mail On Sunday" that used to feature a sleeping policeman in an ad? "Not a snooze paper", or something like that. Two days in a row and references to British newspapers. What can this possibly mean? Precisely nothing. But sleeping policemen. Bumps in the road. Designed to slow you down, though you do wonder about the necessity given the state of some of them. With the current months-long digging up of the carretera in front of the Vanity hotel, you have to use the road that runs parallel. You take that at speed at your peril. All manner of holes and sunken sewer covers.

Ben, he of Piccadilly Ben as was, has reminded me of the nature of these bumps. His girlfriend Sara had a bump of her own, taking on one of these things armed - or maybe that should be footed - solely (as it were) with some rollerblades. Things that go bump in the day. The old bolted-in bumps weren't so bad mainly because they fell to pieces and a swift manouevre could glide you through without obstacle. Except that when they fell to pieces, the bolts came out and stuck in your tyres. As I know. So now the bumps are solid-state. I'm sure people used to go and unbolt some of the old ones in the dead of night because one day there would have been one and the next day there wasn't. Not these ones they won't. Concrete. Immovable except with the aid of some serious grinding and drilling with a Kango Wolf. Not so much a sleeping as a dead policeman with full rigor mortis. And they are everywhere.

Ben also reminds me that the Classic Car Rally is due to take place from 5 March. One can but only hope the route doesn't take in too much concrete boneshaking. Not all classic cars were built to last. Some old sports job held together with string takes one of them at high speed, and bang - bits of chassis, wheels, engine spread all over the place. Perhaps they are all the idea of some Dick Dastardly in the roads authority or the Mallorcan cement industry. Anyway, if you fancy seeing some of the wacky races, here is the link and here are some photos from Ben

And while on reminders, here is some info on when some places are opening. Foxes Arms will start up on Monday, 3 March, which should ensure time enough to follow Leicester City's fortune, or possibly misfortune, as they slip into Division 1 or is it 2 or maybe 3. Not as it was in my day. Vamps and Canny Lad are getting going at the end of the month. And yep, time enough to watch the Messiah taking the Toon Army to the promised land of the Championship. And finally, Hidropark will not open 1 May this year, but 5 May. So now you know. Did I mention that Spurs won the Carling Cup by the way?

Yesterday - was of course "Oliver". Today's title - biggie from which US R&B singer?


Index for February 2008

Albufera – 3 February 2008
Alcúdia’s power station – 15 February 2008
Art – 24 February 2008
Bailey’s Irish Café-Bar – 11 February 2008
Bars – 6 February 2008, 11 February 2008
Bellevue – 8 February 2008
Blogs – 23 February 2008
Café La Sala – 20 February 2008
Cafeteria Mediterraneo – 23 February 2008
Canoeing – 11 February 2008
Carnation sellers – 29 February 2008
Carnival – 1 February 2008
Centro Canino – 10 February 2008
Corsaris, Alcúdia – 2 February 2008
Crime – 21 February 2008, 29 February 2008
Cycling – 9 February 2008, 12 February 2008
Dogs – 10 February 2008
Driving – 22 February 2008
Environment – 15 February 2008, 16 February 2008
Expatriates – 14 February 2008
Fiestas – 1 February 2008
General election – 7 February 2008, 13 February 2008, 14 February 2008
Hamilton, Lewis – 5 February 2008
Help Unlimited – 19 February 2008
Holiday lets – 18 February 2008
Home design – 19 February 2008
Hotels – 8 February 2008, 16 February 2008, 17 February 2008, 18 February 2008
Immigration – 13 February 2008, 14 February 2008
Internet – 18 February 2008
La Birreria – 6 February 2008
Lago Esperanza – 11 February 2008
Life On Mars – 28 February 2008
Light – 24 February 2008
Live music – 6 February 2008
Mayors – 6 February 2008
Metamorphosis – 19 February 2008
Nationalities – 17 February 2008
Painting – 24 February 2008
Partido Popular – 13 February 2008, 14 February 2008
Perfume – 27 February 2008
Pickpocketing – 29 February 2008
Police – 4 February 2008
Processionary caterpillars – 10 February 2008
Property management – 19 February 2008
Racism – 5 February 2008, 13 February 2008, 14 February 2008
Rajoy, Mariano – 13 February 2008, 14 February 2008
Roads – 22 February 2008
Rugby – 2 February 2008
Sa Cisterna – 20 February 2008
Santa Margalida – 6 February 2008
Shopping – 27 February 2008
Solecito Apartments – 17 February 2008
Son Serra de Marina – 4 February 2008
Spanish economy – 7 February 2008
Spanish television – 28 February 2008
Sports tourism – 9 February 2008, 11 February 2008, 25 February 2008
Stefanel – 27 February 2008
Sunwing Resort – 17 February 2008
Tour of Mallorca – 9 February 2008, 12 February 2008
Tour operators – 16 February 2008
Tourists – 26 February 2008
TUI – 16 February 2008
Vanity Hotel Golf – 16 February 2008
Wines – 20 February 2008
Winter tourism – 1 February 2008
Women in business – 19 February 2008