Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Time Won't Give Me Time

Let's talk about busy, shall we. Or rather, don't talk to me about busy, with the stress on the "me". I know all about busy. A one-time sort of mentor, himself a one-time youngest professor of marketing in Britain and an astute businessman and management theorist and practitioner, had a maxim: "busy people make time". Resistance was useless in front of his maxim. But I had already been schooled in the art of busy. Want busy? Try a dozen or so titles all with the same monthly deadlines. That's busy. And so it is here.

When people tell me they're busy, I often think of this maxim. "Make time". I've spoken before about Spanish time. It is not so much the mañana syndrome. That's too easy and clichéd an explanation, though it is not without truth. It is the non-specific nature of Spanish time, one that creates a "midday" that can have a meaning of anything up to a variance of a couple of hours or more. This is the real nature of Spanish time. And because there is so high a degree of flexibility about Spanish time, it is imprecise and far removed from the Anglo-Saxon rigidity of time. A couple of weeks back, I had an appointment at 9 in the evening. I arrived bang on 9. The Mallorcan chap I was seeing said, with a degree of surprise: "muy puntual". I replied: "soy inglés".

I don't for one moment doubt that people are busy or indeed very busy. But busy people have to make time. And here busy people do not make time. They lose time. And they lose it because time is fluid. And everyone seems to get afflicted. Brits, Germans; they eventually go native. There is another factor. The social nature of busy. This dawned on me today. I was at the design and print place in Alcúdia. Copy Art I think it's called. Jordi. A lot of people know Jordi. I was in the back office with him as he was attempting to retrieve some photos for me. Someone came in and he was called to the front office. Ten minutes or so went by. I could hear clearly how this busy was going. It was basically a what we did on our holidays conversation. I mention this as what hit me was that, in small towns like Alcúdia, everyone knows each other. So even business transactions are social events. Combine this with the time mentality, and you begin to appreciate just why nothing gets done, or rather it does get done - eventually. This is just one little anecdote. But you can see busy happening all over the place. A thirty-minute coffee with a couple of mates. This qualifies as busy.

What really makes me believe that people lose time and do not make time here is the fairly simple process of phoning or sending an email. I have a kind of rule of thumb that when someone says they will phone or send an email, there is a 25% chance of it actually happening. Of course, there is always forget. And I wouldn't claim to never forget myself, but forget is a symptom of busy and a failure to make time, a very short spell of time, short enough perhaps to write down what you then hopefully do not forget. When someone is busy and I say; "so you'll phone me". The response is often a hand wave and gesture that says "of course" allied to a "si, si" in a tone of voice that conveys the same meaning. And I walk away and file that reply under the 75%.

Hesse wrote "Madonna". And while on authors who have inspired group names, as we were, William Burroughs lent which 70s rock-bit-jazzy American group its name. And Haircut 100 was "Love Plus One". Where does today's title come from?


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Haircut (1 to) 100

Haircuts. I'm telling you it is a matter of some importance. It is a matter that tends to categorise - by hairstyle (or its absence) - the type of business. This all started to occur to me as I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing in Puerto Pollensa, and the "sailies" from Sail & Surf were meandering across the road. The guys who do sailing and surfing tend to all be of a hair demeanour of what someone once described to me as "freaky". This is hair of an unruly nature, tangled by salt, blonded by sun and invariably long. It is also hair which, once away from the surf, acquires the accessory of a pair of sun shades. The "surfie" look and hair can also be viewed in uncovered mokes or jeeps, and with the hair tossed not by the sea but by the wind, adding further to the unkempt designer-scruffiness-cum-casualness of the rare acquaintance with a comb.

At the other end of the scale is the British bar look. This is absence of hair. The Phil Mitchell. The number one. Totally slaphead or with a slap stubble. It is hairstyle of association as, observe much of the male British tourist stock, and you become aware that it has undergone a form of cloning whereby the scalp is devoid of much in the way of follicle. The Brit tourist may like his bar, lager and chips, but he also likes to view a shiny pate across the counter. Put a surfie behind the bar, and the same tourist would be thrown into a confusion of non-empathetic head furniture, and probably walk out. I have a new idea for British bars and their marketing: "We have number ones". I tell you they'd flock in.

Then there is the Spanish lothario hair gear. This is often the pony-tail. It's a kind of Spanish footballer-meets-bar-terrace-meets-nice-girlie-from-a-northern-European-country look. None of your appealing to the male tribalism of an Eastenders rogue, this is pure advertising of a come-and-get-me-girls nature.

Finally, there is the truly and utterly bizarre. The what-the-hell is that on your head look. I will not mention the restaurant or the guy, but it is a restaurant in the port area of Alcúdia. It is the "Eraserhead" style. A full-on pompadour. And if you don't know to what I am referring, here is a Wikipedia that shows Jack Nance from the film - If anyone can guess correctly the name of the restaurant, then there is a prize of a Jack Nance at the hairdresser of my choice.

Now of course this is male hair. But for the ladies, notably the British bar ladies, there is but one word - blonde.

Steppenwolf was a novel by Hermann Hesse, who wrote a poem entitled ...? Think blonde and ambition. Suzi Quatro was "Can The Can". And today also - Haircut 100. Why does the number one have a strong association with this group?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Can The Can

For an island that is literally built on construction (in addition to tourism), there is not always a glowing record in respect of public works. The Palma metro fiasco is perhaps the most prominent, but Alcúdia has also experienced its own little local difficulty.

The Can Ramis redevelopment was meant to have been something of a signature transformation, a statement of local, municipal pride. There were glossy brochures of what was to come - a new bus terminal, a new office for tourist information, a café (always a café). Well, they all might still yet come. But at present, all there is to show for the demolition of the old Can Ramis houses by the market square is a rather nice new pedestrianised "plaza" area and a building site, a building site which, apart from the presence of a couple of guys from Telefonica this morning, was singularly conspicuous by its lack of activity. This is not suspension-of-works-because-of-the-tourist-season lack of activity, this is lack of activity through ... well, through what exactly?

There is a fine old rumpus going on as a consequence of the way-behind-time re-development. From what I can make out from the local Spanish press and from what I've been told, the town hall had parted with a goodly amount of the final budget for the works, albeit that the Council of Mallorca is stumping up much of the ante. The money had gone to the builders, Crespi, a local firm and a not insignificant employer. Except they may no longer be. I was told, with a degree of certainty, that the company had gone bust, but the press reports of what is coming out of the town hall seem to infer these are rumours. I would have thought the town hall might have been keen to establish if there were real grounds to these rumours, given that the bulk of the 1.5 million euros had already been paid.

Needless to say, the opposition political party, the Partido Popular, blames the coalition of nationalists and socialists in the town hall. And there does at least seem to be some acceptance that the original budget was wrong. Wherever the responsibility lies for the mess that is Can Ramis, the fact is that it can't just be left as a building site. The mayor, while reminding everyone that the new plaza allows for an improved flow of tourists to the market each Tuesday and Sunday, admits that the works have to be finished and cannot be a building site all season. Well, it's going to be a building site all this season, that's for sure. As can be seen from the photo, there is nothing there at all. On closer inspection, there are some foundations but that's about it.

Still, I guess it's like this anywhere. At least, they are not building an Olympic village or Olympic stadia or any things as daft as those. Now there's real public works balls-up in the making.

Yesterday was Steppenwolf who took their name from which author? And because I still quite like the title as questions as well, who did today's title?


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Posh 'n' Becks

There are some people who seem to drop out of one's orbit. Maybe they've moved on and away, like so many do. But then, by chance, you find they haven't. And so, by chance, I happened to be loitering with some intent yesterday evening in the area of The Posh Paddy. Hey, who's that?, thought he'd gone, hadn't seen him for, oh, a couple of years. Matt. Former Comics and Jacks, Matt. But of course he's at The Posh Paddy, one of the few watering holes in Playa de Muro that is deserving of an honourable mention.

By itself, this might not have inspired a small item on the blog. But there was more to it, in that Matt is The Alcúdia Barfly or, more accurately, the blogger that is to be found at, which is a pretty cool blog, albeit that time is short and the updating is, er, a bit sporadic.

Time though is also short for myself just at present, so this is a short entry today, but no less important for its brevity.

But while on bars ... When new bar staff arrive in Alcúdia, what finer an experience can there be than to enjoy a Mallorcan night, almost as nature intended? The chill of an April night, the buzz of a malevolent mosquito, the grating zip of a crap moto, the wail of a drunk, the throb of the power station. From one in the morning till eight in the morning - all of this, all of this in the raw. A Mallorcan night.

Charlie, the new chef at Foxes, and his girlfriend, Becky, enjoyed this Mallorcan night. Locked themselves out. Locked themselves out of their Siesta apartment. Locked themselves out and on to their Siesta apartment balcony. Could have been worse. Could have been a Mississippi apartment.

A character in the Jane Fonda film "Barbarella", and Joni Mitchell was the title. So, Jane Fonda's brother, Peter, was in "Easy Rider", and one of the tracks in that film was "Born To Be Wild" - by which group?


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Put Up A Parking Lot

Well, with slightly less than a fanfare and not even the hooting of a celebratory car horn or several, the new parking area in Puerto Pollensa yesterday became a tarmacadamed reality. No more of that wrecking the suspension on bits of old rock on what was there before (the suspension-wrecking can still be achieved in Puerto Pollensa thanks to the superbly dilapidated state of some of the roads). Now, 110 cars can enjoy the luxury of white-lined parking on the plot opposite the new school. Except there won't be 110 spaces once the art, or should that be science, of Mallorcan parking is on show. This follows a mathematical principle of why let one space do, when two will do just as well. The white lines are mere guidelines to the parking of vehicles, guidelines that steer the car to come to rest either side of the white line, thus occupying two spaces. Perhaps at driving school, they don't explain that you are meant to park inside those two parallel lines, not on top of one of them. Still, once you have tried and given up squeezing into what little space has been left, you will be able to admire the 48 trees that will be sprouting up, almost one tree for every two cars or, given the exactness of the local parking technique, more like one car per tree.

Nevertheless, this parking lot is welcome. Unlike Puerto Alcúdia (in the port that is) which has a fairly large parking area, Puerto Pollensa does not. I have largely given up driving around, hunting for a street parking space. It is altogether quicker to park a distance away and walk, that distance away meaning either on the side roads of the bypass to Formentor or by the Puerto Azul and Oro Playa hotels. One of the problems in Puerto Pollensa is that, since they started filling every available bit of land with buildings, the car population has grown accordingly, and there is nowhere to house it - as it were. 110 slots, fine, but still not nearly enough.

And while on Puerto Pollensa's parking, does anyone have the faintest idea what the deal is with the parking by the nautical club? Some while ago, they introduced this crazy system whereby the driver was meant to place a piece of paper in the windscreen on which he or she had written the time of arrival. This all required that a pen or pencil and piece of paper were immediately to hand, and also that the sign saying that the driver should do this had actually been observed, which it normally had not been. The fact is that there is still a sign there and that parking is meant to be limited to an hour and a half, but no one bothers. Or maybe they just gave up as it was a totally bonkers idea, and someone finally realised that it was bonkers. If they really want to limit parking time, why not install a ticket machine?

And ... Word is that Barrie, recently departed from The Smugglers, has now taken The Highlander. Don't know. Thought he was going back to England.

Kajagoogoo, and Kajagoogoo were produced by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. So where does the name Duran Duran come from? Oh, and for those still on title questions - who?


Friday, April 25, 2008

Eye, Eye

I'm not bothered by most things. Indeed, I am not bothered - personally - by what follows. There again, I am not a British-tourist family unit. I do, however, get bothered by what others might think, as in that British-tourist family unit.

Cultural differences. Cultural differences in respect of things that the Brits (and mainly the Brits) have a bit of a problem with and with which much of Europe doesn't. It came to mind in the tabacos, the tabacos that is the Grupo Boulevard's tabacos in their DIY centre in Playa de Muro.

I was not attracted, honest. It was the natural movement of the eye. There is, especially in publishing, an appreciation of the natural movement of the Western eye. It differs to, for instance, that in Arabic cultures. All to do with social conditioning, and reading most obviously. The Western eye tracks left to right. Normal. Maybe Boulevard know this, though if brain-eye theory and retail practice were really at the top of their list then you wouldn't have to turn away from the counter having already made the purchase. It would confront you as you enter the store. But the eye did move. And the display was only waist high. Not top shelf.

DVDs. DVDs of a certain type. On a display in the middle of a shop. Doesn't bother me. But it just might bother some. That British-tourist family unit. Your Brit doesn't like this sort of thing at the eye-line height of a young member of his family. In the middle of a shop.

And something of a change. The quiz idea was, whenever it started, meant to have aped the Radcliffe-Maconie "chain" idea, but somehow that got lost on the way. Anyway, I have decided to get back to that idea. Therefore, as from now, the title will not be the question. The question will be here. Yesterday was Limahl. And so the chain asks: what group was Limahl in?


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Never Ending Story

Well, after what seemed to be an almost never-ending saga, the end did finally come. But it was an end of sadness as well as pleasure.

Back in February (23 February: If I Could Only Find Words), I spoke about the opening of Cafeteria Mediterraneo in Puerto Alcúdia - it had been a serendipitous meeting with Sam and Alison, as Alison, it turned out , was a blog reader of some vintage, and so gave rise to the notion of the "blogotee". But then it started to go rather pear-shaped. Actually, the transformation to a pear had begun even before the opening. I won't go into it all. Suffice it to say that things did not work out, which is a great shame as they are really nice people.

But as one bar-restaurant door closes, so another opens (or rather the same one opens), and - again perhaps because of serendipity - along comes Gavin. There are many people here who know Gavin. He was the local rep for Europ Foods. And that was how Sam and Alison came to know him. And it was from this that will come, on 1 May, the new opening of Mediterraneo, not as Mediterraneo but as Gavin's At The Port. The saga was of the sort of will it happen, won't it happen variety, but it has now happened, and one can sense Gavin's excitement.

There is another part to all this. Gavin is the son of Alwyn. And some will now Al from The Foxes. It was he who suggested the National Tipping League last year, the one that the Welsh would always win. Others may well know Al from his time down south at Sospan Fach in Palmanova and Magaluf. So, the emergence of Gavin's At The Port is a kind of Sospan Fach, the New Generation, albeit that Al, having retired from the kitchen and having hung up his sospan, is being pressed back into service. Just the Welsh lilt and the explanation of his signature dish - garlic chicken - were sufficient to create a certain longing in the general area of the stomach.

And so the Welsh advance on Puerto Alcúdia and one particular area of the port, with the South Walians at Gavin's and the North Walians around the corner at Sandra's. And not a sheep in sight.

Gavin's At The Port, from 1 May, at C. Coral 11, opposite Mestizo.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Oklahoma. Today's title - film and who did the song?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

Twat bikes. Not one of my expressions. It comes from one bar, and I'm naming no names as there may well be customers pedalling about on twat bikes. What's a twat bike? A trike. That four-wheeled surrey with or without a fringe on top, with or without a horse's head at the front, with or without some holiday brains in control or more often out of control. That trike that is taken to the open carretera and wielded like a dodgem, while all the time the "driver" is seemingly blissfully unaware that there are some industrial twats behind the wheels of cars who could quite easily take him and his trike out.

You know, you don't want to spoil people's fun and it has to be understood that everyday life here co-exists with that of the holidaymaker, but there are some things that just make little sense. Like trikes. Like trikes on the main roads. Like trikes being driven down the centre of the main roads. Like trikes with small children hanging on to the horse's head as they are pedalled frantically down main roads. There is a dividing line between holiday brains and crass irresponsibility. My guess would be that in health and safety and child-protection-obsessed Britain, an infant atop a horse's head on a trike on an A road would have social services round in a flash. But it's ok here as it's holiday time. Of course it is.

Many a time I have written about the roads here and many a time more will I doubtless write again. There has been a further growth in no left turns from and into the carretera between Alcúdia and Can Picafort. You wouldn't know it. From one such now prohibited turn this morning emerged a tourist coach. Perhaps like cyclists, coach-drivers can do as they please. It seems like it at times. The other development, that of further speed restrictions, is destined to tax the patience of what is an intrinsically impatient beast - the local driver. I've started to take a certain perverse pleasure in sticking to the 50kph speed that is at it should be between the Magic and Pointed Thing Roundabouts and between the Eden Center roundabout in Playa de Muro right through Can Picafort. It is a perverse pleasure; to see in the mirror the mouthing and gesticulation of the driver behind. Stupid of me, but there you go. Of course, it is possible to overtake, and the roundabouts themselves are used for this purpose. You can more or less guess what will happen. The guy behind has been up your backside, the road goes to two lanes coming to the roundabout, he goes one lane, you go the other and he looks to hurtle past on the in or outside (because no one knows which lane to be in by the way). Way to go, and he does.

And the season starts to home into view and the weather will start to warm up, and the roads will fill with more trikes and more people sticking to the speeds and more impatience, and the annual nightmare will start all over again. The joy of motoring - Mallorca-style.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Queen. Today's title - where does this come from?


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Show Must Go On

Time was when a holiday, a package holiday, meant the mere basics - flight, transfer, room and optional meals and a dodgy rep. Not anymore it doesn't, and one of the developments has placed the onus firmly on the hotel. It is the hotel's entertainment. The hotel may not offer 24-hour party people, but it is coming damn close. Kids' clubs, fitness sessions, all manner of games during the day and then the climax - the evening show. And it is no exaggeration to talk in terms of a "show". For the hotel is no longer really able to get away with some rather amateurish and low-key, low-grade cabaret; the hotel has entered the world of real entertainment, of the professional, the rehearsed and the not necessarily cheap. In part, it is perhaps a response to the reputation of places such as Son Amar and Pirates; in the north, there is nothing to compare, and so the hotels are filling the void if not as spectacularly but then sufficiently to satisfy the ever-more discerning and demanding of punter - the tourist.

Cast your eye around the Internet, and it is full of questions about entertainment at this or that hotel, in this or that resort. The evening's ents have ceased to be a bonus, they are central to the holiday, as central as the room, the beach and the bar. The demand for not just entertainment, but good entertainment has forced the hotels to keep pace. In my youth, I can vaguely recall an evening's do at a hotel in Hastings, so forgettable I have forgotten it other than the fact that it took place; I can also recall an evening out at The Winter Gardens in Bournemouth and the bill featuring, among other treats, Mrs. Mills; I can also recall a few years later staying at a caravan site on the Gower coast and the site's club having a three-piece of drummer, organist and the drummer's 12-year-old son on trumpet. Naff couldn't even begin to describe any of these.

Mercifully, this has all changed. But it has come at a price. Quite how much I was unaware of until speaking with Jay who arranges entertainment in a number of hotels and is based at the Delfin Azul in Puerto Alcúdia. I won't reveal the figures, but take it from me, the new sound system at the Delfin has cost a pretty centimo, while the payments to performers on a typical two-week turnaround is also far from insignificant. It's the price the hotel pays for attracting and retaining customers, not only during their stay but in subsequent years. And there are people who come back precisely because of the shows.

The likes of the Delfin offer a variety of shows - rock, tribute and the rest. Sea Club is doing "Hairspray". These are just a couple of examples. Many hotels have gone down similar paths, but what is still lacking is the awareness that, in many cases, you don't have to be a guest to go in and enjoy the shows. The Delfin is promoting itself as having a "show bar". You can go in there for free, and pay only for drinks. Sea Club you can also go into. The Show Garden at Bellevue has long operated on this basis, but no one much away from Bellevue knows of its existence.

This is all-round family entertainment stuff. It's easy, perhaps, to be a bit cynical. The entertainment is all a bit West End without the west or the end; it's all a bit middle of the road. But so be it. It happens to be what a lot of folk want. That the likes of Shamrock (regularly) and Vamps and La Birreria (occasionally) serve up music more in the raw is all to their credit, and they fill a void, but for the average family tourist groups, the hotels are giving them ever-better and ever-more professional entertainment.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Millie (Small). Today's title - who? Easy. And then it would be - "we will, we will ..."


Monday, April 21, 2008

My Boy Lollipop

So where was I? Ah yes. Record shops. A subject that cropped up the other day. A surfeit there may be of fashion shops and shoe shops, but the record shop is pretty thin on the ground. Unless someone can tell me otherwise, I know of only one shop that sells records (or to be more accurate CDs and DVDs) in Alcúdia and Pollensa, and that is the German Müller store next to Alcúdia's Auditorium.

A few years back, there used to be at least one record shop in both Puerto Pollensa and Puerto Alcúdia. The former never seemed to be open and finally gave up the ghost, the latter struggled on until maybe five years ago. This was called Lollipop, and it was in the same street as The Highlander Bar; it is now, I think, a locutorio. Lollipop was run by a German woman. I used to give her challenging assignments as to CDs I wanted to buy (this was before downloading came into real vogue). One of them was by Catherine Denby, an artist no one else in the world seems to have heard of other than myself and a presenter on the national radio station, RNE3. The CD in question never did turn up, and when I went one day to enquire I found that it was unlikely to ever turn up as the shop had gone.

Since then, with the exception of Müller (and stalls at markets), the area has been devoid of record stores. Whatever one thinks of downloading, there is little to compare with the satisfaction of thumbing through racks of CDs, though even this is nought as compared with the ancient ritual of the record shop (when vinyl was all there was and there were listening boothes). That there are no record shops is no real surprise. Lollipop struggled for several reasons - the emergence of downloading (even if it was in relative infancy), lack of stock (itself a factor of lack of business success), physical theft of CDs, and pirated copies. At the time, this latter factor was probably the most significant, and it is of course still a factor.

The guys who sell the pirated goods around the bars and on the streets (so-called "lucky-lucky" or "looky-looky" men) have a limited range of products - sunglasses, watches, jewellery and CDs and DVDs. It should appal, but somehow it doesn't as the whole "business" of pirated goods is so widespread.

I was once in Singapore, and a taxi-driver asked if I wanted some good products at good prices. He took me to a shop that had its windows taped over. Inside were Gucci this, Lacoste that. The Singaporean authorities took a dim view, especially as theirs was a country aspiring to total legitimacy in the global economy. The next day, I picked up the local English paper. It was called "The Straits Times" I think. On the front cover was a story about a raid against a shop selling pirated goods. It was the one I had been taken to only a few hours before.

I say all this because, although the Spanish police do have periodic actions against pirated goods, the selling of them goes on unabated. Spain and Mallorca are not the only places in Europe where this happens, but unlike Singapore which made a concerted effort to stop the practice, here it just carries on.

The sale of pirated CDs is one of the main reasons for there being an almost total absence of record stores. The added ease of the Internet has been the real killer though for such stores. While they have ceased to be, there are still plenty of places where you can buy sunglasses, watches and jewellery, despite the fakes that are available.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Dionne Warwick, penned by Bacharach and David. Today's title - who sang this?


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Walk On By

I do, at times, wonder if we don't rather over-play some of the attributes of the local landscape. Myself, I find myself caught between wearing the blog hat of telling it pretty how much how it is as opposed to how it might like to be and the other hat of the websites and guides of portraying the area in as good or as reasonable a light as possible. But what I can't do, or try and avoid at any rate, is to bow to "brochure talk". I think the punter is too canny for this in any event. All those superlatives, all that hyperbole, all that gloss and puffery. Beauty should largely be in the eye of the beholder, not necessarily impressed upon him or her by a writer, marketer or proselytizer with a list of intensifiers to tick off. We need a thesaurus of objectivity, not of the mindless copywriter expressing him or herself in no more than casual "beautifuls" or "lovelys".

Take Puerto Pollensa's pinewalk. It is attractive, and it can attract some seriously unattractive (to the renter) rental prices, though some may find them suitably attractive in order to have THAT view and some branches of pine trees dangling in front of the balcony. In part it is what was also in that conversation I referred to the other day; that view in terms of opinion from someone of many years more Puerto Pollensa experience than myself. To sum up; is it (the pinewalk) really that deserving of the glowing prose with which it is usually defined? Maybe it's familiarity breeding contempt, or familiarity breeding, well, familiarity, but I thought perhaps no it isn't. How many photos have I got of the pinewalk? How many photos have others got of the pinewalk? Those familiar shots of the curve of the bay and a pine tree hanging artistically in the forward focus. For all this, though, that shot is iconic, and despite the apparent decline of Puerto Pollensa (as some see it), it retains the power to mesmerise, even if, in truth, in terms of physical splendours on the island, the pinewalk is more C-list than the A-list of, for example, Sa Calobra or Formentor. But that is to declare an unfairness of scale and context, as the pinewalk is symbolic of an in-resort agreeableness as opposed to a monolithic land- or seascape; an agreeableness that is, arguably, unrivalled by its resort competitors. To say it how it is, does also imply a degree of subjectivity, and one is wary of being perversely or deliberately iconoclastic, simply for the sake of it.

This all said, the pinewalk does lend itself to being an A-list location for a restaurant. The relative lack of bustle, the proximity of the sea and THAT view combine to imbue the restaurants there with an advantage that compensates for their comparative smallness. Little Italy is one, Los Pescadores another. The former, the partnership between the ebullient flair of Caryl and his floor slides, the more serious Michele and the suggested Florentine artiness of Rafa, is a place of fine and inexpensive pizzas (and other Italian cooking). I like it very much. The food is always good and the non-fake italiano ambience is rarely less than entertaining. Just a bit along is Los Pescadores, somewhere that needed a makeover and by God it's had one. If the pinewalk can, in brochure terms, be described as charming, here is somewhere that charms the pants off me, well Angie and her sister do (and no, not literally, behave yourselves). One for the list I feel, and I hope I'm not over-playing it.

Little Italy is at Paseo Voramar 57; Los Pescadores at number 45. Los Pescadores specialises in fish and seafood, tapas, lamb and paella, and there is also a lunch snack menu. Both are open every day in the season.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Terry Hall. Today's title - by whom, both singer and writers?


Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Colourfield

Now you know those things you find on the beach, the things that are like a kiwi-fruit that has mated with a coconut. No one thing has inspired so much speculation, wrong speculation, as to what it is or where it comes from. Bamboo, pine needles, algae - all have been proffered and all have been wrong. It was, therefore, with some considerable delight, not to say relief, that Gordon mailed me with a link that solved the issue once and for all. Those balls are in fact the waste-product of the Posidonia Oceanica, a sea grass as opposed to an alga. The good news is that this grass only grows in clean, unpolluted water and is therefore indicative of a healthy sea. The bad news is that it is a threatened species.

How do I know this? Because of that link, which took me to the really rather wonderful Mallorca Photo Blog. This is a real labour of love, with loads of photos, as the name suggests, and a host of informative bits and pieces on all sorts of subjects; plant life being one of them. Anyway, I mailed a comment to the blog, which, unlike the comments thing here, is not anonymous and consequently got a reply, a reply from Klaus who seems to be the one who is labouring over his love.

After all this time and all this debate as to the origin of the balls, I have to offer a hearty thanks to Klaus, and let me commend to you the blog, which is now linked but is at If you go to this blog and look up plants and scroll through, you'll find the entry for Posidonia Oceanica, and see a photo which shows that this grass is a multi-coloured thing that exists in what are effectively fields. Extraordinary stuff.

And ... I can hardly let it pass. In today's "The Bulletin" in the Lash column is a photo. The caption mentions a German Island dentist (itself a rather strange usage) by the name of Dr. Peter Dentacare. Now, I don't know, is this a joke, is it some post-modernist irony, is it actually his name, has he changed it by deed poll? Maybe he has - great move. I suspect it's none of these things.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Steve Wright. There was a character called, I think, Cap'n Fishy who had the line about the great smell of fish which was something of an innuendo. But please don't expect me to tell you what for. Today's title - the best known of this group was?


Friday, April 18, 2008

The Great Smell Of Fish

Jesus, where did this wind come from? And what is it with the wind that it can blow in different directions at once, or seem to. This morning, going along the road into Puerto Alcudia, there was what looked like mist ahead. In fact it was a sort of mini sand-storm. In the afternoon, the wind turned round and started blowing a gale from the south. April is probably the most damn contrary and obstreperous month of all. The weather can never seem to let it lie. Always up to some trick or other. There's me wanting to take some lovely photos across the pinewalk, and the wind blows the equivalent of the Sahara straight at me. Actually, I made that up. I postponed the appointment because of the Sahara, though it wouldn't have been the Sahara as that's in the other direction, but you know what I mean, or maybe you don't.

But to matters of greater weight. The season is not even started and there is more fretting about jellyfish. Some eminent Spanish scientist is arguing that the Med is going to become like "jellyfish soup" (whatever that's like) because of over-fishing and the consequent abundance of the tentacled monsters. In fact, we may get a chance to find out what jellyfish soup is like as there won't be any other fish left apart from jellyfish. That's if Spain carries on its fishing policies, and the Government keeps handing over subsidised folding notes to the fishermen to go out and decimate the stocks of tuna etc. Haven't we been here before with the Spanish and fishing? Didn't the British have a run in over quotas and all that malarkey? There does seem a bit of imbalance in some European governments' approaches. Like the French and the farmers, ditto the Spanish and the fishermen. Anyway, this eminent scientist is calling for a 50% reduction in catches. Fat chance. They'll merrily go on fishing until the last sardine's been barbecued and then the fishermen will ask for some further hefty subsidy so that they can go and do something else, like building golf courses no one wants.

It is part of the local culture that regulations are there to be ignored, and fishing is a good example. Now, the tourist coming along with his rod is hardly deep-sea fishing and a great threat to the tuna stocks, but there is many a tourist who comes here to enjoy some angling past-time. And plenty of tourists ask about fishing on the Internet. "Where's best to go?" etc etc. I've given up letting people know that, officially, you are meant to have a licence, because all you get back is some reply that goes along the lines of "I've been fishing in Mallorca since Nelson was a lad, and never etc, etc ..." And of course that's the case. The plod don't bother, or seemingly they don't bother to check up on licences. The fact is that it is actually very cheap to get a licence - around 11 or 12 euros for a year if memory serves. But the problem is getting a licence. The nearest office is in Sa Pobla, and the form requires typical all manner of local bureaucratic nonsense. As a consequence, no one bothers. Yet if, say, there were to be fishing stamps that could be bought at the tabacs and other places, might this not bring in a bit of income? A euro for a fortnight's permission. That wouldn't be too bad. The trouble is though no one would buy them unless there were dirty great notices up saying that anyone found without a licence will be fed to the fishes. Even then, the police still wouldn't bother.

I suppose if the national government is quite happy to let fishermen trouser taxpayers' money to go and empty the sea of its fish life, then that's a good enough lead to say that actually we don't really care if you do go fishing, with a licence or not; regulation or no regulation. And finally ... I really hope we don't end up having to eat jellyfish. Doubtless there are Chinese and Pacific Islanders who swear by them, but if you've ever seen a purple stinger beached and pulsing its final moments, it's the last thing you'd want to take down your neck.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Big Country, and I can report that Geoff mailed to say he once bought a Big Country record in Cala Millor, which in itself should inspire me to a piece about record shops or the lack thereof. Watch this space. Today's title? And like the weather, I'm feeling a tad contrary myself. So, where the hell does this come from? Not a song. Radio. Think a DJ and posse.


Thursday, April 17, 2008


"So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality."
Lewis Carroll, "Alice In Wonderland".

There are many Alices. They come to Wonderland but find it to be not quite the reality. There was a conversation today that was one of the most insightful I have had since being here. She - British - has lived here (Puerto Pollensa) for many years, is married to a Mallorcan, has a son at school, and knows the school system well. Hers is one opinion, one perspective. It is worth relating though, in a way, I am almost reluctant to do so.

Puerto Pollensa is not as it was. Puerto Alcúdia has usurped it. Even the old town of Alcúdia has upstaged the old town of Pollensa. The town (Puerto Pollensa) is riven by cliquishness. Were it not for the son, she would go somewhere else. But even the son is a problem, a problem in terms of his future. He goes to the Institute next year (the secondary school), the one where 90% of the first year had to repeat. And so many have to repeat, not because the school is necessarily poor, but because many are unmotivated (children of those with finca after finca who indulge their offspring who can expect the booty without school effort); but because the discipline is lousy; but because the children of incomers (foreigners, like those of the British) often need to repeat as their language is not up to it and they, the children, suffer an inferiority complex as a consequence of the language issue. But moreover, there is the wonderland life that is to blame. The children see the sea, the fun, the laidback style of life and they see that as the future with no real effort needed.

She. She would prefer to be in Palma to bring up a child, as far as education is concerned in any event. That is because Palma is "serious", a place of commerce and work rather than play and indulgence.

This conversation was loaded. Disillusionment. I make no comment on the Puerto Pollensa versus Puerto Alcúdia divide, but it's not the first time I've heard this. This was not what really intrigued me. What did was the way in which she dismantled the dream, the wonderland of what is meant to be one of the island's finest places; dismantled it in terms of how that very wonderland hides the reality of life for children, the reality of what may face others who come not only to Puerto Pollensa but to other places on the island (including Puerto Alcúdia). The wonderland is meant to be a place to raise children, a place for their futures, but what is that future? Is it a "dull reality" of low-paid work that the present has failed to address? It was an extraordinary observation; extraordinary in that it was new to me.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Steve Strange (but could also have been Rusty Egan). Today's title? There are possibly others, but I'm going for one by a Scottish group who have been here before.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Romantics

That wonderful old curmudgeon, Michael Winner, did at least raise the profile of the Mallorcan restaurant during his attendance at the Lloyd-Webber shindig a couple of weeks or so back and then in his superbly acerbic "Winner's Dinners" column. He did also mention La Residencia in Deia, formerly Richard Branson's humble inn for the filthy rich. And La Residencia is the connection today, as are restaurants. Not those of the west coast but those of the northern bit around Alcúdia and Pollensa. Or to be more accurate, one restaurant.

It would be unfair to say that the resorts themselves do not have some top restaurants, as they do exist, but it is probably also fair to say that there is perhaps more atmosphere, or atmosphere of a different sort at any rate, away from the resorts and into the towns or in the country; restaurants where the atmosphere can truly be described as "romantic", rather than this tag being applied too willy-nilly to any eating-house that just happens to be within a partial view of the sea. To take just three examples: La Terraza at Alcanada which sits right on top of the sea in this quiet mini-resortette appended to one end of Puerto Alcúdia; Es Turó, just before Santa Margalida, with its robust and highly impressive antiquity; and L'Aup, which exists in a sort of Pollensa triangle, not anywhere in particular on the turning to Cala San Vicente but which boasts what can, with total justification, be advertised as a "romantic" terrace.

And it is L'Aup that is the focus as it so happens I was there yesterday to take photos of the place. There are worse things in life than to be granted the opportunity to photograph a restaurant with so many photogenic features, and one of the results is above.

L'Aup is a place that has long enjoyed a healthy reputation, not only for its attractiveness but also its cuisine. The previous owner-chef, José, took great pride in his scrapbook with pieces from gastronomy guides recommending the restaurant. That he has moved on is to in no way diminish the reputation. And here I come to that connection. By contrast to José who seemed in a permanent state of stress, the new owner-chef Damian seems decidedly laid-back, but you don't get his sort of CV by not putting in the hard yards (assuming one can perform hard yards in a kitchen, which you probably can't). Not only was he at La Residencia, he was also at London's Dorchester, and so now L'Aup is under his command and continuing the tradition of the restaurant's famed grill and wood oven while offering also a market cuisine with a Mediterranean flair.

Perhaps one of these days, Michael Winner might deign to visit the north of Mallorca. But if not, I am quite prepared, for a vast fee, to do his reviews for him. Problem is I'm not a curmudgeon. Yet.

L'Aup is on the turning to Cala San Vicente on the Carretera Pollensa-Puerto Pollensa. Closed Mondays. Tel: 971 532 606.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Dennis Potter. Today's title - who is widely credited as having been a founder of the "new romantic" movement and had his own hits, e.g. "Fade To Grey"?


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Let me entertain you. Let me sing and dance. Let me crank up the karaoke. Let me give you quizzes and games. Let me amuse the children while the parents relax.

The summer entertainment business. Here are West End shows transported south to the sun. Here are the all-rounders with their variety of pranks and acts. Here are the crooners, the comics and the cheerleaders. Here is good and not very good, professional and amateur, the competent and the less so. The summer entertainment business. It requires living within a mass-tourist environment to understand both the scale and pervasiveness of the entertainment and also the demand of the tourist to be entertained. It is no longer a possible add-on, the entertainment is a central part of the tourist package. "What's the entertainment like at ...?" "Are the same entertainers there as last year"? "What entertainment is there?" The tourist wants, no, needs to be entertained. During the day, during the night, the thirst and hunger for entertainment requires a daily diet of jokes, activity, bopping, wailing. I should run a contest to name the best entertainer or entertainers, though some are already nominated on the Internet. Go to hotel reviews in particular, and you'll find these nominations, either the Oscars or the Rotten Tomatoes.

Meanwhile, I have been contacted by an entertainer, one who sounds good. If anyone is in need, that is the purpose of the thing above. It comes from Paul Edwards. His details are all in the neatly designed publicity sheet he has sent me. His email:

To another matter. The sea again. I drove down a road to the beach in Playa de Muro earlier today. The intention had been to check out what was happening with a particular restaurant. I didn't get around to it. There was the red and yellow. The red and yellow of the local police, and the local police motorbike. Then there was the ambulance that had driven onto the sand behind a dune. Then there were the green uniforms of the Guardia. Then there was the stretcher. The person was wearing a wet-suit. Don't know what state he was in. I drove away.

The sea comforts and supports us. But it is the force of nature to which can be applied the maxim: "I made thee and I can break thee." Always the sea.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Van McCoy. Today's title - this was a play, who wrote it?


Monday, April 14, 2008

Do The Hustle

Those of you who have been avid readers of this blog over the past two and a half years might well recall that I have been less than complimentary about bars (and indeed restaurants) that style themselves a particular way with nary a jot of authenticity or with a smattering thereof. This reproach has been reserved no more than for so-called British or Irish bars, wherein the absence of anyone vaguely British or Irish has led me to question the claim of Britishness or Irishness. I am still inclined to a view that, as with food or drink that apes something of a distinct origin, there should be a -style suffix attached. So, for instance, champagne becomes champagne-style or Melton Mowbray pies become Melton Mowbray-style pies. Similarly, a British bar without any Brits would be a British-style bar.

Well, I have some cause to rethink this, and the impetus for this is Shamrock in Puerto Alcúdia. Now there are no Irish knocking around in the ownership, Fernando is most definitely not Irish. Any Irish behind the bar? Don't think so. But Irish Bar it is. What I have rethought is that the owning nationality doesn't matter if the whole package is right. And by the whole package I most definitely do not mean an Irish bar replete, as Ardal O'Hanlon put it so well, with bits of old tin and bikes hanging from the walls, making the place "look like a f*****' skip". There is one like that in these parts, but not Shamrock. No, what matters is that the people running the place have a clear idea of what plays well with the punter and deliver, and Shamrock is going a long way to doing just this. The nightly live music, in itself not necessarily Irish, is a promise that is being fulfilled, and there should be cheers all round for a live-music venue. The place does also have a good atmosphere, and it's kind of reassuring to even find some oldish local folk (Spanish) coming in for the music.

Beyond the Guinness and the Murphys, it could be any bar, let's be brutally honest. The Irish line is marketing, let's also be honest. But it doesn't matter, and besides it isn't just any bar because it has tapped into a real need, that of regular live music, and is forging a very good reputation on the back of both that and the overall ambience of the place. An early contender for bar of the year, methinks.

Shamrock is on C/. Torreta next to the Piscis Hotel and the main parking in the port of Alcudia. Open every evening from 19:00 at the moment and from 13:00 in the season. No food, just drinks and music, and there will be quizzes and bingo coming along. The photo, as you can see, is of the local band, The Hustlers, a rock and blues act.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Paul Anka. Today's title - who?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Did It Seg Way

Oh no, no, no. Not something more to avoid and to cause accidents. Who has come up with this bright idea? More than one person, that I do know. As if the cyclists, the trikes, the roller-blading mothers with baby buggies, the jaywalkers and, oh yes, the cars weren't all enough, now the likelihood is that the eye will have to look out for ... the Segway. Yep, the Segway. A not useless piece of mobility I will accept, but as a toy for the holidaymaker, the mind boggles. Let some tanked-up Brit 16 year-old loose with one of those things, careering along The Mile or, worse still, along the carretera, and it's not going to be pretty. Well potentially it´s not. The remarkable thing is that the combination of lunatic drivers and lunatic tourists does not result in the hospitals of Mallorca being packed to the gunwales with tourists who have come off worse in a straight fight between a trike and a fast-moving Juan the lad in full chico-racing mode. But these Segways, they could be the stuff of casualty wards, I'll be bound. That said, maybe they won't be allowed on the open road, though this I somewhat doubt, but were they not then you might well ask what's the point of them. Use them only on pavements? That would be a hoot. The same brain-dead Brit youth, Segwayed-up and hammering along the sidewalks of Pedro Mas y Reus, scattering all the Kylies with their HGVs of baby-buggies. Actually you know, that sounds like quite good sport. Bring on the Segways, but don't fall off, like George Bush. Now I think of it, and warming to a theme and rich vein of disaster, why not have Segway bar crawls? All the lads and ladettes, on the Segways, into the bars, serious bingeing and then off again. Can you be charged with being drunk in charge of a Segway? I suspect that we will find out.

And yet more on the daft things that tourists ask. My thanks to Charlie for this little gem: ' "One day I was parking my car when an English couple knocked on the window and asked having looked at the British registration, how on earth did I get here? I replied that I drove through France, skirted around the bottom bit and caught the ferry. "Which ferry did you take, the one from Portsmouth or Dover?" '

Yes of course, the well-known Dover to Palma run.

And broadening the theme somewhat to embrace the treatment of tourists, this also comes from Charlie. 'I was having a tapa (well burger & chips) at the bar of my immediate watering hole, Bar Bonança just behind the Illa d'Or Hotel. Two English chaps came in dressed head to tail in their Boden best replete with brand new Panamas and said in unison "DO YOU SPEAK etc etc", and were stunned when Fran and Miguel retorted "DO YOU SPEAK SPANISH"! Miguel was requested by one of the Toffs to "rustle up" some chips for their unruly brats. He simply said, "sorry no food today"! Toff number one, having given me a stony stare, said "he's eating", and Miguel (I was wetting myself by this time) simply replied, "he's a local!" '

Now what I like most about this is the "rustle up". Priceless.

QUIZ: Yesterday - The Faces. Today's title - well the adaptation should be obvious, but who actually wrote "My Way"?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stay With Me

It has to do with the time of the year. The season has not started as such, Easter has come and gone and there is a hiatus until the 1 May launch of the season proper. And so it has to do with the time of the year, especially this year because of that post-Easter gap. Nerves. You can sense them. Nerves and wariness. Because I operate all over the place, I get asked in Puerto Alcúdia what's it like in Puerto Pollensa, and vice versa; what's it like in the port by those in the old town of Alcúdia; what's it like along The Mile by those in the port? Even during one evening, you can get asked. Are there many a round? Go into a bar, a bit quiet, and they want to know if there are some throngs somewhere nearby that they are missing out on, and the answer is that there are not. No one really believes the fact that hotel occupancies are good, even when I say that I have the news from the horse's mouths - as it, or they, were. But not at the moment is the reply. Whenever are they good at this time of the year is the obvious retort.

This is the phoney season, before it all kicks off. The weather is all over the place, which does not help the anxious mood. Nowhere is governed by the weather more than Mallorca. This may be a stereotypical British topic of conversation, but it is a very real topic here. Especially at this time of the year.

But in a few weeks time, it will be close to bedlam, at least traders would hope so, and the nerves and worries will be replaced by tiredness and short temper. And the weather will get hot, and so that tiredness and temper become more acute. Again the weather. If it is not close to bedlam ...

And on a totally different matter. Another oddity from "The Bulletin", this time in the Riki Lash thing. It may well have been the lady herself who used the word, but even so. This particular lady runs a restaurant and she wishes to thank both "new and staid customers". Staid? What exactly is a staid customer? "A quiet and steady character" to quote the Oxford. Staid is an archaic past tense form of the verb to stay, but would never have been applied as an adjective. So what can a staid customer be? Someone must know.

QUIZ: Yesterday - The Corrs. Today's title - which band did this?


Friday, April 11, 2008

Talk On Corners

Can we go back to that old chestnut, driving? Driving in Mallorca. I wonder quite what happens at the driving schools - las autoescuelas - in these parts. Let's take the art of taking a corner, as in one is driving towards a T-junction, and as one gets to the junction, one has to slam on the brakes as the other driver has turned left cutting straight across in front. Is it that the driving-school instructor teaches drivers to literally cut corners? Is there some sort of altruism being displayed by the instructor? Cut the corner and it will save a cent on petrol?

I was going along the Bot road by the Pollensa Park hotel, making for the coast road. Come to the junction, lady in a VW - right across me. And what really pisses me off is that when I give a look, the look back suggests it is all my fault - never their fault. Bear this in mind, and beware those of you who would risk the Mallorcan highways, it is always your fault. Maybe that's the most important thing taught at local driving schools - make the other driver feel as though he (or she) has made the mistake.

Urban myth time maybe. No sooner had I posted yesterday's piece about the bus to Barcelona, than John (ex-Highlander) mails me to say that this was asked of him. The certainty of the tale that Jack related me concerning the Smugglers makes me wonder - did this couple go into more than one bar and ask the same question? It could be. But on a grander scale, there do seem to be rich pickings here for some form of great work concerning the daft things that tourists ask. Jamie at Foxes gave me one more today. Couple, not the same one presumably, come in, get talking, say "we're in Mallorca" (pronounced correctly as in Ma-yorca), but where is Majorca (pronounced as in Madge-orca))" Of course, two totally different places. That's it, all this worrying about how to spell the name of the island and to pronounce it, the answer is simple. They are two places. Now why didn't I think of that?

And finally. I wouldn't normally, but ... That story about the supermarket with prices in pounds. When was it? Last year. July I think. "Selling Mallorca By The Pound" was the title. Talk on corners.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Montserrat Caballé. Today's title - album by?


Thursday, April 10, 2008


All human life, and some which is only just. To define the tourist market as one homogeneous mass would be quite wrong. Of course it's wrong. The market is as broad and diverse as society in general. There is no one tourist market. Within this variety of sub-markets, there are those towards the top of the food chain, and those towards the lower end. This sounds awful, but it is not untrue. And Mallorca gets all of these sub-markets, not least that hovering in the relegation zone. I heard a cracking story yesterday. Jack at the Smugglers, who is not actually Philip after all, well he is, but he's known as Jack, related what had been told to him by Barrie, his predecessor at the pub. It concerned a British couple who came into the bar. Having gone through the "DO-YOU-SPEAK-ENGLISH?" slow and precise questioning as though the people running the bar would not be English, there was the follow-up question. Now, just bear in mind, we are talking about Alcúdia and Mallorca, the latter being, and having long been, an island, with lots of water around it, having long not been a part of the mainland of Spain. I will willingly concede that not everyone possesses an encyclopaedic geographical knowledge, but there are certain things you might expect folk to know. Not necessarily. The question was: "Can you tell us where we get the bus to Barcelona?"

Funny though this is, it is also rather sad. At least the replies the couple got did not include an "oh, go up to the main road and just ask the bus driver", which would have been especially cruel. Hard though it may be to believe, I rather suspect that this couple are not alone in not knowing that they are holidaying on an island, in not realising that they have booked to go on a plane to an island, and in not appreciating that Mallorca is one of those bits of land stuck in the Mediterranean.

And still down at the Smugglers, another tale that Jack had concerned the largely all-inclusive Piscis hotel that is next to it. Apparently, it is not unknown for people from the hotel to sit on the Smugglers' terrace and to be passed free drinks through the railings. Some people have got real class.

QUIZ: Yesterday - The Turtles. Today's title - everyone surely knows this is Freddie Mercury, but who did he duet with?


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So Happy Together

Ninja turtles. Remember them? Here one minute, gone the next, and the drains of the UK and elsewhere were awash with unwanted terrapins when the passing fascination had gone and they had been flushed down the loo. At least they were relatively benign if they managed to come back up the waste-pipe and catch you unawares. Not so, it would seem, a particular turtle that has been found around the Albufera nature park. Apparently, it is a rather aggressive turtle. Personally, I had never thought of turtles as being aggressive. Big tortoises really, like water, swim around and that's it. Some animal life tends not to register on the more violent scale. Years ago at university, a group of us were looking to buy a pet for one of our number as a birthday present. The bloke in the pet shop said he had a "vicious gerbil". It was very unusual and very tempting, but we settled for a rabbit that wasn't vicious. But even the more placid of wildlife can have its moments, as is the case with the Albufera turtle, which was a threat to the more meek fauna hanging about in the park. The question is though, how the hell did it get there?

As a nearby resident of Albufera, it has crossed my mind that a certain degree of malice could be visited on the nature park if someone were suitably perverse. Let go a whole load of baby crocs, and see where that gets you. On second thoughts, don't, as they have a tendency to be aggressive towards humans as well. I don't know if the turtle is the work of some miscreant or if it somehow managed to just pitch up. Either way, the good guardians of Albufera have got it well banged to rights.

To different animals, or one in particular. There are some restaurants around these parts which, for all that they are well-known, have been a total mystery to me. For some reason, I had never ever set foot into Las Delicias until the other day. Yet it is a place that carries a fair reputation, if only for the facts that you see the Las Delic van around and that the restaurant carries a sort of logo in the form of the Pink Panther (the cartoon variety and not a Peter Sellers-ish human version). Which does of course raise the question - why? Why the pink panther? The question is good enough to merit a return in order to find out the answer. Certain cartoon characters have more direct association with eating or drinking establishments. There is the Bugs Bunny whatever it is place down by Linekers and The Canny Lad, and then there is, are or maybe were Woody Woodpeckers and Billy Bunters. As such, the whole place hangs, therefore, on the name of the character, but in the case of Las Delicias ... Don't know.

And just on places around The Mile (as in Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpeckers), word is that Carol is no longer at Cheers. No longer at Cheers!? Now that is an end of an era.

But coming back to Las Delicias, if you don't know, it is to be found next to the Pointed Thing Roundabout, just over the border into Playa de Muro. And what do you know? It is a specialist in meat. Yep. For nigh on 40 years, too. Not the same meat though. Indeed, one thing you notice about Las Delicias is that you can see into the kitchen. Spotless. And the meat the chef was carving ... perfect. Not panther I trust, or turtle.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Oxo advert. Today's title - why this, what's it got to do with today's piece?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gives A Meal Man Appeal

Well, I forgot to mention on Sunday that Winner's Dinners made a meal of Mallorcan cuisine - actually, a very good meal, the master of the sarcastic scraping into the waste-bin of restaurants announcing that "foodie heaven" is to be found in Mallorca. Yes, Michael did duly pen a piece following his celeb thrash-visit for Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 60th. Ah, how the other half live. Well, not the other half, the other very small minority, but be that as it may. I prefer it when Michael's being scathing; that's when he's at his best, his most obnoxious and his funniest. But Mallorcan cuisine, or more specifically, cuisine in restaurants in Deia, for which most might require a mortgage, came out smelling of roses, if food can be described in such a way, which - generally - it can't, so forget that.

But will the Winner seal of approval mean anything? Does anyone actually take any notice of him? Even if they do, his positive remarks are hardly general to the whole of the island. That there may be some cracking restaurants does not - of itself - mean that hordes of well-heeled foodies or even slack-heeled foodies will be hot-footing it to Mallorca for some expensive or more economical nosebag. It may be reassuring to know that one critic thinks a few restaurants in Deia and one in Puerto Portals can serve up some good scoff, but it doesn't mean anything for the rest of the island. Here we are again, in delusion land, picking over the exquisite bones of a minority tourism market, aimed at the few, and, in the case of both Deia and Portals, we are talking a minted few. Michael Winner says yes to Deia and its food. So what? In fact, what he also said was - "keep away". Doesn't want any old riff-raff turning up. Quite right, too.

That there are some excellent restaurants in Mallorca is not the stuff of significant tourism per se, and I wish there would be some reality here. It's the same with golf. "The Bulletin" runs an interesting piece today, in which it states that the island would be at a sort of golf-saturation point if seven planned courses were built. These would make the island the most densely golfed-out part of Spain. Yet, and this is a very interesting point, the number of registered players in Mallorca is, by some way, lower than in the likes of Alicante. Does Mallorca need more golf courses? No, it does not. There is not the demand on the island, and I seriously doubt that there is sufficient demand from overseas, given the competition from other golfing destinations. The environmental argument against more golf courses is not one that persuades me to question the building of more courses, but I am with the likes of the spokesperson for the Albufera nature park when he says - in the context of the argument over the controversial plan for the course on the Son Bosc finca - that there are already enough courses close by. And he's right. Once more, there is the delusion at play, delusion and a strategy (if you can call it such) of providing something (in this case, more golf courses) and expecting that a host of tourists will turn up on the first tee. They won't. Food, golf, not insignificant maybe, but neither is the generator of significant numbers of tourists as part of a drive for greater diversity in the island's most important economic sector.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Pet Shop Boys. Today's title - well, here's one for Michael Winner; where does this come from (it wasn't a song)?


Monday, April 07, 2008

We're Shopping

Shop till we drop. No. Shop if the prices drop. Or shop when consumer confidence doesn't drop - or something like that. Bad times on the Mallorcan high streets, or calles mayores if you prefer. "The Bulletin" reports on significantly reduced retail activity in March, compared with last year. It is not difficult to work out the reasons. The credit crunch is one issue, but add on inflation and a general lack of confidence, and it is easy to understand why there is less spend on those high streets.

While Palma is the centre for much shopping, the small towns all of course have their shops. In addition to the supermarket chains - Eroski, Caprabo and Mercadona being the largest - there are other chain stores, such as the Milar electrical goods outlet, and then there are any number of franchise operations, especially in the clothing sector, Gas for example. And the small towns are littered with all manner of other shops, not just those catering almost exclusively for the tourist market. Take the clothing sector. Again, continuing in a sense the recent theme on this blog, if you wander around there are seemingly innumerable clothes and fashion shops. And you wonder quite why there are so many, given that the real populations of the towns are relatively small and also given that a trip to Palma takes only 30 odd minutes from the likes of Alcúdia.

It's when you get to know some of these shops that the reason starts to emerge. Many are run by the daughter of so-and-so, or the wife of so-and-so. These so-and-so's are often quite successful businesspeople in other sectors, e.g. restaurant owners. Something is needed for the daughter, so up pops another little fashion shop. Which is not to say for one moment that they shouldn't start a shop, but it is to say - is it really needed? Once more, you come back to the whole notion of supply and demand, and quite frankly I don't get it.

The supply of shops (and of bars etc.) has been increased by the way in which apartment blocks are created. Invariably there are a number of "locals" on the ground floor of these blocks, and equally invariably there is at least one clothes shop. Why? And then, having set the place up, stocked it, spent an arm and a leg on the design, there is a discovery that there are "muchos gastos" (many costs) attached to the running of a shop. You think, do they ever do something as basic as a cash-flow analysis before getting the interior designers around to give them a huge quote? Even if they do, what do they base it on? Nothing would be my guess.

I know what, can't think of anything better, let's open a shop, there's a unit going under the new flats. And then reality kicks in, and the current reality is none too rosy. Shop till we drop. Nope, shop and the shop will drop.

And just a small "Bulletin" moment for all fans of its editorial rigidity. In the context of the contribution of immigrant workers, it says that there has been an increase of "85 percent (not per cent, but the Americanised "percent") in GDP in the islands during the period 2000 and 2006. 85 per cent!? Given that average annual GDP increases have been in the 3% region, I think not.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Said I wouldn't again, but - Peter Gabriel. Today's title - another this time duo who are sort of regulars here. Which?


Sunday, April 06, 2008


You get days like today and think, it really isn't too bad is it? So ok, the weather's rocking, but there's more to it. Like in Pollensa in the morning. You walk through the back streets in that town, and the times you stop and listen. Piano being played. Sometimes it's a violin. You look up, and the shutters are open to a small terrace with terracotta pots on a tiny balcony fronted by wrought-iron warped to a wave, and the piano plays. And you mill with the market-goers and stop and talk, and then find a cafe and stop and talk with someone you just bump into, this time with Toni Torrens who's gone in with Nacho Rios in a new property business. And you take a small coffee and speak of the football - Mallorca drew with Madrid - and how "todo" is "bien", and whatever, but nothing much more; and so it is.

Later the transformation is total. You leave behind the pianist and the enchantment of the quiet back streets of Pollensa, and the port of Alcúdia is alive. The whole island has descended on the place. Not a parking place to be had. It's a chaos of cars, people, shouting, talking, laughter, boats, mime, balloons, kids, families, cuttlefish, bursting terraces, and more boats. The nautical and sepia fair weekend, blessed - as it was in its inaugural year - by perfect blue skies. And you take a tapita of sepia, and bump into someone else. All the journalists and photographers you know are wandering about, and you stop and swap mobile numbers, such as with Diego who used to be with Radio Balear and is doing stuff for the German "Mallorca Zeitung". And the talk moves towards projects, and who's doing what, and maybe we should talk more. The island has come to Alcúdia and you don't want to miss it; and so it is.

One Sunday in Pollensa and Alcúdia.

QUIZ: Yesterday - Pulp. Today's title - album by?


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Like Common People

And while I'm at it .... Partly because I have to thank Seamus for his observations yesterday and partly because there is a whole lot more to be said, this is by way of a follow-up to yesterday's piece. Furniture, that was one thing Seamus mentioned, so it's a reasonable starting-point. You see, you get these owners of restaurants (and bars, and indeed other places) who have these "visions". Visions of style very often before substance. Now there is nothing wrong with these visions per se. It is only right to have an idea of the sort of restaurant it will be, and the furniture is all part of the marketing and the overall image in any event; having shoddy seats or peeling paint is not a great "advert" for a restaurant after all. But one does wonder at times if not too much attention, time and indeed money is not lavished on a look, when the investment might be better made on more nitty-gritty things, like getting the food right. Moreover, these "visions" - how do the restaurant owners who have them know that these visions will work? They don't is probably the answer. There is in all this too much of being product-led, rather than maybe concentrating on what the great unwashed really want and are prepared to pay hard cash for - restaurant fanfare for the common man.

Want to know the most successful restaurant, bar, shop business in the northern area of Mallorca? Take a guess. The answer will have some reaching for the garlic and a cross. Grupo Boulevard. They of the Dakota Tex-Mex restaurants, Gran Cafés and O'Hara's Irish Bar. Ok, we know they're not short of a euro or two, but where has that euro or two come from? Blue-sky visions of some heavenly restaurant and one chef tortuously slaving over every dish made by hand? I don't think so.

I do wonder a bit if three Dakotas in Puerto Pollensa are really needed, the latest being the conversion of Mestral, barely the throw of a bowl of chili sauce from the other one on the prom. But there again what the Dakotas are about is branding. I have a sneaking suspicion they have been learning from the book of McDonald's. One of the reasons for McDonald's success was the sheer number of the outlets, not necessarily in different towns or in different streets, but in the same street in the same town. Another, and I don't know that Boulevard adhere to this principle, but my guess is that they are not a million miles away from it, was the very standardisation of the McDonald's offer. This afforded lower costs of production.

That some people might hate Boulevard and hate what they're doing is frankly irrelevant. They have worked out a formula that strikes a chord with the punter, and - I am guessing but suspect I'm not far wrong - have supported this with a business system that keeps costs down. Let's stress that. Business system. It's like football. Some bemoan the fact that it is now a business, but the Uniteds of this world coin the rewards of sound business, while there is still a yearning for the old days of the local patron and the cloth cap - and not a lot of money.

Of course there is room for the individual restaurant, the style restaurant, but even with these there is hard-nosed business practice at play. One of the most interesting and intelligent people I know in Alcúdia runs a restaurant in the port. He was telling me how he hedges purchases, how he made a killing on pineapples bought at an agreed (lower) price a year ahead, how he handles his meat buying. Fascinating stuff. His restaurant is nothing fancy but by God it works. And he knows about marketing.

It's the whole nine yards when it comes to the restaurant or bar (or any other) business here. Production systems, purchasing, marketing, the whole lot. You don't have to have been to business school to run a restaurant, so long as sense comes before style and so long as the restaurant or bar is what the common man really wants - oh, and spending a shedload on fancy seating that no one puts their bum on.

QUIZ: Yesterday - "The Logical Song", Supertramp. Today's title - who?


Friday, April 04, 2008

Logical, Responsible, Practical

"Illogical, captain."

When times get tough for businesses, there are things that get the heave-ho, put off or downgraded. Training, recruitment, marketing, R&D; they all tend to be the victims of a slow market. Yet there is slow market and there is market change. And under the conditions of the latter, there are businesses that operate in a fashion that defies logic, whose very existence is perhaps not logical.

The tourism market in Mallorca functions at present under two obvious conditions of market change - lower spend per head and an alteration caused by all-inclusive offers. The lower spend might be defined as being evidence of a slow market; to the extent that it is a market change, permanent, is debatable. There is less equivocation surrounding the all-inclusive; it denotes a market change and is probably irreversible unless the force of European law establishes standards of service by the all-inclusive that are beyond the capabilities or the budgets of hotels.

When talking to some businesses, their response to the likes of marketing or advertising spend is that they cannot (or will not) do it because of all-inclusives. The all-inclusive is the devil. It is also a convenient devil. The illogic of the argument is profound, as the logical outcome of this stance is that the business itself is not viable, not just its spend on things like advertising. A business is many things. It can be argued that its marketing (in its various facets) is a business. Without it, there is no business.

The market change has highlighted the impoverishment of some of the supply in the market; not impoverishment in the sense of having no money but in having no idea how to truly market one's business. There has long been a passivity of expectation within the Mallorcan restaurant and bar business; that the mere physical presence of an establishment is sufficient to bring in customers. This is, and has always been, wrong-headed. It is not just wrong-headed under today's conditions, it is distinctly dangerous.

Take a combination of a slow market and a market change, and the temptation to cut costs is understandable. No business looks to over-spend, even in the best of times, but when the market is less than buoyant - as it is - it is still no excuse to cut back on the very thing that creates differentiation or a presence in a competitive market - one's marketing. To not perform this or to entrench significantly signals the onset of failure. To cast the all-inclusive in the role of the pantomime villain that is stabbing the business in the back may have some validity, but the logic of the market is to fight back, as the alternative is to fold. And there is logic in that. The all-inclusive is, in one sense, a positive. It has, or should, force businesses to address the very nature of their business, their marketing and indeed their presence in the market. The all-inclusive has placed the spotlight on over-supply and a lack of innovation and proactivity. It, together, with the lower spend, has ended the days of easy money. Not investing in aspects of the business, such as marketing and advertising, is a common reaction, but the logic, or rather illogic, of the argument, disguises the real problem, and the real problem is not the all-inclusive.

And ... by the way. I don't normally accept comments that come into the comments thingy. I do ask for me to be mailed, but exception time. Two comments about Roger Hodgson for yesterday's entry. Both very positive. Glad to post them. Sounds like Rodge could be a decent gig at the Pollensa Festival. Only too pleased to give a different perspective. Thanks.

QUIZ: Yesterday - "Music", John Miles. Today's title - look back to yesterday if a clue is needed.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

And Music Of The Past

So I think ahead. What should I say today? And I decide. It's about this "and food", "and music" malarkey. And having decided this, there is then the coincidence, or sort of, so it makes something complementary. Even in a short blog entry, I like completion, synergy, a touch of serendipity; all these things I like.

And so it started with wondering what was with the sprouting of restaurants and bars that carry the "and something" tag. Like Chili in Puerto Alcúdia - "pizzas and food"; like Diablito in Puerto Pollensa (and Puerto Soller and Santa Ponsa) - "food and music"; like Café Paris in Can Picafort - also "food and music", or is it the other way round? Not important. Where does this all come from? These are all Spanish-run places after all, but they take the English and make it sound, well make it sound I'm not entirely sure. Trendy perhaps. But within the vogue of the motif, there is a degree of tautology, at least with Chili at any rate. Are pizzas not food? And the music is, well, music, as in music from some speakers, though Diablito are talking about live music, maybe. And this is music that is to be heard in many places. Not the same music perhaps, but music all the same. Of course, it probably plays with a youthful market, but that raises the question of market positioning. "And music" sounds as though it excludes different market segments, though that is not the intention, and nor should it influence you if you are not part of this possible target market. This said, in the case of Café Paris, I do wonder if there is not too much of a shift in focus. Here is a place that, historically, has been a German meeting-place, a bar-café for coffee and cake, for German buffet, for dancing to cabaret of a more mature style. Café Paris, in many respects, has been Can Picafort. Yet now it has changed, and adopted a style (or at least an "image") that is more "club". I'm not sure. Whereas even a year ago, Café Paris was full of Germans having lunchtime brunch buffets and dancing in the evenings, when I was there recently, there was nary a German to be seen. You change your image and you change your market at some risk. I hope it works for them.

Then there is the coincidence. Of a musical nature. I was in JKs in Puerto Pollensa, and there were people talking. I overheard and butted in. The chap was a musician, name of John Lynam. I thought it meant something but was not sure. He was with Thin Lizzy for a bit, his own band - back in the '70s - was Sundance and was a stable mate of Dire Straits who got the gig, as it were, whereas Sundance didn't. Anyway, John is now playing around these parts, at places such The Hideaway in Gotmar (Puerto Pollensa), Trencadora (Pollensa) and Shamrock (Puerto Alcúdia). He hasn't lost his rock roots entirely, but his act is basically singing and acoustic guitar with different styles, such as flamenco and blues, thrown in. What's interesting is that here's someone who is a genuine musician doing a live act, something that is often difficult to find outside of Palma. If anyone would like to know how to get in touch with John, just mail me, and I'll get the message to him.

Oh and finally, the Pollensa Festival this year will feature a rock act for the first time. Arctic Monkeys? Kaiser Chiefs? No. Roger Hodgson. Who? Roger Hodgson. Supertramp. Not even Supergrass. Supertramp. I don't know, but it doesn't really grab me, but maybe he'll be very good and he replaces the previously announced "rock" act, Paul Carrack. Paul Carrack? Ace, Mike and the Mechanics. Wasn't he?

QUIZ: Yesterday - The Editors. Today's title - this is a line from?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors

Smoke gets in your eyes? Still does and is still likely to. One of the more meaningless pieces of legislation here has been that regarding the restrictions on smoking in restaurants, bars and public places. What legislation, you might well ask. In restaurants, if the place is of a certain size, there has to be a no-smoking zone. Under this size (100 square metres), anything goes, and the bar and restaurant owners nearly all have opted for no change. It's a crazy law. It has made virtually no difference. The sale of tobacco is another thing. The change in the law covering this means that no shop, other than the licensed tobacconists (who therefore operate something approaching a cartel), can sell cigarettes - in bulk at any rate. There can still be some machines, but these are just for single packs. The inconsistency in these strands of the tobacco law is glaring. The justification for the change was public health, yet smoking has been largely unaffected in bars and restaurants, while the sale of tobacco has been handed to a few operators who are taking all the benefit. There has been renewed pressure to allow tourist shops to go back to selling tobacco, but it has been unsuccessful.

Tobacco prices are controlled. Go to different "tabacos" and the prices will all be "official prices". Talk about a free market. Price control and control of the means of distribution. It's not wholly unusual; alcohol is sold in some countries under a similar system. But if the prices remained controlled, i.e. there could be no under-cutting, why shouldn't other shops be allowed to derive some benefit? There is, after all, plenty of demand. One only has to look at web forums and the questions about where to get cigarettes, what they cost etc, to know that this is one sale that has been largely left intact while other tourist spend has gone down. The public health argument is totally spurious. Were it not, then the restrictions in bars etc. would be that much stiffer. They are not. And in all this, there is the lead that one might think would be forthcoming from those in the health professions. Look outside a hospital some time, or a clinic, or a chemist. The song goes, more or less, "there is nothing sadder than smokers outside hospital doors". I once had an appointment with a consultant at the Hospital d'Alcúdia. Afterwards I had a coffee at a nearby café. Who should walk past, puffing on a cigarette?

Playing with the market is one thing, and it has been half-hearted and even unfair. Education is the other thing, and that is not working either. Keep on coughing.

QUIZ: Back to normal after yesterday. Today's title - who did it?


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What's Today?

"Gross discrimination." Just one response. And gross is about right. It's this new tax idea, announced yesterday by our old friend Francesca de Diauno de Abril. The tax, known in Spanish as Tasa de la Manteca de Cerdo, and which translates as "lard tax", is set to be imposed from the first of May on all arriving tourists. "If you're slim or just a bit podgy, no problem," said Señora Diauno in her best English. "But those with a significant lard mass will be measured at passport control and, based on our TLI (tourist lard index), will pay the equivalent of a small English for a moderate rating; a small English and a plate of burger and chips for a big rating; and a small English, a plate of burger and chips and a chicken tikka masala with nan bread for an outsize rating." Justifying the new tax, Señora Diauno argued that it is necessary to prevent Mallorca sinking into the Mediterranean and that the money raised will be used to place a series of giant buoys under the island to keep it afloat. Apparently, Mallorca sinks at the rate of an overall average of 7,68 centimetres each summer, but that certain parts of the island are falling faster into the sea; Magaluf sinks at an alarming rate of a metre every year.

"Climate change and the impact on the coastline is only one problem," continued Señora Diauno. "Till now little has been done with regard to the effects of sheer weight. Tourists need to be aware not only of their carbon footprint but also their waistline. The environmental damage caused by obesity cannot be taken lightly, just as the obese themselves cannot be taken lightly, because they are not light," she explained, somewhat confusingly.

However, whether the new tax will actually be implemented is questionable. This is the same Señora Diauno who has attempted, in the past, to make all tourists don full evening wear when going out after six in the evening, a move that failed because the suppliers could not cope with the demand for outsize clothing. An opposition spokesperson said that the new tax was unworkable and was, in any event, a bit of a cheek as Señora Diauno is herself known as "El cubo de la manteca de cerdo" (the lard bucket). The spokesperson reckoned that: "ella tenía una risa" (she was having a laugh).

Yesterday - The Baha Men.


Index for March 2008

Advertising - 2 March 2008
Balaixa Restaurant - 19 March 2008
Bars - 12 March 2008, 15 March 2008, 27 March 2008, 28 March 2008
Beaches - 11 March 2008
Café del Món - 28 March 2008
Celebrities - 14 March 2008
Classic Car Rally - 1 March 2008
Climate change - 27 March 2008
Clubs - 17 March 2008
Crystal skulls - 13 March 2008
Cultural tourism - 28 March 2008
Cyclists - 26 March 2008
Dogs - 31 March 2008
Ethnic groups - 29 March 2008
Expatriates - 8 March 2008
General election - 10 March 2008
German market - 6 March 2008
Headphones - 17 March 2008
Highlander Bar - 27 March 2008
Holiday fairs - 6 March 2008
Homosexuality - 16 March 2008
L'Almirant Restaurant - 20 March 2008
La Villa Restaurant - 17 March 2008
Language learning - 3 March 2008
L'Italiano Restaurant - 7 March 2008
Los Pescadores Restaurant - 20 March 2008
Marketing - 15 March 2008
Meat - 2 March 2008
Mile, The - 7 March 2008
Mind mapping - 3 March 2008
Natural gas - 30 March 2008
Parking - 18 March 2008
Pizzerias - 7 March 2008
Pollen - 4 March 2008
Population - 25 March 2008
Prostitution - 23 March 2008, 26 March 2008
Public transport - 30 March 2008
Restaurants - 2 March 2008, 7 March 2008, 15 March 2008, 17 March 2008, 19 March 2008, 20 March 2008
Roads - 18 March 2008, 26 March 2008
Samira Restaurant - 15 March 2008
Scandal - 16 March 2008
Seasonal workers - 5 March 2008
Sex tourism - 23 March 2008
Sleeping policemen - 1 March 2008
Smugglers Bar - 12 March 2008
Spanish television - 5 March 2008
Sport - 9 March 2008
Staff - 29 March 2008
Zapatero, Jose Luis Rodriguez - 10 March 2008