Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Road To Ruin

Proof, if it were needed, and really it wasn't, that the season has misfired comes in the form of a report from the organisation for small to medium-sized businesses. Revenue down by as much as 25% for bars and restaurants, even during the height of summer. Of course, one never really knows with these stats and percentages; there was another report recently which indicated that tourist spend had been up. Common sense suggests that the fall is more representative, though it doesn't tell the full story as there are places I know for a fact that have enjoyed increases this season. Nevertheless, the figures don't surprise, and it is not only the bar and restaurant trade that has endured a hard year; the sea-based businesses have also seen a slump. I know of one that reports about a 30% decrease. Messing about on the sea is an optional extra at the best of times; at the worst of times it ceases to be an option.

Elsewhere, reps are being allowed to go home early as there simply aren't the people, and from next year there is to be a trimming of rep staff for the season as a whole; at least, that's the word coming out of First Choice mouths. This is not necessarily a reaction to economic circumstances, though they may hasten a strategy for more remote forms of guest assistance, one which I heard that TUI had in mind. Phone services, be they helplines or via mobile phones, are likely to be the de-personalised reps of the future.

Reps may get a bad press, but they are far from all bad. One of their problems is a lack of information, something I referred to recently in respect of the rep giving the wrong advice for a bus to Palma. But how much information can they truly be expected to assimilate if they don't know a resort? There may be the resort "bibles" for them to digest and learn on arrival, but - as with anything - if you don't use what you learn, you forget it. Reps that come back for the following year may find themselves allocated to a different resort. Where's the sense in that? They have to do the learning all over again for somewhere else. However, in future it is likely that there will be fewer of them. Bad press or not, I would reckon most tourists prefer the personal touch, even if it is misinformed. Rather than turning to the telecoms services, chances are the guests will rely more on hotel receptions, which may not be what hotel receptions want to hear. And somehow I can't see some old dears needing a chemist texting a request for information.

The banking crisis continues its claim on victims and now it has branched out from its epicentre of Anglo-Saxon capitalism; a Belgian bank does not fall into this category. The Spanish bank, Santander, is a white knight for a British bank, which all sounds as though the Spanish system is bearing up where others aren't. Up to a point, this is the case. Spanish banks, for example, didn't have great exposure to Lehman's, but loss of confidence knows few boundaries, be it among consumers or financial markets. The real danger for Spain lies with its debt; the country ranks alongside the UK in this regard, and much of this debt is the result of reckless mortgage lending. There is also a concern regarding Spain's reserves, which the Bank of Spain sold off to finance the country's current account deficit, meaning that that if there were to be a banking crisis, the national bank might be stretched as the lender of last resort, notwithstanding Spain's place within the European monetary system. Recently, the head of the Sa Nostra bank on the island offered reassurances that the financial sector was strong, but there have been plenty of mumblings to the contrary. Spanish banks may not have had the buffeting of those in the UK or the US, but don't be sure that they won't. This sucker may not be going down, or anything like it, but this sucker could yet get sucked. The perversity of the House of Representatives' vote is only likely to add to the potential for collapse in countries and banks as yet unaffected, though surely to God they will reverse this vote.

Well, it's started - as of yesterday. After all the uncertainty as to what would be pedestrianised and when, the first phase of the trial sees a closure between the calles Elcano and Temple Fielding; the part from Temple Fielding to the Avenida Paris appears to still be open in the Alcúdia direction. Buses can still use the road, but taxi drivers cannot and there is also some question as to use by the Guardia Civil whose local HQ, it should not be forgotten, is right by the Avenida Paris. Makes one wonder - did they talk to the Guardia and the police about all this?

The head of the Unió Mallorquina, Miquel Nadal, has come to the aid of the party. He will replace Francesc Buils as tourism minister. So I am sure we are all relieved at this news.

Yesterday's title - Re-Flex. Today's title - this was an album by one of the greats of British folk music.


Index for September 2008

Alcúdia Fair 2008 - 20 September 2008, 22 September 2008
Animal welfare - 10 September 2008, 28 September 2008
Architecture - 13 September 2008
Balearic Government - 18 September 2008, 29 September 2008
Banks - 30 September 2008
Bars - 17 September 2008
Binissalem - 20 September 2008, 22 September 2008
Blogs - 11 September 2008
Catalan - 12 September 2008
Climate change - 20 September 2008
Debt - 9 September 2008
Driving licences - 22 September 2008, 23 September 2008
Economic crisis - 18 September 2008, 28 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Expatriates - 23 September 2008
Fairs - 15 September 2008, 20 September 2008, 28 September 2008
Feria del Mar 2008 - 15 September 2008
Fines - 26 September 2008
Flags - 1 September 2008
Flies - 5 September 2008
Football - 3 September 2008, 6 September 2008, 10 September 2008
Franco - 1 September 2008, 7 September 2008
Hills - 21 September 2008
Hotels - 3 September 2008, 16 September 2008, 22 September 2008, 28 September 2008
Iberian ham - 22 September 2008
Immigration - 8 September 2008
Integration - 23 September 2008
Languages - 12 September 2008, 14 September 2008
Mallorcans - 27 September 2008
Media - 23 September 2008
Mountains - 21 September 2008
Open-water swimming - 2 September 2008
Pedestrianisation - 11 September 2008, 14 September 2008, 24 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Pickpocketing - 2 September 2008
Political parties - 29 September 2008
Pollensa town hall - 6 September 2008
Processionary caterpillars - 5 September 2008
Property market - 3 September 2008
Railways - 13 September 2008
Ramón Llull - 12 September 2008
Real Mallorca - 3 September 2008, 6 September 2008, 10 September 2008
Reps - 17 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Road signs - 11 September 2008
Roads - 11 September 2008, 14 September 2008, 18 September 2008, 19 September 2008, 24 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Schools - 14 September 2008
Scratch cards - 8 September 2008
Seasonal workers - 17 September 2008
Show cooking - 15 September 2008
Small town mentality - 27 September 2008
Social tourism - 5 September 2008
Son Real - 6 September 2008
Storms - 12 September 2008, 14 September 2008
Street drinking - 26 September 2008
Street names - 7 September 2008
Street selling - 25 September 2008, 26 September 2008
Sunwing Resort - 16 September 2008
Tour operators - 12 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Tourist behaviour - 16 September 2008
Tourist days - 11 September 2008, 15 September 2008
Tourist spend - 30 September 2008
Town halls - 6 September 2008, 19 September 2008
Trains - 13 September 2008
Unemployment - 3 September 2008
Unió Mallorquina - 29 September 2008, 30 September 2008
Vermar 2008 - 20 September 2008
Violence - 15 September 2008
Walls - 4 September 2008
WiFi - 1 September 2008
Wine - 20 September 2008
Winter tourism - 5 September 2008, 25 September 2008
XL Leisure Group - 12 September 2008
Young adults - 9 September 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Politics Of Dancing

Unless you happen to live here, and perhaps even if you do, you might have missed the fact that there is a little local difficulty for the Mallorcan national party (UM - Unió Mallorquina). In brief, the UM's minister for tourism in the Balearic Government sacked two aides (both also, as it happens, from the same party) without getting the ok from his party bosses. Quite why a minister, who one assumes to be responsible in various respects, has to have clearance from a higher authority over his own hiring and firing, I'm not sure, but be that as it may.

Given the coalition nature of Mallorcan politics, the sacking issue has caused something of a rumpus; the UM is part of the Balearic Government headed by the PSOE socialist party. This rumpus, apart from the internal aspect within the UM, has been placed in the political crisis category; at a time of economic difficulty and tourism uncertainty, the politicians should be focussing on these matters rather than their own positions - so it is argued. It is not a crisis; it is nothing of the sort. What it is, is a not untypical occurrence in politics, of an unexpected event then having political capital made out of it by opposition politicians and elements of the media who either have an alternative agenda or simply have nothing better to say. The tourism minister, Francesc Buils, seems to actually enjoy a degree of confidence within the industry he represents; and that is fairly untypical for many politicians, not least Mallorcan ones. For the time being, the minister and the aides have kept their posts (the aides having been bailed out of the dole queues by the party machine which had its collective nose put out of joint by Buils' action). Nevertheless, there is some justification to the argument that the UM should be pulling together rather than apart in helping the government during the present mess.

But what is the UM exactly?

Spanish and Mallorcan politics require coalitions to form governments. These do not always lead to natural bedfellows. The UM is the reason for the PSOE socialists holding ultimate power in Mallorca and the Balearics, yet its philosophy is to the right of centre. The UM is also a fractious band. When a new leader was being sought some months ago, there were three candidates, each representing a different sub-philosophy and - in general - a different region of the island. One of these candidates, Miquel Nadal, even took his bat home at one point and abandoned his candidature, only to make a comeback and finally become the party leader. His now second-in-command is another of those candidates, Miquel Ferrer, the mayor of Alcúdia, who, having failed in his leadership bid, was then to be photographed with a gritted smile through his gap teeth. The two Micks are not necessarily bosom buddies. Ferrer, it's not hard to imagine, looks to drop bombs from the north onto the southern Palma heartland of Nadal who could thank the outgoing leader for being her "boy" in securing the gig. The leadership election, though it may have been partly an ideological scrap, was as much about local power bases on the island; it was rather akin to warlords vying for mastery.

It is the case that any political party represents different strands of thinking - the "broad church" cliché - and these strands cause internal conflicts. But these are no more apparent in parties whose very existences are open to some question. What actually is the point of the UM? The simple answer, as implicit in its name, is that it is a national party - Mallorca for Mallorcans, or something like that. However, the UM does not possess a central rallying cry. It is not like, for example, the SNP in Scotland which has long held independence as a core objective. There is no independence movement in Mallorca or in the Balearics. The island has traditionally been conservative with both a small and a large "c". All the more surprising, therefore, that the socialists made gains during the last national elections. Perhaps this was a blip or perhaps it was an indication of a greater acceptance of more liberal social policies across the country that the PSOE represented. If so, it leaves the UM in even more a state of political vacuum than it already was.

The main raison d'être for the UM is one of preservation, that of small-c conservatism; this is preservation of language and tradition. It's a kind of politics of dancing; keep the ball de bot and the other folky stuff and the rest can look after itself. But for any political party in a modern-day economy, these are marginal matters. More important is the preservation of the island, and here the conflict of the inner mindset of the party causes the party's potential atrophy. By inclination, it may be pro market developments in advancing the island's economy but it is hamstrung by its disinclination to sanction anything that is seen to detract from the island "way of life" (define and discuss!). It tries to tread a balance between these competing objectives and ends up motionless.

In what is essentially a two-party democracy, which Spain, like the UK, is, other parties, including the regional ones, of which there are many, need an overarching sense of purpose. Though conservative, the Mallorcan people are not, as a majority, overly exercised by some of the marginal interests of the UM; the language debate, for example, is far less important to the average Mallorcan than it is portrayed by politicians. Yet the UM manages, at local level, to set an agenda through language that is both parochial and even in contravention of what is meant to occur. I was told a story about a complaint to the mayor of Pollensa regarding official documents being produced only in Catalan, as opposed to both Catalan and Castilian. This was met with the response that it was done this way because of nationalist pressure. It was a curious response in some ways, as the mayor, Joan Cerdà, is himself a UM member; he was a supporter of Ferrer's nomination as party leader. Maybe Cerdà is a realist, but he appears to bow to his party's myopia. Such things as the use only of Catalan may play well with a minority, but ultimately it appears rather petty and typically insular. Again, one comes back to the absence of some form of nationalist narrative that would make the UM a meaningful party, in the style, say, of the SNP. But this is beyond the UM as there is no demand for it, and the party knows that.

In a way, the UM is a political party by "me-too" default. It has been in existence since 1982, created, in part, as a result of the then collapsing national Union of the Democratic Centre (the shortlived post-Franco coalition that formed the initial democratic government) and also as the consequence of regional autonomy for the Balearics. It was as though, because there was regional government, it was felt there had to be a regional party. That it has had success is more the result of its merely being there as opposed to its serving any real need. The UM has not been a party of extremes, yet it has not been unknown to the occasional xenophobic outburst. "The Bulletin", in Ray Fleming's often interesting trawl through the paper's archives, refers to a comment nine years ago by María Antonia Munar, then head of the Mallorca council, now speaker of the Balearic Parliament and the former leader of the UM who supported Nadal's accession. She complained then of an "invasion of foreigners", and she seemed to have more in mind tourists than the more recent wave of immigrant workers and those from the expanded European Union.

The danger of a nationalist party that always lurks is of a shift further from the centre. Current economic problems, allied to issues regarding immigration, can be the fertile breeding ground of extremism. This is not to say that the UM would, as a party, countenance such a move - it is a party coloured by moderation - but it remains a possibility and would also address the apparent absence of an obvious narrative. The good news perhaps is that Mallorcan politics, like Spanish politics, does not tend to breed charismatic politicians. Nationally, since Gonzalez, there have been none. Locally, there are none. But it only takes one with a populist agenda.

For the time being, the UM acts as an alternative in local politics. As such, this is no bad thing, while it makes politics more homely for those who perceive the PSOE and PP as remote Madrid-based leviathans. It is also no bad thing that it seeks to defend things like the language, albeit that it can do so in a cack-handed fashion. There is nothing at all wrong with a local, nationalist party if its purpose is progressive and if it offers an agenda with which the franchised majority can empathise. But the Buils affair makes it look silly, as did the divisiveness of the leadership election. One is tempted to conclude that, at a time when the party should be pulling with rather than against, the very nature of the economic crisis consuming Mallorca demonstrates the party's inability to effect anything meaningful, save for its own wrangling.

Yesterday's title - The Who (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0i7c8tjlIs). Today's title - one-hit wonders.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm A Substitute

For once a bit of animal sense, and it has come from an unexpected source - in terms of sense, that is - Pollensa town hall. The council's assembly has rejected a proposal to substitute, with replicas, the cock of the Pi de Ternelles fiesta and the lamb of Corpus Christi. (The Pi de Ternelles occurs in January as part of the Sant Antoni fiesta; the "pi" is the pine that gets soaped up and some nutters try and climb it; the lamb is not actually slaughtered, as, in accordance with the old tradition of Corpus Christi, it once was.) The Mallorcans may be showing hitherto hidden sensitivity towards animals, but there is a point beyond which the artificial replacements in the name of animal welfare all become rather silly. The Can Picafort rubber duck lunacy is an example. The notion that, for instance, an imitation lamb on wheels perhaps might be rolled through the streets of the town rather than an actual lamb is only sensible in its sheer nonsensicality; it would be an hilarious act of surreal comedy to do so. Perhaps they should substitute the live lamb on second thoughts. Indeed why stop at the animals? How about a Teletubbies version of the Last Supper at Easter for instance? Rather than an actual pine tree, environmentally destructive as it clearly is, how about one of those tinselly fake Christmas tree things? And as for the cock, please don't anybody start getting ideas about imitation cocks. Just stop it and behave yourselves.

But as I've mentioned before, the animal crackers that Pollensa town hall haven't pulled out notwithstanding, how is it that bulls can still be killed? The town hall has agreed that no animals will be killed on its patch; there again, it doesn't, unlike Alcúdia and Muro, have a bullring, or anything quite as obscene as the Fornalutx bull run. Surely a bull substitute could be introduced. Something like those souvenir bulls with a sombrero, but in large scale. Put it in the middle of the ring and let the matador accost it with the comfy chair and cushions.

Winter has come early this year. Early, that is, in respect of hotels being closed. I got quite a surprise yesterday morning. The Rio Mar in Playa de Muro. Shut. And it's not even October. What with the Lagomonte packing up next weekend, and the Viva Sunrise just a bit after, the situation in Alcúdia is not much different. The season is collapsing in on itself. Meanwhile the director-general of Iberostar says that there will be fewer hotels (not just his, but all) open this winter and the occupation will be lower. So much for all those social tourists and for that announcement (who was it made it?; politician probably) which reckoned the tourist industry would help this winter to take up the unemployment in the construction industry. They really haven't got a clue, have they. Into all this strides the editor of "The Bulletin" who says that, on top of the economic crisis comes the likely acquisition of the island's main football team by a foreigner and the resultant cry among Mallorcans as to what's happening. I can tell them exactly what's happening. It is the sound of the walls of the island's complacency tumbling around them together with the wails of politicians who have lived off that complacency and are now exposed as not only having little to turn to but also as being inadequate. It's going to be a long winter.

I have been talking about the fairs that occur on the island in autumn. Today is the climax of the wine fair in Binissalem and this coming weekend is Alcúdia's fair. At this time of the year, the whole of Mallorca seems to get in on the fair act, and many of them tend to be disregarded by the visitor. However, they afford the opportunity to experience something with a touch of authenticity and to visit places that might not otherwise be on the normal visitor trail. To this end, No Frills are offering trips to two such fairs - one in Lluc and the other in Esporles. The information for the mountain fair (Lluc) and the sweet fair (Esporles) is on the WHAT'S ON BLOG - http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com.

Yesterday's title - Bronski Beat (www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7-q1WRaKNg). Today's title - should I even be asking "who"?


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Smalltown Boy

I don't, as a rule, get involved with the world of art, but I met someone the other day who was looking for an outlet for some high-priced yachting paintings. Though not of the local area, the paintings sounded to me to be art investments that fitted with both the local yachting world and the local high-net-worth world. So I rang a gallery. Had I known then quite how much the paintings cost and how much the gallery might have stood to make, I would probably have approached the call differently, but I explained only that they were of high quality, from painters of international renown and that they would fetch a euro or two; well significantly more as it turns out. The response was not quite as I expected. Not only was it negative, it was the basis of the negativity that took me aback. It was as though any excuse would do not to have the paintings. And this was from someone I know well and get on with well; a Mallorcan someone.

The other day I was in a chemists in Alcúdia. It was taking an inordinately long time to get served. The reason for this was that two local ladies were spending an inordinately long time engaged in conversations far removed from the purpose of their visit.

Why should I mention these two cases together? The first struck me as an example, not for the first time here, of tunnel vision; of an inability to consider something outside of the norm. It was, if you like, a demonstration of an absence of entrepreneurialism. The second made me believe that a trip to the local chemists, as much as the café or the supermarket or indeed almost any other place of encounter, is a social event. Then I put them together and came up with the link - small town; small town mentality.

Much is said of the Mallorcan character and indeed I have written about it here, but to what extent is that character, in towns such as Alcúdia or Pollensa, just a reflection of small-townism that would be the same more or less anywhere? For visitors who find the resorts bustling with large numbers of people in summer, it is easy to overlook the fact that neither Alcúdia nor Pollensa can muster 20,000 inhabitants; they are small towns by any definition.

I grew up in small towns; indeed one of them, Bagshot, was really a village. It still is in the way that the place is now "marketed". Yet Bagshot had a railway - to London - from the nineteenth century; the first part of the M3 motorway, to include these towns, was opened in 1971. Alcúdia and Pollensa have a motorway, but only in the last year or so. The point is that, small towns they may have been, but the perspective that infrastructure offered was wider. Unlike much of England, with its transport heritage, the northern Mallorca towns were largely cut off until only relatively recently. The parochialism that this bred still exists, and it can be one that is centred on the individual towns; the rest of the island might as well not exist for some.

I'm not convinced that the art-gallery example is indicative of a wider lack of entrepreneurial vision on the island. One cannot draw a conclusion as to a Mallorcan character in this regard; Palma, as a city, is quite different. You may recall a piece I wrote which referred to education in Puerto Pollensa and how one local woman would much prefer to be living in Palma and exposing her son to the greater commercial influence of the city, rather than the laidback, almost unreal beach focus of the north. But combine a small-town mentality to a Mallorcan sense of superiority - as identified in "Beloved Majorcans" - and one has the potential for lack of advance.

The train may yet come to the north; it will have arrived some 150 years late by comparison with England, but not only England. What industrial revolution there was on mainland Spain at least had a railway network, albeit one that was a missed opportunity in historical terms, from the mid to late nineteenth century. When the train finally does arrive, symbolically it will - perhaps - mark the day when the towns of northern Mallorca begin to shed off their innate small-townism.

Yesterday's title - Amy Winehouse, "Valerie" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CJzMkvJUno). Today's title - "run away, turn away".


Friday, September 26, 2008

Did You Have To Pay That Fine?

And so, as I referred to briefly yesterday, there is a whole raft of street activities in Alcúdia that are to be outlawed, restricted and subject to fines. Much of this, one suspects, comes as a consequence of the complaints that were submitted to the town hall in respect of illegal street selling by legitimate traders along The Mile. But not all.

The headline targets of the new by-law (and I'm not sure when it applies from, but I guess it takes immediate effect) are the unauthorised street sellers. The report on all this from "The Diario" says that the unauthorised sale of food, drink and "other products" by the sellers will be subject to fines to 500 euros. As importantly, purchasers of these various products will also be liable to the same fine. Where do we start with this?

By other products, they mean this as a catch-all for the different things available from the lucky-lucky men and others who operate without any licences; this may well also include the women doing the hair braiding, though strictly speaking they are selling a service as opposed to a product. Whatever. But the really important bit of all this is that you, be you tourist or resident, can be fined for buying the stuff. Notwithstanding the question as to how well all this may be policed, if some poor tourist - ignorant of the by-law - forks out for a pair of dodgy sunglasses, he is likely to have his collar felt. Then what? Does he pay on the spot? Is he taken to court? How is this going to work? Will he even have 500 euros?

Do these other products include the crack? I imagine there are rather stricter sanctions than a 500 euro fine for this. And when the by-law refers to the "via pública" (public highway), does this mean that sales which occur in bars or on terraces or on the beach are exempt? The report refers also to "public space", so perhaps this does indeed mean all these non-street locations. There is no mention of bar owners being fined for allowing the trade, which is probably just as well. Any number of these bar owners already tell the lucksters to bugger off, but they can't necessarily be constantly vigilant or spend all their time haranguing them.

There are various other things covered by this by-law. Street prostitution, its offer and acceptance, begging, windscreen cleaners, loud music from cars are all subject to fines; restrictions, whatever they are, will be imposed on the likes of street painting and skateboarding. (No mention, note, of other potential street and indeed road hazards, such as Segways or trikes.) Then there is the drinking of alcohol in the streets. This is now banned. Mainly, this is to tackle what has been a growing problem of "botellón" parties whereby youngsters (mainly youngsters) get rat-arsed in the street at the weekend. Go to the area around the Magic Roundabout on a Friday or Saturday night, and you can begin to appreciate the problem. Getting cheap booze from a shop and then gathering with your mates in the street to the accompaniment of that loud music in cars is a cheap way of getting off your face prior to heading off to the clubs. And then there is the mess.

But street drinking has a tourist dimension. Here's an example. The other day, walking past the all-inclusive Piscis hotel in the port, I saw a group, each with a plastic glass of beer, coming out of the hotel and wandering off in the direction of the marina. It may have lacked class, but I doubt they were about to go and raise hell. Would the same group now know they are breaking the law? Going all-inclusive would no longer be the cheap option if a group of four got a collective fine of perhaps a couple of grand, and that could be higher if there happened to be a "minor" present. What is the public highway and public space in this regard? Go down to Bellevue at night and all manner of people are meandering about with drinks, such as on the "boulevard" that cuts between the two parts of the complex. But the boulevard is public highway. Does the "public space" mean that if one cracks open a can of Saint Mick on the beach, the long arm of the law will be stretched out clasping a ticket for a fine of a few hundred euros? The report does emphasise the botellón element, which is what the town hall is really keen to stamp out, so there may well be some discretion in all of this, but it says that "alcohol is not to be consumed in the street". Give plod half a chance ...

Much of what the town hall is introducing is perfectly understandable, but I wonder if they've thought it through. Apart from anything else, they are going to have to make it pretty damn clear to tourists - and tour operators and reps and hotels are going to have to be party to this as well - that things like buying illegal goods or quaffing a cold drink of alcoholic content in the streets (and possibly on the beach) are liable to cop them a fine.

And then there are the things that don't seem to be covered. Well one. Scratch cards. These may well be touted with licences, but when the town hall can invoke the "nuisance" of other practices now deemed punishable by a fine, have they not overlooked the nuisance factor of the scratch-cardists? One other point, the sale of illegal goods by the likes of the lucky-lucky men has always been subject to punishment. The mere nature of the goods, pirated goods, makes their sale illegal, as does the absence of a licence, the absence of a tax number, the absence of a permission to engage in a business activity. And where has all that got us up to now?

The new measures to rid the streets of Alcúdia of the various problems they seek to tackle could all be good news. But if they result in the occasional purge without sufficient information, the danger is that Alcúdia will not benefit from what it might hope will be good publicity for cleaning its act up but from the negative publicity of numbers of poor tourists being handed large fines. I hope the town hall and the police tread warily.

For those who understand Spanish, I link here the full article from "The Diario":


Yesterday's title - The Asteroids Galaxy Tour: http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=UTuAXV8WyuI or http://www.theasteroidsgalaxytour.com/. Today's title - from a song with a girl's name; girl, big hair.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sun Ain't Shining No More

When the Mallorcan weather decides that it's going to pack up for the season, it doesn't hold back. Misery in autumn weather is not exactly an unknown here, but to hear or read what some have to say, you might believe that all it amounts to is a short sharp storm and then it's back to glorious sun. Sometimes that's so, but there is much selective memory at play and a great deal of ignorance. Almost inevitably, if one ever studies a forum and its regular September-October weather enquiries, there will be the eternal optimist who will swear blind that the worst that can happen is the sudden storm-then-sun scenario. It is not always like that. Like at the moment. The change has been profound. From not needing a sheet on the bed to dragging out the duvet, to even contemplating some heating, to wearing socks and sensible shoes; autumn is here. And as autumn starts, so there is another inevitability. What the hell's going to happen during the winter? And most obviously to tourism.

I can predict, with a degree of certainty, that over the next few weeks, there will be editorials devoted to the sorry state of winter tourism and to the fact that something needs to be done. There will also be reports that quote some usually anonymous bar owner or other who will say that winter used to be a period of wine and roses, and that something needs to be done. More selective memory, and ever more something needs to be done. Winter never was that good, and no one ever comes up with a prescription. It's the easiest and laziest form of media copy-filling to state what's wrong, but not offer any suggestions. So certain am I of these editorials and reports that I could write them now right here and wait to see when they appear. But I won't, for fear of boring you with repetition. I'll leave that to others.

The Exceltur organisation which is a national body devoted to tourism "excellence" says that there's talk of a "winter in Spain" promotion. I seem to remember there have been previous winter promotion ideas. The talking starts as the main season comes to an end. It is far too late. Again. How can a body claiming excellence put its name to a promotion that should have been discussed, finalised and initiated by now? While such national bodies and those for Mallorca doubtless have a role to play, they seem incapable of taking a longer-term perspective, such as planning a good year or so in advance.

Local town halls, such as Alcúdia, are trying to persuade more hotels to stay open. There may even be grants available to do so. Some hotels are not averse to the idea. But there is little or no point in deciding to do so now; it should have been agreed months ago. There is also little point in staying open if no one is going to come.

The easy option is to shrug the shoulders and say that there is nothing that can be done. It's not really an option any longer. As the main season seems to get shorter and the economy takes more of a hit, it is even less of an option. There is a fallacy about places such as Alcúdia and Pollensa that they are dead in winter. Some parts are, like The Mile, but the towns and the ports are not. Quiet, but not dead. As important is the fact that the island is not dead. There are many attractions that remain open all year, to say nothing of, into November, the local fairs and then Christmas/New Year and the fiestas of January. Perhaps it should fall to the towns or regions to bring about a meeting of minds that can establish programmes that make Alcúdia or Pollensa more attractive in winter. And programmes would be the key. Take, for instance, those fiestas in January. Those of Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastia make for an ideal focal point. A week's programme combining these, a day in Palma, a trip to La Reserva or the caves, the Soller train, a special dinner-dance, a couple of evenings with local entertainers, an evening of sangria and barbecue at Rancho Grande - might be chilly but then wrap up and do a bit of dancing. Even without the fiestas, there is enough for a good week's programme.

It would require any number of different parties agreeing; it would require good promotion, preferably through an integrated promotion that embraces other local initiatives all channelled through the Mallorca tourist authorities; it would require selling to the tour operators and to the airlines. But something of an, if you like, bottom-up approach by the towns might be more effective than general and often ill-thought-out top-down promotions. It wouldn't be a lot; of course it wouldn't be. But it could enable a few more hotels to sense an opportunity and to perhaps bring more to those bars, restaurants and shops that do operate all year. And maybe it would create a momentum, one that could result in Mallorca being blessed by one or two serious attractions that it currently lacks, for it is only through these - and not the trifling stuff of a bit of golf, a bit of shopping and a bit of culture - that the island could compete in winter. It has to start somewhere.

Incidentally, while I'm on the subject ... remember that so-called initiative involving the British Consul? Can anyone tell me what happened to that? No, I don't suppose you can.

I shall be doing more on this tomorrow probably, but news is coming through regarding sanctions to be put into place by Alcúdia town hall against a variety of street carryings-on, including illegal selling, prostitution and the "botellón" (the street drinking party). These sanctions, fines of varying amounts, can apply not only to sellers but also to those buying from them. As I say, more, quite a bit more of this to come.

Yesterday's title - The Beatles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COMsKPeWAsw). Today's title - Danish; one of the songs of the year. Similar title to The Walker Brothers of some days back, but very different.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Long And Whining Road

Is there a campaign of sending a barrage of letters to "The Bulletin" in protest at the pedestrianisation in Puerto Pollensa? If so, one wonders whether it will do much good, unless, that is, "The Bulletin" were to join with the good people of Gotmar and Pinaret in storming the Calvari steps and the town hall's defences and proclaiming a people's revolution of the non-pedestrian. Perhaps Gotmar should declare independence. What a splendid wheeze that would be.

Following a lengthy epistle from Garry Bonsall to the editorial in-tray, yesterday there was a further expression of objection to the pedestrianisation scheme. Among other things, it invokes European law in respect of both consultation and the environment in arguing against. Ah yes, consultation and the environment. Gone are the good old days when a road could be laid with nary a word in the ear of the local peasant as he saw his small holding flattened; gone are the days when a more wealthy inhabitant with a peseta or two to his name could go out to work one day and come home to find a demolition ball hammering into his living room. Gone also are the days when a whole ocean of tarmac and concrete could be deposited on virgin land, burying endangered flora and fauna in the process. It didn't matter because there were always some more somewhere else until they too were bulldozed into oblivion.

You might think that citing the law, albeit European law, was a reasonable line of defence, but law here is a matter of some considerable alternative interpretation, be it European or Spanish. Just to refer back to the driving-licence malarkey. Not only did I speak to my gestor, I also spoke to my lawyer. He told me his Hungarian girlfriend is still driving around with a Hungarian licence; first he'd heard of the need to change it to a Spanish one. What chance is there for the rest of us or for the protesting cadre of Gotmar?

The pedestrianisation fiasco is now a cause célèbre in Puerto Pollensa. Little though I understand the point of it, the new road's very existence has to be the main impetus behind it. But the Elcano-Paris compromise, as I referred to before, nullifies this to a large extent. I'm now no longer sure what the objection is, other than a still-simmering objection to the new road having carved its way through the quiet enclaves of Gotmar and Pinaret and an increase in traffic along the Avenida Paris. And as for that new road, don't let's forget that a plan for it was first set out as long ago as 1967; it's not as if there was no forewarning.

Maybe though a once-and-for-all physical pedestrianisation would form part of the town hall's annual job-creation scheme in winter, whereby roads are ripped up, huge holes are made and eventually get filled in. If so, it's not as if there aren't other such schemes that could be contemplated, such as tackling the state of those roads that are not - yet - subject to pedestrianisation; like, well, all of them in Puerto Pollensa. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that the compromise is itself still only a trial.

I am sympathetic to those living in Pinaret (and the compromise appears to affect them and not Gotmar residents) and to anyone else who fails to see the sense of the pedestrianisation. But there is one point, and that is that this has been on the cards for a number of years. That it may have finally come about with a lack of full consultation is one thing, but one wonders whether some proactive lobbying against the idea might not have been adopted in the past to prevent it ever having come about. The protests, however, can be seen in a wider context of concerns at the way the town hall appears to ride roughshod over people's wishes and their neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, I would challenge anyone to say that the status quo of the road infrastructure in the town could have been allowed to, and be allowed to remain. The resort simply can't cope, and it hasn't been able to for years.

And so to different roads, the side roads that are to be found the length of the Carretera Artà from Puerto Alcúdia to Can Picafort. Note the word "roads"; it is not unimportant. When the weather is as rubbish as it is at the moment, the poor old tourist is left with little else to do than wander along these side roads in a daze of disappointment as another shower breaks out. They are also prone to a drenching as some mobile dance club throbs by at great speed and splashes them with a tsunami of disturbed puddle. But bear in mind again that word "roads". These side roads are, surprising it may be to those of a pedestrian inclination, not pavements. Unlike some, I do not take these roads as though I were hacking along the Mulsanne Straight. I take them sedately, I don't even hit the horn as I know I am likely to be accused of manslaughter because of the heart attack it will cause. I just wait for the pedestrians of these non-pedestrianised "roads" to become aware that there's a whacking great bit of steel in motion nearly touching their rear ends. Yesterday, going along the side road past the Eden Alcúdia, there was a youth in the middle of the road with his back to me. His t-shirt bore the legend "The Miracle Boy". What if I were to put my foot down? I was sorely tempted, believe me. Thus, we would both have discovered if he truly was a miracle boy or indeed the miracle boy.

Yesterday's title - "Creep", Radiohead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxpblnsJEWM). Today's title - "whining" is harsh, but it fits as a variant on this.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Don't Belong Here

To what extent does the expat's relationship with the media define the relationship with his or her adopted island and country? It is a far from academic question; I think it is fundamental. In the past I have spoken about the ease of having access to the English-speaking media and recently looked at the issue of integration (15 August: Living Together In Perfect Harmony). I am beginning to wonder if "integration" is an unattainable state and whether its periodic consideration by the media fails, not only to establish a sensible definition, but also to recognise the role that newspapers and the rest have in inhibiting it.

On a typical day, I might see two British newspapers - "The Times" and "The Guardian"; I might see the local English paper, "Majorca Daily Bulletin"; I might see two Mallorcan papers - "Ultima Hora" and "Diario de Mallorca". I will also see the BBC's website and listen to some of the corporation's programmes. If I listen to Spanish radio, it will be to RNE3 for its eclectic music and occasionally Radio Alcúdia in order to have a laugh at the ridiculous adverts for local restaurants. Television is effectively banned in whatever language.

That I may peruse Spanish media does not make me in some sense "integrated". It's because I, personally and perhaps untypically, am interested and, in part, it's what I do on this blog. In the same way, the fact that I might go out for tapas does not make me "integrated". I did the other evening; the selection at a tapas restaurant is a convenient way of getting around others' indecisiveness as to what to eat. Also in the same way, that I may speak Spanish reasonably well does not make me integrated. Again, it's a matter of interest to be able to speak the language; it is also a matter of expediency - try dealing with local printers in English, for example. Also in the same way, my current reading includes yet another modern history of Spain. This does not make me integrated. I'm a historian in that I have a history degree. The subject interests me, and I'm interested to learn ever more about the country in which I live. Also in the same way, I have been to the bullfight and I would go again. This does not make me integrated. It's a matter of curiosity and of seeking to understand the purpose of its barbarity.

There would seem to have been a letter in the English "Euro Weekly" that passed me by. It had it that expats should go to the bullfight as a way of integrating into local life. Apart from ignoring the fact that many Spaniards do not attend the bullfight, to suggest this would be akin to Poles in Britain demanding a right to hunt foxes as a way of making themselves feel more British. By the same logic, if a tourist were to go to the bullfight would that make him or her integrated? Of course it wouldn't; the line of argument was nonsensical. Moreover, to have written a letter on the subject to an element of the English-speaking media falls straight into the trap set by the existence of English media. The act of writing in English to an English newspaper is, by its very nature, an act of non-integration.

Through the immediacy of English media, the expat retains not just a connection to but also a priority of interest in the old country, be that connection via newspaper, internet, television or radio. The choice of media and more importantly the specifics of that choice - what is read, what is surfed, what is viewed and what is listened to - define the expat's relationship with Mallorca and Spain and his or her perspective. And consequently, that relationship can be pretty tenuous.

I used to wonder quite why the local English press devoted so much space to matters in the UK. "The Bulletin", while it does contain local and Spanish items, is more anglo-centric than not. The answer why is quite simple; its readership. One can argue, with some justification, that running local news at least aids some appreciation of the island, but the bias remains. The other day, for instance, there was a yes-no exchange as to whether Gordon Brown should go or stay. To do something similar for José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero would run the risk of alienating a part of the readership that may not even know that he is the president of Spain. "Euro Weekly" is more Mallorca focussed (in its Mallorcan edition, that is), but still finds space for Leapy Lee who regularly rubbishes Brown but in a far less sober manner than "The Bulletin". He has variously referred to Brown and to his "cronies" and fellow "traitors" as Nazis and Commies - take your pick - and once enjoined his readers to partake in a few minutes of "hate" for Brown. That it would seem there is many an expat who finds this acceptable and craves for more makes one despair. I may not much care for Gordon Brown either, but I don't wish to be party to hatred. But it plays well with some, for whom British politics remains the only game in town. And for those who may take a different view, it is the British political scene that is the expat's talking-point, not the Spanish.

The fluidity of human movement enabled under European law coincided with the explosion of information channels and of the wide availability of media in their different forms. Perversely perhaps, it is this very ease of access to the media that has convinced some to make the move to the likes of Mallorca; this, and the ready-made expatriate community. The combination of the two has the potential to alienate as much as it has to integrate. But what does it actually mean to be integrated in Mallorca? Does one wake up one morning and think that one is integrated? Nope, probably not. Indeed, one doesn't think about the subject full stop, until, that is, it gets raised by the very media who act against it. To that extent, I suppose, I am equally culpable by writing about it here.

There are some who doubtless do think about it; those who seek to wear their alleged integration as some form of badge of honour. I wonder quite how many of these still go home and switch on Sky or read "The Daily Mail", i.e. they are still more comfortable with their own media and their own language. I argued before that only through language does one really begin to attain a state of integration. But even then I'm not wholly convinced. We carry with us all sorts of items of baggage and are unwilling to cast them off. These may be in the form of humour, a fondness for sport or sporting teams, for authors or music. All of them maintain a link that is non-Mallorcan or non-Spanish. And so we continue to pursue those items, because we want to, and we do so by laughing at a columnist or comedy show, by reading a sports report or watching a football match in a (British) bar, by reading a latest book or magazine, by listening to a favourite show on Radio One or Two or 6 Music or other stations. None of this means integration. I have no wish to cease reading English newspapers or enjoying other English media. Why the hell should I? And so it is with the overwhelming majority of expats who may well participate in many local activities, who may have Mallorcan friends, who may speak the language reasonably well, but who also remain - essentially - detached, and who find it very easy to be detached, thanks to their original culture being all around them.

It is the media to which we look for information and entertainment and, in the case of the expat, for reassurance, that of what is current back home. We don't wish to lose touch, but critically we are more interested in "back home", even down to what horses are running at Haydock that afternoon. By and large, we don't embrace the Spanish media because we don't understand what is said, we have no interest and they're not our football clubs, our celebrities or our politicians. Ergo, we are not integrated.

Perhaps it would be simpler to just ignore the whole subject, but it won't go away because it will always crop up somewhere - in the media. And it will be used as an undefined and generic state of being to which the user of the word has probably applied little or no thought. Maybe we should rethink the term. Belonging, a sense of belonging; perhaps this is better. It's also difficult to define, but at least it is more personal and therefore more understandable, and if you feel you belong it doesn't matter what newspaper you read - or in which language.

The thread of a forum has been brought to my attention which tends to contradict what I said yesterday regarding Spanish driving licences. There is, let's be clear, a lack of clarity, one that I was aware of, so I spoke to my gestor, knowing that he has contacts at Trafico, and the word was, yes, you need to change the licence. If I'm wrong, I apologise, but this is my understanding. The problem is, like other aspects of Spanish law, not everything is clear. Here is the link to the forum: http://www.spainexpat.com/spain/forum/viewthread/1831/

Yesterday's title - Elton John, "Bennie And The Jets" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0WCQadt864). Today's title - arch miserabilists; "so very special".


Monday, September 22, 2008

Bini And The Jets

In the Riki Lash column in "The Bulletin" on Sunday was a piece about driving while using a mobile. It said that if caught three times, this would result in the confiscation of one's licence (as opposed to "license"; well, he is American). What it also said was that it didn't matter whether that licence was foreign, it would still be taken away. Now, it would be highly unlikely, I would suggest, that a tourist would be stopped three times for using a mobile during a short stint in Mallorca, so this has to refer more to those who live here. The fact is that there is a whole other issue here, and it is one that I wonder if all expats are fully aware of. If a resident, one must have - by law - a Spanish driving licence. A UK/European one is not deemed valid. At the start of this year, a law was enacted which elevated the lack of a licence to the status more of a criminal offence, as opposed to an administrative oversight, which it had previously been. A non-Spanish licence is embraced under this law, and contravention can potentially result in a huge fine or worse.

This law is a complete nonsense of course. It sounds more like a way of extracting some 18 euros for the process of converting the licence. But whatever the thinking, the fact is that there may well be many here who are driving without a valid licence. If so, then don't go too close to Trafico's controls; rather, get yourself down to the Trafico building sharpish and get the licence changed.

Whilst on "The Bulletin", is it not possible for someone to run an eye over the copy in the form of a proof? It had stuff about the Vermar in Binissalem. On each occasion, it spelt the town with two n's and one s. Small matter it may seem, but this is a town in Mallorca, famous as a wine centre, and it should be simple enough to get its spelling right, while the Arabic prefix "bini" is not unique to Binissalem. There is, for example, the village of Biniali, not that far from Binissalem. By contrast, in the same edition the excellent "Rural Life" column by George Giri - excellent for its informativeness - got the spelling right.

Mention of the Alcúdia Fair the other day brings me to the coincidence in respect of what I spoke about on 15 September regarding "show cooking". At the fair there will be its own show cooking, that by Juanjo of the revered Genestar restaurant. For those who do not know, Genestar is by the Auditorium in the old town. At one time it was called El Pequeño Gourmet before it was gutted, given a complete makeover and made to look as though it's a high-class kitchen shop. When it was first completed I went in expecting to find Santos or Xoane model kitchen installations. To that end I was disappointed. It was, and is, a restaurant.

A different form of cuisine is currently being given a "run" or circuit around Alcúdia. It's a ham run. This is not a case of jetting around the town with a ham in tow or something like that; it's very much more sedate. Basically, a bunch of restaurants serve up some Iberian ham on given days. Seemingly, the scoffing of some ham is free so long as you buy a beer or something else. Quite why they have this "circuito de jamón" I'm not entirely sure; it's not as if you can't get Iberian ham in many an establishment. Moreover, it's more likely to be locals who go for some freebies, and they are already familiar with the ham. Anyway, whatever the point of it all, if you fancy some ham from superior black pig stock, the next stop on the run is at the fine Cerveceria Gambrinus in Puerto Alcúdia on 26 September (Gambrinus is next to Sandra's bar) and then the equally fine Malanga (formerly the Mestizo restaurant) on 3 October. I've put a list of participating restaurants on the WHAT'S ON BLOG.

As the season begins to wind down, word comes that it's going to end rather earlier than normal for some hotels. Notably, the Lagomonte will not be limping on beyond the first weekend of October. From what I can make out, it's not been the greatest of seasons for the hotel. Whatever, they're calling it quits early. The Mac hotels are apparently also closing before the end-October half-term period. There is a commonality here - Lagomonte and the Macs are full-on all-inclusives. Some while ago I drew attention to the fact that self-catering or half-board places such as the Alcúdia Beach and Delfín Azul were doing just fine compared to the all-inclusives. Perhaps it is the ultra-economical AI that is bearing the brunt of the economic downturn.

Yesterday's title - U2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEflc7YXo10). Today's title - a corruption of what and by whom?


Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Have Climbed Highest Mountains

The news that three walkers have provided measurements which make Mynydd Graig Goch in Wales slightly higher than 2000 feet, thus designating it as a mountain, makes one wonder if perhaps they should get a life. However, it would seem that there are those for whom such classifications are important. And the Ordnance Survey is prepared to change its maps to reflect the discovery of two and a half feet that bring Mynydd GG into the mountain range, so to speak.

Until reading all this, I have to confess that height as a determinant of a mountain or not had never quite entered my consciousness. It is the sort of pointless thing that would fill a school geography lesson, along with oxbow lakes; perhaps it did, but I must have had a note from my mum that day. A mountain, I had always thought, was, well, a mountain; you just knew it was - somehow. Locally though, this is not a matter without some relevance. Mallorca has mountains, so we are told, but does it? It all depends, it would appear, on the height. Unfortunately, the local names don't help in the regard.

Both Alcúdia and Pollensa have imposing singular elevations - the Puig Sant Martí at the back of Bellevue in Alcúdia and the Puig María that rises above Pollensa town. Both are commonly referred to as mountains. But the names belie that status. A "puig" is a hill, not a mountain. It had occurred to me that "puig" might have some association with the English "peak", but there is another Catalan word that is more similar - "pic", which does indeed mean peak. So puig is hill, as also is "turó", which sounds vaguely like the word "tor". Whatever, the high rises above the towns are not mountains, as such.

This might seem all clear enough until one gets to the question of the Sierra de Tramuntana. The sierra, taking its name of course from the Ford Motor Company, which bequeathed other names to geography - Granada and Capri, for example - means mountain range. And yes, one does refer to the Tramuntana mountains. However, the highest elevation in the Tramuntana, and therefore Mallorca, is the Puig Major, which stands at 1445 metres, or 4740 feet, well above the classification that the Welsh, at least, insist upon, and also the Scots who reckon a mountain is something higher than 3000 feet. So there should be little debate. The Puig Major is a mountain, but it isn't because it's a hill - a puig. The Catalan for mountain is "muntanya". Nowhere does it say Muntanya Major.

Despite the apparent contradictions in terminology, there is one thing that makes for a mountain; it's sheer imposing nature. Puig Sant Martí is 235 metres (770 feet), Puig María is higher at 330 metres (1082 feet). Neither would be a mountain, under the Welsh scheme of things. However, both so dominate the landscape that it is hard not to conceive of them as being mountains, even if they aren't actually that high. There is also the not insignificant propaganda of the brochures and gushing websites. These will typically wax lyrically about the "mountainous" terrain of the island, which is true - by height classification - in certain instances; but not all. "Hilly" doesn't have quite the same resonance or romance. So mountains they are by means of marketing.

Whatever the real designation, there is one question that remains - how on Earth do you pronounce "puig"? I've never known and tended to believe that my way, which makes the word sound like a public schoolboy who wubbles his r's - "you dashed pwig" (as in prig) - is almost certainly wrong. Tell you what - stick to mountain.

Yesterday's title - Pink, "So What" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJZDsJ8UU64). Today's title - first line of one of their finest.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

That's Not Fair

The summer fiestas start to fade, but as they do, they merge with and morph into another form of tradition - the fair. This is a seamless continuum of event that will be reversed at Christmas and into the new year. No event more symbolises the transition from summer to the autumnal fair than the Binissalem Vermar. It yearns for and does not want to lose the slowly disappearing summer by its insistence on fiesta but accepts the time of year with the celebration of the grape harvest. Vermar means grape harvest.

The Binissalem event is as drawn out as the Can Picafort August fiesta, but, unlike that summer party, its length enables it to straddle seasons; it starts in summer and ends in autumn. It is equinoctial fiesta. The Vermar, a vinous grand tasting, treads grapes and presents a battle of almost festishistic down-and-dirty rolling in crushed fruit. Binissalem, the home also of the dry-stone wall fiesta, is the centre of rural celebration; its parties are statements of difference. Yet one wonders if the Vermar may continue at the time of the turn of the seasons. Climate change, so we are told, is leading to grape ripening occurring earlier and to new challenges to wine-makers. Spain has more land devoted to vines than any other country. Rising temperatures threaten not only the grape industry but also the fiestas.

The autumn fair is something that can be found in many towns across the island. Alcúdia has its own fair at the start of October. But being a Mallorcan event, it cannot dispense with the trappings of the fiesta. Accordingly, alongside the farm machinery, the stands and the animals are the giants, the folk dance and the inevitable night party with its DJs and bands, raging from the old-town centre and keeping the neighbours awake. At the fair are all manner of local curiosities - from fans and hats to custom cars of eccentric design and highly-tuned engines. The fairs are also occasions for the island to show off - governmental publicity stunts for the environment and tourism and industry's wares in the form of, for example, Mallorcan wines. They are fine events, but one wonders quite what they achieve. Alcúdia's fair bears similarities each year. It is though they are events for preaching to the already knowing or converted. But they, like the fiestas, are tradition. And tradition goes an awfully long way in Mallorca.

For information on both the Vermar and the Alcúdia Fair, go to the What's On Blog - http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com.

And if, in wet and miserable summer Britain for instance, you are wondering whether climate change is all but a figment of the imagination, try this ... Tucked away in a piece in "The Diario" the other day was a thing which reported the views of a Nobel prize winner. He says that south-west Europe, which includes Mallorca, could anticipate an increase in average temperatures of up to six degrees over the next six years. Six degrees! Over six years! Is he kidding? Presumably he isn't. But if it were to be the case, then frankly I think we should be extremely worried. And quite why this has not been more widely reported, I am not sure. Six degrees. It's just not fair; perhaps they'll have to shift all the fairs to December if that's the case.

Yesterday's title - the single "The Gap" wasn't that good, so instead here is something that was - The Thompson Twins, "All Fall Out" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y_91nGEDYw). Today's title - this is a line from a current song; she's still a rock star and she's a colour.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Into The Gap

Following up on yesterday's reference to the mad plan to close the coast road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa, there are some other factors to be taken into account. While Pollensa town hall might have got it into their collective heads that this is more than just some whim, there is the not insignificant matter of what Alcúdia thinks about it all. I drove along the road yesterday, and checked the boundary signs. That for Puerto Pollensa, the you-have-now-left Puerto Pollensa one, that is, is just past the new roundabout for the new bypass road. The welcome-to-Alcúdia one is right next to the old road to Pollensa, quite some way further along the coast road. Maybe the gap in between is Pollensa's (as opposed to just Puerto Pollensa's); whatever, the road itself "belongs" as much to Alcúdia as it does to Pollensa.

I cannot imagine that such a scheme - to close the main link road connecting Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa - can be within the gift of a local town hall; it is too strategically important in terms of transport infrastructure. I had always assumed that decisions regarding the "carreteras" were at least rubber-stamped centrally, if not made. There is then the issue of necessity. The closure would require another road. If not, the detour would be so inconvenient that Puerto Pollensa would be partially cut off. Besides, there is simply no need for another road; the one we have at present, i.e. the coast road, is perfectly adequate, if sometimes dangerous. That the beach may be expanded, as a consequence of getting rid of the road, and that the beach that is currently there might be "beautified" with imported sand, may be the desire of some environmental fanaticism, but who would actually use that beach? If there were no road, then how would beach users get there?

Finally, there is another strategic transport matter. It concerns the idea that there might be a tram that goes to Puerto Pollensa if there can ever be any agreement on the siting of the train terminal in Alcúdia. One hears less of this part of the mooted tramline than of the one that might go to Can Picafort, but it remains a possibility. And if so, well where would that go?

I don't believe this scheme will ever see the light of day. It's unnecessary, it's impractical, it serves an ill-defined environmental fancy, it would be hugely expensive (and the tab would be picked up centrally, not by the town halls), it would be unpopular ... Erm, is there any reason for it?

It was against this background that I had a conversation with someone in Puerto Pollensa yesterday. This chat also touched on Garry Bonsall's complaint which I also mentioned in yesterday's piece. The nub of the conversation was that Pollensa town hall, unlike Alcúdia's, seems to make secondary the needs of its port area. In other words, the town of Pollensa takes preference. I'm not sure this is right (Pollensa's roads, for example, are just as appalling as those in the port), but it is right in that this is a perception, and perceptions matter just as much as realities. Pollensa town hall has an image and a PR problem, if you like. It's not the only one. People in Playa de Muro and Can Picafort make the same sorts of complaints about their town halls, those of Muro and Santa Margalida. The great difference between Alcúdia and the other three is that the town and the port (or resort) is geographically linked. Pollensa, Muro and Santa Margalida are all several kilometres away from their resorts; Alcúdia is right on top of its. One does not hear the same level of complaint. Ok, Alcúdia town hall does its share of daft things, too, but there is not the same perceptual gap; one that distance only helps to accentuate. It is as if there is an elitism in the towns that affords the resorts secondary status. And people get upset, especially upset, as it is they in the resorts who generate such a high proportion of the town halls' revenues. There is something of the town halls acting as kingdoms of mediaeval England, dispatching their reeves or sheriffs to extract taxes from the thanes and peasantry, whilst lording it (as it were) in their castles of antiquity - which is about right in terms of the ages of the towns. And now I think of it, history says that Spain retained an essentially feudal system well into the last century, one that the Second Republic (which Franco crushed) sought to dismantle. That wasn't so long ago, and some seem to have good memories of feudalism.

Local democracy is a fine idea. I have no problem with it. It should be far more widespread in the UK. But if it results in perceptual faultlines and accusations that great parts of the municipalities are not listened to, then it is democracy by sham and autocracy by fiefdom. There again, isn't that the nature of democracy?

Yesterday's title - she's an old favourite of the blog, and thanks to a first-time quiz respondent Terence who got Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick (who did it first) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxl7YbVi4Cs. Today's title - big-selling album from one of the most intriguing British "pop" bands of the '80s. Think Hergé's Adventures of Tintin.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wishin' and Hopin'

And so the Puerto Pollensa road-closure fiasco continues to make itself felt. "The Bulletin" reports on the concerns of my old friend Garry Bonsall, dentist of Alcúdia and head of the Gotmar Residents' Association. In brief, these are a lack of consultation regarding the pedestrianisation and the potential to send more traffic and parking into the leafier areas of, for example, Gotmar, and the plan to in fact close the road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa in order to expand the beach. There is quite a bit more besides, including a threat of legal action against the town hall.

While I sympathise, my understanding was that there had been, finally, some consultation, though quite with whom I'm not exactly sure, presumably not the good people of Gotmar. Moreover, the pedestrianisation compromise, as I referred to on 14 September, doesn't restrict vehicle access nearly as much as the original plan. Consequently, I'm not sure quite how the Gotmar residents will be affected. Perhaps they will be. As for this closure of the coast road idea, it frankly beggars belief that this might be done. What was the point of building the new road if now it won't be accessible except by another road from somewhere? I've gone over this reclaimed ground before (9 May: Road To Nowhere). It had seemed as though it were some fantasy idea, but apparently not. The point though is that this would not be a Pollensa town hall matter. It might fancy closing the road, for whatever reason, but it would surely be one for higher authorities than the gaffe-prone council. There may be some sound environmental thinking here, but not if it means cutting a huge swathe through land at the back of Albufereta in order to create a link road to the one that's just been completed.

But amongst those higher authorities, one wonders at times. Here we now have a Balearic Government minister, who's leaving the sinking ship to head up the Playa de Palma project, saying that the same number of people are employed in the Balearics as there were last year. Excuse me. Have I been misreading those reports of increased unemployment? Have the tourist and construction industries not been laying off workers after all? It's all been a dream, and here's Bobby coming out of the shower. One fears that there is a sizeable dose of wishful thinking knocking around. The minister goes on to say that the government is looking at ways of working through the current economic crisis and at remodelling the economy (which appears to mean throwing a whole load of money at public construction, which hardly sounds like a remodelling) and at "policies to boost tourism and commerce", whatever they might be.

What part of the planet is the minister on? It doesn't appear to be that part formed by an archipelago in the Mediterranean. The unpalatable truth for Balearic politicians is that the "crisis" reveals just how impotent and irrelevant they are when the world's economy is in such strife. They can affect little, other than dabble at the edges. They might like to think so, and to blame previous administrations, but they are neutered, emasculated, up the "mierda" creek minus an implement of manoeuvre. The good times let the regional governments, such at that in the Balearics, to follow the same policy of unchecked boom as the national government. But with the arrival of the bad times, they are left wallowing with nowhere to turn, except to Madrid for assistance.

Mallorca is caught in a vice of factors almost completely beyond anyone's control. It, as part of Spain, is one, along with the UK, of the big victims of the economic slump. Were there not so much debt already sloshing around (and there was a great ocean of it before anyone had even heard of sub-prime), it might not be so bad, but there is - business and personal. The level of Spain's consumer debt exceeds even that of the reckless UK. The island's main industries - tourism and construction - are utterly at the mercy of economic circumstances. The local government may want to splash more cash in the direction of the construction industry, but it will be public spending that merely papers over the cracks of an unbalanced economic model, assuming the cash is actually forthcoming. This all said, the good news coming out of Alcúdia at any rate is that certain hotels are showing healthy bookings for next year and even taking them for 2010. Among all the turmoil, let us hope.

Yesterday's title - Geoff rightly points out that it was a traditional folk song, but fair to say I think that The Beach Boys popularised "Sloop John B" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_KY_d9MQv8). Today's title - who made this a hit?


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Feel So Broke Up, I Wanna Go Home

"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"." (5 March 2008, Keep On Moving.)

The above has not lost its relevance over the months of the season. Primarily it is the youngsters, but not exclusively. The turnover of staff during the season is a problem that afflicts many an establishment. Some staff have to be dismissed; other staff just walk out or hand in their notice. For various reasons, they can't hack it: a boyfriend or girlfriend issue; hours are too long; it's not what they thought it would be; they're too regularly hungover; family. Any number of reasons.

Superficially, it all looks so attractive. A summer in the sun, a load of laughs and a bit of work to finance them. The reality is often rather different. Some pack it in very quickly; others stagger on until finally they've had enough. Some are just not equipped to be away from home for so long, but have been seduced by the apparent romance of the summer in the sun of Mallorca. I recall once being in the Club del Sol near Puerto Pollensa. A girl, a member of the entertainment team, was pouring it all out to a sympathetic receptionist. She was sobbing and complaining about the hours and how she had never been told what to expect. Maybe she hadn't been, but maybe she was also a bit naïve. The other day, apparently, three reps from a hotel in Alcúdia just left without saying anything. Perhaps they hadn't been told what to expect. About the long hours, about the complaining tourists. There is perhaps some sympathy for the kids who come as reps. They are generally ill-informed, but as they are the main point of contact for the tourist they are the ones who bear the brunt of problems or questions. And because they are ill-informed, they go on making the same sort of errors. It's a small example, but a few days ago a rep, from the hotel in question, directed a guest to the bus stop for Palma. It was on the wrong side of the road; there is no bus to Palma in that direction. How many people had previously stood there in a vain wait for a bus that didn't exist?

The pay is not great, be it for bar staff, reps, entertainers. There can be the perks, in some instances, such as accommodation paid for, but the money is not huge. And at some point, the routine, the sometimes sweaty and cramped conditions, the hours or the endless babble of tourists causes a breaking-point. Not in all cases, far from it of course. I think, for example, of a group of Dutch kids who were the entertainers at the Red Lion a few years back. They kept their enthusiasm and vitality up till the bitter end. And most do, but not all.

Perhaps it just comes down to character: character that enables the appreciation that the job comes first; that can cope with being away from home for a long period and maybe also for the first time; that can repress the temptations of which there are many, some of which can age even the most bright-eyed over the course of a season.

The seasoned of the seasonal workers are different. They are the pros. The ones who have seen it all before and have probably been there before and got the t-shirt. These are the workers who come back, often to the same establishment, year after year, because they are reliable and because they know it is work rather than play that their employer demands. And those poor employers who have to go through the bureaucratic rigmarole and the expense attached to it, only to then find themselves in the lurch. The employers who can also be presented with the member of staff who goes on the sick and may then return with a fine tan or be seen dancing on a table, having partaken of many a cold drink. How is it that quite so many seem to get sick here? Ok, the employers may not pay huge wages, but then no one does, and it is, after all, they who take the risk of the business in the first place, who face the raft of regulations, who might cop it from the likes of the noise police*.

But come next year and there will be a new bunch of kids hoping for the same adventure. Doubtless I will be contacted by a few seeking advice, as I have been before. And you just hope that they come with their eyes wide open and that those eyes stay wide open, rather than become dulled by lack of sleep and what the island has to offer, which isn't perhaps quite how the tourist understands it.

* I understand that the Jolly Roger in Puerto Alcúdia, just a couple of minutes past the midnight curfew, were dobbed on to the noise police the other day. Result: a fine.

Yesterday's title - well, I reckoned this was pretty obscure, but, damn me, up popped John with the right answer; it was The Bonzo Dog Band, "Shirt". Today's title - one from those normally associated with summer fun.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Would You Mind? We're Talking About Shirts

"So, where do you stand on the men with no shirts debate?" "What men with no shirts debate?" "Men with no shirts in bars and supermarkets and so on." "Never thought about it. Never been bothered about it." Thus replied a bar-owner (female). The bar in question has a terrace and it is in Puerto Alcúdia. There is a bar in Puerto Pollensa that does not have a terrace and also has a sign saying "no shirt, no sale" - or something like that.

What does it matter? Shirtlessness, that is. Elsewhere, I have seen an exchange about this in the context of the alleged increased tackiness of Puerto Pollensa. Men with no shirts. God forbid. And in the resort of the blessed that is Puerto Pollensa, as opposed to the resort of the damned of Puerto Alcúdia. What will become of us all? At the one extreme, I fancy there are those who would prefer males to be clad in safari suit and pith helmet and to be carrying a stout cane with some flagellant straps on the end with which to ward off flies and the natives. At the other, there are those who seem only to have brought with them a pair of shorts and flip-flops and ward off everyone and everything with an expanse of belly. Avert that child's eyes and put blinkers on that horse! A semi-naked man, with added lard!

Some people have no class. That's undoubtedly the case. When last nosebagging at Taste of India, a gentleman of body artwork seated himself at the adjoining table - minus shirt. Why? Would the same gentleman tackle a tikka masala in his local Indian back home bare to the waist? No, I don't imagine he would. It may be warm, but it's not a nudist colony. And even at nudist colonies, mercifully, people generally dress for dinner.

There is of course body and body. Unfortunately, there is often far too much body. The Phil Mitchell-isation of the British male is a curious, knuckles-to-the-fore, arms in the Dubya coat-hanger-position phenomenon of mob-instinct peer-grouping among adults who really ought to know better. And there was I thinking that "clone" was a gay motif. Gut, tattoos, a low-number head shave. Ultra attractive. Many moons ago, I noted here that two Spanish women in the Eroski supermarket uttered "guapo" (lovely) in a sarcastic tone as two Mitchells who had failed to pack a shirt bullocked by - vast beef mountains of flesh that should have been carved up and had the toothpick of a price per kilo stuck into them on the meat counter. What on Earth do they think they look like? Eroski seems to have given up with its sign asking for a shirt and something on the feet. It had little effect, so the poor, demure girlies at the check-outs still get a very full frontal of stomach and man boob in glorious pink.

There again, they are on holiday. And when on holiday, any decorum that may have been attained over the years is left on the airplane, deposited in the EasyJet rubbish sack. Not though that I am without some sympathy. Restaurants, main supermarkets, chemists - here are places of almost Catholic reverence that require the male equivalent of the something on the female shoulder. But bars, those with terraces especially, and on the streets? When you come from a land of the summer midday moon, every opportunity is needed for third-degree sunburn on that voluminous hillock of ashen belly.

The real problem is that places like Puerto Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa have never quite managed to reconcile the fact that they are holiday resorts and also working, everyday towns. Viewed through the eyes of someone living in either (and also by those tourists who remembered to include a shirt on their packing list), there is something of the naff about troops of the non-shirted parading the streets. But to how many tourists does it actually occur that there is life beyond the beach and the pool? No, I don't blame them. Unappealing it may be for some, but it's holiday. Just be thankful they brought their shorts.

When a hotel and apartment complex has been around for getting on for 40 years, there comes a time for a bit of smartening up. And over the past winter, the Sunwing Resort in Puerto Alcúdia received just a refurb. Would have cost a bit. Unfortunately, it's going to cost a bit more. "The Diario" reports on a fine of some 750 grand for works that apparently didn't have the right licence and that caused a nuisance to neighbours. Oops.

Yesterday's title - The Jam, "That's Entertainment" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv55WsedLYI). Today's title - this comes from something by some of the greatest lunatics of British popular music - and they were?


Monday, September 15, 2008

Lights Going Out And A Kick In The Balls

Follow the leader. Or something like that. No sooner has Puerto Alcúdia had its day of the tourist than Calvia is going to do likewise. 25 September and it will be a day of fun, fun, fun and thanks to the visitors who fill the coffers of Palmanova and Magalluf licensed premises. Worryingly, the whole thing is set to end with performances by groups doing "internationally known songs", to quote "The Bulletin". Sounds like more Beatlejuice to me. Whatever.

Tourist days. Sounds all well and good, but why are they taking place in September? And with this in mind, what about thanking all the other tourists? Those who will be around and who were around in Alcúdia will be and were the unwitting representatives of a whole season's tourist humanity. I hope they feel suitably honoured. But it is a bit undemocratic. Having a tourist day seems like a tautology. Every day is a tourist day during the season, is it not? One day among the 184 of the official season when the tourist is lauded; the other 183 when he is not. Are all tourist establishments to be given smile lessons and hand out "I Love Tourists" badges? And what of the ents to be staged? Where are the drink as much as you can until your head expands and projectile vomiting contests? No true day of the tourist would be complete without them. 183 days of the year they take place, so why not the 184th? What they should do is make the tourist day a national holiday, not tell any tourists and then close everything for the day. That would be more like it.

Or perhaps a tourist day should involve a good old, healthy punch-up, especially for the Brits; or at least some 12 per cent of them. "The Diario" today reports on findings from a body of the European Commission which say that this percentage was engaged in street or "places of night entertainment" scraps during 2007. It will surprise few to learn that the Brits head the league table. That 12 per cent may be a tad on the conservative side. It does not seem to include incidents that occur within the confines of hotels. Having a bundle is, for some, all part of the holiday experience and entertainment - "lights going out and a kick in the balls".

The fisherman's fair in Puerto Pollensa that occurred over the weekend, decreed a success, would probably not have attracted many who prefer a touch of violence to some samples of Mallorcan produce and gastronomy. Ostensibly a fair to celebrate all things sea-going, this event also embraces the land, in the form of information regarding things such as honey and almonds as well as "show cooking" of different dishes. The fair takes its place alongside others on the island which do similar; all part of a hoped-for spin-off into a different form of tourism.

"Show cooking" is something one stumbles across quite a bit here. There is a place in Puerto Alcúdia, for example, that advertises itself as a show cooking location. The restaurant, Pippers, shows off a grill and the cooking of meat. The term appears to be a translation of "muestra" ("mostra" in Catalan), to mean show or demonstration. As such, it has crept into general usage and has moved away from the mere sense of a demonstration to become a "show" - the preparation of a meal as a spectacular, if you like. But also as such, although the individual words - show and cooking - are clearly understandable, the concept may not be. The anglicisation as a promotional device may, ironically, make sense to the Spanish but may mean less to the Brit, or indeed other nationalities. Expect, therefore, there to be more and more restaurants engaging in it.

Yesterday's title - The Undertones. Today's title - this has been a question before; well worthy of repetition though; where's it from?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happens All The Time

"Vuelta al cole". Back to school. It's that time of year, and tomorrow will see the mass return to the reality of education after the months of beach and play. As every year, the newspapers will doubtless be full of photos of the munchkins returning after having spent a quarter of the year on holiday. Last year when I reported on the "vuelta", I mentioned that the press had reported that the return had gone off "with normality". I'd love to know what abnormality would be, and, as chance would have it, there will be some served up in Puerto Alcúdia. Nothing like a bit of parental direct action, as school will still be out tomorrow if they have their way. There is a touch of local difficulty regarding the temporary classrooms at the new secondary school and their safety. The governmental body for education and culture is getting it in the neck for failing to meet promises. Back to school and back to the beach, it would seem.

The length of the holiday as much as the act of the return adds power to the news that is the "vuelta", and so it will, as always, make the news. A summer holiday double in length of that in England might suggest a pretty relaxed educational regime. It would be an incorrect perception. The total number of hours spent per annum in Spanish schools is not that far behind that of England which not only has some of the longest hours it also has the shortest summer holidays (along with Wales and Germany); the difference is in the region of 450 hours per year. This may seem a lot until one appreciates that, for example, the number of hours in Finland is 1700 less than England; and Finland is a country with a higher level of educational achievement than in England or Spain. The Finns, by the way, have 11 weeks of summer holiday. Spanish kids spend more time in school than do their German counterparts by a factor of 600 hours, despite the twelve-week summer holiday.

The new school term will also see the introduction of English (or French or German) as the language of teaching for certain subjects, the choice and discretion of individual schools participating in the scheme. English, for instance, could be used for maths, art or biology. Hmm. I remember biology. We started with the amoeba, if memory serves, and then the memory fades. I never really graduated much beyond the simple single cell. To have been instructed in Spanish would have made it even less comprehensible. I don't know quite how this English or other foreign language teaching is meant to help. Perhaps simple English lessons might be the answer. To explain relatively complex subjects in an alien language will depend enormously on the skill of the teacher as well, and some crash courses in English for teachers do not necessarily arm them with all those skills.

The early arrival of autumn in the form of the storm that struck on Friday left, no surprise, the coast road into Puerto Pollensa awash with flood water. Happens all the time. There was me thinking that they were meant to have done something to have alleviated the flooding problem. Come the rains, and it's going to happen. Mind you, this is a useful way around the road closure-or-not conundrum. Just summon up a few storms and nature takes the decision out of the hands of the town hall.

As the debate about the road rumbles on, I am less and less clear as to quite why there is a desire to pedestrianise it. Or at least pedestrianise the whole length up to Llenaire. There is a perfectly adequate form of pedestrian mobility as it is: the pavement. If the plan were to ban vehicles as far as, for instance, Sail and Surf and La Gola, I could see some sense. This would mean that the areas of Puerto Pollensa's frontline with the main concentration of pedestrians would become more easily negotiated by those pedestrians. But up as far as Llenaire? Why? It can only be as a justification for the new road, which is fair enough - up to a point. The new road is, or should be, to alleviate some of the congestion in the centre of the port, so a partial increase in pedestrianisation would achieve this. To close the road for the whole length, however, would merely create a problem that does not exist.

Teach me to put together features a day in advance. So this is by way of an almost immediate update. It now seems that the road will be closed between the Calle Elcano, which is the road opposite the entrance to the wharf (Moll Sur), and the Avenida Paris, which is just a bit past where I had suggested. This means that there will be no pedestrianisation as far as Llenaire and that the bit between the nautical club roundabout and the wharf will remain open. That indeed had been another thing I couldn't quite understand - access to the wharf and nautical club and also to the parking area. Now, it would seem, it is to remain open, though it will also mean entering from Calle Juan XXIII. The compromise closure is to be effected over this coming week. That's it then. For now.

Yesterday's title - The Yardbirds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUZg6VHfcLM). Today's title - Northern Irish.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shape Of Things

The towns of Alcúdia and Pollensa are two of Mallorca's most extraordinary bequeathals. Their histories are a conjoint immensity of pre-Christendom, occupation, imported cultures, war, religion and architecture. These are the histories that reside within the city walls and in the ruins of Pollentia in Alcúdia and about the Plaça Major, up the Calvari steps and to the Roman bridge of Pollensa. Here is the architectural heritage of an old Mallorca. And then there is the rest.

Drive along the road from the motorway and glance to your left as you pass Pollensa, and you might well be inclined to just carry on. The impression is, if not of brutalism, then of a modernist fudge of non-description. Locally, one refers to the "pueblos" (small towns). Yet in reality Alcúdia and Pollensa are old and new towns, the latter nailed on as minor urban sprawls of unintelligent design. The idea that a sympathetic contemporary architecture might have mimicked the town-house style of the hearts of the towns was lost in planning offices stripped of foresight and amenable to a developer's lack of heart. The old centre of Alcúdia is protected by law as a heritage site; the surrounds were and are unprotected against an architectural dog's breakfast. Even something as "cultural" as Alcúdia's Auditorium looks like it has been transported, brick by glass facia, from a Robbins university campus lecture theatre in England; new, in the sense that the sixties might be defined as new, and utilitarian in both design and its lack of sympathy. It is not just Alcúdia and Pollensa. Sa Pobla, Santa Margalida, Muro all suffer in varying degrees; Muro's outer reaches, for example, could best be described as dreary, though some might spin this as light-industry chic. I'm not sure how one would describe them at worst.

There is not the same competition between the new and the old in the two towns' resorts, but it hasn't prevented them from being hotch-potched according to the latest whim, mainly of apartment block construction. Glass, less glass; white, less white; colour, less colour; however it is decreed by current trend, the effect is uniform in its very lack of uniformity - an absence of an overarching sense of purpose in terms of there being some symmetry to the towns' appearances. The ports of Alcúdia and Pollensa are the victims perhaps of their success and of their continuity. By contrast, Can Picafort, largely built from scratch over the past five decades, has a certain consistency and regulation, certainly in the residential areas of Son Bauló and the Avenida Santa Eulalia. In Son Bauló, there has been some success in marrying tourist and residential real estate with a degree of harmony; in the avenida, the two Viva complexes add grace to rather than detract from a wide-streeted elegance. Can Pic is a kind of Mallorcan Singapore: out with the old, in with the new, and applied with a degree of autocracy.

The ever-onward development of the ports, demonstrated by the various apartment sites in a state of permanent non-completion that may yet see them completed, has made the ports Lego architectural irregularity. One shape here, one shape there. It is only the old towns, the real old towns, that have the satisfaction of order.

And, in the case of Alcúdia, there is another shape that looms - that of the train. Where will it go? Will it go? The other evening, there was a meeting of local people to discuss the proposals for the siting of the line and the terminal. The advantages of the train coming to Alcúdia should be obvious, but there are those who are opposed to it, wherever it might end up. And then there are those opposed to specific sitings. You can, for example, see a "no-to-the-train" sign along the road from the roundabout as you enter Alcúdia going towards the roundabout for Puerto Pollensa. Anywhere but in the backyard of my finca, or right through my finca. Despite the sense of a terminal somewhere close to the centre of population, i.e. towards the back of the lovely auditorium, there is a lack of sense in respect of the changes to the landscape across the finca areas and their expropriation, to say nothing of the links to the proposed tram routes. Francesc Antich wanted an age of the train. It could be he will get an age. An age of debate with potentially no end.

Yesterday's title - Martika, "Toy Soldiers" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpJy46o_7b0). Today's title - '60s greats.