Friday, October 31, 2008

True Blue

The Conservatives are coming to Mallorca. Rejoice, rejoice.

In autumn of next year, the Conservatives Abroad organisation will, reports "The Bulletin", be holding its annual conference on the island for the first time. Among those attending may be eminent members of the party, such as "Oik" Osborne or the boy Hague. Just as well that it's in the autumn and not in August, in case any Russian oligarchs happen to cruise into a quiet Mallorcan cove and prove too much of a temptation for Oik to go scraping and bowing with his begging bowl.

True to form, the arrival of overseas Tories is being given some wholly hyperbolic spin. The local branch chairman believes that it will bring "political benefits" to the island, to which one might ask - what political benefits and for whom? He adds that there will also be benefits for hotels and business. How many delegates are expected? One hundred. Sufficient to fill a floor or two of a medium-sized hotel. As for business. Hmm, no I don't know either. I will concede, however, that the conference might prove positive in terms of promoting the island (for which read Palma and the immediate environs) as a convention centre. Now I think of it though, maybe it would be a good idea if Oik (or Gideon, to give him his actual first name) were once again to be exposed seeking to trouser some aluminium-made moolah. I suspect that a certain part of Corfu is enjoying record levels of enquiry for next summer.

One would imagine that the Mallorcan toryist, sorry tourist authorities, will leap on the Conservative bandwagon. "Come to Mallorca, where the sky is always blue and so are you." Might not play too well, however, with those with a red or orange preference. But why stop with the Conservatives Abroad? Get the real things over here. Labour could pack out Bellevue in Alcúdia for a week, no problem. And the likes of Prezza and "Two Pizzas" Clarke would keep the tills of the Mile's troughs ticking over faster than you could suck a small glass of sangria through a Jack Straw. Now that would be good for business.

Yes, afraid so, the saga continues. Paul Davidson's non-payment of the money was, apparently, due to the fact that he wishes to establish a separate company to effect the transaction. Well, that's up to him, but it does seem a little odd that there seemed to be no prior warning of this potential glitch in the grand ceremony of the handing over of the wonga. All the parties had gathered for this - except one. Now, Mallorcans may have rather flexible notions of time-keeping, but when there's the small matter of 38 million euros to be handed over, then you can bet that they'll break a non-punctuality habit of a lifetime. That it has taken to this late stage though for it to emerge that a different vehicle is desired for completing the takeover - which effectively means the signed documents are null and void as new ones will have to be drawn up - should not, one might have thought, have prevented a quick phone call, like on Tuesday perhaps, to let everyone know that they need not attend the gathering. All very strange.

I am wondering though if the regular mentions of Real Mallorca here on the blog are not in danger of losing my vast local readership. I say this as, if I ask your everyday expat what thoughts he or she may have on this burning issue, the response is always the same. Couldn't care less. Couldn't care less whether a Brit takes the club over. Couldn't care less about Real Mallorca. This does all rather suggest that the grand plan of all those Brit expats schlepping off to the ONO stadium is a pipedream, which I have indeed suggested it might be on previous occasions. And then there are the Mallorcans themselves. Want to know who the Most Famous Mallorcan In The World, Manacor muscle, tennis number one Rafael Christmas, supports? Real Madrid. And where Nadal goes, others follow.

The island has been getting a damn good kicking from winds these past couple of days. On Wednesday, there was mayhem at the market in Puerto Pollensa when particularly malevolent gusts scattered some stalls and their products. There is, around and about, a fair old amount of damage, though reports of the winds being unlike anything people have experienced before seem somewhat exaggerated. High winds are not uncommon, and there has not been a repeat of last October's seriously damaging blast.

Yesterday's title - The Doors, "The End" ( Today's title - a number one song by?


Index for October 2008

Asociación de Britanicos Irlandeses Residentes Empresarios y Trabajadores en las Baleares - 24 October 2008
Attacks on women - 1 October 2008
Australian Boulevard - 27 October 2008
Balearic Government - 8 October 2008, 26 October 2008
Ball de bot - 11 October 2008
Banks - 5 October 2008
Bribery - 17 October 2008
Buses - 12 October 2008
Catalan - 1 October 2008
Civil War - 14 October 2008, 18 October 2008
Closed down - 25 October 2008
Conservatives Abroad - 31 October 2008
Corruption - 8 October 2008
Credit crunch - 5 October 2008, 29 October 2008
Crisps - 10 October 2008
Cyclists - 17 October 2008, 18 October 2008
Diet - 26 October 2008
Driving - 17 October 2008
Economic crisis - 5 October 2008, 20 October 2008, 28 October 2008
Elderly tourists - 10 October 2008
Eroski - 10 October 2008
Expatriates - 4 October 2008, 6 October 2008, 15 October 2008, 24 October 2008
Football - 7 October 2008, 16 October 2008, 21 October 2008, 30 October 2008, 31 October 2008
Football shirts - 2 October 2008, 29 October 2008
Franco - 14 October 2008, 18 October 2008
Gardens - 19 October 2008
Gay clubs - 29 October 2008
German bars - 22 October 2008
GOB - 13 October 2008
Gotmar - 15 October 2008
Hunting - 13 October 2008
Integration - 4 October 2008
International Brigades - 14 October 2008
Judge Baltasar Garzón - 18 October 2008
Languages - 1 October 2008
Local democracy - 3 October 2008, 15 October 2008
Maya civilisation - 30 October 2008
Menú del día - 26 October 2008
Mobile phones - 17 October 2008
Momo Gay Club - 29 October 2008
Mosquitoes - 27 October 2008
October - 18 October 2008, 19 October 2008
Parking - 17 October 2008, 22 October 2008, 23 October 2008
Paul Davidson - 7 October 2008, 9 October 2008, 16 October 2008, 30 October 2008, 31 October 2008
Pedestrianisation - 3 October 2008, 5 October 2008, 8 October 2008, 16 October 2008, 29 October 2008
Playa de Muro - 1 October 2008, 25 October 2008
Political parties - 3 October 2008, 26 October 2008
Pollensa town hall - 16 October 2008, 23 October 2008
Power station - 23 October 2008
Prices - 12 October 2008
Product labels - 1 October 2008
Puerto Portals - 6 October 2008
Racism - 21 October 2008, 28 October 2008
Rambling - 14 October 2008
Real Mallorca - 7 October 2008, 16 October 2008, 30 October 2008, 31 October 2008
Recycling - 9 October 2008
Residents associations - 15 October 2008, 24 October 2008
Roads - 3 October 2008, 5 October 2008, 8 October 2008, 16 October 2008
Scandal - 8 October 2008
Second World War - 17 October 2008
Son Real - 13 October 2008
Storms - 19 October 2008, 31 October 2008
Supermarkets - 10 October 2008
Tourist wants - 12 October 2008
Traditions - 11 October 2008
Trees - 24 October 2008
Unemployment - 28 October 2008
Unió Mallorquina - 3 October 2008
Winter tourism - 2 October 2008, 24 October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The West Is The Best

The Maya civilisation of central America is a very small footnote in Spanish history. By the time Columbus and the other early Spanish adventurers encountered the Maya, their great civilisation was long past - by some 600 years - and their population was massively smaller than it had once been; the surviving Maya were their own footnote of succession. Yet the story of the Maya, their rise and fall, has long fascinated historians. And the reasons for the decline of what had been a great civilisation are still debated.

Into all of this comes an article in "The Guardian", which draws comparisons with the Maya's decline and current-day Western civilisation, that of a wavering system of capitalism and the overuse of resources. One needs to be cautious. "The Guardian" is almost an environmental-lobby house magazine. But the thrust of the argument, that it was environmental and population factors which led to the downfall of the Maya, has some clear enough similarities with our own civilisation. There is a rather convenient conclusion to the article - that civilisations last, at most, for 600 years. The glory years of the Maya amounted to a bit more than 600; current Western civilisation, starting with the Renaissance, is reaching its terminal point of decline.

It is a seductive argument, but it could of course be total bollocks. The alternative explanations for the fall of the Maya are based on attacks from other tribes (akin, perhaps, to Rome) and natural disasters. However, the article deserves to be read if only for the characterisation of our own "kings" (Brown and the G8) as being incapable of reading the signs of decline - as the Maya kings were similarly tunnel-visioned.

Ok, leap of imagination time. Mallorca is a footnote in the history of Western civilisation. Indeed it is another footnote in Spanish history. Yet, following the argument of the Maya analogy, it could be seen as one of the last great follies of Western civilisation, a one-time backward but sustainable island propelled suddenly into the world of big money with scant or no regard for its resources.

And so they came to build their temples of tourism and palaces by the sea, and all this was done in a period, a tiny fraction of history, with a speed that choked the island's resources and made them groan under the pressure of this haste. What the "kings" did not know, until very late, was that the island's location made it more susceptible than others to the impact of voracious anti-nature, artificial climate change; one that could mean that the great period of Mallorcan civilisation comes to last a mere 70 years or so.

A neighbour, who lives closer to the sea than do I, asked me the other day why anyone would now want to buy a property right by the sea. It's a fair question, as no one can say with any certainty what might happen to sea levels. We only have the predictions, and they, as also those for extreme temperatures, are far from comforting.

Yet there is one great flaw in the Maya parable, and it concerns - ironically enough - technological innovation. While this may have caused the circumstances of potential decline, it is also the potential saviour. The point about the Maya, which is perhaps being overlooked, is that, despite their great achievements, they seemed to reach a plateau of innovation. The Mexico that the Spanish discovered was a wheel-less society. The tribes, not just the Maya, lacked curiosity. Though they traded, they were not seafarers. When the first Spanish ships appeared off the coasts of the Americas, they were alien things to the Mexican peoples. It could be argued that the great civilisations of the past, such as the Maya, had an in-built and finite time span. The same cannot be said of a technologically innovative and curious Western civilisation. It can be facile to believe that "something will turn up" that prevents its collapse, but the chances of that something turning up are vastly greater than was the case with old civilisations.

The Maya comparison is an interesting one, but it maybe is no more than just that: interesting.

Here is the article from "The Guardian":

Well, having myself said that the end had been reached - an end also echoed by the press - it looks as though as everyone is being made to look a chump. The takeover of the club by Paul Davidson was supposed to have been consummated yesterday by the transfer of the 38 million euros agreed price. Then there was an email which asked for an extension of a further ten days, the reasoning being - apparently - "unforeseen circumstances of the global economy" (as quoted in translation from the report in the "Diario" this morning). The extension has been agreed to, but now obviously some doubts are being raised, both by the press and from within the club.

It is all somewhat extraordinary not to say somewhat farcical. And one guesses that, if the payment is indeed made, there are those who will be wondering quite what the delay indicates in terms of the future. The sale price of Real Mallorca is not, when one considers English clubs, that high, but there are also those who will argue it is still too high, especially for a club that does not actually own a key asset - its ground.

Still more to run on this one.

Yesterday's title - Death Cab For Cutie ( Today's title - a line from a terminal song by one of the great US bands.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Will Follow You Into The Dark

So where were we? Ah yes, that story about the parking in Puerto Pollensa being closed; the story that proved not to be a story when the mayor denied that there was any intention of doing so. Well, according to the "Diario", the chap who raised the whole issue, apparently separate to any policy of the town hall, has announced that he will be quitting his post as councillor for culture in Pollensa in order to spend more time on his other job as a director with the Mallorca council. The timing of this announcement, coming soon after this whole parking issue, does seem a little odd. Why would he have been making statements about potential changes to the parking area, albeit that they seemed to be outside his brief, if he knew he was going to be leaving the administration? Or maybe he didn't know.

And further to 16 October (The End Is The Beginning ...), another representative on the town hall, i.e. the one for Esquerra Unida-Els Verds, says that he has got the signatures of more than 300 residents who oppose the pedestrianisation, and that he will table a motion to put an end to it at a town hall meeting this week. Doubt that he'll have much success. I wonder how many of the 300 are from the Gotmar radicals. Their siding with Catalan leftists would seem most incongruous.

Something about which one doesn't hear much or indeed anything around these parts is gay culture; probably because there isn't one, in the sense of gay bars or clubs. I had always thought that were there such clubs or were there to ever be any, they would be in Can Picafort. Quite why I thought that I don't really know. Anyway, what should I see in the newsagents but a flyer for ... a gay club. And where? You got it. Can Picafort; the Son Bauló end to be precise. Opening Thursday is Momo, not to be confused with the Momo restaurant that used to be in Alcanada. So, if you happen to be one of the "most chic people", as the flyer has it, then Momo is the place for you. I'm not sure what a most chic person is. Presumably, one knows if one is. There used of course to be - for a short period - La Belle in Puerto Alcúdia. I don't know that it qualified as a gay bar as such; the drag acts were primarily for tourists - of any sexual identity. Maybe Gerard will be appearing at Momo from now on as it promises - "DJs, Drags, Dancers, Glam Dark Room". Now I'm not so naïve as to not understand what a dark room is, but what is a glam dark room? And if it's dark, how does one know?

A while ago I spoke about the potential difficulties for new businesses in raising credit from the banks to buy traspasos. Lending may have become much tighter, but there was a heartening story told to me yesterday which proves that, so long as you have been keeping your bank account in good nick, the chances are the banks will lend. I don't know that I should say which businessman with a current restaurant or indeed for which place he has obtained the traspaso (save that it is currently one of the multitude of Chinese restaurants in Alcúdia, but will cease to be). But with all the gloomy news knocking around, there is still some light in the darkness.

I can announce that this blog is formally in alliance with Danny Baker's 6-0-6 in seeking to drive the horror of the football replica kit from the streets and everywhere else of the island. Following on from the earlier piece (2 October: Here I Go Again), last night's show insisted that the wearing of all replica shirts when leaving the UK is now banned. There are a few concessions once here. Shirts for non-league teams are permissible. Shirts for other teams can be worn but only in a bar if you have arrived in another shirt and then changed into the replica shirt. On leaving the bar, there would need to be a change back. Otherwise, no football shirts are to be worn in public.

And as to the weather. I mentioned that a big change was forecast. Big, big rain. Yesterday evening and last night. Temperature - down, down, down. And periods of darkness owing to power cuts. Just when you thought it was safe to blow out the candles, what happens ...

Yesterday's title - Traffic, "The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys" (, which I suppose might have been apt for one of today's stories. But to today's title - very good American indie group capable of some sweet songs; like this one. Think taxi that has passed away.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Percentage You're Paying Is Too High Priced

120 per cent. Read that carefully. It really does say one hundred and twenty per cent. What does it denote? The increase in unemployment in the Balearics in the last twelve months. And there isn't even - yet - a technical recession. The whole of Spain may be suffering, but not on the scale of the Balearics. The increase dwarfs the second highest, that of 79% in Murcia. The anticipated number out of work during the coming winter has had to be revised upwards; it is likely to exceed 100,000. What is the actual working population in the Balearics? It's around the 550,000 mark. Almost a fifth will not be working this winter. The most depressing aspect of the 120%, however, is that it has been registered in the third quarter of the year, when, theoretically, employment should be at its highest. There were over 55,000 unemployed during the third quarter. Last year, there were 25,000 - that's the 120%.

The absurd suggestion, made some weeks ago, that tourism (in winter!) would help to offset the job losses in construction makes one wonder about the sanity of some local politicians. At least others are saying that now would not be a good time to be causing political instability by calling elections in response to the latest round of scandals. There is some sanity then. At such economic times as these, the last thing that is needed is an election. The question is though, how do the politicians dig the Balearics out of its unemployment hole? Or perhaps the question should be - can they?

One answer lies in heavy doses of public spending, for which, almost certainly, one should read construction. The Balearic Government has already committed funds to firms that have faced indebtedness as a result of the construction collapse. They may have helped them survive, short term, but where is the pipeline of projects that is going to provide them with business? Take just one example - the museum redevelopment of Alcúdia's old power station. The project first came to the table in May last year. They have yet to work out how exactly it is to be financed.

Throwing money at infrastructure projects is one thing, but not everyone is capable of construction work, even were there the jobs to go around. White-collar public service jobs might also be a solution, but these would probably simply only add to a top-heavy bureaucracy; the reverse - fewer jobs - is the requirement in some instances. The town halls are all strapped for cash; they would need to go begging to the government and ultimately to Madrid for the capital to engage in more local works. There again, public spending, and therefore public borrowing, is not necessarily the ideal approach, especially if it leads to projects that might otherwise be financed under more benign, later economic circumstances, and what would be the time-scales of such projects. There is something to be said, instead, for tax cuts and for reductions in onerous social-security levies. The latter is highly unlikely, especially at present, but the size of contributions is a distinct obstacle to employment creation.

Maybe there is something in Keynes' notion of employing the unemployed to dig holes which they then fill in. To have witnessed some of the road and street works in Puerto Pollensa these past few winters, one would think this has already been the policy. But how does a local authority like Pollensa, with its budget shortfall of approaching a million euros, get to fund meaningful projects? And indeed what would they be? Given the hash the town hall makes of certain things, one couldn't be confident of them getting them right in any event. Maybe it wouldn't matter though: dig holes, and then fill them in.

The unemployment situation is being faced up to by Mallorca's bodies for combatting racism. There is a recognition that foreigners could be the target for social discontent. More than half the number of foreigners in the Balearics come from outside the European Union, but even some from within face discrimination of different forms. There is to be a campaign against racist attitudes, one that, in the words of the councillor for immigration, emphasises that "an intolerant society is a society with fear". It is a campaign that might well be needed.

Yesterday's title - The Four Seasons ( Today's title - from the title track of an album by a British band of the late '60s and early '70s: one that was more appreciated in the US. Think lots of vehicles.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Under My Skin

The hell of the mosquito. They are still around, and some will linger; you can encounter a rogue mosquito at more or less any time during the winter, but for the moment the flies are the more annoying flying thing. For some people though, for some tourists, mosquitoes are the ruination of holiday. One can see some visitors who have been attacked in the most aggressive fashion, bites along the arms and around the neck, by the ankles or the backs of knees, inflamed and scratched. It is small comfort to those who are badly affected, but it is the case that far from everyone suffers in such a way. I am one of the latter. This year I have had hardly any mosquitoes bites, and when I have got them they have been no more than a temporary nuisance, as is the norm where I'm concerned at any rate. One thing that does sometimes intrigue me is the extent to which people who live here are badly affected. You hear the odd moan about a bite being irritating, but I never seem to see anyone, other than tourists, who is covered in bites.

To see some of the stuff on the internet, you would think that Alcúdia (by which one must be clear in saying that part of Puerto Alcúdia that houses the majority of tourists, i.e. Bellevue and its environs) was the only place on the island where mosquitoes were a problem. This is far from the case. Puerto Pollensa is similarly blighted as are other parts. Anywhere with water with slow circulation gives rise to mosquitoes. And Mallorca is of course unexceptional in having mosquitoes.

But it is probably fair to say that Puerto Alcúdia, and also Playa de Muro, have more of a mosquito reputation than mostly anywhere else in Mallorca. It's the fault of all that water. Once upon a time, it was far worse. Albufera used to stretch as far as the boundaries of what is the port area which, if you refer to some maps, is known as Mar i Estany (sea and lake). The lakes of Las Gaviotas, Esperanza and Menor were the results of the reclaiming of Albufera, as are of course the tourist centre around Bellevue and all the residential area surrounding it. The problem is, small comfort again, not nearly as bad as was once the case.

The reports of holiday-hell time, as a consequence of the "Alcúdia" mosquito are numerous. One I saw just recently complained of the need for treatment two months on from a holiday (by the Lago Menor); there was also a recommendation for people not to come to "Alcúdia". I use the quotation marks because of the degree of misrepresentation. There is little or no mosquito problem away from the Bellevue area and the lakes and canals of Puerto Alcúdia and from the lake and wetlands of Playa de Muro. Treatment for two months means infection, and, hard though it is to stop, scratching the bite is the best way of creating an infection. One is tempted to say that it's just bad luck, but don't underestimate the power of just one example of an unhappy tourist covered in unsightly lumps. I have read exchanges which result in someone concluding that they will go elsewhere, because someone else has been similarly badly affected.

This should be a matter of concern. It is hardly a new one, but the widespread use of the internet, the exchange of opinion and the recommendation or condemnation are peculiarly powerful in determining choice and selection. The presence of mosquitoes was something you used to find about only when you arrived. Not now. A bad-mosquito week in Alcúdia can mean a booking for Palmanova, even if mosquitoes are not unknown in the latter. The person I referred to above said that until the "problem" (of mosquitoes) is solved, people should avoid "Alcúdia". They're going to have a long wait. The only real solution lies in getting rid of all that solution - the water of the lakes, canals and Albufera. That is not going to happen. Another is to intervene, by which one means increasing the number of natural predators and by using chemicals.

One fears that the mosquito problem has been looked upon with a degree of complacency. Tourists have always come in abundance, and they're not about to stop coming. That's true, and one can certainly overplay the extent to which the presence of mosquitoes do influence the holiday decision. But there is evidence that it does, and the more that people use the internet in guiding that decision, the more it is possible that tourists will opt for somewhere else. It should be a matter of concern, but - as I've remarked before - I wonder to what extent, if any, the local tourist authorities take any notice. I can sense another little meeting about to take place.

Further to the entry for 22 October, my thanks to Dick who did indeed go and sample Australian Boulevard, the somewhat bizarre bar in Puerto Pollensa; bizarre given the lack of huge numbers of Australians. Anyway, Dick says that, appropriate decorations and beers notwithstanding, there wasn't a great deal of information, Australia-wise on tap, such as the result of the Aussie Rules grand final. No, there probably wouldn't be. Australian by name; Spanish by nature; Grupo Boulevard by design.

Coming next - Moscow Boulevard for the five-star pretend-oligarch folk of Playa de Muro. Vodka, borsch and careful on the polonium in the teapot.

Yesterday's title - Yes, "Yours Is No Disgrace" ( Today's title - part of a title of something done by many, e.g. those of the parts of the year.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

If The Summer Changed To Winter

The season is closing with the worst of weather; it's a shame for the last-dreg tourists who might have hoped to have caught a bit of decent sun. They are more likely to catch a cold. The shifts in weather in autumn are the originators of sniffles and sore throats; I should know, I had to get some antibiotics from the chemist yesterday. And resistance is lessened when sleep is disturbed, as it was two nights ago by a storm that came and then went on through most of the night and which deposited industrial quantities of rain. The forecast says it will get cold during the week. Snow (on the mountain tops) is not unusual this early; I mentioned such around the start of November last year.

The change in the weather brings with it a whole change in diet. Gone are the salads of summer, replaced by the "winter-warmers". It is possible to eat well and cheaply in winter if one opts for the staples of a Spanish diet that are often overlooked by the Brits. The chickpea, for instance, is an ancient part of Spanish cuisine. Go back to historical accounts around the time of the start of empire in the late fifteenth century, and you will discover that the nobility was eating chickpeas. While these and white beans and lentils can all be prepared, the easier route is the jar. They are dirt cheap; 60 centimos or so for a good-sized one. Chickpeas or beans or both with some pieces of local sausage or pork in a stew with stock or gravy, serve with some veg and you can even dispense with potatoes or rice, it's that filling. And it all costs very little. There may be a bit of a bowel attack later, but what the heck.

One thing you can get here easily is Bisto in its various flavours. This is a godsend. The alternatives - the Spanish or German gravies/stocks are either tasteless or are akin to eating your way through a salt mine. A cracking mix for taste is to add "tomate frito", a sort of halfway between a tomato sauce and a purée, and which is usually piled high in supermarkets. Without overdoing it, it is an excellent addition to most sauces or gravies. Cooking up a pea or pulse stew with the likes of broccoli or green beans (which can be quite dear at times) is about as healthy as it gets, except maybe the local sausage; broccoli and green beans, for instance, both rated 100 out of 100 in a recent listing of the most nutritious of food stuffs. Something else recent was a look at the Spanish menú del día by the equivalent of the Consumers' Association. It said that the menú was too heavily loaded in favour of carbs, if not necessarily of the legume variety. Hard for me to say, I've not had many, but when I have, they have usually always been good. One such at Bon Profit in Puerto Pollensa, to which I was taken by José at Bony, was difficult to get past the first course - the sopa mallorquina - which was that filling. Another goodie, as recommended by Seamus at No Frills, is Alhambra in Puerto Alcúdia. One of the most popular of all menús is that at Celler El Moli in Pollensa - a barn of a converted mill that is always full. These menús are never expensive, even if they are experiencing a bit of a slump just at the moment. I did, however, once have a menú which featured, as the main course, the local favourite of pork and cabbage. It was truly disgusting, unless, that is, you like pork with merely a hint of meat and cabbage that has been cooked into a yellow mush. "It's good for preventing cancer," said the lady owner who I know well and am very fond of and, for which reason, I am not going to mention the restaurant in question. Maybe so, but I can probably find other ways of avoiding it.

And as winter beckons, so there is something of a winter of discontent in the political ranks of the island. Following on from the sacking of the Unió Mallorquina's tourism minister from the Balearic Government, there are now not one, but two ministers involved with court cases involving alleged frauds. Of the three main parties, the only one that seems unaffected is the PSOE socialists (who lead the Balearic Government); the scandals relate to the nationalists and the Partido Popular. There is talk of an early election, as a consequence of these cases, but the president, Francesc Antich, is saying no - at the moment. An opinion poll suggests that, were there to be a snap election, the socialists would increase their representation. There is also talk of local rule being taken away and handed over to Madrid. I don't know how this could possibly be done; it would be a major constitutional crisis were it to be. Regional autonomy is enshrined in Spain's democracy; one disrupts it at one's peril, and it is most unlikely that it would happen. Yet, for all that, local democracy becomes imperilled by the accusations of corruption; they cut away at the basis of trust. But in truth, trust is not something that one can easily apply here. Scratch beneath the surface, and one fears that there is always something not quite right. Partly, one suspects, this is a hangover from the Franco days. Then, for instance, rules were there for the breaking, not least when it came to tax liabilities of the wealthy and powerful. There is also the incestuousness of an island community - the "networks" that existed and probably still do. Corrupt practices take time to be eradicated, especially when they were part of the fabric of public life. One might say, well it's been over 30 years. True, but attitudes can take a longer time to change than institutions or the law. There will be more cases, but they won't be a reason for centralising total political control on a remote part of mainland Spain.

Yesterday's title - The Specials, "Ghost Town" ( Today's title - a line from a monster "prog" band; affirmative.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Have Been Closed Down

They've started work on renovating hotels already, and the season isn't yet officially over. There was the sound of concrete debris cascading down a chute coming from the Iberostar Playa de Muro hotel yesterday morning. Iberostar gut at least one hotel every winter. At least they seem to have money in reserve, as one might expect of one of Mallorca's most successful businesses; one might not be so confident that this is the case with all hotels.

The activity on the beach side of the carretera that passes through Playa de Muro contrasts markedly with the deadness opposite. Together with the last tourists of the season, I ambled along the stretch of side road from the municipal building to the Banca March roundabout in front of the Esperanza complex. A grey morning made it seem even more miserable an area than usual. One wonders what those tourists made of this "avenue". I doubt that they counted, but I did. Twenty-five "locals" closed, some with for-sale signs, all just appearing abandoned. Only the presence of Boulevard's shiny beast of a building, some multi-locals for rent a car and a handful of other places give the impression that there is more open than closed. Even a couple that are open - the grim-looking, plastic-wrapped George and the Dragon and an amusement arcade - seem only to be grudgingly so. There is litter and the remnants of leaves and bits of tree brought down by the rains and winds lying on the arcade's court. It's as if they've given up and been given up on.

It's not as though this is a recent development of anti-commerce; some of these places have been closed for years. Two of the restaurants, Mediterrani and Shooters, have gone down the pan over the past 24 months. Current-day economics play a part, but this strip is testimony to far more than recession and lower tourist spend. It is the folly of over-supply, and over-supply of unlovely units, the all-inclusive and, most likely, an unwillingness of owners to accept what might pass for sensible sale prices or rents. Playa de Muro is an attractive place, so long as you keep your eyes closed to the blots on the landscape as you hurry past along the carretera on the way to Alcúdia or to Can Picafort and beyond. No one stops in Playa de Muro because there's little to stop for, except the beach.

Muro town hall, if it had any sense or any money, would expropriate these unwanted locals; no one else is surely insane enough to take one on. Even if they just put some green areas in their place, it would certainly be an improvement. Perhaps the council could have a word with the government which is planning on creating cheap apartments at some 75,000 euros a pop. If they wanted to, they could change the usage permission for the land at the stroke of a pen. The more likely scenario is that nothing will happen, and the units will remain empty. It is, to be honest, a disgrace of misused and unused real estate. Of course, if they did opt for residential buildings, they wouldn't go for some quasi-social housing; the land would be considered too valuable, so valuable that nobody wants to open up any of the units. Chances are that a developer would muscle in and put up some different speculative constructions that would also remain unsold or unused. For all the criticism that Boulevard attracts, in Puerto Pollensa at any rate, don't let's overlook the fact that they have made an effort; without their building, this strip would be more of a disaster of neglect than it is.

One is left to conclude that, among the rather erratic planning that has occurred in Mallorca's resorts, it doesn't get much stranger than the micro-Muro strip. It's time for something decisive to happen, but it almost certainly won't.

Yesterday's title - The Temptations ( The tree thing was The Beach Boys from "Surf's Up". Today's title - line from what some say is the greatest pop song ever.


Friday, October 24, 2008

It Was Just My Imagination

Déjà vu. I told you so. These were just two immediate responses I had yesterday. Remember on 25 September (The Sun Ain't Shining No More) I predicted that there would be stuff coming out about winter tourism and things needing to be done, and that I followed it up on 2 October (Here I Go Again) because someone had emailed wanting to know what sort of "attractions" I had in mind to maybe help out. You might just remember also that in that second piece I finished by mentioning the fact that the editor of "The Bulletin" had once called for a bit of imagination. That was what led to those responses of yesterday. I went back to last year and found the entry for 2 November, not quite to the day but not far off; that was where the thing about some imagination came up.

Déjà vu and I told you so. I don't like to seem boastfully vindicated, but I did tell you so. You see, yesterday there was another editorial, and what did it contain? Not one but two calls for "some imagination". What happens here? Are old editorials dusted down each year and then rejigged a bit? Not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with calling for some imagination, just that it's the same old song with no remedy bar a bit of shopping and golf. There was also something about help from tour operators to get things going in winter. What tour operators? And why would they? Only if it makes good business sense would they, and the airline wing of Thomson has cut right back on its flights, and other airlines are reducing their services, too. This is not only down to economic troubles at present.

Look, I don't want to sound like this is an endless having-a-go, because I do, believe it or not, have a great deal of respect for the paper. But we go here every year, even down to the same use of words. Everyone knows what the problems are. The issue is not the problems; the issue is what, if anything, can be the solutions. Well, to that end, there may be some movement in the form of a new association formed in Calvia but intending to embrace the whole of the Balearics. It was well publicised in "The Bulletin" both yesterday and the day before. It caught my eye, so much so that I wanted to get in touch with the guy. There were no contact details appended to the articles. Failing to get a call back from the paper with some, I looked the gentleman up in the phone book and spoke to him yesterday. Jim Bryceland is his name and the organisation is aimed at not only British and Irish residents but also businesses and workers; it was the business bit that really intrigued me and aspects of what Mr. Bryceland is interested in, which includes winter tourism. The group has a rather unwieldy Spanish name but here goes - Asociación de Britanicos, Irlandeses Residentes, Empresarios y Trabajadores en las Baleares (the Balearic association of British and Irish residents, businesspeople and workers). Don't know what the acronym's likely to be, but I guess it needs one. It was clear that this has nothing to do with an existing group with an acronym - ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association.

You know, there are probably any number of people knocking around who have bits of imagination. But these bits probably just fall on some deaf ears at a bar, or they are raised and are greeted with a patronising smile that says it can't be done or it's been tried, or any of those excuses that are the killers of creative thought. Perhaps, just perhaps, here is a body that might release and give flight to some imagination. I don't know. I'll have to find out. But it looks as though I might be keeping you posted.

On the forum for there was an unusual enquiry the other day. "Rusty" had posted a photo of a tree that grows in the old town and was interested to know what it was called. From my previous entry about plants in the garden, you might have gathered that I'm no expert on either horticulture or indeed arboriculture. Anyway, I went and had a look at the trees - they grow around the new square by Can Ramis, i.e. next to the parking area. I'd thought, mistakenly, that they might be some sort of orange tree. What the hell do I know? Not much. The trees bore no evidence of fruit; orange-tree possibility at a close. So I went along to the tourist office in the town. An explanation, a phone call to a man who does know, and what do you know, the answer. Ficus Nitida. I duly went onto the forum and imparted the good news, which was very gratefully received. Satisfying. And hats off to the charming Cati at the old town tourist office. I can't promise an answer to everything, but for most queries there is a way of getting an answer.

The photo of the tree and the exchange can be found here:

Yesterday's title - Blur ( Today's title - back for the second time in ten days - brilliant. Bonus question for the tree heading: who was this?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

(Car) Parklife

Further to yesterday's note about the plan to get rid of the front line parking area in Puerto Pollensa, there is more to be said about the whole scheme which would envisage the moving of the boat maintenance area and also an upgrading of the tourist office. On this latter point, it is said that the office is "obsolete" and requires modernising. This is one way of saying that it was inadequate from the moment it was conceived, and its construction was not that long ago; three years maybe. Obsolescence occurs swiftly in the Pollensa tourist office world. Modernising should mean making bigger. The office is supremely well located, but it is far too small and has insufficient storage space, so improvements should be welcome. The only problem is likely to be how long they take to effect them. When the old tourist office was closed, a temporary one was set up in the municipal building, and the whole process seemed to drag on interminably before the now office was finally completed. Yet it was hardly a major job of construction; the office is little more than a shack.

In respect of the mooted planning closure, it is said that this parking was theoretically intended for boat users. This, of course, is far from the case, but if it was the theory before, what is the theory and indeed practice meant to be now. Where would boat users park?

The report from the "Diario" yesterday does rather give the game away in terms of the thinking behind the elimination of the parking. It says that the pedestrianisation has the objective of progressively removing cars from the front line. Of course it does.

However, things are never quite as obvious as they might seem in the wonderful world of Pollensa town hall. The proposal for the elimination of the parking, and all the rest, comes from a councillor with one of the political groupings in the administration, namely the PSM (the socialist party of Mallorca). The mayor, who represents the nationalists, says that there is no such plan, and goes on to say that the town hall is going to create more parking in the La Gola area.

So let's be clear. Here we have a councillor, one responsible for culture, which does suggest that issues pertaining to infrastructure may actually be outside his brief, making an announcement to the Mallorcan press about something that the rest of the town hall have no intention of doing, or that is how it is now being presented. What exactly is going on? Is it simply some maverick going off on a complete and unofficial tangent, or might there be some substance to the plan? The mayor suggests that there isn't. It all seems very odd.

Various worthies gathered yesterday in Alcúdia's auditorium to present the project for the conversion of the old power station by the commercial port: it is meant to become a museum of science and technology and a "great icon in the north of the island" (I quote in translation from the report in the "Diario"). The only problem is that they haven't got the money in place, or rather they haven't, as yet, established exactly how the 23 million euros project is to be financed. Which does also seem a bit odd, that is that they would present the project without actually knowing when it's likely to start.

Yesterday's title - Here are some Germans singing after drinking - fabulous, I'm sure you'll agree ( Today's title - no word in brackets and who do you have? The video did of course strongly feature a car.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trink, Trink, Brüderlein, Trink

Why are there so few German bars in Alcúdia? I say few, I'm struggling to think of any other than Epcot. But that's not a German bar; it flies a flag of British convenience. Historically, there were, but since Freddy's Kleine Mühle was pulled down to make way for the perimeter of the Coral de Mar, it's hard to point to one; Cockpit isn't there any longer, is it? Whatever, the non-Spanish or non-Spanish-speaking bar is dominated by the Brits; a last vestige of empire in the sun.

It's not as though you don't get German bars in other places which are almost exclusively German by tourism; Cala Ratjada for instance. And it's not as if there is neither a healthy German population in Alcúdia nor a healthy German tourism market. Take away the faux biergartens, and there are no obvious German kneipes that assault you with the sight of lederhosen, the smell of a bratwurst or a "maß" of pilsner. The Brits may have come, probably, to be the largest tourist group in the highly-diverse Alcudia, but the town is not like the shires of England and the glens of Scotland that is Puerto Pollensa. There you can understand the absence of German bars, as the German tourist numbers are significantly lower, and of course have been advised never to set foot in the place again - if you can recall that German newspaper thing of a few months back. In Puerto Pollensa, you can even find, no doubt for the legions of Neighbours-watching Brits, an alleged Australian hostelry; whatever that is. (By the way, if Dick from Australia is reading this, maybe he can enlighten me; he may even have been in it.)

Even among Spanish-owned bars in Alcúdia, the default foreign style is British (or Irish); the so-called biergartens are really restaurants with the name added. Cut along to Playa de Muro, and it's the same. And yet here, the German tourism market is every bit as strong as the British, if not stronger. What do you find? More than half-a-dozen bars that are or profess to be British/Irish. German bars? Zippo; at least as far I'm aware. Only when you get to Can Picafort, which the Germans more or less colonised, and which they still dominate in terms of tourist numbers, do you begin to find something that smacks vaguely of being German. Yet even so, the more obvious bar display is the British pub.

I find this all quite curious. The Germans are, after all, a prolific beer-drinking nation. One might have expected every corner to house a kneipe or a Hansi's Wurst and Weissbier imbiss stand (now I think of it, there is something like that just before the beach at the top of The Mile, or at least there used to be). But the impression is that the Germans have been deserted in terms of readily-identifiable bars. For other nations, notably the Dutch and the Scandinavians, a British bar is often an attraction, assuming those Dutch or Scandinavians are among the drinking classes; they can consume a prodigious volume of cold drink. The Dutch, it might be added, would probably only enter a German bar, were there one, with a gun to their head. The British bar, though, is quite acceptable to other nationalities (even some Germans); perhaps the default foreign style is right, after all, while the Irish bar is a multinational marketing phenomenon, understood by Germans, Dutch and others.

One might be tempted to say that the Germans more easily accept "Spanishness" than do the British and are less interested in having their own bars. One might be tempted, but I personally wouldn't believe it. Out of season, the situation is even more transparent. There are several British/Irish/British-style bars in the port of Alcúdia, all of which are likely to be open for most if not all the winter. German bars for a similar sort of population? Maybe it's just that Germans don't have much interest in running bars; again I find that hard to believe. Nope, I really don't know the answer; it will remain a mystery unless someone can come up with a good reason as to why there is this absence.

It is doubly mysterious when one considers the hold that Mallorca has over the Germans. Someone here, a politician or tourist authority type, said not so long ago that the British have Mallorca in their genes. If that's the case, the Germans were involved in the Mallorcan big bang that came to form those genes. The island is virtually an annexed state of the Bundesrepublik. In Germany, Mallorca features as a specific item in weather reports; German TV even broadcasts some of its truly appalling schlager-musik shows from Mallorca. But something that also occurs to me is that, unlike for the British, there is no daily newspaper for the Germans on the island. Yet the German population, in Mallorca as a whole, is larger than the British. Another curiosity. Oh well, I shall mull this all over while surveying the products in Puerto Alcúdia's Eroski. There I will see various German sausages. How many British sausages will I see? Precisely none. British bars, but German sausages. Don't understand.

And as a sort of footnote to this, and for all of you from all sorts of countries, there is the altogether more amorphous bar state that is the international bar. To that end, Les tells me that the Vamps karaoke system now has all manner of stuff in all manner of languages and it is going down a storm with the league of nations beating a path to the Calle Astoria. Not sure how many German drinking songs are on the system. When our house proudly got a mono record-player, one of the first records we had was one of such songs; there was also an EP of Swedish folk songs. Strange days.

Oh, lordy, lordy, here we go. No sooner pedestrianised, than now it's time to get rid of the parking area on Puerto Pollensa's front line. "It's absurd," says the chap responsible for culture at Pollensa town hall (as quoted in the "Diario"), commenting on the parking's existence. I don't quite know what it's got to do with him, but there you go. The impetus for scrapping all or most of the parking area would be to make way for an increase in the number of moorings. Well maybe these are needed, but one cannot escape the impression that little by little the pedestrianisation scheme is unravelling in terms of all that was planned in support of it. How long has the closure of the parking area been on the publicly unstated agenda I wonder? It may be absurd to have this space devoted to parking, but then one has to ask, given the problems of parking in Puerto Pollensa, where are those cars going to park. And if the original extent of the pedestrianisation does indeed come to pass, that will merely exacerbate the problem of parking in the town. Oh well, cue, no doubt, all manner of debate and angst among the good people of the port.

Yesterday's title - The Steve Miller Band ( Today's title - not a quiz question but be prepared for tomorrow's youtube, which will show probably why it's just as well there aren't any German bars.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm A Joker

Racism in Spanish sport has raised its less than pleasant head yet again. The decision of the FA to not play a friendly at Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium and the part-racism-caused change of venue and then change back again of the Atletico Madrid-Liverpool game are both evidence of the ongoing problems that Spain has, in football at any rate, with its racist elements. Personally, I think the FA have made a mistake. They should have said that they would go back to the Bernabeu - scene of the racist chants during the England game four years ago - and dared the fans to do the same. If they had returned and the same embarrassing noises been raised, then no one would have been able to deny it any longer, especially not the Spanish FA and elements in the media. This is the Spanish FA which continues to dole out inadequate sanctions for racist abuse, such as one for Atletico last season.

The FA, while taking the moral high ground, have pushed the Spanish into a corner; it is for the latter to decide on the venue, not for it to be dictated to by another association. By pushing them, it could make for a more intransigent attitude, rather than one that seeks to kick racism out of its game. Even were the game to be moved, who is to say the same chanting might not occur at another ground? For once, the two parts of Madrid are united in what is seen as a slur on the city, not just on its two football clubs. And there are also the conspiracy theorists; those who believe it is part of a campaign to deny Madrid the 2016 Olympics. The Spanish are getting paranoid about this, as they were when the Sid Lowe-basketball team row blew up amidst similar charges of an anti-Madrid Olympics nature.

Of course, we've been here before where football is concerned, what with Aragones and his Henry remark and Samuel Eto'o threatening to walk off the pitch. Neither met with anything like the kind of action or outcry that they would have in Britain. And that is part of the issue, probably the issue - the difference between a PC Britain and a Spain which, its apologists will say, see monkey chants and the rest as a joke and not to be taken seriously. But joke means fair game, as it used to be in England when the same "joke" was directed at the likes of Clyde Best. Though before the British become too sanctimonious, it is probably true that the same joke might still be played out if it were not for the life bans or a potential race-hatred conviction, while the joke has morphed into something else - go and take a look at youtube, if it's still there, and the abuse of Sol Campbell by Spurs fans. That wasn't overtly racist, but it was there along with the sheer baseness of the chanting and the homophobia.

Nevertheless, Spain is in some sort of circa-Love-Thy-Neighbour denial when it comes to sport racism. Here is a country where, in the media in general, for example, racism is condemned, and yet in its football stadia it is quite the contrary. Even the "AS" sports paper has said that those wishing to make monkey noises would be better off going to a zoo. However, there are the apologists who have it that it's just a joke. So that's all-right then.

But for all this, can it be said that Spain, and by extension, Mallorca is essentially racist? My guess is that it is no more so or no less than Britain. Yet one's experiences govern opinion. Locally, one is just as likely, more likely, to get expressions of a racist nature coming from the mouths of expats as one is to hear them from Spaniards. There is little sense in which, with the exception of recent eastern European immigrants and Moroccans, there is any real xenophobia. There is, though, a linguistic dimension, one that has been raised by Spaniards writing to defend themselves in the English-speaking press, and this relates to the word "negro". To the PC-attuned ear and mind of the Brit, this passes as derogatory, but, in both noun and adjectival form, it is the Spanish word for black person, just as "negro" is the adjective for anything that is black. Black is negro in Spanish. Short of somehow banning the word, a ludicrous proposition, there has to be an understanding that this is not derogatory or insulting; it is a word - no more, no less.

Yesterday's title - Coldplay ( Today's title - one of his biggest hits but, IMHO, one of his worst.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Viva La Vida

There was a piece in the "Diario" a few days ago that was accompanied by a photo. One has often to be careful with such photos - maybe they've been set up - but let's allow for authenticity. What it showed were people scavenging through large refuse containers near to the weekly market in an unnamed town in Mallorca. The current economic malaise of rising unemployment, allied to the credit crunch and the onset of recession is as evident here as it might be elsewhere. And in a few days, the queues for unemployment benefit and social security help will stretch further than they normally do at the start of November; the appalling caravans of humanity, shamed to having to stand outside the inadequate offices. I say this, yet, as I have noted before, there isn't quite the stigma here. People take the benefit as a right, and most arrive in the queues as though they were professional benefit-seekers, with files and documents neatly archived. But it only helps in emphasising the limits of seasonality, by which many live their lives. It is an untenable economic model.

The visitor to Mallorca, and quite a few expats cocooned from reality, never appreciate the other side of life here; the winter side. It's always been there, but as economic misery descends, the winter side's desperation is only exaggerated. And also exaggerated are the disparities. I'm beginning to get angry at the adverts in the likes of "The Sunday Times" for vast palaces at vast prices aimed only at the wealthy incomer. And I am an incomer. God knows what the average Mallorcan makes of it. I flatly refute the notion that just because Mallorca can attract some hyper-wealthy people to purchase some gated pile, that this is an indication of the island's enduring economic strength. It is nothing of the sort.

A while ago, a politician, demonstrating rather greater possible prescience than is normal for the local political class, was concerned enough by the deteriorating economic situation to suggest that it could give rise to more crime. It's hardly an earth-shattering prediction. Those scavenging through market rubbish containers might wish to embellish their "income" by means of a bit of breaking and entering, too.

In the past days and weeks, there have been stories of political corruption, major drugs busts, the pursuit of Russian mafia (a house was raided in El Toro the other day). There has also been much about immigration, the new limits to be imposed and the incentives for some to leave. Immigration is, as I've mentioned previously, the top issue of concern for most Mallorcans. There is a toxicity not just of debt in the financial markets everywhere but also in the juxtaposition of circumstances here. The only element missing from this potentially volatile cocktail is a populist voice that would highlight all these and perhaps make the Diario's scavengers look further afield for a different form of redemption.

A winter wonderland? It is if you keep your eyes closed.

Some of you may have missed the story of the town of Villava in Navarre where meetings at the town hall are conducted in a manner not far removed from the kindergarten. The socialist group, taking exception to a Basque separatist flag being displayed by those of a Basque separatist persuasion, have responded by bringing in the image of Iron Maiden's "Eddie" mascot, a skeletal figure of heavy-metal provenance. The other way of looking at this is that, far from childish, such displays should be a requirement of local politics. Engaging with the electorate on the basis of musical preference could make such politics far more open and accessible than it currently is. Accordingly, and assuming the socialists everywhere prefer heavy metal, then perhaps the Partido Popular could opt for being the party of Coldplay, or something equally as bland. The Mallorcan nationalists would doubtless wish to be the party of local folk music, but with a club dance dimension for the "yoof" Mallorcan populace. When it comes to elections, they could just set up a website with the musical offerings of each party, and whichever achieves the greatest number of downloads is the winner. Vota viva! Viva la vida! Or, on the other hand, maybe not such a good idea.

Yesterday's title - Buddy Holly. Today's title - don't vote for them.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Raining In My Heart

So there was I saying that the weather had been benign, and what does it go and do? You guessed it. A madre-and-padre of a downpour, though the accompanying storm was a pussy-cat compared to last October when there was the lion of the tornado or hurricane, or whatever it was, and then something close to it a couple of weeks later. Actually, it was more like a bloody great elephant, trampling everything in its path and sitting on top of you and blowing vast oceans out of its trunk. Anyway, as usual the road out front flooded yesterday, letting 4x4 racers hare through the water and belch a tsunami over the garden gate. You do wonder quite why they can't get round to sorting it out; the drains can't cope. Oh, and sorting out the 4x4 racers.

Of course some bright spark with nothing more intelligent to say will observe that it's good for the garden. Which is true, but it can do without too much assistance to damn well grow at this time of the year. Bushes, bloody bushes; they need no help from mother nature, or don't appear to. Hacked down, amidst wiping the sweat away from the eyes in August, they've put on a spurt, and now there's another round of cutting. I could always use a chain-saw, but where's the fun in that? All over in a couple of minutes. No, some long scissors and a hand saw are preferable; and that way I can keep on moaning. These bushes. It's not even as if I know what they're called - other than bushes. I'm entrapped by a year-round entanglement of bush, and no comments, please, about other forms of bush, notably of the anatomical variety.

But when it does decide to deposit a Mediterranean's worth of water from the skies, I guess I can be grateful for the high kerbstones, the raised terrace and the very accommodating if, during summer, parched lawn. You get these flyers for artificial grass and you can of course always just concrete it all over and save yourself a mowing job, but lawn, real lawn, is a decent-enough soaker-up of apocalyptic deluges. I never feel threatened by flooding encroaching into the house, except when the rains bring forth biblical quantities and are borne on a horizontal wind at the speeds of a Formula One driver and then decide to enter the house via the gaps under the doors on the top terrace and thus down the stairs. That I can do without, especially after the boiler blew its gasket last weekend.

All this stuff that grows though. Take palm trees. Mercifully, I have none. They may add this all-well-and-good Mediterranean, tropical appearance, but they are a pain in the backside to maintain. The tornado may be the elephant of the meteorological world, but the palm tree is its close horticultural cousin. Not only does it take up vast amounts of space, get close to one that's not been cut back during a high wind, and you'll receive a firm slap. The fronds are whipped up at great velocity; they are nature's dominatrix of a Max Mosley fantasy.

My neighbour has palms, one of which hangs itself over into my garden. It doesn't bother me, in the same way that I trust my neighbour is none too bothered by my ivy growing into his garden. But now and then a chap comes along to cut it back, and we engage in what has become a sort of annual conversation comparing his job to a hairdresser's. "Giving the palm a short back and sides, Joan." That sort of thing. Ho-ho. What I do have though is these plants that are from the pineapple family. I was once told their name, and promptly forgot it. But these things are taking over. There are five of them now, and the leaves are like knives. Get too close and you'll be scythed to pieces; they are garden machete. Do any work in their proximity, and it's best to approach them wearing full armour. There again, one of them, the most mature one, flowers for a brief while; an astonishing white-pink-purple waxy type of curlicue flower that shoots skyward. When the flowers die off, which they have, what is left is this withered twig. I guess you are meant to cut it down, but there's no way I'm going near it. I don't own a full suit of armour.

Anyway, the storm has passed, and the dawn is fine, and so I shall probably be forced to tackle more damn bushes. The tourists that remain will, with yesterday's storm, have been given an answer to that endless refrain of a question - "what's the weather like in October?". No month attracts more questions of this variety than October. I can understand it, as I can understand people asking the same question of any month, especially if they have never been here. October can be anything you want it to be. It can be the serenity of the days before the storm or the riled animal of the storm or just indifferent drizzle and showers, and when it is as yesterday, the tourist morale and hearts sink. What's it like in October? Whatever you like.

Following the attempt by the rambling militants to take over the camino in Pollensa in defence of loving to go a-wandering, the mayor of Pollensa has now said that he will sign a decree that allows the camino to be opened to the public. This, of course, has nothing to do with the pressure from political opponents, at least that's how it's being presented. The public way may soon, therefore, be open, and I'm sure we can all sleep easier knowing this.

Yesterday's title - The Style Council ( Today's title - speccy.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Ever Changing Moods

Serenity. October can have this feeling, if, that is, the weather is as benign as it is at present. Sitting on the terrace a couple of afternoons ago, there was a certain stillness; that of the season closing, but closing gracefully with a warm but hazy sun. Even the radiator effect in October by which the heat stokes up the heavy dews and causes a kind of dopiness like a wasp drunk on fermenting apples felt softer than usual. And there was an order. After the blistering sun, and the bustle and franticness of summer, there has been time for growth and a regularisation. The grass has grown and recaptured its greenness but has been cut to shape for the first time in weeks. Autumn is the mellow season, but here this chill-out is observed not so much through the colours of leaves and the disappearing sun but by the onset of a tranquility, the gradual acceptance by the sun that it should slowly retreat and the shifting colour tones of sky and sea. Driving back along the coast road from Puerto Pollensa to Alcúdia yesterday morning, the seascape was calmness, the haze creating a mercury pool of barely rippling water, the hills of Manresa and the sky above them a kaleidoscope of grey and silver tones. Rather than the russets and golds of an English October, you see a Mallorcan autumn as a pastel black and white image, a refraction in negative of the now-being-forgotten vibrancy of blues and yellows of summer. But no less uplifting.

And then the serenity is shattered. You never know quite what to expect. This is the time of year for the payments of some taxes, car tax for example. I collect the mail, and there is one more advice from the town hall than there should be. It is for a car I have no knowledge of, yet there it all is: name, address, personal identity number, all correct. I call the town hall and they say they will pass the information to Trafico. Seems ok, then I think, well no it's not ok, and how long might it take them to inform Trafico. What if this vehicle, to which my name is attached, has an accident, and, moreover, how the hell has my name become attached to it.? So I go to the branch municipal office in Playa de Muro. The ever super-helpful Cati rings the same office as I did, adding some pressure, then I go and see the just as super-helpful Guardia Civil. The lady there gets Trafico central to run a check. Turns out it is ok. The vehicle doesn't seem to exist. No need to worry. Seems it's a town hall cock-up.

Coming back, I think this is a pretty decent system; not the cock-up with this payment advice, but the centralisation of services into one building. At the Playa de Muro office, there is the town hall, tourist office, local police and Guardia. All there under one roof. Life is made pretty easy in what can otherwise be a bureaucratic labyrinth of pass the parcel that generally exists in local public administration. Talk to town hall, town hall talks to Guardia, Guardia talks to Trafico - panic over, and only took a few minutes. I commend the arrangement.

And maybe serenity returns, but then I wait at the red light of one of those entrances from the side road onto the Playa de Muro carretera. The lights flash orange. I start to go. I know to look left. Not everyone would. Two ladies on bicycles riding past me, blissfully unaware of the red light it seems. I gesture with open hands at one of them, and she smiles, not a sarcastic smile but one that suggests she has seen someone who has been kind enough to let her pass and that also suggests that isn't this a lovely day for a bike ride. Exasperation. From serenity to exasperation. It only takes a moment. And that, in an autumn nutshell, a conker of conflicting moods, just about says all you need to know about life in Mallorca.

Despite the Spanish attorney-general's opposition, Judge Baltasar Garzón has ordered an investigation - in the context of crimes against humanity - into the actions of Franco and others during the Civil War and into the early '50s. The judge, someone with a history of investigating repressive regimes (Pinochet's, for example), has also ordered the digging up of graves, including that of poet Federico Garcia Lorca, one of over 100,000 people believed to have been killed by the Franco regime.

Why is he doing this? It may bring closure for relatives, but otherwise how necessary is it? The investigation is most unlikely to turn up any surviving perpetrators to be brought to book; it will rake over, literally, the ground of the trauma of the war and its aftermath before Spain began to emerge from its self-imposed dark age around 1953. Does anyone doubt that Franco committed crimes against humanity, other perhaps than hardcore supporters?

The Spanish have never been made to really confront the awfulness of, in particular, the early Franco regime. An amnesty was declared in 1977, though there was never anything like a truth and reconciliation process of the sort that worked with reasonable effect in post-apartheid South Africa; instead, everyone just sort of agreed to forget about it all. But now the Spanish are being made to remember, through the law of "historic memory", the removal of Francoist symbols and now the Garzón investigation. Perhaps they should be made to confront the past, but an investigation which can result in only posthumous convictions is largely hollow in merely confirming what anyone, save the more insane elements of the far-right, will understand to have been the situation. It can only bring back the trauma.

Yesterday's title - The Pointer Sisters ( Today's title - the cappuccino kid's second band.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Completely Automatic

One of the blog's early-days regulars was that of driving; the rubbish state of it here. It's been a while, but it's back, along with that associated old regular, the mobile phone.

It is now, what, two years since they introduced tougher penalties for driving infractions; I could look it up, but the length of time is not important. What is, or should be, are the points on the licence, the possible suspensions and so on. Yet the mobile phone is still very much the driver accessory-of-potential-accident choice. But it has occurred to me that, though illegal phone use goes on elsewhere, here there is an added dimension. I had stopped at some lights the other day. In the rear-view mirror I could see the female driver behind. She was gabbing on her phone. She looked quite nice, I'll be honest. Lots of smiles, a bit of a laugh, some very expressive hand gestures ... And that was it. Hand gestures. The Mallorcan/Spaniard cannot open his or her mouth without a full set of body language extravagance, whether talking on a mobile or in his or her sleep. Herein, therefore, lies the greater danger posed by mobile-phone use when driving in Mallorca. Hands free. Hands free from the wheel, that is. One hand for the phone, one hand for the gestures. You don't get too many cars with automatic transmission here, but they should be mandatory; automatic gear box and automatic steering, allowing the Mallorcan to pursue his or her normal, everyday conversations without the worry of actually handling a vehicle. The only problem then would be whether they were watching the road or looking at some passing totty, and the chances are that it would be the latter.

Where would we be, when it comes to roads, without our good friends on two wheels. Before you say that this is a dig at female drivers and cyclists, it is just coincidence that it was a female cyclist. For those of you who know the main road in Playa de Muro, you will be aware that, at lights, you are meant to turn right in order to turn left. I say meant to, as this does seem something of an option, but be that as it may. So, I'm duly following this rule, the lights flash orange and I start to cross the main road. And then I stop. A lady cyclist has decided to ride straight across in front of me through the red light. She sort of gestures (more gestures) to indicate that I should stop and let her go past. Well, I could have driven into her, but it wouldn't have got me very far. Instead, setting aside my normally cool nature, I shouted out the window "idiota". Made me feel a bit better. But the point of this is, of course, that I could have driven into her, and it would almost certainly have been deemed my fault, as cyclists are the sacred cows of the Mallorcan and Spanish road. It is, I would suggest, the thing that antagonises most where cyclists are concerned; that some appear to be unable or unwilling to obey some basic rules. And they know they can get away with it, generally. Only once have I seen someone pulled up, and she went through a red right under the noses of a Trafico 4x4. It would have been difficult even for them to have ignored it.

And finally on matters vehicular. At journey's end there is the parking, another not totally unfamiliar subject for this blog. I should like to thank John who has regaled me with a tale of the nature of fines in a car park in Datchet, in which he says:

"And then one that reminded me of Mallorca. If your wheels were outside the painted lines - £10 fine. I can remember how many people (locals I think) used to take up two bays when they parked. I found this very annoying, especially in the season when parking is at a premium. The local authorities could clean up at the parking area at the port in Alcudia."

Now, you know, the size of the fine is one thing, but the lack of, how can one call it, parking discipline, is another, and a very Mallorcan another at that. I once said that for the Mallorcan driver, why use one parking space when two will do just as well, because that's how it tends to be. I really must get a copy of the local equivalent of the "Highway Code" as I recall reading somewhere some gems that exist within its covers (assuming someone wasn't just being funny), One of these was the "rule" regarding double parking. Basically, ten minutes was considered the right sort of length, even, I guess, if you had only intended to park for a minute or two. Why double park and clog up the road for just one minute when ten minutes will do just as well; time enough to pop in for a quick coffee or into a tabacos to top up your mobile.

Churchill apparently bribed some Spanish generals in order to deter Spain from entering the Second World War. Big deal. Lining the pockets of another's military to keep them quiet is old-hat tactical stuff. Viking chieftains often received inducements to go and pillage somewhere else. They used to take the ancient moolah and then pillage those who'd paid them anyway. No honour in those days. The bribes are said to have been arranged through the banking intermediary Joan March, the founder of the present-day Banca March in Mallorca, and the suggestion is that they kept the generals sweet and therefore Spain sweet and out of the war.

It's a fascinating old parlour game to speculate what might have happened had Spain entered the war, but the fact is that it didn't. Whether the bribes made any difference is debatable. It's not as though figures in authority in Spain have been immune to the temptations of backhanders - then or since, or indeed at present. Unlike the Vikings they were probably quite content to have taken the money and run - away from the action to which they had little intention of seeing anyway. Maybe the bribes did make a difference, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Spain's military was in no fit state following the Civil War and that Franco didn't care much for Hitler, and the feeling was mutual. Maybe they just didn't like each other's stupid moustaches.

However, the story is not as new as it's being portrayed. If you do just a little bit of searching, you will find a reference to the claim and to the historian making it that dates back to 2004. And some of the reporting of it has barely touched on the key role of Joan March. The book in which the claim is made is in fact about March, who was born in Santa Margalida. Banca March was founded in 1926. March was a supporter of Franco, and was referred to as Franco's banker. Hang on a moment. What was all that stuff about things associated with Franco?

Yesterday's title - The Smashing Pumpkins ( Today's title - American female trio, biggest in the '80s.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The End Is The Beginning ...

And once more with feeling ... the pedestrianisation in Puerto Pollensa. Perhaps there is one political group that the Gotmar radicals could seek ballot-box redemption from - Esquerra Unida-Els Verds (a Catalan socialist-greens amalgam; "esquerra" is Catalan for "left"). Sounds a bit unlikely for the villa folk of the urbanisation, but needs and interests must - maybe. Anyway, the EU-EV agitators have called for an "immediate paralysation" of the pedestrianisation scheme, as reported in the "Diario". Am I alone in thinking that any political group with the word "green" anywhere near it would rather the road was closed? Whatever, they point, among other things, to the loss of business for traders affected by the road closure, one of these being the chemists which faces the possibility of having to lay off staff. That would be understandable. It was the case that one could just pull up outside the chemists; it was very convenient, but not now it isn't.

What seems to have been lacking in this whole saga is an unequivocal statement as to precisely the objective of the pedestrianisation. It has been couched in terms of ridding the front line of noise and of promoting a better image and so on, but who is it really intended for? Are tourism concerns the priority - that image thing?

It's impossible to get away from the conclusion that the prime reason is the justification of the new bypass road. That the pedestrianisation was mooted ages ago does not pacify those who, now that it has come to pass (or not, as it were), object to it. The tourism-image angle is really just spin. It's also impossible to escape the conclusion that the town hall has handled the whole affair in a hopeless fashion. Seemingly it failed to consult, and then when it did, did not consult widely enough. It has successfully managed to ostracise the already disaffected communities of Gotmar and Pinaret and to antagonise some business interests. And for what? Were tourists demanding pedestrianisation? I somewhat doubt it. And even now I suspect tourists are more concerned with dog shit on the pavements and the price of a pint of Mahou. That the issue has created so much controversy, that it has led to so many column inches, not least here on this blog, that it has brought the threat of legal action all merely emphasise the fact that it has divided opinion and that the town hall has made a pig's ear of it. At heart, it is a rather silly, small local matter, but silly, small, local matters matter to many people.

The town hall is being criticised from all sides at present. The opposition Partido Popular recently demanded some answers in respect of what is happening about the La Gola park and the public swimming-pool, the latter which has been open and then not, has had its roof on the wrong way round and has generally been another cause célèbre of apparent incompetence. Yet amidst this non-resolution, the town hall goes and picks a fight with residents and business over something of questionable importance and which will cost money, that the town hall doesn't have, to make permanent. One does begin to understand why a local residents association might make an election pact with a party that might give the ruling body a bloody nose.

Another story that has been followed here for what seems an age does, finally, seem to have drawn to a close. The judge presiding over the affairs of Real Mallorca's owner, Vicente Grande, has given the green light to the takeover by Paul Davidson. It's not totally the end in that Davidson has now to pay, but after all the haggling and the possibilities of other buyers, the club is now British-owned. So we can all feel very proud of that I suppose. And yet, do we?

"The Bulletin" celebrated the judge's decision with an eight-page special; it is doubtful that it would have done so had the new owner been anything other than British. Is the local expat really that bothered? For the most part, I would question it. Which is not to say that the story shouldn't have been covered; it has been and will be interesting, and the profile of the team will have been raised in the eyes of the expat. It has been a godsend to an English newspaper. But this English/British angle has made its coverage rather one-dimensional; the nationality thing has been THE story, the rest largely by the by. Yet the rest is far from inconsequential. That rest includes, apart from the obvious of the team's development and performance, the extent to which Paul Davidson can win over the local fans and opinion against a foreign owner and the strategy surrounding the club's purchase, which I went into the other day (7 October: Match Of The Day). For example, Mr. Davidson wants to increase the numbers of British and German fans coming to matches. All well and good, but how does that play with the Mallorcans?

While opposition to the takeover has been referred to and the strategy mentioned in passing, the essential Anglo-centricity of the story has glossed over these aspects. The paper itself featured a letter expressing concern as to the planned plastics recycling plant, but this has not been followed up. The strategy has not been scrutinised, simply mentioned as a mark of Mallorca's attraction to a British investor. It is one thing to hear and present Paul Davidson's own views, and in this regard the paper has acted in a sort of unofficial PR capacity. But it is quite another to analyse what he's about. The story hasn't really begun.

Yesterday's title - "Ball Of Confusion", The Temptations ( Today's title - "... Is The End"; American rock outfit; Halloween's on its way.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vote For Me And I'll Set You Free

So, I had gone to pay for the coffees, and there was a familiar expat at the bar. He noticed the copy of "The Bulletin" and wondered what I was doing reading the paper, about which he was less than complimentary. The answer was because it has things in it that the Spanish or British press would not. And one of those things is its letters. This I explained to the chap at the bar. "A letter by Garry Bonsall." "Again!!?" was the response. It seemed somewhat surprising a response from someone who seemingly didn't read the paper, but be that as it may. The drift of the resultant argument was that there are certain expats who are driven by certain motives to appear regularly in the paper's letters section. The implication was that they should shut it - sending the letters, that is, as opposed to the paper.

It is fair to say that there are a few names that do appear regularly with their names appended to letters, but if they have something relevant to say, what is the problem? My friend at the bar considers it an exercise in oversized egos. One could take a different view, which is that they care, and are prepared to express this. The problem is that if someone sticks his or her head above the expat parapet, there are plenty who will delight in shooting it off. Perhaps this blog is merely an exercise in ego, too. If so, I shall, like the birds being hunted at the moment, watch out for rifles glinting in the autumn sun.

The English-speaking fourth estate in Mallorca, most obviously "The Bulletin", is the the most significant medium that British expatriates can use to voice their opinions. That only a few seem to choose to do so is neither their problem nor the paper's. But the question of motive is a fair one. And that brings me to what Dr. Bonsall had to say this time. In brief, his letter was a form of call to arms to expats to create associations (together with local people) in all the island's municipalities as a force to influence the local political process. The motive was political.

It is probably fair to say that the expat voice and vote is largely overlooked, and one reason for this is that the expat is generally apathetic. He is more interested in British politics than in a Spanish or local Mallorcan alternative. Even those who might be inclined to vote (as they can, assuming they are registered, in local and European elections) would probably find it challenging to know what the issues were. Certainly at a local municipal level, there is no mechanism to spell out in English what these might be, and, for most expats, that would be necessary, even for those with a reasonable grasp of Castilian or Catalan. The language effectively disenfranchises the expat, except where they choose on purely party grounds. And my guess would be that the favoured party would be the conservative Partido Popular. How many expats would vote for the nationalists, for example?

What Garry is arguing is that political parties prepared to support the agendas of these local associations would benefit from their vote. In certain instances, this might well prove to be decisive. His own association, the Gotmar residents in Puerto Pollensa, has a considerable beef with the nationalist-topped Pollensa town hall (it is actually a coalition). I don't know that it takes too much imagination to think which opposition party it may wish to talk to. There are, however, certain issues that this raises. Firstly, there are really only four municipalities in Mallorca where there is anything like a sizeable (UK) expat registered population. In order of size, these are Calvia (which includes the likes of Magalluf and Santa Ponsa), Palma (where the numbers are dwarfed anyway), Pollensa and Alcúdia. To give an example of the smallness in other towns, the figures for the start of 2007 showed that there were 2100 people from the UK registered in Pollensa and Alcúdia and five other places - Sa Pobla, Campanet, Búger, Muro and Santa Margalida. Of this total, only 17% reside in those five municipalities together. And these figures do not take account of those actually registered to vote; they are population statistics. In Pollensa and Alcúdia, the percentage of the town's populations made up of UK people is less than 10% in both cases. It is not insignificant, but would it ever amount to some sort of unified pressure group or voting bloc either municipal-wide or neighbourhood-based?

Even if one were to add on other expat nationalities, who is to say that there would be a harmonious and unanimous agenda? Take any group and rub them with politics and the likelihood is that they would form factions, whether on the basis of issues or nationality (if there were wider expat groups). With the Gotmar residents, who are multi-national, there are basically two issues - the town hall's apparent indifference to the state of amenities in the urbanisation and the perceived injustice of the pedestrianisation scheme as it affects them. They are issues around which unanimity can form. Yet is there not the potential for a certain bias to then be played out? Were a political party to say yes to their grievances, secure their vote and then win, what has happened to all the other issues in the municipality? The association may well be exercising a democratic right to press its claims, but at what cost to others? It would be a classic example of how single-issue (or double-issue if you prefer) politics can skew the practice of democracy. But this is to assume that the chosen political party would then indeed follow through. Promises and broken promises are the stuff of politics.

There is the potential also for this to be seen as the work of some uppity foreigners, even where the associations comprise Mallorcans as well. Let's assume that the Gotmar residents attracted the support of a party, voted for it, and it then won, with the Gotmar vote being seen as decisive in the election of a new mayor. It is not strange for self-interest to influence a vote and nor is it undemocratic, but Gotmar is recognised as an area of some affluence. Whether inclusive of Mallorcans or not, one could see the possibility of a degree of resentment among the wider electorate at the actions and influence of a vociferous and minted group that would inevitably be regarded as "foreign". A way of combatting this would be to present the Gotmar case in the context of a municipal-wide dissatisfaction with the present administration, though that would make what was just a neighbourhood group a de facto political entity. But effectively that is what it would have become anyway. Garry has said previously that his association is non-partisan in the political sense, but by auctioning off its vote to a particular party, does it not become partisan?

However, as a way of engaging the otherwise apathetic expat with local politics, there is probably merit in what is being proposed. There again, that chap at the bar. He turned back to his British newspaper and was going to head home for some bacon and eggs, and that would have been the end of the local politics for the day and probably the rest of the year. Just about sums it up.

Yesterday's title - Spandau Ballet ( Today's title - line from something that shifted a famous record label towards a touch of psychedelia.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Through The Barricades

Spain is set to have some new citizens. They are British. They are also very old. They are the few survivors of those who came to fight for the International Brigades against Franco's Nationalists during the Civil War.

The current government is intent on writing Franco's name out of history and on continuing to honour those who fought for or fell in the name of the Republic; citizenships have been conferred in the past. The small band of Britons being offered a joint citizenship are enjoying belated but greater honour in Spain than they did in their own country both during and after the Civil War. They were derided either for being communists, which many indeed were, or for being mercenaries. They were also anti-fascist. What was the greater evil in 1930s Europe - communism or fascism? It's a close call.

Yet raising that question is too simplistic when applied to Spain. Neither the country's communism nor its fascism can or should be viewed in the same way as Stalin's or Hitler and Mussolini's. The Communist Party was essentially wedded to the notion of democracy. It had connections with Stalin, as did the UGT union and the PSOE socialists (the UGT is still closely associated with PSOE in the current-day political scene). The Soviet Union came to supply the Republicans with weaponry, but the strain of communism was a more conservative phenomenon lacking, as it did, any real support among the working class. The altogether more frightening elements that were to side with the Republicans were the anarchists.

Franco was not of a same mind as either Hitler or Mussolini. One indication of this was the fact that he chose not to pursue a war tactic akin to Blitzkrieg against Republican centres, much to the amazement of both Hitler and Mussolini. His justification was that he wanted to avoid unnecessary killing, rich though that may sound. Let it not be forgotten though that it was German bombs that destroyed Guernica, not those of the Nationalists. Franco also sought and got the submission of the more extreme elements of his supporting groups, most obviously the Falangists and the Carlists. What came to be Francoism was not totalitarianism; it was authoritarian, militarist, Catholic and monarchist. Arguably, it was also not strictly fascist.

It is usual to categorise the Civil War as a fight between two competing and extreme political ideologies. The Republicans, though, were communists only in the sense that the Communist Party came to be an ally of the Socialists and the left-leaning Republicans in government at the time of the Civil War's outbreak and at the end of the Second Republic, the failure of which lay largely in the inability of the various political groupings to establish stable government and which had lurched between right and left throughout its five years. The coup of July 1936 was, in no small part, predicated upon this failure. Franco considered political parties unworkable, and after victory in 1939 he ensured that groupings that might have resembled parties were kept submissive, and these included the Falange, despite the philosophy of Francoism being largely based on its agenda of fundamentalist Catholicism. Though the Nationalists are and were portrayed as merely defenders against Communism, the prime concerns for Franco were the restoration of Spanish conservative interests (which precluded therefore such things as Catalan autonomy) and an end to the political parties.

But the story of the Civil War has required the neatness of the fascist-communist polarities. The International Brigades were communist in terms of the various bodies involved in creating them, but they also cannot be summed up quite so neatly. The motivation of those who joined them can be - a detestation of and a will to defeat fascism, whether they personally were communists or not. They failed to effect that defeat, and Spain languished for years as a consequence (and no one can tell what would have ensued had there been a Republican victory). Those who fought against fascism were denied the honour of what was an honourable cause. And now, finally, some have received it in the form of citizenship in a Spain that is doing its utmost to lay to rest the wounds of their defeat.

The main surprise regarding a touch of civil dissent in the normally serene calles and caminos of Pollensa is that it doesn't, for once, involve the town hall. This time around it is the local environment ministry which is the target in that a walk across finca land north of the old town has been denied, and it's the ministry doing the denying. This finally brought out a posse of militant ramblers the other day, determined to storm the barricade in order to gain access to the walk to the old king's castle on the camino de Ternelles (if you don't know, this runs from somewhere close to the Roman bridge). All they needed was a Janet Street-Porter; might have helped them, too, in tackling the jobsworths of the forestry wing of the ministry and the security guard who had tried to prevent the taking of photos. Needless to say, the ramblers were told to sling their hook, or something like that, and so they had to leave, dragging their tails of backpacks between their legs. I say that this doesn't involve the town hall, but the mayor was requested to order the opening of the camino, which he hasn't. Maybe because he can't.

What I would like to know though is where is GOB, the enviro pressure group, when you need it. This is a case of nature lovers versus environment overlords. How does GOB reconcile the two? We demand an answer.

Yesterday's title - Cher - Today's title - before two of them became Krays.