Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Want The Truth To Be Said

What was I saying about the gift that keeps on giving? And indeed about GOB keeping quiet? Although I am running the risk of this blog becoming a Son Bosc golf/GOB benefit gig, the carry-on over the mooted course is just too absurd to ignore. GOB may be keeping mum (or mum-ish) where the "Nadal Decree" is concerned, but it has its mouth wide open when it comes to the Playa de Muro golf course that isn't. And this is just the point. GOB has taken umbrage at the fact that it has been promoted as though it were in existence and has issued a "denuncia", which I presume to mean a denuncia as in a complaint to plod that plod is therefore obliged to act on. This same report - from "The Diario" - uses the adjective "engañosa" to describe the publicity for the golf course that has emerged at the Fitur trade fair. This means deceitful. I guess in the UK we would talk of misrepresentation. As there is no golf course as such, GOB may have a point, though personally I applaud those who have produced the publicity for having such brass neck and giving us all a bit of a laugh. Apparently also in this publicity material, a parking area in the Albufera nature park is shown, which will come as a great surprise since no vehicles are allowed into it. Cracking stuff.

There was this thing on Five Live a couple of days ago about a pub landlord who has banned swearing. The chap sounded like a fairly dour Scotsman, who reckoned that swearing is actually illegal because it's a breach of the peace, though it might take a bit of persuading m'lud that the odd "bloody" or even an "f-word" was a breach of the peace when the language is so much a part of everyday communication. But be that as it may. What if, though, bars here - Brit bars, that is - were to do the same? Ban swearing. Most of them would be empty. Sorry, all of them would be empty.

As one who is not unknown to utter the occasional oath, the notion of trying to eliminate from a place of drink a degree of uncouthness would be as likely as GOB not being gobby about Son Bosc. But show some respect. Every other word a swear word. No, not me, but there are plenty whose vocabulary is that limited that every other word is. However, there are those who like it - swearing, that is; they like it that much that they even celebrate it, as in the Brit bar in Puerto Pollensa that used to have one night a week as a swearing night. What the f***'s the f****** point of that f****** b*******?

And just coming back to the disaster that was last Saturday's winds ... I included a photo from the Laberinto maze in Playa de Muro the other day. Yesterday, I went there. Disaster is apt. Jake, who is a pretty good mate of mine, told me that he was practically reduced to tears. I can understand. Anyone who knows the maze will know that there are loads of pines there. Most still are. But almost all have been affected. What a mess. And then cutting all the fallen branches of pine trees at this time of year brings another problem. The caterpillars. Very, very nasty.

Dropping like flies. John Martyn one day, Bill Frindall, the Test Match Special scorer, the next. Another shock.

Today's title - where's this from? Clue is with "truth".


Index for January 2009

Alcúdia beach - 18 January 2009
Alcúdia in January - 27 January 2009
All-inclusives - 9 January 2009
Building licences - 7 January 2009, 11 January 2009, 30 January 2009
Cala San Vicente - 11 January 2009
Catalan - 17 January 2009, 18 January 2009
Charities - 6 January 2009
Clementines - 13 January 2009
Economic crisis - 13 January 2009, 19 January 2009, 23 January 2009
Fiestas - 14 January 2009, 15 January 2009, 18 January 2009, 20 January 2009, 21 January 2009
Fire runs - 14 January 2009
Franco - 10 January 2009
GOB - 16 January 2009, 30 January 2009, 31 January 2009
Golf - 16 January 2009, 24 January 2009, 29 January 2009, 31 January 2009
Heart attack - 3 January 2009
Hotel Formentor - 7 January 2009
Hotels - 7 January 2009, 30 January 2009
Language - 17 January 2009, 18 January 2009
Mallorca brand - 19 January 2009
Minigolf - 6 January 2009
Movistar - 29 January 2009
Nationalities - 23 January 2009
Palma airport - 22 January 2009
Pi de Ternelles - 15 January 2009
Playa de Muro - 6 January 2009, 16 January 2009, 24 January 2009
Pollentia museum - 24 January 2009
Processionary caterpillars - 23 January 2009
Rafael Nadal - 30 January 2009
Real Mallorca - 15 January 2009
Review of 2008 - 4 January 2009
Rubbish tips - 12 January 2009
Sa Pobla - 14 January 2009
Sant Antoni - 14 January 2009, 15 January 2009, 18 January 2009
Sant Sebastià - 20 January 2009, 21 January 2009
Season 2009 - 22 January 2009
Smoking - 28 January 2009
Snow - 10 January 2009
Son Bosc - 16 January 2009, 24 January 2009, 29 January 2009
State funding - 25 January 2009
Swearing - 31 January 2009
Telefonica - 29 January 2009
Tour operators - 8 January 2009
Tourism - 17 January 2009, 19 January 2009, 22 January 2009
Tourism promotion - 24 January 2009, 25 January 2009, 30 January 2009
Town halls - 28 January 2009
Wind - 25 January 2009, 26 January 2009
Year 2009 - 5 January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Solid Air

At the Fitur tourism trade fair in Madrid, it has been a tale of two Nadals. Two Christmases. Every day is like Christmas in a Mallorca tourism wonderland. One Nadal is Miquel of that ilk, the tourism minister, who has been granted the air of a mediaeval pope, thanks to the "decreto Nadal" (Nadal's decree) which is the one by which the island's hotels can enjoy rather loosened "procedures" in order that they can go ahead with modernisations. The papal bull, or rather its equivalent, was signed and sealed at Fitur. Hotels can increase their land areas, but not their heights; they can develop pools, spas and the like but cannot build more rooms; they still need licences, but the period for their granting is to be shortened (at least that is the hope; there are still, doubtless, those in the hotels' managements who would question whether all the parties involved in the tortuous licensing bureaucracy will actually see to a shortening).

In the "Ultima Hora" newspaper, there was a piece that asked: "why is GOB keeping quiet?". GOB, as I'm sure you all know by now, is the island's environmental pressure group. And if you don't know, what have you been doing? The headline was particularly interesting because GOB is never knowingly quiet about anything that has even the merest hint of the environment to do with it. So what caused the question? It has all to do with the Nadal decree. Some of the "procedures" do, of course, have an environmental nature, but the initiative is designed to help not just the hotels but also the construction industry and to enhance Mallorca's "quality" in light of competition from other holiday destinations. No-one really objects to any of this, including - so claims the author in the newspaper - GOB. The reason for the alleged silence, it is said, is political. Had this been an administration of the conservative Partido Popular, there would probably have been demonstrations. Maybe so, but is this really a party political thing? Nadal is also the leader of the Unió Mallorquina. This is not a left-wing party. The president of the Balearic Government may be socialist, but his administration is an eclectic mix of left and nationalist centre. Moreover, GOB has not been totally silent. As soon as the initiative was first mooted, it was argued - by the environmental lobby - that this was all a way of destroying procedures to protect the environment in the name of doing something because of the economic crisis. Which is precisely true. The crisis has brought it about, as the building trade needed a boost and someone noticed that other countries were stealing a march on Mallorca because their hotels were in better nick. At a time of economic difficulty, you do all you can to ensure what market you do have does not get eroded by factors over which you do actually have some control, i.e. the state of the hotels. So, GOB has been both vocal and silent. Maybe it has realised it needs to be a tad pragmatic, which is not a word one normally hears in association with the environmentalists.

And then there is the other Nadal - Rafa. With something of an ace and a winner down the line, he's been unfurled as the face of Mallorca and the Balearics at Fitur, thus consummating, as it were, the agreement between the government and Nadal that he should be its main man for tourism promotion. As I said when this was first discussed, it's a no-brainer. Nadal has the right image and, as importantly, he is Mallorcan, which is more than can be said for previous "faces". It is a no-brainer, but then ... . Just think about it. There is to be a TV campaign in the UK (one in Germany is already underway) which features Nadal in enticing holidaymakers to Mallorca and the Balearics. So, you are sitting there. There is a break between the two halves of the latest episode of "Corrie" and up pops Rafa. Is his appearing going to make you come to Mallorca? I don't know. He is obvious as a face of promotion, but will he make any difference? And there again, he's promoting the Balearics as opposed to just Mallorca, and one has to ask if that is right. Firstly, he is Mallorcan and not Balearican (or whatever the word is). Secondly, we had this thing quite recently (the head of the Mallorcan hotel federation) talking about the strength of the "Mallorca" brand, not of the Balearic brand. You can add to all this the facts that many holidaymakers come to Mallorca every year, and so it is questionable how effective a Rafa message is, other than as reinforcement, and also that tennis is largely a middle-class sport in the UK. Rafa may have a global appeal, but were they thinking their ABC social classifications when they offered him several million for the campaign? And I suppose, in the current circumstances, is a highly-paid tennis player going to convince people to take a holiday, or might someone offering a whacking great discount do rather better? I also suspect they don't quite have Rafa in mind when it comes to much of the all-inclusive brigade. Rafa's right, but not totally right.

Yesterday's title - ELO (

Today - this is not a quiz question, it is the title of the greatest album by one of the all-time greats who died yesterday and is therefore one of the blog's occasional obits, this time celebrated with a title - John Martyn, ladies and gentlemen. God, how sad how is that. (


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Telephone Line

1485. Some of you will recall that I lay claim to being a history scholar. Scholar is perhaps an over-exaggeration, but one I can live with. As a result though, show me certain numbers in combination and I am likely to be suddenly transformed into a weird beard with leather-patched sports jackets, i.e. a history tutor. 1485? Come on, you must know it as well. Kingdom for a horse and all that. Yes, you know it, of course you do. War of the Roses - Battle of Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485 to be precise, and Richard III begging for a horse while his crown hung on a thorn bush, or so said a certain playwright. 1485. It was also the year of birth of the unfortunate Catherine, she of Aragon and later the first missus of the lunatic Henry VIII. Well, I have to give some sort of a Spanish twist, do I not? There is another Spanish twist. 1485. The war of the mobile phone companies. How many times have I received a call from 1485 in the past week or so? I contacted Vodafone. Not because I hadn't anything better to do, but because they are the ones to whom I pay good money for the privilege of some twat pestering me with calls I don't want. "I've been getting this call from 1485," says I. "1485? Must be costing the caller a fortune." (Actually, they didn't say that.) "Do you know who it is?" asks I. "Is it a scam, a hack or what?" "None of them," comes the reply. "It's Movistar," they say with the hint of a laugh. "Marketing", they add; marketing being a word the Spanish (and not just the Spanish) tend to use, erroneously, to mean selling. "Movistar!?" "Movistar," they repeat.

For those of you who don't know, Movistar is the mobile wing of Telefonica, the national phone company. Movistar is making unsolicited calls to my mobile and to many others, if what I'm now seeing on the internet is anything to go by. There are many here who will have nothing to do with anything that is vaguely to do with Telefonica, and that includes Movistar. I am not one of them. I don't get upset by all-powerful organisations, though there are those, including the European Commission, who do: Telefonica is not unfamiliar with huge fines for uncompetitive, anti-trust activity. But I don't want them being a damn nuisance and calling my mobile with their automated system that repeats its call after half an hour, every day, when you don't bother answering, which is every time the number rings. Consequently, and very politely, do you mind sodding off?

There are many gifts that keep on giving here, as in being basically daft and continuing to be so. One such is, of course, the gloriously ridiculous projected golf course in Playa de Muro. My, what fun it has given us over the months and now years. What will we all do when they've actually built the damn thing? Not play golf on it, that's for sure. Anyway, as noted recently, Muro has managed to publicise the course as an attraction, despite it still being no more than a series of bunkers on an architect's plan and the winsome look of an endangered species on an environmentalist's sentimental propaganda. Mere bagatelle, implies the mayor, when it is pointed out that the course has neither been built nor fully approved. Bagatelle. Now that's a game where small balls are struck into numbered holes, is it not? A bit like golf, and just as pointless, or certainly just as pointless as the course in Muro.

One of the many problems for the golf course is that there is an apparently endless supply of environmentalists who emerge from the undergrowth and are willing to keep the whole debacle being debated. Step forth, therefore, the advisors on flora and fauna to the Balearic Government's environment department. They reckon that not enough is being done to protect the rare orchid on the Son Bosc finca; the rare orchid that has been the main subject of the environmental objection to the conversion of the finca. Now, given that this orchid is so rare and apparently so damn important, might it not have been an idea to ask these advisors before? Maybe. However, even had they been, what they have to say is not "binding". In other words, it doesn't count. So, why did they bother asking them? The point is that the course design has already been changed to accommodate this orchid. The eighth hole has been shifted as, originally, it would have meant some high handicappers trampling through the rough and hacking the orchid to pieces as they tried to get back on the fairway. Now, the enviro champions, GOB, have found that there's a problem with the seventh hole, too. Well, what a surprise. I wonder how long it will be before someone reckons there is a rare ant (or dec) breeding on the site of the green of the sixth hole. This can just go on and on, can't it. And it probably will. Maybe they could just build the first 16-hole golf course and have done with it. Or 15-hole. The gift that keeps on giving.

Yesterday's title - Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich ( Today's title - perms and probably the alleged cello scrotum.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bend It

Flexibility. This might be a good word; a good word to describe how things are here. Not flexibility in the positive sense so much - as in he/she demonstrated flexibility in his/her thinking - but flexibility in the maybe we'll do what we're told to or maybe we won't sense. And often one fancies it is the latter. Let's take smoking in cafés shall we. Without wishing to puff on an old pipe once more and blow some smoke rings of explanation as to how the law is meant to apply (with the emphasis on the "meant to"), suffice it to say that, in some establishments, there is a no-smoking area and a smoking area. Theoretically, there is meant to be some physical division between the two, but let's not get bogged down in theory, for in practice what you have is a theoretical no-smoking area which is right next to a practical smoking area. In other words, it doesn't make any real difference whether one part of the café is dubbed "no smoking" because the smoke is available to all. How charitable these regulations are. And even in the no-smoking area, the rigidity of that no-smoking command is, yes, flexible. Or to use another word - ignored.

Now, without wishing to finger anywhere or anyone in particular, and given that I happen to like the place and am familiar with its coffees, pastries and baguettes, there is a café in Puerto Alcúdia that is mightily popular with locals and expats alike. It has - or had the other day when I was there - a particularly flexible approach to smoking (or no smoking, as it may be). Right by my head and therefore next to my table was a sign that read "zona no fumadors". I don't think I need to translate. I hadn't appreciated that the zona no fumadors appears to extend to one table alone, as - at the next table - were a trio, two of whom I recognised from a bar which, without wishing to finger anywhere or anyone, is by the grand canal in Puerto Alcúdia, and one of the two was puffing away heartily. At the adjoining table were two "girls", who I didn't recognise, and who were both happily making some serious inroads into a packet of Marlboro.

Flexible. It's not far from bendy, is it. And bendy is not far from bent. And bent is not far from rules. Flexible, that'll be it.

Meantime, rare old sport in the Junior Common Rooms, sometimes known as the local town halls. The only thing that appears to be missing from meetings of the town hall politicos is vast quantities of alcohol, which were deemed a pre-requisite in my day of student politics in the JCRs. Alcohol, though, was not the only requirement. I once chaired a special meeting that was a vote of no confidence in the editors of the college rag. It was packed out, but it didn't stop me having my apple crumble and custard while it was going on. But anyway, where was I? Ah yes, only slightly more relevant than JCR politics is what goes on in the town halls. Always good for a spat is Santa Margalida where the spokesman for the Unió Mallorquina was expelled from a meeting for having the audacity to accuse the mayor (Partido Popular) of high-handedness and something called "indocumentado", which, though it is pretty clear, I'm unsure as to the precise sense in which it is being used, and one needs to be a bit cautious as this all revolves around some 800 grands worth of invoices. Anyway, it all sounds like jolly good fun with accusations being hurled about to do with curbing freedom of expression and all that sort of stuff. There again, 800 grand is on rather a grander scale than debates we used to have about donating 20 quid to the Shrewsbury Three or the Iranian Ninety-One or the M Twenty-Five or the Temperance Seven - whatever cause it happened to be, and it was invariably of a right-on far-left nature and involved endless discussion as to whether payments were "ultra vires". If there is one or rather are two words that describe my university life, they would be ultra and vires, and I still don't know what they mean.

But the Junior Common Room to beat them all is of course that in Pollensa, where mayor Cerdà is under fire for the town's cleaning arrangements. When isn't he under fire? The United Left/Greens, the one-man mayoral destruction unit that is Pepe García, is having a go about the fact that the company that does the cleaning - sort of - has not had a contract for several months. Ah look, just don't worry about it. It'll be an oversight. You know how flexible things can be here.

Yesterday's title - Beverley Knight ( Today's title - the lead singer sadly died recently.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Keep This Fire Burning

I park near to where the Bulldog billboard has been bent and twisted by the winds. I hadn't come to do so, but I take a bit of a detour down to the old-town Eroski so that I can look at the German supermarket that has not long opened. Together with the Müller store, it forms a little Germany. Maybe Lidl should try acquiring the Eroski. I go into the mall - if you can call somewhere with three stores a mall - and I ignore the chap at the entrance. He doesn't deserve it. Who does? Well, I don't completely ignore him; just mutter "no". He has said to me: "perdone, señor". It's the second time in a few days. There was someone outside the Eroski near to Playa de Muro. Not the local colour who is often there. Someone else. "Perdone." Is this how it is? The other day I saw this chap by the karting at the Magic roundabout. I'd presumed he was waiting to be picked up. He had several bags tied up and mounted on a shopping-trolley. He obviously wasn't picked up, or he missed his ride. I saw him again yesterday - twice in fact. The same pile of bags, the same trolley; five maybe six quite large bags. Is that all his life resting on a borrowed Eroski trolley as he wheels himself and what he's trying hard to keep hold of around Puerto Alcúdia?

And it's bitterly cold. My hands are freezing. I think of the man with the trolley, of the guy saying "perdone", and walk the quiet and sad streets of January Alcúdia, noting the places for rent or sale, the places that are closed and empty. I recognise someone from one of these closed places. He passes me in Constitution Square. "Uep?" I ask. He stutters some response and walks on. So do I, but think that maybe I should chat to him. When I turn, he's disappeared or he has melded into a vagueness of dark winter coats and bobble hats pulled hard down over the forehead. Somehow, all seems dark though it is still very much light; 4.30 or so. The green cross of the chemists is neon-conspicuousness flashing against the indifference of the late afternoon sun.

Maybe you imagine it, but you think to yourself - didn't there used to be so-and-so here? Such a shop, such a bar? And then there's a surprise because there is something that definitely didn't used to be there. A new small hotel. Can Pere. Where did that come from? And you realise that it's already two, three months since you last trod these streets, and that you are out because - for you, well, for me - it's a new beginning, a new round of doing what I do. And despite the gloom and the sadness, there is always something new, but I still manage to think about the trolley man and the pathetic "perdone" and how damn cold it is. They could do with keeping the fires going. I kick at some earth of one of the Sant Antoni or Sebastià fire mounds and some charred wood slumps into the pit that the kick makes, joined by a sweet packet that has been discarded, as though the fire mound is just any old rubbish tip. And there is a bonfire that has been built but not been used. Maybe there's some other event. Or maybe, because it was a tall fire, they decided it was too risky with the winds. Last thing they'd want is to set fire to the town hall. Not that it would be a bad idea. Keep everyone warm: the beggars and the homeless certainly.

Yesterday's title - Ultravox ( Today's title - single from a leading British female R&B/soul singer; the song was actually first done by a Swedish R&B act.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Reap The Wild Wind

Part of a wall had collapsed. It had never been a complete wall, but one of those of ornateness, the bricks not bricks as such but squares to let the air pass through, or not. They are not robust enough to withstand 130 kilometres an hour's worth of wind, so someone has discovered. Perhaps they'll build a proper wall instead next time.

And everywhere there was pine. Cones; thousands of cones, small, medium, large; twig and branch of pine; whole trunk of pine. Pine lying in the street, pine lying in gardens, pine lying half in and half out gardens, pine with the procesionarios' sacs now close to the ground, close enough to touch or to grab and wonder what happens if you do so. The still strong breezes squeeze huge branches, with fresh wounds like bright fruit, jagged and swaying like dead men who've been hanged. Another gust, and you look out for the fear of the dead man's kiss crashing against your back as you make a forlorn escape.

Buffeted against kerbing or strewn indiscriminately, pine and a collective detritus of the dead spikes of palms or that plant of the pineapple family whose name I can never recall but with leaves as sharp as Johnny Depp's hands that can twirl in a high wind like a switchblade and tear the flesh.

And then another wall, by a hotel, that is also down, and the permanent marquee is flapping and torn, bending over the now wave shape formed by the artificial grass hedge. A building site has become like a bomb site, the temporary wire fencing smashed and scattered the length of the road, ever more pines crashed in on piles of bricks. By the beach, there is sand; sand mingling with all those shards of wood that has not been captured for the beach by the bamboo barriers, because those bamboo barriers have been bent from V-shape to avant-garde distortion. A cable hangs useless, disrupting communication. A shop front, abandoned for winter, has had its frames for awning and signs rearranged as abstract sculpture. Publicity boards that had occupied an empty restaurant facade have disappeared. You see them, eventually, sulking in the entrance to another shop, sharing the space with even more bits of pine and palm.

Someone walks past and says: "un desastre". And they weren't wrong. For almost twenty-four hours it had raged. A 24-hour, 130-150 kilometre-per-hour disaster.

Yesterday's title - Fleetwood Mac ( Today's title - new romantic-ish and one of them co-wrote one of the biggest selling songs of all time.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oh Well

Clearly, the town halls all look to push the boat out when they're heading off to Madrid for the Fitur jolly. For some, such as Muro, this involves promotional material for something that doesn't actually exist (as noted yesterday); for others, Alcúdia say, it is a musical offering. Specifically, those who pitch up to hear what Alcúdia has to offer at the Madrid tourism fair are also likely to become the proud owners of a CD with twelve chill-out songs, reflecting "the sensations of well-being" associated with Alcúdia (it says in "Ultima Hora"). Of course when you have introduced something as massively under-publicised and as pointless as the beach chill-out area then what better to complement this particular sensation of well-being than a CD with the sort of sounds that you would struggle to hear from the couple of speakers hanging limply from poles of said chill-out area. Otherwise, what are these "sensations of well-being", do you suppose? Good beach, yep; some decent enough restaurants, sure; an old-town atmosphere to complement the tourism centre, certainly. And then? The marina; the smaller, out-of-the-way areas like Mal Pas; the Roman history. Do you know something? I may be a cynic at times, but Alcúdia has got a hell of a lot of "well-being" going for it. Ignore those naysayers who would deny this. Yes, there is naffness, too, but naffness is often fun. Ignore that "it's like Blackpool" rubbish. They don't know what they're talking about. I wouldn't mind one of those chill-out CDs. I'm sure I can find a way of getting hold of one.

Anyway, not so much chill, indeed the temperatures rose quite remarkably on Friday - to almost 20 degree maximum in Sa Pobla. But this change was accompanied by the most ferocious of winds. That doesn't do justice. Frightening at times. Not even a sleeping pill could prevent my being woken in the middle of the night before last by the sound of the wind; a wind that kept on throughout the day and then on into last night. It was a "ponent" - a west wind, gusting up to 130 kilometres per hour. It's one way of reducing the processionary caterpillar problem, I guess. High winds, bring down pine trees, doesn't really matter if there are caterpillars ready to destroy them. For once, "desastre" is fairly appropriate. And this morning, calm but cold again, one can go out and survey the damage - the trees and bits of tree across and to the sides of streets; all the debris in the gardens and in the roads.

But coming back to the Alcúdia chill-out CD, this is the idea of a body known as the consortium for the external promotion of Alcúdia (or something like that); the same consortium which has dreamt up all the developments on the beach, such as the unknown chill-out zone. The funding for the beach stuff is not coming from central government, i.e. from Madrid. But there are other projects which will enjoy such state benefaction. And so it is that Alcúdia, for example, is due to receive a bit over 3 million euros for projects such as developments of the residence home for senior citizens. Pollensa is to get slightly less than 3 million. The money going to all the town halls on the island has been listed in the press, and there does seem to be a pretty firm correlation between population and the amounts. Alcúdia - population 17,435; funding 3,085,790; Pollensa - 16,570; 2,932,696; Santa Margalida - 10,608; 1,877,492; Muro - 6,741; 1,193,078. And so it goes on. Spare a thought for the smallest municipality in Mallorca. That is Escorca. It has a population of 290, and is getting a measly 51 grand.

Yesterday's title - Shaggy, "Mr. Boombastic" ( Today's title - before some of them went strange.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Physical Attraction

Well over a year after the announcement of the new museum for Pollentia in Alcúdia (27 August 2007, "It's Build A House Where We Can Stay"), they're finally getting round to drawing up a draft plan. Well, not quite yet; don't let's get too excited, it'll be another three months or so. But they're working on it. These things take time, you know. They don't happen overnight. Like the power station conversion; that's only - what - getting on for two years since they set that all in motion. The fact that they haven't got the finance sorted out - or hadn't when they made a presentation a month or so back at the Auditorium - is a mere trifle. No, no, these things must take time, especially as so many need to have their say-so. In the case of the new Pollentia museum, the consortium overseeing it involves the town hall, central Mallorcan bods and also Madrid, and it is Madrid which is actually paying for the museum, so I suppose they have an interest to make sure it goes according to plan, unlike other local developments, such as Can Ramis.

And talking of consortia ... The new tourism promotion consortium in Muro - to which I referred on 2 December ("And There's A Message That I'm Sending Out") - has been active. Know what it's gone and done? It's produced a leaflet. Know what's included in this leaflet, one that's to be available at the Fitur tourism fair in Madrid next week? Included is the fact that the golf course on the Son Bosc finca near to Playa de Muro is one of the "main tourist attractions" in the northern area (quote taken in translation from "The Diario"). There is one slight drawback. There is no golf course. Well, not yet, there isn't. And there are still various hoops to pass through, to say nothing of militant enviros strapping themselves to rare orchids in defiance of bulldozers, which may yet prevent the course ever seeing the light of an early-morning tee-off. The piece in The Diario mentions the fact that the website of one of the main parties in the consortium - the hotel association - says that a golf course is being planned. I had pointed this out myself in the article of 2 December. But note that it is being planned. There is a fair difference, I would say, between planned and being one of the main tourist attractions.

I'm no expert but something tells me that, unless something actually physically exists, it is stretching a point to suggest that it is an attraction. The mayor of Muro doesn't seem to have too much difficulty with all this, given that the only thing holding the golf development back is a modification to the project - that to avoid the rare orchid where the eighth hole was originally meant to have gone. It may well be the case that everything else is more or less tickety-boo, but only the other day we had the minister for mobility giving the course the thumbs-down, albeit that he seemed to have placed himself firmly in the enviros' camp (16 January: "Land Of Confusion").

It's good, though, that the Muro consortium has got its arse in gear and is heading off to Madrid to do some promotion. There is nothing wrong with that at all. However, if someone books a holiday on the basis of a golf course, are they not going to be slightly disappointed? Or. I can imagine at the Fitur fair someone approaching a Muro representative, clutching the relevant promotional literature and asking about the golf course. "Ah yes," would come the reply. "It isn't actually built yet." "But it says here that it is one of the area's main tourist attractions." "Yes, well, it will be. But not just yet." "When is it likely to be?" "Erm, well, erm, can you wait there a minute, I just need to have a word with my colleague..." Actually it would be worth taking a flight to Madrid just so that one could go to the Muro stand and ask them about their golf course. Priceless.

Yesterday's title - "Robert De Niro's Waiting", Bananarama ( Today's title - it's included in what was an enormous reggae hit for an American-Jamaican who, so it is claimed, takes his name from a Scooby-Doo character.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Talking Italian

Tucked along the foot of page three in yesterday's "Bulletin", and therefore looking as though it were an advert, was something that wasn't an ad. It was in fact a piece which reported on the degree to which other nations are liked (and, by implication, disliked) by the Spanish. One presumes that this has come from some worthy research, though there was no clue as to the source in this feature-ette. What we got was that, with 36 per cent, the Italians rank highest in the Spaniard's affection. And the British? The British upon whom so much of the tourism industry depends and indeed a fair portion of the construction industry? 13 per cent, a measly 13 per cent, five percentage points fewer than the Germans and only four more than the Greeks who, let's face it, don't count.

13 per cent. Bloody ingrates. All the good that the Brits do for the Spaniards and they can't even rate the Brits above the Germans. For several decades now, the British have been commandeering local housing, starting up King's Armses and serving warm beer and full Englishes, flatly refusing to speak anything other than the Queen's Brummie, Scouse or Cockney, parading acres of white flesh splattered with tattoos in front of the sensibility-offended locals, and vomiting the length of the resorts' promenades. And for all this, the Spaniards can only rate us a bit higher than the Greeks. What have the Greeks ever done for Spain? And as for placing the Italians at the top of the pile. One can only assume that there is a certain cultural similarity, partly one founded on attitudes to the respective nations' fiscal systems; either that or the one-time closeness between fascist dictators, or perhaps a closeness between the lingos.

If one were to ask a similar question of Brits, I feel it is reasonably certain that, given a choice of Spanish, French and German, the latter two would not come top of a who-does-the-Brit-like poll. The Spanish, by virtue of not actually being French or German, would - in all likelihood - top the Brits' poll. Not now they won't, having demonstrated such British dislike. Bring on Eurovision!

Meanwhile, a Spanish minister has made a call to arms for a made-in-Spain campaign as the way for the country to buy its way out of economic crisis. What a splendid idea. Let's all go and spend way more than we need to on the likes of furniture in Spanish stores rather than in IKEA where stuff is vastly cheaper. One of Spain's problems is its lack of competitiveness and that can often translate as too expensive. No, let's not buy made-in-Spain, but buy what's best value for money, and, in general, that won't be Spanish. However, even if we wished to not buy Spanish, we would struggle with certain things - like with wine in supermarkets. Here the full effects of the free European market are to be found; hardly a non-Spanish bottle for sale. The minister needn't worry. There is a certain protectionism that makes it nigh impossible not to buy Spanish.

And to a different matter ... I'm looking up. Looking up at trees. At pine trees. I can count at least four sacs of the processionary caterpillars in one. These pine trees that hang over the streets and pavements. You begin to make a calculation as to the pine trees in the neighbourhood, the ones with sacs and roughly where the caterpillars might fall. It's still early, but the sacs are growing. They'll be out with the guns soon in order to shoot them down and then sling them in the rubbish or set fire to them. It's a pretty gruesome end, if you happen to be a processionary caterpillar. Many won't have got that far, or shouldn't have done if the trees were sprayed. I wasn't aware of any spraying locally. There was meant to have been. But what there was meant to have been would have occurred in forest - public areas. There are many pines that are on private land and hang over the public land of the pavements and then - unless someone detaches the sacs - deposit the contents of those sacs. Not very pleasant.

Yesterday's title - The Besnard Lakes ( or Today's title - where does this come from? A previous-era girl group.


Thursday, January 22, 2009


Someone once told me that the authorities couldn't really care less what sort of holidaymakers turn up in Mallorca, so long as they turn up and turn up in great numbers; numbers sufficient to justify the investment that has been put into the development of Palma airport, and numbers which would increase that much more - and no self-interest involved here of course - so that the local government would be able to take a piece of the pie in managing the airport. But that would be some way off. Especially if the numbers decline. And falling numbers are really not what anyone had in mind. The only problem is that the number did fall - in 2008.

The movement of people though the airport is, in some ways, one of the better ways of gauging tourism activity. Not totally of course. There are enough ranges of lard mountain being herded through Son Sant Joan en route to their all-inclusive troughs to skew any meaningful notion as to numbers and indeed types of holidaymaker. But as, for the most part, the tourist arrives by air, you do get a reasonable handle on things, always assuming that there hasn't been some - how to put it - massaging of the figures. And there doesn't appear to have been, not for 2008 at any rate; there was a decline just short of 400,000. That said, of the three main tourist markets (mainland Spain, Germany and the UK), the largest fall was among the Spanish, the UK showed a fall of some 100,000, but the Germans increased slightly.

Insofar as 2008 performance can mean anything when projecting for this season, the airport numbers do seem to tally with other reports from last year, especially in respect of the slump in Spanish tourism. The good news for the north of the island is that this market is of little consequence. Anyway, despite the call by the tourism minister for some positive spin, the message doesn't seem to have found its way to one commentator in "Ultima Hora" who says that it will require a "titanic effort to avoid a disaster this year". Ah yes, that word again. Disaster. The minister said we media sorts shouldn't use it, but up it pops - regular as ... well as regular as "desastre", because anything or everything here can be a "desastre". The beach near to me is at present, according to my ancient Mallorcan neighbours, "un desastre"; the reason being that it's full of natural rubbish. One of the flats that the ancients rent out was also once "un desastre" after three TUI reps had been in it for a season. The word is actually used so much that it does rather lose its meaning.

We are told that 2009 is likely to be on a par with 2006. Now, I don't really recall the ins and outs of that particular year, but I don't remember it being "un desastre". Indeed, although 2007 was meant to have been a record year, there were those who would maintain that 2006 was better. So, quite where this gets us I've no idea. Nowhere in all likelihood. But if 2007 was indeed a record year, then is there not some consolation in accepting that not every year can be a record year, and that if there is a bit more of a decline in the numbers of Brits exiting the Luton EasyJet it doesn't actually equate to "un desastre"? There is a slight drawback in this argument in that 2008 was meant to have been a record year as well, which was probably bollocks and the lower numbers coming through the airport would tend to to support that. But we have the word of the bloke at TUI, i.e. its chief executive, who says that people will still take their foreign holiday; the thing that will prevent them is not recession, but unemployment. To that end, let's just hope people keep their jobs. Or ... desastre.

Yesterday's title - The Dandy Warhols ( Today's title - ok, you'll be doing well with this, but it comes from a wonderful Canadian indie group who did get the odd mention here in 2007. They take their name from some water in Saskatchewan.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Every Day Should Be A Holiday

Many though the number of holidays may be, not every day is a holiday and not every day is a holiday everywhere, albeit that I'm beginning to believe that, on any given day, somewhere is celebrating a holiday. Life can get very confusing here. Yesterday was Sant Sebastià. Ostensibly a Palma-only gig, it has found its way onto the list of holidays and therefore days off elsewhere on the island. Sant Antoni was on Saturday; it's a bigger thrash in some places compared with others and is a holiday in some towns and not others. Then there is the word itself - fiesta. It means both party and holiday. Some places it's a party-holiday, a fiesta-fiesta, if you like; some places it's just a party - fiesta-lite - or neither a holiday nor a party, it seems. Keeping track of all of this is virtually impossible. For example, the Saturday gone, in Pollensa, was a fiesta-fiesta, a holiday and a party for Sant Antoni and the pine-tree climbing. Yesterday was a fiesta-fiesta for Sebastian in certain municipalities, but wasn't in others; indeed it wasn't really even a fiesta-lite in others.

So, I went along to the municipal building in Playa de Muro. My intention was to post two birthday cards at the post office. Strangely, the shutters for the post office were pulled to, but the building was open. Cati, the receptionist at what doubles as the tourist office and Muro's satellite town hall office, said the post office was closed. I could see that.




"But you're working," I point out.

"It's not a fiesta in Muro."

I look at the locked door of the post office with a growing sense of bewilderment. It is a fiesta in Can Picafort. But this isn't Can Picafort. No, but the post office is. Let's just run through all that again - the post office, which is located in Muro, is closed because, although it is in Muro, it isn't; it is in fact in Can Picafort (or Santa Margalida if you want to be pedantic). And because it isn't in Muro - as such - it is closed because today is a holiday in Can Picafort. Well, glad we've got that straightened out.

The danger, having found that the not-the-Muro-sub-post-office is shut for the day, is if then one decides to go to a different post office. As it turns out, Alcúdia, for example, would have been a safe bet; no fiesta or at least not a fiesta-fiesta. But had one gone off to Sa Pobla it would not have been. Despite Sant Antoni being such a big deal there, they take Sebastian off.

I once suggested that Mallorca should sell itself as a 365-day-a-year party-people place. Even on this relatively small island, it may indeed be possible to find somewhere that is holding a fiesta, and somewhere that is, therefore, closed for the day. Never let it be said that something as trivial as work might get in the way of a day off and a fiesta. Or in the way of bringing the postal system to a grinding halt, in whichever town it happens to be - or not.

Yesterday's title - "Sebastian", Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel ( Today's title - single by one of the Portland, Oregon flock. Think play on the name of an artist.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Somebody Called Me Sebastian

You have to go to the Spanish press to get anything that is especially critical when it comes to local issues. It would be most unlikely that you would read anything like a piece in "Ultima Hora" yesterday in the English press, a piece that had a right old go at Palma town hall for its organisation of this year's Sant Sebastià jollies. To remind you - San Sebastià is one of the biggest gigs of the year. Sebastià (Sebastian, obviously) is the patron saint of Palma. Some of you may recall I explained how he came to be so once before on the blog, but it maybe bears repetition from three years ago, so here goes ...

"Sebastian, originally from France, was a Roman soldier, martyred for his Christian faith. That he became Palma’s patron saint was pure chance; it wasn’t as if he had any association with the place, while his crypt is to be found in Rome. But in the first part of the sixteenth century (1523 is generally considered to be the year), there was a particularly bad dose of the plague knocking around. Anyway, or so the story goes, one Manuel Suriavisqui, the owner of a bone from Sebastian, pitched up in Palma at the time of the plague, together with the bone. And what do you know...? That old bone helped to quell the plague. And so Sebastian was declared the patron of Palma."

Sebastian may have been hijacked by other parts of the island (any excuse for a fiesta anywhere is gratefully accepted), but in Palma he, and his celebrations, remain hugely significant. Last night was the music night, with the squares in the centre open to acts of varying sorts. Last year there was an international flavour - ELO, for example. This year there was not. Last year they said, after the event, that more needed to be done in terms of international promotion and attracting an international audience to Palma for Sebastian. This year they seem to have overlooked this.

"Ultima Hora" criticises the organisers for not knowing what the people of Palma want, for the lack of international acts, for lower quality than in previous years. It points out that there were few even national performers; most were local and that meant Catalan. There seems to have been a politicisation of the music of Sebastian. Maybe it was just because Palma couldn't afford anyone else, or maybe it was propitious and allowed them to justify a much more parochial approach. If so, they have made a big mistake. Sebastian is a cracking event, and the town hall knows that it deserves more international attention, so why fall back on the purely local? Whatever happened to that increased international promotion? Yea, ok, perhaps it's just the economy determining this year's event, but perhaps - and it wouldn't be the first time I've said it - the Mallorcans just don't want foreigners at their do's.

And perhaps they don't want them because there are sufficient bodies knocking about as it is. At the Sa Pobla witches night event, 8,000 made use of the special train services alone. In Muro, for the blessing of the animals, there were some 5,000 - people, that is, as opposed to animals. The numbers who turn up, year in, year out, may not make a lot of sense when you consider that these events are basically the same, year in, year out. But then, you read something else in "Ultima Hora", something in Catalan that, under the heading "Sant Antoni i Sant Sebastià", begins "som un poble" (we are a people), and which you know is going to be a reflection on the changes of local society and traditions - and it is. It is also not a million miles away from what I have said before about the way in which they keep hold of their traditions here as some form of mass psychological buffer to the changes that have occurred. In fact, it is very close to what I have said, which, I guess, is rather reassuring - for me, at any rate. And this may explain why they - the Mallorcans - are indifferent, antagonistic perhaps to those traditions being internationalised either through content or by those in attendance. And then someone goes and complains about not enough being done for winter tourism ...

Yesterday's title - "Just Stand Up", Mariah Carey, Beyoncé et al ( Today's title - it was the first single by whom? Quite unlike what one came to associate with him/them.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Things Get Better

The president of the Mallorcan hotel federation is concerned; the Spanish tourist office in London is worried. You wouldn't really expect them to be feeling any differently - or would you? No, I didn't think you would. The theme is the same, only the contents differ; 2009 is likely to be a difficult year. Er, yes, I think we've probably all gathered this. Maybe tourism minister, Miquel Nadal, was right when he tried to persuade the media to be more "responsible" in its reporting of what he maintains will not be a "disaster" (2009, that is). Or do the stories indicating a bad season at some point just become so repetitious that people switch off? I know I have. When Antoni Horrach, the hotel federation president, speaks of tour operators cutting capacity and flights, it's really the same old news. Equally when the tourist office says that market conditions are tough because of the credit crunch and the euro-pound situation, it is not only the same old news - ad bloody nauseam - you do actually begin to lose the will to live.

Listen up - WE KNOW THIS. It is not necessary to keep on repeating it.

It only becomes necessary as a means of filling space in newspapers. Though Sr. Nadal was being vaguely censorious with his desire to see the media acting in a way that kept the bad news at bay, I do now start to sympathise with him. Not because bad news should not be reported, but because of the sheer monotony of the message. The fact is that until the season is under way, we aren't really going to know. The chances are that things will be better than thought; that many holidaymakers are holding off making their purchases just yet; that the tour operators can make additional capacity if there is the demand; that Mallorca is still a place that attracts those holidaymakers, despite the market conditions and despite Turkey and other non-Euroland destinations.

Sr. Horrach featured in a lengthy interview in "The Diario" yesterday. Why there were no questions about all-inclusives I'm not sure; it would have been one of the first on my list. He didn't really have much of interest to say, but one thing stood out, and this was when he was talking about the promotion of Mallorca. He described the Mallorca "brand" as the "Coca-Cola" of Mediterranean tourism. What does that mean? Sickly sweet and doesn't do much for your teeth or your waistline? He meant, at least I assume he meant, that Mallorca is known by everyone, in the same way that Coke is. Of global brands, Coca-Cola is one that has universal recognition. And why? Because they keep promoting it and keep creating an image which, despite the obvious unhealthiness of the drink, is still valued and trusted. You might think that Coke has long not needed promotion, but that's where you would be wrong, because the constant promotion, the constant position in the consumer's front of mind is what maintains the brand's strength. It's a damn good analogy that Sr. Horrach is making, or it would be if Mallorca had maintained the same level of intensity in its promotion. It may not be comparable to Coke, but - as a brand - Mallorca certainly has its recognition. And what Sr. Horrach didn't say was that Coke has maintained its awareness and its position in markets through a consistency of message. When Coca-Cola attempted to introduce "New" Coke some years ago, the company faltered, as did its marketing message. New Coke was dropped. The same applies, or should, to Mallorca, and that is the core value, the core attributes of the Mallorca brand, which remain those that have existed since the advent of mass tourism. It is for this reason that to start modifying the brand, playing with it in terms of "alternative" tourism is such a very dangerous move. Mallorca is known, very well known. Don't go messing around with its brand image - "new Mallorca"; don't go there. And, as importantly, devote the promotional budget to the Coca-Cola-isation of the Mallorca name - one of sun, sea and fun. Things go better, things get better (see the quiz question); it doesn't all have to be gloom.

Yesterday's title - MGMT, "Electric Feel" ( Today's title - not quite "things go better" (as in with Coke) but nearly. This is a line from an all-female, R&B charity song from last year.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shock Me Like An Electric Eel

So, after the night of the demons and the fires and the barbecues and the eel specialities (in Sa Pobla at any rate), there was the day of blessing - Sant Antoni day. Yesterday was his big day out. The saint of animals who, on the eve of his saint's day, was celebrated for having spurned the advances of the devil; hence the demons and the fires. It's a familiar theme of course. La Beata in Santa Margalida, often said to be the most traditional of the Mallorcan fiestas, is based on the same idea. There isn't necessarily a huge amount of imagination surrounding some of these fiestas; a bit of tempting by Satan and a bit of telling him to sling his horns and his hook and, Antoni's your uncle, you've got yourself another fiesta. As for the actual day of Tone, many of the local towns have blessings of animals. And so people lug along their dogs, which doubtless foul the pavements and are also blissfully unaware that the bloke in the funny garb is actually blessing them and so bark and snarl when he gets a bit close. Presumably there weren't too many eels being brought along to get some religion.

Further to yesterday's piece, there was something of an outcry in response to Sr. Middelmann's observations. One has to assume that he knew that he would probably shock people into a response, and that he has. The Catalan defenders, the likes of the Obra Cultural Balear (the group that set up the talking-Catalan-in-cafés carry-on), have said that they are offended and that what Middelmann had to say was provocative and not appropriate for one who holds the post that he does with the "Fomento del Turismo". The thing is that, though he has wandered into political waters that he might have done better to stay out of and also pontificated on matters not solely to do with tourism, he might well argue that there needs to be a balance in the language debate, especially as it affects tourism. It might be recalled that another group known as "La Mesa del Turismo", back in the summer (9 July: I Say High, You Say Low), presented a manifesto in support of the defence of Castilian. One leg of this table is Air Berlin. And Middelmann holds a senior post with the airline.

Coming back to one of the stories of 2008 - the developments on Alcúdia beach - the town hall has decided that it needs to do more; to do more that probably no-one much will notice, like no-one much noticed the WiFi system and the idiotic chill-out zone. To recap - the WiFi system, the networking of a stretch of beach of some two and a half kilometres or so, was meant to be a highly innovative development (some might have said it was a vanity project, but be that as it may). By the end of August, it had attracted precisely 72 customers - along the beach at any rate. As for the chill-out zone, this was something that not even the nearby tourist office was aware of, and it was just a glorified set of loungers with some apologies of speakers hanging pathetically from some poles. Anyway, undeterred by the underwhelming experience of 2008, the town hall and the hotel association are going to effect further developments. Mind you and to be fair, these - swings and play areas for children and an upgrade of the pathway at the back of the beach - will be welcomed and will also be far more obvious than the WiFi, unless, that is, they do the sensible thing and actually publicise the internet facility, which was not the case last season. Now, had you read about this latest development in "The Bulletin", you might, like I was, have been rather taken aback. Why? Well, because it said that this was going, with assistance from the Inestur promotional organisation, to set the town hall and the hoteliers back some ... 720 million euros. I have not made a mistake. It did say 720 million, under a headline that proclaimed that millions were to be spent. If one goes to "The Bulletin's" sister paper, "Ultima Hora", you will find out the real amount - 720 thousand. Oops. So, if you were shocked to learn that the rough equivalent of the GDP of a very small nation was about to be spent on the beach at Alcúdia, you can rest easy: it isn't to be. However, you might not rest easy. Despite the rather large difference in the reported spend, 720 thousand still sounds like a bloody lot of dosh for some swings and a better pavement. 720 thousand, 720 million, who knows. Either way, the amount is either 10,000 or 10 million times more than the number who had booked WiFi on Alcúdia's beach last summer. 72 customers for the WiFi, and now 720,000 or 720 million: doesn't matter. How wonderfully serendipitous and multiplicative.

The new beach spend was decided at a recent town hall gathering at which they also looked forward to the completion of the old town Can Ramis development (finally, eventually, whenever) and the "endowment" of services along the Calles Pollentia and Teodoro Canet. The former runs from the old town down to the other roundabout (i.e. not the horse roundabout) and effectively joins on to the latter as it heads off past the main parking area in the port. But what services are these? Anyone care to guess?

Yesterday's title - Sugababes ( Today's title - a line from a brilliant 2008 song; American hippy popsters who might just have spent some time listening to Prince.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

In The Middle

In my review of 2008, one of the "highlights" (if one can use such a word) was that noted for 14 June - "the politics of language took to the air with demands that Air Berlin use Catalan". This provoked further comment and someone accused me of a certain anti-Catalan bias, which - as those who have been reading this blog over the years may realise - is not the case. What is, is the fact that I believe, in matters of language, that pragmatism should come before idealism.

But why am I bringing this up again? Well, because it is being brought up again by no less a figure than the president of the tourism promotion body ("Fomento del Turismo") who also happens to be the director-general for Spain and Portugal of ... yep, Air Berlin. This is a gentleman who goes by the wonderfully anglo-suggestive Germano-Iberian name of Alvaro Middelmann; the suggestion being that of a "middle man", but - as far as I am aware - "middel" is not a German word (it's mittel). Nevertheless, it is a name that hints at feet in both camps - of Spain and Germany, but he is not someone who tramps a linguistic middle ground. He's not got a lot of time for the Catalan argument.

Reported in "The Diario", Middelmann, at a tourism conference, reckons that the Balearics lose "the opportunity to attract many people with a high spending capacity" because of the language issue. He takes the line that, because the Balearics are Spain, the Castilian language should be respected. There are a lot of people who would agree with him and who would argue that it should have supremacy over Catalan in the islands and not dual language status. Middelmann, venturing into the politics of language arena, argues that the conservative Partido Popular is partly to blame for having allowed the pro-Catalan situation to have occurred, which - for those in the PP who have made their occasional anti-Catalan outbursts in the past (leader Rajoy and Calvià mayor Delgado, for example) - will not sound reassuring.

When Middelmann refers to losing people who might come and spend a fair amount of moolah on the islands, he is presumably referring to - in the main - those from Castilian-speaking parts of the Peninsula. Mayor Delgado has, of course, made this point himself (18 December: Don't Worry). If Sr. Middelmann isn't referring to them, then I'm not quite sure what his point is. For mostly everyone else, the language issue is a non-subject. How many people coming from the UK know that there are two official languages in the Balearics and that one of them - the derivations of Catalan locally - are the native tongue? Very, very few, I would suggest. And there would still be very, very few among those who have had repeat holidays, and very, very few of those who could utter a single word in Catalan. In Castilian, yes, but Catalan, no.

The language debate does not affect your everyday tourist from countries other than Spain, and nor should it. If tourists can speak a language, then it will be Castilian and not Catalan. What are tourists? Customers. What do you give customers? What they need, not what you might like them to have. Yet there are those who persist in bringing the language debate up in the context of tourism - some of them fanatics in pursuit of the fatuous. No-one is going to accede to some sort of Catalan dogmatism if it harms their tourist business, but Middelmann is just the latest to suggest that it is doing just that.

His address was part of a wider attack on the political class as a whole and the current Balearic Government in particular. He singled out the administration for criticism in terms of delays in granting licences for hotel renovations. On the same day as Middelmann was levelling this criticism, the tourism minister, Miquel Nadal, was suggesting that the simplification of procedures and the availability of credit to enable these renovations was just about to kick in. You will recall that these are all part of a drive to, at least in part, combat the economic crisis by giving the construction industry a leg-up. Middelmann may well be right to say that there have been delays, but, as has been said before, much of the problem resides with the town halls and their dealings with different government ministries. You see, it just goes round and round. The government decides on a course of action - in this case to cut bureaucracy in the granting of licences - but it is ultimately the body which, via its ministries, holds the whole thing up. Crazy.

Yesterday's title - Genesis ( Today's title - girl group, which one?


Friday, January 16, 2009

Land Of Confusion

Now, you might be under the impression that the long drawn-out, utterly tedious and indeed utterly pointless controversy surrounding the projected golf course near Playa de Muro had finally come to some conclusion. You might be under this impression if you had read that the environment minister had "vetoed" it. You would, though, have needed to have read a bit more closely in order to discover that it wasn't the environment minister and that what the not-the-environment minister actually said was that it was a matter for the Mallorca Council, though he did also say that there were enough golf courses (well, more or less he said that) and that the current government was against expansion of different types (including "touristic" and "sporting" ones) if they did not have full government approval.

As far as the argument about there being enough golf courses, he - and he is in fact the minister for mobility and "ordenación" (whatever that is) - is absolutely right. I have said it time and time again on this blog that the conversion of the Son Bosc finca is not appropriate because another golf course is simply not needed. To hell with the environmental issues, important though they also are, the straightforward business case for the course is completely unproven. Right, so good, the minister seems to get that much, and the reporting suggests that this is all a victory for enviro agitators GOB. It may well indeed be, but what exactly does this have to do with this particular minister? Not a great deal, one imagines, if the actions of the equivalent here of the Ombudsman are anything to go by. Following a complaint by GOB, the Ombudsman is investigating whether there has been a lack of objectivity in the case of the Son Bosc golf development by ... the environment ministry, which is a different ministry to that of the mobility chap but is still part of the same Balearic Government. And yet, according to the minister, it should all be a matter for the Mallorca Council, which has nevertheless not prevented him from "vetoing" the development.

And there is something else which is a matter for the Mallorca Council, about which the minister is having his say. Following a meeting with GOB, he cast doubts as to plans advanced, by the Mallorca Council, for new ring roads around Palma.

So, hang on, let's just try and get this straight if we can, or try and make a bit of a sense of it. The minister, whose government is under investigation from the Ombudsman, has a meeting with those who registered the complaint that has led to the Ombudsman's investigation, at which he says no to the subject of that investigation, and passes the buck to the Mallorca Council against whose plans for the ring roads he is also now not in agreement with, a point he makes following a meeting with those who registered the Son Bosc complaint that led to the Ombudsman's investigation. Right, well that's all clear then.

But if it is indeed down to the Mallorca Council to decide on Son Bosc and for the Council to draw up plans for new roads, one asks the question again of local politics: who actually is responsible and why does one need so many tiers of government? Can a regional government not sort out roads and other environmental matters? They have their say on the matters, so why not just let them get on with dealing with them? Then there is the question of possible overlap and turf wars. Where is the line between the environment ministry and the mobility ministry? It gets dreadfully confusing. And maybe there is just one other aspect to all this. The environment minister is from the UM (Unió Mallorquina) party and the mobility minister is from the Mallorcan socialists.

You have probably lost the plot. Don't worry, so have I.

Yesterday's title - Queen ( Today's title - again, yes, once again.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


And so, he didn't actually bother coming, but he certainly saw, and didn't much care for what he saw, and so left unconquered the nevertheless soon-to-be decaying corpse that is Un-Real Mallorca, a one-time football club gone terminal basket case. The "he" was Freddy Shepherd - why-aye; why-no, man. This was not some dodgy business or bar being flogged by a so-called agent with a tenuous claim to be thus. This was not an "oh, yea, but there's a good 25% more of black income, know what I mean, nudge, nudge" or a British bar surrounded by three large hotels that he fails to mention have just become German all-inclusives. No. There may be a good deal of dodginess surrounding the affairs of Un-Real's owner, Vicente Grande, but the club was not dodgy, just "economically unviable". There is a difference. Thus spake the erstwhile Newcastle boss in kicking into touch, once and for all, his interest in the island's La Liga club. The vultures will soon be circling; there will lie the cadaver of a lifeless football club. You don't brand something economically unviable - in public - and then expect there to be a queue of other potential purchasers waiting to pass through the turnstiles. Whether the team gets relegated or not seems largely immaterial. The chances are it will get booted out because of its financial state, and booted out using a very long ball tactic. Where, oh where, I wonder, does this leave the notion that a Brit (either Shepherd or Davidson, "The Plumber") pursuing Un-Real represented British confidence in investing in Mallorca - the island and not just the crap football club? It leaves it nowhere. Because it never was anywhere in the first place.

Of cocks and choppers
In passing yesterday, I mentioned the pine tree malarkey in Pollensa. This involves various lunatics attempting to clamber up a greased or soaped up pine tree in pursuit of a cock in a bag. And that is a cock, as in something that goes cock-a-doodle-do. It's another of those wacky local traditions, and forms part of the Pollensa Sant Antoni gig. They don't just try and set fire to each other and to the town, they try also to fall to their deaths from a greasy pine tree. My, what fun they all have. Tradition, however, goes even further than the mere climbing event itself; there is a whole carry-on attached to getting the tree in the first place. And this carry-on does make you wonder how exactly people spend their time here. A mere eighty people - only eighty of them, mind - headed off to the finca of Ternelles to the north of the town, found themselves a suitable pine tree ("pi de Ternelles") and then chopped it down. One of them was the mayor who got his own chopper out. There's a photo on "The Diario's" website to prove it, if you're interested. But before they'd even done this, or maybe it was afterwards - it doesn't really matter - they all tucked into a picnic of pa amb oli, sausage and the dreaded ensaimada. Haven't they got anything better to do? And why does it need 80 of them?

Anyway, once down, the tree is then stripped of its bark and left until being hauled off into town on the day of the do. One thing that can be said, I suppose, is that they're trusting souls around here. One could well imagine, elsewhere, that this now barkless pine tree might somehow disappear overnight and have become kitchen furniture or a fitted wardrobe before they turn up to transport the by then-absent tree to the Plaça Vella in the centre of the old town. Mind you, anyone who was daft enough to have it away with 20 metres of pine being towed behind a middle of the night 4x4 might fall foul of 80 angry Pollensa residents armed with their choppers at the ready. Not a pretty sight nor a pretty thought.

Patrick McGoohan
And apropos nothing to do with other stuff today, one of this blog's occasional "obituaries". Patrick McGoohan's gone. "The Prisoner", "Danger Man", but most importantly the former. "We want information." "You won't get it." This has been a title for an entry on the blog. Title entries tend to reflect what I like, what I admire. Not completely, but in the case of "The Prisoner", unequivocal. It was, and remains, brilliant. And God knows, it's 40 years ago. Where does it go? Be seeing you.

Yesterday's title - The Rolling Stones ( Today's title - one of the last and great things from? Think Freddy(ie). Never liked them much, but this was superb.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Play With Fire

Devil time. Devil worship. Come to the sabbat, Satan's there. Er, no, actually he's not. Let's not get too carried away with dreadful occultist-style heavy metal from circa the late '60s and early '70s. It's not what I want to talk about anyway. What I do, is the fact that it is - once more - devil time in that it is Sant Antoni fiesta time, and the night of the demons and the witches (the actual night is that of the 16th). It's a fiesta time that has taken hold in much of the island. The other day I was at a printer with a business associate. The chat was in Mallorquín, but I got the drift. We were admiring a poster for a Sant Antoni night. I ventured that all the towns have a Sant Antoni now - Alcúdia, Pollensa, Muro, Sa Pobla, just to name four neighbouring towns. Not all, said the printer chappy, but many, he did admit. Nice for him. The printers of Mallorca seem to survive on fiesta literature.

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, Sant Antoni gig is that of Sa Pobla. Quite why Sa Pobla has assumed such a status I'm unsure. Maybe someone can enlighten me. But big-time devil time status it has got. The "Nit Bruixa" or "Noche Bruja" (witch night) has become that major a do that the police this year will be limiting the numbers entering the main square in the town. They will be manning all entrances, and when the square gets full they'll stop more people coming in. This is a rare display of local health and safety it seems to me. But more of that in a bit.

The Sa Pobla event has now also spawned its own sort of pre-gig rehearsal. On Saturday, there was a fire run. Either a rehearsal or they just couldn't wait - they were that excited. Mind you, having these rehearsals is becoming a Spanish thing. In Madrid, the celebrations for new year occurred not only on New Year's Eve but also on the night before. Will this be happening with other fiestas and celebrations? Can we expect, for instance, that the flotilla of boats and the fireworks of Sant Pere in Puerto Alcúdia will now take place on both the 28th and the 29th of June?

But to come back to that practice fire run and to health and safety. Many of you who are here in the summer might have been to a fire run during the fiesta weeks. Can Picafort has one, for example. They are a feature of many fiestas, as of course are the devils and the demons; just that at Sant Antoni, they go really overboard with the demons - and the fire. Especially in Sa Pobla, where they also endanger life by offering the local eel speciality. It is, though, hard to imagine that anything like the fire run could occur in the UK. Or anything like the fires in the streets of the towns. The police might now be worrying about too may people and some crushing, but few are concerned that there could be some third-degree burns. To be fair, they do issue warnings as to what to wear and what not to wear when the fire runs are on and when the demons are brandishing their torches about, but warnings would not be enough in the UK. No possible way. The whole thing would have been banned years ago. As also would have been the climb up the greasy pine tree in Pollensa.

When it comes to humans, there isn't quite the urge to get banning here as there is with animals (except for bulls of course). They can do something ridiculous, such as stopping the tossing of live ducks into the sea in Can Picafort, but they still let bulls be slaughtered and let humans dice with being burnt alive. Personally, I'm all for it. Not people being burnt alive, but the absence of the control freakery of a health-and-safety-ist mentality. However, were someone to be badly injured, I just wonder what would happen. I know full well what would happen in the UK. But here? It would be no good saying that there were warnings and advice as to what to wear and so on. A town hall puts on a do in which lit torches are waved around in front of thousands of people. Someone cops for some bad burns - or worse - and you're telling me that a competent compensation lawyer wouldn't hammer the relevant town hall. I hope it doesn't happen.

Yesterday's title - REM ( Today's title - only a B-side, but still very well known. And they were (are)?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've Got My Orange Crush

The local clementines are a real treat. They are also inexpensive. You can get a good bag full for a euro. What can be doubly nice about them is that they come with a bit of greenery still attached. There are probably those who complain that this adds to the weight and therefore the price, but it is a very small matter when compared with the sheer aesthetic of a green leaf or two atop the small orange as it nestles in the fruit bowl.

Because they are sweet, cheap and plentiful, they are also very popular - as you might imagine. But the clementine's popularity has a downside. And that is that the skin often does not find its way to the rubbish bins. There is an, how can one put it, indifference towards litter among some of the locals and, though fruit skin will eventually degrade - unlike empty beer and water bottles - it takes some time. Evidence of the popularity of the winter clementine is the fact that on many a street corner and indeed along a street are scattered piles of peels. They are as common as the shattered glass that is the remnant of a car having shunted into the back of another.

It does, though, take some mindlessness to walk along a street, peel a clementine and just discard the skin on the pavement. There again, we are in the same sort of territory, I guess, as the reluctance to scoop up dog turds which of course will also degrade, after a while. But because nature eventually takes its course is really no excuse. In fact, it is no excuse at all; it is just mindlessness or bloody-mindedness.

I had vowed to try and steer away from the economic bad news stories. I am still trying my best to ignore them and hope they will just go away, but I would be neglecting my duty - such as it is - not to mention the thoroughly dire economic indicators that are knocking around Spain just at present. A fall of a tad over 15% in industrial output in one month is going some, even for a country lurching into recession, which Spain is. The largest decline has been in durables - output of tumble dryers and the like have tumbled some 24%. Despite those white goods I mentioned being shifted around yesterday at the Alcúdia recycling dump, there don't appear to be too many actually taking their place in households. On top of this, unemployment is at a twelve-year high. The good news, if one call it such, is that the European Central Bank may cut interest rates further, which might just have the effect of weakening the euro against the pound; the trend is already in that direction.

Much as though the experience of Spain is being repeated elsewhere in "Euroland", Spain does have its own peculiarities which make recession potentially deeper. These are the housing market, the astonishing amount of debt that exists in that market and the sheer lack of movement in it at present as well as the general lack of competitiveness of the economy as a whole.

There was some optimism being expressed in "The Bulletin" at the weekend that Mallorca might be able to stave off some the worst of the recession. It has been suggested before that the island's economy may not slip into recession even if the rest of Spain does. It will be tourism that sees to that. However, one feels that some of the evidence being cited of Mallorca's comparative buoyancy is probably rather delusory. One aspect is that there is apparently an increase in the number of Brits moving over here. Well yes, and maybe they're all coming in hope of finding work or business that doesn't exist. Another is that there are hints that the tourism season will turn out to be better than might have been anticipated. Again well yes, but might the numbers be heading to increased numbers of all-inclusives? That may make the economic figures read well but the wider economy will not benefit. In this context, Les emailed me to say that there appears to be a broadening of the AI offer around The Mile in Alcúdia. As I said the other day, one can understand it, but it really helps no-one except perhaps some hoteliers who might be panicking into offering AI at a time of economic difficulty.

Yesterday's title - "I Ran", A Flock Of Seagulls ( Today's title - an earlier thing from one of the biggest of all time.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Appearing From My View

I might have mentioned A.A.Gill in the past. In fact I know I have. It was in connection with a piece he wrote about Vienna. I can't remember now how I managed to make the leap of imagination from that to something about Mallorca, but presumably I did. Gill, some of you may be aware, does the telly review in "The Sunday Times". There is no need to have watched any of the programmes; Gill does a more than adequate job in describing them and usually explaining how dreadful they are. He was writing yesterday about Nicholas Crane's Britannia, rubbishing it indeed. There was much in the review, though, that struck a chord. Here is a flavour: "a sort of sentimental fascism about (series of elegiac rambles across England), an overromanticised geological jingoism, (an) England (that) doesn't contain any suburbs or tower blocks; no motorways, airports, no industry, no trading estates, no you and me." As with so much that is "travel" documentary or literature, the default setting is beauteous landscape and the selling of what amounts to almost mythical status, often with the assistance of dollops of hyperbole - the brochure talk of which I am so wary. Gill may be speaking of the perpetuation of a "bogus" representation of England, but this could just as well apply to Mallorca, in the sense that what is often presented is solely as some sort of KGB-censoring promotional unit would want it. Not because there is any such attempt to keep the image of Mallorca unsullied and only beauteous, but because there is so much unthinking writing about the island; unthinking in that it doesn't attempt to go beyond the superlatives of land and seascape.

In a sense, I suppose, part of the point of this blog has been to address this; to take a different view and to also look at different things. It's why, for example, there have been - in the past - the likes of features on streets and their names, on toilets, on the apparent absence of planning when it comes to architecture and on the curious - such as the Poblat GESA as one goes into Alcanada. Looking at things differently might, I guess, be a sort of sub-heading for the blog. And so ... On Friday, I became aware, for the first time (and in keeping with a theme of "rubbish") of the municipal dump in Alcúdia. The "Punt Verd" (green point). I was watching from the road as some chap moved white goods around on a large skip-style container. I knew the dump was there, but I had never been or indeed stopped to have a look - until Friday. I was hanging around because the car was having a new belt fitted at Arbona. This might let you be able to locate where the dump is, if you don't know. Arbona is on the coast road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa, but right by the roundabout as you come into Alcúdia. Around the back of it, there is and has been much apartment building. There was one block. It was quite nice in a Taylor Woodrow grey and white way. Plenty of signs for sale and one or two to rent. There seemed little evidence of much occupancy. But despite these apartments looking quite pleasant, there was one major drawback: they overlook that rubbish tip. Who is going to buy a place with that sort of a view and with the noise of the carts that goes with it? It may not be a tip with all the everyday household garbage (it is essentially a recycling tip), but it is still a dump.

There is another block of apartments that is a work in progress close by. It has a huge sign as you drive past on the main road heading off to Palma. "Venta de pisos." Like there wasn't much evidence of sales at one block, there was equally little evidence of work happening with this other one. This area has been earmarked for development. Nothing wrong with that, but it can be to no-one's advantage if you build nice, fairly expensive apartments slap bang next to the council dump. It doesn't make a huge amount of sense, and of course there is another possibility - which is that the train extension may well mean a line just over the main road, if the terminal is to be sited near the auditorium. A tip and railway line. I can just hear the beauteous language of the apartments' sales literature.

Yesterday's title - The Monkees. The alternate title was "Randy Scouse Git". Today's title - from a song by a new romantic act; think squawks on, or indeed above, the beach.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alternate Title

The Pollensa "alternative". It's not some sort of promotional slogan, though it wouldn't be a bad one, if I could actually think what it might apply to. No, the Pollensa alternative is a political thing; it is the alternative of the United Left (Esquerra Unida) and Els Verds (The Greens). From what I can make out, it is an alternative of one, namely Pepe García, whose name crops up as regularly, if not more so in matters to do with Pollensa, than arch publicity seekers, the environmental group GOB. One-man alternative or not, García does certainly seem bent on getting everyone to know who he is. When you have a target like Pollensa's poor old mayor, who everyone seems to want to have a pop at, it seems that you can't really go wrong. I imagine Sr. García gets up in the morning, and thinks, now what can I do to make the mayor's life a misery today? Ah yes, I know. And so it follows. Whatever it is. And the thought he had the other day was to do with Cala San Vicente. Poor old Cala San Vicente. Lovely little place, but dying on its feet, not that it has feet as such, more a disabled carriage slowly sinking into the sand of oblivion.

Anything with the hint of the new or cutting out a bit of nature, and GOB are onto it like a lion hunting its prey, closely followed - in Pollensa - by the alternative; the alternative Sr. García, that is. Or maybe GOB follow him. Who knows? Anyway, things have not been all sweetness and light down CSV way for some while, owing to a new development of apartments by the Cala Molins (which is the lower part of Cala San Vicente, for those of you who know the place). Some pines have been eliminated to make way for the development, but the real beef at present is the presence of a bloody great crane, about which - apparently - the alternative has received complaints from neighbours. The alternative goes on to suggest that perhaps the appropriate licence that allows the use of the crane is not in effect. Oh God no, here we go, more bloody licence stuff. And accordingly, the alternative will probably issue a "denuncia". Of course they're going to use a crane. I can point to a crane near to me that has been there for months - during the stalled summer works on a new development and now beyond. Cranes are fairly useful things to have around when doing some building. But down in the Cala, such things should not be allowed. Ridiculous. And one comes back to all this equally ridiculous nonsense about licences and ever more ridiculous nonsense of a denuncia being filed, which means that the police have to get involved, go investigate, hold things up in all likelihood. It is just so silly, but that is how it is here. Ridiculous and silly. Just build the damn apartments, and have done with it. They might even be to the benefit of Cala San Vicente, because I doubt that constantly moaning politicians are.

Bamboo on the beach
Remember my talking about the bamboo barriers for sand and the fact that there weren't any (17 December: Raising Sand)? Well, in Playa de Muro, at any rate, they've erected them again. Must have happened over the past couple of days. So, with a bit of luck, the sand will stay put - on the beach - which is the point of them. But why, if keeping the sand where it belongs, is so important, do they not put them up in November? Indeed, why not just keep them there all year? It's not as if there isn't wind in winter. Don't understand this. There again, all the detritus that has piled up on the beaches - and there seems to be much more than normal this winter - will have to be shifted at some point. That means a bulldozer or several. And that also means a whole load of sand being scooped up.

Yesterday's title - "Belfast Child", Simple Minds ( Today's title - who, and what was alternate? (Alternate, especially in the US, is widely used to mean alternative; in case you were wondering.)


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brothers, Sisters, Where Are You Now?

Does Mallorca never get snow? To see some of the reports the past couple of days, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a once-in-a-generation event. Except it isn't. It is an at least once if not several times a winter event. But no, somehow space is there to be filled, so let's do so with some photos of those grey peaks, looking slightly less than grey and fairly white. Big deal.

It's also not as though it has hit really low temperatures or as though it has snowed at sea level. I have known it to be minus one and to be snowing (after a fashion) in Alcúdia and Playa de Muro. It was something of an apology for "snowing" - squalls of big sleet, if there is such a thing as big sleet. We have yet to experience anything comparable with that, but one thing that can be said, though, is that it does seem to have been a colder and wetter winter than normal. Even the locals are saying this, so it must be the case, I suppose.

Elsewhere, and rather less trivial than the nature of the weather and a few shots of some snowy mountains, there is news that the crusading judge - Balatasar Garzón - is stirring up the Francoist pot once more. This is the same judge who had wanted graves to be dug up as part of a campaign against former members of the Franco regime and era who might have committed crimes against humanity. A stop was put to that, so now it would appear that Judge Garzón has turned his attention to children of Republicans who were taken away from their parents. Perhaps you were unaware that this was another of the rather unpleasant aspects of the Franco period. They couldn't have the poor children of Spain growing up, tainted by left-wing thinking. Oh no, so they handed them over to the Falange and the Church, that double-header of liberal-minded orthodoxy, in order to get them thinking in the right ways. And of course many of the children and parents have never been and were never re-united.

Something you might also have been unaware of, until this was all reported yesterday in "The Times", was that there was a fair amount of racial purification knocking around in the post-Civil War era. Rather like the Nazis, there was even a manual devoted to the "eugenics of Hispanicity" and to the "regeneration of the race". So there you go, a thoroughly unpleasant bunch they truly were. I wonder, though, back then, if they were aware just how much Jewish and Muslim DNA lingers in contemporary Spaniards (and indeed Mallorcans). No, they almost certainly weren't.

Yesterday's title - The Tremeloes ( Today's title - from a political song in a different context to that of Spain and the "stolen children".


Friday, January 09, 2009

Even The Bad Times Are Good

Everyone's looking for a bargain, everyone's looking to save some money. Natural, even when times are good, but at present ... it's how to make even the bad times good. Against the background of all the economic malaise comes the news, and this is probably not a surprise, that bookings for all-inclusive (AI) holidays are up - up quite significantly, according to "The Diario". While there are not figures specific to Mallorca or to any resort on the island, the paper is saying that, in the UK, reservations for AI are up by 17%, as the Brits indulge in their annual post-festivities holiday-purchasing bingeing. Crisis? What crisis? None. The holiday is a necessity, or had you not noticed?

The paper quotes ABTA as saying that there is some stigma attached to AI holidays and also says that, by comparison with the Brits, the Germans are less attracted to an AI holiday. On the first point, yep, you bet there's a stigma. Around here especially. And especially where some of the clientele is concerned - the chav ASBO cases and their kids having a crap in the pools. The paper, though, has a quite extraordinary caption to a photo that accompanies the article. It says, essentially, that tourists prefer the tranquility they are given by an AI holiday. Tranquility? Who the hell are they trying to kid? They should head off to likes of the Club Mac hotels in Alcúdia, have a walk around those at the height of summer. Tranquility? My arse. It's like an Hieronymous Bosch depiction of Bedlam. I have wondered, in the past, how well the media here understands the holiday business, and this probably tells me. They don't, or appear to have a less than full appreciation, put it that way. Rather like politicians, some of the media are too remote from what it is actually like on the ground - the ground, say, that forms The Mile in Alcúdia.

There are, of course, hotels that offer AI which are very nice. The Iberostars, for example. The big exclusive AIs, the ones everyone here knows about, do not come into this category. Though the demand for AI is up, and understandably so, I am a little surprised because it seemed the case last year that the AIs - in Alcúdia at any rate - were taking a bit of a hit. But it is understandable that holidaymakers go for AI. They know, more or less, the total sum of what they will pay. Even if it were to be proven that an AI was actually more expensive than, say, a self-catering plus the various out-of-hotel costs, chances are that the punter would still opt for it as he feels a degree of security in knowing that it's all paid for, despite the fact that he might end up with rubbish service and quality.

I've said before here that it is something of a no-brainer for the family on a tight budget to go AI. That doesn't mean to say that I believe that it is right for Mallorca; for Alcúdia or Can Picafort. It's the reality, and in 2009 it may become even more of a reality. Also in the article, there is a hoteliers' representative who says that hotels with AI offers in Mallorca "work very well". And there probably are, but I also know that there are hotel directors who would quite happily ditch AI.

Yesterday's title - Travis, "Closer" ( Today's title - decidedly average song from the summer of love; this group had split from their close-to-Bournemouth singer-leader.