Saturday, February 28, 2009

It Was The Month Of June

Pollensa town hall is consulting over the possibility of allowing building work to take place in tourist areas up to the middle of June and during October. Normally, work would be suspended at the end of April and then restarted in November. The reason for doing so is obvious: tourists don't want to listen to the sound of builders shouting "oi, luv, phwor" (or the local equivalent thereof) or to have to put up with the sight of builder's arse. Well, tourists may have to lump it for some of the season in Puerto Pollensa. Much as it is unwanted by tourists, there is sense in allowing some extension of building work. The six-month hiatus that exists at present not only delays projects, it is also a nonsense in terms of the credit that is issued for most building work to occur. There would still be a break of three and a half months under what would be a temporary measure owing to the current economic circumstances, but it would certainly be of help to the construction companies and it would also help to alleviate unemployment. The question would be which works would be allowed to continue. If this measure is agreed to, however, it is going to cause an almighty great rumpus where less-than-happy tourists are concerned. But it all comes back to how one reconciles tourism and everyday life of towns such as Pollensa. With difficulty is the answer.

I would like to know, though, why was at least one apartment block in the centre of Puerto Pollensa being worked on in August last year? I mentioned it at the time, and I'm still none the wiser. Oh, and words in the previous paragraph - "Pollensa town hall", "consulting". These have not always occurred in the same sentence, but now they do.

The typical six-month season looks as though it is losing one of those six months - in Can Picafort at any rate. I happened to be there yesterday, and in the warm sun and under cloudless skies, one could feel that not only was spring here but everything was rosy: Germans a-plenty, it seemed to me, taking the airs, annexing Son Bauló and marching on Café Paris. Well, not so rosy of course, and I was told that there is talk of hotels only opening for five months. As always one needs to be careful. These stories get bandied about and take on a life of their own. Does "hotels" actually mean one hotel, or indeed any?

Coming back to that junket whereby all those mayors, government representatives and various hangers-on pitched up in Brussels to plead for some more dosh and for a reconsideration of the directive on fireworks, how much do you reckon it all cost? Well, now we know.

"The Diario" gives the figure as 184,543 euros, made up of airline charter and other journeys, accommodation, an exhibition and a display of fire-running. A government official reckons that given the various meetings it was cost-effective There were some 17 meetings in all. What about I don't know. But the question remains - why did all these people have to go to Brussels? You do not need 40 mayors, for example. You don't really need 40 mayors in Mallorca, let alone 40 of the buggers swanning around the Belgian capital. I find it hard to believe that it was cost-effective. And I still find it hard to understand why this trip has not attracted widespread criticism - especially in these currently cash-strapped times.

One of those occasional personal moments, though not completely as there will be those of you who also know Juan from Restaurant Boy in Playa de Muro and Coloma. Well there is a new addition to the Boy world - a boy. Juan's father is called Juan, and Juan's son is ... what do you think? Congratulations to all the Juans.

Yesterday's title - Sweet ( Today's title - a line from something about being passed from the left-hand side: who?


Index for February 2009
Alcúdia hotels - 1 February 2009
Bars - 2 February 2009, 26 February 2009
Beaches - 4 February 2009
Building work - 28 February 2009
Butane gas - 17 February 2009
Cave of Sant Marti - 27 February 2009
Cultural tourism - 22 February 2009
Cycling - 8 February 2009, 10 February 2009
Driving - 12 February 2009
Dunes - 27 February 2009
Ensaimada - 16 February 2009
Estaciones Náuticas - 14 February 2009, 19 February 2009
Expatriates - 16 February 2009
Export - 11 February 2009
Fire runs - 7 February 2009, 9 February 2009, 20 February 2009, 21 February 2009
Funding for the Balearics - 20 February 2009, 21 February 2009
Golf - 3 February 2009
Holiday lets - 3 February 2009
Hospitals - 5 February 2009
JK's Bar - 26 February 2009
Jolly Roger - 16 February 2009
Justice minister - 24 February 2009
Language - 2 February 2009
Market surveys - 22 February 2009
Mayors - 20 February 2009
Military bases - 25 February 2009
Moorings, Playa de Muro - 23 February 2009
Names - 2 February 2009, 6 February 2009
Nordic walking - 15 February 2009, 17 February 2009
Puerto Pollensa building work - 28 February 2009
Puerto Pollensa popularity - 18 February 2009
Puerto Pollensa's boat workshops - 20 February 2009
Puerto Pollensa's swimming pool - 9 February 2009
Real Mallorca - 27 February 2009
Restaurants - 5 February 2009
Roundabouts - 4 February 2009, 10 February 2009, 12 February 2009, 23 February 2009
Sa Pobla-to-Alcúdia railway - 13 February 2009, 14 February 2009
Thomson - 18 February 2009
Top Gear - 5 February 2009, 7 February 2009, 12 February 2009, 21 February 2009
Tour of Mallorca - 8 February 2009
Tour operators - 18 February 2009
Vandalism - 27 February 2009
Water sports centre, Alcúdia as a - 14 February 2009, 19 February 2009
Websites - 22 February 2009
Wing mirrors - 10 February 2009
Winter tourism - 1 February 2009, 25 February 2009, 26 February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

You Can't Push Willy Around

Vandalism directed at bars in Magaluf - mainly British-owned bars at that - comes at the same time as acts of vandalism committed against one of Alcúdia's most historic sites - the cave of Sant Marti; specifically, against the altars in the cave. If you don't know, the altars date back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the cave plays a key part in the triennial Sant Crist ceremony (the one to do with famines and blood coming from images and that sort of caper). The cave is at the foot of the Sant Marti mountain (or hill, if you prefer) that dominates the landscape at the back of Bellevue. One has to thank "The Diario" for its lack of censoriousness in showing a photo of how the vandalism has been applied. It is in the form of a horse having been gifted an erect penis. My guess is that you wouldn't get such a photo in a British newspaper. And it says something about British and Spanish cultures that the latter would and the former wouldn't show such a thing. I'm not sure what it says, other than attitudes to stiffies, but there's probably a doctoral thesis on cultures lurking in all this.

As the paper points out, the cave is one of the sites in Alcúdia of which much is made when it comes to cultural visits to the town. Yet, in addition to the newly added visual element, there is also rubbish at the grotto which has an air of being neglected. It is, I guess, a place that is out of sight and out of mind. Were it in the middle of the town, rather than down a track off the bypass that goes behind Bellevue, then it would probably be looked after rather better. One thing one can assume, though, is that when they next do the Sant Crist gig (in 2010), they'll have got round to scrubbing the willy off.

Accidental or perhaps incidental vandalism is that caused to the local dunes. Overt vandalism, in the form of getting rid of the dunes completely, has of course occurred, and no more so than in Can Picafort, but they are trying to make up for it with the wooden walkways that have been installed for a year or so now (and in parts of Playa de Muro, too). The hope is that if people use the walkways rather than trample all over the dunes then there will be less erosion and greater preservation of the flora. Yet, a few weeks ago, there were these whacking great sacks on Playa de Muro beach that were full of ... flora, especially that rubbery crawling type thing that you get. (Sorry, I'm not very good when it comes to botany; I need Klaus and his daily photo blog to help out.) Anyway, I grabbed a bit of it and put it in a plant pot to see if it would grow. It has been singularly unsuccessful, and I suspect it is an ex-piece of dunes flora by now. But if the preservation is so important, what were they doing getting rid of whole plantations of it?

I forgot yesterday to follow up the tweeting thing about football debt. I'm sure you were disappointed, so apologies. All the clubs in La Liga seem to be in debt to some extent, Valencia being the most indebted at some 550 million euros; a mere bagatelle. There is, of course, debt and debt. If it's serviceable, it isn't necessarily an evil. Real Mallorca, for all the club's problems, only ranks at number nine, though it, with its debt, was described as being "unviable" by Freddy Shepherd. Since then, the former chairman, Mateu Alemany, has returned like a knight in shining armour to rescue the poor damsel that it is Real Mallorca weeping from the top of the wicked king's tower and letting her hair down for him to clamber aboard, sorry up. He says the club is no longer for sale. Probably as well. Would anyone really want to buy it, though two recent victories could yet help the team stay in La Liga and would make it more attractive were there indeed to be a potential purchaser.

Yesterday's title - John Lee Hooker ( Today's title - well obviously you can in that you can draw one: not you personally, but you in general. Beg your pardon, it's a bit juvenile I know. Who was this though?


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom

As noted on the twitter thing, Steve reckoned that the 6% increase in January tourism was down to an aunt and uncle having come for a weekend. It wouldn't take a lot to register an increase, I guess is the conclusion one can draw. Actually, it was a bit more than a couple of relatives, around 8,500 more I'm hazarding. But as also "tweeted" yesterday (see I've got all this lingo sorted, you know), whatever happened to this social tourism that was going to boost the island's winter tourism industry? Or is this increase solely down to impoverished oldsters from Prague and Warsaw being dragged over to Mallorca to escape minus twenty degrees of a mid-European winter? Some 48,000 were expected to come (4 December: Rescue Me) to the Balearics. When you start to play with the figures, assume that this social tourism would be for the months of January, February and March, factor in that some would go to the other islands, and there, bingo, you have your answer. It's not just Steve's aunt and uncle, but a bunch of Hungarian pensioners who are making the Balearics the shining beacon of Spanish winter tourism; those Hungarian pensioners of which there have been vast numbers knocking around Alcúdia and Pollensa; have there not? But then we are also told that these January visitors were from a German market that is bucking the recessionary trend and is sending us many a Nordic pole-wielding Waltraud and Hellmut. Uh, huh. In that case, if there has indeed been this social tourism influx, are we to assume that had there not been, then the January figure would have been down on last year? I think we would have to, would we not? You see, there is always another story, always another way of looking at things, though, of course, maybe there isn't as perhaps those social tourists haven't turned up. In which case everything is indeed hunky-dory. Maybe.

Try also this, though, when it comes to looking at things in another way. "The Bulletin" ran with a headline yesterday which read that Pollensa was celebrating "a surprise winter tour cash boom". Just take that headline and the pretext for it, and you would think that Pollensa was awash with tourist money and indeed tourists. But this might not be the case. This headline reflects what has been said by one bar owner. Now, I could have mentioned this myself on the blog. In fact I sort of have alluded to it, but only alluded. What the paper reports is what was told to me, some while ago, by Kevin at JK's. I would not have dreamt of being explicit in stating that it was this bar which was telling me that business was up 20%. I get told all sorts of things - good and bad - as to how businesses are doing; sometimes by the owners themselves, sometimes by others, some of whom may have the best wishes of that business in mind but very often don't. But I only refer to such information obliquely, except today, in the case of JK's, because the paper has reported it. It is also, in this case, believable, which is not always the case when bars tell you how well they are doing. It is believable because this happens to be a very good bar. The crucial point, where the headline was concerned however, was that it was the experience of just one bar. Cash boom? Well, it may only be one hotel but I can tell you, though I wouldn't dream of being explicit in stating which hotel, that a particular hotel in Puerto Pollensa has so far failed to break double figures for when it opens next month.

There is, however, an aspect of this Pollensa so-called cash boom which does deserve attention and that is, as is pointed out, that people have been staying in private accommodation rather than hotels. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think there is any major hotel open in the resort through the whole of winter, while private accommodation is an important aspect of Puerto Pollensa's tourism business all year. This may just prove the folly of the government's attack on private lettings, and nowhere demonstrates this more clearly than Puerto Pollensa where, were there to be a reliance on hotels, the tourism trade would slump dramatically. As the tour operators have all but given up with winter package deals, the do-it-yourself fly-and-rent arrangement becomes not just important but essential.

The One Euro Sale
And talking of Steve, Little Britain has a sale this coming weekend of various items at one euro and, perhaps more importantly, you will able to buy "The Bulletin" there from this weekend as well. How about that? Easter is approaching and there is a deal for early birds buying eggs. More on WHAT'S ON BLOG -

Yesterday's title - Dixie Chicks ( Introducing this song at a British concert was when Natalie Maines made the "ashamed of Bush" remark. Today's title - one of the great blues men who had late-career success with this. And don't say Basil Brush, Mr. Derek.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Travellin' Soldier

Well, well, well, what do you know? Misery and gloom on the tourism front and then this ... the worst January for tourism to Spain in 15 years and yet the Balearics managed to register an increase in visitors of close on 6%. Let's not get carried away, but any positive sign is worth noting. We do, though, have to place this in context, and that context is as follows: in January, 153,000 tourists came to the Balearics, while the Canaries boasted 782,000. The latter may have seen a decline last month, but the difference in the totals tells us an awful lot. Do visitors in January go to the Canaries for the culture and the gastronomy? I don't think so. Much as there is all this desire to see alternatives to the sun and beach holiday, one only has to consider the respective January figures for the Balearics and the Canaries to see where the priorities lie.

You may be aware that there are no-go areas in Alcúdia and Pollensa. These aren't the local housing projects or sink estates; they are the military zones. That of Puerto Pollensa is pretty obvious. Just past the Playa Mar hotel there is the sign. You can't go in there unless you're from a NATO ally; then you can and have yourself a nice holiday. I forget the numbers now. 40,000 a year. Can that be right? Sounds like a lot. You wonder just what sort of military base is a holiday home for that sort of number. The base is also home to something non-military, the Canadair fire-fighting planes.

Rather less obvious is the military area in Alcúdia, which is at Cap des Pinar, which is the bit at the tip past La Victoria before you turn and start to head down towards Coll Baix and Alcanada. There are a couple of small, secluded beaches around there. Might be very nice, except if you get within 200 metres of the shore you might find yourself being target practice. Perhaps NATO troops and their families based in Puerto Pollensa go on excursions to them.

Back in 2007, it would seem, it was agreed that Spanish military bases would be open to civilian use. The Balearic Government seems not to have noticed. Apparently its parliament is the only one not to have adopted this. So, opposition groups in the parliament have asked that maybe it should be and that possibilities as to civilian use are looked into.

But would you really want them for civilian purposes? Indeed, what would these purposes be? Another tex-mex restaurant almost certainly. And I have a question. If all this NATO personnel really is turning up for hols in Puerto Pollensa, where do they go? Are these travelling soldiers all in the local bars? Or. Or, is it that they don't need to go out. Could it be that they have an all-inclusive deal?

Yesterday's title - Pigmeat Markham from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Today's title - how long have I waited for an excuse for this (as in the most popular version of the song)? Brilliant, beautiful, sad ... an all-time great song, and one associated with what politically-related controversy?


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here Come The Judge

So, the Spanish justice minister has resigned. The reason? He went on a hunting trip with a prominent judge or, more accurately, he was on the same trip; there is a difference. Sr. Bermejo, the minister, says that it was all a coincidence and that he "barely even greeted the judge", reports the BBC website of the trip. Justice minister, leading judge - would hardly know each other after all. Still, there is no reason to assume that they are best of mates, so could well have just been on nodding terms during this trip.

There is rather more background to this, of course. Judge Garzón, himself taken into hospital last week following an anxiety attack, is one of the country's top investigative judges; he it was who had ordered the exhuming of graves as part of a case to charge Franco and cronies with war crimes. That order was overturned, but he keeps coming into the public eye, as he did when he recently ordered the arrest of members of the opposition Partido Popular - the day before the hunting trip in fact. And it's this that has really stirred the pot. The PP leader Mariano Rajoy reckons that there's something a bit fishy about the whole thing. What is fishy is the fact that many of the current scandals nationally and in Mallorca stem from previous PP administrations. Sr. Rajoy has sought to draw a connection between the hunting trip and the investigation, which he says is for political reasons ahead of forthcoming regional elections. It may be unfortunate that they were both on the same trip, but I daresay that there are other occasions, other than those of formal governmental duty, when their paths might cross and would go unremarked on. Perhaps more important was the fact that the minister didn't have a licence to hunt. That he has chosen to resign might suggest that there is some honour among Spanish politicians, which is more than might be said for British ones, those close to the justice ministry, for example. She may be the minister for the other half of the old combined Home Office, but how Jacqui Smith cannot resign is beyond me. Anyway, that's another matter.

Still on matters political though, my thanks to Anne Marie for finding that the mayors' big away day to Brussels was hilarious and for asking whether there has not been a protest over the fact that so many mayors and other officials can all troop off to Belgium for something that should be the responsibility and duty of just one or two representatives. And the strange thing is that there hasn't been. Barely a murmur in fact. One wonders why the people of Mallorca and the Balearics are, as Anne Marie suggests, so "passive and disinterested".

Right, let me remind you that there is now this twitter malarkey on the blog. I am pretty sceptical about it I must say. I introduced it only because I was hearing that it was a sort of must-do thing. I really shouldn't succumb to this sort of pressure. Whether it serves any purpose where this blog is concerned I'm not really sure; whether it serves any purpose anywhere I'm not really sure. It seems like another way of passing on largely inconsequential bits of nothingness, such as one hears all the time when people are making calls on their mobiles. "I'm just gonna 'ave a dump now, babe, awright." "Yea, me too, babe." "Love yer, babe." That type of thing.

Yesterday's title - here's a good version rather than the expressly religious ones: from his "Mack The Knife" phase, Bobby Darin ( Today's title - who was this and on which TV show did he appear?


Monday, February 23, 2009

Row The Boat Ashore

Down Playa de Muro way, they're building roundabouts. Have I mentioned this before? Perhaps I have. There is one approaching completion in front of the Parc Natural five-star hotel. A lump of concrete with some bits sticking out of it is emerging as its central focal artistic point. We wait as we would await the latest exhibition of Damien Hirst to see this newest example of roundabout furniture; with huge anticipation. If it - the sculpture - is less than five star, then the accidents that await us on the roundabout will be. There is something I can't put my finger on, but something about the design - as one joins the roundabout from the side road - makes you not want to stop. And I'm not trying to be flippant here. There genuinely is some mysterious impulse at work that seems to make you unaware of slowing and looking to your left. You have all been warned. Then there is exiting the roundabout and turning right in the direction of the other five-star - the Palace de Muro. Something needs to be done about the line of hire cars that are parked on the yellow line because they, too, are going to be a cause of accidents. They were problematic before, but with vehicles coming off the roundabout potentially more swiftly than they used to cross the main road, there is even more scope for a fine old smash.

But I had not intended talking about this. What I had intended was that close to the roundabout is the canal from Albufera; this is known as s'Oberta. (I'm assuming that there are other "s'Oberta's", as I take it to mean "opening".) Whatever. On one side of the canal are moorings for boats. These are all small fishing boats; this is not a grand marina or anything remotely of the sort. The boat owners pay an average of only 400 euros a year, but they are complaining about the state of the place and the lack of security. Apparently there are regular thefts from the boats.

The 400 euros go to the government and the administration of the moorings falls under the environment ministry, albeit, according to "The Diario", this is being transferred to the ports authority. Whoever is responsible, the owners are far from happy, and so they are planning on installing a barrier in order to try and stop the robberies. To be honest, 400 euros does not sound a lot. This is not the marina in Puerto Alcúdia where you can be paying out 300 grand to obtain a mooring, and so would expect a pretty decent level of security; for 400 euros I'm not sure you really can expect a great deal.

Meantime, as part of the road works accompanying the building of the roundabout, the wall to one side of the road bridge over the canal has been demolished. Fortunately, there are some temporary blocks up to stop you driving into the water. With the pathway on the opposite side being upgraded, one can but hope that a result of these road works will be that stupid tourists are somehow prevented from walking on the side of the bridge without a pavement. It probably won't be the result, but should be. The road here is not really wide enough for two lanes and tourists walking two abreast - as is often the case. And this on a bit of road that does not have lighting.

I'm pleased to say that there is a major development to the blog. There is now a "twitter" element, whatever that is. Some of you may have read that this is one of those periodic hugely important things on the internet and with technology that can alter your life - supposedly. Can't say I've noticed. Anyway, if I do actually figure out what the point of it is or what possible benefit there is then I shall probably do something with it. Meantime, if anyone is already twittering or whatever one does, then do contact me and tell me if indeed there is any point to all of it. And there's another thing. In "The Sunday Times" Brian Appleyard has, over the past two weeks, listed the 100 top blogs. I fear that there has been an oversight on this list, and I shall be writing to Mr. Appleyard to point out his omission.

Yesterday's title - Jimi Hendrix ( Today's title - take your pick.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Are You Experienced?

Another day, another tourist website. I suppose I shouldn't complain given that I have vague connections with such a thing myself, but does one reach a point at which destinations get websited out? The latest is yet another from the Balearic Government - all to do with culture, hence its name - and designed to make all-year-round tourists come to the islands. If only. To be fair, it is quite a decent site, quite informative, but it makes the mistake - again - of missing the Mallorcan (or Menorcan or Ibizan) target. People do not go to the Balearics, they go to Mallorca, or to Menorca or to Ibiza or even Formentera. Yet, here once more we have something in the name of the Balearics, and something that has cost close to 100,000 euros. Apparently, "a good part" of the moolah has been spent on getting the site into its different languages. Sounds like a fair amount to me for a site that hops around the islands giving some cultural recommendations. The trouble is that no-one would actually do a tour of that sort; it's one island or not at all.

Nevertheless, culture, if we are to believe another survey, ranks number three on the list of things of importance to the Brit holidaymaker. This is a survey by ABTA and was reported on in "The Bulletin" a couple of days ago. Culture appears to be defined here as local food and customs: it seems you can include pretty much anything under the culture banner these days, including local sausage. Whatever. Culture, however one wishes to categorise it, ranks higher - at 18% - than either sunshine in the form of sunbathing or having sex (with one's partner). Did it occur to ask if having sex with someone other than one's partner might have ranked higher? Chances are it might have done, and one should not forget that sex tourism in Mallorca is worth a significant amount of money - apparently. But be that as it may. The trouble, as always with surveys, is what the question is and who is asked. There is also the fact that people lie. Were one to try and draw a conclusion from this survey and to link it to this new "cultural tour" website and suggest that the survey proves the value of the site, I'm afraid one would be taking the wrong tour.

I was curious enough to find out some more about this survey. So I went to ABTA's website. The results, as presented in The Bulletin, were as they were stated in the press release on the site, but if you go to the actual survey - which you can - you will find that this "culture" aspect is made up of different components. In answer to the question "what do you value most about going on holiday", five per cent said "the culture", so it is not 18% after all, although it is 18% when one adds on "gaining life experience", "new people" and "the food". Food, though, was rated by only 1.63%. What "gaining life experience" is I'm not sure, but it has been assumed - by ABTA - to mean culture. I don't know that this follows; indeed I'm sure it doesn't follow. ABTA have made much of "culture-vulture Brits ... ditching their 'sex on the beach' image", but I stress - only 5% actually responded to the specific culture prompt. The survey, as such, doesn't say anything about a sex on beach image, only through this totally tenuous connection with rating sex with a partner lower than traipsing round a museum.

You do, I'm afraid, have to be very, very careful when it comes to surveys and especially when it comes to press releases offering a biased interpretation, because bias is exactly what there is. Oh, and you do also have to be careful when it comes to surveys which are reported on in the press that were actually published over a month before -

Yesterday's title - A-Ha ( Today's title - who did this? Pretty damn easy I'd reckon.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Always Shines On TV

The more I think about it, the more I think I might, were I in a position to worry about such things, be worried that this Top Gear Classic Car Rally thing might not be the wonderful advert for Mallorca some seem to believe that it will be. Put it this way - why are they coming to Mallorca, for this particular rally? Clarkson and the boys don't do veiled PR exercises for tourist authorities; they do taking the piss. And that, the more I think about it, is what might, perhaps should, worry some.

Oh that these were still the glory days of motoring - a sedate drive in the countryside, yer best girl by yer side, yer dashing moustache and yer Brylcreemed hair set in concrete against the open-topped breeze; the mountains in the background as yer pull up by a marina for a G and T stiffener with David Niven. Unfortunately, things aren't like that anymore. There is also the not inconsiderable factor of Clarkson's total absence of political correctness. This, as anyone who reads him will be aware, manifests itself in a variety of ways, such as the fact that he would be the last person who might be described as an environmentalism fellow traveller. Then there is the matter of killing wildlife.

I fear there may be this rather misguided impression that this is all going to be an advert for Mallorcan landscape and its wonderful environment. There may well indeed be landscape, but there will also be some serious pollution occurring. Those classic cars do about a kilometre to the gallon. Haring around the roads going into the Tramuntana could be bad news for local hares as well. Or indeed any other poor animal that happens to get in the way. A classic car rally is just about the single most environmentally damaging event that one could possibly dream up, which is probably part of the reason that they're taking part. Then there is the potential for, well, just taking the Michael, and there is no shortage of potential in this respect.

The Top Gear programme comes at a time when apparently there is to be some reality thing showing how expats here are coping, or not, with the credit crunch. Doubtless there will be some poor saps who put their hands up to take part and are made to look total idiots - for that is the way it is with TV. Take also this "Sun, Sea and A&E" reality docu (5 February: Murder On The Dancefloor). There have been three articles about this programme in "The Bulletin" over the past week. Why, do you suppose? Because it's news? I doubt it. Seems more like PR for the show, and moreover, if it has not received criticism for being patronising, then it should have; patronising because the message that has come out of the programme is that Mallorca has good health facilities - as if this should come as a big surprise. This is Mallorca, not some basket case bit of African jungle.

All these shows may, in some respects, be beneficial for Mallorca, but please don't let's be naïve in thinking that they exist just as a way of promoting the island.

Following on from yesterday's item about Brussels and Balearic money and fire runs and so on, a local councillor from Palma has apparently been impressing upon European commissioners that were it to be the case that fire runs were outlawed then legal action would probably be taken to reverse this. As I said before, how to win friends and influence bureaucracts. Here we have a councillor making a sort of threat while at the same time many - some other 149 or so - compatriots are attempting to extract money from the same political entity. Here's a scenario, a dilemma and a question for you to consider: You are a Mallorcan politician, you go to Brussels as part of a delegation to try and obtain a whole bunch more funding from the European piggy-bank. The Euro-meisters say, "ok, we'll give you the money, so long as you agree to stop setting fire to your streets and to conducting fire runs, and to following - to the letter - the European directive on pyrotechnics". Do you, as a Mallorcan politician, accept this as a reasonable compromise, dismiss it as a form of bribery or demand the money and the continuation of the tradition?

It's most unlikely that this scenario would occur, but there does come a point where you can't have your cake and set fire to it, too, which is what the 150 who have marched on Brussels would presumably want.

Yesterday's title - Deep Purple ( Today's title - for years I thought the lyric meant that the sun shone onto the television set.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Smoke On The Water, Fire In The Sky

The mayors' big away day. Look, I know it isn't that far - to Brussels, that is, when compared with, say, Australia - but who actually has coughed up for 40 mayors to turn up in the Belgian capital in order to harangue the European authorities into divvying up more dosh for the Balearics and into not stopping fire runs as part of a directive against pyrotechnics? If they have all paid out of their own pockets, then my apologies for the following, but I somewhat doubt it. How many mayors are needed to change a light bulb, or in this instance to change the level of funding? And to the mayors you can add various other politicians, businesspeople, artists, union representatives - 150 in all. One hundred and fifty! What on earth for? If you are going to argue a case for more funding, you should be a bit careful someone doesn't turn round and ask if some of the current funding is finding its way to pay for 150 people to come to Brussels for a couple of nights in a decent hotel plus flights and some nosebag. Furthermore, if a sizeable chunk of the Mallorcan and Balearic political population can piss off to Belgium on a midweek jolly, does this perhaps suggest that they don't really have enough to occupy them when back on the islands? I say to Brussels - keep your money and tell the mayors to get back and do a decent day's work.

Now, I don't know if one of the 40 was Pollensa's normally under-fire mayor, but had Joan Cerdà gone off for a day or two's respite from the normal attacks he is subjected to, one could have understood it. There is more trouble brewing, one suspects, in Puerto Pollensa. This time, it's the relocation of boat maintenance workshops, by which are meant - I think - the likes of Astilleros Cabanellas (there is in the report a reference also to Boquer, which seems a bit odd, given where it is, but there you go). There are, according to "The Bulletin", two options for siting the workshops, and I'm afraid I don't understand either of them; well, I don't understand the descriptions. One, it says, is a plot of land "on the left of the road running down to the wharf ... on the Gotmar country estate". The other is to the right of the new ring road, apparently. Anyone help here, because I've no idea. I know that not all work needs to be carried out in water, but I can't figure out whether these options are by the water or indeed where they are. But of course, the very mention of Gotmar will probably have the radicals of that part of Puerto Pollensa back on the trail of his mayorship. Things have gone rather quiet on that front. Too quiet, I'd say, if I were the mayor. Watch out! If he happens to be out of the country, it could be the moment for a coup d'état!

Yesterday's title - Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls" ( Today's title - how can you not know this?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

To The Finland Station

The great and the good, the businesspeople of Alcúdia, the likes of Piero Rossi, Toni from No Frills, oh and me. There was a fair old gathering in the old "sala" of Alcúdia town hall on Tuesday evening. One could admire the considerable height of the room and the sense of nobility both of this altitude of local democracy and of the chairs that would normally be for the even greater and better, i.e. the local councillors, who dispense such democracy. Looking rather out of place in this room of some antiquity was a screen and the beam of PowerPoint. I think the chap probably needs to pay a bit of attention to his presentation technique. Shouldn't really have something up on screen for the audience to read whilst doing your spiel; distracts them, you see. Anyway, the chap was there to sell the Estaciones Náuticas idea - or water-sports centres if you prefer. To remind you - Alcúdia is to become the first such centre in Mallorca; they exist everywhere else in Spain but, for some reason, they seemed to have overlooked Mallorca until now, which might actually have been a question for the chap, but too late now.

The point is, of course, what is the point of it all, and what does it all mean? And one felt that, even after the presentation, there were some who didn't quite get the whole point - PowerPoint or no PowerPoint. It's not altogether surprising. One of the rare occasions during the presentation when I nodded with something approximating comprehension was when he drew a comparison with a ski resort. I'm not entirely sure why I did this nodding, but it seemed to make sense at the time, but on reflection I'm not sure that it does. But I suppose if one thinks of a ski resort as some sort of integrated tourist destination which generally has a reputation for quality, then I guess that this was what he was getting at and what I was agreeing with.

What would it mean in practice, though? There would not be anything new in a physical sense, except perhaps for an information and bookings centre and some transport between different things. Essentially, all it would be would be a coming together of existing facilities, and not just those on water, but also accommodation and restaurants etc.; all under this umbrella concept. Basically, it would be a branding exercise with a website. Alcúdia would become known as a water-sports centre and would use the Estaciones Náuticas logo as a mark of quality, and businesses associated with it could also display the logo. Or something like that.

If this brings about greater co-operation between businesses for the betterment of Alcúdia, then well and good, though one might ask why such co-operation has not existed in the past. There are meant, also, to be additional benefits both in terms of new products, whatever these might be, and a lessening of seasonality, though quite how this would occur I am not entirely sure, except that, through some co-operation, packages of holiday offer could be made, perhaps of the sort I have mentioned here before.

Alcúdia would be the first of these centres in Mallorca. Pollensa, I understand, is likely to follow. If it were to, would there then not be a danger that whatever sense of differentiation that Alcúdia might benefit from in being a water-sports centre would be diminished? If you have two such centres next to each other, does the message (whatever this might be) for both resorts not get rather lost? And what about other places, most obviously Can Picafort? It has as much claim to be a water-sports centre as Alcúdia and Pollensa, more so in one sense than Pollensa and that's because of the second marina at Son Serra. If its two richer neighbours, which already enjoy a reputation for rather superior quality, were to be branded with this mark of implied further quality, would it not suffer by comparison? Or would the intention be for it to also become part of the Estaciones Náuticas network? And then what would the point be, if everywhere could make the same claim?

If you are still a bit mystified about the whole thing, and I wouldn't really blame you if you were, you might want to take a look at the Estaciones Náuticas website for Menorca (; there are three resorts on that island that have this title. What you will find is that there are various sports and activities as well as accommodation and bars and restaurants. In other words, it's what was already there. And if there is meant to really be an advantage in reducing seasonality, I'm afraid Menorca is a poor advert as they don't even bother flying planes there in the off-season.

Much as I may appear to be cynical on this blog, I am not when it comes to new ideas. I was quite expecting to be saying that this is a great idea, but I'm afraid I can't get that enthusiastic about it. Beyond a bit of branding, it strikes me as something and nothing, albeit that there are also grants available from Turespaña, the national tourism organisation to which the Estaciones Náuticas network is attached. Will it bring more tourists to Alcúdia? Will they spend more money? Will the season stretch for longer? These are the questions businesses want positive answers to. I don't know that the Estaciones Náuticas concept can offer such answers. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not convinced.

Yesterday's title - UB40 ( Today's title - it's all about water, you see, as well as "stations". There is much water in Finland, and the thing is that I had intended this as the title the other day but Valentine's (and Kylie and Jason) intruded. Where's it from? One of the greatest of all singles.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One In Ten

A headline which reads "Popular Pollensa" is likely to attract you to the story. And in "The Bulletin" yesterday the front page had just such a headline - in large type, 96 point maybe greater. This was a story about a "survey" which lists the top-ten most popular destinations in Europe, as chosen by Thomson clients, of which Benidorm is at number one and Puerto Pollensa, the only Mallorcan resort among the ten, is at number nine. The article pointed out that "long-term favourites" such as Alcúdia are not in the top ten and that the absence of other Mallorca resorts would come as "a blow to Majorca tourism bosses".

Well, if we're talking long-term favourites, then Puerto Pollensa is one such, but more importantly is what - on closer examination - this was all about. This listing, this top ten was based on reviews by clients on the Thomson website. How representative was all of this? Let me tell you how representative - not at all. You can find out yourself: you don't need my word for it. Front-page headlines, want to know the source? Go and have a look - the Thomson site. Seventeen reviews for Puerto Pollensa over three years, 23 for Alcúdia; I didn't bother looking at other resorts. The reviews for Puerto Pollensa were good, only one was really negative. As for the reviews for Alcúdia, they were also good; not as good as for Puerto Pollensa but that was because Thomson came in for a slagging-off. Also, some of the Puerto Pollensa reviews were for villas, which was not the case with Alcúdia. You are, therefore, not comparing like with like.

What on earth is this all supposed to prove? What it represents is that 40 customers over a period of three years or so have been bothered to post some opinions on a website. It does not constitute a survey. A very, very small sample of Thomson clients (how many have there been to Puerto Pollensa and Alcúdia over the past 36 months?) has felt inclined to write something. They have not been asked; therefore, they have not been surveyed. They are self-selecting; they have not been chosen through the application of some research methodology. They and their opinions are not scientific; they constitute a collection of opinions, and a tiny collection at that. And on this basis, someone calls this a survey. No, it is not. If you took this to the likes of the Market Research Society, they'd show you the door and blacklist you from future membership.

It is easy to do this sort of alleged survey. I have done so myself. Three years ago, I trawled through various review sites and came up with what could be described as the best bars and restaurants in Alcúdia. I had intended this for publication, but didn't in the end. Had I done so, however, I would have made it quite clear that it was not scientific, that it was based on selective opinions and that it was really only a starting-point for discussion. As it turned out, or would have done had I published, the "best" restaurant and bar, as in those that received the most positive reviews, were Luna Grill and Cheers/Peach Pit. But then when you think about it, these results would not be surprising. Most tourists stay in the Bellevue area, so they would be likely to opt for establishments in that area. The results, such as they were, proved nothing. And the same can be said for this Thomson thing.

I am unclear as to the motive behind this. It would seem that Thomson have put out the results, as a "spokesman" is quoted, and the main purpose appears to be to promote the review facility from its website on the basis that, as the spokesman and indeed the Thomson website, says: "you've read the brochure, seen the photos and it looks great. But what's it really like?" This is an odd thing, though; it's an admission that the brochure doesn't give you what you want. And some of you may remember that we have been here before with Thomson and its brochure. Remember this: "then walk your dinner off with an evening stroll along the sands or head for one of Alcúdia's bustling bars"? (21 June: John Kettley Is A Weatherman). It was from the Thomson website; it was for the Rio Mar hotel. Where is the Rio Mar? Well, it isn't in Alcúdia, along with the other hotels referred to on the site that are in fact in Playa de Muro.

So, let's just get this straight. Here we have a tour operator extolling the virtue of what its spokesman calls "honest" holiday reports, which does rather beg a question, though I'll leave it to you to work out the question I have in mind. To be fair, we also have a tour operator who is prepared to allow critical comment, as is the case with a review of the Delfin Verde hotel, but do they not want people going there? Far worse, though, is the judgmental nature of the so-called survey - that Mallorca can apparently only have one resort in the top ten and that resorts on the island (Alcúdia, Can Picafort, Cala Bona, Sa Coma, Magaluf, Palmanova, Cala Millor, Santa Ponsa, Calas de Mallorca) are in some way inferior; only one in ten, in other words. Very, very strange.

Yesterday's title - Elvis Costello And The Attractions ( Today's title - some of Birmingham's finest.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pump It Up

I am wondering if I am perhaps a bit out on a limb on this whole Nordic walking malarkey. I say this as there does appear to be a certain recognition as to its beneficial effects, notwithstanding the fact that one can look a total pillock. Anyway, this all cropped up over a coffee with Grizz who many of you will know, or may also know as Minty - to give him his stage name. I am, by the way, one of the few who knows his actual name, so maybe I should do a bit of a quiz here - what is Grizz's real name? But this is not the point. What is, is that he has also had a bit of a ticker issue, and that the doc has suggested Nordic walking, to which I said, well possibly, but it's got to be done with a bit of humpty - arms moving and pumping and that sort of thing, otherwise there is no point. You may as well, well, walk, if you're not going to be using the arms in quasi-running fashion. As I have mentioned previously, this appears to have been overlooked by many of the Germans who I hear, like a blind man with a stick, tapping the pavements of Playa de Muro.

Then later on my mobile went off and it was a chap who I didn't know and was one of those infuriating Germans who speaks English almost perfectly, and he wanted to talk to me about a place he's planning on opening in Cala San Vicente. This would be an activities centre, featuring - you've guessed it - Nordic walking. At this stage, I'll be honest, I was suspecting a Nordic conspiracy of some sort or that I had been singled out by the God of Nordic walking for having blasphemed against his - or maybe her - sport. The thing was that prior to the Grizz coffee, I had been with Alcúdia's tourist office types and had mentioned this water-sports centre thing, and damn me if they didn't bring up the Nordic walking as well. When you're talking about water sports; even then it's time to talk about Nordic walking.

I'm not yet prepared to admit that Nordic walking is not ridiculous, but I am slowly starting to feel as if I may have to change my opinion - a little bit, maybe, and then perhaps even, God forbid, have a go. But I can assure you that were I to, I would be in the depths of the forest on one of those routes that the Germans say you can't find, so that no-one, and I mean no-one, can see me.

It's Grizz Day today on the blog as he told me, over that same coffee, that the butane gas bottles - those that can leave rust marks as I mentioned yesterday - are to be phased out and to be replaced with plastic bottles. Anyone who has lifted one of these things will be extremely grateful for this news; the plastic alternatives are significantly lighter, I'm told. You can see an example at a Repsol petrol station.

It occurs to me, given that lugging one of these damned bottles can cause heart attacks, hernias, lower-back pain, ligament damage, that were this not Spain but the UK, might they have done something about the metal bottles much earlier. With all that harm that can be caused, there would have been endless compensation claims in the UK.

Yesterday's title - U2 ( Today's title - and the one I'm looking for is the punkish one.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Get On Your Boots

"Busy, isn't it."
I said so, and so did many others. "Busy, isn't it". "Yep, it is." "Isn't it busy?" "Yea, you're right it is." So, busy it was, and it was the weekly gathering of the tribes of Albion and the Britannic islands at the Jolly Roger's jolly car-boot sale that has no car boots. Here, this Saturday just past, were those emerging from winter hibernation, the beginning of the return, the starting all over again. While the Brit bars may all serve a certain social intercourse, may all have elements of Queen Vic and Rovers, the in-winter piratical flea market is a fulcrum, a compendium of perfidious Albion of the past few weeks, a treachery of gossipry. Crawling out from behind the duvet of a Mallorcan deep winter, blinking into the sun of coming season and hungry for news of who has done what, what's happened to so-and-so and where has such-and-such got to. Yet here also is commerce of a low-level - clothes and cushions all seemingly the colour purple, a yellow toaster, kids' shoes still with an overlooked 24,99 sticker but being sold for three euros. Only a handful of Saturdays remain to convert a pitch into 50 or so euros of sales of old books, mirrors and ageing kitchen equipment and to transform a 1,50-euro coffee into a body of tittle-tattle. For once everyone is back at work, this all stops. No-one sees anyone. They work, eat and sleep. Until next winter.

I imagine you have barely been able to contain your interest and excitement in the seven wonders of the world of the island which I promised to reveal today. These, remember, come from a combined survey of readers of "The Diario" and "Mallorca Zeitung", and at number one - the greatest wonder of the world of the island of Mallorca is ... Palma cathedral. A not unsurprising result, I would say. If you have not been to Palma cathedral, then you really should go; it is pretty damn impressive, it must be said. As to the rest of these wonders, these are - the Tramuntana mountains, the caves at Drac, Bellver castle, the beach at Es Trenc and the Cabrera nature park. Which makes six. Six that may attract some dissent and discussion but could all be said to be deserving of their place. Which is more than can be said for the seventh. As I mentioned yesterday, it is something you eat, and it is - the ensaimada.

How can this lump of lard and sugar be considered a wonder of anything? It is a non-wonder of the culinary world so can hardly qualify as a wonder of Mallorca. If we investigate closely, I suspect that there was probably some internet campaign by the ensaimada bakers of Mallorca or by some radical, fundamental ensaimadaists to ensure that this singularly unremarkable pile of sweet fat was elevated to a top-seven position. At least it wasn't, as "Mallorca Zeitung" pointed out, voted number one, and rightly so.

And on food, do you know who Marc Fosh is? He is in fact a top-rated chef, and also rightly so. Furthermore, he does a thing for "The Bulletin". Recipes and the like, local dishes, pretty useful stuff, but possibly a bit repetitious; in fact definitely so. Yesterday's edition had a centre spread devoted mainly to three recipes - for "fabada asturiana", "cocido madrileño" and "potaje of salt cod, chick peas and spinach". Really, all of it is very good, very appetising and pretty healthy, especially the potaje. But I had one of those senses of déjà vu again. What could it be, I thought? Then it clicked. In the boot of the car is a copy of "The Bulletin" dating from 21 December 2008. It is there for the sole purpose of being something upon which the butane bloke can put a bottle of gas, if it so happens that I need to collect one from the butane collection point, which sometimes I do. If it's raining and the bottle is wet, it can leave a sort of rust mark. So, it is a good idea to have something like an old newspaper in your boot to prevent this from happening. The point is that the copy from December has been staring up at me for the last almost two months every time I have opened the boot and it has for these last almost two months revealed a centre spread by Marc Fosh devoted mainly to three recipes - for "fabada asturiana", "cocido madrileño" and "potaje of salt cod, chick peas and spinach". Really, all of it is very good, very appetising and pretty healthy, especially the potaje. Déjà vu: same recipes, same explanations and more or less the same introduction. Anyway, obviously these are dishes you should be trying, and I would say that you should all head off to where Mr. Fosh may well be cooking up these dishes, which is somewhere called Foshfood in Palma -

Yesterday's title - Dylan wrote it, The Band did a great version - Today's title - bang up to date for once; who?


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shall Be Released

The arrival of early-season Germans is coincidental with the quietness of this time in winter being broken by the tippy-tappy, clicky-clacky, drippy-drippy Nordic walking poles. I stress "the arrival of Germans" because no-one else is quite insane enough to take part in Nordic walking and be as willing to make themselves look as ridiculous. From a nation whose male population of advanced years is prepared to wear check shorts and Hawaiian shirts, what else can you expect. To be fair, Nordic walking, if it is treated as a sport and the sticks are not just used as a walking aid, has some merit, but it is still best done out of general eye- and indeed earshot, i.e. in some concealed forest areas, rather than along the streets of Alcúdia and Playa de Muro. There is of course a Nordic walking zone in Alcúdia; I mentioned this a few weeks ago (7 November: Norwegian Wood). And there is also to be a Nordic walking competition - an international one, believe it or not. It's hard to imagine an international competition comprising those from just one country - Germany - but international it says, so international it must be. An announcement in "The Bulletin" describes Nordic walking as "an alpine excursionist sport", which I confess I don't understand. What is an excursionist sport? To which you might indeed say Nordic walking. But that still doesn't explains what it actually is, only that Nordic walking is an example of the genre, whatever that genre happens to be, which I don't know. Moreover, can Nordic walking be alpine? The thing with Nordic walking is that it is Nordic skiing without the skis, and Nordic skiing is not Alpine skiing in that it does not need a mountain. In fact, a mountain can be a drawback to the Nordic skier or indeed walker. So, I doubly don't understand. My suspicion is that this announcement comes from a press release which might have been better had it not been released. Anyway, be all that as it may. The point is there will be a Nordic walking competition. But - will they know where it is? I ask this as the German newspaper "Mallorca Zeitung" claims that the Nordic walking zone is difficult to find. Furthermore, it goes on to say that some of the routes are incorrectly marked whilst parts are a bit risky. To prove it, they show a photo of someone jumping over a low wall, Nordic sticks to the fore. I suppose if you insist on doing so, rather than just gently climbing over the wall, then it might be a bit risky. So, anyone planning on taking part in this competition, you've been warned, but, there again none of you will, unless you happen to be German. This press release thing says that Nordic walking is taking off "in a big way" in the Balearics. Is it? I know nobody who isn't German or a German tourist who does this (unless they are Austrian). But maybe I'm wrong and maybe I might even succumb and get myself some Nordic walking sticks and make myself look a complete idiot. Perhaps I should, therefore, also go to the following website and book myself into the competition and, whilst I'm at it, reserve my hotel accommodation courtesy of

Also in the current edition of "Mallorca Zeitung" are the results of a poll to rank the top seven wonders of the world of the island. I know you can't have wonders of the world of an island, but don't complain to me, I didn't write it. Apparently, the newspaper and its Spanish sister paper, "The Diario", got together to get people to vote, and I don't want any of you going to the internet and trying to find this out before tomorrow, but the question is what are these seven wonders of the world of the island? Or what would you say were the seven wonders of the world of the island? They don't have to be the same. And I will reveal all tomorrow - if you're lucky - and I can assure you that one of these seven, which is something you eat, is anything but a wonder, as indeed I have said on this blog in the past. So, you might want to think what so-called delicacy in Mallorca would have been deemed a wonder but isn't? At least this particular wonder did not earn top spot, and the newspaper was happy that it did not: "Die (fill in the missing word) liegt Gott sei Dank nicht auf Platz eins". Absolutely.

Yesterday's title - which wasn't a question as I had already given it, but here it is and it was bloody great: Today's title - well, if it was a press release ... .


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Especially For You

With no small amount of predictability, Alcúdia town hall has not exactly greeted the no-to-Es-Foguero decision with great enthusiasm, but at least it does appear to accept the decision as the emphasis now seems to be to find a way of locating the terminal anywhere that isn't behind the auditorium. It needs to be stressed that all that has actually been decided regarding the route of the train is that it will follow the so-called northern "corridor" and not the southern.

We are still no nearer to knowing the exact location. The area by both roundabouts - Horse and Magic - are in the town hall's sights, but the government is pretty much excluding them without any further consideration because of the wetlands. Doubtless there is some environmental significance, which is lost on me, but these wetlands are not things of some wonder as is the case with Albufera; they are basically also wasteland and things of a complete lack of wonder. A spurious environmental objection should be discounted; dig them up and shove the bloody railway station on them. From the point of view of the landscape, this would be an improvement; the area around the Horse and Magic roundabouts that isn't already built on is an eyesore, and the fact is that much of it has been built on - the swimming-pool, the sports centre, etc, these were all on what were once wetlands, so why should there be any sentiment stopping the railway line? Environmental group GOB, who see the no-to-Es-Foguero decision as a result, would presumably object to more wetlands becoming dry, but for once the politicos should show some independence and not be driven by making common cause with the enviros for some potential political gain.

Wetlands and wetness of different sorts - the sea and water sports. There are in Spain a number of "estaciones náuticas" which best translate as water-sport centres. These cover all manner of things that happen on water and very often things that don't, all in the name of sport and activities. While there are "estaciones" on the mainland and also elsewhere in the Balearics, there is not one in Mallorca, but this may be about to change as Alcúdia could become one such and a part of the association of water sport centres. There are to be meetings this coming week about all this. What actually it would all mean, I don't quite know, which is why I have been trying to find out, and hopefully the chap who deals with the media (if I can call myself the media, and I think I probably can) and is currently away on business will be kind enough to get in touch. Meantime, you can see something about these centres here -

You may recall that Alcúdia town hall put together a chill-out CD with which to enchant visitors at its stand at the Fitur trade fair in Madrid. I happened to notice a copy of this knocking around town hall HQ the other day with a post-it note on the box with five euros written on it. Probably they produced far too many and are now hoping to flog them off through the season. Someone, from the town hall, said to me that it wasn't much good, and so impressed by what was included on the CD was I, that I have completely forgotten. Anyway, if you can't get it through official town hall channels, I daresay a pirated copy or several will have fallen into the clutches of the luckies come April, and you'll be able to get a fake one at a knockdown price of, say, five euros.

And today of course is Valentine's Day, and I should just mention that among the bars offering an event in celebration will be Vamps with a karaoke Valentine and some grand, computer-generated bingo do. But this raises the question as to what would be karaoke Valentine favourites, and my guess would be "Saving All My Love For You" (Whitney) and as a duet - Kylie and Jason's peerless "Especially For You", which is today's title. Incidentally, the Spanish do Valentine's, though it should be noted that the Catalans have another day - Sant Jordi (George) when they give each other a rose or a book.

And while on bars and things that could help attract the masses at this time of difficulty, I note that the Indians are to produce a soft drink based on cow's urine, which should be rather less than gnat's or indeed cow's piss I should have thought if it were a cocktail with Red Bull.

Yesterday's title - David Bowie. It was not one of his best, but from the album came something that was ok - "Golden Years" ( Today's title - already mentioned; a Valentine's special.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Station To Station

So, it would seem that some técnicos have been handed goodly sums of public wonga to come up with the bleeding obvious - namely where the railway extension from Sa Pobla should not be sited. Técnicos, it should be noted, can be anything from an "expert" (either one who is legitimately an expert or one who thinks he is) to the bloke who unblocks the drains or short-circuits your electricity system. Actually, the chap with the rods would have been as expert in this instance as those who would claim expertise. In fact, I would have been as expert, and I'm not a técnico in any shape or form.

For those of you who may have missed the earlier instalments of this civil-engineering saga, the railway is meant - at some point - to run for the final ten kilometres or so from Sa Pobla to Alcúdia which would bring the local railway not so much into the twenty-first century as into the nineteenth. The route for this has been a thing of controversy and environmental wrangling, the obvious one always having always been one that goes alongside the main road (in other words, the road from the motorway). The greater issue has been where it will end up. And it is this that the técnicos have pronounced upon: it will not be by the Es Foguero ruin next to Albufera and the industrial estate. This should be the cue for yet more wailing, not least from Alcúdia's mayor who is in favour of the Es Foguero option and has thrown his toy choo-choo out of the pram on more than one occasion, complaining that the government's mobility department has not consulted adequately. Muro town hall has also voiced its preference for Es Foguero, which may have something to do with the fact that a terminal would be right next to the Muro border.

But no, the técnicos are saying no to Es Foguero. The big question remains, however, where exactly will the terminal be, and for the first time that I can recall, other than on this blog, they are now talking about it going next to the Horse Roundabout. When this railway was first mooted, following President Antich's glorious socialist victory in 2007 that heralded his "age of the train", I said that putting it by the roundabout would seem the obvious place. Talk to many people here and they will say the same thing. One should be used to the fact that the obvious is often the last thing on a Mallorcan planner's list. Until now, and it is still a possibility, the preference has been for causing a considerable amount of upheaval to say nothing of a fair degree of expropriation and dissent by running the track across finca land and knocking other bits down so that Alcúdia railway station could be somewhere behind the auditorium. The Horse Roundabout option would be far more straightforward; it would also be more sensible as a terminal for the planned tram to Can Picafort. Moreover, it would have a demographic advantage in that there are more people living within a kilometre radius than there would be if the terminal were to go in the old town. That there maybe some wetland by the roundabout should not be beyond the know-how of some técnicos to sort out. They could always get the blokes with their plumbing rods to see to it.

Some shock news from the town hall in Alcúdia regarding the redevelopment of the Can Ramis building next to the market square. It is a shock because I am told it's likely to be finished by July or August - this year! Remarkable. And apparently, they're not going to close the existing tourist office in the old town but have two - the current one and the one that has always been planned for Can Ramis. So, four tourist offices in all in Alcúdia. Well done, them. And some of them might even be open. Reeling from the impact of this news, I had to go and steady myself by having a drink in a nearby café, and who should I stumble across but the ebullient Miguel, the owner of the Agata stone shops, who is normally, at this time of the year, trekking along the Amazon basin extracting rare gems and generally disrupting the fragile eco-system of Brazil. But this year isn't, or hasn't for as long as normal. Anyway, this is all by way of leading up to the fact that he is to open a third Agata, in addition to the original one in Alcúdia old town and the one in Puerto Pollensa that he started a couple of years ago. This third one is to be in Playa de Muro between the Oasis and Topo Gigio restaurants. Given that even the local tourist office has said that the shops there could do with some improvement, this is pretty decent news for Playa de Muro.

Yesterday's title - Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road" ( Today's title - well, no clues for this; pretty easy.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Lanes Will Take Us Anywhere

The power of shaming. Sara did duly send me some snippets, one of which confirmed that it would indeed be illegal to drive with one's wing mirrors detached or in some way not meeting the requirements. The local driving theory book - in its English version, it must be pointed out - is full of "requirements", "obligations" and so on, which suggests it was originally written in fact by a German. Anyway, perhaps the most important thing to emerge has to do with roundabouts, the negotiation of which - for anyone who has ever attempted this here - is open to considerable interpretation as to precisely what one should do. So, here we go, and definitely wake up at the back because this is important stuff.

Right, you have two lanes going towards a roundabout. Let's assume, for one moment, that it is the Pointed Thing, some say Fish Hook Roundabout at the great Muro-Alcúdia divide, itself a roundabout of two lanes - theoretically at any rate - and that you are coming from Can Picafort. Now, the left exit goes to Palma and Sa Pobla, and that is where you want to go. So, the question is this. In which lane do you approach the roundabout and then remain as you circumnavigate the Pointed Thing?

If you have said the left-hand lane, you would be wrong, because it's the right. But for those of you with hands-on or should that be wheels-on experience of this particular roundabout, you will know that virtually no-one follows this procedure. I include myself in this. Indeed, those who do cause considerable confusion (see below). Yet, here is the evidence:

"As the exits are situated on the right (by which it means, one presumes, that you leave a roundabout by turning right), the driver must, as a general rule, situate himself in the right hand lane in order to exit. The exit must always take place using the right turn signal (indicating right) in advance but ensuring that no confusion is caused to other road users."

All clear? Well, of course, it isn't thanks, in particular, to that marvellous caveat "as a general rule". Anything that explains itself by reference to "as a general rule" can of course be interpreted in an entirely different way. One should also note the second brackets in the above, which are from the book and are not my own. They contain the mysterious word "indicating". For you and I this might well be understandable, but local Mallorcan folk would struggle even with a Catalan translation of the word. It comes as something of a surprise that the act of indicating is even mentioned, especially as it is intended to ensure that "no confusion is caused to other road users", because the creation of maximum confusion has always seemed to me to be uppermost in the minds of those using local roundabouts. And the indication "using the right turn signal" does seem to rather contradict convention which is, when the indicator is used at all, to signal left.

Still, I am immensely grateful to Sara, and I'm sure you will all wish to thank her as well and to wish her great success with her driving lessons. And may she always, as a general rule, exit using her right turn signal.

One wonders, still on matters of an automotive nature, whether those taking part in the Classic Car Rally are subject to the same rules, or absence of the rules of the Mallorcan road as others. It is a not unimportant issue because, as mentioned before, the Top Gear boys are going to be hacking around the tarmac of the island this year, and one would hate for them to fall foul of Trafico. Were they to do so might cast a shadow over what otherwise should prove to be a very positive thing for Mallorca. Top Gear has not only a large audience in the UK, it is has a worldwide following. It all does rather depend, though, on how much coverage there is and of what. Meanwhile, "The Bulletin" says that, following its breaking of the news that Clarkson and his chums were on their way, the British community has been "thrown into a frenzy". Perhaps I am one of those because a frenzy means a state of mental derangement, and, along with all British expats, I am mentally deranged as a consequence of knowing that Jeremy Clarkson will be in Mallorca. Actually, this frenzy has been a "long list of people wishing to get involved". And you could just about have predicted it - all manner of bloody wannabes and hangers-on will be wishing to grab a piece of the action. The expat socialite set will be seeking to decamp from their normal places of vacuity for some photo ops with Jezza and co. Platinum blondes of wrinkly brownness tottering in a Barbara Windsor manner atop non-sensible twin towers of Jimmy Choo's accompanied by their husbands - the Blingmaster Flashes. I trust that Clarkson will bring with him his sharpest of pens.

Yesterday's title - Whitney Houston ( Today's title - comes from what is considered one of his finest; he's a bossy sort and the song has a weather element.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Will I Know

Somewhat dire predictions that the British will turn their backs on Mallorca this summer in favour of a fortnight in the rain on the so-called English Riviera should prove to be little more than scaremongering. Whilst the UK freezes and subsides under snow and rain, even the hardest pressed of families, concerned with the onset of rickets, will be thinking that they will need with getting some sun, at some point, and will thus spurn the overcast attractions that are Littlehampton or Morecambe. Meanwhile, the island's Chamber of Commerce is seeking to broaden Mallorca's economy by engaging in an export drive. This might sound a bit odd, as one could legitimately ask what exports. But do not scoff, for you may have in fact scoffed on one of the island's exports. i.e. the potato, though unfortunately, owing to the fact that the final quarter of 2008 was the soggiest since the year Nottingham Forest last won the FA Cup and the first section of the M1 motorway was opened, the spud harvest of Sa Pobla has been a bit of a wash-out. But never fear, because there are other exports, one of which is, apparently, computer software. I must admit I was unaware of the Mallorcan Silicon Valley, and I fancy that pirated copies of Vista are not quite what qualify as forming an export business - well not an official one at any rate. So what this software industry is exactly I'm unsure. Maybe it's the software empire.

Another export possibility is, apparently, food and drink. To this end, there is already a successful (it claims) trade with Seoul in South Korea. This is one way, I suppose, of tackling the stray-dog problem in Mallorca: round them up and ship them off to some Korean kitchens. Given that many a dog is allowed to roam freely by its owner, I would suggest that perhaps that owner, and indeed others, is a little more careful about letting Rover out minus a chaperon, or he could end up as lunch in a Seoul restaurant.

The "big idea", though, of the as-yet unformed Mallorcan export drive is, as I mentioned a week ago, the trade in tourism expertise, otherwise known - in business circles - as "know-how". This is one of those utterly vague concepts which, because it is so vague, can be invoiced at vast amounts on the principle that the vaguer and the more obscure it all is, the more valuable it must be. It is also known, in some business circles, as "bullshit". One grand example of this know-how is that by which lesser developed countries have spent vast proportions of their GDP acquiring the skill to enable them to ruin their own economies. This particular know-how comes from and is known as the British banking sector. Anyway, the main area of know-how that is knocking around the Mallorcan economy is that to do with tourism. I confess that I have a slight problem with this. What actually does it mean? Does it refer, for example, to instructing Mongolians as to how to build entire streets of karaoke bars or is it something more general, like advising other essentially summer tourism destinations how to create a flourishing and vibrant winter tourism market, just like the one that the Mallorcan tourism expertise has produced in Mallorca? Maybe this export drive could be targeted at a market that has long suffered because of competition from Mediterranean resorts, even though it was the market in which tourism was first developed. Coals to Newcastle. But, for God's sake, don't sell too much tourism expertise or people might start taking their holidays in Britain.

Yesterday's title - Captain Beefheart ( And thanks to John who pointed out that it could have been Human League and also David Thomas of Pere Ubu of whom (Pere Ubu) there will probably be more at some point. Today's title - from when she was any good.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mirror Man

Is it the case in other countries, the UK for example, that car wing mirrors are likely to become detached from the car with quite the same degree of frequency as they are here? And if not detached, then hanging off, flapping or in some other way less than completely associated with the vehicle. I pulled up by a café in Puerto Alcúdia yesterday morning. The next car was minus its passenger-side wing mirror. Around the corner, there was a bloke who was attempting to replace a wing mirror which had, at some point, parted company with the main body of his car.

A few days ago, I commented to a friend that neither wing mirror of his Golf was quite as Volkswagen had intended it: one was minus the actual mirror, the other had assumed an angle of 45 degrees from the position it might normally expect to have. He was of course already aware of this, as you might hope, and pointed out that the car was not actually his but his wife's, thus giving rise to some under-the-breath mumbling of a women drivers' nature. To have one wing mirror battered and bruised is unfortunate, but to have both in a state of disrepair - simultaneously - is carelessness (on behalf of the other driver of course), to say nothing of making the actual act of driving more hazardous than is normally the case here and probably also illegal.

I am glad to say that I have that rather neat electronics trick that enables me to, as it were, close my wing mirrors. And it is a necessity. For this is the land of the broken wing mirror. "Take this broken wing mirror, learn to drive again etc. ..." And that was Mr. Mister, in case you were wondering; well not exactly those words of course. Whether there is anything specifically about wing mirrors and their partial or total removal in the local version of the Highway Code, I would doubt, but I am delighted to be able to report that I am now aware of someone who is taking Spanish driving lessons, i.e. Sara of Ben and Sara. And this is by way of shaming her into reminding her to send me some invaluable snippets which can form the basis of some damn good bloggery. One such is that I have discovered that there is indeed such a thing as roundabout etiquette, though etiquette is used here to mean procedure as opposed to something that might be performed with a degree of courtesy; as far as I know there is no word for courtesy or any word approaching its meaning in the local highway code lexicon. That this etiquette exists is rather beside the point, however, because no-one has clearly ever read the same theory book that Sara has, let alone ever been asked a question about it. And the same absence of etiquette at roundabouts is evident among the two-wheeled ranks of the cycling terrorists of Germany. Let me give you an example. I happened - also yesterday - to be behind a car that was intending to leave a roundabout at the left-hand exit. I say "intending" as his exit was blocked: blocked by a great pelaton of Germans on bikes who were quite happy to totally ignore the fact that the car had right of way and were advancing from behind those white marks on the road which, for drivers at any rate, indicate that you are meant to stop. Is there, possibly, someone out there who is similarly ill-disposed to the norms of the road and can thus enlighten me as to why he or she should feel that he or she has the right to treat these norms with total impunity? In other words, is there a cyclist who rides like a complete prat and is willing to admit to it in public, or as public as this blog can be?

Yesterday's title - I am always delighted when a blogotee responds to one of the quiz questions for the first time, especially when the question is fairly obscure. So, congratulations to Tom for knowing Torchy The Battery Boy ( Today's title - which other blog can possibly bring you Torchy and then the next day the weird musical genius responsible for this?


Monday, February 09, 2009

I'm A Walkie Talkie Toy

Right, what I was saying a couple of days ago about Brussels banning fire runs and the like appears to be in the form of a rule, or "norma" to give it the Spanish or Catalan word. This is not a Norma Major (ho, ho), which translates in Catalan as main rule - as I'm sure you all know - but a "norma europea de pirotecnia". I'm not sure exactly how Brussels intends to regulate, but it is safe to assume that it is going to do just that - regulate pyrotechnics, or fireworks to you and me. The directive, which is due to come into effect in 2010, is being challenged by various Mallorcan bodies which are expressing their displeasure: it would be an attack on the culture, it would harm tourism, blah, blah; all the usual stuff. As I have said before, if the Mallorcans wish to go around setting fire to themselves and their property, and indeed that of their neighbours, then they should be allowed to. Anyway, even if this so-called norma becomes the norm, chances of anyone here taking any notice of her would be slim. Local laws are generally ignored, so it is highly unlikely that Brussels would be able to impose its pyrotechnic decree. No political group on the island is going to support such a regulation for fear of being seen as anti-culture. The only other possibility is that, like they're replacing live animals with plastic ones in response to an encroaching animalist political correctness, perhaps they could have pretend fire - torches with plastic flames or in fact just torches, battery ones, that is. They could carry heaters around with them to give off the impression of warmth. The trouble is they would need some pretty long flexes, though, and I'm sure these would contravene every European directive going, so forget that.

The norm in Pollensa, when it comes to attacks on the poor old mayor, is that the "Alternative" takes to the press in order to publicise whatever it is the mayor has failed to do this week. The Alternative has, however, allowed another mob the opportunity of a spot in the media spotlight. So, rather than the United Left/Greens one-man and his dog, which is the Alternative, it is the turn of the Partido Popular and the Unió Mallorquina (UM) to have their say, which may seem slightly odd as the mayor is of course from the UM. But be that as it may. The latest rumpus is really an old rumpus, namely the shambles that is the port's public swimming-pool, the one that has been open, closed, open, closed, maybe open, will it open, was it ever open - anyway, that pool, the one that had the roof on the wrong way round.

There are, essentially, two things that one should know about Mallorcan life, apart from the fact that they can cock-up roofs on swimming-pools. One is the "denuncia"; the other is the licence. And very often the two go hand in hand. The denunica, which is usually a complaint to the police, does not have to be, as the word can mean complain without any plod involvement. So when "The Diario" says that the PP/UM group "ha denunciado", I don't think they have actually complained to the police; at least I assume they wouldn't be quite so silly as to do so even if - as is the case - there is no licence in place for "activities" at the pool and that there is also a problem with the reception, as in there doesn't appear to be any electricity - minor matter. In this particular instance, when they say there is no licence for "activities", what exactly do they mean? Is, for example, swimming an activity? I would have thought it probably was. If so, then what they mean is that there isn't a licence, period. Bit of an oversight, you might think. Anyway, according to the mayor, the pool will be opened next month; no, make that, re-opened - again. But don't hold your breath, unless you're under water, but you won't be because the pool's not open. And even if it were, chances are that they might have forgotten one important element - water.

Yesterday's title - The Corrs ( Today - what has this title to do with today's piece? This is by the way of ancient television history, and it comes from the programme's song (though song is stretching the definition, it is fair to say).


Sunday, February 08, 2009

But Not Forgotten

There are times when I get a distinct sense of déjà vu.

There are times when I get a distinct sense of déjà vu.

And it was like it only happened yesterday. All of it. Well, a lot of it. Like the Tour of Mallorca cycle race. It starts today. It is a year since the last one, which you might expect to be the case, but it doesn't make it any less mindboggling. It was like it only happened yesterday.

There was this thing a few weeks ago about a woman who has total memory. That is total memory, as in she cannot forget things. From ever. It's all there. It never goes. Total recall. All the time. Can you imagine that? Not that I have a similar affliction, but I may see the most inconsequential of things and a whole history comes into my mind - as, for instance, with the Tour of Mallorca.

We All Stand Together, 12 February, 2008. That was the last time. A year ago. It seems hard to believe. I remember the miserable faces of the Guardia doing the security (nothing unusual about that I suppose; miserable Guardia faces, that is), meeting someone walking his dogs, going into Kroxan for a coffee, seeing the bike clothing and gear for sale close to the finishing line, missing the taking of a photo with the mayor in it, making the jibe about what do the totty on the winner's platform have in their bags, asking what the point is of being a spectator at this sort of thing. Last year a stage ended in Puerto Alcúdia. By Kroxan. It was a sunny day. I can also remember the haze that afternoon that hung over the Sant Marti mountain as I gazed the length of Tucan in anticipation of the riders haring towards the finish.

I also remember that this race used to have a stage that started in Pollensa. I remember it pouring down with rain one year, waiting in Café Illa and then heading up to the Carrer Costa i Llobera to see the cyclists negotiate the wet and slippery cobbles. It seemed like a health and safety issue to get too close to the riders.They've changed this. Not everything remains the same, even if the memory does and so it was with the Classic Car rally. A stage did start from the nautical club. Ben, who would like to run his MG Midget in the race, thinks not now. Of course it wouldn't. Stupid me. How could it? The cars went along the front line. Couldn't now, could they. Pedestrianised. Or maybe they suspend that for a day. No-one much pays any attention to it anyway. It might be good if they were to list the stages on the website. Maybe they will. Classic Car Rally, 18-21 March -

Yesterday's title - Queen ( Today - forgiven but ... and the youtube - a real treat - is from before they were well-known.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Friends Will Be Friends

Now, you know those fire runs and demonic bonfires; the ones that occur at mostly all fiestas but especially at the likes of Sant Antoni in January. Yes, you do know. And if you say you don't, you've obviously not been paying attention, so you can be damn grateful that I'm not going to give you a test on Alcúdia place names - as I threatened yesterday - but just don't let it happen again. Right, got that clear. The fire runs have cropped up on numerous occasions here, so you've got no excuse. And you've also no excuse for not knowing that I have suggested that running along streets with lighted torches and making bonfires on someone's door step might, just might, be a tad dangerous. And damn me, the European Union agrees with me. I should tell you, some time, about my one-time involvement with the European Union, in the form of the European Commission and its then special group to study the effects of electronic publishing, but that was years ago, so I won't bother, but suffice it to say that I, and our European masters, have form and some connections. And what a fine body of men, women and bureaucrats they are. So, anyway, the point is that Brussels is taking an interest in the fire runs. It doesn't seem to approve. How surprising. What it's going to do, and indeed what business it is of Brussels I'm not entirely sure. If Mallorcans wish to set fire to their houses and to themselves as part of their weekly piss-ups (sorry, fiestas) then let them. I'm certainly not going to stop them. Indeed, I will stand by and roar on my approval. More fire, more fire!!

However, there is a gloriously wonderful twist to this, and that is that the Balearic Government is holding its cap out for rather more Brussels moolah than it currently gets - about 35 million euros more of Brussels moolah, or an increase of some 200% plus. No small amount therefore. President Antich and his boys believe that the Balearics "has (sic) to meet costs no other isolated region in Europe faces". Or so says "The Bulletin". I think there might be a bit of a translation issue here as the Balearics aren't exactly isolated in the sense that, say, virtually uninhabited parts of northern Norway are, but that's another issue. I do, though, understand - sort of - what the government means. And what it means is that it wants more money. So say all of us, me especially. But, to come to the point, there are to be some Balearic Day celebrations in Brussels as part of this attempt to land a rather larger wedge of regional development funding. And these celebrations, less than diplomatically perhaps, are to include a fire run. What a brilliant idea. There is Brussels saying stop it, and the Balearic Government goes along to Brussels' own back garden and sets fire to it. How to win friends and influence bureaucrats. Actually, I am with Brussels. We're not going to give you 35 million euros so you can go and blow it all on making stupid demons' outfits and buying everyone family-sized packs of Standard fireworks.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that Top Gear is due to be filmed in Mallorca. As a slight coincidence, Clarkson has gone and got himself in the news for a different reason. Normally, I don't fall into the expat trap of believing that everything and anything back in Britain is worthy of comment (even if the comment was actually made in Australia), but I will make an exception simply because of the coincidence. If one studies what Clarkson said, one must ask, well, what is the fuss? "One-eyed?" Yes. "Scottish?" Apparently so. "Idiot?" Well, that's up to you to decide, but I fancy that some have used stronger insults for Gordon Brown, such as, of course, the sage of Santa Ponsa, Leapmeister Lee, who commonly refers to the PM as Herr Braun, thus, seemingly, affording him (Brown, that is), hilarious Nazi overtones. Ho, ho. Expect a future column from the Leapmeister to compare himself with Clarkson (rather than Littlejohn, which is his norm) and for him to point out that he, too, has called Brown a liar. The big difference, of course, is that no-one takes any notice.

Yesterday's title - Alicia Keys ( Today - big hair and big moustache.