Thursday, April 30, 2009

Living In A Box

A blueprint has been approved. Don't get too excited. It's not a blueprint for the rescue of the tourism season or the future of the island's tourism, or anything quite as dramatic. It is the blueprint for the new museum in Alcúdia, the one that's due to be built on the land off the Calle Pollentia opposite the school. It is some 20 months since this was first brought up, 27 August 2007 to be precise. The press were then saying that the Pollentia Museum of the town's Roman heritage would provide a "great impulse to cultural tourism in the north of Mallorca". Much though I would like to believe that it will do, I can only think that it will prove to be an impulse if the museum is something more than the here-are-a-few-bits-of-old-rock approach that is the downfall of many a museum.

Heritage, culture, history need, as much as possible, to be living, moving and entertaining. Worthy books and worthy exhibitions of tatty old utensils that had been underground for centuries are, in truth, boring. Boring, at any rate, to the great majority. I have never quite got it with people traipsing around a museum and studying some broken glass with quite the fascination they have. Actually, I don't think they are fascinated. They pretend to be, because that's how you should behave in a museum. Most I fancy would rather be in a bar. I'm all in favour of history stuff. Of course I am, I studied history at university, but museums have invariably always left me cold unless they have something seriously impressive, like, for example, the Imperial War Museum. Bits of iron or bronze? Couldn't give a damn frankly. It's good stuff for archaeologists and history pros, but for everyone else?

With a bit of luck, someone will decide to make the museum an interactive experience for the modern day. However, the initial reports about the museum suggest that we might just be getting something of the same. The museum that is already in Alcúdia really is a disappointment.

Heritage and culture do not have to be earnestly presented. They can be dynamic, interactive and entertainments. To do so is to think in terms of how the punter thinks nowadays. It's no longer enough to believe that history can be made to "live" by putting it in a box behind a glass screen or to prop a piece of rock on a plinth with a plaque and expect the masses to flock in or to be turned on. They won't be. We are a PlayStation, a red-button, a stimulated-through-computing-simulation generation, all of us. We want action, lights, touching, doing, experiencing. Let's just hope they do some of this. Otherwise, that impulse will be a pulse beating dangerously slowly.

Yesterday's title - Madonna ( Today's title - eponymously titled song from?


Index for April 2009

Alcúdia is like ... - 11 April 2009
Alcúdia's beach - 4 April 2009
Boat and sepia fairs - 5 April 2009
Book day - 25 April 2009
Café Bony - 9 April 2009
Cala San Vicente - 3 April 2009
Car-hire shortage - 14 April 2009
Catalan - 2 April 2009, 6 April 2009, 9 April 2009
Children's playgrounds - 29 April 2009
Chill-out - 18 April 2009
Concepto Magazine - 23 April 2009
Death of a tourist - 8 April 2009, 9 April 2009
Driving - 13 April 2009, 24 April 2009
El Cuate Restaurant - 24 April 2009
Frogs - 12 April 2009
Fusion food - 18 April 2009, 20 April 2009
Gastronomy - 17 April 2009, 27 April 2009
Germans - 7 April 2009, 20 April 2009
Golf - 16 April 2009
Hotels - 3 April 2009
International folk dance festival - 16 April 2009
Jeremy Clarkson - 1 April 2009
Litter - 29 April 2009
Medical staff - 2 April 2009
Mostra de Cuina Mallorquina - 17 April 2009, 27 April 2009
Pedestrianisation in Puerto Pollensa abandoned - 5 April 2009, 6 April 2009, 8 April 2009
Pedestrians - 14 April 2009
Personality - 28 April 2009
Pollensa Wine Fair 2009 - 21 April 2009
Pollentia Museum - 30 April 2009
Protest demonstrations - 18 April 2009, 19 April 2009
Road works - 22 April 2009
Roundabout sculptures - 26 April 2009
Sa Pobla-Alcúdia railway - 25 April 2009
Season 2009 - 15 April 2009
Seasonal workers - 24 April 2009
Son Bosc golf development - 10 April 2009
Street drinking - 13 April 2009
Talk Of The North - 10 April 2009
Tourism promotion - 8 April 2009
Tourist season 2009 - 10 April 2009
Violence - 18 April 2009, 25 April 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This Used To Be My Playground

How are you feeling? Got swine flu yet? A couple had been admitted to the main national health hospital, Son Dureta, suspected of having contracted it; it turned out not to be. Any old sniffle - sorry, can't come into work today, got pig flu. Seemingly though, everyone in whatever country who has it - outside Mexico - has only a mild form of flu. No-one is exactly panicking, but to read the papers and hear the radio one would think that we are in a state of terminal pandemic. Mind you, if not swine flu, then what about malaria? It came as something of a surprise to learn that there were eight cases of malaria in the Balearics in 2008, a reduction of 16 from 2007. It was a surprise to learn that there were any. Immediately, one jumps to the conclusion that this is caused by local mosquitoes. But there was nothing in the report I saw to confirm this. Indeed I would be hugely surprised if these were not all cases of malaria having been caught in other countries.

Parques infantiles. Children's playgrounds. They are all over the place. Some are wooded and shaded, such as by the Laberinto in Playa de Muro or by the Sunwing Resort in Puerto Alcúdia; some have forgiving all-weather surfaces like the one opposite Sea Club; some are by car parks, as in Puerto Pollensa. And some are an absolute mess. Like the one next to the Coral de Mar. At least it was on Sunday afternoon. Let's be charitable and say that the boys couldn't get out to tidy up at the weekend. There again, it looked as though it had been a while since anyone had turned up with a mower or strimmer. The one advantage of some long, straggly grass was that it partially obscured the bottles, the plastic bags and all the other rubbish that had accumulated. The remarkable thing was that there were people using it. A father was lying on his back on a bench, flicking a cigarette while junior hared around. Maybe he, the father, was oblivious to the debris and was inclined merely to add to it.

Perhaps someone can tell me, as I don't know, but can you be fined for littering in Mallorca? They seem to have fines for everything else. Not that those, or indeed the rules, stop the flouting thereof. Don't jaywalk, do jaywalk. Don't drink alcohol in the streets, do drink alcohol in the streets. Don't let the dog foul the pavement without scooping it up, do ... . The casualness with which things emerge from cars as they are cruising along suggests that there is at least a relaxed attitude to imposing any sanctions, if they indeed exist. Ditto the casualness with which orange peel is discarded, and ditto the truly disgusting - the emptying of the car ashtray. How big are some of these ashtrays? Still, it's only a side road, the council will be round in a couple of weeks, tell you what, let's also go and chuck some bottles in that kiddies' play area and, while we're at it, let's drag Rover along and he can drop his lunch next to those swings.

Yesterday's title - Sinead O'Connor ( Today's title - what a great song this was. Forgotten all about it until thinking "playground".


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nothing Compares

There is of course the other side to what I was saying on the 24th ("Gissa Job"), and that relates to the unreliable employer. The one who one minute has employed someone and the next has the whim to take on someone else instead or to decide that no job actually exists. It does work both ways. And there is also what one might call a fitness-for-purpose test for bar owners, both potential and extant. I remember once speaking about this, but I was reminded of it when someone said to me that, especially amidst the current economic downturn and a general view that there is likely to be a shake-out in terms of the number of bars, it might not be a bad thing if some bar owners/workers were a bit more friendly. A smile does actually go a long way. The fitness-for-purpose goes beyond just this. It is a whole personality and attitudinal issue. A bar may not amount to a great deal, but friendliness, personal presentation and interest in the customer can compensate hugely.

There is a list of questions that the customer will almost invariably have. It comprises - do you live here, how long have you been here, what's it like, what's the weather going to do, where's the best place to change currency, how do I get to... ? The bar as unofficial tourist information office. But once through that checklist, having satisfied the quest for knowledge, who is then more important - the customer or the bar owner? There is but one answer. Yet one hears of instances where, for example, an owner will give a life history at some considerable length. No-one cares, other than that owner. And the reason is that the thing people like talking about most is themselves. This does not of course preclude the good tale to be told and one with which to amuse the punters, but the lesson from course 101 in how to do small talk is that the other person and what the other person has to say is always more important.

Where the language barrier exists, there is still no reason why a customer has to be treated with what at times can seem like suspicion. Some local Spanish bars can give off this impression. Not all, but some. And then there are the restaurants. The vogue is for restaurant chic, a movement towards a certain sterility, a place of eating to be admired rather than one in which to feel comfortable, one often with too much intrusive hovering as opposed to the art of the waiter making him or herself almost disappear but being constantly alert. There is much to be said for places that retain a sense of being lived-in. Would you rather live in a house that has that sense or one that has the everything-in-the-right-placeness vacuity and stiffness of a showroom? Well everything can be in the right place, and indeed should be, but can still give off what the locals like to refer to as "ambiente familiar" which can mean family or informal atmosphere - and is the latter that is usually meant. Now we also have the ubiquity of "chill", even if it is just the music. This is a de rigueur me-too, a suffusion of cool amid the fusion; a designer concept of dining alienation. From bar owners to restaurant atmospheres, nothing compares to personality, and personality above all.

The Eroski Hole
How long has it been? Eighteen months? Longer. The hole at the exit some say entrance to the car park at the Eroski by the Platja d'Or is an ex-hole. It is now a whole hole.

Yesterday's title - Suzanne Vega, "Tom's Diner" ( Today's title - all-time classic.


Monday, April 27, 2009

At The Diner On The Corner

The Mostra de Cuina Mallorquina has been pronounced a success, says a report from "The Diario". This is the Mostra Cuina de Mallorquina that, on its northern "route", could count on just one restaurant in the whole of Pollensa. This year's format may not be repeated; a return to an exhibition-centre approach is on the cards. Restaurant owners are quoted as being delighted with the response, though not all. In smaller towns, there has been particular delight; the Mostra has been a way of spreading the names of restaurants. In Alcúdia, the Mirador reported that nine people from Valencia had come. Here was evidence of the attraction of the Mostra beyond the shores of the island.

If the event has done some good and does some permanent good, then it should be heralded a success. However, the success probably has as much to do with offering meals at low prices as anything else. For a maximum of twelve euros, the chances are that restaurants, which might otherwise not have got the custom, have done so. The real success of the event lies in whether the punters will go back when there is no special offer available. I wonder if the people from Valencia will be returning shortly. Perhaps they just happened to be in the area, heard about the offer and thought, well, let's try it.

Though repeat business is, or should be, the main objective of participating restaurants, the event proves, as if any evidence were really needed, that price - a low price - is a major incentive. If only that price were sustainable. But what of the event in a wider tourism context? We hear, repeatedly, that gastronomy is one of Mallorca's alternative tourism attractions. So, was the Mostra promoted to a tourism market? And if it was, did it bring a whole load of tourists in? I suspect the answers are no and no. The format of having restaurants in zones of the island would have been tailor-made for a gastronomy package. But one comes back to that notion of repeat business. A restaurant invests in producing special menus and making them available at prices lower than normal. If the volume is sufficient, then it will have worked in offsetting the per-head lower takings. However, it would, where the tourist is concerned, have been an investment with little expectation of repeat business; it would not have generated some longer-term customer worth. In which case, why bother?

One can't help the impression that, for all the words about tourism this and tourism that of an alternative style, there is precious little that is really done to activate it. Coincidental with the Mostra, and despite there having been not one restaurant in the town of Pollensa taking part, this was also the weekend of the Pollensa wine fair. Wine goes alongside gastronomy. There is, or would have been some synergy in promoting these together - to an external market. Was there? Maybe some small specialist tour operators did so, in which case good luck to them. But I'm not aware of the tourism authorities making a big noise.

So much seems to happen that would have a wider tourism interest, but so little is done to exploit it. One can't help another impression - that many of these island events are really just about the island. But then, if they don't bring in repeat custom, why bother? That may well be the attitude, but it is wrong. And it's wrong for the simple reason that Mallorca can do with whatever tourism it can bring in - even if it means, Heaven forbid, letting those tourists eat a meal on the cheap.

Yesterday's title - The progenitors of Fleet Foxes (IMHO), America: ( Today's title - only vaguely related I know, but a line from a great song. Who? Clue is in "diner".


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Horse With No Name

The horse, the horse of course. The Mr. Ed roundabout to offer a name, not that it is has one, or not one that I know of. Alcúdia's most famous landmark. The horse that isn't a horse of course; well not to everyone it isn't. But horse it is, despite any similarity to a farm animal with two legs and a beak. Look the horse roundabout sculpture up on the internet and it is usually described as being orange. I would have said more a brick reddish. At least it was. It's showing its age. It's the old nag roundabout; the waiting for the knacker's yard rotonda. It needs a coat of paint. It has not faded to old grey mare so much as been weather-beaten to variable shades of sand. They should opt for something more durable. Plastic perhaps. I was sure I saw a giant Homer Simpson bouncy castle in Puerto Pollensa yesterday. That would be a good idea for a roundabout. A huge rubber or plastic, vivid yellow Homer wobbling around in the wind.

I was trying to research these roundabout sculptures. I found a piece from "The Diario" dated 20 March 2006. It expressed the concerns of Balearic artists who were worried about the selection process for sculptures and the fact that the responsible artist's name was not identified. The same artists also wanted an independent commission of experts to select the art and to avoid an "increase in the visual contamination of public spaces". I suppose this would mean that Homer would never find a place on a roundabout.

I'm wondering if anything ever came of this. It seems an oddity that there could be a commission for roundabout sculpture, but they take this stuff seriously. As for identifying a sculptor's name, it does look as though there is some sort of plaque for the "eels" roundabout in Playa de Muro. But I wonder quite how many people will dare to cross the road onto the roundabout to examine said plaque. I'm not. Then there is "visual contamination". What an excellent expression. Does the Las Gaviotas deckchair qualify as such? Personally, I quite like it.

But if all this roundabout art is so important, and it must cost a few centimos which therefore means that it is important, why does there appear to be no website devoted to it? I once received an enquiry from someone doing a school project on Alcúdia who wanted to know the sculptors responsible for the horse and the "linkin' donuts" of the Magic roundabout. I did manage to find out, but alas have completely forgotten not only who they were but also how I came by the information.

All the money that is spent on adorning all these roundabouts, you would think there might be some sort of "catalogue" to tell you about them. If nothing else, they are a talking-point and useful points of reference. There again, it's an expensive way of provoking discussion in a bar. A plastic Homer would be a lot cheaper (so long as they didn't pay image rights).

And apropos of nothing other than the fact that I was there... Shamrock in Puerto Alcúdia. Don't know, Girls Aloud seemed to have turned up and Wayne Rooney is at the back of the photo. Very odd. He'd been pasting Spurs on the TV, barely an hour before. Oh, and you can see Fernando, the man, in the second row.

Yesterday's title - "I'm Mandy, Fly Me", 10cc. ( Today's title - a country, a big one.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

She Read Me Like A Book

The victim of the attack that led to the demonstration against violence in Puerto Alcúdia has died. He had been in a coma since the incident nearly three weeks ago that occurred by the Magic roundabout. There's not a lot more to be said. Or rather, there is a load that could be said, and this will doubtless revolve around uncontrolled drinking and violent and disaffected youth. It all sounds vaguely familiar. This can happen anywhere, and has happened here.

The Alcúdia train debate, some might say debacle, goes on. The "mobility" department of the Balearics Government (mobility equates to transport in this sense) has come out in favour of the so-called northern route alongside the main road from Sa Pobla and terminating, in all likelihood, close to the centre of the old town. This is opposed by, among others, Alcúdia town hall, landowners - the ones who staged the recent tractor protest - the highways department at the Mallorca Council and some elements of the environment ministry which say that it will affect certain species. The environmental lobby is generally in favour. A greater number of species, it is said, would be potentially harmed were the southern route - with a terminal by Albufera - adopted. The other option, of siting the line so that it finishes up near the Magic roundabout is one now currying favour within Alcúdia town hall. Yet, this one might be a non-starter owing to the wetlands that exist in the area. Confused? It is.

That was a couple of days ago, and then the environment ministry, which seemed to be in general agreement with the mobility people (save for those voices which were not) came out with a statement that the mobility department was not taking account of the views of the town hall, a point - naturally enough - echoed by the town's mayor. The head of the environment ministry and the mayor are from the UM; the head of the mobility ministry isn't.

The other day was one of those days - a day of. It was the day of the book. The origins of this day are Catalonian. And the original day marked the birth of Miguel de Cervantes. The day was changed to 23 April in 1930 and has since been internationalised. There is a strong book tradition that comes out of Catalonia. Anyone who has ever been to the book market in Barcelona will know this. The day was duly celebrated in, among other places, Alcúdia.

Periodically, the local press reports on the level of book reading in the Balearics. This is not a mere study of how people use their leisure time; it is a cultural issue. And the worry is that reading is in decline. Maybe this is so everywhere. Yet, reassuringly, despite new technologies, the book still holds an important role in our lives, be we Catalan or other nationality. Never let J. K. Rowling be criticised. She has been one of the more significant educative influences in contemporary society; educating the young to want to read.

Though the book day is essentially a Catalan thing, there was an advert for the day in the "Ultima Hora" newspaper, which is published mainly but not exclusively in Castilian; there are also contributions in Catalan. The advert was from the department store El Corte Inglés. It announced book signings. All the authors and titles listed were Catalan, but otherwise the advert was in Castilian. How strange.

Yesterday's title - "Boys From The Black Stuff". Bernard Hill (Yosser). ( By the way, don't be fooled by the strange intro from Top Of The Pops. Today's title - a line from? Mandy.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Gissa Job

It's that time of year once more. The time stretches from March till now and on a bit into May. It is the work-searching and pulling-your-hair-out time. Hair being pulled out by both those looking for work but especially by those employers who thought they had their staff lined up, only for whatever to go wrong. It can be the variation on the dog chewed my homework. Unreliability is thy middle name, Mallorca, and thy seasonal workers. It seems crazy, when there is some nervousness among employers in taking people on, that those who get a promise might get a note from their mum. But what of some of those who go in search of work? Would you employ that some? There is not always a great deal of thought given to their personal presentation. Perhaps they're just hacked off with being rejected. Can't blame them totally, but it goes with the territory: traipsing around bars, shops, restaurants making the scripted request and being told no, we've got everyone we need, not at the moment. Some leave a CV. It happened in Eroski one day. Three came in, spoke to a girl at the checkout and handed over the gen. The three CVs were probably filed fairly soon afterwards.

If you're a tourist with a hire car, you can be forgiven for getting things wrong, for taking the wrong turning and looking to hurriedly correct your mistake. Usually you will be ok, except when you effect your remedy just as plod on a scooter is emerging from around the corner. At the turning towards the port in front of Alcúdia church a hire car with what looked like Brits or maybe Germans did just this. Went right when they didn't want to, and slung a U-y across the pedestrian crossing. "Hola, hola, hola. What have we got here, then?" The car drove off, behind it a peeping plod, revving the poot-poot into something approximating maximum 40kph speed. Chances are the driver thought this was just some lunatic local hitting the horn for the hell of it. Wrong. Finally, the car stopped. I trust they had enough in their wallets. The exchange was still going on some ten minutes after it happened.

Restaurants continue to change hands or be taken on anew. In Puerto Alcúdia what was once New Delhi, next to Comics, is now a Mexican. More Mex than Tex says Jose Luis. The restaurant is called El Cuate. On the corner of this road is Alcúdia's only Dakota. Two Tex-Mex's in one street. Yet of course in Puerto Pollensa, home to the Dakota trinity, Nico's is more or less next door to one of them. Nico's, I guess, is the home kitchen contrast to the industrial Dakota, and so it seems to be with El Cuate.

And ... Who turned on the oven? Suddenly it's not just warm, it's verging on the hot. It's easy to forget the heat. It can come as a bit of a shock. Talking of warm weather. As I am launched, as of today, into the official fourth estate of Mallorca, I felt that a newspaper moment should not pass without comment. Moreover, it concerns "The Sun". Not my paper of choice, but can yesterday's front page and headline ever be bettered? Four people in deckchairs on a beach. The gloomy news about the Budget, and there it is: "At Least It's Sunny". Brilliant.

Yesterday's title - Teenage Fanclub ( Today's title - which drama made this famous and who was the actor?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Concept

A publication bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. This was something elegant, well-designed, well-produced. And free. It was done by the son of the lady who runs the Venus perfume shops. I had noticed the magazine before but never really given it much attention - wherein might lie a tale perhaps - until yesterday. I was idling away some time in the Venus in Can Pic and picked it up. I had rather thought it was a perfumes brochure rather than a guide or however you would describe it. "The last one," I was told. I flicked through it. Shame, I thought. The title is/was "Concepto". The cover was a work of art. It was something to admire, but the cover was the least good aspect of it; it did not make you want to pick it up, merely to not really understand what you were looking at.

Inside were ad designs, photography, all to a high standard. It was hugely professional. It came out monthly. It must have cost not just the arm and the leg but the whole body to print. And then there was the sheer effort that would have been put into it. God alone knows how much advertisers were expected to stump up to pay for all of this.

"Concepto" speaks volumes not just for the skill involved in its production but also for the strengths and weaknesses of the local economy - of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and of the capacity of that economy to sustain ventures, especially through advertising expenditure. There are hundreds, thousands probably of younger Mallorcans, those from other countries and also the not so young who have high skill levels when it comes to design, to graphics, to websites. Many of them have the ability to pull off a "Concepto". And that's part of the problem. There are simply too many people trying to do the same sort of thing. All the young Mallorcans who go off to university or other educational establishments, are trained in design of different types, and for what? It is a mark of the massive ability and talent that resides here, and truly there is. If only there was the market for it all.

Diversification within the working population away from the staples of tourism and construction leads to all those with an eye for design to seek to embark on a career in what is a seriously competitive market in terms of employment or business opportunities. Even if someone branches out on his or her own, how might they fare? The answer, generally, is not very well. And the reason is that the local market has little or no appreciation of the price of design talent, or no willingness to have such an appreciation. The rates people are paid are scandalous. The best talent ultimately leaves the island, sick and tired of the greed that comes back as the affront of what the greedy are prepared to pay. There again, when there are so many going around offering design work, how else does the market react?

And even if something as good as "Concepto" gets off the ground and lasts for 18 monthly issues, there is an obstacle to overcome - how does it pay for itself? Economic hard times are the not only reason for its floundering I would guess. The magazine was basically aimed at a youthful market. It's not the only one. It covered the whole island. Not the only one. Shame.

Yesterday's title - Steely Dan, "Brooklyn Knows The Charmer Under Me" Today's title - for a youthful market, which group could be more youthful than these Scots who are no longer that youtfhul?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Laid Out For All To See

Road works. Roads work. When there are road works, do roads work? On and off, according to the stop and go. There is a view that all public work is compressed into the weeks before the season starts. This is a view based on the idea that to do such work earlier would impress too few people; because there are too few people around. So, this view continues, do it all in March and April and there will be folk about who can admire the effort being made. This is probably garbage, but not without some substance. Why, for example, is the road in Playa de Muro being laid now? Again. Over the bridge. How often does one stretch of road need to be laid and then relaid. Several times, it would seem.

As the season hoves into view, traffic gets heavier, ever more cyclists are veering all over the place, foot-based tourists are wandering in the middle of the road, dogs and cats get in on the act and, to cap it all, there are ruddy great tarmac-laying machines massively lumbering along the local roads. This is not a criticism of road works per se; indeed, I am all in favour. Just - why do they happen now? And please don't give me the road-laying-needs-heat argument, because I don't buy it, especially given that some road laying does occur in colder winter weather. I have long thought that Mallorca is inherently non-productive in just about everything it does, so add in road works and all the rest and the resultant delays and that non-productivity is increased severalfold.

Anyway, moan over. As for all those cyclists, of which there are seemingly thousands at the moment, where do they go? I am back in that territory widely and incorrectly known as cyclists contribute nothing to the local bars and restaurants and only buy bananas, Ritter Sport and water from the nearest Eroski. This is simply not so. I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. Boy, Restaurant Boy, Playa de Muro, half past five in the afternoon. Packed. Jam-packed. How many? 60? 70? 80? Nearly all cyclists. Drinking, mainly large glasses of Weizen, and eating. Eating the great lumps of meat that Boy serves up. (And that is great as in size and quality.) The reason why there are so many? The restaurant works closely with Max Hürzeler. I've said this all before, but its repetition is needed to counter this utterly fallacious view of cycling tourists. They don't spend. You'd better believe that they do.

Time share, sorry holiday club, touts. Anyone know exactly what's happening? This was a big story last year, with complaints posted to me as well as to "The Bulletin". The office that was their base has been for rent, and there is no sign - as yet - of our favourite street vendors.

Someone asked something surprising of me yesterday. Actually, the someone was Marshall at the karts in Bellevue. Had I changed my look? That was the question. I confess to having been taken aback, not that I was affronted, just that I had never considered that I had a look. Anyway, this is by way of warning you that whatever this look might be will be on display in the island's leading daily this Friday. Long have I eschewed revealing the true me via this blog - no vanity here - only for "The Bulletin" to come along and break the visual silence.

Yesterday's title - "Radio", The Corrs ( Today's title - this comes from a song by the group whose name came from William Burroughs.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Step Inside For A Glass Of Wine

It's the sixth Pollensa wine fair this weekend. Fairs, fairs and more fairs. We had the boat and cuttlefish fairs at the start of the month and there have been town fairs such as those in Sa Pobla and Santa Margalida. This, the Pollensa fair, is not of course a fair as in dodgems and coconut-shies but a fair as in a sort of trade fair. Or, in the case of the Pollensa wine fair, one with a theme of the "culture and knowledge of the world of wine". The idea is that visitors come along for a genteel sip or two and talk knowingly with bodega representatives. Well, that's one idea. I imagine that a few have a different idea, rather similar to that which I used to have when attending the likes of the western wine thrash in Bristol. How many wines could be sampled in the largest amounts? That seemed to be the idea back then. It was like attending a massive Yates's Wine Lodge. I'm sure that no-one carries that sort of attitude into the Pollensa do, well only one or two.

Something that is quite different about the wine fair is that it is one thing and one thing alone - wine. Other fairs, and the boat and cuttlefish do's expanded in this way this year, grab some local flavour as a way, presumably, of attracting more people. It didn't go completely unnoticed that the most popular parts of these fairs were the tent with some nosh and the craft market: the latter had nothing directly to do with either of the fairs. Then there were also the giants and the folk dance. There's none of this at the wine fair - it is a fair for wine and those who like wine, lots of it in some instances.

The fair takes place in the cloister of the Saint Domingo convent in the old town, and you can read even more about it on Friday in that fine organ - "The Bulletin". And how do I know you can read more? How do you think?

Yesterday's title - Vim, Spider and Colin. Part one of "More Bad News" ( Today's title - where's this from?


Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad News Tour

Apropos fusion cooking, of which I spoke two day ago, I am reminded, by Les, that the humble potato, in its chipped form, creates a fusion with pretty much anything. In the sense that fusion is a coming together of different styles or tastes and of the fruits of different countries, then there is much to support this. The potato has its roots, literally, in the sod of southern America, though quite when and where the first attempt to put it into a deep-fat fryer occurred I honestly couldn't tell you.

Fish and chips, therefore, is a fusion of whichever sea, the Andes Mountains and Scottish lard-boiling levels of cholesterol. As cod has only rarely been found in the Andes, I would suggest that fish and chips is well and truly fusion. Moreover, the very name - potato - is derived from the Spanish, hence emphasising the culturally-fused nature of the chip.

As a further example, a non-chip one, at blog HQ the other evening the dining-table fare comprised chicken and pork fillet plus onion, garlic and aubergine with carrots and green beans, pasta, lightly pickled red cabbage, tomato, canónigos (corn salad) and condiments of Dijon mustard, sweet chili dip and tartar sauce. I'd say that this was fusion - Italian, German, French, Thai. There you are then. Fusion. Or. Any old stuff that happens to be lying around the fridge and larder.

My fear with fusion is that it is a name that allows for some fusion of prices - two lowish ones into one high one. It is like that old con-fusion of nouvelle. It may be a gag about nouvelle cuisine, but it did actually happen that I and the femme du jour once partook of some nouvelle in a chic Chiswick bistro with a French name and had to stop off at the chippy on the way home - for some fusion.

Fusion and confusion. What are we supposed to make of Bar Plaza Restaurant that has emerged from the ruins of the old nursery in Puerto Pollensa's square? The one-Dakota, two-Dakota, three-Dakota, four advance of Boulevard and the Bony legover have been usurped in terms of dumbing-down with its board with photos of dishes to greet the potential diner. It's a chinky, at least I think it is, but its name suggests something else, while the actual sign, someone was berating me at great length (as though I could do anything about it), looks as though it belongs in Benidorm. That was her opinion. Personally, I've never been to Benidorm, but I daresay that there will be those who say that it belongs in Alcúdia because Alcúdia - allegedly - is like Blackpool and probably Benidorm as well.

Rather more sophisticated, I was once again at Vora Mar in Cala San Vicente. As I parked, this gigantic American estate wagon thing rumbled past, beat its horn and turned to pull up behind me. From its interior, several Germans were disgorged. I was observing through the rear mirror from the safety of my driver's seat, as the final occupant stepped out. It was one of those how startled can one be by someone's appearance moments. The leather trousers were not so strange, given a German predilection for such garb, but it was what was on the chap's head - his hair in other words. Here was a head-banded John McEnroe having undergone electric shock therapy, a comedy rock-star bouffant, greying candy-floss, a 70s Liverpool era perm that had procreated to form quadruple Keegan head furniture. It was quite extraordinary, not least that anyone could move their neck with that weight. It was a hair expansion rather than extension. In "The Young Ones", Neil had a hippy friend called Warlock. A Warlock character with elevated hair was now walking up the steps into the restaurant. I never knew that anyone seriously ever had a haircut like that, unless they were playing it for laughs. Given that one other of the party looked as though he should have arrived on a Harley and was probably a roadie for The Scorpions, it occurred to me that maybe here were some remnants of The Bon Scott Band, the AC/DC tribute that had played in Alcúdia the night before. Except. The day before, in passing the road into Bellevue, I noticed a trio of different old rockers emerging from Yummy Yummy, one of whom had an AC/DC t-shirt on. Could these have been the core of The Bon Scott Band, heading back to their apartment? It was if Bad News (in which Neil became Den) were in town: an English breakfast, trashing Bellevue and then off to the bullring for some tribute headbanging. Or maybe they were in town for some biking. And what, may one ask, is it with the motor bikes that roar around the roads in convoys at weekends at huge noise and at huge speeds? Bad news.

Yesterday's title - Ipswich Town. Today's title - and what were the names of the other members of Bad News (the characters, not the actors)?


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Tractor Boys

The tractor boys were on the march yesterday. No, make that on a roll, crawling along the main Palma road from the Can Segue bar into Alcúdia for a spot of protesting - this time against the proposed siting of the train route. Ho hum, another day, another voice raised in opposition to something. Unlike public displays of unease at societal malaises, such as violence, those for or normally against developments get a tad wearisome. But then, there would have been a time when such gatherings would have been cracked down on, so maybe one shouldn't complain. The question is, though, will this damn train extension ever get built. And where?

The tractor protesters are not against the train as such; just that they want it sited to the south and not along the so-called northern corridor, which is the government's favoured option. However, there is an unmistakable tendency to want to put a halt to much that is new. It stands alongside that other tendency - Mallorca for the Mallorcans, and we can do without tourists, thanks very much. It was put to me the other day that, among some elements of the teens, twentysomethings and indeed oldersomethings, there is a discernible mass of opinion that there can be some sort of back to the future with everyone speaking Catalan and nary a tourist to be seen. It is hardly a unique phenomenon, be it in Mallorca or many other places. It may be purely idealistic and not pragmatic, but idealism rarely wins the argument. The cynical view is that this generation, comfortable as a consequence of the moolah that its parents and grandparents have derived from tourism, can call for some advancement of local nationalism and a return to the fields without having any sense of the practicalities or wisdom of doing so. Does this generation know how to sow potatoes? No, but it can find out, it replies, and then it discovers that the weather turns nasty and prevents crops from being sown, which is what happened during the soggy winter. Subsistence can become a struggle.

There is and always will be tensions between the needs of commerce, for which read tourism, and the desire for local expression and a prioritisation of localism over internationalism. One could, I suppose, perceive the Catalan debate and the global economic crisis as being a part of the philosophy that underpins such a desire. It is not wrong, but its consequences might, probably would, be far from what the idealistic tendency would wish for itself.

Yesterday's title - Rolling Stones ( Today's title - which football team is known by this name?


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Street Fighting Man

I am almost reluctant to do this, but here goes. Tomorrow a demonstration is planned against violence, insecurity and "impotence from which we suffer". The words are taken from a notice that is doing the rounds in Alcúdia, calling on people to join the demonstration, which is due to take place at 5 in the afternoon from the Magic roundabout, close to where Gabriel Marquet was seriously injured after having been attacked "without reason". He has been in a coma since the attack nearly two weeks ago. I am told that the life support is to be switched off tomorrow, though I stress that is what I have been told.

My reluctance stems from the fact that it does no-one any favours to make an issue of this, but the incident happened and the demo will go ahead - one cannot subdue the process of news, however unfortunate it might be. One of those suspected of causing the injuries that have led to Marquet's life being threatened was implicated in a previous incident that occurred "in the parking of a discotheque in the area" (says "Ultima Hora"). The suggestion is that the latest incident was if not a direct result but indirectly associated with the street drinking "botellón" that occurs by the Magic roundabout, and to which I referred the other day; this is the street drinking that was meant to have been outlawed.

The notice goes on to call on "all of Alcúdia's society" to join in the protest. It is at this point that I wonder. Word of the demo was filtering through into British circles yesterday. It was only having been told about it that I happened to find a mention in "The Bulletin". What I'm wondering is the extent to which all that Alcúdia society is being asked to join in. Likewise, I wonder to the extent that all that Alcúdia society will be inclined to join in. It may not be a Brit thing, but it still impinges upon all those who live in Alcúdia. Join in.

Crisis or no crisis, new seasons always bring changes. One of the most striking additions to the Puerto Alcúdia restaurant scene, or it will be when it's finished, is L'Almirant at what was ... ? Can't remember the name of the place. Toni's? Maybe it was a Chinese. Anyway, it's on the corner opposite Big Banana. Almirant is a terrific restaurant, the Puerto Pollensa original at any event. Quality tapas and all that. And down in the Alcúdiamar marina, the restaurant at the bottom, Caliu, is to become a fusion restaurant with chill-out. Blimey. Two fads in one. However, as one of the partners is my good friend Toni from Pippers, I can say, with reasonable certainty, that this will be a fine new development.

The new Caliu represents a further step along the road of the chic-ing of Alcúdia and its restaurants. Fabulous location right on the sea, it is an ideal spot for a sort of chill-out eaterie-cum-drinkerie. And chill-out and fusion appear to be the order of the crisis-what-crisis day. Franck from Celler El Moli in Pollensa was telling me the other day about a place he will be opening, also in Pollensa. Bistro-style, it will have a sense of chill-out. Meanwhile, up at the golf club, the restaurant has become a chill-out bar-fooderie. Taking the name of Zhan, it sounds like an Indian fast bowler whose names have been compressed into one. Lots of looking at the sun setting over the bays and all that. Fair enough, even if Café del Mar was there a long time ago. And then there is fusion, or its close culinary companion, con-fusion. I am indebted to Ben who sent me an email in which he pointed out that one of Alcúdia's several thousand Chinese restaurants had become fusioned, in the sense that it was now also a pizzeria. This does, as he rightly suggested, raise limitless possibilities as to ever more bizarre fusion styles.

Anyway, this is all good stuff, especially the chill-out. It may be somewhat after the Lord Mayor's Show, but whoever said that things needed to be cutting-edge here? I'm fully in favour of chill-out and lounge and all of that malarkey. So much so that I once thought, how many years ago was it, pre-Café del Mar, that what was needed was somewhere with a relaxed atmosphere ... . You know something? I never thought it would work.

Yesterday's title - Frankie Goes To Hollywood ( Today's title - fairly well-known rockers from the 60s onwards and now in their 60s.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome To The Pleasuredome

There is currently a "mostra" of Mallorcan cuisine going on. Mostra does not translate easily. Or rather it does, in that it means a "show", but that is not really correct. Better would be something like event. So, a Mallorcan cuisine event. It goes on around the island and is divided into three "routes", the second of which covers the north of the island next week. What it entails, and the event is now 25 years old, is that restaurants in or along the routes serve up some special menus to a maximum price of 12 euros. Good idea, you would think, and as it has been going for so long, you would believe that it would be pencilled into the calendars of restaurants and that it would be a major statement of Mallorcan gastronomy, of which one hears so much as a source of "new" tourism. You might think all this, but I'm not sure that you would be right.

Why, for example, is only one restaurant in the whole of Pollensa taking part? The list of restaurants in the north is fairly impressive, in terms of the names of the restaurants, but there are not that many. Most of them, seven, are across Alcúdia - from Meson Los Patos by Muro to the Mirador in La Victoria. This still doesn't answer why only one in Pollensa - Iru. I asked someone (Mallorcan) who is involved with various establishments and who has his base in the old town of Pollensa. The answer was straightforward. There is just too much of this. By that he meant that there is too much that restaurants are asked to take part in, to promote, to produce special this and special that, and at special prices. Twenty-five years ago it probably all seemed pretty simple. But not now.

You might argue, with some justification, that the restaurants should be only too willing to support anything that brings in more business. The point is, however, that there is a limit to what they can be prepared to support and to pay out for. And there is so much - of all types of promotion. If one genuinely believed that this mostra would drum up regular new business, then it would probably be worth it. But would it? I rather fancy that most diners are locals and locals who take the opportunity for having a meal at the sort of price you would pay for a menu of the day. What about tourists and the gastronomy tourists most obviously? Well, where are they?

This all comes back to the alternative tourism, to the niche markets. A letter to "The Bulletin" yesterday made some similar points to those that I made two days ago. I am heartened that someone else thinks along the same sort of lines. A mostra of Mallorcan cuisine should be, were Mallorcan gastronomy such a really big deal, a major tourism event, but it isn't. One needs to ask why not.

Sharp observers of this blog will have noticed that I use certain words quite a lot - like well, really, actually. Lazy in a sense, but I tend to write like I speak. In so doing, I trust that it may come across as sort of chummy. This is not my point though. What is, is that those three words all (like all) include a double-l. You may know that the Spanish are fairly keen on double-l's, like the Welsh. This l-love-in can be but one explanation for the regularity with which double-l appears erroneously. Famously, Playa de Muro has its own double-l that greets visitors, as in "wellcome". There is only one welcome with two l's as far as I am aware, and that is, or was, the Wellcome Foundation prior to its being swallowed (with two l's) up by Glaxo. Yet, the Spanish are keen to continue the tradition of this once fine example of an alternative style of British company structure (albeit that the Wellcome was American). Place mats, those paper ones you get. Wellcome, they say. Often. As at the excellent (two l's) Celler (also an l-duo) El Moli in Pollensa (double-l). Everywhere you go. The company gave the world the anti-herpal drug Zovirax, and it also gave the Spanish world a greeting. Wellcome to Mallorca - or make that Majorca, "Paradis-Insel" as the Germans would insist: the Pleasuredome, if only the tourism authorities could get the message right.

Yesterday's title - Brilliant. Gene Pitney, Tulsa. And he saw a "welcoming (or maybe wellcoming) light" ( Today's title - relax, don't do it.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

24 Hours From ...

Now, I was thinking of making a major announcement today, but thought that maybe I ought first to just run it by the appropriate body. Anyway, it has to do with a popular daily newspaper. So I will keep my powder dry for a day or several.

Still, this does not prevent me from consulting the pages of a popular daily newspaper and unearthing the odd item of interest. Thus it was yesterday. Apparently, a report reckons that Mallorca needs up to five more golf courses and that nobody on the island or indeed on all the islands of the Balearics should ever be more than 50 minutes away from a golf course. Well, two things here. Is it possible to be more than 50 minutes from anything in Mallorca, let alone a golf course? If one is walking, then perhaps so, but I suspect most golfers have some sort of transport, if only one of those lunatic buggies. Slightly baffling that, I'd say. The other thing is, does Mallorca need five more courses? Doubtless the Muro protagonists - the hoteliers and certain town hall representatives - would say yes, but while the endless debate as to that course rumbles on, we have learnt over the past few months that courses have been denied to Santa Margalida (on the Son Real finca), Campos and Binissalem, the enviro lobby having been just one dissenting voice.

I can think of many things that people should never be more than 50 minutes away from - a hospital, a chemists, an off-licence and a bunker against weapons of mass destruction. But a golf course? I am reminded of a report from April of last year (that was referred to in a popular daily newspaper) which stated that Mallorca was basically golfed out in terms of courses. Yet now we have a demand for ever more. The argument that golf brings in wealthy tourism is not without foundation but, as has been my position viz. Muro pretty much all along, I would like to know the real business case in favour of a new course, wherever it might be or however far or close it might be to anyone. But why 50 minutes and not, say, 42 or 30? There are already some 25 golf courses in Mallorca, so I would very much doubt that there is anyone further than 50 minutes from one. But were there, then is he or she or they muttering angrily that they are 51 minutes away from a golf course?

Yesterday, and apropos of what I thought I might announce but haven't, I was parked miles away from the HQ of a popular daily newspaper and was ambling back past the Plaça Major in Palma when I heard the unmistakable strangling of some bagpipes. Not the mini-local variety but the real McCoy, and a bekilted gentleman giving it large with his pipes. What was this? It was part of this international folk dance malarkey that's going on in Palma at the moment. Anyway, on the stage in the Plaça Major were two chaps with bagpipes, making a frightful racket as is normally the case with bagpipes, another chap beating a big drum, two boys holding flags and a troupe of girls dressed up in sailors' outfits who were engaged in some dancing of a folk style. Scottish, so I thought. And one of the flags was indeed the cross of Saint Andrew. It was the other flag that made me wonder. That's not Scottish, thought I. That's English. It was in fact the shield of Newcastle United FC. And the troupe turned out to be from North Tyneside. As they retired from their routine to the accompaniment of applause and the pipes playing the porridge oats thing, I wondered, since when did people in Tyneside wear kilts or indeed play bagpipes. Proximity to the Scottish border and all that, but had I just witnessed an aspect of English culture of which I had previously been unaware? Presumably I had - and it took a chance passing in Mallorca's capital to make me aware. Strange old world.

Oh, and talking of English culture, I should have mentioned in respect of the Leicester piece the other day, that Leicester does have some Roman remains, which I kind of suspected it would have, but for literary effect and what have you ...

And also ... listening to Maconie without Radcliffe, something about Twitter. Someone mailed the show to say it's rubbish. Yea, I'm still not sure to be frank, but I will persist.

Yesterday's title - The Police ( Today's title - I can't think of anything that is 50 minutes from anywhere, so instead ... . Where was he 24 hours from and indeed who was he?


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Message In A Bottle

You never know but maybe the message is getting through. Miquel Nadal, the Balearic Government's tourism minister, in the context of less than brilliant levels of bookings by the crucial Spanish and British tourism markets, has admitted that the islands' tourism has a "great dependency" on the sun and beach variety of tourism. This admission may seem obvious, but it needs to be stated and re-stated. The current economic situation has only helped to reinforce the fact that this admission needs to be constantly re-stated.

The problem is, and has been, that the tourism authorities, in general, have taken their collective eye off the ball - the one bouncing on the beach and blowing in the gentle breeze as grains of sand fly off. So much effort appears to have been diverted to the minority tourism niches that they have forgotten that what makes Mallorca's tourism tick is sun, sea and sangria. If you don't have the mass tourism that comes primarily just to lap up the heat, and that can equate - to a certain degree - to cheap and cheerful, then you don't have a tourist industry; well, not one that sustains an entire economy. At times, one has felt that there has been a pretentiousness and a delusion as to so-called alternative forms of tourism. While these have a part to play, they are not the core tourism product; they never have been and they never will be. The message for Mallorca is, or should be, very simple. Come and have fun in the sun. Don't be deterred by believing you have to come and undertake a course in culture. That is not what Mallorca holiday is. But it is what the tourism authorities have placed a growing emphasis on, at the expense, one feels, of the main product. It has taken the current "crisis" to refocus minds, or at least one hopes that it has. It is mass tourism that provides employment and sustains businesses, both the direct tourist businesses such as bars and hotels, and the indirect - the ancillary services that support these direct businesses. Niche markets, by definition, are not mass markets. They cannot support the island's economic model to anything like a sufficient level. It should not have needed an economic shock to bring the message home, but perhaps it's as well that it has happened. So when Sr. Nadal takes his summer break and is lounging on a quiet Mallorcan beach and a bottle is washed up on the shore, with a bit of luck the bit of paper will say: "keep it simple".

Yesterday's title - Tracy Chapman ( Today's title - no clues needed.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You Got A Fast Car

Need a hire car? You might be out of luck. Reports such as that in "The Diario" yesterday refer to the fact that car-hire fleets have been cut, in some instances by a half. It's all down to the economic situation, not necessarily demand, because there is plenty of that, especially when the weather is as poor as it has been over Easter, but because the car-hire companies have not been able to obtain the credit to get new vehicles. Typically, these companies look to sell on their vehicles, and that's been a problem as well, so fleets comprise at least some older cars.

The consequences of this can cause problems for those businesses that are linked with car hire, such as villa-rental agencies that include car hire as part of the arrangement. I understand that there has been some rather frantic calling around to try and get cars, many of which are already hired out direct thanks to the growing popularity of pre-booking through the internet. For customers coming off the street and looking to hire, it may be problematic when the season really gets under way. This all goes to emphasise the degree to which all aspects of the tourism "offer" are in some way linked to funding from the banks, or not, as the case may be.

If you have a hire car or any other car and you happen to be enjoying the local roads, then do watch out for the obstacles in your way - like tourists. The side roads are one thing, but the main roads, such as the carretera, are another. The new islands and crossing-points that have burst out like blooms in spring in Playa de Muro may as well not be there, like the ones that blossomed last year in Alcúdia. Why is that people find it so difficult when with buggies and all the other paraphernalia to make the walk ten metres to the right or left and cross where there is an island or a crossing-point? Moreover, what actually goes through people's minds when they stand in the middle of the road on the bridge in Playa de Muro. This now has pavements on both sides, with a concrete barrier conveniently tight to the road that will doubtless be glanced or hammered into at various stages by vehicles through the summer. It has therefore been narrowed, not widened, which might have been an idea. But as a result, if you are a pedestrian and you are in the middle, you are under distinct threat from getting winged. Or you have to make the traffic stop. Which thankfully is what has so far happened.

Yesterday's title - Fleetwood Mac, "Green Manalishi". Today's title - well, you might not even have a slow one. Who was this?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Trying To Drive Me Mad

So, that by-law about street drinking. The one that was intended to put an end to the botellón on weekend nights in Puerto Alcúdia, the street drinking event that occurs by the Magic roundabout, with car boots opened in order to disgorge the contents of entire drinks cabinets or more likely cheap booze stores. A package of measures was announced back in the autumn (26 September: Did You Have To Pay That Fine?) which was designed to rid the streets not just of the public displays of getting rat-arsed but also street selling. There is a tendency here to believe that things are announced and that nothing much will in fact change or happen. I wonder why some might think like that.

Saturday night. By the go karting. Cars are pulled up. So much so that they take some negotiating by other cars in order to pass. There is a big bloke going home. Ex-army. Not one normally prone to be concerned about going back along the streets late at night. He was looking over his shoulder. Even he found the situation intimidating. Lord alone knows what anyone else might think. Tourists for example.

This has got to stop. The town hall have put the measures in place. It's to the police to effect them. It probably isn't a Guardia matter as, being a local law, it falls to the local police to deal with. But God knows, this all happens just down the road from the Guardia station. The town hall has said, in the past, that there are adequate police to cope with the likes of the street selling along The Mile. In which case, one would think there would be adequate numbers to put an end to the drinking.

Before anyone suggests that this is just an issue in Alcúdia, it is not. And it just goes to emphasise that this nonsensically romanticised view that in Mediterranean climes (well Mallorca at any rate) there is no such thing as the youth getting pissed is way wide of the mark.

And other intimidation. The driving sort. The speed restriction along the carretera through Puerto Alcúdia and the islands that have now sprung up along its length into Playa de Muro have been a good thing, especially in the season. Yet there are still those who don't want to play the game. It happens not infrequently, like yesterday afternoon. You can be doing 50 or more like 60 in truth and there will be someone up your arse, moving wide, not with the intention of overtaking because that really is foolhardy but with the puerile notion of seeking to intimidate, or maybe to be simply a complete prat. I knew full well what would occur. At the fish hook roundabout entering Playa de Muro, the road goes into two lanes. He went into the left one and looked to overtake on the roundabout. I should know better myself, but there are times when you just think what is your problem. So I put my foot down and he had to give way. Stupid, but there you go.

The road layout is now such that it has reinforced the danger that the roundabouts can pose. Then there is the I'm going to use the side road in order to overtake mentality. Someone nips off, hares down the side road and looks to come out in front at the next mini or main roundabout. It's dangerous, not least as the side roads now start to get littered with tourists wandering all over the place. Why is it so damn important? The answer is that it is not.

Yesterday's title - Pearls Before Swine (aka Tom Rapp). Today's title - line from? They reckon it was the one when the writer had just about finally flipped.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Frog In The Window

Returning once more to the theme of tourism promotion and what the Mallorcan tourism wallahs should be doing or not, I wonder if they have thought about some internet banner advertising. I mention this as the BBC website has featured something known as "the Greek experience", which could be interpreted in a way that the slogan isn't intended to mean, but which nevertheless looks quite pleasant - shot of the Acropolis, blue skies and a not unattractive young woman; rather what you might expect in other words. But it seems that this form of promotion, rather than being something that might be ignored when one goes to the site and immediately clicks for the sport section, is less than potentially just subliminal. Having gone to that sport section, there was an item about Matthew Hoggard and his desire to get back into the England test team. Vaguely interesting I thought, so hit the link for the video. Odd. The Hoggster had changed. In fact he had disappeared. He was now a Greek experience; indeed he was "the Greek experience". What a good idea. Sir Alex Ferguson berating a referee, or so you might think. Go to the video. No. It's the Mallorcan experience. Excellent means of advertising. I commend it.

The lack of warmth may be deterring the Albufera frogs from entertaining us by night with their croaking chorus of thousands. Or perhaps there is another reason. Deadly Chytrid fungus. Something I admit that had escaped me, before Les kindly pointed out that the local frog and toad population has been inadvertently infected with it. As far as I am aware this does not turn them hopping mad and ready to seek out humans and leap at their throats, but the fungus can be bad news for the frog and toad population. However, I must have had this on my mind as I had a dream featuring a large black frog sitting under the window that was acting in a threatening manner. Anyway, don't let anyone worry. The frogs and toads are not on the march, or hop - yet. And as it was Les who brought this to my attention, I feel it is only right to reciprocate by pointing out that somewhere in the vast bank of material that is the Vamps mega-karaoke are probably some frogs. If not, then there will doubtless be some AC/DC. For those who enjoy head-banging, playing an air guitar and wearing schoolboy shorts, I have to inform you that AC/DC will be live - in Alcúdia of all places. Well, not quite, but "The Bon Scott Band", a tribute outfit, will be at the bullring next Saturday. I shall pass on more info on the WHAT'S ON BLOG. Quite an achievement to be playing live in some respects, given that Bon ceased to be Bon almost thirty years ago. But, suffice it to say that I will be washing my hair that evening. Mind you, there is clearly some AC/DC interest locally, as Toni at Pippers in Puerto Alcúdia told me that he was off to Barcelona to see the real thing last week. Unless it was "The Bon Scott Band" and no-one pointed that out to him.

Oh, and apropos sheep (from yesterday) and quite coincidentally, Karen at Foxes tells me that there is a sheep a couple of houses down from where they live. It will probably soon be an ex-sheep, a sort of Bon Scott sheep I suppose, but meantime its presence is driving the local dog population nuts: mad, hopping mad - like frogs.

Yesterday's title - James ( Today's title - you will be doing very well if you know which '60s act did this; today they (he) would be referred to as psyche folk or something like that. Think jewels and pigs.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sometimes (Leicester Piggott)

You may know that if there is one thing that drives me nuts it is the Alcúdia is like Blackpool comparison. Turn this around. If you were to say that Blackpool is like anywhere, where would you choose? With a degree of certainty, I can say that you would not choose Alcúdia. If it can't work in reverse, how can it work in forward? The answer is that it can't, because it isn't. If Alcúdia is like anywhere, other than Alcúdia, it is in fact like Leicester. True, Leicester is not by the sea, it is not a resort, people do not go there on holiday, it does not have a Mile, it does not have Roman ruins, a mountainous range, a first-rate marina, too many supermarkets called Eroski or, perhaps oddest of all, as far as I'm aware, a bar called Linekers. It does, though, have a football team and a rugby club, as does Alcúdia. Despite all those things being absent and the tenuous link through sport, it is still comparable with Alcúdia. Why? Well, ask yourselves this. Why is it that every other person you stumble across seems to have come from Leicester or Leicestershire? Even those who might appear to have no connection whatsoever with the city or the county, turn out not to have come from, say, Hertfordshire, but from Leicestershire.

And for the same reason, i.e. the numbers who have deserted and pitched up in the middle of the Med, after Leicester, Alcúdia is like Hull. Now, Hull may seem to have slightly more that is similar than Leicester, but that is purely down to the presence of the sea. Alcúdia does not of course have a river: Hull does, a black one, as I recall. Or maybe it was just the glowering skies that had turned an otherwise turquoise Humber into the colour of night.

I daresay that this will provoke someone to tell me that in fact Alcúdia is more like West Bromwich or Hemel Hempstead, which would of course be absurd; well in the case of West Brom certainly. Alcúdia is rarely to be found on fire, which is the case with West Bromwich; well it was on the one and only occasion I happened to go there. Hemel Hempstead, on the other hand, which may also have suffered its own local difficulty with fire, has, more importantly, its own magic roundabout, but God forbid they were to attempt anything on that scale in Alcúdia, given the difficulty that the locals have with simple, single, straightforward roundabouts as opposed to anything that resembles the Olympic rings. Then there will be the north-eastern lobby for Newcastle or Darlington and even that for the whole of Wales, and that really would be ridiculous. How could a town in northern Mallorca be like an entire country? It's not as if there are any sheep in Alcúdia. Well not normally on the beach at any rate.

But when the tourist authorities have the bright idea to go and put on a "show" in Manchester as a means of promoting Mallorca, how much thought have they applied? Perhaps there are parts of Mallorca which are identifiably Mancunian, but not Alcúdia. They should have put on that show in Leicester city centre.

Talk Of The North - Part Two
No sooner to close than Phoenix-like resurrected. Ann confirms that it will be re-launched under new ownership. So there you go. You will still all be able to talk in the north and of it as well, especially all those from Hull if not Leicester.

Yesterday's title - Captain Beefheart, "Moonlight On Vermont" from "Trout Mask Replica". Today's title - erm, well, about all I could think of with a Leicester flavour, not that it was that Leicester. This has been here before, but it's a cracker; oh and they were/are a Manchester group.


Friday, April 10, 2009

That Old-Time Religion

Easter has arrived, and it is time for some old-time religion and the religious production of hotel occupancy statistics, followed by expressions of an oh Godly nature or with a nod in the direction of the anti-God - "like hell it is". Delving into the reports, one discovers that, despite the weather being if not quite of a biblical flood style then of a rather damp nature, in Alcúdia the occupancy is pretty much like last year: roughly a third of the hotels operating and with an 85% take-up. Or so it's being said. But if so, then one might pray that a trend of mirroring 2008 numbers throughout the season would be a Godsend. Amen to that, we would all say; well, those of us who say "amen", which I tend not to.

The ongoing madcap stop-go situation that is, may be or may not be the golf development on the Son Bosc finca in Muro has taken a further twist. "The Diario" is saying that a report by experts from its own ministry has seemingly been ignored by the Balearic Government's environment ministry. That report warned that certain natural habitats and flora would be demolished. Moreover, these habitats would be lost, in contravention of a national Spanish law that places the onus on autonomous regions, such as the Balearics, to ensure that this doesn't happen. The paper makes, without comment, a link between the mayor of Muro, who supports the development, and the minister; that link being that they have a political party in common. It also says, once more, that the town hall is including the development in tourist material, despite the fact that not only does it not exist but work has not even started. That aspect is bizarre, to say the least . The ministry, for what it's worth, is casting doubt as to the "validity" of the report.

I confess I have rather lost the plot where the various reports and legal references to Son Bosc are concerned. But I seem to recall mentioning something about this ministry report in the past. Or maybe I didn't. It really is an unholy mess, which does rather go to prove, as with that other nonsense, the issuing of building licences, how too many levels of government can just confuse things no end. Muro town hall, the Balearics' ministry, the national government. You can probably toss in the European Commission, the European Parliament, the UN, the United Federation of Planets as well as, I daresay, the odd vested interest.

Talk Of The North
Some will already know that the current issue of "Talk Of The North" is to be the last. Economic situation and cuts to advertising, and all that. Few publications are immune, be they national dailies or a local fortnightly. It's a shame. It was a worthwhile project, especially in the sense of fostering a community identity. I would like to extend my best wishes to Ann; indeed I have done so.

Yesterday's title - Here are some middle-aged men who really should know better: Sex Pistols ( Today's title - well, not the original of this, but which occasional and crazy hero of this blog once referenced this. Clue: captain, my captain, and it's not Robin Williams.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Pretty Vaca-nt

I asked the other day whether the "Catalan imposition" and the whole issue of Catalan versus Castilian blah blah is really of that much interest to the wider British community or just one that attracts the attention and thoughts of a small minority. I am inclined to believe that it's the latter. I say that, because most expats exist in a bubble of indifference towards anything of any political or social consequence on the island, while many are too busy bothering with their lives and their businesses to take any great notice, and understandably so.

That said, it is an issue that arouses, if not passions among expats, then a certain degree of point-scoring. There has been a debate going on in "The Bulletin" about it. Some of those partaking are familiar names who regularly contribute to the letters pages of the paper. Unlike some who criticise those who write to the paper, I take a different view, which is that at least they are taking an interest, enough to make them want to write. However, it does, from time to time, spill over into public displays of who knows more than others. And so it was yesterday. A very long and tortuous letter appeared that took issue with a previous one. I don't agree with it all, but I'm not inclined to bat about historical facts, such as that regarding when Spain became Spain. The important point of history, in the context of the Catalan thing which is the issue under consideration, was the union of Castile and Aragon because, from that point on, Catalan became a secondary language within the kingdom that was Spain, whenever you would like it to have started, and largely irrelevant in terms of empire.

Essentially though, I do believe people should be interested, if only as onlookers of what is basically someone else's gig. And for what it's worth, I do also believe that incomers should try and learn some Catalan. Whether the expat likes it or not, whether he reckons that Castilian is or should be the sole language or not, he cannot ignore the fact that there are a lot of people here who quite like speaking Catalan. The subject can be debated till the cows come home or the "vacas" do likewise, if one prefers Catalan, but it certainly isn't about to go away.

Following on from the news of the death of the tourist following that fight in Puerto Alcúdia, comes news of an earlier incident that has apparently left someone in a coma. A Spanish TV crew has been in Alcúdia, sniffing around close to the Magic roundabout where it is said to have taken place. "The Bulletin" reported that Alcúdia was "reeling" from the news. That is rather overstating the situation: no-one seemed to know anything about it. The danger is that these isolated cases, albeit that two have occurred so close to each other in terms both of location and timing, are blown out of proportion. News should not be censored or not reported; of course not. But right now any bad publicity cannot do any favours. It needs to be kept in perspective.

A while back I mentioned the Bony expansion in Puerto Pollensa's church square. I saw José yesterday, having been interested to find out when his new bar was due to open - the new bar being what was the Selpell leather shop next to Bony. I can tell you that it will not now be Bony II or Más Bony-to, as José has pulled out. So those who worry about a dumbing down of Puerto Pollensa through the onward march of Bony- and Dakota-isations can rest easy in their beds for now. The extent of the Bony expansion is the newspaper shop and the newspaper shop alone.

The Twitter thing
I've been trying to get my head around the point of this, which explains why there haven't been any entries for so long, but I reckon I've come up with the answer. A sort of messaging service. I suppose that's what it is anyway, but I'm going to be doing a sort of what's on through it. So from now ... Just go to the follow me bit and with some luck there will be something worthwhile to follow. Unless I get bored with it or forget. Promise I'll try not to.

Today's title - "and we don't care".


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Bad Start

I suppose the last thing you hope for, when things appear a tad gloomy, is that someone, a tourist, loses his life as the consequence of a street brawl. But that is what has happened in Puerto Alcúdia. I don't wish to go into the circumstances of the incident - it has been reported in the press, for example in "The Daily Mail" as well as locally - but it should be emphasised that this can happen anywhere. It's a facile thing to say, but it is the case. Let's not even begin to characterise this as an "Alcúdia problem", because it is not. It's very sad that it has occurred, and that's the extent of it.

In looking to boost the tourism season, the Balearic Government's Minister for Tourism, Miquel Nadal, is investing four million euros for promotions in the key Spanish and British markets. Well, not the minister personally, but the government. This announcement seems a little curious. Curious because I was under the impression it was always meant to happen. I'm not sure why quite a splash is being made of it, this "it" including his tennis-playing namesake appearing in TV ads and a special push being made in Manchester. A few months ago, it was said that Manchester would be a particular target. There will be a "show" which shows off everything good about the Balearics - from food to recreational activities - similar to ones that have already taken place in Madrid and Berlin. This show will run for three days from 1 May. First of May. Isn't this a little late? Maybe not. And hopefully not. But does a "show" in the centre of one city make a huge difference? Seems a bit unlikely, but as they've done them in the other cities maybe they have had an effect. I can't help feeling that for all the promotion, on TV or elsewhere, with Rafa Nadal or not, that right now the thing which would have most impact would be significant price incentives. General advertising of the Balearics-have-all-these-wonderful-things-to-do nature is a longer-term style of brand promotion. What is needed is some blatant short-termism. Price, price and more price.

More on the U-turn over the Puerto Pollensa pedestrianisation. You will now be able to do a U-turn if you wish to and be able, once again, to go in both directions. The other U-turn, that by the town hall, was not "linked", says the transport consortium, to its report (according to "The Diario"). The consortium, which is a kind of quango I suppose, goes on to say that it was willing to "study and negotiate" in respect of the siting of bus stops, which was cited as the reason for the abandonment of the pedestrianisation project. Whatever. I'm not sure that anyone much cares whether it was linked or it wasn't. The town hall is for turning, and many will be pleased that it is.

Yesterday's title - MGMT ( No question today. Doesn't seem appropriate.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Find Some Models For Wives

"Find some models for wives." Today's title and therefore quiz question. It's a line from a brilliant song, about pretending, but not everyone pretends. In the other-worldly high-life of Mallorca, there are models for wives, and perhaps even some models for husbands. And that high-life is at its highest around water - that on top of which a luxury yacht bobs - if such tonnage could ever be said to bob - or that which laps gently at the side of the villa pool while an attendant serves the fruit cocktail, having first peeled the grapes. The boat world and the luxury real-estate market.

I'm only guessing but I reckon she was a model for wife. I met this German chap. He had become Bronze-Aged, a mobile hardwood, a mahogany, from which could be cut, moulded, hewn and crafted the finest furniture. There is a breed of German that is unrecognisable as Caucasian, as that term is generally applied and which I suppose is slightly ironic. It is difficult to state for certain what category this particular Germanic tribe falls into, other than that of solar man or woman. So much sun has transformed its members that they, were they plugged into the grid, could generate enough energy to keep northern Mallorca in lights and air-conditioning for a whole season. They are their own solar panels. He, this particular chap, both owned a yacht and ran an estate agency. Two models for wives maybe. The one with him was gorgeous - and a good trio of decades younger. She was blonde, which does not, by itself, preclude transformation into a species from a tropical forest, but she had seemingly eschewed the further profession of sunbed resident.

Germans, in my experience, spend half their lives on their backs smelling of Piña Colada sun lotion and the other half in medical facilities. It was once put to me that they are a nation of hypochondriacs. Much of that has to do with having a wonderful and very available health system, and also paying for it and making damn sure you get a return from it. It's just as well that there is such a good system, given that many of them are walking, talking skin disease. However, they may end up looking like the Ents from "Lord of the Rings", but it doesn't stop them having models for wives.

And the first burst of reasonably warm weather has tempted the early tourists to discard their clothing with a gusto and take to the streets in a display of flesh, huge amounts of it. Notwithstanding the occasional German who could be mistaken for a large and perambulating Cadbury's Flake, most of those stumbling, squint-eyed into the first heat and sun they would have encountered for several months, are Milky Ways - or, in certain cases, the entire chocolate factory. Not, however, that Cadbury or Nestlé have yet to develop the full-fat milky bar with edible tattoos. Or maybe they have.

Now what was it that Clarkson said? "Big, fat ... knuckle-dragging, tattooed, pastry-faced ...". They won't be finding models for wives.

Yesterday's title - Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition; oh, and it was Cardinal Fang who fetched the comfy chair ( Today's title - so, which American band is this?


Monday, April 06, 2009

Nobody Expects The Catalan Imposition

Certain issues are still rumbling on - Clarkson and Catalan. Not the two of them together - God forbid - but the ongoing coverage of Jeremy's distaste for expats and the "Catalan imposition" in the English media suggests that they are either subjects of burning interest or those which have caught the interest of a vocal but small minority within the expat community. Clarkson is a matter of passing note, but the Catalan thing is most certainly not - "nobody expects the Catalan imposition; Biggles, the comfy chair". *

To what extent, though, should the Catalan thing be an issue for the Brits? It's not our language, so how can it be our debate? Insofar as officialdom works in that language alone, sometimes in contravention to the law which demands that both Catalan and Castilian are used, and insofar as the priority given to Catalan affects education, then it is an issue for many. But I don't know that I am alone in thinking that it isn't really my debate, or that of any other Brit, except in the sense of it being a genuinely interesting social-political-historical phenomenon.

It is too easy to seek to nuance this debate in ways that will chime with the British, as in, for example, comparing the Catalan situation with Welsh or Cornish. Such a comparison is wrong-headed. Catalan was and still is a genuine European language. It contributed significantly to European development until it was effectively granted second-language status through the Castile-Aragon union and the elevation to supremacy of Castilian as the language of nation, commerce and empire. And so it has been ever since, subject also to fascistic diktat that saw it proscribed. But it survived as a significant language. Because it did not acquire international status, unlike Castilian, is no reason to suggest its unimportance. Swedish is not an international language either, but no-one is proposing the Swedes give it up, and there are roughly the same number of Swedish speakers as there are Catalan speakers.

With the exception of Belgium, an arguably artificial construct in any event (if any country can be considered not to be artificial), nowhere else in western Europe is there a linguistic argument that compares as a political and social issue. For this reason, it is fascinating to observe and, for the most part, that it is what one has to do. The "Catalan imposition" may seem idiotic and politically motivated (I prefer to call it impractical, though I did say idiotic the other day), but unless one is a Catalan native speaker, I suspect one cannot understand fully the significance of the discussion. One is not of course suggesting that it is on anything like the same scale, but there remains the irony that Catalan, forcibly banned by Franco, should now be the tool for an imposition in reverse.

And that open road ...
It seemed just like the old days, not that those days are actually that old; only some six months old. For no other reason than it was there, I drove along the coast road as far as the Club Náutica roundabout in Puerto Pollensa, went round it and came back. Yep, the pedestrianisation experiment is truly over. But as I was coming back towards Alcúdia, it struck me that it would have been a damn good idea to have kept it in place. One forgets, quite quickly, the extent to which cyclists, people wandering in the middle of the road, vehicles parked up onto the kerbs can make the stretch in the port itself a nightmare to drive along. Bring it back!

Yesterday's title - Gary Barlow ( Today's title - and this is a play on? * Before you mail me, it wasn't Biggles who was instructed to fetch the comfy chair.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Open Road

Hey ho, what do you know? All that air, most of it hot, all those column inches, all those protests, all those threats of legal action for this and that, and ... the pedestrianisation of the Puerto Pollensa frontline has been called off. Damn. That's put an end to all the fun.

It was probably always the case that it was going to require some impulse that allowed for some face-saving, and that is what has been forthcoming - in the form of objections from public transport interests. These were rarely given much of an airing - hot or not - when the issue first raised the hackles back in the autumn. Surprising perhaps that they seemed not to have been given much consideration or indeed column inches, but it is they that have seemingly led to the change of heart at the town hall which introduced what was always only a trial, it must be remembered, but which caused such an unnecessary fuss owing to a lack of consultation. They (the town hall that is) say they will now look at the whole issue as part of a wider plan for the port, but for now, it's over, and traffic can move in both directions. The key to the abandonment is the fact that the relocation of bus stops would be highly inconvenient. I guess we can also forget the idea that the bus "station", such as it is, the one by the entrance to the Club Náutica, will now not be moving either.

There was also the not insignificant factor of the local police, the head of which had recommended that the road be opened not just in one direction, which had occurred, but in both, a radical proposal for a road with two lanes, I'm sure you'll agree. So, joy all around one supposes and this brings an "end to a botched job" on behalf of the town hall government, or so says the Alternative, i.e. the one-man United Left, who has been a constant critic of the scheme. (Quote in translation from the report in "The Diario".)

Boats and cuttlefish
There had been any number of fingers being crossed this past week. The dire weather, and there were deluges on Friday, had threatened to wash out the spring fair in Puerto Alcúdia - the boat and cuttlefish do. There is a God after all. Well, actually, there isn't, but let's not go into that just at the moment.

The sepia sampling tent was well-thronged, as you might imagine. Anything involving food brings the locals in by the charabanc-load, and today will require convoys to haul in those after some nosebag. It's good to see that people's priorities lie with their stomachs as, away from the scoff, the boat show was a little on the slow side. It was not, though, just a man and his dog, but a man, two women and two dogs - as you can see. But the Saturday is never that busy; today will be packed.

No Frills - new offices
Just a note to say that No Frills Excursions' new offices are now open. In addition to the old one in Avda. Playa in the port, there are two more direct No Frills' outlets in Puerto Alcúdia - one along The Mile, the other opposite the Astoria Playa hotel. There's some credit-crunch busting also - see the WHAT'S ON BLOG - - for details of this and the early April programme, football included.

And yesterday's quote was from, of course, Jezza Clarkson - HIGNFY

Yesterday's title - The Turtles (

Today's title - from the solo phase, which just went to prove that it is often better to stay in a group.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

So Happy Together - Again

There was a nice photo in "The Diario" yesterday. It showed a happy Alcúdia mayor, Miquel Ferrer, shaking hands with an equally happy Miquel Nadal, the Balearics' Minister for Tourism. Friends - for now. They are both members of the Unió Mallorquina after all, and they were rivals for the leadership of their party. Perhaps they still might be. But Nadal won that leadership race, and Ferrer became a number two, if, that is, you can have "a" number two, as opposed to "the" number two. Who is number six? Whatever. Still, they are in the same party, and so one hopes that they are in accord when it comes to the all-important issue of tourism. The photo suggests they are.

A while ago, there was an agreement between the two regarding the promotion of the Nordic walking routes in Alcúdia. Now, they have come together to agree and approve a rehabilitation plan for the beach in Puerto Alcúdia, a plan costing 720 thousand euros, four-fifths of which will be stumped up by Inestur, or the government in other words or acronyms, not that the government is an acronym, but you get my drift, or maybe you don't.

This might sound like a lot, but it is important to know that this area - and we are talking mainly that part of the beach from the marina as far as the top of The Mile and to the canal - is thirty years old or more in terms of development. An upgrade is probably due, and so the latest round of regeneration, coming on the back of the WiFi network that was introduced last year (to an admittedly underwhelming response), will focus on new street lighting, benches, showers and children's play areas.

In the same report, the mayor is said to be concerned about this coming tourism season, but believes that there has been a recent awakening in demand. But he does also say that demand is being stimulated through all-inclusive offers. And this may be just the problem. You win one way, but lose in another. All-inclusive is a no-brainer for many a family, and right now it is almost essential. Not many much care for it, least of all bars, restaurants and shops (i.e. pretty much everyone except the hotels), but we are just going to have to accept the situation. Still, call it the "Barack bounce" or maybe the "mayor of Alcúdia bounce" but, as I write, the pound is up to 1.1 euros. The recovery starts here. It's official.

Meantime, it is pre-tourism season time, and the weekend's boat and cuttlefish fairs are, as in the previous three years, a boon to Puerto Alcúdia. Well they would be, assuming the appalling weather cuts out the deluges and the cold. I can reveal - and for the occasional enquirer to this blog who has asked if I "appear" anywhere else, this may be of particular interest - that I am doing stuff with "The Bulletin". The spotlight due to appear today is me, assuming it hasn't been lost somewhere in the system. Not quite the blog style, but there again it's not the blog. As I put this entry together, I don't know if I will be down as "staff reporter", as I have been already this week, but be assured 'tis moi. Not sure how that all works really, given that I am not "staff", but far be it for me to quibble. Never been known to do that here on the blog, so I'm not about to start now. Anyway, buy "The Bulletin", everyone. Support your local blogger and the esteemed organ that is "Majorca Daily Bulletin"!

I felt you might wish to know or be reminded of what a certain journalist had to say about those he encountered on a trip overseas. I don't know the context, i.e. the place or indeed the people, but who do you imagine it was that described them as - "big, fat, idiotic, useless, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, tattooed, pastry-faced, pock-marked, dim-witted, work-shy, gum-chewing riff-raff"? And if you're good, I'll tell you the episode of "Have I Got News For You" that this comes from.

Yesterday's title - Katie Melua. Today's title - this has been a title before, in the days before I youtubed all this stuff, so if you don't know, you will need to go back a year and find out when this was last a title.