Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saint Peter Won't Call My Name

From the crystal skull hanging in the night sky over the dark bay to the trinkets and toffees of the street market, the procession of radio and the giants moving ominously and massively and slowly into the port and the demons spitting fire, racing along the sand and threatening with their temptations, and the dance of old times, costumes of an age gone by out of sync with the stage and amplification and the orchestras and modern musical hero and the sound of drums, the energetic games on the beach, a ball in volleyed motion, castles upon pillars of sand, the old fishermen gathering in tribute and taking their suppers or their lunches maybe for a last time, the solemn massing, Roman cavalry choirs singing, and the bearing aloft of an image that has patronised and watched over the catches of those old men of the sea with their nets and needles and craft of handiwork and buoyancy, and the buoyant flotilla criss-crossing the bay as the darkness descends before being engulfed in bursts and cascades of hundreds of colours and noises and then to a gradual silence as the climax fades to the last embers of fiesta and the passing away for one more year to wait for San Pedro to be repeated and for the call to be issued again to many but to some others not. Or is that the other way round?

Three wheels on my ...
I once had a girlfriend who used a three-wheeled bike. It was the first time I could recall having seen one since I was small. There is something quirky and rather appealing about a tricycle; there should be more of them. There is one in Puerto Pollensa, well a representation of one; it sits on one of the roundabouts of Roundabout New Town that is the bypass, the roundabout for L'Ullal that you exit for the Pollensa Park. It is utterly charming, a piece of old-maid Mary Poppinstry; it is also sinister in its being totally unexpected, its apparent lack of context and, or am I imagining this memory, its echo of the mystery and paranoia of "The Prisoner". It, or rather what is beneath it, boasts a visual gag. The photo is above. The gag is the blue cycle lane, the same as that which runs by the side of the bypass road. It is a sculpture that, in its exactness, its lack of the abstract is striking in its peculiarity and genteel visual surprise. Together with its earth-based airborne companion two roundabouts away, the Canadair by Eroski, the deckchair of Las Gaviotas and the Dijous Bo basket of Inca, the trike forms a collection of the finest of these outdoor art exhibits. Superb.

Yesterday's title - Peter, Paul and Mary, for example. Today's title - and other clues in the first part about the San Pedro fiesta.


Index for June 2009

All-inclusives - 17 June 2009, 18 June 2009, 19 June 2009, 26 June 2009
Associations - 22 June 2009, 28 June 2009
Bars and bar staff, Puerto Alcúdia - 14 June 2009, 17 June 2009, 18 June 2009, 20 June 2009, 22 June 2009
Bars, music curfew - 10 June 2009, 16 June 2009
British newspapers in Mallorca - 7 June 2009, 8 June 2009, 9 June 2009, 26 June 2009
British population in Mallorca - 7 June 2009
Café Playero Club, Puerto Alcúdia - 16 June 2009
Cala San Vicente - 11 June 2009
Castilian v. Catalan - 1 June 2009, 3 June 2009
Chinese restaurants, Puerto Pollensa - 18 June 2009
Dakota Tex-Mex - 5 June 2009
Demolition of beach bars - 15 June 2009, 16 June 2009
Ensaimada - 25 June 2009
Entertainment - 2 June 2009
ESRA - 28 June 2009
European elections - 1 June 2009
Europeos por Europa - 22 June 2009
Fiestas - 12 June 2009, 13 June 2009, 30 June 2009
Fires at Bellevue - 4 June 2009, 20 June 2009, 24 June 2009
History, Puerto Alcúdia - 20 June 2009
Holiday club sctratch cards - 1 June 2009
Internet, newspapers via the - 9 June 2009
Michael Jackson's death - 27 June 2009
Muro centre upgraded - 10 June 2009
Noise contamination law - 16 June 2009
Playa de Muro market - 24 June 2009
Pollensa, restaurant/bar terraces - 4 June 2009
Potato event, Sa Pobla - 5 June 2009
Proportional representation - 3 June 2009
Puerto Pollensa tourism questionnaire - 29 June 2009
Restaurants and the economic crisis - 25 June 2009
Sa Pobla train breakdown - 25 June 2009
Sant Pere (San Pedro) fiesta, Puerto Alcúdia - 13 June 2009, 30 June 2009
Shop sales slump - 6 June 2009
Son Bauló frontline - 15 June 2009
Talk Of The North - 14 June 2009
Toni Nadal criticises Paris public - 4 June 2009
Tourism crisis - 28 June 2009
Tourism promotion - 4 June 2009, 12 June 2009
Tourism seasonality - 19 June 2009
Tourist information office, Puerto Alcúdia - 19 June 2009
Traditional resorts, are there any? - 23 June 2009
Tricycle roundabout sculpture, Puerto Pollensa - 30 June 2009
Trobada de Músics per la Llengua 2009 - 24 June 2009
Waste collection, Puerto Pollensa - 13 June 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lemon Tree

My first, for want of a better description, "business mentor" liked to describe things as a lemon. He was one of the mid-European Jews who fled the Nazis and ultimately created a thriving business in England - and no, he wasn't Robert Maxwell. He would say to me: "all you end up viz, Endy, is a lemon." He used it primarily in connection with market research and especially surveys and questionnaires, and the fact that their results added up to little or to mixed messages from which you could divine little - hence the lemon. A later sort-of mentor, one time the youngest professor of marketing in the UK, would have disagreed. Indeed he once sent me a stiff memo taking me to task for an editorial about the function of market surveys. He did, though, know a thing or two about market research and questionnaires; in fact, he wrote the book, or one of them at any rate.

Lemons and function of surveys came to mind as I looked at the questionnaire for tourists from Pollensa town hall. I suspect that one function, if not the function, is that of market research as PR; being seen to be attempting to engage with the tourist by, God forbid, asking for his or her opinion. Fair enough, but what do they do with the results, if anything. A clue may lie with the word "may". At the top of the questionnaire it says that "this may help us to improve our service". Not will, but may. The questionnaire, or a variant thereof, has been doing the rounds for a few years now. Have results ever been published or acted upon? Maybe they have, in which case it would be nice to know where and how. You know that highly publicised but highly useless tourism website for Pollensa - www.pollensa.com - that might be a good place. Don't hold your breath.

Setting aside the misspelling of accommodation (one "m") and the presence of the dubious "professionality", the questionnaire is not wholly weak. It uses the "grade from 1 to 10" style to ask about things that can, I guess, be graded, e.g. "quality of beaches", though which ones is another matter. But some of it ... . The visitor is, for example, asked to grade "food shopping facilities", "non-food shopping facilities" and then "staff professionality", presumably of these food and non-food shopping facilities. Why? And what is going to happen if that "professionality" is deemed to be low? Is someone going to issue a stern reprimand to the check-out girls at Eroski or a sales assistant in a souvenir shop? And how exactly is one supposed to respond to the request to grade the "price/quality ratio of installations in your accomodation" (sic)? What does it mean anyway?

What do they do with answers yes or no to "have you noticed any changes since your last stay". It would be hugely surprising if there hadn't been any changes; it's pointless. Or ... "did you know that the island has its own language and culture?" "Which one?" It may not be unreasonable to ask about the language, but culture? Cultures exist everywhere; it's a daft question. I could go on.

If the town hall was serious about finding out about tourists' views, they would regularly book rooms in hotels, invite tourists along with the incentive of buckets of free sangria and spend an hour doing some sort of focus group. But in truth, they don't need to. If they bothered to go to the internet sites, they would find much of what they need to know. And then still not do anything with the information.

Lemons? It's the whole tree.

Postcards from Mallorca
And so the article yet again did not appear in "The Bulletin" - the one about Alcúdia bar owners and all-inclusives. I give up, though I reiterate that I personally am not bothered if it is chosen to appear or not. But to add salt to the wound of the apparent indifference and the publicity given to Calvia bar owners, yesterday's paper had a page devoted - once more - to John bloody Bercow and one to something called the Deyá (aka Deià) postcard. How many British residents are registered in Deià? 74. How many in Alcúdia? 874.

Yesterday's title - Echo & The Bunnymen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLX_6WwXFUI. Today's title - well, go on take your pick as to this one.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nothing Lasts Forever

So, that article did not appear in "The Bulletin" - Michael Jackson got in the way it would seem - but it left some sufficiently hacked off because there was another piece about the Calvia bar association. Always Calvia, never Alcúdia - not my view, but what I hear. It is now meant to appear today. Ho hum.

This Calvia association. The desire is to get bar owners to become members and then act in some form of pressure capacity. I get a sinking feeling about it. The mover behind it is one of those who was involved in the ill-fated (Calvia-originated) British and Irish Business and Residents Association. It collapsed through lack of funding that was not forthcoming from the Mallorca Council; at least that's my understanding. There was probably also an element of here's an association, here's some publicity and here is then massive indifference. Which is not to say that these things spring up without good intentions; but it is to say that people, for a variety of reasons, do not wish to get involved. Those reasons include the fact that they do not wish to be identified, that they don't have the time and that they are just not interested. The only association that has ever truly established itself is ESRA (English Speaking Residents' Association). It exists primarily for one reason - English speaking. There is no real agenda, which probably explains why it's successful. People feel comfortable with an essentially benign group of fellow expats which courts neither controversy nor publicity. Plenty others feel uncomfortable if they are not straw-hatters, prefer not to wear black ties and attend dinner and dance functions or prefer not to play bowls; hence they do not join. ESRA goes about its admirable charity efforts and good works, its committees and gardening contests with all the gentility of an English shire country fête. Why, when I think of ESRA, can I never get out of my head the image of Matt Lucas and David Walliams as Judy and Maggie judging the marmalade?

It's all a bit last days of the Raj, and to hear some of what is currently being said one might well form the impression that ESRA - and every other association as well as agency of government - is bearing witness to the last rites of things as they are known in Mallorca. I was given a right old ear-bashing by a (Mallorcan) restaurant owner in Playa de Muro the other day. "What do I do?" he kept asking. "What's the solution?" he demanded of me. As if I know. Why not get all the owners together and put on some sort of protest, suggested I. It won't happen. But there is some sense in associations, that do represent interests, coming together to voice their legitimate concerns as to the direction in which the tourism economy (the summer one) is heading - or more accurately, has gone. Recession is temporary, but the underlying decline has been there for some years, a combination of competition, reduced spend, over-supply and all-inclusives. The depressing fact is that complacency has prevented more or less everyone - government, local authorities and yes bar and restaurant owners - from recognising or at least admitting the trend. It has taken the "crisis" to finally wake everyone up. But having had some choice words for Muro town hall, this particular owner said, "so we protest and then the tourists all end up going to Turkey". It's an exaggeration, but it contains some truth in that there is a general impotence in the face of tour operator power and tourist choice.

Though there can be sympathy for bar and restaurant owners, it is also in limited supply for some, especially, I'm sorry to have to say, the Mallorcan families who have enjoyed the benefits of and reaped the rewards from tourism. The hardships tend more to be confined to newcomers, often foreign. Many of these families, some of them doing the moaning now, are sitting on significant wealth, or at least the potential to release wealth. Mallorca grew fat and made many Mallorcans wealthy thanks to various factors that dropped into the laps of these Mallorcans: first, perhaps the only sensible policy that the Franco regime had (to develop mass tourism); second, the tourist benevolence of tour operators, airlines and the tourists themselves; third, the benevolence of Europe in creating a modern economy for Spain and the island. Nothing lasts. That is the real point and the real problem. The tourist is spread far more thinly, he has more options. He, the tourist, and the tour operator can give and have given; they can also take away.

Sympathy there is, but there needs to also be a serious dose of realism. One detects a sense by which some of these owners believe that tourists continue to owe them; that they most certainly do not.

Today's title - Liverpool band formed, remarkably it seems, more than 30 years ago.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Living Off The Wall

The reporting of Michael Jackson's death was a remarkable example of how the internet has totally changed the rules of such reporting. I learned of it through the "feeds", one of them from the site that actually broke the news - the celebrity website tmz.com. By itself this was remarkable. It was not an established news service that made the announcement but a celebrity site. Despite the fact that the likes of the BBC and the "LA Times" had yet to confirm the death, the TMZ statement was good enough; it is a reliable source. I twittered the news and put the note on the blog before those other confirmations came through. Very small contributions but indicative of how established news and media have been partially undermined by the web; there would have been thousands perhaps millions who had done the same. Internet rumour there can often be, but this was internet fact.

The subsequent coverage that I listened into - on Five Live - was extraordinary in different ways. Though it was getting late, it was a story that was unfolding in real time. It reminded me, albeit that it was very different, to television reporting of Scud attacks on Israel during the first Gulf War. Somehow you just couldn't go to bed. Why was Jackson's death so gripping? Personally, it was and is not something that affects me particularly. Yet, it is probably reasonable to place it alongside the shocks of other famous deaths - Elvis, Lennon, Diana. Lennon's murder did affect me, partly because it was an unnatural death, but also because I grew up with him and his music; he was also British. Diana was even more of a shock, but it took a girlfriend to explain the depth of that shock - she had grown up with Diana. (I'd add that John Peel's death was more personal than most, but he wasn't in the same celebrity league.)

Jackson's death was gripping because, yes, he was a staggeringly good artist, but he was also staggeringly peculiar. His story was destined to be terminated by an early death. How else could it have ended - from the image of the young Michael of "ABC" to his emergence as a solo performer and the dancing in the record store in Leicester Square where I worked and where we used to play "Off The Wall", to the almost single-handed creation of MTV, the acceptance of black artists and the sheer brilliance of "Billie Jean", to the morphing into an androgynous, non-specific species and then to the tragedy of the molestation charges and a career seemingly in ruins.

I asked some people yesterday, why are there no Michael Jackson tributes playing the hotels and entertainment bars of Alcúdia? His oeuvre is so extensive, so well-known that he would fit the bill as a recognisable tribute. But the Elvises, the Abbas and all the rest are easy. Jackson would not be. How could any tribute transform himself from young black boy to something from a wax museum freak show without being hugely tasteless? How could anyone dance quite like that? There will doubtless now be those who attempt it, and it will almost certainly be wrong - and BAD. There is a "Thriller" opening in London soon, but the sheer difficulty of being a tribute act for Michael Jackson probably says much about him as an artist and as a person. There was no-one quite like him.

(There is in fact a Jackson 5 doing the rounds; you can catch them down The Mile now and then; maybe they're now the Jackson 4. And last night Jacksonmania had taken hold, well slight exaggeration, around The Mile; Las Vegas was Jackson, Jackson, Jackson, but next door Vamps had declared a Michael Jackson-free zone.)

Victoria's Animal Refuge Charity Day
Today there is a worthy cause to support, the Victoria's Animal Refuge in Alcúdia. The annual charity day that takes place on the Little Britain supermarket terrace between 10.30 and 2.30 aims to raise money for items such as splash pools to keep the dogs cool in the summer heat. If you had not seen it earlier, there is more information to be found on the WHAT'S ON BLOG - http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com.

Yesterday's title - David Bowie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGo9KkZea_s.


Friday, June 26, 2009

John, I'm Only Debating

Are you bothered that John Bercow is the new Speaker of the House of Commons? If you live in the UK and/or are a student of politics, then probably you are. But if you live somewhere else, let's say Mallorca for example, unless you are that student of politics, are you really that bothered? To the extent, that is, that the subject has been written up by the local press, i.e. "The Bulletin", and has been the subject of letters to the same paper.

The story itself is worth reporting, of course it is; the readership is British after all. But the column inches it has generated serves once more to highlight the degree to which stories that do not materially affect people who live in Mallorca dominate to the exclusion of local news and comment. It's interesting, sure, but not that interesting.

In the current "Euro Weekly" there is the regular piece by that old scoundrel Leapy Lee. This current article is worthy of attention; it is a strong condemnation of all-inclusives and of the change to the law on bar noise. Ok, there is some potential vested interest - he is a bar owner in Calvia where there the law has been implemented - but this does not negate the sentiments of what he has to say. There is something interesting at the end of this piece. He says: "I'm sorry to have been a little ‘Mallorca indulgent’ this week." He has written about something that does materially affect a lot of people on the island - in a way that John Bercow does not - and yet sees the need to apologise. For those used to rants against "Herr Braun" and expect a weekly diatribe of a somewhat dubious right-wing nature about how bad things are under Labour, then perhaps his devoted readership needs an apology. It shouldn't be.

Coincidentally, I was told that that thing I did about bar owners and all-inclusives in Alcúdia will now be appearing this Saturday in "The Bulletin". Well, that's what I'm told anyway. But if it is a part of contributing to a wider debate and awareness-raising as to the impact of all-inclusives, then one can but hope that there will indeed be a wider and more fruitful debate and also campaign conducted in the paper's pages. It is a subject that all the media in Mallorca needs to be devoting serious attention to. It is the "principal problem" with the island's tourism model, as I said the other day. But the debate needs to go further than the normal volleys across the net of how-bad, how-good all-inclusives are. We've heard it all before. There should be a call for some genuine research, perhaps conducted by the tourism department of the university in Palma, as to the impact of all-inclusives. Whether it would be commissioned is another matter; the conclusions might not be what certain bodies want to hear. But this is the direction that the debate needs to go in; not just a constant reiteration of anecdotal moans and praise.

John Bercow by all means, but let there be less of him and more of the real issues facing the island. Personally, I reckon Bercow is a good choice, but I don't really care one way or the other. Now, if Ann Widdecombe had got the gig ... What a hoot that would have been.

Michael Jackson
What can you say? Remarkable that tmz.com broke the story.

Yesterday's title - The Beastie Boys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sbqIyeed4g. Today's title - one word changed of course; who?


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Fires seem to be the theme of the moment. If it's not the Bellevue hotel, it must be the Sa Pobla train. There was, you may recall, an incident last month (16 May: Wheel's On Fire). There was another three days ago. A breakdown of the train between Muro and Sa Pobla stations led to a small fire, albeit one that caused no great alarm. This might have passed off without any great comment, were it not for the fact that the regional government's minister for transport "insinuated" that there had been an act of "sabotage" (as reported in "The Diario", 23 June). Yesterday the paper reported that the minister had posted a note on his website which said that the train breakdowns "cannot be attributed to acts of sabotage". The operator, SFM, has said that the incidents are down to "deficient maintenance" and that train workers are not "delinquents". Whatever. There is apparently a threat of a strike on 1 July which the minister had originally, it seemed, linked to the alleged sabotage, which we now know it wasn't.

The ensaimada doesn't taste so sweet
One of the less obvious victims of recession is the Mallorcan ensaimada, that lump of lard and sugar that passes as a local delicacy. Production and sales are down, the latter by a quarter in a year. The decline can partly be attributed to competition from other produce, such as cheese and oil, which is bought as a "souvenir" in airports and elsewhere (and it is common to see passengers at Palma airport traipsing around with boxes of ensaimadas). Perhaps there is a further reason, and that is that people have finally come to the conclusion that, amidst all the excellence and healthiness of the beneficial local diet, there is really no place for something that has no benefit. I refrain from saying that these people do not find the ensaimada excellent (well I suppose I have actually said it), as there is enough fuss made about it to conclude that some do consider it be so. Why they do is a mystery.

Restaurants resigned to their fate
Wandering around the restaurants of Puerto Pollensa and Puerto Alcúdia, there seems to be a sense of resignation about this season's problems. In Puerto Pollensa one hears a regular refrain: things are bad or very bad, but there is an apparent acceptance that everyone is in the same boat, which makes things rather less difficult to bear. In Puerto Alcúdia, one frontline restaurant had but only one table occupied the other evening. This does rather echo a view elsewhere that, though the same restaurant is doing ok at lunchtimes, the tendency seems to be for tourists to go out for only one meal a day as opposed to two or even three. There is a hope that the San Pedro fiesta will boost flagging revenues. Away from the bars and restaurants, there is one sector that does seem to be doing reasonably well, and that is car-rentals. Despite the problems in this sector, those of a lack of credit to buy in new and large fleets, resulting in a reduced number of cars available for hire, the effect has been generally positive where local companies are concerned as they are picking up customers whose demand cannot be satisfied by the larger operators. Not that this prevented one local car-rental company owner complaining that "there is no money". No, of course there isn't. Discretion prevents me from naming his car of choice.

Yesterday's title - The Prodigy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmin5WkOuPw. And congratulations to Lynne who, in getting the right answer, wins a copy of the special limited edition book "Great Barmen of Alcúdia". Today's title - two Mikes, an MC and an Ad, and they still are (some acts never grow up).


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A second fire at Bellevue. Following the incident earlier this month in the Minerva 1 block, there was another, this time in Minerva 2. The fire originated in a lift shaft. Word is that the first fire also originated in a lift and not the laundry-room. Seems a bit of a coincidence. Whatever the situation regarding the alarms, one cannot help but be a little sympathetic. Bellevue gets it in the neck for all sorts of reasons, but if it has a problem with some deliberate fire-starting then that's not its fault. Of course, they may not have been deliberate. But the circumstances seem too similar for the conclusion not to be drawn.

It should be stressed that, notwithstanding some distressing reports left on internet sites following the first fire, there have not been serious casualties as a result of either fire. But what if there had been? Or worse. God knows what impact that would have had on Alcúdia, to say nothing of the effects on the hotel and its directors. The tour operators might have been unnerved as well.

Without going into the circumstances of the incidents, and saying again that there should be sympathy for the hotel, what they do is once again to highlight the significance of Bellevue. The hotel is vast. Its vastness is what leads to so much comment on the internet - good and bad. It is also, for a not insignificant number of tourists, synonymous with Alcúdia. Rightly or wrongly (and it is wrong), that is the reality, and you can read it for yourselves if you are minded to trawl through all those sites - which I have. It is for this reason that the hotel needs to be far more aware of its PR and of its obligations to the town. Does anyone there take any notice of those sites? And if so, what do they do about it?

Catalan music festival
There is to be another Catalan festival. This one will take place on Saturday in Pollensa. It is the tenth "Trobada de Músics per la Llengua" (meeting of musicians for the language). The event takes its name from an organisation devoted to the promotion and recognition of music in the Catalan language and artists - DJs, bands etc. - who perform in the language. Unlike the "Acampallengua" event in Sa Pobla, about which it was possible to express some disquiet as to the political overtones of a Catalan festival aimed largely at a youth audience, there should be no such concern with this. Quite the contrary, except among those who are determined to oppose manifestations of Catalan promotion. This is about music in a certain language in the same way that Scottish, Irish and Welsh artists perform in their own languages. Does anyone seriously suggest that they shouldn't? Probably.

(More information on the "Trobada de Músics per la Llengua" is on the WHAT'S ON BLOG - http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com.)

Playa de Muro's market
The market in Playa de Muro is now taking place on Mondays in the late afternoons and evenings. Hats off for some common sense. When the market was shifted from a Saturday, it was in the hope of generating more traffic, given that Saturday is a big transfer day. It was always going to be a forlorn hope. By definition, Playa de Muro exists because of its beach, and that is where most tourists go, rather than to a market that, in any event, lacks a certain something because of its unauthentic nature, in other words it is not staged in an old town or a market square such as Puerto Pollensa's. Despite its lack of atmosphere, the move to the evenings is positive. It will be more likely to get tourists out of their all-inclusive bunkers and hopefully generate more business not just for the market traders but also for the shops and restaurants. Yep, good.

(For a previous piece on Playa de Muro's market, see 21 August 2008: Things That Make You Go Hmm ...)

Yesterday's title - Tanita Tikaram: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGe0JD3GilM. Today's title - and who were these madmen?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Good Tradition

What do you understand "traditional" to mean? Traditional as it is applied to resorts in Mallorca. There is a thread on the Holiday Truths Majorca forum about this. It's interesting for various reasons, one of which even has to do with the original enquirer's wish to find somewhere "traditional".

But to come to the question. Traditional. Define and discuss. Here is what the Concise Oxford has to say: "traditional: of, based on, or obtained by tradition". Clear as mud, but it is only a dictionary. One has to read into that and create one's own version. Traditional is somewhere that retains a Mallorcan tradition. Er, yes. And that is? Perhaps it is easiest to run through a thesaurus for words that might qualify as being associated with "traditional": quaint, quiet, sleepy, non-commercialised, old. Or perhaps one can reach for the vagueness of "Spanish" or the more exact but still opaque "typical Mallorcan". None of this gets one very far. It could be more fruitful to try a process of imagery, one composed of cottages, of yellow or terracotta walls, of blue shutters and whitewashing, of bougainvillaea and hibiscus, of unhurried and ramshackle bars and restaurants, of a sucking pig slowly being roasted, of old men in the market square talking for hours, of a coffee that takes hours to drink, of religious icons and imposing churches, of summer nights with an accompaniment of the rhythm of the cicada and of pipe music and the dance of the ball de bot.

All of this imagery exists and to varying degrees the resorts maintain it, even if it is often lost amidst the palaces of tourism, the contemporary greyness of residential apartment blocks and the noise of the moto and the karaoke. Maybe to attempt to define "traditional" is an impossible task. Ultimately, it falls to individual perceptions, and so you get some of the suggestions contained in that thread, though how Can Picafort can creep into the list does take some leap of imagination. But maybe not. There is another side to traditional, which resides in the tradition of holiday. To that end, Can Pic, The Mile and other places are traditional; just in a completely different sense of the word.

Locally, there are pockets of tradition. Barcares and Morer Vermell could well satisfy the thesaurus demand for sleepy and quaint; Cala San Vicente might if one could hold only certain images, such as that of Bar Mallorca, the steps and restaurants leading down past Hotel Niu to the cove and the view across Molins bay. But the first two named hardly qualify as resorts, and the Cala, in addition to the hotel and new apartment stock of its frontline, has an interior of tree-lined streets of residences that might be found in a well-heeled part of the Home Counties.

Puerto Alcúdia is not just The Mile, despite what some might think, but the port area has little that could be said to be "traditional". Puerto Pollensa, on the other hand, is a leading contender. It has, if one is being strictly objective, only a minority of elements that might satisfy the definition. But despite the Dakota-isation and Taylor Woodrow-ism, stop for a moment and consider the church square, the Illa d'Or, the cottages of the pinewalk. Here there is some of that tradition. And then there is something intangible, something that makes the defining of "traditional" an exercise of the abstract. There is a feel. It is this, more than anything, that would make Puerto Pollensa the leading contender. But can any resort be said to be traditional? There are only degrees of less overt and less blatant statements of the excesses of mass tourism. "Traditional" is really the preserve of the old towns and of the hinterland.

Yesterday's title - Saint Etienne, but you can't hear the song only see the video, so I won't bother with the youtube. Today's title - who was this female singer who burned fairly brightly for a while at the end of the '80s?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Join Our Club

Are you clubbable? By which I mean are you someone who likes to be part of a club or an association? You would be in your element in Mallorca if you were. You would almost certainly be in the press as well.

Two new associations have sprung up over the past few days. The first is something called "Europeos por Europa", an apparently non-politically-aligned group dedicated to getting non-Spanish "Europeans" together to act as some form of lobby group. There are already two similar organisations. When this latest one met, there were, according to "The Bulletin", people from all over the island. Maybe so; maybe they were mates of the protagonists. This was hardly a mass movement.

What is the point of this? Well, the ultimate point of it may be that there is more of a political element than is being said; I'm told that a political party may well be the goal in the not-too-distant future. Who cares? Only those who harbour political ambition or spend their lives hopping in and out of bed with different associations. The associationist (sic) is driven by a variety of motives - political, altruistic, self-interest, genuine concern/interest, nothing better to do, self-importance, whatever. The associationist cannot be characterised by one thing alone, save for the impulse to be an associationist. There are an awful lot of people who are not. Like Groucho Marx, they do not want to belong to clubs that would accept them as members. In fact, they don't even think this. They are just not interested.

Is there a need for such a group, political or apolitical? One issue that does apparently exercise the minds of "Europeans" is the matter of residency cards. These are now no longer issued. Instead, a certificate is obtained, meaning that the passport is required as identity. It is an inconvenience, but it is hardly the important matter that it has been made out to be. Indeed anything that kicks at the identity-card culture should be welcomed.

The impetus for the change in residency documentation was not Spanish; it came from Europe, which makes this latest group seem a tad ironic. The thinking, albeit ridiculous, was that as the British do not have identity cards (yet), then they should not be discriminated against by having to have one in Spain. From this came the idea that, if not the British, then no Europeans, other than the Spanish. It makes no sense, but then there is much that makes no sense in Spain. It was a matter, though, of such importance that local politicians, when canvassing for support during the recent European elections, confessed to being unaware of it, but that they would of course be doing something about it were they to be elected.

But the Europeos por Europa association has duly been given its place in the publicity sun by the press, though it may yet sink, like so many, into the obscurity of indifference. Which brings me to the second association - one for bar owners in Calvia. It too has enjoyed the glare of press publicity. If it proves one thing, it is that the formation of an association is more likely to guarantee that glare. On Friday "The Bulletin" front-paged with a story about the problems of Calvia's bar owners - and then followed this the next day with another one. There was, I was told, to be another story, one about bar owners in Alcúdia. You might remember this being mentioned a few days ago. I wrote that story. It has not appeared.

Editorial content is entirely discretionary. Perhaps the story was not good enough. Perhaps it was too much of a familiar theme (all-inclusives). Perhaps it just wasn't what was wanted. Yet it was "probably" going to be included on Saturday. It wasn't. A bar worker (not one who had been involved with the story) said to me that he had been expecting the article, as he had seen the mention on this blog. He then added that it was typical. Calvia, Palma, yes; Alcúdia, no. Much as I have sought to defend the paper against an accusation of southern bias, I do have to wonder. Just to go back to that meeting of all those people for Europeos por Europa from across the island. Where was the article about this meeting featured? In the Calvia spotlight section. That's where. If it genuinely was something for the island, it would have stood alone. It did not. That bar worker may have a point.

Let me say that I do not feel slighted if the article does not appear. But it would be nice to know why it hasn't. Perhaps the answer lies in forming an association of bar owners in Alcúdia. Then maybe the paper would take some notice. Or maybe not.

Today's title - more old favourites of this blog; French name.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Five Go Mad In Alcúdia

"Now look, one of you girls is going to have to be a boy. There are four boys in our Famous Five. And I vote that it's George."

"I agree with Julian. After all, you've always wanted to be a boy, George," said Dick.

"But if I'm a boy then what about Timmy? He's not a boy, he's a dog," said George.

"Well of course Timmy's a boy, and he is so licky, aren't you, Timmy," said Anne.

"Right. that's settled. I vote we all have a cold swim and then go to a secret bar, that we must not under any circumstances identify, for a slap-up meal with lashings of Magners, er, I mean ginger beer," suggested Julian.

"Yes, to reveal the identity of any bar would mean the destruction of our British empire and civilisation and an invasion of foreign ideologies," added Dick.

"You'll make a wonderful far-right politician one day, Dick. And first-rate idea, Julian. You boys are so clever." "Hoorah!" shouted Anne.

"And afterwards we can go back to Casa Kirrin and plan our next adventure. Finding our dear kidnapped Uncle Quentin, sorry, Johnny," added Julian.

"Yes, it's all very queer. Why would an ageing scientist be kidnapped in Alcúdia of all places?" asked Dick. "Anne, why are you looking as though you know something? You will make a splendid housewife one day, but come on, spill the beans, old stick."

"It's because ..." Anne started to sob.

"Oh don't be such a girl, Anne," said George.

"It's because Uncle Johnny revealed the secrets of the best bars of Alcúdia."

"He did WHAT!" exclaimed Julian. "Are you suggesting that Uncle Johnny frequents bars and drinks alcohol, unlike us, the Famous Five, who only deign to go to such establishments to satisfy our incredible gluttony, but who are also, secretly, the five best bar people in Alcúdia."

"Poor Uncle Johnny," said George. "But who could have kidnapped him?"

"I'll bet that it was a foreigner," suggested Julian. "I've seen rather a lot of them lately."

"I agree with Julian. A foreigner said something to me the other day. 'Hijo de tu puta madre' I think it was. It was all very queer and very foreign," Dick remarked.

"What could it have meant? But he was obviously foreign. We must call the police," recommended Julian.

"Yes, and they can round up all the foreigners and torture them using wild goats and some salt," added George. "And then we will have our dear, dear Uncle Johnny back, and he can write all those spiffing stories about what old ladies say at airports. Not any of this nasty stuff about bars, and drinking and horrid things like that."

"What a wizard idea," said Dick. "Lick the truth out of them." "Anne, are those aniseed balls you've got in your lap? Share them around, old thing. But why is Timmy being more licky than ever?"

"Yuck! That's so yucky, Anne. I'm glad I'm a boy, after all," said George.

(To be continued, or hopefully not. With due acknowledgement to Enid Blyton but more obviously The Comic Strip. "Five Go Mad In Dorset": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_TiqoEw4sQ.)

Yesterday's title - Cher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OR0U87mRsY.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Turn Back Time

One of the nice things about this blog is that "blogotees" make contact and want to meet up. And so it was that I met Captain and Mrs. Haddock, Alan and Sheila, fishily named as it was they who told me about bringing the frozen haddock with them. I missed a trick, I should have had the camera in order to photo some of the old photos they showed me. Perhaps I'll ask if they can scan one or two and send them.

There is a tremendous interest in the history of resorts, and yet these histories are ill-served. There is also a tremendous amount of archival material - photos, postcards, whatever - as well as anecdotes that, were they to be brought together, would create something of genuine value as a record of the past. The photos of the port of Alcúdia from the early '80s show the emergence of what one knows today. From the Condes, then standing in some isolation, the view was unobstructed. There were no Carabelas, for instance. What is Alcúdiamar was there, but just as a sort of harbour pier and wall, with no buildings or road on it. The old Miramar hotel was also still there. It can be seen from the fishermen's pier, as it can be seen from the same location in those very old black-and-white postcards of photos dating from the early part of the last century. A road sign declaring Artà 33 kilometres speaks of the road that ran along the front before the Paseo Marítimo and was truncated at what is now the Dakota to one side and El Yate to the other in order to form the paseo. The old Casablanca disco; the building that looked like a small Moorish temple but was itself a club; Tony's bar by the Condes that remains to this day; Bar Bamboo from way back then.

The history. I really must do it.

The other side of the story
Amidst all the talk of the impact of all-inclusives and this season's economic difficulties, how does one quite square all that with what was said to me by a bar owner in the port? Food and drink sales up, more than just reasonably; the place so full that people are stopping, seeing it is "rammed" and moving on. To what could this be attributed? I'm disinclined to say what the answer was or to say which bar. The Famous Five fall-out favours discretion in all things bar identification and even quoting what is said. Of course, there can be a tendency to say things are better than they really are, but I happen to believe that this is not the case with this unnamed example.

The port, the Magic halfway house and The Mile are different, but the port still has its all-inclusives, it is as affected by pound weakness and recession. Is it the case that, away from the port, the effects are more profound? One might be tempted to say that the port is different in one respect, in that it is somewhere that people go to, but The Mile is not the sole preserve of those staying there; it attracts people from further afield as well. Or perhaps it is as simple as there being certain bars and restaurants which perform better than others, whatever the circumstances.

The Bellevue fire
I hadn't anticipated that there would be anything to add to what seemed a minor incident (4 June: Paris Is Calling). However ... A comment came in from someone who was staying in Minerva 1. It makes alarming reading. He says that the smoke was so thick that he and his family (with two youngsters of two and five) were barely able to breathe. "An absolute nightmare" are his words.

I had been inclined to not repeat all that was said in this comment, and I have not. But then I looked at the various sites - Trip Advisor, Travel Republic. There you have the confirmation. The alarms did not sound. Go google these sites and the comments for yourselves. They make pretty awful reading. They also go to show that the internet cannot be underestimated. Different people have gone to different sites to express what happened. I can understand that maybe the alarms get let off as a prank, but this could have been far, far worse than it was. Had it been, the news would have been far, far worse, and far, far worse in terms of bad publicity. The hotel really needs to offer an explanation. It could have had to offer something far, far more ...

Yesterday's title - Dave Edmunds, "I Hear You Knocking": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqIQE4du6co. Today's title - if she could do so - who?


Friday, June 19, 2009

But You Can't Come In

So, the Balearic Government, business (for which you can read mainly the hoteliers) and the unions have reached an agreement to do something about illegal holiday lets and what is described as the "principal problem" with the island's tourism model, seasonality. Good for them. Shame that they are missing the point.

There is no denying that the moribund nature of the winter season is a big problem. However, what sustains not only the island's tourism model but also the island's whole economic model is summer tourism. If that's wrong, then you can forget the rest. And, if not completely wrong, that summer tourism is far from completely right. How can it be completely right when that summer tourism model is predicated to the extent that it is on the all-inclusive?

There have been reports that high season "numbers" are going to turn out to be better than thought. So long as the season turns out to have brought reasonably good numbers of tourists, then the various bodies will be able to sit back with relief and share a congratulatory cava, and feel that the summer season is in pretty good shape; therefore, not the principal problem, even if those numbers are made up with a whopping chunk of all-inclusive places. Ostrich time.

The government has made it quite clear that it sees Mallorca's tourism as being based on quality hotel stock. Nothing wrong with that. But the size of the holiday let business is far from insignificant; in Pollensa, for instance, it comprises at least a half of tourist spaces. Not everyone wants to stay in a hotel, whatever the time of the year. A good tourism model offers a mix of accommodation to suit tastes. Which sector would most wish to see a reduction in the holiday let business? The hotel sector. It has a legitimate gripe when it points to the standards and regulations it has to adhere to and to the level of investment it makes; things not necessarily adhered to by the holiday lets. It is also legitimate to tackle undeclared rental income. However, it is the same hotel sector that is responsible, together with tour operators, for the growth of the all-inclusive and therefore the problems that face the summer tourism model and the island's economic model. The holiday lets are far from irrelevant; they should be encouraged and not discouraged. They should be embraced as a part of getting the bread and butter of summer tourism right. It is quite depressing that the worthy bodies can define a "principal problem" that serves only to disguise the true one.

No tourists admitted
Well, it rumbles on. The Famous Five. An apology and explanation has appeared in "Talk Of The North". And on it will go. It would probably have been better had nothing been said. Whatever. There was something else in the latest issue, and this concerns the tourist office on the paseo in Puerto Alcúdia. Why is it not possible for tourists to go into the kiosk? It's a question that has been asked many times before and is a not unreasonable one.

There is a reason. And that is that when it was open to anyone to come in, it got overcrowded to the extent of people walking into the area behind what would be the browsing desk (and is when it rains, as the office is open then); that area behind the desk is the staff area. Closing the kiosk's rear door comes down to a control issue. That is the reason. It may sound a bit thin, but there you go. By having tourists dealt only through the hatch, lengthy queues can and do form. Tourists are unable to browse, which many like to do. Not being able to does not necessarily help the businesses who want their publicity material picked up. There may be a solution. Go take a look at Puerto Pollensa's tourist office. The kiosk is smaller, but there are display units outside. Want to browse? Well, you can. A point about the Puerto Pollensa kiosk is, though, that the display units can be easily moved inside. This would be less easy to do in Puerto Alcúdia given the step to the rear door. There are also usually at least two staff in Puerto Pollensa, whereas Puerto Alcúdia has one. Maybe they should re-design the paseo kiosk.

Yesterday's title - Tears For Fears, "Woman In Chains": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hDoPCiC3RQ. Today's title - not by him originally, but most obviously this comes from?


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sun And The Moon

I like London's China Town, not that I've been there for some years. But it used to have an atmosphere of Bohemian seediness and the smell of spice mixed with bodily deposits. My kind of place. Not that Puerto Pollensa is anything like that. Perish the thought (save doggy deposits, that is). But you can forget Agatha Christie as the promotional motif. Come to Puerto Pollensa, where the Mediterranean meets the Orient. Puerto Alcúdia and Playa de Muro may, combined, have roughly the equivalent of a World Cup squad of Chinese restaurants but they are diluted over a fair land mass. The Puerto Pollensa Chinese land grab is far more concentrated.

I had been inclined to think that it was some sort of wackiness, a Puerto Pollensa-goes-East Grinstead in L. Ron Hubbard terms, but no, Serenity Coast turns out to be, you guessed it, a Chinky. One of the international variety, whatever that is. Just a chopstick's throw from the other one, the wording above the restaurant is like that you might find on a CD of music to do massage by. Sun and moon, and wind, and promise, and some other stuff. When it opened, there was a bit of a Chinese do, which was fair enough, but I'm damned if I can make head or tail of a Chinese dragon in terms of what it's all meant to convey. Serenity Coast, not a bad name though, if, that is, you're talking an Ibiza chill-out album perhaps.

Still on all-inclusives
Much as I have wanted to avoid the gloom, it is, I'm afraid, unavoidable. Another bar owner had a word. Again, it was not recession but the all-inclusive. When owners say things are bad, you are not inclined to disagree with them. The rough economic climate has exacerbated the underlying market change that the all-inclusive has caused.

I have been known to defend all-inclusives, if only in the pursuit of balance and objectivity. There have been some outlandish examples of blame being placed at the doors of the AI. When it was once suggested that a restaurant away from the centre of the old town of Pollensa was suffering because of AIs, that was stretching the bounds of credulity.

The AI has been an easy target for blame, and the mindset now is to seek to lay ever more blame. There is little point in dissecting the economic and market situation, either that at a macro level of recession or that at a micro level, of which the AI forms a major part in Alcúdia or wherever. No-one is inclined to listen.

Yesterday, I referred to a "breaking point". That was in terms of businesses going down. There is another breaking point - people's attitudes and actions. When there is talk of protests and of mass closures of bars, shops, etc. as a demonstration of what things might look like if there is no intervention (with AIs), one has the growing sense of a breaking point, and it is only the middle of June. Perhaps the high season will mark an improvement, one can but hope so. If not ...

The sadness is that this was all too easy to have predicted. The economic shocks of the past twelve months may have been less easy to have forecast, but an economic downturn was inevitable, at some point. The fact is that there has been a decline over the past three to four years, a decline that the AI is only partly responsible for, and despite a so-called record year in 2007. Nevertheless, it did not require such severe shocks and resultant downturn to have exposed the folly of a local tourism economic model disrupted by such a fundamental market change as the all-inclusive.

When bar owners seek to air their grievances through the press, what alternatives do they have? Some might argue that, well, that's business, chum, and if things aren't working out, then better you go and do something else. That would be callous and heartless. Perhaps there was a fear that to deny the tour operators and hotels and therefore the tourist their places in an all-inclusive sun would have meant the abandonment of Mallorca and its resorts. Maybe so. But one hears and sees, and one wonders if it might not have been some tough love had the AI been strangled at birth, because the monster that is now stalking the resorts seems only to be growing in its strength and drawing the life out of all around it. Breaking point?

Yesterday's title - It Bites: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xslQTkZ0cxI. Today's title - "the wind and the rain"; and this is from?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Calling All The Heroes

Following on from yesterday, the meeting did duly take place. You will note that yesterday's reference has now been anonymised; that's how they wanted it.

As suggested, the thrust of what the bar owners had to say was indeed about the all-inclusive. Why now, you might ask. The current economic problems have put the all-inclusive offer into even sharper relief. I've said it here before that it is hardly surprising that tourists will opt for the security of knowing what they've paid for that comes with an all-inclusive, even if what they get turns out to be rubbish. Recession has not stopped the paying out for AI as a higher upfront cost, but the theory (and the practice) is that the total holiday budget is reduced - and quite substantially so in some instances.

Recession and pound weakness are temporary. They are not seen as the villains of the piece by the Alcúdia bar owners; the AI is, and not just the AI but also those AI "offers" and "inducements". One does wonder quite how many hotels do not have some form of AI now, especially now. Whereas the tour operators may have been the instigators of AI, the hotels have felt the need to go further down that route as a means of securing their businesses - at a cost to others.

There are some positive sounds as to the number of tourists who are going to be coming in high season; positive sounds from the tourist chiefs. But how many of them are going to be on an AI basis? How much spend will they have? The bar owners would like at least a reduction in the number of AIs, but were there to be, or to have been this season, would those numbers due to come be as high? It's hard to say. Mallorca, Alcúdia, have had to compete not only with other holiday destinations, they have had to compete with other holiday destinations offering AI. To effect a reduction or even an elimination of AI would require some sort of cross-national agreement. It's not going to happen, though one does wonder whatever happened to that European directive that was meant to have ensured certain levels of service and quality which would, in all likelihood, have put an end to many hotels offering AI.

There is frustration. It's what caused the call and the desire to get something into "The Bulletin" and to call upon bar owners in other resorts to express their discontent. It seems so little. The frustration stems from the system, the system that seems immune to the impact on businesses, that seems not to appreciate that the AI does little for individual resorts, the system that creates one rule for some, and one rule for others. It's a frustration that makes people not want to reveal their identities, because of that system. But they're calling out to heroes elsewhere to voice their concerns and to kick at that system.

We've been here before, and doubtless we will be here again. But for how much longer? Is a "breaking point" close, or has it been reached? Will many bars really go to the wall at the end of the season? If they do, the authorities will offer their sympathy and blame the global recession. And they would be only partially correct.

An article has been submitted to "The Bulletin". It should appear on Thursday.

Yesterday's title - Grace Jones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM3HO6cLF44. Today's title - a mosquito, a dog, it ... ?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Demolition Man

Following on from yesterday and the chiringuito demolition story ...

I went to the Alcúdia chiringuito concerned. It is the Café Playero Club, aka the Boccaccio Snack Bar, and is next to where the canal comes out into the sea in Puerto Alcúdia. It is, essentially, the terrace of the Boccaccio apartments that are located just by the beach. Staff who I spoke to were fairly blunt in their appraisal of the situation. Why is to be demolished (and it will be at the end of October)? "Costas", came the retort. The Costas and the town hall can't agree, was another view. It's all politics, said another. The town hall's chiringuitos are actually on the beach; this one isn't.

This latter view is indeed true, though the Playero may well be sitting on what was once beach. Whatever the in's and out's, the chiringuito (and we are talking quite a substantial area here) is deemed to be illegal, and so it will have to go. It's a shame, and quite what good its demolition will do is open to serious question. There is another chiringuito some 200 metres along the beach, but the regularity of beach bars is what beach users want, not a walk in the heat. They want something convenient, close to where they might be able to keep an eye on their stuff, that is just a short way away for a refreshing beer or a snack lunch. Moreover, the Playero has made itself into something of a chill-out place. When I once enquired at the tourist office as to the chill-out zone on the beach, I was shown the publicity for the Playero. It was not what I was looking for, but it does seem slightly ironic that the café's business cards were piled up in the town hall-run tourist office.

And talking of that chill-out zone on the beach, unless it's been relocated, it is no longer. It certainly isn't where it was, which was just along from the Playero. Frankly, it was faintly ludicrous, and maybe someone at the town hall came to the same conclusion.

Bar noises
There are rumblings from Alcúdia's bars. To add to the "famous-five" fandango, I had a call yesterday. There is to be a meeting today, the aim of which is to get something into "The Bulletin" (and maybe elsewhere). The thrust of this seems to be our old friend the all-inclusive and the impact on bar trade, but there is almost certainly more to it, and some of that "more" may well include this new definition of what constitutes the "night". As mentioned previously, this has affected bars in Magaluf, which now have to stop music on their terraces at eleven and not midnight.

As so often with local laws, no-one really knows what's going on. Let me try and help. On 30 May, there was a modification to a law of 2007 in respect of "noise contamination", one emanating from the Balearic Government's environment ministry. What this has done is to re-define what is meant by daytime, evening and night. The important one is "evening", as it states - quite clearly - that this is now between "las veinte y las veintitrés horas". God knows why you need to state in law what this means, but the practical aspect is that, in the context of noise contamination, noise has to cease at 11 in the evening. It is this that has led to the problems in Magaluf, and it is this that could cause problems elsewhere. Questions: does this also apply to hotels, where is it going to be applied, are they going to shut Bellevue's Show Garden down at 11, does it apply to your own private party at home on the terrace? The answers are probably yes, everywhere, yes and yes. Whatever they are, the law is an ass. The wider motivation behind the new laws was to add dynamism to the economy. How on earth does this do that?

Yesterday's title - Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm4iU0yx9GY. (And congratulations to first-timer Cameron on getting that.) Today's title - originally by? (I think I'm right in this.)


Monday, June 15, 2009

Knocked Down, Then Get Up Again

Three decades of "demands" it may have taken, but the upgrading of the frontline walk towards Son Real from Son Bauló has finally been inaugurated - to the tune of some 500,000 euros. The minister for the environment, Miquel Grimalt, came, saw and cut the ribbon. All that remains is the rather more problematic issue of upgrading not just the walkway but the whole of the frontline in Can Picafort. Symbolic a gesture as the ribbon-cutting was, it was symbolic in another respect - that it was the environment minister who performed the act. Here was an example of something essentially tourist in its nature being enacted by the environment ministry; the two - tourism and environment (ministries, that is) rarely seem to speak from the same script let alone metaphorically join hands in holding the same scissors.

It is the environment ministry that has helped to cause the Magaluf kerfuffle in respect of an earlier bar-terrace curfew, something that does not endear the ministry to bar owners and also, one suspects, to quite a number of tourists. The environmental diktats are too often at variance with what keeps Mallorca afloat - its tourism and the majority perception of what holiday should entail, which includes sitting on terraces with music until at least midnight.

There was further symbolism in Grimalt's ceremony. The walkway lies in the general area of what is ruled by the feared "Costas". In an act of hitherto rarely witnessed common sense, the Costas, and by extension the environment ministry and therefore minister, have come to the conclusion that now is not the most opportune moment to be going around insisting on the demolition of chiringuitos (beach bars). Though the regional government's president seems to still support the enforcement of the law of the coasts (which includes the demolition of buildings apparently illegally constructed on what is deemed public beach area), the environment minister (from a different party, it should be noted) has agreed that now is not the time. Indeed, of the 107 chiringuitos that were under some sort of threat, only three now seem to have the bulldozers waiting to move in, one of them in Alcúdia. It is likely to go after the season finishes. Not all of the chiringuitos are even permanent; they get taken down at the end of the season and are put up again for the next one.

There have been some big guns coming to the defence of the chiringuitos, namely the head of the hotel federation and the president of the Fomento del Turismo (a promotional body). The hotels' boss has said that conflicts should not be created where they do not exist, and the law has tended to do just that. There is also an appreciation, now being advanced, that the chiringuitos hold an iconic place in the perception of tourists; iconic and extremely useful. But one knows what they mean by "iconic". The beach bar is as much a part of holiday as the beach itself. Far from limiting the activities of these bars, they should let them stay open into the wee smalls, put on beach barbecues, play music.

All this law is stripping out the romance of holiday. Thankfully, a bit of romance still resides in the unromantic hearts of stone at the environment ministry.

Today's title - and where does this come from?


Sunday, June 14, 2009

And The Nominations Are ...

Oh dear, oh dear. One does have to be so careful.

The bar owners and bar staff of Alcúdia form a close community; they are a community within a community. Competition there may be, but mostly everyone knows each other, and many are good friends. This sub-community is alive with what has reached, absurdly you might think, the status of a cause célèbre (actually it hasn't, but do excuse a touch of hyperbole). It all stems from what, at first reading, seemed a pretty innocent piece in "Talk Of The North". If you're not up to speed with this, and many of you will be of course, the piece was in response to a question as to whether there were any good bar staff and waiters in the British bars and restaurants of Alcúdia. Yes, came the answer, and five bars and five bar owners/staff were named. It was at this point that levels of umbrage began to be taken.

There has been, in my opinion, some selective reading of this piece. What it actually says is "here's 5 of the best" (and then names them). What it does not say is "here are the five best". The implication is that the best amount to more than five. Six, seven, twenty, fifty, however many. The piece concluded by asking "who would you nominate?". On the face of it, therefore, here was a positive expression of examples of good service (but not exclusively these five) together with a request for the readership to name their own good servants. All good participative stuff, you might think.

However, selective reading notwithstanding, the interpretation placed on this by some is that other bar staff/owners/whoever are not good, or as good. To compound this apparent affront, the piece is headlined and footed with the words "watch and learn", which mean, one supposes, that the others should draw lessons from the (by-now) famous five. That is certainly an interpretation doing the rounds, one made, for example, and in a measured and perfectly reasonable way, by John Santana on the Barfly blog (and John, as many will attest, has a deservedly good reputation).

This may not have reached the levels it has were it not for another factor, and that is that the author of this piece is "John Nelson". I put the name in inverted commas, unsure as I am if this is actually a nom de plume. Whatever the case, herein lies perhaps the greatest problem. People do not know who John Nelson is. I am told that only a handful of people do. This anonymity has led to the creation of a Facebook entry asking "who the hell is John Nelson?".

"Talk Of The North" acts as a sort-of community newsletter. The word "community" is important, and the community is not that big. Its very smallness and tight-knit nature give rise to the rapid dissemination of rumour, of information (both correct and incorrect), and of pleasure or annoyance. And the internet has made this dissemination that much more rapid and the information more available; indeed without it, one could argue that the "famous five" case would not have developed a certain momentum.

A counter view, and one expressed to me, is that perhaps there are not that many who have taken umbrage at the piece; it is recourse to the internet that generates more heat than might have been the case and conveys the impression of something more important than it actually is.

Whatever the real situation, and setting aside what may be construed as some good publicity for certain bars over others - especially in the current climate - the crux of all this does perhaps boil down to two things. One. As nature abhors a vacuum, so communities abhor not knowing - in this case, the vacuum of anonymity, i.e. who the author is. The author may be of the wider community, but he appears to be apart from it as well. Two. The mere fact of naming people and bars makes the whole thing personal. Though it was not intended to be personal in a different sense, that of implying criticism of others, this is how it has been perceived. And within the small community of Alcúdia's British bars and bar staff, to be seen to be taking sides with certain bars and staff, even if this was not intended, is almost bound to have repercussions. One should not lose sight of the fact, however, that this was one person's opinion, and it is an opinion he is entitled to offer. Perhaps it could have been couched differently and, if so, therein lies the fault of the piece, nothing more. Let it not be denied, furthermore, that reaction has been provoked. Negative some of it, but not necessarily a totally bad thing.

One does have to be careful. Praise for some is criticism for others. There again, let's not get carried away. Had this been about the five worst, then there really would have been grounds for a stink. Who would you nominate?

Yesterday's title - Billy Ocean, "Get Outta My Dreams": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d0rDz3PKX0.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Get Into My Car

Here's something to test your skill and dexterity. How do you get an inflated lilo into a Renault Clio? Renault Espace, not a problem, but a Clio, given that there are two immovable objects, i.e. some stroppy looking teens, firmly welded to the back seats. To do so involves a certain style similar to that of those rubbery antics of "It's A Knockout", Stuart Hall wetting himself and Eddie Waring overseeing the "mini-marathon". All that was needed was for someone to have come along and applied bathloads of soapy substances to the road, the lilo and the Clio. My, what fun for all the family, except the two teens who were clearly in we are being made to feel very embarrassed by our parents mode.

This was all taking place and providing some entertainment outside a bar in Puerto Alcúdia (let's call it Foxes, shall we). Would the lilo bend? Could it be possible to smother the teenagers with it? Would it get into the boot without exploding? The answer is, I suppose, buy a foot pump. Lateral thinking, chaps, lateral thinking. Eventually, however, the Clio moved off with its pink blobby somehow contorted into the general boot and backseat area, like some inflated rear air-bag. Well done, whoever it was.

Cardboard city
To matters more serious - after a fashion. There was this short news item in "Ultima Hora" about the non-collection of carton packaging in Puerto Pollensa. The offending cardboard had apparently built up on the corner of the Formentor road and Ecònom Torres, the one with O'Hara's in it. The news item reported that "a neighbour" had complained not only about the cartons but also about the apparent inaction of the town hall in coming to collect it. Now, just stop a moment here. A neighbour had complained. The neighbour was not named, it was but one neighbour, it would seem. Does this really qualify as news? Seemingly it does. However, rather more pertinent is what was this packaging doing just lying around. In Alcúdia, the recycling gestapo is now exercising its zeal in ensuring that no bar etc, acts as some form of anti-environmental miscreant and that these establishments make damn sure that every bit of whatever can be recycled is indeed recycled - via the proper containers. (There was a piece on this a while ago.) So, what's with Pollensa? Are they not similarly inclined?

The Peter principle
Further to yesterday's thing about fiestas, the programme has been announced for Puerto Alcúdia's Sant Pere, some say San Pedro or Saint Peter, gig. And remarkably similar it is to last year's and the year before. No déjà vu there, then; the Peter principle of fiesta repetition. The big end-of fiesta thrash, with its grand fireworks display, is to also feature a concert in the Paseo by one Tomeu Penya, a Mallorcan artist who can regularly be called upon to serenade the revellers at such events. In previous years, there have been such unremarkable acts as some bird who came seventh in a Spanish "X-Factor" type thing. So, Tomeu represents a few advances up the steps of the musical food chain, in that he is a big name - here, at any rate. One has to be aware that, first and foremost, this is a fiesta for the locals, so Tomeu will doubtless have some salivating in anticipation, but is there not a chance that perhaps some international act might get the plum billing? Not a bloody tribute act, but a proper one. If Palma could have ELO, as it did last year for Sant Sebastià, or if Pollensa can get Tony Hadley, then why not some similar act for Puerto Alcúdia? Hmm, ELO, Tony Hadley; on second thoughts, let's stick with Tomeu.

Yesterday's title - The Players Association: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhy2eLp_Ap8. Today's title - get out of something and then into the car. Who?


Friday, June 12, 2009

Turn The Music Up (Party Down)

The summer fiesta season is upon us. Locally, Muro is the first to get in on the giants-parading, DJs-a-playing, fire-running act. Sant Joan. Saint John. They really know how to push the thing. There is a rather beat-up car crawling around with an on-roof sandwich board announcing the bullfight during the fiesta. El Cordobés - the younger. Sant Pere (Saint Peter) will be the next, with the 29th the big day of image-carrying, boats-a-floating and fireworks-a-blazing in the port of Alcúdia. And always the DJs and the tribute acts. There is another AC/DC taking the stage in Muro. Not The Bon Scott Band that played in the Alcúdia bullring some while ago, but Tribut AC/DC.

Much though there is a sense of déjà vu about the fiestas, their role in continuity and community cannot be underestimated. And from now until September, the local area plays host to fiestas and special events. After Puerto Alcúdia, there are the fiestas of Puerto Pollensa, Alcúdia, Pollensa (Patrona), Sa Pobla Jazz, Can Picafort and Santa Margalida (the Beata). There are that many that they merge into one, and you can add in other events, such as La Victoria, the Cala San Vicente fiesta and Love festival. From mid-June to mid-September, it is one long party, and even after then there is the wine festival in Binissalem, just in case you haven't had enough to drink over the previous three months.

I once suggested that Mallorca should be promoted as a 365-day-a-year, 24-hour party place. This could just about the case, given the number of winter fiestas, autumn fairs, spring this and that which occur. But "promoted"? Is any of this really promoted?

Just take a look again at that list of places above. They are all nearby, they are all different, they all have their own characteristics. Though there is a lot of similarity in the content of the fiestas, there is a huge amount for the tourist to enjoy: the fireworks, the fire runs, the demons, the giants, the music, the traditions. But fiesta Mallorca is not given its own special promotional place in the sun. When the tourism authorities talk of alternative tourism, and of culture and history, it never seems to occur to them that this culture and history is going on all summer, alongside contemporary activities. It's actually a heck of a good package. To be fair, when Mallorca took itself to Manchester recently there were fire runs, but the spectacular of fiesta is largely overlooked. The fiestas are adjuncts to tour operators' websites; promotion by the town halls is often lacking, especially in different languages.

I say again, look at that list of places above. Imagine that the local authorities actually combined to announce a summer of fiesta and party, of music and entertainment, of fireworks and even rubber ducks (in the case of Can Picafort). Northern Mallorca, where the party never stops. But would they combine? Of course not. God forbid that they might also do something like run special buses for tourists. How actually are people in Playa de Muro meant to get to the Sant Joan extravaganzas, let alone to the bullfight? Always assuming that they know that Sant Joan is going on. They're missing a trick - all the local authorities. And the trick is staring them in the face, and pumping out a bass line at three in the morning and exploding in a cascade of whites, greens, blues and reds.

And in case Muro town hall has not done so in English, for anyone interested in what is happening during Sant Joan, there is an abbreviated list of events on the WHAT'S ON BLOG - http://www.wotzupnorth.blogspot.com

Peach Pit
Apparently, the Peach Pit in Puerto Alcúdia has stopped doing food; or so I am told. Don't know why, though I suppose one can guess. Is this an indication of how things are?

Yesterday's title - Camera Obscura, "You Told A Lie": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UR62KrUa5Ng. Today's title - a soul act from the late '70s.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

It Doesn't Add Up

"It's paradise." "Well, there's nowhere quite like it." "Is there?"

He was a gentleman in his seventies, a copy of "The Telegraph" in his hands. He was sitting in a straight-backed, pink-patterned chair in the reception. I looked around, and nodded. It had never really occurred to me that there was nowhere quite like it - the hotel, that is. "Like your own home. Your own villa." Not my home or my villa, but maybe his. I bade him good day and drove down to the front. Unusually, it was easy to park in front of Niu. Unusually, it was easy to park anywhere in the Cala.

There is a disconnect between the garden-ornamentalism and old-world elegance of La Moraleja, and the on-top-of-each-other contrast between the homely manners of Niu and the kid-splashing, kid-noisy Don Pedro just over the fence. If Niu has had a reception makeover to a one-time feel of antiquity, the Moraleja has a continuing colonial splendour.

Nothing seems to quite add up in the Cala. The new ubiquity of greys and neutrals that appears to have been taken as a template from some bible of contemporary architectural conformity has spawned the aluminium and non-colour of the Windsurf; steel chatters and clatters as they wash down the tables and the austere pipework of the chairs. And so also the silver, white and monotones of the Riusech edifice. Glance out at the Cala Barques - or is it Clara? - and there is the familiar turquoise and fade to green; then look back at this black and white image, this greyscale building, and wonder at the enormity of the absence of blues or yellows that might complement the visual environment.

At Marinas, an ageing couple are on the terrace with solitary beers; someone is at the bar. It's "muy flojo" and Tomas is nowhere to be seen. Then glance across at the empty pool area of the abandoned Simar. Maybe it was just imagination, but the pool seemed to have been given over to algae. Back on the street, a body-builder struts by with flippers and a wetsuit and calls out in Polish to someone by the doors to the Don Pedro.

The doors to the eponymous Cala San Vicente are closed, as though they don't anticipate anyone. They are wooden barriers that fail to invite, but it's probably just to keep in the air-conditioning. A sexagenarian lady is wearing a white jump-suit and matching, sharp-cornered, white-framed glasses. She has the eager expression of one used to racing rally cars; she bears an attitude of female rakishness, a Dick or Davina Dastardly hugging the wheel tightly. Perhaps she has been male-monikered. "Dicky, old stick", you could imagine. But she is a lady. As with the Telegraph reader of the Moraleja - ex-City I'd be bound - here are ladies and gentlemen. Not a "luv" or a "mate" to be heard. Here is a certain civility among the decline and fall; a Nero-esque blindness to the invisible flames of the encroaching Vandalism. The piano music is perhaps too loud; it is trying too hard to scale its descant of cocking-a-snook refinement. The Moraleja wouldn't have that. Just silence save for the birdsong and the breeze rustling the bracts of the bougainvillaea and the sheets of an English broadsheet.

The Poli pizza place is still neglected, but Cafe Art has stumbled back into some resemblance of life across from the incongruous Irishness. And then tumble down to the lower level and the Oriola, the repository of ancientness, shows an equal incongruity; a young man and woman with a laptop on the terrace. There is a conspicuous absence of the usual; the musty smell inside is not there.

And you then wonder what happened to that law which revoked the previous law about the extension to building works. The controversial development by the Molins cove is being worked on still; only another four days now, you guess. But they were meant to have stopped, weren't they? The indeterminacy of politics. So it is also with a banner by the car park. Bedraggled, tossed by the winds, who is it for? PP? PSOE? Doesn't really matter, days past the elections. In front of the Molins hotel, unusually, it would have been easy to park. There is no-one in reception, not even a tubercular straw-hatter arriving for what would probably be his last visit. The Mayol is now looking a ruin, and you stop and stare out at that view to the horse promontory, then to the half-built apartments and up to the Pinos hostel with its old-time sign of a Western movie. Back and forth - the gentility of the Moraleja, the decibels of the Don Pedro, the dereliction of the Mayol, the whites and greys of expensive real estate. Cala San Vicente - nothing quite adds up.

Yesterday's title - Dire Straits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACGUasFWVsI. Today's title - from something by a real blog favourite; Scottish, indie, think photography and dark.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Money For Nothing?

Anyone going to the old town of Muro these past few months will have been aware that they have been busy digging the centre up and re-doing it. Finally, it has all come to an end. And the result is a general beautification of this ancient pueblo. Not that they did all they had intended, which may come as a relief to all those who had to contend with the inconvenience of the work that they did do. Money. Ran out, basically. Nevertheless, the improvements have cost close on 2 million euros, the town hall coughing up a third and the government (the tourism ministry to be specific) the rest. So it was, therefore, that the government, in the form of tourism minister Nadal, pitched up to celebrate the conclusion of the project.

Muro. Now here is a town that lies some ten kilometres from its playa, as in Playa de Muro. It is to the latter that tourists flock in summer; it is to the latter that elements in the town hall would rather they also flocked at all times of the year in order to play golf on the as-yet undeveloped course; it is the former - the town of Muro - that, were you a tourist minded to go and visit the old town that gives the playa its name, does not have a direct bus service from this same playa; it is the former that the tourism bods singularly fail to make any great play of, save some brochures at the Playa de Muro tourism office; it is to the former that no-one probably would be inclined to go, save to admire its vast church or to trek around a museum.

When, therefore, Sr. Nadal says that this upgrading of the old town centre is all a facet of the de-seasonalisation of tourism and of the tourism offer by the interior towns (in this case Muro), what tourism is he actually referring to? Are there great hordes of tourists flooding into the town? No, I don't think so either. Even when there is something going on in Muro, as there will be with the fiesta later this month, will there be a big tourism promotion? I somewhat doubt it.

The point is that it is the playa of Muro that generates the town's tourism, not the town. There is absolutely nothing wrong of course in upgrading the centre, but what about upgrading the playa? Those awful eyesores that are the empty units along the main road could, should, be given some serious attention. Some money might well have been diverted towards creating something that Playa de Muro badly lacks - a focal point. But no, the old town has got nigh on two millions worth of folding notes, and for what?

Turn the music off
There has been a bit of an old rumpus cracking off in Magaluf. This relates to the application of a new law emanating from the environment ministry which states that nights start not at 24:00 but at 23:00. What this means is that bars have to stop music on their terraces at 11 o'clock at night. Moreover, the bars have had to reduce the decibel levels by a further ten points. Bar owners have protested. And how? By closing, which does seem a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face, but they have a legitimate gripe. Bear in mind, this is a law from the government, it isn't just a local thing, though the decibel levels have been cut following a "denuncia". Magaluf is not the only place affected.

The bar owners, and this means bar owners everywhere, have been getting it in the neck for years. Twelve o'clock curfew, now an hour earlier; sound limiters and now lower decibel levels. You can add in the colossally petty way in which the size of terraces are policed and numerous other things. And now of course there is the sheer difficulty caused by recession. Yes, noise is an issue. But these are holiday resorts. This latest attack on bar owners is ridiculous.

Today's title - the question mark is not of course in the original title.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Stop The Press - 3

In the course of doing this blog and other things through the internet, one thing that has surprised me is the degree not just of interest but also emotional attachment to Mallorca, be it the island or its individual towns and resorts, such as Puerto Alcúdia or Puerto Pollensa. The internet makes what was just the once-a-year, distant holiday destination, an all-year, close-at-hand companion. For the resident, the internet is no longer a mystery but a fact of everyday life that has become non-generational in terms of use; it is a standard news, information and entertainment medium.

If one takes the example of this blog alone, the diffusion has staggered me. While there is substantial interest locally, there are also regular readers from the UK, Germany, the US, Ireland, Australia, Scandinavia. One could go on.

The debate surrounding the provision of news and newspapers over the internet has been brought into sharper relief by the general decline in advertising revenue caused by recession. Temporary though this is, the activities of Google have also made newspaper publishers stop and wonder as to the wisdom of a business model which has allowed free access in the hope of generating advertising revenues to compensate. Certain newspapers, and the "Financial Times" is a prime example, have probably got it right by establishing a mix of "free-to-air" and "pay-per-view" or subscription.

The local media seems torn. While "The Diario" and its suite of publications are freely available, the Grup Serra company, which publishes "The Bulletin", offers only a partial reproduction and limited archiving. One can understand this. If one considers the circulation figures from yesterday's piece, the intuitive view would be that these could be substantially reduced through full and free publication on the internet. Chances are there would, very quickly, be no newspaper.

Wherever one stands on this debate, when one considers the smallness of the local markets, especially the British, but then takes account of the vastly greater international readership (or potential readership) via the internet, how sustainable is the print copy of any local paper? Print is expensive; it is also inflexible and demanding of lead times. It is anachronistic.

But. There remains the aesthetic attachment to the print copy. Much as the internet offers convenience, for many the physical paper is more convenient, more mobile and simply more pleasing. There is also a mentality issue when it comes to advertisers. An advert in a paper is some form of physical proof. The internet is somehow out of sight, and mobile-phone delivery even more so. The sophistication of the advertiser and indeed the market needs to be considered; and the local market, especially that comprising some Mallorcans, is still not that sophisticated.

Nevertheless, the advance of technologies does draw into question the viability of the print medium; for short-run and small-circulation publications if not for high-volume dailies such as "The Sun". The creation of an alternative business model is not easy, but the greatest obstacle to doing so lies, I believe, in the thought process of publishers. To now, newspapers via the internet have, by and large, been reproductions, and the worst horrors are those that actually have the paper, page by page, for one to flick through. The thinking is wrong. The publisher has to start with a mindset that he is no longer producing a newspaper; he has to completely re-conceptualise what his or her business actually is.

And the small-circulation publications are probably in a better position to do this than the major newspapers. Why do I say this? You know, and this may be frustrating, but I'm not going to tell you. And the reason is that I may want to do it myself. Sorry about that. But as this series has been called "Stop The Press", that is about the size of it. Stop the print presses.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Stop The Press - 2

Following on from yesterday ...

The size of the British market determines, to a large extent, the nature of the local media. Criticism that is sometimes levelled at it needs to be tempered by an understanding of this size, the resources that can be justified in serving the market and the advertising revenues that can feasibly be obtained.

Of the three "newspapers" that appear in the north, only one, the free fortnightly "Talk Of The North", is focussed solely on the region. The other two, the also free "Euro Weekly" and the for-sale "Majorca Daily Bulletin" are island-wide, though where the former is concerned, it's a case of partly island-wide and largely Costas in terms of content. As for distribution, the two free publications seem to be roughly on a par. My understanding is that "Euro Weekly" circulates 8,000 copies on the island (this certainly was the case; it may have changed). If one assumes that a thousand are diverted to the north, the same number as "Talk Of The North", then both meet their objectives. For two thousand British residents, one can also assume an average of two per household. A thousand is adequate.

"The Bulletin" has greater penetration, largely by dint of being daily. The actual sales figures for the northern area I don't know, but one can start to get an idea by looking at the audited figures. On the OJD site, these are given. They might surprise you. For the year 2008, "The Bulletin" had an average net circulation (sales, one takes this to mean) of 3,839 (the figure for average print run is higher). My understanding for this is that the one-eighth principle does not apply, and that the sales in the north are proportionally quite a bit higher. The sales figure does not, however, reflect readership. It is not unrealistic to believe that the readership number is some five times the actual sales. It is also worth noting that we are talking here of an average. In summer, the sales are over 6,000, quite a number of them - contrary to widely held opinion - to tourists; indeed, the paper is sold through some hotels.

While the figures do seem low, are they really that surprising? Put them in the context of the figures for the Spanish dailies produced in Mallorca. Ultima Hora's average circulation was 36,260; the Diario's 22,653. Once again, they may seem low, but there are factors to bear in mind. As with "The Bulletin", there is the readership equation, given that these papers are all easily available in bars, while one has to acknowledge the popularity of the main Spanish papers, such as "El País" (to say nothing of competition from the Catalan press). In the same way, one has to consider the British dailies like "The Sun" when assessing the circulation of "The Bulletin".

However one interprets these sales, the fact is that the markets, British and Spanish/Mallorcan, are not huge by any means. You can begin to work out for yourselves what this all means in bottom-line terms. "The Bulletin" sells for one euro. From that, you can take out 4% for IVA and any costs for production, distribution, staffing etc. That a monthly subscription to the paper would mean a receipt of a third less, you can see that there is not a vast budget to play with, advertising revenues notwithstanding. The point about this is that, when criticisms are levelled, one has to appreciate the true business picture.

One also needs to appreciate the scale of the effort that is involved with any publication: copy generation, advertising selling, chasing up, layout and print preparation and distribution. For "The Bulletin", the latter is handled through the established distribution network to retailers. "Euro Weekly" and "Talk Of The North" are basically boot-of-the-car jobs. The distribution alone is time-consuming and attracts its own costs, not least in terms of fuel.

Is it all worth it, then? The answer is still yes, if only because communities, be they British across the island or in the north alone, have demonstrated a demand for them. But these very communities are also all too ready to criticise. 'Twas ever thus with publishing. More than anything, everyone has a sense of ownership and an opinion where a publication is concerned. It should do this, it should do that; shouldn't do this, shouldn't do that, blah, blah. Any editor or publisher would want to do more or do something differently, but it all comes back to resources, and the size of the market and what it is willing to pay (or not).

This all said, it has been a mystery to me quite how the German publications on the island can all be so much superior - in every respect: size, layout, content and weight of advertising. There are two paid-for weeklies - "Mallorca Zeitung" (the "Diario" camp) and "Mallorca Magazin" ("Ultima Hora" and "The Bulletin") - and a freebie "El Aviso". The German market is bigger than the British, double the size perhaps, but is still not vast. However, a clue can be found if one goes to the website for "Mallorca Magazin". It states the paper's circulation figures. At their height, there is an average circulation (sales one assumes) of 31,850 with 8,500 subscriptions. How can this be? Other clues lie in "Auflagengebiet" (circulation area) and "Verkaufsstellen" (sales points). The former includes not only the Balearics but also Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Holland. The latter contains an extensive list of train stations, airports and bookshops in German towns and cities. Is "The Bulletin" on sale at Paddington Station?

The German market is different in one major respect. The Germans treat Mallorca not so much as a holiday destination but as another part of the Bundesrepublik. The fascination with Mallorca is regularly reflected in television shows and with weather reports. Mallorca is a way of life to many Germans in a way that it is not for the British. Or maybe this is wrong. Because there is much evidence to suggest as close an affinity with Mallorca among the Brits as with the Germans. And that evidence comes from the internet. Which brings me to ...

To follow.

Yesterday's title (and today's) - Prince, "Batdance": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLlQpc8D2Kc