Monday, May 31, 2010

Going Up! Newspapers and the internet

"The Times" is set to end its free online service. It's a gamble, but for readers in places like Mallorca, who might otherwise pay an exorbitant price for the daily paper, two quid a week is extremely good value. Not that this is necessarily the point. Free should be free, say many, and a cover price for the online version will simply cause readers to go elsewhere. We'll see. The new site is actually pretty good.

The "Diario de Mallorca" is not "The Times", nothing like it of course. But there is something interesting about this paper. It has a good website - free - which has enjoyed increased traffic recently. At the same time, the printed version has also increased its circulation. Its main competitor, "Ultima Hora", has experienced a decline in circulation, and its website is not as good but is improving. Of daily papers in Spain with a circulation over 10,000 (not huge admittedly), the "Diario" has registered the second greatest increase in physical circulation among the 39 papers with circulation over this number.

On the face of it, the two increases seem illogical. As the website beefs up its traffic, so, you would think, the circulation of printed version would decrease. So how to explain the apparent contradiction, as evidenced by the "Diario"? Maybe it's all the free publicity I give it, but probably not. Perhaps it has something to do with its local nature. Despite the plans by "The Times" to create its own online "community", it is, like all big papers, rather removed. A paper like the "Diario" isn't. There is a far greater sense of reader "ownership" of the different formats; they are complementary, even if their content is basically the same.

I confess that I am casting around to find a reason. I don't know the answer. But answer there must be, and if the experience of the "Diario" is echoed elsewhere, the doomsday predictions for newspapers and/or their websites would not hold up. What will be interesting is whether the circulation and the site traffic continue to increase. If they do, then someone should try and discover the paper's secret. I should be at the paper's offices today, so maybe I'll ask.

Any comments to please.

Index for May 2010

All-inclusives - 6 May 2010, 12 May 2010
British election - 3 May 2010, 7 May 2010
Children's play garden, Sa Romana - 10 May 2010
Diario de Mallorca - 31 May 2010
Economic crisis gets worse - 25 May 2010
Economic diversification - 27 May 2010
Eroski queues and scales - 17 May 2010
Floods - 4 May 2010, 5 May 2010, 7 May 2010
Fraud operation based in Mallorca - 30 May 2010
Gay hotels - 8 May 2010
General strike - 30 May 2010
Holiday club and scratch cards - 21 May 2010, 30 May 2010
Hornblower Embroidery, Puerto Alcúdia - 15 May 2010
Jolly Roger - 9 May 2010
Match Point bar, Puerto Pollensa - 4 May 2010
Mulligans, Puerto Pollensa - 15 May 2010
Newspapers and the internet - 31 May 2010
Parking in Alcúdia - 12 May 2010
Phoning and personal communication - 11 May 2010
Prices - 13 May 2010
Protest in Puerto Pollensa - 26 May 2010, 29 May 2010
Public spending cuts in Spain - 14 May 2010
Rancho Ses Roques, Puerto Alcúdia - 20 May 2010
Sant Marti cave, Puerto Alcúdia - 20 May 2010
Season 2010 - 1 May 2010, 3 May 2010, 19 May 2010
Smoking ban - 18 May 2010
Telefonica - 28 May 2010
Tourism, opening hours & - 2 May 2010
Tourism problems - 11 May 2010
Tourism publications - 16 May 2010
Trip Advisor and review sites - 22 May 2010
Vandalism - 23 May 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Webs They Weave

Well, that didn't last long.

The latest version of the timeshare/holiday club/call it what you want outfit in Puerto Alcúdia has closed. Or at least the office is closed at the moment. That office is what was the AIC and Casabonaire estate agencies near to the Magic roundabout. It goes under the name of Sun & Sea Resorts. Go try googling that and see where it gets you, just like the previous incarnation - To Holiday - would have produced thousands, millions of possibilities. You have to ask why the choice of name is so vague.

I am only guessing, but something that happened on Thursday may have to do with this apparent closure. Tourism was in town, as in the tourism ministry inspectors. They were checking on registrations and documents. Whatever the outcome may or may not be if one is unlucky to be taken in by the scratch-cardists, the basis of the business is meant to be the sale of holidays. This being the case, as far as I understand it, there has to be a licence to act as a travel agency, one that is issued by the government. But I am only guessing. Maybe just a coincidence. Don't be surprised if the operation re-emerges, with the "consultants" hanging around on street corners with their cards inside Burger King literature. One trusts that Burger King is suitably impressed, and one has to ask another question - why try and disguise what you're doing?

While the signs on the doors to the office say Sun & Sea, peer inside and you can see the name Interval. It's very difficult to know, but the Timeshare Council includes a couple of Intervals on its black list. And this highlights one, just one, of the problems with these operations; you really don't know who you are ultimately dealing with. The web is very tangled.

And also tangled would appear to be the web surrounding a multi-million pound racket that has been the subject of police action. Based in Mallorca, the swindle has been investigated in a joint operation by the Spanish national police and Scotland Yard, and offices in the south of the island were raided on Thursday. With links to Switzerland, the fraudulent operation promised returns of 30 per cent. In the report from the "Diario" it says that fictitious companies were created related to gold, fuel or travel.

A general strike is still on the cards. Originally it was planned for 20 May, then 2 June was mentioned. It is still not clear when it might be staged. 8 June is now a possibility, but whenever it takes place, assuming it actually does, some businesses are expressing their concerns. A general strike of public sector workers would include the police. There is talk, apparently, of security firms being hired for the day or of closing for the day. This may all be an over-reaction, but some are obviously taking the potential threat of no police on duty seriously.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Manifesto Of The Puerto Pollensa Party

More on the protest thing - the Puerto Pollensa one. There is a "manifesto" for this "manifestación" (which is Spanish for demonstration): a four-page document, outlining the gripes and fingering the town hall. The demo will coincide with market day on Wednesday next week. Don't try getting any petrol in Puerto Pollensa on Wednesday, as the petrol station's likely to be log-jammed with protesters.

The manifesto deals with the items listed on 26 May (Fix You?), to which has been added a further item regarding the state of the waste of space and money that is La Gola. "The state" pretty much sums the whole thing up. The state of Puerto Pollensa in different respects.

The second main point in this manifesto is telling. It refers to the fact that tourism is the "motor" of the local economy. Yes, we do know this, as the manifesto says. But let's just imagine, shall we, that Puerto Pollensa was currently flush with great hordes of tourists, flush with cash. Would this protest be going ahead? No, it wouldn't. Macroeconomic difficulties have created the micro-ist economic problems of Puerto Pollensa's tourism, not dog mess, rubbish collection or a lack of parking.

Then there is something even more telling. The manifesto refers to an abundance of domestic properties at the expense of hotels or residential areas of high social status. While the latter sounds - and is - appallingly elitist, it is the former that seems to give the game away. Separate to this latest protest (or is it part of the same thing?), the local hotels recently themselves complained about an abandonment and neglect. The manifesto appears to be supporting the hoteliers in calling for not just an appreciation of the apparent disregard of the Moll but also for more hotels. It, the manifesto, goes on to say that plots exist on which such hotels (or elitist residences) could be located. Maybe so. But the very presence of this "demand" confirms the impetus behind this manifesto: the parlous state of current tourism. It also flies in the face of that "guru" piece of the other day; that resources are stretched and that alternatives to tourism (and thus hotels) have to be sought. While the current town hall can be criticised, rightly, for all manner of things, it is not their fault that there are not more hotels; their lack is an historical fact of local planning.

This protest is a manifestation of the pain caused by recession. Let's not be fooled into thinking that it is anything else, except ...

There is justification for the protest. The lack of hotel stock has, arguably, held Puerto Pollensa back, even if the wisdom of building hotels now would be open to question; and such building would be most unlikely to occur. There is justification in there being a protest, period. In its organisation and publicity, it is an example to those elsewhere who voice discontent and then do precisely nothing, as in, most notably, the Bellevue area of Puerto Alcúdia. There is justification, though God knows where the money might come from to right the wrongs. There is justification, but of a different order to that which is being stated.

Mayor Cerdà is said to be "concerned". About what exactly? The fact that there are elections next year? One thing he should be concerned about is the structure of how the town, as a whole, is run. Let's just compare the situation in Puerto Pollensa with that in Puerto Alcúdia. There, the embellishments to the beach (costing some 700k) were recently officially "opened". Alcúdia has neither the psychological nor the physical distance problems I referred to the other day.

The justification, and if this protest is to achieve anything, and it probably won't, will be to highlight the deficiencies of the local political structure not the deficiencies with street lighting and all the rest. The perception of injustice towards the port has existed for years. It has come to a head. It needs sorting out.

Yesterday: Saint Etienne,

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 28, 2010

He's On The Phone: Dealing with Telefonica

The mobile rang three times. A four-figure number. Some sort of spam call, I thought. After the third time of calling and ignoring it, I thought again. Erm, maybe it was Telefonica. I had, after all, been asked to take a call from them.

The German neighbours. Needed to sort out a line and internet and all that. Could Telefonica call me so that I could pass on some info? Yes. But don't Telefonica have a German helpline? Yes. But it's not so easy. It never is, to be honest. Just having a German mobile probably doesn't make it any easier. Nor does Telefonica ringing Germany, to a relative, the one who had set this all in motion in the first place.

I do hope you're following all this, because I got lost with it well before the four-figure number started appearing on my mobile. When the number rang again, I relented, and answered. Half fearing not hearing anything - in good spam style - I was relieved when a voice started speaking - in German. Do I speak German, came the question. A bit, I responded, clearly unconvincingly. I can do German, but over a phone I would rather not. "English?" This was more like it. I didn't venture to suggest Spanish, and so waited to be transferred.

What I had thought they wanted to know, in order to get the neighbours kitted out in a Telefonica style, seemed straightforward enough. Confirmation of address, tax number, bank details. We never got past the address. Indeed, it took an inordinate length of time to do the first of these - the address.

"I can't find it," said the Telefonica-ist. The address, that is. So I repeated it. Twice more, once in Catalan. No, still couldn't find it. The street, it was suggested, was in Cala Ratjada. No, I responded, it is in Playa de Muro. There may be a street with the same name in Cala Ratjada, but there is definitely one in Playa de Muro. I am now standing on it, I explained, having walked for some distance while waving my arm around in good Spanish fashion while using a mobile. "This is your street?" asked the Telefonica-ist. "No, no, it's not my street. I just live next to it." "Next to it? Can you give me the number?" "A number? What of? A telephone, or a house?" "Which is your house?" "Sorry, what do you mean, which is my house?" "Your house is in the same street." "No, my house is in a different street." "It's next to the house where you want the phone line." "No, it's not next exactly. Near. And it's not me who wants the line. It's the neighbours, the ones you have the name for." "Oh. But can you give me your address?" "Why do you want my address? I'm not the one who wants the line." "It's not for you?" "No, no, it's for the neighbours. The ones you have the name for." "Ah yes. Can you give me the name of the street?" "I've given you the name of the street, but here it is again." "Sorry, I can't find the street." "You can't find it! It's been here for... for at least 40 years." "Can you spell it?" "Yes, I can spell it, thank you." "Oh, I still can't find it. Maybe if you tell me the name of the street in Catalan?" "I told you that before, but ok. Here it is." "Ah, ok, now I've found it." "Good. Do you want the other information? The bank details?" "No, we'll ring in a couple of days."

God forbid.

Yep, it's back. "He's On The Phone"? If you don't know, then guess one of this blog's regulars, the very great ...

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Death Of The Hen: Diversification in Mallorca

"Mallorca vive una fantasía: el turismo no volverá a ser la gallina de los huevos de oro."

I wouldn't normally reproduce a newspaper headline, especially not one in Spanish, but this one deserves reproduction. If you do the native, then you'll understand. If you don't, you might get the drift. If the drift is not with you, then: "Mallorca is living a fantasy: tourism will not return to be the hen with golden eggs".

The headline came from the "Diario" two days ago. The words are those of Jerry Mander, a "guru" and the director of the International Globalization Forum. He, along with other worthies, gathered together in Alaró the other day, in a meeting organised by Camper, the Inca footwear company. As befits a coming together of those with sound credentials of a "sustainable" nature, there was a fair bit about sustainability, that mantra of current-day tourism. But the key message, the key conclusion was that the island's future lies in a diversification of its economy.

I should nominate myself as a guru. I couldn't tell you how many times I have referred to the need for economic diversification on this blog over the years. The Balearic Government, some while back, looked to set in motion a so-called innovation and development plan (largely forgotten about), but otherwise I have, and I don't wish to sound immodest, felt like a lone voice. You just never hear about economic diversification, or not in a way that addresses the subject seriously. Yet the need has been obvious for years.

Mallorca lives its fantasy because many of the people who live in Mallorca occupy a fantasy world - the absence of being in the real world, as I said two days ago. Perhaps it is something to do with the illusion or delusion of a "paradise island", lulling them into a false sense of security.

Mander's statement is, of course, inaccurate. Tourism hasn't gone away. But the implication is that it will not return on the scale that it once was. Moreover, it cannot be grown in any meaningful way; there just aren't the resources on a small area of land. It's that sustainability again, but this time in terms of the environment. Even if it were to be grown, more hotels, more golf courses, more this and more that, who would come?

Forty or more years ago, Mallorca set itself on a strategic path to economic transformation through tourism. Its old industries, agriculture most obviously, were shunted into the background. Those attending the Camper meeting seem to think that there is a need for some going back to the future. But is agriculture really a solution? It is one that smacks of the idyllic meeting the more wacky end of economics. It wouldn't represent diversification either. It has never gone away, just, in certain instances, such as almond-growing, been surpassed by superior technology and productivity elsewhere.

The general conclusion - that of diversification - is undeniably true, even if there might be disagreement as to the precise road-map for that diversification. What is staggering, though, is that the subject is even being discussed, as in being discussed now. It should have been on the table years ago.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fix You? Puerto Pollensa and protest

The protest season goes from strength to strength. A general strike, some time or other; Puerto Alcúdia, a petition against all-inclusives, possibly; now Puerto Pollensa. On 2 June, setting off from the petrol station, i.e. the one opposite the fire-fighter-roundabout Eroski, a thousand people, so it is hoped, will take to the streets. Why?

I am grateful to Zelda at for sending me the bits and pieces which come from Annika at Sail & Surf who seems to be the main organiser of this demo. I like Annika. Who wouldn't? I wish her success. But the question remains - why?

The litany of problems that the small businesses of the Moll want addressing are as follows: the lack of good parking; access ways from the by-pass to the front line of Puerto Pollensa by car and on foot; a lack of clear signing of the entrance to the port from the by-pass; lack of street lighting; rubbish and lack of cleanliness; a need for improved pavements and green area maintenance; the speed of traffic along the coast road into the port; the need for greater night-time security; the need for a general "beautifying" of the port and for public lavs.

Fine. Anything else anyone wants to add? Why not toss in the need to pedestrianise the whole of the front line? Oh, sorry, forgot. They did away with that because the small businesses didn't want it. You'd crack some of the above at a stroke if there were no traffic along the coast road into the port.

Look, there is nothing wrong with any of what is the target of this protest. Much of it is familiar in terms of gripes regarding Puerto Pollensa. But is this, will this protest be indicative of casting around for something, anything, to put into the gun sight as a way of voicing anxiety regarding the currently lousy state of tourism? I have a horrible feeling that it might be. In which case, it is irrelevant. There is also a worry that, as I have said elsewhere in respect of protest in Puerto Alcúdia, that some sort of demo is counterproductive. Don't, whatever you do, fool yourselves into thinking that the majority of tourists either know or care about what ever the problems in Puerto Pollensa might be. Go demo-ing and bring attention to the problems, and they soon will know. Thanks very much. Best go to Croatia next year.

There is, though, more to all of this. It isn't simply a case of protest for protest's sake. There are legitimate points being raised, but it is the ones who should be listening who are the problem. Those at the town hall.

Pollensa town hall is hugely in debt, and that debt is likely to rise. It sought credit this year, only a part of which was forthcoming. There is most unlikely to be any more in the short term, given that the Spanish Government has frozen town halls' credit. Want better street lighting therefore? Go wave a lighter, then. A thousand arms waving in a Coldplay "Fix You" style. But the town hall can't fix it. No money, chums.

Even more than all this is the fact that the protest would be a manifestation of the massive distance between Moll and town. Town and down - down there by the sea. Pollensa is not unique in this regard. Think Santa Margalida and Muro as well. Only Alcúdia escapes the problems of physical and psychological distance between town and down. Ask yourselves this question? Why is there a town hall "delegate" for the Moll? One who is widely held in contempt? What do you need a delegate for? It's the same town, for crying out loud. The very existence of such a delegate tells you all you need to know. The Moll, the port is the town's second-class citizen, down there, down by the sea. Not here. Up in the town.

Protest? Go ahead. Better still, declare UDI.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Paradise Lost: Mallorca and economic pain

So the IMF has issued another warning about Spain's economy. And called for reforms to the country's labour laws, making it, among other things, easier to fire workers.

That it has taken so long.

The chickens are coming home to roost. In all manner of ways. The problems of the bankrupt Spanish economy are mirrored - several-fold - in Mallorca. Easy money of different sorts - that from grants, the banks and, oh, the tourists - has become very much more difficult. Complacency of this easy money has given way to a panic. It all used to just fall into people's laps. Just like the Spanish Government, over years and in different political guises, sat back and trousered Europe's benefaction and careered headlong into growth on the back of the always-likely-to-shift sand of credit, so the local tourism industry (in its different manifestations) sat back and trousered the contents of the tourist purse while barely having to lift a finger or a fat arse off a bar stool while puffing on a grand Havana and slurping on a fine brandy.

The IMF, and the government (though it will try and avoid the issue), know full well what is needed. One thing is employment law. Making it easier to sack freeloading employees is one aspect. They should, but of course won't, slash the burden of social security payments. It is these, more than tax, that are a baulk where it comes to employment and to badly-needed entrepreneurship. They'll probably do the reverse, and increase them, just like they're increasing IVA (VAT). It's the economics of the mad house, but the mad are desperate, and so is the government, though you might hope that the government is about to grow up and join the real world. Likewise, many businesses in Mallorca who are having to appreciate that the days of the playground are over and are having to join the real world.

So much of what passes for the local economy is untenable, and has been for years. It is what gives rise to the obscenity of the dole queues in November. If Mallorca were a business, one with a plan for six months' trade (if it's lucky), then any half-decent consultant, or anyone with an ounce of sense, would say that it's not much of a business model. And it isn't. That it has been allowed to persist for so long is all down to that complacency.

Let's itemise some of the problems and responses: tourism down by 20% in April (admittedly the volcano didn't help); unemployment at 20%; banks starting to come under strain because of their bad debts, despite the provision for these that the Bank of Spain imposes; town halls told they can't have any credit; public works slashed. You could go on. The problems may not be unique to Mallorca and Spain, but they are exacerbated because of the fundamental flaws in the economy, especially the local one and because of that awful complacency.

Sad I am to say that I feel vindicated. I have said much of the foregoing for years on this blog. B.C. Before Crisis. I feel angry because it was all too easy to predict. The crisis just hastened the problems. The centre was never going to be able to hold when it was built on such shaky foundations.

I feel angry, but I want to relax. I have just heard The Fleet Foxes "Mykonos" on the radio. It has mellowed me. For a moment. And I remember Mykonos in 1973. When I wasn't in the real world. I wish to hell I was back there, in Mykonos 1973, on Paradise beach. A place where Paradise actually existed, rather than being monikered thus by fatuous tourism authorities and companies and their parrots in brochures and everywhere else. The Paradise Island, what they insist on calling Mallorca, is crumbling into the sea.

But relax. Fleet Foxes:

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 24, 2010

3am (Again)

What time was it the night before last? 3am, 4am something like that. 3am eternal. I remember doing that last year, March time, when I was in a very different place - for very different reasons.

3am eternal. Eternal nights finishing off this HOT! project. I'm knackered, stressed, out on my feet and going out of my head. It should have been so easier. But it hasn't been. It never is in truth, but this year ... . And why, why when you approach some body or other for an article do they make things so difficult, or just don't want to know. Want to know a some body which didn't want to know? Let me tell you. Illa D'Or. Let me tell the story of the hotel. Oh no, can't do that. Did they misunderstand? No money was involved. Just a story. And there are, have been, others. You wonder why you bother in all truth.

The suspicion with which you are confronted when approaching ... approaching especially the Mallorcans is de-motivating to say the least. The attitude usually seems to be: "why do you want to do this'", rather than "great, what do you need to know?" You couldn't get much further apart, in cultural terms, than between Mallorcans and, for example, Americans. It's a cultural difference that tells a lot. A lot about why nothing happens here. Islanders, like islanders everywhere, they are, sorry to say, small-minded and vaguely paranoid. Not all, of course not, but as a generality, yes.

Whatever. I am currently not really in a right place right now either. But the help from all sorts of sources does make up for the obstruction and the resistance elsewhere. And the messages. Like one of the "cover girls" who chuckled at the idea of "Minty" on a mountain. I laughed when I put him there. The joys of Photoshop, those which have put other supporters on the cover map - "London" John, Rud, Hayley. Cheers, all.

No apologies for embedding - once more - the brilliant mu-mu-ists.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Acts Of Mindless Vandalism

So you arrive at your bar in the morning. Seems normal enough. Until, that is, you notice that something is not quite right.

Mindless vandalism does not always require grand gestures, those of highly visible destruction or defacement. Sometimes its nature catches you out. Like break-ins, and don't I know, initially you don't latch on, until it becomes apparent. Some time on Saturday morning, someone decided to try and pull the barrier out of the ground between the doctor's clinic and the Foxes Arms in Puerto Alcúdia. Decided to do this and also try and break in half a strut holding up the "toldo" (terrace sun shade). This someone didn't succeed in either. The barrier didn't look worse for wear, until you touched it; the strut was bent rather than broken. But the extent of the damage didn't matter. There was, as always with these things, a sense of invasion. The visible signs may not have been that obvious, but a broken this or a broken that is dangerous - for the customer. It means a day closed, a day's loss of earnings and a day spent spending money on some repairs.

A different matter. There are new neighbours. Hotel workers. Polish, it would seem. Let's not go down the Poles-on-the-rampage routine of the Don Pedro hotel in Cala San Vicente last summer, as in let's not start castigating an entire nation. But. But, when the noise on the terrace is sufficient to require two visits - from myself - to let them know that there is noise on the terrace, then I get - how do I put it - a tad hacked off. The noise is most uncommon in a quiet urbanisation. It is most out of place. Two warnings, I was at pains to point out, despite three chaps seemingly prepared to confront me. Two warnings. Number three, and I hate the idea, and it's the "denuncia". They got my drift. They might also know that I can find out which hotel they are working at. Hotels do not take kindly to being told by stroppy neighbours that their shipped-in workforce is keeping these stroppy neighbours from their shut eye. Especially as they are usually handing over the ackers for the workforce to keep stroppy neighbours awake.

Unlike residencies close to hotels and the commercial centres, you do expect peace and quiet. It's why people don't live near to hotels and commercial centres. If you do, then you have to expect rather less peace and quiet. There is also the business about the definition of "evening" and "night". This may seem bizarre, but it is a facet of the law. Noise on a domestic terrace, after midnight, is equal - in law - to noise on a bar terrace.

Yet, these two incidents are curiously instructive. In my discussions with those with several decades of living in Alcúdia, Pollensa and elsewhere, it is clear that there is a certain nostalgia for the old days of the "generalisimo". Heaven forbid, you might think. But crime was almost non-existent. No one would think of smashing a toldo support for fear of getting a thrashing from the Guardia and a lengthy stretch in the slammer. On the other hand, back in the days before Franco died, no one did much about noise. You could be on terraces till the wee smalls, playing music, dancing, drinking. It didn't matter. Now it does. The perpetrator of the Foxes vandalism will not be found, he will not get a police kicking or a sentence, but the hotel workers, high-spirited but not malicious, can get a police visit or can get a hotel-issued one-way ticket back to Poland. It doesn't, somehow, make much sense.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Enjoy The Trip: Trip Advisor and other websites

Having mentioned Holiday Watchdog yesterday, time today to give Trip Advisor its place in the blog's sun. It is the most important of the holiday (and restaurant) review sites, but it is not - in my opinion (and opinion is what matters) - the best. On the principle that a website should be simple to navigate, Trip Advisor gets my thumbs-down; it's not a patch on Holiday Truths when it comes to user-friendliness and simplicity. But Trip Advisor is on a rather grander scale - it is international, and it has its own director in Spain. He was interviewed yesterday in the "Diario". It is also, or has been, more susceptible to the owner-inspired (written even) glowing review, which was why the British Government legislated against such a carry-on.

Talking to the site's Spanish director is an example of how well the "Diario" does tourism and the business surrounding it, and the most interesting aspect of the interview was - if dealt with only briefly - the revelation that a well-known (unnamed) Mallorcan hotelier considers opinions posted on Trip Advisor to be more important than official categorisation, the number of stars and whatever.

It had been, before I did the Bellevue interview last summer, my impression that no one much in Mallorca took any notice of sites like Trip Advisor. No one much in terms of hotel managements, tourism authorities, town halls and so on. I would still be surprised to learn that the latter two do take any notice, but the hotels are a different matter. Well, Bellevue was, and the then assistant director was. He's no longer there. But Trip Advisor was on his favourites list (or possibly his un-favourites). It was important that it was, given the fire panic of last season.

The drawback with any site such as Trip Advisor, and any forums elsewhere and also Facebook and the rest, is that opinion is just that - opinion. By its nature it is subjective, unscientific; it is also just the tip of a very tall iceberg when it comes to the actual numbers of holidaymakers who ever go on to such sites. Should anyone take any notice therefore? Yes and no. Yes, because opinion can carry a lot of power, despite its subjectivity. No, because this opinion cannot really be challenged (and Trip Advisor has rules as to how hoteliers can respond, as was pointed out to me by the Bellevue assistant director) and because there isn't a "profile" of the person placing the opinion. You might know their sex, their date of birth, their home town, but none of this tells you anything meaningful. This just adds to the unscientific nature of the opinion generation.

Nevertheless, the reviews and comments on sites are being taken seriously, in some quarters, testimony to the power of the internet. It's those quarters that don't take them seriously or just don't even look at them that concern me, which brings us back to the tourism authorities and the town halls. I have said this before, but it bears repetition, and that is that these bodies should be devoting time and resources to monitoring to what is being said on the internet.

Were they to, they might actually learn something. Or be prompted into some course of action. They have a vast market research resource at the click of a mouse, and you doubt that they exploit it. More fool they.

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Scratch, Scratch: The holiday club allergy

Well, well, well. There we were thinking that the mid-season flight of the scratch-cardists last year was the last that Alcúdia had seen of them. Wrong. Or so it would appear. There is an office near to the Magic Roundabout that looks very much like the same sort of operation. Just a different location. I'm not sure I'm bothered any longer. If the tourism ministry, town hall, police or whoever can't or won't step in and prevent these operations from emerging, why should I care? I've got other things to worry about. Let 'em go fleece some mugs.

This said ...

Whatever it might be called, the operation is always much the same. The scratch-card system works thus: It is always a couple that is approached, verification is made as to where they are from. The UK or Ireland are spot on. But the Netherlands or Scandinavia will do nicely, too, so long as the people speak English. Why is it a couple and not someone on his or her own? Because the couple each gets a card. One is always a loser, the other is always a winner. And the winner will get his or her holiday or whatever prize is in offer.

The street scratch-cardists go under differing exotic titles. Outside Promotions Consultants, for example. Consultant, my arse. They get commissions for each couple they entice to the presentation, so long, that is, if the suckers who have gone along stay for a specific length of time. Otherwise, normally, no commission. Some of those who are approached do go for a short time, just to let the "consultant" get his or her money. Very altruistic. And potentially dangerous if you let yourself get pulled in more and more. They will be like dogs with bones once you're inside. Not the "consultants". They've done their bit. Now it's the salespeople.

So many thousands will get you a lifetime of holiday deals. This may get reduced if you refuse. There may be finance deals. There may be further reductions, just to get you to hand over your credit or debit card and start the slippery ball rolling, despite the fact that there should be "cooling-off" periods.

Timeshare, holiday clubs, call them what you will, they all amount to the same sort of thing - something that you do not want and certainly do not need. The apparent attractiveness of future holidays on the cheap has been exposed enough times as being no better than were you to book the holidays yourselves. But by now you might be in for several thousands of pounds or euros, and you might find it hard to get out of.

The consultants will often be quite pleasant, which is why you might want to go along with them in order to let them earn their commissions or why you might just be taken in - period. It's when they are less than pleasant that some problems arise. And this was the complaint a couple of years back. Abusiveness and being hassled. Pleasant or not, don't be taken in. Or you end up with something that you don't want. That you had never thought about having. And yet you might find yourself being in for a four-figure sum. If you are, well, go figure.

Of course, this year's operation may be different. The tactics have varied over the years. One that was being used last year was to approach people in the pretence of performing some sort of market research. Maybe scratch cards have been replaced with something else. Whatever, it will become known. And this knowledge will be used to tarnish the reputation not of the operators of the system but of the resort.

It is a surprise, if indeed it is the same sort of operation, that it has returned. The stories last year were that the operation closed because trading was poor (and you wouldn't think it would be any better this year) and that the fines were mounting up. The police do actually intervene if unlicensed street "selling" is being performed. But whereas the street selling of the lookies is pretty harmless and relatively inexpensive (harmless, save for when something illicit is being offered as well), the holiday club, or whatever it is, is on a wholly different scale in terms of cost. You might just find your holiday suddenly got very much more expensive than you had budgeted for.

* I would acknowledge a comment left on the Holiday Watchdog Holiday Clubs and Timeshare forum for informing some of the above. This forum is probably the best source going for information on holiday clubs.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eyeless In Alcúdia: A cave, a ranch and some apartments

If you take the right turn by the traffic lights close to the auditorium in Alcúdia, the road heading past the cemetery and down to the horse roundabout, as you negotiate the bend there are various signs. Some of these are billboards, Wind and Friends, Bulldog Clothing, but there is also a much smaller road sign, its pink or purple or whatever colour washed out by the sun, in rather similar fashion to the way in which the sculpture of the horse on the roundabout has been beaten by the weather, turning it a salmon colour, thus adding to the debate as to whether it really is a horse or not.

This smaller sign I had never noticed. Until yesterday. It is for the "Cova de Sant Marti". The Sant Marti cave. Positioned quite some distance from the cave, a good four kilometres or so, I wondered if there were further ones to advise the driver as to the trail of the cave with its icons. There weren't. None that I could see, anyway.

Why direct people to the roundabout? Because that's about as far as you would get before giving up or winding down the window and asking a cheery local for directions, one who would - in all likelihood - have no idea what you were talking about. If there is one sign, then there should be several. Especially as the cave is meant to hold such importance in Alcúdia's heritage. But the absence is indicative of the half-hearted, impractical nature of promotion, as opposed to that which may find its way into local tourism literature, and even with this I'm not sure that the cave does actually get much of a mention.

For many, its existence is unknown, including those who live locally. This may have to do with where it is. Middle of nowhere in truth, stuck between Bellevue and the bypass by the mountain. Its unknown presence is nothing new. When I spoke with Jan at the Jolly Roger about the "good old days", she mentioned that the girls - Joy and Julie - used to go and play at the cave and that few others, at that time, seemed to know that it was there.

By coincidence, I was later at the ranch in Puerto Alcúdia - Rancho Ses Roques. A place, a bit like that road sign, I had been unaware of in terms of what lies behind the entrance building and stables. A small zoo, a magnificent white stallion, cows which look like they are advertisers-cartoon moo-moo's promoting butter and full-fat milk. Hayley said that they take riders on a horsey excursion past the Sant Marti cave, hence the coincidence. It would probably be the only way these riders ever become aware that it is there.

Unlike the cave, the ranch is well-publicised. Therefore, it's a mystery to me why it is such a mystery - to me. Not quite so much now, though. Its rural ambience, lying by the old "cami" road, and close to the karaoke and lager of The Mile, seems a peculiarity of juxtaposition. But there was something else about this short visit to the ranch. As I walked towards the entrance buildings, I happened to look across to my left. It was a stunning sight. Nothing particularly beautiful. Quite the contrary, really, but impressive nonetheless. The Siesta 1 apartments building. The sight stopped me in my tracks because I had never seen the apartments from this angle or distance. The impression, close up, is of a tower with arms off; it's an illusion. My familiarity with the apartments is such that I have always classed them as only slightly better than hideous. But this new view changed all that. The different perspective was magnificent, and reinforced the impression, when speaking with Jan, as to the dramatic changes to the landscape that had occurred almost forty years ago. From where once was nothing came the Siestas and Bellevue. And their brooding imposition, today, only serves to remind us of what once was but now seems to be being taken away.

There are things that you have never seen - in Alcúdia, Pollensa, wherever. And some of these things can still astonish. Small signs, stallions and Siestas. Just one day, once more.

(The photo shows the Siesta 1 apartments, taken from Ses Roques.)

Alwyn - Gavin's At The Port
Just a note to say that the mightily well-liked Alwyn, Gavin's dad, is doing well after his heart attack a few days ago. Gavin reports that he is "ok", which is a relief. Speedy recovery, Al.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grim Up North: The problems of the season

It's grim up north. It's grim down south. No point beating about the bush, and there's little point in going over the reasons. We all know them. Only too well.

In this week's "Talk Of The North" will be a piece I have written. "Protest Is Futile." Protest is never futile, even if it merely satisfies a psychological need to let off steam and to appear to be doing something. Anything. However, it was written because there is a drive in Alcúdia towards organising a petition. Its target would be all-inclusives. I know who the protagonists are. I wish them well. I hope it does more than I will be suggesting in that piece. Moreover, all-inclusives are the punch-bag for other travails. They aren't the whole story. Of course they're not.

Expressions by bars and restaurants as to the problems of early season are being echoed by the hotels. Ironic perhaps that the devils of the piece seem to be on the same side of those being cast into the hell of a fiery death by all-inclusive. But the hotels' problems speak volumes for the wider issues, those we know all about.

To protest, by means of a petition, seems like kissing in the wind. Who do you petition in the first place? And what effect would it have? The sad fact is that bars, restaurants, hotels even, oh and myself are all controlled by factors that we cannot control. Petition is the attempt to gain some control.

But if matters are as critical as are being said in some quarters, then protest of a more significant nature is called for - maybe. Closing all establishments as a symbol of how things might be is one. Not that you would ever get a collective agreement to do so. Short-term self-interest will always rise to the top. Forget it.

Why not march? A great demo along the main streets of the resorts? Would tourists thank you? Would they thank you for closing for a day? Would they approve of outraged bar owners standing atop hotel blocks with banners? Some might. Some tourists are only too aware of what is going on. Some, plenty, aren't. Some, plenty, have no wish to be informed. They are on holiday. They are not on holiday to bear witness to the apparent collapse of local tourist industries. Would it be fair on them? Maybe it would be. Tourists, we are told by some, should be more ethical. What are ethics when it comes to a fortnight in the sun? As that old managing director of mine once wrote, it's a county in eastern England, a county that's roughly the same size as Mallorca.

It is, we do have to remember, only the middle of May. A middle of May that has been preceded by factors (well, one) no one could have foreseen. Come July and if matters are bad, then this would be the time to protest. But there is some justification for the anger at present. And that is that the season is being compressed into ever shorter a period. This has nothing to do with all-inclusives. It has everything to do with what the regional government would consider to not be the principal problem with the island's tourism - the summer season.

Protest. No, it's not always futile. But protest against the right targets. The idiots in government should be the first. Not really that they can do much either. However, it is they who have been and are kissing in the wind and fiddling Nero-like while they faff around, endlessly pronouncing on less important tourism issues. And kissing? Well, you know, like you know the issues, what word I really mean.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gets In Your Eyes: Not from January (the smoking ban)

In the lead up to national no-smoking week in Spain, a survey - reported on in yesterday's "Diario" - finds that 70% of Spaniards support a ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and the like and that a third would be more likely to go to bars once a ban is in place.

There has been much confusion and misinformation regarding the precise implementation of the smoking ban and when it will come into effect. To reiterate ... it will cover enclosed public places, such as bars, which does, however, still raise some question as to what is or isn't enclosed. But be that as it may. Spanish law is rarely clear. There are moves already, though, for some exemptions. Hotels are likely to be able to maintain a percentage of rooms as smoking; 30% is the figure being bandied about. I guess if people want to smoke in their rooms, then this should be up to them, but the hotel exemption does smack a bit of the hoteliers exerting pressure if they are fearful of loss of revenue. And if this is the reason, then it does rather undermine the logic of the ban elsewhere. The government, and others, have been at pains to say that revenue will not be harmed; quite the contrary in fact.

The timing of the ban is becoming clearer. A week ago the health minister made a pretty unequivocal statement that it would come into effect on 1 January next year. This has long seemed to be the logical starting-point, assuming they don't change their minds. The regional health ministers are due to be consulted in June, the law would be brought before parliament in the autumn and, bingo, you have your ban. Talk of it coming in much earlier has never sounded realistic.

But when it comes in, and it will, how smoothly might it be implemented? Recently I have been into different bars and wondered how on earth they will do it. Take somewhere like Cultural in Puerto Pollensa. If you were an airplane, you would have been grounded and not allowed anywhere near its airspace; the interior is its own ash cloud. It's hardly unique. There are also some bar owners who, believing themselves to be, er, "well in" with certain authorities, which they may or may not be, are suggesting that they will ignore any ban. Let's see, shall we. Though how comprehensive the checking and how well-staffed the smoking plod might be is anyone's guess. At a time of public-sector cuts, this is unlikely to be a growth area in employment. Which will probably mean a spate of Jose Public dobbing in a bar to plod. Or, more likely, a rival bar doing the dobbing in.

The irony of the ban in bars will be that they will still be able to have cigarette machines. Or maybe it isn't so ironic. Terrace life will be unaffected, unless terraces are somehow deemed to be enclosed. Anticipate any amount of confusion about this, added to which are the legitimate worries of night bars where the noise plod wait for the stroke of midnight to go and hound anyone talking above a whisper on a terrace while having a smoke.

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Supermarket Sunday: Queues and scales

I once wrote a somewhat surreal piece on this blog about how the queues at the local Eroski supermarket led to the police having to open fire on a rioting crowd. It was an absurd piece about what remains absurd. My advice would be, on yesterday's evidence, to avoid the bay of Alcúdia Eroski on a Sunday at all costs (and the same might apply to others in the chain).

Sunday, once one comes into season, is a day of great food hunting and gathering. The locals buy up entire stocks with which to feed their vast and extended families that congregate for the ritualistic Sunday nosebagging. Tourists, newly arrived, seek to invest in trolley-loads of job-lot soft drinks, water, things wrapped in plastic and the whole greengrocery section. It's then that the problems begin.

Limited numbers of checkout personnel cause the queues to snake around the displays of body milk and hair care. The checkout duo, for there were but two of them attending to the combined populations of Alcúdia, the United Kingdom, Germany and various other northern European countries, duly asked for "tarjeta travel" - well to those from Alcúdia - and then equally duly asked for some ID from a perplexed credit-card-brandishing Brit who is unused to the concept of ID. Or they asked the same Brits, Mallorcans, Germans etc. for some combination of coins which is intended to facilitate the giving of change but which leads to utter confusion, one only alleviated if one is in possession of a Maths degree. And if one is au fait with the coinage.

Then of course there is the weighing-of-the-greengrocery malarkey. Like the poor, who are always with us, so the greengrocery-weighing game remains very much with us. Just as one of the few other staff emerges with a ticketed-up bag of apples that had been presented minus its ticket, so another has to be called over the PA to price up a shrink-wrapped cucumber, always assuming there is another. If not, the baffled customer is enjoined to "tick-et, tick-et", which usually means that he or she has nary a clue as to what he or she is supposed to do with the green dildo being waved in front of him or her. And if or she does cotton on, he or she then races off, red-faced, and then desperately tries to figure out why he or she is racing off, normally resulting in the one having issued the "tick-et, tick-et" command to have to race off herself.

Why do they make this all so difficult? There are small signs issuing the instruction to weigh such or such an item, but few seem to notice them or understand them. They need to have whacking great posters, hanging from the ceiling, ones into which customers can bump their heads, and an oversized hand pointing a finger, Lottery-style, at the scales. Perhaps, rather than playing New Order over the PA, they could have a metallic voice repeating, endlessly, "Weigh Your Veg", in a manner similar to the "Mind The Gap" of the London Underground.

And now there is also the back-pain-inducing "Shop Roll" trolley-ettes. In theory, these seem quite a good idea, until, that is, one gets to the checkout. Reaching down into the depths of the Shop Roll, and then standing up, clutching the small of one's back. They are the medical antithesis of the altogether more sensible, flattened trolleys, those like roll-on, roll-off ferries, which were designed to avoid the necessity for chiropractors to be located at each checkout.

One day, some day, they might just sort this all out. But don't hold your breath. Rather, do hold your back and do hold your cucumber with a pained and embarrassed expression.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot: Tourism publications

Over the past month or so on the blog, I have made reference to a newspaper-style tourism publication that I am due to be bringing out. It is close to seeing the light of day. The volcano and weather have conspired to slow things down a bit. Things are never easy, and I tend not to make things easy for myself. And not making things easy is probably apposite. I like making things difficult, creating a challenge.

Why do a newspaper format? Several reasons. Commercially, the most important is that far more copies can be printed for the same sort of money you have to hand over for something printed on art paper. Do a free publication and you stand or fall by advertising, and for advertisers as wide a distribution as possible is vital, unless you are dealing with a defined and small niche, which the tourism market is not.

But as important as this is the impact that can be created, one that also has benefits for the advertiser. And in the current climate, it seemed to me that something quite different was required. There are businesses locally which are really trying to be different. It has been salutary to speak to some of them and to get their support for attempting to be different, and these include those who are not advertisers. It matters not a jot to me so long as I get positive and constructive opinions rather than the negativity of which there is an abundance at present.

Tourism publications tend to be of a type. They tend to a conformism of certain information and style. It was this that I wanted to break away from. And moving away from the small format of guide that I have done till now gives far greater scope in terms of content. This is where it has not been easy. The creative side. It is hugely demanding of time and mental energy. Stick a map on a piece of paper and arrange some adverts around it? Where's the fun in that?

The new publication is to be called HOT. There have been seemingly innumerable other title possibilities. It was a chat with Nobby from Linekers which finally steered me in this direction. Not that Nobby came up with it. But it was his thought process that led me to do a personal brainstorm and come up with some ideas that I ran past Graeme at "Talk Of The North", with whom this is all a collaboration. One other title I liked was "Splash". It seemed appropriate in different ways, for example the notion of making a splash. But HOT it was - is. Only afterwards, as I looked at a blank page of Quark Express to consider the masthead, did it occur to me that HOT could be Holiday Times.

The format means that there is scope for all manner of articles that could never have been contemplated before. It is why, in addition to some of the more traditional information, there will be stuff on music, entertainment, history, oddities, fitness, kids' activities and more. What there will not be will be the sort of brochure talk that I have railed against here in the past. I detest it. It is too easy, and I cannot believe that anyone much is interested.

In the process of putting this altogether, there are a number of people who have given willingly of time and help and others who have made small observations and suggestions. They will all get name-checked when it appears, but to pick out a few - Jan at the Jolly Roger, Graham Philips, Glen and family, Jose and Julie at Nova Marina. They'll do for starters. Now all that remains is to finish it off and get the job to the printers over the next few days. Then I might get some sleep.

QUIZ (sort of) -
Yesterday I asked who Albert Pierrepoint was. The usual answer is the last hangman in Britain, but he wasn't. Albert, not necessarily a liberal in these matters, reckoned that Ruth Ellis got all that was coming to her. And Albert gave it to her - so to speak.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bras And Skinny Fits: Mulligans and Hornblower

What is it about women's clothes? They seem to follow me around, or maybe I'm following them around. And by them, I use them not in the personal sense but in the plural it sense. Let me just make that very clear.

Mulligans. Bar of the Puerto Pollensa parish. I'll be honest, I'd never set foot in the place until two days ago. Don't know why, just hadn't. Years ago, my then managing director, more of him below, used to refer to certain pubs as being "pubby pubs", as in they were very much like pubs, which was probably as well, given that they were. But I knew what he meant. They weren't sheds or post-modernist un-pubs. Mulligans is a pubby pub. It looks like a pub, feels like a pub, smells like a pub, it is a pub. I like the place.

It is under new ownership. Dave and Julie. Very talkative, Julie. It was she who got me onto bras. Bras were what she used to do. Essensual. I think that was the name. Marks and Sparks supplier and all that. I think. I did get a bit lost, probably as I was being unjournalistic and making all manner of interjections of an innuendo style. But swapping a bra for a bar seems opportune. Three letters, the same letters, just in a different order.

And then there is skinny fit clothing for the younger female. Brand name of Skinnifit. There were posters on the walls of the transferred-to-Puerto-Alcúdia Hornblower Embroidery. Shouldn't be allowed, I suggested, meaning quite the opposite, as I admired the posters while talking to Jan and then Les, they who are the hornblowers.

It was the opening do. The new place is in the Alcudiamar, otherwise known as just the marina. Seems sensible, given that the market is predominantly yachtie. Anyway, there was some talk of how the process of embroidering, Hornblower style, works. Shove it in a machine, press a button, that sort of technical detail. Made eminent sense to me. But beyond this, and it is remarkable (well it is to me) the tangents on which one's discussions go. Or maybe it's just me. The Hornblower series, I explained. A good mate of mine was the producer. Used to regale me of stories of filming in the Ukraine, Mallorca and wherever. And somehow we got onto the naming of children. Les had suggested the name of Scarlett for their daughter (their surname is O'Hara). It was vetoed. Graeme, from "Talk Of The North", mentioned that his sister was up for being named Ruth. Ruth Ellis. Not such a good idea. Last woman to be hanged in Britain. My old managing director was an eminent crime author. Pubby pubs were one thing. He also wrote one of the most important books about Ruth Ellis.

Talk, talk. And you never quite know where the talk will go. Bras, skinny fits, Ruth Ellis and, oh, Albert Pierrepoint. And who was he?

And nearly forgot. What nice folk. Mulligans and Hornblower. The photo is from the Hornblower opening.

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The First Cut Isn't The Deepest: The economic pain in Spain

The UGT union has called a general strike for 20 May. What a surprise. Government announces various measures to deal with Spain's deficit, including an average five per cent cut in salaries for public workers as from this June and, as sure as night follows day, the union mobilises. A reconstructed leftie, such as myself, should, despite the reconstruction, still be supportive of the union. But I'm not. No one cuts my earnings, other than the market. There is no union to take to the streets and demonstrate against the annual inflation in my social security payments, despite the more difficult market. I lump it. A salary cut in the public sector still means a job. President Zapatero could have cut far deeper. Perhaps he should have done. You only have to recall some of the figures that were quoted recently in respect of the growth in public employees in Mallorca's town halls, and the overall salary burden, to get a handle on the degree to which the public sector has, like Topsy, grown.

The spend on town hall personnel has doubled in the last ten years and has helped to fund the absurd levels of duplication at different levels of government. If they were, for example, to scrap the Council of Mallorca completely, it might be interesting to see what effect, if any, this had on the running of public administration. When you have a regional government, town hall administrations for even small population centres and one town hall, Palma's, that acts like its own mini-government, why on earth do you need the Council? No one has ever given me a good reason. There are almost 62,000 public employees in the Balearics, consisting of 32,000 in the regional government, almost 13,000 working for the state (Guardia Civil, for example), something over 13,000 in the town halls and 2,650 in the islands' councils. The loss of jobs would amount to less than 5% of the total but it would be a hefty saving. They should, for starters, get rid of the Councils.

Zapatero has not announced wholesale redundancies. Cuts in wages may be politically unpalatable, but adding to the national level of 20% unemployment would be to announce the PSOE's own death sentence. The union is posturing. Or worse, it is inviting a similar level of social unrest to that in Greece. There is, in all likelihood, more to come in terms of an overhaul of public administration and public spending, in addition to the cuts already announced. In respect of the latter, public spending, the cuts were insufficient to steady the shaky Ship Spain, but they were also necessary, even if they fly in the face of the strategy of the country public spending its way out of recession. One might hope that there is now to also be a more rigorous analysis as to the real necessity of some public projects. Like Alcúdia's Can Ramis. While it is glibly said that the building cost one million or so euros, think of it this way. If you were to be given a million euros to build a house, forgetting cost of land which has already been dealt with, what might you expect for your money? An awful lot more than Can Ramis, I suspect. How on earth did it cost this?

The more that should come should entail a fundamental review of the system of public administration. And of working practices, including hours of work. Some progress is being made in cutting the inefficiencies of some public service, e.g. the move to allow for driving licences to be renewed at local testing centres rather than at the Trafico building in Palma. It's a start. But just as it took, and I hate to have to say it, a sharp dose of Thatcherism to whittle away at the bloated nature of British public administration, so Spain needs something similar, along with a cultural shift in favour of the public as customer.

One can argue, with justification of course, that it was the private sector (the banks) that brought about the need for public sector reductions. Not my problem, Jack, in other words. Perhaps, but the meltdown merely highlighted where the system had wrong, not only with the banks but also with public administration.

The cuts are just the beginning.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Price You Pay: Little stickers and doner kebabs

The price you pay, otherwise known as part three of the end of tourism life, a recurring story of everyday despairing tourist-business folk.

The price you pay. It hasn't started yet, but it can't be far off. The "authorities must do something about it". I'm thinking that this should be the title of my new book, which I haven't written and which I haven't actually even thought about. But a good title, nonetheless. The price you pay. Take, for example, a newspaper.

Something, shrewd observers among you might have noticed, is that newspapers print prices on them. Different countries, different prices. Two euros for whatever, two euros it is, except when it isn't. Beware, therefore, the little yellow stickers or the little lime-green or pinky stickers. Ones with a price biro-ed on them. Because those two euros can very easily be joined by some ten centimos. The price you pay.

Remember the stuff about some sap complaining about having been fleeced of five euros for some paracetamol last year? It was evidence of Mallorca's too expensive, the authorities must, blah, blah. It was evidence of this, but it was evidence of something else, as it was illegal. You can only buy paracetamol in a chemists. Or rather, chemists are the only places licensed to sell paracetamol. It's a similar gig with newspapers. The price you pay, or should pay, is the one on the paper, not the one on the little sticker. It is illegal to sell a newspaper above the printed price.

The price you pay. Take also, for example, a bucket and spade. Lurking with intent on the Jolly Roger's pool-side terrace yesterday afternoon, I cocked an eager ear in the direction of a conversation which was taking place between two parties, conveniently some distance apart, which meant that they were more or less shouting and were thus easy to hear. One couple had handed over getting on for ten euros for some low-grade, brightly-coloured plastic items, the making of sandcastles being the purpose thereof. The other couple said, oh, we paid one euro, ninety-five. "They saw us coming," admitted couple one. Dead right they did. Couple one's bucket and spade had been purchased in a shop by the beach. "They've got you when you're there, haven't they," couple one reckoned, by way of justification. Up to a point, they have. But, as ever with these price things, go elsewhere and you will spend far less. Three-quarters less in the case of the lucky couple two.

Rather more in keeping with the current theme "de la semana", our end of tourism life one, news comes from The Mile, where one shop is reporting a 33% drop in sales, on top of a 20% overall decline last season. And in the more rarified atmosphere of Pollensa's villas, news there of villa bookings having slowed to a crawl, or worse. It's all the volcano's fault. The late-minute bookings seem not to be occurring, and yet it was these - and I had said as much myself here - that were set to make this season reasonable if not brilliant. Sod Iceland.

And finally ... A question for you. Why is that doner kebabs don't get advertised? As in, why is it that Indian restaurants, which double up as doner establishments, don't want any mention of kebabs? Maybe it's all to do with their marketing. Maybe they've stopped doing them. Or maybe there's some other reason. An Indian chap asked yesterday if I could remove the doner kebab from the sign in an advert. Yes, said I, not a problem. Yet, this is far from being the first occasion when I have experienced a reluctance to promote the doner. Why?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nowhere To Go: Parking and all-inclusives

A Tuesday. I'll be in the office. Not me, someone else. Another little meeting. Another little waste of time. Ho hum. But being a Tuesday, it was worse than it might otherwise be. A Tuesday. Alcúdia old town. Oh, oh. Market day. I thought that I should park up by the primary school, where you can always park, market or no market. But then I thought. Nah, don't fancy the walk. I'll risk it.

By the side of Eroski, back of the auditorium. Nowhere. The streets are full of cars. Sod it, I'll go to the finca opposite the church, the overflow parking which is more THE parking, given that the proper parking by the church is inadequate. Bump, bump, gravel, gravel. Nowhere. It takes a while to even get out of the scruffy and stony dustbowl. Not just because of the number of cars exiting.

The exit to the parking finca. It has always been like this. No one seems to have ever thought to do something about it. There is an incline and on top of the incline is a ridge. It has never been flattened. It causes problems. To get over the ridge you have to give the accelerator some. The some can sometimes be so much that you shoot out onto the road, unable to stop. Or you manage not to do this but then realise you can't see left because of the parked cars. So you edge out, thus adding to the delays in exiting. Why can't they level the bloody exit? Is it really that difficult? No, it isn't. The answer why they haven't is probably because no one (town hall-wise) has had the sense to sort it out.

Having escaped, there is only one solution. The parking by the primary school. Where I should have gone in the first place. The walk was, despite everything, quite pleasant. But the office. Ah yes, the office. The door was shut. What a surprise. How does anyone get done in this damn place?

Oh, and remember what I was saying yesterday about people not phoning. I drop by somewhere else. All I need to know is whether or not I can include one line in a design. Chap's not there. What a surprise. So I leave the design with the mother. Maybe he can give me a ring and let me know. "Oh, don't count on that," she says (in Spanish). "He doesn't ring anyone." Didn't believe me yesterday? Well maybe you now do.

My head is exploding. What the hell is it with people here?

More evidence of the coming end of tourism life. Down The Mile way. Talk of a petition. Against what? What do you think? Yep, all-inclusives. Why? Because it's getting worse, it's being said. Now you're getting folk coming into bars - well lagered-up already - and watching the footy while taking on just a Coke during the match before returning for more lager, courtesy of the wristband. But more than this, there are complaints about behaviour, and remember we're talking The Mile here. The lagered-up ones coming to bars, falling over pissed, being abusive. And not, of course, spending much.

Away from the north, I hear that Santa Ponsa is a ghost town. It's going to be interesting to hear how the authorities talk their statistical way out of the miseries of May.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not Televised: The end of tourism life

I don't like the word "rant". It suggests a rather unthinking outpouring of unbalanced sounding-off. I don't think I rant. Not knowingly anyway.

But I feel like a rant. I think. I feel like something more than a rant. I feel like standing in streets and shouting. I want to be a Manic Street Ranter. Even more than this, I have been considering the introduction of dog and animal noises into my everyday communication. I want to bark, growl, bare teeth, salivate, look rabid. Why? Because I am terminally hacked off with the apparent breakdown of what were once the niceties of picking up a phone, of giving an answer, of merely acknowledging the existence of an interlocutor who had previously been in contact.

I had been inclined to believe that this current-day malaise was a purely Mallorcan/Spanish disease. But it isn't. It appears to have crossed national boundaries. It matters not, it would seem, whether someone might owe you money or not. No, this isn't a reason for pretending to have disappeared. I don't actually know what the reason is. And it's not as if the new "alternatives" offer a solution to my wish to howl. One can just as easily ignore someone on Facebook as anywhere else.

Maybe it just comes down to some old-fashioned notions. Call me old-fashioned if you will, see if I care. Courtesy. I like this word, unlike rant, which I don't. A curtsy and a courtesy, madam?

Right. I don't really know what all the above was about, but there you go. Let's move on, shall we.

End of tourism life in Mallorca does of course come ever nearer. I'm running a book. The 24th of July is the favourite to be the actual end of tourism life. Some have somewhat stupidly suggested the 24th of September. Are they mad? No, no, it'll all be over before the autumn equinox. Trust me. I have seen the near future and it finishes the day before the Sant Jaume fiesta. Why am I so confident of this? Because when I enter a tourism-related establishment hereabouts, I am confronted with a "muy mal" and a conviction that the end is nigh. "Eat less meat." Remember him? The nutter who used to walk up and down Oxford Street. I'm wondering if I might take up the sandwich-boarding of new Day Zero along the paseos of old Puertos Alcúdia and Pollensa and all points Can Picafort. What a hoot.

There is though some justification for the end of the world occurring in late July, and at least part of it has to do with understanding the market. In Puerto Pollensa, things are, it would seem, worse than "muy mal"; they are muy, muy, mal, mal. I was told yesterday that the restaurants of the wrongly-monikered pinewalk, i.e. the promenade, which isn't the pinewalk, as opposed to the pinewalk, which is, were stripped of all human life a couple of nights ago. With one exception. Can you guess? Go on. Choke on your tex-mex. The Dakota.

It's not as if the Dakotas are that cheap. They're not. But what they are, is bright and suggest that human life does exist. It is, I'm sorry to have to tell you, a question of marketing.

And then there is Puerto Alcúdia. I wandered into a restaurant in the port where a German boy who had ended up working there because he had missed his flight told me that things were, erm, a little slow. I engaged him and the chap behind the bar in meaningful conversation. Some places, said I, weren't empty. Ah, but they're famous restaurants, it was suggested. Well no, not really, I replied. En route to the port of Alcúdia, I had passed a steak house, let's call it Dallas, shall we. It looked pretty full to me. Hardly famous. But it's in a good place, it doesn't make out that it is a work of art, its prices seem reasonable, the food looks presentable. And what do you know?

The problem is that, in these straitened times, too many businesses are working from the wrong perspective, their own. Who wants boutique-style eateries, serving up boutique-style dishes or "typical" cuisine? Well, some do, but many do not. It's hard for many to stomach, but business is business. The end of tourism life will be the 24th of July. But not for all.

Don't know. As I was writing this, something I hadn't heard for years - but did on Spanish radio the other day - came to mind. Collapse of tourism, collapse of financial systems, collapse of governments and old truisms regarding electoral systems. Gil Scott-Heron, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Child's Play: Football and bouncy castles

I am reluctant to say that it was a case of the ridiculous to the sublime, but it was a case of what I have a habit of packing into not just an afternoon but an hour of one afternoon. The last day of the Premier League season, and I stop off at Foxes for a coffee. I am en route elsewhere. The bar is - to use the vernacular that it appears we must now do - rammed. The boozerists of Manchester United, Chelsea, Stoke, Wigan or no team in particular. "Jamie's throwing knives," says Lee. Leicester have lost.

This is the English at play. Pints, boisterous, laughter, tattoos, lots of white skin having gone red, "come on, you's". You couldn't, in all honesty, ever describe it as refined. A substantial frame heaves into view. "Oi," I shout, with my best lack of refinement. I need a word. Grizz, aka Minty, is on foot patrol back to the hotel. Along with Pater Minty. I think to suggest that pater looks younger than offspring, but he can read about here instead. A somewhat, how can I put it, bulky child with a pink face asks Minty about later entertainment. "Statues." It seems to do the trick. Child's play and the English at play. Refinement is the word that has lodged into my mind as I depart the lager laager. It may be elsewhere.

I have an appointment. Have camera, will spend some time on a Sunday afternoon pointing it at a bouncy castle and a small child on a space hopper. This is the Mallorcans at play. Child's play and older. There is beer, but it is being served in more dainty receptacles. There is boisterousness, but it is that of children hurling themselves on the bouncy. The tattoo-ing is hidden. The only obvious body adornment is the white clown's face paint of three "chicas" whom I take to be play leaders.

This is Sa Romana, the impressive Romanesque pile on the road from Puerto Alcúdia into the old town. They have opened a children's play garden. It seems like a good idea. There is a deficiency of such places. The beer, and the Coke and the juices, come from the "chiringuito", also a new development. In the evenings it becomes a sort-of chill place. It is the domain of Luis, formerly of the now-defunct Mestizo. The play garden is large, large enough to accommodate a small football pitch as well as all the brightly-coloured paraphernalia and plastic of a Toys 'R' Us display area. And as it is all grass, it has a natural safety factor.

The Romana clan is there in force - from Mosquito and Cas Capella as well. The tourist office is represented, though not necessarily in an official capacity. Other restaurateurs are, too. Juan from Varadero, for example. I wander about the garden, photo here, photo there. A large and multi-coloured Swiss ball affair, minus the Swiss as it appears insubstantial, rolls up against me. I'm sure I can hear air escaping, so I ignore it. Slowly deflating oversized beach balls are not my job. Mine is ... . Well, what is it? I do at times wonder. The English at play, the Mallorcans at play and earlier I had written the longer story of the Jolly Roger and the piece about tribute acts. Easy. A Sunday afternoon. Child's play.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Back In Time: The Jolly Roger

The history of the resorts holds an enduring fascination. It is a history that has never been written. I'm starting.

I spent an hour and a half with Jan from the Jolly Roger the other evening. I could have spent several more hours, and may yet do. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the Jolly Roger has an iconic status in the history of Alcúdia's tourism. It was the second British-run bar to emerge in the early 1970s, and has survived up to today under the same ownership.

The story of the Jolly Roger is astonishing. But even richer than the tales that Jan can relate are the documents and photos. Some of the latter are appearing on the bar's Facebook page; I recommend that you take a look. The photographic history is highly evocative, as are the documents. But these documents are arguably even more revealing. For an historian by degree, as I am, they are a goldmine. Jan lent me a couple that I have photographed. She said I could keep them. I won't. They all need to be preserved - together.

Among these documents are clippings from old newspapers, including the "Bulletin". One of them dates from June 1975. It is a report on the problems at Bellevue, or the Bellavista Residential Complex as it was being called then. These problems surrounded financing and bankruptcies. The headline announced that the "Alcúdia complex could face 168 million pesetas auction". (168 million pesetas would have been one million pounds; an exchange rate of 168 pesetas to the pound was established after the pound's devaluation in 1967.)

The financial and ownership wrangles at Bellevue were to continue for years. It was not until 1983 that the complex became properly operational. 1983 was a highly significant year for the Jolly Roger - in different ways.

Another clipping comes from "The Sunday Mirror". There is also a letter from the journalist, David Duffy, who wrote the article in the paper. Both were to do with an investigation that the paper was conducting into the sale of villas and provision of utilities to villas in the area by the Jolly Roger. These villas, close to the Lago Menor and to what was originally the Hotel Lago Menor (now the Lagomonte), had, in the main, been acquired as retirement homes by British pensioners, such as the five thousand pound "bungalow" owned by octogenarians Harry and Alice Spring who spent their days at the house but their nights at "an apartment some way from the estate", lent to them as it had water and lighting.

What one has here is not just a historical record of one bar, not just of the early days of Alcúdia tourism but also background into the whole phenomenon of home ownership in Mallorca, of the move to the dream home in the sun. The story of the Jolly Roger is set to appear in the newspaper thing that is due to come out this month. It will deal with the bar, but the story, and I had not expected it, is far wider than just the bar alone. Fascinating.

And as if to reinforce the history of the Jolly Roger, while I was talking to Jan a lady came in with her son. The son had swum in the bar's swimming-pool as a boy. The lady had first been a customer in ... 1974.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Soft Toilet Paper: Gay hotels

In the Comic Strip's brilliant pastiche of spaghetti Westerns, "A Fistful Of Travellers' Cheques", the proprietor of Hotel Bastardos, Keith Allen, informs his gun-toting guests, Rik Mayall and Peter Richardson, that if they "want de soft-a toilet paper" they should "go to Hotel Gay Boy". Back in the eighties when this was made, the likelihood of there being a hotel gay boy in non-urban Spain was probably very low. It isn't much higher nowadays, in Mallorca at any rate. A hotel bastardos on the other hand ... .

Mallorca has never seemed, to me, to rank particularly highly as a sun-holiday destination for gay people. Certainly not by comparison with Ibiza or Gran Canaria. Away from Palma, there are few by way of specifically gay venues. A bar did start up in Can Picafort in the autumn of 2008. It may still be there, but there is no obvious information about it. In Palma there are clubs and saunas, but the image of gay life in the capital took a bit of a knock as a result of the scandal involving a Palma councillor and rent boys. Otherwise you tend to be unaware of there being much of a gay scene.

This though may be changing. A report in yesterday's "Diario" profiles the first hotel in Mallorca which is specifically aimed at a gay and lesbian sun-and-beach market. It is in Playa de Palma and is called Pegasus. Aptly perhaps. The Spanish tourism ministry wants to let fly the winged horse of gay and lesbian tourism. Spain, and presumably therefore Mallorca, should be a leader in this niche, it believes. The fact that the pink pound or euro is worth approximately 50% more than straight wonga might have something to do with this, while the government is keen to cash in - as it were - on the new liberalism of Spain towards homosexuality.

Mallorca is essentially a "family" destination. Its resorts can be described similarly. But the description can appear to exclude other "markets" - single people, couples, senior citizens, gay people. The family is hugely important, but it is not the only market. It is right that provision is shifting in different directions. Nevertheless, some of the information for the gay market is curious. Google "gay Mallorca" and one website lists resorts, such as Alcúdia. Click on this and one is given a profile of a family resort. Hardly talking to the market, you might think.

However, and as the article from the "Diario" makes clear, the gay market is far from being uniform. There may be gay "uniforms", but not all gay people wear them. Far from it. I have gay friends who wouldn't be seen dead in a leather bar or as an extra in Frankie's "Relax". And so it is with the resorts. I would imagine that Puerto Pollensa would be an attractive destination for some gay people. Puerto Alcúdia, I'm not so sure, but Can Picafort possibly. The rustic beach between Playa de Muro and Can Pic has long had a reputation both as a nudist beach and as a gay beach, though whether it still is as it once was might be questionable. The roping-off of the dunes seemed to serve more than just the purpose of preserving the breeding grounds of certain birds and the fragility of the eco-system. But this implication would be to fall into the trap of stereotyping, and the gay market is far too diverse to justify this.

Mallorca has some way to go, but there is no reason why "markets" cannot flourish alongside each other. Years ago, around the time of the Comic Strip's pastiche, I was in Amsterdam, in a café. There were families, couples, children. Just another café. But I became aware of the leather men, the clones. I asked the waiter. Yes, it was, first and foremostly, a gay café. It didn't matter. And it doesn't matter.

"A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques". Watch it, if you haven't ...

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Darkly Floods Of May

Of the hard-luck stories, the result of the Darkly Floods Of May, more hard luck could not surely have been experienced than at the Drunken Duck. Good weather for them. Ducks, that is. Actually I'm not sure that floods are that great for ducks, especially if they are drunken or happen to be a bar. Russ, having been installed for the season, opens, has a good evening, and then ... then apparently finds himself up to his waist in water, various white goods of a commercial style similarly inundated. Things, one trusts, can only get better. And where and when did we once hear something along those lines? More below.

Elsewhere, rather grander edifices also suffered. Not, by the way, that the Drunken Duck isn't grand, but it does pail - sic - into less than grandeur alongside (were it in fact alongside, which it isn't) the Can Ramis building. Yep, the Alcúdia world of Lego was also affected by the Great Rains. Not even a budget of in excess of one million euros could prevent ingress, though one might have hoped the million plus might have made it a bit more water-tight. The inundation was not on the scale of the hilariously disastrous Great Palma Metro Flood soon after it opened, but inundation it still was - through the door and through the ceiling ... into the tourist office. There are now some rather attractive watermarks on the floor.

One of the more common English from Spanish expressions/words that is used locally is "perfect", as from "perfecto", a regular enough interjection in Spanish speech. In the case of the Darkly Floods Of May, perfect it most certainly wasn't, or indeed "perfick". And less than perfect is the situation with regard to potato farming. The floods have not helped what has been a difficult time for the potato growers of Sa Pobla who have been protesting against lack of government help. One imagines that they might be protesting some more; the export market, in particular, could be hit hard.

And so to the election. It will be small consolation to Nick Clegg that in Mallorca he had a large amount of support. Not necessarily from an exiled votership, but from the locals, as in Mallorcans. The "Diario" ran a poll, asking who readers would vote for were they able to vote.

I, being the acting returning officer for Alcúdia, Pollensa and all points Mallorca, hereby give notice that the total percentages for David Cameron are 21%, Gordon Brown 25% and Nick Clegg 54%, and that Nick Clegg has been duly elected as Prime Minister in exile in Mallorca.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

True And Fair? The number of all-inclusives

A restaurant owner in Playa de Muro said to me the other day that he had read that 65% of hotels in Mallorca were now all-inclusive. Give it another three years, and that number will be 100%, so he reckoned.

Always believe what you read. What can you believe? If the trend towards all-inclusives was this strong, it would already have been clear two years or so ago. This particular restaurant opened two years ago, some time into the season, following months of expensive work on converting one premises and re-modelling another. Why do it if the trend was already observable and if it was likely to be as great as it is now being claimed? Why do it, if all you do is moan about what the hotels are up to?

I am afraid you do have to wonder as to some business decisions, given the changes in market conditions. You do also have to wonder as to what people are prepared to believe and as to what they should make of the figures which get bandied around by various bodies. Take a piece from yesterday's "Ultima Hora". Reporting statistics from the tourism ministry, this says that the total number of hotels in Mallorca which offer all-inclusive only - the "exclusive" all-inclusive - is 48, representing a mere 3% of the total number of establishments. The figure is highly misleading, as it takes no account of size of hotel. More relevant is the total number of places in these 48 hotels - a bit under 23,000. Which sounds a lot, and may indeed be a lot, but there is no figure given as to the total number of places in all hotels.

Even allowing for this 3% to be correct, there is another confusion, and this has to do with the so-called "partial" all-inclusive, i.e. hotels which offer all-inclusive as an option in addition to other forms of accommodation. The hotel federation in Mallorca says that 165 establishments have this offer. Not that this gets us very far.

We are regularly subjected to these statistics, but never do we get a true and fair picture. You do have to wonder if "they" would rather "we" didn't get it. Or perhaps an accurate picture is not available. Can the ministry or the federation be sure about all those "upgrades" that take place when a holidaymaker is checking in at reception?

But it is only when and if a complete list of hotels and the precise number of all-inclusive places is published, and by resort, that we will ever really understand the extent of all-inclusive. And it is this which is lacking. The 3% figure, for example, is irrelevant as it takes no account of local conditions - by resort. As I have mentioned before, Puerto Pollensa cannot compare with Puerto Alcúdia, Can Picafort and Playa de Muro when it comes to all-inclusive offers, as they barely exist in Puerto Pollensa.

Until such information is made available and is truly transparent, which it is not at present, restaurant owners (and others) will continue to believe what they read, even if it is not accurate. And they will continue to bemoan their luck. But they should also take a look at themselves and at their decisions. In Playa de Muro, which does have a number of all-inclusive places, the bad-luck stories all centre on these places, except in the case of some businesses, such as Boulevard and its Dakotas. They have opened a second Dakota in the resort, and the boss has told me that all-inclusives have not affected them. And if this is true, then you do have to further wonder as to factors like marketing and trying that little bit harder, especially at a time of changed market conditions. Whither, therefore, one might ask, the traditional restaurant?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Still Waters Run Deep: After the floods and alternative gastronomy

Après le déluge.

Big weather events bring with them big weather stories. Those of being flooded out, those of cars stalled, those of roads closed. And then there are those of the great floods of the past, those of weather's not normally like that at this time of the year, with which someone disagrees, referring to the great deluge of ... whenever it may have been, if at all.

Everywhere you went, there was some post-flood cleaning up in progress. Restaurant Jardín, for example. Dani staring somewhat forlornly at a wide green hose. The Siesta 2 swimming-pool having to be pumped out and re-filled as it had gone an unpleasant colour of Sant Marti mountain plus muddy water plus whatever else. And everywhere you went, you might inadvertently come across the aftermath of the great rains - roads in the centre of Puerto Alcúdia under significant amounts of water, and the fire engines pumping away for all their worth, which makes you wonder how much a fire engine is worth and whether this worth can really be calculated in terms of water-pumping capability. And then ... big mistake, taking the turning towards the Condes, then an even bigger one to take the turning past the Viva Tropic. Still waters running deeper. Truly, truly I am sorry to the lady who I splashed. I did slow, I did brake (which is not really advisable), but I couldn't help it. Later, someone tells me that Spanish driving instruction includes advice to drive at as high a speed as possible through floods. This explains much. Splash, drench, curse.

The great weather event of 3 May will now pass into history, but for the moment it is another body blow, made no better by news of Ireland under a cloud.

But then to the local Eroski where the spirits rise a little. Not because of special offers on beer or the like, but because of the music. You can never be sure what you'll get over the PA in the supermarket. New Order "Regret". It makes shopping for aluminium foil positively uplifting, and you wonder ... what if I were to turn into the next aisle and there would be Hooky and Barney playing live. They aren't, but it seemed like a nice idea at the time. Which made me think ... Things you would never expect to find in your local Eroski. New Order would be one, but decent bacon might be another. Which made me think further.

A recent correspondent via the Alcudia forum was asking about the great English breakfast, so I set him a challenge - to unearth the best, in his opinion. Don't, please, for one moment think I'm about to do this as we all know where, even with the best intentions, identifying best of bars etc. can lead. But a humble visitor is a different matter, methinks, while the role of the full English is, in my view, sadly overlooked when it comes to all this carry-on about Mallorcan gastronomy. It may not be Mallorcan, but it is part of the Mallorcan scene. So from this has been spawned a further idea for this newspaper thing. The alternative gastronomy page. And I have found my "expert" alter egos. Their names are Pam and Olly (as in Pa amb Oli - ho, ho). They know who they are, as I told them yesterday morning. Bet you can't wait.

(I should, I feel, thank Seamus for providing the initial inspiration for Pam and Olly.)

I don't know, but I reckon this can qualify among our summer/holiday songs. The Four Tops, "Still Waters Run Deep":

Any comments to please.