Thursday, March 31, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Gas up, electricity stays the same

Central government has approved its quarterly revisions of prices for energy. Electricity, with some changes to the actual formula for arriving at its price to consumers, will stay the same, but gas is to go up by 4.1% for natural gas and 6.1% for butane.

MALLORCA TODAY - Hotasa hotels will open in May

The six Mallorcan hotels of the Hotasa chain that belongs to the troubled Nueva Rumasa group will all open by the start of May (the Beverly Playa in Peguera has already opened). This is the reassurance from the director general of Hotasa to the employees' union. The hotels include three in Can Picafort and two in Calas de Mallorca.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 March 2011

A fine, sunny morning, with wispy cloud and minimal breeze. Should be plenty of sunshine today, the forecast at least into Saturday being good. Temperatures as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 8.9 C; Pollensa, 11.4 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.0 C.

It has been a warm day and the highest temperature, to 18.00, has been inland, in Pollensa town at 21.0 C, with highs a little lower on the coast: 19.5 C (Alcúdia/Playa de Muro) and 20.8 C (Puerto Pollensa).

Hidden Identities: Spanish or Mallorcan?

Let's imagine that you are minding your own business, walking down the street and some chap with a clipboard accosts you and starts asking you with what you identify; your country or island, that is. Were this to happen in Mallorca, you would, and I assume for a moment that you are English, reply in song, "England till I die", and then probably nut the interviewer. Were, though, you unable to opt for England or any other part of the British Isles, but had to select Mallorca or Spain or even the Balearics, what would be your reply?

Well, imagination is all fine and dandy, but chances are that you wouldn't be asked. Unlike 900 Balearic sorts. The research organisation Gadeso has been asking them whether they feel more Spanish, more Mallorcan (or Menorcan, Ibizan or Formenteran) or more Balearic. And what do they feel? For the most part, they are neither one thing nor the other. They are split personalities, as Spanish as they are Balearic. 55% of them. But of those who are one thing or the other, roughly equal numbers consider themselves more Spanish or more Balearic, while equal numbers (7%) believe they are either only Spanish or only Balearic.

There we are then. The islands mainly comprise people who, on given the compromise option, opt for it. Spanish and Balearic in equal measure. It's the don't know answer for those who probably normally never give the question a moment's thought. Gadeso is a worthy body, but this research is somewhat spurious. Or is it?

Not completely. Gadeso argues that an increase in those who feel more Spanish than the last time such research was conducted can be explained by dissatisfaction with government in the Balearics. Possibly. It could also be that they are just asking different people.

The more interesting stuff, though, lies in the detail behind the general findings. On first reading the report of this research, my own reaction was to question the degree to which local people associate themselves with the islands of the archipelago as a whole, the Balearics, or with an individual island. I cannot ever recall a Mallorcan referring even vaguely to the Balearics in terms of the islands being his or her homeland. To Mallorca, yes, but not the Balearics. The research bears this out. Around two-thirds of Mallorcans identify with Mallorca and not the Balearics; the numbers are higher in the other islands.

Is this either surprising or important? No, it isn't surprising, but, yes, it is important. Important because regional government is Balearic, because autonomy is that of the Balearics and because much impulse for positioning and promotion is Balearic, even that of tourism promotion. Just as the tourist thinks only of the individual islands, so too do the people of the individual islands. The Balearics are a geographical convenience, rather than a cohesive political, social or touristic unit.

The finding is also important because, if there genuinely is a desire for greater autonomy or indeed independence, then it is not the Balearics which are inspiring this desire; it is the islands themselves. But even here, the sympathy is skewed significantly. Of the four main political parties or groupings at the 2007 local elections, only those who voted for the left-wing Bloc (the Mallorcan socialist party and others) have a strong Balearics-only identity. This, though, is diluted when Balearic and island identity is asked about. Across the four parties - Bloc, Partido Popular, PSOE socialists and the now ex-Unió Mallorquina - identity is overwhelmingly with the island and not the Balearics.

Any drive towards independence and an association with another vague political and social construct, the "Catalan lands", is exposed as having virtually no ground swell of identity. A whole 2% of Bloc voters place a Catalan identity above a Balearic or island identity. The percentages are zero for the other parties. This will make uneasy reading for the likes of the Obra Cultural Balear and others on the independence wing who seem to believe that there is mileage in independence and a confederation of Catalan states. They may believe it, but the public may beg to differ.

Taking the findings as a whole, the case for greater autonomy or independence would seem, on the basis of personal identity at any rate, to have only a minority public support. Almost 80% of the public consider themselves to be either as Spanish as they are Balearic, more Spanish or Spanish alone. Another angle on this, and it should be something that the Partido Popular with its potentially dangerous tendency towards greater "Spanishness" should take note of, is that only a quarter of its supporters feel that they are more Spanish than Balearic and that only 10% feel more Spanish alone. They are not the majority, therefore.

What the findings also show is a confirmation of what has historically been the case. That the people of Mallorca and the islands are generally middle of the road and conservative with a small "c". It's a message that may not please the promoters of independence and it may contradict a growing sense of radicalism, but it is a message that is probably accurate.

Any comments to please.

Index for March 2011
Airport workers strike - 7 March 2011
Baltasar Garzón - 26 March 2011
Bars to close in smoking-ban protest - 9 March 2011
British, what Mallorcans think of the - 30 March 2011
Carlos Delgado: ambitions for office - 20 March 2011
Convergència per les Illes Balears - 6 March 2011
Cycling tourism - 8 March 2011
Earthquakes - 19 March 2011
Film in Mallorca - 21 March 2011
GESA building - 1 March 2011
Historic tourism season in 2011 - 23 March 2011
Identity, Mallorca v. Spanish - 31 March 2011
Infrastructure, expensive - 22 March 2011
Innovation and development - 25 March 2011
Insults, Balearics parliament and political - 17 March 2011
Magaluf death of a tourist - 29 March 2011
Mallorca Rocks - 16 March 2011
María Salom and the Council of Mallorca - 13 March 2011
Menorca: all-inclusives and restaurant offers - 28 March 2011
Miserable, Spanish the most - 11 March 2011
Oil and petrol prices - 7 March 2011
Partido Popular, corruption and - 6 March 2011
Photography, society and - 15 March 2011
Rain, pollen and dust - 18 March 2011
Ramón Socias - 6 March 2011
Royal wedding and street parties - 27 March 2011
Seasonal workers and expats - 14 March 2011
Sepia fair, Alcúdia's fishermen pull out of - 3 March 2011
Sobrasada - 4 March 2011
Speed limit reduction - 2 March 2011
Sustainable tourism - 24 March 2011
Tourism minister, President Antich and - 12 March 2011
Trains and public transport - 10 March 2011
"Wetten, dass ...?" broadcast from Palma - 5 March 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Cleaners to strike

Unions representing cleaners in both the public and private sectors are expected to give notice tomorrow of strikes among cleaning staff that will take place on 19, 20 and 26 April. The strike call is on account of no increase in pay for 2011 having been agreed by the associations representing businesses responsible for the cleaning of the likes of schools, the airport and hotels.

MALLORCA TODAY - Further rise in price of petrol

The cost of petrol continues to go up. It is now an average of 1.33 euros per litre, a further increase of almost 2% in the past week. Inflation in general is standing at 3.6%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia swimming-pool goes cold

The ongoing dispute between Alcúdia town hall and the operator of the public indoor swimming-pool, Gesport Balear, is about to lead to the pool's heating being switched off. Gesport says that it has lost some 300,000 euros in the five years that it has been operating the pool and that it has no more money to pay for heating. There is now something of a stand-off, with the town hall lamenting the poor state of the pool and not prepared to spend what Gesport is asking for.

MALLORCA TODAY - Murdered Palma man knew his attacker

It wasn't a good weekend for Mallorca. In addition to the Magalluf incident, a 67-year-old man in Palma was viciously attacked and killed in his home in the Son Canals area of the city. It would appear that the victim knew his attacker and let him in to his house. Police are working on the theory that the attack was related to male prostitution.

MALLORCA TODAY - 50% of buses will operate

The first of planned stoppages by drivers at the Palma bus company, EMT, will occur tomorrow between 5 and 8 in the morning. The town hall has extracted agreement that 50% of services will operate during these hours, which will be the ones affected by further stoppages that are planned for 1 and 4 April.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 March 2011

A greyish start but large patches of blue starting to emerge, and it looks like the day will pan out as yesterday and be fine and warm. Very calm, with virtually no breeze. As of 09.00, the temperatures: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 8.9 C; Pollensa, 11.0 C; Puerto Pollensa, 12.0 C.

It wasn't quite as it had looked in the morning. A mixture of rain and drizzle but sun coming through in the afternoon. Temperatures only average, the highest anywhere in the area, up to 18.00, being 16.7 C in Alcúdia.

Vive La Différence: It's all in the mind

"They come and expect a load of money. They work one day, and then the next, they can't be bothered to get up. They've been out till late, at a club or somewhere. Drinking or, you know, other stuff. Tell me, how many make a success of their businesses? Only a few. It's the mentality. That's the problem."

Fancy taking a guess as to who this is about and who said it?

Give up? Then I'll tell you. It was a Mallorcan who said it, and he was talking about the British and specifically British business owners. The mentality is one, I have to presume, of idleness and a proneness to hedonism before graft.

I did argue the point, but it wasn't really worth it. Once the mind is made up, it is made up. One, two, maybe three examples from the past that fit the argument, and the argument is won. That's how it works. From small examples, whole generalisations are made. Mallorcans do it. The British do it. We all do it. I can turn the argument around, cite examples of exactly what he was complaining of in the British and apply them to Mallorcans. But what would be the point?

It was unfair. Yes, there probably are, in fact I know there are, cases that confirm his argument, but I know an awful lot of cases which don't. Bar owners (and this was really all about bar owners) may not be making massive successes of things at present, but they are doing ok, working long hours, not going to clubs. Who can honestly say they are making massive successes of things just now? Mallorcans included, especially the ones who complain endlessly of the effects of the "crisis" and all-inclusives.

Why did this even come up? It was apropos of very little. Just going off on one. Or maybe it was indicative of something more deep-seated, more inclined not to usually be stated. And if it was, then it raises a question. What do the Mallorcans really think about the British? Not tourists so much as the British who live in Mallorca and especially those who make their livings in Mallorca.

From one example, I could make a case for saying that they don't rate the British very highly. But this would be to fall into the generalisation trap. The answer to my own question is that I have no real idea.

I have been trying to figure it all out, though. Was this outburst somehow representative of a tendency that has been perceptible over the recent past of crisis? One of a closing of Mallorcan ranks, one that has not been entirely surprising as a reaction to difficult times? But even if it were, it still doesn't explain the outburst. If a business owner, British or anyone, decides not to work hard and to not make a success of his or her business, then why should a Mallorcan care? Unless they're expecting the rent to be paid perhaps.

Is it that there is a more fundamental division? While plenty of British people have "crossed over" through marriage or through business partnership, while there are plenty of British people who have been so long on the island that they even speak Mallorquín, are the British a breed apart? If the answer to this is yes (and it almost certainly is), then it raises, and hardly for the first time, the whole issue as to how well or not the British integrate.

Yet, integration is a largely illusory state of being, especially for more recent comers, assuming you can actually define integration adequately, and I defy anyone to do so, given a contemporary society in which communications, media and other factors conspire to maintain and reinforce cultural, linguistic and social differences rather than break them down.

Ghettoisation exists not just in a physical way through proximity. It exists through social contact and, as importantly, in the head. It's for this reason, more than any other, that integration is such a specious concept. Barriers reside through a state of mind. My Mallorcan friend was right in one respect when he referred to mentality.

But of course, the reverse applies. The indigenous population is its own ghetto of supremacy, a state that was alluded to in Guy de Forestier's definitive "Beloved Majorcans", and one that exerts supremacy over mainlanders and the British and which has recaptured its resonance recently, following the years of encroaching cosmopolitanism. Mallorcans, obviously, have no need to go native, because they already are. And like any native population, they assume the birthright of primacy, just as the British do in their own land. And their own mental and social ghettoes are those of looking after their own. 'Twas ever thus, wherever you care to think of.

Own land, foreigners in a foreign land. Is that what this was all about? Maybe. Vive la différence? Is there long life to difference anywhere? Probably not.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Can Cullerassa to open to tourists

The area of the Can Cullerassa finca in the Albufereta nature zone between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa is to open to its first guided tours for tourists on 2 April. In the 70s and 80s, the area had been intended for development, which never occurred, but debris had been left behind. This has been removed and, together with a general recuperation of the area at a cost of nearly 400,000 euros, has made Can Cullerassa once more a place with bird-watching and general tourist interest.

MALLORCA TODAY - Accused in Magalluf killing imprisoned

Thomas William Swannell, accused of murdering Gary Vigors in Magalluf in the early hours of Saturday morning, appeared in court in Palma yesterday. Mr. Swannell exercised his right not to make a declaration in front of the judge, who ordered his remand in custody and turned down a request for bail. The Guardia Civil have yet to determine the exact motive for the killing.

Photo: "Diario de Mallorca" -

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 March 2011

A distinct change, that forecast of rain may have been accurate. Cloudy skies and feeling a bit chilly. As of 09.00, the temperatures: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 10.5 C; Pollensa, 11.2 C; Puerto Pollensa, 12.4 C.

And it turned out to be another fine day, with none of the rain that had been on the cards. Highs in the area until 18.30, Alcúdia/Playa de Muro and Pollensa town, both at 18.9 C.

Think For A Minute: Getting killed in Mallorca

Of course, you never quite know what really happened, but you can imagine. It only takes a minute. Far less in fact. A second? A little more?

When Ross McWhirter was shot by the IRA, a fellow contributor to a university magazine penned an ode to the co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records. "The time of death, an expert doctor reckons, was little more than one and one half seconds ... Remember, you're the record holder for being the quickest dead." He wasn't, because he died later in hospital, but it can be as little as one and a half seconds.

It all happened in seconds in Magalluf. It all happened very quickly, said witnesses. It doesn't take long. It wouldn't have taken long for the cyclist on the road between Inca and Manacor to have collided with a lorry and been killed on Monday morning, as it wouldn't have taken long for the cyclist in Can Picafort last year to have lost his life, or as it wouldn't have taken long for the two Thomson reps to have died when they were knocked down in Puerto Alcúdia a few years ago.

The little floral tributes to the reps will reappear in a few days time, as they reappear each year. They last a few days, longer than the less than a minute that it took. It can take longer, as with Gabriel Marquet who was in a coma for several days after being attacked in Puerto Alcúdia in 2009. It wouldn't have taken long, though, for the blow to have been delivered that was to prove fatal. But bear this in mind, and think for a minute; Marquet was not British, and nor was his attacker, while the background to Marquet's death was the street-drinking botellón.

Think for a minute, or a moment, before acting and hopefully you won't have acted. Assuming you can think and you are not desensitized and insensible through drink. That's where the blame will lie, of course. Groups of lads and the not-so lads on the lash in Maga. What can you expect? There's one thing you would hope not to expect, and that's bleeding to death in a street.

It's bad for the image of Calvia, complains the tourist business association. It's an awful lot worse for the one who is no longer with us, and for his family. Think for a minute before uttering the insensitive. Perhaps like some who put comments to the news stories should think for a minute. Who is the image really bad for? Calvia or Britain? The commentators on the news story in "Ultima Hora" say that the "English tourists who come to Magalluf are the low class of the country", "the English tourism is the most 'unpresentable' that there is in England", "the British in Magalluf are basically those which are unemployed", "the good English of the 70s no longer want to come to Mallorca", "the hoteliers and politicians should reflect on whether these tourists are what we want in the Balearics".

There are probably Britons who think the same and who also rush to let the world know their thoughts, without really knowing or without stopping to think. From one horrific incident, whole conclusions are swiftly drawn in the time it takes for the brain to formulate them. Seconds. And they are sticks or broken bottles with which to beat and stab Magalluf and a sector of British society, whichever that might be, because you don't know. And nor does it really matter. All that does is that someone is dead.

Think for a minute or for less. Think about that cyclist. Had a moment's thought been taken, he might be alive. You don't know for sure, but he might. You're in a hurry of course. You are impatient. There's a cyclist in the way. It takes considerably less than a minute. But why does it matter, if it takes a minute rather than thirty seconds to make that bit of road? Because it doesn't matter. It does matter to a body dead on the road and to you if you are the one who has put the body there. How long does it take? Seconds. Life changes and ends. Bang. Gone.

They've calculated how much longer it will take taxi drivers to make certain journeys because of the reduction in motorway speed. A minute here, and a minute there. What do they matter? They don't.

What do you think when there is a cyclist in the way or a car that is moving too slowly for your liking? He's taking the piss, he's annoying me, angering me, I'll show him. Is that how the thinking goes, with or without the aid of drink? Yes, it is. And without really thinking, it takes only seconds.

One person, left in a pool of blood on a Magalluf street, can no longer think. Another person can and will. For a long time. He will think how life changes and ends. In seconds.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Illegal transport operator arrested

Calvia police has arrested a man who was transporting German passengers from Calvia to the Caves of Drach without the correct authorisation. The passengers were being charged 28 euros a trip, and the operator faces a fine of up to 6000 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Call for greater police presence in Magaluf

Following the weekend's incident in which a British tourist died as a result of being attacked with a broken bottle by another tourist, the tourist business association has called on Calvia town hall to up security in the area around "the strip" (Punta Ballena) by increasing the police presence. The association says that such incidents damage the image of the town, and it has also complained that an ambulance took too long to arrive on the scene of the incident.

MALLORCA TODAY - Cyclist killed near Inca

A 65-year-old cyclist, riding on the main road between between Inca and Manacor has been killed this morning, following an accident involving a lorry.

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist accused of murder in court today

The British tourist, Thomas William S., appears in a Palma court today, accused with the murder of Gary Vigors in Magaluf. Witnesses have already testified before the judge that the accused was the one who attacked Vigors. Reports of the crime suggest that Vigors' face was disfigured by cuts from a broken bottle and then bled to death from a slash across the jugular vein. The Guardia Civil were unable initially to interrogate the accused as he was in no fit condition to be questioned, being under the influence of alcohol and disorientated. The two men were both attached to a cricket team from Northamptonshire that was due to play the Mallorca Cricket Club at the weekend. The game was cancelled.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 March 2011

Well, what looks to be a lovely day in prospect. Clear skies and plenty of sunshine with a stiff breeze that has veered westerly. As of 09.30, the temperatures: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.8 C; Pollensa, 13.9 C; Puerto Pollensa, 15.3 C.

Temperatures down on yesterday, the best in the area during the day being 18.7 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro. Rain is being forecast for tomorrow, but by Thursday and into the weekend more fine weather can be expected.

We'll Fight Them On The Beach Restaurants

So, here was an interesting little thing that caught my eye. In "The Bulletin" on Sunday. The headline was "Menorca fights all-inclusive tourist offer". The short news item said that the "Council of Menorca" (was) fighting back against the all-inclusive offer by setting up an online scheme where(by) visitors planning to come to the island can survey local restaurants giving meals at a special price, and calculate their expenses in advance."

What a very good idea, thought I. Visitors would also be able, the piece continued, to compare costs against that of an all-inclusive offer. Intrigued, I went in search of the website. I was intrigued not just by what seemed a good idea but also by the surprise of it. Why was I surprised? Well, would an island council, Menorca's or any other, actually be presenting something that might be seen to undermine its hotels? Yes, it wants to boost its restaurants and other businesses, and no, the councils aren't necessarily in cahoots with the hotels as such, but "fighting back" against AI? Was it really doing this?

Disappointingly, it isn't doing this. On the "Menorca Full Experience" site, the introduction says that we (tourists) want to know in advance costs of various things and that we have a problem with budgeting for lunches and dinners. Nowhere is there any mention of all-inclusives. Might this be for a reason other than letting tourists make some cost comparison, as in all-inclusives will soon be a thing of the past?

The island's tourism minister, Lázaro Criado, said, when the site was launched at the start of March, that "we understand that all-inclusive is not the agreed strategy for the long term in Menorca, although it can prove useful in the short term". Just like Mallorca, then. If anyone can decipher what the minister means (and it is hard to believe what he appears to mean), answers on a postcard with a picture of one of the participating restaurants, assuming you can find one of them.

The idea behind the site is that restaurants are listed, along with their menus, and a discount price is offered on production of a voucher that can be printed out. Fair enough. But hardly new. A slight problem with what there is on the website at present is that there are very few restaurants participating. How many? Three. Yes, three. In the whole of Menorca. In certain sections of cuisine and in certain "urbanisations", there are none listed. One presumes it's all early days.

This website has nothing to do with all-inclusives, but everything to do with promoting local gastronomy, all three restaurants' worth of it. There's nothing wrong with such promotion, while it would indeed have been a surprise had there been some sort of cost-comparison measures being presented, which there aren't. One can of course do one's own cost comparison, by schlepping through all manner of websites to get to the comparison, but you won't get it by "falling in love" with Menorca, the claim of the tourism board's site.

Giving some advance information about what it might cost to eat out is not, in itself, a completely bad idea. It is one of the questions holidaymakers ask all the time, along with how much does a pint cost and what's the weather like. The trouble is that the answers to them are of the string variety. How long is a piece of it? The weather you can be reasonably sure of, in July for example, but not in September. As for the costs of eating out, one man's meat is another man's pizza, as indeed one man's Burger King is another man's typical Mallorcan (or Menorcan) cuisine in a romantic, beach-side setting. It's not comparing eggs with eggs, or a fried egg with a rasher of bacon with quail's eggs and smoked salmon.

Calculating the holiday budget in advance, by sizing up less than a handful of restaurants' menus, with or without discounts, does rather overlook the increasing trend for the holidaymaker to have pretty much a set budget to spend, regardless of advance price information or discounts. And while a discount here or there might be tempting, it won't be if it means trekking across an entire island in search of it. To be of any real value, discounts have to be clustered in an area close to the holidaymaker, but if enough establishments offer them then the offer itself becomes standard and thus loses its capacity to incentivise.

As for a cost comparison between all-inclusives and a mix of accommodation and eating-out, it could well be that one can make a case for the latter working out cheaper. Again, it does all rather depend. But even this overlooks a crucial ingredient in the all-inclusive's favour, which is its sheer convenience. Holidaymakers should be more adventurous, but many have lost the capacity for adventure-seeking because they are handed everything on a paper plate, together with the poolside, plastic knife and fork.

Menorca is not fighting back. It is not fighting the all-inclusive on the beaches, as only one of the three restaurants is indeed a beach restaurant. Criado also reckoned that "with this formula (that of the website, whatever this formula actually is) we wish to respond specifically to the demand for all-inclusive in Menorca". If so, when why not say so. On the website. There again, all-inclusive is not for the long term, says Sr. Criado. Who's he trying to kid?

Any comments to please.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 March 2011

Another grey start, but with a chillier feel as there is a keen southerly breeze. As of 09.30, the temperatures: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 13.2 C; Pollensa, 10.1 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.9 C.

The wind blew the clouds away, and being a south wind (and quite strong at times), it has brought in warm air and has made today the warmest of the year in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 20.3 C, Pollensa, 19.5 C, but not in Puerto Pollensa, 19.5 C, which has previously max-ed at 19.9 C.

Taking To The Streets: The royal wedding

When the Great News was announced, one's first thoughts were: ah, yes, the street party. That rare and strange event when the British indulge in some old-time knees-up. Chas 'n' Dave, the hokey cokey, Union Jack hats, triangular flags hanging across the road, plates of banana and cucumber sandwiches, family-sized bottles of lemonade, lashings of ginger beer, huge urns of tea, standing and singing the national anthem, comments as to how beautiful she is and how handsome he is, comments as to what a shame she is not there to see it, comments as to how proud she would have been of him, comments as to why is she there, the other one, comments as to how drunk will the brother get later, comments as to it's the sort of thing the British do well, comments as to do you remember other street parties ...

1977. The Queen's Silver Jubilee. A recreation ground in the north of England. Beer tents, a brass band, whippet-obedience competitions. A group of university sorts has been taking the waters. Many of them. Another group, of local sorts, squares up. Oh what fun. How to celebrate Her Majesty, with the echoes of the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" somewhere in the background along with an ailing British economy, a rocky pound and a handout from the IMF the previous year.

1981. Charles and Diana. It is the end of July. You have returned from holiday, having been shocked at the sight of a shaky television broadcast on a Greek island in which Thatcher is addressing the nation. You have returned to expect to find the streets ablaze and houses razed to the ground. How to celebrate the heir to the throne and the greatest marital sham of all time. And somewhere in the background is the sound of The Beat's "Stand Down Margaret" and The Specials' "Ghost Town" with its gloomy prescriptions of economic and urban decay, violence and racism.

Thirty years on and it's the turn of Kate and Wills. Or Kate and Guillermo as the Spanish press insist on referring to them. With Enrique doing the embarrassing speech, filling the Bentley's hub-cabs with nails and attaching empty Heinz cans to the rear bumper, and Carlos probably giving not a moment's thought to thirty years previously. Isabel will be there, too, thinking ahead to the street parties for fifty golden years.

The parties of little Englands and little Britains on the streets of Mallorca. Trestles and tombolas. Special deliveries of John Smith and Tetleys. Someone has to organise the catering. Someone has to organise it all. There will be a committee, as there always is a committee. The British are masters and mistresses of forming two things - queues and committees. There will be a jazz band, as jazz bands there always are. But there will be no sound of the Sex Pistols. Posters of Kate and Guillermo will have been despatched from blighty. Grinning and loving big hair and a lack of hair adorning walls of the streets, held in place with sellotape. Something will have been arranged for charity because the British can't gather without arranging something for charity. Speakers will be turned up to hear the words spoken. A hush will descend. I do, and we all do. We British.

Tears will be shed, isn't she lovely, isn't he handsome. Once more the comments will be made. And some special Spanish friends will have been invited. Smiling and altogether confused by the fuss and not knowing whether they should stand when the national anthem is played yet again. The Tetleys will have been flowing sufficiently for some raucous, football-terrace-style, passionate belting-out of "The Queen". The day will have become warm enough for the singers to have discarded t-shirts and to display bellydom and body designs. Spanish neighbours will rest themselves on balcony railings and stare down blankly. The local police will hang around, observing through their sunglasses and starting to get agitated as they check their watches, the rules for permissions and the distance that the trestles are from the walls.

As the day turns into evening and as the tables are taken down and packed into the back of a white van and the drunks head off to the curry house or to the all-you-can-eat-for-six-euros chinky, the street party will be hailed as a great success. The newly-weds will be preparing for their luna de miel in wherever it is that they are celebrating it. The toasts for them will die away, but a warm feeling will persist. Of little England and little Britain in the warmth of Mallorca, while back in blighty there is the chill of an ailing economy and a rocky pound and where the streets fill with different types of event, like a quarter of a million heading for Hyde Park.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Eight and a half years for Matas called for

The first of the cases against the former Balearics president Jaume Matas is coming to an end. The prosecution are calling for a a sentence of eight and a half years for allegedly fraudulent payments made from public funds to a journalist, Antonio Alemany, who was Matas's speech-writer. This case is just one element of the so-called Palma Arena corruption affair.

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist murdered in Magalluf

A 41 year-old tourist has died in Magalluf after being attacked by another tourist with a broken bottle. The latter has been detained by the Guardia Civil. The incident occurred in the area of Punta Ballena in the bar Café Plaza.

Further to this, more information has been released. The dead tourist is a Briton, a Gary Clive Vigors from Chelmsford in Essex. His attacker has been named as Thomas William S., aged 44, from Northampton and also British. Vigors was struck in the face and neck by the bottle and died in the street outside the bar. The accused, whose full name has been published elsewhere, has been charged with intentional homicide.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 March 2011

A grey start, with what may be mist obscuring the view towards the mountains. Sunny intervals later are forecast. As of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 11.2 C; Pollensa, 9.8 C; Puerto Pollensa, 11.9 C.

And the afternoon turned out fine. Warm, but without temperatures being high. The maximums since the morning, to 17.00, have been: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.9 C; Pollensa, 16.4 C; Puerto Pollensa, 16.1 C.

The Persecution Of Baltasar Garzón

It takes something for a judge to be the subject of a film or a TV show. Baltasar Garzón is neither an eccentric figure of the Wild West (Judge Roy Bean) nor a fictitious and unrealistic character such as Judge John Deed. He is grounded and real. He is grounded in more than just one sense. Level-headed, he has also been suspended since last May, while awaiting trial on an allegation of "prevaricación", which is a Spanish legal concept which isn't really as it sounds; it can be taken to mean misconduct in office or possibly perverting the course of justice.

The documentary film, "Listening to Judge Garzón", is more than simply a look at his life and times and his fears arising out of his suspension. It is also representative of the support Garzón has from the liberal arts. A week ago, in Madrid, there was a demonstration, one by artists, unionists and politicians, calling for an end to the "persecution" of Garzón. Under the banner "truth, justice and reparation", the demonstration rejected the attempted criminalisation of Garzón and criticised the inaction of the government and tribunals.

Garzón, who, by appearance, has something of a chubby Sven-Goran Eriksson about him but who has not been guilty of Sven's peccadilloes or indeed those of Judge John Deed, is far from uncontroversial. To call him a judge is misleading, in English terms. He is an investigator, more than he is an arbiter. It is through the nature of his investigations that he has aroused controversy and the attentions of opponents as diverse as the Spanish right wing and the US Government.

The Spanish legal system allows for investigations that go beyond national jurisdiction. Consequently, Garzón has brushed up against the American authorities for seeking to pursue torture allegations and Henry Kissinger. But it was one investigation in particular, one in Spain, that brought about his suspension. It was that of calling for exhumation of graves and for charges of crimes against humanity related to incidents during and after the Civil War.

Garzón, so goes the allegation, exceeded his authority in ordering this investigation. It was said to go against the amnesty that was granted after Franco's death, one that, until relatively recently and the introduction of the law of historic memory which was designed to strip Spain of vestiges of the Franco era, had caused a kind of collusive, national amnesia.

The argument that the investigation contravened the amnesty is dubious. Its drafting was intended to clear those who had been imprisoned by the Franco regime; not the Francoists and Francoist judges who had put them into prison. Amnesia and selective memory have surrounded its actual terms ever since. The selectivity has been one of interpreting the amnesty to suit purposes.

The investigation was itself suspended. But this didn't stop Garzón being indicted. And the impulse for his being so has widely and correctly been seen as one that has come from the right. The Partido Popular has been accused of willing his neutering, while the ones to actually file a lawsuit were from a right-wing trade union called Manos Limpias ("clean hands"). Other hands involved with bringing Garzón to trial were those of the Falange.

It is the dark forces of the extreme right that hang over the Garzón affair. Though Garzón could well be accused of courting his own publicity and seeking self-aggrandisement, the case reveals much of what lurks beneath the surface in Spanish society and of the dichotomy between liberalism and the pursuit of justice and a reactionary neo-Francoism.

It also reveals much about the politicisation and partiality of the legal system. Garzón is not completely immune to charges of political bias; he is a member of the PSOE socialist party. But one of the judges selected to investigate the charge against Garzón contributes to a magazine with pro-Franco sympathies. Last year, more than 1500 judges issued a declaration condemning the influence of political parties in the legal process.

It is against this background that you have the current situation in Mallorca in which two parties, the now former Unió Mallorquina and the Partido Popular (neither to the left of the political spectrum), have been levelling allegations of political interference and judge and prosecutor bias in cases of corruption. The PP's Balearics leader, José Bauzá, has come out and said that "cases of supposed corruption" directed at the party have been pursued with the "clear agreement and rigour" of the judiciary.

Whatever the truth or not of bias and interference, from either left or right of the political spectrum, there is undeniably an underlying politicisation, and it is one that threatens an undermining of what should be an independent institution - the judiciary. More than this, however, and as the Garzón affair exposes, influences on the legal system go to the centre of Spain's democratic institutions and to a battle for the country's heart and soul. If Garzón is indeed being persecuted - and he is to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights - then it is worrying. And not just for Garzón.

Any comments to please.

Friday, March 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - A great year now that the airport strikes are off

José Blanco, the Spanish minister of development (whose job includes transport), says that the country can look forward to a great year for tourism now that the threat of strikes at Spanish airports this Easter and summer has been lifted. Airport workers yesterday ratified the agreement that the unions and the airports authority, AENA, had come to last week.

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma bus drivers to strike

Employees of Palma's Empresa Municipal de Transportes (EMT), namely bus drivers, mechanics and administrative staff, are to hold demonstrations and to stage partial stoppages and strikes in protest over pay and conditions. The first demonstration will be on Monday, 28 March, then stoppages are planned for 31 March, 1 April and 4 April, with two days of strike in the offing for 4 and 5 May.

MALLORCA TODAY - Can Picafort priest suspended

The parish priest of Can Picafort and curate of Pollensa, Pere Barceló, has been suspended from his post while accusations of sexual offences against children are being investigated. The priest was previously accused of such offences, in 1998, when a case against him was eventually archived.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 March 2011

A bright start, with hazy sunshine, and forecast to be generally fine, as is the weekend, with temperatures around the 17/18 mark. As of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 11.9 C; Pollensa, 12.9 C; Puerto Pollensa, 14.4 C.

It has been a pleasant, warmish day. Temperatures not spectacular, though. The highs in the area: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.7 C in early afternoon; Pollensa, 16.1 C around midday; Puerto Pollensa, 15.5 C in the later afternoon.

Twenty-Twenty: Mallorca's innovation boundary

A contactless bank card that is just waved over a terminal. A fixed solar heating system that will warm water to up to 200 degrees. Mini wind turbines for generating electricity.

None of these are revolutionary, but they are all innovative. La Caixa has introduced, with the help of Visa, a card that doesn't require swiping; it is said to be the first of its type in a European region. Engineers and scientists from the Universitat de les Illes Balears in Palma have developed a solar energy system, ideal for hotels and being trialled at one in Montuïri, that remains fixed and doesn't require movable machinery to incline panels towards the sun. The wind turbines of Vent Illes in Inca, specifically designed with limited land resource and also limited wind in mind, are in production.

These are examples of innovation that are coming out of Mallorca. They are examples of what you all too rarely hear about; the tapping of local engineering, scientific and technological wherewithal that will, it should be hoped, lead the island towards a more diverse industrial economy.

At the start of his administration, President Antich made much of two plans going forward to 2020. One was the "Plan Turismo", under which were envisaged fewer tourists but greater revenues. The other was for innovation and development (I&D). The two go hand in hand. As the island becomes less dependent upon tourism, so it increases its reliance upon new technologies.

This, at least, is the theory. We still hear murmurs about I&D, but very little, if anything, about the tourism plan.

While there are examples of technological innovation, and tangible benefits being produced, the actual investment in I&D paints a rather different picture. In 2009, the amount invested in the Balearics fell to around 55 million euros. In 2005, before the Antich administration, the figure had been 183 million. The slump may well be attributable to economic circumstances, but a fall in investment to the tune of a third between 2008 and 2009 alone was not mirrored in many other regions of Spain where there were in fact healthy increases: 25% in Madrid, 12% in Aragon as examples.

The total level of I&D investment has thus fallen to under 1% of total GDP in the Balearics; the highest level in Spain is in fact in Navarre at 2.13%. The difference may not sound great, but it is troubling, nonetheless. What is also troubling is the fact that even the poorest regions of the Spain, the two African autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, have managed a major increase in I&D intensity.

Most of the innovation spend is coming from smaller businesses, those with fewer than 250 employees. This may indicate an entrepreneurial spirit, so is to be welcomed, but larger businesses have all but stopped their investments.

If one contrasts the percentage of local GDP devoted to I&D with that derived from tourism (80%, give or take the odd percentage point), one gets some perspective as to the gap which exists between the present of tourism and the future of greater technology. The contrast doesn't give an exact picture of the relative sizes of particular industrial sectors, but it does give an indication as to the difference between the hope for technology and the reality. As Mallorca is, effectively, a one-product island, the need for more intense development is pressing, and 2020 is now an awful lot closer than it was when Antich came into government in 2007.

The political agenda, overshadowed as it is by issues not central to the economic future of Mallorca, needs to sharpen up. The discourse ahead of coming local elections will doubtless be dragged down by discussions of corruption, language and other such side-shows when it should be one in which the parties engage in clear visions of the future. A party that is willing to establish the right framework, in terms of incentives and funding, that can facilitate a more diverse economy would be one well worth listening to.

Mallorca has shown that it has the skills, the people and the appetite for innovation. All it needs is a real political will and not just the spin that was spun in 2007. If it gets it, then 2020 may yet become a reality.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - AENA employees in Balearics vote against strike

594 for and 134 against. The result of the vote of AENA employees at airports in the Balearics to accept the pre-agreement struck last week by the unions and the airports authority. The threat of strike action at Easter and at other times of the summer has now been lifted.

MALLORCA TODAY - Manacor tackles dog mess

It's one of those things that annoys many a resident and many a tourist. Dog mess. The town of Manacor, which includes the resorts of Porto Cristo and Calas de Mallorca, has started a campaign against dogs being allowed to foul the streets. Fines can rise to as much as 3,000 euros, and there is to be a plain-clothed police force to make sure the campaign has some teeth, and this force will be patrolling the most obvious public places, such as children's play and pedestrian areas.

MALLORCA TODAY - New meteorology network

The new meteorology network for the Balearics, IB-Met, was launched yesterday. This network will bring together weather data from 66 stations across the islands and present them in one website:

MALLORCA TODAY - Contactless pay cards

The Balearics would appear to be able to claim a first; the first region of Europe in which contactless pay cards have been introduced. The bank La Caixa, in collaboration with Visa, will send out these cards to its 130,000 customers who will be able to pay, up to 20 euros, by simply waving the card over a terminal. For amounts over 20 euros, a PIN number will be required to be entered.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 March 2011

The easterly wind has died down and is swinging more southerly. Sunny, there are clouds above the Tramuntana, but it feels warmer, even if the temperatures are only, as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 14.0 C; Pollensa, 13.8 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.6 C.

A mixture of sun and cloud during the day. The highs in the different parts of the area up to 17.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.4 C; Pollensa, 14.9 C; Puerto Pollensa, 14.4 C.

Love And Hate: Tourism sustainability

Back in 1992, I was forced to wade through innumerable conference papers that were devoted to sustainability. It was the year of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Everything was being sustained, including an entire sector of the publishing industry that was getting in on the act along with all manner of consultants and advisors, as well as those on the tree-hugging, extreme-beard wing.

Business, which had already been cajoled into social responsibility, environmental audits and the like, was now shouting its sustainable credentials from whatever roof top, with its own solar panels and organic garden, that it could find. Sustainable development had arrived.

Nearly 20 years on, and sustainability has undergone a process of niching. As a consequence, we have sustainable tourism. And the Balearics are claiming its leadership, one that has been boldly stated at the second national conference on social responsibility of tourism businesses in Palma.

The year before Rio, I was on a plane to Madrid, having been on the Costa Almeria in southern Spain as part of a collaboration with a tour operator. The young Spanish girl next to me on the plane, on hearing the words "tour" and "operator", pricked up her ears and proceeded to give me an ear-bashing back to Barajas airport.

The relationship with the tourist in Mallorca and in other parts of Spain has long been one of ambivalence. Of love and hate. Mallorca can't live with or without tourists and tourism. A hatred of tourists has been misguided. The irresponsibility for environmental damage was not that of tourists, but of local planning that sought to exploit them and got into bed with tour operators to ensure this exploitation.

Nevertheless, tourists, as the girl on the plane was keen to point out, several times, have shown scant regard for or interest in the environmental impact of their occupation forces. Or, at least, this was the case in 1991. To what extent the tourist perception has changed remains questionable, but change it has.

This is what tour operators, the previously socially irresponsible ogres of unsustainability, now say. Thomson say so, as an example. They may not be wrong in saying so, but the mere fact of this say-so is intended also as a demonstration of their own newly-found responsibilities. It is one that plays well in PR terms and in audits of corporate governance that have made mandatory companies' environmental righteousness.

In the Balearics, there are, it would appear, 167 companies that can call themselves socially responsible, amongst them the leading tourism businesses, i.e. the hotels. Sustainability has a business benefit, or so it is said. A commitment to environmental quality is key to competitiveness. This is the message that has come from the conference.

Though environmental responsibility may now be proven by tourism businesses, this is only one aspect of sustainable tourism. Tourists, who seemingly crave hotels that can boast of their environmental soundness, may well be smugly tucked up on the sun-lounger in full knowledge of playing a more benign role in the local ecology, but what of the rest of sustainable tourism? The environment is the big-ticket part of sustainability. It is not the same when it comes to local economies.

Sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, call it what you will, deals also in the integrity of local cultures and businesses, in the involvement of local people in decision-making, in minimising economic impacts. Not maximising, minimising.

The market, so the tour operators and other tourism businesses would wish to persuade us, is driving environmental correctness. The market is also, however, driving in a different direction. How, for example, do local decision-making involvement and the minimisation of economic impacts square with all-inclusives? I suspect that the answer is that they don't.

One needs to ask on whose terms tourism is sustainable. Ultimately, it isn't the local economy's. It is the market's. What has occurred is that the environmental harm of 1991 and that airborne ear-bashing and the 1992 prescriptions of Rio have indeed been addressed, but replaced by a different harm. Pre-Rio, it was the market. Today, it is still the market. Just that the symptoms are different.

Sustainable. For whom?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Whales off Cabrera

At least three whales have been seen off the island of Cabrera. While the sighting of whales is not uncommon - the current sighting is the fourth since 2004 - the fact that the whales are feeding rather than just passing through is.

MALLORCA TODAY - Boy in Alcúdia attacked

An eleven-year-old boy was subject on Saturday to a humiliating sexual attack by seven teenagers of South American origin. The attack took place by a hotel in Alcúdia that is currently closed. The Guardia Civil has charged the seven.

MALLORCA TODAY - Legal threat to Mallorca Rocks

The tourist business association, Acotur, has issued a further "denuncia" with Calvia town hall against the Mallorca Rocks concerts at the hotel with the same name, operated by the Fiesta group. The hotel asscoiation in Magalluf agrees with Mallorca Rocks and the town hall that all legal permissions are in place, but it is these that Acotur is challenging and is also threatening legal action against the town hall as a consequence.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 March 2011

The easterly wind continues. Sunny bursts, but some grey clouds banking up. The day is meant to be wet. Current temperatures, as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 13.3 C; Pollensa, 12.2 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.6 C.

Despite a weather alert for rain and wind, the day has held up, even if the temperatures have been nothing special. The local high, once again registered in Alcúdia, has been 14.9 C today. Cloud being forecast till the weekend.

Countdown: The tourism history word game

Historic. Of the past, except when it means the future. We have been shown the future of Mallorca's tourism, this year's anyway, and it is indeed historic. Like Michael Winner, via his Dinners, granting a crème brûlée an accolade of "historic", so this season will be sweet and rich and we can all look forward to the riches that will flow.

Historic. Oh, and spectacular, while we're at it. The coming tourism season will be both. Manuel Butler, director of the Spanish tourism office in Germany, is looking forward to an "historic summer" in Mallorca. The minister of the presidency, Ramón Jáuregui (whoever he is and whatever his job entails), believes that this summer will be "spectacular" for the Balearics. "Fantastic". "Extraordinary." Just a couple of other adjectives emanating from eminent persons who you are unlikely to have ever heard of.

Historic. It's official. The tourism office says so. Not just a record year, unlike record years that we have been prone to have in the past. Historic. Down in history. Or something like that. If it's historic, then it is more than merely a record year. Hard though it is to accept that anything, a year or a crème brûlée, can be historic until it has been and gone or been consumed, we are just to going to have accept that history is in the making. This is the year, therefore, not just of the historic but also of the overworking of superlatives. The year of the hyperbole.

President Antich, he of the soon-to-pass-into history, and a figure unlikely to merit the description "historical" (and there is a subtle difference between historic and historical; trust me that there is), has also been studying his thesaurus. "Stupendous." There is no need, as there has been the past couple of years, for whistling in the darkness of crisis to keep up flagging spirits, as all the bells and whistles of good fortune are being rung and blown. For Antich, history will remind us that he finally presided over something historic other than historic economic crisis and historic levels of corruption (not of his making, admittedly).

There is no reason to disbelieve any of this. When fears of overbooking mean the suspension of sales even for high summer, something rather wonderful does seem to be hovering on the horizon, like a fleet of easyJets looming into view and shimmering in the haze and preparing to disgorge untold thousands, nay millions of history-making holidaymakers.

Yet for all this, why is the optimism both muted and cautious? It could be that we have been here before. 2007? Well, that was a record year. Supposedly. But of course 2011 is going to be historic, which is several notches up on the scale of the hyperbolic league table.

The muted optimism has to do not with the numbers but with what the numbers represent. In Can Picafort, just as an example, they know all about record numbers. Last August, the resort was the Spanish champion when it came to hotel occupancy percentages. Yep, relatively speaking, Can Picafort was the most booked-out, most occupied tourism territory in Spain. Mention this fact to a Can Picafort business owner, and the riposte is swift. Can you guess what it is? Two words, often hyphenated, beginning with an "a" and an "i". There's a third word, which starts with "c", one that does unfortunately get tagged to Can Picafort's tourism profile.

Regrettably, amidst the euphoria of official pronouncements, one realises that officialdom engages in numbers and word games. They play at the lavish spectacular of tourism "Countdown" without acknowledging that tourism history, for not just a few bars and restaurants, started to come to an end some years ago when Mallorca's holiday programme became Sun Sea and A&I. All and inclusive. Were two words ever less appropriate. Inclusiveness, not for all, but for some; the hotels primarily, if not exclusively.

Historic? Yes, 2011 will probably turn out to justify the hype, and history may well come to reveal that the year was historic in its literal sense. But even the historic numbers of holidaymakers will not prevent recent A&I history from repeating itself. This is why whatever optimism there is, is being expressed in a muted way and without resort to the superlative. Historic. But what's the future?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Legal action against Can Picafort duck throwers

Santa Margalida town hall is to start proceedings against those alleged to have thrown live ducks into the sea at Can Picafort during the August fiestas in contravention of animal protection law. The town hall, which has been largely sympathetic to the tradition, has been forced to try and locate those responsible, following an official complaint by the association for the protection and welfare of animals to the Spanish Ombudsman.

MALLORCA TODAY - Bumper year for cruise ships forecast

Another beneficiary of the troubles in north Africa, Palma's port can anticipate something of a record year, thanks to cruise-ship traffic. The number of passengers expected to come into Palma is set to rise by 1.5 million over last year.

MALLORCA TODAY - 75% occupancy at Easter

Hotels in Calvia are looking forward to an excellent Easter, with up to 75% occupancy. This figure does disguise fluctuations in the municipality. Palmanova anticipates only 49%; Santa Ponsa, 57%. In the resorts of Calvia, problems with specific markets have been highlighted. While the British market is improving slightly, the Irish market has been badly affected. It is the German market which is making figures for Easter look particularly buoyant and not just in Calvia. The Mallorca hotel federation expects island-wide occupancy to be between 65 and 70%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 March 2011

Plenty of sunshine but also high white cloud a fair easterly breeze. Current temperatures, as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 12.6 C; Pollensa, 12.1 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.3 C.

Chilly and only intermittent sun during the day. The local high in the area was around midday: 14.3 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, other areas staying under 14 degrees all day.

Underground, Overground, Infrastructure Isn't Free

It is easy to forget just how much Mallorca has developed in a relatively short period of time. The island's "industrial revolution" is not even 50 years old; mass tourism in terms of massive tourism across Mallorca didn't become fact until the '70s. It is unsurprising, perhaps, that the infrastructure to support this revolution has taken time to become a reality.

Gas, natural gas, is the latest infrastructure development. The connection from the mainland came on-stream in late 2009. One of the things holding up the creation of the network is the inevitable process of getting agreement from all parties, not least owners of land who will be affected by the installation of pipes. The first phase of taking the gas into the regions, from Palma to Andratx, has run up against exactly this obstacle.

Objections are not solely being made on grounds of environmental disruption. There is also the safety angle, and the objections seem bizarre, quaint even, for those of us used for years to natural gas in the UK. Local fears are of the unknown, of the new-fangled. Yet, you couldn't get much more old-fangled than what natural gas would ultimately put an end to - butane supply. Natural gas would have an enormous benefit not just because of its convenience; it would mean an end to hernias and pulled back muscles. The "butaneros" of Mallorca may find themselves out of a job, and so may many a chiropractor.

Natural gas would have an additional benefit, that of putting a stop to the butane scams. Two separate actions by the police forces are currently ongoing. For this reason alone, the arrival of natural gas will be a huge bonus, as it will also be if it means not seeing the flames flicker and then go out on the hob and having to go outside in a howling gale and horizontal rain in order to mess around with changing the gas bottle.

The supply of gas has not, as yet, run up against a different obstacle, one facing electricity cabling from the mainland. How exactly does it happen that a town hall, Sagunto in this instance, can suddenly turn round and say that the supplier, Red Eléctrica, does not have permission to occupy land in the mainland municipality and also has to pay a tax in order to continue work on laying the cable to the Balearics? The how probably has something to do with this latter aspect. Some bright spark at the town hall eyes up the opportunity for some extra revenue.

Whatever the infrastructure development, there is some hassle associated with it. A new road, such as the so-called "via conectora" in Palma to take some strain off of the creaking road system around the city, becomes mired in objections. The siting of train lines encounter similar squabbles. Re-development of Playa de Palma, ditto. It makes you wish for the old days when a Franco-esque official would have come along one day, nailed the order for works to commence to the head of a passing peasant and the next day sent in the boys with the shovels.

And back then, whatever was built would have been as cheap as chips. Today? How much might we end up paying for natural gas? Don't bank on it being cheap. Don't bank on it being operated in a fashion that might be competitive and with the consumer first in mind.

Telecommunications are another element of infrastructure which has come on in leaps and bounds. Sort of. Time was, really not so long ago, the start of the '90s, that parts of the island weren't able to moan about Telefonica because they had no lines to moan about. Parts of the island still can't, because phone lines can't be laid across some of it. But where it is, the service is neither inexpensive nor satisfactory. Let me give you a personal example.

For some time there has been a problem with my ADSL. It has finally emerged that I have been paying for three megabytes (only three) which cannot be adequately supplied because of the distance I am from the exchange. I have, in fact, been getting little more than one megabyte. The internet provider, Orange, does at least see my argument, that perhaps I am entitled to some form of recompense.

Regardless of this, internet provision is absurdly expensive. And one also has the honour of forking out for Telefonica's line rental when the phone itself is barely used. This rental brings you to another sort of rental, that of the "potencia" contract for electricity supply.

Can anyone explain this to me? It seems to have no rhyme nor reason, other than to stuff the coffers of Endesa. It was not something I paid much attention to (I seem to be one of the few people in Mallorca never to have had much of a problem with electricity bills, while my "potencia" is low) until some correspondence I received and some checking with neighbours highlighted the apparent iniquities with this charge, to say nothing of why it is made in the first place.

Yes, Mallorca has developed greatly in a relatively short period of time. Developed in terms of constant objections, expense, uncompetitiveness and the Heath Robinson; current-day utilities don't get much more Heath Robinson than faffing around with a butane bottle. Not yet 50 years of industrial revolution. In another 50, they may just have got round to something like reasonably priced efficiency.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Natural gas to Andratx

One of the first phases of creating a network of natural-gas pipes across Mallorca will involve the routing of gas from the Son Reus plant in Palma to Andratx. The 42,000 metres of pipe will cost some 10 million euros to install, while there is also the issue to do with properties that will be affected. Some expropriation is going to be needed.

Natural gas first arrived in Mallorca is 2009. Other main routes for supply include one to Inca and then onto Alcúdia.

MALLORCA TODAY - Impact of palm beetle quadruples

The number of palms affected by the red palm beetle ("picudo rojo") went up from 164 in 2009 to 744 in 2010 (figures from the regional agriculture ministry). The centre of the "plague" remains Pollensa, but other parts of the island have also been affected, e.g. Cala D'Or, but not to anything like the same extent as yet.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 March 2011

Fairly weak sunshine because of much white, high cloud. Current temperatures, as of 09.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 13.5 C; Pollensa, 12.2 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.7 C.

Sunny enough during the day, but not especially warm, with temperatures not rising significantly from the morning. Highs, to 17.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 14.8 C; Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa, 14.2 C.

Lights, Camera, Inaction: Film in Mallorca

On Thursday and Friday, a conference will be held at the Chamber of Commerce centre in Palma. Its theme will be that of the cinema and tourism. It will look at how film can benefit tourist destinations. The conference has been arranged by the Mallorca Film Commission, an organisation within the Mallorca Tourism Foundation, and one charged specifically with promoting the opportunities associated with the visual media in Mallorca.

Amongst the speakers at the conference will be Stefan Roesch, author of a book entitled "The Experiences Of Film Location Tourists" and a leading expert on film tourism. In his book he presents case studies regarding film tourism and which concern three films (or film franchises) - "Lord Of The Rings", "Star Wars" and "The Sound Of Music".

The filming of "Lord Of The Rings" in New Zealand received enormous publicity and resulted in a boom in tourism, even to parts of the country that previously had not experienced high levels of tourism. The tourist wanted to see locations, although any evidence of filming itself was no longer apparent.

There is, though, an immediate and obvious issue with each of these films. They were not any old film. The fact that parts of New Zealand and Tunisia ("Star Wars") might have benefitted from tourism doesn't seem that surprising, given the blockbuster nature of the films. Much tourism to the city of Salzburg continues to be solely due to "The Sound Of Music", over 40 years since the film was released. Other films mentioned by Roesch that go back in time to the first film which had a real impact in terms of film tourism, "Mutiny On The Bounty" in 1935 and subsequent tourism to Tahiti, are similarly either epic or huge box-office successes.

The question is, therefore, how does a destination derive benefits from a film if it isn't a major cinematic event. The fact that a conference on film tourism is taking place in Palma indicates intent, that of extracting benefit, but unless a film comes along that has genuine box-office appeal and international exposure, then does it really make that much difference? Moreover, how does Mallorca go about ensuring that it is the location, even assuming a producer has a film he or she deems suitable for filming on the island? It would be good to find out because the recent record of Mallorca and film does not inspire much confidence.

Yes, we may have had "The Inbetweeners" and "Mad Dogs" (on TV), but so what? Other efforts have come to very little. Take as an example the case of Al Pacino's "Betsy And The Emperor".

In December 2009, the environment ministry rejected the use of the island of Cabrera for the film's shooting. The reason given was that the island's ecology was too sensitive to have film crews and actors tramping all over it. The reason was probably fair enough; Cabrera is a protected nature area as it is. But the rejection was symptomatic of how differing priorities can scupper what might be beneficial projects. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Chamber of Commerce's building has been chosen for this week's conference. It was this body which was the fiercest critic of the environment ministry's decision.

There are other examples. A film with obvious Mallorca connotations, "Mr Nice", was not filmed in Mallorca, but in Alicante. Another film, "King Conqueror", about Jaume I of Aragon and starring Jude Law and Tim Roth, appears to have sunk without trace (if it hasn't sunk, then perhaps someone could let me know).

Also sunk has been the Mallorca International Film Festival, a victim of funding being withdrawn by the tourism ministry and a huge embarrassment as a consequence, not least to the admirable Colm Meaney who was present at a grand launch of the festival in London. The festival would seem to be returning in some guise later this year, but it is not the same. Meaney, who was filming last year on the island for Toni Bestard's "The Perfect Unknown", would have every right to feel let down, given the support he has looked to give the local film industry.

Were a serious film to come out of the island, the benefits for Mallorca would be significant and especially, you would think, for out-of-season tourism. The number of visitors that might wish to tour around sites of inland or coastal Mallorca would almost certainly be of a scale to make out-of-season excursions viable exercises, which at present they are not.

If Mr. Roesch and the other speakers at the conference have got some sound advice as to how such a boost to tourism might be effected, then it will be worthwhile hearing it. The trouble is whether anyone, not least the odd producer with a mega-millions budget to chuck at a Mallorca-based blockbuster, will be listening.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Taxi meters to become mandatory

As from 1 January next year, all taxis in Mallorca will have to have had meters installed. At present, only five municipalities insist that all taxis have meters, these being Palma, Calvia, Alcúdia, Muro and Santa Margalida (Can Picafort).

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 March 2011

Broken cloud and so some blue sky and sun this morning. Temperatures should rise to around 16, but a cloudy afternoon is forecast. As of 08.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 7.1 C; Pollensa, 9.8 C; Puerto Pollensa, 11.7 C.

The sun did come out and then went away again late in the afternoon, but there has been a chilly wind, and the temperatures in the area have only just topped 14 degrees, with Alcúdia registering the day's high at 14.4 C.

Naked Ambition: Carlos Delgado

You can't blame a man for harbouring ambitions. But there is understated ambition and there is naked ambition. In the case of Carlos Delgado, he has stripped himself bare and exposed himself as unashamedly as a naturist strutting along the water's edge at Es Trenc beach.

Delgado, the retiring mayor of Calvia, is not normally the retiring sort. He will vacate the mayoral throne this spring and, following a period of ominous silence, is making his intentions loud and clear. And by doing so, he brings to a head and into full public, voyeuristic glare the divisions within the Partido Popular.

Delgado has announced that in a PP administration he wants to be either tourism or education minister. Either, for differing reasons, would be the nuclear option. He knows it, and so does everyone else. Tourism is the most important ministerial appointment, while education is the most politically loaded.

Why does Delgado appear to be so confident that he might land either of these positions? That he is widely perceived to be the real power in the party behind José Bauzá may have something to do with it. His relative silence and absence over the past few months seemed to start when the suggestion of his power began to be given an airing.

Even such reticence, though, can reinforce an image of behind-the-scenes scheming; silence can be golden when it is tactical treasure. The reason for my dubbing him Grytpype-Thynne is only partly because Delgado means thin; another is because, like Peter Sellers' Goons character, he is seen as something of the villain of the piece.

But it is for this reason that Delgado is arguably the most interesting politician in Mallorca. He conveys an impression of being the genuine political-animal article. His ability to appear divisive says much for his lack of equivocation. You know what you're going to get with Delgado, or at least you think you do. The trouble is that many would rather not get it, including many in his own party.

Delgado was trounced in the run-off against Bauzá for the party leadership. It was a snub of the anyone-but-Delgado variety. Yet, despite the pair's rivalry, it soon emerged that Bauzá was moving closer to Delgado and to his philosophies. It was this shift to the right that started the ruptures which continue in the Partido Popular in the Balearics.

Delgado has never hidden the fact that he believes in the primacy of the Castilian language. When Bauzá said much the same, here was just one example, latched onto and claimed by his opponents, of Delgado's influence. It is this streak of anti-Catalanism that would turn his appointment as education minister into more than just a political hot potato; it would be a three-course meal with brandy and cigars to follow and indigestible for almost every other political party in Mallorca as well as those to the left within the PP.

The Catalan question is the local PP's Europe question. It is one that carries less weight with the electorate than the obsession with it suggests, but the prominence given to it, and wrapped up in the further question of regionalism, is of a conservatism which, rather than seeking to conserve social, political and cultural subsidiarity (of Catalanism), openly rejects it in favour of the sovereignty of the Spanish state and Castilian.

Tourism is a different matter entirely. It is far less political and far more an issue of industrial and economic strategy. In February last year, prior to the election for the PP leadership, Delgado made his opinions plain enough. He favoured the prioritisation of tourism legislation over that for land. He advocated changes to allow for the establishment of condohotels. He called for the creation of theme parks and sports centres aimed at reducing the impact of seasonality. His party has said that it will press for changes to IVA, so as to reduce its burden on the tourism industry. All of this, you would think, would make him the darling of the tourism industry and of the hoteliers. You would be wrong. The hoteliers have made it clear that they don't want him.

For such opposition to be stated is extraordinary. The hoteliers, when faced, as they have been over the past four years, with regular, new tourism ministers, have always uttered the same diplomatic mantra - that so-and-so will be good for the industry, even if they haven't meant it. They haven't waited this time. Theirs is a pre-emptive strike to seek to deny Delgado one of his ambitions. But why?

As Delgado has said much that should be music to the hoteliers' ears, their rejection of him seems surprising. But perhaps it isn't. Perhaps they don't much care for naked ambition. Perhaps they don't much care for him; he is far from being universally popular. Perhaps they fear that he might ruffle some feathers. Whatever the reason, Bauzá surely cannot ignore the industry's objections. If he acknowledges them, then that leaves education.

Bauzá has himself become divisive in a way that does not bode well for what should be within his grasp, the presidency of the Balearics. If he bows to Delgado's ambition for education, the divisions are likely to widen. But then who actually makes the decisions and who actually wields the power?

Any comments to please.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 1 : 0 Zaragoza

The early match in today's three matches in La Liga has seen an even game end in a win for Mallorca thanks to a De Guzmán goal, 20 minutes into the second half, with a shot from a direct free kick, following the sending-off of Zaragoza's goalkeeper Doblas for deliberate handball outside the box. The win keeps Mallorca in ninth place in La Liga.

Real Mallorca:
Aouate; Cendrós, Nunes, Ramis, Kevin; Tejera (yellow, 85 min.; sub. Pereira, 89 min.), Marti (yellow, 20 min.; sub. Victor, 76 min.); Nsue, De Guzmán (yellow, 35 min.), Castro (sub. Aki, 60 min.); Webó.
Goal: De Guzmán, 66 min.

Doblas (red, 65 min.); Diogo, Jarosik (yellow, 61 min.), Da Silva, Obradovic; Ponzio, Gabi; López (sub. Pérez, 74 min.), Ander (yellow, 4 min.), Bertolo (sub. Franco, 65 min.); Uche (sub. Braulio, 63 min.)

MALLORCA TODAY - Nueva Rumasa hotels declared insolvent

The six hotels in Mallorca that belong to Nueva Rumasa and which are operated by Hotasa have been declared insolvent. This means that the hotels will have up to four months to attempt to negotiate their debts with creditors. The hotels concerned are: Beverly Playa (Peguera); Clumba Mar (Can Picafort); Eurocalas (Calas de Mallorca); Samoa (Calas de Mallorca); Santa Fe (Can Picafort); Sarah (Can Picafort).

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 March 2011

Clear blue skies and a fine, warm day in prospect. The forecast is good through Monday, with Tuesday suggesting a change. As of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 8.7 C; Pollensa, 12.6 C; Puerto Pollensa, 13.0 C.

The warm morning gave way to cloud this afternoon, the highs everywhere in the area being 17.3 C before slipping a couple of degrees from mid-afternoon.

Earthmovers: Quakes in Mallorca

In the early morning of the 26th of July last year, at seven minutes before two, there was an earthquake in Alcúdia. Its epicentre was the Alcanada district. The tremor lasted no longer than a couple of seconds. It registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, but it was enough to cause alarm in Pollensa, Sa Pobla and Can Picafort.

This was a minor, insignificant event, but the earthquake in Japan, coming on the back of those in New Zealand and previously in Chile and Haiti, ones that created significant charitable efforts in Mallorca and Spain, have all raised awareness of potential threats to the island and to the mainland.

Earthquakes have tremendous power, not just through their unleashing of natural forces but also through their ability to scare the living daylights out of you. As a young child, I started to appreciate, in 1963, that the world was not always a very nice place. Makarios gave me nightmares, I thought Kennedy's assassination meant a world war and Russians exploding giant mushrooms over our heads, and I began to fear being swallowed by the earth suddenly breaking up. Skopje was that significant for me that my father, an engineer with an earthmoving-machinery manufacturer, was engaged in organising aid for the devastated, then Yugoslavian city. Coincidentally, the Skopje earthquake occurred in the early morning of the 26th of July.

The concern in Spain, arising from events in Japan, has been more sophisticated than my eight-year-old fears. Partly, it has to do with any threats to Spain's nuclear power stations. If tsunami is the main reason for concern, then the plants most vulnerable are those of Vandellòs near to Tarragona, along the Catalonian coast. In an act of reassurance, the Spanish Government has released a map which shows the degree and number of seismic observation facilities across Spain, there being one in Mallorca. Observation isn't, necessarily though, of much use when it comes to the unstoppable.

The map shows a concentration of observation units in the south of Spain and in Catalonia up towards the Pyrenees (as well as in the Canaries). With good reason. These are the parts of Spain most at risk from earthquakes. The most significant of recent earthquake activity has been in Barcelona (September 2004, a measure of 4.1) and Ciudad Real in Castille-La Mancha (August 2007, 5.1). The most devastating of earthquakes in modern times occurred in Granada in 1884. With an estimated magnitude of up to 7, it left 800 people dead. Modelling of potential earthquake risk places a similar level of magnitude affecting the likes of Santa Fe.

Spain, by comparison with countries further to the east in the Mediterranean, is at relatively low risk of suffering serious earthquakes, but the risk is still there. In Mallorca, there are specific fault lines, one between the Balearics and Alicante and another on the island itself, the Sencelles fault. The worst earthquake to affect Mallorca was one recorded in Palma in 1851. This registered VIII on the MSK scale, a different seismic system to the Richter scale; VIII representing "damaging". The earthquake was centred on Santa Eugenia and was attributed to the Sencelles fault.

Scientists from the University of Salamanca and the national museum of natural sciences published a paper in 2001 that traced earthquake activity in Mallorca**. They reported that the level of seismic activity was indeed low on the island; a mere 21 "events" between 1654 and 1996. But they pointed out that, despite the irregular and low occurrence, there had been some large earthquakes, such as the one in Palma in 1851. And the most serious ones (VII on the MSK scale) pre-dated the 1851 event; one also in Palma in 1660 and another centred on Selva but with impact on Alcúdia in 1721.

The fact that these more damaging earthquakes happened so long ago is no reason for being relieved. Quite the opposite. The scientists believe that "given the time elapsed ... it is reasonable to assume that the Sencelles fault has accumulated sufficient elastic energy to generate a new VIII MSK seismic event". And the most likely impact would be on Palma and its surroundings. A "damaging" event is characterised by, inter alia, large cracks and fissures, partial collapse or considerable damage to buildings.

Precise predictions of earthquakes are nigh on impossible. What can be predicted is that they will happen, some time. They are inevitable. But the inevitable can be delayed. In the eastern Med, in Israel, a major earthquake is almost 600 years overdue. It will happen, though. You just don't know when. This said, take a look at the dates above. There are no data relating to earthquakes before 1654, so no one can say with any certainty what the pattern was before then, but the gap between the two big Palma earthquakes was 191 years. We are now 160 years on from the last one. And nature, despite the coincidence of the 26th of July, doesn't deal in exactness. It deals in variance.

Don't go having nightmares.

** "Paleo and historical seismicity in Mallorca", Silva, González Hernández, Goy, Zazo, Carrasco, "Acta Geologica Hispanica", 2001.

Any comments to please.

Friday, March 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - AENA employees to vote on 24 March

Employees of the AENA airports authority will vote on the pre-agreement arrived at between the unions and AENA on Tuesday. The vote, it is hoped, will go in favour of the agreement brokered by the unions and so definitively mean that strikes that had been called for Easter and during the summer will not go ahead.

MALLORCA TODAY - Air-traffic controllers face eight year sentences

Air-traffic controllers in the Balearics who took part in the stoppage in early December last year are facing sentences of between four and eight years at trials now under way in Palma. The charges against the controllers, who absented themselves with alleged sickness, relate to laws to do with air navigation and with performing public work and duties.

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorcan construction sector still suffering

The construction industry in Mallorca and the Balearics is showing little sign of recovery at present. Investment in construction fell by almost 24% in 2010. This year, activity is anticipated to also decline, though far less dramatically, and a very small increase - of 0.6% - is being predicted for 2012.

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia sepia fair agreement

An agreement, of sorts, appears to have been arrived at between the restaurants of Puerto Alcúdia and the sepia (cuttlefish) fishermen of the port who had decided not to participate in this year's sepia fair because the restaurants weren't buying the sepia from them. Though it is being said that there will be sepia from Alcúdia bay at the gastronomy fair, the fishermen will still not be participating in the organisation of the fair, while the main agreement - if indeed it can be called one - seems to refer to next year.

MALLORCA TODAY - Mesquida confident about airports' agreement

The Spanish secretary-general for tourism, the Mallorcan Joan Mesquida, has said that he is confident that union members will ratify the agreements arrived at by union leaders and the airports authority AENA which will remove the threat of strike action this summer.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 March 2011

Sunny and the prospect of a fine day with temperatures in the high teens. The weekend's forecast is for much of the same. As of 08.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 9.8 C; Pollensa, 11.2 C; Puerto Pollensa, 12.7 C.

And it has been a gloriously sunny day, but quite breezy. Highs in the area during the day, up to 18.00, 19.6 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 17.7 C in both Pollensa town and Puerto Pollensa.

Getting Down And Dirty: Rain, pollen and dust

"Red rain is pouring down. Pouring down all over me." Peter Gabriel.

I was once, some years ago, driving along the coast road between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa. What can, at times, be a dodgy road because of the winds and the stones tossed around by turbulent waves, became even more dodgy as it was transformed in its own little sea. A "mar petita" of mud. The brown stuff doesn't so much hit the fan but smacks against the windscreen with blinding power.

That was the worst I had experienced. It took an age to clean cars, terraces, gates, walls. Hedges and plants adopted the colour of a burning summer, yet it was only February. The red rain of the Sahara had fallen down; fallen down all over me, you and anyone or anything else either moving or motionless.

It happened again the other night, the following morning being one of hosing down, of car washing or of cars that looked as though they had suddenly succumbed to the rust induced by Mallorca's winter dampness. This latest bout of red rain was a little early; for spring and the arrival of warm air. As the local met office explained, air from north Africa had come before the start of the season which will occur at precisely 00.21 this coming Monday. How, as with the precision of statistics, officialdom and agencies love the precision of time here, and how peculiar it seems in a land where time is treated with general disregard or indifference.

Such precision also tells us that red rain of the type which fell over the night of Monday into Tuesday was the most recent to be added to 222 just such occurrences between 1979 and 2001. They don't seem to have got around to calculating the last ten years' worth. Yet.

For all this precision, however, there appears not to have been a great deal of scientific study of the phenomena which bring the red rain. For our purposes, which meteorologically stretch no further than cursing it, the influences are the coming together of cool and damp east winds and those from Africa together with sand lurking in the atmosphere that needs a damn good cleaning out. The atmosphere got its wash on Monday night, and we ended up anything but clean.

There is apparently another potential bringer of dirty rain - roll clouds that accompany meteotsunamis, i.e. tsunamis created by atmospherics as opposed to seismic movement, the cause of Japan's horror. Known locally as the "rissaga", it seems particularly prone to hitting Ciutadella in Menorca, as it did in June 2006 when 35 boats were sunk. A similar weather event has certainly also hit the port in Alcúdia in the past.

The red, dirty rain is just one way that nature gives us a smack in the gob in a late Mallorcan winter turning to early spring. Another is pollen. Terraces take on a dusty appearance, one, for once, not caused by sand being blown around. On a Dulux chart, I guess you'd put the colour of the pollen at somewhere between a luscious lime and a melon sorbet. Put a white t-shirt out to dry and what you get is something that looks like a Norwich City kit.

And amidst these naturally caused dirt events are those brought on by man. Or by many a workman. The winter's building season is coming to what might be hoped will be its climax and completion in time for the first real punters of spring.

In Puerto Alcúdia, the streets and roads have been covered for weeks with a silvery-grey dust, not dissimilar in colour to coal ash that forms lunar fields thanks to deposits from the power station. The dust has been the result of the work on digging everywhere up in order to install the water-recycling system for the resort's hotels. But not even water from the skies, especially not the dirty rain, washes the dust away. It lingers and is billowed up into dust clouds by every vehicle whose driver hasn't taken on board the government's pleas for petrol saving. Speed on the motorway may have been cut, but not on the main and side roads.

The red rain, the pollen and the dust. They all combine to turn landscapes, terraces and cars into abstracts of russet, greens and greys. And they place demands on water resources, recycled or not. The red rain is pouring down, pouring down all over me, making a goo with the powders, and then sending us all off for working at the car wash.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - A warmer spring being forecast

The Spanish Met Office is predicting that this coming spring in Mallorca will be slightly warmer than usual, the winter having been slightly colder than usual, by 0.6 degrees.

MALLORCA TODAY - John Hirst charged with fraud

John Hirst, whose company Gilher has been under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, has now been charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Mr. Hirst was bailed on his return to England, having left Calvia and left investors anxious as to what happened to their money, the consequence of what was said to have been a Ponzi scheme that Mr. Hirst had been operating.

The story of Mr. Hirst and Gilher first pretty much broke on this blog in November 2009, several people making contact to draw attention to the fact that John Hirst was the same John Hirst who had once been convicted for offences when he was employed by Allied Dunbar in the early 1990s.

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanish Congress gives oil exploration the go-ahead

The Spanish lower house, the Congress, has overturned the amendment of the upper house, the Senate, which would have denied permission for oil exploration in the seas of the Balearics, in particular Ibiza.

MALLORCA TODAY - Air Berlin increases Palma traffic this summer

The German airline Air Berlin will increase the number of potential passengers coming into Palma airport this summer by over 160,000; 5.9 million in total.

MALLORCA TODAY - Bars decide on closure protest

Bars and restaurants which are parts of the restaurant sections of the Balearics business confederation and the small- to medium-sized businesses association have decided to go ahead with a threatened closure of their establishments in protest at the smoking ban and its impact. The closure will take place on 18 April, though it will only start at 18.00 and last as long as it takes for a demonstration to take place.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 March 2011

Generally bright, with only a few light clouds, the temperatures as of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 10.8 C; Pollensa, 13.5 C; Puerto Pollensa, 11.8 C. The winds of yesterday have disappeared, and the outlook is now good, with tomorrow (Friday) forecast to be especially sunny and staying fine through the weekend.

Another warm day. Plenty of sunshine and not too breezy. Highs in the area today, to 17.30, have reached 18.6 C (Alcúdia/Playa de Muro), 16.8 C (Pollensa) and 17.9 C (Puerto Pollensa).

This Fascist Groove Thing: Political insults

The parliamentarians of the Balearics will be breaking up soon. Their spring holidays will be a time for preparing for government - the next one - or for looking around for gainful employment if and when the elections on 22 May add them to the statistics of the unemployed. A dozen deputies will be given a little bonus, six grand's worth of payment to tide them over between parliament's dissolution on 28 March and the results of the elections being announced. Not exactly huge parachute payments, but nice work if you can get it.

One among the parliamentary ranks, finance minister Carles Manera, has been making plans. He will, assuming he is no longer in charge of the islands' coffers come the end of May, be dividing his time between the universities of Palma, Barcelona and the LSE. He may not be Milton Friedman, but future economists of Britain will be able to say that they were once taught by the chap at the helm when the Balearics' economy went into meltdown.

At the penultimate session of parliament, Manera has been doing his best to play down charges regarding irregularities with the islands' public companies, by which are meant organisations that are in effect government agencies. Hey ho, always an irregularity or several to keep local politicians occupied.

Manera will be just one of the jolly figures who has kept us entertained over the past four years to duck out of local politics. Some have already said that they are calling it a day, opportunely perhaps. Catalina Julve, she of the waste-collection scandal, is to quit politics. Presumably, she won't be emptying the bins anywhere near you soon.

Miguel Grimalt, our old friend "Enviro Man", is to be recycled into business somewhere. How much we once enjoyed him. We saw him here, we saw him there, we saw Enviro Man everywhere; one day planting a tree, the next reclaiming a dune, always immaculately turned out, even when he put on some wellies to go and dig to save the planet.

The dying days of the current parliament are a time for politicians to make hay while the sun sets. If not the finance minister and his attempts at regularising the allegedly irregular, then any number of the honourable gentlemen and ladies having their acerbic centimo's worth. Peculiarly, you might be interested to know, there is an insistence that decorum prevails and deputies are afforded the respect of being referred to as "honourable", just as in Westminster. Rarely has an adjective become so abused.

And abuse has been flying in the parliamentary chamber, as warring politicos engage in last-minute recriminations and pitch for the electorate's affections. Parliamentary speeches, Balearics-style, are with the aid of microphones, making the deputies like karaoke politicians, reading from a monitor of insults. Ravens, crows or vultures, the word "cuervos" can mean them all, and is but one affront to be traded as predatory Partido Popular politicos circle to pick over the carrion of the decaying body of the Antich administration.

Another insult is "fascist", an expression of contempt loaded with historical resonance, and one coming from the Partido Popular's Antoni Pastor in the direction of the Antich socialists. Why fascist? It doesn't much matter why, and it doesn't really hold much weight when the one using the insult is seated next to his party leader (José Bauzá) who, one suspects, he dislikes more than he does the opposition.

"Fascist" may count more as an insult in a country that was once so, but it is still an easy term to toss around, rather as it used to be in my days of student politics when everyone was a fascist. Unless you know someone to be the genuine article, and it was my misfortune to have known one (a key strategist with the BNP, though it wasn't realised that he was at the time), then it's an insult best left on the grooves in the political karaoke database.

But maybe this fascist thing is appropriate. As spring beckons, and some politicians (the Partido Popular's probably) will look forward to the darling buds of a return to power in May, we might remember Mel Brooks' song from "The Producers". "Springtime For Hitler" ... (substitute as and if you feel appropriate).

Any comments to please.