Saturday, April 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Bouncers to face a test

The regional government has now finally passed a law that will oblige bouncers at nightclubs and other establishments to take and pass a test in order that they can continue to act as a bouncer or become one. The test is not dissimilar to that which applies in the UK and will be introduced in 2014.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2011

Another cloudy start but today it doesn't feel as though it might get that much better. There is also a fairly stiff north-easterly, but temperatures are not too bad. The best, as of 08.30, is 17.2 C in Puerto Pollensa.

The rain held off and things improved to an extent. The high in the Alcúdia-Pollensa area today, up to 18.00, has been in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro - 18.9 C.

Manners Maketh Mate

The worst aspect of David Cameron's calm down, dear was that it showed, once again, that politicians are best not trying to be funny. Unless they are plainly mad and have a gift for the comedic, a la Boris, they should zip attempts at gags. Cameron has come across as a buffoon; Eton boy tries to be populist by quoting an irascible old buffer and fails miserably.

It was the use of "dear" that exercised the indignation of those to the left and of a strident feminist persuasion. The dear salutation is as patronising as always prefixing "feminist" with strident or ardent. A feminist is never anything else.

I can sympathise, though. "Dear" or "love" is an expression of familiarity with an archaic quality that sounds out of place in a house of respect. It can sound out of place elsewhere and so can other familiarities of address.

Take "mate" for example. I mate, you mate (assuming you're a bloke), we all mate together. Well actually, I do and I don't mate. If someone is a mate, then I probably do. Otherwise, I tend only to mate if I am being condescending. Yet mate has become a sort of lingua franca of address. Everyone is a mate, especially in Mallorca and Mallorca's Brit bars.

Lingua franca isn't strictly accurate. Mate is more lingua antipodeana. Ricky Ponting and the inhabitants of Ramsay Street have much to answer for. They have mated spoken English and, in the process, have created an entire mode of intonation; what Rory McGrath memorably dubbed as the "moronic interrogative", the upward inflection of Neighbours-speak.

Ok, mate goes back much further, but it has now assumed a position of common expression that was once reserved for something less familiar, such as "sir". So used am I, in daily Mallorcan routine, to being mated that I was once hugely taken aback when two youthful gentlemen of bellydom and their respective Kylies sidled up to me and one enquired as to the whereabouts of the nearest bank. It wasn't the question that threw me but the fact that he said, "Excuse me, sir". I suppose he could have been taking the piss, and in case he had been I did somewhat relish being able to point to the building next to which we were standing. A CAM bank.

And mate is not solely an expression for those who have passed into adolescence or adulthood. In one particular bar, which for the sake of bringing down the wrath of the work inspectorate I shall not name, a child was once let loose on serving. "What would you like, mate?" he enquired, all ten years of him.

This familiarity might be said to be indicative of a loosening of the formality of expression. To some extent, it is not unwelcome, and other languages have similarly become less rigid. Once upon a time, the hugely formal Spanish were that stiff that a child might be expected to refer to papa as "usted" and not with the familiar "tú".

When I first arrived in Mallorca, my gestor addressed me by my surname, which was very nice of him, but as I was calling him by his first name, it seemed an inequitable relationship, while I explained to him that it was now pretty uncommon to do the Mister etc. routine. Even the Germans have started to relax, the younger generation having come to recognise quite how absurd it is to have so-called "duzen" parties at which people who might have known each other for years get together to break the ice of "Sie" and replace it with "du".

Though mate is, for me, a matter of selectivity, I can appreciate its prevalence. Of course I can. It may not be my preferred expression of address, but for others it is. The owner (Jamie) of a favoured breakfasting hole (Foxes) mates all the time and has to endure my referring to him as "landlord". And I'm not being holier than thou. I have my own term, one which, in terms of locating it linguistically, probably comes from slightly west of Walthamstow. I use it for women and it is a hybrid of "doll" and "darling" that comes out as though I were ordering something off an Indian restaurant menu. "Dal".

So, though I personally would eschew a Cameron-esque "dear" and might be a reluctant mater, I am not averse to the use of the familiar. Manners might require that we do not mate but sir, but now manners maketh mates and not (gentle)men.

Any comments to please.

Index for April 2011
Albufera at night - 10 April 2011
Alcúdia's mayoral candidates - 16 April 2011
Allergies - 13 April 2011
All-inclusives, First Choice and - 11 April 2011
Alternative per Pollença - 14 April 2011
Balcony-diving - 26 April 2011
Bank credit, bars/car-hire agencies and - 6 April 2011
Bicipalma and promotion in Catalan/Spanish - 4 April 2011
Books - 25 April 2011
Building and population in Mallorca - 18 April 2011
Cappuccino - 9 April 2011
Catalan, promotion of - 12 April 2011
Design - 29 April 2011
El Clásico - 28 April 2011
Electric vehicles - 22 April 2011
Familiarity, terms of - 30 April 2011
Magalluf - 5 April 2011
Mallorca-ism - 7 April 2011
Mayors in Mallorca - 2 April 2011
Motorbiking tourism - 20 April 2011
Naffness, resort - 23 April 2011
Palma Aquarium - 15 April 2011
Pedro Iriondo, Fomento del Turismo - 8 April 2011
Quality tourists - 17 April 2011
Royal wedding - 27 April 2011
Santa Maria Rural Mallorca tour - 3 April 2011
Swimming-pools - 1 April 2011
Teams - 21 April 2011
Weather snobbery - 24 April 2011
YouTube promotional videos - 19 April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2011

A cloudy morning, but it feels as though it will brighten up, despite an unconvincing forecast - for the weekend as well. Temperatures at 09:00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 16.1 C; Pollensa, 15.5 C; Puerto Pollensa, 17.3 C.

The day has remained largely cloudy, but it has been high cloud with some sun. The local high in the area has today been in Alcúdia at 19.2 C.

Prospects not that good for the weekend and Monday.

Keep It Simple: Design

"The Bulletin" has been re-designed. As part of a stable that boasts the Catalan daily "dBalears", which won an award for its makeover, the result of this re-design should be positive.

The "dBalears" revamp was contemporary in one very strong regard. Its look owed and owes much to internet presentation. It is perhaps an irony of digital competition that the print media should ape this competition, though it is not a surprise. Good layout on a screen demands clean lines and appearance; the same principle applies to whatever format.

There is, however, design and there is design. No, make that that there is design, design and design. Design that is simply no good, that which is good, and that which is good but completely misses the point.

I was in a bar the other day (the Jolly Roger). There was a poster on one of the wooden posts. I looked at it and I continued to look at it. I had to go back and look again. Finally, someone (Grizz) came in and without asking pointed at something on the poster and announced that a complaint should be made. There it was. What I had been unable to see. The date.

If you are going to have a poster for an event, in this case a horse spectacular in Alcúdia, one fairly basic requirement is that you clearly communicate when it's taking place. This poster does nothing of the sort. The reason for my being unable to locate the date was how it had been designed.

The problem with the design was that the date was not only to the left, it was also vertical. Its positioning and style broke two fundamental rules. One is that the eye tracks to the right, unless you're an Arabic reader and the eye goes the other way, in which case you will have just read "daer tsuj evah ...". While the main visual look of the poster, that of a horse, strangely enough, grabs the attention, it is the information that needs to be communicated which is as important, and being informed as to when the show is happening is far from unimportant.

Just as the eye tracks to the right and not to the left, so it also, or rather the brain, needs to adjust to a vertical visual and more specifically text that runs vertically. It's why I couldn't see it, even though it was literally staring me in the face.

There is nothing wrong with breaking rules, but design which may be good (and to be honest the overall poster design isn't that good) has to keep to the point. Which is to communicate.

In Mallorca, there are an awful lot of designers. It seems, at times, as though whole school years leave education armed with a design qualification. There are hordes of them, armed with Photoshop and Illustrator and with innovation firmly in mind. This has spawned some remarkably good graphic work. The standards of Mallorcan design are high, owing at least something to an artistic heritage on the island.

However, the craving for innovativeness can get in the way of the message. Similarly, a lack of appreciation as to audience can also obscure what it is that is meant to be conveyed. I'll give you an example.

A few years ago, the Pollensa autumn fair had a visual that was meant to be some sort of agricultural tool. You could have fooled me. It looked more like a sex aid. I was completely baffled by it. While it may have meant something to the local Mallorcan population, it meant nothing to anyone else. Too much promotional material suffers from a failure to communicate in different languages, but when the visual imagery misses the point of its audience, or potential audience, then any innovation becomes pointless.

Simple really is often the best. Take design for restaurant adverts. Tedious may be the almost default style of advert which shows a terrace or an interior, but it is actually important. It was a message that came over when someone was analysing different designs as a tourist. Those with shots of what the place looked like were more meaningful than something more arty that didn't. The message was very powerful, because the very audience the adverts were being intended for was being influenced by one of the most powerful things a restaurant has to sell - its look.

And look is everything. Adverts, brochures, newspapers. And simple is also very often everything.

N.B. The re-design of "The Bulletin" is from Saturday, 30 April. This article, forwarded as usual for reproduction in the paper, would appear to have been vetoed on the grounds that the design team responsible for the re-design might be a bit "touchy". Can anyone explain why? Given that this article had been knocked out earlier than would normally be the case, as with a now alternative, in order to help them out for their grand re-launch (at a time when I don't have a lot of spare time), I feel I have every right to be a tad pissed off. Perhaps sensibilities towards contributors and remuneration might be as strong as that afforded to a bunch of designers.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Protest against government nautical policies

Businesses and boat owners in the Balearics are planning a protest against what are considered to be the disastrous policies of national government in respect of the nautical sector, one of which is the hugely maligned matriculation tax that has been so harmful to the local nautical industry and tourism.

MALLORCA TODAY - Petrol consumption falls

According to the ministry of industry, tourism and commerce, consumption of petrol, since the introduction of the motorway speed reduction, has led to a 7.9% cut. Such a decline was what had been hoped through the imposition of the new limit.

MALLORCA TODAY - Car-hire agencies increase the size of fleets

Following three years in which fleet sizes have been reduced, there will be more hire cars available this season in the Balearics. The average increase will be in the order of 10 per cent, some 40,000 vehicles, 65% of which will be new.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2011

A sunny start. Looks as though it will be fine, even if the forecast suggests that cloud will build up and that things will take a dive from tomorrow. The local high at 09:00 is 16.9 C in Puerto Pollensa.

The day remained fine and warm. Today's maximum locally has been in Pollensa town, 20.7 C.

Zoo Time: El Clásico

It was El Clásico on Wednesday night. Again. You couldn't avoid it or the boards that were chalked up outside bars. If there is one Spanish football match that tourists would know about and might want to watch, it is Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The regularity with which the two sides are meeting at present does not diminish the status of the match. Rangers and Celtic may play each other every other week and may also be able to command the attention of far more than just regular football-goers, but they do so because of absurdities far removed from a football pitch.

Barça and Real Madrid are also both an awful lot better than their Glasgow counterparts. They are, along with certain other clubs, such as Manchester United, a fashion item, and not just because of the wearing of a Messi or a Ronaldo shirt. They are football accessory, one to be worn on the chest like a famous brand name, a sporting superficiality for the marketing-manipulated, the johnnies-come-lately of soccer sophistication that brandish boastful awareness of major teams, or worse still, allegiance, as they would brandish a Gucci mark.

When did El Clásico become El Clásico? For the British, at any rate. It never used to be, but now it is, to the extent that Barça and Real merge into one. They are not separate teams, but a combined entity, and it is classic. They are distinguishable only by red and blue and white. Which isn't of course true, but they may as well be.

The marketing of El Clásico has now informed the previously uninformed as to the historical significance of the match and of the two clubs. Barça has long claimed to be more than just a club, but so also is Real Madrid. They are more than just clubs, because the marketing says so.

The classicism of the contest, that which it has now unavoidably assumed, is in the tradition of football puffery, one that Real itself did much to elevate to the heights of hyperbole with its galácticos. Like El Clásico, the term seeped into and then burst out into the consciousness of the distant football fan or nouveau fan, thanks to the compliance of a media that, with the fashionista pretension of a foreign word here or there, granted the match and the two teams an exoticism for the brigades of Roy Keane's prawn-sandwich eaters.

Barça v. Real Madrid has assumed a position of football tourism. Even for the tourist with only passing interest in the game, to be present at El Clásico, in a bar, and especially a Spanish bar, has become an attraction in its own right. It has become de rigueur. The match itself can be unimportant, a largely irrelevant blur of action on a large plasma screen with a commentary that is unintelligible. What is important is the being there. And the being able to say that you had been there.

It may happen that Spanish tourists to England have desires to seek out a pub and sample the atmosphere of a Premier League equivalent, but I somewhat doubt it. Certainly not to the extent that El Clásico would be sought out by a British visitor. But were that Spanish tourist to do so, one would also doubt that there might be quite the same propensity for patronisation, voyeurism, the visit to the zoo; watching the locals wrapped up in the match and smiling inanely and uncomprehendingly at a new best friend who has just exploded as the ball hits a post. "Oh, it was amazing, so passionate, so atmospheric." El Clásico is the new quaint.

But of course, it is passionate. Despite the marketing, despite the pretensions, it does mean a great deal. And there is no Premier League equivalent. Not really. In Scotland, Rangers and Celtic might be, but what it and any major English match does not possess is a quality that makes it culturally correct to be a bar witness not just to the match but also to the natives as they shout, scream and hug each other. And this is the real point about El Clásico. The marketing has reinforced and emphasised its cultural importance. It is more than just a football match, and the clubs are both more than just clubs. The football match as culture.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2011

The sun is out and it seems set fair to be a reasonable day, though tomorrow is now looking less wonderful than had been previously forecast. Temperatures already good, with a high by 08:30 in the area of 19.9 C in Puerto Pollensa.

And it was a warm day, everywhere very similar in terms of highs, with Puerto Pollensa shading it at 22 degrees.

Nostalgia Trip: The wedding

Sadly, I was not wrong. I had hoped that I might have been, but had known that this would be a forlorn hope. My solace is that I had been right.

Street parties there will be. Union flag bunting there will be. The inevitable charity event will coincide. The British at play, doing what the British do, which is to organise, so long as the organisation involves tea and cake, probably a tombola and the imploring of God to save the Queen and to wish the newly-weds a long life.

I am not anti-monarchist. I am royalist agnostic and royalist apathetic. The British royal family means little, except as the source of occasional amusement. The Queen, who has now assumed the role of the British nation's favourite grandmother, one handed down in true hereditary fashion from the previous holder of the title, has always been there. Of the royals, she offers a certain comfort. I have never not known there to be The Queen. Like some old LP disc, you know she's around somewhere, stashed in the loft, gathering dust, but she can always be dragged out in some act of nostalgia.

The Queen and the royals and I go back a long way. When I was small, we used to be ushered to the end of the school lane once a year so that we could wave our little flags as Her Majesty rode past in the royal Bentley en route to the passing-out parade at Sandhurst. Mothers would wear flowery summer frocks and hats, as though they were attending the village fête, rather than standing on a roadside for a few seconds of Liz in her limo.

Some years later, I found myself in the inner sanctums of royalty, the palaces of Kensington and Buckingham. On leaving school, I worked for Johnson Wax, which was by appointment and which had the gig for polishing the floors. Of the various royals who I encountered, only one - who wasn't really a royal anyway - seemed to have a lot going for him. Snowdon. He was grounded enough to take the time to explain the workings of his glass-blowing that had created a phantasmagorical peacock that hung from one wall of his workshop and also to insist that the head-housekeeper gave the "men" Fremlins beer to drink, rather than tea.

But this was all a long time ago. It is nostalgic, like the royal family itself. And with time has come an indifference, one that is so profound that I have no particular feelings about the merits or not of having a royal family. They're all generally harmless enough, and a proneness to wackiness makes them, on balance, an institution worth persevering with.

Except, of course, Kate and Wills aren't wacky. Well, not yet anyway. They are unremarkable enough that I can't even manage to form an impression of Kate in my mind. I don't know what she looks like. It was never like this with Diana. As a couple, they are bland and distinctly middle of the road. They are royalty that has been focus-grouped; uncontroversial and uncontentious, the New Labour of a "Daily Mail" brand of monarchy.

I would feel the same wherever I was, but in Mallorca there is an additional feeling. It is a sense of unease at displays of overt Britishness or Englishness, of nationhood in a foreign land that comes no more assertively than through Rule Britannia or God Save The Queen and scattering her enemies and making them fall, confounding their politics and frustrating their knavish tricks. The wedding and the street parties are the nationalistic refinement of the British to the more common lack of refinement of the football shirt and "England till I die".

There is a further sense of unease. That the street party is all an act of nostalgia, one of Brooke, the church clock at ten to three and there still being honey for tea. The meadows of Grantchester on the tarmac or terraces of Mallorca. Like a village fête transported hundreds of miles and transported through time with little union flags and mothers in flowery dresses.

But then, in years to come, some will look back and remember the street party for His Royal Baldness and the woman whose face I don't know. They will remember a knees-up and standing to attention. How wonderful it all was. A little bit of Britain in Mallorca; and they will look back with nostalgia. And, you know, it might even be fond.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2011

A damp start to the day, though the cloud cover is not so heavy. Temperatures as of 09:00 - Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 14.1 C; Pollensa, 16.7 C; Puerto Pollensa, 17.9 C. Things are meant to improve today and be ok up to Friday when rain is due to return.

Sun came out, it warmed up. But still not looking great from Friday. Highs today, to 19.00, Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 20.9 C; Pollensa, 19.8 C; Puerto Pollensa, 20.6 C.

Taking A Dive: Balcony-diving

One swallow doesn't make a summer. One swallow dive doesn't make a summer of balcony-diving. We don't know for sure that it was a balcony dive, but what we do know is that there will be dives and they will make the summer. They really ought to run a sweep on what the final number will be.

Barely open a week and Alcúdia's Bellevue registered the first fall of the season. The several pints of Guinness and many a chaser Book Of Records says that this was an early-season record. It was a fairly unspectacular affair, first floor only. At the Aquasol in Palmanova at the weekend, it was a bit more like it. Third floor. Thud.

The occurrences of balcony-diving are avidly greeted by a blood-thirsty and bone-breaking media and by tut-tuttery from various quarters. The Spanish ambassador to Britain even managed to get in on the act last summer when the sport was at its seasonal height. Cheap booze was the issue, he said, thus inadvertently drawing attention to an attraction of Mallorca that many had thought was something of the past. It was good of him to have mentioned it.

So seriously is the problem of balcony-diving taken that warnings are issued. "Do not dive from this balcony as you might get hurt," or something along these lines. Hurt, and splattered over concrete. It can make a dreadful mess, and not just of the concrete.

But then, what are balconies for if not to jump off of? Admittedly though, and before balcony-diving, they used to merely be base camp for re-enacting the scaling of the north face of the Eiger, as eager, would-be mountaineers clambered from one balcony to another. Without the aid of crampons, similar results were obtained as from balcony-diving, if at slightly lower velocity. Legend are the stories of the balcony climbers, such as the one of an extremely large, not to say fat German whose descent and ultimate collision with terra firma registered on the Richter scale.

In an attempt to limit the number of dives, some hotels are offering an alternative. Bedjumping. Yes, we know you like to come on holiday and jump around, so why not try our beds. Get similarly gargantuan Germans as the ex-balcony climber and the divan on the third floor will soon be a divan on the second floor or even in reception.

Less accommodating is the idea of increasing the heights of barriers and railings. Why not go the whole hog and enclose the balcony with a sheet of perspex? Why not indeed, and wait for the new craze of wearing a crash helmet and smashing through the perspex pre-dive. At least the crash helmet might come in handy when the concrete looms into view.

Or why not just accept that people want to throw themselves off buildings and give them some real sport? Mini cannons on balconies for human cannonballs. "See the Great Gonzo lagered-up tourist take to the skies." As he is launched into the night sky over Magalluf (or wherever), you will believe that a man can fly.

Mallorca appears to have acquired a reputation as the in-place for balcony-diving. Perhaps it's something to do with the quality of the balconies; I really couldn't say. But it is a worldwide sport. In Australia, there is a now former Australian who, only from a first-floor balcony, achieved immortality by proving that he was most definitely mortal. In Florida, the climbing of balconies is now illegal and punishable with a fine. What a good idea. As me laddo prepares for a back one-and-half somersault, there would be the forces of the law writing out a ticket. "You can't move the body until the fine's been paid. That'll be a hundred euros."

Though the injuries and deaths create the headlines, balcony-diving is not supposed to be some suicidal kamikaze leap onto solid terracing. The intention is to land in water, as in a pool. But here's the real madness. Why on earth would you do this in April, in a late April such as the one Mallorca has not been enjoying? Dive into a pool right now and you'd die of hypothermia. Some people really have no sense.

Oh, and if someone does fancy starting a sweep or a book, I think I'll have, erm ... well, it won't be one or two, that's for sure.

Any comments to please.

Monday, April 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Easter occupancy greater than expected

The national tourism secretary-general, the Mallorcan Joan Mesquida, says that hotel occupancy in the Balearics this Easter has been greater than the 85% that had been predicted. The tourism market, buoyed by events in Africa, is also benefiting from the strength of German and Scandinavian tourism, but less so from that from the UK.

MALLORCA TODAY - Bicipalma vandalism

Bikes that are available for public use through the new Bicipalma scheme in Palma are being stolen and vandalised. In one incident, linked to a botellón street-drinking party, five bikes were damaged.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2011

The southerly that was around before has swung completely to a northerly, and the wind picked up yesterday to create what is now a mix of heavy cloud with some sun poking through. Yesterday was soggy and today looks like being the same, though tomorrow is meant to be better. The high as of 09.00: Puerto Pollensa, 16.4 C.

The rain kept off and the day improved, with sun in the afternoon. Tomorrow and Wednesday look as though they will be fine, but after that ... The first forecasts for the holiday weekend this next weekend aren't too good, with rain being forecast for the mainland certainly.

High temperatures today have been: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 17.3 C; Pollensa, 15.6 C; Puerto Pollensa, 17.3 C.

Something To Remind You: Books

It was St. George's Day on Saturday. Sant Jordi's day. It was also the day of the book and of the curious ritual of exchanging a rose for a book. What happens nowadays? Do Interflora and Amazon both deliver?

The personal may be being taken out of many aspects of life, the Kindle and the iPad may be assuming greater significance, but the book itself endures. Rather like vinyl, the book is more substantial, more tangible than a disc or the physically non-existent, the download. It is more personal.

In Palma, they celebrated book day. Politicians took the opportunity to celebrate some time as last men and women standing. Before they succumb to their probable fate in May, the regional president and the mayor of Palma were among the visitors. Antich was talking a good book, or was he a talking book? The next legislature will introduce initiatives to develop reading, so he said. The education minister was on hand to echo this and to insist that it was necessary to give strength to plans for reading development. What have they been doing for the past four years?

Reading, sales of books, financial assistance for parental purchase of books; these all crop up among the statistics that are regularly trotted out in the press. More than literature, Mallorca has been creating a generation that can read figures rather than prose. The attention that is paid to reading does, though, emphasise the role of the book in local society.

But this same society has been bemoaning standards. Last September, at the literary gathering in Formentor of book publishers, concern was expressed at the fact that children no longer had the "experience of the book". Public education is sub-standard enough for it to have been admitted that, while children read, if not as much as they might, they don't understand. Levels of comprehension in Mallorca and the Balearics, along with other core benchmarks in education, are below those of the Spanish average and well below those of Europe as a whole.

Despite a tradition of the book and literature, Mallorca has produced little by way of great works. Not on an international scale, at any rate. Yet, the island can lay claim to being the birthplace of the European novel. Ramon Llull's "Blanquerna", written in the thirteenth century, is often held up as the first of its kind. It was written in Catalan, emphasising the importance of the language in civilising mediaeval European society, something that is conveniently overlooked by many.

There was a mere gap of some 700 years before something approximating to a great work about Mallorca came along, Llorenç Villalonga's "Bearn" about the fall of the Mallorcan nobility. But for most people outside Mallorca, both it and Llull's work are obscure and generally ignored. A more recent Mallorcan literary tradition hasn't been one at all, but a foreign invasion of Peter Mayle-apeing pap.

For the visitor, Mallorca and books mean not the unknowns such as Villalonga, but what gets thrown into the suitcase. Holidays are reading time; for many, the only time they read a book. New technologies may spawn greater interest in reading, but the Kindle is still subject to the same drawbacks as the book on holiday: Ambre Solaire thumbmarks and grains of sand working themselves into the crevices.

The book on holiday can take on greater significance than merely a means of whiling away some hours on a beach or by the poolside. It is a remembrance, something to remind you. I know exactly where I was when I read William Trevor's gut-wrenchingly sad "The Story of Lucy Gault" or when I laughed hysterically at the insanely irreverent "Henry Root Letters".

Both are somewhere, among all the other books, the old copies of "Wisden", the Ian McEwan first editions, the translation of the bible for the Inquisition, the "Malleus Maleficarum". These are my own descendants of what I grew up among - Hemingway, Dickens and the less cerebral Mickey Spillane and Harold Robbins.

The day of the book is a fine idea. There should be more of them. If only as a reminder of the greater aesthetic of the book. It can be read, but it can also be seen as a single object and even smelt. The new technologies don't offer the same pleasure and appeal to the senses.

In years to come, will the day of the book become the day of the electronic book? Stalls of handheld devices? Will the exchange of gifts mean a rose for a Kindle? I very much doubt it.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 2 : 0 Getafe

Following the dismal performance away in Malaga last weekend, Mallorca were more positive in the opening exchanges against the Madrid side, Nunes deservedly giving them the lead with a header from a corner in the 25th minute. Into the second half Getafe started to come into the game more, but Mallorca remained largely in control, adding a second through the Japanese substitute Aki after 67 minutes. Getafe piled on some pressure, but were unable to make inroads, with Aouate resolute in goal. The win for Mallorca dispels any possibility of relegation; the team now has 42 points with five games remaining. Europe is probably out of reach, though.

Real Mallorca:
Aouate; Joao Victor, Nunes, Ramis, Ayoze; Tejera (yellow, 43 min.; sub. Aki, 60 min.), Martí (yellow, 81 min.); Nsue, De Guzmán, Castro (sub. Victor, 70 min.); Webó (sub. Cendrós, 90 min.)
Goals: Nunes, 25 min.; Aki, 67 min.

Ustari; Torres, Diaz (yellow, 18 min.), Marcano (yellow, 63 min.), Mané; Victor Sánchez (sub. Sardinero, 46 min.), Boateng, Parejo (yellow, 61 min.), Casquero (sub. Arizmendi, 68 min.); Colunga (sub. Rios, 46 min.), Miku

Attendance: 14,668

MALLORCA TODAY - Holidaymaker falls from balcony at Aquasol

A 19-year-old foreign holidaymaker at the Aquasol aparthotel in Palmanova was taken to the Son Espases hospital early this morning, having fallen from the fourth floor in what appears to have been an act of balcony-diving. He was suffering injuries to the stomach and arm. Notification as to his nationality has not yet been made.

It has been confirmed that the holidaymaker was British. The injuries are not serious. Much is being made of the fact that he, along with his companions, went out to celebrate their arrival on the island and had a lot to drink.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2011

A mainly cloudy start to Easter Sunday. Temperatures as of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 12.3 C, Pollensa, 14.0 C, Puerto Pollensa, 16.4 C.

Very little sun around today. There has been drizzle and at times heavier rain, and the top temperature has only been, by 17.00, 17.2 C (in Puerto Pollensa).

Always Take The Weather With You

I've invented a new word. Meteosnobology. This is a whole new discipline of meteorological psychology, one by which weather is used as a form of one-upmanship, whether conscious or existing in the sub-conscious. The meteosnobologist is one driven by the principle of dissonance, and he or she can also be categorised as suffering from O.C.D. - obsessive climatological disorder.

Having invented both the word and the discipline, I did wonder if either actually existed. There is psychology of the weather, of course there is, though possibly not as I have now conceptualised it. As for the word, it doesn't exist; not according to Google at any rate. As an alternative, I tried "weather snob", and got no further than an entire website by the name. What appeared to be distinctly relevant, as in it says it is for the "weather obsessed", turns out to be something through which you can purchase all manner of gadgetry that tells you what the weather is. Obsessed? You can be.

In future years, weather psychologists will be able to discern when the concept of meteosnobology was first raised. Easter 2011. In Mallorca. The scientists will be able to explain that the concept was invented owing to the fact that the weather in Mallorca was complete pants; "pants" being, of course, a meteorological term. They will also, through the study of weather records, be able to ascertain that, at the same time, the UK was enjoying Mediterranean conditions.

To cut to the chase. Let's take dissonance, which is the state under which competing ideas conflict in someone's mind. How do you combat it? The meteosnobologist is confronted by just such a problem, one compounded by location, Mallorca in this instance. Weather in Mallorca is rubbish; weather in Britain is brilliant. The simple way of dealing with it, assuming you are on holiday in Mallorca, is to just accept the situation and make the best of a bad job, but the meteosnobologist goes further. Mallorca's better, even if the weather is pants.

This is complete garbage. People don't come to Mallorca for rain, regardless of how good or better the island may be. They certainly don't come if they know that when it's raining in Mallorca it's going to be 28 degrees back home and they can get the barbecue out. Why go to the bother? Overcoming dissonance demands that a justification is made for what has turned out to be a lousy choice, and the justification is that the UK is pants, despite the good weather.

Why is that prospective visitors to Mallorca constantly ask the question, "what's the weather like in such or such a month?" They ask it not in the hope that the reply will be that it's rubbish. They hope, expect it will be the opposite. It's why they come. End of.

Then there is the one-upmanship. It is, one suspects, largely unintentional, but there can be an element of the boastful that the meteosnobologist displays, especially when it comes to temperature. In a way, the same principle of combatting dissonance, a need for justification, is at play. Out comes the sun, and bingo: "Look at that thermometer, it's reading a hundred (or 37.8 to be more up-to-date)". Of course it is, if it's in the sun. You would get some similarly distorted measure in the UK. And the distortion can be huge. 24 celsius in reality; in direct, radiated conditions, it can be up to 40. It's a nonsense of exaggeration, with one meteosnobologist eye on the Mallorca's better gauge and a disregard of the danger to health were it really 40.

But more than all this is when weather gets personal. This is when the meteosnobologist actually begins to lose it. There's still the justification angle, the Mallorca is better one, but it assumes an altogether greater edge when the British media start gloating that it is hotter in the UK than in Mallorca. And why shouldn't they gloat? The weather is normally pants in the UK, so when it isn't and it's better, then go for it, I say. But when they do go for it, the meteosnobologist response is along the lines of the normal "paradise island" guff, so yah, boo, sucks to you, UK. It is utterly absurd.

However, maybe it isn't so absurd. There's the other aspect of the meteosnobologist, the O.C.D. We all, every single one of us, suffers from it. We are obsessed, and with very good reason. The weather affects us all. Most of what we do is influenced in some way or other by the weather. It affects our moods, even if it means we take the weather personally and irrationally, like we would a driver who cuts us up on the road. It affects us to the extent that we need to boast about it, to look to justify it. We do so because, yes, we are obsessed, and because we always take the weather with us.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2011

Well, well, what has happened here? The skies are largely clear and the sun is out. The forecast still shows grey clouds and rain for today and more so tomorrow, but for the moment, it seems it might not be totally accurate. Temperatures as of 08.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 12.5 C, Pollensa, 13.1 C, Puerto Pollensa, 14.8 C.

It clouded over and there was some rain, but only very light, and it gave way to some quite good sunshine. The local high today has been in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro at 21 C. The wind direction is now southerly, which may be good news if it drags in warmer air. The forecast, though, still doesn't look that much better until Tuesday.

In Praise Of Naffness

If you are going to build a new gallery and arts centre, where would you put it? On a shortlist of towns in England, you would probably not have Margate at the top of it. Yet this is where the Turner Contemporary has pitched up.

The fact that Joseph Mallord William Turner spent a couple of years at school in Margate has been enough to have the town honoured by his heritage. There is something of the clutching of straw paint brushes when it comes to the connections between ancients of the arts and where they once had a garret or watered for the season. The Turner connection is like the clutching of author's pen that has been dallied with in Puerto Pollensa. Simply because Agatha Christie stayed there and wrote a thrillerette has been enough to suggest the old trout as the "face" of the resort, an idea that mercifully seems to have been forgotten about. More spectacularly spurious has of course been Chopin, despite his short-lived, tubercular vituperation of Valldemossa.

I confess that it is many years since I have been to Margate. But I can remind myself as to what it was like at the time that I did go there. In Paul Theroux's at-times savage "The Kingdom By The Sea", written in the early 1980s, he said of Margate that it "had never been fashionable; it had never even been nice". Like many an English seaside town which has always been either totally or partially naff, Margate was always one of the finer examples.

This is not, however, to seek to defame Margate or naffness as a whole. Quite the opposite.

Naffness comes in different forms. In general, it can be considered as lacking in taste or as unfashionable, uncool or unlovely. Mallorca, for years, cultivated a reputation for naffness. If you wanted a synonym for the touristic naff, then you sought no further than the M-island word: Madge-orca. Yet, it was also always the obverse; it was fashionable, cool and lovely: My-orca.

Nevertheless, the prevailing image was summed up by Madge-orca. At some point, however, it was as if the island suddenly developed a Turner Contemporary and My-orca assumed a position of cool dominance. Yet nothing fundamentally changed. To put the transformation down purely to marketing would be too simple, and the curiosity as to quite how it happened remains, because Mallorca remains an island of contradiction.

While Margate may now acquire for itself a makeover of artiness, it will retain its essential naffness, and there's no reason why it shouldn't or indeed should seek to dispense with it. The reason why it shouldn't is that naffness is engrained into its very being. Its culture, like other English seaside towns, is what gives it its appeal.

Mallorca, despite its own makeover, retains its enclaves of naffness. They are the contradiction with the sophistication and tradition that reside elsewhere. We all know where they are to be found. Alcúdia's Mile, parts of Magalluf, Arenal and elsewhere. They are all museum pieces to an extent, but such a description disguises their enduring vitality, and their naffness is one that is due, in no small part, to an importing of culture, akin to but not the same as that which has long found expression in a seaside town. While Mallorca seeks to proclaim a distant cultural heritage, it also has a more modern one, that of Del Boy import-export, with bars that reverberate with the endless exclamations of "you plonker, Rodney" or with the Schlagermusik of the Biergarten.

And to deny this would be a huge mistake. Calling somewhere naff may sound derogatory, but, and this may come as a surprise, naff is what a lot of people like. The unfashionableness of old-style entertainment, the lack of taste of the karaoke or the pub, the sheer silliness of being on holiday are what you get from some resorts. And this is just how people want them to be.

Mallorca might wish to go further in turning itself into one giant Turner Contemporary and one Turner Contemporary alone, but it shouldn't. The contradiction of the island should remain, and thank goodness for this, for otherwise it would be a case of forgetting what put Madge into Majorca rather than the Mallord into Mallorca.

Any comments to please.

Friday, April 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2011

Very grey again this morning, but mild. Rain there has now been, but only light . Temperatures as of 09.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.5 C, Pollensa, 13.8 C, Puerto Pollensa, 15.8 C.

There may be periods of sun today and tomorrow, but if anything Sunday's forecast is now worse, with a 90% rain probability. Things should improve from Monday.

As it turned out, there was a huge cloudburst and deluge in the morning, but once it finally cleared up, the day turned out to be reasonably good with a fair amount of sunshine. Temperatures nothing to write home about, though. The best has been, to 18.00, 18.7 C in Puerto Pollensa.

The Body Electric: Cars and energy

At Puerto Alcúdia's recent spring fair, one of the exhibits was that of an electric car. The fairs are often the venues for environmentally-conscious propaganda and promotion. The local environment ministry is always to the fore with its recycling bags and leaflets. Planet saving has become a tradition of the traditional.

The local environment ministry has a thing about electric cars, or should I say electric buggies. They are described as buses, but they are like what you get on a golf course except bigger - the electric multi-people carrier. Not that these buggies would ever set wheel onto a golf course, if the environment ministry had its way, because golf courses, more of them, there would not be.

The regional government, courtesy of the environment ministry, bought three of these buggies in 2006. They cost 60,000 euros. Five years on and the three buggies are unused, as they have been unused ever since they were acquired. One of them would be especially hard to be usable. It was never actually delivered. Who was ultimately responsible for their purchase? Jaume Font, he of the new La Lliga, and then the Partido Popular's environment minister.

They were bought because ... . Well, why were they bought? No one seems to have really known what they were going to do with them. And they don't move very fast. Indeed, so slowly do they go that they weren't considered appropriate for somewhere with as slow a pace of life as the Albufera nature park. Visitors apparently would prefer their bird- and wildlife-watching on something with a bit more zip. Whether they would have even been suitable for the terrain is quite another matter. What about using them at the Mondragó park in Santanyí? Well, what about doing this? The buggies were despatched, and there they remained. Unused.

For two years, at a cost of 4,000 euros to rent a space at Mondragó, the two bus-buggies which did turn up stood idle. Finally, when the PSM Mallorcan socialists got hold of the environment ministry early last year, they had the good sense to move them again. Not that they were going to be used for anything, just that they were on their way to some government land where it didn't cost to store them. Maybe the university might now want them? Maybe it would. Or maybe the government should just sell them to a golf course at a no-doubt knocked-down price.

At a time when the cost of petrol rises by the week - it is now an average of 1.363 euros per litre - the attractions of electric vehicles grow. President Antich, one eye on the environmental vote no doubt and critical of the previous administration's lunatic purchase of vehicles that didn't do anything, has announced that he hopes that, by 2015, there will be some 7,500 electric vehicles knocking around the Balearics.

As ever, figures can be put on what this would mean. A 67% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, for example. How is the figure arrived at? Pass. But arrived at, it is. This fleet of quietly-moving vehicles, and it should be noted that electric vehicles are criticised on safety grounds because you can't hear them coming, would not solely be those of the government. Far from it. The car-hire sector has been engaged in discussions.

Electric vehicles are all well and good. They are well and good for the environment, potentially. But how is the electricity created? Currently, so we keep being reminded, the power station in Alcúdia is one of the main culprits when it comes to emissions. It may move to being fuelled by natural gas, but it would still emit pollutants, admittedly at lower levels than coal. And then there are the renewables, solar energy in particular.

The regional government, at a cost of nearly 200,000 euros, commissioned a study which suggested that it would be possible to generate all the Balearics' energy needs with clean renewables. When might this happen? Ever? A bit over one per cent is at present from renewables, and the prospects for much more, any time soon, aren't that great. They have not been helped by the fact that central government has turned down over 40 projects that might have contributed to increasing substantially the amount of solar energy in Mallorca.

Herein lies the rub. You can create greener vehicles, but the advantages of doing so need to be complemented by how you create their "fuel". There again, there is one way you can be sure of not polluting the atmosphere; that's to buy vehicles that you never use. Just ask the environment ministry.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2011

The outlook for today was accurate in that it is very cloudy. There may be some sun (it is in the forecast), but there is no sign at the moment, though at present it hasn't rained. Certainly not cold however. Temperatures as of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 16.4 C, Pollensa, 14.9 C, Puerto Pollensa, 16.7 C.

Well, so much for the rain, as there hasn't been any. Yet. It has been cloudy all day with periods of relative brightness, but no sun as such. Highs in the area, to 18.00, have been 17.7 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.9 C in Pollensa and 17.3 C in Puerto Pollensa.

Nothing much has changed where the forecast is concerned. Saturday and Easter Sunday still look like cloud and a high risk of rain. Tomorrow, there is also the risk of rain, but there may also be some sun around. Temperatures could reach 20, but it's unlikely.

Feels Like Team Spirit

Easter is here and tourists are flocking in. They come expecting sun and what do they find? Oh well, never mind. What they also find is an abasement of language. While some words - gay, pants, sad - acquire additional meanings, some do not move on, but become un-words. There is no word that is as un-wordly as "team". Yet, the poor tourist will find him and herself surrounded by, confronted by, greeted by, wished by, served by teams. Tour operators have teams, hotels have teams, even some bars have teams.

"Your so-and-so team." We will be here to attend to your every need, we will be as one. One for all and all for one. We will all adhere to principles of the highest standards of customer service and will work to the greater good of the company we represent with shoulders-back, chest-out pride.

That's what you are meant to believe. That's what "team" is meant to mythically convey. It is of course managerialist doublespeak. The word means nothing of the sort, because it hardly ever means any of the above. It is an un-word.

Put two people together and you have a team. Put more than two people together and you also have a team. Actually, you don't. What you have are more than one person as part of a pair or a group. You do not have a team. But by saying that you do, you seek to convince customers - tourists - and probably also yourself, that you are somehow guided by some light of righteousness that will indeed attend to the every need. Team is an un-word and it is usually complete drivel.

There didn't used to be teams, except on a sports field. When management consultants realised that there were some new wads to be made, they delved into the world of sport and found that there were teams. They then highlighted examples of great teams. Liverpool FC of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the New Zealand rugby team under David Kirk in 1987, and others. They divined the factors that made for teams.

Shared objectives and goals, clearly defined responsibilities but also flexibility, clear lines of communication, total support from a leadership figure, the right systems, the right training, the right mix of abilities and skills. These were some of the factors, and some organisations set about putting them in place. They were not wrong to do so, and nor had the consultants been wrong to invent these factors. Away from the sports fields, some teams did emerge, but for the most part they were teams by name alone. Puffery, gloss, delusion and misrepresentation. Un-teams.

"You will be a team-player," usually in a fast-moving and dynamic environment. Thus chants the recruitment ritual, and so the tourist, in the hotel, at the airport or wherever will be in the hands of just such a team-player, even if he or she isn't and hasn't the faintest idea what it means. But they will have said they are, because what else are they supposed to say. "No, I am a socially-inadequate loser with psychotic tendencies."

Teams, team-players. They are lost in lexicography. But are found in teams because someone has said that they are teams and probably have the t-shirt or the uniform to prove it. And like sports teams, they will even have their names to add to the impression. Your reception team, your entertainment team, your kiddies-club team, your kitchen team, your toilet-cleaning team. They will smile from display units and will be teams.

Why do they do it? Partly because team is an un-word, one used by default and one now demanded by convention. But used properly, as in the concept of the team is applied correctly, then it can be powerful in delivering true service. Some businesses locally do deliver this, sometimes systematically perhaps and sometimes by luck or instinct. They do actually employ people who are genuinely team-players. They themselves have good team leaders. And more often than not, they are the ones which don't puff themselves up behind the "team" facade. They do it anyway.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Petrol hits yet another high

The average price of a litre of petrol continues to rise. It now stands at 1.363 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Record occupancy for Easter

The Mallorca hotel federation says that there will be a record number of places available over the Easter holiday, the total in Mallorca having risen to 120,000, which is 30,000 more than Easter last year. Most resorts seem to be showing an increase, with Alcúdia/Can Picafort at around 64% availability, up by 9%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2011

Quite a bit of light cloud around, but there is also sun. Temperatures as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 14.8 C, Pollensa, 15.0 C, Puerto Pollensa, 15.6 C.

What now needs to be called the rain forecast is ok for today, then 80% probability tomorrow, 70% on Friday and then less during the weekend. There should, though, still be periods of sun, with temperatures liable to move about but making 20 on occasions.

Afternoon update and forecast for Easter:
The day has been cloudy, quite muggy and breezy from the south-east. The maximums in the area, to 17.30, have been 18.6 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 17.3 C in Pollensa and 17.8 C in Puerto Pollensa.

The general outlook now is for tomorrow to be very cloudy with rain, occasionally heavy and with storms. Friday will be similar, though temperatures are due to remain more or less as is, i.e. around 18 or 19 degrees. Saturday should see an improvement, with less probability of rain, and Sunday and Monday should see the greatest instability of the weather confined to the eastern coast of the mainland.

Hogging The Road: Motorbiking in Mallorca

"This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." So commented George Hanson. The country, the countryside is different to that of America's "Easy Rider". Not so much has gone wrong with it. Especially if you're on a motorbike. It's probably the best way to see Mallorca.

Despite the drugs and the violence, "Easy Rider" did more than any cycle grand prix to give the motorbike, and the Harley Davidson in particular, a prominence in popular culture, both good and bad. The descendants of Billy and Wyatt ride the world, and they ride Mallorca every year.

It was the motorbike tour of Mallorca at the weekend. 5,000 bikers, fewer bikes, but still some thousands of noise. You know when the "volta" is taking place, if you are anywhere near its route. For minutes on end, the roar of engines shatters the peace of a warm Sunday afternoon.

The tour is not the only motorbike event. Last October, what was described as the largest concentration of bikes in the history of the island celebrated the Mallorca Hogrock. Riders from mainland Spain, the UK, Germany and elsewhere. Motorbike tourism is popular and it's getting more popular.

In the endless quest to limit the impact of seasonality, bikers are being welcomed with the same open arms as other riders on two wheels - the cyclists. The president of the association of motorcycling businesses (AEMOT) has said that biking tourism should be considered in the same way as cycling tourism.

And in the same way as biking tourism affords a certain sense of freedom as cycling tourism does, so also it is viewed as a source of not insubstantial revenue generation. If you ride a Harley, chances are that you've got a wad or two or several that Mallorca's businesses will be happy to take off your hands. José Hernández, the AEMOT president, has said as much. Biking tourism attracts a visitor with high spending power.

It is opportune, to say the least, that the Palma-born Jorge Lorenzo is the current Moto GP world champion. In fact, it should be a God-send of good luck. More than Rafa Nadal, here's a sportsman who is firmly identified with one thing - the bike. Nadal is too diluted, while tennis is not directly a type of tourism that is promoted. Lorenzo is different. He's not glamorous in a Nadal-on-a-boat way, and he deals in noise.

Lorenzo's success and the growing interest in biking tourism have prompted President Antich to call for a purpose-built circuit in Mallorca, one that would bring benefits not just to motorcycling but also to the hotel and bar and restaurant sectors in seeking to reduce seasonality. The chances of this happening are probably rather greater than the pie-in-the-sky idea that a Formula 1 circuit might be built.

What all might sound positive has a drawback. Cycling tourists are not welcomed by everyone, in particular by impatient car drivers. A biker does not pose the same dawdling obstacle, but what he or she brings, or rather the bike brings, is something else that might not be welcomed - the sheer racket. The peace of the Sunday afternoon was shattered, torn apart and ripped to shreads. It doesn't last long of course, but there is something of a double standard here.

Noise pollution is being taken seriously enough for a speed restriction to 80 kph to have been imposed on a stretch of motorway from Palma. Some would have it apply to the whole of the Via Cintura. Motorbikes tend to make more noise than cars. And were there far more of them, then how would the desire for greater biking tourism fit with a wish to reduce noise pollution? It wouldn't. A typical Harley generates 85 decibels, but it can run at 110 or higher; 110 is twice the level considered acceptable for normal residential living.

Biking is a great way to travel around Mallorca. There's no question about this. It should be encouraged, but if it grows in the way that it might, then the words of Jack Nicholson's George Hanson will start to take on fresh meaning. "I can't understand what's gone wrong." It'll be easily enough understood and it'll be roaring along a road near you.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Smoking ban protest poorly supported

The protest against the smoking ban, which was intended to see bars close while a demonstration was held, attracted only around one hundred businesses. The protest, such as it was, appeared to affect only Palma. There was little evidence of bars closing in other places.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa deficit of over 600,000 euros

Pollensa town hall has finally closed the books for the year 2009 and declared a deficit of 636,000 euros. A question that has been raised is what might the deficit be for 2010. Another question, one that stems from what is alleged to be a lack of transparency, is whether the deficit is in fact greater.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2011

A cloudier start, but the sun is now breaking through. Temperatures as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.4 C, Pollensa, 14.0 C, Puerto Pollensa, 15.8 C.

It should be fine for today and tomorrow, but rain is now a strong possibility from Thursday and right through the weekend into Monday.

Cloud has continued to hang around, and the temperatures have been only average, a high of 17.1 C in Puerto Pollensa.

Have I Got Videos For You

"This week's odd-one-out round. Paul and Jon, your four are Harold "Hype" Williams, some happy slappers from West Bromwich, the MKTGONLINEIB and the Iberostar Alcúdia Park hotel, Playa de Muro, Mallorca."

"Is it the? What did you call it? The Muckt-gon-lee-nee-aye-bee? Is it the only one who looks like a robot which looks like it could do with getting out more?"

"No, actually it's the Iberostar Alcúdia Park hotel, Playa de Muro, Mallorca. Shall I tell you why?"

"No thanks."

"Well, I'll tell you anyway. It's the only one that doesn't make videos, but has videos made of it. In fact, there is one about it that appears at the top of the list of other videos to watch on YouTube next to this edition of 'Have I Got News For You', assuming you are watching S40E01 extended parts one to three and probably also assuming that you are watching it in Playa de Muro."

"And why's that exactly? Just because you're watching this particular show and because you're in - where's that place called again?"

"Playa de Muro. It's in Mallorca."

"Is it really. But that doesn't answer my question."

"I'm not sure why."

"But you play Sherlock Holmes, you should know why."

"They didn't have YouTube in my, erm, in Holmes's day. I think it's to do with intelligently figuring out the location of the user or something like that."

"Intelligent!? But if you're in this place, whatever it's called ..."

"Playa de Muro. It means the beach of the wall."

"In the beach of the wall, why would you want to know about a tourist hotel? You're not going to stay in it, if you're already there."

"That's a very good question."

"Yea, I know. That's why I asked it."

"In fact, the video is in Spanish as well. And I don't think this show has many Spanish viewers."

"So it's not intelligent at all, then."

"No, I suppose it isn't."

"So, why did you say it was, then? And this MKTGONLINEIB, how do we know it's a robot?"

"We don't. In fact it's probably a person."

"A robot's a person!? What is this? The return of the Borgs or something?"

"It's the name that appears under the video. The poster I think you call it. Or him. Or her. Anyway, shall we move on?"

"Yes, let's."

The above is of course made up, but is intended to raise a question about promotional videos and the like that are placed on the internet. Why would you, if you were in Playa de Muro, as in I was when I was watching the "Have I Got News For You" video, or anywhere else for that matter, be interested in a tourist hotel that's just up the road? I assume the video was placed because location was detected. But what's the good of that?

And this, if you're interested, is the video in question. There is something alarming about it. Not only can it detect where you are, it can also feature you in the video. At 0:37, who the hell is that bloke sitting by the bar?

Any comments to please.

Monday, April 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Cleaners' strike is off

A strike by cleaners, that would have affected different public buildings and which was due to take place tomorrow and 20 and 26 April, has been called off, following an agreement to increase wages.

MALLORCA TODAY - Man killed in Alcúdia road accident

A 75-year-old man was killed and three others were injured following a collision involving a car and two lorries at the junction of the Avenida Tucan and the bypass road by the Puig Sant Marti in Puerto Alcúdia. The car was completely crushed in the accident at what is something of a blackspot. A tourist was killed at the same junction two years ago.

MALLORCA TODAY - Record tourism year predicted

Various agencies are confirming that this year will see record numbers of tourists visiting the Balearics and that these numbers will exceed the 15.3 million who came in 2007, the previous record. Certain resorts are reporting that occupancy will be up substantially, Alcúdia and Can Picafort, for example, anticipating up to 10% higher levels.

MALLORCA TODAY - Large fire in Capdepera

The first major forest fire of the year occurred yesterday in the Son Terrassa area in Capdepera on the north-eastern tip of the island. Some 50 hectares were affected by the fire that broke out around midday and was attended by three fire brigades as well as water-bombing helicopters and a Canadair plane.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2011

Very much as before. Some cloud near the mountains, but it is sunny and calm. Temperatures as of 09.00: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 9.4 C, Pollensa, 14.2 C, Puerto Pollensa, 14.0 C.

The forecast has changed. It is showing cloud building up today and during the week with Wednesday and Thursday likely to have limited sun, and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday all have strong probabilities of rain - 60% to 70%.

It has been sunny all day but the breeze by the sea has been distinctly nippy. Highs today have been, to 18.00, Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 17.6 C, Pollensa, 17.3 C, Puerto Pollensa, 16.8 C.

Half A Million Strong: Building Mallorca

Half a million strong. Half a million more. That's the number of extra inhabitants the Balearics, which currently have a population of 1.1 million, could accommodate under current plans, most of them in Mallorca.

As ever, the headline-grabber, the half a million, is not all that it seems. A goodly sized chunk of what could be built, according to those plans, is designated for tourism purposes. In other words, the inhabitants would be temporary. Nevertheless, the increase in building and population which could occur - stress, could occur - is dramatic.

In 2001, nearly 6,000 hectares were set aside for new urbanisation. Of these, slightly under a fifth have been built on. Some land has since been reclassified, meaning that it cannot be urbanised, but 4,000 hectares remain, enough for over 150,000 properties and the half a million inhabitants.

So what, you might think. Some perspective is needed in order to give an indication as to what this might represent.

On Mallorca, says research from the university, only six per cent of the island's land is strictly speaking "constructed". It doesn't sound much, but when you factor in mountains, other natural features, agricultural needs, as well as restrictions on construction, it may well be right. And because it doesn't sound much, the capacity for extra building, envisaged under the 2001 plan, becomes all the more striking. Were all the 6,000 hectares built on in Mallorca alone, and as I say it does account for most of the available land, this would equate to an increase in excess of 25% more "constructed" area on the island.

Six thousand hectares approximate to something less than 2% of the entire land mass of Mallorca. Again, it doesn't sound like much. But the strategy for development (and you cannot also ignore roads and other infrastructure developments that are not included) is one of "compact towns". Compact can just as easily become overpowering.

When you break all this down by town, you begin to get a clearer picture of what it might all mean. In Palma alone, land which remains unbuilt on but which could be built on would yield over 100,000 more inhabitants. There are currently just over 400,000. In the regions, the potential increases are just as if not more dramatic: Manacor, over 25,000 more people, a rise of 60%; Alcúdia, nearly 10,000, 50% more and of which 2,000 would be tourists. In one instance, Artà, the population would all but double. In Campos, it would rise by over 200%.

These latter two examples are unusual under this plan. Neither town has a particularly strong tourism basis. In Artà, the potential exists for over a half of the designated development to be for tourism. In Campos, which has cried out for more tourism opportunities and been largely spurned, as with its golf development, a quarter of the new build would be for tourism purposes. Both towns would, therefore, stand to benefit significantly. But at what cost?

Building in Artà that has already occurred has, as an example, seen Colonia San Pere grow quite markedly in a short period. Revenue generation for individual town halls notwithstanding, the obvious question arises as to how sustainable or indeed advisable such developments and increases in population are.

The first decade of this century witnessed a massive rise in population. 170,000 more people. Despite a prediction that the population of Mallorca will rise by only 7% during this decade, this doesn't square with what could be the case under the plan. And with more people come greater demand on services and greater strain on the environment. It is for these reasons that the dramatic rises are unlikely to occur. The regional government just doesn't have the money to support them, while it is also sensitive to an environmental lobby which would seek to limit a new boom in housing and tourism development, as and when the crisis in the construction industry were to come to an end. The counter to this is that construction is also a powerful lobby.

Half a million strong? Yasker's Mallorcan farm and finca is in all likelihood safe for now. Half a million more is probably just a way of grabbing attention. Which is not to say, however, that certain towns might not be singled out. In Artà and Campos they would probably welcome it. There again, they might not.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2011

Another gorgeous day in prospect. Bits of cloud around near the mountains, but otherwise the skies are clear. Hardly any breeze at present, with the wind direction being westerly. Top temperature as of 09.30: Puerto Pollensa, 15.1 C.

The forecast heading towards Easter is for a mix of cloud and sun during the coming week, with temperatures hitting possible highs of 20 C. The greatest risk for rain now seems to have shifted to Saturday.

And gorgeous it was. The sun felt burning in mid-afternoon when the breeze dropped, even though the temperatures remained quite a bit below the 20 mark. The highs in the area, through to 19.00, were 18.1 C in Puerto Pollensa and Pollensa town.

Never Mind The Quantity

They do it in Bali, they do it in Thailand, they do it in Turkey, they even do it in Oman. What do they do? They talk about quality tourists. And of course they talk about them in Mallorca.

Quality. The word used to have meaning. It used also to be something that could be measured. It still can be, but the term has become so widely used and abused that it can mean whatever you like and it can be applied to whatever you like, as can its absence.

In Mallorca, there is a distinction. Tourism quality is not the same as tourist quality. The former refers to services, standards of hotels, resorts and infrastructure. Theoretically, tourism quality begets tourist quality, or doesn't if the tourism quality is low.

The problem with all of this is terminology and precise meaning. While systems exist which can measure quality in tourism destinations, such as "Qualitest", developed under the auspices of the European Commission, similar systems are not applied to people - tourists themselves and their perceived quality or lack of. How would you? Get tourists to fill out a questionnaire to determine their socioeconomic grouping or means test them? It's a nonsense of vagueness and one that leads to accusations of the pejorative and the insult, as has been the case with Pedro Iriondo and his taunt of low-quality tourists coming from the UK.

Nevertheless, and despite the umbrage that has been taken, Iriondo was not totally wrong. He was wrong in his choice of words, but not in his sentiments. Yet, the quality descriptor is used by default and has been for years in Mallorca. Just as it is now used in Thailand, where the prime minister has urged the tourism industry to focus on the quality of tourists. Same concept, same insult.

Iriondo's outburst has been met differently in the UK (and among some Britons in Mallorca) and in Mallorca by both local people and the local media. This difference is far from unimportant. While the quality insult and the attack on low-cost airlines caused the headlines for the British, it was his criticism of foreign workers in Mallorcan hotels and bars that caused the most fuss locally. The tourist quality argument is one that few would quibble with, including many a British business owner in Mallorca.

Unpalatable though it may be, vague though the word quality may also be, we still know what Iriondo was getting at. Money. And you can probably throw in behaviour as well. Mallorca is not alone. In Bali, they are thinking of introducing standard pricing policies to prevent tourism being too cheap. "In order to obtain quality tourists, one step we must take is to avoid selling Bali too cheaply," has said the assistant governor. A Dutch restaurateur in Istanbul has criticised governmental policy of placing quantity before quality. "Turkey should get rid of its image (for) cheap vacations with all-inclusive travel packages."

The Thai prime minister went on to say that the tourism industry should not aim for high numbers, thus placing quality first. The same argument as in Turkey, therefore, and one that has been broached in Mallorca before now, not least by the current regional government president.

Regardless of background, people are entitled to a holiday. It is the seeking to deny this that grates as much as the distasteful term "quality tourist" and its opposite. However, a destination surely has the right to determine what type of tourism it wants. Mallorca, in part, as is the case with other destinations, operates a type of social service. It is one, and the point was proved as long ago as the early 90s by researchers at the university, that leads to a net loss among a percentage of tourists. Then, it was 10%; it would be higher now.

The solution, if this is the right word, lies not just with the quality of the tourism offer but also with a reduction in tourism numbers. This has been spoken about. President Antich once said as much himself. But it would be a minefield of implementation. Mallorca's tourism is based on volume, as are strategies of airlines, tour operators, hotel chains, the airport, transport providers and the government itself, sensitive to the need to constantly report high tourism numbers and to the creation of employment.

Volume means tourism of all types, of all backgrounds. Iriondo's insult remains an insult insomuch as Mallorca's tourism has always been all things to all men. But if Mallorca wants something different, then so be it. If it does, though, it should be aware of what it would mean. Quality, assuming it can be adequately defined, does not always mean quantity.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Malaga 3 : 0 Real Mallorca

A generally even first half changed dramatically towards the half hour when the bottom-three club took the lead through a left-foot shot from Fernández and then added a second from Baptista on 40 minutes. The second half started with Malaga all over Mallorca, Baptista scoring his second with a header after eleven minutes. Things didn't get better for a toothless Mallorca, and Malaga ran out easy winners. The result gives Qatari-owned Malaga hope of staying up, they move out of the bottom three for the time being, but for Mallorca, chances of Europe are fading; they are six points behind Athletic Bilbao in sixth spot.

Caballero; Gámez, DeMichelis, Weligton, Mtiliga; Recio, Apoño (sub. Juanmi, 85 min.), Duda, Julio Baptista (yellow, 33 min.; sub. Camacho, 63 min.); Fernández (yellow, 65 min.; sub. Maresca, 76 min.), Rondón
Goals: Fernández, 26 min.; Julio Baptista, 40 min., 56 min.

Real Mallorca:
Aouate; Cendrós (yellow, 44 min.; sub. Aki, 45 min.), Nunes, Ramis, Ayoze (yellow, 12 min.); Joao Victor, Marti (yellow, 78 min.); Nsue, Tejera, Castro; Webó (sub. Victor, 70 min.)

MALLORCA TODAY - New speed restriction on Mallorca motorway

From Monday, the maximum speed on the motorway between the Genova bridge and the motorway to Andratx will be cut to 80 kph. The reason for this is to attempt to cut noise. The policy may well be extended to the whole of the Via Cintura around Palma, but to a maximum of 100 kph.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2011

A bright and sunny start with some light cloud over the Tramuntana mountains. Quite breezy and the sea was noisier last night than for some time, which might be heralding a change, though none is forecast for a perfect weekend. From Tuesday, cloud is meant to build up and by Friday, there is an increased risk of rain. Temperatures as of 09.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.4 C; Pollensa, 13.7 C; Puerto Pollensa, 15.4 C.

What cloud there was disappeared and the breeze dropped. Highs, to 17.30, Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 17.0 C; Pollensa, 16.2 C; Puerto Pollensa, 16.8 C.

Bus Passes: Alcúdia's mayoral candidates

A motley crew. The tall guy, the bloke who looks like a refugee from 70s rock perms, three homely ladies and some geezer who we thought wasn't going to be there. A motley crew for the motley cobbling-together of justification for existence that is Alcúdia's Can Ramis building.

They came, they spoke, they concurred (sometimes). The mayoral candidates of Alcúdia. Several species of small and not so small furry and fiery political animals gathered together in the cave of an exhibition room and grooving for the press pictures. At least, at last, here was some point to Can Ramis. It was a burning topic for the citizenry of Alcúdia.

The tall guy, the mayor Jeff Goldblum, also known as Miguel Llompart, said that everything about the building of Can Ramis had been "correcto". The one among the ranks who had something of the politician "look" about her, if only in a less-terrifying Ann Widdecombe style, was the furry terrier, pawing at the alleged irregularities of the building. But we knew all about Coloma and the Partido Popular's objections. They were nothing new.

The tall guy, though, let on that Can Ramis had not been intended as a bus station. This was new, as was the admission that the misapprehension the entire town had been under had been a fault of town hall communication. So this explained everything, unlike the plan which had a bus station and the model with the little Dinky buses. Or had I imagined it all? Not that it really matters. It was a waste of money whatever the intention had or hadn't been.

There were six of them in all. One of them hadn't been expected. He had not been in the rogue's gallery of head shots prior to the event, at any rate. Had he gate-crashed perhaps? No, he was the chap from the Esquerra Unida. And what's the purpose of their existence exactly, other than to be left and united? Still don't know, though the united left is the only party which will defend workers, or something like that.

It wasn't trains and boats and planes so much as trains and buses. Ah yes, the train. The one not standing either somewhere near to Alcúdia's auditorium or the Es Foguero ruin. Here, the main three parties, mayor Goldblum's Convergència, Ann Widdecombe's PP and the PSOE of the alarming Brian May lookalike, stood shoulder to shoulder. Not that Coloma could physically stand shoulder to shoulder with the tall guy; only metaphorically.

All three agreed that the government had been wrong regarding the siting of the railway and that the views of Alcúdia had to be respected. One Alcúdia, one train. Not that there is one train and is unlikely to now be one, besides which Brian May, sometimes also referred to as Pere Malondra, reckoned it wasn't necessary anyway. There are other systems of public transport which can connect Alcúdia to Sa Pobla. Such as? Helicopters perhaps? Silly me. It'll be a bus of course.

The lady from the Esquerra Republicana, whatever they are, made an unusually useful point. Still about buses, but it was useful nonetheless. Why wasn't there a bus stop by the newly-terminaled commercial port? Well yes, why isn't there? Probably because there aren't any buses which go there, but possibly also because the port with its shiny new terminal has achieved the remarkable. It has actually managed to create less traffic than before.

There was one matter on which the aspiring and perspiring candidates could all sort of come together. Tourism. A longer season was needed. As was an agreement on tourism quality, one suggested by Brian May rather than his proposing something as dramatic as we will Mallorca rock you. Alcúdia offers not just sun and beach but also culture and gastronomy, parroted the Mallorcan socialists lady. How revolutionary. Who would have ever thought of such a thing? I must run the idea past the waddling masses of Bellevue some time. The chap who we didn't think was going to be there wanted 30% of hotel places open in winter. Though how they might be filled is quite a different matter and therefore one that was not addressed.

The mayoral candidates lit up Can Ramis with their enlightenment. When the official campaign starts, there should be a banner strung high above the street by the town hall. "Vote Llompart, a mayor you can look up to." Because everyone does, or has to. Alcúdia's one unique political selling-point. It has the tallest mayor in Mallorca. In the absence of candidates offering any great thoughts, other than about bus stops where buses don't run, this is about as good a reason as there is for voting for any of them.

Any comments to please.

Friday, April 15, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Hirst trial set for June 2012

The trial of John Hirst, on counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, has now been set for June next year. This follows a court hearing at Bradford Crown Court on Wednesday. Investigations into Hirst's Ponzi scheme, operated via Gilher Inc., continue. Last year another Briton was detained by police in Mallorca in relation to the investigation.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2011

A greyish start to the day, though the cloud should break up. The weekend's forecast is looking very good with plenty of sunshine. Temperatures as of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 15.4 C; Pollensa, 14.3 C; Puerto Pollensa, 16.4 C.

The cloud went and it was another glorious day. Quite breezy with the mestral (NW) in Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa and the gregal (NE) in Pollensa. Temperatures nothing unusual, but very pleasant. Highs, to 17.30, Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 18.3 C, Pollensa, 16.8 C, Puerto Pollensa, 17.3 C.

Finding Nemo: Palma Aquarium

One of the images of the Palma Aquarium is the clownfish, the comedian of the deep; Nemo found. This small joker in the pack of the oceans, the housekeeper-in-chief and cleaner to the sea anemone, with which it is symbiotic to the extent of having been nicknamed from the anemone itself, is a tiny specklet of life amidst the larger submariners of the seas. On a scale of one to several billion, it is amoebic within the vastness of the Aquarium and its grounds.

Heading towards its fourth anniversary, the Aquarium is an oddity of all-year attraction, the lie to the criticism of fallow-season all-closure. It is also an oddity of commercialism combined with philanthropy for the aquatic natural world, a charitableness that extends to its campaigning on behalf of the bluefin tuna. Coals to Newcastle and then back again. The tuna that is harvested from the seas around Mallorca can well end up at a sushi processor in Japan before being shipped back and served locally. So it is with the madness of the demands of current-day culinary refinement, and so it also helps to make the jellyfish of Balearic waters proliferate.

This philanthropy and campaigning comes with an educative element, replete with a classroom, one wall of which is an orange submarine. The young Captain Nemos learn from within a Nautilus, and a different kind of Nautilus, created as an archway sculpture of the mollusc's chambers, is its own portal through which you pass into this twenty thousand leagues under the sea, lavishly and lovingly reproduced inside an ocean-colour-scene blue building near to Playa de Palma.

The Nemos junior, enthralled by their clowning namesakes, can also feel. In one of the touch pools of the Aquarium, there are some gobbling fish, frantic at the prospect of food, who would have your hand off were it actually edible; their mouths like plumbers' plungers popping against flesh but finding nothing on the menu.

In the tanks are some startling weirdos. None more so than ones you can barely see. In a bed of sand carved and curved like roof tiles, one head sticks out. This is the only one-way tank in the aquarium. The sand eels are not show-offs like other fish. They will not show at all, if they can help it, and certainly not if anything is in the eye-line. The tank looks like a mistake or one that is in preparation for some new inhabitants. It isn't; there are some 70 or so eels there, buried under the sand, save for the one who has come up for a furtive look around. Then there is the dragon fish of a sea-horse variety, newly arrived, suspended in the water, unmoving, like a Hirst in aspic. Less weird, but bumblingly big is the Napoleon fish with his Josephine, a social pair that appear to be possessed of a rare fishy quality, that of recognition, of the diver-keepers.

Into the blue, the Big Blue, the deepest shark tank in Europe. The immensity of the tank, matched by what is moving around inside it, is exaggerated by the low-lighting of the viewing area. This is in common with other sections of the Aquarium's interior. The vivid collages of fish and coral are highlighted, spotlighted if you prefer, by an ambient lighting that is sufficient for human movement but which accentuates the richness of the contents of the tanks.

And outside, around the gardens, are the jungle with its damp tropical sprays, more tanks of turtles and sharks and even some unprepossessing-looking flora, an endangered species of limonium, native not just to Mallorca but to the door step of the Aquarium itself.

The Aquarium is a remarkable place. It is one that has come at no small cost. Fifty million euros or so went into its creation, and it operates with a substantial staff and with much that, like the sand eels, you don't see. There's an awful lot of kit needed to keep fish and coral happy.

Aquaria don't always have a great name, the reason being that they can disappoint. They promise something they don't actually deliver. They do things by half. This cannot be said of the Palma Aquarium. The little clownfish, the Nemos, are one of its images, but little the aquarium most certainly isn't. Big. Blue. And all year. It's the model for other attractions to aspire to.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - PC City Spain to close its shops

The Dixons-owned PC City chain of stores, with 34 in total in Spain, including one in Palma, has announced that it is to close all the shops and withdraw from the Spanish market.

MALLORCA TODAY - Traffic fines for tourists

Palma town hall is planning to contract a company which will help it claim fines against drivers or owners of cars who live outside Spain. The town hall believes that the amount that it does not receive in fines from tourists and other visitors amounts annually to 150,000 euros at least. Tráfico is looking at what Palma is doing with a view to establishing a general system that would operate in other countries and which could benefit other town halls which similarly do not receive fines for parking offences.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 April 2011

And what is starting out as another lovely day. Some clouds hovering around Pollensa way, but nothing that looks untoward. The rain threat either for today or tomorrow seems to have gone. Temperatures as of 08.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 12.9 C; Pollensa, 13.6 C ; Puerto Pollensa, 15.2 C.

The clouds have built up during the day. Quite humid again, with highs today, to 17.00, 20.8 C in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 18.4 C in Pollensa, and 18.9 C in Puerto Pollensa.

Pepe And The Banshees: Pollensa

The voice has been one of a one-man banshee howl at nepotism, inefficiency and the opaque. Yet the image, one that may have come across through the media, is quite misplaced. For starters, it is more than one man and indeed woman. It is also no deranged spirit, wailing at the prospect of death in the house; more mild-mannered Clark Kent, but with a legitimate fear of death of a resort and town.

This is Pepe Garcia. He is, his party is the Alternative. For Pollensa. The scourge of Pollensa's town hall, something of the pin-up boy for those in a municipality who wear Pollensa's badge of dishonour with a perverse pride. This is the worst town, or worst town hall, in Mallorca. It's not something to be proud of, but pride has to be sought somehow.

There are doubtless other towns in Mallorca which would wish to lay claim to the worst crown, but none has been as unremitting in its pursuit as Pollensa has, and none has the same highly vocal banshee cries emanating from it, as those which Garcia emits.

What Garcia has achieved, and it is no small achievement, is to strip away and expose what many either know or suspect. He has gone for the throat and no longer is there any illusion that contracts and services have been variously dubious, uncompetitive or the result of nepotism. Gardens, street lighting and cleaning, transport plans. All have been targets and all have been revealed for what they have been. The workings of the town hall are out in the open, much as it, like other town halls, would prefer that they remained inside and closed.

Transparency is one of the Alternative's demands and one of its election promises. The lack of transparency, which is largely endemic to most town halls, has a collusive basis. When the Alternative pressed for a motion requiring the institution of greater transparency, it was rejected. More than this, it failed to receive support from other opposition parties, such as the Partido Popular, which abstained. Why would other parties not support this? You'd better ask them.

The lack of transparency, the lack of information make a true assessment of what is generally considered to be the parlous state of Pollensa's finances (a state it shares with other towns) nigh on impossible. The hole in the finances could be considerably deeper than is admitted. It is a hole into which, for example, has been thrown the salaries of not one, not two but six full-time councillors, including one for fiestas. Why does any town need someone working full time on fiestas? The answer is that it doesn't

The spend on fiestas is something which I have questioned in the past. The amount that goes up in smoke alone is far from insignificant. No one wants to lose the essence of fiestas, but are exercises such as cost-benefit analyses ever performed which might, or might not show what they bring in terms of return?

What has generally happened, with all sorts of spend on all sorts of contracts, services and events is that no one has sought to seriously question them, to seriously dig for answers, except the Alternative. In Pollensa, some of the worst-offending contracts (and not all contracts were ever actually contracts) pre-date even the benighted administration of the current mayor. Yet, prominent town hall figures, of whom some are seeking selection as mayor this time round, raised nary a quibble. It is for this reason that the air of collusion exists, the nod and a wink of that's how things are done, the acceptance of opacity over transparency.

And behind all this, there exists something else. The local system. Garcia has a problem, in the unlikely event that he were to wish to break into the tight-knit network of contracts being granted. He is not from Pollensa. It makes his voice independent, but all the more liable to be harangued as the shrill cry of an outsider.

One can't speak for every town or village in Mallorca, but the case of Pollensa surely has echoes elsewhere. They are those which reverberate with the same accusations, largely substantiated, that have come from Pollensa. Those of nepotism and a lack of transparency, which, in turn, lead to inefficiencies, exacerbated by systems of inadequate control.

All the main parties will do their schmoozing, all will offer their words which are ultimately vacuous. Some, and some mayoral candidates and others in different towns of Mallorca, may be genuine. But you can look at Pollensa and wonder.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 April 2011

A cloudier morning, but the cloud is broken and it's bright. Temperatures as of 09.30: Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, 12.9 C; Pollensa, 14.3 C; Puerto Pollensa, 15.2 C.

It turned out sunny and felt quite sticky. Humidity did in fact get to 98% in the morning. Highs locally to 20.30 though, only 17.3 C everywhere.

Five Ten Fiftyfold: Pollen allergies

A doctor's advice is all very well, but you are inclined to wonder. There's the doctor for example, who, waiting to be called to the surgery, hangs around in a nearby bar having a smoke. He is not unique. Then there is the general health advice which is issued. In Mallorca, they do a lot of this issuing, and some of it, regardless of season, is the same. Such as keeping windows and doors closed. Why would you do this? In summer, to keep the heat out. In spring, to keep pollen out. Or such as not going out between the hours of eleven and three. Why not? Because in summer, it's too hot and in spring the pollen is more likely to affect you.

Don't have rugs or carpets, don't hang washing out, do wear sunglasses. Life, you would think, is intolerable in Mallorca. Everyone should live like hermits in minimalist interiors, stripped of all textile products, with the windows tightly shut, the vacuum-cleaner permanently on. Pollen gets everywhere. The medical people issue their advice to tackle the problems, and no one of course takes a blind bit of notice. Wheezing and sneezing.

Just look at how nice those pine trees on Puerto Pollensa's pine walk are. Not so nice when the pine is in full flower. Think how much the olive industry in Mallorca is valued. Yes, but the olives are the source of pollen, too. A great abundance of it. Less valued and less nice are the pellitory plants, the nettles, the lichwort, the sticky-weed, known also as the asthma weed. These can out-pollen even the pines and olives.

For all the advice and for all the lime-green stuff that flies about, I find it hard to think of people in Mallorca who have displayed overt signs of suffering from pollen allergies. Certainly not in the way people can be afflicted with hay-fever in Britain. And there's a reason why. Despite what the medical people say, a different type of doctor, one who is a scientist at the university, says that conditions in Mallorca and the rest of the Balearics are pretty benign when it comes to pollen allergies.

So benign are these conditions in fact that there is a tourism opportunity. Seriously, there is talk of it. Compared with northern Europe and indeed the mainland of Spain, Mallorca is a haven for the hay-fever sufferer. From March to June, the wheezers and and sneezers of Britain, Germany and elsewhere can flee the pollen of their own countries and breathe more easily in Mallorca. In the Balearics, apparently, only 40,000 people suffer from pollen allergies.

This, though, is nothing like as many as populations of northern Europe who are affected by pollen: one in four people. I'm not sure how many more that equates to, and I'm certainly not going to try and work it out, but five, ten, fiftyfold more? Whatever the number, relatively it is very much higher.

It is also nothing like the over 150,000 people in the Balearics who suffer from allergies as a consequence of the house dust mite, which is the single greatest cause of allergic reactions on the islands. The climate and the dampness of Mallorca have its drawbacks, one of them being that it is perfect for the dust mite, a problem on the island that is tenfold that in the likes of Madrid and a problem that is greater than everything that flies around in the air.

Given that Mallorca is in fact like sucking on a Tunes and breathing more easily, you can understand why few people might pay attention to the window-closing advice. You can also but wonder what the fuss has been about in respect of the withdrawal of funding for the capturing of pollen data and for the provision of this information on the website of the Balearic Government's environment ministry. The funding has been withdrawn because, well, funding is being withdrawn - period.

No, the fact is that wheezing and sneezing in Mallorca is more likely to be something to do with our mate the mite and not the pollen, and when the breezes are light, as they mostly have been lately, the pollen is tossed around far less. So you don't need to close the doors and windows. But when gushing gust winds turn just up the north, then you might have to.

* Something of an annual event now, the pollen thing and the Cocteaus' homage to wheezing and sneezing. Here this time, though, with lyrics (such as they are):

Any comments to please.