Thursday, June 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Energy prices go up again

The cost of electricity and gas will rise once more from tomorrow (1 July). Electricity will increase by an average of 1.5%, while gas will rise by around 5.7%. A bottle of butane gas will now cost 14.80 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist dies in Ibiza hotel balcony fall

A 24-year-old British tourist, identified only as R.M., has died as the result of a fall from the balcony of a fourth-floor room at the hotel Els Pins in Sant Antoni, Ibiza.

MALLORCA TODAY - Nadal accused over film festival

Former tourism minister Miguel Nadal has been accused of looking to divert over 2 million euros of funds from the Mallorca International Film Festival which had been scheduled for this year but which collapsed owing to a lack of sponsors.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2011

Rather more cloud around first thing this morning, but unlikely to linger long. Temperatures forecast to reach 29, and the local high at 08.30 is 24 degrees.

Well, the cloud stayed round after all. Plenty of sun, nevertheless, but also quite a breeze at times. Highs locally barely increased on the morning high, just a bit over 24 degrees.

Where A Sardine Is A Sardine

An awful lot of sardines get eaten at fiesta time. They are the staple diet of Puerto Alcúdia's Sant Pere and of Puerto Pollensa's mini-me Sant Pere, that you might call the Sant Perito. The sardines are trawled and then hauled on to grills for the evening of the "sardinada"; yes, Catalan and Spanish have a word for a sardine nosh-in.

The humble sardine isn't perhaps the first fish or seafood that springs to mind when it comes to Mallorcan fishy gastronomy. Rather, it is maybe the lobster, the sea bass or other more substantial creatures of the sea. But being humble is something of a virtue for fiesta and fair suppers. Like the rubber-ringed cuttlefish, the sardine is peasant food of the Med, if peasant isn't a contradiction in this context, which of course it is. Unlike the cuttlefish, unless it is prepared in certain ways, the sardine is uniformly yummy and edible.

The sardine can, though, claim some sort of kudos. It is all down to perception. And marketing. Where the Brits are concerned, that is. Pilchards were once famously rebranded as Cornish sardines by a Cornish pilchard industry desperately seeking to improve sales, and it succeeded in doing so through the simply expedient of renaming the pilchard.

Pilchards are things that come in flat cans with oily tomato sauce and which certainly used to be an extraordinarily cheap source of student sustenance; they were when I was a student anyway. The sardine, albeit that it too can come in a tin and usually does, is altogether more haute cuisine, if by implication of name and nothing else. Sardines and pilchards differ only by size; the former are smaller.

And sardines have acquired haute cuisine status, thanks to Heston Blumenthal, but sardine sorbet is unlikely to be found on the quayside tables of the Mallorcan sardinada. Nor is there likely to be any pilchard-sardine debate. A sardine is a sardine, regardless of size.

It is the lot of the Mallorcans, however, that their sardine should be associated with another island. It is debated as to whether the sardine really does derive its name from Sardinia, but even if it doesn't, there are certain ties between the islands. Once upon a time, one imagines, there was more physical proximity, but in more recent times, if you can call the sixth century AD recent, Mallorca came under Sardinian control. Mallorca's Byzantine period found the island administered from across the Med. And more recently than this, Aragonese and later Spanish rule of Sardinia left a Catalan imprint on the language; a variant of Catalan is still spoken on the island.

If the sardine is more originally a native of Sardinian waters, then what about other aspects of the sardinada? One is the music. In Puerto Alcúdia at any rate. Each year the fiesta programmes betray an unfailing familiarity, and the musical accompaniment to the sardinada is evidence of this. A group called Sotavent always pitches up to serenade the sardine-munchers. What they play is "havanera". And this is?

What it isn't is traditionally Mallorcan. The clue lies in the word. The havanera is derived from Havana. The music is Cuban, and its origins date back to nineteenth century immigration. Why it has become a part of the sardinada, and not just in Alcúdia, is hard to say, other than perhaps a seafaring association between Spain and the Caribbean.

The havanera is an example of how fiestas have embraced elements that are nothing to do with Mallorca or Spain as such. Another is the "batucada", the colossal drumming racket that takes place at many a fiesta. It is basically a samba beat, Afro-Brazilian in its roots.

So some of the traditions of the fiestas are not as traditional as they might seem. In the case of sardines, they are a traditional fish of the Med but not of course of Mallorca alone, but more importantly they are sardines, and not pilchards.

Any comments to please.

Index for June 2011

Agriculture, Gabriel Company and - 19 June 2011
Alcúdia coalition: Carme Garcia - 9 June 2011
All-inclusives: the debate - 10 June 2011, 12 June 2011
Bad weather - 5 June 2011
Balearic Government, super-ministries in new - 4 June 2011
Cap Rocat hotel - 2 June 2011
Carlos Delgado: new tourism minister - 18 June 2011
Cucumber health scare - 2 June 2011
Delegates to resorts, town halls' - 27 June 2011
Diversification, Mallorca and industrial - 22 June 2011
Expats, British press and - 17 June 2011
Football: Angel María Villar Llona - 3 June 2011
German tourism boom and food - 16 June 2011
Mayors, new - 13 June 2011
Muro church - 26 June 2011
Music and Mallorca - 20 June 2011
Pollensa town hall's website, mayor and - 23 June 2011
PSOE, the future for - 6 June 2011
Radio and television in Mallorca, public - 28 June 2011
Rafael Bosch, education and - 21 June 2011
Road and building works during the tourism season - 25 June 2011
Sa Pobla potato nights - 7 June 2011
Sardines at fiestas - 30 June 2011
Small government, Balearics and - 24 June 2011
Street protests: Catalan v. Castilian - 1 June 2011
Tourism minister, professional as - 9 June 2011
Town hall debts - 8 June 2011
Tramuntana mountains: world heritage site - 29 June 2011
TUI, the power of - 11 June 2011
Twin towns - 14 June 2011
Weddings in Mallorca - 15 June 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2011

Some early cloud around and there may be some about during the day, but it will be very warm with temperatures getting up to 29 degrees. At 07.30, 21 to 22 degrees with freshening northerly breezes in the local area.

Temperatures have in fact been down a bit today, with a local high just below 27 degrees in Pollensa, and the heat index not being a factor, so the "feels like" temperature has been more or less the same as the real one.

A Mountain To Climb: Tramuntana and heritage

So, the Tramuntana mountains have been granted World Heritage status. Let joy be unconfined. Cue all manner of self-congratulatory noises and claims of benefits to tourism and then very little, if anything, by way of action.

The one advantage the mountains have over another Mallorcan item of world heritage, the Sibil·la chant, is that you can see them. They are tangible and not, as was the case with the conferring of UNESCO status on the Sibil·la, an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity".

A drawback of being able to see them, however, is that, as mountains go, they aren't very impressive. The Puig Mayor is Ben Nevis plus 300 feet or so. But size isn't everything. It is what lies within the range that is more important than its scale: the maintenance of tradition and customs; religion; agriculture; flora and fauna; the villages; the documentary work of Archduke Luis Salvador. It is all these, plus the measures that have been taken to protect the mountains, that make the Tramuntana a worthy recipient of the heritage status.

The benefit to tourism should be a very obvious one. With a world heritage stamp slapped onto them, the mountains are revealed, ever more, as an alternative to Mallorca's sun and beach. But will the award amount to much? If you take culture and heritage to be one and the same thing, you have to wonder whether this new status will genuinely create a benefit. The music expert Francesc Vicens summed things up well when the Sibil·la got its award: "Much is spoken about cultural tourism, but I believe that the term has been used a great deal but without planning or a strategy ... for promoting the island".

From towns and villages embraced by the Tramuntana, various mayors have had their say. Puigpunyent: "it (the inscription) will attract tourism thanks to international knowledge of the richness of the mountains". Alaró: "it is a mark of quality that will bring in tourism with different values". Estellencs: "it is an impulse for tourism of sustainable development".

You want to ask the mayor of Estellencs what on earth he's talking about. Does he really know? Sustainable development, sustainable tourism. Much is said, and very little understood and very little notice taken. Vicens also remarked that the tourism industry has little interest in cultural matters.

One fear with the award is its political and structural element. The now ex-leader of the Council of Mallorca, Francina Armengol, was apparently euphoric at the news. It was all down to good work done by the land department on her patch. She may no longer be president of the Council but she can bask in the reflected glory.

Note that it wasn't the tourism department, and in any event the new Bauzá government is taking away tourism promotion duties from the Council, an eminently sensible thing to do, but if the Tramuntana award was a feather in PSOE's cap and not one of the Delgado tourism ministry at the regional government, then political territorialism may yet well help to fritter away any benefit that UNESCO might have offered.

The convention for World Heritage Sites concludes by saying that inscription increases "public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site". UNESCO does its bit by announcing the sites and through its various programmes, but it isn't its task to create increased tourist activities. In the case of the Tramuntana mountains, it is presumably the task of the tourism promotion agency within the tourism ministry. But if there indeed isn't much by way of a strategy for promoting cultural tourism, then how effective might any efforts be, assuming there are any? And money, for tourism promotion, is thin on the ground.

There is some talk of the assistance that will now be forthcoming from UNESCO as a result of the inscription. But this isn't financial assistance for promotion. Indeed financial assistance of any sort is open to question. The UNESCO heritage fund is suffering because of under-funding, while priorities for what cash there is are for sites that are at risk or in countries where money really is in short supply, such as in Africa. The Tramuntana don't fall into either category.

It would be nice to believe that the awarding of world heritage status would make a significant difference and that tourism would shoot up as a consequence. Nice to believe, but there'll be a mountain of previously ineffective promotion to climb in order to make us really believe.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Miguel Nadal arrested

The former tourism minister Miguel Nadal, already facing charges related to alleged corruption, was arrested this morning in connection with alleged diversion of public funds as part of the "caso Ibatur", an investigation into affairs at the former promotion agency within the tourism ministry. Two other people have also been detained: the former administrator of the production company Video U and the ex-head of news at IB3 Television.

MALLORCA TODAY - Britons arrested following Cala d'Or attack

Three Britons, two of them female, aged between 18 and 20, were arrested by the Guardia Civil following an incident in the early hours of Sunday morning which arose when a local resident complained about noise coming from a bar in Cala d'Or. The man was attacked with bottles and broken glasses and suffered serious wounds to his face.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2011

Not a lot to say really. Sun all the way, just getting warmer and absolutely no indication that things will change. Local high at 07.30 of 21.7.

It reached 30 degrees inland in Pollensa today. Cooler on the coast, though the heat index put the temperature feel up to near the 30 mark. Good north-easterly breeze to take the edge of things.

Radio Ga Ga: Mallorcan radio

Something that popped up in yesterday's piece was the Muro councillor who has responsibility for radio and television. It came as news to me because I wasn't aware that there was either a local radio or television station in Muro. As far as the television is concerned, there is so little reference to it that you wonder which television the councillor is responsible for: the town hall's plasma screen perhaps? As for radio, there is a Muro radio station, though I would have qualified as one of the 25% of the local population who was unaware of it when a survey was conducted in 2005.

They don't seem to have repeated the survey exercise. Maybe because the results six years ago were not exactly a ringing endorsement of the station's existence. Based on interview research with 554 people, the survey discovered that a whopping 6% of the local population said that they listened to the station every day. 75% said that they never listened to it. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the research was the average length of time the small number of listeners actually spent listening. All of eight minutes per day.

Maybe its listening figures are a whole lot better now, or maybe they aren't. If not, then what is the point of the station?

The station is, obviously enough, one means of local communication and can be a forum for issues specific to the community, but then how many burning topics does a small town like Muro generate? Another finding from the survey suggested that news wasn't a priority for listening in. 50% said they tuned in to hear music. And you can hear music on any number of other radio stations.

Having different forms of local media is laudable enough, but can they be justified either in terms of listening figures or cost? Are they more a case of me-too media rather than meeting a genuine need?

Alcúdia also has a radio station. It celebrated its twentieth anniversary last week. Unlike Muro, Alcúdia Radio does have a strong presence. Alcúdia is almost three times the size of Muro, so you might hope that it would do, and it makes its presence felt. For example, each year during the Sant Pere fiestas there is an Alcúdia Radio procession. The station is on hand to broadcast from the fiestas and the autumn fair. It is certainly listened to, as you can often hear it on in shops and hear the ads.

Ah yes, the ads. There must be a small studio somewhere with a couple of voiceover artists who try their best to vary their voices over whatever cheesy muzak they dredge out of the archives. It must become extremely difficult to know how to sound enthusiastic when you're spouting the same "especialista en carne" line for the thousandth time.

Though Alcúdia Radio has become a fixture, it was, in its early days, a thing of some controversy. It had been going only a short time when an issue of the old local magazine "Badia d'Alcúdia" reported: "The municipal radio is losing listeners and will lose more ... it is not a municipal station but a partisan radio station which serves only a part of the population." It was politically biased, in other words.

And it is political bias that has continued to dog local media. It isn't unusual for the media to adopt a particular political stance, but the bias has manifested itself in a different way; radio and television have been controlled by different parties.

In 2006 Ràdio i Televisió de Mallorca, TV Mallorca as it is commonly known, was created by a Council of Mallorca driven by the Unió Mallorquina. It was a rival to the IB3 radio and television service, at that time "managed" by the Partido Popular. In addition to charges of political bias and interference, these two broadcasters have failed spectacularly to make money and have failed to create wide audiences. President Bauzá suggested before the elections that he would close down TV Mallorca and privatise IB3.

Where was the sense in having two broadcasters? Very little. Arguably, neither was necessary. Which brings you back to the likes of Muro, to its radio and elusive TV and to need. Public broadcasting isn't solely about profitability, but if it doesn't address a genuine need then there is no point to it. There are plenty of alternative broadcasters and alternative forms of communication. But without the radio and TV, what would a poor councillor do?

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Tramuntana mountains get world heritage status

The Sierra Tramuntana mountain range in Mallorca has today been confirmed as having been given world heritage status by the UNESCO committee which has been convening in Paris to adjudicate on new entrants to the heritage list.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2011

A swing round in the wind, currently westerly to southerly, and a degree or so rise in temperature forecast. 21 at 07.30 in Pollensa, with highs today perhaps reaching 29.

Getting warmer. The first time it has really felt sticky indoors this year. A maximum 28 locally today, but the heat index has been a couple of degrees higher.

Our Man In ... : Resorts' delegates

Puerto Alcúdia has now got itself a delegate. Lucky old Puerto Alcúdia. The post-election re-organisation at Alcúdia town hall has deemed a delegate to be necessary, when previously it hadn't been. Does the port need a delegate? Maybe it does, but it has done well enough up until now without one.

Having delegates for towns' coastal resorts hasn't exactly been a great success elsewhere. They have been viewed as being toothless or simply lackeys of the mayor. This was the case in Can Picafort, for example, while in Puerto Pollensa the ex-delegate was considered, not to put too fine a point on it, to be a joke. The lack of respect that Francisca Ramon commanded came to a head when she addressed demonstrators in June last year. The volley of abuse that came back made it clear that she was thought to be "stupid".

The delegates for the resorts are at least a recognition by town halls that their resorts do have specific needs. Unfortunately, what has happened is that the very existence of delegates has raised expectations that they might actually do something, when they are hamstrung by having no real authority or responsibility. In Puerto Pollensa the call has long been made for responsibility and also for a separate budget.

The logic of such a call is that the resorts should become their own administrative units. Because of the specific needs, there would be some sense to this, but any sense soon evaporates when you consider the added bureaucracy, costs and potential for duplication.

Were the electoral system to be such that councillors were voted in on the basis of wards, then there would automatically be voices for different parts of a municipality, but this is not how it works. The creation of delegates for the main resorts reflects the absence of such a mechanism, but it is also discriminatory. In Alcúdia, for example, what about Barcarès, Alcanada and Bonaire? Don't they count?

The lack of geographical representation exacerbates discontent, such as that in Santa Margalida. Son Serra de Marina lies some seven kilometres away from Can Picafort and even further away from the town. Residents have complained that the village has been all but abandoned, and there have been examples - inadequate police presence, the deplorable state of the sports centre - which don't help to refute their complaints.

At a more general level, there is an issue as to what councillors are responsible for. Depending on its size of population, each town hall is obliged to take care of certain services. These obligations are not mirrored by what councillors are charged with.

Up to a point this is reasonable enough. The towns have a wider responsibility for general welfare than those stipulated by law. There is no legal requirement, for instance, to take responsibility for tourism, but it would be distinctly odd if they didn't.

Responsibilities such as those for public works and maintenance are clear enough, but some are less so, while the way in which these other responsibilities are jumbled together to form an individual councillor's portfolio leads you to wonder what process is ever used for arriving at what can seem contradictory.

In Muro, for instance, there is a councillor in charge of education and culture and the town's music band. Another looks after environment, youth activities, radio and television (what television!?) and transport. Yet another oversees sport, the police and traffic, and relations with the church. Go through this little lot, and there isn't always a pattern. Is radio and television not culture? Might sport be a youth activity?Would traffic and transport not have some common ground? Indeed, what is meant by transport anyway? School buses? Public transport is not a responsibility of small authorities such as Muro.

It is not as if the responsibilities mirror those higher up the political administration food chain. Regional government has combined agriculture with environment. In Muro agriculture is lumped in with tourism. In Alcudia there is still responsibility for language policy, the regional government having scrapped a specific directorate for it. But what is most evident from the Muro portfolios is what isn't evident. Unless the mayor has taken on personal responsibility for just about everything the town is really meant to look after - services, building works, finance etc. - and has a particularly hard-working governing commission, then no one appears to be in charge.

You are left with an impression, therefore, that town halls find things for councillors to do. Some are important, some aren't. But where they all fall down is in the fact that their chief generators of income and employment, the resorts, get, at best, a delegate and not a councillor with real clout.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2011

Basically, the weather is now a case of more of the same. Clear skies, loads of sun, the main variant will be the breezes. Still not too hot, so it is just about perfect summer weather. Morning high locally is 23 in Puerto Pollensa. Rising everywhere to around 28 today.

A lovely Sunday, the easterly to northerly breeze keeping temperatures to a manageable and pleasant 26.4 high locally.

Wondrous Stories: Muro's church

One of the beauties of churches is that you don't have to be religious to find them wondrous. Indeed, not being religious can be a benefit, as you will be more likely to keep your eyes open and your head up so that you can take in their magnificence, rather than closing your eyes and lowering your head in respect to or in hope of heavenly munificence.

Not all of Mallorca's churches are magnificent. Some are modern, such as that in Puerto Alcúdia. It is truly hideous, something that wouldn't look out of place on a council estate in Coventry. There aren't the contemporary horrors of rebuilt cathedrals, such as Coventry's, just some horrible looking constructions that you could easily fail to realise were churches. There are plenty of people who know Puerto Alcúdia who don't know there is a church there.

Alcúdia town, on the other hand, has the great pile of Sant Jaume that dominates the landscape to the left as you drive towards Puerto Alcúdia. Sant Jaume is something of a fraud, however. It isn't anything like as old as you imagine. The previous church all but collapsed in the nineteenth century; the current one is not quite 120 years old.

Nevertheless, the scale of Sant Jaume, most evident as you view it from a distance, is in keeping with the vastness of other older Gothic structures. One of the most imposing of parish churches is that of Muro town.

On the eve of the fiesta of Sant Joan (i.e. on 23 June), the Sant Joan Baptista church reached the grand old age of four hundred years. It took forty years to build, the previous church having been deemed too small for a village of some 1500 people. Nowadays Muro has a population of around 7000. Back in the sixteenth century the then bishop of Mallorca might have believed Muro was on the point of massive population growth. More likely he ordered the rebuilding on the grounds that if it was a church it had to be bloody enormous, regardless of how many people it might accommodate.

Sant Joan Baptista is far too big for purpose, and always was. But then the same can be said for most Catholic churches. They were absurd indulgences and are even more so for a contemporary society in which church attendance has dropped so alarmingly.

Nevertheless, we have the egotistical and boastful extravagance of Catholic church building to thank for the colossi that sit bang in the middle of Mallorca's old towns. And Muro's is one of the best examples, if only because it is so overwhelmingly obvious with a large empty square in front of it, emphasising its size and urban dominance.

It isn't because I'm a "murer" that I find the church one of the island's most appealing. And it isn't a case of familiarity breeding a familiarity of favouritism. I venture into Muro town relatively infrequently; I am far more exposed to churches in Alcúdia and Pollensa for example. The appeal lies in the fact that it is so self-regardingly and obstinately there. Though Alcúdia's Sant Jaume looms out of the landscape, close up it is less obtrusive, welded to the walls of the old town and tucked in front of a small plaza. Pollensa's churches similarly blend in. They are brooding presences, most obviously the ominous parish church in the Plaça Major, but the threat they hold is diluted by surrounding townhouses and narrow lanes. Muro's church in its isolationist preposterousness simply can't be avoided.

Moreover, there is something different about it. Gothic in style, it has a feel of the Byzantine, heightened by the presence of palms at its entrance. Is it a trick of the light or is the stonework really rather redder than you would normally expect? This isn't, or doesn't appear to be, the golden sandstone of the south-east of the island, that which makes Santanyi such an attractive town and appear to be in a permanent state of mellow sunset as a consequence. The stonework complements the ruddy, red earth to be found around Muro.

It is the physical presence and architecture of the church plus what it represents historically and socially that make it as fascinating as it is. And other churches in Mallorca have their own idiosyncrasies and their own stories to tell.

I'm not sure that they do tours of churches. Probably because it sounds too boring, and it would be if it were just about the religion. But they should do tours as there is way more to a Mallorcan church than prayer. So long as you keep your eyes open and your head up, they are their own not-so-little worlds of times gone by and of being communities' focal points. And they don't come any more focal than in Muro.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Fire near Betlem destroys 20 hectares

A fire yesterday afternoon in forest area near to Betlem and Colonia Sant Pere has resulted in some twenty hectares being affected. The fire broke out close to Betlem itself and extended into the mountains above the village.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2011

A fine, clear morning with less breeze evident and the winds shifting westerly to southerly. At 07.30, the local temperatures range from 17 to 22, with a high of 28 expected later in the day.

Warm day, the high locally today being 26.5 in Pollensa town.

On The Road Again: Road and building works

It will come as a surprise to you, I realise, but there are some things I don't know about. And there are some things that are so terminally dull that I have absolutely zero desire to find out about them. In the normal course of journalistic events, I might be prepared to research, but when it comes to the science of surfacing roads, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to disappoint you.

This said, I do seem to recall that when there was some disgruntlement with road surfacing occurring in Palma that wasn't taking place in winter, the argument went that the work needed to be done when the weather was warm, or indeed stinking hot. Is there some scientific sense to this argument? Quite possibly there is, and as I haven't a clue what I'm talking about when it comes to road surfacing I'm not about to say it's rubbish, except to wonder why some road surfacing is therefore done when it isn't stinking hot.

All this leads me, or would do, had I been able to get along the roads leading to them, to Alcanada and Barcarès in Alcúdia. I was able to get into the bustling heartland of Alcanada the other day, but only by taking a detour through the narrow and twisty lanes that pass for roads that aren't the main road, which was being resurfaced. Fortunately, Alcanada is that far off the beaten track that it has only one hotel and a couple of apartments complexes, which means only the occasional coach. Unfortunately, I encountered it. On the narrow and twisty lanes.

Despite recalling the it-must-be-hot-to-resurface-roads propaganda, it did occur to me to wonder why they were doing this just as the summer really hots up and more tourists arrive. I wondered the same thing when I found the road to Barcarès blocked by the huge leviathans that are road-resurfacing machines. Unlike Alcanada, there isn't really an alternative route, so I gave up. It can wait for another day, or year.

Much work in tourist areas is verboten during the tourist season, except, it would appear, road works. Building work is meant to cease. But it doesn't always cease. Special dispensation can be granted to extend it to mid-June. This was, for example, the town hall's fallback position in Puerto Pollensa when for a time it looked as though work on the church square and roads off might indeed stretch well into the season.

Now beyond mid-June, the poor people of Portocolom have discovered that building works, with the attendant noise and mess, are continuing. Despite being verboten, the town hall has seen fit to stop only one of some ten separate works.

Along the coast from Portocolom, in Porto Cristo they are about to prove that whereas putting things up in summer might be outlawed pulling them down isn't. The Balearics Supreme Court has decreed, in its infinite wisdom and once and for all, that the Riuet bridge must be demolished. As in, well, any time now. The "indignados" of Porto Cristo, many of its population, have had a day out to Palma in order to protest outside the court building. Demolition is a bridge too far. The bridge over the river why (now).

Demolishing the bridge now is about as absurd as having closed it for the summer. It was after all built in the first place in order to counter the traffic chaos in Porto Cristo, so now they've decided to add to it even further. One suspects that members of the Supreme Court have weekend holiday homes elsewhere, such as in Andratx or Soller, i.e. about as far from Porto Cristo as you can get in Mallorca.

Though knocking the bridge down now is plainly daft, I do have some sympathy for building things up in summer, so long of course as it's nowhere near my backyard. Suspending work for six months at a stretch seems like an incredibly inefficient thing to do, to say nothing of the complications it can cause in terms of employment and financing.

But the suspension of works encapsulates, as do road works in summer, the dilemma of tourist areas in Mallorca - that of attempting to reconcile tourism with the normal course of infrastructure development and construction. Tourists, quite naturally, have no wish to listen to drilling or to watch a bridge falling down, but much of this work is done because of tourism. It is the endless quandary; that of balancing the needs of the temporary visitor with the requirements of working towns. It is the latter that the tourist is perhaps too often unaware of; that where they stay are towns, just like the ones they live in.

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Motorway speed limit back up to 120

The Spanish Government has announced that from 1 July the speed limit on motorways will revert to 120 kph, the level from which it was reduced to 110 as a cost-saving measure.

MALLORCA TODAY - Mississippi burning: Fire in Alcúdia

The Mississippi Apartments in Puerto Alcúdia had to be evacuated this morning when a fire which broke out on the sixth floor initially caused panic with occupants finding it difficult to escape from the building. The fire which broke out just before 3am this morning destroyed the flat in which it originated and damaged surrounding apartments. The fire was attended by crew and equipment from Alcúdia, Inca, Manacor and Calvia. No one was seriously affected by the fire which is believed to have been started deliberately.

MALLORCA TODAY - Plan to reduce "plenos" in Pollensa attacked

Opposition groups at Pollensa town hall have criticised a plan by mayor Tomeu Cifre to reduce the number of "pleno" town hall meetings by a half. A reason for doing this lies with the logistics of the pleno which allows for spokespersons for different parties to have their say on matters raised. As there are so many parties now represented in Pollensa, it could all become unwieldy. However, it might be said to go against Cifre's intention for greater transparency.

MALLORCA TODAY - Youth arrested for attack on girl in Alcúdia

An 18-year-old Brazilian has been arrested for an attack on a girl that took place early on Sunday morning in the parking area of Puerto Alcúdia. The attack was one of robbery with violence and of a sexual nature.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2011

Bright and sunny morning and a bit breezy. Local high at 08.30 is 23 in Puerto Pollensa. The forecast for today and up to Wednesday now shows no cloud at all at at any time over the next five days, which is probably not right. The heatwave that was promised looks as though it might occur next week.

Some cloud for quite a bit of the day - so much for that forecast with nothing but a yellow sun - but cleared up nicely later. Still breezy and a local high today of only 23.6 (Puerto Pollensa).

Small Is Beautiful?

President Bauzá's right hand. A question is how far to the right is the right-hand man. Josep Aguiló, vice-president and in command of the economy, industry, employment, business. For a representative of what is intended to be a "small" government, he has got himself one hell of a big department.

Aguiló takes control of Balearic finances amidst a pantomime routine being played out by the governmental incomers and outgoers. It's one to do with the state of the finances in the islands and specific administrations. The government's debt is this high, say the incomers. Oh no it isn't, respond the outgoers. Palma council's up to its neck to this level of debt. Oh no it isn't.

Let's just accept that the finances aren't very good. They are bad enough that the Balearic parliament is owed several million euros by the regional government and is in serious danger of not being able to pay its staff. There's just one example.

The pantomime routine is familiar enough. New lot comes in, blames the previous lot. Aguiló is blaming the previous lot for having approved a budget in 2008 that was too ambitiously expansionist. As it turned out. The Antich administration was clobbered by economic crisis, but it, like the central government, fooled itself into not believing what was happening. Maybe it was a case of trying to keep up spirits, but when Zapatero famously announced there was no crisis, he did so at a time when he was driving an economy whose wheels were fast coming off.

The new government's mantra is one of austerity and small government. Austerity we can probably understand. Can't pay, won't pay, because there isn't any money. But what is small government?

On the face of it President Bauzá's small government is about having fewer ministries and fewer departments within these ministries. The number of directorate-generals have been slashed to the extent that only of the new super-ministries, Biel Company's agriculture-environment-land behemoth, has more or less retained the same number of departments.

Moving the furniture around on the organisation structure doesn't amount to small government. Some savings may be evident from tossing the odd wormhole-ridden Welsh dresser into a skip, but the result is one of being not as large rather than small; the tasks of government remain much the same even if there are fewer bodies to perform them. Maybe it's because they are expected to work harder, but the salaries of Bauzá's cabinet will in fact increase.

Small government is a political philosophy as opposed to a way of drawing an organisational chart. On the principle that structure follows strategy, which it does, or should do, then Bauzá's administration bears a strong resemblance to that of President Antich. The new structure, though, obscures the strategy. Quite deliberately so, you fancy, as this is where small government really kicks in.

Small government, so the theory would have it, is a means of getting government out of people's hair, of not interfering overly in citizens' day to day. The concept, and you can also call it limited government, goes right back to the American founding fathers; Thomas Jefferson was deeply suspicious of governments that were too powerful.

Limiting the degree to which governments control people's lives and tell them how to live is a positive, but Jefferson's principles are not what small government has come to mean. Instead it is shorthand for government not spending money. It can also mean that demands on citizens to spend money, in the form of taxes, are reduced. But they still have to pay somewhere along the line. And the line is one of deregulation and privatisation.

The CCOO union, as I remarked the other day, was probably overstating it when it raised fears of privatisation in education, but the fact that it has raised it makes it a possibility. It is the process of government potentially relinquishing its direct hold over certain provisions that leads to the question about Sr. Aguiló. How far might he go?

The extent of measures that the new government might enact raises again the question as to how much the local Partido Popular is being guided or driven by the national party. Mariano Rajoy, who is likely to succeed Zapatero, has said that what will happen in the Balearics will be an "advance" on what the PP would do nationally. Without overtly saying so, Rajoy is implying that the Balearics are a test bed, an experiment. It's how far the experiment is meant to go that is the issue.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Casino to open in July

The new casino in Palma, which will see the current one in Sol de Mallorca closing, will open in July, three months behind the original schedule. The cost of converting the old cinema in Porto Pi, the site of the new casino, has exceeded by two million euros the initial estimate of 6.5 million. The casino, it is hoped, will have a minimum increase of 50% in custom, though the current casino has, over the past three years, seen a decline in revenue by around a half. The exact date for the opening has still to be confirmed.

MALLORCA TODAY - 10% rise in Balearics tourism

The number of foreign tourists visiting the Balearics in May rose by some 10% over last year, with the UK being particularly significant in contributing to this increase.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2011

Some cloud around this morning, but should clear away later. The local high at 08.30, just nudging 23 in Puerto Pollensa.

Don't know what happened to the heatwave that was meant to have started today. Nice day, very nice day, but not particularly hot. Northerly wind equals lower temperatures - local high today of 23.9 in Pollensa town.

Town With No Mayor

One day he was still there, the next he was finally gone, whisked away and hurtled into the oblivion of cyberspace. But for eleven days longer than he should have been, Joan Cerdà had remained mayor of Pollensa. According to the town hall's website anyway. The photo of the "batle" (Catalan for mayor) continued to be that of the smiling face of the departed Joan; a photo that had surely been taken before he had become mayor, as he didn't do a great deal of smiling once he was. For over a week, Joan was stubbornly fixed to the website's batle slot next to the lime-green banner declaring "Som Pollença Municipi Turístic". The batle of the som.

It wasn't only myself who, on not infrequent visits to the town hall's website, found it slightly odd to discover that Joan was still lingering. The A party, A for Alternativa but which might better stand for Awkward, also found it strange, and so told the press who duly brought the matter to the world's attention. No sooner made to look a bit silly, the town hall removed the photo.

But where once was Joan is now no batle to be seen. Has no one a photo of Tommy Cifre, not even an old one? He has after all been mayor before. The mayor's spot is now a link to a street map. I clicked on it, just for something to do. I didn't move the map, really I didn't, but zoomed in, zoomed in and zoomed in. And there, in centre frame, once the map was truly legible was Joan Cerdà, the Plaça Joan Cerdà. Spooky.

The town with no mayor is now also, in its virtual internet world, minus any political representatives at all. The political organigram has disappeared as well. Organigram, I ask you. Jobs for the boys and girls. The A party has also made a fuss about it not having been changed. The new administration has been talking a good talk about transparency, but it hasn't got round to posting info as to who now has their feet up on which town hall desk.

You could say that it was just a case of being a tad slow (and by the time you read this the site's missing mayor and organists will probably have been found), but the town halls' websites are intended to be a key means of communicating with towns' citizens. Which is why when you go to them and don't find what you are looking for, they can at best be a bit disappointing, always assuming you can make head or tail of Catalan, which you normally need to, and thereby confirm your disappointment.

Not updating the website is just one little local difficulty that the new administration has to contend with. With Joan no longer in the picture, except having his picture stay on the website, the hope for the good people of Pollensa was that all would suddenly become calm and orderly. They hadn't counted on Tommy Cifre and his number two Malena Estrany being cast in the role of Laurel and Hardy. "That's another fine mess you've got me into, 'Strany."

To be fair, it hasn't been her fault or Cifre's. They couldn't have been expected to have known that Endesa would come along and remove the electricity meter from the public swimming pool in Puerto Pollensa and cut off the supply, even if the recent history of problems with paying Endesa's bills would have made them know that not all was going swimmingly at the public baths.

It is not their fault that they have inherited the ongoing battle of the beaches in Puerto Pollensa and the new company that Cifre has told to get on with complying with its obligations. It is not their fault that if you go to the town hall's website and expect to find information for the Pollensa Music Festival programme (which typically starts in early July), you won't find it because the programme hasn't been sorted out. And it is only the fiftieth anniversary of the festival this year. Its founder, Philip Newman, must be turning in his grave and playing a lament on his violin.

It is not their fault that only slightly less well-established than the music festival is the sailing school of Sail and Surf. Forty years it has been in Puerto Pollensa, and suddenly some jobsworth comes along and finds it has been there all this time. It must stop, said mayor Cifre, who then said it could continue. Something about licences. It always is.

It's just like old times. Old times that are not even yet a fortnight old. Things will get better. Give them some time. Four years, for example. But meantime the A party will continue to make a nuisance of itself, it will continue to bombard my email inbox with photos and circulars to do with what the town hall's not doing correctly, and so life will go on as normal. As normal as it can ever be in a town with no mayor.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Manacor-Artà train not ready till end of 2012

The railway between Manacor and Artà, a line that used to exist and which is being redeveloped, was due to be finished by September this year at the latest. But it will now not be finished until the end of next year and could indeed take longer. The problem is one of financing.

MALLORCA TODAY - Porto Cristo bridge to be demolished

The Balearics Supreme Court has ruled that Riuet bridge in Porto Cristo, closed for some months, must be demolished within seven days. The demolition, originally ordered last year, had been put off and property owners who had been affected (for many years) by the proximity of the bridge were to be awarded compensation. But Manacor town hall now faces the almost inevitable, of having to pay some one million euros to bring the bridge down. It also faces the problem of what to do with the services that run across the bridge, such as electricity cables, and of doing this right in the tourism season.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2011

A local high at 08.00 of 22.6 on another fine day, as the temperatures begin to crank up again.

Sun all day, the temperature max-ed out at 27.8 in Pollensa town.

The Weaver's Tale: Diversification

What does Mauritius have in common with Mallorca? Apart from the fact that both are islands and begin with an "M", their populations are not dissimilar in size and the economies of the two islands are roughly similar in size. Historically, both had an economic reliance on the land: Mallorca on crop farming, Mauritius on sugar.

Tourism came later to Mauritius than to Mallorca, and it was a different type of tourism. In the 1970s a predominantly luxury style of tourism, based on resort hotels, came into being. It was one that benefited the economy in general, but because it was aimed at a more exclusive end of the market and later became all-inclusive, a bar and restaurant sector did not complement the hotels. As a consequence, while the island's macroeconomic status flourished, the local population saw very little evidence of this.

At the same time as Mauritius's tourism was taking off, the government was setting in motion a process of economic development and diversification. Principally, this was a way of shifting the country's emphasis away from the land, i.e. sugar, but the unevenness of the benefits derived from tourism gave the process an added momentum. Furthermore, the government recognised that tourism can be fickle and subject to economic shocks or competition.

Sugar is today far less important but still more important than agriculture is to Mallorca. Tourism and services account for some 70% of GDP. And while industry has fallen back, the process of diversification did reap rewards.

The Mauritian government, through a combination of trade agreements, tax incentives and advantageous investment conditions, created, virtually from scratch, a textile industry. Despite a downturn over recent years, it represents some 7% of GDP. It employs a skilled workforce, it turns out quality product and it supplies the likes of Next and, a Spanish connection, Zara. The industry, and it has contributed as much as 14% to GDP, was built without the island having the natural resources to supply it and so was totally dependent upon the importing of raw material. Nevertheless, it worked.

Where similarities between Mallorca and Mauritius fall down is that one possessed a political class with the foresight to understand the risks inherent to an over-reliance on certain industries. Mallorca, essentially still a single-product island, has never been blessed with governments with sufficient vision to appreciate the dangers posed by a virtual mono-economy. Rather, they have been blinded by the success of tourism and continue to consider it the principal means of economic growth.

Mallorca can boast some textile expertise. Martí Vicens created remarkable textile designs in Pollensa, and they are still evident today. The island doesn't, however, have a great tradition of textiles. There again, neither did Mauritius. I am not advocating that the regional government suddenly weaves a strategy based on textiles, but whether it is skills which do exist in Mallorca or new skills that need to be acquired and new types of business formed, the time is long overdue for a genuine strategy of economic diversification to be put in place.

If there is one thing, and one thing alone, that the new government of President Bauzá should be addressing, it is the economic future of Mallorca and the Balearics, and one that isn't so obsessed with tourism.

There has been some success in diversification, notably with new technologies, but it has been a very small step. A strategy for innovation going forward to 2020, dreamt up by the last administration, has achieved comparatively little, hampered by economic crisis but also by a lack of real energy.

Mauritius shows how with energy and vision a mixed economy can be developed. Textiles were not the only diversification. The island is also a financial centre and has a decent IT industry, one that Mallorca would bite its hand off to have. A small African nation of comparative size to Mallorca has demonstrated how it can be done and how economies do not have to be reliant on tourism and to accept the fate of the consequences of a primary industry, agriculture, in almost terminal decline.

Are the next four years likely to yield anything in respect of real strategic development in Mallorca? You wouldn't bank on it. There may be more of the desperately slow crawl of technological evolution, but something akin to Mauritius's textiles revolution is required. And it won't happen.

(I would like to thank John in South Africa for pointing out the Mauritius experience.)

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Cerdà still mayor in Pollensa?

The Alternativa per Pollença has brought to attention the fact that Pollensa town hall's website still carries a photo of former mayor Joan Cerdà, ten days after the new mayor was selected. The website also still lists the former departments of the town hall administration and those who are no longer responsible.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2011

Another lovely morning and should be a pretty much perfect first day of summer. A heatwave is being forecast to arrive on Thursday that will last through the weekend. The general forecast shows temperatures as being normal, but they are likely to get into the mid-30s.

Cloud around again at times, but all gone by the early evening, which is glorious and still up to 27 degrees at 18.30. Today's high 28.3 in Puerto Pollensa.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sail and Surf continuing

The truly strange case of Sail and Surf, the sailing and windsurfing centre in Puerto Pollensa, appears to have been resolved. The centre, which has existed on La Gola beach for 40 years, was told to cease operations because of what were said to be irregularities with licences and payment of taxes. The mayor now says that the centre can continue operating while agreement is arrived at as to new payment conditions.

Educating Rafa: Mallorca's schools

One of the names I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to over the next few years is that of Mr. Bosch, Rafael of this variety. As new education minister for the Balearics, can we expect Mr. Bosch to promote instruction in engineering? Will Mallorca's schools be subject to his use of power tools or will they be set to a gentle wash and softened by a fragrant conditioner?

Mallorca's state-run schools aren't very good. Or at least, what they produce underperforms in comparison to most of the rest of Spain and therefore most of Europe. In key competences, such as maths and comprehension, Mallorca and Balearic school children rank among the bottom four of Spain's regions. The standard of English is such that two-thirds of students at the Universitat de les Illes Balears admit to not understanding it, despite instruction at the university and years of teaching at school.

The education spokesperson at the CCOO union has a point when he suggests that, of the ministries in the new Bauzá administration, education should be given the greatest priority, above even that of tourism. Mallorca's future lies with well-educated and motivated raw material that can help to shift the economic emphasis away from a reliance on tourism and to change an attitude among young people that they can aspire to no more than being waiters and hanging out on the beach.

The union has expressed concern that the new administration might be targetting education for privatisation. It is probably a touch of scaremongering, but it is just one issue that confronts Rafael Bosch as he takes over the education ministry. The CCOO, and the other two unions representing teachers, have, however, given Bosch's appointment cautious approval. They describe him as "moderate and communicative".

And being perceived as moderate might well be a blessing, given that President Bauzá had suffered, some time before the elections, his now infamous, self-confessed "mental lapse" in respect of language, one that has, ever since, dominated discussion as to the PP's attitude to language and the party's potential for scrapping Catalan as a language of teaching. This will be an issue that will dog Bosch, though, for his part, he is saying that there needs to be greater effort in the teaching of language - three languages in fact: Spanish, English and Catalan. Hierologically, the hitherto anonymous Bosch does not appear to adhere to the notion of Castilian being the sacred language.

He recognises that the law as it stands allows parents freedom of choice between Spanish and Catalan as to the main language of teaching. For the most part, Mallorca's parents are happy enough for Catalan to prevail, while schools and pupils have expressed their preference for Catalan, and on occasions vociferously so.

The language question does threaten to overshadow all other matters in Bosch's ministerial in-tray, but it is way less important than the main one - that of improving standards and combatting what he has described as the "intolerable" situation regarding the high level of year repetition that pupils in Mallorca are obliged to undergo. To this end, Bosch is planning to create a "social pact" between the teaching profession, unions and others to develop a model of education in the islands. Which sounds all rather grand, though we will have to see what it actually means. More practically, he is hinting at adding an hour to the school day, which, pact or no pact, the unions might find a tad hard to swallow.

At the same time as Bosch has got his feet under the ministerial desk, the schools have broken up for the long summer break. It might seem that Bosch, if he believes that longer hours and more schooling are necessary, should perhaps shorten the holidays. The fact is, however, that adding hours isn't necessarily a solution and nor would be a shortening of the holidays. In Finland, for example, there is an eleven-week break, a lower annual number of school hours than Spain (quite appreciably so) and a way higher standard of achievement than anywhere in Spain.

Mr. Bosch is not only education minister. He also has responsibility for culture. And perhaps here lies a clue for him. Improving educational standards in Mallorca is less a matter of longer days and more one of changing cultural attitudes to education. The people he really needs to be educating are parents.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2011

Early morning high in the area of 19.8 in Pollensa town at 08.00. May be some cloud about later; there is none first thing. Otherwise, should be a good day, with temperatures going back up.

A fine sunny day it turned out to be. Pretty much unbroken sun and therefore clear blue skies. A cooling north to north-easterly breeze has kept temperatures to a pleasant local high that has been more or less the same everywhere, peaking at 25.3 by 18.00.

Future Sound Of Mallorca

Twenty years ago an astonishing noise was released. It was one of the defining tracks of acid house, trip-hop, ambient - all of these things. In the same year as London's Ministry Of Sound opened, the club's name was partially echoed by the name of a group whose music was central to what was now an established dance scene. In 1991, The Future Sound Of London issued "Papua New Guinea". It signalled, along with the music of acts such as KLF and The Orb, the arrival of club dance and rave into the mainstream.

In the same year, the American music impresario, Bill Graham, was killed in a helicopter crash. Twenty years before his death, Graham had closed his Fillmore venues in New York and San Francisco. His final introduction at the Fillmore West went: "What better way to end it, than with the sounds of the streets - Santana". What followed was another astonishing noise: a frenetic and soulful combination of "Incident At Neshabur" and Joe Zawinul and Miles Davis's "In A Silent Way".

Bill Graham was something of a mentor to Carlos Santana, encouraging a collision between rock, blues and Latin rhythms that helped to place those rhythms into a music environment of the time in a far more contemporary and dynamic fashion than artists such as Sergio Mendes had achieved.

There is a continuum from 1971 and Santana's appearance as the act which closed Fillmore West, through The Future Sound Of London in 1991 and up to today. It is one that came to forge and still does forge the amalgamation of Latin rhythm with club dance. In Mallorca, Latin, be it salsa, flamenco or other genres, joins with techno, ambient and other forms, to make its own astonishing noise.

Yet, for all that Mallorca has a club scene, one which musically ranges from conventional dance and retro nights (of the 80s and 90s) to harder-core techno and the Latin-oriented fusion, the island has never meant music. Certainly not in the way that Ibiza has and still does.

Balearic house originated in Ibiza in the mid-1980s and was the one of the main forces, arguably the main force, behind the dance and rave scene that emerged in Britain. It was picked up by clubs like Manchester's Haçienda and by the club's co-owners, New Order, and its various derivatives were formed by the likes of Jimmy Cauty of The Orb, later the KLF, and The Future Sound Of London.

Ibiza has, ever since, been synonymous with clubbing. While it does of course have its regular family tourism, and while it has also taken measures to try and eradicate more extreme aspects of its club scene, it has an image of dance and clubbing; an altogether more youthful image than Mallorca has.

The islands have their different images, and it is only right that they should. Ibiza, though, is dabbling with some danger if it tries too hard to dilute its club scene. The drugs and crime that inevitably go along with it (and from which Mallorca is also not immune) are understandable reasons for it wishing to do so, but the island should appreciate the business that is brought in and which, from the 1980s, has fallen into the laps of tourism officialdom which hasn't had to lift a finger because the club scene happened organically without its direct involvement.

While Ibiza has sought to distance itself from one of its core brand attributes, Mallorca has never sought to embrace the club scene or music in general. There is a reluctance, a suspicion, a lack of appreciation within tourism circles when it comes to music that isn't stuffy or strictly traditional. Because it tends to imply a youthful market, it doesn't quite chime with the mainstream conservatism of the "family" market. And for Mallorca, the youthful market tends to mean Magalluf and the periodic bad publicity it attracts, and one, therefore, that the island's tourism officials would prefer didn't exist.

Music, however, as much as the sun and the beach is symbolic of holidays. Who doesn't have their memories of certain songs and certain holidays? And be the music the holiday-camp campness of "Agadoo", the karaoke, the live act at a fiesta or the dance club, it is part of the whole holiday experience. Rather than suspicion of the club and youth market, the mindset should be one of placing music, in all its varieties, at the centre of tourism thinking. Were this to be the case, you would hope that an altogether more relaxed and proactive attitude would take hold, one in which different types of music could co-exist in a way that might attract new business, as witnessed by what Mallorca Rocks is attempting.

A genuine music festival, for example; letting the parties go back to the beaches, rather than locking them away in sports arenas, as now happens in Can Picafort; more concert seasons and more international acts. The future sounds of Mallorca and the future sound of music as part of holidays. Over to you, Mr. Delgado.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2011

The local high at 09.00 is 21.2 in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro. The wind is veering away from yesterday's northerly, more to the east and even south, depending on location, so the temperature is likely to be higher today. The forecast for the coming week shows sunshine and temperatures at 27 or 28 degrees.

A cloudier day than might have been expected, the skies only really clearing later in the afternoon. Temperatures have been down, the local high, to 17.30, being 22.6 in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro.

In Good Company: Agriculture

While Carlos Delgado has attracted most of the attention among the appointments as José Bauzá's ministers, there are others who have dipped below the radar. One of them is the agriculture minister, Gabriel Company.

To be more accurate, Company is to head a super-ministry of agriculture, the environment and land. But it is the agriculture element of this trinity of responsibilities that is the most interesting. It is a post to which Company is eminently suited.

The president of Asaja-Balears, the agriculture business association, Company was a fierce critic of the previous administration of Francesc Antich. In this capacity, he has not always enjoyed the best of relationships with the farmers' union. Nevertheless, the union has said it is happy with his appointment for the very good reason that Company knows the industry.

All the talk of a "professional" heading the tourism ministry overlooked the fact that other ministries might similarly need to be blessed by some independent talent. One reason for neglecting agriculture was that it had, as a ministry, been downgraded by President Antich and been placed within the department of the presidency. The move was designed as a cost-saving one, yet it seemed like a strange one because of what is perceived as the importance of agriculture to Mallorca and the Balearics.

Tourism is by far Mallorca's biggest industry, accounting for roughly 80% of gross domestic product. A professional in charge of the tourism ministry, if you were to appoint one to any ministry, would have made sense, not that he or she could probably have been afforded, as I have said previously.

Agriculture now has one. Company, not actually a member of the Partido Popular, had been fèted at one point by the Unió Mallorquina for a position at the Council of Mallorca, but now he has been placed firmly at the centre of government decision-making, albeit in a ministry which will demand he pays attention to other areas of responsibility as well.

At the time of the election, Company left Bauzá in no doubt that he felt that the PP would be making a mistake in not restoring agriculture as a key ministry. Perhaps he knew something. Whatever, the ministry has indeed been restored, and he is in charge of it.

You may think this is all very sensible. Key industry and all that; there needs to be a dedicated ministry. Everyone knows that Mallorca has its potato and vegetable growing, its almonds, its olives, its vineyards and so on. It has its fairs devoted to the fruits of the land. However, what everyone might not know is that agriculture, which once - back in the early '50s - represented some 40% of the island's economy, now amounts to rather less. 1.7%, if you are being particularly liberal; it is in fact less.

The agriculture spin in Mallorca does not, therefore, quite match up to reality. The industry is still important, but it is not as important as some might think.

Yet, as we know from the fact that TUI keeps banging on about it, there is a relationship between this small industry and the island's chief wealth generator of tourism. It is not just that agriculture helps to maintain tradition and to give a visual appeal, it is also, apart from local consumption generally and export, a source of local supply to the tourism industry.

An issue for Company will be how he might facilitate a growth in the agriculture industry. If demand for local produce is indeed meant to increase as a consequence of sustainable tourism (and were exports to grow), then the industry may face a brighter future after decades of decline.

And Mallorca has land that could be made to be more productive, as opposed to having been allowed to become idle. Last year, for example, there was the case of land in Capdepera that was being looked at for re-cultivation. Furthermore, new forms of agrarianism have been promoted as a way forward for Mallorca, such as by Jerry Mander of the International Forum on Globalization and by an Australian expert on permaculture, Darren Doherty.

Company will seek to reverse what he has called a period of "ignorance, inefficiency and zero interest" in respect of government agricultural policy. Despite agriculture's currently small contribution to the island's economy, it could become, with the right person driving a purposeful strategy, an area of growth. And Company may well be this right person.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - "Wetten, dass ...?" broadcasting from Palma tonight

The German quiz and entertainment show, "Wetten, dass ...?", is being broadcast live from Palma's bullring tonight. The show, the last to be presented by Thomas Gottschalk, has attracted 4,500 visitors from Germany.

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa controversy continues

The neighbourhood association in Puerto Pollensa, which lost the contract for managing the resort's beaches to the Muro-based F&A Beach company, has further stoked the controversy surrounding the beaches' management. It claims that the company has not, for instance, installed wooden walkways or showers, and that the rescinding of the contract should be considered. Mayor Cifre has, meantime, called on the company to comply with the beach management specification.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2011

Another hot day in prospect. 21.8 the local high early on, at 07.30, a mark of how much warmer it has become was the overnight maximum of 25 degrees at midnight.

Not such a great day after all. The wind moved round to the north and brought in some cloud and a fall in temperatures. Still good enough, with plenty of sun and a local high of 25.1 in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro, but the high was at around 09.30, which shows that the weather did indeed change. Prospects, otherwise, still very good for the next few days.

The Real Carlos Delgado?

So, after all the talk, the new tourism minister for the Balearics is indeed a professional. A professional politician. Regardless of whatever agreement Carlos Delgado and José Ramón Bauzá are meant to have cooked up at the time of the Partido Popular leadership election in 2010, for Delgado not to have been named as tourism minister would have raised serious questions as to unity within the PP; the unity of the party's right-wing that is.

Bauzá could not have afforded not to have appointed Delgado to tourism. But despite the politicking behind the appointment, Bauzá may well have chosen wisely, even though one suspects his hands were tied.

The good thing about Delgado is that you know what you are getting. He has been clear and honest enough about his ambitions and his attitudes. Some of his pronouncements on matters unrelated to tourism have caused disquiet, most obviously the language thing, but on tourism his instincts seem entirely appropriate and forward-thinking.

The surprise has been, therefore, why there was opposition to his appointment. This surfaced in March when he spoke about his ambition to be tourism minister, and it came from hoteliers. The fear then was that Delgado would clash with the hoteliers, though it was never made clear as to quite why, which led to a conclusion that it was largely personal.

The appointment made, the hoteliers, in the form of the Mallorcan hotel federation, have now come out and said that they look upon the appointment very positively. But the federation always says this. It had plenty of opportunity to do so while the tourism ministry door was revolving during the Antich administration; whether it believed what it was saying or not. It's known as being diplomatic.

One of Mallorca's leading hoteliers, Gabriel Escarrer, the president of Meliá Hotels International, has issued a glowing assessment of Delgado. The right noises are being made, therefore, but behind them you wonder as to the degree to which they are designed to influence Delgado. He has a reputation of being his own man, and there is one issue, barely mentioned in despatches at present, that the good free-marketer Delgado will have to contend with - that of the confusion surrounding the holiday-let industry and the hoteliers' hostility towards it.

This aside, most of what Delgado has said and is saying should be music to the ears of the hoteliers and others in the tourism industry. Creating theme parks, allowing for condohotels, reducing IVA; they are all positive. But his market liberalism has not played well with everyone. His declaration that he will make the general tourism law more flexible in order to permit concerts at hotels is a clear shot across the bows of Acotur, the tourist business association, and others that have opposed the Mallorca Rocks hotel in Magalluf, and a pop also at the association's hounding of Calvia town hall for having granted the hotel licences for the concerts.

The controversy that has surrounded Mallorca Rocks is symbolic of what Delgado represents. Market conservatism is not a concept he adheres to. Acotur has brought criticism upon itself by opposing innovation and new business; it has cast itself as being reactionary and the defender of the status quo. If Delgado can break the shackles of such conservatism and vested interests, then he could well prove to be the tourism minister that Mallorca has been crying out for.

Much is being made of the fact that Delgado, as former mayor of Calvia, is the right man for the job because he has been mayor of a municipality with such a strong tourism economy. The argument doesn't necessarily follow. When Miguel Ferrer, the then mayor of Alcúdia, became tourism minister, the same thing was said. This smacked of a rationalisation for an appointment that owed more to Buggins's turn than to credentials for the job. Delgado is different in that he has been intimately involved with Calvia's tourism in a way that Ferrer wasn't in Alcúdia, but what actually has he done? PSOE, for instance, suggests that tourism initiatives in the town have been non-existent.

And this is the worry with Delgado. For all his instincts, for all his pronouncements, for all his challenge to forces of market illiberalism and for all his new best friends among the hoteliers, does his publicity outweigh the reality? We are about to find out.

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia prepares for "macrobotellón"

A party to celebrate the end of the school year has become something in tradition with teenagers in the north of the island, and Puerto Alcúdia has become its location. Last year, the party turned ugly, with reports of violence and general misbehaviour. This year, there is to be special police vigilance that will focus on the three main centres - the Bellevue mile (Pedro Mas y Reus), the beach (where the botellón drink-in is meant to take place), and the Avenida Tucan with its discos. This police presence will include "police tutors" who will be known to participants as they are attached to schools in the area. The event will take place from this evening (Friday) and into the morning of Saturday, and some 7000 teenagers are expected to descend on Alcúdia.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2011

With wind direction still southerly, it is likely to be as warm as yesterday when it topped 30 degrees. The early temperatures are peaking, at 08.00, at 22.2 in Puerto Pollensa.

And it has got even hotter today. Maximums of 32 in Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa and a degree higher (33.2 to be precise) in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro. Very much more like it. Now come the complaints that it is too hot.

Johnny Foreigners

It is fun reading what the British press has to say about expat life. Fun because it can be withering in its damnation. You need to have a thick skin if you live in Mallorca and to accept that you can be the object of satire, and at times vicious satire.

The other day, I mentioned Clarkson and his post office blag gag. There have been others, such as A. A. Gill and his character assassination of the by then ex-Keith Floyd and lampooning of Brits assembling for their all-day benders. The "Daily Mail" whipped up a storm two years ago when it addressed the shallowness of life in Mallorca's Portals Nous, only for it to be accused, at best, of misinterpretation. But it served a purpose. And with any of this, there is some basis in truth, and the truth can hurt.

The British press takes a certain delight in attacking the collective Aunt Sally that is the Brit expat community and giving her a periodic knocking. Fair enough. I do the same. But there is a difference. One of being here or being there. Distance, you might think, lends a greater objectivity. Perhaps. But it can also generate ignorance or prejudice. Not everyone is, for example, a Portals airhead.

On a tangential note, it was "The Sun" what did it over the fallout from the bombs two summers ago. The paper ran a most extraordinary item in which it reckoned that the bombs could spell the end of tourism in Spain and Mallorca. What was doubly extraordinary was that it was written by the paper's travel editor. The item wasn't so much irresponsible as complete drivel.

I treat travel pages in newspapers with great suspicion. Unless the writer is blessed with genius, like Adrian Gill, and demands to be read regardless, I wonder what the agenda is. Generally, and unlike the expat have-a-go, the travel pages are positive towards Mallorca. But there is always the punchline, as in so-and-so travelled with such-or-such a company. And if the writer is not Adrian Gill but, say, Louise Redknapp, then you do really have to wonder, especially when Louise, the boy Jamie in tow, discovered (in "The Mail") some "authentic" Mallorca. Where? Portals Nous.

All of which brings me to Christina Patterson. She's a good writer and penned a recent article in "The Independent" that was, notwithstanding the odd dig at some lousy tapas, highly positive. It still came with the punchline caveat, but it didn't matter. However, Ms. Patterson has some previous.

She once wrote an article about expats, the thrust of which was the old chestnut of integration (expats not speaking the language and all that) and of the expat treating Spain (and therefore also Mallorca) and Johnny Foreigner as though empire still existed and the pith helmet was de rigueur headwear.

I despair of the integration thing, not because it isn't an interesting topic but because it is used as a term without any attempt being made to define it. Suffice it to say, if expats couldn't care less about learning the lingo or prefer to spend their evenings watching "Corrie", then quite frankly who am I, or indeed is anyone, including Ms. Patterson, to say they're wrong.

But what was particularly galling about her invective was that she implied that people who had found their lives ruined because of what had turned out to be illegal housing pretty much had themselves to blame. She then mocked those who, on discovering they were in such a parlous situation, levelled accusations of corruption without appreciating that this is how things are in Spain.

Up to a point, she was right, but she should also know that plenty of Spaniards and Mallorcans complain about corruption and that they also stand to lose, or have lost, as a consequence of both corruption and illegal housing. Furthermore, another ingredient in the strife caused by buildings near the coasts is the old 1988 law, newly interpreted by the Costas' authority. A demand from Mallorcan landowners (not expats) means that the Costas now have to explain themselves to the European Parliament.

There are plenty of expats who do bring upon themselves the ridicule of the stereotype, and it is great fun to indulge in such ridiculing, but sometimes their lot is no laughing matter, especially when there is an issue of natural justice at stake; one that affects expats and also plenty of Spaniards and Mallorcans.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - The cave wars of Porto Cristo

A huge blue poster advertising the Caves of Drach is the latest manifestation in the "war" between the Caves of Hams and Drach in attracting visitors. The town hall has said that no permission has been given for the poster.

MALLORCA TODAY - Delgado to be new Balearics tourism minister

After all the speculation, Carlos Delgado, the former mayor of Calvia, is indeed to be the new tourism minister in the Balearics government of José Ramón Bauzá. Delgado will combine this responsibility with that for sport in one of six main ministries that will comprise the government's organisation. The appointment of Delgado had been opposed by hoteliers in Mallorca.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sail and Surf ordered to stop

The sailing school Sail and Surf, which is based on La Gola beach in Puerto Pollensa, is to be ordered to stop hiring craft and its schooling activities by new mayor Tomeu Cifre. The company is to be asked for an explanation for what appears to be an operation for which the requisite concession does not exist and for which a tax is not being paid. Sail and Surf has been using this part of the beach for many years.

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa swimming pool should re-open

Pollensa town hall is to pay an outstanding debt to the electricity company Endesa which should enable the public swimming pool in Puerto Pollensa to re-open either later today or tomorrow. The town hall will now re-visit the arrangement with the company that operates the pool.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2011

A perfect late spring day in prospect, with temperatures expected to rise to 28 degrees. The current high in the area, at 08.30, is 23.3 in Puerto Pollensa. A bit of early cloud around, but otherwise a fine, sunny morning.

And it really has cranked up today, thanks to a strong but warm breeze from the south and a high humidity factor (over 90% at times). Local highs, to 18.30, have been 31.2 (Alcúdia/Playa de Muro), 30.2 (Pollensa) and 31.0 (Puerto Pollensa). The hottest day of the year.

Square, Practical, Good: Germans and food

The Germans are a people of routine and convention, not least when it comes to food and drink. They are also a people who believe, not always wrongly, that if it's made in Germany (it referring to anything), it's better than from somewhere else. When it comes to cars, they are right. Food, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.

The German attitude to food has been no better encapsulated than in the ultra-snappy slogan for Ritter Sport chocolate. "Quadratisch. Praktisch. Gut." Square, practical, good. It's less a slogan and more a series of words that, in translation, form a lesson for German engineers to explain in English the shape and benefits of whatever they happen to be engineering. Even something as ostensibly pleasurable as eating chocolate needs to be explained according to a manual.

And so it is with other German food. Its functionality dominates over its genuine appeal. It is practical, square in the sense of providing a square (and usually large square) meal, but not necessarily any good.

The Germans engineer everything. And food and drink are no different. Mealtimes are precisely determined as though by real-time systems engineering. Twelve on the dot is lunch. Four on the dot is coffee and cake. Seven on the dot is the evening meal.

The routine and convention are such and the made-in-Germany tag so prevalent that it is hard to imagine any un-Germanic influences disturbing the pre-set equilibrium of German mealtimes and the German propensity to hoover up an entire beef herd in one sitting. However, this convention does skip cultures.

It must be all that engineering, but Germans approach the culture of Mallorcan food with a process of both scientific conformity and enquiry. Unlike the British, who are both predominantly an uncurious breed and one not inclined to be told how they should conduct themselves, the Germans take their convention of process control with them when they travel, along with their manuals. A guide book of some description is always to hand in informing them as to the convention as to what they should eat. They try tapas, for example, because the guide book says so. If it's in the manual, it must be correct.

All this brings us to the impact of a substantial increase in the number of German tourists in Mallorca's main resorts this summer. In Alcúdia, for example, there is a 20% increase in German tourism, one that has not been anything like matched by an increase in British tourism. This increase has had an effect on one area of the local restaurant business. The Indians.

Curry would not be something to be found in the German tourist's manual for eating in Mallorca, but the Germans, as with the British, are still very much creatures of habit; witness, for example, all that coffee and cake being wolfed down at four on the dot every afternoon. And curry has a peculiarly German flavour and a peculiarly German application. The sausage.

Curry wurst is a German institution. While it is thought that the Germans don't have the same taste for tandoori or balti as the Brits, they do like smothering their sausages with curry sauce. It might seem odd that one restaurant has suddenly re-branded itself as a German curry house, but not when you consider this tradition.

Checkpoint Charlie, for this is the new name, boasts that it offers "Berlin curry". When I went past and saw this, I thought it was completely mad. I know I shouldn't have, but it conjured up the thought of waiters from the sub-continent sporting lederhosen and their lady wives swapping their saris for a dirndl. There again, they don't generally wear lederhosen in Berlin.

But it isn't quite as mad as it first seemed. There's something of a moral here. It is one of reacting swiftly to what is happening in the tourist market. If there are that many more Germans around, then adapt to try and attract the business. Berlin curry may not conform to the conformity of how the Germans approach their Mallorcan eating experiences, but it is at least in line with a German market that is nothing if not conventional. Whether there should be a slogan though, I'm not sure. Practical? Possibly. Good? With any luck. But how do you describe the shape of a sausage?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Explosion in Palma's Plaza España

A small explosive device was set off around lunchtime today in Palma's Plaza España. Two women were injured but not severely by the blast from a device that had been planted in a waste-bin. The Plaza has been occupied by members of the 15-M movement of so-called "indignants" who have been protesting in different cities in Spain against government policies.

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa swimming pool closed again

The public swimming pool in Puerto Pollensa has been forced to close again because the electricity company Endesa, unpaid for several months, has cut supply and removed the meter. The company operating the pool had said last year it was unable to meet the costs of electricity, and recent bills have been going to the town hall but have seemingly been ignored.

MALLORCA TODAY - Convergència joins Santa Margalida administration

The three councillors of the Convergència (CxI) in Santa Margalida will, after all, join with the six of the Suma pel Canvi in order to give mayor Miguel Cifre sufficient numbers to form a working majority at the town hall.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2011

The pattern does now, at last, seem to be pretty set. A high of 27 anticipated today, there may be some cloud but only light and high. From tomorrow afternoon, the forecast is shown clear skies through the weekend and into next week. The local high on a sunny early morning at 07.30 is 20.8 in Puerto Pollensa.

Well, this really is more like it. Not too hot, just about right temperatures with a cooling breeze, max-ing today at 23.8 in Puerto Pollensa, 25.5 in Alcúdia/Playa de Muro and, predictably now, 26.9 inland in Pollensa. The heat index is a bit higher, by just over one degree, for example, in Alcúdia.

Your Haitian Divorce

Friends of mine - Benjamin and Sara - got married the weekend before last. It was a fine occasion, and the ceremony took place, not in a church, as it was a civil occasion, but in "la sala", the hall at Alcúdia town hall, the one where a week later Carme Garcia of the Mallorcan socialists didn't quite tie the knot with Coloma Terrasa of the Partido Popular but made herself instead the eternal bridesmaid (for as long as eternity will last, which will not be long where Carme is concerned).

Some years ago now, other friends had decided that they would get married somewhere exotic. They chose the All-Inclusive Republic of Dominica, sometimes known just as Dominican, one half of the island of Hispaniola that Columbus colonised.

At the time, the early 1990s, transporting yourselves, to say nothing of various family members and/or friends, to far-flung lands in order to say "I do" was still fairly uncommon as well as something distinctly extravagant. There was also an anxiety attached: that getting yourselves to the church on time, or the beach-side tent, might be foiled either by British Airways going on strike or by a hurricane blowing up and carrying the tent off to Florida.

Weddings have now, though, truly gone global. The market for overseas weddings, for those in the UK who are getting hitched, accounts for one in five of all weddings. Mintel's research into this industry, published earlier this year, shows that cost is not a deterrent, indeed it can be an advantage in that it works out cheaper to head off abroad.

For Ben and Sara, the wedding at the town hall was not a case of heading abroad, as they live in Alcúdia. But for an increasing number of couples, Mallorca is now a leading destination for the foreign wedding. And in locations that, despite what Mintel say about the cost advantages of getting married abroad, can cost a fair old wedge.

"Ultima Hora" has looked at the Mallorcan wedding market. Five-star hotels, rural hotels and agrotourism fincas in the island's countryside are the favoured locations for a market that generates annually some two million euros of business and which has grown significantly over the past few years. The German market is by far the greatest, representing some 90% of all the rural and agrotourism weddings, which can, depending on the number of guests and the length of stay, run to a cost of some fifty grand.

There's money to be made from weddings, and the agrotourism industry is making a reasonable earner from them, which will come as something of a relief; the industry has been hit hard by economic crisis, and talk was that the current season would still be "difficult".

Of course, the rules regarding residency and religion influence the nature of the ceremony in Mallorca but, notwithstanding complications that need to be smoothed out by, for example, getting married under civil ceremony in the UK first, any number of places will be happy to be the location for the happy, dream day and happy to be the recipient of a sizeable number of folding notes.

Generally though, the foreign wedding pales into wedding-party insignificance against the vastness of the local wedding occasion. Just one place that does big-time receptions is the mediaeval pile of S'Alqueria d'Es Comte, near to Santa Margalida. I was once there for a Saturday evening meal at the Es Turó restaurant. A table in the inner courtyard was out of the question. So many were the numbers that it was the spillover from the main courtyard. Lord knows how many the numbers were - it was as though the entire population of the town was in attendance. (700 is in fact its capacity.)

The foreign wedding has been good news for the wedding planners as well as the hotels, but what about the divorce planners? Mallorca doesn't have quite the same advantages as the Dominican Republic. There, you can get married one day, decide it was all a mistake, and nip over to the other half of Hispaniola. And you don't need to take the other half. As immortalised in song by Steely Dan - "congratulations, this is your Haitian divorce" - untying the knot can be done without the other's permission. And it doesn't cost much. Less than fifty grand, that's for sure.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida's debts

New mayor Miguel Cifre is claiming that Santa Margalida's debts are considerably higher than those which were posted by the national finance ministry and stand at up to 11 million euros. The financial situation that he has inherited is that serious that there is a question mark over whether salaries for July can be paid.

MALLORCA TODAY - Cifre gets down to work

The new mayor of Pollensa, Tomeu Cifre, faces two pressing issues as he starts his new tenure. One is the agenda for this year's Pollensa music festival, which has still to be decided, and the other is the ongoing problem with Puerto Pollensa's beaches. Cifre has demanded that the company now managing the beaches changes the material of the beach umbrellas, the subject of considerable criticism.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 June 2011

A fine sunny morning. Given what happened yesterday, as in a storm blew up, not perhaps wise to assume all will be ok, but it looks as though it should be. There are no weather risks out for the rest of the week. Today's highs should reach 26 degrees; the best at 08.00 is 21 in Puerto Pollensa.

It has been a fine day. Not too hot, as there is a pleasant cooling feel to the air. The local high, to 17.30, has been inland in Pollensa town at 25.5C.

Twin Towns

Leicester City Council does not have any specific plans to deal with a zombie invasion.

This item of news registered with me, partly because the council is clearly failing in its duty of care (the zombie attack is due any time now), and also because there is a misconception as to my own links with the city. It is one that arose from an explanation in the pages of "The Bulletin" as to how I was to spend last Christmas. I can confirm that I have only once been to Leicester. Quite some years ago, and the visit involved the moving from one pub to another along darkened streets that may or may not have been hiding zombies.

Nevertheless, I do have Leicester associations. These are primarily because of a further misconception - that I live in Alcúdia, when I don't. Being branded with the Leicester association is understandable, given that Alcúdia's expatriate English population comprises only people from Leicester. Or Hull. I have been to Hull only once as well, and how beautifully monochrome the Humber and the mud to both sides of it were.

There is yet another misconception. That Alcúdia is like Blackpool. When everyone should be aware that it is like Leicester or Hull.

Why is it that Mallorcan towns and resorts end up being repositories for expats from certain cities or even countries? If you can call Scotland a country. And I suppose you can; indeed, should. Take Puerto Pollensa. It feels as though it should be inhabited by the whole of Eastbourne, but instead it is awash with Jocks.

If you said to me that, rather than Alcúdia being like Blackpool, Puerto Pollensa is like Morecambe, then I'd initially think you were talking rubbish. However, unlike Leicester, I did for a time live in Morecambe. The Scottish fortnight was a phenomenon anticipated with both joy (for the pubs which made more money in two weeks than the whole of the rest of the year) and fear. Anyone with any sense would go into protect-and-survive mode, hide under a table and cover themselves with whitewash, as though they were zombies.

Puerto Pollensa's Jockist tendency isn't of course quite like the Morecambe invasion. It is far more genteel Jockism. All accountants and presbyterian ministers. Getting bladdered on a tank load of McEwan's is not the form, even were McEwan's available; rather, it is getting legless on gallonage G&T's or a box of Blanc de Blancs from the nearest bodega.

Jeremy Clarkson once defined the British expatriate in terms of where he or she had gravitated to. Spain, for example, was the destination for any Brit who had done the blag at the Walthamstow post office. Personally, while I have some history with Walthamstow as well, I have not committed a post office blag either there or indeed anywhere. I rather suspect this is the case for many who reside in Mallorca. But not all.

It might uncharitably be thought that all post office ex- or current cons have pitched up in Magalluf, when, as anyone can tell you, its entire Brit population has been uprooted from Liverpool. So, unless they drove a considerable distance in order to do the Walthamstow blag, it's a safe bet to assume they are not now in Magalluf. Rather, of course, they are the ones who enjoy the fruits of their deeds in the likes of Camp de Mar and Bendinat and who accompany their brown-wrinkly wives to Portals where their good ladies totter on non-sensible heels and topple over under the sheer weight of the bling.

The concentration of people from parts of England and the UK in Mallorcan towns made me wonder if there was some sort of twinning going on. Not so. In 2008, a list of UK towns that were twinned with places across the globe was published. There were 2,527 such twinning arrangements. Out of this lot, there are hundreds in France and Germany, but how many in Spain? Fifteen. And not one in Mallorca. Far from a twinning agreement having produced those from Leicester or Hull, there are instead towns in Bulgaria, Nicaragua and China that are full of people from Leicester and even one in Sierra Leone that's packed with those from Hull.

There might be a serious conclusion to be drawn from this. Why is no place in Mallorca twinned with anywhere in the UK? Were it to be, and were the UK town of any size, then might this not be a useful little exercise in dragging some extra visitors over? Indeed, from what I can find there is no place in Mallorca that is twinned with anywhere, other than Petra with a town in Mexico and Palma with eight, including Düsseldorf and Naples.

But maybe this twinning reluctance can be explained by a fear. That of who or what might turn up. You can never tell where the next zombie invasion might come from or where it might occur.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 13, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Total eclipse of the moon on Wednesday

A total eclipse of the moon will occur on Wednesday, and the Balearics will provide one of the best places to observe it. The eclipse will last for one hour and forty minutes and be at its maximum at 22.14 on Wednesday evening.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 June 2011

A fair amount of light but high cloud first thing, which should all disappear later in the day. The weather pattern does now seem more settled, with a good week in prospect. Local high at 08.00 is 18.9 in Puerto Pollensa.

Well, so much for the weather being settled. Another storm came in this afternoon. Not a particularly heavy affair, nearly 7mm of rain in Puerto Pollensa being the most that fell, with hardly any in other parts of the area. The day's high to 17.00, also in Puerto Pollensa, has been 25.9.

In case you wonder, 1mm of rain is basically equivalent to one litre per square meter. Rainfalls are given either in millimetres or litres, which can confuse.