Sunday, July 31, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather summary for July Alcúdia and Pollensa

Has it been such an odd July? Mean temps have been 23.6 (Alcúdia - Albufera) and 23.3 (Pollensa) against a 7-year average of 24.5 and 24.3, and rain has been 37.8mm and 21.1mm respectively. Almost all of the rain in Alcúdia fell on three days - 14, 24 and 27 July. In Pollensa, there was rain on four days, the most being on 27 July (9.7mm). Only in 2008 (Pollensa) was there any significant rain in July over the past 7 years (14.5mm.). The historic norms though are 24.4 mean temperature and 20mm rain. August, according to the met office, is due to be warmer.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 July 2011

A fine morning with just a few fluffy white clouds about at 08.00, local temperatures ranging from 18 to 22. Today's high is expected to be 29. A southerly wind at present might mean the dragging in of warmer African air. The week ahead looks generally fine, though Wednesday has the potential to be cloudy.

It has turned out to be a rather disappointing Sunday. Warm enough, with local highs close to 27 but a lot of cloud as well. The wind turned round to northerly and is likely to be for the next couple of days which do in fact look pretty decent.

The Battle Of The Beards

Beard is a slang term for a partner who disguises the other partner's true sexual orientation. Let me say straightaway that I do not suggest for one moment that either Mariano Rajoy or Alfredo Rubalcaba would have a beard (except of course that both of them, in a hair sense, do) and that either is anything other than 100% heterosexual. That said, a touch of gayness might play well with Rubalcaba's more liberal audience, while it wouldn't with Rajoy's conservative constituency.

José Luis Zapatero's announcement of a November general election ushers forth, earlier than expected, the battle of the beards; the hustings of the hirsute will take place sooner than we had thought.

Zapatero, clean-shaven, will be succeeded by greying facial hair of either the left or right. The good money, at present, is on a right-wing full set, but Rubalcaba could yet take a Gillette to Rajoy, the polls suggesting that he has already started to trim the Partido Popular beard.

With Zapatero's departure in November, we will lose one of the great comedy characters of European politics. What beckons next for José Luis Bean? A series of "The Thin Blue Line"? Inappropriate perhaps, if only in terms of colour. With his going, we will be deprived of one of the finest lookalikes to ever step onto the world stage, but we could yet get another.

Rubalcaba is a dead ringer for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (in his younger, less beardy days that is). And then there's his name. Rubal? Ruble? Is there a closet Russian in the PSOE house, an old-time Commie waiting to emerge and lead Spain from its hard-labour Gulag of economic crisis? Or indeed plunge it deeper into crisis?

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to ever know or to ever have the satisfaction of having a former Russian novelist meeting Putin or Medvedev at European leaders' gatherings. Instead there will be Rajoy, the greyest man of Spanish politics, bereft of charisma and any redeeming comedic features.

But whoever wins the upcoming election will be starting from a position of handicap. Both Rajoy and Rubalcaba can consider themselves already stripped of some support. Why? Because politicians with beards have been shown to poll worse than those without.

Spanish political facial hair has generally been absent since the days of Franco, who sported a sort of Hitler but never a beard. José Maria Aznar brought the moustache back into political fashion, along with hair dye, but Zapatero reverted to the clean-shaven presidential (or prime ministerial, if you prefer) look that had been favoured by Felipe González.

Now, though, the electorate is faced not only by faces with moustaches but those also with beards. It will make for a very difficult choice. On the basis that men with beards cannot be trusted, both may fail to win.

This is not anti-beardism on my behalf, but a statement of the fact that politicians with beards don't go down that well with electorates. And if one considers some of the leading political beards of the generation, you can begin to appreciate why: various Iranian ayatollahs as well as Ahmadineyad, Castro, David Blunkett.

When Europe's political leaders line up for photos at economic crisis meetings any time after the Spanish elections, there will be one particularly conspicuous leader. Who's the weird beard, will go the question. All other of Europe's politicians have engaged the use of the razor. David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel; none of them bearded, or even close to being. Yet, there will be Rajoy (or Rubalcaba) in the glare of the cameras with bits of Euro-leaders' lunch clinging to the chin. At a time when Moody's is threatening to downgrade Spain's credit rating, the last thing Spain needs is a future prime minister who can't be trusted.

It is the beard factor that makes any prospect of Rajoy turning Spain's fortunes around to be illusory. The question is, therefore: will he (or Rubalcaba) do the decent thing, in the name of Spanish economic recovery, and have a shave?

But to come back to the beard slang term, there is a definite contrast in style to the two political beards who will be battling it out in November. Rubalcaba's Solzhenitsyn hints at something vaguely Bohemian and liberal. His beard is in keeping with the social policies that Zapatero has so successfully managed to introduce. It is the beard of a left-wing university lecturer who insists on wearing sandals.

Rajoy's, on the other hand, is a studious and serious affair, as befits a studious and serious man disinclined to approve of liberal frivolities. It is the beard of a suited management consultant sent in to effect swingeing cuts. Which is exactly what he will do of course.

Bring on November, bring on the beards, and let's get ready to stubble.

Any comments to please.

Index for July 2011

Associations, business and tourist - 27 July 2011
Balcony diving - 2 July 2011
Beaches and umbrellas - 10 July 2011
Butane gas service - 24 July 2011
Can Picafort ducks: legal change called for - 28 July 2011
Catalan v. Castilian - 29 July 2011
Chemists threatening to close - 22 July 2011
Competitiveness, tourism - 21 July 2011
Dogs - 23 July 2011
Election, Spanish general - 31 July 2011
Fiesta funding - 3 July 2011, 7 July 2011
Fiesta parties - 13 July 2011, 19 July 2011
Full English breakfast - 20 July 2011
Holiday lets, private - 5 July 2011, 8 July 2011
Hotel conversion - 8 July 2011
Hotels for sale - 12 July 2011
Language gaffes - 14 July 2011
Maps - 18 July 2011
News Of The World - 11 July 2011
Newspapers, iPad and - 17 July 2011
No Frills Excursions and social media - 9 July 2011
Pollensa Music Festival - 1 July 2011, 4 July 2011
Restaurant business failure - 16 July 2011
Russian tourists - 25 July 2011
Subbuteo and table games - 26 July 2011
Tenders - 6 July 2011
Tradition industry, Mallorca's - 30 July 2011
TV Mallorca to close - 15 July 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Hotel in Arenal evacuated because of gas leak

Some 500 guests have been evacuated today because of a leak of carbon monoxide at the hotel Tropical Park in Arenal. One 15-year-old girl has been taken to hospital. This is the third gas leak incident at the same hotel. Two weeks ago, a Russian tourist died and a French tourist was taken to hospital in a critical condition. The hotel was not identified in reports when these previous incidents occurred. Now it has been identified.

MALLORCA TODAY - Garcia claims irregularities by previous Alcúdia administration

Carme Garcia, the former PSM (Mallorcan socialists) leader who was ejected from the party for siding with the Partido Popular in the new Alcúdia town hall administration, has asserted that she decided against a pact with the two parties of the former administration, Convergència and PSOE, because of what she has described as irregularities in relation to social services in the town. The opposition parties have called on her to make clear what it is she referring to when she speaks of a "phantom company" that was allegedly established.

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro mayor accused of favouring a cousin's company

The opposition PSOE at Muro town hall has denounced the awarding of a contract for street cleaning in Playa de Muro to a company operated by a cousin of the mayor Martí Fornes. The four-year contract, worth over 650,000 euros, was awarded at the end of May. Fornés says that the decision was based on technical reports and that had there been any question of it being incorrect that this should have been raised before the tendering process.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 July 2011

It is now, at 08.00, sunny with temperatures to 23 degrees, though there was some rain earlier and some very ominous looking cloud. The forecast for today remains one of likely rain and possible thunderstorms, though by the evening it should be fine. Tomorrow is likely to see some cloud as well. Temperatures over the weekend predicted to reach highs of 28 degrees.

This morning there was a fair bit of rain and some thunder, but it cleared up in the early afternoon to leave a pleasant afternoon with temperatures reaching 26 degrees. Forecast seems ok for tomorrow. There may be some early cloud but should turn out to be a good day. The week ahead looks generally fine, and the met office is saying that, after what has been a cooler than usual July, temperatures are set to rise.

The Tradition Industry

There was this flyer in the letter-box. "Traditional Mallorcan cuisine." The words were in Spanish. You might think that advertising traditional Mallorcan cuisine should demand that the blurb is in Catalan and not in Spanish, but maybe the restaurant is owned by a staunch supporter of the Partido Popular. Anyway, let's not go there again.

The flyer was less a promotion for the restaurant and more one for a take-away service. "We will cook for you and bring our specialities to your home." Which is sort of what you expect with a take-away service, but perhaps these things have to be spelt out, as traditional Mallorcan cuisine being ferried around in cardboard containers covered with aluminium on the back of a scooter (or however it is transported) doesn't sound all that traditional. Contemporary meets the traditional, and it comes on a Honda 125.

Take-away is really pizzas, beef chow mein and tikka masala. Pork wrapped in cabbage? It doesn't quite have the take-away ring about it. Traditional cuisine demands traditional modes of eating, as in sitting down in a restaurant. But there again, what is traditional?

This is a question I have been grappling with. Traditional - Mallorcan traditional - is referred to that often that is hard to know what is a tradition and what isn't. The word is interchangeable with "typical". Restaurants do typical/traditional cuisine, troupes perform typical/traditional dance and music, fiestas are typical/traditional. In the case of La Beata in Santa Margalida, this is the most typical of the lot - or so they always say. Girly saint rebuffs the attentions and temptations of the devil, good conquers evil and a whole tradition spawns demons with fire crackers, beasty masks and virgins of the parish parading in white.

The irony of tradition in a Mallorcan style is that it has created something that is distinctly of today - the tradition industry. There is marketing gold to be alchemised from a dry-stone wall, silver to be sold from the singing of a Sibil·la, bronze from coins clattering in the tills of the most ancient of the island's traditions, the Talayotic.

The blurring of the lines between modernity and antiquity invites a question as to the degree to which tradition is forced and with the express purpose of creating a marketing benefit from the historical. The very promotion of tradition, with its narrative captured in the word itself and in the words typical or authentic, is sloganising. The words themselves are marketing tools, directed at both the native and the visiting markets.

The constant reinforcement of tradition for domestic consumption reflects a society still uneasy with modernity. Traditional Mallorcan society, by which one means that before the tourism industrial revolution of the sixties and one that was far more wedded to the land than it is now, still resides in the collective memory. This is unlike Britain, for example, where there is a general lack of tradition and an accommodation with its absence that doesn't require an industry with its marketing plans to force it onto the populace or the tourist.

Of course, there are organisations such as English Heritage which maintain a connection with the past, but the promotion of English and British tradition and culture doesn't have a sense of desperation; that of demanding that the past is held onto.

A key difference, though, between what occurs in long-industrialised countries and an island such as Mallorca where traditional society can be actively remembered lies in the capacity for a tradition industry to flourish. It could never have happened in Britain, for instance, because the wherewithal for such an industry simply didn't exist. And by the time the wherewithal was discovered, it was far too late. Contemporary Mallorca, on the other hand, has that wherewithal, because the invention and development of marketing, and hence the tradition industry, pretty much coincided with the island's industrial revolution.

Mallorca's traditions aren't invented, thanks to the temporal proximity to when traditional society started its decline, but they are an invention of the marketer who flogs them to a tourist market which has forgotten its own traditions.

Tradition is good. That's the message, even if what is described as traditional isn't necessarily exceptional. So it is with much traditional Mallorcan cuisine. Yea, it's ok, but then so are fish and chips. They're traditional, but they don't come with a label attached that demands that they are considered thus. And the constant labelling is the constant reinforcement of a marketing message.

The flyer in the letter-box was selling. But it was also selling, in its curiously contemporary take-away way, that is on behalf of one of Mallorca's strongest industries, its tradition industry.

Any comments to please.

Friday, July 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanish elections brought forward to November

President Zapatero, seeking to reduce political and economic uncertainty, has announced that the Spanish national elections will be held on 20 November this year, five months before they would have been due to have been held. Sr. Zapatero will not be standing as president at the elections, his former deputy and interior minister in the PSOE socialist party, Alfredo Rubalcaba, having been nominated as presidential candidate to stand against Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular. The PP holds a lead in the polls at present, but the gap between the PP and PSOE has narrowed since it became clear that Rubalcaba would be the candidate.

MALLORCA TODAY - Another balcony death in Ibiza

A 23-year-old British tourist has died after falling from a second-floor balcony at tourist apartments in Sant Antoni in Ibiza.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollett joins Hirst on fraud charges

Richard Pollett, the accountant associated with John Hirst, appeared before Bradford Magistrates Court on Wednesday and was granted conditional bail, having been extradited from Mallorca. Mr. Hirst, charged with fraud in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that operated out of Mallorca, is due to stand trial next year. Members of the Hirst family have also appeared before the magistrates in West Yorkshire, and now Mr. Pollett has come before the court as well.

When Mr. Pollett was arrested in Mallorca last year, his name was not revealed, as is the convention to not name suspects, but his initials were released, so it was clear who it was. His arrest was a year or so after the original Hirst story broke, and "The Sunday Telegraph", which took a keen interest in the affairs of Mr. Hirst's Gilher investment company at the centre of the allegations, reported thus:

"Mr. Hirst found clients through British financial professionals based in Majorca, one of whom, chartered accountant Richard Pollett, based in Santa Ponsa, introduced 50 of his clients to the Gilher scheme.
Mr. Pollett said: 'I introduced people to John Hirst's scheme and they placed with him the equivalent of $12,000,000 in euros, pounds and US dollars.
'It included my own wife, Jill's, money, my daughter's trust fund and money from close relatives.
'After working with him for six years, going on holiday with him and Linda and seeing him regularly socially, I thought I knew him well. And, like everyone else, I found him a very decent bloke, who seemed thoroughly trustworthy.
'Now I feel like a wreck. I'm ill over what's gone on and can't even sum up what I feel about all those people who face financial hardship and possible ruin if their money isn't found.' "

COMMENTS: This item is attracting anonymous comments. I hope you'll appreciate why they are not being posted. I have every sympathy for those who have been affected by the case, but it is all a matter for the SFO. As with when this story first broke in 2009, it is better to direct any information, be it about Mr. Hirst, Mr. Pollett or indeed members of their respective families, to the UK fraud office. Thanks.

MALLORCA TODAY - Audit ordered of Pollensa's finances

Mayor Tomeu Cifre has announced that there will be a full audit of Pollensa town hall's financial affairs, a meeting of the council being told about the extent of invoices from the previous administration that appeared not to have been sanctioned. The town hall has had to make provision for certain special payments, such as one to cover the cost of the music festival, itself the subject of concern as to previous financial provisions.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla practically bankrupt

Sa Pobla town hall faces the possibility of being unable to pay its personnel, the new administration of Partido Popular mayor Biel Serra revealing that the council's financial situation is worse than had been expected.

MALLORCA TODAY - Artà railway line suspended

Work on the re-development of the Manacor to Artà railway line is to be suspended. The regional government had already decided to paralyse work on the line, and now central government has reinforced the decision by refusing to provide any more finance for it.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 July 2011

A bright, sunny and generally cloudless start to the day, with temperatures edging up to 21 degrees at 08.00. Highs of 29 possible later. There is still the risk of some rain tomorrow.

Clouds that gathered in the morning generally dispersed to leave a reasonable day with temperatures to a local high of 26 degrees. The forecast for tomorrow suggests rain in the morning and cloud lingering in the afternoon and evening but the rain threat diminishing.

Lorenzo's Foil: The Catalan argument

What's the difference between Jorge and Chicho Lorenzo? Jorge is world MotoGP champion and Chicho isn't. Jorge was born in Mallorca and Chicho wasn't. He is originally from Galicia, which may explain why he has been brandishing the sword of honour in defence of the Castilian language and jabbing at the armour of Catalan. Lorenzo's foil is just a tip of the épée in the Catalan argument, but it has caused an almighty row.

Lorenzo took to Facebook to attack Catalanists. Facebook took the page down when the insults began to fly. The whole incident has caused a storm mainly because of who Lorenzo is: father of Jorge, one of Mallorca's favourite sons along with Rafael Nadal. Pity the poor Mallorcan sportsman who has to contend with a father or a relative's opinions. Nadal had to put up with uncle Toni slagging Parisians off by referring to their stupidity.

Lorenzo's foil, which I suppose you could say was foiled by Facebook removing it, comes at a time when arms are being taken up in the Catalan cause. And what has brought the swords out of the sheaths, in addition to Chicho's Facebook campaign, has been the announcement by Bauzá's Partido Popular government that it is preparing a law that will remove the requirement for public officials to be able to speak Catalan.

To the fore in opposing this law change is the teaching union STEI-i. The Catalan argument is at its most pertinent in the education sector; it is here that the real battle exists and was always likely to become hugely controversial, given the PP's aggressive and negative stance towards Catalan.

The rhetoric surrounding the Catalan argument is extreme. Both sides, pro- and anti-Catalanists, accuse the other of being fascists; Lorenzo has, for example. Fascist may be a strong affront in a nation that once had a fascist dictator, but its use just makes it the more difficult to those who look on and observe the argument to be sympathetic to either side. There is something decidedly puerile about the fascist insult.

Bauzá, to continue the connection to the good old days of fascism, is being characterised as being like Franco. Both before and after the May elections, I referred to concerns that a PP administration under Bauzá would create social tensions because of its apparent anti-Catalanism, but to compare Bauzá with El Caudillo is going too far.

Nevertheless, these tensions were always going to come to the surface, and the heat of the rhetoric is being cranked up with Bauzá also being accused of attempting "cultural genocide" (Lorenzo has made the same accusation in the other direction).

The Catalan argument isn't as simple as just being either for or against Catalan or Castilian as the dominant language. If it were this simple, then it would be easier to comprehend. But language isn't the main issue.

The fact that Bauzá and the PP (and Chicho Lorenzo, come to that), while favouring Castilian over Catalan, also defend the use of the Catalan dialects of the Balearics adds complexity to what is more an issue of nationhood: Spain as a nation and Catalonia as a wannabe nation. What has been referred to as the "Catalan imposition", the requirement for speaking Catalan in the public sector, and the one the PP would scrap, is wrapped up in the wider context of Catalonia's ambitions to be a nation and for there to be a union of Catalan lands, of which the Balearics would be one.

Language equals culture and culture equals language; the two go hand in hand. The genocide charge being levelled at Bauzá is fallacious in the sense that he has no problem with the use of Catalan dialects, and these dialects could be said to be more representative of local cultures than pure Catalan.

But dialects are spoken by minorities, they are not the tongues of nations. To approve of them is to approve of diversity, not of nationalist pretensions. It is approval that can be considered as being tacitly designed to undermine such pretensions and in accord with attitudes of the Partido Popular nationally: those of being equivocal towards regionalism, be it that of the Balearics, Catalonia or anywhere, and of being fierce defenders of the Spanish nation, the whole of the Spanish nation, Catalonia and Catalan speakers included.

The swords are being drawn. There will be plenty more Chicho Lorenzos and plenty more Facebook campaigns and arguments, as there will be campaigns and arguments elsewhere. The worry is that the puerile use of the fascist insults gets more serious and that there is more than just a metaphorical brandishing of foils.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Chemists' "strike" faces legal complications

The planned closure of pharmacies in Mallorca as from tomorrow in protest at non-payment by the regional government's health ministry has run into legal complications. It has been made clear that, among other things, pharmacies are obliged to dispense prescriptions and to maintain overnight services. Failure to do so would result in heavy fines.

MALLORCA TODAY - More burning of palm remains in Puerto Pollensa

Pollensa town hall has announced that it will incinerate palm remains that are still being gathered and dumped in plastic in the Llenaire district of Puerto Pollensa. The town hall says that it has the authorisation of the regional government environment ministry to do so, though it is unclear if it intends to burn the palms in situ or take them away. Previously, palms affected by the "picudo rojo" (palm weevil) have been burned in open fields, provoking protests that this merely adds to the spread of the beetle that has been destroying palm trees in the area. The town hall has also given no date as to when the incineration will take place.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 July 2011

It is a fine, sunny morning and it should remain a fine, sunny day. Local temperatures at 08.30 up to 23 degrees. Highs today around 27. The forecast for the next few days seems good enough, Saturday suggesting the greatest risk of some rain, but only a low possibility.

Local highs today have been 25 degrees. Saturday's forecast is now rather dodgier than it was, so there is a higher risk of some rain.

Getting Into A Flap

Good weather for them. Ducks that is. The rain that has been about has been well-timed. We are entering the duck season, or we would be were there any ducks. And in Can Picafort of course, there aren't. Not officially anyway. In a rare display of unity, however, the warring political parties of Santa Margalida are as one in demanding the return of the ducks.

The town hall is calling for a change to animal-protection law that would legalise the release of live ducks during Can Picafort's August fiestas. Under this law, or so it would seem, traditions that can be shown to date back more than 100 years from the time of the law's enactment in 1992 are allowed to continue. The great duck-throwing event of Can Picafort isn't that old. Consequently, Santa Margalida wants the threshold reduced to 50 years; ducks were first let go into the sea for locals to swim after them and capture them in the 1930s.

The town hall has never truly bought into the law and the banning of live ducks. It was persuaded to comply with it when it was fined for not having complied. Ever since the live ducks were replaced by rubber ones, the town hall has only grudgingly gone along with the law. And by town hall, one means all the parties, whether ruling or opposing.

The unified front that is now being displayed has, though, not always been evident. The former administration proposed a similar change to the law late last year. The opposition didn't go along with it, yet it, now in power, has made the proposal. Even in unity, the parties can't avoid having a dig at each other. You didn't support us, say the Partido Popular. It was our measure. We didn't support you, respond the combined forces of the Suma pel Canvi and the Convergència, because it wouldn't have done any good; the former regional administration wouldn't have approved it.

Though a national law, there would seem to be flexibility for a regional parliament (the Balearics one) to amend it. As the Partido Popular is now in power at regional level, the town hall would reckon that it might get a more sympathetic hearing.

The banning of live ducks, and Santa Margalida finally got round to complying with the law five years ago, has turned the tradition into a new one. The event attracts way more publicity as a consequence of the law being flouted than it ever did when ducks themselves were being released.

That said, before the ban there was the annual ritual of the animal-rights activists getting into an argument with the pro-duck-throwers, a ritual that has now become one of the animal rightists trooping off to make a "denuncia" when the law is broken. And the poor police, who surely have better things to do, have been caught in the middle, both the local police under the command of a town hall whose attitude has been ambiguous, to say the least, and the Guardia who have had to resort to bringing in divers and boats to try and prevent the throwing of live ducks and to try and apprehend the miscreants.

Last year, one town hall official said the police presence was more akin to security for the royal family or an ETA threat. The law may have been likely to have been broken, which it duly was (and no one was caught), but the publicity and the security were absurd for what has always been an absurd occasion, one that became more absurd as soon as they started to use rubber ducks instead. They should have scrapped the whole thing rather than allow it to become the farce it has.

The duck-throwing saga of Can Picafort can be considered an example of what happens when you mess with tradition, but how traditional really is the duck throwing? Establishing a time frame, be it 50 or 100 years, seems pretty arbitrary. Indeed, it seems ridiculous. If it is felt that something requires outlawing, then so be it, regardless of how long it has been going.

The ducks only came about as a bit of sport. Wealthy landowners would make a gift of some ducks, and the young men of the village would compete to capture them. Do 70 or 80 years represent a "tradition"? Maybe they do, or maybe they represent the history of something basically frivolous. Whatever the case, there are enough people, on both sides of the argument, who get into a flap about the ducks. And they will continue to do so, whether the law is changed or not.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 July 2011

It is currently hammering down and it has rained on and off during the night. A storm rumbling around, the local temperatures at 08.20 are reasonable enough at up to 22 degrees, but it is due to remain a wet morning, clearing later today and then fine for the rest of the week.

It has gradually got better during the day, with sun coming out but temperatures only making highs of 24 to 17.00.

Guilty By Associations

How many associations, federations, organisations can one island need? How many such bodies can one industry need? Tourism is hugely important, but the industry is sinking under the sheer weight of its collective organisational body.

Let's identify, shall we, just some of these organisations. Among those charged with tourism promotion and development are the Balearics Tourism Agency, the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorcan Tourism Board), the Fundación Mallorca Turismo, the Mesa del Turismo and the cluster Balears.t, to which will soon be added "mesas de alcaldes" (literally, mayors' tables).

The hoteliers, in addition to federations in different towns, have at least two bodies - a federation of hoteliers and an association of hotel chains. Businesses, other than the hotels, are represented by Acotur, Pimeco, the chamber of commerce, and the local confederation of businesses. To all this lot, you can add associations for different niches and whatever the town halls might or might not be up to.

Duplication, triplication, quadruplication are endemic in Mallorca. Why have one organisation when a dozen will do just as well? It all starts at the top of course. At governmental level. President Bauzà is at least trying to address the duplications that exist between regional government, island councils and town halls, but he faces an uphill task in a society which appears to believe in more being better, especially if this means several bodies doing the same as each other.

Is Mallorca's tourism industry disappearing up its own backside of associations? Or did it disappear there some time ago? What on earth do all these different organisations do? Apart from duplications, the impression is of a multiplicity of talking shops and competing and self-interests.

I'll give you a test. Tell me this. What is the difference between the Balearics Tourism Agency, the Fomento del Turismo and the Fundación Mallorca Turismo? Give up? The answer is that the first is part of the regional government's tourism ministry. The second is private with, among others, directors of leading hotel chains on its board. As for the third, this comprises the Council of Mallorca, the Mallorcan hoteliers federation, the chamber of commerce and ... and the Fomento del Turismo. And what do they all they do? Pretty much the same things. Twice over in the case of the Fomento, to say nothing of the hoteliers popping up on both the Fomento and separately on the Fundación.

The Mesa del Turismo? Anyone wish to hazard a guess? No? This is the regional government tourism ministry, the local confederation of businesses and the main trades unions. Cluster Balears.t? What in God's name is this? Hard to say, but it wishes to improve the selling of the Balearics tourism product, which is presumably what all the others want to do as well.

And now we are going to get the mayors' tables. This is a new nest of tables dreamt up by tourism minister Delgado. The mayors of the Balearics can sit around them and come up with ways to improve the quality of the Balearics brand. To do what!? Yes, to improve the Balearics brand. What's it got to do with the mayors? And there we were also thinking that Delgado had cottoned onto the idea that you brand what the tourist punter recognises (Mallorca for example) and not the unrecognisable, be it Calvia or the Balearics.

Then you come to the associations for businesses, those for the hotels and those primarily for the complementary offer, i.e. anything to do with tourism which isn't a hotel.

Acotur, the association of tourist businesses (appropriately enough) has, as an example of its efforts, been talking to Alcúdia's mayor about pressing concerns in the resort, one of them being the scale of illegal street selling. It has actually (and unsuccessfully) been trying to do something about this for years, producing notices of a "Grange Hill" "just say no" style to ask tourists not to buy from the looky-looky men.

The mayor will probably do nothing, other than say that the police are looking into it and to remind everyone that there is a local by-law that outlaws street selling (and indeed the purchase of illegally traded products), which does raise the question as to why an individual town hall needs to have a separate law or to act unilaterally, a point which Pimeco (small to medium businesses association), and not Acotur, wishes to address by getting all 53 local councils to unify in a grand anti-looky action.

I apologise. I can well imagine that you are totally lost by now. It is small wonder though. So many bodies, so many doing the same things, and so many failing to achieve anything. Mallorca. Guilty by associations.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's bunting returns

Following the torching by vandals of the ribbons over the Plaça Major in Pollensa at the weekend, the town hall, under pressure thanks to a Facebook campaign, has relented, and new bunting is being put up with the help of many volunteers from the town in readiness for the start of the Patrona festivities today.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 July 2011

A fine, sunny morning with temperatures just over 20 degrees at 08.00. Should be a good enough day with highs of around 28 and the forecast for tomorrow (Wednesday) is looking better with the possibility of some rain lowering.

Some cloud in the afternoon and also a drop of rain. Muggy feel with local highs just short of 29 degrees (inland in Pollensa) to 18.30. Tomorrow morning forecast to be cloudy.

Flick When You're Winning

Spain have failed to add a further World Cup title to the nation's list of footballing honours. They were knocked out in the semi-finals, going down three-one (on aggregate) to Belgium who then succumbed to Italy in the final, the home nation being crowned the 2011 Subbuteo World Cup champions.

The World Cup was played over the last weekend in Palermo. It has fallen in the midst of Mallorca's fiesta season during which all manner of table games are played. Pollensa's Patrona, for instance, has more or less a whole day of such games.

Table football games, eclipsed by PlayStation and what have you, still hold a place in nations' affections, and the Spanish are one of these nations. The most obvious of the games is table football itself, a crash-bang-wallop of wrist action and toe-ended attempts on goal. Though some finesse is required, as in the manoeuvring of the ball under close control in order to set up the shot, it is a deeply unsatisfactory game. It is inflexible, a rod of players that can only ever move in formation, square across the pitch, as though they were Ray Wilkinses on a steel pole.

Table football, though, is a survivor. It is still with us in bars in Mallorca and elsewhere. And here, as with with the full English breakfast tradition, is an opportunity for Bar Brits. International table football tournaments. Put them on over a few days in a resort like Alcúdia and they would be a recipe for fierce national pride and considerable drinking among any number of nationalities.

But more sophisticated, more refined, more skilful would be the Subbuteo tournament. Though there is greater potential for harm to be caused to Subbuteo players than to those on a rod of iron, there is a code of conduct that is applied by the Federation of International Sports Table Football, of which the Spanish Association Española de Jugadores de Futbol de Mesa is a member. Anyone guilty of snapping an arm or the legs of a Subbuteo player is subject to disciplinary procedures (I'm not kidding, you can have a look for yourselves on the federation's website).

Subbuteo was always the Barcelona of table football to the hard-working, long-ball, huff-and-puff of table football itself. The spin around an opposing player to effect a deft touch on the ball, a push to the right with a gentle flick by the index finger and, in seemingly one movement, the unleashing of a shot past a despairing goalkeeper, skewered like a kebab on the end of a thin metal rod of his own (or in more modern versions, a plastic controller).

My own Subbuteo career spanned some fourteen years. I was only 25 when I decided to hang up my plastic men on plastic domes. It was not an injury that caused my retirement, it was not that I had been unable to cope with the stardom and had gone off the rails in a George Best style (and Subbuteo never produced a drunken George as such). I called it a day because I knew I had reached my peak.

In 1980 I played the perfect Subbuteo game, one of high tempo, fabulous flicking, slick spinning and passing. It was the enactment of the Everton-West Ham FA Cup semi-final. My hapless Hammers opponent was brushed aside; he was given a Subbuteo footballing lesson. It was his Hidegkuti and Puskas moment. Brian Kidd bagged five, and the result was 11-0.

In the World Cup just played, Spain had a player called Flores. He was the one to register the one in the 3-1 aggregate loss to Belgium. In an otherwise dull encounter (2-0, 1-0, 2-1 to the Belgians in the three other match-ups), Flores trounced Dehur 10-2. Subbuteo has flowered thanks to the Spaniard Flores, just as it had 31 years ago. And despite going out in the semis, it proved that Subbuteo is alive and flicking in Spain.

With this in mind, I propose a grand Subbuteo bar tournament, one to bring the nations of Mallorca together. But I would only be a spectator. I've had my day. It's a young man's sport now, demanding highly trained index fingers as opposed to those whose training was mainly confined to curling around a pint glass. But I would hope that an English champion could emerge, one who could be encouraged by our singing "flick when you're winning, you only flick when you're winning". Because in Subbuteo, if you are not flicking then you cannot be winning.

Any comments to please.

Monday, July 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's auditorium in doubt

It has been announced that ten days before the local elections the regional government tourism ministry informed Pollensa town hall that a grant of five million euros towards the cost of the long-projected auditorium was to be withdrawn, information that was not made public at the time. The new administration is now faced with having to decide whether the project should go ahead on a less grand scale, though there are doubts as to whether funds from the presidential ministry will be forthcoming either.

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro beach fines

New regulations pertaining to Playa de Muro make clear the sort of fines that could be levied for a range of unacceptable behaviours. These includes fines of up to 1500 euros for urinating on the beach or in the sea while others cover such matters as domestic animals and musical instruments or players.

MALLORCA TODAY - Tourism ministry decides hotel concerts are ok

A couple of months after having said that it did not have the competency to permit concerts open to the general public in hotels, such as those at Mallorca Rocks in Magalluf, the ministry now says that such concerts do indeed conform with tourism law, thus appearing to take away the lingering threat to these concerts taking place.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 July 2011

A really quite chilly night with temperatures down to 14 degrees has given way to a generally sunny and bright morning, but still with a threat of some more rain. Current local highs, at 08.30, under 20 degrees. Maximums today to 27, but the forecast remains unsettled through to Wednesday.

A big improvement today. Some cloudy spells but also a lot of warm sun, with local highs just short of 29 degrees. Tomorrow there is due to be cloud around at times for much of the day and then also on Wednesday, the cloud being heavier in the morning.

From Russia Without Love

At the end of the last century a mere 8,000 or so Russian tourists came to the Balearics. By 2010 the number had climbed to over 34,000. This year the total (taking in also visitors from the Ukraine) has been projected to rise to 90,000. It is still not an enormous number, but such growth has implications for all manner of reasons, not least for the demographic melting-pot that is the holidaymaking collective in Mallorca.

There are other implications, such as what the heck the Mallorcans will make of attempting to put everything into Cyrillic script and inevitably getting it wrong. And they are surely bound to get it wrong.

The Russians, as a rule, don't speak Spanish and they're not much better when it comes to English. And no one speaks Russian. Communication is going to be a big challenge, but not the biggest; and this brings you to the melting-pot, one that might just have the potential to boil over.

Let's cut to the chase. The Russians are not exactly well liked. Years of antagonism between different nationalities on holiday will draw to a close as a united, western European front is formed against the Russian invasion. Remarkably, the British are likely to be brought into a grand holidaymaker alliance, with their old foes the Germans calling on their one-time enemy to join in a whole new battle of the sunbeds.

The Germans have a deep-rooted dislike of the Russians, and the feeling is entirely mutual; Stalingrad and all that. Russian paranoia, a national trait and the one that for centuries has caused the Russians to be constantly seeking ways of repelling enemies, imagined or real, is now being reinforced by treatment that the Russian tourist receives.

Tensions with the Germanic peoples, and let us not forget that a certain German was actually born in Austria, has been evident in the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbühel, which decided to limit the number of Russian visitors to 10% of the whole. The decision was taken because of the Russians' loud and brash behaviour.

Anti-Russian feeling is certainly not limited to the Germans and Austrians. The British have been taking as hard a line, as can be seen in some comments emanating from Trip Advisor. Take these two for a hotel in Marmaris in Turkey. "Ignorant Russians can spoil the mood." "If you want to punch a Russian clap your hands." On another internet forum, someone wrote: "The problem is that they are not ordinary, decent Russians but crooks and apparatchiks who have come into money without doing an honest day's work."

The Dutch have a dislike of the Russians almost as strong as an historic loathing of the Germans, so much so that following huge numbers of complaints from Dutch tourists there is now such a thing as "tours without Russians" being promoted.

The mixing of cultures in Mallorca's resorts has not always gone smoothly, but for the most part there has been a tolerance bred from familiarity. Brits and Germans may have their differences but they have reached an accommodation over the years. They might even actually like each other now, and one would hope so. On the principle that travel broadens the mind, then going on holiday should break down the stereoptyping and the antagonisms. Which ultimately will be the case with the Russians, but for now, in addition to accusations of rudeness and ignorance, there is more than a suggestion that much of the negativity towards the Russians comes from resentment; that they have acquired wealth where they previously didn't have it and are not shy in flaunting it, especially the women.

The generalisation as to how this wealth has come about gives rise to the type of comment quoted above and to jibes of mafia and oligarchs. Put Russians together with Germans in Arenal, and the Germans will not like it not just because they simply can't stand the Russians but also because they know that an Abramovich could, were he minded to, come along and buy Arenal. It is the shifting of Europe's economic tectonic plates, however the money has been acquired, that lies behind the resentment.

The widening of Mallorca's tourism base should be welcomed by everyone, but such a development adds to the peculiar social phenomenon associated with holidays, that of nationalism and territorialism. The "old world" of western Europe's tourism - the Brits, the Dutch, the Germans and so on - have, grudgingly in many instances, come to accept each other, but acceptance of the "new world" of eastern Europe and of Russia in particular is going to take some doing. Mallorca's tourism industry should understand what it's letting itself in for.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 July 2011

Early temperatures are at best to around 20 degrees on what is a largely cloudy morning, with some dark stuff over the mountains. The morning's freshness follows a night that was unusually cool - duvet weather just about. The threat of rain for today and tomorrow is still there. Today's highs - 26 is being forecast.

The rain came in from around 9am and has stayed on and off through the day, at times heavy. Little sun and temperatures at 20 degrees by the coast and a couple of degrees lower inland.

Some rain risk tomorrow and cloud now being forecast through till Wednesday.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa fiesta ribbons set fire to

The ribbons that flutter over Pollensa's Plaça Major for the Patrona fiesta are no longer fluttering. They were set fire to early yesterday morning, causing damage to terrace furniture of bars in the square. This vandalism appears to be linked to an outbreak of graffiti that occurred the night before.

The Gas Man Shouldn't Cometh

Insult to injury. The injury has been the inexorable rise in price of energy, both gas and electricity. At least with electricity you don't have to do anything, other than inspect your bills for the latest little stunt that Endesa is trying to pull. Gas, on the other hand, and by which in a Mallorcan context mainly means butane, is a different matter.

The insult to the injury of a bottle of butane now setting you back just shy of 15 euros is the antediluvian nature of the service. It is one which places the onus largely on the consumer. There are doubtless those who consider the fact that you, as a consumer, have to do the fetching and carrying as quaintly reassuring of a Mallorcan bygone era that is otherwise being lost amidst the other inexorable rise - that of development - but I am not one of them. You have to go and get the damn gas.

The further insult is the organisation, or lack of it, that currently obtains at the gas-collection "station" in Puerto Alcúdia.

The gas truck is located in a residential street near to the commercial port. It always has been located there. The organisation has tended to work reasonably enough, insofar as one accepts that one should have to even bend to the demand of this organisation of supply. But not since vehicles came to be parked all along what is a fairly narrow street.

For those unfamiliar with the routine, let me explain. You drive into the road, go past the gas truck, turn round and then come back and queue behind other cars. This is how it normally works. But the parking which has suddenly occurred makes the turning around a virtual impossibility. It can be done, but it ain't easy, and is made less easy by the fact that one pavement is raised that high that you risk smashing your car front or back as you perform a twenty-three point turn.

But because of the cars that are parked, there is barely enough room to get past firstly the gas truck and secondly the line of cars that has managed to turn round. The result of all this, as I discovered yesterday, is chaos. It needs a copper, or some Repsol official, to be on traffic duty.

This gas "station" serves a pretty wide area. Years ago I made a foolish assumption that every town would have one, but this isn't so. The demand on the Alcúdia station, and the truck has been known to run out, merely adds to what chaos can ensue.

There are of course other ways of getting the butane. Some petrol stations sell it, and then there is the home delivery. But this is also adding insult. You can no longer be sure when the truck's going to turn up. You know the day, but as to the time?

In that quaint bygone era, you could leave your empty bottle out, put the money with it and the chap would perform the swap without your having to be there. Not now. You can try it, but chances are that while the money might have been accepted by the "butanero" and the bottle indeed swapped, someone will have come along and nicked the new, full bottle. So, to avoid the risk you have to make sure you're in. And therefore wait until whatever time the chap appears. And it has also not been unknown for him to run out.

The point about all this is that the increases in price of butane take no account of the inconvenience to the consumer who also, never let it be forgotten, risks hernia or back injury when lifting the damn bottles. The service, such as it is, is a two-fingers-up, take-it-or-leave-it throwback to an era when you didn't complain, when the consumer was expected to be meekly compliant.

The diffusion of natural gas cannot come quickly enough. The butane system is archaic and anachronistic. It is not a service for a modern economy and a modern society. Yes, there will be parts of Mallorca which will retain a reliance on butane, just as there are parts of the UK which demand butane or propane supply, but the persistence of the current system reinforces the fact that Mallorca's infrastructure, woefully inadequate for years, has improved in leaps and bounds to the extent that modern systems of supply are now expected and should no longer be tolerated.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Air Europa is Balearics' best-performing company

The airline Air Europa was the best-performing company in the Balearics in 2009, according to comparative figures just released. Its total sales amounted to 1,102,485,000 euros. Of the top ten best performers, all were from the general tourism sector, with the exception of GESA, the energy company.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 July 2011

Some cloud about again this morning and not especially warm by 08.00, temperatures locally ranging from 18 to 22 degrees. The forecast is for cloud during the day and for more on Sunday with that risk of rain being quite strong. For the week coming, the cloud will tend to break up.

The cloud has stayed around all day, with only short bursts of sun coming through. Temperatures not spectacular. Local high (Alcúdia) just under 25 degrees today.

The rain possibility for tomorrow morning has lessened a bit, but there is now also a chance of rain on Monday.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics had highest hotel occupancy in June

The Balearics registered the highest hotel occupancy (82%) in June, coming at the top of the list of the different autonomous regions of Spain. Among the six towns in Mallorca to rank highest in terms of June occupancy were Alcúdia, Muro (Playa de Muro) and Santa Margalida (Can Picafort).

De Do Do Doggy Doo Doos

It's one of those nice dogs. On the small side, distinctly scatty and mongrelish, with blond woolly hair that hints vaguely of poodle, it isn't in the least bit precious or snooty as poodles can be. It has a jolly old time this dog. It does a fair bit of spontaneous barking for no obvious reason, indulges in some car worrying, takes itself off for merry little trots around the neighbourhood.

Yes, merry little trots around the neighbourhood. Minus a chaperone. The neighbourhood is by the beach. The dog came romping across the sand, wearing one of those looks that dogs have which suggest they've been up to no good. It stopped, had a gander, woofed at a lilo and then promptly urinated by the beach fence, a fence used as a touchline for kids' beach football games.

Beaches are meant to be no-go areas for dogs. They are go areas in winter when no one much takes any notice and when no one much is rolling around in or lying on the sand. In summer, however, whether with a chaperone or not, dogs should give a beach a wide berth. The trouble is that when a dog is flying solo, it has a habit of going where the hell it likes.

Dogs are incredibly stupid animals. They can of course be trained and conditioned. They can demonstrate some "intelligence", but their innate stupidity governs their inability to appreciate the fact that they are perambulating and indiscriminating toilets. The dog exists, as with other animals, for one purpose. Sorry, two purposes. One is to micturate, the other is to defecate. Were a dog capable of a Descartian "cogito ergo sum", it would be expressed as "I crap, therefore I am (a dog)". And more to the point, I crap wherever takes my fancy. Such as the beach.

The dog question is one that seems always to be with us. Along with inflated prices, it is a sine qua non on the list of tourist complaints (and not just tourists, it must be said). I myself have developed over the years a demeanour akin to David Carradine in "Kung Fu". Head permanently bowed, not in humility but in the constant look-out for Rover's message from a bottom.

I don't normally do requests, but recently someone said to me that I should do something about the dog question. So, here it is. But of course, I fall into the trap myself. This piece has started with the abysmally meaningless word "nice". There again, dogs are often nice. They look nice. They act in a nicely ridiculous fashion, and so we all love man's best friend.

Man's best friend. It's a tag that does disguise the true nature of the man-dog symbiosis. The dog looks upon man not as his mate but as his meal ticket; it has at least had the nous to work this out. And man isn't and wasn't daft. Had he not started to feed the dog, he wouldn't have been the meal ticket, he would have been the meal. Thus began the relationship, one in which, because of the provision of the meal, has simply added to the dog question. It eats, therefore it must defecate.

The British have long been guilty of sentimental anthropomorphism where it comes to dogs. The Spanish, on the other hand, have a hard-earned reputation as dog and animal abusers, one they haven't completely shaken off. They are, though, becoming as guilty as the Brits in assigning human values to the dog.

At Alcúdia's Sant Jaume fiesta, there is something called the "Puppy Party". Such cutesiness has echoes of the way in which the British managed to make nice (that word again) what dogs do, when the Poop Scoop was introduced. Make it all sound like the kindergarten and we can gloss over what is really going on, except when the kindergarten is struck down with toxicariasis, having had a day out on the beach.

This puppy party is in fact some sort of dog training event. It is organised by the Balearics centre for dog psychology.

A scientific starting-point for human psychology is a study of the brain. Perception, the link between the eye and brain, is crucial. Consequently, dog or any other animal psychology is a form of anthropomorphism, as we express how dogs perceive something in human terms. It isn't a pointless exercise, despite dogs' stupidly small brains, but more meaningful would be a puppy party for dog owners. For those who let their dogs go for merry little trots around the neighbourhood and to go onto beaches full of tourists and do what all dogs do. Doggy doo doos.

Any comments to please.

Friday, July 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 July 2011

A fair bit of cloud around this morning, as had been forecast. The sea is also a bit turbulent, suggesting that some unsettled weather is about. Local high at 07.30 is 22.7 with 28 a predicted maximum later on.

Cloud for much of the day and temperatures have fallen, the local highs today being just under 24 degrees in Puerto Pollensa and Alcúdia. Cloud on the cards tomorrow and the rain possibility for Sunday morning now up to 60%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Alternativa joins Pollensa "junta"

In what might seem a surprise move, the Alternativa per Pollença has agreed to join with the Partido Popular and La Lliga to form part of Pollensa town hall's administration. The Alternativa will though remain in opposition. Its hope is to bring its ideas to the running of the town hall and so make for greater transparency and better representation. Pepe Garcia will be the party's representative.

The Sick Man Of Mallorca: Chemists

The chap who runs my local pharmacy, who I suppose I should therefore refer to as the pharmacist, habitually wears a resigned expression. It is one that has been forlornly chiselled from years of what happens over the counter.

This sufferance is at its most patient when he has been on the receiving end of a German interrogation. "They ask so many questions," he once sighed. Observing a German tourist in full chemist-shop inquisition mode confirms what he says. The boxes of creams, pills, sprays are first examined and the leaflet then removed and gone through item by item, a difficult enough process if you can read and speak Spanish but considerably more so if you can't.

Get in a chemist shop queue behind a bunch of Germans and you are most likely to die before it comes to your turn. However, as I pointed out to the pharmacist, his fellow island men and women could test the patience of any saintly Joan, Jaume or Cati the chemist. His resigned expression can swiftly turn to a laugh.

Mallorcans have an unnerving habit of repeating everything you say to them. In the pharmacy, such parrotting results in delays that not even German hypochondriacs could cause (and trust me when I say that Germans are hypochondriacs; it's a consequence of their health system).

Another unnerving Mallorcan habit, one especially among older Mallorcan stock, is to stare blankly at an interlocutor once the exchange has supposedly ended. The blankness demands that the whole exchange is then repeated. Not once more but at least twice more. An ingrained and conditioned compliance with Spanish bureaucracy demands that any encounter is done in triplicate, and the chemist shop encounter is no different.

The British tourist, on the other hand, is unlikely to delay the pharmacist for too long. Indeed, the encounter can be over very swiftly if the Brit tourist senses he or she might not be being understood and so leaves in embarrassment. But actually verbalising symptoms is rarely necessary. Pointing is a universal language, as in pointing at a violent sunburn, at a throbbing head and a green tinge to the gills, at a Vesuvian mosquito eruption.

Ask yourselves this. What is the most important service required by a tourist? A bar, a supermarket, a taxi? No, none of these. It's the chemists. It's why I am full of admiration of my pharmacist, his fellow pharmassistants, and indeed all other pharmacy personnel in Mallorca's tourist areas. Just think what they have to put up with. Next time you see Helga from Hamburg dissecting the meaning of all the "uso de otros medicamentos" etc., then you'll begin to understand why I am sympathetic to their cause.

And this cause is all the greater because they don't get paid what they should get paid.

Publicity that has been given to the rotten state of finances at the tourism ministry has tended to overshadow the fact that IB-Salut, the regional health authority, is also on the critical list. It is IB-Salut that is meant to divvy up to the pharmacies, and it hasn't. For May and June, some 36 million euros remain unpaid. The chemists are threatening to pull down the shutters on 29 July and it is uncertain how long they might keep them down.

There would still be a chemist in a local area that stays open, but the convenience of having five chemists, which, as an example, is the case in Puerto Alcúdia, would go.

Shutting the shop might seem like cutting off the chemist's nose to spite his face, but unlike the pathetic attempt by bars to protest against the effects of the smoking ban by closing for a few hours (a protest only undertaken by a collection of bars in Palma and one that had absolutely no impact), this lockout is potentially far more serious and far more meaningful.

Everything in Mallorca pretty much links in with tourism, and the chemists are no exception. They are, as I suggest, one of the most important tourism services. There is going to be some major inconvenience if the chemists go ahead with their threat and if it is observed with anything like solidarity. Idiot barowners closing for a couple of hours is irrelevant, airport workers striking can be put down to bolshy unions, but chemists effectively going on strike is a very different matter. When people's health comes into the equation, the potential harm to reputation and image is way greater than anything that baggage handlers or air-traffic control can conjure up.

It needs sorting out, and it needs sorting out pretty damn quick.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia supper decision attacked

Although Alcúdia's Sant Jaume fiesta programme has not suffered dramatic cuts to its schedule, one event that is conspicuous by its absence is the open-air supper and bingo. The decision not to include this event, which has attracted up to 3,000 people, has been attacked by Pere Malondra of the PSOE. It should be noted that it has been normal for those attending the supper to pay. It was three euros per person last year.

MALLORCA TODAY - Hotel Formentor announcement criticised

The plan to redevelop the Hotel Formentor in Puerto Pollensa has run up against opposition from groups represented at Pollensa town hall. The PSM argues that special privileges should not be extended to the hotel, while the Alternativa per Pollença claims that the Partido Popular-La Lliga pact at the town hall has not consulted other parties over the plan. This is likely to be a recurring theme of the town hall administration as the PP-La Lliga rule with a minority.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 July 2011

A coolish night and early morning, temperatures around 18 degrees at 07.00. A clear and sunny morning and a clear day expected to follow, with highs to 29 degrees. There is the prospect of cloud tomorrow morning, while the rain threat for Sunday appears to have lessened.

Really nice day. As yesterday, it has not been overly hot, coastal temperatures at just over 26 degrees, and there has been a decent breeze. Just about right. Why would you want it hotter?

Tomorrow - there may well be cloud around first thing, but it will brighten up. Saturday is looking as though there may be more by way of cloud and Sunday still has a 50% chance of a spot of rain, especially in the morning.

The Seven Pillars Of Tourism Wisdom

Exceltur is the "alliance for touristic excellence". It is a body that comprises some of Spain's leading hotel groups (and therefore Mallorca's hotel groups as many of them are Mallorcan) as well as travel agencies, car-rental agencies, financial services companies and more. Its remit, as you might gauge from what it stands for, is to look at how to improve and develop Spanish tourism. As part of this mission, it undertakes annual surveys of tourism competitiveness in the different regions of Spain.

The survey for 2010 (MoniTUR - very clever) has just been published. A collaboration with the consultancy group Deloitte, the new survey doesn't make great reading for the Balearics. The islands are still in the top half of Spain's regions, but they have slipped one place to sixth. In itself, this doesn't sound particularly dramatic, but when you study closely the so-called "seven pillars" of competitiveness that form the basis of the survey, it is.

Of the seven regions that lost competitive value in 2010, the loss by the Balearics is greater than that of any other region. Of the seven "pillars", a gain has been made in only two, one of which (economic and social results) is insignificant. The other gain, that in transport accessibility and connections, is significant. More of this below.

The other five measures all register a fall. The two greatest are in "diversification and categorisation of tourism products" and in "strategic marketing vision and commercial support". This latter measure has tumbled almost ten points compared with 2009. Only one other region of Spain has performed worse - Murcia - and it is one of the least competitive parts of the country.

As with strategic vision, only one autonomous community does worse when it comes to diversification, the Basque Country. Yet, diversification has meant to have been one of the "big things". You might remember what this entails. Golf, hiking, gastronomy, culture ... . Do you really want me to go on?

Diversification and the vision thing are two sides of the same coin, a badly minted one in Balearics terms. One, diversification, leads from the other. Or at least I think this is how it's meant to go. A problem, however, is what strategic marketing vision means. In consultancy management speak, very little usually. But we can just about suss what they're on about: lack of leadership, lack of planning, lack of any meaningful action. In the Spanish league table of tourism competitiveness, the collective Balearics tourism officialdom has been the Avram Grant - they haven't known what they've been doing.

This isn't completely true. The disgraced ex-tourism minister Miguel Nadal knew full well what he was doing. Allegedly. Unfortunately, it wasn't anything to do with tourism. And Nadal did have a strategy institute that he could call on at the ministry, the now defunct Inestur, up to its neck in as much alleged wrongdoing as the one-time minister.

But let's not dwell too much on the past. A whole bright new tourism competitiveness future beckons for the Balearics, thanks to he In Whom We Trust. Unlike his predecessors, who gave the impression of not having graduated beyond the Janet and John book of tourism clichés, Carlos Delgado does seem to get it. He appears to have been on the 101 course of Strategic Marketing for New Balearics Tourism Ministers, if an observation as to how Calvia should be spoken about in marketing terms is anything to go by. Don't call it Calvia, because no one knows where Calvia is or what it is. Do call the individual resorts Santa Ponsa, Magalluf and so on. It's an encouraging start. Blindingly obvious to anyone other than a tourism official, but encouraging nonetheless.

And Delgado will, we hope, set in motion some diversification. Converting Mallorca into one giant theme park is an excellent idea. Not that he has actually said this, but he has given encouragement to the idea of theme parks that the enviro-lobby have hitherto so successfully managed to boot into the long grass of a finca or several.

So, next year we can look forward, with any luck, to MoniTUR giving the Balearics some better marks. But there just remains this business of transport accessibility and connections, the one area of improvement, according to the report. Which connections is it referring to exactly? Those with Germany? With Russia? Yes, both good and getting better. The UK? In winter?

Strategic marketing vision and diversification are fine. They can lead to new products and new opportunities for tourism. But they're not much use if no one can get a flight. Or perhaps the UK isn't part of the strategic marketing vision.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Bellevue hotel group bankrupt

The Hotetur chain of hotels, formerly part of the Grupo Marsans and now under Posibilitum, is expected to shortly be declared by a judge in Madrid to have entered voluntary bankruptcy. The chain includes the Alcúdia hotels Bellevue and Lagomonte.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa town hall wants Formentor hotel development

Pollensa town hall is in discussion with the regional tourism ministry to unblock permission for the iconic Hotel Formentor in Puerto Pollensa to be redeveloped and so permit the creation of at least an additional 100 places. A stumbling block to redevelopment has been compensation to landowners that might be affected.

MALLORCA TODAY - Chemists in Mallorca threaten not to open

Pharmacies in Mallorca, owed millions of euros by the regional government through the indebted public health authority, IB-Salut, are threatening to close on 29 July unless they are paid. Chemists would therefore open only for emergencies and on a "guardia" basis, i.e. those shops in a local area which maintain service in any event when others are shut. The duration of this closure has yet to be decided, while the chemists are also considering other measures, such as not accepting "electronic prescriptions" (which many do not like anyway).

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 July 2011

A calm early morning, temperatures by 07.00 at 21 degrees, and a fine day being anticipated with maximums of 27. The forecast into the weekend is looking a bit dodgy with Sunday showing a high possibility of rain.

Again, it has not been an especially hot day, but very pleasant with a good breeze. Highs around 26 degrees.

The World's Most Popular Breakfast

The bacon must be lean; crispy but certainly not incinerated. The egg yolk should be runny but white sealed and without pools of what comes from a docker's nose. The tomato should, on no account, be from a tin and therefore not be a tomato. The sausage should, like the bacon, be reasonably well done and not be pink inside. The beans' sauce should not have acquired a glutenous state.

I am, you might realise, somewhat fastidious when it comes to the full English. I don't mind confessing both that I demand high standards and that I actually eat full Englishes. They are a guilty pleasure. Firstly, because it is claimed that they aren't necessarily good for you (I'd dispute this). Secondly, because consuming the full English is being oh so British. I should eschew the bacon 'n' eggs in favour of going-native breakfasting, which means the ensaïmada. Sorry, but if I'm going to have any lard, I want it with sausage and not in the form of a twirly thing with a sugar coating. The ensaïmada is rubbish. Over sweet, over hyped and over here.

It is a short pastry step from the execrable ensaïmada to the puffed-up contortion of the croissant. The two are dough to the pretentious fellow travellers of anything but the full English. And neither is any good.

The croissant is not originally French, but French it has become. Because it is French, as with anything else that can be noshed or imbibed that has a French label, the French would claim it to be superior to anything from anywhere else. Such culinary jingoism makes it the more surprising, therefore, that the French themselves have placed the full anglais in the number-one position on the breakfast chart.

A poll by has revealed that 19% of French people rate the full English as being number one. The survey of 2,400 travellers from more than 20 countries in all finds that the F.E. is the most popular first meal of the day.

The breakfasting habits of different nationalities can be hard to comprehend. The Dutch are arguably the maddest of all. Whatever made them think that putting little bits of chocolate onto bread and butter was a good thing? Probably the same thought process that has led them to eating raw herrings. They simply have no idea. Yet the Dutch, giants that they are, should thoroughly enjoy getting stuck into a full English. As should the Germans and the Scandinavians, and most obviously the Danes who, rather than eating Danish bacon, export most of it to the UK.

The discovery that the full English is in fact the world's number one breakfast should come as no surprise, as it quite obviously is the best, and should cause Bar Brits across Mallorca to stop and think for a moment.

The much-spoken-of gastronomy of Mallorca is naturally enough Mallorcan, but some of it, the ensaïmada clearly, is lousy. Both the lousy and the not lousy gets itself a fair amount of the spotlight, but what of the gastronomy that isn't Mallorcan?

One of the most bizarre reasons I have heard as to why a restaurant should not advertise was one offered by an Italian restaurant. People don't come to Mallorca to eat Italian food was the argument. If this is so, then it begs a pretty fundamental question as to why the restaurant exists.

The argument was rubbish, because "Italian" has its own power to promote and to attract. So why not, therefore, "British" or "English"? Because of the association with Bar Brit and consequently with tattoos, bellies, white-turning-pink skin and Sky, this gastronomy is ignored. Yet, it can boast the best breakfast in the world, one that can come in different varieties. It could be, for instance, the grand full English, that which might be served at Simpson's-in-the-Strand (nearly twenty quid for the real thing or "the ten deadly sins" to include also kidneys and bubble and squeak). It could come with accompanying Guinness - in a bottle and not out of some peculiar can with a syrup. It could be promoted as the "world's most popular breakfast".

Bar Brits could co-operate in pushing a gastronomy fair of their own, directed at the nationalities who come to Mallorca (and who also live here) and who are unaware of the great British fry-up. They could educate as to quite why a bean has been covered in a tomatoey sauce; advance the cause of the black pudding which isn't, after all, that far removed from local sausages about which a song and dance is made.

The world's most popular breakfast. Now get frying.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 July 2011

A blowy morning. Cool air has moved in, which meant a fall in temperatures yesterday. Chances of cloudy intervals today, but currently - at 09.00 - sunny and highs of 25.

A little bit of rain around this morning, the cloud largely blew away on what has been a fresh breeze, but temperatures have still nudged 30 degrees today.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

What every girl dreams. If she lives in Santa Margalida. At the weekend, Francisca Oliver Fornés was chosen to be La Beata, the saint Catalina Thomàs. Requirements for being selected include having participated as an attendant in previous Beata ceremonies, being church-going, single and eighteen. To be nominated as La Beata is quite some honour. The fiesta in September is often referred to as Mallorca's most traditional, La Beata herself acting out the refusal to be tempted by the devil.

Single, eighteen, not necessarily church-going and not necessarily inclined to turn down temptation. The contrast between a weekend ceremony to select the current-day embodiment of a saint and a weekend ceremony of unsaintliness is stark. At a similar time to Francisca's selection, the Districte 54 party in Sa Pobla was rumbling. The mayor of Sa Pobla has been forced to apologise to the people of the town. Mess, noise, lack of respect, excessive drinking. What on earth had he expected?

The mayor had wanted the party reinstated as part of the town's fiestas. It was largely his doing that it took place this year. It was he who had criticised the previous administration for not staging it last year. It was he who said that it brought economic benefits and a load of people from across the island.

He was not wrong in respect of the numbers attending. But the numbers, as with other fiesta parties, are swelled by those who, thanks to social networks, know full well that there's to be a botellón. The street-drinking parties are happening everywhere. Organised through Facebook and what have you, they are creating attendances at the parties so large that villages and towns cannot cope. They are being overwhelmed by people, by drunkenness and violence. I ask again: what on earth had the mayor expected?

Districte 54, more than most of the parties, is a magnet for trouble. It's why it was banned last year. Nevertheless, the town decided to go ahead with it again, with the result that the police had to respond to numerous complaints and the medical services were needed to treat those who were totally off their faces.

Mayor Serra says that there will not be a repetition; that if the party happens again, it won't take place slap bang in the centre of the town. It might find a convenient finca somewhere in the countryside, which is what they have done in Maria de la Salut, and the parties there pass off without much incident.

Whether it happens again or not, the trouble at Districte 54 is further evidence of the degree to which the fiesta parties have grown in size to the point at which they are out of control. The wishes of town halls to limit street drinking botellóns, as in Pollensa, are not being met because the social networks enable people to find ways around whatever controls might be put in place. The town halls seem to have failed utterly to comprehend how modern communications work.

The traditional Mallorcan fiesta has broken down and has been taken over by DJs and cheap booze. And this breakdown in tradition isn't simply one that can be styled as being down to the generation gap. There is a division also within generations. Which is what Francisca represents. While she was being named Santa Margalida's Beata, the Santa Margalida herself was being defiled in Sa Pobla; Districte 54 was part of the Santa Margalida festivities.

The coincidence of this is one thing; the contrast another. Over one weekend in July, two separate happenings highlighted the way in which Mallorcan youth has split. The requirement for a Beata aspirant to demonstrate her good Catholic credentials seems almost quaint now. The church has lost much meaning for and support among the younger generation.

If you had to choose between the two, you would opt for Districte 54 and its attendant troubles as being more representative of Mallorcan youth than Francisca and La Beata. And if you do opt so, it kills, once and for all, the myth of Mallorcan (and Spanish) youth being unlike their British counterparts. You might recall that some while ago a report established that the level of alcohol intake among Spanish teenagers was as high if not higher and the frequency of drinking greater than that of British kids.

Of course, you can't and shouldn't tar every Mallorcan teenager and young person with the same alcoholic or violent brush, just as you shouldn't the British youth, but what can be said with some certainty is that a societal shift isn't underway; it has already happened. Temptation has been taken. And no amount of saintliness will put the devil back in the box.

Any comments to please.

Monday, July 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Districte 54 causes problems again

The Districte 54 night party in Sa Pobla, reintroduced this year by the new ruling Partido Popular administration at the town hall, caused problems on Saturday night of the sort that had seen it scrapped last year. Police received numerous complaints about noise, and mayor Biel Serra has apologised for the mess and the lack of respect shown by those attending the event which became once more a botellón drinking party. He has said that there will not be a repetition.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 July 2011

Yesterday evening saw some potentially stormy weather without there actually being a storm. Things have calmed down now and it is sunny with some cloud about and quite a fresh breeze. Temperatures at 07.30 are up to 22.3.

It's not been a particularly hot day, the high being only 25 degrees on the coast. Quite blustery, some cloud but also plenty of sun.

Mapping Mallorca's Imagination

Cartographic precociousness has left its impression on me. When a child, I drew a map of our village. It hadn't occurred to me at the time - it wouldn't have, as I wasn't cognizant of such politico-arcanum - that I had created a socio-geographic representation. The higher land of the village, to its southerly side, was more than just topographically elevated. It was the domain of the grand, the villa, the church, the upper-class landowning caste.

This affluent scarp on the Surrey landscape towered over the commercial centre of the village, the High Street in other words, and the modern estate of engineers and teachers, an agglomeration of the aspirational lower to middle class with its pretensions to the acquisitiveness of late 1950s and early 1960s new consumerism.

To the northerly end, and on the wrong side of the tracks, thanks to the Aldershot to Waterloo line that sliced through the village, was the council estate, a post-war south London spillover and a place of cars jacked up on bricks and the occasional gypsy encampment.

My map showed all this. Importantly, it wasn't simply a representation, it was a social document, one that was the basis for stories, most of them outrageous fibs of course, that I invented for the people of my village.

Maps, as maps used to be, were acts of faith. You trusted in their accuracy, as you had no way of verifying them. You could see a map, but you couldn't see the truth of it for yourself. Maps were virtual reality before the term was invented. More than this, because maps were shorn of intimacy, they were templates for invention and imagination. They hid stories and histories.

The map, therefore, has served a dual purpose, that of practicality and that of interpretation. The imagination that was released by maps has, however, become dulled. A trend towards three-dimensionalism hastened the emergence of technologies such as exist today, the most extreme removal of imagination being the obscenity of Google Street View.

Such intimacy, such real reality makes archaic some of the most fabulous creations of the cartographer. It would be impossible for Beck to diagrammatically show the London Underground nowadays. He would be considered an idiot. Yet he achieved what should have been an impossibility - functionalism made from the abstract. And in so doing, his map added power to one of London's most enduring stories, that of the mystery of its old tube stations and lines.

Technology has not, however, replaced the map. It has digitalised it, put it onto mobile phones, zoomed into it and out of it, but the map remains, even in its basic, non-intimate state.

The tourist coming to Mallorca is confronted with map after map after map. It is the single most useful piece of information the tourist can have. Some may indeed app a map, but most don't. They seek the utility of something that never folds properly and that flaps in a breeze. Utility is the key, so much so that a tour operator rep once told me that he and colleagues used to have to clean up transfer coaches on which adverts that had surrounded maps handed out to the newly arrived had been discarded. The tourists would tear the ads off and keep the map. Why? Who knows.

For tourists who don't vandalise their maps, utility is served by being able to locate Bar Brit and its steak and chips and Sky TV on the corner of Calle Ikis and Calle E-griega. An advert without a means of locating an establishment for the unknowledgeable tourist isn't a great deal of use, yet many businesses persist in using media that fail to impart such knowledge.

The local maps, of the resorts and towns, and the maps of Mallorca are almost exclusively only used in a functional way. The other purpose of the map, the interpretation, is rarely deployed you would think. Yet take a look at a map of Mallorca and you see all manner of strangeness. The name places themselves are strange. They should conjure up enquiry, but how many do actually enquire? What is it with, say, Biniali or Bunyola or the innuendo of Búger? What are their stories?

Maps should map the imagination. A map of Mallorca should be a map of Mallorca's imagination.

You may remember a time when maps would be put up on walls and pins would be placed on them to denote this or that. You can still stick a pin in a map. Shut your eyes, and when you've stuck the pin in, off you go. To wherever it might be and to whatever story the place on your map is hiding.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 July 2011

Already, by 08.30, reaching 26 degrees inland, a couple of degrees lower on the coast. Quite breezy but also sunny, there is a chance of cloud building up and even of a spot of rain this afternoon. Highs of 31 forecast.

Some cloud did build up but no sign of any rain on what has otherwise been a fabulous summer's day. Hot but with a good enough breeze at times on the beaches. Highs on the coast today have been 32.2.

Getting Into An I Pad-dy: Newspapers

I Pad, U Pad, Wii Pad. We all Pad together.

Unfortunately, for Apple and for newspaper and magazine publishers, we don't. We may in some distant future. But for now, we pad as a small minority.

The publishers are ambivalent to this future. They would happily dispense with one of their biggest cost bases - printing - but they are no nearer creating a business model that satisfactorily digitalises and monetises hard copy into oblivion. Ah but the iPad will be that model. Some might think so; some, like Steve Jobs, would hope so. But the mere newspaper-reading mortal continues to be a Steve Unjobsworthy who hasn't become an Apple organisation man and hasn't been commanded by the contemporary tablets of stone, the ostentatiously styled modern miracle of the iPad tablet and its peers.

There's bad news for newspaper publishers; good news for publishers of magazines. PriceWaterhouseCoopers have reported that whereas revenue from digital magazines is set to "sky rocket", thanks to the iPad, sales of subscriptions of newspapers in this digital form will not be sufficient to offset the fall in print sales.

The iPad is many things, but essentially, for many of its products, its newspaper products, it is merely a digital replacement of the hard copy. The hype, and that also for the iPhone, the Android and any other current-day trickery you care to mention, outstrips the reality. There are many, many users of course. But this doesn't mean that newspapers will suddenly disappear. As pointed out by the UK firm Enders Analysis: "Ten million pay for a daily newspaper in the UK. They spend roughly 30 pounds a month each. There will not be 10 million people spending 30 pounds a month on the iPad any time soon".

In a way, the iPad is an experiment, as is much digital and internet publishing. It is worthwhile playing with, but it is only one aspect of the digital future. Newspaper publishers who see it as the only holy grail of a prosperous non-print new world are seriously deluding themselves. Experiments need to be conducted in different ways, and one is to create a wholly new product (or products) with its own revenue stream. It's thinking out of the box, but the fear is that publishers will be seduced into boxing themselves solely inside the iPad tablet box.

All of which brings us to the "Majorca Daily Bulletin". It is now iPad-able, online in full. At a price. Part of a service under the non-snappy moniker of Kioskoymas, through which we are told "the most complete offer of press of quality" is available, the Bulletin is the only English paper in what is an online iPad-oriented system for Spanish newspaper and magazine publishers. A bizarre aspect of this service, were you minded to want to subscribe to the paper, is that you would need to read Spanish. Obviously you would. They're not going to have an English version to guide you through the online registration and payment process when the service is meant to be for Spanish readers.

And subscription is a not unimportant element. Getting the punter to buy a month or more ahead does wonders for cash planning in the uncertain digital world but it runs counter to consumer psychology. Subscriptions to hard-copy newspapers have only ever been a small part of publishers' businesses. Readers habitually buy daily, a truism for a daily publication. Why would you stump up in advance when you haven't in the past? News International is facing this conundrum along with other more pressing matters.

A solution is an incentive. Yet from what I can make out, unless you have a multiple subscription, i.e. to at least more than one title through Kioskoymas, you pay the going rate. And unless you, as an English reader, are inclined to also read Spanish papers or even able to, then you are not going to have a multiple subscription. Moreover, a month seems to be the minimum subscription period, this being unlike other services which enable you to pay daily.

And one of these services is Orbyt. This was launched last year and features "El Mundo", "La Razón" and other Spanish papers as well as magazines. So Kioskoymas is a rival and a less elegant one than Orbyt, if the websites of the two services are anything to go by. The competition with Orbyt is probably quite significant. The Bulletin is part of the Grupo Serra stable, of which "Ultima Hora" is its biggest-selling paper. And "Ultima Hora" is a competitor with the Balearics version of "El Mundo". For it to have an iPad presence as a rival makes sense, and you wonder if this is the main reason why The Bulletin is now iPad-able; it has been bundled in, but it is "Ultima Hora" that really matters.

The Bulletin might gain from this service, it might not, but fundamentally it cannot be seen as the be all and end all, and this is the message for any newspaper publisher. The iPad is basically a means of cannibalising the product. It is a replacement technique more than it is a new-product technique and it is the latter that publishers need to work on.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 July 2011

A clear, sunny morning, early temperatures locally at 08.00 up to 21 degrees. Highs of 30 anticipated later.

A fair amount of breeze in the afternoon both inland and on the coast, the wind direction shifting southerly and so pushing up temperatures to a coastal high of 31 degrees this afternoon.

In The Middle Of Nowhere

It used to be a restaurant, a different type of restaurant, one that had struggled. The lady owner was pleasant to the point of being jolly, but she couldn't disguise the problems the restaurant experienced. They decided, four years ago, to call it quits.

The restaurant remained closed. A small garden in front of its entrance, hemmed in by a low wall, gathered discarded Coke cans and beer bottles. The alcove of the entrance porch filled with detritus, and the council's street blowers would add to it by scattering leaves into its accommodating enclosure.

Then one day there was activity. For a year, the work involved not just the old restaurant but a unit next to it, a former supermarket which, like the old restaurant, had suffered from little trade.

It hadn't been clear what was being created, until finally the name appeared, the glass frontage became evident and the terrace was laid. It was a new restaurant. A large restaurant, one made from two previously sizeable units. It was classy. From the outside you couldn't have known how big the kitchen was, how well-equipped and modern it was, or that the restaurant bent in an L-shape, so that there was as much again as that which was apparent if you stood in front of it.

The new owners were pleasant as well. It was unfortunate that the work had dragged on so that it hadn't opened until half way through the summer season, but there was optimism. There was, after all, no other restaurant immediately nearby. The parking was easy. There were hotels not far away. There were plenty of holiday homes and permanent residents.

The optimism didn't last long. By the following season pessimism had taken root. The causes were not unfamiliar: all-inclusives; the amounts folks spent nowadays; economic crisis. The redevelopment work had begun to be undertaken before the impact of crisis was apparent. Bad luck?

Not totally. The reasons for the initial optimism were also reasons for wondering as to the wisdom of the restaurant. Having no competitor nearby isn't necessarily an advantage. Being grouped with other restaurants creates an attraction as well as an atmosphere. Isolation can mean neither. A solitary restaurant, let's say, for sake of argument, Can Cuarassa on the bay of Pollensa between Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa, can benefit. It does so through the drama of its location. But the restaurant of our story, though in a pleasant enough location, does not have the same power of landscape or place.

Of the hotels not far away, some are far away enough to be far away, and they are also strongly all-inclusive. The other hotels, which are closer by, are more chic, five-star chic. A strong market you would think. Yes, but this is a strong market which can afford to take taxis to restaurants with more dramatic locations, a clientele that prefers to venture further afield, a clientele not just with money but also with a sense of its own worth, one better catered for by the ambience and gastronomic reputations of the area's old towns or by splendid beachside establishments or by fine finca restaurants in the island's hinterland.

This was intelligence that was known or that could have been sought before the new restaurant was born. There was other intelligence that was known, such as the growing influence of the all-inclusive and the trend towards lower tourist spend that pre-dated the economic crisis. Some of the factors which might have been grounds for optimism were the same ones that had led to the old restaurant closing.

Yet the new one came along. And it replaced not only the old one but grafted on the adjoining unit. How much had it cost? The time alone that was taken on conversion must have meant a significant outlay.

The pessimism grew. And finally, just recently, the restaurant gave up. It is sad to see it go, but it is not a surprise. The model for its business was never there. Its market existed more in the hope than in the reality. Its size was one thing, its location another. It wasn't in the middle of nowhere as such, but it might as well have been. Indeed had it been, it might, blessed by a more remote and more dramatic location, have been more viable.

But even with the knowledge and the market intelligence, would the mistake have been avoided and will the mistake be avoided in the future? Optimism, egotism, blind faith; they can all contribute to the heart ruling the head and making opaque what should be transparently obvious. Similar stories are yet to be told and similar mistakes will keep on being made.

Any comments to please.

Friday, July 15, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 July 2011

Decidedly cooler overnight, almost duvet time, but not quite. A bright and sunny morning, with a local high of 21.6 at 08.30. The temperatures will crank up again today and over the weekend.

It has been a generally sunny day with some cloudy intervals. Temperatures not that high, a local maximum having been just short of 27 degrees. The weekend forecast looks ok with temperatures up to 30 degrees.

The Sun Always Shines On TV

"Summer arrives." And every evening from Monday to Thursday, the Mallorcan summer and everything that is happening during it is presented by Maria Salas. The sun always shines on TV Mallorca. Until it no longer shines.

It might as well in fact rain until September, when TV Mallorca's harvest moon may terminally wane and when the sun will no longer shine. Where once was Maria and her sunny days of a Mallorcan summer will be a blank screen of an endless Mallorcan winter.

Presidents Bauzà and Salom have decided to reach for the off switch: the permanent off switch for the channel. The closure of TV Mallorca is far from unexpected; it's just a question as to when it closes. It has been leeching money and its purpose has been questionable throughout its four years of existence.

There have been suggestions that it could be absorbed into the other Mallorcan television channel, IB3, or that it could become a second IB3 channel - IB3-2 presumably - but neither suggestion has found favour with the hatchet wielders at the regional government and Council of Mallorca.

The decision to close TV Mallorca and to send in a lawyer as its new director-general to oversee its closure has brought forward protests. Two hundred demonstrated in the Plaza España. One might be tempted to suggest that this was the sum of its audience, but that would be unfair. Its now ex-director-general said earlier this year that the channel was watched by 77,000 people on the island, without detailing for how long they watch or how often.

All manner of groups have leapt to the defence of TV Mallorca. They read like a list of the usual suspects on the left: the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB); the Esquerra Unida (the united left); the ecology warriors of GOB (quite what this has to do with them is not clear); PSOE (Francina Armengol, the former president of the Council of Mallorca, calling the closure decision a "political, social and economic error"); the Mallorcan socialist party; and something called the Association of the Memory of Mallorca.

Amidst this little lot there is the unmistakable sound of a political point being made, one that comes back to the Catalan question, though this does rather overlook the fact that IB3 is also a Catalan station.

Questionable though the necessity for TV Mallorca is, the economic error that Armengol has referred to deserves some consideration. In addition to the loss of some one hundred or so jobs, the station costs far less to run than IB3 (its annual budget of 10.5 million euros is a sixth of that of the other station). But as important is the effect that the closure will have on the channel's suppliers (and it should be noted that it is both a television and a radio station).

Some 2,000 employees of these suppliers - production companies and audio-visual equipment providers - are said to be likely to be affected by closing down TV Mallorca. This may not mean that they lose their jobs or that the suppliers themselves have to close, but the loss of the station is clearly not good news for them. Moreover, these suppliers have grown up on the back of both IB3 and TV Mallorca in creating an industrial cluster that shouldn't be underestimated in terms of its significance.

The ParcBit technology park in Palma is home to a number of these audio-visual companies, and the technology park is foremost in being the impulse behind what innovation, development and economic diversification there is in Mallorca. TV Mallorca's role in adding to this impulse may be being overstated but it is nevertheless important. It would be interesting to learn what Josep Aguiló, the regional government's vice-president, makes of the potentially negative impact of shutting TV Mallorca down. With his finance hat on, he would probably argue that it was unavoidable, but he is also in charge of business, employment and industry; the super-ministries that Bauzá has created have the potential to raise conflicts of interest, and Aguiló's has the most potential conflicts.

Even if it is and remains a minority-interest channel, TV Mallorca has a role that is wider than simply being a broadcaster. The government's desire to cut costs is understandable enough, but Armengol is almost certainly right when she refers to the error being made. Unfortunately, the discourse regarding the closure has become a political one, with the inevitable (and not wholly justifiable) hints, evidenced by the support of the likes of the OCB and GOB, that TV Mallorca is a victim of alleged PP anti-Catalanism and anti-regionalism.

Any comments to please.