Monday, December 31, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Demonstrators call for Catalan Lands independence

The annual demonstration to coincide with what some argue should be Mallorca's "day" (31 December) brought some 7,000 people onto the streets of Palma yesterday to call for independence for the Catalan Lands, of which Mallorca and Balearics would be a part. The reports of the number of demonstrators vary, the right-wing "El Mundo" put the figure at only 3,000.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Increase in road deaths in the Balearics in 2012

2012 has seen an increase in the number of people killed in road accidents in the Balearics, the number rising to 54 from 48. This figure is, though, well down on what the level used to be - typically over a hundred deaths a year.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Over 150 bars face sanctions for flouting smoking law

The regional health and consumer directorate in the Balearics has opened 168 actions against bars and restaurants for failure to comply with the smoking law that was introduced at the start of 2011. These actions apply to 2012 and represent a small decrease over 2011.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro residents denounce botellón to the ombudsman

Residents in Muro town, having complained for several years about the mess and noise from a street drinking party (botellón) associated with a club in the town and about town hall inaction, have denounced the botellón and the inaction to the Defensor del Pueblo (equivalent to the ombudsman).

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 9C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West 3 to 4 reaching Southwest 3 to 4 and at times 5 during the evening.

Back to being a cold and bright start, temperatures as low as 4 degrees in parts. Staying sunny with cloud coming in by the evening. New Year's Day prospects have improved, so less risk of rain but Wednesday is looking poor with the snow line down to 800 metres.

Afternoon update (17.00): Plenty of sun - a high of 17.4C (Pollensa) - but also quite a keen breeze at times. 

Divisive: The next Balearics election

The opinion poll which shows a slump in support for the Partido Popular in the Balearics will come as little surprise. Indeed, it would be a surprise had there not been a fall in support.

As the poll indicates that the PP would lose its clear majority and only have 28 deputies after the next election, opposition parties will doubtless claim that the government of José Ramón Bauzá isn't working. But the opposition, PSOE (PSIB) in particular, is in no position to talk about a party not working. The main opposition party, its poll rating finds it stuck where it was at the last election - on the end of a good kicking. Poorly led, only fit to criticise, lacking any agenda or future vision, the party is a rabble. Yet, it should be doing far better, given that the government has staggered from one embarrassment to the next, that its educational policy is a pig's ear of unnecessarily confrontational dogma, its tax policy arrived at on the hoof, its so-called ethics being dragged through the mud of new corruption cases, its negotiations with Madrid over funding lamentable.

The PP isn't, therefore, in bad polling shape. One can be critical of certain austerity policies, such as health, but the Balearics health service was so much in debt there was no obvious alternative to taking the scalpel. Bauzá will be hoping that there will be some bounce in the economy over the next couple of years. He will hope this, but the hope remains remote.

As things stand, were the current polling to translate into performance at the 2015 election, the PP would be left in the uncomfortable position of having to form a coalition. Unless the PP were to do the unthinkable and form a pact with PSOE or the PSM socialists, it would have only two options for a partner, and neither would be attractive to either side.  

The poll gives two seats to both the UPyD and El Pi, the merged La Lliga and Convergència. El Pi, rather like the old Unió Mallorquina, from which the Convergència emerged, might assume its former role of governmental kingmakers in that the UM was typically dragged into coalitions. But there would be two big snags. One comes in the form of its leader, Jaume Font, a former PP minister and no friend of Bauzá's. The second lies with its attitudes towards regionalism and Catalan. While some of its policies would be along similar political lines to the PP, these two would not be. Were it to become a coalition partner with a PP under the current leadership, it would be an example of blatant and opportunistic power-grabbing, and one would wonder how long such a coalition could hold together.

The UPyD, a party with no baggage from the past, the great white hope of a new and cleaner politics, and one with a centrist and market-liberal doctrine, would find it hard to ally with the PP which it has criticised for its acts of favouritism. The UPyD leadership would know that it could set itself back and do itself enormous damage by getting into bed with the PP. I couldn't see it happening.

Much can of course occur between now and 2015. The PP nationally may even have scrapped regional governments by then, though to do so would require ripping up the Constitution, so it is most unlikely that it will have. One thing that might happen is that the PP locally does not improve its poll rating or even slips, while, for example, El Pi makes a gain. One cannot completely rule out pressure for change at the head of the PP, and this pressure might grow under such a scenario. A change that would potentially solve a coalition problem would involve Antoni Pastor being brought back into the PP fold and into a senior position. Would it happen? Probably not, but were it to, then Font wouldn't find himself as compromised.

The 2015 election threatens to create enormous uncertainty, and there is a further issue to bear in mind. I have previously suggested that 2015 could be the Ramon Llull election. The 700th anniversary of his death is, though there is a big question mark as to its accuracy, given as 29 June 1315, so not long after the election. If this anniversary is made much of in 2015, and it will be, even if it has to be in 2016, then the regionalist and Catalan issues will be even more to the fore than they might otherwise be. The next election could prove to be highly divisive for the Balearics. Far more than at present.

Any comments to please.

Index for December 2012

Beach wars - 1 December 2012
Brand Spain: Marca España - 22 December 2012
Business development - 14 December 2012
Business environmental tax - 13 December 2012
Christmas and the Mallorcans - 21 December 2012
Corporate tax evasion - 6 December 2012
Education law reform - 9 December 2012
Election in 2015 in the Balearics - 31 December 2012
Expat numbers and voting in the Balearics - 12 December 2012
Families and favouritism - 30 December 2012
Fomento del Turismo awards - 7 December 2012
Gerardo Díaz Ferrán and Marsans - 5 December 2012
Ghost of Manacor - 20 December 2012
GOB - 4 December 2012
Jazz in Spain - 11 December 2012
Knowledge of Mallorca - 8 December 2012
Language and nationalism - 15 December 2012
Letter from Mallorca 1912 - 24 December 2012
Mallorca quiz of the year - 26 December 2012
Obra Cultural Balear awards - 16 December 2012
Palacio de Congresos: returns - 19 December 2012
Pantomime - 3 December 2012
Sandcastles - 2 December 2012
Sky TV changes in Mallorca - 23 December 2012
Spain and its problems - 27 December 2012
Spanish educational reform and language - 9 December 2012
Spanish navel-gazing - 10 December 2012
Speed limits and driving - 17 December 2012
Tracy Island and Mallorca - 28 December 2012
Trafico: changing a driving licence - 29 December 2012
Travel fairs - 18 December 2012
Twelve Days Of Christmas for Mallorca - 25 December 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

AlcudiaPollensa Blogspot: Most popular in 2012

Record tourism numbers in Mallorca this year, record traffic numbers for the blog which has now been going for seven years; five of them on a daily basis, save for the odd interruption. As of this morning, over 133,000 page views during the year. The most popular month was July with 24,640 page views.

The following articles have been the ten most read in 2012. The Mallorca Quiz is making a last-minute bid to get into the top ten, but too late for this report.

Thanks to all of you who come to the blog, be your visits regular, intermittent or rare.  And thanks, too, to the many of you who take the time and trouble to email me with your comments, suggestions and questions and to those of you who leave comments for individual articles. These are all moderated, which is a reason why few are actually published. As many are sent "anonymous", I generally ignore them. The comments system isn't brilliant - or at least I have yet to discover how to make it better.

Happy New Year.

The Top Ten Articles In 2012 (in order of specific page views):

Not Flying The Flag
Mallorcski: Hotels for sale
A State Of Welfare: Circus animals
The Rubbish Dump Of Europe
The Man Who Dithered: The Bankia crisis
Lost In Google Translation
Blending In: Petty crime in Mallorca
The Entertainment Industry: Holidays
Fantasy Football: Real Madrid Resort Island
Gaiety And Mirth: Mallorca pop songs

Any comments to please.

The Mallorca Quiz Of 2012 - Answers

The answers to this year's quiz have now been posted and replace the original post (go to link). Some longstanding "blogotees" will recall that there used to be a daily quiz that I dropped because it involved the articles' titles and it all became too time-consuming trying to figure out appropriate titles, but as annual and the old daily quizzes have been popular, I shall be resurrecting the daily quiz in some form or another. Perhaps not every day; see how I'm feeling.

MALLORCA TODAY - PP in the Balearics would lose majority - poll

"Ultima Hora" reports the findings of an opinion poll which suggests that were there to be an election the Partido Popular would lose seven seats in the Balearic parliament, which would mean that it would also lose its clear majority. PSOE (PSIB) would remain where it is, the winners (marginally) being the PSM (Majorcan socialists), the El Pi and the UPyD.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 15C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 4 to 5 easing to 3 by the afternoon. Surge and waves of two metres easing by midday.

Breezy and mild this morning. A mix of cloud and blue sky but the day should be sunny. The forecast for tomorrow, New Year's Eve, is as was, with cloud coming in during the evening and giving rise to possible rain on New Year's Day for which the forecast is mostly for cloud.

Afternoon update (17.30): What cloud was around cleared off and left a fine, sunny day without the same breezes as yesterday, so warm in the direct sun even with a local high of just 17.2. 

Keeping It In The Family

Have you ever been having a chat with a Mallorcan business owner and someone wanders past and causes your chat to be put on hold while the business owner and passer-by engage in embraces and friendly conversation? I have. Several times. And more often than not, the passer-by, when introduced, turns out to be if not a brother, then a cousin, an uncle, a second cousin ... a member of the family, even a fairly remote one.

The family is considered a strength in local society. Its strength, though, is also its weakness. The family breeds its own tyranny, and it is a tyranny that is a Mallorcan and Spanish weakness.

Political and corporate favouritism in Spain is endemic, and this favouritism, be it in the form of employment, contracts or "smoothing" arrangements, owes much to family ties. Everyone knows this to be so and everyone, therefore, indulges in the practice. Even those who complain about it. Yet it is a harmful, destructive practice that causes a reduction in incentive, an inhibition of the talent pool, an absence of meritocracy, an abuse of position, a lack of questioning, scrutiny or correct governance and a fertile source of potential and actual corruption. It also causes there to be what exists, a division within society that is predicated on the knowledge that this society revolves around nepotism, a division which acknowledges what "they" are up to, be they politicians or businesspeople. It can be accepted with the resigned shrug and smile and the expression that "well, this is Spain" but, because of its endemic nature, it isn't resisted but aped, and so a vicious circle of favouritism constantly revolves, no one being capable of breaking the circle. 

The UPyD party, a relative newcomer to the political scene, is attempting to do so. It wants a new type of politics, a new culture within society too, one that is stripped of "amiguismo", favouritism and nepotism. But just look at what it is up against. At the very highest levels of national government family members have senior posts at the ministries of agriculture, food and environment and of industry, energy and tourism; at the Spanish Embassy in Washington; and within the team of the Secretary of State for Commerce. When the party asks for an explanation, what response does it get? These people all have the necessary skills for the jobs and to not employ them because they happen to be related to ministerial or other senior Partido Popular politicians would be discrimination. Orwell would marvel at such doublethink.

Favouritism is ingrained into the local culture. It is an historical phenomenon, one institutionalised by King Philip III. At the time that he did so, at the turn of the seventeenth century, Spain was in decline, and by disregarding the wider interests of Spain and placing his own interests above them, Philip legitimised favouritism and helped to contribute to further decline.

Come nearer to the present day, and favouritism was the basis of the system of the cacique in the late nineteenth century. The cacique political bosses rewarded favourites in what was a total sham of democracy. It is a system that has never truly gone away. Hence why, in 1996, the author Howard Wiarda concluded that Spain had moved only partly to democracy, as this new "democracy" was "still shot through with family favouritism and nepotism" and as practices in both public and private sectors often fell short of being democratic. Hence also the revelation that local banks, at the centre of Spain's economic collapse, were populated at board level by political favourites, family members and cronies.

Families can be problematic for business. Think of two non-Spanish examples: Maxwell and Murdoch. Think of just one Spanish example, one that is quite close to home in some respects to Mallorca: Nueva Rumasa and the offspring of Ruiz-Mateos who are now trying to drop each other in it as they seek to save their respective necks.

The trouble is that families can't be avoided. Idealistic localism in Spanish politics was designed to combat the centralist monster of corruption under Franco, but it has unleashed its own monster. Shove responsibilities so far down the food chain to small communities which are populated by relatives, including remote ones, and what do you get?

Not all families can be tarred with the same brush, of course they can't, but at political level in particular, perceptions are as important as realities. It is no use claiming that family members are up to the task when everyone assumes they have been given the tasks because of who they are. It has got to stop but it is very doubtful that it ever will.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Road cleaner hands in lost 6,000 euros

Here's a heartwarming story. A road cleaner with Emaya in Palma found an envelope containing almost 6,000 euros while he was at his work. Did he keep the money? No, he handed it into the local police who traced the money to an elderly gentleman who had lost it.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca better off without hire cars

The director of the Balearics tax office is reported as supposedly having said that Mallorca would be better off without all the hire cars on the island, so that "Mallorcans can go to the beach in peace". This comes amidst the controversy caused by the introduction of a tax on hire cars by the Balearic Government and the decision by car-hire agencies to register cars in parts of the mainland and so pay taxes there which are lower. In addition, the director is also reported as having suggested to agencies that they do so, because of lower taxes, and not being concerned about loss of consequent road tax revenue to town halls in Mallorca.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 9C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 3 to 4 reaching 4 to 5 by the afternoon and backing eventually Northwest.

A chilly, clear morning, sunny today and quite warm. Temperature dropping tomorrow and staying at around 15 or 16 over the next few days, with cloud and probable rain New Year's Day, becoming cloudy late on New Year's Eve.

Afternoon update (17.45): A high of 20.4 (Pollensa), so warm but also breezy in some parts (gusts up to 45kph). 

A Day Out At Trafico

There are moments you dread, such as the one when someone places the words "Trafico", "coming with us" and "would you mind" into the same question. "Trafico" on its own is sufficient to make you head for the nearest protect and survive table, hide under it and daub yourself with white paint. Add the rest of the question, and you make your excuses, grab a taxi and board the first available flight out of Mallorca and Spanish airspace. Unfortunately, there are times when you can't take such avoiding actions, as on Christmas Day when the above words do indeed manifest themselves in the appropriate order and a coherent question. "Would you mind coming with us to Trafico ...?" Having just put away a fine Christmas dinner of turkey, stuffing, mixed vegetables, pigs in blankets and cranberry sauce, it is a bit difficult to turn around and claim that you will be washing your hair for the next six months.

No excuse available, off we went to Trafico, and by we I mean myself and two people who I shall identify only by their initials - J.P. and K.P. (and no, the second of these is not Kevin Pietersen). By way of background, J.P. and K.P. wanted to change their British driving licences to Spanish ones. They had already been to Trafico along with a third person who shall remain nameless (or initial-less). Forms had been presented, but J.P. and K.P. were met with a refusal to accept them and the swift placing of the "closed" sign on the Trafico desk. The nameless one, however, had succeeded in his quest. What had seemed like gross discrimination at the end of the abortive first mission wasn't, as it was to turn out.

Part of the problem, it emerged, lay with different forms, one for changing a licence (which J.P. and K.P. didn't have during the first mission) and one for changing a licence once the old (British) one had expired, which they did have, as did the nameless one. However, although the nameless one's licence had indeed expired, J.P. and K.P.'s licences hadn't, or at least K.P.'s hadn't expired at the time of the first mission. Somehow, however, they all got the same form the first time round, hence why the nameless one was attended to and J.P. and K.P. weren't. They didn't know this at the time and so felt discriminated against.

Anyway, in we go to Trafico. There is a queue that is almost out of the door we have just gone through. But, we think, we may not need to join this queue for the "caja" (where you pay) because we can go to information, a very much shorter queue, sort out the misunderstanding and transfer what had been paid during the first mission to whatever form should in fact be filled in. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. The new form would have to be paid for and a refund got for the previous form, which was wrong. An hour or so after joining the queue, the lady at the caja said there was a slight problem because the old form was dated from last month. This would mean filling in a different form, taking it to the bank, having it stamped and filled out with appropriate details for accounts and then returning it - to the caja. And by bank, one means bank back in Alcúdia. (Trafico, for anyone who doesn't know, is of course in Palma.) There wasn't any way that the money from the previous payment could just be transferred, I asked. No, it's a different code. For a different form.

So, a new payment was made and off we went upstairs to where you hand everything over and they process the application. J.P.'s application went smoothly enough, but K.P.'s didn't, and that's because K.P.'s licence had by now expired. There's a slight problem, said the chap. As luck would have it, though, K.P. still had the form from the previous mission, the one that had been wrong because the licence hadn't expired at that stage. "Ah," the chap said contentedly, and once he had taken his photocopies, stamped stuff, he was able to say that everything was down, though to get a refund on the payment that K.P. had made, a few minutes previously, would require going back to the caja. In other words, queuing. The queue, not the same one of course, because there were different people in it by now, was still more or less out of the door. Stopping only to have a word with someone who will be identified as "Maximus" and to hear him explain that he was there to pay a 250 euro fine for having been slightly over the drinking limit (Maximus was paying a minimum fine and not therefore suffering a maximum sanction), we left, not bothering with the queue and hopeful that by going to the bank - in Alcúdia - the payment could be stopped.

I don't know if this was done, as I didn't wish to stand in another queue. Except that I had to because I had to go my own bank, one that has now merged with another and so there is now only one branch and that much busier as a consequence, and where I had to queue for, hmm, who knows how long, in any event.

What a lovely day out it had been. The weather was splendid and the new offices of Trafico (upstairs anyway) were very plush. Pity you can't the say thing about the system. Or the queuing. Would I mind going to Trafico ...?

Any comments to please.

Friday, December 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sol Katmandu Park launched

The joint venture between Meliá Hotels and the Katmandu group that had been publicised earlier this year has now officially been launched. It will involve the bringing together of the Sol Magalluf Park hotel and the Katmandu theme park in Magalluf to create the Sol Katmandu Park & Resort, a further initiative by Meliá in Magalluf therefore.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Variable 3 to 4, locally West 5 mainly in the Formentor area. From midday waves picking up to one metre.

Huge variance in temperatures early on a clear morning - from 4 degrees to almost 12 depending on location. Sunny today and still staying sunny into next week until New Year's Day when rain will come in.

Evening update (18.00): Cloud came in by midday (cloud that hadn't been forecast), though the sun also stayed around. A high of 16.5C (various places). 

Thunderbirds Are ... Mallorcan

"FIVE ... FOUR ... THREE ... TWO ... ONE. Thunderbirds are ..." sitting around the lavishly appointed family finca doing very little.

One theory about Thunderbirds and the Tracys is that they were based on "Bonanza", and there is a certain amount of truth to this. Jeff was indeed modelled on Ben Cartwright while Hop Sing, the Chinese cook at the Ponderosa who provided much of the light relief, could well have been the inspiration for Kyrano. Where the theory falls down is the fact that the Tracy brothers sort of looked like each other, whereas Hoss and Little Joe were about as unalike as you could get, even accepting that they had different mothers, and Ben did have some seriously bad luck with wives dying on him.

I would like to think that Tracy Island was in fact a combination of Bonanza and Mallorca. Had Thunderbirds been made thirty years later, then there would be more grounds for thinking this, but let's not be too concerned with historical accuracies.

The meaning of bonanza is great wealth and prosperity, and one meaning of bonanza in Spanish is the same as the English. The days of the "bonanza" are often referred to as the boom times thanks to the growth of tourism. One of the consequences of the bonanza was that a number of Mallorcans acquired serious wealth through land sales and occasionally through working hard. A further consequence was that these rich Mallorcans had offspring who needed to be found something to do with their lives rather than lounging around the poolside, living off the paternal or maternal millions. So, this is where Tracy Island comes in. 

In my Thunderbirds Mallorcan parallel universe, Jeff, having become fabulously wealthy through the sale of land that he had dubious claims to in the first place and the acquisition of great chunks of shares in hotel companies, wondered how he was going to spend his time and, as importantly, what he was going to do with his five layabout sons who hadn't bothered with schooling as they were comfortable in the knowledge that papa would just keep on providing.

Jeff, therefore, came up with a mad scheme for a private international rescue service. Ostensibly funded with his millions, it wasn't to be. Instead, Jeff, together with Brains, presented the project as one for regional development to the powers-that-be in regional government and Europe (I know, there was no regional government or Europe in the 1960s, but I have already said that we shouldn't worry about accuracy). They duly handed over shedloads of public money to Jeff who then proceeded to build a dream home for him and his family and rip up whole loads of underground Mallorca, so destroying much of the water resource, on the pretext of building massive hangars for the pods for Thunderbird 2 and a launch pad for Thunderbird 1. And for good measure, several more million were spent on a retractable swimming-pool, heavy camouflage and gated security and palm trees that would fold down. Then, when they had finished with turning Mallorca into Tracy Island, a further massive tranche of public money was used to build a space station.

Of course, no one really ever believed that Jeff and his sons would ever actually do any rescuing. Or not very much anyway. And this was to prove to be the great flaw in Jeff's plan. His layabout sons were still layabouts, except once a week when some batty English socialite, Lady Penelope, would come on the extraordinarily expensive communications system (also paid for with public money) and insist that a cat up a tree needed rescuing or when Kyrano would suffer a bad case of neuralgia caused by his Chinese mafioso half-brother, The Hood, who was threatening the local Chinese shop owner over non-payment of protection money.

Apart from their once-a-week adventures, the Tracy boys did absolutely nothing. They still lounged around the pool, Virgil played the piano now and then and Alan tried to get off with Tin-Tin. Lord alone knows what John ever got up to on Thunderbird 5. It's probably best if we don't know. Even when they were doing a spot of rescue, they weren't all at it. Alan and Gordon were particularly idle in this regard.

Tracy Island was, therefore, a monument to Mallorcan waste, environmental destruction and parental indulgence. However, had there really been a Tracy Island, it would now be being converted into a giant theme park, one to which Parkers would come or would be employed to be at the service of enormously wealthy Russian tourists: "you rang, m'lady".

* Gerry Anderson, 14 April 1929 - 26 December 2012.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Payment to Pollensa auditorium architect queried

The architect for the aborted project to construct the auditorium in Pollensa, Rafael Moneo, is to receive a payment of 150,000 euros, the amount having been included in the town hall's budget for 2013. The Alternativa and opposition parties are querying this payment and indeed any commitment that the town hall has to make it, pointing to what the previous mayor, Joan Cerdà, said regarding the town hall not having a debt to Moneo because the town hall hadn't actually ordered the auditorium project.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics ports reduce taxes to attract more cruises

Cruise ship traffic having fallen in 2012, the Balearics Ports Authority is to reduce more than 40% of taxes in 2013 in order to try and boost the number of cruises coming into Palma and the ports on the other Balearic islands.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 9.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West 3 to 4, occasional surge and waves to one metre reducing.

Back to sun this morning, chillier in parts than others, temperatures between 5 and 10C. Remaining sunny today and for the next few days, but New Year's Day has a greater risk now of rain with temperatures slipping back and snow on the peaks.

Afternoon update (17.30): A clear, sunny and quite warm day, the maximum having been 19.5C (Puerto Pollensa).

The Great Depression: Spain in 2013

New year celebrations promise renewal, optimism, better fortune. We wish each other a prosperous new year and at midnight on New Year's Eve, we will do so between munching on twelve grapes and engaging in the national pastime of the party.

The grapes are going to taste sour this time. The endless party in fact came to an end a few years ago. Not that everyone has wanted to admit this. While there's a fiesta, there's always hope. Or more accurately, an avoidance of reality. I don't much like having to appear to be a party-pooper but I am dreading 2013.

I have re-watched "The Great Spanish Crash" and this time I watched it with a growing sense of anger. Nothing that Paul Mason revealed was new. Most of it I have spoken about in the past. But when pictures are put to words, the story becomes more powerful. The pictures might be carefully chosen but they do not lie.

It is uncomfortable for a nation to be exposed by a foreigner, but if it is exposure which helps to shake off denial, then so be it. The chances are that it won't, because the defence is one of the reporter deflecting attention from problems in his own backyard or of affecting a superiority. And so the denial continues, except among those who understand the realities of where Spain is at the end of 2012: on life support with little sign of recovery. And this metaphor only deals with the economy. There is far more.

The UK Centre for Economic and Business Research has released its latest world economic league table, one which ranks countries by GDP. It is not terribly encouraging. Spain is set to slide by four places to seventeenth by 2022, which may not sound that bad when compared with other European countries but is when you consider that the country's GDP growth is set to be negligible over the next ten years; by far the lowest of any country currently in the top fifteen.

This very low growth would be far worse were the worst case to occur; the scenario in which Catalonia secedes and is then followed by the Basques. Spain would be plunged into a wholly different economic crisis; the country simply cannot afford to lose either or both of Catalonia and the Basque Country.

The economics are one matter, the politics a very different one. The nuclear option for Spain would be one which requires Spain to leave the Euro. Conceivably, this might bring advantages; it would certainly permit a badly needed devaluation rather than the current internal devaluation through looking to lower labour costs. But the consequences could be extreme. Spain exits, the Euro collapses along if not completely with the political momentum and will behind the European Union. The nuclear option would then turn to nuclear winter were Catalonia and then the Basques to press ahead. Just consider this, as an example. Through which two regions of Spain do the main transport networks to France and therefore the rest of Europe pass?

It is an imperative, as much as any negotiation regarding a bailout, that the Spanish Government finds a rapprochement with Artur Mas and Catalonia. It may be too late, especially now that Mas has got into bed with the altogether more independence-fanatic ERC, but it has to be found. Rather than playing hardball with Catalonia, Rajoy might have been wiser seeking to form some type of government of national unity which embraced Catalonia (and the Basques). Instead, the end game, one in which the European Union may have become marginalised, could be truly disastrous.

But even were this worst case to be avoided, what real hope does Spain have for a genuine recovery? Zapatero attempted to build Spain out of trouble with the so-called Plan E but succeeded only in creating debt. Construction achieves only so much, and as we now know can also bring a country to its knees. And it doesn't address a fundamental lack of competitiveness. Lower labour costs might be helping exports (and they have risen), but Spain, for the size of its economy, has relatively low levels of exports in any case. It also has an underperforming educational system, to which the government's reaction is diversionary - the language issue - or simply wrong; increasing school hours and class sizes will solve nothing. And after school, it has employment that owes more to favouritism rather than merit.

The boom years showed how well Spain can do, but the boom was ultimately built on sand. Literally built. Spain's on life support with potential multiple-organ failure. No amount of partying can disguise the fact. Happy new year.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 4 to 5 backing by midday to West. Surge strong at times. Waves to one metre.

A change this morning. Some light rain around, cloudy and quite windy. Due to improve by around midday. The rest of the week forecast to be mostly sunny but the temperature down a touch for New Year. The forecast for New Year's Eve remains good with a high of 16C. New Year's Day there could be rain.

Afternoon update (17.30): It remained cloudy for a good deal of the day. Some reasonable sun later on but a high of just 15.7C (Albufera). 

The Mallorca Quiz Of 2012

1: Off which Mallorcan resort was Roman buried treasure located under the seabed?
Puerto Alcúdia. A radar survey suggested that treasure and the great wall of the Roman port had been found.

2: Who is José Manuel Soria?
The national government tourism minister.

3: What did Alejandro Campos patent in 1937?
Table football, the version in which the legs of the "players" are separated and which is the version that will normally be found in Spain.

4: At which sport played internationally by Spain have Talat Ali and Tanvir Iqbal excelled?

5: What culinary tradition is often considered to have come about through a decree by King Philip III?
Tapas. The idea was to cover ("tapar") drinks with a small piece of food that would help to reduce drunkenness.

6: A hotel complex and theme park dedicated to which Spanish "institution" is due to open in 2015 in the emirate of Ras-al-Khaimah?
Real Madrid Football Club.

7: The name of which Mallorcan resort is derived from the Arabic for filthy water?

8: Which Mallorcan town celebrated its 200th anniversary of having gained independence?
Búger. It gained its independence from neighbouring Campanet and became a town in its own right.

9: What did King Juan Carlos apologise for in April this year?
His elephant-hunting trip to Botswana.

10: Who was supposedly snubbed by leading politicians at this year's Pollensa Festival?
Sir Norman Foster the architect to whom the introductory concert at the festival was dedicated.

11: Who did rapper Josemy Valtonyc Marx Beltrán suggest should be assassinated?
King Juan Carlos. (He also wished bad things for leading politicians.)

12: What, having been touted to other Mallorcan towns, appeared to have finally found a location in Inca?
Tierra Santa, the Christian theme park.

13: According to consultants Deloitte, which is Spain's leading retailer?
Mercadona. It was the highest placed Spanish retailer in a worldwide survey of retailers. Mercadona was number 42 overall.

14: What is the most popular surname in Mallorca?
Garcia. It is the most popular surname in the whole of Spain as well.

15: What is Manos Limpias?
A right-wing union which makes a big deal of pursuing corruption cases and issuing "denuncias" that allege corruption.

16: Who or what is the largest landowner in Spain and despite which doesn't pay property tax?
The Catholic Church.

17: The Council of Mallorca announced that 2013 would be the "year" of which famous Mallorcan?
The Fray Juniper Serra. It will be the 300th anniversary of this son of the town of Petra next year. Serra was a missionary to California.

18: In Sa Pobla, what can only be distributed between 8am and 2pm on the first and third Tuesdays of each month?
Publicity material.

19: Which is the most profitable airport in Spain?
Palma's Son Sant Joan.

20: What tax did Catalonia introduce in November?
A tourist tax that charges overnight stays in all forms of accommodation.

21: The Japanese ambassador to Spain said that the principal reason for Mallorca attracting more Japanese tourists would be what?
Shoes, the buying thereof, one guesses. Mallorcan footwear is said to be well-known and well-regarded in Japan.

22: Which renewable energy source was said to be capable of serving over 11,000 homes in Mallorca?
Biomass from woody debris in forests.

23: The UPyD party said that the merging of what in Mallorca would save public finances 18,000 million euros?
Town halls.

24: Which country did a report identify as Mallorca's main tourist competitor over the next 20 years?

25: Of 265 regions in Europe, in what do the Balearics rank as the eighth worst performing region?
Educational attainment, specifically among the over-15s. The Balearics have some of the worst educational standards in Spain.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 9C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 3 to 4 backing in the night to North.

Fog affecting most of the island this morning. Due to burn off but may linger in parts. Otherwise sunny and quite warm. Boxing Day may see some rain early on but sun later, then the rest of the week up to New Year's Eve fine with temperatures down a degree or two.

Afternoon update (17.30): The sun shone but some cloud came in during the afternoon. A high of 19.5C in Sa Pobla; two degrees lower by the coast.

Twelve Days Of Christmas - Mallorca Style

The thing with Christmas carols is that they tend to be international. Hence, for example, "Silent Night" is "Noche de paz" in Spanish. I am unaware, however, of the "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" having been internationalised or specifically, and for my purposes, Catalanised or Castellanised.

There is some evidence to suggest that "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" wasn't originally English but French. Given a certain similarity between French and Catalan, then it may be that a version has slipped into Catalan consciousness. Or did, and then very rapidly fell out again.

In the absence of there being a local version, we'll have to do with the English, which itself causes a problem as there isn't one wholly (or even holy) agreed-to set of twelve days. The Lords, for instance, can amount to ten as well as twelve or even only nine. For the most part, however, it is just the later days of Christmas that can cause some controversy as to how many of what are actually involved. The earlier days are generally consistent across their different versions, though there are some variants on the four number of birds - colly (whatever a colly bird is - Paul Collingwood scoring a duck?), corley, collie (which is a dog) or canary (which is a bird, unless it's an island).

Anyway, let's just settle on one set of twelve days and consider how applicable "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" are to Mallorca. So here goes, and remember to sing along.

A Partridge In A Pear Tree. Yep, well partridge is certainly Mallorcan. There is even a fair devoted to its slaughter; it takes place in Montuïri in December, appropriately enough for Christmas. Of fruit trees, one is more inclined to think of oranges or lemons, but pear trees there are. Muro town hall, for instance, has held courses on the organic growing of pear trees, among other things, which is terribly ecologicially sound of them.

Two Turtle Doves. No problem with these. They are regular visitors and are best observed in May and June time at different locations, e.g. the Galatzó finca in Calvià or Albufera.

Three French Hens. There are plenty of chickens knocking around of course. Whether they are specifically French or not is hard to say. We'll place a query against the hens.

Four Colly Birds. The question is: what is a colly bird? It isn't a calling bird, though the blackbird has a call, and a colly bird is a blackbird. I get blackbirds in the garden.

Five Gold Rings. Easy. Many a gold ring, especially on the fingers of Russian tourists who, I would advise, should start to become wary about their blatant displays of bling as there will be those disposed to divesting them of it.

Six Geese A Laying. Geese, there are.

Seven Swans A Swimming. As there are also swans.

Eight Maids A Milking. It is probable that one could round up at least eight maids who engage in milking. As for cows, yes, but when do you ever actually see a cow in Mallorca?

Nine Drummers Drumming. Nine, nine hundred, nine thousand. Absolutely no shortage of drummers. Local music bands, batucada samba bands, the folk music drummers who hammer out an incessant beat during fiesta celebrations such as the demons of Sant Antoni.

Ten Pipers Piping. Like the drummers, there are pipers in abundance. The Mallorcan bagpipe, the xeremia, is a familiar sound at fiesta time.

Eleven Ladies Dancing. Not a lot of problems finding eleven women. Not sure about ladies, but females certainly. The Mallorcan traditional dance, ball de bot, has many a lady, as does any club you care to mention and any collection of British expatriates who are obsessed with "Strictly Come Dancing".

Twelve Lords A Leaping. This is really the only tricky one. There aren't any Lords as such, unless you include Lord Archer or Lord Lloyd-Webber when in residence.

The Lords notwithstanding, "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" does pretty much stack up in a Mallorcan context, and so here is your chance to annoy everyone by trying your hand at "Els Dotze Dies De Nadal". One, two, three ...

Una perdiu en una perera
Dues tórtores
Tres gallines franceses
Quatre merles
Cinc anells d'or
Sis oques ponent
Set cignes nedant
Vuit donzelles munyint
Nou tamborers tocant (la bateria)
Deu xeremiers tocant (sa xeremia)
Onze dames ballant
Dotze senyors saltant


Any comments to please.

Monday, December 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Cladera resigns as Real Mallorca president

Jaume Cladera, who, along with major shareholder and director of football Llorenç Serra Ferrer, has been under pressure over the handling of the club, has resigned as president of Real Mallorca and left the board, citing personal reasons. The question arises as to who will succeed him, a decision which may bring to an end the blood-letting at board level or make it worse.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): South and then Southwest 3 to 4.

A sunny morning, some wispy cloud and should be a fine, warm Christmas Eve though breezes will be quite chilly. Christmas Day is due to be a bit foggy to begin with but should be mostly fine, though there is a chance of some light rain.

Afternoon update (17.45): Plenty of sun but plenty of breeze as well. The high, 20.7C (Sa Pobla).

MALLORCA TODAY - Cala Molins apartments are legal

A judge has declared that building permits issued by Pollensa town hall for apartments by Cala Molins in Cala San Vicente were legal. A challenge to the permits and the building has existed ever since - one which argued that the licences had been issued too quickly and without all procedures having been adhered to. The judge's decision brings the challenge to a close.

See more: Ultima Hora

A Mallorcan Letter From 1912

Guy Wood wrote a letter on 12 December 1912, one that has been handed down through generations as a record of the times. The story of the letter is told in an article* in "The Guardian" which outlines its content: the rise of Germany, the sinking of the Titanic, the war in the Balkans.

Had there been a Mallorcan Guy Wood who had left a letter for his descendants, what would he have spoken about? One imagines that a knowledgeable Mallorcan of the time wouldn't have been ignorant of events that Guy Wood detailed, but what would he have had to say about Mallorca specifically? This is what Guido Fusta might have written in 1912.

"How I wish I could see into the future. What is life like in 2012? What has happened during one hundred years? I cannot look into a crystal ball, but I would speculate that science has had a dramatic effect on our island. There have been more innovations this year. At the fiesta of Sant Jaume the electricity system in Sa Pobla was lit for the first time, and it had come about so quickly. Sr. Enric Ordines had only presented his plan for an electricity factory to the town council on 30 April!

"And this year the new train between Palma and Sóller has started. What a Godsend for Sóller and for those of us who love to visit its orange groves. It has been so difficult to travel by stagecoach along the steep road over the Coll de Sóller. Now there is a steam train, but you have to hold your breath when the train passes through all the tunnels. And now also in Sóller is a radiotelegraphy station. It opened earlier this year at Cap Gros.

"The train started to bring fruit into Palma this summer. There are many families in Sóller who have bought shares in Sr. Estades' railway company. It is a pity I have none myself. It is said that the orange trade will become greater than ever and it is also said that the train will help to bring more of what are called tourists to Mallorca. It is seven years since the Sociedad Fomento del Turismo de Palma was founded. They believe this "tourism" will become a grand trade in its own right. There is much publicity being given to the natural beauty of the island; the Archduke Louis Salvador has certainly helped this. Foreigners are coming to the island and new hotels are being built. Sr. Borras and Sra. Martínez have opened a grand one this year in Puerto Pollensa. It is called the Hotel Miramar.

"There is great excitement because of this new industry and because of moving pictures of the island made with what is called the Chronochrome system, Monsieur Léon Gaumont's invention. It has pictures in colour, and there had never been such pictures made in Spain before this summer here on Mallorca; pictures of the Roman bridge in Pollensa, the orange groves, the Cathedral in Palma, on which the famous architect Sr. Antoni Gaudi has finished his re-modelling work this year.

"There has been much that has been inspiring this year, but we are worried about events in Spain and Europe. Sometimes, I think we feel that in Mallorca we are cut off from such events, but we are not. The talk is that the crisis in the Balkans could lead to a greater war, though we cannot see how the Balkans affect us. If there is a war, we hope, God willing, that Spain can remain neutral. We have too many problems of our own to contend with.

"As Mallorcans we should be proud that Sr. Antoni Maura of Palma has been a Spanish prime minister, but can we be? I am certain we have not heard the last of Sr. Maura. We have not forgotten the Tragic Week of 1909 or the execution of Francesc Ferrer. God rest his soul, a man does not deserve such a fate, even an Anarchist. And now there is word of a new and violent movement, Maurism. These are deeply troubling times, and we are not immune in Mallorca. The Liberal prime minister, Sr. Canalejas, was assassinated only last month. Ferrer, Canalejas, Maura, who they say has designs on returning, but this time as a dictator; God save us from these men. With all the strains against the Church and Monarchy from Socialists, Liberals, Republicans, Anarchists, Catalans, I fear Spain faces catastrophe. If not through Sr. Maura, then someone else.

"You will, by 2012, know of whatever the consequences have been: of the violence and troubles we are experiencing and of the great developments that we are witnessing. I wish I could know for myself what they will be. Or perhaps it is better if I do not."

Guido Fusta i Bauzà
Marratxí, 12 December 1912


Any comments to please.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa projects start without finance guarantee

Still hoping that the Council of Mallorca will fund them, Pollensa town hall is about to start on two projects without actually having the total financial wherewithal to pay for them. The projects are the restoration of Can Llobera, the family home of poet Miguel Costa i Llobera that is located in the Plaça Vella in the old town, and the improvement to the parking area by the sports centre in Pollensa.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Dredging at Alcúdia's port finished

A process that has lasted for several years to dredge the sea bed near the commercial port in Alcúdia has now been completed. In all, it has cost 6 million euros to perform the dredging in nine phases in order to deepen the water and permit larger craft, such as cruise ships, to use the port.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 11C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 3 to 4. Regular to good.

A misty start and feeling chilly, but the sun is working its way through and it should be a very pleasant day, southern breezes pushing the temperature up. The forecast for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day remains decent, Christmas Day cloudier but now with less risk of a shower and 19C. The week after looks excellent with lots of sun and temperatures staying in the high teens.

Afternoon update (17.45): Splendid clear blue skies once the mist had gone, but the wind provided a chilly edge to a high of 21.4C (Pollensa).

When Sky Falls: Telly for Mallorcan expats

Let me say straightaway that I do not and never have had Sky or British television in Mallorca and that, not running and never have run a bar which almost invariably demands that footy, soaps and what have you are shown, I do not spend mostly my entire existence concerned with the intricacies of Sky boxes, cards, satellites, coding or alternatives that are beamed in via the Middle East or from the Alpha Centauri star system. In other words, I haven't a clue about how it all works, as I have never needed to know. So if, by any chance, you have come to this article anticipating to find some great insight into the satellite apocalypse which may be about to befall Mallorca, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place.

Because I haven't a clue, I wouldn't normally bother to write about a subject. But occasionally, for reasons not connected with the technology per se, I do attempt to find out, so it was with more than passing interest that I read an article in today's "Bulletin" which attempted to explain what is currently happening with regard to what might herald the end of the world as the expatriate in Mallorca knows it. The Mayans may have got things slightly wrong, but it appears that Sky may be ushering in the collapse of civilisation instead.

The article, notwithstanding some rather odd use of the verb "predicate" (I think it should have been "predict", though I might be wrong), says that "we are very close to a catastrophic loss of Channel 4 and a large number of Sky channels including most of Sky sports as early as January or February". Among the areas in Mallorca that will be most affected are Alcúdia and Pollensa for those with satellite dishes smaller than 1.6 metres. After this, it all gets somewhat baffling; Arab signals interfering with Sky signals, BBC and ITV under threat, a dish of 1.6 metres or maybe 1.8 metres or even 2 metres being needed, the cost of which can be as much as 1,000 euros. I get the impression that the situation is far from clear and that no one probably knows.

Unless these transmission issues turn out not to be as "catastrophic" as is being implied and life can carry on as normal, i.e. the expatriate community being constantly glued to the television, it might not be stretching things to "predicate" (sic) that the recent flight of expats who have found that Mallorca isn't quite the paradise the brochure had made it out to be will become a wholesale exodus. The great trek may be about to begin, and it will all be Sky's fault for changing its satellite and configurations.

Rather like the growth of tourism can, I'm convinced, be shown to correspond with the invention of the easy-to-fold-down baby buggy, so living in Mallorca or Spain or many other places can, I'm also convinced, be related to the ease of communications, mainly therefore satellite transmission. The whole meaning of life in Mallorca will collapse along with the loss of a satellite signal, resulting in expatriates taking to the streets, wailing and hollering and rending away their clothes before booking the first removals van and Ryanair flights in order to get back to where television can be watched without any fear of interruption. Had it not been for satellite, there would not be the same expatriate population. Sky should, therefore, be the "x" factor in an equation of expatriate migration (where this migration "m" equals, primarily, "x" to denote Sky).

The fact is that, because loss of signal is being predicated, then I'm afraid it does appear as if it is going to happen, as predicate means, or can mean, to assert as being true, so there is no doubt. Were the loss being predicted, then there might be some question mark, as a prediction does contain an element of doubt, which is where the Mayans had, I fancy, been hedging their bets. They'd predicted the end of the world rather than having predicated it, or maybe they had predicated it, in which case they are now looking rather more stupid than they already were.

Well, whatever the verb should be, Skyfall is about to adopt a new meaning in Mallorca (possibly), and it will be one that will put an end to any Bond or other film being beamed in. Maybe. Who really knows. If the expatriate world does end, though, you know who to blame.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Betis 1 : 2 Real Mallorca

Mallorca, looking for some sort of Christmas present in Seville, got no help from Santa when Beñat put Betis one-up after only five minutes. Rocked by the goal, Mallorca were getting a pounding until, more or less out of the blue, Victor replied after half an hour, heading in from Kevin's centre. Betis continued to dominate and make more chances, but 1-1 at half time, and maybe there was some sort of present coming Mallorca's way. And it looked as though there was more than they might have hoped for, Márquez putting them into the lead within two minutes of the re-start with a penalty after a foul on Victor on the edge of the box. After this, it was all hands to the pump, Mallorca showing greater defensive resolution without their shaky Brazilian centre-backs. With the exception of an effort from Vadillo saved by Aouate, Betis couldn't break down Mallorca who did indeed get more than they might have hoped for. An excellent result, especially as Betis were fourth going into the match. A break for Christmas that Mallorca can enjoy in better spirits as they move out of the relegation zone; next game for Mallorca will be at home to second-placed Atlético Madrid on 6 January.

Adrián; Chica, Amaya, Mario, Nacho; Beñat, Pérez (Pozuelo 48), Cañas; Castro, Molina (Agra 62), Campbell (Vadillo 53)
Goal: Beñat (5)
Yellows: Nacho (64), Beñat (76), Chica (88)

Aouate; Nsue, Nunes, Bigas, Kevin; Pina, Martí; Arizmendi (Ximo 82), Márquez, Dos Santos (Hemed 74); Victor (Conceiçao 89)
Goals: Victor (30), Márquez (47 penalty)
Yellows: Arizmendi (21), Victor (24), Dos Santos (44), Márquez (90)

MALLORCA TODAY - Capdepera licenses the Canyamel hotel development

The luxury hotel development in Canyamel, one that involves an investment of 100 million euros via the hotel chain Hyatt, has been given the go ahead by Capdepera town hall which has issued the licence for work to commence on what is one of Mallorca's more controversial new developments.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Overnight stays in the Balearics fell in November

The poor state of winter tourism in the Balearics has been confirmed by the fact that overnight stays in hotels on the islands fell by 22% in November, a figure that represented just under 86,000 visitors, themselves representing a decline of 9%.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - First waste imports to start in January

The Council of Mallorca will permit the first imports of waste into Mallorca at the start of January 2013, a report having established the import legality. The first waste will come from Catalonia and it is said that the import will not be great as it is in the form of a test.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pyramid scheme fake Austrian prince remains in prison

While 2012 saw the legal outcome of the John Hirst illegal pyramid scheme, the year also saw the arrest, in March, of a fake Austrian prince, Jürgen Ludwig H, on charges of having conduced, along with his wife, a pyramid scheme that was larger than that which Hirst had operated. The "prince" has been in prison since, awaiting trial, but yesterday underwent examination to assess the state of his health.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 4 to 5 backing by midday to Southwest 4.

More cloud in prospect today but the morning is bright enough. Warmer and sunnier tomorrow and temperatures up to at least 20C on Christmas Eve. Quite windy on Christmas Day with a lower risk of rain now and a high of 18C, the stronger winds now likely on Boxing Day.

Evening update (18.00): A decent day, quite breezy occasionally and a high of 19.4C (Puerto Pollensa).

Smoke And Mirrors: Brand Spain

Another day, another website. Ah, but what a website. One for the whole of Spain, but not any old Spain. This is "brand Spain": marcaespañ At some point in the not too distant future, you will be able to enjoy this website in English - I do hope therefore that they do something about the "gob" bit, someone really ought to tell them - but for now it is only in Spanish.

It is an odd thing, to say the least. The very title is odd, or might appear to be. Is there such a thing as a "brand Britain"? Actually, there is, and it is a website about designing brands, not about Britain as a brand. In Spain, the momentum behind establishing Spain as a brand started almost 30 years ago, in that the term "marca España" was first adopted, if only by a journalist. Since then, it has become official. And so official has it become that in June this year, a high commission for "brand Spain" within the national government was created. The website is the first obvious evidence of the commission's remit to, among other things, adopt measures to improve the external image of Spain.

The trouble with this title, though, is that it sounds presumptuous and even desperate. Why not just call the website "Spain"? A brand acquires brand status through the awareness of its reputation and its attributes and the constant reinforcement of these attributes. It doesn't acquire these simply because you call something a brand; literally, call it a brand. The desperation stems from marketing wrongheadedness that seeks to convince, by being so blatant, that all is well and good in the state of the brand of Spain.

The media, and not just foreign media, have considered the strength of this brand and were doing so before the launch of the high commission. There is, and the national government really should be aware of this, an appreciation that Spain as a brand, by which one really means its international standing and reputation, has taken an almighty great hammering. Creating a website and undertaking some sort of internet charm offensive aren't going to alter this; not in the short term at any rate. That the website is currently only in Spanish makes it appear as though it is less for international consumption and more for domestic propaganda. Again, I am afraid the government doesn't quite get it; Spanish people are not blind to the problems that the country faces and they are unlikely to be convinced by having the "brand Spain" message shoved down their throats.

At present, the website is very much for the home market. Its home page (as of 21 December anyway) reveals the face of someone who looks, on first glance, not dissimilar to Mariano Rajoy. It is in fact Jordí Folgado. Who is? No idea. The site has a message from the high commissioner for "marca España". The image of Spain overseas is "very solid" and "respected", he says. Spain's businesses are "admired", he continues. Which is fine, but then you wouldn't expect him to say otherwise.

At the end of this message, there is a tell-tale expression. "Marca España no quiere vender humo." What this means is that "brand Spain" does not wish to sell something that has no worth. One can apply an English metaphor or word instead; smoke and mirrors or smokescreen. It is a shocking mistake by the high commissioner or by the person who wrote his message for him. By introducing the notion of "vender humo", even if it is to refute it, some will assume that it is indeed all about smoke and mirrors. So why even mention it?

Why has the Spanish Government got so upset about the BBC programme, "The Great Spanish Crash"? Well, one reason is because it came out right on cue; just as the website was being launched. The government, through its ambassador, has complained to the BBC about Paul Mason's programme, but all that Mason has done is to delve into much of what is already known. Indeed, he had written about some of the issues in Valencia, on which the programme concentrated, on the BBC's website over almost three months previously.

The government would rather that attention was not paid to the various causes of the economic crisis, of course it would, and there is many a commentator, some of them Spanish, who see issues such as Gibraltar and Catalonia as smokescreens to divert attention. The government does this while at the same time influencing the neutering of leading journalists at the national broadcaster who ask difficult questions. Who else will the government complain about? Giles Tremlett at "The Guardian"? Javier Cercas at "El País"? Stefanie Müller, the German journalist who laid into the corrupt nature of the political system? Or how about the consultants Brand Finance which issued a report in August which reckoned that the "marca España" had lost 38% of its value in two years?

There are reasons why the brand has lost value, but the BBC and journalists aren't one of them.

Any comments to please.

Friday, December 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather in Mallorca in 2012

With winter due to start at 12 minutes past midday today, the met office has released its information for the year's weather. Highlights are that the year in Mallorca has been drier than usual, with 20% less rain. The coldest temperature was minus 9.4C in Escorca on 13 February, the hottest was 40.6C in Colonia Sant Pere at the end of June. This autumn has been slightly warmer than normal but November has been the wettest month of the year.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West 2 to 3 reaching 3 to 4 during the morning.

Another sunny-ish morning with sun through the day and quite breezy at times. The Christmas forecast now suggests a possible risk of a spot of rain on Christmas Eve with a high of 19C and less of a rain risk on Christmas Day but windy and a high of 18C. There will still be a good deal of sun, though. Due to get a touch colder on Boxing Day.

Afternoon update (17.30): A mainly sunny day and quite warm, a high of 20.6C (Pollensa).

All I Want Is A Noddy Holder Christmas

The Mallorcans simply don't get the whole deal with Christmas. How can they be expected to when, as with so many other things, like cricket and queuing, the British invented it? Well, Charles Dickens invented it. Had it not been for the Cratchit family Christmas there would never have been a whole industry devoted to red wrapping paper with pictures of holly and Yuletide logs nor a Far-Eastern sweatshop turning out by the yarn load socks with Santa on them. Nor would we ever have had Noddy Holder, Noel Edmonds, re-releases of Wham or cards highlighting the Miliband family dental care.

There is only type of Christmas. One of getting totally slaughtered on Christmas Eve, having spent the preceding months schlepping around Arndale centres in search of gift-wrapped boxes of soaps and shower gels, and of spending Christmas Day attempting to devour a pudding the weight of a house brick and vomiting after too much Harvey's Bristol Cream and Stone's Ginger Wine. Dickens was a great visionary. He saw the potential for Christmas, and the potential came in the form of Tesco's drinks section.

Another of Dickens' great visions was to sideline any interruptions to the true meaning of Christmas that involved hanging around in a freezing church getting chilblains and mumbling the words of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". It's this, the church bit, that the Mallorcans don't truly understand. Rather than spend Christmas Eve in determined and undistracted praise of the brewing, wine and spirits industries, they pitch up at church in order to hear some old bird warble on about the imminent arrival of the Apocalypse. (And UNESCO call this humanity!?). Some Christmas spirit I call that, threatening the local populace with the image of the Four Horsemen of Rajoy, Bauzá, Montoro and Aguiló crashing through the front door and having away with what few coins they haven't already managed to lift and, for good measure, the meagre collection of presents that the average Mallorcan family will have been able to scrape together from the local Chinese shop and car-boot sale.

Not of course that there are Christmas presents. Not at Christmas. Whoever heard of this? How can there be Christmas presents and they are not given at Christmas? The Mallorcans should be investigated for mental cruelty to their children by making them wait twelve days for their new iPhones (those privileged few who can afford them, that is). Mañana is all very well, but by the time the Mallorcans get round to handing out the pressies, Santa is long gone, has his feet up in Lapland and Rudolph is out to pasture for another year, doing nothing more taxing than keeping a wary eye out for a passing tourism minister with a high-powered hunting rifle.

The trouble with the Mallorcans is that they've got all their dates and timings to cock. And there is nothing more wrong than with those who insist on eating turkey on Christmas Eve. The British have never fallen for this flouting of tradition, despite the best attempts of the royals who keep up the pretence that they are still really German and good mates with the Kaiser, tucking into entire herds of Norfolk livestock on Christmas Eve and then jackbooting across the Sandringham estate for some fresh air on Christmas Day. And if they were true to their German roots, on Christmas Eve they would be eating the most revolting fish known to man, or other fish, the carp. Maybe they do, for all I know.

At least the Queen gets her Christmas message spot-on, as in it is on Christmas Day, unlike the Spanish King who does his when the Mallorcan faithful are back from or going to church to be warned about the Apocalypse. How on earth he's going to manage this year to skate around the little matter of the elephant I've no idea. And then there are the other Kings, the Black and White Minstrels whose arrival heralds, finally, the moment when Christmas really kicks in, albeit twelve days too late. But when one says arrival, where, in Bethlehem, was there any mention of a dockside for the Kings to pull into? Or indeed any tourist pleasure boat for them to arrive on? Sorry, but the Mallorcans have got this totally wrong. It's no use anyone claiming that the fountain out of the field, moor and mountain that the Kings had to traverse afar while bearing gifts means the sea, as I'm not having it.

The Mallorcans are getting there. Slowly, but they are getting there. They are beginning to understand that there is more to Christmas than a Gregorian chant and a bar of nougat. But there's one thing they'll never manage. There will never be a Mallorcan Noddy Holder. "IT'S CHRISSSTMAS!".

Any comments to please.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 December 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 13C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): South 4 backing Southwest 4 during the morning and 5 at intervals, backing Northwest in the afternoon and finally North 2 to 3.

A quite sunny morning and should feel fairly warm with a good deal of sun during the day. The Christmas forecast is good for Christmas Eve (19C and sun), less good for Christmas Day (18C with a chance of rain but also sun).

Evening update (18.00): Pretty good day, sunny but also at times quite windy. A high of 19.7C (Pollensa).

MALLORCA TODAY - Decisions on management of Tramuntana by the end of the year

The Council of Mallorca is looking to complete the process of handing over to private operators the running of two of the dry stone route refuges in the Tramuntana (those in Deià and Pollensa) by the end of the year. The privatisation will save the Council around 250,000 euros.

See more: Ultima Hora

A Mallorcan Christmas Ghost Story

The year is 1817. It is two days before Christmas. There is a full moon in a clear, starry night sky. Two young men are walking home from an inn in the area of Fartàritx in Manacor. They are startled by an apparition standing by a street corner. Is it flesh and blood? What is it? The young men, though afraid, edge towards the apparition. They call out. "Who are you?" The apparition doesn't speak. It makes no sound at all, even as it suddenly disappears from view. Where has it gone? The young men, bolder now, race to the spot at the corner of the street. They look left, they look right. The apparition is nowhere to be seen.

The young men chuckle. It must have been a friend wearing a sheet who was trying to spook them. They laugh at their stupidity, slap each other on the back and say their good nights as they head to their homes. They think they have been fooled, but the next day they are forced to think again.

The Christmas Eve market is thronged, but the local people are huddling together, some are holding onto each other. The two young men had not been the only ones to see a strange apparition. There is fear and the people speak of only one thing: the ghost. The mayor comes among the people. He calls for the men of the neighbourhood to join with him. That night they will hunt for the apparition. The priest, though, warns the people. Tells them not to speak of it. "If this thing is or of the devil, to even name it is to give succour to forces of darkness. I forbid you to utter its name."

"Father," one man speaks out, "this thing is spreading fear. My wife saw it. From our yard. She said it was a terrible sight. It will bring ruin if we do not find it." The two young men speak as well. "We saw it too, Father. It was a fearful thing. And ... And it can just disappear. We saw how it can."

The mayor then announces. "We will find it, but we will honour the advice of the Father, and not speak of it. We will gather at six this evening. Bring scythes or forks and, Miquel, please bring your gun."

As the sun goes down, the men of the neighbourhood congregate. They form three groups and they scour the streets for several hours, despite this being Christmas Eve. But they see nothing. Indeed, seeing anything is made more difficult as on this night the moon is no longer full and a Tramuntana wind has brought in cloud. Eventually, they head to the church, their fruitless hunt over.

Had the ghost been no more than a practical joke? Some thought so. Others were less sure. One theory was that it was indeed a ghost, the ghost of a Jewish woman who had died at the hands of the Inquisition. That the ghost did not reappear again on Christmas Eve led many to believe that it would not be seen again, but they were to be wrong, just as they had been wrong to search when the moon wasn't full.

The apparition did reappear. It reappeared unerringly when two events coincided, a full moon and the proximity of a religious celebration. Over the following three years, it was spotted several times, always briefly, never speaking and always disappearing without sound. However, there were still those who were unconvinced that it was really a ghost. Suspicion fell on a simpleton called Pere-Joan, and when he died in 1820, the suspicions seemed as though they may have been right. Or were they?

The neighbourhood of Fartàritx ceased to suffer this strange visitation, but it began to appear elsewhere. In the S'Antigor area, for instance, then Barracar and Sa Moladora. The ghost continued to materialise, even into the last century, and so whenever there was a full moon and a religious fiesta, the people of Manacor were in a state of anxiety, though on one occasion they discovered that the ghost was indeed a hoax, a young woman being forced at gunpoint to remove a sheet; she had been hoping to scare her boyfriend.

The young woman was not the ghost of Manacor, but the story of the ghost is a true one. The events of Christmas 1817 may not have happened quite as I have suggested, but it is possible that they might have done. But one thing makes my version inaccurate, and that is the fact that the ghost had started appearing much earlier. In the eighteenth century. Was the ghost a prank or was it not?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 December 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West 2 backing by the afternoon to South 2 to 3 and eventually Southwest 3 to 4.

A greyish morning but should clear to give sun. The outlook remains fairly settled, wind later in the week but good amounts of sun and the forecast for Christmas Day is for sun and cloud but a risk of some rain.

Evening update (18.00): The sun came out eventually, and the high has been 17.6C (Sa Pobla). 

Making A Return?: The Palacio

Tucked away among the offers that Carlos Delgado appears to believe will contribute to the Balearic Government's grand scheme for making winter tourism slightly more than the total washout it currently is was mention of congresses. And during Delgado's meeting with the hoteliers federation the other day, one topic which reared its head for discussion was our favourite paralysed project, the Matas palace of congresses, i.e. Palma's Palacio de Congresos.

I don't apologise for revisiting the congress centre yet again. It is an important project, if only because it is losing so much money and because hardly a day goes by without something emerging which makes the day when (if) it finally rises from the ashes of crisis and ineptitude appear ever more distant. We now know that the private sector is wary that the numbers don't add up and so is keeping its distance. We also know that the national government isn't about to help out by chipping in the 30 or so million euros that would kickstart the building again.

Furthermore, we know that there is a great deal of blame being thrown around. Delgado has pleaded for there to be an end to looking for people to blame and to "demonising" the private sector for what, as things stand, is a failed project. Yet, we also know that Palma town hall, flatly refusing to toss any more of its cash down the palace's money pit, has made it clear that it was the private sector - the hoteliers in other words - who wanted the congress centre in the first place, thus intimating that they should get their wallets out. Perhaps Delgado, during the meeting, was asking what sort of loose change the hoteliers might have kicking around.

The town hall may be right up to a point, but if the project was solely one demanded by the hoteliers, then there were certainly politicians who were only too happy to listen to the demand and respond in an accordingly positive fashion. One of them was former president Jaume Matas, and if there is any further need to be wary about the whole project, it is the very fact that any Matas-era initiative should make everyone somewhat cautious.

Delgado is right, though. Playing the blame game won't get the damn thing built. Much as I have serious reservations about the project, because of its history of stuttering progress and because of Matas, my greatest doubt has concerned its contribution, especially where winter tourism is concerned. If it is to be finished, the business case for what it might realise needs to be made clear, as indeed it should have been made clear before it was ever embarked upon.

Self-serving though the figures may be, there is at least one organisation that appears able to shed some light on the type of return the Palacio might make. And these figures paint a potentially very much more positive view of the project and therefore of the sense in getting on with it.

APCE is the Asociación de Palacios de Congresos de España, its membership comprising 37 congress and convention centres across Spain. You would expect it to issue favourable information, but if we take it at its word, a report it has issued suggests that there is an 80% return on investment (ROI) - in one year - on the cost of the construction of such centres. This is an extremely simplistic way of extrapolating from its numbers, but on a total investment of 1,500 million euros on the various conference centres, in 2011 alone there was an "economic impact" of 1,200 million euros.

What APCE means exactly by economic impact is hard to say - it probably doesn't mean a direct ROI but rather a wider benefit - but it is one that should, nevertheless, make even critics such as myself sit up and take note. Added to this is the fact that, or so says APCE, international meetings business in Spain has grown by 100% over the past ten years.

Caveats to this, in addition to any possible limits to growth in the market for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), are, where Palma is concerned, its weak international air links in winter and the fact that it isn't a major city. Though Spain ranks number three overall in the list of destinations for MICE, Barcelona and Madrid, between them, account for well over half of all the meetings events; Barcelona, the third highest ranked city in the world, is the only city in the global top twenty, with the exception of Istanbul, which isn't a capital.

Caveats or not, the APCE figures do give cause to believe that Palma's Palacio might not be a total waste of money. But then how much more money is going to be wasted before it is finished? If it is ever is.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Lack of taxis in Pollensa slammed

The Alternativa per Pollença has complained that cuts to guaranteed minimum service provision by taxis in Pollensa, cuts approved by the town hall's ruling administration, have led to it being impossible to get a taxi. The party says that this was the case on Monday (17 December) and that there were no taxis at the rank in Puerto Pollensa. The Alternativa considers this all to be a breach of service provision and has called on the administration to investigate.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 December 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Northwest 5 easing to 4 and later West 2 to 3.

A clear night but not a cold one, the morning is bright and there should be plenty of sun and probably feeling warmer than the anticipated high of 17C. The forecast ahead for Christmas Eve is for mainly sun and a high of 19C.

Afternoon update (17.15): A fine day it was, the high having been in Sa Pobla - 18.3C.

MALLORCA TODAY - Hoteliers put Son Bosc golf back on the agenda

A meeting between the Mallorca hoteliers federation, the tourism minister Carlos Delgado and the director for ports and airports heard has raised criticisms of the lack of winter flight connections and of the regional government's tax measures. It has also raised various projects once more, one of them being the stalled golf development on Muro's Son Bosc finca.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Three detained over Can Picafort burglaries

A 37-year-old man and two teenagers of 16 and 17 years of age have been arrested on suspicion of having burgled some 14 homes in Can Picafort last month, some of the burglaries having been committed while occupants were asleep.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro town hall arguments over councillors' expenses

An ongoing row about expenses incurred by councillors at Muro town hall, and in particular those for attending meetings of the council, has exploded once again, opposition spokesperson for the Convergència threatening the mayor Martí Fornes with legal action over his claim that the former administration (under what was then the Unió Mallorquina) incurred far greater expenses.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Graffiti on Sa Pobla mosque raises further tension

Already high because of the release of two Moroccan boys accused of rape, tensions in Sa Pobla involving the Muslim community have increased, graffiti having been daubed on the local mosque along with the word "bomb".

See more: Ultima Hora

All The Fun Of The Travel Fair

When Carlos Delgado became tourism minister he took a good-sized hunting knife to the budget for travel trade fairs. So much did he hack off that in Berlin last time round the Balearics stand comprised no more than a flip-chart, a fold-down camping table as a reception desk and a sign saying Balearic Islands that had been scrawled with a marker pen on a sheet someone had nicked from the two-star hostel where the fair's contingent had been forced to slum it. Embarrassing, some said. And worse still was that Carlos had forbidden that there be any "fun" in the form of jolly displays of ball de bot and the handing around of free glasses of hierbas and plates of frito. Travel fairs are for working, not for having fun, he commanded.

In 2013 there is to be more working at travel fairs. More than ever, or so it would seem. The great annual tourism promotion plan has been unveiled and the Balearics will be attending 17 general travel fairs and 28 specialised fairs. 45 fairs in all. I trust that you are impressed. You certainly should be impressed by the fact that the overall number of promotional "actions" - 107, 45 of which are fairs - will cost on average 80% less than in 2009 but will represent an increase of 78% on that year. 80%, 78%, whatever, my how they love trotting out these percentages. They are designed to impress, and yes, we are impressed.

More with less, this is the great tourism promotional mantra at present. So 80% less but 78% more sounds very much like more with less. The only worry is that a different mantra could be used. New for old. New travel fairs, same old message.

Carlos has been at pains to point out that all this gadding around travel fairs will help to reinvigorate winter tourism (isn't the "re" part rather redundant?). He has also been pointing out that the lack of winter tourism isn't the current government's fault, which is fair enough I suppose but shouldn't be taken as singling out the last PSOE administration alone for winter promotional inertia. In fact, I don't know how much any government over the past 25 years can truly be blamed. Successive administrations have come out with their own winter tourism solution, and it has been the same as was first conceived under the Cladera tourism plan in the 1980s and bears an uncanny resemblance to what the current government is proposing. New for old.

Just look at what these additional travel fairs will be promoting. Golf, cycling, nature ... . Do any of you notice anything familiar with any of these? What's new is that there are more places to go and stage fairs, so having failed to attract Brits and Germans for the past however many years with the delights of trekking across the Tramuntana in a howling winter gale, Carlos will be despatching the tourism ministry's one-man-band promotional task force with his all-in-one promotional kit to Moscow in order to entice Russians away from the competing attraction of basking in 25 degrees or more of sun by the Red Sea in winter.

Always assuming that this more with less, new for old message has some effect, it won't be an effect that will be witnessed in the next one or two years. "I would be lying if I were to say this," Carlos has said. Not lying, so therefore being honest. Well, there's a thing. The government will be improving things progressively every winter, which means little tiny bits of improvement until the next governmental upheaval in three years, when everything will change again.

To be fair, the government is trying, or at least seems to be. But when Delgado says, as he has, that the current reduction in flights and hotels being open in winter is all the consequence of a lack of demand, will the creation of what he claims to be the first "planned" winter tourism product really solve anything? He needs to flesh out precisely what this planned product is, other than attending more travel fairs and shoving information up on the internet.

It isn't really true to say that there haven't been previous "plans". They may not have been good plans and they may not have worked, but the winter tourism message has remained unaltered for years, save for the occasional strange innovation, like Nordic walking. So what's to say this new one will make any real difference? I hope it does, but far better would be just to hand over the cash to Melià or other hotel groups and have them construct a few whacking great, all-weather, all-year theme, entertainment, sports, fun complexes. Go on, Carlos, you know it makes sense.

Any comments to please.