Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla rejects defence of Catalan

In an extraordinary turnaround, the Partido Popular-led administration has rejected a motion in favour of the defence of Catalan and so contrary to the policies of the PP Balearic Government. On what seems to be a technicality, mayor Biel Serra, who had previously expressed his support of Catalan, argued that the motion was not valid. Opposition groups voiced their disgust and accused Serra of being a poodle of the government.

MALLORCA TODAY - Hirst affair interests local media

The investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and the consequent trial in the UK of John Hirst and Richard Pollett, the two main accused in the fraud resulting from a Ponzi scheme that Hirst operated, are attracting the attention of the "Diario de Mallorca", which gives some background to the affair for which the five accused all deny accusations and which will come to trial in June. Some 70 people in Calvia were affected by the scheme which started in 2001 and which involved investments of anything from eleven thousand to over 200 thousand euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 January 2012

A pleasant, bright, calm but cold morning, the best temperature at 08:00 being 5.7C. Cloud is set to build up later, and the forecast remains really poor for later in the week with snow and colder temperatures.

Afternoon update: The wind got up a bit but temperatures haven't been too bad on a day with a good deal of sun, the high having been 14.5. But rain is set to come in tomorrow afternoon, followed by rough seas on Thursday and a tumble in the temperature.

Cry Wolf: Hay Mucha Crisis

Permission if I may. The next time someone says "hay mucha crisis", may I be allowed to punch them out?

I have come to the conclusion that many a Mallorcan rather likes there being mucha crisis. It has become a comforting state of being over the past three to four years; comforting in that it allows any form of enquiry that might require the handing over of money or the taking of action to be met with a shrug and a smug look of superiority. Hay mucha crisis but my crisis is better than your crisis, or is it that it is not as bad as your crisis? There's mucha and then there's mucha. Or even muchísima.

The chanting of the c-word is so predictable that it has caused a disruption to normal, everyday, banal intercourse. What's the point of asking how things are going when you know beforehand that they are not going and that they are accompanied by mucha crisis. You can't ever be sure that there really is mucha crisis, but you can be sure that it is being used an excuse even if it is merely poca or ninguna.

Maybe there's a business to be made out of making t-shirts emblazoned with the legend "don't tell me there's a crisis", so that whenever you encounter a Mallorcan in whatever situation it might be he or she might be deterred from parroting the "HMC" line. Except no one would buy the t-shirt because there is of course mucha crisis. Or they might buy one so long as they are given a hefty discount or can pay in instalments, and also so long as you can go along and collect the instalments, only to find that they have no dinero because there is ... you guessed it.

If and when there is no longer mucha crisis, how are people going to cope? Crisis dependency has taken hold. It will require treatment at crisis addiction clinics to restore the crisis dependent to normality. But there's little chance of post-crisis Balearics having a health service that is sufficiently restored to good health to be able to cater for the needs of the crisis addicts. So deep is the health service in crisis that it will take years to pay off its debts, if they ever are to be paid off. 550 million euros in the red at the end of 2011. A mere bagatelle to pay off.

Want crisis? I mean, really want crisis? Then look no further than IB-Salut. Oh, it functions well enough, despite the debt, but it is an example of how mucha crisis can border on the inhumane, as is the case with immigrants from some African, Asian and South American countries who have little or no resources or who can't prove that they have and who are being denied a health card that would enable them to get health assistance.

All sorts of questions arise from this, such as having paid into the social security system or not, but don't let's think this is something confined to people from some part of deepest Africa. What if you're British but unable to prove that you have work? There seems some confusion among IB-Salut health centres. In fact, some don't really know, though one or two do. Off you go. Hay mucha crisis, and that's the end of the matter.

A correspondent asked the question of his local health centre (not that it affected him but he wanted to find out). If you are not working, then would you get a new health card? It would depend, came the answer. On what wasn't clear. Hay mucha crisis explained it all, or rather didn't explain anything.

Proving entitlement or having entitlement is reasonable, but what isn't is the confusion that is allowed to creep in with the mucha crisis shrug and justification. It is heartless, callous and confirms that it is the case that your crisis, if you are not Mallorcan/Spanish, is worse. As the same correspondent puts it, even if you have lived in Mallorca for years, you are still a foreigner and you can get lost.

Mucha crisis changes everything. The debt-ridden health service is only a part of it. Let me cite the correspondent once again, one who is anything but a newcomer to the island. The fear is that everything is going to implode. I don't know that it will. Apart from the indignados' protests and some strikes, mucha crisis has not taken on a worrying dimension. What lies ahead in the next few months, one can't really say, but perhaps there is hope that there is some comfort in there being mucha crisis. It is one of resignation more than agitation.

There is mucha crisis, of course there is, and it is being experienced by all sorts of people. 25% unemployment in the Balearics. Record number of households with everyone out of work. One in four people at risk of poverty or social exclusion. These people know about mucha crisis. It's the mucha crisis of the wolf-criers that makes so many despair. There's no sympathy when "hay mucha crisis", and they are down to their last finca or two.

* Just for those not up to speed with the native, "hay mucha crisis" (there is much crisis) is pronounced like "eye, moochah cree-sis".

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Index for January 2012

Alcúdia's Roman ports - 21 January 2012
All-inclusives, increased potential of - 25 January 2012
Antoni Maria Alcover and language - 30 January 2012
Baltasar Garzón, Manos Limpias and - 17 January 2012
Catholic Church and Partido Popular - 3 January 2012
Christian names and surnames, Mallorcan - 23 January 2012
Economic crisis, health service and foreigners - 31 January 2012
Gay tourism, Cala Rajada and - 22 January 2012
Jaume Matas trial - 14 January 2012
José Manuel Soria, tourism minister - 12 January 2012
Language in the public sector - 18 January 2012
Local newspapers in Mallorca - 9 January 2012
North-south divide in Mallorca - 24 January 2012
Olympic Games, expat perspective on - 2 January 2012
Opening hours, shop - 10 January 2012
Partido Popular, splits in the - 7 January 2012, 15 January 2012, 20 January 2012
President Bauzá in discussion with the opposition - 26 January 2012
PSOE, leadership of - 13 January 2012
R&D, Spanish - 5 January 2012
Renewable energy in the Balearics - 19 January 2012
Retailers, leading Spanish - 27 January 2012
Spanair collapse - 29 January 2012
Spanish Government budget - 1 January 2012
Table football - 28 January 2012
Three Kings, racism and - 6 January 2012
Tourism law, opposition to - 4 January 2012, 8 January 2012
Tourist office privatisation - 11 January 2012
Water resources plan and land classification - 16 January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 January 2012

Very windy, with gusts up to 70kph, and mostly cloudy. Not quite as cold with highs up to nine degrees but feeling a lot colder with the wind. The alerts are out for today, especially for coastal areas (avoiding exposed sea fronts etc.), the lower alert being for rain and the wind. Quietening down tomorrow, but the snow at sea level is still a strong possibility later in the week.

Afternoon update: Turned out rather better than might have been hoped. The strong winds died down during the afternoon, there was quite a bit of sun throughout the day, a high of only 10.8 though. From Thursday, however, things don't look too good.

The Dictionary Man: Antoni M. Alcover

It is, I guess, the fact of being a historian by degree and of being a some time creator of street maps that the names of streets hold such an interest.

There is much to be learnt from street names. They can add considerably to your vocabulary, if you are minded to become acquainted, that is, with the Catalan for the eight winds of the Mediterranean, various flowers and all manner of birds. There is also a great deal of historical knowledge to be acquired. Street names are as good an introduction as any to the largely obscure and unknown history of Mallorca. Even those native Mallorcans who have lent their names to streets and who enjoy some fame away from the island, such as Ramon Llull, remain generally unknown to most foreigners.

It also helps to have a passing interest in anthroponymy, the science of human names. I say interest; it is more a case of a fascination as to diversity of names, be they Christian or surname, and their geographical locations and origins.

In the process of giving local names cartographical representation, the regularity with which the same names appeared drew me to conclude that there were those who had to have greater significance than others. Names with apparent obscurity such as Francesc de Borja Moll and Antoni Maria Alcover required appreciation.

Borja Moll and Alcover lie parallel to each other in Puerto Alcúdia. Neither is a remarkable street. The first has a similarly unremarkable Guardia Civil building at one entrance, the second is next to a BP garage. It would be easy, therefore, to overlook both streets and both names. Yet there was a great deal of sense in having two streets in close proximity named in such ways. Borja Moll and Alcover go together like the horse and carriage.

Alcover was a linguist, painter, journalist and all-round man of the Catalan languages and culture. Languages are appropriate. He embarked on one of the great linguistic projects, that of the dictionary of the Catalan languages (i.e. versions and dialects), a project that was completed by Borja Moll.

A native of Manacor, that 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the year of Alcover's birth holds some significance greater than simply being an anniversary; 2012 could be a defining year for Catalan in Mallorca and for another native of Manacor, Antoni Pastor, who has found himself in the position of defending the language.

It is admitted that the anniversary falls at a time when the situation regarding Catalan is both "delicate and complicated", made so by political dogma. Manacor, now the centre of so much opposition to attacks on Catalan, is celebrating the anniversary by opening a library and by staging various activities devoted to Alcover's memory and legacy.

Historical figures such as Alcover, especially if they are integral to the island's culture, have acquired a reverence that has spilled over into their having become reference points for political and cultural argument. This is no more so the case than with Ramon Llull, yet Llull, one fancies, might not have taken kindly to the way in which his name is now taken as a metaphorical flag being waved at the head of a linguistic army. Llull popularised Catalan but he was enough of a linguistic liberal to have advocated the teaching of Arabic.

Alcover has been adopted by both sides of the local Catalan argument. As a linguist chronicler of the variants of the Catalan lands, his words underpin the cultural impulse towards independence for the Catalan lands. This is one side of the argument. The other is that he was a promoter of Mallorquín, and one favoured by those opposed to any hint of independence, most obviously the Partido Popular.

The official PP line is that Mallorquín (and the dialects of the other islands) are ok, while Catalan is not. It is the acceptance of "our language" (Mallorquín) that makes the PP position so difficult to come to terms with. Alcover's dictionary demonstrated, if nothing else, that it is hard to establish an overarching definition of Catalan (Valencians, for instance, would argue their case over that of Catalonians). The PP line is far more political than linguistic; it is one that rejects the notion that Catalonia has first call on Catalan and has any right to impose its language on Mallorca.

In practice, this doesn't happen, as it is the dialect that is spoken and not Catalan in its purest sense, whatever that is. This, though, makes it just as difficult to comprehend the defence of Catalan. Which Catalan is being defended?

150 years since Alcover's birth and his name this year will come to mean more than just a street name, but his name will often be taken in vain in an argument in which both sides appear to have long ago disappeared far up their linguistic backsides.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 January 2012

A lot more rain overnight, the morning is breezy, some blue sky but mostly thick cloud and a best temperature of 9.7 at 08:30. A high of 12 forecast for today with strong northerlies giving a wind chill. The advices for rain and adverse coastal and marine conditions are in place until tomorrow. There is due to be an improvement midweek but snow at sea level is likely by the end of the week.

Afternoon update: Rain, rain and more rain. A low of under three degrees inland and of just over five degrees on the coast. Roads in the mountains have had to be closed because of snow and the forecast for the snow line to get lower may be more imminent than has been suggested.

Spanner In The Works: Spanair's collapse

In August 2008, following the crash of flight JK5022 at Madrid airport and the death of 155 on board, I asked whether Spanair could recover or whether the flames of Barajas would come to engulf it.

At the time of the crash Spanair was in a dire financial position. Its major shareholder, Scandinavian Airlines, which had founded the airline together with the travel division of the now bust Grupo Marsans, was desperate to find a buyer. It eventually did. A consortium from Catalonia handed over one euro.

The problems at Spanair forced the closure of its operations at Palma airport, leaving behind only call-centre staff and some ground crew, now out of a job. Everything was shifted to Barcelona, and the newly reconstituted airline hoped for better days.

The better days didn't materialise, however. A year ago, almost to the day of the announcement on Friday that the airline would be suspending activities and filing for bankruptcy protection, its future was placed on notice, owing to its financial situation.

The sale of Spanair, though for a nominal amount and for which Scandinavian Airlines retained a minority shareholding, was ill-conceived. The Catalonian government and Barcelona's El Prat airport were keen for the kudos of an airline which had Barcelona as an international hub, and so public money, along with investment from private sources was put into the airline. It wasn't, though, totally clear who owned what. Qatar Airways, which had been looked upon as a white knight, thought better about pumping money into the mish-mash of a corporation (at one stage Qatar Airways was set to become a 49% shareholder), and it was this decision which ultimately brought Spanair to its knees and to the suspension of activities.

The Qatari refusal to inject funds into the airline was the nail in the coffin, the lid of which had been closing because of the withdrawal of public funds. Spanair had been massively reliant on money from the Catalonian government and Barcelona town hall which had revelled in Spanair being the airline of the flag of the city. Reality finally caught up with the Catalonian public authorities, and Spanair, without a white knight or public finance, was doomed.

In truth Spanair has been a bankruptcy disaster waiting to happen. Economic crisis certainly didn't help, but its losses were unsustainable - 116 million euros in 2010, 186 million in 2009. Its main shareholder, Iniciativas Empresarials Aeronàutiques (IEASA), the mish-mash of various public and private organisations which held 85.6% of the airline, finally accepted that a combination of economic crisis, the rise in the price of fuel, competition and pure lack of finance, meant that the shortlived revival of Spanair, following the sale by Scandinavian Airlines, had been shorter than might have been wished.

The reliance on public money has been the thing that has really killed Spanair. Its reconstitution was always, especially at the time that it was being pieced together in 2009, a highly risky proposition, given the depth of the economic crisis. Moreover, the huge amounts of public money were distinctly questionable in a way other than their having been wise use of such finance. Ryanair was one airline to argue that this was a form of illegal subsidy. This was denied on the grounds that payments were investments and not subsidies, but the distinction seemed to be one of semantics. Qatar Airways would have been uncomfortably aware of potential retrospective action by Brussels biting them later on.

Five years of uncertainty have now come to an end. These have been five years during which Marsans, before it faced its own financial death, had at one time sought to take over Spanair completely. In a way it would have been better if it had. "Spanner", as it was sometimes sarcastically referred to, might then have had to close earlier than it has. Arguably, it should have been allowed to go to the wall in 2008 anyway. Instead, it was picked up as partly a vanity project which has cost taxpayers in Catalonia a small fortune.

It is instructive that the Spanish minister for industry and tourism, José Manuel Soria, while lamenting the closure of Spanair, has said that it should also cause there to be "very serious reflection" as to public funds to airlines, be they investments or subsidies. Soria is dead against subsidies, and however the funds to Spanair were described, they still amounted to subsidies.

In the end, it wasn't the flames of Barajas that engulfed Spanair but the absence of an adequate financial base. It has spent the past three years on borrowed time, and now the time has run out.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Espanyol 1 : 0 Real Mallorca

Mallorca away at Espanyol who were fifth in La Liga before the match, though only six points ahead of Mallorca in fourteenth spot (on 22 points). Things were even enough until the Slovak Vladimir Weiss, once of Manchester City, shot Espanyol ahead. Immediately after half-time, Mallorca having made two changes in the break, goalkeeper Aouate received a red card for a questionable foul on Rui Fonte. Weiss hit the post as soon as Calatayud had come into goal from the free kick resulting from the Aouate incident, and the game got a bit feisty. A man down, Mallorca strove for an equaliser but ended up feeling unlucky and rather harshly done by after a creditable performance from which they deserved to get something.

Casilla; Galán, Rodríguez, Moreno, Didac; Forlin (Gómez), Baena; Weiss, Verdú, Romaric (López 84); Rui Fonte (Thievy 55)
Goal: Weiss (18)
Yellows: Forlin (51), Moreno (58), Baena (76), Thievy (80)

Aouate; Cendrós, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Joao Victor (Pina 45), Martí; Pereira (Ogunjimi 45), Alfaro (Calatayud 49), Castro; Victor

Yellows: Cendrós (45), Chico (87)
Red: Aouate (46)

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanair stops flying

Following yesterday's earlier suggestion that Spanair might suspend activities, it was officially announced that at 22:00 yesterday evening the airline would stop flying. The cause is a lack of finance, and the airline looks likely to file for bankruptcy. There is information on the Spanair website and a telephone information service - 902 13 14 15. In Palma, 110 workers will be affected by the suspension of activities. Spanair, in 2011, operated over 14,500 flights to and from the three airports in the Balearics (Palma, Menorca and Ibiza).

Without Spanair, the Balearics stand to lose around 20% of the total number of flights into and out of the islands.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 January 2012

Grey, with plenty of rain around. Depending on location, accumulation of rain by the morning already as high as 30mm, lower in other parts. Not cold, a high of 12.5 at 08:30, the wind gusting to up to 40kph on occasions. All in all, a pretty rotten day, and the forecast for the week ahead shows no improvement; indeed the snow line is forecast to edge down to almost sea level by the end of the week.

Afternoon update: A poor day, rain easing off in the afternoon but still grey, a high of just over 13 degrees but a chill wind coming off the sea. Tomorrow may well be worse with the temperatures going down.

Legs Eleven: Controversy in table football

You never know which subjects are likely to grab the attention. When I wrote about the Subbuteo table football world championships in July last year ("Flick When You're Winning"), the article sparked off a whole load of communication and some enthusiasm for arranging an international competition among the tourist hordes in summer. Armed with the knowledge that table football has the power to spark off discussion where the minutiae of corruption trials might not (there should after all be some priorities in life), here I go again, but this time not about Subbuteo but table football itself - a game I previously dismissed as being "crash-bang-wallop" compared with the finesse of Subbuteo flicking.

The table football world championships have recently been held in Nantes, France. The men's champion was a Belgian, the women's a Dane; Slovakia and Germany were the top-ranked nations among, respectively, the men and the women. Spain were second among the men, and Great Britain figured only in the seniors category, being rated second.

Like many sports, table football is not immune to its share of controversy. It isn't of the order of Blatter's machinations at FIFA, spot-fixing in cricket or dwarf-tossing in rugby. It is altogether more fundamental. Who actually invented table football?

The generally accepted wisdom has it that one Harold Searles Thornton, on having been to see Spurs play, came up with the idea. This may not say much for the style in which Tottenham were playing in the early 1920s (though they did win the FA Cup in 1921), but Harold was either so impressed or unimpressed that he patented his game in 1923. It seems only right. The English invented proper football, so it should also be the case that they invented the table version.

But then, maybe the English didn't invent football. Sepp Blatter, for one, has questioned the fact. And when it comes to table football, there is another pretender to the invention crown. Two in fact.

The International Federation reckons that it was all something that came from central Europe, without being specific. The Spanish Federation, however, claims that table football was the work of Alejandro Campos, who took out his patent in 1937.

Campos was nothing if not versatile. He was variously a tap dancer and a newspaper editor. He also changed his name, becoming Alejandro Finisterre, apparently after the name of the town where he was born, though many a Brit would assume that it was after a location on the shipping forecast (which Finisterre was, but had its own name change to avoid confusion with Spain's Finisterre peninsula).

Fourteen years separated Harold's patent from Alejandro's later one. So how is it that Alejandro has come to be heralded by the Spanish where Harold has not been heralded? Separation has everything to do with it. What Harold did was to create players with their legs together, Alejandro had the legs separated.

You may have come to appreciate that legs are quite important when it comes to football, be it the real thing or on a tabletop. I confess to never having taken much notice of whether the legs of table football players are bound together or are apart. I would suggest that this isn't a detail of the game that attracts much interest by anyone, but doubtless it now will do. Is the table football in the local bar a Harold or an Alejandro?

The difference may go some way to explaining why Spain are any good at football and England aren't. Were a real footballer to ape Harold's style, he would have to hop. Translated onto the tabletop, the legs-bound player can do one thing only - and that is to welly the ball as hard as possible, i.e. in keeping with how much English football has traditionally been played. Legs apart, on the other hand, lend themselves to two-footed players in the real game and to the Spanish exponents of "tiki-taka" (an expression largely credited to a commentator, the late Andrés Montes); table football in Spanish is also sometimes referred to as "taca-taca".

Alejandro's fame is set to spread. He is the subject of a book by the Italian cartoonist and novelist Alessio Spataro. What it is called I don't know - "Standing On My Own Two Legs" perhaps. There is no novel about Harold as far as I am aware, but maybe he should be more celebrated. 1923 was a momentous year for English football. The first Wembley final and the famous white horse. But was it a real horse? Amidst the hopping Bolton and West Ham players there was the Escalado horse of the 1923 Cup Final. And who invented Escalado?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, January 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanair might suspend activity

Spanair, the Barcelona-based airline which closed down its Palma operations a couple of years ago because of financial difficulties, is experiencing ever more financial problems. Reports that the airline has applied to the equivalent of the Civil Aviation Authority to suspend activities are confused; the airline suggesting that no official approach to the authority has been made. The latest troubles at Spanair, which was badly affected by the accident at Madrid airport in 2008 when 154 people lost their lives, have been exacerbated because of withdrawal of funding from the Catalonian regional government and Qatar Airlines. The airline is currently operating flights as normal.

MALLORCA TODAY - Record unemployment figures in the Balearics

2011 ended with the unemployed figure for the Balearics standing at 146,500 people, or 25.2% of the registered workforce. The total number of unemployed in Spain has gone over the five million mark for the first time ever, representing nearly 23% of the workforce, and the number of households in which everyone of working age is unemployed has risen by a staggering 18.6%.

The unemployment figure in the Balearics is probably worse than it seems, as it is one for those who are registered or who are entitled to benefit (if they can get it). It does not include the large number of self-employed who cannot apply for benefit.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 January 2012

A mix of a morning, some cloud around but also sun. A high of 9 degrees at 08:30, but there is the chance of rain later. A weather advice has been issued for strengthening winds for tomorrow.

Afternoon update: The rain has arrived. The high has been 14.9. Things don't look too brilliant for the weekend, getting a fair bit chillier on Sunday.

Are You Being Served? Spanish retailing

Ten years ago I splashed out 1500 euros on a decent digital camera. Having parted with the cash, the camera soon developed a fault. It turned out to have been just one of those things. The replacement was perfectly ok and served me for several years until it was stolen.

There had been no difficulty in obtaining the replacement from the retailer. I explained that there was a fault. There were no questions, there was no examination of the camera, and no quibbling whatsoever. The sales assistant got a new boxed-up camera and handed it over.

The point of this story is that the camera was bought at and then replaced by the main El Corte Inglés department store in Palma. El Corte Inglés doesn't do cheap. But what it does do is quality and service.

Gripes about service in Mallorca are legitimate, but there are many examples which disprove a widely-held belief that service is universally lousy. El Corte Inglés is one, and it is an example from a sector - retail - that is often damned for its unreliable opening hours and apparent lack of interest in the customer.

A while ago I mentioned the fact that it was hard to think of really world-class Spanish businesses. A correspondent referred to a handful which had escaped my attention, one being the Zara fashion store chain. Being strictly accurate, Zara is just a brand; it is one part of a suite of stores that comprise a company called Inditex. And Inditex has something in common with El Corte Inglés; they both feature in the list of the world's top 50 retailers.

The consultants at Deloitte are a busy bunch. They churn out surveys left, right and centre. Coming hard on the heels of one of Spanish travel agents, Deloitte has issued, in collaboration with Stores media, its 2012 "Global Powers of Retailing" survey.

This ranks, in order of sales, the leading 250 retailers across the globe. Dominating the top 30 are US companies - Wal-Mart is way out on its own at number one, but the UK's Tesco is number three in the world - but just under these real powerhouse companies comes a trio of Spanish retailers. El Corte Inglés is at 47, Inditex is at 49, but beating them both, and therefore Spain's leading retailer, is Mercadona, which is ranked at 42. There is only one other Spanish company in the 250, and that is Eroski (98).

It's when the list is broken down according to style of store that Spanish performance becomes more significant. Mercadona can't really compete with fast-moving consumer goods giants like Wal-Mart and Tesco, but El Corte Inglés is the world's fifth largest diversified retailer (beating Marks and Spencer into sixth place) and Inditex is the fifth largest fashion goods retailer.

The growth of Inditex has been impressive, despite economic conditions. It hasn't relied on acquisition but on expansion into new geographic markets. So well has it been doing that it is likely to overtake two well-known US companies, Kohl's and J.C.Penney, and is not so far behind Macy's, the world's number one fashion retailer.

Zara and Inditex's growth is in keeping with the fact that the most profitable of the retail sectors is fashion, but Inditex's success could also be a cause of competition. The Chinese, now developing quality brands but at lower prices, have been moving in, the likes of Mulaya seeking to take on Zara. But as with El Corte Inglés, a reputation for quality is likely to maintain Zara's strong position. However, where Inditex can expand into foreign markets, so can others.

Of UK (Irish) stores that many an expat has expressed a desire to have in Mallorca, Argos and Primark are names that regularly crop up. Argos would find it difficult, and the fact that at number four in the world's list of so-called hardlines and leisure goods retailers is Amazon.com partly explains why it would. Primark would be a different matter. It has already been successful in moving into mainland Spain and as it is also in Gran Canaria, then why not Mallorca? And it's not just the expats who would be thankful for a Primark. There is a Facebook page called "Queremos un Primark en Palma!" ("queremos" being we want) that has over 4,000 likes.

Analysts have identified over 140 cities in 12 countries that could be ripe for a Primark store. If there were more in Spain, and at least one in Mallorca, then Inditex may just have to watch out.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Miquel Llodrà receives three-year sentence

The judge in the case of 87-year-old Miquel Llodrà who ran over and killed his wife in Pollensa in 2010 has condemned Llodrà to three years in prison; a jury found him guilty of accidental homicide.

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Ten

The evidence, summings-up by defence and prosecution and last words by defendants have come to a conclusion in that part of the caso Palma Arena trial to do with payments that were allegedly made in an irregular fashion to the journalist Antonio Alemany. Jaume Matas' defence lawyer argued that there was an absence of proof and that the prosecution had relied on suspicions and prejudice. Matas declined to make a final statement, as he is entitled to. Alemany did have his word though, accusing the prosecution of insults and making what may well be seen as an important remark regarding the case being unique in the history of grants to the press in Spain. (If nothing else, the case highlights a wholly unsatisfactory system of public money that is given to the press - my comment, not Alemany's.)

MALLORCA TODAY - Holiday home rules to get tougher

The Balearic Government's draft tourism law would remove the category of the "vivienda vacacional*" by which is meant holiday home for rent (not apartments, which are covered nowhere in the new law or old ones, but standalone or, under the new law in some instances, semi-detached properties). The consequence of this would be that owners would need to declare themselves as tourism businesses or place properties for rent through an agency. At present, holiday homes are often marketed via agencies but many are not and owners do not need to be tourism businesses as such. The draft proposal is causing particular anxiety in Pollensa, which has a large number of holiday homes, and has led the mayor to seek amendment to the law.

* The draft does expressly refer to the elimination of this category and its replacement by something rather vaguely called a "tourism stay".

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 January 2012

A bright morning, calm and a little misty with a high of 7.7 degrees at 08:30. Likely to get cloudy later on and then go pear-shaped from tomorrow with rain, snow on high ground and strong winds kicking in from Saturday. All in all, the next few days look poor but, as pointed out yesterday, this would represent a familiar breakdown in the weather at the end of what are usually good Januarys.

Afternoon update: The brightness and sun of the morning started to go during the afternoon. A high of 15.8, but this may be the best temperature for a time, if the forecast is to be believed.

The Disunited Front Of Mallorca

Despite Francina Armengol having been slated by a report by her own party that condemned errors she made while president of the Council of Mallorca, she looks odds-on to be the new local leader of PSOE. And in true leadership-in-waiting fashion, she has been engaging in high-level diplomatic discussions with President Bauzá (in that politics in the Balearics can ever be said to be at a high level).

This might give the impression that Francina had initiated these discussions. It would be a false impression. Bauzá has finally deigned to speak to someone from PSOE, and other parties, and explain what the hell he's up to, though you might have thought that they could have figured this out for themselves. But Bauzá appears to have needed to have climbed down from his perch and seek some support from the opposition, given that many within the PP seem intent on deserting him.

Diplomacy to the fore, along with her own leadership aspirations, Francina has called for there to be a united front among the parties in combating the challenges facing the Balearics. This is all good spin-for-public-consumption stuff, but is of course complete rot. PSOE, or rather Armengol, might put on a united-front face, but you can exclude other parties. The PSM socialists, for example, are totally opposed to Bauzá's changes to the language law that would see Catalan disappear as a requirement for public workers. Bauzá has said he won't budge an inch.

Bauzá is placing so much emphasis on the reform of the language law, to the extent that it seems to have become cornerstone legislation of his administration even more than getting the economy right, that he can be seen as being either a strong leader or completely mad. It's a bit of both probably.

There is more than a hint of jealous rivalry about the opposition that Bauzá is encountering within his own party. It is rivalry that stems in part from the fact that he is relatively new to the heights of the PP. He isn't one of the old guard, many of whom have expressed their disquiet with the change to the language law. He is being cast in the role of the André Vilas-Boas of the PP, a young, Chelsea-like manager seeking to mould a team in his own style but coming up against the Terrys and Lampards of the PP dressing-room.

A united front of language will be an impossibility, but what of other government initiatives (such as they are)? There is really only one other, and that is the tourism law. Here, Bauzá has indicated that he might be willing to move. Whether he's told Carlos Delgado, one can't be sure, but the Armengol pow-wow resulted in two things. One was that town hall responsibilities for licences and permissions, which would be threatened under the revised law, would be reconsidered. The other was that he was minded to look again at all-inclusives.

The first of these is something he would do well to stick to his guns on. The town halls don't want to lose power. They should be told to get lost. Reducing their role would lessen bureaucracy, delays and costs. As for all-inclusives, it is intriguing, if nothing else, that Bauzá seems willing to consider them further. But in what way? He hasn't said.

The only provision under the new law that deals with all-inclusives is the ludicrous idea that by stopping tourists taking food and drink off-site this might help local bars and restaurants. It is the only provision in tackling an issue over which the regional government's hands are tied by the demands of tour operators and, to a lesser extent, the hotels themselves.

However, there is something the government could do. It cannot prevent all-inclusives, and nor would it, but it could apply, and in a very strict fashion, standards of service and of quality that would be hard for some hotels to meet. In theory, these standards are already meant to be met, but they clearly are not. The reasons why not are that the investment demanded would be too great and that some hotels would be forced to abandon all-inclusive, thus threatening tour operator relationships and overall tourism competitiveness in Mallorca.

Whether Armengol has any better idea or indeed if Bauzá has any better idea, one would doubt. As is usually the case, politicians can speak of united fronts and of looking again at policies (all-inclusive in this case), but the talk means little, as there is very little they can actually do.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - (Copa del Rey) Real Mallorca 0 (0) : 1 (3) Athletic Bilbao

Two-nil down from the first leg, Mallorca faced a major challenge to try and get into the Copa del Rey semis. An open first half with Bilbao looking in the early exchanges to bury the tie completely, but Mallorca then coming more into play. With both sides pressing, Mallorca could find no way through Bilbao, throwing Castro on instead of defender Cendrós midway through the second period in an effort to break down the deficit. The introduction had an effect, but an own goal by Ramis sealed the tie after 75 minutes.

Calatayud; Cendrós (Castro 68), Chico, Ramis, Bigas; Tissone, Joao Victor (Martí 78), Pereira, Alfaro; Álvaro (Victor 58), Hemed

Red: Chico (89)
Yellow: Ramis (90)

Iraizoz; Iraola, Martínez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; Iturraspe, Ander (Pérez 62); Susaeta, De Marcos, Muniain (Toquero 39); Llorente (San José 84)
Goal: Ramis (75 own goal)
Yellows: Amorebieta, Ander, Toquero, Iraizoz

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia art and science museum in mothballs

Maria Salom, the president of the Council of Mallorca, has described the project to convert the old power station in Puerto Alcúdia to an arts and science museum as having not been realistic. She criticised previous administrations for not appreciating the budgetary demands of the project which for now seems destined not to happen.

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Nine

In the prosecutors' summing-up in the part of the trial to do with the payments to journalist Antonio Alemany, Pedro Horrach expressed his "indignation" at the premeditated nature of the use of public finds made by former president Jaume Matas. He praised Matas as a good accountant (which he originally was) and Alemany as a good journalist but damned their manipulation of public funds and power.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 January 2012

Quite a pleasant morning, still and some sun but chilly from 3.2 to an inland high of 9.8 at 08:30. Should be a decent day, but there is trouble ahead, the snow line now looking as though it will be down as low as 300 metres by Monday. If this change occurs, it is quite typical for a good January to end with cold weather.

Afternoon update: Another fine sunny day but with a chill breeze that doesn't bode that well, given the forecast, though the snow line has now been revised to be 500 metres higher. A high of 15.6 today.

Realising Potential: All-inclusives

From seven options as to type of holiday, which one would you think would be rated as having most potential in 2012? The magnificent seven are: all-inclusive, singles holidays, adults-only hotels, city breaks, gastronomy/environmental tourism, wellness, sports tourism. Give up? Well, if you are a bar or restaurant owner, you may already have done. The answer is the first: all-inclusive (AI).

Deloitte, in association with "Hosteltur", has conducted its annual survey of Spanish travel agencies, the headliner of which has to do with potential. Rated from very little potential to much potential, AI has so much more potential than the other six that it outstrips the nearest contender in the much potential bracket by a clear 25%.

As those being surveyed are Spanish travel agencies, the clientele to whom they assign all this potential is also Spanish. The finding regarding AI, while hardly that surprising in terms of its attractiveness, is unwelcome news for the complementary offer that has been less affected by a Spanish demand for AI than that from other markets.

A shift in terms of AI's increased potential for the domestic market is easily explained, as the advantage of a set budget that comes with an AI package is as appealing to a Spanish family hammered by recession as it is to a British family (or a German one).

Along with the British and German markets, the domestic tourism market ranks in the top three most important markets for Mallorca. Until now, it has, unlike the other two, been less inclined to go down the AI route. Economics have, however, brought about a change. As far as spend by Spanish tourists in 2012 is concerned, the survey reckons that 94% of the market will seek to spend the same or less. In other words, it is looking for the best value for money. One can argue whether AI always represents this, but for many consumers, it does.

The survey does not signal great news for businesses outside the confines of a hotel complex, and it also doesn't signal particularly great news for the type of niche holiday offer of which Mallorca has had such high hopes for so long. Compared with the 38% much potential of the AI, gastronomy/environment and sports tourism are rated as having only 4% high potential. Indeed, when it comes to sports tourism, the survey suggested that it has little or very little potential.

This finding will come as a blow to resorts where investment is being targeted towards sports tourism; Alcúdia for example, where both the "estación náutica" concept and the "bienestar activo" (active well-being) plan are intended to both raise the reputation of the resort and eat into the negative effect of seasonality.

A survey is of course only a survey, and this is a survey of only one market and one conducted with a population that isn't totally neutral. Like some travel agencies in the UK form part of integrated businesses with airlines and tour operators, so also are some Spanish travel agencies similarly allied. Nevertheless, travel agencies offer as good a barometer as any other part of the tourism industry in indicating where trends are heading. And if the trends of potential are mirrored in other national markets, it is clear enough where they are indeed heading.

What stands out from this survey is that for all that niche attractions, such as sport or gastronomy, are given such prominence, it is the traditional holiday which still holds by far the greatest appeal (and potential for sales by travel agencies). What has changed is that the type of board that is offered is less traditional, i.e. it is all-inclusive.

It is possible to conclude that the holidaymaker, especially at a time when money is tight, goes for the safe option, which means foregoing a holiday that is less traditional. If so, however, and certainly in the short term, investment of the type that hotels are making in wellness facilities (spas, etc.) does not necessarily appear to chime with what the market wants; the survey rates wellness as only having some potential.

But wealthier markets, such as the Russian market, would probably have a different perception of potential or consumer want. Consequently, the investment in spas would be good business as they would facilitate an upgrading of star rating. The four and five-star hotel is increasingly the future for Mallorca, so long, however, as they hold much potential. And for the Russians, far more than the Spanish, this also means all-inclusive.

Nothing will stop the increase in all-inclusive. Nothing. Other than a change in tourist attitude. And this is not going to change.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca won't be sold to Swiss group

No sooner had it looked as if Real Mallorca might be in the hands of new owners, than the club's directors have broken off discussions with the German-Swiss group which appeared to be willing to part with nine million euros to acquire it. However, as the head of the consortium failed to show up and as the right guarantees were not forthcoming, the club, and certainly not for the first time, has been made to look a bit silly. Compounding the usual confusion that surrounds Mallorca, there is a question regarding the moves of one of its shareholders, the German Utz Classen, who had vetoed his sale of shares; to effect a sale, it would seem that all shareholders have to agree.

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Eight

In court yesterday, the prosecutors confirmed that they would be calling for a sentence of eight and a half years for former president Jaume Matas in respect of the charges to do with payments to journalist Antonio Alemany. The prosecutors increased their demand to seven years where Alemany was concerned. This first part of the caso Palma Arena trial is now coming to a climax with summings-up being made this week.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 January 2012

A greyish start this morning, the high 9.5 at 08:30. Things aren't looking too good for the end of the week and weekend with rain and snow on higher ground.

Afternoon update: A reasonable day with a fair amount of sun but not as warm, the high having been 14.8. The outlook does appear threatening for the weekend with rain and high winds.

One Day In Palma

It is quite some years ago that I lived in a village by the moors above Bingley. Access to the village was by a winding and steep road that became treacherous in winter. There was very little in the village. One shop. One pub. And Harvey Smith's stables.

You will know, if only because of the former building society now bank, that Bingley is near to Bradford, which in turn is near to Leeds. It was only a few miles to Leeds, but it was to my astonishment when a woman in the village shop claimed never to have been to Leeds.

Never having been to London I could understand. Turning it around, why would anyone from London go to Leeds, unless they were a Millwall fan? But to have never made the short journey from Eldwick seemed extraordinary. Or was it?

There are degrees of geographical division and of not crossing the divides. A neighbour (Mallorcan) in Playa de Muro once said to me that he hadn't been to Puerto Pollensa for years. Yet it's only in the next bay.

But worlds are small. For all sorts of people. Mallorcan, British, whoever. In part, the smallness of the worlds is founded on inter-town rivalries and jealousies. Why would someone from Alcúdia want to go to Pollensa, or vice versa? This is not my posing the question. It is how the question has been framed by those for whom the twain of the two towns ne'er meets. Back in Yorkshire, it was the same. Bradford and Leeds never met. The only outsiders who went to Bradford were the lads from Keighley on the look out for a good ruck at a weekend.

Inter-city, inter-town, inter-village rivalries and divisions expand into inter-regional rivalries and divisions. North v. south. Rarely east v. west. Always the north-south divide. Bradford/Leeds and London. North of Mallorca and the south of Mallorca, Palma especially.

From the south, from Palma, the north is the north. It isn't the competitiveness of the individual towns. Not the attempts at one-upmanship nor the inference of one place being "better" than the other. Not the east-west divide in the north. The "Eastenders" of the easterly Alcúdia against the "Dynasty" of the westerly Pollensa. "East End boys and West End girls."

From the north, the south is the south. On a warm isle, the north-south divide is not one of climate. Not north, somewhere years ago and cold, nor south, birth to pleasant lands but dry**. But it is south nevertheless.

I was originally from the south (of England) but lived for some years in the north. The southerly origins were partly London's East End but I lived mostly in the West End. And now I am back in the north, but in neither the East nor the West End of the north. Muro is no-point-of-the-compass land. The town's name means wall, and hard though it once would have been to have imagined becoming walled in by the smallness of a world, there is that feeling, especially when the south calls to make it necessary to scale the wall.

Palma is the airport run, the occasional business run, the occasional officialdom run. It's more often than not a nuisance run. A would-rather-not run. But once there... . In the north you can forget that there are things like shop after shop with this and that. The sales are on. You can't really shop in the north. Not at the prices on display in Palma certainly. Not with the variety definitely.

You can forget the bustle of the city, an existence of life and purpose that in winter is all but absent in the north. The north is not somewhere years ago and cold, but for part of the year it is as cold as death.

You can forget the size and scale, forget landscapes dominated not only by sky. And you can forget that away from a northerly uneventfulness, drama is unfolding. So it was that, by chance, I was passing the court buildings in Palma. It was the end of the session. Alemany walked past me. The grey-long-haired Martorell came out, head bowed. I stopped by the gaggle of photographers and the girl from IB3 with a microphone. He smiled weakly but didn't speak. Jaume Matas. He looked shorter than I remembered him. He had just heard that the prosecution was still pressing for eight and a half years.

One day in Palma. And for a brief moment I realised why the south and not the north.

** "Refugees", Van der Graaf Generator.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, January 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 January 2012

Brighter than was being forecast, a reasonable amount of blue sky first thing, a wide variance in local temperatures from 4.8 to an inland high of 11.2 at 08:30. 16 degrees on the cards for later, the forecast for the upcoming weekend is now looking dodgy with snow down as low as 500 metres on Sunday.

Afternoon update: So much for the forecast of cloud for today. Another fine, sunny day with a high of 17.

Bring Me The Head Of Antonio García

Yes, I know. It was Alfredo García. But poetic licence and all that; the title refers to the Christian name and surname that head the lists of names in Mallorca and the Balearics.

There's something odd about these two names though. Neither is Catalan nor Mallorcan. Both are Spanish. Mallorca and the Balearics defend the languages but they have been overrun by Castellano names. García is followed by Martínez and Fernández. You have to look down the list to get to a Ferrer or a Pons. At a time when town halls are getting uppity about the suggestion that they should put the names of streets or towns into a Spanish form, the objection seems a bit odd when the names of the people have taken on a distinctly Spanish flavour.

This Spanishisation, if I can invent such a word, isn't all that surprising. Only just over 50% of today's population of the Balearics was born on the islands, and among these natives there are plenty who bear Spanish names. There again, it isn't always that clearcut with surnames, owing to the two-surname practice and which one is preferred.

And clearcut the history of surnames has also not been. It required a law in 1998 to actually formalise the right to use the Catalan form of a surname, and the origin of surnames that are identifiably Mallorcan is pretty obscure and complex. Few can probably be considered to be so; the more typical surnames, e.g. Serra, Font, Ferrer, come from Catalonia or other Catalan regions.

It will not be a surprise to learn that María and Catalina top the female list of Christian names. So regular and so prolific are Marías and Catalinas, as are Juans and Antonios, that if you bump into someone in the street whose name you have completely forgotten, there's a strong chance that if you took a punt on María or Juan you would be right.

It's a bit like the old Monty Python Australian sketch. "This is Bruce, this is Bruce, this is Bruce." Or this is how it seems. But there is more diversity of names than you might think. Well, Mohammed is now making a good name for himself at any rate. There is far less rigidity than was once the case where Christian names are concerned, though there is still a rule that names cannot be used that might expose someone to future ridicule. I'm not sure whether there is a system of changing names by deed poll, but even if there were, I would imagine that Facebookdotcom Forwardslash-MountaindewUK might not get approval.

Despite the fact that there isn't the old insistence on Christian names, the Juans, the Antonios, the Miguels, the Marías, the Catalinas and the Antonias remain two a centimo. Conservative naming habits endure, making for a uniformity that seems strangely out of kilter with the modern day. Or perhaps the choice of name is a holding onto tradition where others fall by the wayside.

This uniformity does come with a complication, one caused by the Spanish-Catalan divide. The Juans become Joans. To the unknowing Brit, Juan has changed sex, both in how his name is written and is pronounced. And you can throw in the confusion caused by those from foreign lands, such as myself. I am either Andreu or Andriu, though fortunately hardly ever Andres, as I might otherwise have to also answer to Ursula.

The enduring nature and tradition of Christian names is such that their popularity has not fundamentally been affected since the 1920s, and this despite an altogether more relaxed attitude. Juan, Antonio, Maria, Catalina. There they were at the head of the lists back then. Compare this with the UK. Of the top ten most popular names for boys in 2010, only two - Thomas and George - featured in a 1924 survey. As for girls, Doris, Irene, Joyce, oh and Joan, have all but disappeared.

But to come back to the Spanishisation of local names, if the Catalan radical tendency had its way, it would probably insist that all names were Catalanised. A junta comprising a determinedly Catalan Pep, Pere and Pau would issue the order: bring us the name if not necessarily the head of Antonio García and at least drop the "o" from Antonio.

Perhaps, but in the Peckinpah film, "El Jefe", who demanded the head, was played by an actor whose surname is number three on the Balearics list. Emilio Fernández. In the Spanish-Catalan battle of the names, it is the Spanish who win. Hands and heads down.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Rayo Vallecano 0 : 1 Real Mallorca

Mallorca away in Madrid at Rayo, a team in a similar position in the league, i.e. towards the bottom. An even first-half, Mallorca, both teams creating opportunities, Ogunjimi showing encouraging signs with a couple of good headers on goal. Ramis, who had an effort with his right foot in the first period, put Mallorca in the lead with a header ten minutes after the break. Rayo, bringing on Perea, for the last ten minutes, looked to force an equaliser, but Mallorca were also still making chances, but there was no addition to the Ramis decider, so three valuable points for Mallorca.

Dani; Tito, Arribas, Labaka (Perea 80), Casado; Fuego, Movilla (Delibasic 66); Piti (Rayco 72), Michu, Trashorras; Tamudo

Yellow: Trashorras (72)

Aouate; Chico, Nunes, Ramis, Cáceres; Martí (Pina 54), Tissone, Pereira, Castro (Nsue 81); Victor, Ogunjimi (Alfaro 65)
Goal: Ramis (56)
Yellows: Martí (30), Tissone, Chico (77)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 January 2012

Another fine and sunny morning with a coastal high of 8.5 at 08:30. The forecast has changed a bit and suggests that tomorrow will be cloudy. The rest of the week seems good but a deterioration is likely to occur heading into next weekend.

Afternoon update: 17.8 made this afternoon, so fractionally down on yesterday's high. A wonderful Sunday. Quite appreciable also, thanks to the sunny days, how much longer the days are getting. At 18:00, when it is pretty much totally dark on the shortest days in winter, there is still good light and the sun is only at this time really going down.

A Bigger Splash: Mallorca's gay tourism

Do you remember the days of Miss World when it was an annual telly feast, Michael Aspel attempting to tease out nuggets of wisdom from Miss Wants To Travel And Have World Peace of whichever country it was? For some reason, the BBC decided it no longer wanted 30 million viewers, and so Miss World went peripatetic, guided as if by a FIFA of global female pageantry, finding its way to different continents and, in the process, giving a major boost to tourism in the city of Sanya in China, which has hosted the contest five times this century.

Beauty contests and tourism. It had never occurred to me that Miss World might be a positive factor in increasing tourism, but then why not? If the Olympics, a World Cup or even Eurovision can be, then so can a beauty parade that is beamed across the globe. Maybe Mallorca should try and get in on the act and put the Palacio de Congresos in Palma (when it's finally built) to some meaningful purpose and stage "beauty with a purpose" (as the Miss World slogan has it).

They may not be Miss World, but there are beauty contests in Mallorca. Angela Flores is the current holder of the Miss Balearics title, and in May the second Mr Gay Mallorca will be held in Cala Rajada. David Vilches was last year's winner and he went forward to the grand final of Mr Gay España in Madrid where he lost out to Mr Gay Murcia.

Not content with hoovering up whatever football prizes may be on offer, Spain has a highly creditable reputation when it comes to the European gay crown, having scooped the Mr Gay Europe award in successive years (2008 and 2009). So, aspirants to the Mallorca title in May will know that greater riches await if they can get through the provincial and national qualifiers.

But what of the tourism angle? Capdepera town hall representatives and the organisers of Mr Gay Mallorca have been at the Fitur tourism trade fair in Madrid, promoting the event in the Cala Rajada resort and explaining that lesbian and gay tourism is one of "quality" and that it adds value to the town. Lesbian and gay people can no doubt feel reassured that they are considered to be "quality"; in other words, they've got a fair amount of spare cash to splash.

Would the event really create more by way of tourism and more by way of tourism from a gay niche market for Cala Rajada? Possibly it might, but Cala Rajada isn't Sanya in China and Mr Gay Mallorca isn't Miss World. Neither have quite the same exposure or recognition. The first contest last year did, after all, attract only eight contestants; it wasn't exactly a massive deal.

In terms of creating awareness of the resort, there is probably some benefit, but a one-off event at the end of May doesn't equate to Cala Rajada becoming or being a gay hotspot. I might be wrong, but I would have thought that gay tourists would prefer somewhere with more of a, how can one put it, gay infrastructure. Palma perhaps, or more obviously Ibiza.

Part of the problem for Cala Rajada and for Mallorca as a whole is one of image. In general terms, Mallorca is looked upon as being essentially a "family" tourism destination. Not exclusively of course, but an alternative type of tourism, that attracted by the club scene, tends to be confined to Palma and to Magalluf. I'm not suggesting that all that gay tourists want are clubs, but clubs certainly are an attraction. And Ibiza has far more of a reputation in this respect than Mallorca and specifically Cala Rajada.

Going after the pink pound or euro is fair enough, but as with attempts to attract other new markets, there is the familiar problem of promotion being geared firmly towards the sun-and-beach family tourist. It is a further example of nibbling away at niche markets without the benefit of having created the appropriate impression in the minds of potential tourists or, in the case of gay tourism to a place such as Cala Rajada, of having the type of offer that might make it appealing for more than one evening in May.

Mr Gay Mallorca may put Cala Rajada momentarily on the gay map, it may make a very minor splash in terms of attracting the quality gay tourist with the cash to splash, but let's be honest, if it were a toss-up between Mr Gay Mallorca and Miss World, which would make the bigger tourism splash?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - German-Swiss group offers to buy Real Mallorca

An anonymous Swiss group, headed by a German businessman Stefan Wierig, looks set to purchase Real Mallorca for a total of nine million euros along with guarantees to cover 32 million euros of debt that the club is carrying. The group had previously made a bid for the club in 2009, but it was rejected in favour of the current shareholders. Wierig is planning to come to Mallorca next week in order to try and firm up the purchase.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 January 2012

Sunny morning, a bit misty but looks splendid. Temperatures between 5.4 and 10 degrees at 09:00, climbing to 16 or higher later. The general outlook remains good and with only slight changes in terms of there being more cloud around.

Afternoon update: A cracking day with a coastal high of 17.6 and fractionally warmer inland, Pollensa making 18 degrees.

Buried Treasure: Alcúdia's Roman ports

It's not every day I guess that if you are a bar, shop, restaurant or home owner, you come to realise that beneath you are hugely significant archaeological remains. If you happen to be one of these owners in Puerto Alcúdia, this is exactly the realisation that will have dawned on you. Part of the port area is built slap bang on top of where the Romans once had a harbour.

It was always known that there had to have been a port. Documentary evidence from mediaeval times spoke of a "great gate" to the Roman port, and older documents mentioned the role that Alcúdia played in maritime trade between the mainlands of Spain and Italy. But where was the "great gate"?

The excavations of the Roman town of Pollentia in Alcúdia old town have been ongoing since the start of the 1950s, and they have always focussed on one area in which there are, among other things, remains of the forum and of the Roman theatre. They have never been broadened out, but it is now clear that Pollentia covered a much larger area. As it was one of the chief settlements of the Romans, it isn't altogether surprising that its size was such that it stretched from one bay to another, from Pollensa Bay to Alcúdia Bay.

In 2007 a fortuitous discovery was made; fortuitous, that is, unless you happened to have been the owner of a plot of land in Puerto Alcúdia who was having the plot cleared to make way for a housing development. Work was suspended, and has been ever since, when pottery was found which was in keeping with that from the Pollentia excavations, the outer limit of which was half a kilometre or more away.
This discovery, together with the theories of a French archaeologist, led the Council of Mallorca in 2010 to commission an aerial reconnaissance of the sea. The discovery suggested that the great gate might be located.

The gate itself has not been found, but nevertheless the findings of the radar survey confirm the existence not just of a wall and jetties in the port of Alcúdia but also the smaller port in the area of Barcarés on the bay of Pollensa. They exist but they are covered up by the sea bed.

In Roman times the sea went inland almost as far as where the Roman theatre is, i.e. roughly a kilometre from the contemporary shoreline. (And it might be noted that in the old town there is the Porta des Moll, i.e. port gate.) Hence, the property owners of Puerto Alcúdia know that they are sitting on what was once a mix of sea and the wetlands of Albufera and the walls of the Roman port.

The owners needn't worry. There won't be any demolition to attempt to recover the old port. Apart from anything else, there isn't any money to do so, and the lack of finance is such that detailed underwater study is unlikely to occur either. The Council of Mallorca, enthusiastic under the previous administration, has shown a distinct lack of interest now that it is run by the austere Partido Popular.

While the confirmation of the two ports is highly significant, the chances of it meaning a great deal are limited. The confirmation has led to suggestions of further boosts to tourism as well as enhancements to Mallorca's Roman heritage, but tourism will, I'm afraid, be singularly unimpressed. Tourists like to see something not to simply know that somewhere under the sea are a couple of jetties and a bit of old wall.

But there might yet be more to see and might yet be some underwater activity. It would all rather depend upon getting round the fact that the sea in the two bays is protected waters and upon private interests, both legitimate and less so.

It is reckoned that there was an awful lot of shipping traffic that passed through Alcúdia from Roman times. And this traffic means that there may be other remains hidden in the sea in the two bays - wrecks and buried treasure. Pots of gold and pieces of eight. Dumas, it seems, may have got the wrong island; it wasn't Monte Cristo after all.

Though investigations of what lies beneath the water are unlikely, there is now a real question as to how far the current land excavations might extend and what these might mean for land that is undeveloped. There is bound to be far more for the archaeologists to unearth. Should it be done though? The excavations at Pollentia have been happening for sixty years. Archaeology can take an awfully long time.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, January 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Introduction of new health card criticised

The introduction of the new Balearics health card, which costs each patient ten euros to renew, has been criticised because of the lack of organisation and processing which requires patients to have to go back and forth from their health centre to their bank in order to pay the charge, returning to the health centre with confirmation and then having to go through the process all over again. (It sounds remarkably like the farcical way in which residency applications are dealt with.) The lack of planning and the swiftness of the introduction of the card without the full system having been implemented correctly is compounded by the fact that the actual cost of the card is a mere 1.46 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Seven

Yesterday in court ... Things were still focussing on the journalist Antonio Alemany and payments to his Agencia Balear de Noticias, evidence from the Hacienda establishing that apart from public bodies the only client that the agency had was Alemany's own website, Libertad Balear, the implication again being that public money had gone to funding this enterprise.

Meanwhile, the Balearic Government has, for the first time ever, actually called for an ex-president, i.e. Jaume Matas, to be sentenced to imprisonment.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 January 2012

Back to being a greyish start with 8 degrees the general temperature at 08:30. Brightening up later with highs into the mid-teens, the outlook for the weekend is for good amounts of sun and the same daily high.

Afternoon update: Quite a bit warmer than had been expected, an afternoon high of 17.6.

If Mallorca's Tourism Was Like Football

Rather like no one believes the beleaguered football team manager (and a manager is always "beleaguered" when under pressure) when he fronts up before the camera and states that the lads in the dressing-room are all pulling together, so no one believes politicians when they claim that there are no splits or divisions in the ranks.

For once, it isn't the island's great leader, the president, who is beleaguered. It is instead the island's tourism minister, Carlos Delgado. The mercurial, the enigmatic Delgado seems to have lost the dressing-room of the tourism law.

The challenges to the guvnor's authority have been coming in both fast and furious; heavy, two-footed lunges from the defenders of institutional and municipal authority and responsibility. They are all part of the democratic nature of the process of finalising the law, suggests the boss. The lads can have their say, but I'm still the guvnor. We can anticipate a vote of confidence from chairman Bauzá being issued soon from the Consolat de Mar boardroom.

There are no splits in the PP dressing-room, says Delgado. But if not, then where had he been for a few weeks? Had he been diplomatically manoeuvred into the background while all the flak was flying? Not so, unless medical treatment can be considered diplomatic, as at the end of last year he had to go in for an operation on his back. Had someone stabbed him in it?

But what of the gathering at Bellver Castle of the various worthies who have formed Palma's premier league tourism foundation and who chose the castle as the venue to launch it? There was no ashen-faced Delgado to be seen anywhere. Surely this was indeed evidence of a split. Palma's mayor Mateo Isern had thought he was going to turn up, but he didn't.

No, this was also not indicative of any division. The non-appearance was due to getting back on the training ground after that incident with the knife. The guv was hard at work on tactics and moving the players around on his Subbuteo pitch as he figured out how they would all slot in once he had taken account of the democratic nature of the tourism law transfer window period.

Fully restored, manager Delgado has taken himself off to the Spanish tourism championship tournament in Madrid, otherwise known as the Fitur tourism fair. He was there for the presentation of the teams to Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. But his presence hasn't stopped the murmurings. Joey Bartons of the PP have been tweeting that not all is right in the camp and especially between the guv and the Palma premier league of Isern.

Why might they have fallen out? Could it be that Delgado sees the Palma tourism foundation as a threat to the hegemony of his tourism FA? Sees it as an upstart big-city club creaming off tourism promotion funds from major sponsors when the FA has to get by with promotional scraps from the government?

Not to be outdone, Delgado has unveiled some new players at the Fitur championship. Well, newish. He's been meeting with the Abramoviches of Spanish tourism, the Russian tour operators. And he's planning on a scouting trip to Moscow in March in search of even more faces to add to the Mallorcan and Balearics squad. Aware of what chairman Bauzá has said at Fitur regarding tourism being the locomotive of economic recovery, the guv is looking to pack his side with Russian and Ukrainian midfield dynamos, be they from Lokomotiv Moscow, Dynamo Kiev or wherever. The PP Joey Bartons had better watch out.

Results are all that counts though, and while manager Delgado can count on the Brits and the Germans to be packing the terraces once more this year, he knows that tourism is a game of two halves: the season and the off-season. Can he ever get the lads to perform in the off-season? In summer, when they cross the white line, any divisions in the dressing-room can be set aside.

He hopes that the tourism law might mean a change to the long ball and a longer season, but can he take the lads with him? Chairman Bauzá will be wanting him to, as he has his own divisions to worry about away from the pitch. But if the fans' clamour for Delgado grows so loud he can't ignore them, there's one replacement he won't be offering the job to - the one-time Real Mallorca defender Pastor and currently manager of Manacor. He doesn't need any more heavy, two-footed lunges from defenders to have to contend with.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Confirmation of two Roman ports in Alcúdia

The theory that there were two ports in Roman Alcúdia (Pollentia) has been confirmed thanks to the aid of aerial radar observation. It is now established that there was a port on the bay of Pollensa (in Barcares) as well as one right slap bang in the modern-day port area of Alcúdia. The theory as to the location of this latter port was given a boost when discoveries were made on a plot of land being prepared for development on the corner of the Coral and Mar i Estany streets (opposite the Coral del Mar hotel) in late 2007. Work on the site has been suspended ever since.

MALLORCA TODAY - Opposition combine against Ullal plan

The opposition parties on the left in Pollensa together with the UMP party in Puerto Pollensa have now officially combined in opposing the moves of the town hall administration to have the area of Ullal reclassified so that it can be urbanised. (See previous article: The Best Laid Plans, 16 January.)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 January 2012

A bright, sunny and chilly Mallorcan winter morning, between 3 and 7 degrees at 08:30. The forecast is looking fine through the weekend with highs, like today, at 16.

Afternoon update: A good, sunny day with a high of 15.6.

Hot Air: Environment and energy

For an island where a colossal amount of hot air is generated in variously discussing or debating and defending or destroying the environment, Mallorca does one environmental thing particularly badly. Energy provision. It is getting better and electricity supply from the mainland will help to reduce the reliance on the emissions-spewing power stations such as that of Es Murterar by the Albufera nature park, but in overall terms of clean energy, Mallorca is far from clean. In fact, it is downright dirty.

The salvation can seem obvious. Island. Plenty of sun and sunny days. Plenty of wind. Plenty of water, in the form of waves. Renewables, to give these alternative sources their generic title. Plenty of all of them, but what do they amount to? In all, Mallorca and the Balearics generate just over 1% of electricity from renewables. Yes, the environment creates a lot of hot air but there is precious little by way of hot or cold air created by the environment's natural resources.

The recent history of developing alternative energy sources has been a shambles. A much-heralded national plan for a green economy has backfired spectacularly. It has driven up the cost of energy and has created little or nothing by way of new sources. Indeed, central-government policy has been such that getting on for fifty separate projects for solar energy on the Balearics have been rejected.

In addition, and ironically given that the failure of the green economy plan has caused prices to rise, the goverment's wish to reduce the consumer's burden means that that part of the renewables industry which dedicates itself to what solar supply there is will get 30% less revenue.

A reason for the failure of renewables lies with the cost-benefit equation. A factor, however, in the cost of renewables is that of scale. And to increase scale demands investment, which has meant a half-hearted commitment.

Though the failure has been primarily that of central government, there are local examples of how half-hearted this is. A scheme whereby grants from the regional government for up to 30% of the cost of installation of renewable energy could be applied for by householders has been short-lived and has not been heavily publicised; the period of eligibility for applying ends on 22 January.

The regional government, though, is planning to raise its renewables game. Sort of. In accordance with a national desire for renewables to comprise 20% of energy sources by 2020, there is going to be an investment of three million euros for developing renewables installations in the Balearics. Three million. It doesn't sound like an awful lot. In fact it sounds like distinctly lukewarm air being generated by a government that wishes to show it has something by way of green credentials but not very many.

Despite the lack of commitment, new initiatives for creating alternative energy sources keep popping up. One of these is not the first thing you might think of when it comes to Mallorca and its renewables. Rather than sun, wind or waves, there are also the forests, and forests mean biomass. Over 11,000 homes could be supplied, or so it is being claimed, with biomass energy.

There are different types of biomass. Crops are one, forest residues are another. But harvesting woody material from forests brings its own potential environmental problem, which is one of ensuring that stocks do not become depleted and that the ecology of the forests isn't harmed fundamentally. There is a further problem in the Balearics, and that is that there hasn't been a forest-management plan as such. This was highlighted in connection with the fires last year. A plan is meant to now be established along with investment in forests. To what extent this plan is being drawn up in a joined-up fashion between government departments for the environment and energy in order to guarantee biomass supply is anyone's guess.

The Balearics have a fair old amount of forest and woodland: a third of the land to be more or less precise. Biomass would form only a part of the islands' energy needs, but it may well help in getting somewhere near to that target of 20%. Much would depend, however, on how it was processed and converted. It could, for instance, be mixed with coal at the power stations and so contribute to a reduction in both cost of electricity and of emissions.

Biomass does have potential but like other renewables whether ultimately there is the will to exploit it is another matter. The experience with solar has not been encouraging other than in encouraging a lot of debate but very little action.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - (Copa del Rey) Athletic Bilbao 2 : 0 Real Mallorca

Cup quarter-finals time, first leg for Mallorca away in Bilbao and taking the competition more seriously now, fielding pretty much a full-strength side. Following the thrashing of Real Sociedad in the last round and the unlucky and brave match against Real Madrid in the league, Mallorca would have gone into the quarter-final with confidence. In what was a pretty even first half in which Mallorca were outpassing Athletic, the away team were unlucky to go a goal down after 35 minutes: Llorente, the Spanish international, with a header. The introduction of Pérez by Bilbao at half-time had an effect in creating more opportunities and a second goal came through a Muinain header 13 minutes into the period, with Mallorca beginning to show a familiar failing of lack of discipline. Mallorca pressed hard towards the end but couldn't restore some balance to the tie, the second leg of which will be at the Iberostar stadium next Wednesday. Mallorca will know that they can come back, as they did against Real Sociedad, but Bilbao are not Sociedad.

Iraizoz; Iraola (Pérez 45), Martínez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; Iturraspe, Ander (San José 86); Susaeta (Toquero 89), De Marcos, Muniain; Llorente
Goals: Llorente (35), Muniain (58)
Yellows: Llorente (9), Muniain (77)

Calatayud; Cendrós, Nunes, Ramis, Cáceres; Tissone (Martí 56), Joao Victor, Pereira, Castro (Nsue 66); Victor, Hemed (Alfaro 45)
Yellows: Cendrós (44), Tissone (48), Nunes (54), Pereira (57), Joao Victor (85)

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Six

More on how funds from the Matas government were allegedly spent by the journalist Antonio Alemany yesterday at the trial. A car is supposed to have been purchased with public funds and it would seem that the grant which went towards founding Alemany's Agencia Balear de Noticias was used to also fund his own website, Libertad Balear. Indeed, the agency and the website seem to have been more or less one of the same.

Meanwhile, there is some pretty astonishing stuff coming out regarding allegations of how public money to the Duke of Palma's Instituto Nóos went on funding the lifestyle of the Duke and Princess Cristina. It is all getting worse for the couple and is increasingly damaging to the reputation of the Royal Family.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 January 2012

Sun with some cloud about, temperatures between 4 and a high of 8.2 at 08:30. Due to be mainly cloudy today with temperatures in the low to mid teens. Despite the general forecast issued by AEMET yesterday for rain and colder weather coming across from the mainland, there is little in the local information to suggest much of a change over the next few days.

Afternoon update: Very normal and unremarkable day with some sun and some cloud and a high of 14.8. Looking sunnier and a little bit warmer till the weekend.

Making Sense In The Bedlam: Language

Amidst bedlam the more mundane can suddenly take on potential significance.

It is Muro town on the night of the demons' horror show of Sant Antoni. The square in front of the town hall building and the frighteningly imposing Sant Joan parish church is ablaze, echoing with crashes and bangs, full of demons racing, roaming, spitting fire and letting off their own explosions.

From the safety of the balcony of the town hall various dignitaries and their invited friends look down on the mayhem. Mayor Fornés, who has engaged in some remarkable spats with his local police force, might have spent a moment or two diverting his attention from the demonic proceedings to observe his police in action. He wouldn't have been able to hear them speak, but had he, would he have approved?

A lone police officer was controlling the crowds in the area of the square where we had gathered to have fire rain down on us and to have demons creep up on us. He was constantly insisting that spectators moved onto the square itself or away from the church's forecourt. He was close enough, regularly enough, for it to be possible to hear him speak. And all he spoke was Castellano. Not Catalan, not Mallorquín but Castellano.

Why should this be of any significance? Was it the case perhaps that he didn't speak Catalan? This would be most unlikely. Local police are local, and Muro town, like its neighbour Sa Pobla, is about as Catalan/Mallorquín as you can get, a place of impenetrable dialect and accent that is uttered as though the local potato harvest was being consumed by the speaker.

Whereas the Guardia Civil speak Castellano and Castellano alone, the local police are not bound by rules that equate language with the defence of Spanish nationhood. Indeed, as public servants, they fall into the broad category of worker in Mallorca of which Catalan has been demanded as the language to be used and to be adept in.

It is this requirement, and the challenge to it by the Balearic Government of President Bauzá, that is at the heart of all the kerfuffle that is cracking off regarding the government's wish to remove Catalan as a requirement for those in the public sector.

The police officer, however, may have taken it upon himself to appreciate that a pragmatic approach to doing his crowd-control duties was to communicate in a language that he would know would be understood by all, except that is for the Brits and others who can't do any of the different natives. The night of Sant Antoni is not exactly a case of life or death, but in theory an unwary spectator could go up in flames. Speaking Castellano was not just pragmatic, it was common sense.

It is the pragmatism and common-sense cards that are generally played in the great language debate. Though the use of Castellano forms the basis of the pragmatic argument, what is currently happening in Mallorca is a singular lack of pragmatism and common sense - on behalf of the Balearic Government.

At a similar time as the police officer was organising the Muro crowds, police in Sa Pobla had to intervene to protect President Bauzá from a hostile reception. The boos and jeers that Palma's mayor has had to endure twice because of his own insistence on using Castellano were ringing out in Sa Pobla as well to greet Bauzá. And also at a similar time, the father of the island's Partido Popular, the first president of the Balearics Gabriel Cañellas was saying how little a battle over language was needed. The government should convince not enforce; this, more or less, was what he was saying.

Mayor Fornés may have approved of the police officer's use of Castellano, or he may have disapproved. In Muro, Fornés is a member of a local offshoot of the PP. He will be well aware that in the town itself the predominant tongue is most definitely Mallorquín, yet it is not necessarily so in the town's resort. And so it is with other towns with resorts. The cosmopolitanism of the resorts contrasts with the traditionalism of the towns, and it is the demographic tension even within the boundaries of individual municipalities that exacerbates the language debate.

It is a debate into which pragmatism and common sense find it difficult to intrude. But if there is to be common sense, it might be an idea for the wise words of the PP's grand old man to be acknowledged. The battle is not needed and most certainly not at the moment, because all the battle results in is bedlam.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Government to approve lower airport taxes

Following a meeting between Isabel Borrego, the national tourism secretary-of-state, and President Bauzá, central government would appear to be moving towards a reduction in airport charges that will help in improving off-season flights. The Balearics and the Canaries are, it would also appear, to receive preferential treatment in this regard. The government prefers this method of incentive to that of subsidies, as it considers them to be discriminatory.

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas Trial: Day Five

The fifth day of the trial concentrated mainly on the affairs of the journalist Antonio Alemany. His nephew admitted that he was the figurehead in companies formed by Alemany as the journalist did not wish to "figure" in them. Also, it was revealed that Alemany's news service, Agencia Balear de Noticias, which was set up during the Matas period of administration, was funded almost solely with government money, a "maximum" grant of 450,000 euros having been awarded, one that was sanctioned by the head of communication in the government, Joan Martorell, who is also on trial along with Matas and Alemany.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 January 2012

A blowy, partly sunny but damp morning, with rain around. Much warmer though, with a high just over 14 degrees at 09:00. The weather was, in the end, just about kind enough for the fire night, there being the odd bout of rain but nothing that could dampen the events or the fires.

Afternoon update: A good, sunny day, a coastal high of 14.8. The met office suggests that a cold and wet front is moving towards the Balearics, though its own forecasts don't reflect this as yet.

Cleaning Hands: Garzón and the Duke

There are times when news reports make you sit up and pay particular attention. They do so because something crops up that you hadn't expected or makes you wonder what it has to do with otherwise repetitious news.

So it was with a news item related to the Duke of Palma affair. This is all terribly repetitious as it is a constant diet of evidence being made public that appears to drop the Duke ever deeper into it. But this particular news item referred to an organisation that I hadn't been aware of playing a part in the affair.

It was the headline that caught my eye. It referred to a "denuncia" against Iñaki Urdangarin (the Duke) by Manos Limpias. It was Manos Limpias that I had not expected. What did it have to do with the case against the Duke?

You might well ask what Manos Limpias is. Its full name is Colectivo de Funcionarios Públicos Manos Limpias, a union of public-sector workers that has only a few thousand members. Why should a union be involving itself with Urdangarin?

The denuncia was raised in Valencia and has to do with accusations of fraud against the Duke and his institute and accusations against representatives of the Valencia Generalitat. The court in Palma which is overseeing the case against the Duke has yet to be decide if the Manos Limpias denuncia will be incorporated into its own proceedings.

In the sense that the public authority in Valencia has been implicated, one can see why a public-sector union might become involved. But Manos Limpias is more than a union. Its name means "clean hands", and it works against corruption of different types, hence its name, and devotes a great deal of energy in pursuing cases of corruption and also in issuing denuncias.

On the face of it, this seems all perfectly laudable, but Manos Limpias operates with a very specific agenda, one that is well to the right of the political spectrum. Its founder was a leading light in the National Front, a party that was wound up in the first half of the 1990s and whose politics were as you might expect given its name. The founder, Miguel Bernard Remón, has been honoured by the Francisco Franco National Foundation; yes, that Franco.

Of other of its denuncias, perhaps the most celebrated is that against the judge Baltasar Garzón. The case against Garzón for exceeding his powers and going against the post-Franco amnesty in seeking to order exhumation of graves and to pursue crimes against humanity related to the Civil War and afterwards has largely been the doing of Manos Limpias and the current-day Falange.

Manos Limpias has not, though, issued just one denuncia against Garzón. There have been nineteen since the 1990s. The union says it doesn't have anything against Garzón, but the frequency with which it has denounced him does rather suggest otherwise.

The case against Garzón related to the Franco-era investigation, which is to come to court this month, is political, pure and simple. State prosecutors had rejected charges against Garzón, so the court case, as also with one to do with the so-called caso Gürtel, under which Garzón was pursuing Partido Popular politicians for corruption, is in effect a private prosecution.

The Garzón affair is frankly an embarrassment to Spain. He may have got carried away with his own celebrity and power, but the hounding of Garzón throws up unpleasant questions about the forces of the right and far right within the country and about the lingering legacy of Franco which Garzón sought the opportunity to investigate and which others denied him.

But what of the Duke of Palma? There is no direct link with Garzón, but there is now a common theme of Manos Limpias. The allegations against the Duke are another embarrassment - to the Royal Family - and his wife, Princess Cristina, is being dragged into the affair more and more, Manos Limpias having also called for a tax-office inspection into her links with the Duke's businesses.

There is a real fear that the Royal Family will be discredited as a consequence of what the Duke may or may not have done. And at the head of the Royal Family is King Juan Carlos, the man who rejected Francoism and the man who put a stop to the attempted coup in 1981.

In Spain there is a law of historic memory that is designed to remove the symbols of the Franco period. In Spain, however, there is also a long memory of Franco. Garzón didn't want to let it go, and nor do others want to let it go.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 January 2012

A cold night and early morning, the temperature down to under two degrees in parts. At 09:00, the high is not yet 7 degrees. But it is quite a sunny morning, though with cloud around that, according to the forecast, will build up and bring rain this afternoon and evening.

Afternoon update: Well, not as bad as had been forecast, a high of just under 14, but the rain arrived at about 16:00 in some parts. The skies have become very grey and the wind has picked up.

The Best Laid Plans: Water and tourism

Plans for everything. Central government has plans, they are passed onto the regions which approve them or alter them, then central government changes and changes its mind, these changes are passed onto the regions which approve or alter the original alterations, but only after months of public consultation, at the end of which they probably don't do anything.

Among all the various plans for this or that, there is one for water resources. It is grandly known as the "Plan Hidrológico". In Mallorca and the Balearics, as with other regions, the plan refers not just to the provision of water but also to areas of water, i.e. the wetlands. As opposed, for instance, to wells and other underground water sources as well as overground reservoirs, it is when the visible wetland environment comes to the fore that plans become that much more complicated, because one plan is likely to conflict with another.

The water plan is out for revised public consultation, the new regional government having got central government to agree to a further consultation that is due to finish at the end of this month. But only recently has the plan been taken much notice of. And this is because the government is minded to change provisions of the plan that were approved almost a year ago and because only now have the impacts of these provisions come to be understood.

One impact would be on parts of Puerto Alcúdia. For those of you not familiar with Puerto Alcúdia's geography, much of the resort is built on reclaimed wetlands, i.e. Albufera. It is the remaining wetlands and the restoration of wetlands which fall under the plan's provisions. The restoration would affect the public swimming-pool and sports centre, the Club Mac hotel complex and the Lidl supermarket; to the extent that some demolition would need to occur.

This is most unlikely to happen. And nor indeed should it, as it would be complete and utter folly. It is unlikely to happen because the new government is less minded to be as environmentally zealous as the former environment minister Gabriel Vicens was. Vicens, in approving the plan last February, spoke of investments running to nearly three thousand million euros up to 2027 that would have turned Mallorca into one vast lake. I exaggerate of course, but the plan's provisions placed conservation over and above other considerations.

This is not to play down the importance of the water plan. It is hugely important, but where the visible water environment and therefore the island's ecology are concerned, it runs up against plans regarding land classification and usage, such as something known as POOT. This is the plan which classifies land that can be used for tourism purposes. And it is in Pollensa where the conflict between the water plan and POOT is being highlighted.

As a further geography lesson for those who don't know, the wetlands of Albufera, i.e. along the bay of Alcúdia, used to once upon a time connect with those along the bay of Pollensa, which are now Albufereta and La Gola and also the area of Ullal in Puerto Pollensa.

This area was earmarked by the previous town hall administration in Pollensa for development. Until, that is, the idea came up against how it was classified. The current town hall wants it to be de-classified under the water plan and then re-classified as POOT land. (I do hope you're following all this.) The government, it would seem, is likely to agree with the town hall, and this has provoked all manner of opposition.

Yet the opposition does not come from the resort's businesses. In the summer of 2010, when businesses led a protest against Pollensa town hall's management of Puerto Pollensa, one of the demands was for more tourism accommodation, and Ullal would be the most likely place for such accommodation to be built.

Opposition comes, not unexpectedly, from opposition parties. In addition to wishing Ullal to remain as a wetland, they claim that the town hall's architect doesn't know what he's talking about in presenting reasons for Ullal's wetland status to be removed and shouldn't even be having his say anyway, as it should be down to an environmental expert.

One can sympathise with both sides in Pollensa, as one can sympathise with the environmental and ecological arguments that would require wetland restoration in Alcúdia, but the proliferation of plans with differing aims, to say nothing of the proliferation of agencies of government and the changes to plans when these agencies themselves change, means that nothing ends up happening. Or if it does, it takes years for any decision to be agreed. The best laid plans ...

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.