Saturday, March 31, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Travel discount grant for Balearics' residents cut

National government, as part of its measures to address the national deficit, has announced that the grant that it pays to airlines and ferry operators to subsidise discounts to residents of the Balearics (and the Canaries) will be cut by 65 million euros.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanish amnesty on undeclared income

The Spanish Government, seeking what it can claw into the national coffers, is to offer an amnesty on undeclared income. The amnesty would still require the payment of tax, but it would be set at only 10%. There are all sorts of argument as to why it might not be a good idea, including a suggestion that it would be unconstitutional. The arguments and experiences of amnesties elsewhere are set out here: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Ràpita and Canyamel hotel complexes given the green light

The Balearic Government has given the go-ahead to the construction of two luxury hotel complexes on Mallorca, those in Sa Ràpita in Campos and Canyamel in Capdepera. Opposition had come from environmental groups, but the government says that the complexes are in the regional interest. The Canyamel complex is due to be funded with Arab money and to be operated by Hyatt International.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Elton John added to Ibiza 123 line-up

The new music festival to be staged in Ibiza at the start of July, Ibiza 123, is to include in its line-up Elton John. Acts previously announced for what is primarily a dance music festival include Sting and David Guetta. The festival is from 1-3 July.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Hotels in Mallorca expect lower occupancy this Easter

Predictions as to hotel occupancy rates in Mallorca this Easter suggest that they will be down by 9% over Easter last year. There again, Easter was later last year.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 March 2012

Sunny but hazy morning, quite a bit of mist knocking around as I drove to and from Palma earlier. Local temperatures at 08:00 between 8.2 C and 11.3 C, rising to 20 or higher later. Some rain threatening for tomorrow and Monday, but the temperatures on the warm side.

Afternoon update: Warmer by the coast today, Puerto Pollensa knocking in with a 22.8 C maximum on another very fine day.

Strike! No one noticed

So, another day and another general strike has come and gone. How was this one for you? Did you notice it any more than the last one? It was hard to tell that there was one on. There were two separate rubbish collections, so Muro wasn't on strike in any event. I spent a short time seeking out evidence of strikers, thinking that the port in Alcúdia would be a likely venue for a few pickets. There wasn't a single one, but I had timed my run either too early or too late; there were some and even more police.

There weren't even any chaps with loudhailers and banners roaming along the main road from the Donuts roundabout (Magic) in Puerto Alcúdia, as there had been last time. Possibly because the season hasn't started yet, so there were no actual workers around to strike. In the absence of any great outbursts of street protesting, it felt like a fiesta day, even if everything was open and the post office moto was doing its usual spluttering rounds.

Most of the local strikers probably went on a day out to Palma (probably not taking public transport). 60,000 of them took to the streets there in an evening protest; considerably fewer, according to the government. Local journalists and reporters had clearly been detailed to cover all the information regarding competing numbers of strike participants and street protesters being pumped out by the unions, interior ministries and police, as there was precious little other news yesterday.

The most positive thing you can say about the general strike is that it was a bonanza for the media; it wasn't positive in any other way. The unions described it as a great success, but then they would. Buoyed by this apparent success, there is now a threat of a "hot" first of May, i.e. bang on the start of the tourism season. This is the great worry, though the impact on tourism of Thursday's media bonanza was minimal; flights weren't that badly affected, there was transport available and most tourists seemed to be unaware of what was going on or, as last time, were standing around taking photos with their mobiles and uploading them to Facebook. Assuming they saw any evidence of the strike, that is.

The strike has achieved nothing. Any further strike would only do so were it to be for a prolonged period, which will not happen. Apart from anything else, workers might be prepared to give up one day's pay but not any more.

As is usual on such occasions, there was the odd nutty element that made a nuisance of itself. "Radicals" - as the media-bonanzaing media like to call them - were involved in a run-in with the police in Barcelona, but there will always be some nutty boys who muscle in on these events. There wasn't much by way of violence anywhere; you wonder if there really is the stomach for a fight amongst the workforce of Mallorca and Spain, that which is in work of course.

One senses that there is more an air of resignation. Whether Mallorcans and Spaniards as a whole really grasp the enormity of Spain's problems is questionable, but most will probably just carry on in their own sweet way, blaming anyone but themselves for whatever these problems might actually be. A country and a population that has been on the receiving end of so much generosity and managed to blow it all is ill-prepared psychologically to understand that it might itself need to accept a share of the blame.

The population will probably take in its casual stride to the next bar for a coffee the news that the government has announced measures to cut 27 billion euros of spending. The amount is so enormous, rather like all the largesse that had once been directed towards Spain, that it doesn't mean a great deal. It may do for public sector workers who are caught up in cuts that average 17%, but otherwise ...?

But look at these cuts and they should really make everyone fearful. While commentators believe the government's measures do not go far enough in meeting its deficit-reduction requirement, others might well ask where is any growth to come from that might help in raising the tax revenues the government seems to believe that it will receive. Cuts to the tourism and budget of over 30%, for example, don't make for great news for an industry that is constantly referred to as the motor of the economy.

No one is convinced, no one that is who casts a critical eye over Spain's economy. Brussels isn't convinced, the Italian prime minister isn't convinced (though he has apologised for his critical remarks), "Le Monde" in France has described Spain as Europe's great problem. No one is convinced and partly because Rajoy is so unconvincing. As a prime minister he lacks any sense of leadership or vision. He is an automaton politician, one without the personality to inspire confidence. He might just get away without there being huge expressions of public discontent, but only because the public is so apathetic. Or maybe he won't.

Any comments to please.

Index for March 2012

Andalucía regional election - 27 March 2012
Balcony diving - 5 March 2012
Beach bars - 12 March 2012
Catalan defence - 11 March 2012
Círculo Fortuny: luxury promotion - 29 March 2012
Cricket in Spain - 13 March 2012
Environment, coasts, building and tourism - 4 March 2012
European tourism trends - 15 March 2012
Gay tourism - 7 March 2012
General strike - 31 March 2012
German cyclist death - 28 March 2012
Jaume Matas guilty - 22 March 2012
Joan March anniversary of death - 9 March 2012
Llucmajor scraps tourism promotion - 3 March 2012
Magalluf: change of name? - 25 March 2012
Magalluf: concerts this summer - 2 March 2012
Nature parks: self-financing - 17 March 2012
New Order in Mallorca - 16 March 2012
Oil exploration in Canaries - 26 March 2012
Palm Sunday - 30 March 2012
Public space: invasion of - 10 March 2012
Puerto Alcúdia best beach destination - 8 March 2012
Real Madrid Resort Island - 24 March 2012
Recession and tourism - 1 March 2012
Social media and tourism promotion - 6 March 2012
Spring starts in Mallorca - 20 March 2012
Tapas - 18 March 2012, 23 March 2012
Tourism organisation in Mallorca - 21 March 2012
Travel writing - 19 March 2012
Youth unemployment in Spain - 14 March 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Massive deficit cut planned by Spanish Government

The general strike and the Andalucía election out of the way and the Spanish Government has announced its anticipated next round of austerity measures. It hopes to be able to cut by 2.5% the public deficit through a cut in spending of 27 billion euros. The axe is falling on government departments, energy and tourism losing 32% of its budget, development (which includes transport and roads) 34.6%, and the largest in overseas affairs and co-operation, 54.4%. There are to be no changes to IVA (value added tax) but company taxes will rise.

MALLORCA TODAY - Health petrol tax in the Balearics from 1 May

The so-called céntimo sanitario, a tax on petrol and diesel destined to help pay for the health service in the Balearics, will be introduced on 1 May. It will be set at 4.8 céntimos per litre.

MALLORCA TODAY - Nadal is Angel

Great excitement in Mallorcan sporting circles, Rafael Nadal is an Angel, or rather the Angel tube station. The Olympic Legends redesign of the London Underground map has Nadal between Roger Federer and Nadia Comaneci. How on earth did they decide who went where?

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro votes in favour of Catalan

Muro town hall's councillors have passed a motion in favour of the defence of Catalan, despite the Partido Popular councillors voting against the motion. The town hall has also agreed to maintain the current contract for water supply in the town which is said to result in higher charges to customers than in other municipalities.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Thousands stage demonstration against labour reform

60,000 people, according to union sources, took to the streets of Palma yesterday evening in a protest against labour reform as a culmination to the general strike. Across Spain, 861,150 people took part in protests, according to government figures. The day's protests led to 116 injuries, the majority of them to police. The unions say that over 10 million people supported the strike, the government insisting that participation was very moderate compared with the 2010 strike. Only two people were arrested in the Balearics where the protests went off with little incident. The worst incidents were in Barcelona where police and radical youths engaged in a battle late yesterday evening.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 March 2012

Another cracking day on offer, getting a bit warmer and that old UV thing is cranking up. 6, whatever it means. The morning is a touch cloudy as the mornings have been this week, but clearing up. Local best at 07:45 is 11.2 C, reaching 20 possibly. The outlook is for increasing cloud on Sunday and into next week with a rising possibility of a shower or two.

Afternoon update: By some way, the warmest day of the year, with an inland high in Pollensa of 23 C, and a coastal high varying between 19.3 C (Puerto Pollensa) and 21.2 C (Playa de Muro).

The Entry Of Christ Into Alcúdia

There was always something phoney about Easter. It was Christmas without the presents. Easter Sunday would loom and so would a hope that an oversight would be righted and that an old geezer with heavy boots and a woolly beard carrying a large sack of "Beano" annuals would make a reindeer-line for the chimney. It never happened. Easter was like Boxing Day; a total anti-climax.

Hunting for the chocolate egg (or better still, eggs) was small consolation. The buns with the cinnamony stuff on top were ok, but they weren't a pudding with sixpences inside it. Even the religious thing was all a bit bogus, as there were no Phil Spector or Motown carols LPs to be bought.

The religious thing didn't exactly play a huge part in our Easters. One Easter Sunday, totally against normal procedure, we all went off to church. It was clearly thought better of in subsequent years, as it never happened again. And for most people, Brits that is, one suspects the religious thing was - and still is - as inconsequential as it was to us. So much so, that there is much evidence to suggest that most Brits don't quite the get whole deal with Easter, as in, for example, being able to put a timeline on events.

Nevertheless, there was and is some sort of basic appreciation - cross, nails, no one in the tomb, raised from the dead, this sort of thing - but what of the appreciation of the, if you like, pre-match warm-up? Palm Sunday (and it's this Sunday, if you didn't know) barely even registered. We knew there was this business to do with a donkey and some palm leaves, but when Palm Sunday came around, it was, well, a Sunday.

A few years on from this deeply irreligious upbringing, and Palm Sunday was given a whole new lease of life. Not because of Palm Sunday as such, but because of Adrian Henri. One of the Liverpool Poets, Henri, with the group of which he was a member, the Liverpool Scene, recorded "The Entry Of Christ Into Liverpool". It caused a bit of a stir, but in so doing, it did add awareness of what Palm Sunday meant to a generation for whom it meant practically nothing.

The recording was made five years after Henri had completed painting his scene with the same title. It was a homage to James Ensor's "The Entry Of Christ Into Brussels" that the Belgian had painted in 1889. Unlike the poem set to music with the Liverpool Scene, Henri's painting had been largely overlooked, but once John Peel started playing the song repeatedly, so the painting assumed greater prominence.

Henri's theme, as had been Ensor's theme, was the "Second Coming" in a Palm Sunday scene for a very different time and a very different location. There was an element to it of it having been a precursor of the cover of The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's" album. Among the various characters depicted were The Beatles themselves as well as those from the world of jazz, such as George Melly and Charlie Parker.

What made the painting, however, was its satire. In Henri's Palm Sunday, Christ is almost a peripheral figure. His entry into Liverpool has been hijacked by demonstrators against this and that - a large banner proclaiming "long live socialism" dominates the painting - and by the corporate world. Indicative of its time, prominent advertisers are Guinness and Colman's Mustard. Forward from the early 1960s to today, and the corporatism would be that much more extreme; immediate worldwide coverage would demand enormous advertising rates and a group of Official Sponsors Of The Second Coming.

This, though, would be the cynical attitude in a country without religion. In Mallorca, it would be different. Wouldn't it? Easter is, you may have noticed, a pretty big deal of adherence to religious tradition and little else. Even Palm Sunday's a big deal, assuming any palms are left. Perhaps it should be renamed Red Beetle Sunday. But were Christ to suddenly reappear and make an entrance into, shall we say, Alcúdia, would the temptation for rampant religio-commercialism be spurned? No, it wouldn't. In an imaginary remake of Henri's scene, The Entry Of Christ Into Alcúdia would feature a damn great TUI blimp hovering over Sant Jaume church. You would be barely able to make Christ out for the guests who had paid several grand per head for a ticket, straining to get their faces into camera shot.

Irreligious cynicism may not exist in Mallorca, but create the right money-making opportunity and it would. And as for Christ himself, what would he charge for image rights? God knows.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - General strike starts without serious incidents

Reports from across Spain suggest that the general strike got underway at midnight without any serious incidents but with major police presences, but 33 arrests had been made by 07:00 and five police officers had been injured following clashes.

Some of the strongest picket demonstrations have been at distribution centres for food and provisions, while there are also significant cuts to refuge and local authority cleaning services.

In Mallorca, pickets started gathering before midnight in Palma to ensure that minimum services by the city's service operator were adhered with. No incidents have been so far reported on the island. At the airport, 50% of flights into the island are expected, cancellations having been made by some airlines. A worry is that fuel might not be available for planes and that, as flights do intensify this morning, there will be clashes with pickets.

Against the background of the strike, French newspaper "Le Monde" has caused some controversy by attacking Spain for the country having become "Europe's great problem" and saying that there are doubts in European circles as to Prime Minister Rajoy's ability to get a grip with the deficit and other issues.

Update: As usual, there are conflicting views as to how well the strike has been supported. In the Balearics, the unions say that it has had 68% support, the government says that support in the public sector has been a mere 16%. There have been marked differences, even down to the level of individual institutions. in Puerto Pollensa, for instance, while one school was open as normal with all staff, another was closed. The percentage of teaching staff on strike has been put at 23%. In some municipalities, rubbish collection has been taking place as usual, in others, it hasn't been. In Spain as a whole, the unions have placed support at between 77 and 85%, the government says that it has been less than the last general strike in 2010. The effect on air travel in the Balearics has been far less significant than had been feared; the level of cancellations has been just under 7% (29 out of 429 flights).

As far as any trouble has been concerned, incidents in Mallorca have not been particularly noteworthy; two arrests have been made following clashes between pickets and police in Palma, but otherwise relative calm has prevailed.

MALLORCA TODAY - Tramuntana shelters will be privatised

As previously predicted, the Council of Mallorca has decided to go ahead with the privatisation of two refuges (shelters) on the dry-stone route in the Tramuntana, one in Deià, the other by the Roman bridge in Pollensa. The shelters offer cheap accommodation (for 38 people in the case of the Pollensa refuge) as well as kitchen facilities, but the two represent an annual deficit of 600,000 euros.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 March 2012

Not a bad day for a general strike, no threat of rain for the pickets, instead sunny and so a chance for some sunbathing with highs to 19 degrees. Currently, at 07:15, the local top is 11.1 C. Some morning cloud but going away once the sun's truly up.

Afternoon update: And once the sun truly got its hat on, the temperatures were up to 19.6 C inland with a coastal high of 19.1 C.

Live This Life Of Luxury

The Hotel Formentor near to Puerto Pollensa is to become part of the Círculo Fortuny. This association sounds as though it should mean the "wheel of fortune". It doesn't in fact have anything to do with Nicky Campbell and Carol Smillie-Smile dispensing prizes or in fact anything to do with a fortune as such, though there are plenty of fortunes knocking around within it. The name comes from Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, a fashion designer (among other things) who was active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of his models was the first wife of Condé Nast, the publisher who bought "Vogue" after the magazine's founder died in 1909.

It was appropriate, therefore, that it was the Spanish "Vogue" which last year went big on the launch of the Círculo Fortuny. Fashion is an element of the Círculo, the activities of which are devoted to the promotion of Spanish luxury brands, products and services. The full name of the association is the Círculo Español del Lujo Fortuny.

Formentor is the first hotel in Mallorca to be incorporated into this circle of luxury, and it is also appropriate that it should be; it opened in 1929 when Sr. Fortuny was enjoying some of his greatest successes. Far from being a crumbling pile, as its longevity might suggest, the five-star hotel is indeed luxurious. It offers "an unforgettable stay" with "unforgettable views of the bay", according to its website. So, you will never forget, if you happen to stay at the Formentor, and you will also remember that it is "emblematic". Of what I'm not entirely sure, but the word sounds good.

Anyway, enough of the promotion and back to the wheel of fortuny. When this association burst into the golden light of publicity last summer, it marked the second coming of a luxury-motivated grouping in the space of about a month. There you are, waiting an age for a luxury association to arrive, replete with leather-upholstered seats and your own seat-side mini-bar plus personal chauffeur, and two come along. The Asociación Española del Lujo got there a bit earlier than the Círculo. And the difference between them is? Erm ...

A difference is that the first luxury mover is presided over by Béatrice d'Orléans. And she is? A French princess who is also, or has been, a journalist specialising in, you might have guessed it, fashion. A septuagenarian French princess getting the gig as CEO of a Spanish luxury association can be explained, at least I think it can be, by the fact that she was Dior's presence on Spanish earth for 20-odd years.

Otherwise, the only difference between the two associations seems to be that the Círculo is part of an international alliance that had previously only comprised the three main European associations in the luxury sector. I say the three main associations because my research suggests that I should. To be honest, I had never heard of Walpole British Luxury, which is one of the three.

Such ignorance on my behalf can probably be explained by the fact that I tend not to move in luxurious circles, be they Fortuny or otherwise. But in Mallorca, such circles clearly exist and not just in the form of the Formentor hotel. Luxury abounds. You only have to click onto some estate-agent websites or to pick up a magazine with a luxury bent to know that it does. Mallorca is divided fairly and squarely between the luxury half and the not-luxury half. In fact, the luxury half is probably nothing like a half, but you could be forgiven for believing that it were.

But how luxurious does luxury have to be for it to qualify as a member of the Círculo Fortuny or the old maid of Orléans' association? The thing about luxury is that it comes with a thesaurus alternative - exclusiveness. You can't have any old luxurious riff-raff knocking on the teak door with gold leaf inlay demanding to be let in. The Círculo, you would suppose, would be self-limiting. Once the circle is completed, then that's that.

So, Mallorcan businesses with an eye on their luxury being promoted in the international arena, which is what this is all about, will have to get a move on. But unless they are at least "emblematic" and "unforgettable" (twice over), they probably don't stand much chance of breaking the circle and will have to make their own efforts in being part of a sector (the luxury one) that in Europe employs 800,000 people and generates 137,000 million euros. And how are these figures arrived at? No idea, but they sound luxurious.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Contingency plans at Palma airport for general strike

AENA, the national airports authority, has been making contingency plans to limit the impact of tomorrow's general strike on operations at and to and from Palma airport. Meanwhile, the Balearics Supreme Court is set to pronounce this morning on minimum service levels during the strike, having been petitioned by the main unions to calculate the suspension of services.

Update: The Supreme Court has rejected demands from the unions and gone along almost completely with the minimum services set out by the regional government. This will mean, for example, the operation of 160 coaches transferring tourists between the airport and hotels.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma regatta attracts 900 participants

The SAR Princess Sofía Mapfre regatta in Palma will start on 31 March and last until 7 April and is due to attract 900 participants from across the world to its different classes of event. The regatta is one of the world's five leading sailing competitions.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Increase in Spanish motorway speed limit being considered

The Spanish Government is looking at the possibility of increasing the maximum speed limit (currently 120kph) on motorways, though it has not signalled what any new limit might be.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Hotel Formentor in Spanish luxury promotion

The Hotel Formentor in Pollensa has become part of the Circuló Fortuny, an association which was formed last year and that brings together leading Spanish names devoted to the luxury end of the market and with the purpose of promoting these businesses, products and services overseas.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Solar park in Muro to start trials

A photovoltaic solar energy plant in Muro that occupies some 8.6 hectares of land and into which has been invested eight million euros is to commence trials shortly. The hope is that the plant will eventually be capable of supplying half of Muro's electricity.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 March 2012

Cloudy start to the day (or is it heavy mist), 11.2 C at 07:45. Clearing up in a bit anyway. Sun and temperatures up to 18 or so.

Afternoon update: The mist or whatever it was did clear away but some cloud came in later, leaving the day largely hazy with an inland high of 18.4 C; a degree lower on the coast.

One Moment In Time: Cyclist death

One and one half seconds. This was the record time that should, according to a colleague of mine on a university magazine which had a well-deserved and highly-merited reputation for being extraordinarily tasteless, have gone into the Guinness Book Of Records for the quickest time for a death to occur.

Ross McWhirter, he of the GBOR, would have been the holder of this record as a consequence of his unfortunate encounter with a Provisional IRA bullet. One and one half seconds was possibly a bit on the long side. It certainly doesn't only take a minute, it takes far, far less. A moment, but defining a moment in precisely temporal terms isn't easy.

How long did it take between being propelled off a bike by a car that had apparently been zig-zagging across a Mallorcan road to colliding with a tree and being killed? A moment. Really not very long at all. Slightly less time perhaps than it took for someone to be knocked ten metres by an out-of-control car before coming to rest. Permanently. But the time for death to occur was, in all likelihood, incalculable, as you can't calculate instant. It is a moment in time, and at precisely this moment in time, time stops.

Fragility of life and all that, but once you've been hammered against a tree, there isn't much opportunity to contemplate this. Indeed, there is no opportunity. Though for those left behind, there are plenty of opportunities, and one of those who has the opportunity is an officer with the National Police.

There you are, driving along on a sunny Sunday morning, not a care in the world and well over the legal alcohol limit (no allegedly; fact). What a lovely morning. And then. It only takes a moment, and lives are turned upside down or terminated. There you are, cycling along on a sunny Sunday morning and suddenly an unmarked police car smashes into you. The end. And all over in a moment.

It wasn't a bad morning, weather-wise, that Saturday when someone was taking a stroll in Puerto Alcúdia, thinking of ... . Thinking of what, do you suppose? What do you think of just before a car using the Bellevue mile as a race track hurtles in your general direction just prior to ending all further thoughts? One moment. That's all it takes. Not even necessarily one and one half seconds.

The two incidents paint a bad picture of Mallorcan roads. Of drunk and/or drugs-influenced drivers ending lives in an instant (and how coincidentally ironic that a police inspector with the anti-drugs unit should be involved). Yet, things aren't as bad as they once were. Nothing like. Time was, and not so long ago, that every time you ventured onto the roads, chances were you would be involved in an accident, just miss one or witness one. Things are a hell of a lot better.

But the involvement of a police inspector is about as bad as it gets in terms of generating negative publicity. And in Germany, that negative publicity is being given an airing. "Bild" needs little incentive to sensationalise anything, especially if it happens in Mallorca (and for the Germans, the island is referred to as the "paradise" island). It was "Bild" that tried to attach blame for bird-flu deaths in Germany to Playa de Palma. Now it runs a headline of "Drunk cop rammed German woman off the road". It suggests that the cop in question, i.e. the inspector, had been previously warned as to his drinking, though it is now known that the inspector was not driving the car at the time of the accident.

Embarrassment for the police and for Mallorca is too mild a word. Yes, bad things happen, but a combination of drunk cops and a dead cyclist of pensionable age is the last thing Mallorca needs as part of its cycling tourism ambitions.

It is a sobering thought, or should be, that it only takes a moment, a moment that is indefinable because of its instantaneousness, for it to all end or for an action to be performed by someone that deprives him of being able to drive along without a care in the world because that one moment might result in ten years imprisonment. One moment. Gone. It is a thought that everyone should carry in their heads, but of course it is too much to ask, though it might be one that everyone would have were they to see the photo of the dead woman's husband, prostrated, bereft, next to her bagged-up body.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Iberia pilots' strikes back on

The Iberia Express low-cost airline was launched on Sunday, but the protests against it by pilots from Iberia continue. Previous strikes planned by pilots and cabin crew were called off, but no agreement has been reached through the mediation proposed by the national government, and so there will now be strikes every Monday from 9 April until 20 July.

MALLORCA TODAY - Police officer in cycling accident in custody

This has now been amended as new reports have come in:

Following the arrest of two police officers with the National Police in connection with the accident in which a 64-year-old female German cyclist was killed, the officer (not the inspector) from the police has been sent to prison by a judge hearing the accusations. The inspector has been bailed.

Facts emerging suggest that the police officer was driving an unmarked police car at the time of the accident but that the inspector was seen driving it after the accident by an off-duty police officer who had first been alerted to the car when it had passed him and was being driven erratically before the accident. Both occupants of the car were found to be over the alcohol limit, the inspector by five times the limit. The inspector was five times over the legal limit and the officer two times over the limit.

The National Police have expressed their deep regret at an accident which is likely to attract some unfortunate publicity in Germany.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Boat parade at Alcúdia's sepia fair

The boat show that has been a part of the sepia (cuttlefish) gastronomy fair in Puerto Alcúdia since the fair's inception is to be boosted this year by there being a a "boat parade". With the boat show in Palma having been called off, Alcúdia is anticipating greater participation by the nautical industry this year. The fair takes place over the weekend of 21 and 22 April, a week before the Palma boat show should have started.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Language hunger strike called off

The pensioner who had been on hunger strike as a protest against the Balearic Government's language policies has called off his strike on medical advice. Another pensioner has, however, now also gone on hunger strike.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 March 2012

Some cloud about, but it will clear away with temperatures rising from around the ten mark at 07:45 to the higher teens. Getting warmer later in the week, though a rain possibility might kick in at the weekend.

Afternoon update: 18.3 C the high on what has been another good day.

Where Winning Means Losing: Andalucía's election

Just one of the quirks of Spanish politics is that not all elections take place at the same time. It has been the quirk surrounding Andalucía that has, it has been widely suggested, held the national government back from going really hard at attempting to right Spain's economy. The Partido Popular, in control of the national government and of most regional governments, had been looking for a ringing endorsement in Andalucía. It hasn't happened.

There has been an endorsement of sorts in that the PP has, for the first time ever, actually won the election for the Andalucían parliament, but it hasn't gained a majority. It could form the government, but it would need support from the left, and the left, in the form of PSOE and the United Left party, could well maintain Andalucía's socialist tradition by governing in coalition.

Andalucía's parliamentary elections would have coincided with the Spanish general election, had it not been for the fact that the general election was called five months early. The four-year electoral cycle for Andalucía's parliament is out of sync in any event, as regional parliaments were otherwise all elected in May last year.

It would have been better for everyone had Andalucía gone to the polls at the same time as the general election. The hiatus since then has seemingly held up Mariano Rajoy and it has also given time for disenchantment with Rajoy's PP national government to kick in; this is an interpretation of the Andalucían result, though the PP did still, after all, actually win the election.

Does the result and the potential continuance of a socialist government in Andalucía really make much difference? The PP controls mostly all of Spain and where it doesn't, such as in Catalonia, the government there, despite its differences with the national government in matters of a Catalan nature, is pretty much in agreement with the austerity measures.

In theory, it doesn't make a difference. But in practice, notwithstanding the PP's moral victory if it is indeed unable to form a government in Andalucía, it might just make a difference. The timing of the election and the result, five days before the general strike takes place, might well add fuel to the discontent on the streets, a discontent, so it is being said, that PSOE has been helping to stoke up.

Andalucía is not representative of Spain in that it has been solidly socialist ever since autonomous regional governments were introduced. It is also not representative in that it has the worst rate of unemployment in Spain and the second-worst GDP, one that is well below the average for Spanish regions. Nevertheless, if it stays outside the PP orbit, it could well become the focus for opposition to the national government, and opposition that might just turn a bit nasty, if some fears being voiced were to be realised.

There again, things turning nasty don't depend on election results. Too much can possibly be read into what has happened in Andalucía, but PSOE are milking the result for all it's worth, buoyed also by having gained most seats in another parliamentary election - in Asturias. Here, the election was on account of the government having been unworkable, the former PP secretary-general Francisco Álvarez Cascos having formed his own party and having been unable to establish a stable government following elections in May 2011. Cascos' party may well, with PP support, form the next government, but PSOE's numerical victory is being seen, if only by PSOE, as further evidence of disenchantment with the PP.

All of this political uncertainty takes place against the background of Italian premier Mario Monti having criticised Spain for not doing more to put its public accounts in order. This may sound like the pot calling the kettle black, but then Monti has taken significant measures to put the lid on the Italian deficit pot. Brussels might well agree with Monti, concern having been expressed that Rajoy's government has deliberately overstated the Spanish deficit (so as to make it look good) but implying that not all is as transparent as it might be in Madrid.

Brussels might also be concerned that Andalucía, a recipient of huge amounts of European benevolence about which many questions have been asked as to where it all went, is not about to shed a reputation for dodgy public governance and also acquire a further one as the region that undermines Rajoy's attempts to put Spain back on track. This assumes, however, that Rajoy is doing so. The Andalucía election may have been less than a ringing endorsement of the Rajoy government, but what actually has it been doing? Very little, other than anticipating this week's general strike.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma shops open on Sundays from 1 April

All shops in the centre of Palma will be able to open on Sundays and holidays from 1 April until October. Until now, only small shops have been permitted to open on any Sunday they wish. There will also be cultural and musical street activities. The official announcement of the change to opening times was made today in a joint statement by the mayor of Palma and President Bauzá.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Police arrested over cyclist death

Two officers from the national police have been detained by the Guardia Civil in connection with the death of a female German cyclist yesterday. The officers allegedly left the scene of the accident and failed to report it. One of the officers, the driver**, is an inspector with the police, and gave a positive breath test for alcohol.

The two officers have appeared before a judge this afternoon. Reports now indicate that the inspector is in fact head of the anti-drugs unit within the police division for drugs and organised crime.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

**As has been reported later, the driver was not the inspector but the other officer.

MALLORCA TODAY - PP wins in Andalucía but without majority

The anticipated victory of the Partido Popular in the regional elections in Andalucía has given the party 50 seats out of 109 in the regional parliament, not enough for a majority. The PP has won an Andalucían election for the first time, but may find itself having to form a pact with PSOE. In Asturias, PSOE has gained most seats (16 of 45) but the PP may well form a government in coalition with the Foro Asturias.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 March 2012

Mist around early with temperatures a touch over 10 degrees at 07:45. The mist will go and it will be another fine day, highs getting to the 20 mark. The week looks good, though maybe getting cloudy towards the back end.

Afternoon update: Another good day, the high having been 18.7 C inland and a degree lower on the coast.

From Canary Yellow To Black Gold

Sixty kilometres from the coasts of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the Spanish energy company Repsol is to start prospecting for oil. The arguments that have raged over oil exploration off the Balearics (further away than in the case of the Canaries) are being repeated but are creating more of a fuss and more by way of potentially bad publicity.

The arguments do, though, put into perspective the situation with regard to prospecting in the seas between the Balearics and the peninsula. While concerns for the environment and for tourism are as pronounced in the Canaries as in the Balearics, the potential economic benefits are being expressed far more strongly.

Repsol believes that there is a high probability of discovering oil (if you accept that a 20% probability is high) and that exploitation of these "probable" oil beds would eventually realise the equivalent of 10% of Spain's total oil and gas consumption for at least 20 years. (How such a calculation can be made based on a 20% probability I'm not entirely sure, but then I am neither a geologist nor an oil expert.)

Were such production of oil to come to pass, then there would be a clear economic benefit. And there is another strong economic case for Repsol's activities, that of employment. The Canaries, despite an all-year-round tourism industry and despite, like the Balearics, having enjoyed a record tourism summer in 2011, suffer the second highest level of unemployment in Spain - 31%. A light has gone on in the head of José Manuel Soria who has said that this unemployment demonstrates that tourism is not sufficient and that more industry is needed. Soria, if you need reminding, is the national minister for industry and energy and also for tourism. He also just so happens to be a former president of the Canaries.

You might think that industry and energy should not be combined with a portfolio for tourism as well, as they have competing demands. There will doubtless be many who disagree, but I believe that in Soria, especially as he knows full well from his Canaries experience what tourism means in terms of real employment prospects, here is a minister ideally placed to balance these competing demands. Tourism does not exist in an island all by itself; it is part of the total economy, and that economy would be partially transformed by oil.

There is a further economic factor that has influenced national government's authorisation of the Repsol prospecting. The oil beds lie not far from the imaginary line between Spanish and Moroccan waters; indeed they probably cut across this line. The Moroccans are in favour of exploration, and the fear has been that if Spain doesn't seek to exploit what oil there may be, then Morocco could nab it all for itself. There may yet, at some time in the future, be some almighty row over who owns the oil, but for now there is accord. This political dimension distinguishes the Balearics argument from that in the Canaries; there is no argument about who owns what may lie in the bay of Valencia and towards the Balearic Islands. But the politics make it more urgent that Spain (and Repsol) get a move on.

The politics within Spain are another matter. It is a curiosity that the Partido Popular in the Canaries, the Balearics and Valencia have all voiced their opposition to exploration; curious, as you might believe that the PP would be more disposed to display economic and business pragmatism than other parties. The PP in the Canaries are none too impressed by national government having gone over their heads, but someone has to, and the oil would be in the national interest (and also in the interests of the Canaries if their diabolical unemployment rate could be tackled).

The prominence being given to the prospecting is where the bad publicity comes in, and it is bad publicity fairly and squarely of a tourist style. TUI, for one, has expressed its concern, and the bad publicity has mainly surfaced in Germany, causing fears that the Canaries will acquire a different sort of reputation, i.e. for oil, and one that runs counter to a general culture in Germany of environmental concern and for clean energy.

Notwithstanding these admittedly legitimate fears, I would reiterate a point I have made previously in the context of prospecting off Balearic waters, and this is that oil and tourism can co-exist, as they do in the likes of Trinidad and Tobago. National government is right to press ahead, and for this we have to thank the existence of a minister who "gets it" where a combination of industry, energy and tourism is concerned.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Thousands protest in favour of Catalan

"An institutional dictatorship". Just one of the themes of a protest in favour of Catalan and against Balearic Government's reforms which will remove (if by no means totally) a requirement to speak Catalan to a high level in the public sector. The protest in Palma this evening (25 March) attracted thousands who demonstrated against what is also said to be an attack on the civil rights of natives of the Balearic Islands.

Organisers put the number of demonstrators at 50,000, the police at 20,000.

MALLORCA TODAY - Major protest in favour of Catalan expected today

The fight against Balearic Government legal reforms to downgrade Catalan continues today (25 March) with what organisers hope will be a massive protest in support of the language in Palma. The protest is due to start at 18:00 in the Plaza España.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro bullring to be used by bullfighting school

The historic bullring in Muro town is to be used by a recently formed bullfighting school in Muro. The bullring, bought by the town hall in 2009, is under-used, but there is opposition to the ceding to the school both on animal-welfare grounds and on those of economics - the school will be able to use the ring for free.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Monti expresses concern about Spanish economy

Italian prime minister Mario Monti, steering Italy out of its financial mess, has expressed his concern that Spain, despite employment reforms, is not getting to grips with its public accounts and deficits and that the country's situation threatens a contagion that will affect the whole of Europe.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Orchestra stages further protest concert

The Balearics Symphony Orchestra, facing cuts from its governmental sources of funding averaging around 35%, yesterday staged its second protest concert in the streets of Palma. A third protest concert is planned for next Saturday at 12:00 in Palma's Plaça Major. It has emerged over the past week that the Orchestra is heavily in debt to the Hacienda for non-payment of social security.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 March 2012

The first morning of Central European (and British) Summertime and it's a sunny if slightly misty start, with temperatures knocking in between 10 and 13 degrees, possibly getting to the higher teens later.

Afternoon update: A rocking day, plenty of sun and highs of 18 degrees.

Filthy Water: Renaming Magalluf

In 2005, a local plebiscite in the village of Dingle in Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal for the village's name to be bilingual, with Dingle, the English version, being retained. Despite this, the village's name appears only in Irish on road signs, except where Dingle has been sprayed onto them.

The curious case of Dingle was one to do with the Irish Official Languages Act and the advancement of place names in the Irish language. It has echoes of the suggestion made by the Balearic Government that there should be a "castellanisation" of Mallorcan place names, but there are other issues that come into the equation if a place name might be changed, and one of them is tourism. The people of Dingle, where there is a good tourism industry, were concerned that visitors would no longer be able to find the village were its English name to be dropped.

Dingle has some old Spanish connections. Its parish church was rebuilt in the sixteenth century with the help of Spanish money. Pilgrims sailing from the port in Dingle to Santiago de Compostela would, in all likelihood, never have ventured further, such as along the western seaboard of the Iberian peninsula, into the Mediterranean and thence to what was once just another small Mallorcan coastal village.

1234 is the year in which the name Magaluf ben Jusef was first recorded. The toponomy of Magalluf (or Magaluf with one "l" if you prefer; no one seems to really know which it should be) reveals that the resort's name has a less than edifying history; it is derived from the Arabic "ma haluf" and means filthy water.

Magalluf and Dingle have something in common, or may get something in common. There is talk of changing the name of Magalluf, not for linguistic reasons but in order to shed its reputation and graft onto the resort a new name. Unlike Dingle, it probably wouldn't keep the old name; it would become something different and that would be that.

The talk doing the rounds at Calvià town hall has a familiar ring to it. Now, where have I heard the suggestion that Magalluf might get a name change before? Oh yes, that'll be it. On this blog. I made the suggestion and wondered (back in early October last year and in light of the re-development by Meliá Hotels International) how long it would be before Magalluf ceased to be Magalluf.

There is, however, a problem with changing the name. In fact, there are several problems, one of them being around 800 years of history. But the greatest problem would be, as the people of Dingle were aware of, the confusion that would arise from a change, especially for tourists. Magalluf's reputation may not be all that it might, but, as resorts go, it has, as marketing people like to put it, high name recognition and awareness. Everyone's heard of it.

A suggestion as to a new name is Nova Calvià, hardly a novel suggestion for a town which already has the odd other nova. But the presence of Palmanova next door to Magalluf offers something of a precedent. Palmanova was an invention of a name. It was meant to have replaced Son Caliu, though this name (and indeed area) still exists. So, does here come a new and super nova? Possibly, though new Calvià might cause a touch of resentment in the rest of the municipality.

Even if Magalluf were to acquire a new name, it would take years for it to lose the old one, if at all. People aren't stupid, and that goes for tourists. They can call it Nova Calvià, but it might backfire, not because the name would necessarily be bad but because it would be seen for what it is - marketing. And as soon as the road sings were altered, there would be the Brotherhood of ben Jusef (1234) taking to Facebook, conducting a campaign and creeping around in the dead of night with their spray cans.

Of course, if everyone was aware of what Magalluf's name means, then this might be reasonable grounds for changing it as it is. There again, why wasn't it changed years ago? Nevertheless, in Nova Calvià or Meliá New Town, be it what it may be, there is some sense to a name change. Who wants to be heading off to a brand spanking new, re-developed resort that goes under the name of Filthy Water?

Any comments to please.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 0 : 2 Barcelona

Buoyed by back-to-back wins, at least Mallorca were in good form in welcoming Barcelona to the Son Moix. A quiet opening first quarter of the match except for Aouate stopping a Messi shot with his face. And then, on 26 minutes, Alexis headed in a Messi free-kick to give the visitors the lead. Mallorca were hanging in but being outplayed and coach Caparrós did at least show some intent by pulling off a defender for Nsue soon into the second period. Despite Barcelona going down to ten men soon after (Thiago exiting for deliberate handball and a second yellow offence), defender Piqué responded to a Messi shot against the post in adding a second. Respectable performance by Mallorca, but a predictable result.

Aouate; Chico (Nsue 53), Nunes, Ramis, Cáceres; Tissone (Alfaro 74), Martí, Pereira, Castro; Álvaro (Hemed 53), Victor
Yellow: Ramis (40)

Valdés; Puyol, Mascherano, Piqué; Thiago, Fábregas (Montoya 59), Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis (Tello 82), Messi, Pedro (Keita 68)
Goals: Alexis (26), Piqué (79)
Red: Thiago (56)
Yellows: Thiago (36), Puyol (88)

MALLORCA TODAY - Agreement on general strike minimum services

Unions and government have finally arrived at an agreement as to minimum services that will operate during the general strike on 29 March. With regard to air transport, this will amount to a minimum of 20% of flights in Europe.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Claassen charge against Real Mallorca rejected

A criminal charge sought against Real Mallorca's president and main shareholder by German shareholder Utz Claassen has been rejected by a judge in Palma. Classen, who owns 20% of the club's shares, claimed that he had been swindled into paying over the odds for the shares. The judge considered the claim to lack basis and to have been in "bad faith".

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 March 2012

Some cloud but mostly sunny this morning with no obvious breeze and a high of 13.3C at 07:30. Remaining calm and mainly clear throughout the day with temperatures in the mid-teens. Sunday a little warmer possibly.

Afternoon update: Sun all day but temperatures remaining moderate, a high just under 16 degrees.

Fantasy Football: Real Madrid Resort Island

Are there no limits to the global ambitions of football clubs? Once upon a time, these ambitions were reserved for sweatshop workers in the Far East churning out replica kit for sale to workers in the Far East who didn't work in sweatshops. Now, they have become altogether grander. How better to market your football club than to name an entire island after it.

Real Madrid Resort Island is due to open its doors (turnstiles might seem more appropriate) at the beginning of January 2015. It is far away from Madrid and far away from Spain, a tourism complex and theme park in Ras al-Khaimah, an emirate among the globally ambitious, sporting-linked collective of the United Arab Emirates.

There is more than a touch of the bizarre about this concept. It has overtones of Python's "Whicker Island", though in Python-land, Real Madrid Resort Island would probably have been Accrington Stanley Resort Island, a theme park comprising grimy northern scenes, back to back houses rather than luxury apartments, next to a slag heap instead of yet more velvety white sands.

"When an emotional brand creates an emotional place," says the promotional video, replete with a quickening heartbeat, which then, against a soundtrack with a suitably Arabic hint, announces the delights that await the anticipated one million visitors in year one. Among these will be the world's first hologram football show, reconstructed Ronaldos taking on imaginary Barças and Uniteds and presumably always winning. Let's face it, the last thing Real Madrid Resort Island needs is an unsuccessful team, so why not just stage an illusion of a football match and make sure the result always goes the right way.

The emotional brand creating the emotional place is the "perfect partnership", continues the video. Perfection is the collision of one of the world's leading and richest football clubs with one of the richest parts of the world. Perfection lies in richness and in two partners with plenty of moolah at their disposal. One billion dollars are to be invested.

The resort with its amusement park, its 60 bungalows, its 400 apartments, its 48 villas and its own Real Madrid museum is of a scale unimaginable in Mallorca. Well, not completely unimaginable, but while a new theme park ever actually opening on Mallorca is probably unlikely (and what, pray, has happened to it?) and while Utz Claassen, were he to in fact untangle his legal issues at Real Mallorca and offer a footballing holiday to a few hundred Germans to bolster the crowds at the Iberostar, would have to wait approximately five seasons' worth of home matches to get to one million attendees, the United Arabs just go full steam ahead, create a whole island and eventually, and don't dismiss the possibility, end up uprooting an entire football club of their own. Real Madrid Resort Island will also boast the first ever football stadium "open to the sea". And who will be playing there?

If anything exposes Mallorca's place in the grand scheme of international tourism, then the Real Madrid-ing of an emirate no one had previously heard of is it. Years of faffing around attempting to raise a few bob to rebuild Playa de Palma, and what happens? The Arabs come along, create an emotional place and nick a football team into the bargain.

This all said, who would actually want to go to the resort? A Real Madrid fan? A real Real Madrid fan? I'm not so sure. The unreal Real Madrid fan from other emirates, from the Far East (those not in sweatshops), from Japan; they will probably go, as will those persuaded by a global branding exercise which, through theme-parking, puts the club on a par with Disney.

Football is now the least of it, which is probably why Real Madrid will ultimately dispense with footballers completely and simply play virtual matches in the United Arab Emirates Hologram League of endless games against a simulated Manchester City for whom Carlos Tevez may as well have been a hologram for the past few months. It is the ultimate in fantasy football, played on a fantasy island in front of cheering Chinese fans as a make-believe Mourinho leads out his team.

If you hadn't previously been convinced that football had lost touch with its roots, then you now should be. The roots are being replanted far, far away in the pursuit of what we now have to call "sportainment". It's enough to make you hanker for the days of Accrington Stanley before they went bust in the sixties, for cloth caps and rattles, and for back to backs rather than luxury apartments. Real Madrid Resort Island? Football's last resort? No, a resort to football was last with us some time ago. Football's first resort, but football it isn't.

Any comments to please.

Friday, March 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Incentives for filming in the Balearics?

The Balearic Government, on the back of all the filming that has been going on recently on the islands and with Toni Bestard's "The Perfect Stranger" having enjoyed its Palma premiere, is considering tax incentives for future filming on the islands.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - The other tapas route: Artà

Ok, so what's this all about, "Ultima Hora"? You could get your arses up to Artà to do a report on its first tapas route, but not to Puerto Pollensa.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Russian tourism on the rise

The Balearics, having been established as the second most popular Spanish destination for Russian tourists, are set to receive ever more, a 30% rise in Russian tourism being anticipated this summer.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Drunk Briton falls into sea

A bit of a variant on the balcony-diving theme, in that no balcony was involved, but a Briton, so drunk he was incapable of being interviewed, fell into the sea in Palma on Wednesday night and required emergency-service attendance.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Breakdown in general strike negotiations

The Balearic Government looks set to impose minimum service levels during the general strike (29 March) after talks with unions broke down yesterday. The main difficulty in the negotiations appeared to relate to transport services from the airport that would affect tourists.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 March 2012

A fine, sunny spring morn, chilly with a local top of just over 9 degrees at 08:00, but rocking up to the mid to high teens later and with sun all the way. Weekend looks pretty decent as well.

Afternoon update: Sunny day but not quite as warm as might have been anticipated, a high of just 16 degrees.

The Best Laid Article Plans: Tapas route

I'm distinctly hacked off with Tomeu Cifre. I suppose it isn't his fault totally, and I should perhaps by now know that you don't rehearse your write-up or come up with your hilariously satirical photo-op idea before an event, but I'm afraid I had done both. There I was, awaiting his arrival at the opening scoff of the Puerto Pollensa tapas route, and the call comes through saying there has been a delay, or something or other. A meeting going on longer than expected. Sorry, but who does he think he is? The bloody mayor?

You will never now see the fruits of the labour that I had intended. Undeterred, however, I shall outline what these would have entailed. A headline of "Mayor in Payment Shock" to accompany a photo of hard cash being handed over in return for a tapa and caña. A line about veteran town-hall observers commenting on the fact that it had been hitherto unknown for a mayor to part with his own money for anything. An analysis as to this representation of a new era of transparency and proper governance under the Partido Popular government. An expert calculating the cost of the tapa in relation to the mayoral salary that you will never learn, but you can figure it out for yourselves, i.e. what is one euro fifty cents as a percentage of a monthly gross salary of 2,914 euros? And then, the satirical punchline of: "Next week, the mayor pays for his own beach sunbed. Not that there is a sunbed of course."

All down the pan. All that hard, creative pre-planning for nothing. Well, that's the last time I write a complimentary piece about Pollensa's mayor. He totally ruined my evening's entertainment. And there it all had been, going so well, until this so-called meeting got in the way.

For the record, and so that you have even the vaguest idea what I am on about, yesterday evening saw the start of the first tapas route in Puerto Pollensa, an ongoing series of routes every Thursday from now until eternity, one that Denise at Rustic Café had suggested as an idea in front of the mayor, who didn't obviously have another meeting, and which received his positive support as "her" project. A month or so on, and the route was opened.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Would there be whole armies of locals marching through the streets of Puerto Pollensa, stopping briefly for a tapa and a caña before staggering to the next hostelry? Not as far as I could make out, but this is something they might think about, especially when the tourists arrive. There can't be any complaints if a bar crawl is done in the name of gastronomy. Or at least, you wouldn't think so.

The route isn't a route as such, more a selection of eating and drinking establishments, but I suppose "selection" or "collection" or some equivalent doesn't have quite the same ring about it or the same sense of movement, of which there was some, even if it was done by car, which isn't quite the same thing as a route march. (Now I think of it would a collection of bars on a tapas route be a tapas of tapas bars?)

Still, it's all a splendid idea, even if the satire about the mayor paying for his own tapa was ruined. Doubtless, the handing over of the mayoral coins happened elsewhere once the meeting was finished. So no one could complain that the mayor was not paying his way, which is only right and proper, as everyone should. Except ... Sorry, I think I owe one euro fifty.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Hopes that general strike will not affect Balearics tourism

Negotiations still going on, the Balearic Government is hopeful of limiting the effects of 29 March's general strike on tourism by guaranteeing good levels of transport to and from Palma airport. Any effects on flights themselves are not yet entirely clear. Other proposed minimum services are outlined here Ultima Hora, while in Palma, 80% of public transport workers are said to be prepared to support the strike.

MALLORCA TODAY - Police co-ordination in northern Mallorca planned

The five municipalities of the northern region of Mallorca (Alcúdia, Pollensa, Sa Pobla, Muro and Santa Margalida) could have a board to co-ordinate local police activities in the region and to allow for support and improved information flows between the different local police forces.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Another pyramid scheme - couple arrested

With the trial of John Hirst and others due to take place in Yorkshire later this year for an alleged Ponzi scheme operated primarily in Calvià, another scheme has been exposed. Police have detained a couple - named only as J.P., a 56-year-old Austrian born in Germany, and his 38-year-old Spanish wife, B.D.B. - in an investigation of a scheme said to have realised some nine million euros and to have affected some 200 people, mainly Britons, Germans and Spaniards. Arrests were made yesterday in Magalluf and Palma.

See more (for example): Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 March 2012

A cloudy morning but without yesterday's dampness, 14C at 07:15. Sunnier later, and the general outlook has improved, tomorrow appearing to be clear and temperatures set to average in the high teens through the weekend.

Afternoon update: After some rain around this morning, a pretty decent day with a good deal of sun and a high of 16.7C.

The Power Of Love: Jaume Matas

From the start of his second presidency until anti-corruption investigations began to unravel his world, six years had passed in the life of Jaume Matas. For each one of these years, he has now been condemned to serve the equivalent in prison. Possibly. At present, he remains at liberty. His sentence is to be appealed, the Supreme Court will be invited to ratify (or not) the decision of a Palma court, though there is still the small matter of numerous other trials that await Matas.

We now no longer have to pussyfoot. Or do we? Matas' lawyer argues that the higher court has often overturned decisions by lower courts, indeed he appears confident that the Supreme Court will overturn the sentence against Matas. In his view, Matas remains innocent. Can we dispense with the pussyfooting, or do we still have to resort to the "allegedly" caveat?

The essence of the first trial as part of the "caso Palma Arena" and of the guilty verdicts delivered against Matas, journalist Antonio Alemany, ex-director of government communication Joan Martorell and head of the Nimbus PR agency Miguel Romero was that Alemany received payments well in excess of what he was entitled to in writing speeches and glowing articles about Matas and his government and that Alemany's businesses, a news agency and an online newspaper, benefited from government funds.

Matas' offence, put in basic terms, was that he bought favours, while Alemany, condemned by the prosecution as being "fiercely independent except when it came to money and power", was happy to be the one being bought.

On the face of it, this has been an open-and-shut case of corruption in public office, but for journalists with the Spanish media reporting the case and now analysing its verdicts, there has to be a slight nag in the back of their minds. What Matas and the others did was to set up an arrangement that was not out in the open, unlike the system of government funds that have been paid, quite legitimately, to newspaper publishers. Alemany's online newspaper has made a point of itemising the payment of these funds. Alemany's independence was bought, but how truly can the Spanish press locally be said to be totally independent when it has been a government beneficiary?

Why, though, would Matas have gone to the lengths that he apparently did in order to obtain favourable press coverage? I'm not sure that this question has been adequately answered or even discussed. A hint as to the answer may lie with what has emerged of Matas, a man depicted as vain and a power freak who dominated his government. It is, without getting too deep into the psychology of someone known only through press reporting, a not untypical extension of a combination of vanity and power to also seek to be "loved". One way of doing so is to buy the right reporting. Another way is to buy something that will guarantee the love. Robert Maxwell was an example. When I once asked an executive at one of Maxwell's companies why he wanted to buy Manchester United, the answer was simple. He wanted to be loved by the fans.

It is still difficult, though, to really understand. Alemany wrote for a newspaper not exactly ill-disposed to the Partido Popular ("El Mundo") in any event. One has to presume that the arrangement with Alemany was one of guaranteeing that that fierce independence didn't suddenly include criticism. But it was also a case of power going to the head, of believing that anything could be done with impunity, including abuse of public office in blatantly manipulating the media (rather than the more subtle or less overt ways by which the press is influenced). In Matas and Alemany, from their performances and demeanour as reported and depicted in court (including the pre-trial declarations that Matas made), here were two people who appeared to mock the court, who gave the impression of being superior.

Ultimately, as the prosecution has put it, everything comes back to power and to money. And now that the court, notwithstanding the appeal and reference to the Supreme Court, has had its say, a "cascade" of repentance is expected from various of the accused in other parts of the Palma Arena case. The game is up, they might believe, and will have noted that neither Martorell nor Romero, who confessed, will actually go to jail. What more, though, awaits Jaume Matas? And what also now awaits the Duke of Palma, for whom the verdict, it is being said, has made his part in the whole affair that much more "complicated"?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sporting Gijón 2 : 3 Real Mallorca

Mallorca, up to thirteenth with 33 points, away at Gijón (on the northern coast of Spain in Asturias), second from bottom in nineteenth position with 24 points. The home team started brightly enough, but it was Mallorca who took the lead just on the half hour through Nunes. Sporting's brightness was not dulled, though, going close and then replying through Colunga but having been inferior to a stronger Mallorca. More or less straight from the kick-off, a second own goal in successive matches in favour of Mallorca restored their lead, but Sporting were never less than sporting and Botía equalised after twenty minutes of the period, only for Mallorca to retaliate once more, thanks to Álvaro. Important win this for Mallorca who are now surely pretty much safe from relegation. Nine rounds of matches to go, including Bilbao and Real Madrid (on the last day) away plus Barcelona at home at the weekend, but otherwise points available, though probably not enough to raise hopes of a Europa League spot.

Pablo; Lora, Botía, Orfila, Canella; Gálvez (Castro 57), Cases; Mendy (Carmelo 72), Trejo (De las Cuevas 54), Colunga; Barral
Goals: Colunga (38), Botía (65)
Yellows: Cases (78), Canella (90)

Aouate; Cendrós, Chico, Nunes, Cáceres (Bigas 65); Martí, Tissone, Nsue, Alfaro (Pina 72); Victor (Hemed 75), Álvaro
Goals: Nunes (29), Orfila (46 o.g.), Álvaro (76)
Yellows: Tissone (45), Cáceres (64), Cendrós (73), Bigas (90)

MALLORCA TODAY - Case against John Hore withdrawn

Following the overblown headlines of 40-odd-year sentences against John Hore and his wife Martha Monica, the case against Mr. Hore has been withdrawn. His wife has been acquitted of any criminal charge, but she and their solicitor must meet unpaid taxes, fines and costs totalling 10.6 million euros in respect of the purchase of fincas.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Air Berlin joins Oneworld

The German airline Air Berlin has become a member of the Oneworld alliance, thus opening up the possibility of increased air connections for Mallorca with Asia and the Americas. Air Berlin, for some years Palma's most important airline, have in the past hoped for better connections with the USA in particular, an example being with California where there is the historical connection with the island because of Fray Juniper.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Unions and government negotiate strike minimum services

The four main trade unions co-ordinating the general strike in the Balearics are in discussion with the regional government over minimum service provision during the strike (on 29 March), the main issues seemingly concerning public transport and health services.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Paid parking in Puerto Pollensa from 15 May

Pollensa town hall is putting out to tender the management of parking in Puerto Pollensa, the so-called ORA ("ordenanza reguladora de aparcamiento"), by which there will be two categories of parking covering around 40% of available street-parking spaces in the centre of the resort - a blue zone for general parking and a green zone for local residents who will have to pay (20 euros) to obtain an annual permit. The green zone will cost more, so as to give residents more opportunity of being able to park. For both zones, there will be a maximum parking time of two hours, which seems a bit weird certainly where residents are concerned, though the application of parking times has normally only been during the working day, while will the fact that the green zone is to cost 25 cents more for half an hour really result in there being more places available to residents? Maybe it will. The new system is due to come into effect from 15 May and will remain in effect until October, though it appears that the green zone will not in fact become a reality until next year, criticisms of this delay and indeed criticisms over a lack of consultation emanating from various opposition parties. Furthermore, there is a suggestion within these criticisms that in fact the payment system will operate during the siesta or, as it has been put, during the lunch break when people will have to go and move their cars every two hours. Nothing is ever straightforward in Pollensa.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 March 2012

A damp, grey morning but mild bordering on the warm, with very high humidity and a local max of 14.6C at 07:30. Wind is down, but the sea is still in a bit of turmoil. Remaining mostly cloudy today, sunnier tomorrow, the temperatures are set to rise into the weekend but combined with cloud.

Afternoon update: An improvement from the morning with some sun but still a hazy cloud around. High today 18.1C.

Big Units: New tourism organisation

Have you ever heard of "countryside units"? I daresay that you haven't, but you are now going to, as Mallorca's tourism is going to be organised according to them, or so says tourism minister Carlos Delgado, in what will be a "radical change to the organisation of holiday areas".

This radical change will allow for better management of tourism services and infrastructure and for better flows of information both between different local authorities and to tourists who know nothing of what may exist in the next town. This seems to be the theory, anyway.

These countryside units are not only in the country. They are also by the coast. There will be nine of them in all; units, it would appear, made up from towns with similar characteristics. They are also being referred to as "mancomunidades", which aren't communities of men, but supra-municipalities. The countryside-unit man-communities conform to an extent to existing mancomunidades which are meant to share certain resources (like waste management) and work together.

The so-called "radical change" is all part of what the government is sloganising as "all the land is tourism", a catchy slogan, and one that those in sleepy parts of the island who ne'er set eyes on a tourist will now have to get used to. Mallorca is going to be one big tourist resort, a Brotherhood of Mancomunidades, karaoke bars popping up in quiet backwater villages and tourists singing "kisses for me".

The regional government, which had seemed to be attempting to cut layers of organisation, appears to want to do precisely the opposite when it comes to tourism. The nine units will be "above" the individual towns, thus adding a further administrative element to an already over-administered tourism organisation in Mallorca. Or will they mean that the individual towns no longer have responsibilities for tourism but share them with others? This is what seems to be the on the cards, but you wouldn't think that all towns will take kindly to having to jointly promote themselves with others.

The units make some sense, as in, for example, there will be one for what is, except for a bit of a forest, all but a conurbation on the bay of Alcúdia, i.e. Alcúdia, Muro and Can Picafort. The hotel associations of Alcúdia and Can Picafort are already joined at the hip, though the association in Muro, despite the town being between the other two, is not. Others make less sense. Why does Calvià need to combine with Andratx when Calvià is already a conglomeration of various resorts? What advantage is there for Palma in linking up with Llucmajor when Palma is vast enough as it is? Palma town hall, having launched its own Palma 365 campaign and separate tourism foundation, now finds itself having to worry about the great German tourism drinking class of Arenal when it has one of its own.

Then there is the unit for the Tramuntana. World heritage and so on, but this is one big unit that stretches from north of Andratx to Pollensa. A community of mountain it may be, but what does Puerto Pollensa have in common with Banyalbufar and Port des Canonge? To be honest, Puerto Pollensa doesn't have much in common with Pollensa town, other than the name.

The units for the Pla de Mallorca and for Raiguer, i.e. inland parts of Mallorca to which no tourist would ever dream of going, also make sense as they correspond to the current quasi-administrative mancomunidades, but what difference will they really make to tourism? Indeed, what difference will any of these units make, other than to potentially stir up local jealousies and a lack of co-operation? The mancomunidades of the Pla and Raiguer have worked well when it has come to specific service provisions, but others have not, most obviously that in the north of Mallorca which has been wound up.

Despite towns sharing some similarities, these similarities were not strong enough for the six-pronged northern mancomunidad to stay together. Ditching Sa Pobla, Artà and Pollensa from the new one for tourism sounds as though there will be far more common ground between Alcúdia, Muro and Santa Margalida (Can Picafort), so it might just work, but is there really a necessity for any of this?

Maybe the minister can clarify his radical change, as it is hard to understand what it is going to achieve, but maybe there is something else behind it all. Is this the start of a rationalisation of local government and of town-hall mergers? Why stop at tourism organisation?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Urdangarin faces trial

Making life a bit easier than wading through all the Spanish, "El País" has usefully summarised why Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, is due to stand trial on four counts, which include corruption and embezzlement. Charges against Urdangarin form part of the overall "caso Palma Arena" for which, in the first judgement of many, ex-president Jaume Matas has been condemned to six years imprisonment.

See more: El Pais English

MALLORCA TODAY - Matas gets six years

The sentencing of ex-Balearics president Jaume Matas and others in the first trial to do with the "caso Palma Arena" has resulted in Matas being given a six-year sentence.

Journalist Antonio Alemany has received a three-year and nine-month sentence; former government director of communication Joan Martorell has been condemned to a year and a half and head of PR company Nimbus, Miguel Romero, has received a sentence of one year, one month and 15 days.

Matas has been found guilty of abuse of public office, false accounting, fraud and misappropriation. The facts of this part of the Palma Arena case had to do with payments to businesses operated by the some-time journalist with the "El Mundo" newspaper, Antonio Alemany, which amounted to some half a million euros during Matas' period of office between 2003 and 2007.

The payments, described as totally unnecessary by prosecutors, were for articles that were favourable to the president and his government, while some other articles never actually appeared. In addition, Alemany, with government funds, was able to create a news website and news agency. This website is among those reporting the declarations by the court, one of which describes Alemany as "fiercely independent except when it comes to money and power".

Lawyers for Matas and Alemany have said that they will appeal against the sentences, while for the moment it is unclear whether they will enter prison immediately or not. The public prosecution had said that if the sentence for Matas was longer than five years that he should go straight inside, but it seems that no demand has been made on preventive grounds, i.e. that Matas might leave the country. As he has had his passport withdrawn anyway, this might seem unlikely. Ratification of the sentence by the Supreme Court could also delay any entrance into prison, and the delay could be as long as a year. Meantime, there will be other parts of the "caso Palma Arena" to be heard.

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca to be divided into nine tourist areas

Under the Balearic Government's new tourism law, Mallorca is to be split into nine so-called "mancomunidades" (which can be translated as commonwealths) with the aim of managing and improving tourism services of different types and of bringing inland parts of the island more into the tourism equation. Some of these are obvious, e.g. Alcúdia will join with Muro and Can Picafort (and Alcúdia and Can Picafort are already joined through their respective hotel associations), but Pollensa will form part of the much larger and more diverse Tramuntana area, which seems fair enough for Pollensa town but is it for Puerto Pollensa?

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Illegal bar in Can Picafort

A bar that operates without a licence in the building for the "segunda edad" in Can Picafort, and one apparently set up by a member of the town hall administration, has been condemned by the Can Picafort Unit party. Segunda edad refers to people of working age, usually to the age of 45 or 50.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Information panels unused in Pollensa

Another day in Pollensa and something else for town hall opposition groups to complain about. This time it is wooden panels, meant to be used for information, which are unused and in certain instances covered with graffiti.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Ambulance workers to strike on 30 March

The day after the planned general strike, and ambulance workers in the Balearics are planning an indefinite strike from 30 March over non-payment of salaries and bonuses.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 March 2012

First day of spring, and heavy cloud with no breaks, strong winds (up to 50kph), the sea's rough, a poor morning. Rain inland and some heavy showers now also in the coastal areas. Temperatures at 12.5C at 07:45. Not looking much better all day.

Afternoon update: Grey and windy all day and occasional rain. Temperatures down on the morning, the best being a degree lower.

Two Seasons In One Day: Mallorcan spring

If you had been awake at 06:14 this morning, you could have stood in your garden or on your balcony and greeted the start of spring. In fact you wouldn't have needed to be in the garden or on the balcony as spring would have been all around you. At 06:13 it was still winter, the next minute it wasn't.

The time would have depended on your operating according to Central European Time. To this end, had by any chance you been in Amsterdam, you would have been able to put on your best East End, music-hallish singing voice, rush into the Volkspark and sing "When it's spring again, I'll bring again tulips from Amsterdam". Max Bygraves' classic was, most opportunely, a double A-side with "You Need Hands", the hands of a clock ticking to 06:14 and bringing forth a burst of Max from the other side of the disc.

I can't say that I have ever seen a tulip in Mallorca. No doubt there are some, and no doubt someone will let me know that I am an idiot and that there are whole fields of them lurking somewhere, but the tulip has failed to register on what is not admittedly a particularly alert radar when it comes to the local floral world. Daffodils yes, indeed there are some in my garden, now on their way out and preparing for their annual meeting with a lawnmower (they actually grow in the lawn for some reason that has nothing to do with me as I most certainly didn't put them there).

The Mallorcan spring, like the Mallorcan autumn, is an odd affair, for the simple reason that it doesn't officially exist. There may be references to the equinox and all that and an acknowledgement that spring has sprung, if only by the national TV channel putting "primavera" onto the introduction to its weather reports, but otherwise spring is still technically winter until 30 April.

Max's clock hands come in useful right on the stroke of midnight on the last day of April, as one second past midnight summer begins. Mallorca has two seasons - summer and not-summer, and summer is between 1 May and 31 October. Tourism and its seasons (or rather, season) have disrupted a fundamental principle of nature. Four seasons become two, or in effect only one.

Rather like periods of the day are determined by law, as in, for instance, a Mallorcan evening officially being between eight and eleven (albeit that everyone has forgotten this change to the law), so officialdom determines the seasons. 1 May is summer, which does rather go against convention which normally has it that summer starts 51 days later, except on those occasions when it is 50 days later. Fortunately for the sake of 51-day-later consistency, the Mallorcan summer solstice will in fact begin at eight minutes past one on the morning of 21 June this year, not that this matters of course, as the Mallorcan summer will, by this time, have been well underway for almost two months.

The movability of the starting-points of the astronomical seasons is such that, you may have realised, spring has come a day earlier than is usually thought to be the case. This said, in meteorological circles, spring has been with us for almost three weeks, though these meteorological circles don't appear to stretch to the national Spanish TV weather forecast, which is stubbornly astronomical and equinoctial.

By the same meteorological token, summer starts on 1 June, so the Mallorcan summer can be said to kick in only a month earlier than is normally thought to be the case, rather than 51 (or 50) days earlier. Because of all these alternative definitions, it is perhaps understandable that the Mallorcans have simply done away with a couple of seasons altogether and made their own up.

Whenever spring does or doesn't start, or whether it exists or it doesn't, there are certain signs, other than early-shooting daffodils, that spring is with us, and the most obvious is the arrival of the pollen. Pine trees, olive trees, nettles, lichwort and sticky-weed, they all toss that yellowy-greeny stuff around that attaches itself to car windscreens and terraces. And to washing.

So you know it's spring by the fact that having hung the washing out to dry, you have to put it straight back into the wash. But then it isn't really spring because it's still winter. Four seasons in one day? In Mallorca, there can be no such thing.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - First Matas sentence to be delivered tomorrow (20 March)

Prosecutors, lawyers and accused have been called to attend court in Palma at 11am tomorrow (20 March) to hear the decision of the court in respect of the first trial of ex-Balearics president Jaume Matas and others that took place in January. Prosecutors have called for a prison sentence of eight and a half years for the former president.

MALLORCA TODAY - Language hunger striker at "point of no return"

Jaume Bonet, the pensioner on hunger strike in protest at the regional government's policy towards Catalan, has been without food for 19 days and is, according to his doctor, at the "point of no return".

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Briton faces 42 years imprisonment for tax evasion

The case against the couple John and Martha Monica Hore and their solicitor, charged with conspiring to commit tax evasion and fraud in respect of the purchase of fincas in Bunyola (amounting to 32 million euros) is to be heard as from tomorrow, the prosecutors calling for 42 and a half years for John Hore and the solicitor and 37 and a half years for Hore's wife.

The sentence being demanded (assuming it were to be accepted and indeed that guilt is established) almost certainly will not be this length. It is typical in many cases that the reporting is highly dramatic, but what it usually means is the total of sentences for different charges are added up to arrive at the figure. There was the case of a doctor who was sentenced to 77 years for a total number of offences of sexual abuse but was due to spend a maximum of four years. The way it worked in that case was that the actual tariff was three times the normal sentence for the most serious offence he committed; hence four years.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Bunyola fire affects 12 hectares

Fires on Mallorca, even this early in the year, mean that the worst start to a year for fires is being registered, and yesterday there was one in Bunyola that affected 12 hectares and led to day-trippers having to be evacuated.

See more (with a few photos): Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 March 2012

Mainly cloudy but mild, temperatures to 13.2C at 07:45. Rain possible later and tomorrow is looking pretty wet, Wednesday less so; remaining cloudy through the week.

Afternoon update: There has been a spot of rain around and little by way of sun, though the clouds have not been particularly heavy. Temperatures well down, a high of just 13.6C to 17:00.

The Lazy Man's Guide To Travel Writing

The reasons why I refer occasionally to items from "The Guardian" are: a. it is free online, unlike a certain other "quality" British newspaper; b. it isn't the "Daily Mail"; c. following on from b., I don't therefore have a desire to throw the computer out the window.

Another reason is that it does come up with the odd inspirational piece. Not inspirational in the way that it is written, but inspirational in giving me something to talk about. So it is with a short thing entitled "Spain's best festivals and parties", written by a certain Rachel Dixon who "works for the life & style site" at the paper. What this means is that she gets gigs to go and sample tourism and travel opportunities that few people would ever consider and would still not consider once they have read Rachel's contributions.

The other day, Rachel was enjoying "gourmet horse riding in Andalucía" (and how nomenclaturely correct of the paper to opt for Andalucía, with its c and its accented i, rather than its s and no accent). Never fear, it isn't the horse that is being gourmeted, or at least I don't think it is. As if this wasn't enough travel for one day and for one person, Rachel then departs Andalucía and heads around Spain for her tour of the best festivals and parties.

These, it mainly turns out, are publicity for music concerts. Not boring ones with sombre-looking gents in tuxes and equally sombre-looking ladies in evening gowns but pop, rock, dance and what have you. Best they all are, even if one of them claimed by Rachel to be among the best has never actually taken place before.

We read all this travel-writing stuff and think "I wish I could do a job like that". Gourmet horse riding one day, the best festivals the next day, or even the same day in Rachel's case. But it's the appearance of the not-having-taken-place-yet festival that helps to prove what I have believed for some time. Travel writers don't in fact get gigs to go and sample tourism at all. What they do is spend all day in their studies in Hackney pied-à-terres and look at YouTube.

This may sound as though writers are being rather duplicitous in suggesting that they have been horse riding when the only riding they have been doing is taking the Central Line, but we should applaud them, especially if they work for the life & style site at "The Guardian". Life & style (strangely always ampersanded) in a Guardian style requires attention to carbon emissions. What better than to never leave home but still appear to have, as though you are a current-day Judith Chalmers wishing your readership that they were there but having Photoshopped yourself onto an entire landscape of Andalucía, preferably with the odd gourmet horse or two chewing in the background.

With most of it, as with gourmet horse riding, you can be on pretty firm ground. No one is clearly ever going to do it, as no one ever does anything that is suggested in the travel pages of newspapers. So no one can challenge the accuracy of the report. Not that they would, because the report would be accurate, unless someone had, as a joke, posted gourmet horse riding in the Shetland Islands onto YouTube and called it Andalucía.

The travel-writer's research is today done for him or her. As well as YouTube, there are the likes of Pinterest. What an astonishing resource this is. Just go to the travel & places section (more of the ampersand, note) and a whole world awaits your typing skills to convert the images into someone's next dream holiday. How about Niue for example? Don't know where it is. Nor did I, but I now do, thanks to Pinterest, and studying the photos I could conjure up a world for you of velvety white sands and electric-blue sea (see also Trip Advisor re Puerto Alcúdia).

I wouldn't even need to plagiarise the text. I am quite capable of writing my own, thanks very much. And realising quite how easy this can all be, I have decided to issue my "Lazy Man's Guide To Mallorca", to be published this summer. While I know a fair bit about Mallorca, I can't claim to know it all, but why should I bother spending the petrol money to find out when it's all there on the internet, awaiting my transformation into an indispensable guide for tourists from all good bookshops at the reasonable price of 9.99 euros (IVA included). With any luck, I can find some charitable souls willing to hand over their photos for free as well.

But why stop at Mallorca? My next project will be a guide to the Russian Steppe. Have I ever been to it? Are you kidding? Of course not. I don't even know where it is, but Wikipedia can tell me.

So, thank you, "The Guardian", and thank you, Rachel. A moment's attention paid to Spain's best festivals and parties, and you have shown me the light. And it's on YouTube.

Any comments to please.