Monday, April 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Worst winter tourism season in a decade

The Balearics suffered the worst winter tourism season from November of 2011 to March this year since the turn of the century and the publication of tourism numbers from overseas. The figure was slightly under 700,000, representing a fall of 60% compared with the best season - that of 2005.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - "Revolution" called for by union

1500 or so people demonstrating in Palma might signal the onset of revolution, but UGT union leader in the Balearics, Lorenzo Bravo, has called for this and the occupation of ministry buildings in protest against education and health cuts, to which has now been added the threat of a rise in IVA (VAT) next year.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2012

14.5 C the top local temperature at 07:15. One or two darkish clouds but otherwise clear and going on to be a good day with temperatures to the 20 mark or above. The outlook for the week remains fine getting warmer.

Afternoon update: Windy again, keeping the values down. A high of 19.2 C.

The 1812 Overture: Búger

An overture is not just an orchestral work, it is also a proposal. In 1812, the overture in the tiny village of Búger was such that its proposal to be an independent administration was accepted. It seceded from the union with its neighbour Campanet, and so became what it is today, the smallest - by size - municipality in Mallorca.

Búger is one of those places in Mallorca that might as well, as far as the rest of the island is concerned, not exist. It isn't known for anything and has no claim to fame, other than its smallness (just over eight square kilometres) and, where English speakers are concerned, a name with an unfortunate propensity for lewdness.

Búger's 1812 overture was in effect more a case of unilaterally declaring independence. Thanks to the constitution agreed by the parliament in Cádiz in that year, places that didn't have councils were allowed to have them. If you have ever wondered why there are so many town halls and so many tiny municipalities, then you need look no further than the 1812 declaration for the answer. Two hundred years on, Búger has been celebrating its anniversary and everyone else has been arguing that it is a nonsense that there should be a town hall for such a small place and for many, many other small places in Mallorca and in Spain.

Recently, the UPyD party advanced the case for merging municipalities. It is far from alone in making such a case. The municipalities are on the lowest rung of the ladder of Spain's system of public administration, a system which, because of the cascade from the national centre to the regions, to the provinces, to the islands and then on to the municipalities, costs an absolute fortune to maintain.

It is too simplistic and convenient, however, to believe that municipalities could be merged or local government rationalised by merely sweeping them away. In believing this, one is confronted by at least 200 years of history (more in fact in the case of other towns). One is also confronted by a principle of localism enshrined in the Cádiz declaration. This principle had been borrowed from the French and the "commune", established early on during the French Revolution as the lowest level of public administration.

In September 2007, the one-time editor of "The Times", Simon Jenkins, wrote a passionate defence of localism in which he made reference to the French commune. His point, or one of them, was that, through decentralisation to even the tiniest of administrations (and some French communes are miniscule by comparison with the likes of Búger), local issues were resolved that much more satisfactorily. The main point was that such localism is the best form of democracy because citizen involvement is devolved to the smallest possible unit.

Jenkins drew a comparison between these small units and the smallest unit of democratic administration in Britain which covers an average of 118,000 people. Búger has a population of just over 1,000 people. In terms of inhabitants, it isn't the smallest municipality; Escorca with under 300 people is. The contrast with what, on average, are far larger administrative units in Britain is stark. But this contrast is not solely one of size, it is also one of mentality and identity.

In Britain, the loss of a sense of community is something that is often bemoaned, and successive reorganisations of local government have helped to reinforce this loss and to also make the principle of highly localised government seem anachronistic. The British mentality veers towards the pragmatic, but pragmatism is hard to establish in local administration when there are barriers of local identity and centuries of history.

Britain's insular mentality is, like its system of local government, on nothing like the scale of typical Mallorcan insularity. For many Mallorcans, this insularity is not the island but the village, the family and the network. And for these many Mallorcans, their identity is threatened not just by arguments that would see their councils and mayors abandoned but also by an attack on their language. It is not untypical, especially in times of crisis, such as at present, for there to be a retrenchment into the comfort of identity, and this means the local community. Disruption of this comfort leads to social dislocation and/or dissent. It is disruption that can come at a price.

Jenkins' view of localism can be criticised for being overly romantic. The system doesn't, for all manner of reasons, work satisfactorily in Mallorca. But it is one with which people identify. It is not pragmatic, it is anachronistic, it is hugely expensive, but in 200 years time will Búger be celebrating its four hundredth anniversary of independence?

Any comments to please.

Index for April 2012

Argentina: Repsol nationalisation - 19 April 2012
Attractions and all-inclusives - 24 April 2012
Balearic Symphony Orchestra - 6 April 2012
Búger: 200 years of independence - 30 April 2012
Charity and expats - 15 April 2012
Coast law reform - 13 April 2012
Culture: shows and presentation - 27 April 2012
Drunken tourism: tackling - 9 April 2012
Eden Hotels - 21 April 2012
English-speaking radio - 14 April 2012
Es Trenc beach - 4 April 2012
Expat division on social lines - 2 April 2012
Freedom of information: Spain - 8 April 2012
Hotel conversion and town halls - 10 April 2012
IVA increase in 2013 - 28 April 2012
Jumeirah Port Sóller Hotel & Spa - 29 April 2012
King Juan Carlos' apology - 20 April 2012
Palma Sunday trading - 18 April 2012
Palma's logo and slogan - 5 April 2012
Partido Popular: Pastor will not stand - 25 April 2012
Pollensa blue flags - 22 April 2012
Pollensa military theme park (April Fool) - 1 April 2012
Puerto Alcúdia boat and cuttlefish fair - 23 April 2012
Puerto Alcúdia market - 7 April 2012
Republicanism - 16 April 2012
Sa Pobla Jazz Festival - 17 April 2012
Tourism law: hotels and secondary activities - 12 April 2012
Tourism law: slowness in legislation - 26 April 2012
Tourist tax - 3 April 2012
Town hall mergers - 11 April 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2012

A clear, sunny and quite fresh morning, the local best being 15 degrees at 08.00. Remaining sunny with temperatures up to 20 or 21. The outlook is now more settled, the forecast for the week mainly sunny and around 22 most days.

Afternoon update: A breezy day but mostly sunny. A high of just 20.4 C, so down significantly on the past few days.

A Different Motto: Jumeirah

Stay different. What an odd motto. What does it conjure up? Anything? It is the motto, trademark in fact, of Jumeirah. Who are? Well, they are renowned, as their website for the new Jumeirah Port Sóller Hotel & Spa tells us they are. The hotel's "use of both local materials and Mallorcan tradition" ensure the company's "promise of Stay Different (TM)".

A pity, therefore, that this isn't particularly good English. Promise of staying different perhaps or promise to stay different, but promise of stay different? As it is a motto, then we'll have to excuse them, though the lavishing of all the investment on the hotel and its website doesn't mean that the occasional other lapse also creeps in. "The resort comprises of eleven buildings ... ." Wrong. It should comprise eleven buildings. Comprise does not comprise an "of".

We also learn that the hotel's location is in the Tramuntana mountain range known for its "extense citric and olive orchards". I think we mean extensive and citrus ("citric" is derived from citrus; trees and orchards cannot be citric as such). We also discover that in Sóller's main square, in addition to its "impressive 12th century church", there are "modernist buildings". Are there? Are they modernist as in modernist architecture? Or should they be "modern"? Sort of, as the buildings in the square are certainly of more recent vintage than the original church, but whether one could call them modern is debatable. Actually, and while I'm at it, the original church dates from the 13th century.

Am I guilty of being incredibly pedantic and of nit-picking? Yes. And I think I have every right to be. Or I would have, were it the case that I was planning to stay different. I suspect I won't be. But if I were, then I might expect that a hotel of such outstanding quality could run the quality-checker over its publicity.

Does it matter, though, if there are a few mistakes in the English? Yes, it does matter. And to excuse it as not mattering is to accept that quality is a negotiable, when it should not be and should manifest itself in every facet of an operation.

The hotel management, one would imagine, will be rigorous in ensuring the highest standards. At the prices and with a pre-opening hype of hinting at seven-star quality (not actually the case), they certainly ought to ensure these standards. But a sloppiness in marketing literature is frankly inexcusable. It is the first port of call for many a potential customer. These hoped-for guests may not be pedantic, they may not even notice the slips or care that there are slips, but this still doesn't excuse the fact that there are slips.

The Jumeirah in Sóller is to be welcomed. If all Mallorca's hotels were of a similar class, then the island's woes would be banished. But they aren't and nor will they be. There can only be so much luxury. Too much of it, and a hotel would cease to stand out. To be different. One supposes this is part of the thinking behind the motto. Otherwise, I am not entirely sure what it means. The hotel (and other Jumeirah hotels) will continue to be different; is this it? The guest's stay will be different? The guest is different? Perhaps it is all of these things. But whether anyone takes any notice of the motto, trademark or not, is another matter.

I wonder how much you get for being the marketing consultant who dreams up trademark mottoes.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Getafe 1 : 3 Real Mallorca

Shackles off? Against Getafe, also safe for another season, Mallorca generally dominated, Victor opening the scoring with a header on the half hour, Alfaro heading a second with 20 minutes of the second period gone, following a cross from Nsue, ostensibly a right back, indicating a more adventurous approach from coach Caparrós. Hemed, on for three minutes, added a third. Getafe got a consolation goal in added time, but all of a sudden maybe talk is now of a Europa League spot for Mallorca (unlikely as Bilbao in sixth spot are away at bottom-three Zaragoza tomorrow).

Moyá; Valera, Dáz, Alexis, Mané (León 67); Michel (Casquero 57), Lacen; Castro, Barrada (Güiza 57), Gavilán; Miku
Goal: Alexis (90)
Yellows: Miku (60), Díaz (74), Lacen (78), Moyá (78), Casquero (81)

Aouate; Nsue, Chico, Ramis, Bigas; Martí (Joao Victor 57), Pina; Pereira, Alfaro (Hemed 74), Castro; Victor
Goals: Victor (29), Alfaro (67), Hemed (77)
Yellows: Alfaro (43), Ramis (55), Victor (60)

MALLORCA TODAY - Rafael Nadal tennis centre gets the go-ahead

The Rafael Nadal tennis centre in Manacor, which has been on and off for some time, has now received official approval from the regional government (it was necessary to establish the correct urban planning measures). The centre, to be built with private money, will not happen quickly; it will take five years in all to create.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa buildings get Catalan bows

Three public buildings in Pollensa (one in the town itself plus one in both Puerto Pollensa and Cala San Vicente) are to have Catalan bows placed outside them. These bows of the Catalan flag signal a protest against the regional government's language law and a defence of Catalan. The move has been approved by all political parties at the town hall except the Partido Popular (the mayor's party) which abstained.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro residents botellón complaints

Apparent inaction by Muro town hall and the local police against the noise and anti-social behaviour caused by botellón street drinking parties in Muro town led residents to confront mayor Martí Fornes at a meeting to demand an end to a practice that has been ongoing for the past three years.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2012

Not as warm this morning, the best being 17.3 C at  08:30. Cooler inland certainly. Yesterday's local high did in fact top the 30 mark, just. This was near Playa de Muro. Breezes from the south still likely to keep things quite warm today; mid-20s perhaps. But a chance of showers this evening. Sunday looks fine.

Afternoon update: Windy with some rain this evening, as had been expected. Otherwise, it had been a close day with a high of 26.5 C. 

The Tax Calamity About To Arrive In Spain

There you are, standing on the platform waiting for the train of recovery to arrive and whisk you off to the promised land of growth, and what happens? Some idiot goes and derails the train.

Is Señor Luis de Guindos an idiot? It is a perfectly reasonable question because, and I quote from the news feeds, "next year will be time to increase the tax burden on consumption, once the economy starts to grow again". There is an awful lot wrong with this statement. In fact, there isn't anything that is right about it. "Once the economy starts to grow again?" When is this meant to happen?

Who is Señor de Guindos? It is another perfectly reasonable question, as no one seems to have the faintest idea who is in fact running Spain's economy. Rajoy can be discounted, as one fancies he is being sidelined by the rest of his party as he has shown a total lack of leadership. It could be the iron lady-in-waiting, the deeply worrying María Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria Antón (to name but a few), ostensibly the vice-president (or deputy prime minister, to be more accurate). Or it could be Cristóbal Montoro Romero, the treasury minister. Him, do you think? Who knows?

De Guindos is the minister for economic affairs and competitiveness, and he and Montoro have managed in the recent past to utter totally conflicting statements. Let's wait and see. Montoro will probably announce that there is to be a tax reduction rather than an increase.

For now though, we have to take de Guindos' word for what is going to happen in 2013. And this, bearing in mind it is coming from someone supposedly responsible for competitiveness, will entail an increase in IVA, or value added tax as the British would know it. He hasn't said by how much, but rise there will be.

Let's consider de Guindos' statement again. There is no growth at present. Indeed, Spain has fallen back into recession. Were there to be any growth, and that's a big "were", it would be negligible, but clearly de Guindos believes it's going to be of such magnitude that the time will be right to up IVA. Again. It went up last year by two percentage points.

It's all right of course, because the IMF says that this is the best strategy. Best strategy for what exactly? You don't need to have studied economics to know that increasing value added tax is a surefire way of stunting growth. Put it up and you cut consumption, which cuts growth. Simples. Moreover, a rise in IVA adds to inflation, thus penalising doubly those who can least afford price increases - the poorer sectors of society.

Increasing indirect taxation has not exactly been an overwhelming success elsewhere. Britain, for example. Double-dip recession has at least been contributed to by the rise in VAT. It's not as though Cameron had not expressed his doubts about VAT previously. "Regressive," he had called it. "Hits the poorest the hardest." So what did Osborne do?

It is regressive in two ways. One that it causes the economy to regress, the other that is the opposite of progressive, as in progressive taxation, otherwise known as income tax and variable rates depending upon income and means.

The apologists, and no doubt the Spanish Government, will argue that something has to be done about getting the Spanish economy out of its coffin with the lid on the point of closing and about signalling intentions to markets and the European Union which have all but given up on Rajoy. But signalling intention to do something in 2013 isn't going to stop the immediate problems Spain faces and the likelihood that future bond sales might not work.

There is a further problem. And that is the fact that the Spanish as a people spend their leisure time figuring out ways of not paying IVA. Put it up further and they'll be devoting even more of this leisure time.

And announcing an intention to increase IVA is going to unleash all manner of vested interests demanding that it is not increased in their sector. The hotels and the tourism industry, for example. They had hoped for a cut to what is in effect a tourist rate of IVA (8%) which wasn't forthcoming. They keep banging on about the necessity of a reduction for the tourism sector and the noise will get louder now.

Were, though, there to be special concessions for tourism (and in my view there most certainly shouldn't be), these would be an even more bitter pill for the general public to take. It would be wrong and would represent a caving-in to a powerful lobby. But increasing IVA at all would be wrong. It would be calamitous.

Any comments to please.

Friday, April 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - IVA will rise next year in Spain

The Spanish Government has announced that there will be an increase in IVA (value added tax) next year. Without specifying what the rise will amount to, the government is to take this step as a means of cutting the deficit. It should be noted that IVA has already risen since the economic crisis took hold, having gone up last year to 18% (the general rate) from 16%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Renoir cinema to close

The Renoir cinema in Palma, known for showing art-house and English films, is to close by the middle of May. The closure is the result of what the owners Alta Films describe as an "unsustainable situation" which has seen losses over the past eight years.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa's summer market challenged

The row over the summer evening market in Puerto Pollensa that erupted last year is set to continue this year, local businesses (shops mostly) objecting to the markets on two evenings a week as they represent unfair competition. The town hall says that nothing definitive has been decided about the market's location, but it has agreed to hold it this summer.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Criticism of Alcúdia sepia fair market

Crafts people who were unable to get a stall to sell their products at the sepia fair market in Puerto Alcúdia last weekend have complained that there should have been more pitches made available to them. These had been denied because of space needed for more boats that were on display. The critics say that there were still plenty of free spaces that could have been used.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla wants cycle lane by Albufera

The mayor of Sa Pobla Biel Serra has asked the Council of Mallorca to look at the possibility of creating a cycle lane that would run by the side of the Albufera nature park along the main road that connects Sa Pobla with Playa de Muro.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2012

Very warm overnight and at 07:30 an inland high of 23.8 C and that on the coast 19.1 C. May be as warm as yesterday when the highest temperature on the island was in Pollensa with 28.7 C, which is exceptionally warm for the end of April. Getting cloudy tomorrow with the chance of showers and into next week looking a little unsettled and cooler.

Afternoon update: Another exceptionally warm day, peaking at 29.6 C inland in Pollensa with coastal values a couple of degrees lower. 

Culture In The Round

This evening in Alcúdia town there is going to be some culture. A goodly amount of it. All 360 degrees of it. Culture in the round. When someone asked me what this entailed, I could discern the lowering of eyelids and the stifling of a yawn. "Literature" was clearly not a good starting-point for the explanation of the 360 degrees night of culture.

It was understandable. I can't say that I would be overly excited by some poet breaking out into Catalan verse, whether he is bathed in floodlights at the San Sebastian gate in the town's walls or not. To be honest, I'm not sure I'm that excited by the orchestra from the town's municipal school of music screeching in a violin-style in the Constitution Square either. But then, who am I?

It's not all dull and worthy. At midnight come the magnificently named DJs Two Many Cifres, a name clearly borrowed from 2 Many DJs and given a healthy dose of local humour - there simply are too many Cifres.

But is it otherwise all dull but worthy? It's unfair to describe it thus. Unfair because the night of culture does at least represent an attempt to do something a bit different. I hope it succeeds, though I for one will not be staying up till quarter to three to see the demons.

There is a stirring in Alcúdia, if only in the old town. Yet, it is significant that this stirring should occur there. In tourism terms, the old towns tend to be sideshows, certainly in the evenings. For most tourists, an old town, such as Alcúdia's, means the market. Alcúdia does have its Roman remains, but how much of an impression these make over and above the dismissive comment I once read that "there are some bits of old ruin" is hard to say.

Undeterred or perhaps aware that the old town is a sideshow, there is to also be a regular "spectacular" in the bullring during the summer. It is positive that, for once, this prime real estate is being given over to something more than just a couple of bullfights. The spectacular is one dedicated to flamenco dance.

The old towns are the repositories of culture in ways that the resorts aren't. For all this and for all the desire to place culture to the fore of the alternatives to sun and beach, the "pueblos" are off the tourist's regular beaten track. And it is precisely because they are cultural repositories that they are neglected in favour of a resort's evening bar crawl, karaoke and entertainment.

Tourism in Mallorca generally misunderstands the role of its own culture and misunderstands how it should be presented. There is much interest among tourists, but culture, as it is normally portrayed, is something to be endured, something that it is felt should be done rather than positively enjoyed.

Culture resides, for the most part, in static formats, such as museums, or within unimaginative minds that fail to inspire more than a shrug of tourist acknowledgement and a dash back to the nearest beach or bar. But there is plenty of culture in Mallorca which is anything but uninspiring. Fiestas, in particular those which dabble with the vibrant street theatre of demons or Moors and Christians, are worth far more than any number of Abba-esque playback shows.

Culture needs to come alive or be made to come alive. Odd though it is that Alcúdia should opt for a flamenco spectacular when flamenco has, in cultural terms, nothing whatsoever to do with the town or Mallorca, it does at least show willing and a wish to attract people into the old town. And it's not as though there aren't and haven't been other attempts. Alcúdia stages its Via Fora during the summer, a sort of guided tour of the town's history through drama.

This is all very fine (in fact it is fine), but could it not be on an altogether grander scale? Spectaculars for the ordinary tourist Joe and his family mean those of the entertainment auditoriums of the island's south, none of them with cultural resonance. But why not? Why not make a virtue of the local culture and put it on in a spectacular fashion? Aspects of the Via Fora, such as the war between Aragon and Castille in the fourteenth century may not strike a chord with most visitors, but stage it with full theatrical and special effect and it would. You could probably find the odd pirate to chuck in to the mix as well.

Put it all on in the bullring, replete with bangs, crashes, light shows, whatever, and you would have yourself a show. For money. Moreover, with the terracing encircling the arena, you would have culture in the round.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Threat of strike in tourism season increases

The UGT general workers union in the Balearics has issued a further threat that it will take strike action during the tourism season if negotiations with the hotel and restaurant sector over pay and conditions this summer do not go to its satisfaction. The union is demanding, among other things, a 3% rise in salaries and a 35-hour working week.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics have highest level of criminality

The Balearics Islands have an unwelcome claim to fame (or infamy), they comprise the region of Spain with the highest level of criminality in the country, the percentage being 18.5% higher than the national average.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida will remove Son Real barriers

The ongoing argument between Santa Margalida town hall and the regional government (in the form of the foundation for Balearics sustainability) over the management of the Son Real finca is set to escalate, the town hall threatening to remove the barriers on the public access to the finca if there is no speedy resolution to the finca's management; the visitors' centre, for example, has been closed for some time.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa terrace closing times

Pollensa town hall is expected to approve a measure whereby terraces would have to close at two in the morning and not four as at present. Which is all rather confusing as previously it was said the terrace opening times would be extended until two and indeed it is usual for terraces to close at midnight. Very odd.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro will have to supply adequate police uniforms

The story of Muro and the uniforms of its local police force go back a couple of years when it was claimed that some police were having to wear their own clothes because they were not being supplied adequately. Meant to be part of a savings drive, the town hall has now been instructed by a judge that it must supply all items of uniform and not just when these may have become worn.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2012

Once again, warm overnight with temperatures to 15 at three or four in the morning. A bright start with tops over 18 C at 09:00, rising into the low 20s or higher, the temperature expected to reach 27 in Sa Pobla. This being on account of the impact of a seasonal storm system that pulls in air from the south. Outlook remains unchanged: generally fine and warm.

Afternoon update: The sudden rise in temperature has indeed occurred. 26.2 C the high inland in Pollensa, the coastal high just under 25 degrees.

Going Slow In Mallorca: Legislation

Never let it be said that things move swiftly in Mallorca. There is, as we all know, always tomorrow. And as we also know, there is the day after tomorrow and the tomorrow that never in fact comes.

Drafting new legislation doesn't happen overnight. It does require time to get it right. There is time and there is time, however. And when a government has, in effect, only one big idea in terms of major policy, as is the case with the Balearic Government and its tourism law, then it really should get a move on. The tourism law may not be finally approved until after the summer break, or it may require politicians hacking back to Palma for the odd day from their holiday homes in order to approve it during an extraordinary session of the regional parliament.

Though by no means everyone is happy with where the tourism law will lead, if it is to become law - and it will - then it is better if the hotels and the builders can get on with the transformation of Mallorca's resorts. If the bill really were to be delayed beyond the summer, then whatever work might be in the pipeline for this coming winter could well have to wait until the following winter.

This said, it is understandable if the regional government is taking its time to ensure that all the i's are dotted and t's crossed. The bill could, even if it is well-crafted, yet prove to be a minefield and one that opens up the possibility of legal challenges that delay projects for years more. Just two reasons why are that local authorities will retain the final say over building and conversion permissions and that the national government's reform of the Coasts Law might not be all that the regional government and the hoteliers would hope.

With any luck, tourism minister Delgado will have been finding out what this reform might entail. If he has, then all well and good, but if not, and the reformed Coasts Law turns out to contain some unanticipated shock that scuppers the best laid plans of men and Meliá hotels (among others), then it will highlight an absence of joined-up policy between the regions (the Balearics in this instance) and central government.

Though the Balearics have their own line to national government tourism policy, thanks to the appointment of the Mallorcan Isabel Borrego as tourism secretary-of-state, the Coasts Law isn't of course a matter for tourism; it is an environment issue. Delgado's wish to see everything in the Balearics operate in support of tourism may be fine for the Balearics and may even ultimately work in practice, but national government is a different matter.

The swifter the regional government gets its tourism law through, though, the swifter we can all see what it actually produces. The tortuous process of enacting legislation, and the regional government is no different to national government in this regard, means that, by the time another election looms, it is difficult to assess how successful or not the government has been.

And it is proving to be difficult to make a fair judgement as to the performance of the Bauzá administration. It has now been in office for nearly a year, but apart from its main challenge, that of the deficit and the economy (on which it has achieved virtually nothing), one of its few obvious changes has been in education, and it is one that is going to end up costing at least three million euros.

In order to bring in the "free selection" of teaching language, it was always going to be necessary for there to be more teachers. And so there will be. But is it wise to be increasing spend on teaching staff at a time when other sectors of the economy are suffering? It is arguable, but what is perhaps also arguable is whether the government is barking up the right language tree. Putting Catalan and Castellano on a par where selection of teaching language is concerned seems reasonable enough but, as noted yesterday, the majority of the population don't in fact agree with the policy.

The president and his education minister are being criticised for taking themselves off to Switzerland to see how its model of teaching using different languages works. The criticism isn't fair. The Swiss model, of which English is a part, is one that might just be adapted to tackle the lousy standard of education in the Balearics. And it is English, as much as if not more than Castellano, that would be at the heart of a raising of standards. Just as importantly, it would feed into tourism. If the government were to succeed in introducing a genuine system of trilingualism, it would have something to boast about. The trouble is, how long, like introducing a tourism law, would it take them? Nothing moves swiftly in Mallorca.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Bauzá rejects cuts to maintenance of royal palace

President Bauzá, declaring himself proud that the Spanish royal family summers in Mallorca at the Marivent palace, has rejected calls that the government should cut the 1.7 million euros that are spent on maintaining the palace.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Seven-star hotel in Sóller opens

The Jumeirah Port de Sóller Hotel & Spa, said to be of a seven-star rating, officially opened its doors yesterday (24 April). The hotel, created with financing from Dubai, is considered to be one of the most luxurious in the world.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida swimming-pool could be demolished

The ongoing problems with the public swimming-pool in Santa Margalida, caused by various defects and especially the loss of water, are making the town hall seriously consider its demolition. Only seven years old, the pool has been little short of a fiasco.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2012

15.8 C the local best at 08:45 on a fine sunny morning with light breezes. Southerly wind pulling in warmish air, a high of 21 anticipated later. Remaining sunny and warm, though cloud likely to build up at the weekend.

Afternoon update: Pretty breezy at times, gusting up to 60kph inland, but sunny and a high of 20.8 C.

Grotesque Chaos Denied: The Partido Popular

Ah yes, the memorable moments of party political conferences. Neil Kinnock and his "grotesque chaos", Hatton heckling and Heffer on the hoof out of the hall. Peter Lilley's "little list". John Redwood making a total nit of himself at a Welsh Conservative Party thrash. David Steel's "prepare for government". Tory Boy Hague, a boy old before his time. Thatcher, the lady's not for an adaptation of a Christopher Fry play title. Iain Duncan Smith, the "quiet man". "Speak up, Iain!" "Speak up, Duncan!"

Conferences were once designed for bloodletting, as in the good old days of Kinnock versus Militant. They have over the years lost their way. Like football sanitised its now sadly lost legacy of Ron "Chopper" Harris, so the party conference forgot that its main purpose was for two-footed, over-the-top, from-behind dissent.

To the rescue, one had hoped, was going to come Mallorca's own warring party - the Partido Popular. It has performed the astonishing. It won an election and then promptly started engaging in internal bickering and strife, albeit the internal bickering and strife had been put on self-serving hold while there was the diversion of sending the Balearics version of PSOE packing.

If the grand tradition of party conferences descending into their own grotesque chaos was to have been shown to be alive and kicking in Mallorca, then it would have required the PP's Antoni "Chopper" Pastor, one-time Real Mallorca second-team defensive strongman, to do the kicking. But Pastor has gone and let us all down. Not only will he not be putting in for the manager's job, he has voluntarily opted to place himself on the subs' bench. He is not going to stand against the president and he is also leaving the party's leadership (he is a vice-president at present).

This all sounds like honourable stuff by the honourable member for Manacor (its mayor in fact). He doesn't wish to be a problem. Now is not the time for tension. The language issue, and he is a great defender of Catalan, an issue that has brought him into conflict with President Bauzá, is, he says, not a priority.

When set against tackling the Balearics' deficit and economy, the language issue most definitely isn't a priority. But if it isn't, why has Pastor spent much of the past few weeks helping to elevate it to the status he has and making it an issue of discontent within the PP?

Everything had been gearing itself up for an occasion, the party's regional congress in June, when we could have wished for a thoroughly entertaining barney of ideological difference. But no, the Honourable Pastor, the shepherd of Manacor, will instead merely be watching his flock by night and by day.

It could of course be that Pastor realised that he might be on a hiding to nothing. It could also be that he appreciates that making a rumpus now, in the midst of crisis, could have lost him popularity. There is still time for him, however. Time and support for what he represents are on his side, and he probably knows this.

If he had spent some time analysing the findings of the annual survey of identity in the Balearics by the research organisation Gadeso, he would have noticed that 50% of the population, which probably includes him, is in agreement with maintaining the current model of autonomous government, one threatened both by Bauzá's coolness towards regionalism and by calls to repatriate responsibilities for certain policies to Madrid. He would also have noticed that, on language, a majority is against the Bauzá government's removal of Catalan as a requisite for employment in the public sector and against the so-called free selection of teaching language (i.e. parents have the right to opt either for Catalan or Castellano).

He would have realised that what this survey shows is that the Partido Popular in its Balearics guise has its own idiosyncrasy, one determined by the language and regionalism issues. Pastor is more in step with these sentiments than is Bauzá. And so are some other leading figures from the PP who have joined the Pastor-initiated Moviment per la Llengua.

Pastor may have deprived us of some grotesque chaos come congress time, but he may well be banking on the fact that if Bauzá is given enough rope he will hang himself on issues that may be less important in the immediate term but are as important in the longer term to the people of the Balearics. The next regional elections are three years away, but there is still time for Pastor.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Catalan demonstration at Pollensa wine fair

The police had to be called on Saturday during the Pollensa wine fair in order to remove a Catalan bow placed on the cock sculpture on a roundabout in the town as part of a demonstration in defence of Catalan. A visit by President Bauzá on the Sunday had been unannounced in order, it would seem, to try and avoid protests.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa mayor benefits from new terrace law

So finally, what has been known for a while but not being made public has been, the new ordinance in Pollensa covering the "public way" and terraces is set to benefit, through an extension of terrace area in the Plaça Major, the family business of Mayor Cifre, namely the Hotel Juma. Terraces in the square will become "intensely occupied" whereas terraces elsewhere will benefit hardly at all.

It might be noted that apparently the reason why the mayor did not attend the opening night of the tapas route in Puerto Pollensa was that the meeting he was involved with was one in which this extension was being set out. As someone in the port put it subsequently: "he didn't dare show his face".

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2012

Very warm overnight, up to almost 20 at times, down to a high of 15.6 C at 09:00. A good deal of cloud around but the sun is out. A decent day in prospect with top temperatures edging back up to 20.

Afternoon update: An at-times windy day, the morning's cloud lingered but finally dispersed, a high having been 19.9 C. 

Attractions Want Lower Attraction?

Did you know there was such a thing as an association for Mallorcan tourist attractions? As there is an association for pretty much everything else, it should come as no surprise that attractions should have one. But unlike the attractions themselves, which attract no end of attention, the association barely seems to register in the tourist scheme of things. Yet it should have an altogether stronger presence, because its membership comprises the best-known names in Mallorca. Best-known names, bar none, including hotels.

What reminded me of an association I and probably everyone else had completely forgotten about was a report of a speech by the association's new president. The director-general of the Palma Aquarium, Antonio González, was talking about the "error" that is the all-inclusive.

Here we go again, you might think. And here we do indeed go again. Sr. González argues that the all-inclusive offer represents an attempt to compete on price with other destinations (which is hard to do and even harder to sustain) and also a long-term danger that threatens the "quality of supply" in Mallorca.

Well, it's difficult to disagree, especially if you've been saying much the same thing for God knows how many years. And this is precisely the problem with all the discourse surrounding all-inclusives; it has been said time and time again, and the debate never moves on and no one seems to listen. No one who matters, that is.

Actually, this isn't totally accurate. There are those who listen, as they are made to. Meliá, for example, had to listen to questions regarding its re-development in Magalluf the other day. Was it going to entail more all-inclusive, the company was asked. Oh no, came the answer. Meliá has in mind a new profile of tourist with high purchasing power, one on 250 euros a night. Really?

Let's hope there isn't any backtracking. All-inclusive isn't solely about competing on price. There can be costly all-inclusive, just as there can be the economy class. You could get some pretty exclusive all-inclusive for 250 euros a night, especially if the regional government has allowed you - you being a hotel, that is - to fill the hotel grounds with much of what is currently only available outside these hotel grounds, including that offered by the odd member of the attractions' association.

What eventually transpires in Magalluf could, one stresses could, just serve as a model for the rest of the island's resorts. If so, the attractions' association would be extremely happy, as would be many others. Or would they? What sort of volume of tourist numbers will be passing through Palma airport in future if they are all expected to part with 250 euros a night? The question is an important one, because much of the island's tourism industry relies on high volume, as does that industry which is offshore, namely the tour operators and most airlines. And this volume demands all-inclusive, and inexpensive all-inclusive, to boot.

The seemingly intractable problem of quantity versus quality (and in overall tourism terms, you can't have both) and its associated problem of the all-inclusive is not likely to be resolved swiftly by what Meliá is planning. Nor is the other intractable problem of seasonality, a theme to which Sr. González also turned his attention. Six to seven months tourism and it's hard for any business, let alone an attraction, to be able to invest for a future or justify investing in a future that might or might not eventually bring in the 250-euro-a-night tourist.

This said, the Aquarium is an example of significant investment. It is also an example of all-year business, as indeed are some other attractions that are members of the association. As with all-inclusives, Sr. González has not offered a solution to the lack of off-season tourism, but it is good that the attractions' association seems to want to make its voice heard. These attractions attract between them 5.5 million visitors a year. They are hugely important players which should be taking a more assertive and central role in influencing general tourism strategy than, as a lack of media coverage would suggest, they have.

Though the attractions, like other businesses, depend on volume, the future may require a lower volume of tourism. No, not may, does require. Sr. González has added that the number of tourists is less important than tourist spend potential. And if a lower number means fewer economy-class all-inclusives, then so be it. Whether such a solution would, however, be palatable to everyone, such as the tour operators, is another matter. But then the attractions know all about the tour operators.

Any comments to please.

Monday, April 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Eco-tax remains unpaid

It was known that a substantial amount raised by the aborted eco-tax remained unpaid by various hotels in the Balearics. It is reported that this equates to 12 million euros. The tax was introduced ten years ago and scrapped 18 months later. Hotels have refused to hand it over, despite a Supreme Court ruling that they should.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Over 5,000 bikers in Mallorca tour

The annual tour of Mallorca by motor cyclists attracted over 5,000 participants who rode yesterday from the base in Palma around the island, taking in the northern towns and resorts of Alcúdia, Pollensa and Can Picafort.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2012

Some rain in the early morning but mostly sunny and with a top of 14 at 08:30. Should be bright through the day with a southerly springing up and a high to around 20. The week's outlook remains generally fine with temperatures rising later in the week.

Afternoon update: Strange day. Kept looking as if it might rain again this morning, but finally it became generally sunny but also windy. A maximum of 19.5 C.

Boats And Cuttlefish: A spring fair

Whereas the autumn fair comes with an in-built ominousness, the spring fair arrives only with the air of optimism: a spring in its step, rather than the arthritic creak of encroaching winter. It's the name of the season that does it of course, but in combination with fair, there is an abundance of vitality and expectation that attaches itself to the spring fair in a way that no autumn fair could possibly achieve.

They don't call Puerto Alcúdia's fair a spring fair, but this is what it is. It couldn't really be anything else, given that it is held in spring, but it comes with an alternative moniker, two in fact. It is both boat and cuttlefish. Or rather, boat and sepia. Cuttlefish simply doesn't do it as a name for a fair. Sepia, on the other hand, does. No one much may actually like sepia, but if there has to be a fair devoted to the rubbery cephalopod, far better that it adopts its Latin genus title.

Curiously, despite very few people holding their hands up and saying that they would normally give a cuttlefish the time of culinary day, the fair attracts an astonishing number of people. Any old excuse perhaps, but the boat/sepia fair, version 2012, was busier than it has ever been. All those crammed into the gastronomy marquees weren't eating meat, so either they do genuinely like sepia or are prepared to live with it for a day, especially if it comes at a special-offer low price.

Of the various fairs in the north of Mallorca which typically avoid making overt statements of their springlike quality (they hide behind saints names, farming, wine as well as cuttlefish and boats), the Puerto Alcúdia fair is by some distance the grandest. It was the boats that originally did it. They were spun off from the old town's autumn fair some years ago, shifted a few months and shifted also to where it had always been more appropriate that they should have been - by the sea, rather than by the town's walls. When they made the decision to move the boats, they decided to give the fair some added value, and it came in the form of cuttlefish. Strange, but true.

Were it not for the cuttlefish, it is questionable whether the fair, as a mere nautical exposition event, would be anything like as popular as it is. The boats are nice to look at, but whether any business takes place it is hard to say. It never seems to be, but then maybe this isn't what is meant to happen at a boat show. 

So much had the cuttlefish and the market that also forms part of the fair assumed the upper hand over the boats, it had seemed possible that the boats would make a dignified exit. But then Palma decided not to stage its boat show this year, and Palma, for once, came to Alcúdia this weekend; there were more boats than ever before. Where had previously been the knick-knackery of artisanal artefacts, there were boats, boats and more boats. This still didn't stop the hordes heading past the rows of boats and heading for the gastronomy marquees, but as boat shows go, or as Puerto Alcúdia's boat show goes, it would have to be deemed a great success.

There is a great benefit, naturally enough, from the great influx of islanders into Puerto Alcúdia over an April weekend. The fair is a pre-season warm-up for the restaurants, most of which had terraces packed to the gunwales. Not of course that restaurants have gunnels as such - boats do - but terraces jammed pack a week or so prior to the official start of the tourism season is jam on top for the owners.

What bars and restaurants in other parts of Puerto Alcúdia make of the whole event, though, is another matter. So many cars had turned up that parking, by not long after midday on Sunday, meant finding a spot by the Magic roundabout. There was a great deal of activity away from the actual port area, but it was activity that was manoeuvring itself into a parking space, disgorging its inhabitants and allowing them to walk the ten minutes or so into the port, away from and past other restaurants.

The success of the fair is genuinely to be welcomed, but it is a success that merely helps to reinforce the sense of imbalance in Puerto Alcúdia. There do seem to be rumblings, as myself had hinted at, regarding the siting of the new market. Why wasn't it located in the tourist area, an area that receives little or nothing by way of official events, be they for fiestas, fairs or whatever? This imbalance is something that the town hall should address. Whether it will is another matter, but in Alcúdia, unlike towns in which the old towns are very much divorced from their resorts (such as in Pollensa), there is an unmistakable division between the combination of old town and port on the one hand and the tourist centre on the other.

But for now, let's just be satisfied that the spring fair was so successful and that it perhaps puts into people's minds the idea of hope springing eternal, or at least hope springing beyond spring and into summer and to a similarly successful tourism season.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2012

Cloudier morning with a top of 15.5 C at 08:45, the cloud gradually clearing to give a mostly sunny day with highs into the low twenties.

Afternoon update: Though a sunny day, not as warm as had been forecast, the best being a mere 17.3 C.

Lowering The Blue Flag: Pollensa's beaches

Pollensa town hall has decided to spare its own blushes and to not apply for blue flags for its beaches this year. The reason for this decision is that the fiasco regarding its contracts (one contract in fact) for beach management last year meant that compliance with certain criteria was not as it should have been. The chances are that the flags, one of the four at any rate, that of Puerto Pollensa's main beach, would have been withdrawn. It was better, therefore, to make a pre-emptive strike and simply not apply.

The fact that Pollensa will not have blue flags following the next round of awards is going to be styled as town hall incompetence and as a major blow to the town's tourism. There is some justification for the incompetence charge, as Lord alone knows why Pollensa seems unique in being incapable of getting its beach management act sorted out. But incompetence or not, there is no reason at all to believe that the flags not flying will have any impact whatsoever on the town's tourism. And the reason for this is that there is precious little evidence as to the role blue flags play in influencing tourist decision-making.

The blue flag concept dates back to the mid-1980s. Originally a French idea, it spawned European Commission interest and support. An organisation, now called the Foundation for Environmental Education, was formed to oversee the programme, one that has since gone global.

The original French initiative had to do with water quality and sewage treatment. Thirty or so years ago, it was an important move. But things are very different nowadays. Regardless of blue flags, local authorities are far more in tune with the notion of environmental protection and cleanliness as they are with service provision, but the award of the blue flag has assumed a status by which it is believed that it is conspicuous by its absence from a beach. Believed to be, but is it really?

An informative study published a few years ago in the "Journal of Sustainable Tourism" discovered that labelling, such as the blue flag, only marginally influenced tourists' decisions. Indeed, tourists overwhelmingly didn't really understand what this labelling meant, and in the case of the blue flag it is understandable if today's tourist isn't entirely clear.

What started out as a necessary system to improve water quality has grown like topsy. The document which explains the criteria stretches to 34 pages and these criteria have long ceased to apply merely to sewage treatment. They cover everything from supply of drinking water, to wheelchair access, to personnel who prevent possible "conflicts" breaking out on beaches.

This is all good stuff you would think, but the blue-flag system has been consumed by its own self-importance and its consistent expansion to include aspects of beach existence that were never originally contemplated. Like other systems of quality, e.g. ISO standards, it has stopped being a means to an end (clean water and clean beaches) and become an end to a means. The process of compliance is more important than the end result, and it is a process that demands resources, time and money.

It is the fact that Pollensa knows that it would fall down on this process because of the contracts imbroglio which has led it to not apply this year. The town hall will cop some flak as a result, but I might be inclined, were I the town's mayor, to tell them to stick their blue flags. He wouldn't of course, because, as with any other town with beach resorts, he knows that he and his administration are expected to go through hoops on an annual basis that are now a bureaucratic, tyrannical imposition, non-compliance with which amounts to being named and shamed as not being blue-flagged.

An assumption that will be made, and this is why the blue-flag system is falling into potential disrepute, is that waters off Pollensa's beaches are somehow unsafe. But this is not why the town hall is not applying. It's not the water (the original motivation behind the blue flag) but the beaches themselves, or rather whether they had the right shower facilities or not. In fact, whether one of the four beaches did or not. But the assumption may well be made, as most people would believe that the original notion is still all that counts.

The good news, though, is that this assumption will be made by only a few. And this is because of the marginal influence that systems such as the blue flag have. Pollensa is not about to be affected negatively by not flying the flag, and were the town hall to in future thumb its nose at the whole blue-flag system, I, for one, would applaud it.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 1 : 0 Real Zaragoza

One more win and there would be absolutely no more fear of a Mallorca relegation. At home to a bottom-three side, Zaragoza, desperate for points to escape the drop, could have been expected to have been a nervy affair, and the teams were fairly evenly-matched, Victor though making the difference in the first half by heading Mallorca into the lead. Though Zaragoza made chances in the second period, they never really threatened Mallorca who were happy to sit back towards the end of the game and who took the vital three points.

Aouate; Cendrós, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Martí, Pina, Pereira, Castro (Nsue 79); Victor (Crespí 90), Hemed (Bigas 86)
Goal: Victor (33)
Yellows: Pina (48), Cáceres (57), Chico (84)

Roberto; Zuculini (Juan Carlos 81), Lanzaro, Paredes, Da Silva, Abraham; Luis García (Barrera 68), Dujmovic (Oriol 56), Apoño, Lafita; Postiga
Yellows: Abraham (14), Luis García (65), Lanzaro (89)

MALLORCA TODAY - Calvià reduces tiquetero tax

The daily charge on businesses who will now be able to once more employ tiqueteros (PRs) to promote their businesses in resorts such as Magalluf has been reduced by Calvià town hall to between 15 and 30 euros per day, depending on the size of the establishment. The PRs will be limited to operating in front of the businesses, though those representing discos will be able to operate more widely.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa loses blue flags

The four beaches in Pollensa - Tamarells in the port, Molins and Barques in Cala San Vicente and the Formentor beach - have all lost their blue flag ratings this year on account of the town hall having decided not to apply for them, the consequence of problems that arose with the contracts for beach management last year.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2012

Another sunny morning with 16.5 C the high at 09:45. Expect a repeat of yesterday with the current southerly changing around to bring in breeze. 21 or 22 the high.

Afternoon update: Definite signs of real spring weather. A high inland of 23.1 C, a couple of degrees lower on the coast; plenty of sun, a fresh breeze and a fine day.

Crisis In The Garden Of Eden

What are we to make of Eden Hotels' application for insolvency protection? The company is stressing that it would be only a short-term measure to combat a lack of liquidity and that it is otherwise very much business as usual, but does it represent a wider issue for Mallorca's hotel industry and indeed other parts of the island's tourism industry?

Without knowing the ins and outs of Eden's financial affairs, one can guess at the sort of problems it faces. There are four hotels in the chain, one in Menorca to add to the three in Alcúdia and Muro. None of these hotels is open in the off-season.

The blame for its liquidity problem is placed firmly on the seasonality which denies the company the opportunity of opening hotels through the winter or earlier. But this is nothing new. When it says that it is looking at negotiating with its banks and at seeking to arrive at refinancing, it may well be alluding, though I am guessing, to the fact that credit has become so difficult to obtain.

Even if hotels are closed, the business carries on. There are still staff to pay, maintenance and improvements to be carried out, stock to be invested in, marketing to be undertaken. Depending on arrangements, hotels can be forced to wait into the season to start receiving payments from tour operators. Whatever arrangements they may have, there is not a great deal of revenue to be derived in winter, and there is even less if, as is the case with Eden, there is no international business.

Much attention is granted to the major hotel chains in Mallorca, such as Iberostar or Meliá. These are genuinely global businesses. Regardless of how they might be structured, they generate good cash flows all year which can benefit those parts of the overall business that might be subject to the negative consequences of seasonality. They are also of sufficient size and with strong assets on the balance sheet to be well capitalised, be this through the markets or banks or both. What is perhaps forgotten is the fact that Mallorca also has smallish hotel businesses, and Eden would fall into this category.

If credit is at the heart of the problem, then it is one shared with others in the tourism industry. For businesses which are seasonal (and even for those which aren't), credit has been a natural way of doing business and a natural way of investing prior to the start of the season. It has become the devil's own job to try and get this credit. It isn't just hotels, it is also restaurants, car-hire firms, you name it.

The hotels, as we all know, are central to the regional government's new tourism law and to its provisions, in keeping with the government's wish for modernisation, for re-development and conversion. There is one potential flaw with this, and it is one that was revealed when the government's plans were first being mooted; many of Mallorca's hotels are, if only unofficially, up for sale and many hotel owners would struggle to find the funds to proceed with the type of modernisation the government would like. Meliá can introduce a project to transform part of Magalluf, but Meliá has the wherewithal and the connections to bring in the necessary investment.

Let us suppose that there are hotel businesses in Mallorca which have run up against the double whammy of seasonality and a lack of credit. If they are meant to undertake modernisation, how are they going to fund it? An option might be to sell (and Eden is said to be on the point of selling one of its establishments), assuming buyers could be found. One acquisitive chain is Luabay, itself part of the giant Orizonia group, but there is only so much acquisition that can be financed or be advisable.

This wider issue of finding the means for modernisation can be set in the context of a wider issue still. Despite the constant reference made to tourism being the motor of economic growth, the Mallorca-based Economy Circle of the great and good of the business world reckons that it is precisely the dependence on tourism that will mean the Balearics is the last of the Spanish regions to get out of economic crisis. This means a protracted period of bank reluctance to extend financing, but worse still is what the former finance minister, Carles Manera, has said about there being "systemic crisis" in the Balearics. This can refer to all sorts of things, but fundamentally it is a lack of finance, a one-product economy and a one-product economy that survives on six months business a year. And there are hotels which can probably confirm this.

Any comments to please.

Friday, April 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist dies after Magalluf hotel fall

A 29-year-old British tourist staying at the Antillas hotel in Magalluf has died after falling from a fifth-storey room in what was a suspected case of balcony-diving. This is the second death inside a week as the result of a hotel fall, a 19-year old Briton having died on Tuesday.

The tourist is now being named as Benjamin Adam Harper who it is said was trying to move from one balcony to another when he fell.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics will be the last region to emerge from crisis

The president of the Mallorcan Economics Circle has stated during a presentation that the Balearics will be the last region of Spain to come out of economic crisis, attributing this to a dependence on tourism. He also addressed the issue of education, poor in the Balearics, and the need in particular for better language education.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Eden Hotels apply for receivership

The Eden Hotels group, based in Playa de Muro, and with two hotels in Puerto Alcúdia and one in Playa de Muro, has applied for receivership on account of cash flow difficulties. The purpose is to try and reach agreement with creditors and the measure is intended to be only temporary as part of a process to rectify the group's financial position. Jobs are said to be unaffected and not threatened, while the hotels also continue to operate.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2012

Sunny morning, 15.1 C the top at 09:00, the breeze is down for now. Though there will be cloud about, it looks fine and quite warm today, and the outlook is the same for the following several days, temperatures to 20 or a touch above.

Afternoon update: Breezes getting up at times to 45kph, but sunny with a high of 21.5 C.

Elephants Never Forget: Annus horribilis

The British royal family never actually apologised for its mishandling of events after Diana's death, but it was shamed into displaying contrition, its misjudgment and its treatment of Blair's "people's princess" laid bare by the words of Diana's brother that cut like ice through the aisles of Westminster Abbey and by the applause which followed them.

1997, though it might well have been, was not The Queen's annus horribilis. This had occurred five years earlier. But 1997 caused the royal family's popularity to sink to its lowest point, all because of protocol and an inability to say sorry.

Royalty doesn't, as a rule, issue apologies. It's why Juan Carlos's apology, in the midst of what is turning out to be, like The Queen, a second annus horribilis in five years, is so unusual. Annus horribilis número uno was marked, among other things, by the separation of the Infanta Elena and the Duke of Lugo. The son of their union, Felipe, provides a link to annus horribilis número dos (AH II); it was he who accidentally took a gun to his foot the other day.

Another embarrassment in 2007 was the publication of the now infamous cartoon in the magazine "El Jueves", which satirised the Crown-Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. The "El Jueves" cartoon is significant in the context of AH II. It resulted in a trial and fines, the reason being that disrespect had been shown to members of the royal family. AH II is eclipsing AH I in that the gloves are gradually coming off; a press that has been largely cowed by the constraint that it, like "El Jueves", could be accused of disrespect is starting to assert itself. AH I was the year of the scurrilous subversive press; AH II is the year of the mainstream.

The main reason for the Spanish press becoming more assertive in matters of the royal family is Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma and The King's son-in-law. It helps that he is a commoner, one supposes, but his affairs, his actions and his appearance in a Palma court have led the press to declare pretty much open season. And not just the press. The people have spoken as well, having chanted, during Republican celebrations last weekend, "Urdangarin, go and work in Burger King". (I'm not entirely sure why they chanted this, but be that as it may.)

The press will continue to stop short of all-out criticism. Perhaps we should be thankful for this. The total absence of respect shown to the British royal family borders at times on the cruel. Even if you are not a monarchist, and I can't say I am, there should be some decorum. Shouldn't there be?

Indeed, where Juan Carlos is concerned, you could describe me as a staunch supporter. In the past I have described him as "totemic". He is, or certainly has been, the means of binding the country together. 1981 and all that shouldn't be forgotten. But The King's strength is also his weakness. It is one most Spaniards would understand and accept. Without Juan Carlos, whither the monarchy? One could say the same about the British royal family and about The Queen, but a difference is that the British royal family has William. The House of Bourbon doesn't have a William, or a Guillermo as the Spanish press is minded to call him.

It is for the very reason that The King has been held in such high esteem that the hunting trip to Botswana has caused such uproar. The King who quelled the coup and became the people's king has let the people down, and he knows it, hence the apology. The sleepless nights he spoke of having because of mass youth unemployment are now being questioned, and the press has even resorted to non-verbal communications experts to assess the sincerity of the apology; it was sincere.

Of course, if it is indeed the case that The King was the guest of a Saudi businessman who is central to a consortium securing a Spanish contract worth almost seven billion euros to build a high-speed rail link, then one might argue what are a few elephants. This is not how it works, though. First Urdangarin, and now a trip to Botswana that would, in all likelihood, not have come to light had it not been for The King's accident. Together, they give power to the Republican argument, PSOE having weighed in and called for abdication.

The chances are the Botswana incident will blow over. But there is still Urdangarin. The press has its teeth into him and into what further may emerge. AH II could yet be even more horribilis.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2012

A similar mix of cloud and blue sky this morning, warm at 15.4 C at 07:45. The chance of a spot of rain but this risk declining through the day. High teens later, and the outlook is good with the temperature climbing into the weekend.

Afternoon update: Warming up a touch today, a high of 20.1 C, but quite breezy as well.

Don't Fry For Me, Argentina

You wouldn't want to be an Argentinian at the moment, unless you were in Argentina. When I asked a good Argentinian, restaurant-owning friend of mine what he thought of the señora del hierro in Buenos Aires, his response was to the point - "puta". The hierro lady is a tramp. She's going to make life difficult for Argentinians in Mallorca and in Spain.

There is a not unnatural smugness among the Brits in indulging in a touch of schadenfreude. All those Mallorcans and Spaniards going around proclaiming the rights of the Malvinas and condemning the imperialism of a former iron lady now find, as an Argentinian boot is placed firmly up the jacksy of Spanish interests, that the British may have had a point.

But with any conflict, and even when there isn't a conflict, come the xenophobia and the irrational. During the Falklands crisis, I was in Amsterdam. There were demonstrations against the British. What had the Falklands to do with the normally sensible Dutch? Nothing, but irrationality can consume even the most level-headed of people. Britain, nasty imperial power; Argentina, poor underdog being doormatted under the weight of handbag tonnage. Or something like this.

So it is, or is likely to be, that the Mallorcan Argentinians, of whom there are many, will find themselves copping for some xenophobia over and above that which they normally cop. Mallorcans, Spaniards don't all much care for the Argentinians. Indeed, they don't much care for most South Americans; they're idle and loud. Pot, kettle, black.

President Fernández, President Kirchner (whichever you prefer) has of course learnt the lessons of history, and learnt them well from the iron handbagger. Bit of local, domestic difficulty - and she has it in the form of austerity, among other things - and some sabre-rattling can work wonders in the opinion polls. Some Falklandising has been followed up by the nationalisation of Repsol's stake in YPF.

Talk about kicking a country when it's down. Fernández de Kirchner would doubtless have been taking a keen interest in Spain's implosion. The time to strike was right. All publicity might be considered good publicity, but at present Spain is in desperate need of a Max Clifford of international relations. With quite staggeringly poor timing, the royals have become the elephant in the room where a hunt in Botswana was concerned (for which the King is now apologising) and literally have managed to shoot themselves in the foot, thanks to the boy Felipe and the gun he shouldn't have been handling.

Spain's foreign minister has taken a metaphorical leaf out of the royal literal book and suggested that it is in fact Argentina that has shot itself in the foot. All these feet being shot and no one's going to have a leg to stand on, which includes he who grows greyer by the day, Mr. Grey, Prime Minister Rajoy, who is actually proving to be as useless as it was suspected he would be (apart from all those in his party who hadn't purged him years ago). Faced with the YPF nationalisation, what will Rajoy do? Arrange for the armada to gather in Cadiz? If so, best he leaves it until after the 29th of April, the date on which Drake sank the armada in 1587. Given the way things are going, though, a Spanish fleet heading off across the Atlantic would probably manage to capsize off the Canaries.

Frantic efforts to bail out the naval rowing-boat are matched only by the frantic efforts to find a way of preventing a need for Europe to come with a large wedge of financial bail out. It's as well that Europe is around when you most need a friend. It's coming to Rajoy's aid and telling the Argentinian president to stop behaving like an Argentinian.

Still, with all Spanish pride sinking faster than its armada might, there is always football to keep the spirits up, though quite what Lionel Messi makes of his president, who knows. Presumably, he won't, on scoring a goal, be lifting his shirt to reveal a t-shirt with "Repsol out" scrawled on it. He probably thinks much the same as my restaurant-owning friend, if he thinks at all, that is.

And back at the local Argentinian restaurants, they'll be hurriedly pulling down the Argentinian grill signs and hastily erecting ones saying typical Mallorcan cuisine, while insisting that workers boycott the nearest Repsol petrol station. When the steak gets near the plancha, they'll be denying everything by singing "don't fry for me, Argentina". Do you suppose Madonna's being lined up to play Kirchner?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2012

Cloudyish morning with some patches of blue, warm at 16.2 C the high at 09:00. It is meant to stay fine and to get clearer. Tomorrow still looks as though it may offer the odd shower, but the outlook into the weekend is now better.

Afternoon update: The sun picked up eventually, but a high of only 17.5 C.

New York, London, Paris, Munich ... Palma?

It is reassuring to learn that not everyone gets sucked into the groupthink of believing something which, if it is said often enough, becomes the accepted truth. I'll believe it when I see it as well. Mr. Barkhuysen's letter to the "Bulletin" (17 April) finished with just this seeing-is-believing doubt, one regarding the impact of shopping on tourism. Will more Sunday opening in Palma result in "tourists flocking to Mallorca because shops open on a Sunday"? Mr. Barkhuysen thinks not, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

However, because it has been said often enough that the shops should be open and that this will result in increased tourism, it must of course be true.

There is just one problem with this truth. In fact, there are several. The first is, surprise, surprise, it's a Palma issue pure and simple. And Palma may in fact be the problem. Let's imagine for a moment that we, i.e. you, are in the UK and you think that you wouldn't mind engaging in some shopping tourism. Which cities spring to mind? New York, London, Paris, Munich, everyone's talking not about pop music but about the pap muzak in grand shopping emporia in the grand cities. And you can add others to this list - Dubai, for instance, or Barcelona, if you fancy some Spanish. Is everyone talking about Palma? Erm ...

Ah but, there is this huge demand for shopping that tumbles out of cruise ships. How do we know? Because it's said often enough, it must be true. Unfortunately, it isn't. Not if the vast majority of the passengers jump from ship to coach and head off to the Tramuntana, it isn't. And of those who don't, there is no longer the well-heeled, platinum-carded shop-till-they-drop crowd inhabiting the cruise cabins. Cruises have gone economy class, as have their passenger lists. One bright bit of news is that the well-heeled, platinum-carded crowd are availing themselves of cheap cruise deals, the consequence of unsold cabins ever since the Concordia went all Titanic.

The shops being open will be more about an impression rather than simple business. It is fair to say that a city that is closed down doesn't give off the best image. But having them open will make them museum pieces. They can be boasted about but, like museums, no one will bother with them overly unless it happens to be raining or is so stinking hot that some air-con relief is needed. Or at least they won't bother overly with the large stores, precisely the ones that can now open.

Research presented by the now sadly defunct Tourism Insights website made the point that shopping by tourists is a means to experience local culture and to purchase something of this local culture, such as items of craftwork. This makes eminent sense. Why, after all, if you are a tourist, would you go and buy a plasma TV from El Corte Ingles and haul it back to the cruise ship?

Sunday opening is not of course just about tourists. In his letter, Mr. Barkhuysen makes the not unreasonable point that this will not result in increased trade. It will be more a case of spreading more thinly the trade that already exists and of it costing more to operate. It could be that trade does increase, though. But here I am only guessing that a sort of Parkinson's Law obtains when trading hours are increased. Shopping expands to fill the available time. Whether shopping means spending more is a different matter. There is shopping with a purpose and shopping for no other reason than for something to look at; shopping for windows, in other words.

Longer opening hours and opening hours which haven't previously been opening hours are all about convenience for consumers. There is nothing at all wrong with this. Indeed, it is all but essential in a contemporary society. But convenience does not mean greater volumes of business, a point the consultants Deloittes have been making.

Regarding the extension of Sunday trading during the Olympic Games and the possibility that this will remain in force after the Olympics, Deloittes say, and I quote: "Such a move would allow retailers to offer their customers greater convenience, but it is also likely that it would increase costs as the period of time when consumers do their shopping would be stretched, rather than increase the spending pot itself".

This is the nub of the issue where the resident market is concerned. Add to this a questionable benefit from tourism, and seeing will indeed be believing. I hope that I and Mr. Barkhuysen are wrong. 

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Meliá unveil plans for Magalluf

Plans for the redevelopment of part of Magalluf by Meliá Hotels International were officially outlined yesterday by representatives of the hotel chain. Under the plans, two hotels will be converted into apartments, a pedestrianised boulevard will be created in helping to make the resort like Miami Beach, and the general level of tourism will be raised. The company rejected claims that the redevelopment will result in more all-inclusive.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Sóller train celebrates 100 years

The one-hundredth anniversary of the first journey of the Sóller train was celebrated yesterday in an event attended by leading politicians including President Bauzá.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2012

A bright morning but also a breezy one following some overnight rain. A top of 12.4 C at 09:30. Not especially warm today, up to the mid-teens. The outlook is remaining unsettled but with more sun than not.

Afternoon update: A sunny enough day but with a chill breeze and a high of just over 17 degrees.

Jazz In The Blues: Sa Pobla's festival

No great surprise then. All that jazz in Sa Pobla since 1995 may be no more jazz. Sa Pobla has been the venue for John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Billy Cobham, Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Garrett and many others. If you put them all on the one bill, then you would send jazz lovers into jazz-lover heaven.

These names may not mean anything to you, which is understandable. Jazz, like other genres, is its own world. Not everyone likes it, just as not everyone likes classical music, country music, rap or whatever. But jazz, in a Sa Pobla setting, has become a feature of Mallorca's summer circuit, a cultural oasis in a town that benefits only marginally from tourism, a means of generating interest and business and of bringing jazz, and not insubstantial names from the world of jazz, to an audience that would probably never be exposed to them.

This year's festival looks to be all but doomed. Funding from the regional government and from the Council of Mallorca has disappeared, as it has disappeared from other arts events. Sa Pobla town hall can't afford to pick up the tab, as it is bust, just like other town halls.

The town hall has had to introduce small charges for more traditional occasions that previously were free, such as for the post-Easter pilgrimage of the "poblers" to Crestatx. In January, the DJs and other music at the Sant Antoni celebrations, the grandest on the island, required financing from local businesses. The town hall knows that events like the jazz festival are beneficial, but even this knowledge does not allow it to stretch to the forty grand that it typically costs to stage the festival.

Forty grand, on the face of it, doesn't sound like a lot of money. But when, as a town hall, you are millions in the red, it is. Financing to rescue the jazz festival is going to have to come from the private sector, and the first port of private call is on those same local businesses - bars, restaurants, etc. - that came to the aid of the Sant Antoni party. Is it too much to ask these businesses to fund a second event? It may be.

The jazz festival has always been something of an oddity in that it has brought international names to a small town in northern Mallorca and not charged anyone for the privilege of watching them. An obvious solution, you would think, would be to charge. Obvious, but whether it would work is another matter. Were the public willing to pay, whether similar numbers of people who have typically packed themselves into Sa Pobla's Plaça Major would come would probably be doubtful. And it would also be doubtful if a suitable venue could be found; you couldn't charge for people to go into the Plaça Major.

The concerts having been free has always been with a view to create business, so maybe the local restaurants should dip into their pockets. As ever, it would be interesting to know just how beneficial the benefits have amounted to in the past. Would they justify a demand being made on local businesses to foot the bill?

If the festival fails to go ahead, it would be another nail in the coffin for Mallorca's general cultural scene. Putting a value on this culture is difficult, as the "good thing" of culture shouldn't require a price tag. Unfortunately, however, culture can only be provided, or seems to only be capable of being provided, when there is plenty of money knocking around. There has, therefore, to be a price tag, one that has been absent for years in Mallorca.

As with other aspects of the island's arts culture, such as the orchestra or the Pollensa Music Festival, claims of direct benefits in terms of tourism are virtually impossible to identify. The jazz festival has typically occurred over a three to four-week period with one concert per week. People don't come for the festival, or if they do, their numbers must surely be very small. It's the same with the orchestra and the Pollensa festival; they are added attractions rather than being central to tourism.

Nevertheless, it is the critical mass that in combination they represent that is important. It is important in presenting a civility and a diversity. None of these cultural manifestations are truly representative of an alternative to sun-and-beach tourism, but it is irrelevant whether they are or not. Culture is an intangible of societal well-being. You don't want to lose it, but once you do lose it, it's hard to get it back, especially if governments question its economic benefits.

Any comments to please.

Monday, April 16, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Challenge to beach management contract award in Can Picafort

Two companies which lost out on the tender to provide services to beaches in Can Picafort this summer have challenged the award by Santa Margalida town hall on the grounds that the winning bid was submitted six or seven minutes after the time that it should have been.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2012

Overnight rain and thunder, a grey morning with a best of 11.6 C at 08:30. The alerts are out for coastal conditions and wind. Remaining cloudy with showers. Improving tomorrow, but still the risk of a shower.

Afternoon update: It has been day more suited to February than April. Rain for some of it, a strong and chill wind at times, and a high of only 12.9 C. The alerts remain in place for tomorrow, though there should be a good deal of sun. The week is looking rather unpredictable. 

Republican Sympathies

On Saturday, commemorations were held that marked the 81st anniversary of the establishment of the Second Republic. Mallorca was not excluded from these celebrations. Porreres staged one of the best attended events. In Pollensa, as has become traditional on the anniversary of the birth of the Republic, the PSM (Mallorcan socialists) offered a floral tribute.

That it is the socialists who arrange the event says much about the political colour of the memories of the Republic and also about hopes of a revival of Republicanism. Like its Nationalist counterpoint, it has lurked in the undergrowth away from the main glare of monarchical democracy since 1975. Republicanism wasn't destroyed in 1939 at the end of the Civil War; it remained, in exile and latterly through the titles or sympathies of minority political parties.

The Second Republic ended in total disaster. Its liberalism was overtaken by violence and extremism. Against a background of depression, it couldn't combat unemployment. Economically and politically it was a failure, but Republicanism has remained an ideological force because of what happened after the Republic fell. It is the "good guy" of the Civil War, despite its own atrocities.

It has remained a force also because of what created the Second Republic. The government of the first dictator, Primo de Rivera, had become untenable as had the position of the Bourbon king, Alfonso XIII, who, on 14 April 1931, was forced into exile. Alfonso was considered a traitor as, in 1923, he had not blocked the coup which led to the establishment of the first dictatorship. An understanding of the Civil War and the Franco era is not complete without an appreciation of the monarch's support for Rivera. In 1923, the king assisted in breaking a system of monarchical democracy that was not to be restored for over 50 years.

Lessons of history and all that, but the past has a habit of turning itself into tradition. And with tradition comes a desire for re-enactment or an expectation that history will repeat itself or a perception that history is repeating itself. The tradition of the Civil War, despite the best attempts of many Spaniards to indulge in mass amnesia and the best attempts of the legal and political system to airbrush it out of existence, remains well rooted.

If not of course actual re-enactment, there is the narrative that nuances the current day in terms of this tradition. Republicanism 2012 in Mallorca, and elsewhere no doubt, rejects, as you would expect it to, the rights of another Bourbon king, Juan Carlos. Anti-monarchy sentiment is not unreasonable, but what is unreasonable is to somehow compare the current king with the treacherous Alfonso. It is not only unreasonable, it fails completely in recalling that it was the current king who turned his back on Francoism. For today's Republicans, however, a Bourbon monarch is a Bourbon monarch, regardless of very different circumstances.

Republicanism 2012 manages also to make some quite extraordinary allusions to Nationalism. The Partido Popular government in the Balearics, in agreeing to the development of a hotel near Es Trenc beach, is somehow engaged in Francoism. Well yes, there was destruction of the coastlines in the Franco era. No one would deny this, but it had nothing to do with Francoism or Nationalism; it had everything to do with turning the dross of a basket-case economy into something approximating gold.

The compulsion to style the current day with the narrative of the past extends to the lobbing of insults. When the head of the UGT union in the Balearics called President Bauzá a fascist, rather than requesting the attorney-general to start proceedings, Bauzá would have been far better off returning his own insult and moving on. Resorting to legal redress institutionalises the narrative and therefore the tradition, proving that Balearics politicians are as trapped in the past as are union leaders.

Right-wing governments both nationally and regionally that are pursuing policies of austerity do not, as is being implied by Republicanism 2012, amount to Nationalism. It is an absurdity to suggest that they do, especially as these policies are a furtherance of those initiated by socialist governments. But this is how the narrative insists that it should be.

In Porreres in 1938, a dreadful Nationalist atrocity was committed. The past should not be forgotten, and it is understandable that the town should be the location for a commemoration of Republicanism, but the narrative is of the past, of a time when, unlike today, the army were the ultimate enforcers and the monarchy the arbiters. The narrative is obsolete, a perverse romance of tradition. It is of the past, and that, God willing, is where it remains.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Athletic Bilbao 1 : 0 Real Mallorca

Mallorca, all but assured of staying in the top flight next season, at Bilbao, hunting for a top-six position. A curious set-up to Mallorca with defender Bigas in midfield, Athletic took most of the possession and posed most of the threat in the first half, Llorente heading them into the lead on 12 minutes. It was Bigas, though, who struck a post to come closest for Mallorca in what was otherwise a one-sided period. The introduction of Castro at half-time helped to enliven Mallorca into more goal-bound action, and Hemed's arrival with under ten minutes remaining indicated a willingness to look for an equaliser, but to no avail and Bilbao could have added a second, Toquero hitting the bar into added time.

Iraizoz; Iraola, Martínez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; Iturraspe, Ander (Ekiza 54); Susaeta, De Marcos, Gómez (Gabilondo 77); Llorente (Toquero 71)
Goal: Llorente (12)
Yellow: Ander (49)


Aouate; Cendrós, Crespí, Ramis, Cáceres (Hemed 82); Pina, Bigas (Tejera 66); Pereira, Alfaro (Castro 45), Nsue; Victor
Yellows: Cáceres (52), Cendrós (76), Pereira (85), Tejera (87)

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla jazz festival threatened

Grants from the regional government and the Council of Mallorca having been lost, Sa Pobla town hall is looking to private finance to help stage the jazz festival, which has been a feature of the summer in the town since 1995. If the finance cannot be found, the festival may well not take place.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Call for more fire tenders

Following a fire at a five-storey apartment block in Pollensa town's Cecilio Metelo street, the Esquerra Republicana party in Pollensa has called on the Council of Mallorca to go ahead with the purchase of nine fire tender vehicles that are currently in mothballs.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca's almond harvest better in 2012

Despite the February weather which affected almond trees, the harvest of the nut in Mallorca (the almond being one of Mallorca's most important crops) is set to realise up to 15% more produce than last year.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2012

Some rain earlier, now cleared away and giving a sunny morning but with banks of cloud over the mountains. 14.1 C the local best at 09:00. Should be a reasonable day, though there is the chance of a further shower. Tomorrow is now appearing quite grim, an amber alert out for adverse coastal conditions and lower, yellow advice for wind, plus there will be rain. After tomorrow, things begin to look more stable.

Afternoon update: Well, so much for a reasonable day. By 10:00 serious dark clouds were about, as was thunder and, in some areas, hail. It got better but it was not a reasonable day and a high of only 14.7 C.

All In The Name Of Charity

A bar owner, when once confronted by a smiling charity representative who had entered the bar with the blissfully naïve assumption that this bar owner would automatically accede to the request for a tin to be placed on the bar counter, told the representative to leave and take the tin with her. Put the tin on the bar counter and the small change that might otherwise drop into the tips pot would be diverted to whatever charity it was that happened to make its smiling entrance that particular day.

I, for one, applauded the bar owner's rejection. Charity representatives have an aura of the religious zealot, a grinningly fanatical demeanour, born out of a smugness of goodness and a suffocating righteousness that makes them believe that they have every right to simply demand support for the charity, because for someone to turn them down is a sure sign that this person is not on the path to righteousness. Rejection for the supercilious charity rep is the rejection by one who will have a distinctly unpleasant after-life. The rejector can rot in hell.

Charities come with their own in-built religiosity, whether they are anything to do with religion or not, and indeed most aren't. Their righteousness stems from the righteousness of an eschewal of greed and materialism, of an unstated advocacy of a socialist redistribution, of a sense of inner worth and of inner and quiet reflection from having engaged in goodliness. The path to righteousness for the charity, the charity representative and the charity donator should come from a simple and unspoken satisfaction. But more often than not, it doesn't. Charity is ego, charity is business, charity is social-climbing or social-having-reached-the-summit.

In Mallorca, there is both not enough charity and too much of it. Demands on charitable organisations such as the Cruz Roja and the church's Caritas have rocketed over the past few years. They can't really cope with the demands. Yet there is so much charity knocking around, you wonder why not. It's why a bar owner would, for example, tell a tin-carrier to sling her hook. Another reason is a not unfamiliar suspicion as to what actually happens to funds that are raised or to items that are donated.

There are the charities, but then there are the charity events. There are clearly some people in Mallorca, mainly expats one has the impression, who spend their entire lives either attending or organising a charity event. Some will do this because they happen to want to for no other reason than a pursuit of that quiet inner worth. Like those who devote their time and energies in simple labour, offered for free and willingly in a shop or in some other endeavour, these are the goodly who verge on the Godly. They are the unsung, those who do not sing about their contributions; the foot soldiers who can make soldiers' lives better as well as the lives of others and who want no more in return than a reward of satisfaction.

But I'm not about to suggest that everyone is similarly motivated. There is also the glitterati of the gala charity event, the self-promotional prominente, the business-advantage-seeking brigade and the downright egomaniacs whose weeks are not complete without a photo opportunity.

The suspicions aroused by the presence of the charity event social circle and by its motivations, together with the assumptive waving of the tin, both physically and metaphorically, have added to an undermining of charity, one made even less tenable by the sheer amount of charity and demands made. Which is not to say that any charitable initiative in Mallorca is unworthy; quite the contrary. Nevertheless, priorities within certain communities, such as the expat community, would benefit all, assuming these priorities were the right ones. Those which might be, and I can think of Age Concern as a good example, suffer, one suspects, either because they don't have the same cachet in a social-circle sense or because they lack an emotional appeal, or at least an emotional appeal that is made emotional in a deliberate and unashamed manner in order to shame the bar owner to actually put that tin on the counter.

There is just simply too much of it. And much of it has become a means to an end. It's figuring out what this end actually is, or suspecting that it might be something other than only in the name of charity.

Any comments to please.