Thursday, May 31, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Legality of floating hotels questioned

The possibility that floating hotels might be created in ports in the Balearics, one raised by the new tourism law that is going through its phase of parliamentary adoption, has been drawn into question, as the final say on such a development would lie with national government.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Barriers to be removed from the old Pollensa to Lluc track

The Council of Mallorca has issued an ultimatum to those who have erected barriers along the old road between Pollensa and Lluc that these must be removed by 14 June, so restoring open access to the walk which has been the subject of controversy for years.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 May 2012

Coming in at a top of 20.6C at 07.45, it's another rocking morning, to be followed by another rocking day, a big 28 on the cards. The outlook is pretty much the same for the next few days, that chance of a spot of rain either Sunday or Monday or both having receded.

Afternoon update: 27.5C has been your big inland high today, a couple of degrees lower by the coast.

Fake Adele: Mallorcan unreality

Radio One's Chris Moyles Show got its news presenter to conduct a recent interview with the American comedian and actor Chris Rock in the guise of a fake Adele. A high-pitched voice and some daft questions were mingled with a game, "what's in my sock, Chris Rock?"

Adele, being the international singing star that she is, can anticipate all manner of faking, and it is probably occurring right at this moment on the streets of Mallorca, in its bars and in its hotels. Faking is a way of life in Mallorca. The lookies sell you fake Adele CDs; karaoke bars are filled with fake, wannabe Adeles; hotel entertainment shows perpetrate the greatest entertainment horror known to man - the playback - and so Adele being mimed to. Fake Adele.

There is probably a fake Adele trib act knocking around as well. In fact, I would be amazed if there weren't one, or several. Given that, with the honourable exception of when I wrote a piece about Rud Stewart (as opposed to Rod) and received the Rud spiked haircut of approval, someone takes exception (normally the acts themselves) whenever I write about trib acts, I shall desist in saying anything negative on the matter of a fake Adele act or acts. Suffice it to say, some tribs tend to take themselves rather more seriously than they perhaps should.

It comes as a blow to the island's self-esteem, when you realise that Mallorca is built on fakery. Little of it is in fact real. To the fake CDs, DVDs, watches, sunglasses and other ware, you can add the fake karaoke-ists, the fake playbackers, the fake tribs, and then you can add even more - the fake gas inspectors, the occasional fake copper, the fake fifty euro notes, the fake invoices, the fake footy shirts, the pale tourist with the bottle of fake tan.

There is also the faking it. Faking an injury or an illness. Pulling a sicky in other words. The bane of the bar owner's life. The fake ankle twist, the fake food poisoning, the fake sore throat and high temperature. Really? Who was that who was doing a fake Adele while standing on a bar table, having polished off several vodka shots (and probably not fake vodka, though even this is not unknown)? And if the illness was that bad, how come the tan has come on so well over the past few days? More fake tan?

Then there are the über-fakes. In Mallorca, you can become someone else. There are all sorts of "other" people knocking about. At its most extreme, the creation of whole new personas or the previous persona having been consigned to history or not being admitted to can lead to the worst sort of fakes - the criminal ones. A court in Yorkshire is soon to hear about one such fake - an alleged fake, one should add, but one that involved millions of mainly Calvia euros. No one had the faintest idea until collars were being felt and the past was revealed.

In Mallorca's courts, fakes committed in the past are being investigated, sentences are being demanded. The fall of former politicians, tumbling from grace through fake accounting, is the come-uppance (or lowerance) for what has been institutionalised fakery. Has this had its day? We should applaud President Bauzá for attempting to, if not putting an end to it, at least limiting the chances of it occurring. Institutionalised fakery is what begets other fakery and legitimises it, or is it the other way round? Society's fakery has produced the politicians it deserves, ones who have merely mirrored the society from which they came.

The fake of selling a car that doesn't belong to you, the fake of selling a business that doesn't belong to you or a property that doesn't belong to you; or attempting to do one or all of these. So much faking, you don't know what is real. Nothing, or little, is as it seems. There's always something behind it (whatever it is), or you suspect there is.

Even when something is authentic, or says it is, you begin to wonder. Authentic cuisine? Well, most authentic cuisine is authentic, but some might not be. It might be fake. The restaurant itself might not be authentic. It is a restaurant, but what is its real purpose? You don't need me to spell out this possible real purpose. Do you?

From the innocent, the silly, the frivolous to the less innocent, silly and frivolous. From fake Adele to real fakes, if a fake can ever be described as real. And what was in the sock, Chris Rock? It was a stapler. Ah, but was it a fake?

Any comments to please.

Index for May 2012

Airport profitability - 2 May 2012, 9 May 2012
Andrés Rábago: cartoonist - 27 May 2012
Bankia crisis - 18 May 2012
Beach management and lifeguards - 12 May 2012
Carlos Delgado's girlfriend - 5 May 2012
Catholic church and property tax - 14 May 2012
Christopher Columbus: Felanitx - 10 May 2012
Discretionary tourism spend and shops - 17 May 2012
Fakes - 31 May 2012
Fray Junípero Serra - 7 May 2012
Free selection of teaching language - 11 May 2012
Google Translate: odd names - 28 May 2012
Health service in crisis? - 8 May 2012
Holiday lets - 3 May 2012
Holidaymakers and urbanised resorts - 6 May 2012
La Gola visit by politicians - 26 May 2012
La Lliga and Convergència - 13 May 2012
Magalluf's preferential treatment - 22 May 2012
Protests against President Bauzá - 19 May 2012, 26 May 2012
Refuges on dry stone route - 21 May 2012
Sa Pobla publicity distribution - 15 May 2012
Son Real - 16 May 2012
Staff drinking in bars - 30 May 2012
Tourism: disposability and commodity - 1 May 2012
Tourism: harmful government policies - 4 May 2012
Tourism prospects for summer 2012 - 29 May 2012
Towns or cities - 20 May 2012
Utz Claassen and Real Mallorca - 23 May 2012
What if tourism had developed differently - 25 May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 May 2012

19.8C at 08.00. Sun, bit of cloud. Sun all day. Mid-20s.

Afternoon update: A pretty big one today. A high of 27.8C.

Drunk On The Job

Bar work and booze are inseparable. Booze is the stock in trade of the bar, but when the stocks of the trade start to disappear in directions that they shouldn't, the trade itself is damaged. This should be obvious, but laxity of controls suggests otherwise.

I first became aware of bar stock control, or the lack of it, when I was at university. You would think that a university would, because of its well-educated staff, have a grip on the basics of control, but not in my college they didn't, and the same went for other colleges on the campus. Of the eight campus bars, there was constant debate as to which one held the honour of having the drunkest bar manager (the word "manager" was only loosely applied).

The bar manager in my college had a face the colour of which fluctuated in its shades of purple. It wasn't the incident when he was hurled through a patio window that lost him his job - he survived - it was when the college's senior staff, who were meant to supervise the bar's operation, finally cottoned on to the level of "shrinkage". His parting gift was to urinate into the pipes.

As student president of the college, I was shown the books, such as they were. They made no sense. Nothing tallied, nothing balanced. There were apparent losses per unit (be it barrel or bottle), and the reason why was that there was no control.

It is pretty difficult to make a loss on a barrel of beer. A bar in Mallorca might pay around 50 euros for a 50-litre barrel of Saint Mick (the list price is higher, while the actual price can be lower than 50 euros). From this barrel, the bar can extract the equivalent of almost 90 pints. Even at a low price of two euros a pint, the direct contribution of beer sold should be edging up towards 130 euros. Yet a loss can be made. The reason? All the beer that isn't paid for.

A bar owner who is on the premises all or most of the time who chooses to give away free beer or free whatever and/or to drink him or herself into an early grave (and there have been the odd one or two) does at least exercise some control, even if it is control that is out of the control. He or she only has him or herself to blame if the return on a barrel, a bottle, a bag of sausages, whatever it might be, is not what it should be. Exercise firm control, on the other hand, and the return will be more or less as it should be, notwithstanding the inevitable, pretty much expected freebies that are extended to the likes of suppliers.

Where loss is more likely to occur is when control is lax or absent and the owner is also absent. Unless there are strict controls and strict rules as to what is or isn't permissible in terms of staff drinking (or eating) on duty, the losses accrue. I know they do, because I know examples, as I know examples of staff ostensibly in charge who are in a state of pretty much permanent inebriation; it is only the scale of the inebriation which tends to vary.

Apart from the loss, there are other factors when the hired hands are helping themselves to the beer pumps. It may all seem very convivial to join customers for a drink, but does every customer want to be greeted by someone who stinks of Saint Mick? And what about, for example, a chef who has too much juice? There may not be many who go so far as Kurt in "Fawlty Towers" who drank himself unconscious because Manuel wouldn't give him a kiss, but there are examples of those who can pack a fair amount away while in charge of equipment that could cause a serious accident, to say nothing of damage to customers' meals.

Time was when there were few controls. Things have changed. There is far less allowance to staff to drink while on duty. It's right that this should be restricted or totally barred. A bar is a business for all the reasons of control, profit, image and customer service outlined above. Bar owners who have made the rules tighter have sometimes met with resistance; if that's how it is to be, then stick the job. Fine. Why though should anyone drink alcohol while working? Bar it may be, but it doesn't mean drinking it.

If a return, and a pretty decent return at that, cannot be made from a barrel, then there is something seriously amiss. The bar owner is probably in the wrong business, and if drinking staff can't or won't be confronted because this might upset them, then he or she is definitely in the wrong business. Times are tough enough as it is without the profits being drunk. And ultimately, where the customer is concerned, does anyone really like a drunk?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist in serious condition after hotel fall

Another British tourist has fallen from a hotel balcony in Magalluf. A 26-year-old, named as Daniel Jerry, fell from a second floor on Sunday night, having drunk excessively and been, according to witnesses, performing "odd games" on the balcony. His injuries, though serious, are not believed to be life-threatening.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Manacor hospital director resigns

More evidence of the tensions in the Balearics health service. The medical director of Manacor hospital has resigned over cuts to both funding and personnel.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 May 2012

A local top of 21.6C at 08.45, due to climb to the higher 20s (27) on a fine morning. Some inland cloud but sunny otherwise.

Afternoon update: Not as warm as had been suggested, a high of 25.6C inland and a bit cooler on the coasts. The forecast is looking fine through the week and into the weekend, though there could be some rain come Monday.

You Pays Your Money: Tourism prospects

You pays your money, you takes your choice. Or you pays rather less of your money than previously and you takes less of a choice. Or you pays less of your money, you takes a similar choice but you takes one that involves you paying less. Whatever.

Much though no one much believes tourism spend statistics, and they have good reason not to, given the way in which the data for the statistics are gathered and to what they relate, you can't accuse the statisticians of seeking to cook the books and wishing to issue feelgood stats regardless of realities, though some people have in the past been inclined to accuse them of just this, when these tourism spend statistics have revealed a scenario that appeared to bear little relation to what was in fact happening on the street or on the terrace.

Tourism spend in the Balearics was down by 8.6% in April (compared with April 2011). Oh woe. However, demonstrating that comparing one month per year with the same month in a previous year can be like comparing chalk with cheese, in April last year the spend rocketed by comparison with 2010. Why? There was no ash cloud last April and the Arab spring had fully sprung. For the first four months of this year, or so says the Egatur survey (which is the one that deals with these tourism spend stats), spend is actually up on last year. Oh joy.

I think I have in the past promised to never quote these spend statistics ever again, given that they only partially deal with what is spent on the ground by tourists (a goodly proportion relates to costs of packages etc.). I am only breaking my promise and doing so now as a means of highlighting what is a confused picture of expectations for this summer. We have already been variously told that 2012 would be a "record" year, outstripping last year's record, then we were told that it might not be a record year because the Brits were all planning on taking a staycation, then we were told ... . Sorry, I have rather lost track of what we have been told.

A survey which came out last week, that by the Mallorcan research organisation Gadeso, suggested that this summer would be pretty much the same as last year and that there was in fact a rise in business optimism. Then the hoteliers went and spoiled things by issuing their own findings in hinting that occupancy figures weren't as strong as had been anticipated.

What does seem to be the case, insofar as one can draw anything like firm conclusions, is that the domestic Spanish market is dragging things down and so is the Brit market. Prospects for the summer suggest that the volume of domestic tourists coming to the Balearics will be down by 20%, while the Brits will show a decline of just over 5%, this coming on top of an appreciable fall in the first four months of 2012.

Neither is particularly surprising, the domestic market especially. Yet countering this gloomy outlook, there are - as ever - the good old Germans to keep things bobbing along reasonably well, but far more spectacularly there are the Russians and the Scandinavians who are both knocking in increases of 30% more tourists. The Italians are also looking good, as are the Dutch and the Swiss, while events elsewhere may yet lead to the usual last-minute rush; there is overbooking in Turkey and Tunisia, while there are continuing worries about unrest in Egypt and now also in Greece. 

If you put all the other markets together, they do tend to compensate for losses elsewhere, though whether they are sufficient to fully compensate is another matter. The Spanish and British markets are two of the top three tourism markets by some fair old distance. Russian tourism up by 30% sounds good, but it is an increase from a comparatively low base, and while this 30% may well come laden with gold (most of it around their wrists or necks), it tends to end up in better quality all-inclusives. This accommodation will, because of the way in which the tourism spend stats are made up, help to probably show an increase in spend, but this is one reason why these statistics paint a false picture.

So, will 2012 be a better year than 2011, about the same or slightly down? Well, don't ask me, because I don't know. And nor does anyone else. It could be one thing, it could be another. You pays your money.

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 May 2012

Quite cloudy, as had been forecast, but also some sun. 18.9C at 08:15. The forecast has changed, though, and the cloud should pretty much clear up later with temperatures into the mid-20s.

Afternoon update: Moderate highs despite the cloud going away, a top of 23.7C.

Lost In Google Translation

Google Translate is a wonderful tool. Wonderful, that is, for the howlers it produces. My advice: steer clear of Google Translate, unless you want to be held up to ridicule, or if you don't steer clear, do not, under any circumstances, take it as the final (strangely translated) word.

Google Translate is a machine. It is the Captain Larry Dart of cyberspace. An unseen on-chest translator of the type that "Space Patrol" deployed in order to turn Martian into perfectly comprehensible English with a mechanical-sounding, mid-Atlantic drawl. Larry Dart's translator had one advantage over Google Translate. It was generally correct, unless a technical hitch required the intervention of Galasphere 347's on-board boffin, Professor Heggarty.

One of Google Translate's biggest problems is that it cannot always make sense of verb conjugation. From Spanish to English, therefore, this means that the third person singular, as an example, comes out as he, she or even you, when none of these may actually apply (because it should be "it") or when he should be she, or vice versa.

This amusing little grammatical foible is nothing, however, when compared with what Google Translate does with some names. There is no doubting that as a tool, Google Translate has made more accessible information that is available only in Spanish, or indeed Catalan, to an English-speaking audience with only a rudimentary understanding of either language, if that. So it serves a useful purpose up to a point, but when whole tracts of articles or news items are then posted to the internet, some of the glaring errors scream out at you. As with some recent ones with a Pollensa angle.

Pollensa's mayor is Tomeu Cifre, but he isn't according to Google Translate. He is Tomeu Encrypt. In a way, it is appropriate. Mayors of most towns deal with speaking in code, a lack of transparency and obfuscation. In Santa Margalida, its mayor is Miguel Encrypt. The joke of the name of the local DJs, Two Many Cifres (nicked from 2 Many DJs and an observation on the fact that there are an awful lot of Cifres), would be an even better joke were they to name themselves Two Many Encrypts.

Other politicians suffer similar fates. Take tourism minister Carlos Delgado. Put Delgado into Google Translate - and on no account try this with Catalan to English, as he wouldn't like that at all (and besides which it wouldn't work) - and out pops Carlos Slim. In continuing the "Space Patrol" association, Slim was an elf-like creature from Venus on Galasphere 347. So maybe Delgado is in fact a Venusian. It would explain a lot. Delgado could also, so Google Translate informs us, be thin, flimsy or spidery. I leave it to you to apply your own preference.

The man in charge of the mega-ministry of agriculture, environment, land and transport, Gabriel Company, does not emerge in fully businesslike fashion from a Catalan to English Google translation. He is merely a companion or a colleague, but having recently renounced his independent status within the regional government's cabinet and become a card-carrying member of the Partido Popular, he is now a genuine PP companion and colleague, a transport minister who has become a fellow traveller.

Going back to Mayor Encrypt, the Pollensa one, his predecessor was Joan Cerdà. Joan offers an awful lot of scope when it comes to his English meaning, not all of it terribly complimentary. From Spanish, minus the accent, he is either hairy or porcine (and feminine porcine, to boot). Bristle or sow. Much as many like to poke fun, he is no pig in a poke. Cerdà, in Catalan terms, comes from someone who was a native of La Cerdanya in the Pyrenees.

It isn't only politicians of course who suffer fates of humiliation or nominal corruption by Google Translate. Who is the most famous Mallorcan of all? One of the world's greatest sportspeople. Rafael Nadal. Not quite. He is Rafael Christmas (though you do have to enter Nadal by itself to turn him into a yule-tide festival; Google Translate can sometimes cope with proper names and therefore not translate them).

Yes, Google Translate is a wonderful tool. One that offers hours of endless amusement. But Larry Dart's translator was still superior. What, though, would have happened had Galasphere 347 landed at a wintertime fiesta in Pollensa, overseen by Mayor Encrypt, and had Husky, its sausage-loving Martian crew member, consulted the Martian via Catalan to English translator? Botifarró? The mind boggles. Remarkably enough, though, Google Translate does it. Sausage. Just don't mention this to Pollensa's former mayor. 

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Private money may finance further rail electrification

The Balearic Government is hoping that it will be able to electrify the two branches from the Palma-Inca railway - to Sa Pobla and Manacor - with private money under a scheme that would see the government pay a charge based on passenger numbers.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Volunteers will clean Pollensa beaches

Pollensa town hall has struck an arrangement with Gadma, the local friends of the environment group, to keep clean inlets and the storm stream (torrent) at three beaches, Cala Bóquer and Calas Carbó and Barques in Cala San Vicente.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 May 2012

Another fine and warm day ahead, the local high at 08.30 being 20.9C. Clear, sunny skies with some hazy cloud over the hinterland.

Afternoon update: A top today of 24.7C, occasional cloud but otherwise sunny. Tomorrow is now due to be largely cloudy though there is very little chance of rain.

The Broken: Spain's greatest cartoonist

Andrés Rábago. Who he?

Rábago is a cartoonist. Spain's most famous cartoonist. He is not a creator of cartoon strips, but of the usually one-off satirical, social commentary or otherwise pointed cartoon. He has gone under different pseudonyms, changing one well-known nom de plume for another well-known one and simultaneously changing the style of his message. He is now 65 years old and his oeuvre is being celebrated in an exhibition at Madrid's Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

65 years old is telling. Rábago was still a young man when Franco died, but he was active in the later years of the dictator. For a cartoonist with a satirical streak, this might have represented a dangerous occupation, but Rábago forged a reputation in the late '60s and into the 1970s nevertheless.

In truth, his satire began to emerge later. During Franco's time and for some years after, he traded in a style of cartoon that had echoes perhaps of Gerald Scarfe and of The Scream paintings of Edvard Munch. It was a style that dealt with the human condition, human fears and terrors, the subconscious and panic in particular; hence the possible link to Munch. It was one that also owed something to the surrealism of Dalí and Miró but much more to the later work of Goya, the Spanish painter more commonly thought of as a romantic but who created frightening imagery, such as in his oil on tin called the "Yard with Lunatics". Ken Russell, the film director, one would have to guess, was probably also influenced by Goya's hellish imagination and subliminal attacks on the reign of the then Spanish king.

References to artists of fame might seem strange when talking about a cartoonist, but Rábago was not and isn't a cartoonist in the way that one immediately understands the term to mean. It is only right that the Academy should honour him with a showing and only right that the art-world establishment, often haughty when it comes to cartoon works and even comic strips, should recognise the intrinsic artistic value of his contributions.

Rábago's first pseudonym was OPS. I have tried to find out the derivation of this pseudonym but without success, and Rábago himself seems to have been evasive in supplying an explanation. It might not have had anything to do with it, but put a "u" into OPS and what do you get? Opus. Rábago as OPS appears to have got away with a great deal during the final years of Franco's rule, partly because he didn't attempt to be a humorous cartoonist and so therefore didn't obviously expose himself as a critic of the regime, partly because he seemed to work in an artistic style reminiscent of Dalí who was generally sympathetic to Franco, and partly because Franco and his cronies simply didn't understand what he was doing. And among those who seemed not to have would have been fundamentalists within the church, such as Opus Dei.

OPS was killed off in the early 1980s, as the messages and style were no longer suited to a changing society. The underlying theme of allegorical repression that OPS displayed and the fears that this repression induced had given way to the more open, democratic society, but it was one that demanded a more direct political style, and so was born El Roto.

Literally meaning "the broken", El Roto is still at work, appropriately enough for an observer of the current rightist tendencies in Spain, in the left-leaning "El País". It is a time when sharp commentary, be it through cartoon, the written word or other means, is needed more than ever, especially in Spain. A desperate economy; an inadequate government; a clueless, ineffectual and anonymous prime minister; a church on the move that is seeking to regain its power; a monarchy plagued with controversy and gaffes; a banking sector in a partial state of collapse; unemployment the highest in Europe; poverty the worst in Europe with the exception of Romania and Bulgaria.

And later this year, in the Catalonian town of Hospitalet de Llobregat, there is to be a further exhibition that features Rábago's work. It will be called "a journey of a thousand demons", a nod in the direction of the OPS era. But the demons are as alive now as they were when they were symbolic of the torment of the Franco regime. Only they are different demons.

El Roto, the broken. How apt.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Company joins the PP

Balearic Government environment, agriculture and transport minister Gabriel Company, who was appointed as an independent to the government given in particular his links to the farming sector, has now officially joined the Partido Popular. It is believed that this move will help to make the PP seem more "regionalist", a source of the government's problems having been that it is looked upon as being anti-regionalist.

MALLORCA TODAY - Opinion divided on Cala Rajada gay promotion

The second Mr Gay Pride España contest being celebrated in Cala Rajada tonight (how can they stage this when Eurovision is on?), opinion is divided as to whether the resort should be promoted as a gay destination. While opinion is in favour of gay and lesbian tourists, it is the promotion and therefore reputation that some residents are worried about.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - An average 300 lightning strikes per annum

The Balearics division of the Spanish met office has explained that there is an average of 300 lightning strikes onto Mallorcan land or sea per annum and that the Tramuntana mountains and the north-east of the island are the most affected. The met office has issued general recommendations to avoid being struck by lightning and to take precautions at home or in the office, such as switching off electrical appliances (internet routers and computers should definitely be switched off during a storm).

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa square reductions to tables

Pollensa town hall is to take measures to limit what is described as over-occupation of the Plaça Major in Pollensa town of bar and restaurant chairs and tables. The number has grown in contravention of a by-law of 2002, which was never truly implemented but now will be. Mayor Cifre says that there have been complaints about the number of tables. The whole issue of terrace seating was given an extra dimension when it was previously suggested that certain establishments in the square would gain under a new terrace law, one being that of the Hotel Juma, which belongs to the mayor's family.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 May 2012

19.3C top at 08:00. Summer appears to be here possibly in that there is a reasonably stable weather pattern for the next few days. Some cloud but consistently warm in the mid-20s. A high today of 25 or 26.

Afternoon update: A day's best of 25.6C, but clouded over somewhat later on.

Putting In And Keeping Up Appearances

What do protests against President Bauzá and a visit by Pollensa's mayor to the nature park of La Gola in Puerto Pollensa have to do with each other? Very little on the face of it, but both can be considered as good PR.

Why are the protests good PR? The answer is simple. Get crowds of the youth stroppy mob indulging in some chanting and lobbing the odd missile and the propaganda value is incalculable. It all works in the president's favour. Kick up enough fuss about violent demonstrators and everyone will start tutting and having sympathy for a president battling against problems of economic crisis. The demonstrators would be far better served going along and standing in silence or with their backs to Bauzá when he arrives. This would send out a very different message, and the interpretation of the demonstration would be very different.

Bauzá has been putting in appearances all over the place, conducting a Cook's tour of the provinces. One day Pollensa and Santa Margalida, the next day Artà and Cala Ratjada. The tour is all in aid of getting around the local Partido Popular branches, but it has another, more cynical side to it. The president and his advisors could have expected a spot of bother and demonstrators duly obliged on the first stop of the tour in Inca. They couldn't have hoped for better. One demo spawns another. Copycatism. When politicians then condemn violence (and there has been little or no real violence) and start chucking around insults of their own at opposition parties which don't appear to be as inclined to do some condemning of their own, don't be fooled into believing that they aren't anything but delighted.

The additional PR benefit to Bauzá is that once the demos had started in Inca and then Manacor, he can then say that he will not be cowed or deterred by the "violence" and will continue on his tour. Were he not to, then democracy would be undermined and besides he is the democratically elected president; all this sort of guff. People are astonishingly naïve if they fail to see the propaganda purposes of Bauzá's tour, while the demonstrators have been astonishingly naïve, not to say stupid, in falling into the trap.

Then there was the visit of mayor Cifre to La Gola. He was accompanied by the government's environment minister, Biel Company. No demos, but instead a photo opportunity for the two men who essentially run the nature park. One fancies they were there more out of sufferance rather than really wanting to be there. As someone had decided that Thursday was European Day of Nature Parks, something would have to have been done to acknowledge the fact. Why not go to La Gola as a way of marking the day? At a stroke, not only could the day be given an official stamp of celebration, so also could it be shown that the town hall and the ministry were there at La Gola, taking seriously their responsibilities for its operation and its visitors' centre, a centre which is hardly ever open and will still be open for only parts of the year; it's going to shut again for two months at the end of June.

So, it was all good PR again, designed to quell the criticisms of town hall and ministry alike regarding their management of La Gola. Once more, if anyone truly believes the visit represents a more proactive attitude on behalf of these institutions towards La Gola, then they are being naïve. The visit was about putting in and keeping up appearances by making an appearance that wouldn't normally have been made, had it not been for the fortuitous coincidence of nature parks day.

Back to the Bauzá protests. These have also been somewhat embarrassing for all concerned. The number of school kids shown in a video issued by "Ultima Hora" attending the demo in Santa Margalida suggested that this was far from a protest of real militants and was not something of any "violence". But there is a more serious side to this, which is that the mere presence of those school kids does perhaps represent an example of a growing radicalisation of Mallorca's youth who are embracing more the Catalanist message. This radicalisation is one I have suggested has been occurring before through seemingly innocent events such as the "Acampallengua", the annual camp for promoting Catalan culture and the Catalan language among Mallorca's youth. The next one is to be held over the first weekend of June in Manacor, one of the main centres of opposition to Bauzá. It may not be as innocent as previous ones.

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Politicians visit La Gola

A day out for mayor Cifre and environment minister Company to the La Gola park in Puerto Pollensa yesterday. Nice for them. 70 different species of bird have visited the park as well, they heard, and said that the visitors' centre will close again at the end of June because it gets too hot for birds to come during the summer and then re-open in September.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 May 2012

A big 22.4C high at 09:45, inland anyway, heading up to mid-20s on a lovely, sunny day. Happy, happy.

Afternoon update: A best of 25.9C on a fine day. The weekend looks generally fine, there might be some cloud, but temperatures similar to today.

What If? Tourism after the wars

1936 and all that. But what might have happened to tourism had things after 1936 been rather different? What-ifs are pure hypothesis but they are still intriguing, and when one considers how Mallorca's tourism was disrupted by 1936, it is intriguing to wonder whether the island's tourism would be like it is today.

Mallorca's tourism can be traced back to the Archduke Luis Salvador, who invited a collection of intellectual and creative friends to Ramon Llull's Miramar in Valldemossa. This was in the nineteenth century, though, and it was a very specific and high-brow type of tourism. Mallorca's first tourism era as such began in the 1920s. There have been two tourism eras, because of what got in the way to cause there to be two.

Of articles I have written previously, there have been those about the old golf course in Alcúdia, about the first tourism seaplane flights from France to Alcúdia, about the first passenger flights from Italy to Puerto Pollensa, about the abandonment of plans for the rail extension to Alcúdia. These are all linked to 1936 which meant that the golf course was built on, the French flights ceased, the Italian ones started and the railway wasn't to be given serious further attention for 70 years.

War obviously has an impact on economic life, and tourism was an economic victim in that it was killed stone dead in 1936. It didn't help that the Civil War was followed immediately by the World War, but, and notwithstanding the relatively small amount of tourism in the 1950s, there was a hiatus of some 25 years between the two tourism eras. War can explain or excuse only so much, though; the rest of the explanation was political and economic.

Accepting the fact of both the Civil and World Wars and their intervention in the first and nascent Mallorcan tourism era, what if the political regime had been more benign, less inward-looking and less economically parochial from the end of World War Two?

A different type of regime wouldn't have brought about the earlier creation of mass tourism, as this was only possible once air transport and general living standards in northern Europe were sufficiently advanced to allow it, but had it been progressive from the late 1940s, more outward-looking and embraced what had started to be shaped before 1936, a different tourism would in all likelihood have been developed.

From the examples above, take golf. This only truly reappeared on the Mallorcan agenda under a tourism plan of the 1980s. Arguably, this was too late, as competitors, such as Portugal, were already far more advanced. Yet had it been given genuine attention much earlier, Mallorca's winter tourism might now not suffer to the extent that it does.

Then take the railway and the flights: infrastructure on Mallorca was neglected; Air France didn't come back; the Italian flights ceased in 1943 and there weren't more (British) until the second half of the 1950s. Had, however, there been a resumption of flights into Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa and had the northern rail line been established, the accessibility of the north of Mallorca would have been considerably greater than it was and would have altered the balance between north and south in tourism development.

But perhaps most important of all would have been how tourism as a whole would have developed. Mass tourism to Mallorca, the second era, came about through economic necessity, once Franco's technocrats had convinced him that autarky and parochialism were not the way forward. And it led to wholesale environmental destruction in the mad dash to create an economy worthy of the name. Had, though, general economic management not been the total disaster it was until the change of tack in the late '50s and had tourism development been smoother and more along French lines, might the massive resorts have ever been created?

The French model of tourism differs to that of Mallorca and to parts of Spain. Its relatively few purpose-built resorts, such as Cap d'Agde, primarily came into being only as a response to the challenge posed by the Costas. Otherwise, it is more diverse and less ruled by interests of hoteliers.

Mallorca may have ended up with exactly the same tourism it did in the 1960s, regardless of the style of political regime, but it might not have. Had the development been more on a straight line of a continuous tourism era (save for the interruption of war) and had there not been the economic need for the suddenness of what occurred in the 1960s, Mallorca's tourism and indeed whole economy might now be very different.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 May 2012

Nice, sunny day, a top of 20.6 C at 09:45. So, at least the sun's shining. That's about all that is. Have a nice day.

Afternoon update: Thermometer moving up a notch. 25.8 C the high this afternoon.

Owing To Circumstances ...

Well, what can I say? For once, I have been beaten. Put it this way, you try sitting in front of a computer for stretches twenty hours a time with barely a break, getting little sleep for four consecutive nights, eating hardly at all, and ending up with pretty much sod all into the bargain, other, that is, than severe cramps, a stiff neck and a virtual inability to speak. Yep, you try doing this and then putting together 750 or so words about whatever it might be.

So, apologies. Normal service will resume tomorrow with any luck.

Otherwise, up above is the weather.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Bauzá protest in Pollensa

President Bauzá, continuing his protestathon of Mallorca, whereby he turns up at different towns in order that some people can abuse him, yesterday attracted 300 protesters in Pollensa and the odd egg. Santa Margalida did less well, only 200 gathering near a bar where the president was dining.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sun loungers are vandalised again

Beach management concessionaire Bernat Riutort, who operates parts of Playa de Muro beach and Can Picafort's beach, has suffered another outbreak of sun lounger vandalism, around 150 beds having been slashed early yesterday morning.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 May 2012

Quite a bit of cloud around, but sun's out and the temperature is knocking in a top of 19.1 C at 08:45. Forecast to be calm, wind-wise, with temperatures climbing to the mid-20s with some cloud. The next few days are mostly the same but getting warmer.

Twenty-Twenty Vision: Real Mallorca

Utz Claassen has an unfortunate haircut. It is one sheared from a recent German tradition of hairstyling that bears no relation to convention or contemporaneousness. It veers towards the mulletist tendency of head furniture, combining an element of balding; it is Phil Collins of the 1980s with a light perm.

One shouldn't judge someone on haircut alone, but it is hard to ignore doing so in Utz's case. Indeed, it is hard to ignore Utz full stop. He's been popping up with great regularity recently, his ongoing clashes with other owners of Real Mallorca football club and his desire to put his side of the story having guaranteed his column inches.

Were it solely down to him, Utz would probably be the proud sole or majority owner of Real Mallorca, though what it might cost him to prise shares away from others, who can tell. Given that he has sought to find legal redress, and failed, in his claim that he paid over the odds for his current shareholding, you would imagine he might be reluctant to part with more than a few euros.

Undeterred by the fact that he isn't the club's major shareholder and by all his wrangling with his fellow shareholders (or perhaps because of it), Utz has been putting forward his vision for the club. This is a vision, one suspects, very much for PR purposes. German and therefore foreign, were he to ever become the largest shareholder, he would need to have a sceptical and parochial local fan base onside, its scepticism raised by all the recent history involving foreign suitors.

One of these was of course The Plumber. The Paul Davidson fiasco made a laughing stock out of many, and not just those associated with the club which, in any case, has been adept in achieving laughing-stock status on its own and without the intervention of some Mitty-like character.

Davidson had a vision as well. Part of this involved constructing a plastics recycling plant and slapping the Real Mallorca brand name (sic) onto all manner of business ideas. And of course, Real Mallorca was going to become a big cheese of a football team. League titles, European titles, and so on.

Utz has now gone public in presenting his vision going forward to the year 2020. This twenty-twenty vision includes Real Mallorca becoming the third force in Spanish football (behind, one supposes, Real Madrid and Barça) and generating extra income through the building of day care centres, chapels and cemeteries. You what!? Apparently, there are such things in the grounds of some German clubs' stadia, so we will have to take Utz's word that having a cemetery behind one end of Mallorca's stadium might be a sound idea.

This does beg a question (in fact, it begs several), and that is - which stadium? Moreover, plans for building this and that have a tendency to get bound up in local politics and red tape; Davidson's idea for a recycling plant was crackers, as he would never have got permission for it.

On the footballing side, it is not uncommon for wannabe club owners to have visions of league and European glory, but for Mallorca to be taking part habitually in the Champions League, which is what Utz envisions, something pretty dramatic would have to occur. Like finding a load of money. You can't knock a chap for having a vision, like you can't knock him for having a daft haircut, but the scepticism level will surely have been raised several more notches as a consequence of Utz dreaming of Europe.

The best that Mallorca could hope for would be to be like Stoke City, a well-run club and team that knocks on the doors of the Europa League and has gained admission. But this, apart from the well-run bit, is what Mallorca have been and are. The club and team are two separate things. The club has been in turmoil, while the team, if it hasn't necessarily thrived, has still managed to achieve, and very nearly qualifying for a Europa League spot this season was an achievement.

Utz is playing the PR game in seeking support from the fan base and the wider Mallorcan public in his battles with other club owners. Whether he convinces is questionable. Building cemeteries comes on the back of previous ideas, such as bringing great plane loads of Germans to watch Mallorca, one that was greeted with derision in some quarters of the press. And now there is also his vision of the team being bolstered by star players from Spain, England and Germany, all part of trying to drum up foreign supporters. But which star players? Utz isn't like the Venkys, who had in mind Ronaldinho and Beckham, but is his vision just a PR strategy pure and simple?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 May 2012

Sunny but blustery morning with a high of 18.2 C at 09:30. Remaining quite windy with highs of up to 24 anticipated but might be hard to achieve.

Afternoon update: It did warm up and the high has been 23.7 C, but breezy for most of the day.

Preferential Treatment: Magalluf

"These project innovators are going to distinguish us as a preferential tourist destination." Thus spake Manuel Onieva, mayor of Calviá, and with his words, he probably put a considerable number of noses out of joint, those belonging to mayors of other resort towns. These other mayors will already know that they are second-class tourist-resort citizens, but they don't need their noses being rubbed in it as well as being put out of joint.

Onieva was speaking in the context of the announcement of the venture between Meliá Hotels International and Katmandu Park whereby the Sol Magalluf Park hotel will become the Sol Katmandu Resort. Themed hotels have become the vogue and when you have a theme virtually on your doorstep, i.e. the House of Katmandu, why not integrate it as a theme?

Innovative it is and Meliá are going further in introducing a so-called "Sol Fun Pass", an entertainment card that will apparently guarantee the best prices for entrance to Katmandu and to Golf Fantasia to clients of its Sol brand of hotels in Magalluf and Palmanova. In essence, this is a dose of added value to guests as well an added incentive for tourists to choose Meliá, and is part also of Meliá's vision of the Sol Calviá Resort and its transformation of Magalluf.

It is a further example as well of the extent to which Meliá seems to be taking Magalluf over. I suggested from the outset, when Meliá's plans were first announced for its major upgrade, that Magalluf may as well be renamed Sol Calviá Resort. Little did I know that the town hall were thinking along similar lines, though the Nova Calviá suggestion that's been doing the rounds misses the point. It is Meliá which is providing the wherewithal for the new Magalluf, so why not indeed just rename the place Sol Calviá Resort?

To come back to Onieva's preferential tourist destination; how mayors in other resort towns must be looking on at what is happening in Magalluf with envy and probably no small amount of anxiety. The revamp, which now includes the new Katmandu theme, is going to make other resorts look tired by comparison, and some of them are tired enough without the bright, shiny new beast of Magalluf beaming lights of innovation.

The anxiety would stem from the fact that Magalluf is not only becoming a preferential tourist destination in the sense that tourists will prefer to go there than elsewhere it has also been granted preferential status in terms of the attention being lavished on it. But this is not preferential treatment as a consequence of governmental favouritism, it owes everything to Meliá.

Another old resort, Alcúdia (just to take an example), would bite the hands off a hotel chain that came up with similar plans. Meliá would be most unlikely to be that chain, as it operates only one hotel in Alcúdia. Magalluf and Meliá go together like the horse and carriage.

It is the concentration of hotels under the same ownership that has facilitated Meliá's plans. Such concentration of ownership doesn't necessarily occur elsewhere. In Alcúdia, it certainly doesn't. In its main tourist centre, that part of the resort some three kilometres away from its port centre, ownership is fragmented, but there is always the Bellevue question.

This vast complex, saddled with debt and all manner of horrors for years, would, were a visionary organisation with massively deep pockets to contemplate such a thing, make an ideal location for some transformational theming. If not on the same scale as that in Magalluf, there is nevertheless tremendous scope, which includes the fact that currently the site can accommodate around 5,000 people.

There again, perhaps simply seeking to ape what is occurring in Magalluf is not the right approach. Magalluf will end up, even if it doesn't have its name changed, as a re-branded resort with an emphasis on holiday fun of a less unsophisticated type than it is currently known for. Fun should always be uppermost in delivering the goods to hoildaymakers, but there are different types of fun, so perhaps Alcúdia really should go all out to make itself what it has wanted to, which is a centre of sports tourism, rather than do it in the half-baked fashion it has been doing until now.

Whatever other resorts might dream up, there is one aspect in which they find it hard to be competitive, and this is the level of attraction that exists both within Magalluf and close by it. These attractions are an additional means by which Magalluf has preferential status bestowed on it. And with the onset of themed hotels as attractions, it enhances this status. Mayor Onieva is not wrong.

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 May 2012

A thunderstorm came in late on yesterday evening and persisted until after midnight. The morning is soggy, there having been more rain, the top is 15 degrees at 08:45, and it feels chilly. No great shakes temperature-wise today, windy with a yellow advice out for adverse coastal conditions. The higher temperatures forecast for later in the week remain in the cards together with this short burst of instability passing.

Afternoon update: Pretty disappointing day, a top of only 19.5 C, the cloud mainly disappeared by the later afternoon but the breeze remained, making things feel more like March than May.

Taking Refuge: Dry stone routes

I've been there. Ivebeenthere. This "Guardian" operated website, which allows those who have been somewhere to tell others where they have been, is, like most recommendation websites, quite useful. Being the "Guardian", the places travellers have been to tend not to be the usual fare. Chris2005 who is, to use the ivebeenthere vernacular, its "top tipper", has been to 235 places, while the second top tipper, Sissi, has seemingly spent an entire lifetime travelling the world and notching up 196 places to which he or she has been. "I've been everywhere, man."

Chavan, on the other hand, hasn't been everywhere. He or she has only ever been to one place. Or had, as of 9 May. It's never easy to understand the derivation of website nicknames, but one supposes that Chavan is not a chav. You don't get many chavs hacking along the GR221 dry stone route in the Tramuntana mountains. Regardless of the origin of the moniker, Chavan has taken to the route and joins other Mallorcan tippers (74 in all), who invariably seem never to have set foot in a karaoke bar, in informing us as to where he has been (let's just settle on a he, shall we, as I can't be bothered keep on typing he or she).

GR 221, and this is the main point of Chavan's tips, takes in not just dry stones along the route it also takes in refuges, five of them in all. You can stay in one at a ludicrously cheap price. Eleven euros a night. Chavan tells us that the government in Mallorca (by which is meant the Council of Mallorca) "provides stunning refuge accommodation for hikers", one of the refuges being in Pollensa. Near to the Roman bridge, it had a slight problem with the roof in that part of it fell in, or to be more accurate, the skylight fell in to the dining area where, as Chavan points out, you can have an "optional dinner at 8.50 euros", which is indeed "brilliant value for three courses including a carafe of wine", but then so are many menus of the day. Or it would be brilliant value, assuming the refuge had actually reopened. Maybe I've missed something, but as far as I know it is still closed. Perhaps someone can advise.  

The value for money that the refuges offer has not gone unnoticed. If you were to pitch up any time in the next few days and look to unlace your sensible walking shoes, unhitch your rucksack and seek to relax in eleven-euros-a-night stunning accommodation, you would in all likelihood be told that there is no room at the inn. The refuges get booked up in advance, and at eleven euros a night this isn't surprising.

But for how much longer might the refuges operate in such a fashion? Two of them, including Pollensa's, are up for some privatisation. The Council of Mallorca may currently provide stunning accommodation, but it's costing them an arm and a leg to do so. There is a shortfall of some 600 grand per annum, again not surprising when the nightly charge is so low and the refuges themselves are fine old piles that require a fine old amount of looking after or repairing, as in when the skylight falls in.

The spectre of privatisation hasn't gone down that well in Pollensa. The refuge, so some local businesses suggest, represents unfair competition. In private hands and the competition would be more unfair. It is hard to see how, though. Even in private hands, the refuge can only accommodate a maximum of 38 people. If anything, a private operator might want to up the rates, though it presumably wouldn't be allowed to (or not significantly), which would draw into question whether privatisation would in fact be feasible. Moreover, as far as accommodation is concerned, Pollensa town is hardly awash with hotels, and those that there are, apart from the larger Son Brull on the outskirts, are small boutique-style establishments.

The omens for Pollensa's refuge and indeed the others aren't that good. If the Council cannot find private operators for the two it is lining up, there has to be the possibility that they would be closed. Noises from the Council have hardly been reassuring either recently or in the past; the previous administration's councillor for the environment described the hostels as not being economically profitable.

If privatisation were to go ahead and were operators allowed to bump up rates substantially, then the whole ethos of the refuges would change. Chavan, clearly grateful to a local government, for its stunning accommodation, might, when he is there in future, be disappointed to find that they have changed. This would be a huge shame. There is much to be said for the refuges, their character, their style and their appeal to a certain type of visitor. The dry stone routes are a minority interest for Mallorca's tourists, but it is a form of tourism that deserves supporting. Rather than fewer or no refuges, there should be more of them.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 May 2012

A top of 20.2 C by 09:00 on a sunny morning with a touch of cloud around. Still the possibility of a touch of rain later and also tomorrow. The forecast into next week is for a significant rise in temperature by the end of the week.

Afternoon update: A 24.4 C high on a day of a mix of cloud, sun and breeze.

Towns And Cities: Confusing places

Mallorca, like the rest of Spain, has any number of definitions as to places. And being Mallorca, it has these definitions in more than one language. Like Britain, there can be villages, towns or cities, but understanding why a place is one or the other in Mallorca isn't straightforward.

Manacor celebrates on Monday its one-hundredth anniversary of having been named (by royal decree) as a "ciudad". The problem with a ciudad is that it can mean either town or city. In Manacor's case, I am pretty sure it doesn't mean city. There are, or appear to be, similar criteria for a place to be a city in Spain as in Britain, e.g. a cathedral. However, this doesn't prevent Madrid, the capital of Spain that has a damn great cathedral apparently not being a city, or a ciudad. It is in fact a "villa": not somewhere you stay when on holiday with a nice pool and a terrace barbecue, but a town - at least I think it's a town. Madrid can, though, claim to be a villa with a capital V, which other villas can't claim, unless they're from Aston.

Barcelona, on the other hand, is a ciudad, as in a city (possibly). A distinction between a villa and ciudad is that a ciudad enjoys greater privileges than a villa. Which is odd. I mean, how many privileges does Madrid need to acquire to have more than Barcelona; it's the bloody capital after all. And on this basis, Manacor has more privileges than Madrid. Maybe.

Confused? You're not the only one. In Mallorca, its best known city (and probably its only one), Palma, has in the past been known simply as "Ciudad"; it still is among some. City seems reasonable enough in Palma's case. Massive cathedral, university, centre of administration, loads of people; they all fit a city template. Manacor can't claim the same. Yet it is a ciudad, whereas somewhere like Santa Margalida is a villa, or more commonly a "vila", as in the Catalan. Santa Margalida is indeed commonly referred to as vila, though a vila can also, in Catalan, be a village. So maybe Santa Margalida is actually a village. But it, like Madrid, manages to get itself a capital V. Vila. How did that happen?

Ah but, there is another type of village, which is the "pueblo". This is a place with all manner of pretensions as a pueblo is not just a village, it is also the entire state of Spain and/or its people. The pueblo is how one might refer to, for example, Alcúdia town, though a working definition for a ciudad, in its broadest sense through population size, would make it a ciudad. It isn't a village, not with close to 20,000 people it isn't, but this is the population of the whole municipality, and officially this is what Alcúdia is, as is Manacor, which is also, in official terms, a ciudad.

In Mallorca, there is also the "pobla", as in Sa Pobla. What's this? It isn't a Catalan "pueblo", as this would be "poble". A pobla is a population, a place with people if you like. Sa Pobla is sometimes known by a Spanish variant, La Puebla, though it could also be La Población. Pobla, Puebla, Población, it's a municipality nevertheless.

We could also consider the "aldea" or the "lugar", but by now I imagine you've lost the will to live, so we won't. Instead, let's go back a hundred years and to the time when Manacor became a town, or a city; a ciudad at any rate.

It became so because a Mallorcan parliamentary deputy wanted it to be. Alexandre Rosselló petitioned the king of the time, the later-to-be treacherous Alfonso XIII, and he said yes, you shall have your ciudad. And what qualified Manacor for this status? Knowing this might actually help us to understand what makes a ciudad and what doesn't, though you shouldn't bank on it. It all had to do with Majorica Pearls. The company was booming, as also was the local timber trade. Added to this was the fact that Manacor was a town (or city) committed to supporting the crown and had a population - a población, so maybe a pobla or puebla as well - of over 15,000 people.

So there we are. This is how Manacor became a ciudad. But is it a city or a town? I'm going town, but then a town is a villa, but a villa could also be a village, or is this only in Catalan, and a village is a pueblo, but that's also the whole country and its capital is a villa and not a ciudad. A town and not a city. Possibly.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 May 2012

17.9 C the best at 08:45 on a cloudy morning, clearing to give a warn day with tops towards 24 degrees. Tomorrow and Monday, rain is possible.

Afternoon update: A high of 21.7 C after the cloud went away and left a reasonably sunny day.

Guns n' Joses: Bauzá under attack

"Fewer guns and more schools." One of the less insulting insults hurled at El Presidente José Ramón Bauzá who has come out of his Palma bunker and deigned to visit the two larger towns in Mallorca most associated with opposition to his anti-Catalanism. Along with the insults was an egg. It landed on a police bodyguard, a baldy who, on first look, bore a strong resemblance to Bauzá's potential nemesis, Antoni Pastor, the mayor of Manacor.

It didn't seem to have been primarily anti-Catalanism that had stoked the flames of protest in Inca, though it played a part. Here was some good old-fashioned agitprop, a list of subjects for complaint as long as your arm, one that can hurl an egg. "More schools." Well, you never know, there might have to be more schools to cope with the government's potty decision to allow two systems of education to run alongside each other. The fewer-guns demand presumably had something to do with the police. The guns stayed firmly in holster in front of the baying crowd, though in truth it wasn't really all that baying. It was a crowd like crowds normally are. "Bastard" went one of the insults. Bauzá has been called worse and usually by trade union leaders - one in particular.

The Inca agitators were out on what was the second leg of a Bauzá protestathon that comprised only Inca and Manacor. Inca, it would appear, came in a fairly poor second. It could only muster 250 indignant youths (and they were mainly youths), whereas Manacor could stretch to 500. Well, Manacor is a bigger town, so this would explain the higher numbers among the rent-a-mobs. Manacor also outdid Inca in terms of its weaponry - pigs' tongues and full bottles of water went in the Bauzá direction.

A fair old amount of fuss has been kicked up by Bauzá avoiding the odd egg. It's undemocratic - all that sort of guff. It's quite the opposite. Protest is, or should be, part of the democratic process, especially when jobs are going down the pan, and the president in question hasn't got the faintest idea as to how they might be flushed out. Violent demonstration is no answer. Well, no it isn't, but there's violence and there's violence. An egg. This is violence in low-key Mallorcan demo terms. And low-key it all is. Manacor has a population of around 40,000. This would mean that 1.25% of the population turned out to demonstrate violently or in fact to just do what demonstrators do. Of the 1.25%, a number would almost certainly not have come from Manacor. Yet this is meant to be the main centre of dissent, thanks to Pastor.

The Inca and Manacor gatherings are just the latest manifestations of dissatisfaction with Bauzá, but like previous protests, such as in Palma, the numbers were hardly great. In fact, they have been distinctly disappointing. If there are to be demos, at least do them properly and gather more people than might meander through the turnstiles at a Scottish Second Division football match. Perish the thought that Bauzá might extend his protestathon and pitch up at some much smaller places in Mallorca. They'd be lucky to muster a man and his dog, which would not be good in agitprop PR terms.

And those who have been gathering have primarily been the youth, the usual suspects on such occasions therefore, who have come up against an opposition consisting of further youth, members of Nuevas Generaciones, who are like the Young Conservatives. Whereas the anti-Bauzá brigade all have dreadlocks and beards and earnestly attempt to find careers as graphic designers or potters, the Nuevas Generaciones are the Mallorcan versions of Tory Boy Hagues, preposterous haircuts (in the days when the boy Hague had hair), smug jokes and the wearing of ties.

For all that Mallorcans will protest about any damn thing, they don't really do protests. Not very well at any rate. You'd think that from the sheer number of protests that there are for this, that or the other thing, they'd have learnt some of the art by now. Forget the pigs' tongues, just hurl the whole pig's head. Don't stop at an egg, chuck an entire shopping-trolley load of perishables and produce, and then chuck the trolley as well for good measure.

There again, and on second thoughts, maybe not. "Fewer guns." Oh yes, I forgot about those.

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Police press for Alcúdia hotel security

Alcúdia's local police force has met with hoteliers to impress upon the need to apply control measures in their establishments in order to prevent crime and possible incidents.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 May 2012

Cloud again. Clearing later. 17.6 C the high at 08:45, rising to the mid-20s perhaps. The weekend is likely to be mostly sunny and warm but there is a chance of rain on Sunday.

Afternoon update: A best of 21.7 C on a day when cloud got up in the afternoon and deposited a slight drop of rain. 

The Man Who Dithered: The Bankia crisis

If the Spanish Government, rather than bailing out Bankia, were to give everyone in Spain an equal share of the sum it will end up pumping into the bank, everyone would be better off to the tune of 25 million euros.

Well, actually no, they wouldn't be. Toss large numbers around with lots of noughts, and chances are that there will be a miscalculation along the way. Everyone would end up with around 250 euros, which is quite a difference.

The 25 million thing has been doing the rounds as indignation grows as to the parlous state of Bankia and most of Spain's banking sector. To indignation, one can add genuine fear. It's finally happening.

The crisis at Bankia is not one of the past few days. It has been brewing. A solution to the problems with what had been a merger of various banks (i.e. Bankia) was to have been a further merger - of Bankia with La Caixa. This had been on the table since at least March, but nothing happened because the now ex-president of Bankia, Rodrigo Rato, wouldn't countenance a merger that would have resulted in power over what would have become Spain's main bank residing in Barcelona with La Caixa. In Catalonia.

There was a further reason why nothing happened. Rajoy dithered, as Rajoy always dithers. For once though, his indecisiveness might not have been a bad thing. Why it was thought that a merger with La Caixa was sensible, who knows. While many of the problems with the Spanish banking sector have been put down to the debts held by small savings banks, another problem is that the sheer size of some banks threatens to collapse the whole banking edifice in Spain.

Bankia's toxic debt would have been added to what La Caixa has. And what might this be? Good question, but it should be recalled that, as an example, it was La Caixa which was at the vanguard of aggressive mortgage selling that led to the bursting of the property bubble in the Andalusian town of Benalup, the town in Spain with the highest level of young-person unemployment.

Rajoy has at least ordered there to be independent audits of Spanish banks. It's something, but Rajoy's credibility, crumbling as rapidly as the Spanish banking system, has been severely undermined by the fact that he has gone back on his word that there wouldn't be bailouts for banks. Other promises broken, such as that on IVA, and Rajoy is heading towards his own crisis. He should have acted sooner, before Bankia's crisis deepened and continues to deepen. The only solution was a bailout.

Amidst this crisis, Rajoy insists that he's the man for the crisis as he is a rarity among European leaders in having a strong parliamentary majority. He hasn't taken at all kindly to suggestions as to what he should be doing from Italy's prime minister who doesn't have a majority as he wasn't actually elected.

Rajoy may be right, but what has he been doing with his majority? Monti may have been parachuted in as unelected leader, but he does at least give the impression of knowing what he's doing, unlike Rajoy. And while Rajoy may have a majority, support in the country is ebbing away. He does little to try and reassure his supporters as he is so rarely visible. It may be his style to work behind the scenes, but Spain is crying out for a leader who is credible and who can carry the country through what is now at the point of being its worst moment of the whole economic crisis. Increasingly, there is little alternative for Rajoy than to have to go cap in hand to the IMF or the European Financial Stability Facility.

There is probably also little alternative to the Spanish Government having to step in and support some other major Spanish banks, but would it have the wherewithal to be able to do so?

Politically, there is a worry that Rajoy, shielding himself behind his whistling-in-the-dark majority boast and having dismissed an offer from  the leader of PSOE, Alfredo Rubalcaba, to form a pact, has created a vacuum of economic and financial leadership. His own inaction, combined with confusion as to who within his cabinet is really in charge of economic affairs, unnerves everyone: the markets, Frau Merkel, anyone you care to mention.

Rato is the rat who left the sinking ship of Bankia. He's been blamed for a lot, but who was it who got him appointed at Caja Madrid before Bankia? The man with a majority, the man who dithered.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - La Gola and Pollensa beaches sorted

Two of Pollensa's most pressing tourism issues have been resolved. The information centre in the La Gola park has been re-opened with an attendant provided by the Espais de Natura Balear (environment ministry), while the town hall will look after cleaning in the park.

The management of beaches in Puerto Pollensa and Cala San Vicente will be under local residents' associations. This used to be the case in Puerto Pollensa, but wasn't last year, something which helped to contribute to the problems of beach management, and will be the case for the first time in Cala San Vicente. A contract is also being drawn up to provide lifeguards. Final submissions for this contract were not until 7 May, a week after the official season had started.

MALLORCA TODAY - Briton dies after Alcúdia hotel accident

A 77-year-old British tourist who fell down stairs at a hotel in Alcúdia last Thursday died on Tuesday morning as a result of the injuries he incurred.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 May 2012

15.5 C at 09:00. Sunny morning though. Highs into the low-20s. Tomorrow cloudy, Sunday may be rainy.

Afternoon update: Cranked up again. 24.3 C the top.

Killing The Shops: Discretionary spend

I bumped into someone in Puerto Pollensa the other day who I have known ever since he opened his first shop some years ago. Back then, and we're talking probably eight years ago, he was full of enthusiasm. Mallorcan, he spoke perfect English in an often vivid fashion and was imbued with an American mentality of the can-do.

He expanded and opened further shops. It would be totally unfair to make these shops recognisable, but suffice it to say that they weren't (still aren't) the usual fare. They are different, in other words. An Americanisation of marketing had taken over and with it had come differentiation and other expressions from the marketing lexicon. It all seemed like it was progressive, innovative, new. And for a time, it all worked.

The person I met the other day was not the same one I had first come to know those years ago. He's keeping the Puerto Pollensa shop going for the season, but at the end of the season is likely to close it.

It is of course only early into the season, too soon perhaps to make a judgement, but he was saying that the evenings, in terms of passing trade, were like those he had once known in March. He asked me what I thought. I shook my head, not because I was unable to supply an explanation but because I have all but given up bothering to offer one.

A strengthening pound, and Puerto Pollensa is very British, and you would think there would be more action. There again, word coming from some sources suggest that all the forecasts as to volume of British tourism that were emanating from the trade fairs during the winter are proving to have been wide of the mark. There is also a good deal of concern being voiced by local tourism sources as to the "chauvinistic" campaign by David Cameron to impress upon the Brits the value of the staycation.

There are always reasons one can latch onto. One that doesn't obtain in Puerto Pollensa to anything like the extent that it does in other resorts is that of the all-inclusive. It has grown in the resort but remains only a small contributor to the overall market.

The main reason, and despite a strengthening pound, is that shops have born the brunt of the economic downturn, more so than bars and restaurants. The only shops which have remained on an even keel or even flourished have been the chemists, the tobacconists and the supermarkets, the latter thanks to a growth in eat-in by tourists.

Tourism spend has always been discretionary. During the boom times, this spend found its way into shop tills for products that were rarely or if at all essential. It is the rise in consumer discretion that has been as significant a factor as all-inclusives and downturn in determining the impact on resorts' shops, and this rise pre-dates economic crisis.

This rise in spending discretion also draws into question the viability of revised opening hours, such as in Palma, and especially where larger stores are concerned. The tourism market, when it does spend in shops, tends to look for the more unusual or the local. Larger stores tend to deal in the familiar and in the domestic market; the benefits they are likely to make from tourism, when set against higher operational costs, are debatable.

But even the spend on the unusual or the different has been affected. The shops of the chap I bumped into in the street trade in the different. As such, they conform with a call for the wider tourism trade to innovate, yet they have not proven to be sustainable. And it is discretionary spend, more than anything, which is killing them.

The starkest change to this shopowner is in the way his enthusiasm has ebbed away. He admitted that he has lost his motivation, that he has become sick of it all. Not because he has lost enthusiasm or motivation for what he sells, but because of the way in which the market has changed over the past few years and which has sapped him of the motivation. He is not alone, and to the economic factors you can add, in Puerto Pollensa, the arrival of an evening market. It might benefit other businesses, but it does nothing for the shops. They have been strangled by economic factors, and there is little life left and likely to be little life in the future.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 May 2012

Cloudy but no rain planned. A top of 16.7 C at 08:45.

Afternoon update: The morning cloud lingered well into the afternoon. One the sun appeared, the temperature didn't rise appreciably, a high of only 17 degrees today. Warmer tomorrow, or so it is forecast, but cloud at times and heavier on Friday, while projections into Sunday suggest the odd shower.

The Disgrace Of Son Real

It may not have escaped your attention that I have written quite frequently about the Son Real finca in Santa Margalida. I suspect that most of you will never have been to the finca and that most of you would not normally have the slightest interest in it. Which does of course tell its own story. But interested in the finca or not, its management, or absence of management, and its recent history are the story of government organisation in a Mallorcan style. Profligate, confused, unfocussed, negligent, political. If you want a metaphor for Mallorcan government, you will find it at Son Real, not that you would find it as you wouldn't be bothered to go there.

Son Real, in terms of its volume of ancient remains, is the most important archaeological site on Mallorca. Period. Yet this most important of sites has been treated in a manner, since its acquisition by the Balearic Government in 2002, which amounts to a total and utter disgrace.

The finca was bought out of funds raised by the old eco-tax. Which is interesting in itself, as much of what should have been handed over from the tax wasn't and still hasn't been handed over because hotels which collected it have refused to. Let's give the government of the time (Francesc Antich's first PSOE-led coalition) the benefit of the doubt and accept that the eco-tax was the source of the funds. The finca cost 17.4 million euros.

It then cost a further three million euros for various works to be performed on the finca, including the old buildings that are there and the visitors' centre, a visitors' centre which has been closed for some months.

The cost, while high, can be justified because of the finca's heritage, assuming of course that its value and the value of the work performed were themselves justified. What cannot be justified is the fact that, since the acquisition, precious little has been done in making Son Real a genuine site to attract visitors. Self-financing via entrance fees, even over a period of several years, has simply not happened. The finca's visitor numbers are low, and its promotion, especially to tourists, is lamentable.

Much of the blame for the recent history can be attached to the decision to create the Fundació Balears Sostenible (sustainable Balearics foundation) in 2003. This foundation was designed to administer the eco-tax and, as a consequence, it ended up with overseeing different sites on Mallorca, of which Son Real was one. It was where the foundation was located that has come to be seen as having been the issue: within the tourism ministry.

It is arguable whether the tourism ministry was the correct one to have ultimate responsibility. But perhaps accepting that it wasn't the right one, the current government is to transfer management to the Espais de Natura Balear, which is an organisation within the environment ministry. Whether tourism or environment ministry just highlights the lack of focus in respect of the finca's management. Is it a tourist attraction or is it a place of environmental protection? The new management will hopefully improve the running of the finca, but whether it makes the slightest bit of difference to the number of visitors it attracts must be open to question.

More than just its place on the government's organisational chart, the foundation, created by the Jaume Matas administration, became embroiled in the corruption scandals at the tourism ministry that erupted three years ago. Unlike other agencies within the ministry that were also caught up in these scandals, it wasn't disbanded, but its future has been uncertain. And with this uncertainty has come a lack of direction and, more recently, a highly political direction that made the finca the focus of all manner of discontent.

The decision by the current government to appoint Jorge Campos as the director of the foundation and therefore the boss of the finca seemed somewhat strange. Though Campos had a background in environmental matters, he was far better known as having founded the right-wing, anti-Catalan Circulo Balear. Once in office, he made some provocative moves, such as insisting that the Spanish flag be flown at the entrance to the finca. Son Real became a political battleground between left and right, while Santa Margalida town hall got highly brassed off by what it saw as negligent administration.

Campos has now resigned his post. It was going to disappear anyway, along with the foundation, but his resignation owes nothing to issues related to the running of Son Real; it stems from his dissatisfaction with the Bauzá administration in not being more aggressive in pushing an anti-Catalan line. The question must be asked. Why was he ever appointed?

The environment ministry now assuming control, one would hope that a new and better era beckons for Son Real. It deserves far better. Whether it gets it, we'll find out.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Son Real under new management

The management of the Son Real finca in Santa Margalida is now passing, as had been previously signalled, from the Balearics Sustainable Foundation (within the tourism ministry) to the Espais de Natura Balear, which is within the environment ministry. It is being hoped that this will actually mean that the finca is managed, which it hasn't been.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 May 2012

What's going on with the forecast? Another brief storm and some rain last night. Not that you would know it this morning. 17.7 C the best at 08:30 and clear, sunny skies.

Afternoon update: A mild day with a high of 21 degrees; more the norm for this time in May than the high temperatures of the weekend.

Publicity Seekers: Leafleting in Sa Pobla

You may have noticed that there are certain things that you have to do according to what date it is or what period of a month it is. One such thing is where you can park on some streets. During the first half of the month, it is one side, during the second half, the other. Why is this? If someone can offer a sensible explanation, I'd love to know. I guess I know the answer - street cleaning - but when does this happen?

There is to be something else that is to be determined by day and time of the month and even by the hours of days. This something else is to be introduced in Sa Pobla and it concerns the distribution of publicity material. The town hall is introducing a local by-law which stipulates that such material can only be distributed between the hours of eight in the morning and two in the afternoon on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Seriously, I'm not making this up.

The publicity material concerned is, or at least I think it is, the type that gets deposited in letter-boxes, or not as the case may be. It could, therefore, be the I'm Pedro, I'll paint your house for 200 euros type of thing or the I'm Juan, I'll perform house reforms (sic) and then not charge you when the place collapses because I forgot to put an RSJ up.

What actually is the problem? According to Sa Pobla town hall, there have been many complaints because of the lack of control regarding the distribution of such material. It is perhaps understandable. Wander past an apartment-block entrance and the letter-boxes will be stuffed with literature and the entrance itself is likely to be littered with it. Most of it isn't of the type by which local builders, gardeners, painters or whatever are trying to get some work; most of it is for shops, electrical ones or supermarkets in particular.

But as I neither live in Sa Pobla nor in an apartment block, I can't personally say I have any complaint about the distribution of publicity material. Indeed, so little is there, that what there is does tend to grab my attention. And it seems harsh if local people trying to drum up business (of the Pedro and Juan type) should be penalised because of severe limitations as to when they can distribute publicity, as will be the case in Sa Pobla. And of course penalties there will be. Up to six grand for the worst offenders.

Sa Pobla isn't confining its clampdown on publicity to what gets delivered door to door. It is also going to prohibit that which uses the likes of lamp posts and also prohibit display units on the "public way". Is there really an overabundance of all this in Sa Pobla? What harm is there if a display stand is stuck on the edge of a pavement? You just ignore what's in it or not. Don't you? Of course, there is a further reason why the town hall would object to this type of display. Public way means belonging to the town hall, which in turn means you should pay the town hall for the privilege of using its space; it was this argument that Alcúdia town hall once used to stop people parking cars with damn great for-sale signs in the windows.

Sa Pobla town hall is justifying its move in part on environmental grounds and on account of the cost of collecting the rubbish that all the bits of publicity create. It may have a point, but one reason why there is so much rubbish from promotional literature is because so many houses don't have letterboxes. Perhaps the town hall might consider insisting that they do.

While I am not in the slightest bit concerned about publicity distribution, there is one example that I have long wondered about. It's probably not an issue in Sa Pobla, but have you ever seen those leaflets for excursions that are often just left on low walls under stones. Some Scandinavian thing. How does this work exactly? As in, how is it possible to just place the leaflets all over the place and then let them fly all over the place when the stone gets dislodged and the wind gets up? Like the monthly parking restrictions, if anyone can explain to me how this is permitted, I would dearly like to know.

To come back to Sa Pobla, my guess is that the town hall is sensing the opportunity of an earner. Its burka ban having been a failure in that it hasn't been able to issue a single fine, it's been on the lookout for other sources of income. First it was the introduction of the plainclothes police doggy-doo patrols and now the publicity seekers. And the town hall will need some seekers. Won't it? I mean, how does anyone know if a leaflet gets placed in a letterbox at one minute past two on the first or third Tuesday of each month?

More than this, how many businesses will be aware that they should only be delivering between eight and two on these days each month. Sa Pobla town hall will hope that it won't be many. A six grand fine, anyone?

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 14, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 May 2012

Last night things changed for the worse and there was a brief storm and some heavy rain. Where had that come from? Certainly hadn't been forecast. Anyway, back to normality this morning. Bright and warm, 19.1 C the top at 09:15.

Afternoon update: A much cooler day, with a high of only 20.1 C.

Property For Free: Taxing the church

Who is the largest landowner in Spain? The answer is not a who but a what. It is the Catholic church.

Knowing exactly how much property holding the church has and how much it is worth is not only difficult, it is virtually impossible. An estimate that has been placed on the value to the Spanish church is, in total, 158 billion US dollars, of which 16 billion are "visible", the rest being in networks of trusts and companies.

This estimate comes from a source which is a vehement critic of the church, both in Spain and elsewhere, so it has to be treated with a good deal of caution (and indeed scepticism). Whatever the real value (and another estimate puts it at around seven billion euros, so quite a difference), there is no doubting that in property terms (and others) the church is extremely wealthy. And under an agreement drawn up in 1979, it doesn't pay property tax.

Just think about this for a moment. Apart from the fact that the largest landowner is exempt from tax, whereas private individuals and businesses are all meant to pay it, if the church were to pay the tax, a not insignificant hole in the nation's finances might well be filled. How big the hole might be, who can tell? But big enough, you would imagine.

It is easy perhaps to look at a figure such as the one above and be either amazed or outraged by the scale of the holdings and by the exemption, but one has to take into account what some of the church's property is: magnificent churches and their works of art, part of the national heritage and which require an awful lot of looking after.

On these grounds, the exemption is partially justifiable, but whether complete exemption is justified, is a different matter, especially at a time of such economic hardship. And there are plenty of local authorities which are wondering just this and which are trying to figure out ways of getting a piece of the church's property action.

Two cities, Valladolid and León, are examining what they might be able to tax, while another, Zamora, is going to charge church-owned buildings for rubbish collection. These cities are following a lead set by the government in Italy where the church is also exempt from property tax. The Monti administration has announced that tax will be paid on any property that doesn't have a totally religious function; the estimated tax bill is 720 million euros on holdings of some nine billion euros.

There may be a benefit in having a politically non-aligned technocrat as prime minister. Monti is not beholden to anyone or any organisation. The same, however, cannot be said for the Spanish prime minister.

The Partido Popular came to power with the implicit (almost explicit) support of the church. For its government to now turn round and slap a property tax bill on the church is pretty much unthinkable, and were it to be even thinking of doing so, the church has been digging its heels in and rejecting any such notion.

One local authority which isn't contemplating seeking a means of taxing the church is that of Madrid. Its mayor, Ana Botella, has dismissed the idea. There again, Madrid is home to the most powerful of Spain's cardinals, while it might be remembered who Sra. Botella is: the wife of former prime minister José María Aznar, a former Partido Popular prime minister.

The church does play and is playing a significant role in providing assistance to those worst affected by economic crisis. The demands made on the Caritas charity have grown greatly, and the church's charitable work should not be underestimated in a country where there isn't the level of social benefit elsewhere. This is a further reason perhaps for looking charitably on the church and how it is taxed, or not.

But with austerity, to which one might add a tendency to greater transparency (as with the King declaring his income), the church would score enormous numbers of PR brownie points if it were to suggest that it would contribute some property tax. It's not as though it is in penury, unlike many of its flock. Not when it can count on 250 million euros a year raised from contributions through the income tax system.

It's unlikely, though, to volunteer to start paying property tax, just as it is unlikely that prime minister Rajoy will come with a tax demand. Perhaps Spain really does need the full Monti.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Madrid 4 : 1 Real Mallorca

A European place up for grabs. Last day of the season. Where better or easier for Mallorca than a trip to champions to Real Madrid.

The story of the match could probably have been pre-written. Madrid all over Mallorca who had opted for a set-up to try and frustrate; it was never going to work, and it didn't. Özil's first strike just after the half-time break pretty much settled things after Ronaldo and Benzema had given Madrid a two-goal lead after 45 minutes. Castro got one back, only for Özil to do with his right foot after 57 minutes what he had done with his left nine minutes earlier.

It was always going to be a long shot for Mallorca, the European place. Away at Madrid on the final day of the season was the worst possible game, and so it proved. Mallorca finish eighth, Levante taking the sixth slot after a 3-0 beating of Bilbao. Elsewhere, Villarreal are relegated, following a home defeat to Atletico Madrid, a result that will give Mallorca some consolation, as they remember all the bad blood with Villarreal over a European place from two seasons ago.

But a brave effort by Mallorca. Really brave. Relegation beckoned not so long ago, but the team put itself in with an unexpected chance of European representation. But brave also because the team achieves things in spite of all the ridiculous shenanigans off the field. If these were put right, who knows, maybe the team could be a real contender. Congratulations, Mallorca and coach Caparrós, a valiant effort; eighth is actually an achievement.

Casillas; Arbeloa (Albiol 43), Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo (Coentrao 76); Khedira, Alonso; Benzema, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuain (Di María 66)
Goals: Ronaldo (19), Benzema (22), Özil (48, 57)

Aouate (Calatayud 82); Cendrós, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Pina, Martí; Pereira (Alfaro 45), Castro, Bigas (Tissone 53); Victor
Goal: Castro (51)
Yellow: Castro (62)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 May 2012

20.2 C at 08:30 on a rather hazier morning, but plenty of sun again and some warm temperatures heading to the high-20s.

Afternoon update: A high of 27.8 C; another warm one, then.

Regional Differences: Mallorca's political centre

What's the difference between regionalism and nationalism?

I pose the question in the context of Mallorcan/Balearics politics. Nationalism has an unfortunate connotation, one of the extreme right, but this is not what we are talking about in Mallorca. In essence, nationalism and regionalism are one of the same thing. Both ideologies espouse regional government and autonomy (as is currently the case in the Balearics). The principle difference between the two is that nationalism implies a wish for greater independence. Regionalism, on the other hand, is federalism by another name.

Mostly all political parties in the Balearics have a regionalist philosophy, and they include a significant number of Partido Popular supporters and politicians. Of the nationalists, there are two parties, the PSM Mallorcan socialists and the Convergència, the former and disgraced Unió Mallorquina. There is a further nationalism, which is that founded on the notion of the independence of the Catalan lands, one commonly associated with the Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana) and one that has very little popular support. 

The Convergència was given a good old kicking at the regional elections last year. Despite its name change, it didn't fool anyone. It was still the corrupt UM. But it has attempted to distance itself from all the former UM politicians who are still being dragged through the courts and to try and re-establish itself as the third force in Mallorcan politics.

In seeking to do so, it has edged towards what may be a formal merger with La Lliga Regionalista. This party is headed by Jaume Font, a former PP politician who fell out with the current leadership over various issues, one of them being attitudes towards regionalism. It fared almost as badly as the Convergència at the last election, but as it was a new party, it was asking a lot for it to have performed any better.

Despite the difference in emphasis between the two parties, there is much common ground. The old UM, and thus the new Convergència, was barely distinguishable from the Partido Popular in many respects, except for the key issue of nationalism. It was, and therefore now is, a centre-right party in terms of many of its policies, and the same applies to Font and La Lliga. Where it did also distinguish itself from the PP was in the fact that it didn't have a nutty wing. The PP in the Balearics generally doesn't have a lunatic right, but nationally it does.

But it is what is perceived as a decidedly rightist agenda on behalf of President Bauzá and one of the local PP's main ideologues, tourism minister Delgado, in their being cool towards regionalism that gives a party of the centre-right with an identifiable regionalist identity the possibility of becoming something of a power. Bauzá's anti-regionalism is his Achilles heel (one of them), as regionalism enjoys popular support.

Could, however, a combined Convergència-La Lliga really hope to make significant inroads into the dominance of the two-party system of the PP and the Balearics version of PSOE? The old UM managed to up to a point, but whether the electorate can ever forgive them, even under a new name, has to be questionable. Much as the leaders of the two parties, Font and the Convergència's Josep Melià, may suggest that they are able to reconcile their ideological difference, a merger would seem like a marriage of convenience between two parties which, by themselves, would in all likelihood remain marginal players. Tensions over that difference might well emerge, just as they have emerged within the PP.

For the type of party Font and Melià envisage to succeed, much would depend upon what happens with the PP in the Balearics. Historically, the local PP has been supportive of regionalism, and the chances are that it might become so again. Were it to, then much of the point of La Lliga in particular would be undermined.

There is a political figure who may well hold the key, and this is Antoni Pastor. Formerly an ally of Font's within the PP, he opted to stick with the PP rather than sign up to La Lliga, and despite his differences with Bauzá, one fancies he will continue to stick with the party. One feels sure he has his eye on the leadership, regardless of his decision not to challenge Bauzá at next month's congress.

Regionalism, as much if not more than the Catalan question, is likely to be a huge factor at the next election (assuming the national PP hasn't scrapped it by then). It is supported by a majority of the population, whereas nationalism isn't, which makes it hard for a united La Lliga-Convergència to present a coherent message, one that would be made even more difficult were Pastor to head a pro-regionalist PP and to drag the party back from its movement off to the right.

Any comments to please.