Saturday, June 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa swimming-pool closed again

One moment it's open, the next it's closed. Yet again, Puerto Pollensa's swimming-pool is closed and will be until the start of September. The reason? Not totally clear as yet.

Information through the Bonygraph forum - Bony Chat

MALLORCA TODAY - 150 protest in Pollensa against the PP

The Pollensa platform of left-wing parties and the Catalan Lands Students Union, together with teachers from the local secondary school, staged their first protest yesterday against the policies of the Partido Popular.

See more: dBalears

MALLORCA TODAY - Amphibious chairs on Puerto Pollensa's beach

After all the criticism, comes the better news. The beach in Puerto Pollensa now has three amphibious chairs to allow the disabled to go into the sea as well as cover on wooden walkways on the beach.

MALLORCA TODAY - Estrella Damm advert's beaches

The marvellous video for Estrella Damm beer that was shot in Mallorca caused a great deal of speculation as to where it was filmed and which beaches featured. All is now revealed.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2012

Around midnight, it was still 33 degrees in Pollensa town. Things have cooled down a bit, the local high is 25.6C at 07.15. More high temperatures today and cloud building up later on. There is a possibility of rain later and also tomorrow, which should be far less hot.

Afternoon update: The forecast was right about cloud building up. Some has and the wind is moving around erratically, an earlier northerly bringing temperatures down to around 30 and now a southerly shoving them back up to the 34 mark at 19.00, but down on a local coastal high of 38.8C (Colonia Sant Pere area) in the early afternoon.

Homage To Catalonia

A tourist tax and the regularisation of holiday lets. Both, for different reasons and with different groups, are unpopular, but both make eminent sense. Catalonia is presenting itself as the centre of tourism sense in Spain, the centre of pragmatism that is too often missing elsewhere, such as in the Balearics.

Catalonia is taking the lead in making holiday lets legal and open to commercialisation and also stripping their offer of bureaucratic obstacles. The Catalonian Government should be congratulated. In its words, Catalonia is the "first autonomous community that is taking on a challenge with these characteristics", by which it means that some 1.7 million places that are available as holiday lets (of any type) will be regularised; that owners will not have to seek a licence as such, just simply communicate the fact that a property is for holiday rental; that owners will not have to form a business in order to make a property available; that these owners will need to guarantee, as a minimum, a telephone number for assistance to occupants; that properties will be inspected regularly; and that tourist occupants will be liable to pay the tourist tax that will apply to other accommodation in Catalonia as from the start of November.

The pragmatism of the Catalonian approach comes with a clear benefit in terms of revenue. By extending the tourist tax to holiday apartments, homes and what have you, the government can hope to add to the 100million euros a year it is already scheduled to receive from the tax's introduction. Moreover, town halls, will also have an incentive to make sure these properties are easily registered, as they will get 30% of the tax.

Everyone's a winner under the Catalonian scheme, except tourists who have to pay the tax, but as I have said before, I happen to believe it is right to tax tourists. But what of Catalonia's hoteliers? As it is the hotels which are the main opponents of holiday lets in the Balearics, how would hotels in Catalonia fare by legalising all this property? The answer is that regularising holiday apartments won't make any difference, as they already exist, just that they are outside the established legal framework. And just as in the Balearics, where I have proved that in the height of summer hotels cannot possibly be threatened by holiday lets because they can't meet anything like total tourism demand, so Catalonia's hotels cannot meet tourism demand. Catalonia's tourism numbers are higher than those in the Balearics, but the number of hotel places is in fact lower. A key difference with the Balearics is camping tourism; the number of camping places is only 50,000 lower than the 287,000 hotel places (as of 2010).

Though the accommodation mix is different in Catalonia, holiday lets are essential in meeting total tourism demand, just as they are in the Balearics. The Catalonian Government appears to accept this, which isn't of course the case in the Balearics. It is easier for the Catalonian Government to regularise holiday lets because the hotels are not as dominant, but if you were to put Catalonia's hotels and its camping sites together then they form a powerful lobby against holiday lets. The government, though, is not swayed by such a lobby.

One can interpret the Catalonian move on holiday lets as purely a revenue generator, but the Catalonian Government insists that it is making the move in recognition of the importance of "residential tourism" in Spain as a whole. I made reference to this very issue the other day when discussing the national tourism plan in which residential tourism (and its increase) is recognised as a strength. Catalonia can spin the move as being in line with this national plan - and if it wants to, then let it - but the revenue is probably the main influence.

The Balearic Government, committed to stamping out what it constantly refers to as the "oferta illegal" and having as yet dismissed the possibility of a tourist tax, must, however, be eyeing up what's going on in Catalonia with more than just passing interest. If it were to come up with a tax for all types of tourism accommodation, including that which is currently deemed illegal, then it would be looking at some serious revenue. Though the tourism law is most unlikely to include a total U-turn on holiday lets, there is pressure on the Balearic Government, such as that which has come from Menorca, to permit regularisation rather along the lines of that in Catalonia. As things stand, the new law would enable some further commercialisation of properties (not apartments), but whereas Catalonia is making life simple, the Balearics want to make life difficult, as in insisting that property owners declare themselves businesses.

The contrast between the two governments is marked. Sure there are differences in the accommodation mix, but Catalonia is acting pragmatically and the Balearics aren't. Oh that one could offer homage to Carlos Delgado and the Balearic Government for their pragmatism and not have to reserve it for Marián Muro (Catalonia's tourism director-general) and the Catalonian Government.

Any comments to please.

Index for June 2012

Antoni Pastor suspension from PP - 15 June 2012
Balearic election in 2015 - 8 June 2012
Balearic Government: a year on - 19 June 2012
Circuses and wild animals - 5 June 2012
Corruption accusation against former health minister - 10 June 2012
Croatia's competition to Mallorca - 6 June 2012
Entertainment and hotels - 28 June 2012
Estrella Damm's video - 2 June 2012
Football commentary: Euros - 25 June 2012
Holiday lets - 13 June 2012, 30 June 2012
Hotels for sale - 12 June 2012
Hotels in the Llevant - 17 June 2012
Mabel Cabrer: Artà and Santa Margalida - 29 June 2012
Mallorca's tourism leadership - 1 June 2012
Music festivals - 27 June 2012
National tourism plan - 24 June 2012
Petty crime - 20 June 2012
Playa de Muro's tourist train - 22 June 2012
Pollensa and bolshiness - 23 June 2012
Pollensa festival - 7 June 2012
President Bauzá and Partido Popular congress - 4 June 2012
Puerto Alcúdia's restaurants - 9 June 2012
Queen's Diamond Jubilee - 3 June 2012
Ritch Miller - 18 June 2012
Seasonality in Mallorca - 16 June 2012
Social responsibility: hotels - 26 June 2012
Spain's bank rescue - 11 June 2012
Tourist tax or lottery - 14 June 2012
Winter in Mallorca programme - 21 June 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla rail line under threat

Well, forget all that old talk about the rail line from Sa Pobla being extended to Alcúdia, it looks as though the line from Inca to Sa Pobla is under threat, the suggestion having been made that it might be closed.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - New golf courses with hotels under tourism law

The new Balearics tourism law is to be amended to permit further golf courses on the islands which would also have hotel facilities. (Ibiza is excluded from this; golf courses would be permitted but not hotels.) This amendment could be significant for the currently suspended work on the Son Bosc finca in Muro where a hotel was never envisaged.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2012

The sky has that haze thing on again this morning. Not as warm as yesterday, the top at 08.00 being 24.9C but may well be hotter than yesterday later on, and given yesterday's high of 38.4C, then it will be very hot.

Afternoon update: Hotter than yesterday, the local high (to 17.00) has been 39.9C (103.8F) in Sa Pobla. More coastal, Muro has come in with 38.6C, Puerto Pollensa with 38.2C.

The Lonely Goatherd

Here's a quiz question for you. Which long-running radio quiz show featured "Mabel at the table" (and also Violet Carson, aka Ena Sharples, on piano)? The answer is "Have A Go" and it was presented by Wilfred Pickles.

Mallorca has a Mabel who is unlikely to be invited to a particular table and who is in a bit of a pickle. Uninvited, this Mabel will be a lonely goatherd, for her surname (Cabrer) means just this - goatherd. High on a hill she will be left, not beckoned down unless she says sorry.

The table to which Mabel may well not be invited would be one reserved for political worthies of the island attending the La Beata fiesta in Santa Margalida in September. Goat isn't eaten as much as it used to be, but La Beata being about the most traditional of the fiestas, it may well be served up. Mabel will not, however, be on hand to provide the goat.

In a pickle, Mabel has also made a bit of a goat of herself. Or at least this is a conclusion one can draw from some of the facts surrounding the protests against President Bauzá last month, which form the background to Mabel being in a pickle. In Artà, for example, there was nary an incident worthy of note, yet Mabel seemed to suggest during a parliamentary session (she is the Partido Popular's spokesperson) that there were violent attacks with batteries, coins, iron balls, pigs' tongues, insults and aggression. Actually, she didn't suggest; this is pretty much word for word what she said. Artà town hall is scandalized. As also is Santa Margalida's.

There were more obvious acts of aggression in Santa Margalida, but there was also a very heavy police presence, one that prevented residents from moving around normally in the centre of the town. Mabel's charges of violence by protesters have implied that Santa Margalida is a violent town full of hooligans.

Talk about a red rag to a bull or the utterances of a goatherd to a veteran socialist. Mayor Miguel Cifre is most definitely not a happy bunny. A previous demand that Mabel apologises for her implication, one echoed in Artà, has now become a demand that she asks to be pardoned. So, they might be prepared to excuse her, if she asks very nicely, or they might not be. Either way, if this request for a pardon is not forthcoming, Mabel will truly be a lonely goatherd on the evening of the La Beata procession because she will not have been invited. So there.

Because of La Beata's importance in the fiesta scheme of things, it is traditional to invite political leaders to this most traditional of fiestas and in particular to the La Beata procession. This is the one where the Saint Catalina rejects the advances of and temptation by the devil. Right now, the PP is being cast in the role of the devil, and the unfortunate Mabel is copping for the full trident treatment.

What should she do? Beg for mercy and she might get an invite. Ignore the demand and she definitely won't. She might be best advised to let it be known that she won't be able to attend anyway; washing her hair or something like that. Were she to attend, apology or no apology, there's almost bound to be a bit of bother. The town hall is minded to not invite the president either, as it doesn't want a repeat of the police presence. If Mabel were to attend, with or without Bauzá, the Guardia would probably feel obliged to have to make its presence felt, which is hardly in keeping with a traditional fiesta procession.

What all the rumpus in Artà and Santa Margalida confirms is the degree to which division is occurring in Mallorca. The regions are none too happy with the PP, support for which resides most obviously in the capital Palma. In Manacor, Antoni Pastor (the Shepherd to Mabel's Goatherd) has formed an alliance with various groups in establishing a virtual independent state, one in which the PP has caused disaffection. In Pollensa, the fines for protesters continue to cause discontent. Goatherds or not, some PP representatives in the regions might well be feeling increasingly lonely.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Doubts cast over Palma port remodelling scheme

The viability of the project to redevelop Palma's port that was presented to Balearic president José Ramón Bauzá earlier this week has been questioned. The project, which would require an investment of almost 2,000 million euros and which, so it is claimed, would generate 50,000 jobs is the brainchild of Ronald Ras, a Dutch developer. In addition to the local Chamber of Commerce questioning the plan's viability, "El Mundo" today reveals the fact that a Ras company is the developer of properties near to Santa Ponsa golf course of which fewer than ten (of 48) have been sold and that most of the properties are unbuilt and abandoned. In addition, there is a development in Murcia which is far from complete. It is said that an American oil company will be pumping money into various projects.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Artà introduces water restrictions

Reflecting the fact that there has been very little rain for some time, the town of Artà has been forced to introduce water restrictions. These will apply from 2 July and will mean that water is cut off for several hours.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Cap Pinar still not open to the public

Despite the Balearic Government having approved a collaboration between Alcúdia town hall, the government's environment ministry and the national defence ministry for limited access to the area of Cap Pinar in Alcúdia, the agreement has still to be put into effect, though it had been the plan for Cap Pinar to be open from June to September. It now looks as though there will be a delay till next summer for visitors to be able to enjoy an area of Alcúdia known for its natural beauty but also a military area.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2012

A strange morning, the sky is almost a lilac. It's not cloud but a haze brought in on the south wind from Africa. At 08.15, the high is already 27.6C, and the southerly is likely to be stifling with temperatures to 33 degrees later and forecast to be higher tomorrow.

Afternoon update: A whopping 36.4C (97.5F) has been the high. Fortunately though, the humidity has been very low.

Ok, this earlier high was surpassed: it just kept getting warmer. The high today 38.4C (just over 101F) in Pollensa town. 37.7C (99.9F) at the aerodrome in Puerto Pollensa.

The Entertainment Industry: Holidays

It was a sort of Joe Loss And His Orchestra. I'm pretty sure it was. Not that I paid a great deal of attention. I was more interested in my "Football Monthly" special devoted to the World Cup.

The year was 1966. The place was Hastings. The hotel was called the Yelton. The smell of beef or pork dinner clung permanently to the walls, the floors and the air of the hotel. Following dinner, there was rarely anything specifically arranged, except for the occasion when this band turned up in a function room dominated by thick velvet, to which the stale smell of lard was able to attach itself with particular efficiency.

Holiday entertainment did exist at the English seaside, but it was rarely in-hotel. The following year, the "summer of love" and hippies ringing bells around the streets of Bournemouth, I was dragged off to the Winter Gardens to see The Rockin' Berries and Mrs Mills. Things hadn't advanced greatly by the time I was able to go off for a drunken week with friends to the Gower and ended up at a caravan site where the evening's entertainment was a drums-trumpet-organ combo. If you've ever seen "The Inbetweeners" one where they go to a Caravan Club meet at Camber Sands, you'll realise that things still haven't moved on.

At some point in the history of holidays, entertainment ceased to be the only very occasional, the truly abysmal and the optional and became the regular, slightly less abysmal and obligatory. But when was it? It certainly wasn't on the first occasion I set foot on Mallorcan soil - 1969. There was no hotel entertainment and of what there was outside, the best that can be said about it was that no one had the bright idea to ship Mrs Mills out.

We used to make our own entertainment and all that. Yet, by the 1960s we were no longer making our own entertainment. Not in the normal course of events anyway. We were supplied with entertainment, and I use the word with caution, and it did of course comprise Gladys Mills, plonking away on the old Joanna before giving way to some absurd Scots singer in a kilt. Yep, that was entertainment, folks. On the telly. But whereas we had become used to not making our own entertainment, when it came to holidays, we were forced to, though it mainly seemed, where I was concerned, to consist of having to sit outside a pub with a lemonade and a bag of Cheeselets.

One can come up with any number of reasons as to why holiday entertainment has become the essential that it now is. But perhaps the greatest single reason is familiarity and the absence of the new. In 1969, it wouldn't have made a scrap of difference whether there were kids' club, in-pool aerobics, Abba, bingo, sports competitions or not. And of course there weren't, and nor were they necessary. There was something very new that was all that was needed, and it was the thing up in the sky.

Holiday, holiday to a Mediterranean resort that is, has lost its sense of the new. Holidaymakers expect things to be laid on. The appeal, for example, of an all-inclusive lies in part in its convenience and its lack of stress, and the all-inclusive, the origins of which are much older than you might think, was instrumental in fostering the contemporary demand for entertainment at hotels, regardless of the type of board. The charge levelled at the all-inclusive that it creates a holiday that could be anywhere ignores the fact that holidays in the Med of whatever sort could be anywhere. A trib act or an entertainment team is much the same whether it's Alcúdia or Antalya. Or is it?

The importance of entertainment for today's holidaymaker has been the subject of an investigation by the Spanish tourism journalist Ignacio Gil via the "Hosteltur" magazine's online community. The results of this are a 50-page eBook. A key message that comes out of this investigation is that entertainment is vital to a hotel's ability to differentiate itself, and given the homogeneity of holiday across the Med, differentiation is crucial. Entertainment is not a cost, it is an investment. It is not obligatory so much as it is absolutely fundamental. And this fundamental demand goes beyond the grounds of a hotel. It is one made of entire resorts.

Gil's report is timely, because it confirms much of the dynamic that is behind the transformation of Magalluf. This is largely one to do with entertainment. It confirms also the Balearic Government's thinking in allowing hotels to expand their range of offer; they will become all-inclusives without necessarily offering an all-inclusive board arrangement, and this all-inclusivity will be one with entertainment firmly in mind.

It's not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that holidays are no longer part of a tourism industry but of an entertainment industry. One can look back and think wasn't it all rather more exciting in the days when everything wasn't laid on, but then one can forget that what little that was laid on was some rubbish band or Mrs Mills.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Coach drivers' strike will be 21 and 22 July

Negotiations having broken down, the strike of coach drivers in the Balearics is set to take place on 21 and 22 July. This will affect transfer buses to and from the airport and excursion coaches.

MALLORCA TODAY - Parents will not let their children start new school term

Following yesterday's news of a potential strike by schoolteachers objecting to the reduction in the number of teachers, parents in the town of Sineu have offered support to the teachers' position and registered their discontent with what will be increased numbers of pupils in classes at the local secondary school. They are saying that they will not let their children start the new school term in September.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2012

32C on the cards for later today and a yellow advice has gone out for tomorrow for high temperatures, which will probably mean the met office will be quoted about what to do: make sure you go out in the midday and afternoon sun without sun cream and a hat; drink plenty of liquid, so long as it's high in alcohol content ... this sort of thing.

Afternoon update: Only just made the 30 mark today, but tomorrow might be a different matter when the old south wind blows. 

The Mallorca Pop Festival

Inedible burgers, indescribable toilets and virtual hypothermia. As introductions to music festivals go, the Hollywood festival in Staffordshire in 1970 should have been a deterrent to have ever again gone near some God-forsaken field in the English countryside. But 14-year-olds never learn. The promise of more Grateful Dead, Family and Traffic was just too great.

Back in the day, music festivals were the domain of the longhair. Popular music applied rules of strict demarcation. The type of band which could appear was regulated as was the appearance of those who attended. Desmond Dekker, just as an example, wouldn't have been allowed in the same county as Free let alone on the same stage. Nor, mercifully for all the pacifist longhairs, would have been the ska lovers with very large boots and very short hair.

Yet, what had been the first real pop festival, Monterey, had an eclectic line-up. Lou Rawls and Otis Redding were the soul antithesis of the tripped-out Dead and the folksy Mamas & The Papas. Dionne Warwick should also have appeared but had finally discovered the way to San Jose and had been double-booked.

The rigidity of popular musical genres that came about in the 1960s continued well into the 1980s. What started to break it down was the emergence of rap and of dance, in particular the Balearic sound that broke out of Ibiza.

Come forward to the current day and to an event such as BBC Radio One's Hackney Weekend, and it is clear just how little rigidity now exists. Kasabian and The Vaccines can play alongside Plan B and Jay-Z and Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard in one mix that is categorised simply as contemporary popular music. Rihanna, a Hackney headliner, can team up with Coldplay to create something as startling and cross-genre as "Princess of China". 

During Hackney, there were numerous references to Ibiza as well to Mallorca. And for Mallorca, read Magalluf. BCM and Mallorca Rocks were name-checked, but what was unexpected was the almost reverential tones that were reserved for Magalluf. Despite all the bad publicity and negative connotations associated with the resort's name, it is easy to forget just how important Magalluf is, especially when it comes to popular music and to the absence of musical barriers.

This importance is about to be made greater. The Fiesta Hotel Group, which together with the Ibiza Rocks Group created the Mallorca Rocks hotel, is to expand the Mallorca Rocks name. The Fresh Apartments Magamar are to become the Mallorca Rocks Apartments, while the Fresh Aparthotel Jungla is to also come under the Mallorca Rocks name from next year.

The Mallorca Rocks concert line-up is like a mini-Hackney, minus the Marshes, spread over several weeks There is no one dominant musical genre; it is a series of concerts that is a celebration of the staggering vitality and openness of today's pop and a reflection of Zane Lowe's musical direction.

Some of the Hackney artists are regulars in Magalluf and do the rounds of various venues and festivals during the summer. Ibiza's 123 (1,2,3 July, geddit?) features, for example, David Guetta and Tinie Tempah. But more remarkable, far more remarkable, is the line-up on the mainland for the Benicàssim festival from 12-15 July. Florence + The Machine, Example, The Maccabees, Chase & Status, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, The Stone Roses, Noel Gallagher, New Order and ... and Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan!?

Summer and music go hand in hand. Summer and pop music, that is. Summer is meant to be a time to be alive, not half dead and condemned therefore to the miserable sawing of a cello or the condescension of applause for some local folk-music combo with pipes and whistles and incomprehensible lyrics. Outside of Magalluf, however, mostly all you get are the tribs. Mallorca needs a festival. It needs a Hackney, one that is in tune with the egalitarian nature of today's pop, enjoyed by tourists of different types and by those of different ages. But not in Magalluf.

There must be some finca somewhere that would fit the bill and fit 100,000 people or more over three or four days. The trouble is that, even if there were, they'd never be able to arrive at an agreement. Land law for this, environmental law for that, protests by locals, protests by all manner of opposition groups (most obviously the enviros); they would never manage it.

But somehow in Valencia they can manage it and stage Benicàssim. If only there were a Farmer Ted, like the Farmer Ted who gave over his field for the Hollywood festival. And unlike 1970, the burgers would be edible, the toilets would have vanilla fragrance pumped into them and you certainly wouldn't run the risk of hypothermia because you had forgotten to take a sleeping-bag with you.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Schoolteachers threatening to strike in the Balearics

Not to be outdone by all the other strikes, teaching unions are considering strike action at the start of the new school year in September over the number of teachers attached to each school.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa robbery gang detained

The Guardia Civil has arrested 19 people in connection with robberies in Pollensa from properties that were primarily houses rented to tourists. The investigation into the robberies also uncovered two properties that were being used for the sale of drugs.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Consternation in the tourism sector at possible rise in IVA

A further rise in IVA (VAT) looks likely, given the recommendations of the European Union to the Spanish Government. But the tourism sector is greatly concerned that the current reduced rate of 8% for the sector (against 18% generally) could be scrapped and that it would end up with the same rate. Representations have been made to the national tourism minister Jose Manuel Soria, following rumours that such a rise might occur and might occur as early as next month. It might be remembered that the tourism sector had hoped for a further reduction in IVA when the Partido Popular government took office and that sources within the PP had indeed suggested this might happen.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics hotel strike could intensify in August

The unions are upping the ante in their demands for improved pay and conditions for workers in the Balearics hostelry sector. If an agreement after the strike planned for 20 July takes place (assuming it does) is not forthcoming, then the unions are threatening to act "more robustly" with further strikes in August.

MALLORCA TODAY - Hirst accused of funding a "wonderful lifestyle"

The trial at Bradford Crown Court of John Hirst, Richard Pollett and others accused of operating an illegal Ponzi scheme in Mallorca which swindled millions from expat investors has heard of Hirst's previous conviction to defraud and of how he, with Pollett's assistance, set up the scheme that was based in Calvià.

See more: Telegraph & Argus

MALLORCA TODAY - Doctors in the Balearics to strike from 6 July

The continuing row over the repayment of additional salaries paid to doctors and other medical staff since 2008 is escalating, doctors in the Balearics public health sector planning on staging twelve days of partial strikes during July which could then continue into August and September.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla closes bars with licence irregularities

Sa Pobla town hall has forced the closure of four establishments in the town which do not have the correct permissions or do not meet health and safety standards. Three of the four are bars, the other is a locutorio. An allegation that is being made is that the town hall is only moving against establishments run by immigrants.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Call for Pollensa's tourism councillor to quit

The PSM Mallorcan socialists have called for the removal of María Buades, Pollensa's tourism councillor, because the town has lost its blue flags for this year, the result of a failure to meet certain standards of beach service in 2011.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Britons detained in Magaluf PR drugs case

Being a "tiquetero" or PR in Magaluf comes with some danger it would seem. Six Britons have been detained, accused of threatening PRs and forcing them to sell drugs (ecstasy and cocaine) to bar customers.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2012

Temperatures due to top the 30 mark today as the anticipated heatwave approaches - the first of the summer - which ignores the mini ones there have already been, such as earlier this month when it got to 35.

Afternoon update: 29C has been the day's high. The heatwave is expected to really kick in on Thursday with temperatures up to 36 degrees and lasting into the weekend with Sunday seeing a reduction in temperature.

Being Responsible: Hotels

I have a theory that the "management industry" (consultants, academics-turned-pop-management authors, so-called gurus) took the alphabet and assigned to each letter a particular buzzword. Rather than begin with ABC, they didn't instead opt for doh-ray-me but preferred to start by minding their P's and Q's. P was people. Q was quality. R was responsibility. S, sustainability, and so on, until the P's and Q's came round again and they could invent some other spurious concept which they could flog to gullible managements.

All these buzzwords have an obverse or an outcome opposite to the one intended, which in management marketing terms would be far more interesting, entertaining and probably truthful. Our people are useless. Our quality is lousy. We have adopted unsustainable polices. We are totally and utterly irresponsible.

I realise I have these last two in the wrong order, but that's because responsibility is the theme of the day, as it has been the theme for many a long year in business. Given the length of time that responsibility is meant to have been the subject of vast tomes quietly gathering dust on a senior manager's bookshelf, it seems slightly strange that it should only now be the subject of a study in the local hotel industry. But we have to thank the director and a researcher at the Chair for Corporate Social Responsibility at the Nebrija University (in association with Santander Bank) for having brought our attention to the subject.

The study isn't totally to do with the local industry, as in the hotel industry in the Balearics, as it covers hotel groups elsewhere, but given the importance of the industry in the Balearics and the fact that many of Spain's hotel chains are from the Balearics, then it is pretty local. 

I'm assuming that most of you will not be rushing out to get hold of a copy of this report and transport it to the beach with you for a bit of light reading, so I shall help you out. If you happen to be staying in a Meliá or an NH hotel (NH is not a Balearics-based group and has a mere four hotels in the Balearics), then you will be delighted to know that these hotels are operated by companies which are highly responsible. They meet six out of seven determinants of responsibility, as defined by the authors. If, on the other hand, you are at a Marriott AC hotel or one operated by Majestic/Mar, Marina, Sirenis, THB or Valentin, then I'm afraid the level of responsibility is only one out of seven.

So, does this mean that these hotel groups are not socially responsible? Of course it doesn't. It doesn't mean anything of the sort.

The seven determinants are basically all to do with corporate ethics and the environment. It's all very noble and worthy stuff, but stuff which also requires a good deal of time and resources to be devoted towards compliance, and in turn this usually requires handing over sizable amounts of corporate cash to consultants who will come in and ensure the compliance. The management industry has spawned its own sub-industry, one which has made a very good living, thanks very much, out of the management industry's alphabeticisation of business affairs. Just because a hotel chain doesn't have some quality mark or produce some particular report doesn't make it less than responsible.

Managerialist fascism has required of businesses that they fall into line in signing up to ISO standards or what have you. But the piece of paper they might receive at the end of the compliance process means virtually nothing to the people who really matter - the end punter, the tourist, the guest. Does anyone seriously make a decision on where to stay based upon whether a hotel chain has a carbon disclosure project?

Well of course one tour operator which has maintained that the punter does is TUI, and it bangs on endlessly about its own responsible behaviour. It is odd, therefore, that two hotel chains with which TUI is intimately associated through ownership, RIU and Grupotel, only meet four out of the seven determinants, say the authors. They don't have the ISO standard for environmental management. But as I say, it doesn't really make much difference if they do or they don't, and quite probably they both exceed the demands of the standard, as this is one of its main criticisms; it requires only so much.

Whatever the meeting of various environmental or ethical standards there may be, there is one further aspect of corporate social responsibility - the economic one. Hotels chains generate employment and they generate wealth, but they also take both away. Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. First you begin with A ... All-inclusive.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia bay hoteliers and tour operators meet

The third meeting of hoteliers operating in the bay of Alcúdia (represented by the Alcúdia-Can Picafort Hotel Association) with leading tour operators has taken place in Puerto Alcúdia. The meeting takes place every two years and is designed, obviously, to foster good relations and to develop tourism opportunities that are not confined to sun and beach. The hoteliers and tour operators were joined by tourism minister Delgado, the mayor of Alcúdia, Coloma Terrasa, and Santa Margalida's mayoral delegate in Can Picafort.

If you're wondering why Playa de Muro wasn't involved and doesn't ever seem to be involved, the answer may lie with the fact that, as far as I am aware, the hotel association there isn't part of the island-wide federation of hotel associations. And why not, I couldn't tell you.

See more: Hosteltur

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2012

22.9C the local top at 07.45 on a very clear, sunny morning. Getting towards the 30s later and getting hotter during the week.

Afternoon update: A coastal high today of 27.3C. 

I Must Scream: Spanish football commentary

Harlan Ellison is a science-fiction writer. He wrote some of the original "Star Trek" series and one of the finest sci-fi short stories ever, "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream". The story ends with the narrator, Ted, turned into a blob by a supercomputer and condemned for all time to a hell of existence in which he cannot scream out at his pain because he no longer has a mouth.

Paco González and Manu Carreño are two Spanish football commentators. They most definitely do have mouths. Neither is a blob. They have mouths and they must scream. And boy, do they scream. Scream patriotically and partially. Ted's blob-like condition would have left him without eyes as well, but Paco and Manu have eyes - one each. They are the one-eyed, screaming monsters of the hell that is football commentary on Spanish television. This hell transcends merely football commentary. Spanish football has arrived at a state of its own parodical hell - the ball forever being passed from player to player, going nowhere, boring everyone (to hell), for all time and eternity, while Paco and Manu scream, aided by their one-eyed vision.

"¡Estamos en semifinales!" No question where Paco or Manu's sympathies lay at the end of the France match then. I don't know which one it was who said this, or rather screamed it, and it doesn't really matter. There is a blob-like quality to Paco and Manu, and that is that they meld into each other and become one, joined at the mouth. They are indistinguishable and indistinguishably awful.

Why you need two football commentators when one is sufficient I have no idea, other than to keep environmental protection agencies in employment, checking the scream-ometer for noise-pollution decibel levels. And there aren't just two, there are three. Fernando Morientes provides the expert (sic) insights. The one thing in Fernando's favour is that he doesn't scream.

Spanish TV football commentary does things in threes. The most comical or worst example, depending on your point of view, were the Three Tenors of La Sexta during the 2006 World Cup. "Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard" they didn't sing but could have done, Julio Salinas having been one of the three, of whom the most irritating was the late Andrés Montes whose name will forever be etched in the history of Spanish football for having popularised the term "tiki-taka" and who therefore contributes to the current-day hell that is Spain's football. The best that one can say about the Paco-Manu-Fernando Trio is that they don't sing. Or haven't done so yet.

This isn't just me taking a critical view of Spanish football commentators. Marcos Torres is a writer on such matters. Of Paco and Manu he says "ten for fanaticism, zero for professionalism". Someone responding to the article with this title adds that sports journalism of all sorts in Spain, be it broadcast or print, has suffered a degeneration and a "blatant lack of professionalism".

Pride in the national team's achievements is fine, but it has led to the one-eyed view of Spain's football. It is not without criticism, and hasn't been during the Euros, but the team's success has brought about a state of FC, footballingly correct, a state which has crossed borders and has become the panacea for all others to aspire to. Yet Spain's football would never have come about had it not been for FIFA having ruined the sport for all time in denying opponents the opportunity of kicking Xavi up in the air and getting away with it. Oh for the days when footballers were just a set of studs away from GBH and footballers were Peter Storey, Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter and Nobby Stiles adorning England's midfield.

The consequence of FC is what we now have. The light-touched, effete ping-pong of tiki-taka. It can be admired, like paintings or classical music can be admired; it doesn't mean you like it though. There again, and by contrast, there is always England and football that is played from another planet, a very barren one at that.

Spain may well win the Euros, and if it looks as though they will, then I'd better unplug the TV as God knows what might happen when Paco and Manu let rip. Win it, yes, but it will be further confirmation of our all being condemned forever to the tick, tack, tick, tack, tick, tack. I have a mouth and I must scream, but for different reasons to Paco and Manu.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - The towers of the bay of Alcúdia

In "El Mundo", there is a piece about the towers (some say obelisks) that are dotted along the bay of Alcúdia. These are something I have written about in the past, and the article confirms the fact that they were built for submarine target practice training and that their construction started after the Civil War. Built in pairs (14 in total between Playa de Muro and Colonia Sant Pere), one tower in Son Real collapsed during the storm of 2001. There are some other interesting snippets in the article, with mention of defences against potential British invasions during the British possession of Menorca and during the Second World War.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro bullfight: the match report

Despite the protesters, Muro's Sant Joan bullfight still brings the crowds in, and the crowds were not disappointed, the star of the show having been the new "El Cordobés". Matador Esaú Fernández made a promising debut and "El Fandi" was given an ovation. The score: 3-0.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2012

Around the area, temperatures at 07.45 are between 18.1C and a high of 23.7C on what is a calm, sunny Sunday morning. Remaining calm and sunny with highs expected to nudge the 30 mark. The outlook is still cloudless and warm verging on the hot.

Afternoon update: Fresh enough by the sea, the coastal highs have been just below 27C, while inland they have reached 29C. 

The Gulag Balearic Archipelago: National tourism plan

In the glorious days of Stalin and the five-year plans, it is doubtful that Uncle Joe ever came up with a plan for tourism. Had he, it would probably have involved a tour of Gulag camps in Siberia. The five-year plans came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but five-year plans still exist. In Spain, for example. And for tourism specifically.

The Spanish Government has just published its "national and integral plan for tourism", a snappy title for something that is meant to be an instrument of government for improving the competitiveness of the tourism sector, the motor of the Spanish economy. To underline this motor idea, the document in which the five-year plan is set out has a graphic of an arrow disappearing, presumably into the future, with what look like four tyre marks. Very effective it is, I'm sure, though shouldn't it have five tyre marks?

This strategic document begins, as any MBA student can tell you that a strategic document should begin, with an analysis of the current situation. This analysis is in the form of our old friend, the SWOT analysis, which in Spanish isn't SWOT, but FDOA, or OAFD, as they put the opportunities and threats ("oportunidades", "amenzas") before the strengths and weaknesses ("fortalezas", "debilidades"). Either way, you can't actually pronounce the acronym.

Anyway, what does this FDOA or OAFD tell us? (And don't worry, I'm not going through it all.) Among the opportunities, there are the emerging tourist markets (Russia would be one such). Of the threats, there are those from other Mediterranean destinations. When it comes to strengths, there is the reputation of the Spanish tourism brand, while of weaknesses, there are the problems of resort maturity, seasonality and therefore temporariness of employment.

Well, I don't know about you, but this all sounds pretty familiar. I could have come up with this lot myself, and no doubt so could many others. But are there any surprises in the analysis? Surprise isn't perhaps the right word. Realism might be, as, however one defines it, what does one make of the appearance among the strengths of "an increase in residential tourism"?

Residential tourism covers different things. It includes, for example, the purchase of holiday homes by native Spaniards and foreigners. It also includes timeshare. And, in addition, it also includes rental.

Now, am I missing something here, but does this strength not actually conflict with what is generally thought, by the tourism bodies and the hotels in the Balearics, to be a weakness? I don't think I am, but then this is not an analysis of the Balearics, it is an analysis of Spain. Yet, who are the two most important politicians in the Spanish Government when it comes to tourism? The main one is the minister for tourism, José Manuel Soria. The second most important is the secretary-of-state for tourism, Isabel Borrego. And from where do these two important people herald? Respectively, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, the two regions of Spain where there are the strongest policies against residential tourism.

Make of this what you will, but the national analysis doesn't sound like it applies nationally. Not, however, that the plan has anything specific to say about residential tourism. It doesn't really have much to say about anything, other than to say that it comprises six axes, 28 measures and 104 actions, all part of the national tourism strategy road map. Maybe this is to be one of the actions; they'll give every tourist a road map, though given there's some stuff about "technological intensity", they really ought to give each tourist a sat-nav.

Otherwise, it's all pretty much as you might expect. More effort in attracting the private sector, modernising resorts, support to municipalities with tourism resorts, this sort of thing. Other parts of it have already been leaked, such as modification of airport taxes to help overcome seasonality.

It's in the nature of such plans that they do tend to be presented in a somewhat superficial way. The 28 measures are all listed, but the 104 actions aren't. Maybe they're still working on them, but the actions would in fact be the most interesting part of the whole exercise. Doubtless all will be revealed, or not as the case may be, but one thing we do know is that the budget for the five-year plan will rise from 438 million euros in 2012 to 480 million in 2015. As for 2016, the fifth year of the plan, erm, well, they seem to have forgotten to include 2016. Tut, tut, Stalin would never have approved. Off to the Gulag with them all!

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Protests at Muro's bullfight

As is traditional at Muro's traditional annual bullfight as part of the town's Sant Joan fiestas, animal-rights protesters (some one hundred or so) gathered by the gates of the bullring this evening to voice their opposition to the bullfight.

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Alcúdia's market fails to attract customers

Opened on 6 April, the market in Puerto Alcúdia has seen the number of stallholders fall by a half, the reason being the lack of customers. A problem with the market is its location, in the Plaça Cas Vicari, away from the front line. Another is a lack of any signage which indicates its location.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Alcúdia beach's theoretical cost to tourists

A study of Mallorca's beaches, based on calculating their economic welfare and undertaken via the UNESCO chair at the Balearics university and Sa Nostra bank, reckons that tourists would pay 1.18 euros per day to enjoy the beach at Puerto Alcúdia.

It isn't the case that tourists are about to be charged such an amount. The study is purely theoretical and in the name of research.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2012

23.4C is the best temperature at 08.30 on another cloudless morning with just a light breeze rustling the palms. Upper 20s later on. Not a cold forecast for the next few days.

Which Is The Bolshiest (Town) Of Them All?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the bolshiest town in Mallorca of them all? Which town is the Queen who demands of her magical mirror the appropriate answer of you are the bolshiest of them all?

I can't vouch for every single town in Mallorca. In fact, I can vouch for very few of them. But in the league table of municipal bolshiness, contenders occasionally emerge from towns such as Sóller when the beach isn't ready or from Capdepera (for the same reason). Only occasionally though. There really are only three that matter, the three being the Man City, Man United and Arsenal of Mallorcan bolshiness: Pollensa, Manacor and Santa Margalida. And when the Queen that is Pollensa speaks to the magical mirror, it is Pollensa which is the bolshiest of them all.

Not a single day passes in Pollensa without some manifestation of this bolshiness, most of it directed at the town hall. One of these days, the mirror may upset the Queen of Pollensa and declare that the Snow White of Manacor or Santa Margalida is the bolshiest of them all, but for now the Pollensa Queen can be assured of the mirror's response.

On the same day, i.e. today, there is not one but two fine examples of the Pollensa bolshy art. The left in the town has joined forces to form a platform. Not a stage platform, but a bolshy platform. One might be inclined to suggest that there is some aptness therefore to the bolshy claim to fame over and above just merely being bolshy; a Bolshevik style revolution is underway in Pollensa.

Well, not really. It is the usual suspects of Pollensa's left combining with some organisation known as the union of students of the Catalan lands to be generally bolshy. Whatever gripe there is in Pollensa at present, it is on the platform.

Primarily, one imagines, this has all come about because of the fines that have been doled out to the protesters who took unkindly to El Presidente Bauzá's visit a few weeks back; fines which have included one for a leading representative of one part of the platform, the Mallorcan socialists. This may have been what has triggered off the formation of the platform, but into the mix has gone pretty much anything else you care to mention - health, education, terraces; the weather is probably also on the list. 

And what will this platform be doing? Its first manifestation will be a manifestation, as in the Spanish meaning of manifestación, i.e. a demo. The target? The Partido Popular, the target for growing levels of bolshiness anywhere that isn't the arrogant, superior Palma or the country-club set of Calvià. The PP's name is basically mud in the regional municipalities. 

The reason for Pollensa having assumed its clear lead in the island's bolshiness league isn't that difficult to figure out. It is largely a legacy of the last, disastrous administration, but the new one is hardly proving to be an awful lot better; or at least this is how the bolshy tendency would have it. Furthermore, there are that many political groupings, all vying to demonstrate their bolshy credentials that you have the situation that now obtains. Bolshy has gone ballistic.

The other example of today's bolshiness relates to the town hall's Facebook page. It is accused of being a form of one-way communication that doesn't therefore invite interaction and isn't therefore in tune with a demand for greater participation. The only Facebook page for the town hall that I can find doesn't actually have anything on it, so quite what the complaint is referring to I'm unsure. But the fact is that were the town hall to open up its Facebook page to all and sundry, you know full well what would happen. Bolshy would go ballistic on Facebook as well. Indeed, I know why the town hall isn't opening up in the way that has been called for. It is worried about the control that it would have over a Facebook page, and it has every good reason to be so.

Being held to account is fair enough, and it is a failure to be held to account that lies behind Pollensa's bolshiness. In this respect, it contrasts with Manacor, where they just can't stand Bauzá, or Santa Margalida (ditto, but also the political parties can't stand each other). However, and despite contemporary means of communication, there surely has to be some control. If not, then bolshiness will prevail, and ultimately, such bolshiness would be not far short of anarchy. Just ask Trotsky.

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics transport strike set for 20 July

First the hotel workers, now the transport workers. Two strikes may coincide on 20 July, the transport workers having added the threat to that of the hostelry sector. The unions are saying that unless there is some movement on demands over salaries and conditions, there will be action that will have an impact on transfer buses to and from airports.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa protest against the Partido Popular

Parties from the left, the PSM socialists, the Republican Left and the Alternativa, are to join with the "indignados" and the "union of students of the Catalan lands" in forming a platform against the Partido Popular and staging a protest against the PP in Pollensa on 29 June. Partly, this is coming about because of the fines levied against protesters when President Bauzá visited in May, but it is also a consequence of government cuts and "rights to public space" (which may relate to all the Plaça Major rumpus). The protest is being described as a "cacerolada", and I confess I don't know what this means, or rather I do because the word is more or less the same in English - casserole, or more specifically a casserole event. Perhaps they're planning on cooking a PP politician.

MALLORCA TODAY - Remembering Mallorca's seaplane history

The first flying school in Mallorca, founded in Portocolom in 1923, is to be commemorated next month (25 July) when a seaplane will land off the coast of Portocolom. More than this, in September Puerto Pollensa will stage the first international gathering of seaplanes, an event that will be unique in that something of its magnitude has never been put on before. One for the diaries, it would seem, though the precise date is unclear.

It is clearer now, as I've looked it up. SEAPLANE SPLASH-IN, Puerto Pollensa, 15-16 September.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Fire affects 10 hectares in Peguera

The first major fire of the summer has affected ten hectares of wooded land in Peguera in Calvià and required the evacuation of tourists from two hotels. The fire was brought under control yesterday evening.

See more plus link to a video: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2012

Particularly bright this morning, or seems to be for some reason. Sunny therefore. 23.6C is your coastal high at 08.00, which is pretty warm for eight o'clock. High 20s later on. The outlook is for nothing but sun and warmer.

Afternoon update: A real difference today. A much fresher feel and a high of only 24.9C. 

Giving Focus: Muro's little train

The little tourist train in Playa de Muro that does a round trip from the resort's end (more or less) at Alcúdia Pins to Las Gaviotas on the border with Alcúdia is not well liked by everyone; motorists mainly, and especially when the train takes the narrow English bridge over the canal (s'Obert) that connects Albufera and the sea. Slow-moving, it makes the rest of the traffic move slowly.

There is a further reason why it might not be as liked as it was; it is making for more of a noise than it used to. It hasn't suddenly become driven by steam; its noise is not the sound of its movement, it is the sound of its bell and its whistle. The bell is being rung almost constantly, the whistle is being blown far more often has been the case in the past. I imagine, as this is how things work here, that rather than someone saying would you mind not ringing the bell so much a visit to the police will be undertaken - a denuncia for the making of.

The inability of the local Mallorcan to deal with any matter however mildly bothersome by means other than the sneaky dobbing-in of the denuncia is a subject worthy of its own article; its own book in fact. Instead, I shall concentrate on the little train.

They're obviously wanting to make more of a business out of the train than has been the case. In fact I know they are, because I've spoken to them. The bell being rung constantly is all part of the train's business strategy, the more noise it makes, the more attention it gets. The more attention, the more passengers. And it seems as though it might be working.

Though as a motorist, I am one of those who gets trapped behind the little train, I am all in favour of little tourist trains. They add to a sensation of tourism, as if this were really necessary, kids like them, they're a pleasant way to get around and they're pretty good for advertisers. Can Picafort has its own little train, Alcúdia used to have one (and I seem to recall that a fairly nonsensical claim that it posed unfair competition to other transport providers was at the root of its being done way with), while Cala d'Or can boast the first little train to run off solar energy in Spain.

Playa de Muro's little train does, in a sense, act in a wider capacity than being merely a means of ferrying tourists around. It is a unifying symbol of the resort. It literally unifies a sprawling coastal, but it unifies it also in giving the resort something of a focal point, even if it is a focal point which moves around.

Playa de Muro's greatest single drawback is that it has no centre, no part of it to which people naturally gravitate. There is a square in front of the municipal building, but this is not a square enclosed by bars. It's a square and that's all it is. The train, though, and thanks to the greater initiative being shown by its operators this year and thanks also to positive response from certain businesses, gives the possibility of adding focus, and in adding a specific stop in front of the resort's only obvious attraction - the Fun Park/Maze - it creates a sort of focus, and one that isn't moving around.

Because Playa de Muro has no centre, it is easy to understand why it is just considered to be either a part of Alcúdia or merely an adjunct. Without a real focus, it doesn't represent anything. And without this focus, it can lose tourists in the evenings. There has to be more than some restaurants to keep people in-resort, especially when neighbouring Alcúdia has different focal points - the bustling tourism centre around Bellevue and Magic, the port and the old town.

If the little train can provide the impulse to add focus, then it will be doing an even better job than it does by giving tourists a pleasant ride. Mind you, its bell can be a bit of a pain.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2012

The first day of summer and it's a blowy one. All that southerly air being blown in no doubt, contributing to maximum temperatures today. 36 inland is anticipated later, which would usually mean 33 or 34 on the coasts.

Afternoon update: Not quite as hot as had been suggested. An inland high of 32.2C and slightly lower on the coasts. 

Winter At The Start Of Summer

George Sand, Chopin's cigar-smoking OH, bequeathed to Mallorca a title. "A Winter In Mallorca" isn't particularly original, but it is accurate enough. It wasn't a spring, a summer or an autumn; it was a winter. It could have been something else, something less neutral, such as "The Chopins In A Cell (whichever one it was)" or "How To Aggravate Your TB" or "Valldemossa: Our Three Months Of Hell". But no, Georgie Girl settled for the purely and informatively bland.

The title has, over the years, become quite useful. Any reference to a winter in Mallorca, whether intentionally a reference to Sand or not, can nevertheless be interpreted as evoking the odd-couple tourists from the first half of the nineteenth century. Winter in Mallorca will, therefore, forever be associated with Mr and Mrs C, not that they were a Mr and Mrs, but be that as it may. Because of who Chopin and Sand were, or more importantly, what they did, winter in Mallorca means culture. Piano and dull classical music, thanks to Chopin, and literature, even if it was mainly a work of slagging off Mallorcans and the island's health service (nothing different with that, therefore), thanks to Sand.

Winter in Mallorca has been extremely useful, because it has enabled an entire programme of events, primarily of a cultural nature, to be developed in winter. And this culture is of course appropriate because of the Chopins. I say enabled, but the programme has been disabled for a couple of winters. "Hivern a Mallorca", "Winter in Mallorca" has ceased to exist; there is no winter any longer.

To the rescue, however, comes the Fomento del Turismo (aka the Mallorca Tourist Board). Intimately involved with the original Winter in Mallorca programme (it was pretty much the board's idea), it is now asking the Balearics Tourism Agency to revive it this coming winter.

There wasn't a Winter in Mallorca programme last winter, and if there was one the previous winter, they were keeping it quiet. It fell victim to a lack of financing, confusion within the tourism ministry as to who was actually running it and to a consequently poor system of promotion; a PDF with monthly information was either not updated or updated late, while certain tourist offices, such as my own local one in Muro, never used to receive the leaflets. It wouldn't necessarily have fallen victim to a lack of interest among what tourists happened to be about, but the inadequacy of the promotion wouldn't have done anything to generate interest.

There was a further reason last winter why the programme was probably abandoned, and that was the lack of senior tourism that had been promised but fell through because the Balearic Government wouldn't pay to help subsidise it. Whether this tourism will reappear this coming winter must be doubtful, but the Mallorca Tourist Board still wants to press ahead and make the programme a feature of the Mallorcan scene that it had been since the 1990s.

As ever, one does have to ask what contribution has been made. The Winter in Mallorca programme had become a mix of guided walks, cultural excursions and music events. Of the latter, there were typically chamber orchestra concerts, the occasional organ recital, Mallorcan folk and every now and then a "spectacular". None of it really set the pulse racing, to be honest. Nevertheless, stage a Mallorcan folk evening or have a quintet play in a hotel (one which happens to be open), and it's still worth the effort, and it amounts to making an effort when precious little effort is normally made.

If the Winter in Mallorca programme is to be revived and to be revived properly, by all means have the guided walks and excursions and the concerts, but make it, from a promotional point of view, far more dynamic. Such dynamism does exist, as with for example the fiestas in January. Build the programme around these, make them the real attention-grabber, because they can grab attention and they can be worthy of strong promotion.

The problem has been that promotion for winter has been too passive, apologetic almost. The Winter in Mallorca programme has lived off the Sand title rather than being forward-thinking; it has been something of the past in its marketing. There is one hell of a lot that Mallorca has in winter, but one would think that it were confined to a few guided walks and a string quartet. It most certainly isn't.

My advice to the Mallorca Tourist Board is do it yourself. I know you have lost your grant, but don't leave it to the government. You are the private sector. Engage with the attractions association, engage directly with the towns with the spectacular fiestas, such as Sa Pobla for Sant Antoni, and make Winter in Mallorca a truly vibrant programme. George Sand, and Chopin come to that, were bloody miseries. Forget about the association and make winter a joy.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla cuts its budget

Sa Pobla town hall has finally approved its budget for 2012. At a touch over 10.5 million euros, it is 20% lower than that for 2010. The budget should be capable of covering outstanding payments from 2010 and 2011, and one of the more notable cuts is that to fiestas, spend on which has been halved compared with 2010. The Districte 54 party during Sant Jaume, which caused trouble last year, has been dropped once again.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Complaints about Pollensa markets' public area occupation

Pollensa town hall's by-law regarding the occupation of the "public way" has now created an argument over the control of market pitches in both Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa. A complainant is demanding damages from the town hall for loss of trade caused by what are said to be "negligent" acts by town hall representatives in, for example, allowing traders without licences and forcing other traders to have to move their regular pitches.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2012

Hazy this morning and close, a top of 24.1C by 08.00 after a night when there was some thunder and lightning and a touch of rain in parts. Should be ok today, but remaining humid with temperatures moving into the 30s.

Afternoon update: And it was ok, temperatures rising to a high inland just below the 30 mark. There is an alert for high temperatures tomorrow, as had previously been forecast, which means at least 30 degrees but probably quite a bit higher. 

Blending In: Petty crime in Mallorca

Police in Capdepera, for which read primarily Cala Rajada, last week issued advice about security on beaches. This followed an increase in the number of reports of theft that the police had been receiving.

The advice was, or should be, pretty obvious. Only take limited amounts of money with you. Leave credit cards, cameras and other equipment back in the hotel. Assuming, that is, that there isn't a problem with theft at the hotel. One other piece of advice was to not turn your back on your belongings while in the sea, which would be interesting to witness were everyone to follow the advice. If you can't do a backstroke, then you can forget having a swim.

The beach is a place where it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. No one expects to have their stuff nicked, and time was when there really wasn't that much to nick. Nowadays, there is. The entire contents of a Dixon's, for example. The ad for Amazon's Kindle, the one with the young woman looking delighted while reading whatever she was reading, the screen perfectly legible in the bright sun of the beach, didn't make any mention of the fact that the Kindle would be the target of a beach thief once the back was turned and a gentle breaststroke was being performed.

Why take all the electronics to the beach anyway? The answer is simple. Because you have it; be it a phone, a camera, an iPad, whatever it might be. I confess that I take a phone with me, but it's a rubbish phone; I wouldn't dream of taking a smartphone.

Is crime, and particularly petty crime, on the increase? It would seem that it is. British Consul Paul Abrey was on BBC's Radio One saying that it was (in Ibiza at any rate). Economic hard times mean increased crime. Logical. Pickpocketing appears to be rampant, given the tales of woe from those who have had their wallets lifted.

Detecting the villains, though, isn't easy. And even when you think you have detected one, you really can't be sure. I'll give an example. A few years ago, there was an incident at an Eroski. An aged British tourist had been pickpocketed. He pointed at a character heading away from the shop. I went in pursuit, together with another tourist, a burly Brit who looked as though he might be handy. The alleged villain obviously thought the same when we caught up with him. I felt sorry for him as he clearly believed he was about to be on the end of a good slapping. He wasn't, and of course he had nothing on him. So had he been the pickpocket? Had he passed on his booty? Maybe and maybe. Or maybe not.

The Capdepera police also made the point that the "delinquents" (I'm translating literally) dress like other beach users. They blend in. They don't stand around with masks over their eyes and walk away from the scene of the crime with a large bag bearing the word "SWAG" in large lettering. Which is decidedly inconsiderate of them.

Blending in is how it is. The flower sellers never used to exactly blend in of course, and they still managed to have it away with your wallet, and God knows where they disappeared to. Into thin air. I once went in pursuit of one of them as well, when a German tourist was robbed outside the same Eroski. No sign. Absolutely none whatsoever. They were a bit of a giveaway, though. Other blenders-in are the timeshare (sorry, holiday club) touts. They're back. In Alcúdia at any rate, but seem far less aggressive than was once the case. I had a chat with one of them. Only interested in the Scandinavians; they're the ones with money. But business isn't brisk apparently; Tenerife is much better.

At least with the touts they don't rob you there and then. Indeed, they don't rob you at all. They're just after the commissions; you can't really blame them for wanting to make some money. It's the other blenders-in who are the problem. The ones who bump into you, come up to you in an overly matey fashion, ask you for the time. So, the police advice for the beach goes for the streets as well.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Doctors and nurses start work-to-rule

Public health doctors and nurses have started a go-slow and work-to-rule in protest at health-service cuts by the Balearic Government. The action means, for example, that discharge from hospital may be delayed and affects the main hospitals such as Son Espases.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Control measures for party boats

The Balearics delegate to national government, José María Rodríguez, is to co-ordinate efforts by local authorities to control party boats. These authorities are principally Alcúdia, Capdepera (Cala Rajada), Sant Llorenç and Son Servera (Cala Millor) and Calvià (Magalluf and Santa Ponsa). The controls are intended to limit excessive noise and underage drinking.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2012

Much heavier cloud than yesterday morning. Muggy with a coastal high of 24.5C at 08.30. Rain not necessarily on the cards, though. Should clear and become sunny later. From tomorrow the cloudy conditions give way to blue skies.

Afternoon update: A sticky day. The sun started to come through in the afternoon, there having been some spots of rain in the morning. A coastal high of 31.3C and high levels of humidity in parts of the area. There are suggestions that the temperature could reach 37 degrees on Thursday, i.e. around the 100 Fahrenheit mark.

A Year In Politics: the Balearic Government

It is rare for any governing political party in whatever country to celebrate its first year in office by registering a ringing endorsement in the opinion polls. The Balearics Partido Popular, a year into office, has received just such a non-endorsement, and it will come as no great surprise. When a party is faced with the sort of problems the PP were faced with when it came back into power last June, whatever it does is unlikely to go down well with all those who had previously supported it; such is the nature of politics.

Support may have fallen, but it hasn't fallen that much. A poll for "Ultima Hora" revealed that the PP would lose two deputies in the Balearic parliament were there to be an election now. This loss would still give the party a majority and an ability to govern on its own and without needing to seek a coalition.

It is the fact that support hasn't ebbed away more drastically which may come as a surprise rather than the fact that there has been a decline. This suggests that the government, as far as much of the electorate is concerned, is doing a decent enough job. Possibly. But as relevant as the fall in support for the government is a similar fall in support for the main opposition party, PSOE (or PSIB to give it its Balearic title). It would find itself minus one of its deputies were there to be an election now.

On the face of it, given the sorts of measures that the government has been forced into taking and which are bound to be unpopular with some, the main opposition should be performing better. This, though, doesn't necessarily follow when a political party suffers from being as discredited as PSOE-PSIB was and when, in the aftermath of an electoral hammering, it gives the impression of remaining in a state of some disarray. One only has to think of the British Conservative Party following its annihilation by Blair to know that defeated parties do not always immediately bounce back.

Yet, current economic circumstances are very different to the benign days towards the end of the last century. The opposition should be doing better, but PSOE took an eternity to sort out its new leadership and even with a new leader, Francina Armengol, has made precious little impression or shown any genuine opposition. It's all well and good Francina saying that the Balearics have a "bad government" and that "a change in direction" is needed, but no one is taking much notice of her. Altogether more effective in making its voice heard in opposition to the government has been the nationalist element, specifically the PSM Mallorcan socialists, and the opinion polls suggest that notice has been taken of the nationalists; their ratings have gone up.

This increase in support may be a reflection of all the language and Catalan carry-on. However, the Catalan kerfuffle and the Pastor palaver, were they really that important, would surely have seen support for the PP diminish more. Maybe the Catalan and regionalist issue is being overstated or maybe the electorate is simply more interested in other matters, such as the economy, and despite little obvious improvement since the election, the electorate would probably trust the PP more than PSOE or any other party.

Armengol has criticised the government for not being self-critical and President Bauzá for being more interested in his private business affairs than the interests of the people of the Balearics. Neither criticism stands up to scrutiny. Bauzá has said that the government does need to do better, if only in the way it communicates what it is doing, while his business affairs are a diversion; he may have failed to declare them but they don't seem to be of an order that might compromise him.

Bauzá's own rating has slipped, but with the exception of one minister, Biel Company, he of the environment, transport, agriculture mega-ministry, so have the ratings of all his ministers. One might have been tempted to put Company's positive rating down to the fact that he wasn't actually a member of the PP. He now is, though perhaps his taking of the PP pledge has yet to register with the electorate.

One of the greatest ministerial victims in terms of ratings has been Rafael Bosch, the education minister. He has had to preside over education cuts and the free selection of language debacle, but in addition he is the government spokesperson. Don't shoot the messenger and all that, but Bosch is a further victim of the system of communication; he's the oily rag when it should be the engineer (Bauzá) doing the communicating. The same problem exists at national government level where Rajoy is all but invisible.

A year after forming the new government, the PP can, however, feel reasonably satisfied. But the satisfaction comes not so much from its efforts, more from others' lack of effort.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa bars "strike" closes ten establishments

Two-thirds of the 15 bars and restaurants in and around Pollensa's Plaça Major went ahead and closed yesterday until 4pm in protest at the terrace law. One of the bars which didn't close was that of the Hotel Juma, which belongs to the mayor's family. So, no surprise there then.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2012

As forecast, it is cloudy this morning. Light cloud as it is also quite bright, despite a lack of blue sky. Should all clear up though with the high at 08.45 of 22.7C going up to the top 20s.

Afternoon update: 27.3C has been the big inland high today with 24 to 25 the temperatures by the coast. The sun came out eventually on what has been a sticky sort of a day with humidity levels up as high as 93%.

The Mystery Of Ritch Miller

Twenty-one years ago the newspaper "El País" published an obituary to an American painter who had been resident in Mallorca since the 1960s. Appropriate for the memory of a painter, the obituary was extraordinary in the vivid language it used to paint its own picture of the painter.

"Alone in his world, filled with absence and silence, he was attentive to the hidden voices of nature and the echoes he had left in the past." "The solitariness and anguish of this man were translated to the figures (of his paintings), contorted with horror and the hopelessness of amnesia." "He didn't live an isolated life, but he was tremendously lonely."

The painter was Ritch Miller. His work wasn't always easy to comprehend. He is perhaps best known for a Harlequin montage and a portrait of a child holding a balloon, though the child could as easily be an adult of either sex, regardless of the blue dress. The obituary made reference to the work of Francis Bacon, one of the art world's greatest drunks and cross-dressers, who died in Madrid a year after Miller's death. In Miller's at times tormented, figurative imagery, there is indeed some hint of similarity.

The history of art is littered with the bodies of those who lived very odd lives in pursuing creativity born out of some inner torment bordering on psychosis. Another American, Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart), was an extreme example. He took himself off, or rather back, to California's Mojave Desert to engage in artistic, expressionist weirdness with the same obsessiveness that had driven him to imprison and humiliate the musicians of his Magic Band during the making of the truly weird "Trout Mask Replica" album. 

But whereas Bacon and Beefheart were both a couple of brushstrokes short of the full canvas, Miller wasn't. Or at least didn't seem to be. He looked and appeared to be perfectly normal, and a film made for the culture ministry when he died features testimonials to his having been not just a great painter but also a good bloke. Yet the obituary suggests an altogether more complex character, one who lived a life of self-imposed solitude at his finca in Santa María del Camí and who died in solitude at the finca; he hanged himself.

The mystery of Ritch Miller has influenced attempts to find out more about him. These have included a publication by the culture ministry and now includes a documentary, presented in the Ca s'Apotecari museum in Santa María, based on correspondence between Miller and Eliane Koeves who used to live in Santa Margalida before moving back to the US. The correspondence lasted from 1982 until Miller's death in 1991.

Miller hadn't intended to come and live in Mallorca. He was on his way to find a Greek island when he came across Mallorca, was taken by it and so stayed. He wasn't the first artist from overseas to be captivated by Mallorca and to make it home. Yet what was curious about Miller was that, unlike artists who used Mallorca as their theme in creating landscapes, he didn't specialise in them. He wasn't necessarily seeking inspiration from Mallorcan or Greek scenery, which makes the real mystery of Ritch Miller what he was in fact seeking and what it was that he was trying to forget and leave behind in America.

In a different way, however, Miller wasn't so curious. Mallorca is a home to those who, for various reasons, have something to forget. It is a home also to those who can turn this forgetfulness into a revision of their own histories. They become other people. Their pasts are inventions or, as with Miller, they are just blank canvasses waiting for someone, after their death, to attempt to paint in the missing pieces.

Nowadays it isn't quite so easy to make the breaks with the past. In the early '60s when Miller arrived in Mallorca, it was. Whatever his past was, and what little seems to be known is that at one point he had been a TV presenter in New York, it is what the future held for Ritch Miller once he had settled in Mallorca that is as intriguing and perhaps even disturbing. The extraordinary obituary makes the point that increasingly Miller portrayed a sense of self-destruction, "each work was part of a long goodbye".

Maybe this is the solution to the Ritch Miller mystery and to what he had really been seeking. He came to Mallorca to seek his own death and eventually he discovered it.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2012

A warmer night and at 07.30 the local high is 22.4C on a clear Sunday morning. Remaining sunny and warm with temperatures again moving towards the upper 20s. Some cloudy weather forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday but only a slight risk of a shower, sunnier conditions returning afterwards.

Afternoon update: Nice and sunny all day, an inland high of 27.1C but not quite breaking 25C on the coasts with some cooling breezes.

East Is East: Hotels in the Llevant

The Llevant has different meanings in Mallorca. It is one of the Mediterranean winds, that which blows from the east, and it is the eastern region of Mallorca; llevant (or levante in Spanish) refers to Mediterranean east coasts.

The east of Mallorca is strangely overlooked. The inevitable north v. south divide means that the east doesn't really get a look-in. The south does of course dominate, but it is the north, for the British at any rate, which comes in second and this has everything to do with concentration of population, the British population.

The east is ill-served in some respects. The collapse of the plans to build a new rail link from Manacor to Artà underlined the absence of infrastructure. The regional government has suggested that the clearing that had been done to accommodate the railway might be turned into a highway solely for public transport use (i.e. a rapid bus service); but where would the money for this come from? More positively, last week, a mere fourteen years after the go-ahead was given for it, the bypass in Porto Cristo was officially opened.

The Llevant extends from Cala Rajada on the north-eastern tip of Mallorca to Santanyí in the south-east. It is, in Mallorcan terms, a large area, one that shouldn't be overlooked but which often seems to be. There is one particular reason why it shouldn't be overlooked and this is that along the Llevant coast a third of all Mallorca's hotel places are located. This advantage of tourism does not, however, come without its drawbacks.

The infrastructure which connects the Llevant with Palma isn't too bad, but it isn't brilliant either. But the infrastructure, and complaints about it, isn't really the issue. Not for the hoteliers on the Llevant. The real issue is that they are where they are - some distance from Palma and from attractions which are concentrated in and around Palma.

The Llevant hoteliers are complaining that this season is proving more difficult than previously, and they attribute this largely to the costs associated with transport, both for transfer and for going on excursions. Yet this is hardly anything new, and nor is it an issue unique to the Llevant; the north of Mallorca faces precisely the same issue.

But it is a combination of tourists looking to save money and therefore spending less on their holidays and of the rise in popularity of direct booking of accommodation that is beginning to take its toll; this is what the hoteliers reckon at any rate. Quite obviously, it does cost more for transport to, say, Cala Millor from the airport than to Magalluf. And it will cost more to go on an excursion to a waterpark in the south for a tourist in Cala Millor than for one in Arenal. Tourists can hardly be blamed for choosing a cheaper option.

So what can be done? Short of building an airport in Manacor, not a great deal. An anticipated change to local transport law should involve a degree of deregulation that will allow a shuttle bus to operate from hotels to the airport. This may help with the costs of transport, but ultimately for the Llevant resorts and hotels, it is a question of marketing and differentiation. And differentiation is one reason given as to why last year Santanyí (which includes Cala d'Or) registered the highest increase in revenue in the Balearics. It was joined at the top of the list of municipalities which were coining it in more than others by Capdepera, the town in which Cala Rajada is located.

The hotels of the Llevant may be showing lower occupancy this season, but come the end of this season will we see that resort towns at either end of the Llevant region have registered such high levels of revenue and of profitability as they did in 2011? One fancies things will not prove to have changed so radically in the course of a year, despite the disadvantage of distance from Palma and the cost of transport.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2012

It's a fine, cloudless morning with a top of 21.6C on the coast at 08.00. The upper 20s later on and sun all the way; same tomorrow and Monday ...

Afternoon update: A high of 28.4C inland and 26.7C on the coast on a splendidly sunny day. 

A Sea Of Clichés: Tourism seasonality

"What's this?" I thought. Go to a particular website and there would be a PDF to download - "A Sea Of Experiences", it promised. Nice title, shame about the content, as I duly went to the website in question, did indeed download and got a lengthy document which listed all manner of Mallorcan cycling routes, hiking routes, Nordic walking routes, associations for kayaking, stuff about bodegas, gastronomy, shopping routes (there are such things apparently), to name but several among others.

What I thought I was going to be downloading was a document that would contain the insights of Mallorca's hoteliers, some members of government and some representatives from municipalities with strong tourism profiles into the burning topic of tackling the island's problem of seasonality. "A Sea Of Experiences", so it was said, was a project to mark the before and after of Mallorca's struggle with seasonality.

This was a pretty bold claim, one that I'm not entirely sure I understand. What I think it means is that the "sea of experiences" will wash away the struggle and leave a pristine beach of future and abundant off-season tourism. Something like this anyway.

The project and the experiences' sea were launched at a workshop the other day at which the Mallorcan hotel federation was joined by its governmental colleagues. I imagine they all had a nice lunch at the restaurant at the Son Muntaner Golf Club where, if you didn't know, "golf doesn't get any better than this" (better than Son Muntaner, modestly described as the "leading golf resort in the Mediterranean").

Golf is of course one aspect of the sea of experiences, so it was probably appropriate they all pitched up at a golf club to get on with their intensive workshopping and having lunch. And who was there? I don't know, other than I spied the government's finance, business and employment minister, Josep Aguiló, otherwise known as the debt-crisis, gone-out-of-business and unemployment minister. I imagine Delgado was there as well, though they probably kept him hidden, as would have been Alcúdia's Coloma, wittering on about cruise ships and gastronomy, and the Two Many Encrypts, Miguel and Tomeu, mayors of Santa Margalida and Pollensa, able to tell the workshop all about visitors' centres that are sometimes open but usually are closed at wildlife and nature parks. (And wildlife and nature parks are also part of the sea of experiences.)

So, what was the outcome of this gathering of the great minds of Mallorcan tourism and its collective workshop? One outcome was the PDF, a damn great list of routes, addresses, dates and other factual info that everyone already knew about. It would seem, though, that if you put a long list of such information together and slap a title on it like "A Sea Of Experiences", then you will have convinced Mallorca's mere mortals that you have actually been doing something constructive and not just having lunch. Moreover, you will be able to point to the list as being the "after" in the great struggle. List off-season tourism possibilities, and bingo, the problems of seasonality are over.

Except of course they aren't and nor are they likely to be thanks to the sea of experiences.

You know when you read something and you get to the end of it and think to yourself, "did I actually read this correctly?", meaning that you read it again and realise that you had read it correctly first time round. This is what happened when I read about the sea of experiences, and having read it a second time, my head dropped and smacked against the desk. One does on occasion feel like giving up.

It's all what has been banged on about for years. The only vaguely original aspect of the workshop seemed to involve the use of technology. Someone has clearly cottoned on to the existence of QR codes, and so now tourists will be able to access information via such codes. Fantastic. However, tourists do have to be in Mallorca first for them to benefit from waving a smartphone in the general direction of some black squiggles.

This is the nub of the issue. The sea of experiences is a sea of clichés, a sea of aspects of tourism that already exist and which have largely failed to address seasonality. And a reason why is because there aren't any tourists. The hotel federation, rather than worrying overly much about QR codes, should have been having a go at Aguiló. "Oi, Aguiló, what about some tax breaks in winter?"

Airport taxes going down 10% in winter might mean more flights, but then again maybe they won't. The hoteliers, the government, the mayors, the whoever can have all the workshops they like, but unless there are the right incentives in winter, they will come to nothing, QR codes or no QR codes. 

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 15, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Russian newspaper launched in Mallorca

As though confirmation were in fact needed of the growing Russian influence in Mallorca, a newspaper has been launched for the Russian tourist and resident. "Vesti Mallorca" comes from the Serra group ("Ultima Hora", "Daily Bulletin" etc) and will appear every fortnight.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Tom Daley joins anti-balcony diving campaign

Typically getting into a state of high excitement when any British sportsperson comes near Mallorca, the press and now also the British Government have latched onto Tom Daley's presence on the island to promote an anti-balcony diving campaign. Cue photo of Tom and the lovely Paul Abrey today. I have previously written about balcony-diving under a heading "Blame Tom Daley"; just wait for the dives to increase as Tom takes his dives during the Olympics.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Fears over Balearics medical go-slow

Doctors and other medical professionals may undertake a go-slow in protest at not being paid additional salaries this month, as has been the case since 2008 when these "bonuses" were introduced in order to avert strike action back then. The Balearic Government had signalled its intention to demand repayment of these additional salaries since 2010 when the Balearics Supreme Court deemed them illegal, but appears to have backtracked (possibly because it has been paying them as well as the previous government).

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa restaurants to close in protest this Sunday

A group of bar/restaurant owners with businesses in and by the Plaça Major in Pollensa plan to close this Sunday (until four in the afternoon) in protest at the town hall's insistence on applying a local by-law from 2002 which determines the exact amount of space their terraces can occupy. They also intend staging a protest in front of the Hotel Juma (owned by the mayor's family) as they consider the law benefits this establishment. There is concern regarding discrimination between bars and restaurants (all establishments are officially classified in certain ways), with bars assigned more space than restaurants.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2012

20.3C the local best by 08.00 but feels a touch chilly too. But sun all day (or so claims the forecast) with a high of 29C. Given that there have been similar forecasts for the past two days which have turned out not to be accurate, then today's might be right or it might not be. The weekend only has sun and nothing else, apparently.

Afternoon update: And the forecast was right. Gloriously sunny, an inland high of 27.1C, a couple of degrees lower by the coast, as is normally the case. 

The Soul Of Mallorca: Catalan

To no one's surprise, Antoni Pastor voted against the Balearic Government's changes to the language law which will remove the pre-requisite of speaking Catalan for employment in the public sector. To no one's further surprise, he now finds himself suspended from the Partido Popular and may find himself expelled from the party.

Towing the party line and all that. The reaction of the government and the PP is not so different to that which would obtain in Westminster. Politicians with long and serious faces make pronouncements about the seriousness of going against the wishes of this or that party leadership, political analysts dissect the dissent in terms of "black" Wednesday or Thursday, or whatever day it happens to be for the government, and everyone promptly forgets about it all.

It isn't normal for a Westminster party to expel an MP if he or she votes against it. Not towing the party line can be a career-limiting move but it doesn't normally end totally in tears and the party membership card having to be torn up and tossed into the dustbin of a political career potentially in ruins. In Mallorca, it would seem that it is normal insofar as anything about local politics can be said to be normal, and very little is.

Pastor has voted with his conscience. In a democratic set-up, conscience should be allowed to play a part, but it doesn't unless the "free" vote is applied. On a major policy issue, such as the language, there is no room in the PP's democratic set-up for conscience. You do as you are told, except the leadership knew full well that Pastor wouldn't do as he was told.

Jaume Font, a former ally of Pastor's in the PP and now leader of the breakaway La Lliga, has praised Pastor for his courage, which may well translate as an invitation to come and join him. He might just do that, though one still fancies that he wouldn't. Suspended or not, expelled or not, Pastor still has a great deal of support within the PP rank and file, a point made by one of the party's more important figures, the speaker of the parliament Pere Rotger.

Pastor knows he has this support and as importantly so does the PP party leadership. He is a nuisance, and nuisances to political parties tend to end up in exile, either actually or metaphorically. But he won't be in exile, he will continue to be a parliamentary deputy (as an independent) and mayor of Manacor where he has the support of a majority of other PP councillors. What does the party leadership do about that? Expel the whole of the Manacor branch of the party?

If Pastor is ultimately kicked out of the party, on the face of it this would end any ambitions he might have of becoming its leader. I'm not so sure that it would, though. Pastor's stance is one of a battle over what is the soul of Mallorca. This soul, I used to believe, was one that was largely indifferent and one that would merely shrug its shoulders. It still is but it is far less so than it was, and there are clear examples that the soul of Mallorca is an issue over which many Mallorcans feel strongly. The parents who have rejected overwhelmingly to have their children taught in Castellano instead of Catalan are a case in point.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the PP in the Balearics would undergo a volte-face in official attitudes towards Catalan and regionalism. If the next election were to loom with question marks over Bauzá being able to get re-elected, there might just be a reassessment, and it would be one that might see Pastor brought fully back into the fold. One suspects that this is what he may be counting on and would be why he wouldn't join up with Font. There again, the one great advantage Bauzá has is that there is no coherent opposition worthy of the name. PSOE remains in a state of some disarray, while other parties don't really count.

Three years, though, are a long time. Long enough for there to be change and long enough for the battle over Mallorca's soul to leave some bodies. The question is - whose? Bauzá's or Pastor's? And at the same time as the battleground in the islands starts to become littered with the fallen, another front opens - the European Parliament has heard a complaint from teachers' representatives regarding what they call the institutional harassment of Catalan by the Bauzá government.

Any comments to please.