Sunday, March 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 2 : 3 Deportivo La Coruña

Mallorca, despite losing last time out to Real Madrid, had been on something of a roll. At home to bottom side Depor, Mallorca would have good reason to be confident. And so ...

Well, things started well enough, Victor putting Mallorca ahead after nineteen minutes, but Depor struck back within six minutes and from then on it was mostly downhill for Mallorca. The match was even enough, but Depor were making the better opportunities and after the break Marchena and then Riki with a header gave the visitors a lead that only a late goal from Nsue could cut. It wasn't enough and the result was frankly a disaster for Mallorca who now find Depor only a point behind them. It isn't all over as five points cover Depor in bottom place and Granada in sixteenth, but next week it is Barça away for Mallorca before they take on fellow strugglers Vigo (who drew with Barça yesterday) in a fortnight.

Aouate; Hutton, Geromel, Nunes, Luna; Tissone (Márquez 77), Martí (Hemed 57), PIna; Alfaro, Victor (Nsue 56), Dos Santos
Goals: Victor (19), Nsue (86)
Yellows: Martí (31), Pina (38), Geromel (47)


Aranzubia; Pablo, Aythami, Marchena, Silvio; Aguilar, Domínguez; Gama (Salomao 74), Valerón (Zé Castro 89), Pizzi; Riki (Oliveira 79)
Goals: Silvio (26), Marchena (48), Riki (60)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 5 to 6 easing to variable 3 and finally Southwest 4. Swells to one metre.

Warm overnight - a change in duvet arrangements required - less windy now on what will be another sunny day. Rain possible overnight.

Evening update (19.00): 22.4C the high on a mainly sunny day but with some cloud. 

The Old And New Elite: Spain's civil service

If I tell you that on the first, last and only occasion when I could be bothered to actually go and watch the Boat Race (watch, as in go to a pub near to the start and see virtually nothing) Mike Smith was DJ-ing from the Capital Radio boat, then you will appreciate that it was quite a long time ago (I'm guessing 1984).

Living in London, attendance at the Boat Race was one of those things that you thought you ought to do, even if you didn't have the slightest interest in the race itself. I managed to put off this apparent obligation until finally I crumbled under the peer pressure of a good piss-up.

I am willing to concede that nowadays the Boat Race is between two teams that comprise genuine athletes who get degrees on the nod purely by virtue of being able to put themselves through hell by rowing four and a half miles along the Thames. But back in the day of Mike Smith and even further back in the day, the two teams consisted of toffs for whom participation in the Boat Race was a further notch on the CV to joining the board at a private bank or heading a civil service department.

For reasons that escape me, when I was a boy, I supported Oxford. Actually, I know the reason why. My father supported Oxford. My mother, and therefore my sister, supported Cambridge. Why either? Pass. Unlike other sporting rituals that began to come thick and fast (relatively speaking) once spring was about to spring or had sprung - the National and then the FA Cup Final - the Boat Race was an exercise in the utterly futile. There were only ever the same teams and one always won by a huge margin; any interest in the race was lost almost as soon as it had started.

More than this, we were supporting bunches of toffs, members of the elite. What on earth were we thinking of? Had it been mandatory to wear caps, then we would have been doffing them in the general direction of the black-and-white Bush TV while the combined aristocracy of the Oxbridge boats cruised past Fulham's football ground.

There isn't anything like the Boat Race in Spain. The country has its own idiotic sports, but there is no Boat Race because there are no two universities like Oxford and Cambridge. The University of Barcelona can boast that it is the country's number one university and in the top two hundred universities in the world, but a ranking of 176th among those 200 doesn't sound quite so clever; it has some distance to go to catch Cambridge in first place and Oxford in fifth.

Oxbridge was and still is, albeit to a lesser extent, the finishing school for the British elite. I realised that things were changing in the nature of who actually went to Oxbridge when I, in a somewhat foolhardy move on behalf of my school, was being lined up for Oxbridge. I didn't get there, but five of my peers, of whom none were anything other than good middle-class boys, did. At least one, though, went on to become a top civil servant.

It would be hard to think of him as being part of an elite, but the British civil service can still brag that it is an elite. However, it isn't in quite the same league as the Spanish civil service elite.

Social class in Spain has long been determined in a similar fashion to Britain. The nobility, of which there is still a sizable chunk, and the large absentee landowners of the latifundio of southern Spain (and this nobility and these landowners could be one of the same thing) comprise the upper class. But there remains a bourgeoisie of aspirant upper class that has long existed, one of the civil service.

The Spanish civil service owes a great deal to its French counterpart. Very elite therefore, even if its power has been eroded. And what has been eroded in particular has been the power of the "corps", groups of civil servants who acted on the basis of their own self-interests and with their own self-ruling capacity, independent of political power. Such was the power of the corps in Franco's time that they even had their own self-financing ability, i.e. they would charge citizens special taxes for services they provided.

The corps still exist, but governments, especially socialist governments, have sought to undermine them. But rather like the Catholic Church, a different type of elite, has proved to be resilient in resisting attempts to diminish power, so have the corps. The current government, seeking and implementing drastic cuts in the public sector, butts heads with this elite and does its best to further reduce its power and its cost. But elites, pretty much by definition, have a remarkable capacity for hanging onto their elite status.

The Boat Race now has a new elite, one of elite athletes. There is no boat race for an elite in Spain. Just boats. Expensive ones. And who pays for them?

Any comments to please.

Index for March 2013

Antoni Pastor and El Pi - 16 March 2013
Atlantic coast tourism - 19 March 2013
Attitudes towards tourism - 29 March 2013
Balearics Day and regional autonomy - 1 March 2013
Berlin travel fair: GOB protest - 11 March 2013
Bikini and tourism - 17 March 2013
Burka ban - 27 March 2013
Citizenship - 30 March 2013
Civil service elite in Spain - 31 March 2013
Club Med in Alcúdia - 3 March 2013
Entrepreneurialism and Spanish culture - 12 March 2013
Eurovision Song Contest - 8 March 2013
Gatamoix colony - 4 March 2013
Mallorca's tourism history - 15 March 2013
Palma merchandising - 7 March 2013
Partido Popular declining popularity - 25 March 2013
Pollensa Festival - 10 March 2013
President Bauzá and business affairs - 13 March 2013
Radio Calvià raid - 23 March 2013
Roundabouts - 24 March 2013
Russian tourism in Pollensa - 5 March 2013
Spain's politics in 1964 - 22 March 2013
Spanish economy recovery? - 14 March 2013
Spying - 21 March 2013
Teams - 18 March 2013
Temple Fielding - 2 March 2013
Tourism export - 20 March 2013
Tourism products - 6 March 2013
Tourist tax - 9 March 2013
Violence accusations against PSOE - 26 March 2013
Winter tourism initiative - 28 March 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa town hall faces Vilar compensation claim

The intricacies of regulations regarding land, its classification and which authority is supposed to do what (or which doesn't) have been exposed by the case of the Vilar urbanisation in Pollensa. The regional government faces a compensation claim of over 16 million euros for not having implemented a plan to develop the urbanisation that dates back to 1983 and now Pollensa town hall faces a further claim for compensation from owners, it having in theory assumed responsibility for development in 1999 but which has not been effected, partly because of a classification ruling in 2008.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 5 to 6.

Sunny but very windy, as it will be during the day when the temperatures will certainly exceed the forecast high: more like 24 in all probability. Sunny again tomorrow, the wind easing. Monday likely to bring rain.

Evening update (19.00): Perhaps surprisingly it wasn't as warm as yesterday, a high of 21.1C. May have been the wind.

Spanish Citizenship Test For The British

The Spanish Government is liaising with education experts to finalise a standardised language test that anyone wishing to become a Spanish citizen would have to undergo. Meanwhile, the new test for those who wish to become British citizens has now come into force. I have just taken a practice test, one that a prospective British citizen can try out to see if he or she is ready to set the real test. Unfortunately, I can no longer consider myself a British citizen. I failed. 50% right that was all. Did I know the number of children and young people up to the age of 19 in the UK? Did I know the percentage of people in the UK in 2001 who said they were Muslims? Did I know how many days a year a school must be open? No I didn't. So I guessed. Wrongly probably. They don't give you the right answers and I'm not about to waste time looking up the answers on Google.

What a totally pointless exercise. If this is how the real test is, then there are going to be an awful lot of people who fail to become British citizens or succeed purely on the basis of guesswork. What the hell's the number of children and young people up to the age of 19 got to do with anything? The four options were 13, 14, 15 or 16 million. And?

Maybe the test I took wasn't representative. There are other ones you can take. I got full marks in the one in "The Guardian", so I have redeemed my citizenship status. I'm thinking that the other test was designed so that you would fail. It was probably a front for selling something. Whatever.

Spain doesn't have a citizenship test, not one with stupid multiple-choice questions. It may get its language test and that's it. But the Spanish Government might consider combining the two. And making this combination specific to different nationalities. So, any Briton who fancies going well and truly native would have to construct sentences or questions in Spanish, ones of particular relevance to the Briton in Spain. Here, therefore, are some samples that you need to be able to put into Spanish in order to test your chances of becoming a Spanish citizen.

1. I'm about to lose coverage from my Sky satellite. How will I be able to ensure that I can watch Premier League matches next season?

2. I cannot vote in a British general election as I have lived outside of Britain for 15 years. I have no particular wish to vote in a Spanish general election, not that I can, because I am not (yet) a Spanish citizen, but when I do become a Spanish citizen and would be entitled to, who on earth would I vote for as I've never heard of any of them?

3. I want to vote in a British general election and specifically to vote for UKIP. Would there be any potential disadvantages to my currently being a resident in Spain and not needing a permit for anything that might result from UKIP winning a British general election, because I can't think of any? VOTE FARAGE!

4. Why do the Spanish keep going on about getting Gibraltar back? Don't they know that it's British and will always be a part of our great country?

5. It would be so much better if Mourinho were to leave Real Madrid and to go back to Chelsea so that all those top-flight players such as Fernando Torres could once more enjoy success in Europe rather than Spanish club sides.

Once you've put all these into your best Spanish, send them to the ministry for public administration and wait approximately three years (the minimum time it would take to process applications) for your rejection letter to be sent.

Any comments to please.

Friday, March 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Southwest 3 to 4.

Nice and sunny with some light patchy cloud. A warm day and staying warm over the weekend but getting windy tomorrow, things deteriorating for Monday.

Evening update (20.00): A remarkable inland high of 25.1C on a day of sun, cloud and wind. 

With Or Without: Mallorcan attitudes towards tourism

As you do, I was spending my Holy Thursday rummaging around in Google looking for worthy material on tourism as colonisation. And blow me, what did I find but just such a piece of material, a masters paper by someone called Lola López-Bravo Palomino. Bear with me, because what Lola discovered was really quite revealing.

The research is ten years old, but I doubt that the findings would be different today. What Lola did was to talk to both tourists and locals and to get their responses to questions about tourism and specifically what tourists expected from their holidays and what they thought about Mallorca and the locals and what the locals expected from tourism and what they thought about tourists. While the responses of the tourists were interesting, those of the locals, I would suggest, were rather more so.

One way that Lola got the locals to respond was by asking them to rate a synonym for tourism. Of other words that tourism could correspond with, the one that was chosen by a significant distance was "money". Tourism equals money. She then asked the locals if they liked tourists coming to Mallorca. The majority (two-thirds) said they didn't like tourists coming to Mallorca. Then they were asked what tourists meant to them. Of the eleven different categories of response, 83% implied that tourists were merely a means to an end (they were clients or a source of income), not necessarily positive (they just came for the sun, the beach and the beer) or were in some way negative, including the ten per cent who thought tourists were "dirty, thieves, scandalous", the four per cent who perceived tourists as being "rats or animals" and the eight per cent who simply thought that tourists were "something bad".

There was a further question which asked whether tourists should be "spoiled" (as in their needs being catered for) for no other reason than because they are a source of income. 75% agreed with this. 80% said that it was locals who had to adapt to tourists, not the other way round.

What is one supposed to make of these findings? It should be pointed out that the research was conducted predominantly in three resorts - Magalluf, Can Pastilla and Arenal - so, and with the best will in the world, there may be greater negativity flying around than in more genteel parts of the island. This would have been, should have been, a caveat to the research that Lola needed to make, though I am loathe to make it myself as it appears as though tourists who go these resorts can only be considered in a negative fashion, which is very unfair.

But even if these resorts are not totally representative, do they suggest widely held attitudes across the island? Dispensing with the more graphic criticisms of tourists (rats, animals, etc.), the perception that tourists are merely a means of money and income supply might well be a widely held attitude. In fact, I would suggest that this is the prevailing attitude. Tourists are not, therefore, seen as, for example, some sort of source of beneficial inter-cultural exchange or anything as sociologically grandiose as this.

In speaking with people (British) who are genuine veterans of Mallorca in that they have been coming to the island or living on it for thirty or more years, it is fair to say that there has been a shift in attitudes among locals. It was one that started to develop in a more pronounced fashion about twenty or so years into the "boom", so from the mid-1980s. It was one, in its more extreme expression, that suggested that tourists weren't needed (and I am not referring to people with experience of the three resorts cited above).

Once that boom had become the norm, perceptions altered. Once upon a time, tourists were looked upon in a far more positive way. Of course, the nature of the tourist changed (or some tourists changed), but the attitude towards them shifted towards one of a mere commercial exchange, a neutral sort of perception, or towards a negative perception.

If anything, were Lola to repeat her research now, the perceptions would be more negative. Lower tourism spend, wider diffusion of all-inclusives, some of the poor publicity that resorts such as Magalluf and Arenal have attracted would surely mean greater negativity. Her research was quite depressing ten years ago. It would be more so now.

The title of her research had to do with "colonisation", the taking over of Mallorca by tourists. And that's what Mallorcans believe has happened. Because of this, it becomes understandable when the accusation is levelled against Mallorca that it is, at best, indifferent to tourism in winter. The island would rather not have it, because it is a time when the island can be reclaimed. But then, overwhelmingly locals looked upon tourism as a source of income ten years ago. This hasn't changed, and there is less income now from summer tourism. Mallorca is an island that can't live without tourism but would rather that it did.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Inca rejects bullfighting ban

A heated town hall meeting in Inca has rejected a call led by the PSM Mallorcan socialists for the town's bullfight to be banned. The Partido Popular-led administration declared that it was not against the bullfight while the Independents and PSOE at the council abstained in a vote on a ban.

The bullfight at the summer fiesta last year was initially cancelled owing to lack of money but was eventually staged thanks to private finance.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa approves Formentor development

Pollensa town hall has approved the removal of planning restrictions in force for several years that have limited developments in Formentor. This will allow for the licensing of work to expand the Hotel Formentor but does not envisage development on land outside of existing limits in Formentor.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 easing to 2 to 3 by the afternoon.

Quite cloudy and due to stay cloudy during the morning, brightening up this afternoon. Tomorrow (Good Friday) set to be fine and sunny, but also windy, the wind continuing over the weekend into Saturday and Sunday which will otherwise be mostly sunny but with a risk of rain on Saturday.

Evening update (19.30): An inland high of 23.2C (lower on the coasts) once the sun was out, though the day was still a mix with some cloud and a spot of thunder and even, very locally, a bit of a downpour but it was very, very local, emphasising how variable even in a small area the weather can be.

The Next Big Thing: Winter tourism

So many are the initiatives, so many are the slogans that they become lost amidst their sheer welter. It's a good word "welter". Not one I have used that often, if at all. But I am making a note to be liberal with it in the future. Welter is, as my trusty OED informs me, "a state of general confusion" or "a disorderly mixture or contrast of beliefs, policies, etc.". It can also be a "big person or thing" (a colloquial use of unknown origin from the nineteenth century, if you must know). As a verb, welter can be "to roll or wallow or be washed about". Yep, it's a very good word indeed.

Because of this welter of initiatives and slogans (welter here meaning either of the first two quoted above), when another initiative or slogan comes along, one has to pause for a moment to wonder if it has in fact come along before. So it was with the announcement of a "sea of experiences", the slogan for an initiative that will, it is said (hoped), increase tourism in the low season, i.e. winter, by 10%. Sea of experiences? Where had I heard that before? Had I heard it before? I had. Last June. I had written about it under the heading "A Sea Of Clichés". Now I remembered. There had been a gathering of worthies, the outcome of which was a meaningless list of "experiences" that were already well known: golf, wine, gastronomy, I'll leave you to add all the rest as you will be familiar with them.

Nine months later, the sea of experiences has been washed up once more. Or is it that it is being washed about? Rolling and wallowing in the shallows of a state of general confusion? A disorderly mixture? The next big thing? Well, hardly the next big thing, unless you consider that experiences for contributing to an increase in off-season tourism which have been spoken about for a good thirty years constitute the next big thing. 

What does appear to be slightly different about the sea of experiences, now that it would seem to have come to the end of a nine-month gestation, is that one set of worthies has been cast adrift, lost in the vast sea of its inexperience around the Balearics. The government worthies. They were there nine months ago. But they were not there when the newly born sea of experiences was revealed to a cooing world: only the director of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation and two important people from Air Berlin.

Why no government representatives though? I'm not sure, but is Carlos on honeymoon, he having tied the knot with the lovely lady of Lourdes last weekend and toasted the occasion at a sushi reception, attended by various acolytes from the PP who wouldn't normally choose to be in the same room as him? Whatever, it isn't necessarily a bad thing that the government is not in attendance. In fact, it is probably quite a good thing when the next big thing is being announced.

And, my goodness, what a big thing it is, too. The sea of experiences has thus far spoken with a few bodegas, five golf courses and two yacht clubs. Phew! The sea is only in its infancy, the experiences troika said. Of course it is, it has only just been born, nine months after its conception last summer. It will grow into a healthy child, though, one trusts. And this growth will be assisted by leaflets to be distributed to hotels this summer and on Air Berlin flights and by information on websites. Tourists, thus far ignorant of anything other than the beach, will now know of the sea of experiences to be had in Mallorca during the winter, most of them on dry land. And those tourists who endure the dark, long days of winter, such as the Scandinavians, will suddenly realise that "the winter in Mallorca is practically like the summer in Scandinavia", says one of the Air Berlin people. So presumably, mostly everything is shut in Scandinavia in summer and everyone disappears for several months.

To be fair, it is worth giving it a go. Hats off. And if it means going it alone minus the government, then so be it. The government hasn't got any money, so let the hoteliers and let the airlines do it all for them. Someone has to. But herein lies the rub: the hub of one airline, Air Berlin.

The other day, a German journalist phoned me to speak about the British cycling "boom" and what it meant for Mallorca. A key issue, I suggested, was that of flights. Air Berlin, despite having cut its winter routes, still flies daily from several German airports to Palma through the winter (and not necessarily just one flight per day). It is an airline with a very strong association with the island. The same cannot be said for British airlines. 'Tis ever thus that flight availability holds the key. Perhaps, therefore, the sea of experience needs to bring the government back on board, but what good has this done in the past? A welter of initiatives. A state of general confusion. Wallowing. The next big thing?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 13C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Southwest 4 occasionally 5.

Rain overnight as had been expected, quite cloudy this morning, brightening up later. Tomorrow (Holy Thursday) should be mostly sunny, Good Friday cloudier, Saturday and Easter Sunday mainly fine but rain coming in on Easter Monday. Temperatures pretty constant throughout at around 20 degrees.

Evening update (18.45): Really quite warm once the sun was out, a high of 21.9C.

The Ban That Shouldn't Be?: Sa Pobla and the burka

Sa Pobla town hall announced a week or so ago that it had no intention of revoking its by-law that prohibits the wearing of the burka in public areas. Mayor Biel Serra said that the ban would remain in place unless there was a legal decision taken as the consequence of a "denuncia" that would force it to revoke the ban. There has been no denuncia. Indeed, there has been very little fall-out as a result of the ban. No one has been fined for wearing a burka unlawfully, which may because there were, or so it was said at the time when the ban was introduced in late summer 2011, hardly any women who wore it anyway.

That was one side of the story. The other was that Sa Pobla was chock-full of Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and wherever and that the wearing of the burka and niqab was widespread. As ever, one could take which side of the story one liked, depending on one's point of view, even if neither was actually true. Personally, and prior to the ban, I had never seen a burka in Sa Pobla, but then maybe I was not moving in the right public-area circles.

The town hall was moved to state that the ban would remain in force because of a decision by the Spanish Supreme Court which instructed the town hall in the Catalonian town of Lleida to lift its ban. Sa Pobla, the only town in Mallorca with a ban, had taken Lleida's lead; the terms of its ban are more or less identical to those that Lleida had laid down.

Mayor Serra insists that the ban is all about guaranteeing the public's safety and security and has nothing to do with limiting religious freedoms. It is these freedoms, and the possible contravention of them, that may yet find Sa Pobla hauled up in front of m' learned friends; the Supreme Court ruled against Lleida's ban on just these grounds and on the basis that an individual municipality did not have the authority to impose a by-law that did interfere with religious freedoms.

When Sa Pobla introduced its ban, I wrote an article in which I questioned the ban's legality. I did so on the basis of my understanding of the Spanish Constitution. The Supreme Court, in making its decision regarding the Lleida ban, has made clear that it is not answering the question as to whether the Constitution would permit or not permit the wearing of the burka, but the fact that the Court has addressed the constitutional issue makes me feel somewhat vindicated for having raised the issue. Before and after I had written the article, I came across no other reference to the constitutional aspect. There may well have been, but it surprised me to find that a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution, one that Sa Pobla and Lleida may have been going against, was apparently given such scant attention.

The Supreme Court has opened the way for national government to legislate if it so chooses. The fact that the Court has been equivocal where the Constitution is concerned may actually make it more difficult for the government to legislate or to bring about a law that isn't then subject to challenge. One can see the whole matter dragging on for years, always assuming the government were to legislate. Would it be minded to, now that the general hullabaloo about the wearing of the burka that was around a couple of years ago has seemingly died down?

A consequence of the Lleida decision does raise the potential for this hullabaloo to break out once more, and probably unnecessarily. In Sa Pobla, a town with a large Muslim population, the ban has raised very little by way of tensions; those that there have been have come about for other reasons. It could be argued that the ban has been effective, as demonstrated by no fines having been issued. It could also be - and in the handful of towns across Spain where there are similar bans, there have been no fines either - that the ban was a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Or an act of political expedience that no other town hall in Mallorca has deemed worthy of following.

As I said in my previous article, I am not in favour of the burka. I consider it an absurdity. But nor am I in favour of towns making up their own rules on matters of fundamental rights. It's up to the government. Either there is a ban - a national one - or there isn't.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa to approve dogs on beaches in high season

Months after the idea first came up, Pollensa town hall is set to approve a by-law that will permit dogs (and indeed other pets) to be taken onto specific beaches in the town during the summer. These will, in all likelihood, be Cala Carbó in Cala San Vicente and Llenaire in Puerto Pollensa. The move is said to be in response to demands from residents and tourists.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 17C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 4 to 5, 6 at intervals, easing to 3 by the afternoon and backing Southwest 4 by the evening. Swells to one metre.

Quite a noticeable shift this morning, as even early it feels warm, which is probably because it is. May be some rain this evening and tomorrow. Otherwise mostly sunny right into the Easter break. It will be breezy at times with temperatures around the 20 mark.

Afternoon update (17.30): A high of 21.6C. Cloudy this afternoon with the threat of some rain still around. 

Violent Times They Are A-Changin'

Valtònyc's back in the news. Mallorca's youthful, radical rapper has been accused of assaulting a young conservative, the representative of the Partido Popular's Nuevas Generaciones in Sineu, Marc Álvarez Gelabert. The rapper insists that he hit no one and had merely intervened in an argument. The PP has, nevertheless, called in the cops and President Bauzá has condemned the aggression and demanded that there be punishment.

The alleged assault by Valtònyc coincided with a speech at a gathering of Toledo's young conservatives that was given by the national secretary-general of the PP, María Dolores de Cospedal, in which she accused PSOE and other parties of inciting violence among the nation's youth. PSOE has responded by saying that Cospedal's accusations are "unfounded and malicious".

It hasn't, it must be said, been obvious that PSOE has been going around inciting anyone to violence, but there is form between Cospedal and PSOE when it comes to such accusations. In July last year, the spokesperson for the PP in Castilla-La Mancha, the region for which Cospedal is president, attacked PSOE for having orchestrated protests and incited "verbal violence" directed against Cospedal during the opening of a festival of theatre.

Cospedal's speech has not only attracted PSOE's rejection of her accusations. It has been interpreted as an attempt to raise a smokescreen to obscure the various woes that currently plague the PP. Cospedal is one of those who was named in the Bárcenas ledgers of allegedly suspicious payments to members of the PP. The ledgers, with their implication of corruption, are an example, so any number of commentators on the internet would have it, of the "violence" perpetrated by the PP. Others include other corruption allegations, cuts to public services, unemployment ... the list goes on.

As ever when youthful violence with a political dimension raises its ugly head and takes to the streets (and to be fair, there hasn't been a great deal of it and there wasn't a great deal of it even when the "indignados" were in full public-square occupancy mode), politicians reel off the it's only a small minority cliché. True to form, Cospedal has done just this, neglecting the fact that while a small minority may act in a violent fashion a much larger minority or even a majority may feel that it has a legitimate beef, as in the 50%-plus unemployed youth of the country.

Addressing a bunch of young conservatives is not the best way to show that she might be wanting to engage with disaffected youth. Nuevas Generaciones represent only one part of that youth and are therefore not representative of younger people as a whole. She was speaking to the converted, those likely to end up in a confrontation with more radical youth elements, as would appear to have been the case in Sineu.

It is the failure of politicians to appear to be inclusive that helps to fan the flames of frustration. And by firing off accusations against PSOE, Cospedal has managed to fan these flames further, as her speech has been interpreted as a diversionary tactic. She does, she will argue and did in her speech, understand the frustration. Sort of. There was frustration before, she said. In the 1990s when Spain was in recession. But the country came out of that, and it will again and so, rather than there being no hope and no future, there will be both (I'm paraphrasing slightly). What she of course ignored was that the 1990s recession was quite unlike the current situation. And then, to make matters far worse, she went on to commit the cardinal sin of any politician who wants to try and come across as being vaguely "hip" and falls flat on his or her face. She resorted to mentioning a figure from popular youth culture, albeit one who is now well past pensionable age. She quoted Bob Dylan. In 1963, Dylan sang about how the times were changing, she pointed out. And my, how the times have changed since then. Internet, Twitter, a contract signed with a company in China only that very day; Cospedal cited them all as evidence of change and so, by implication, of a bright, technological future.

Why did she mention Dylan though? Did she not realise what Dylan was singing about? That Dylan was the voice of protest for a generation, one of civil rights, of anti-war demonstrations? That where that protest generation led was to deaths at Kent State University, students shot dead by the National Guard?

I've got a suggestion for Valtònyc's next release. Rap Dylan.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3 reaching 4 to 5 by the afternoon. Swells to one metre.

Bright, sunny and breezy morning. A good deal of sun anticipated today and for most of the week, though showers are possible tomorrow and Wednesday. Into the Easter weekend, warm (to 20 degrees) with sun and the occasional shower.

Afternoon update (17.30): Bright and breezy during the day, with a high of 20.6C.

With Enemies Like These: The PP

The results of an opinion poll conducted on behalf of "Ultima Hora" should make the ruling administration at Palma town hall feel queasy. The Partido Popular-dominated council would lose its overall majority. Mid-term blues, ongoing economic crisis and all that, but when the opposition has proved to be as ineffective as it has been, there is more to the fall in popularity than just the inevitable consequences of austerity. The PP in Palma, as with the PP generally, is losing its way because people don't like it, and they don't like it because too many of its leading lights have been doing their level best to make enemies and to come across as aloof and wholly unsympathetic to the plights of citizens and businesses.

Remarkably, given her fall from grace at the last elections and her role in the debacle that has been the redevelopment of Playa de Palma, PSOE's Aina Calvo may find herself holding the mayoral wand again in two years time. How on earth could this happen? Only because the PP has been making such a hash of things and alienating anyone it can, with one notable exception.

Palma being Palma and so therefore more cosmopolitan than much of Mallorca might prove to be as good as it gets for the PP next time round. Out in the sticks there is generally greater support for old-style PP politics; a more inclusive style that is now the domain of other parties. This isn't only the case in the centre of anti-PP stroppiness, Manacor; it exists elsewhere, such as in another of the larger towns, Inca. In two years time, Mallorca will probably revert to where it was in 2007: to a coalition of PSOE and some others. And PSOE wouldn't be able to believe its luck, given that it has been as hopeless as it has been for the past two years (and before).

The Balearic Government's cuts in the public sector have done it only so much harm. It had to adopt certain drastic measures; most people would accept that it needed to. But it is now making enemies among its natural constituents in business. For all that Matas may have been less than above board or that Cañellas was forced to resign, previous PP presidents have been firm friends of business. True, they were not faced with current circumstances, but would they have put the business noses out of joint in the way that Bauzá has? A coalition of companies affected by the government's so-called green taxes is distinctly miffed with Bauzá.

Or is it Bauzá? Because this is another issue. The president passes the buck to his vice-president for finance and business, José Aguilo, he who manages to make even Bauzá appear a sympathetic character and who comes out with the rot that he does (higher taxes are good for the economy etc.). Perhaps Bauzá has seen the writing on the wall, if not in two years time then at some point between now and when the High Court considers the conflict of interest posed by his business affairs. He's a dead man walking and has abrogated leadership.

Things might be better for Bauzá were he surrounded by cabinet colleagues who commanded a great deal of respect, but he isn't. Unfortunate he was to lose two health ministers, but this was no reason to appoint the office junior. Carlos stumbles from one embarrassment to the next and could find himself tuned off by the Radio Gaga in Calvià. Rafael Bosch, the hapless education minister and government spokesperson, is put up to defend the indefensible ("error or omission", my arse). Only Biel Company, the chap in charge of the environment-agriculture-transport mega-ministry, can hold his head up high, and this may owe something to the fact that he isn't really a politician, as he was brought into the government as an independent from business.

The government's only enduring mates are those in the hotel sector, but its kowtowing to the hoteliers was what first alerted much of the rest of business to discriminatory treatment. The green taxes have simply confirmed what the rest of business suspected.

Bauzá, or rather Aguiló, may argue that their hands are tied because of Madrid's demands. But they fail to explain themselves convincingly or with any sense of a common touch, and Bauzá has previously more or less admitted as much. As it heads towards the halfway point in its administration, the government faces a growth in the ranks of opponents across the battle line. Defeat beckons.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest veering Northwest 4 and at times 5 by the afternoon. Rain and storm possible.

Cloudy but with some sun. Rain possible during the day, clearing overnight. The week ahead should be generally fine and quite warm, though there will also be the risk of the odd shower.

Afternoon update (17.45): Some thunder around earlier but it didn't come to anything. Mostly cloudy with a high of 19.7C.

Round And Round We Go

Where do you think the first roundabout in Spain was built? Madrid? Barcelona? Valencia? None of these. It was in Mallorca. Palmanova to be precise. The year was 1976. So a mere 67 years after the claim to the first roundabout having been built - in Letchworth (actually, Paris lays claim to having had one in 1907) - Spanish roads finally entered the modern era of motoring. Since that time, roundabouts have been built with a fervour and a fever that would leave breathless even the motorists of Swindon and Hemel Hempstead (two towns with more surreal and simply more roundabouts than most other places).

In pre-1976 film footage for Palma there are what look like roundabouts but which weren't. They were just obstacles in the middle of the road that motorists went past; obstacles created by some old landmark or other. In fact, it had been common enough in cities and towns in different countries to construct something, be it say artistic or a garden, at road intersections. Or, for purely aesthetic reasons, in the middle of old, primitive roads. Artistic creations in the middle of roads, on roundabouts, have since then acquired a whole new lease of life, as can be seen by the numerous examples of roundabout furniture in Mallorca.

The island's roundabouts, indeed Spain's roundabouts, are the stuff of great debate. Party to this debate are environmentalists, road designers and engineers, urban planners, artists and sometimes even motorists. Roundabouts are by no means universally popular, and this lack of popularity stems from different perspectives.

The environmentally conscious road design lobby against roundabouts helped to bring about a report in 2005. This contrasted Spain's roundabouts with its traffic light junctions. On cost alone, there was much to be said for the latter. Roundabouts, obviously of a certain size, cost on average 120,000 euros to build plus any cost of expropriation. Traffic-light junctions cost a mere 25,000 euros and took up far less space. The report also highlighted the costs in terms of energy consumption, the result of all the braking and accelerating demanded by  roundabouts, if they were as regular as many now are. A conclusion of the report was that, generally speaking, roundabouts should only be built at entry points into towns and not within or through them. The report was clearly ignored. Playa de Muro and Can Picafort are just two places that have seen several, small roundabouts placed along the main road in recent years.

A further report, of 2009, by researchers at the department of geography at the Independent University of Madrid, considered the "public art" of roundabouts, all those sculptures that are now to be typically seen. Or not seen. One of the researchers' arguments against all this art was that it was pointless as motorists don't see it. Indeed, you would hope they probably don't, as they should be concentrating on something else. Or maybe they are seeing, hence the accidents at roundabouts. For the most part, the researchers were unimpressed; this public art was of limited cultural merit and had little to do with its location.

What they didn't delve into was what it all cost. Just as an example, though, in 2010 Calvià town hall put out to tender work for three new "ornamental objects" for roundabouts in Santa Ponsa. They were to cost 53,000 euros in total, which may have represented a nice earner for a local artist, even if Balearics artists as a collective have been less than enthusiastic about roundabout art, partly because no one knows who the artist is and partly because they reckon that much if it has been rubbish.

Traffic circulation is obviously the reason for the rapid expansion that there has been in the number of roundabouts in Mallorca. I say obviously, but I am far from convinced that they have helped. Roundabout fever has, at times, seemed to have been designed to alleviate Trafico's boredom and enhance the quality of their worklife: increase the number of roundabouts, and there is a greater choice for where they can stand around plus a greater choice of scenery. The growth in roundabouts may offer more variety when it comes to traffic controls, but do the cops ever bother to advise motorists on their roundabout etiquette?

There are people who claim to know what the rules are at roundabouts. Some of them are probably with Trafico or are driving instructors. But this still doesn't stop articles appearing, at least once a year, in the local Spanish papers which discuss the "chaos" at roundabouts. The truth is that no one seems to know for sure, and even if they do know, then they ignore the rules anyway. Either that, or they're admiring the artwork.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Ternelles owners seek annulment of previous access decisions

Pollensa town hall has admitted defeat in its legal attempts to ensure public right of access to the walk across the Ternelles finca. The period for appealing the most recent decision of the Balearics High Court has now passed, the town hall conceding that the chances of having it reversed were almost zero. The owners are therefore now seeking an annulment of previous decisions regarding public access. The High Court, having founded in favour of the private ownership, will now have to decide if there is to be public access at all.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Playa de Muro balnearios to be managed by the town hall

An agreement between Muro town hall and a company run by hotels in Playa de Muro which has been operating the beach balnearios for several years has expired. The town hall has decided to bring the restaurants back under direct town hall control and to put the operation of each one out to tender. This will bring in greater revenues to the town and will also, it is hoped, rectify deficiencies with the balnearios that the hotel company had not addressed.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Improvements to Puerto Alcúdia's pedestrianisation

Alcúdia town hall has set in motion the process to tender for work to improve the pedestrianisation and beach pavement in Puerto Alcúdia. As the work would involve improvements to almost two kilometres of pedestrian walkways, the cost is high - estimated to be 422,254 euros.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa restaurants will pay lower taxes

Following the ruling of the Balearics High Court last month that a restaurant on the pedestrianised frontline in Puerto Pollensa should not be paying taxes to both the Costas Authority and Pollensa town hall for occupation of public land (the street terrace in other words), the town hall will formally adopt this decision next week in eliminating this duplication of taxation. The decision will apply to the Paseos Anglada Camarasa and Voramar (aka the pinewalk). In a further development, the tax levied by the town hall for businesses that fall under its responsibility alone will be reduced by between 5% and 10%.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4.

Total cloud cover but lightish cloud. Rain likely. As it will be tomorrow. First forecasts for Easter suggest that Good Friday will be pretty sunny and 20 degrees.

Evening update (18.00): The rain has held off, but not a great deal of sun. Mild though, a high of 19.5C.

Mallorca's Political Radio Times

My guess would be that there is a fair amount of schadenfreude knocking around at Carlos Delgado's expense. The Balearics tourism minister is not universally liked,  and those who have taken a dislike to him (which will include some members of his party, the Partido Popular) will probably be taking a certain delight in his latest predicament.

Previous Delgado embarrassments have really only been embarrassments - the appointment of his girlfriend to a well-paid job in the ministry and the deer's testicles incident. This one isn't so much embarrassing as potentially serious.

Last week, Guardia Civil officers raided Calvià town hall. Acting on a complaint from the PSOE socialist party, they took away documents related to contracts for the town's radio station. The legal complaint now presented to a judge implicates Delgado when he was mayor of Calvià, the current mayor, Manu Onieva, the former head of press relations at the town hall and the two people who were running the radio station between 2005 and 2011. The complaint accuses these five of crimes of fraud, corruption, abuse of public office and the misappropriation of public funds. What it boils down to is the fact that the appointments for the management of the radio station were made without a public tender having been offered and without the contracts being advertised. The value of the contracts amounted to over one million euros.

This is an odd case, as it isn't new. For example, during Delgado's time as mayor, there was an investigation at the end of which a judge declared that, though there had been defects with the tender process, there had been no indication of any illegality. Delgado insists that the awarding of contracts were in line with the law on such contracts in the public sector. The previous decision by a judge may have suggested that they weren't totally in accordance with the law, but a further legal decision, one made last October, dismissed another complaint made by the PSOE party in Calvià.

The PSOE representatives say that it was their duty and responsibility to make a new complaint. There may be new evidence that points to wrongdoing - that's something for the police, the prosecutors and the judge - but otherwise, why has this complaint come up again?

When the raid on the town hall occurred, the secretary-general of the PP in the Balearics, Miguel Ramis, alluded to a sense in which the PP was being picked on. He was clear in respecting that the law had to be followed and that the agents of the law were doing as they should, but this was not the first time that a member of the PP had suggested that the party was being singled out. It may be a touch of paranoia, while it should be said that the PP is far from having been singled out, but I can understand Ramis's point. Of course, there may be very good grounds for the latest investigation, but I am not alone in feeling uneasy at the way in which the political process becomes mired in legal complaints.

Let's be clear. There have been and may well still be very legitimate reasons for lodging such complaints, but when one political party in effect initiates legal proceedings against another, or against individuals in another party, are there not grounds for feeling that the legal system is being used for political advantage?

It was certainly the case that the PP and the old Unió Mallorquina felt that they were victims of such attempts of gaining advantage. But then previous complaints have been shown to have had substance. They also led, however, to the current president intimating that if evidence were found of wrongdoing by the previous PSOE administration in the Balearics, he would not hesitate in calling in the legal people. It smacked of tit for tat and it emphasised, yet again, that the political system is far from being one of any harmony. When the law is resorted to, it is not possible for there to be harmony.

The Calvià town hall raid may yet prove to be another example of a spectacular, one played out in the full glare of the media who seem to always be invited along, but which comes to very little. Or maybe it will prove otherwise. Either way, there is something less than satisfactory about this constant involvement of police, prosecutors and judges in the political process.

Any comments to please.

Friday, March 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 8C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South and Southeast 3, veering Southwest 4 by the evening.

Misty. Should clear quickly to give a good, sunny day. The weekend doesn't look like being much, other than rainy.

Afternoon update (17.30): Once the mist went, it was indeed sunny. And warm, with a high inland of 22.3C, a couple of degrees lower by the coasts. 

The 49ers: Spain's politics in 1964

I am in my element. A historian by degree, I am surrounded by the stuff of historical research. Original source material. Aisles of newspapers are bound into volumes. The early volumes consist of parts of years, the later ones are by month. They form the grand archive of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" and of other Grupo Serra newspapers and publications. This is a gold mine, a journey into the past as revealed by a collection. I am in an inner sanctum of fifty years of history.

Why am I here? I am doing research; research into the news of the past fifty years as reported by the "Bulletin". To do justice to all this source material would take weeks, months. It is perhaps unfortunate that there is not a more convenient way of accessing all this material: in digital form, all referenced, all keyworded. Convenient it would be, but it would be an enormous project. Maybe one day it will be done.

I know, more or less, what I am looking for. My pre-research has identified news stories, most of which I have a date for. These are stories mainly to do with Mallorca and Spain but not exclusively. I know what some of the "biggies" will be. There is a temptation to go to these first - Franco's death, the coup attempt of 1981, for example - but no, I have to be systematic. Year by year, starting back in 1963. Which is where a problem arises. 1963 isn't there. Not the best of starts. Perhaps someone has taken it out. Not to worry. It can wait for now.

Two volumes covering 1964 are, therefore, the first to be examined. A story I want to find is that to do with Spain winning the European football championship, the old European Nations Cup. I find it but I look at random at other issues from the first six months of 1964. Well, not quite at random. I go back exactly 49 years. In the absence of a more scientific approach, taking an anniversary seems like the most obvious way of making sense of randomness. 

I had not expected to uncover any critical articles about Franco and nor did I. Censorship wouldn't have allowed them anyway. There would have been little point anyone attempting to be critical and making life difficult for him or herself. But there, on this 49th anniversary, I was drawn to an article entitled "Harmony Between Spaniards, The Major Political Concern Of Today". A political discussion. I don't know that I had expected to even find one of these.

Above the article was an advert for holiday apartments in San Agustin, Majorca's residential zone "par excellence", so the ad read. The apartments had, among other things, central heating. How innovative must that have been in 1964? The unattributed article was surprisingly measured in its consideration of socialism. Its context was a political trial that had been taking place in Madrid. Though measured ("we respect" the fact that Spanish socialists are "different" and have "nothing to do with the type of socialism we knew in Spain before and during the War"), the article was a firm defence of conservatism. It pointed to British politics, de Gaulle and even Tito's Yugoslavia and Russian communism as examples of conservatism in a rather peculiar advocacy of conservatism as being progressive (I don't know that the Soviets were all that progressive in 1964).

But what was most extraordinary about this article was that it quoted a Spanish intellectual in exile in Peru. It quoted him at length, and this was all it did. It didn't take issue. Yet, this intellectual, Felix Montiel, was quoted thus: "Would it be advisable to overthrow Franco, leaving the solution to the luck of events?" Montiel wasn't in fact proposing that Franco should be overthrown. He disagreed with the regime but he had no wish for "democratic groups" who would "not hesitate to take the path of violence".

What this article suggests to me is that, by 1964, the left, even if it had not become totally reconciled to the Franco regime, was capable of accepting it. Montiel didn't want a return to the war days. He may also have recognised, had he seen a copy of the newspaper, what was happening. As indicated by the ad above the article.

This was just one article, just one I stumbled across, but it was an important article, a genuine surprise. Not only because it was in the "Bulletin" but also because it showed that both right and left were gradually moving towards each other. It would be eleven years before right and left could engage in genuine dialogue, but that dialogue had already begun.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 and at intervals around the middle of the day Southeast 2 to 3.

Totally clear blue sky. A good day today and a good day tomorrow, but less so on Saturday and Sunday when there will be rain around.

Evening update (18.45): Pretty good day, a high of 20.2C.

Spanish Spies Like Us

Does the name Método 3 mean anything to you? It should do. Método 3 was the private-detective agency that went looking for Madeleine McCann. The agency no longer exists and its boss, Francisco Marco, is under investigation.

Let us, for a moment, take stock of where Spain is at, as it is fast resembling a sixties or seventies spoof movie: banana-republic, corrupt politicians, some of whom do in fact wear dark glasses and appear to have wandered onto the film set of a mafioso send-up movie (and there are one or two leading members of the church who do as well); Carry On Hunting, in which Sid James plays a pith-helmet-wearing royal taking aim at elephants in darkest Africa, surrounded by natives with grass loincloths (Bernard Bresslaw and Jack Douglas with several tins of boot polish); a Pussy Galore Bond girl, a German princess (played by a young Diana Dors with a dodgy accent), who hovers in royal circles, allegedly helping the ne'er-do-well son-in-law of a monarch (a similarly young Michael Caine with an even dodgier accent) to get contracts paid for with suitcases full of unmarked notes - again allegedly. Now we also have Austin Powers, Spanish national man of mystery, planting listening devices in vases of flowers. All that's missing is the cast of "Are You Being Served?" running into an attempted coup on the Costa Plonka.

La Camarga is a restaurant in Barcelona. It is one in which there are vases of flowers. Or in which there has been at least one vase of flowers with at least one hidden, secret microphone, one that recorded a conversation between the leader of the Partido Popular in Catalonia and the former girlfriend of Jordi Pujol (junior), son of the one-time president of Catalonia, also called Jordi Pujol. The conversation had to do with the movement of thousands of euros to an Andorran account by Jordi II and his ex. Neither of the parties to this conversation was aware of what was hidden in the flowers. They are now.

No sooner had the conversation's transcript been published in a Catalonian newspaper than it emerged that leading political figures from all parties in Catalonia had been spied on. Moreover, there were secret dossiers supposedly full of details of financial affairs being touted to anyone willing to pay to see their contents. And Método 3 had been the spies. It is said that there are some 20,000 files relating to individuals from politics and from business.

Marco and others have been arrested. Ten van loads of documents were driven away from offices and homes. All hell has been let loose as to who has been spied upon and who has been responsible for commissioning the spying. The Spanish interior minister had apparently been another who had been unaware of what was in a vase of flowers. The deputy leader of the Partido Popular nationally, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, is a supposed target of blackmail. The Spanish secret intelligence bureau, the Catalonian CiU party and the Catalonian Socialists have all been nominated as potential commissioners.

And there is more. Método 3 had, so it has been claimed, been spying on Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué. It is alleged that the club arranged for Método 3 to keep a check on his partying activities and his relationship with the singer Shakira. The club has sort of denied it. It has also emerged that Método 3 allegedly monitored phone calls made by the former treasurer of the PP, Luis Bárcenas, he who is at the centre of the Ledgergate scandal surrounding claims of a slush fund from which leading PP politicians, including Prime Minister Rajoy, were paid. In a seemingly unrelated incident, the apartment of Maria Antònia Munar, former leader of the Unió Mallorquina, was apparently broken into a few nights ago but nothing was taken except for some documents. And to cap it all, there is also a suggestion that the king's friend, Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein (Diana Dors), has spied for the Spanish Government.

What in God's name is going on? The interior ministry has said that it is going to get to the bottom of all this espionage. Assuming it isn't being spied on, and the minister may well have been.

If all of this wasn't so serious, it would be high farce. What next? Brian Rix plays Rajoy scurrying across the boards at the Whitehall Theatre with his trousers round his ankles? Spain is fast becoming its own spoof comedy, its own parody. Hidden microphones in vases of flowers, for Heaven's sake ... . Oh, hang on a minute, I don't remember ordering that bouquet.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 veering North and by the evening backing again Southwest.

Spring arrives at midday. The morning is a bit damp, mainly light cloud, clearing later. Tomorrow and Friday due to be sunny, rain coming in on Saturday.

Evening update (20.15): Light rain during the day, the sun came eventually but an unremarkable day; a high of 15.4C.

The Export That Isn't: Tourism

I have had reason before to question the credentials of Luis de Guindos, he who has the title of minister for the economy and competitiveness but who does his very best to demonstrate that he shouldn't be minister for either. Let's be fair though to Sr. de Guindos. He may not have noticed something, so let's just go back, for example, three years to 2010. What, as reported by the World Bank, contributed 15.4% of Spain's total exports in that year? Did Sr. de Guindos not notice? Has he not noticed since? The 15.4% was the percentage of exports through tourism.

There has been an arcane debate about whether tourism is an export or not, a debate I don't intend to bore you with, but it is one that has now been won and has come down on the side of export. The World Bank recognises tourism as an export, the UN's World Tourism Organization recognises it as such (tourism, according to the WTO, ranks fourth in global export categories), the US Government recognises it also - 168,000 million dollars were contributed to the US economy in 2012. And even the Spanish Government recognises tourism as an export. Maybe.

In an address in Madrid in January, Taleb Rifai, the secretary-general of the WTO, said that "here in Spain (and the WTO is based in Madrid), the government identified tourism as the country's main export sector as it took office". When the national government launched its national tourism plan, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, the deputy prime minister who does a very good impression of in fact being the prime minister, emphasised the importance of tourism. It is "the policy of the state", she said. However, there is someone in the Spanish Government who seems to be unaware of this state policy. Luis de Guindos. Or maybe he is aware, just that, and he is only minister for the economy and competitiveness after all, he manages to overlook tourism's export role.

The Spanish Government's one bit of good economic news over the past couple of years has been the strength of exports. De Guindos pitches up from time to time at press conferences, says how marvellous the export sector is and totally ignores tourism. He talks about everything else but the sector which, by only a small margin, is the second largest contributor to Spain's exports. In 2012, tourism contributed 43,306 million euros, beaten only by a category of capital equipment (43,732 million euros). As a percentage of total exports, tourism had risen to 16.2%.

The astounding fact is that the data for the performance of different export sectors come from, yes, de Guindos's ministry and these data are used for the calculation of Spain's balance of payments. So why does the minister repeatedly fail to recognise tourism as an export? It's a very good question, the answer to which is that I haven't a clue. And nor do any other commentators. There are guesses as to why, and principal among them is that, though the government talks a good tourism talk, it doesn't walk it, as in making tourism a priority economic sector. So much for state policy, if this is true. 

Another guess is that the government is a bit too embarrassed to admit to the contribution that tourism makes when it is doing what it can to reduce this export competitiveness - increasing IVA, increasing airport taxes, these sorts of far-sighted policies. It puts up the tourism minister Soria to say how wrong the Balearic Government is for imposing a tax on car hire, and so attempt to appear to be righteous and to be emphasising state policy, while at the same time failing to recognise that its own policies might not be the most advantageous for tourism.

It is through exports that the government will manage to effect some positive growth. It will not do it any other way. But, and I've said this previously, it is hard to see how this could be sustained. When, if, recession comes to an end, pressure will be brought to bear to reverse the downward trend in labour costs, i.e. there will be pressure for wage and salary increases. While these would have an impact on tourism, the impact would be greater in other export sectors; tourism is remarkably resilient compared with some other parts of the economy. The government, therefore, should be doing all it can to not just ensure tourism growth but to ensure its grows more quickly. Not in two or three years time but now. But then, and despite state policy, if the minister for the economy and competitiveness is unaware of tourism, then how can it?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 10C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 locally 4 and for a time East during the afternoon.

A fine, sunny morn and a fine, sunny day in prospect with rain likely to come in overnight.

Evening update (18.00): A good day with a high of 19.7C.

Tourism's Grim Up North

The national government has yet another tourism scheme up its sleeves. This one is called "España Verde" (Green Spain) and, like the "Marca España" is supposedly a branding exercise, so this one will be as well. And, as part of this green branding, the government's tourism promotion agency, Turespaña, has been scouring the dictionary for a new word to include. They have come up with "norte" - north.

Green Spain is a campaign confined to a geographical region, namely the "north", by which is meant the regions with an Atlantic coastline - Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Turespaña says that these regions will create new tourism products of traditions, culture, landscapes and cuisine. These products will be distinct from other parts of Spain and will offer "different experiences".

There is in all this something of a reinvention of the wheel and of a harking back to the past in emphasising difference. "Spain is Different" was one of the first slogans adopted to attract tourists after the Second World War and it was one that survived for many years. Though the slogan embraced the notion of Spain as being the point where Europe met Africa (an earlier slogan in the 1930s had boasted "the romance of Africa and the comforts of Europe"), officialdom was slow to latch onto the attractions of the far sunnier climes of the Costas and Mallorca.

Not everyone was as slow by any means, but governmentally there was a belief that the Atlantic coast would be a prime if not the prime area for tourism development. It would be a key centre of Spain's "difference". This was a belief based on what was evident before the Civil War and the Second World War. Northern beaches and cities such as Santander and San Sebastian were popular, more so than other parts of Spain. It may seem odd now to appreciate that these beaches were considered to be the main centres for summer tourism, while the Costas and Mallorca were thought of more as winter destinations.

This was what officialdom thought, and it was a mode of thinking that would have appealed to the Francoists of the immediate post-war period, as the northern regions did possess serious amounts of tradition, not least Santiago de Compostela, the spiritual centre of Spanish Catholicism. But it was a mode of thinking that totally overlooked trends towards beach tourism and sun worship, ones that had existed well before the war. Although the Franco regime favoured these established Atlantic regions (and it might be remembered that Franco himself came from Galicia) and although there was a tourism drive based bizarrely on "rutas de guerra" (war routes) which developed into tours of historical cities, the Costas and Mallorca created a whole other tourism supply, and the demand for sun and beach was far better met in Mallorca than on the Atlantic; Cantabria, as an example, is one of the wettest parts of Spain.

Now, therefore, Turespaña has rediscovered the old "difference" up north. It is further evidence of an attempt to rectify what has been admitted - that cultural tourism has not been handled particularly well for years. Whether "Green Spain" is the best of brands is perhaps debatable, as "green" has its specific environmental connotation, but the geographical niching of the Atlantic regions does make some sense, more so than Turespaña's umbrella slogan of "I Need Spain", one that fails to emphasise the great natural and cultural diversity of Spain.

The boom in 1960s sun-and-beach tourism disrupted other forms of tourism promotion to the extent that they were largely neglected. Only now is there a genuinely coherent effort to reinvent what the Franco regime in its earlier years, albeit in a rather naïve fashion, had sought to promote. But then those naïve efforts, and one can see the type of promotion that was used in posters for inland rural as well as cultural tourism, were matched by the naïveté and gullibility of tourists of the time. Do you know what happened in 1956? "My Fair Lady" is what happened. And which was one of its most popular songs? The rain in Spain didn't and doesn't fall mainly in the plain. It falls mainly in Cantabria. But who knew where was where back then. A joke, the quoting of which is attributed to Robert Graves, had it that a woman, on telling her friend that she had been on holiday in Mallorca, was asked where Mallorca was. The woman replied that she didn't know; she had gone by plane. All tourists wanted to know was where the sun was. The sun shone mainly in Mallorca. By comparison, tourism was grim up north.

Any comments to please.

Monday, March 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Stricter rules for Alcúdia market traders

A new by-law in Alcúdia means that market stallholders will have to be more conscious of hygiene standards from now on. Included under the regulation are a requirement for sellers of fruit and veg to wear specific clothing and a limit on the sale of dairy produce and baked food to those traders who can demonstrate that they have adequate sanitary provisions.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 5 easing and backing Southwest 3 by the afternoon.

Some rain in the night but the morning is bright and sunny. There should be a good amount of sun today and through the week, temperatures rising slightly.

Evening update (18.30): A pleasant day with a high of 18.6C.

The Team Myth

Australia's cricket coach, Mickey Arthur, may be either a genius of human motivation or a total drongo. Not being a fair dinkum Aussie, the South African Arthur may well have a made a rod for his own back in effectively suspending four players for the third test against India.

Cricket is a strange sport. It is a team game yet its component elements are individual. In recent years, it has been possible to discern more obviously defined roles for players within a cricket team, partly the consequence of the development of different formats. These may always have existed, but they were far less apparent, especially in the days of Geoffrey Boycott who would, nevertheless, maintain that what was widely perceived as selfishness was in fact playing for the team.

What is also more evident nowadays is the very notion of the "team", one by which all players pull in the same direction in the pursuit of a common cause. This, you would have thought, would always have been a given in an apparently team sport, but not so. One of the more glaring examples occurred during the infamous Bodyline tour of Australia in 1932-33. Gubby Allen refused to bowl leg theory, so going against his captain Douglas Jardine's strategy. Allen, like Jardine, an amateur and a product of the public school system and Oxbridge, had the background and the bearing to enable him to take a stand. Under England's cricketing apartheid, Allen was a "gentleman". The paid ranks, the professional "players" like Harold Larwood, did what they were told. So much for a team ethic.

Arthur's suspension of the four players was the result of his wish and that also, so one supposes, of captain Michael Clarke to establish a particular team ethic. One of the criticisms of Arthur is that he indulges in psycho-babble, but all he has attempted to do, albeit in a cack-handed manner, is what other sports sides now typically strive to do, which is to create genuine "teams".

The psycho-babble, so the critics insist, has been lifted from management and business, yet much of this jargonising about teams came originally from sport. In organisations, "teams" as a concept didn't really exist until the 1980s. It took studies of outstanding sports teams to bring the concept about. In so doing, a framework was established for understanding the nature of teams and therefore teamwork and for distinguishing them from what were merely groups of workers.

Teams were to be created according to certain rules. One of these was their purpose for existing. It was in accordance with shared objectives. Team players had to buy into these shared objectives and provide roles that met them, even if this meant a certain humility and subordination of the ego to the common cause. By acquiring these objectives and by adopting the required roles, what were once groups now became teams.

This apparently sensible development was, however, to become undermined by the subsequent sheer ubiquity of the term "team" and its transfer into marketing-speak. The "team" became a means of promotion. Just as "quality" was a panacea of which a company could boast (even if it didn't conform to notions of quality), so the "team" was a de rigueur marketing tool designed to establish, in the minds of the customer, a perception of a company working in the best interests of that customer - the common cause. Unfortunately, most of it was rubbish and it still is.

Come to Mallorca on holiday now, and you will find that there are all sorts of "teams": the hotel "team", the entertainment "team", even the bar or restaurant "team". The word has become a meaningless shorthand but one, nevertheless, that is intended to convey the impression that "teams" are there for only one reason, and that is to serve the customer. Some may do precisely this, but they may well do so more through luck rather than judgement or through a specific strategy that has set out what it means to be a "team". Others won't do anything of the sort, because these "teams" are merely a collection of individuals rarely that committed to any objective other than getting paid or, with some parts of the summer tourism industry, getting laid.

So, when you click on a website on which there is a signing-off by "your team" (and it is usually is your and not our) or you see a display in say a hotel lobby with smiling faces as part of "your team", don't be taken in. They may be teams, they may be very good teams, but they may just be groups of people hiding behind the convenience of marketing guff.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 March 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 to 4 veering Southwest 5.

A mild morning. Rather grey with the chance of rain throughout the day. Projecting ahead, by late in the week spring will have begun and will see warmer and sunnier conditions.

Afternoon update (17.30): A warmish day - a high of 19.9C - but not a great deal of sun.

The Bikini Revolution

When three years ago the right-wing Instituto de Política Familiar (family policy institute) was seeking a ban on toplessness on Mallorca's beaches, the responses were loud in their condemnation of such prudishness. Among these responses were those which made a connection between the attitudes of the institute and Opus Dei. As is probably well understood, it was members of Opus Dei who were to the fore in guiding the economic policy that was to transform Spain in the 1960s. But as part of the drive towards tourism that formed a key element of this policy, it is most unlikely that committed Catholic fundamentalists, such as Opus Dei members, would have approved of certain manifestations of this tourism. And the bikini was one of them.

In 1960, Brian Hyland had a hit with "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini". At the same time as Hyland was to be heard crackling out of Radio Luxembourg, the then mayor of Benidorm, Pedro Zaragoza, was facing the prospect of being excommunicated from the Catholic Church, having, in 1959, signed a municipal order permitting the wearing of bikinis on the resort's beaches.

Zaragoza's order flew firmly in the face of Francoist Spain's national catholicism. It was the first such order. It caused an uproar. The Guardia Civil attempted to make beachgoers cover up, Zaragoza decided to take on the church, met Franco personally and, remarkably enough perhaps, Zaragoza was spared the fate of excommunication and the bikini was saved.

The bikini has assumed a legendary status in Spanish history. Under national law, a dress code had been established for the seaside. It required men to cover their chests and backs and women to wear skirts. Elements within the church tried to persuade the Franco regime to go so far as to segregate beaches into male and female sections. It was against such attitudes and legislation that the bikini was to cause the fuss that it did and to come to represent something of a "glasnost" moment in moving Spain in a more relaxed direction.

In reality, the regime was more concerned with guarding the morals of the locals than it was with what tourists chose to wear or not wear. And it was how the bikini was dealt with that explains an awful lot about how Mallorca and the Costas Brava and Blanca (the Costa del Sol was comparatively insignificant at the start of the 1960s) accommodated the pioneering mass tourists and about how Spain was in fact governed.

As part of the Stabilisation Plan of 1959, the one that set Spain on the road to the performance of the economic miracle which occurred, a plan for tourism, and one that came with regulatory backing, had been mindful to attempt to spread the tourism load across the country. The plan was never implemented, mainly because it was almost totally ignored. At the start of the 1960s, almost 70% of all accommodation for tourists was on the two Costas and in the Balearics (most of this in Mallorca).  

This disregard for legal measures typified the way in which the Franco regime said or enacted one thing and allowed another to happen. Speculators ruled the coasts of Mallorca rather than legislators, and these speculators were responding to the new demand for sun and beach holidays. In a sense, there was a government within a government that was sanctioning this. Manuel Fraga, the minister of tourism and information and the man widely credited with having overseen the tourism boom, acted more or less as he wanted. Fraga was permissive in all sorts of ways. He was a liberal in Francoist terms, and it was he who not only appreciated that a freer market (brought about by the Stabilisation Plan) should determine where tourism development would occur and how it would occur, he was also the one who rejected puritanical notions that might deter the new tourists. 

The regime, once Zaragoza had forced the issue in Benidorm, abrogated its role in determining beach morality. The commonly held view that everything was controlled by central government at that time couldn't have been further from the truth. It was left to local authorities to do as they saw fit, and usually this meant little or no controls over development and instructions to the police to leave bikini-clad females alone. And this despite the fact that the morality law determining beach attire remained unrepealed.

The bikini did denote something of a revolution, but in fact it was more a case of representing the regime's opportunism. A more gracious word would be flexibility. However one wants to describe it, the bikini provided a watershed moment. The beaches of Mallorca were never to be the same again.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Madrid 5 : 2 Real Mallorca

Mallorca, two successive wins under their belt, away at Madrid: a tough assignment. Dos Santos went close after only two minutes and four minutes later, even better. One-nil to Mallorca. Nsue heading in from Dos Santos's cross. Shortlived euphoria. One-all, Higuain after 14 minutes, and then Dos Santos again keeping López busy with a shot. Astonishingly, as Madrid were dominating, it became two-one to Mallorca six minutes later, this time Alfaro heading in. Ronaldo hit the post, Kaka saw Aouate produce a save, Ronaldo had a free kick, another shot, but the break came with Mallorca still in the lead.

With Mourinho opting to attack, bringing Benzema on for Arbeloa for the second period, Madrid were level again thanks to Ronaldo's header. And then, there was another. Modric. Three-two. Make that, four-two, Higuain three minutes later, thanks to Özil's assist.

Manzano appeared to have conceded. Mourinho, bringing Alonso on, had played all his substitution aces, while Mallorca had played none, until Hemed replaced Nsue with 25 minutes left and almost grabbed a third for Mallorca. But Madrid were now totally in control. Ronaldo drew a fine save from Aouate and he (Ronaldo) was a threat to the end, setting Benzema up, but Aouate denying Madrid a fifth. Not that he could stop Benzema adding the fifth in added time.

Next up for Mallorca (on 31 March) - at home to bottom-club Deportivo, four points behind Mallorca. A possible win for Mallorca, though Depor showed some sign of revival on Friday by winning for once, albeit at home to fellow relegation-strugglers Vigo.

López; Arbeloa (Benzema 45), Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Pepe, Modric; Morata (Özil 45), Kaka (Alonso 62), Ronaldo; Higuain
Goals: Higuain (14, 56), Ronaldo (51), Modric (53), Benzema (90)

Aouate; Hutton, Nunes, Bigas, Kevin; Pina, Tissone (Fontás 83); Nsue (Hemed 65), Añfaro, Dos Santos; Victor (Pereira 78)
Goals: Nsue (6), Alfaro (21)
Yellow: Hutton (89)

MALLORCA TODAY - Calvià town hall raided by the Guardia Civil

Agents from the Guardia Civil have raided Calvià town hall. In response to a legal complaint raised by PSIB (the Balearics wing of PSOE), a judge authorised the action in order to obtain documents related to contracts for the management of Radio Calvià during the time that Carlos Delgado, now the Balearics tourism minister, was mayor. PSIB had specifically lodged a complaint against Delgado, the Guardia acting on allegations of abuse of public office and misappropriation of public funds.

See more: Diario de Mallorca