Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Resignation ultimatum issued to Pollensa's mayor

Councillors at Pollensa town hall, with the exception of those from the Partido Popular and the Convergència, have issued a joint declaration which amounts to an ultimatum to mayor Tomeu Cifre to face a motion of censure and be forced to resign or to rectify problems of governance that stem from what is said to be a lack of accountability and transparency. The issue has been brought to a head because of an inability to set the town hall's budgets for 2013.

MALLORCA TODAY - Proposal to expropriate parts of Pollensa's Ternelles walk

The ramblers association Pro Camins Públics Oberts has made a proposal that old roads on the contested Ternelles walk to the Castell del Rei in Pollensa be expropriated by the town hall. It has placed a value of 170,000 euros on the routes.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3 to 5 easing Northeast 2 to 3 by midday.

Sun. Cloud likely to build up later but otherwise it looks as though the poor weather is at an end. Temperatures due to stay in the low 20s through the week with variable amounts of sun and at times cloud.

Evening update: The sun tailed off a bit in the afternoon but a day that was certainly much better. A high inland (Sa Pobla) of 21.2C; 19+ on the coast. 

Ordinary People: Tourist quality

Touristic quality is imperative in order to be competitive. So has said Spain's minister for tourism, José Manuel Soria. I am not a great fan of the word "touristic". It doesn't sound right. Though it is a legitimate word in English, it isn't one that would generally be used, other than in Spain where "turístico" is common usage and where, therefore, it is a direct translation. The problem with it as a word is knowing what it really refers to. Soria is probably using it in the sense that it means "pertaining to tourism", but it might just as easily mean "pertaining to tourists", and I am even less of a fan of the term "quality tourism" which, by implication, leads on to "quality tourists", a term that is an implied pejorative when one considers that it has an opposite.

When politicians in Spain and Mallorca, and not only politicians by any means, bang on about touristic quality or quality tourism or quality tourists, we all know what and who they are on about and we all know who they are not on about. Let's call quality tourism a spade, shall we. It's one that takes to the beach with a bucket as well, so long as the bucket is stuffed full of notes and isn't overflowing with a highly potent alcoholic mixture and several straws to enable non-quality tourists to get absolutely hammered for next to nothing. Quality is the alpha or beta-plus tourist, not the delta and epsilons.

Actually, imbibing copious amounts of alcohol is of no concern if it means that shedloads of notes are being handed over. Politicians couldn't give a damn about habits or behaviour. Quality, as far as they are concerned, means one thing and one thing alone. Wonga. And lots of it.

In the United Arab Emirates, the politicians would be concerned about "touristic" habits and behaviour. It's not as though alcohol is unobtainable in the UAE, because it is, but I have to assume that the local souks don't sell special drinking buckets and straws to be taken to a nearby beach, as supermarkets in Mallorca have been known to. The UAE may be all about luxury and what have you, but why any sane person would choose to go there for a regular beach-style holiday is frankly beyond me. I have to further assume, therefore, that I do not qualify as a quality tourist.

Sr. Soria was recently in the UAE. Not on holiday, you understand - he's far too busy running Spain's tourism, energy and industry ministry to bother with such frivolity - but to see how its touristic quality stacks up. And stack up it does. Nine million tourists and 85,000 beds at present, these numbers will have doubled by 2020. What is more, the tourists (yes, the tourists) are not just quality tourists, they are tourists of "extraordinary quality". Well, that really does disqualify me.

José Manuel has been to where Premier League football clubs are financed, to where Real Madrid's resort is supposed to be opening some time in the near future and to where a neighbouring emirate, Qatar, can make real that old music video with Kate Bush and Donald Sutherland and ensure rain to prevent footballers from dropping down with heat exhaustion. Or something like that. The Middle East's quality tourists - sorry, extraordinary quality tourists - are presumably all playing in Europe's top soccer leagues, and if not them, then the Russians who own their clubs. Extraordinary quality, no misbehaviour and no bad habits. Here, Luis, have this arm to chew on.

The tourism minister, having seen the extraordinary quality light, would appear to want to turn Spain into something of the Dubai of the western Mediterranean. I'm not sure about you, but I fancy there might be one or two obstacles to doing this. Even if Spain were to suddenly conjure up billions upon billions of dollars of oil money (and it won't), would we really want Mallorca to be transformed into an island sinking into the Med under the weight of Russian bling and into a series of gated palaces from which Rio Ferdinand can tweet his latest indispensable musings?

I quite like Mallorca as it is. I quite like the fact that it is both nice and naff. It attracts all human life, some of which is only vaguely human. But its rich diversity of visitor matches the rich diversity of its natural environment. By all means let's improve or get rid of some of the rubbish hotels and those parts of resorts which are like war-zones, but let's not forget what made Mallorca and the Costas. Ordinary folk, doing ordinary things, with ordinary amounts of money.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Index for April 2013

Adults-only hotels - 7 April 2013
Artists and Spanish crisis - 29 April 2013
Al Jarreau - 21 April 2013
Balearic languages and Catalan - 16 April 2013
Calvià and climate change - 9 April 2013
Canamunt and Canavall feud - 20 April 2013
City of culture in Santiago de Compostela - 3 April 2013
Consultants and tourism - 17 April 2013
Driving tourism - 18 April 2013
Learning Spanish - 23 April 2013
Package holidays' revival - 11 April 2013
Playa de Muro cycling tourism - 13 April 2013
Price-fixing - 6 April 2013
Princess Cristina subpoena - 5 April 2013
Religious beliefs and Balearics youth - 2 April 2013
Republicanism and regionalism - 15 April 2013
Sant Jordi in Mallorca - 26 April 2013
Seasonal workers and tour reps - 27 April 2013
Seasonality: a plan - 8 April 2013
Spanish football clubs' debts - 28 April 2013
Spantax and charter airlines - 1 April 2013
Taxes and tourism - 25 April 2013
Television and culture - 22 April 2013
Thatcher in 1979 - 10 April 2013
Tourism and morality - 4 April 2013
Tourism quality - 30 April 2013
Tourist resilience and unexpected events - 19 April 2013
Trilingual education in Mallorca - 24 April 2013
Trip Advisor review responses - 14 April 2013
Wisden - 12 April 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.45am): 13C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 6 backing West 4 to 5 by the afternoon. Swells to two metres.

Rain again, but the good news is that the worst is just about over. Should clear this evening and though it won't necessarily be wall-to-wall sunshine there will be a good deal of sunny weather for the rest of the week.

Evening update (20.15): The sun finally broke through in the late afternoon and temperatures, which had been stumbling along at 12 or 13, suddenly shot up to a day's high of 17C. Not exactly hot but an improvement nevertheless.

Black Or White: Spanish crisis and the arts

I have been researching a feature on the Barcelona-born artist Joan Miró who, despite having been a supporter of Republicanism, lived quietly enough in Mallorca under the Franco regime. The impression I formed was one of his not having been bothered by the regime so long as he had done nothing to bother it. And Miró didn't bother it. He was only really bothered about getting on with his art.

Miró's abstract paintings and sculptures could have symbolised any number of things. One of the beauties of abstracts is that they can mean everything or they can mean nothing. The observer can interpret them as he sees fit, projecting his own prejudices, opinions and attitudes onto the painter's canvas in creating a perception as to what the artist actually means. The obscurity of meaning makes proof very difficult. So long as the artist keeps his thoughts to himself, which is pretty much what Miró did, then a regime is none the wiser as to what he might be thinking or not.

Obscurity of meaning helps. I fancy that autocrats and technocrats can't get their heads around anything that isn't black or white. I imagine them to be incapable of understanding irony or innuendo. Only if a painting, a song, a film slaps them firmly in the face with an unequivocal message, be it pro or anti, will they get the meaning. Some artists got away with things during the Franco era because the authority figures were probably too thick to understand. Andrés Rábago, the cartoonist, was one such artist.

Alternatively, the regime may have felt it necessary to cut the arts world some slack. By the fifties it had stumbled on the realisation that the arts world was a potential source of making it look better to the rest of the world. This is one reason why so much effort was put into attracting film-makers, an effort that produced the Charlton Heston-Sophia Loren epic "El Cid", a film of magnificent cinematography but one that did rather gloss over some of the true nature of El Cid - that of having been a mercenary.

At the same time as the regime was looking to Hollywood and foreign money in order to give Spain a more acceptable global image, it wouldn't have been wise to have been stamping down too much on its own artists. Of course, it did do and had done. Federico García Lorca, one of Spain's most important poets of the twentieth century, was executed in 1936. But then that had been a time of war. Twenty years on, things were a bit different.

The arts world doesn't operate in a cultural, social, political or economic vacuum. An artist who wants to get on and flourish when the politics are repressive has to be a Leni Riefenstahl. A leftie like García Lorca in 1936 stood no chance. When the gloves of repression are removed and artists' hands can be waved with full freedom of expression, the canvases on which they work change completely. But making appropriate artistic gestures under unrestricted democratic regimes bring their own problems. Too often they can appear to be ones that veer towards a political extreme, usually the left, and so open themselves up to criticisms of being overly and overtly political.

Spain's artists of today face just this dilemma, those who haven't jumped ship and gone abroad. There may be democracy in Spain, but the arts world doesn't always benefit from such democracy. The artist Santiago Sierra has pointed out that art which deals with economic crisis in Spain doesn't get a great deal of visibility, a key reason being that critical thinking or expression is deterred because the major art collectors happen to be banks or the state.

Another member of the arts world, the film director Isabel Coixet, has chosen to mostly work abroad, but her latest film was shot in Catalonia. It portrays a Spain four years from now, one that has descended into anarchy. Doom-laden messages from the arts world are natural responses to poor or deteriorating circumstances.

Pedro Almodóvar's latest film - "I'm So Excited" is its English title - is unusual in taking a very different approach. He has made a highly camp comedy in which scandals involving the government and the royal family make the film appear as though it were a metaphor for them. Almodóvar hadn't foreseen these scandals, but whether he had or he hadn't, comedy, rather than apocalyptic visions, can be a better way of getting a message over. But not to politicians. Democratic the times may be, but present them with a metaphor which isn't black or white and they won't have a clue.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.45am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 5 to 6, occasionally 7.

Rain (a good deal of it), wind and grey. Today will be a write-off as will tomorrow morning though there is a chance that things will improve later. The forecast for the week is for a general improvement, some chance of rain on Wednesday but otherwise mainly sunny with temperatures just into the 20s.

Evening update (19.00): A pretty miserable day. A high of 17.5C (Sa Pobla).

Biter Bit: Spanish football clubs' debt

Schadenfreude is a German word. It is a very good word, one that doesn't have an exact equivalent in English. It requires an explanation rather than a one-word answer: to take pleasure at another's misfortune. There is also an element of the "biter bit" about schadenfreude, of come-uppance. And the president of Bayern Munich football club, Uli Hoeness, is getting his. Bayern may have stuffed Barça, but Hoeness might get stuffed for tax evasion.

The schadenfreude felt in Spain towards Hoeness harks back to what he said a year ago when the Spanish Government proposed waiving the 750 million euros of debt owed by Spanish football clubs to the taxman. Hoeness's response to this was: "we pay them (the Spanish Government) hundreds of millions to get them out of the shit and then the clubs don't pay their debts". No, the clubs don't pay the taxman. But nor it seems does Herr Hoeness pay the German taxman what he should. Biter bit. Schadenfreude, thy name is Uli.

Most dominant football clubs suffer from a lack of universal love. And Bayern are no different. The un-love for the club is partly to do with Hoeness and his fellow Bundesliga übermensch from Bayern (Beckenbauer, Rummenigge, Breitner), partly the result of a one-time nickname of FC Hollywood at the time of Lothar Matthäus, another disliked member of the German footballing brotherhood.

Bayern's slaughter of Barça last week was blissful. And it was blissful because it had its own element of schadenfreude, levelled at the footballing thought police's exultation of the omnipotence of tiki-taka. So blissful was it, so perfect the game plan, that questions were being asked as to what difference Pep Guardiola could make when he takes over as coach. There is a difference. Guardiola, unaccountably placed on a pedestal of coaching demi-God status despite having only ever coached one team (admittedly a quite brilliant one), is not a typical coach. He is a tortured soul of soccer. Notwithstanding his near deity, he's human. If anyone can make Bayern loved, then it is Guardiola.

Under Pep, if Bayern come to rule Europe for the foreseeable future, the praise for all things German football will reach a crescendo. The volume has been rising for some time as it is. See how the Germans, stung by European failure in 2000, set about a long-term plan for revolutionising their football, an observation which always fails to remember that two years later Germany made the World Cup final. See how the model of German football club finances, ownership and business is so much superior to anyone else's, such as Spain's or England's. It may well be, but Martin Samuel, arguably the greatest writer on football not just in England but in the world, has observed that there has been no shortage of insolvency in German football. And nor has there been any lack of financial support from local government or the state to keep clubs afloat.

In Hoeness's remarks last year, there was more than just a hint of double standards. Yet, much though there may be pleasure at his being hoist by a tax petard, he wasn't wrong in highlighting public aid to Spanish clubs as being one of the maladies of the Spanish game. The proposal to waive clubs' tax debts was dropped almost as soon as it was made, but getting any action on these debts and on the involvement of local, regional and even national government in propping up clubs has been proving mightily difficult.

In defence of Hoeness, the scale of this governmental involvement is significantly greater than in Germany. Just as an example, the Community of Valencia pretty much owns the Valencia football club. Not officially, but thanks to the level of guarantee it has given for bank loans. And knowing what the real debts are of Spanish football clubs is not straightforward. Normal accounting rules don't seem to apply. Normal rules of business don't apply. Only one club in La Liga, Athletic Bilbao, seems to conform to any normality or to any real measure which shows it not to be in debt.

The fear, though, is that the time may be edging nearer when the debt bomb goes off for Spanish clubs. If it does, you can be sure that Real Madrid and Barça won't be affected, despite, in real terms, their both being heavily in debt. As they pretty much play in their own two-team league as it is, perhaps it won't make any difference. They could always invite Bilbao to make up a threesome, but how many other clubs might survive if governmental complicity was withdrawn and the taxman were to genuinely come knocking?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Zaragoza 3 : 2 Real Mallorca

A real old six-pointer between bottom club Zaragoza and eighteenth-placed Mallorca. And it started well for Mallorca, Hemed heading in Dos Santos's free-kick on eleven minutes. Montañés equalised for Zaragoza some fifteen minutes later. Alfaro should have added a second for Mallorca after being put through by Hemed but a tame effort was saved by Roberto. The match was even enough until Portuguese striker Postiga headed Zaragoza into the lead after quarter of an hour of the second half. Not a lot was happening for either side, though Zaragoza were generally on top, until, with eight minutes to go, sub Arizmendi popped up to level for Mallorca. It looked like a hard-earned point for Mallorca until, with three minutes left, Rochina struck to seal Zaragoza the three points.

A desperate loss for Mallorca. There is still hope, but a loss against what was the bottom side does not bode well. A greater negative goal difference says much about why Mallorca are now bottom. The next match is at home to Levante on Sunday, 5 May. Levante are in a real old slump, not threatened with the drop but on a poor run, having lost at home earlier to Vigo. A big chance for Mallorca next week. It might be the last the team gets.

Roberto; Fernández, Sapunaru, Alvaro, Abraham; Pintér, Apoño; Rodríguez (Bienvenu 84), Rodri (Rochina 53), Montañés; Postiga
Goals: Montañés (28), Postiga (59), Rochina (87)
Yellows: Fernández (10), Rodri (17), Apoño (49)

Aouate; Hutton, Geromel, Conceicao (Nunes 25), López; Pina (Victor 74), Tissone, Martí; Alfaro (Arizmendi 61), Hemed, Dos Santos
Goals: Hemed (11), Arizmendi (82)
Yellows: Martí (43), Tissone (83)

Bottom six:
15. Osasuna - Played 33, Points 33 (GD -10)
16. Deportivo - Played 32, Points 30 (GD -21)
17. Vigo - Played 33, Points 30 (GD -15)
18. Zaragoza - Played 33, Points 30 (GD -21)
19. Granada - Played 32, Points 29 (GD -23)
20. Mallorca - Played 33, Points 28 (GD -31)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Shock as UMP rejects Pollensa budgets

Pollensa town hall's meeting on Thursday was the scene of a protest by various opposition councillors to the agreement to pay the architect responsible for the auditorium (a project now abandoned) a fee of 150,000 euros. Mayor Cifre has said that the council has no choice but to pay this, yet the opposition maintain that because the auditorium project was never officially agreed to by the town hall it shouldn't be liable to having to pay the fee. This protest was merely the scene-setter for the greater shock of the evening, which was the decision of the councillor for the UMP (Unió Mollera Pollencina), Nadal Moragues, to not support the town hall's budget. In so doing, he went against an agreement of his party and also made it impossible to confirm the budget, thus throwing the town hall administration into even greater confusion than it already was.

See more: Diario de Mallorca
Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 13C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 reaching Northeast 3 and by the afternoon 5 to 6 with swells increasing to two metres.

Cloudy again and rain likely at any time. Wind increasing this afternoon and creating rough coastal conditions, continuing into tomorrow and Monday. No let-up in the grey weather through the weekend. Starting to clear by Tuesday.

Evening update (20.00): Well, a pretty unpleasant day. Light rain became heavier rain for a while, no sun and the temperature has dived. A high of 15.8C (Playa de Muro) down to a general 11 degrees or so. 

The Kings Of The Resorts: Seasonal workers

It was the summer of 1981. Greece. The island of Poros, or was it Paros? It doesn't matter. The tour operator was, as was typical at that time, a small, specialist concern. The tour rep was a few years older than myself. In her thirties. She was very pleasant, knowledgeable, helpful, spoke some Greek. What you might hope for from a tour rep, in other words. She also had, so I was to discover, a reputation. It was said that she gave the best blow-job in the Aegean.

Four years later, a different Greek island, a different tour operator, but the same tour rep. I mentioned to friends the tales of four years previously. I remember her name, but I'm not about to state it. She was still living up to her reputation.

Age should not be a barrier to having a good sex life and certainly not when it comes to a holiday or being a tour rep. The rep-sex relationship is the stuff of legend. There has rarely been one without the other. But there are legitimate levels of enjoyment and there are levels which go beyond the legitimate. Just as there are legitimate levels of what should be expected of reps - their knowledge etc. - and those which fail to meet these expected levels. And for reps, read also seasonal workers in bars and in other businesses.

Once upon a time, reps, whether they were interested in gaining similar reputations to the lady in Greece or not, did tend to be more mature, as in they weren't very young. As the summers and seasons went by, they became more mature. Even if they were inclined to enjoy pleasures of the flesh, as one in Greece did, they were valued by tour operators because of their knowledge and their understanding of resorts and destinations. Younger reps did of course come onto the scene, especially as there were so many positions to be filled. But older reps might typically have continued for many years, their experience being unmatched.

Then, and this has been the case in recent times, tour operators started to lose their experienced reps. They didn't renew their contracts. It might have cost them, especially if they were reps in Mallorca operating under the peculiarity of the Spanish "fijo discontinuo" employment contract (basically, one that means permanent seasonal work but which gives an entitlement to benefits), but the tour operators needed to save money, to cut the number of reps and to dispense with more highly paid ones. As a consequence, there are far, far fewer reps than was once the case, and those that there are tend not to be particularly experienced, if at all.

To paint one picture of the tour rep of today would be unfair, but that picture has increasingly become that of the unknowledgeable party animal and little more. And today's rep has also become far less important in the hierarchy of resorts. Time was, reps ruled resorts. They certainly don't now. Far more important are the seasonal workers, especially the ones who return every season or who actually live in resorts all year. Many, most of these workers are highly professional and responsible. Oh yes, they certainly know how to party and they are not necessarily abstemious angels, but they take their work seriously and they have the knowledge. They are the ones to whom holidaymakers turn, and not the reps.

There is, though, another category of seasonal worker. One who doesn't understand or obey the rules. A seasonal worker can and does get drunk, he or she can and does get laid or maybe take drugs. But the seasonal worker who gets on knows that as soon as he or she steps over the mark, his or her name becomes mud. The whole resort gets to know. And overstepping the mark can be done in different ways - not turning up for work, being clearly drunk or stoned while at work or throwing a made-up sicky.

I am of course not going to identify the bar owner, but he took on one such seasonal worker who plainly didn't understand the rules. He arrived in Mallorca only a few days ago. He is on his way out of Mallorca, more or less as I write. It is his fortune to be leaving in one piece, so angry had he made his employer. He failed to turn up for work twice in the space of a handful of days. The reason? A combination of things, and you can imagine what.

For some young people (and not always young people), a summer job in Mallorca is only about getting hold of the wherewithal (money) in order to spend it on drink and drugs, it is only about partying, getting laid and going to the beach. And for some, or one certainly, this can mean being sent packing very quickly. They are fools to themselves, because, if they are good, if they play by the rules, they can keep coming back. And when they come back, they will find that they have a status. The kings and queens of the resorts. But these are titles reserved for the responsible and professional ones.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, April 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 4 occasionally 5, veering South 3 by the afternoon.

Another grey morning but the wind has died down. The cloud seems a bit lighter than yesterday but there is still an alert for possible heavy rain. The bad news is that the weekend and especially Sunday looks very poor, with no real improvement until Wednesday.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 20C (inland in Pollensa) on a better day in that some sun struggled through, but there is now some rain around.

George And The Dragon: Sant Jordi in Mallorca

Saint George's Day has long been an exercise in commemorating indifference, forgetfulness or pure ignorance. England insists on having a national saint and a national saint's day that passes most people by with nary a semblance of recognition. Georgie boy only gets dragged into the English consciousness when his flag is waved at football matches, and even then, some of those doing the waving might actually have little idea that the flag is the Cross of St. George or who the saint was. It is curious indeed that, of the four saints of the British Isles, the English are far more familiar with Ireland's. St. Patrick is all about the Cheltenham festival, copious amounts of Guinness and shamrocks bursting out in pre-springtime greenness.

George is of course a saint elsewhere other than England. He pops up all over Christendom. In Spain he is San Jorge. In Aragon, Catalonia and Mallorca he is Sant Jordi. As in England, because 23 April is taken as the day that George copped for it, Sant Jordi is celebrated on 23 April, but Mallorca being Mallorca, and there being little excuse needed to extend a saint's celebration, Jordi can occupy more than his one traditional day. This year in Pollensa he pitched up first on 19 April and he doesn't disappear until 28 April.

Aragon is particularly important in all this. George was the patron saint of what once was the Crown of Aragon, and it was Aragon, rather than Catalonia, that gave Mallorca its Catalanism (though Catalonians might dispute this). Catalan tradition does, nevertheless, dictate that 23 April is also the day of the rose. Quite why or when the giving of a rose became associated with Sant Jordi isn't altogether clear, but it is commonly believed to date back to the fifteenth century. In more recent times, from 1923 to be precise, Sant Jordi also became the day of the book. There is a happy coincidence that 23 April is also the same day that Cervantes died (and Shakespeare come to that), though, as ever with such things, not even this is totally accurate as Cervantes in fact died on 22 April, but not to worry as he was buried the next day. UNESCO decided in 1995 that 23 April would be World Book Day and it still is.

It is the book part of the equation which partly explains why Pollensa has managed to spin Sant Jordi out over a ten-day period. There have been various book presentations (such as the one for the Canamunt and Canavall - http://alcudiapollensa.blogspot.com.es/2013/04/the-vendetta-years-canamunt-and-canavall.html) and the whole celebration comes to an end on Sunday with a workshop dedicated to artistic bookbinding; not necessarily something that the good people of Pollensa will be doing on a spare dining table, but I guess it is of some practical interest.

The Pollensa Sant Jordi ten-day fest has largely been due to the efforts of the local branch of the Obra Cultural Balear. There is little more important than literature when it comes to asserting Catalan culture (which is one of the OCB's principal reason for being), and so the book end of Sant Jordi makes for as good an excuse as any for there being a Jordi orgy. Though not actually anything to do with books, or Sant Jordi come to that, tomorrow (Saturday) is when the local OCB-ists have arranged for the "correllengua" to make its flame-carrying, running entrance into Pollensa; all part of the promotion of Catalan (the OCB's other principal reason for existing). 

Alcúdia also got in on the Jordi book element, confining itself to 23 April and making clear that it was all in the spirit of World Book Day, thus giving less of a culturally Catalan correct complexion to the occasion than Pollensa. Appropriately enough, the commemoration was confined to the library, which meant that no one, other than diehard Mallorcan literary lovers, would have had a clue what was going on. Even if the British had, they wouldn't have been in attendance in any event. Catalan literature and books in Catalan don't really pull up any trees for the Brits, who would be otherwise about as unfamiliar with Sant Jordi as they are indifferent to Saint George.

There again, there is the odd Brit-style symbolism of St. George knocking around, such as the long-abandoned barn-like bar in Playa de Muro which went by the name of George and Dragon and which indeed still displays the name (no one having been prepared to take the place on). Brits should of course know all about George and the dragon, as in the legend, but I daresay that even this symbol will have a different connotation: Sid James and Peggy Mount. 

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Over thirty bidders for Playa de Muro beach bars

Muro town hall has received bids from over thirty companies to run beach bars in Playa de Muro, some of the "balnearios" attracting several offers, one having attracted only a single tender. Putting out the bars to tender was a decision taken when a previous agreement with a company operated by local hoteliers ran out.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 5 to 6, locally 7. Swells to two metres. Possible storms.

Windy and grey, some rain around. There is an alert for rain so the possibility of some heavy stuff. Little sign of sun anticipated today or for a few days. By next week, temperatures will have slumped for the official start of the tourism season on 1 May.

Evening update (19.45): Pretty grim day. A high of 17.3C (coastal, in Puerto Pollensa). No sight of the sun, quite windy but little by way of rain. The alert for potential downpours is still in place though, and the general forecast for the next few days remains unchanged and so therefore poor.

Death, Taxes And Holidaymaking

If you are inclined to pay any attention to statistics, you may have noticed that, in the first three months of this year, tourism in Catalonia increased to the extent that it represented a quarter of Spain's total tourism. Does Catalonia having been a mere 5% behind the Canaries tell a story over and above its statistical one? It may do. The tourist tax, which was implemented last autumn, appears not to have had a negative effect.

Prime Minister Rajoy is to agree a new set of economic measures on Friday. He has said that there will be no further rises in either income tax or IVA (VAT), though there has been speculation that the lower, tourist rate of IVA might go up. Rajoy has said it won't, so if it does, then he will have been, and not for the first time, economical with the economic truth.

If the lower rate does escape the government's attention on Friday, it might not do in the future. The 11% difference between the standard and lower rate allows some manoeuvre-room for a deficit-busting government that somehow still manages not to reduce the deficit. The minister of contradiction (his own), Luis de Guindos, told parliament yesterday that the economy will be getting better sooner than had been thought. As he had told an American newspaper the other day that the economy will contract this year more than had been thought, then it is hard, as it always is, to know what Sr. de Guindos really does think. If he thinks at all.

But then maybe he is thinking. If we put the good old tourist IVA rate up again, perhaps his predictions of growth (minimal) in 2014 won't come to pass. Best maybe that IVA be left alone, as relentlessly upping the indirect-taxation ante ain't the best remedy for reversing a contracting economy. Yet, despite this apparent truism, in Catalonia, a tourist tax, coming on top of the IVA rise in September, does not seem to have made much difference, other than to in fact increase tourism. How very odd.

A recent report for "Hosteltur" magazine picked up on an anxiety expressed by the World Travel and Tourism Council about the inclination for governments, not just Spain's or the regional one in the Balearics, to raise taxes that apply to the tourism sector or to invent new ones. The report used the adjective "estrujado". Its verb, "estrujar", has multiple meanings - to crush, to squeeze, to bleed or to drain. Any of these would be appropriate, though the bleed one is perhaps the most appropriate. It is the life-force-removal consequence of tourism being "ordeñado" - from the verb "ordeñar", to milk. Tourism is the milch cow, its udders to be squeezed and squeezed by demands for tax and more tax.

Or so it appears. The tourism industry chattering classes have raised the demon of taxes to a level that they have assumed potentially greater damage than that which might in the past have been caused by aircraft falling out of the sky, civil unrest or natural disaster. Taxes are the new act of God. Or are they?

IVA and Catalonia's tourist tax are not the only taxes which have an impact on the tourism industry. They have been coming thick and fast in recent times. Property taxes have risen, town halls have found new ways to raise tax, the Balearic Government has come up with its laughably monikered "green taxes", the AENA airports authority has increased its charges, governments (the British and the German ones, for example) have upped air duties. One tax after another; each one catches tourism in its net and every tourism organisation, be it representative of hotels, car hire, attractions, restaurants or whatever, cries competitive-loss foul.

A while ago, I suggested that the Catalonians may find that their tourist tax proves not to be price-sensitive and so therefore not price-elastic. Evidence from the first quarter of this year might indicate that I was right, but intuitively you feel that the cumulative effect of all the milking, squeezing and bleeding will be to stretch the elastic to snapping point; the tourism industry would find itself caught with its pants down and its crown jewels exposed to a witheringly icy tax breeze.

Perhaps governments calculate that there is no snapping point and believe that there are not two but three certainties - death, taxes and a determination to take holidays. And maybe they are right. Even if they are, there will still be a squeeze. It won't necessarily be one on airlines or hotels, but one on the rest of the tourism economy. There's now a fourth certainty. Holidaymakers' budgets.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa set to confirm 2013 budget

Pollensa town hall's budget of over 22 million euros for this year will include a controversial payment of 150,000 euros to the architect who was behind the abandoned auditorium project, a payment the mayor says that the council has no choice but to pay. There will also be much-needed investment in improving street paving, though a figure in this report of 400 euros for asphalting is surely a mistake.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa terraces being put out to tender

Terraces that occupy public space on the promenade in Puerto Pollensa - 32 in all - are to be subject to tender for the annual fee that will be paid. The town hall has seemingly taken this step in response to the confusion over dual payments made to the town hall and the Costas Authority. Priority will be given to those establishments which currently have these terraces.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5 reaching 5 to 6 by the afternoon. The chance of storms.

Breezy and moderately sunny, but rain a possibility. Today is likely to be the best day for several days, as things look poor into the start of next week.

Evening update (18.45): Windy and grey now. Some sun during the day but a high (coastal in Puerto Pollensa) of just 19.2C.

Raising Expectations: Trilingual education in Mallorca

When I attended school in Germany at the age of fourteen, the English lesson was conducted mainly in English. Sensible, you would think. It was, except for one problem; the teacher made mistakes in her English. A few years ago, also in Germany, the bilingual son of an American friend (who happened to be a teacher of English to German adults) was upset because an assignment had been marked down because of the wrong use of an English tense. He hadn't used it incorrectly. He was right, the teacher was wrong, and his mother let the teacher know, in no uncertain terms, that she was wrong.

These are just two anecdotal examples about the teaching of a foreign language in schools. Both are from a country where English teaching, from an early age, has been standard for decades. Even in efficient Germany, teachers don't always get things right. In Mallorca, not only does the regional government want to establish trilingualism (as in the learning of a third language, i.e. English) as standard, it wants this third language to be used as a language for the teaching of certain subjects as well. Mallorca isn't Germany. Nor is it Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands or even the Basque Country.

There are plenty of examples of trilingual education elsewhere, but not all actually use the third language as a teaching language. In the Basque Country they do. Its model of trilingualism is held up as something of a panacea for education in other regions of Spain, but it hasn't been entirely the success that has been made out. It also hasn't just happened overnight; the Basques have experimented with the application of multilingual education for a couple of decades. Note the word "experimented". Even they would admit they haven't got the system right, and one reason why they haven't is that the region still suffers from having teachers who are not sufficiently proficient in the third language.

Rafael Bosch, for now still the regional government's spokesperson and education minister, has said that trilingualism does not represent some form of educational Armageddon, as opposition parties and others have been trying to make out that it will do. These opponents do have a point, though, when they argue that parents may be given the impression that trilingualism will raise expectations as to what it can actually achieve. The parents themselves, via the parents association in Mallorca, have rejected the plan for trilingualism, highlighting its experimental nature and so the potential harm that might be caused to education as a whole.

A report into trilingual education a few years ago established that there was little evidence of fluency in a third language either being attained or aspired to (and it didn't matter if the third language was used as a teaching language or not). It also established that there were certain unknowns about trilingual education and a number of elements that had to be in place in order to make it effective, one of these being the language proficiency of the teacher. Not even teachers who are supposedly proficient in a foreign language and whose job it is to teach that language are always totally proficient, as the two German anecdotes highlight.

Take this one step further and have a teacher whose grasp of the foreign language isn't total giving a class in that language on a complex subject. Potentially, it is a recipe for disaster. Not only should the teacher be perfect in his or her subject, he or she should be perfect in the foreign language and be capable of pitching the teaching at a level where the pupils will understand. Using a third language as a teaching language is really only viable for certain instruction: sport or art perhaps.

In Luxembourg, where there is a trilingual population (Luxembourgish, French and German), school hours are skewed in favour of language teaching. But the result has been that pupils are less well educated in certain core subjects, such as maths, than they might otherwise be. The case of Luxembourg suggests that obtaining a teaching balance is nigh on impossible; there has to be a trade-off. And Luxembourg is something of an exceptional case, given its geography and so the constant exposure to the three languages. It is this which facilitates trilingualism as much as the school system.

The Balearic Government isn't wrong in trying to establish trilingualism, but whether it truly understands what it means is another matter. It requires an enormous investment in teachers, teacher training and teaching materials. It is investing some money, but it has to be for all time, not just a one-off. It is raising expectations that I don't believe it can deliver.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Dry stone route in Pollensa delayed for six years

In 2007 provision was made to create a walkway for ramblers on the dry stone route in Pollensa, one that would allow walkers to avoid crossing the contentious Pollensa to Lluc old road. Currently, a temporary diversion involves walkers crossing the road four times but going in places in the wrong direction. The walkway has not been created because action on making the necessary land available has still not been taken by the regional government.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Criticism of timing of Puerto Alcúdia's beach pavement works

The PSOE spokesperson at Alcúdia town hall has criticised the fact that two winters have passed without work having been done to improve the beach pavement (work that has now started). Pere Malondra has referred also to a complaint made last year about the pavement with regard to the Ironman triathlon. The run in the triathlon uses this pavement. So maybe, as the Ironman is taking place on 11 May, we know the main reason for the work being done.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa to debate becoming a Republic

Because of the "shameful actions of the Spanish royal family" (not my words), the Esquerra Republicana in Pollensa plans to bring a motion at the council meeting on Thursday to raise the possibility of Pollensa declaring itself a Republic.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 13C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 3 veering North and Northeast 4 to 5.

Sunny but cloudy over the mountains. Likely to be quite windy from the north and bringing in more cloud by this evening. Tomorrow will be windier and Thursday windier still and wet. Temperatures are still forecast to be a touch warmer but the opposite may well happen.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 19.1C. Not a bad day but oh boy, things are looking pretty poor right into the start of next week. 

I Would Like To Learn Spanish (in 150 minutes)

There is an awful lot of stuff that goes by the name of journalism but is in fact disguised advertising. Much of this masking can be elaborately and exquisitely worded and so give the reader little inkling as to the true purpose - selling; the subject of this selling being holiday travel. I am immensely grateful to the forum on PuertoPollensa.com for having brought to my attention an article on an obscure blog that conforms to this elaborate prose paradigm but appears to be a puff for the Cappuccino café in Puerto Pollensa. It might not be puff, but even if it is, and the reader doesn't consider it thus, then it has done its job. However, reactions to the article indicate that, notwithstanding a glowing description and therefore promotion for the resort, there might be something more to it. Something which makes you wonder as to its principal purpose.

If travel offers some fertile territory for the advert-dressed-up-as-lamb, product-placement journalistic tour de force or tour de wherever it happens to be this week (the tour courtesy of this, that or the other tour operator), it is not alone in inviting a PR agency to incentivise a journo to indulge in some veiled promotion. So prevalent is the practice that I have to conclude that there are now courses one can go on or purchase via the internet in order to rapidly become an expert on how to write the it-really-honestly-isn't-an-advertorial-but-a-legitimate-piece-of journalism. One can learn all one needs in no more than two and a half hours. Just as one can learn Spanish in two and a half hours. What do you mean, you thought that you needed longer? Oh no you don't, because an article in "The Guardian" tells you that you don't.

This article is for one of those CD, listen-and-repeat exercises that will give you sufficient vocabulary to undertake rudimentary Spanish conversation after 150 minutes. So, just think, if you live in Britain, speak nary a word of Spanish, but get on an easyJet this summer, you will, by the time you touch down in Palma, be able to discuss the Spanish national debt crisis with the bloke at passport control. Only in a rudimentary fashion admittedly, but the bloke at the desk will be sufficiently impressed to overlook the fact that your passport matches with a name on a blacklist database.

I don't doubt that one can pick up some vocab and some bits and pieces, but speak Spanish in two and a half hours!? Pull the other one, it's got "campanas" on. If it was really quite this easy, then the Balearic Government, now having approved its new language bill, one by which the young of the islands will be taught English from age three, should just scrap the bill, as the kids wouldn't need to go right through the school system until they leave secondary education in order to acquire English skills. They could give up when they are about five and then move onto another language, and so be proficient in about eight foreign languages by age 16. Just plug the Balearics kids into a CD player and within no time they'll be analysing the Hegelian dialectic in word-perfect English.

"The Guardian" article, and no, I'm not identifying the "larn-yersel-Spanish" course it refers to, is curious in more ways than it just being some puffery for the course. There is some of the usage, such as "quisiera". Strictly speaking, it is correct, as it translates as I would like, but this is not everyday use; the simple present "quiero" is. It is as well that the course, to quote the article, does not do "overt grammar". Try explaining to an English speaker that "quisiera" is in fact the imperfect preterite subjunctive, and he would either look at you as though you were mad or smack you in the mouth for trying to be a clever bastard. English speakers, as a general rule, wouldn't know a subjunctive of any type, imperfect preterite or otherwise, if it were, well, to smack them in the mouths. Oh, and "if it were to smack etc." is a subjunctive (a future one), just in case you were wondering.

Still, there is something to be said for the CD language-learning way. And so, in the spirit of the new language law, the Balearic Government should insist on all passengers travelling to Mallorca being made to listen to a "larn-yersel-Catalan" course. Oh hang on, no, that's wrong, they don't want people to learn Catalan. Or do they?


Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, April 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Improvements to palm beetle situation hoped for

Although the number of palm trees affected by the "picudo rojo" red beetle now exceeds 5,000 and despite the beetle having spread to previously unaffected parts of Mallorca, there is hope that there might be an improvement to the situation, owing to efforts being concentrated on ensuring that towns that do not currently have a problem continue to not be blighted. The greatest numbers of infected palms are Palma with 1651 and Pollensa with 848.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.45am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 reaching Northeast 3 to 4 around midday. 

Unremarkable morning, looks like there could be some rain. Indeed the forecast for the week is not very good, rain from Wednesday into the weekend with winds quite strong at times as well.

Evening update (19.45): Pretty good amounts of sun but a high of just 19.2C. 

Living In A Box: TV and culture

Top of the Pops, Thunderbirds, The Prisoner, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Grange Hill, The Young Ones, Neighbours, The Simpsons, Men Behaving Badly, Teletubbies, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Big Brother, The Office. I think that's all. Over time they have all been referred to, either directly or indirectly, in articles I have written. They are also all on a list of the most influential TV programmes of the past 50 years. According to "The Telegraph", that is.

I make no apologies for invoking the British popular culture of television. I may write mostly about Mallorca and Spain, but what would be the point of drawing on Spanish TV in order to try and create a point of reference or a touchstone? No one, or very few people, would get it. By contrast, and even if it is done obliquely, a collective Britannic cultural experience recognises Kylie as a default title for a young(ish) British female tourist. Time was when baby girls in Britain were mostly all christened Kylie. And if not, then they were Charlene, and Charlene was, after all, Kylie by another name. My Kylies are to be found wheeling their Rihanna progeny in buggies along Alcúdia's Mile.

Even if I wander into less obviously Spanish-Mallorcan territory or totally non-Spanish-Mallorcan territory, as I once long ago did when considering modes of speech, there is still this reservoir of culture to feed off and allude to. I was deeply impressed by Rory McGrath having coined the term the "moronic interrogative". What did it refer to? Neighbours. It was Neighbours that changed the way the British speak. 

It is perhaps for this reason that "The Telegraph" has included Neighbours on its list. Or perhaps it is because the series became such an indispensable and ingrained part of British culture. This is the point of cultural references. The use of Kylie shouldn't require an explanation as to its pre-Stock, Aitken and Waterman origin. Nor should the source of Eric Idle's Torremolinos sketch or the Inquisitional "Biggles, put her in the comfy chair" need to be spelt out. Nor should a demand such as "we want information" and a reply of "you won't get it" have to be located. These are references that reside in the enormous repository of a nation's cultural memory, one that has been programmed by the telly programme.

Doubtless one could find an alternative programme for each of the 50 years, but as a history of cultural development, it has much to commend it. There will be those who look at some of the programmes and think that it is an exercise in trivialisation or dumbing down. Maybe so, but then popular culture often is trivial; just think of X Factor (which doesn't make the list) or Pop Idol (which does).

If I had to choose two programmes that aren't among the fifty, then they might be the BBC's Holiday and ITV's Tiswas. Holiday opened up foreign travel in a way that no other part of the media had previously. Was it culturally important? I would say that it most definitely was. Grange Hill, the selection for 1978, in a sense ties in with Tiswas, which took off nationally around the same time. Grange Hill was a first in that it took children seriously and tackled serious subjects that affected children. Tiswas was most definitely not serious, but it represented a marked change in adult-child interaction. It was really a cult show for lads and ladettes (the first of its kind therefore), masquerading as a kids' programme, but kids loved its barriers-down irreverence as much as adults did. No show for children would previously have dared to have Chris Tarrant more than slightly hinting at the size of his hangover and lifting kids up by their ears, to have John Gorman (or was it Lenny Henry?) chastising a boy scout for being a "swot" or to have Sally James firmly putting her foot in it by asking Kevin Rowland the meaning of the name Dexys Midnight Runners.

More than anything, these programmes travel with you. However long you might have been away from the homeland of the culture, they are revered symbols of an abstract cultural iconography that is always there, one to be delved into in order to make sense of a pair of lads in Mallorca out on the razz and the pull (Gary and Tony), a total div who you are unfortunate enough to run into (David Brent), or that ageing hippy who raves about lentils in local Mallorcan cuisine (Neil).

And if you don't immediately know to which programmes these characters refer, well, what do you call culture then?

* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10002180/The-Telegraphs-most-influential-TV-shows-of-the-last-50-years.html

A classic Tiswas moment (the boy who needed to go to the toilet): 

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa temporary moorings project scrapped

Pollensa town hall has not sought permission from the Costas Authority to establish temporary moorings in the bay of Pollensa in Puerto Pollensa this summer. This, says the mayor, is because there has been opposition to the scheme, an explanation which does rather contrast with that of the tourism councillor who suggests that it is a large project that needs more time before presentation. Either way, the moorings will not appear - this summer at any rate.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 2 to 3 veering Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning and easing to variable 2 to 3 by the evening.

Brighter morning. Should be a good deal of sun today but not particularly warm. A chance of rain tomorrow, the week's forecast suggests warmer temperatures but also rain towards the back end.

Evening update (19.00): A moderate day; a high of 18.7C.

Still Glowing: Al Jarreau

Back in the mid-seventies the music of choice was jazz. Primarily this meant jazz crossover like Weather Report and George Duke, the jazz funk of The Crusaders, the exclamatory pianism of Keith Jarrett, the mysteriously bleak European soundscapes of Ralph Towner and Jan Garbarek, or the Latin-influenced Chick Corea. This was a time when jazz made its comeback, having been put into the musical shadows by pop, soul and rock in the sixties. There was a critical mass of artists, many of whom were part of a lineage from Miles Davis and some, especially the Europeans, who broke new ground by amalgamating symphonic and folk traditions with a greatly subdued tendency to improvise; it had been over-improvisation, discordant and interminable, that had previously pushed jazz towards the unlistenable.

What was conspicuous by its absence from most of this jazz was singing. And when instrumental groups such as Weather Report eventually got round to using a vocalist, the sound was totally different. The spell was broken and the group was never the same again. Similarly, The Crusaders found Randy Crawford and wandered off into the cabaret twilight, never to recapture the drive that had characterised the group's funk chunk of the earlier 70s. Corea was rare in managing to successfully integrate vocals into the dominant instrumental style of the time, Flora Purim having featured on his first two Return to Forever albums.

Jazz singing was all too easily associated with a smoochy, lounge-lizard, bebop vocalising. It was limp-wristed smoothiness packaged for the less-than-aficionado audience. It was the jazz singer's misfortune that he or she was shepherded into territory marked the variety television show and reduced to having to churn out schlock, shake the head in an infuriatingly smug manner and smile in a way that combined conceitedness with lasciviousness. It was horrible, and it mattered not if it were a male or female singer; both were equally repulsive. Just pause for a moment and realise what Amy Winehouse was like when she sang jazz. This was how it should have been back in the sixties but all too rarely was.

This instrumental jazz world of the seventies was disrupted when a previously unheard of artist suddenly turned up one day, having released an album that wasn't instrumental. The title of the album was "Glow". The artist, the singer was Al Jarreau.

Jarreau slotted into the general crossover of the time, "Glow" featuring, among others, members of The Crusaders. The result was not earth-shattering - it was all pretty laidback and gentle - but it showcased, and this was what was different, a singer, and one, moreover, who didn't have the cabaret objectionableness that had become associated with jazz singers. It was one, despite his also being identifiably "soulful", that didn't do the shouty stuff of, for instance, a Wilson Pickett. There was more of an Al Green or Marvin Gaye subtlety but there was also an astonishing ability to impersonate instruments.

Jarreau could play the flute, and this was just one of the instruments he could ape vocally. His style was unique. He went on a world tour not long after "Glow" came out. Recordings from that tour went into the album "Look To The Rainbow", and he became something of a global star. And one of the recordings may well have come from a concert he gave in London.

I don't remember now which theatre it was; the Coliseum possibly. What I do remember is going along to the box office during the day to collect tickets for the gig. From the lobby I could hear that Jarreau was doing a sound check. I didn't ask anyone. It was probably verboten, but I went into the auditorium, sat down and was treated to half an hour of free concert. I thought about applauding at the end but reckoned that this would have been unwise. I sneaked out, just as I had sneaked in, having sat through an illicit thirty minutes of coital-sound-check-interrupted musical orgasm.

Jarreau and indeed much of the jazz of the time were to pass into my own musical history. Only the Pat Metheny Group, with what can now be described as being almost ambient or trance, survived the onslaught of punk, post-punk, indie, electronica and then club. But Jarreau has survived. Not only musically but in health terms. He has had heart problems and was diagnosed with pneumonia last year. He has recovered, and next Sunday (28 April), he'll be playing the Palma Arena. I don't know if I'll go, but if I'm anywhere in the vicinity earlier in the day, then I might just sneak in for the sound check. 

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Balcony-fall death in Cala Rajada

Well, you know the tourism season's back when the balcony accidents start again. The Guardia are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 35-year-old German man who who died this morning after falling from a hotel balcony in Cala Rajada.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Alcúdia beach walk improvement starts Monday

Work on recovering the beach walk from the marina to Ciudad Blanca in Puerto Alcúdia will start on Monday. The work, costing 283,000 euros, will involve covering the existing walkway with asphalt and is not anticipated to represent any great inconvenience. New benches and litter-bins are to also be installed.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Police advise old people in Alcúdia to close their doors

Anyone wandering through the back streets of Alcúdia old town may have noticed that doors to houses are often left open. Following a spate of robberies - a gang using a minor to gain entry - local police have been advising old people in the town that they should close the doors.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 11C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 5 to 6 easing and backing by the afternoon to West 3 to 4. Swells to two metres.

Dullish morning but still with blue sky around. Brightening up later but likely to still be a keen breeze. The chance of rain has receded for tomorrow but there may be some on Monday.

Evening update (18.00): Some spots of rain this morning and some occasionally heavy cloud mixed with sun. Not especially warm, a high of 18.6C.

The Vendetta Years: Canamunt and Canavall

Pollensa's Guillem Cifre de Colonya cultural centre is named after the philanthropist who founded the co-operative Colonya bank. The Cifre centre stages many exhibitions, mostly of a more humane nature than the subject of the presentation that was given yesterday evening. This was for a book by two historians, Pere Salas and Antoni Domingo, who have researched what was one of the most turbulent periods in Mallorca's history, the seventeenth century.

One says one of the most turbulent periods, though it is hard to distinguish the seventeenth century from others in terms of turbulence. Mallorca was characterised by violence, pestilence, famine, drought, piracy for centuries. It might have now acquired a reputation as a paradise island but it must have been a God awful place to live at times.

The Salas-Domingo book looks at the warfare and vendettas between two clans - the Canamunt and the Canavall. What is staggering about this factional strife is the fact that it lasted as long as it did - for much of the seventeenth century. The origins lay with two families - the Anglada and the Rossinyol who, respectively, gave rise to the Canamunt and Canavall. They were families who had irreconcilable differences that came to a head at the end of the sixteenth century when Nicolau Rossinyol made the grave error of falling for Isabel Anglada. When the Angladas opposed this love match, the Rossinyols took offence, and seventy-plus years of violence kicked off. In fact, the roots of the differences went back much further, to the time of the conquest of Mallorca in the thirteenth century. These two families hated each other's guts and had done so for centuries.

The book establishes that, though there was violence perpetrated by both sides all across Mallorca (the two clans originated from Palma), Pollensa was the scene of some of the worst atrocities. In one year alone, 1662, nine people were murdered violently in Pollensa. And this was some 16 years after peace was supposed to have broken out between the two clans.

The Canamunt-Canavall vendetta is often styled as one between the aristocracy and others in Mallorcan society, but both the Angladas and Rossinyols were of noble background and the support they gained didn't always follow a split between aristocrat and common man. The styling of the conflict in such a way may also have had something to do with a hangover from the Germanies uprising of the sixteenth century, one that was against the nobility and which culminated in the siege of Alcúdia and is now a theme of the summer's dramatised street theatre programme in Alcúdia - the Via Fora.

More than anything, though, the vendetta showed what a lawless place Mallorca was and especially away from Palma. One of the island's legendary figures, but one who is little known, was a character called Llorenç Coll, aka "Barona", who, though a farmer, was notorious for the havoc he wreaked in parts of the north of the island. He would swap sides between Canamunt and Canavall as it suited him. He met his end when royal forces finally started to get something of a grip on Mallorca, but in truth, for most of the seventeenth century, the island was ruled by bandits and thugs.

As for Nicolau and Isabel, the story was tragic. The boy fled Mallorca, violence having been unleashed between the warring families. Isabel was to lead a life as a recluse in the family home. On the day she died, Nicolau returned to Mallorca. He headed to the church where her body lay in rest. The final part of Nicolau and Isabel's story may only be legend, but if so, then it reflected, awfully, the feud between the families. Looking at the body, it was said that the dead Isabel's hands reached out for Nicolau and attacked his face. Nicolau was found in a pool of blood, his tongue having been ripped out. Isabel's face bore a smile.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, April 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 1 : 1 Rayo Vallecano

The last-gasp win over Celta Vigo on Monday gave Mallorca a much-needed boost to avoid relegation. Four nights later, mid-table Rayo, who have had, by their standards, a pretty decent season, were the visitors. Another crucial three points for Mallorca?

Things did not start well. Piti putting Rayo ahead after only six minutes, but Alfaro, five minutes later, brought things back for Mallorca. A spate of yellow cards followed and very little else, other than Baptistao hitting a post for Rayo and Dos Santos falling down in the area and claiming a penalty that never was. Otherwise, tense.

The second half wasn't brilliant, and nor were Mallorca. Rayo were only so much better but hit the woodwork again and probably should have taken all three points. They didn't, but Mallorca are, on this performance, going to struggle to get out of trouble. They are fortunate, though, to have some pretty awful teams in similar trouble, one of them up next week - away at Zaragoza on Saturday, 27 April.

Calatayud; Hutton, Geromel, Bigas, Kevin; Pina, Martí, Márquez (Arizmendi 76); Alfaro, Hemed (Pereira 68), Dos Santos
Goal: Alfaro (11)
Yellows: Bigas (18), Kevin (32), Hemed (46), Pina (87)

Rubén; Tito, Amat (Arbilla 71), Figueras, Casado; Fuego, Trashorras; Lass, Baptistao (Carlos 66), Piti; Delibasic (Tamudo 80)
Goal: Piti (6)
Yellows: Amat (14), Rubén (16), Tito (26), Lass (67)

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's violent past

A report about a new book which is to be presented tomorrow at the Guillem Cifre de Colonya cultural centre in Pollensa and which charts the violence that characterised Mallorca in the seventeenth century. This violence was the consequence of there having been little by way of established law and order and of two clans dominating the island - the Canamunt and the Canavall. Pollensa was the centre of much of this violence which, astonishingly enough, seemed to have endured for the most of the century until repression under a viceroy brought some order. (There had been viceroys representing the state from the previous century but seemingly they had been largely incapable of establishing order on Mallorca.)

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 2 to 4 reaching 5 to 6 by midday.

Mist came in last night and it is a bit murky this morning. There should be reasonable amounts of sun today but it will also be quite windy and rough by the coasts. The rain that had been forecast for the weekend seems to be less of a factor.

Evening update (18.15): A cooler day, a high of 21.1C. Mostly sunny though. 

The Resilience Of Tourists

Do you remember three years ago? If not, then let me remind you of the title of what appeared on the blog on 19 April 2010. "The End Of The World As We Know It." Do you remember now?

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull brought forward its gags. One of them came from the "Glasgow Herald". "Eyjafjallajökull? The last time I saw that typed was when I came back to the office drunk and fell asleep on the keyboard." Because it was unpronounceable, in order to take it seriously,it had to be referred to simply as the Icelandic volcano. And things were serious. That's why I entitled an article the way that I did.

18 April three years ago was a Sunday. There were, as is the case this year, two fairs in town. Or rather, in towns. The wine fair in Pollensa, the sepia fair in Puerto Alcúdia. There were plenty of people around. Local people. Those who hadn't needed to get on a plane. Along The Mile in Alcúdia, the main tourist centre and main tourist street in the resort, there was a hardly a soul to be seen at two o'clock in the afternoon. They hadn't all headed into the port for the fair (tourists along The Mile tend not to eat cuttlefish served with rice prepared with black ink). They just weren't there. Palma airport was shut. Barcelona airport had closed the day before. Disruption was such that a special reps evening on that day (this was just before the start of the main season, don't forget) took place with barely any reps attending; they were all stuck in Britain.

The seriousness was made ever more serious by the pronouncements of various experts. One in "The Sunday Times" suggested that there was a real possibility that the Great Unpronounceable would carry on erupting for months to come. There was a further possibility of an even greater explosion. When the Great Unpronounceable had last gone off, in 1612 and then 1821, another unpronounceable had followed suit and with greater force. The tourism world as we knew it really did look as though it was coming to an end. If only temporarily.

Of course, there was no greater explosion. The Great Unpronounceable didn't carry on erupting or carry on as it had been. The wind direction changed. Other experts started to question the harm that might be caused to aircraft. Life returned to normal very quickly.

There was some damage caused to tourism. Loss of revenue because of the ash cloud was one reason cited by Thomas Cook when it started applying "discounts" to invoices from hotels. Further damage was expected because tourists, alarmed at the prospect of flights being cancelled by further volcanic action, wouldn't book. This didn't materialise. Indeed, the whole episode was soon forgotten. The damage, Thomas Cook and its invoices notwithstanding, was to prove to be minimal.

The ash cloud was an example of the unexpected event that can suddenly shock the normally smooth routine of tourism. Mallorca has had the occasional ones, such as the bombs of 2009. But they had little impact either. This despite the best efforts of the travel editor of "The Sun" who, in an irresponsible and totally unjustified article, suggested that the small bombs in Palma which went off a week or so after the Palmanova bomb could spell the end of tourism in Spain and that tourists would avoid Mallorca. I reckoned at the time that she had been disturbed from a good Sunday lunch; there had to have been a reason for coming out with such nonsense. A travel editor should know that tourism and tourists are remarkably resilient.

Ongoing troubles and breakdowns in social order, as occurred during the Arab Spring, were different in that they did cause a significant loss of tourism to Egypt and Tunisia, one from which Mallorca benefited. But the unexpected or shortlived shock causes only a temporary blip. Mallorca has only suffered a period of anything like sustained tourism decline on one occasion. This was as a consequence of the seventies oil crisis. It was not a shortlived phenomenon; more one of economic change in circumstance that endured for around three years and that was of a different nature to the crisis that reared up in 2008 and which caused a greater slump in tourism numbers.

All sorts of things can be chucked at tourism - wars, planes crashing into towers, bird flu - but it has a remarkable capacity to bounce back. And very quickly. You can never be certain that there isn't something unexpected lurking round the corner or in Iceland, but for the tourism world as we know it to end would require something very much more powerful than an unpronounceable volcano.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3 backing Northeast 3 during the morning.

Sunny morn once more. Today's going to be another belter but tomorrow the wind is going to be a factor and on Saturday rain may be as well. Cooler temperatures over the weekend.

Evening update (19.00): An inland high of 25.3C on another good day.

The Solution For Mallorca: Driving Tourism

For many a long year Mallorca's tourism industry has searched for a solution to the problem posed by seasonality; how to attract tourists during the winter and low seasons. Many ideas have been advanced but not one has adequately addressed the need for Mallorca to receive more than a handful of hardy souls who will happily strap on a backpack and go a-wandering in the Tramuntana mountains and be blown into the Mediterranean by the force of a gale.

These ideas have been little more than piecemeal. A piece of tourism here, a piece of tourism there. Finally, though, an aspect of tourism that has been a feature of attempts to increase off-season tourism since at least the 1980s is really starting to break through. It is, of course, driving tourism.

The regional government tourism ministry's efforts to engage with leading hoteliers on the island and with tour operators are bearing fruit, and it could be fruit for more than just the off-season. Driving cars could be big in summer as well.

It is hard to understand why there hasn't been a stronger focus on driving tourism in the past. As is being pointed out, Mallorca has an excellent and extensive network of wide cycle lanes which connect the whole island and extend into the mountains. Though the government will take the plaudits, really it has required foreign tour operators to give the regional government the push to make driving tourism more of a reality. Among these tour operators is Car Holidays. It is said to be guaranteeing to bring whole plane loads of tourists from Germany, Britain and elsewhere to Mallorca during the low season.

"Mallorca is ideal for driving," a spokesperson has said. "There are whole stretches of flat terrain for the novice and recreational driver and more challenging mountainous terrain for the professional driver. Combine this with the magnificent landscape and the normally good climate in winter, and we think that driving tourism has enormous potential."

Key to the whole driving tourism movement are what are now being referred to as "roads". They would in fact be part of the existing cycle lanes. Indeed, they would occupy rather more of the cycle lanes than the lanes themselves. "To be honest, the cycle lanes have always been wider than necessary. There is plenty of room to accommodate different users, such as drivers," the island's transport ministry has admitted. This ministry has been working closely with a burgeoning new sector on the island - rent-a-car. Agencies who hire cars out to tourists (who therefore don't need to bring their own cars to the island, which has been and still is a problem with airlines) will happily give these tourists maps of the island to show them special routes (the new "roads" will be given numbers).

But not everyone is happy with this potential explosion in driving tourism. Cyclists complain bitterly about drivers who go the wrong way, who don't put lights on when it's dark and who drive two or three abreast and along pavements or pedestrianised promenades, sometimes stopping their cars right outside a bar or on its terrace. Some bar and restaurant businesses argue that driving tourists do not spend. Instead, these tourists head for supermarkets and fill the boots of their "hire cars" with bananas, bottles of water and pasta ready-meals.

Other businesses are more open to this new style of tourism. They say that facilities must be created to allow driving tourists to stop near to restaurants. Some are therefore planning on setting aside land for parks for cars. These parks would be used to leave cars so that tourists can take short walks to restaurants. Indeed, such parks have started to appear and they are commonly being called "car parks". 

As part of the drive (sic) towards driving tourism, particular effort will be given to special events on Mallorca, such as rallies and races. Sporting achievements by Britons such as Louis Hamilton and Germans like Sebastian Vettel are making driving tourism very much more popular than before and are spawning a whole fashion among Mallorca's driving tourists, who are to be seen wearing flame-proof overalls covered in stickers for Vodafone. Again, though, cyclists are complaining about all these events, ones which mean that the "roads" are blocked off for hours on end while cyclists have to wait for the long trains of cars to pass, while the sight of these drivers swaggering around in their overalls has become the subject of jokes.

You can't please everyone, but driving tourism, whether we like it or not, is going to be here to stay.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - No green parking zone for Puerto Pollensa residents

It was reported here on 3 April that the green parking places for Puerto Pollensa residents (places marked in green that would be free, save for a 20 euro annual fee) would not be introduced this summer as had been promised by the town hall. The council has now confirmed this, saying that it is concentrating its efforts on other aspects of traffic in the resort, e.g. the plan to semi-pedestrianise the front line coast road. The system of payment for the blue zones will be the same as last year.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, locally Northeast 3 to 4 this afternoon.

Another lovely morning. The forecast for later this week has deteriorated a bit. Rain probable on Saturday and temperatures a bit lower.

Evening update (19.00): Starting to get seriously warm. A Sa Pobla high of 26.7C today. Two degrees lower on the coasts.

Tourism And Gurudom: Consultants

How many consultancy firms does it take to change Mallorca's tourism? There must be a joke in here somewhere, but the tourism-consultancy industrial complex and complexity don't permit jokes. Consultancy for tourism is serious business, and serious consultancy firms are paid serious money to come up with their prescriptions for change, development, evolution, strategic this, strategic that.

Long ago, in the days of innocence when tourism was a simple matter of packing pasty-faced foreign-holiday virgins onto a turbo prop held together with sticky-back plastic and a ball of string from Woolworths, consultants had yet to latch on to the riches to be had from a sandy beach, a blue sea and a hot sun. Mostly, they weren't consultants but mere number-crunchers. Consultants that there were might typically only have consulted on systems. I daresay that somewhere there are ASME flow diagrams that depict the most efficient means of moving a plate of chips from one place to another. Work study for the Mallorcan hotel. That would have been a tough assignment.

Once accountancy firms realised there was even more money to be made from inventing management terminology and jargon, writing business best-sellers to promote this jargon and its case-study-supporting "excellence" and baffling managements into submission and agreement to whatever new bit of gurudom the "Harvard Business Review" was touting that month, they acquired the imperial new clothes of solutions consultancy. And for industries deemed to be "strategic" and for countries with such strategic industries in marched the suits with flip-charts and later on the graphical persuasion of a new orthodoxy known as PowerPoint. Here a pie chart, there a bell graph, everywhere a set of bullet-points.

Tourism is one such strategic industry and, you may have noticed, an industry that is moderately strategic for Mallorca. Alongside this strategic industry another industry has grown, that of the strategy sellers. The consultants. Not satisfied with the micro climates of individual corporate cultures, consultants tackled bigger pictures. They went macro. Whole national industries, whole nations, whole globes. The picture got bigger and bigger.

Consultants are now indistinguishable from the industries they consult for. They are part of these industries, a partner in tourism industry symbiosis, the consultant attaching himself to the lifeblood of herds of sweating tourists packaged hither and thither. This symbiosis demands that the life force be guaranteed, hence the prescriptions for change, development, innovation, call it what you, or the life-force-piggybacking consultant, will.

Such a description does injustice, however. Consultancy has become intrinsic to the tourism industry and, rather than being an irritant that attaches itself to the neck of the industry and simply draws the blood that it can, it can be the provider of shots in the industry's arm. When it works best, consultancy can objectify and be a partner in the manner that a pure, mutually beneficial relationship should function.

But this said, what does the consultancy wing of the Spanish tourism industry offer that might be described as innovative? As an example, while PwC (aka PricewaterhouseCoopers) can call on representatives from the likes of Melià, Globalia, Turespaña and TUI as participants in its latest report, its "innovative solutions" for burning tourism topics include the notion of the "connected tourist" (connected through technologies and social media) who will be attracted to Spain where he currently isn't because Spain is known only for sun and beach tourism. Rather than innovative, this sounds all too familiar.

This is an admittedly simplistic summation of what is a fairly extensive report, but its references to wine and gastronomy tourism, sports tourism, cultural tourism leave one (well, it left me) thinking that it's all been said many times before. And it has. It's the technology part which is different, but even then not that different.

The consultants THR have different proposals, ones to get tourists to break with their normal routines by incentivising them to take holidays in winter through sales promotions and for establishing a grand coalition organisation (hotels, theme parks, town halls, whatever) in order to implement plans for attracting winter tourists (and these would include getting AENA to scrap landing fees in the off-season).

Again, this only sketches what THR suggest, but their proposals are more radical.

Consultants can no doubt (or one would hope) offer good solutions, but perhaps, because of how they have become a part of the tourism industry, they can be too close to the industry to be able to step back and generate genuinely innovative solutions. Always assuming there are innovative solutions to be found. If there aren't, then why ask a consultant?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Ternelles walk is taken to Madrid

At the request of the ramblers association Pro Camins Publics i Oberts, Joan Tardà, the parliamentary deputy for the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya in Madrid is to raise the matter of access to the walk on the road on the Ternelles finca in Pollensa and to the beach at the Cala Castell. Specifically, he will be asking questions of the national environment ministry and what actions it is taking to ensure access.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 18C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, locally Northeast 3 to 4 this afternoon.

Pretty much a repetition of yesterday, so sun all day and warm but with a chill air by the coasts.