Friday, May 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (11.15am): 17C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 3 to 4 backing Southwest 3 by the evening.

Bright enough but with some cloud. A risk of rain or storm later today but no sign as yet. The general outlook through the weekend and into next week is for an improvement and more stable weather.

Evening update (19.30): Pretty decent today. Good amounts of sun as well as some bits of cloud and certainly no sign of any storm. Quite a contrast between inland highs and the coast where the chill breeze is keeping temperatures down to just above 20. In Sa Pobla, a high of 23.5C.

Jobs For The Boys

Apologies for lateness - internet woes!

According to the "Urban Dictionary", "bish bosh" means "an improper or unfinished piece of work due to laziness", while "bish bash bosh" describes "the efficiency of a process you have just explained" as in one, two, three steps, it's as simple as that, bish bash bosh.

I don't know, on the one hand, that laziness is a fair criticism, but there was some unfinished work at the Balearics education ministry. It does, on the other hand, appear to be a case of being as simple as that in securing another post in Balearics government circles for those who leave unfinished work behind. To what and to whom am I referring? What else and who else than "The Return Of The Mighty Bosch" (or maybe Boosh would make more sense).

Bish bash bosh, simple as that, Bosch is back. Job's a good 'un. Unlike the job that wasn't a good 'un at the education ministry and which resulted in the Mighty Bosch being given his P45 and replaced by someone likely to be more amenable to following the government's education language policy. The presidential ink barely dry on the dismissal notice and Rafael Bosch has found new gainful employment - this time at the newly-created ministry for the economy and competitiveness. He is to be an advisor on competitiveness. Good for him.

WARNING, WARNING, cliché coming up. Jobs in government are like the managerial merry-go-round in the Premier League (the merry-go-round being the cliché in case you aren't up to speed with footballspeak). Bosch is to the Balearics Government as Mark Hughes is to the Premiership. No use at QPR, for some inexplicable reason he gets the gig at Stoke City. All jobs for the boys or, in Hughes's case, having a persistent agent.

Rafael probably doesn't have an agent and he doesn't seem to need one. Just hangs around the corridors at the Consolat de Mar and waits for the first competitiveness-advisory task to be cobbled together into the form of a job description. And presumably, competitiveness in the Balearics isn't dependent upon a language policy. If it were, then there would surely have been no advisory role for Rafael. But then, is there not at least some element of language that plays a part in Balearics competitiveness? Is Castellano not a language that offers the potential for greater competitiveness? Hmm. Can the Catalanist Bosch (Catalanist according to the Círculo Balear's strongly anti-Catalanist Jorge Campos, that is) be trusted to pursue competitiveness with full Castellano vigour? I'm sure he can be.

Rafael having found a way of being able to continue to pay the mortgage, what of others who were recently shuffled out of the Bauzá cabinet? Will they also be returning? What role might there be for Josep Aguiló, who was ostensibly in charge of competitiveness before getting the heave-ho? Governmental advisor for paper clips and staples perhaps?

Perhaps Bosch might help the new boy at competitiveness, Joaquín García, make more of a fist of things than Aguiló did. For the ex-minister, competitiveness appeared to amount to little more than lowering wages but any failings he had in competitiveness terms weren't really his fault. He was also bean-counter-in-chief, and so looking after the centimos was his main priority. Bauzá was right to recognise that Aguiló's portfolio was too broad and so has created separate ministries - one for the economy and one for bean-counting - but the consequence of this is that the new bean-counter-in-chief, José Marí, is going to have the count the half a million euros more cost of the various new jobs for the boys, of which Bosch's is one.

And among these new jobs is provision for not one but two press officers for García (the other new and separate ministry is social services which have been spun out of the health portfolio). Two press officers? Why are two press officers needed? What does even one of them do? Is the Balearic Government so vast that it requires all these press people knocking around the place in the different ministries?

The opposition has, naturally enough, latched onto the fact that Bosch's appointment is representative of an increase and not a decrease in public spending on governmental posts. Austerity for some but not for others. Perceptions, perceptions, always perceptions. There may be sound reasons for these new appointments but there is an unmistakable feeling that these reasons may include jobs for the boys.

Any comments to please.

Index for May 2013

Aina Cifre: Pollensa painter - 25 May 2013
Alchemy - 18 May 2013
Balearic Government cabinet re-shuffle and new jobs - 3 May 2013, 31 May 2013
Blue flags - 24 May 2013
Catalan and Mallorquín - 21 May 2013
Chemists and tourists - 23 May 2013
Diplocat and Catalonian independence - 1 May 2013
ESRA flower show - 17 May 2013
Gibraltar and UEFA - 26 May 2013
Ironman in Alcúdia: inconveniences - 12 May 2013
King's royal yacht - 19 May 2013
Low-cost tourism - 4 May 2013
Magalluf troubles - 7 May 2013
Majorca Daily Bulletin: MBE award dinner - 11 May 2013
Manacor-Artà train - 6 May 2013
Naturism in Mallorca - 5 May 2013
President Bauzá's secretary - 20 May 2013
Protests over beach matters - 27 May 2013
Puerto Alcúdia beach path asphalt - 8 May 2013
Religious studies and education reform - 30 May 2013
Roads: unused and unfinished - 16 May 2013
Rumours and hotels - 28 May 2013
Salvador Dalí - 10 May 2013
Seasonality and winter tourism - 13 May 2013
Senegalese man dies of TB - 14 May 2013, 29 May 2013
Tax and mistrust - 22 May 2013
Tenancy act revision and holiday lets - 9 May 2013, 15 May 2013
Tourism promotion and Balearics' island councils - 2 May 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Best May for tourism for years

Passenger numbers through Palma airport and occupancy statistics in some of the main tourism centres such as Alcúdia, Can Picafort and Magalluf suggest that this May has been the best for tourism for several years, levels up by as much as 10% over 2012 in some cases.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Six-year sentence for Thomas Swannell

Thomas Swannell, found guilty in a Palma court of the killing of Gary Vigors during a brawl outside a bar in Magalluf in March 2011, has been condemned to six years in prison, the sentence having been reduced on account of an agreement to indemnify Mr. Vigors' daughter and parents to the tune of 177,000 euros.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 4 to 5 and locally 6 in Formentor this evening. Risk of storms.

Greyish morning but expected to clear to give a bright and sunny day before collapsing and rain and possible thunder coming in overnight. The outlook into the weekend doesn't look too bad and a little warmer.

The local met office says that temperatures will rise to 24 or 25 degrees from the start of June, a more normal level, and has queried the suggestion from a French weather channel that this summer could be wet and cool, saying that this forecast is based on an unreliable American system of forecasting and that long-range predictions of rainfall and indeed temperatures are very difficult to make with any accuracy. The overall temperature in May has in fact been roughly normal. Though the past few days have been cooler than normal, the average is more or less normal.

Evening update (20.15): Turned out to be a fine day. Clear skies and plenty of sun. A high of 22.5C inland.

Re-writing Religion: Spain's education act

In my second year at grammar school, my class was set an R.E. homework assignment to write a nativity play. My best friend Derek and myself were both heavily influenced at that time by the "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" radio show. Under the influence of Cleese, Garden, Oddie and Brooke-Taylor, we thought it would be highly amusing were we to write our plays in the style of ISIRTA. How wrong we were. The R.E. teacher, a Miss Phillipson, was scandalised. My effort was slightly less offensive than Derek's and so I was given the opportunity to re-write it "properly" and received a grudging six out of ten for the revised play. Derek was less fortunate. He had to re-do his in the knowledge that he was going to get nul points come what may.

When it came to choosing our O Level subjects later that school year, it was little surprise that R.E. didn't loom large among our priorities. Indeed, I don't recall it having loomed large among anyone's priorities. Like Latin, it was a subject which, as soon as the opportunity arose to shape one's own personal curriculum, was dropped with the full force and weight of several copies of the Authorised Version being hurled from the top of the science block onto the school playground.

Which, with the value of hindsight normally denied to thirteen-year-olds, was probably a mistake. Latin, one came to appreciate, would have been of value. R.E. would have been, too, in that religious studies in their broadest sense are of value in appreciating fundamentals of cultures and societies (and one uses "fundamental" advisedly in the context of religions).

The greatest mistake lay in believing that one had to be a believer in order to study religion. Not so. Indeed, it might be argued that it is preferable if one isn't a believer. Through not adhering to any particular religious dogma, there may be a chance of increased objectivity prevailing. But what thirteen-year-old is going to now buy into such an explanation or would have bought into such an explanation a few decades ago?

The trouble is that, regardless of whatever broader historical, sociological and cultural aspects are contained in a religious studies curriculum (assuming there are any), as a subject it is perceived as representative of one thing and one thing alone - the established church. For schoolchildren, the church simply isn't cool or relevant. It is something to be rejected.

The Spanish have been losing their religion dramatically over the past 20 years or so, and Spanish youth have been losing it more dramatically than any other age group. This is natural enough, given youthful rebellion, but the taking of religious studies by high-school pupils has slumped to such a level that only roughly a quarter now opt for it.

Faced with this declining interest, the Spanish Government's education reform is to give greater emphasis to religious studies. It will, under the system that the revised education bill sets out, count to the same extent that maths or a language course will. Wert's Law, named after the education minister José Ignacio Wert, will give as much worth and as much weight to religion as it does to English. And there are an awful lot of people who aren't happy that it will. A poll has found that even a majority of practising Catholics disagree with this emphasis on religious studies. The widely held view is that it is a measure designed to serve one purpose - a politico-religious one in cementing the alliance between the Church and the Partido Popular and in advancing the cause of societal conservatism.

However much some would argue, and I would count myself among them, that religious studies, so long as they are broad-based, are of educative value, to place religious instruction on a par with languages, maths, science and technology is an utter nonsense. By doing so, the impression is given of subject choice being somehow bought. And for a country that badly needs to sharpen up its educational act, so to speak, and to encourage innovation, development and entrepreneurship, such an emphasis on religion appears almost perverse. It is a subject worthy of study but it ain't going to improve the country's economic performance.

It is even more perverse that the Partido Popular, perceived as the party that is the friend of business and industry, should seek to establish such an educational measure. It can only be explained, therefore, on the grounds of dogma - the religious dogma of Catholic conservatism, one that many had thought had been consigned to history.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 3 to 4 backing West during the morning. Some rain possible and swell to one metre.

A cool morning with a fair bit of light cloud around. Clearing to give sun but also westerly breezes. Rain a possibility over the next three days.

Evening update (20.15): At times today it was really quite chilly in the breeze and it rained a little. It has picked up and given a high of 20.9C but this is not the sort of end-May weather as we would hope for.

Indecent Haste: Alpha Pam

The Balearics health minister, Martí Sansaloni, considers the case of Alpha Pam, the Senegalese man who died of tuberculosis, to be closed. Closure has come, according to the minister, because the director of Inca Hospital, where Pam was not treated as an emergency (which by law he should have been, despite not having the right papers), has been dismissed and because disciplinary proceedings are being taken against three other members of the hospital's staff.

Sansaloni might consider the matter closed but this closure has come with unprecedented haste. Matters do not usually get closed quite so swiftly in Mallorca and they have not previously been closed quite so swiftly where Inca Hospital is concerned. There is the case of the alleged breaches of data protection law that were committed by personnel at the hospital and which involved Partido Popular representatives at Inca town hall. This came to light two years ago. As far as I am aware, its investigation and processing through the national agency for data protection and courts has yet to be fully resolved. But as no one died as a result of this apparent illegality, then things can be spun out. When someone does die, best to seek closure quickly and hope everyone forgets about it.

Unfortunately for Sansaloni not everyone is likely to forget about it. And those not doing the forgetting include Santa Margalida town hall (Pam lived in Can Picafort), the Senegalese community, the main PSOE opposition and the now ex-director of the hospital, Fernando Navarro.

The town hall is demanding that compensation be paid to Alpha Pam's family. This demand has been echoed by PSOE and other opposition parties, who are also demanding a full inquiry by a parliamentary commission into what happened and into what they claim was a situation whereby Sansaloni and President Bauzá knew but did nothing to prevent immigrants without papers and health cards being billed for emergency treatment (which they shouldn't have been). This charging is now being rectified, but it was indicative, so government opponents maintain, of the approach to dealing with illegal immigrants and those without a health card, an approach that allegedly contributed to Pam's death.

The government insist that two mistakes were made at Inca, one having been a  medical error in diagnosing bronchitis and not TB, the other having been a failure to apply the rules regarding the treatment of those without papers in cases of emergency. It was a failure to follow these rules that led to the removal of Fernando Navarro, a charge against him that he utterly refutes. Navarro seems determined to defend his honour. The matter will therefore surely not be closed.

PSOE and the opposition are right to press for a full inquiry. If nothing else, there is an inconsistency in the government's insistence that there were two mistakes. If Pam died as a result of the misdiagnosis, then he did not die as a result of a failure by the hospital to attend to him. Something doesn't quite stack up. Moreover, Sansaloni's willingness to so quickly consign the case to history leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. The expedition in investigating the circumstances surrounding Pam's death, the apparent expedience in sacking Navarro, the consequent exculpation of the health ministry and the exigency with which closure has been sought and gained all reinforce a feeling that the Pam case and its handling amount to a failure of decency. And one comes back to the alleged data-protection abuse affair to which none of this speed has applied. Investigations shouldn't have to drag on for months or years, but a death is a more serious issue than the leaking of patient information; it demands a decent period of reflection and not convenient rapidity. 

Members of the Senegalese community on Mallorca met the other day with Senegal's foreign minister, who was in Palma to discuss, among other things, the lack of health care for Senegalese citizens. The minister spoke about the "pain" that his government felt over Pam's death. One thing it may hasten, however, is the return of immigrants to Senegal; the minister was looking at ways to facilitate repatriation. Senegal would like its people to return in order to help with the development of its agricultural industry, so perhaps, in a respect, some good might come of the Pam affair. If they have limited employment opportunities in Mallorca and questionable access to health care, then they would probably be better off returning, but such an eventuality would not remove the need for there to be a full appreciation as to what happened in the case of Alpha Pam. Sansaloni's belief that the case is closed is wrong.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia town hall insists Avenida Tucán is urban

The distinction between what constitutes urban land (for development) and wetland (which isn't) has been at the heart of debate in Puerto Pollensa's Ullal area. It is also an issue in Puerto Alcúdia along the Avenida Tucán (the road with Hidropark). The town hall insists that it is urban while the water resources plan for the island has it marked down as wetland. This doesn't solely refer to Tucán but also to the Via Corneli Atic between the horse and Magic roundabouts. In theory, under the water resources plan, there are developments which shouldn't be there, such as the public swimming-pool. Unlike in Puerto Pollensa, all political parties agree that the land is urban.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 13C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 veering Northwest during the afternoon and Northeast during the evening.

A sunny start and should remain mostly sunny. The predictions of possible storms later in the week are still in place but as yesterday's forecast for a storm produced nothing, hard to say how accurate these predictions are.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 25.9C, so quite a bit warmer than of recent. Not that sunny but still an improvement.

Spreading Rumours

A friend of mine from university days was machiavellian and mischievous in starting rumours. He would sidle up to me and mutter in my ear what his latest rumour-mongering involved. He was extremely adept at it; he should have been a political spin doctor or propagandist. The rumour no sooner planted, it swiftly became fact.

Rumours usually have at least some basis in fact but not always. I was inadvertently responsible for starting one about the creation of a large new British bar in Alcúdia. I had been told by a bar owner that there was to be one along The Mile, the implication being that he was going to be involved with it. Once I'd passed on this information, speculation arose as to where the bar would be. I made a suggestion, and it was no more than a suggestion, and in hardly no time at all, this suggestion had become gospel. Not only was the suggestion wrong, the original information was wrong. There was no large new Brit bar.

Any community, be it a university campus, a resort in Mallorca or wherever, lives by rumour, speculation and gossip. I should know better than to be drawn into speculation but then I am not virtuous in disregarding tittle-tattle. There can, after all, be some truth in tittle-tattle or the speculative. But only some. Invented truths are used to disguise and fill in the gaps of the incomplete initial information, and these truths are, in turn, subject to the process of the Chinese whisper. The rumour can end up bearing no resemblance to the truth, assuming there were ever any substance to it in the first place.

It is a common complaint by expats in the resorts that these are breeding-grounds for rumour, some of it malicious, some of it innocent, some of it potty and some of it, every now and then, relatively accurate. It is a common complaint but it doesn't stop participation. To not engage in rumour and gossip is to be somehow alienated from the community. One could argue that rumour is the common bond that the resort communities possess: their only one.

Hotels are regular targets of rumour. In Puerto Alcúdia, the largest hotel complex of all, Bellevue, has for years been a repository packed full of rumour. It has been and still is a gigantic rumour mill, one that regularly gives rise to speculation that there is "trouble at rumour mill". For once, though, Bellevue's rumour mill has ceased to grind out its grains of speculation, if only temporarily. A different hotel has assumed its mantle.

I am not naming the hotel. Oh no, I am most definitely not naming. There are enough people who know as it is. The speculation surrounding this hotel has actually developed from fact, namely a change of ownership that became public knowledge around three months ago. Though the new hotel chain does not as yet list the hotel on its website, the hotel is named as being from this hotel chain on certain sites. Trip Advisor still has it under the previous hotel chain, and Trip Advisor may assume increasingly greater importance in this story.

There is uncertainty regarding the hotel's future policy. One aspect of this is whether it will remain a Thomson hotel for the British market. It is in fact available for booking next year through Thomson's website, though this has not stopped speculation that it will cease to be a Thomson hotel, that it might cater for different nationalities or that it might become all-inclusive.

I'm not about to go into all the speculation for one very good reason - I don't know whether any of it is accurate. The only way one can truly establish accuracy is by getting information from the horse's mouth. Perhaps I'll ask the new hotel chain and see what it has to say. If anything.

It would appear that a definitive decision regarding future policy has not yet been finalised. If so, this is not unreasonable. Any business has the right to take its time in determining its policy, but, and this is where Trip Advisor and the jungle drums of the internet come into the equation, any business has to be aware of the power of speculation and rumour; it was on the internet where another hotel that changed policy suffered something of a PR meltdown because of uncertainty.

The way to prevent rumours and to stop speculation is to remove this uncertainty. And that means making a clear statement as to policy, if indeed there is to be a new one. It's the rule of the game, especially now, as the biggest rumour community is not in local resorts but all over cyberspace.

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 to 4 veering Southwest by the evening.

Overcast with some sun, there is apparently the threat of a storm later. Storms possible later in the week as well, but tomorrow and Wednesday should be fine. Definitely a bit on the cool side for the end of May.

Evening update (18.00): No evidence of any storm but the day has been mostly cloudy and not particularly warm. A high of 20C.

Lines In The Sand

The Mallorcans will protest about anything. Many a bed sheet has been sacrificed in the name of marker pens and "No" to this or "Sí" to that. Photographic coverage of these protests follows a very familiar formula. The man or woman with the conch (the loudspeaker) holds his bellowing pose while to either side of him are (usually) small numbers of other protesters, enough though to hold a bed sheet or two.

One is tempted to think that Mallorcan protests, go great are their number, are the product of pent-up protest prohibition in the good old days when protests were frowned upon. It's a long time now, though, since the bubbles of bottled-up protest suddenly popped out of cavas of circumscription. You would have thought they would have got it out of their system by now.

Minor, futile even, does many a Mallorcan protest appear to be. But then perhaps, it isn't so futile. Perhaps it is the only way that voices can be made to be heard, that discontent be displayed in a land where the accountability of officialdom meets the layers of public administration responsibility or irresponsibility in generating frustration. Or perhaps people just like protesting.

Everything is subject to protest. Take beaches and their environs, for example, and three cases in point. One was the protest by the Muro townspeople who have holiday homes in what are the old church cottages in the enclave of Ses Casetes des Capellans. It was one of the more poignant of the protests. The bed sheets carried messages about Capellans being "for the children", a place for them to play, a place that was threatened (still is in theory) by the zealots of the Costas Authority who wanted to demolish cottages that had been built by the church years before the Costas had ever been dreamt of.

Whereas this protest was a popular one in that it was a people's protest, a second protest, also in Playa de Muro, that organised by land and property owners. It was also against the demarcation gestapo of the Costas who, twenty years or so after the old coastal law had been drawn up, discovered that some property in the resort crossed the demarcation lines. This was a protest of a different order as it wasn't a popular one. It wasn't a people's protest but a protest by business against the government. When land and property owners comprise names such as Iberostar, Grupotel, Viva and others, then the protest is likely to gain a great deal more attention than that by humble townspeople in Capellans. And it did. The Costas didn't retreat with its tail completely between its legs but its destructive desire to reverse the destruction of three decades or more in the past has been watered down to the point where the demarcation line is little distance from the water's edge.

So the message is that protest is more likely to get somewhere if business can tell its staff to all get themselves out on to the streets and make a grand show that might put government to shame. Which is pretty much what happened with the hoteliers protest in Playa de Muro. The little people, like those of Capellans, can also get somewhere because they are ordinary people and because they have right firmly on their side. As well as the town hall, which backed them to the hilt, as it had backed the hoteliers as well.

But then there is the protest which doesn't get the town hall onside, when the town hall is the object of the protest, and when the protesters' motives have to be questionable. Which brings me to the third beach-based protest, one over the weekend in Puerto Alcúdia. It could count on all of fifty or sixty people. It garnered support from opposition politicians (both leftist and Mallorcan nationalist) but it was arranged by the youth group Arran. This is the organisation that has changed its name from the Maulets, the Catalanist, independentist radicals. Its protest was levelled at the blue asphalt that has been plastered over the beach path, and the message was all to do with the destruction of Mallorca, blah, blah, blah.

I don't disagree with the sentiment of the message as I think the path looks awful, but it looks awful mainly because of its colour. Yes it's a shame that the path cannot still be eroded old stones, but few people, even those who don't like the path, argue that the path didn't need making properly usable. Arran's protest presumably had nothing to do with the fact that the town hall is dominated by the Partido Popular and that it represented the opportunity (and was therefore opportunistic) to hijack a a local controversy and use it for political aims. Were there a genuinely "popular" protest against the path, then the town hall might be shamed, and so it should be for having allowed such a hideous colour to be used, but it was not. Arran should take note of the ordinary people of Capellans; they know how to protest and to gain popular sympathy.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Draw in Madrid gives Mallorca hope

Atlético Madrid 0 : 0 Real Mallorca

What was billed as make or break for Mallorca in Madrid was not totally the case, and the result proved the point.

Márquez after five minutes tested Courtois as Mallorca started brightly. Atlético had a penalty appeal turned down as the game progressed evenly, Hutton matching Falcao in going close. Mallorca were forced into a change on the half hour, the injured Israeli striker Hemed being replaced by Nsue. Costa had a goal for Atlético ruled out because of offside shortly before the break as the home side began to assume dominance. A couple of minutes into the second period it was Mallorca's player of the season Dos Santos whose free kick caused Courtois some trouble, Victor's header soon after also showing that Mallorca weren't lying down. Godin, responding for Atlético, drew a stop from Aouate. Márquez again had an effort saved as Mallorca played out of their skins to get a vital away win, and it was perhaps his frustrated efforts on the evening that got Márquez a yellow a few moments later. Atlético then had another goal (this time by Falcao) ruled out for offside. Dos Santos, as ever, kept creating things for Mallorca and seven minutes before the end of normal time his shot went just past the post, and he and Hutton were involved in a right old scramble in the 88th minute that ended up being cleared by the Atlético defence.

A point for Mallorca, a remarkable point and they thoroughly deserved it. Everything now goes down to the last match of the season. The point for Mallorca puts them bottom as Vigo won away at Valladolid, who Mallorca play at home on the last day. Deportivo losing in Malaga means that Mallorca can stay up if they beat Valladolid and results go their way on 1 June.
Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luís; Suárez, Gabi (Adrián 63), Koke (Rodríguez 88), Turan (Torres 57); Costa, Falcao
Yellows: Costa (14), Gabi (47), Miranda (59), Suárez (81), Godin (82)

Aouate: Hutton, Geromel, Bigas, Luna; Tissone, Martí (Alfaro 74); Dos Santos, Márquez, Victor (Pereira 83); Hemed (Nsue 31)
Yellows: Victor (17), Nsue (62), Márquez (70), Pereira (90)

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida looks for compensation for Alpha Pam

A change of mayor there has been in Santa Margalida but there is no let-up in the grievances between the town hall and the regional government. The latest issue has to do with the scandal surrounding the death from TB of the Senegalese resident of Can Picafort, Alpha Pam. The government accepts that his death should have been avoided as he wasn't diagnosed with having TB and so therefore treated as an emergency at Inca Hospital, whose director has been sacked. The town hall is to call on the government to compensate Pam's family.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Protest against Alcúdia's blue asphalt

Some 50 people or so staged a protest yesterday against the laying of the blue asphalt over the beach path in Puerto Alcúdia. The protesters were from youth groups, one of them being Arran, the left-wing independentist movement. The town hall is led by the right-wing Partido Popular.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 veering Southeast 3 to 4 by the afternoon.

A splendid morning with clear blue skies. Breezes likely to pick up a bit and so keeping the air fresh. The week ahead is now looking a little changeable with possible showers midweek and strengthening breezes.

Evening update (18.30): Well, the clear skies didn't last. Some cloud came in as did the breezes and it wasn't really that warm because of the breezes. A high of 22.1C in Sa Pobla.

Between A Rock And A Hard Man

Gibraltar is to become the latest member of the UEFA family. Where next? The Isle of Man? The Isle of Wight? It has taken a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to oblige UEFA to admit Gibraltar, but on what grounds? As a British overseas territory, it isn't really a country, so what will it be doing entering a competition that is supposedly for European nations? But then, Gibraltar's status is a bit odd. It is part of the European Union, so on this basis, there probably are legitimate grounds for its admission to UEFA. If the rock is good enough for Brussels, it must be good enough for Nyon, as in Nyon, Switzerland, where UEFA has its HQ. And as Andorra, San Marino and the Faroe Islands are all a bit iffy in UEFA nationality terms, then why not extend this iffiness to Gib. In fact, the comparison with the Faroes is probably the best grounds for UEFA admission, as the Faroes are selg-governing, like Gibraltar, but also an overseas territory, one that is under Danish sovereignty.

These other iffy members of UEFA haven't, though, faced the same sort of opposition as Gibraltar has. And its main opposition is known as Spain, who in 2007 threatened to take all Spanish teams out of European competitions if Gibraltar was given membership. This opposition was not solely because of the obvious - Spain's claims to the rock - but also because of a Spanish fear that Gibraltar's admission would mean that there would be claims for UEFA membership from Catalonia and the Basques.

This fear has always sounded somewhat unfounded. There are "national" teams for all the regions of Spain, including the Balearics, who have only ever played one "international" (losing to Malta), but none are affiliated to UEFA or indeed FIFA because they are all represented by the Spanish FA. Having said this, there is of course another iffy arrangement that is sanctioned by UEFA and FIFA, and that is the one which concerns England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Catalonia could argue, one supposes, that it if the Welsh can have a national side, despite not being a separate nation, then why can't it? Of course, Catalonia may try and resolve the matter of its football team by declaring itself independent, a move that would throw not only Spain and the European Union but more importantly UEFA into a turmoil of knowing what to do. And if UEFA can be made by the Court of Arbitration to bring Gibraltar into the fold, then it would have no choice but to let Catalonia in.

Even without having declared itself a separate nation, the idea of Catalonia having its own team in European competitions is a delicious one. Firstly, it might reduce Spain's dominance, but secondly, and far more deliciously, would be the prospect of Spain playing Catalonia. They already do in one way, and that is El Clasico, Real Madrid versus Barcelona, but a match-up between Spain and a separatist Catalonia in a European nations tournament ... ?

The contentious issues to do with sovereignty claims and so the possibility of teams playing each other are dealt with by UEFA ensuring, in the case of Spain and Gibraltar, that they cannot be paired in a qualifying round. Given that there would be absolutely no chance of Gibraltar ever advancing beyond the qualifiers, then the worry that they might have to play each other is non-existent. UEFA also skirt round a contentious issue of a different sort - that of the poor relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. They are always kept apart, and it might be worth noting, for those who believe that minor entrants to European competitions should have their own pre-qualifying tournament, that it would be that much more difficult to ensure that Armenia and Azerbaijan never came up against each other.

But back to Gibraltar and its membership of UEFA, we can now doubtless look forward to a team with its back story similar to that of San Marino. Plucky bricklayers, accountants and waiters take on the might of Italy or even England. And lose horribly.

I'm not one of those who decries the presence of no-hoper, smaller teams in the European championship, but I accept that they add to the unwieldy nature of qualifying groups. These teams are so outclassed that all they can really hope for is to make life difficult for their betters by parking the bus and filling it with hard men who rattle the effete superstars of European football. Or in Gibraltar's case, perhaps they could scout for a likely Barbary Ape or two.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (10.00am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3 to 5 occasionally 6 around Formentor.

Sunny but breezy; a good day for putting the washing out. Tomorrow destined to be sunny too and the week ahead mostly fine with temperatures in the low 20s.

Evening update (18.30): Good, sunny day, an inland high of 21.2C, a couple of degrees lower on the coast.

Don't Miss My Story: Aina Cifre

Pollensa and art are virtually synonymous. Ever since the founders of the Pollensa "school", Camarassa and Cittadini, were so struck by the light that influenced the school's post-impressionism, Pollensa has been firmly associated with canvas and brushwork. The galleries in the town and in Puerto Pollensa are often showcases for artistic talent that is local to the town and the area, one of these galleries being the Galería Dionís Bennàssar, now located over the other side of the Plaça Major from where it used to be; in fact, it is off the square in Antoni Maura, the street named after the one and only Mallorcan to have been a Spanish prime minister.

The gallery is currently showing some 30 odd works by the Pollensa-born Aina Cifre. The title of the exhibition is "Quiero contarte un cuento para que no te pierdas" - I want to tell you a story so that you don't miss it. There is an explanation for the exhibition, one that is quite typical in describing the thinking behind the art. The works are based on personal experiences, on overcoming struggles and so being optimistic. They combine elements of the fantastic with those of nature.

Explanations as to the purpose of pieces of art can seem somewhat odd. That they have to be explained suggests that the observer won't understand them otherwise. And if they can't understand them, without being told, then what is the point of them? Well, this is a cynical view and not one I actually believe. An artist's expression inevitably goes beyond the perceptions of others. It is why it enters the realms of the innovative, the fantasy and the fabulous. Joan Miró's work was rarely obvious. It required information, and once the information was supplied, the observer was able to see what the artist was saying. Miró's style was all but unique. It was also brilliant. No one has questioned that there wasn't sense to those geometric forms, because there was.

Aina Cifre's style is alternatively sparse and childlike. The natural world is evident from sweeps of disguised landscape and allusions to wing movement. She is a clever artist who adheres to the virtues of white space in emphasising the sense of those struggles and that optimism. She has - and she is now in her late 30s - been the recipient of awards, such as having been the winner of the Marratxí painting competition, and the exhibition at the Bennàssar gallery is not her first; in 2009, she showed "Nunca había tenido el corazón tan rojo" (never had the heart been so red, or something like this).

Cifre's work forms part of collections held by the Colonya and Sa Nostra banks (as I mentioned in a previous article, banks are one of the most important art collectors, which can be a constraint on protest art) as well as by the Council of Mallorca. She is, therefore, among the foremost artists of her generation in Mallorca and representative of what is a truly astounding array of contemporary artists who are currently at work here.

The exhibition at the Bennàssar gallery runs until 13 June. Recommended.

(Photo from Galería Dionís Bennàssar)

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3 to 4 switching to East around midday and then South tonight.

A fine sunny morning, though the forecast suggests it will be cloudy today. There again, it had forecast rain for tomorrow and that risk appears to have gone away. The outlook for the next few days is very promising.

Evening update (19.30): And it was fairly cloudy for some of the day. Sun out in the evening though. A high of 20.6C.

Waving The Flag (Or Not)

The Balearics have this year lost more blue flags than any other region of Spain. This loss has not been on account of poor water quality but because beaches do not have sufficient numbers of lifeguards. Where the Blue Flag programme demands two lifeguards, some beaches in Mallorca only have one, the reason being because, under Balearics regulations, only one is necessary.

On the face of it, this sounds like very poor PR for Mallorca. You can imagine the headlines - "Holidaymakers' lives put at risk by absent lifeguards in Mallorca". Or something along these lines. It would sound bad, but who's making it sound bad? It is the people behind the Blue Flag programme, the Foundation for Environmental Education that sits in Copenhagen, passing judgement on beaches here, there and everywhere, and which acts like a virtual governmental body in issuing its decrees and awards.

I have spoken before about the Blue Flag programme and its organisers. I have no beef with the original motives behind the programme - ensuring the quality of sea water - but I do have a serious beef with the way in which the tentacles of the programme have, like an octopus extending its many arms and wrapping them around whatever happens to float past it, performed their own constrictive, bureaucratic, self-determined grabs of ever more elements of beach life to justify the programme's existence. It is a programme, a concept - that of the blue flag - that has acquired its own self-fulfilling existence. It has, I'm sorry to have to say, become imperialist in its hunger for influence and importance.

The Blue Flag programme is a classic example of a concept that started out with the very best intentions but which has been consumed by its own power - or its belief in its own power. The argument will be made that holidaymakers pay great attention to its awards and its withdrawals - an argument the organisation will make and that others will nod in agreement with. But do holidaymakers pay such attention? Once upon a time, they might have done, back in the days when the recycling of last night's dinner could be seen floating off a beach. Those days have largely gone, though. Local authorities, such as those in Mallorca, are fully aware of their duties of care to health and to the environment. And were they not, then their failings would be swiftly and abruptly made public. All over the internet, as an example.

Negative news about blue flags in Mallorca, or indeed positive news relating to them, is meat and drink for the local Mallorcan media, which takes reports of withdrawal of flags and elevates them to states of virtual scandal, when they are nothing of the sort. Yes, do let's have as many lifeguards as possible on Mallorca's beaches, but who really, among the holidaymaking public, pays any great attenton to what the Blue Flag programme has to say?

Take Puerto Pollensa. It doesn't have a flag at present. And? Has this been a reason for tourists refusing to come to the resort? I would suggest that it hasn't been. Indeed, I would be hugely surprised had they. The Blue Flag programme is not irrelevant - it most certainly has been relevant in promoting water safety - but its remit has gone way too far, and it has been a remit that it has determined for itself in advancing its own justification for existence and, as with any aspiring-to-near-governmental-status body, it milks its awards and withdrawals for all they are worth, ensuring that a media, inclined to only believe and promote the negative, laps up. As it does locally.

But this is the nub of the matter. Local. The absence of a lifeguard or two and the Blue Flag's promotion of the fact is used as evidence against irresponsible local authorities. The media heartily endorses this, but it doesn't stop to enquire about the messenger, the Blue Flag organisation, and about its grab of influence and power. Away from the local arena, though, no one really gives a damn. If they did, then Puerto Pollensa would be empty this summer as would be other coastal areas without the flag.

The fact is that the Blue Flag is a somewhat shallow trophy. Shallow, because it doesn't mean a great deal to everyday holidaymakers. There are some to whom it does, and they are those who still labour under the misapprehension that the Blue Flag programme is primarily or exclusively to do with its original purpose. But there are others for whom the programme has been an exercise in nothing more than an expansionist tendency.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 reaching West 3 yo 4 by the afternoon.

Quite sunny and should get sunnier. The general forecast also has a sunnier look to it. Rain threatened for Saturday appears to be much less of a threat. Tomorrow may be cloudy at times but otherwise fine. Into next week, the outlook is reasonable.

A Day At The Chemists

I do not need to detain you with the reasons why, and they are not solely to do with the need for medicinal compounds, I am well-versed with chemists in the area. Or pharmacies, to give them their properly and directly translated name.

I like the local pharmacies and pharmacists and their staff (with the exception of one or two, that is). Because of my mysterious need to inhabit these establishments, I know the people concerned pretty well, and knowing them means that they are a rich source of information. If you want to know about national characteristics, go ask a pharmacist; he or she can give you chapter and verse. As in ... The Mallorcans spend hours upon hours requiring explanations for the simplest of drug-taking and then repeat these explanations - several times - in their own unique, shouty, potato-mouth-filled fashion. The Germans spend hours upon hours demanding entire technical specifications and full composition percentages (and still then ask more questions). The British evacuate chemists in embarrassment because of language difficulties and because of anything vaguely to do with private areas. The Russians don't go to chemists to buy drugs but to hand over wads of cash for anything that comes in expensive, designer packaging, like shampoos or cologne washes.

The Russian designer-craving mentality may or may not have something to do with the makeovers that have been occurring to the pharmacies. While I was under the impression that pharmacists were all boracic because the Balearics health service hasn't been handing over what it owes to them, they have been undertaking facelifts that have turned their facades, if not always their interiors, into appearing like designer hotels. Were it not for that green flashing thing outside, you would expect to walk into a pharmacy and book a long weekend of en suite, spa massage and small portions on very large plates that pass for dinner.

This designer impulse is not confined to the pharmacy exterior. Business cards? Works of art in some instances and always a combination of subtle greens (unlike the unsubtle green flashing thing), black and a logo of Adobe Illustrator graphic-design creation. While resort modernisation has concentrated on hotels, the pharmacists have been leading the way. They are über-contemporary, marked and branded with Sans Serif styling but ultimately facades for what generally happens inside. Some paracetamol, please. Yes, that'll be three euros, twenty-five. It will? Oh yes, it most certainly will, unless you are in the know, happen to speak the native or are Mallorcan. Then it will be sixty odd centimos. Same drug, different brands - one generic, the other not. One for locals, the other for tourists.

But then, I don't criticise the chemists or their suppliers for seeking healthier mark-ups. They are businesses after all, though there are some pharmacists in Mallorca who attempt to conceal this business, the president of the Balearics being an example (and I suppose that one should add "allegedly"). That, though, is a different story. The pharmacy represents good business because of necessity, even if the necessity is simply to provide overpriced paracetamol to combat the previous evening's lager and vodka intake.

The pharmacy also represents the most significant point of observation of the tourist class. The pharmacy reveals all tourist and local human life. It is the single most egalitarian come-together point in resorts. Chav or not-chav, Brit, German or Russian, they are all there, and so the pharmacy is the perfect site to witness tourists in their unnatural habitats, tourists of whatever nationality, of whatever background, all seeking creams to treat mosquito bites. The pharmacy should, therefore, demand a position of greater importance in tourism life. It isn't simply a point of sale for suppositories and sunburn lotions. It is the theatre for touristic existence.

In such high regard do I hold the pharmacies, notwithstanding that odd one or two which I don't, so impressed am I with their generally unwavering patience and smiliness that I feel an entire guide should be devoted to them. They should be publicised for the tourist insight that they offer and for their shiny new exteriors. Flogging headache pills for more than is necessary, well, I can forgive them, but, and I know I shouldn't really say this but I will, perhaps such forgiveness also has to do with the white uniforms. And the fact that most of the staff in pharmacies are female and that they look good in those white uniforms. No, I know I shouldn't have said this. Forget it.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 4 to 5 easing to West 3 by the afternoon.

A somewhat better morning but still a good deal of cloud. Should be some reasonable sun today, but the weather isn't that settled; there is a chance of rain again on Saturday with winds picking up as well.

Tax Denial And Spanish Mistrust

The European Commission estimates that tax evasion in the European Union amounts to 864 billion euros. That's quite a lot of money. I'm unsure if this is annually, though if it is, then it is even more than simply quite a lot of money. To whatever period of time it refers, a conclusion that is drawn is that it isn't only the banana-republic Club Med countries that are awash with tax fraud and black money, so also are those countries which protest that they play by the rules and which have been at the heart of the European project pretty much from the days of iron and steel. Take Belgium, for example. Its percentage of hidden economy is said to be equivalent to 21.9% of the whole economy and amounts to 33.6 billion euros; Spain's is only fractionally higher, at 22.5%, though the amount in real terms is significantly greater - 72.7 billion.

This massive amount of tax evasion has only comparatively little to do with ordinary taxpayers (or non-taxpayers). It is evasion that is made primarily by large companies, the multinationals to which fiscal blind eyes have been turned in return for the benefits they bring in terms of employment and general economic welfare. They do bring employment, but the employees are hit for tax, while they as employers siphon their riches away in tax havens or through complex organisational structures. It is the large companies, as well as certain wealthy individuals, who are the haves of the tax system. They have all the benefits they can find, while the have-nots are everyone else, the hoi polloi who carry the tax burden. Or attempt not to carry the burden.

In Spain, the generally held view is that everyone evades tax or tries to avoid it. There is a distinction between evade and avoid. The former is considered illegal, the latter is considered to be creative tax accounting. Whichever verb or explanation one prefers, the view persists nevertheless; the Spanish are a nation of tax deniers and this denial is a national pastime that is rivalled only by football.

Despite having spent some years in Mallorca and having acquired a moderate feel for local culture, I remain gobsmacked at the endemic nature of tax denial. But when one looks around and sees the level of evasion, the level of corruption and the level therefore of fraud which is perpetrated by companies, certain prominent businesspeople and also politicians, then is it any wonder?

It was recently suggested that, although the submerged economy is as great as it is in Spain (and this submergence clearly does involve a very much wider population than tax-evading companies and corrupt politicians), if it weren't for this black economy, there would by now have been riots on the streets. It is an alarming notion. If the country were to operate properly in tax terms, it wouldn't get its economy in order, it would descend into anarchy.

I know full well how many companies operate, especially those which are larger than just the "mom-and-pop" concerns. The government knows full. Everyone knows full well. Certain tax burdens - social security payments most obviously, as they are ludicrously burdensome - bring with them evasion. Which means part black.

While other countries, even apparently less corrupt ones like Belgium, have such high levels of evasion, in Spain, the tax denial that is widespread throughout the economy is predicated, or so it seems to me, on a societal mistrust. Institutions, be they government in their different arms or the law, are set against the general public. Law-breaking is institutionalised insofar as it forms a key element of public administration's financial planning. Town halls, as an example, make a thing of revenues they can expect to derive from fines.

Such an expectation, though, is indicative of this institutionalised law-breaking. It may be a product of history, but it breeds what you have, the equally institutionalised mistrust between citizens and agents of the state. But mistrust can go only so far. Having created an atmosphere of extreme them and us, Spanish officialdom knows that it could tip the balance were it to reinforce this mistrust, e.g. by doing all within its power to eradicate the submerged economy; the suggestion that the black economy is preventing civil unrest may be right.

Tax-evading companies and high-profile individuals are one thing, the man in the street is quite another. The Spanish people haven't - yet - risen up against austerity and stormed the Bastille of corrupt business, government and the über-wealthy, because of the complicit nature of the tax-denial game. But it is no way to organise a society. Civic duty comes in different forms, and one of them is paying dues. This civic duty is not returned in full, however, because the masters of the citizenship have no trust in their citizens. And the feeling is entirely mutual. 

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa paid parking back in force

The blue zones for paid parking in Puerto Pollensa are back in operation, the town hall saying that it hopes to be able to extend the period when the system of metering will apply. Such an extension could come in next year along with the green zone for residents' parking, which had been promised for this year, but which has not been implemented.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 2 to 3 reaching Northeast 4 during the morning, occasionally 5, easing Northwest 3 by the evening. Possible storm.

Some ominous clouds around on an overcast morning, rain more than likely through the day and on into tomorrow morning. Better by tomorrow afternoon with temperatures generally just over the 20 mark.

Evening update (20.30): A pretty miserable day all in all. Some rain but not heavy, but dull and at times quite chilly. A high of 20.2C.

The Illogic Of Catalan

The Catalan language arrived in Mallorca on horseback. Jaume I of Aragon rode across his newly conquered domain, dispensing Catalan linguistics and Catalan traditions.

There is absolutely no question as to the roots of Mallorcan language and culture and there should be no question as to what historically binds Mallorca to the mainland of Spain. This is not Castile and the Castellano language, it is Catalonia (or Aragon to be strictly accurate) and the Catalan language.

The usurping of this historical connection has occurred on different occasions over the centuries, and we all know about the attempts to destroy this connection and so therefore language and traditions during the Franco period. In the democratic, post-Franco era, Mallorcans have been able to resurrect in a fully open fashion their language and traditions, and in so doing, tourists, who in Franco times might well have been completely ignorant of anything cultural or linguistic that didn't bear the hallmark of Castile, have come to appreciate that local culture isn't, or isn't predominantly, a "Spanish" one.

Though tourists might have been unaware of an alternative version of culture, for the Mallorcans, the traditional culture didn't disappear. A particularly striking example of how the Catalan tradition still burnt during the Franco time was the staging of a glosadors contest in Felanitx in the 1940s, a time when Spanish Nationalism was at its most ferocious and vicious. In theory, such an event was not permitted, but it occurred nevertheless.

But then, what tradition was it that had been upheld during those years of prohibition? Was it Catalan or was it Mallorquín? Where the glosadors were concerned, and they were arguably the most important socio-cultural agents for maintaining linguistic tradition, it wasn't Catalan. It was Mallorquín.

It is this blurring of tradition that is at the heart of the endless arguments over language in Mallorca. While these arguments are normally styled as being between Catalan and Castellano, there is a whole separate debate regarding the Mallorquín dialect and Catalan. President Bauzá has recently reiterated his view that there are four island languages (or dialects) and he has done so by steadfastly ignoring the claims of Catalan.

The Bauzá line is, in a key respect, illogical. It pays no regard to the historical connection to Jaume I. Without Jaume, there would have been no Catalan in Mallorca and equally there would have been no Mallorquín. Catalan and Mallorquín are, therefore, well and truly part of a common heritage. There can be no debate.

But debate there most certainly is, and it is driven by political philosophy. Catalan is anti-Hispania, and is therefore, where Bauzá and others of similar views are concerned, a "bad thing". Catalan is anti-Hispania in being the language of separatism and dissent and so therefore a further bad thing. That Catalan bequeathed to Mallorca its own linguistic variant is airbrushed away in the pursuit of advancing a nationalistic dogma.

The more I come to appreciate how Mallorca was during Franco's time, the more it appears that, even if there was unofficial approval, the local dialects were not stamped on with anything like the ferocity that Catalan was; the glosadors staging a contest in a public theatre was a prime example. And it is this nationalist alliance between Castellano, the main language (despite Catalan being a co-official language), and the local dialects that represents Bauzáist philosophy. Unfortunately for the president, though, there are other political voices who proclaim the same philosophy, and they are very much to the right in a way that Bauzá isn't, because they are the neo-fascists.

Though it can seem illogical to seek to downplay the historical connection through Jaume and so downplay the role of Catalan, its traditions, its very being as a political entity as the motherland of Mallorcan language and traditions, I'm not convinced that Bauzá may not be right. The education debate, that of Catalan v. Castellano, muddies the water to an extent, and it does so because Mallorcan people appear to end up arguing against what many otherwise believe. And what they believe, at least mostly all I have ever spoken to about the subject, is in accordance with the Bauzá line. They don't want to be associated with Catalan. That may seem illogical as well, because of the historical connection, but for most Mallorcans, they take pride in Mallorquín and in not wishing to be ruled by Barcelona.

Any comments to please.

Monday, May 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 backing East by the afternoon.

Cloudy, though only light cloud, but it's likely to be around most of the day. Tomorrow is forecast to be wet, rain continuing into Wednesday. An improvement from then on.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty disappointing sort of a day. Not much sun and not particularly warm, a high of just 19.8C.

Beauty And The Bauzá

What is it with leading lights in the island's Partido Popular and the appointment of secretary girls or females with whom the relationship is more than just a working one? First we had Carlos giving a tourism-ministry job to his girlfriend, his lady of Lourdes, to whom he is now married. No sooner had Lourdes been named as whatever advisor she was, than a stink of deer's testicles proportions began to waft over Delgado's head. He was forced to withdraw the job offer.

Then we had Tomeu Cifre, mayor of Pollensa. He already had one secretary, the general factotum-gofferess employed by the town hall, but Tomeu said he needed a personal secretary as well. He might have got away with this had it not been for the fact that the appointment was of a fellow member of the PP who had failed by one place on the voting list to secure a post as a councillor. After several days of outcry, Tomeu went on Radio Pollença and insisted that he had not been wrong in making the appointment and that the secretary, one Nora Tugores, had been a victim of a campaign against her. He neglected the possibility that the appointment might just have struck some as being a tad nepotistic. 

Now we have the islands' El Presidente. Joe Ray has gone and appointed a new secretary, the leggy lovely Verónica Hernández, who was Miss Baleares in 2009 and who I could remember winning the contest. Verónica, as I now recall, had declared that being a "miss" and a model were two different things. She was more of the former, a miss, and so a more real woman. Whatever that meant. Anyway, back in 2009, Verónica was studying journalism and audiovisual communication, both of which should come in handy in bolstering the Bauzá image as it threatens to slide off the edge of a political cliff and crash onto the rocks of defeat in 2015.

The multi-talented Verónica has also studied fashion, another vital qualification in securing a support function to the image-conscious president about town. Might Bauzá now become de-bearded? His growth appeared only a short time after his ascent to the presidential throne. It was, one presumed, a facial-hair symbol of gravitas in keeping with the beardedness of the national PP leadership. Could the beard now go and so present a softer president, one more in touch with his feminine side?

The sudden outbreak of femininity among the Bauzá ranks is surely intended to give the PP more female appeal in 2015. However, it's one thing to elevate various members of the rank and file to cabinet posts, quite another to give the secretary's job to an ex-beauty queen. And herein of course lies the rub. Were Verónica to look like Susan Boyle then nothing would have been said about the matter. Just because she happens to be blessed with a more than pleasant face and figure is no reason for her to not be appointed. It would appear, however, that it is her looks which count against her. The Lobby de Dones women's rights group seems to see only the Verónica surface in criticising the appointment. Are women not allowed to be attractive and to be given decent jobs? Arguably, she doesn't have the right experience or a huge amount of experience, but then I couldn't say whether she does or she doesn't. If she does, though, then what is the problem?

We all know what the problem is, however. It is a problem of perception. Regardless of how qualified Carlos's girlfriend or Tomeu's compatriot in the party were for their respective jobs, neither appointment looked good. It was naïve of both of them to have believed that these appointments would not have caused a fuss. And Bauzá's appointment of Verónica is similar. Because she is a high-profile Balearics beauty, it was bound to attract attention, so undermining, at a stroke, the Bauzá campaign to improve his image.

It shouldn't matter. It really shouldn't matter. If Verónica is right for the job, this is all that should matter. But being right for a job is not how these things work. Especially not now. Verónica, as a switched-on communications sort, would probably recognise that such an appointment might create a stink. But then it is a job, a well-paid job. She cannot be blamed for accepting it, and I wish her the best of luck and hope she doesn't fall foul of an anti-campaign. If she does, then, more so than Nora Tugores, she would be a victim.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 4 to 5 veering West and then backing Southwest 3.

Sun's out. Clear skies. A day to make the most of as the week ahead isn't looking brilliant - cloudy at the start of the week and then sunny but with the risk of rain.

Evening update (23.30): A high of 21.9C on an often breezy and rather chilly day. A good deal of warm sun as well, but not what the doctor has ordered. 

The Sinking Of The "Fortuna"

The King's giving up his boat. In these unfortunate economic times, the wheel of fortune has spun in the wrong direction, and the royal yacht "Fortuna" has been caught in a whirlpool spin and been dragged under the surface of public relations for an austere climate. When a nation has to give up its boys' toys, crisis can well and truly be said to dominate.

The yacht was a gift. Those who donated to its 21 million euro purchase in 2000 included at least four bosses of major hotel groups - Barceló, Meliá, Fiesta and Iberostar - as well as Juan Hidalgo of Air Europa (or Globalia, if you prefer). The Balearic Government also put its hands in its pockets - to the tune of three million - and there are those who now want the money back; it was a Partido Popular government which was kind enough to fund the King's marine lifestyle, hence the cries from the left demanding a refund.

Why, though, is the King giving the yacht up? It certainly costs to maintain it and run it - 20,000 euros alone are apparently needed to fuel its tanks - but as it was a gift, one that was made in the hope, a not unreasonable hope, that it would ensure the King and his family's regular visits to Mallorca and so help tourism, then it can't be claimed that the yacht was a regal or national extravagance. The names of those who parted with some loose change to help pay for the yacht indicate one of the reasons for their generosity; it wasn't altruism, it was hard-nosed business.

One could argue that it is impossible to equate levels of tourism to the royal yacht and so therefore to the royal family's regular holidaying in Mallorca. And it probably is impossible, but then so it is also impossible to make a straight-line calculation between expenditure on a Mallorcan tennis star gadding about on a different yacht, being filmed and ending up in a TV advert and with this advert's contribution to tourism. The royal yacht was an exercise in marketing by the Balearics. Three million would be met with cries of horror now, but in 2000, the government's part funding of the yacht was probably reasonable enough.

The yacht's PR value has lain with its potential for attracting tourism and for seducing various dignitaries of a business sort who might wish to cast their benevolence in the general direction of Mallorca or Spain. It is ironic, therefore, that PR is the main reason for getting rid of it. The King, as we all know, has been enduring something of a PR mare for several months. An act of contrition needed, one of the boys' toys had to go, and unlucky "Fortuna" has pulled the short straw.

It's not as though the King will be required to slum it when taking his holidays at the Marivent Palace in future and wishing to go for a quick sail around the bay of Palma. There are plenty of floating palacetes bobbing up and down next to a marina harbour wall on the waters around Mallorca, and there are probably plenty of businesspeople and others who would be only be too glad for a dollop of their own PR from giving the Spanish royals the run of the ship for a week or so. Last summer in fact, the King made use of a somewhat more modest affair than "Fortuna", a yacht belonging to the shipbuilder, José Cusi.

So, as there are any number of such vessels floating around, dispensing with "Fortuna" probably isn't such a big deal after all. It's not as if the King will be reduced to having only a royal rowing-boat or a royal pedalo; there are plenty of Fortuna-lites to be had as well as some Fortuna-fortunes-afloat (does Abramovic ever get himself over to Mallorca?).

More than anything though, the final docking of a royal yacht is a symbolic act, and not a positive one at that. When Britannia was scuppered, it was as though a last lament had been emitted for the going-down of empire; Britannia, it had to be admitted, did indeed no longer rule the waves. Spain doesn't cling to its imperial past in quite the same way as the British - its imperial glories faded well before those of Britain's - but there is still the memory of the rivers of gold and all that and of Spain's seafaring heritage and at least partial global dominance that came as a result of this tradition.

In this regard, given the distance of time, "Fortuna" can be seen as something of an anachronism. But if it is considered in purely pragmatic business terms - as the Balearics businesspeople in 2000 would have considered it - all the romanticism of a maritime past and the monarchical baggage of that past evaporates. Or should.

Personally, I have no feelings one way or the other about the royal yacht. But if "Fortuna" was performing a useful function, then its junking in the pursuit of better PR seems unfortunate.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (10.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 5 to 6 easing to Southwest 4 to 5 by the afternoon.

Rain and a fair amount of it having come along in squalls. Should clear up though. The general outlook into next week isn't particularly good, certainly more unsettled than might be hoped for by this time in May.

Evening update (21.30): Just topped the forecast high of 21. Good amounts of sun once things had cleared up but distinctly chilly in a stiff breeze. 

Ramon Llull And The Philosopher's Stone

I have never read "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and nor have I seen the film. I know nothing about either, other than the fact that the philosopher's stone obviously played a key role. And key role was what many an old-time alchemist hoped it would play, if they had only been able to find it. Had they, they would have been capable of turning base metals into gold and silver and discovering the elixir of life. I suppose we should feel aggrieved that they didn't find it. Elixir of life is one thing, but limitless supplies of gold and silver would come in handy right now, though if there were limitless supplies, I guess that gold and silver would lose all their value and would no longer be precious. In hindsight, maybe it was as well that the philosopher's stone remained undiscovered.

Nevertheless, the Spanish Government would presumably not turn down the chance to get its hands on whole stashes of gold. Maybe there are scientists secretly beavering away with the aid of research grants from the government and searching for the elusive philosopher's stone. It would be as worthwhile an activity as almost all others that the government has attempted, if attempted is the right word, as it hasn't actually attempted anything to get Spain out of its hole. In the absence of any other initiative, alchemy has got to be worth a try.

Spain and alchemy have some history. It was the translation of Arabic texts into Latin from the twelfth century that introduced Spain to the potential for wealth creation through the transformation of dross into gold. Toledo in Spain was one of the main centres of this feverish translation process, as Spain led the way in being the first to stake a claim to having unearthed the philosopher's stone. It was all a bit like the space race, except that it was a race that could have no winner. Still, it's easy for us now to take the mick. The boffins back then didn't have the internet to consult to tell them that they were wasting their time.

One of these boffins who may or more likely may not have been searching for the philosopher's stone was a chap called Nicolas Flamel. He was French and apparently J.K. Rowling referred to him. Though Flamel gained a reputation for having been an alchemist and for possibly having had in his possession a mysterious text that unravelled the secrets of the philosopher's stone, it is a reputation that was almost certainly a complete invention, one that was dreamt up several centuries after he died.

It may be true, or there again it may not be true, that Flamel went to Spain - given that it was the centre of all this mediaeval alchemic gold rush - to get help with translations. Once in Spain, en route to Santiago de Compostela, Flamel apparently stumbled across a Jewish convert to Catholicism who pretty much spilled the alchemic beans. If any such Jewish convert had existed and if he had got wind of the secrets of alchemy, well, come on, we're still waiting, and it's been almost 800 years.

A Mallorcan of the era who dabbled in alchemy was our good friend Ramon Llull, the all-round egghead and general know-all of Mallorcan mediaeval times. Llull was big on Arabic, and his interest in the language may have been at least inspired by his wish to be the one who struck gold. Had he, Mallorca would now be able to lay claim to a very much more famous old philosopher-stroke-scientist-stroke-linguist-stroke-everything else that Llull was known for; or not known for, as most foreigners are still pretty ignorant of him.

The problem for serious alchemists of the day was that alchemy began to get a bad name. There were any number of charlatans, frauds and fakers frequenting the alchemy industry. They were the looky-looky men of their day, pretending they had real gold when in fact they'd been down the nearest DIY, got hold of a tin of gold paint and gone to work on a house brick. And in Mallorca, there was one such alchemist charlatans. Or so some alleged. He was Jaume Lustrach, who had got the gig as alchemist to the court of King Juan I of Aragon when the king moved into Bellver Castle in Palma.

Unfortunately for Jaume, he made two mistakes. One was not actually being able to make gold and the other was asking for more money of Juan's successor, his brother Martin I of Aragon. Martin was clearly made of more sceptical stuff than his brother and had Jaume locked up, only to bow to matrimonial pressure from the missus to have him released.

Jaume, Flamel, Llull, none of them of course were able to crack the code, but then they had spent their time consulting the wrong texts. All that Arabic stuff was of no use. What they had all overlooked was that the secret lay instead in a work about a boy wizard. 

Any comments to please.

Friday, May 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 4 to 5.

Some rumbles in the night and some rain but nothing of any real significance. Bright, clear and fresh this morning, should be a decent enough day. The threat of rain and storms remaining for a few days.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 21C on what became a very windy day. Chance of a storm overnight. 

Flowers In The Rain: ESRA flower show

Something I would never have envisaged myself attending would have been the flower show run by ESRA. This is not because I have any reason to dislike flowers or ESRA; quite the contrary in fact. Just that it would never have loomed onto my radar in the same way as, for example, a beery evening in a Brit bar watching the footy might. Not, in all honesty, that there are many such evenings; I simply use this as a counterpoint.

It was quarter past eight yesterday morning. I was fast asleep. I had gone to bed at two thirty. The mobile went off. It was Jason at "The Bulletin". Car trouble. Could I do him a favour ...? Erm, and what might this be, I mumbled. The ESRA flower show. In the cloisters in Pollensa. Giving out the award. I suppose I was too sleepy to say no.

As the weather forecast was so poor, it did occur to me that a storm of biblical proportions might yet cause Pollensa, its cloisters and so therefore the flower show to be washed away. There was no storm, although there was rain. And it was bloody freezing.

The ESRA folk are universally delightful. But as I was being shepherded around the contestant entries (twenty-one classes of flowers, plants, photos, greeting cards and whatever else), I felt unnervingly like I was David Walliams or Matt Lucas in their Maggie and Judy sketch. There was no vicar to vomit over, but when it came to the coffee and cake (not part of the competition obviously), the thought of Little Britain took hold to such an extent that I feared there would be an explosion of laughter swiftly followed by an expulsion of what little breakfast I had had time for. Fortunately, there was neither.

The entrant displays, sprays, designs were mostly all superb. There was some real creativity and clearly plenty of loving attention and devotion to be seen. Alas, I have pretty much forgotten what all the various classes of entrant were; there were that many. Names of displays, photos etc. I can just about recall. "Whiter Shade of Pale" was one, though which class this was in, I honestly couldn't tell you.

It was only as I got to the end of the tour of the exhibits that my charming judging assistant, Jill, pointed out that I would only be judging the photos. Was that all? I had been making mental notes and paying careful attention, assuming that I held in my hands the power to determine the victors and losers for all 21 classes of entrant. I was rather disappointed, if I'm honest.

There was then a PA announcement informing those exhibiting that they had to leave the premises while the judging was done. This did surprise me somewhat, as I thought I had already been sort of doing this, but this was before Jill had marked my card as to my purpose for being there. In fact, though, now there were to have to be some really conscientious and detailed discussions and debates as to the merits of the entrants for the photo competition. Jill, I must say, was particularly adept at pointing out things. The detail on a cactus. The invasiveness of some leaves at the bottom of a photo of some hanging gardens. The contrast between foreground and background. I was glad she was there.

The choice duly made, some time elapsed while all the certificates for first, second and third in each class plus those for special award winners were handwritten. The splendid Howard Mullen said that he would have to cobble together his flower-show report from all of this manual labour.

Eventually, the prize-giving took place. There were any number of yellow things in pots and certificates handed over to the approximately 63 first, second or thirds plus special award winners. These winners had to tramp through the puddles to the place in the cloister that had been improvised for the handing over of prizes; the stage was sodden, and it was raining on and off. Some of these winners kept on having to return, such as the lovely Dorothy Loeffler, who bagged any number of certificates, and a lady called Imelda, who, so it turned out, was number one and two in the photo contest that I had been judging.

When it came to the special award on behalf of "The Bulletin" - a small wooden box affair that apparently is designed to keep photos in - Imelda initially seemed shocked to realise that her presence was required yet again. "Thought you could escape," I suggested to her, as the box was handed over.

And that, pretty much, was that. What a bloody shame that the weather was so lousy. Flowers, plants, photos of plants, painting of flowers, greeting cards with plants and flowers; they should all be on display in bright and warm sunshine. And perhaps they will be next year. I might never have envisaged having ever gone to an ESRA flower show, but something tells me that I will go again. It was all rather lovely.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 May 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3, 4 at times, swinging North by the evening. Storms from this afternoon.

Some rain earlier but not the storm as was forecast. It may be that the poor weather that had been predicted has passed by, though there is a chance of rain over the next couple of days. Cooler at the moment but getting warmer over the weekend.

Evening update (19.15): The sun's out now after what has been an at times rainy and cold day, a low of 11.7C at one stage, the high later in the afternoon (inland in Sa Pobla) has been 18.7C.

Roads To Nowhere

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but one way I find to fritter away many a long hour or day is by designing road maps. You might ask why, especially now that Google has turned itself into the Great Cyber Cartographer. One reason is that not even Google gets things right. Another is that local authorities on Mallorca also don't get things right. Google meets Mallorcan all-round efficiency meets map-making, and the result is roads and streets that don't exist, that don't actually go where it is suggested that they do or, and this is the best of the lot, where the street names have been altered for no obvious reason.

Changing the names of streets is not so uncommon on Mallorca. It has been something driven by political flavour of the month, for example a Catalan rather than a Castellano name or vice versa being demanded or the law of historic memory requiring the banishment of all association with Franco from the streets of Spain. This type of change is perhaps understandable. What isn't is where a street that was previously known by one name adopts a different name and gives its original name to another street that is a mere couple of streets away. Trust me, this has happened.

Then there are streets or roads which have never become streets or roads. Perhaps they will at some point in the future. They exist in theory or even vaguely in practice. There is one example, in Puerto Alcúdia, where the street even has a street sign, even if there is no street as such. Another source of confusion are roads or streets which, once upon a time, were whole streets or roads before they were built on top of and so became non-roads. Again, Puerto Alcúdia has a couple of good examples. The Sea Club Apartments sit on two such non-roads and have done for years. Yet, take a look at many a map, and the impression is given that they are whole roads.

There is something eery about roads that were once roads or roads that don't really exist and even roads that most certainly do exist but which are unused or are unfinished. A great stretch of main-road tarmac disappearing into the horizon with road signs announcing the road number or junction is especially eery if it shows no sign of vehicular life. It has a feeling of the apocalypse and abandonment.

And abandoned is what has happened to some main roads and motorways in Spain. In Mallorca, we moan about the abandonment of the work on the Manacor to Artà railway, but we would moan even more had the track been laid but had not been put to any use. On the mainland, there are roads that have been laid. They have been marked. They have had signs put up. But no one uses them.

A prime example is the MP203. It was intended to relieve congestion on the existing route from Barcelona to Alcalá de Henares and Madrid. It is now six years since work ceased. We are used to construction being paralysed in Mallorca; the Palacio de Congresos is one example. But work on the MP203 didn't stop because public money ran out - it was a private venture from the outset, as it was due to be a toll road - and it didn't stop for environmental reasons or because the constructor went bust. It stopped because there were obstacles in the way, such as the track for the high-speed railway. About three-quarters of the road was built, but it ends not by connecting to another road but by petering out into sand.

Another road, the A14, has actually been finished, but no one uses it. Built at a cost of 36 million euros, the reason why no one uses it is because it takes too long to get to it or from it. The road, as one blogger has put it, doesn't serve anything or anyone. So why was it built and why was land expropriated? Just so it can be used as an illegal race track, which it is?

There are other examples of so-called phantom main roads. Lack of money is certainly a reason why some are unfinished or unused, but the A14 is probably not the only road that was unnecessary. Perhaps, therefore, an idea presents itself for a different type of map to be created; one that shows all the roads and streets which are unused, unfinished, don't exist or which go nowhere.

Any comments to please.