Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - 80% of Mallorca's party boat trips are unregulated

The president of the association which represents clubs and discos in the Balearics has claimed that up to 80% of party boat trips in Mallorca are not regulated, only two operators out of 34 actually having the correct documentation. He has described the boats as being "unfair competition" and has criticised their noise, especially in the Palmanova and Magalluf area.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 33C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 3 to 4 easing by the evening to 2 to 3.

Ditto yesterday. Sunny morning, reasonably fresh and, despite high temperatures into the day, there will be some freshness thanks to predominating northerlies.

Evening update (24.00): Sun all day, a high of 32.5C inland and 31C on the coast.

From Malia To Magalluf

Over a fifteen-year period I was a regular visitor to Greece. Andros, Mykonos, Skiathos, Symi, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Crete, to name some islands. Over those fifteen years, little really changed. The islands remained mostly unspoiled. It never seemed as though there were masses of tourists. Even in 1986, a resort such as Laganas in Zakynthos was capable of being described as "quiet".

The last time I went was 1988, and something happened. It was at Heraklion airport in Crete. A fight broke out. There was total mayhem. It had been caused by a group of lads who were totally off their faces. They were British. Something happened because something had changed.

Twenty-five years on and a British teenager is in jail in Crete, accused of stabbing to death another teenager in Malia. It, along with Faliraki in Rhodes, Kavos in Corfu and Laganas, became the total antithesis of what a Greek island resort and holiday had once been, and now its reputation is well and truly sealed.

The stabbing in Malia occurred only a few days after the second anniversary of the stabbing to death of a British teenager in Laganas. That stabbing was the culmination of hostilities between locals and young British tourists. The circumstances behind the stabbing in Malia were different, but the two cases bear, in aspects of their reporting, some similarities.

I have two reports, both from "The Guardian" and by the same journalist, Helena Smith. The actual details of the two incidents are not what interest me so much as the background to them. In Malia, as well as in Laganas, local people have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands, which can mean even greater trouble. In both resorts, there is a recognition that they - the Greek people - have to assume some responsibility for the situations that have arisen. They have to accept some blame for tourism developments that have occurred, for tourism having become, in the words of the police chief in Laganas, "seriously toxic".

The similarity, though, which is the most striking is that which apportions blame beyond that which the tourists or the locals have to assume. This is Laganas in 2011: "Every night there's a fight, someone gets beaten up. Tour operators are to blame; all they are interested in is getting the kids drunk." This is Malia in 2013: "Locals have looked on aghast as holidaymakers, egged on by tour operators or commission-seeking reps, have encouraged the bad behaviour." "Tour operators put pressure on hoteliers to drop their prices because they say it is the only way of attracting more people, and the result is tourists get younger and younger."

A solution to the problems in Laganas is to improve infrastructure and focus on a better-quality tourism. Mention of this solution gives you an indication as to where I am heading, if you haven't already guessed. Improvements to infrastructure? Better-quality tourism? Sound familiar?

The solutions for Mallorca's "problem" resorts of Magalluf and Playa de Palma are identical to those proposed in Laganas. The circumstances of these problem resorts are not, however, quite the same. Both resorts are that much older than the Greek resorts. They are also resorts where, before even the days of Club 18-30, drunkenness among tourists was not exactly unknown. Whereas the Greeks may have been naïve when they allowed resorts to be changed as they were in the 1980s and may well have been unaware as to what they might be letting themselves in for, the Mallorcans should have been fully aware. Perhaps they were, but they still went along with the tour operators - yes, the tour operators, who should admit for once that they are a very major part of the problem - and so now reap what they sowed many years ago.

But the solutions will solve everything, won't they? Get rid of the low-grade tourist, the youthful binge-drinker, and everything will be fine. Except. In Faliraki, they did exactly what many would like to be seen done in Magalluf. There was a massive crackdown on bad behaviour ten years ago. The young tourists stopped going, but they weren't replaced. So now, businesses there want the youth back again.

Unfortunately for the likes of Palma town hall's Alvaro Gijon, who sees salvation in four or five-star hotels and a different class of tourist, there is simply no guarantee that Playa de Palma (as with Magalluf) will be able to replace what it wants to rid itself of. Will the tour operators be able to make this guarantee? Ask the locals in Malia and see what they think. Or Faliraki.


Any comments to please.

Index for July 2013

All-inclusives - 9 July 2013, 15 July 2013, 29 July 2013
Andratx fire - 28 July 2013
Auryn and boy bands - 30 July 2013
Balearic Symphony Orchestra - 8 July 2013
Balearics new water resources plan - 6 July 2013
Bullfight protest in Muro - 3 July 2013
Disenchantment among expatriates and home owners - 27 July 2013
Eldorado - 7 July 2013
Es Trenc hotel project on hold - 18 July 2013
Expatriate Island - 13 July 2013
Expatriates and the royal baby - 24 July 2013
Franco and artist Eugenio Merino - 19 July 2013
Jaume Matas sentence reduction - 25 July 2013
José Ramón Bauzá: Spanish premier? - 23 July 2013
Mariano Rajoy and illegal payments - 10 July 2013, 11 July 2013, 16 July 2013
Moors and Christians elections in Pollensa - 22 July 2013
Opinion poll and the Partido Popular - 2 July 2013
Pollensa Festival - 17 July 2013
Problems in resorts - 1 July 2013, 31 July 2013
Record tourism season - 12 July 2013
Residential tourism and holiday lets - 20 July 2013
Sa Pobla history and saints - 14 July 2013
Son Serra de Marina - 21 July 2013
Tourist dress protocol - 26 July 2013
Tourist infrastructure investments - 4 July 2013
Town hall consortium - 5 July 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Boat users offer to take over moorings at Punta Avançada

Boat users in Puerto Pollensa have proposed that they take over the management of moorings at Punta Avançada in Formentor. This is a solution in response to users' protests over charges having been introduced for moorings in this part of Pollensa bay. The conditions of their doing so would include there no longer being any charges.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Discarded barbecue coals caused Andratx fire

Officers from the Guardia Civil's Seprona (nature protection) unit have concluded that the origin of the devastating fire that swept across southerly parts of the Tramuntana mountains from Friday was coals from a barbecue. The man - Samuel G.H. - originally suspected of starting the fire (wrongly attributed to the burning of stubble) has been accused along with three other men, one of whom, Samuel's brother, Ignacio, is now considered to have been primarily responsible for the fire. The coals were either dumped accidentally or because it was thought they were out in a mountain setting in the Son Curt area of Andratx. Ignacio has been arrested and held in custody, awaiting an appearance before a judge in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the fire has been contained, emergency services confident of it being fully stabilised today, though they warn that there could be flare-ups if there are sudden changes in wind direction. Extinguishing the fire completely is likely to take a few days yet. Provisional estimates of the scale of the devastation have reduced the area affected from the plus 2,000 hectares that had been spoken of to around 1,800 hectares, which would make this the second worst fire that Mallorca has experienced (the worst, 1,960 hectares, was in 1992 in the Artà mountains). There have been no casualties, though, in addition to a member of the UME military emergency unit who was taken to hospital suffering from dehydration, a dozen other members of fire crews have needed treatment for smoke inhalation or also for dehydration.

Update: Ignacio made an appearance before a judge today. The prosecution had called for him to be detained without bail, but the judge has allowed him to remain at liberty though he is charged with negligence in having caused a forest fire. The accused, who declared that he was extremely sorry for what he had done, is said to be suffering from a depressive illness. The judge, who ordered that his passport be withdrawn and that he should report to police weekly, did not consider him to be a flight risk, hence why he was not placed in custody.

Update: The area affected by the fire is now being out at 2,330 hectares, which makes it the largest fire on record in Mallorca.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 25C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 3 to 4 easing by the evening to Variable 2 to 3.

Another lovely morning. The forecast is for wall-to-wall sunshine through the week and for a rise again in temperatures.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 31.9C inland and 30.9C on the coast.

The Neverending Story: Boy bands

The history of boy bands arouses a good deal of debate among music cognoscenti, those who clearly have nothing better to do with their time or lives than indulge in such a fruitless debate. Nevertheless, and fruitless or not, placing a start time to this cultural phenomenon has some significance in that the debate wanders off into territory one might not expect, such as racial issues and even religious matters.

There is one line of argument that the roots of the boy band can go right back to the early days of Gregorian chant, an argument that does, one feels, rather stretch a point. It also contradicts an element of what the boy band is generally thought to require - an ability to dance. Monks of yore may have been able to dance, but it is unlikely that, while chanting, they were also gyrating in an unseemly fashion and grabbing hold of their crotches. Or maybe they did just this. It's hard to know.

Being a bunch of dancing boys is certainly a current-day necessity, but later claimants to being the originators of today's boy bands were equally as immobile as pre-mediaeval monks. Barbershop quartets of the nineteenth century weren't apparently known for their dance moves, but it is just possible to suggest that they were the source of all that was to follow (well, some reckon that it is possible to suggest this). The barbershop quartets and then, from the 1930s, The Inkspots, are where the racial aspect enters the grand boy band debate.

Barbershop was initially a phenomenon among black American men. Singing in a social setting, the barber's shop, has something of a connection with what occurred with American black music very much later, when beatboxing would be performed by black youth gathering together on street corners. The Inkspots, it would seem, did do a spot of dancing, but it almost certainly wasn't the style of dancing developed in New York in the 1920s that was the forerunner of breakdancing which became a key ingredient in hip hop and beatboxing.

The continuity of black American culture up to the start of hip hop does explain a great deal about current-day boy bands. The crossover into white culture, most obviously through New Kids On The Block, was a deliberate and manufactured attempt (and a successful one at that) of cashing in on a heritage of black culture from barbershop, to Earl Tucker's 1920s breaking, to The Inkspots, arguably also to Motown and finally to hip hop. And manufactured is, of course, an important word in the boy band debate.

There is the counter argument, one that considers the white cultural background. No one ever referred to The Beatles as a boy band as such, and to categorise them retrospectively as having been one is well wide of the mark. For one thing, they did things which boy bands generally do not; wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. And for another thing, when did you ever see any of them dance?

The Monkees are another suspect in boy band history. They were manufactured, so much so that they lent pop history the concept of the manufactured group. But a boy band? In current-day terms, definitely not. The Osmonds, however, were a different matter, as were The Jackson Five. Neither of these, though, was as relevant to the current day as New Edition who, black culture again, were the inspiration for NKOTB.

Since the early 1980s, the boy band has become an established fact of pop music life, and if there had been any question that it might have been on its last legs, then Simon Cowell made sure that it wasn't. The boy band also went international. It was no longer the preserve of the American and British pop industries and, together with the globalisation of the likes of "X Factor", you have what you have today in Spain, and what you will find at Muro's bullring this coming Sunday evening: Auryn, who are something of a Spanish One Direction.

Auryn, the name comes from the talisman in "The Neverending Story", have been around since 2009. They almost made it to Eurovision in 2011, individual members have appeared in the past on "Factor X" (the Spanish version of you know what), and their most recent album went to number one in the Spanish charts.

Easy it might be to disparage boy bands but you never know, if you cut along to Muro on Sunday, you might enjoy one. And if you do, then you will know that Auryn are part of a long tradition. Though how that tradition originated, that's for someone else to debate.

Any comments to please.

Monday, July 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 26C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 veering North and Northeast

Sunny morning. There is no alert for high temperature but things have cooled only marginally and are likely to go up again during the week. Sun all the way, highs over 30 degrees all week.

Evening update (20:00): There was quite a good breeze for much of the day, making things less oppressive. Coastal high of 31C and inland 33C. 

Ruddy All-Inclusives

The local Spanish press, you may have noticed, takes a great deal of interest in what the foreign press has to say about Mallorca; the British and German press in particular. Typically, the sensationalist is what is picked up and it normally has to do with either Magalluf or Playa de Palma and with drunkenness, violence and all-round bad behaviour. Occasionally, however, there is something else to alert the local press, and an example of this was an article written for "The Sunday Times" last week by Matt Rudd. Its theme: all-inclusives.

Rudd's article was entitled "Escape from All-catraz". The allusion to a prison was a hotel in Can Picafort. It's probably best if the hotel remains unidentified. Rudd spent only fours day there, but in that time managed to spend only eight euros. He had gone outside and bought two gin and tonics.

Writing an article about all-inclusives for "The Sunday Times" requires, as with any newspaper, an understanding of the typical reader, and the typical reader of "The Sunday Times" would not, one imagines, be opting for an all-inclusive. If he or she were, then the paper has been wasting an enormous amount of effort in devoting as much attention as it does to exotic destinations or, in the case of Mallorca, to quaint country settings and the usual gushing drivel that passes for much travel writing.

Rudd isn't your normal travel journalist, though. That's because he is funny, and with all-inclusives, he can be as funny as he wants, because "The Sunday Times" reader will be only too happy to collude in the joke. But the humour, including, as an example, a description of being like a goose on a foie gras farm, doesn't disguise realities. The point about these realities, however, is that we know about them already. Though one would have to assume that the typical reader of "The Sunday Times" doesn't know about them.

In talking with the local press (Matias Valles at the Diario de Mallorca), Rudd highlights these things we know: all-inclusives have become more popular since economic crisis and the fall in the value of sterling; that holidaymakers at all-inclusives hardly ever venture out; that staff in such hotels are not happy because they don't get tips; and that the punters themselves are beginning to become disenchanted because what they see outside (if they go outside) is the consequence of their being in an all-inclusive - places closed down and a loss of character.

These are things that have been known about for ages. When I first started to write regularly all-inclusives (seven years ago), all the above were themes with the exception of the economic crisis and the situation with the pound. This clearly has made all-inclusives that much more attractive, but Rudd, in asking why the holidaymaker appears to have abandoned an adventurous spirit in favour of the all-inclusive, misses the point somewhat. The adventurous spirit disappeared long ago. It existed only when the holidaymaker knew relatively little about where he or she was going. This hasn't been the case for years; the internet has seen to this. Holidaymakers want convenience and a lack of hassle and the all-inclusive is really just a more extreme manifestation of a long-established trend: holidaymakers are, by and large, not adventurous.

Of course, some are, like Matt Rudd and so also like many a reader of "The Sunday Times". Over three years ago, Rudd wrote an article in which he admitted to being a "holiday snob". He didn't really have a lot of time for coastal resort Mallorca at all, referring to the "flabby pink people" to be found in the resorts. Interior Mallorca was where it was at, and for "The Sunday Times", this would be entirely appropriate.

On the one hand, I find myself being defensive about all-inclusives when the rise is taken for the enjoyment of a readership that would never typically be found dead in an all-inclusive. On the other hand, however, Rudd has done a service. He has attacked, belittled and ridiculed all-inclusive, which is representative of so much that is wrong with regional government policy, i.e. giving the hotels all they want and neglecting the alternatives. Rudd is a voice for these alternatives, be they country fincas, villas or, probably even, luxury apartments. The government would be wise to realise that a market which Rudd is addressing doesn't want what he experienced for four days. His article, in a very different way to sensationalist Magalluf articles, should be paid attention to. But of course, it won't be.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Boat parties in Torrenova denounced

Various groups of residents have issued complaints to Calvia town hall, the regional government and the maritime authority about the boat parties which are proving to be a particular nuisance in Torrenova. The main complaint is about the excessive noise. The residents do not reserve their complaints solely for the boat parties, as hotels are also condemned for their levels of noise.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa Festival concert threatened by orchestra strike

The first concert of the Pollensa Festival on 3 August may not take place. As part of the ongoing protest against the uncertainties of finance for the Balearics Symphony Orchestra, and indeed of its whole future, members of the orchestra have announced a strike for that day. If the concert doesn't go ahead, the orchestra will still perform on 10 August at the festival. The 3 August concert is due to also feature the guitarist Gabriel Estarellas.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 25C
Forecast high: 33C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4; Northeast 3 at intervals during the middle of the day. 

A fine morning once more. The alert for high temperatures has been downgraded to yellow, so there is unlikely to be a repeat of yesterday's 40, but still hot and staying hot and sunny through the week.

Evening update (19.30): Generally not as hot as yesterday, a high of 35.4C at Colonia Sant Pere.

The Impotence Of Fire

In 1994, there was a devastating forest fire in Andratx. It was centred on a mountain finca known as La Trapa. Until the fire that broke out on Friday, it was the worst fire that had been experienced in Andratx; indeed, it was one of the worst fires on record in Mallorca.

There was a sad irony about the La Trapa fire and about the ecological damage that it caused. The finca belonged and still does to GOB, the ecology group and environmental pressure organisation. Only a part of the 1300 hectares that were destroyed in 1994 are owned by GOB (the actual La Trapa finca doesn't amount to even a tenth of the area that was affected), but the fire came to be known as La Trapa and it also marked a significant moment in recovery of mountain forest destroyed by fire and in management of this forest. The fire and the consequences of that fire are considered to have made La Trapa one of the most important symbols of the ecology movement in Mallorca.

La Trapa has been affected once again. Whether the efforts at protection that were put in place, which included farming fire breaks, the installation of the largest and most accessible water supply in this part of the Tramutana mountains and grazing donkeys to keep vegetation under control, it is not clear. What is, however, is that Andratx has suffered a worse fire than in 1994, which might yet prove to be the worst fire that Mallorca has suffered; the record is the loss of 1960 hectares above Betlem in the Artà mountains at the end of August 1992.

Fires did of course occur before those that took place in 1992 and 1994, and the means of tackling fires in an effective way - one that wasn't solely reliant on land fire crews - was created in 1979, when the first firefighting planes (Canadairs) were introduced to Mallorca. They were based initially at Son Sant Joan, i.e. Palma airport, and then, from 1982, at the base in Puerto Pollensa. Coming nearer to the present (2005), a national initiative, the formation of a unit called Unidad Militar de Emergencias under the national Ministry of Defence, established an elite and highly professional fire-control service. UME personnel have been heavily involved in the latest Andratx fire and they have their own aircraft.

These firefighting capabilities are reassuring, but fires do, most unfortunately, break out. Many on Mallorca last year were deliberate; a pyromaniac who had lost his job with the forestry service was the main culprit. There can be all the capabilities going, but if a determined firestarter wants to torch a forest then he will. Or, as would appear to be the case in Andratx, if someone is stupid enough to be burning stubble at a time when the island is bone dry, is experiencing high temperatures and is also being blown by hot winds from the Sahara, then these capabilities are very welcome, but they can't of course prevent a fire.

The Balearics president, José Ramón Bauzá, surveying the scene in Andratx, spoke of a feeling of "impotence". What he was getting at, one supposes, was impotence that stems from forces of nature and from difficulties with access in order to fight a fire that, also in his words, has caused the loss of centuries of natural heritage. But he was surveying an area not that far from La Trapa, supposedly this symbol of ecological importance. It is important, but how important is it and how important are other forests to the politicians?

Two years ago, the president was in Ibiza. He was doing different surveying, that of efforts to recover the area of Benirràs that had suffered a serious fire in 2010. He spoke of the government approving in 2012 the fourth plan for defence against fires in the Balearics. By July last year, when Mallorca was burning, Friends of the Earth were asking whatever happened to the plan.

At the same time as the president was speaking about this plan for fire defence, he observed that the Balearics didn't have a forestry plan full stop. Moreover, the Balearics were the only autonomous community in Spain without such a plan. And yet, almost 45% of land in the Balearics is forest or in some way wooded.

Within two years, there would be such a plan, the president said. While he was surveying the destruction in Andratx, he may have been reflecting on both the fire-defence plan and the forestry plan. Impotence perhaps, but only if nothing is done before the feeling of impotence takes over and strikes not just a president but also people in Andratx who were given the fright of their lives and anyone who fears for the future of Mallorca's forest and woodland ecology.  

Any comments to please.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa mayor accused of using public means to repair boat

Mayor Tomeu Cifre has been accused of using Pollensa's services company EMSER to repair his boat. The mayor concedes that he did ask the company to look at the boat's starter motor and that a mechanic gave him a new one as the motors were no longer manufactured. But the mayor insists that no public money was used as the mechanic gave him a spare that he had.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia's Sant Crist devotion takes place in extreme heat

With shade temperatures at 35 degrees yesterday, the triennial devotion and procession for Sant Crist took place in extreme conditions. Some of those participating in the devotion go barefoot, and there were cases of fainting because of the heat.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 26C
Forecast high: 33C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 4 veering South and Southwest during the afternoon. 

A very stuffy night and a warm morning. The level two orange alert for temperatures remains in place. Though the met office suggested that temperatures would fall a bit from tomorrow, the forecast is showing no obvious sign. Sun all the way and hot right through the coming week.

Evening update (19.15): The 100 mark well and truly breached. Sa Pobla recorded a high of 40.3C at 5pm, which is 104.5F. Coastal highs not as extreme - Puerto Pollensa has registered 35.4C.

When It All Falls Apart

How can it have come to this? There are people I know who have lived in Mallorca for a very much longer time than I have and others who have been acquainted with the island for considerably longer than myself. There are people who rant about anything and who can be ignored and then there are those whose views and opinions one respects because of their "veteran" status and their rationality.

Sometimes, the most unexpected happening sparks off a reaction one might not have expected. Poison being put down on Llenaire beach in Puerto Pollensa was most unexpected. It is far from normal for people to go around trying to poison animals, which is presumably what the poison was intended to do. It was most unexpected, but perhaps because it was so unexpected, it has shocked more than other happenings. The final straw maybe.

People who have chosen to live in Puerto Pollensa or to buy property there or who have simply made a habit of coming on holiday are rightly proud of their decisions. It is notable just how passionate people are about Puerto Pollensa, as others are passionate about other parts of Mallorca. Occasionally, this passion leads to defensiveness or a dismissal of problems. Normally, however, these problems are of the oh God, it's Spain variety. People get used to cock-ups, things not getting done or masses of bureaucracy. People deal with all this; it is part of a perverse charm.

But there is something else which is notable. People are getting pissed off. They are also aware that their little bit of heaven is not quite as it was. It is no longer what was said on the tin. The poison on Llenaire beach is like Milton's poison in the Garden of Eden. Innocence lost. It might seem an over-reaction, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it is symptomatic of the whole paradise dream beginning to fall apart.

Of course, one can always look elsewhere and compare problems. They are worse elsewhere. True, but contenting oneself with the knowledge that elsewhere is worse is a clutching at straws. The final straw may have broken the back. Things were never meant to have got to the stage of a "worse" comparison being made because things were never meant to have been bad. Without a bad, there can be no worse.

It is a drip-drip which suddenly becomes a gush-gush. Puerto Pollensa is not unique in having properties targeted by tax and tourism inspectors, but the actions of the government are more acute in the resort than almost anywhere else on the island. What disappoints and then hacks off is the knowledge that money has been pumped into the area through property purchase and through all the additional benefits this brings to the local economy; the knowledge that so much love has been devoted to an area, to an island that many have fallen head over heels with. People feel more than disappointment. They feel dumped on, taken advantage of, disrespected despite all that they have done.

The actions of the tax and tourism inspectorate are only one manifestation, and rules may apply equally to Mallorcans and Spaniards as they do to foreigners, but do they, because how does one explain the views of someone who was brought up here, who has owned a business here, employed people here, who has lived here for the best of half a century (and on the southern side of the island)? Someone who sees everyone here being in "the hands of idiots and imbeciles who are ruining our future", who says that the "sooner we foreigners realise that we are and always will be second-class citizens, then so much the better".

So much for the better or maybe so much for the worse. There are very many worse places that lack the same stunning views, that lack the innate charms of, for instance, a Puerto Pollensa. But equally, there are very many other places that can lay claim to similar attributes. Little pieces of heaven can be found elsewhere. Elsewhere that isn't necessarily worse.

Lunacy such as the attack on property is a clear and tangible example of an undermining of the paradise better-place that was promoted on the tin. But there is also that which is not tangible, an abstract sense of a falling apart, and it comes not because of financial investment so much as because of emotional investment. People want to love somewhere, to know that they have found their little piece of heaven. And so they have, until one day they wake up and realise it has all been a dream.

Any comments to please.

Friday, July 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Andratx fire contained

A major fire in the Sa Coma area of Andratx broke out around one o'clock this afternoon. A hundred firefighters are in attendance along with firefighting planes and helicopters. Reinforcements have had to be brought from Valencia and Zaragoza as well as from Ibiza and Menorca. Twenty homes have been evacuated and some roads have been closed.

Update (20.15): Some 800 hectares have been affected by the fire. Over 200 firefighters are now involved. Precautionary evacuations are taking place near to s'Arracó. The wind has been making control of the fire more difficult. The operation against the fire will go on through the night, and there may have to be more evacuations, though no property has thus far been directly affected.

The fire sweeping across such a large area could make this one of the most damaging fires that Mallorca or the Balearics have experienced. If 800 hectares is a true estimate, it is a considerably larger area than the fire in Cala Llonga in Ibiza in September 2011 when 115 hectares were actually claimed by the fire but during which around a thousand people had to be evacuated. The current fire is placed at Level Two, one notch below the most serious.

Update (21.15): President José Ramón Bauzá has said that the fire looks bad and that it currently isn't under control. But he has called for calm. Meanwhile, volunteers from Civil Protection units from across Mallorca have been mobilised to assist.

More on the history of fires. Another fire on Ibiza in May 2011 was the second largest fire in the Balearics. It claimed 1,500 hectares. The largest fire recorded on Mallorca or anywhere on the Balearic Islands was that of August 1992, when just under 2,000 hectares were affected in the Artà mountains.

Update (22.15): The cause of the fire would appear to have been someone who was negligently burning some stubble. The man has been interrogated by the Guardia Civil who have charged him, but he hasn't been taken into custody. The fire is still not under control.

Temperatures in Mallorca today have typically been around 36 degrees. There has been little rain for several weeks and the island has been experiencing a heatwave for well over a week. Today, the winds from the south have also been quite strong. A good day for doing some burning of stubble then. Incredible.

Update (00.15): Some 60 firefighters will work through the night. There has been some further precautionary evacuation in s'Arracó.

Update (7.30 Saturday): Firefighting planes back in action. Fires appear to be more confined, so the worst of the situation is probably over even if the fires are not completely under control. People evacuated from their homes were put up by hotels or in the sports centre in Andratx.

Update (11.00 Saturday): The fires are still not under control. Some 250 operatives, along with the water bombers, are now engaged in trying to get control. There are 13 different air craft in all involved in the incident. The firefighting planes are picking up water by Peguera, where an exclusion zone in the sea has been created to stop boats or swimmers venturing out too far. The area affected is now said to be as much as 1,000 hectares.

Update (16.45 Saturday): The fires remain active. It is now being said that 1,600 hectares have been affected, which makes the Andratx incident Mallorca's second worst since records were kept. As the fires are still active, it could yet become the worst, exceeding the 1,960 hectares lost above Betlem in the Artà mountains in 1992. Over 50 more operatives have been brought in from Valencia.

Update (19.15 Saturday): Much of the fire appears to now have been extinguished, but in the direction of Estellencs there is still firefighting from the air and from land crews.

Update (7.30 Sunday): Some precautionary evacuation going towards Estellencs last night. Firefighters kept up their efforts overnight, and it is anticipated that the fires will be completely extinguished today, or if not extinguished then stabilised. More assistance has, in the meantime, been brought in from the mainland. The scale of the fire makes it the worst in Spain so far this year, though it is nothing on the scale of very much serious fires, such as in Valencia, last summer.

Update (12.30 Sunday): The worst may be over in the area where the fire started, but it has swept towards Estellencs. Some 700 people were evacuated there, and there are now well over 300 firefighters trying to get a grip. Demands for boats to keep out of the water, especially around Peguera, are repeatedly being made, as they are hampering planes picking up water.

Update (13.30 Sunday): Now being said that 1,800 hectares have been affected, so the current incident is edging closer to being Mallorca's worst ever fire. President Bauzá has said that the fire is still out of control as it moves northward along the Tramuntana. A safety zone in the sea has been increased significantly to include off Playa de Palma in order to allow planes to collect water unimpeded. Bauzá is in contact with national prime minister Rajoy and the ministers for the environment, defence and interior. All resources needed are being promised by Madrid.

Update (17.15 Sunday): Being reported that 2,000 hectares have been destroyed, which would make this the worst fire experienced on Mallorca since accurate records were kept. The fire still rages and is getting closer to Estellencs itself. Tourists and workers at the Galatzó finca have needed to be evacuated. Contradictory notices suggesting that the situation has improved near to Estellencs but that the situation remains "complicated", while the emergency service has actually started to issue advice if the fire gets near to houses. There are also occasional bursts of flames in the areas where the fire originated.

Update (19.30 Sunday): Being said that this is the most difficult fire there has been to tackle, the result of three things - the weather (winds and heat), mountain geography and, worryingly, available fuel.

Winds are expected to ease soon. The main focus of efforts is Estellencs and Galatzó. It is not thought that Puigpunyent will be affected. There have not been evacuations there or in Banyalbufar. 28 air craft of different types and around 400 operatives are now involved in tackling the fire.

Questions now being asked. Should there have been a stronger response in the early stages of the fire, which has now been raging for over 48 hours, even if its focus has shifted? Answers, and good ones, are going to be demanded of the regional government.

Update (22.45 Sunday): 95 people evacuated from the area between Estellencs and Galatzó as a precautionary measure tonight. This area is where the main firefighting efforts are continuing. Elsewhere, the situation between Andratx and La Trapa is said to be stable and the situations in Sant Elm and Andratx are totally under control. Total number of people evacuated at present is 826. Efforts are being made to also evacuate animals at Galatzó. The government says that the affected area is no more than 1800 hectares, despite earlier reports suggesting that it was over 2000, but admits that a clear idea is not possible at this stage.

(Update midnight Sunday): No more of any note being reported other than the fact that a member of the UME military fire-protection unit has been taken to hospital suffering from dehydration. Surprising if he is the only one.

Update (8.00 Monday): Firefighting planes at work again from around 7am. 250 operatives had been working through the night. The wind picked up earlier and the fire started to threaten the Galatzó finca once again.
Emergency service tweeting that there is no intention at present to evacuate animals, but the protocol is in place if this proves necessary. Also saying that there is no intention to evacuate in Puigpunyent or Galilea. The flames are apparently some distance away even if there is a great deal of smoke.

Update (12.45 Monday): Efforts centred still on Galatzó and the outskirts of Estellencs, though the emergency service says that residents from Estellencs should be able to return soon. No evacuation of animals from Galatzó has been considered necessary so far. Winds are thought to be favourable at present. 112 also says that parts of Andratx remain "hot spots" but that things are under control. More air reinforcement arriving. Smell of smoke widespread, right across Calvia.

Update (16.45 Monday): Residents of Estellencs are being allowed to go back to their homes. Electricity has been restored and there is no longer a risk. The situation in Galatzó has also improved, smoke clearing and risk receding. It would appear that an end to an incident that started over 72 hours ago is in sight.

Update (18.15 Monday): 112 saying that 80% of the fire is said to now be "stabilised". Small outbreaks of fire can be expected over the next days, which is not untypical with incidents such as this one. Generally, the situation can be said to be under control even if not all fires are out yet.

Update (20.00 Monday): The emergency services are confident that full control will be achieved tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. The alarm is mostly over. Some of the mainland air reinforcements have returned.  

Update (8.30 Tuesday): The fire has been contained. Full stabilisation is hoped to be achieved today though putting the fire out completely may take a few days yet. As the situation has improved, this is the last of these updates.
Further reporting on this blog:
Barbecue coals the cause of the Andratx fire

Photo of night scene from Pau Verd here:

Videos on YouTube:
Photo gallery from Diario de Mallorca:
Photo of devastation at Sa Gramola, from the 112 Emergency Services Twitter feed.

More photos from Diario de Mallorca showing the devastation:

One of the most heartbreaking of all the photos of the devastation. This is of the La Trapa finca, owned by the ecologists GOB and which was recovered after the fire in 1994. All that effort. Gone. Photo thanks to GOB's Facebook:

MALLORCA TODAY - Safety zones for Pollensa's Moors and Christians

Pollensa town hall has issued advice about attendance at the Moors and Christians battle simulation on 2 August and is to create "safety zones". The battle, participation in which is meant to be limited to people from Pollensa, attracts people unfamiliar with what happens who get caught up in the swell and crush of the participants.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 23C
Forecast high: 34C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 4.

May be some cloud about today but the morning is as mornings have been for several days - very calm, bright and warm. With southerlies dominating, 37.8 (100) may be achieved somewhere in the northern area today or over the weekend.

Evening update (19.15): A high of 37.6C inland in Pollensa, so the 100F mark not breached after all. Not quite as hot on the coast, with a high of 34C.

Getting Shirty: Tourist dress protocol

Many years ago, that legendary lunatic, Vivian Stanshall, took to the streets of Willesden Green in order to ask people about shirts. Was the shirt, he asked one elderly gentleman, still necessary? Should they stop making shirts? Oh no, came the reply. "A man's not dressed if he's not got a nice shirt on, guv'nor, is he."

A few years after Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Band created their "Shirt" epic, I encountered a different set of lunatics. They had wandered into a college square at university. Who were they, I demanded to know of their escort. "They're from the Anti-Feet On Seats Society."

The problem with shirts. Or no shirts. The problem with feet on seats. Or feet without footwear. The problem with tourists, male predominantly, who are constantly minus shirt. The problem with other tourists who have, it would seem, forgotten to pack their flip-flops or who choose to rest their plates of meat on a bar's nice seats either with or without flip-flops.

It is now five years since I raised the shirt problem with one particular bar owner. "Never thought about it," she replied. Which is as well, given the acreage of flesh typically on display inside the bar and on the terrace. Rare it is for it to be covered, unless by a replica football shirt when the owner, for reasons that escape me, spurn the attractions of the beach on a hot afternoon and opt instead to watch a pre-season friendly being played on the other side of the world.

This same owner, however, has found it necessary to put up a sign respectfully asking people not to put their feet on the seats. The notice was, I understand, due to be slightly less respectful, as in "keep your asterisks feet off the asterisks seats, you asterisks", before someone with greater diplomacy wrote it in respectful terms.

To shirt or not to shirt, that is the question. To be barefoot or not to be barefoot, this is also a question. To put feet on seats or not to put feet on seats, this is yet another question, which comes with its with or without options.

On the shirt front, I am with another bar which has a sign saying "no shirt, no sale". This might seem counterproductive in these days when any sale is a good sale whether it comes shirted or not, but there is still such a thing as decorum. A man's not dressed if he's not got a nice shirt on, guv'nor, is he? Well, it doesn't have to be a nice shirt. It could, for instance, be Liverpool's new away kit, but it is still a shirt. Just. It's the principle which matters even if the shirt, as with Liverpool's, has been modelled (badly) on a retro Space Invaders game.

It is reasonable enough to distinguish, as with smoking, between on-terrace and in-bar shirt protocol. Outside ok, inside not ok. But there again, bars are bars. In-bar informality does stretch to the no-shirt law. A bar, however, is not a supermarket or a chemist.

Though Britain has been experiencing some uncommonly hot weather recently, I very much doubt that the checkout staff at Tescos across the land have been subjected to the sight of pink beer guts drooping over the piles of six packs loaded onto the counter. A supermarket is, after all, a supermarket, except when it is in Mallorca. Eroski, as an example, appears to have given up its fight in trying to get customers to adhere to a shirt and footwear policy. No one took any notice of the notice. Unpleasant it can be to the point of exhibitionist when the non-shirted has only a skimpy pair of Speedos on. For God's sake, cover yourself up, man.

Were the resorts of Mallorca all sparsely urbanised, lacking in main roads and offering only wooden huts under palm trees as beachside accommodation from which the occupants would walk on no more than velvety white sands to the turquoise sea, then the shirt and footwear issue wouldn't arise. But the resorts are not like this. What on earth goes through someone's mind that makes him or her wish to walk on flaming hot concrete and tarmac, through whatever Rover has left behind, on top of whatever the dustmen have left behind without flip-flops on? And then, go and put the feet up on a seat.

The people from the Anti-Feet On Seats Society were plainly mad, but not nearly as mad as some of those who put their feet on seats. They just don't where the feet might have been.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 33C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 increasing 4 Southeast around midday.

More of the same. Clear skies and already warm, highs likely to get to the mid-30s later, the alert for high temperatures remaining in place for the afternoon. The met office says these particularly high temperatures will stay until Sunday when there is likely to be a slight fall.

Evening update (19.45): Didn't quite reach the 100 Fahrenheit mark. 37.5C in Sa Pobla was the local high inland, 36.4C the coastal high at what is typically always the hottest spot, namely Colonia Sant Pere. Probably will top the 100 mark tomorrow with the southerlies still bringing in Saharan air.

A Nasty Smell Of Power

Let's not beat about the bush. There's no sympathy for Mallorca's politicians who, one by one, have been sent or are being sent to a prison cell. For so long they didn't go inside. Now they are going. Nadal, Buils, Munar. Enjoy your summer vacations.

No sympathy but a nasty smell. There is one name missing from the register of inmates. Jaume Matas. Ex-president of the Balearics. He can enjoy the rest of the summer at liberty. And he can thank the Balearics High Court for allowing him to put his feet up on a sun lounger rather than having to take a holiday in the company of two former tourism ministers.

Matas had been sentenced to a total of six years for various misdemeanours related to that part of the "caso Palma Arena" which had to do with irregular payments involving the journalist Antonio Alemany. The High Court has reduced this sentence to nine months. It has confirmed Matas's guilt on one count of corruption but has quashed the other charges. A nine-month sentence for a first offence means he will not go to prison; a two-year sentence is normally the tariff required to trigger actual incarceration.

The nasty smell emanates from the fact that, whereas Matas has had a significant reduction in his sentence, others, in a different case, have not been so lucky. Miguel Nadal, one of the former tourism ministers, has copped for four years. Francesc Buils, the other former tourism minister, has received three years. Both these sentences relate to the "caso Voltor", one that centred on irregular payments through the tourism ministry. Nadal and Buils will, by the time you read this, either be inside or be packing a bag and getting ready to go away for a stretch.

Maria Antònia Munar, the former president of the Council of Mallorca, has been sent to prison. She has managed to thus far rack up a total of eleven and a half years for different offences. The court in Palma, not the High Court, agreed that she should enter prison. Her case will doubtless go to the High Court, the one that has spared Matas but has condemned Nadal.

Munar, powerful woman though she once was, may not find the High Court to be as  lenient as it has been with Matas. One very big difference between, on the one hand, Jaume Matas, and on the other, Munar, Nadal and Buils, is that Matas was a Partido Popular politician; Munar, Nadal and Buils were all with the disgraced, now defunct Unió Mallorquina. And it is this difference that really causes the smell plus the fact, where Nadal and Buils are concerned, that they were comparatively unimportant and lesser political figures. They have been dispensable, and their dispensability owes at least something to their weakness; they, especially Nadal, just seemed to do what they had to do or what they were told to do.

There can be no sympathy and there is no sympathy for Nadal and Buils, but the shock that has greeted the reduction in Matas's sentence has been compounded by the treatment of these other politicians. They were different cases, but there is a real feeling of one rule for the powerful and one rule for the less powerful; for the dispensable.

Matas, prior to his reprieve, had spoken of the messages of support he had been receiving from former colleagues within the PP. He was at pains to point out that they were just friendly gestures, but the mere fact of them having been made has raised suspicions. Not for the first time, a leading politician, rather than a more lowly one, has been spared a spell in prison. And these leading politicians typically come from the ranks of the PP, though not exclusively; a case against the former PSOE minister, José Blanco, for trafficking influence, was recently archived by the High Court in Madrid.

Matas isn't completely out of the woods as he is implicated in other cases, but it has been put to me that he will end up avoiding prison. The sentence reduction reinforces a perception that the courts ultimately bow to pressure. Matas was not just a former Balearics president, he was also environment minister from 2000 to 2003 in the Aznar national government. 

But what of Munar? Not a member of the PP, will she prove to be dispensable? What has come out over the years since both she and Matas were first faced with serious charges is that both of them ran their parties in all-powerful ways. But while Matas might still be able to cling to some former power, what is there for Maria Munar to cling to?

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Maria Antònia Munar goes to prison

The former president of the Council of Mallorca and leader of the Unió Mallorquina party, Maria Antònia Munar, will spend her first night tonight in Palma's prison. Munar, who has been found guilty of corrupt practices in two separate cases which have attracted a combined sentence of eleven and a half years, had hoped to stay out of prison for health reasons (she has had cancer), but the Palma court, who passed the second sentence yesterday, sided with prosecutors who wanted her to go to prison without waiting for appeal. The court noted that she may well have money secreted abroad, and so believed that she might be a flight risk. She also has cases pending which could result in prison sentences. Munar was not granted bail and indeed would have been unable to stand personal guarantees as most of her property and money is embargoed.

Munar's entrance into prison contrasts with yesterday's decision by the Balearics High Court to reduce a six-year sentence passed on the former president of the islands, Jaume Matas, to nine months, so meaning that he would not have to go to prison. Munar, who has three days to lodge an appeal for reconsideration of the decision for her to have enter prison, will almost certainly take an appeal to the High Court, which would then have to decide if the sentences should stand.

Munar is by far the most important politician in Mallorca to receive a jail term. There has actually been some surprise that she has been sent to prison, in light of how Matas has been treated and also in light of how in the most celebrated corruption case of the last century - that to do with the Sóller tunnel - it was "archived" and the first president of the Balearics, Gabriel Cañellas, avoided prison.

MALLORCA TODAY - Police face three-year suspension over Can Picafort video

Santa Margalida town hall is investigating a video in which a drunk tourist is seen defecating in the street in Can Picafort and then walking away with soiled shorts. The video was shot by local police, who, rather than coming to his assistance, mocked him. The officers face a three-year suspension from duty without pay.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia hoteliers attack high water rates

Hoteliers in Alcúdia are to take legal action over what they say are excessively high water rates - charges having risen by 35% in the last two years. Their complaints about these rates are not new, as they were raised back in 2009 when justification was sought for the charges but no justification given.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 24C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3 backing Northeast 3 and 4 at intervals.

An alert in place for high temperatures, the forecast highs for the next few days are likely to be exceeded. Today, the breezes are due to switch to southerly, which means hot African air. Mainly sunny all day with occasional cloud.

Evening update (19.30): 35.3C the inland high with a coastal maximum of 34.1C.

A Mallorcan Royal Baby

Have there been any announcements yet as to special royal baby events at the island's Bar Brits? Come on, it's time to get the bunting out of the loft again and put up those framed photos of William and Kate and the Queen. Have the bookies who frequent Bar Brits been giving odds on the name? Are the expatriate knitting circles now frantically knitting one and purling two, having waited for the starting-gun to go off and the appropriate colour to be chosen? 

As a typical impression of most British expatriates is that they are all fervent royalists, one might think that Bar Brits would indeed be flying the flags and waiting on the naming in order to christen special dishes of the day. But this is a misguided impression. An example of reaction to the intrusion of the royal birth's announcement was that which complained about "Coronation Street" being interrupted. Expatriates really do have their priorities sorted out. Soaps come before sprogs, even royal sprogs.

Maybe it is the circles I move in, and I confess that they are lowly ones, but being hacked off by suddenly not knowing whether Tracy and Rob would be blackmailing Carla and Peter would seem to be fairly representative of the general level of indifference. By the way, I had no idea about Tracy and Rob or Carla and Peter; I had to Google "current Coronation Street storyline" in order to find out and so appear as though I know what I'm talking about. I can, however, understand people getting the hump if news of what had been a bump emerging kicking and screaming into the world gets in the way of more important matters. My own annoyance would have been substantial, had Tuffers and Vaughan been cut off in their knocking-Australia prime. As it happened, Steve Claridge being turned off when in full Wayne Rooney discussion mode was something I could live with.

One thing that can be said for the royal birth is that it is the first one to be conducted via social media. As such, one can get a flavour of what the expat, the one who lives in the relatively normal world, thinks about it, and in a word, it is eight letters long, begins with a "b" and ends with an "s". It is perhaps a shame, though, that social media haven't been exploited as they could have been; William tweeting from the maternity ward, Harry doing similar - #wettingthebabyshead - or indeed the whole event being streamed live via YouTube. And if William and Kate were truly a modern face of the British royal family, then they should surely have used text voting to decide the name.

The contrast with the regular media is striking. Whereas social media reveal the expat as reassuringly cynical, the established press indulges in typically obeisant sycophancy and devotes page upon page to what "Private Eye" has summed up rather more neatly - "Woman Has Baby". Despite, in truth, there being very little of any note that can be said, any spurious angle is deemed worthy of column inches. Hence, and as an example, the royal birth follows previous years' occasions - Wills and Kate getting hitched, the Queens' jubilee, the Olympics - in being something to lift and unite a nation suffering the pains of economic hard times. It's all rot of course, but something has to be said, even when it's not worth saying.

But it is an occasion that can justify the bunting being put out and perhaps even street parties being staged in Mallorca in honour of the newborn. There is a danger, though, that there won't be further occasions to keep patriotic fervour on a roll. Attention needs to be paid to ensure that this periodic outpouring of national pride transported to a foreign land continues. Harry, get yourself engaged, mate.

There is, though, the prospect, a few years from now, of the island's expat community going into total bunting overdrive. Just as Charles and Diana came on holiday with the kids, surely K and W will be spending some time, when not changing nappies, looking through some brochures and eyeing up a Mallorcan holiday in the not too distant future. William could ask the old man if he knows of any royal palaces in Mallorca that might be suitable for the ordinary, everyday duke and duchess and family.

And I'll tell you something, it would be bloody great if he were to. Ha, ha, lol, had you all fooled. I've got my bunting out, and it's not coming down until after the Cambridges have been here on their hols.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia's taxi-drivers consider legal action against tourist train

Taxi-drivers, unhappy with the return of the tourist train in Puerto Alcúdia, yesterday delivered a petition with over 1,300 signatures to Alcúdia town hall. The drivers believe the train represents unfair competition and they say that they have experienced a considerable loss of business since its introduction. Legal action may be taken, but the town hall argues that no opposition was lodged against the train when its operation was put out to public consultation. The town hall does accept that publicity for the train, which suggests there is a stop for the old town market, will have to be changed; the stop isn't for the market but is the nearest one to the old town.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 25C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3, locally Northeast 3 to 4 during the afternoon.

More of the same today. Sun and heat. The forecast suggests that it will be hotter by the end of the week. Forecast highs of 34 could mean temperatures, more likely inland, getting towards 100F in old money.

Evening update (19.00): Inland high of 33C and coastal high of 31.5C. An alert is in place for the next few days for "maximum" temperatures.

The Rise And Rise Of José Ramón

Are we to conclude that there has been a potentially defining moment in the political career of Balearics president José Ramón Bauzá? What conclusion do we draw from the words of national premier Mariano Rajoy that Bauzá is a "brilliant Spanish political reality in his own right"? Something's going on. Is José the anointed one, the special one?

Soon after the latest vengeful revelations of Luis Bárcenas hit the newsstands, a correspondent of mine sent me an email in which he suggested that, if Rajoy were to find himself out of a job, there might be three names tossed into the prime ministerial ring: Aguirre (as in Esperanza Aguirre, the former president of the Community of Madrid), ex-premier Aznar and Bauzá. I assumed that the latter of these names wasn't serious. However ...

Being an anointed one is something more likely to occur in countries where there is slightly less than a full grasp on democratic principles, such as China or Venezuela. Anointment has sort of occurred in Western democracies, as with, for instance, poor old Anthony Eden, who had to endure years of being undermined by Churchill, despite his being the old boy's acknowledged successor, before finally getting his feet under the 10 Downing Street table.

Generally speaking, though, there isn't an anointment process, even if Rajoy himself was something of the chosen one by Aznar (a mistake, Aznar would now have to admit, given that Wikileaks showed he was none too convinced by Rajoy). But Rajoy was very much part of the Aznar establishment. Bauzá isn't part of the Rajoy establishment. The glowing terms in which Rajoy described Bauzá the other day can be seen in different ways, and one of them may be that Mariano has made a left-field pick for a potential successor.

Bauzá's elevation to the main political establishment in Spain has been spoken of before. Barely a year into his presidency, there was talk of him getting a political transfer to Madrid, but, rather than sit on the bench in national governmental circles, he preferred to see out his contract in Palma. It was the honourable thing to do, after all. But why was he even being considered? And why now might he be being lined up for a position rather grander than he currently has?

Bauzá isn't exactly that experienced. Prior to assuming leadership of the Balearics Partido Popular, he was a mere mayor of Marratxí and something of an unknown. He became leader, or so it seemed, more because he was anyone but Carlos (Delgado) than because he was especially qualified. Given his lack of experience, could he genuinely be thought of as premiership material?

There may of course be something else going on. Bauzá isn't without his own problems, those to do with the charges that his business affairs (not adequately declared) are incompatible with his position. So, Rajoy may simply have been laying down a marker, one that might have in mind a decision regarding this incompatibility by the Balearics High Court.

Alternatively, Rajoy may just have been acknowledging what he believes to have been Bauzá's astute handling of the Balearics economy. There will be many who would disagree with such a belief and who have viewed Bauzá's period in office as one characterised by adhering steadfastly to Madrid dogma. It has been said that the region of Castilla-La Mancha has been the "test bed" for many national policies, but the Balearics have been as well and in more than an economic way - in the Balearics, there have been the language politics as well.

The president of Castilla-La Mancha is Maria Dolores de Cospedal, who is also the PP's secretary-general. Cospedal, like Bauzá, is the model austerity PP politician and one who might well be thought of as Rajoy's most likely successor. But, she has been damaged by the Bárcenas revelations. Indeed, much of the PP establishment has been damaged. There may not be an admission of this, but Bauzá, being distant from this establishment, is untainted. The allegations of incompatibility are nothing like as serious as any that Bárcenas has brought up and, in my opinion, are ones inspired by mischief-making rather than by barefaced impropriety.

Is Bauzá seen, therefore, as a new broom? The PP might gain a great deal from being seen to shed some of its damaged goods and from presenting a new image. Whether Bauzá would be the right one, who can say, but he does seem destined for higher things and were he to stand as the Balearics deputy to Congress, then those higher things might come within his grasp.

Any comments to please.

Monday, July 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - 22-year-old Briton in critical state after Magalluf hotel balcony fall

Another case of a British tourist falling from a hotel balcony in Magalluf. 22-year-old Timothy James W. was taken to Son Espases hospital in a critical condition having fallen from the fourth floor of the Hotel Honolulu yesterday morning.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 3 to 4, easing South 2 to 3 during the evening.

Some thunder rolled in later on yesterday evening but nothing came of it. Bit of cloud this morning but of no great significance. Hot once more, temperatures remaining over 30 for the foreseeable future.

Evening update (20.30): Today's maximums - inland high of 33C; coastal high of 32C.

When Local Elections Matter: Moors and Christians

A little bit of electoral manipulation never goes amiss. Need to find a few more votes, well, make some up. Need to lose some votes for an opponent, well, slip the chap in charge of the returns a few quid. Or get him drunk, so he won't notice.

I don't know that we ever considered it to be electoral fraud. It was more a case of ensuring things went as we felt they should do. The trouble was that one of the chaps in charge of the returns proved to be incorruptible. Students weren't meant to be like that. They were meant to be only too willing to take inducements. To our horror, a line of succession was disrupted by an overly studious and serious sort who had somehow got his way onto the constitutional committee and who was immune to bribery. He didn't even drink. What sort of a student do you call that?

But, this is all in the past of course. And the elections, in truth, didn't matter; student elections never did. Rather like most elections in Mallorca don't really matter. For the sake of democratic appearances, they do matter, but decision-making powers lurk in places well removed from corridors of legislatures. So, when there is the odd touch of electoral jiggery-pokery, everyone tut-tuts but acknowledges that it doesn't make a great deal of difference. "Twas ever thus.

At the local elections in 1999, the then mayor Muro, Jaume Perelló, arranged, with the help of a statistician at the town hall, for there to be an "adjustment" in the electoral roll. This resulted in people who weren't registered as living in Muro, indeed didn't live in Muro, becoming registered. Addresses which weren't in fact residences, such as garages, became addresses for the purpose of the electoral roll. Eventually, almost twelve years after the elections took place, Sr. Perelló found himself in front of a judge. He received a year's prison sentence, having accepted that he had committed an electoral fraud that had been intended to favour his party, the now defunct Unió Mallorquina.

This same ex-party found itself caught up in another bit of electoral shenanigans a couple of years back. In fact, it was the re-emergence of some shenanigans that had occurred four years previously. The party had been accused of buying votes in the form of handing 25 grand over to leaders of gypsy communities. The case had been archived in 2007 only for it to surface again in 2011.

There are elections, however, which do matter. And one was held on Friday night. It was the annual vote to elect participants in Pollensa's grand Moors and Christians bundle; kick-off 7pm on 2 August. Surely everything would be above board with these elections?

There isn't any suggestion that there was anything that wasn't above board, but, because these elections matter, things got a tad difficult when there were some questions raised when it came to the counting of the votes for the candidates to play the local hero, Joan Mas. Mysteriously, 25 votes for one candidate were suddenly removed from the giant screen. An error had been made, according to the chief returning officer. But, and by now (one o'clock in the morning) goodly amounts of cold drink had been taken, this brought claims of irregularities and, once the victor had been declared, a sharp exchange of words and the odd punch between supporters and counters ensued.

So, there are occasions when elections do matter to people. Local elections of the political variety may be something greeted with resigned shrugs, whether there is jiggery-pokery or there isn't, but when they are local elections that go to the heart of local traditions they mean very much more.

But local traditions, where the elections for the protagonists in the Moors and Christians battle are concerned, are not particularly traditional. The voting and the count have become a pre-fiestas party in their own right but, unlike the battle itself (the re-enactment has been going for some 150 years), elections are only 25 years old. Moreover, so great had been the indifference of the people of Pollensa towards the whole Moors and Christians gig that, at the end of the 1970s, incentives had to be given in order to get people to bother turning out for it.

Electoral manipulation there wasn't. A mistake there had been. The fracas might seem a bit silly, but no. The Moors and Christians would not have become the occasion it has, had it not been for the introduction of elections. They made the difference. They matter. 

Any comments to please.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Controversy over Pollensa election of "Joan Mas"

This really could only happen in Mallorca. It really could only happen in Pollensa because on Friday night, as the drinks flowed into the early morning, things turned a bit ugly when it looked as though there were "irregularities" in the counting of votes for the candidates to play Joan Mas at this year's Moors and Christians re-enactment. The mayor had to intervene in order to calm things down.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 3; Northeast 4 at intervals during the afternoon.

Little bits of early morning cloud that will go away to leave another perfect, hot summer's day. A Sunday, the beaches will be packed.

Evening update (20.15): The beach was the only place to be. 32.7C inland and 31.5C on the coast.

The Dreamtime: Son Serra de Marina

The Dreamtime is when the world was created. It is an explanation of how things came to be and a time before there was time.

Over two days at the end of August three years ago, a meeting was planned in a camping area in woods not far from a beach. This camping area was located not far from the Bronze Age talaiot known as Cova de sa Nineta. This was a meeting called the "didgeridoo encounter". The Dreamtime was the dream time twice over in this part of Mallorca.

On a beach not far from the clearing in the woods, one can stare at the mountains as they rise shaded by silvery haze: spectral giants of boscage concealing more tombs of the pre-Neolithic. One can dream of these mountains, as seen from the beach, to one side of which is a sea of opaque luminescence. This is the place of Mallorca's Dreamtime, an essence of when it was created, an explanation of how it came to be. This is an aboriginal spirit land, where somnolence can consume and where there is an uncertainty as to being awake or asleep. Being in reality or in a dream.

This Dreamtime is a place where time is suspended. It came into being but it never moved forward. It stays as it was, for this is Son Serra de Marina. The beach is Sa Canova. The sun shines, but the shallows off Sa Canova show that a sea can shine. It radiates. It transmits light. It is luminescent but it is also transcendent. It is beyond normal experience. It exists in its own Dreamtime.

Son Serra de Marina inspires curiosity because of its very curiousness. It is urban but it isn't urban. And it is this quasi state of urbanism that allows it to transcend the clichéd appeal and descriptiveness of more obviously urbanised resorts. Not that one can really call Son Serra a resort. It is hard to know what to call it.

Semi-urbanisation of an almost perversely repetitious style - perverse because to hint at a pejorative of repetitiousness for this wondrous curio is in itself perverse - drifts, as sea grass residue drifts with the winds and the movement of the waves and dunes shift with unseen subtlety, from the built to the unbuilt. At the beach end of this semi-urbanisation, rusticity takes over, punctuated only by the obelisk mystery of a post-Civil War tower.

Because nature and artificiality have not collided in the same way as, for example, a pine walk, Son Serra's superlatives are abstract. They cannot be overworked. They cannot be defined with predictability. They reside within a spirit world, within a Dreamtime.

The curiosity of Son Serra can be explained. Its being has a functionality, even if today, owing to the lack of true urbanisation, it defies obvious functionalism. Joan Massanet Moragues was the man who made Son Serra. He was a supporter of both of Spain's dictators - Primo de Rivera and Franco. He was mayor of Palma for ten years from 1954. It was he who brought about the first small houses in the 1940s. And it was he, as owner of Son Serra, who properly urbanised it in the late 1960s. Before this urbanisation, it wasn't called Son Serra. It was called Colonia de la Mare de Déu del Carme (there are variations on this name). It then became known as Serranova before finally being named after the Son Serra estate, one of the oldest country houses in Mallorca.

The story of its ownership explains much. Son Serra was not totally untypical in being, in effect, a privately owned village. It was when more contemporary needs arose that questions as to how it was to be looked after or developed cropped up. Santa Margalida town hall has responsibility for Son Serra, but it remains more or less what it always was - a private estate with residences for which there was no plan other than it was there.

As a consequence, and although there are now any number of streets of villas and apartments, Son Serra has never become anything. It is still just there. And it is this which gives it its Dreamtime quality. It is tranquil but it is oddly vibrant. It is caught in its own Dreamtime, one of beach life of the past, one in which it is possible to imagine Eagles' records playing from a 1970s jukebox. It has bequeathed a beach life of kitesurfing and other water sports but also an unmistakable flavour of how beach life once was. The Sol, the restaurant at the end of the world by the main beach, is an expression of beach coolness without any sense of irony or of embarrassment.

This is Son Serra. A place where time has been suspended. 

Any comments to please.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Cifre appeals fine for non-demoliton of Calvari house

Pollensa's mayor, Tomeu Cifre, has lodged an appeal against the fine imposed on him by the Balearics High Court for not complying with an order to ensure the demolition of a house on Pollensa's Calvari. The mayor argues that the fine is disproportionate to his monthly salary and that the non-demolition is not on account of passivity but of administrative procedures.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 3; at intervals Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

Some cloud about this morning. Set to disappear and give clear, sunny skies. Hot and possibly getting a bit hotter next week.

Evening update (19.45): The cloud went. A high of 32.9C inland and 32C on the coast.

The Scandal Of Mallorca's Residential Tourism

The term "residential tourism" can mean different things. When the national government listed this as a strategic advantage in its most recent tourism plan, it had in mind tourism by foreigner owners of property, those who come for parts of the year or whose families come for parts of the year. Residential tourism, in this respect, is considered a "good thing". It is good because of the economic benefits of property purchase, it is good because of the economic benefits of service provision for maintaining and managing properties when owners are in their home countries, it is good because of the economic benefits that these owners and/or their families bring to local supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses. The national government sees this residential tourism as a strength, one to be encouraged further as part of its overall strategic tourism plan.

The national government is of course being selective in its interpretation of the meaning of residential tourism. There is a whole other residential tourism it will not admit might also be a strength. By not admitting this, it is doing tourism in general and the economy in general a huge disservice.

In a recent interview, the director general of Taylor Wimpey in Spain spoke about the great potential for residential tourism, and so he spoke about something that is in line with government thinking, but because the government will not admit that residential tourism means more than it wants it to mean, he - the director general - recognises that builders such as Taylor Wimpey are disadvantaged. And no more so than in the Balearics.

National government, having taken a strong line against the so-called illegal offer of holiday rental accommodation, is contradicting its own position. It won't admit it, because it won't or can't admit what is understood by many, including builders like Taylor Wimpey. The director general didn't wish to be drawn, but it was obvious what he thought. He was quoted as saying that "only Mallorca has spurned residential tourism".

And in Mallorca and the Balearics, this spurning means that there is the situation whereby the tax office and the tourism inspectorate are now going around knocking on doors of villas and apartments and acting in the tough way that they have long threatened to. The day has finally and truly dawned. A campaign, using information easily gleaned from the internet, of turning up at a property and demanding that holidaymakers produce evidence of legal rental, is underway.

While apartments are usually considered to constitute the illegal offer, villas and detached houses can also be a part of this. Under the tourism law, such property can be "commercialised" (i.e. marketed and advertised as tourism accommodation) in one of two ways. One is through an agency, the other is through the owner establishing a business and registering it in Mallorca. There is no other way. And either way, what really matters is that tax revenues are paid locally.

I was intrigued to hear that inspectors have been demanding to see invoices from those staying in rental accommodation. Why would someone necessarily have an invoice? Having spoken with the owner of an agency in Alcúdia, I now know. This agency gives all its tourist clients a copy of a rental contract as well as an invoice which shows IVA (value added tax). This documentation - in Spanish - confirms the legitimacy under the local tourism law of the rental.

It is interesting to note reactions of Mallorcan and Spanish people. Comments to newspaper articles about this campaign (which does also of course affect Spanish owners) are almost unanimous in condemning the government. Contrast this, though, with what is almost a complicit acceptance by the media of the government's position.

Why, I increasingly wonder, because of the massive harm the government is going to cause, is the tourism minister Delgado or the director general for tourism, Martínez, never subjected to a true grilling? It just doesn't happen. Yet, the undermining of residential tourism borders on the scandalous. It is also incompetent, because of the economic damage it can do. How can the government reconcile the potential losses from private accommodation and the losses that are being made because of the growth of all-inclusives and the general lowering of tourism spend?

Why does the media here not take the government to task? Why does it not challenge its line on rental accommodation? There is a scandal being played out. One of potentially massive economic harm, and no one seems to dare to ask questions. Why?

Any comments to please.

Friday, July 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Transunion strikes on 19 and 20 July called off; others still possible

The strike by Transunion coach drivers that had been called for today and tomorrow has been called off (as might have already been noticed). Coach drivers have received some of the pay they were owed, and so long as the next round of pay is made and is confirmed as having been made by employment inspectors by 24 July, the strikes for later this month will also be called off. The drivers are still threatening to strike in August but are hoping that the company will clear all the pay that is owed and so eliminate this threat as well.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 July 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 22C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 2 to 3 increasing 3 to 4.

A clearer morning and little chance of a repeat of yesterday's light shower. Hot again, the pattern is very settled with easterlies dominating.

Evening update (19.00): Another fab day. 33.7C the inland high; 31.1C on the coast.

Franco In A Fridge

Things go better with Coca-Caudillo. They do if you are an artist who puts a replica non-Republican in a stand-up refrigerator with markings that bear a strong resemblance to those of a well-known, global American soft-drinks company. Or they do until someone comes along, takes a photo of Franco in the fridge and appends it to the text of a civil lawsuit that ends up in front of a judge in Madrid.

It was February last year when the vice-president of the Franco Federation got his smartphone out, snapped the gelid Generalísimo and declared that the artist Eugenio Merino had committed an "offence that no modern civilisation can tolerate". Well, at least he acknowledges that Spain is now a modern civilisation.

On Wednesday, the judge dismissed the lawsuit. Franco's honour had not been damaged. The foundation will appeal. It will go all the way to the Supreme Court if need be. The timing of the judge's decision was oddly coincidental. On 17 July 1936, the uprising had begun in Spanish Morocco, though 18 July, when it broke out on the mainland as well, is the date that Francoists celebrate. As it says on the Franco Foundation's website, in drawing comparisons with other dates in July that commemorate France's Bastille Day and America's independence, 18 July 1936 is "the date that best identifies the long and deep historical footprint of Spain ... it was a war of independence, at stake in which was not only the sovereignty of the nation, but the essence of the role Spain had played in the defence of Western Christian civilisation." More of that civilisation, then.

Putting a representation of the former and very long dead dictator into a fridge might, where the Franco Foundation is concerned, be considered a slur on the General's honour, but it is somewhat difficult to impugn someone's honour when he or she is dead and has been as dead as long as Franco has been. Even if it were easier, it's a fair question to ask what honour, as in honour in whose name? The majority of the Spanish people?

Where the foundation might have a case would be on the issue of Franco's intellectual property; the old boy's image rights. I confess I have absolutely no idea if there is such a thing as image rights as they may or may not pertain to one-time dictators. Perhaps former heads of state are considered to be in the public domain and so therefore rights can't be claimed, but the dead are not without such rights. Agatha Christie is one of the longer dead whose image rights are guarded jealously by her foundation. Woe betide any artist who were to put a replica of her into a fridge or a washing machine or a cooker or any other domestic electrical product.

The foundation had been seeking 18,000 euros in damages. Quite how this figure was arrived at I don't know. Perhaps Merino had sold his creation for that amount. That would be quite something. The wife goes out in the morning and returns in the evening to find Franco with sunglasses on and his hands folded across his chest, staring out of a large Coke container in the corner of the living-room. "What have you gone and bought now!?"

If the foundation is less than pleased with the creation, I wonder what Coke make of it. I mean, there they are, going around helping out the Tursespaña national tourism promotion agency by giving it marketing consultancy for free, and some artist goes and uses Coke-style branding for displaying a frosted dictator. Was the artist implying something? Who knows. Or maybe Franco was partial to a can of Coke. The foundation may know.

It, the foundation, does have a very substantial archive of historical documents, so it acts as a useful repository of the past. But you might be surprised that there is such a thing as the foundation. Its very being highlights the odd relationship between Franco and current-day Spain. There is no proscription, and indeed the foundation was once the recipient of government money - it was given a grant by the then Partido Popular administration in 2003, ostensibly for the upkeep of its archive.

The memory of Franco that the foundation wishes to preserve is that of the memory of 18 July 1936 when the national uprising was, to quote the foundation, "a civil-military response to the pressures and repression by the Marxist government of the Popular Front". That is a memory far removed from a Franco in a fridge.

Any comments to please.