Saturday, August 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 25C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5 locally 6 during the morning. Swells to one metre.

So, where was the storm that had been threatened? No sign. A bright and breezy morning. And should be a fine day.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 28.4C on what has been a fine day, so not even a hint of storm. Fairly breezy but very pleasant. Rest of the weekend looks just as fine.

The Abandonment Of La Macarena

Most of you will know the Macarena as a song by the Spanish group Los del Rio, but Macarena also has a religious association. The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Basilica de Santa María de la Esperanza Macarena in Seville, and a Catholic cult brotherhood of Esperanza Macarena was founded at the end of the sixteenth century.

There are other Macarenas. One is an area of Medellín in Colombia. In the same city there is a bullfighting fiesta called La Macarena and the bullring has this name. There is a Macarena in Mallorca as well. In Felanitx. In 1961, the fraternity Confraria de Macarena was founded, a year after the bullfighting club of Felanitx was formed. La Macarena is, as in Medellín, the name of the town's bullfighting ring.

Felanitx has had a bullring since 1891. It has always been called La Macarena, but the town's bullring is not the original; the current Macarena opened in 1914.

The bullfight, held during the fiestas in August, has not taken place for five years. The chances are that it will never be held again. La Macarena was considered unsafe, the bullfight was stopped and the future of the bullring is a matter of uncertainty.

The bullring's official capacity was 2,150 people but it was regularly flouted; 3,000 people would be admitted. In 2009, the interior ministry (which governs such matters) stated that the bullring could, for safety reasons, hold no more than 1,000 people and that were the bullfight to go ahead and more than 1,000 people to be admitted, the Guardia Civil would intervene and call it off.

The poor condition of La Macarena required investment to bring it up to standard, and it is claimed that it needed only some 90,000 euros spending on it. This was an investment, though, that the owner, Pedro Balañà, a Barcelona-based bullfighting impresario, appeared unwilling to commit to. Indeed, he decided to sell La Macarena, but not at any price. He wanted 900,000 euros for it, twice the amount that Muro town hall paid for that town's bullring when it was acquired from Balañà in 2010. 

Felanitx town hall has made it perfectly clear that it has no intention of paying such an amount. Were it or any other purchaser to buy the bullring, there would still also be the cost of rectifying the arena's deficiencies. Muro town hall was faced with just the same scenario. It paid for the bullring to be brought up to scratch, though (a figure less than that quoted for La Macarena).

Muro's expenditure wasn't, however, greeted with universal support. Muro may have declared itself to be, somewhat defiantly, the town of bullfighting in Mallorca, but what ended up as nearly half a million euros of investment was a highly questionable way to spend council money.

Muro town hall defended the purchase on different grounds. One was that the bullring would be used for other events and not just for the one bullfight which takes place each year. It has been true to its word in this regard but only up to a point. A second justification was to preserve a building that was part of the town's heritage.

Whatever one thinks of the bullfight, the preservation of an historic building (the bullring) is a different issue. But it comes at a cost, and it is not a cost that Felanitx is willing to countenance. Were the arena to be put to good use for purposes other than the bullfight, there might be some justification, but to pay for something that hosts one bullfight a year makes little or no economic sense. To pay nigh on a million euros to have a monument that would still need maintaining also doesn't make a lot of sense.

It has been said that there is a covenant under which, if the bullfight does not take place, the property reverts to the town. Felanitx town hall says it can find no legal proof to back this up. It may also be that the town hall, aware of the declining popularity of and growing public hostility towards bullfighting, doesn't want the political problems that would come with taking on the bullring.

Such concerns didn't deter Muro, but then Muro has set itself up as a defender of bullfighting. In Felanitx, they don't appear to have such strong feelings, so La Macarena is left in limbo, all but abandoned and getting into a gradually worse condition. From a heritage point of view this is a shame, but in other ways it isn't. The shame attached to bullfighting, in Felanitx at least, is not worth spending good money on.

* Photo acknowledgement: La Perplejidad del Buzo (Pedro Alonso) -

Any comments to please.

Index for August 2013

Alcúdia tourist day - 30 August 2013
Ana María Aguiló and language - 28 August 2013
Biomass - 26 August 2013
Bruce Springsteen - 17 August 2013
English and the Balearic Government - 25 August 2013
Felanitx bullring - 31 August 2013
Gibraltar - 6 August 2013
Heat - 9 August 2013
Holiday rentals: illegal offer - 3 August 2013, 7 August 2013, 19 August 2013, 24 August 2013, 27 August 2013, 29 August 2013
Jaume Matas - 22 August 2013
Joan March - 21 August 2013
Kevin Ayers - 18 August 2013
Looky-looky men - 13 August 2013
Magalluf troubles - 20 August 2013
Miss Tourism - 15 August 2013
Pep Aguiló and Twitter - 16 August 2013
Politicians in prison - 4 August 2013
Rajoy addresses parliament - 2 August 2013
Rajoy's gaffe about island of Palma - 12 August 2013
Real Academia Española and dictionary - 8 August 2013
Riots - 14 August 2013
Stern magazine on Mallorca - 10 August 2013
The World cruise ship - 11 August 2013
Tourism promotion transfer of responsibility - 23 August 2013
Trilingualism in Mallorcan education - 5 August 2013
When tourism was cheap - 1 August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 30C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5, swells to one metre by the afternoon.

Similar day to yesterday with a fair bit of cloud probably giving way to good sun later, but also with the chance of a shower by the evening. The weekend's forecast is for a mix of cloud and sun with a risk of rain but with temperatures in the upper-20s.

Evening update (19.00): All in all not much of a day. Mostly cloudy, the odd spit of rain and now there's an alert in place for storms until tomorrow morning.

Tourist Days For A Cynical Tourism Industry

In 1964, responding to an order by the ministry of information and tourism, hotels (all of them it would appear) in resorts in the Balearics undertook a day of celebration. It was known as the Day of the Tourist.

Back then, orders were given. They were not, as a rule, disobeyed. If the ministry of information and tourism, by then under the command of Manuel Fraga, said that there would be a day of the tourist, then a day of the tourist there most certainly would be and everyone was expected to play a part. There was little chance to put in a sick note and try and avoid it. And this day of the tourist was to be one when everyone was happy and jolly. That was an order.

I have been unable to find much information about this inaugural tourist day. It took place, almost certainly, in September. The tourist day in 1965 did; the ninth of September to be precise. The cover of its brochure featured three white hibiscus flowers against splashes of reds, yellows, greens and blues and the back cover had a cartoon tourist. I assume he was meant to be British. He was lifting his sombrero in greeting, he had a pipe in his mouth and a battered suitcase. This was the tourist of 1965, one for whom the day was intended and one for whom the day would be fun, happy and jolly. By order of the national government.

Tourist days are odd affairs. In the days of early tourism under Franco, when Mallorca was only just coming to terms with the influx of the masses, the order from the information and tourism ministry was that of statist control. It was a case of you will rather than would you. There may genuinely have been the notion of expressing goodwill and gratitude, but the control nature of these first tourist days contained the unmistakable stamp and atmosphere of authoritarianism. The tourist day was designed to enforce a message on Mallorca's society, in case people needed reminding by then, that this tourism malarkey was how they were going to live from now on. It was less, therefore, an acknowledgement of tourists themselves.

By 1968, the tourist day was held on 25 September. The poster for the day shows three women in traditional dress standing on rocks amidst a blue sea. The women have their arms open. They were either singing or opening their arms in welcome, or both. What is interesting about this particular tourist day is that it was moved to later in September with the objective of prolonging the tourist season at least until the end of the month.

This in itself was a strange thing. As the objective was as it was, had they expected tourists to come specifically for the "day"? It was probably just to show that the tourism season went on well beyond August or the first week or so of September, but if so, it goes to show that in the 1960s there was a concern about the shortness of the season.

The World Tourism Day is at the end of September, but Alcúdia celebrates its own tourist day at the end of August. It took place yesterday. It used to be in September at the same time as the original tourist days were staged (well, the one in 1965 at any rate), but it has only been going since 2008, the result of an initiative by the then tourism councillor at Alcúdia town hall, Sebastian Sanchez.

It is a far cry from the tourist days of the 1960s. No one is ordered, but it still feels a bit odd. Is not every day a tourist day? Perhaps so, but although no one is ordered, there is a sense that this day of celebration is similar to what used to take place in the '60s. It doesn't enforce a message but it is a reminder that tourism is the lifeblood for a town such as Alcúdia. This may never have been the intention behind it having been established in 2008, but a reminder is no bad thing.

In the 1960s there was no complacency, no taking tourists for granted. Tourism was all far too new for there to be such attitudes. There may have been an order, but there was also probably a further reason why those tourist days were created, which was to highlight the fact that tourists were different, and they certainly were different in those days; different to what many Mallorcans had experienced. The difference was captured in a comical fashion by that cartoon, but in its daftness, it also captured the innocent nature of difference.

There is no innocence in tourism today. It is too big an industry, too cynical a one for there to be. But Alcúdia at least attempts to celebrate not only the presence of tourists but its contribution to the success of Mallorca's tourism over the years as well as the benefits the town has extracted. It is a valuable reminder. Other resorts should do the same.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Police clash with a hundred looky-looky men in Playa de Palma

Early yesterday morning, local police, later assisted by National Police, clashed with some 100 illegal street-sellers (looky-looky men) in Playa de Palma, following the arrest of one their number after he had tried to assault a police officer. By the time that the National Police turned up, however, the lookies had dispersed. A comment in this report by a German tourist does perhaps sum up what goes on with incidents such as this: "They are laughing at the police but they (the police) do nothing. In Germany they would all be arrested". Which is doubtless the case, but a problem the police in Mallorca have is that, even if they arrest the illegal street-sellers, there is little they can do with them. If an assault occurs, this is one thing, but for infractions such as illegal selling, detentions only mean clogging up cells and being unable to extract fines.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 30C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5.

A cloudy sort of morning again. Sun due to make more of an appearance later. Breezes quite stiff. The rather unsettled pattern persisting for a few days with the risk of the occasional shower.

Evening update (21.30): A high of 27.7C on a breezy but mostly sunny day.

Tourist Apartments: Why the fuss then?

Playing the statistics game is one fraught with the danger that comes from disbelief. In Mallorca we know only too well that this is true. But as it is a game so beloved by the regional government, hoteliers and others, then I don't see why I shouldn't join in.

Research by the university and Sa Nostra Bank revealed that in August last year Mallorca received 1,355,241 tourists. Research isn't required in confirming the total number of hotel places in Mallorca. These are a matter of record, and the total stands at 284,956.

The more observant among you will have noticed that there are 31 days in August. Consequently, the daily average of the number of tourists in August is 43,717. But this doesn't correspond to the number of tourists who are in Mallorca on any given August day. Calculating this number with any accuracy isn't straightforward, but one way is by using standard methods recommended by the European Commission's Eurostat division.

Eurostat gives an average length of tourist stay for Mallorca of 6.5 nights. From this, one can make an admittedly simplistic calculation as to the average number of tourists on any given day - 284,160, a figure which is remarkably similar to the total number of hotel places. Average hotel occupancy rates, though, were in the order of 90% last August, so there were getting on for 30,000 tourists who were not staying in hotels.

For once, and quite remarkably, I find myself agreeing with Carlos Delgado. He has said that the level of tourism accounted for by rented accommodation is 9%. His sidekick, Jaime Martínez, has elaborated on this and places the figure at between 9% and 12.4%. My simple figure is 10%, so we are in a similar ballpark, though none of us are saying how much is actually illegal.

These figures are a good deal lower than ones that have been claimed by others. At roughly 10% of total tourism, they are significant but they by no means represent the sort of competitive threat that the hoteliers keep claiming. The hoteliers would of course like to capture this 10%, but this is unrealistic, as tourists want a choice, and there are many who want anything other than a hotel. Moreover, there will be times when the total number of tourists is higher, while the number of hotel places that are registered is a number for maximum capacity. Not all hotels operate under conditions of maximum capacity; you can probably lop off a good 10% from the total 285k number in order to arrive at a real figure, meaning that, as has been said many times, there aren't, certainly in the height of summer, enough hotel places to go round.

The government's quoting of 9% is very interesting. In a way, because it isn't that high, it undermines some of its own rhetoric, and begs a question as to why there is such an almighty great fuss about rented accommodation and why the government is loathe to extend commercialisation rights to private apartments. It is also interesting to note that the government is shifting its arguments. But they aren't that strong. For instance, Martínez says that apartment rental threatens "co-existence" in apartment buildings and communities, ignoring the fact that the tenancy act permits rental of a non-commercial variety that might do just this. He is also ignoring the fact that communities can agree to there not being rentals which might otherwise disturb this co-existence.

He also says that permitting more rented accommodation would result in a saturation of resources and infrastructure. How can this possibly be the case? If a building is built, it is reasonable to assume that there are resources, otherwise why was the building built in the first place. And were the hotels to ever achieve the unlikely and to command maximum capacity with 100% occupancy, a similar saturation would occur.

Furthermore, Martínez argues that property prices would be pushed up (though the property market might also receive a boost), that there would not be quality standards as defined by the tourism law (well, impose them then) and that local authorities would lose their power to determine ratios of land for tourist accommodation (no they wouldn't because they have, in any event, to apply the quotas as agreed with the Council of Mallorca and could be given the right to deny licences).
From all this, I form the distinct impression that the government knows that it has been backed into a corner. It might have thought that its meeting the other day was the final word, but it most certainly wasn't. The arguments are now only really starting.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 23C
Forecast high: 30C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 2 to 3 increasing and backing Northeast 4.

Some grey cloud as well as brighter skies. Should clear to give a generally fine day, but the pattern isn't very settled just at the moment. Showers possible over the next few days.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 28.1C on a day when there were spots of rain this morning but when the sun came out and gave a pleasant enough day.

Mallorca's Queen Of Twitter

Joey Barton is not and never has been an important footballer. Joey might like to think that he is important, but because he isn't, he has compensated for his lack of importance by diversifying his considerable talents and becoming a fully paid-up member of the Twitterati. Joey (2,285,941 followers, as of time of writing) has a saying on his Twitter page: "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught". Joey didn't come up with this, Oscar Wilde did. Had Oscar lived in the day of Twitter, he would have had more followers than even Joey Barton.

Joey suffers from Twitterrhoea, a term I thought I had made up until Mr. Google informed me that I most certainly hadn't. Damn. I could have started a whole Twitter trending topic of my own. Not to worry. What about Compulsive Twitter Disorder? Nope, looks like someone beat me to this as well. I suppose one just has to accept that there is no such thing as originality any longer. There will always be somebody who has had the same thought and blasted it all over the Twittersphere and had it re-tweeted by fellow compulsives who are in desperate need of an immobilising Imodium palliative to relieve them of uncontrollable vowel movements (including consonants, a maximum of 140 characters).

Ana María Aguiló isn't Joey Barton. She has less than 0.1% of the number of Twitter followers that Joey has and yet she has been proclaimed the "queen of Twitter", not by me but by ... well, I'm not entirely sure. Just take it from me that she has been. Ana María is a deputy in the Balearics parliament. She is a member of the Partido Popular. She also so happens to be the government's spokesperson on education. Which brings us, sort of, to Oscar Wilde.

Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught might be a maxim with which Ana María agrees, so long as what is being taught is in Catalan and nothing but Catalan. Ana María is part of the militant Castellano-trilingualism wing of the PP, and it is this militancy that attracts much of the attention that she receives (from slightly fewer than 1,500 followers) through her allegedly monarchical Twitter status.

Ana María. She tweets, therefore she is. Tweet? She can't help herself. Here a tweet, there a tweet, everywhere a tweet, tweet. Yes, she really ought to get to know Joey, or at least follow him. Perhaps she does. Education is an admirable thing, now that the decree on the treatment of languages (trilingualism) has averted the crisis. This crisis being exactly? It was that of Catalan. So dominant had Catalan become that Castellano had been prohibited in Mallorca. Thus tweeted Queen Ana María of the Autonomous Community of the Twitter Islands.

But Castellano is no longer threatened, thanks to education being an admirable thing. The years of living in a virtual dictatorship of Catalan are over. When Ana María brought up the D-word and put it alongside the C-word, Twitter exploded. Or rather it suffered the effects of a small incendiary device.

Ana María's various indiscretions have seen her placed in a hall of infamy on something called Shamequotes. The Catalan dictatorship thing will probably be added to "teachers should be dismissed if they criticise the administration in class" and "I don't understand why, in the times we live, people who have jobs protest".

Neither of these quotes is actually that shameful. I don't agree with her on either of them but I can imagine that many people would. There will probably be many who also agree with her about having lived under a dictatorially Catalan yoke, but they might not have expressed it in such a way. For pretty obvious reasons, put the D and C-words together and you will get some Twittered volcanic activity.

Dictatorship no, but for some years there had been talk of "the Catalan imposition", one that the current government has sought to eradicate. But it has badly misjudged the sympathies of the people of Mallorca and the Balearics and has, as a consequence, badly mismanaged its language reforms. Queen Ana María, undeterred by this debacle, has been in a Twitter tiz that merely adds to the misjudgment.

There again, she gets what she wants. Publicity. And so she becomes the queen of Twitter. Ana María is not Joey Barton, but she shares his compulsion and fuels her own sense of importance through the viral tendencies of social media. Once upon a time, few would have known who she was and even fewer would have cared.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Royal Beach party in Playa de Muro leads to calls for resignations

A beach party held by the Royal Beach bar in Playa de Muro on Sunday has led to calls for the councillors for fiestas and tourism at Muro town hall to resign. The party, which started at midday, went on in to the early morning and there were complaints from other beach users as well as residents affected by noise, drinking and mess. The party had been supported by the town hall.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 20C
Forecast high: 29C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 3. Rain and storms.

Heavy weather during the early morning. Up to 50mm of rain in parts accompanied by thunder and lightning. The alert is still in place for more, but there should be an improvement later in the day. The "gota fria" has come early this year. It would normally not be until next month, although heavy storms in late August are by no means that unusual. The outlook for the rest of the week is fairly unsettled.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 27.6C, the sun having broken through surprisingly early this morning, given that the forecast was still pretty dire. Some darkish cloud formed later and there may have been the odd rumble of thunder but nothing of note.

The Non-Governing Tourism Ministry

Germà Ventayol is a columnist with "Ultima Hora". His column is entitled "Es Mussol". The owl. But mussol can also mean sty. Not a sty as in pigs but sty as in an  infection on the eyelid. Through the eyes of many, and not only the owl, there is an inflammation in Mallorca's tourism industry, for which treatment seems simple but which is anything but.

On Monday, Ventayol said this: "To prohibit the commercialisation of tourist rentals is a political suicide which I cannot believe that any (political) party with a minimum of common sense would commit".

Hallelujah. Perhaps I have criticised the local Spanish press too much. Ventayol is the latest local journalist to wade in against the regional government: "the armed wing of the hoteliers", as another one has described it.

The context of Ventayol's "political suicide" is rather different to the one in which the arguments regarding the tourist renting of private accommodation are typically placed. Renting of accommodation provides "the bread" from which many families in the Balearics live. It gives money which can help finance studies for their children or the care homes for their elders.

Ventayol is making a similar point to that which Toni Reus, the mayor of Santa Margalida, has made. Reus has defended the right of an owner to supplement income through property rental and has so taken issue with the government's attitude when it comes to apartments.

The government's response to both Ventayol and Reus would be that owners do have this right, as it exists under the tenancy act. It is an argument with which we are now very familiar but it is one that is of no use to anyone who wants to optimise a return on a property by advertising it as a tourist rental and, moreover, advertising it as such through channels that will enable optimisation. It is a specious argument and one that only succeeds in adding to confusion.

The story of the tourist rental of private accommodation has long been a matter of confusion. It shouldn't be, but it has been, and the government has encouraged this confusion. It has now added to this confusion by alluding to the potential for island councils to take matters into their own hands by regulating accommodation. The government will say that it is being fair by giving the councils the chance to regulate while at the same time being as selective as it always is in citing the tenancy act. It knows full well that the Council of Mallorca doesn't want to assume any responsibility for tourism matters, so therefore this council will not regulate.

Were another council (Menorca's being the only likely one) to regulate and so permit the tourist rental of apartments, the confusion would be aggravated. It would be an absurdity were one island to have different rules to another. It would be an absurdity brought about by an abrogation of responsibility by the tourism ministry to regulate for the whole of the Balearics, but this is an abrogation which is a consequence of the ministry being too scared to adopt a common sense approach. It may be political suicide to deny commercialisation but it would be political suicide to agree to it; the hoteliers would never forgive the Partido Popular.

Carlos Delgado hastily called a meeting in August, a month when important issues are never normally considered. It was a meeting without representatives from business sectors, without even the president of the Council of Menorca. Yet, Delgado claims there is consensus: one to do nothing other than to hold out an olive branch to the island councils, one of which - Ibiza's - agrees with him and another of which - Mallorca's - doesn't want any responsibility.

The government's disingenuousness and dissembling are staggering. It boasts that some 4,500 houses have been registered in the Balearics since the passing of the 2012 tourism act. Houses, yes, but why not apartments?

The reason why has its roots in the hotel boom of the 1990s which concentrated on building self-catering apartment hotels and which led to the 1999 tourism act, the one which first prohibited commercialisation of private apartments for tourist rental. Hotelier power and hotelier objections helped formulate tourism legislation then (they hadn't bargained on there having been a similar boom in private apartments for rent) and still do. The government can't admit this, because to do so would be to admit that it doesn't run the tourism industry.

Delgado's conveniently called meeting and cynically contrived consensus have merely inflamed further a situation over which it has so little control that it seeks to let the island councils decide for it. It is no way to run a tourism industry. Not that the government does.

Any comments to please.

Monday, August 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca crash to second defeat

Real Mallorca, fancied for promotion back to La Liga, suffered their second successive defeat of the new season yesterday, losing their first home match against Murcia 4-2, having been beaten away at Sabadell 4-0 on the opening day. Mallorca had been 3-0 down before recovering to 3-2 and then having Kevin unjustly sent off. Sporting director Serra Ferrer was the target for fans' anger, calls for his resignation being renewed after a defeat that puts Mallorca firmly at the bottom of the Second Division.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 21C
Forecast high: 29C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 backing East and Northeast from the afternoon. Rain and storms.

A storm was around earlier and there has been some rain. There may be more by way of both storms and rain today and there will be little by way of sun. The alert for bad weather is in place into tomorrow up until 18.00. The rest of the week will be better there will be cloud and just the possibility of a shower mixed with plenty of sun. Highs during the week of 30 degrees.

Evening update (19.00): Stormy all day and not much sun. The storms have been quite severe in parts of the island, though the northern area seems to have escaped the worst of them, while the rain in the north has varied in intensity, it having been relatively light in some areas. Still more to come, with the alert for bad weather remaining in place through until tomorrow evening. A high of 24.2C, slumping at times to lows just over 20 degrees.

No Money In Mallorca's Biomass

The irony is not lost. Mallorca imports waste from Europe and incinerates it at Son Reus. Italy, a country which sends its waste to Mallorca, creates clean energy using woody biomass that is exported from Mallorca.

In January last year I wrote about the potential to use biomass as part of a programme of renewable energy in Mallorca. The Balearic Government was talking about upping its renewables game by investing three million euros (not a huge amount) on renewables installations, an investment in accordance with a national government wish to raise the contribution of renewables to energy sources to 20% by 2020. Biomass was spoken of as one of these sources in Mallorca. Over 11,000 homes could be served by biomass energy, or so it was said.

The forests of Mallorca possess a great deal of biomass. They possess rather less than they did now that parts of the Tramuntana and the Llevant nature park have gone up in flames, but there is still a good deal to go round and to go to Italy.

Various reasons have been given as to why the Tramuntana fire spread as widely as it did. One of these was that the forest is not sufficiently well maintained, which means that the ground is not attended to well enough. It is littered with woody debris, which burns an absolute treat but which burns as a better treat when it is put to productive purpose. 

It is idealistic to believe that a renewable like biomass could be anything more than a small contributor to overall energy sources. It comes at a cost, and one cost is that of its gathering. But this doesn't seem to deter the operation which does gather biomass and which ships it for use in Sardinia where there is an altogether greater premium placed on ecological energy than there is in Mallorca. Indeed, there is an altogether greater commitment to producing clean energy in Italy than in Spain, despite what the government might say. And as the national government has cut support for renewables, then whatever commitment there was has been diminished.

Between them, Mallorca and Menorca exported 7,000 tons of biomass last year. Productive use in the Balearics stands at less than one out of every ten tons of biomass that is retrieved, and there are very few examples of productive use; one is in Sant Antoni in Ibiza. This is not a project operated by Tirme, the GESA-led coalition of companies that has a monopoly on waste management and recycling in Mallorca and which needed the waste imports to help pay for its Son Reus incineration plant. Tirme accept that biomass is highly adaptable as an energy source but that without governmental support, unlike in Italy, its cost is too great; collection and production would outstrip its return. It's not profitable, therefore.

Although the biomass in the mountain forests is a natural resource and one which, through its very nature, is free, it isn't of course free. The Tramuntana fire reminded everyone of the fact that vast areas of the mountains are in fact privately owned. This ownership came up as an issue when the mountain range was awarded its World Heritage status. It was all well and good talking about opening up the mountains to more tourism, but what about rights and permissions to access private land?

Criticisms of the regional government's environment ministry that the lack of forest maintenance contributed to the fire overlook what is a more complicated situation than simply saying that gangs of workers should be packed off into forests in order to clear the debris and the biomass. The complication comes, in part, because of ownership. These owners have, in turn, been criticised for themselves not having looked after their forests, but then what incentives do they have to do better? One could argue that they shouldn't need incentive and that they have a duty to maintain the forests properly, but this is too simplistic a view.

Were there a genuine incentive, i.e. in the form of payment for the biomass, then the forests might at least be in a better state and might be less vulnerable to devastating wildfires, but such payment needs balancing, and, or so it would seem, the use of this biomass is just not profitable.

It seems crazy that there are tons of a potential energy source lying around in Mallorca's forests doing nothing more than being ripe for adding fuel to fires. It seems crazy that, at a time when environmental concerns are being raised about the extension of a different energy source - the gas pipeline to Alcúdia's power station - that a more benign source is being neglected. But this is so often the story with renewables. They have much to offer but they don't make money.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourist found hanged in Magalluf

The Guardia Civil are investigating the death of a British tourist, aged around 20 years, who was found hanged near to the Hotel Vista Sol in Magalluf early yesterday morning. The body was discovered hanging from a tree in a park area on a night when there had been a huge fight in Punta Ballena after some French youths attacked a British tourist.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 3 to 4 veering Southeast 3. Swells from the north of between one and two metres.

Cloud that came in yesterday evening is dominating this morning, and there are alerts in place for rain and storms both today and tomorrow. So, a Sunday that won't be a day for picnics on the beaches.

Evening update (19.15): A high of 26.7C on a day of almost total cloud cover. Occasional sun but not much and one or two very light showers.

The Balearic Government's Guide To English

"Flesh on the tenterhooks." This was an introduction some years ago to the peerless standards of translation to be found in all walks of Mallorcan life. It was on the business card of a restaurant, you'll be relieved to learn. It should have said something like "tender meat on ..."; well I don't really know on what, but whatever it was, it wasn't tenterhooks.

Back then, and it wasn't so long ago, lousy translations could be dismissed patronisingly as being typical of stupid Johnny Foreigner. Or it could be considered quaint and so also patronising; oh, it just all adds to the charm, doesn't it.

Actually, it didn't add to the charm. It was embarrassing, and the embarrassment was heightened when one learnt from the poor restaurant owner that the print agency responsible for the cards claimed to be proficient at translations. He didn't know any better. Until someone, i.e. me, told him that flesh (as opposed to meat) in a state of anxiety or nervous anticipation was not the type of advertisement to get the punter beating a path to the restaurant door.

Though it wasn't so long ago, it was in the days before the Google and Bing double-act took to the internet stage, plugged in their machines and performed translations for a worldwide audience which hitherto had been deprived of language understanding. Literal language understanding. Which isn't the same as proper language understanding.

The Balearic Government wishes to educate the children and youth of the islands in three languages (one of them being English). Its attempts at introducing this trilingualism have been ham-fisted, but is it any wonder when one considers the government's own attempts at English (and German and French)?

If you have never looked at the government's website English pages, then I recommend that you do. There are hours of endless amusement to be had, many of them to be spent deciphering the English amidst the Catalan words that simply refuse to be translated. The government has, belatedly, realised just how useless some of this translation is. At the foot of some pages, there is a note in red lettering: "automatic translation, sorry for the inconvenience". As, for instance on the "beginning" page of the ministry of education, culture and universities, there is a menu item inviting "help improvement to us the web", we should all feel duty-bound to help improvement to them the web in order to remove the inconvenience caused by automatic translation.

Cheap is the only explanation for this inconvenience. Actually, it isn't even cheap. It's free. Some bright spark has taken Catalan text, shoved it into Google and come up with ... . Come up with what exactly? So bad has some of this been that the Ibanat division of the environment ministry has been forced to take down its English (and German and French pages) which give literal translations for some place names.

Why were they even bothering to give translations of place names anyway? A place name is a place name. It doesn't need to be translated. There again, the Spanish show a peculiar enthusiasm for translating proper names. Hence, for example, the British royal family has an Isabel, a Felipe, a Guillermo and an Enrique. The British, on the other hand, leave such names well alone. When have you ever mistook the King of Spain for a one-time Leeds United footballer? You haven't. John Charles is not the King of Spain.

But, seemingly believing that proper names should be translated, Ibanat informed us as to the existence of, among other places, "Sleep Fortuny (sic)", "The House of Him Share-Cropper" and "Him Broken Bridge", the latter of which sounds like it was Tonto giving the Lone Ranger instructions.

Overseeing the drive towards trilingualism is Juana María Camps Bosch, now the minister for education. The people of the Balearics can have full confidence in Juana María's ability to drive this trilingualism. Just read the following. I need say no more.

"Juana María Camps Bosch (Citadel, 1965), was a general director of Work and Work Health of the Government of the Balearic Islands. She/It is discharged in law/right for the University of the Balearic Islands and estate agent, and since 1990 until June of 2011 he/she/it practised as lawyer in its/his/her/their office in Ciutadella. 
Between 1991 and 1999 it/he/she occupied several charges/posts in the Town Council of Ciutadella; in particular, she was lieutenant of batle of Treasury, Staff and Police and lieutenant of batle of Treasury. 
During these two years of legislature as a general director of Work and Work Health, it/he/she has promoted the relation|relationship with the social agents of the Islands; because of that, in November 2012 it constituted the Tripartite Social Board, formed by the Government, the employers and the unions, that he/she/it erects itself/himself/herself as/like the central organ of institutional participation/shareholding in the area of the Administration economic|economical and occupational of the Autonomous Community of the Balearic Islands, which/who substitutes the ancient|antique Board of Social Dialog. 
One of the most important successes of this legislature has been the implantation of the allowance in the foreseen Social Security for the companies dedicated to the touristic activities, to advance towards the desestacionalització of the economy/economics of the Islands. Thus, the touristic companies and the trades linked to the hotel business that discontinuous permanent workers have hired the months of March and November have been able to resort to this initiative. 
Juana María Camps has had the reduction in the work loss like one of the priorities. Because of that, it/he/she started off a campaign of work risks prevention, which includes numerous initiatives in this area, among/between which one specific almost for 600 companies of more than ten workers with a loss ratio superior/upper to the average of its/his/her/their sector, he/she/it col ·' laboració with the benefit societies of work and Inspection of Work. In 2012 the industrial accidents in the Balears brought one 17,8 down in relation to the former year and the lower figure of accidents was attained since 2004. On the other hand, Camps exercised/exerted its/his/her/their task of intermediation with success, with which it/he/she contributed to avoiding conflicts in the areas of the hotel business, the cleaning or the discretionary transport."

Any comments to please.

(Automatic translation, sorry for the inconvenience).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 21C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South and Southeast 2 to 3 increasing and backing East and Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning.

Starting out bright but cloud likely to build up later in the day and hanging on over the next couple of days, bringing the possibility of the odd shower.


The Sham Of Consensus: Holiday lets

So there we were, thinking that the Balearic Government's tourism ministry had seen the light and were about to announce some relaxation in rules regarding the renting of private apartments for tourist purposes. A consensus was being sought with town halls and the islands' councils. The meeting was planned to last only one hour, suggesting that the ministry had already come to a decision. It seemed promising, but it did of course prove to be nothing of the sort. Consensus? Not when you've already made your mind up.

Carlos Delgado, the tourism minister, argues that the 2012 tourism law has already relaxed the situation regarding private accommodation rental. He's right. It has in that it has been possible to register more houses for rental than was previously the case. But not apartments. These remain outside the law if they are being commercialised, e.g. advertised via websites as tourist accommodation. He says, and he is right, that the tenancy act allows the rental of accommodation just so long as it isn't commercialised, which is a fat lot of use for those who need to be able to advertise.

Claiming that there is a consensus is simply untrue. For a kick-off, this is not a consensus that has involved discussion with business sectors (other than the hoteliers). Secondly, of the islands' councils, Menorca's president wasn't at the meeting; Menorca had, prior to the passing of the tourism law in 2012, been pressing for a more tolerant approach. Thirdly, it is known that there are municipalities in Mallorca where the mayors do not agree with the government - Pollensa, Manacor, Santa Margalida, Andratx.

Delgado says that the island councils will be able, if they wish, to make some changes to regulation. This is because they are to be given responsibility for tourism promotion. But tourism promotion does not mean tourism accommodation. It means what is says - promotion. That is what is contained in the statute of autonomy. What would be required would be a change to islands' land plans, and these, as anyone can tell you, take years to work through the political bureaucracy, are altered when a new government comes in, are then re-altered, are blocked by legal challenges. Nothing, therefore, is likely to change, even if an individual island council wanted change. Menorca might, but it is unique. Ibiza is against change, while as for Mallorca, well the president of its council doesn't want any responsibility for tourism promotion.

Moreover, the notion of one island opting to regulate in a different way to others has in-built failure written all over it. To administer a separate regulation would require resources, which the councils do not have. A way of setting a budget would be through funding allocation via the cross-island commission (it is going to have to look at how funding for tourism promotion is decided), but if you have islands against change and another in favour, there is a recipe for failure.

If tourism promotion is being held up as the potential way out, then one now sees Salom's objection in a very different light. Was she pre-warned of this? Doubtless, she would deny it, but as she doesn't want the council to have responsibility, then it stays with the regional government. It all sounds a bit convenient and a means of avoiding conflict with the big guns of some business sectors.

Delgado's announcement is a total sham. He is talking rubbish, and he knows he is. As usual, people are being taken as idiots. Well, let's find out who the idiots are when or if tourism declines because apartments are taken off the market. It's a disgrace.

Any comments to please.

Friday, August 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - No change to Balearics tourism law on private apartments

The meeting between the tourism ministry and local government officials has ended with a decision to make no change to the current situation as it pertains to the rental of private accommodation for tourist purposes. This, it would seem, is the consensus of opinion that the ministry had been angling for.

The tourism minister Carlos Delgado says there is no need for a change as there has been more registration of private property since the 2012 tourism law was introduced, but this does not include apartments which remain, from point of view of commercialisation, illegal. There is the possibility that individual island councils, now being given responsibility for tourism promotion, can introduce their own regulations. However, Ibiza is against this while Menorca's council president didn't attend the meeting and Mallorca's president, Maria Salom, doesn't want this responsibility.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics tourism tops two million visitors for first time in July

The number of tourists who came to the Balearics during July topped the two million figure for the first time ever this year, according to statistics from the national survey of inbound tourism. The Balearics have seen the second highest increase in tourist numbers in the first seven months of the year behind Valencia, with UK tourists leading the way in swelling July's numbers nationally.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearic Goverment wants consensus re tourist apartment regulation

The meeting today between the tourism minister and local government officials to discuss moves to regulate tourist apartments that are currently considered to be illegal in the Balearics will only be a short one. An interpretation of this one-hour meeting is that the government has already decided on a course of action, which may involve an amendment of the 2012 Tourism Law.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 32C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3 backing during the central part of the day East 3 and 4 at intervals.

More of the same, daytime temperatures up a little bit over the past few days. Sunday, though, is looking as though it may not be a beach-picnic day with cloud and the possibility of rain.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 31.3C. Sunday and Monday are both looking a little bit dodgier now.

Islands Of Tourism Promotion

Article 30, item 11 of the Balearics statute of autonomy grants the islands' autonomous community exclusive competence in respect of tourism, namely organisation and planning of the tourism sector, tourism promotion, tourist information, tourist offices overseas, the regulation and classification of tourist establishment businesses and the regulation of public means of support for tourism promotion.

Chapter Five of the same statute deals with the councils in the Balearic Islands, and Article 70 addresses their own competences (or responsibilities). Item three of this article refers to "tourist information" and "tourist organisation and promotion". This is all it says. It doesn't explain this information, organisation or promotion, but it is this item which led President Bauzá to agree at a meeting of island presidents at the end of April to the transfer of tourism promotion responsibilities to the island councils.

Bauzá said that he was complying with the provisions of Article 70 and with a desire to eliminate duplication of responsibilities. This justification seemed somewhat strange, in Mallorca at any rate. Tourism promotion, indeed anything to do with tourism, had been taken from the Council of Mallorca as a means of cutting cost and eliminating duplication, but here, only eighteen months after this had been done, it was being handed back again.

The Council of Mallorca's president, Maria Salom, has said that she doesn't want to have the responsibility back. Her justification is the cost, but the first stage of the official process to transfer responsibilities has been started.

The Esquerra Unida (United Left) has taken issue with Salom's stance. It accuses her of using funding problems to cover up her opposition to the decentralisation of responsibilities. This is a familiar theme. The Partido Popular is branded as being centralist, while the broad left in Mallorca (except PSOE) has, in the past, agitated for all responsibilities for tourism to be handed over to the council.

While it is sensible that individual islands should have a say in tourism promotion, why does this necessitate the islands' councils having this responsibility? The Balearics Tourism Agency (ATB) is the organisation which currently looks after all promotion. It doesn't have, as is well known, a vast budget for tourism promotion at present. Transferring responsibilities away from the agency will require looking at how this small budget is to be allocated. As the agency will continue to take care of promotional activities for the Balearics as a whole, the transfer of responsibilities sounds like a recipe for a return to duplication of effort and one also for a watering-down of all promotional efforts because resources will be spread too thinly.

Ibiza has been the island that has been the keenest to have this responsibility, and Ibiza has been an island where Bauzá has encountered a few problems with his own party. There may well, therefore, be a touch of self-preservation about the transfer of responsibilities, but what really seemed to push Bauzá into what he said was a promise to effect this transfer was what happened at various travel fairs over last winter. Ibiza was joined by Menorca in demonstrating opposition to the way that promotion was being handled. Ibiza arranged for its own stand and, at the fair in Madrid, the Menorcans threatened tourism minister Carlos Delgado with doing the same. One thing that had really got the goat of the Ibizans and the Menorcans was that Palma was being treated as a "fifth island".

At the time of the April announcement, it was intimated that the four presidents of the islands' councils, including therefore Maria Salom, "celebrated" the decision because it was a "political compromise". Salom's "celebration" may also have been a bit of politicking, one for show and for unity. She soon changed her tune, though in fact she probably hadn't changed it all; she was, after all, the one who, in August 2011, had got shot of tourism promotion responsibility and handed it over to the regional government.

Salom is joined in her opposition to this latest transfer of responsibilities by the hoteliers. They argue that co-ordinated promotion is essential because the islands' markets are the same. This is true, but each island does have its own identity and so therefore its own marketing message, and this could be developed within the framework of the ATB. The Council of Mallorca has, for example, been discussing the creation of a specific Mallorcan "brand" with the agency.

The statute of autonomy has led to duplication and conflicts. There is no reason to believe that by transferring power these will be eliminated. The agency should be left to get on with promoting the individual islands with what little budget there is.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Government opens dialogue regarding private tourist accommodation

The pressure applied from various business sectors appears to have had some effect. The regional government tourism minister, Carlos Delgado, is to meet tomorrow with representatives of the islands' councils, town halls and the federation of local authorities to counsel views about the renting of private apartments as tourist accommodation, which is currently prohibited under Balearics law.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Alarm over tar on Mallorca's beaches

There is increasing anger because of regional government silence regarding recent appearances of tar on different beaches around Mallorca. These have included beaches in Can Picafort, Mal Pas in Alcúdia as well as in the south-east of the island. Urgent action is being called for to establish the origin of the spills (which have only been small), one source believed to have been a boat that was cleaning tanks by Colonia Sant Pere.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Cala Torta fire believed to have been intentional

The Guardia Civil and the Balearics Nature Institute believe that the fire that claimed over 450 hectares near Cala Torta in Artà was started deliberately. The source of the fire is said to be the same as previous fires in the areas, including that of 1992 which, until the recent Andratx fire had been the worst registered on Mallorca.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 20C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 increasing East and Northeast 3 and veering Southeast by the evening.

Calm, sunny morning. Another summer day, another sunny day. Quite mild overnight now.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 32.2C inland and two degrees lower on the coast.

Jaume Matas On Tour - Summer 2013

They should be selling T-shirts for Jaume, the comeback tour. Puerto Alcúdia, Sóller, Palma. Live at the Bistro Mar in the Alcudiamar, see Jaume eat some fish with a bloke from Telefonica. Sóller, witness Jaume with friends on his personally hired train carriage. Palma, on the Paseo Marítimo for more to eat with his old support act José Maria Rodríguez. In a summer of entertainment, no one entertains as well as Jaume. What does he do for an encore?

A man can have lunch, even a former president of the Balearics, but there is lunch and there is lunch and there is appearance and there is appearance. A man can have lunch, but does this man have no shame? It would seem not. Oh well, one trusts that the various political miscreants who weren't so lucky with m'lud's sentencing and who are having to make do with porridge instead are pleased to see that Jaume is enjoying such a summer of walkabout and of fine dining.

Unseemly is a way of describing the Matas summer roadshow. The Bistro Mar gig wasn't that bad in that his dining partner was only the former president of Valencia and now a colossally well paid senior manager with Telefonica, but in Sóller, the town's mayor, Carlos Simarro, appeared to think that Matas was paying an official visit. Jaume and José María may make a habit of breaking bread with each other during the summer, but José Mariá is that José María who made the phone call to Andratx's one-time mayor Hidalgo, soon after which documents began to be shredded, and the same one who was indicted over allegations of illegal financing of the Partido Popular and who, as a result, was removed from his post as government delegate for the Balearics.

But what to make of Jaume's jaunts these past few weeks? Was he angling for a job with Telefonica? He might have been but you would hope that Telefonica, one-time employer of Urdangarin, wouldn't put Matas on the payroll. Perhaps he just needed to have something to eat with someone who would have no problem picking up the tab. Wasn't Matas meant to have been reduced to virtual penury? Who knows who paid for the hire of a carriage on the Sóller train, an act of exclusivity that not even Felipe and Letizia engaged in last year when they went for a trip with the kids. There again, Matas turning up in Sóller was clearly like royalty paying another visit; Simarro seemed to believe so, at any rate. As for the meal with José María, Matas's lunch date from last year as well, the conversation was doubtless reserved for nothing more serious than the weather.

There is, though, a different way of looking at the Matas manoeuvres, as manoeuvres may be exactly what they are. Despite his still facing other charges which could yet see him in chokey and despite his having been totally discredited in the eyes of most of the populace, Matas would appear to harbour ambitions of a return to politics. Astonishing though this may seem, it is less astonishing when one appreciates just how great the rifts are in the Balearics PP. President Bauzá has opponents not only among the moderate, more Catalanist wing of the party, he also has rivals among the older guard, of whom Matas and Rodríguez are very much a part. This old guard tends to support Matas in his antagonism towards Bauzá who has shown him no support during his travails.

Whatever one thinks of Bauzá, he has at least tried to clean up the PP's act, his own difficulties in respect of his business affairs notwithstanding. He was clearly relieved when Rodríguez had to quit as government delegate, as his original appointment could only have been one intended to keep the old guard reasonably sweet. But he has confronted, as he would have known, the power of old friends, some of whom seem intent now on reasserting their power or at least demonstrating that they exert some; hence, Matas and his summer tour. It hasn't simply been a case of a few nice days out. It has been a reminder that he, Matas, is still around. It is a shameless performance, one typical of a politician who shows so little humility and so little remorse but rather enormous vanity, enormous ego and enormous and misguided superiority displayed towards Bauzá and the people of the Balearics. Jaume, the summer tour; don't anyone buy the T-shirt.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - A hundred people evacuated because of Cala Torta fire

A fire that broke out in the Llevant nature park near to Cala Torta in Artà forced the evacuation of 100 people last night. The fire started around 10pm and 60 operatives worked through the night to try and control it, air firefighting assistance being brought in this morning. Some 450 hectares are said to have been affected.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 23C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 4 increasing 5 at intervals and easing by the evening to 3.

Bright, sunny morning. Bright, sunny day. The outlook is fine into the weekend though there may be a build-up of cloud with a small risk of a shower.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 30.3C. Nice day.

Joan March And The Gibraltar Smuggling Connection

There are few more controversial figures in Mallorca's history than Joan March. This son of Santa Margalida has been all but officially disavowed by the town; airbrushed from the past. Yet, March's name is to be found close to the town hall building outside a different building - a bank. He founded the Banca March and founded a dynasty that has made his family one of the richest in the world.

March arouses controversy for different reasons. His initial wealth came from smuggling tobacco and from dealing on the black market during the First World War. He was to become closely associated with Franco. He died in what are still questionable circumstances; was the car crash in which he lost his life in 1962 really an accident?

March was well known before he acquired the tag "Franco's banker". His fame or notoriety was such that in the edition of the "ABC" newspaper for 5 November, 1933 there was a full-page report based on an interview with him that had been conducted by journalists in Algeciras. The interview had been done by phone. March was in Gibraltar. He had sought a safe haven because he was on the run, having bribed his way out of prison. His crime? His various illegal dealings; he had been convicted of smuggling, tax fraud and bribery. In the year after "ABC" conducted its interview (March was staying at the Rock Hotel before, with British assistance, going to Paris), a book came out which explored his nefarious activities; it was called "The Last Pirate in the Mediterranean".

March was not unfamiliar with Gibraltar or with parts of Spain near to it. In 1928, he bought a considerable amount of land just up the coast from Gibraltar. It was to become Sotogrande, which is now the largest privately owned residential development in Andalusia and summer residence for some of Spain's richest and most powerful families. At the time, it was an area that required cultivation and development. March entrusted this development to farming families from Campos and Ses Salines. Raimundo Burguera was from one of these families. He became March's right-hand man and was one of those who helped him to escape from prison.

The story of these Mallorcan families is told in a recently published book by the professors Margalida Juan Taberner and Honorat Bauçà Roig. Its title is "El Tesorillo, the Mallorcans in the footsteps of March"; El Tesorillo was the name of the land and there is now what is known as an autonomous local entity - San Martin del Tesorillo - not far from Sotogrande. The book is full of murder, intrigue and betrayal, but a couple of questions arise from this story. One is why did March ship a load of Mallorcans over to what was inhospitable land in Andalusia, and the second, more crucially, was why did he acquire the land in the first place.

The answer to the first question lies partly in the vastly greater agricultural skills of Mallorcan farmers but also in the emphasis that March placed on loyalty. He thus displayed a trait that is key to understanding current-day Mallorca. There is a premium on loyalty, which may be no bad thing, but it can lead to things that aren't so good, such as nepotism, corruption or, back in March's day, rather worse. As to why he bought the land, a reason was so that there was a base for doing business with northern Africa and with Gibraltar. Not all of this business was dodgy, but a good deal of it was. The farms that were created at El Tesorillo were the cover for smuggling that continued after the Civil War and which was conducted with March's express wish. Burguera was crucial in all this as he spoke French, which was of course widely spoken in northern Africa.

The extent to which Gibraltar actually figured in this smuggling is probably open to guesswork, but Burguera, who was married to a Panamanian woman, was, astonishingly enough, made Panama's consul in Lisbon. This gave him diplomatic immunity. He could go, more or less, where he wanted to. Or where March wanted him to go.

At a time when the current arguments about Gibraltar raise issues to do with smuggling and loss of tax revenues for the Spanish Government, it is perhaps worth recalling that tobacco smuggling has gone on for centuries and that one of the biggest smugglers of all had a perfect base just along the coast from Gibraltar: Joan March, the banker who was given refuge by the British in Gibraltar, the banker who helped fund Franco and who did so with the ill-gotten gains of smuggling from the southern tip of Spain.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 23C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5 easing North 3 to 4 from the afternoon. Swells to two metres.

Slight sound of sea turbulence, the report for sea conditions confirming there is a bit of roughness with quite stiff northerlies prevailing. Otherwise, sunny all day and staying sunny through the week. 

Evening update (20.00): A high of 29.2C on a day with rather more cloud than had been expected.

Unbelievable Remedies: Magalluf

Incidents centred on Magalluf's Punta Ballena have decreased considerably. Thus spake a newspaper report of 15 August. "Great evils" require "grand remedies", it was said. These great evils were implied rather than defined and they were hyperbole; the committing of great evils in modern-day Mallorca is a rare occurrence.

But never let it be said that exaggerated words cannot exaggerate situations. This is why there is such a thing as exaggeration. Its purpose is distortion or disproportion. From great evils do grand or great remedies come. The greater the evil, the grander the remedy and so therefore the greater the rejoicing at deliverance from evil.

The grand remedies (equally disproportionate insofar as there can be such a thing as an equal measure of disproportion) can be counted. Counted on fewer than the total number of fingers on both hands. Take away the thumbs and you have the numerical value of the remedies. Eight. Eight local police officers. The magnificent seven plus one. Incidents have decreased considerably.

It would be nice to believe that Punta Ballena has been or is being delivered from evil. Or evils. Nice to believe, but there are plenty of unbelievers. Decreased considerably? Depends. The report's evils were related to the great drunken unwashed. The lesser of evils in that remedies are less grand. They don't have to be super-grand where youthful tourists who are off their faces are concerned. It is, nevertheless, reasonable to ask why the not so grand remedy of a few more cops to tackle the lagering, Jägerbombing, shot-shooting, laughing-gassing invasion force took as long as it did to occur to anyone. Not, or so it would seem, that the eight make a great deal of difference. Despite what the considerable-decrease report suggests to the contrary.

Four days before this report, Javier Pierotti posted again on his "Magaluf Caos" blog. His video with this post was as troubling as the one he had originally posted of a driver trapped by a mob along the strip. It would take far too long to summarise what Javier said in his entry for 11 August, but if you go to the bottom of it, you will see that, in addition to Calvia town hall, he has sent his complaint to television and other media organisations in Spain as well as to the Spanish Government, the Interior Ministry, police agencies, the regional government in the Balearics, the courts in Palma, the Attorney-General, the British Consulate and the Complaints Office of the European Community.

Four days later came the report in the local press. Not about Javier's complaint but about incidents having decreased considerably, a considerable decrease that appears at variance with what is being said by those who aren't in positions of authority. The considerable-decrease report, moreover, did not mention the problems of prostitutes, looky-looky men and violence. There are plenty of people who have mentioned them. Before and since the report of 15 August. Are these the greater evils; greater because they go un-decreased?

Javier Pierotti does not seek to attach blame to the local police. Others do. It is wise that I don't repeat some of the things said on social media, but from what is said, there is clear frustration and anger in Magalluf. The police are one target for this discontent but the greater one is the body politic, in particular that which, to paraphrase some of the sentiments, lies inert in a bunker in Calvia.

What happens in Mallorca stays in Mallorca. It's a ridiculous saying because nothing can stay in Mallorca any longer. The reactions to Stacey Dooley (and to "Bild" on Playa de Palma) were absurd for various reasons, one of which was that they neglected the fact that conventional media are only one part of the story. Through social media, nothing stays in Mallorca. Regular on-the-spot reports by those who have not taken the media shilling and who have no axe to grind other than that they have had it with all the problems are constantly reinforced and added to: hourly, daily, weekly. They too can be prone to exaggeration or distortion. They can be and often are far more accusatory than conventional media. There may be exaggerations, but why would people who work and live in Magalluf invent things? They stand to lose, which is why they draw attention to what they see as inertia and indifference. And why when, four days after Javier Pierotti* posted that he had notified who he had notified, the report of incidents decreasing considerably was greeted with disbelief.


Any comments to please.

Monday, August 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 2 to 3 backing and increasing Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning.

Pockets of mist this morning on an otherwise glorious August day, yesterday's brief storm having made no obvious difference to the weather pattern and no great impression other than lightning strikes which set fire to the mountain above Alcúdia and to a small part of the s'Albufereta. The outlook remains unaltered: sun and temperatures around 30 degrees.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 32.3C. Still hot then.

The Matrix Of Tourism Totalitarianism

The matrix is a tool beloved of consultants. So beloved has it been that whole consultancy businesses have been built on the wisdom and truths to be found in a matrix, despite its being so apparently simple. The product life cycle matrix, the SWOT matrix, the growth-share (aka cash cow, dogs etc.) matrix; each of them can be made matrix as four squares in a bigger square.

Simplicity does, though, conceal complexity, and this complexity stems from diversity and seemingly endless permutations. The four-square matrix has become a Rubik's Cube, a three-dimensional polyhedron of shifting properties. It creates more questions than answers, but the conundrums that it poses do not mean that the questions should be ignored. There are truths and there is wisdom, if only you know which twists to make.

Before it was devoured by its role as a front for the diversion of public funds (some of these funds provided, therefore, by a diverse tourism population), the Inestur division within the Balearics tourism ministry existed for the purposes of researching the tourism industry and abetting strategic planning. Now, I am unsure as to how research is organised, if at all, but if it is, then it should be making use of the matrix, a highly diverse and complex matrix with numerous permutations. But I fear that the ministry wouldn't see it this way, as it sees tourism as being essentially one-dimensional. There is no depth to its tourism vision. Only the surface. And it is a one-dimensionality defined in one word - hotel.

A further tool that is beloved of consultants is in fact a whole tool box comprising the means to dissect markets and customers. Profiling, segmentation, niching, any number of concepts that end with the suffix "graphics"; these all point to complexity but all hint at truths to be discovered.

If you were to set yourself the task of creating a matrix to include all possible variables as they apply to Mallorca's tourism, it would take you a fair old time. But it could be done. It wouldn't be as difficult as it might sound. These variables should be obvious. There would be those that deal with hard facts: age, gender, country of origin and so on. There would also be those which are intangibles - lifestyles, aspirations, for instance. Space would need to be found for locations - from the sardine-packed beaches of Playa de Palma to secluded coves to rural settings. And there would also need to be a place for accommodation, all types of accommodation.

Once you had completed your task, your matrix would reveal not just these variables in isolation but also their correlations - the seemingly endless permutations of an industry whose properties, far from remaining static, are in a constant state of movement. And when you look closely at these permutations, you would find some truths, those exposed by what appears to be missing or which are treated with disregard or hostility.

This, however, assumes you would be open-minded enough to admit that there may be things missing. If you operate your tourism along genuinely free-market lines, then your mind will be open. If, on the other hand, you adopt an authoritarian or totalitarian attitude, you will not. Free markets are anathema to the one-eyed, one-dimensional control freakery of authoritarianism or totalitarianism, except to the extent that strictly controlled free markets (an oxymoron) are defined by limits deemed acceptable and in accordance with ideological dogma. The result of this is that customers and markets are not granted primacy. Rather than free, both are herded into the concentration camps.

An extraordinary thing happened yesterday. I read an article in the Spanish press that attacked the dominance of hotels and which described the regional government as the armed wing of the hoteliers. It went on to refer not to the general tourism law but to the Franco general tourism law. It was extraordinary because it was unexpected and also because I, quite separately, had been forming the idea of tourism totalitarianism, i.e. a way of describing the hostility shown towards private accommodation for holiday rental and so therefore its non-appearance as a truth in any sensible and complete matrix of Mallorca's tourism industry and strategy. 

The regional government stands accused of an ideological tourism totalitarianism, of a market monopolization and of abusive disregard for a significant segment of the island's customers and of the wider economy. The complexity of the matrix really isn't so complex. It is very simple. But either because of wilfulness or intellectual vacuity, the government cannot and will not appreciate this simplicity.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 2 to 3 increasing East and Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning. Chance of storm.

Pleasant, sunny morning, but there is a risk of a storm up until the middle of the afternoon. No sign of one at present. The forecast for the week is sun and temperatures staying around the 30 mark or a touch higher. 

Evening update (19.15): The cloud built up from around one o'clock on and gradually got heavier, resulting in thunder and lightning around the area and some heavy rain in some parts but not others. The sun was quick to return. A high of 31.6C.

The Soft Machine Of Deià

When music acts have named themselves after books, characters in books or just ideas in books, they have typically erred on the side of the macabre, the bizarre or the violent. Belle & Sebastian are an example of "nice" naming (a French story for children) but are unusual. As for others: Heaven 17 came from Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange"; Joy Division was described in the "House of Dolls" by Ka-tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel Feiner), a story of Jewish women kept for prostitution in Nazi concentration camps; The Velvet Underground took their name from Michael Leigh's book about paraphilia (sadomasochism, zoophilia, paedophilia).

William Burroughs didn't inspire the name of only one significant band. Two, at least, stand out. The Soft Machine and Steely Dan. The latter was a strap-on dildo in the drug-influenced and addled "Naked Lunch". "The Soft Machine" referred to the human body. The book was as weird as its naked predecessor. Drug abuse as a disease, secret agents, Mayan calendars, it was a bad trip of a novel, one that had been written some years before tripping became de rigueur for hippy culture but one, as a consequence of its tripped-out and hallucinatory imagery and peculiar structure that bordered on incoherence, became as identifiable with psychedelia as did the group that named itself after the book.

Kevin Ayers was a founder of The Soft Machine. He was with the band for two years. He left and, in the opinion of many, squandered a career that, with a talent as great as his, should have been stellar. But stellar, as in star, i.e. being a star, was an alien concept to Ayers. He didn't turn his back on fame and wealth through going mad, as was the case with contemporaries Peter Green and Syd Barrett, so much as he couldn't really be bothered. He wasn't interested in being a huge name, but equally he often displayed a lack of interest in what was his chosen career. Instead, he made a career out of remaining a hippy, disregarding convention in the pursuit of hedonism, much of it to be enjoyed in sunny Mediterranean climes, notably that of Mallorca.

Ayers' association with Deià helped to give this small town in the Tramuntana a reputation that it has never shed. Nowadays, this reputation is hippy-chic, a magnet for dippy chicks like Kate Moss. It was a reputation for faux-hippydom, capitalist-sell-out-to-the-man hippydom, that was enhanced when the fakest of fake hippies and so therefore the greatest of all fake-hippy entrepreneurs, Richard Branson, established La Residencia. Branson, despite the beard and very much longer locks that he sported at the turn of the 1970s, was a hippy exploiter supreme. He was never a hippy himself or anything remotely like one, other than in appearance, but he knew that the "heads" would hand over good money for "sounds" that were far removed from The Archies, Lulu or The Tremeloes, even if these sounds should never have been allowed near a recording studio, let alone the headphones of the original Virgin store above the shoe shop on Oxford Street. And among these sounds, of course, was Kevin Ayers and The Soft Machine.

Ayers left The Soft Machine, and he was right to have done so. This was a time, 1968, of enormous musical experimentation and the revisionist view of this period tends to eulogise the output of many of its exponents. Some deserve the praise, as they deserved it at the time. Pink Floyd were groundbreaking but also never anything other than interesting, engaging and simply good. The Soft Machine, on the other hand, were turgid, self-indulgent and tedious. Ayers had more to offer than hour-long, organ-led dirges. He was, to use a cliché, a musician's musician, who could surround himself with the likes of Brian Eno and The Velvet Undeground's John Cale, but he only ever did so much. He was hippy personified and he always kept his integrity. He was, in a way, "The Soft Machine" personified; the taking over of the body by outside controlling influences.

There was a ceremony in Deià the other evening to honour Ayers, who died earlier this year. It was a charming, gentle and rather lovely event. Here was a tribute to a musician who eschewed the trappings of fame and appeared to do everything he could in order to ensure that he did but who, probably because of this rejection, enjoyed an affection reserved for few others. Ayers' music world was not the thrusting dominance of an industry brandishing a brazen steely dan. It was a world far removed from this machine and the demands of its production line and of its manufacture. His world was one made from an altogether different machine, a very much softer one.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 2 to 3 increasing 3 to 4 during the day.

Some cloud this morning and it may persist during the day. Otherwise, should be plenty of sun and - of course - heat. Temperatures likely to rise a bit next week.

Evening update (20.45): A high of 30.4C. More cloud rolled in later in the afternoon. There is a risk of a storm either overnight or tomorrow.

Born To Run: Springsteen on a boat

The south-west Surrey music scene of the mid to late 1970s reflected a cultural mix of the council estate, the leafiness of suburbia and the background presence of the British Army plus white-boy soul tinged later by the mohair and pins of punk and the walking bass and chunking guitar of ska and reggae. If Paul Weller was the Woking working-class hero, JC, the member of The Members (the line-up once they acquired some fame) who I knew best, was a middle-class magpie of influences, taking from here, taking from there. The Members' "Sound of the Suburbs", replete with the Staines railway station announcement, was a brilliantly anthemic punk to post-punk dissection of the monotony and mundaneness of suburban life. Its reference points were ones with which we were all too familiar.

JC, so the story goes, met Graham Parker in the Three Mariners pub in Bagshot. It's a believable story, as I can believe that I might have been there. Graham was older than everyone else, and his influences reflected a greater worldliness than most of us could boast. It might not have been at the Mariners that he told me who these influences were, but it could well have been. And one of them stood out. An artist who was still relatively unknown but who would soon not be. Bruce Springsteen.

From the distance of years, it can be hard to appreciate how certain artists and bands took popular music by the throat and shook it with ever-increasing rattle and roll intensity. Springsteen was one such artist. Now and then, Messianic performers emerged with barely any warning. Springsteen smashed down walls plastered with posters of pomp and teenybop, but this assault was soon forgotten and the destroyers of the old guard were instead hailed from among the spitters, the rippers, the bin-liners of punk. 

Springsteen shone brightly but ultimately, though he had once blinded us all by the light, the light dimmed. Springsteen, forever "Born To Run", was long ago reduced to a middle-aged jog. Like predecessors (and successors) who appeared on tops of mountains and dispensed shibboleths of godlike truths to a music world wallowing in the shallows of irrelevance and self-regard, he became mortal, and mortality, where popular music is concerned, means being consumed by the irrelevance that had once been shattered.

I don't want old rock stars. I want the old rock stars to still be young rock stars. They mean nothing now that they are old. They assume parodical status and appearance. Paul McCartney, dyed hair and lined face with more than a hint of a lift, looking like the queens who would once flounce along Saint Martin's Lane and eye up boys for potential rent. Mick Jagger, his mouth having assumed such a gargantuan size that it has cracked his face into many parts. Keith Richards, plugged into the mains each morning, and volts into the lobe to activate the vocal chords.

Springsteen has been in Mallorca. Sort of. He has been on a yacht, a super yacht. David Geffen's "Rising Sun". It has been cruising around the island, Springsteen materialising from time to time, looking, through the long lens of the paps, as if he could be anyone trying his hand at paddle surf. Geffen has his own place in music history, one alongside Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell, a group and a singer who were once there on the summits calling from the gods with Springsteen and others who are now relics; those who have survived, at any rate.

We hold on to this past, this old celebrity. Or at least, when this past and old celebrity drifts across the Mediterranean into the view of a Mallorcan lens, we recapture it. Well, some may do. Bruce, I hope you have been having a nice time, but I'm really not interested.

And as the "Rising Sun" heads away from Mallorca, the sight of the island fading in the distance in the eyes of a faded rock star, we wonder - I wonder - if this was always as it was going to be. There are few larger motor yachts in the world. Few, therefore, that can be more expensive. "Born To Run" or born to float in luxury.

There are those, if they were perfectly honest, who would do the same. Not all perhaps. Weller has retained a modicum of the real world; more than a modicum  probably. But what of others? JC reformed The Members a while back. He has done film music, but the heady days of the Chelsea Nightclub are a dim memory. Graham? He's still playing in the US, having remained true to his musical roots. Still singing along to an acoustic guitar, just as he used to when we were all stoned at some so-called party. I don't know, though. I bet he wishes he had been Springsteen. 

Any comments to please.

Friday, August 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 31C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 2 to 3 increasing 3 to 4 during the day.

Another fine, sunny and hot day beckons. And no indication that the pattern will alter. May be a bit cloudy tomorrow, but otherwise ...

Evening update (19.30): A high of 30.7C on another lovely summer's day.

#DistrustCarpenters: Balearics Twitter economics

Twitter is an odd old thing. So is Facebook. Where you once might have had a grievance with someone and dealt with it by slagging that person off down the pub to a group of mates who were probably less than interested in what you had to say, you now go to social media. If you are a complete idiot, and it is almost a pre-requisite of using social media that you are, you will bombard your status with bile, vitriol and expletives, the target of this malevolence being the one with whom you have a grievance. When it goes too far, and it often does, you may find yourself suspended from the relevant network or, worse, find plod knocking on your door or a summons for defamation being issued.

There is, though, an alternative approach to social media Tourette's. It is the one that doesn't actually address directly the grievance or the one with whom you have a grievance. It is more subtle, more obscure, less likely to be libellous or hate-filled, and, in many ways, more effective.

Josep (Pep) Ignasi Aguiló is the former Balearics minister for employment, business and finance. He lost his job when President Bauzá shuffled the chairs around the cabinet table in May. On the first of that month, all was hunky-dory. He tweeted that he was at the opening of the Palma boat show with his Twitter friend @JRBauza. There was no other entry until 13 May; after he had been dismissed. "I have not been in politics for ambition. Power in itself has never interested me. Sincere thanks." He added a couple more anodyne comments in the wake of his dismissal and then, on 13 June, changed tack. He went on the offensive but in a veiled fashion. "Medicine saves people. Good economic theory does too." 

Aguiló also made references to improvements in the Balearic economy (attributable, one presumes, to his handling) before a few days ago coming out with this: "Always distrust the carpenter who blames the hammer for a bad result". It is a variant on a poor workman who blames his tools.

Aguiló's @PepAguilo aphorisms have aroused some discussion as well as tweeting responses. Who exactly is the carpenter? Is there no longer good economic theory? It doesn't take a doctorate in economics (which Aguiló has) to figure out who the carpenter is and that the bad result stems from less good economic theory, but there is a flaw in Aguiló's apothegm; he is speaking in the present tense rather than the future. The improvements about which he had tweeted will take time to unravel without him at the economic helm and with the carpenter let loose with a ruddy great hammer to destroy all his good work.

The carpenter, though Aguiló in suitably enigmatic style has not named him, is, one has to conclude, his old friend @JRBauza. But by not explicitly naming him, Aguiló makes as much of a headline as if he had said "always distrust a bloody useless president - @JRBauza - who is making a total pig's ear of things". Aguiló could have been more explicit by dropping the carpenter motif and saying "always distrust the pharmacist (which is what @JRBauza is when not being president, though he might, for the purposes of the Balearics High Court, deny this) who blames medicine for a bad result. It would have been clearer, but it would have also compromised his earlier tweet-aphorism, the one about medicine saving people. Or, now one thinks about it, was that earlier tweet also meant to have been a dig at @JRBauza?

Though various "sources" believe that @PepAguilo has gone for the jugular of @JRBauza by tweeting his carpentry axiom, it doesn't come across as the mad rant of one who would pick up a carpenter's saw and remove the head of the head of the government. It is, one guesses, Aguiló's way of, some weeks after getting the boot, voicing his displeasure. I'm not surprised. A victim of the cabinet musical chairs, Aguiló would have had every right to have felt aggrieved that he was being hung out to dry for what was clearly a factor in his removal - the hugely unpopular proposal for green taxes. That these were swiftly dropped (at least for the time being) after Aguiló had gone hinted that they were taxes he, and he alone, had devised. Of course he did; @JRBauza would not have had any say in them.

The reason for Aguiló's dismissal was transparent to all but the blindest of @JRBauza followers, but though it was a crude way of attempting to deflect criticism and to bolster support by the president, Aguiló couldn't really have had too much to complain about. "Good economic theory" saves people. Perhaps it does, but whoever said that putting a tax on bottles of water was a good economic theory?

Any comments to please.