Friday, February 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 11C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 5 to 6 occasionally 7 veering Northwest by the evening.

Sunny morning, a bit breezy and due to be breezier still, alerts in place for wind and coastal conditions.

Evening update (18.00): Pretty wild at times today. A high of 18.9C nonetheless.

Which Country Is It Anyway?

Some weeks ago during a so-called debate about holiday lets, I asked the lady from the tourism ministry, who had drawn the short straw and been obliged to attend, what planet she, Carlos Delgado and Jaime Martínez were on (Carlos was still then on Planet Tourism). Any qualms I might have had about asking such an impertinent question have certainly been dispelled thanks to my now being able to suggest that I am in good company with Uncle Alfie Rubalcaba. Last week, PSOE's leader substituted the location and the prime minister Mariano Rajoy for the lady from the ministry in asking Mariano what country he was in. Not that I necessarily want to be in the same company as Uncle Alfie, but on the basis of a margin of error of choice between him and Mariano, I would probably plump for him. It depends on the size of the margin of error of course. Two per cent and it could mean a draw, and a draw was the final score that the pollsters announced at the end of the State of the Nation debate in Congress.

Rubalcaba's question suggested that, where Mariano was concerned, the nation whose state was being debated was a different one to everyone else's. The leader of the opposition's query as to Mariano's whereabouts was prompted by the prime minister presenting a positive bordering on glowing assessment of the economy and of the achievements of his government. For some of those in attendance, this assessment smacked of triumphalism. It was "deeply embarrassing", noted the spokesperson for the Grupo Izquierda Plural (which translates as a bunch of lefties).

Up to a point it was, but while Congress was debating, the European Commission was busy revising its growth forecasts for the Spanish economy: one per cent for this year, which is twice what Brussels had previously forecast, and 1.7% for 2015. But, before we all start rejoicing and getting carried away by Mariano's triumphalism, unemployment will, says Brussels, have fallen only to 24.6% by the end of 2015 and credit will remain tight. The European Commission also suggested that the contribution from exports will decline, and it has been exports that have been largely responsible for the economy moving out of recession.

To moderate Mariano's positive outlook further, the Bank of Spain had its say about wage devaluation. This has been a key factor in aiding exports. Indeed, it has been one of the limited number of mechanisms available to turn the economy around. Without the luxury of being able to devalue the currency, internal devaluation (lower wages/salaries) is the alternative to help boost competitiveness. The bank argued that the level of this devaluation was double the official figure, the reason being that, because there has been such a huge loss of lower-paid jobs, the calculation is weighted by higher-paid ones which still exist. 

Anyway, coming back to the great debate in Congress, both sides - the Partido Popular and PSOE - claimed victory, but the pollsters reckoned that Rubalcaba had nicked it by two per cent before offering the margin-of-error caveat and declaring a draw. The closeness of the outcome was, though, a major boost for Rubalcaba. At last year's debate he was royally stuffed by Mariano, according to the polls which gave the prime minister a 27-point victory. With PSOE heading for primaries to select its prime ministerial candidate for the next election, Rubalcaba's position has suddenly became stronger.

Index for February 2014

Balearics quality of life - 20 February 2014
Balnearios - 10 February 2014
Bradley Wiggins - 5 February 2014
Bullfighting and IVA - 15 February 2014
Cycling tourism - 14 February 2014
Expatriates and television - 13 February 2014
February in Mallorca - 7 February 2014
Filming and tourism - 17 February 2014
Goyas - 11 February 2014
January tourism - 25 February 2014
Jazz in Mallorca - 8 February 2014
La Movida - 26 February 2014
Manacor and traditional trades - 19 February 2014
Miquel Pujol and ensaimada - 22 February 2014
Oil exploration in Balearics and Canaries - 2 February 2014, 16 February 2014
Paco de Lucía death - 27 February 2014
Partido Popular national conference - 4 February 2014
Persona non grata and oil - 24 February 2014
Pollensa history - 1 February 2014
Pollensa public safety - 21 February 2014
Princess Cristina in court - 9 February 2014
Residents and tourism image - 18 February 2014
Ses Casetes des Capellans' cottages - 23 February 2014
Son Servera plague - 6 February 2014
State of the nation debate - 28 February 2014
Teams - 12 February 2014
The Prussians indie band - 3 February 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 7.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Southeast 3 veering West 4 during the afternoon.

Chilly, clear morning. Sunny day in prospect. Outlook for the next few days, reasonable, though maybe a shower on Saturday and slightly lower temperatures.

Evening update (19.15): A high of 16.5C. Alerts in place for wind and coastal conditions tomorrow.

Paco de Lucía: Death of an innovator

A month ago, Pete Seeger died. Seeger was considered to have been a folk music purist, and the story goes that he was so offended by Bob Dylan's use of electric instrumentation at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that he threatened to cut the cables. In fact, he did say that he would cut the cables, but that was because he thought the sound was distorted. Nevertheless, the story took hold that Seeger, the purist, objected to Dylan's going electric and so sided with many in the audience who took exception to the non-traditional use of the electric guitar in folk music and booed Dylan's performance.

Apocryphal the story may have been, but it is often cited as one of the more obvious examples of how musical genres, in being developed and taken away from their traditional roots, can cause not only a musical revolution but also disrupt the status quo and order of things within these genres. Dylan's poetry had already been enormously important in shaping the direction of 1960s music, but when he plugged in the amp that music took a giant leap forward. The folk music old school was horrified, but a whole new school emerged. The order of things was disrupted for good.

Miles Davis did something similar in the jazz world. In fact, Davis kept doing some things differently. He pretty much invented electric jazz and the whole idea of fusion, be it with rock or other styles. The purists were offended, but thanks to Davis, jazz was to come out of an elite closet in the 1970s and to create a whole new audience who listened to Davis and the often rock-influenced albums of his numerous collaborators and protégés, and one of the musicians who was involved with this new electric-jazz genre with Davis was the British guitarist John McLaughlin.

In 1979, McLaughlin, who was alternating between playing acoustic and electric guitar, teamed up with first Larry Coryell and then Al Di Meola, both American jazz-fusion guitarists. Di Meola replaced the drug-addicted Coryell and brought an additional touch of Latin influence to a trio whose third member was Paco de Lucía. Together they recorded an album called "Friday Night In San Francisco". It comprised five tracks, and it was essentially a jazz album, except of course there was a difference, and that difference was the playing of de Lucía, the maestro of the flamenco guitar.

There were to be two further albums by this trio, one released in 1983 and the third in 1996, but it was the original collaboration which unleashed the opprobrium of the flamenco traditionalist. The status quo and the order of things in flamenco music were disrupted and, as had been the consequence of Dylan with his electric guitar, they were disrupted for good; de Lucía had created the fusion of flamenco with jazz.

It is no exaggeration to place de Lucía on a similar pedestal as Dylan and Davis. By following the fusion route, de Lucía took flamenco to a wider international audience while he also spawned a whole separate genre of flamenco jazz which itself crossed over and became a key ingredient in the distinctively Spanish flamenco chill music. In so doing, he offended purists, but what the purists failed to appreciate was that de Lucía, by finding international popularity because of fusion, was also able to popularise more traditional flamenco music. Indeed, he became the great ambassador for flamenco: what he described as one of the five or six "essential genres" of world music.

But de Lucía had, before he became part of the guitar trio, shown an inclination to innovate. He came to prominence at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s through his work with the flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla, with whom he had started to push the barriers by introducing elements of pop and rock. Through all this creativity and innovation though, de Lucía retained the credibility of having been born into the flamenco style of his native Andalusia.

His international popularity and recognition was such that he found himself adopted as a "face" of tourism promotion, that of Mallorca's. A resident of Palma for some years, he was brought on board by the Balearic Government under Francesc Antich, though in truth, he was one of a succession of celebrities that the tourism ministry attached itself to and whose role was unclear and whose involvement, for promotional purposes, produced very little. That wasn't his fault, though.

He died suddenly of a heart attack in Cancún, where he had a home. It is said that he had become less keen on playing the guitar and that he preferred to spend his time out of the limelight and with his two young children. At the age of 66, his loss is great, but his legacy is greater still. A master and an innovator; one of Spain's greatest ever musicians.

Photo: Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 4 to 5 easing 2 to 3 during the afternoon.

Windy overnight and still windy. Sunny.

Evening update (20.00): Not bad, a high of 16.2C.

La Movida: A movement frozen in the 1980s

Assigning an exact time and place to the start of a "movement" is often simplistic. For a movement to start it needs to have had its antecedents, the stuff that had already happened which contributed to what might be taken as the defining moment in time of its commencement. In popular music there are various examples of these defining occasions, one of the most celebrated being the "gig that changed the world", the Sex Pistols at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976. Legend has it that in attendance at that gig were those who were to make up the first wave of the Manchester scene - future members of The Smiths, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division (later New Order). Whatever the truth of this legend, there is no disputing the fact that the Pistols launched not just a musical movement but an entire cultural movement, one that infiltrated literature, film, art and fashion.

On 23 May 1981, an event was staged in Madrid that was known as the "concierto de primavera" (the Spring Concert). It is taken as the defining moment for the start of La Movida, which was initially "la movida madrileña" (the Madrid move), but which became "la movida española", a 1980s cultural revolution in Spain, the importance of which might now be partly forgotten but which was fundamental in the transformation of the country. 

But as ever, there was the stuff which came before, including a tribute concert for Canito, a composer, singer and drummer, who had died in a road accident on New Year's Eve 1979. His brothers formed a new group, Los Secretos, who performed at the 1981 concert and who became associated and identifiable with La Movida.

Usually defined as a counter-cultural movement, La Movida was more a type of renaissance after the Franco years. It borrowed from punk culture up to a point, but it wasn't so much a tearing-down as an establishing of culture, a specifically innovative Spanish one no longer forced to cower in the face of repression. Among its more notable products was the film director/producer Pedro Almodóvar. If Julian Temple was British punk's film documentarist, then Almodóvar was La Movida's. And along with music and cinema, there was a cultural transformation in literature and publishing, television, photography and painting as well as an outburst of the satirical in the form of comic books and cartoons.

In what will sound like a worthy but extraordinarily dull paper, three sociologists have studied the "aesthetic canon of Spanish pop-rock". Published* in the "Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas", Fernán del Val, Javier Noya and Martín Pérez-Colman have taken the views of music critics and studied published lists of leading artists in order to arrive at a definitive list of the 50 most important musical acts who have contributed to this "canon". Of the first ten acts in the list, half of them were products of La Movida (Los Secretos aren't one of them; they are in 29th place).

The paper's authors find that this "canon" is heavily biased in favour of a kind of hybrid pop-rock, one which combines an essentially Anglo-American rock with Spanish elements; flamenco in particular. This is a pop-rock which dominates to the exclusion of many other genres - heavy metal, folk, jazz, dance are all but absent. And La Movida, despite being 30 years or so old, dominates, with even younger critics and journalists pointing to the importance of the music that came out of that cultural movement.

This in itself might not be surprising because of the significance of La Movida, but there are notable omissions from this "aesthetic canon". Folk is one, and Mallorca has offered a very good example of an act which might find its way onto a broader list - Els Valldemossa who, once they stopped appearing on Eurovision, rediscovered their Mallorcan folk roots. Another, most definitely, is the whole musical scene that broke out of Ibiza, also in the 1980s. Balearic beat - the house and electronic dance of Ibiza's clubs - and later the flamenco-infused chill and ambient of the Café del Mar might well lay claim to being the most important of all popular music to have come out of Spain, yet it doesn't get a look in. 

Three months before the Spring Concert, the failed coup took place. In the following year the first socialist government came to power in Spain. La Movida was itself identifiably socialist because many of its protagonists were socialists. But what was a counter-cultural movement became established. The authors conclude that "the middle classes (of today) have managed to impose their tastes on the production of the canon". It was an important movement but it ran out of steam and its protagonists became complacent. And kept listening to their 1980s' rock albums.

*; pages 147-180, click to see abstract and for PDF download of article in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 occasionally West increasing Southwest 3 to 4 by the evening.

Cloudy, but should be some around for much of the day. Looking as though things are going to get colder by the weekend.

January Just Got Worse

Let me take you back to December 2012, a time when Carlos Delgado was still tourism minister and a time when prospects for winter tourism in the Balearics suddenly looked very much brighter. The light amidst the gloom of the off-season was to be shone thanks to the fact that, for the first time, the "winter product" was to be worked on in a "planned and perceptible" manner. That there was, for the first time, such an approach was an admission of failure in the past, but now there was to be this work on the winter product and eventually the Balearics would be a promised land of off-season riches where the cycle paths would be paved with gold and where the handful of loaves and fish of the local gastronomy would feed multitudes.

Well, not quite of course and certainly not immediately. Ever shrewd, Carlos admitted that this once-in-a-lifetime plan for winter tourism might not reap rewards within only one or two years. Nevertheless, because the plan - here a travel fair, there a familiarisation trip - was going to be planned and perceptible, rewards would eventually follow. 

Carlos has now gone, but his ministerial sidekick, the faithful Jaime Martínez, who for ten years had benefited from the Delgado political mentorship, is still here. The great vision for the new world of winter tourism that was unveiled in December 2012 was a Carlos-Jaime co-production. Jaime is now the minister. Jaime, I know you are not long in your post, I know that it is not even two years since the plan was produced, but have you seen the figures for January?

I have to assume that, as tourism minister, he will have seen the figures and will have sunk deeper into the new and larger ministerial chair. He might argue that you can prove anything with statistics, but he has himself doubtless sought to prove anything with statistics. There's no having it both ways and, regardless of any questions about data collection methodology, the statistics make grim reading. In January, Mallorca (not the Balearics as a whole) lost over 20,000 tourists. Put another way, tourism in Mallorca was down by over 11%. In Andalusia, by contrast, it was up by over 23%. In Catalonia, tourist tax and all, it was up by 13.5%. Nationally it was up by over 12%. Mallorca (the Balearics) was the only one of the major tourism regions to have experienced a slump. Jaime, explain.

Will the plan bring about a reversal in January fortunes in 2015? The fairs are being attended, the trips are being made but not in vastly greater number than they were last year. There is, though, greater expenditure on promotion; Jaime said so at the press conference at which he was handed the baton from Carlos in December last year. Greater expenditure or greater spreading thinly? An average cost per the total of 145 promotional activities (fairs etc.) that is six times less than the average cost incurred by the last administration. More for less, and I have to say I don't necessarily disagree that this is bad policy or that there is a bad plan. Just. Where's the evidence that it is achieving anything or will achieve anything? Down by over 11% this January.

 There are further statistics, those for overnight stays in hotels. While the data gathering for actual tourists - the questionnaires used at airports and ports - might be thought to be a little hit or miss, stays in hotels are more accurate. For Mallorca, the January figure for foreign tourists was down, well down. Down by a third in fact. Catalonia and Andalusia, on the other hand, up, and let's not even bother mentioning the Canaries. In the main tourist press reports of these overnight stays, they don't refer to Mallorca or to the Balearics. Why would they? There's little to refer to. You have to consult the spreadsheets. I'm sure you have, Jaime.

Maybe, when February's figures are released, things will look better. Cycling tourists don't, after all, start coming in any great number until February, but even better figures for February would miss the point, which is that other parts of Spain have shown increases in January while Mallorca has shown a fall. Jaime, you know the reasons, because you said so when Carlos and President Bauzá were grinning when you told the press how things would be with you as minister. Tourists have to have the idea placed in their minds that there is more than just sun and beach, and once their minds are changed, the airlines will schedule more flights.

Changing minds possibly yes, but then possibly no. You know the two most important markets, Jaime. Have you seen the figures for January? The numbers for UK and German tourists. The number for the latter is four times greater. Now, why do you think that is?

Monday, February 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 9.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 2 to 3 veering West by the evening.

Bit of cloud but mainly clear and chilly. Might be some rain around later but there again maybe not.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 17.9C. Pretty good day, fair amount of sun but a tad chilly in the breeze.

Persona Non Grata: Persona nonsensical

Can you name any well-known people who were declared persona non grata? If not, then let me offer you a few (well, three anyway): Kurt Waldheim (allegations of Nazi war crimes and so given persona non grata status in the US among other countries); Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (the Italians booted her out in 1942 because she had sympathies with the Allies); Jörg Haider (the Israelis declared him non grata for fairly obvious reasons).

Persona non grata is used in diplomatic circles. The Vienna Convention says that a state may "at any time and without having to explain its decision" declare a member of diplomatic staff persona non grata, a declaration that usually leads to expulsion from a country. Persona non grata, by definition (diplomatic definition at any rate), has to apply to someone from another country. It cannot apply to someone from one's own country. Except in Spain, or specifically the Balearics, where it does.

When countries engage in a spot of non-grata-ing, there is usually a tit-for-tat response. You make our chap persona non grata, we'll make your chap persona non grata. So there. The Balearic Parliament has managed to introduce the same principle, substituting left and right for country X and country Y. Even by its pretty low standards, the parliament has plumbed even greater depths of stupidity by entering into a tit-for-tat non-grata-ing carry-on.

The background is of course oil, the subject which dare not speak its name with any modicum of measured debate, and the last place you will get any measured debate is the parliamentary playground. David Abril is the leader of the merged Iniciativa d'Esquerres (initiative of the lefts) and Els Verds de Mallorca (greens). This merged entity forms part of the Més per Mallorca coalition. Eco-socalism is an ideology to which David is partial and as such you would imagine - and you would be right - that he isn't overly keen on oil companies drilling ruddy great holes in the seabed near to the Balearics. As part of the parliamentary debate (if one can call it that) about oil exploration, David called for national energy minister José Manuel Soria to be declared persona non grata.

Having done so, the tit-for-tat started, the Partido Popular's spokesperson, Mabel Cabrer, calling for not one, not two, but three politicians from the left to also be declared persona non grata. They were, in descending order of importance, former prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former president of the Balearics, Francesc Antich, and ex-minister for the environment in the Balearics, Gabriel Vicens. Why was she picking on this triumvirate? Because it's all their fault, this oil malarkey. Nasty, horrid socialists that they are. Nothing to do with us in the PP or with nice Sr. Soria. And in fingering Vicens, Mabel struck a deep wound in David's eco-socialist heart, as Gabriel is of a similar bent and a member of the PSM Mallorcan socialists, one part of the Més fraternity.

What neither David nor Mabel was able to explain was quite how persona non grata status might work in practice, especially where Antich and Vicens are concerned. As they both live in Mallorca, would it be the intention to force them into exile to Benidorm or somewhere? But of course, silly me, persona non grata doesn't really mean what it normally means (at least I don't think it does). It is a yah-boo, sucks to you, we're going to ignore you type of persona non grata; a sending to Coventry persona non grata, always assuming that Coventry doesn't invoke the Vienna Convention.

In fact, the resort to the non-grata mechanism is pretty common; so common that it is utterly meaningless. Just as an example, President Bauzá and agriculture/environment/transport ministerial supremo Gabriel Company both copped for some non-grata-ing from the train platform in Mallorca's Llevant region last year. This wasn't an actual platform because there are no platforms and there are no trains, which was the whole point; a group (the platform) in favour of the train that will not run from Manacor to Artà wanted Bauzá and Company to be declared personas non gratas, which presumably meant that they would get a frosty reception were they to set foot in Son Servera, Sant Llorenç or Artà ever again.

The calls in parliament were, as with other similar demands for persona non grata, pretty puerile and they also obscured whatever sensible discussion there may have been on the oil business. But as we know, there is very little that is sensible, just name-calling and tit-for-tat posturing in what - the parliament - is supposed to be the islands' premier debating chamber. That it is not, and so lamentable is its attempts at debate that perhaps the whole lot of them should be declared persona non grata.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 7C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 2 to 3 backing South by the afternoon.

Cold, clear morning. With the breezes having shifted southerly again, chances are it will feel warmer today. The outlook for the week a mix of sun and possible showers with temperatures a bit up and down but in general in the mid-teens.

Evening update (18.30): A high of 20.3C. Quite breezy occasionally but sunny all day.

The Victory Of Ses Casetes Des Capellans

On a day in late October 2009 I wandered along the beach in Playa de Muro to the enclave of Ses Casetes des Capellans. It was a fine, sunny autumn day, late in the season. It was a Saturday, and Ses Casetes was full of people; the people who own the cottages in this strange part of Muro, the people who were preparing for a demonstration that would take them out of Ses Casetes and on to the main road into Can Picafort, as Ses Casetes lies right by the border between the municipalities of Muro and Santa Margalida.

Before they ventured out of their curious urbanisation, they staged a protest, posing for press and television. It was a protest against what they were in the process of losing. Their cottages. Their Ses Casetes, the summertime village by the sea for the folk of Muro who, for years, had owned these cottages which had been ceded to the town decades before by the church. The little houses of the chaplains.

There are protests and there are protests. Only some have total justification. This was one of those. The cottages, the whole area of Ses Casetes, were under threat of eventual demolition and the destructiveness of the bulldozer, and all because the Costas Authority had deemed that Ses Casetes was on public land that was part of the maritime domain.

Strictly speaking, the Costas may have been right to have classified the area in the way that it had, but the cottages - ses casetes - had been there for all those decades. It had been the church which had developed the site as a place for clergy to enjoy the seaside. There had been no demarcation of land, no consideration of what might have been land determined by the action of the sea; the development was long before such notions existed or were dreamt up and placed on statute books.

I got interested in and involved in the case of and campaign for Ses Casetes because I knew people who owned properties there. These are not grand properties by any means. They are simple, old cottages. Yes, there are some other properties of rather grander style, one or two which have invaded the forest track into what is part of the wider Albufera nature reserve. Their legality is and was an entirely separate issue. The legality of the original cottages was one solely to do with how the land had been re-classified, and the legal interpretation was unjust; totally unjust. 

What added to the sense of injustice was the fact that right next to Ses Casetes was the first of the hotels that sit along the seafront in Can Picafort, a resort whose frontline comprises hotel after hotel and which had all been built on land which could have been nothing other than of same the category that had caught Ses Casetes in the Costas' trap.

The threat to the cottages came about because of what had started the year before. Twenty years after the old Coasts Law had been enacted, the Costas Authority's delegation in the Balearics had finally got round to taking an interest in developments along the bay of Alcúdia. This interest turned to alarm. All manner of property was potentially liable to be classified as being on land that was "influenced by the sea". There was an arcane qualification for this influence, one which drew a distinction between naturally and artificially created and dried-out salt marsh. Property which was on natural salt land and which had been built before the 1988 act was liable to be deemed illegal but would be given a stay of execution before it might be demolished. In the meantime, owners would not have been able to sell it. Ses Casetes fell into this category.

Because the cottages were owned by ordinary folk, there was a sense in which they were being discriminated against. They could point to the hotels in Can Picafort and ask, "well, what about those?" Any thoughts that the Costas might have had about the Can Picafort hotels were not made public, but the authority had ruled that hotels in Playa de Muro contravened demarcation legislation. They, though, weren't about to be threatened with eventual demolition, only with loss of some of their facilities closer to the shoreline which breached the 100-metre rule.

With the recent reform of the Coasts Law came the hope that Ses Casetes might be spared its fate and eventual day of demolition destiny. Though there hasn't been a definitive statement, it seems that the Costas will change the classification once again, making Ses Casetes urban land.

The people of Ses Casetes will have won a victory, therefore, but it will be a victory for a fight that should never have taken place. As Martí Fornés, the mayor of Muro, points out, Ses Casetes had been an established urban development for decades. Of course it had been, and now common sense appears to have prevailed in accepting that it had been all along. I'm delighted for the people of Ses Casetes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - A draw but another poor performance by Mallorca

Mirandés 0 : 0 Real Mallorca
A nil-nil draw at Mirandés in Miranda in Castile and León, a small club with a small ground and small or no ambitions, unlike Mallorca whose week has been defined by ever more internal fighting at board level and the resignation of sporting director Serra Ferrer. Coach Oltra has seemingly only held on to his job because the board is so divided, but how much longer can he carry on? A pretty pitiable display by Mallorca in Miranda, there is really little to say about it, other than the fact that Mallorca created hardly a scoring opportunity. Mallorca stay in touch with the play-offs but they should be doing so much better.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 9C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Northwest 3 to 4, backing West/Southwest by the afternoon.

Chilly but sunny morning. Good enough day on the cards and staying good into tomorrow.

Evening update (20.00): Got rather windy at times and, out of the sun, a bit chilly, but not bad. A high of 17.5C.

Death Of A Baker

I haven't always been complimentary about the ensaimada. In its basic form - lard and sugar - it sounds and is less than inspiring, but there again the simple combination for pa amb oli, bread and oil, is similarly uninspiring. There is often (usually) more to the pa amb oli than its basic ingredients, and though it might be no more meritorious than a ploughman's lunch, the local variants of olives, pickles, tomatoes, hams or cheeses, afford it a culinary kudos that the ploughman doesn't really have. So, the pa amb oli, as representative of base-camp cooking in a Mallorcan style, is something I can devour with relish and with its accompanying relishes (optional), whereas the ensaimada, even with fillings - creams, marmalades - is not of personal epicurean essence. It's all a matter of taste of course, and the taste of sweetness, for the ensaimada is primarily a breakfast-time pastry, is unsuitable for this personal palate. This said, the ensaimada can be and is eaten at any time. The Germans, as an example and with their obsession for mid-afternoon cake, embellish their 4pm coffee routine with the ensaimada, though at that time of day, a local, Mallorcan cremadillo might be said to be more enticing.

The cult of the ensaimada is more of a cultural one than a purely culinary one. It is symbolic. It has been designated with an origin award, while its imitation, for example by a certain multinational coffee-shop chain, has been analysed and criticised. Just one reason for the criticism lay with the fact that it was being made the wrong way round. Rather like the Union Jack can be and often is flown upside down (not that anyone typically notices), so the ensaimada can be rolled in the wrong direction. It requires a trained eye and a trained ensaimada maker to see it.

One such trained maker passed away last week. Miquel Pujol shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the great coil of ensaimada in the sky. The reports of his death might have seemed surprising because of their volume and extent. He was, after all, just a local baker. But of course he wasn't. He was celebrated for the quality and excellence of both his ensaimadas and his cremadillos. He ran Can Miquel, a bakery in Palma that had been in existence since 1565. He retired in 2012, and the bakery closed its doors, and last week Miquel d'es forn, as he was commonly referred to (forn meaning oven), died. Tributes flooded in. The Montesión church was packed to the gunwales with hundreds of friends and members of his family.

There was of course very much more on offer at Can Miquel than pastries. There were savouries, pies, the local "cocas", you name it. It was a traditional bakery; indeed, given its history, it was about as traditional a bakery as you could get. Miquel's death was, in a way and sadly, symbolic of something else. In the same week as he died, the Balearics Association of Bakers was drawing attention to the loss of traditional baker's shops. Thirty have closed in the past five years. They have fallen victim to the multinational supermarket and to the market stall, one at which hygiene, so the association maintains, can be less than adequate. Miquel, one might conclude, was a type who might not be seen again. Or of whom less and less will be seen and gradually, just possibly, the ensaimada will fall victim to corporatisation and to non-tradition. But, so long as it's made the right way round, it should be fine.

* Photo and Spanish report:

Friday, February 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 10C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3 veering Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning and easing East 2 to 3 by the evening. Swells from between one and two metres at times in the afternoon.

Nice morning. Should be an ok-ish day. Outlook for the weekend is pretty ok, too. Sunny and reasonably warm.

Evening update (20.00): My oh my February, what are you doing to us? A fine day with a high of 20.1C.

Public Safety Going Too Far?

Public health and safety in Mallorca can occasionally appear to be an alien concept. It is a lament of old-timers of the island that in the good old days there was no health and safety; there again, where health was concerned, cholera used to be popular. But if it is still possible to set fire to yourself without too much difficulty on numerous occasions and if industrial alcoholic intake is expected at fiesta time, when town halls issue decrees related to health or safety, these decrees can seem somewhat contrary not to say hypocritical.

Pollensa town hall is currently hard at it, beefing up public safety and what is called "co-existence". It spent the whole of yesterday posting snippets of its latest decree to its Facebook page, explaining how co-existence will from now on be even more co-existent than it had been previously. The decree doesn't dwell on matters such as setting fire to yourself but it does deal with alcohol and the extreme dangers to public health that are posed by unauthorised sporting contests.

This outburst of co-existent correctness has not found favour in all quarters. The decree from on low at the Calvari attacks "normal" activities and is prohibitive, say opponents. Indeed, the various clauses that found their way on to the town hall's FB spoke of little other than "prohibido" (in a Catalan stylie of course). But what, pray, are (or maybe were) "normal" activities? One, so opponents of the ordinance would maintain, was for masses of people to gather for the purposes of drinking alcohol together. And, from time to time, masses do gather for this purpose. It is sometimes known as the "botellón", the street drinking party favoured by young people. Not that the decree specifies the botellón; one just has to assume that it is one among various "normal" activities where alcohol is imbibed by the masses.

The guardians of "normal" activities are staging a day of normal activities tomorrow in defence of this co-existent normality which is about to be quashed by the heavy hand of the issuers of the decree at the town hall. In addition to objecting to the outlawing of the gathering of vast groups of drunks, they are also opposing the threat to whole sporting competitions that are staged without authorisation. One poster highlighting this prohibition shows a solitary runner accompanied by a legend which suggests a fine of up to 750 euros. Somehow, one suspects that this is not what the town hall has in mind. In addition to its regular use of the prohibit word it does also make liberal use of the mass word. One bloke out running does not constitute a mass. Or maybe he does.

The problem, though, lies with the m-word. How many people make a mass? Though I'm struggling to think what the town hall is referring to with regard to unauthorised sporting competitions, an interpretation of mass could apply to beach volleyball, beach football or beach rugby. These all involve a mass, admittedly not an enormous mass but a mass nevertheless. And these are "normal" activities. The opponents may have a point.

Then there is the crackdown on unauthorised street music. There is no mass requirement for this to be an offence, as it could be a one-man band. A busker, let's say. Do buskers threaten co-existence or public safety? One fancies that they don't.

Anyway, just to let you know that if you're in Pollensa tomorrow and see gangs of drunks wandering around with bottles in carrier bags or if you are bowled over by whole squads of beach rugby players or even one bloke out running, don't be alarmed. These are "normal" activities. But for how much longer?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 8C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 3, 4 at intervals.

Chilly and clear morning. Good deal of sun anticipated for today. Tomorrow a bit iffy maybe and then the weekend fine.

Evening update (19.00): A really fine day with a high of 20.6C.

The Quality Of Lies

Mallorca, the Balearic Islands. Play the word or phrase association game and what words or phrases would come to mind? How about quality of life? Of course. Above all else there is quality of life. The Confederation of Savings Banks (Funcas) has been playing the word/phrase association game but in a more scientific manner. It hasn't simply plucked a concept out of the deep blue sky or from the richly turquoise seas. It has engaged in measurement, one called the Human Development Index. It has considered the regions of Spain. Mallorca, the Balearic Islands. Quality of life. Where did it go? The islands' index of human development worsened more than any other region between 2006 and 2011. The Balearics have lost more by way of standard of living and quality of life than anywhere else in Spain.

While hard data, such as employment statistics and per capita income, suggest that the Balearics are doing reasonably well (all things being relative, as crisis begins to show signs of becoming less of a crisis), the Human Development Index - a methodology adopted by the United Nations - suggests a rather different picture. It embraces additional factors - population movements, access to health care, standards of education - and through its application by Funcas, it leads to a result that, for many people, will seem staggering; Balearics' quality of life is not as it might be presumed to be or might be hoped to be.

On population, though there is evidence of people leaving the islands - expatriates returning "home", younger islanders seeking employment abroad - there has in fact been a positive rate of internal migration, one largely created by Spaniards from the mainland coming to the islands (presumably looking for work). Yet, that work hasn't necessarily been available, especially not in construction, and the positive population growth just adds pressure to services that were already stretched to the limit. On education, I guess we should by now all know what the problem is; not one to be addressed by introducing a three-language method of teaching but a public education system that has been failing for years and which still fails to prevent the Balearics from having the highest school dropout rate in the country. On health care, it depends. Depends on being a part of the social security system or being allowed to be part of that system. For the immigrant who is "sin papeles", it means exclusion. It can also mean death, as was the case with Alpha Pam.

And then there is poverty. Over a period of only five years, the Balearics fell from a position of having the lowest level of economic poverty in Spain to having one of the highest. The poverty rate in the Balearics tripled between 2006 and 2011; it was the greatest rise among all the regions. Human development has not just stalled, it has gone backwards. Mallorca, the Balearic Islands, quality of life.

The sad truth is that this should have been foreseen, but the complacency induced by tourism has, perhaps until now, failed to bring eyesight to the blind of policymakers seduced by the ability of tourism to offset the worst of economic performance. And had it not been for tourism these past few years, the Balearics would have been engulfed by a giant wave of economic desolation. Many people have observed - and I include myself among them for many years now - that there are structural weaknesses in the Balearics. Education is one such, but the lack of economic diversification and the relatively low levels of industrialisation are others. These weaknesses seemed not to matter when times were such that the islands could build themselves into a position of relative economic strength - literally build - but they have made more incurable the blindness that had been falsely remedied by pairs of spectacles with tourism for one lens, construction for the other but with no spare set for when one of the lenses was shattered.

Though employment can and does increase, if only temporarily, and though per capita income levels are, by Spanish standards, reasonable, these measures merely add to the blindness that doesn't see, or maybe doesn't want to see, the low levels of productivity and the widening inequality gap. Politicians should of course see all this and perhaps they are now seeing. It is they who should be most alarmed at the fall in the Human Development Index and alarmed at the fact that the report which has revealed this fall has been compiled by the Confederation of Savings Banks. What a supreme irony that the institutions which helped to bring about the fall are the ones now telling us how far we have fallen. The institutions which were friends of regional governments. For the politicians, the question is how to respond. Quality of life or the quality of lies.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 13C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 6 to 7 backing and easing West 3 to 4 by the afternoon. Swells to one metre. Rain until midday.

Grey, blowy and a bit damp. A coasts' alert still in place, but an improvement later on with some sun. Tomorrow should be better and warmer.

Evening update (18.30): Not too bad once the greyness and the wind went away. Some sun and a high of 17.4C.

From Naviform To Nadal: Manacor

Manacor, Mallorca's third largest town, the commercial centre for the eastern Llevant region of the island, birthplace of the most famous Mallorcan ever, Rafael Nadal, but a town known less, by tourists at any rate, than its coastal resorts - Porto Cristo, S'Illot, Calas de Mallorca - and its caves, those of Drach and of Hams. It is a town, rather like Inca, which can tend to be overlooked and dismissed on account of its industrial/commercial nature. Yet there is, as with any town in Mallorca, a great deal to commend it and a great deal that is of interest to be discovered and learned.

One of the first times that Manacor loomed onto my radar was when I found the story of the ghost of the neighbourhood of Fartàritx. It turned out, or so it would seem, that this ghost was a simpleton by the name of Pere-Joan. When he died in 1820, the appearances of the ghost stopped. The ghost story is one of the more unusual ones that goes into the making of the history of Manacor, a history which is on display at the town's museum.

There have been other famous people from Manacor. Two of them also brought the town firmly into my consciousness. One of them was Antoni Maria Alcover, one of the most important literary figures that Mallorca has ever produced. Linguist, folklorist, story-teller, Alcover is something of a current-day hero for the Catalanist tradition. In terms of literature and linguistics he is on the same sort of cultural pedestal as that old mystic Ramon Llull, but he did something which Llull didn't; he co-compiled the "Diccionari català-valencià-balear". He has become known as the "apostle of the language": the Catalan language.

A very different historical figure was Simón Ballester (aka Simó Tort). In the middle of the fifteenth century, Ballester led an uprising against the governor of Mallorca. He and his men made at least three attempts to attack Palma and to get rid of the governor. The revolt failed, he fled to Menorca, was captured, returned to Mallorca and executed.

The point about Ballester, Alcover, Pere-Joan and even Rafa Nadal is that they all contribute in their very different ways to the story of Manacor and they are all representative of the richness of the past (and the present) that resides in the town and in other Mallorcan towns. Manacor may be known more for what exists on the coast but there is a great deal away from the coast that is also worth knowing and some of it is to be found in its museum.

This building is in itself part of the town's story. It is located in a manor house, Torre dels Enagistes, which dates back to the thirteenth century. The museum has exhibitions which relate to different eras, starting with prehistory and so with the Talayotic period and what indeed came before it: the Naviform era, so-called because of the way that dwellings were built in the shape of upside-down ships. The museum is remarkably good in identifying time frames. The Naviform people, who provided the first evidence of proper settlement in Manacor, were around from 1700BC. The Talayotic period came some six hundred years later, and there is plenty of evidence of Talayotic settlements dotted around Manacor, and the Talayotic people were later, from the seventh century BC, engaged in trade with the Ebusitano, merchants from Ebussus, aka Ibiza.

But moving much nearer to the present day and to Manacor's reputation as an industrial and commercial centre, the museum is staging a special exhibition dedicated to trades and crafts which have, for the most part, disappeared. The point is made that, though these were trades that were to be found in Manacor, they were ones that would have existed across Mallorca. They were trades which were commonplace, going back centuries, such as to the dairy which was certainly established in the mid-eighteenth century, and which numbered roughly forty in total - anything from healers and water diviners to makers of noodles and to those engaged in trades which survive; bookbinders, for instance.

These traditional trades and crafts didn't necessarily fall by the wayside on account of the industrial revolution of tourism. Though it is said that Mallorca was industrially underdeveloped before the arrival of tourism, this is accurate only up to a point. Manacor is an example of a town which disputes this argument. It transformed itself from the start of the last century thanks to artificial pearls and furniture.

The traditional trades serve as a reminder of times that will not return and of Manacor as it once was, but remembering their passing serves to emphasise the fact that Manacor grew to be the town it now is not because of traditional trades but because of the pre-modern ones that arrived before tourism.

* Photo of Manacor Museum from:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 3 to 4 increasing North 5 to 6 by the evening.

Mild and quite breezy. Grey but any rain not anticipated until the evening.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 17.5C. Little by way of sun through the day and a fair amount of wind, an alert in place for the coasts.

Residents And Mallorca's Tourism Image

Tourism 2.0 is a concept borrowed from Web 2.0 to refer to a movement from a model of tourism in which there had been lack of access to and transparency of information and a lack of knowledge exchange (Tourism 1.0) to a situation in which "collective intelligence" is harnessed. Put more simply, it is the movement to the use of networks via the internet to inform tourist decisions, and by networks, one principally means social networks.

Tourism, as with any industry, and not least the computer and communications industry, is littered with its jargon and junk terminology. Web 2.0, Tourism 2.0 have spawned a massive outpouring of worthy research, studies, learned papers and conferences all aimed at explaining the movement towards the use of social networks and yet which succeed in obscuring the subject through the sheer weight of their jargonistic newspeak.

As I write this, I have open in my Acrobat Reader a 492-page doctoral thesis about the management of the image of a destination in the context of Tourism 2.0. It is the work of Isabel Llodrà Riera, a technical expert with the Fundació BIT at Palma's ParcBIT technology park.

Though it is an academic work and though it would not be especially meaningful to anyone not steeped in academia, it is a far from uninteresting piece of research, and its interest stems from the association with ParcBIT and with one of its more revealing discoveries.

The regional government was recently able to announce that it had secured joint funding by the national government and the European Union for investment in technological innovations. Much of this investment is likely to end up in ParcBIT and all of it is intended to be for innovation that is tourism-themed. President Bauzá has made a commitment to the importance of the tourism industry (and also to ParcBIT) by presenting the case for and securing this investment; it is something for which, as I've noted before, he and the government should receive plaudits.

Through a combination of ParcBIT, the Universitat de les Illes Balears and the tourism industry on the island, Mallorca has a very strong case for making itself a leader in the application of tourism-themed technologies. But though Web 2.0 features heavily in the local tourism ministry's plans, there has been little evidence of theory being put into practice. Which isn't to say that it won't be put into practice, but the harnessing of the "collective intelligence" of Tourism 2.0 has, as yet, proved to be no more than a theoretical construct where the tourism agency and others are concerned. 

Academic research, such as that by Isabel Llodrà, is of no real value unless there is a practical application. And in her research, she has pointed to one group of users of social networks who might typically have been overlooked when it comes to all the recommendations and information-sharing which occurs and which influence the image and choice of Mallorca as a tourist destination. If you live in Mallorca, then you are part of that group of users she is referring to. Residents.

There is a tendency to think that this information-sharing goes on between tourists and tourists alone, but it should be obvious that it doesn't. Trip Advisor may be skewed more towards tourist-to-tourist recommendation, but other social media aren't. Facebook is a good example. And what Isabel Llodrà has discovered is how information through "knowing" residents on social networks can differ to that through "knowing" other tourists. In the survey she conducted as part of the research, she found that the knowledge of residents is more highly regarded, while the impression of Mallorca differs for those users who have come to "know" residents than for those who haven't. In a nutshell, residents present a better image of Mallorca, one that stresses its charm, interest and relaxing nature. Residents do not tend to dwell on disagreeable aspects.

It may seem obvious that residents would present a more favourable and, in all likelihood, more informed impression of Mallorca, but sometimes the obvious needs stating. It also needs stating, though, that the more highly regarded knowledge of the resident might not always be so favourable, and there are examples one can point to where it isn't.

The title of Isabel Llodrà's thesis is important - "management of the image". A key question relates, therefore, to how this management is done and by whom. Web 2.0 and so therefore Tourism 2.0 is a virtual free-for-all of opinion, and if residents are as significant to creating an image for Mallorca as the thesis suggests, then they need to be kept onside as much as is feasibly possible. If there are aspects of Mallorca's tourism which are attracting negative opinion from residents, then they need addressing. Tourists trust what residents say. Good or bad.

Monday, February 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 3 to 4.

Greyish morning but calm. Likely to be mostly cloudy today. The outlook for the week seems a bit unsettled, temperatures up and down with some rain.

Evening update (19.00): Stayed mainly grey, a high of 17.2C.

Too Many Commissions: Film in Mallorca

Here's a startling statistic. 30% of tourists visit a place that they have seen featured in the cinema or on television. And here's a second statistic. "Cinematic" tourism is responsible for shifting 40 million international tourists per year. They are statistics which have been quoted by the president of the Spain Film Commission, Carlos Rosado.

Films have immense power as means of tourism promotion because, as Sr. Rosado points out, they are "virtual brochures" which are much longer than conventional adverts, they reach more people and they make stronger emotional connections. The Film Commission, wishing to further develop Spain as a destination for filming, has produced a video called "Shooting in Spain" which, the president says, is enjoying great success on social networks.

A film, in addition to the number of tourists it might subsequently generate, also brings immediate economic benefits. They may be shortlived, but the number of jobs that can be created are significant. The Commission points to the example of filming for Ridley Scott's "The Book of Exodus" in Almeria and Fuerteventura. 6,000 work contracts resulted. And on top of these jobs, there were of course benefits for local hotels, the complementary sector and suppliers.

If you go on to the Film Commission's website, you will find a section for locations. This is categorised according to regions of the country. There is an entry for the Mallorca Film Commission. Click on it and it tells you - if you are interested in filming in Mallorca, that is - that the Mallorca Film Commission offers financial assistance up to 15% of costs and will also help with getting "important discounts" on flights, hotels, restaurants etc. It adds that Mallorca has a professional and highly qualified film and audiovisual sector. You can then click further and go to the Mallorca Film Commission's website, but once there, you begin to smell a bit of a rat. Why has there been nothing added since mentions of the filming of "Cloud Atlas"? Your curiosity raised, you click on the link for the Facebook page. Nothing has been added to it since May 2012.

There is of course a very good reason why nothing has been added. The Mallorca Film Commission doesn't exist any longer. (Perhaps someone should tell the Spain Film Commission and it can amend its website.) Mallorca has been without a film commission since the back end of 2012. It had fallen within the Mallorca Tourism Foundation, a body under the control of the Council of Mallorca, but which itself was scrapped when the Council decided it wasn't going to get involved in tourism promotion any longer. The commission - its name at any event - was to be continued as part of a private operation called Mallorca Plató and would receive a grant from the Council of 80,000 euros. The idea for this private operation lasted only as long as it took - about six months - for the suggestion to be made that a new commission, the Balearics Film Commission, should be created. This new commission is due to become a reality in April. It will receive the 80,000 euros grant, an unspecified amount from the regional government (but probably a similar sum) and contributions from the private sector.

If you are confused by all of this, then you have every right to be. Most confusing of all is that the Council of Mallorca, having got rid of the tourism foundation and its tourism promotion responsibilities because it had wanted to save money and avoid duplication, is getting these responsibilities back again. That's because the regional government has decided to hand such responsibilities over to the individual islands. As for the new Balearics Film Commission, it won't be tied to any tourism organisation but to the Department of the Presidency. Its politician in charge will be the regional vice-president, Antonio Gómez.

The confusion gives an impression of organisational chaos at governmental level, and chaotic is exactly how things have been where political treatment of Mallorca's film industry has been concerned. And it hasn't only been the treatment of Mallorca's film industry. The hugely embarrassing row over the non-payment of a grant of 150,000 euros by the Council of Mallorca to the producers of "Cloud Atlas" was not good for the image of the island as a filming destination and did nothing to suggest that governmental bodies "get it" where the benefits of film are concerned. Gómez has said that the matter will be resolved when the new Balearics Film Commission is set up and that any loss of credibility will be restored.

One can but hope so. There is a professional and highly qualified film and audiovisual industry in Mallorca which suffers as a consequence of institutional incompetence. If politicians were to appreciate the value to tourism that can be derived from film, they might stop arguing about trifling amounts and support an industry which has a great deal to offer.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 increasing Northeast 3 to 4 during the morning

Possibility of a shower by the evening but for now all is calm. The breezes having switched to northerly should mean that temperatures will be lower than the past couple of days. Still mild though.

Evening update (18.30): Some sun around today but considerably cooler; a high of 16.1C.

The Black Gold Of The Mastership

In the Jurassic period, i.e. up to 200 million years ago, the Mastership was an open sea. Nowadays, it is a mountainous region that extends from Castellón in Valencia to Teruel in Aragon. The Mastership is a literal translation for Maestrazgo, the region having taken its name from the order which once governed it - the Grand Master (Gran Maestre) of the Knights Templar.

During the period which followed the Jurassic, the Cretaceous, a formation in the Maestrazgo was buried up to a depth of almost four kilometres. At the bottom of the one-time open sea were tons and tons of organic waste. Pressure and heat that built up on the waste deposits from the burial caused the creation of what is called an "oil window". In 2002 oil found in the Amposta field off Vinaròs in Valencia (an oil field first discovered in 1970) was shown to be coming from the Ascla formation, the one that had been buried all that time ago. The Ascla, and its exact location is still being worked on, is the "mother rock" that opens the window to that oil, and as a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Santiago de Compostela has pointed out, the Maestrazgo, once upon a time, extended very much further than today's mountainous area: the waters around the Balearics form part of the Maestrazgo, the Ascla formation and all; oil and all.

This professor, José Ramón Bergueiro, is an expert on oil slicks. Because of his knowledge of sea contamination and pollution from oil, his is a voice that you would expect to be listened to. He is apparently awaiting a response from the national environment ministry to a contingency plan he has presented for the spilling of hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Valencia. He is someone who works to minimise risk, accepting that there is no such thing as zero risk. He is not someone who works to prevent oil exploration.

Professor Bergueiro is sure that there is oil in the waters off the Balearics. He believes that this oil would be profitable. He also believes that oil and tourism can co-exist. He is, therefore, something of a lone voice.

On the beach in Palma on Friday there was a performance by the association Balears diu no (Balearics says no) which involved the pouring of tar over one of the performers. The oil slick, of the type with which Professor Bergueiro is familiar, had arrived, if only symbolically. It was another performance designed to attract attention to the opposition to oil exploration, and this opposition, one has the impression, is all but total. Palma's mayor Mateo Isern was helping with the collection of signatures against the exploration. He is just one politician who is opposed. Another, Alcúdia's mayor Coloma Terrasa, has posted the "says no" legend to her Facebook page. Everyone's saying no, including President Bauzá.

Having what might be a dispassionate or even vaguely objective discussion about oil seems to be almost impossible. Minds are made up. Oil, just say no. Yet below the slick of all the naysaying that is floating on the political surface is an undercurrent of a different type of politics - ambition - or so it has been suggested. The revelation by the national minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, that President Bauzá had said, in the course of what was a private telephone call, that he recognised that there was nothing the national government could do to stop the prospecting, has been interpreted as an attempt by Soria to undermine Bauzá. And why might he want to do this? Because there is a further suggestion that Bauzá has his eye on Soria's job. If you've wondered why Bauzá has been so high profile outside the Balearics recently, then here - possibly - is the answer.

For Bauzá, being able to oppose exploration (even if he knows that it can't be stopped), is a grand opportunity to demonstrate environmental credentials and to regain lost popularity in the Balearics, but if he is genuinely looking at Soria's job, then how could he reconcile this opposition with the exploration? As a minister responsible for industry and energy, Soria can't oppose it. If he were to, then he would almost certainly have to resign. The suggestion that Bauzá wants his job strikes one (strikes me at any rate) as being unlikely. 

But if there are certain games to be played by politicians rather than engaging in objective debate about the oil, games aren't being played by the ordinary people of the Balearics (and forget the celebrity, bandwagoning dissenters). Opposition in the Balearics is similar to that in the Canaries. The two sets of islands are being treated as though they were colonies for exploitation with no regard being paid to the lifeblood of tourism or to the environment. Understandable as this attitude is, the emotion of the opposition prevents dispassionate debate. Might it just be possible for oil, tourism and environment to all co-exist? No one in the Balearics seems inclined to even consider the possibility that they might.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Fans call for resignations following home defeat against Hércules

Real Mallorca 0 : 1 Hércules
Mallorca at home to lowly Hércules (lowly meaning eight places below Mallorca with four points fewer before the match), and the home side got off to a positive start, playing with greater intensity and having a goal (Gerard Moreno) disallowed for offside halfway through the first half. And then, having posed little threat, Hércules scored through Hadzic. Mallorca went in search of an equaliser - or more - and as a result Hércules were able to regularly match chances that the home side were. As the game drew towards a close, the crowd started demanding resignations of the board. This was pitiful from Mallorca. Coach Oltra might have gone before now if it hadn't been for all the shenanigans at board level. The players have stayed loyal to him, but now the fans' loyalty to the players, as well as Oltra and the board, was being shown to have become seriously eroded.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 5 easing 2 to 3 by midday.

Will today see highs nudging 25C as was the case yesterday? Possibly. Another good day in prospect with the breezes maybe easing compared with yesterday. A better outlook for tomorrow than had been the case. Not as warm though, with the breezes swinging northerly.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 22.6C.

Defenders Of Culture

It went very much under the radar, but last week the Spanish Government managed to slip in a small adjustment to the application of IVA. Having previously decided to reduce the maximum 21% rate for the sale of works of art to the 10% rate, commonly known as the tourist rate because it is the one which applies to certain tourist-related businesses, it said that it would be looking to possibly also reduce the 21% rate for other "cultural" activities. And last week it did just that. Final approval for these adjustments will wait until March, but there seems little doubt that the two activities so far identified as warranting the reduction will indeed benefit from it. And what is the second activity, the one that was quietly introduced last week? It is bullfighting.

When IVA was increased in September 2012, a number of activities which had until then enjoyed the reduced rate (8% before the increase to 10%) suddenly found themselves bracketed at the maximum rate. These included attractions, clubs, golf courses and many other activities which would probably not be defined as "cultural". The government, in reducing the rate for works of art, appeared to want to portray itself as defenders of culture, conveniently ignoring the fact that it, together with the banks, is the main collector of works of art in Spain. Nevertheless, and any possible vested interests aside, giving the art world some encouragement was not unwelcome. The same, however, cannot be said for the encouragement of the bullfighting industry.

Apart from its history, bullfighting qualifies as being of cultural importance (where the government is concerned) because last October Congress approved an initiative to have the bullfight declared as an example of "intangible cultural heritage of humanity" by UNESCO (this is the same award that was made to the Mallorcan Sibil·la chant). This initiative had been placed before Congress through a piece of "popular" legislation, which is the process whereby, if a required number of signatures are gathered for a petition, governments are obliged to consider legislative change or introduction. It is a process which can only be used for certain things, such as cultural activities, and the presentation of this petition to the national parliament (which required 600,000 signatures) was the same as the process in Catalonia which resulted in bullfighting being banned there (the required number of signatures was lower). Among those whose signatures appeared on the petition was Mariano Rajoy.

It shouldn't really need explaining that there was a huge chunk of politics behind the petition presented to parliament, just as it shouldn't really need explaining that the Spanish Government, i.e. the Partido Popular, has portrayed itself as the defender of the bullfight. As with art, so with the bullfight. Defenders of culture.

The announcement about the IVA reduction was overlooked because there was far more important parliamentary work last week. PSOE had attempted to overturn the introduction of the reformed abortion law. In a secret ballot in Congress, PSOE failed to do so. The new law will stand.

Reaction to confirmation of the reformed law in the Balearics led to some 80 gynecologists signing a letter calling for the law to be withdrawn; the 80 represent a majority of approximately 70%. Opposition to the reformed law has been widespread; even the Balearics health minister (Partido Popular) isn't fully in favour of it. And this opposition has centred on the lack of medical sense contained in the law. It has been condemned for having been politically motivated and politically motivated alone; a means of the Partido Popular nationally aligning itself with conservatives in the Catholic Church. It has also been condemned for being out of step with public opinion, and a Gadeso survey in the Balearics last week revealed that 71% of people were in favour of what had been a more permissive law before the government went ahead and made it that much more restrictive.

There is something rather perverse about a government which seems determined to return to the past and to ignore general public sentiment. Both bullfighting and abortion are symptomatic of that past. Franco liked nothing more than watching a bull get its ears cut off. He was of course also dead against abortion.

Friday, February 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4 increasing 5 during the afternoon.

Sunny morning and a very fine day in prospect. Quite breezy probably but these breezes are southwesterly, so helping to boost the temperature. A forecast high of 18C is almost certainly conservative.

Evening update (20.15): Extraordinary. A high of 24.8C.

The New Route To Cycling

Cycling tourism in Majorca is nothing new but it has undergone a significant boom in recent years. The hoteliers' federation calculates that it now generates an economic impact to the tune of sixty million euros per annum. But how does this 60 million stack up against the total economic impact of tourism? It is hard to be exact, because it is hard to know that like is being measured with like, but in 2011 the federation produced a report which estimated that the total impact was 9,090 million euros. 60 million, if one's being honest, is chicken feed in the overall scheme of things.

But overall scheme of things is what matters. Tourism is far from being standardised, either in terms of tourists themselves or the type of tourism in which they engage. Small the contribution may be, but the cycling niche, thanks to its boom, is finally realising benefits, and they most obviously manifest themselves in hotels opening earlier and more hotels opening earlier than has been the case. It is cycling and sports tourism in general which has prompted an increase in hotel openings this winter in Alcúdia. A total of thirty hotels will open between this month and April, seven more than last year, while in February alone, seven will have opened by the end of the month, which will be two more than 2013. The increases may not be huge but they are increases nevertheless.

A factor which may result in further early hotel opening over the next few years will be the grand cycling route which is to be created along the bay of Alcúdia. It has been promised for at least a decade but only now is going to come into being. One reason why it has been held back has been coming to an agreement as to precisely how to cope with the road that runs by the side of the Albufera nature park from the English bridge in Playa de Muro to Can Picafort. How this will be coped with has still to be explained, as Muro town hall, responsible for this section of the route (along presumably with the Council of Majorca, which has overall responsibility for the carreteras), has yet to present its design. Each of the three town halls involved - Alcúdia, Muro and Santa Margalida - will assume responsibility for layout of the route in their respective towns. At present, only Alcúdia has firmed up its ideas, which will see the route run from the coastal road coming from Puerto Pollensa, up to the Magic Roundabout and then along the Carretera Artà towards Playa de Muro.

The route will cost some 600,000 euros, and the finance will come from the regional government. The three town halls are also expected to apportion finance for the route from their 2014 budgets. All being well, and once Muro and Santa Margalida have finalised their designs, work could start on the route later this year. It is all pretty good news, it must be said.

Just going back to the economic impact of tourism and the report that the hoteliers' federation issued in 2011, it is interesting to see the marked difference between Pollensa and the bay of Alcúdia resorts. The economic impact was measured in terms of hotel activity and not total tourism activity, and so the difference highlights - not the first time - quite how small Pollensa's hotel tourism is by comparison with its neighbours. Alcúdia, perhaps surprisingly as it is the biggest of the resorts, didn't generate the most impact; Playa de Muro with 790 million beat Alcúdia's 748 million, an indication of the generally higher quality of Playa de Muro's hotels. Can Picafort generated 443 million, while Pollensa raised only 209 million.

Pollensa's performance is most definitely not a reflection of low quality hotels. Rather, it is reflection of the fact that the town does not have anything like the number of hotels as, say, Alcúdia does. It is also a reflection of just how important non-hotel accommodation, i.e. holiday lets (of different types) is to Pollensa's tourism economy.

For the record, the resort in Majorca which generated the highest economic impact was Playa de Palma - 1,665 million. Palmanova-Magalluf came second with 999 million.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Southwest 3 to 4, 5 at intervals, easing 3 by the evening.

Another bright morning and a bright and warm day in prospect. Staying good into the weekend, but with rain possibly due by Sunday and the temperature falling back again.

Evening update (21.00): Well, really quite remarkable - a high of 23.1C (registered in Muro). This is unusual for February.

The Hybrid Expatriate

Seven years ago I came across an article in the newspaper "ADN" that was written by Montserrat Dominguez, a quite well-known journalist both in print and on the television. This was what she had to say: "ITV is showing a series called "Benidorm", which tells the adventures of a group of tourists. The action centres on an all-inclusive complex. The tourists neither have to leave (this complex) nor do they have to eat paella. Did I say paella? Excuse me, the Brits enjoy fish and chips, porridge, baked beans and other specialities of their cuisine; they don't try local dishes. Why would they risk this, given that their surroundings reproduce a scene in which they have pubs, music, tobacco and drinks. Why then do they come to Benidorm, to Mallorca, to the Costa Brava or to the Canaries? (They can go) without hearing a word of Castellano, Mallorquín or Catalan or, even worse, without discovering a slice of tortilla or a good pa amb oli."

In fact, Montserrat wasn't entirely accurate. To correct her, there was the episode in which Janice, bothering Mick while he was trying to read a copy of "The Sun", was criticising what had been available for lunch at the Solana. "I didn't think much to that. What was all that shite on the top? What was it called?" "Paella," replied Mick curtly. I know that the Garveys had paella, because I had seen the episode in question. But I hadn't seen it on the telly. I don't watch British telly. I don't have Sky. And because I don't watch British telly, I am therefore fully integrated and assimilated into local Mallorcan society.

Which is of course utter garbage. To go back to Montserrat's points of cultural reference, I have rarely had fish and chips in Mallorca, but I am partial to baked beans now and then, while porridge is good for you. Many is the Castellano, Mallorquín or Catalan word that I hear and even myself utter. And a good pa amb oli is a treat. There again, I'm not a tourist. Yet, Montserrat's description could, if you took out the all-inclusive setting, apply just as easily to the British expatriate. Or to one particular type. Possibly.

The fact that Montserrat was talking about a telly programme is pertinent to the debate caused by Sky satellites crashing to earth and leaving huge craters into which the expatriate community plunges as though into voids of cultural deprivation. I know there are no satellites falling to earth, but you could be forgiven for thinking that there were. Potential loss of the signal has heralded an expatriate tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Without the telly, "oh, woe is me, t'have seen what I have seen, see what I see" but can no longer.

I suspect that many expatriates and not, it is probably fair to say, only British adopt a pick 'n' mix policy to their lives in Mallorca. They will pick some of the indigenous and some of the old country. And in so doing, they will be content. Until, that is, someone pipes up and commands them to abandon Sky forthwith and to go native, just like that someone has. This someone is the most insufferable of all expatriates -the holier-than-thou, converse normally only in Mallorquín, and let everyone know the fact expat.

While Montserrat's description of the British tourist - itself of course a gross generalisation - could equally apply to the expatriate, it would be to a species of "expatriatus in extremis". Granted, it does seem odd to stumble across such a rare species who has long planted Mallorcan roots but who is still incapable of doing the lingo to any greater extent than "dos cervezas, por favor", but why should it matter?

The pressure to make someone have to try and justify the degree of his or her integration (whatever this word means, because I really don't know that a satisfactory definition exists) is preposterous. Watching British telly is evidence of nothing other than watching British telly, but for some it is evidence of the existence of bad expat or good expat. Rubbish. It would be an extreme measure for someone to decide to pack up and "go back home" because Sky falls, but the fact that Sky, telly and various other forms of communication became so easily available is, I think it fair to argue, a reason (only one reason) why some people chose to come to Mallorca to live.

The communications industry in its different varieties can indeed make it appear as though the expatriate has moulded a style of life which is little Britain in the sun, but that isn't the fault of the expatriate. He or she is symptomatic of a cultural hybridism that has been facilitated through freedom of movement and fibre optics. And if he or she wants to watch British telly, then so be it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 12C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Northwest 3 to 4 backing Southwest by the afternoon and increasing 4 to 5 by the evening.

Good enough morning, clear skies and some pleasant weather being the order of the day. Temperatures up markedly over the next three days.

Evening update (18.15): A high of 18C on a fine sunny day.

The Lesson Of Kevin Pietersen

Sport, that which is played by more than one person, has always been defined in terms of the team. The team has always mattered, and all that has mattered to the team has been winning.

English cricket, apart from the occasional excellent international team, has also thrown up notable county teams. Yorkshire in the 1960s was such a team, one that was littered with opinionated and domineering characters - Brian Close, Ray Illingworth, Fred Trueman, Geoffrey Boycott - some of whom had a visceral dislike of others. In spite of whatever conflicts there may have been in the Yorkshire dressing-room, the team kept on winning.

In management and business circles of the 1980s and 1990s, when gurus and consultants were casting around for the next topic from which they could earn a more than decent crust, the "team" surfaced as one such topic. There were seminal contributions on the subject of the team in organisations, and they drew heavily on examples from the sporting world. That Yorkshire team was, as far I am aware, never referred to, but one English sports team which was highlighted was the Liverpool FC of Shankly, Paisley and Fagan.

The gurus took what they saw as the attributes of great sports teams and moulded them to create models of how teams in organisations should work. Simultaneous with this almost anecdotal method was the more scientific furtherance of what Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers had published in 1962. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was the foundation for an explosion in psychometrics and in examining team roles.

The Kevin Pietersen affair is baffling in different ways. One of them is the reference to the need to inculcate team values and ethics as an apparent justification for his sacking. The conclusion one is left to draw is that Pietersen was either insubordinate, too outspoken or simply too different to be tolerated any longer. Yet, there is an irony to be found in the language of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Team values, team ethics; these are the words of its chief executive, Paul Downton, and they are the terminology of the management guru. The team, its organisation and its roles, has gone full circle. What was taken from sport has been grabbed back from the business organisation, and in the process, something appears to have gone wrong.

Fundamentally what seems to have gone wrong is an inability to manage the team and team members by instinct rather than by some rubric set out in a manual. Shankly and his successors had no recourse to a manual. They managed as they thought right, and they were right more often than not. The team was paramount, but within the team were individuals: all different, all needing a way of handling. Brian Close was known to have been a tough captain, but he was also known to have been able to deal with different personalities. One way was to threaten to or to actually punch Geoffrey Boycott.

To what extent the England cricket team's management by manual has been influenced by psychometrics I couldn't possibly say, but we know that psychometrics are used because Stuart Broad has revealed that they are. If so, what might the insight into Kevin Pietersen have been? His style of play is that of the creator and the innovator, the member of the team who thinks outside the box. Yet, he himself has described himself as an introvert. Myers-Briggs and the tests it spawned would suggest that the innovator and the introvert are, to no small extent, mutually exclusive. Pietersen, in other words, wouldn't conform to an expected type.

And there is of course no reason why he should conform to type or indeed why anyone should. Far from being an assistance to team management, the guru approach can be a hindrance if what is sought is a team comprising individuals who think the same. At its most extreme, this leads to groupthink in which the desire for cohesiveness is more important than individual freedom of expression and which can be the consequence of team failures and faults in leaders.

Any group which has pretensions to being a "team" and so having cohesiveness and a team ethic can fall foul of a groupthink straitjacket and end up losing valuable members in the process. It happens in politics. It has happened in the Balearics. The cabinet "team" of President Bauzá did away with its language non-conformist Rafael Bosch. Trust was needed, just as trust has been cited with regard to Pietersen. Failures of the "team" and of the leader, those regarding the opposition to the green taxes for example, demanded a scapegoat. Pep Aguiló was the obvious choice, just as Pietersen was the obvious scapegoat. The replacements are team clones, conformist to the core. The team ethic is secured. But at what cost? Discipline is one thing, thinking is quite another.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 February 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 12C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 4 to 6. Swells of to two metres decreasing.

Looking clear and should be clear for most of the day but also a bit chilly. The breeze down at present but picking up from the west. Warmer by the end of the week.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 14.7C. It was mostly sunny but at times windy. Not bad, though.