Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (5.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 veering North 3 during the day.

Some cloud detectable in the dark, pre-dawn sky, but stars are out too. Prospect of another good day, but the forecast for Friday remains iffy and for some possibly heavy rain.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 26.6C. Pretty warm, therefore.

Need Not Cost: Balearics' parliamentary deputies

If a legal reform is drafted, under which the number of deputies to parliament are reduced by 16, who do you suppose would be most prominent in offering a reaction to such a draft? If you reckon that it would be spokespeople from various political parties, then you would be right. But you might not reckon on it being a spokesperson from one sector of the business community.

President Bauzá has put forward the draft to reduce the size of the Balearic parliament from 59 to 43 deputies. When this reduction was first being discussed in September last year, the cut was to have been 18 deputies. Two have, therefore, been spared. 16 from 59, or some 27%, might seem like a lot of deputies to get rid of, but the question is still the same now as it was back in September. Why does the parliament need 43 let alone 59 deputies? A second question also remains. How do they arrive at these numbers in the first place?

The answer to this second question has been offered by Paul Heywood, a professor of European politics. He has said that parliamentary representation in Spain and not just the Balearics is determined "without any guiding orientation". The number of deputies, therefore, are pretty much plucked out of the air. There is a bit more to it than that because there is a territorial-population relationship, but the guiding orientation is, nevertheless, somewhat woolly and indeed open to interpretation. What guiding orientation there is suggests - in general terms - that there should be one representative per 40,000 people. For the Balearics, there is currently one deputy for 19,000 people. Under the reform this would rise to 26,000 people, while the number of seats in parliament would become 24 for Mallorca (nine fewer), nine for both Menorca and Ibiza (respectively, down four and three), and one for Formentera (no change).

The government's justification for the reform is a cost one. It claims that the reduction would result in a saving of slightly more than eleven million euros during the period of a legislature. As such, the motivation for the reform is very much in line with government policy to cut the costs of public administration. But this cost saving is being seen as a smokescreen and as a diversion of attention from other matters. It is also being seen as a ploy to ensure that the Partido Popular always wins elections.

Electoral reform has a tendency to benefit governments which introduce it. Or at least this is how such reform is typically perceived and is certainly how it is being perceived in the Balearics by the other parties and by some analysts. The smaller parties stand to lose out under this reform. Democracy and true representation of the people are, therefore, undermined.

The chances of the draft reform actually becoming law are not as might be presumed. For a reform of this nature, having a parliamentary majority, which the PP has, is insufficient. A two-thirds vote in favour is required. The PP does not have enough deputies to carry this vote. As it is believed that smaller parties will suffer under the reform, it seems unlikely that they would back the government. PSOE, the main opposition, certainly won't be supporting Bauzá.

While it is easy for the opposition parties to toss around accusations of being undemocratic, they are not answering the question why the number is as it is. Or indeed as it would become. There are parts of Spain where the ratio of people to deputy is considerably higher than the 40,000 benchmark. In Andalusia, as an example, the ratio is one per 75,000.

The PP is playing to its audience by challenging the opposition to justify not diverting the 11 million from parliamentary cost to other causes, such as the health service, but in a way it doesn't need to. Does the electorate believe that it is necessary for there to be 59 deputies? Maybe it does believe so, but there is no truly convincing argument as to why.

Opposition parties being as opposition parties are, one would expect them to oppose the reform, but what of the support for the government? Who is the spokesperson from a sector of the business community who has voiced support? It is the president of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation. And what, pray, has this reform got to do with the hoteliers?

The federation's president, Aurelio Vázquez, says that the reduction would be in line with the hoteliers calls for rationalisation of public expenditure and that other political parties should support the government. The federation has every right to express its views, but is it really appropriate for it to be getting involved? There is a suspicion that it gets its way with PP legislation as it is, and by voicing support, it will only make opposition parties less inclined to back the government.

The reform seems reasonable enough, but a key justification is in danger of being lost in the argument. Need, and not cost or what the hoteliers might think. Why are so many deputies needed? They aren't.

Index for April 2014

Alcúdia's Mile - 4 April 2014
Alcúdia's port - 25 April 2014
All-inclusives and PSOE policy - 28 April 2014
Article salat at IB3 - 17 April 2014, 29 April 2014
Balearic parliamentary deputies reduction - 30 April 2014
Bullfighting - 22 April 2014
Fairs in April - 5 April 2014
Calvia and Sóller on Trip Advisor - 10 April 2014
Camping in Mallorca - 15 April 2014
Corruption and residence cards - 3 April 2014
Cricket season, Mallorcan tourism season - 7 April 2014
Feuds - 18 April 2014
Francina Armengol wins PSOE presidential nomination - 8 April 2014
Gabriel García Márquez and Day of the Book - 20 April 2014
Insecurities in Mallorca - 1 April 2014
Low-cost hotels - 16 April 2014
Mallorca's plain and tourism - 6 April 2014
May hotel occupancy in Mallorca - 24 April 2014
Mayors rebel against President Bauzá - 12 April 2014
Nicknames - 23 April 2014
Palm Sunday - 13 April 2014
Pancaritat Easter picnics - 19 April 2014
Partido Popular and discounts - 26 April 2014
Playa de Muro's boulevard - 11 April 2014
Summer season in Mallorca - 27 April 2014
Ten things that changed Mallorca's tourism - 14 April 2014
Theme parks - 2 April 2014
Tourism museum in Calella - 9 April 2014
Tourism raw material - 21 April 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 15C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 veering East and Southeast 3 to 4 by midday.

Clear, sunny morning and another good day to come. Rather warmer with breezes shifting east and south. Still looking somewhat iffy for Friday.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 24.5C. A good, sunny day. 

The The: Chaucer was not Mallorcan

In days of yore when obliged to do Chaucer for English Literature, my school's headmaster - who only ever left his study to do any teaching when the Father of English Lit was on the curriculum - would produce one of those old-fashioned, vinyl LP things, place it on the school's gramophone player and inflict Nevill Coghill on his group of uncomprehending sixth-formers. The headmaster was passionate about Chaucer, passionate about Coghill's interpretation and so therefore passionate about the language that was being used - Middle English.

Chaucer's language was not the finished article by any means. English underwent various iterations before something like a standard version was hit upon. "The Canterbury Tales" and "Troilus and Criseyde", which would crackle from the needle on Coghill's intonation, were arguably written through a collision of Kentish and Midlands dialects. Whatever the precise linguistic background to Chaucer's Middle English, his works contained what by then had become a standard form: the definite article "the".

Chaucer's great achievement was to give legitimacy to the native language in its then different varieties and to so challenge Latin (and French) as the dominant formal languages. His English was just one step along a route of influence, alteration and hybridisation which introduced its own conventions and abandoned others. One such was the distinction between the masculine, feminine and neuter articles which had existed in Old English. "The" became "the" and only "the" (or strictly speaking, "þe").

English nowadays reflects its historical, linguistic melting-pot in one particularly significant way. There is no language arbiter. There are no language diktats. English does not have academies, as the French and Spanish do, which establish rules.

English is hardly unique in having passed through phases of development brought about through migration and conquest, but while English, and other languages, evolved almost naturally, occasionally there was a linguistic shock, a moment in time when language (or dialect) changed almost totally. The conquest of Mallorca represented one such moment in time.

The natives on Mallorca didn't wake up on 1 January, 1230 and start speaking Catalan. The process of language assimilation took time, but as the island's population was probably no more than 20,000 (if that), the time that was required was uncommonly short. Once established, this new language took two paths. One was a regular Catalan which made its way into administration, documentation and religion. The other was the colloquial Catalan, one that represented some continuity with pre-conquest Vulgar Latin and Mozarabic, which had existed before Jaume I arrived on the scene. This colloquial Catalan became the Mallorquín dialect. It differs in certain respects, and one of the more notable ways in which it differs to regular Catalan is in the use of the definite article - the masculine and feminine of "the".

I recently drew attention to the row that had broken out because the Mallorcan broadcaster IB3 had started using the Mallorquín "the" in its news reports. Known as the "article salat", this colloquial use broke with tradition which deemed that regular, more formal Catalan was used. The row has since gone as far as the Balearic parliament and has intensified, as the Partido Popular-dominated parliament has approved the use of the "salat" at IB3. As a consequence, there are many, especially those in scholarly circles, who are now in a right old lather because of the parliament's decision. The argument has everything to do with the Partido Popular undermining Catalan. Again.

For we English-speaking descendants of Chaucer, the argument may well appear absurd. It will seem doubly so because of the absence of an English usage rule-making body. But where such bodies do exist, as in France and Spain, they are non-governmental and supposedly independent. For a government to make a direct ruling on language use is a different matter, and it is - despite the apparent absurdity - a pretty serious matter.

Inevitably and understandably, parliament's approval can be seen as having echoes of past official rulings on the Catalan language. But those were different to the current row. This is a local one, predicated as much if not more on political dogma as on linguistic common sense. The right-wing, characterised by elements within the PP and the anti-Catalan Circulo Balear (recently lampooned for its apparent role in determining government language policy), advances the cause of Mallorquín and the dialects of the other islands and attacks Catalan hegemony. It is as though Jaume I and the conquest never happened. But without that moment in time, that linguistic shock, Mallorquín would not now exist; or it would exist in a different form.

Yet, for all that there are political overtones, from experience of having spoken to Mallorcan people over the years, the majority might well agree with parliament's decision. They speak Mallorquín and not Catalan. How confusing. If only there had been a Mallorcan Chaucer. Though there was one - of sorts. Ramon Llull. And he used ...? 

Monday, April 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 18C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 veering Northwest around midday and Northeast 3 during the afternoon.

Partly cloudy but mostly clear morning on what should be a fine day, warm in the sun but with a keen westerly keeping things cool. Outlook good for the week until we get to Friday when rain is forecast.

Evening update (20.00): High of 22.3C. Chillyish morning became a warm afternoon.

The Political Reason For All-Inclusive

"All-inclusive is a desperate effort by tour operators to maintain their operational capacity in our country. It is a short-term strategy while they resize their strategy and prepare new products ... All-inclusive is not the future for our country."

These were the words of Celestí Alomar, who was Balearics tourism minister during the first PSOE-led government from 1999 to 2003. He wrote them the year after PSOE had lost the 2003 election. It is clear that Alomar felt that the all-inclusive would die out and that it had been a response to what had been a trend away from the traditional package holiday. It is also clear that he was wrong and that there were further errors in his analysis. He spoke of the Spanish hotel industry having been, up till that point, reluctant to embrace all-inclusive and that, in 2004, it was something of a novelty.

He may have been right to point to novelty where Spanish tourism in total was concerned, but where the Balearics were concerned, he had seemingly forgotten what he had said in 2001. Two years into his position as minister, he gave an interview to the German magazine "Focus". In this he referred to the eight million tourists who came to Mallorca each year, roughly a half of them German, and to the all-inclusive offers that German tourists were taking up.

That interview caused a considerable stir, not because of the reference to all-inclusive but because Alomar was signalling the intention to radically reduce "mass tourism". Together with colleagues in the former Unió Mallorquina, policy was drawn up which sent out a message that Mallorca and the Balearics were no longer interested in the regular German tourist. It provoked a great deal of anger. When the eco-tax was then introduced (Alomar was partly responsible for it), the German market slumped. It was taking its revenge for both the insult implicit to the message of the interview and for the tax (though it should also be pointed out that the German economy was in its own slump at that time).

It is true to say that the traditional package holiday was under threat. It is also true to say that all-inclusive was a response to this threat. But when, in 2004, Alomar spoke of "irreparable damage" that all-inclusive could cause, he neglected the damage that he, Joan Mesquida (finance minister in the PSOE government) and Maria Antonia Munar (with her infamous utterances about Mallorca only wanting "quality" tourists) had sought to inflict.

Though one can't talk of there having been a co-ordinated counterattack, tour operators and hoteliers went on the counterattack. They responded to governmental policy and messages and to the eco-tax with what was a weapon of last resort - the all-inclusive.

In 2005, two years into the Partido Popular administration of Jaume Matas, the then tourism minister, Joan Flaquer, attributed the increase in all-inclusive to the "weakness" of the Balearics as a holiday destination. Flaquer was alluding to something of a "crisis" in the local tourism industry, detectable from 2002. He stated that his government and its policies were not the reason for the rise in all-inclusive. He was placing the blame firmly on the previous administration.

Alomar's "novelty" factor was plainly wrong in the Balearics context. In 1998, the year before he became PSOE's minister, it was reckoned that there were twenty hotels in the Balearics which offered all-inclusive. By 2003, when PSOE lost the election, there were 129. In fact, this rise was almost totally observable in 2003.

Business strategies quite separate to any political issues in the Balearics have to be taken account of, but is it an exaggeration to suggest that there was an all-inclusive-led counterattack? Is it inappropriate to talk of there having been a direct link between attitudes and policies of the PSOE administration and its Unió Mallorquina allies and the massive increase in the all-inclusive offer?

Flaquer tried, in both 2005 and 2006, to allay fears regarding all-inclusive. In 2005, he stated that the number of establishments offering it was plateauing. He was to be proved wrong. The following year, he spoke about a campaign involving the tourism and health ministries which was part of a set of measures to regulate all-inclusive. There was to be specific quality certification; there were to also be intensive inspections of hotels. Regulation was not proscription (it couldn't have been without a massive legal backlash), but the limited regulation that was supposedly introduced proved to be toothless.

Because of strategic product changes by tour operators, it can be too convenient to attach political blame for the explosion in all-inclusive. But when PSOE in Calvia, in a barely disguised, self-serving, pre-election move, now demand action against all-inclusive, the party there should remember what happened between 1999 and 2003.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 backing and easing West 2 to 3 by midday. Swells to one metre.

Some rain overnight and so a cloudy and damp start to the day. Due to brighten up later. The outlook for the week is good until later in the week when rain is forecast for Friday, but this might change. 

Evening update (19.15): Fresh breeze keeping temperatures down. Warm in the sun though. High of 20.4C.

The Invention Of The Summer Season

In a few days time we will wish April goodbye. We will thank it for its mostly blissful and unusually warm weather. Thank it for bringing riches of tourists over Easter. Thank it for having been a more-than-decent warm-up act for once. In a few days time it will be the first of May, the official opening day of the summer tourism season. The resorts, generally already reasonably busy, will crank up their busy-ness. There will be more coaches, more people, more of everything. But being the first day of the season, it will also be a national holiday. Labour Day. Fortunately, not everyone chooses to close for the day, though there is something comically appropriate about the season's commencement coinciding with a day of non-labour.

Official starts to seasons are the stuff of recent tourism vintage. In the good old days, there weren't official starts. There weren't seasons - not in a tourism sense of the word. There wasn't tourism, so how could there have been?

The tourism summer season is typically styled as being a phenomenon which took off in the early 1960s. In terms of mass tourism, this was the case, but the summer season already existed and its roots lay with the new fad for sunbathing that grew between the two world wars. Assigning a precise date (if not place) to the emergence of the summer season is impossible. Tourism, prior to the advent of its organisers - the tour operators - was mostly organic. It had a natural development, aided by those who acted as cheerleaders for the "island of calm", a term first used by the Catalan artist and writer Santiago Rusiñol in 1912.

Rusiñol was in the vanguard of literary and artistic sorts who were to introduce a Bohemian element to Mallorca. If places on the island can be identified as original destinations for summer tourism, then they would be those with which these Bohemians were associated - Formentor and Puerto Pollensa and El Terreno in Palma. But most visitors in the early part of the last century were attracted less by the summer than by the winter; tourism to Mallorca was predominantly during what we would now call the off-season. It was the sunbathing trend - with the French and Americans to its fore - which was to secure Mallorca's summer future.

Going back further, Mallorca was an island that was mainly unknown and generally ignored. The first tourists to anywhere, it might be said, were the upper-class young men of the Grand Tour. For two centuries from the mid-seventeenth century they took journeys of European cultural discovery. Mallorca was not on the Grand Tour; indeed Spain was not part of the usual itinerary. Mallorca had nothing to offer. It was some island stuck in the middle of the sea.

It makes for a bit of a story, but crediting Frederic Chopin with having been the first Mallorcan tourist is somewhat far-fetched. It could be argued that he invented the notion of health tourism, as his stay on Mallorca in the late 1830s had supposedly been intended to have been for the good of his poor health. But he wintered miserably, along with his live-in lover, and wasn't about to become a regular return visitor to the island. The greater claim on having been a first-mover of Mallorcan tourism was one of those European upper-class young men: an aristocratic young man, the Archduke Louis Salvador Maria Joseph John Baptist Dominic Rainer Ferdinand Charles Zenobius Anthony of Austria. The many-named Archduke was a tour party all of his own. The Archduke, who laboured for over 20 years putting together the several volumes of his grand work, "Die Balearen", wasn't a tourist though. He was a resident. It was to be friends and associates who visited him in Valldemossa and Deyá in the later part of the nineteenth century who were the tourists. Painters, historians, naturalists, poets, ornithologists; you name them, they visited.

The Archduke, who was to be named honorary president of the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) in 1909, was undeniably important in fostering subsequent tourism in the form of Germanic generations who were to come for the sun and who were to - for all time - become the butt of jokes on account of their beach-towel behaviour. But that was to be a different type of tourism to that which his friends enjoyed. This different type - summer season tourism - can only truly be said to have started with Gerard Blitz (Club Med) and Vladimir Raitz (Horizon) at the start of the 1950s, though the role of the British Workers' Travel Association shouldn't be forgotten in the context of the development of the Mallorcan summer season. A trade-union association, its membership would have applauded the fact that Labour Day was a national holiday and the first day of the season.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Relegation threatens Mallorca after Alavés defeat

Alavés 1 : 0 Real Mallorca
Hard to believe that Mallorca's season could get much worse, but it has. Alavés, more threatened with the drop than Mallorca, dominated most of a poor first half, neither team deserving of any real plaudits. Mallorca came out after the break with rather more intent, but nothing came of this greater effort. Instead, Alaves's dangerous Borja Viguera finally secured the win, moments after Hemed had missed an open goal for Mallorca.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West and Northwest 3 to 4 backing Southwest by the afternoon. Swells of two metres decreasing.

After yesterday's burst of awful weather, it's back to calmness and clear skies this morning, with sun anticipated through the day along with higher temperatures. A chance of a shower tomorrow, otherwise the outlook is fairly settled for the next few days.

Evening update (19.45): High of 24C. Good day. 

Join The PP - Get Your Discounts!

The British Conservative Party operates an affinity programme for its members. Included in this programme are discounts on purchases from the Early Learning Centre, Mothercare and Blackwells book stores as well as on holidays through Cottages4you. An incentive scheme such as this isn't uncommon, and nor is it uncommon in Mallorca, except among political parties.

In February, the Partido Popular in the Balearics launched a discount card for its members. Called the "Targeta Blava" (the blue card), some 300 businesses across the islands were signed up to the scheme initially. In the space of only two months, these 300 businesses have risen to 700. It is a scheme which seems to have been successful, and so there are those who are not happy with it. And who do you think they are?

This week, the Més leftist grouping raised a motion for Palma's councillors to consider. It didn't want Palma City Council to sign any contracts with businesses which are part of the scheme. It has already brought the same motion before the Balearic parliament and the Council of Mallorca. The Palma proposal, supported by PSOE, was defeated; the PP has a clear majority.

Més and PSOE object to the discount card on the grounds that it is a form of indirect donation, that it may well be illegal and that it discredits politics. The PP rejects any claim that it is illegal, and its number two in Palma, Álvaro Gijón, reckoned that the idea for the card proved that the PP was simply smarter than other parties who don't have one.

Sadly for the opposition parties, Gijón is almost certainly right. The PP often is smarter when it comes to party organisation. It has more than 22,000 members in the Balearics; PSOE has just over 2,500 paid-up card carriers (but not discount card carriers). The PP is a well-oiled machine (as well oiled as things can be in the typically shambolic Balearics political scene) by comparison with other parties. This organisation was just one reason why it secured the crushing electoral victory that it did in 2011.

Undeterred by the smarter-than-the-average-political-party-bear jibe, the left continued to argue against the card, believing that businesses may have been, how can one put it, persuaded that it was in their interests to join the scheme. The 100%-plus increase in only two months is a pretty substantial increase, it must be said. They have all joined voluntarily, responded Gijón, who was having nothing of any allegations of coercion.

Anyway, for anyone eligible of becoming a member of the PP, it might be worth giving membership some serious consideration. If there are all these businesses knocking around offering discounts, it could be worth it, and it wouldn't actually mean voting for the PP. It would be advisable to register a vote, just to make sure, but they'd never know if the vote was for Més or PSOE instead. Would they?

Friday, April 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North and Northeast 5 to 6. Rain and storms.

Partly cloudy, there having been some rain overnight. Alerts in place for heavy rain and for storms, things improving by the late afternoon. The outlook is good for tomorrow but for a possible shower on Sunday. Temperatures lower than they have been.

Evening update (20.15): Serious storm hit not so long after posting this morning's report. Very heavy rain brought flooding in areas. Temperatures were down to around 11.5C but recovered to a high of 19.7C when the sun returned. 

Mysteries Of Alcúdia's Port

Passengers with Saga Cruises have been undertaking a Magical Mystery Tour of the Mediterranean. The cruise involves surprises; the passengers don't know which their ports of call will be. On Wednesday, they discovered that one of them was Puerto Alcúdia. Saga Pearl II docked, and as has now become traditional, lady mayor Coloma Terrasa was there at the commercial port to greet the passengers. One says traditional; it is a tradition now only in its third year.

Alcúdia may not have originally been the chosen Mallorcan destination. It might have been Palma. But Alcúdia stands to receive rather more than the couple of scheduled ships this year. The reason? Palma can get too congested. According to the harbour pilot, Avelino Fernández, speaking at the time of the boat show earlier this month, six or seven craft are likely to be diverted to Alcúdia.

Before anyone gets carried away - and there has perhaps been some misunderstanding as to the type of craft that Alcúdia can accommodate - none of the ships is going to be particularly large. Sr. Fernández reckons that ships of up to 220 metres length could be able to use the port. To put this into context, the Prinsendam, the largest to have so far come into Alcúdia, was 205 metres and had a passenger capacity of 740. There are never going to be giant ships arriving in Alcúdia.

But what of the passengers onboard Saga Pearl II? What would their impressions have been? If they were aware of a touch of local industrial history, they would have known that the most obvious sign of such history was as old as most of them: the former power station was constructed in the 1950s.

While GESA's one-time source of electricity generation in the north will not prevent cruise ships coming to Alcúdia, its presence does not offer the most charming of sights for the arriving passenger. De-commissioned long ago, its future remains as much of a mystery as the Saga Mediterranean mystery tour.

Industrial heritage is a fine thing - and Mallorca could, were anyone of a mind to, provide interesting excursions that highlight this heritage (old mine works, former factories and so on) - but there is a place for such heritage. Next to a commercial port with ambitions of increasing its cruise-ship business is arguably not one of these places.

The power station was of course due to have been converted into a museum of science and technology. This conversion was conceived as having been "the clearing in the forest" by the Barcelona-based architects firm which won the tender. No sooner had they won and had they presented their design at Alcúdia's auditorium, than the project was put on hold. Even at the time that the presentation was being made, there was an admission that funding was not in place. When crisis struck soon after, the project was placed in mothballs. Last heard of, the president of the Council of Mallorca, Maria Salom, had intimated that the project hadn't been particularly sensible. It would have been, one can see with hindsight, a project that was typical of the days of plenty and of profligacy, one without any guarantee of success. A vanity project, in other words. It will never happen.

But there are plenty of people who want something to happen. The architects would have retained the two chimneys. Perhaps this was right, perhaps it was wrong, but it is the chimneys, more than anything, which are the evidence of the abandoned and rotting power station. Passengers coming into port can't avoid them. Anyone on the bay of Alcúdia, admiring the sweep of this massive watery chunk lifted from between Cap Farrutx and Cap Pinar, can't avoid clocking them either.

GESA, it seems, can't get away from architectural-preservation controversy and/or eyesores. The power station has far greater merit in terms of preservation than Palma's non-descript office block of sixties Brutalism, but its location is the issue. It is simply wrong for the present day.

This said, it does hold an important role in Alcúdia's history and development, as indeed does the old port, now modernised and with deeper waters for larger craft. Puerto Alcúdia had enjoyed tourism from the 1930s, but the early sixties tourism movement was only partially responsible for the boom that the port experienced. The power station and its workers were also responsible. 

Will anything happen? It's impossible to say. Demolition is probably not an option. One only has to think of the interminable wrangle and legal opinion in respect of the GESA building to know that demolition would be unlikely. So, passengers coming into Alcúdia will have to get used to the sight. The power station's going nowhere.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): N/A.

Pleasant morning and should be sunny through the day with moderate southerlies dominating. But things are due to change overnight and tomorrow is forecast to be rough with alerts in place for rain and storms.

Evening update (21.45): A high of 25.9C. Really very warm for late April. But there may be some rough stuff coming in overnight.

May Joy Or Gloom For Mallorca?

It was a joyous Easter for the hoteliers. Occupancy figures across the island were exceptionally high. From Andraitx in the south-west (90% occupancy) to Alcúdia, Muro and Pollensa in the north (85% on average) to Colonia Sant Jordi in the south (90%), the reported figures show that a combination of a late Easter, excellent weather and a recovery in the domestic tourism market made the hoteliers very happy Easter bunnies indeed. With slightly under three-quarters of hotels across the island open, the numbers were very good.

But happiness can quickly turn to sadness and anxieties. The high Easter numbers have to be placed in context of what went before and what is going to happen in May. For the first quarter of the year the number of tourists coming to the Balearics fell by almost 25%. That is far from good news when compared with increases in the order of around 10% or more to Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia. To add to this gloomy statistic is a further one for anticipated occupancy in May. The Mallorcan hoteliers federation is warning of a fall of 20% over last year, which would mean 50% occupancy.

This warning, coming immediately after the successful Easter, puts a dampener on things but it might be considered to be a rather strange warning. Just prior to the holidays, the hoteliers were saying the opposite. Occupancy would be up by an average of 10% was one statement. From different parts of the island, there were positive forecasts. Cala Millor was looking better than last May. Playa de Palma up by almost 15%, thanks to a strong German market. There was a similar forecast for Palmanova and Magalluf. So good were the prospects that they were being spoken of in terms of tourism numbers not witnessed in May since the mid-1980s. And also so good were they that some hotels had stopped selling because of fears of overbooking.

The 20% decline that is now being forecast may not be wrong if a similar forecast for last year is anything to go by. At a similar time in April in 2013 the hoteliers were predicting occupancy for May of slightly under 70%, and the prediction was pretty much bang on. This previous accuracy notwithstanding, how is that there can have been such a change in forecasts in the space of a week? Which ones should be believed? Any of them?

There is always a risk in taking pronouncements from the hoteliers at their word, as they engage in a good deal of special pleading and in laying the groundwork for propaganda, that which is typically directed at the competition of the holiday-let market. More often than not the warnings do not match actual performance. Indeed, I would be greatly surprised if a forecasted 50% occupancy level were to be registered, because if it were, then it could be considered little more than disastrous and totally out of step with the general prognosis for yet another record season.

The hoteliers are currently engaged in battles on different fronts. The holiday-lets front, one which the hoteliers have little risk of conceding, is but one battle. It is getting ever more fierce though because of the growth in so-called P2P selling (the Airbnb's of this world). There are calls for legislation to curb this. The other fronts have to do with costs and prices. On the latter, while the hoteliers have been happy enough to increase their prices, they have been less happy with rates of IVA (VAT), but their wish to see the rate which applies to them - the already reduced rate of 10% - reduced further will not be granted. Knowing full well that it won't be, the other battle - labour costs and so the annual wage negotiation - is the one that the hoteliers will hope to win, but if they don't then this will doubtless be a convenient excuse if May occupancy levels were to prove to be as bad as they are forecasting.

But I doubt very much that they will be. The forecasts have to be seen as bargaining chips. Unfortunately, the local media give them far too much credibility as well as exposure. A disastrous May? If it is, then I'll admit to having been wrong or I'll be mightily suspicious that the figures have been doctored. They were worried about overbooking only a week ago.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.30am): 14C
Forecast high: 23C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 2 to 3 veering East and Northeast 3 towards midday and by the evening to South 2 to 3.

A totally clear sky, and the skies should be mainly clear for a sunny and warm day. A blip on the forecast for Friday as rain is predicted along with a significant drop in temperature, but picking up at the weekend.

The Power Of Nicknames

A recent Facebook observation implied that the new coach of the England cricket team, Peter Moores, would impose a less frivolous atmosphere in the England dressing-room. Out would go nicknames and in would come respectful monikering. Mr. Moores, for example.

Latching onto this cricketing nicknaming theme, it occurs to me that nicknames can say a great deal about a team's style and intent. In the recent Ashes series, England were soundly thrashed by a side who can count among their playing and coaching ranks a Buck, a Rhino and a Boof. Darren Lehmann's boof alter ego apparently comes from having a big head (it's Aussie slang), but it also has an onomatopoeic quality. Boof, biff. And never was a nickname more apt than Ryan Harris's Rhino, a thick-hided Mammalian bowling machine whose lumbering demeanour belies an ability to hurl himself and the ball at enormous velocity. Even mild-mannered Chris Rogers, bespectacled off the field, passes through an imaginary phone booth on the walk to the wicket and becomes a Buck superhero. 

England never stood a chance. Their nicknames said it all. Swanny, who swanned off home. Belly, who perhaps prefers the cuteness of the y suffix to an alternative that has found its way onto cricket forums: the combining of his names Ian and Ronald to form Iron. This might sound sturdy, but it does also have a very different and wholly unwarranted rhyming-slang meaning. And then there is Captain Cook, limply labelled Chef. In another life, his home one, he also has the y treatment. Cooky. I know this because a some-time resident of Mallorca is a vendor at the market at his wife's family farm. She is on good Cooky-naming terms with the England captain; not, alas, that she has the faintest idea about cricket. 

So, rather than dispensing with informality, Mooresy should insist that the players acquire more macho nicknames. Perhaps they could consult the list of Gladiators' names - Cobra, Trojan, Warrior - or perhaps they could just start playing half-decent cricket. Nicknames do have a certain power after all. Some have been more like honorary titles that have bestowed greatness onto their holders. There was no greater than The Great Communicator, there was no more steadfast than The Iron Lady (her ironing not having been of a disparaging Belly style of course).

In addition to greatness, the nickname can help to soften the image, to make the almost non-human appear to be human. Which brings me to Spanish and Mallorcan politicians. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero never lacked in appearing to be human. While his Bambi nickname may have made him even more human (in an anthropomorphic way), it didn't do a great deal for a tough-guy image, one that he most certainly lacked.

In Mallorca there aren't really nicknames for the local politicos. Maria Antonia Munar, currently residing at his majesty's pleasure, did have one - the "princess" - but she was unusual in that she elevated herself to a position of self-appointed Mallorcan royalty. It wasn't necessarily complimentary, but nicknames for politicians rarely are.

Where the president of the Balearics is concerned, he remains stubbornly non-nicknamed, despite my best efforts to re-name him. For the record, these have included: Bowser, after the greedy, fire-breathing Super Mario character; J.R., which shouldn't require a great deal of explanation for those of you familiar with a scheming and manipulative oil baron (a nickname which can now be discounted because of presidential opposition to oil prospecting off the Balearics); Count Dracula, on account of a certain physical resemblance, as opposed to any possible blood-sucking instincts. The nearest that President Bauzá has come to a nickname has been the one assigned to him by union leader Lorenzo Bravo. But "fascist" can't really be termed a nickname. It is pretty squarely an insult (and a stupid one at that). More possible is "the pharmacist", a frequent enough reference to his one-time day job and, more controversially, to the allegations of his having retained links to his pharmacy business that were incompatible with his presidential position.

Back in national politics, we have Zapatero's successor, Mariano Rajoy. When he was debating with Solzhenitsyn, Uncle Alfie Rubalcaba of PSOE, prior to the last election, I described this as the battle of the beards. In one sense, this was rather unfortunate. Beard is another slang word. It is one reserved for a woman who makes a gay man appear to be straight. The English Wikipedia page for Rajoy once had to remove his a.k.a., i.e. La Trotona de Pontevedra. Basically, this was a furtherance of the rumour that he was gay and had married on the advice of one-time Francoist minister, Manuel Fraga.

There are nicknames and there are nicknames. They should, one hopes, have a certain affection or satire, but they shouldn't overstep the mark. As with the stupidity of Bravo's name-calling of Bauzá, so it was with Rajoy. There's insensitivity, too, based on unkindness and usually untruths. Iron.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 2 to 3, 4 at intervals, veering Northwest and North from midday. Rain and storm possible.

Fine at present and should be mostly fine during the day but there is a risk of rain and possible storm especially during the morning and early hours of the afternoon. Tomorrow - sun all the way.

Evening update (19.45): Rain and thunder in the early afternoon, but not a lot of rain, and then it all cleared and was nice and sunny again. High of 23.4C.

Bullfighting Apologies And Apologists

One of the grandest fairs of a Spanish spring is that of San Isidro in Madrid. It is a fair which attracts visitors from across Spain and from overseas. As part of the promotion for this year's fair, the travel agency Nautalia Viajes had offered a package which included hotel accommodation and entrance to one of the main events of this grand fair: the bullfight in the Las Ventas bullring. The agency had offered this package; it now no longer does. Nautalia in fact withdrew this promotion almost two weeks ago. The withdrawal followed an avalanche of criticism from opponents of the bullfight.

Nautalia's explanation for dropping the promotion was posted onto its Facebook page. Its wording was such that it left no one in any doubt that it, Nautalia, recognised that a mistake had been made. "After listening to your petitions (and the informal 'vuestras' was used for 'your') and as a business which values opinions of its community, we have decided to cease selling the package." The explanation went on: "We are conscious of the argument with regard to bullfighting, so for this reason we apologise to people who may have been offended by the sale of this package ... At no time has Nautalia defended the mistreatment of animals." 

This was a strong statement of regret. It may have been for PR purposes, but it was PR that was necessary in the face of the onslaught of criticism and of the power of social media. The agency doubtless calculated that it stood to lose more custom by continuing to offer the package than by withdrawing it. Its Twitter account revealed that some supporters of the bullfight said that they would stop being clients. is the website for the national tourism agency Turespaña. Under a heading, "Bullfights: the magic of Spain's 'national fiesta' ", the website talks about the "excitement" of this fiesta and says that "to discover Spain is to discover bullfighting culture". It refers to the San Isidro event as indeed it does to others. It makes one crucial mistake, though. It includes reference to the bullfight in Barcelona. There no longer is a bullfight in Barcelona. Catalonia has banned bullfighting.

The effusive description that offers is probably to be expected. Even if there are those at Turespaña who are wary of being involved with the argument in the way that Nautalia has been, the agency could hardly not mention bullfighting or be critical of it. One could argue, however, that it goes over the top in seeking to convey the "excitement".

But Turespaña is of course a government agency, and the national government of the Partido Popular has made clear its commitment to and support of bullfighting. And there are others from the PP who are clear in this support. The party's president in Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, is one of them.

On Sunday at Seville's April fair (where there is a bullfight), Sra. Aguirre issued her own strong statement as part of the oration for the bullfight, one that was very different to that which Nautalia had felt compelled to make. She spoke of how bullfighting was part of her family's tradition and had been since her great-grandfather's days. She placed her love of bulls alongside her Christianity and her love of country. She accused critics of bullfighting of being anti-Spanish and said that their arguments were of a much lower intellectual level than had been inherent to criticisms expressed a century ago. In other words, one has to conclude that opponents, in addition to being anti-Spanish, are little more than an unintelligent rabble.

Invoking being anti-Spanish and so also its opposite, being pro-Spanish, can be seen within the context of the Catalonian argument. The bullfighting ban, where many within the PP are concerned, was purely political. But this ignores the fact that the ban was the result of popular legislation through petition. Not all the thousands upon thousands who signed the petition could surely have been motivated solely by Catalonian nationalist sentiments and a desire to attack a potent symbol of Spanishness, i.e. the bullfight.

Spanish nationalism is quite clearly threatened by Catalonia's quest for independence, and this is a threat felt by those on both the right and the left politically (PSOE isn't in favour). But there is a crucial difference when it comes to the nationalist narrative. Elements within the PP are in tune with Sra. Aguirre's back-to-the-future model of nationalism. The Spanish people may still be Christian but they aren't necessarily staunch Catholics, as has been demonstrated, for example, by opposition to abortion reform. And nor are they necessarily defenders of the bullfight. None of this opposition makes them anti-Spanish.

If Sra. Aguirre and the PP were a travel agency, they might feel obliged to issue a retraction.

Monday, April 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, Northeast 3 during the middle of the day.

Fine and bright with a warm and mostly sunny day in prospect. The week's outlook is generally good with a possible shower tomorrow, otherwise mainly sunny and with temperatures in the low 20s.

Evening update (19.15): Should have taken a bit more notice of the sea conditions report, which did predict some rain even if the general prognosis didn't. Not much rain though. Sunny for the most part and a high of 24.3C.

Tourists Are Just Raw Material

Joserra and the faithful architect Martínez went walkabout in Calas Millor and Ratjada last week. President Bauzá, having recently attempted (and largely failed) to charm a discontented Partido Popular part forana in Campos, has now attempted to show that he is a man of the people - the tourism people. Whoever they might be.

This is not an idle question. President and tourism minister deigned to leave their southern cloisters and venture into the neverlands of the east coast of the island (neverlands because they never normally go there) and to see tourism in the raw - as raw as it can be in the pre-season and, in the case of Cala Ratjada, without the lebensrauming youth movement of summer in full lager mode. Of course, they saw no such rawness. They met hoteliers, they met mayors, they admired the new sports centre in Cala Millor, they contemplated the mural in Cala Ratjada's port, they uttered the typical bland statements about tackling seasonality and increasing the quality of tourism, and they strolled along the prom-prom-proms, tiddly-on-pom-pom.

They would have seen something of this thing called tourism, but they would have heard only from hoteliers and local politicians. They wouldn't have heard from those tourism people - tourists themselves. One doesn't necessarily expect Bauzá to be slumming it some bar with a bunch of drunks, listening to moans about the rising price of cigarettes, but is it too much to expect that he, and indeed other politicians, might actually attempt to engage with tourists once in a while?

Tourism is a curious industry. Its raw material is not hotel buildings, not airports, not bars or restaurants. It is people. Without people, there is no tourism. But consider how this human resource, with its attendant feelings, needs and wishes, is treated. It is as if it were mere raw material. Its movement from airport to hotel to room, its supply of food and drink, its processing at airport or reception can be depersonalised as a production line and characterised as a diagram of ASME symbols to denote specific steps along the line.

Much as it might try and convince otherwise, the tourism industry abhors infinite variety and customisation and applies the marketing spin of satisfying customer demand while simultaneously packaging it in ways which are determined by its supply-side process management. Packaging. Never has a term been more apt. The holiday package. The tourism of pre-determination that eliminates as much non-standardisation as possible with the objective of minimising cost and maximising profit. Tourism may not adhere to Henry Ford's customer focus of any car you want so long as it is black, but the principle of the standardised production line isn't so far removed from the general ethos of the tourism industry.

Mass tourism was a Fordist system of human processing. It still is, though to be fair, the industry has gone some way in correcting the standardised model. But it can't rid itself of the model entirely. Of course it can't. There are very good managerial reasons why not. But tourism in its human form and in a Mallorcan style is remote. It is divorced from those who legislate and from those who create the palaces by the sea.

The essential nature of Mallorca's tourism should mean a far closer relationship. But there are so many layers between the raw material - the people who matter - and the decision-makers. Where politicians are concerned, those at government level hear from island councils, who hear from mayors, who hear from their own councillors, who hear from ...? Well, I don't know who exactly. And into all of this are added the voices of the tourism powerful - not tourists themselves - but the manufacturers, namely the airlines, the tour operators and, most significantly in a Mallorcan context, the hoteliers.

A consequence of this process management of tourism is that it gives birth to political processors as opposed to those who, it might be said, operate more by instinct or by understanding or by being told what to think by the tourism powerful. Martínez, the faithful architect, is a tourism technocrat. Go and look at his CV on the regional government's website. His is a background in urban planning. As I mention above, buildings are not tourism raw material; people are.

But buildings are more important and they are easier to deal with, too. They don't talk, they don't have needs or wishes. It is utterly depressing that Martínez can, as he has, trot out the technocratic apologetics for dismissing out of hand proposals regarding holiday lets. You would expect him to, though, as he is representative not just of a government which refuses to consider less standardisation of the tourism model but also of an industry which disregards what the raw material of the tourism people have to say, or might say if they were ever spoken to.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca give up against Depor

Real Mallorca 0 : 3 Deportivo La Coruña
A home game against league leaders Depor was never going to be easy for Mallorca but a three-nil loss was worse than might have been anticipated even for a side with Mallorca's troubles. Things might have taken a different course had a sixth-minute strike not been ruled out for offside or if Depor's Lux not made a double save from Alex Moreno and Nsue in the 35th minute. Five minutes later Depor went ahead through a penalty by Sissoko. Mallorca appealed for a penalty of their own shortly after, which resulted only in a booking for Nsue, and then, straight after the break, Depor went two up through Luisinho. With the fans jeering mercenary players and the board, Mallorca gave up. Borja added the third with 25 minutes to go.

Mallorca should avoid the drop (unless their financial matters force them to be relegated in any event), but relegation for solely footballing reasons can't be totally ruled out.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.00am): 17C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 to 5 veering Northwest 3 to 4 around midday and easing Variable 2 by the end of the day.

Cloudy first up, as had been forecast. Due to clear to leave another mostly sunny day.

Evening update (19.45): Once the cloud lifted, a good day. High of 24C.

The Book Of The Absurd

Gabriel García Márquez should have held on for a few more days, preferably until the twenty-second or the twenty-third of the month. Had it been the twenty-second, he would have died on the same day in 1616 as Miguel de Cervantes. If the twenty-third, it would have been the same day as Cervantes was buried. It would also have been World Book Day and Saint George's Day, aka (in Catalan) the Diada de Sant Jordi.

García Márquez was the modern Cervantes; his story-telling elevated him to an equal status. They are the two greatest novelists in the Spanish language and they both left an enormous legacy. With Cervantes it was "Don Quijote" and quixotism. García Márquez gave us the epic "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" and magical realism. This combination of the everyday with the fantastical will not pass into dictionary usage in the way that quixotism has, but magical realism is an enduring element of contemporary culture. The juxtaposition of the normal and the absurd can, for example, describe much comedy. As such, García Márquez placed the real next to the surreal. It was story-telling with a splash of Dalism.

There was a common thread to these two literary greats' work. The absurd. A reason why Cervantes is still so meaningful today is that quixotism, the pursuit of impractical ideals that can lead to absurd consequences, might be used as a metaphor for certain political, societal or business aims. If one were being really harsh, one might describe the whole European "project" as quixotic. But then one would have to have a real downer on Europe in order to do so.

The death of García Márquez has been met in Spain with grief tempered with pride at his literary achievements. But though he attained a status to match Cervantes, for the Spanish there is one very crucial difference. He wasn't Spanish. He was a standard-bearer for the Spanish language and so therefore for the notion of "Spanishness", but having been Colombian he can't be claimed as Spain's own.

Placing Cervantes and García Márquez on a similar pedestal, one separated by over three centuries, should offer a pause for thought. Despite a rich literary tradition, Spanish has failed to produce novelists or other writers of genuinely global legendary status. Cervantes died, remarkably enough, only one day before William Shakespeare, just one writer in English among numerous others with legendary status. Germany has given several - Böll, the Brothers Grimm, Grass, Hesse, Thomas Mann. French has been about as prolific as English - Honoré de Balzac, Albert Camus, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile Zola, the list goes on.

Spain possessed global presence and the Spanish language still possesses global diffusion and usage. A one-time great power, criteria were in place for literary cultural export in the original language and in translation. Yet somehow, it never really happened in the sense that Spanish writers did not attain the reputations of those from other major European powers. I am trying to think of a good explanation as to why, but I'm struggling.

One conclusion might be that Spain, regardless of one-time empire and that global presence, was and remained on the cultural periphery in European terms. But if this was the case with written culture, the same can't be said for other artistic endeavours. In the last century alone, Spain provided three towering figures to the world of art - Dali, Miró and Picasso. It has also provided the greatest of all - Francisco de Goya.

Whatever the reason, it will probably not be being mulled over too closely on 23 April. Thanks to some clever marketing by Spanish book publishers back in 1923, the burial date of Cervantes was chosen to be the day of the book. It has since become a worldwide "day", having been adopted by UNESCO. That the day happens to also be St. George's Day is just a coincidence. But the Diada de Sant Jordi is as much to do with books - more so in fact - than a saint's day.

Almost inevitably, the day is a day to proudly promote a Catalan literary tradition that was, for so many years during the last century, buried by proscription. In Sa Pobla there is a special honouring of Miquel López Crespí, a native of the town, a writer, novelist, poet and historian.

López Crespí will not be a familiar name. It is certainly not one that has travelled round the world. Yet here is a remarkable man who as a teenager was arrested in 1963 and tortured because of his opposition to the Franco regime. In honouring him, there is an honouring also, thanks to Ramon Llull, of a literary tradition - one in Catalan - which predates Spanish tradition. As a man of literature, López Crespí will doubtless recognise the greats in Castellano - Cervantes and García Márquez. But he would doubtless also reflect on the absurd. Books, in whatever language, should not be proscribed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 14C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 increasing East 4 around midday.

Another fine morning and fine day on the cards, though it may cloud over in the afternoon. Things look slightly less settled over the next few days with some risk of the odd shower, but warm and sunny otherwise.

Evening update (21.00): A high of 24C. There was cloud later on, as had been forecast, but a good day.

Picnics For Pilgrims: The pancaritat

Once upon a time, in the days before a bit of old bone from Saint Sebastian turned up in Palma in the sixteenth century, relieved the city of the plague and secured for Sebastian the gig as the city's patron saint, the Guardian Angel was Palma's patron. So revered was the Angel that the festival of the Angel was one of the most important religious occasions on the island. The day for this festival was established as being the Sunday after Easter. In Palma it still is the Festival of the Angel (it was in fact revived at the start of the 1980s) but it is also the day of the "pancaritat", which literally means bread charity.

Long ago, the festival and bread-giving were combined. The poor would receive bread which had been blessed at the oratory of the Knights Templar, but the nature of the pancaritat changed over the centuries. By the nineteenth century it was no longer a solemn and charitable affair but rather an occasion for having something of a party, and the tradition had long ceased to be confined to Palma. Pancaritats now take place in most towns on the island.

This diffusion has meant that the pancaritat doesn't have to take place on so-called Angel Sunday. It has, quite literally, become a moveable feast, depending on where it is held. The word itself has acquired a different meaning. It is a picnic but one which retains a religious overtone. It is a picnic that is also a pilgrimage. In Palma this means thousands of people schlepping up to Bellver Castle. Elsewhere it can mean taking a bit of a stroll down the road, armed with bread, pastries and what have you and usually accompanied by the ubiquitous pipers.

In Alcúdia, as one example, they have stuck with Angel Sunday as being the day for the pancaritat. There is not one mass, not two but three. The first two are where mass is normally held - in the parish church - but the third, at one o'clock (just in time for lunch), is at the cave of Sant Martí, the rather odd bit of iconography carved into the countryside near the Bellevue hotel complex which is subject to the occasional spot of graffiti. Once mass is dispensed with, it's time to open the cool boxes and the picnic hampers.

But Alcúdia doesn't only have the Sant Martí pancaritat. The walk to the cave isn't that difficult. Walking up the mountain from Bonaire to the hermitage of La Victoria presents an altogether tougher proposition for the picnic-bound pilgrims. And it takes place on Tuesday, which is an example therefore of how the feast has been moved.

Similarly, Tuesday is the day for the good people of Sa Pobla to rediscover their Crestatx roots and head off the kilometre or so to the old oratory of Crestatx. It is a rediscovery because Crestatx is where the people of Sa Pobla were originally from. Under King Jaume II's system of Mallorcan new towns (1300), Crestatx folk were relocated, and thus Sa Pobla was born.

The Crestatx pancaritat is of an altogether grander order than the events in Alcúdia. It's an all-day affair, the pilgrimage leaving Sa Pobla at nine in the morning and not returning until half six in the evening, and even then there is more of a celebration - folk dance back in Sa Pobla's Plaça Major. And the pilgrimage itself doesn't have to be on foot. There is a shuttle bus which goes every fifteen minutes.

Muro is another town which takes its pancaritat seriously. It's on Monday. Rockets fired at 10am are the starting-gun for the big day out (in Sa Pobla they ring the bells, minus the Antonia big bell, which has come down for repairs), and the "murers" trek off to the hermitage of Sant Vicenç (pipers in tow, naturally enough) for a spot of mass at eleven, some kiddies' ents at midday, ensaimadas and other nosh at the picnic tables and then some folk dance at half three once the food has been digested.

These are just a small selection of Mallorca's pancaritats. They are very much a Mallorcan tradition and Mallorcan only. In Catalonia there are "caramelles", which are similar in that they are an Easter festivity, but the pancaritat can rightly be claimed as being unique to Mallorcan culture and can also rightly be claimed as being one of the very oldest traditions on the island.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia And Pollensa - Muro Sant Francesc Spring Fair

The fair itself is on Sunday, 27 April, though the craft fair starts the evening before. Fairly typical stuff for a Mallorcan rural fair, but a good range of interesting exhibitions, including animals, birds of prey, classic cars and motor bikes. Tapas routes on the Friday and Saturday evenings. Music on Saturday with a prolonged gathering of batucada groups following a samba session and a night party starting at half midnight.

Programme in English at:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 2 to 3.

Sun all the way today. Perfect holiday weather, and an improved forecast through the weekend, meaning more warm sunshine. More or less beach weather, though the coastal air is fresh at this time of the year.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 26C with little variance between the coasts and inland. Become quite breezy now.

The Mallorcan Book Of Revelation

Islands and revelations have historical form. John, possibly the Apostle John or possibly not, was on a small Greek island - Patmos - when the vision came to him from Jesus. Included in the Book of Revelation is the Second Coming, which seems an appropriate concept to mention on a Good Friday but which is purely incidental to today's theme. There is a cast list of characters as well, among whom are the famous - the four horsemen, the false prophet and the whore of Babylon - and those whose renown has been less engrained into everyday culture. Sometimes considered the work of a madman, the purpose of Revelation continues to be debated. It may indeed have been a vision of the fall of the Roman Empire, but there again, maybe it wasn't.

On a different island - Mallorca - the Roman Empire had arrived a couple of centuries before John had gone island-hopping in the Aegean in the hope of receiving a vision. The Romans took a fancy to Alcúdia. Not that they called it Alcúdia of course. It was Pollentia and it was the most important settlement on Mallorca; initially more important than the one in the south, i.e. Palma. There is some evidence of a mini-settlement along the coast from where the minor port of Pollentia was established (somewhere around the Barcares region of Alcúdia; no one really knows precisely where). The Romans may have had something going on in Puerto Pollensa as well, but whatever it was, it was peripheral to the main story of Pollentia as also is evidence of the Romans in Crestatx.

Had things panned out differently, we would now be referring to Alcúdia as the capital of Mallorca and of the Balearics. It would be a modestly sized city in the same way as Palma is of modest size (relatively speaking for a capital). But things didn't pan out differently. The Romans bequeathed a small town and, by the by, another one along the coast.

Mallorca, which has been described as being like Sicily without the guns, is littered with its small towns and its small-town mentalities. It is an island of historical feuds and vendettas that once rendered Mallorca all but lawless. Feuds still exist, but their precise backgrounds are often the stuff of folklore rather than established fact. Determining what is the truth is not easy. Writing a Mallorcan Book of Revelations, revealing the truth of what goes on in small-town Mallorca would be nigh on impossible. It would also be a decidedly dodgy thing to do. Oral histories of the backgrounds to feuds are one thing. Putting them into print is another one entirely.

Of course, there are plenty of people who know of these revelations and who act accordingly. Not by open feuding but by turning their backs. Or sometimes by resorting to the courts. There are plenty of people who don't know, though, and it is this which sticks in the throats of many. I know only the half of these revelations, but I am convinced of their truths when, as has happened recently, I say to someone who could reveal a great deal himself, that there are people who I wouldn't waste my shit on. (And I was referring mainly to Alcúdia, though not exclusively.) It is the response which tells all. He reels off some names. Yes, yes and yes.

There wouldn't be a Book of Revelation for very good reasons. A shame as it would make for a rollicking good read, which was what, in a Biblical context, John managed back in the day on Patmos. There would be no four horsemen just the conclusion that would make you ask yourself: why would I go here or there now that I know?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East 2 to 3 veering Southeast and South 3 during the afternoon.

Some cloud around and may stay somewhat cloudy. Warm with light breezes. Tomorrow and Saturday seem very good with plenty of warm sunshine.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 23.9C. Another fine day, therefore.

Mallorca's Salad (Sic) Days

The word "sic" is directly lifted from Latin. Its literal meaning is "thus". It has come to be used in the written form as a means of highlighting an error, such as a misspelling, a malapropism or simply wrong usage. It is commonly used to poke fun, which is appropriate, as there is so much fun that one can have with Latin and linguistic arguments in Mallorca.

These arguments are ones with which we are all too familiar. They centre on Catalan or not Catalan and, for the linguistically uninitiated or couldn't-care-lesses (sic), they are frequently arcane to the point of being beyond comprehension or stupid to the point of long having dispensed with common sense or rationality.

Of course, one man's language is his to defend, as indeed is an alternative language or dialect, so one can't and shouldn't be too dismissive of another man's language argument. However, there are occasions when intrusion into someone else's argument is required, if only to highlight what might appear to be the pettiness of the debate. 

While the polemic in Mallorca is one which typically embraces the linguistic parallel universes of Catalan and Castellano, there is an idiomatic black hole which exists in the Catalan universe, inside which resides mini-universes that have diverged from Vulgar Latin roots. This is a divergence, the peculiarity of which is made even more peculiar by the fact that it centres on what in original Latin was that language's set of intensive pronouns. In Latin there is no such thing as a definite or indefinite article - "the" or "a". In Catalan there most definitely is. Or rather, there most definitely are.

Ipse, ipsa, ipsum. You can blame all of them because they are at the heart of the row that has found its way into the Balearic parliament. In the Mallorquín dialect (and in a few other Catalan dialects), these pronouns led to a localised Vulgarisation of the article. It is why Mallorquín uses "es" and "sa" instead of the normal Catalan "el" and "la" (the same as Castellano therefore).

This Mallorquín branch line of definite article usage is known as the "article salat". In Castellano "salat" becomes "salado". The salad days aren't so much salad days of innocence as salad days of the linguistic argument having its heyday. They're arguing over the bloody definite article.

This has all arisen because the Mallorcan broadcaster IB3 has started to use "es" and "sa" in its news reports instead of "el" and "la". Why should this inspire an argument? Believe it or not, and you will believe it, it all has to do with the Partido Popular regional government's antagonism towards Catalan. There has been an outcry. The accusation is that the government is interfering with the editorial independence of IB3 (and this is not the first time that it has been accused of doing so) by pressing its anti-Catalan agenda and its pro-Balearic dialects agenda as a complement to Castellano.

Both forms of the article are commonly used in Mallorca, but there is a general distinction made in terms of literary/more formal usage and everyday usage. The Catalan article is used for the former. Hence, it might be deemed appropriate for news reports. This is how opponents of the introduction of the "salat" see things. They also see the use of the "salat" as a deliberate ploy to undermine Catalan.

The government insists that the "salat" usage reflects colloquial speech and that its use by IB3 "dignifies" linguistic peculiarities. But the government's vice-president, Antonio Gómez, who, it just so happens, was for a time the director-general of IB3, isn't saying who made the decision to adopt it. At the Universitat de les Illes Balears, where linguistic standards tend to be decided, the view is that the "salat" damages the standard use of Catalan and that it introduces conflict where none had previously existed. This, unfortunately, sums up how the government has conducted its language policy. It has sought fights, and its increasing unpopularity reflects what have been, for the most part, unnecessary fights.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 3 to 4 veering Northeast around midday and easing 2 to 3 by the evening.

A clear, beautiful morning once more. Sunny again today with highs in the low-20s. Forecast remaining quite good, though there may be more cloud around by the weekend.

Evening update (21.15): 23.1C the high inland in Sa Pobla, a keen breeze, typical for April, keeping coastal values down to just over 20C.

The Day Of The Low-Cost Hotel?

There is a fallacy that low-cost air travel equates to low-rent customers. It is a mistake made without an appreciation as to the way in which air travel has become essential and functional. It provides a function not only for the tourist but also for the business traveller and the second-residence owner. It is essential in that the horizons of mobility have stretched ever further into distances from home, and in having become functional and essential, low-cost air travel has become a commodity.

Air travel is a service which, because of a marketing ethos which has sought to stress differentiation, theoretically should never have undergone a process of commoditization. Nevertheless, for the short-haul traveller in particular, be he or she a regular or irregular flyer or be he or she low or high rent, the commodity of the flight (at as low a price as possible) is all that really matters.

Because of the fallacy of low-rent association, low cost means cheap, and cheap as a pejorative. Again, because of a failure to appreciate how air travel has undergone ifs commoditization process, it doesn't mean this. Low cost equals value for money. This may mean cheap in price terms but not otherwise.

Antagonism expressed towards the proliferation of low-cost flights coming into Palma (and it has been expressed) fails to take account of visitors' total spending behaviour. Sure, there are visitors who spend little, but there are plenty who are not tight. Save on flights and there is more cash for in-resort purchases.

Mallorca, thanks to the desires of government and some hoteliers as well as to legislation, is pushing itself ever more towards a higher-priced holiday. Upgrading hotel stock from the bog-standard three-star to at least four-star is an excuse for putting prices up, irrespective of whether the quality rises accordingly. The perceived wisdom is that, because tourist-consumers are nowadays that much more demanding and discerning, they expect four-star provision along with its accompanying spas and what have you and are also willing to pay for it. Yet curiously there is a trend which runs counter to this stellar augmentation. I say "curiously" but it isn't curious at all. The airline low-cost philosophy is catching on in the hospitality business as well.

The low-cost hotel has always been with us, though it hasn't always been called a hotel. It may also be a hostel. Whatever its name, there has been a marked increase in the provision of low-cost accommodation for urban tourism, i.e. that to major cities. One reason for this increase is the same as the demand for low-cost airlines - price and value for money - but there are others, such as a lack of investment credit over the past few years, which has caused hotel owners to focus on projects that are far more manageable financially. But crucially, the demand side, that of the traveller, is showing itself not to have totally bought in to what much of the Mallorcan hotel industry considers to be a need to up the star rating. 

It isn't the case that this traveller is low rent. While one has to be cautious and not be seduced by the generalisations of marketers and sociologists, the Millennial generation is said to largely eschew the trappings of the luxury or quasi-luxus hotel (typically one which is also now all-inclusive). This is a generation more in tune with the need for experiences as opposed to all-laid-on, all-inclusive exclusivity. In less grandiose terms there is also a whole tourism sector (one which is seemingly conveniently ignored by many in the Mallorcan industry) which craves nothing more than the cheap (value for money, aka low cost) and the cheerful (bright and modernised decor), embellished by added quality through that manageable financing. This is the style of the new low-cost hotel, one that combines being essential and functional in becoming a commodity product but with some important add-ons, namely personal service, facilities such as free wifi and an agility to market itself through social media in ways that large hotels seem less able to.

In Alcúdia an owner of two standard tourist apartment buildings/complexes has secured the SICTED quality certification for both. Investment has been put into both. Social media are used wisely, while there is also a highly effective relationship with the Palma-based Lowcostholidays. Both are booked solid right through the season. The profile of the customer (the word guest should never be used nowadays) will vary, but, and here is the good news, he or she goes out and spends. The onward march towards the hell of hotel hegemony in the form of the all-inclusive may just be encountering a low-cost obstacle in its path.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 2 to 3 occasionally Northeast 3 to 4. Swell increasing to one metre by the evening.

Forecast for cloud this morning but though there is some light cloud around, it is also sunny. So, it may be cloudy today or it may not be. Fairly warm either way.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 23.3C. Another pretty good day.

Happy Campers?: Not in Mallorca

In the Alicante province, near to the El Fondó nature park, there is what is called an eco-camping resort. Its name is the Marjal Costa Blanca Resort. It is a camping complex with bungalows and plots for caravans and tents. There are 1,432 of these plots. Some way north of the Marjal Costa Blanca is Benidorm, a resort most commonly associated with high-rise hotels but which also happens to be the national leader for camping holidays. The Costa Blanca and the Valencia Community are not the overall leaders for camping, however. Catalonia, and so the Costa Brava, is. The total number of camping places in Catalonia is over 200,000, only some 50,000 fewer than the total number of hotel places.

In the Balearics there are nine campsites, as in proper campsites for holidaymakers. Seven of these are in Ibiza. There isn't one in Mallorca. A letter-writer to the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" asked recently why Mallorca didn't have any camping. He guessed that it may have had something to do with the power of the hoteliers. It was a perfectly reasonable guess. It was correct.

Yesterday I referred to a law that was passed in 1984. The "ley sobre alojamientos extrahoteleros" (law on non-hotel accommodation) was the first piece of legislation that was directly to do with tourism following the establishment of the regional Balearics government in 1983. Among the issues that the law addressed was that of clandestine accommodation. The story about holiday lets goes back to this law and so also does the story about camping in Mallorca.

In essence what this law sought to bring about were improvements in quality and the provision of specific services. Allied to the first "Decreto Cladera", also in 1984, which established space requirements for hotel rooms, it was a way of introducing order to the tourism offer that hadn't until then been adequately controlled. The Cladera of the Decreto was the first tourism minister, Jaume Cladera, who arguably has been the best tourism minister the Balearics has had. He has certainly been one from a tourism background, unlike others. Though Cladera did a great deal that was good, he was close to the hotel sector, and once he ceased to be minister in 1993, he became CEO of companies linked to Stil Hotels.

In February 1986 there was another "decreto", one that followed on from the 1984 law. This decree dealt specifically with camping and even more specifically with "impeding the proliferation of campsites" in the Balearics of the type that had been established on the coasts of mainland Spain. Andrés Avelino Blasco Esteve, Professor of Administrative Law at the Universitat de les Illes Balears, has set out various pieces of legislation between 1984 and 1999 that affected Mallorca's tourism, and what he says about the decree on campsites tells us really all we need to know as to why the situation regarding camping is as it now is. It was Blasco who used the word "impeding" in outlining the "strict requisites" to be applied under the 1986 decree.

These established, inter alia, that there was to be a limit of between 70 to 100 plots (bear in mind the number that the Marjal Costa Blanca has), that there had to be safety measures, electricity supplies and sewage treatment or connections, roads or tracks of a certain width and one parking place for every two plots. The requisites also stipulated that there would be a minimum size per plot and that campsites could only be authorised for up to three years (presumably there would then be an application for renewal). Moreover, these sites had to be to luxury or "primera" standards, thus excluding the "comfort" economy class.

In pure space terms, the minimum was four times greater than that set out for hotel rooms. This was just one reason why camping failed to take off. The other reasons are pretty obvious. It was a business which would have been on shaky ground if the authorisation was for such a short period. Professor Blasco sums it all up thus: "The purpose of the decree seems clear - to hinder the implementation of campsites on the islands ... and to make it impossible for them to become a type of alternative accommodation to hotels and apartments. The consequence of this has been the virtual absence of this type of tourist establishment."

Of course, this doesn't explain why Ibiza has the campsites it has. One reason, and it is an assumption, may lie with the hippy culture of the island from the 1960s. Another is that, despite powerful hoteliers such as Abel Matutes, Ibiza is different in terms of its hotel lobby. Behind the 1986 decree, as Professor Blasco makes clear, was an intent to ensure that hotels in Mallorca dominated, a situation which does not exist in either Alicante and Benidorm or in Catalonia.

Monday, April 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Defeat in Ponferrada ends Mallorca play-off chances?

Ponferradina 2 : 0 Real Mallorca
Away at little Ponferradina, a team with relegation worries, Mallorca suffered one of their worst defeats of the season. The score was only 2-0, but the manner of the defeat was what hurt. Relying on counter-attack, there was a lack of intensity plus a good deal of giving away the ball easily which allowed the home side to ease to win through goals by Aguilar on 33 minutes and Yuri ten minutes into the second half. There are still eight rounds of matches to go, but Mallorca are now seven points off a play-off place (and only four above relegation).

(Report had been posted after the match but for some reason didn't appear.)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 April 2014

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 15C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 3 veering Northeast 3 to 4 around midday, easing Variable 2 by the evening.

Some light cloud or haze but otherwise clear and calm. Warm again today with plenty of sun. Tomorrow may be cloudy.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 23.5C. Good day again. 

Ten Things That Changed Mallorca's Tourism

In celebrating twenty years of existence, the travel magazine "Hosteltur" has identified twenty words or terms which have defined tourism since 1994. These are terms which are applicable to tourism generally, so I have narrowed the parameters and considered themes which have been of fundamental importance to Mallorca since 1994.

1. All-inclusive. The origins of the all-inclusive can be argued about. They are normally attributed to Club Med and their expansion to complexes such as Sandals. While Club Med had been around on Mallorca since the 1950s, it hadn't been a significant player, and the all-inclusive, as we now know it, didn't become a feature of the tourism landscape until roughly twenty years ago, and even then it was limited largely to the north and east of the island. We all know about its diffusion since then and the extent to which it has disrupted the previously harmonious balance between hotel and complementary sectors.

2. Beach zoning. On 4 March 1994 the Balearic Government issued a decree which established criteria for what could happen and what couldn't happen on beaches and on which parts. Different zones were created, some of which had limits set as to space which could be used. Why does this make the list? Firstly, because there hadn't previously been such a system and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was a form of standardisation which removed improvisation and arguably also removed some of the fun that had been had on beaches.

3. Crisis. Mallorca has experienced previous economic hard times - the oil crisis in the 1970s and the recession of the early 1990s - but the crisis (still with us but not as bad as it had been) shook tourism in different ways, such as by cutting credit and making even more popular the cost appeal of the all-inclusive holiday.

4. EasyJet. It may seem remarkable that easyJet isn't even twenty years old yet: it was founded in 1995. By 1998 the airline was flying daily from Luton to Palma as part of its summer schedule (late March to late October). EasyJet and the other low-cost airlines were to be significant in increasing passenger traffic through Son Sant Joan and in putting an impetus behind independent travel to the detriment of the package holiday.

5. Euro. 1 January 1999 was when it happened; when suddenly everything in Mallorca became that much more expensive. This is the commonly held view, and one that has some justification. It removed the inconvenience of changing currency, but only for those tourists from countries which adopted it.

6. Internet. In 1994 the internet was still an unproven concept and was far from being in everyday use. How things have changed. The web has not just been a fundamental change, it has been a revolution. Tourism has been turned on its head. Bookings, information, recommendations ..., it gave the tourist-consumer a power he previously hadn't possessed.

7. Ley General Turística. 24 March 1999 was the day when the Balearics' first tourism law was approved. The more recent 2012 tourism law reinforced much of what was in this first law, including prohibitions on some types of private property as holiday accommodation. One of the mysteries that surrounds the holiday-lets argument is quite why anyone finds it a comparatively new argument. It has certainly existed since 1999, though in fact there was a law as long ago as 1984 which tackled the subject - the "ley sobre alojamientos extrahoteleros".

8. POOT. The Plan de la Oferta Turística de Mallorca was approved by decree on 6 April 1995. It was a plan that was of profound importance. Though there had been previous plans which sought to organise how land was used for tourism purposes, the POOT was the first time that hard-and-fast criteria had been adopted. Essentially what POOT does is to place limits on the amount of tourism development within municipal boundaries.

9. Secondary activities. This is the newest of the fundamental changes. Part of the 2012 tourism law, secondary activities allow hotels to offer activities to the general public (and so not just guests) which had previously been the domain of the non-hotel, complementary sector. They can include all manner of things - restaurants, shops, clubs, concerts to name but a few. It is early days but secondary activities are likely to disrupt even further the balance between the hotel and complementary sectors.

10. Sustainability. An at-times nebulous concept and one that seems more often to be used for marketing purposes than for practical ones, sustainability is supposed to strike a balance between the demands of tourism and those of the environment, resources and the local economy. One of the first conferences dedicated to the subject was held in 1995.

Space has permitted only ten themes. There are others, and perhaps you have your own suggestions as to ways in which Mallorca's tourism has been changed over the last 20 years.