Sunday, August 31, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 August 2014


Morning high (5.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 1 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 2 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 3 September - Sun, cloud, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4.

Another humid night and early morning. Cloud early today lifting to give a fine, hot day. The beaches are the best places to be at present because they are very much fresher than inland. Outlook for the week ahead is good at present, highs hovering around 30 degrees.

Evening update (19.00): Very much like yesterday, the early cloud lifted mid-morning and gave a mostly sunny and fine day. A high of bang on 30C.

No Frills Excursions

Summer's Over, Time To Strike

Summer is coming to an end and so the time draws near for parents in Mallorca to pack away the kids' lilos, to fork out for new textbooks (various languages) and to arrange for the pre-school visit to the hairdresser. Back to school. Vuelta al cole, as they say. And back to the same old playground posturing. The "Great Conflict" has never been quite forgotten during the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. It has been smouldering like a discarded fag end of discredited policies and attitudes in the tangled undergrowth of TIL and pro- and anti-Catalanism ready to burst into the flames of a September on educational fire. Canadairs of common sense are needed to douse the conflagration, but common sense has been de-commissioned. Where is the ice bucket of negotiation and dialogue to challenge and cool the tempers? Being shoved into the attic along with the lilo.

President Bauzá wasn't actually wrong when he said the other day that if you were concerned about children, there wouldn't be a strike. Ah yes, the children. The forgotten stakeholders in the "Great Conflict". Curious that. But then maybe not. Just as tourists are the lowest priority for tourism policy, so the raw human material of education, the kids, are bottom of the education-argument class. Bauzá's "you" were the Assemblea de Docents, the self-styled teachers' assembly that aspires to be a teaching union (by the name of Alternativa) and seemingly sweep all before it in declaring some sort of Catalanist caliphate of pedagogic fundamentalism. I don't believe for one moment that all its members would prefer Mallorca to rise up and form part of an independent Catalan Lands, but some of its members most certainly do. Never ever let it be said that the "Great Conflict" has not been about politics.

The Assemblea has sought dialogue, but not actually being a union - yet - the government does not consider it to be a body with which it should be having dialogue, even if it wanted to, though it does of course insist that the staff room door is always open for a chat. PSOE has told the government that it considers the Assemblea to be a "valid interlocutor", as it also considers the parents' associations, the university and various other associations to be valid interlocutors. Perhaps, therefore, they should all gather in a grand educational locutorio and talk to each other from the safety of the phone booths without ever daring to go face to face.

But then, what do they want dialogue about? Despite Bauzá having been attacked from all sides including his own for the government's educational policy, he remains stubbornly less than humble, having declared after the disastrous Euro elections that there would be PP humility. Not so, unless humility is a synonym for authoritarianism, of which he is accused; and no, it is not a synonym.

So, the Assemblea will have its day off at the start of the school year (15 September), and all the well-rehearsed arguments will spin once more on the roundabout in the playground, the newest of them to do with the insistence of the education ministry that all schools have to have a programme of TIL in place for the new school year. Ah well, never mind, come next June, Podemos, PSOE and others on the left will have managed to cobble together a coalition, and TIL and anti-Catalanism will be removed and placed in the school storeroom of educational obsolescence along with the abacus.

Index for August 2014

Balearics oil prospecting - 10 August 2014
Batucada - 2 August 2014
Bellevue, Marsans and Orizonia - 26 August 2014
Bullrings of Mallorca - 21 August 2014
Campaign against bad behaviour (Magalluf) - 17 August 2014
Can Picafort ducks - 9 August 2014
Cossiers folk dance - 25 August 2014
Education conflict - 31 August 2014
Emperor Augustus' bust - 13 August 2014
Festival of Lanterns, Alcúdia - 23 August 2014
First World War and Mallorca - 4 August 2014, 5 August 2014, 6 August 2014, 7 August 2014
Glamping - 20 August 2014
Guillem Bestard - 19 August 2014
Holiday lets - 8 August 2014, 12 August 2014
Joan Mascaró i Fornés - 30 August 2014
Magalluf mole - 22 August 2014
Matas in prison - 3 August 2014
Mini tourist trains - 14 August 2014
Rock 'n' Rostoll and fiesta raves - 28 August 2014
Son Espases corruption case - 24 August 2014
Statutes of autonomy and responsibilities - 18 August 2014
Tour guides - 11 August 2014
Tourism law - 15 August 2014
Tourism spend statistics - 29 August 2014
Tourist days and weeks - 27 August 2014
Tourist satisfaction decline - 1 August 2014
Trofeo Almirante Conde de Barcelona regatta - 16 August 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 August 2014


Morning high (6.15am): 23C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 31 August - Sun, 31C; 1 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 2 September - Sun, cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 backing Northeast 4.

High humidity overnight and still close this morning. Breezes predominantly northeasterly, so things may freshen up a bit. No sign of any real break in the weather just at present, the outlook staying good.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 30.2C. Stayed close through the day, with cloud at times (and cloud now this evening). Nice and breezy by the sea though.

No Frills Excursions

Great "Vilers": Joan Mascaró i Fornés

Santa Margalida, La Vila, has its honoured sons and daughters and those who were once honoured but who have since fallen into disrepute. For the "vilers" of today, the name of Joan March is treated with contempt. Time was when it wouldn't have been. March was a poor boy who did well for himself. Too well. Contrabandist, double agent in both world wars, Franco's financier, he was an all-round rogue.

But he was a rogue who pretty much controlled Mallorca. He became Spain's wealthiest man. Perhaps there is just a touch of jealousy. While Santa Margalida's one-time affluence from agriculture had declined over the years, March was new wealth. Banking, shipping, petrol. He owned the lot, and what he owned survive to this day - Banca March, Trasmediterranea, Campsa.

This coming Tuesday, there is to be a day of culture as part of the La Beata fiestas. It is actually an evening, but no matter. It will take place in the Casal de Cultura Joan Mascaró i Fornés, and Mascaró was a son of Santa Margalida who did nothing to have any honour taken away. He was an unusual and remarkable man. And, perhaps as proof that rogues seek redemption through good works, he was a recipient of Joan March's benevolence.

Mascaró was born in 1897 in a small farmhouse on the finca s’Hort d’en Degollat, the site of the fiestas' haymaking celebrations which take place today. His parents were of humble farming stock, so his background was such that he hadn’t been destined to become the great scholar he became. But at the age of seven, he went to live with an uncle in Palma, where he studied and, at the age of sixteen, he became fascinated in the occult and Oriental spiritualism.

He mastered English to the extent that he was employed in 1916 as a secretary at the British Consulate, and it was his ability in English which brought him to the attention of Joan March. It was March who was to be Mascaró’s patron, and in 1929, having been funded to attend Cambridge University, he emerged with a degree in English Literature and Classical Oriental Languages.

Mascaró was to travel and to work in what was then Ceylon, and in 1935 he completed the first translation into Catalan of the “Bhagavad Gita”, one of the most important scriptures of the Hindu culture and religion. He was eventually to translate this epic into English, and when it was published by Penguin in 1962, he suddenly found himself catapulted into international fame. His work was greeted with great praise by scholars and the non-scholarly, one of the latter having been George Harrison, with whom Mascaró was to conduct a correspondence. He was to also translate other texts from the “Upanishads”, which is the collection of Hindu texts of which “Bhagavad Gita” is one.

Despite his extensive research into Hindu literature and culture, Mascaró never lost sight of his Catalan origins and culture. His translations into Catalan, which had been more or less lost during Franco times, were revived and re-published in the 1980s.

He died at the age of 89 in 1987, his remains being taken from Cambridge, where he had lived, in order to be buried in Santa Margalida. Mascaró is held in a position of reverence in Santa Margalida. For his advocacy of Catalan and for his widely acclaimed translations, he is remembered fondly, whereas his benefactor, Joan March, is not.

Friday, August 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 August 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 30 August - Sun, 31C; 31 August - Sun, 27C; 1 September - Sun, cloud, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 2 to 3 locally 4 backing East and Northeast during the morning.

Another humid night albeit with more breeze at times. Some cloud expected today. The weekend looks to be fine with the high decreasing by Sunday. General outlook staying good.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 33.6C. Just keeps on being hot despite there having been a fair bit of light cloud cover for much of the day.

No Frills Excursions

Tourism Stats Are Not Cricket Stats

Cricket is a sport which gives the impression that it only exists in order to generate statistics. The numbers are a sport within a sport and their gatherers become names in their own right alongside pundits and players. They are numbers, though, which cannot be misinterpreted. When Jimmy Anderson and Joe Root put on 198 for the tenth wicket against India, it was a world record and there was absolutely no dispute. In a sense, they aren't statistics. They are simple maths. One plus one equals two, it always has done and it always will do. Statistics aren't so simple. If they were, there wouldn't be huge armies of statisticians engaged in their gathering and huge arguments over their validity.

Tourism statisticians can give the impression that, like cricket, tourism only exists because of its statistical evidence. It is evidence, however robust the methodologies are said to be, which often fails to convince because of the apparent discrepancies between numbers and the evidence of the eye or the ear. For all this, an avalanche of statistics over the past few days, taken at their most general level, would appear to tell a story that is beyond dispute. There is something a bit odd going on.

Firstly, we learned that in July and for Spain as a whole, there had been a record number of foreign tourists - 8.3 million, up by 6% over 2013. Yet, the number of hotel overnight stays fell; in the Balearics, the decline was in the order of 4.7%.  How could this be, especially as the Balearics had, for the first time ever, exceeded two million foreign tourists during July? There are two explanations. One is that holidays are shorter. The other is that tourists choose to stay in alternative accommodation. For the whole of Spain, overnight stays in rented accommodation, in visitors' own properties or in those of families or friends were up by over 14%.

We then learned that, despite this record number of July visitors, spending by tourists in the Balearics fell by over 5%. This was largely attributable to what is being described as a "collapse" in the German market. Its spend alone was apparently down by a whopping 14%. There could of course be an explanation for this - stay-at-home Germans watching the World Cup. The overall Spanish tourism market suffered a fall in German spend, but it wasn't at the level supposedly recorded in the Balearics; 6% versus 14%. Moreover, while total Balearics spend was down, spend was up more or less everywhere else (Catalonia, Andalusia, Canaries). The one exception was Valencia.

One can reach for certain other explanations for this decline in the Balearics. All-inclusives would be one. But this would be too simplistic. All-inclusives are not confined to the Balearics by any stretch of the imagination. Nor are illegal or legal holiday rentals confined to the Balearics. These spending statistics, as I have sought to explain on many an occasion, are not an exact science. Nevertheless, they do give an indication. Are we to conclude, therefore, that despite the efforts of the Balearics to push the islands in the direction of attracting a higher-net-worth tourist, the opposite is in fact happening? The numbers will create a great debate and a scratching of heads. If only the statistics were as clear as those in cricket.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 August 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 29 August - Sun, 31C; 30 August - Sun, 26C; 31 August - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Southeast 2 to 3; 4 at intervals during the afternoon.

Another night when there was very little air. A bright and rather clammy morning. The temperatures look set to fall back to the mid to the high 20s from Saturday.

Evening update (22.30): A high of 34.8C. Still hot, then.

No Frills Excursions

In The Country: The fiesta rave

Time was when the music of a fiesta was the local band of music's bulbous-cheeked brass, the airy screeching of the mini-bagpipe of the Mediterranean and the indecipherable lyrics of the folk singer. Noise this may all have emitted, but it was noise of low-decibel decency that reflected a general gentility that had been passed through generations to the town squares of Mallorca. By the end of the 1980s, modernity in a fiesta musical style was still a score or so years behind the times. Alcúdia, as an example, could boast an artist such as Victor Manuel, soft-rockily socially conscious but the offspring nonetheless of the safe, non-controversial and bland artistes who once made Playa de Palma's international song festival as leading-edge as the BBC Light Programme was before, in the summer of love of 1967, the BBC admitted that there was such a thing as pop music.

Victor, being something of a name, was herded into the Plaza de Toros, the bloodied sand newly relaid. It was perhaps appropriate that a star should be given an arena capable of holding 4,000 or so spectators. The market square was not designed for such a crowd, but towns' market squares and indeed whole towns or villages which were never designed to stage events with thousands of people were to eventually do so.

A few years before Victor made his successful appearance at Alcúdia's bullring as part of the line-up for the 1989 Sant Jaume fiestas, something had been stirring across the waters of the Balearics in Ibiza. In the 1960s, Ibiza's remoteness was such that the regime put up with the hippies, whose only brushes with the forces of law tended to result from beach nudism or being instructed to wash when a hippy wedding was taking place. Though many of the hippies moved out during the '70s, they left a legacy that burst out musically in the mid '80s. Arguments still rage as to where acid house or rave music originated, but there was no denying that Ibiza was pretty significant. It acquired and still holds a mythical status in popular music culture.

Mallorca, by the end of the 1980s, was playing musical catch-up with Ibiza, and indeed it has never caught up. But Mallorca, as was the case across Europe, had caught the rave bug. The question was - what was to be done with it?

Rather like the BBC had sought to deny the existence of pop music in the 1960s and thus also denied the existence of youth culture, so Mallorca, via its fiestas, sought to turn back the tide. The fiestas, though, if they were to mean anything in this more modern era, had to become more inclusive. Youth needed a voice, youth needed its music, and the market squares thus began to be turned over to a new noise. The bands of music played on and the pipers continued to pipe, but musical youth was also now to be heard, be it rock or more likely dance, as in acid house and any other genre of what has since come to fall under a generic title of electronic dance music.

The squares of the villages and towns both in terms of their size and the proximity of residences were never built for what became the equivalent of raves during fiesta time. Some of these fiesta raves acquired such a reputation that they attracted youth from across the island. The dilemma was though, two-fold. One, the youth culture couldn't be denied. Two, to remove it from the fiesta heartland, the village square, would smack of a sort of fiesta separate development. Nevertheless, and eventually, some town halls had to take action. One was Sa Pobla. Its famed Districte 54 party was banned. It was soon after revived by genial mayor, Biel Serra, in 2011. He was appealing to the kids' wishes and appealed to them not to let him down, which is exactly what they did. Drunkenness, vomiting, some violence all occurred. Serra was rightly angry. Districte 54 is no more.

But one town had, many years ago, appreciated that it simply couldn't cope with the influx of youth. There had to be a location outside of the town. In 1995, therefore, Maria de la Salut gave its blessing to something called Rock 'n' Rostoll (the rostoll part refers to what remains in a field after a harvest of wheat). It turned out to be the perfect solution: a sort of Yasgur's Farm that admitted not a half a million strong but more like half a thousand strong that has grown over the years. There are now two stages - rock and electronic dance - on a finca off the old road between Maria and Muro. Its twentieth edition takes place this coming Saturday. Rave and rock. The fiesta lives on. But not in the square.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 August 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 28 August - Sun, 31C; 29 August - Sun, 28C; 30 August - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 with South 3 to 4 around Capdepera backing East and Southeast, locally 4 around Formentor.

Bright morning and a bright day ahead. Breezes are erratic, but there will probably not be the southerly air that has pushed temperatures so high over the past couple of days.

Evening update (19.45): Still pretty hot, though. High of 33.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Days And Weeks Of The Tourist

Fifty years ago, an order went out from the Spanish Ministry for Information and Tourism. Manuel Fraga, the minister, instituted the "day of the tourist". Resorts were commanded - not asked but commanded - to put on a day of special celebration in honour of their guests. In Mallorca and the Balearics, the press, never knowingly anything less than compliant (it didn't have much choice as Fraga was in censorious and commanding control of information as well), said: "The day of the tourist was celebrated with immense joy. All hotels on the island organised programmes of entertainment, which started in the morning with bagpipe and drum music. The oldest and most typical dishes of the island were served, though lobster was served, too, and that is not the most typical or the oldest. Free accommodation stays were raffled. There were attractions for every taste as well as flowers and music. There was no doubt this day of the tourist was a pleasure. Without being handed a bill, tourists could have fun and also line their stomachs."

Well, perhaps there was just a hint of dissenting comment in that last sentence, but that would have depended on how it was interpreted. Nevertheless, the first day of the tourist was considered a grand success. Similar days were organised for some years after. At some stage, it was clearly felt that there was no longer any need for them. The cost of the lobster probably became prohibitive. Or maybe it was because a successor of Fraga's lost his commander and his job.

Back in the day, they could do things like order hotels to put on days of immense joy. Woe betide any member of a hotel staff who was not wearing a beaming smile all day. A moment of less than total joyousness could have found him or her packed off to the fields for a month's hard labour along with the black marketeers (those who were unlucky enough to be caught and who were small enough fry). It was all a bit Korean, northern as opposed to southern. But there again, perhaps hotel staff were all too happy to get into the mood. The day of the tourist was an expression of gratitude, and those employed in the industry had as much to be grateful for as the lucky tourists who were woken up with the sound of bagpipes, an honour normally only reserved for the Queen when in residence at Balmoral.

While tourist days, since those heady times under Franco, have become ad-hoc affairs, usually to coincide with World Tourism Day at the end of September, there is one resort which has been making a greater contribution to celebrating tourists than any other. And that is Cala Millor. For years now, it hasn't just had a day, it has had a whole week.

In the edition of the local publication "Perlas y Cuevas" from 17 September, 1983, the front page had a headline which read "Cala Millor bay or the humanisation of international tourism". Its editorial spoke of travellers whose lives might be full of traumas who were able to forget their problems because when the party is the party, it is celebrated in Cala Millor. In 1983, it was in fact the fourth tourist week. It was a fiesta that bore a strong resemblance to most other fiestas. There was plenty of sport, some folk dance, concerts by the local band of music, a grand parade of floats, and fireworks which brought the whole week to its climax. There was only one aspect that was conspicuous by its absence from a regular fiesta - religion. Tourism was the religion after all, and it was being fully humanised 31 years ago in Cala Millor.

It's impressive that Cala Millor has been able to keep this tradition for the new age going for as long as it has, but even its efforts can strike one as a little strange. Once upon a time, when tourism was new and everyone's gratitude needed to be conveyed, it was perfectly understandable. But nowadays? Well, perhaps there is in fact even more need. In 1964, tourists were not taken for granted. What has happened since is that they have been taken for granted. Rather than strange, therefore, a week devoted to celebrating tourism is to be applauded, as are tourist days. Alcúdia, which introduced one a few years, celebrates its tomorrow. More strange perhaps is the fact that a day or a week should have to be dedicated to the celebration of tourists. Every day of the year should be a celebration.

In Alcúdia, they give English prominence in the poster for the tourist day, for once an acknowledgement that tourists shouldn't be taken for granted and be expected to understand Catalan or Castellano. Even so, much as Cala Millor's tourist week in 1983 was excellent, the publication was of course only in Spanish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 August 2014


Morning high (6.30am): 24C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 27 August - Sun, 31C; 28 August - Sun, 28C; 29 August - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 occasionally Variable 2 to 3 around Formentor.

A yellow alert for high temperatures today, breezes from the south pushing the mercury levels up, so we may be in for 34s or 35s. Getting cooler later in the week but remaining sunny.

Evening update (23.00): A very big high - 37.4C.

No Frills Excursions

What A Tangled Web: Orizonia and Marsans

Next month, a judge in Palma will make a decision as to the nature of the bankruptcy that brought down the Orizonia travel group in February last year. It may be that the judge considers administrators and certain shareholders in the company responsible for its collapse and orders the forfeiture of their assets. Two major creditors plus a group of more than one hundred former employees have been pressing for such an outcome.

Orizonia is just one part of a jigsaw in what has been a story, which is still very much ongoing, of corporate wrong-doing and concealment that ranks alongside cases such as the collapse of Rumasa in the 1980s (and Nueva Rumasa very much more recently) in terms of the scale of fraud, either alleged or proven. Orizonia, which had only been formed through a buy-out from Iberostar businesses in 2006, went under with over 600 million euros of debt. Its collapse is a story in its own right, and one that I have previously written about, but it was a collapse that was a sort of corollary to the much bigger story, the failure of Grupo Marsans.

Less than three months before Orizonia filed for bankruptcy, it had been one of the companies which had been instrumental in the investigation of and arrest of Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, the former boss of Marsans. Orizonia had an interest in one particular part of the Marsans empire, the Hotetur hotel division, which was controlled by a separate holding company, Teinver. Through Hotetur, Marsans owned the Bellevue hotel complex in Alcúdia.

In late 2010, it became known that mortgages had been taken out on Bellevue. Two were for banks. The third, and the largest, at more than 30 million euros, was for Orizonia. By this time, Marsans had collapsed. Teinver and other parts of the Marsans empire had been bought in June of 2010 by an investment company, Posibilitum. The intention had been that Bellevue was to have been auctioned off in February 2011. It wasn't. But then a further option arose. This was that the management of Bellevue might be shared. Orizonia would be one partner. The other would be Al Andalus Management, which had been appointed by Posibilitum as the management company for the complex.

This option, even if it had ever been realistic, ceased to be one when Orizonia collapsed. Its hotel wing, Luabay, which would have been part of the joint-management scheme, was sold to Be Live Hotels, part of the Globalia group. But then there came the formal denuncia that Orizonia, along with Meliá Hotels, AC Hotels and Pullmantur, lodged against Marsans' owners, one of whom has since died. There was a third name on this denuncia, Angel de Cabo of Posibilitum. In the denuncia, it is stated that there were fictitious sales of companies belonging to the Marsans owners. One of them was Teinver.

What emerged was that this had all been a scheme to hide assets from creditors. They were transferred to Posibilitum. It was said that a sum of up to 600 million euros had been paid. The denuncia states that Posibilitum had capital of only one tenth of this amount in 2009.

Díaz Ferrán and de Cabo were both arrested and both sent to prison, awaiting trial. Bail was placed on both of them. In de Cabo's case, it was set at 50 million euros, an amount that was progressively reduced, so much so that in July, de Cabo was released on bail of 300,000 euros supported by assets worth double that amount. He is still to stand trial, as is Díaz Ferrán, but in the meantime, what has happened with the businesses that were caught up in this affair? Bellevue, for example.

In August 2010, Al Andalus, the company put in management charge of Bellevue, bought the BlueBay brand from Posibilitum, a brand which itself was under the Hotetur umbrella. Bellevue has since become a brand of its own, operated by BlueBay which took out contracts to lease Hotetur hotels for a period of ten years.

So, insofar as anything can be said to be clear about this whole affair as it has impacted on Bellevue (and the Lagomonte in Alcúdia), it is that BlueBay are the rightful managers of the hotel. But then who ultimately owns it? Presumably Posibilitum, despite the allegedly fictitious sale from Marsans or a sale that was not of the size which had been claimed. There again, what of that old mortgage that Orizonia had on Bellevue? Did it pass to Globalia when it bought the Luabay hotels?

Tangled web doesn't do the affair justice. It's why it has taken and is taking so long to go through various courts, not only one in Palma. For BlueBay, what does it do with Bellevue, a hotel complex which, for most of its existence, has been its own tangled web?

Photo: The Lago Esperanza from Bellevue.

Monday, August 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 August 2014


Morning high (7.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 26 August - Sun, 32C; 27 August - Sun, 28C; 28 August - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4, locally 5 by the evening.

A fine, bright, clear-skied morning and a fine, sunny day in prospect. The general outlook for the week is good, highs around the 30 mark.

Evening update (19.15): A high of 34.6C, and it was noticeable this afternoon how the southern African air was making its presence known. This same air has meant that an alert is out for high temperatures tomorrow.

No Frills Excursions

Folk Dance Traditions: The cossiers

In 1962, Mallorca welcomed an English dance group. It was called Thurrock International Folk Dance. Alas, this group no longer appears to exist, and one wonders whether its rather grand title didn't perhaps disguise a dance troupe altogether less grand. With all due respect, Thurrock, lying as it does on the Thames Estuary, is not the first place which comes to mind when one thinks of folk-dance traditions. Nevertheless, the group was given a warm welcome in Mallorca. It had been in touch with José María Oliver, a name that may be familiar to those who were around in the heyday of the Casa Oliver in Palma. The building was important in the history of tourism in Palma. It was one of the establishments which formed, along with the likes of Tagomago and Son Amar, the Palma de Noche excursion. It attracted international artists - genuine ones rather than those from Thurrock - and was known for its music and of course its dance. It ceased to be in 1990.

José María had long had an association with folk-dance traditions on the island. Two years after Casa Oliver closed, he was awarded the Belgian Order of the Crown. His relationship with Belgium had also gone back to 1962, when he had arranged for the Folkloric Group to perform for disabled visitors from Belgium in Santa Ponsa. He was, therefore, just the man that Thurrock International Folk Dance was looking for. It wished to get to know the folk-dance traditions of Mallorca, and José María threw a reception in the group's honour at Casa Oliver and made sure that its members got in free to various shows.

What Thurrock International Folk Dance did with the knowledge it gleaned is unknown. It was doubtless interested in Mallorcan folk dance, but - and I hope I am not doing its memory an injustice - it is just possible that it was one of those groups who managed to come to Mallorca as a "closed" group and who therefore got package travel prices lower than normal airfares. When it came in 1962, folk dance, as with anything traditional in Mallorca, was under threat. This was right at the time when mass tourism and migration to the coasts from the countryside were starting to do their best (or worst) to undermine traditions.

Nevertheless, around this time there were specific efforts to attract tourists to these traditions. The town of Algaida produced a short leaflet. It featured four dancers waving what look like hankies and a fifth dancer dressed as a demon. They were the town's cossiers.

Documentary evidence of the existence of these folk dancers dates back to Sóller in 1544. Many towns came to have cossier troupes, but the number of towns dwindled. Today, there are, in addition to Palma, only five - Manacor, Alaró, Pollensa, Algaida and its immediate neighbour, Montuïri - and of these, the latter two are the only towns where the cossier tradition has been virtually unbroken for centuries (Algaida had a short break not long after it produced its leaflet, but the tradition was swiftly revived in 1973).

The gaps in the tradition have been very much longer elsewhere. In Pollensa, for instance, it was some fifty years before the cossiers were brought back to life at the annual La Patrona fiestas, having previously been a feature of the June Sant Pere fiesta in Puerto Pollensa, something which had come to a halt at the end of the 1920s. The cossiers are now very much a part of the celebrations on the day of La Patrona, but their tradition in Pollensa is nothing like as strong as it is in Algaida or especially in Montuïri.

Written evidence of the cossiers in Montuïri can be found from the 1820s, though the tradition there is much older. And it is this nearly two-hundred-year-old evidence which acts as the template for cossiers elsewhere. Three pairs of men, the lady and the devil, a collision of good and bad, which provides further evidence to suggest that the cossiers' dances are rooted in ancient paganism that passed through Catalan tradition before being transplanted in Mallorca. And these dances are defined. There is, for instance, the "flower of myrtle" dance, the "Master John" dance and also the "midnight" dance.

This latter dance had, in effect, been lost for more than sixty years. But it has been revived. At the Sant Bartomeu celebrations in Montuïri last weekend, they danced the "midnight" dance.

Would Thurrock International Folk Dance have witnessed the cossiers? Possibly so. And would the "flower of myrtle" have been danced somewhere in Essex as a consequence? Who knows? But there is one connection between the Mallorcan cossiers and English folk dance. Morris Dancers also have set dances, and some (those without the sticks) are not that far removed from those of the cossiers. It is said that Morris dance comes from Moorish dance in Spain.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 August 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 20C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 25 August - Sun, 31C; 26 August - Sun, 32C; 27 August - Sun, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3

A cloudy dawn but the cloudy is due to lift to give a fine and quite hot day. Southerlies tending to dominate over the next couple of days, which should be very sunny and hot.

Evening update (20.45): Very decent day. High of 31.4C.

No Frills Excursions

When Canaries Sing Of Corruption

Just when you thought that everyone had gone away on their jollies and that the rest of August would lie quietly in the deep heat-induced somnolence of late summer and maintain the enervated silence induced by thirty degrees, a good lunch and a bucket of sangria, something stirs deep in the cesspit of the past and explodes with the force of a sewage pipe ripped apart by the pressure of accumulated and stinking waste. It is an eruption of the most unhealthy variety, spewing out over the monument of Mallorca's health service. The deep-cleaned, bacteria-free white walls of Son Espases were showered with muck of the brownest type.

Aina Castillo was Jaume Matas's most loyal acolyte. Not is. Was. While others had long waved their hankies at the shoreline and watched as their former master was sunk by their confessions, Aina, the one-time subservient servant at the ministry of sanitation, had continued to calm the drowning former president with her enduring loyalty. Until, that is. As any good canary can tell you, when there is a whiff of gas, there is danger ahead. It is time to get out quick. Or it is time to activate the explosion before the explosion launches you over the battlements of Palma's jail and deposits you on top of Maria Munar. It is time for all good canaries to sing. Aina sang. This was not a love song. "I have a new goal, I'm changing my ways. Where money applies, this is not a love song." The Johnny Rottenness of public image was fully exposed. Money had applied all along. Aina had changed her ways. The anti-corruption prosecutors were taking aim at the goal, one already inside a gaol. Aina blew the lid on the sewage pipe. Matas had rigged the tender to construct Son Espases. The biggest corruption scandal of the lot had shattered the sleep and dreamtime of late August.

Of course, everyone had long suspected that Son Espases was iffy. It was just that the nature of the iffiness was not known. It is now. Jaume gave instructions that one of the bidders should gain higher marks. The winner was Dragados. Technical reports had given a rival, OHL, better marks. But it still lost.

Prosecutors will be having a word with Jaume, currently on leave in Segovia's prison. The "caso Son Espases" threatens to eclipse even the Palma Arena affair. And for the present incumbent in the presidential palace, José Ramón Bauzá, it is a horrible reminder of the not-so-long-ago past. The bad debts that Matas had left had been written off, so Joserra has said. The biggest debt of all now brings renewed harmfulness. And what does the president do about Aina? She's still knocking around. His presidency was to have been a clean one. Unfortunately, it can't be because it can't escape the recent past. Not when the walls of Son Espases are dripping with the filth of corruption.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What's On Around Alcúdia And Pollensa - La Beata

The final fiestas of the summer start in Santa Margalida on Wednesday (27 August). The La Beata fiestas are in honour of the beatified Santa Catalina Thomàs. Despite the saint having had no direct association with Santa Margalida (she was from Valldemossa), it would seem that celebrations of the beatification, which occurred across Mallorca by the end of the eighteenth century, were then consolidated in Santa Margalida. The elements of the procession of La Beata (this year on 7 September) - the carrying of pitchers (jars) by couples, the smashing of these jars by demons - are all pretty much an invention of Santa Margalida. The fiestas, and especially the procession, are considered to be among Mallorca's most important, if not the most important, and this may well be because Santa Catalina's story (or stories, because there are different ones) was exclusively Mallorcan. She clearly wasn't a saint in the normal sense of the religious tradition, as she wasn't a saint from the Bible. 

The programme in English at:

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 August 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 24 August - Sun, 30C; 25 August - Sun, 29C; 26 August - Sun, 32C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing 3 to 4 by the afternoon.

Some cloud around early on and cloud may persist until the afternoon, but the general outlook from tomorrow is excellent - sunny and hot.

Evening update (19.00): The cloud dispersed and gave a really pleasant day. Sunny but not too hot. A high of 27.2C.

No Frills Excursions

The Night Of The Lanterns

Saint Bartholomew (Sant Bartomeu) met a grisly end. One of the Apostles, he was supposedly skinned alive before being crucified. It is his feast day tomorrow and is thus a fairly significant day in the religious calendar. Bartomeu doesn't, as such, have anything to do with lanterns, but in Alcudia he does. Tomorrow is the festival of the lanterns in the old town.

You might be surprised to learn that the origins of the lanterns festival lie with the end of summer. 24 August is not normally considered to be summer's end. But for the farming people of Alcudia in days gone by, it was treated as such because the last melons of the season were being harvested. To mark the end of the melon production line, a local custom was invented. Lanterns were made from melons, and the children of the town took to the streets at night, flashing their lanterns and singing traditional Mallorcan children's songs.

It is uncertain when this custom first took off, but it is certain that by the early 1960s the tradition had fallen into abeyance. As with other aspects of rural Mallorcan life, tourism and coastal construction had changed the landscape, both physically and socially. What is also certain is the fact that in 1978 the custom was revived, an impulse behind its revival having been a resurgence in traditions that had gone into decline during the Franco years. The prime movers behind the return of the lanterns were the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB), the organisation which promotes all things Catalan, and a cultural association in Alcudia that was formed from the local branch of the OCB. This association was Sarau Alcudienc.

Best known for its performances of ball de bot folk dance, Sarau Alcudienc is and always has been much more than a folk troupe. It is perhaps Alcudia's most important keeper of Catalan traditions, and its founding coincided with the revival of the lanterns festival (indeed, it was the festival which brought about its founding). As such, therefore, the festival has a deeper significance than merely being an occasion for children to carry lit-up melons on the streets of the old town. It represents the rediscovery of the past. It isn't perhaps well enough appreciated just how significant the lanterns festival is.

There again, this socio-politico element is probably not uppermost in the minds of the kids or their parents on the evening of 24 August, when the Plaça de ses Verdures (vegetables square) - just by the town hall - is packed with the families who make the square the final place in their journey along the streets. It has become a joyous and much anticipated event, not greatly publicised to the tourist masses, but one with which a tourist observer will be greatly charmed.

As for the link with Sant Bartomeu, there isn't a direct one, as I have noted. It was chosen in 1978 to be the day (or rather night) when the lanterns would once more be swung. It is a tradition unique to Alcudia. Or rather it was. Sarau Alcudienc has spread the word, and there are other towns which have now taken Alcudia's lead. A lovely event, but as for end of summer? Thankfully, not quite.

* Photo from Sarau Alcudienc

Friday, August 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 August 2014


Morning high (7.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 23 August - Sun and cloud, 30C; 24 August - Sun and cloud, 26C; 25 August - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4.

Nice morning and nice day ahead. Weekend's looking a little iffy. Possible showers tomorrow and cloudy. Next week, if the forecast can be trusted, looks as though it might be a bit of a scorcher.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty hot. A high of 33.6C. Quite cloudy much of the day though.

No Frills Excursions

Magalluf - Mole In The Hole

The Magalluf nonsense rumbles on. You could have put good money on the British red-tops doing whatever they could to get a story once THAT video became public knowledge. And to no one's surprise, therefore, "The Sun", via its so-called Magalluf Mole, came up with its laughable front page on Tuesday. A staged photo? A fake? Who cares what it was, it was worthy of all the derision that it received, as was the story that went with it: the same outrageous stuff we have been accustomed to this summer.

While we can all be critical of Calvia, in this instance the town hall would have had every right to have made a statement declaring that it was totally contemptuous of "The Sun". But while one feels a touch of sympathy on this occasion, what do we make of the video doing the rounds of the sex on the BCM party boat? And what do we make of Calvia's silence on the matter? The video was posted onto Manu Onieva's Facebook wall. The mayor's comments were requested. There have been none.

In a further development, Javier Pierotti, who was the one who put out the video of the cars trapped by the baying hordes on the Punta Ballena last summer (Magalluf Chaos), has released another video, which asks for people's help in getting improvements in Magalluf. With the support of Shaggie (he of Shagalluf), Elizabeth Dobson and others, a request is being made for Javier, who has no political affiliation or ambition, to be co-opted onto working groups at Calvia town hall so that the views of people in Magalluf can be heard and their co-operation can be sought in bringing about genuine improvements. Javier put a 32-page dossier some time ago in which he highlighted problems and made suggestions and recommendations (seemingly all ignored). A petition to have Javier co-opted has been placed on There is more information on Facebook - For a better Calvia - and the video asking for help is on YouTube - "Magalluf Video - We Need Your Help".

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Referrer spam update

Currently, on the popular posts here there is one for an ancient blog item "Oh Doctor, I'm In Trouble". It has risen to popularity because a referrer spam site has put it there. The one that is doing so is Halloween Witch 2014 blogspot. These referrers come and go and there isn't a lot that can be done about them. Even very mature blogs like this one suffer, though small, new blogs are way more likely to be affected. These referrers are harmless enough but are annoying. If a popular post appears that looks odd, then please don't click on it as that just keeps the referring going. I can't eliminate it though I can take off the popular posts list, which I have in the past for this very reason. Anyone operating a blog who sees information in their page view stats which looks suspicious, e.g. Halloween Witch or any other, should definitely not click on the link. Eventually it will go away, though the chances are another one will come around. The page view statistics are otherwise very genuine. Despite this old blog item having risen to temporary popularity, its overall contribution to page views is minute.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 August 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 24C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 22 August - Sun and cloud, 31C; 23 August - Sun and cloud, 25C; 24 August - Sun and cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Southeast 3 to 4. Possible rain or storm.

A grey, cloudy morning, and a mainly cloudy day in store. A slight risk of rain. A mix of sun and cloud enduring into the weekend.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 29C. Mostly cloudy for much of the day. Some rain in parts but not much.

No Frills Excursions

The Bullrings Of Mallorca

A poster from September 1932 announces a charity event in aid of the Pollensa hospice. The event is a bullfight. It is to be staged in the bullring in Puerto Pollensa. Apart from the fact that a drawing of a matador appears to show the matador without a head (perhaps the bull had got to him in a particularly unpleasant fashion), the poster is interesting because there is no longer a bullring in Puerto Pollensa, but one guesses, from the relative grandness of the occasion that the poster refers to, that this had to have been a fairly substantial arena. The question is, and I don't have the answer, where was it?

There was another bullring in Pollensa. In the old town itself. It now forms part of the grounds of a property that would doubtless cost a pretty penny or several. It wasn't so far from the Plaça Major, but it, like the bullring in the port, disappeared years ago. From what can be made out, maybe the port's bullring was the more important of the two. It's hard to say.

One understands that there are quite a number of bullrings in Spain which have disappeared over the years, but research into those which may have existed in Mallorca has proved fruitless. Maybe there were others. Maybe there weren't. If anyone knows, my curiosity would be grateful for any information. What is known and is well chronicled is the history of the five bullrings that still exist - those in Palma, Inca, Alcúdia, Muro and Felanitx.

Of these five, the Felanitx one, La Macarena, has fallen into a pretty poor state. It has been closed for safety reasons since 2009. Its owner wishes to sell it but no one seems interested in buying it. It is exactly one hundred years old this year, there having been a previous bullring that had opened in 1891.

Palma has had a bullring since 1865. Its replacement, the Coliseum, staged its inaugural bullfight on 21 July, 1929. The desire for a replacement had existed for a good number of years before the Coliseum opened but the First World War put any new project on the back-burner, as did opposition from Palma town hall for several years in the 1920s. When the go-ahead was given, in 1928, the new bullring took only nine months to be built, an astonishingly short period of time. All was ready for the inauguration, and the anticipation was apparently enormous. Twenty trams that operated what was a new route to the bullring were packed. Practically every car that was registered in Mallorca was seemingly parked nearby.

The following Sunday, the action switched to Inca and to an occurrence which shocked the whole of Mallorca. Reports suggest that the shocked population all turned out to see the coffin of Angel Celdrán Carratalá being placed on a ship in Palma to take his body back to his native Alicante. He had received fatal wounds to his stomach from the bull.

Inca's bullring is older than Palma's. It was inaugurated in September 1910. The local rail service put on special trains to bring people in from Palma. Inca, so it would seem, had never experienced anything quite like this. The streets were crowded from early in the morning. The bars were packed. Sobrassada, botifarrones, tortillas were gorged. Wine was drunk in great volume.

Another bullring, Alcúdia's, is older than Inca's. It dates from 1892. Muro's, "La Monumental", was built on the site of a quarry and completed in 1918. It is the largest in terms of numbers of spectators apart from Palma's Coliseum.

Looking back at reports of the inaugurations of the Inca and Palma bullrings, one is struck by how popular the bullfights were. From a contemporary perspective, it might seem shocking. But it wasn't as though there was total support. Much of the opposition came from the so-called Generación del 98, which drew its name from the calamitous events of 1898 when Spain lost the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The bullfight was viewed as evidence of Spain's backwardness. The writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo said that he was disgusted by the bullfight.

Society's attitudes have clearly changed markedly since the days when Inca could be bursting at the seams with excited bullfight-goers. While the legitimacy of the bullfight as part of Spain's patrimony is rightly brought into question, there is the separate patrimony of the architectural legacy that goes with it. The Coliseum, for example, built so rapidly from Mallorcan stone and in a neo-classical style, should not be devalued because of what occurs behind that stone. Likewise, La Macarena deserves to be preserved, while the memories of the lost bullrings need to be reactivated, if only to emphasise just how much attitudes have changed.

Note: Many thanks indeed to Lyn at the forum for letting me know that the Puerto Pollensa bullring had been discussed some years ago on the forum and that its location was placed as having been near to what is now the Eroski roundabout (the one with the Canadair sculpture).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 August 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 23C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 August - Possible rain, some sun, 30C; 22 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 23 August - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4. Some rain possible.

Light cloud around, just the chance of a possible shower this morning, otherwise fine. Tomorrow, there is a greater risk of rain, cloud lingering into Friday.

Evening update (19.00): A high of 30.4C. Quite cloudy most of the day. Looking like rain overnight.

No Frills Excursions

The Joys Of Glamping

Do you fancy some of this? "All the comforts of home with the luxury of a five-star hotel room, the airstream is an oasis of luxury set in the middle of nature." Or some of this? "Comfort and freedom, the ultimate bell tent experience, extremely luxurious ... this space can be whatever you like, a romantic space, get close to nature, if you wish ..." There are other examples, and they come from the website

I confess to having a natural aversion to what I have long dubbed "brochure talk", a formulaic means of descriptive promotion, aided by a thesaurus with a select list of nouns and adjectives, which takes these nouns and adjectives and arranges them into meaningful sentences (usually meaningful) as needs require. Hence, the thesaurus contains emotive nouns such as "oasis" or adjectives like "ultimate".

While I consider brochure talk to be lazy, cliché-ridden and shallow, I can accept that not everyone might agree with me and that there may indeed be applications for which it is appropriate. And glamping may just be one of these. As far as I am aware, there isn't an oasis as such near to the "small, Spanish white pueblo named Alozaina ... (idyllic, peaceful and restful)", but I admit that it does sound somewhat appealing - a silver machine airstream mobile home that looks like a giant and kitsch-retro toaster parked in a craggy, pine-filled setting somewhere in remotest Andalusia.

Glamping - a neologism that combines glamour and camping - is, so we are being told, a genuine trend in sustainable tourism. As such, therefore, it must be "a good thing" because anything which is tagged sustainable is considered to be "a good thing". It is more than simply sustainable, though, and the clue lies with the glamour part of the neolexia. You can glamp - and I'm not sure, I may have invented a verb - in various parts of the globe, and the sustainably touristic glamour you receive in return for your desire to go glamping can be a yurt, an eco lodge, a treehouse or a very large Swan Essentials steel toaster with five-star interior.'s somewhat eccentric (nothing wrong with that) selection spans the globe, but in Spain it is confined to Andalusia. The offer is specialised glamping, but there is a less exclusive style which nonetheless adheres to the principle of the glamour part of the equation. Examples include the Jesolo International camp in Venice and the Marjal Costa Blanca Eco Camping Resort, which is not that far from Benidorm.

The attractions of this luxury style of camping lie, it is said, with an appeal to contemporary social and ecological consciences and to a demand for quality that doesn't break the bank (which might be the case with a hotel). There is an attraction, furthermore, for the vast majority of people (90% of the population of Europe, it is said) who have never had a camping holiday. While all of this may be true, if one is being picky, a social conscience might baulk at the all-inclusive nature of the Jesolo camp; it gives the impression of being something of a new-age Club Med minus the one-time sinful reputation. 

If we are to believe the marketing psychographics gurus, the planet is now populated by a youthful Millennial generation for whom the holiday experience is as important as if not more important than the accommodation. It's probably all guff, but if there is some truth to it, then should appeal to this Millennial being. It offers, it says, "a discerning guide to experiential travel". One doesn't have to be a Millennial, however, to enjoy this new fad for eco-friendly, sustainably-correct, quasi-back-to-nature happy camping. Families, seniors, those with wads of cash are all equally likely to wish to partake. And why not? Camping, with or without five-star luxury, in or not within a toaster on wheels has much to commend it.

But sadly, this trend will not be coming to Mallorca any time soon. The new tourism law is dumb on the subject. Camping is a non-subject in Mallorca. It was officially airbrushed into almost total oblivion over 25 years ago, and it is highly unlikely that it would make a startling reappearance. Yet, there is a good clientele to be had from camping, while glamping would seem to fit well with the ministerial mantra that chants "quality tourist". However, as with the spare-cash-flush private apartment renter, the potential occupants of a luxury yurt encampment in Mallorca are non-persons where the ministry are concerned. And the ministry knows best, even at the expense of ignoring tourism trends and tourist wishes. Camping is not a hotel. It is the tourism anti-Christ where Mallorca is concerned, which is strange when the ministry can also chant "sustainability".

* Photo from

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 August 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 25C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 20 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 21 August - Sun, cloud, 26C; 22 August - Sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 backing Northeast during the morning.

Warm morning and another quite hot day in prospect. Tomorrow is looking a little iffy; there may be a shower, with the cloud lingering into Thursday. Weekend - good (at present).

Evening update (20.45): High of 29.8C. Cloud has come in now and will persist overnight. 

No Frills Excursions

Photos Of Pollensa: Guillem Bestard

There is a black-and-white photo of Cala San Vicente rock and cliff formations that dates back to 1930. The photo was part of a series that the national tourism directorate commissioned between 1928 and 1936 and which is called the "Catálogo Monumental de España". The catalogue comprises 3,861 photographs of different places in Spain, all of them related to tourism. It, in turn, forms part of the national tourism patronage series - a colossal archive of posters, brochures, leaflets and photos. It has over 80,000 photos in all.

The Cala San Vicente photo is notable as much for its quality as it is for the name of the photographer. No photographic record of Cala San Vicente, of Pollensa, of Mallorca would be complete without works by Guillem Bestard. Find an old photo of Pollensa, Alcúdia, Sa Pobla, and the chances are that Bestard's name will be on it. He didn't confine himself to Pollensa and the surrounding area - he photographed the whole of the island - but he specialised in Pollensa, and his name is intrinsically linked to the town, and in more ways than you might imagine.

Guillem, or Guillermo if you prefer, got the photography bug when a German painter turned up in Pollensa in 1898. He was seventeen years old at the time. The Bestard family home was also an inn, and this painter was one of its guests. He introduced Guillem to the camera, and an astonishing legacy was about to be created.

His success as a photographer was not confined to taking photos of landscapes, of fishing villages and towns - ones with which many of you may well be familiar. He also did photographic portraits. The Infanta Isabel was one of his subjects in 1913. Two years before, he had photographed Antoni Maura, the Mallorcan who was prime minister of Spain on several occasions. Barely ten years after having picked up a camera, he received the gold medal for artistic photography at the international exhibition in Paris of 1910. Two years later, he received another international award in Paris and a couple more besides - in Brussels and Barcelona. He also photographed ordinary people. The Bestard archive is an indispensable record of Mallorca at the turn of the twentieth century and was, through successors, to become a record of the island until 2006.

Important though Bestard was, his photographic work was largely overlooked when it came to the promotion of Mallorca in the early years of the last century. Indeed, photography was generally not used; paintings were instead. But paintings, or rather painters - and it is here that the Bestard story begins to broaden - were to prove to be as much a part of the making of Bestard as his photographs.

In the 6 September, 1913 edition of the Mallorcan "La Almudaina" newspaper, there was an article entitled "Illustrious painters, today's guests in Mallorca". The article was subtitled "The Mecca for artists". The writer of the article was Pedro Ferrer Gibert. Three years later, it was he who was to coin the term "the Pollensa school", something which didn't physically exist but which was founded as an artistic movement around the time that the article appeared. (1914 is usually taken as the starting-point.)

Ferrer had taken himself off to Cala San Vicente, to the improvised Can Niu pension that was home to several of these "guests". He was accompanied by two painters - Antoni Gelabert and José Singala - and by a photographer, Guillem Bestard. There is a photo of these painters, fifteen of them in all. They are all smartly dressed. Had they put on their best bib 'n' tucker for Bestard's photo in the newspaper? Quite possibly. Though it isn't certain that this was a photo taken at that time, one presumes that it was.

Bestard was thus drawn into this artistic movement, one of which one can say, with no exaggeration, that it was fundamental in informing the world about Mallorca and in revealing to the world the magnificence of the island: the "island of calm", as one of these painters, Santiago Rusiñol, dubbed it.

His fame and reputation spread. Though photography might not have been used by the Mallorca Tourist Board at that time, his work still reached a wide audience. It was published in the Madrid daily "El Sol" but more significantly in "National Geographic", which proves that Bestard's role in the early years of promoting Mallorca's tourism, generally ignored, was of considerable importance.

In Pollensa, he became a pillar of local society. He co-founded the cultural Club Pollença in 1913 and became a director of the Colonya co-operative bank. He was, therefore, a close associate of Guillem Cifre de Colonya, someone with whom he shared liberal ideas. These ideas led him to leave Mallorca during the Civil War. He was later to return, but he lived primarily in London, where he died in 1969.

Monday, August 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 August 2014


Morning high (8.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 19 August - Sun, 31C; 20 August - Cloud, sun, 27C; 21 August - Sun, cloud, 24C.

A fine, bright morning and a hot day awaits, southerlies possibly making things feel a tad stuffy. The week's outlook is generally good, though Wednesday is shaping up to be predominantly cloudy with a small risk of a shower.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4.

Evening update (20.45): A high of 30.7C. Hot but didn't feel oppressively so. Some cloud gathered in the afternoon. 

No Frills Excursions

Responsibilities In Reverse

Amidst the fuss about tourist rentals that the recent draft tourism decree has caused were others matters of policy, equally as arcane in their actual comprehensibility to the layman, which failed to work their way into the headlines. One of these other matters has to do with the removal of certain competences that the islands' councils have for tourism promotion and organisation.

If you have not seen the draft tourism decree (or other items of Balearics legislation come to that), you will not know just how convoluted it is and how, in its preamble in particular, it manages to refer to that many items of other legislation that any sane person would give up after a couple of pages. (Perhaps the government hopes people do give up.) If you persevere, however, and disentangle what is contained in all this mind-boggling legalese, you discover that statutes of autonomy, which apply not just to the regional government but also to the islands' councils, and a general law of 2007 to do with these statutes have been invoked by the regional government in its having now claimed exclusive right to decide on certain tourism matters.

In Menorca, they are bloody furious. The other islands will probably also be mad, but the Menorcans more than the other islands. They have been vocal in asserting their rights to introduce their own regulations in line with what they thought were their competences and responsibilities. The government has taken them away and in one particularly significant way. The Menorcans believed that they would be able to regulate on tourism rentals: not under this decree they can't.

According to Salomé Cabrera, Menorca's councillor for tourism, the decree "violates" competences that the council has for tourism organisation, and she has drawn attention to what was an agreement by the regional government to amend the 2012 law by stating that Menorca could regulate on the matter of tourist stays (which, in translation, is the official term for tourist rentals). Menorca had, before the passing of the 2012 law, lobbied for a more permissive rental regime. It has maintained its opposition since then, its president having not attended a meeting with then tourism minister Carlos Delgado a year ago at which Delgado claimed there was consensus on rentals. This was a barefaced untruth. Its opposition had, nonetheless, looked as if it had worked and had given Menorca the means to counter the harmful effects of all-inclusives on the island through the permissive regulation of private accommodation for rent.

PSOE, in responding to the Martínez decree last week, argued that other competences were being taken away from the councils. It remains to be seen what responsibilities they will be left with, but they are supposed to be getting one that allows them to promote tourism. This was promised by President Bauzá, and it was a promise that had a hefty dose of political expediency about it: smoothing unrest in the other islands.

The change of mind on Menorca's rental responsibilities is indicative of the way in which the statutes of autonomy and the relationships between tiers of government can become political footballs of interpretation, power politics and potential abuse. They are used by Palma where the islands are concerned, and they are also used by Madrid where the Balearics are concerned.

The tourism law and now the new decree are ways in which Palma can assert its authority. It can do so with carte blanche because it, as with other regional administrations, has been allowed to by Madrid, which abrogated its responsibility for legislating on tourist rentals. Had it not and had it opted to legislate centrally, it is quite possible, given how every other region of Spain has been moving, that the Balearics would now be facing a permissive system of regulation. It suited Madrid not to legislate because by not doing so it was able to appear to be acting in a decentralised fashion but more importantly it was able to avoid an almighty great conflict with the hotel lobby. It bottled it, in other words.

The statues of autonomy have created a system of pick 'n' mix whereby Madrid can wield the stick of centralisation or dangle the carrot of decentralisation as it sees fit. The result is one great big power game in which Bauzá has been revealed as impotent on two key issues - oil and financing from central government. Moreover, Madrid has, we now understand, approved some twenty laws which have stripped the Balearics of its own competences. In addition, several articles contained in the new Balearics fishing law have been queried by Madrid.

Because he is so impotent, Bauzá acts on things he knows will show him as being tough without upsetting his political masters. Tourism rentals are one. Education and trilingualism are another. But unfortunately, all that legal mumbo-jumbo can come back and bite. Menorca is threatening to go to court on tourism rentals, which could mean calling for a decision by the Constitutional Court in Madrid, a body which is in constant session, attempting to make sense and arbitrate on issues which are a direct consequence of the political power games played out through the statutes of autonomy. There surely has to be a better way.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2014


Morning high (8.00am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 August - Sun, 31C; 19 August - Sun, 26C; 20 August - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 veering East 2 to 3 during the morning.

Back to normal this morning. Blue skies. Somewhat fresher feel than of late. General outlook is reasonable but with high temperatures due to fall to the mid-20s during the week.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 29C. Nice day. Hot but not with the stifling feel.

No Frills Excursions

Keep Calm And Wait Till November

A regrettable piece of contemporary sloganising that has the power to destroy my normally calm manner and to make me wish to punch the perpetrator is the "Keep Calm And ..." poster. Its omnipotence is testimony to creative impotence. Can't think of a slogan? Keep calm and use keep calm.

As supremo for all things touristic in these islands, Jaime Martínez shouldn't be short of the odd, snappy slogan. One fears, though, that his promotional abilities are confined to that of a perambulating giant sandwich without the sandwich board. Yep, he's a walking, talking, masticating, marketing mechanism for Mallorcan gastronomy - breakfast, lunch, dinner and several snacks in between each of them. Officially, Jaime is minister for both tourism and sport, a portfolio that had been hoovered up by his predecessor, one who was evidently familiar with a sports field and with a personal trainer (and whatever happened to the fuss about the personal trainer?). Together, when Carlos Delgado and Jaime strode side by side, shoulder to stomach through the corridors of Calvia town hall and then in the ministry, they were the Little and Large of tourism and sport without the gags (such as Syd and Eddie's gags could be said to have been gags). Syd, having departed the scene to concentrate on his verbal assaults on the Guardia Civil, has left behind Eddie, who had always been the straight man (or the square man, some have said), for whom sports promotion can only be that for a singularly non-Mallorcan sport, i.e. sumo wrestling.

Sport loomed neither large nor little in the Magnum Opus that Jaime delivered to a bewildered audience last week (and also, or so I am led to believe, others at the ministry). As a work in promotional terms - if only indirectly - it did contain some items of merit. Well, one at any rate; that to do with car-rental agencies. The Magnum Opus was of course not intended for a lifetime achievement award for tourism promotion. The real promotional work which was referred to last week was The Campaign, one that has been postponed until Jaime can sample the hospitality at London's ExCel in November. The necessity for The Campaign was not as pressing as it had been, explained Jaime-Eddie. And that was because, he claimed, things were now calm on the streets of Magalluf. The Pre-Campaign Campaign was working. Keep Calm And Stop Rushkinoff Coughing. Keep Calm And Jump Off Balconies Only In The Event Of Alien Attack. Keep Calm And Keep Your Flies Zipped Up, Lads.

The worst thing about it all is that I have a horrible feeling they might actually use the Keep Calm slogan when they do eventually work out The Campaign. Keep Calm And Pass Me The Punchbag. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 17 August - Sun, 30C; 18 August - Sun, cloud, 27C; 19 August - Sun and some cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4. Rain and possible storm through the morning.

So, there is some rain around, but only light. There is an alert out for rain, which suggests downpours. Clearing from around midday. Tomorrow, it's back to sun.

Evening update (18.30): A high of just 22.5C, the sun finally coming out in the later afternoon following what was a fairly wet morning.

No Frills Excursions

Tradition And Sport: Alcudia's Regatta

Puerto Alcudia has numerous associations with nautical sports and with boatmaking and restoration. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Alcudiamar marina - 25th in terms of when the marina's company was granted the concession to the moorings; 25 years of development that have brought several accolades and awards to one of Mallorca's leading "puertos deportivos".

Photos from the past show what was once just a pier that jutted out into the sea with nothing on it. The physical foundation of the marina required further human intervention in order to begin to make the marina what it has now become. And so, in 1968, the Club of Friends of Alcudia (nautical section) began the process that ultimately led to Alcudiamar.

The marina is one of the obviously visible signs of Alcudia's present-day nautical industry. This is an industry that has tumbled over into tourism in a very significant fashion. Alcudia, and the bay, have become one of the premier locations for sports tourism in Mallorca. A combination of initiative on behalf of Alcudia town hall and Alcudiamar (with some help from regional government) has realised ambitions to truly make the resort a centre for sports tourism, and sea-based sports tourism in particular.

In April this year, I spent some time chatting to Pep Hernàndez Forteza at the port's boat show. Pep, or "Bibi" to give him his nickname, is a boat restorer, a qualified shipwright, of whom there are very few nowadays in Mallorca, who operates out of a workshop tucked away in the Manresa area. I mention him because next week the associations I referred to above - nautical sports and restoration - come together. The Trofeo Almirante Conde de Barcelona regatta will once more take place in the bay of Alcudia.

The origins of the regatta lie with restoration and with the creation of the Hispania Foundation for Vintage Boats. Among the achievements of the foundation was the recovery of the yacht "Hispania". Ordered in 1909 by King Alfonso XIII, it was being used as a floating home at West Mersea in Essex. It was purchased by the foundation, refitted, was able to take to the sea again and to take part in regattas. A great deal of the work in restoring the yacht was undertaken by Astilleros de Mallorca in Palma.

The foundation was also responsible for creating the Trofeo Almirante Conde de Barcelona regatta. The regatta's name was taken from a great supporter of the foundation's efforts, Juan de Borbón, the father of Juan Carlos, the former king, who had been given the title of Count of Barcelona, a title which subsequently passed to Juan Carlos. Last year, Juan Carlos visited the "Hispania" and met its crew. The king may have abdicated but the spirit lives on. This year will be the 30th staging of the regatta.

In 2012, the regatta came to Alcudia for the first time. It had normally been held in Palma but also in Mahon in Menorca. Only once in its history, to coincide with the 1992 Olympics, has it been staged outside the Balearics - in Barcelona. Moving the regatta to Alcudia was a recognition of the status that the resort had acquired for nautical sports. Added to which was a further recognition - that of the advantageous sailing conditions in the bay.

In keeping with the philosophy of the foundation, the regatta is for vintage and classic boats. The vintage boats, either wooden or steel hulled, have to have been launched before the end of 1949. The classic boats date from between 1950 and 1974. In addition, there are boats built in the "spirit of tradition", i.e. ones which, despite the use of contemporary techniques, have similarities in appearance to vintage boats. The final class is that of the "vela latina", the triangular sail boat.

Originally, the regatta was solely for vintage boats. The first regatta was won by "Refanut" from Sweden. Since then, the winners of the vintage class have been dominated by boats from Spain and England. The last four winners have all been English, taking the English winning total to nine, three behind Spain. Other winners have come from Italy, Germany, France, the US and Peru. The classic boats trophy, in existence since 1999, has been the preserve of Spain, Italy and England.

The regatta starts on Thursday next week, the first race being at 1.30pm. Races on Friday and Saturday are at the same time, and there is a service by "golondrinas", i.e. the tourist boats, to enable the watching of the races. And what can be seen is unquestionably spectacular, as nautical sports, tradition and restoration come together in the bay of Alcudia.

Friday, August 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 August 2014


Morning high (8.00am): 21C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 August - Rain, 29C; 17 August - Sun, 26C; 18 August - Cloud, sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 occasionally 2 during the morning.

A national holiday, and a pleasant morning, but there is the chance of a spot of rain later. Tomorrow's forecast suggests that there will be rain, clearing later. Sunday, much better.

Evening update (19.00): A mostly cloudy day with some rain. A high of 27.7C but down below 22C at one point. There is a yellow alert for rain for tomorrow, so could be in for some heavy stuff.

No Frills Excursions

The Law According To Martínez

We finally came to understand this week what Jaime Martínez actually does with himself. He spends long days bunkered in an office drawing up incomprehensible laws or decrees or whatever they're called. Architect by background, he was the architect of the 2012 tourism law and the designer of its 2014 offspring, the new law or decree. Only he probably truly understands the "typologies" of properties outlined in the decreto Martínez. Certainly only he can understanding the thinking. Everyone else was baffled, except his supporters at the islands' hotel federations, and everyone took aim at this new law/decree, with the exception of course of the hoteliers.

While Martínez doublespeak stated that there would be more private tourist accommodation, he was the only one who actually believed this to be the case (though his lackeys in the ministry who are under instruction will also believe it to be so). The UPyD party spoke of the "persecution" of holiday homes. "If Bauzá reckons that tourism is our oil, we do not understand why he persecutes it and drowns it in such a manner." The Més grouping wanted the whole decree withdrawn. El Pi blasted the "battle against tourist rentals", condemning the government as "sectarian and irresponsible". PSOE described the typologies as "arbitrary" and believed that the latest legislation could be unconstitutional.

The government was sneaky. To bring out this draft when it did, slap bang in the middle of August, was a disgracefully undisguised act of contempt for a sector that has other things on its mind. That the consultation period may have been extended does not let the government off the hook. It has acted in bad faith.

And there were other elements that raised the hackles of opposition parties and other organisations. There was the matter of competences that were meant to be transferred to the island councils. These have been scaled back. In Minorca they are especially annoyed. In theory, its council could have introduced its own regulations on tourist rentals. Not now it can't.

Then there were all-inclusives. Martínez was clear that there would be no prohibition. It was one of the few aspects of his explanation of the new decree that made sense. He said that all-inclusives were a matter for Europe, and he is right. Any attempt at prohibition would end up in front of the competition commission, and it will never agree to prohibition. The one small crumb of comfort was that all-inclusives would be subject to quality standards. Possibly so, but how effective will the monitoring be and what exactly are these standards? We've been down this path before, and there are still all-inclusives in Mallorca whose standards are simply awful.

That the hoteliers were the one obvious group who firstly found it perfectly acceptable that the decree should be published at the height of the season and with such a short consultation and who secondly considered the decree to be very positive tells us all we really need to know about the motivation behind many of the decree's provisions. One of these, related to secondary activities in hotels, was confirmed and explained in more detail. I believed that when these activities were first spoken of and then included in the 2012 law they could be as controversial or as damaging as all-inclusives. They have yet to really hit home, but they are in evidence. The Ushuaia Beach in Ibiza is an example. Operated by Abel Matutes' Fiesta Group, it is a blueprint of sorts for what will happen with the Matutes hotels in Magalluf, now that Cursach has replaced Mallorca Rocks. One big club inside a hotel complex. The complementary sector, i.e. the non-hotel tourism sector, is going to be clobbered even harder.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 August 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 16 August - Cloud, rain, 23C; 17 August - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 veering East and Southeast and easing 3 during the morning.

Decent enough day in prospect. Fairly cloudy to begin with, though. The forecast is for rainy weather to come in late tomorrow and to continue into the first part of Saturday, with an improvement by Sunday.

Evening update (19.15): There were some dark and threatening clouds at one point this morning but nothing came of them. A high of 28C.

No Frills Excursions

The Mini-Train Wars

When, following a hiatus of some twelve years, Alcúdia revived its mini tourist train service last year, the war that erupted was one that involved the local taxi drivers. They were far from happy about the appearance of two brand spanking new, shiny mini trains. They raised a petition against the train, citing loss of business of anything up to 40%, lodged the petition with Alcúdia town hall and got precisely nowhere. The train was to stay.

The company running this new service was and is Carrilets Turistics Catalunya. It has been operating mini tourist trains since 1995. The first service was in Gerona, where it is headquartered. Founded by Ramon Fuertes Jordà, its director is his son, Marc Fuertes Garcia. It is quite an impressive outfit, with large storage facilities at its Gerona HQ. It is very active in Mallorca: in Alcúdia, in Can Picafort, in Manacor. But not in Sant Llorenç. It wants to be active there, but ...

On 28 March this year, Sant Llorenç town hall's "mesa de contractació" met. The president of this "table" was Mateu Puigròs, the mayor of Sant Llorenç, and a member of the Grup Independent de Son Carrió (GISCa), who was returned as mayor in 2011 with the support of PSOE and and another group of independents, despite the PP having had most councillors voted in (the PP was unable to form a coalition). The meeting of this mesa considered the offers of five businesses which had tendered for the concession to operate the mini-train. The minutes of the meeting mainly comprise a lengthy communication from Marc Fuertes which challenged the valuations placed on the services being proposed by the five companies.

This communication detailed problems with some of these proposals, for example those of Cala d'Or Express SA. One of the problems with its proposals was the absence of a garage or workshop. Sr. Fuertes noted that Carrilets Turistics Catalunya had offered, inter alia, storage both in neighbouring Son Servera and in Puerto Alcúdia. He also noted the greater capacity of the Carrilets' trains and their superior environmental performance.

Of course, you might have expected Sr. Fuertes to have done this. He was defending his company's interests, after all. But Sr. Fuertes had smelt a rat. The goalposts for the valuation scoring system had, he argued, been moved. The award went to Cala d'Or Express. Carrilets Turistics Catalunya filed a denuncia, claiming irregularities in the award and levelling a criminal charge against the mayor and others. Personal friendship had been behind the award, it was alleged.

Mayor Puigròs refuted the allegations. He accepted that one of the owners of the rival operator was not unknown to him, but that was because he was a resident of Sant Llorenç, nothing more. The mayor was scandalised to the point of considering action for defamation. Meanwhile, the PP, which had missed out at the election in 2011, was calling for the award to be set aside and for there to be a repeat process "in the name of transparency". It was then suggested, in a short item in the local press, that there was "something mysterious" about the relationship between the PP in Sant Llorenç and Carrilets Turistics, the mystery - if one understands the implication - having been that the PP had consistently failed to get itself elected, so it was looking for a means of attacking Puigròs.

This little jibe at the PP was probably uncalled-for. It was made in early June, a month after the train service should have started. It still hasn't started. And a key reason why it hasn't started is that the winning operator did not have permission for garage facilities, just as Sr. Fuertes had pointed out in his communication that had been considered at the "mesa" more than a month before the service should have commenced, a communication which had included the allegation that photographic images presented by its rival had been Photoshopped. A few days ago, Sr. Fuertes noted that had everything been ok with the rival bid, then the train would have been running.

Appropriate licences, the town hall says, will be in order very shortly, and so the train will once again operate. It is now, of course, the middle of August, three and a half months after the train should have started running. Carrilets Turistics' complaint is still being considered by the courts, but meanwhile the resorts of Cala Millor, Sa Coma and S'Illot have been deprived of their train. The war in Sant Llorenç is of a different order to that in Alcúdia, and it is one which has a feel of blocking an outsider company. Carrilets Turistics may be moving into a dominant position in the lucrative mini-train business in Mallorca (minimum annual income of 150k in Sant Llorenç), but if it's a good company - and there's no reason to believe it isn't - then so be it.