Friday, October 31, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 November - Sun, cloud, 24C; 2 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 3 November - Sun, cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3.

A mostly sunny day in prospect today. Cloudier perhaps over the weekend but remaining warm. Looking ahead into next week, there appears to be a strong chance of rain and storms, but the forecast might well change.

Evening update (18.30): High of 23.2C.

No Frills Excursions

Talking Shop: Tourism forum

The great and good of Mallorcan tourism gathered this week to talk about tourism. Talking shop at this talking shop at the Nixe Palace were, among others, senior representatives of Air Berlin, Globalia, Grupotel, Garden Hotels, Soller's Jumeirah, Melía, Palma 365, Barceló, the attractions association, Festival Park, shipping companies, banks, car-hire agencies ... . The whole tourism world and its wife were in Cala Major for Foro Turismo+.

So, what did the great and good have to say for themselves? There was a fair old amount of management-marketing semantic jargon, such as the need for "paradigm shifts" in terms of market segmentation to tackle the problem of seasonality (i.e. no tourists in winter) and in how the so-called complementary offer is perceived and perceives itself. This non-hotel sector now has to think of itself as the "specialised offer". Therefore, let's say, if you are a British bar, you must become specialised. Erm, isn't specialising in serving a British market already specialised? Or am I missing something? Just as, for instance, the aquarium specialises in being an aquarium.

New technologies were high on the agenda. They can enable paradigm shifts apparently. Rather than the gobbledegook, why not simply call a tweet a tweet? Mercifully, someone did. The point was made that a tweet can have more effect than an advertising campaign. Hallelujah, and with all due immodesty, they must have read what I have been saying for an age. Social media are so much part of the game now that the continuing and lamentable inability of the tourism ministry, tourism agency and others to get their social media acts together should be something drawing serious scrutiny of those in high places in these bodies. And talking of which, I am hearing that there are more rumblings within the ministry, where internal politicking under Martínez is pushing people to seek transfers.

The tourism agency - in paradigm shift mode itself - revealed that Mallorca and the Balearics need to make clear what makes the islands different. Such difference, beyond the summer tourism of sun and beach, is essential in promoting the segments of culture, gastronomy, blah, blah. Again, sorry, I've said this myself on many an occasion. These guys can talk to each other and state the bleeding obvious, but when and how are they going to effect this "difference"? The rest of the Med is pitching for the same off-season market with the same off-season products. There has to be a uniqueness and a supporting marketing campaign in order to establish this difference, whatever this might be, and therein lies the rub. There may well not be any difference.

The future, if there is one, for off-season tourism lies with sports. This is how Thomas Cook sees things at any rate. It has had success with its Ironman sponsorship, and this points a way forward. Possibly it does, but neither of the Ironmans in Alcúdia takes place in the off-season. They couldn't do because there wouldn't be the flights available. Or the hotels open. And were they to, it might unfortunately turn out to be the case that the weather decides to play tricks, churning up the sea or blowing a gale and rain into the faces of runners and cyclists. Nevertheless, off-season sports tourism requires, among other things, more golf courses. Again, maybe it does, but more golf courses run up against innumerable obstacles. Think Son Bacó in Campos (now being spoken about for the first time in some years), Son Bosc in Muro or Son Saletes in Sencelles. The fingers of doom belonging to GOB, to environmental reports, to island planning laws, to the impossibilities of political consensus point at each of them and are wagged with a telling "no".

Talking shop is a wonderful thing. One day they might just find that the shop is closed for business for good.

Index for October 2014

Airplane history in Mallorca - 30 October 2014
Airport privatisation - 17 October 2014
Alcúdia Fair - 4 October 2014
Balearics and state budget - 5 October 2014
Caja Madrid black cards - 16 October 2014
Calvia con Futuro - 19 October 2014
Can Picafort - 1 October 2014
Coronation Street in Mallorca - 13 October 2014
Croatia 365 vs. Palma 365 - 7 October 2014
Geographic centre of Mallorca - 14 October 2014
Halloween - 26 October 2014
Henry Waring and Albufera - 21 October 2014
Holiday lets: easing of regulations - 24 October 2014
Inca fairs - 18 October 2014
Insults - 25 October 2014
Mallorca's history in Catalan - 23 October 2014
Masonry - 28 October 2014
Operación Púnica and PP corruption - 29 October 2014
Podemos and future uncertainty - 6 October 2014
Podemos and UKIP - 15 October 2014
Processionary caterpillar spraying - 8 October 2014
Son Castelló industrial estate - 27 October 2014
Torrente 5 and Bert films - 2 October 2014
Tourism forum - 31 October 2014
Tourism organisation pre-regional government - 9 October 2014
Tourism planning and improvisation - 22 October 2014
Tourism promotion transferred to island councils - 20 October 2014
Transhotel - 10 October 2014
Trilingual teaching - 12 October 2014
Velodromes in Mallorca - 11 October 2014
Winter flights - 3 October 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2014


Morning high (5.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 31 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 1 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 2 November - Sun, cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 settling Northeast during the day.

Sun and cloud mix today with a slight risk of a shower. And the same for tomorrow and into the weekend.

Evening update (22.30): A high of 26.1C. Decent day.

No Frills Excursions

Curiosities In The Sky: Mallorca and airplanes

The tale was once told to me by the then very old man who could recall the planes of Alcúdia. He spoke of different aircraft - the seaplanes that came from Marseille and those of the Civil War Italian fighters, who used the improvised landing strip built on what had briefly been Mallorca's first golf course. Aviation history in Mallorca is associated with seaplanes, more famously at the Puerto Pollensa base, with Son Bonet, where the Italians were also based and which was to become the original airport for tourism, and with Son Sant Joan, now the most profitable airport in the Spanish network.

The first airline was Aero Marítima Mallorquina, and as the name suggests it operated seaplanes, the principal purpose of which was for carrying post between Palma, where the planes landed by the port, and Barcelona. It was founded in 1921. Thirteen years later, another airline, Aero-Taxi de Mallorca, became the first which catered for tourists. However, aircraft and tourism had a rather longer association. In 1910, the Chamber of Commerce, alert to the possibilities that tourism might offer Mallorca, organised an exhibition of Balearic produce and a week of sports activities. There was a further attraction: the first airplane that the people of Mallorca would have ever seen.

The plane was a Blériot XI. Its pilot was the Frenchman, Julien Mamet. This monoplane was essentially in kit form. Mamet travelled by boat from Barcelona to Palma, accompanied by the disassembled Blériot. On 28 June at the Balearic Hippodrome near Pont d'Inca, invited dignitaries witnessed the first flight over Mallorcan land. The next day the public were allowed in. There was applause as the monoplane took to the skies. But the applause was shortlived. The plane crashed, Mamet suffered only minor injuries, but a third flight was cancelled and Mamet left Mallorca and never returned.

Six years later, a pilot from Santander, Salvador Hedilla, became the first to fly across the sea from Barcelona. The monoplane took two hours and sixteen minutes to make its journey. And in 1921, Miquel Colomer from Barcelona gave flying exhibitions in an Aviatik biplane at both Son Bonet and Son Sant Joan. For the princely sum of four pesetas for a fifteen-minute spin, punters were able to take to the air themselves. Colomer was involved with that first airline - Aero Marítima Mallorquina. On what was a test flight in April 1922, Colomer's seaplane crashed into the sea between Palma and Barcelona. His body was never recovered.

Those magnificent men in their flying machines of the early twentieth century provide just some of the curiosities in Mallorca's aviation story. But as curious were planes which had ceased to be planes and which were converted. These were the "disco planes" of Mallorca. They didn't actually fly of course - and let's hope no bright spark has the idea to replicate the current-day party boat with the party airplane - they were on terra firma and the first was created in Porto Cristo.

In time for the summer season of 1976, the Discopub D-3 opened for business. It was a converted Douglas DC-4 propeller-driven aircraft. It was found at Son Sant Joan, having been taken out of use the previous year. Actually transporting the plane from Palma to Porto Cristo by road seemingly ended up costing more than the plane itself had, as it had to be taken apart and then put back together again. Nevertheless, the disco in a plane proved to be a great success.

For some four years all went well until rumours started to surface. They suggested that the disco was doubling as a brothel. Less than salubrious types were said to have got involved. The owners took the decision to close it, and the disco plane was left where it was, all but abandoned. But not quite. It became attractive to vagrants. In August 1983, tragedy struck. A fire broke out. A homeless man lost his life. The burnout plane was eventually removed.

Undeterred by the experiences in Porto Cristo, someone in Magalluf had the idea for another disco plane. Getting an accurate timeline on this plane's existence has proved quite difficult - perhaps there are those who remember it - but it would seem to have been plonked in Magalluf at the end of the 1980s. It was a Douglas DC-6, which had apparently been purchased for 100,000 pesetas, and the disco was called, so it would appear, Bertorelli's Bar. It wasn't a great success, lasting only some five years. It ended up looking an eyesore and was ultimately broken up and disposed of.

The adventures with the disco planes are unlikely to be repeated, but adventures they were, just as Mamet and others had engaged in their early adventures and had amazed the local people, who had probably been equally amazed to have one day found a plane doubling as a disco.

Photo of the Magalluf disco plane, found in an edition of "Entre Tots" magazine, 1993.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 30 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 1 November - Sun, cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2, occasionally Northeast 3 during the afternoon. Possible rain.

Mostly clear skies around sunrise and the forecast is for mainly sunny weather, but that was the case yesterday and there was more cloud than had been anticipated. Very little breeze and so very calm. The outlook remains a mix of sun and cloud with temperatures lowering.

Evening update (18.30): A high of 25.9C.

No Frills Excursions

A Few Small Incidents: PP and corruption

On Friday last week, the Spanish premier was assuring anyone in Brussels who might have been listening that he fully respected judicial decisions (Spanish ones) with regard to corruption allegations. Two days later, Mariano Rajoy was in Murcia, addressing a Partido Popular gathering. He reiterated his respect for the judiciary, adding that he had not liked "some things" that had occurred but downplaying the level of corruption. There had been a "few small incidents".

I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories but I am a great believer in the power of coincidence. "Qué casualidad", therefore, when on Monday Murcia found itself at the centre of a series of raids and arrests which threaten to outdo even the "caso Gürtel" in terms of scale and reach. Gürtel, thus named because the German for belt has been used instead of the Spanish "correa", floated to the surface in early 2009. It refers to a businessman, Francisco Correa, and his links to Partido Popular politicians. Its reach has embraced, in most direct terms, the Valencia region and the Madrid community, but its tentacles have spread wider - to the Balearics, for example - and its sheer complexity has found the PP further dragged into the net, because of possible links to the discredited former PP treasurer, Luis Bárcenas. It has been estimated that investigations related to Gürtel have shown that 120 million euros of public money have been somehow "lost". The investigations drag on and on, and they had been started by Baltasar Garzón, the high-profile judge who was an exposer of corruption and an attempted exposer of Franco's war crimes. With the help of a good deal of pressure from PP sources, Garzón was disqualified as a judge. His alleged breaching of the Amnesty Law and so therefore the moratorium on investigating offences committed during the Franco regime was the excuse for his disqualification, but it has been argued that Gürtel was the real reason. So much for the judiciary, eh?

Gürtel is one of Mariano's "few small incidents". Another is the whole Bárcenas affair and the supposed existence of separate accounts through which leading PP politicians and businesspeople received payments in black, one of those politicians - or so the ledger evidence implies - being Mariano. Little has been heard of Bárcenas over the past few months. The judiciary must be hard at work and receiving the full respect of the Spanish premier, his government and his party.

Another "small incident" arose not so long ago, even if its origins are at least fifteen years old. This is the Caja Madrid affair, one that I wrote about recently. It has to do with payments to businesspeople and to politicians (for the most part from the PP) via a so-called black card, a credit card that wasn't a credit card because the credit was never repaid. It was trousered, spent on lavish meals, hotel stays, shopping trips and the amounts spent were not declared. At the centre of this storm is Rodrigo Rato, former president of the bank and an old chum (now un-chummed) of ... Mariano Rajoy.

Presumably, Rajoy had got no wind of the storm that was to break the day after he had spoken in Murcia. Consequently, and if nothing else, he has been made to look pretty foolish. Heaven knows how much public money "Operación Púnica" might find to have been lost, but it could well outstrip Gürtel, and already the investigation net has spread very much further than Gürtel originally did. Madrid, León, Valencia and Murcia; that is a geographical reach which is astonishing in its sheer distance alone. Where else might the investigators look?

It is fair to say that there are non-PP people implicated in Púnica, but it is the PP which is at its epicentre, typified by Francisco Granados, a one-time number two in Madrid and the holder of two Swiss bank accounts. For Rajoy, Púnica is a calamity. That startled and fearful expression he betrays when speaking to camera will now be more startled and fearful. He has been electrocuted by investigators placing fingers into plugs of corruption with such high potential that it becomes almost impossible to see him leaving the burns unit in any fit state to stand again as premier or even to struggle on to the next election.

And in the background there will be someone who, were he used to short-texting with English abbreviations, will be "pmsl". For Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, Púnica is an own goal of such magnitude and embarrassment that the PP may as well now troop off the pitch with their heads hung in shame, hide in the political dressing-room and hope to God the electorate don't turn so nasty that they propel Iglesias into the directors' box. Podemos couldn't have asked for anything better. The PP is Podemos's most effective recruitment agency.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 29 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 30 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Northeast 2 to 3.

A starry morning and mainly clear skies predicted for today. Warmer than had been previously forecast as well. The general pattern for the next few days is one of a mix of cloud and sun with a low risk of showers.

Evening update (18.15): Sunny but also quite cloudy at times. Rain in parts of the northern area - fairly heavy inland in Sa Pobla - but not on the coast. Areas in the south of the island have had massive downpours. A high of 25.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Masonry In Mallorca And Spain

In the mid-1990s, Ramon Viñals i Soler, a businessman and politician from Barcelona, was charged with the task of reviving masonry in the Balearics. Twenty years on from the death of Franco, masonry was still very much in the doldrums on the islands, and this despite the fact that it had briefly thrived in the years leading up to the Civil War. Whether it can be said that Viñals was successful is open to question. In March 2010, Mallorca was turned into the capital of Spanish masonry. The Grand Lodge of Spain made the Hotel Meliá Victoria in Palma its centre for the gathering to elect the new Grand Master; there was also voting in other parts of Spain. Some 300 votes were cast at the hotel, of which 253 were by members from the Balearics, which was a healthy proportion of the total number of masons - 400. However, fifteen years on from the start of the revival campaign, the number didn't really appear to have represented a great success.

At this year's assembly of the Grand Lodge in Madrid, Oscar de Alfonso Ortega was re-elected as Grand Master. He had one opponent: Ramon Viñals i Soler. 592 votes were cast. Alfonso secured 92% of the vote, an overwhelming majority which might have seemed odd.

Alfonso had been a surprise winner in 2010, dislodging (so to speak) the "official" candidate, José Carretero. It was said that his victory owed a great deal to support from British masons, of whom it was reckoned that they comprised roughly 50% of the voters. By the time of this year's vote, however, Alfonso's British support was believed to be in decline, while he had also lost favour among Spanish masons. This was because a Jesuit scholar had been invited to a masonic meeting and had been given an award by Alfonso; the Jesuits had once been to the fore in the persecution of masons. Alfonso had also publicly defended a drug-dealer who had been on a British list of the top ten most most-wanted criminals. Yet, when it came to the election, he came romping home.

So, how might this victory be explained? Viñals was and is, after all, a veteran mason, but his politics and his associations might well have let him down. His political career has been defined by his socialism and his republicanism. He is a supporter of Catalonian independence, but his interests stretch beyond Spain. To the Sudan, for instance. He has been a "goodwill ambassador" in Europe for Omar al-Bashir, the president of the Sudan, for whom there is an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.

Whatever the reasons for Alfonso's stunning re-election, it would seem that the upper echelons of the Grand Lodge have been tainted with controversy in the recent past, and, perhaps as a sign of a fierce rejection of Viñals, Alfonso's re-election led to a strong statement of loyalty to the King, the Crown and the Constitution being issued. Yet, despite Viñals' republican views, this political affiliation was responsible for what was the only short era when masonry assumed a position of some importance in the Balearics and in Spain.

The origins of the islands' masonry can be found in Menorca, the consequence of British influence on the island. As a movement it first surfaced in the 1830s, came to Mallorca briefly, disappeared, returned, entered a period of crisis in the late nineteenth century when it all but disappeared again, only for it to resurface during the Second Republic of the five years before the Civil War: over 80% of Republican deputies at the Cortes parliament were masons.

On 15 September 1936, so only weeks after the start of the war, freemasonry "and other clandestine activities" were declared illegal by Franco's Nationalist rebels. By 1938 there was a "Special Tribunal for the Repression of Masonry and Communism". With their deeply conservative Catholicism, the Nationalists and the Falange took their lead from the Church, which had been railing against masonry for decades. How many masons were executed or murdered is impossible to say. A list of 80,000 so-called masons was drawn up by Father Tusquets, the mason-witchfinder-general. There were in truth only around 5.000 masons in Spain at the time.

The regime left its legacy, and masonry remained dormant until Viñals sought to revive it. The number of masons in the Balearics may be low, but then there are reckoned to be fewer than 7,000 masons in Spain as a whole; England is said to have a quarter of a million. But maybe its popularity will grow. The Grand Lodge doesn't admit women, but the Symbolic Grand Lodge does; the Sapere Aude ("dare to know") lodge was established in Palma in February. Traditions hold though. Even Viñals, a more liberal mason, is against women joining the Grand Lodge.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2014


Morning high (5.30am): 17C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 28 October - Sun, cloud, 20C; 29 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 30 October - Sun, cloud, 21C.

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

Pleasant day with a good deal of sun anticipated but not as warm, and less warm is the theme of the week but still with good amounts of sun.

No Frills Excursions

The First Industrial Estate In Spain

For those of us who don't work on it or have cause to enter it, the Son Castelló industrial estate in Palma is likely to only come into the consciousness because of the queues of traffic that build up along the motorway if you happen to time your journey wrong. But there is way more to Son Castelló than any old industrial estate.

Once called Son Perera, Son Castelló has a long history. A certain Joan Castelló acquired the finca in 1578. He was from a family of tanners: industrialists of yore. Ownership of the estate was handed down to family members over the centuries until, in 1952, it became the possession of family relatives, the Roses Montis brothers. In 1955 they set about selling off the estate, and ten years later 84 "quarterades", valued at 53 million pesetas, were bought by the Associació Sindical d'Indústries de Mallorca, otherwise known as ASIMA, an organisation that had been established for the purpose of promoting industrial enterprises. On 3 November 1967 the polígono industrial was opened. It was the first privately owned industrial estate anywhere in Spain, and its first president was one of its founders, Ramón Esteban Fabra, whose name is intimately linked to Son Castelló and to ASIMA, which this year has been celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.

To mark its fifty years, a book was published in the spring which, replete with photos, anecdotes and factual information, charted its background, and it is a story that is one of the most remarkable in the history of Mallorcan business, because what ASIMA did was to break the mould of how Spanish business operated.

Fabra and his contemporaries were considered to be crazy and idealists. In 1964, despite the free-market liberalism that the technocrats of Opus Dei had presented to Franco as an alternative to the disastrous insularity of autarky, business was still dominated by the concept of organising workers and employers within vertical structures. While this system had been conceived as a means of supposedly keeping unionism and worker discontent at bay, it was one which favoured large businesses and created an environment that did not incentivise new business. ASIMA rejected the system. It not only developed Spain's first industrial estate, it also became the first genuine business association in Spain, and its idealism was founded on precisely those things that the vertical structure inhibited: enterprise, initiative, innovation, entrepreneurship.

ASIMA was to go on to involve itself in other projects. In a way it borrowed from the Victorian ideas of British companies like Lever and Cadbury in that it created social housing for workers and donated land for the building of a secondary school. But it also created the first proper training school in Spain and the first system of what nowadays might be referred to as "incubators" for entrepreneurial ideas and innovation. And overseeing these developments was the visionary, Ramón Esteban Fabra.

The tale is told of how Fabra went to Madrid to present his ideas. He was greeted with suspicion. Having a space for all sorts of trades and professions, having an association for them, giving them the room to grow and develop just wasn't how things were done. The greatest obstacle he faced wasn't so much the government but the Falange. It had been the driving force behind the vertical structure and adhered strictly to the notion of the supreme unity of Spain. Fabra appeared to be proposing something which went against this. In the end, he was able to convince the sceptics in Madrid that laws on labour and on "Spanishness" were not going to be broken. There was agreement but there was Francoist insistence that the industrial estate be called La Victoria; Son Castelló would have been too "un-Spanish". It was only when the regime ended that the original historical name Son Castelló was adopted.

I have argued previously that far from being insular and parochial, Mallorcans, in terms of business at any rate, have long been outward-looking and entrepreneurial. They have had to be because of geography. Tourism brought with it businesses that are now global brands, like Meliá, but the story of Son Castelló shows that the business instinct was wider than tourism. Indeed, the very fact that it was founded at the same time as tourism boomed demonstrates that there were those who appreciated that tourism could do only so much for the economy: businesspeople and not politicians.

There is a twist in this story. A mystery. In February 1983 Fabra went missing. His body was found in the sea off Magalluf. There was no sign of violence. He was clothed except for his trousers. He had drowned, but there was, from what I can make out, no good explanation why. He was 55 years old. ASIMA wanted Son Castelló to be renamed after him. Officially it is. But everyone knows it as Son Castelló.

Photo: Ramón Esteban Fabra, found from an article which would appear to have been published in "Ultima Hora" on 26 February, 1983.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 28 October - Sun, cloud, 20C; 29 October - Sun, cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 locally Northeast 3 to 4 during the afternoon.

The clocks have gone back but the summer weather hasn't been knocked back. Not quite. Today will be another hot one, but from Tuesday the temperatures are set to drop markedly.

Evening update (19.00): Strangely dark at 7pm. Nice day. High of 25.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Halloween: Blame it on the Beaker people

Back in the day, the celebration of Halloween in a Home Counties style consisted of the strange ritual of bobbing for apples and the lookout for witches who had taken to the night skies on their broomsticks. Apart from these minor treats, the main importance of Halloween lay with the fact that its arrival made clear that Bonfire Night was only a few days away. Halloween was an incidental celebration and one which, according to the Home Counties' view of the world, caused greater excitement north of the border. It was therefore rather like New Year's Eve, an occasion for Andy Stewart to enquire of the whereabouts of Donald's "troosers" and for the Jimmy Shand Band to provoke all manner of kilt-wearing and alien dance routines.

The idea that Halloween is all somehow an American invention is of course total nonsense. From ancient times, the Celts had been enjoying their equivalent of bobbing for apples, then Christianity religiously colonised Halloween and eventually gave it the title of All Hallows' Eve (borrowed from the Scots) and made it the first day of the three-day Allhallowtide extravaganza, followed by All Saints' and All Souls' Days. Even trick-or-treating, supposedly also American, was pre-dated by what the Scots and the Irish got up to. Halloween is thus about as old as Scottish hills or at least the Celts who would have taken one look at those hills and thought, I'm not climbing up those.

A Mallorcan view of Halloween, the politically-traditionally-correct view, is that it is indeed solely an American (and British) invention. There has long been a Halloween tradition but a very simple one. It has involved children being given sweets, the elderly munching on "bunyols" (doughnuts, some say fritters) and chestnuts and a certain amount of flower-giving. Allhallowtide, in a Mallorcan style, has its big day, and that is 1 November and not 31 October. Consequently, the alleged Americanisation of Halloween is all part of an assault on tradition in the same way that Santa Claus and Christmas trees have been imported in an attempt to upstage the Three Kings. It is tradition imperialism brought to you courtesy of Coca-Cola and Hollywood.

But Mallorca is a more cosmopolitan society than it once was, and its cultural mix at Halloween time doesn't just comprise fizzy drinks, horror movies and ASBO-case teenagers threatening to put a brick through a window if you don't divvy up. Lurking in this cultural mix is one called Spanish, and so if one wants to be historically accurate, the distaste towards Halloween from those of a Mallorcan fundamentalist persuasion may also lie with the relationship with the Peninsula and with the ancient origins of the Spanish and the Mallorcans. And these origins have a great deal to do with the Celts. Or not, in the case of the Mallorcans.

During the nineteenth century, the Spaniards generally pooh-poohed the idea that the Celts had anything much to do with them. However, historians and scholars were to reveal a rather different picture and they drew maps to show it. Great swathes of Spain (and pretty much all of Portugal) had, once upon a time, been inhabited by Celts of one form or another and so cousins of the ones in Scotland arranging their apples in a bowl of water at Halloween. Mallorca and the Balearics, however, had a separate development, a non-Celtic one. But then, if one really wants to go back into antiquity, it is possible to make a case for the Bell Beaker people, who were knocking around on Mallorca from roughly the middle of the third millennium BC, having been a sort of proto-Celtic people and thus part of what became a whole European family of Celtic peoples, a family which eventually started celebrating Halloween way before America was discovered and John Carpenter cast Donald Pleasance.

There aren't many, if any people who would hold up the Beaker people as justification for Halloween being celebrated in Mallorca and likewise there wouldn't be those who would point to a Celtic history in Spain as a justification. But while it is fair to say that current-day celebration of Halloween in much of Spain and Mallorca is imported, this isn't so everywhere. Galicia and Asturias are two regions which do have a tradition which reflects a merging of the Celtic and the Catholic.

But essentially, the Spanish spin on Halloween is that it is a day of reflection prior to the visits to the cemeteries on All Saints' Day. It hasn't therefore been looked upon as an evening to go out and party. Nevertheless, the Night of the Dead or the Night of the Witches has existed in the consciousness for centuries. It has long been one of the most mysterious nights of the year, a time when spirits can cross from the spiritual to the physical world. Not all Mallorcans might agree with the transformation of Halloween, but then back in the Home Counties in the 1960s all we ever did was bob for apples. Oh, and watch for witches.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2014


Morning high (8.15am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 26 October - Sun, 25C; 27 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 28 October - Sun, cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 2 to 3 locally 4 veering Northeast.

A fine sunny weekend and a warm one, but the temperatures are set to drop from Monday to highs just on or above the 20C mark, which would perhaps be a little lower than typical for late October.

Evening update (19.30): Boy, warm again. A high of 30.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Insults Are Not What They Were

One of Balearic president Bauzá's Babes, Partido Popular parliamentary spokesperson Mabel Cabrer, admitted last week that the party might lose its majority at the next regional elections, an observation that the electorate, with even a cursory glance at the latest opinion polls, would itself already have made. High on the parliamentary hill, Cabrer, the lonely goatherd, yodelled a lament which demonstrated that she and the party are genuinely rattled, and the ones who have been doing the rattling are Podemos. Mabel from her table warned of the dire consequences of Podemosism. "It represents a very dangerous alternative." "It would cause a total break with the model .. of Spanish democracy." Which, Mabel may not have noticed, is what Podemos are all about: a new model, one that would prefer to see the back of the discredited two-party model of which she is a member.

Alarmed by the prospect that she will almost certainly be out of a job after May, Mabel called for the election debate to be "high", which would make for something of a change for most current political debate in Mallorca. She also demanded that this debate was not sullied by insults and defamations. Ah yes, insults, something Mabel knows all about, as in when she called opponents of the Partido Popular's discount card Nazis and was later forced to apologise.

Insults, however, aren't what they used to be, as Bauzá discovered when he took Lorenzo Bravo, the general secretary of the UGT union, to court for having called him a fascist, among other things. The courts found in Bravo's favour, and these were courts. Bauzá took the matter to the Balearics High Court, having not got satisfaction from lower courts, but the decision remained the same: freedom of expression outweighed apparent impugning of honour. And now, a court in Palma has concluded that the "hijo de puta" insult has lost its meaning and is not injurious. The court reached its decision in a case involving two workers at an unnamed organisation who got into an argument. One called the other a "hijo de puta", so he was denounced.

With all this in mind, therefore, let the election campaign be full of insults. Nazis, anyone?

Friday, October 24, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2014


Morning high (7.15am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Sun, 26C; 25 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 27 October - Sun, cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 occasionally 5.

Another bright day awaits. Noticeably cooler now in the mornings and looking ahead to next week the highs are likely to come down, a sign that autumn may finally be making its presence felt.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 28.2C.

No Frills Excursions

Martínez Clarifies ... Or Does He?

Balearics tourism minister, Jaime Martínez, who has succeeded in elevating obfuscation to new heights in tourism legislation - a significant feat, it should be said, given the opacity with which this legislation has traditionally been drafted - was answering questions earlier this week which were supposedly going to clarify some of the less clear aspects of the latest round of Jaime tourism legislation. Specifically, there was the issue of holiday lets, about which Jaime admitted that there might just be a little lack of clarity, though it might be noted that he had been told in pretty much no uncertain terms by the sensible people at the Chamber of Commerce that he needed to make things clearer, while, or so I understand, there are those within his own ministry who are far from impressed by his leadership and who have also urged him to create greater transparency.

So, what did we get? Jaime said that there wouldn't be any of this business about properties having been built before 1960 or getting permission from neighbours, which was something we already knew, as Madrid had told him he couldn't make such legal provisions. He then went on to explain that there will be a softening of the law, accepting that there are concerns with how holiday apartments can be marketed through websites and other media. He was making reference to the prohibition on the use of terms such as "holiday" or "vacation", and appeared to suggest that such terms will now be allowed. But was he only referring to properties rented out under the Tenancy Act or was he referring to a broader scope for allowing owners to rent out without running the risk of being fined? It was probably the former, but as Jaime Land is one of confusion, we are still unsure. One thing he did suggest would happen would be that future regulation would include a list of "channels" which would be prohibited in order to remove any doubts. Which meant? Hard to say for the moment, but you never know, there may come a time when the legislation is all crystal clear, though you wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 17C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Sun, 26C; 25 October - Sun, 24C; 26 October - Sun, cloud, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 5 to 7 occasionally 8 around Capdepera during the afternoon, easing Northwest 3 to 4. Swells to three metres.

Still rough around the coasts and at sea but sun today rather than the cloud of yesterday and staying sunny into the weekend.

No Frills Excursions

Mallorca's History ... In Catalan

On 19 November 1981 the culture department at the Council of Mallorca held the first of what has since become an annual conference. It was the first Jornades d'Estudis Històrics Locals. A prime objective of this conference was to allow young researchers to present their projects and discuss them with those of greater seniority and experience. Initially, project submission was open only to researchers who were resident in the Balearics. This soon changed. The door was thrown open to international researchers, and some of the results of these conferences were published.

Next week, on 28 and 29 October, the thirty-third conference will take place. It will be held at the university's Sa Riera building in the street named after one of the more important figures in recent Mallorcan history, Miquel dels Sants Oliver, the journalist and political thinker who, it might be argued, was the father of twentieth-century Mallorcan tourism. Its theme will be the era of the Taifa of Denia, the Muslim kingdom that was one of various other taifas that were formed after the disintegration of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The Denia taifa was all important in Mallorcan history, as it controlled Mallorca. One of the presentations is entitled "Power and culture in Mallorca (or rather Mayurqa) in the eleventh and twelfth centuries". Others include the use of coins in the taifa and the relationship between Islam and Christianity.

Overseeing all this is the Institute of Balearic Studies. a consortium for the diffusion and promotion of Balearic culture and the development of the Catalan language. Presentations, papers have, therefore, to be in Catalan, and you wouldn't really expect them not to be. But this does have one drawback. The audience is not as wide as it might be.

In December 2009 the institute published a whole collection of papers. It stretches to over five hundred pages. I have a copy, and much as I might attempt to read some of it, over five hundred pages would be taking an interest a bit far. Yet, what this particular publication contains (and it is the second volume) are papers devoted to the theme of studies of the local press by which is meant not so much newspapers or magazines but research devoted to towns across Mallorca. The conference on local history studies is not the only conference of its type. There are similar conferences in various towns as well. Alcúdia, as an example, will be holding its latest conference over three days at the end of next month; the ninth such conference to be held.

The collection of papers published in 2009 doesn't cover every town on the island - it was the second volume after all - but if I start to list the towns that it does cover, then you will get an impression of how comprehensive the collection is: local studies in Alcúdia, in Algaida, in Ariany, in Campanet, in Campos. In addition, there is a separate collection - "The Civil War in Mallorca: village by village" - while there are also papers to do with Menorca. Most of the papers are entitled "local studies of ...", but there is one which dispenses with this. It is simply called "The Local History of Pollensa". It is in fact more a history of historians who have contributed to the town's history, but its pages are naturally enough full of the stuff of the local history.

The papers in the collection, though academic, are not presented in the manner in which much academic research is, i.e. in the formulaic style highly valued by academia in which methodology and proof of research rigour can seem to assume greater purpose than the message and which is thus totally baffling to anyone unused to, for instance, the detail of statistical analysis or literature reviews.

This might all sound like dry stuff but it isn't, and fortunately some of the more extreme academic material which does get published in the proceedings of town's local studies conferences finds its way into more digestible forms, such as the histories which town halls have produced. I have, by way of example, a couple - one for Sa Pobla and one for Santa Margalida. They're in Catalan, but they are also goldmines of information.

The point is, though, that someone without any understanding of Catalan wouldn't even start to read them, and so vast resources go to waste in terms of taking local history to a wider audience. And these are vast resources. Mallorca does history extraordinarily well and in great detail: not just the broad brush stuff of conquest, kings and battles but the more focused stuff, as with the histories of each town.    

Mallorca desperately wants the foreign visitor to engage with its history and its culture. It has a wealth of history and of material which explains it. Development of the Catalan language by all means, but history is not or should not only be Catalan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2014


Morning high (6.15am): 22C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Sun, 25C; 24 October - Sun, 24C; 25 October - Sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 to 7 easing 4 to 6 by the later afternoon. Swells at times between 3 and 4 metres.

A cloudy day but with very much less risk, if any, of rain than had been previously forecast, but there are alerts for wind and for coastal conditions, the latter expected to be particularly rough, so high and turbulent seas bringing risks to boats and to other sea users.

Evening update (20.15): A high of 22.2C, so well down on previous, the winds bringing in much cooler air. Some sun today but mostly cloudy. 

No Frills Excursions

Tourism Planning And Improvisation

In the summer I was fortunate enough to spend time with Jimmy Weinstein and his wife Lilli Santon who organise the Travelling School at Sa Pobla's annual international jazz festival. Among the topics we discussed was that of creative thought and how this relates to improvisation. In jazz, improvisation is often key to the performance, as is the releasing of creative energy, but there is a danger with improvisation that you end up with a wholly disjointed result. The art of improvisation is to bring the bursts of creative energy from the different performers back to the underlying theme, the core beats, hooks and melody, the strategy, if you like, of the performance.

Improvisation without the unifying hook which binds everything together takes the improviser along a meandering path that lacks both purpose and a means of judging performance. Move constantly from one point to another and it becomes impossible to make such a judgement as there is no strategy which presents itself for such judgement. The result is chaos, a mess. In jazz you can improvise endlessly and still have a coherent result. Other types of activity lend themselves far less to improvisation, if at all, and give the impression that they have been improvised with nothing to show for this.

The Balearics tourism minister, Jaime Martínez, has boldly announced that there is now no longer any improvisation in the tourism sector. For the first time, everything is planned and thus everything will be good, and this planning and so lack of improvisation is already reaping dividends; the season is getting longer, he has suggested.

Martínez is not wrong when he implies that governmental tourism policy has been made on the hoof and been subject to improvisation. The lack of coherence has been evident for years, ad-hocery combining with the hangover of complacency from the times when the tourism river ran with gold for more than a handful of months and was not dammed by summer and winter competitors panning for Balearics gold. Improvisation has finished, he says, which is no bad thing. But what of its positive bedfellow, creativity? The tourism model according to Jaime is one of plan, plan and plan again; it sounds almost Soviet in its preference for control, the antithesis of creativity or, if you prefer, imagination and innovation.

What Martínez is referring to is the tourism plan (and the tourism law) that he hatched along with his former boss, Carlos Delgado. The ex-minister said that the benefits of the plan would not be realised for a couple of years. These couple of years are now up, and the chief beneficiary of the plan is of course off-season (aka) winter tourism. And my goodness, Delgado was right. The island will be bursting with tourists this winter, the skies will be filled with aircraft, the tills of bars will be ringing merry and plentiful tunes, the unemployed and the fijo discontinuos will be no more as the hotels are open all year round. If only, and only in someone's dreams. Jaime's maybe.

The grand Martínez masterplan (and he was almost certainly responsible for it, because this is the sort of thing he does) is bringing all stakeholders together, is shifting the emphasis from sun and beach to a more diversified model with specialised products and is, more than anything, lengthening the season. Ah yes, lengthening the season. Do I need to say more? Well, only that the non-improvised masterplan will give satisfactory long-term results, says the minister.

Having a plan, a proper and feasible plan, is perfectly reasonable. Indeed, it is essential, and it had been lacking, but within this plan there has to be the creativity, and it is here where improvisation does actually come back into the equation; not by doing things in an incoherent fashion, but allowing the flow of creative thought in order to make the plan really work in ways that might establish some form of uniqueness or difference. Unfortunately, if you look at what the Balearics are doing by way of attempting to lengthen the season, then you will find that it is what everywhere else is doing. Even somewhere like Andalusia, which benefits from slightly better winter weather and a far larger golf tourism market, has much the same concerns as the Balearics and much the same solutions. Ditto Croatia. Ditto anywhere in the Med with a less-than-satisfactory off-season: culture, gastronomy, cycling, blah, blah, the same old remedies as ever.

Maybe there are no creative solutions to be had, but that's a defeatist attitude, as negative as an attitude which prevails within Balearics tourism ministry circles which views tourism from a Balearics perspective and not from that of the wide world of the tourist. Plan by all means, but some creative improvisation within the plan is just as essential.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2014


Morning high (6.15am): 17C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Sun, shower, 24C; 23 October - Sun, 21C; 24 October - Sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3.

A fine day on the cards again today but with the Mestral northwest wind kicking in strongly by the evening and bringing it with an amber alert for tomorrow for coastal conditions and possible rain. The wind is due to be a feature into Thursday but it should also be sunny.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 30.8C. Wind getting up in parts and tomorrow will be blowy with some possible rain in the morning.

No Frills Excursions

A Tree For Mister Waring

Mallorca loves its anniversaries of births and deaths. The island can celebrate these anniversaries in grand or at least grandish fashion, as with Father Junipero Serra last year (there were many who reckoned that not nearly enough was actually made of the old boy's 300th birthday) and as it will doubtless do when it comes to the 700th anniversary of the death of Ramon Llull next year (albeit this anniversary will straddle two years as there is some legitimate debate as to when he did die). Most of these anniversaries commemorate, as you might expect, Mallorcans, but the island's history is also littered with prominent non-Mallorcans whose anniversaries are acknowledged or all but ignored. And one who has fallen into this latter category is Henry Robert Waring, a British engineer who can claim to have actually had his body littered on the island; he was buried in Palma.

Waring died a hundred years ago earlier this month: 5 October to be precise. A researcher from Sa Pobla, Pere Perelló Payeras, has noted that there is little which honours Waring's memory, and yet he played a significant role in Mallorcan economic life from 1863 until his death in 1914. Waring was one of the engineers who was involved in the draining of Albufera. Typically when this project is referred to, it is John Frederick Bateman who is cited as having been the most important of the British engineers, but there were others - Waring, William Hope and William Green, who is remembered in Sa Pobla because of the road and restaurant named after him - Mister Green; there is also a Bateman street and an Enginyer Waring street in the town.

Bateman and Hope founded the New Majorca Land Company in 1863, having obtained the concession for the drainage of Albufera. But though Bateman was, if you like, the chief engineer, he wasn't always around to check on the work owing to the fact that he had other projects on the go elsewhere. The project was in fact placed in the hands of Green and Waring; they were the principal engineers on the ground.

Of Waring's background it is difficult to be certain. There was a Henry Waring who was one of three brothers who formed Waring Brothers, which was to become one of the most important railway-building companies in Britain and in parts of the globe. As this company was based in York and as Bateman was originally from Halifax, it is possible that he was the same Waring. But whatever the background, it would seem that Henry became something of an honorary Mallorcan and that he chose to live permanently on the island, unlike Bateman.

In 1876 the New Majorca Land Company, having been granted permission to establish a farming colony, founded the Gatamoix settlement, which was hidden away under the Sant Martí mountain in Alcúdia, was populated primarily by poor workers from Pollensa and was to provide labour for both drainage work and cultivation of what was reclaimed land. Bateman is normally attributed with the founding of the colony, but in fact it was Waring who was in charge and who was the one who formally founded the colony on behalf of the company.

His relationship with the company clearly took a turn for the worse. Bateman had become the sole owner and he introduced his son Lee to the company. History has not been kind to Lee. He can be described as a hopeless romantic, a narcissist and as someone who went native. He changed his name to Luis and converted to Catholicism, his father and Mister Green having been the ones who had introduced Anglican Protestantism to Mallorca. Lee was also a pretty useless businessman, though to be fair the New Majorca Land Company had been experiencing financial problems for some time before he appeared on the scene. And it was this appearance that led to Waring leaving the company around 1886 and cutting all ties with it.

What he did next was to buy the "possessió" (estate if you like) of Peguera and to move to Palma from Sa Pobla, where he had owned a house. He underwent a career change and got involved with the export of capers and carobs and he was to buy further estates - Xorrigo and Moranta on the northeastern outskirts of Palma.  

So, Waring was as intimately involved with the Albufera project and with the Gatamoix colony as Bateman; more so in some respects. He was also more intimately involved with Mallorca, and it is for these reasons that Pere Perelló Payeras believes that he deserves some greater recognition than he has had, even if he has only a simple tribute in mind, the planting of a tree in Albufera in memory of a time in Mallorca's history and Waring's contribution to it.

Photo: Waring's grave in the cemetery in Palma - from

Monday, October 20, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 19C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Sun, 27C; 22 October - Cloud, sun, 22C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

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

Light cloud out to sea but an otherwise clear morning. Hot again today with minimal breezes. The forecast for Wednesday has improved and there is now less risk of rain. General outlook: good.

Evening update (19.00): Another October scorcher. A high of 32.3C.

No Frills Excursions

The Four Islands Of Tourism Promotion

Before being elected president of the Council of Mallorca in 2011, Maria Salom described the Council as an expensive and inefficient behemoth. At the height of the economic crisis, someone had seen the light. The Council had accumulated responsibilities which had meant that it had taken on a life of its own, duplicating efforts elsewhere and being a drain on the public purse. One such responsibility was for tourism promotion. In early 2012 this responsibility was formally withdrawn. The Balearics Tourism Agency (ATB) didn't assume this responsibility as such, because it already had it, but duplication had been eliminated. Eighteen months later, the Bauzá government decided to hand the responsibility back and to give the other three island councils the same responsibility. Salom was unimpressed. She said that she did not want the Council to have to take on the responsibility again.

Just over a year since the regional government decided that it would transfer responsibility, it has now formally approved the measure. Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera can happily set about their promotional plans and expect to receive funding from Palma in order to do so. Mallorca can do the same, but Salom refuses to accept the responsibility. She doesn't wish to revive the behemoth.

In announcing this measure, tourism minister Jaime Martínez appeared to suggest that Salom's rejection was a "different scenario" to one of previous agreement on behalf of the four councils. He is I'm afraid not portraying the "scenario" accurately. Salom has been consistent in her views. As if Bauzá couldn't get more opposition to his decaying administration, he now has it, and it comes from one of the most senior figures in the Partido Popular who, back in the days post-election when all was rosy for Bauzá, was totally onside with a governmental policy of cost-cutting and duplication eradication. Salom has stuck to her guns. Bauzá hasn't.

No doubt stung by the criticism of the paltry sums that Carlos Delgado had budgeted for, Martínez says that there will be a total of 5.3 million euros for tourism promotion in 2015. This is still not a king's ransom but it is twice this year's budget. So, the budget will rise as will other costs. They are bound to so that the island councils can have the funcionarios who'll spend their share of the tourism promotion dividend, while duplication will return. Why? Well, the ATB, though it will be pared back, will have to assume responsibility for Mallorca's promotion and it will still conduct promotion for the Balearics as a whole, while providing a supervisory function in order to ensure that the islands' efforts don't conflict with overall Balearics policy, which could well amount to requiring signing-off these efforts.

The islands have always undertaken some of their own promotional work, and they have been entitled to under the list of competences granted to them by the statutes of Balearics autonomy. Bauzá invoked these statutes in explaining why the responsibilities were being transferred in a formal fashion and with budgetary allowance from Palma. He was being disingenuous. These competences have always existed. The principal motivation was not doing things by the statutes' book but was a way of trying to keep Menorca and Ibiza sweet; they have both long lobbied for greater responsibility.

The devil as always will be in the detail, but as Martínez possesses an unerring capacity to make obscure what one would hope would be transparent (as with holiday lets for instance), there may well be scope for different interpretations of other aspects of this responsibility transfer: islands' own policies, their own development plans, their own organisation of planning of their respective tourism sectors. What actually might these mean? The government insists that it is not handing over the overall co-ordination and classification of tourism products and other elements of the Balearics integrated tourism plan, but there has been a suggestion that the councils could act independently on something such as holiday lets. Menorca wants to, though the government says that it can't. We'll see.

As a general principle the islands having responsibility isn't such a bad idea. Balearics branding and promotion make far less sense than branding of island names that carry greater weight in the minds of the tourism public. However, there should be a cautionary note, and it comes from Menorca. Promotion that has been undertaken by its council to promote the island's Biosphere Reserve status was slammed a year ago. Twenty years of this status and Menorca had made precious little of it, the consequence of a lack of skills as well as money and of bureaucracy that has constantly hampered efforts of businesspeople. Menorca will be getting more money (though not nearly enough) but it won't be getting more skills or less bureaucracy. In Mallorca, meanwhile, none of this will matter because Salom, wisely perhaps, doesn't want the headache or the duplication.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2014


Morning high (7.45am): 20C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Sun, 28C; 21 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 22 October - Sun, showers, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South and Southeast 2 to 3.

A clear-skies morning once more and a sunny and hot day in store once more. The forecast looks a little unsettled on Tuesday and especially on Wednesday but is more settled after then.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 30.8C. Another warm one therefore.

No Frills Excursions

The Future Of Magalluf

"Friends and neighbours, as the new spokesperson for the neighbourhood association, I hope for the collaboration of all residents, working together as an association of friends in this time of crisis in order to cure all the ills in the area, to beautify and enrich it and enhance our local heritage." These words were written twenty-five years ago. They were written about Magalluf. The author was Pepe Tirado, the president of Acotur, the association of tourist services businesses. Poor old Pep. A quarter of a century's worth of working together and a summer's worth of railing against the evils of Punta Bellend and mamading, and blow me he finds himself in danger of being torpedoed below the waist line by a new association: Calvia con Futuro, an association which I imagine is creating great excitement in the quiet resorts such as Illetes and the leafy hinterland parts like Es Capdella: Magalluf con Futuro would be more apt.

Hey ho, never mind, Pep, but there you were a couple of weeks ago announcing the results of a survey of Magalluf businesses by Acotur in which businesses overwhelmingly said they would be in favour of tougher local ordinance and were against practices which degraded the area around the strip and which were out of control.

The Future of Magalluf would doubtless agree, espousing, as it does, sustainable tourism. I wonder if they know this what means. It's a concept which sound good and altruistic, and Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá did after all use the S-word when he said that certain businesses could take their "pathetic expertise somewhere else". And which businesses was he referring to exactly? Well, perhaps he was referring to Carnage, the bar-crawl and pool-party organisers, or to the bar in which the infamous blowjob video was filmed. And what do you know? Both are represented on the Future of Magalluf.

Jaime Martínez, the tourism minister, welcomed the new association, but you could detect that he wasn't overwhelmed. There are several other associations and business groups in Magalluf as it is, such as Acotur, and they have long had the ear of Calvia town hall or regional government. It is legitimate to question how effective they have been and indeed how representative they truly are, but another association is just that - another association amidst all the various voices that are raised. And in the case of the Future of Magalluf one can sense that it is grabbing hold of the coat tails of betterment in the resort and the desire for and acceptance of this betterment, as indicated by the Acotur survey.

Martínez, formerly part of the Calvia town hall apparatus, has also said that bar crawls are not wanted, which implies a criticism of the town hall which set out new rules for their organisation earlier this year and which were generally flouted. And here lies the problem. If there are new rules or if there is self-regulation by members of an association, who'll be the first to break them? The Future of Magalluf might try and portray itself as acting in a co-operative manner, but individual businesses will always place themselves above the collective.

The association does at least have a respected president, even if not all of its component parts have hitherto acted in a wholly respectable fashion. Alfonso Robledo is the president of the PIMEM (small to medium-sized businesses) restaurant association, albeit that this association left PIMEM in August. He is said to be neutral and to not have business interests in Calvia and therefore Magalluf. This neutrality is one reason why he was invited to be president, it is said, but this in a way is interesting in itself. One of the Future of Magalluf's vice-presidents, unless I am very much mistaken, once took to social media to rail against anyone who didn't live and work in Magalluf, i.e. their opinions and views were not valid and they could basically do one. Perhaps, however, this was one of the "mistakes" to which she has alluded.  

I am, I think I need to make clear, not against businesses involved with this association. Indeed, I was one of the few in the media who attacked the punitive nature of measures taken against the likes of the Playhouse bar (and which have not actually been implemented). They were caught up in the storm that broke out because of the blowjob video and were thus victims of a situation - the salacious and lewd activities, the excessive drinking and so on - that has obtained for years and which has been promoted by other businesses with greater clout in Magalluf. There is unquestionably an imbalance in Magalluf, a favouring of certain businesses over others, and this has come firmly to light with the detention (and now release) of the chief of police. An even playing-field, a fairness in supervision, an improvement in standards of behaviour; these should all be welcomed. But whether they can be achieved is another matter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2014


Morning high (7.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 October - Sun, 29C; 20 October - Sun, 27C; 21 October - Sun, cloud, 26C.

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

And so it goes on ... Another glorious day on the cards. Warm to hot sun and plenty of it. The forecast suggests a break in the weather on Wednesday next week, though this may only be temporary.

Evening update (20.00): A high of 32.4C. Blimey.

No Frills Excursions

Saint Luke And The Fairs Of Inca

Inca, the administrative and legal centre for the north of Mallorca, stages the first of its four autumn fairs this weekend. But how was it that Inca came to have these fairs?

The town, along with Sineu, were granted royal privileges in the fourteenth century to stage fairs in the "part forana", i.e. outside of Palma. Historians say it is not possible to determine exactly when these fairs started, but as Sineu can place a date on its May Sa Fira to 1318, they would date from more or less the same time. Indeed, Inca did apparently at one time have a spring May fair but, because the two towns operated a form of duopoly, the decision was made to switch Inca's fairs to the autumn. Inca's importance as a commercial centre, which was the case in the years after the Catalan conquest, partly explains why there are four fairs, but that's not the whole story.

The first fair was, in mediaeval times, held on the feast day of Saint Luke, which is today, 18 October. The second and third fairs took place on the two following Sundays, while the fourth, which was to come to be known as Dijous Bo, was not permitted to be held on a Sunday. That was because it was the day to celebrate Santa Maria la Major. It was moved to the Thursday and in the process created additional excitement, greater participation and what was eventually to lead to its name. There is an old expression - "quin dijous més bò - what better Thursday. The name Dijous Bo may well have been around for much longer, but a documented record of the name appeared for the first time in 1807.

The fairs still follow this pattern but not quite. In 1542 the town of Llucmajor petitioned Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to be allowed to hold a fair. Inca and Sineu were having none of it and so they took the matter to court. They lost. In 1545 Llucmajor held its first fair. The problem was that, in addition to a breaking of the duopoly, its fair was going to clash with Inca's first fair. It would in fact be a series of markets from the feast day of Saint Michael (29 September) up to and including Saint Luke (incidentally the Catalan name Sant Lluc plays no part in Llucmajor's name, that has to do with an ancient word for forest). Inca, therefore, compromised and moved its first fair to the first Sunday after Saint Luke, which is still the case. Though there are events for the fair in Inca today, the main day is most certainly tomorrow - the first Sunday after Saint Luke.

Friday, October 17, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2014


Morning high (7.00am): 17C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 October - Sun, 29C; 19 October - Sun, 27C; 20 October - Sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4 to 5 easing 2 to 3 during the morning.

More of the same today. Mainly clear skies so sunny and quite hot. The breezes are not due to be as strong as they were yesterday. The weekend outlook is good.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 29.8C. Very acceptable for mid-October.

No Frills Excursions

Privatising The Spanish Airports

The partial privatisation of the national airports agency, Aena, is a matter which should be of interest to us all and so not just to the millions of tourists who pass through Son Sant Joan each year. It is a privatisation which, where Palma airport is concerned, could be positive or not so positive. Son Sant Joan is the most profitable Spanish airport. Shareholders like profits and they like to see them grow and to see their dividends also grow.

It is now more accurate to talk about Enaire rather than Aena. Since July this publicly owned company has been in charge of the country's civil airports; it currently owns all the Aena shares, for which offers have been received from the private sector for an initial 21%. The remaining 28% which comprise the partial privatisation (49% of shares) are due to be offered next month. Three "core" shareholders have now been confirmed. They are Banca March, Ferrovial, which is involved with the management of several British airports, and the London-based Children's Investment Fund (TCI).

The response to the offer of this 21% shareholding was, at best, not what the government had hoped for. It would seem that the three shareholders were the only applicants. The remaining 28%, thrown open to wider public subscription, may create greater interest, but there are concerns that the lacklustre start to the privatisation process might be repeated.

A problem for Enaire/Aena is that there are so many airports which aren't profitable, and they include Madrid. There are 49 airports in all and only around a fifth of them make a profit, in addition to which there is debt which many of them have. Palma is exceptional in this regard as it carries no debt. Barcelona, on the other hand, has a similar profit level but a massive debt.

The privatisation has not been met with total approval. The CCOO union is against it, as is PSOE, which is supposedly going to attempt to paralyse the sale in Congress (quite how is not clear). The opposition is all about guarantees of jobs, but there should also be a further concern, which is what investment might be forthcoming as a consequence of privatisation. Is the sale simply a way for the government to improve its accounts? But this question aside, Palma, because of its already high performance, might benefit further. As things stand, it already in a sense gets back much of its profit through the state budget allocation. The worry might be all those airports which are a drain and which demand a diversion of investment, though this assumes that they don't get closed, and it has been argued - justifiably - that Spain has way too many airports.

One airport which is a drain is Menorca's. It runs at a substantial loss - nearly 10 million euros in 2012. It would never be closed because, unlike some airports on the mainland, it is essential both for tourists and residents. But its tourism does perhaps help to explain why it does make a loss. Menorca receives half the number of tourists that Ibiza (together with Formentera) does. Ibiza airport makes a profit, not a huge one but it is profit nonetheless and its debt is small. Menorca's isn't. Over 150 million euros in 2012. Something needs to be done about its performance, and despite crowing in the Balearics that a Mallorcan bank, March, is a shareholder and that a leading Mallorcan hotelier, Simón Barceló, is a non-executive director on the new board will mean a defence of Balearic interests, it has to be accepted that shareholders don't deal with altruism, they deal with returns on investment. Barceló's involvement is arguably the more important - as a non-exec, he would doubtless do the defending - but then both he and March are part of a much bigger business, one with all those other airports that make a loss. The Spanish Government, as majority shareholder, would find itself under fire if it were to appear that the Balearics were being favoured at the expense of smallish regional airports on the mainland. This said, the government has stated in the past that airport closure is not on the cards. Well, that remains to be seen, as indeed does the success or not of the whole share offer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2014


Morning high (6.45am): 17C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 17 October - Sun, 27C; 18 October - Sun, 27C; 19 October - Sun, 27C.

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

Another starry morning and quite breezy, the southwesterlies dominating and due to blow through the day. More good sun today mixed with some patchy cloud. Tomorrow and the weekend will be much the same.

No Frills Excursions

The Black Card Of Caja Madrid

A credit card operates according to a simple rule. Use the card for credit and then pay the credit back. There is another rule. Use the card for credit and don't pay the credit back. Not because you can't afford to pay it back but because the card isn't credit at all, it is a payment card. Draw a certain amount each month, pay for the groceries, clothes, meals or whatever you like and treat this as "representation expenses". Such a card might be fair enough or legitimate enough so long as there is a tax declaration to include these expenses, but legitimacy is not a word that can be applied to a bank at the centre of the scandal of these expenses; a bank which no longer exists as such and which has become a by-word for all that was wrong with the pre-crash Spanish banking system and with political and business influence. Caja Madrid.

Today, the Supreme Court in Madrid is due to hear a declaration from Rodrigo Rato, a banker and politician at the heart of the Caja Madrid expenses scandal. Rato was a vice-president of Spain (or deputy prime minister if you prefer) in José María Aznar's Partido Popular government from 1996 to 2004. He was also the minister for the economy and for finance. In 2004 he became the director-general of the IMF, succeeding Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In early 2010 he was made president of Caja Madrid and then president of Bankia, the bank formed by mergers (of which Caja Madrid was one component). Rato once had ambition to be leader of the PP and so head of Spain's government. As things turned out, Mariano Rajoy succeeded Aznar, but Rajoy was magnanimous and helped smooth the way for Rato to become the president of Caja Madrid.

Though the court is interested to hear from Rato, the scandal of the "opaque" or "black" credit cards goes back several years. It covers a period from at least 2003 to 2012. Primarily the cards were given out to executives or board members of the bank who were nearly all members of the PP, though not exclusively. This was a bank which acquired a certain notoriety when it became clear during all the fallout from Spain's banking crisis that there were certain board members who had no right to be anywhere near a bank's board, let alone draw some remuneration. They were board members who knew nothing about banking and were representative of the cronyism that had been practised for years.

The total amount of money that went out through these cards is reckoned to be in the region of 15.5 million euros, and it is money that is alleged to constitute a misuse of funds. But the amount may be greater as Caja Madrid appeared to have been giving out the cards for longer than the 2003-2012 period which is commonly being cited. The practice was drawn attention to in the media in 1999, though in fact it would seem that the scheme started earlier than this. When there was press exposure in 1999, the practice was scaled back, but it clearly grew again and nothing was done about it. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that the Tax Agency was fully aware of what was going on and its role is now under scrutiny.

The amounts on an individual basis may not typically have been huge but they were substantial enough, very much more substantial than might have been deemed to be legitimate representation expenses (as has been noted by a report from Spain's bank bailout fund). The monthly limit on the card was actually increased from 900 euros to 2,000 euros at precisely the time the banking crisis took hold and when Caja Madrid was on the point of collapse.

But there have to have been higher limits. The revelations have been coming thick and fast over the past few days. One is that ten directors of the bank spent between them nearly 350,000 euros basically on overnight stays in hotels and meals. The itemising of expenditure and by whom shows, for example, a bill of 1,800 euros at the famed El Bulli restaurant in 2006. There are other restaurant bills, like the one for 2,801 euros at Madrid's Principe de Viana in 2010. And then there were the peaks in expenditure, such as at Christmas time, and so the shopping sprees at El Corte Inglés. The former secretary of state for tourism, José Manuel Fernández Norniella, would appear to have given El Corte Inglés over 94,000 euros worth of sales.

The list goes on and on, a virtual who's who of political and business life and a who's what of Spanish luxury. The PP says it will expel anyone who is found to have been abusing privileges. The courts might consider some other retributions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 October 2014


Morning high (6.15am): 16C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 October - Sun, 28C; 17 October - Sun, 27C; 18 October - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West and Northwest 2 to 3 increasing 3 to 4 during the morning.

A starry sky this morning and a clear sky for most of the day. Plenty of sun and warm. Outlook for the rest of the week is very good.

Evening update (21.15): A high of 25.7C. Nice day.

No Frills Excursions

Dismantling Elites: UKIP and Podemos

It is a land I once knew but one which now exists in the periphery of vision, periodically demanding attention but then fading from view, obscured by the immediacies of a land that once upon a time I knew nothing of. The tragicomedy of Britain's political stage is one of those plays which from time to time does capture the attention and draws the irregular theatre-goer to the auditorium. The characters are flawed or incomplete. Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, the identical leads, unsure as to who is who: Cameron and Miliband rehearsing their obituaries for Yorick. Alas poor Clegg, we knew him. And enter stage far-right, the boastful buffoon, the Falstaffian Farage.

Tom Stoppard plucked his characters out of the obscurity of minor roles in "Hamlet" and offered them centre-stage, one on which they could indulge themselves in their endless vacuity and shifting philosophies. These were characters of inherent irrelevance, engaged by the audience but ultimately disengaged from it. Falstaff has been reinvented many times but has remained a figure of comic genius, as he now is, his braggadocio and vanity tempting a Prince Hal of the British public astray. As for Yorick, in truth he was never more than a cranial footnote, now being prepared for the political mortuary.

The inseparable, indivisible unidimensionality of the Rosencrantz and Guildernstern of the Conservatives and Labour, their ineffectualness have opened the curtains to the Falstaff of UKIP to take to the boards littered with the recent bodies of immigrants, recession, fundamentalism and a disconnection on a European scale. The critics have not been completely unkind. Indeed, Farage might be an invention of Paul Dacre, were it not for the fact that UKIP has for so long been a slow burner, a cooker on a low heat mixing a concoction of far-right scraps thrown periodically into an inedible stew. To the thin gruel of one-time minority inconsequence have been added the bones of Farage's indiscreet tastes. Here, for example, boil the ideas of a Machiavellian, one-time BNP egghead strategist, exposed as an infiltrator. There are many other ingredients which have combined to make this odious casserole.

It is easy to style UKIP's performance as by-election blues that will turn to true blue or true red at the election. But was this just an Orpington moment or a Crosby moment, the signals for the Liberals in 1962 and the SDP in 1981 to take meaningful places in British politics which came to nothing or very little? Perhaps, but one should not underestimate Falstaff. The public can be partial to a buffoon. Boris Johnson might one day surpass Farage's interpretation.

UKIP is part of a wider tendency. It shares its place in the spotlight with the most unlikely of other cast members. Right-wing and Europhobic, it has tapped into a mean-spiritedness but also into a disaffection with an established political system. It is the peculiar distant cousin of Spain's Podemos, which would appear to be its polar opposite but which is a product of a similar disaffection.

Podemos is left-wing and anti-European. It is the progeny of the anti-globalisation and indignados movements. It is a protest political organisation. Votes for it at the European elections might be thought to have been protests, but like UKIP one fancies there is more staying power.

An oddity with Podemos was that its emergence was not from a slow burner. It was spontaneous combustion, and that of the left not of the right. But when one looks at opinion polls, it becomes clear that it has to have drawn support from across the political spectrum. A sharp decline in sympathy for the Partido Popular can be explained in different ways, and one of these is that Podemos has grabbed a sizable chunk of the PP floating voter.

Pablo Iglesias, its leader, is a kind of Count of Monte Cristo, taking revenge for a nation's imprisonment by a corrupt party political system, the current head of which is Mariano Rajoy, a man who can stare at a camera with eyes which seem to look into the void and which betray constant fear. He is right to be scared. Podemos's sudden eruption might have only sprayed lava on to the upper reaches of a political volcano, but one should not exclude the potential for it to slide into the valleys and plains.

Podemos's principal reason for being is its distaste for the political elite. It does not harbour the resentments of minorities that UKIP does, but it shares an antagonism towards elitism. However, UKIP cannot disguise an inter-breeding of its own elitism, and so it is very unlike Podemos, an organisation which, for now at any rate, can realistically claim to be of the people.

We will discover next year what the people really think of UKIP and Podemos. Falstaff and the Count of Monte Cristo. Who would your money be on?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 October 2014


Morning high (6.00am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 15 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 October - Sun, 25C; 17 October - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4 increasing 5 at intervals, veering and easing Northwest 3 to 4 by the afternoon. Rain and storm possible from the morning.

Alerts out for rain today, the forecast suggesting there could be showers at any time during the day. Storm also possible. Clearing tomorrow, and the rest of the week looks fine.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 22.3C, so quite a bit down on what it has been. Mostly cloudy all day with some rain but not heavy.

No Frills Excursions

The Middle of Nowhere: Mallorca's middle

The village of Meriden in the West Midlands may only have a population that is slightly greater than 2,500, but the good folk of this village used to be able to boast something that no other folk in England could. They lived in the geographic centre of England. Then one morning not very long ago, the Meriden folk woke up and found that their sleepy village (one assumes it is sleepy, as cliché tradition demands that a village is) was no longer the centre of the English universe. The centre had been moved some eleven miles away. What's more it was no longer in the non-traditional county of the West Midlands but in an altogether more traditional county, Leicestershire. Boffins at the Ordnance Survey had determined that a field at Lindley Hall Farm in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire was the geographic centre. How the good folk of Meriden must have wept and feared for their property values. And what were they going to do with the memorial which declares Meriden centrality?

There have been other pretenders to the centrist crown of England. Morton in Derbyshire is one such place, but there can now no longer be any debate or rival claims. Fenny Drayton it is. And just as the Ordnance Survey has decided that a field in the middle of nowhere is the English middle, so the Universitat de les Illes Balears, Eptisa (a company which undertakes map-making on behalf of the islands) and the National Centre for Geographic Information have all agreed that Mallorca's geographic centre is also in the middle of nowhere - in the common woods (Sa Comuna) of Lloret de Vistalegre.

The good folk of Lloret - the "lloritans" - can now, once and for all, thumb their noses at the pretenders in the next pueblo. Sineu, often and erroneously referred to as being the geographic centre, can now only claim to be slightly off-centre, and as a consequence many a website is going to have to update its information, which will be more than slightly inconvenient. There was an advantage to the Sineu middleness for the touristically-minded promotion. It has certain attractions - its well-known market, its church dome designed by Joaquín Pavía y Birmingham, its one-time Palace of the Kings of Mallorca. Lloret, on the other hand, doesn't have any of these. Only a 1.74 metre high stone in some woods. Here lies the centre of Mallorca; it doesn't say.

At least this geo-centricity affords Lloret a claim to fame that it previously hasn't had. It places the village firmly on the map, where it has always been, but which hasn't been sufficient to entice anyone to go there. Being in the middle of things might be deemed advantageous but not necessarily in Mallorca. The middle is the middle of nowhere, regardless of whether it's in the middle of a wood or not.

However, now that Lloret can point to the authority of the university and its partners and so to its enviable location, will there be a surge of tourist interest? Surely any self-respecting tourists would wish to beat a path of an off-the-beaten path variety in order to take selfies next to the stone of Mallorcan middledom; wouldn't they? Well, possibly. Just as possibly tourists to England will wish to trample across the fields of Fenny Drayton and stand with a beaming smile next to an old railway sleeper that has been stuck in the ground along with a sign replete with the cross of St. George which states that the Ordnance Survey defined the spot as the geographical centre in 2002 (it took eleven years for this definition to be officially marked). The owner of the farm is, remarkably enough, called Farmer. Stephen Farmer believes that the sleeper (which in fact is 150 metres from the exact spot, which is in a field) could become a tourist attraction. As visitors go to Land's End to have their photos taken with the famous sign, then why wouldn't they want to come to Fenny Drayton and do likewise? But then Land's End does have some additional appeal. Firstly, it is land's end and secondly, there's a ruddy great ocean next to it. 

Still, councillors at the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth live in hope of new-found tourism riches. So should the leaders of Lloret be shouting the geographic centre from the tourism rooftops? Maybe, but there will always be those who reject the sudden appearance of inquisitive tourists because they might cause harm to the common and its flora and fauna, while the town hall has bemoaned the fact that it already costs 3.6 million euros to pay for rubbish collection (a cost shared with other town halls). The chances are, therefore, that the stone marking the geographic centre will remain unmolested. In the middle of nowhere.

For photo of the Lloret stone, go to: