Thursday, April 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 14C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 1 May - Sun, 25C; 2 May - Sun, 25C; 3 May - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3 veering Southeast 3 to 4 by midday and South 2 to 4 by the evening.

A fine morning, and all is looking fair today and for the foreseeable future. Sunny and getting quite hot for the official start of the tourism season.

Evening update (22.00): Nice day. High of 25.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Behemoth Of Mallorca

"Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron."

The Book of Job gave us the Behemoth, a creature of great power, marauding across Old Testament lands. It is mentioned in other literature, always as some monster that could not be conquered. The Behemoth subsequently passed into the vernacular as a means of describing something extremely large and powerful.

In 2011, Maria Salom, the president of the Council of Mallorca, adopted the Behemoth as the symbol of her Council. It was an expensive and inefficient Behemoth, she explained, prior to becoming president, but she was going to tame it.

Maria is not possessed of godly powers, so tackling the Behemoth was always going to be tricky. It is a creature that mere mortals should be wary of. Including President Bauzá. When he had the audacity to suggest that the Behemoth be cut down to the size of a dormouse and adopt an essentially advisory role, the fires of hell threatened to engulf him. Strangely, though Maria was all for emasculating the Behemoth, she was not inclined to agree with her superior in the Consulat del Mar. The Behemoth might need resizing downwards but it would remain the equivalent of a baby hippo, ready at any moment to grow back to full lumbering size.

Does anyone like the Council? Derided for being expensive, bloated and an unnecessary and pointless level of public administration, it would seem that few have a good word for it. However, not all is as it seems. The Council has its many supporters, one of which is The Pine Party - El Pi. It wants to turn the Council into the government of Mallorca. It is fighting for "what we want most: out land, our language and our culture". Fine, but does this require the Council of Mallorca retaining full or indeed greater Behemoth status? El Pi, whose chances of securing seats in the regional parliament are fractionally greater than zero, might well be eyeing up better opportunities in the Council, where one of its progenitors - the Unió Mallorquina - once ruled: Maria Munar would charge across the island on the Behemoth, gobbling up ever more pieces of power with which to feed its voracious appetite.

Jaume Font's party would thus not be in agreement with Maria Salom. She has proposed reducing the number of councillors at the Council from 33 to 23, so completing the "paradigm shift" she has introduced, one of creating Behemoth-lite. Having done away with half of the senior management types at the Council, Maria is intent on further cutting the amounts spent on political representation. Bauzá, forgetting the dormouse proposal and now showing solidarity with Maria, who is after all number two behind him on the PP's parliament candidate list, opined that Maria was coming up with "real solutions, the fruit of analysis and consensus".

The trouble is that Bauzá and others throw the consensus word around when it clearly doesn't exist. He would only need to ask Jaume Font. Or Francesc Miralles, who heads the PSOE list for the Council's election. "For the PP, the Council is outdated and non-existent", as demonstrated by the Salom proposal. The intention is to weaken the Council. But why should he believe this? Like Bauzá's attempt (a dashed one) to reduce the number of parliamentary deputies by sixteen, Salom's proposal is one with which it is hard to disagree. Why on earth are 59 deputies needed? Or 33 councillors? What is the point of them all?

The more fundamental question of course is what is the point of the Council of Mallorca. The easy answer is that there isn't one. For an island (and islands) with the population that there is, surely it isn't necessary for there to be this additional level of public administration. Well, possibly. But if there were no Council, there would still be a requirement to administer the roads, the waste, the land, the water, the culture, among other things. It is too simplistic to believe that these should all be shifted to the Balearic Government: it is a government for a region not for an island.

The other islands have their councils, and Mallorca needs its as well. But what it doesn't need is an administration that grows like topsy into the Behemoth that it did, duplicating efforts, dispensing positions and jobs of questionable validity, behaving like a government it never was. The Behemoth has been caged if not fully tamed. But will it be unleashed once more?

Index for April 2015

Alcúdia tourism promotion - 11 April 2015
Alcúdia's bridges - 25 April 2015
Balearics presidential candidates - 8 April 2015
Being Mallorcan - 22 April 2015
Ca de Bou - 12 April 2015
Cala Ratjada - Germans in the 1930s - 29 April 2015
Council of Mallorca - 30 April 2015
Día Sant Jordí - 19 April 2015
Easter picnics in Mallorca - 5 April 2015
Education march - 27 April 2015
Ensaimada - 14 April 2015
Health treatment, immigrants and PP - 6 April 2015
Hotelier power in Mallorca - 15 April 2015
José María Rodríguez - 16 April 2015
Mallorca and Wisden - 9 April 2015
Maria Dolores Cospedal - plundering gaffe - 26 April 2015
Olive ebola - 28 April 2015
Palacio de Congresos - 13 April 2015
Palma - 2 April 2015
Partido Popular imploding - 3 April 2015
Partido Popular parliament list - 18 April 2015
Proportional representation - 21 April 2015
Soapy pine of Campanet - 4 April 2015
Souvenir shops - 1 April 2015
Tourism law - 20 April 2015
Tourist tax - 10 April 2015, 24 April 2015
Travel writing - 7 April 2015
Worst hotels - 23 April 2015
Zero advertising spend on tourism - 17 April 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2015


Morning high (8.00am): 12C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 30 April - Sun, 23C; 1 May - Sun, 25C; 2 May - Sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4, for a time East during the afternoon.

Bright morning and a good day ahead. A mini-heatwave coming, with temperatures set to nudge the 30 mark by the weekend.

Evening update (22.15): High of 22.9C. Quite windy at times, but also sunny; rather bizarrely, there were some spots of rain at times despite the cloud having been light.

No Frills Excursions

The German Occupation Of Cala Ratjada

Coffee and cake; wheat beer, wurst and curry sauce; Schlagermusik and Bayern München shirts. Cala Ratjada is the Arenal of the north-east, an annexation through sunbedsraum: Vorsprung durch Touristik. Its alliance with Germany wasn't the result of some grand master plan for the division of Mallorca on nationality grounds. As with other resorts, it just happened because of tour operator concentration. Or, unlike for example Arenal, was there more to it? An association from the past? Possibly there was.

Cala Ratjada is about as far away as you can get from Palma and so was about as far away as seekers after tranquility could get in the first thirty plus years of the last century: seekers after tranquility and refuge. They could number among their ranks the banker Joan March. One of his "palaces" was built in Cala Ratjada. A more modest pile, overlooked by the March palace, was the summer residence of the only Mallorcan to have been Spanish prime minister - Antoni Maura.

March and Maura had established themselves in Cala Ratjada many years before they were to be joined by non-Mallorcan neighbours. Of some 400 inhabitants in the early 1930s, a quarter of them were from overseas. They came from England, Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. But most important among them were those who came from Germany and Austria.

Quite why Cala Ratjada became the refuge it did will doubtless be revealed in a book by municipal archivists in Capdepera - Maria Massanet and Gori Rexach - and a Swiss researcher, Gabi Einsele, about the "central European exile" in Cala Ratjada between 1930 and 1936. The rise of the Nazis and the creation of the Second Republic in Spain in 1931 were undoubtedly factors, though a political regime in Spain that was opposed to fascism still doesn't explain how Cala Ratjada came to be a chosen place of refuge.

In contrast to, for instance, Pollensa, where an initial wave of artists was to attract others during the First World War, establishing a starting-point for the benefits of Cala Ratjada is less clear. Nevertheless, soon after the Second Republic had commenced and then especially in 1932 when the Nazis' momentum was great, it became home to German Jews and pacifists, most of them sharing common interests in the arts and literature.

So it was, therefore, that journalist Heinz Kraschutzki came, as did poet and photographer, Konrad Liesegang, as well as Karl Otten (also a journalist), the Austrian writer Franz Blei, the painter Friedrich Kleukens, and someone who was to become an artist, Hugo Cyril Kulp Baruch, much better known as Jack Bilbo.

Of these, Bilbo and Otten are perhaps the most familiar names. Otten had faced being shot when things turned nasty after July 1936, but he escaped with the help of the British and was to go on to be a propagandist with the BBC. Bilbo didn't stay all that long. He arrived in Cala Ratjada in 1932 and left the following year, having sold what was, for the times, a bizarre bar named the Waikiki. With its Hawaiian design, it was for a time the principal meeting-place for the foreigners who had descended on Cala Ratjada and indeed from further afield.

Bilbo was as much an adventurer as he was an artist. Prior to coming to Mallorca, he had been Al Capone's bodyguard. Once he finally ended up in England, he became something of a celebrity: there is very odd British Pathé newsreel footage of him giving his New Year's message in 1947. Though his time in Cala Ratjada was short, his presence - and that of the Waikiki - was perhaps the most significant. When the swastikas started to be raised in Germany, the German population in Mallorca was estimated to have been around 3,000, and many of them would have made a trip to the Waikiki: a focal point for opposition to the Nazis.

But there were of course other Germans, the Nazis themselves, one of whom was Hans Dede. Initially acting consul, in 1933 he became the permanent German consul. The colony in Cala Ratjada naturally attracted his attention. Even before the Civil War, he was hard at it, denouncing the likes of Kraschutzki, who had had his German nationality taken away and was to be arrested at the outbreak of the war. Furthermore, Nazi supporters began to arrive in Cala Ratjada. The Hotel Castellet, the first hotel built in Cala Ratjada, became something of a headquarters for the Nazis. And yet curiously, while all this was going on, the mayor, Miquel Caldentey Ginard, was backing a campaign to develop tourism, seeking both local and foreign investors.

It may be pure coincidence that the resort is now so very German, but Cala Ratjada's history bears a very clear German imprint. Perhaps there is more to the resort's German association after all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 29 April - Cloud, sun, 22C; 30 April - Sun, 21C; 1 May - Sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 settling East 3 towards midday.

Cloudyish to start with the possibility of some rain. Due to stay cloudy for much of the day and into tomorrow. Picking up by Thursday with the forecast into the weekend for quite high temperatures.

Evening update (22.45): Odd sort of a day. Mainly cloudy with some bursts of sun. Not that warm. 19.5C the high.

No Frills Excursions

The Threat Of Olive Ebola

On Thursday, the co-operative Camp Mallorquí will be holding a conference in Palma. It will address issues such as technological innovation in agriculture, commercial opportunities and the future of farming co-operatives. But these will not be agricultural issues in general. There is one theme to the conference: almonds.

A further issue that will be discussed will be diseases and pests, and it is this issue which is by far the most pressing on the agenda. Almond trees are under renewed danger. So are olive trees. The danger comes in the form of a bacterium called "xylella fastidiosa".

Of American origin, this has already started to have a devastating effect on olive and almond trees in Italy and has now spread to France. Some 100,000 hectares of tree crops in Italy have been affected. There is no remedy other than to cut trees down and burn them in the hope of stopping the bacterium spreading. Which is a big hope. The bacterium is transmitted by leafhopping insects, which are extremely common.

So damaging has the bacterium been that it has acquired a deadly name - "olive ebola". It has not been detected in Mallorca, but farmers are naturally fearful that it might be. The consequences of it arriving on the island and taking hold could be enormous in terms of the island's economy and landscape. Its potential harm would greatly exceed that of the attacks on pines by processionary caterpillars or on palm trees by the "picudo rojo", the red beetle.

It poses a threat that is reminiscent of the phylloxera "plague" of the late nineteenth century. Mallorca had benefited greatly from the devastation of French vines by phylloxera earlier in that century. But when it arrived on Mallorca in the 1890s, the consequences for some rural areas of the island were catastrophic. Though it has since been argued that phylloxera was not as damaging as had been thought, there is no arguing the fact that it contributed to emigration and to a major shift in agricultural production. The vines were to return, but it is fair to say that the Mallorcan wine economy, a staple for so many centuries, didn't truly start its recovery until the 1970s, though the Franco regime had to take some of the blame for this delay because of its one-time insistence on an equally catastrophic self-sufficiency economic policy which placed an emphasis on subsistence crops.

There is a certain similarity between phylloxera and xylella fastidiosa. The grape phylloxera insect sucks sap from and feeds off leaves and roots. The result can be a fungal infection. Xylella fastidiosa insects also suck sap and transmit the bacterium in the process. There is still no actual remedy for phylloxera, though it has been combated by introducing resistant rootstock which creates a type of sap that repels the insect. As yet, a similar means of combating xylella fastidiosa appears not to exist.

At present, there is no formalised system of control against xylella fastidiosa, but the farming community wants controls of imported trees and of nurseries to be stepped up. A positive bit of news is that olive trees are typically imported from Andalusia where there is no evidence of the bacterium but also where the alert was first raised: the government in Andalusia, which has tightened its controls, was the one to let the rest of Spain know about the potential harm.

So, the threat, for the moment, is a hypothetical one, but as was seen with the palm beetle, it was public administration inertia that helped its diffusion. Before it truly took hold in Pollensa (where it is commonly said to have first been detected), attention was being drawn to an infection of palm trees. If local authorities had acted more swiftly, the loss of the island's palms would not now be as great as it is. At least, though, the threat is known about this time and it is one that would have greater economic consequence than the beetle. There are almost 25,000 hectares dedicated to almond production and a further 8,000 or so to olives, approximately a quarter of these for oil that has a protected designation of origin - the highly prized Mallorcan olive oil.

But there would be another consequence. Though the volume of farming land devoted to almonds has decreased significantly from what it once was, it has now stabilised, and it is almond production which gives Mallorca one of its most characteristic landscape features - the blossom of late winter. If this were to be threatened, if this were to disappear, there would be a loss very much greater than a mere economic one. And, unfortunately, there is more. It isn't just olive and almond trees that can be affected. So too can oleander and citrus trees, meaning lemon and orange groves. Just hope to God the bacterium stays away.

Monday, April 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 28 April - Cloud, 19C; 29 April - Cloud, 20C; 30 April - Sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 5 to 6.

Breezy and mostly clear, though there has been some rain and it is possible there might be a spot more to come. The outlook for the next couple of days is for quite cloudy conditions and cooler temperatures.

Evening update (19.30): Bit of an understatement saying that there might have been a spot more rain to come: it tipped down for a time. Later, the wind was pretty mad as well. Ok now. High of 22.2C.

No Frills Excursions

Marching For Education?

A hundred and twenty million steps sounds a good deal more impressive than ten thousand people, but ten thousand there were (organisers' figures) marching on the capital: more a green, slow-moving road block than a green tide - a "marea verde" (or better, "verda"). 

The march of the ten grand started at ten on Saturday morning in Inca. It would appear that it takes eight and a half hours to walk from Inca to Palma's Plaça Major, though it might have been quicker had it gone straight down the motorway. Symbolically, however, this would have been a poor idea. The ten thousand heard that in 2011 they, and indeed the whole of the Balearics, were to have expected "motorways of education". Needless to say, the motorways had not been built. All that had been delivered were cart tracks.

It was a strange metaphor to have offered, but then it had been strange for the Bauzá administration to have apparently been promising motorways of education in the first place. What is a motorway of education exactly? There again, once Bauzá had realised that his government had made a balls-up of so-called free selection of teaching languages (between Catalan and Castellano) and had conjured up the non-manifesto item of trilingual teaching, perhaps the motorway had been being built after all: English on the outside fast lane, Castellano in the middle lane, and Catalan reduced to a crawl on the inside lane.

This motorway madness, though, was ended by the Trafico of schools which had rather bent the figures of numbers of parents who had plumped for the politically incorrect Castellano option in order to scupper free selection and subsequently of the combined forces of unions, teachers' assembly (Assemblea de Docents), parents' associations, school directors and opposition parties. The boys in green were substituted by the green t-shirts of the green tide. Halt! Stop! The fast and middle lanes were exceeding the teaching-hour limits. The inside lane had to be given its priority again.

A month away from the regional parliamentary election, the Assemblea and its fellow slow-moving travellers had given ample warning of their intention to once more voice their discontent with the government's language policies: primarily the one to do with teaching languages. Here was to be a reminder to the electorate of the dictatorship of Bauzá, the authoritarianism of Bauzá and of the cart tracks travelled by those who were instead aspiring to maintain freedom.

Language rights, said Jaume Mateu, the president of all-things-Catalan promoters, the Obra Cultural Balear, had been subjected to "ruthless attacks" from the dictator. After eight and a half hours on the march, the blistered-feet ten thousand needed such a rallying cry. The comedian Miquel Àngel Llonovoy quipped that, as Bauzá loved English so much, they would be saying "goodbye" to him in May (goodbye said in English, you understand). It would have brought the house down had there been a house to have been brought down.

The day before the march, the Mallorcan federation of parents' associations and the Balearics' co-federation of parents' associations had complained to the board which oversees fair play at elections about Bauzá's "totalitarian attitude". The Partido Popular had complained to the same board about a campaign by these associations which it considered was designed to "influence voters". Somehow, one doubts that there will be any influence: minds have long been made up, positions have long been taken in the teaching languages' battle. (By the way, has the Mallorcan federation ever taken any English lessons? Its acronym, FAPA, is, when spoken in English slang terms, somewhat unfortunate.)

When it finally draws to a close, the obituaries for the current Bauzá administration will speak of one issue above all that has dominated. It hasn't been financing of the Balearics by central government, it hasn't been the occasional "collapses" in the health service, it hasn't been oil prospecting, it hasn't been the tourism law designed to meet the desires of the hoteliers, it hasn't even been corruption (and this really is an accusation that Bauzá doesn't deserve), and it most definitely hasn't been the stupidity of Magalluf's "mamading" and the even greater stupidity of the reaction. It has been TIL: trilingual teaching.

Throwing around descriptions such as totalitarian is also pretty stupid, but then, playing fast and loose with legal procedure, being revisionist in terms of manifesto claims, dumping TIL "wets" like ex-education minister Bosch have all played a part in a policy that, at best, has been insensitive. The arguments - for and against - have been chewed over often enough, so there is little point in their being regurgitated. But whatever merits TIL might have had (or indeed might still have) have been obscured by the deliberateness of political posturing by the government and its opponents. Who is marching for a sensible and consensual education system?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 27 April - Cloud, sun, 22C; 28 April - Cloud, sun, 18C; 29 April - Sun, 21C.

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

Light cloud, otherwise fine. The outside risk of a spot of rain this evening or overnight. Likely to be fairly cloudy for the next couple of days but returning to full sunny conditions on Wednesday.

Evening update (21.30): Cloudy at times, breezy at times but also sunny and warm. High of 25.2C.

No Frills Excursions

Plundering And Blundering

Oh my God. To plunder once, as Lady Bracknell didn't say, may be regarded as a bit of cock-up; to plunder twice looks like you mean it. How good is your Spanish? Would you be able to distinguish between the verbs "sacar" and "saquear"? You could be forgiven if you were not able to. But, the national secretary-general of the Partido Popular and the president of Castile-La Mancha? Oh my God. Dear Dolly was at it again: Maria Dolores Cospedal, throwing the PP what might be termed a Cospedal pass. "We have worked hard in plundering our country." Honestly, this is what she said at a meeting in Guadalajara on 17 April; the gaffe only really coming to light and having been given the attention it deserved last week. What she had meant to say was - "we have worked hard in moving our country forward" - but because she got her "sacar" and "saquear" muddled up, she didn't say this.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Dolly has stumbled over these verbs. In 2012, she was announcing policies that would plunder (or loot, if you prefer) Castile-La Mancha. Over the course of three years, Dolly's ambitions for looting have increased substantially. Not content with a single region, she's having away with the treasures of an entire nation. What a girl.

At a time when it was emerging that Rajoy's old mate (no longer a mate), Rodrigo Rato, had been not so much a rat who had left a sinking ship but - allegedly - one who had rammed it with his pirates' ship, boarded it, deprived it of all its vast horde of pieces of eight and had then set fire to it, Dolly's mixture of verbs was especially unfortunate. Or perhaps it was entirely appropriate. The Pirate Plunderers of the PP: it has a ring to it. Major-General Matas, The Pirate King Bárcenas, and many a Pirate Apprentice: "They are the very model of the modern political party".

Linguistic balls-ups by PP prominenti are of course not uncommon. A fine example of the genre was that of erstwhile education minister in the Balearics, Joana Camps. She trampled her heavy boots all over the PISA Programme for International Student Assessment by believing that PISA was in fact the Spanish verb to tread, which she then duly translated into Catalan, thus compounding the error and turning herself into a laughing-stock (which admittedly wasn't that difficult).

Joana should have been demanding double geography lessons for her colleagues in the party, as there have been the geographical gaffes as well. Take Mariano Rajoy, for example. Prime minister of Spain. Should have a reasonable grasp on the subject, you would think. Not when it comes to Mallorca, he doesn't. Hence, he referred to the island of Palma. And, blow me, Dolly has the same sort of problem. The day after she was boasting about all the plundering, she was at a meeting in Extremadura. Or was she? According to her, Las Hurdes, which is where she was, is in Andalusia. It isn't.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 26 April - Cloud, sun, 23C; 27 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 28 April - Cloud, 18C.

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

A fine morning and a fine, warm day in store. The southerlies appear to be bringing in cloud though and tomorrow's forecast is for more cloud than sun, the cloud - at this stage - looking as if it may persist into next week.

Evening update (21.30): A high of 25.4C. Good amounts of sun but, despite the high, distinctly nippy at times out of the sun.

No Frills Excursions

Rebuilding Bridges In Alcúdia

Are there really 28 bridges over Alcúdia's waterways? Perhaps there are. I confess I have never bothered counting them, but I'll accept that the number is accurate just as I'll accept that it will cost 1.2 million euros to return them to a condition that might warrant their being called bridges. How long have we had to wait for movement on this? Far too long.

The bridges, as with the canals and the lakes, are not ultimately the responsibility of the town hall. The Costas Authority is responsible. This division of the national environment ministry, far away in Madrid, has appeared to wish to take absolutely no responsibility for the bridges. Until now. Why, though, it is really necessary to get Madrid actively involved is a good question. There is, after all, an entire delegation of the Costas knocking around the Balearics. What do they do with themselves?

Madrid it is, though, and so it was to Madrid that Coloma Terrasa went, accompanied by one of her mayoral predecessors, Miquel Ramis, in order to meet the sub-director for the Costas, Angel Muñoz. (It can't have been deemed that important if it was only the sub-director.)

But Sr. Muñoz will be getting the authority to cough up the 1.2 million euros for the 28 bridges, and work on them is scheduled to start after the coming tourism season. The work cannot be done during the season, said Coloma, as it would "cause inconvenience to tourists and residents". And she was right to say this of course, though why she said nothing to similar effect when work was going on at the new Viva hotel last summer one doesn't quite know.

The work to be done on the bridges will represent a "partial" renovation of the area: 30% of a total budget that is due to be spent on the whole pedestrian area around the lakes and canals. When the remaining 70% of the budget will be made available is not known. Nor is it known what it will actually be spent on. However, one can always refer to the town's touristic development plan 2014-2015 to get some clues. Under this plan, a recreational zone is supposedly going to be created by the big lake (Lago Esperanza) and new "touristic attractions" will be created "with the Lago Menor and canal spaces", whatever this means. There is also scope for the "revitalisation of the Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus zone".

It's an interesting document, this plan. The ideas for the Mile (Pedro Mas y Reus) include a plan for its modernisation: not of the infrastructure but of the businesses. Really: that is what it says. Which businesses do you suppose they have in mind? And how do you think they are proposing that this modernisation might be effected? Answer: there are no proposals. Just an idea.

Anyway, a revitalisation "action" for the Mile is the control of the "venta ambulante ilegal": that's looky-looky men and lady hair braiders to you and me. The control is such that it seems that many of the lookies have decided to get off the streets and make a damn nuisance of themselves around the pools in Bellevue. And, because there are few if any physical obstacles to prevent them from doing so, they can get access to holidaymakers with ease. Trip Advisor reviews note this activity: yet another black mark against Bellevue. Where are the security personnel to kick them off?

Friday, April 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 25 April - Cloud, sun, 23C; 26 April - Sun, cloud, 23C; 27 April - Sun, cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing East 3 to 4 around midday and veering South by the evening.

A fine morning. Cloud may form later in the day but with no real risk of rain. The breezes also due to swing southerly and remain so for much of the weekend, so likely to be quite warm.

Evening update (19.45): High of 26.3C. Not bad.

No Frills Excursions

The Benefits Of A Tourist Tax

Catalonia, in case you need reminding, is the only region of Spain which has a tourist tax. It is not an "eco" tax, it is a tourist tax plain and simple, one designed to raise revenue, much of it allocated to purposes for which it was intended: improvements to the tourism offer, promotion, and tackling seasonality. The Catalonian Government has published, in detailed graphical form, the sources of revenue from the tax - by type of tourism accommodation and by areas of Catalonia.

To cut to the chase, the tax had swelled the government's coffers to the tune of 82.3 million euros from the time it was introduced (November 2012) to the end of last year. The revenue is not as great as had at one time been estimated, but this is because the tariffs were reduced from those that had initially been proposed, while a maximum limit of seven nights to which the tax could apply was introduced and under-16s were excluded.

The graphics are revealing in two ways. If one takes the figures for the Costa Brava, the revenue raised by hotel establishments amounts to just over two-thirds. Of the rest, there is significant revenue from camping and from what is simply referred to as "apartment". Camping in Catalonia is a very important aspect of the region's tourism. It is something which in Mallorca doesn't exist in commercial terms: the product of 1986 legislation that made camping all but commercially unfeasible. As for "apartment", a good amount of this will be from private apartments which have been regulated for commercial exploitation under the Catalonian system of standards of accommodation (similar to the "keys" categorisation which applies to the official tourist apartments in Mallorca). There is, of course, no such system for private apartments in Mallorca.

So, Catalonia, which attracts roughly 50% more tourists per annum than the whole of the Balearics, benefits by some 40 million euros a year because of what is a relatively modest tax. It is a tax about which many in the local tourism industry had their doubts, including the president of the travel agencies' association. Yet he, Martí Sarrate, has said that the tax has not affected tourism. Indeed, the revenues have proved to be a "good" thing. When making these observations, he added that a similar tax in the Balearics need not have the negative consequences that many believe that it would.

The possibility of a revival of the eco-tax in the Balearics is fairly and squarely on the political agenda and is a feature of the election battle. President Bauzá remarked the other day that its reintroduction would be an "error". He may be right and it may well indeed be unsuited to Mallorca because of the volume of negative international publicity that a tax would create. But even so, 40 odd million per year is a sum not to be sniffed at.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 24 April - Sun, 23C; 25 April - Sun, 22C; 26 April - Sun, cloud, 23C.

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

A better morning, i.e. there isn't the cloud of yesterday, so hopefully there won't also be the spitting rain that there was for a time yesterday.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty warm day. High of 24.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Worst Hotels In Mallorca

Trip Advisor, bless it, offers a useful means of filling newspaper columns. Short of some copy? Why not use some Trip Advisor Travellers' Choice best-of info? The local media loves this stuff, even if the result of the choice is relatively unremarkable, such as being ranked seventh. I mean, why would you bother mentioning being seventh? Little is the kudos to he had, even if Mallorca can revel in the glory of being the seventh top island in Europe (Santorini is number one).

While Trip Advisor floods media inboxes and news feeds with its top-of-whatever lists, it doesn't make a habit of considering the other side of the travelling choice coin: the lowest of. Such rankings might, I would suggest, be of rather greater interest than the top ones. Rather than the best, which are the worst?

Ever one to undertake a more arduous task than merely regurgitating something from a press release, I have given Trip Advisor a bit of a hand. Want to know the worst hotels in Mallorca? Well, they're coming up right here. Sort of.

I was inspired to delve into the depths of Trip Advisor rankings by a correspondent who informed me that a particular hotel was a "health hazard", where "staff physically and verbally abuse tourists", where robberies are "commonplace" and where the unofficial all-inclusive offer allows guests to drink as much local vodka as they like at a rate of six euros an hour. Pretty good, eh? 

With the proviso that, in order to get a good sample, a hotel had to have more than 100 reviews, I set to work. In fact, it wasn't that arduous. There may be over 1,000 Mallorcan hotels reviewed on Trip Advisor but its rankings system very conveniently puts those with no or few reviews at the end together with the lousy hotels. Click on the places with over a century of reviews, home in on the number of terribles, calculate the percentage and, bingo, you've got the worst. It took far less time than I had imagined.

There is, therefore, a worst top five. My apologies for any hotels that I may have overlooked, but fifth worst is ... . Er, should I actually name and shame? Should diplomacy get the better of me? Perhaps it should. So, being circumspect, I can reveal that the fifth worst is in S'Illot with a 26% terrible rating. "Avoid at all costs," remarked a reviewer. Fourth worst, well, this one's in Alcúdia: 26.2% terrible with "arrogant, ignorant and rude staff". In at number three, we're back in S'Illot, 33% terrible: "we left after two days and paid to fly home". In the runners-up slot, it's Cala Ratjada. 33.8% terrible, and proving that the Germans can be as critical as the Brits, "einfach widerlich" (simply disgusting). And at number one? Yes, it's my correspondent's hotel. Congratulations go to Santa Ponsa. 35% terrible: "if I could, I wouldn't even give this place a one star".

None of this is of course scientific, and one man's hellhole can just as easily be another's little piece of heaven (even our winner manages a 10.3% excellent rating). Moreover, there will be some reviewers who are trying it on: it's the Trip Advisor blackmail game. But when there is a critical mass of rubbish reviews, these have to amount to some proof of poor quality and standards. and it is this - quality - which is a key theme for the island's tourism industry. It needs to be upped. Urgently. And the regional government is demanding that it is.

Overall, the impression from Trip Advisor is that low standards of quality are confined to relatively few hotels, but the few can drag down the reputation of the many. So, what, if anything, can be done?

Certain hotel chains - Meliá is an example - now use reviews as a basis for senior management performance pay. But Meliá is the exception and not the rule. If hotels
won't themselves take action, what about the government? The tourism ministry should be monitoring reviews' sites. It should take note of the poor hotels. It should send in inspectors. It should have powers to apply sanctions, the ultimate one being closure.

Would the government do this? It's doubtful. There aren't enough inspectors, while these are hotels and not easier targets for inspectors, such as bars. As I have previously noted, it is inspection which is likely to be a reason why the new tourism law will not live up to its content. Take the unofficial all-inclusive offers as an example. Will they be registered, as hotels are now required to register any all-inclusive element? And if they're not, who is going to check?

Opinions on reviews' sites cannot be taken as being definitive, but when the level of poor reviews and ratings is as it is with some hotels, they should prompt action. Does Mallorca want quality or not?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2015


Morning high (8.00am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 23 April - Sun, 22C; 24 April - Sun, 23C; 25 April - Cloud, sun, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4.

Cloudy morning. No sign of the sun at the moment but it should be on its way shortly. Due to be quite breezy at times, so possibly a tad chilly out of the sun, when it appears.

Evening update (20.00): Well, the sun took a long time to come out and even then it was only halfhearted. Spitting rain for a time during the day. High of 21.7C.

No Frills Excursions

You Are Not Mallorcan

I am making an assumption that you are not Mallorcan. You may live in Mallorca, you may visit Mallorca, but no, you are not Mallorcan. But not being Mallorcan does not prevent you from having opinions about Mallorca. These are opinions which, predominantly though not necessarily exclusively, will be formed from your own perceptions, from your own backgrounds. Are they Mallorcan?

There is a Facebook social network site called "Mallorquins en perill d'extinció". Translation is not needed. Even a non-Mallorcan can figure out what it means. Its title is exaggerated. Mallorcans are not about to go the way of the dodo. But does peril exist? And if so, when did the threat of extinction start and why?

Twentieth-century history offers some evidence. Francoism contained a threat but it was principally one to undermine Catalanism rather than island cultures. Even in the early years after the Civil War, local languages were receiving official permission. For example, the glosador verse-makers were performing in theatres of the first half of the 1940s. Later, and as a further example, the fiesta of Sant Antoni in Sa Pobla was declared to be in the national touristic interest in 1966. The cult of Sant Antoni was one that had been imported by the Catalan forces of the thirteenth century.

The greater threat was that of tourism. Its social impact was enormous, and non-Mallorcans arrived in droves, not just tourists but workers and also purchasers of property. You are the descendants of the 1960s. Indigenous culture was banished from the resorts and replaced with a Spanish standard, but even then there was acceptance of this culture, as with the Sant Antoni declaration.

The threat was, therefore, never total, and in the 1970s the combination of the oil crisis, Franco's death and the emergence of democracy brought about a revision and a revival. Local cultural associations such as Sarau Alcudienc in Alcúdia, the environmentalist group GOB, the activists Terra i Llibertat and the 1977 occupation of the island of Dragonera; these were all products of this revival, as was local politics.

The renaissance was facilitated by the politicians, not hindered. Differences there were, but from both right and left there was an appreciation of local culture and heritage and a strengthening determination to protect it and the environment. Old towns were given heritage orders; natural parks, such as Albufera, were established. But all the while there was the never-ceasing expansion of tourism, the constant construction of more tourism infrastructure and housing, the immigration of workers and residents and its greater enablement thanks to the Maastricht Treaty.

These competing forces didn't, however, bring about noticeable tensions; there were benefits to be accrued from the developments of the 1990s that followed the recession of the early part of that decade and which continued for a time into the new millennium. Concomitant with this was an inevitable consequence of a further explosion in tourism accommodation and indeed tourism itself. The hoteliers, always powerful, acquired ever more power. Even so, an unwritten accord between the competing forces remained. But then something happened, and it wasn't just economic crisis.

Arguably, you can pinpoint the time as that moment in 2008 when the last regional government pushed the cultural pendulum so far towards Catalanism that it was the competing force of Spanishness (and Castellano) that was threatened with extinction. Cultural tension, up till then mostly contained, surfaced. In seeking a correction, the current government has swung the pendulum back in the opposite direction. Latent division within society was no more. Division is no longer hidden or below the surface. Its fight is with extinction.

This cultural dimension is not the only justification for a poster produced by "Mallorquins en perill d'extinció" which is entitled, ironically, "you are Mallorcan if". It is there, nonetheless. You are Mallorcan if you want "our language" eliminated, a reference, one has to presume, to Catalan. Continuing in this ironic vein, you are Mallorcan if you accept the slavery of the hoteliers, the lack of protection of green areas, Europe's waste on the island, the Palacio de Congresos, the cost of water, the cost of travel from the island.

It is clearly a political statement, but not all of it can be disputed. You are Mallorcan if you pay for the most expensive petrol in Spain. This is a fact. You are Mallorcan if you pay more than anyone to the state without something in return. This is also a fact, one to do with the nature of state financing. It is a statement aimed squarely at the Partido Popular nationally and regionally (though not totally, as PSOE is not let off the hook), but in combination it is a declaration of discontent that would have been hard to have imagined even some ten years ago.

You are not Mallorcan, but maybe you are. Only you can decide this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 22 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 23 April - Sun, 21C; 24 April - Sun, 22C.

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

Splendid morning again. Fine day in prospect. Not a lot more to be said.

Evening update (22.00): And a splendid day it turned out to be. High of 22.1C.

No Frills Excursions

The Morality Of Proportional Representation

Alberto Nuñez Feijoo is the president of Galicia. A Partido Popular man, he was in Menorca on Sunday at a pre-election regional convention, praising the efforts of President Bauzá but also making observations that go to the very heart of the electoral system in Spain.

There is no such thing as the perfect electoral system. First past the post has the virtues of simplicity and acceptance of the wishes of a majority, but it has the drawback of non-representation of the losing minority. Proportional representation (PR) is designed to address this, but it also has a significant flaw - it can lead to administrations being formed in which the winners, i.e. those who receive the most votes, can be and quite often are excluded. 

It was this point to which Feijoo was specifically alluding. He said that "in the PP we know that if we don't win (i.e. get a majority), we cannot govern". He then added, perhaps confusingly, that "if we win, this should correspond to our governing", by which he meant that even if a majority is not achieved, the fact of having gained more electoral support than any other party should guarantee a role in government.

The Balearics is a good example of what he is saying. The PP gained a majority of seats in the 2011 parliamentary election, so there was no grey area. The party won more than the 30-seat threshold and was able to govern alone. In the upcoming election, it is unlikely that it will gain a majority. With allies among other parties all but non-existent, it would be deprived of a role in government through coalition even if - and this will surely be the case - it secures the most seats and also the greatest percentage share of the vote.

Last summer, Feijoo declared his support for a reform in the way that mayors are elected. The Rajoy government was proposing a change, which would have applied only to municipalities, whereby a party gaining 40% of the share of the vote or a clear seven per cent lead over the next party would be guaranteed having its mayoral candidate elected. This reform was due to have been taken to Congress for approval in the autumn, but in the end it was shelved because of an inability to gain support from other parties. Reforms such as this, as President Bauzá has discovered in the Balearics, require more than just having a majority in parliament; they need a qualified majority. Bauzá's wish to reduce the number of deputies in the Balearic Parliament was denied because he couldn't raise the qualified majority from opposition parties which objected to the reduction.

Opponents of the Rajoy reform argued that it was one designed to ensure that the PP, faced with declining support, was able to still keep power. An analysis of the 2011 elections in the Balearics revealed that, had such a system operated then, there wouldn't have been any major differences to the results, but that was 2011 when the PP polled very much better than they will do this year. 40% shares of votes or even seven per cent leads are going to be mightily difficult to obtain.

All this is, for the time being, hypothetical because there is no reform and, where regional elections were concerned, it was not one that had been proposed. Nevertheless, Feijoo was advancing the case for a first past the post-PR hybrid to apply in the Balearics. In so doing, he was making a moral observation rather than one based on the system as it is currently applied.

Does he have a case? Under the current system he doesn't but morally he may well do. He said that "politics is a contract with the citizens and with the polls based on democracy and the free expression of society". And this democracy is such that if the PP gains, as opinion polls suggest, the most seats in the regional parliament and a percentage share of the vote around 32%, it could find itself excluded from government. The free expression of 32% of society would be ignored.

PR does give voice to smaller parties and to wider society, but it can also penalise. Somehow, it seems wrong that a "winning" party should not find a place in government. This said, however, if Feijoo were to get his wish, Bauzá as a possible head of a government comprising all manner of left-wing representatives would be a recipe for even greater chaos than one that solely comprises these representatives.

There is no perfect system, but because PR is imperfect and because it will often throw up anomalies, perhaps it is beholden on parties to adopt more consensual and less confrontational postures towards rival parties. This can very much be said of Bauzá. Morality is one thing; popularity, or its absence, is quite another.

Monday, April 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 21 April - Sun, 21C; 22 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 23 April - Sun, cloud, 21C.

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

And more of the same today - bright, sunny weather, quite fresh with northerlies dominating. No real change over the next few days other than that there will be times when there is more cloud around than others.

Evening update (20.00): A bit nippy out of the sun, but otherwise fairly warm. High of 20.6C.

No Frills Excursions

The "New" New Tourism Law

The past three years I have spent time - above and beyond the call of duty - trawling through pages upon pages of Balearic tourism legislation. It had seemed, in June 2012, that further time would be unnecessary, but no. Remarkable though it is, the law of 2012 was not the finished article. How strange the legislative process is here that three years later, this very law can be presented as the "new" law, though there is in fact quite a bit that is new and that has been added.

These differences have chiefly been integrated in the pursuit of "consensus", one that tourism minister Jaime Martínez says has been achieved. He is right up to a point in that even those sectors of the tourism industry which might still have disagreements with him have put them to one side in displaying a show of unity for the Partido Popular; they have all broken out in a cold sweat at the very mention of Podemos or a pact of the left.

We will find out how real this consensus is, but in the meantime we have to come to terms with what is the definitive tourism law document, signed by President Bauzá and minister Martínez and posted on the Official Bulletin on 17 April. For media and PR purposes, a highlight of this "new" new law is the provision for dealing with party boats, a matter - in the scheme of things - of relative inconsequence. But it is one that makes for a good headline and is far less dull than, for example, all the appendices showing the sizes and colours of establishment classification.

While there will doubtless be those who consider party boats to be of utmost importance, my principal interests - as they have been over these three years - concern private holiday accommodation, all-inclusives and resort development. True to form, private apartments remain excluded from regulation and so "illegal" unless they are rented out under the tenancy act. Terraced houses, i.e. ones with houses to both sides, which had also been excluded, are no longer. Otherwise, it is as you were.

When the law was introduced (sort of) in 2012, hotels were to be required to come up with quality plans. It was these which appeared to form the basis of possibly tighter regulation of all-inclusives, and the new version of the law does give some detail as to how these plans are to be submitted. However, they apply to all hotels and not just those which offer all-inclusive and they require self-evaluation, which would then be subject to verification from inspection. But crucially, there is nothing specific to the all-inclusive offer in this; it is a quality system geared towards star categorisation.

What the law does include is a requirement for all hotels to register their offer of "pensión completa integral" - which means all-inclusive - be this offer optional or unique. It also demands that this offer is explained in publicity material. But then, many hotels already do this. As for registering all-inclusive offer, what is the purpose of this information? If it is for quality purposes, then star categorisation is not how this has to be ensured. All-inclusives, the large, cheaper ones, offer regimes of service and room quality and overcrowding that need to be dealt with, and the star system only partially addresses these. Will inspection lead to improvements? This would be very doubtful. A recent report showed that the tourism inspectors - twenty of them in all - spend mostly all their time on illegal apartments and bars and restaurants.

Martínez proudly says that the law now regulates all-inclusives' quality plans, but this, one fancies, is a statement for political (and electoral) purposes. Study the law closely, and this is not the impression one gets. He also says that the level of all-inclusive is decreasing. Is it really? If so, where? Moreover, how can he possibly say that it is if the all-inclusive offer hasn't previously been registered? He's talking nonsense.

On resort development, there is a good deal about "intervention" in touristic areas and declarations of "touristic interest" which amount to what has already been put in place for facilitating improvements in so-called "mature (outdated/obsolete) zones", e.g. Playa de Palma. But establishing these principles in law doesn't mean that they are acted upon in practice. Some time soon, I am due to meet President Bauzá, and one of the preliminary questions I have sent him has to do with the very subject of resort regeneration, of which, apart from Playa de Palma and Magalluf, there is very little. On becoming president, he said that this regeneration could not be delayed. Yet his government has spent virtually nothing on it. And why hasn't it? Because it talks about the necessity but leaves it to others, thus showing no strategic and financing leadership.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 20 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 April - Sun, 17C; 22 April - Sun, cloud, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4 veering Northwest 3 to 4 by the afternoon.

Still forecast that there might be a spot of rain this morning, though there isn't much sign of it at present. Sunny later anyway and warm. General outlook is good.

Evening update (19.30): Another fine day. High of 23.4C.

No Frills Excursions

The Blood Of Sant Jordí

Spain and England's greatest literary figures are linked through death. Or they would be if the widely held belief that Miguel de Cervantes died on the same day as William Shakespeare wasn't apocryphal. Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. Cervantes didn't. He died the day before and was buried on 23 April.

Many years earlier, in 303AD to be precise, there was an important death in the province of Bithynia, an ancient region of north-west Turkey. It was also on 23 April. On that day in history, Saint George, having already been subjected to appalling torture, was beheaded at the order of one of the Roman Empire's greatest psychopaths, the Emperor Diocletian.

Saint George, as I think we probably all know, went on to secure the gig as the patron saint of England and to bequeath to the country his cross, one to now typically be seen adorning hotel balcony railings in Mallorca during World Cup tournaments. Georgios, to give him his original Greek name, is a patron saint several times over, and included among his patronage are Aragon, Catalonia and the city of Barcelona, where he isn't of course referred to as George or Georgios but as Sant Jordí.

The Barcelona association is such that the city has something in common with England - the cross of Saint George. It is incorporated into the city's flag. For Mallorca, the association isn't as strong, but Sant Jordí is very much celebrated here. He is, after all, a former patron saint from the days when Mallorca was part of the Crown of Aragon.

Prior to sainthood, George, aka Jordí, was a knight of considerable talent, and his greatest achievement occurred in the village of Montblanc in what wasn't known as Catalonia all those hundreds of years ago. Back then, dragons were seemingly wandering the countryside wreaking mayhem wherever they breathed fire, and one dragon in particular was terrorising Montblanc. In order to placate the dragon, which apparently was angered because it had eaten all the local animals and so had nothing else to feast on, it was decided to offer it a human sacrifice. Unfortunately for the king's daughter, she drew the short straw. It would have been even more unfortunate for her had it not been for the intervention of our gallant knight, Jordí. He thrust his lance into the dragon and, as it died, it spewed out blood, and from that blood was to grow a rose bush.

This, at any rate, is the legend, and it is important for more than just the story of the slaying of the dragon. There was also the rose bush for, some time in the fifteenth century, it became common in Catalonia for a red rose to be given by a knight to his beloved. And, because Sant Jordí had met his terrible end on 23 April, this was the day when the roses were given.

The tradition survives, but it is one to which was added a more modern element. If "knights" were presenting their loved ones with a rose, what should the loved ones give in return? The contemporary tradition of the book and the rose on Sant Jordí's day was conceived in 1923 when book publishers decided to make 23 April the day of the book, not because of Sant Jordí so much but because of Cervantes. Nonetheless, it was useful to be able to come up with a commercial opportunity by playing a little fast and loose with the date of Cervantes' death and tying it in with the day of the rose. Book met rose, and publishers, bookshops and florists were delighted.

The celebration of Sant Jordí in Mallorca, in official ways, is mainly a celebration of the book part of the equation. There will, therefore, be book fairs in all sorts of places on 23 April, but no feast day in Mallorca is ever allowed to exist in isolation. Consequently, Sant Jordí's day can be more than one day or it can be a whole week or, in the case of Colonia Sant Jordí (where else), a week and a half.

Actually, this is stretching things a bit. The first act of the fiestas was on Thursday, the opening of a photography competition. Nothing else is in fact happening until Tuesday, but if they want to announce the fiestas as being from 16 to 25 April, then who is anyone to object?

So, if you are a knight and you have a loved one to whom you wish to give a book, which should you choose? What about something by Cervantes? Not "Don Quijote" but his short stories, "Novelas ejemplares", because one of these is called "La fuerza de la sangre" (the power of blood). And from blood grew a rose bush.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2015


Morning high (8.15am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 19 April - Cloud, sun, 19C; 20 April - Sun, 16C; 21 April - Sun, 18C.

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

Fog. Should lift quickly to give a mostly fine and sunny day. Tomorrow is now looking a bit iffy. Possible shower in the morning.

Evening update (19.00): Good day once the fog lifted. A high of 24.1C.

No Frills Excursions

The Psychology Of Lists

So, there was this thing - the BBC's website, I think - about lists. The psychology thereof. Why are we so drawn to learning the top ten things to do on a wet weekend in Wolverhampton? Perhaps they should also look into the psychology of why we want to read articles about the psychology of lists. Whatever the article was going on about, I was that underwhelmed that I can't remember what it said. If it had been a list, maybe I would have done.

José Ramón Bauzá may or may not possess intimate knowledge of the psychology of lists, he may or may not be a student of psephology, but he has been hard at it, putting together his own list. Now, who should I put at number eighteen, he may have mumbled to himself at home with Sra. Bauzá who was diligently compiling her own list of the week's shopping items from Mercadona (or any other supermarket; I have no way of knowing the shopping preferences of leading Balearics politicians' spouses as no one has issued a list to identify them).

I know, he would suddenly have thought. That taekwondo girl. What's her name? Brigitte Yagüe. That's her. Silver medal at the London Olympics. Number eighteen she is. How about the tennis boy? Hmm, he probably has other things to do. No matter, there's always his uncle. Rafael Nadal. If there's one good thing about Manacor - and it certainly isn't Antoni Pastor - you can rely on there being a whole load of Rafael Nadals to pick from. Number eleven he is.

Of course, no list for Partido Popular parliamentary candidates would be complete without a fair smattering of the fair sex to attract the fair sex vote. So, why not match women to even numbers and men to odd numbers. Brilliant. What psychology. Number two, Maria Salom; number four, Margarita Prohens; number six, Antonia Perelló (who?). And on they even numbered go, all the way down to the PP's taekwondo expert and beyond.

The trickier part was knowing who to leave out of the squad. When there are 33 to list plus a few reserves, you are not going to make everyone happy, but there will be one or two who are dispensable. How about the health bloke? Sansaloni. He'll be taking the rap for the "caso Farmacias" thing in any event but he won't make a fuss about not being picked. Personal reasons. Just tell them it's for personal reasons, Marti. And he has. Martínez. He's another one for the chop. As it is, never been too sure about a fella who looks as though he's enjoyed too many good lunches being in charge of sport and tourism. Off you go.

The list duly compiled, the winners and losers notified, the 33 headed off for Son Termens and a happy-clappy photo opportunity. All good friends together; one big, happy PP family. What psychology. What could possibly now go wrong? Shame that at the same time, Mariano Rajoy's old chum Rodrigo Rato was being arrested.

Friday, April 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 19 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 20 April - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

The slightly stormy conditions later on yesterday have passed. Fresher morning with a touch of haze. May be rather more by way of cloud over the weekend than had been forecast previously. Otherwise warm and mainly sunny.

Evening update (22.30): Decent. A high of 24.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Spending Nothing On Advertising

Which public sector tourism promotion agencies do you suppose featured in the top thirty spenders on advertising in Spain in 2014? Do you think the Balearics Tourism Agency might be one of them? Palma 365 perhaps? Or maybe even one of the island councils or town halls. The answer is of course that none of them feature. There is not one single public body in Mallorca or the Balearics which makes this top thirty, defined as having spent 500,000 euros or more on television, radio, press, internet, direct mail and mobile advertising.

This list is headed, by some considerable distance, by Viajes El Corte Inglés (32.4 million euros). Other travel agencies and tour operators get a look in, but of the public sector agencies, the highest ranking was Andalusia's (eighth with a spend of 2.2 million euros). Behind it came Mexico (tenth), New York (twelfth), Andorra (thirteenth), Galicia (fifteenth) with the Canaries, Castile-La Mancha, Malta, Madrid, Extremadura, Valencia and Portugal all listed.

It is no surprise that the Balearics tourism ministry's agency doesn't appear on the list as it doesn't spend anything on advertising; its promotional spend (such as it is) is dedicated almost exclusively to travel fairs. Yet somehow, even another low-spending regional agency, Valencia's, manages to part with half a million euros in seeking to attract national tourists.

But then, perhaps there is no need for such spend. With national tourists returning to Mallorca, thanks mainly to improved economic circumstances, then why bother? And this seems to be the prevailing attitude. Is it an appropriate attitude, or does Mallorca, conspicuous by its absence from advertising in established media, suffer in the long run? If it were conspicuous by its presence in less established media (social networks), then perhaps one might understand the attitude, but it doesn't engage in social media promotion either.

National demand in the first quarter was up by 10%, according to statistics, and these statistics, with which we are regularly bombarded, are to become the responsibility of the National Statistics Institute (INE). Currently, surveys of tourist spend and arrivals are actually the responsibility of Turespaña, the national tourism agency, and the intention to make this change was announced three years ago when the tourism secretary of state, Mallorca's Isabel Borrego, intimated that they might become more meaningful. The chances are that it will just mean that there are more of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 17 April - Sun, 22C; 18 April - Sun, 21C; 19 April - Sun, cloud, 18C.

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

Light cloud cover first thing, sun emerging later. Outlook for tomorrow and the weekend - mostly sunny and at times quite warm.

Evening update (21.15): More cloud through the day than had been forecast. Felt quite close and there was a spot of dirty rain during the morning. Sun in the afternoon gave way to increased cloud and a brief storm. High of 24C.

No Frills Excursions

The Great Survivor Of The PP

While the "list" of Partido Popular candidates for the Calvia municipal election caused a slight rumpus that would, for the most part one suspects, have been lost on the natives, the equivalent in Palma has not gone unremarked upon among a wider citizenry. As was already known, at number one on the list and so the prospective new mayor, is Marga Durán, whose selection last October was greeted with widespread disbelief. As I remarked at the time: "Margalida's stellar political career lacks only one thing - star quality". Described by others as a "neophyte", i.e. a novice, she had become parliamentary president at the end of 2012, having previously set parliament alight with a total of six questions that she had ever asked, "each of them designed to reveal the greater glory of the master" (aka President Bauzá).

Her selection was therefore interpreted as reward for compliant loyalty to José Ramón, but it also bore the hallmark of the real power behind the Palma PP throne, José María Rodríguez, the president of the PP in the city. Rodríguez, just as much as Bauzá, wanted rid of the all-too-independently-minded (and popular) Mateo Isern. And he got what he wanted. The list of council candidates reveals the extent of the purge of Isern. They are pretty much all so-called Rodriguistas.

If anyone in Mallorca's politics can be described as a survivor, then it is Rodríguez. During the time of the first president of the Balearics, Gabriel Cañellas, he was the director of the government agency IFEBAL, which promoted trade fairs and congresses in the Balearics. He became a Palma councillor in 1995 and was a deputy mayor until 2003, when he became the minister of interior in the Matas government. Four years of PSOE administration intervened from 2007, but at the end of 2011 he was back, and this time as the national government's delegate in the Balearics. He wasn't to last very long.

The anti-corruption prosecutor, Pedro Horrach, in investigating one of the many strands of the Palma Arena affair (one that has of course embraced Matas as well as Princess Cristina and her husband), has announced that in 2003 Rodríguez illegally financed the Matas PP electoral campaign. Horrach has established that he handed over 24,000 euros cash (black money) to the owner of the Over Marketing publicity agency that was running the PP promotional campaign. There will be no charge brought against Rodríguez: the statute of limitations doesn't permit it.

In 2006, when he was interior minister, Rodríguez made a telephone call to the mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo. He admitted that he made the call. Not long after the call, Hidalgo was arrested. The investigating judge, Alvaro Latorre, sought evidence from, among other sources, Andratx Town Hall security cameras, in order to identify who had been putting documents into rubbish containers. Rodríguez was to flatly deny that he had tipped Hidalgo off. The arrest led to what was called the "caso Andratx", the first ever corruption investigation of its type in Mallorca (into urban planning abuses), and subsequently led to the whole Palma Arena affair.

In July 2012, having been in his post for only six months, Rodríguez resigned as government delegate. He had been forced to because the Guardia Civil was looking into contracts relating to Over Marketing with Judge José Castro interested in allegedly irregular payments made by the PP to the agency.  Rodríguez defended his innocence and considered that his departure was "unjust". He said that his political life had been one guided by the idea of public service and by seeking to improve the lot of the citizen. The prosecutor, Pedro Horrach, has now offered his judgement on this idea of public service.

When Rodríguez was chosen as the government delegate, there was some surprise. It was a choice made with the agreement of President Bauzá and the Rajoy administration, but for Bauzá, it seemed one that he was accepting against his better judgement. He had vowed to have a clean government, but there was that old suspicion about the phone call. And there was also the fact that Rodríguez was close to the Matas regime; so close that he was having lunch with Matas in the weeks leading up to his going into prison. This regime, tainted by corruption, also represented the old guard that Bauzá appeared intent on sweeping away. Yet, Rodríguez survived, if only for a few months. His resignation was an embarrassment, but one suspects that Bauzá was secretly relieved. That Bauzá was to subsequently side with Rodríguez in the purging of Isern owed little to a desire for the return of the old guard: Bauzá wanted rid because of Isern's popularity.

Despite everything, Rodríguez remains, pulling the strings in Palma. He has survived, though whether the PP survives the wishes of the electorate, we will soon find out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 16 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 17 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 18 April - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

A fine spring morning again with the odd patch of light cloud. Warm once more today with a southeasterly likely to make some areas hotter than the forecast 21C.

Evening update (21.45): Clouded over in the afternoon. A high of 24C.

No Frills Excursions

On Behalf Of The Hoteliers' Party

And now, a party political broadcast on behalf of the Mallorca Hoteliers' Federation. "Good evening. As you know, we have been working tirelessly on behalf of all citizens of Mallorca to improve tourism, to create employment and to raise standards of quality in order to meet the challenges posed in today's competitive environment."

Well, this is not quite how it was, as the hoteliers have only released a leaflet and not taken to the television screens to present their manifesto; sorry, their ... . Their what exactly?

With there being so much talk at present of political pacts and of combinations (or not) of parties' initials, I have a suggestion. Actually, it isn't a suggestion. It has pretty much happened. There's a new pact on the block - the PP-FEHM (Federación Hotelera de Mallorca). The hoteliers' federation has despatched its leaflet, its manifesto in support of the Partido Popular to press outlets, extolling the achievements of the current government. The federation doesn't refer specifically to the PP, but there is little doubt as to where its sympathies lie, and they are not with Podemos.

To the fore in this manifesto are measures adopted, approved and taken by the government: the new tourism law, the decree on mature tourist zones, the decree of urgent measures to combat seasonality, the Playa de Palma redevelopment plan. All of them, by implication, have been required and/or successful. All of them have their virtues, but all of them, by further implication, are of benefit to the hoteliers and principally, the hoteliers.

The broader political message of the hoteliers' document is "the Balearics leads the recovery of growth and employment in Spain". Tourism, it goes on to say, is the "axis for economic recovery". Balearics and Mallorcan tourism has, therefore, been the motor of the nation's stagger towards economic improvement, and it is all, by yet further implication, due to the efforts of the Balearics Partido Popular. And its allies in the FEHM.

The federation in Mallorca has, as I think we all know, a great deal of power, and it is power founded on the strength of the hotel sector. So great is it that hoteliers in the rest of Spain are sometimes rather wary. When the federation turned up in Madrid last May with its fifty-point plan for tourist accommodation, this didn't sit well with organisations such as the national federation. It appeared as if Mallorca was assuming leadership and grabbing the attention of national government.

But Mallorca holds much of the national hotel power. There are of course major chains elsewhere, but no other region comes close to what Mallorca possesses. Its chains dominate the nation's hotel industry. It is little wonder, therefore, that they also dominate Mallorca's politics. When an island is as dependent upon tourism for its economic well-being as Mallorca is, then economics equate to politics, and in Mallorca, it is the hoteliers who truly wield the economic and so political power.

When the hoteliers refer to tourism being the "axis" of recovery, they are not wrong. They are also not wrong in pointing to advantageous measures that the current government has pursued. Some are extremely advantageous in lessening bureaucracy, permitting development and raising standards. But because they are also so advantageous for the hoteliers, the federation is perceived as being indivisible from the government and so the Partido Popular: the PP-FEHM. It is this alliance of commercial and political interests that causes the opposition it does in Mallorca. The hoteliers are perceived as acting only in their interests, with the politicians (those of the PP) in their pocket.

This all said, it has to be accepted that the realities of Mallorca's tourism are based on this hotel power. It also has to be accepted that for Mallorca to remain a genuine competitive force, there has to be a major overhaul of its resorts. Governments will only do so much. The private sector, the hotels and their investors, are key to this revamping of infrastructure.

Dislike in general society of the hoteliers - for their dominance, their perceived arrogance, their grabbing of others' business via all-inclusive, secondary activities and outright hostility to the private accommodation sector - cannot obscure their importance and their role in a remodelling of the island's tourism industry. Undisguised alliance with the PP should also not obscure potential risks that lie ahead with a change in government: the jeopardising of the more positive gains that have been made under the PP and through significant levels of investment made and in the pipeline. The hoteliers' interests are their own but they are not exclusively theirs.

Opposition parties might not disguise their antagonism, a reflection of a societal dislike, but they should be careful what they wish for. The hoteliers, the larger ones at any rate, have plenty of fish to fry, and these are on the shores of more exotic species than those to be found around Mallorca. Work with this power, not against it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 April 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 11C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 15 April - Sun, 21C; 16 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 17 April - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

Fine, clear morning. Sunny all the way today. The mini (one-day) heatwave that had been forecast for midweek looks as though it won't now be: the breezes are shifting northerly not southerly.

Evening update (22.30): Good. A high of 25.2C.

No Frills Excursions

The Ensaimada Is Turning Japanese

When Starbucks started selling what it called the "Mallorcan Sweet Bread" in its US coffee houses in 2010, there was an outcry among ensaimada traditionalists. The bun was coiled in the wrong direction. It should be clockwise. Starbucks had turned the clock back.

If only the ensaimada could also turn the clock back. Symbolic it is for Mallorcan gastronomy, albeit in a pork lard style that runs counter to generally accepted principles of the Mediterranean diet, but its recent history has not been a notable one. Economic crisis, inevitably, took its toll, but just as serious has been the loss of production of ingredients on the island which threaten its PGI (protected geographical identification) status, while there has also been a loss of sales to tourists, the result of all-inclusives, airline reluctance to allow the boxed ensaimada on board and cruise ship prohibition of food stuffs being taken onto ships. The traditional ensaimada has, therefore, been in decline for several years. There are now only twenty producers left; there had once been six times this number.

These problems have led to the dissolution of the regulatory council for ensaimada PGI and to the island's Association of Bakers and Confectioners assuming responsibility. This council didn't ask for much, but when it went in search of some official support, as it did in 2010, it was knocked back. Its president asked the government's director-general for agriculture for the grand sum of 18,000 euros to cover costs pertaining to the laying-off of two staff. This was apparently agreed to, but the promise was not met.

So, in addition to all its other troubles, the ensaimada was being treated with a degree of official indifference, and this despite the fact that it is of course revered as part of a Mallorcan gastronomy which supposedly offers an alternative tourist product.

Against this background, the ensaimada has, however, been emerging elsewhere. It isn't the Mallorcan ensaimada, but it is essentially the same, even if its coil is backwards. But might this be of benefit to the Mallorcan producers? Starbucks, when it launched its pastry, did explain on its website that the sweet bread was "called ensaimada in Spanish" (and the word is the same in Spanish, albeit that it doesn't have the umlaut over the "i" that the Catalan word has). The fact that Starbucks was describing it as "Mallorcan" might have been thought to be advantageous, but it would be stretching the imagination to believe that a direct benefit might accrue.

Now, the ensaimada is heading to Japan, but this journey has nothing to do with Mallorcan producers. A bakery concern in Madrid, which has traded as Pastelerias Mallorca since 1931 and which has fifteen outlets in the capital, is moving into the Japanese market and taking its version of the ensaimada with it, and it is perfectly entitled to do so as long as it doesn't call it Mallorcan (which would be a breach of the PGI rules). The Japanese, say the company, are big on artisan-style food products and their traditions as well as pastries, so the ensaimada fits the bill, even if it isn't the real thing.

Reaction to this in Mallorca has been to suggest that this will create confusion, but if the Japanese are unaware of the origins of the ensaimada, it is hard to see how they will be confused. There is also a recognition that it is a pity that no Mallorcan business has had the foresight to have done something similar. But without assistance for the ensaimada, it would be impossible. Or so it is said.

While the Japanese connection may not bring about any benefit for the Mallorcan ensaimada, it could, if someone took the initiative, have a benefit for Mallorca as a whole. If the pastry were to become popular, then it could act as a stimulus for Japanese tourism, of which there is very little at present. With this in mind, the PGI, it might be said, acts in a negative fashion. If Pastelerias Mallorca could actually brand it with the Mallorcan title, then who knows, maybe loads of Japanese, their curiosity piqued, would suddenly want to come to the island of the pastry's origin.

But it would be unlikely that this would happen, even though the PGI is in any event threatened because of access to locally produced ingredients. The "Mallorca" tag is jealously guarded as there are other ensaimadas across the globe, not least in the town of San Pedro in Argentina where an historical link with Mallorca and the ensaimada goes back to the nineteenth century. So strong is this link that the ensaimada is the town's symbol, and the town organises the annual national day of the Argentinian ensaimada, an occasion replete with ball de bot folk dance and other Mallorcan food. How very odd that no one has thought to do the same here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 April 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 14 April - Sun, 21C; 15 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 16 April - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East and Northeast 3 to 4 easing 2 to 3 by the evening.

Fair bit of light cloud early on which should disappear to give a sunny and warm day. The week ahead should have good amounts of sun with an interlude of warmer weather if, as forecast, the breezes swing southerly by midweek.

Evening update (19.00): Very pleasant. High of 21.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Palacio Success: Dependent upon flights?

So, six years after it first walked away from the project, the Barceló group that had left Palma's Palacio de Congresos a damsel in distress has returned in the guise of white knight saviour. How strange the machinations of Mallorca's touristic politics can be.

Barceló secured the bid because its was considered to be a better financial package than Meliá's. In other words, it was willing to offer to pay a higher rent for the complex, though the value it has placed on the option to purchase the accompanying hotel was lower. This option, worth 40.5 million euros, has to be exercised within five years. If not, the rent (1.75 million euros) will rise by 2% per annum, a chicken-feed increase in terms of its penalty value. As Barceló has the concession until 2052, it could afford not to bother buying the hotel and still have plenty of change left over, though the 2% would increase under conditions of higher inflation. It probably will buy it though, but only if it looks as if it makes economic sense to do so.

Barceló is to bring on board a company named GL Events, a French-based events and conferences management concern. It has an impressive portfolio, so its involvement is a distinct positive, but it is one of the few positives to emerge from the miserable history of the Palacio since the decision to build it was taken twelve years ago.

In announcing the award, Alvaro Gijón, Palma's deputy mayor and the president of the consortium overseeing the congress centre, said that there had not been any "bad faith" on behalf of Barceló. He was alluding to its decision to walk away all those years ago. Bad faith there isn't, but there is a bad taste where opposition parties are concerned. José Hila, the PSOE candidate for Palma mayor, accepted that everything was legal but considered Barceló's return to be "indecent". The company had abandoned the project and left the taxpayer to pick up the bill. Costs of maintenance alone during the many months when development work was suspended were colossal. The spokesperson for Més reckoned that the people of Palma had gifted Barceló eighty million euros, "thanks to the Partido Popular and PSOE".

In explaining why Barceló did return, its regional director for the Mediterranean, José Canals, said that the situation and the rules of the contest (for the bid) had changed. When the company definitively turned its back on the project at the start of 2011, it had done so because of arguments with the PSOE-led town hall over payment that had not been forthcoming. The situation, one might suggest, changed as soon as there was a change at the town hall later that year. Indeed, by the start of 2012 Barceló was saying that it might renew its interest.

And finally, it did. While all the old ground of what has happened (and for many months running into years didn't happen) will be trodden over again, now is the time to consider the Palacio's future, not its past and its cost - conservatively put at three times the original estimate.

The future brings with it the uncertainty as to how successful or not the congress centre will be. For Barceló to be convinced that it would be worth paying for the hotel, it will have to first convince itself that this would represent a good investment. There again, the ball is in its court. The incentive is all Barceló's. It, together with GL, has to make a success of this wretched project.

This success may well depend, however, on factors beyond Barceló's control. The greatest is that of flights. As I have mentioned previously, the conference season is generally confined to the months of low tourism activity, i.e. when flights are fewer to the point, in some cases, of non-existent. There may be demand from Spain, but success will surely depend upon the development of international markets. Will conference organisers be willing to commit when there are weaknesses with air connections in the off-season? And these organisers typically plan several years ahead.

There is also the huge competition to take account of, not least that of Barcelona, one of the world's premier conference destinations. Could Palma grab the type of mega-event that Barcelona (and Madrid) stage? It must be doubtful.

Nevertheless, there are some reasons for optimism. Palma is shaking itself out of promotional lethargy, and there is a good deal of positive news about the city at present. But is it just flavour of the month? There are plenty of other cities lining up and wanting to be nominated as the best. Then there is Simon Barceló. Might his non-executive directorship of AENA bear some Mallorcan fruit after all? Who can say, but ultimately one feels that it will be the flights' situation that determines success.