Monday, August 31, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 24C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 1 September - Cloud, sun, 29C; 2 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 3 September - Cloud, sun, 30C.

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

A fine start, and should remain fine. Starting to change from tomorrow with showers a possibility and later in the week looking as though they could be heavy.

Evening update (20.15): Clouded over then cleared up, now cloudy again and close. Rain possible tomorrow, and it wouldn't be surprising. Highs - coastal edging it at 33C over inland 32.9C.

No Frills Excursions

The Perfect Company Man

You wouldn't really have described Biel Company as a company man. Not politically. Elevated to supremo of the mega environment-agriculture-land ministry of José Ramón Bauzá's government, he took office as an independent. Biel knew about farming more than politics. His company background was that of the agricultural enterprise, not the organisation of a political party. He was of the Mallorcan heartland, born in Sant Joan, where they talk of nothing other than farming because there's nothing else to concern them, and talk about it in an impenetrable Mallorquín brogue. Perish the thought you would ever speak Castellano in this rural backwater.

When Biel was appointed, the farming community voiced its approval and, oddly enough for a businessman, there were warm comments from the unions. He may have ceased being an agricultural man of the soil with his hands thrust into the Mallorcan earth, but he was salt of that earth. He appreciated farming from both sides, and he did so with his roots in a conservative community, one that found appealing the politics that was to emerge when regional government commenced. Biel was 20 when another Biel, Gabriel Cañellas, became president. The party was to become the Partido Popular, and Cañellas gave it its definition: its regional definition, its Mallorcan and Balearic definition.

Once in government, Company was given the opportunity to prove that he was a company man. He took it and became a card-carrying member of the PP. As minister he did a fairly good job. He had his scrapes, such as the one to do with marine oil prospecting, but for the most part he kept his head down, stayed out of trouble and got on with his job.  

It was perhaps that previous independence which should have been a warning to Bauzá. As Company, in his generally efficient manner, acquired a good reputation, his stock rose. But he wasn't ever the full company man: not Bauzá's anyway. One could argue that he acted with ingratitude when he turned on Bauzá, but then all the ingredients why he did could have been foreseen: they were in the soil of Sant Joan.

Company has said that he would never have introduced trilingual teaching - not in the way it was, anyway - and nor would he have promoted the Law of Symbols and so the removal of the Catalan "senyera" flag from public buildings. As part of a government which did both, then this might seem a bit rich, but increasingly it became clear over Bauzá's time as president that he was not collegiate. He did things his way. It was he, Bauzá, who was not the company man; rather an autocratic and domineering entrepreneur crafting a new venture, a risk enterprise colliding with a culture of regionalism and of Catalan tolerance. Woe betide the CEO who tries to alter a company's culture without having the adept skills and charisma to persuade others to change. Bauzá didn't. Instead he charged headlong into change for which there was way too little support, and eventually the rebellion occurred, with Company at the head of the legion of the company of dissenters.

In being the first of the former cabinet to come out and say what he did last week, Company was voicing what many have thought. Despite the austerity, despite the advance of Podemos, had it not been for the anti-regionalism and for the assault on Catalan, the PP might still have won the last election, or at least not been as demolished to the extent that it was in losing fifteen parliamentary seats. He says that the party got themselves into too many "puddles". That's a literal translation. Holes would be more appropriate. And they were ones that could have been avoided, but Bauzá chose not to, and in so doing he neglected the roots of Cañellas's conservative, tolerant regionalism in the soil of places like Sant Joan. Company, ironically, might yet become the perfect company man. He's likely to become the next full-time leader of the PP. 

Index for August 2015

Aligi Sassu and the horse sculpture - 12 August 2015
All-inclusives: what is the regulation? - 5 August 2015
Bad weather in August - 19 August 2015
Balearic Government: policies and finance - 13 August 2015
Beach no-go areas - 6 August 2015
British police in Magalluf - 17 August 2015
Cala Varques, Manacor - 24 August 2015
Calas de Mallorca and all-inclusives - 1 August 2015
Catalonian nation - 28 August 2015
Cilla Black - 7 August 2015
Demons and politics - 27 August 2015
Embala't fiesta, Sencelles - 9 August 2015
Fiestas - who are they for? - 11 August 2015
Fun and the meaning of holidays - 4 August 2015
Gabriel Company - 31 August 2015
Jazz and politicians - 14 August 2015
Mallorca overwhelmed by tourism - 15 August 2015
Moors and Christians - 2 August 2015
Nepotism and health service - 10 August 2015, 18 August 2015
Podemos and its Balearic females - 3 August 2015
Prehistory and culture - 30 August 2015
Ramon Llull - 20 August 2015
Saint Bartholomew lanterns in Alcúdia - 23 August 2015
Squares - 16 August 2015
Tourist eco-tax - 8 August 2015, 21 August 2015, 22 August 2015, 29 August 2015
Tourist satisfaction - 25 August 2015
Tribute acts - 26 August 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 24.8C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 31 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 1 September - Cloud, sun, 28C; 2 September - Cloud, sun, 25C.

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

Cloudy, close and humid. Due to get sunny later but not much by way of breezes. The coming week looks as though it may be showery at times.

Evening update (19.15): Cloud lifted and came back now and then. Highs of 30.9C (coastal) and 32 (inland).

No Frills Excursions

The New Grand Tour: Mallorca's culture

Mallorca has some remarkable old buildings, some of which are barely discernible as buildings any longer. From the enormous imposition of Gothic churches dominating village centres to the majesty of mansions or monasteries in urban, rural and mountain locations and to the mysteriousness of the constructions of antiquity, within the smallness of Mallorca there is a vastness of architectural and archaeological heritage. It is patrimony of which the island is proud and yet which it has struggled to inform the wider world of. Culture and so cultural tourism feature high on priority lists of the regional government, the island's council, the town halls and the hoteliers federation, now committing itself to collaborative promotion of this grand collection, but somehow it is a collection, with the stories to be told, that can seem lost amidst the diverse and rich history of Mediterranean culture.

Though there is on Mallorca a collision of that culture, it is one, even with its ancient relics, that is of lesser antiquity. It is the lot perhaps of Mallorca and the Balearics that they are and were in the western Mediterranean. Most of what really mattered in Mediterranean culture occurred elsewhere and much earlier. The grand civilisations of prehistory were not western ones, and when the civilisations of more modern times arose, there were not, despite the claim of Ramon Llull in the thirteenth century, great Mallorcan seats of learning, just as there were not the architectural manifestations of imperial power or mercantile domination.

The first nineteenth century Mallorcan tourists of popular legend - Chopin and Sand and then the Archduke Louis Salvador and his friends - have assumed the importance they have because they were unusual. For a member of the nobility, Mallorca was a curious choice for the Archduke. Europe's noble class had chosen to ignore Mallorca (and indeed most of Spain) when indulging its youthful development on the Grand Tour. Where the Mediterranean was concerned, Rome and Venice were stopping-off points, destinations of the one-time great civilisations, of the arts, of culture as it was being defined. Palma wasn't even on the map. An island such as Mallorca was thought not to have anything to offer the culture-seeking bourgeoisie and aristocracy.

Culture, in a Mallorcan sense, was thus never given great prominence. There was no history, so to speak, to Mallorca's history. When tourism truly burst out, it was on to a whole new and artificial civilisation: that of the coastal resort. Yet in the first half of the last century, the focus of attention for tourism had been the island's heritage - natural and manmade. The routes for excursions in the years before the Civil War were to Valldemossa, Deya and Soller, or they were to the Caves of Drach, where a concert would feature as well. For eleven pesetas (thirteen on Saturdays), the Mallorca Tourist Board arranged these trips which left Palma at 9.15am every day of the week.

But while they went to sites like Miramar and Son Marroig, they didn't take in the real antiquity of the island, and that was because most of it hadn't been discovered or hadn't been excavated to a sufficient extent that there was something to see. The work on the Roman city in Alcúdia only started in the 1930s, for example.

There was greater antiquity being overlooked, and it is the one that has the mystery not just because of the strangeness of the remains but also because of precise timing. Mallorca's Talayotic period, from around the end of the second millennium BC, is a subject chewed over and debated by the archaeologists. These sites are now of immense interest and activity. Sa Galera, the small island off Can Pastilla, may date from as early as 1440BC. The dolmen burial sites of Son Baulo and near Colonia Sant Pere are thought to be older: pre-Talayotic. Another settlement - Ses Païsses in Arta - is a constant source of investigation. When was it actually created?

This cultural heritage, both prehistoric and modern, is being given greater accessibility and not just because of guided tours. Something has been borrowed from the days before the war when there were concerts at the Caves of Drach. Throughout this summer, there have been concerts in the gardens of grand buildings in Palma - La Misericordia, the former Convent of Santa Margalida (now the military history centre). There have been concerts at the fort in Cala Egos, at the Gràcia sanctuary in Llucmajor, and there are also concerts at Ses Païsses. There is one this evening by the pianist David Gómez.

Culture has, in a sense, finally arrived and it is doing so through a collision of diverse aspects of culture - music, art, architecture and archaeology. It's taken a long time, but Mallorca is now finding itself part of a contemporary grand tour, and people are discovering that the island does, after all, have a great deal to offer.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 22.2C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 30 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 31 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 1 September - Sun, cloud, 29C.

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

Clear morning. Sunny and hot once more. Might be a bit cloudy tomorrow, with showers becoming a possibility from Tuesday.

Evening update (20.30): Feeling close and humid this evening. Today's highs - Coastal, 30.9C; Inland, 31.5C.

No Frills Excursions

Feeling The Heat: Eco-tax

It's been proving to be a hot August for tourism policy-makers. Biel Barceló, the minister for tourism, has been continuing his tour of the resorts this week, visiting Muro to hear about that town's tourism issues. It was an appropriate place to have gone. The vice-president of Playa de Muro's hoteliers federation is the same person who is the president of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation - Inma de Benito. It is a resort which is an interesting case study in the development of Mallorca's beach tourism. It grew later than others and was to escape some of the excesses. Environmental common sense prevailed when the scope of the City of Lakes of Alcúdia was scaled back. That ambitious project, as it had been conceived originally, would have devoured and reclaimed a great deal more of Albufera than was to eventually be the case.

Albufera with its symbolism for the natural environment, and Playa de Muro with its relative modernity and abundance of superior-grade hotels create the perfect context for much of what exercises the minds of policymakers. Tensions do arise, as with all-inclusive and with the golf course which is now highly unlikely to ever be built, but for the most part this is a resort which has a balance between the competing demands of tourism and environment and which has achieved this through a high level of quality - in terms both of hotels and tourist.

It is a resort also, however, which symbolises one serious problem for Mallorca and one to which far too little attention has been given. It is now attracting more because, as is also the case nearby in Alcúdia, the issues of water and sewage have assumed centre stage. These are issues where tourism, the environment, resources, services and infrastructure collide. In a nutshell, they are ones for which a tourist eco-tax might be designed. The provision of water itself is less of a concern (at present anyway), but the means of ensuring quality are of concern, as is also the ability of the existing sewage works - on the edge of Albufera - to cope with the strains of tourism in Playa de Muro and Can Picafort.

Sewage was at the top of the list of subjects for discussion when Barceló was in Muro. It also formed part of the discussion that Benito had the other day with the regional environment minister, Vicenç Vidal. Benito has been consistent in voicing her opposition to the eco-tax, but if the tax is to be introduced, then it has to be spent on what it is intended for. In her opinion, and she is surely right, it has to be directed at general environmental issues linked to tourism: things like water and sewage.

Benito is not so sure that this will happen, though. Indeed she has said that she fears that the tax will end up being swallowed up by the general tax revenue pot and spent on something else. She has referred to the charge on water - introduced by the last government, and one that received almost no publicity - which was earmarked for improvements to water sanitation and infrastructure. Has it been? She wasn't convinced.

Friday, August 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 21.6C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 29 August - Sun, 30C; 30 August - Sun, 29C; 31 August - Sun, 31C.

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

All is fine for the weekend. There may be a bit of a change by the middle of next week.

Evening update (21.45): Coastal high, 30.4C; Inland high, 33.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Big Fat One: Greater Catalonia

We all know El Gordo, the big, fat Christmas lottery with the interminable, monotonous infant chanting of the numbers. We don't all know Germà Gordó, but he wants us all to know him. He is Catalonia's minister of justice, and he believes there should be a big, fat Catalonia - the complete Catalan nation of Catalonia, Valencia, part of Aragon, Roussillon and the Balearics. (What have the Andorrans and the few knocking around in Sardinia done to deserve being excluded?)

El Gordó made his remarks at the weekend at the Catalan Summer University, a gathering held in the Roussillon town of Prades, west of Perpignan. The construction of a state, he said, in reference to an independent Catalonia, should not forget the entire nation, by which he meant the above listed regions. This "state" could grant its nationality on their citizens: the Catalonian nationality of a hypothetically independent Catalonia and an even more hypothetically Greater Catalonia, the sovereign nation of the mythical Catalan Lands.

To say that the suggestion has not gone down terribly well would be a massive understatement. The Valencians, in particular, are absolutely furious. If you think the linguistic wars of Mallorca are all a bit baffling not to say weird, these are nothing compared with Valencia's. As far as some Valencians are concerned, the Valencian language was formed separately from Catalan. Ultimately, everything, obviously including the notion of the Catalan Lands, comes back to language. Or not, as the case may be.

In trying to clear up the controversy that has been caused, the Catalonian government spokesperson, Neus Munté, has said that when El Gordó was referring to the entire nation, he was referring only to a strengthening of a common linguistic bond. In so doing, she has really only made matters worse as this clearly wasn't all that was being referred to, while the whole linguistic bond thing is wrapped up in regionalist sentiments, such as that in Valencia, which dispute the existence of such a bond.

But the issue does go wider than language, and it has to do with Catalonian ambition. For many, the Catalonian wish for independence extends beyond its borders and so not to the creation of a greater nation but something akin to a Catalonian empire, with Barcelona at its centre issuing commands.

Mallorca and Mallorcans are contrary. Many a Mallorcan supports Barcelona's football team, way more than support Real Mallorca. Many a Mallorcan clings to a Catalan heritage, bequeathed by Jaume I. But these same Barcelona-supporting, Catalan culturalists want nothing to do with Barcelona political dominance. They also, despite defending the teaching of Catalan and its preferential use in the public sector, say they speak Mallorquín and not Catalan. And they will say it with some intensity, just as they will be equally insistent in saying that they are Mallorcan. Despite all the history, which can get extremely tedious when it comes to arguments regarding linguistic roots, Catalonia's claim to one-time nationhood and so on, Mallorcans have a pick 'n' mix attitude: Catalonia and Catalan when they suit, Mallorca when it doesn't and, more often than not, Spanish as well. And just like the Valencians, there'll be arguments about separate language development.

So when a politician like El Gordó comes along and starts talking about Mallorca and the Balearics being part of a Catalan nation, the Mallorca part of the mix pulls the drawbridge up and repels the invader with its own volleys of rejection, almost as vociferous as those that have emanated from Valencia. The fact is, however, that there is not a cat in hell's chance that such a Catalan nation would ever be formed. President Armengol says that the debate kicked off by El Gordó is "sterile", and she's right, because there is no potency. Repeated surveys into identity have shown that support for the Catalan Lands is all but non-existent. Even some Catalan nationalists in Mallorca will admit that this is the case and that the notion simply would never fly.

This being the case, why is the suggestion even made? Partly of course it is all to do with history. But if history is so sure, why isn't it Aragon making the claim for nationhood, because that's where Jaume was king and that's what Mallorca (and Catalonia) were once a part of - the Crown of Aragon? The history, though, can get tedious. It can be interpreted and used to support whatever claim is being made. It can also, obviously, seem not of the present day or of the future.

But more fundamentally, and this is how the issue is perceived by many Mallorcans, it all has to do with Catalonia having ideas above its station, one that hasn't in fact yet been attained - an independent state. That, independence, does not have widespread support in Mallorca, while Greater Catalonia has virtually none.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 August 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 21.6C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 28 August - Sun, 31C; 29 August - Sun, 28C; 30 August - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3, occasionally 3 to 4.

Not a lot to be said, except for sun.

Evening update (20.15): Coastal high, 30.7C; Inland high, 33.8C.

No Frills Excursions

It's A Hard Life Being A Demon

You would think that being a demon would be a fairly straightforward affair. On a few occasions a year you put on the appropriate costume and head or face gear, get painted up, grab your trusty trident and head off into the night in order to engage in a spot of local population terrorising and bothering. Once all this is done, it's off to the nearest bar for a welcome caña or several. It's thirsty work being a demon, what with all that fire knocking around.

Alas, the demon's life is not so simple. It can be that he brings it upon himself. (It might be noted that female demons are in short supply, or non-existent when it comes to the "grand" demon.) There is, for example, the political angle, such as the message that the grand demon utters prior to the full-on terrorising. Muro's alluded earlier this year to the elections and to a time after them when the Bourbons would be abdicating. As in previous years, he once more launched into a tirade against corruption, for which souls will burn in hell. Or something like this.

By implication, one can conclude that demons are of the political left and republican by instinct. One can sense this implication strongly in Muro, where the demons and the town hall - of the right and still of the right, despite the elections - haven't seen eye to eye, through the mask, for some years.  So, the demon is not necessarily politically neutral, which is just one way in which he adds complication to his existence.

A further one has to do with demonic organisation. A few years ago - 2010 - the demon world threatened to be torn asunder when a rival association challenged the authority of the Balearic demons' federation. An emergency general meeting of demons in May that year had been called. All was not well, and a demonstration night of fire was put on in Pollensa. It was a show of strength by the rival demons: the souls of the federation would burn in hell. Possibly.

They seem, though, to have patched things up, but this doesn't prevent there being little local demon difficulties. In Son Servera, as an example, there was the business regarding the grand demon and interpretations of demonic activity. He, the demon, appeared to have been flouting tradition. In came some fresh new blood to the organising committee (the obreria), and it was determined to restore the correct ways. While all this was going on, graffiti was being daubed and social media were taking sides.

There are obreria in several towns, and they are most prominent in the affairs of January's Sant Antoni fiestas, when the demons are at their most demonic. In olden times, these were the organisers of church maintenance, but over times they acquired the keys to traditions: demons being among them.

Which brings us to Manacor, to its Patronat (what they call the obreria there nowadays) and to another little local demon spat. The roots of this go back to 1969, which was the year when Father Mateu Galmés was instrumental in reviving the whole Sant Antoni and so demon tradition. It was Father Mateu who also established the Patronat, a specific board of management to ensure that the traditions continued once he had gone. But despite the revivalist enthusiasm of Father Mateu, they ran into a snag. Being a demon was not on the top of the list of things that the locals wanted to do. We are talking quite a few years ago when there wasn't anything like the levels of popularity there now are for demonic matters. In purely social-standing terms, being a demon was looked down upon by many.

These demonic roles were not the ones of the rampaging demons but of the ceremonial demons, the ones which aren't scary. But ceremony or no ceremony, there was reluctance amongst locals to come forward, so the Patronat ended up handing the roles to those who were willing to put their hands up. Moreover, these were posts for life, could be inherited and be paid for.

The president of the federation of residents' associations in Manacor wants this all to change. Not only shouldn't any money be involved, the demons should be elected, just like there are elections each year for, for instance, Pollensa's Joan Mas and Dragut and the Moors and Christians set-to. The Patronat is having none of it. The federation has rejected any idea of boycotting events with demons, but it insists that now may be the time for a touch of modernity to creep in.

So, whenever you encounter demons, be they the wild or less wild variety, just bear in mind that behind every demon there are, variously, republican sympathies, organisational politics, disagreements over demonic activities and arguments regarding birthrights. A demon's life is not a straightforward one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 August 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 22.3C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 27 August - Sun, 32C; 28 August - Sun, 29C; 29 August - Sun, 28C.

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

Seems clear coming towards sunrise. And should be through the day. All is fine for now. Change of month, and there is talk of possible showers.

Evening update (23.00): Coastal high, 29.5C; Inland high, 32.3C.

No Frills Excursions

Shine On: The trials of tributes

It was the days before decimalisation. I know this because it cost fourteen shillings, an astonishingly small amount even for what must have been either 1969 or 1970 and given the fact that they were already massive. They had embarked on a tour which took in some small college venues, and the prices reflected the fact. For fourteen bob at Farnborough Technical College, in whatever year it was, a young teenager and his mates got to see them. And to hear them, Azimuth Co-ordinator and all. They were of course Pink Floyd.

Around this time, the 14 or 15-year-old teenager got to see the Floyd twice for free. One occasion was in Hyde Park. The other was at the BBC's Paris Studios in Regent Street. John Peel walked along the queue outside, stopped to talk briefly. How many heroes could a teenager deal with on one evening. The Floyd premiered "Atom Heart Mother". Live on radio. They flunked the opening and had to start again.

Getting tickets for this latter performance was a random affair. You applied for any session. It just so happened that it was the Floyd. When the tickets arrived in the post, it was the nearest you got in those pre-interactive days to the "OMG, I don't know what to say" moments of Radio One on-air competitions to get tickets for the Big Weekend and such like: to see and meet, perhaps, One Direction.

By a twist of fate, these two worlds - old and new - have collided in their tribute form. Out of the blue, the Floyd - in the form of Minorca's The Other Side as part of their "Shine On Tour 2015" - will be turning up in the car park at Alcúdia's Hidropark on Friday, a peculiar twist in itself, given the similarity of Hyde and Hidro parks. Meanwhile, and close by, One Direction (the tribute version) will continue to smash the Delfin Azul on what now must be considered the farewell (possibly) tour. 

It's not easy being a tribute act if the original disintegrates or ceases to be. When Zayn left, there was no escaping the fact that five needed to become four. It was the same when Jason walked out on Take That. In the pursuit of authenticity, the Oranges had to be crushed.

There is no such similar necessity with Pink Floyd. They ceased to be years ago. One of them is not of this Earth any longer (two if you include Syd), The Other Side have no need for pretence. They are a show. A tribute, yes, but an impersonation most definitely not.

It is this - impersonation - where the tribute edges blur. There are acts which, while clearly tributes for one thing or another, don't set out to impersonate. They are shows in their own right. Abba Angels, for instance. You would never have got Agnetha cracking jokes during an Abba set. Then there are those which do, well, perhaps take things a little too seriously. I once fell foul of a Take That Gary for having committed to print the suggestion that they should team up with the Robbie who was on the same benefit event bill and re-form. The Robbie seemed more than happy with the idea. The Gary, less so.

There again, it was understandable. The potential to mock - and this hadn't been such an attempt - is too simple. But if mocking occurs, it fails to take account of the hard work and professionalism of many a trib act. There are many good acts knocking around Mallorca. They are entertainers, the providers of shows. They are not the absurdity of the playback, the cheap miming option that has got entertainment a bad name.

The tribs are very much a feature of a Mallorcan summer. It wouldn't be quite the same without them. Of course, not everyone appreciates them, but when there exists a volume of work that is as well known as, for example Abba, and packaged professionally into a specific show, then what's there not to like?

This all said, it can depend on the volume of work and that part of it which forms the show, which brings me back to Pink Floyd. The Other Side's promotion is full of allusion to comfortably numb, to shine on. The name itself is an indication. "Dark Side Of The Moon" was an enormous commercial success, but it represented the transition from weird and wonderful Floyd to discernibly rock group Floyd. Will The Other Side engage in half-hour improvisations of "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun"? I somewhat doubt it. There are the pre-Dark Side and post-Dark Side camps. I'm firmly in the former.

Nevertheless, there will be plenty who don't take such a fundamentalist view, and rightly so. Tributes, of whatever type, members departing or members passed away, are shows. For enjoyment. Shine on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 August 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 23.7C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 26 August - Sun, 30C; 27 August - Sun, 29C; 28 August - Sun, 29C.

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

A cloudy start, some of the cloud looking a bit ominous. Not forecast for rain though. Quite the opposite.

Evening update (20.00): Cloud lifted, not completely, and has now returned. Coastal high, 29.1C; Inland high, 29.9C.

No Frills Excursions

Tourist Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

We are told, repeatedly, that things have never been better for peak-summer tourism. In they come, the holidaymakers, great droves of them, boosting occupancy levels in some resorts to 100% (a figure which may be given but which is only truly attained in specific instances and never resort-wide). More passengers than ever before have passed through Son Sant Joan. The "irregular" offer of holiday accommodation is booming in much the same way as the legitimate offer is. But this joyous news is, as always, tempered by realities created by all-inclusives and of genuine spend. It may well be up, but the spread is not uniform.

It is also tempered by concerns that there are simply too many people. The strains on services, on infrastructure, on the environment are such that the regional government appears willing to consider what has not previously been unthinkable but which has not been acted upon or at least seen through: a deliberate and concerted strategy aimed at reduction, offset, the government would hope, by a smoothing of tourist numbers to create a longer season.

While the politicians agonise over this human and environmental pressure, dabble with financial engineering (tourist tax, off-season social security discounts) and constantly utter the mantra of a tourist base of greater quality, the hoteliers have been hard at it, raising their game along with their star classifications and so prices. Profit is up, turnover is up. Tour operators are gladdened by the upward trend in the quality of hotel stock. Mallorca may be more expensive - hotel-wise - than most of the Mediterranean, but to the advantages of reliability, safety and durability can be added this recent qualitative leap.

But if this is all the case, why are the people who really matter - the holidaymakers - not more satisfied? Are the strains causing them to be less satisfied? Are they more discerning, more demanding than ever before? Is dissatisfaction simply the result of their not having been asked before?

Gadeso, the Mallorcan research organisation, does ask tourists. It has been asking for a few years now. It isn't alone. Cala Millor is an example of a resort having finally cottoned on to the need to conduct surveys with the objective - it might be hoped - of the opinion-asking being more than just PR. But the surveying is limited; Gadeso's sample base is small - only 400 interviews.

Given the size of the sample, should the latest tourist satisfaction survey be considered credible? Can it ever be truly representative of what is, after all, a highly diverse market? Tourists form anything but a homogeneous market. It is one that differs in every way imaginable: demographics, attitudes, country of origin, expectations, to cite just a few.

The findings, therefore, come with this caveat. Nevertheless, there are worrying trends. Take the upping of the quality ante and of prices. The price-quality ratio for accommodation is deemed "adequate" (six out of ten), but it is slipping by a point year upon year. It's impossible to know if this is as a consequence of higher prices or of, for example, a more demanding attitude, one that may be influenced by experiences in other destinations. Whatever the cause, despite the efforts to raise quality, the satisfaction level stubbornly continues to drop.

It is when one leaves the hotel, however, that things go decidedly pear-shaped. The price-quality ratio satisfaction for the "specialised" offer - restaurants, beach services, shops, sports facilities, leisure activities - has gone from "deficient" to "very deficient" (2.9 out of ten). Gadeso supports this finding by referring to excessively high prices for food and shopping that are "repetitive and outmoded". It is an embarrassing finding, given that gastronomy is supposedly one of the great saviours of Mallorca's tourism.

Then there is what may be evidence of those strains of human pressure. Down have gone assessments for water quality (the sea's), for air pollution, for the general environment. Down also are opinions on what previous surveys had already identified as the two most deficient factors - cleanliness and noise (acoustic contamination).

Palma's new mayor, José Hila, has identified filth as a major problem for the city, and his administration is making efforts in rectifying this. But is Palma unique? Cast an eye around and observe, for example, plastics recycling containers that are overflowing and so not emptied often enough. Has it not occurred to anyone that there is high plastics waste on account of all those bottles of water and drinks being purchased? This is only one example, and standards of waste collection will doubtless vary from resort to resort, as will complaints about noise.

Gadeso cannot be taken as being definitive, but it is an indication. As such, therefore, it should serve not as the definitive word but as the starting-point. There should be far greater systematic surveying of visitors: resort by resort.

Monday, August 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 August 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 24.7C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 25 August - Sun, 28C; 26 August - Sun, 29C; 27 August - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 4 to 5 veering Northeast by the afternoon.

All looking pretty good at present. Not too hot, the UV dropping a tad and fairly breezy.

Evening update (20.30): Feeling clammy. High of 31.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer

Do you remember the stereogram? It predated the days of the music centre, a massive sideboard type affair with a record deck stuck inside it and, as the name implied, two speakers built into its wooden frame. We had one of these home-entertainment leviathans. It occupied most of one side of the dining-room, somewhere into which no one ventured except at Christmas. The stereogram's contents were a tribute to times prior to and on the cusp of the invention of modern life, i.e. when The Beatles created the new world. Among the parental record collection was Nat King Cole's "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer", the cover of which showed a small, rocky cove and a scene of lazy, hazy and crazy that wasn't particularly any of these things save for the haze of brown that dominated the colours. These were also the days before Photoshop, Lightroom and advanced photographic and production techniques.

On some small, rocky cove in Mallorca one would hope that the island's politicians were being lazy if not hazy or crazy. Sadly, they are not. High summer and the living should be easy and everyone can go into soporific meltdown for a time: myself included. These are not though the days circa 1963 when a Mallorcan politician, such as he was (and it would have been he), would have been neither seen nor heard. They were, politically, lazy days. They were crazy admittedly, but the craziness, in a Mallorca style, owed more to the first pilgrims of the jet age. Small, rocky coves were out. Artificial beaches, vast expenses thereof, were in.

Trust politicians to belatedly discover small coves though. Manacor's have. It was all too easily predictable, and I did predict it. Kick up a fuss about a cove - Cala Varques - look to reduce numbers on this unspoiled beach, start banning cars, draw attention to somewhere otherwise not well known, and bingo: more people than ever descend on it. If it's as wonderful as the politicians were intimating, then it's worth discovering. Did they not realise this in Manacor? Clearly not.

High summer and the politicians should all be "tranquilo", but they can't be when they have so much to prove. They are of the new, new world, the one of political accountability and transparency. Far from allowing a silly season to prevail, they are dashing hither and thither in crazed, unlazy fashion, creating an occasional Brian Rix-farce season instead of the merely silly: I offer Manacor as evidence of this.

At the head of this feverish summertime activity is the tourism dynamo, Biel Barceló. Manacor today, Soller tomorrow, Menorca the next. His four-year mission? To seek out new coves, new resorts. To boldly go where no tourism minister has gone before. So, there's no time like the present to begin the mission. Perhaps it's all an attempt to divert attention from the eco-tax and the high farce of the mooted airport collection scheme.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 23.2C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 24 August - Sun, 30C; 25 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 26 August - Sun, 30C.

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

Very much better weather for the famed duck swim of Can Picafort, rearranged from the 15th when the waves stopped play.

Evening update (21.30): Some cloud during the day, quite pleasant breeze. Highs - coastal and inland - similar: 32.9C coastal against 32.7C inland.

No Frills Excursions

The Last Of The Summer Melon

24 August is a feast day but it is also a day which epitomises religious violence - both legend and fact - that is the historical background to some fiesta tradition. The legend has to do with Sant Bartomeu, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, whose feast day tomorrow is. There are alternative versions of his death, but the most popular (if this is the right word) is that he was skinned alive and then crucified (or possibly beheaded or maybe all three).

This gruesome end seems somewhat appropriate for what occurred some fifteen hundred years later on the day of his feast: the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre. This occurred during the French Wars of Religion and the Huguenots were the targets. The 1572 massacre took place in Paris five days after the marriage of the sister of France's King Charles IX to the protestant Henry III of Navarre. Many Huguenots were in town. They would have wished that they hadn't been. Charles's mother, Catherine of Medici, is generally credited with having been behind the massacre, but others have been fingered by history, including Spain's Philip II, who was to later be the monarch behind the failed Armada.

While Saint Bartholomew's day is celebrated in Mallorca with the occasional violent burst of fireworks or cracks from demons' tridents - Consell, Ses Salines, Soller - it is a day of charming innocence in total and merciful contrast to the outrages perpetrated in the name of religion. In Alcúdia, there is a festival that originated in the town and which has spread to other parts of the island. It is the festival of the lanterns.

One says originated, yet in its recent incarnation the festival is comparatively new. As with other traditions that had for varying reasons disappeared, it was part of the revivalist movement of the late 1970s: a time when those forgotten traditions were being remembered and reactivated.

The festival is very simple. It involves melons (or peppers) being scooped out, faces carved and candles placed inside (other means of light are acceptable and can involve batteries). The watermelon is clearly preferable in order that the largest lanterns can be claimed. A fairly substantial pepper would be needed, but then there is always a place for mini-lanterns. The pepper, though, is something of a johnny-fruit-come-lately to the lantern scene, as the roots of the festival have to do with the melon.

Around this time of summer, the last of the summer melons are being harvested. There will still be enough for the good people of Vilafranca to consume in their famed melon-eating contest and to throw at each other during the equally famed melon battle of the town's fiesta/fair early next month, but generally speaking the melon is coming to the end of the summer line. And it was this that inspired the one-time predominantly farming community of Alcúdia to celebrate what it considered to be summer's end: approximately a month before everyone else.

The last of the summer melon had its poignancy and its sentimentalism. The children of the farming community would eat the final sweet fruit, but the melon's passing was something to celebrate as well. Hence, they made lanterns, and the lanterns' festival became a rather peculiarly pre-emptive lament for the passing of summer as well. The children would carry their melon lanterns through the streets and sing songs as they did so.

This is, as you can appreciate, a world away from the barbarity associated with poor old Bartholomew, but he could take solace from the fact that he was being appreciated in such a gentle fashion: one appropriate for an Apostle. Bartholomew's day was chosen because it coincided - approximately - with the final melon harvest.

It isn't known when the tradition actually started, but it is known that it had ceased to be by the start of the 1960s. It took the cultural association Sarau Alcudienc, along with the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB) promoters of Catalan culture, to bring it back. Sarau Alcudienc was in fact the Alcúdia offshoot of the OCB, and it was the lantern festival which was the reason for its formation. It has since become - and remains - one of Mallorca's most important cultural associations.   

The lanterns will be paraded from a quarter past nine tomorrow evening, but there's no need to go to Alcúdia. Do it yourself. It would be rather splendid if, at the same time, the whole of Mallorca lit lanterns. As a way of rejecting the unwanted symbolism of Sant Bartomeu. Religious violence.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 August 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 20.3C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 23 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 24 August - Sun, 29C; 25 August - Sun, cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing Southeast 4 from midday.

With southerlies dominating, there may well be that old Sahara effect going on today. Warm enough anyway. General outlook into next week remaining fine.

Evening update (20.15): Coastal high, 30C; Inland high, 33C.

No Frills Excursions

Barceló's Cook's Tour

Biel Barceló, the vice-presidential minister for Balearic tourism, certainly knows how to fill the column inches of the local press. You can't miss him as he's all over the media. Is this pure publicity-grabbing? It doesn't seem so. Bear in mind that we are in August, a time when Mallorcan politicians traditionally take to their holiday fincas and disappear into the sultry heat (and occasional rain) of late summer. Barceló has not long been in his post. He hasn't necessarily done anything to deserve a holiday yet, but he has avoided the temptation to relax by doing what all tourism ministers should do - he has been getting around the resorts of Mallorca at the peak period in order to see for himself.

He won't of course see everything, but thus far his Cook's tour of the island has found him in resorts on the east coast and in the south-west. Think what you will of Barceló - and much of the thinking will revolve around the eco-tax - but he appears determined to take his portfolio seriously, to be seen to be taking a genuine interest in the concerns of the resorts which constitute the principal motor of not just the tourism economy but the economy of the whole of Mallorca. He should be applauded.

The contrast with his immediate predecessors is great. Neither Carlos Delgado nor Jaime Martínez went out on such fact-finding missions. Martínez in particular was more at home drawing up legislation, a task that befitted his bureaucratic background: he was hardly a man of the tourism people. Barceló does seem genuinely different, though all the glad-handing with local mayors and others will seem simply like a PR stunt unless it turns into meaningful actions. If badly needed investments for certain resorts result, however, then he will be able to take some of the credit.

Down Calvia way he heard of a desire for an amplification of the British police project, but this is something he should be wary of. He faces a colossal PR challenge with the eco-tax, the consequence of the negative publicity it will be bound to attract in the foreign press - the British, for instance. If, allied to this, greater negativity in the British media is heaped upon Mallorca because of greater numbers of "bobbies", then he could have a double-whammy of poor PR to contend with. Nevertheless, at present he's showing himself to be willing to take close interest in the resorts. We wish him well.

The uncertainty over the timing of the eco-tax is beginning to look less uncertain. A schedule for its introduction, which would seem to now have general agreement, will see its approval by the cabinet in January. This will be followed by its passage through parliament during 2016 with the objective of its being implemented in 2017, albeit a precise time in 2017 has yet to be identified. But if the legislative channel seems less clogged, there remains the fundamental of how the tax will be collected. The option for doing so through ports and airports requires state approval and the practicalities of such an option may leave it dead in the water.

As part of the PR battle to convince everyone of the need and fairness of the eco-tax, a member of Barceló's party, Més, has added his voice to the argument. The deputy mayor of Palma, Antoni Noguera, who will become mayor in mid-term under the pact agreement for governing the city, has attacked hoteliers' portrayal of themselves as "victims" of the tax by alluding to the non-harmful impact of tourist taxes elsewhere. With Berlin, as an example, he is on solid ground, but London? There has been talk of a tax there but by individual councils - both Westminster and Camden have been looking at it. A misunderstanding may arise because of the VAT applied to hotel bills, but Noguera needs to be careful in making comparisons which aren't valid. More appropriate to Mallorca, in any event, are the experiences of the likes of Catalonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and France, though even these are unlikely to cut much ice with many travellers. They are interested in Mallorca alone, not what happens on the Costa Brava or in the Black Sea resorts.

Friday, August 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 August 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 22 August - Sun, 31C; 23 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 24 August - Sun, cloud, 28C.

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

Things have all settled down now. Sunny day to come, hotter at the weekend.

Evening update (23.00): Hot and sunny. Coastal high, 31.3C; Inland high, 31.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Boneheadedness Of The Eco-Tax

I know I shouldn't but I can't help myself. Anglicising or finding close similarities to English words from names from other cultures is not very fair. But I fear I have to indulge in this somewhat puerile exercise in the case of the regional minister for transport. I wasn't going to, I really had no desire to, but when I started scratching my own head, I was left with no option. The minister's name is Boned. Not too far removed from the nickname of Oasis's rhythm guitarist or from the American slang which gave the English language an insult and the subsequent noun.

The head scratching had to do with the eco-tax. Not the fact of it, but the preference for its collection. At airports and ports. How the hell's that going to work? It is this preference which leads one to conclude that the regional government and its unfortunately named transport minister are engaging in boneheadedness. Stubbornness, obstinacy, foolishness. They're bringing an eco-tax on themselves, pressing ahead with it, getting themselves deeper into a hole from which they won't be able to escape by burying themselves in the impracticalities of the collection preference.

Sr. Boned would like to have a meeting with the minister for development, Ana Pastor, she the ultimate shepherd(ess) of all who are packed into the pens of arrivals, having obediently followed in their flocks the stark instruction of baggage reclaim. As development minister, she has the final say on all things airports. Boned wants to have a word, to ask her to let the Balearics collect the eco-tax at airports (and ports).

The chances of her agreeing to this are probably slightly less than zero. She is, as the regional government is only too aware, a member of the Partido Popular, with whom the parties of the regional government have their disagreements and differences in ideology. An area of disagreement is the eco-tax. The PP's secretary-of-state for tourism, Mallorca's very own Isabel Borrego, has declared her opposition to such a tax: it is unlikely to curry much favour elsewhere in the PP national government.

Ideology, however, has typically played little part in tourist-tax introduction elsewhere. Catalonia is not a left-wing administration, but it has a tax. If leftism were a pre-requisite, then Andalusia, continuously socialist-led since democracy, would have had one years ago. They don't even really talk about it down there. Ideology shouldn't, therefore, be a factor, but when Pastor is presented with the Boned request, one would trust that one of her questions would be, assuming she is even vaguely minded to agree in principle to the request - how will you do it?

I'm assuming, hoping that the government has actually given this some thought. For example, how does it intend processing eco-tax payment from the some 80,000 arrivals on a busy day in summer? Think about if for a moment, because there are times of days when there are significant peaks in the volume of passengers. What will they do? Have a tax check-in? The mind boggles.

There are other practicalities. How is a tourist distinguished from a non-tourist? It might be easy to identify many a tourist - lads on tour t-shirts, pasty faces and what have you - but there would still have to be some way of filtering. How do they do that? Coming in on a charter plane would make the task easier, but not everyone does. Has the government not noticed the increase in the volume of direct-booked, low-cost air travellers? And not everyone travelling Ryanair is a tourist by any means.

Then there would be the charge. If it is to be, as hinted, one or two euros per night, how do they check the length of stay? Is there to be some sort of stamp to check a tourist in, to be presented on departure in order to verify that the right amount has been paid? Are tourists to be tagged and geo-located in order to check the time they are in Mallorca? 

But while these logistical issues - pretty important ones at that - raise all sorts of questions, is there not something altogether more fundamental? Image. Perception. If, as a government, you are introducing a tax system, which will not be universally popular, and you do so by presenting the need for a visitor to hand over money the moment he or she steps on dry Mallorcan land, do you not create a negative perception? If this is then compounded by queuing to make the payment, by some system of verification, then you face almost certain PR disaster.

This is why I'm scratching my head, perplexed by the apparent boneheadedness. But then, they must have thought about all this and will already be hard at work designing a flawless system. If only.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 20.7C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 August - Sun, 29C; 22 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 23 August - Sun, cloud, 31C.

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

All pretty good for now. Conditions on the mainland, with large drops in temperature in parts forecast from tomorrow, appear not to be heading Mallorca's way.

Evening update (19.45): Highs - Coastal 28.5C, Inland 30.4C.

No Frills Excursions

Ramon Llull, The Cartoon Version

My suspicion would be that, despite the numerous occasions on which I have written about the old boy, there will still be goodly numbers among you who have never heard of Ramon Llull. I'll put this down to the fact that you happened to miss those previous occasions.

I am not suggesting that I have been acting as an unofficial and therefore unpaid one-man PR operation for this Mallorcan ancient, as there are many others who do this, some of whom do actually receive remuneration: they're known as employees of tourism/cultural promotion authorities. But for the most part, the Llull PR machinery exists within the isolated bubble of Catalan and of Catalanism. Efforts to promote him to wider audiences have, generally speaking, not worked. Largely because, one also suspects, they've never been coherently undertaken outside of the Catalan bubble.

That Llull was a Catalan speaker and writer does help to explain this limited knowledge dissemination, but he deserves to have greater fame, just as he should be central to a whole Mallorcan culture-as-tourism initiative. Why? Well, his list of achievements was phenomenal. There was, among others, his rudimentary computer - the "Ars Magna" (and please, no sniggering at that title) - designed to reveal fundamental truths (as they were understood in the thirteenth century). This kaleidoscopic series of wheels - the Llullian circles - was like a mediaeval punch-card system. Had they thought about it back then, Llull could have made a fortune from having invented the first random lottery system.

Of course, Llull did have a politico-religious thing going on. His system of logic was to prove Christian truths and to thus dispute Islam. Llull was to become a Catholic fundamentalist - he wasn't especially religious until a revelation in his late twenties led him to walk out on the wife and kids - but this didn't mean that he was ill disposed to Islam: just that he wanted to prove that one religion was mightier than another. And his intelligence led him to learn Arabic - still partially surviving in any event in the Mallorca of the thirteenth century (Llull was born three years after the Catalan conquest). If Islam was to be engaged in debate, then it was important to do so in the appropriate language. His mission to prove Christian logic was a key reason for his having persuaded King Jaume II of Mallorca to found Miramar in Valldemossa. The learning of Arabic was part of the curriculum.

Llull should have greater status. He was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus and an equal in terms of religious philosophy of the High Middle Ages. Llull's logic, and that of his peers, was to be as crucial to the founding of modern philosophy as that of Aristotle and the very much more ancients. This status, unattained, places him at number one in the list of admittedly few genuinely famous Mallorcans from history.

There is debate as to when Llull died. The commonly cited date is 29 June, 1315, but the room that exists for questioning this partly explains why the celebrations for the 700th anniversary of his death haven't yet started. They will do later this year and continue in 2016: an alternative version of his death is that he passed away in 1316.

But once they start, what will they be? Dull but worthy, one imagines. There again, for many this is exactly what Llull was. Theology, philosophy, mediaeval Catalan literature: all terribly well and good but also extremely old and not things to get the pulses racing. In order to try and make Llull more accessible, there are ways, and one fancies that, as the maker of that primitive computer, the old chap would probably heartily approve of new technologies. And with these in mind, there is meant to be some sort of Ramon animation, a cartoon Ramon. Techies at the university have been working on it, but the end result appears to be lost somewhere in the corridors of the Council of Mallorca.

If it emerges, and it probably will, one does rather fear for the worst. Will it be multi-lingual? It damn well ought to be because Llull was a multi-linguist. Will it be, like much of the subject matter, dull but worthy? Hard to say without seeing it, but quite possibly yes.

Opportunities present themselves only rarely. The collision between the 700th anniversary and the availability of advanced animation technologies provides the perfect context for something meaningful to propel Llull into the wider orbit of awareness. But, and always aware of respect for his ancientness, dare one say that an animated Ramon, with suitable PR and promotion, could attain much wider awareness were he to appear elsewhere. In the US in September, the 27th season of "The Simpsons" will start. Ramon meets Homer. They should do it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 20.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 20 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 21 August - Sun, 28C; 22 August - Sun, cloud, 30C.

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

Without wishing to tempt fate, today should be back to summer normality with sun and an absence of cloud. Temperatures climbing over the next few days.

Evening update (20.45): Not bad. Highs the same inland and coastal: 28.3C.

No Frills Excursions

Un-Weather: Retail and alcohol therapy

In the days, and there were once such days, when I enjoyed a holiday - a summer holiday, of the type which Cliff had invented - there would be this occasional bad dream. Maybe Bomb The Bass were to blame. They had, after all, or rather he had - Tim Simenon - provided the electronic lament "Winter in July". Into the dream would come snow: right around the time when the plane was on the tarmac ready to whisk us away to hot and sunny climes.

Fortunately, it was only a bad dream. Snow in summer never materialised. Climate change hadn't been that dramatic in spinning in a different direction and creating the new Ice Age. But the realisation did occasionally involve precipitation. Rain. And a glowering sky. What a strange word "glower" is. The addition of two letters and a change in pronunciation converts "glow" into the complete opposite. The Germanic branch line of English is to blame for a glowering sky, and the German language is littered with the vocabulary of meteorological foreboding and pragmatism: the frightening "Gewitter" or the explanatory "Unwetter", un-weather, a word of linguistic genius.

Likewise, Spanish has granted us "tormenta": the torment of weather akin to the tormenta of a differing kind - that which the Inquisition engaged itself in. The national meteorological agency tells us, and it is not wrong in this regard, that tormenta in August is not uncommon, but it is knowledge dissemination greeted with little satisfaction. When the sky glowers, when the rains doth fall, what the hell is there to do?

It is the lament of many parts of coastal resort Mallorca that if, only temporarily, one part of the sun-and-beach equation is removed (meaning, in practice, that both are), there is nothing to do. An answer is to get hold of the last available hire car in town and head off in a storm in order to go and get soaked somewhere else. Or to make the pilgrimage of the car-rental sector to the capital, and bring Palma to a standstill in the process. The Cathedral car park, the only one most visitors are familiar with, creates its own traffic jam. The inner lane of the Paseo Marítimo becomes almost impassable because of the queue to get in. If you can get in.

Palma does, though, provide a clue to the bad-weather conundrum as it offers the palliative of retail therapy for the beach-denied. Shops have been reporting that business is up by 40% in some instances. For the retailers, it might as well, as Carole King once observed, rain until September. What is everyone buying? They'll be declaring a crisis in the umbrella market on account of the shortage. Supply, demand, and the price of umbrellas suddenly sky rockets. But if shopping is the principal alternative, then the regional government might pay heed. Its anger at the "aggression" of Madrid and national government's constitutional challenge to local law limiting vast retail centres should be diluted. In the absence of fallback theme park and attraction alternatives in most of Mallorca, there should be vast retail palaces, prepared to admit the beach diaspora a couple of times each high summer.

Were they ever to get round to developing theme parks or at least attractions on any type of scale away from the thematic epicentre of the island's south-west, here's a suggestion. The Noah's Ark theme park. It is surely a better idea than that Christian theme park thing, about which we mercifully no longer hear anything. Animals two by two. A zoo perched above the floods. Perfect for the conversion of old arks which are lying around and rotting in small ports of the Mallorcan coast. There won't, of course, ever be such attractions. For the same reason as there won't be vast retail malls. It's the environment, stupid, the one that is buried under the weight of the car-rental sector when the un-weather rains of August are unleashed in their torment.

The shopping solution, and the impressive sales figures, will presumably reveal a sudden and high upward blip on the tourist spend monitor, and in so doing will contradict a further lament - that of the all-inclusive killing the complementary sector. Yet, it should be acknowledged that not all all-inclusive comes with an economy-class rating. It is here, at the lower end of all-inclusive, where the greatest torment is felt. Receptionists reduced to tears by guests demanding they do something about the weather, demanding that they tell them what to do. Deprived of the yellow thing, even low-grade beer, never tasty anyway, tastes that much less tasty when the sun don't shine. Drink, nonetheless, is an option, and not one that requires hiring a car in order to sit in a queue for a car-parking space. The bars love a good spot of un-weather.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 August 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 21.6C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 19 August - Sun, cloud, 26C; 20 August - Sun, cloud, 26C; 21 August - Sun, cloud, 27C.

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

Fine at present, but rain and possible storm forecast for any time during the day. Things will be better from tomorrow.

Evening update (21.15): Pretty poor day, no heavy rain but regular heavy cloud and the occasional bursts of thunder. General highs, inland and coastal, 23.8C.

No Frills Excursions

The New Age Has Been Delayed

So, as I was saying before I was chopped off in The Week That Was column on Sunday, all manner of nepotistic doubts have been raised about Thomases (and others) associated with PSOE. Firstly, there was Jordan Thomas. He was the 20-year-old social media guru saviour of the drug-inclined youth of the Balearics, appointed by the wife of the head of the IB-Salut health service, she being the health minister, and he - the husband - having stood on behalf of PSOE for Santanyi town hall election along with the boy Jordan. Having now resigned, there is a different Thomas on the scene, one Pau Thomas, the son of PSOE's parliamentary vice-president, Vicenç Thomas. Pau has got himself an advisory gig in the ministry of employment, at which PSOE's Iago Negueruela is the minister.

Vicenç, as he well knows, once tweeted an unfavourable tweet referring to the appointment of the girlfriend of the Partido Popular's Carlos Delgado, who was then the tourism minister, as an advisor to the tourism ministry. Carlos appeared totally unmoved by suggestions that there was something a touch iffy about signing on the live-in at a salary of some 46 grand (a similar amount to that which the boy Jordan will no longer be getting). Think what you like about former president Bauzá, but he pretty much stuck to his ethical code guns: hints of iffiness and the root cause of it required being shown the door. Which is what Carlos had to do, if only from the door of the tourism ministry.

We were supposedly going to be enjoying a new era of politics in which there would be no sleaze, no favouritism and lots of transparency. Bauzá, the way things have been going, was rather better at all this than the new-age fellow travellers of the trinity that comprises the Armengol regime. 

Biel Barceló, the vice-president but not a member of Armengol's PSOE, has admitted that there have been some "errors" with appointments of advisors and senior officials, and he specifically referred to the husband affair at IB-Salut. He had thought the appointment slightly odd. Seemingly, according to Biel, it wasn't the missus who got Juli Fuster the job at the health service, but Armengol. As has been said consistently, Fuster is eminently qualified for the post, but this matters less than perception. She must surely have known that the Fuster fuss would kick off. In which case, if she was intent on him becoming the health service's director, then it might have been wise to have appointed someone else as health minister: Vicenç Thomas, for example, who, in addition to being a qualified doctor, was health minister from 2007 to 2011. But then, as we now know, Vicenç has his own slight embarrassment.

Apart from allegations of nepotism and favouritism, why are all the various officials and advisors needed? In the case of Fuster, it's clear. The health service does need someone to run it, and there are various other organisations which likewise require head honchos. For the most part, however, the appointments are political: new government, new directors. There are exceptions to the rule, Pedro Homar at the Palma 365 Foundation is one, but it is understandable that there should be this turnover. New government means new and different policies and those who are sympathetic to them.

But what about all the advisors? What actually do they do? Patricia Gómez, the health minister, had to explain why the unqualified Jordan Thomas was given the post he has now resigned from. The fact that he knows how social media work was a pretty lame justification. At least we were privy though to what his post entailed, which is more than can be said for the advisors knocking around at the Council of Mallorca, an institution bedevilled in the past by all sorts of insinuation but which, under the new president, Miquel Ensenyat, appeared destined to become a beacon of transparency. So what's gone wrong?

Manel Carmona, the leader of the Esquerra Unida (United Left), has had a right old go at the 26 advisors taken on by political parties at the Council, seven of them by Podemos, a party which had previously made a virtue of highlighting advisory excess. Carmona might be accused of sour grapes, given that he, through the tie-up with Guanyem, was squeezed to such an extent by Podemos and the rest of the left that he ended up with nothing after the elections, but he surely has a point when he says that nothing is known about the qualifications or roles of these advisors. Ensenyat needs to address the issue urgently, while Podemos, which has been vociferously sounding off about other appointments and demanding its say in them, might well take a look at itself. This is meant to be a new political age. Or has this already been forgotten?

Monday, August 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 20.3C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 August - Rain, 28C; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 25C; 20 August - Sun, cloud, 27C.

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

Some cloud this morning, due to be reasonable though there is the possibility of a shower. Tomorrow isn't looking too good, but things set to improve by Wednesday.

Evening update (22.30): Well, that was a pretty rubbish forecast. A fair amount of rain plus some storm, the weather only really got its act together late afternoon. Coastal high, 26.1C: Inland high, 26.6C.

No Frills Excursions

The Thin Blue Line Of Magalluf

It was some time last summer. There was talk of the Thin Blue Line being etched into the sands of the Calvia coastline. A certain newspaper, Spanish, which isn't part of the same group as "The Bulletin", considered the matter. Oh deary me, how they considered it. Let's just accept that it was a typo. Or was it? British "boobies" could soon be patrolling the streets of Mallorca's streets. Rowan Atkinson's "Thin Blue Line" would relocate to the island with inevitably hilarious consequences. In fact, were they to do another "Blackadder", Edmund and Baldrick (suitably attired in feminine uniform) would be pursuing the latter's cunning plan. "Patrol in hours of daylight, Mr. B. It's when they'd least expect it." "Don't be a booby, Baldrick."

Instead of course, and unbeknownst to anyone, they were bringing back "The Bill". June and Carver were reunited for a one-off summer special. Knowledge of Mallorca and Spanish and all that, having been acquired at Sun Hill Police Station on account of all the Spanish crims that Roach, Tosh and Burnside had been banging up. If it was Mallorcan knowledge they were after though, then why not Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt? John Simm and Philip Glenister did after all spend time on the rock filming "Mad Dogs". "Life on Mars" policing circa the first half of the 1970s, a time when Judith Chalmers could appear on a pedalo with a champagne flute at the water's edge in Magalluf and utter the words "wish you were here" without the slightest sense of any irony.

Those were the days. Gene would have been his own one-man drunken tourism ASBO case. It's not how plod are today because they are all Sam Tyler: a plate of tapas, a discreet glass of tinto and early to bed. And truth be known, the M-resort is not what it was. Something had to be done in order for us all to talk about it again, as it is too damn quiet and well-behaved. June and Carver's arrival had all the flavour of After The Former Mayor's Show. With Simm-like doctoral transmogrification, Manu had morphed into Alfonso and the sun from this new era shone brightly on the shiny utopia of Calvia Beach, with the police box planted along Punta Ballena. The House of Tardis. Be agog when you enter this spectacular attraction, brought to you by the Sol brand of Meliá Hotels International. Everyone was smiling and happy and were so without the aid of chemicals. The trouble of course being, from June and Carver's perspective, that they were dealing with a load of Italians instead. That was it. It wasn't "The Bill" after all. It was Alex and Gene from "Ashes to Ashes" bringing their knowledge of the Italian restaurant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 19.3C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 17 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 18 August - Rain, sun, 26C; 19 August - Cloud, sun, 26C.

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

There was a further storm heading towards midnight which made it hard to distinguish between lightning and the spectacular fireworks of Can Picafort in the night sky. Much cooler night, but the temperature heading upwards today, and things should be fine. There is some risk of rain in the early part of the week, with Tuesday looking more likely than tomorrow.

Evening update (22.45): Cloud at times, sunny more times. Pleasant freshness: Coastal high, 29.2C; Inland high, 28.3C.

No Frills Excursions

Stories Of The Squares: "Café de Plaça"

Plaça. Plaza. Square. Anyone fancy having a guess as to how many squares there are in Mallorca? A thousand? Ten thousand? More? I've no idea and I'm certainly not about to try and count them, but even were I to, the task would be made more difficult by what constitutes a square. It should be obvious - things on all four sides, as a general guideline - but there are squares that don't conform to this model: they are just parts, bits of something else, a promenade or a street which, for unknown reasons, acquire a plaça in their names.

The square is the heart of the village, but at times it's hard to be sure which square is most at heart. A Plaça Major should be a clue. Or a Plaça de l'Ajuntament perhaps, the square in front of the town hall. In some places, they could have either name. Sa Pobla, for instance. Its Major is looked across from the Ajuntament, and from the Major one can look to the first floor and observe the mayor on the phone. Squares, town halls, mayors - essences of Mallorcan life.

There are squares in some towns or villages which have attained such square-like status that they no longer both referring to it by name. It is just the square. Sa Plaça. Sineu is probably a good example.

The squares have their stories to tell, the ones that exist in some of the names. Some stories are simple and obvious. Mercat, the market. Vila, the town. Others require explanation. Puerto Pollensa has its market/church square, but the name is actually Plaça Miquel Capllonch, a composer and pianist who was born in Pollensa. Lloret has Jaume I, the conquering king of the thirteenth century. Petra has its Ramon Llull and its Fray Juniper Serra, tributes to two of the greats of Mallorca's history, one of whom, Serra, was born in Petra.

Integral to the stories of the squares are the bars and cafes. The social lives of the years have been played out, related and discussed and been abstractly engrained into their walls by the coffee, wine and cigarettes of reminiscence. Their stories are those of the oral tradition, the hand-me-down, word-of-mouth transmission of the collective memory. Some bars become iconic, enduring; some change, modernise. But whatever happens to the bar, the square remains unaltered, save for paving, for new town hall street furniture, for renewed lights.

Alcúdia has its squares but it is a town that has more than just the conveying of stories over tables and on terraces. It has a story, a written one and one that has been dramatised. The bar, the cafe, the square combine. In 1965, Alexandre Cuéllar put them together. He wrote the "records" of the "Café de Plaça", loosely based on a cafe in the Plaça Constitució - Constitution Square.

Cuéllar was actually born in Catalonia, but he came to Mallorca and was, from 1943 to 1959, the secretary at Sa Pobla's town hall. He then returned to Olot in the Gerona province and worked at its town hall until he retired in 1979. But he had retained his links with Mallorca and was to strengthen them on his retirement. He had a summer residence in Barcares, a hamlet of enchantment on Alcúdia's Pollensa bay extremity.

It was while he was summering in Alcúdia that he would go to the square. He was, as he said in a 1996 interview (he died in 2006 at the age of 92), suffering a great nostalgia for Mallorca back in Olot. He felt separated from the island and from the people. Hence, he wrote his finest work - "Café de Plaça". The stories in the book, or the records as they are referred to, were, he was to admit, a reflection of an idyll, of a passing from a former time to a modern one, with the regret that came with it. In 1965 tourism was changing everything, even though the square remained as it had been and the cafe was still unaffected.

Cuéllar's book can be misunderstood. A key theme of it was what he called "blessed laziness". It can be taken as a criticism, but mostly everyone at the time he wrote it (and nowadays also) fully understood his point. The laziness was part of life, as was the contrariness that the stories identify. They were stories that accurately portrayed the almost total stillness of Mallorcan village existence. Nothing much happened. Everyone would congregate at the cafe and when there was actually work to be done, a good excuse would be found to have lunch instead.

The dramatisation is the final scene of the five-part Via Fora production which takes place around Alcúdia's walls (the next one is on 27 August). It is of course all in Catalan, but the high farce of the laziness is easy to appreciate. It is a performance of a story of one cafe, in one square, in one village at one time in the past: fifty years ago. It could have been written about any of the ... . How many squares do you reckon there are?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 August 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 19.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 16 August - Sun, cloud, 27C; 17 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 18 August - Cloud, sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 4, occasionally 4 to 5 from midday.

The first time the early morning temperature has been below 20 degrees for weeks, overnight rain having cooled things down. The rain and storm today are, according to the met agency, due to be in the early afternoon. Otherwise, cloudy and wet through the whole day. Improving tomorrow.

Evening high (19.15): There was rain but the intensity varied greatly. 38 litres per square metre around Puerto Pollensa but not anything like this in parts of Alcudia. The ducks swim in Can Picafort had to be called off because of the state of the sea; it's been rescheduled for 23 August. Coastal high, 24.1C; Inland high, 23.9C.

No Frills Excursions

The Perfect Storm Of August

Might this August mark a watershed in Mallorcan and Balearic tourism? Within the context of the political change in spring, various factors are colliding, producing a perfect storm of tourism dynamics which might go beyond this weekend's anticipated storm and produce responses to more than simply the collapse of the road network caused by tourists seeking an alternative to the beach on account of poor weather.

In fact, the roads, especially in and around Palma when the weather is less than benign, have already provoked tourism minister and vice-president, Biel Barceló, into declaring that saturation point has been reached and surpassed. Palma struggles to cope when the clouds gather: its roads clogged, its car parks full to overflowing. Why are there so many tourists? Many are the factors, but always taking some into account, such as instability in parts of the Mediterranean, there is one which, more than others, is being singled out: private holiday accommodation.

It will be some months before they release the figure for the day in the middle of this month when Mallorca and the Balearics reached their highest level of human occupation, but when it comes, it will surely be higher than ever before. It may even be substantially higher. Aptur, which is the association that defends the rights of the private owner to rent out his or her accommodation to tourists, is not blind to the problems that the internet has caused. It is speaking of a "bubble" which it believes will burst because of the rotten quality of some of the accommodation, thus fuelling the arguments of the hoteliers that the private apartment is not up to scratch in all manner of ways. This is a fallacious argument because there is plenty of high-quality accommodation, but it is also correct, and Aptur accepts that it is.

The association is pressing the case, therefore, for legislation to get to grips with this private supply, to finally introduce a system of properly regulated accommodation with standards to be attained and maintained. It is the pragmatic approach that the previous government simply refused to recognise the need for, preferring to outlaw all apartments rather than bring them into line with a system of standards akin to the keys' categorisation for the hotelier-owned tourist apartments.

The trouble is, of course, that even with regulation the bubble might well keep growing in its illegitimate fashion. Reservations via web portals for Spanish destinations are up on average by 40% this summer. These include perfectly legitimate accommodation, but they also have much which isn't. As Catalonia has discovered, regulation can bring success in one way - by enforcing standards and by also boosting tourist tax revenue - but it doesn't eliminate the problem of the illegal supply, despite the swingeing nature of sanctions. Governments can say all they like about cracking down, but they - their tax and tourism agencies - are massively under-resourced.

Nevertheless, the need for regulation in the Balearics is urgent. Barceló, minded to be permissive towards the private accommodation sector, is an environmentalist at heart, as is his party, Més. He wants a brake applied to the number of tourists, so any regulation would need to be carefully drafted in order to still allow good accommodation to be made fully legitimate. But brake there surely has to be, and the perfect storm of this August is increasing the urgency.

In a different respect, all-inclusives, something else seems to be happening. It is never perhaps wise to cite Magalluf as a benchmark but if, as is being reported, some all-inclusives there have been knocking in occupancy levels substantially lower than those for other types of board, is the consumer worm finally turning? It was always going to be the case, regulation again notwithstanding, that the consumer would decide. A problem in Magalluf is knowing what type of market is leading to the lower AI occupancy. If it is family, then the worm might indeed be moving in a different direction. Ot is it a case of the family having been deterred by negative publicity?

Meanwhile, Menorca has added its voice to the saturation argument. Formentera already has but can seemingly do little to prevent its small size being flooded by tourists. In Menorca, the threshold of human pressure that it can withstand and keep within the boundaries of its status as a biosphere reserve is likely to be exceeded this month. Wherever one looks around the Balearics, the message is much the same: there are just too many people.

There is another factor contributing to the perfect storm: attitudes of residents. For too long overlooked, they have played a part in Alcúdia and Capdepera addressing the type of tourism they receive on occasion, while in Playa de Palma, residents have had enough. Noise, filth, crime, anti-social behaviour and a consequent inability to relax or sleep are pushing tensions high. They are similar in a way to what led Barcelona to come down so heavily in La Barceloneta. When mayor José Hila speaks of a cleaner Palma, he has to take into account that Palma means more than just the old centre and the neighbourhoods.

It is understood, quite clearly understood, that Mallorca lives by its tourism. But it is tourism which should be on Mallorca's terms, not those of others. It is for Mallorca to decide on the balance of its accommodation, not websites, not tour operators. The overwhelming majority of the island's visitors are respectful. And this majority needs to be cared for properly. The perfect storm has arrived: kick out the dross of the minority, kick out the rotten accommodation, kick out the poor quality end of the all-inclusive market. And keep the traffic moving.

Friday, August 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 August 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 24.9C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 15 August - Rain, 22C; 16 August - Cloud, sun, 26C; 17 August - Cloud, sun, 28C.

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

A cloudy morning and a close one too. Rain for today is looking less likely than had been forecast earlier in the week, but it is nailed on for tomorrow: the fiestas for Assumption look as if they're going to be a washout.

Evening update (21.00): Mix of sun and cloud, cooler than recently. Tomorrow, there is an amber alert for rain and yellow for storms. Could well be wet. Highs today the same inland and coastal, 29.8C. 

No Frills Excursions

Missing A Beat: Jazz and politicians

In 1991, the town hall in Palma, newly under the control of the Partido Popular following twelve years of PSOE dominance, took a musical decision. It wasn't formally decreed, but there was an unmistakably political angle to the decision. Jazz was for socialists.

This, at any rate, was the implication of the scrapping of the Palma Jazz Festival. It had started ten years before. Over three evenings, starting at 10pm, from 27 to 29 July, 1981, jazz fans were able to go to the auditorium to see performances by the Dexter Gordon Quartet, the Dizzy Gillespie Quartet, the Stan Getz Quartet. Later editions of the festival were to include concerts in the cathedral and by an array of internationally acclaimed artists. The festival had come about largely because of the success of a concert in May, 1981, when the American pianist Keith Jarrett had appeared at the auditorium. In terms of star names from the jazz world of the time, these four - Jarrett, Gordon, Gillespie and Getz - were firmly among the A-List.

It is perhaps fair to say that jazz does, or did anyway, have a bit of a political thing going on. Maybe it was all to do with the roots of the music. Maybe it was the nature of improvisation - the freeing of the mind, its liberalising. Maybe there was also an element of the religious: there is many a jazz musician who from times past and times present has discovered Buddhism, for instance.

But to classify jazz as something "socialist" was of course to deny the music to the many who were anything but socialists. Music, as a general rule, doesn't recognise political ideologies as pre-requisites either for its performance or its appreciation. The decision taken, however, and jazz in Mallorca received a distinct kick to its syncopation. The enormous popularity that it had in the 1980s was to take some time to be recaptured.

A generation on from the somewhat bizarre attitude of the town hall, it hasn't been the PP which has been causing disquiet in jazz circles but the other lot. For reasons hard to fathom, the ministry of education, led by PSOE, had decided to reverse a decision taken in the early spring of last year by the Music Conservatory in Palma. It had informed the education (and culture) ministry that, from the start of the 2015-2016 course, it would be including studies in jazz and modern music for the first time. The ministry didn't appear to have any issue with this. Indeed, a year later, the by then education minister, Nuria Riera, was only too glad to appear in the photos taken at the celebration of International Jazz Day. It had been sponsored by, among others, the conservatory, the government and the Council of Mallorca, and had been organised by the UNESCO delegation in Mallorca.

All, therefore, appeared well set for the conservatory to start courses for piano, double bass, drums, vocals, saxophone and guitar. Exams for entry into the courses had already taken place, with assessments made for, among other things, an ability to improvise. Then came the bombshell. The chair of jazz and modern music was to be removed. The new education ministry said so.

It has primarily been the intervention of UNESCO that has led to the decision being reversed again. The course will start, as had been projected, but its future is not secure. The ministry is apparently undertaking a period of "reflection" regarding the conservatory's programme, and the jazz and modern music part of this won't be the same for the 2016-2017 course, assuming it is a part.

It isn't clear if the ministry was guided by any dislike of jazz as such or rather by a wish to consider the entire educational offer at the conservatory. Nevertheless, initially taking a decision to scrap the jazz and modern music chair gave the perception that the ministry had taken a dislike to jazz. It does perhaps say something for the influence of UNESCO that it can get a decision changed. The ministry accepts that the rights of those who had enrolled on the course need to be respected.

An institutional attitude, even if it is not being stated, which seems at least indifferent to jazz is highly reminiscent of the attitude in 1991, and it comes at a time, as was the case at the start of the 1990s, when jazz has never been more popular. You can't really move in Mallorca without stumbling across one form of jazz or another. The current vogue is swing, inspired perhaps by the celebration of the life of one of the greats of Mallorcan popular music, Bonet de Sant Pere.

Music, in all its varieties, offers a considerable amount to Mallorcan cultural life and to the island's tourism. Politicians need to recognise this and to stop messing around, just as they had with the symphony orchestra.