Saturday, October 31, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 November - Cloud, sun, 22C; 2 November - Cloud, wind, 21C; 3 November - Cloud, 20C.

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

A fine and sunny morn and a fine and sunny day ahead, but tomorrow and the public holiday on Monday look destined to be wet and windy.

A Tax Isn't For A Lifetime

As we stumble ever on, still not getting clarity from the government over the tourist tax, the voices of discontent grow louder. The meeting at the tourism ministry this week revealed just how great the opposition from business is: only one association - Aptur, the holiday apartments' association - lining up behind Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director-general. There is other business support, which was not represented at that meeting, but it is minimal.

This was the first occasion on which Carbonell went publicly head to head with Inma Benito of the hoteliers. Both of them charming, they are both also determined to stand their ground, and in Carbonell's case, it has been suggested that minister Barceló chose her for the position precisely because she would lock horns with the hoteliers and Benito. She had, after all, previously headed up the restaurants' association.

Benito was clever in making the link between the tax and the government's need for general revenues and in therefore asking that the tax be scrapped by 2019. If there is a current shortfall in revenue, then it should have been addressed by the time the government is heading for what it might hope will be re-election. It was also not unreasonable in suggesting that the tax does not have to be for all time in any event. It almost certainly won't be if the PP return in 2019, but if there is the current urgent need to balance the books, why not look upon the tax as something of an emergency measure with a finite lifetime?

One business sector that was represented was the shipping industry, and the cruise operators have been making it clear just how much they reject the tax. An urgent meeting with President Armengol has been called for, the director of the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) España warning that ships can quite easily find other ports to visit than those of the Balearics. Among the objections are the fact that the tax would be levied on all passengers, including those who don't come ashore. Then there are the logistics of its charging, which seemingly the ship operators would not be able to make to the "end customer", i.e. the passenger, implying that they would have to carry the burden for the tax. There again, a tax applies in Barcelona, and the volume of passengers there only keeps rising.

A further source of opposition is the Deutscher ReiseVerband (DRV), the German body that is roughly equivalent to ABTA. Its British counterpart has itself fired off a letter to the Balearic government regarding the tax, and the DRV has done likewise, while it has also sought to involve Madrid. The national government has told the DRV that it is totally opposed to the Balearic tax, not that this does a great deal of good in that Madrid can't prevent its introduction. The DRV president, Norbert Fiebig, is warning that Mallorca's status as the most popular destination for German holidaymakers is threatened by the tax, while he has also referred to its giving a "negative impression that not all guests are welcome any longer". This is something with firm echoes of the old eco-tax and the state of high dudgeon that the Germans sensed when it appeared that tourists - certain ones anyway - were not welcome in Mallorca.

Watching on from across the sea will be the government in Valencia. While another primary tourism region - the Canaries - has dismissed the idea of introducing a tourist tax, Valencia, meaning Benidorm and all, is considering one. Its notion of the tax is one firmly aimed at the environment. It would be "re-educative" rather than being a revenue generator, which is a fairly odd logic. "Simulations" of tax introduction are being made, according to the region's finance ministry, to see if the economic benefits of the tax would outweigh what is described as "inevitable political attrition within the tourism sector". What curious language they use sometimes.

Index for October 2015

Balearic finances - 15 October 2015
Balearic government one hundred days - 6 October 2015
Catalonia, Mallorca nationalism - 7 October 2015
Clocks back in Mallorca - 20 October 2015
Corruption and local police - 29 October 2015
Dancing politicians - 12 October 2015
Esporles sweets fair - 4 October 2015
Feudal tax in Mallorca - 1 October 2015
Holiday rental regulation - 3 October 2015
IB3 broadcaster and political interference - 8 October 2015
Inca - General Luque - 22 October 2015
Joana Camps' trips to Menorca - 13 October 2015
Llucmajor fairs - 18 October 2015
Magalluf and resort obsolescence - 21 October 2015
Mallorca season 2015 - 28 October 2015
Manacor town hall - no confidence - 23 October 2015
Palma's political intrigues - 27 October 2015
Partido Popular Balearics leadership - 5 October 2015
Podemos divisions - 26 October 2015
Self-service alcohol - 10 October 2015
Spain National Day - 14 October 2015
Skype and personal space - 9 October 2015
Swing music in Mallorca - 25 October 2015
Tourist tax - 17 October 2015, 19 October 2015, 24 October 2015, 30 October 2015, 31 October 2015
Walking on Words - 11 October 2015
What's On - 16 October 2015
Zombies in the Balearics - 2 October 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2015

Morning high (6.00am): 13.2C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 31 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 1 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 2 November - Cloud, 20C.

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

A decent day beckons, but from tomorrow getting cloudy with Sunday and Monday looking as though they may well bring wet holiday weather.

The One Peseta Tax

It is 1931. Mallorca, as with the rest of Spain, is enduring the upheaval that had characterised most of the century to that point and would continue to. The Second Republic had been declared and was to survive for only five years before it became a notional government during the years of the Civil War. Despite all the endless turmoil, Mallorca had been able to develop its tourism industry, and by the start of the 1930s it had become a successful industry - in relative terms of course - though one which the Depression most certainly didn't assist. Nevertheless, from 1930 to 1935, the number of tourists to the island doubled from 20,168 to 40,045 (yes, incredibly, they had accurate statistics then, or seemed to have). Between these years the number of cruise ships also rose from 83 to 109, but the passengers they carried increased dramatically from 15,991 to 50,363.

Tourism facilities were mainly located in Palma. This wasn't exclusively the case, as there were pockets of tourism, such as Puerto Pollensa with the Hotel Formentor and other hotels of some antiquity - the Illa d'Or and the Miramar - as well as Soller, which had been opening up to a largely French tourism market for some years. There was the development of the early resorts, some that survived, such as Palmanova, and one or two which never really took off - who now knows about the Pueblo Español that was Alcanada near Alcudia?

But it was Palma to which tourism looked to create anything approaching volume of tourists, and the city contributed this thanks in no small part to the boom in cruise shipping. In those days the passengers would most certainly come ashore and spend not a few hours but a day or more. They could take advantage of the excursions to various parts of the island - to the Caves of Drach, to Formentor and elsewhere - for the princely sum of eleven pesetas (why eleven?).

Between 1930 and 1935 the number of hotels in Palma increased from 48 to 69. Here was then something of a tourism success story, but with this success came the interests of politicians which were at variance with those who were the ones who made this success possible - the businesspeople who formed the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board.

Local government in those days was anything but stable. Mayors came and went and sometimes lasted only a few months. One such mayor was Lorenzo Bisbal. He was a PSOE mayor between April and October 1931, and during this period the town hall in Palma announced something that made the tourist board shout with horror. There was to be a tourist tax. It would involve the charging of one peseta per day per tourist who was staying in the 48 (and increasing) hotels in the city.

The tourist board set about attempting to prevent the tax being introduced or to at least get it scrapped as soon as possible. Whatever happened to this tax is unclear. But Bisbal was replaced by another PSOE mayor, Francesc Villalonga Fabregas, who in just as short order as Bisbal was replaced by Bernat Jofre, and he was a hotel director and, most importantly, the boss of the Hotel Victoria, which is now the Gran Melia Victoria. It's probably safe to assume that the tax didn't survive once Jofre assumed the mayoral seat.

This story just perhaps goes to show that success can be risked by the intervention of politicians. Tourism in the 1930s was on a steep upward curve. Why potentially stall this with a tax? Tourism today is not on such an upward trend, but there's no questioning Mallorca's current popularity, into which have wandered the intentions of politicians.

The Mallorca Tourist Board, often confused with being a government body, which it has never been, is opposed to the tax now just as it was opposed to Palma's tax in the 1930s. Perhaps there do have to be checks on the ambitions of the private sector, but is a tax the way to do this? Was it the way in the 1930s and is it the way now? It's doubtful.

Lorenzo Bisbal was not to be a victim of the Civil War: he died in 1935. There is one slight coincidence between him and the current day. His first surname was Bisbal, but his second was Barceló, the same as the tourism minister who is so intent on introducing the latest version of the tourist tax. Perhaps Biel has leafed through his tourism history and discovered that a Barceló was involved in the old one peseta tax. Or perhaps he has also looked at what happened in Ibiza in the 1930s. There, tourism development was well behind Mallorca's. Its tourist board wasn't founded until 1933, and unlike its Mallorcan counterpart, what was suggested? A tourist tax to help fund tourism development.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 17.4C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 30 October - Sun, 22C; 31 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 1 November - Cloud, sun, 20C.

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

Splendid morning, quite warm and sunny. The sun should dominate today and tomorrow, bringing a fine end to the season. Weekend looking rather cloudy.

Evening update (20.30): Good day. High of 24.1C.

Restoring Trust: Local police

The regional government is to establish an Anti-Corruption Bureau. This will assume a function of being the people's observer of public debt, enabling - in good transparent and participatory fashion beloved of the current administration - the citizenry to participate in debt analysis. In other words, they can see where money is spent and who receives it. Well, hallelujah, something equating to freedom of information, of which there is precious little in Mallorca, or indeed in Spain.

Might this bureau acquire wider functions? Where should the anti-corruption stop? Why not let it consider the local police as well? Or is the anti-corruption prosecution service, together with higher police forces, sufficient for this purpose? Yes it is.

The bureau is not another prosecution service. By throwing open public spending to public scrutiny, its role, theoretically, is preventative. With transparency comes the elimination of corruption, it is to be hoped. It's a commendable step for a society that struggles to be open and to explain and which can give the impression of inaction when corrupt acts are suspected. Or at least did. As we know, the cases of corruption investigation are overwhelming and they reach to the very top of Spain's society.

The successes of Mallorca's anti-corruption prosecution service and investigating judges have made them public heroes, none more so than Judge Castro. These successes have helped to fuel the demands from specific political sources for vastly more openness and transparency. One of the great achievements of Podemos has been to force an alteration of the collective political mindset. This is not a total revolution, but the polling success of Podemos (and of Ciudadanos) alerted the political class to a new reality: it couldn't just go on hiding things and turning a blind eye. For all its faults, Podemos has proved to be a game-changer, and in recognition of the contribution that Judge Castro has made to a cultural upheaval of exposure, it approached him and asked if he might consider becoming an election candidate. The judge politely declined the offer.

As the government ushers in yet more anti-corruption power, it watches on, as do the citizens to whom it refers unerringly, as the grand cases approach their times of denouement: Son Espases, Palma Arena, Noos, Matas, Urdangarin, the princess. But as it waits the outcomes and their inevitable appeals that will drag on for years long after it is no longer in government, it is faced with a different source of corruption. Local police.

The arrests in Palma won't have come as a surprise. This has been bubbling away for at least two years, while the sleaze has already come to the courts with appearances related to the "alternative" clubs and the implications of a politician (or civil servant)-police-business nexus.

This is corruption of a different type to that of the grand cases, but it is one that has seemingly been endemic and not confined to one force. When the investigations started in Magalluf last year into activities of the local police, a source was quoted as saying that they had "never had so much documentation in a corruption case".

The minister Catalina Cladera, wearing her public administration hat as opposed to her finance one, says that there is a "lack of stability" among local police forces, especially those in the resorts. But what did she mean by this? Was this an implication that other forces are prone to corrupt behaviour? Perhaps it was, but if so, then it was politician-speak. She was using the government's desire to eliminate temporary policing - which has indeed been described as causing force instability - against a background of the Palma affair. She wasn't saying - certainly not overtly -that there were issues with other local police forces, but this is how it might be interpreted.

Inevitably though, the Palma and Magalluf cases lead to conclusions being made about other forces, some of which may or may not be justified. The government wishes to create a "new model of co-ordination of the local police forces", but it is one that should be predicated every bit on prevention (of corruption) as it is on getting the police to be "closer" to the people. But her analysis that police trained on their respective islands should then operate on their islands (or indeed in their home towns) may not be the wisest. This can be double-edged. The closer the police are, the closer they might be to some of the people (and businesses or politicians) than others.

The worst thing that can happen as a consequence of the Palma affair is that all local police are tarred by the same brush. The government faces a challenge every bit as great as the pursuit of corruption by the famous and the politicians. It faces one of ensuring public confidence in the police. Maybe it needs a special bureau.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 15.2C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 29 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 30 October - Sun, 19C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 20C.

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

Some light cloud around, but expected to be mostly sunny today. Outlook staying decent, though there may be some rain during the upcoming holiday weekend.

Evening update (22.15): Pretty good day. High of 23.3C both inland and coastal.

Season 2015: What did we learn?

Resorts can be changed
The naysayers said it couldn't and wouldn't be done. These were naysayers whose beliefs were clouded by self-interest and an inability to see beyond the status quo. A resort, its image, its offer is for all time. Long live the old resort! The naysayers operated, however, from a manual that does not exist. There is no rule which says that a resort has to remain the same. No rule which says that it should have been as it was in the first place. Magalluf changed.

There is still more to be done
But before we get carried away, and one suspects that too many have, we can't overlook what hasn't changed. The glowing tributes for Magalluf's makeover constantly fail to address the cancerous continuance of the mugger-prostitutes. One thing that was learned was that police operations can make a difference. They did so in Playa de Palma, where the National Police broke up a human-trafficking gang and arrested some thirty individuals. A judge issued restraining orders, some women were taken into care, others were detained. The keys to this were police observation and also, crucially, reports by victims. More than anything, this was a lesson that goes beyond the scope of local police forces. It is an international criminal matter, and one for which the National Police and Guardia Civil should be given all resources possible in working with other police forces and agencies to eliminate. A mantra for Magalluf and Mallorca that politicians and the tourism industry chant is that it is a safe destination. Indeed it is, but it could be safer still.

The end of youth tourism?
We became confused by what this meant. The drunken, loutish element was seemingly being shown the door, and this was heralded as a success. Yet why should there not be youth tourism? It frequently has good levels of disposable income. The question became and now is, what type of youth? Perhaps BH Mallorca - and further developments in Magalluf to come next year - point the way, but not everyone is convinced that this represents such a dramatic shift towards a - might one say - more mature youth market.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, there was the problem of the spring-breakers from different countries but not least from the Spanish mainland. This is a youth tourism that is having potentially disastrous consequences in resorts already dominated by all-inclusive where the season is now compacted into three months. Spring breaks of two to three weeks strip away much of what business there might otherwise be. This might not seem a long period, but where the season is so short, then it most definitely is.

Did someone say all-inclusive?
The strength of the pound, the upgrading of hotels were contributing to a lowering of the all-inclusive offer, or so it was said. Yet all-inclusive was being spoken of as never before, partly because - praise be - politicians had woken from a twenty-year-plus slumber and cottoned onto its existence. The change in government brought with it an apparent determination to regulate, and the administration was provided with a cause into which it could sink its teeth: self-service alcohol. This was bizarre, and it demonstrated how out of touch the political class appears to have been. All that was happening was that the means of delivering alcohol was changing, not the principle of as much alcohol as one holidaymaker can stomach. But it did at least hint at tighter control over what is allowable as part of the all-inclusive offer. Regulation should follow in the not too distant future, but it has to be matched with far tighter inspection. There was a lesson from a different source - the campaign against fraudulent work contracts. Deemed a success, it was because of the additional inspectors specially brought in from the mainland. Regulation is meaningless unless there is the inspection capability to enforce it.

Overcrowded Mallorca
Other regulation was in the air, that of private accommodation, but the emphasis shifted this summer. It was no longer a case of whether to permit the commercialisation of private apartments or of how to enable this, but of the sheer availability. The previous government had sat on its hands and flatly refused to consider any meaningful regulation, and this summer highlighted the absence of such regulation. The massive growth in rental accommodation via the internet was identified as the principal reason why the island reached saturation point. But whatever regulation there might eventually be, without the resources to control it, it will prove as toothless as any for all-inclusive standards.

A record-breaking season it proved to be (for some at any rate), but there was no disguising some reasons why - instability elsewhere most notably. The chief lesson was that, for any advances made, they are inextricably linked to the ups and downs of the competition.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 16.3C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 28 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 29 October - Sun, cloud, 20C; 30 October - Sun, 20C.

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

Patchy cloud first thing, sun later and quite warm. General outlook remaining quite good if cooler.

Evening update (21.15): A high of 25.2C (coastal). Not a bad day, but there was rain in some parts in the afternoon but not in others.

The Intrigues Of Palma

Palma is a hotbed of intrigue. Here is a capital that has its own government as well as it being the location for actual government - of the Balearics and of Mallorca - the latter in the form of the Council of Mallorca. Its town hall has a name that resonates with government - Cort, or Corte in Castellano. The corte of legislature, as with the Cortes Generales of Spain, the lower and upper houses of parliament, rather than the corte of the department store: El Corte Inglés means the English cut, as in the cut of a tailor, reflecting its humble origins.

When Mariano Rajoy inadvertently referred to the "island of Palma", he wasn't totally inaccurate. Palma is its own island, its own affair, divorced from the rest of Mallorca and the Balearics, the consequence of its economic, governmental and inhabitant dominance, as well as of its pomposity and the self-importance that its politicians display. Of these, many are of course imported, shipped in to the palaces of government, be they those of parliament, the presidential headquarters or the Council.

But then there are those who are more homegrown, the Palma political elite, the cadres, the factions. Palma's intrigues are intriguing as much as they are something of which the rest of Mallorca and the Balearics are despairing and have despaired. They attract so much attention, as do the controversies that these politicians inspire. Palacios, terraces, monuments for demolition: they are Palma's affairs, not anyone else's. And yet the rest of Mallorca is dragged into the orbit of these controversies through the sheer power of attraction of the city, despite wishing that they were not. "That's Palma for you" will be a typical comment, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and a smile of resignation, as it was when an Alcudia politician once said to me that the corruption (of the old Unió Mallorquina) was all just a Palma affair. Generally speaking, he was correct in this observation.

The intrigues are such that they carry into the forthcoming general election. The Partido Popular, no longer ruling the city, has shifted the focus of the intrigues that led to the ousting of Mateo Isern, or at least to his not being put forward as candidate for mayor last May. Isern senses delicious revenge over the "Rodriguistas" of José María Rodríguez, intriguer-in-chief or so it can seem. Alvaro Gijón, formerly Isern's number two, will be running against his old boss: Rodriguista versus non-Rodriguista, albeit that Gijón prefers not to style himself such.

While Isern will probably triumph, especially because the party members away from Palma despair so much of the guard that the Rodriguistas formed around the now despised Bauzá, PSOE has already made up its mind who will head its candidate list for election to Congress. Ramon Socias is that candidate, the former national government delegate to the Balearics who observed in 2008 that politicians should not see politics as something to depend upon and that they should be politicians for a "determined period" (he was talking against the background of corruption).

Socias keeps reappearing. He was in the running to be PSOE's candidate for mayor in Palma in May. He didn't make it. And why didn't he? Ah well, maybe it was all some intrigue. Or perhaps it was all to do with froth and image. PSOE in Palma selected José Hila, and he is now mayor, a leader with a perpetual grin: the amiable, genial, personable Hila, whose sentences are never knowingly spoken without reference to consensus and dialogue. He epitomises current-day, image-conscious, ultra-modern PSOE, a product of the Palma camp led by ex-mayor Aina Calvo, she who failed to win leadership of PSOE in the Balearics despite her promotional campaign that borrowed Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us" dance anthem.

Socias, by contrast, is of the dull PSOE camp of Francina Armengol. Image-wise, that is. Candidacy for Congress carries less image weight than being Palma's  mayor, it would seem. There seems less intrigue than there was when the mayoral candidates were being sized up. Had Socias won, the party in Palma would have been split in much the same way that the PP under Isern was fractured. He didn't win because Hila, with Calvo's support, also had his wife to help him: Maria Angeles Fernandez Valiente, who has now been promoted to a senior post with the Mallorca Institute of Social Affairs (within the Council of Mallorca). Hila and his wife had backed Calvo against Armengol for the party's leadership. Was this solely an image issue? Perhaps it was. Politically, Calvo wasn't necessarily about to ally herself to the new age of Podemos, and yet Hila's wife, it was revealed six months before the mayoral election in Palma, appeared to be a Podemos supporter. Her name was on a Facebook page among some 1,400 classed as supporters.


Monday, October 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 October - Cloud, sun, 24C; 28 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 29 October - Cloud, sun, 20C.

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

Cloudy first thing, with the risk of a storm during the morning. Brightening later. Remainder of the week a pattern of sunny intervals, tomorrow warmer with some southerly air coming in.

Evening update (20.30): Warm but cloudy day, some rain mid-afternoon. High of 22.5C inland and coastal.

Heavy Metal And Xe-Lo's Wardrobe

It was startling news indeed. Som Palma were having their wishes fulfilled. They had wanted a city of heavy metal and they were to get one. Lemmy and Motörhead were on their way in order to make a video. Will it end at this or might Lemmy be drafted onto Palma's governing administration? He surely couldn't be any dafter than the current lot. Not that we know for certain that the video will be filmed in Palma. If there is any justice, then Motörhead will head to Montuïri and display two-dotted umlaut solidarity.

They asked for extras to apply, but why bother when the ranks of Podemos, the Assemblea teachers' lot and the odd Més-ite contribute sufficient numbers of rocker hairies. Podemos leader, Dave Spart, might fit the bill, roaring across the Majorcan countryside on a Harley, if only to the rear of The Boot Girl, who firmly has her hands on the controls. There again, The Boot Girl's more punk: "Laura is a punk rocker, Laura is ...", as Joey Ramone Bauzá might have sung.

One thing can be certain, though. There would not be a great deal by way of harmonies were Podemistas let anywhere near Lemmy. These have been days of disharmony within the Majorcan branch of the Church of Pablo Iglesias, and it was one that began with a slight problem with clothes. In the end, Dave had to come out and defend the monthly 400 euros that were finding their way to the Mother of Parliament. Podemista speaker of the house, Xe-Lo Huertas, needed the dosh in order to kit herself out for those times when official duties require that she puts on a show - like demanding of the King that he spends money for official receptions on soup kitchens instead.

One trusts that Xe-Lo spends the money with economy in mind. When Primark opens next year, she should be first in the queue, though it's more likely that she'll be found at the local market, acting in solidarity with artisan clothing designers, and so spending a small fortune in the process. But why not engage in a spot of her own artisaning? The Xe-Lo J-Lo range of official-duty kaftans for the fuller and more mature woman.

But worse was to come with the news that Podemistas in Calvia were abandoning the political party they had set up in their droves (well, handfuls, as in around twenty of them), as in they were turning their back on the Sí Se Puede Calvia. It was something about Podemista sorts who had been allowed to enter the council administration but who were now mere "spectators" to the town's politics and not acting in accordance with ethical commitments to the electoral programme. Or maybe it was something else. It's hard to tell.

Meantime in Palma, there were more signs of disharmony. Aurora Jhardi of Som Palma was predicting the death of Podemos. There was a terminal illness, she suggested. Though, as in Calvia, it was difficult to understand what she was going on about, which is a consequence of there being political parties - Som Palma or Sí Se Puede Calvia - which aren't Podemos as such, merely affiliates, and Podemistas who remain faithful to the preachings from the Iglesias Church. It does all rather sum up Podemos. Onlookers haven't a clue where they're at, while of those within their ranks there are some who are similarly clueless and others who spend their time at each other's throats. Aurora then said that by terminal illness she had only been using a figure of speech and that it was all part of the self-analysis and self-criticism that goes on within Podemos or parts of Podemos which aren't Podemos as such. By self-criticism, one might take this to mean that they can't stand each other.

Sorry, I'm totally baffled, and I'm sure you are as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 16C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 26 October - Showers, sun, 22C; 27 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 28 October - Cloud, sun, 20C.

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

Clocks back and the sky can be seen early on. And what does the sky hold? Clouds, and they are likely to endure through the day with the occasional burst of sun.

Evening update (20.30):  Not much by way of sun, but pleasant enough. A high - coastal - of 21.6C.

The Re-Birth Of Mallorcan Swing

This coming Friday, there is to be a musical "night" in the small town of Porreres prior to the weekend's fair. It will be a night of swing, and it will come as part of what has seemed like a whole year of swing. Wherever there has been a fiesta or fair of whatever description, there has been a swing band of some description.

When consideration is given to matters of a musical nature in Mallorca, it generally turns to the traditional - the folk music - or to the classical, and so the festivals of summer and the symphony orchestra. Other forms of music tend to be sidelined, in official circles at any rate. There is a vibrant club scene, in Magalluf in particular, but this isn't on the official agenda. Nor is rock or pop.

Jazz, in its various guises, does have greater official recognition, and a reason why may lie with the fact that it, through swing music, does have a place in the Majorcan music tradition. It is clearly not as old a one as the folk music, but its roots in local culture go back to the twenties and thirties.

Through this year, there have been exhibitions and celebrations devoted to Mallorca's Duke of Swing, Bonet de San Pedro, about whom I wrote in May when a two-month exhibition at Palma's La Misericordia was opening. He, unquestionably, was one of the most influential of the island's swing musicians, and one of the bands with which he was involved was once described as being one of Spain's greatest jazz orchestras. They were Los Trashumantes, whose work is now included in Spain's national music library. One of the recordings, from 1942, is a strange foxtrot, but then some of the music from that era - prior to and into the war years - is a bit strange.

Predominantly, it was a mix that drew on foxtrot, rumba, tango and bolero, mostly all of it imported from southern America and then given local treatment and more up-to-date modification as the island's musicians were exposed to the likes of Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong, to say nothing of, a while later, Frank Sinatra.

Bonet was one of a handful of musicians who were key to the developments of the thirties and forties. Others were Miquel Vicens, Ernest Felani and Juanito Coll, all of whom were part of Los Trashumantes. At times of war, in Mallorca's case the Civil War, music can lift the spirits, and it was Los Trashumantes who did this. As has been written of them and of Bonet, while there was the horror that was the war, on stages would be the smiling faces of this swing band under glittery lights.

Following the war, there was a chance for greater fame, and so the mainland - Barcelona in particular - beckoned. Bonet was to go on to become one of Spain's most popular performers, and while he appeared in some frankly dreadful kitsch and camp television variety shows, he never totally abandoned his Mallorcan swing roots. In 1971, for example, there was an event that has gone down in the annals of the island's music history. It was the reunion of Los Trashumantes, who appeared with other groups - of different styles - but no less famous in Mallorca's popular music past: Los Javaloyas and Los Valldemossa.

Bonet also came back to the island to form his final combo - the Swing Group Balear - in the 1980s. The lineage of swing music was, therefore, retained, but when Bonet died in 2002, it seemed as though it was firmly something of the past. However, any music tradition is capable of being revived, and this is what seems to have occurred in the past couple of years. It has been a revival apparently separate to this year's exhibitions and memories of Bonet (there are likely to be more in 2017 to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth), and as to the precise reasons for this revival, they're difficult to identify.

Whatever they were, they have spawned a vast and new popularisation of swing music and have produced bands whose names are readily recognisable with the music. The Porreres Night of Swing will feature Swing and Shout and Long Time No Swing. There are others, such as Monkey Doo, whose names do not make their style of music so instantly obvious. But what they share is a legacy that goes back to the 1920s and to the days when swing first started to emerge and to be turned, eventually, into a Mallorcan musical tradition.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Cloud, 22C; 26 October - Rain, 19C; 27 October - Cloud, sun, 22C.

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

Some hazy sun to being with, clouding over later. Tomorrow and Monday are both looking cloudy with the chance of showers.

Reducing Tourist Numbers

And so it goes on and will continue to go on until the government can arrive at what it consistently makes a virtue of attempting - consensus. Tourism minister Barceló appears more convinced than ever that the tourist tax will be directed principally at the environment, which represents a change of tune, albeit it is difficult to know what tune he or others are playing: they all seem out of key. The tax debate becomes more extraordinary by the day, confirming the suspicion that the government has turned principles of sound management on their head. You start with what your strategy should be. If this is the environment, if this is resort infrastructure improvement, if this heritage preservation, then fine, but at least establish the strategy first and then work on how it will be implemented, which includes its financing. Instead, the government is working bottom-up. Impose a tax and then figure out what the strategy is. If any.

The tourism forum that was held earlier this week exposed, as if this was necessary, all the glaring differences of opinion. These are now so well rehearsed that there is little point in repeating them. But one contribution stood out. It was that of the geography professor Ivan Murray from the University of the Balearic Islands. In the past he has spoken about the over-development of Mallorca and of the harm caused by human pressure. He said that the objective of the tax was to move towards a situation by which there would be fewer tourists. A reduction in the number of visitors has indeed been spoken of as a reason for introducing the tax, and here was someone - highly regarded - actually stating it.

One wonders which "gurus" members of the government and political parties talk to. Murray is most likely one of them, and his views would sit with the eco-ist left, and it is this - typified by the environmentalists GOB, Podemos and elements of Més (some more strongly than others) - who would seem to have influenced Barceló's latest explanation of the purpose of the tax. GOB have been insisting that the tax goes solely to the environment, Podemos basically want the same, while within Més there are the Greens who want likewise and who are more dogmatic than Barceló has been, or appeared to have been. Barceló has to take account of all these, especially Podemos. I still wonder if they might actually sink the tax if they don't get their way on how it is to be spent.

Though not at the forum but entering the debate anyway, we now have the association for villa businesses, who point to the potential unfairness of the tax if only the regulated holiday accommodation pays it. In addition, it has referred to the logistical difficulties involved with its collection, while villa agencies haven't an inkling as to what the charge might be. The association suggested that 1.5 euros per day per client would be too much. Who's to say that it won't be the 2 euro maximum? As yet, no one knows.

The maximum rate will apply to cruise-ship passengers, though for them (and the cruise operators) there is the unknown of what might constitute a minimum stay and so an exemption. Furthermore, many bookings for next year have already been made. How do the operators recuperate the tax? Do they?

There is still so much uncertainty that it would make far greater sense to delay the tax's introduction until 2017. The government might then be able to have covered all (or most) eventualities, another one of which is what on earth happens with yachts that stay at Balearic ports. No one appears to have even mentioned these. But of course the government can't delay, as it is desperate for the revenue in 2016. There's the strategy for you.

Friday, October 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2015

Morning high (6.30am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Cloud, sun, 21C; 25 October - Cloud, 19C; 26 October - Cloud, sun, 19C.

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

Sun expected all day today. Northerlies moderate. Weekend looks as though it will be mostly cloudy with a low risk of some rain on Sunday.

Evening update (23.00): A good day. High of 23.1C.

The Toy Soldiers Of Manacor

Marta Marrero, better known as Martika, was responsible for a rather good pop song a generation ago. The lyric went: "It wasn't my intention to mislead you. It never should have been this way. It's true, I did extend the invitation. I never knew how long you'd stay". For reasons of inexplicable association, her "Toy Soldiers" came to mind when learning about matters in Manacor. It just popped into my head, as these things do. Maybe it was something to do with the lyric later in the song lurking in the subconscious: "all fall down like toy soldiers".

They're falling down in Manacor: the town hall administration that is. Have they misled anyone? Not necessarily once in office, but perhaps the misleading came when they said they could form a pact and work together. Marching into the new age of politics came the combined might (or not) of Més, PSOE and Volem (inspired by the spirit of Podemos, meaning that they are Podemos with a different name). The toy soldiers of Manacor won the battle and reversed years of right-leaning domination, but they have discovered that the war is not over. There is to be a vote of censure (no confidence, in effect), and the mayor and his friends will be removed. The right - the PP, El Pi and the AIPC independents of Porto Cristo - are having their revenge. The invitation isn't to be extended. It might have been expected that they would have stayed for longer than four months or so. It shouldn't be this way, but it is.

And it's a shame in a way. I had Manacor's administration marked down as one to watch because it appeared to be ever so slightly bats. This was the one that made such an enormous ballyhoo over the virgin coves of the municipality that rather than deterring beachgoers heading to Cala Varques and spoiling it, ever more came, and did so in their droves. It should have been obvious, but wasn't.

Still, you can't blame them for trying to keep beaches nice and clean or at least herding the municipality's tourists onto beaches where the cleaning equipment can gain better access: it's Calas de Mallorca for you, friendly tourist, and not the rustic charm of Cala Varques.

The beach thing is not what is making the toy soldiers fall down: nor really is a programme of righteousness and self-righteousness from the manual of consensual togetherness of Més, PSOE and Podemos. It's because they have failed to get to grips with the urban plan for the municipality and present the initial draft. Does this sound like a reason for no confidence? Maybe not, but the opposition clearly believe that it is, and the toy soldiers, ruling in minority, are finding themselves outgunned: the opposition have already divvied up the posts without even having passed the motion.

If it seems as though being slow with the urban plan is not grounds for giving them the sack, this may be because the urban plan sounds like an incredibly dull subject. It is. Just as it is also important and complicated. And herein may be a reason for the toy soldiers being knocked over. Do they understand the plan? You couldn't really blame them for not, as very few do understand them.

But it's all well and good the toy soldiers marching towards a political new age, throwing social largesse around and attempting to keep tourists away from virgin beaches; they have to do so with a pretty firm appreciation of the tedious, complex stuff of public administration. Sure, there are those who can and do advise, but how many of the newcomers to public office have a real grounding in such matters? Some will, even if they have not held office before. One thinks of Miquel March in Pollensa, mayor of another minority administration of the left. As the former main man (person) of the environmentalists GOB, you can be assured that he knows all these plans off by heart.

Even if they do understand them, is Manacor in fact the manifestation of what was feared? The instability of pacts formed from leftist groupings and their potential for fracture and rupture that leads to their inevitable downfall? It doesn't have to follow that this should or will be so. There are minority administrations of the right as well as the left, and Pollensa was a right-leaning minority before a left one got in. Somehow it managed to survive a whole term, and March's administration may well do so too. But lest it be forgotten, the regional government operates in minority. Podemos support PSOE and Més, but the support can be withdrawn and has been on two occasions now. 

The toy soldiers are falling down, but there's a sour taste. Is this just vengefulness by the opposition? And what might they actually do with or want from the urban plan?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 14.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Sun, 22C; 24 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 25 October - Cloud, 20C.

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

Still a bit rough on the coasts, though the yellow alert may be stood down later. Winds generally easier. A good deal of sun expected, and a fine day in prospect for tomorrow.

Evening update (21.45): Decent, but a tad chilly out of the sun because of the breeze. A high (coastal) of 20.7C.

What's Behind A Stamp?: General Luque

Stamp collecting. Now there's something that hasn't entered the orbit of my thinking for a few decades. Time was when the stamp album would be bundled into the wardrobe with the cricket bat, the Subbuteo and The Beach Boys' singles. Of these, I can say that the stamp album would not now be on the revival list. Stamp collecting was one of those passing fads of childhood. There was a moment of realisation that it was inherently unproductive, while, try as one did by scouring the Stanley Gibbons for confirmation of a stamp with some actual value, there was nothing in the stamp album with its admittedly meagre collection from Bechuanaland or wherever that proved to be worth more than the paper it was printed on.

Of stamp-producing nations, protectorates and so on that came to be represented in the stamp album, Spain did reasonably well insofar as there were any number of stamps which all looked the same. Whatever their face and postal values were, the face never varied. Franco's. His image was indelibly etched into my memory: stamped into it, you might say. Though whether I was aware of who he was, I couldn't now say. Probably not. Stamps had faces like Franco's. Much of the world, that which inhabited the stamp album that is, could have had stamps with Franco's fizzog. No one ever looked as though they enjoyed being featured on a stamp; they invariably looked miserable. No wonder I gave stamp collecting up as a bad job.

This sudden and unexpected philatelic revivalism comes from an unlikely source: Inca's Dijous Bo fair. They've got into the habit of celebrating something other than just the fair. Well, they did last year by commemorating the falling-down theatre. Encouraged by the success of this, they've come up with something else to commemorate in 2015, and they've made a stamp as a result.

The local philately association had a competition for a design which vaguely resembles a drawing for a Christmas card. It has a flavour of the Holy Land minus some unlikely snow falling, a couple of palm trees and the Three Kings following yonder star. It is in fact a representation of the Cuartel General Luque, and it is this that Inca are commemorating with stamp and poster and the legend: "Cuartel General Luque, 100 años".

So, who was this general? Full name Agustín de Luque y Coca, he climbed to the rank of general during the war with the Americans at the end of the nineteenth century. He saw action in Cuba, which Spain was to lose. Patriot he was, he also had Republican tendencies, which nowadays will hold him in reasonable stead with town halls that have lurched towards leftism with a tinge of republicanism in the way that Inca's has. Importantly for Inca, he was also for a time the head of the Guardia Civil, and he was when, in 1915, the Inca barracks were officially opened, despite having only been 60% built.

This, therefore, is why the Cuartel, the barracks (or quarter), acquired the General Luque name. It has long ceased to be a barracks and is now an exhibition and events' centre. The footwear museum is there, and it recently, for instance, staged Inca Rocks, a benefit rock-concert occasion for the town's soup kitchens. The old boy, photographed with trademark beard and walking-stick at the time of the barracks' inauguration, probably wouldn't have approved of the music, though in good militaristic terms, he might have been impressed that The Prussians were the headlining act.

But to return to the stamp, they're producing a mere 750 of them. They are likely, therefore, to become collectors' items and, moreover, they could find their way into stamp albums. Seemingly, the basic stamp of 42 cents for a 20-gram letter could theoretically be used to put such a letter in the post. So long as the equivalent of the Royal Mint gives its approval - and the main reason why it wouldn't would be if it featured the image of a living person other than the royals - then it apparently qualifies as legal stamp tender.

It may well, therefore, turn up among all the registered stamps that come out in Spain in 2015, of which there are an awful lot, and they include one for the nine-year-old daughter of King Felipe. Leonor has her own stamp, and it was issued earlier this month. Of others this year there have been those for Cáceres, the Spanish capital of gastronomy 2015, the centenary of the Royal Andalusian Federation of Football and the International Congress on the Culture of Bullfighting.

The thing about stamps is that, even ones that feature just a face like Franco's, they have a story behind them. And General Luque's is one such story. Maybe I shouldn't have abandoned stamp collecting after all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 14.2C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Cloud, sun, 21C; 23 October - Sun, 20C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 5 to 7. Waves of three metres at times.

Some light rain in areas. Windy, with the alert in place for the coasts. Sun expected later, and the forecast is for reasonable amounts of sun over the next few days.

Evening update (20.30): Some reasonable sun later on. Highs of 19.6C coastal and 18.6C inland.

Resort Obsolescence: Financing mature zones

Amidst recent talk of Magalluf and its changing face, something quite important has slipped under the radar that is highly relevant to this face-changing. It applies also to Palmanova, Santa Ponsa and Paguera, where facelifts or other cosmetic surgery are spoken of less. That's the power of Magalluf, one supposes. Mention Calvia, and the assumption is that Magalluf is what is meant, but other resorts in the town have just as much of a need for makeovers as Magalluf: more in a way, as they have not gone under the operating scalpel of Meliá.

Businesses, small ones for the most part, met with town hall representatives last week to talk about concerns they have. While they raised once more the prostitutes and lookies' issues - ones that for all the triumphal talk are not getting any better - and also called for greater police presence in Santa Ponsa's Ramon Moncada (a street every bit as bedevilled as Punta Ballena has been), top of their list were "mature zones".

To remind you, these are areas of resorts deemed to be obsolete and outdated. Rundown might also be a description. The zones' levels of maturity reveal their age - fifty plus years - and there are legacies that date back to the first years of development, as is the case with other resorts on the island. The tourism law that the Bauzá government introduced contained provision for resorts (or parts of them) to be declared mature zones. Making such declarations is largely the responsibility of town halls, and if and when these are approved, the process is set in motion for eradicating the outdated and replacing it with the up to date, or possibly even futuristic.

The carrot, where the law is concerned, is that bureaucratic procedures will be relaxed. Financial assistance should also be available. The carrot is for the stick which demands that mature zones and business premises within them are redeveloped, and done so within a set period of time. In Magalluf, Palmanvoa, Santa Ponsa and Paguera, businesses such as bars, restaurants, shops and clubs have three years to get their modernisation act together: approximately a thousand premises across the four resorts are affected.

These businesses had until Monday to submit the initial documentation in order to get the ball rolling and to qualify for the plan. There was talk of extending this deadline, but at the heart of the concerns, one fancies, is the question of money. Where will the financial assistance come from? Will it be forthcoming?

A mature zone declaration brings with it an obligation on behalf of the local authority and businesses. It isn't a jargonistic term but an item of law, the first application of which - to Playa de Palma - is set out in suitably legalistic fashion. It is also a concept which doesn't only apply to Mallorca. It was adopted by the last regional government (and the new one would have no reason to abandon it) as part of a national scheme for modernisation, and nationally there is a fund for the modernisation of touristic infrastructure. This totals 200 million euros but only one eighth of it is targeted at mature zones: 25 million for the Balearics, the Costas and the Canaries.

The rules of engagement suggest that 30% of finance for business modernisation has to be private. Some would argue that it should all be private, as these are not public-sector businesses, but the scale of the task of modernisation in resorts demands government intervention and government cash. The problem is that there seems so little of it.

The Balearics of course have a fundamental issue with national government over investment funding, but even were Madrid (of whatever political colour) to up this investment for tourism infrastructure, would it go to businesses? There's no guarantee that it would, as the resorts themselves need improvement and modernisation, while with Podemos in the equation, public funding going to the private sector would probably be a no-no: they've said that the tourist tax benefiting the hoteliers would be unacceptable, and they might well have the same attitude towards restaurants and clubs.

There are other funds, such as the Balearic tourism "bolsa" that was created from levies paid by hoteliers to legalise all the places in their hotels that hadn't been legal. This is used for resort improvements, but of a general nature. And then there will be the tourist tax, but it won't go into private hands.

There are other funds in the form of generous lines of credit from certain banks, but a key problem, as identified by Meliá's Mark Hoddinott in Magalluf is that bars and restaurants don't operate in the long-term. It's why convincing them of the merits of Magalluf's transformation and changing market profile is not easy. And that means that it isn't easy to convince them that there will be profitable returns on borrowing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 18C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Sun, showers, wind, 19C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 18C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 increasing 5 to 6 during the afternoon.

Look as though we're in for a couple of breezy days with rain possible at times. Wind picking up more later in the day and into tomorrow with an advice in place for poor coastal conditions. Things due to ease by Thursday.

Evening update (20.30): Some rain around this evening. Quite windy. Highs today - 22C coastal and 21C inland.

Time To Talk Time: Clocks back

Discussions about time in Mallorca might strike you as slightly odd. The relationship with time is, after all, somewhat distant. Times can be whatever a Mallorcan (or Spaniard) want them to be, and preferably they involve the next day or the day after that.

While there are those for whom timekeeping is an alien concept, I'm far from convinced by the general stereotyping: once upon a time (sic) maybe, but very much less so now. This is, after all, a modern society (oh yes it is, before you start pooh-poohing the suggestion). Time is vastly more precious than it used to be. If it weren't, then why are there all those drivers hurtling around with apparent disregard for anyone else, desperate to get to wherever they're going? (Sorry, another example of stereotyping, as let's not forget those who have dawdling in a car down to a fine art: those for whom cars can appear to be in permanent reverse, along with time itself.)

Periodically, these time discussions crop up, and they are often determined by time: clocks going back or forward. We are on the cusp of hour reversal, and right on time comes the regular discussion, only this time there is more to the time conversation. There is a petition on to not change the time in the Balearics this weekend. 

Its organiser believes that hours of daylight in the Balearics should be adapted to the daily lives of the islands' people. Thus, the sun, and one more hour of it, is a resource from which benefits can be derived. And apart from any economic benefits, he suggests, there are the simple natural ones and so not the "political" nature of Balearic time.

Ah yes, the politics of time. The story of how the Balearics and Spain, except for the Canaries, arrived at the current system of time is well known: all to do with Franco thinking it was a good idea to match Hitler time. Despite the fact that almost all of Spain lies to the west of the Greenwich Meridian, Central European Time has remained in place all these years. The Portuguese, though, have remained firmly wedded to GMT (or BST or whatever it is nowadays): good, loyal allies that they have been for centuries.

Although the the thing's organiser refers to "political" time, his not wanting the clocks to go back an hour has a more common-sense aspect. If the clocks were to stay as they are in the early hours of Sunday morning, the afternoons would not be shortened. The extra hour of sun in the afternoon could just make a difference: a tourism difference. Mallorca suffers by comparison with the more southerly Costa del Sol and especially the Canaries in winter, so why not adopt a measure that might be advantageous?

Were there to be no backward movement of the clocks, the Balearics would be on British time, something which the national government has in any event been considering for the whole of Spain and so not just the Canaries. The chances of the government ever getting round to taking such a decision are probably slim, even if the national commission that spends its time looking into time, working hours and what have you has recommended that there should be a change. Sensible though it might be, it would play havoc with electronic control devices: the consequences might actually be disastrous. So I'm not sure if the chap has thought that part of the time equation through.

While the possibility of a move to British time remains, there are those who are lobbying to ensure that parts of Spain opt out. A couple of years ago, when the time discussion cropped up when the clocks went back, a group of "experts" advising companies about working hours and workers' social hours (assuming they have any), were sticking up for the Balearics and Catalonia to not be included. Was this another manifestation of Catalonian independence and the spread of the Catalan Lands notion to the Balearics? Well no, not really: Catalonia is, by and large, to the east of the Meridian, as of course are the Balearics. More importantly, though, the experts were saying that Catalonian (Balearic) resistance should be for reasons of greater productivity and the reconciliation of work and family life.

But then, the chap behind the petition seems to want the clocks not to go back for much the same reason. He would like there to be an hour's more sun in the winter afternoons, while the experts want things to stay as they are. Who's right? Both or neither probably. Whenever there is a time discussion, plenty of time is made for debate, with neither side having a compelling argument, albeit that the one about tourism might just be a strong case.

Monday, October 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 18.8C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Rain, sun, 21C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 17C; 22 October - Cloud, sun, 19C.

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

Noticeably warmer first thing, with the humidity level high. Cloud and rain with a possible storm expected for today, with rain maybe persisting into tomorrow. Getting windier as the day progresses, an alert out for Wednesday for coastal conditions as northerlies come whipping in.

Evening update (20.30): Grey mostly all day. Heavy showers in parts. Highs of 23.6C inland and 23C coastal.

The Touristic Nuclear Option

So, they're really going to do it. The PM(P) has taken the nuclear option. The M People - BB Barceló with Més - have pressed the button; the P part (PSOE) is wishing it had chosen to get into bed with the Partido Popular; the (P) element, i.e. Podemos, is consulting its support base via Twitter and/or demanding that the tourist tax returns Mallorca to a virgin state circa 1915. But, while the sun still shines, Mallorca will not be plunged into nuclear winter. Or not until that volcano in Iceland goes off ten times larger than it did last time.

The Tax should from now on only ever be written with the upper-case to denote the reverence in which it should be held, a reverence and pomposity revealed at its legalistic unveiling: the Law on the Sustainable Tourism Tax. Here is a maybe-maybe not government, the PM(P), flailing around in desperately attempting to convince everyone that it is pursuing its objectives with consensus and dialogue (when really they're at each other's throats), grabbing "sustainable" from the politico-touristic thesaurus and thus allowing The Tax to mean whatever it wants it to mean. Which is of course the case.

Principally, however, The Tax is, as we all know, required to balance the books. CC, Catalina Cladera (finance), will doubtless have informed BB that he needs to get his skates on if she is not to be made to look a CC - complete chump - having included 50 million in next year's budget only to discover that The Tax will not come into effect until all touristic life has decamped to the Canaries for the winter, where it will not pay a tax. It'll be from the first of May, Biel, or else ...

BB has the onerous task of not just extracting consensus from sources where consensus will not exist - the hoteliers and pretty much the entire Balearic business conglomerate - but also from the providers of the booty, the 13.5 million tourists of whom Francina is convinced that they are so in love with the Balearics that they will hand over The Tax with an ecstatic look of euphoria. "Praise the Lord Biel for saving our paradise."

So difficult is BB's task that he is, one understands, to take the unusual step of writing an open letter to the British touristic collective that will be nailed to the heads of everyone attending London's World Travel Market. The mind boggles. The very fact that he needs (someone else needs, who one trusts is familiar with the English language) to compile such propaganda should tell him something. What are we letting ourselves in for? Faced with a hostile press, ABTA, array of tour operators and Joe Soap tourist, BB's time in London will be one spent with a hard hat or buried in a bunker to avoid having to answer questions. He should give serious consideration to co-opting his predecessor, Jaime "Eddie Large" Martínez, and taking him along as bodyguard. No one messes with Eddie. Not, that is, unless they want to be eaten by him.

And what might this letter say? We already have an inkling, as BB has been using the P-word in the context of justifying The Tax. "Dear lovely, lovely tourist, we know you will want to preserve your island Paradise, its velvety white sands and its forested Alpine mountains with their works of civilisations over the centuries. We want to build consensus and dialogue with you, as you are our friends, joining us in a consensual mission of sustainability. Love you loads, Biel."

Far better, surely, would be a video, BB staring misty-eyed towards the seas off the Tramuntana to a musical accompaniment of Maria del Mar Bonet wailing Costa i Llobera's "El Pi de Formentor" in the background. Bygone imagery would certainly be what Dave Spart and The Boot Girl from Podemos would be hankering after, with all signs of the hotel industry airbrushed from the landscapes. Ideally, there would be no sign of any tourists either. Bloody tourists, coming over here, clogging up our beaches. Marga Prohens may have had a point with the nuisance jibe.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 October - Rain, 23C; 20 October - Cloud, sun, 19C; 21 October - Cloud, 17C.

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

Pleasant morning, but likely to cloud over later, with a storm possible overnight and a wet day tomorrow. General outlook - mixed.

Evening update (21.30): Decent. Highs inland and coastal of 25.4C.

The Rival Fairs Of Autumn: Llucmajor

The legend of the Black Madonna at Lluc monastery involves the shepherd boy Lluc (aka Luke). It's a legend and story well enough known that a conclusion - a wrong one - might be drawn. Lluc, as in the place, has nothing to do with the name of the shepherd boy. "Lluc" is derived from the Latin "lucu" to mean sacred forest. The name Lluc (or Luke) supposedly comes from the Latin name Lucas or the Greek Loukas to mean a man from the area of Lucania, with an alternative explanation being that it was from the Greek for giving light.

As with Lluc, the place, so also with Llucmajor, the difference being the "major" part. It means the largest sacred forest or simply the largest forest. As with many place names, there are all sorts of competing explanations, one other being that it comes from the Arabic for "over or near a place of refuge": in Catalan "lloc" means place and is the translation of the Arabic "ludjdj" (and no, I don't know how you pronounce this either).

Suffice to say, though, that in naming terms and so as with Lluc, Llucmajor has nothing to do with Luke. But just as Lluc has its legend of the shepherd boy, so Llucmajor has a person dear to its cultural and traditional heart: in this instance, Saint Luke. In case one needed any more confusion regarding place names, however, it might be noted that the legends of various Black Madonnas, of which the one at Lluc monastery is an example, have it that they were carved by Saint Luke: this is certainly the case with the Black Virgin of Montserrat.  

Anyway, that's probably enough for origins of names. Today is the feast day of Sant Lluc, or Saint Luke if you prefer. One of the four Evangelists along with Matthew, Mark and John, Luke plays a vital role in Llucmajor's history as it was his feast day that came to determine when the town's fairs would be held. The first was to be on the day of Sant Miquel and the final one on the day of Sant Lluc, an arrangement which, much to the disgust of fifteenth-century fair organisers in Inca, meant that that town's autumn fairs had to be moved.

They make a great deal in Llucmajor about the longevity, the history and so the tradition of its fairs. Today brings to a close its 469th edition of the twenty-one days of fairs from Miquel to Lluc plus tomorrow's "Firó". There's a story that once upon a time they extended these by a further day and had a "Refiró" though this might just be a tall tale and a reflection of the fact that the fairs went on so long, they didn't actually know when to draw them to a close.

It is fair (sic) to say that in Llucmajor tradition, they have always spoken of fairs in the plural. There has not been "the fair" but there have been "the fairs", which is the case also in Inca. The rivalry between the two towns, dating back to the 1540s, is such that the Llucmajor versions are spoken of in the same breath as Inca's (if only by people from Llucmajor). Together they were the grandest and the largest of Mallorca's fairs, though it is reasonable (as a neutral) to suggest that Inca has now assumed number one spot in this regard.

But the final Llucmajor fair, falling as it does while summer still lingers, has a feeling of summer that the final Inca fair - Dijous Bo - does not. Hence, as it has been written of the fairs, "we leave the freshness of Arenal and return to the town to have almonds and carobs". And to also dress up. There is a whole story to be told of the association between a town's tailoring trade and its fiestas or fairs and of how the key events of the year would require a new suit, a new outfit, a new dress. It is a tradition that is long out of fashion, so to speak, but the final fair, the Saint Luke fair, was the day when the new clothes would be shown off and paraded next to the animal pens.

In Llucmajor its final fair keeps with tradition. It's not a themed fair but one very much of rural life. Along with the farm animals, there are also donkeys and the Mallorcan bulldog - the "ca de bou". And for its celebration, you have to thank old Saint Luke and the compromise reached with Inca all those years ago.

Next Sunday, never forgetting the fact that its fairs were shunted, Inca will go bigger than ever with its first fair. And, just to make a point, Inca has more than 21 days of fairs.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 13.9C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 19 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 20 October - Cloud, 19C.

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

A mainly bright day to come with a possible period of unsettled weather from tomorrow up to midweek with temperatures down and a chance of showers.

Making Things Up On The Hoof: Tourist tax

And so, the moment when the tourist tax becomes a reality draws closer. They made it all that much more official by having a press conference at presidential HQ. The president, the tourism minister, the finance minister. It was just like old times when Antich, Alomar and Mesquida announced the eco-tax. One can almost look back on that with some fondness; at least they knew what they intended spending the money on, even if it wasn't all wisely spent and a great deal of it was never actually collected.

I admit to not being totally opposed to the tax, the justification being that I believe there are moral grounds for a tax to contribute to resources and services, just like the resident population. But even this justification is lessened by, for example, the fact of the tax on petrol that supposedly goes to the health service. Not all tourists pay this of course, but a good number do, and one wonders where mention of it is in the government's budget for 2016. Conveniently filed somewhere under "other" or "special" taxes.

Though not totally opposed, I found myself increasingly angered by the announcement and the explanations, in particular the contradictory statements. Armengol mentioned the use of the tax for tourism promotion, then Barceló said that it would primarily be for environmental conservation and heritage preservation before unveiling a wish list of other applications. Tourism infrastructure, products for tackling seasonality, technological innovation for economic diversification and for tourism, improving training. As I've noted before, if they must have a tax, then don't go spreading it so thin that it ends up being of little benefit.

The overriding impression, though, is of a government that doesn't know what it's doing, making things up on the hoof, bowing to requests from whomever it last spoke to. And it is all couched in the incessant drivel about dialogue and consensus. How can there be when so many are opposed, including the "citizens" who must now pay up to two euros a night if they fancy a weekend break?

Because they don't know - definitively - how it will be spent, there is to be a joint commission, and this will doubtless strive for dialogue and consensus. Until it and members of the government can give the final version, we will be fed the sort of nonsense and spin that we are at present.

Barceló has revised downwards his percentage cost of the tax: there's an upper limit of 1.4% now and not the 1.7% there had been. The spin as to the cost doesn't, it has to be said, make the tax sound so bad. Nine days in a four-star for a family of four in summer will cost 25 euros, says Barceló. One presumes, therefore, that the daily rate for a four-star per adult will be 1.38 recurring euros, which would be an odd amount. Or perhaps by nine days, he means eight nights, in which case the rate would be 1.5625 euros, assuming the family of four comprises two adults and two kids under the age of 14.

It might not prove to be that onerous, though nothing is being said as yet about the maximum number of nights for which it will be charged. This is just one of the uncertainties to add to those of what it will actually be used for, how exactly it will be collected, how the government might propose getting those in "unregulated" accommodation to pay. Then there are others. What about foreign property owners who are non-residents? Ones who come for, say, three months. There will presumably be a limit for them, won't there be? In fact, why should they pay at all, as they already do in different ways? Any charge would be mightily unjust, though how it might be collected, assuming the government cannot do so at the airport, would probably exclude this group of "tourists".

But have the government even considered them? Just as, have they considered yachts that come and moor for a "stay" in the same way (in fact longer) than cruise ships, for which a charge based on a minimum six hours in port (which seems likely) seems dubiously justifiable.

Then hat about villas? Will they all attract the two-euro rate? Or will there be a differentiation? And if so based on what criteria? Here is a further example of the government flailing around and making announcements that are anything but complete, thus giving rise to speculation and potential loss of tourist business.

Reaction from various business sectors is differing. Though the hoteliers are hostile and are saying that it is a "bad measure at a good time economically", they want to be involved in the dialogue and the consensus. Business comments cannot be too strident or they might find they are not listened to when it comes to seeking this consensus. It is noticeable, though, that those associations which are more positive than others seem wedded to the idea that the tax should be directed towards the environment, and ultimately, one feels, this is where the battle will be fought. The war, in a sense, is lost in that the government is determined to go ahead with the tax, but the battle as to it use most certainly isn't over, and lurking in the background is an element that may make this battle intense. The most strident talk politically, apart from the opposition of the Partido Popular, is that of Podemos.

Its leader, Alberto Jarabo, has described the hoteliers as the "ventriloquists in the shadows", the ones who were commanding tourism policy of the PP. Of the tax he has said that Podemos will not accept a tax that might benefit the hotel sector. He wants all the revenue to go to the environment and to reducing the tax burden of "the citizens". Barceló, caught between every conceivable stool, says that the tax will go primarily on environmental and heritage projects, while at the same time saying it will go elsewhere. He is acutely aware of the eco-element within his own party, the pressures from GOB, the environmentalists, and from Podemos. But when push comes to shove, if Podemos don't gain "consensus" as to how the tax will be spent, might they vote, as they already have on the senior appointments affair, against the government, thus potentially rendering the tax politically untenable?

Friday, October 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2015

Morning high (6.30am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 17 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 18 October - Cloud, sun, 23C; 19 October - Cloud, 21C.

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

A reasonable day ahead, fairly warm with minimal breezes. Tomorrow due to be a bit warmer, but Sunday mostly cloudy.

What's On?: Who knows?

Among other things, the day job (mine) currently involves being keeper of the Bulletin's What's On. Pretty simple job, you might think. Up to a point it is, but there is a great deal that makes it anything but simple.

I wouldn't claim that this coverage is comprehensive. Selectivity is applied. For example, does anyone want or need to know that the local indie band is playing at a bar no one's ever heard of in Ariany or Lloret de Vistalegre? Perhaps they do. In which case, do let me know. On balance, however, listing every gig, dance night or whatever may not be called for. So, comprehensive it is not, but it is reasonable to say that the coverage is far more complete and coherent than other sources, and that's because gathering all this stuff isn't straightforward and requires a fair amount of digging in order to find it in the first place and then to confirm exactly what it is and when it is taking place.

Much of what happens on the island can be placed in a calendar because it is always the same. This applies to fiestas or fairs. However, the dates aren't always the same. It is necessary to know that, for instance, the La Beata processions in Santa Margalida and Palma are, respectively, held on the first Sunday of September and the third Saturday of October. So long as you know this, then things are simple enough, except of course when they suddenly go and completely change the date. Local elections are one reason why this can happen, and a fiesta/fair that is normally pencilled in for around 20 May ends up taking place some time in June.

Inconvenient though this is, one is at least aware of the fair/fiesta looming on the what's on calendar, and so off one trots - not physically but via the internet - to whatever source for further information seems most appropriate, and more often than not, this will be the town hall.  

There are, it must be said, certain town halls which are rubbish when it comes to imparting information about their events. Eventually you might find it, buried within all the town hall website junk about recycling, tax payments and courses for teaching Catalan. Others are much better and no more so than the ones which, on going to their websites, have a pop-up announcing the fiesta/fair/whatever it is. Here is where life should be very simple, Generally it is, but not always.

As an example, Campos has its sobrassada thing going on next week. The town hall has produced a nice-looking PDF with all the information you might want except for the fact that it tells you about restaurants participating in its gastronomy do without actually saying when this is. Attempting to put two and two together, off one goes to Mr. Google for some assistance, and you seemingly find it, only to discover that you are looking at something from 2012.

Not giving precise times and dates is just one trial that one has to endure. A further one is that what might look to be a fairly accurate source of information turns out not to be. The regional government, for example, has a calendar of what it calls fairs and markets. This, by the way, isn't produced by the tourism ministry but by the ministry of employment, commerce and industry. Issued each year, it has a couple of iterations before being declared "definitive", which it might be if it didn't miss out ones or say that some are "sense determinar" (undetermined), as in when they take place.

Then you might come across an event which gives barely any information. No location, or no time, or no price (if there is one). Or there can be conflicting information as to all these. It's at this point that one begins to lose the will to live. Why should it be so difficult to include something as basic as a venue or a time? But, ever diligent, one investigates further. Facebook might help, and it often does. If a particular artist/performer/band has a date to play somewhere, they generally speaking know, and know rather better than the originator of the incomplete information.

These are just some indications as to why putting what's on information together isn't always a straightforward task and why one has the feeling at times that, despite all the talk about cultural promotion and what have you, there are too many town halls, regional bodies and others who are failing in a mission to inform. Do they really want people to know? You do sometimes wonder. 

Amidst this incoherence, there are mercifully some shining beacons of informativeness. Hats off, therefore, to the likes of Valldemossa and Felanitx town halls and their comprehensiveness in issuing summer information. If only they were all like them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 October 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 14.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 18 October - Cloud, 22C.

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

There may be the odd shower today but otherwise a mix of cloud and sun, which is a similar story heading into the weekend. Temperatures unspectacular.

Evening update (20.00): Sunny for quite a bit of the day. Clouded over later. A spot rain in parts. Coastal high, 19.4C; Inland high, 20.8C.

Just Another Tax?: Balearic finances

The government has released its projections for revenue generation in 2016. And by revenue generation one means tax. Buried among the various contributions is what is referred to as "other taxes". This shows a 50 million euro increase over 2015. It is the provision, so it is believed, for the tourist tax, a rather more modest number than the 100 million or more that has been spoken of but which would be attainable only with what would prove to be an onerous levy. 

It's difficult to judge how accurate the provision is without knowing what exemptions there might be (children) or what the cap will be on the number of overnight stays (of which it has been suggested they may be only five). It's also difficult because of the number of visitors who won't pay it because there will be no mechanism to do so through accommodation. This is why the government is so keen to have collection at ports and airports, a scheme which, however, could prove as unworkable as it would be damaging (even more damaging) in PR terms. That Madrid appears disinclined to meet the regional transport minister to discuss the subject is to Madrid's credit.

The inclusion of the provision for the tourist tax in the revenue forecast is fair enough, but the very fact of its inclusion lends weight to the argument that the tax will merely be a further means of boosting general revenues, i.e. it will be treated as a general tax. As the government continues to faff around and change its mind on an almost daily basis as to what its purpose is, this impression strengthens. But above all, there is the whole question of government finance. It bangs on constantly about the 0.3% deficit ceiling for 2016, one on which Madrid will not budge, making it ever clearer that the tourist tax is a device for addressing spending capacity that will be denied to the government because of the ceiling.

The government does, though, have to consider its spending as a consequence of its own specific tax-raising. The greater its capacity, the more Madrid might be inclined to penalise the government when it comes to the funding allocation derived from the system that the government considers so unfair: the redistribution of tax revenues to richer and poorer regions of Spain. It is an unfair system in that the Balearics have constantly been left well short because of the high levels of income tax and IVA (VAT) returns compared with other regions. But the more revenue that the government derives from its own specific regional taxes, the more the liquidity funds and what have you that Madrid controls will be biased towards the farmers of Extremadura. It is a bit of a Catch 22 in this regard, but that is how the system, flawed as it is, works.

The expectation is that this will all change if the national government changes and PSOE's Pedro Sánchez becomes prime minister. It may well change, but change is already afoot, the Rajoy administration having conceded that the financing system needs to be amended and to be made more favourable to the Balearics. For all that Rajoy has applied austerity, the point needs to be made that Madrid has brought about some discipline with regions' finances, though even it has been unable to effect major improvements to debt levels: the regional government, left a legacy of enormous debt by the Bauzá regime, wants to negotiate with the banks.

Even once the government does finally define the tourist tax - the amount, the length of stay, the exemptions, the means of collection, the use (or uses) - the arguments will continue, and the Balearic tax will attach far greater controversy than similar taxes elsewhere, some of which are little known about. A correspondent of mine mentioned a conversation he had with a tourist who has come to Mallorca twice this year rather than dividing his two annual holidays between Mallorca and Tunisia (for obvious reasons). This tourist says that he won't be returning to Mallorca if there is a tax, but then Tunisia has one of its own - a departure tax.

The point is, though, that regardless of taxes in what are direct competitor destinations - Morocco, Tunisia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Catalonia, parts of France and even perhaps Dubai - the Mallorcan visitor appears unmoved by the argument and the comparison. 

The same tourist of my correspondent's acquaintance says why don't they just hide the tax and apply it some other way and not make an issue of it. Possibly they could, but I've other suggestions. Why not make it a tourist lottery? Or make it voluntary? As President Armengol believes that tourists are willing to be so generous with the tax, who knows, the government might rake in even more from a massive Balearic tipping scheme. Couldn't be done though, as the tax budget wouldn't allow it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 October 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 16.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 15 October - Rain, sun, 20C; 16 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 17 October - Cloud, sun, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 6 locally 7, easing North 3 to 5 by the evening. Waves to three metres at times.

A storm around first thing, and it is raining. Alerts for rain and coastal conditions, though things should improve by the afternoon. Rain still a possibility tomorrow.

Evening update (21.30): It got better later on after a good deal of rain early on. Highs inland and coastal around the forecasted 19C.

The Curiosity Of Hispanicity

Spain's National Day is a curious affair. Away from Madrid, it isn't a big deal. In Mallorca the Virgen del Pilar fiesta of the same date carries more weight, albeit that this is not as it was. 12 October has become a public holiday, a ritual one largely confined to rituals of military parading in Madrid, to some religious ritual and to a further one honouring the Guardia Civil, whose patron is Pilar, the saint on a pillar in Zaragoza and the image of the Virgin Mary. Otherwise, the ritual is like other public holidays: a day off and, if you're lucky with the weather, a day on the beach.

It is curious in another respect in that the adoption of 12 October first really came about in 1913 as a fiesta for celebrating common bonds of the Spanish people and the Spanish lands of South America. There had, by then, been commemorations of Columbus's discovery for some twenty years or so in Buenos Aires, and in 1913 a name was given to this day, the Fiesta de al Raza - the festival of the race, the Spanish race.

This was to morph into the Día de la Hispanidad, the day of Hispanicity, and the change was largely driven from Argentina. Among others, a one-time Spanish ambassador to Argentina, Ramiro de Maeztu, had proposed the adoption of this name in 1931. Three years later, the Archbishop of Toledo picked up on Maeztu's proposal and presented the discourse "Apologia de la Hispanidad" - the defence of the Hispanic peoples and heritage. A year later, in 1935 and in the time of the Second Republic, the first Día de la Hispanidad was celebrated. Maeztu spoke and referred to the whole of Spain and of Spain in the Americas being a part of it. One further year on, with Spain at war, he was executed by the Republicans.

In 1939, the Civil War over, the official celebration took place in Zaragoza. For the Nationalists and for Franco, it was a day that brought together all that it held dear and all that it wished to correct. Spain and Hispanicity had themselves been through the wars for decades. For example, there had been humiliation with the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The upheavals that had endured for so long were to be replaced by a reassertion of Spain the nation and Spain in the wider world. Allied to this was the fundamentalism of the Catholic conservatism that the regime espoused. The Virgen del Pilar was, therefore, definitively and symbolically linked to this day of nationalism - the mother of the Hispanic peoples.

It wasn't until 1958 that the day was officially declared as a public holiday and as the "fiesta nacional". Following the death of Franco and the establishment of democracy, there were to be two decrees. One of 1981 maintained the title Día de la Hispanidad; a second, in 1987, didn't. Though it was never formally abandoned - and it is still used - there appeared to be an attempt at creating a distance with the concept of Hispanicity.

Nowadays, it is a day that is rejected in certain quarters. The presidents of Catalonia and the Basque Country did not attend the Madrid military parade, and they never have. In Mallorca, there were protests of the what's-there-to-celebrate variety. The mayor and other councillors from Més and the Republican Left were among those who didn't have a day off. They worked instead. The day of Hispanicity, the national fiesta, the Guardia Civil celebration: none of these would close the town hall for the day, observed mayor Miquel Oliver.

There is something else that is curious about this day. National days are not uncommon. The French have one, Bastille Day. The Italians celebrate the post-Second World War referendum which definitively established the republic. The Dutch have King's Day. Germany has one of sorts - to mark reunification. The British don't have one. But Spain's day stands out for the fact that its roots lie with the notion of Hispanicity, of the Spanish peoples. The French don't promote global Frenchness as such. Neither the Italians nor the Dutch indulge in celebrating the reach of their nations to any extent.

Of one-time imperial powers, it is only the Spanish who, even if it is officially no longer recognised, have this universality. In certain respects, it is understandable. There are an awful lot of Hispanic people across the globe, while the impetus behind the day was as much one from a part of former empire as it was a domestic creation. But perhaps it is a reflection of a psyche, of the loss of the discovery by Columbus and of the creation of empire and of a people that was to disintegrate and unravel. And right now, the assertions of National Day are against the background of another possible unravelling - the nation itself. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 October 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 18.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 14 October - Rain, sun, 20C; 15 October - Sun, rain, 18C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3, locally 4 at times.

An alert out for rain today and tomorrow. Cloudy start, though no rain. Getting cooler over the next few days but then forecast to warm up again by Sunday.

Evening update (19.30): Quite grey for much of the day, some sun but mostly cloudy and humid. The rain is now with us and is heavy in places. Highs - Inland, 23.6C; Coastal, 22.9C.

Island Hopping: Joana Camps

We would have had every good reason to have believed that we would have never heard of her again. Former minister, Joana Maria Camps, the second of the three in charge of education under José Ramón Bauzá, was relieved of her duties in September 2014. She had been minister for some eighteen months, during which time the islands' education system went from bad to worse and occasionally descended into farce, with Joana sometimes the cause.

During the time that she was minister, some started to note that she was heading off to Menorca - her home island - not infrequently. Among those doing the noting was the Assemblea de Docents, the teachers' assembly, for whom Joana was public enemy number two after Bauzá.

The Joana affair has, on two occasions, been considered by a court. On both occasions the matter was "archived", which typically means that no more is ever heard of it. However, the court in Palma has re-opened the case, and next month Joana will be obliged to explain herself. The Assemblea is pointing to the fact that Joana went to Menorca 32 times between May and December 2013 and that her stays often coincided with a weekend and lasted for more than a day. A contrast is being made with two visits that were made to Ibiza with travel there and back on the same day and one to Brussels that also involved same-day travel. In addition, there is the fact that Joana received 22,000 euros per annum compensation for needing to base herself in Mallorca.

The court has taken note of four specific trips that were apparently made: three days for a meeting with the mayor of Sant Lluís; six days for trophy-giving for the Almirante Ferragut regatta; five days for the Rocío pilgrimage; five days for the presentation of a magazine for the Sant Joan fiestas in Ciutadella. It should be noted that, in addition to having been education minister, she did also have responsibility for culture, but while this dual portfolio may offer some justification, the court would appear to believe that there is something a tad fishy which is worthy of further examination.

Joana has come out fighting, saying that she has nothing to hide and that there was no misuse of public funds. She is also drawing a comparison with a minister in the Antich government, Joana Barceló, who is also from Menorca and who was in charge of employment before adding the tourism brief in early 2010. Joana says that the other Joana made 46 trips to Menorca - 38 of them at weekends - between February and December 2010 and a further 28 in the five months of 2011 prior to the regional election.

Whether two wrongs - if it is deemed wrongs have been committed - make a right isn't really the issue. But it might be said that there is an issue regarding appointments of ministers (or indeed others) from those in the other islands. While it is only just that these are shared around, it is important that they are made for the right reasons and go to the right people. Joana, as was regularly pointed out, had no specific background that qualified her to be education minister. For an austerity-minded government, was an annual compensation for being based in Mallorca justified, when there were surely others who might have been better qualified for the post? Hers was an appointment to guarantee a following of the party (Bauzá) line on trilingual teaching, the previous and far better qualified incumbent, Rafael Bosch, having been less minded to give the policy his wholehearted support. 

The handing-out of appointments does have an element of a quota system to it in order that the other islands are represented in government. Hence, the current cabinet has Marc Pons and Esperança Camps (no relation) from Menorca and Joan Boned from Ibiza. As Boned is transport minister, it might be said that his wish for a 30 euro flat-rate inter-island flight tariff makes sense as it will save on the cost of any travel he has to make with his home island.

It is right that there is all-island representation (though Formentera tends not to get a look in), but then it is also right that travel does not give rise to certain suspicions. With Joana, it is possible that these would not have arisen or not gone as far as the courts, were it not for the Assemblea having it in for her. Is there vindictiveness? Possibly there is. But there again, it isn't altogether surprising that those suspicions were aroused, given the number of trips.

Ministers getting around the other islands should (and does) form part of what they do. A problem for Joana perhaps is less the trips she made to Menorca but the ones she didn't make to Ibiza.