Monday, November 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 November 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 7.9C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 1 December - Sun, 18C; 2 December - Sun, mist, 17C; 3 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

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

Nippy and clear morning. Sunny day and a fairly warm one to come.

Evening update (21.00): Good day. High of 21.3C.

Running In The Podemos Family

What's the difference between Level 42 and Level 33? The first is the name of a relatively successful pop combo from the 1980s and the second isn't. Nine levels separate the two, but both share something in common. Level 42 borrowed Douglas Adams' answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Level 33 is the answer to the ultimate question of Podemos, its universe and everything, the ultimate question, in this instance, not only being what the hell is Level 33 but why, in the name of everything consensual and participatory in democratic regeneration, anyone should give a monkey's.

In a Level 42, Mark King style, it runs in the family, you know: the Podemos family, with its occasional flirtations with a Chinese way or whichever direction happens to be flavour "de jour". The flip-flop nature of the Podemos family makes it nigh on impossible to pin down the ultimate question that surrounds it, let alone the ultimate answer, but Level 33 gets close.

For those of you who don't know, Level 33 is the mysterious term applied to one-time senior governmental officials who, once a new lot gets in, are booted out of a job but continue to receive a monthly payment of between 400 and 800 euros. Their numbers are such that they cost the government around a million a year. They, those who have attained Level 33, the meaning of which is lost even on me (it is something obscure in the quirkiness of public administration), have been the target of  the ire of the left, a civil service "caste" benefiting from ongoing public-money largesse: the target, therefore, for the full-on agitprop of Podemos and Wild Man Més, aka David Abril.

Into the Level 33 argument strode The Font of all middle-of-the-road Mallorcan politics, Jaume of that ilk. El Pi proposed that Level 33 shouldn't go the way of all old Level 42 CDs and be hauled off to the Green Point recycling centre. Or just be scrapped. The Font of all parliamentary knowledge observed that the courts may well have a field day if this was done. Astonishingly enough, Podemos agreed with him, its leader, Dave Spart, doubtless having consulted - via Twitter - with the party's new legal guru, the good former judge Yllanes.

Having raised an amendment which backed The Font, the Podemistas promptly changed their minds. It had been an "error" to have agreed with El Pi and thus be exposed as a party of the centre or even vaguely of the right, something that would never do. They withdrew the amendment. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, while the courts began to sharpen their knives.

As Mark King once sang: "looking back it's so bizarre, it runs in the family". It is and and it does. And we're still not sure what either the ultimate question or answer is, other than that Level 33 shows how they can oddly change direction. They'll both be different this time next week; it runs in the Podemos family.

Index for November 2015

Air connectivity Mallorca - 18 November 2015
Balearic budget - 2 November 2015
Catalonia independence - 13 November 2015
Football history in Mallorca - 29 November 2015
Franco and protest - 4 November 2015
Health centre all-day opening - 23 November 2015
Holiday rentals - 28 November 2015
IB3 Andreu Manresa - 26 November 2015
Institutions and change - 20 November 2015
Jimi Hendrix in Mallorca - 22 November 2015
Mallorca's film history - 15 November 2015
Mallorca's other resorts and investment - 10 November 2015
Markets - 17 November 2015
Mushrooms - 8 November 2015
Palacio de Congresos - 27 November 2015
Pla region tourism promotion - 19 November 2015
Podemos and hoteliers - 16 November 2015
Podemos and Level 33 - 30 November 2015
Podemos and the General - 9 November 2015
Podemos and the Judge - 24 November 2015
Promoting Mallorca - 3 November 2015
Ramon Llull and cultural tourism - 6 November 2015
Religious tourism - 12 November 2015
Ritch Miller - 1 November 2015
Self-service alcohol - 14 November 2015
Tourism investments for the Balearics - 5 November 2015
Tourist tax - 7 November 2015, 21 November 2015, 25 November 2015
Urban green space in Mallorca - 11 November 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 November 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 30 November - Sun, 20C; 1 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 2 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3 backing West later in the day.

Expected to be cloudier today than previously forecast, but the change of month is heralding a spell of calm and mainly sunny weather.

Evening update (20.30): A sunny high of 19.1C.

A Hundred And More Years Of Mallorcan Football

In March 1916, they formed a football team. Its name was initially the Alfonso XIII Football Team, a quite deliberate adoption of an Anglicised form. Football was, after all, an English (British) sport. The Alfonso of the name was the king. Fifteen years later, he was to leave Spain. He went into exile at the start of the Second Republic and the Republican government subsequently charged him with high treason. In the same year, sensing the way the tide was turning, what had, in 1916, very quickly become the Real Sociedad Alfonso XIII, changed its name to CD Mallorca. The sporting club of Mallorca had very nearly acquired its current name; the Real was to be restored in 1948.

This year is the one-hundredth anniversary of Real Mallorca, a hundred years notable more for the lack of distinction than for the gaining of it, but a hundred years are, nonetheless, something to be proud of, even if the club's emergence came some years after others in Spain which were to become part of the fabric of the nation's football. Its first ever match, on the Buenos Aires ground in Palma, was against a team that had been formed right at the end of the nineteenth century. The Futbol Club Barcelona turned up in March 1916 and beat its hosts five-nil. Reports suggest that Barcelona, being guests, hadn't wished to seem ungrateful for the hospitality that had been extended.

Football, it should be said, was not especially popular back in those days. In Spain generally it had been introduced largely thanks to British sailors and workers and also to young Spaniards who had gone to Britain to study. Barcelona, it might be noted, owed a great deal to one Hans Gamper for getting it up and running just over a month before the nineteenth century became the twentieth. Its first players were all foreign.

A couple of years after Barcelona was formed, the first references to "foot-ball" appeared in the Mallorcan press. A Palma magazine for cyclists made references to matches that were being played in Barcelona. Meanwhile, a writer for "La Almudaina", a newspaper of the time, reported on having been invited to watch an exhibition of "foot-ball" that was given by some British sailors: the naval introduction of the sport had crossed from the mainland.

At this time, sport as it was in Mallorca was confined to cycling, sailing, swimming and horse trials. A teacher at the Gimnàstica de l'Institut Balear, a certain Adolfo Revuelta, had to inform the youth of Palma about this odd sport. It was a ball game between two teams of eleven players on a large field at each end of which was a goal, and each team had to try and kick the ball into the other's goal. Simple enough, you would think, and so of course it was to prove, though initially there wasn't a great deal of local interest.

Despite this apparent indifference, teams started to emerge. Although what was to become Real Mallorca is probably fairly described as the first proper club in Mallorca, the first true match is said to have been played in December 1902. Created by members of the Palma "Cercle Ciclista", they called themselves "España", and they took on a Catalan team (result unknown). The following year, a team known as Palmesano, run by our friend Adolfo Revuelta, challenged España. The good teacher's instructions hadn't been entirely successful, as Palmesano had overlooked the part about kicking the ball into the other team's goal: they lost 7-0.

In 1904, they held the first Balearic Championship. Again, cycling was to assist in football's development. Veloz, a team which played at the Tirador velodrome in Palma, played in front of a couple of thousand spectators and became Balearic champions. In 1908, it was Menorca's turn: Mahón FC proved superior to Veloz, España and others.

One says that Real Mallorca was the first proper club, and in the sense that it was established as a company - a "societat" - then this is true, but there were teams which predated it, of which one, CD Binissalem, is very much alive and kicking nowadays. As is often the case with evidence from Mallorca's past, this can be contradictory. For instance, it is suggested that CD Manacor was also around before 1916, though there is equally good evidence to suggest that it wasn't.

One thing is for certain though, and that is that the Alfonso XIII Football Team was started in 1916, while it is also certain that España - Spain - was the first actual football team in Mallorca.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 November 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 8.7C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 29 November - Sun, cloud, 17C; 30 November - Sun, 16C; 1 December - Sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 veering and increasing North-Northeast 4 to 5 by the evening.

Distinctly nippy under clear skies first thing. Warm sun expected later. Prospects for the remainder of the weekend and into next week - pretty decent.

Evening update (19.30): Decent. A high of 20.9C.

The Zoning Of Holiday Lets

Pilar Carbonell is the director-general of Balearic tourism. She's the one who gets things done rather than talk about getting things done, which is minister Barceló's job. But she did talk recently. In a wide-ranging interview, she spoke about the tourist tax, all-inclusives, holiday lets, Aena and lower tariffs at the airport in winter. Hers is a wide brief.

I met her recently when she came to Alcudia to talk to local businesses who were wanting something done about all-inclusives. She seemed eminently charming. Highly attentive and respectful to what was being said at the meeting, there was nevertheless an impression that she was somewhat divorced from the day-to-day realities of life in the resorts. In a way this was surprising. She is steeped in the industry from the point of view of non-hotel businesses, having run restaurants and having been the president of the restaurants' association. In Alcudia, she seemed not to know of the sheer scale of the massive Bellevue complex and the enormous influence this has on the local tourism economy. She seemed surprised when told of the practice of wristbands being sold on the beach to tourists who can get day rates to drink as much as they want inside an all-inclusive.

Perhaps it's too much to ask that any politician with a tourism brief can be familiar with issues in each and every resort on the island, but if so, one wonders about what she said in this recent interview about the application of rules regarding holiday lets.

The law on this, or at least a process for deciding the regulation of accommodation, will be coming in some time in January, she intimated. And as part of this regulation, properties (apartments for the most part, therefore) will be subject to regulated and legal commercialisation as holiday accommodation in defined areas of resorts. The town halls, she said, would be the ones to decide on which areas.

This breaking down by area has already been given some discussion in Palma. But Palma is a big place. It has discernible areas, be they the old centre, the resort areas and other seaside parts which are less of a resort nature. Other resorts aren't anything like as big, and there is a clue in how they are referred to. They are resorts, full stop. Puerto Alcudia is, and this covers the port area and the main tourism centre a couple of kilometres away and stretches to the border with another resort - Playa de Muro: one continuous resort. There are various other such examples in Majorca.

Will this selection by town halls mean, for instance, that the "pueblos" are excluded? And if so, why? In Alcudia old town's case, as is the same with certain other old towns, it is part of the overall tourist offer in the municipality. Why should it not be included?

A concern may be that town halls end up being guided by the current land regulation known as POOT, which basically refers to a quota system of municipal territory dedicated to touristic development. But POOT doesn't presuppose a continuity of territory: it is broken up into parts. Hopefully, this will not be adopted as the guideline, but even under an alternative system, will the plan for town halls to decide not simply add to the confusion which exists regarding private accommodation for holiday let rather than lessen it? And what of municipalities not currently considered to be tourist centres, those in the interior? There is no current tourist development quota in most of them, while if they have ambitions to develop tourism - Sa Pobla is a case in point - they need flexibility where private properties are concerned because of an absence of hotels. Pilar Carbonell has her work cut out getting all this right.

Friday, November 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 November 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 November - Sun, cloud, 18C; 29 November - Cloud, sun, 14C; 30 November - Sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 easing 4 to 5 during the morning and West 3 over the afternoon.

Still a bit blustery, but winds easing and there should be a fair amount of quite warm sun today. The outlook has picked up, with the turn of the month promising settled, sunny conditions.

Evening update (21.30): Not too bad, some reasonable sun, a high of 17.1C.

The Palace Of Horrors

Even at the end, they can't bring things to an end. The Palacio horror story drags on, the squabbling now being over what is comparatively loose change in the scale of colossal spend amidst all the institutional incompetence. The government's vice-president, Biel Barceló, knows all about loose change. British tourists, thanks to the strength of the pound, will consider their bills for the tourist tax to be like loose change. So he pronounced in London recently. Thanks very much, what the tourists gain through the exchange rate, they lose by handing over the gains to the Balearic government.

British tourists may not yet be "fed up", but everyone, according to Barceló, is "fed up" with the Palacio. Amen. How many years have we had to put up with this nonsense? Far, far too many. Everyone's "fed up", Biel, not because of the contractor Acciona spinning out the last, miserable days of the construction, but because they long ago got "fed up" by the sheer sorrow of the saga.

Just think about it for a moment. Here was to be a convention centre that would be a further jewel, if a contemporary jewel, in the crown of the island's capital. A development to capture a market - the conference and exhibition market - that would be crucial to eating into the harmful effects of tourism seasonality. It was to be a monument to new, revitalised Palma and Mallorca. Yes, it is a monument, but one that asks many questions of public institutions. Why should we surprised? It was after all a pet project of Jaume Matas, and one that he was warned against by those in the know.

The "pressure" that Acciona has been applying by downing tools in the final furlong has to do, we understand, with the compensation it is seeking for the mess caused by previous administrations and the consequent two-year delay. The town hall reckons the contractor's claim should be a quarter of what is being demanded. Yet, how has it been allowed for this claim to remain unresolved? Acciona's bill has been known about for a couple of years and was even referred to in official communiques when work was reactivated. It needed to be accounted for, just as the compensation - also for the delay - to the architect, Patxi Mangado, had to be allocated. Mangado has been paid, so it is believed, but then his claim was lower, something over half a million. A cheaper payment of loose change to keep him on as cheerleader as well as architect. He now says he isn't bothered by yet further delay. It sounds like he's "fed up" as well. And who can blame him? Through no fault of his own, through none of his making, his reputation has been dragged through the mud of association with this benighted project.

The town hall and the government can argue, with some justification, that they inherited a pup. They, like Mangado, can't be blamed for the follies of others, but the final months of the construction have nonetheless been dogged by further institutional uncertainties, the town hall forced to release a tedious explanation as to how the final work is to be paid for. The Partido Popular had smelt a rat, as there seemed to be no budgetary provision. Not, it should be said, that the PP has much of a leg to stand on in the whole affair.

But even before they started to butt heads with Acciona over payments, there was the impression that they - town hall and government - were less than entirely committed to the project. He may not now be a councillor in Palma - he's the number one Congress candidate for Més instead - but it was Antoni Verger who, not so many months ago, raised the possibility of demolishing the whole thing. Only the cost of doing so seemed to deter such a decision.

When (if) it is finally finished, we can doubtless anticipate that Palma's smiling mayor, José Hila, will be smiling at the official opening ceremony, spouting the touristic correctness of seasonal lengthening and social correctness of the "citizens" taking pride in the venture. The citizens have been allowed to take a look. Some may indeed be proud. But how many are just "fed up"?

Hila's permanent smile seems to have been stitched on through a sense of desperation. He is already dead mayor walking, as he's only serving for two years before handing the mayoral wand to Més. He is a servant of Palma's political pact and so a signatory to the nonsense of the Feixina monument demolition and the even greater nonsense of a public referendum for the Born. How can there be such a fuss over four bloody terraces?

But there is, just as there is the ongoing fuss with the monument to institutional folly, both past and present. The Palace of Horrors.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 November 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 27 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 28 November - Cloud, sun, 16C; 29 November - Cloud, sun, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4 veering and increasing North 6 to 7 occasionally 8. Waves to 4 or 5 metres.

Mostly cloudy first thing and likely to stay that way during the day. Rain possible at any time and windy as well, an amber alert in place for the coasts and very rough seas.

Evening update (21.15): Indifferent day. Some sun, but mostly cloud. Occasional rain. Windy now. A high of 15.2C. Down to around 13C now.

Gastronomy And Astronomy: IB3

The Mallorca (aka Balearic) public broadcaster, IB3, has a new director-general. He's a man with long(ish) hair, a couple of days' stubble, a moustache and glasses. Worryingly, he reminds me of a university history tutor from many years ago, from a time - the 1970s - when long(ish) hair, a couple of days' stubble (or preferably several months), a moustache and glasses, or combinations thereof, were considered de rigueur among the academics of north Lancashire.

In those days of yore, a further requisite was that academics wore their left-wing credentials on their lapels or in their wallets. Card-carriers of the Communist Party, Socialist Workers' Party or some mad Maoist collective were considered normal. Right-wing academics stood out like a very sore thumbing of the nose in the general direction of Marxism, Trotskyism and various other isms. They were looked upon as cranks, especially by the hairies in the ranks of the students' union.

None of the above, in terms of political affiliation, will apply to Andreu Manresa, the hirsute, bespectacled, latest incumbent of the IB3 hot seat. But as he is a journalist with "El País", the assumption is - probably not a wrong one - that his politics veer towards the left. "El País" is "The Guardian" of the Spanish media: academics of the good old days of unrest on the campuses would purchase their copies of "The Guardian" along with "The Morning Star" from the campus newsagent's and wrap the former inside the latter in order to boost street cred while marching off to the lecture hall.

Manresa, for anyone who attended Santa Ponsa's Moors and Christians' festivities in September, may well be familiar. He delivered the "pregón" for the Rei en Jaume fiesta, alluding to Calvia not as a village or as a town but as a "constellation", "a galaxy on Earth", with idiosyncrasies and contrasts - from the mega yachts of Portals to mega nights out in Maga. (Actually, he didn't say the latter about Magalluf; I've made that up.) If memory serves, he also had things to say about aubergines and almonds. And so, with all this in mind, what does the new DG have in store for IB3? A lot of cookery shows probably. Gastronomy and astronomy. The cuisine constellation.

One thing that is fairly evident is that the ruling junta in the Balearics is fairly pleased with their man - I'm sorry, pleased with the man; slip of the possessive pronoun. Broadcasting neutrality and all that, the leader of Podemos, Alberto Jarabo, has spoken in glowing terms of Manresa's experience and independence. He will, he says, "dignify" the public broadcaster, thus implying that it hasn't always been dignified, and in this regard he isn't totally inaccurate. Prestige will return, adds Jarabo, to the "profession of journalism".

Political lack of neutrality appears to have played a part in the roles of previous DGs, even if they have denied this. Jarabo believes that Manresa will not be subject to the pressures that others have experienced. His independence will out. But the very fact that Podemos (and PSOE and Més) are pleased with themselves and pleased at the appointment suggests that the other lots will be less so. And this is indeed the case. The PP, while recognising his professionalism, are somewhat miffed at the fact that they weren't asked about the appointment. Ciudadanos is the only party to specifically draw into question his independence, observing that his journalistic career has been under one particular "political colour": it's that old "El País"-"Guardian" thing.

It has been said of Podemos in the Balearics that one thing above all that it has craved is IB3. If this is indeed so, then one has to ask why. But though in apparent rapture at the appointment, it doesn't follow that Manresa will be at the beck and call of Podemos or indeed of the two government parties. One can hope that this is the case, as the broadcaster does need to be de-politicised. Jarabo implies that there won't be pressures. He should stick to his words then.

Within all of this, though, one has to also ask: does anyone really care about the appointment other than politicians? Of subjects that concern the local population, included among whom are foreign residents, I would guess that the DG of IB3 is fairly low on the list. Yet, the appointment and the fuss regarding the now ex-DG have commanded a great deal of media attention. Perhaps it's all a case of the media talking about itself and to itself. More than anything, the general public are only interested in there being a decent broadcaster, one that is paid for by their taxes. Which is how it should be anywhere. Leave the DG to get on with his job. And if that means gastronomy and astronomy, then so be it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 November 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 26 November - Cloud, wind, 16C; 27 November - Cloud, wind, 13C; 28 November - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 4 to 5, occasionally 6.

Grey sort of morning. Should be somewhat warmer today, with some sun later on. Next couple of days due to be very windy with rain at times.

Evening update (22.00): Up-and-down day. Plenty of cloud, the odd bit rain and some occasional sun. High of 16.2C.

The Finality Of Tourism Law

When the previous government issued its tourism law in the middle of 2012, it was kind enough to do so in different languages. To Castellano and Catalan were added English, German and even Russian: those were the days, before Ukraine, a plummeting ruble and Russian tour operator bankruptcies.

The thinking behind this multi-lingual presentation of law was not one of altruistic education and information for the masses. It had to do with the government's desire to facilitate inward investment. The law, commonly referred to as Delgado's Law after the minister of the time, was just as commonly looked upon as an investor's charter. Despite faults with the law, a disparaging criticism of the avarice of commercial interests was largely misplaced. Delgado's version of tourism revitalisation was property-driven. It didn't meet with everyone's approval, but in general it has to be said that it was a worthy piece of legislation. Mallorca has been undergoing revitalisation, even if it has only been for the benefit of the hoteliers.

The current government has yet to issue its tourism law. It hasn't even drafted it yet. But we have some idea of the type of content insofar as advance publicity has been given to issues such as regulations for private accommodation and all-inclusive hotels. The chances are that it won't be multi-lingual. This is a government in property reverse.

But before we even get to Tourism Law 2016 - if indeed they can rouse themselves sufficiently to enact it next year and are able to reduce the legislative delays caused by the need for dialogue, consensus and general arseing around - we have pre-Tourism Law 2016. This is the law with the pompous title of the Sustainable Tourism Tax, a euphemistic name for tourist tax (or eco-tax, which, supposedly, we are definitely not allowed to use) and one applied in order to foster an impression of its general and common good.

You, or rather the government, can cover a multitude of lack of sins by coining the sustainable moniker. It is a word so widely used that it has lost any meaning it might once have had. Not that anyone has ever known what it means anyway - and still don't - but it sounds good and so therefore it is for the general and common good. The "selling" of a tax is achieved through the vagueness of an adjective.

Although this is a pre-Tourism Law, it has the feel of being the actual law. The government is at pains to describe the tax as "finalista", by which it means that it has specific aims: it is "purpose-oriented", even if we remain in the dark as to which purpose or purposes. It is, therefore, not a general tax, to which most us respond with a Christmasy "ho, ho, ho".

Finalista it may be, and it has the sense of being final. The finality of the tax is supposedly open to public consultation and yet more dialogue and consensus, blah, blah, but its final destination steadfastly ignores consensus with the villains of Delgado's Law, the chief generators of Balearic wealth - the hoteliers.

The discovery that, according to a survey, 80% of the populace agrees with the assertion of Alberto Jarabo of Podemos that hoteliers act against the best interests of the Balearics can only help in bolstering the government's inclination to go against its avowed principles of dialogue and consensus and so grant the hoteliers a diminished or non-existent role in the law's finality. But it is misguided in doing so.

Yes, Delgado's Law went too far in one direction, but the Sustainable Tourism Tax Law and what will be the actual Tourism Law are moving in the opposite way. The tax law feels like the actual law because it is so "finalist" in its hostility towards hotel interests. As someone who is not against the principle of a tourist tax, I find myself increasingly angered by the government's stance and stubbornness. What should be being sought is an approach to tourism, be it with a tax or without, that is genuinely predicated on consensus and not wished for by the banal repetition of government ministers.

Collective social responsibility through a coming-together of government agencies, interest groups and the tourism business sectors should be the objective. It should entail a grand strategy to set out a tourism future that takes account of the aims of various sectors in truly being in the general and common good.

Inma de Benito of the hoteliers' federation has asked Xelo Huertas, the Podemos president of parliament, that the federation be part of the parliamentary process for deciding the tax law. This would only be by committee, but the invitation should be extended. Whether it will be, given Jarabo's antagonism in particular, is doubtful. It would also be foolish. The island's tourism industry cannot be determined by the divisiveness of tax finality.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 November 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 9.3C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 25 November - Cloud, wind, 18C; 26 November - Cloud, wind, 15C; 27 November - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5, occasionally 6, backing Northwest by the evening. Swells of one to two metres.

Cloudy patches and chilly first thing. Sun due to be out later but not particularly warm. The outlook still not that great for the remainder of the week.

Evening update (22.45): The sun did come out for a time, but gave a high of only 14.2C. Temperatures way down later to just over four degrees in areas.

The Podemos Bullseye: Judge Yllanes

There are those moments when you see someone and suddenly realise you are looking at Jim Bowen. "Let's have a look at what you could have won." Bully's special prize is ... ? Well it could have been having the opportunity to pack Princess Cristina and others off to choky. He quite liked the idea of presiding over the trial of the Infanta, and he has said as much, just as he has said that "Nóos" (the name of the case that has led to the trial) "was a sweet" after some 26 years in the profession. Instead, there's likely to be another special prize. Becoming a deputy in the national Congress.

The lookalike of the "Bullseye" presenter of long ago is Juan Pedro Yllanes. Early in 2016 he was meant to have been heading the judicial process in which the Princess (unless her lawyers can get her out of it), the Princess's husband, the former president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, and others all stand accused of less than honest brokering under the catch-all Nóos case title. Yes, it was difficult to give up that sweet, but the now ex-judge Yllanes has been willing to forego this in order to become part of what he believes will be "an exciting legislature": in other words, the next government of Spain.

This unexpected career change has certainly not gone unnoticed. It would have been noticed whichever political party Yllanes had opted for, but it has been especially noticed because there is only one party he would have given Nóos up for. Podemos. And as Podemos looks destined, according to the polls, to secure a couple of seats in Congress, the former judge will be off there in the new year, no doubt keeping up to date with events in the Palma court via a Twitter feed.

Podemos had of course attempted to lure José Castro off the judge's chair and take its Congress shilling, but Castro - the investigating anti-corruption judge who has done the legwork for Nóos - has outstanding business to attend to, and most of it involves Matas. Maybe Yllanes is second choice, but this is not to diminish the scale of the coup that Podemos has pulled off.

With the party having already persuaded the former chief of defence staff, General José Julio Rodríguez, to take up the Podemos Congress cause in Zaragoza, it is marshalling election resources with impressive CVs. If there were a concern that Podemos lacked credibility in terms of individuals associated with it, then it appears determined to remove such a doubt. Moreover, these are not individuals who have grown disenchanted. Yllanes has observed that the judiciary (and the state prosecution) in the Balearics is in the vanguard when it comes to pursuing corruption: he is walking away from a system of which he is an admirer and not a critic. Credibility is thus reinforced.

And this credibility has caught the right, including the right-wing media, on the hop. Mariano Rajoy and the Partido Popular have criticised him - but then you would expect them to - while the impression is that the media don't quite know how to react. The announcement came out of the blue, leaving no time for co-ordinated and aggressive media reaction to be developed. Nevertheless, Yllanes will have to anticipate enduring such a reaction, and it probably won't only come from the PP and the right-wing media. There is the legal institution as well. Its rivalries and jealousies are well known and they were fully exposed when there was the ganging-up against investigating judge Baltastar Garzon, who was to later find himself being disqualified.

There again, Yllanes is part of the Podemos democratic regeneration project, and this includes the judiciary as much as it does political parties. He, in emphasising how well the Balearics have done in pursuing corruption, points a finger elsewhere in Spain, implying that there has been less rigour in going after both the PP and PSOE.

A further potential pitfall for Yllanes is that he will be pigeonholed as a one-issue politician in advancing the Podemos anti-corruption cause. It was no accident that the presentation of him as a candidate for Congress was made in front of Palma Arena, the focus of so much of Judge Castro's attention. But there is the rest of the Podemos programme into which he has to buy. Presumably he has.

That presentation was notable for the fact that it featured a beaming Alberto Jarabo as well. It was Jarabo, we are led to believe, who made the overture to Yllanes and not Podemos national leader, Pablo Iglesias. As such, it represents a triumph for Jarabo. The perception is that it is Laura Camargo who wears the Podemos trousers in the Balearics. The Yllanes coup has weakened this perception and so given Jarabo greater personal credibility. And as for Yllanes himself. Well, he's no Jim Bowen.

Monday, November 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 November 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 24 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 25 November - Cloud, wind, 16C; 26 November - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 4 to 5, locally 6. Swells to two metres.

Blustery, grey old morning. Not raining at present but damp. The general pattern for the week is for windy and occasionally wet conditions, with highs in the mid-teens.

Evening update (21.15): Chill wind, rainy and not that pleasant. A high of 12.6C.

The Unhealthy Health Centres

Earth Mother Patricia Gómez has had her less than happy moments as regional health minister. There was the parliamentary time, for instance, when she appeared to be on the point of bursting into floods of tears while behind her Dave Spart and The Boot Girl were joking in a Podemos way at the parliamentary broadside that had been delivered in her general direction on account of Mr. Gómez having got the gig as the health ministry's IB-Salut supremo.

Patricia, who appears to have stumbled into the job despite giving the impression of being a member of a British folk-rock group circa the late 1960s, gave an interview not so long ago in which she was photographed on the floor. What had happened to the chairs? At least she hadn't gone the whole hog and dragged the bean bag out of the attic along with the box of joss sticks.

So what's happened now to make kindly Patricia the object of health-sector ire? Has she decreed that all treatment is to be homeopathic and via the laying of hands? Not as such. Her latest venture into mishap has to do with insisting on keeping the island's health centres open all day. On the face of it, this doesn't appear to be wholly unreasonable. If there are centres with the word health in them, then it makes sense for them to deliver health and to not be shut for most of the day. Unfortunately, no one agrees with her apart from governmental colleagues such as Sweet FA, the Balearic president.

Health workers, who had previously threatened to down stethoscopes over pay, are once more threatening to go on strike. Health, at present, is purely a morning phenomenon. The rest of the day is for unhealth. Except, that is, for hospital emergency wings and the local PAC centres, which are overstretched on account of being inundated with pensioners concerned by a mild cough they have developed - in the afternoon.

Strike threat or no strike threat, Patricia has commanded health centre opening from eight to eight Mondays to Thursdays and until three on Friday afternoons. This will start on 1 December, just in time for the lead-up to Christmas when health workers could normally anticipate having the afternoons for traipsing around Al Campo. They are indignant.

Patricia, hard as she has tried, has reluctantly had to concede that it isn't always possible to gain consensus on such issues. And in one quote of explanation, she has managed to blow a vast hole in the strategic use of language by the government and all other local authorities ruled by PSOE, Podemos, Més or variants thereon. Consensus, dialogue, everyone knows it's nonsense, and the health-centre issue proves the point. As also does the tourist tax.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 November 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 24 November - Cloud, sun, 12C; 25 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 16C.

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

While there's a yellow alert for the coasts still in place, the wind has dropped and may not be much of a factor today. But the cold front has introduced lower temperatures. Some sun expected today but not particularly warm.

Evening update (19.15): There wasn't the wind to worry about and the sun was out for lengthy periods. Some rain as well though. High of 17C when the sun was out but down as low as 7C now it's dark.

When Mallorca Had A Jimi Hendrix Experience

The history of rock will be revealed this evening in Palma's auditorium. Among acts which comprise this history there will be those which have lost members along the way, those which have perhaps surprisingly clung onto them and others who have long passed away, despite the guy working down the chip shop who swears he is the act in question.

Of some of these acts, they are by no means solely confined to today's "History of Rock" show. In Mallorca we have our Elvises. There are Beatles too, and in a month's time The Mersey Beatles will be taking to the same auditorium. There are Queen and Pink Floyd spectaculars, reminders of times before Freddie Mercury, Syd Barrett and Rick Wright departed this world.

Tribute acts, be they grand or less than grand, share one thing in common. An obvious thing. However good they might be, they aren't the real thing. There is an inherent disappointment in knowing that a Led Zeppelin isn't Led Zeppelin and, in its original form, couldn't possibly be, John Bonham having joined Elvis, Lennon, Mercury and Wright in performing "The Great Gig In The Sky".

Mallorca, it might be noted, fails to find a place in this history, which isn't surprising. Rock's history is essentially an Anglo-Saxon one of American and British dominance with bits of Canada and Australia chucked in plus some German weirdness. Nevertheless, Mallorca has its place in this history, if partly only because of the dim and distant past when the greats of rock turned up on the island. The Kinks' fateful tour has been mentioned before, but in addition to them there were, for example, The Animals, while it was a former member of The Animals - Chas Chandler - who was instrumental in bringing an act to the island in 1967. Or was it 1968?

As is so often the case, there is some slight confusion about dates. But it was 15 July, 1968 and not 1967, given that the venue was Sgt. Pepper disco in Palma (and the Sgt. Pepper's album was only released until June 1967). The act was The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and confirmation of the date is helped by an advert that was carried by "Ultima Hora". Barely legible, it is just about possible to make out the 1968.

Anyway, the ad read: "Performance in person. Tonight. The first time in Spain. In the most "IN" club. Supported by the favourites of the young people - Los Z-66". Almost fifty years on, the legend of Hendrix's appearance is still spoken about. Sgt. Pepper in the Plaza del Mediterráneo in the Gomila area of Palma was in fact officially opened on that night. Its owner was Mike Jeffrey, who by then had more or less taken over as Hendrix's manager from Chandler. He had a luxury property in Banyalbufar. In 1973, he was killed in the mid-air collision of the Spantax Convair and Iberia DC-9 near Nantes: he had been on the DC-9 that had taken off from Palma.

The story of the Sgt. Pepper gig has it that Hendrix cracked the walls with the volume that came out of his Marshall and Sound City speakers. Those attending were mostly British tourists. Hendrix was all but unknown in Mallorca, save for the likes of various locally based musicians, among whom were a couple of members of Los Bravos. Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, who had arrived in Mallorca a week before the gig, had spent some time jamming with Los Bravos. Hendrix himself arrived on the day and stayed at the Victoria, one of Palma's grand hotels, and after the performance - legend has it - was involved in a night of decadence with four Swedish young ladies.

Hendrix never returned to Mallorca and two years later he was dead. Whether he features in tonight's "History of Rock" I can't say, but in terms of Mallorca's rock past he most definitely has his place, and it was in Gomila, where they still talk of the night he cracked the walls.

There is, as it happens, a further touch of rock history about to be re-created. This coming Saturday, the theatre in Lloseta celebrates "Neil Young 70th", and among those doing the celebrating will be Jaime Anglada, a favourite, we understand, of King Felipe and Queen Letizia (they are friends of Anglada and his wife). He, Anglada, might not find himself in a stage show for the history of rock, but he is evidence of rock's presence - a home-grown one - in Mallorca.

* For information re Hendrix in Mallorca, I acknowledge the book by Salvador Domínguez, "Bienvenido Mr. Rock ... Los Primeros Grupos Hispanos 1957-1975".

Saturday, November 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 November 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 22 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 23 November - Cloud, wind, 11C; 24 November - Cloud, wind, 11C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 3 to 5 veering and increasing Northwest 6 to 7 during the morning and easing North 3 to 5 over the afternoon. Waves up to three metres at times.

Mild morning, but strong northerlies are bringing in cold air, so the temperature may well drop today and then certainly by tomorrow. Rain possible at times today as it will be tomorrow.

Evening update (19.30): Some rain around at times but not heavy. Sun was out for a while this afternoon, otherwise cloudy and breezy. A daytime high of 20C but temperatures dropped this afternoon to 15-16.

Clear As Decayed Sea Grass: Sustainable tourism tax

No more must we refer to the tourist tax as the tourist tax or indeed the eco-tax. Sustainable tourism tax is the name, but what is it going to sustain? The answer is still as clear as a Majorcan shoreline muddied by an accumulation of decayed sea grass - a vital ecosystem element for sustainability.

Biel Barcelo's admission that the purpose (or purposes) to which it will be put will not be determined until 2017 merely heightens frustration and suspicion. While he refers to ongoing consultation, there is no doubting who holds the whip hand when it comes to the final decisions as to how the revenue will be spent: the politicians.

But before coming to the constitution of the Commission for Sustainable Tourism, the body that will make these decisions, there is the lingering concern about the tax being simply a way of assisting to balance the government's books. In an interview last weekend, the finance minister, Catalina Cladera, who insisted that the tax isn't an eco-tax because that was something of a previous era, was unable to give an adequate explanation as to why, if 50 million euros revenue are being allocated to the 2016 budget, the spending on tourism was going down to a figure roughly equivalent to this projected revenue. Would there not be more money for tourism, courtesy of the tax, as part of the highest ever overall budget that a Balearic government has devised? The island councils will be getting more money for tourism promotion, she said. Oh, and the tax is not just for tourism. It's also for the environment and for patrimony. Clear as decayed sea grass. As ever.

To add to the obfuscation, there is Barceló intimating that the 50 million shouldn't in any event be reflected in the budget as the tax hasn't yet formally been approved, despite his insistence that it will come in on 1 May next year. Inma de Benito of the hoteliers' federation, in a separate interview, again criticised the fact that there had been no prior warning of the London announcement of the tax's starting date and that there had also been very little consultation full stop, before arguing that the revenue, in her opinion, will go into the current account for 2016 and be distributed to various government ministries.

The commission, once it is constituted, may be able to allay Benito's fears (ones shared by opposition parties, among others), but the hoteliers are unlikely to have a great deal of say on this commission. A majority of its membership will be politicians (probably not from the Partido Popular), while the hoteliers and tourism-sector businesses will have a say equivalent to that of the unions and the environmentalists GOB. You'd love to be a fly on the wall when it meets for its deliberations.

Meanwhile, we do at least have the draft bill with its identification of exempt groups: the under-14s; those needing to stay over because of travel for medical treatment; the senior Spanish citizens in the Imserso subsidised, off-season vacationing scheme. How can this latter group be exempt if senior citizens from other European countries on subsidised programmes (Scandinavians principally) are not? Indeed, how can they qualify for exemption full stop? Brussels, one fancies, will be taking an interest.

Friday, November 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 November 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 21 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 19C; 22 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 23 November - Rain, wind, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4, increasing 5 by evening.

Clear and a bit breezy before sun-up. A sunny day expected, but the breeze will pick up tomorrow as conditions change, bringing possible showers. A yellow alert from tomorrow for the coasts.

Evening update (22.15): Shaped up well. A high of 25.4C.

The Immutability Of Institutions

Institution. The word implies permanence and authority. The Parliament of Great Britain, later and now the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one such. It's over 300 years old. It is a word that attaches itself to the non-political as well. Around 70 years after the establishment of Parliament, "The Times" was founded. Longevity and the authority of its words have afforded it institutional status. Sporting bodies are institutions. The Marylebone Cricket Club emerged at the same time as "The Times". Its authority is such that it still clings to being the keeper of the Laws of Cricket. It is a word that also has anthropomorphism. Individuals become institutions, sometimes described as national treasures. Longevity is at play here as well, as is often a touch of gravitas. Known for his comedy, Stephen Fry nonetheless has gravitas derived from being all-knowing and a polymath.

Institutions imply immutability. They don't change. And yet, they do change. Parliament at one time expanded to accommodate Ireland. More recently, it might have undergone fundamental change by losing part of Great Britain. It might yet lose it. "The Times", the first newspaper in the world to bear the name, took the bold step of not devoting its front page to small ads in 1966. It was an institution moving with the times, albeit belatedly. The MCC ceased to be the governing body of English and global cricket when its authority passed to the (then) Test and County Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council. A few years later, women were allowed to become members. The individuals as institutions constantly evolve. Fry is no longer one half of Fry and Laurie or of a cameo in "The Young Ones". One day he'll no longer be with us. Institutions die.

On Tuesday, I attended a discussion in Puerto Pollensa regarding the effects of a UK withdrawal from the European Union that had been organised by Europeos por España. The discussion drew few firm conclusions. Speculation dominates the debate. There is no institutional rule book that governs withdrawal. It has yet to be written.

The EU is an institution that has evolved from its early years as the European Coal and Steel Community. It has been constantly changing, acquiring authority. Yet for all this, it lacks longevity, just as it lacks an element of affection that applies to the national treasure institutions. Its authority is now predicated upon its size and the institutions within it, but its lack of longevity is what should make it susceptible to more radical change than normally occurs with institutions. Could those who signed up to the Single European Act and then Maastricht have been fully aware of how the EU would evolve?

What this act and treaty did was to introduce flexibility in terms of, for instance, freedom of movement but at the same time they limited flexibility. Rules applied to all, an apparently essential facet of any governing institution, but one that is nevertheless debatable. And is debatable in the UK. The EU has been an institution that has evolved via experimentation, as there was no obvious benchmark to guide its development. Institutions, despite being democratic, can't wholly abide dissent that loosens authority, but they should and they must accept this. Otherwise, their authority is in any event weakened through an unwillingness to countenance change. The UK should be granted flexibility. This way, the institution is strengthened, not weakened.

Clinging to authority and power regardless ultimately leads to a form of despotism. The institution is immutable because a powerful cadre insists that this is so. And where does this lead to? The MCC gave up its power. It was a nonsense that a members' club in St. John's Wood should maintain it, especially in the post-Packer era. The power was released to the ICC, an institution not above suspicion but not, as yet, subject to the implosions within FIFA and the IAAF.

FIFA is, in a sense, not dissimilar to the EU. It has evolved from moderate beginnings into a global power, but it has come at a price: that of quasi-despotism and being unloved in many quarters. And now, the demands are for change and for accountability and transparency. Institutions, as a rule, don't care greatly for any of these.

There is a further institution which, in its democratic era, does not have longevity. The authority of the Spanish state, contained in the Constitution, is considered immutable. But the recency of its drafting is what makes it, or should make it, subject to amendment. At the same time as Podemos, Ciudadanos and others have been effecting a shift in mentality towards transparency, Catalonia (some of it) is desirous of change. Flexibility, if this is what the people of Catalonia truly want, should be applied through a harmonious agreement that would strengthen links with the Spanish nation. Nothing should be immutable.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 10.1C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 November - Sun, cloud, 23C; 21 November - Rain, sun, 20C; 22 November - Rain, sun, 12C.

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

Another perfect Majorcan autumn morn - nippy but clear and calm. Sunny and warm later. But the outlook from Saturday is not so good, with rain likely into next week and the temperatures dropping significantly.

Evening update (19.15): High of 25.1C.

Staying On The Plain: Tourism promotion

The mayors of various towns in Mallorca's "Pla" (plain) got together the other day to find out about the tourist, cultural, educative and social potential of the small town of Montuïri. That's a lot of potential they were being asked to consider. How potent any of it is, only they can say.

It seems odd that mayors from neighbouring or nearby towns and villages should be engaged in such a fact-finding mission. The neighbours were Algaida, Porreres, Lloret. Those from nearby were Costitx, Petra, Sineu, Llubi and Maria de la Salut, each of them - by virtue of the small distances that need to be travelled - virtual neighbours. Are they really unaware of the potential that exists close by?

The towns on the plain do have a history of coming together. The mancomunidad (commonwealth) of town halls of the Pla has been one of the more successful of these ventures of combination and sharing, insofar as it hasn't collapsed through a lack of interest and apparent disinclination to work together, as has been the case elsewhere on the island. What it achieves though, apart from acting as a talking shop for mutual interest, is anyone's guess.

Inter-town rivalry has been a cause of these commonwealths not functioning as they might. A further reason is the dominance of one or more towns within their make-up. Inca, for example, towers over towns of the Raiguer mancomunidad. Or would do, were it not for Marratxi. At the top of the geographical layout of the Raiguer is Inca with its northern Mallorca attachment and association, the legal and administrative centre for this part of the island. At the base is Marratxi, seemingly more linked with Palma to an extent that it can be looked upon as a suburb. The common ground of the Raiguer is less clear than that of the Pla.

In theory, these commonwealths, established for many years and with their own statutes, act as counterpoints to the overwhelming island superiority of Palma. They are blocs within the "part forana" (the island which isn't Palma), yet their voices are mostly mute. Their purpose has thus been rendered questionable because none have ever acted as they might have done in genuinely establishing common cause and representing common interest.

The Pla has, however, worked well in one regard, and that is its efforts when it comes to tourism. Or at least, it has created a useful website - - a reasonable resource that covers the fourteen towns and villages which are embraced by the commonwealth. This website notwithstanding, a reason why the mayors got together in Montuïri was to consider how best to further pool thoughts, resources and efforts in promoting this region of the island.

The mayors were at pains to stress that they weren't considering any "grand projects". Rather, they were looking at taking "small steps to making the potential of the Pla better known". The lack of ambition implied by these words can be considered either disappointing or realistic. What grand projects could be realised anyway?

Or were they a reflection of an historical reluctance to accept or to envisage a role within the wider tourism offer of Mallorca? When Carlos Delgado, largely (and not always correctly) derided as tourism minister, insisted that each town came up with a strategic plan for tourism, he set in motion, or should have done, a process for doing what the mayors have just been speaking about: developing potential. Of the towns in the Pla, Algaida deserves credit for having created a decent website. The others? How will Petra exploit (if this is the right word) its new found status as home town of a Mallorcan saint? Will it exploit it? Does it really want to?

Delgado's initiative was a perfectly sensible one. He saw a need for a whole Mallorca approach and wanted to know what each town would be doing to release the potential of the whole island. The initiative now seems lost. What has happened to these individual town plans? The mayors of the Pla shouldn't need to go on fact-finding exercises because the information is theoretically available. And, moreover, they have an institutional framework - the mancomunidad - to work on the "potential".

Biel Barceló, Delgado's successor once removed, talks the good talk about different models, yet the ministry's obsessions are as they largely have only ever been: the resorts, two of them anyway (Magalluf and Playa de Palma) and legalistic mechanisms (the tourist tax in this instance). Has Delgado's initiative been quietly filed because it was Delgado? Quite possibly. 

The least that the ministry could do would be to create - once and for all - a brilliant web presence that includes regions such as the Pla. It shouldn't simply be down to the mancomunidad to work on seemingly limited ambitions for tourism. But then, promotion of tourism seems to be the last thing the ministry is concerning itself with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 November 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 9.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 November - Rain, 20C.

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

Another bight, nippy morning. Staying fine until Friday, but Saturday is looking like it might be rainy, then getting cold over the weekend.

Some Things In The Air: Or not

Like the weather is supposedly an obsession of the British, then flying is a Mallorcan obsession. Everyone's. For an island cast adrift in the Mediterranean it couldn't be anything other than an obsession. Yes there are ships, but ships don't move human mass in the way that aircraft do. Without planes, Mallorca would be sunk. Anyone remember the ash cloud?

PSOE, bless its coming-late-to-the-party heart, is to make connectivity an election pledge. Cajoled by Balearic socialists, Pedro Sánchez and PSOE national will apply a strategic plan which, they say, will compensate for the costs of insularity. Coming late to the party, why have they and other parties not thought to do likewise in the past?

President Armengol and her finance minister, Catalina Cladera, make repeated references to wishing there to be a redefinition of Mallorca and the Balearics in economic terms. The special regime that they talk about is an obscure topic for most of us, but inherent to it is, or should be, the appreciation of geographical disadvantages, ones which, for too long, have been ignored or swept into the background by the even more obscure discussions as to how the Balearics are financed.

A core element of this special regime should be a clear commitment to connectivity. The dependence upon it makes this essential. Quite what PSOE might dream up under its strategic plan (and there is, of course, no guarantee that it will form the next national government) is anyone's guess, but at the heart of it there needs to be an acknowledgement of the cost disadvantages for the island economy and of the imbalanced nature of connectivity. Palma airport breaks records each summer, and then partially closes in winter.

The island's political parties are once more making a plea to be involved with the management of Son Sant Joan and the airports of Menorca and Ibiza. They've been making this plea for years. At one time, it looked as if there was a commitment to allowing this (during Zapatero's time), but then, looming on the horizon came the process towards the Aena privatisation, a product, in part, of the need for government re-financing. 

A combination of a PSOE-led national government and the regime as it is at present in the Balearics might just bring about this ambition for some control of the airports through a coalition of what the regional government describes vaguely in terms of political, economic and social interests. How this might all sit with Aena is unknown. Here is an airports authority whose share value and profits have risen staggeringly. This isn't solely because of its Spanish business as, for instance, Luton Airport brings in a tidy sum as well, but the authority does very nicely thank you from the Spanish network, despite the number of loss-making airports within it.

One airport which doesn't make a loss, or anything like it, is Palma's. Saddled with little or no debt financing (thanks to historic European largesse) and buoyed by huge summer demand, Aena rakes in the airport's profits: it isn't so much a cash cow as an entire beef herd. Aena might not take kindly to any interference in this profit source, but it is worth remembering that the state still holds the majority of the shares, with Aena in a halfway house - part privatised but under the ultimate command of the national ministry for development.

Putting to one side Aena and a model of airport management that might make Balearic airports cheaper for airlines in winter, there is the issue of vulnerability. Not so long ago it was Spanair. Now, it's Air Berlin. Its decision to close the hub is no surprise. The airline has been losing money hand over fist for some five years. Erroneously described as low-cost, it has struggled to compete, while the hub strategy has been rendered outdated because of low-cost flights by German competitors direct to the mainland. Without drastic cuts, it would go bust.

Ultimately, and despite the loss of jobs and an impact on ground services, the Air Berlin decision will probably not prove harmful, but psychologically it's a blow for the airport and for Mallorca, raising as it does the fears that come with insularity and so much dependence on connectivity. And to this has to be added the peculiar case of Air Europa and the residents' discounts affair. The airline, Mallorca-based, has arrived at an arrangement whereby it will pay the national government 13 million euros which were allegedly obtained through fraudulent means. There are criticisms of the lack of explanation and transparency regarding this apparent settlement, while the national travel agencies association, which first blew the whistle, suggests that this is only a fraction of the amount. A criminal investigation, meanwhile, is continuing.

PSOE's strategic plan should be detailed. Mallorca might just depend upon it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 November 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 10.3C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 19 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C.

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

Fine but with some mist early on. Sunny and warm later. The forecast of an Indian summer enduring into December is looking a bit suspect. The weekend prediction is for probable rain, falling as snow on higher ground.

The Trouble With Markets

The market is an important part of the town or village's economic and social life. It can occur once a week or more than once a week. It is also, in summer, a feature of the local tourism economy. Its role is, therefore, varied, and the importance attached to it is such that a town hall councillor will typically be assigned specific responsibility for it - the promotion and the approving of pitches.

Not all is well, however, in the world of the Mallorcan market. While many are flourishing, this activity reveals a preponderance of certain types of product. The market's variety and diversity has been lost under the weight of clothes, footwear and the nicky-nacky of northern Africa. Three markets in particular have been identified as culprits in this regard, those of Inca, Santa Maria del Cami and Sineu. They aren't alone though.

Issues to do with quality at Inca's market were evident over four years ago. In May 2011 I wrote about the fact that tour operators, who traditionally place the Thursday market on their excursions' itineraries, were threatening to stop taking their customers. The market, it was said, had lost much of its attraction. There was too much of it, and too much that wasn't much good.

The town hall, concerned by this loss of tourist influx, set about changing things. There was to be more local craft and also to be traditional dance to captivate the visitors. Almost 50 stallholders were to be told to sling their hook. Despite this, not much, if anything, has changed. Of the some 250 pitches, approximately two-thirds are devoted to precisely what they were over four years ago: way too much clothing and the rag-tag of jewellery of the imitation and low-grade type and of the nicky-nacky. Pointedly, it is said that 73 of the pitches are of a Moroccan character. Only one stall is given over to pottery. So much for the local craft therefore.

Inca, as is also the case in Santa Maria, has now introduced a system whereby it gives weight to what are called "innovative producers" and to the artisan. Ten points go to the former and five to the latter, meaning, in theory, that they will gain priority and so shift the general offer of the market and make it more diverse and more interesting, while also promoting local trades. But will this make any difference? The town hall's last "initiative" - over four years ago - hardly had the desired effect.

Oddly, and despite all the emphasis placed on the revival of the artisan craft heritage, it is felt necessary to positively discriminate in favour of craft traders or to establish special market events for them. This was the case recently in Palma, where there was a week of such promotion at four or five markets in the city. But by seeking to place the emphasis on such traders, might there be a risk that the market mix goes too far in this direction and creates a similarity of offer, albeit a different one? And what precisely is meant by artisan craft in any event?

Part of the problem with it is that it can be expensive. A sole producer/trader can hardly churn out masses of stuff, and what he or she does produce is inevitably going to attract a premium. It has to in order to cover all sorts of cost, not least the rent and tax for a market stall. Tourists, by and large, don't go to markets expecting to hand over great wads of cash. They go in the anticipation of finding bargains or of engaging in haggling.

And tourists go to markets in summer which are - and it is of course mandatory to describe markets in this way - "bustling". The ambience of a market is supposed to be like this, but this in itself creates a problem. Crammed into narrow streets or in market squares with wave upon wave of sweating summer humanity, tourists can appear to be moved en masse in the way that a football crowd is, never daring to stop in case they get crushed.

Is it the case, therefore, that town halls, which do of course make a very nice earner from markets, have created rods for their own backs by allowing there to be too many stalls? In a way, they are caught between two stools. They want there to be a lot of traders in order to achieve this "bustling" character, but this can - and is clearly the case with some markets - result in too much of the same. And how pleasant, in truth, is it for visitors who are corralled into areas made too packed as a result of the sheer number of stalls?

Perhaps less is or should be more. Markets can be too big for their own good.

Monday, November 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 November 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 9.2C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 17 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 18 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 19 November - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

Chilly morning but a bright one. More good sun on the way today.

Podemos Versus The Hoteliers

80% of Mallorcans can't be wrong. Or can they be? It was one of those website poll things. Do you agree that Mallorca's hoteliers act against the best interests of the Balearics (or words to that effect)? In fact, it was 84% who agreed when I happened to look at the results a few days ago. The question was posed after Dave Spart (the Podemos leader) accused the lovely Inma Benito of the hoteliers' federation and indeed the entire hotelier class of disloyalty towards the Balearics and called upon the whole of the tourism industry (that which isn't hotelier-based presumably) to "disavow" the hoteliers.

Such strength of support may strike you as surprising. Here, after all, is a sector of the economy without which Mallorca would be an underdeveloped society with its people eking out meagre earnings from the sale of artisan craft pots and cabbages at solidarity markets in the island's pueblos, which most of the inhabitants would have long abandoned in order to seek greater riches in other lands. Talk about ingratitude.

There again, one can perhaps understand the support for the Podemos stance. When "Forbes" releases figures which show that leading hoteliers are down to their last billion or so, despite having moaned for several years about lack of profitability, sympathy is likely to be in short supply. Just as it would be at the news that Riu had hoovered up a couple of islands in the Maldives, only for a state of emergency to be declared. No sense of schadenfreude there, then.

Dave and comrade Podemistas were agitated by two things. One was that Inma had gone to London and openly attacked the government of which Podemos isn't officially a part for its temerity in introducing a tourist tax. The worst that Inma came out with, as far as I'm aware, was that she called the tax "anti-business". But never mind, the Podemistas were gunning for her anyway. The other point had to do with the hoteliers raking in small fortunes, enough to keep them in super yachts and Rolexes, while subjecting a downtrodden workforce to 100 hours or so a week hard labour on temporary contracts in return for a couple of euros in their wage packets (I do exaggerate).

It was this, the working terms and conditions, which, one fancies, is why most of the 84% agreed with Dave. And then, just to reinforce the impression that the hoteliers can't abide the Podemistas (if reinforcement were needed), Inma said that she couldn't meet them for what would doubtless be a mutual slanging-match until the day after the general election. At this point, The Boot Girl (Laura Camargo) entered the fray and accused the hoteliers of hiding and of further disloyalty, adding that if she were the head of the hoteliers' federation, she would "never in her life" go to London and criticise the government's tourist tax. Of course, the chances of Laura actually ever being "in her life" the head of the federation are slightly less than zero. Indeed, why Laura would even contemplate being in charge of the hoteliers, when she appears to prefer that they didn't exist, was a curious remark to say the least.

Meanwhile, and following the signing-up of the former chief of the defence staff to the Podemista election ranks, it emerged that contacts had been ongoing between Dave, Pablo Iglesias and Judge Dredd over the possibility that he, Judge José Castro, would also throw his hat into the Podemos election ring. Dave was positively gushing in his praise for the man who has pursued Matas, Urdangarin and others with such vigour and rigour. "A symbolic reference for anti-corruption and democratic regeneration," said Dave. Apparently, Pablo had been on the blower to the judge to once more sound him out about becoming a Podemista. And the judge responded that he was flattered to have been considered but he still had a day job - persecuting the corrupt - for another two years as he had been allowed to delay his retirement.

All good publicity for Podemos no doubt, but potentially a tad awkward for the judge. Defence counsels might even now be considering political neutrality, as Iglesias reckons that the judge would have joined up had he retired when he should have, i.e. in time for the general election. Anyway, 80% of Mallorcans, when asked by an online poll, believed that Judge Dredd was right to decline the polite offer. Were the 80% wrong or right? Let's have an online poll.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 November 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 17 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 18 November - Sun, mist, 20C.

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

With the long-range forecast suggesting that the Indian summer will last into next month, another mostly clear and quite warm day to come.

Evening update (20.15): Warm. High of 23.9C.

Why The Surprise? Mallorca on film

The Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, the curtain on which comes down this evening with its awards ceremony, was partly intended to show off Mallorca to potential producers and/or directors. Recently, Oliver Stone was in Mallorca and was heard to comment that he was "surprised" by Mallorca. He hadn't realised quite how well the island is blessed in terms of landscapes and what have you. His comment naturally led some to conclude that he will be filming here some time soon. Stone may well do, while participants at the film festival might also feel inclined to use Mallorca as future locations.

In a way, though, it's surprising that Stone and other film people might be surprised by Mallorca. It's not as if there isn't a long history of the moving picture on the island, both for the making of films and for the use of film for promotion (the two of which have, at times in the past, coalesced for propaganda purposes).

While nowadays there are any number of videos that show off Mallorca, back in the day, moving images were somewhat scarce. But this relationship with film dates from the very earliest days of the moves to attract tourists to Mallorca at the start of the twentieth century.

Over a hundred years ago - it's not clear exactly when but probably 1910 - the Fomento del Turismo (the Mallorca Tourist Board) felt moved to send its congratulations to one Josep Tous Ferrer, who was the owner of the Teatro Lírico (Lyric Theatre) in Palma. He had shot short films of a variety of scenes that characterised the island and had sent them to cinematographers in Spain and overseas. Well, he probably didn't personally shoot them, as he was a fairly leading figure in Palma business life: I'm assuming he was the same Josep Tous Ferrer who founded the newspaper "Ultima Hora" in 1893.

The Lyric was inaugurated on 1 February 1902, and in 1910 it started showing films - hence the conclusion that it was in 1910 when the tourist board was congratulating Tous on his efforts. This apparent visionary of multimedia was the forerunner, the pioneer of documentaries and films of Mallorca that were to follow, and the tourist board itself was swiftly in on the act. In November 1911 it was announced that a film would be made of "all the beauties and idiosyncrasies" of the island and that it would be sent - free of charge - to "all Spanish and foreign cinematographers", as it would be an excellent means of promotion.

Whether "all" the cinematographers received a copy isn't known, but in the following year something extraordinary in the world of film occurred. Leon Gaumont and the French Gaumont company filmed "In The Isle Of Majorca", the isle of Mallorca in colour. It used the system that Gaumont had devised, Chronochrome, which was to prove to be an invention that didn't really have legs. Nevertheless, and so the claim is made, the first ever colour film was made in Mallorca, and it was about Mallorca, a short travelogue that showed images of Palma, of Valldemossa and Pollensa.

It's doubtful that this film was widely seen at the time, while its existence was clearly forgotten about, only for it to be rediscovered a few years ago. One question surrounding it is why Gaumont chose Mallorca to be what seemed its pilot usage. Perhaps the efforts of Tous and/or the tourist board had worked, and a foreign cinematographer had taken the bait.

It was to be many years later that the propaganda element entered the equation. The Franco regime saw the cinema as a means of showing Spain off in a rather better light than the international community considered the country. Consequently, there were to be certain famous films made in Mallorca. One uses the word "famous" advisedly. The films were more notorious for being somewhat ropey in terms of plots or so obscure that no one, not even the actors, had a clue what was going on: this was the fate of "The Magus" with Michael Caine in 1967. But before this was George Sanders in the 1950 smuggling yarn, "Black Jack", and then, in 1962, the most daring film of the era (for Mallorca, that is): "Bahia de Palma" with Elke Sommer in a bikini.

The surprise is, therefore, that there should be a surprise. Maybe Oliver Stone will take the bait, just as Leon Gaumont appeared to have in 1912. If he does, the colour will be something of an improvement.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 November 2015

Morning high (7.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 15 November - Sun, 21C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 17 November - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

Some early cloud, but should clear to give a mostly fine day. The general outlook for the week ahead is good, with plenty of sun and quite warm.

Evening update (21.45): Nice and sunny after the cloud went away. High of 21.1C.

Keep On Self-Serving Alcohol

So, there was the regional government making a song and dance about self-service alcohol in all-inclusives and saying how it was going to do this and that, only to discover - as revealed by the eminently sensible Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director-general - that it will be "difficult" to stop it. Carbonell cites the "free market" as a reason for this potential difficulty. Reform to the tourism law, which will be chiefly her responsibility, will seek to curb some of the excesses of all-inclusives (there is, as yet, no explanation as to how), but a ban on holidaymakers helping themselves to bacardi and vodka may not be one means.

The story with self-service alcohol was, it seems to me, a convenient diversionary tactic to allow the government, i.e. Biel Barceló, to indicate that it would be getting tough on all-inclusives without actually knowing how they intend to or indeed can. It cropped up in Magalluf, mainly thanks to one councillor who drew attention to it. At the time when he did so, the general feeling was that it wasn't that much of an issue - not one for the whole island at any rate. But because it was a decent headline-grabber, the ministry ran with it, despite the fact that it was (or should have been) clear that commanding hotels of any variety as to ways that they have to serve alcohol (or food) is really none of the government's business.

For Barceló, the issue is more one to do with jobs (ensuring there are waiters in this instance), a point I have made previously. The only way that the government may be able to act is by stipulating levels and standards of service, which would be within its competence to do. But this, where all-inclusives are concerned, would only go a small way in tackling in-hotel drinking and drunkenness. Another way, by limiting alcohol to meal times only, doesn't sound like much of a runner. Firstly, it would have to be monitored (by whom?). Secondly, it would be akin to full board arrangements which include alcohol in their meal packages. The all-inclusive "product" would thus be under assault, and the free market would suggest that it shouldn't be. Carbonell and the ministry have a tough task in bringing about meaningful reform.

While things had been relatively quiet on the tourist tax front at the World Travel Market, they have been noisy since everyone returned, with Podemos shouting the loudest. They appear to have declared all-out war on the hoteliers with the charge that the hoteliers do not act - and have not done so for years - with the best interests of the Balearics in mind. While all this noise has been ringing in the ears of Inma Benito and others from the hotelier class, news comes from across the sea in Valencia where the regional president, Ximo Puig, has ruled out there being a tourist tax in 2016. The holidaymakers of Benidorm can therefore breathe a sigh of relief for now. Puig is indicating that Valencia might go down the tax route at some stage, but he wants to study how taxes are operating in other destinations first and then bring everyone together from the tourism sector to discuss the possibilities of implementation. His approach seems in stark contrast to the Balearics where, for all the talk of dialogue regarding the tax, this has been proven to be meaningless.

Meanwhile in Catalonia, its government has announced how some of this year's revenue from the tourist tax is to be spent, some 6.4 million euros going in the form of grants to various local authorities for improving infrastructure and developing new tourism products. The lion's share of Catalonia's tax revenue goes directly towards tourism promotion, and so provides that region with far greater promotional clout than the Balearics. But it needs reiterating that the total annual revenue in Catalonia, with significantly more tourists than the Balearics, is roughly 40 million euros, a very much more modest amount than the 80 million that the Balearic government is eyeing up (in 2017 if not next year). It might be said that in Catalonia the tourist tax burden is more like spending "small change" than it is due to be in the Balearics: Barceló's implication that the tax would be like small change was tactless at best.

Friday, November 13, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 November 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 15.4C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 14 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 15 November - Sun, 19C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

Looking rather cloudy first thing, and the sun may be slow to emerge with just a slight risk of a drop of rain. Outlook for the weekend - sunny.

Whose War Is It Anyway?: Catalonia

There was a graphic the other day which showed the sphere of military influence that a "hypothetical" independent Catalonia would require. It featured a couple of fighter planes over the sea between the mainland and the Balearics. They were within this theoretical Catalonian military force field, as also were - pointedly - the military installation on the summit of the Puig Major and indeed the whole of the Balearics.

Hypotheses are edging closer to be realities, yet these realities are unreal. These are truly odd times. Catalonia's parliament, having determined that Spain's Constitutional Court no longer has any legitimacy over Catalonia's affairs, is racing, within the next 30 days, towards the drafting of laws for a separate social security system, a separate treasury and, most significantly, a separate constitution. The appearance is given of independence having already been declared. What next? A separate law for the military and a Catalan invasion of the Balearics reminiscent of 1229? Maybe they'll name the lead fighter plane Jaume I.

The bizarre nature of what is going on can be summed up both by the parliament's pre-independence rejection of Spain's constitution and by Spain's chief prosecutor at the Audiencia Nacional (High Court) having ordered the state's security forces to report on possible offences of sedition and rebellion against the state. The two offences carry, respectively, sentences of up to 15 and 30 years. The High Court doesn't, so it would seem, have powers to prosecute the likes of presidents of regional governments, but it can order investigations, which it has done.

One of the forces which has been given the order is the Catalonian police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. The fact that it, along with the National Police, the Guardia Civil and the secretary-of-state for security have all been sent a similar instruction by the court should be enough to give Catalonia's leaders the heebie-jeebies. But it is an order which raises rather more concern. Where do the Mossos stand in all this? It's a Catalonian police force, and it was approved as such under Spain's constitution. A Catalonian "constitution" would presumably reiterate and reinforce this, but would this be accepted, while if Catalonia rejects the Spanish constitution, does this not invalidate the provisions of the constitution and the Catalonian statute of autonomy which enabled the Mossos to be transferred to Catalonian jurisdiction in the first place? Moreover, once police forces become embroiled, the whole saga of independence takes on a rather different complexion, as it also does when there is reference - as with the graphic - to military matters.

With reasonable certainty, one can say that the Balearics are not about to become involved and to throw the door open to a Catalonian air force (if it had one, which it doesn't) and allow it to use Palma's Son Sant Joan. Though there are elements within the regional government and the Council of Mallorca who are sympathetic to the notion of the Catalan Lands, their numbers are small, while the populace is not sympathetic. Nor are most politicians, such as from PSOE and even Podemos. Cast as left-wing, on the independence issue Podemos has little truck with it, and that's because it rejects notions of nationalism full stop, be they Spanish, Catalonian or anyone else's.

Balearic politicians have spoken in favour of Catalonia being able to determine its own future, but they, as with many observers from overseas, I suspect, miss the point about how Catalonia arrived at the mad situation in which it finds itself. This is is not just about self-government, self-determination and independence. It has as much if not more to do with Artur Mas.

By the time this article appears, Mas may have been sworn in once more as president of Catalonia. His investiture was on hold because the left-wing CUP voted against it, despite being in favour of independence. The reason it had voted against Mas was that it is concerned that the whole issue, and indeed the whole of Catalonia politics, is focused on one person, i.e. Mas. The CUP wants someone else. It may be right to wish this, but how could Mas walk away or be pushed away from a process which is largely of his own making? 

Mas, at one time cast as a somewhat dull technocratic politician, has dug a hole from which he cannot exit. He has successively become more fanatical about independence when this wasn't once the case. He was pushed towards this by Rajoy's flat refusal to renegotiate Catalonia's financing, but he has also used independence to divert attention from corruption allegations and to seek to bolster his own power. Both he and Rajoy are at fault, but observers from overseas should be under no illusion that the Catalonia affair is all a romantic drive towards independence. It isn't, as it became - for different reasons - Mas's crusade and Mas's war.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 November 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 13 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 14 November - Sun, cloud, 18C; 15 November - Sun, 19C.

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

Some mist but but not the full-on fog of yesterday. Good enough day in store. Tomorrow due to be cloudy at times with the possibility of a shower.

Broadening Appeal: Religious tourism

In one of the more unlikely of tourism coincidences, the regional government has managed to confirm that guests who wish to partake of overnight hospitality in one of the unfortunately named "cells" at Lluc monastery will have to pay the tourist tax. The government did so, just as various experts were preparing to make their way to the monastery for a two-day chinwag about religious tourism.

If any of the participants plan on spending the night at the monastery, it will presumably be a case of early to bed and none of the staying up until three and drinking the bar dry, as is normally demanded of those attending conferences. If too many cold drinks are to be had by the Lluc conference flock, they will do what all attendees do the day after, which is to fall asleep.

There again, religious tourism sounds as if it is a likely subject candidate for curing insomnia. Despite the imminence of a one-euro per night imposition for availing oneself of a bed in a cell, it is doubtful that the conference will be enlivened by fierce, full and frank debate regarding the government's sustainable tourism tax and its negative impact on a tourism niche or indeed a religious tourist's hunt for icons lurking in the niches of ecclesiastical establishments. Or maybe, just as with every other sector of the tourism industry, outrage will be expressed while at the same time inventories will be drawn up for purposes to which the tax could be put. Maybe the Lluc cells could do with a lick of paint.

For a mere 35 euros, one can head off into the Tramuntana and learn over the two-day conference (today and Friday) about, among other things, the competitiveness of religious tourism, the cultural management of religious spaces, spiritual tourism and the history and future of tourism in the Tramuntana. And there is indeed the option to do an overnight: 95 euros for full board plus the conference. That'll be 96 euros from next year.

Niching tourism according to religion brings with it one major pitfall. If you don't happen to be religious, then the notion would probably be a turnoff. While there is religious tourism which is very much of a religious character, there is also, however, a great deal which doesn't presuppose that one is actually religious. It does rather boil down to how it's marketed, which might explain why the promoter of the Christian theme park in Mallorca (yes, it's still being talked about) insists that it isn't as religious a project as people might think. As things stand, though, the theme park, last heard of destined for Ses Salines, will not be getting the green light in any event: the Council of Mallorca has deemed its development to not be in the "general interest", if only in Ses Salines.

Religious tourism on the mainland has been given something of a boost this year. The 500th anniversary of the birth of Teresa of Ávila, later Saint Teresa of Jesus, has been commemorated. Various tourist routes and "products" were created in her honour. Here is an example of where the religious angle would dominate, but if one strips away the religious element, what one is left with is essentially a form of cultural and heritage tourism, based on religious sites.

In an article a couple of years ago, I suggested that there was potential merit in a tourism product of routes that cover Palma's cathedral and the churches, monasteries and hermitages of Mallorca. Palma alone has numerous sites, while elsewhere there are sites of special significance - Lluc, Miramar (because of Ramon Llull) and now Petra since the canonisation of Junipero Serra. Each town and village has its own site or sites with their stories to tell, while outside towns there are the likes of the Santa Magdalena hermitage near Inca.

Mallorca could never compete with, say, the religious tourism of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and to Spain's spiritual heartland, but it could make a virtue of its own spirituality - a great deal of it linked to the Tramuntana - through the development of tourism that encapsulates the separateness of the island's religious history, one aspect of this being the way in which it was Mallorca that held on to the tradition of the Sibil-la when it was abandoned elsewhere because of Rome's prohibition.

It would all depend, though, on marketing in order to broaden the appeal and to avoid such tourism being pigeonholed as one only for the religious. And a broadening of the marketing message might well appeal to administrations as they now are in Mallorca which aren't necessarily the greatest friends of the Church. They are friends of the island's heritage though, so much so that they would like a tax to help preserve it, and religious sites are key to a great deal of this heritage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 November 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 11.7C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 12 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 13 November - Cloud, 18C; 14 November - Cloud, sun, 18C.

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

Fog a factor this morning, a foghorn, possibly that of the coal ship, resonating from the bay, deep and with an echo like that in a cathedral dome. Sun to come later.

Evening update (22.00): High of 23.6C.

How Urban Green Is Mallorca?

If you take a look at a map of Palma, what do you see? Or rather, what do you see comparatively little of?

The other day I wrote a piece about the Feixina park monument in which I referred also to the Parc de la Mar that was created in the mid-1970s. Neither of these is a large park. There is other parkland and green space in the city, but it is this - the relative absence of green space - which is noticeable.

Not all cities are the same and nor should they be, but fine cities, despite their densities of population and construction, tend to have great parklands. A friend of mine, in London for the first time in years, commented recently on Facebook about the remarkable parks of that city: Regent's Park, Hyde Park. There are other vast green areas in London of course. There again, London is enormous by comparison with Palma.

But one can think of other European cities. Two of personal fond memory are Amsterdam and Munich. In years gone by, I spent many an hour in Amsterdam's Vondelpark and in Munich's astonishing Englischer Garten, so damn big that it even has a cricket ground on one extremity. Both cities are bigger than Palma. In population terms, Amsterdam is closer - approximately twice the size. Throw in its canals, and I'm guessing that Amsterdam could claim to be one of Europe's greenest cities.

This diversity of urban content in different cities is the consequence of divergent urban plans, legacies, donations and foresight. Back in the day there wouldn't have been attention paid to the climatic benefits of green land, but there was an appreciation of the aesthetic of a park, of its contribution to general well-being, to landscaping principles. In Palma, there seems to have never been such consideration. Greenery has been contrived, such as with the Parc de la Mar, rather than having been the result of distant conservation and landscape ideals.

Palma is a fine city. The more I go there, the more I appreciate its worth. Architecturally, it is splendid. Its attractiveness is varied. I was even able to admire the Palacio the other day. Highly contemporary, but nothing wrong with that, and arguably in the wrong place, it nonetheless has a pleasingly intriguing angular presence. But as the town hall embarks upon wishing the city to become the Mediterranean's tourism capital, it is the lack of green land which diminishes such a desire: the lack, in particular, of a great park.

But in terms of urban layout in Mallorca, Palma is not unusual. Or maybe it is unusual in that it does actually have some parkland. Of the larger towns on the island, only Calvia has detectable green areas, partly the result of the proximity of the Tramuntana mountains but not totally. Inca, Llucmajor, Manacor, Marratxi: green land is minimal.

It is of course the case that green land is close by. From Inca, for instance, one can soon be in open countryside and on the way to the mountains, but this cannot overlook the fact that within these larger towns the residents and visitors are deprived of a softening of the urban environment that comes with parkland. Urban Mallorca is, as a result, somewhat brutalist.

Go to other towns, smaller ones, and there is a similar theme. For some, there is the compensation of blue rather than green, the presence of the sea and the beach. This is the case in Alcudia, for instance. While the town has its natural areas away from the centre, such as La Victoria, within the town and resort, green areas are all but absent. But not completely. On a glorious Sunday afternoon this weekend, parts of the Bellevue hotel complex were quite busy. Not because of tourists, as they have all gone, but because of local people and local families. Bellevue, despite its rotten reputation, has green elements. They form a mini-park. With access totally unrestricted, people can come and use this greenery as though it were a public park, when it is in fact private.

Historical urban development explains a great deal as to why there is an absence of green space. Again, if you look at maps and at the shapes of towns, you can see how this would have occurred. Towns grew on a principle of the huddling of the local populace, not least for defensive purposes. Living space was at a premium, and so green space was all but eliminated. The resorts, though, were different. Some of them were originally conceived as garden cities, but the philosophy of urban green land contained in British and German concepts for new towns from the late nineteenth century was lost in the eventual scramble for touristic construction.

Tourism determined how the resorts are, but not Palma and the towns. Only belatedly has green space became a consideration.