Sunday, January 31, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 January 2016

Morning high (8.18am): 8.4C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 1 February - Sun, 19C; 2 February - Sun, 17C; 3 February - Cloud, sub, 16C.

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

The final day of January and it looks as though it will be a splendid one. As we say goodbye to the Majorcan month of bonfires and winter fiestas, February arrives tomorrow, and if there is a month when there could be sustained cold and wet weather, then February is the prime candidate. On the other hand ...

Evening update (19.55): Sun was a bit hazy but decent. High of 20.1C.

The Awkwardness Of Government

If there is one certainty to have emerged from the uncertainty caused by the December election, it is that Mariano Rajoy simply doesn't get it. He doesn't get the fact that the PP received a stuffing. He doesn't get the fact that by not putting himself up for being reinstated as prime minister and then refusing to stand aside and let someone else do so is selfish and stupid. He doesn't get the fact that things have changed, and changed dramatically. In the course of one day, 20 December, Mazza became a relic. He became history. A thing of the past. Spain had moved on without having a clue in which direction it was actually heading.

Which of course may be what he's banking on. The citizens, now alerted to the dreadful mistake they made, will hope for a new election, at which they will demonstrate their eternal gratitude to Mariano, say sorry for having misbehaved so badly in December, recognise their collective folly and reinstall Mariano and the PP with a landslide. The weeks since the election have shown that none of the other lots are capable or responsible. Only the PP, with Mariano at its head, can once again save the citizens from themselves. Oh, and don't worry about all the millions that have gone missing on account of alleged corruption cases. Keep them. In fact, have some more. We, the citizens, promise never to do anything like 20 December again.

It's possible in Mariano magic land, that he and the PP actually think like this. So divorced from reality, so desperate has Mariano become in wanting to hold on to power that he came up with the bizarre proposal made to the boy Pedro of PSOE whereby PSOE would support his investiture in return for the PP giving PSOE-led administrations in regions and municipalities its support and so meaning that they - the PSOE administrations - could get Podemos off their backs. In fact, even this wasn't quite as bizarre as it sounded. Something similar had occurred in Andalusia over the months it took Susana Diaz (PSOE) to ensure her re-investiture as president of that region. In the end, this deal with the PP was not needed, but it seemed then, as it does now, as though it was an arrangement best described through the use of the phrasal noun carve-up.

Ultimately, whichever way Pedro jumps (Mariano won't care about this), he will be acutely aware that one element on the Podemos charge list is that of the "casta", the two-party dominance that The Hairy One has been so determined to shatter. Would the citizens, indeed members of his own party, ever forgive him for reinforcing the existence of the casta, given that Podemos (and the C's) have so dramatically disrupted its co-habitation? He would have had a lot on his plate when the federal committee gathered yesterday.

At least Pedro has been able to rely on the support of sweet and friendly Francina (he doesn't enjoy the wholehearted support of the PSOE collective of barons and baronesses). But Francina's support came with a caveat. While saying on the one hand that Pedro should be given total freedom to negotiate however he wished, there she was, insisting that this freedom should be in the image of the dialogue, consensus and fully and well-functioning Balearic model, one with Podemos in the wings putting the boot in, courtesy primarily of The Boot Girl Laura. Francina is, of course, bound to say this. She would hardly say anything else, though she might have taken note (and perhaps Pedro has) of the words of the Grand Baron of PSOE, one-time dashing premier, Felipe González, who made it clear that he believes that the Podemos wrecking ball is aimed at a total destruction of the "system" and not merely some redevelopment work. These are, it must be said, awkward moments.

Back in Congress, where the elected members are enjoying a sabbatical at taxpayer expense and not doing anything on account of there not being anything to shout at each other about, the infant Íñigo Errejón was busying himself with some sheets of paper and a set of crayons. Íñigo was making sketches of the seating arrangements. Podemos want these, he stamped his foot and demanded. Here is another awkward aspect of these changing times. They've not previously had to worry about accommodating great banks of stroppy sorts in the Congress semi-circle. But just as important for Íñigo would have been where Carolina Bescansa is to be in this maroon party forum within the grander forum of the Cortes. He will surely not be wishing a repeat of the baby business. Moreover, how will Podemos juggle the competing hairstyles within its ranks? Do they opt to put the flamboyant ones together, with Pablo's ponytail brushing up against Natty Dreadlock In A Babylon, the bloke who's the head of the Rastafari Tenerife wing of We Can? Yet more awkwardness.

Index for January 2016

Balearic land planning decree - 14 January 2016, 16 January 2016
Blasphemous video - 7 January 2016
Bridge breaks and holidays - 13 January 2016
Bullying and suicide - 22 January 2016
Consensus and Spain's politics - 6 January 2016, 20 January 2016
Corruption - 29 January 2016
Demons' promotion - 15 January 2016
Education and language - 28 January 2016
Holiday rentals and overcrowding - 30 January 2016
Investment in the Balearics - 21 January 2016
Llorenç Moya - 11 January 2016
Mallorca in numbers 2015 - 1 January 2016
Manacor, the demon and the model - 19 January 2016
Nativity scenes in Mallorca - 4 January 2016
Nóos trial - 12 January 2016, 18 January 2016
Palma's name - 3 January 2016
Photographic heritage of Mallorca - 25 January 2016
Pine trees - 17 January 2016
Real Mallorca - 8 January 2016, 10 January 2016
Seasonality and tourism jobs - 2 January 2016
Sharing economy and holiday rentals - 5 January 2016
Spain's government: negotiations - 24 January 2016, 31 January 2016
Tourist tax - 9 January 2016, 23 January 2016
Towns' images - 27 January 2016
Utopia - 26 January 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 January 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 12.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 31 January - Sun, 19C; 1 February - Sun, 17C; 2 February - Sun, 17C.

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

Some cloud hovering in front of the moon before sun-up. A better forecast for today, though, and should see some sun. Tomorrow, very sunny and quite warm once more.

Evening update (19.45): Not bad. Quite sunny and a high of 19.1C.

Water And Tourism Overcrowding

If the Balearic government had said that they were introducing a tax for tourists that would go directly on paying for water, would there be the same hue and cry as there currently is (and still to be) with the tourist tax? Maybe there would be, but the message would be an awful lot simpler. Water is a precious resource and it might just be getting scarcer. Thank you, tourist, for coming to Mallorca, but could you help us with getting you showered and ridding you of the sand that has stuck to suntan lotion and the salt that has encrusted your body and hair? Is it too much to ask for such a precious resource?

A water tax would satisfy Biel Barceló's "finalista" usage, though just one specific purpose and not a host of purposes (vague in their definition). No, there wouldn't be a tax for those purposes, but have a water tax and revenue is freed up elsewhere to be spent on agroforestry modernisation and whatever else.

Palma's Antoni Noguera, a councillor (nay, deputy mayor and due to become mayor in 2017) for whom the words sustainable and model are obliged to feature in every single utterance, may well actually have a point. Are over 3,500 new hotel places in Playa de Palma consistent with a model of sustainable tourism? Did anyone, as he has suggested, stop to ask what impact this increase in places and so humanity would have on services? They're sticking some of these 3,500 plus places on top of existing hotels. Common sense demands that a bottom-up approach is taken instead. Can the bottom, water pipes for instance, sustain the top?

It could all be, of course, one of those things - the current lack of water. Or maybe it will prove not to be. The desalination plants are finally going to really come into their own, and someone has to pay for their output. Palma is preparing almost six million euros for desalinated water this year. A tourist water tax, anyone? And if Palma continues to succeed in making itself Europe's all-year destination darling, water becomes ever more of an issue, especially if rain were to remain as limited in its supply as at present. Mallorca, the tourist industry, would not bemoan the absence of a paddle. The creek wouldn't require one.

This all said, the Noguera criticism of these additional hotel places needs to be seen in the context of how the hotel industry has evolved over the past generation. Inma de Benito, the president of the hoteliers' federation, is never slow in bringing forward a killer statistic or several, and so here is one. Since 1989, the increase in the number of hotel places in the whole of Balearics has been in the order of 3%.

This figure can be questioned, and so I will question it. A key report that the Mallorca Chamber of Commerce published in 2003 showed that from 1991 to 2001 the number of hotel places had risen by 11% to 226,000. However, there had also been a 10% drop in the number of places in hotels with some of apartment classification. The overall rise in places, taking these different categories into account, was more like 4%. Since 2001, there has been comparatively little building activity, but the increase in number of places has not been as limited as the federation might like us to believe: there are 3,700 in Playa de Palma that will require an adjustment of the Benito percentage.

Still, the point that Benito is making is that hotel expansion has not been of anything like the same order as that for residential tourism - villas and other accommodation. Its legitimate growth over the same period since 1989 has been 28%. To this can be added all the properties which are not regulated.

Government and hoteliers, Barceló and Benito, are on much the same hymn sheet when it comes to this regulation. Where they principally differ is on the consequences. For Barceló it is one of overcrowding, as much if not more than being unregulated. But this difference in emphasis is important in the argument over resources. Yes, the additional places in Playa de Palma require a response from services, but nothing like to the same degree as the consumption of water from all the additional private accommodation that has been made available.

The thing is that you, as a politician, can choose your targets to suit your cause. Noguera is right, but he's not right. His is the hotel demonisation argument, but the hoteliers are far from being the only devils in the battle for water.

Friday, January 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 January 2016

Morning high (7.25am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 30 January - Cloud, 17C; 31 January - Sun, 17C; 1 February - Sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 2, increasing Northeast 3 through the morning.

Cloud expected to dominate all day and for much of tomorrow, but little or no chance of rain.

Spinning For All It's Worth: Corruption

There are things that are always with us. In Spain, at any rate. Like the poor, there are the corrupt. Of the latter, perhaps we had been lulled into the falseness of belief that the well had been run dry and that the bucket had lifted all that remained and had deposited it either at His Majesty's Pleasure or onto the blue conference chairs of the defendants at Palma's School of Public Administration. If not Nóos, there are other legends of public life demanding judgement in various corners of the land.

The fact is that the well seems only to have been tapped. There is no drought here, and had there been any thoughts that there was, they have been dismissed. Here comes another hurricane. First, there was Acuamed. "We build the future of water." This is its slogan. While anxiety grows about a future of water scarcity, this government agency for public water works finds itself in the eye of the storm. Embraced in this affair are contracts that FCC had with the ministry for agriculture, food and environment. Bill Gates might be wondering about his shareholding, though the period under investigation does pre-date his acquisition of almost 6% of the stock.

If there is any solace for Mariano Rajoy, it will lie with the fact that the Acuamed affair seems to more or less correspond with the period when PSOE were in government. He can breathe a certain sigh of relief. But no sooner had Acuamed been sprung from the well, than along came "Taula". The table case in Valencia, so it is being said, might finally shed light on unknowns and mysteries surrounding irregular funding of the Partido Popular. It's appropriate that it should be Valencia, one half of the PP's nexus of alleged irregularities, separated by the seas of some 250 kilometres from these shores. Rajoy might be able to assign responsibility for Acuamed elsewhere. With Taula he cannot.

These latest affairs do not make it any easier for Rajoy to form the next government. He has said as much. But his latest offer to PSOE, one by which Podemos would be marginalised, can be seen as despicable. For all its faults, a central principle of Podemos is its stance against corruption (as is also the case with Ciudadanos). Rajoy is neglecting this. The public might not.

If the latest scandals weren't enough, the acting premier would have been aware of the latest report from Transparency International. Ranking the perception of corruption, country by country, as it does each year, Spain has registered its worst performance ever. It has slipped another place - to 36 out of a total of 168 countries - with its score having dropped six points since 2012, the period of the Rajoy administration.

The report does not suggest that there is systemic corruption. Nor does it say that there has been more corruption as such. It measures the perception of corruption, and in this regard the various cases surrounding public procurement are key: they are at the heart of the Acuamed affair, just as they are with Nóos, Palma Arena and Son Espases. It also observes, however, that such cases were more likely to have arisen during periods of good economic times when there was plenty of cash to be potentially diverted. Rajoy has presided over austerity, so maybe this, as much as any initiatives the government and the PP might claim to have instituted, has been a factor in any decline in corruption.

The PP, fighting to hold back the hurricane being unleashed by the latest affairs, points to a different report which suggests that it is the most transparent of all political parties in Spain. This comes from something called Dyntra, the Dynamic Transparency Index, which measures public information and so transparency. While Dyntra might give the PP a boost for what it has done over the past four years, the much wider report from Transparency International does not. It suggests, for example, that the government's law on transparency leaves much to be desired. A comprehensive programme to combat corruption is required. The PP will argue, as it is in order to give it any chance of clinging to power, that it has been "relentless" in tacking corruption over the past four years. Its relentlessness would not match that of Podemos, though. Comprehensiveness would come from parties other than the PP (or PSOE). Yet here is the PP trying to squeeze out the party which a significant part of the electorate supported for its anti-corruption principles.

While the PP will be spinning for all it's worth as it seeks to hang on, there has been a pathetic image that cuts deep. It is of María del Carmen García-Fuster, until now in charge of the treasury of the PP in the city of Valencia. She is in the back of a car, scared, frightened. The fates have caught up. Eventually, they do.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 January 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 8C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 29 January - Cloud, 16C; 30 January - Cloud, sun, 15C; 31 January - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

More quite warm and sunny weather on the cards for today. Cloud predicted for most of tomorrow but still no sign of rain.

Evening update (23.05): None too shabby. High of 20.8C.

Tit For Tat: Education and language

And so we come full circle. More or less. Tit for tat. Education and language, two sides of a coin that has only one face. We are back to 2008. Year zero for much of the legacy of the Antich government: education, language, land plans, decrees for wetlands. Schools, teachers, the civil service and public sector workers, property and infrastructure developments with their implications of investment and employment or not. All of them in a constant state of turmoil and of the violently shifting sands of Balearic politics. Here comes a big wave to wash everything away. Now comes another wave to wash it back into place.

The Partido Popular is not wholly wrong when it suggests that the current government seems hell bent on repealing anything and everything that the Bauzá regime introduced. But it ignores the fact that it had acted similarly in dismantling the Antich legacy. There is an additional tone to this latest revisionism, however: the sheer hostility directed at Bauzá personally and all that he represented. It's not pleasant. Nel Martí, a Més-ite, has compared Bauzá to Felipe V and so to the vindictiveness and repression of the first Bourbon king, with Catalan and Greater Catalonia (not that it was referred to as such in 1715) on the end of a cannon ball and of prohibition. They simply cannot let the past be. History always intrudes. Here is a land constantly re-fighting wars.

PLIS is an association of teachers. The acronym stands for, in English, teachers free of social engineering. It has taken the government to task over its educational reforms. There is a whole list of criticisms. They range from renewed bureaucratisation of school management, to the role of unions in selecting school directors to the totally free training of teachers to be done in the workplace and paid for out of everyone's taxes. Then there is the most recognisable cog in this social engineering wheel. The language.

Bauzá's trilingual teaching (TIL) project was an unmitigated disaster, one that could have been foreseen. Had it been a project predicated on education, it might not have been. But it was not. It was a naked, undisguised means of subverting Catalan, the first attempt at doing so - the free selection of teaching language by parents - having proved to be as much of a disaster as to what was to follow.

No less an institution than the Council of Europe has been having its say. In its report on the charter for regional and minority languages, it has issued its own broadside. It condemns TIL because there weren't teachers qualified to implement it. It insists that Catalan should be respected in teaching at all levels - from infant to secondary. It concludes, however, that during the school year 2011-2012, the first full year over which Bauzá presided, the balance (slightly in favour of Catalan against Castellano) was about right. It was to be the engineered and deeply flawed introduction of English that was to disrupt this. Or would have done, had it ever been implemented in something even approximating a coherent fashion.

The Bauzá critics refer to the "obsession" that the last government had with Catalan. Yet it is an accusation that could equally apply now; only in reverse. To what extent there will be a reversion to the edicts of 2008 which effectively made Castellano a minority language remain to be seen. But in different spheres - schools and the public sector - there is little equivocation. The clock has been turned back eight years. Tit for tat. Catalan becomes once more a pre-requisite for public-sector employment. It's as you were.

Xavier Pericay, the leader of Ciudadanos in the Balearics, must feel lonely. He can snuggle up to the PP, but he fights an all but lone battle. Anti-nationalist, as the C's are, he brings his own scholarly interest in languages to the parliament chamber. Languages do not have rights, only those who speak languages. It's not an argument destined to find favour with the government (or with the regionalist-nationalist El Pi). Languages are all. One in particular. The rights lie with vocabulary, grammar, dialect, the ancient divergence within the Romance languages and so with cultural heritage aka baggage. The social engineering decrees that this must be so.

Nothing, or very little, remains of TIL. It was unceremoniously (and correctly) hurled with great force into the deepest of seas surrounding the Balearics, a faint echo vaguely detectable amidst the fading sonar tests for oil. This echo is in the form of free choice by schools. If they wish to use a third language for teaching, then they can. The PP says this will produce first and second division schools. It probably won't. There'll be one division. First or second depends entirely upon your perspective.

Meanwhile, someone, somewhere is genuinely concerning him or herself with education. He or she is not a politician.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 January 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 9.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 January - Sun, 20C; 29 January - Cloud, 15C; 30 January - Sun, 15C.

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

Some dense morning fog is starting to lift. Another warm and sunny day beckons. The met office suggests that the fine weather is due to continue until the second of February, which is when it is forecasting that there will be rain. Drought plans are currently being put into operation.

Evening update (21.00): Once the fog (and also cloud) had lifted, it was another very pleasant day. Not quite as warm, but who's complaining about a high of 19.6C?

The Image Of Mallorca's Towns

Let me tell you about three towns. Or rather, let me tell you about their points of traffic entrance and visual appearance. They are three towns with which I am very familiar. For those of you who don't have intimate knowledge of Alcudia, Muro and Pollensa, you may nevertheless recognise similarities with towns of which you do have such knowledge.

The main road leading into Muro from Can Picafort is, until you arrive at Muro, a pleasant cross-country drive, characterised by farmland devoted to the agriculture of the area. But as you enter the town, you are confronted by several warehouses and a large petrol station.

Pollensa doesn't have quite the same traffic arrangement. The main road from the motorway skirts past the town, but the immediate view of the town can leave one somewhat impressed, as it is one primarily of apartment blocks.

For both Muro and Pollensa these external images are in stark contrast to what one discovers in their centres. Pollensa is one of Mallorca's finest old towns. Muro also has splendid appeal, courtesy of its imposing church plonked right opposite the old town hall building.

Alcudia, the town, doesn't have quite the same visual impediments in its more immediate entry points. However, if you take the main road from the motorway into the port area, you can look to your left and see Sant Jaume church in the distance, with what seems like neglected scrubland in the foreground. If you take an alternative route into the port area, the Avenida Tucan, you see more such scrubland (really parts of the Albufera that have been allowed to remain and, in some instances, poorly maintained). This same route reveals large garage workshops and an Eroski supermarket.

The mayor of Alcudia, Antoni Mir, told me some months ago that it was his wish to improve these entry-point visual images. The mayors of Muro and Pollensa, Martí Fornes and Miquel Àngel March, may harbour similar ambitions for their towns, albeit that in Muro one of those warehouses has been acquired by the town hall, at not insignificant cost, to be used as a centre for the town's services' operations.

The Council of Mallorca, through its councillor for land, Mercedes Garrido, is coming up with a landscaping plan for the island's towns. Under this, all departments at the Council would need to take account of aesthetic requirements when contemplating projects, such as with road building. Town halls would need to minimise visual impacts of projects that are their responsibilities. The Council isn't saying that there would have to be immediate alterations to the landscape but is saying that, bit by bit, the images of warehouses and what have you would be removed from the entry points.

The plan, on the face of it, has a great deal of merit but it may encounter issues of practicality, to say nothing of will and finance. There have, however, been examples of this will in the past. Pollensa is a case in point. Some while ago, there was meant to have been a project involving the university to shield the image as one drives along the main road. What's happened to the project, I can't say, but in principle it was a sound idea. Greening the exterior of the town could only be of benefit and not just for improving the view.

However, doing something similar elsewhere might not be feasible. In Muro, for example, there wouldn't be the room to plant trees in order to shield the warehouses. For the Council of Mallorca, the option would be to relocate these. But where? A solution would be an industrial estate. Muro doesn't have one.

The industrial estate option, though, has its own drawbacks. An estate can itself provide a less than pleasing aspect. In Pollensa, a different entry point takes you past the town's industrial estate, now dominated by large retail outlets. Moreover, unless an estate is firmly controlled, which is generally not the case, it is subject to speculation, high rents and the influx of showrooms and entertainment centres. The smaller business is thus penalised.

The point is that warehouses and other manifestations of commercial and industrial activity have to go somewhere. Might it become, therefore, a case of removing one problem but creating another in an alternative location, even assuming that an alternative could be found? The Council is pretty strong in not wanting there to be new commercial developments. Planning permissions would be difficult to obtain.

Such issues may not be insurmountable, however. The Council's plan draws on landscaping recommendations from the European Union that are being adopted elsewhere. It is a plan that is laudable as there are various examples of unappealing images in addition to the ones cited above. I give you, for instance, Inca as a case in point. Smartening up town's exteriors can only be a good thing.

* Photo of Avenida Tucan in Alcudia, leading to the port.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 January 2016

Morning high (7.45am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 27 January - Sun, 18C; 28 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 29 January - Cloud, 14C.

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

Birds are in full voice, there's a not quite bright golden haze on the meadow as it's not long after dawn, light clouds. Springlike almost.

Evening update (23.30): Another really quite warm day. A high of 21.6C.

The Myth Of Utopia

Five hundred years ago, a book was published, the title of which, combined with a general misunderstanding as to what the book was about, was to enter common language usage. This was Thomas More's "Utopia". It was a book that was to become - if this can be said of the sixteenth century - a bestseller. Originally in Latin, it had seemingly been intended for the high-bred and high-educated. While Classical Latin was enduring and was to endure, by the time More wrote it, the various Vulgar Latin common speech spin-offs had long been transformed via the process that was to bring about modern Romance languages, such as Spanish and Catalan, or had simply been displaced, as was the case with, initially, Old English. In order to reach a wider public, translations were required: Classical Latin was, by then, an obscure language for the common people of western Europe.

There are all manner of interpretations of More's work and there are also competing ideas as to why he wrote it. The story is that it came about through a meeting with a Portuguese sailor to whom he was introduced after mass at Antwerp Cathedral in 1515. Or at least, it was this sailor who was to allow More to locate the island of Utopia in the New World. Crucially, though, More was friendly with various Renaissance Humanists. That they could converse and share ideas had everything to do with their knowledge of a common language: Latin.

"Utopia" was, in a sense, a pan-western European venture and a kind of manifesto. It wasn't necessarily seeking to establish a different form of society but it provided - to use current parlance - a form of roadmap towards that society. Competing theories suggest that it was intended as more of a satire, thus rendering its vision unworkable and unrealistic; even sympathisers were inclined to believe it was all rather simplistic.

A curiosity of More's work was that it should have come from him at all. The tolerance of "religions" as they existed in "Utopia" was at variance with his own alleged persecution of Protestants (something else that has long been debated). He himself of course incurred Henry VIII's wrath by not supporting the separation from the Catholic church and was executed.

"Utopia" was to subsequently be seen as something of a blueprint for Communism on account of the generally egalitarian society it envisaged, but its importance in this regard can be overstated. Karl Marx and others were to also view the work as simplistic. But its central thesis was predicated on the need for an ordered society, which is where the great misunderstandings have occurred. In current-day usage, Utopia has become a euphemism for paradise, a vision of idyllic island life in which everyone co-exists in harmony. More appeared to have been advocating some form of social engineering as opposed to a paradise. He didn't, for instance, bar slavery.

In essence, two distinct branch lines of Utopia were to form: one political, the other more spiritual. In Mallorca, there were those in the last century who craved their own pieces of Utopia. Adan Diehl, the founder of the Hotel Formentor, was one. Josep Costa i Ferrer, the driving force behind Cala d'Or, was another. Both from an artistic/literary background, they shared visions of havens of educated good taste, ones littered with those from the arts fraternity. Diehl's vision was a total disaster, one that left him financially ruined. Don Pep's was to be altogether more pragmatic.

Diehl had returned to Argentina by the time the Civil War had started. Whatever Utopia he or Don Pep had desired was shattered; the collision of Fascism and Communism (with anarchy included in the Spanish version) well and truly did for their more heady ideas of a Utopia. There was, however, some kind of notion of a Utopia in both Fascism and Communism. The problem with both was that social engineering to attain this state was based on hatreds, intolerances and authoritarianism. There had been a necessary system of authority in More's vision, but it was one that was to be taken to its absolute extreme.

To come to the current day, it might be argued that political change in Spain is about a wish to establish a new type of Utopia. With Podemos (and others) there is an unmistakable undertone of quasi-Communism. It can be easy to, therefore, dismiss this based on precedent. Crucially, however, this contemporary vision is one in which political power is inherently limited and is subordinate to the democratic will of the citizenry. It is an enticing vision but one for which there is no precedent and is also one that inevitably leads to conclusions of all power eventually corrupting the self-proclaimed incorruptible.

More's vision was unworkable. Other visions have likewise been proved to be unworkable. Utopia, in every sense, especially politically, is a myth.

Monday, January 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 January 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 26 January - Sun, cloud, 19C; 27 January - Sun, cloud, 16C; 28 January - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

With light southerlies dominating today, it may well be warmer than the forecast high of 20C.

Evening update (20.30): Took a while for cloud to go, and there was some rain in parts, but once it did go, then it was a high of 21.8C.

Historical Records: Mallorca in photos

Every picture tells a story. Today's obsession with social networks is both positive and less positive. Among all the vanity stuff, the endless selfies and plates of breakfast and Sunday roast, there are the endless treasures of landscapes, seascapes and buildings. But even these can have their monotony factor. However good the photo might be, yet more shots of Pollensa's Calvari, Palma's Cathedral or Cala Tuent are just that - yet more shots. There is nothing that isn't photographed - both well and not well - and uploaded to social media.

It didn't of course used to be like this. The scarcity of photographic evidence made what there was the very essence of historical treasure. Contemporary overfamiliarity lessens the impact. Much of today's photography - the stuff which can typify social media at any rate - lacks durability. This is not historical record for future generations, simply the deployment of technologies in the here and now.

A photographic exhibition has been ongoing since the end of October. It has now moved from the Archduke Louis Salvador building at the university to the same institution's Sa Riera. It will finish in mid-February. Its title is "Tourism in the Balearic and Pityusic Islands: A brief graphic history". Its very title is somewhat odd but also significant. The Balearics is a generic name for an archipelago that comprises the Gymnesian and Pityusic Islands: Mallorca and Menorca and Ibiza and Formentera. The Balearics is the catch-all. How often is the antiquity of the real island names referred to?

A publicity leaflet for this exhibition is itself somewhat odd. Its main image shows a dockside. There is an old post office (Correos) van parked next to what looks as though it may be a large fishing boat. A car is being winched onto the boat. It doesn't somehow seem representative of tourism, yet it probably was. It was taken in Palma in 1956. The photographer was Tom Weedon. This British resident of Fornalutx is one of the key names in Mallorca's photographic past. In October 2013, an exhibition of his work was opened at Palma's La Misericòrdia. Two years later, virtually to the day, the university's exhibition opened, with Weedon's curious Palma dockside photo assuming pride of publicity place.

Quirky and unexpected, the photo captures more than just a tourism past. Vehicles, people, technology, view: they are essential ingredients of excellent historical record, the scarce resource which, when it is made available, will always have the potential to intrigue and fascinate.

There is something else that is odd about the exhibition. Awareness of it has been limited. I came across it thanks to, yes, social media. I can't recall there having been any particular announcements or fuss made about it. And yet the title makes clear that here is a collection for something that is endlessly fascinating: Mallorca's past.

Of other images, there is one for two gentlemen in bathing costumes taken at the balneario in El Terreno in either 1919 or 1920. Here, El Terreno, is where tourism, more in the style of foreign residential tourism, was centred. There is a further one of a shanty town that was taken in 1966. It was situated by the Can Pere Antoni beach in Palma. Its significance is immense. Such shanties used to exist, side by side with tourism development. Some housed workers who were employed in building, while others were for the poor. One of the abiding images I have of the first time I came to Mallorca was of a small shanty at the back of the hotel we stayed at in Arenal.

The specific source from social media that led me to find out about this exhibition was the Facebook page for Fotos Antiguas de Mallorca. This, together with a separate blog, is the most remarkable single photographic resource devoted to Mallorca's past, and not only tourism past. A labour of social media love, it throws up the occasional teases or questions. Where is this a photo of? A recent black-and-white one shows a cove with a handful of buildings and a mountain in the background. It isn't said when it was taken, but the answers as to where it is are varied: Camp de Mar, Colonia Sant Pere, Cala Agulla. The more likely answer is Cala Barques in Cala Sant Vicenç.

The Balearic tourism ministry wishes to use some of the revenue raised by the tourist tax to assist in preservation of the islands' heritage. This ministry has, however, and via its promotional wings, consistently failed in presenting this heritage, through photography and other media, to a tourist public. Old talk of a tourism museum was only ever talk: it never happened. If it believes in heritage, it should make an award to Fotos Antiguas de Mallorca.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 9.9C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 25 January - Sun, cloud, 19C; 26 January - Sun, cloud, 15C; 27 January - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2, occasionally East 2 to 3 by the late afternoon.

Some patches of mist early on, there having been quite thick fog overnight. Very calm with minimal breezes. Another pleasantly warm day ahead. The week's outlook - no significant change forecast at present.

Evening update (22.30): The fog came back for a time and then became cloud. All more or less cleared by the afternoon. High of 20.2C.

Turning Portuguese

Some of my correspondents are shrewd analysts. I said Podemos wouldn't shift their stance on Catalonia. Oh yes they will, came the response: The Hairy One's a canny bugger. I'm happy to be told that I was told so, given that I seem to spend a great deal of time doing just this myself. Never let political opportunism get in the way of power-grabbing. The Hairy One has shifted the red line of Catalonia slightly to the right. It is now a pink line which might in due course fade under a burning Catalonian sky. So much depends.

Meanwhile, Mariano was meeting the King. What a time Felipe is having with all of this, having to forego the Fitur travel fair and a chance to sample some Mallorcan ensaimada at the Balearic stand, needing instead to attempt to knock some sense into the blockheads. I want first dibs at becoming premier, said Mariano. Or something along those lines. The King must have been sorely tempted. And how exactly do you think you will manage this? Where exactly do you think the support will come from?

Mazza's mouthpiece, Rafael Hernando, ahead of Rajoy going off to ask for royal first refusal, said that the citizens had had enough of confrontation, implying that the citizens would immediately realise how foolish they had been in voting for anyone other than Mazza and ignoring the fact that the PP had been instrumental in bringing about confrontation. The King, meanwhile, would have been fully apprised of the fact that the boy Pedro of PSOE was in the process of cobbling together the Portuguese option, one which, on the face of it, sounds quite attractive, what with that nice Portuguese clam soup thing you get, various outstanding golf courses and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pedro's Portuguese alternative doesn't appear to embrace such delights, however. If Heath Robinson had designed governments, then he would have come up with Portugal's - and now possibly Spain's - bits of only vaguely related political parts hammered together with some enormous valve contraption to be attached to the roof of the Cortes in order to allow all the hot air and steam to be evacuated from the building.

With The Hairy One kindly offering to become Vice-President (sorry, but it does need pointing out that the Spanish don't refer to prime ministers and deputy prime ministers, only the aloof British on account of a superior knowledge of how monarchical democracies work), Pedro now faces the opportunity of presiding over His Majesty's Heath Robinson Government of Spain. This, it is beginning to appear, may well involve a rag-tag of waif and stray parties, ranging from the only somewhat weird to the very weird. The United Left are to the right of this weirdness, but who on earth are Compromís or En Marea? Frankly, even I've given up trying to figure them all out. And then we have En Comú Podem, which is sort of Podemos but isn't. This Catalonian conglomeration of ever more rag-tag-ability reckons it might be able to sway the boy Pedro back towards the Catalonian referendum red line and so away from The Hairy One's recently discovered referendum pinkness. 

Confused? Not as much as the King must be.

The odd thing is of course that they've all arrived at the Cortes to take their seats. In the absence of an actual government, what do they do with themselves? Take selfies and play Candy Crush? Well, if they are the Podemos member, Carolina Bescansa, they take their baby to Congress. The joyous family scene on the Podemos benches featured a beaming Pablo Iglesias, reaching out and then rocking the baby as Carolina passed her young offspring in front of the infant Íñigo Errejón, who is achieving the seemingly impossible of getting younger by the moment. Íñigo, it has to be said, looked as if he was about to throw an infant strop on account of being squeezed between The Hairy One in full cooing mode and the proud mother. In other words, he had a right arse on and didn't appear to relish the moment when he too was to be subject to the baby dribbling on him. Some wag Photoshopped his face onto the baby's. He's unlikely to ever live it down but must be hoping to God that the first act that Podemos pass in the Cortes is to establish a creche. For the record, Íñigo is 32.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 9.4C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 24 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 25 January - Sun, cloud, 18C; 26 January - Cloud, 15C.

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

Nice morning again. Nice day ahead again. Nothing changing for now.

Evening update (21.00): High of 20.8C. Positively springlike.

The Critics Of Fitur: Tourist tax

If one looks back to the Madrid Fitur travel and tourism fairs of 2014 and 2015, the main talk then was of optimistic recovery, of new projects and of a generally more positive outlook for the tourism industry, following the years of crisis.

Fairs such as Fitur typically don't make waves. For the Balearics the greatest controversies - if you can call them such - have tended in recent years to be reserved for the parsimonious nature of exhibition stands. Former tourism minister Carlos Delgado made drastic cuts to the spending on fairs - the visual appearance and size of stands in particular - and was criticised for having done so by the likes of Ibiza. The controversies are now of a rather different order: there was no tourist tax looming on the summer season horizon two years ago.

If Biel Barceló, the tourism minister, truly believed that he left the World Travel Market in London last November having heard little criticism of the tourist tax, he couldn't help but hear such criticism in Madrid. He can rebuff this by insisting that opposition is, to use his word, artificial, but audiences in Madrid heard this opposition uttered with plain speaking by Meliá, the Barceló hotel group and the confederation that represents the non-hotel tourist businesses. The criticisms of this latter group are particularly pertinent. The tourist tax means that there might be less spending by tourists, and it will be restaurants, clubs, attractions and others which bear the brunt.

President Armengol chose to home in on the criticisms of Mariano Rajoy. It was irresponsible of him to cause potential harm to Balearic tourism. The fact was that Rajoy didn't specifically mention the tourist tax, while his references to obstacles being erected in front of tourism were equally applicable to administrations such as the ones in Madrid and Barcelona. Armengol may have been right to have pointed to the increase in IVA (VAT) under Rajoy, but as has been said many times, IVA does not generate the same level of interest among tourists. Typically, they will in fact be unaware of it.

There is a further and more important political context to this year's Fitur. It was why King Felipe didn't attend, which he normally would do. He is heavily involved in attempting to sort out some agreement for government, and the very fact of his non-attendance showed just how different Fitur is this year to two years ago. Then, there was some instability with the monarchy, but there wasn't instability on the political front. At the backs of the minds of many of those in Madrid would have been concerns about what might come to pass.

For now, however, everything remains rosy. ABTA has issued its forecasts for the current year, and Spain is going to be booming. Magalluf has been singled out for particular mention in this regard on account of its market repositioning. The boss of Globalia, Juan José Hidalgo, says there will be no free rooms this summer, and he was talking about Mallorca in particular. Things will be getting into full swing earlier as well: in April, Hidalgo believes. Meliá concede that the season could be better than last year. The Piñero group anticipate 5% growth. Not even the Turkish government's significant discounts for airlines this spring are likely to dent Mallorca's prospects.

It is of course what lies beyond this current year which is causing the anxiety. Ongoing instability elsewhere would probably allay much of this, but it remains to be seen how the tourist-consumer reacts not only to the tax but also to increased prices for Mallorca. If things were to stabilise elsewhere - a big if - then governmental intervention in other countries will guarantee dirt cheap prices to go alongside the grand palaces of new hotels.

Friday, January 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 January 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 7.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 23 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 24 January - Cloud, sun, 15C; 25 January - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

Cold and clear first thing. Sunny later. Hardly any wind. That's all really.

Evening update (23.15): Pretty good. High of 19.2C.

Spring And Fall: A winter's grave

"Have you ever tended a child's grave in winter? Do you know what it is to look down on the earth that covers the bones you made? Do you remember the smell of wet leafmeal? Did you feel the cold in your knees? Did you weep when you wiped the grime from the tiny headstone? Did you think about the day when you first came to this place? It was a long while back; it was a lifetime ago that we buried Jolly."

This is the opening to a story entitled "Spring And Fall". I won't give details about the story, as to do so would seem inappropriate and disrespectful. The last sentence does, however, give an idea. "Then he opened the window." The "he" was Jolly, the diminutive for Jolyon.

The author was someone perhaps better known for his idiosyncratic television broadcasts. Well before those, I had become aware of Jonathan Meades. Less so for his journalism than for his fiction and essays. The story comes from a collection called "Filthy English". Published in 1984, it remains one of the finest collections of short stories in a contemporary tradition.

Why am I mentioning this story? Its context, as with the other stories, was mainly the Wiltshire where he grew up and the New Forest and Hampshire that he also knew. Much of the raw material for the stories came from his mother who was a teacher. It was a very English context of the 1960s. As such, it has nothing to do with Spain of 2016. Except, that is, it has everything to do with now, right here, because of the opening and the ending.

I haven't re-read the story thoroughly, but I don't think Meades reveals the boy's age. But from hints as I remember them, he would probably have been around eleven or twelve. It is the very sadness of that opening and of the ending that now come to mind. Have you ever tended a child's grave in winter? One who was eleven years old and who had committed suicide?

Diego González was eleven. He lived in the Madrid district of Leganés. On 14 October last year, Diego jumped from the fifth floor of the family home. On the windowsill was a note. He gave it a title, asking for "Lucho" to be looked after. Lucho was the name of a comfort doll he had had since he was a baby.

"Dad, mum. These eleven years I've been with you have been very good and I will never forget them just as I will never forget you. Dad, you've taught me to be a good person and to keep my promises, and also you have played with me a great deal. Mum, you've taken care of me so much and you've taken me to many places. Each of you is amazing, but together you are the best parents in the world ... I hope that one day we can see each other again in heaven."

Of the remaining content of the note, there is one line that explains everything but yet of course leaves so much unexplained. "I'm telling you this because I can't bear going to school." Diego had concluded, as he wrote, that there was no other way to not go to school.

The suicide was treated by the police as having been the consequence of bullying at school. Diego's parents, though, want the case to be kept open. They say that "odd things" have happened at the school.

It's impossible for me to offer any comment on this particular tragedy and nor would I wish to comment. But it prompted a search into suicide among younger children, a group about which less seems to be said than teenagers. The causes, however, sound much the same, with bullying being one of them. In December 2006, for example, eleven-year-old Ben Vodden took his life in Horsham, Sussex. The bullying had included name-calling by a school bus driver. Other possible causes, again out of respect, do not warrant detailing. The scale of pre-adolescent suicide, mercifully, is miniscule. But, again by example, 56 suicides by under-12s in the US in 2006 are 56 too many.

The circumstances of Diego's death and the one that Jonathan Meades wrote about are very different. There was no bullying in "Spring And Fall": quite the contrary in fact. But his story is one that affected me when I first read it all those years ago. And it still does. The opening is one of desperate loss and sadness. What follows is the wondering and the not knowing. How would the boy be now, as a man?

While Diego's parents believe there may have been reasons other than the one the police concluded, they will have other questions. How utterly and awfully unbearable.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 8.6C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 January - Sun, cloud, 16C; 23 January - Sun, cloud, 15C; 24 January - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 t0 3.

All very settled at the moment. Sunny spells, light breezes, normal temperatures.

Evening update (20.30): Pleasant enough. High of 18C.

Taking Flight: Balearic investment

Capital investment. Its definition is as follows: "Funds invested in a firm or enterprise for the purposes of furthering its business objectives. It may also refer to a firm's acquisition of capital assets or fixed assets. Sources of capital investment are manifold and can include equity investors, banks, financial institutions, venture capital and angel investors. While capital investment is usually earmarked for capital or long-life assets, a portion may also be used for working capital purposes."

So much for the short business lesson, but it is necessary in order to underline what follows. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) is one of the foremost providers of business information. Its latest report into business performance in Mallorca and Spain reveals one very heartening aspect for the island and the Balearics: the percentage rise - and so relative rise - in the number of businesses created in 2015 was greater than elsewhere in Spain. A seven per cent increase is contrasted with a 0.4% decrease nationally, the decline explained by businesses which close as well as open.

While this is positive news, it disguises another finding by D&B. Last month, the level of capital investment for the whole country was up by a staggering 87%. In December alone, 2,600 million euros were invested. In the Balearics, the figure was equally staggering: capital investment was down by 75% compared with December 2014. This followed what had otherwise been a decent year of investment growth - slightly more than 100% for the year as a whole. But it is the December figure which should be attracting more attention than it is. Indeed, it should be setting the alarm bells ringing.

What one can say is that capital investment, unlike much other business activity in the Balearics, is not determined by the season. In fact, the off-season would typically be a time of high investment for projects that are, hopefully, designed with long-life assets in mind: hotels, just to take one example. As can be seen nationally, there most certainly isn't a seasonal downward factor at play: quite the opposite. In the Balearics, this was true also of December 2014. So why did the figure for last month collapse so dramatically?

A reason could lie with investment that had already been made. One does need to be somewhat cautious in highlighting one month's performance in the context of what otherwise was a decent year. Nevertheless, the slump should raise eyebrows.

There are currently, or have been, highly positive factors going the Balearics way in terms of business and economic development. In addition to all the investment that has been noticeable in the past couple of years since recession drifted away, there has been a benefit for the Balearics from what has been and is happening in Catalonia. Because of the drive towards secession, and just as importantly high rates of tax, businesses have been getting out of Catalonia. Since 2012, some 200 have relocated their operations to the Balearics.

It doesn't necessarily follow that because a business moves its base, mainly for tax reasons, investment increases. This isn't the point. What is, is that there has been confidence in coming to the Balearics, courtesy of a more agreeable corporate tax regime (and no question of secession). This confidence has been matched by investment from whatever source. This is why there have been the highly positive factors for the islands.

But consider what happened between 2008 and 2011 when the previous PSOE-led government was in power. Businesses left the Balearics. The reason? Simple. Tax.

The benign business conditions in the Balearics are changing. Tax amendments by the current government create one such changing condition. Another is government policy, no better characterised than the recent decree that will directly hit the tourism and construction sectors, the two sectors that attract the greatest levels of investment.

The decree hadn't of course been announced in December, but the signs were becoming increasingly clear. Investment made during 2015 was, in part, in order to ensure that projects were in place and couldn't be undone by legal reform. The healthy total investment figure for 2015 was thus partially influenced by necessity.

The Balearic government, primarily the president and vice-president, refer to investment that will be forthcoming, seemingly oblivious to how policies might in fact stall investment. For the vice-president, Biel Barceló, there is the other hat that he wears: the innovation one. He wishes to see greater investment in technologies as a means of economic diversification. This is laudable and would be even more so were he to identify what he actually means and adopt a position that might make technology investment attractive. He might, however, note that there was a flight of investment in high technologies nationally last year. Which was perhaps a case of investors seeking returns from the tried and tested: bricks and mortar and tourism.

Was December just a blip? We are about to find out.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 21 January - Cloud, sun, 16C; 22 January - Sun, cloud, 14C; 23 January - Sun, cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 3 easing Variable 2 during the afternoon.

Chilly morning with mostly clear skies. Ok day to come. Ok general outlook. Not untypical for January.

The Absence Of Compromise

John Carlin is a writer and journalist. The son of a Scottish father and Spanish mother, he lives in Barcelona, has been a regular contributor to the newspaper "El País" for several years and, in 2011, had a book published that was entitled "Rafa, Mi Historia": the Rafa in question was Nadal. His specialisms are sport and politics, and he is often well worth reading for views on Spain which retain a degree of non-Spanish, i.e. British, perspective.

On the "El País" English web page, there is an article* by him which, though it oddly seems to have been translated for him, applies that perspective to the nature of compromise in Spanish politics: or rather, its absence. A key point he makes is that there is no actual word for compromise in the Spanish vocabulary. There is the word "compromiso", but this is what the language-training fraternity like to call a false friend. It can mean agreement but it doesn't have the nuance implicit to the English compromise. It is more often used to mean obligation or commitment, both of which have a greater sense of finality.

John says that the words - verb and noun - which come closest are "pactar" and "pacto": to pact or a pact. But even these lack the subtlety of compromise, and this becomes evident when considering dictionary definitions. They are essentially the same except for the Spanish "pact" meaning an agreement which both parties are mutually bound to observe, while compromise means agreement through making concessions: give and take, in other words.

He then goes on to consider how cultural development prevented compromise from becoming the concept that the British (and others) understand. He attributes this to the Catholic fundamentalism that endured from the time of the final end of Moorish occupation in 1492 until the Franco era. There were periodic political disruptions to this, such as with Ferdinand VII's abandonment of male succession (which sparked off the various Carlist Wars) and during the Second Republic. But once Franco was installed, the fundamentalism thrived once more, courtesy of the Falange, a complicit church and Opus Dei, founded in Spain in 1928.

The point he makes, therefore, is that culturally Spain failed to discover the ability to compromise. The prevailing mentality was one which left no room for manouevre. There was right and there was not right. The Inquisition was key to this for centuries. It was a thought police in a way that the Falange was to become. And added to this was the Vatican. For as many centuries, it looked upon Spain as the true keeper of the faith, more so even than Italy, and this had a great deal to do with the "Catholic Kings" - Isabel and Ferdinand - who reigned when the Muslim occupation came to an end and who were (she more than he, or so it is reckoned) great supporters of the Inquisition.

The timeframe that John cites is important for another reason. Key moments in Spain's history started with 1492 (Columbus as well) and passed through the War of the Spanish Succession (with the consequent dismantling of the Crown of Aragon and the repression of the Catalans) to the quashed Liberal Constitution of 1812 (quashed by Ferdinand VII) to the humiliations of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines at the end of the nineteenth century and finally to Franco. Through all this time, authoritarianism, absolutism and militarism generally prevailed: there was little room to brook arguments and so little by way of give and take.

All nations live their presents and futures through their pasts, but Spain does this more than most. The milestones of the centuries haunt the country, and there are constant reminders of them. And allied to the history is the thinking: there is one way and not another.

Recently, I compared German consensus politics with the desires, so often expressed, by current Spanish and Mallorcan politicians for consensus. I concluded that article by suggesting that talk of consensus was cheap. There may be honourable attempts at breaking the mentality of the past, but consensus comes with its inherent compromise. The German model is one by which politically it is accepted that there are boundaries that will not be crossed in breaking down the philosophy of consensus. In Spain at present, efforts at consensus are driven by motives of political power, and sharing power doesn't mean the same thing as compromise. The pacts are, because of the dictionary definition, agreements that are mutually binding. Until, that is, someone breaks them. Or until one of the ideologies contained within the pacts comes to dominate and is allowed to dominate by others who are desperate to have power, yet shroud this in talk of what the citizens have demanded.

John Carlin believes that Spain's politicians would benefit from learning the meaning of compromise. The question is: Can they?


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 10.6C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 20 January - Cloud, sun, 17C; 21 January - Sun, cloud, 13C; 22 January - Sun, cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3 veering Southeast in the afternoon.

Pretty grey sort of start. May be some sun around later, but not particularly warm. Very light breezes though.

Evening update (23.00): Grey all day. High of 14.4C.

Demons And Models For Wives

MGMT, the American rock band, produced a video for their song "Time to Pretend" which could have been dredged from the depths of an LSD trip. The reason I was reminded of this computer-generated extravaganza with the song's references to Class-A drugs and more than just a nod in the direction of The Beatles during their heady phase was on account of the collision of themes that have, in the real world, managed to collide. The video starts with hippy sorts cavorting around a bonfire. Here we have a symbol of Mallorca's current obsession with fire, demons and all amount of pagan heritage. The drugs-laced overtones of the song and video and the hippy sorts are in keeping with the alternative fiestas of Palma's Sant Kanut. And then there's the line from the song about finding models for wives. The frog prince, Rupert, has found a model for a wife (or engagement at any rate).

And into this kaleidoscope we also have the strange story of the demon who seemed to have found a model as a wife, the model in question being one Aline, a Russian blonde. Aline's dalliance with a demon, a Grand Demon no less, has caused one almighty great rumpus as well as an almighty great racket. When there's a protest to be had, out come the pots and pans. The beating of them creates one heck of a cacophony.

It needs to be said, in the interests of accuracy, that Aline and the Grand Demon got no further than being photographed. But it is the photos that brewed up the storm, and it has been hovering over Manacor ever since the latest edition of the town's magazine, "Perlas y Cuevas", celebrated Sant Antoni by showing topless Aline with the Grand Demon in what has been described as a series of "erotic" poses. In one, Aline is taking two hands to one of the demon's horns, while he, tongue hanging out, is in the process of trying to remove one of her stockings.

So the legend goes in the magazine, Aline has come from Russia in order to tempt the Grand Demon and has engaged in hours of seduction prior to the demons going in pursuit of the holy hermit of Sant Antoni. No sooner had the magazine come out and the photos and the arguments were all over social media, at which point the mainstream media picked up on them as well. The outcry led to the caceroladas, "feminist" ones, according to one report, outside the office of the magazine and the home of its editor, Antoni Ferrer, who was said to have been watching Tarantino's latest while all the banging of saucepans was going on.

Ferrer defended the photos by saying it was professional and that there had been no intention to offend or to stir up controversy. The photos used were apparently the most "neutral" of some 500 that were taken, and he was somewhat bemused by the fact that people might be shocked by the photos, bearing in mind the years of censorship in the past. While the magazine has received plenty of messages of support, this hasn't come from institutions. The Council of Mallorca has taken the side of the protesters and condemned the use of imagery which depicts "cheesy sexist stereotypes". The Sant Antoni patronage association in Manacor has also criticised the magazine and has disassociated itself from it by stating that it had nothing to do with the images.

Rather more sinister, as far as protest is concerned, is the fact that Ferrer says that he took a phone call during which a threat was made to his 84-year-old mother. Above all, though, and in addition to stressing the professionalism of the publication, he is at pains to point out that the magazine endured years of censorship under Franco (it is one of the oldest local publications, having started in 1960), and describes the fuss as "surreal" and an attack on freedom of expression.

The points to be made should, however, be obvious. On the one hand there is the tradition of Sant Antoni itself which might be said to have been held up to some ridicule and on the other there is the fact that, for all that freedom of expression should be upheld and demanded, there are also contemporary sensibilities to take into account.

It is perhaps a leap from the photos in the magazine to concerns about gender violence, but these concerns are all too real and legitimate enough, while the current political climate in Mallorca has taken a firm move in favour of women's rights.

One's own reaction to the photos will all depend on individual perspectives. The affair may prove to have been a storm in a teacup (or in a saucepan), but one wonders if advertisers might also object.

Monday, January 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 January 2016

Morning high (6.30am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 19 January - Sun, cloud, 15C; 20 January - Cloud, sun, 15C; 21 January - Cloud, 13C.

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

Sunny intervals predicted today, with the wind set to pick up later on and overnight. The heavy rain of Friday evening seems more like a blip. There may be the odd shower this week, but it is going to require a good week's worth of wet weather (and snow) to start beginning the replenishment of the reservoirs that are desperately low.

Evening update (22.45): Decent. High of 18.5C.

The Comfy Chairs Of The Noose Inquisition

You don't get weeks like last week too often. For starters the gun went off for the start of the Trial of the Millennium. Minute-by-minute updating was being offered via the media. Faces and body language of the accused were being analysed. Diego Torres's defence lawyer referred to sexual unorthodoxy when he had meant to say procedural unorthodoxy. Everyone fell about in fits of laughter, except perhaps Torres, Ignatius and the Infanta.

For the gathered tribes of the media, it soon became apparent that they are going to have to endure weeks of total tedium. Unless the court decides that the Infanta can shoot off back to Geneva, having escaped with a Botin defence and a repayment to the Hacienda of a few hundred thousand euros, it'll be weeks before anything of any note occurs, such as one of the accused being put on oath, and months before we come to the main event, with the Infanta in the dock and faced with the wrath of the clean hands of Manos Limpias and its desire for Infantacide. Accordingly, therefore, the TotM started and then everyone promptly forgot about it.

Of the body language experts pressed into service, as they typically are on such occasions, there was the distance between the Infanta and Ignatius as they attempted to steal into the courthouse under the cover of almost total morning darkness, save for the dozens of journalists camped outside along with the dozens fewer Republicans who did what Republicans do, which is to protest. What did this distance signify? Nothing probably, given that it would have been odd had they marched in hand in hand and smiling in a beaming fashion to rival even Palma's mayoral Smiler High-la.

Where one felt somewhat sorry for them was with the seating. Can't the court system stretch to something more comfortable on which to sit for hour after hour? Or perhaps it's a means of extracting confessions. "Yes, I admit it. I nicked six million euros. But for God's sake, can I now have a comfy chair to sit on?" "Cardinal Fang, fetch the comfy chair. Nobody expects the Noose Inquisition by visitor's seat without adequate padding."

In addition to the body language sorts, various protagonists in the Noose affair were being talked to by the media who hadn't been caged into the courthouse. There was, for example, the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Pedro Horrach. An interview with one particular newspaper ("El Mundo") was most notable because of the accompanying photo. Next to him in his office were massive boxes secured with Guardia Civil tape, and these boxes were piled up inside a Mercadona shopping trolley. This, the trolley, led readers to offer comments questioning, quite legitimately, what a Mercadona shopping trolley with boxes of Guardia evidence was doing in the immediate proximity of the chief prosecutor. One of them suggested that it might have been subliminal advertising. Or some form of product placement.

As yet, there has been no explanation as to the appearance of the trolley. Nor, or so it would seem, have Eroski, Carrefour or Lidl (other supermarket chains are available) approached other prominent members of the establishment and asked if they would like a trolley for their next media photos.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 January 2016

Morning high (8.00am): 6.9C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 18 January - Sun, cloud, 16C; 19 January - Sun, cloud, 13C; 20 January - Cloud, 14C.

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

Cold and clear morning. Staying fine all day. The outlook for the week: cold at times with the occasional risk of rain; otherwise mild, with the wind dropping.

Evening update (19.15): Nice and sunny. A high of only 15.1C though.

In Praise (Or Not) Of The Pine Tree

It might be difficult - you would think - to take a dislike to a tree. It might also be difficult to think that university researchers would spend their time (and presumably someone's money) in studying such a dislike. But if you happen to be Mallorcan or happened to have been part of the education and citizenship department at the university in Palma, then it is less difficult to understand.

The pine tree. In a positive sense, it has lent its name to hotels, such as Sis Pins in Puerto Pollensa, Alcudia Pins in not-Alcudia, i.e. Playa de Muro; it was the subject of one of Mallorca's best-known poems - "El Pi de Formentor" (Miquel Costa i Llobera). It is touristically emblematic, as with the pinewalk of Puerto Pollensa, which probably vies with other emblematic sites on the island, such as the horse promontory of Cala San Vicente or Sa Foradada in Deya, as the most photographed of all. It gets chopped down, stripped, covered in soap, topped with a cock and climbed up during Pollensa's Sant Antoni fiestas, which might appear to be like taking the pee, but most definitely is not: the pollencin devotion to the pine in mid-January borders on the spiritual, as well as the alcoholic.

You'd think, therefore, that it was owed a bit more respect. Not so. Research findings that were issued some five years ago revealed that is disliked for being harmful to health, for causing forest fires, for preventing anything else growing, for the processionary caterpillar and for being ... foreign. Goodness, can xenophobia extends to trees? It would seem so, though where this leaves attitudes towards palm trees (which with one minor exception are all non-native), one isn't quite sure. And they, palm trees, are similarly susceptible to destructive forces, as we all too well know.

To what extent that the pine is a true native of Mallorca is probably irrelevant. It has been around for that long that it has gone native. Two species - the aleppo and the stone - are certainly of Mediterranean origin: the stone from the mainland of Spain. This latter tree is the one which gives the edible pine nuts, popular both in local cuisine and as a "nibble".

The tree's function as a resource is only grudgingly acknowledged, despite the fact that it has been - and is - a prime source of wood. It proliferates to such an extent that it constitutes around 80% of mountainous forest. Yet some would like to see it eliminated, something which must cause conservationists to have fits. Perhaps more than anything though, the pine is seen as being dirty, a view with which one can have some sympathy. Get some strong winds and rain, and down come the needles in great abundance. They cover the streets and gardens and gather on top of drains to the extent that they prevent water flushing away, thus causing flooding. The town halls, in that they do spend taxpayers' money wisely on street-cleaning, are mainly engaged in being needled by pines and clearing the gutters.

The negative attitudes towards the pine are such that the university researchers called for an educative process to correct erroneous views and misapprehensions. Everyone needed to learn to love the pine, to hug one daily, the only problem with this being that a trail of caterpillars might be meandering towards you while you are in the process of hugging.

Whether this five-year-old research had any impact is hard to say. One isn't aware of there having been any educative campaigns, but since then the pine has managed to assume some political significance. There is a party named after it - El Pi - which even has a sort of pine as its logo. However, might the fact that El Pi hasn't been scooping up places in the Balearic parliament have something to do with this apparent latent dislike of the pine that is lurking in the Mallorcan subconscious?

So, was this research worth the effort? The leader of El Pi, Jaume Font, clearly paid it little attention. But then research is often worthy for simply being research. As with figs. The fig tree doesn't attract the sort of resentment that the pine apparently does. And what grows on it is delicious. But were you were aware of the little-known world of fig reproduction? If you were, then to your rescue comes a book which deals with fig sexuality, research that has been partly sponsored by the regional agriculture ministry. We all love a fig, and now we know about its love life as well. Which doesn't help the poor old pine though. Still, for pine lovers, admiration for the tree will be at its greatest today. In Puerto Pollensa and Pollensa. The pines of Formentor and Ternelles will have been raised, and what else does one do with a tree, other than climb it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 January 2016

Morning high (8.15am): 9C
Forecast high: 12C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 January - Sun, 13C; 18 January - Cloud, 13C; 19 January - Cloud, sun, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 6, locally and occasionally 7 at Cap Farrutx.

Some cloud around but due to be a mostly sunny day and keeping fine for the evening, with the wind likely to drop a bit. Tomorrow, also sunny but not warm.

Evening update (19.30): Sunny enough but not warm: high of 12.8C.

Not A Good Week

It's not been a great week for tourism. Sure, the forecasts for tourism numbers coming to Mallorca are fine, but current levels of business obscure what's going on behind the scenes. The government's decree - one essentially to do with planning permissions - exposes the naïvité of an administration without a coherent strategy for the island's main industry.

It's been said often enough that the industry should be represented by ministers with some grounding in tourism. In Mallorca this has only truly happened once. The first ever minister, Jaume Cladera, was from the industry. Since then, only Carlos Delgado might be said to have had a real feel for tourism, something cultivated through years as mayor of Calvia. What we now have is a ministry run by someone with no background and for whom dialogue outside the government inner circle is primarily with the likes of GOB, the environmentalists. Of senior officials, there is the director-general, Pilar Carbonell. She is admirable in many ways, but it cannot be ignored that she comes from a restaurant background. She has not always been a great friend of the hoteliers.

Environmental claims cannot and should not be neglected, but to believe Barceló and the government the previous administration had signed a charter for "indiscriminate" building, both that of construction on rural land and of hotel extension. The word "indiscriminate" has been used in despatches with regard to the decree, but it is an exaggeration. The Partido Popular may rightly have been looked upon as cheerleaders for the hoteliers and few others, but its legislation was not a case of "anything goes", which is how the minister for land, Joan Boned, has styled it. Rather, it was legislation that finally, and after previous attempts (such as the 1999 tourism law), sought to effect a modernisation of resorts and of hotel stock, something badly needed in a hyper-competitive global industry.

For all his faults, Delgado adopted an essentially pragmatic approach that was designed to weed out substandard hotels and to raise quality. It is an approach that has brought some success: Mallorca's quality has risen. This pragmatism was also shown by one of the forgotten tourism ministers - Miquel Nadal. He's forgotten because he's in prison, but when not involving himself with corrupt activities, it was Nadal who brought in the decree whereby hotels with illegal places (i.e. those that had been created without planning permission) had to pay to make them legal. The result of this was the vast fund that is commonly and simply referred to as the "bolsa". It has been put to good use - for resort infrastructure improvements and other projects. Nadal was hardly anti-hotelier but he recognised a worthy and beneficial compromise when he saw it.

Little of this now applies. The current administration is an heir to the first Antich, PSOE-led government of 1999 to 2003 in more ways than just the tourist tax. The minister who was responsible for the old eco-tax, Celesti Alomar, was qualified in geography. This qualification is often associated with tourism but in different ways. One of them is a firmly environmentalist perspective, which was Alomar's. Finding the right balance between the competing needs of the environment and tourism is not straightforward, but the balance has been tipped one way or the other according to dominant ideology. Hence, there is constant incoherence, with the current government, one suspects, also listening to geographers at the university who have been expressing their concerns about construction for years.

To come back to charges of indiscriminate building, there was - during Jaime Martínez's time as Barceló's predecessor - one very revealing moment. It was when Martínez was responding to ideas for creating significant theme parks. He said that this would be virtually impossible because of planning restrictions. It is misrepresentation to suggest that the PP was giving carte blanche for wholesale destruction of the countryside and other parts of the environment. Which leads us to the part of the new decree concerning illegal buildings on rural land.

The PP had introduced an amnesty. In a way, it was a similar approach to the one that Nadal had adopted. The buildings can stay (though some might not have) in return for payment, with the idea of funds being used for assisting rural development which didn't automatically mean being destructive. Of these buildings, there are some which will now not form part of agrotourism, a branch of the island's tourism to which the government is showing a peculiar attitude: one would have thought it would be in favour, when it appears not to be.

The government, in justifying its decree, speaks of not allowing speculative development at the heart of which is often corruption. It has an argument in this regard, but if it is corruption that concerns it, then it should institute firm, independent auditing of permissions that are granted by the relevant authorities, typically town halls. And even those projects which are to be spared because they are ongoing might yet fall foul of zealous interpretation of being undertaken in the correct manner.

Barceló's desire for a new economic model is laudable in the sense that he wishes there to be greater diversification of the economy and greater share of the wealth that tourism generates, but this requires operating from a position of strength and not from one that undermines or disincentivises investment. It has not been a good week.

Friday, January 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 January 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 12.1C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 12C; 17 January - Sun, cloud, 10C; 18 January - Cloud, sun, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6, locally 7 by the evening.

Winter would seem to have arrived. Rain to be expected at any time during the day - there's just been a light shower - and quite cold and windy with a yellow warning for the coasts. Tomorrow may be windier still, but rain should clear for the evening and so for the bonfires, the barbecues, the demons and the things that go bump in the night.

Evening update (21.45): Heavy rain this evening, following a day of chilly weather, some wind and no sun. A high now of under nine degrees, the high during the day was down on the early morning at 11.5C. Much better tomorrow though.

The Year Of The Demon

Anyone unfamiliar with Mallorca who were to arrive on 16 January might wonder if the whole island has been gripped by horror. Few parts of the island are unaffected. Fire, demons, beasties. For its ubiquitousness and especially for its symbolism, there is no other fiesta day like 16 January. Not Kings, not New Year, not Easter. Sant Antoni Eve is Mallorca's fiesta. There is another night of fire - the one of midsummer - but Sant Joan does not have the same all-island grip of Sant Antoni and nor is it something which is essentially of Mallorcan origin. It is small wonder that the day of Sant Antoni has been suggested as the new Mallorca Day.

In recognition of the association of demons with Sant Antoni, the Council of Mallorca has hit upon an idea for a "year". 2016 is a year of one thousand demons. Its purpose? To contribute to the discovery, the promotion and shared enjoyment of the demonic universe of Mallorca. The vice-president of the Council and also its councillor for culture, Francesc Miralles, has spoken of wanting to use 2016 as a year to present the demons of Mallorca so as to promote the cultural richness of the island via symbols that form an essential part of island identity. Bravo, though it's not as though demonic promotion hasn't been suggested before, especially in connection with Sant Antoni.

Still, better late than never, and as an introduction to this year of demons, there is an explanation as to different types of Mallorcan demon. They are certainly not all of the fire variety. These are the new demons. Their tradition is much more recent, their whirling, fire-spitting tridents only some thirty or so years old. At Sant Antoni, the new and old demon traditions collide, as there are demons which are identifiable as those of Sant Antoni. They are a class in their own right. They dance, they chase, but they don't threaten to set you on fire.

There is a further category, the demons who are integral to other manifestations of Mallorcan fiesta traditions. These ones include the pitcher-smashing demons of La Beata in Santa Margalida or those who are the demon in the folk dances of the Cossiers. They play a specific part and, as with the Sant Antoni demons, appear only when tradition demands. The fire demons, on the other hand, can engage in more frequent presentations, and there are a few gangs who hire themselves out to towns without a fire-running gang. Nevertheless, they are still very much associated with specific fiestas, such as Sant Antoni, an occasion when they - as the new demon tradition - share the stage with the old, dancing variety.

There is a further part to the demons' story: their accessories. The pitchers of Santa Margalida are one example. The masks are obviously another. But there are also other traditional elements which have become part of the wider demons' picture: bonfires, the xeremier pipes, the weird ximbomba and, very much more recently, the batucada drums.

As a means of promoting the year of demons, a card game has been adapted to feature images of the differing types of demon. Hence, there are, for example, the grand demon of Arta and the Sant Antoni demons of Muro to represent the old Sant Antoni tradition. Or the Filloxera de l'Infern demons of Binissalem who come from the modern fire line of the demons' world. The card game is one promotional device. Others will be a roadshow, conferences and educational activities. But all these raise a question. Who's the promotion for?

It is easy to overlook the fact that the whole demon tradition in Mallorca had more or less died out by the end of the 1960s. There was one town where it was kept alive. Sa Pobla. This town, more than any other in Mallorca, was responsible for maintaining old traditions and for reviving them. The xeremia pipe had all but disappeared before Sa Pobla made a concerted effort to bring it back. So it is only right that so much attention is devoted to Sa Pobla on Sant Antoni Eve. The rest of the island owes the town an enormous debt.

But it is the fact that the tradition did once hover close to extinction which probably goes to the heart of why there is the year of the demon. There is no one in Mallorca who isn't now familiar with the demons, so it might be asked why they need reminding of them. The year is, therefore, reinforcement. A reminder of the roots. A celebration of the demonic varieties. Will the year, however, cast its net wider? Lord knows, it's been suggested often enough that the demons, especially those for the winter fiestas, are ideal for foreign promotion. One fears, however, that the year may pass the rest of the world by.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 January 2016

Morning high (7.30am): 7.4C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 January - Rain, 13C; 16 January - Rain, sun, 10C; 17 January - Sun, cloud, 10C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4, occasionally 5, veering West by late afternoon.

Chilly morning but should be reasonably warm during the day. From tomorrow comes the change, though, with rain and a cold front coming in. Rain on Friday forecast to continue into Saturday but clearing up in time for the Sant Antoni festivities in the evening. But it will be cold, so the bonfires will be welcome, and also windy.

Evening update (20.45): A high of 21.2C. Pretty windy at times. Due to go downhill overnight.

Actions Of A Vindictive Government

You can cut a government so much slack. Or perhaps it's a case of giving it enough rope with which to hang itself. There will be no hanging or lynching, though. There are too many willing to give it all the slack it wants as retaliation for the Partido Popular. Which is understandable, until you begin to appreciate just what this government is up to. This assumes, however, that the government itself knows, because it is giving an excellent impression of not knowing. Instead it glosses its policies with vagueness. There's a new economic model rising. Is there? And what economy might be left to be modelled?

The tourist tax was one thing, but now we have a series of measures that have emerged from the most ominous sounding of the government's raft of legislative devices - the decree. It has decreed. The very term smacks of finality, albeit that parliament needs to apply a compliant rubber stamp. It also has a sense of taking no regard of any alternative interests. For a government whose motto contains the insistent dialogue, it seems to be short on conversation, except with itself. It is pulling a fast one.

The decree of "urgent measures" that the government has announced in suspending or quashing elements of three key bills introduced by the Bauzá administration - farming, land and tourism - has echoes of a similarly urgent decree that the previous PSOE-led government passed. It was one from 2008 which dealt with, among other things, building on land deemed to be wetland. From that decree came all manner of complications, most of which still exist. A major one is the Ses Fontanelles commercial centre development in Playa de Palma. The Bauzá regime was left with the consequence of the decree. If it were to deny construction, there was a massive compensation claim to be paid. There are other examples, such as in Puerto Pollensa. Somewhere along the line, these are issues which will have to be resolved, with the Ses Fontanelles development now seemingly an impossibility.

The 2008 decree created legal uncertainty. The current government is creating the same. It says that it is not, but its certainty can only ever be short-term. If there were to be a change in government in 2019 and a return of the right, then its decree will be overturned. This is tit-for-tat politics, something which Mallorca is highly adept at. The decree oozes vindictiveness directed at Carlos Delgado and Biel Company, the ministers responsible for the three laws in question. In the case of Company and his farming law, the government has succeeded in ostracising one of the very few business associations that operate in harmony with other parts of its industry. Asaja, the agricultural businesses association (of which Company was once president), has long worked from the same script as unions in seeking to improve opportunities.

Asaja has declined an invitation to form part of a committee which will have as one of its briefs the current serious problem of lack of water. It has done so because it objects to the government decree which puts a halt to development of farm land for purposes other than just farming. While it's true that the Company act may have favoured larger landowners, the thinking behind it was sound. There is a vast amount of land devoted to agriculture, and yet the primary sector is responsible for not much more than one per cent of GDP. The law wanted to improve productivity, to create new opportunities and jobs. The decree will do precisely the opposite.

Farming unions like the fact that the government will be dedicating some of the tourist tax to agroforestry in order to "modernise" it. But what does the government mean by this? It talks of modernisation in one regard and turns it back on it in another. Joined-up thinking? Hardly.

While the hoteliers are the usual suspects when it comes to opposing the government, the farming businesses and the builders have not been. Now they are. The builders are warning of a collapse of recovery because of restrictions the decree imposes on redevelopment and some new construction in the tourism sector. The two industries - tourism and construction - go hand in hand in Mallorca. Attack one, and you attack the other. For a government - any government for that matter - looking to boost employment, the decree makes little sense. Except that it does, if you are a vindictive government. 

And an aspect of this restriction will limit the room for manoeuvre in transforming mature (obsolete) parts of the resorts. In this regard, the hoteliers are absolutely right in saying that the government lacks an overall strategy for tourism. It can wish to assign some of the tourist tax to resort infrastructure, but then puts a clamp on the means of doing this. Joined-up thinking? It most certainly is not.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 January 2016

Morning high (7.45am): 10.9C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 January - Sun, cloud, 20C; 15 January - Rain, 12C; 16 January - Rain, sun, 11C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Easing Northeast 2 to 3 during the morning and veering South-Southwest during the afternoon.

Clear first thing. The breezes have dropped but are due to pick up tomorrow. Sunny spells today, but the outlook from Friday is for a spell of cold weather with possible rain and snow on higher levels.

Evening update (20.45): Fair day, with a high of 17.4C. Temperatures below ten degrees now.

Is It Safe To Go Back To Work Yet?

If you don't already know, you may be interested to learn that the day of Immaculate Conception, 8 December, marks the traditional start of the nativity scene-making season. It's not official, as you can get cracking on the manger and the animals whenever you fancy, but tradition - and don't we know it - has its place in Mallorcan and Spanish society and also in the calendar. Hence, 8 December is really when the nativity figurines need to be dragged out of the attic and dusted down for another festive season, one which lasts until ... . Well, when does it really stop? It may not be the same across the rest of the country but in Mallorca, no sooner have the Kings been and delivered their presents, than the natives are building bonfires and preparing to roar around the streets, setting fire to the place. The saints Anthony and Sebastian have a great deal to commend them but they do rather get in the way.

It does of course depend upon your perspective and also has something to do with where you live. Not everywhere downs tools because of Tony and Seb's feast days, but even where they don't, there are still fiestas to be had. And what's more, it's only a couple of weeks before everyone's out on the streets again, this time shunning their demons' outfits in favour of lavish costumes for Carnival.

The Christmas festivities, let's call them winter festivities in order to get to their lengthy essence, straddle some two months - longer if Carnival is later - and then, once the final sardine has been buried at Carnival, it's a case of soon be Easter.

It is tempting to conclude that no one is, therefore, working over all this time. It is an erroneous conclusion. There are, after all, the short-contract shop employees who are brought in for the Christmas season and then winter sales. Others are hard at it, such as the legal profession, charged with overseeing the future of the King's sister. Footballers are footballing, except when they have their week off and can catch a cheeky Christmas mince pie and glass of ginger wine.

Stereotyping is a trap that is easily fallen into, and apparent idleness is one that Mallorca and Spain shares with other parts of the Mediterranean. As the German newspaper "Bild" once demanded of the Greeks: "get up early and work all day", just like the Germans. But the winter festivities highlight not so much a reluctance to work as a mentality issue that surrounds the "puente" bridge weekend, of which there are potentially various ones throughout the year.

"The Wall Street Journal", in looking at the bridge-weekend phenomenon, made an assessment which led it to suggest that it is possible, what with paid time off as well, to have fifty days off a year. It also discovered that, apparently, employees needed bridge weekends as these were escape valves from the pressures of work. It has been said that the Spanish do in fact, and in general, work longer hours than most other Europeans. By the same token, however, there have been surveys to suggest that they don't. You pays your money ... .

At the heart of all this are concerns regarding productivity and competitiveness. If there is a stereotyping, then it is one that the Spanish government (currently acting government) shares. The move to alter public holidays so that if they fall on, for example, a Tuesday, they are taken instead on a Monday was a deliberate attempt to put an end to the extended bridge weekend. If the Tuesday is a holiday, then so is the Monday (and possibly the rest of the week), and there has long been a temptation, so it has been said, to indeed consider this to be a week off.

The government doesn't seem to have gone ahead with this. Immaculate Conception will fall on a Thursday this year, two days after Constitution Day. There goes a week for you, and a whole bridge week not assisted by the apparent daftness of having two national holidays within the space of three days. In truth, most of these public holidays don't lend themselves to be being moved. They are so much part of the calendar, whether for religious or secular reasons.

Might a change in government be more insistent on moving these days? If it turns out to be one influenced by anti-religious sentiment, then perhaps so, but any politician needs to be wary with tampering with the holiday love affair and so therefore upsetting the citizens.

The bridges and the extended winter festivities seem unlikely to disappear any time soon, and the tourism/travel industry will hope to goodness that they don't: bridge weekends are good business. Still, there are always those for whom these holidays are all but irrelevant. Like those who work for newspapers. Day off? What's that?