Monday, February 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 February 2016

Morning high (7.54am): 10.9C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 March - Sun, 15C; 2 March - Sun, cloud, 15C; 3 March - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 4 to 5 veering East 3 in the afternoon.

Rather grey first thing. Sunny intervals expected later. Tomorrow possibly the best day of the week for sun.

Evening update (20.00): Indifferent sort of a day. High of 16.2C.

Windmills: Industrial Heritage Of The Present Day

There was a great deal of interest in windmills last week. It was to do with the Euroregion windmills' route, the Euroregion in question being the one to which Mallorca belongs (Catalonia, the Pyrenees, Languedoc, Roussillon). Six Mallorcan windmills officially became part of this route. Four of them are privately owned and have been restored, while two are town hall properties (one in Montuiri, the other in Manacor). The Council of Mallorca is backing the route, meaning that it is to be promoted as an example of the island's heritage and of its industrial heritage in particular.

Of the four privately owned mills, there is one in both Montuiri and Manacor as well, plus ones in Porreres and Llucmajor. They go under names that, in some instances, indicate ownership just like estates and houses, such as Molí de Can Nofre (in Montuiri). The two publicly owned ones are called Molí des Fraret for reasons that escape me. A fraret is a puffin in Catalan. The word may be a corruption from fariner to indicate flour mill. Whatever the meaning, the windmill in Manacor dates from the eighteenth century, as does its counterpart in Montuiri, which now doubles as the archaeological museum for the Son Fornés Talayotic site in the town.

Most of the windmills are from a similar time. In Montuiri, where there are several mills, Can Nofre is in fact the oldest, as it was built in the seventeenth century. But the windmills of Majorca are from much older times. References to pre-Catalan times don't seem to exist, though there were undoubtedly mills during the Muslim period. The first true documentation comes from the thirteenth century. Ramon Llull mentioned them, while the oldest specific reference is to the windmill of S'Alqueria Blanca in Santanyi in 1262.

Windmills didn't really come into their own until the sixteenth century, however. This was when the period of windmill expansion started and it was to continue into the twentieth century. The originals were of roughly similar design and specification: up to eight metres high, ten metres in diameter and with walls some one metre thick. This was the spec, in any event, of the traditional flour mill. The designs of others varied, as did their purpose: some for extracting water, while there were others that were water mills, i.e. driven by running water.

But water extraction had mainly relied on animal power. Donkeys and mules would walk round and round, blindfolded in order to prevent sickness. The animals would also be used to grind wheat, salt and clay. Known as the "molinos de sangre", the mills of blood, there had been a time when donkeys and mules hadn't been needed: slaves were deployed instead.

The greatest revolution with windmills wasn't to be until the mid-nineteenth century: 1845 to be precise. It was then that the first true water mill, i.e. one that harnessed wind to extract water, was used by the Dutch engineer Paul Bouvij for accelerating the drying of wetlands in the Prat de Sant Jordi in Palma.

This mill, with a lateen sail-style wheel, was added to by ever more innovative designs, primarily the "ramell" (for flower) designs. And by now, the new mills were almost exclusively used to get water out of the ground. While they were to be found all over the island, there were concentrations in specific areas: in and around Palma; in the south-eastern zone of Campos and Ses Salines; and in the potato and vegetable-growing region of Sa Pobla and Muro. Further and ever more modern designs came along as technology introduced the American-style wind pump in the 1920s and then wind turbines for electricity generation from the 1930s.

Though the windmills are part of an old industrial heritage, they are also very much part of the present. Of water-pumping windmills, a census of 2002 registered more than 2,500, getting on for a half of them in the Palma area. In Campos there were over 600. Of flour-grinding mills, a different census in the late 1990s put their number at 796, with concentrations in Llucmajor, Felanitx, Palma and Manacor. So it has been the case that the ancient technology, adapted to contemporary use, has seen the number of mills increase over the years. Between 1960 and the start of the last century, over 600 water mills were added.

Index for February 2016

Basketball - 8 February 2016
Beach chiringuitos - 10 February 2016
British abroad - 26 February 2016
City branding and emotion - 5 February 2016
Corruption trials - 25 February 2016
EU referendum - 23 February 2016
Floating waterparks - 11 February 2016
Green taxes v. tourist tax - 9 February 2016
Groundhog Day and Mallorca - 4 February 2016
Holiday rentals and government - 17 February 2016
Hotel receptionists - 19 February 2016
Joan Binimelis - 21 February 2016
Libraries in Mallorca - 15 February 2016
Mallorca Maritime Museum - 18 February 2016
Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez - 14 February 2016, 28 February 2016
Més and the Balearic government - 24 February 2016
Palma town hall and managing people - 16 February 2016
Place names: Palma and Alcudia - 1 February 2016
PSOE and the dangers of Podemos - 2 February 2016
Tourism technology - 13 February 2016
Tourist tax - 6 February 2016, 7 February 2016, 12 February 2016, 20 February 2016, 22 February 2016, 27 February 2016
Windmills in Mallorca - 29 February 2016
Zika and other plagues - 3 February 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 February 2016

Morning high (7.53am): 6.2C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 29 February - Cloud, 15C; 1 March - Sun, 13C; 2 March - Sun, cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  Southwest 4 to 6 veering Northeast 3 to 4 around midday.

Chilly morning, reasonably bright. A better day in prospect than yesterday, though there is a possibility of showers. The week ahead a mixed bag of quite good sun at times plus wind and the occasional shower.

Evening update (19.50): Raining at the moment and there was a shower in the afternoon after what had been a reasonable morning. High of 15.4C.

Panto Season In Spain

"He's behind you!" "Oh no he isn't!" "Oh yes he is!" It's panto season in Spain. We know this because one of the great dames has decreed it thus. Mariano Rajoy has said there's a panto. Oh yes there is. It was a peculiar observation by Mazza. The Spanish, as with most of the rest of the non-British world, doesn't get panto. For the Spanish it's doubly confusing. Why would you actively seek out audience participation? Ah, you see, times they are a-changing and even Mazza has got the citizen participation bug. Which part of the pantomime horse should he be? The question needs to be posted on to the Official Bulletin. At present, Mazza is firmly in the rear. But who knows? The pantomime is such that he could become the front and double up as Widow Twankey.

Mariano's panto will take place this week when the boy Pedro Sánchez of PSOE attempts to get himself voted in as prime minister (president). There are other words and expressions that one could call on to describe the current state of non-government in Spain, but Mazza has opted for pantomime. How about total farce? Here's any one of the Brian Rix-style leaders of the four parties racing around the stage of the Whitehall Theatre with his trousers round his ankles. More tea, vicar?

Just to remind you, it is now over two months since there was an election. This coming week, there is the remote possibility that the boy Pedro might actually become prime minister (president). But it is only remote on account of the pantomime nature of the whole farrago. He's tied a pre-nuptial agreement with Ciudadanos, a party with two many syllables that is referred to more easily as the C's, and a right bunch of C's they are in some politicians' estimation (Pablo Iglesias of Podemos for one). Its leader is Albert Rivera, a youthful politician who, were he to trim his name down to Al Rivera, would sound like some dreadful crooning act from the 1970s appearing for the summer season on Hastings pier under the Al moniker but in reality being Les Reeves from Warrington.

But back at the panto, and who was it that the boy Pedro chose to reveal was behind him in a YouTube video designed to persuade the party membership that Al would make a suitable partner for a progressive and reforming government with Pedro at the helm? Yes, it was none other than Pablo Iglesias. But not that Pablo Iglesias. The Hairy One from Podemos may be able to boast facial hair and a great deal of hair full stop, but the Pablo behind Pedro was the one who founded PSOE in the days when socialists really were socialists, sported frightening moustaches, lectured everyone on Karl Marx and sang "The Internationale" and actually meant it.

Mariano, meanwhile, was sending a sort of love letter to Al. Convinced that the panto will descend into high farce, he was proposing a meeting after the boy Pedro fails to garner sufficient support in either of the upcoming Congress votes this week. "You know that I am always available," said Mazza, meaning that he is quite prepared (only prepared) to countenance any sort of link with the C's and PSOE if he's still prime minister (president). "A big hug," the letter concluded in the chummy way that letters are concluded in a Spanish style.

So, what can we expect this week? Well, let's ask the audience. Will Pedro become prime minister (president)? Oh yes he will. Oh no he won't.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 February 2016

Morning high (6.23am): 10.4C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 February - Cloud, 14C; 29 February - Cloud, 13C; 1 March - Sun, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  Southwest 4 to 5 occasionally 6.

A bit of a storm overnight. Occasional sunny spells today but mostly cloudy with the chance of showers and also quite windy. This is something of a holiday weekend on account of 1 March being Balearics Day, with the best weather likely to be on 1 March.

Evening update (20.15): High of 14.3C. The odd bit of sun but also wind and rain. And not that warm.

Subsidising OAPs With The Tourist Tax

Pilar Carbonell is the director-general of Balearic tourism. In other words, and despite not being an elected official, she is the islands' tourism number two behind the minister, Biel Barceló. Tourism director-generals have been known to get promoted: Jaime Martínez, the previous minister, was a DG under Carlos Delgado. So, they're pretty important people.

I've met Carbonell. She seems attentive and sensible enough, so what was she doing coming out with yet another proposal as to how tourist tax revenues should be spent? As a DG she's in a reasonable position to have a view, but it was the purpose that didn't seem wholly reasonable. She was proposing that some of the revenue should go towards a type of Balearic senior citizens' winter-season tourism programme. This was not the Imserso programme that is statewide but one based on it and seemingly for Balearic OAPs only.

As Imserso provides subsidised winter breaks for Spanish pensioners, Pilar's version presumably entails tax revenue being used for subsidies. To be fair, it isn't in principle such a mad idea. Tackling seasonality is supposedly a key objective of the sustainable tourism tax law (it's in the draft legislation at any event). And seniors' winter tourism fits that particular bill. However, there are flaws to her scheme.

The first is: why should tourists from other countries help to foot the bill for tourists in the Balearics to have a winter break? The demands being made on foreign tourist altruism via the tax are high enough as it is. I'm unsure that this altruism stretches to subsidised OAP holidays. But if it does, then why not include tourists from other countries? Holidaymakers might not find it such a bad proposition if they knew that their tax payments were to go on helping to fund a winter's holiday for mum and dad or gran and grandad. It won't though, which thus raises the potential for discrimination. Europe's lawyers would be all over the proposal like a rash.

The second is: where do these senior citizen tourists typically stay? Hotels. In fact, they only stay in hotels. The Imserso scheme is a decent means of allowing some hotels to keep open in the winter and to keep people gainfully employed. In this regard, the scheme might be thought to be useful. But aren't the hoteliers supposed to be some sort of devil incarnate when it comes to the government and the tourist tax? 

Thirdly: if the holidays were to be subsidised, would the tax be as well? Ah, actually not, because the government's draft legislation makes an exemption for Imserso tourists. Yes, if you're Spanish, you're on a pension and you're on an Imserso scheme, you don't have to pay. Another one for the discrimination seekers.

Fourthly: while hotels might be able to fill some rooms and keep some people in jobs, what about other businesses? One of the failings of Imserso is that, typically, the Spanish OAPs spend virtually nothing outside their hotel. The main additional beneficiaries are coach operators who ferry the pensioners around on excursions. Bars, restaurants and others are rarely beneficiaries.

All in all, therefore, the Pilar proposal doesn't sound that good. But then she was doing what everyone else is, and that is seeking to find ways of claiming the tax revenues. Palma wants a 10% cut of it (the PP in Palma do at any rate). Calvia wants its slice. Always Palma, always Calvia: the rest can go hang. The government, though, is trying to avoid there being any divvying-up by location. The revenue will be spent project by project, though the terms of reference for this are unknown. This hasn't stopped the Council of Mallorca coming out with its own demand: 74% of tax revenue should be spent on Mallorca, it says.

Friday, February 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2016

Morning high (7.50am): 9.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 February - Rain, wind, 14C; 28 February - Cloud, 11C; 29 February - Cloud, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  West 3 to 4 easing temporarily Variable 2 to 3 around midday.

Pleasant morning, but sun today may be in limited supply over the weekend, as temperatures drop, the wind picks up and rain falls, with snow possible at around 800 metres.

The British Abroad: In images

I didn't know the name Peter Dench until the other day. Many of you may not have known his name. Which is not to say that Peter Dench is not well-known. He is. In the world of photojournalism, that is.

Because of where we are - Mallorca; because of what we all know - Magalluf and its attendant attractions; because of the insatiable appetite of journalism in its different guises to record the moments, we are presented with an example of Peter Dench's work. Bloke on holiday. Brit bloke on holiday. Brit bloke slumped over a wall. A Magalluf wall. We don't know quite how old Brit bloke is. It's hard to say when he's face down and enquiries are being made as to his well-being by a passing and caring female who seems to be in the wrong resort. The only surprise with the photo was that Brit bloke still had his shorts on. That's Magalluf for you. Usually. Keeled over and kit off.

Taken as a single image, the photo could have been misconstrued as merely another attempt to exploit the Magalluf reputation and present it to the world in the name of journalism. A single image that could have been taken a thousand times. And not just in Magalluf. But the single image needs to be considered within the context of the whole Peter Dench oeuvre. He records Englishness and Britishness. Warts and all, but principally the warts.

The Sony World Photography Awards are broken down into numerous categories. One of them is Daily Life within a wider category of Documentary and itself under the heading of Professional. Among the Daily Life nominees are, for example, Espen Rasmussen with "The Curse of Coal". And then there is Peter Dench, "The British Abroad".

The very title gives the game away. "The British Abroad" presupposes a type of Brit. The legend immediately suggests that this is Brit abroad of a less than wholly edifying nature. It is a title that has been with us pretty much since mass tourism jetted into the skies in the early 1960s. Brits abroad have always been, variously, uncouth, ill-educated, slobs, drunks, xenophobes, small-minded. Brits abroad have long required low-lying walls, designed and built by tourist authorities to permit being slumped over following the intake of a year's worth of alcohol in one night.

The only variables within this generic are those of age. Brit abroad doesn't necessarily grow old gracefully. Indeed, quite the contrary. But for the marketers, this particular segment of the Brit market can only be defined, apart from age, by its lower ratings in the ABC socioeconomic scheme of things. Lower in fact. Here are Huxley's Deltas and Epsilons. These are non-beings in the new schemata of, for example, the marketing brains trust of Meliá New Town, the brave new world of As and B+s, segmented in their own ways, such as by membership of the Millennial Generation, one in which all youthful(ish) tourists have excellent dental work, surf the artificial surf and that of the internet, are attached permanently to social networks and want for no more than a glass of extraordinarily expensive sparkling water.

These new-age beings do not, therefore, inhabit the stereotypical land of The British Abroad. They do not conform with an image that has been carved out with such mindless dedication over decades. But were they to be the subject of an alternative exercise in photojournalism, they would likewise be a kind of pastiche but within its own narrow terms of reference. And that's because there have to be certain defining images, ones that make sense and have coherence as being representative in order to be displayed to the world, be it via Sony awards or otherwise.

For all this, and in the context of Magalluf, it needs to be said that The British Abroad is an evolving being. And it is here where I have to question Peter Dench. Not because of his fine work, not because of his excellent eye and composition, not because of the virtues of photographically capturing images that together create a powerful representation of a particular strand of British existence.

A collection of The British Abroad, replete with bloke in tutu standing on a balcony, Bollocks Karaoke Pub and others, that is on a Getty website carries a description and explanation: The Dench Diary Foreign Special. It is the written support to the images, some of which are from Magalluf (others are from elsewhere, such as Ibiza). The feature, this collection of images, comes from spring-summer 2012 and 2013. It is this, therefore, that I question. We've moved on. Haven't we? Why drag out the bloke on the wall now?

This is not to say that all has changed in Magalluf. But can the imagery be said to deal with the passé? Or will The British Abroad always be with us?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2016

Morning high (7.44am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 26 February - Cloud, 17C; 27 February - Cloud, 12C; 28 February - Cloud, sun, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  Northwest 4 locally 5 backing West 3 to 4 during the afternoon.

Sun peeking through early cloud and this may be the pattern today. Possible shower at some stage. Outlook for tomorrow and into the weekend - mostly cloudy and temperature dropping.

Evening update (21.30): High of 17.4C. Some good sun in the afternoon.

Look In The Mirror: Corruption trials

Is there a point at which sympathy replaces contempt and when one questions the need for prolonging the agony? She has been unwell, we know. Perhaps these public appearances - ones in court - are for public consumption and are designed to elicit sympathy. Her reputation destroyed, her dealings dissected and vilified by court and media, her life seemingly destroyed. Why continue with applying the pain?

Maria Munar, the one-time princess of Mallorca, cuts a pathetic figure. She has been in prison since July 2013, serving a six-year sentence for one of the corruption cases in which she was a central figure. Three months after she entered prison, the Supreme Court confirmed a five and a half year sentence in respect of a different case. She has returned to court, admitted wrongdoing in relation to yet another. A prison term for that will be substituted by a fine.

It was not just the sad, drawn and despairing countenance which spoke as though there had been a bereavement. There was the mourning black of the dyed hair. All vitality gone, it was as though she were attending her own funeral, shrouded in black, making confessions prior to a meeting with very much higher authorities than the Earthly ones who control her punishment.

It wasn't only Maria. Next to her on the hard, wooden bench of the courtroom was her one-time dauphin, Miquel Nadal. An extraordinary photo. Maria gaunt, Miquel almost as though he were suntanned despite his own incarceration for much the same corruption cases that burst from the one-time Unió Mallorquina. Yet his expression was strange. Fixed, wide-eyed. He's lost weight. How many more times will he be obliged to sit on that unyielding block of cold courtroom wood?

To his right was another. Francesc Buils, the tourism minister before Miquel. He is a courtroom regular too. Some while he ago, he was conveying a positive impression of his time inside. He even managed to get some words to the media. He was playing basketball, going to the gym, making the most of a bad job. He had appeared almost cheerful. Now, in this same photo, it seemed as though the weight was returning. The expression was blank, resigned.

In another court, many miles away, the one-time president of the Spanish confederation of businesses and co-partner in the Grupo Marsans empire, Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, wondered last October how much more pain and damage could be inflicted on one person. He referred to his "regrettable life" but also to what he claimed was a trial for something for which he had been previously acquitted. His regrettable life includes various illnesses from which he is said to be suffering.

Back in Mallorca, we have the various cast members of the Nóos trial. We have the close-up photos of the Infanta. There is no hiding place for her in the courtroom. For the most part, she is expressionless. She seeks to disguise reactions, but in the examination of her eyes, does one detect fear and anxiety? If there were once these with Maria, they have gone. The fear has gone, replaced only by the knowledge of inevitable greater humiliation. The eyes are dull. The life has gone.

The Infanta, for now, has Urdangarin. They can arrive at court together. But she seems to share something with Maria, with Miquel, Francesc and Gerardo. They are so terribly alone. It is this exposure of solitude as much as the rectitude of prosecutors that impel ever more such exposure that can shock as much as the empty expressions. Backs were turned long ago, just as backs have now been turned on Cristina, Urdangarin and Matas. The falls from grace, either confirmed or awaiting confirmation or acquittal, are made naked in front of the relentless examinations of prosecutor and voyeuristic media and public.

It is of course because of who they are. There are countless others who endure the same but who are never identified in such ways, who never parade personal grief in seeking the eliciting of sympathy. These are trials, in a sense, of reconciliation, of a nation at long last coming to terms with its unwritten rules that could permit immoral behaviour determined from on high. Matas, Munar, Díaz Ferrán; they are the coalition of political and corporate lives with their mutual benefits. The prosecutors, the public want, demand retribution, yet there lurks an uneasy sense that this reconciliation is one for a process to which society was often complicit. To what extent do the empty expressions mirror those of a public - not all of it, but some - which drew its own benefits and behaviours from tacit approval?

Perhaps there needs to be a broader reconciliation and examination of conscience. Sympathy? But for whom? Check the mirror and wonder if the failings in these faces are those of others. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 9.4C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 February - Cloud, 15C; 26 February - Sun, cloud, 14C; 27 February - Cloud, 12C.

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

A fine morning and a good day to come. In terms of sun and warmth likely to be the best for a few days.

Evening update (22.00): High of 21.3C. Breeze picked up later on. Before that, very pleasant and warm.

You Need A Més Of Help

It was at the time when The Beach Boys were on their way down. Occasional gems would still emerge but "You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone" wasn't one of them. Heavy beards had replaced the one-time surfer look, Carl might have passed for Lowell George of Little Feat, and there they were singing about a mess. I didn't know then as I still don't know now whether a mess of help is some sort of idiomatic expression or if it was just made up. Whatever its origin, the presumption was that one needed a good deal of help in order to stand alone, which in the case of The Beach Boys by 1972 meant almost totally without Brian and in a manner that had dispensed with the sunny disposition of sun-and-beach surferdom and had adopted a grizzled eco-evangelist beard-dom.

There's a metaphor here, trust me. One is the grizzled, bearded eco-evangelism of portly in a Carl Wilson-style Vicenç Vidal, the regional government's eco minister and member of the party of all things eco-righteous, Més. The wider metaphor is for Més as a party. It needs a mess of help to stand alone. Or appears to. With whom does it stand shoulder to shoulder? Do any of the parties of the so-called government pact demonstrate such solidarity? Or has it all fallen apart and they are just trying to keep up appearances?

It had once occurred to me that Més, being more to the left than PSOE, might have been some sort of mentoring facility for Podemos as it took its first innocent steps into the bear pit of the Balearic parliament. This has not been the case. Podemos has required no buddy system to assist it in its mission to out shout everyone and anyone else. It cares nought for unwritten protocols, smashing down doors with Jack Nicholson mad-eyed determination. One can have some admiration, even as the Podemos collective shouts "little pigs", taking an axe to the comfort of procedures formed over thirty or so years of Balearic parliamentary democracy. Admiration, but there's something terrifying as well. "Here's Johnny!"

How can this be, though? There are, after all, the accords for change, the agreements for government, the pact between PSOE, Més and Podemos. These accords are as may be. They can be quoted and cited but no one is now under any illusion that they are the axe blows in the hands of Podemos and only Podemos. While PSOE, in the form of Francina Armengol, tries to steer a gentle course of non-confrontation with Podemos, Més have had enough of the charade. They are standing alone because they are standing up and exposing the masquerade.

It is precisely that greater leftness which is, one suspects, at the heart of the fallout. There is only so much political territory that various parties can occupy simultaneously before they all start bitching with each other. And as I observed the other day, Podemos has even begun to cut fertile eco land from under Més by claiming the environmentalist agenda with the tourist tax.

It is understood that PSOE and Més have grown sick and tired of Podemos and are to seek "clarification" in order to try and end the crisis of mutual lack of confidence and salvage what might remain of the pact. But both parties should have known how things would be. If Podemos was not in the government but was outside and directing government, the recipe always existed for chaos. And so it is proving. It is Més, though, which can stomach the situation less, and it has been David Abril who has been the most vocal in attacking Podemos. As it isn't in government, it doesn't understand what it's like to have to govern day by day. For Podemos, everything is theoretical, observations from without and not practicalities from within.

The "communicative distance" that has grown between the government and Podemos, according to Alberto Jarabo, could also have been predicted. When there is one party, Podemos, so totally pissing off two others, the communication is bound to break down. Accords for change are irrelevant. One is dealing with human nature. When Johnny crashes his axe through the door, you lash out with a knife to his hand.

But above all, it was the result of the December general election that has shattered any illusion of harmony with the Balearic government pact. That result rendered Més irrelevant, while it ushered in the new most voted-for party of the left, i.e. Podemos. Emboldened by how it polled, Podemos has been shouting ever more loudly. Yet there is likely to be a twist. If Pedro Sánchez opts for Ciudadanos, the PSOE-Podemos relationship in the Balearics will be placed under ever greater strain. For Més, there will be barely any room left to stand alone. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 10C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 24 February - Sun, cloud, 21C; 25 February - Sun, cloud, 13C; 26 February - Sun, cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  Variable 2 to 3 increasing during the morning to West-Northwest 3 to 5.

Cloudy start, should clear, should be sunny. Forecast for later this week and for the weekend suggests falling temperatures from the current quite high values.

Evening update (21.15): Some decent sun but also a chill breeze at times. High of 19.9C. 

A Midsummer Night's Referendum

Oh no. Having spent the last several years paying only cursory attention to British affairs, other than to the achievements (or not) of various sports teams, it seems that I may be forced into discarding this comparative disinterest. A prevailing sense of ennui with Dave-ism, Corbynism, the ism of whoever it is leading the Liberal Democrats, Farage-ism, the loony rightism of much of the British press must now be subordinate to the frantic, the fanatic and the fantastic of the ensuing four months. As if I haven't enough on my plate with Rajoy, Podemos and the Infanta. Thanks a lot, Dave. Will you, by the way, be coming to Mallorca for your summer hols this year if if all goes it's up this June? Take care, Dave, there may be hidden dangers lurking behind the coffee-sipping photo opportunity at the Club Pollença. A wild expatriate donning a pith helmet and brandishing an elephant gun of non-voting-right shot aimed firmly at the prime ministerial posterior.

As a prelude to the hullabaloo that will now resonate until approximately Midsummer's Night, I confess to having admired a comment by a Sara on the Majorca Daily Bulletin website, in which she questioned why Brits who have lived outside the UK for so long insist on being called expats rather than immigrants. The word, she suggested, "sounds so colonial and snobbish". I would add that it can be used as a pejorative with which to attack Britons who have had the temerity to wish to live somewhere else and that - as a collective term - it seeks to ghettoise those who have no absolutely no wish to be recognisable as a member of a gin-drinking ghetto. I have long attempted to eschew the word. I can't stand it. Even if I may be one, I spend zero amount of mental time contemplating my status as one or agonising as to the meaning of E-life.

But Dave is going to force even a re-adjustment in this regard. You will not be able to move for the E-word between now and June and for several years after. The fate of those with E-status lies with the should we stays or should we goes of the summer solstice. We can prepare our fires for Midsummer's Night here in Mallorca, while Middle (mainly to the right) England heads to the polling stations, newspapers with strident front pages issuing instructions in their hands, and lights the kindling to unleash the fire of all fires. Atop this pyre will be the effigy of Jean-Claude Juncker, the great tomes from Maastricht, the labyrinthine documentation of the workings of the single market, liberal (as in unconstrained) sprinklings of benefits, migrants, eastern European rantings, anti-German sentiment, anti-French sentiment, anti-pretty much anything and, oh yes, anti-those of an E-status. Ha, ha, serves you right for turning your backs on a filthy British midwinter. Your Midsummer's Nightmare has arrived.

Of course, this may not be how things go. They may not go it's up. Dave will have saved the day. But that's all four months away. While the goes and stays trade blows from now until June, the British immigrant population of Mallorca (and Spain) will be in a state of high anxiety. What will it mean? Oh, woe is us. Where can we find answers? Will I be placed on the first Royal Air Force evacuation flight on the morning of 24 June?

Answers? What answers? As the questions aren't actually known yet, how can there be answers? Sorry, yes, there are of course questions. Many of them. But officially they can't be answered because the terms of reference are as yet unknown. And that's the biggest question of the lot. The unknown. The total unknown. There has never been a departure from the European project. The rules are not written. And it will take years for them to be, meaning that those of an E-status will be in a sort of an E-limbo land, brought about by the fascinations of Midsummer's Night and its Fairyland of Referendum.

For what it's worth, at a recent meeting of the now no-more Europeos por España there seemed reasonable confidence that those with permanent residence status would not be about to lose it. But don't take my word and, as yet, don't take anyone's word, because they don't know. All is speculation. All is prone to putting the wind up the British immigrant, causing anxiety and stress, when the T's and C's that will follow if the leaves have their day may well calm fears of mass deportations.

So now the waiting begins. In four months time we will know how well the good people of the United Kingdom will have swallowed the hysteria (or not). Questions, questions. And here's one. Whose head will be transformed into that of a donkey?

Monday, February 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2016

Morning high (8.10am): 19.1C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 February - Sun, 18C; 24 February - Sun, cloud, 16C; 25 February - Sun, cloud, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 3 to 5 veering West by the evening.

What a difference a day makes - thirteen degrees difference for the morning report. Rainy and a bit breezy. Sun should emerge later. Not as warm tomorrow but more sun.

Evening update (21.15): Pretty warm - a high of 23.9C - but only so much sun. More a case of light cloud.

The Constipated Government

There's a nasty obstruction in the bowels of Balearic political power. It cannot be shifted. Hard as it might be tried, no laxative can eliminate it. This obstruction is the government itself, its dietary habit of chewing over things around and around with their resultant disappearance up the collective governmental backside, having compacted movement into all but permanent blockage.

It was Jaume Font who spoke of constipation. The El Pi leader observed that the government has been constipated from the outset, unable to act in any decisive fashion because the real government - Podemos - has remained loose on its diet of political prunes: loose and firing cannon from the outside. Splat! Things can get and are messy.

Yet Podemos, for all that it can be said that the party benefits from loose stool, suffers from great dungheaps of anal retentiveness. Stubbornness, a need for control, obsession with detail, they all collide with the desperate attempts of the constipated government to exert its own control; the meal that has provoked all this excretory awkwardness having been the indigestible tourist tax.

This tax, says the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, is a "symbol" of the government of change, this being the government of which her party isn't a member. But the "accords for change", to which Podemos is a signatory, are supposed to herald a new era of dialogue. On each issue there is dialogue, and at the end of the process, such dialogue can be said to have been shown to work. So long as Podemos gets its way. Laura is convinced that one day soon the tourist tax will truly be green. Dialogue is a one-way street where Podemos is concerned.

Somehow, and no one can say for sure, purposes for the tax totally divorced from any tourism application managed to slip into the general ranting emanating from the Boot Girl. Apparently, the late-night pow-wow to save the tax raised the prospect of revenue going towards the government's guaranteed social income scheme, and it was the government which proposed this. Oh no it didn't, came the reply, with the Més minister for social matters as livid as other members of Més: relations between Podemos and Més appear to have all but broken down. So much for accords for change. Had Laura just been stirring it, then? Possibly so, but she was stirring it into a green, eco-friendly, biodegradable pulp.

Why, one might ask, was all this not sorted out in those happy, smily days before Biel Barceló disappeared and when he and sweet and friendly Francina could announce that the tax draft had been approved? One reason why is that Podemos isn't in the government. Even it doesn't actually draft legislation. Yet. Another reason, one suspects, was that Podemos, because of the "symbolic" nature of the tax, was always destined to enter into a bloody great scrap over it, and that's because it wanted to. The symbolism of the tax is that it is a testbed. If Podemos fails with its ambitions for the tax, then whither the whole project with PSOE and Més?

Laura said that having a fight (over the tax) was not the way, when it is she who engages in fights and could start one in an empty room. It is what she does; hence the nickname. "We were screaming like we were kids in primary school," an unidentified Podemos source said of that late-night meeting. Yep, sounds about right. Biel Barceló, the slowly evaporating tourism minister, made a brief reappearance to say that the important thing was to succeed, that they (the government) were a little surprised by the Podemos stance (which was an understatement) and that the citizens would not understand if advances of the government were to be thwarted. In fact, one suspects that the citizens would know full well why advances might be thwarted. They voted for it after all: the constipated government.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2016

Morning high (8.33am): 6.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 22 February - Sun, cloud, 23C; 23 February - Sun, cloud, 15C; 24 February - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Cloudy start but may clear to give a sunny day as good as yesterday's. Tomorrow is forecast to be quite warm. General outlook is reasonable.

Evening update (20.50): High of 18.2C. Not much sun but ok otherwise.

Manacor's Renaissance Man

The Manacor History Museum is one of the best museums outside Palma and it has recently launched an exhibition dedicated to one of the town's illustrious sons but someone who will be largely unknown. Perhaps this isn't surprising, as his most famous work failed to be published.

Joan Binimelis lived from 1539 to 1616. The exhibition refers to him as a "manacorí" (person from Manacor) of the Renaissance. Yet this Renaissance man had to contend with influences that were contrary to new ways, such as the Inquisition. He was, among other things, a doctor, a man of the cloth, a geographer, map maker, astronomer, mathematician and humanist. Such a range of interests and professions should arguably - and long ago - have placed him in the limited pantheon of all-time Mallorcan greats, such as another polymath, Ramon Llull, with whom he shares linguistic achievement that was of a somewhat groundbreaking nature. Llull is widely attributed with having popularised Catalan through his novel, "Blanquerna". Binimelis put together a work that was not in Catalan but in Mallorquín, a language (or dialect if one prefers), of which it is usually said that there was not a written tradition: it was a spoken language and only spoken.

Binimelis, however, destroys that perception. Moreover, what he wrote in Mallorquín was a work of absolute importance. He was the author of the first ever history of Mallorca, its title, "Història General del Regne de Mallorca", the general history of the kingdom of Mallorca.

He commended this work to the justices who governed Mallorca (indeed it was intended to have been his legacy to them), noting that there were two versions: one in Castellano and the other in "nostre llengua mallorquina", our Mallorcan language. The Mallorcan version was in fact finished first, in 1595. However, he was to die in 1616 a bitter man who had been largely discredited and who had not seen any interest in the work actually being published.

These justices were men who formed what was essentially like a town hall today, except that they presided over the whole island. They were important people, but though Binimelis was hopeful of their patronage, something went wrong. And there are different theories as to what. One has to do with the fact that, although the book was a history of Mallorca from the time of Jaume I's invasion of 1229, it referred to things that were distinctly non-Mallorcan, such as the story of Noah and the Ark. This, it has been suggested, led to a conclusion that the Renaissance man wasn't quite as modern as he might have appeared. However, it is also said that allusions to mythology or the Bible weren't entirely uncommon for the time, even if Noah had somehow managed to appear in Mallorca's past.

A more simple explanation is that the justices who were the civil authorities on the island didn't have the money to commit to publication. This may indeed have been the reason, were it not for a third possibility: the Inquisition. It would appear that Binimelis was accused of having been more than merely friendly with a nun. He denied this but eventually confessed: the Inquisition did have a habit (so to speak) of getting their man. The stigma of such an apparent dalliance, it has been argued, was enough to make the justices go cool on any formal agreement with Binimelis.

Whatever the reason, the work lay little known and unpublished until it was to appear in Castellano in 1927. Even then, however, it wasn't known who the original author had been. It was to take a further fifty years, through a study of documents pertaining to the Inquisition, to confirm that it had been Binimelis. Some ten years after this confirmation, he finally received recognition and was named an illustrious son of Manacor.

Despite the occasional odd references to Noah, the Binimelis work was of major importance. It was a history but also encyclopedic in that it chronicled things such as food, produce, animals, fish, even the winds of Mallorca. But on the history itself, here was stuff, for example, about the creation of the new settlements that were established in Mallorca after the Catalan conquest. And there was also a charting of Moorish invasions - the famed ones of Pollensa in 1550 and Soller in 1561 - but others too: Alcudia in 1551 and 1558; Andratx in 1553 and 1578.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2016

Morning high (8.37am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 21 February - Sun, 18C; 22 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 23 February - Sun, cloud, 15C.

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

Following the rain yesterday morning, which was usefully heavy at times (useful for replenishing water levels), a calmer pattern emerged and continues today with sun and light breezes. Staying sunny into tomorrow.

Grandstanding Over The Tourist Tax Vote

Just any old week in tourism. SNAFU. Situation normal, all ... you know the rest. I feel that my assertions that the tourist tax is solely a political tax are totally vindicated. The politics have moved on from the ideology of its introduction to the ideologies of the squawking that has emanated from the political parties this week. It has been pathetic.

There was, so it seemed, just a possibility that the amendment motion to the tourist tax bill led by the Partido Popular, with Ciudadanos (C's) hanging on to their coat tails, might have been passed. Had it been, then the bill would at the very least have needed to have been redrafted, thus removing any possibility of the tax being introduced this summer. The possibility, in truth, was just grandstanding. The key party in the vote wasn't Podemos, it was El Pi. Had Jaume Font's party (three parliamentary deputies) voted with the PP and the C's, then there would have been a majority of one and the tax bill would have been booted out. This didn't happen because El Pi is, with some reservations, in favour of the tax but also because had it supported the motion, Podemos would have rescued the government and found two sacrificial lamb deputies to vote against the amendment rather than abstain. Font concluded that El Pi may as well abstain. He was surely right in his conclusion.

That is how these things work, though Podemos would no doubt deny that this would have been the outcome. But much as it has differences with the government, it could not let the bill die. Podemos needed it to fight another day, because Podemos knows best and will look, by hook or by crook, to eventually get its way.

But what were they actually squabbling about? Principally, but by no means exclusively, it was to do with a geographical allocation of revenue from the tax. On the face of it, this proposal from Podemos (and actually supported by the PP) has some merit. A major problem with it, though, has nothing directly to do with the tax. It has instead to do with the system of regional financing through national government, a system that the Balearic government has been railing against ever since it became a government. The inherent unfairness of this system is that regions with greater tax-raising capacities (such as the Balearics) effectively subsidise poorer regions. Under the tourist tax distribution proposal by Podemos, a similar situation would obtain, with tourist areas of the Balearics with greater tax-raising capacity paying for those with lesser capacity. This is one reason why the government finds it hard to go along with the proposal. It would be hypocritical for it do so.

There was also, however, the political clash within a clash. The arguments were as much about Podemos versus Més as they were Podemos versus PSOE and Més (i.e. the government). The real anger that surfaced in parliament was coming from Més. But why? Two reasons. One is that Més is a party that prides itself on its eco-credentials. These have been exposed by the tax bill, though, as the revenue is due to be used for various purposes, only one of them being the environment. Podemos, by insisting that the tax should be a genuine "eco-tax" for the environment alone, has thus taken the Més environmental moral high ground, and Més doesn't like it. There is also the fact that the tax is very much a Més baby and one of Biel Barceló's in particular. Why do you think he was so keen to get the tourism portfolio in this government? The tourist tax; that's why. Regardless of what might be said about the agreements for government signed up to by PSOE, Més and Podemos, there is still the potential for battles over one or the other's territory. Més has not taken kindly to the attempt by Podemos to usurp its domain.

It's all about the politics. Pure and simple.

Friday, February 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2016

Morning high (7.43am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 20 February - Sun, 15C; 21 February - Sun, 16C; 22 February - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Greyish start and like yesterday the forecast suggests little by way of sun, but yesterday there was sun, and quite a lot of it. Weekend's prospects - very good.

In Praise Of Hotel Receptionists

Hotel receptionist. Can't be that difficult a job. Can it? Name? You're room number xxx. Here's your key. I wrote a comedy sketch entitled "Club Allinclusivana" which had such a receptionist. One from hell, along with the family she was dealing with. Was it based on anywhere in particular? That would be telling. But before one gets the impression that I'm doing receptionists down, which I'm not, let me point to an example of how difficult it can be, when faced with a particular breed of client. In the same resort there was the case of the receptionist reduced to tears by guests berating her for there being nothing to do because it was raining. Should she have been more thick-skinned? No. The guests shouldn't have been so thick. And so downright unpleasant.

A receptionist is at the front line in the customer encounter. There are others who occupy this front line: reps most obviously. They're the ones who are the faces of hotels and tour operators. They're the ones who get the brickbats when something goes wrong (and occasionally bouquets when it goes right). Hotel directors, tour operator marketing teams and executives are off this front line. In the latter case, they are rarely anywhere near the front line, bunkered in offices in a different land. But woe betide a rep (or receptionist) who should be the cause of opprobrium plastered all over Trip Advisor. It can seem at times that the front liners are sent over the top while the Melchetts and Field Marshal Haigs are tending to their drinks cabinets in a "Blackadder" style. It's a battle out there.

There are hotel receptionists and there are hotel receptionists. Just as there are hotels and there are hotels. Into one of these categories fall the Hotel Villa Manga in Madrid and Sofia Barroso. She has been named the best receptionist in the world. By whom? By AICR, Amicale Internationale des Sous-Directeurs et Chefs de Reception des Grands Hotels, of course. She was awarded the David Campbell Trophy at the AICR international congress in Vienna the other day: the late David Campbell was Chef de Reception at the Paris Ritz.

What has Sofia got that makes her the world's best receptionist? In an interview she made it appear that the job really wasn't that difficult: it wasn't front line, customer encounter, marketing-rocket science. Personality, putting oneself in the shoes of the other person (the guest), listening to needs and fulfilling them, being communicative. Shouldn't be so difficult? Should it? There again, one has to suppose that the Hotel Villa Manga attracts a clientele which, while very demanding, is unlikely to trade in streams of abuse, vomit all over the reception desk or be of the compensation-chasing variety that resorts to Trip Advisor blackmail. 

Whatever it is that Sofia has, she saw off rivals from the likes of Raffles in Singapore and won a 3,000 euro-value masters in hospitality. She will add this to her degree in tourism and a masters she already has in commercial and marketing management. Which is a pretty impressive collection of qualifications, and she can no doubt do English well: she was three years at the Cumberland in London.

I've no idea what Sofia earns, but it will be at the higher end of the scale for a receptionist position. How much any receptionist can earn will depend on various factors. A head receptionist obviously earns more. The star categorisation will come into the equation. And there are the qualifications and experience. Just at random I found an offer for a receptionist in a four-star. Salary between 18,000 and 24,000. At least one language (fluent) needed. A minimum of three years experience and also a minimum of a degree in tourism.

It has been said of students who qualify with tourism degrees at the University of the Balearic Islands that many can get no more than receptionist jobs, assuming they can find one: they can be like gold dust. A criticism of the university's degree has been that it is too theoretical. A receptionist, even one with Sofia's qualifications, needs high levels of practicality. All the stuff about personality, listening to needs and what have you: some can be taught, but it's mostly innate. You either are or you aren't suited.

The qualification is, however, a mark of the importance placed on the job. Which is how it should be. Professionalism in all aspects marks out the excellent hotel, and in my experience, admittedly from observation rather than as a guest, in a whole host of hotels in Mallorca this professionalism is high. It's a job that can perhaps be undervalued, but the actual value attached to it can be skewed by the nature of the hotel. In Mallorca, I'd suggest that there are some of the best in the world and they're being the best in some pretty trying circumstances.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2016

Morning high (8.18am): 6.6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 February - Cloud, sun, 13C; 20 February - Sun, 13C; 21 February - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 4 easing North 2 to 3.

Rather grey and chilly. Not much sun expected but unlikely to be any rain.

Mallorca's Maritime Museum To Return

The Royal Spanish Naval League was originally known as the Spanish Maritime League and was founded just before Christmas in 1900. The context of its founding were the losses of colonies at the end of the nineteenth century and the considerable battering that Spanish prestige had taken along with that of the Navy (vastly reduced because of its own losses) and the national merchant fleet, which was considered to be deficient. Such loss of esteem for a nation that had once been so prominent, both militarily and commercially, was hard to take.

Faced with a moribund naval presence, the League was to help in restoring some pride. It received official government recognition three years later and was to subsequently be influential in various laws that were introduced regarding the Navy and the merchant fleet. It was to more or less disappear as a result of the Civil War, but its reactivation was to begin in 1970 under the new name of the Spanish Naval League.

Nowadays, its aims are focused on the promotion and defence of Spanish maritime interests in their broadest sense. Private, non-political, not-for-profit, the League's activities include the promotion of nautical tourism and culture. From those roots of loss of prestige, it became and is a highly prestigious organisation. As such, therefore, that it is taking a keen interest in Mallorca is to be greatly welcomed.

Last December the League issued a statement in which it said that it was necessary for Mallorca to have a maritime museum. This had been spoken about for years, but the talking is now ending and the reality is emerging. Representatives of the League, together with members of the Association of Friends of the Mallorcan Maritime Museum, have met with representatives from the regional government, the Council of Mallorca and the town hall in Palma as well as the president of the Balearic Ports Authority, Joan Gual de Torrella, in moving towards the establishment of a roadmap through which the museum will finally be realised.

The intention is for there to be a facility that will explain the past and present of maritime Mallorca and to address the deficit that there has been so long in there being a place for all the patrimony and examples that have been donated for such a museum. The president of the Council of Mallorca, Miquel Ensenyat, is said to be particularly well disposed to the project, while the ports authority will be looking to cede property (a site at the Moll Vell in Palma has been spoken of as a possibility in the past). As ever, money will be a factor, but the hope is for a funding agreement between the government and other stakeholders.

There are maritime museums across Spain. Barcelona has one, for instance. Its exhibitions are complemented by facilities for conferences, dinners and other events. Bilbao is somewhere else with one, its museum designed to preserve and spread the history, culture and identity of the men and women who are bound to the maritime tradition of the city.

The Barcelona museum, now much improved, goes back some eighty or so years, and it has been dedicated to the preservation, study and diffusion of the maritime culture of the city and Catalonia. The fact that it has had a museum for so long and the further fact of cities like Bilbao also having one have led many to despair of Mallorca. Here is an island with a rich tradition but nothing to back it up save for the small museum of the sea in Soller. It has been the even more galling when it is recalled that there used to be a museum. Where? In the very same building that has been where politicians have been failing for the past thirty years to come to some accord to facilitate the creation of a museum: the headquarters of the Balearic president and government, the Consolat de la Mar in Palma.

There used to be a maritime museum there, and it existed between 1951 and 1972. It was closed when first the provincial offices of the Movimiento (Franco's party, if you like) moved in and then, some years later, it became the HQ of the newly democratic government of the Balearics. So what happened to its contents? Some can still be seen in the building, such as a statue to the navigator, Jaume Ferrer. Otherwise, they've been in storage, with the Association of Friends of the Mallorcan Maritime Museum, ever since 1973, been pushing for the museum somewhere. Anywhere.

It now looks as though the association will finally get its wish. While there is in fact barely a part of coastal Spain that doesn't have a museum, Mallorca has been without, a terrible condemnation of the lack of political will to support a tradition so engrained into the culture of the island. Until now.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 February 2016

Morning high (7.52am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 February - Cloud, 15C; 19 February - Cloud, sun, 11C; 20 February - Sun, cloud, 12C.

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

Patchy cloud first thing. Not much by way of sun expected. Staying mostly cloudy over the next couple of days and getting colder.

Evening update (19.45): Rather sunnier than had been forecast. High of 15.7C.

Don't Know What To Do: Holiday rentals

It is, you would have to say, a bit rich of the Partido Popular to be criticising the government for not having introduced any new regulation of holiday rentals in the Balearics. This was, after all, the party that spent four years in denial of there being any need for new (or different) regulation. Still, oppositions do what oppositions must do, which is to oppose or to simply make jibes.

The PP was disinclined to liberalise the market. Ideologically, it was curious, given that its instincts are for de-regulation and the free market. But it had a very good reason to be market illiberal, given that its policies were being guided by the hoteliers. We now have the situation whereby a left-wing administration may be considering liberalisation, a consequence in part of its policies not being guided by the hoteliers. However way you look at it, market attitudes and ideologies seem skew-whiff.

If these ideologies could, just for once, be stripped out of the argument, then there might be grounds for believing that some sort of sensible resolution could be arrived at. But these ideologies won't be, and nor will the power of the hoteliers be denied, despite what Alberto Jarabo of Podemos might like to believe. This is frankly a disastrous state of antagonism and of total inability to arrive at anything approximating the mantra of the day (year), i.e. consensus. It is disastrous because Balearic tourism faces a massive problem that cannot and will not be solved by the dominance of one line of argumentation over the other.

The PP's Alvaro Gijón has said that the government, by which he primarily means the tourism-wielding vice-president, Biel Barceló, appears not to know what to do about holiday rental regulation. The fact is that he is almost certainly right: it doesn't know. Had it known, it might at least have had some framework in place for new regulation prior to or around the same time as the introduction of the tourist tax. When such a framework might even be debated is anyone's guess. Yet regulation was at one time deemed necessary by Barceló before the tax came in. How priorities can change in the face of ideology or what might have seemed an easier legislative process, which the tourist tax is proving to be anything but.

The issue of holiday rentals is a huge headache for all administrations in Spain, but it is an especially major one for the Balearics. It did cross my mind that Francina Armengol's warning about not being able to guarantee water supplies this summer was either a deliberate attempt to try and stop people coming to the islands in the vast numbers that are anticipated or was the opening gambit for a whole discussion about the need to limit numbers and how this might be done. Whatever the motive, there has to be recognition of the fact that Mallorca and the other islands are at risk of being swamped to the extent that services can no longer cope. There also has to be recognition of the fact that it hasn't been the hoteliers who have brought this situation about.

While the Balearics face this headache, the politicians manage to invent problems for themselves. The tourist tax is a case in point. A problem has been posed that didn't exist before, so the politicians now have to deal with all the complexities that it raises. The problem of holiday rentals is not one that has been invented. It has always existed, but good regulation never has. Because of the pressures now being added because of P2P, it is absolutely essential that a sensible regulatory solution can be found. In the fractious world of Balearic tourism politics, such a solution will always be difficult, but it might just have proved possible for some consensus to be achieved, even with the hoteliers. The government and the hoteliers do, after all, agree that something needs to be done about private accommodation, even if they are coming at the subject with differing perspectives.

But the tourist tax has created a situation of ever greater loggerheads, and not only where the hoteliers are concerned: the government so-called partners are all over the place. The invented problem and its controversy means that the existing one will never be addressed properly because of the festering sore that is being made: the existing one that is of far greater importance than the tax.

And meanwhile, we have a situation in which Barceló seems to go to ground, just like Carlos Delgado used to when the going got tough. The government doesn't know what to do, which is why it should look to draw on all the support it can. Moreover, if it ever really had a hold of the tourism agenda, it is rapidly losing it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 February 2016

Morning high (7.47am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 17 February - Sun, cloud, 15C; 18 February - Cloud, 13C; 19 February - Cloud, sun, 11C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 7 to 8 easing 5 to 7 during the morning and veering Northeast 3 to 4 in the afternoon.

Wild overnight and still pretty wild. Dry though. Alerts staying in place for wind and coasts (amber), but things will quieten down by midday.

Evening update (21.45): Didn't turn out so bad in that there was a fair amount of sun, but a biting and strong northerly didn't help. High of 13.7C.

Managing Palma, Managing People

Should questions be being asked about the management of the Mallorcan and Balearic capital? While Palma can rightly bask in the warm glow of its increasing reputation as a tourist destination and while there are some - non-politicians - who can rightly be praised for this, there are matters which place a question mark over what is going on at the town hall.

Firstly, some mitigation. Being a mayor or a leading councillor in a Mallorcan town hall administration is far from being a piece of cake. The demands are great and the pitfalls even greater. The liability that a mayor in particular has can land even the most assiduous of public officials in deep water: not by any deviousness or abuse of office, but because of the way that liability can suddenly appear from nowhere.

One can think of examples over the years. In Capdepera, the one-time mayor, Tomeu Alzina, was disqualified from public office for eight years following the 2008 accident at the old Son Moll hotel in Cala Ratjada in which four workers lost their lives. He was found guilty by a criminal court of negligence in not having stopped work at the hotel when the licence for building permission had yet to be issued. By the letter of the law he was guilty, but as became evident at the time of the accident, the practice of allowing work to proceed while waiting for licences to be settled was commonplace. It was happening in other municipalities because of the sheer length of bureaucratic delays associated with the granting of licences. 

A mayor faces all manner of complexities, as do his or her advisors and fellow councillors. The need for there to be a dotting of i's and the crossing of t's has unquestionably been playing a part in the never-ending saga of Palma's Palacio de Congresos. But these complexities are separate from the political process and from day-to-day management, not least the management of human relations.

To have one senior official resign after only a few months may be regarded as a misfortune, to have another one wish to resign also after only a few months might look like carelessness. The ex-director of the Palacio company walked out and later left it in no doubt that he had done so because he had felt pressurised in arriving at a solution for the Palacio's operation and management that he, in his professional capacity, could not agree with. This has been just one of the reasons he has given.

The chief of the local police, brought in when his predecessor was dismissed, wants to resign. There are undoubted tensions between him and the councillor for public safety, Angelica Pastor. He has gone on record as saying that he has felt that he has been treated like a half-wit.

The relationship with the police in Palma is certainly a delicate one. The corruption allegations made against members of the force were bound to create difficulties for an incoming administration. But for its appointee to express the things he has needs to be treated with some seriousness: the relationship with the local police is absolutely crucial.

That there may be some distance in the relationship is perhaps understandable. Pastor's predecessor (from the Partido Popular) has been implicated in the ongoing investigations. But the impression formed is one of an antagonistic relationship and one that is not being terribly well handled. From what Josep Sintes, the ex-director of the Palacio company has had to say, a similar tension seemed to be at play where he was concerned.

In the case of the Palacio, executive responsibility at the town hall falls to the councillor for tourism (and work and trade), Joana María Adrover. When appointments were made following the municipal election last May, there was some surprise expressed at the fact that tourism was no longer the responsibility for a deputy mayor. Under Mateo Isern, his number two, Alvaro Gijón, had been the tourism councillor as well as the president of the Palacio company (which Adrover now is). Though Isern and Gijón were to have their falling-out, for most of the administration Gijón was a trusted number two in charge of tourism: he is now the chief spokesperson on tourism for the PP in the Balearic parliament.

Adrover has stoutly defended herself against accusations made by Sintes. It's one side against another, but when one puts the two cases - the Palacio and the police - together, one does have to start asking questions about the management of relationships and perhaps also about political motives dominating. The coincidence is too great to not ask the questions.

And presiding over all this is José Hila, about whom there have been mutterings regarding his effectiveness. Some of his constantly expressed consensus might come in useful. Managing a city is more than just avoiding liability.

Monday, February 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 February 2016

Morning high (6.50am): 10.1C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 13C; 17 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 13C; 18 February - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 to 7 increasing gale force 8 around midday. Waves of three to five metres.

Windy and damp first thing. Alerts in place for rain, wind and especially the coasts. Limited chance of seeing the sun today. The risk of rain lessening through the day and into tomorrow but the wind will still be a factor.

Evening update (20.00): The rain mostly fell this morning and quite heavily in areas - up to 30mms. - with wind reaching 70kph and above. High of 13.7C. 

Libraries Of Mallorca: Old and new

They opened the library in Deia the other day. This village of the Tramuntana with its long and rich cultural associations had oddly not been home to a library. It now is, and it bears a name that resonates with those associations. It is dedicated to Juan Graves, one of the sons of Robert, who died last year. The mayor, Magdalena López, said that they wanted the library to harvest the love that Juan had for culture. The library is not so far, because nothing is so far in Deia village, from the Casa Robert Graves, where Juan grew up, surrounded by books. They are still there, the Graves' house library of works by the author and by many others, some of which speak of those with whom Robert was familiar, such as "The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book". Alice was Gertrude Stein's partner. There are few more famous quotes than Stein's when she directed Robert towards Mallorca. "It's paradise, if you can stand it."

The vice-president for culture at the Council of Mallorca, Francesc Miralles, observed that it wasn't every day that a library was opened. In an era when the role of libraries can seem somewhat diminished, it is reassuring to know that a place still exists for them. Deia was incomplete without one. Now it is whole, the cultural hole of an absent library filled under this famous name.

Of course it didn't used to be like it is today with the access of the internet. Libraries were the repositories of knowledge, learning and refinement. But when was Mallorca's first public library opened?

In the nineteenth century there was a process of confiscation of church and religious order property. From this came the establishment of a network of public libraries, which were stocked with books that had belonged to the church. The Provincial Library in Palma was thought to have been the very first in 1835. However, recent research points to a library having been established several decades earlier. This was the library of the Literary University of Mallorca, which came into being following an earlier series of confiscations: those of Jesuit schools in Palma and Pollensa when suppression of the Jesuits was enforced by Carlos III in 1767. The library, documents reveal, was being put together three years later and in 1785 it was opened as a public library. The university itself had been founded in the late fifteenth century but it, along with its library, was not to survive the illiberal persecutions of Ferdinand VII, and so it, has had been the case with the Jesuits, was suppressed.

This wasn't, of course, the first library. That came into being centuries before and was linked to the story of the Royal Monastery in the Secar de la Real area of Palma. This monastery was originally due to have been built away from the "Ciutat" in Esporles, but its location near to the city was finally agreed upon. There is some debate about when the monastery came into existence, but 1239 seems as though it was the date. The library was to come later, though when it was first being stocked is hard to say. By 1386, it had become of enough importance for an inventory to have been created and circulated for the first time. However, there are sufficient documentary hints to suggest that by the second half of the thirteenth century it had already become a significant place of knowledge. Indeed, it seems that Ramon Llull used the library to access texts in Arabic around the time that he was persuading the Mallorcan kings to build the Miramar monastery in Valldemossa. In that village, another important library was to be established at the Charterhouse. A major inventory of its books, texts and other documents was published in 1548.

To return to more modern times, in the Franco era Mallorca was not awash with public libraries. In 1950s' Palma, for instance, there was one at the town hall and another at the Casa de Cultura in the Calle Ramon Llull. This was in fact the successor to that provincial library that had been created in 1835 as the State Public Library of Palma and had been housed in the convent of Montesión before being relocated in 1955. Almost fifty years later, in 2004, it was given a new home, which is where it now is, in the Plaça Porta Santa Catalina.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 February 2016

Morning high (8.20am): 18C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 15C; 16 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 11C; 17 February - Cloud, sun, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 5 to 6 easing Variable 2 to 3 during the afternoon.

Strong gusts of wind have died down, but wind may be a factor at times during the day. Some risk of a shower later on and into tomorrow when wind is due to pick up significantly and could be damaging. Alerts in place for today and tomorrow for caution in coastal areas.

Evening update (22.00): Some showers and some sun. Temperatures dropping from what remained a high of 18C. Kitchen sink likely tomorrow: rain, wind and rough coastal conditions.

When Mariano Met Pedro

Oh how the sports pages love it when Arsene Wenger fails to shake the hand of Jose Mourinho / Sir Alex Ferguson / Sam Allardyce (choose as applicable). Come on, Arsene, stop arsin' about and shake the bloke's hand. It's only a game after all. Football is, and some might disagree, not that important in the general scheme of living. It might be better were football managers to become prime ministers or presidents, but with one notable exception, this is unlikely to ever transpire. There is, though, Pep Guardiola, the footballing world's champion of Catalonian independence. One day Pep will be president. The man walks on water as it is, apparently, so why not?

The general scheme of things means that politicians are raised to greater levels of significance than mere to-become managers (head coaches or whatever) of Manchester City. Accordingly, a Wenger-like snub of the hand acquires a correspondingly greater level of significance. Mariano Rajoy, being a good patriot and former member of the Alianza Popular, the party hewn from the wreckage of Francoism, is naturally enough a Real Madrid supporter: Real Madrid, Spain's national team. The good patriot thus delivered an Arsene avoidance. For when Mazza met Pedro, in the full glare of the media, Pedro offered his hand, Mazza sold him a dummy and assertively buttoned up his suit jacket.

Body language gurus would have been salivating. Rajoy was defiantly shielding himself in that brief buttoning act and announcing that he was still the man. Pedro's reaction, a frustrated tap of a thigh and a grim countenance, spoke of being absolutely bloody furious. Not only had he been snubbed, the world had captured the non-accepted hand for all time: Sánchez was being humiliated.

This preposterous lack of respect from Rajoy must surely mark the final moment, the final moment of his ever less likely retention of the presidency. If the meeting between the two had been intended to be the occasion for the good patriot to extend the hand of fraternal Spanishness and to walk hand-in-hand to a promised land (replete with Catalonia) in the pursuit of national salvation (minus Podemos), then it failed utterly. What was Rajoy thinking? Has he stopped thinking? Is he so totally blind to realities that he seriously believes he can remain president? Seemingly, he does. When the two actually started talking, this was the Rajoy red line. It was Margaret Thatcher, Paris, 1990. Mariano fighting on, when all the evidence tells him to quit.

But even worse was what it told us of the speciousness of the dialogue and consensus narrative that has been blurted out of every politician's mouth since Podemos became more than a mere irritant. Consensus? When they can't even shake hands? Rajoy, rather than acting in a grand statesman-like fashion and in, as he would insist, the interests of the country above all, provided Sánchez with all the ammunition and justification (if he did really need it) to phone The Hairy One and propose marriage. Rajoy has been criticised for his irresponsibility in having not put himself before parliament and sought investiture, but now his irresponsibility was greater still.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 February 2016

Morning high (6.59am): 18.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 14 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 18C; 15 February - Rain, 12C; 16 February - Cloud, sun, 11C.

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

Exceptionally mild morning, breezy too. Sunny intervals but mainly cloudy during the day. Chance of showers tomorrow and for a few days to come.

Evening update (20.00): Not a lot of sun. High of 20.2C.

Intelligent Tourism: What are the Balearics doing?

While the regional government can give the impression that all it is concerned with is its arguments over the tourist tax, it does occasionally show signs of devoting itself to other tourism issues, one aspect of which is the use of technology. This said, the tourism technology equation has not been well managed over the years, and there hasn't been a great deal of evidence of improvement with the current government, as was typified by the flop with its demonstrating its tourism "escarparate turístico intelligente" showcase at London's World Travel Market. It wasn't that someone forgot to plug it in, they didn't bother taking it at all, despite making a song and dance about its appearance. The no-show, said the official version, was due to some "errors". These were due, apparently, to deficient information contained in this showcase, in particular that which town halls were meant to have input to the system, as well as poor translations. There are certain things which never get any better, and translating is one of them. What had they done? Tried putting into Google or Bing? Quite possibly.

The Balearic Tourism Agency said at the time that the information will be invaluable. It's impossible to say if it will be or it won't be. No one, apart from some ministry types and developers, has set eyes on this wonder of touristic technology. And they might not see it this year either.

This "escarparate turístico intelligente" is a system of touch screens (we are led to believe) that will give everything that could possibly be needed to be known about tourist resources in the Balearics. Where it might actually be deployed, other than at travel fairs, is another unknown. It is a project, the genesis of which was firmly with the previous government, and one goes back to 2012 when it was first being hailed as the great technological innovation of the modern tourism world.

The experience with the "escarparate" (which means showcase) might serve as something of a warning. That's because the government has this week signed an agreement for collaboration with the University of the Balearic Islands which has to do with the use of technology for tourism. Specifically, there is to be a project for the processing of "big data" in segmenting tourist product demand and individual overseas markets which provide the islands' tourists. There are also going to be multimedia projects, video projects, while market intelligence will be significantly enhanced.

If it sounds like a lot of jargon, then it probably is. But the warning should come from the fact that the "escarparate" involved, from the outset, the university. It then involved the Fundación Bit (or ParcBit, if you prefer). Which isn't to say that there aren't very good people at both the university and the technology park who can come up with some highly advanced tourism technology systems. But the fact that the "escarparate" remains a mystery requires some explaining, and it is the ministry which should be giving it. Why on earth have there been these "errors" and why has there been such a delay? Is it a case of the ministry being incapable of managing a project? Someone should say and hold up his or her hands.

Moreover, is it not about time that we heard from Biel Barceló, who is minister for innovation and research as well as for tourism, about what he's actually doing in respect of the coming-together of tourism and technology? When he appointed social media guru Benjamí Villoslada as director-general for technological development, it seemed a good move. Yet we know nothing of what Villoslada does. Indeed, apart from him being a fairly prolific user of Twitter, we never hear from him.

One element of the Fundación Bit's collaboration with the "escarparate" has been a "Twitter Report". We were first made aware of this a year ago and also made aware of the fact that tweets (almost ten million of them) had been analysed since August 2013. This is all an exercise in extracting something useful from the big data that Twitter and social media offer. But what are they doing with it? We now learn, because it has been reported this week, that a further eight million or so tweets in 2015 have been analysed. They will help to "optimise the strategy of our destination", says the director of the tourism agency, Miquel Ángel Roig. Which all sounds very impressive, but what actually is the strategy? Has it ever been elucidated?

Still, there may yet be a great deal of good to come from all of this. But it would help us all in assessing this goodness if the government were to adequately explain what it is doing with all this technological effort.

Friday, February 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 February 2016

Morning high (7.47am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 21C; 14 February - Cloud, sun, 17C; 15 February - Rain, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 2 to 3 increasing West 5, locally 6.

Pleasant morning, little bit nippy otherwise good. Wind picking up later and becoming strong. Mainly sunny. Weekend outlook - windy with possible showers on Sunday.

Evening update (23.30): Blowy for much of the day. Only occasional sun. High of 19.7C.

The Shambles Of The Tourist Tax

If there was any question over the tourist tax being a political tax and only a political, as I suggested the other day, it has now been removed. The politics of the tax do not solely reside with the motives for its introduction, they are also firmly at the centre of the mess that is passing for government in the Balearics, one created by the unworkable nature of a government held hostage by a party that is not even part of it. This is the government and model of government that Francina Armengol insists is working so well that the national government should be based on it as well. She's either having a laugh or she really is in cloud cuckoo land.

Much as it might pain me to side with the Partido Popular, when its general secretary in the Balearics, Andreu Ferrer, says that it is "worrying" that Armengol should suggest this model to Pedro Sánchez, I cannot disagree. I had, after all, said much the same thing, just as I had suggested, before Jaume Font of El Pi did, that the tax would end up being this government's TIL: its own omnishambles.

It was all so predictable. Another of Armengol's crutches is her regular reference to the accords for change that underpin (supposedly) the way this government works. These accords, for which there is the ominous-sounding monitoring committee to ensure their compliance, were cobbled together in the days of desperation following the May regional election in order to form a government with Armengol theoretically at its head. They are accords subject to, as the president parrots, dialogue and consensus, when all along they have been a means by which the government could be collapsed and have been the principles through which Podemos controls Armengol, controls PSOE and controls Biel Barceló.

The arguments over the tax are no longer confined to the rights and wrongs of its introduction. They have moved on to who it is that defines it and controls it, and the past few days have revealed who this is: not the government, not Armengol, not Barceló, but Podemos. The tax is a defining piece of legislation, as it was always destined to be. Podemos wants it all its way and no one else's. If it fails to get its way, then the unworkable working-well government of Francina Armengol's fantasy may well collapse in the great heap that had been predicted.

Laura Camargo of Podemos, expressing her surprise at disagreements over the tax, its purpose, its potential discounts and more, was voicing surprise at the temerity of the government to be contemplating uses that differ to those that Podemos demands. This is not government through consensus, this is government through command and strong-arm tactics, and it was all so very predictable.

Camargo said earlier this week that were there to be a vote on the tax legislation right now, this would not be a vote in favour of an eco-tax. The semantics are important, as the government has gone on record as having said that it will not be an eco-tax, i.e. not one in the image of Eco-Tax Mark I of 2002-2003. Catalina Cladera, the PSOE finance minister, has been one of those to have insisted that it will not be an eco-tax: one to be used solely for environmental purposes.

So, what Camargo was getting at was that Podemos will not accept anything which isn't an eco-tax. The deadlock that has been caused through the stand-off on the purpose of the tax (but not only this) can be resolved, suggests Camargo, through the forming of another monitoring committee, one expressly for the tax and which would presumably be separate to the planned committee for supervising the distribution of tax revenue. This would be a political committee to make damn sure that the tax becomes an eco-tax. Not that it would comprise only politicians. Oh no, Camargo wants experts and environmental activists. Now, who might she have in mind? GOB perhaps? Gurus from the university's geography department?

Biel Barceló, who himself has said in the past that environmental purposes would be only one of a range of uses of the tax revenue, now says that the environment is a priority. But Barceló is hostage to not only Podemos but also to his own eco-influenced party. He keeps changing his mind because he is forced into doing so. A member of his party, David Abril, finds it curious that Podemos should be siding with the enemy, the Partido Popular, in some aspects of the tax legislation. It isn't curious, because the PP is well aware that it can make mischief to the point of ensuring that the tax is at least held over until next year.

Meanwhile, the arguments over the tax create the metaphor for this government. Shambles.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 February 2016

Morning high (6.52am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 12 February - Cloud, sun, 20C; 13 February - Cloud, sun, 19C; 14 February - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 occasionally 5 off Formentor.

Wind is down. Mix of cloud and sun, possible rain, and mild. The wind's due to return tomorrow. Otherwise the same sort of combination.

Evening update (20.30): Mainly cloudy with a burst of rain this afternoon. Very mild though. High of 21.2C.

Privatisation Of The Sea: Waterparks

Beaches are suddenly very much in political vogue. To the question of chiringuitos and items of beach furniture on rustic beaches can be added things that lie off beaches. One thing in particular: a floating waterpark. Calvia has, in effect, banned these waterparks. Good for Calvia.

In fact, banning is too strong a word, even if this would be the outcome. The waterparks off Calvia beaches, of which there have been several, are not illegal. The town hall, in addressing the issue, is to consider their suitability and to make void contracts that do not meet requirements; however "requirements" might be defined. The wording seems rather loose. Deliberately so perhaps, as it leaves room for manoeuvre in removing the waterparks on grounds that might seem more subjective than objective. A legal challenge may be raised, one fancies.

In principle, however, Calvia is adopting the right line. The waterparks off municipal beaches were the consequence of a 2014 decision to put out to tender the so-called occupation of public domain marine space close to shore. Calvia was not alone. There have been floating waterparks dotted around Mallorca's coastline.

When they were first being mentioned - and the first one I was aware of was off Playa de Muro - they didn't sound such a bad idea. They would be environmentally neutral in that they would not be permanent, would not be anchored in a way that might harm seabed flora, e.g. posidonia, while access (other than by wading or swimming) would be with rowing boats and nothing that was using fuel or was noisy. They sounded reasonable insofar as they would be an additional attraction, something that might have been thought good for a family tourism market.

It was when they became visible that the idea seemed less good. Did the beaches of Mallorca really want a load of floating giant pieces of plastic bobbing on the gentle waves in the full glare of the beachgoing public? General reaction was less than positive.

In Colonia Sant Jordi, as an example, a local pressure group - Salvem Sa Colonia - staged a protest on the beach against the plan to install a waterpark. There were a variety of reasons for objecting: ecological, the use of the sea by the public and navigation by boats. There was an additional element to the protest, the establishment of platforms for jet skis as well.

The regional government, via the natural spaces and biodiversity department of its environment ministry, might now be said to have such installations firmly in its sights. Its desire to ensure there are no chiringuitos on rustic beaches is just one aspect of a far wider consideration of protected areas included under the Natura Network, a European Union device that was adopted for environmental conservation purposes. Under this, most of the Mallorcan coastline is defined as protected. But not all of it. Much of the Calvia coast isn't, for instance. Where the provisions are more evident are, for instance, in the whole of the bays of Alcudia and Pollensa and along the coast that stretches from Santanyi through Es Trenc towards Arenal. This is coast which therefore embraces Colonia Sant Jordi and, in the north, the beaches of Puerto Pollensa, Puerto Alcudia, Playa de Muro and Can Picafort, all of which have had floating waterparks off them.

Does this sound as if the environment ministry, controlled by the eco-nationalists of Més, is getting into a zealous fervour, as was the case when the PSM socialists (part of Més) took control of the ministry in the latter half of the previous PSOE-led administration of 2007 to 2011? Perhaps it does. The minister, Vicenç Vidal, appears to be even more of an eco-warrior than the PSM minister, Gabriel Vicens, was.

But there is much to potentially praise in the ministry getting to grips with the Mallorcan coast. Fundamentally, the beaches are public domain. It is a Spanish birthright to have free and unfettered access to and use of the country's beaches. It is a birthright enshrined in law. It has not prevented the exploitation of beaches, of course it hasn't, and it surely isn't the case that any minister would propose getting rid of sunbeds and what have you from the main, urban beaches. But there is and can be excessiveness, and when this "privatisation" involves the sea as well, one can argue that things have gone too far. Yes, there is privatisation, as with charging for anchoring and so on, but boats are a rather different matter to the likes of floating waterparks. They may cause environmental damage but they are not in themselves unappealing. A waterpark on the other hand ... .

Calvia's initiative is, therefore, to be applauded, even if the beaches involved are not deemed to form part of the protected coast. As such, specific intervention is required. More general intervention, on behalf of the ministry, may well be looming on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 February 2016

Morning high (7.38am): 15C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 11 February - Cloud, sun, 20C; 12 February - Cloud, sun, 17C; 13 February - Cloud, sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4 to 6 easing South-Southwest 3 to 4 by the afternoon.

Mild morning, fairly cloudy, the wind has dropped. Sunny periods today. Staying mild but forecast to turn cold by the end of the weekend.

Evening update (21.30): Became increasingly windy and still is. Not a great deal of sun but warm enough - a high of 20.6C.

Environment vs. Ambience: Beach chiringuitos

Legend informs us that the first beach-bar or chiringuito in Mallorca appeared on the beach at S'Illot in 1951. It was in the days when beach and non-beach were indistinguishable and when the means of running it would have been primitive to say the least. Despite it having been on the east coast and well off what was mostly beaten track in any event in those days, it proved to be popular and wasn't apparently just solely a place for cooling refreshment. For all that it would have been rudimentary, it was a beach-bar to which people would travel and where they would meet. It had ambience, the product of what seems like a natural collision - bar and beach.

The chiringuito, as in the traditional sort with thatch and a shape vaguely reminiscent of a boat, can be distinguished from other beach-bars, such as the wooden-roofed balneario, which is a misleading term in that the word means spa but which has acquired official status for its beach locations. Resorts are mapped according to balnearios: Playa de Palma, for instance. These balnearios have become part of the beach urban environment. A chiringuito implies a construction of a more rustic beach nature, to which can be assigned certain characteristics: laid-back, relaxed, cool.   

This is the implication, though it isn't always the reality, while the word chiringuito may or may not mean that traditional image. And into this realm of uncertainty has ridden the controversy of Son Serra de Marina, where the town hall (Santa Margalida) has been thinking about plonking a chiringuito and other beach paraphernalia, such as sunbeds. It is not known what the chiringuito structure might be (or might have been), while its positioning would not necessarily have been rustic in that its location was in front of or very close to the final urban development in this resort.

One can talk about this plan in the past tense, as the regional government would appear to have scuppered it. The protesters, several thousand of them, who formed a human chain against the plan can breathe a sigh of relief. The rustic nature of Son Serra is to be conserved.

The cause célèbre that has been the Son Serra plan might seem to have been what has provoked the environment ministry into tightening up on chiringuitos and what have you on rustic beaches. In fact, the ministry's natural spaces and biodiversity department have been on the case in any event. Son Serra is a clear case in point, but it isn't the only one.

The objection that the ministry has to the project is that one hundred sunbeds plus bar and other facilities would "appreciably affect" an area of "community interest". The objection isn't so much that there would be the risk of environmental harm through pollution (though there might be some small risk), it is more the damage to the visual environment: unspoiled should mean and remain unspoiled.

Santa Margalida have given out different justifications for the plan. One was (bizarrely enough) to obtain a Blue Flag. Another was that the revenue from the concessions would pay for the maintenance of the beach. These may well have been reasonable grounds, but the chiringuito was surely unnecessary. Indeed, it would have represented a kick in the teeth to the one or two bars (not on the beach of course) which have, over several years, contributed to a laid-back atmosphere which so many thousands were prepared to defend.

But while this particular bar was questionable, can the same be said for chiringuitos on other beaches of a rustic style? A full invasion of beaches by sunbeds and other facilities is one thing, but a chiringuito on its own? Yes, there are many tourists (and residents) who crave unspoiled beaches. Likewise, there are those who quite enjoy there being a bar. It can be positive in that it adds to the ambience rather than subtracts. It can also be positive in preventing a need to haul any amount of containers and plastic which might end up being discarded and so pose more of an environmental risk than a chiringuito, so long as the latter is subject to strict control.

What will now happen is that the ministry is going to say yea or nay to new applications and existing ones. Son Serra, representative of the former, is almost certainly out of the question. But what of, just as an example, Es Trenc's famed S'Embat?

My guess would be that a great majority of tourists and residents will approve of the government's aims (and I would be included in that majority), but being too dogmatic and too universal in treating each beach as the same would mean missing a point about how many have enjoyed beach life for so long. Chiringuitos have their role and it is one of ambience created decades ago.