Saturday, April 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 12.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 1 May - Cloud, sun, 18C; 2 May - Sun, 17C; 3 May - Sun, 18C.

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

Back to grey again, with rain likely and not much by way of sun until later in the day. Better tomorrow, and the following days forecast suggests that fine spring weather is back.

Evening update (19.15): There was some rain but not too much. Sun out later but cloud still around. High of 19.8C when the sun came through but at times down at the 14 or so mark.

Lousy Communications: The tourist tax

So now the confusion kicks in. The tourist tax was being discussed on "Good Morning Britain" on Thursday. Lack of clarity was a key message. This is hardly surprising when tour operators are themselves not totally clear and when the foreign media is likewise uncertain. Some of the reporting is laughable, such as the headline from "Metro" which referred to the cost of holidays to Spain going up. The report did then specify the Balearics, but why give the impression that it was the whole country? The same report then quoted someone from ABTA who seemed to be under the impression that the tax revenue will be used solely for the conservation of the marine environment. Perhaps it was a case of selective reporting.

The final text of the sustainable tourism tax law did show one or two changes from what had been the draft text. A significant one is that the 50% reduction on the daily charge starts on the ninth day of a stay. The original intention had been from the eleventh day. There is also an amendment to the purposes for the tax revenue. Marine environment is one of a raft of purposes, but gone from the previous list is anything specific for the promotion of tourism (with the exception of the promotion of sustainable tourism, however this might be defined). Also gone is any redevelopment of resort infrastructures.

The text of the law establishes that "projects of an environmental character will be prioritised". Although members of the government, such as the finance minister, Catalina Cladera, have insisted this is not a return to the old eco-tax, it would appear that it primarily is - with an emphasis on protection, conservation, modernisation and recovery of the natural, rural, agrarian and marine environments.

The confusion and the misleading reporting stem, I'm sorry to have to say, from the incoherence that has dogged the introduction of the tax law and from the lousy communications of the government. Let me cite an example. So poor have these been that I, not exactly a wholehearted advocate of the tax, once binned a communication from the ministry and rewrote the whole thing for them from scratch (and it was published). If you're going to introduce a tax, at least try and get the message over in a sympathetic and persuasive fashion: that was what I attempted to do.

The incoherence has arisen because of the various interests of the political parties, individuals within them and the environmental lobby (six of whom will be on the commission to determine how the revenue is spent; there are also six from business). This has meant that the purposes for the tax revenue have shifted. It has been said to me that, left to his own devices, Biel Barceló might have brought in rather different legislation. I'm sure he would have done. There are those to the left of him in his own political grouping (Més) and in Podemos. He has had to bow, for the purposes of agreements for government, to these interests. The consequence is a dog's breakfast of a law, being poorly implemented, being introduced at the wrong time, being badly communicated. Other than all this, it's fine.

Index for April 2016

Balearic government and ministerial quotas - 5 April 2016, 10 April 2016
Convention centres and the Palacio de Congresos - 29 April 2016
Dry stone - 11 April 2016
Fiestas and changing traditions - 18 April 2016
Food trucks - 24 April 2016
Fornalutx correbou - 27 April 2016
Graffiti - 17 April 2016
Innovation and research - 6 April 2016
Mario Conde - 14 April 2016
National tourism ministry - 20 April 2016
Panama papers and Mallorca hoteliers - 8 April 2016
Partido Popular leadership - 12 April 2016
Pedro Zaragoza and Spain's tourism past - 26 April 2016
Public way and terraces - 21 April 2016
Puerto Pollensa: pedestrianisation and ice-cream kiosk - 23 April 2016
Republican homage after 85 years - 15 April 2016
Silvia Cano - 3 April 2016
Spain and government - 13 April 2016, 25 April 2016, 28 April 2016
Terrorism and tourists - 22 April 2016
Theodore Pratt - 4 April 2016
Time and working day - 7 April 2016
Tourismphobia - 19 April 2016
Tourist tax - 2 April 2016, 9 April 2016, 16 April 2016, 30 April 2016
Youth unemployment - 1 April 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2016

Morning high (8.39am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 30 April - Cloud, sun, 19C; 1 May - Sun, cloud, 16C; 2 May - Sun, 17C.

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

Much better morning: some cloud but sunny. Due to cloud over later on. The weekend a mixed bag with sunny spells and the possibility of showers.

When Mallorca Was A Conventions Pioneer

Palma's Palacio de Congresos is almost ready to go, almost being the operative word. There are things missing, such as seats in the auditoriums and anyone to actually manage the convention centre (and hotel). Neither of these is a minor detail. Both of these say much about how the centre's development has been blighted by the small print of tender agreements. The contest for the seats was ruled invalid (by a court) after one of the bidding companies which had been knocked out early on in the process complained. The court upheld the complaint. They're bidding all over again for the right to be the company which installs the seats.

They will also, once the specification has been finalised, be bidding for the management of the complex. There had to be a new bid because someone at the university (not a court therefore) determined that the award which had been made was not sound. The small print pertaining to the value of the hotel had been overlooked. It all got terribly complicated and terribly tedious. Let's pray that this next bid isn't also found to have some irregularity, though who can rule out that we won't have more of the same: an apparent inability to set watertight contractual conditions.

Retracing the tortuous path of how we got to where we are with the Palacio is unnecessary. It's all been explained time and time again. But there is one fairly fundamental issue that does perhaps still need explaining. Why was it ever considered to have been a good idea to build it in the first place?

A simple answer is that the then Balearic president, Jaume Matas, a man who never knowingly undervalued a good vanity project when one presented itself, decreed its building. This was despite advice that it would cost too much and couldn't guarantee a good return. But such were projects in those days. Let's think of others. Palma Arena, the metro, Son Espases. The latter can be excused, albeit that the courts have yet to truly sink their teeth into it.

Although there were those who advised against, there were also plenty who were in favour. Matas was not alone among the politicians. There was widespread, cross-party support for the Palacio. There was also plenty of business backing - if only in spirit rather than cash. Then there was the apparent need for and sense of a project that had been long neglected.

Palma and Mallorca had been left way behind by other convention centres. Madrid and Barcelona between them hoover up significant portions of the global exhibition and conference trade. They were doing so in 2003, the year that Matas became president for the second time. The mainland had other venues, some of them yet to be built. Why did Mallorca need one?

At the end of the 1960s, a time when the global industry for conferences and exhibitions was still in comparative infancy, this industry was barely unheard of in Spain. Facilities which existed were more or less confined to the 1929-built Montjuïc fair in Barcelona. But in 1967 and 1969 along came two facilities that, and it has been described thus, made Mallorca a pioneer at national level for events' facilities: they were the Pueblo Español, with its own palace of congresses, and Palma's auditorium.

The point is that Palma had the wherewithal to have become a major conventions centre. It didn't because, despite the advantages it enjoyed from the end of the 1960s, there was no real further investment. It was already appreciated that the type of tourism that conventions attracted was of a vastly more profitable nature than regular sun-and-beach tourism and that it helped to dilute the impact of seasonality. A spend of some seven times more should have been an element for building on those late 1960s advantages. They were not, unless one includes the comparatively inconsequential contributions of Playa de Palma's auditorium (1984) and the two auditoriums opened in 1999 - Alcudia and Cala Millor.

In the 1970s there were two important developments - there was the ABTA convention in Mallorca in 1973 (at the auditorium) and the Mallorca Tourism Congress of 1979. The latter, it was said, pointed the way towards a "new style of congress". But whatever the successes of these congresses, there was very little advancement of Mallorca's position as a destination for conventions. Not even the creation of the fairs and congresses department when the regional government was formed in 1983 made a great deal of difference.

It has been argued, and rightly so, that conference and exhibition tourism was of marginal concern for an island growing rich on an essentially one-dimensional type of tourism - sun and beach. The opportunities that had existed for Mallorca to have become a major conventions' destination were lost. The Palacio de Congresos was needed, but the idea for it in 2003 was some 25 years too late.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2016

Morning high (7.30am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 29 April - Cloud, sun, 18C; 30 April - Cloud, 15C; 1 May - Cloud, sun, 16C.

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

Grim sky this morning and there has been some rain. Sun due to appear only later in the day.

Evening update (20.45): The sun couldn't be arsed. Rain for much of the day, though never heavy. High of 15.1C.

The Never-Ending Election

The people of Spain will go to the polls again on 26 June. This date hadn't just been written in the stars. It had been written in the press right from the time that Mariano Rajoy told David Cameron there would be an election three days after the referendum. It had in fact been written as long ago as 20 December. When the results of the general election became known, there was already momentum gathering towards a second election: a momentum born out of the singular inability of the political parties to generate their own momentum towards creating accords of sufficient viability to form a government.

Spain is in uncharted territory, cast adrift in a sea of confusion and disruption. It is proving impossible to reconcile the ambitions and achievements of the two usurpers of political power - Podemos and Ciudadanos - with the baggage and histories of PSOE and the Partido Popular. It is further impossible to reconcile the competing ideologies of these two usurpers. Like unexpected challengers for a Premier League title, they battle it out to see which one emerges the stronger and assumes the crown of victors over the old guard. They both play pressing games at high tempo, pressing their claims with a constant barrage of new political thought but doing so according to competing systems. Podemos is all-out attack on institutions and the wealth of the old guard; Ciudadanos is defensive, minded to not let loose either the institutions of state (such as national unity with Catalonia) or the wealth of the capitalist state.

Where does Spain go from here? Quite possibly to a further election. The June election, if the opinion polls prove accurate, will supply only slight shifts from the pre-Christmas election. The PP might gain a little, Podemos might gain, the C's might push forward. PSOE may well stay where they were or drop back, the dominant alternative to the PP but without dominance: lame and torn between the past and the future. Pedro Sánchez, for all his words, would still rather he didn't need to sit with Podemos around a government table. He blames both Pablo Iglesias and Mariano Rajoy for the impasse. In truth, they are all to blame: ideologies cannot be reconciled. Yet there is the prospect of Podemos and the United Left forming a pact that might result in it being the premier force of the left above PSOE. But let it not be overlooked that there are tensions within Podemos that could undermine such a pact.

Come 26 June and the time to decide, and the outcome will provide a sense of déjà vu. There will be meetings, negotiations, offers and counter-offers, just as there have been since Sánchez failed - to no one's surprise - to garner sufficient support for his investiture in March. But to what end? For Sánchez to accede to Podemos demands would be a capitulation. He has so wedded himself to the pact with Albert Rivera and the C's that making room for Iglesias is pretty much an inherent impossibility. He cannot turn to Rajoy. An accord with the PP would likewise represent a capitulation. His humiliation would be complete. If he remains.

So predictable has the June election become that parties have already been in discussions as to how they will present themselves. The left in the Balearics is edging towards a pact that might see Podemos allying itself with Més and the United and Republican Left. The PP has "ordered" the regional leadership (temporary) to maintain the list of candidates it had in December. Mateo Isern will be number one again, and he will once more end up as a Congress deputy.

Meanwhile, the uncertainties and the inability of Sánchez to arrive at an agreement with Iglesias - a last-minute proposal from the Valencia left-wing Compromis party was met with the sound of the Podemos door being slammed - are causing deep concerns in Palma. President Armengol has been insisting that her government, with Podemos the onlooking determiners of policy, is stable. It now looks less so.

Moreover, if there were still to be no new government of the left after 26 June, then the Balearics would find itself further out on a limb, unable to press for changes that had been hoped for. One of the principal reasons why Biel Barceló and Més finally accepted a pact with Armengol was an understanding on financing from national government, one that Sánchez would deliver. He is no nearer being able to guarantee this than he was on 20 December.

Though the regional government was obviously formed on the basis of the regional and not the national election, a strong, combined showing by Més and Podemos on 26 June would weaken Armengol. Her position may become untenable.

Stability, for all that it is trumpeted, has been lost. Whatever happens on 26 June, the instability will be greater. Uncharted territory indeed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2016

Morning high (8.03am): 10.9C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 28 April - Cloud, 19C; 29 April - Sun, cloud, 15C; 30 April - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3 backing East 3 to 4 around midday.

Fair enough morning but the forecast is for cloud all day and not a lot of sun. Tomorrow cloudier still with the chance of some rain.

Evening update (21.15): High of 21.8C. Largely light cloud all day.

Under Attack: Fornalutx

The village of Fornalutx in the Tramuntana is a pretty place, and there are those who will say that it is Mallorca's prettiest. This has been officially recognised. The Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) once awarded it the silver plaque for the defence and maintenance of the village. The national tourism ministry also gave it an award, as did GOB, the environmental group. Yes, it's a pretty place, but with an ugly side.

According to the figure for 2015, Fornalutx has a population of 703. This small settlement of people has much to be proud of. However, in September 2013, as an example, more than 21,000 people signed a petition directed at something which they considered the population of the village should not be proud of. At the weekend, some 250 people defended it.

The animal-rights group AnimaNaturalis recently posted a video onto its Facebook page. "This is exactly what the supporters of bull events do not want recording." It shows the commencement of the "correbou", the bull-run. The bull, with ropes tied to both horns, jumps, turns over, gets up, turns over. The slow-motion writhing and leaping ceases as the run gets underway, the bull pursued by a number of fiesta revellers.

The 250 may all have been from Fornalutx. If so, then over a third of the village turned out in defence of the correbou. This defence has official support. The town hall has made clear that it disagrees with the correbou's inclusion in the government's amendment of the 1992 animal protection law. Under this, any event in which an animal suffers will be outlawed. This official support extends to PSOE. The party in the village is likely to split from the regional party, one of the sponsors of the amendment.

The more than 21,000 who signed the 2013 petition quite clearly didn't all live in Fornalutx. How many residents of the village might have signed? How many residents of the village are themselves opposed to the correbou? There have to be some, but ... . It was once explained to me, apropos the bullfight in Alcudia, that it was awkward for the Mallorcan population to show their opposition. There were different reasons why. It is now becoming less awkward. Opinion has turned. Only Muro, it might be said, is as obstinate as a bull itself in clinging steadfastly to its "tradition". In the village of Fornalutx, though; well, it is a small place.

In 2010, Guardia Civil officers needed to draw batons. A protest by AnimaNaturalis, staged in the centre of the village, drew considerable opposition, some of it violent. The photographic evidence of this was revealing. It was not only the older population who were angered by the protest. So were the young. Assuming they were all from Fornalutx.

There is a great deal of evidence - photographic, video - of the bull-run. Some of it can seem surprising. Not all those looking on are locals. There are tourists as well. Cameras and smartphones at the ready. What do they see? Tradition, culture, the highlight of the village's summer fiesta. They also see an animal being tormented. In an odd sense, there is more to despise about the correbou than the bullfight. There are those, and one has to take their word, who profess respect, even love for the bulls that they slaughter in the bullring. This stems perhaps from the old honour of the bullfight: honour for both parties - the slayer and the slain. The correbou has none of this. Or appears not to. A bull is run for the sheer hell of it. Where's the respect or the love?

The feelings of the whole village are not being taken into consideration, has said the mayor, Antoni Aguiló. The whole village? All 703 of them? The weight of villager support, even if it may not be total, is nevertheless great. In the face of legislative prohibition, in the face of the numbers of those signing petitions which overwhelm the numbers in this small village, in the face of condemnation and the campaigning, the villagers defend their right to the correbou. It is part of village identity, part of being a "fornalutxenc". If your identity is threatened, would you not seek to defend it? Or does the symbolism, the manifestation of this identity disqualify the right to a defence?

The same line of argument can be made for the so-called national party of the bullfight. The nation's identity is under attack, it will be argued. But this is an identity that is clearly not felt by many (a majority even), while the comparison is invalidated by scale. This is a small village clinging to a relic of its past, a definition. A closing of ranks is understandable.

The ban will surely apply to the correbou. It will produce cheers and jeers in unequal measure. Fornalutx will still be pretty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2016

Morning high (8.04am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 27 April - Cloud, sun, 20C; 28 April - Cloud, 16C; 29 April - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Sunny morning, sunny day coming.

Evening update (21.00): High of 23.5C. Decent enough.

The Man Who Invented Sun And Beach

One of the favoured acronyms that Mallorca's town halls baffle us all with is the PGOU. It stands for Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (or Urbanística). Essentially, it is the grand design for a municipality's urban planning. Go to many a town hall website or to a town hall's planning department, and you will discover this plan. It will be colour-coded according to various purposes: the whole of the municipality mapped plot by plot dependent on what function the land has.

In very general terms the plan will follow three basic guidelines: land already developed, land that could be developed and land that cannot be (in theory if not always in practice). This template is sixty years old this year. It has been worked over and adapted during this time, town hall administrations of differing hues amending the colours of the codes in line with their own colours (as is happening at present).

The first ever global PGOU was for Spain as a whole (there had been a specific one for Madrid ten years before). Guidelines were to be ones followed by provincial, city, town and village administrations (there weren't regional authorities as such in those days). This first plan came under what was known as the Land Law, a classic example of how the highly centralised regime under Franco operated. The vast country of Spain with its enormous diversity was to be plotted and planned in accordance with central diktat. It was, but only up to a point. More remote parts of the country didn't always observe the rules. You can probably guess at least one part of Spain where the rules were not always followed according to the letter of the law.

The 1956 plan was to prove to be significant, not least because the acronym has remained in use ever since. It was significant in another way because of its chief architect. In the history of Spain's tourism there was a man known far more for a different innovation, one which, bizarrely enough, was to contribute to his becoming a trusted member of the Franco regime. He was Pedro Zaragoza. The mayor of Benidorm from 1950 to 1967, if things had turned out differently, he wouldn't have been the architect of the plan. Nor might Benidorm have become what it is. Nor might Mallorca's resorts have become what they are.

Zaragoza was the mayor who first permitted the wearing of bikinis on beaches. There were then rules on what could be worn on beaches and the bikini was the last thing that Spanish women would have worn. But Zaragoza didn't have local women in mind. He was interested in foreign women and foreign tourists. He involved himself directly in promoting Benidorm as a holiday destination. It was he who was largely attributed with coming up with "sun and beach" as a phrase and also with the notion of "bottled sun".

The story of the bikini is one of the most famous in Spain's tourism history. It might be an exaggeration to say that it changed everything, but Zaragoza's initiative most certainly led to a gradual relaxation of attitudes that was to contribute to the eventual boom. The story is as famed as it is because Zaragoza was denounced by the Guardia Civil and then threatened with excommunication by the church. Undeterred, he went right to the top. He met Franco and the bikinis of Benidorm were permitted, as was a local bylaw under which anyone insulting a woman for wearing one would be fined.

In 2014, a short film comedy was made about this famous meeting. Entitled "Bikini", it is now available on YouTube. It is of course in Spanish but even if one is unfamiliar with the language, the comedy comes through, such as when Franco is attempting to determine what the bikini top actually entails. There is of course some licence but the film is pretty faithful to what happened, such as Zaragoza having travelled all the way to Madrid on his Vespa: Franco was not wholly impressed by his using an Italian scooter.

Zaragoza didn't meet the Generalissimo solely to plead his case for the bikini. It was when Franco was shown the numbers - the potential revenues from a new brand of tourism - that he came round to Zaragoza's arguments. He, Franco, was convinced, but someone else needed convincing - his wife, Carmen. Zaragoza had another idea - the Benidorm Festival of Spanish Song. The bikini was in the bag.

This was no liberal. Zaragoza was a Falangist and it was his orthodoxy that eventually led him to the regime's inner circle and to the creation of the land plan. Had the meeting turned out differently, who can say how developments might have been. The plan was to be the template for Benidorm, the Costas and for Mallorca, as also and as importantly was the bikini.

Monday, April 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2016

Morning high (8.34am): 12C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 26 April - Sun, 21C; 27 April - Cloud, sun, 16C; 28 April - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4 veering Southeast 3 in the afternoon.

Fairly cloudy. Limited sun forecast today. An alert for coastal conditions will cease as overnight winds ease this morning.

Evening update (20.45): High of 18.5C. Cloudy and quite chilly this morning, but the sun appeared later on.

The Honorary Prime Minister Of Spain

In preparing the publication of calendars and diaries, they now have to include the twice-yearly Fiesta of Mariano. This peculiar fiesta, one that will doubtless assume status as being in the cultural interest (along with bullfighting), involves Spaniards dragging themselves off to polling booths in ever dwindling numbers once every six months in a vain attempt to rid themselves once and for all of the nation's honorary president (sorry, honorary prime minister). It will of course never happen. Hence, why the fiesta will become a permanent feature of the nation's fiesta calendars.

The King, who has surely been consumed by a wearisome dose of déjà vu, was obliged once more to have to receive Mariano in order that the honorary PM could inform him that he is in no position to form a new government. The King had surely already figured this out for himself. But protocol is insistent, and the first of this year's Fiestas of Mariano seems destined to take place on 26 June: a slightly delayed version of Midsummer madness. As for the second, they may as well as combine it with Christmas Day and let churches double as polling booths in the hope that turnout might edge above 10%.

Meanwhile, Sr. Churches, The Hairy One of Podemos, who appears to be increasingly agitated by the prospect of not making it into government, has taken to alienating himself ever more from the Fourth Estate. At a presentation for a book (not his) entitled "In Defence Of Populism", he not only started rambling on about there being a Freudian relationship with the media but also suggested that some journalists were thinking of their careers in writing things that were not true and that the media should be controlled by the state. Not totally surprisingly, some members of the Fourth Estate walked out.

One does wonder if Pablo isn't rather losing it. Having appeared to wish to purge the Infant Errejón, it was being suggested (by an element of the Fourth Estate) that the Infant might be aiming to jump ship and join PSOE. Worse still was the sight of the Infant getting close up though not overly personal with glamorous Madrid PP president, Cristina Cifuentes, who - horror of horrors - would have a sporting chance of replacing Mariano, were he to ever cease to be honorary PM.

At the press breakfast at which the two appeared, there was a photo of the two smiling in each other's company. What on Earth could this all mean? Well, far be it for me to suggest, but it wouldn't have made Pablo's humour any better.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2016

Morning high (8.11am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 25 April - Cloud, sun, 17C; 26 April - Sun, cloud, 17C; 27 April - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Pleasant enough morning, though the forecast isn't particularly good: rain could be around later. Week's outlook: reasonable though not especially warm.

Evening update (21.30): Rain didn't put in an appearance, though there were times when it looked as if it might chuck down. Sunny spells, high of 20.3C.

Meals On Wheels: Food trucks

The chuckwagon was supposedly invented by one Charles Goodnight in Texas in 1866. His was a meal supply vehicle for cowboys herding cattle across the vast expanses of the Wild West. The food served up by the wagon trail "cookie" was rudimentary and needed to be easy to preserve. The means of cooking was likewise basic: water and kindling were used to heat food.

One hundred and fifty years after Goodnight first modified a Studebaker army-surplus wagon, the descendant of the chuckwagon has become a mobile gastronomic experience. This development was also of American origin and a very much more recent one. Economic crisis, so it is said, caused there to be a surplus of out-of-work chefs, while mobile vehicles supplying food in particular to construction sites themselves became surplus to requirements. Throw in a healthy spoonful of hip street culture, and the food truck of the new age was born.

There have of course been all sorts of mobile food vehicles in different countries and over many decades. The British roadside caff, for instance, was often a semi-permanent caravan, modified to provide hamburgers, bacon sandwiches and mugs of brackish tea. There was rarely anything particularly sophisticated about the forerunners of the contemporary food truck, with one very notable exception: the mobile catering crews for filming locations. Highly-paid actors and directors would settle for nothing less than transportable à la carte.

The food truck phenomenon, as it has become, was only first being truly observable (in the USA) some seven or eight years ago. Being American, it drew on the folklore of the truck in the country's culture, one dating back to the wagon trails and then to the enormous transport trucks traversing the nation. Along the way, this folklore acquired all amount of outlandish qualities. The food truck is an amalgam of this folklore brought up to date to create a gastronomic experience, one being exported worldwide. Hence, there is no translation. In Spain, in Mallorca, a food truck is a food truck.

On 16 May last year, the grounds of Palma's Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art were the setting for an event called Van Big, the first street food festival "made in Mallorca", and these English words were used to describe it, thus reinforcing the imported culture. In Spanish, though, it was explained that this was a "nomadic, gypsy" festival and one of the street - creative gastronomy on wheels. The food truck had truly arrived in Mallorca. 

There were seven trucks in all, their cuisine ranging from hamburgers to organic veg, to homemade Mallorcan and black pork and vegetarian tapas, to cakes and to ice-creams. The names of the trucks explained much: Manduka Street Food, La Pickup, El Perrito Callejero.

The Es Baluard event was a great success. And suddenly, therefore, the food trucks were popping up elsewhere. In Inca last November, for instance, the Van Big gastronomic experience took over the courtyard of the one-time General Luque Guardia Civil barracks. In addition to the "implosion" of this gastronomy, there were the trappings of a fiesta within a fiesta (or fair in the case of Inca's Dijous Bo). Music, artistic performances and what was described as "urban sketching", a sort of controlled exercise in graffiti art.

So we come to this weekend and to the Streetfood Festival Mallorca, the First Street Food Primavera in Puerto Alcudia. It started on Friday afternoon and goes on today. Trucks from Es Baluard are there, as are Kitchen on Fire and Toni's Food Truck. Music, cocktails, children's entertainment, charity events: a fiesta in its own right.

And creating a fiesta, with full town hall or other institutional support and permission, is how, pretty much, food trucks have to operate. This is Mallorca, this is Spain. Anyone fancying just taking a truck out with some food on it and parking in any old street will run up against the labyrinth of regulations for this or that. This is not the land of the truck, as might be the case in the US. Nevertheless, the food truck phenomenon is growing, so much so that there are businesses from which ready-converted trucks can be bought or hired.

At heart though, the food trucks are part of what isn't the erroneously styled "implosion" of gastronomy, as it was described at Es Baluard and in Inca, but of the explosion of Mallorca's gastronomy. Cuisine and its promotion is everywhere, and the chances are it will be coming to you, wherever you are in Mallorca. Coming to you on wheels.

* Photo of a couple of the food trucks which were at Puerto Alcudia's recent sepia fair.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2016

Morning high (8.24am): 13.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 24 April - Cloud, sun, 19C; 25 April - Cloud, 15C; 26 April - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

Nice morning. Sunny and calm. Due to cloud up later on and there may be some rain this evening and overnight.

Evening update (19.45): Decent, a high of 23.9C. No sign of any rain as yet.

Getting Angry In Puerto Pollensa

People have been getting angry in Puerto Pollensa. People are signing petitions, people are falling out, people are arranging demonstrations. It seems like 2010 all over again, when the people took to the streets and when the then mayor, Joan Cerdà, was all but barricaded inside the one-time municipal building.

The hopeless pedestrianisation pilot scheme of the Cerdà administration - abandoned by the time the 2010 protest took place at the start of June that year - was just one ingredient that went into a whole menu of complaints directed at the town hall. The actual scheme, the one being worked on at present, has once more put the town hall in the firing line but it has also, as has been revealed on social media, driven something of a wedge between people.

Then there are the charges that the town hall has had to respond to that the new pavements do not permit accessibility for wheelchairs (or indeed baby buggies and any other form of wheeled device). A levelling-off that will allow smooth accessibility will not be done until the second phase this winter. In the meantime, says the town hall, temporary solutions will be adopted that allow for wheelchair use.

Anyway, at 11am on Monday there is to be a form of protest to highlight the difficulties posed at present for wheelchair, mobility and buggy users.

Slightly ironic in light of the other reason for anger is the meeting place for this protest. It will be in front of Gran Café 1919, the establishment by the yacht club roundabout that found itself at the centre of the most colossal row that broke out last weekend. While the falling-out over the pedestrianisation might have appeared somewhat personal at times, that was nothing compared to this controversy. It is highly personal.

To cut to the chase, this involves the ice-cream kiosk of Gelats Valls in front of Gran Café 1919. The kiosk has been there and been operated by the Valls family since the 1960s. It is, say many, emblematic, a part of the Puerto Pollensa furniture. However, a 2015 town hall decision made it clear that as the kiosk is on the public way there has to be a tender for its operation. The Valls family were informed of this and told that the kiosk could not re-open this year, subject to the tender process being initiated and completed. It has re-opened.

The family says that there was once an award for the kiosk for a period of 99 years or until such a time as the families (Valls and Martorells) ceased to be involved in the ice-cream business. A problem with this is that no one can find the documentary evidence.

The town hall had been going through a process of annual reconfirmation of the kiosk's activities, but in September 2014 it received a communication from Café Capuchino 1919 SL, the company under which Gran Café 1919 trades. This was essentially a request for the town hall to consider the occupation of the public way by the kiosk. The communication also suggested that the kiosk represented an invasion of space authorised or authorisable for use by the cafe. It would appear that it was this which resulted in the town hall decision of May 2015 that the authorisation to Valls would cease at the end of the year and that the space would revert to the town hall, which would place the kiosk up for tender.

The story of this is, on the one hand, a story of nostalgia and of the rights of the small, family business. Everyone, tourist and resident alike, seems to have their own story and recollection of the kiosk, the ice-cream and the founders. On the other, it is a story of what can only be described as resentment directed at a bigger business concern. Gran Café 1919 is just one establishment which ultimately belongs to Grupo Boulevard.

There is a good deal of history in Puerto Pollensa concerning Boulevard, and all this old resentment burst out because of the Valls affair. Some of what has been expressed on social media, directed at Boulevard and at its owner, borders on the libellous, as do some observations made about the town hall. In some ways, it has become a story of classic smalltown politics and business, replete with rivalries and hostilities. In others, it is just about people, some with long memories of holidays and residence, sticking up for a well-loved ice-cream kiosk which seems to be a victim.

Emotions have been allowed to run high. Rather too high. The pedestrianisation works, admittedly a less than satisfactorily managed project, will cease soon enough, and hopefully the ill-feeling will cease as well. As for the ice-cream kiosk, perhaps a hope that the town hall had expressed for a "satisfactory and amicable solution" prior to the kiosk having re-opened might yet be found.

Friday, April 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2016

Morning high (7.53am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 23 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 24 April - Cloud, sun, 16C; 25 April - Sun, cloud, 15C.

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

Cloudy again, though not with cloud hovering almost above your head as it was yesterday. Some sunny stuff later. Tomorrow much better, it is forecast.

Mallorca, Terrorism And Tourists

The arrest of the IS suspect in Palma this week contributed to a flurry of overseas media hysteria. "Good Morning Britain", so I'm told (never see it), got in on the alleged summer terrorist target bandwagon of the "Daily Mail" and others. This story with "reliable" sources included the ever so reliable "Bild", a newspaper that veers between bland profiles of the Paradise Island and every available opportunity to stick the boot in. As evidence, one could cite the time that Mallorca (and specifically Playa de Palma because of its strong German association) was the source of bird flu in Germany. It wasn't.

It is inevitable that such stories do get whipped up, however wide of the mark they might be. One recalls how the travel editor of "The Sun" forecast the virtual end of tourism as we know it in light of the Palmanova bombing and murder of two Guardia officers and the subsequent very minor bomb incidents. All the work of ETA, her analysis was all the more ridiculous for having come from someone with her job title.

This isn't to downplay a possible threat. It would be equally ridiculous to state categorically that there could not be an incident. The world doesn't work like this, more's the pity. But however good the Spanish security forces are with intelligence and operations (and they are good), consideration will surely be being given to extra measures. One of these might be, despite authorities being loathe to introduce them, cameras on beaches.

While these do exist for certain specific reasons, they are not deployed in a general sense. Privacy dominates the thinking and rightly so. But it might be remembered that following the Palmanova bombing there were cameras installed which were trained on certain beaches in Mallorca. They ended up creating a rumpus, not least because the tourism ministry, whose idea it was, had not sought permission to install them. Its justification lay with an old threat from ETA to do precisely what is now once again being spoken of: bombs on beaches.

Meanwhile, and also inevitably, the overseas media cottoned on, rather slowly it has to be said, to the anti-tourist graffiti in Palma. It finally made the pages of British ("The Telegraph", for instance), Swedish and Dutch newspapers and also those of Germany's "Stern" and "Die Welt". But was it correct, as one publication had it, that there is "fury" being directed towards tourists? Though I drew attention the other day to the potential rise in the "tourismphobia" phenomenon, it needs reiterating that the graffiti was the work, in all likelihood, of a couple of what one local Spanish paper here referred to as "imbeciles". Where such fury may or may not exist, I would suggest, is mainly confined to Palma and the city, the consequence of the inundations from cruise ships and the takeover of private accommodation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2016

Morning high (7.55am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 22 April - Cloud, 21C; 23 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 24 April - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 3.

Grey old morning. Rain overnight. Due to pick up, though no indication of that at present.

Evening update (20.45): The grim cloud lifted and so late morning the sun came out. Some cloud later. High of 23.8C.

In A Public Way

You hear a great deal about the public way. It hasn't as yet been restyled as the citizens' way, but it can surely only be a matter of time. The political new age demands that everything is in the name of the citizen, irrespective of whether a long-established term might carry a degree of legalese. And matters of legality dominate the public way. They are their own invisible obstacles to perambulating citizens. Or alternatively, they are means of liberating this people's space and consigning its defilers to cloistered huddles up against the windows of a bar - or not, as the case may be, and it is the case.

Where is this way, you may well ask. It is to be seen all around. It is walked on, sat on, ran on, biked on. Every street, every prom, the way is public. And this public dimension determines what parts of the public way can be scrutinised by security cameras. The public needs its privacy. 

A conclusion that might be drawn by the very term the public way is that the public in some way owns it. This, despite the fight for the citizens' rights of way being waged by political parties, groups who wish to save this or that, Facebook and campaigns in states of high dudgeon, isn't the case. The public is lent its way. Someone else always owns it. Part of the problem, however, is knowing who. Or what.

Though the public does not have ownership, because of the new age, it does get its say. Hence, there was the citizens' vote to decide the fate of the terraces on Palma's Born. And the citizens duly spake - all some 3.75% of Palma's total population. The public way could be owned by the terraces - right down the middle of the wooded avenue - though of course the terraces (or rather the bar owners) do not own the way. The town hall does. The way, in this instance, belongs to it. In its magnanimity, it has permitted others to borrow it in return for sizable rental income.

Terraces are perhaps the most discussed of public way matters. How much terrace can or should there be? What should the furniture that sits on it look like and be made of? What hours can it be open for? Such questions exercise the minds of town councillors across Mallorca. The terrace, a symbol of summery and less than summery socialising for as long it has been since someone came up with the idea of sticking seats on the public way, creates its own controversies. And because of the legalese associated with the public way, these normally end up in, variously, fines, court appearances and the inevitable "denuncia". One man's public way is most certainly not another's. Or, one man would rather like to get his hands on a part of the public way currently being occupied by another.

This, at least in part, is the background to the social-network frenzy that has turned normally genteel Puerto Pollensa into a public-way fury. An ice-cream kiosk, there from a time when even the most veteran of Puerto Pollensa advocates would find it hard to dredge out reminiscence, is the subject of a public-way takeover. Or so it seems. The only problem is (not the only one in truth) that the cones have been served these past fifty years on what is clearly public way. Only now has it been decreed, for matters of strict legality, that there should be a tender for its occupation. 

Of course, some bright spark might interfere by suggesting that this isn't public way for the town hall to determine. There was, as establishment owners will recall only too unhappily, some confusion as to who got the royalties for letting terraces occupy the public way. Both the town hall and the Costas Authority were, until it was finally realised that it couldn't be both of them.

In Palma, where the public way is debated more than anywhere else, they're now talking about ensuring that every single terrace conforms to standards of furniture design and colour. This has happened elsewhere in valiant attempts to make the public way not appear to be a total mess of competing colours and bad taste parasols. On balance, it's probably reasonable enough, but nonetheless implies that orthodoxy must exist on the public way: any colour so long as it's a shade of beige.

There also needs to be consideration of Europe when it comes to public way matters. Another Palma terrace carry-on, involving moving terraces closer to their respective establishments, has had to take account of EU doctrine for there being a public way corridor by buildings so that the blind have access and can tap the buildings with walking-sticks.

It can all get terribly complicated. But ultimately, how much way does the public actually need? A great deal, it would seem.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2016

Morning high (7.47am): 14.6C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 21 April - Cloud, 21C; 22 April - Cloud, 18C; 23 April - Cloud, sun, 18C.

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

Light cloud this morning. Should be mostly sunny until the afternoon when cloud will build up and we could be in for some rain.

Evening update (20.15): Forecast was right. Clouding up later on and quite breezy. May be some rain overnight. High of 23.1C.

The Neglected Ministry Of Tourism

One of the oldest national ministries of Spanish government has the title "fomento". The word means development or promotion. It was created in 1832, its principal functions being, as they still are, transport and communications. In 1905 the ministry acquired a further responsibility - tourism, on account of the fact that the national commission for tourism was attached to the ministry. This commission was to evolve into what became the tourism directorate-general, directly responsible to the interior ministry. In 1951 this directorate-general became a ministry in its own right, sharing this with information. The best-known minister for information and tourism was Manuel Fraga, who held the position from 1962 to 1969. Arguably, he is still the best known of all ministers who have ever had tourism responsibilities.

Fraga, though he oversaw propaganda and censorship because of the information part of his remit, was one of Franco's more enlightened ministers. He certainly helped in getting the dictator (and the church and the Guardia Civil) to lighten up or to take a less strict line. His role in Spain's tourism development should not be underestimated.

Post-Franco, the ministry was wound up. The information element was no longer necessary, once censorship was officially done away with. Though this had clearly been an important ingredient for a dictatorial regime, it is possible to argue that the ministry, certainly once Fraga came in, gave tourism the greatest governmental prominence it has ever had. Tourism, thereafter, found itself tied in with trade, then transport and communication (back to the old days, therefore), the economy and finance and finally, in the current government, with industry and energy.

This list doesn't tell the whole story, though. For the entire period of José María Aznar's time as prime minister there was no actual tourism minister: tourism was subordinate to the wider economy in ministerial terms. There have long been calls for there to be a minister at cabinet level with sole responsibility, but it has never happened. Fraga, I would maintain, was the closest Spain ever got in this respect.

As tourism hovers around the 11% GDP mark for the country as a whole, it is legitimate to ask whether the industry merits a dedicated minister and ministry. But as has been said consistently in recent years, tourism has been crucial in helping the Spanish economy to recover. How often have we heard it being described as the driving force behind recovery? So it is obviously an important industry, but its importance varies. There are parts of Spain where tourism is vastly more important than others, and there is no region of the country where it is more important than the Balearics.

For the year 2013, tourism contributed 45.5% of Balearic GDP. The region which came closest was the Canaries (31.2%). In another sun-and-beach region, Andalusia, the percentage - 12.5% - wasn't that much greater than the national figure. Such wide variance goes some way to explain why the resignation of the tourism minister has not been greeted with tears in the Balearics.

José Manuel Soria came into his post as industry, energy and tourism minister with a background of having been a vice-president of the Canaries. With a tourism secretary-of-state, Isabel Borrego, being Mallorcan, it might have appeared that the two archipelagos could be assured of a good hearing in Madrid. Such an expectation proved to be a largely false one. Borrego has been widely vilified by the industry. Soria had a better reception by some parts of the industry but not in the Balearics. Gabriel Barceló, co-founder of the Barceló hotel group, said of Soria: "We have a minister for everything except tourism."

His views were echoed by other big hitters in the Mallorcan tourism industry. When it wasn't the founders of Barceló, Riu, Meliá and Iberostar taking him to one side, it was the former president of the hoteliers' federation. Aurelio Vázquez. Why was the IVA (VAT) rate for the industry not being reduced, as had been promised? Why were Aena being allowed to raise airport charges? But it was the oil business that really caused the anger, and so much so that Soria fell out with a PP colleague, former president, José Ramón Bauzá.

The soundings for oil off the Balearics (and also the Canaries) were unacceptable to the tourism industry and to all political parties. But Soria was in an awkward position. He was energy minister as well. It was his other responsibilities which led Gabriel Barceló to say what he did, and the question had to be asked as to why such a combination of duties was ever considered to have been a good idea.

That, though, is the fate of tourism at national level. Never on its own, it never has a sole voice to defend it, while for the Balearics - with such a high GDP dependence - ministers rarely, if ever, offer satisfaction.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2016

Morning high (7.44am): 12.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 20 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 21 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 22 April - Cloud, 17C.

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

Nice, sunny morning. All's good for today. Tomorrow, the wind will be up and there may be showers.

Evening update (22.45): Pleasant enough. Not as warm as recently. High of 18.9C.

The Rise Of Tourismphobia

It's some five years since I wrote an article entitled "Tourismphobia". The word was a straight lift from Spanish. "Turismofobia" was a condition that was being taken increasingly seriously in the summer of 2011. It was largely attributed to the difficult economic circumstances of the time and to the potential undermining of the principle of reciprocity that exists in the relationship between tourism and its destinations. I observed in 2011 that this reciprocity is "one under which a destination opens its doors, accepts there will be changes but expects some compensation". So long as an equilibrium has been and is maintained, any "underlying social tensions caused by tourism" are minimal.

Five years ago, there was little evidence of this phobia in Mallorca, despite the economic crisis. But it was evident elsewhere. Barcelona was a prime example, and the phobia was to get worse, especially in La Barceloneta, where uncontrolled, illegal rentals were attracting a type of youth tourism that was driving residents to despair. Barcelona was also being overrun. There were, some felt, simply too many tourists.

In the Canary Islands, and Tenerife in particular, there was a feeling of "social divorce" arising from the scale and type of tourism. The phobia was never widespread there, but it was sufficiently obvious for efforts to be made in involving local people in tourism and in its promotion and in communicating the benefits of tourism. A similar campaign in Barcelona made even more strenuous efforts in this regard.

Tourismphobia was a minority social problem, but as I concluded in 2011 its growth could not be discounted. With the graffiti in Palma, might one suggest that the phobia is on the increase?

The regional government - Biel Barceló anyway - has sought to downplay the graffiti. Yes, it sends out a bad message, but an "act of vandalism" shouldn't be blown out of proportion. And up to a point, he is right. From the style of the writing, it is thought that the graffiti was the work of no more than two people. Hardly a mass movement, therefore.

Caution needs to be exercised in extrapolating from a possibly isolated incident in saying that tourismphobia - a social rejection of tourism, if you like - is on the increase. In Palma and in Mallorca, it might require some social attitudes research, rather than anecdote, to establish the existence of the phobia: such research has been carried out in Barcelona. But the Palma graffiti may well be a response to what the Spanish tourism journalist, Xavier Canalis, has drawn attention to: tourism gentrification of cities. This gives rise to a fundamental question: who are cities for, residents or tourists?

Palma's centre has experienced an increase in the number of boutique hotels, an increased number of passengers from huge-capacity cruise ships and also a significant increase in the availability of private accommodation. It is the latter, more so than the others, that has raised concerns with politicians. But it is this very expression of concern, and not just regarding Palma by any means, that might be said to contribute to tourismphobia. 

The political narrative at present is focused on overcrowding - the saturation of tourist areas. It also embraces the nature of employment (worker exploitation) and the need for sustainability. The tourist tax, aka the sustainable tourism tax, comes with its in-built narrative, and it is one predicated on a need to extract dues from tourists to address damage caused by tourism (and therefore the individual tourist). In addition, the narrative demonises hotels, a means of attracting tourists who threaten this sustainability. And now, we also have what seems to be a crisis of lack of accommodation, the consequence of property being made available for ever more tourists.

Javier Vich, the president of Palma's hoteliers, has suggested that it is government policy which gave rise to the graffiti. What he was implying is that the more politicians refer to negative consequences of tourism, then the more the public becomes conscious of them and the more, therefore, that attitudes shift away from what was that one-time reciprocity. The consequence is tourismphobia.

Negative attitudes towards tourism have, in recent years, resulted from the "drunken tourism" of Magalluf and from the impact of all-inclusives. The Palma slogans are not representative of either but appear instead to reflect the city's tourism gentrification allied to apparent overcrowding. Such attitudes can be addressed, as in Magalluf. Although the success is open to debate, the process of transformation may well bring about more positive attitudes. Meanwhile, however, there is the constant narrative that can only help to fuel negative perceptions, and the very conceptualistion of the tourist tax adds to these. There is majority public support for the tax, and because the tax is based on a negative premiss of righting damage, the very existence of the tax can only add to negative attitudes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2016

Morning high (6.36am): 15C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 19 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 20 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 21 April - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 4 to 5.

Better forecast for today than had been the case yesterday. Sunny and pretty warm. Possibilities of showers midweek.

Evening update (21.00): Hazy cloud sort of a day, some sunny spells. High of 20.4C.

The Changing Traditions Of Fiestas

The Mallorcan fiesta is an all-year-round occurrence. Arguably, it is never more spectacular than in January, a month when comparatively few visitors witness the demonic happenings on behalf of the saints Antony and Sebastian, breathe in the smoke of the bonfires and listen to the music - contemporary and ancient - in squares across the island. But it is summer that is most closely associated with fiesta. The word has an almost onomatopoeic quality: its sound is one of summer suffused with vibrant colours, embraced by the heat of the night and the literalism of its meaning - party.

The fiesta is of course more than its contemporary manifestations of DJs, Zumba sessions and children's entertainment gangs. It is tradition, rooted in religious ceremonies and in the idiosyncrasies of island culture. In the recent past - since the late 1970s at least - it has also been the heartbeat of revivalism. The soul of Mallorca was rediscovered. From the ashes of industrial upheaval that caused migration from the fields to the tourist empires of the coasts came the Phoenix of the return of traditional symbols - the instruments (such as the xeremia pipes), the curious and the bizarre (demons, big heads), the folk dances in their various guises. None of this had died out, but much of it had become sidelined in the rush towards a new age of touristic gold in the (some anyway) manufactured resorts.

This process of rediscovery over the past four decades or so has to be considered in the context of current-day developments. They are ones which seek to amend tradition or even eliminate it. And they all come with degrees of argument or controversy attached.

In the town of Alaro, for example, the town hall wants women to be part of the cossier folk dance troupe. Heaven forfend! The townsfolk are said to be divided on the matter, though there appear to be more in favour than against. In an age of equality, the majority view is likely to prevail, and who is to say that it should not. The Alaro case, however, and when set against other arguments, can seem minor, for there are more controversial matters at stake.

Take Soller and its Firó fiesta in May. The showpiece is the Moors and Christians battle, the grandest of all the island battles between invaders and defenders. Bar owners in the Plaça Constitució, the setting for the climax, are unhappy at proposals that they close for a time. Theirs is a commercial controversy, not one to do with tradition. There is another: the simulation of the hanging of peasants by the invading Moors. There have been calls for this to be stopped. They have been made not on the grounds of any political correctness but because of the sensitivities of some: psychological effects or sad reminders of a suicide. The town hall has listened. The hangings will continue.

And then there are fiestas with animals. The controversy is being played out in the Balearic parliament. An amendment to the animal protection act would see the end to any fiesta display that might entail animal suffering. Principally and most obviously this refers to bulls; indeed, bulls are the reason why the amendment is to come before parliament and will surely be approved.

Bullfighting will cease to be. Some will lament its passing. Many more will not. But the ban raises a question about tradition. Is tradition finite? Can it be said to be outdated and to have run its course? There is almost certainly a majority view that it can and should be consigned to the past when it involves bulls. But the people of Fornalutx, with its bull-run the centrepiece of the summer fiesta, are less inclined to this view. While outsiders look on and see barbarism, the villagers see tradition. It will be banned.

But the amendment may affect all manner of other fiesta traditions. Will the live cockerel at the summit of Pollensa's greasy pine of Sant Antoni become history? There are those who have made the case in the past for it being so. They have invoked the ban (now some ten years old) regarding the release of live ducks for the Can Picafort swim of high summer. Yet there is a rule that applies. More than one hundred years of tradition, and the animal tradition is permitted. This is the case in Pollensa but is not in Can Picafort.

There is no rule which says that tradition has to be for all time. No rule which says that tradition cannot be amended. There are traditions worth fighting for and maintaining. There are others which are not.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2016

Morning high (8.26am): 14.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 April - Cloud, 19C; 19 April - Sun, cloud, 16C; 20 April - Sun, cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 by later afternoon.

Some cloud around, picking up though. Pretty good day anticipated. Tomorrow forecast to be cloudy all day with an outside chance of a shower.

Evening update (20.15): Sun came out, it was warm but a light cloud haze came over later on. High of 26.7C.

Catalan Graffiti

Somewhere in the bowels of the education ministry, of the ministry for non-participation and opacity, and Palma's department for culture, patrimony, historical memory and linguistic policy, there will be those muttering sweetly about graffiti bilingualism. Yes, when it comes to graffiti sloganising, the citizens (no more than two of them probably) avoid the temptation of using the third language - that imposed three hundred years ago by a distant relative of the current king. Tell tourists to bugger off, but don't do so in Castellano. That would never do. English? That's ok. Catalan? That's even better.

In my wildest fantasies, I imagine Podemos's Dave Spart and The Boot Girl stealing around ye olde Palma under cover of night, spray cans in one hand and a smartphone in the other: Google Translate into English from Catalan, tourists are terrorists. But Alberto and Laura wouldn't do such things. Let me make that perfectly clear. More likely would be members of the Més-ite sect. They, after all, want the tourist tax honeypot going towards the preservation of crumbling old patrimonial ruins. (Podemos want to spend it all on conserving the habitats of the ancient mountain ant and a small farming plot in Porreres where they grow organic lentils and hope that tourists will be mad enough to pay the vastly inflated sum demanded for a 400 gram jar with a nice eco-looking label; not that any tourist would, given that he will be out of pocket having forked out for the lentil grower.)

No, you see, if the Més-ites deface patrimonial property, a strong case can then be made for the 80 million a year going on some form of magical anti-graffiti gel (biodegradable) that forms a veneer invisible to the naked eye but which allows graffiti to be removed using a Brillo pad and a family-sized bottle of Eroski Ultra washing-up liquid. Bingo! The entire Balearic inventory of old and even older constructions can be protected, including the prehistoric Talayotic sites on which some miscreant might wish to daub "Visca la República!". Well they can. To their heart's and spray can's delight, but the newly diversified economy (pressed into service to protect ancient patrimony 24/7, 365 days of the year) will provide highly paid operatives to get out there and rub it off, with no damage being done to the original stonework.

Alternatively, the Palma graffiti may just have been the work of a couple of pathetic losers.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2016

Morning high (7.12am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 17 April - Sun, cloud, 23C; 18 April - Sun, cloud, 17C; 19 April - Cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 5 easing Variable 2 to 3 around midday.

Quite cloudy first thing. Should lift and give a fine and warm day.

Evening update (20.00): You can't knock it. Pleasant breeze, good sun, high of 26.9C.

Tour Operators Unclear About The Tourist Tax

As we prepare for the July storm to break, the tourist tax is slowly finding its way into the travelling public's consciousness. Trip Advisor has been quite useful in this regard with the sharing of information pleasingly accurate. Less pleasing is a generally negative attitude towards the tax, which is hardly surprising.

Thomson, like Jet2, have been emailing clients to tell them about the tax, but from a quick glance at tour operator websites, the news of the tax doesn't feature prominently. Thomas Cook does at least have a full explanation, though one has to go to Travel Updates to find it listed as "sustainable tourism tax". What is revealing, though, is that Thomas Cook is unable to give totally certain information. This is because it doesn't have it. No one does. On "when and how to pay", it says that it is "likely" that travellers will have to pay when checking in at their accommodation. "The government haven't advised how this should be paid." A recommendation is made to take sufficient euros to cover the cost.

Thomas Cook also can't say whether the tax will apply if travellers arrive before 1 July and then stay beyond the introduction date of 1 July. Again, the recommendation is to have money just in case. As for "why do I have to pay?", Thomas Cook points out that the tax is specifically aimed at tourists, that it is a cost beyond its control. The tour operator accepts that the tax is "something you probably weren't expecting to pay and is sorry the government has decided to bring this in so quickly".

Whatever communications the tourism ministry is sending to the tour operators, they are clearly incomplete and partly this is the result of the tax having been rushed in. Thomas Cook is absolutely right in this regard, and it is more than just regrettable that the ministry (and government) is leaving even the major players, like the big tour operators, in the dark and unable to give complete information. The government's handling of the tax's introduction has been incompetent.

There have been some criticisms of tour operators. If they knew about the tax before, why did they not say anything earlier? It's true enough that the tour operators were well aware of the intention to bring in the tax. It was, for instance, given a good airing at London's Travel Market last November but had been spoken about more or less from the moment the new government took office in late June. In the tour operators' defence, though, until the tax was officially and definitively approved by parliament, it was difficult for them to say anything to their clients. The approval wasn't until the week before Easter, and it might be remembered that there was just a chance - right up until the last minute - that Podemos might have scuppered it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2016

Morning high (7.33am): 11.4C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 16 April - Sun, cloud, 24C; 17 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 18 April - Cloud, 17C.

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

Another quite warm and sunny day in prospect. Things staying good for the weekend.

Evening update (21.15): High of 26.1C. April whoppers.

Paying Homage: 85 years on

They were paying homage yesterday. In towns and villages across the island, they remembered the victims, though the date is more of a celebration. Eighty-five years ago on 14 April, the Second Republic came into being. It was to herald a period of chaos, extraordinary even for a nation that had endured decades of chaos and violence. It was the culmination of all that had been unleashed at least since the time of the Napoleonic War and the drafting of the 1812 Liberal Constitution (some one hundred years earlier, in truth). It ushered in the years of the great dictator - great in the sense that Franco was far more important in dictatorial terms than Primo de Rivera (who had preceded the Republic) had been. Franco can never be considered in isolation. His regime had an inevitability about it: one created by political, religious, monarchical and military disasters. To quote Bismarck: "I am firmly convinced that Spain is the strongest country in the world. Century after century trying to destroy herself and still no success."

Some villages suffered more than most. Pollensa was one of them. Some 26 Republicans were executed. They, and the around 150 people who were imprisoned, were remembered in the town's Seglars square yesterday evening. The executions and imprisonments were often just politically motivated. Being a Republican was a sufficient enough crime. Others who were victims of the Nationalists were so because of motives of revenge. Vendettas, only partly related to the division that fostered the Civil War, were an excuse for payback. Charges were often spurious and weak. I learned recently about a gardener from Pollensa who was imprisoned merely because he had been employed by a Republican.

Pollensa town hall recently expressed its support for the regional government's law on war graves and for the Argentinian legal initiative in respect of violations under Franco. There was almost unanimous backing. The one Partido Popular councillor abstained, out of step with former PP colleagues, including the ex-mayor, who formed a rival group prior to last year's election. For the most part, even the right sympathise with pro-Republican sentiment in Pollensa. Or is this better expressed as anti-Francoist sentiment? There is a difference.

In Palma the homage paid was on a grander scale. Well, there was a DJ as well. It was held in the town hall square - Plaça de Cort. "Visca la República!" said the poster. The gathering had the support of the town hall, Podemos, Més, unions, feminists, a Palestinian group, a Greco-Mallorcan solidarity group and others, one of which was the Fundació Emili Darder. He was the Republican mayor of Palma, shot in 1937. Pollensa's Republican mayor, Pere Josep Cànaves, was shot in 1938.

Why some of these groups were lending their support was not totally clear. But if they wished to, then that was up to them. There was, though, a question about the support shown by the town hall. The PP and the C's questioned it. The town halls' official social media accounts were used to promote the event; Ajuntament de Palma appeared on the poster. The administration, argued the PP/C's, should not be involving itself in something of an ideological and partisan nature.

Absent from the political parties named as supporters was PSOE. By implication, though, it was a supporter. The mayor is a PSOE man, after all. The mayor, José Hila, has appeared to be easily swayed by Republican initiatives. Whereas he once agreed that the Feixina monument should become a monument to the victims of war and so lose its Francoist symbolism, he now heads an administration which has formally announced the specification for the monument's demolition on the Official Bulletin. Hila bends to the will of his political partners, one can't help but feeling. Previous PSOE mayors - all previous and surviving mayors of the democratic era in fact - are opposed to the demolition.

The monument has been allowed to become a cause célèbre, a case of whipping up a storm unnecessarily in the pursuit of ideological righteousness. By some, that is. Does Hila truly subscribe to it? Maybe he does. In the process, division has been created. It may have existed previously but it has been allowed to become more visible, while there are those without strong sympathies either way who have no wish to see the monument go.

One can understand that passions of 80 or more years ago still burn. Heaven knows, it will be 80 years on 17 July when the Civil War broke out with the military uprising in Morocco. There are bound to be events. The past cannot and should not be forgotten. For family descendants, the war graves act might allow them to get that now clichéd word "closure". Remembering and remembrance are appropriate. Ideological posturing is quite a different matter.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 April 2016

Morning high (7.47am): 10.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 15 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 16 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 17 April - Cloud, 21C.

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

And more of the same, thanks very much, though possibly warmer. Light breezes, lots of sun.

Evening update (21.15): Hmm. High of 26.6C.

The Conde Affair: Business corruption

The Panama papers continue to supply sensational reading. Spain's society - politics, royalty, business, the arts, sports - is implicated. The names provide a who's who of the county's VIP establishment: Jóse Manuel Soria, the acting industry, energy and tourism minister; Pilar de Borbón, the King's aunt; Oleguer Pujol, son of Jordi, the former president of Catalonia; Francisco and Juan José Franco, great grandsons of the dictator; Pedro Almodóvar, film director; Lionel Messi, footballer.

Last week, when the leak was becoming a tidal wave, someone was invited onto Spanish television to discuss tax havens. He said that demagogues claim that anyone with a company registered in a tax haven is a "common criminal". There is a great deal of ignorance, he went on. These companies are audited and their taxes are paid. It was "outrageous" to condemn someone just for having a company in countries with tax advantages superior to others. He also suggested that it was "ridiculous" that Spain did not have its own tax haven. He ventured that it could be the Canaries.

A few days later, the person who had said all this was arrested. He is Mario Conde, businessman, politician and an ex-con who now - if perhaps only temporarily - finds himself once more behind bars. Conde is not cited in the Panama papers, but his arrest, coinciding as it does with the leaks, has merely served to crank up the level of outrage. Conde might believe that it is outrageous to attack those who seek advantages in tax havens, but it is far from only demagogues who have been drawing their conclusions. The outrage is great, its timing possibly crucial. The whiff of another type of corruption could yet influence the interminable goings-on with forming a new government or a second election.

Spain's society, given its love affair with football, would probably be unmoved by mention of Messi, who has after all already had his brushes with the tax man. Members of the arts world might likewise be looked upon sympathetically. Politicians and businesspeople, however, are different. And into the roll of business dishonour that there already is comes Conde. Again.

In 1997, he was originally sentenced to six years in prison. In 2001, he was sentenced to fourteen years. The following year, the Supreme Court upped this to twenty years. He went to jail but was released in 2008.

At the heart of this was the so-called "caso Banesto". This erupted in 1993. It was to do with a web of corporate corruption at the bank. Its president was Mario Conde. The actual amount that Conde and others were said to have embezzled from Banesto varies according to reports, but the figure of 26 million euros (its equivalent in pesetas at the time) is common. And his arrest centres on an anti-corruption prosecution investigation that he had been involved in repatriating to Spain more than 13 million euros.

This amount, so it is claimed, had been coming back to Spain from overseas accounts, in particular ones in Switzerland and London, in small amounts - some 3,000 euros at a time - since 1999. Seemingly, it was a very much larger sum, 600,000 euros, that alerted interest. This was a transfer from Switzerland to La Caixa Bank in 2014. It was the bank itself which, in effect, blew the whistle as it had queried the legitimacy of the transfer. A judge at the Spanish High Court, Santiago Pedraz, is now investigating a total of 15 people, including various Conde family members.

Conde always protested his innocence over the Banesto affair. It even found its way to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. There again, Conde had a record of having influential friends. They included, at the time when the Bank of Spain had to intervene with Banesto, the prime minister, Felipe González, and leader of the opposition, José María Aznar. There was also Adolfo Suárez, the man who led Spain's transition to democracy.

Judge Pedraz and the prosecution service are looking into the network of 40 companies that the Conde family had established. It is this web of businesses, plus the offshore element, that has echoes not just of the Panama papers but also the Nóos affair.

Conde is one in that roll of business dishonour. Others include Rodrigo Rato, ex-minister, ex-IMF, ex-banker; Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, ex-president of the Spanish equivalent of the CBI, co-founder of the giant Grupo Marsans; Ángel de Cabo, Díaz Ferrán's Mr. Fix-It, who headed what now seems the mysterious acquisition of the Hotetur chain (Alcudia's Bellevue and all). There are others. 

The Conde affair, this Conde Nasty, just makes the stench more malodorous. It fans the flames of the fire that Podemos, among others, has started, one that has engulfed a society previously only too willingly apathetic in shrugging a collective shoulder and saying that's Spain. There's outrage all right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 April 2016

Morning high (7.49am): 11.4C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 14 April - Sun, 20C; 15 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 16 April - Sun, cloud, 19C.

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

Another good one on the cards. Light breezes, lots of sun. Warm.

Evening update (21.00): Good enough. High of 23.6C.

In Contempt: Parliament and government

The question arises. Or should do. How often has it been asked? And what have been the answers? It needs asking. If there is another general election - probably on 26 June - if the result were much the same as the 20 December election and if there were to be no agreement for government after 26 June, would there be a third election in a further six months time? One would assume that there would be, and that they would carry on having elections until someone finally blinks or they all decide that things have become rather silly. Or maybe they would just carry on and on, elections being held in perpetuity, the Partido Popular remaining in nominal power, Mariano Rajoy being acting premier until the day comes when he keels over.

The question may not have to be put, if they can come up with an agreement. But how can they? If you've lost track of where we are or indeed lost the will to live on account of the never-breaking saga, then here's a reminder as to why they are unable to.

PSOE wants Podemos to back it and the C's. Podemos won't do so. It says no to the C's. They are not "progressive". They are not left-wing. They have no truck with a Catalonia referendum.

The Partido Popular seems prepared to offer Pedro Sánchez the vice-presidency of a coalition government (to include the C's) with Mariano Rajoy remaining number one. PSOE won't accept this. Nor will the C's.

Intractable. That is the problem. Come 2 May, intractable it remains, and there is another election, and all the while the PP and Rajoy are acting. In a semi-permanent state of non-government in which it is now showing contempt. More of this below.

If there is a second election, then the current "pact" between PSOE and the C's would be abandoned. Albert Rivera, the C's leader, has said so. Rivera may be eyeing the polls and seeing his party gaining. Might he therefore contemplate a U-turn and join forces with the PP, which can also point to slight gains (unlike Podemos, which the polls suggest is going backwards)? Never rule anything out, but a U-turn it most certainly would be.

At the last minute, just before the 2 May deadline, might Sánchez and PSOE have a change of heart? Might they say that they have done all they can to bring Podemos into the fold of a "progressive" government. But hard as they have tried, they have been unsuccessful. As a result, and in the interests of the nation (aka citizens), they will agree to a grand coalition with the PP. Never rule anything out, but it would be unlikely, though perhaps less unlikely if Rajoy were to stand aside and let someone else be premier.

Any arrangement that might involve the PP has, though, become even more difficult than it already was. This is because Congress is taking the government (and so the PP) to court. To the Constitutional Court. Why? Because the government, everyone else in Congress says, is in contempt of parliament. Such a contempt charge has never been laid before, but then there has never been a situation as there is at present, with an acting government and an acting premier.

The contempt arises because neither Rajoy nor the defence minister has been prepared to come before Congress to answer questions. The government doesn't need to answer questions and nor should it. The constitution suggests that there can only be questions once a new prime minister has been sworn in, and Rajoy and other ministers are only acting.

It is an extraordinary situation. Rajoy, among other things, has been attending meetings with EU leaders, but he does not have to answer to parliament. At a lesser level of importance, the national finance minister has been talking tough and talking sanctions over the Balearic refusal to amend the deficit - one demanded by a government when it was not acting but now is acting. No wonder the Balearic government has legal services crawling all over the threat. Rajoy and his government maintain that, because of the acting nature of their government, they are answerable to the courts and not parliament itself. Contemptuous? It certainly seems like it.

But might it be said that all the parties and not only the PP are behaving in a contemptuous fashion? Incapable of ironing out differences, stubbornly sticking to the "red lines" which they will not cross, they are bringing the electoral system into contempt. All the while that PSOE fails in brokering a deal, it allows the reviled Rajoy to continue, acting as he apparently seems fit, referring to the courts and not parliament.

The two-party duopoly has been broken, but in its place democracy has created the stasis of contempt: the parties for each other and for the public.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 April 2016

Morning high (7.38am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 13 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 14 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 15 April - Sun, cloud, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 3 to 4 locally Northeast 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

Things starting to crank up, the old UV rating getting to seven now. One of the most pleasant times of the year: warm sunshine but clean air and freshness.

Evening update (20.45): High of 24.4C. Pretty good.

Twits Of Twitter: Partido Popular

If your party suffers a calamitous election defeat, it is to be expected that there will be a period of bloodletting. Calm, rational review rarely follows calamity. Instead, knives are sharpened, bodies are left. From fractiousness come factions, fighting over the bones of a disintegrated entity. Putting the monster back together again takes time. The wounds are too profound for there to be rapid reparatory surgery.

Nevertheless, if Mariano Rajoy and central office had allowed otherwise, the Partido Popular in the Balearics might now be on the path to recovery. Central office did not allow. The regional party would have to wait until the PP nationally was subjected to its own calamitous humiliation. Only then would the Balearics PP be permitted to cleanse itself of the soiling of its factionalism, to definitively wave its dirty underwear for public view, to get it out of the way, to elect a new leader.

That might have been the theory, but as the general election of 20-D increasingly appears to have heralded another election (26-J in all likelihood), the practice has proved to be different. The PP in the Balearics is still in leadership limbo, unable to move on. When might it be allowed to have its regional congress and elect its leader? Who can say?

It is now getting on for a year since José Ramón Bauzá's PP suffered defeat by the fourteen cuts of seats that it lost in the Balearic parliament. No sooner was it dawning on the party that it had just suffered its worst ever election performance than the battle lines were being drawn and the trenches dug. A phony war prior to the election - former PP mayors, such as those of Alaro and Pollensa, had already jumped ship and abandoned the autocratic Bauzá - became total war, and at the head of the rebel troops was the environment and agriculture minister, Biel Company.

At one time it had appeared as if Company was likely to get a clear run at being the party's next leader. But with the special congress delayed and delayed, there has been ample time for the factions - far from simmering down - to become more and more agitated. And among the agitators has been Bauzá. Far from having accepted being exiled to the Senate with his tail between his legs, he has been doing his best to stir things. His charge that the party lacked direction did not go down well, the implication of this having been that it was not going in the direction that he had taken it.

Modern party warfare now plays out on different fields of battle, one of these being social media. And it has been on Twitter and Facebook where the Company and Bauzá factions have been engaged in skirmishes. At the heart of this were messages on both networks from one Pilar Bauzá Díaz. She had, for instance, placed the blame for the loss of PP votes on the former president, while exchanging views with, among others, the former director of Balearic ports and airports, Antonio Deudero (a Bauzá man). She also praised the work of Biel Company - "the best agriculture minister of all time".

It might be noted that José Ramón's full name is Bauzá Díaz. But Pilar of that name was unrelated to him. She was in fact Company's wife. Her fake account was exposed when she, by error, used her own name. So against this background, Company laid into Bauzá at a PP general meeting last week. If he, the former president, was going after him (Company), then he would go after Bauzá. Company was furious at what he saw as a deliberate leaking of these social media exchanges by Bauzá's personal secretary in the Senate to the mainstream media. The only problem being of course that it was all out there in the public domain anyway, and his wife had mistakenly blown her own trolling cover.

The general secretary of the PP, the party's nominal and temporary leader, Miquel Vidal, has sought to draw a line under the affair. No action will be taken, and it's being put down to the fact that people get "angry" from time to time, and that it was all an "internal" matter. Which may be fair enough, but Company, adding that he will neither forgive nor forget the supposed leak, has suffered - one would have to think - a great deal of damage. You would also have to think that he was aware of his wife's fake account (for which he did apologise).

The time that it is taking in getting around to elect a new leader is only making matters worse for the PP, and this twittish use of Twitter highlights the fact. When they do finally get round to an election, the matter will not be ignored. Meanwhile, and as the PP tears itself apart, it's supposed to be the main opposition.

Monday, April 11, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 April 2016

Morning high (7.23am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 12 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 13 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 14 April - Sun, cloud, 20C.

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

As yesterday one would think. Plenty of sun, a fresh breeze but not as strong as it was yesterday.

Evening update (21.00): Decent. High of 24.1C.

Dry Stone: Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Tramuntana mountain range was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2010. What may not be well understood are the criteria by which this declaration was made. It was not on account of the mountains being mountains. How many mountain ranges can there be across the globe? And how many would boast higher mountains than the Tramuntana can? No, the mountains in themselves, while obviously crucial, were not the principal reason.

Unesco identified the "historical, cultural and socioeconomic processes that have taken place". The mountains are evidence of cultural intermingling in that they have drawn on the physical efforts of the different cultures which have occupied them, most obviously the Muslims and the Christians of post-1229 invasion. What was initiated centuries ago is what there now is: a landscape that was shaped by the labours and ingenuity of its inhabitants. It is one characterised by water systems (hundreds of years before the massive reservoirs were created in the 1970s), by the terracing and by the dry-stone work which itself was used to make the terraces but also to form the means of communication that criss-cross the mountains - the pathways or rudimentary roads. And amidst these developments was the cultivation, such as the olive groves and orange trees.

It is, therefore, the cultural landscape that Unesco honours, one that sets the Tramuntana apart. But not wholly apart. The key element of dry stone, and dry stone in mountainous regions, is not unique to Mallorca. There are similar examples, for instance in Cyprus, and they have a common link - that of a Mediterranean culture combined with that of the Iberian peninsula and out into the Atlantic and the Canary Islands: the dry-stone culture.

What one sees in the Tramuntana is the physical presence of this remarkable culture, such as the path of the barranc (ravine) de Biniaraix in the south of Soller: the very name Biniaraix, a linguistic amalgam of the human cultures that carved the Tramuntana landscape - Arabic and Catalan. And now, in addition to this physical cultural heritage, there is an initiative to add the abstract, the non-physical.

In Mallorca, there is one and only one example of Unesco intangible cultural heritage. It can be seen in the sense that there are singers, but it is non-physical because it is a song, or a chant if one prefers. This is the chant of the Sibil-la, performed on Christmas Eve in churches, monasteries (and the Cathedral) across Mallorca: the most spiritual of Tramuntana sites, Lluc Monastery, is where the intangible meets the tangible in celebrating these different types of culture.

The Balearic regional government's culture ministry and the islands' councils are joining force in participating in an international campaign which is aimed at having "pedra en sec" - dry stone - be declared Unesco intangible cultural heritage. In fact, the first impulse behind this initiative came from the east of the Mediterranean: Cyprus and Greece. Now, and in addition to the Balearics, there is interest from regions in Spain as far apart as Galicia in the north-west to Catalonia in the east and Andalusia in the south, as well as in the Canaries.

But, one might ask, how can this be intangible culture? Dry stone can be seen, touched, walked upon, worked. It is tangible. Which of course is true, but the international candidacy of dry stone and its Mediterranean/Iberian culture focuses on what went into dry stone: the knowledge and skills of its working and the ways in which these were and have been passed down through the centuries. It is a culture of life, of living, of economy and of landscaping, one that unifies different cultures.

Unesco has to decide. Proposals can be made by governments and administrations for its committees to ponder. In the case of dry stone, the candidacy will concentrate on the technique of this ancient craft: the shared human ability that created the landscapes and transformed the physical environment, as happened in the Tramuntana.

All the regions (and countries) involved in this initiative will meet in September and finalise the necessary documentation to meet Unesco guidelines. If all goes to plan, then the candidacy will be submitted to Unesco by March of next year, and the result of the evaluation of the proposals will be known in 2018.

If a declaration is made, it wouldn't of course be Mallorca's alone, unlike the Sibil-la, but it would be great recognition nonetheless for the human ingenuity which left the legacy that it has for us to all enjoy.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 April 2016

Morning high (6.20am): 8.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 11 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 12 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 13 April - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 backing and increasing South 4 to 5 during the morning.

Another fine spring day to come, with southerlies maybe making things feel warmer. The week's outlook is very good.

Evening update (20.30): High of 22.8C. Very sunny, but the wind was fresh for a southerly, so a touch chilly out of the sun.

The Ministry Of Més Per Menorca

Is Francina truly with it, do you suppose? One does have to ask the question, given that she appears to be off in the clouds or with the fairies of consensus and dialogue, spouting - repeatedly - what at its kindest can best be referred to as total and utter drivel. It did come as a surprise, it has to be said, that Sweet and Friendly Armengol (Sweet FA) should have accused the PP's poster girl, Marga Prohens, of dabbling in the politics of the "slum". This is not what we have come to expect from Frankie. Mind you, Marga had more or less accused her of being useless. She was not capable of leading the government. She was being led and none more so than by the Més-ites of Menorca.

These strange beings from across the Menorca channel have occupied a ministry. Theoretically, it is known as the participation, transparency and culture ministry (re-arrange the order as you see fit, and also don't forget sport, which is lurking there somewhere as well). But for all practical purposes it is the Ministry of Més per Menorca, an office for the Més party over the water that somehow seems to have been created within the regional government.

Whatever this ministry actually does, and no one knows except perhaps for one or two Més-ites who dreamt it up, it now has a new minister. The ideological crisis within the Menorcan Més-ite sect did of course claim its victim. One of its number, Esperança (Hope) Camps, was expelled for having not been true to the Més-ite faith, whatever this might be, and she will forever more be referred to as Hopeless, at least where her now former senior officials are concerned.

To the rescue has come someone who will be able to reinvigorate the boys from the ministry, and they do all seem to be boys. There they were, lined up at the official ceremony over which Frankie presided to announce last week's ministerial shake-up. And boy, were the boys happy: smiling away, displaying their "I Survived Esperança" t-shirts. In charge of the boys will now be Mrs. Brown. Yes, it's Mrs. Brown's Boys at the ministry.

It is in fact Ruth Mateu. Who? According to Frankie, Ruth is "brave and committed". What does that mean? Is she about to lock horns in a rugby scrum front row with Joe Marler? Such bravery and commitment will be evident, so we understand, from her heading a "key" ministry. One would rather hope that all ministries are key, but the Ministry of Més per Menorca would appear to be key plus one: a bunch of keys maybe.

Ruth wasn't the only brave and committed one. All three ministerial changes represented bravery and commitment, and these will, said Francina, strengthen the government in responding, inevitably, to the needs of the citizens. One doubts, however, that the citizens are particularly bothered about the musical chairs or have any more idea than Frankie does as to what the Ministry of Més per Menorca supposedly does.

Still, the citizens can rest easily in their beds, knowing that the government has been strengthened, which hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement of how it was previously.