Monday, October 31, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2016

Morning high (6.52am): 13.8C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 November - Sun, cloud, 23C; 2 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 3 November - Sun, cloud, 23C.

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

Ok sort of a day again. Good amounts of sun and quite warm. Getting a bit nippy first thing though.

Evening update (20.15): Decent. High of 24.1C.

The Noises Of Debate: Rajoy's Investiture

In the space of almost eight months I have watched six investiture debates. At the sixth time of asking there was a result, if you can call forming a government with a minority just shy of forty per cent a result. At the sixth attempt, therefore, something finally gave. The mould was broken, although it had been cast differently for debates five and six. There was an alternative cast member. PSOE's Antonio Hernando had moved along one seat. By the sixth debate, two days after the fifth, there was an empty seat. Tearfully, Pedro Sánchez had decided it was best not to turn up. How things had changed. At the start of the eight months - for debates one and two - he would have been crowned, if only in his dreams. 

The lachrymose Sánchez was the prelude to debate six. It might have overshadowed what was to follow, had it not been pre-destined for Mariano Rajoy to be reinstalled as prime minister. Debate six was the big noise in town. Sánchez was a weepy diversion, he insisting that he is not finished, that he will seek the recuperation of PSOE. If he does, it will be a tough ask. There's life still in the body socialist but it's in intensive care not knowing if it will emerge intact or be permanently fractured.

There were big noises and bigger noises. Several thousand had gathered to surround Congress. The protest was allowed. Not even Rajoy's wretched law could prevent it being given clearance. That law, the gagging one, was just one reason for the thousands to have gathered. Other reasons ... . Well, by now we all know the reasons, while the several thousands were having none of the carve-up by the "mafias" inside Congress. Alas for Cuidadanos, ten years young, it has been branded thus alongside the much older mafias of the PP and PSOE. It was politicians from the C's for whom the greatest jeers were reserved.

Inside Congress there were various bursts of big noise. Cheers, heckles, one of the biggest came at half-time, prior to the actual vote, when the stewards looked as if they might have been required to keep the factions apart. The PP's Rafael Hernando, who had upset Podemos so much during debate five with his four million dollar Venezuelan accusation, was in discussion with Iglesias and Errejón. Surprisingly, it didn't look as unfriendly as might have been expected.

There again, Iglesias came out of debate six with an enormous amount of credit. His speech obliterated all others. Its passion was exceptional. Iglesias is enormously impressive, and when he spoke about the need for a young and new Spain, one couldn't help but contrast the informality of Podemos (in their attire) and the stiffness of the suit-wearing ranks of the PP and indeed PSOE. What was most impressive was that he didn't resort to name-calling. His was a speech for the future, of a politician growing in stature. There may be differences within his party, but Iglesias and Podemos are not going away. Indeed, they will believe their role is ever more crucial now.

Although Iglesias and his Podemos colleagues were to applaud his intervention, the speech of the Catalonia Republican Left's Gabriel Rufián was deserving of none. It was not as if he didn't have valid points, but it was the language he used that set him well apart from Iglesias. This was the oafishness of a students' union activist not the discourse of a Congress politician. His walk to the lectern spoke volumes. He passed the ranks of the PP glowering and with the swagger of a football hooligan. At the end, he even argued with the referee - the president of the house (speaker), Ana Pastor - who switched off his mike because he had gone over time. Before doing so, though, he had reprimanded PSOE for their kowtowing to a "cacique", for their being traitors to socialism. They should be ashamed. Yes, he had valid points, but the delivery was odious. Antonio Hernando, scandalised, said that Rufián had spoken with "odio" - hate. Rufián had lived up to more than just his name. He was a disgrace.

It was a minor player who was to offer the strongest rebuke to Rufián. The diminutive Ana Oramas from the Canaries was not easy to understand - the accent is pronounced - but there was no mistaking her distaste for the disrespect Rufián had shown the house as well as PSOE. He shouldn't behave in such a juvenile way. There was big noise of applause.

And finally, when the voting was over and the result was announced, there was no big noise from PSOE. They didn't applaud Rajoy. He had won the day but there are many other days to come. He needs to show magnanimity, he needs to prove that he is capable of dialogue. If he can't, debates seven and eight might occur sooner than he would hope.

Index for October 2016

Agriculture and tourism - 11 October 2016
Airbnb and hoteliers - 1 October 2016
All-inclusives - 8 October 2015
Balearic government - 10 October 2016
Bullying - 21 October 2016
Caso Gürtel - 7 October 2016
Ecotourism and sustainability - 18 October 2016
Fornalutx and prettiest villages - 28 October 2016
Havaneres - 9 October 2016
Hiking and the history of excursions - 3 October 2016
Holiday prices - 5 October 2016, 29 October 2016
Imserso holidays - 15 October 2016
Land plans in Mallorca - 25 October 2016
Museum of Water - 6 October 2016
Pebre bord pepper - 23 October 2016
Pep v. Pepsi - 14 October 2016
PSOE crisis - 2 October 2016, 4 October 2016
Rajoy investiture - 19 October 2016, 31 October 2016
Rock music in Mallorca - 30 October 2016
Saturation, sustainability and employment - 22 October 2016, 26 October 2016
Spain's National Day - 13 October 2016
Theatres - 16 October 2016
Tourism minister for Spain - 20 October 2016. 24 October 2016
Tramuntana fairs - 12 October 2016
UFOs - 27 October 2016
Xelo Huertas in Rome - 17 October 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2016

Morning high (6.25am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 31 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 1 November - Sun, cloud, 23C; 2 November - Cloud, 23C.

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

Starting off sunny. Due to cloud over later on. Outlook for the week - fairly reasonable.

Evening update (18.45): In fact there was rather more cloud earlier on. Sunny for the most afterwards. A high of 23C.

Rocking Mallorca: Still In The Sixties

Inca has been staging its Leather Fest Rock n Roll. Today's music, somewhat oddly, will be devoted to swing, but until 3am this morning the old Guardia Civil barracks of General Luque was the location for the barrage of sound that is rock music in its different guises. Johnny B. Bad, the Blues Beer Band and others who you are unlikely to have ever heard of were giving their all for Mallorca's rock and thus extending a legacy that is some fifty years old.

Back in the day, however, Mallorca didn't have a great deal of its own rock to boast about. Around that time, i.e. the sixties, rock was discarding its roll and plugging itself into decibel-blasting Marshall amps that were being hauled around Great Britain by R&B bands. For Mallorca, struggling under the yoke of cultural censoriousness and industrial backwardness, the white heat of sixties' technology extended little further than a dodgy transistor secretly picking up Radio Luxembourg. Its musical output was thus somewhat behind the times, albeit it was as dedicated a follower of fashion as it could be, to the point of creating what were essentially tribute acts long before anyone had dreamt up the term.

To the dismay of the regime, it was to discover that it couldn't line every inch of Mallorcan coastline and prevent the musical tide washing in. The defences were breached and Mallorca was to become Spain's Mecca for rock music: not its own but that of others. The invasion was led by The Animals and The Kinks. The latter weren't to prove to be much of a hit: their reception was lukewarm. The Animals, on the other hand, knew how to play the PR game. There was a legendary mega-party in Palma on 19 June, 1966 and they told the press that they loved Mallorca and had come for the sun, the swimming and the horse-riding (?). Everyone loved them as well, and Eric Burdon was to eventually join the hippies of Deya when he bought a house there in the 1980s.

The Mecca wasn't, to be entirely accurate, attracting genuine rock (R&B). Whatever Tom Jones or Sandie Shaw may have wished that they had been performing and later went on to, they were ushered into the nightclubs so that Tom could reminisce about the green, green grass of home and Sandie could reprise her barefoot Eurovision performance being held up by string. Nevertheless, such was the momentum that Jimi Hendrix arrived in 1968, musically announced that rock music was the new rock and roll and single-handedly almost succeeded in destroying Palma's Sgt. Pepper's.

Meanwhile, and with the very rare exception, Mallorca was still churning out its diet of Beatles and west coast American lookalikes and sound not particularly likes. The stirrings of the underground were there, however, even if they were ones more akin to the folk music protest movement. It wasn't truly until the regime had been laid to rest that rock plugged in its electric guitar, horrified the folk musicians in a manner that Dylan once had and invented noise pollution in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountains. The Mecca, very oddly enough, was uprooted and replanted in the small village of Selva.

In 1976, the first ever Selva Rock took place. Its lineup over the eight years that it was to take place included artists and bands from the UK. Kevin Ayers, one of the some time Deya hippies, turned up, as did Dr. Feelgood. The newspaper "El País", reporting the 1980 festival, said that more than 15,000 people had gone along one Saturday night into Sunday morning in early August and paid 800 pesetas (around five euros) to reserve their "hysteria" for the Irish group which had pioneered punk music. Well, Dr. Feelgood are regarded as having been influential on punk, but as for having pioneered it or having been Irish ... .

But what about Mallorca's rock acts? You may well ask. Selva Rock had been a breakthrough, certainly for heavier rock. There had been one or two groups from the 1960s, such as Iceberg, who attempted to sound like Steppenwolf, but rock was never that popular until it was properly Catalanised and led to Catalan Rock. Hence, for example, there was Furnish Time in the early 1980s, who were a Mallorcan pop-rock outfit. Later there was Tots Sants (all saints, and most certainly not to be confused with the girl group of the same name).

Any number of groups came along and continue to come along, but major success has generally proved to be elusive. It is notable that bigger rock occasions, other than any involving British, European or other overseas acts, tend to be reserved for groups from Catalonia, while the quasi-tribute habit of the 1960s is now the full-blown thing. Hence, the large auditoriums can be filled by the likes of Whole Lotta Band (Led Zeppelin). It's as though the sixties (and the seventies) have never gone away.

* The music on the video starts after around three and a half minutes. It's not bad, though fairly derivative.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2016

Morning high (7.25am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 30 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 1 November - Cloud, sun, 22C.

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

Another sunny day. Very pleasant for the end of October.

Evening update (20.30): Another fine day. High of 22.8C.

Upping Prices And Getting Away With Them

Despite talk that there was no furore about the tourist tax at the major European travel fairs last time round, it would be very wrong to believe that in private Balearic government representatives were not getting an earbashing. They got it. The Mallorca Hoteliers Federation largely kept a lid on things by not making public statements either. Too many were fooled into believing there was "normality", when there wasn't. The federation, for example, knew that drawing attention to the tax in overly vociferous terms could have been counterproductive. It has of course now taken the tax to court.

The round of fairs begins shortly. London's World Travel Market is the first (7-9 November) ¡, and one suspects that there are going to be some more choice words, with the hoteliers more in the firing-line. If the attitude of Sebastian Darder of the Palmanova-Magalluf hoteliers association is anything to go by, then UK tour operators (and tourists) can get stuffed. The tour operators may be trying things on somewhat by seeking lower prices, but the reaction verged on the despicable. It's understandable that hoteliers seek to maximise returns, but the attitude towards UK tourism was poor. Magalluf grew on UK tourism; Darder and others should remember that.

There was almost a sense of celebration that Magalluf can already boast a lower dependence on the UK market - down some 15%. There's going to be a great deal of spinning coming out of the London fair.

The fact is, though, that hoteliers appear to be able to increase prices without any fears that they'll see a drop in business. There are other markets who will fill any possible void left by UK tourism, and this was emphasised when I spoke earlier this week with a hotel director whose establishment is part of one of Mallorca's leading chains. Yes, his hotel is five-star, so the market is narrower than the typical tourist market, but he said that they have put up prices for next year because higher prices "are the market", as in what the market is prepared to pay. The same applies down the chain to four and three-stars.

Friday, October 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2016

Morning high (7.41am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 29 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 30 October - Sun, cloud, 21C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 21C.

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

Should be sun all the way today and for most of the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): Another good day. High of 22.6C.

Which Is The Prettiest Village Of Them All?

Which is the prettiest village in Mallorca? Common consent has it that it is Fornalutx. Nestled in the Tramuntana, the only unpretty aspect of this small place is what they do with bulls. But tormenting animals doesn't appear to enter the equation when the inspectors are out and about. These aren't animal-welfare inspectors, they are pretty village inspectors.

Rather like restaurants and chefs need to meet strict criteria for Michelin scrutineers, so a village must also come up to standards if it wishes to be among the prettiest - a pueblo that is among the "más bonito".

Los Pueblos más Bonitos de España is an association that was founded in 2011. It took as its model Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Its aims are: to promote, disseminate and preserve cultural, natural and rural heritage as well as raise awareness of the values of this heritage while also promoting cultural tourism and areas with low levels of industrialisation.

To qualify for inclusion as más bonito a pueblo must have no more than 15,000 inhabitants. In the case of Mallorca, therefore, most "municipalities" could be eligible; most municipalities in Spain could be as well. Having 15,000 people makes a place pretty big when one considers that Fornalutx can muster only around 700. Indeed, having up to 15,000 people would suggest that village status is no longer feasible. There again, we're talking pueblos here; the definition, as in village, town or even hamlet terms can be difficult to pin down precisely.

But Fornalutx, population-wise, unquestionably has village status. What, however, makes it pretty and one of the latest pueblos to be added to the más bonito hall of fame? Experts from the association say that all criteria are met. There is notable architectural heritage. Urban (sic) cleaning is of a high order. There is preservation of building fronts, even of car parks. There are plants on the streets. Water is well managed (though maybe the drought might have something to say about this).

There must, one feels, be rather more to it than this lot. By these criteria, one would think that a whole host of Mallorcan villages (hamlets, whatever) could make the list. Perhaps they will, but then the más bonito list is pretty exclusive. If there were hundreds, thousands of pretty places, the list would no longer be pretty exclusive. As it is, Fornalutx can boast that it is not just the prettiest pueblo in Mallorca, it is the island's only pretty pueblo. Until its recent elevation to the ranks, Mallorca and the Balearics didn't feature on the list.

There are parts of Spain which, according to the list, are prettier than others. Of the 48 in all that are now on it, there is a significant bias in favour of two regions - Aragon and Castile and Leon. Which isn't to say that they don't deserve to be; just that having around half of the prettiest pueblos between them seems a little odd.

The judging committee is presumably immune to outside influences, such as those of social media and the internet. There are other más bonito-type listings. In the case of the website Toprural, it doesn't just have más bonito, it has "maravillosos": the seven wonders of Spain's rural environment. Among the candidates this year isn't Fornalutx but Valldemossa. Of the remaining nineteen against which Valldemossa is pitched are some pueblos familiar to the más bonito list. Valldemossa would appear to need to go some to force itself on to the seven wonders' podium. Much will probably depend on how coherent its social media campaign will be. Rather like Trip Advisor and its best-of lists, anything that is decided by social media and the internet needs to be treated with a touch of scepticism. Still, it does wonders for internet traffic if you invite users to vote for wonders.

Likewise, there is an entirely different más bonito list. The news website 20minutos has one. Sixty pueblos in all are up for voting grabs. There can be only one winner, and the front-runner at present is San Vicente de la Barquera in Cantabria. It has some 55,000 more votes than the first entrant for Mallorca. Which is? Fornalutx? No, it's Pollensa. Fornalutx doesn't get a look in. Is Valldemossa among the sixty? No, but Portocolom is. The only other place in Mallorca, it's way down among the also-rans.

The judges from the más bonito association are likely, one would feel, to be more objective than internet users who might vote for a place purely because they live there or have been there on holiday. The association's list also carries cachet. Fornalutx will take its place on the international tourist stage when it is honoured at Madrid's travel fair. So well done, Fornalutx. Just don't go complaining that there are too many tourists, now that the accolade has been bestowed.

* Photo of Fornalutx from Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2016

Morning high (6.51am): 17.6C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 28 October - Sun, 22C; 29 October - Sun, cloud, 20C; 30 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

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

Should be sunny through the day. Quite breezy at times. Temperatures now more modest with northerlies dominating.

Evening update (20.30): Nice. High of 23C.

Ghosts In The Sky: Mallorca's UFOs

There was a peculiar "phenomenon" in the sky the other day. There was cloud and no sun and against this sky full of cloud was what, from a distance, appeared to be a strange weather event. Or was it something else? It was darker than much of the cloud, a steely-grey apparition that swooped and swirled as though it were a giant kite. It took some time to realise, especially as there was no noise, that it was birds - hundreds of them. I should have realised immediately, as this mass movement is not unusual. I had to conclude, though, that I had never seen this from such a distance or against a sky that was much the same colour. Had it been blue, the apparition would have been more immediately obvious.

This odd event was something that could lead to the drawing of a wrong conclusion. It was a ghostly formation floating over Albufera. Ghosts in the sky. The human condition, despite the sophistication it has now acquired, is still inclined to superstition, to interpretations of "signs", to a craving for the supernatural or just the downright weird. Humans love ghost stories. They also love UFOs. Somewhere out there ... cue the music to "The X Files".

This sophistication is such that there are scientists who believe we are all part of a gigantic computer simulation. It requires massive sophistication to be able to even articulate this proposition with any degree of plausibility. If this is the case, then somewhere out there is an über-intelligent race which, God knows how long ago (and maybe we shouldn't rule God out in being behind the simulation), set the simulation up. This race fed all the required information into its Matrix-style machinery, pressed the button and bingo!

The simulation proposition is, in a sense, the ultimate conspiracy theory. And this is something else humans love. Some of them at any rate. What is not being told or explained? What is being covered up? What is the truth? "The truth is out there" and Mulder and Scully went in search of it.

Does this fabulously intelligent race ever come to take a look at closer hand at its creation? You would think not. Why would it, when it is presumably watching anyway? If not, then what is the race that we see in the skies? Some other intelligence from space? It's out there. Somewhere. And it has occasionally passed over Mallorca. Oh yes it has.

The Ministry of Defence has recently declassified its X files. Spain doesn't have a UFO, it has an OVNI - "objeto volador no identificado" - and the ministry has kept a record of the sightings of OVNIs. It has now declassified the documents, though they are only for between 1962 and 1995. What are they not telling us about the last 20 years?

The first sighting contained in 80 reports and on 1,900 pages was in San Javier in Murcia. The final one, over the period declassified, was in a place in Seville called Morón: I'm saying nothing. And then we have the ones over Mallorca and the Balearics. There are four X files for the islands. The first was Soller in July 1972. The second is for Menorca in October 1978. Then there were two within eight days in February 1979. The first has an unspecified location - it was over the sea somewhere - while the second was in Andratx.

There have supposedly been other sightings in the past twenty years - the ones the ministry isn't telling us about. And Soller would seem to be a hotspot for alien activity. Perhaps it has something to do with the Hidden Valley. What better place for alien craft to land than there? If you're from Soller, can you really be sure about that bloke at the bar? They're here, you know.

Not so far from Soller, as in the Gorg Blau reservoir, seekers of the truth that is out there once upon a time used to gather in great number. In the 1970s they would drive into the mountains and come together, as though mysteriously drawn in a way that Richard Dreyfuss had been. At night they would wait for the tune to be played or to observe evidence of strange phenomena which might confirm that Mallorca, and more specifically the Tramuntana mountains, was some form of Bermuda Triangle. 

Meteorites have been the explanation for certain sightings, but there are others for which explanations are less clear or non-existent. When pilots in Menorca in 1978 reported lights, they were said to have come from two high-speed military fighters, but neither Palma nor Barcelona control towers could confirm their presence. Then there was the incident with the unspecified location when a ship spotted lights and picked up echoes on its radar. There is still no explanation.

Odd things can be witnessed in the sky. The mind can play tricks. But does it always?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2016

Morning high (7.12am): 20.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 27 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 28 October - Sun, cloud, 22C; 29 October - Cloud, sun, 22C.

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

Humid. Expected to be cloudy again for much of the day. Brightening later.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 22.7C. Not a lot of sun.

Tourists Feel Saturated Too

If it weren't for all the other damn tourists ... . It's one thing to ask the locals if they feel overwhelmed and saturated by a massification of vast tourist hordes. It's another to ask tourists the question and for them to say much the same. Yes, I feel saturated, and do you know what? I'm part of the problem. The response does at least suggest some self-awareness, one guesses.

Our friends at the Gadeso Foundation have been out and about surveying once more. They asked tourists - 500 of them (margin of error 4.5%; level of confidence 95.5%) - what they thought about saturation. They were asked if there were more tourists than before. Or at least the 32% who had been to the Balearics were asked. And of them, 74% said yes, there were many more than before. By my calculation, that is 118.4 tourists who say that there are more tourists than before, but let's not quibble as there is an acceptable margin of error.

Given that there were 340 tourists who either hadn't been to the Balearics previously or didn't know if they had (yes, two per cent, i.e. ten of them, didn't know), how can one judge the finding that 84% of them felt that there was saturation on the beaches of the islands? What were they judging against?

There were also 64% who felt that roads and car parks were saturated and 48% who thought bars and restaurants were. This latter finding was good news for those in Mallorca's hostelry business: the summer has been fantastic because 48% were implying that they couldn't find a table. Notwithstanding this discovery, there will be any number of bar/restaurant owners who will maintain that summer 2016 was nothing special: there'll probably be a survey to discover what the percentage was (within an acceptable margin of error of course).

Having found that 74% of those who had been before thought that there were many more tourists and that 19% believed that there were some more, 58% were in favour of a form of limit being placed on themselves. There are far too many of us, opined 32%. We must be limited. A lower percentage - 21% - wanted themselves to be limited but only in certain places. The other five per cent were in favour of being limited but believed it was impractical to have limits.

So, what do we conclude from all this? Certain politicians will feel vindicated; those who say that tourists feel the locals' pain and sense of saturation as well. Others will feel that they are on the right tracks when talking about the need for limits to tourism numbers. After all, 58% of tourists (within a margin of error of 4.5%) can't be wrong.

As a snapshot of opinion, which is as much as such a survey can ever be, the findings are quite revealing. Are they surprising? Not necessarily, as there has been evidence over a number of years that visitors find Mallorca too built-up. That doesn't equate to saturation but is an indication as to the potential.

But are the findings particularly reliable? Market researchers would say that they are, but what we aren't told is anything about where tourists were from, where they were staying, what type of accommodation they were in, whether they had a hire car; all that sort of thing. And as there were also 66% (at least) who hadn't been before, the findings are questionable. Answers by all the 100% are subjective in any event, but only 32% have a degree of objectivity based on previous experience.

There again, the replies are likely to be more objective than those of the locals. The great majority of tourists won't have been exposed to all the saturation talk, whereas the locals have been and are therefore likely to have their perceptions influenced by all the talk.

The survey also asked about the tourist tax. The findings here are less open to past experiences (or not) of Mallorca and so less questionable. Almost three-quarters (74%) believed that the tax is positive. A mere six per cent viewed it as negative. This will definitely be music to Biel Barceló's ears. And this positivity wasn't reflected in whether visitors knew about the tax or not. Over half said they did before going on holiday, eighteen per cent were still unaware of it when asked the question (they hadn't been charged it), while 27% found out on arrival.

There is even more support for the government when it comes to how the tax should be spent: 55% said the environment. And would the tax deter visitors from returning? Absolutely not, said 56%, while 27% thought it was unlikely. A mere 2% were adamant they wouldn't be coming back.

Yes, there's saturation. Yes, there should be limits (possibly). Yes, the tourist tax is great. Tourists have spoken. Within a margin of error.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2016

Morning high (7.27am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 26 October - Cloud, 23C; 27 October - Cloud, sun, 22C; 28 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 temporarily Variable 2 in the morning.

Expected to be cloudy, and heavy cloud at that, for much of the day. Rain not likely, though.

Evening update (20.00): Cloudy it was. Warm it was. High of 26.6C.

The Art Of Not Explaining

It was one of those complicated little news stories. It was to do with land planning and environmental objections in Alcudia. To get to the nub of the story, the town hall wants to swap part of some land earmarked for development in one part of the municipality so that there can be development in another part. Notwithstanding the fact that an environmental commission and an environmental sub-committee object to both developments, the town hall seems determined to press ahead.

If this were all that the story entailed, it might just have been understandable. In the end, the story, as in its English version, appeared much like I've explained, but it missed out a fair-sized chunk, one that can seem almost beyond explanation or indeed comprehension, whether in English, Spanish or Catalan.

This is because it has to do with land planning and environmental regulation bureaucracy. I am personally convinced that very few people reading about this in Spanish would have the faintest idea what it was all about. Put it into English, and the comprehension would be even less.

There are things which do need explaining and there are others which are probably best left unexplained. They are too confusing and too technical by half, but such is how administrative procedures are in Mallorca. They almost defy explanation on account of their sheer complexity and in the way that a rule for one thing conflicts with a rule for another, largely dependent on how many administrations are involved, of which there is an abundance.

Just to give an idea, there is PGOU, there is POOT, there is PORN, there is PTM, there is ART, there is ZEC, there is ZEPA. To say nothing (and oh how one would prefer not to have to) of the likes of ZGAT and PIAT. What does any of this stuff mean? Some is, on the face of it, comparatively straightforward. A PGOU in essence is a municipal urban plan, but straightforward it rarely or indeed ever is. Not when there is a POOT (tourist accommodation quotas), a PIAT (vaguely similar), a PTM (the overall land plan for Mallorca) or, God forbid, a PORN (natural resources plan) to take into account. Which is before one even starts on the possible implication of, for example, ZEPA (bird protection zones). And how can one overlook PHIB, the Balearic Islands hydrology plan? That's water to you and me. There may be a simple explanation as to why there is a lack of water at present, but things are not simple when one delves into the hydrology plan and its far-reaching tentacles that cover every single drop of water on the island, thus rendering aspects of a PGOU, for instance, unworkable.

If all this is difficult enough to explain in layman's terms, don't think that those to which it all applies find it any easier. One often hears of the need for "legal certainty", so that town halls, businesses, whoever can proceed with whatever project they have in mind without ending up in court. Which is what normally happens anyway. It's not surprising if no one can tell his POOT from his PORN.

Mallorca has long since disappeared up a posterior crammed with acronyms. Constipation has thus ensued because there are that many plans for this, that or the other thing that everything grinds to a halt. And once it all does, no one is much the wiser because explaining any of it would take so long that anyone attempting to read an explanation would very early on lose the will to live.

Not everything is mercifully as complex and confusing as land regulations. Take politics, for example. Hang on, what am I saying? Not confusing. Well, some of it probably gets over-confused and over-explained. Is it really necessary, for instance, to have to refer to PSOE as the socialist party? It's not as if PSOE is a recent phenomenon; it's been going since the middle of the nineteenth century.

But it's when one gets down to all the various parties, groupings and combinations that some explanation is perhaps necessary. Can one, for example, just refer to Més and say no more? Perhaps so, and in some ways it's best not to say anything more because the explanation involves trying to get across what it means by nationalism. And this creates its own issue. Més is a nationalist party, which sounds right-wing but isn't where Més is concerned; it's the opposite.

If it were the case that every plan, political party or whatever required explanation, you would never get to the story which is being reported. But perhaps this is how they like it - the various administrations and parties. Transparency is supposedly a mantra these days, but opacity rules. Anyone want to know what a PORN actually entails? You'll be sorry you ever asked.

Monday, October 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 19.6C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Cloud, 28C; 26 October - Cloud, 23C; 27 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

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

Another decent and warm day to come. Tomorrow and Wednesday looking rather murky.

Evening update (20.00): Shaped up well. High of 30.9C.

J.R. Is No Longer Dead

So, it was all a dream. Pammy's woken up, Bobby's appeared from the shower, and J.R. is heading off to join the barons of the PP by becoming tourism minister. The intriguing within the PP is the very stuff of "Dallas" minus the oil that J.R. so determinedly sought to deny the Balearics when his nemesis Cliff Barnes (aka José Manuel Soria) was in charge of both energy and tourism.

José Ramón Bauzá, for it is he, has his eye on a cabinet post and on leading the Balearics and Spain to ever greater touristic glory. There are just a few problems with his ambition. One is that Super Mariano has yet to be reconfirmed as president (sometimes referred to as prime minister). By this time next week, however, he may have been, as the socialist-lite element has got its way in sanctioning his investiture. The second problem is that there isn't a specific post for a tourism minister. Yet. But the bookies are placing odds on Mazza turning over one hundred years of history on its head and creating just such a post. Amidst this speculation, therefore, re-enter J.R., who mostly everyone (in the Balearics) had assumed and had hoped was politically interred.

However, away from Palma, J.R. has been conducting a one-man PR campaign, turning up on chat shows. Why would he be doing that? To prove to everyone that he was never dead in the first place. A seat in the Senate has provided sufficient warmth to prevent political rigor mortis from setting in. J.R. is back, and he wants tourism.

But then one gets to the third problem. Much as though J.R. may have been on a charm offensive, he remains thoroughly detested. The PP in the Balearics (many of them) are aghast at the prospect of him rising like a Phoenix of tourism from the ashes of the purge that exiled him to Madrid. And if his own party would not give his tourism ambitions houseroom, then you can be certain that Francina and chums will be even more determined to ensure that he never darkens their agreements for government change.

Could you imagine it? Bauzá at tourism. First thing he'd do would be to seek a change to the statutes of autonomy to ensure that tourist taxes would be banned. He couldn't actually do this, but then J.R. was never one for allowing procedure of a legalistic type to get in his way. Anyone remember the decree for trilingual teaching? A court said one thing (the government hadn't followed procedure), J.R. and his cabinet said we'll see about that and ushered in an emergency decree.

Eco-nationalist Mésite Balearic tourism minister Biel Barceló has declared that J.R. as national tourism minister would be disastrous for the Balearics. "As president (of the Balearics) he did not defend the interests of the islands." Which of course he didn't, as in, for example, not asking Mazza for the state investments which should have flowed in a Balearic direction. And why not? Well, J.R. was the original golden boy of Mazza's austerity. He did all he could to keep pally with Mariano until Soria got in the way and wanted to start digging for oil in the bay of Palma.

J.R. went gunning for Soria and for his job, relations with national HQ deteriorated, got even worse when a different golden boy - Mateo Isern - was being eased out by the intrigues of Bauzá and José María Rodríguez, and finally got so bad that Madrid was only too happy for the PP in the Balearics to stick the boot in. Thus the PP nationally was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Hence one comes to the fourth problem. Bauzá for tourism minister? No chance.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2016

Morning high (7.27am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Sun, 25C; 25 October - Cloud, sun, 28C; 26 October - Cloud, 22C.

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

Looks cloudy before sun-up, but should be a decent day with a good amount of warm sun.

Evening update (19.00): The cloud was fog. Lifted quickly enough. Very fine day, quite breezy. High of 28.3C.

The Pepper That Almost Died Out

The story goes that in 1403 Martin I, at that time the count of Barcelona and king of Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, Sardinia and Corsica but not of Sicily, sent a request to the head of the household of the Sicilian king. The request was for a number of meat products as well as cheeses. These meat products were charcuterie - sausages, if you like - and on the list were "sobressades".

This royal order forms part of a longstanding debate as to the origin of the Mallorcan "sobrassada" and the derivation of the word. The linguistic story is inevitably a long one; there is nothing that scholars of Mallorca's culture enjoy more than debating etymology. To cut this story short, scholars maintain that the word originally came from Occitan, the close relative of Catalan, and thus found its way to Sicily.

As to the actual product, this seems to have been firmly rooted in southern Italy. It is conceivable that there was such a product from Roman times; indeed, it's highly likely and was therefore part of the diet of Mallorca's Roman era. But at the time that Martin I was on the lookout for foods for the banqueting table, he placed the order not with his Mallorcan domain but with the one place he wasn't actually king of.

Martin's request appears to be one of the first times, if not the first time, that sobrassada is to be found in documents of the Aragonese crown. There were to be other mentions. In the following century, and so reinforcing the Italian connections, there was talk of the sobrasadas of Naples. In 1550, a year otherwise famed for the attack by Dragut and the Moorish pirates, "sobressada" was documented in Pollensa; the spelling has always tended to vary to a degree.

It is around this time, i.e. the mid-sixteenth century, that Mallorca was starting to come into its own where the making of the sausage was concerned. But it wasn't to be until the eighteenth century that it was spiced up and adopted a reddish hue. Paprika had really arrived.

In Campos over the past three days, they've been holding their "Matancer" market. The name refers to the slaughter of (usually) pigs. The season for this doesn't officially get under way until 11 November, the feast of Saint Martin (not to be confused with Martin I). But ahead of it, the good citizens of Campos and elsewhere have been able to acquire what they might require in the processing of products from the slaughter. And sobrassada is at the top of the list of products.

Meanwhile, in Felanitx they have their annual "pebre bord" fair, the pebre bord being the distinctive variety of paprika grown in Mallorca. It is a fair which complements the Campos market by promoting one of the key ingredients of sobrassada in a Mallorcan style.

Felanitx is one of the towns and villages of Mallorca to be particularly associated with the pepper, but gone are the days when mostly all houses would hang out their strings of peppers in order to let them dry in the sun and so not lose their preservative power. Also known as "tap de cortí", it isn't by any means only used in making sobrassada, but its preservative qualities are a reason (apart from being nice and spicy) for it being an ingredient; sobrassada can be good for months.

There was a time when the pepper was cultivated widely on the island. By the end of the nineteenth century, the cultivation reached a peak but it was to eventually dwindle mainly because of increasing imports. It was, therefore, in danger of dying out completely.

Its revival is relatively recent; in fact, very recent. A group of producers launched a campaign for its recovery in 2009. The regional government then petitioned the national agriculture and food ministry in 2011 for it to be included in the national registry of commercial varieties. This was finally agreed to two years ago, and so tap de cortí is now a protected name, but producers want to go a step further and get a European designation of origin mark for Pebre Bord Mallorquí.

Cultivation is unlikely to be on the scale it was by the end of the nineteenth century. There are nowadays only some thirteen hectares (around 32 acres) devoted to it on the island. Low this may be, but with increasing promotion of traditional food products from Mallorca, such as sobrassada, the production is assured and may well increase. A pepper that was once threatened with extinction is now flourishing.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2016

Morning high (7.17am): 16.2C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 25 October - Cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southeast 3 to 5, swells of one metre.

Storm early on. Fair amount of rain. May be more to come, but should brighten up. Tomorrow looking good.

Evening update (19.15): High of 24.9C. There was more rain but only light and a good deal of sun.

Reflecting On The Season

The season is drawing to a close. It is time to reflect. The great and good of the tourism industry (plus politicians - up to you if you describe them as great or good) gathered for some reflection earlier this week. Some of them will reconvene next week and reflect further. That conference will consider the benefits and risks from the increase in demand, an aspect of which is the "sensation" of saturation, the "feeling" of being overcrowded. It was the same earlier this week. The reflections concerned three words starting with an "s" - sustainability, security and saturation. They sum the summer up. These words are constantly uttered by Mallorca's politicians. When it has come to security, it has been more a case of others' lack of security. Elevated demand for Mallorca because of insecurity equals saturation equals questions of sustainability.

Among the more significant contributions were those related to numbers of tourists and to road users. On the latter, it was said that heavy traffic and jams in Palma - frequently held up as evidence of saturation - have less to do with tourists in hire cars than with the sheer number of island residents who enter the city. This conclusion has been given support by Council of Mallorca statistics for traffic growth: the numbers of vehicles on key stretches of road are back to what they were pre-crisis. Saturation on the roads is as much a consequence of economic well-being on the island, if not more so than tourists and the economic well-being they bring.

The other contribution of note had to do with tourist arrivals. José Antonio Alvarez, who is the director of Son Sant Joan airport, observed that while passenger traffic has risen by ten per cent, the distribution of this increase was weighted in favour of the non-peak summer months. Growth was less in August - only five per cent - while May almost saw the three million mark broken and October won't be that far short. Three million has typically been confined only to July and August, yet June and September surpassed it.

In a way, this showed that the government's wish for more of a spread of tourists has been satisfied this summer, though of course what the government really wishes is that this spread is more even across the whole of the year. It may be a long time in the wishing.

The killer contribution, however, was to do with welfare, the benefit derived by society as a whole from tourism activity, with population and the environment factored in. This welfare has reduced markedly this century. In other words there is greater inequality, with riches being derived at the expense of general societal welfare and also the well-being of the environment because of the strain placed on it by increased numbers.

This is a theme that tourism minister Biel Barceló has explored in the past by referring to the degree to which per capita income in the Balearics has dropped from being at the top of the Spanish list in the 1990s to seventh. There are different manifestations of this decline, and the Exceltur alliance for touristic excellence drew attention to one this week. The increased numbers of tourists who have been "borrowed" this summer do not translate in direct proportion (or anything like it) to increased financial returns. It's common sense and it's something that's been known for years.

While this summer's boom has given a further boost to economic growth (and clearly there is evidence of it, such as with the number of cars), there is great unevenness in terms of the beneficiaries of this growth. The high level of short-term contracts, often poorly paid, is proof of this. In a wider societal sense, the constantly depressing information about Balearic educational performance confirms this welfare imbalance. There are too many young people being seduced into abandoning education for short-term, insecure and not well-paid employment in the summer. One might ask why they do it, but then the young see no further than a summer's enjoyment. They put their futures in doubt and so they and society lose in the longer-term.

As the politicians have been gearing themselves up for negotiations over next year's budget, a theme has been the necessity for a change to the economic model. Podemos talk about this in strident terms, a consequence of their dislike of anything that is vaguely big business. Biel Barceló isn't so strident. Indeed, Barceló is a generally sane bloke, who sees the necessity for re-forming the current model (and its consequent loss of welfare) into one that enhances welfare. Here is where you achieve genuine sustainability in terms of employment and the benefits to be derived from tourism. It is perhaps the most important issue bar none of the debates about tourism. Saturation, quite frankly, is an interim irrelevance.

Friday, October 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 13.2C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Rain, 23C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 occasionally 5 easing 2 to 3 in the afternoon. Swells of one metre.

Damp morning. May be some more rain. Otherwise, some sun due out. Tomorrow looking rotten. Better on Sunday.

Evening update (21.15): High of 20.7C. Sun did appear for a time.

Sweeping Under The Carpet? Bullying

An eight-year-old girl has become the focus of a case which now threatens to go to court, with the Balearic education ministry one of the accused. The lawyer who is apparently preparing this case is Marcos García Montes, a name that most of you will be unfamiliar with but who, in addition to a startling moustache, has a reputation for representing celebrities. Again, the names of those with whom he has been involved during a long and illustrious career are likely to mean very little, but they include the late José María Ruiz Mateos, he of Rumasa and Nueva Rumasa fame (or is it infamy?), and 'Rafi' Escobedo, who he defended in the trial for the 1980 murder of María Lourdes de Urquijo y Morenés, the Marquesa of Urquijo, and her husband. Escobedo was eventually sentenced to 53 years in prison. He hanged himself in 1988.

García Montes is understood to have offered his legal services to the family of the eight-year-old girl who ended up in hospital following a playground incident at the Anselm Turmeda primary school in Son Roca, Palma over two weeks ago. His law firm has said that it will be taking action against the education ministry, the management of the school and the children who were responsible for the girl having been admitted to hospital.

His intervention is a twist in what has become a distinctly odd case and one about which there are questions which need asking. The education ministry has conducted its investigations into what happened in the playground and has concluded that it was essentially little more than a scrap over a ball. The children, aged eight to twelve, who were involved in the "assault" have been given suspensions from school of between three and five days, the ministry saying that their behaviour undermined the "coexistence" at the school.

The education inspectors' report also says that the girl's injuries were minor. So much so that she was able to continue lessons. Only later was she taken to hospital. The family say that, among other things, she was urinating blood. There seemingly was some damage to a kidney that needed attending to.

García Montes's law firm disputes the inspectors' conclusions that the incident was just a fight. It believes the girl had been subjected to bullying, which the family have insisted from the outset, and that rather than a fight or a scrap, as the education minister has suggested, it was a beating.

After the incident first came to light, there were calls for the director of the school to be dismissed. Reasons for this call included the fact that there had not been teachers in the playground at the time. They had apparently needed to attend to a Down Syndrome child. An online petition was set up, which at time of writing has more than 44,000 signatures. This calls on the education minister, Martí March, to dismiss the school director.

March is not the only leading politician to have dismissed the idea that there was no bullying and something potentially more serious going on. So has the national minister of the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz. He has said that it was a specific case of aggression rather than the consequence of bullying. Bartomeu Barceló, who is the chief prosecutor in the Balearics, has concluded much the same and indeed questioned the extent of injuries that the girl suffered.

The family is basically having none of all this. They say that they are being taken for fools, that the prosecutor is shielding the minister who, in turn, is shielding the school's director. March took six days to say anything about the affair. This may have been wise in that he wanted to know the facts, but his statements since have left the family infuriated. Enter, therefore, García Montes.

The things that have been said by the minister and others, such as the unions, point to a school that is operating in a difficult neighbourhood and to a need to reduce any tensions. There is a high immigrant community. In this context, one of the girl's sisters has said something revealing. She has posed a question. Had her sister hit those who hit her sister, would it have been viewed as a case of racism?

The school, the ministry, no one has made any statements about nationality. They are absolutely right not to. Unfortunately, and although the established media have veered away from this, one cannot prevent what is said on blogs and on social media. It is this factor, therefore, which is making some wonder whether the whole case is being swept under the carpet. But this shouldn't be a primary factor. There are others, such as why the school didn't apparently contact the girl's mother straightaway.

And so now a lawyer is involved. Meanwhile, a small kid has become the centre of an unedifying controversy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2016

Morning high (6.57am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Cloud, 20C; 22 October - Cloud, 24C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 4 to 5 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Cloudy and rainy is the forecast.

Evening update (19.45): Rained a fair bit early on, then remained cloudy with only the occasional sense of sun. High of 18.9C; haven't seen that sort of temperature for a fair while.

A Tourism Minister At Long Last?

Spain ranks second and third in the world in terms of two key indicators of tourism performance. The country generates the second highest amount of revenue from tourism (the USA is top) and it receives the third greatest number of international tourists (behind France and the USA). The total contribution of tourism to the economy is around 11% of GDP, and the benefits that growth in tourism bring are reflected in additional employment in various sectors. CaixaBank research suggests that a one per cent rise in tourism GDP leads to 2,200 new jobs in the commercial sector, 10,400 further jobs in the hotel and catering industry, 800 more in agriculture and 680 in construction.

Exceltur, the alliance for touristic excellence, suggests that tourism growth in 2016 will be by one per cent above the general figure for national economic growth of 3.4%. Tourism typically does outperform the economy as a whole. This is one reason why it has been so important in bringing about economic recovery, while it shouldn't be overlooked that without tourism's contribution during the years of crisis Spain would have been in a far greater mess than it was.

It is a sector of strategic importance. While tourism as an industry is very robust, it can be shaken - as one has seen in other destinations. Neighbouring France, the world leader in terms of tourist arrivals, has seen those arrivals slump markedly because of terrorist incidents.

Having a minister responsible for tourism wouldn't prevent terrorist attacks, but if God forbid there were any, then having a minister in place, with a position around the cabinet table, might help in bolstering confidence in this strategic industry. Threats as much as opportunities should mean that Spain has a tourism minister.

One of the odd aspects of the extremely odd situation that has surrounded the national government for several months is that if ministers have to leave their post (even in an acting capacity) for whatever reason, they are not replaced. This happened with José Manuel Soria. After he resigned in April because his name had appeared in the Panama Papers, his entire portfolio was handed over to Luis de Guindos. He, in an acting function, is currently responsible for economic affairs and competitiveness (which he previously had been) and for industry, energy and tourism, the three oddly assembled elements in the Soria portfolio. De Guindos may be very capable (although the FT once suggested that he wasn't), but not even he can do justice to five briefs at the same time. He'll be thankful that tourism has been chugging along so nicely and not been needing any intervention.

While one mentions potential threats, there are also the opportunities and the current strengths of Spain's tourism. Too often, it has seemed, tourism has been taken for granted. This has been the case nationally and regionally. Complacency in the Balearics over decades has meant that economic diversification has never seriously been addressed and nor has the harmful impact of tourism seasonality. Nationally, there isn't the same level of dependence, but this doesn't diminish strategic importance. And at a time of strength, now is the time to reinforce this strength and to build an even more competitive industry, one recognised by a third performance indicator as being the most competitive tourism industry in the world.

Spain has never had a minister dedicated solely to tourism. As a government portfolio, tourism first appeared in 1905. It was part of the development ministry, which is where it stayed until the 1950s when tourism combined with "information". Since then, it has been moved around or even removed. The demand for a dedicated minister has existed since about as long as Spain's tourism boom started, and now there is a very strong rumour circulating that such a minister is about to be created.

If Mariano Rajoy is finally approved once more as prime minister, the signs are that he will increase the number of ministers, and one of these will be a tourism minister. For the first time, therefore, someone with responsibility for tourism and tourism alone will have a seat at cabinet. The industry is preparing to throw the confetti and uncork the champagne.

With the rumours getting stronger - the Spanish travel press are spreading them, as are mainstream newspapers - so the speculation starts. Who might be this tourism minister? It's a bit like guessing who'll be the new England football manager. Pundits are offering their thoughts, and one name which is towards the top of the list is that of Mallorcan Simón Pedro Barceló, co-president of the Barceló hotel group, an independent director on the board of airports authority Aena, and someone with very close links to the PP.

So, not only might there well be a tourism minister, he might also be Mallorcan. As a hotelier, that would doubtless put a few political noses out of joint here. But whoever it might be, a minister is long overdue.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2016

Morning high (7.01am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Rain, 20C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 22 October - Rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4 veering East-Southeast 2 to 3 around midday.

Due to start out well but cloud up in the afternoon with the chance of some rain later on. Tomorrow looks as if it may be a bit of a washout.

Evening update (20.15): Wasn't bad for much of the day, high of 25.2C, but threatening cloud later and some light rain. Tomorrow not looking too hot.

Andalusia's Gambit: Investiture Or Not

Andalusia. A region apart but a region very much a part. Where would Spain have been without Andalusia? Arguments can rage about the origins of flamenco - and they do - but it is Andalusia which takes the honour. The vibrancy of the dance and music helped to make Spain. In the eyes of the world, it was Andalusia which captured the essence of the new tourism. The Costa del Sol, curiously enough, wasn't a focus for the first wave, but Andalusia had exported its vivaciousness, its difference, and it changed Spain forever.

Andalusia may be on the point of changing Spain again. Or is it that it will put it back together? The most that Andalusia might do is reshape Spain's politics. That mould has already been undergoing manipulation, being twisted and distorted by new hands ready to render the old hands redundant. There is further manufacture afoot or in hand. This is breaking the mould of PSOE. Or is it that the mould returns to its original factory settings, not those of times long ago but of times more recent.  These were contented times before the new hands started making light work of the outmoded shape PSOE had contorted itself into in peculiar antagonistic alliance with the Partido Popular.

This coming Sunday may well prove to be a defining moment. PSOE's federal committee will meet. It has a choice. It can agree to facilitate the investiture of Mariano Rajoy as prime minister or it can say no to Rajoy. Which way will it go? Andalusia will be all important in the decision.

Andalusia is apart because it is the only region in Spain to have been socialist since democratic regional governments were established. Here is one aspect of its difference, a seemingly curious one, for this is a region of great culture and great cities, apparently overwhelmed by richness to match the richness of that culture. Yet it is comparatively poor. Where would Andalusia be without Spain? It does well from the regional financing system. Very well.

It has a legacy. This is the region where liberalism was born, where the Cadiz Constitution envisaged a new Spain, a more egalitarian Spain, where the fight against Bonaparte was fostered, and where there was the consequent fight against the treacherous Ferdinand VII, who destroyed that movement and condemned Spain to decades of self-destruction. The omens may not sound good.

The new liberalism is one cloaked with conservatism. Andalusia, the nation's power base for PSOE, will decide. The broker of the power is its president, Susana Díaz. Her number two, Juan Cornejo, might just have uttered a statement that will pass into common use as an aphorism. "To govern is as important as leading an opposition." It can be taken to have a double meaning, but the intent is clear. The task of governing will fall to Mariano Rajoy. The opposition, the PSOE opposition, will be empowered by this. It can facilitate investiture, but it holds the power to influence policy. It hopes. Unless it falls apart, shattered by a region apart.

Díaz and Andalusia are determined that their vision and version of PSOE continues. It is the conservative version, the cosily close to the PP version, one in the name of the nation that it (Andalusia) did so much to bring to the world's attention. The nation is important to Andalusia. Apart but a part, it needs the unity of the nation, not least the greater riches in relative terms that exist elsewhere: Catalonia, the Balearics, for instance.

PSOE in Catalonia, via its first secretary Miquel Iceta, has said that a third election would be preferable to Rajoy. He doesn't, though, see that facilitating Rajoy's investiture will rupture the party and force it apart. The Balearics' Francina Armengol, trapped by the government of her making, thinks otherwise: possibly, or even probably. Tensions could erupt into revolution on Sunday.

Andalusia and its compatriots elsewhere, such as the "managing" leader Javier Fernández of Asturias, have a cunning plan. They will allow the investiture, but it will be support-lite. Eleven deputies in Congress will be put up as the sacrificial lambs. Rajoy would therefore stagger over the finishing-line, ten months after the race started. Who could have ever thought that they might hatch such a plan? Far be it from me, but it was me. I suggested several weeks ago that Pedro Sánchez could have done just that.

But whichever way Sánchez had chosen - and it now seems as if he backed the loser - it was wrong. Or right. He was caught in the vice of his party's enfeeblement. Andalusia, if it indeed plays its eleven-hand gambit, will trust that this will be reversed by the empowerment of highly scrutinising opposition. It will trust and it will hope, but might the consequence be that there is more which is apart? PSOE itself, and never forget Catalonia.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2016

Morning high (6.45am): 19.2C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 20 October - Rain, 21C; 21 October - Cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 5. Swells of one metre.

Cloudy start forecast; clearing later.

Evening update (19.15): It did clear, there having been a sprinkling of rain. Not bad. High of 23.5C.

Mallorca - Ecotourism And Sustainability

Costa Rica just got more sustainable. The country's government was able to announce last week that it generates all its electricity needs from renewable sources. This is another feather in the cap for a country that has become almost a byword for sustainability and for the tourism that has latched onto it. Ecotourism - enjoying the nature of the country and its rural communities - is said to be pursued by just under half of the 2.7 million tourists who go there each year.

This is a country that is held up as a benchmark for others to aspire to, but doing so gets others only so far; Mallorca and the Balearics, for instance. Attempting to draw any meaningful comparison is more or less pointless.

The differences are vast. For starters, Costa Rica has a far greater land mass than the Balearic Islands put together. The density of population is roughly one-third of Mallorca's. Tourism accounts for 12.5% of GDP and not the 45% direct contribution in the Balearics. Costa Rica has certain natural advantages that the Balearics do not. Most importantly, where tourism is concerned, it was a late starter. Just as importantly for its eco-credentials, these were driven not by tourism per se but by a desperate need to counteract the negative effects of deforestation.

Here is a country with an estimated five per cent of global biodiversity of flora and fauna. This five per cent contributes to the 70% that is confined to just twelve countries on the planet, of which Costa Rica is one. Spain is not one of them. Nowhere in Europe is. Costa Rica therefore has a natural advantage for those ecotourists interested in flora and fauna. For all that it is spoken about in Mallorca, the island's biodiversity cannot get anywhere near the richness of this tropical country.

Costa Rica is an example of joined-up sustainability. It isn't without its issues, such as those to do with beachfront construction, but overall the sustainability policies have worked, and no more so than with energy. Wind and solar are key elements, and so is geothermic. There are volcanoes, a source that would be denied to the Balearics were there to ever be a serious attempt at using renewables.

Energy is just one part of the sustainability equation. In general terms, ambitions for a more sustainable economy in the Balearics are thwarted by the negligible use of renewable sources. A reason for this underuse is said to be because of geographical isolation and insularity. The Canary Islands likewise have a very high dependence on conventional energy sources. It may be a reason, but it is one that hasn't been explained.

More specifically, sustainable tourism demands less pressure on the environment. One of these pressures comes from conventional energy. For all the talk of sustainable tourism, when there is such an absence of a basic ingredient of sustainable development, much of this talk becomes, so to speak, so much hot air.

A further pressure, the use of land, is determined by the past. Costa Rica's late arrival on the global tourism scene enabled it to learn from others. Mallorca never had anyone to learn from. Things were made up on the hoof, and resorts were consequently made. Deforestation, which can be reversed, is not a Mallorcan issue. The destruction of dunes and coastal ecosystems is and was. For the most part, this cannot be reversed.

The contemporary tourist, we are told, is more demanding of environmental control. This demand leads to environmental marketing on behalf of tour operators, hotels, islands, regions and countries. Eco-credentials are something to be shouted out loud. They are shouted in Mallorca; you can see them on plaques, for example. But how genuinely righteous and virtuous is the tourist?

In Costa Rica, how true is to say around a half of the tourists go solely for the ecotourism? Apart from the remaining half who apparently do not and who are attracted principally by sun and beach, does the eco-half not also take in the beach? The point being that if a country has well-managed and conserved natural areas, then tourists will be attracted. Do they consider themselves ecotourists or simply tourists?

John Swarbrooke of Sheffield Hallam University several years ago coined the term "egotourism". It was applied to those tourists who do wish to display their credentials and they do so by visiting the more exotic, the more unusual, the more "eco" destinations. Costa Rica may no longer be that unusual but it will doubtless still bring in the "ego" variety. By contrast, this ego would not be satisfied by Mallorca's associations with a very different type of tourism.

Which isn't to say that sustainable attempts shouldn't be made in seeking ecotourism. But there has to be a recognition of the mix that a destination has to offer. In Mallorca's case, this will always fundamentally be its beaches and its sun.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2016

Morning high (6.35am): 18.8C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 19 October - Cloud, sun, 23C; 20 October - Cloud, 20C.

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

Starting off well, due to cloud over with possible rain late on.

Evening update (20.00): Good enough day. It did cloud up later. No rain as yet. High of 27.9C.

When In Rome ...

The week before last a delegation set sail for the Eternal City. Its mission was to seek out new saints (one in particular) and to seemingly go where no eco-nationalist, anti-capitalist politician would normally boldly go. Mick of the Council and XeLo of Parliament were members of this delegation, their three-day mission to have an audience with the Pope and press the claims of Ramon Llull for sainthood.

The claims-pressing, one fancies, was handled more by Sebastia Taltavull, who is sort of the Bishop of Mallorca, as in he appears to be in temporary charge of the bishopric since the naughty bishop was given the heave-ho. But for appearances' sake, the presence of senior political figures was required, even if they are not of the variety normally associated with matters of strict Catholicism.

The mission over and the delegation was waved off back to Mallorca minus one member. XeLo had gone AWOL. Rather than returning to the Podemos Republic of Mallorca, XeLo stayed on in Rome, bustling through the streets of the Eternal City, credit card at the ready to splash out on Armani or the latest JLo collection. XeLo was on holiday, and she wouldn't be returning for the National Day celebrations, which, rather like church matters, do not loom high on the list of priorities of good Podemos citizens. Moreover, she skipped Tuesday's parliamentary session. The president (speaker) of the house was nowhere to be seen. She was still in Rome.

Questions were duly asked. Not directly to XeLo in parliament because she wasn't there. But no sooner had she landed in Palma, and had to fight her way through the millions of Germans who had invaded the island and saturated it once more, than the questions were being put. Why were you on holiday? Who paid for it?

In fact, XeLo had saved the citizens some money, as she had paid for the return flight. The citizens were doubtless immensely grateful, those who could be bothered to pay any attention to the row. As for having a holiday, well, she hadn't had the time in summer, it seemed. Which is all somewhat strange. Parliament, like schools, breaks up in mid-June and doesn't gather again until mid-September. Yes, there is the odd extraordinary session (extraordinary that the 59 deputies are doing anything), but the official XeLo agenda during summer suggested that there were more than 60 days when she could put her feet up.

Then there was the question about the Ethical Code, the part of it which deals with turning official trips into private holidays. Because XeLo isn't a member of the government, this doesn't actually apply to her, but the spirit of the code appeared to have been broken. To XeLo's defence came virtually no one, except for Laura, the Boot Girl. Camargo insisted that the workers' statutes provide for 30 days holidays. XeLo had otherwise only had the odd day off here or there since being elevated to her lofty status.

Was it all a fuss about nothing? Quite probably so. After all, and as a PSOE sort observed, it didn't make any difference to the parliamentary session. There are substitute speakers, unless they are also off on holiday in Rome.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2016

Morning high (7.25am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 17 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 18 October - Cloud, 23C; 19 October - Cloud, sun, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 backing Southeast 4 occasionally 5 during the morning.

A good day ahead. Outlook for the week - turning cloudy with possible showers after tomorrow.

The Romans, The Lyric, The Principal

They've been staging a theatre fair in Vilafranca, a festival of children's theatre. They do so each year. It's surprising perhaps that it is held in a backwater place like Vilafranca. There again, it isn't so surprising. Theatre is everywhere in Mallorca. From the humblest of village halls to the municipal auditoriums to the grand theatres of Palma, there are productions happening all the time. But they happen particularly in the autumn and winter, the seasons for Mallorca's theatre as they have been for at least 150 years.

This is not, to be frank, culture for the visitor or indeed the resident unfamiliar with the native tongue. But the culture of the theatre is. It has existed in Mallorca for two thousand years. You can still it and even sit in it. The Roman theatre of Pollentia in Alcudia is the oldest evidence of the stage on the island, though it may not have been the first. The Roman theatre in Palma was in the port area (as was). Various studies have established that it occupied a space from the southern end of the Paseo Borne. The Romans built theatres more or less next to the sea. In Alcudia, the sea once encroached to almost where the theatre is; the same would have been the case in Palma.

There is a vast gap in time between the theatres of the Romans and the theatres of relatively modern Mallorca. There is even greater time between the Palma Roman theatre and one that once stood roughly where the ancient one had: the Teatro Lírico, the Lyric Theatre. This opened in 1902. Its first production was an opera; Puccini's La Bohème. The performance was in February of that year, which was as it should have been. Winter was theatre time, as was autumn. Forty-nine years ago, on 2 November 1967, the Lyric staged its final production. It was, remarkably enough, La Bohème. The theatre was then demolished, thus completing a history of theatrical construction and replacement on the site; the Lyric had taken the place of the Teatro Circo Balear - half theatre, half circus.

During the period of its existence, the Lyric was one of two grand theatres in the city. The other was the Teatro Principal. It will be celebrating its 160th birthday next year. It opened in November 1857. Queen Isabel II was in attendance. It wasn't called the Teatro Principal, though. The current name had to wait until the 1868 revolution; it changed from having been the Teatro de la Princesa, after the Princess of Asturias. It also had to wait in order to be rebuilt; a fire completely destroyed it the year after it had opened. If you wonder why actors' suspicions mean they refer to the Scottish play, here was some evidence. The fire engulfed the theatre soon after a performance of Macbeth, albeit it was the opera rather than the play.

Next year will also mark the 350th anniversary of the original theatre. The Teatro Principal was once the Casa de las Comedias. There was, though, to be an absence of any humour some fifty years later; it became a headquarters and some time prison during the time of Felipe IV's Catalan repressions.

The theatre has recently released its autumn and winter programme. Rather in keeping with current political times, this is a more accessible schedule in terms both of price and of performance. It is moving to be more of a people's theatre, if you like, which was most certainly not how it once was.

The tradition of theatre was very much the preserve of the nobility. The Teatro Principal was described as a place for the "most select" of Palma, the nobility who would reside in the city in the winter but desert it in summer, meaning that the theatre only ever really opened in the winter. The tradition of the autumn-winter programmes have therefore endured, whereas the select nature of the theatregoers has not. So geared to the aristocracy was the theatre that there was a production expressly written for it. This featured a patriotic Mallorcan verse. It was in Castellano, as Castellano was the language of the upper class gentry. "Soy un mallorquín," it went and reeled off numerous surnames, ones identifiable as longstanding Mallorcan nobility - Rossiñols, Zafortezas, Villalongas and others.

Nowadays, as noted above, there are theatres and auditoriums all over the island, but the first of these auditoriums was, in a sense, to take the place of the demolished Lyric. Palma's auditorium opened in 1969. It was the first modern auditorium anywhere in Spain. It has a story all of its own.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 October 2016

Morning high (6.20am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 October - Cloud, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 backing South-Southeast around midday. Swells of up to two metres easing.

Probably cloudy later on. Otherwise not too bad, and quite warm. Sunday looking good.

Evening update (19.15): Good. High of 27.8C.

What Is The Point Of Imserso?

The first Imserso vacationers arrived on the island earlier this week. Their arrival was much earlier than last year. Or should one say this year? The legal wrangle involving the two vacation plans - Mundosenior and Mundiplan - meant that the first Spanish pensioners didn't come until January. Even then, there was chaos. The divvying up of destinations between the two has now been clarified, and so the vacations are running smoothly and have all but sold out.

It isn't clear quite how many senior citizen holidaymakers will come to Mallorca over the following few months. Imserso - the institute for senior citizens and social services (part of the national social security administration) - will be the one which finally releases the figures, but it is understood that something over 1.1 million places were available: these are for all destinations and over several months.

Mundiplan has the lower number available, and it is principally focused on the Balearics and the Canaries. It has sold some 200,000 places for the two. When you start to break that number down and spread it over the months of autumn, winter and early spring, and it doesn't sound a lot. It isn't a lot. There are also Mundosenior holidaymakers coming to Mallorca. It has nine hotels available, much the same as Mundiplan. The Mundosenior offer has six hotels in Playa de Palma/Arenal, one in Magalluf (the only four-star among them), one in Alcudia and one in Can Picafort. Lucky old Playa de Palma.

A great deal of attention is paid by the Spanish media to the Imserso holidays. This is partly because of the state subsidy. This, however, doesn't apply to Mundosenior, the bigger of the two plans. Imserso oversees its operation but it doesn't directly fund it: the combined might of Barceló and Globalia is capable of extracting deals that make the holidays economic without the need for a subsidy. Imserso does, nevertheless, contribute to the cost of individual holidays for those who qualify for assistance.

There is also attention because of the apparent boost it gives destinations in the off-season. It is certainly better that some hotels stay open rather than close, but otherwise, what contribution do these vacations make to resort economies? Very little, and the number of resorts is very limited as well.

Mundiplan has announced that it will be undertaking a study of the "profile" of the senior citizen traveller and will be co-opting the Balearic and Canaries administrations in order to do this study. Its CEO, Guillermo González, says that the "senior segment is developing a great deal and has become a very attractive market for many operators". Which is no doubt true, but who, apart from the operators, really benefits?

The anecdotal evidence, while it provides a generalisation, isn't totally inaccurate. Stories are told of groups of "pensionistas" descending on bars with their bags containing food they've brought with them, occupying whole bars and ordering little more than a cortado while also insisting on free crisps and olives. This is a stereotyping which fails to appreciate a senior market that has good disposable income and is also very much more active than the stereotype would suggest. It is a market that is far wider than Spain. Why a concerted and coherent effort is not made to attract a European market to Mallorca (or other destinations) has been a question asked in the past, and it still needs asking. If the likes of Barceló and Globalia can come up with deals for Spanish pensioners, then is it beyond the capabilities of them and others to do likewise for a much greater market? Broaden the whole approach and then you might really notice an off-season difference.

Friday, October 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 October 2016

Morning high (7.35am): 14.3C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 15 October - Sun, 24C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 17 October - Sun, 27C.

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

Clear skies early on. There is a chance of rain this morning. But otherwise should be reasonable. Weekend looking good.

Evening update (21.00): High of 24.7C. Not too bad, but something of a "rissaga" today. The beach disappeared.

Pep Versus Pep: Soft drink speak

It's all a question of pronunciation, you see. Pep and Pep don't sound the same. So the argument goes. I confess that it is an argument utterly lost on me. Pep and Pep sound exactly the same to my Anglo-ears.

There have been all sorts of David and Goliath legal battles. McDonald's are familiar with the workings of the courts in this regard, whether because of defamation or the borrowing of the name, if just the Mc (aka Mac) part. Some of these battles can seem petty - Goliath throwing his weight around because he can do. Others are less so. David can try it on, and David knows that he's been trying it on. There is property to be defended - intellectual, industrial. There is reputation, name and image to be upheld. There is the inherent value of the brand to be maintained, one that has been acquired over many a long year. David can come along and try borrowing some of that value. This is one reason why PepsiCo challenged Lemon Factory's Pep name.

To explain, as explanation may be needed. Lemon Factory started up some three years ago. Here was everything that the Balearic government (certainly as now is) would love. A sort of artisan lemonade maker. There were already artisan microbreweries, so why not lemonade as well, and a product that might even be destined for rather greater sales than the artisan beers? Splendid idea, splendid product. What was there not to like?

Well, PepsiCo, via its Spanish division, didn't like. Pep and Pep, you see. Of course, as everyone knows (mostly everyone) Pep is a very common name - short for Josep. Mallorca is not short of Peps. They are everywhere. So the Pep brand name was just a reflection of a name. Wasn't it? As far as Pepsi was concerned, it was indeed a reflection of a name: its name. In court its lawyers argued, among other things, that Lemon Factory was and would be benefiting from all those decades of brand value and rivalry with another maker of cola.

It was probably cola that really did it. The original product was Pep Lemon. But then came Pep Cola. When it first appeared, I thought that they, Lemon Factory, couldn't be serious. Was it a kind of affectionate joke? Notwithstanding the accent, the missing "si" suggested so. Not, it has to be said, that there was great room for confusion in the eyes (or perhaps) ears of the consumer. For a kick-off the labelling is totally different. There is absolutely no possibility of confusion.

Pepsi, however, suggested that there was a possibility. M'learned friends at the Balearic High Court have been inclined to agree. Sorry, not inclined; have agreed. These same learned friends were likewise disinclined to go along with the pronunciation line of defence, which has to do with the "e" in the competing Peps being pronounced differently. The court had thus committed a serious linguistic error, and Lemon Factory has hauled in linguistics experts to explain why. One e is closed, the other e is open. No room for confusion, even if the letters are arranged in the same order.

Lemon Factory, instructed to drop the Pep name, is not giving up the fight. It's going to the Supreme Court, where m'learned friends may be even less aware of the nuance of Mallorquin/Catalan pronunciation. Doubtless they will be made to listen to tape recordings of Pep and Pep(si). It's all a bit, I suppose, like the court having to decide if Jimmy Page had nicked Randy California's riff and come up with "Stairway To Heaven".

It's all a shame. Here is a business that deserves to succeed. It has a good product. But the phonetic argument sounds (as it were) somewhat farfetched. There may be a legitimate reason for raising it, but especially where Pep Cola is concerned, the names are too alike.

The Balearic government (as now is) has stepped in. Or at least Més has stepped in. Parliamentary spokesperson David Abril was swigging a bottle of Pep Lemon as he announced that there will be a proposal to make brands - made in Mallorca - capable of being defended by the government. Whatever that is supposed to entail. There was, unsurprisingly, the subtext of Goliath multinational beating up David artisan lemonade maker with products that are respectful of the environment and so therefore in keeping with principles of sustainability, etc, etc.

Pepsi do have a point, though. Even so, might it not have been possible to arrive at a solution other than demand that the Pep name is abandoned completely? Would dropping Pep Cola not be a way? With the other ones - Pep Lemon, Pep Orange, Pep Toni - the potential for any confusion is minimal, if at all, while the labelling says it all, however Pep is spoken: a totally different product.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 October 2016

Morning high (7.23am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 14 October - Cloud, sun, 24C; 15 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 4 to 5 easing Variable 2 to 3 from midday.

Quite breezy first up. Cloudy also. Cloud - heavy at that - expected all day. Rain and possible storm forecast for tomorrow, but from Saturday there should be a change to settled, warm weather.

Evening update (20.15): High of 28C. Storm later on and something of a downpour.

The Many Days Of 12 October

Spain's National Day, Spain's National Holiday, Spain's Day of Hispanicity, the day of the Guardia Civil, the day of the Virgen del Pilar, the day of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. Make your choice. Yesterday was all of them.

They still refer to the "Día de la Hispanidad" - Hispanicity - albeit that a 1987 decree sort of abandoned the notion. As a national day, the Hispanicity concept was one that first surfaced outside Spain: in Argentina to be precise. In 1931, a one-time Spanish ambassador in Buenos Aires proposed that there be one. By that time, Argentina had been celebrating Columbus for some forty years. In 1913, they came up with the Fiesta de la Raza - the festival of the race, the Spanish race. That's another option to add to the 12 October list.

Hispanicity, a form of international nationalism, now seems a gloriously anachronistic and archaic concept. At the time that it surfaced, Spain was entering yet another of its periods of turmoil. Perhaps Hispanicity was something to cling to, an attempt to boost a nationalist morale that had been shattered by, among other things, the losses to the Americans at the end of the previous century.

Five years after that ambassador, Ramiro de Maeztu, proposed the name, what happened? Well, I think we all know what happened. Under Franco, allied to the image of the Virgen del Pilar, here was the perfect means to express what "Spanishness" meant - deeply conservative, highly Catholic, militaristic, fascist.

With the exception of the latter, this was a meaning that had characterised Spain for decades previously, though goodness knows there had already been fascistic tendencies in a line from Ferdinand VII to Primo de Rivera; earlier than even Ferdinand it might be said. A further characteristic was turmoil; it was pretty much the normal state of affairs during the nineteenth century, as liberalism vied with conservatism and usually came off worse.

Was this a fair assessment of Spanishness? And what assessment can be made nowadays? The Civil War has defined Spain ever since. Yet here was a country which had more than 120 years previously given the world the notion of liberalism. Here was a country which during the last century spawned three of the greats of the world of art - Dali, Miró, Picasso - heirs to the crown of arguably the greatest of all, Francisco de Goya. It was a country of suppressed sophistication, a factor which perhaps contributed (and still does contribute) to the fascination that Spain has for the foreigner.

On the surface, Spanishness was also its enduring images, such as the bullfight and flamenco, ones that the Franco regime was only too willing to promote. But there was what lay under the surface. Writer after writer sought to dissect and analyse it. Ernest Hemingway, Laurie Lee, George Orwell. Not all the writers have taken the Civil War as a theme, but many have and still do. Victoria Hislop's "The Return" is a more contemporary example.

The war continues to inform and inspire the foreign writer. It's unsurprising, given that fundamentals of that time continue to inspire national (and independence) debate. The fascism and militarism no longer exist. Hispanicity, in the sense of some form of fading global power, has faded further. The images have altered. The bullfight has been replaced by the beach. Tapas and football are Spain's global brands. But the struggles remain between conservatism and liberalism, the monarchy and the republic, the church and the secular authorities.

The tensions within Spanishness are created by anti-Spanishness. Some of it is vehement, just as it has been since the days, three hundred years ago, of Felipe IV and his Catalan repressions. Some of it is less so, but in its current-day guise it can cause a collision between one of the global brands and a key reason for the tensions. Barcelona's Gerard Piqué will retire from international football. Pro-Catalan, pro-independence, he says he feels unwanted by the national team. The national team: Spain, España, Spanishness writ large for the current day.

The National Day was against the background of the political chaos caused by the two elections. In truth, this chaos is a re-emergence of how it always was. The years of transition, the boom years under González and Aznar and the stability of politics might be seen as their own anachronisms; Spain has historically not done stability. And into the chaos have come throwbacks to the 1930s - those divisions between left and right, wholly unreconcilable and with the corruption which defined attempts at mock democracies prior to the war.

But there is one thing which is now very different and which undermines any psychological yearning for Hispanicity. It is Europe. Yes, Spain has done well by Europe, but the country is grateful. Catalonia would also be grateful. A new Spanishness of regional acceptance and forgiveness might just breed a new form of nationhood.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 October 2016

Morning high (7.35am): 15C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 13 October - Cloud, sun, 26C; 14 October - Cloud, sun, 22C; 15 October - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4 veering Southeast 5 to 6 during the afternoon.

Public holiday today - Spain's National Day. Clear skies early on. Due to cloud over later; some rain likely. Tomorrow, much the same.

Evening update (19.45): High of 25C. Good and sunny for much of the morning and then came the cloud and a spot of rain.

The Two Fairs Of The Tramuntana

They had a fair in Lluc at the weekend. Did you go? Did you know it was on? Had you been confused?

A fair in Lluc requires that people go to it. Most fairs can be taken to the local people. The problem with Lluc is that it doesn't have any people. Well, not many. Forty-four on the "padrón", 18.6% of the entire population (236) of the mountainous municipality of Escorca, one of Mallorca's bigger municipalities in terms of land area. It is some 12 square kilometres smaller than its neighbour Pollensa. Its population is 1.46% of Pollensa's.

There are, therefore, certain inherent disadvantages to staging a fair in Lluc. This said, it is - courtesy of the monastery - a place to which people go. The weather may not have been brilliant at the weekend, but in a way the weather doesn't matter too much (unless it is absolutely hammering it down). Lluc is Lluc; the weather is largely by the bye.

Reports say, however, that the fair suffered from there having been fewer people. In fact, the numbers were distinctly on the "poco" side. Sales were therefore down. What briskness of trade there was centred on the foody stuff. Folk were eating; they weren't buying artisan pots, much to the chagrin of artisanal vendors thereof.

It wasn't perhaps altogether surprising that numbers were down. There will be those, myself included, who know that there is a fair in Lluc on the second weekend in October. I know because it's one of those things I need to know. I might not otherwise. But I didn't know what exactly was occurring this year. Could I find information?

As Escorca is so tiny as far as people are concerned, it doesn't have a town hall overflowing with staff. It also has a debt of over 700,000 euros to worry about. This may explain why the town hall's website contained not an immediately obvious word about the fair. When you rummage a bit, if you can be bothered, there is a thing which explains that there is a fair on the second weekend of October. Otherwise, the last time anything was posted to the main page was in April, and that was an announcement for a council meeting. There are icons for Twitter and Facebook. Might those have led to respective pages and possible information? Neither go anywhere.

There was, to be fair to the fair, an announcement on the town hall's Facebook page, even if the link from the website wasn't functioning. That at least confirmed the times, if nothing much else, but I'm guessing not many saw the announcement. Likes 149; they've gone up by one now, as I've liked it and become number 150.

The lack of information is not unique. A degree of hunting is often required to find it. Several town halls are deficient in this regard. But might there have been a further reason why the Lluc fair was less than well attended this year? The potential confusion?

The title of the fair in Catalan was Fira de la Serra de Tramuntanta. In Puerto Soller, admittedly only on the Saturday, was the Fira de la Mar Serra de Tramuntana, the first time such a fair has been held. You don't need to understand Catalan to spot the similarity between. Only the sea has come between them.

To be blunt, whose bright idea was it to hold a fair with almost exactly the same name, on one of the same days, not a million kilometres from Lluc? The potential for confusion was great. Had the Lluc fair been moved?

Most remarkable of all was that the Puerto Soller fair had been organised in conjunction with the Council of Mallorca's consortium for the Tramuntana, the body which seemingly now has promotional responsibilities for the mountains. Did no one spot the similarity? You would have thought they might, given that Lluc is about as Tramuntana as you can get and has been holding its fair for years.

The absence of information, the almost identical names of the fairs point to what is an unfortunately incoherent approach to promotion. We are still in the tourist season. German states are having autumn half-terms. There are plenty of people about. I know of hotels in the north of the island which are full, and they really are full; prospective clients have been unable to book.

Given this lucky state of affairs, what a shame that there is such a shambolic approach to promotion. It's hard to understand why it is quite so poor, especially given the means which are now available and the access that the great majority of tourists (and residents) have to these means.

It has, though, been ever thus. What hasn't been ever thus is to have two fairs with as good as the same name.