Saturday, December 31, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 December 2016

Morning high (8.25am): 7.4C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 1 January - Sun, cloud, 16C; 2 January - Cloud, sun, 16C; 3 January - Sun, cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3, temporarily Variable 1 to 2.

Should be a pleasant enough New Year's Eve during the day and also clear for tonight's festivities. The general outlook up to Three Kings seems pretty settled.

Evening update (19.00): Some decent sun and a high of 18.5C.

The Charades Of Congress And Francina

Goodness, what fun that was, and it was only spoiled by them actually approving the investiture of Mariano. There I had been, encouraging them to keep on having failed elections and failed investitures and to see if they could go the entire period of the (notional) legislature, i.e. until 2019, with Mazza doing his acting. Still, there's always the next time, we can but hope.

Had there not been the investiture, the Yuletide would have been a time for dissecting the consequences of another failed election. They were to deprive us of a Christmastime charade, we all having got used to charades during the year. Take, for instance, the one involving Ant and Dec in March. The head boy of PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, and his buddy, the little C of the C's, Albert Rivera, concocted the preposterous notion of putting Pedro up for investiture. There was only the slight matter of 88 votes which prevented this cunning plan from being put into effect.

Ant and Dec went their separate ways. Albert, seeking anyone who would have him and the other C's, tagged along with Super Mariano and eventually succeeded in helping to push Old Greybeard over the finishing line. There was more important support from the turncoats of PSOE, whose Andalusian power base - led by the dominatrix Susana Díaz - purged Pedro and offered their ironically submissive cries of yes to the Mazza investiture. Much though he was (is) objectionable, the Ruffian (Gabriel) of the Catalonian Republicans had a point when he branded the PSOE ranks as traitors to socialism.

The Ruffian and others among the Wild Left have ended the year in rather poorer shape (and humour) than they started it. Podemos appear to be irretrievably split according to degrees of lunacy. The monster raving wing under Pablo Iglesias is butting heads with the monster raving (sensible) faction led by The Infant, Iñigo Errejón, who visibly grew into adulthood during the year. Such was the divide that Pablo issued a Christmas message in which he apologised if it appeared as if Podemos were going tits up. And he wasn't referring to Rita Maestre, The Infant's "chica", who was let off by a court for having got them out in church.

All eyes will thus be turned towards the pleasant view of Vista Alegre II in February, when the Politburo will call the brotherhood and sisterhood and decide the fate of Podemos. Iglesias has said he'll step down if his "project" loses. The Infant, meanwhile, should beware any metaphorical ice-picks being delivered to his head and subsequent airbrushing from the collective memory of the Podemos collective. Whither Podemos? It's going to be a key issue in 2017.

Someone who will not be taking in the pleasant view will be battling ex-Podemos and soon to be ex-president of the Balearic parliament, Xe-Lo Huertas. It's hard to determine whether she was the victim of bullyboy (and girl) tactics on behalf of fellow travellers (no longer travelling together) or if she was just plain daft. Either way, she will cease to bustle into the speaker's chair, the big question being who will assume her role and be the one to advise the King that spending on his Almudaina reception would be more wisely invested in soup kitchens.

The Podemos local difficulty merely added to the sense of disbelief which surrounds Francina Armengol's government. La Presidenta has spent the whole year drifting around in the fog of her own charade - one of insistence that all is consensus and dialogue and as sweet and friendly as she is. It clearly is not, as was exemplified by the less than merry ding-dong which occurred between the normally jovial Enviro Man Vince Vidal (my personal favourite of the year) and Cati Cladera at finance. It was all about budgets and how much the Mésite ministries (of which Vince's is one) were to get, or not.

Further division is potentially looming, courtesy once more of Podemos. With it being suggested that Alberto Jarabo has lost the local dressing-room, might the terrifying Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, make a bid for officially taking command as opposed to be commanding from the rear (Alberto's that is)?

These rifts were as nought, however, when compared with the PP. Great sport awaits us when and if they finally have their regional congress and if J.R. does end up putting his name into the ring as returning president. The party's bouncer, one-time tourism minister Jaime Martínez, still maintains that it will be he who will be leading the even further to the right faction than the other lot. Biel Company (not as far to the right) remains odds-on, but we should be praying that Bauzá does make a bid. The entertainment will be greater than anything even Podemos can serve up.

Index for December 2016

Arenal tram - 5 December 2016
Constitutional reform - 6 December 2016
Cuba and Mallorca's hoteliers - 1 December 2016
Financing the Balearics - 20 December 2016
Fire service in Mallorca - 11 December 2016
Francina Armengol and second term - 19 December 2016
Holiday rentals and housing legislation - 8 December 2016, 14 December 2016, 18 December 2016
Ideology and political change - 27 December 2016
Insults and offence in 2016 - 28 December 2016
Investiture and other charades - 31 December 2016
Ironman - 16 December 2016
José Ramón Bauzá comeback - 26 December 2016
Mallorca and Airbnb - 3 December 2016
Mallorca Day - 9 December 2016
Matances pig slaughter - 17 December 2016
Odd stuff in 2016 - 29 December 2016
Palma airport name - 15 December 2016
Podemos and dissent - 4 December 2016, 12 December 2016
Real Mallorca - 23 December 2016
Religious tourism - 7 December 2016
Santa Claus - 25 December 2016
Saturation, sustainability and stability - 30 December 2016
Shopping tourism - 2 December 2016
Sibil-la - 24 December 2016
Subbuteo - 13 December 2016
Tourism press - 10 December 2016
Tourism promotion - 22 December 2016
Weather obsession - 21 December 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 December 2016

Morning high (7.04am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 31 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 1 January - Sun, cloud, 16C; 2 January - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4. Swells of one metre.

Cloudy with sunny spells expected to be the order of the day. Your New Year weather is looking pretty good. Tomorrow night should be fine if cold. New Year's Day forecast to be bright.

Evening update (21.15): Pretty good once more. High of 19.5C.

Saturation, Sustainability And Stability: Mallorca's Tourism 2016

It was the 3S year. Not sun, sea and sand (substitute sex for the latter if you prefer) but saturation, sustainability and stability. Mallorca had stability by the safety and security load, plus - more or less - political stability. Geopolitics, a word that was being rammed down our throats, were at play in creating the opposite in different parts of the Med: the instability of others was Mallorca's good fortune. Until, that is, it came to saturation. Tourist numbers were greater than ever. And they were everywhere. Clogging up beaches, clogging up town centres (well, one, i.e. Palma, but only now and then), clogging up the port in Palma on account of the leviathans of the sea colliding on the same days, clogging up roads with the thousands more hire cars that had been diverted from Turkish ports, clogging up private apartments and firing off messages of gratitude to Airbnb. Bloody tourists.

It may have only been a couple of cranks who sprayed their messages on walls of Palma's old town, but their sentiments were far more widely held. Regardless of whether politicians attempted to either downplay or make hay with the slogans, the publicity had won. Saturation and its negative effects were here to stay. Or for at least as long as geopolitics are active in the eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa.

It wasn't as if we hadn't been here before. Few mentioned the fact that there had been similar murmurings of discontent at the turn of the millennium, despite Mallorca experiencing something of a crisis because of competition from destinations then unaffected by geopolitics. The response had been a campaign for sustainability - yes, they've been talking about it for that long - and a new tax. The ecotax was introduced in 2002 and then un-introduced eighteen months later. Politics, not of a geo nature but of a typically Balearic style, saw to it that the ecotax was ejected with force and catapulted into the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean, never to darken a hotel reception again. Until 1 July, 2016.

While former tourism minister Celesti Alomar had believed (hoped) that the ecotax would lead to a cut in tourist numbers, the current minister, Biel Barceló, didn't seem to suggest that the new tourist tax was a means of limiting numbers. Not to begin with anyway. Although he remained somewhat equivocal on the tax and limits relationship, others were not for equivocating. Podemos and fellow travellers in Barceló's Més party were all for putting it up in 2017 in order to keep the numbers down. Més and numerous members of Podemos signed up to the campaign "Sense límits no hi ha futur".

The politics of the tourist tax were in themselves curious. Més in their former solo guise as the PSM had been against the ecotax in 2002 (believe it or not, they had feared it would harm tourist numbers). It had been PSOE - Alomar especially - who had been the evangelists and advocates. Although PSOE in their current form have never admitted that they would have rather the tourist tax had been given a wide berth, they were badgered into it by Més and Podemos.

And once it was on the parliamentary agenda, it caused all sorts of disagreement, not least with regard to how the revenue was to be spent. There was, for example, the notion (proposed by Toni Reus of Més) of some of the revenue going towards old folks' homes. The scrapping was such that an unidentified member of Podemos entertainingly remarked that during one particularly heated discussion "we were screaming like we were kids in primary school".

Paramount, though, was our old friend sustainability, so much so that the tax was officially dubbed the sustainable tourism tax. It duly arrived in time for the high season, and fears that outraged tourists might be dragged off to the cells for refusing to part with payment were to prove to have been unfounded.

It is perhaps instructive to look back at quotes that I used in reviewing the 2015 tourism year. The president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, the ubiquitous Inma Benito, had called it a bad measure that "will cause the loss of millions in 2016". Hans Müller of Thomas Cook believed that it "could suddenly cost us everything that has been gained over the past four years". As things turned out, the hoteliers and the tour operators were grateful for the geopolitics as far as Mallorca was concerned; tour operators otherwise experienced losses, especially in Turkey.

With limits and saturation very much on the agenda, Barceló introduced the draft for the holiday rentals legislation. This will be one of the big issues for 2017, and it will be a contentious issue as well. The divvying up of the 43,000 places according to nine zones in Mallorca, to say nothing of the other three islands, will be a wonder to behold, while the lawyers will already be champing at the bit. On all-inclusives, if the tourism ministry is true to its word and gets tough with offer that is not registered, then good on the ministry.

2016 will otherwise be remembered for the collapse of Low Cost Holidays and so for the job losses. It was a case study of crap cash-flow management allied to inadequate regulatory control in the Balearics: the tourism ministry was left to squirm and cite European bonds as its fallback position for holidaymakers whose holidays were costing them double. There were also the losses that Vueling was consistently making: it kept on having to cancel flights. The airports authority Aena hasn't explained if the record numbers at Palma airport took account of the cancellations.

And what of losses in 2017? Brexit had no impact this year, and in truth there had been little justification for thinking that it would have. We're told that bookings from the UK are buoyant for next year, the bigger fear being lower spend. But as no one believes tourist spending statistics anyway, how will we able to tell?

So we look forward to the new year, one during which we will revisit - time and time again - the same themes. 2017 will be 3S year Mark II.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 December 2016

Morning high (7.54am): 8.4C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 30 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 31 December - Cloud, sun, 15C; 1 January - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Chillier morning, down to below five degrees in areas. Nice and clear, and a sunny day ahead.

Evening update (20.15): Not bad. High of 19.5C.

Beaches And Towels: Oddities Of 2016

This was a year in which Ikea found itself involved in a Spanish general election, there were arguments over the use of "a" or "e", beaches were targeted by sellers on eBay and beach towels had the attention of environmentalists.

Whatever one might think of Podemos, they know how to do things differently. They "borrowed" the Ikea catalogue for their June election campaign. Prominent members of the party were to be found on a white Vilmar chair (Pablo Iglesias), by a Hemnes desk (Iñigo Errejón), with a PS 2002 watering can (Balearic leader Alberto Jarabo). Each image carried a message from the Podemos manifesto. Ikea stressed that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the campaign, though privately may have felt that it was pretty good promotion.

Toponymy (the study of place names) loomed large on the agenda. While Palma was engrossed (or not) in discussions regarding its name (Palma or Palma de Mallorca), Calvia was considering the rival claims of Paguera and Peguera. Here was a genuine vowel controversy. It had always been Pag, it was said, until the town hall introduced Peg in the 1980s. The current town hall was determined to ensure that Peg it was and will be. Toponymy experts were being consulted. The Peg camp were able to point to the derivation from "pega" for pine sap. The Pag-ists were unimpressed, and they included the hoteliers who were equally determined to use Paguera.

Calvia spent much of the summer informing us how well new ordinance and policing arrangements were going in stamping out crime (mostly petty) and bad behaviour. This was all very well, but the information rarely informed anyone about the most serious issues, such as actions against the so-called prostitutes of Magalluf and Santa Ponsa. Instead, there were stories such as the major success in confiscating 79 coconuts, 24 pineapples and 23 watermelons that had been destined for sale on beaches. In isolation, this was fair enough, but reaction to this success was inevitable: they can seize fruit but they can't do anything about the prostitutes.

Meanwhile, there was outrage when it was discovered that tiny pieces of beach (pebbles and sand) were being flogged on eBay. A German was offering bags containing bits of Sa Calobra beach for 5.90 euros. The regional environment ministry said such "extraction" could not be tolerated, though pointed out that it was a matter for the Costas Authority. There were also packets with Camp de Mar and Sant Elm beaches. The mayor of Andratx said that there would be "investigations".

Outrage was even greater when occupants of superyachts took over, "occupied" and "privatised" a beach on the island of Cabrera. Towels, beds and tents were installed by crew members. It was the equivalent of a "beach club", claimed environmentalists GOB. Action was demanded. Fines had to be issued, but once more the regional ministry suggested it was a matter for the Costas, who were being invited to intervene in other similar "occupations", such as by Russian oligarchs moving in on beaches and employing security personnel to keep the riff-raff away.

Towels were in great abundance on the beach in El Molinar a week or so after Cabrera had been invaded. A Portuguese performance artist by the name of Hugo Israel placed fifteen large towels on the beach and then sat in a chair sunning himself in typical tourist mode as a form of protest against tourist "saturation" and in defence of the island's environment and sustainability that were being harmed by excessive tourism. The stunt attracted a good deal of publicity, but for some, Hugo represented a growing "saturation" of protesters against saturation. And what was a Portuguese doing, staging a protest? Was he not a tourist? Where environmentalists were concerned, however, there were no objections to his "occupation" of the beach.

Back in Calvia they were getting agitated by the return of "Geordie Shore" to film in Magalluf; they having been the town hall, the tourism ministry and local businesses. There was no permission to film in public areas, they shouted, and to so contribute to a programme that would be "harmful to the image of Magalluf, Calvia and Mallorca" at a time when everyone was collaborating on pushing "quality tourism". Well, not quite everyone, as Geordie Shore were able to film in non-public areas, such as a party boat.

While Calvia was defending the good name of Magalluf and media sensation-seekers were finding there was now thin sensationalist gruel to be had in Maga, the authorities in Madrid and Barcelona were being confronted by the problem of hard-core pornography being filmed in the streets. Barcelona insisted that having sex in the streets was prohibited, but Madrid was less explicit (so to speak). Unless tripods were being used for filming, it seemed unable to stop it.

So for once, Magalluf was not sin city. And that was odd in itself.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 December 2016

Morning high (7.11am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 29 December - Sun, 16C; 30 December - Sun, cloud, 15C; 31 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

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

Milder morning, looking cloudy before dawn. Should be sunny later on. Light breezes.

Evening update (20.30): Shaped up pretty well. High of 19.1C.

Giving And Taking Offence: Moments Of 2016

With there having been as much politics as there has been this year - failed election, failed investitures and so on - there was ample opportunity for the insults to fly. But the best was left until the end. With Mariano Rajoy on the point of being anointed, the Catalonia Republican Left's Gabriel Rufián decided to lay into PSOE, with whom he was less than impressed for facilitating the investiture. Traitors to socialism, he declared. Are they not ashamed to bow to the designs of a cacique that governs an autonomous community (he was referring to Andalusia)? A raw nerve was touched. PSOE were in uproar, their anger with Rufián matched only by that of Podemos, who walked out en masse when the Partido Popular's Rafael Hernando referred to four million dollars of Venezuelan party funding.

By the end of October, when these pleasantries were being exchanged, Congress had become used to the new realities of its make-up. Podemos strode in for the first time, and there were baffled looks on the faces of members of the PP as the Tenerife deputy, Alberto Rodríguez, was presented. Alberto sports full-on dreadlocks in a bun and a permanently angry expression. The (PP) vice-president of Congress, Celia Villalobos, offered her views. She didn't mind there being rastas in Congress so long as they were clean and didn't have lice. Alberto grew angrier still.

The PP were to be the target of one Carlos Pons Camps. A member of Esquerra de Menorca (Menorca Left), he had stood as a candidate at the December general election (coming absolutely nowhere). Four months later, he was still smarting. In fact, he was bloody furious, so much so that he took to social media and proposed the extermination of every single PP voter: roughly ten million people across Spain. He later apologised.  

Someone else who was forced to say sorry was Victor Fernández of Podemos in Alicante. Following the death of the Valencia "boss", the PP's Rita Barberá, he tweeted that she should be burned in order to keep a family without resources warm for a week. Even Podemos condemned his "deplorable behaviour". It had been black humour, he explained, but he promised not to do it again.

Twitter was the favoured medium of Loreto Amoros. She was to find herself as a candidate for the Senate with a suddenly and newly formed party, Sobirania per a les Illes (which just as suddenly un-formed itself). Suffice it to say that she didn't get elected, which didn't owe anything to her tweeting output. A 45-year-old mother of four, this hadn't prevented Loreto bombarding followers with her views on sex - "the week goes really slowly without fucking" - and on the Archbishop of Toledo, who merited a bullet in the back of the neck. To be fair to her, the archbishop had suggested that gender violence was linked to the fact that women asked for a divorce.

The archbishop would doubtless have disapproved of a video created by a 17-year-old Palma schoolboy which featured, inter alia, references to sex acts involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Various moral custodians (including the PP) were up in arms, citing religious hatred and law regarding the corruption of minors and pornography.

Some time later, and unrelated to this video, the general secretary of PSOE in the Balearics, Silvia Cano, was questioning the continuing live transmission of Sunday mass from Palma Cathedral by the public broadcaster, IB3. "Pornography," suggested Silvia, "also has its public". Silvia hadn't in fact been proposing that IB3 start filling its schedules with porn; she'd merely been drawing a comparison. But the very mention of porn had the custodians reaching for the nearest online petition in demanding that she retract her comments. She didn't.

Around the same time as there was the fuss over the schoolboy blasphemy video, the Manacor local magazine "Perlas y Cuevas" found itself - or rather its editor found himself - being blasted by feminist caceroladas (the beating of saucepans). This was because of its Sant Antoni special in January, which featured Aline, a Russian blonde and a topless one at that, in erotic poses with the Grand Demon. The editor, Antoni Ferrer, defended the photos by saying that they were professional and had not been designed to stir up controversy. Not everyone agreed with him.

Religion came to the defence of a defence lawyer. Manuel González Peeters, the lawyer for Diego Torres at the Nóos trial in Palma, branded former justice minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, an idiot when he appeared as a witness. González Peeters defended his use of idiot by arguing that, in the Bible, Luke had used idiot to mean someone who doesn't listen and that many popes have used the same word for the same reason.

Idiots or not, plenty of people had been listening to this and to the other insults uttered and offences given and taken in 2016.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 December 2016

Morning high (7.00am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 28 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 29 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 30 December - Cloud, sun, 15C.

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

Probably not going to reach the heights of yesterday temperature-wise. Quite stiff northerlies expected. Cloudy later on and the chance of a spot of rain.

Evening update (19.30): Reasonable. High of 18.6C.

Everything Changes ... Ideologically

Regulatory change is the normal state of affairs when there are changes of government. But the extent of this change will depend on how different parties A and B really are. If ideologies are set to one side and there is a pragmatic centre ground of only minor fluctuation, then change will be slight, which has the advantage of mostly everyone knowing where they stand. Institutions, organisations, societies generally abhor upheaval and uncertainty. They like things as they are, but they don't always stick to this line of thinking. Change is deemed necessary.

In football, to use a trite example, you can get situations such as Crystal Palace. Upheaval, essential in order to keep the filthy lucre of the Premier League flowing in, means the booting into touch of an Alan Pardew fannying around and going nowhere (except down) by the heavy boot of a Big Sam. He may unfairly be characterised as a Route One advocate, but let's accept that he's sort of Route One and a Half, whereas Pardew was Route M25, going round and round in circles and unable to see light at the end of the Blackwall Tunnel.

To return to politics, ideologies do of course hold sway. Party A adheres to its set, as does Party B. Ne'er the twain do they therefore meet. Which would be simple enough to understand, except when there are Parties C, D, E, F and possibly G to take account of as well. Among this array, there will be voices which insist that they are not engaging in ideologies and are being pragmatic. Which is a load of nonsense. It is pragmatism that suits the party which is declaring it, as also does the constant cry of consensus. This is fine so long it's my consensus and not yours, which doesn't make any sense but can do when one or other parties are browbeaten into finally giving up arguing and going along with the consensus for the sake of a quieter life.

This is the situation which exists within the Balearic government, in the Balearic parliament, at the Council of Mallorca and at the town hall in Palma (as well as some other town halls). On the ruling side there are PSOE, Més and Podemos, with Podemos either formally part of the administration or not. Each has its ideologies, with Podemos having the oddest. They are, as often as not, ideologies of putting a spanner in the works just for the sheer hell of it. Normal rules of political protocol don't apply.

On the opposition side, there are the PP, El Pi and the C's (plus Party G in the Balearic parliament, the Gent per Formentera, all one of them). Each of them, with the exception of the Gent who ideologically aren't anywhere near the other three, occupies territory of varying degrees of right of centre. Of them, El Pi can be the most contrary. It does rather depend on which part of its regionalist-nationalist inner ideology happens to be dominating on a given day.

Which brings us to how change comes about. El Pi sided with the left in pushing through the change to Mallorca Day by the Council of Mallorca. Yet previously, when its chap was heading the Mallorca Day committee before he resigned because no one was listening to him, it had been on the side of keeping 12 September. There must have been a realisation that on ideological nationalist grounds there could be no alternative but 31 December, so the votes were duly cast.

The PP, also divided on inner ideological grounds, has said that it will change the day back again. And why would they do that? Well, because they'll be able to, one supposes. Because they've opposed 31 December, there's no better reason to later revert to 12 September. Personally, I believe 31 December makes complete sense, but sense is not what we're talking about. It's ideologies which matter along with the impulse to change things just because you can. Més say that 31 December will be better because the citizens will take more interest, which is further nonsense. The citizens won't. Theirs is a justification raised so as to disguise ideological motives.

What else is batted across the political ping-pong table? The name of Palma is one. The PP, aided and abetted by the C's, will add "de Mallorca" once more. Why? Well, because it's practical to do so, which may be true but is also right-wing speak for saying we don't like what the left are doing.

And so the list goes on, no one ever quite knowing where they stand. One side says Catalan, the other side says Castellano, so changes the rules only for them to be changed back again. Everything changes because it can be changed, even current governmental agreements for change. Just ask the ideologues of PSOE, Més and Podemos.

Monday, December 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 December 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 10.4C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 27 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 28 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 29 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

Clear start to the day and should stay clear, fine and mainly sunny. Tomorrow and Wednesday some risk of showers.

Evening update (20.15): Fine day, and a high of 24.1C. Really.

If you've not seen it, here is the photo of Mallorca taken by Alfons Puertas, meteorologist at the Fabra Observatory in Barcelona. Mallorca can only rarely be seen to be photographed when conditions are right. Alfons took the photo at dawn this morning. The distance is 206 kilometres.

Deluded: José Ramón Bauzá

José Ramón Bauzá believes that the selection of the next full-time president of the Partido Popular in the Balearics will be a run-off between himself and the long-time favourite for the post, Biel Company. The delay in holding a regional congress - its date has still to be decided - has been caused by the national situation. There should have been a congress following the general election in December last year; it was placed on hold because of the inconclusive outcome of that election and the second one in June.

The delay has led to Bauzá's attempt to return. Had there been a congress at the start of this year, he wouldn't have been in the frame to be restored as party president and as, he will wish, president of the Balearics.

The temporary leadership of the PP is wanting there to be a single candidate for selection. Acting president Miquel Vidal and others hope that this will lead to party unity, which may be a forlorn hope but would at least paper over the divisions. If there is more than one, especially if Bauzá features, the schisms will be laid bare. There'll be blood on the carpet. Bauzá has made it clear that he isn't looking for rapprochement with Company.

The former environment and agriculture minister ticks a number of boxes where the PP rank and file out in the sticks are concerned. Originally from the rural town of Sant Joan, his background is agriculture; he was brought in as minister by Bauzá, even though he wasn't at the time a PP member. In addition to this appeal to rural parts, Company represents something of the old style of the PP, one more in tune with regional identity and not openly antagonistic towards Catalan.

Bauzá represents the opposite, and his recent announcements show how the divisions in the party are also geographical. He says that he has the backing of the Palma membership. He may well not, but the very fact of him having referred to this just serves to highlight how attitudes differ between the city and the "part forana"; the latter is generally in sympathy with the old style than is the former.

Moreover, there is the figure of José María Rodríguez, who somewhat unexpectedly turned up at a Bauzá gathering. It is understood that he is lending Bauzá support, but he - it shouldn't be forgotten - was ousted from his position as president of the PP organisation in Palma because of corruption allegations. With friends like him and Carlos Delgado, widely disliked within the PP, Bauzá's selection chances would seem lessened.

Were he to be selected, assuming that he does go ahead and present himself, it would be a major shock. Bauzá maintains that he has support in Mallorca, the Balearics and in Madrid among the national leadership, but there is more than a hint of wishful thinking. He has little backing in Madrid, where he has been overlooked for any meaningful contribution in his role as a Balearic senator because there is little faith in him or like. In Mallorca, his status has been summed up by the new mayor of Petra, former health minister Marti Sansaloni: Bauzá has lost all credibility.

Sansaloni, like Company, owed his ministerial role to Bauzá. He was the third health minister in the Bauzá regime, brought in as something of a yes-man but later one of Bauzá's fiercest critics, as was Company. These two were instrumental in ensuring that Bauzá resigned as party leader after the disastrous election in 2015.

That election disaster was in no small part due to the trilingual teaching (TIL) fiasco and to Bauzá's policies regarding Catalan (TIL was one of these policies). Bauzá says that he would reintroduce TIL and once more make Catalan a "merit" for public employment rather than a requisite, which is how the current government views Catalan. He would therefore return to precisely the policies that made him so disliked and so ultimately unelectable.

Of reaction to Bauzá's intentions, it has been notable (among those commenting on websites/social media) that there isn't hostility to the principle of TIL. There needn't have been when Bauzá made it policy. But because it was a political instrument targeted at Catalan - educationally, the implementation sucked big time - the hostility was inevitable. He says that he has learned from his mistakes. Has he? It doesn't sound like it.

A further Bauzá intention has raised considerable opposition. He says that he would do away with the tourist tax. One wouldn't rule out the PP doing so whoever its leader might be, but judging from reaction there is popular support for the tax. Electorally, a pledge to get rid of it might not be wise.

Will he stand as president? He seems determined to. Will he win? He's deluding himself in believing that he will.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 December 2016

Morning high (8.28am): 12.8C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 26 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 27 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 28 December - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4, locally 5.

Patchy cloud on what should otherwise be a fine and sunny Christmas Day. Bit of a breeze as well.

Evening update (19.45): Pleasant enough. High of 19.8C.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Mallorca

Christmas Day in Mallorca. The weather, as it so often is on Christmas Day, is set to be fine, meaning that Facebook will be adorned with, variously, images of folk having their Christmas turkey on the terrace and of the beaches: all designed to wish you were here.

It's a day which, for many Mallorcans, comes and goes much like any other day. The emphasis is still on the Three Kings (and New Year), but with each passing year Santa Claus and Christmas Day encroach ever further. It was surprising perhaps to note that Pollensa (and Puerto Pollensa) had Papa Noel visits yesterday. Here is a town hall led by solid Mallorcan but non-religious ideologies. On both scores, Santa seemed an anachronism. And he wasn't without his controversy. His visit was publicised using both the Castellano and the Catalan versions of his name. Why was the town hall permitting the former in this current age of revived linguistic "normalisation"; in other words, Catalan? A time of peace and goodwill to all men, and the Alternativa per Pollença can still find time to challenge language correctness.

Santa, or rather Papa, has moved in to such a degree that Inca can have - as it did on Friday - a full Papa procession (he set off from the bus station, as all good Santas do) followed by a photocall with Santa. More Facebook opportunities. In Can Picafort two weeks ago, Papa turned up at the Christmas market. There were photos there as well, and Papa was available for taking the children's letters requesting their presents, just like the Royal Pages do for the Kings. In Pollensa there had been a pre-Papa visit gathering so that parents could sort out the presents that Santa would be handing out. All very much a borrowing of Kings' tradition.

Many are the Santas to be found hanging from buildings. Such has been the Santa takeover that in the small town of Porreres last year there was disquiet as to the sheer number of Santas adorning houses. The town hall sensibly decided that it couldn't actually ban them.

It's multi-culturalism, one guesses, though of course in strictly Christian terms. The Swedes have their Santa Lucia, while the Santa original, Saint Nicholas, crops up as well. It was interesting to note that Muslim Turkey, via its national tourism social media presence, should be reminding the infidels that Nick was Turkish. Well, what else is Christmastime for but to promote holidays?

So, Christmas is here for another year. Twelve Christmases have therefore been noted on this blog (except for the one when I ended up in hospital). To all of you who come here, a Merry Christmas. It would be nice to wish a Happy New Year as well. On a less than joyous note, the idiocies of this world continue, and one fears they are becoming ever more idiotic. Peace and goodwill.

And, as is traditional for this blog at Christmas, Laura Veirs returns to see the heavenly stars.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 December 2016

Morning high (7.08am): 10C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 25 December - Sun, 16C; 26 December - Sun, 17C; 27 December - Cloud, sun, 17C.

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

Stars and moon clearly visible in the pre-sunrise sky. Expect another fine day with a good deal of warm sunshine. Christmas Day forecast looks very good.

Evening update (19.00): Not bad. Not as warm as yesterday and there was some cloud around. High of 18.9C.

Christmas Eve And The Last Judgement Of The Sybil

The Sibil·la, the Song of the Sybil, is said to have its roots in a Greek acrostic poem of the fourth century. Acrostic refers to the giving of a prophesy or message, and in the case of the Sibil·la it isn't the most cheerful of messages. It is a prophecy of the Day of Judgement. In fact, acrostic specifically refers to the prophecies of the Erythraean Sibyl, of whom there wasn't just the one. The "sibylla", this prophetess of Ancient Greece, was capable of all sorts of predictions: the Trojan War, for instance. The fourth-century poem thus relied on a prophecy that had been made several centuries earlier in the time Before Christ.

The poem, made into a song or chant, crossed the Mediterranean and took root in Catalan lands. The actual route of its taking root is believed to have been from the Provençal dialect of southern France and into church liturgy by the tenth century. Although this would have sung in Latin, the Provençal connection was to later prove to be important.

A Father Higini Anglès established in his 1935 book, "The Music of Catalonia at the End of the Thirteenth Century", that the Sibil·la had become part of the post-conquest liturgy in Mallorca. And he drew on a codex - a manuscript - of the fourteenth century, discovered in 1908, which was the first official record of the Sibil·la in Mallorca. Crucially, this codex was in Catalan.

This Gregorian chant, the melody of which has altered over the centuries, was originally only performed by priests, and it was certainly being sung at the Cathedral back in mediaeval times. It formed part of the Matins service at Christmas, which nowadays means Christmas Eve but which in strict terms is the nighttime liturgy which ends at dawn.

In the mid-sixteenth century, the church's Council of Trent removed the Sibil·la from the liturgy. It was considered to be not purely religious. Pius V decreed this in 1568, but it was only a short time (1575) before Joan Vic i Manrique, the Bishop of Mallorca, was to allow it but not in its previous context.

Mallorca was one of only two places where the Sibil·la was retained. While it was also sung in Alghero in Sardinia, it was Mallorca where it was more enduring and where it created greater debate and argument. In 1692, Pere d'Aragó i de Cardona, the bishop, declared that it could be sung but only at Christmas time. It wasn't to be until 1967 that Vatican reform formally approved its reintroduction to the liturgy.

In 2010, the Sibil·la was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco. It is now sung at churches across the island on Christmas Eve. The lyrics have undergone revision over the centuries, but they owe much to the codex of the fourteenth century and its vision of the Last Judgement.

"On the day of judgement, he will be spared who has done service.
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, man and true eternal God, from Heaven will come to judge and to everyone what is fair will give.
Great fire from the heaven will come down; seas, fountains and rivers, all will burn. Fish will scream loud and in horror. Losing their natural delights.
Before the Judgement the Antichrist will come and will give suffering to everyone,
and will make himself be served like God, and who does not obey he will make die."

Friday, December 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 December 2016

Morning high (7.51am): 9.8C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 24 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 25 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 26 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

Normal order is being restored. Cold morning, clear skies, sunny and quite warm later.

Evening update (19.45): High of 22.4C.

The Club That Failed: Real Mallorca

Real Mallorca have been celebrating their one hundredth anniversary this year. Celebrating it in typically lousy fashion - typically lousy, as in being the normal state of the team. In order to try and inject a bit more spirit into this celebration which hasn't been, players went off for a night out at the weekend, having been turned over by another team languishing towards the bottom of Spain's second division. That team, Numancia, is such a big force that it manages to scrape some two thousand or so spectators together. By comparison, Mallorca are the big time; if one considers gates around 8,000 being the big time.

Mallorca would like to believe that they are the big time, and there have been occasions (very rare ones) over the one hundred years when they have actually achieved something. But this is not a club that falls into the sleeping giant category. It is and has been for much of its history a comatose dwarf.

It is now discovering the delights of contemporary communications technology. Local critics of England and/or Premier League footballers and their antics (think Wayne Rooney and some wedding photos) themselves find that footballers from Spain are just as capable of going out and behaving badly. Not that they did particularly; just that it didn't look good, having been on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat against a side of even more dwarf-like qualities such as Numancia.

Supporters of Mallorca are also learning, as have those of many English clubs, that foreign ownership doesn't necessarily equate to success. There has been a German and now there's an American, and at present Mallorca are heading in one direction: out of the second division and into the obscurity of the various third divisions.

The chances are, as has been the case in previous seasons, that they will pull themselves together. They may even "go on a run", to use the hope expressed by many a fan of many a club who dares to think of a play-off spot. Equally they may not.

The foreign ownership is not what has brought Mallorca to its current low ebb. There were Mallorcans and Spaniards who had previously conspired to set in motion the downward spiral. The foreigners can't per se be blamed, though they have come offering gifts and hope. In the case of Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA team, which he acquired for 400 million dollars in 2004, he had intimated that there could be substantial funds available. As yet, there has been little sign of this. Instead, Mallorca get by and sack coaches on a regular basis courtesy of a rag-tag combination of loaned players and the occasionally half-decent locally developed one.

Sarver paid 20 million euros for Mallorca at the start of the year. What motivated him to do so is frankly anyone's guess. While he has made a fortune from real estate and banking, his ventures into sport haven't been as successful. There was a decent run for the Phoenix Suns from 2005 to 2007, but they have since been eliminated from play-off contention for the past six seasons. In October, Sarver was ranked as the worst owner in the NBA by ESPN.

When Sarver took over there was talk of a strategic plan for the club. This didn't necessarily demand that there was immediate promotion, but one can take that with a pinch of salt. New owners do not part with 20 million and expect to linger in the second division when they have the Madrids and Barcelonas to hob-nob with in La Liga.

So where's it all going wrong? Players, coaches, owners; maybe they can all share the blame. But there seems to have been a culture of failure for several years, regardless of who has been in charge or who has been playing. Berating the current players for going on a night out is the thin end of a considerable wedge that has been driving the club down. And it's a damn shame. Having a decent La Liga side would be beneficial to Mallorca as a whole and not just the team's fans.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 December 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 13.3C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 23 December - Sun, 17C; 24 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 25 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6 easing 3 to 4 during the morning. Swells of two metres lowering.

Still the possibility of some rain today, but conditions are getting better, with the wind dropping and a spell of decent sunny weather anticipated for Christmas.

Evening update (20.00): High of 18.5C, so warmer but mainly grey and a bit rainy.

Arguing Over Little: Tourism Promotion

The regional government, in other words PSOE and Més, has fought off the budgetary challenge of Podemos and will stick to its spending for tourism promotion in 2017 - all of 3.6 million euros. Podemos had wanted the bulk of this budget (three million) to be devoted to the innovation and research part of Biel Barceló's ministry. The government parties were having none of this. Toni Reus of Més, a former mayor of Santa Margalida, said that the spending was targeted at precisely the objectives that Podemos had accepted in drawing up the agreement for government with PSOE and Més - such as cultural and gastronomy tourism and tackling tourism seasonality. Damià Borràs of PSOE told Podemos that the promotion will assist in extending the tourism season and therefore workers' contracts.

While Més, some elements within it at any rate, may be characterised as being sympathetic to the tourist limits or tourist reduction camp, this was not what came across during the debate on the promotion budget. Laura Camargo of Podemos insisted that her party was the only one that was wishing to "put a brake" on the number of tourists. As for tackling seasonality, this will be like "pouring petrol on the fire", she argued. "We do not want more tourists in summer or in winter." She then went on to say that after eight months of work during the season, workers were exhausted. They shouldn't now have to be called on to work in the winter as well.

Of Camargo's remarks, one might observe that workers who have put in eight-month stints are the lucky ones, and while it is undeniable that many workers in the tourism industry work long hours, why should it be deemed acceptable that they should not work more than eight months? This is the conclusion one draws from what Camargo was saying, and it is a conclusion which reinforces the skewed basis of the Balearic economy: work for x number of months and put your feet up for y months of the year, hopefully with sufficient benefit to see you through. Does she not also appreciate that there are workers who disappear in winter and look for and find work where there is a winter season, e.g. the Canaries? Not all of them are exhausted.

Podemos wanted the money to go towards innovation and research because the party believes that this will assist in creating the much-spoken-about changed economic model, one that is more diversified, less reliant on tourism and spreads wealth more evenly. But PSOE and Més want the same thing. Any political party with a modicum of common sense would want this. The difference with Podemos, or so it seems, is that this change can be brought about by diminishing the main sector of the islands' economic activity, which is plainly wrongheaded. The more that tourism is buoyant, the more it generates wealth and revenue for the government. Not all of this wealth is ploughed back or shared through decent salaries with the general workforce - that is a rightful beef - but much of it is and so can, with the right political and financial management, be targeted at diversification.

The announcement of a new Balearic stand for travel fairs will doubtless therefore have caused convulsions within Podemos. The promotional spend, such as it is, goes in great part towards travel fairs, and the new stand (its design at any rate) was revealed earlier this week. Its maiden appearance will be at Madrid's Fitur fair in January.

The Balearic Tourism Agency describes this as conveying a "fresher and more Mediterranean" image, and the message it will be helping to get across will be one aimed at tackling both seasonality and summer season "saturation". The slogan will be "best in winter", with emphasis being placed - you won't be surprised to learn - on gastronomy, culture and heritage. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 December 2016

Morning high (8.28am): 10.6C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 December - Rain, sun, 15C; 23 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 24 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 7 veering Northeast 6 to 7 during the morning. Waves of up to five metres possible.

More wild weather around. Rain probable during the day. Amber for coastal conditions still. The wind should moderate tomorrow, and the outlook up to Christmas Day is pretty good.

Evening update (20.00): Rain there was but not on the scale of the last two days. There was the odd (very odd) burst of sun. Strong winds persisting for now. High of 14C.

Always Take The Weather With You

The British are obsessed with the weather. The Spanish are obsessed with the weather. Which statement is true and which statement is false? Answer: both are true, as would be the case for the Germans, the French, or the Maasai of the Serengeti. As far as the latter are concerned, their obsession probably doesn't manifest itself in quite the same way. They aren't umbilically connected to digital technology and obsessed to such an extent that the merest hint of weather demands that they attempt to break the internet.

There has been some weather in Mallorca in the past few days. There always is weather of course - you can't really avoid it, and that has nothing to do with obsessing over it - but there is weather and there is weather. Or perhaps one should say that there is the consequence of weather as much as there is the force or action of weather. Hence and for example, we have been regaled with images of submerged cars. One uses the word "regaled" advisedly. It means to provide entertainment or simply to entertain. Are cars submerged on a flooded road entertaining? Seemingly so.

To return to nationalities' relative meteorological obsessions, this recent burst of weather has been notable for its cross-cultural consensus. Spanish (Mallorcan) media outlets have posted their images and videos of cars in water and have been greeted with rapturous volumes of likes, wows, loves, sad faces, and angries. The full range of emoticon emotions has been shared by a nationality which is supposedly less obsessed with weather than the British. We can most definitely put that notion to bed: an obsession is for cultural sharing, especially if it can be done digitally and involve the result of 100 plus litres per square metre of rainfall.

The dramatic evidence of heavy weather is in contrast with the consequence of prolonged, unchanging weather. This can be and is equally dramatic and a great deal more concerning, but it is not as requiring of immediate hits on the share button. The drought, which the environment ministry will doubtless insist is still at pre-alert levels despite the cars up to their bonnets in wet stuff, has produced endless images of barren stretches of former reservoir and levels so low that a car would struggle to get water to cover its wheels.

What of course is missing is the drama and so therefore all the mobile phones frantically capturing still and moving images of weather and uploading them for an enthralled internet community to respond with "OMG" and an accompanying like, wow (choose as applicable, or not).

Weather in Mallorca, where most are concerned, would be 30-plus celsius, a blue sky and a gentle turquoise sea lapping onto velvety white sand. It's the difference which counts and what might seem unusual or unexpected. Take snow. There's snow in Mallorca? Oddly enough, there is. It may still be waiting to produce a repeat of 1956, but if and when it does, the internet will be broken for certain.

The interest (obsession) with weather has grown exponentially in line with digital technology. This didn't exist in 1956, was most certainly not universally available in 1990 when there was that much weather that Alcudia's City of Lakes became the City of THE Lake, or sufficiently diffused when the hurricane of 2001 occurred and flattened whole pine woods. Even the tornado of 2007 predated the mass adoption of social networks.

Weather is thus a product of technology that fascinates even if the weather event is of no consequence, such as when the Puig Major gets a covering of snow. So technologically-driven is it that it produces an incessant bombardment of non-weather images, such as the here is a photo of some sea and some sun, followed by another photo of similar sea and similar sun. Wow, like, love, share. Non-weather is the typical dish served up by the webcam for its devotees. Here is a not terribly clear image of a cloud in the sky. Goodness, look at that. A cloud. There can be few more pointless exercises known to mankind than to stare at what a webcam is looking at for more than five seconds (if that, or indeed at all). But mankind deals in pointless exercises. If not, there wouldn't be any "X Factor" or the current England cricket team.

An obsession? Totally. Come rain, come shine, come hail, come snow, come wind, it is all there courtesy of technology. Once captured, it whizzes around the world in a frenzy of sharing. We are all Meteo men, women and children, assisted by Meteo cats and dogs (assuming they themselves aren't raining) and other members of the animal community to be digitally found experiencing weather. We can always take the weather with us. It's on our mobiles. Wow, like, sad face. Share.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 December 2016

Morning high (8.29am): 13.1C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 21 December - Rain, wind, 15C; 22 December - Cloud, wind 16C; 23 December - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 4 to 5 increasing North 7 to 8. Waves of three metres or more.

Dry at present but could be more rain at any time. Amber alert for coastal areas. The wind staying strong for a couple more days and coming from a chilly north.

Evening update (19.30): More rain, quite heavy at times, and plenty of wind. The highest rainfall was in Pollensa with more than 30 litres. A high of 14.3C.

Financing The Balearics

I would guess that for many of you who just visit Mallorca or indeed for many of you who live here, the subject of regional financing is pretty arcane and dull. I wouldn't blame you for thinking that; it is both. But this doesn't disguise its importance.

The principal means of financing Mallorca and the Balearics are borrowing (of which there is a substantial amount and so therefore an equally substantial level of debt) and the money that comes via the system of tax revenue distribution. By means of a very simplistic explanation, revenue from income tax and VAT goes into a massive Madrid pot, and Madrid makes calculations as to how much should be repaid, having taken account of the various regions' (and its own) needs. So, the pot is filled by all the regions, some of which do very nicely out of the redistribution, while others do less nicely. The Balearics is a region in the latter category.

Certain other taxes, such as the tourist tax, are purely regional taxes. The Balearic government can therefore keep all of it, but in percentage terms it is a comparatively minor amount. However, and despite what the government might argue to the contrary, it becomes a general tax by the very fact of its inclusion in the budget. Yes, it may in theory and indeed in practice be earmarked for specific projects, but it is still a budget item that cranks up the level of revenue to compensate for the perceived shortfall that comes from the system of distribution.

There is an argument that the Balearics is a wealthy region which should show regional fraternity by helping out the likes of Andalusia (which receives an enormous sum) and Extremadura (generally considered to be Spain's poorest region). This, in essence, is what the current system is all about, and the argument is a sound one. But it fails to take into account the natural disadvantage of the Balearics, i.e. being islands some 250 kilometres from the mainland.

The financing system at present is overwhelmingly used to fund basic services. Health has the highest budget, followed by education, with social services and the environment (which includes of course water resources) some considerable distance behind these two. In a sense, it is predominantly working capital as opposed to funding for capital investment. There are other sources for this investment, but the belief in the Balearics is that the state is too miserly with these (and doesn't always cough up what it should do), therefore compounding the view that the financing system is inherently prejudicial to Balearic interests.

Key among the grievances is therefore what is available for infrastructure. While there are very rightful concerns about investment in water and sewage, there can also appear at times to be unnecessary special pleading. An example that is often cited is the investment in the high-speed train on the mainland. But Mallorca (or indeed the other islands) don't exactly need such infrastructure. Moreover, the history of state investment allocated to railways shows that Mallorca has been at fault. There was, for instance, state money for the network extension to Alcudia. It was ultimately withdrawn because politics intruded and no consensus could be arrived at as to the route for the extension.

Nevertheless, there are legitimate gripes about infrastructure, about transport and connectivity and about the added costs that arise because of insularity. In addition, the notion of Balearic wealth is one challenged by regional politicians. Once upon a time - back in the 1990s - the Balearics for a brief while topped the regional chart for per capita GDP; the ranking is now seventh. This can partly be explained by the scale of population increase, unmatched in relative terms by other regions, and the unevenness of personal wealth that is based on a predominantly seasonal economy. This growth has brought with it additional demands on services and infrastructure and so therefore the constant calls for a financing system that reflects the realities of the Balearics.

Ever since coming to power in 2015, President Armengol and government ministers have made the financing system a central theme of the administration. There is also the demand for a special economic regime (a revised one because what exists at present isn't special). While this embraces factors such as co-management of ports and airports (even more unlikely if there is further privatisation of the Aena airports authority), what it is essentially concerned with are fiscal measures to compensate the costs of insularity.

Getting both a fairer financing system and a special regime would constitute a major political achievement, which is why I mentioned this yesterday in the context of the 2019 regional election. Although there are good reasons to believe that Armengol will not be re-elected in any event, for the main opposition - the Partido Popular - there will be worries that getting a deal on financing would dilute its chances in 2019. The PP is therefore being placed in an awkward position. How politically can the PP make such a deal reflect well on it? Maria Salom, the new national government delegate in the Balearics, is doing the groundwork on this. The Rajoy government, because of its economic management, is now in a better position to deliver on financing and has, all along, wanted to do so; Brussels hadn't allowed it. We'll see.

Monday, December 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 December 2016

Morning high (7.43am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 20 December - Rain, wind, 15C; 21 December - Rain, wind 14C; 22 December - Sun, rain, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 6 increasing 7 at intervals; locally decreasing 4 to 5 at times off Capdepera. Waves of up to three metres.

Good deal of rain around, thunder rumbling in the night and still doing so. Likely to stay this way all day. Looking ahead to Christmas, at present the forecast seems quite good: sunny and a bit warmer.

Evening update (19.00): So, there was a fair old amount of weather. Rainfall locally at its heaviest in Sa Pobla with 53 litres per square metre. Other parts got off comparatively lightly, e.g. 29 litres in Puerto Pollensa. Elsewhere on the island there was rainfall well over the 100 litres mark. A high of only 13.9C.

Re-Election?: It's All About Stability

Ask a footballer or football manager if they have thought about winning the league or the cup (whichever leagues or cups these might be), and the stock response is we're taking each game as it comes. This is of course nonsense. Winning something is the be-all and end-all, albeit that making stacks of money is equally a be and an end. But having the next game to take allows the footballing fraternity to at least attempt to convey an impression of not getting ahead of itself. The same cannot be said for politicians.

Put a question about winning the election to an incumbent regional president in Spain (or political leader anywhere), and there aren't intervening milestones with which to deflect the question. There is only one goal - winning the next election - and the answer isn't going to be anything else.

Francina Armengol would like to believe that she and her chums in PSOE will win the regional election in 2019. Given that she didn't actually win the 2015 election (in terms of number of votes, share of votes or seats in parliament), her optimism might seem slightly misplaced. Moreover, she would turn Balearic PSOE history on its head, were she to be returned as president; a PSOE-led administration has never secured a second term.

PSOE-led is the important bit. PSOE has had to form pacts in order to get its collective size nines under the desks of power. The main difference with the current one is that it is exclusively a pact of the left; the two previous administrations were not. It is also a pact, as if we needed reminding, based on consensus and dialogue. And if we do need reminding, then Francina will gladly oblige - over and over and over again.

This constant mantra serves to paper over the cracks, the very ones that existed at the time that the pact was formed. It is also one which acknowledges, without this being expressly stated, that the two previous pacts may have had dialogue but certainly didn't always have consensus. The presence of the rightist Unió Mallorquina, which had its particular agenda against the PSM (now the main force in Més), was a guarantee of some conflict. With their competing versions of Mallorcan (Balearic) nationalism - one from the right, one from the left - they were never natural allies. Yet curiously, if one looks back at the defeat of the first pact in 2003, one finds that there was one issue on which these two parties mainly saw eye to eye - the ecotax.

While the tax didn't lose Francesc Antich and PSOE the election in spring 2003, the disagreements that it had provoked did affect the electorate's perception of the pact. The circumstances, in a tourism sense, were quite different when the tax was approved in 2001. Mallorca was facing stiff competition and there was a sense of crisis. To compound this, there was to be 9/11. The UM kept up the appearance of support for the tax, while the PSM (strange though it will seem now) lost total confidence in it. Moreover, PSOE itself was split. Joan Mesquida, the finance minister, wanted it to be delayed. In the end, it came into effect, as had been planned, on 1 May 2002.

The memory of this helps to explain the clinging to the life-raft of the new ecotax. Armengol insists there is consensus, despite this time PSOE having been the reluctant party, whereas it had driven the old ecotax. It is vital, therefore, for there to be a perception of unanimity if Armengol is to have a chance of obtaining a second term. But such a perception is made difficult because of the turmoil within one of the parties, i.e. Podemos.

In 2011, José Ramón Bauzá and the PP just needed to turn up in order to win. Economic crisis did for the second Antich administration, but there were other factors, notably the collapse in a corrupt heap of the UM, thrown out of the pact by Antich. Although the circumstances are very different, Armengol stresses the "stability" of the pact, knowing that instability contributed to the loss in 2011. She needs Podemos to hold together, much though Podemos make her life awkward. Otherwise, things are at present going well for her - the economy is sound and the PP in the Balearics is still in some disarray: without a permanent leader and with arguments between factions, of which Bauzá forms one. If, between now and the 2019 election, she can secure a new and favourable financing deal from Madrid for the Balearics, this would be a huge election advantage.

The election is a long way off, but some of the signs are currently in favour of Armengol and a second term. One thing she probably won't have to worry about is the tourist tax.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 December 2016

Morning high (7.52am): 11.8C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 19 December - Rain, wind, 16C; 20 December - Rain, wind 15C; 21 December - Rain, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 5 to 6. Swells of two metres decreasing.

A dry start and a clear sky as well. Rain likely to move in though. Breezes still strong, and there is a yellow alert for coastal conditions. Rain and wind are features of the forecast for the week ahead, with the wind due to ease somewhat by Wednesday.

Evening update (18.30): Not the rain that had been forecast; only slight rain in some areas. Grey for most of the day. High of 15.5C.

Bringing Harmony To Holiday Rentals' Regulations

The new secretary-of-state for tourism, Matilde Asián, has hit the ground running. In so doing, she has left her predecessors, notably the immediate one, trailing well in her wake. Of course it may only be an impression - and one that will come to nothing, as these things have a habit of doing - but at least she appears to be proactive. Or proactive in a reactive sense, seeking to undo a mess of inactivity and governmental buck-passing and head-in-sand-burying that she has inherited.

As noted a few days ago, Asián wants to get together with the regional governments and try and find a way of harmonising holiday rental legislation. This would be, again as noted, a volte-face by Madrid. It had directed the regions to take responsibility for the matter, arguing - with some justification - that each region's needs are different.

The needs do differ, but the principles do not, and when Madrid abrogated its legislative responsibility, it hadn't considered the impact of the so-called collaborative economy. One might argue that it lacked foresight in not having taken Airbnb and others into account, but for the past four years it has shown no sign of adopting a proactive stance in reacting to changed - and greatly changed - market circumstances. Until now.

There is to be a tourism sector conference at which the regions will be represented. Asián is hoping that harmonised regulation can be arrived at and be based on "equity (i.e. fairness), taxation and security". In respect of the latter, she has referred to the security which Spain offers tourists (a key factor of course in having contributed to so-called saturation, a further product of which is the holiday let). There has been some alarm expressed about the lack of control and information when it comes to people renting accommodation; hotels, on the other hand, know who they have staying with them.

Asián announced her initiative during the tourism forum in Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). One of those attending, Antonio Mayor, the president of the hoteliers in Benidorm and the Costa Blanca, said that "all administrations" had until now demonstrated passivity and/or permissiveness. There has to be proactivity, he stressed, in combating the black economy and the momentum towards a style of accommodation which threatens to "blow apart" the tourism economic model.

He would of course say this, as have others from the hotelier sector (and also their political supporters, principally the Partido Popular). But while the hoteliers may be devils in the eyes of some on the left-wing, the attitudes of the left, such as with the Balearic government, are being shaped by their anxieties regarding excessive tourist numbers and tax evasion. The passivity in the Balearics, amply demonstrated by the PP government under José Ramón Bauzá, is being discarded, even if Biel Barceló is scrambling around trying to cobble together coherent legislation.

The greatest single barrier to this legislation, as I also mentioned previously, is the Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (LAU), national law that doubles - where some are concerned - as a fraudster's charter. Barceló has admitted that this is an obstacle, which is why he wants Madrid to change the law and to exclude short-term rentals under the LAU. He also said that the government intends treating such rentals as being touristic, even if they are not advertised as such. Quite how it will proceed with this is difficult to understand, unless Madrid amends the law. The government can always send in the inspectors, but there are only so few of these.

Barceló and also Asián face other obstacles. One is that the LAU is not a matter for Asián's energy, tourism and digital agenda ministry; housing matters come under the development ministry. The Spanish competition commission may well be another - its attitudes are generally permissive - while EU criteria would also need to be taken into account. Then there is the principle of "family and friends". While this is itself open to abuse, there are owners who genuinely do let family members use apartments without any payment. How might this square with Barceló's desire to eliminate LAU short-term rentals?

Having a national law on holiday rentals would make obvious sense, but although Barceló (and other regional tourism ministers) might welcome some intervention by Madrid, they would jealously guard their powers for tourism affairs, even if they don't really know what to do on the vexed issue of holiday rentals. With Barceló, he does seem to have some idea, but then what does one make of this business of him saying that holidaymakers would have to abide by communities' rules? Who would enforce such rules and how? Communities already tend to have such rules anyway. And fat lot of use it does them, if people choose not to observe them. Just like others choose to bend rules or abuse loopholes, such as with laws on rentals.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 December 2016

Morning high (5.57am): 14.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 18 December - Rain, wind, 16C; 19 December - Rain, wind 15C; 20 December - Rain, wind, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 5 to 6 increasing 7 at intervals. Very rough. Waves to three metres. Yellow alert for the coastal area. Amber alert for the open sea.

Some rain around, quite breezy. Should be a reasonable amount of sun though. Tomorrow and into the start of next week remaining rainy and very windy.

Evening update (19.30): Some sunny spells, a touch of rain. High of 17.8C.

Die Hard: The Traditional Pig Slaughter

Pacma is a political party, the "animalist" party against animal mistreatment. It's been around since 2003 and has failed to make any real impact. It has never had any deputies in Congress or senators, but its vote has steadily increased. In this year's general election it scooped 1.19% of the vote for Congress, up from 0.87% in December 2015 and the 0.42% of 2011.

If it remains at the margins of the Spanish political system, does the increased share of the vote represent a greater appeal or has it simply been a protest? Both perhaps. It will never assume a significant role because of its essentially single-issue nature, but it does capture at least a sense of greater awareness of animal mistreatment, while it has also been to the fore in pressing for tougher action by the courts. With the aid of the Balearic association of lawyers for animal rights, Pacma and animal-rights organisations secured the first ever custodial sentence for animal mistreatment in Spain. In October last year, a Palma court upheld an eight-month sentence for the owner of a horse called Sorky. The owner had bludgeoned the horse to death after it performed badly during a trotting race at the Manacor course.

Cases of mistreatment do now appear fairly regularly in the local media, and animal welfare has been pushed up the political agenda by the left. In Palma, as an example, the Més councillor Neus Truyol has animal welfare as one of her three main responsibilities. That party (Més) may have been jolted into greater proactivity on animal rights by a former member - Guillermo Amengual. He is the main spokesperson for the campaign Mallorca Sense Sang (Mallorca Without Blood), which has led the move to outlaw bullfighting. He left Més to join the Esquerra Unida (United Left), as it was the only party to have a formal animal-rights' section.

Amengual is also the spokesperson for AnimaNaturalis, and in a newspaper chat over six years ago, the first question he was asked referred to "matances". This is the traditional annual slaughter (that's what the word means) of pigs. His answer, promoting vegetarianism, was that the AnimaNaturalis group was against all forms of animal processing (from birth to death), regardless of cultural or religious reasons.

The cultural aspect of the matances is something with which Pacma is now taking issue. It has released a video in support of its claim that the pig slaughter is one of the most "anachronistic" examples of Spain and its disagreeable attitudes towards animals.

The "matança" is about as old as it comes in Christian Mallorca. It clearly wouldn't have been around - or one would assume not - during the Muslim occupation. But it certainly was around at the time, post-conquest, of Ramon Llull. In the early fourteenth century, he referred to the matances and to the start of the season of the slaughter. Various writers of more modern times, such as the Archduke Louis Salvador in the nineteenth century, spoke about this cultural tradition.

The pig, where livestock farmers were concerned, hadn't been particularly popular until more intensive cultivation of figs led to a pig boom in the nineteenth century: figs were an easy means of fattening pigs quickly. Prior to this, it had been behind goats and sheep. However, the pig was ubiquitous in a domestic sense. Families would have one, or more than one, which was destined for the autumn slaughter and transformation into various pig products, of which sobrassada is the best known.

The slaughter itself would be an occasion for some celebration. It could go on for several days, depending on the size of the immediate population and therefore the number of pigs. It was deeply rooted in local culture, so much so that George Sand - who found plenty to take exception to in Mallorca - complained that the Mallorcans took more care of pigs than they did people.

It is perhaps the pig's misfortune that it is versatile in terms of how it can be transformed in a culinary fashion. And it was the various possibilities that made it so popular. One pig could satisfy a family's needs for several months, if the products were made correctly, and in the case of sobrassada, the addition of the local paprika provided excellent preservative qualities.

The matances are nowadays looked upon with fondness by traditionalists, who note how they survived the swine fever of 1956 and how they have made a comeback following the migrations to the coast that occurred because of the sixties' tourism boom. But this is the traditionalist's view. Not everyone shares it, and despite town hall requirements regarding the slaughter - it has to be performed in abattoirs and under strict food safety conditions - Pacma insists that there are still slaughters by non-professionals which do not conform to established procedure.

Pacma is therefore demanding that legislation on animal welfare be rigorously applied. It would seem, if only from a food safety point of view, that it should be. There are other forces, though, the traditional ones, which consider the pig with reverence: adored and primed in order to stave off hunger. Some traditions die hard.

Friday, December 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 December 2016

Morning high (7.10am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 December - Cloud, wind, 17C; 18 December - Rain, wind 16C; 19 December - Rain, wind, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 4 backing East 5 in the afternoon.

Clear enough early on, but unlikely to be as the day progresses. Rain expected, and the wind (easterly) increasing. A few days of blowy and damp weather on the cards.

Evening update (19.00): Rain there has been. High of 17.4C.

Failure Of Transparency: Ironman

Ironman, the full version, will not be taking place in Alcudia next year. The roads of the island on the final Saturday of September will no longer be closed off. There will be many who are delighted at the news and just as many who will not be. There will still be the 70.3 Ironman in May, that's for certain, but the longer one has bitten the dust.

Alcudia town hall is at pains to point out that it isn't the body which has stopped the event. The rumours had been rife for several weeks that it wouldn't be taking place, and the town hall and the regional government had been in talks with the Ironman organisers, but to no avail. It will move away from Alcudia and, in all likelihood, be in Catalonia next year - Salou or Calella are in the running (so to speak), with the latter a particularly popular German resort.

The rumours had started more or less at the time the September Ironman took place. Thomas Cook, the main sponsor, was said to be considering pulling out. It has pulled out. It won't be sponsoring the May 70.3 Ironman either. A company called Nirvana, which is a UK event travel organiser, will be the May sponsor.

What has been odd in the reporting of the loss of the full Ironman is that there hasn't been any mention of the Thomas Cook pull-out. The town hall has said that it was unwilling to stump up 350,000 euros for the September event. Does this equate to the level of sponsorship required? This hasn't been stated, but mayor Toni Mir describes the sum as "astronomical" and tourism councillor Joan Vallori says that the town hall can't possibly part with such a large sum that will go to the organisers' bottom line.

No reason has been given for Thomas Cook ending its sponsorship. There may be nothing more to it than a normal review of sponsorship and a decision to discontinue. But one might have felt that there would be some sort of announcement. Instead, there's been nothing.

Reaction on social media has not been complimentary towards the Ironman organisers. Someone said on a forum that there was a "really poor message posted by IM on their Facebook page". On that page, comments are overwhelming in expressing upset at the fact that the full Ironman is not continuing in Alcudia. The event, the island and Alcudia are all praised. People find it hard to understand why it is stopping.

The Ironman organisers cop it for being a "money-making machine" and some people are clearly angry with them, not least because there hasn't been any explanation from them as to why the September race is discontinuing. Someone observes that Ironman is dropping the longer events because the shorter 70.3 attracts more participants (so therefore more money) and because the roads are closed for shorter periods of time.

This, the closure of roads and so the input from police and others, does raise a question about how much the staging of the event costs and who pays for it. The town hall was recently asked to say how much it spends, but does it know? The former mayor Coloma Terrassa, who has said that she felt greater effort could have been made to keep the September event, has also noted that she didn't know precisely what it cost.

The town hall had also raised the possibility of pushing the event back to October. This was mentioned a few weeks ago, the town hall suggesting that a later date would be better for a lengthening of the season. Might it also have been thinking that it would be less disruptive, if there are fewer other tourists in October?

The scrapping of the event raises all these questions, for which there are no clear answers. Terrassa, in a sense, is correct in what she says about more effort, given that the Ironman events have been shown to generate a great deal of income for hotels and other businesses. The sum that the town hall has declined to pay - whatever it was for exactly - might have been felt worthwhile if there were genuinely all the benefits (and I tend to the view that they are genuine). Nevertheless, it is a lot, especially when the town hall is being asked to explain what it spends.

But what of the regional government? Vallori notes that it has been involved in discussions, but how determined might it have been? And has reorganisation of sport had an impact? The Balearic Sports Foundation, which was previously under the combined tourism and sports ministry and is now located within the transparency and culture ministry, agreed, for the 2015 events, to pay Thomas Cook 75,000 euros to sponsor the two Ironmans. Is it now paying Nirvana for the one?

Have budgetary and also political influences played a part in the termination of the September event? Maybe they have, maybe they haven't, but it would be nice to get a thorough explanation regarding the September race from a ministry which deals with transparency. The same, though, can be said for Ironman. And there appear to be plenty of participants wanting an explanation.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 December 2016

Morning high (6.41am): 10.6C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 December - Rain, wind, 17C; 17 December - Rain, wind 17C; 18 December - Rain, sun, 17C.

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

Some sun today and remaining calm, but from tomorrow there is a high probability of rain with winds increasingly strong into the weekend and rough conditions by the coasts and at sea.

Evening update (20.00): High of 20.4C.

Renaming Mallorca's Airport

There are any number of airports named after famous people. Generally speaking, they honour someone of particular merit who deserves to be associated with the airport's location. Occasionally, though, the naming causes a fuss. This was the case with Ian Fleming International Airport in Jamaica. Many a local felt that a Jamaican should have provided the name. The Bond writer got it on account of his Goldeneye Estate, which is next to, yes, James Bond Beach.

Names like Liverpool John Lennon brook little argument, except among those on the McCartney side of the divide. But the international fame that Liverpool acquired through Lennon (and the other fabs) was thorough justification. While that city has (or had) other candidates, they might have proved more contentious. It couldn't have been Liverpool Bill Shankly or Kenny Dalglish without having upset the blue side of Stanley Park who would have pressed the case for Liverpool Howard Kendall or Dixie Dean.

Generally speaking, the names are of modern provenance, but not all. No doubt to the disgust of Balearic historians who insist that Columbus didn't come from Genoa but was the son of either Felanitx or Ibiza Town, Genoa's airport is Cristoforo Colombo. It might be hoped that no one suddenly comes up with absolutely incontrovertible evidence of Columbus's Felanitx origins because this might make some pause when it comes to a new name for Palma airport.

A proposal for renaming the airport isn't the consequence of all the nonsense regarding the name of the city - for the moment, it is officially Palma, but will doubtless revert, officially, to Palma de Mallorca when the Partido Popular assume power once more at both town hall and regional government levels. The airport is known and will continue to be known, for the sake of international codes, as Palma de Mallorca. But it has an alternative name as it is, i.e. Son Sant Joan.

This name has a great deal of antiquity. Strictly speaking, its spelling is incorrect. It should be Son Santjoan, as it comes from the Santjoan family who came to Mallorca at the time of the conquest in the thirteenth century and acquired land: one possession was the Son Sant Joan where the airport now is. Other than the name of the possession, the Santjoans don't have any great claim on Mallorca's past, and the family line in fact died out in the seventeenth century.

The alternative name (or one in addition to Son Sant Joan) which is being proposed is Aeropuerto Ramon Llull. The person who has made the proposal is the Council of Mallorca's president, Miquel Ensenyat, and he has done so at the end of the "year" of Ramon Llull and at a time when he has been assisting the case for Llull to be named a saint and a doctor of the Catholic Church. Ensenyat also believes that the use of the Llull name would elevate Mallorca's cultural status and therefore be in line with, for example, Florence being Amerigo Vespucci or Pisa being Galileo Galilei (no mention of Genoa's airport, one notes).

Ensenyat of eco-nationalist, Mallorcan socialists Més appears to have the backing of the PP's Maria Salom, newly the national government's delegate in the Balearics. She says that she likes the idea and will raise it with the national ministry of development (and so also with Aena, the airports' authority). She does recognise that there are likely to be technical issues, though it should be noted that Madrid's airport was renamed following the death of the prime minister who led Spain through its initial democratic transition. The full name is now Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas.

Should they rename the airport after the mediaeval man of mystery? I can think of no particularly good reason why not. Indeed, having often said that Llull isn't anything like as widely known internationally as Mallorcans might like to believe, it could have some benefit. There again, would anyone ever refer to it as Ramon Llull or be aware of the name or know he was? As it is, who outside Mallorca ever refers to the airport as Son Sant Joan? It's Palma (or Palma de Mallorca).

It would be more a case of domestic consumption, one fancies. And in this regard there would be support, if a poll of nearly two years ago is anything to go by. At the start of 2015, the Diario de Mallorca journalist Matias Vallés made a prediction that Mallorca's hoteliers would look to have the airport renamed Aeropuerto Rafael Nadal. A subsequent poll of readers offered four names - Llull, Nadal, Joan March (the widely despised Franco's banker) and Antoni Maura, the only Mallorcan to have been prime minister and one who verged on dictatorship before it had actually come into fashion.

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't a great deal of support for either March or Maura. Overwhelmingly (76% of the vote), Llull was favoured; Nadal got 17%. So there you have it, Llull it will be. Or may be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 December 2016

Morning high (8.25am): 9.4C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 16 December - Cloud, 17C; 17 December - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2, predominantly Northeast 2 to 3 by the evening.

Bright and sunny. Make the most of it, as rain may well be with us from tomorrow.

Evening update (19.15): Average sort of a day. Clouded over more than had been forecast. High of 18.1C.

Creating A Minefield: Holiday Rentals' Legislation

The draft text for the law governing holiday rentals in the Balearics has been published. The actual legislation is scheduled to be in place for the start of the next tourism season, whenever that is, given that the government is congratulating itself on shunting the season backwards to an ever earlier start; let's assume that the start means 1 May.

A great deal of choppy water will pass under the incomplete bridge of the draft before the legislation can be enacted. Of various interested parties - the Mallorcan hoteliers, the Aptur holiday rentals' association, GOB the environmentalists, Podemos, the Partido Popular - there is unanimity in that they all disagree with aspects of the draft. Not, as most say, they have had time to study it in detail; they object to parts of it anyway. Par for the course. Others will also chip in with their two centimos' worth: the island councils, for example, and some town halls - expect mutterings to come from Palma.

The headlines are: limiting rentals to buildings of ten years of age or more, so as to prevent speculation; allowing communities' owners to vote (by majority) against there being any holiday lets; increasing the minimum fine for illegal renting to 20,000 euros; insisting on certain standards, such as provision for those with reduced mobility (which could include lifts, the removal or adaptation of architectural barriers, kitting out bathrooms in an appropriate fashion); limiting the total number of places in accordance with the so-called "bolsa" of free tourist places that currently exists; allowing island councils and ultimately town halls to define where rentals might be and how many; prohibiting rentals on protected "rustic" land.

Straightforward the legislation will most certainly not be, but then we knew that anyway. How much it might prove to be an absolute minefield - of the legal variety - will become clearer over the next few weeks. One of the provisions - to do with communities' rights to veto lets - may well find itself in court. The government says that its legal experts and other experts at the university reckon that this will not constitute a violation of owners' rights. There will doubtless be other experts who argue differently. But the government wants to establish in law what has not until now been covered by legislation. Communities may already have been deciding against lets but they haven't had the power of law. Tourism minister Biel Barceló wondered a few weeks ago whether this would be possible; he now seems convinced that it will be. Moreover, he will be pleased to learn that fines have been going up because neighbours have been snitching. The government is anticipating a tenfold increase in fines' revenue next year, and the increased minimum tariff is only aspect of that.

It wouldn't in all cases be a shoo-in that communities would veto holiday letting. The decision would clearly depend on the profile of owners. But would a veto be effective, or will owners just carry on renting? The legislation, unless there is some appropriate wording, will surely clash with the national law on urban leasing.

Dealing effectively with this absurd loophole needs to be a priority. Let me cite an example. A rentals' operation in Pollensa (there are others of course) mentions holiday accommodation on Facebook but on its website does not; websites are what the inspectors tend to look at. All properties are rented in accordance with the urban leasing law, it says. Even if they are for a couple of weeks. Total farce. Plus, it is well understood that the non-provision of services (as required by the urban leasing law, meaning also that IVA - VAT - isn't charged) is abused. The tenant is given contacts to provide services. And who might they be?

As for the total number of places - those available in the "bolsa" - there are some 42,000 of these, ones that have not been taken up or made available to hotels. It is these free places that have some opponents in a lather, as they believe they will merely increase the level of tourist "saturation". The argument isn't that strong, as obtaining places legitimately via the bolsa would replace at least some of the currently illegitimate. But the issue of places is going to be fundamental to how this legislation proceeds and is implemented. Where will these places be?

There is a sense of the cart before the horse, and that is because the island councils will have their say-so and will do so in line with their PIATs - the plans of intervention in touristic areas. The Council of Mallorca, as an example, doesn't have one. It will have, but not until the end of next year at the earliest, and the Council isn't the main driver of this; the Balearic Tourism Agency is.

But the Council, as with the other islands, is to assume greater powers for tourism organisation. It is working with the agency on the development of the PIAT, but this seems the wrong way round: it should surely be the Council taking the lead. Assuming they agree on it, what then happens? The town halls - obvious ones like Alcudia, Calvia, Son Servera, Pollensa - will be affected and must be involved. Alcudia told me in the summer that there hadn't been any discussions.

The point is that the legislation will come in, and an owner could register a property fully legally to only then find that it falls outside the provisions of the PIAT. Something else for the courts to get their teeth into. And will these owners have handed over cash in order to acquire places from the bolsa? The rate for hotels is 4,000 euros. Barceló suggested a while ago that this charge would be waived but that it (or a lesser amount) could be established at a later date by the Councils.

The minefield, one suspects, is in preparation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 December 2016

Morning high (7.28am): 11.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 15 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 16 December - Cloud, 16C.

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

Another bright and fairly warm expected. Looking ahead, Friday and the weekend at the moment appear as though they will be wet.

Evening update (19.00): High of 20.1C.

What The Flick?: Subbuteo in Mallorca

It was spring 1980. Everton of the old English First Division were taking on West Ham of the Second Division in the FA Cup semi-final. Everton were naturally expected to win. They didn't. The first match was drawn and in the replay Frank Lampard (senior) sealed the win for West Ham with two minutes of extra time remaining. West Ham went to Wembley and beat Arsenal in the final.

There is an alternative version of events. This one was played out not at Villa Park, the location for the first match, but in a flat above WH Smith in Ealing, West London. A toss of the coin gave me Everton, which might have appeared to have been a disadvantage. The blue shirts and white shorts of this Everton had come with the original box, as had the red shirts and white shorts of, say, Manchester United. West Ham were to be a later acquisition. They were all intact. Everton were not. The odd limb (arm) was missing. Some had needed to be glued back into position. They had been victims of being inadvertently trodden on or sat on by the dog.

The semi-final was to defy normal Subbuteo rules of what were then twenty-five minutes each half. It was over the full ninety minutes. Despite the handicap of one-armed Asa Hartfords or Gary Megsons, Everton routed West Ham. Brian Kidd scored five, and the final result was an 11-0 victory.

West Ham were not novices, one should point this out. But what happened on that spring afternoon was that Everton turned on a display of Total Subbuteo. There had never been such flickery-trickery before. At least where I was concerned. Such were the heights attained that I decided that the time had come to retire. I hung up my little plastic footballers for the last time, aware that I could probably never again reach the levels of that eleven-goal thrashing. I have not played Subbuteo ever since.

Subbuteo was the only table (or floor) football game to come anywhere near resembling the actual game. There were other attempts, such as the Chad Valley, the one with plastic players on rubber bases pressed into sockets. If you levered a player back too much, he popped out of the socket and smacked you in the eye. Not as realistic and potentially more hazardous.

In 2000, Hasbro, which by then owned Subbuteo, pulled the plug: "The decision to cease production has been made as a result of the huge number of football-related products which have flooded the market in recent years, but the possibility remains that the Subbuteo brand may make a return at some stage in the future." Which is what happened. Subbuteo did return and is flourishing once more, not least in Mallorca (well, sort of).

There is a team called Mallorca Águilas de Llucmajor. It is the only team from the Balearics to be in the Spanish league or indeed to take part in the European champions league. Formed six years ago, the Mallorca "Eagles" are based at the sports centre in Arenal. In November they went off to Rome to take part in La Champions League. There were three Spanish sides in all: the Eagles plus Tiburones FM and CAP Ciudad de Murcia.

Things didn't go too well. On the website of the Asociación Española de Jugadores de Fútbol de Mesa, a report says that it should be noted that there was "little fair play" by the powerful teams. This didn't extend to removing an arm or two from the opposition, but the implication was that some teams "were allowed" to win. The Federation International of Sports Table Football is said to be aware of these "facts", and the long-term future of the Champions League seems to be in danger.

The facts aren't disclosed, however. All one can ascertain is that the powerful teams come from where the power resides in European Subbuteo, which is Italy, a nation never in the past of course involved in anything remotely shady when it comes to football (the real thing, that is).

Anyway, Bari Reggio Emilia went on to win the tournament, the fourth time they have done so since the Champions League started in 2010. As for the Eagles, they failed to qualify for the final stages. They had to settle for being in the consolation tournament, the Europa League, in which they came ... well, unfortunately they came last.

There wasn't an eleven-nil disaster awaiting. The worst result was a nine-nil defeat for one of the four-member team against the Bologna Tigers (and they only play fifteen minutes each half nowadays). But the Eagles live to flick another day. Maybe they should re-name themselves the Toffees.