Thursday, December 29, 2016

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.

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