Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 January 2017

Morning high (7.01am): 11C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 1 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 2 February - Cloud, sun, 18C; 3 February - Cloud, sun, 16C.

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

Looking clear before sunrise - stars are twinkling - and hopefully there might actually be the promised sun today.

Evening update (20.15): The sun did shine, and with a high of 20.1C.

What Former Mayors Do Next

What does a mayor do when he or she is no longer mayor? Much depends on why the tenure finishes. In more extreme cases, a mayor ends up in jail, if particular naughtiness has been engaged in: Andratx with Eugenio Hidalgo is an example. A mayor may also move up the political food chain, either by design or by accident.

José Ramón Bauzá used his Marratxi mayoral credentials to launch himself on a largely unsuspecting Partido Popular and Balearic society and become the islands' president. Alternatively, the mayor's job is retained while pursuing higher things. Astonishing though it may seem, but Maria Munar was mayor of Costitx all the time she was minister for education and then president of the Council of Mallorca. It's safe to assume that she is not planning a return to Costitx town hall.

Miquel Ferrer, an Alcudia mayor for some years, was an accidental beneficiary of promotion. While Munar's Unió Mallorquina was crumbling under the mounting mountain of corruption evidence, he resigned as mayor in order to become tourism minister. It was almost a case of last man standing, i.e. a senior figure in the party who wasn't banged up or en route to being so. Alas for Miquel his ministerial tenure was brief, and he hasn't been seen in town hall circles ever since he and the remaining members of the UM were ejected from the Antich "pact" of government.

Otherwise, unless because of retirement or the offer of something better, a mayor ceases to be mayor because of election defeat. Does this mark the moment to move onto other things? Sometimes but certainly not always. The ranks of town halls' councillors are littered with ex-mayors, biding their time for the next election and their return to once more wield the mayoral wand: the PP's Rafel Torres in Inca is a case in point. There are, therefore, former mayors in a state of constant rotation and on the comeback trail. One election comes along, out they go; the next one, and in they step again.

But there is a further reason why a mayor is no longer, and this is the consequence of the "pact". It doesn't happen in all instances by any means. There are plenty of town hall coalitions at present which don't envisage any mid-term mayoral change, but there are some. Where Santa Margalida is concerned, for example, the handing-over has already occurred, a mere eighteen months into the four-year period. More logically it takes place after two years, which is what will happen in Palma.

José Hila will step down in June. After he does, what will he do? One would assume that he will remain a councillor and become one of the array of deputy mayors. But it isn't as simple as that. Whether he stays or whether he goes (and going would be because staying would represent something of a humiliation), does one anticipate his spending the remaining two years plotting his comeback as mayor in 2019? Almost certainly yes, but Palma doesn't operate like mostly any other municipality. There are higher authorities who have their input, say and decisions when it comes to candidates for mayor.

Palma is its own mini-government. This status is why the position of mayor is of such critical importance to the political parties. Prior to the last election there were all the machinations to ensure that Mateu Isern was unable to stand again for the PP. And with the next election some two years or so away, the jockeying for positions are already beginning, with PSOE manoeuvring towards the starter's tape.

In an apparent reversal of promotion upwards (to government), it is understood that President Armengol has her man lined up to be candidate - the employment, trade and industry minister Iago Negueruela. This wouldn't of course be like a demotion because of Palma's mini-government pretensions. It would be a plum job. But why Negueruela?

In addition to being from good (Galician) socialist stock, he has been something of a safe pair of hands at the ministry, capable of announcing a load of statistics and initiatives to combat labour fraud. He wasn't actually elected as one of the 59 parliamentary deputies, but a background in employment inspection was what landed him the appointment. None of this, though, is a good reason for him to be mayor. However, Armengol is determined to have her man for the simple reason that Hila wasn't her choice last time and there are still gaping wounds among PSOE in Palma because of the infighting that was the prelude to Hila's election.

Whether Negueruela, a "foreigner", would be the one to unite factions seems unlikely, so when it finally comes to the choice of candidates for 2019, Hila will have lined himself up for another go and for a comeback. The battle for Palma has already begun.

Index for January 2017

Airport policy - 11 January 2017
Associations: too many - 12 January 2017
Big Data and tourism - 27 January 2017
CIA files, Joan March and Nazis - 30 January 2017
Culture, tourist tax and top stories from 2016 - 1 January 2017
Floods, drought and olive ebola - 29 January 2017
GOB and tourism - 10 January 2017
Goigs and Sant Antoni - 14 January 2017
Holiday rentals - 6 January 2017, 16 January 2017, 21 January 2017, 25 January 2017
Hotels and virtual reality - 18 January 2017
Illustrious sons and daughters - 2 January 2017
Mariano Rajoy - 3 January 2017
Mayors and their comebacks - 31 January 2017
Ministers and travel - 26 January 2017
Musical theatre - 22 January 2017
News and repetitious messages - 20 January 2017
Podemos tensions - 8 January 2017, 15 January 2017, 17 January 2017, 23 January 2017
Sant Antoni and tourism - 5 January 2017
Sant Julià - 7 January 2017
Sant Sebastià - 24 January 2017
Satire: demons and Kings - 9 January 2017
Tourism promotion - 13 January 2017
Tourismphobia - 19 January 2017
Tourist tax - 4 January 2017, 28 January 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 January 2017

Morning high (7.41am): 6C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 31 January - Sun, cloud, 18C; 1 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 2 February - Cloud, sun, 18C.

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

See if today is sunnier than yesterday. Forecast suggests so. Warmer as well.

Evening update (19.45): So much for the sunnier weather then. Dry but mostly cloudy. High of 17.6C.

Joan March And The CIA Files

The left-wing opposition at Santa Margalida town hall wants to revoke the title of illustrious son that was awarded to Joan March in 1956. There are three reasons why. One is because of information that has come from recently declassified CIA documents; not least the fact that he was involved with the sale of Jewish assets.

Joan March is known (and now mostly reviled) for all sorts of things. Being Franco's banker is just one. Another relates to the role he played in the Second World War and its aftermath. He also figures in the First World War, but by the time that war broke out in 1939 he had assumed a far more significant role. As the CIA files indicate, he was one of the most important businesspeople in Europe.

He used his business influences in different ways, such as with playing both sides during the war. His connections to both the British and the Germans have been well documented. For the Nazis, for instance, he supplied submarines in the Mediterranean from ships with the Trasmediterránea line. The same shipping company was the means by which Jews were transported to New York. March was paid handsomely for movements that were not permitted. When the FBI sought to intervene, it was Churchill who had a word with Roosevelt.

The CIA files really only confirm what was known about March's involvement in the war. A great deal of information had been gathered about him by the British, the French, the Russians, the Germans and the Americans. At the end of the war, the Americans and the Russians discovered a mountain of documentation related to him in Berlin. What the CIA now reveal is that a contrabandist, Michael Olian, was investigated in 1946 within the framework of Nazi war crimes. He sold assets of French Jews at reduced prices through an agreement with a Swiss bank in Madrid. Joan March was one of two beneficiaries.

March was untouchable. Although he principally treated the war as a grand business opportunity, there was also his duplicity. The Americans, or at least the Office of Strategic Services (which was to become the CIA), wanted to detain him. March had Churchill to thank for the fact that he was not detained and was to amass ever greater fortune and business power after the war. The CIA was unable to arrest March because Spain was "supposedly neutral". Obstacles were placed in front of American intelligence by "our diplomats".

The CIA files in some ways are more revealing about the post-war activities of Nazis in Mallorca. To what extent, if any, March was involved in Nazi activity isn't stated. Such involvement was probably unnecessary, as what emerges is a picture of how the Franco regime consented to the presence of Nazis and would indeed provide protection.

The Nazi presence on the island had been established prior to the war. Hans Dede became the permanent German consul in 1933 and remained so during the war. It was Dede who had pursued, with local assistance, German Jews and pacifists who had settled in Mallorca: in Cala Ratjada in particular. One was Karl Otten, who the British helped to escape. He became a propagandist with the BBC. Another was Hugo Cyril Kulp Baruch, better known as Jack Bilbo, who had established the Waikiki bar, but who left Mallorca when he recognised that the island wasn't the safe haven he had hoped it would be.

The CIA files establish that Dede had originally and ostensibly arrived in Mallorca as the employee of a company. He was categorised as being "notoriously anti-Semitic". He was also a spy. Following the war, the Allies demanded that he be handed over. It was too late. He had gone to South America. But, and as one dossier in the CIA files shows, there was apparently no shortage of Nazis residents on the island after the war. Military people and scientists, they were the focus of what in 1947, according to the CIA, was an imminent resurgence of the Nazi Party.

But was there really a resurgence? Nazism had been well embedded during the war and prior to it: there had, for example, been a Nazi rally in Portals Nous in 1938. Although there may have been Nazis on the island, did they pose the type of threat the CIA files hint at? Of the better-known names, Dede was no longer in Mallorca. Otto Skorzeny, who was to live in Barcares in Alcudia, wasn't here in 1947. He was undergoing de-Nazification, but didn't renounce National Socialism. He escaped and went to Madrid in 1948.

The point is that whatever strength of Nazi sentiment there may have been in the years immediately following the war, this didn't create a momentum. Mallorca and Spain did, after all, have its own brand of fascism to sustain it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 January 2017

Morning high (7.25am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 30 January - Sun, 17C; 31 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 1 February - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 5 to 6 easing 3 to 4 in the morning and backing West-Northwest 3 in the afternoon.

A spell of decent, sunny weather starting today and getting warmer during the week before, as the forecast has it at present, rain likely to return on Thursday or Friday.

Evening update (19.30): Disappointing. There was some sun but not as much as the forecast had suggested. High of 16.6C.

The Plagues Of Vince Vidal

Oh dear me, Vince, what have you done? Our friendly and favourite government minister, Enviro Man Vince Vidal, has been getting it in the neck big time. It was all Vince's fault that great hectares (one hectare equals 2.47105 acres) of Mallorca were under water, that entire crops were ruined, that farmers will be left destitute, that Cala Ratjada was crashing into the sea, that rocks were tumbling in abundance onto roads across the Tramuntana.

Yep, it was all Vince's fault. What had he been doing with himself for the past year and a half? Why hadn't he been out with his cement mixer to shore up a hole in the wall in Cala Ratjada? Why hadn't he been digging out environmentally unfriendly vegetation from torrents and collecting several hundred supermarket shopping trolleys, bits of old furniture, bags of building material waste and chunks of former pine and palm tree trunks which had mysteriously found their way into the same torrents?

He really hasn't had the best of luck, has he. It was also his fault that the taps had been running dry and the reservoirs had become small ponds. What can he expect next? A plague of locusts? That'll be his fault as well.

The drought and the floods were the consequence of historical inaction related to the water resource system and the maintenance of the torrents. Yes, it may well be that the likes of Muro had been demanding that Vince pitch up and clean out its torrent, but there is such a thing - strangely enough - as budgets. Why did Vince have such a barney with Cati Cladera at finance? Just because he's a Mésite and she isn't? Well, no, maybe it had something to do with needing more moolah to keep the torrents flowing properly.

The environment, we have become very aware, does need investment. If it didn't, then we wouldn't have had the former ecotax and now the new tax which pretends that it isn't an ecotax. Environmentalists GOB insist that it should be, while Palma wants to spend it all on piles of its crumbling patrimony. But call the tax what you want, there is the small matter of half of last year's revenue going on water. That's water as in seeking to ward off the worst that extended periods of dry and hot weather might throw at Mallorca. And why? Because there hadn't been investment in the past. That's why. Vince is not to blame for that.

Of course, he can't really do anything right. When the farmers were whining about insufficient aid to compensate for an absence of forage, this was all down to Vince been parsimonious. And there was he, a minister with previous eco credentials up to his beard. Shame on you, minister. Now that Noah has been forced to admit the livestock two by two, the farmers are agitating for a different reason.

At least they can be thankful that Madrid has finally remembered there is a Mallorca and will be emptying the contingency fund piggy-bank to compensate for British diners being unable to devour the earliest new potato crop. Vince, while his tears add to the inundations as he surveys the sodden spud fields of old Sa Pobla, will be thinking that he really needs to have a word with his chums at GOB. They earnestly believe that Mallorca should revive its full one-time agrarian glory (?). Are they mad?

His cabinet colleagues, alarmed that the government as a whole is being lined up and shot at for having caused the floods, have told Vince that he needs to become Enviro Action Man. And this is what he is doing. Appearing here, there and everywhere. But if Vince and the cabinet thought they only had the floods and the missing part of a harbour wall to worry about, they had to think again. A plague is either on its way or is already here. Not locusts but the "xylella fastidiosa", the bacteria also known as olive ebola.

Here's something else to suggest that GOB are a couple of trees short of the full orchard, because olive ebola can be devastating. Vince knows it can be. But he hadn't let on that there were more cases of affected trees than the ministry was saying there were. More than the vagaries of weather, it is the handling of olive ebola that is raising questions about management at the environment and agriculture ministry. Almonds, olives, cherries, vines; they're all susceptible. Vince must be wishing that all he had to worry about was the drought.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 January 2017

Morning high (7.40am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 29 January - Sun, cloud, 14C; 30 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 31 January - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 4 increasing Northeast 5 to 6 later in the day.

Reasonable if cold start to the day. Skies fairly clear, but rain expected later on together with a keen north wind. The hoped-for improvement should be with us tomorrow and remain for a few days.

Evening update (20.45): Not bad, some good sun, high of 17.3C, but some rain, as had been forecast, late afternoon.

Spending The Tourist Tax

The committee for the impulse of sustainable tourism has 32 members. The executive committee of this committee has 16 members. Which of the two really makes the decisions on spending tourist tax revenue? The question is asked because it is supposedly the larger of the two. The executive committee, though, came up with its projects for how the revenue should be spent. By no means was everyone on the larger committee happy. The same was presumably the case with the executive committee.

The government's apparent desire for transparency has led to an absurd mix of committees - one half the size of the other and with its membership roughly reflecting the make-up of the larger committee. The key members of both committees, where the spending decisions have been concerned, are the government ministers (with Biel Barceló the president of both committees), the island councils' representatives, the unions, and the representative of the farming advisory council. Between these there are ten members on the executive committee. On the larger committee there are eighteen. Majority rules twice over.

There is the distinct sense of a sham about all this. The government loves to talk about the involvement of "social agents" (business, unions, associations), but it is clear that what the government wants, the government gets, regardless of what some social agents (and others) might think. The priority given to water projects was probably fair enough, but as for the rest of the spending, it isn't representative of all those who comprise this committee. Indeed, there is an impression that certain social agents carry greater weight than others, such as the single representative of the farming community rather than town halls, business and even the environmentalists.

The government can legitimately point to the low amount of revenue from last year, which should be twice as much when the committee meets to decide 2017 spending, but who's to say if the wishes of all will be satisfied next time round? One doubts that they will. Part of the problem with the approach the government has adopted - the numerous "purposes", the array of interests represented on the committee - is that it raises expectations that are then dashed and lead to arguments and controversies.

Palma town hall has had its nose put out of joint more than most. It hasn't received a cent. Mayor Hila would like Palma to be added to the four islands in there being a guarantee of revenue distribution. He has made a comparison with the situation in Catalonia, where Barcelona has a 33% allocation. Whether Palma deserves to be given some form of preferential treatment is up for debate (personally, I don't think it does), but one wonders if there hasn't been an underlying context to the city's failure to get any revenue: the relationship between Hila and President Armengol. It was only a few weeks ago that the government didn't agree to investment for Palma under the law on "capitals". Comment at the time referred to the difficult relationship.

But more than this, there is the somewhat unseemly attempt by town halls (not just Palma) and by others to grab a piece of an admittedly not very large honeypot. When they don't have their wishes satisfied, you end up with the arguments. On top of this, there is Barceló insisting that tourist tax legislation has been introduced and implemented and that the revenue is now being spent: all within the space of fifteen months and "without any problem". Who is he trying to kid? The committee is just one example of a problem.

Friday, January 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 January 2017

Morning high (7.20am): 11.9C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 29 January - Cloud, sun, 14C; 30 January - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

A mainly grey day expected. Rain by the evening. Starting to look better on Sunday.

Evening update (21.30): Warmer day and not too bad until some more heavy rain in the evening. High of 16.6C.

Coming To Get You: Big Data

"The next ten to twenty years will see the data revolution accelerate. Data will no longer be stored and transmitted via a mobile device - it will be embedded in a chip inside your body!"

This quote comes from the introduction to a document entitled "Every Day #FanEngagement". It was prepared by David Fowler and Geoff Wilson, both experts in sports marketing, and was forwarded to me by David Carson, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the University of Ulster, along with a message "scary, I think".

Scary indeed. The fan engagement, and we're talking football here (FIFA is a client of Wilson's), will on match day involve, for example, offers being tailored to each fan. But it isn't just match day, there is what occurs the rest of the time. Personalised messages will be sent out as a means of the club seeking to ensure that the stadium sells out; this is just one application.

In actual fact, little of what Fowler and Wilson propose sounds particularly revolutionary or scary. It's the chipping which is, and it's already with us, such as in Australia where people are becoming "super humans" by having microchip implants which enable them to, for instance, dispense with car keys or log into computers with the wave of a hand. With fan engagement the chip acts as a ticket, with payment subject to dynamic pricing, i.e. up-to-date and attractive offers.

One does have to be the willing recipient of a chip. But the day almost seems upon us when it isn't voluntary. Radio frequency identification (RFID) might just become commonplace. Locating someone, though, would only be a part of it; there's all the rest which might follow. That's the scary bit.

For now, the locating, the messaging, the transacting are via mobile technology, which itself is scary enough, if users willingly indulge it, which many of course do. But whether the chip of the future or the smartphone of the present, the technology that has fallen into the hands of the marketing people is the manipulation of Big Data.

This has long been with us. In previous times it was basically just stored - warehoused - before the potential for data mining pointed the marketing types in the direction of their ultimate wet dream: total personalisation and customisation drawing on all the data which customers supply. Who they are, where they are, why they are where they are, how they got there, what they're doing there, when they go there. Big Data answers all these questions and then supplies further answers. And customers, via smartphones which might as well be implanted because of customers' attachment to them, become willing recipients of everything marketing departments want them to be.

Tourism is fertile territory for Big Data. Hotels, tour operators, travel agencies - they are all engaged in the rush to add ever bigger data and exploit it. But it isn't only business, it's countries as well. Álvaro Nadal, one of two egghead brothers in the upper echelons of the Spanish government, is the minister for tourism and the digital agenda. Nadal is a rare breed of politician in that he knows his subject to the extent that he probably knows more than those who advise him. The ministerial coalition of his portfolio is absolutely no coincidence: the digital agenda is driving tourism, and digital increasingly means Big Data.

Nadal is introducing a system which will generate data on tourists via their mobiles. Essentially, this is in order to gather improved knowledge about aspects of tourist behaviour in the sense of where they are and their movements; all of this being within a framework to enhance national tourism competitiveness. But it is Big Data use by tourism businesses which will be more evident to tourists: more evident and more intrusive.

The Future Foundation (now known as Foresight Factory) produced a report for the World Travel & Tourism Council which set out key issues. A conclusion was that the data required could well cross the boundary of acceptability. While the report identified benefits and different scenarios, including "data savvy reps" who will become data analysts of their customers, it said that there needs to be transparent use of data so that benefits to consumers are perceived as being proportional to all the data being gathered about them.

There should also be a requirement that Big Data can be switched on and off. There will be times when users want information on-demand and other times when they don't wish to be interrupted. And this encapsulates part of the discussion about intrusiveness, another aspect of which is the sheer volume of data held on individuals. It could mostly be mutually beneficial to tourists and businesses, hence why Mallorca's hoteliers and others are pursuing the Big Data route. But what about the stuff which isn't beneficial, and what also about a chip? At least with a phone you can switch it off. Scary.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 January 2017

Morning high (8.30am): 6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 27 January - Cloud, 16C; 28 January - Cloud, sun, 14C; 29 January - Sun, cloud, 14C.

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

Fairly bright. Should remain dry. Tomorrow may see some more rain. Outlook suggesting a general improvement from the weekend.

Evening update (19.15): Rather warmer. A high of 17.2C.

The Wandering Ministers Of Mallorca

A few years ago during the time when Francesc Antich was Balearic president, a whole host of politicians and various others took themselves off to Brussels in order to present a unified front in lobbying against what they thought might be contained in an EU directive. They were concerned specifically with Europe-wide rules for pyrotechnics and pyrotechnical products. There was concern that the directive might place unfavourable constraints on that key element of many a Mallorcan fiesta, the correfoc.

In addition to the politicians (numbered among whom were no fewer than forty mayors), there were demons' representatives, unionists, businesspeople, writers and artists: a contingent of some 150 people. Once in Brussels, demons put on a show, views on the directive were given, and everyone returned to Mallorca, having gone off on a fairly pointless mission. There was no intention that the directive should interfere with traditions in a harmful manner. When it was finally published, this principle was made clear.

It was never adequately explained how much this jaunt cost. It was unclear if the government had paid for everyone or if at least some had paid for themselves (the suggestion was that the government had coughed up). It was one of those relatively minor controversies which crop up from time to time and allow the opposition to do some shouting before everyone forgets about it.

The trip was in fact made in February 2009. At that time the full force of crisis had yet to truly dawn on Balearic politicians. Had they planned their trip a year later, one suspects the numbers would have been considerably lower. The trip was, though, to later be held up as an example of unnecessary expense.

When the Bauzá regime swept to power with a mandate for austerity, this sort of jolly would no longer be tolerated. Maria Salom, newly installed at the Council of Mallorca, having replaced Francina Armengol as its president, saw to it that a body called Eurolocal-Mallorca was scrapped. One news report described this body as "another strange consortium" that had been created by Armengol. It had been in existence for two years by the time that the PP took over. There was little evidence of it having done anything other than to send people off to Brussels for a chinwag.

Bauzá didn't do himself any real favours by occasionally disappearing to Madrid with entire entourages that included tame journalists, but in general the austerity rule was applied to trips. It still is applied, and Podemos have helped to ensure that it sticks. Or have they?

It might be recalled that during the Bauzá administration there was the business with the education minister Joana Maria Camps clearing off to Menorca on a regular basis; Menorca is her home island. The teachers' assembly, which had it in for her anyway, took the issue to court, noting that between May and December 2013 she had been to Menorca on 32 occasions, quite often over weekends. Back and forth the matter went between different courts before the whole case was "archived" at the end of 2015.

It is the memory of the days when justifying the travel of ministers (and others) was open to liberal application and the memory of the Camps case that now dominate thinking. The fact therefore that two PSOE ministers made a total of 28 trips to their home islands in 2016 has come under a spot of scrutiny.

Marc Pons (transport, land, energy) went to Menorca on seventeen occasions. These trips are contrasted with three to Ibiza. Pilar Costa (minister for the presidency) went to Ibiza eleven times and twice to Menorca. Ministers clearly do need to go to the other islands - they are after all Balearic ministers - and in some respects the more they go the better, as it ensures that the other islands don't feel left out. In the case of Pons, given his portfolio, there is probably more justification than most. But it is the fact that the visits are loaded in favour of home islands, which was very much the case with Camps, that has raised some eyebrows. Moreover, there is also the fact that ministers from other islands receive 22,000 euros a year on top of their ministerial salaries to go towards the cost of living in Mallorca.

It is being pointed out that both ministers paid for their own trips on occasions, but should the number of trips really be considered excessive? They're not in the Camps league, that's for sure, and is it not almost inevitable that this will happen with ministers from other islands? A rule of thumb has been adopted whereby there is a balance in ministerial representation from Menorca and Ibiza. This being the case, is it that surprising that there is something of a bias in the trips made? At least they're not going to Brussels for no particularly good reason.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 January 2017

Morning high (8.02am): 3.7C
Forecast high: 12C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 26 January - Cloud, sun, 14C; 27 January - Cloud, 16C; 28 January - Cloud, sun, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 veering East 3 to 4.

Chilly morning. Not because of clear skies because there's a good deal of cloud. Rain expected.

Evening update (19.55): Was reasonable for a while, some sun, and then came some rain and a spot of thunder. High of 13.4C but in some places the temperature failed to top ten degrees all day. 

The Frenzy Of Rentals' Colonialism

Another day, another survey. The Gadeso Foundation, which does a first-rate job in regularly surveying opinion on all sorts of topic, has been asking about holiday rentals. The fact that there is a survey highlights the importance of the subject to Mallorca and the Balearics. It has been remarked that it is one which attracts excessive attention, not least from the media, but the attention is necessary; this is a subject of fundamental importance.

Tourism, ever since the start of the sixties' boom, has raised a question about the way that people live in Mallorca. It is a question now seemingly being asked like never before, and there is a supplementary and just as important question - where do people live?

There are, it seems to me, some shockingly self-interested, patronising and ill-considered views regarding holiday rentals. They are held by those who can see no harm from unfettered development and availability. Holiday rentals are a part of the future, they give the hoteliers a run for their money, they generate greater revenues for certain business sectors. Agreed, albeit that they are the past as well as the future; holiday rentals in one form or another have always existed in the tourism environment.

But what is being experienced is a new form of touristic colonialism. If the development of resorts was principally a hotelier (and tour operator and bank) colonialism, both home-bred and foreign, then the current frenzy for rentals is a different wave, with the colonialists still a mixture of local and foreign. The owner of one or two properties is not really the issue; it is the speculative business and property acquirer which is. Nevertheless, and regardless of who the owner is, the frenzy is such that a wholesale distortion of the property market is being facilitated, leading to that supplementary question.

Colonialism implies some form of self-appointed interest, giving rise to a patronising view, similar to that which existed back in the sixties, that Mallorca should just be grateful for all these properties being available to tourists. That's one view. There is another which has it that workers can commute. So what if they have to, for example, live in Inca and travel to Alcudia each day? So what? Why the hell should they have to? The fact that people have to commute fair distances in places other than Mallorca is no argument. We're talking here not there. Moreover, we are also talking workers who aren't paid handsomely and who need to fork out more of their meagre salaries in order to travel on top of rents that are creeping up away from the resorts, a further consequence of the frenzy.

There was a time, and not so long ago, when I was in favour of pretty liberal regulations and when I sided with the view that the hoteliers shouldn't have things all their own way. This favouring still exists because it is only fair that an owner should at least have the option of how he or she chooses to rent out and also because there can be little question as to a benefit for the complementary sector, much though the likes of Exceltur (members of which include leading Mallorcan hoteliers) come up with reports suggesting that it is hotel guests who spend more on restaurants, etc.

What has changed my opinion is the frenzy, with Airbnb and others whipping it up and hiding behind the disingenuous argument that they are simply intermediaries. What? We're trading in holiday rentals? Not us, guv. What started out as a great idea now sucks.

The Gadeso survey reveals that just 29% of those surveyed are in favour of holiday rentals. There is a difference between Palma and the resorts. The greater opposition is in the city, which echoes a Gadeso finding about so-called saturation: it is felt more acutely in Palma than in the resorts. When it comes to type of property, irrespective of Palma or elsewhere, only 23% support apartment rentals.

The greatest drawback, according to the survey (59%), is access to housing for residents and workers. Half of the respondents consider that rentals are creating speculation and "gentrification", a word which has crept into the tourism lexicon in recent years. On the other hand, 47% believe that holiday rentals provide an important role in many families' finances. Which is true, but then ordinary families tend not to have whole portfolios of properties.

But it is ordinary families who might end up the victims of the frenzy. So much depends on how the government's regulations are finally worked up, on how zoning is determined, on how rigorously the tourism ministry and tax authorities then enforce regulations. And tax, now there's a thing. Gadeso found that 73% believed that obligation to pay tax should be the principal requirement for holiday rentals. Only 73%?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 January 2017

Morning high (7.38am): 11C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 25 January - Cloud, 12C; 26 January - Cloud, sun, 12C; 27 January - Cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 7 easing 5 to 6 around midday. Waves to four metres decreasing.

Wind's howling again. Hopefully should be some reasonable sun at times. As for a generally improving outlook, that's taken a step back. Tomorrow may well be wet.

Evening update (18.50): Some sun. Wind's dropped. High of 14.4C.

The Unmovable Feast Of Sebastian

Remember November 2001? If not, let me remind you. There was freak cold weather in the middle of the month and there was also the hurricane. The weather caused havoc with the island's most important fair.

Weather can occur at any time. Inca's Dijous Bo wasn't a complete victim as some of it was held indoors. But a fair is there to be held outdoors, unless the weather gods decree otherwise. Which they did in 2001. The fair, most of it therefore, was cancelled. Some events are just too complex for them to be rearranged.

The recent bad weather has created havoc with fiesta scheduling, but it is possible to push much of it to a later date. Something that wasn't postponed was the big Palma night out for Sant Sebastià, but the weather was hardly conducive to creating the type of party that was hoped for. As a consequence, there is talk of holding Sant Sebastià at some other time of the year.

The councillor for youth affairs, Aligi Molina, has said the proposal for a date change is "most interesting". It may well be most interesting, but the general reaction is leave well alone, with the mayor, José Hila, to the fore in insisting that there should be no change.

Hila has had his run-ins with Som Palma (Podemos) before over fiesta scheduling. Last summer, Eva Frade (citizen participation) said that all of the Christmas/New Year occasions traditionally held in the Plaça Cort would be moved because of building work. Oh not, they won't, said the "pact", i.e. the mayor. In the end, Eva got her way, and only the Standard festival survived.

It is therefore notable that Hila should react as quickly and as assertively as he has in heading off any further Som Palma claim on fiestas. Sant Sebastià, he said, is a winter fiesta. The town hall can't do anything about the weather. At no time has the administration planned a move for the fiestas. That's the whole administration, he was implying, including Molina.

It might be tempting, given the Podemos philosophy, to think that shifting Sant Sebastià would be an example of thumbing a nose at religion and the church. Tempting, though probably not accurate. Or it may be a case of if something is fixed (as in the date), then break it, which might also be in line with Podemos radicialism. No, not even that. Rather, it's all a question of the weather.

There are dates which aren't fixed. Easter is the most obviously movable feast, and its movement means that other celebrations have to move likewise: Carnival, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. This doesn't particularly help when it comes to scheduling, not least for tour operators, who would probably welcome the the pope fixing the date for Easter, as he has suggested he might. But everyone's been dealing with its movability for eons and has got used to therefore never being certain when Carnival is.

Everyone has also got used to fiestas taking place on the same day (or more or less the same day with some fiestas). And Sant Sebastià is one of them. Given that he officially became Palma's patron back in the 1600s and was supposedly and finally killed on the orders of Diocletian on 20 January 287, there isn't a great deal that can be done about the date.

But the problem has long been, therefore, that Palma doesn't have a summer fiesta. There are fiestas in different parts of the city, but notwithstanding the night of fire for Sant Joan in midsummer and the lame attempt at celebrating the Virgin Mary's birth in September, there isn't a summer spectacular.

No one has as yet made a firm proposal of an alternative and later date for Sebastià, and it's highly unlikely that if anyone did, it would be followed up. But a further reason, other than just the weather, has been put forward for a move, and this has to do with Sant Antoni. It is thought in some quarters that there is confusion because they are only three days apart and that aspects of Antoni have entered Sebastià, such as the demons.

While it's true that the two can seem to merge into one and so it isn't entirely certain which saint a particular bonfire might be for, it is a bit of an overstatement to say there's confusion. After all, the two saints have been at it for centuries. As for the demons, they are an Antoni legacy which is shared by all manner of fiestas, and not only Sebastià. The argument isn't strong.

But a big summer fiesta for the Virgin Mary, well that's a suggestion that should be considered. It would be a fiesta in addition not instead. Summer and winter, and winter, as in January, is where Sebastià belongs, as does Antoni.

Monday, January 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 January 2017

Morning high (8.14am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 24 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 25 January - Cloud, sun, 13C; 26 January - Cloud, sun, 14C.

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

There was still some distant thunder overnight. More rain can be expected today and the north wind is likely to be strong. Rather better from tomorrow, though the improvement may only be short.

Evening update (20.00): At times things weren't too bad. Some sunny spells. But wind and rain still around. A high of 14.8C.

Xe-Lo Likes Mick

Xe-Lo and her new best friend, Mick Vidal of the PP, were all smiles. Together they had placed an obstacle in the path of the coup attempt. Xe-Lo was not for leaving, other than to walk out of parliament with Mick, if not quite in hand in hand but with her reaching for a fag, as she had so unflatteringly been seen to do when her and Mick's courtship was starting a few weeks ago.

It turned out that parliament's lawyer had produced a document requiring Xe-Lo's instant dismissal. Xe-Lo hadn't seen this and nor had Mick. Right, they said, we're off, and they were, leaving the self-proclaimed Father of the House, PSOE's Vicenç Thomas, to do some explaining. Vicenç, first vice-president of parliament (there always have to be at least two VPs for pretty much anything), had taken over the meeting because Xe-Lo, reasonably enough, said she couldn't chair it given that her job was on the line. Out came the document, one with which Vicenç had believed that the blow could be struck. Alas no, where Vicenç was concerned. At least for now. He rather fancies Xe-Lo's job, allegedly.

What were the PP playing at, the "pact" demanded to know. It was obvious what they were playing at - causing mischief. Pact-ites railed against PP irresponsibility, while the PP were rolling around the floor with laughter. The greatest institutional crisis in the history of the Balearic parliament, the pact said, and the PP were to blame. Which wasn't strictly accurate. The crisis has all been of Podemos's making.

The crisis is such that a not unreasonable question was there to be asked about this document. Who had instructed the lawyer? As Xe-Lo was (still is) president, does she not get involved in such a matter? There again, she was unlikely to go all turkey and Christmas and tell the lawyer to order her dismissal.

Given that no one has a clue what's going on at present, the race to be Xe-Lo's successor was shunted into the background. And Podemos discovered, to their horror, that one of the runners and riders - the preferred one on account of her being a member of the sisterhood - was herself being shunted into the parliament presidential sidings. Marta Maicas had been cited by a judge in respect of Montse Seijas's "denuncia" for the digital signature falsification business. If not Marta, that leaves Podemos with only the Balti man, Picornell, as a front runner.

Neither Marta nor Balti curry a great deal of favour with certain pact-ites (especially PSOE). They are looked upon as being, well, too "shouty". Parliament and Podemos may live to regret the Xe-Lo crisis, given that all parties believed she was in fact rather good at her job, when not, for instance, being on holiday in Rome. PSOE would like the Father of the House to be officially anointed as daddy. And Vicenç wouldn't say no. The greater crisis would then ensue. Podemos would lose their one real hold on power not just in the Balearics but in any Spanish region. The pact would be subject to even greater pressure than it already is.

Meanwhile, the Podemos sisterhood credentials were in fact taking a further hammering. In addition to the alleged "blackmailing" of Carmen Azpelicueta - "be a good girl, and we'll look for a job for you" - it now seems that when a woman was being interviewed for a post as an adviser at the Council of Mallorca, she was asked if she has plans to get pregnant. That is a question that cannot be asked.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 January 2017

Morning high (7.37am): 11.7C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 23 January - Rain, 14C; 24 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 25 January - Cloud, 13C.

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

Another storm in the night. Wind has eased but there is likely to be more rain today and tomorrow.

Evening update (18.45): More rain, occasional thunder but some sun also. High of 13.6C.

Grease Is The Musical Word

Grease, as Frankie Valli informed us, is the word. It is also, among other things, the time, the place, the motion. Just at present, as in today, the time is seven this evening, the place is Palma's auditorium, and motion is, well, "Grease".

The musical is in town, as it is from time to time and in other towns. "Frozen" has been with us, the musical versions of "Tarzan" and "Peter Pan" have been doing the rounds, and more or less at any time of the year one can find Michael Jackson stepping out in a musical format, to say nothing of course of "Mamma Mia".

While Mallorca has its imported musicals, what, if anything, has Mallorca contributed to the world of musicals? Well, if you go back to the fourteenth century, you'll find that religious musical theatre provided dance at the Cathedral. It might not have been "Grease", but Grease wasn't the word back then.

The various folk dance groups, such as the cossiers and cavallets, are classified by music scholars as having been part of this musical theatre tradition, so in the case of the cavallets - an import from Barcelona - this tradition was alive from the first half of the fifteenth century. A different form of musical theatre was that of the authorities. Hence, from the fourteenth century there were the minstrels and drummers of the Sala de la Universitat in Palma, the precursor to the Ajuntament.

Much of this early music was tied up with the church. The Cathedral was, for example, to acquire its own band of minstrels, and the church pretty much held a stranglehold through the liturgical dramas that had originated in mediaeval times. What broke the mould was the emergence of what might be described as the first genuinely popular musical theatre tradition. But one uses the word "popular" advisedly.

In the seventeenth century the zarzuela appeared. This genre of operatic drama was essentially a Spanish development of "masque" theatre that had originally been developed in Italy and been transported to Spain by the early sixteenth century. The zarzuela went further than the masque in that drama was incorporated into the music, but though it is described as having embraced "popular" elements, it was a theatre for the nobility. The first performance of a zarzuela is said to have been for the royal family in 1657 at the Prado palace in Madrid. Its lyrical content was by Pedro Calderón, attributed with having invented "old zarzuela".

The zarzuela was typically a comedy. It was to breed its own in-jokes and in-fighting, such as with "La comedia nueva o el café", a work by Leandro Fernández which mocked the efforts of another author of zarazuelas. As far as Mallorca was concerned, there were no notable authors. The zarzuela nevertheless found a place in Palma for the island's nobility. And that was at La Casa de las Comedias. Opened 350 years ago, it became the Teatre Principal, and following the "Bourbonisation" of Mallorca in the early eighteenth century, the essentially Bourbon tradition of the zarzuela took hold on the island and was to eventually be Catalanised as the "sarsuela".

By the nineteenth century, though, certain names were appearing who were to have a major impact not only in Mallorca but also on the mainland. Vicenç Cuyàs i Bores, born in Palma in 1816, wrote the romantic opera "La fattucchiera". Sung in Italian, its first performance was nevertheless to be considered one of the most important events in Spanish nineteenth century opera. Another name was a contemporary of Cuyàs, Francesc Porcell i Guàrdia, whose "El trovador" carried the subtitle "the first Spanish lyrical drama".

As for something that might be described as a musical, in the tradition of Broadway or Hollywood, there was to be no such development of any great significance. The Franco years were an era when the very Spanish concept of the zarzuela found greatest expression, and when music in Mallorca began to liberate itself in the sixties: it looked to pop, to folk and the Catalan "new song".

There is now, however, a fairly flourishing scene of homegrown musicals which pop up at local auditoriums and theatres. But there's nothing that competes with the imports, the made-over versions in Spanish or Catalan or sometimes in the original English. Grease is the word, and is likely to remain the word.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 January 2017

Morning high (7.58am): 12C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 January - Rain, sun, wind, 14C; 23 January - Rain, wind, 13C; 24 January - Rain, wind, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 7 to 8 with intervals of severe gale force 9 in the afternoon.

Fierce wind blowing. Some rain about. Very dodgy conditions by the coasts and at sea. Wind continuing to be strong tomorrow. The forecast suggesting a general improvement from Wednesday.

Evening update (19.00): Truly dreadful day. Loads of rain - over 50 litres per square metre in parts - high winds and no sun. High of 12.6C.

Madrid Discovers Holiday Rentals

Matilde Asián, the still new secretary of state for tourism, has got off on the right foot: where the hoteliers are concerned, anyway, for whom she's proving to be as good as her word. Soon into her new position she let it be known that the national government was considering a U-turn on holiday rentals. Having left regulation up to the regions, the time had arrived for Madrid to get involved.

This followed a meeting with the president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Inma Benito, who had herself been mentioned as a possible secretary of state. What has become apparent since that meeting is that Benito is playing a role broader than just representing the island's considerable hotel interests. Mallorca's federation is the most powerful of the hotel lobby groups, and Mallorca is leading the charge in Madrid for action.

Asián was at a gathering before the Fitur fair got under way which demonstrated the power of the Mallorcan/Balearic lobby. Globalia, Iberostar, Palladium, Piñero, Riu were all represented. Such is the strength of the hotel industry in the Balearics that an entirely different five could line up without any loss of power. She assured them that she will be pushing for state legislation that will not just remove confusion created by regional rentals' regulations, it will also control rentals.

What sort of legislation might emerge? Given some of the talk in Madrid, not least by former foreign affairs minister Abel Matutes, the boss of Palladium, one target could be Airbnb and its ilk. For Spain to introduce legislation that controls the collaborative economy (if only for accommodation) would be a giant step. It would be a far from easy step as well. There would be Brussels and the National Competition Commission to answer to for starters.

There again, no one surely disputes the rights of websites to promote accommodation, so long as it's legal. Tough legislation targeting illegal offer is a different matter. The weight of a state behind it would go well beyond regional efforts to tackle the illegal supply.

It is curious that the right and the left are basically in agreement on all this. They come from different points of view - in simplistic terms, defending the hoteliers or defending residential communities - but the objective is the same. Airbnb can defend itself all it likes by applying definitions, e.g. it doesn't offer "tourist" accommodation because it is merely a form of go-between, but if this is the case, then why did it announce an intention for business development in tourist resorts and not just in cities? Fundamentally, if it (and others) permit the promotion of illegal properties, they deserve anything that might come their way.

Although Asián says she's keen to remove confusion, it's debatable how much she will do this, given that regions either have legislated or are in the process of doing so. The Balearic legislation, the draft for which has received a bombardment of objections from all sides, will not just establish a framework for the regions it will also devolve powers for implementation to the island councils.

So as and when Madrid introduces its legislation, how will it impact on what's already in place? Biel Barceló says that it will be important for Madrid to clarify what powers the regions have, which is a reasonable observation, as the result of Madrid becoming involved could have precisely the opposite effect to that which Asián intends.

Friday, January 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 January 2017

Morning high (7.18am): 10.3C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 21 January - Rain, wind, 15C; 22 January - Rain, sun, wind, 15C; 23 January - Rain, sun, 13C.

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

Rain and storm overnight. More rain can be expected. Tomorrow, there is an amber alert for wind, with forecast strengths at present suggesting the wind will be severe.

Evening update (21.45): Well that was a rotten day. Storm and heavy rain plus wind, eased somewhat and then storm and rain returned in the early evening. High of 12.7C.

The Consensus Of Repetition

I've been struggling to discover one redeeming feature in Donald Trump. I think I may have found it. Nonsense. His capacity for talking it (more often than not tweeting it) is matched by a capacity for making the nonsense interesting. Dangerous he may be, totally barking he almost certainly is, but at least DT possesses a perverse entertainment quality which stems from the fact that no one has the slightest idea what lunacy he's next about to utter. Off-message, I guess one calls it. And populist.

DT is symptomatic of a new breed which makes the script up as it goes along. Into this category also fall Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, for whom one might apply a collective noun for their manic musings - a barrage of Farage, a jocularity of Johnson. If only Boris had stuck to Have I Got News For You. He didn't, and so the joke wears rather thin when one realises that he actually appears to mean what he says and is a foreign secretary, to boot.

All this weird off-the-cuffness is of course designed to appeal to publics suffocated by the alternative brand of nonsense: speaking for hours without ever saying anything relevant, meaningful or remotely entertaining. Gone, therefore, are the days of Campbell-led Blairising. It might have all done the trick in 1997 (in fact did), but by the end you just wanted to reach inside the TV screen and give him a good punch.

All of this brings me to our home-grown political talent, such as it is; and by home-grown, I mean Mallorcan. It was suggested recently that former presidents Jaume Matas and José Ramón Bauzá have generated "antibodies" which will prevent there being a Trump in Mallorca. The theory is that because of corruption (Matas) and the Catalan offensive, among other things, of Bauzá, the political body can no longer be harmed by invading disease. At least I think that's the theory, as I'm not sure that it follows.

But whether there might be a Trump or not, the current lot most certainly do not display any sign of wandering off the carefully scripted path of repetitious irrelevance. This was brought home to me in the course of learning what the president had to say in Madrid about tourism, closely followed by the verbally meandering mayor of Palma. Was it possible, I was wondering, for them to ever refer to tourism without mentioning a) a lengthening of the season, b) the sustainability of tourism, and c) a quality of employment? Seemingly, it isn't possible.

Do they think anyone takes any notice of this stuff? So pre-scripted is it that in rare idle moments (and trust me they are rare), I have penned occasional news reports in advance, and pretty accurate they turned out to be when the actual copy was presented.

With President Armengol there is of course her insistence on "consensus and dialogue" - and yes, you can work this into news stories in advance without too much fear of being inaccurate. Such is the repetition that the Partido Popular now take the rise out of her by parroting it, while when it crops up - time and time again - it gives the impression of parody. Can't she think of some other vacuous remark? It would appear not.

Then we have the news management, the stuff churned out to make political parties, town halls, associations for this, that and the next thing appear to be doing something. Let's take Calvia, shall we. So, and as an example, there's a story about the town hall having an action plan for urban maintenance in order to match efforts being made by hoteliers. Which is fair enough. However, is it not the case that a town hall is supposed to undertake maintenance and improvements? Isn't this a fairly fundamental reason for its existence?

One contrasts this with Alcudia. It recently, via its councillor for tourism and public works, reeled off a list of maintenance and improvement projects which have been done or are in the process of being done. Tedious it may have been, but it was an update on what the town hall had said it would be doing some months previously. And that was all that it was. An update. There were no mentions of resort transformation or anything like that, probably because there isn't one. But in Calvia, such is the need to impress on everyone the fact that there is transformation (well, Magalluf mainly) that minor stories of what the town hall might be expected to be doing are set within this transformational context and typically appended with references to lengthening the season, quality of employment, etc., etc.

We get the message(s) because we can't avoid getting them, but do we listen and take note other than to realise that we've heard them ad nauseam?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 January 2017

Morning high (7.25am): 10.4C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 20 January - Rain, wind, 14C; 21 January - Rain, wind, 14C; 22 January - Rain, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 7 veering East 5 to 6 during the morning. Waves decreasing to two to three metres.

Another rough old morning. Not raining though. Wind and rain, themes into the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): Grey, very grey for much of the time, and windy. High of 11.7C.

What If There Hadn't Been Tourism?

Tourismphobia appears to be a mainly Spanish concept. Indeed it seems to be almost exclusively Spanish. Put tourismphobia into Google and you don't get very far, and where you do get leads you mostly to Spain, including a scholar in Girona who's been researching the phobia. Put "turismofobia" into Google, and there's a different result: five pages convinced me that this is very much a Spanish thing.

Which isn't to say that there isn't fear or dislike of tourism elsewhere, just that Spain (certain parts anyway) is where there is an actual phobia. Despite the phobia appearing to be confined to the likes of Barcelona (and Mallorca), its existence is sufficient for the national tourism minister to refer to it. Álvaro Nadal told an audience in Madrid that there needs to be an end to talk of tourismphobia. Tourism is, after all, good for you and especially for the economy. The trouble is trying to convince everyone of the fact.

The apparent existence of this phobia prompted me to seek out evidence of its historical antecedents in Mallorca. What of phobia at the time of the great boom of the 1960s? The research will take a great deal more time than a cursory examination of Google. I am aware that there was a phobia, which then meant what it should mean - a fear rather than dislike or hatred - but documentary evidence will be thin on the ground. In the 1960s, you didn't go around announcing great protests while Fraga and Franco were overseeing things.

The phobia of the sixties for the most part wasn't a phobia. It was more a case of being jocular in a disparaging way. Dubbing someone a "turista" was used to mock. The presence of actual fear was a different thing. It's not as if everyone was blind to what was happening: the destruction of coastal environments; the assault on culture; the quasi-colonialism which tourism represented. Expressing such a fear, however, was not likely to do you any great favours.

It was during the dying years of the regime and afterwards that voices emerged who spoke of the fear. One to have done so was (and is) Miquel López Crespí, the Sa Pobla-based author. Among his output are reflections of the way in which what was once Sa Pobla's beach on the bay of Alcudia was transformed into Playa de Muro. In the process all the memories of simple August nights in the 1950s became just that - memories.

While I was hunting for some evidence, I stumbled across an article from 1984 by Climent Picornell, a professor at the University of the Balearic Islands. It is germane in the sense that tourismphobia, at its most extreme, would see tourism consigned to the bin of economic activity: a point that Nadal was making, if not in quite these words. The article wasn't written from the point of view of the fear but from a consideration of what there would have been, had there not been tourism.

Hypothetical the situation may have been in 1984 and still is today, but a fear hasn't altered over the intervening 33 years. Picornell referred to the "monospecialisation" of the economy - the reliance on one sector of activity. This is something which is widely spoken about nowadays, and within the debate there are those, such as GOB, who advance the case for greater emphasis on agriculture - a reclaiming of the land that was lost during the boom. Picornell wasn't so sure about that. He suggested that an historical emigration would have continued. People would have sought out prospects in the Caribbean and South America.

His focus wasn't agriculture, however. It was industry, and he looked at the establishment and then growth of industrial estates, such as Son Castelló and Can Valero. There were reasons why Asima, the organisation behind these estates, undertook their development. One day, tourism would come to an end, spelling economic catastrophe. There could be no waiting around for this to happen. An alternative was required. 

While the estates might have presupposed the establishment of a thriving, indigenous artisanal industry, the outcome was to prove to be rather different. Even in 1984, Picornell was able to reflect on the way in which the estates had come to serve tourism or to be littered with cash and carrys. Tourism, and all that it bred, including greater consumerism, was all-consuming, and there was of course no catastrophe.

Industry which predated tourism, such as textiles and chemicals, did largely disappear. But had it been necessary for industry, rather than tourism, to dominate, what might the consequences have been? Environmentally, they could have been more savage than anything tourism has served up. And who could possibly say that its competitiveness would have come close to that of tourism? Having a phobia is one thing, eliminating it and replacing it with something else is quite another.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 January 2017

Morning high (7.05am): 7.1C
Forecast high: 11C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 19 January - Cloud, wind, 13C; 20 January - Cloud, wind, 13C; 21 January - Cloud, wind, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 to 7. Waves of three to five metres.

Blowy again this morning, and the wind and cloud will dominate for the next few days. Aemet reckons the current spell of weather will last another week. The snow line is up to 400-500 metres.

Evening update (20.15): There was actually some sun today. Plus cloud and wind. A high of 9.8C.

From Infinity To Infinity: Hotels

My, how hotels have changed. Those of you of a certain vintage will remember how they were. I'm not referring to the likes of the Ritz, but to the holiday hotel of yore, the first recollection of which I have is from the year that England won the World Cup. It was called, may still be for all I know, the Yelton Hotel in Hastings. I'm guessing that they considered this to be a home from home type of family hotel. They were quite wrong. By that time we lived in comparative luxury. Not every part of our home, all furnishings, all walls, all everything smelt of beef lunches. In fact, none of it did, unlike the hotel. Nor did we have Double Diamond on tap, and we most certainly did not have an "entertainment" room which failed to entertain.

Three years later came the great foreign adventure. Arenal. Here was something different: the outdoor pool, for example, which contrasted greatly with the one in Bournemouth during 1967's Summer of Love. Buried in the bowels of the hotel edifice, plunging into it gave the impression that one might disappear into the centre of the Earth. They're probably still hunting for small children even now. Arenal was therefore several notches up on the sophistication ladder, despite there having been a shanty town as a bedroom view.

Sophistication is the keyword. The holidaymaking client nowadays requires sophistication. It comes in different guises, and the appreciation (or not) of its level of sophistication does rather depend on the punter's aspirations and expectations. Generally speaking, though, Mallorca and everywhere else are straining every hotelier sinew to invest in sophistication. Take the infinity pool, for example. Whereas the pool in Bournemouth in 1967 could seemingly oblige by condemning one to an ever-downward-spiralling vortex of infinity, the 2017 model is just infinite on a horizontal plane. Where does it go? What a clever trick.

Although there are still hotels trapped in a 1970s' time warp, the great majority now conform to the demands of 21st Century Tourist Man (and family). Spas are ubiquitous, chill-out zones are de rigueur, wifi has replaced the Double Diamond by being on tap and may well be transmitted by the contemporary beer tap, given the ominous and mysterious advance of the Internet of Things. It is the latter which defines this new age of the hotel experience. Technology has advanced sophistication as much as any competitive threat from Turkey and elsewhere.

The leap is as gigantic as it has been rapid. Back in the day when some people were on the pitch, thinking it was all over, the Yelton's technological aspirations could stretch no further than the telly in the telly room. Harold Wilson may have been announcing that there was a white heat of technology, but here was the tepidity of technology, if that.

Hotel technology took an age to embrace the age of technology. Since its relatively recent discovery, however, it has moved ahead with boundless energy, powering energy-efficient systems through the computations of software, marketing offers in a constant whir of Big Data profiling, converting the real to the less real - virtual reality.

How far can all this go? The possibilities presented by technology create a new infinity, virtual reality being just one aspect but a highly tantalising one. There were those who might have scoffed when some years ago I presented a vision of hotel virtual reality entertainment (Miley Cyrus was being virtually reproduced), but scoff no more.

I am not a futurist. Perhaps I've missed a vocation and the possibility of raking in shedloads purely on the basis of blue-sky thinking, as my vision of hotel robotics and virtual Miley bears a certain similarity with someone who is a futurist and who presumably doesn't come cheap.

James Canton used to work for Apple. He has advised more than a hundred companies as well as the White House. And what does James envisage? Among other things, the current-day theme hotel will be transformed into an immersive environment. Guests will experience live events and interact with them in real time or through virtual reality. In other words, the themed hotel becomes a virtual environment, capable of drawing on imagery from wherever, such as the past. In my vision, that past imagery was of the guest being shown how resorts once were, when guests left their compounds and did things like going to a bar.

Robots, says James, will be programmed in such ways to make guests' stays exceptional and personalised experiences through the provision of information, service and entertainment. And that is not a great distance away from my RepBot and making available virtual Miley entertainment.

Infinite. The possibilities are infinite. Perhaps the re-creation of the past might even be of plunging into the infinity of the Summer of Love.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 January 2017

Morning high (7.41am): 6.3C
Forecast high: 9C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 18 January - Cloud, wind, 11C; 19 January - Cloud, wind, 14C; 20 January - Cloud, wind, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 8. Waves to five metres.

Very blowy, has been through the night and will continue through the day. Snow is forecast for sea level, but temperatures are at present and are due to remain around six to seven degrees.

Evening update (19.45): So, there was some snow, if you could really call it snow. Didn't settle. The wind was bitter. Low of 1.8C, temperatures climbed in the later afternoon to give a high of 6.4C.

The Temptations Of Power: Podemos

The Spanish noun for power, one of them anyway, is "poder". This isn't a noun to be used for your car or your electricity. It is one to mean authority and might. From authority and might, it is a short step to control, manipulation and finally corruption. All power corrupts.

There is another maxim. Knowledge is power. It is accompanied by "information is liberating". The internet is the ultimate repository of information, a liberating and colossal warehouse for the democratisation of knowledge and thus the wider diffusion and sharing of power. This is both illusion and delusion. The internet is a giant transmitter of propaganda, of distortion, persuasion, untruths, manipulation and corruption via corrupted, prejudiced knowledge. What Joseph Goebbels would have given for the internet. His ministry was one not just for propaganda but also public enlightenment. How wretched that was, a steer on the Enlightenment movement and of the Age of Reason.

It was Kofi Annan who asserted that knowledge is power. Through information and education the peoples of the nations of the world would be liberated. Instead they are being incarcerated by corrupted information. And they willingly abet the process.

Lord Acton's assertion regarding power has itself been corrupted. We use the corrupted version because it sounds more powerful. What he actually said was that all power tends to corrupt. He was prepared to be non-committal, no doubt wishing to give the benefit of doubt. 

"Poder" is also a verb. It plays the role of the English modal "can" and "could" or of "to be able to", which isn't a modal verb as such. The verb "poder" thus has its own innate power. It isn't, as in English, an auxiliary. It exists in its own right. And from its conjugation, one gets "podemos" - we can, we are able to. It's emphatic, and it is a message that Podemos chose to emphasise what they could do, were able to do. Note the grammar. The past of choose requires an alteration to the less emphatic could or the implication of no longer being able to.

The party will of course still believe it can, that is able to, and that it will do so via the collective will: we can, not I can. The power lies in evoking the collective, until there is degeneration, and the individual starts to take over. Having shown to have been able to, the temptation for Lord Acton's tendency to take over is too difficult to resist.

Of course, and let's not delude ourselves, Podemos have always been about being able to and about power. Political parties don't dissolve themselves once they've achieved something. They are organic entities, for which growth is the aim. And growth means power. There is no point to a political party otherwise.

Podemos, in their very essence, proved the power of liberating knowledge and information. They caught other political parties on the hop by using the internet as a means to grow, to disseminate and persuade and to create themselves in the image of knowledge and information democratisation. The internet became the tool for citizen involvement. Podemos were a party of the new age, crafting their niche from this powerful medium; a niche to become, as inevitably it has, part of the mainstream.

Some will say that frictions within Podemos are signs of a maturing as a party. They may be right. But these frictions, however they might be explained in terms of the collective (the "we"), revolve around power. The party, thwarted in the goal of government power - its principle objective from the time of its formation - has fallen into the hole that all parties make. They fight each other, because factions are a consequence of such formation.

I admired Podemos. The admiration was based on their newness, a seductive message for the collective, an assault on the cosy nature of Spain's political system, the abhorrence of the misery of crisis. The admiration has dwindled. Podemos are falling victim to the very things they sought to eradicate. Their desire for power has corrupted them. It has created the fallout between Iglesias and Errejón, both driven by alternate visions of power.

In the Balearics Podemos are desperate to keep hold of the presidency of parliament. Why so desperate? Because it is their greatest success in gaining power regionally. This, in a way, is curious, as they placed less store by regional elections than the generals: it was the latter which they craved. They will probably have their demands met and keep a hold. But in the meantime, the institutional crisis that has been unfolding has exposed the party's fault lines. Factionalism is just one. The allegations of blackmail, the "administrative error" in using Montse Seijas's digital signature, votes and senior officials for the Council of Mallorca, the apparent need to silence critics are others. Seijas is right in saying that this is not the Podemos that the collective had willed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 January 2017

Morning high (7.41am): 6.6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 January - Cloud, sun, wind, snow, 9C; 18 January - Cloud, wind, 11C; 19 January - Cloud, wind, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 4 increasing again to North 6 to 8 by sunset.

Fairly calm first thing, but the wind will strengthen again. There is a red alert for later today out at sea and amber for the coasts. The forecast has changed, therefore, and the wind this evening for the fires is likely to be fairly fierce. Rain is quite possible as well. Tomorrow, snow at sea level is on the cards and driven by more high north winds.

Evening update (19.15): Wasn't too bad a day really. Windy but quite sunny and a high of 15.5C. See what tomorrow's dire forecast actually brings.

The Rentals' Controversy Coming Our Way

The upcoming holiday rentals' legislation and its implementation has the potential to significantly alter the tourism accommodation landscape. A headlining aspect of the legislation, thus far, has been the provision for communities to vote - by majority - in favour of or against registered lets in apartment buildings. It has raised concerns, not least among communities of owners who have fought over the years to keep their buildings purely residential, or as residential as they can. These concerns may, however, not be put to the test, as a crucial element of the legislation's implementation will be the principle of zoning. This hasn't captured the headlines in the same way, but it will do.

The government is working on the basis that there will be a limit to the number of holiday rentals' places, by which one takes it that these will be places that are in addition to currently registered and legal lets, such as villas. The limit of 43,000 places is for the whole of the Balearics. What this doesn't mean is 43,000 properties. If an apartment, say, has three bedrooms, that will equate (probably) to six places.

The implication of this is that the number of properties will be relatively small, and these properties are set to be permitted in accordance with how each zone is mapped out for holiday rentals. In Mallorca there are nine zones, one of them being Palma. The northern zone encompasses a vast area: all of Pollensa, all of Alcudia, all of Muro and all of Santa Margalida, plus non-coastal parts, such as Sa Pobla.

The Council of Mallorca, which is charged with defining these zones and the allocations within them, has said that the task will not be conducted on a street-by-street basis. It would take them forever, were it to be. There will therefore be general areas within zones, and a further principle will be to ensure that residential areas are not overrun by holiday rentals. Additionally, there is a hint that areas which currently aren't especially touristic will be looked upon favourably when it comes to the allocation.

There is yet another factor to take into account, also with the potential to create headlines and an enormous amount of controversy. Tourism minister Biel Barceló has more or less said that properties that are currently registered and legal may be "de-registered" if they fall outside the defined areas within the zones. Add to this an apparent aversion to holiday rentals on rural land (a reversal of the attitude and indeed legislation of the Partido Popular), and the total picture is highly complex and highly combustible.

No one has a clue how this might all pan out just yet, but there are issues which stand out, such as the unique situation in Pollensa. The recent confirmation of what we already knew - that there are more holiday rentals' places than hotel places - is completely different to the situations in Alcudia, Muro and Santa Margalida. It is also different to any other main tourism centre on the island. Might this current weighting in favour of holiday rentals mean that the municipality is overlooked? If there are already as many as there are, then why would more be needed?

This may not be the thinking, but when it comes to determining areas for holiday rentals within the municipality, might it be that properties are de-registered? The implications of this legislation are, as I say, potentially very significant. Pollensa's tourism councillor, Iliana Capllonch, said at the weekend that she hopes the process will prove to be "good", and there will be others hoping the same.

One also has to take into account the attitudes of the town halls. Three local mayors are with El Pi - Toni Mir (Alcudia), Biel Ferragut (Sa Pobla) and Joan Monjo (Santa Margalida - sort of El Pi in his case). El Pi has nailed its colours firmly to a liberal application of rentals' law, so much so that it has held joint press conferences with the Aptur holiday rentals' association. Mir has spoken in the past about the beneficial effects of rentals without expressing any dogmatic line on the subject. Ferragut represents a drive to create more tourism for Sa Pobla, and the only way this can be done - accommodation-wise - is through rentals. Monjo is bound to have his say, and it's typically a forceful one. A specific case for Santa Margalida is Son Serra, where there are no hotels but are apartments, if not big apartment buildings, in addition to the chalets and villas.

And what of Muro and Pollensa? In Muro, it's reasonable to say that the town hall has long been hotelier-friendly. Pollensa is something of an unknown. Gone are the days when Tomeu Cifre was fighting the rentals' corner. What might Miquel March stand up for?

The Council of Mallorca is bound to take town halls' views into consideration. It can't undertake its zoning exercise without town halls' involvement and, to a degree, guidance. But ultimately, and given the area, containing as it does four tourism centres, how many places might there in fact be? And once all this has been done, how many more places will continue to be illegal or to be offered under the provisions of the tenancy act - in a spurious way or not? There's something else to consider. The government wants Madrid to amend the tenancy act and apply a minimum of a month to tenancy agreements. Madrid might just do so, as it has a new tourism secretary of state who's inclined to adopt uniform regulations for the whole country.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 January 2017

Morning high (8.02am): 10.2C
Forecast high: 12C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 17 January - Cloud, wind, snow, 9C; 18 January - Cloud, wind, 11C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northwest 7 to 8. Waves from three metres.

The morning starts clear. Some sunny spells and windy. The forecast for tomorrow evening suggests that the wind will ease somewhat, which is good news for all the bonfires, but rain is possible. Tuesday, Sant Antoni Day, is when snow is likely at sea level. 

Evening update (19.15): Windy it was and still is. High of 12.9C.

The Jesús And Montse Chain

If rock music had never existed, its invention may well have used as its prototype The Jesus and Mary Chain. Here, pre-Oasis and pre-Primal Scream, was a post-punk creation, aided by Alan McGee's Creation Records, notable and notorious for two brothers with a capacity for duelling cricket-bat violence that could have acted as the manual for the Gallaghers and a further capacity for vast drug-taking in the grand style of the Primals' Bobby Gillespie, who had after all been their original drummer. Naturally enough, it was to eventually all end in tears, the Reid brothers at the point of killing each other.

They have, of course, in good rock tradition, reformed, having discovered a maturity that was singularly lacking in the eighties. The fate of The Jesus and Mary Chain may act as a metaphor (minus, one trusts, the drugs and violence) for what is the new political rock 'n' roll. Had political parties never existed, the invention could have been Podemos. Ostensibly ultra-democratic, extending a message to an audience of worshippers like those waving their lighters at a rock concert, forging rather than breaking a mould of staleness, they burst onto the scene with a previously unknown vim and vigour. But as with many a rock band, they are confronted with the difficult second album, the first having been the astonishing impact at the Euro elections and then the regionals and generals. The difficulty is such that there are political (musical) differences, a fragmenting and no small amount of infighting and intrigue.  

Amidst all this, we have the Jesús of the party: Jesús Jurado, the second vice-president at the Council of Mallorca, the number three to the Banbury Boy, Mick of the Consell. All had seemed sweetness and light at the Council, Mick steering a consensual ship with his able vice-presidential men, Jesús and Francesc Miralles of PSOE, navigating in the same direction. Then there came the thorny problem of budgets. Darkness encroached, and more was to come. Jesús, so it is being alleged, had been selecting senior officials by himself, forming his own off-shoot group at the Council and leaving the three-piece band appearing to be shorn of one member.

While Mick's band is running up against its difficulties, Jesús's alleged contracting enters the territory signposted Ethics. Or rather, in the opposite direction. Podemos, refuting any unethical behaviour, are adopting a somewhat different line to that regarding Xelo Huertas and Montse Seijas. The latter was branded a "defector" by the local leadership as she was formally dismissed from the parliamentary group last Monday. Where her defection will lead her remains an unknown, but the meeting at which she was expelled didn't hint at the political differences ending up with her and Xelo forming The Happy Mondays.

Montse returned the compliment. The defectors are in fact the Podemos leadership. She, Montse, said that she will continue to defend the ideas of Podemos. It is they, the leadership, which are not. "They do not defend what the citizens voted for." Following this, and like rock bands resort to litigation in squabbles over royalties, Podemos now find a court taking an interest.

Montse presented a "denuncia". This claimed that her digital signature had been used without her knowledge. She had registered questions that she wanted to ask on health matters. Some while later, it emerged that the questions had been withdrawn without her consent. A judge, therefore, would like a word with the Podemos leadership. It could, say could, represent a violation of her rights as a representative of the citizens, which would be a serious issue. The leadership's response is that this was "an administrative error" in a "routine" procedure such as the automated system of signatures. The judge will seek to unravel this particular chain.

Meanwhile, Podemos give an appearance of themselves unravelling. Might they split, citing political differences, only to reform some time in the future and return having acquired greater maturity? Probably not, but they nevertheless face the problem of the difficult second album.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 January 2017

Morning high (7.41am): 6C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 16 January - Cloud, 14C; 17 January - Cloud, 8C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4 increasing 5 to 6 during the afternoon. Swells to two metres.

A fairly chilly day in store, the north wind picking up again later in the day. Snow possible around 300 metres. Outlook for the night of Sant Antoni Eve on Monday: rain likely and fairly windy.

Evening update (19.15): Sunny spells, some rain, not warm. High of 12.8C.

The Joys Of Sant Antoni

Goig. There's an odd word. It is derived from the Latin gaudium, which means joy, pleasure or delight. It means the same thing in Catalan but it is also a verse in praise of the Virgin Mary or saints, and it was from Catalan that the genre came. This genre is described as a poetic composition, popular in character, which is sung collectively to give thanks or as a prayer to ask for the physical and spiritual health of a community.

Back in the fourteenth century, it was Saint Peter who was being sung to. The chronicler Ramon Muntaner noted what is taken to be the first documented evidence of a goig. The Catalan navy, all of its men apparently, called on Saint Peter in an action against Gallipoli. The Catalans and Aragonese set fire to the city in 1307. The chronicle in which Muntaner mentioned the goig came a few years later, but it may well have been this 1307 event that he was referring to.

Anyway, the navy had clearly started something of a trend, so much so that by the end of that century (1399 to be precise) the Red Book of Montserrat made reference to the popularity of goigs and dance in churches. This book contained choreographic notation for dances and also verses for songs that were performed during vigils in the square in front of the church of Montserrat.

While Saint Peter (Sant Pere) was doubtlessly felt to be useful to the Catalan navy because of his seafaring connections, other saints were to prove to be popular when it came to the odd goig or two. The rather obscure Sant Roc (not obscure in Mallorca it must be said) was one of them, as was Palma's patron, Sant Sebastià. These two saints shared something in common - dealing with the plague. Prayers for physical well-being and an end to plagues became a goig speciality.

And there is another saint who was to acquire the goig treatment, more really because of thanks being given to him for being a saint and one embedded in Mallorca's Christian culture. Who else but Sant Antoni?

The town which makes most of its joys of Sant Antoni, more so than Sa Pobla, is Manacor. Six years ago the then mayor of the town, Antoni Pastor, explained that the Sant Antoni fiestas were the most important ones for Manacor and for Mallorca. The emotion of the occasion, for him, was partly because Sant Antoni "is my saint" but also because the singing of the goig by hundreds of residents of the town brought him out in goosebumps.

Manacor doesn't go mad for Sant Antoni to the extent that other towns do. Yes, there are bonfires, but there aren't demons roaring around on Sant Antoni Eve as is the case in the likes of Muro, where they take their Sant Antoni just as seriously. The centrepiece of the occasion is the singing. At the parish church the Compline service is sung, which doesn't happen in the same way elsewhere. And the goigs are very much part of the occasion.

So important are these songs that the good folk of Manacor put in some practice. Not one, not twice, but three times. One of these practice sessions involves a barbecue as well; not that any incentive is needed as the folk turn out in good number and in good voice. The final practice is this evening after mass. The real thing is at half seven on Monday.

And what do they sing about? Well, it's all about glory to the saint and overcoming Lucifer, that sort of thing. It may be recalled that Antoni had the odd brush with the devil while he was enduring his hermitic existence in a desert cave; the brushes, so it is said, were hallucinations. As for the singing itself, so ingrained are the goigs in local culture that many people know the words off by heart. In case anyone doesn't, song sheets are provided, and the result of all this is like some grand beer hall sing-song-cum-football crowd, except in a church.

Different it certainly is. If you thought Sant Antoni was just about demons and setting the place on fire, then Manacor proves that there is another aspect to his celebration. Joyous.

Friday, January 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 January 2017

Morning high (7.55am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 January - Cloud, sun, 12C; 15 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 11C; 16 January - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 5 to 6 at times 7. Swells to three metres.

Very mild and quite breezy. Temperatures set to drop. A stiff northwesterly. Yellow alert for the coasts. Weekend forecast: quite cold and windy with rain falling as snow to 300 metres.

Evening update (21.45): Wasn't too bad. The wind dropped. High of 16.3C. Temperature dropping now, and there was a brief bombardment of hail.

Mallorca Goes To Madrid

Fitur, the Madrid international tourism fair, starts on Wednesday next week. Along with London and Berlin, it is one of the three main fairs for Mallorca and Balearics promotion. Despite the international of the title and unlike the other two fairs, it is more of a domestic event for Mallorca. It shouldn't be forgotten, though, that the domestic market ranks number three behind the UK and Germany in terms of island tourist volume. It's an important occasion.

Much to the disgust of Podemos, who have wanted the tourism promotional budget to be slashed to one-sixth of its already meagre funding, the Balearics will unveil a new stand and a new message: "Better in Winter". As the representatives set off for Madrid, let's hope there is no need for snow to be swept off the runway in Palma (the forecast suggests that there may well be snow at sea level next week). Better in winter; it can rather depend.

We all know, of course, why this slogan has been adopted. We will find out whether the current desire to press for increased winter tourism works or if it is just another vain attempt largely designed to try and prove to a sceptical public that the tourism ministry knows what it is doing and is indeed genuinely committed to winter expansion. There are those who would prefer that the ministry failed. What was it that Laura Camargo of Podemos said about workers not having to work all year round? Seasonality, if it means that workers can relax for several months and that there aren't ever more tourists, is a good thing where certain politicians and political ideologies are concerned.

While the ministry, or to be specific the Balearic Tourism Agency (ATB), is telling the Spanish traveller that things are better in winter, the Council of Mallorca, which has still yet to be formally handed tourism promotion responsibilities, is making a pre-emptive promotional strike. Long-time observers of the island's promotion will feel that this has long been something of a comedy. The Council seems inclined to agree. It's using the comic device to promote Mallorca.

Actually, that's unkind. The initiative is different. It's rather charming. It makes one wonder why such a touch of innovation has proved to be beyond the ATB. But while the Council, similar to the government in this regard, wishes to promote cultural, sport and nature tourism, the images don't all seem to tally with this. There is still a hint of that old stand-by, sun and beach. Better in summer. There again, an image of three people in a small boat steering themselves across a turquoise sea to an unspoiled beach with velvety white sand backed by dunes is indicative of ... . Indicative of what precisely? Nature? Presumably. It looks more like an idyllic summertime promotion for the seeker after beach and sun. Moreover, it is an unspoiled beach of the type that the "saturationist" lobby maintains is being overrun and environmentally damaged. Still, at least the boat is environmentally correct: it doesn't have an engine.

Meanwhile, the comic map of Mallorca does highlight the culture, sport and tourism. There are religious buildings, a windmill, lighthouses, castles, Moors v. Christians (the Santa Ponsa version). There are people kayaking, cycling and hang-gliding. There are flowers and palm trees (unaffected by the red beetle), while Mallorca is uniformly green except for splashes of lighter green. One wishes the Council well. It's not a bad idea at all - winter or summer.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 January 2017

Morning high (7.34am): 6.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 14 January - Cloud, sun, 12C; 15 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 4 to 5. Swells of two metres reducing.

A quite warm day in store, but things are going downhill from tomorrow. The forecast for snow at or just above sea level has now shifted to Tuesday next week, but possible there could be some before then.

Evening update (20.15): High of 19.3C. Sunny but windy.

Guilt By Too Many Associations

It was one of those news stories which comes along with depressing frequency. Whenever the official sales periods are about to start, have come to an end or are even weeks past, up pop retailers' associations to complain about the market liberalisation which has allowed sales and promotions at times other than during the official sales periods. (There are two such periods: in winter and in summer.)

We therefore had not one, not two but three associations (or federations or whatever) saying roughly the same thing prior to the current sales campaign. The only novelty was that one of the associations suggested that other associations - those for larger retailers - are beginning to think like they do; they being representatives of smaller retailers.

And which were these smaller-representing associations? They were Afedeco, Pimeco and the Balearic trade (retail) confederation. Their presidents were quoted in agreeing with each other, some statistics were dragged out (based on one of the association's "barometers" of sales activity), the Rajoy government was berated, and it was said - once more - that consumers are confused by the fact that there can be sales at times other than the official sales periods. Are consumers confused? I suppose one has to take the associations' words for it, given that the words are similar.

Reading this story, I asked myself why there are these different associations. In this instance, as has been the case in the past, a normal curiosity and willingness to research what and who they represent was set aside. When it comes to retailers' associations, I've lost the will to live, and if I have, then I suspect others reading the same story will be of like mind. There is an abundance of associations making the same points. It smacks of overkill. Why don't they just form one association and have done with it?

Which isn't to deny the rightful place that associations have, whether in business or for other purposes. No, associations are absolutely crucial in defending and promoting the interests of those they represent. The fact of associationism isn't at issue; its extent is what is.

Allied to this is the repetitious nature of the message. Of course, if it is made often enough, it may have an impact in influencing public or political attitudes and so bringing about desired change. Associations are, in many cases, lobby groups. Their announcements in the media are intended only so much for the public's consumption. There are politicians being targeted as well. But the repetitiousness can also have an adverse effect. Say things so often and the intended audience is turned off. It ceases to listen because it's been heard so many times.

In the specific case of retailing, it's not as though I don't have sympathy with the smaller retailers. Moreover, the current regional government is sympathetic to them, placing much store (sic) on "local" business, namely the smaller retailer as opposed to the larger ones and multiple chains. A left-wing regime in the Balearics is thus, once more, butting heads with a right-wing national administration, whose business allies are the grander retailers.

The cause is therefore not wrong, the campaigning is therefore not unjustified, although it doesn't follow that holding sales outside the official periods is solely the preserve of the larger retailers; this is manifestly not the case. The bottom line with the argument in favour of a reversal of market liberalisation and the re-establishment of official sales periods alone is that everyone is a winner - all retailers and all consumers. Discuss.

But when they talk of consumers - be they consumers of news or of goods and services - being confused by the liberalisation, are they not guilty of creating confusion by their very associational proliferation? Why are there all these associations, and does anyone care?

Toni Abrines, president of the Aviba travel agencies' association, has spoken about why people should care. He makes the case for the absolute need for associations. He notes, though, that an association doesn't always do things for the best in terms of the interests it is supposed to be defending or of wider society/economy. There is also the issue of all pulling in the same direction, which can be difficult enough within one association, but when there are several with different messages, then which one will be listened to? Any?

At least the associations for the retailers generally seem to have similar messages, but these do differ when one includes the associations for the larger retailers. Hence, there are conflicting views, and it becomes a case of who shouts loudest and most often. Residents' associations in Palma are another example. They seem to be in competition to see who can get the town hall to listen. In the end, because of the number, the rival messages and a fair degree of pomposity, there's the danger that no one is listened to.