Sunday, April 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 April 2017

Morning high (7.21am): 10.6C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 1 May - Cloud, sun, 18C; 2 May - Sun, cloud, 22C; 3 May - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4 increasing 4 to 5 around midday.

Bright and sunny morning, a touch breezy. Should be a decent day. For the official start of the tourism season - tomorrow - rather cloudy and not especially warm.

Evening update (19.30): High of 21.1C. Sun didn't really come out until the afternoon but mixed with cloud and a chilly wind.

Aena: Listening With Silence

It will be of absolutely no surprise to discover that last week a politician came out with something only partially linked to reality, but even so, what do we make of Biel and the Aena thing? B.B.B., Beleaguered Biel Barceló, had dragged Aena bigwigs (including its president) in for a chat. Things, Biel said afterwards, were fairly positive. Aena was listening to the government, which, for the record, comprised Biel, his oppo at tourism, Pilar Carbonell, and the Pons fellow from transport.

While Aena may have been listening to him (and them), it doesn't seem that they were listening to Aena. During the gathering, according to Biel, the airports authority had very kindly said that there will not be more flights per hour at Palma this summer. This, at any rate, was the first report. It was subsequently modified to Aena had said there won't be any increase this year, which was before Aena themselves realised that they had better speak up. They had said no such thing. They did not promise that there will not be more flights per hour this summer.

How was it that the different government representatives all appeared to have misheard what Aena had said? One guesses that the meeting was in Castellano, so possibly they were a bit slow on the uptake. But one doubts it. They do, after all, get enough practice with Castellano when going off to Madrid to harangue ministers over finance, residents' discounts and what have you. So what was the cause of the misunderstanding? Had Biel just imagined they'd said it, or what?

More peculiar than the apparent misreporting of Aena's words was the total silence from the massed ranks of the rest of the government. Yet, when Aena had first let it be known that more flights per hour were likely, you couldn't keep any of them from having prolonged rants, especially Biel. The increase would, more or less, mean the end of civilisation in Mallorca as we know it. Or it would at least lead to everything collapsing and no one being able to move because of the sheer volume of touristic humanity.

This time, though, not a dicky bird. Why was that, do you suppose? Was it a case of protecting Biel. With the police now hovering over the Més contracts and spying potential irregularities of the possibly corrupt variety, Biel is clinging to the political raft. It was better, therefore, for it to have appeared that Biel had extracted an Aena promise, and then keep mum when it emerged that he hadn't.

The silence, given the prospect of ever greater saturation of tourists, was even more surprising because for most of last week various authorities were taking it in turns to shut things down, like roads leading to beauty-spots and beaches. The way things are going, tourists appear destined to find their every attempt to make it to the coasts blocked by members of the local plods barring their way and brandishing access-denied notices. This of course assumes that there are any roads open that enable them to get as far as ones with road blocks. Yesterday, there weren't any open. Bloody cyclists all over the place and out for one massive bike ride across the island - all 6,000 or so of them.

Index for April 2017

Aena and flights at Palma - 30 April 2017
April start of the season - 1 April 2017
Aurora Picornell - 26 April 2017
Biel Barceló - 17 April 2017
Convair at the airport - 12 April 2017
Davallament - 13 April 2017
Environmental commitment - 20 April 2017
Expatriates - 25 April 2017
Fanny Tur - 9 April 2017
Holiday rentals - 7 April 2017, 18 April 2017, 22 April 2017, 29 April 2017
Jaume Garau and Més - 5 April 2017, 11 April 2017
Kelvin MacKenzie - 16 April 2017
Mediterranean culture - 15 April 2016, 21 April 2017
Palma auditorium - 3 April 2017
Palma, La Palma ... - 10 April 2017
Podemos and their bus - 24 April 2017
Pollensa villas' legality - 4 April 2017
Rules and traditions - 6 April 2017
Ruth Mateu (Més) resignation - 2 April 2017
Sex and Mallorca - 28 April 2017
Too many cars - 27 April 2017
Tourist information offices - 8 April 2017
Tourist tax - 19 April 2017
Wine exports to the USA - 29 April 2017
Zombies and Spanish defence - 23 April 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 April 2017

Morning high (7.31am): 5.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 30 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 1 May - Sun, cloud, 19C; 2 May - Sun, cloud, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3 veering East in the afternoon.

Cold old morning, sunny though. Mix of cloud and sun expected during the day.

Evening update (19.30): High of 20.1C. Nice enough for a time until the cloud came in during the afternoon.

Aptur: Here, There, Everywhere

Mallorca is awash with associations for one thing or another, but there are few which command as much attention as Aptur. Defenders of holiday rentals, there is barely a day when the association isn't in the news.

This past week has seen Aptur accuse the environmentalists Terraferida of "criminalising" holiday rentals, gather the support of various other associations, hold a meeting with the hoteliers and announce its satisfaction at a court ruling on some islands in the Atlantic. Aptur is as ubiquitous as the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation and as prolific as the number of illegal rentals.

The attack on Terraferida resulted from the environmentalists repeating for Ibiza what they had done with Mallorca. They produced a map of Airbnb properties. Aptur said the figures which Terraferida came up with were not valid, as they didn't correspond to Airbnb. The environmentalists were engaging in demagoguery and using data which did not show the reality and were being used in seeking to criminalise rentals.

Whatever Aptur thought, Terraferida stuck to their guns. In Ibiza and Formentera, Airbnb has over 4,700 rentals with almost 27,000 places. The turnover on these last year was more than 92 million euros. Regardless of the accuracy or otherwise of its data, the presentation of these maps is an indication of how tense the arguments are and how divided opinion is.

One of Aptur's problems is that it doesn't currently derive a huge amount of support where it really matters. Despite the hoteliers criticising the planned rentals' legislation, it is evident that the government wants to curb rentals as much as possible. If it didn't, there wouldn't be the limit on the number of places which the legislation envisages making available, there wouldn't be the tight stipulations to be made on standards and there wouldn't be zoning (more of that below).

In addition to the government, Aptur also lacks the support of the unions. They may have their issues with the hoteliers, but they certainly don't buy the argument that rentals generate masses of jobs or secure ones. In an effort to show support, Aptur announced that various other associations are backing it: ones that would be expected to do so, such as the car-rentals' association.

Where Aptur can also count on some support is with the public, but the survey by the university found that there was only just over 50% support in Mallorca, while in Ibiza - with its great problems with accommodation - only 36% were in favour. Society is split, but it is an issue that is of vital importance to much of local society. There was, meanwhile, some evidence that society is taking note of the threat of fines up to 40,000 euros. It was reported that there is a "stampede" of owners removing property adverts from Airbnb and other websites.

Aptur countered this by saying that it is perfectly legal to rent to tourists. Which is true under the provisions of the tenancy act, but the very fact that Aptur mentioned tourists undermined its argument. Tenancy act rentals cannot be advertised as being for tourist purposes, yet this is exactly what they are and they are let out to tourists courtesy of what many now appreciate is a loophole that needs addressing.

The meeting between Aptur and the hoteliers was unusual in that there was an attempt to seek out some common ground. They agreed to try and define a tourism model based on quality and to create a working group for dialogue. As a first step, Inma Benito of the hoteliers has asked Aptur to make a proposal regarding the regulation of rentals in apartment blocks.

While this sounded all very reasonable, it was difficult to figure out the timing. Whatever either party suggests, the government is on the point of legislating. Quite what difference this working party will make is anyone's guess. Moreover, things weren't as conciliatory as this suggested. Benito repeated the threat of hoteliers converting hotels into apartments as a way of countering the threat from rentals. Implicit to this threat is that there would be job losses, hence why the unions are so concerned about rentals. There are some 150,000 jobs that rely on the hotel sector. Rentals of whatever type wouldn't come close to creating that level of employment.

Then came the ruling of the High Court in the Canaries, which annulled the concept of zoning for rentals in those islands on the grounds that it represented an infringement on freedom of competition and services. Even though the zoning scheme in the Balearics differs to that in the Canaries, the court's judgement does affect the principle. The Balearic government will surely have to take note, as its zoning will doubtless end up in court as well and an appeal against it will have the precedent of a decision in a different court.

With this ruling, Aptur may just have found a strong ally - the courts. And it can add to the courts the National Competition Commission, which is liberal on most matters, including Airbnb and rentals.

Friday, April 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 April 2017

Morning high (7.40am): 11.9C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 29 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 30 April - Sun, cloud, 23C; 1 May - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

An improvement this morning. There again, anything would be after yesterday. Should be mainly sunny but not overly warm.

Evening update (20.30): Better, but only a high of 17.3C.

Sex, The City And The Island

When was sex invented in Mallorca? Not so long ago, German visitors were being informed by that oracle of all known truths - Bild - that Mallorca was the island of sex. The newspaper was referring to the British, and in particular some carryings-on in Magalluf. Not, of course, that there had ever been any such thing in Arenal. The Germans must have been alarmed at learning that sex was abroad and being imported from abroad; somewhere, moreover, that wasn't Germany. The Germans, if one can generalise, have an almost matter-of-fact relationship with matters of the flesh. Alarm there most certainly wouldn't have been. They helped with the invention.

In the current day, there are few inhibitions, especially when cold drinks have been taken and the hours (long ones) have been made happy to the point of exhibitionist hedonism, notwithstanding Magalluf's attempts to turn back the clock. People of all nations, not least the Germans, know all about sex. If they don't, then Bild can probably teach them a thing or two.

But the current day has a long (comparatively) history. Thirty years ago, Mallorca had attained such a reputation that Ivor Biggun was saving up his money to fly "to the land of the sun, fornication and fun". More than ten years before Ivor (aka Doc Cox) released The Majorca Song, three ladies from Coronation Street had succumbed to certain charms in Palmanova (which was where it was shot). Rita fell for a man with a Jason King moustache, Bet was taken in by a sleaze ball, and Mavis - yes, Mavis - walked on the beach with someone who most certainly wasn't Derek.

The lothario who enticed Rita to abandon a lilo of such immense bulk that it would have been surprising had it been capable of floating was representative of a class whose day was drawing to a close: the picador. It was he - there were certainly never any she variants - who more than most secured the invention of sex in Mallorca.

I have previously considered the picador. An article two years ago, entitled Parasite of Love, did just that. Last month in Pollensa, as part of the town's history course, the picador was revisited. Local historian Pere Salas observed that the picador was associated with cultural change in the 1960s and that the hedonistic image that Mallorca acquired in that decade has unquestionably left its legacy today.

The picador had a further association: Scandinavian - Swedish to be specific. Salas said that there were "legendary" figures from the early years of mass tourism, and Swedish girls and the picadors were among them. Not British, not German, but Swedish. I'm guessing, but the picadors may have found British girls rather more uptight. There again, the pill was about to make its presence known. Regardless of nationality as a target, though, the picador was presented with the previously unimaginable. Local girls had chaperones.

This, in the modern era, marked the invention of sex in Mallorca. But the Swedes were not alone in influencing the development. In 1962, a German actress - Elke Sommer - appeared briefly in a bikini in the otherwise ludicrous propaganda film, Bahía de Palma. There was little, in fact no sex in the city, but the film was sanctioned as a means of showing how liberal Mallorca and Spain were. Which they weren't. It was just that women, from Germany in particular, were alarmed at the prospect of being rounded up if they were wearing bikinis. The film came out only a few years after the mayor of Benidorm had famously persuaded Franco that the bikini had its advantages. And that was at a time when there was segregated bathing as well as no bikinis.

Religion did of course have a great deal to do with things; everything to do with things in fact. Franco, highly conservative Catholic that he was, took exception to the likes of Carnival not just because masks could disguise potential troublemakers but also because of concerns that the people would engage in debauchery.

His attitudes were ones that were centuries old. I cannot vouch for all that happened from the time of the Catalan invasion, but dear old Ramon Llull, born 1232, was someone who saw the error of his lustful ways. When visions came to him, he renounced his faithlessness and found a different faith. He did so to such an extent that he argued the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, undeniably sexual activity but quite removed from how Ramon had once conceived it.

Along the way, and more recently than Ramon, there was, for instance, the provocative Geraldine Leopold and her 1899 trapeze act that had Mallorcan males frothing. But it was the picadors who made the difference, and now no one bats an eyelid if, for instance, a nude model is photographed at Binissalem aerodrome. Though when it came to carryings-on in Magalluf, you'd have thought that sex hadn't previously been invented.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 April 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 28 April - Sun, cloud, 18C; 29 April - Sun, cloud, 19C; 30 April - Cloud, sun, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6 occasionally 7 easing 4 to 5 by the evening.

Grey morning, a bit damp. Not much prospect of sun today. Better tomorrow.

Evening update (19.45): Shocking day. Rain never heavy but persistent. And cold. Not breaking double figures in areas. High 10.7C.

Much Too Much ...

Several years ago now, I can recall a report which identified Mallorca as having one of the highest levels of car ownership - if not the highest level - anywhere in Spain. All things are relative of course, and this level was relative - to the population. This ownership, and not only cars but also vans and other vehicles, dipped during the years of recession. Or at least the number of vehicles on the road declined. The Council of Mallorca, keepers of the island's main roads, have let us know that roads in and out of Palma now have traffic levels on a scale that they were pre-crisis; higher in fact. For some years, the levels were lower.

Perceptions get us only so far, but for what it's worth, my perception is of a significant increase in traffic during the early tourism season. I am not alone in having observed just how busy Alcudia has been. This perception of busyness is primarily a function of road traffic. Throw in all the cyclists, of which there are great numbers, plus delivery trucks, coaches and buses, and the April roads have been in the bedlam category.

Lining the main road on most days are rows of hire cars. One presumes there is now some arrangement with the town hall and/or the Council of Mallorca. Cars can be parked wherever an owner fancies, so long as the parking places are permitted, but there is such a thing as commercial use of the roads. Not so long ago, the town hall made it clear that anyone parking a car with a for-sale sign on it was liable for a fine. The roads, those which aren't the Council's responsibility, are town hall property. If they're to be used for commercial reasons, then there has to be permission - and payment.

The volume of traffic owes a great deal to the number of hire cars. While there is rental all year, in the early season it is particularly attractive. The nature of early-season tourism determines this. Increasingly, so do the preferences of tourists and the supply to meet these preferences. Holiday rental accommodation does not equate exactly to the number of hire cars, but there is unquestionably an equation. It is little wonder that the car-rental business association has thrown its lot in with the Aptur holiday rentals' association in seeking a liberal deal under the new legislation.

Already there is news of the enormous influx of hire cars. Barcelona and Valencia ports have been chock-full of vehicles being shipped to Mallorca and the Balearics. This was the same last year. Cars which had been destined for Turkey ended up here. Ships were apparently performing mid-Mediterranean U-turns and heading for the safe haven of Palma. The roads thus became saturated, along with everything else - beaches, for instance.

But that was more a story about summer. In the early and late seasons, visitors set off for the island's attractions. Included among these are the likes of Sa Calobra and Formentor. The roads to both fall into the somewhat scary category, a scariness made scarier by negotiating a bend only to be confronted by a mass of cyclists, shortly followed by a bus. Undeterred, the visitors keep going (it is pretty difficult to turn round after all), and arrive at, for instance, the lighthouse at Formentor. Which is when they find that they have little alternative but to turn round. There's nowhere to park.

Limits are to be introduced to the number of cars going to Formentor, and not only the lighthouse. How this will be policed, I am unsure, but limits are an inevitable consequence of the success of places like Formentor. People want to go there because they've heard so much about it: or seen it, if only Roper's La Fortaleza. It's a similar story with Sa Calobra, with Lluc, with certain unspoiled beaches. Environmentalists Terraferida are aghast at the tribes of young tourists pitching up on isolated coves and enjoying themselves. And it's still only April.

The Council of Mallorca, we learn, is considering prohibiting car access to Sa Calobra and to the Port of Valldemossa. Escorca town hall has already decided to start charging for street parking in Sa Calobra (and elsewhere). Valldemossa town hall has introduced charges for parking coaches. In Santanyi, there is to be access-denied to cars going to certain coves. In various parts of the island, the shuttle bus has become the mode du jour for transport. Es Trenc has its shuttle. Cala Varques in Manacor is likely to get its. Formentor will probably be served by one from Puerto Pollensa.

All of these places are victims of their own success and of readily available information that recommends them. But they are unable to cope. The infrastructure doesn't exist and for the most part can't exist. There's much too much. Limits are the only solution.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 April 2017

Morning high (7.53am): 15.4C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 27 April - Rain, 15C; 28 April - Cloud, 18C; 29 April - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing Northeast 4 to 5 in the afternoon.

Some cloud this morning. Should be reasonable until the evening when there may be a shower. The cold front coming in from the mainland will mean lower temperatures tomorrow and probable rain.

Evening update (20.15): High of 23.7C. Cloudy evening. 

In Memory Of Aurora Picornell

The Council of Mallorca held a ceremony on Monday. Awards were made in the name of the institution. One was posthumous. It was for a favourite daughter of Mallorca. She died eighty years ago. She was Aurora Picornell.

Can Sales in Palma is nowadays a library; it was opened in 2004. Before the Civil War, there was an asylum run by the Hermanitas de los Pobres (sisters of the poor). During the war this became a women's prison. On 5 January 1937, the boss of this makeshift jail read out the names of five women - Catalina Flaquer Pascual and her daughters Antonia and Maria, Belarmina González Rodríguez and Aurora Picornell Femenías. They were taken to Porreres.

The village of Porreres was a conveniently out of the way place, a quiet place. It was a village that nevertheless rang with noise. The women, as with so many others, were shot at the cemetery. In the evening of 5 January, so the story is told, a fascist went into a bar in El Molinar in Palma. He brandished a bra stained with blood. It was Aurora Picornell's bra.

Born in El Molinar in 1912, her parents were communists. She became an activist at a young age. When she was 19, she founded the union for seamstresses. By then, the Second Republic was a reality. Mallorca and Spain were no longer under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The king was in exile. A new direction was being plotted. It was, but it was one that descended into chaos and anarchy and ultimately into carnage. The dreams for and ambitions of a different Spain were shattered amidst the fighting and the murders. History should perhaps have told them that this would be how it would end. Over the course of the previous 100 or so years there had been attempts at refashioning the politics of the country and its society. The Liberal Triennium lasted, as its title says, three years. The First Republic survived for less than two years.

Aurora Picornell followed her parents into communism. She was one of the leaders of the Mallorcan branch of the Spanish Communist Party. But she is remembered as much for her feminism and for that union. They were to become known as Las Rojas del Molinar, the red women of El Molinar.

Catalina Flaquer Pascual was tortured. Her interrogators wanted to know the whereabouts of her two daughters. They were in hiding. Maria was eventually given away not by her mother but by her three-year-old daughter. The Francoist investigators gained the small girl's trust by giving her sweets. She told them where her mother was.

Although there were five of them, Aurora Picornell stood out. She was the leader. Her activism was such that she had acquired fame (or possibly notoriety) before the war. She was dubbed La Pasionaria de Mallorca (the passion flower). It seems that when she was being taken away from the prison, she and the other women were mocked by the nuns; one presumes the sisters of the poor. It is said that she told the other women that if she was alive in the morning, wherever she might be, she would return for revenge.

That anecdote serves as something of a reminder of how divisions were. The church was seen to be (and not just seen to be) on the side of the Nationalists and the fascists. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Republicans were not whiter than white. They committed atrocities against members of the church. The Balearic government's law on historical memory and graves was, after some considerable debate, reworded in order to take account of victims from both sides.

But it is the name of the Republic which dominates. Hence there have been the exhumations in Porreres. Hence why there will be more and why there is a call for exhumations in Manacor as well. The numbers of dead there, spread over a longer period, vastly exceed the bodies in Porreres.

So much attention is currently being given to this historical memory because there is a government (and a Council of Mallorca) which does not want the memory to go away and which wants some closure for descendants. The memory was allowed to go in the past. It is largely because of the one-time amnesia, the absence of any reconciliation, that events of the 1930s are haunting us now. There is also the symmetry of anniversary. Last year was the eightieth anniversary of the start of the war. This year is the eightieth anniversary of the murders of Las Rojas del Molinar and of the Republican mayors, Emili Darder of Palma and Antoni Mateu of Inca, among others.

The grandson of Aurora Picornell accepted the honour on Monday. President Miquel Ensenyat concluded that he hoped that society could recover its dignity and that the deceased could be returned to their families.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 April 2017

Morning high (7.33am): 9.7C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 26 April - Cloud, 22C; 27 April - Cloud, 15C; 27 April - Cloud, 18C

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

May be a case of making the most of today, which is going to be pretty warm. Cloud and possible rain on the cards from tomorrow until Friday.

Evening update (20.00): High of 26.1C.

The Freedom Of Choice

Why is there so much hate for expatriates? Let's start with the word. I hate it as well, even if I am one. It betokens hostility because of the creep over years of an implicit sense of difference that can seem to border on the superior. Expatriates thus form a class apart, one that is subject to being despised: not by the local indigenous community but by those from afar in the motherland. Their status, courtesy of the title expatriates, carries with it a haughtiness. To hell with expatriates. They've chosen to abandon the motherland. Whatever comes their way is their doing.

Alternative titles - foreign resident, foreign citizen - arouse no such opprobrium. A further one - immigrant - does, but this can stem from a transposition of the situation within the motherland. Once upon a time, the motherland was a place of tolerance, a refuge for the persecuted, a welcoming pair of arms for those from different countries and from different creeds. There is some delusion in this, but notwithstanding historical differences between Protestants and Catholics and the beginnings of a culture clash when Jamaicans started arriving in the motherland, tolerance has held true. Or did.

Brexit has exposed, were there really any need, given its prior existence, the intolerance of immigration and also of emigration, the beleaguered expatriate. In the case of the latter, a form of outward or externalised xenophobia has taken a grip. Aside from the pejorative implication of "expatriate" (one I fully understand), what truly drives this antagonism? Is it simply the vision of the idle lounging-away of long days under a Mediterranean sun and the endless supply of gin and tonics?

Envy may play a part. But so also may the introspection of those who are fully embedded in the motherland, from whose shores they will never depart, save for two weeks of idle lounging-away of long days under a Mediterranean sun. The foreign resident comes in a multitude of forms, hence the catch-all castigation of an expatriate community can be and is an affront. Does it not occur to those back in the motherland, dispensing bilious intolerance, that some people opted to move because their horizons are broader than those limited by and shrouded in the mists of English Channel insularity? Curiosity and discovery were once admirable traits of the British. They created immense wealth. Nowadays they are consigned to the wastelands of old and less old England - the gentility and nobility of the village green willow on leather juxtaposed with the gorilla (and the word is being used correctly) warfare of a category of football supporter (so-called).

The motherland has long been an advocate of freedoms. Trade has been one; choice another. Mobility was made easier by the European Union, but mobility had existed before agreements by the member states. This mobility was a function of curiosity, adventure, the seeking of a better or alternative life, marriage, employment and, yes, the determination of some to spend existences developing skin cancer. (One might also add, it shouldn't be overlooked, the need to escape justice.)

The advocacy of freedom of choice, which doubtless even the most severe critics of expatriates would themselves advocate and defend, was enshrined in law: free movement of people, goods and services. There are those in the motherland who are selective in their advocacy, the products (some at any rate) of the collective narcissism that has taken hold: and not just in Great Britain. This is the exaggerated belief in their superiority but which at the same time has a deep-down doubt surrounding the collective prestige. It is the doubt within this collective disorder which makes some hit out.

The image of the expatriate is not and cannot be standardised. From a personal point of view, how often did I get to the beach last year? On fewer occasions than a fortnight's holidaymaker, that's for certain, and this despite the beach being within easy walking distance. Not once did I sit by a pool. Not once did I have a gin and tonic nor any other alcoholic drink save for a glass of Rioja on which Kelvin MacKenzie has proposed an import tax. Rare are the viewings of British television, but the BBC is an institution I hold dear, if primarily its radio: an institution lambasted by the same critics of the expatriate, at least in part because the ineffable "Daily Mail" tells them to.

What others do, however others choose to live their lives under the sun is entirely their affair. It is not my business and nor should it be anyone else's, wherever they themselves live. They choose because choice exists. The freedom to do so should be fundamental. It is fundamental. But it is a freedom detested and further excoriated on the principle of not being patriotic, however one might choose to define that.

Freedom of choice. A value to be defended, not despised.

Monday, April 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 April 2017

Morning high (7.37am): 8.7C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 25 April - Cloud, 24C; 26 April - Cloud, 20C; 27 April - Cloud, 17C

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

A fine day today, tomorrow expected to be cloudy but warmed by southerlies, then the wind switches north on Wednesday; temperatures down and some rain possible.

Evening update (19.45): High of 22.6C.

All Aboard The Podemos Bus

Coming to us soon - us as in those living in Palma - will be the Hazte Oír "bus of hate", as it has been branded. The bus is scheduled to appear in Mallorca at the start of June. It won't if the town hall and others have anything to do with it. A different bus may be made to feel more welcome. Podemos have their own. It's the "tramabús", trama referring to plot or conspiracy, so it is a bus dedicated to the corrupt and the allegedly corrupt. Among this roll call are ... Mariano Rajoy, Felipe González, José María Aznar, Esperanza Aguirre and Rodrigo Rato. The latter of these, we have been learning over the past few days, allegedly laundered millions while he was both the head of the International Monetary Fund and the deputy prime minister of Spain (this is what the Guardia Civil is said to have ascertained).

The bus has divided opinion within Podemos, broadly along the lines exposed by the recent battle for control of the party. The Iglesias faction, the victorious one, seems pleased with the bus. Those sticking to the wing of the vanquished Infant, Íñigo Errejón, are less enamoured. Indeed, they think it's ridiculous, especially as it's as though Podemos have taken a leaf out of the hated Hazte Oír's book.

There is also some disquiet about how much the bus is costing - some 600 or 700 euros a day. Maybe, therefore, Podemos could offset this by organising excursions. Why not offer a Podemos trip to tourists? The bus could show visitors the more saturated parts of the island (and indeed elsewhere in Spain). Nice idea, but there would need to be an operator's licence. And to not have one simply wouldn't do. All would be above board aboard the Podemos plot bus.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 April 2017

Morning high (8.01am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 24 April - Sun, 21C; 25 April - Sun, cloud, 23C; 26 April - Cloud, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing East 3 to 4 in the afternoon.

Another nippy morning ahead of a fine and quite warm day. Forecast suggesting that temperatures will fall by Wednesday and that there may well be some rain.

Evening update (20.00): Very pleasant. High of 21.6C.

Spain Has No Defence Against Zombies

Buried beneath all the news about the travails of the Balearic tourism minister and of the British ambassador spreading joy of a citizens' rights variety, there was news that THEY clearly wish to keep quiet. I don't wish to alarm you unduly but the Spanish government has admitted that it doesn't have a plan to deal with an invasion of zombies.

While it might be said that there are politicians stalking populations who fall into the category of the living dead - Bauzá, for example - there is a far greater and far more dangerous threat, and Madrid is doing nothing about it. For us to have become aware of this gross negligence, we have to thank Carles Mulet of the Compromís party in Valencia. Carles, it needs saying, does not have a mullet. He sports a more shorn affair and can't himself really be described as resembling a zombie, while his party is alive with various greens, Republican leftists - that sort of thing.

It may be the case that Valencia is at greater risk of a zombie attack than other parts of Spain (I honestly wouldn't know), but whatever the level of danger is, Carles has raised the matter in the Senate. What plans are there for a zombie apocalypse, he wished to know in a written question. The government was caught on the hop. Nevertheless, once it managed to respond, dealing with an apocalypse (in a general sense) appears to be easier than tackling one that specifically involves zombies. Bodies (sic) ranging from the state security forces to the Civil Protection volunteers are capable of handling an apocalypse because the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy says so.

No, that's not strictly true. The dictionary doesn't state this as such - it's not the job of a dictionary to go into the detail of security matters - but it does have definitions. One of these, a "catastrophic situation", is, says the government, something which the security forces can tackle. The other definition is rather more tricky. "The end of the world", implying as it does the end, is not something that the government can plan for. There would, it concludes, be little time to plan for it. Which, let's face it, isn't terribly reassuring.

When it comes to the specific threat posed by a zombie apocalypse, the government has also consulted the dictionary. "People who are supposed to be dead and are revived by the art of witchcraft in order to dominate their will," is more or less how the dictionary defines zombies. Given this definition, the government has concluded that it doesn't believe that such an eventuality is likely. There is "doubtful probability of such a circumstance arising".

This may be designed to allay citizens' fears (citizens in Valencia at any rate), but the response is surely not good enough. And Carles, for one, most certainly isn't prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt. In fact, he's indignant at the lack of preparedness. "The government has no plan of action for the zombie apocalypse. Its answer can be interpreted as meaning that the government itself is a zombie apocalypse, a human catastrophe brought about by stupefied and automaton people."

Are the PP therefore themselves zombies? Worrying.

Just to add, in case you think that Carles is off his tree, he was being ironic (as was the government in its replies). The zombie issue was raised because Carles doesn't think much of the government's ability to respond to questions.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 April 2017

Morning high (7.26am): 5.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 23 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 24 April - Sun, 21C; 25 April - Sun, cloud, 27C

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

Distinctly chilly early on. Much warmer later.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty good. High of 21.5C.

Madrid In A Muddle Over Holiday Rentals

The secretary-of-state for tourism's visit to Mallorca during the week allowed the industry to get some things off its chest. None of them were particularly new. Politicians and senior officials were there as well. In the case of tourism minister Biel Barceló, he could afford to give Matilde Asián only a few minutes of his time; he had a television interview to get to. It was presumably time enough for her to tell him that Madrid isn't minded to pump more cash into the Playa de Palma reform because of what seemingly went missing several years ago. Even so, Asián, because of the national ministry's policy of modernising old resorts, appeared to also suggest that Playa de Palma will be looked upon favourably: at some point and in some way.

Asián's visit served only to spread confusion. Her boss, Álvaro Nadal, has made much of the resort modernisation. There may be legitimate issues about previous funding, but what is to be done about Playa de Palma? It isn't just one of Mallorca's main resorts, it is one of Spain's. Perhaps in future Madrid needs to take full control of any project. That way it will know that the money's being used wisely.

But Madrid wouldn't do this. While it might provide investment, a project such as Playa de Palma is a regional affair. The Balearics, as with other regional communities, has tourism responsibilities. It is therefore for the regional government to sort things out, as is the case with holiday rentals.

The past week has given the impression of left and right hands being unaware of what both are doing, of some ignorance of legislation and of messages being mixed. With holiday rentals, a fundamental issue for the Balearic government is a reform of the Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos, the tenancy act. The government has forwarded to Madrid, as has the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, its wish for there to be a minimum rental of four weeks. With this, it hopes to overcome the loophole that the act currently offers.

Asián seemed to suggest that she hadn't been asked about reform, said that there was no plan to reform the act (which is what Nadal has also said), but then added that she would look into it so long as someone tells her to look into it and on the grounds that everything can be made better. So what is Madrid's position? The national government, i.e. Asián, has also intimated that it is considering nationwide legislation for holiday rentals. This would represent a U-turn, as Madrid devolved responsibilities to the regions. It was perfectly entitled to, given what the statutes for regional government permit, but it appeared at the time to have washed its hands of the rentals' matter. The ensuing mess is at least partly Madrid's fault.

Despite what it might say about treating rentals of under four weeks as touristic, the Balearic government will encounter problems with effectively enforcing its rentals' legislation unless the tenancy act is reformed. And this obstacle exists in all other regions where there are issues with rentals and where the hoteliers and legislators have been banging their heads against a wall in despair of Madrid taking any real notice.

To cap it all, there is the European Union to take into account. It has working parties considering holiday rentals, including therefore the role of websites such as Airbnb. And what might Brussels come up with? Who can say. Madrid can't, or appears to be unable to. Things will probably have to wait until the EU speaks, which will probably provoke ever more confusion.

While Asián was here, she also had something to say about the tourist tax. She is opposed to it, as of course is her party. That was hardly a surprise, but there was a surprise when she said that she found it surprising that residents in the Balearics have to pay the tax if they stay in tourist accommodation. She was surprised? Was she unaware that the reason for this is because Brussels had decreed it?

Friday, April 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 April 2017

Morning high (6.46am): 8.1C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 22 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 23 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 24 April - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Should be warmer today; the breezes have shifted.

Evening update (21.45): Warmer. High of 20C.

The Rock Of Mare Nostrum

Gibraltar, as with Brexit, is a subject I generally avoid. Both polarise opinion. There is no in-between. Arguing them becomes all but pointless. The extremes of views are underpinned by concepts that are still relatively recent phenomena in terms of socio-politics. Nationalism and sovereignty, according to one strong vein of historical theory at any rate, are products of mid-nineteenth century Europe. The nation state arose from what had previously been multi-cultural non-nations. This state, so the theory asserts, was one predicated on ethnic as well as cultural lines. Nationalism emerged; its consequences were to be disastrous.

Brexit is an internecine civil war, suffused with a blinkered parochialism that shouts sovereignty and nationalism. It is, though, and despite its far broader ramifications, a civil war, an internal affair for a nation (and many of its people) which has failed to come to terms with changes to its place in the world order and has also failed to break a collective mindset imposed by insularity and an historical defiance. William the Conqueror was the last to conquer. The Romans had done so much earlier. Subsequently, Hitler was prevented from doing so. Before the Nazis, the Spanish Armada was seen off.

The Armada is my link with Gibraltar. Two one-time empires argue over it. They've argued for centuries. The thirteen-year blockade, started in 1969 by Franco, may or may not have been influenced by John Lennon having referred to "Gibraltar near Spain". On such a frivolous notion is nationalism nevertheless offended.

These two empires at various times ruled the waves. Spain's was largely the result of a geographical accident. Columbus hadn't anticipated discovering America. Not that he really did. It took Amerigo Vespucci to confirm that there was indeed a whole continent in the way of the route to the East Indies, and Vespucci, like Columbus, except for those who would argue otherwise, was Italian. The Spanish Empire owed much to Florence and Genoa. It was also indebted to the viciousness of the Inquisition and to the ending of a multi-culturalism that had endured for some eight centuries. The peculiar coincidences of history were never more peculiar than in 1492. Columbus stumbled across land he hadn't expected to find, and Muslim Granada surrendered.

Gibraltar was taken in 1704. Control was officially ceded to Britain nine years later. One empire was emerging. Another was starting its long goodbye. The ever-reducing empire was to endure further psychological blows. Spain as a country has suffered them consistently. The loss of Cuba and the Philippines, getting on for some two hundred years after Gibraltar, was one of the most shattering.

The Rock resides therefore in the collective consciousness, a symbol of long-ago battles. For the British, there is an entirely different perspective, but still one linked to a faded imperial past. Brexit fallout has landed on Gibraltar and has given rise to absurdities such as those of Kelvin MacKenzie. Suspended because of Ross Barkley, he had only a short time before been advocating a British tourist boycott of Spain. The reason? Gibraltar. Hands off our Rock.

This Gibraltar consciousness in Spain is, however, something I wonder about in terms of its universality and indeed perception. Is there the same attitude in Galicia, for example, as there is in Andalusia or Mallorca? Mariano Rajoy is from Galicia, as was Francisco Franco. Perhaps there is a universality, therefore, if only in politicians' minds. That there may be a difference in Spanish perspective - one between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean - occurred to me in the course of working on the book about the Mediterranean's history and culture. Indeed, I would say that the events of 1704 appeared to be as profound as any other developments over the centuries.

The Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean were formed millions of years ago. The Strait, the narrow gap between continents, was the inlet and the outlet. Gibraltar was thus the guardian of the sea. The British took it away.

The "Mare Nostrum" was the name the Romans gave it. Our Sea. Not anyone else's. Ours. The legacy was passed to other cultures. Our Sea was a common space, and one in which Mallorca was just a tiny part. Nevertheless, it is an island that has been shaped by the activities of Our Sea.

One has to look at issues with alternative perspectives, ones that overcome the hotheadedness of nationalism and sovereignty. I was jolted by the 1704 reference. Although it wasn't stated, there was an element of lament, one for a Mediterranean existence. It was not as though the Mediterranean hadn't known previous usurpers. For instance, most of the Goths and Barbarian hordes had known nothing of the sea. But essentially, and over centuries, the Mediterranean was a Mediterranean affair until new powers arrived. And one of those is nowadays the northern European tourist army and resident. Do we borrow the sea? Can we claim it to be ours?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 April 2017

Morning high (7.55am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 21 April - Sun, 20C; 22 April - Sun, 21C; 23 April - Sun, cloud, 21C

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

The northerly breeze is still blowing. Another cooler day as a result.

Evening update (19.45): Sunny spells, but not much to write home about. High of 17C.

What's The Environment Anyway?

Please don't shoot the statistical messenger. I'm a mere conduit of numerical glad or bad tidings, especially if there seems as though there's an angle to contemplate. Typically, one's response to the data overload delivered through tablets of percentages from government bodies and surveys or from websites and companies desperately in search of publicity ranges from a shrug of indifference to red-faced fury: how dare they take us for such fools?

While there are those who will insist that statistics exist in some number-crunching fantasy land, divorced from realities or personal perception, occasionally something comes along which makes one (well, me) pause and reflect. And so it is with a survey about attitudes towards the environment.

International "days" are frequently the excuse of a peg on which to hang a survey and its findings. Earth Day is 22 April. There has been such a day since 1970, the year in which the Earth was therefore invented. The day extends to 193 countries, according to Wikipedia, which may or may not mean that there are parts of the Earth excluded: they are not of this Earth.

Be that as it may, this year's Earth Day has inspired a website to address environmental attitudes. The site in question is, which I confess to not having previously been aware of. The credentials for its survey are that it is basically a shopping website. There may well be a touch of the publicity-seeking as a consequence. We are now familiar with Ofertia, whereas before we were not, and it's all thanks to the environment.

What, you may well ask, does shopping have to do with the environment? A great deal when you begin to drill down into the detail of the retail process: land devoted to shops; the logistics demanded to supply them; the ultimate consequence of, for example, landfill; all that plastic floating around in the Med; cars and other vehicles moving hither and thither and polluting the atmosphere; ever more land needed in order to satisfy transport, i.e. roads.

Shopping, as far as the environment is concerned, does not have a great deal to commend itself. And the Balearic government has recognised this. The pro-business, pro-vast commercial centres Partido Popular once advanced (under Bauzá) a tax on commercial centres. The reason was all the pollution caused in the act of shoppers shifting themselves in order to carry away bundles of plastic packaging and domestic electrical goods to later be destined to rot away in the peculiarly monikered "green points".

When the large retailers threatened to take them to court, the PP quietly abandoned this and a couple of other "green taxes". To compensate for the lack of revenue, they instead imposed a massive charge on water use, something which, oddly enough, went below the radar. The current government, both regional and insular, has had its eyes on shopping as well. The Council of Mallorca is currently working on a land plan: the Council's main reason for existence is the drafting of land plans, or so it can seem. This one has to do with shopping; hence, there is at present a moratorium on new large retail sites.

Such concern for the environment, and here we get to the survey, does not appear to be shared by the citizens. Or rather, there is a concern but it is not as great as most of the rest of Spain. The survey suggests that the level of commitment to the environment in the Balearics is the third lowest among regions. Only Galicia and Navarre are less concerned.

Is this finding surprising? I would suggest that it most certainly is. More than statistical overload, we endure environmental overload in Mallorca. The environment can barely move because of eco groups of one sort or another, to say nothing of the eco credentials of political parties such as Més, whose tourist tax is, in case we forget, supposedly for sustainability.

But it is even more surprising if one considers what is meant by the environment. The word tends to presuppose visions of landscape and plastic washed on to virgin beaches. Yet the environment, and this is a stupidly obvious observation, is all around us. Everything is the environment, and everything influences the environment, including shopping.

We may tire of frequent reports that dissect the impact of man on fragile ecosystems in Mallorca, but the environment is greatly more than the habitats of species and coastal erosion because of the harm caused to posidonia sea grass. Perhaps the word - environment - is the issue. It conveys less than the whole, and the whole is the complete island, inclusive of the roughly 80% of land that is available for agricultural purposes. But the complete island is only small. Its environment (and its protection) is vital. Yes, I am surprised by the survey.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 April 2017

Morning high (8.07am): 13.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 20 April - Sun, cloud, wind, 18C; 21 April - Sun, cloud, 20C; 22 April - Sun, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 6 easing 5 by the late afternoon.

A cooler day expected, probably because of the northeast wind. Sunny start, due to be cloudy in the afternoon.

Evening update (20.30): High of 17.3C. Mostly sunny but quite chilly because of that wind.

The Non-Ecotax

While I've been away - which I haven't been as I've been chained to a desk for the purposes of a book in the manner that rowers of ships across the Mediterranean were once shackled in ancient times - we had this business of the tourist tax not being an environmental tax. Quelle surprise, as they don't say here.

The admission by the government that the tax is for general revenue-raising purposes was made in a submission to the Balearic High Court; it is considering the legality of the tax because of the appeal by the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation for judicial review. Strangely enough, this fessing up seemed to pass without a great deal of comment: in the established media, if not on social media.

The point with the tax is that of course it is for general revenue purposes. It can't be anything else. It is itemised in the government's budget as a revenue; the same government which bangs on endlessly about the insufficient level of financing from Madrid. The government has the power to establish specific taxes if it needs to improve its income. The tourist tax is one means of doing so. Therefore, it is a general tax.

The difference lies with the revenue raised being ring-fenced for the various purposes that the law on the sustainable tourism tax set out. In this sense, it isn't a general tax, but the goalpost-shifting which has occurred (or did with last year's revenue) has meant that the revenue has leapt over the fence. It has gone on water, the provision of which is a fundamental demand made of any government. Industry relies on water. The citizens' health and sanitation are at risk without water. And so are the citizens' swimming pools.

I maintained, well before the brain fade brainchild notion of a tax was ever mooted, that if there is to be a tourist tax, then it should be used for resources - water being a key one. In this regard, the diversion of funds to water projects seemed fair. However, I am with both GOB and Podemos in believing that such projects were not among the purposes.

There again, one can make the case for pretty much anything being purposeful in terms of "sustainable tourism". Investment, for example, in renewable energies through the tourist tax would be equally justifiable. Tourists need energy, as they also need water. There could be investment in boosting subsidies for seasonal accommodation for doctors and police. Tourists need doctors and police, who currently realise that they can't afford accommodation in the Balearics, if indeed they can find any. But these "purposes" would be tangential, as is the case with the water projects, to what the tax is intended for.

The government made a rod for its own back by insisting that there be the range of purposes that there are. Flexible is how one might describe them. Or, as I have previously defined it, a camel of a tax, the use of which is determined by a camel of a committee (all 32 of them). The environmental purpose is in fact only one. The government is therefore right in saying that the tax is not environmental. It's only partially so.

At least with the old and unlamented ecotax the then government provided none of the current fuzziness. So dedicated was the ecotax to the environment that the government, among other things, handed over some 14 million euros in acquiring - in the name of the citizens (and presumably also tourists) - the Son Real finca. And the different governments have been regretting it ever since, if the general mismanagement of the finca is any gauge of post-acquisition governmental interest.

A further point to make is that Catalina Cladera, whose sole interest as finance minister is to have as much disposable tax revenue as she can lay her hands on, said in advance of the tax's introduction last year that it wasn't an ecotax. In stating this, she was not wishing the tax to carry the stigma of the old ecotax but she was also being accurate. In fact, the environmental purpose for which the tax is supposed to be used was boosted from the original draft of the legislation. That was because the government bowed to the pressures of GOB and the more fervent econationalists within its own ranks, i.e. David Abril of Més.

Still, does any of this make much difference to those who pay the tax? Most tourists won't have any idea what the purposes are. The assumption will be that it is a tax like other taxes, therefore one for general revenue. And the government, in the form of the tourism director-general Pilar Carbonell, says there have only been four complaints. What does she expect? Are there forms on hotel reception desks for registering complaints, especially about revenue not being used for the environment?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 April 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 19 April - Sun, cloud, wind, 18C; 20 April - Sun, cloud, wind, 19C; 21 April - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

A decent day expected for the pancaritat pilgrimages-picnics: Sa Pobla goes off to Crestatx and Alcudia heads up the mountain to La Victoria. Forecast has improved for tomorrow, but still windy.

Evening update (20.45): Clouded over this evening, but otherwise a good, sunny day. High of 22.5C.

Inundating The Tourism Ministry

Extraordinary story about the tourism ministry having been inundated by owners attempting to "regularise", i.e. register, their holiday rentals' properties (mostly apartments, it would seem). This followed the cabinet's approval of the rentals' legislation. This was either a case of people thinking that the legislation had come into effect or of wanting to pre-empt it becoming law and so trying to ensure registration. Whichever of these it was, they were wrong.

The legislation has yet to be passed by parliament, so it hasn't come into force, and indeed the suggestion is that it won't in fact be applied (not fully anyway) until next summer. This is logical because the town halls and the Council of Mallorca won't have finalised their decisions on the zoning of rentals until - at the latest - around February (assuming parliament passes the bill by some time in June). So, any registration (or indeed de-registration) will have to wait until the zoning process is completed. Only then will owners know if their properties may qualify. And may will be a big word, given the various stipulations, which will be - to say the least - fairly restrictive.

Those owners who thought they might be able to pre-empt the legislation were barking up the wrong tree. Which notices posted at the ministry made clear. Any apartment for commercialised holiday rental (in other words openly marketed as such) is currently prohibited, and has been not just since the 2012 tourism law but in fact since the older law of 1999.

The confusion and/or ignorance is staggering, certainly where the law as it currently stands is concerned. It's not as if this is a subject which isn't given a thorough airing and explanation. Nevertheless, there are obviously owners who are blissfully unaware of the legal situation or who are fully well aware and flout the law anyway.

The potential for confusion once the law is passed is just as great. The zones, the requirements, the standards will add to the confusion. Then there is the business with the government saying that any rental of less than a month will be considered to be a holiday rental, regardless of whether an owner is using the try-on of insisting that it is covered by the tenancy act. How the government will go about this in a practical way remains to be seen, but if the ministry and tax agency have details (which are very easily obtainable), then the least which might happen is that owners can expect a bill for the tourist tax.

There is then the additional factor of inspection if a property becomes eligible for registration (or may currently be eligible in the case of, say, a villa). The inspectors take months in getting round to checking that properties meet requirements. The fact is that there are so few of them - fifteen - that such delays are inevitable. Plus, the inspectors are more concerned (and will be very much more concerned over the summer) with identifying illegal rentals.

What all those people were doing, attempting to register, is beyond me.

Monday, April 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 April 2017

Morning high (7.21am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 18 April - Sun, 22C; 19 April - Cloud, wind, 17C; 20 April - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C

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

Easter Monday due to be much like Easter Sunday. Some cloud, rather more sun. Looking a touch iffy on Wednesday and Thursday.

Evening update (20.00): High of 25.1C. Kind of cloudy much of the day, but good nonetheless.

No Black Monday For Biel?

Vice-president, minister for tourism, minister for innovation and research Biel Barceló is due to be resurrected. Intact. The tears, his own, of last week were a Marian lament of his possible political crucifixion, he having faced the auto de fe of parliament, the inquisitional appearance in front of the Pontius PP and the Judas element of Podemos.

The latter, it would seem, is likely to retract and to repent. Monday had been expected to be Black. More tears were to be wept. There may be some discreet smiles instead. Saintly Francina, Our Lady of Forgiveness, is to bestow her grace on Biel. For Podemos, you can turn on Biel, but the lady is not for burning Biel.

Oh that it should have come to this. Biel's party, Més, had found themselves in the Promised Land, their Garden of Eden of political power, only to be tempted by the poison of the odd dubious contract. While the apostle Ruth has been forced to ascend to Saint Peter's gates, the one to be cast out and suffer the eternity of Dante's inferno is Saint Jaume. Not a Jaume whose tomb will lead pilgrims to Santiago but the Jaume with, as witnessed in certain photos, a somewhat Messianic appearance of his own. Jaume Garau, the Maker of All Contracts, not really the Més Messiah (who is, after all, Biel) but rather The Baptist. What is not he (Jaume) whose baptismal powers led Més to the electoral Promised Land?

Biel will survive. Praise the Lord!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 April 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 17 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 18 April - Sun, 21C; 19 April - Cloud, 18C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 to 3 by the evening.

Happy Bunnies. A nice Easter Sunday. Sunny with the odd cloudy spells.

Evening update (19.15): High of 23C.

Kretin MacKenzie

I suppose one can applaud Kelvin MacKenzie for judging how to appeal to the baser instincts of Sun readers. The applause stops, however, when he gets within sight of Liverpool municipal boundaries.

Boot-boy journalism, which is the MacKenzie credo, carries the risk of passing into the wild west terrain of Twitter and Facebook, where rules are unobserved. Popular it can be, but it can also be populist in its base form, a style of ranting designed to pluck out prejudice. With Ross Barkley it went too far. It isn't just Liverpool (the whole of the city and not just Everton) which is staggered by his idiocy. As far as the Barkley diatribe is concerned, the truth, because MacKenzie historically trades in truth (as with Hillsborough), is that Kelvin is the thick one for believing that accusations of racial slurs are beyond parody.

It has been revealing to note how News Corp in its different forms has rounded on the one-time Sun editor. TalkSport is ultimately owned by the Murdoch empire. In a discussion of the Barkley column, MacKenzie was branded an idiot. It was one of the various Dannys who described him thus. There are so many it's difficult to identify which one, but I think it was Gabbidon. It doesn't really matter. It will be even more revealing if Sunday evening's Press Pass programme dissects the affair. It would be odd were it not to, given that this is a programme with sports journalists who discuss what has been in the press. Its presenter is typically Neil Ashton, chief football reporter at the Sun.

It does seem, however, that outrage only genuinely surfaces when there are specific targets of this boot-boy banter. Earlier this month, MacKenzie had a go at Spain. He raised the populist and nationalist flag over Gibraltar and proposed that the British boycott Spain. What would happen, he mused, if all the Brit tourists stopped going. In so musing, he was wide of the mark in terms of the numbers of tourists. That was just poor research. The rest of what he had to say was either offensive or stupid. Say goodbye to all the Spaniards in the UK, place a special tax on Rioja, let's hope that the state visit by Felipe and Letizia can be ruined, the people who govern Spain are "cretins".

The Spanish reaction, press-wise at any rate, is to understand that the British will take no heed of his boycott call. MacKenzie represents the worst of the noble office of journalism. He is the cretin.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 April 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 16 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 17 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 18 April - Sun, cloud, 23C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3 backing Northeast 4 during the morning.

The good weather continues to go strong. May be a little more cloud around today. Otherwise, all is fine and warm.

Evening update (19.45): High of 23.6C. Was fairly cloud in the morning. Picked up later.

A Smaller Arse: Cultural Musings

Well, I thought you might like to be kept up to date with developments on the book. Things moved ahead apace yesterday, so much so that when the umpires announced close of play after some twelve hours of dogged translating, interpreting and querying, we (or rather I) had reached another of our good chums, the Pollensa priest Miquel Costa i Llobera and his old pine of Formentor.

What on the one hand is a fairly gruelling assignment is, on the other, somewhat enlightening, and that includes the fixing of the Enlightenment in the scheme of things. The book is no more than a surface-scratching romp across the centuries but it does place developments in context. The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the rights of man acquire powerful roles that one can perhaps forget until they are placed within the context of dominating characteristics, such as religious superstition and the power of the noble class.

In terms of Mediterranean culture (and the place of Mallorca in its world), that upheaval in thought, reason, liberalism and a certain liberation, the principal gain - where the book is concerned - is the degree to which the culture became the object of curiosity from further afield. Hence, and naturally enough, a fair amount of attention is paid to yet another familiar figure, the Archduke Louis Salvador of Austria. Importantly, it is the relationship formed with the sea and the extent to which the sea embodies (if a sea can do such a thing) a spirit and a culture formed by the melding of societies over hundreds and indeed thousands of years. Which is all good philosophical stuff, one has to guess.

What is perhaps the most striking aspect of all this is that, as a translator, one becomes more embedded within the perspective of the author than might be the case by being a later reader of this minor saga. Being taken along for the ride in a continuous fashion, one does start to see things a touch differently. This is only natural. The world view is a Mallorcan and a Mediterranean one, not a northern European (British one) onto which a culture has been grafted. This assumption of an alternative culture and world view goes only so far, it seems to me.

With this in mind, one event is revealed as having greater force than a northern European can imagine. There is a continuity from the very start of the book of the almost landlocked nature of the sea. Almost but not wholly. That's because of the Strait of Gibraltar. The event is 1704 and the British occupation. This lends itself to a whole article, so I'll leave it as a taster. There's another chapter and then a timeline of more than 9,000 words to be cracking on with. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 April 2017

Morning high (7.18am): 13.1C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 15 April - Sun, 22C; 16 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 17 April - Sun, cloud, 21C

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

A touch misty first thing. Another sunny day in store. A mild evening for cross descents and entombments.

Evening update (20.30): High of 25.8C. Pity I didn't see any of it.

Big Arse

Things may be a little quiet here for a few days. I am in the process of translating a book on Mediterranean culture, which takes us from how the Med was formed to the present day. It is, in other words, a history.

As of close of play yesterday evening, work on this opus had reached our old friend Ramon Llull, meaning - inter alia - his Ars Magnus, which doesn't mean Big Arse, even if I'm inclined to call it thus.

Do check in over the next few days, as I may well find a window between this task and grabbing a couple of hours sleep.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 April 2017

Morning high (6.53am): 11.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 14 April - Sun, 22C; 15 April - Sun, cloud, 21C; 16 April - Cloud, sun, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 3, locally Northeast 4 in the afternoon.

Another superb spring day to come. Bit nippy by the evening for an outdoor Last Supper; otherwise fine.

Evening update (21.15): High of 24.8C.

The Controversies Of The Davallament

There is a document from 1139 - one from Barcelona - that notes different aspects of church "theatrical" liturgy. Included in this document is a description of the "Davallament", the descent of Christ from the cross. It is one of the first written records of this Good Friday act. In the same city, at the episcopal museum, is a wooden sculpture of "El Davallament de la Creu". It dates from the same century. The document was to prove to be important for Mallorca. It set out how the descent should be staged at the Cathedral. Should have been but wasn't necessarily.

Pollensa is often cited as being the location for one of the more important portrayals. There is justification for this. Although it has not been established exactly where in Mallorca the Davallament was first staged, the documentary evidence for Pollensa places it as having been staged at least as early as 1349. Records for the Cathedral seem to be slightly later than those for Pollensa, which doesn't mean there was no celebration of the descent, just that we don't know about it.

There is something else important about Pollensa, and that is that the ceremony was outdoors. Unlike today, it wasn't on the Calvari steps; the name of course evokes Mount Calvary. In the mid-fourteenth century it was staged in the market square. The Calvari still held some terror for the people of Pollensa. Before the Knights Templar were disbanded in the early part of that century, the "Communal Mount", as it was known, was used for execution and torture.

This open-air performance was certainly adopted not so much later by Arta. That town, along with Pollensa, Felanitx and Palma, forms a group where the Davallament has the most historical roots.

The fact was that there was a fair amount of improvisation. Despite the 1139 document, there was, for instance, a to-ing and fro-ing between the use of Catalan and Latin. But more significantly, there was the issue of how the descent should in fact be portrayed and who should be in it. Because of variations, there was constant conflict during the fifteenth century. In 1470, it was prohibited from being staged anywhere except at the Cathedral on Good Friday; the actual day had also been subject to some loose interpretation.

Things really came to a head, though, towards the end of the seventeenth century. In 1691, the Bishop of Mallorca, Pere de Alagón, prohibited the celebration being in what by then was the customary fashion. This included, for instance, the carpenters being instructed as to what they could or couldn't create. The viceroy was dragged into the row, meaning that the crown was also involved. Certain members of the church were so upset that lawyers were instructed.

The whole affair dragged on for several months. Eventually, the king, Carlos II, sent a letter saying that he was most displeased by the disagreements with the bishop. Some more time passed, and Easter 1692 was getting closer. The two sides finally sat down and came up with an agreement for the new Davallament. Or so they thought. In effect, it wasn't until the bishop ceased to be bishop in 1701 that things started to calm down.

If further proof is needed of how arguments over language have shaped Mallorca's culture (and still do), this whole episode was proof. In 1691, at the bishop's insistence, the texts were in Catalan. By 1705 they had reverted to Latin in something of its Vulgar form. As far as the actual portrayal was concerned, the arguments drew on how the Davallament had been at different times over the previous 250 years. It was clear that it had deviated from the 1139 original, so much so that the whole thing had been become "paraliturgical". In other words, liberties had been taken with it.

Because of this, the church, wishing there to be a once-and-for-all style of Davallament, insisted on the Cathedral's version being the benchmark. Towns had to apply to be allowed to use it. By the middle of the eighteenth century, all the differences had more or less been resolved.

There is still the potential for the occasional rumpus. In 2011 in the town of Sant Joan, the Davallament association issued a calendar, the purpose of which was to raise funds for its staging. The bishopric took exception, believing that the calendar trivialised Holy Week. The images had featured participants in the ceremony with very little clothing, surrounded by religious symbols.

So, if you think that the descents you will see on Good Friday are evidence of constant harmony over the years, then think again. But don't worry about all those and instead marvel at what is one of the most emotional occasions in the Mallorcan calendar (slightly clothed or not).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 April 2017

Morning high (7.41am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 13 April - Sun, 21C; 14 April - Sun, 22C; 15 April - Sun, cloud, 22C

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

More of the same. Warm and sunny. Everywhere seems packed. Cyclists all over the place. A busier Easter than ever before.

Evening update (20.15): High of 24.8C.

The Comet And The Convair

The past couple of weeks have been good ones for aviation history. Well, they have been where the BBC and Palma town hall are concerned at any rate.

An article posted on the BBC website on 5 April tells the story of the "British airliner that changed the world". It was the de Havilland Comet. The first scheduled flight, following the period of testing, was in May 1952. The airline was BOAC (remember them?), and the route reflected a Britain of that post-war period. It flew to Rome and on to Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe, Livingstone and Johannesburg. It took 23 hours.

Although this original jet had a design that was both futuristic and fantastic, there were fundamental flaws. They were to prove to be fatal. The rectangular windows (a source of stress) and the aircraft's skin, which was too thin, were what made Comets explode and drop out of the skies.

By the time that a later version was available, the Comet 4 of 1958, Boeing's 707 had claimed the skies. The far more robust and reliable Comet 4 was, though, still a product of the days before air travel became massive. It could carry 92 passengers; the original had room for 36. The BBC's article gives a flavour of its "luxurious comfort". There is a photo of an air stewardess serving wine.

That photo provides something of a connection with the Palma town hall angle. A dossier has been put together by the Asociación Amics de Son Sant Joan, the friends of Son Sant Joan airport. In this dossier, there is an air stewardess serving what looks like a soft drink as well as some wine (not together, it should be noted). This dossier is for the project to restore the Convair 990A Coronado de Spantax EC-BZO. This aircraft has been rotting away at the airport for 29 years.

The predecessor to the 990 was the 880. Convair, a division of General Dynamics, joined the jet race with Boeing, Douglas and de Havilland, and came up with something similar to the 707. The 990 came into service in 1962. It was Swissair which named it Coronado, but it wasn't to survive for long. Production ceased almost as soon as it had begun. Neither the 880 nor the 990 was what the major airlines were looking for.

Spantax provides one of the more fabulous if disastrous stories of Spanish aviation. Founded in 1959 as Spain Air Taxi, its original base was Gran Canaria. This was switched to Palma because Mallorca offered the promise of greater tourist traffic. Its co-founder was the splendid Rodolfo Bay Wright. There is the grand tale of him piloting German journalists to Hamburg in a 990 to demonstrate the plane's safety. On landing, he managed to stop the plane just before it would have gone into an office building. If this wasn't bad enough, there was the small matter of having landed at the wrong airport.

Spantax was to have more serious incidents involving the 990. All passengers on board a flight to Tenerife were killed in a crash in 1972. There was a mid-air collision with a DC9. Remarkably, the plane made an emergency landing. The DC9 was not so lucky. On top of these accidents, there were the deaths of three passengers because of food poisoning.

By the mid-1980s, Spantax was easing out what remained of its old 990 fleet. By then, it wasn't an economic plane to operate. Meanwhile, Spantax had its economic problems. The airline filed for bankruptcy in 1988.

Which brings us to the abandoned Convair 990A Coronado de Spantax EC-BZO. On 31 March, Palma town hall's council meeting officially gave its support to the attempt by the friends of Son Sant Joan to restore the last 990 left behind in Palma after the collapse of Spantax. The plane is in the military base area, and the Spanish Air Force would rather it wasn't there. It's wanted rid of it for years.

Eight years ago, therefore, the campaign was launched to save the 990. The town hall, while giving its support, doesn't seem likely to dip into its pockets. Instead, it has urged the Council of Mallorca to help find a suitable location for the plane so that it can be exhibited and become something of an attraction.

In fact, and thanks to an association member who used to work for Spantax and now for Enaire (the airport authority Aena is a subsidiary of Enaire), the plane was given a protection order in 2011. The Council of Mallorca decided that it is in the cultural interest. This places an obligation on the Council. However, its heritage commission has started the process for reversing the 2011 declaration.

So, what is to become of the 990, a plane symbolic of the tourism boom years and of the ever so slightly strange Spantax?

Photo of the Convair at Palma airport:
The campaign for the Convair:
The story of the Comet:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 April 2017

Morning high (7.35am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 12 April - Sun, 23C; 13 April - Sun, 21C; 14 April - Sun, cloud, 22C

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

More very fine spring weather. Fresh breeze and air but warm and penetrating sun. Highly sunburning conditions.

Evening update (20.00): High of 26.1C.

The Weaknesses Of Strong Government

Election night two years ago - Balearic regional election, just to make clear - was notable for the disaster which everyone suspected was going to strike the Partido Popular and for the beaming smiles on the faces of Biel Barceló and other members of Més. This coalition of a party's time had arrived, even if it was only with slightly under 14% of the vote.

The collapse of the PP signalled the next few weeks of at-times heated negotiation. Eventually the pieces fell into place. Més, PSOE and Podemos agreed on change (and we're never allowed to forget these agreements). The government would be different. There was to be, among things, an anti-corruption office (which has yet to be manned or even established) and bucket loads of participation and transparency.

A key difference was to be the absence of any stench of scandal. The PP, with ample justification, was labelled the party of the corrupt. This, however, was a not entirely accurate description of the Bauzá regime. There was much wrong with that regime, but scandal was in minimal supply. It was knocking around elsewhere - in Palma most notably - but even that only emerged later (and as yet still allegedly). Such relatively squeaky-cleanliness didn't prevent Més (and others) adding PP corruption to the list of their potential vote winners.

Almost two years on from that joyous (for Més) election night, the platitudes have worn thinner than they originally were. Casting the Més contracts affair in a similar fashion to the one-time Unió Mallorquina is somewhat fanciful, because it is not in the same league as the UM. Indeed, it may turn out that nothing illegal has happened. But there is a similarity in that a partner in a government pact has brought crisis to a PSOE-led pact. President Armengol can assert that her government remains "strong", but she's desperate to keep up appearances. It has never been strong by its very nature. It is now weak and terminally ill.

A firewall has been erected around Barceló. Armengol has helped to build it. Such is the government's weakness that it cannot afford Barceló to go. This started to become ever more obvious as Armengol sought ways of shoring up the government which would prevent Més from walking out on it and forcing a new election. Transparency proved to be a main bargaining point. In the end, Més accepted losing the portfolio to PSOE.

For the time being, the government can continue as it is, pretending that all is well and "strong". The anti-corruption prosecutor may have to something to say about this or he may not. Meanwhile, though, the affair is not going away. Podemos believe that Més should assume greater responsibility, meaning that they believe there should be other ministerial resignations. Certain conspiracy theories are doing the rounds regarding the timing of the revelations about the contracts. One has to do with Antoni Noguera in Palma, who arranged a contract with Jaume Garau. Was the timing something to try and prevent him taking over as mayor in June?

There are also further questions about the contracts and Garau. It has now also been revealed that when he was in charge of European funds during the 2007-2011 administration, he awarded a contract of over half a million euros to a consultancy to take charge of the operational programme for funds for the period 2007 to 2013. In 2013, when he was no longer a government senior official, he became joint administrator of that consultancy.

The tasks for which the contracts were drawn up are being queried as well. Were they in fact necessary or indeed appropriate? When the contracts were first revealed, I wondered about more than one of them. For instance, there was the study of the "business fabric" in the Balearics. This was awarded by Barceló. He may be the vice-president, he may be responsible for innovation and research, but isn't the business fabric an issue for a different ministry, i.e Iago Negueruela's employment, trade and industry ministry? Negueruela is with PSOE.

What about the "barometer of tourist satisfaction", also awarded by the tourism ministry (via the Balearic Tourism Agency)? The Gadeso research organisation already has such a barometer. Perhaps the ministry wanted one which would reveal rather better barometers of satisfaction than Gadeso's does.

If the government survives until it's time for the 2019 election, what will the contracts affair mean for Més? The party's retaliation in the past few days has been to go back to calling out the PP, even dragging up ancient political scandal such as the Rasputin case. This reveals its already electorally weakened condition. It has little else to fall back on, and the electorate is unlikely to fall for such diversionary attempts. There was supposed to have been transparency and cleanliness. There has been neither.

Monday, April 10, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 April 2017

Morning high (7.30am): 8.4C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 11 April - Sun, cloud, 23C; 12 April - Sun, 21C; 13 April - Sun, 21C

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

A nippy morning giving way to another fine day of warm sun.

Evening update (20.45): High of 24.1C.

There Are Just Too Many Palms

You'll doubtless recall all that business about renaming Palma de Mallorca Palma. It currently is just Palma, until it gets changed back when the Partido Popular get in. One reason, one very good reason, for maintaining the "de Mallorca" is to avoid confusion, and don't they just know about this in La Palma in the Canary Islands.

In the Canaries, there is also Las Palmas, and the different variants of Palma(s) have caused any number of headaches for those living in La Palma. Not just the island's residents. According to a Canarian parliament deputy, a British couple ended up in La Palma, having believed that they were in fact travelling to Palma (de Mallorca).

Because of this, the Canarian tourism, culture and sports commission has asked the Canarian government to study a solution to avoid the confusion. Place-name analysing toponymy experts are inevitably being dragged in, because they always are when such matters surface.

And what might the solution be? Who can possibly say? La Palma de las Canarias wouldn't be much use because of the confusion with Las Palmas. Here's a thought, though. Why not change it to English? The Palm.

No, they'd never accept that. And strange how, when you put it in English, it doesn't have anything like the same exotic quality. Confusion, one fancies, will endure.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 9 April 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 8.1C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 10 April - Sun, 21C; 11 April - Sun, cloud, 22C; 12 April - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

Lovely day for the blessings of the palms, most of them this morning; Santa Margalida's are at 19.00 at the end of the fair. In Pollensa, there is also the Via Crucis on the Calvari at 18.00. The forecast for Holy Week up to Good Friday is excellent.

Evening update (19.30): High of 22.3C.

One Door Closes .... Or Fannying Around

So, Fanny, welcome to the increasingly evaporating Balearic government. Do you know that your surname, Tur, if you were to add an umlaut, means door in German? One door closes (on Ruth Mateu) and another one opens. Yours. Shall we see what's behind the door? Ah yes, culture, sport and participation. But alas, no transparency. Where has it gone? Has it already evaporated? No, it's now residing in the ministry of the presidency, another ministry that no one is quite sure what it actually does.

You will be aware of the fact, Fanny, that you are from Ibiza. This seems a little odd. Not coming from Ibiza, one hastens to add, but because Més in Menorca believed they had the ministry sewn up. The insular balance has shifted. What will Més in Menorca make of Més in Ibiza having usurped the cultural, sporting and participative domain, deprived as it now is of transparency?

Their beef isn't with Més in Ibiza, you'll be relieved to learn. It is with Més in Mallorca. It was they who got rid of Ruth. She didn't resign, she was sacked. She was a scapegoat, a Menorcan one. Have you ever sampled Menorcan goat cheese, Fanny? It might just have turned a touch sour at the moment.

You see, the Menorcan branch is none too pleased. It didn't have any contracts with that Garau chappy. It did not have any electoral gurus. Everything is Mallorca's fault. Nothing to do with Ruth. Still, you are about to find out how things are, and not just Més relations that straddle the Menorca Channel.

Anyway, now that you're getting your feet under the desk, what will you be doing? Culturally, a large in-tray beckons. Doesn't it? As a one-time president of the Ramon Llull Institute, you are well positioned to press the claims for his name to appear over the entrance to Palma airport. Then there is the call for the old boy to be made a saint. What a triumph if both could be secured during what remains of the current legislature, assuming that it limps on until 2019 and Més in Menorca and/or Més in Mallorca and/or Podemos don't bring about its collapse.

But aren't both these issues being driven by the Council of Mallorca, where there is a thriving culture department headed by a vice-president and where there is also an avid fan of Llull's in its president? He was the one who popped off to see the Pope about Llull's sainthood. It wasn't Ruth. Or maybe Esperança before Ruth.

So culturally, and aware that there appears to have been the need for all the fannying around that has deemed it necessary to keep your now three-quarters ministry intact, what precisely does the ministry do? Can there be some transparency, please? Seemingly not. That door has been closed. We can look behind the door, Fanny, but we can't see through it.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 April 2017

Morning high (8.22am): 8.9C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 9 April - Sun, 21C; 10 April - Sun, 21C; 11 April - Sun, cloud, 19C

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

Excellent day coming. Warm with negligible breezes.

Evening update (19.45): High of 22.6C.

A Tale Of Two Tourist Information Offices

Once upon a time the tourist information office in Puerto Pollensa was in a side street. I can't quite remember which one (Monges? Elcano?). It doesn't matter which one. The point was that it wasn't the greatest location. Recognising this less than optimal site, the solution was to be a new office by the yacht club roundabout. An interim measure had to be adopted while the old office was vacated and the new one was created. So off to the old municipal offices went tourist information. Finally the new one became available.

The thing was that it was small. Always has been small. Location-wise, though, it was excellent, and right by the bus stop as well. Perfect. Then of course the bus stop had to be moved because of the pedestrianisation. The location was still good, though. However, it has now been accepted that the office is too small, which everyone knew was the case.

The movable tourist office is to therefore get a new location - in a shop along Juan XXIII: number nineteen to be precise. It's not a bad location either, but it isn't optimal.

Pollensa has had an issue with its tourist information offices; they have regularly been on the move. As with the port, so it has been with Cala San Vicente and the town. In the case of the latter, it may well be that the office will get a prime location in the restored old fish market on the Plaça Major. This will be a great improvement on being either in or next to Sant Domingo: there has been some chopping and changing.

Plaça Major will ensure a healthy level of traffic, which is what a tourist office demands and which is why it needs to be in as good a location as possible. Contrast the movements in Pollensa, therefore, with Alcudia and Can Picafort. Alcudia town has its office where the market is and right by the bus stops. The port's office is slap bang on the Paseo Marítimo. The one in Ciudad Blanca has a new home. By the beach. It has been moved from a pokey office which, although only a few yards off Pedro Mas y Reus, meant that it didn't receive anything like the traffic it should have done. Hundreds, thousands of people will pass the new office on a daily basis.

In Can Picafort, the old tourist office was in the municipal offices next to the Guardia Civil and local police. It was basically in the middle of nowhere. No one went there because no one could be bothered or could find it. So a new one emerged on the prom, close to the marina. If there is such a thing as an ideal site in Can Picafort, given its great sprawl, then this was it. Moreover, its movability is such that a crane can lift to a slightly different spot, which a crane once did.

A new facility has been required in Puerto Pollensa; this much is clear. But at the same time as it is being moved away from a more optimal site to a shop on Juan XXIII, the office in Ciudad Blanca, a brand spanking new one and of good size, has been created in an ideal spot. The photo shows it in its white and grey lack of splendour (everything has to be white and grey nowadays; architects have decreed thus). Good location, even better if it were actually open.

Friday, April 07, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 7 April 2017

Morning high (7.48am): 14.4C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 8 April - Sun, 20C; 9 April - Sun, 20C; 10 April - Sun, 21C

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

Well, it looks like sun all the way today and over the weekend. Just right for some sepia (cuttlefish) tapas and looking at boats at Puerto Alcudia's fair, which starts this evening.

Evening update (21.00): High of 19.8C.

Political Crisis And Holiday Rentals

There is a sense of history repeating itself. While the parties of the Balearic government agonise over what to do with the transparency and culture ministry in the wake of Ruth Mateu's resignation, there is also the tourism ministry. It was this ministry which set the Més contracts affair rolling. It could even yet spin totally out of control as more emerges.

It was tourism which was at the eye of the storm that engulfed the previous "pact" government, i.e. a PSOE-led one. This time a different party - Més - is involved, and while it may prove to be that nothing "irregular" occurred, the whiff of scandal has returned to the ministry.

The contracts affair couldn't have come at a worse time. The holiday rentals legislation was due to have been presented. It hasn't been because Biel Barceló and Francina Armengol are fighting fires, ones of Barceló's making, at least where one of the contracts (the largest) is concerned. The political vultures are therefore circling, and they don't come more predatory than Podemos.

The government, if it isn't very careful, is heading for the rocks. The political ramifications of the contracts affair could lead to a new election. While this seems remote, the inherent weakness of the pact is such that the opportunists which make it up can feel the time is right to strike. Podemos have been talking about directions being taken at the tourism ministry. They are not content with how the rentals legislation is going. Even before the contracts affair broke out they had the means to scupper the government if they chose to do so. Keeping the government afloat may now require Armengol bowing ever lower in the face of Podemos demands, with the rentals legislation at the top of the list. It is a key piece of legislation, and the political fallout could shape it in a fashion that hadn't been anticipated.

The legislation, moreover, is highlighting the differences which exist within Més. Antoni Noguera in Palma has revised his opinion and proposed an "Amsterdam" solution of a very limited number of months for approved apartment rentals, but his previous all-out ban was contrary to Barceló's thinking. The support he subsequently (more or less) lent to Noguera's proposal smacked more of ranks being closed than a thought-out policy decision. That proposal was very much more in line with Podemos in Palma. One can't help but feel that when Noguera and José Hila swap roles in June and Noguera becomes mayor, the "pact" in Palma will be locked in an endless battle. This assumes that Noguera survives. There could also yet be more about his part in the contracts affair.

Meanwhile, over at the Council of Mallorca things are calm, testimony in no small part to the presidency of Miquel Ensenyat. The Council is not embroiled in the crisis. It is said that this owes something to Ensenyat not being as tied to the Més mechanism as others. He is more independent therefore and not inclined to simply follow orders, if indeed there were any. The Council awarded no contracts to Jaume Garau.

Aptur, the holiday rentals association, has seized the opportunist moment as well. It has attacked what it considers to be the "belligerent" attitude of the tourism ministry and of Palma town hall (Noguera at any rate), while praising the willingness for dialogue shown by Ensenyat and others at the Council. Aptur needs all the political allies it can lay its hands on. Saying nice things about the Council may be its way of attempting to drive something of a wedge in the Més ranks and of hoping for a more favourable deal on rentals (the Council is responsible for setting the rentals' zoning agenda outside Palma). But in the same way that Ensenyat appears not to wholly bend to his party, he is unlikely to bend in a direction just because someone says nice things about him. He's far too savvy to fall for that one.

Processing of this all-important legislation now appears to be inextricably linked to a political crisis. For it go forward may require some (more) horse-trading, and its movement forward may not, as a consequence, be done with quite the same rapidity that the government had wished. It's almost Easter, the season (the real one) is looming. Rather like the tourist tax last year, new legislation appears destined to come into effect (if it does) slap bang in the middle of the season. This is no way to be supervising Mallorca's main industry.