Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 May 2017

Morning high (7.40am): 20C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 1 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 2 June - Sun, 26C; 3 June - Sun, cloud, 28C

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

Quite cloudy and close to begin with. Outside chance of a spot of rain but otherwise fine.

Evening update (20.15): High of 27C.

Defending The Incompatible

In February, an article appeared in the local press which praised the bravery of Calvia's mayor, Alfonso Rodríguez. As I said of this at the time: "His bravery was because he had shown his willingness to remove a town hall official who was obstructing an investigation by a lower-ranking official. Moreover, Rodríguez was making it clear that Calvia will be ensuring that this investigation proceeds."

The mayor now faces a charge of malfeasance, an abuse of power, an act by a public official which is legally unjustified and contrary to law. The charge has been brought against him by Pedro Horrach, a name that should be very familiar. Horrach was until recently a prosecutor with the anti-corruption delegation in the Balearics: the best known prosecutor in Mallorca and probably in Spain. It was Horrach who gripped a nation and who came to the attention of the international media as the trial of Iñaki Urdangarin was broadcast. Horrach was the prosecutor of Urdangarin, of Matas (not for the first time) and others. He was not the prosecutor of Princess Cristina.

In a separate article, I praised Horrach. Despite the disagreement with Judge Castro regarding the prosecution of the Infanta (Castro was for, Horrach against), his honour was not in question. It still isn't. But I am not alone in having been surprised (to put it mildly) that it was Horrach who should be the one pressing charges against Rodríguez. No longer an employee of the state, back in private practice, his first notable intervention was linked to a corruption investigation of vastly greater significance than that of Urdangarin or anything that Matas got up to: the Cursach affair.

The town hall official who Rodríguez removed was Jaime Nadal. The former director of commercial affairs, it wasn't strictly his domain to be involved with licences: this is the business of the "activities" department. Nevertheless, it was alleged that he had sought to obstruct a review into the BCM licence. Rodríguez took his decision only a few weeks before the events of early March. The National Police raided Megapark, BCM, Calvia town hall and other establishments. Tolo Cursach was arrested. The mayor wouldn't have known about this. But when Nadal was himself arrested last week, accused of having favoured Cursach businesses, another piece of the jigsaw seemed to have been placed. At which point, enter Pedro Horrach, who had come to Nadal's defence.

Horrach is of course at liberty to take on any case he wishes. But the prosecution service, his one-time colleagues, believe that there is incompatibility. The college of lawyers in the Balearics, essentially like the Bar Council in England and Wales, is considering a breach of the state code regarding compatibility. It could oblige Horrach to step away from the case.

He wasn't directly involved in the Cursach investigation. The chief prosecutor is Miguel Ángel Subirán, a former colleague who was seemingly taken aback that Horrach should have been in court when Nadal made his appearance before the investigating judge, Manuel Penalva. The possible incompatibility arises from the fact that Horrach did have some involvement in the wider investigation into police corruption, which led eventually to Cursach. He had, for instance, passed on to Subirán a report by businesspeople in Magalluf who had complained to Horrach about police, politicians and bribery. These businesspeople had gone to Horrach because they hadn't felt they could trust going to the police.

The issue of possible incompatibility will be one for legal argument, but there is a separate issue, one of perception, one of appearance. Horrach was something of the people's hero, a tireless persecutor of the corrupt. With Castro, Subirán, Carrau, Penalva and other judges and prosecutors, he had won the people's respect and admiration. He now risks seeing that evaporate.

One isn't of course party to the minutiae of the accusations against Nadal. There may indeed be very good grounds for his defence. There may well be good reasons for the charge levelled at Rodríguez. But it is the fact that Horrach has become involved which has stunned so many people. Even more so because of the alleged link of Nadal to Cursach.

To the outside world, i.e. the world outside Mallorca, Cursach is of little significance. What mainly matters to the outside world is the fate of BCM. The outside world draws a distinction between the criminality allegations and the club. In Mallorca, though there are many who are making a similar distinction, there are others who are not. A quite astonishing recent article in El País* makes the point clearly enough.

The Cursach affair surpasses anything else. Horrach is now caught up in it. And there are those who express their concern about the show which surrounds the justice system. The walk to the courts, the sheer spectacle and the consequent celebrity. But celebrity can turn sour.

Index for May 2017

Airbnb myths - 6 May 2017
All-inclusives and false claims - 3 May 2017
Andalusian migration - 5 May 2017
Balearic financing - 17 May 2017
Balti Picornell - 7 May 2017
Beach weddings - 25 May 2017
Blue Flags - 11 May 2017
German tourism quality - 16 May 2017
Holiday rentals - 15 May 2017, 27 May 2017
Los Javaloyas - 22 May 2017
Mallorca Live Festival - 12 May 2017
May fairs - 8 May 2017
Mayors' job swaps - 30 May 2017
Mediaevalism - 20 May 2017
Park and ride for beaches - 2 May 2017
Pedro Horrach and Cursach affair - 31 May 2017
Pedro Sánchez returns for PSOE - 24 May 2017
Podemos Balearic leadership - 14 May 2017, 18 May 2017, 28 May 2017
Protests in Mallorca - 26 May 2017
Provincial Deputation - 10 May 2017
Son Bosc golf - 29 May 2017
Ternelles finca and beach trespass - 23 May 2017
Thomas Jefferson and Mallorcan wine - 1 May 2017
Tourism responsibilities - 13 May 2017
Tourist saturation - 4 May 2017
Touristification - 19 May 2017
Tramuntana and holiday rentals - 9 May 2017
Xelo Huertas - 21 May 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 May 2017

Morning high (7.25am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 31 May - Cloud, 25C; 1 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 2 June - Sun, 27C

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

Grey morning but dry. Feels stormy and there may well be a storm.

Evening update (19.45): High of 24.7C. Rain started around eleven and stopped about three in the afternoon. It was never heavy. Sun then came out.

The Job-Swapping Mayors Of Mallorca

Mayors in Mallorca job share. Or rather, they job swap. Top-dog musical chairs is a game played out at many a town hall, and it's all thanks to proportional representation and the consequent need for coalition. It does depend, however. Some mayors are secure in their four-year tenure, courtesy of their parties' majorities. Others, whose parties don't have majorities, are not obliged to enter into job-swapping contracts. They form settled coalitions or pacts. They may be perceived, even by other parties, as being the right man or woman to see out the four years.

The job swaps occur because pacts aren't settled. Parties insist on having some mayoral action. Negotiations for forming administrations after municipal elections can depend for their success on agreement to hand over the mayoral wand mid-term. Good consensual democratic stuff, it is really the only way that there can ever be something resembling continuity and control. Without such an arrangement, administrations would never get off the ground. And if they did, they would soon fall back to earth because of the untenable nature of minority government.

The continuity, though, has the inherent potential to be discontinuous. This seems obvious if there is a switch from a mayor representing a particular ideology to one with a different political perspective. The right can hand over to the left, or vice versa. In Arta, there is an example of the former. The El Pi mayor, Tolo Gili, has given way to PSOE's Manolo Galán.

But there may well be continuity. If the agreements for the four years were firm, if the personalities are right, if opposition parties don't cause problems, then even a move from right to left doesn't automatically mean a different course after two years. A further factor is the nature of the municipality. Smaller ones have smaller town halls in terms of councillors and structures. They can function in a more coherent fashion because of their scale, while the self-interests of parties in maintaining their positions of ruling power prevent them from disrupting the concord.

Palma town hall highlights the potential for discontinuity more than others. Its size makes it unique. It functions more like its own government than a mere town hall. The three-way pact of PSOE, Més and Podemos has been exposed as shaky, and the knowledge that there is to be a mayoral job swap has partly contributed to this. For two years, José Hila of PSOE has been a mayor on his way out, while Antoni Noguera of Més has been the mayor-in-waiting: he now only has another month to wait.

In a similar way to the Balearic government, Palma has departments which are controlled by the different parties. There may on the face of it be accord, consensus and so on, but the reality is something else. The conflicts this party control of portfolios causes are no better demonstrated than with new bylaws for terraces and illegal street selling. PSOE have clashed with Podemos. The impending change of mayor only complicates the situation.

There is additional complication because of Noguera's implication with the Més contracts' affair. The opposition Partido Popular, in any event keen to do anything possible to disrupt the pact, has made overtures to PSOE to keep Noguera out. Although an agreement exists, when it comes to the moment for the handover, there still has to be a vote of councillors to elect the new mayor. The PP won't succeed in its attempt because Hila and PSOE would be crucified by supporters were there to be such a volte-face.

The Palma case also raises questions as to the roles of outgoing and incoming mayors over the first two years of an administration. Noguera, with his responsibility for the model of the city, positioned himself as a virtual mayor. There is nothing more important for a mayor than the vision he has for a municipality. So, Noguera has spent two years preparing for the job. Hila will take over this model of the city portfolio. Will his vision be the same and how well might he take being told by Noguera that it will be?

Alaro is clearly a much smaller town hall, but in Guillem Balboa there is a situation similar to Noguera. The opposition Junts per Alaro has openly accused Balboa of having spent the time leading up to taking over as mayor next month in dedicating himself more to being the future mayor than being the councillor for urban planning. Oppositions do of course make such observations. Balboa refutes the claim, but is it so surprising that he might have been?

Job-swapping mayors good for democracy? Possibly they are, so long as there is continuity. That can of course all disappear because of new elections, but in the meantime, consider Llucmajor. They're on to their second mayor, and there's a third yet to come.

Monday, May 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 May 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 30 May - Cloud, rain, 25C; 31 May - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 June - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

More fine weather today, but due to cloud over this evening and there may well be a storm overnight. Tomorrow's forecast isn't that promising.

Evening update (20.00): High of 29.4C.

Son Bosc - The End?

Ever since I've been writing about Mallorca - the starting date, if you must know, was 1 November 2005 - there have been issues that have regularly surfaced. One such is the controversy over the golf course on the Son Bosc finca in Muro. This may be the last time I need to mention the golf course. The Balearic High Court has dismissed an appeal by the developers. It has ratified a previous court decision which ruled that the licence to develop the course, given by Muro town hall, was illegal.

One can never be absolutely certain with the law, certainly not here, but the environmentalists GOB seem pretty sure. The court's ruling "definitively" puts an end to the possibility of developing the course. The decision has gone against the company Golf Platja de Muro, which comprises certain hotel chains, and the environmentalists will be breathing a sigh of relief.

It was at one time unclear to me how much sense there was with building this course. It was the business angle that was my main misgiving, but as the years passed and the drive towards lengthening the tourism season and eating into the winter months became ever greater a theme, I started to see the possibilities. Playa de Muro, for all that it has now acquired late-winter tourism courtesy of cycling, is still pretty much dead in the winter. A golf course might just have brought it to life.

Business, though, was not on the minds of opponents. They weren't only the environmentalists. There were people in Muro who objected as well. This came home to me when there was a protest against what was then the plan to eventually demolish the cottages of Ses Casetes des Capellans. A banner read that Capellans was for the people, a golf course was for the rich.

The environmental argument was strong. It had the backing of the international Ramsar wetlands convention on account of the finca being, more or less, an extension of Albufera. Various species were identified which could be harmed: a rare orchid, bee-eating birds and so on. The argument had political support. This really came to the fore as a result of the upheaval in the 2007-2011 government. The Unió Mallorquina, ejected from the coalition by President Antich because of the numerous corruption cases that had engulfed it, had been in charge of the environment ministry. Clearance work at the finca had started. When the UM was removed, the PSM (Majorcan socialists), now the main component of Més, gained the ministry. Everything changed and pretty much immediately.

Reacting to the ruling, Més say that it defends one of the most sensitive and important natural environments in the Balearics. The appeal to the High Court was the last resort. So, is it all over? Quite probably it is, but if there were thoughts of further appeal, these might in any event be dashed by the government's reform of tourism legislation. The building of new golf courses is to "definitively" be prohibited. But how definitive is definitive?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 May 2017

Morning high (7.27am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 29 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 29 May - Cloud, 25C; 30 May - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Another glorious day to come. Tuesday at present looking somewhat iffy, though this might change.

Evening update (20.45): High of 28.7C.

Who Holds The Conch?

In Lord of the Flies, what order there was resided with the holder of the conch. Ralph struggled to maintain order, and it was ultimately wrenched away, along with the conch, by Jack. But the conch was only so powerful. Piggy's specs represented the real power. They were needed for making fire. Jack really was an utter bastard.

What order there is in Podemos in the Balearics at present is being wrested away. Alberto Jarabo is to lose his hold on the conch. The faction within the party which isn't behind The Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, wants anyone but Laura in charge. It has come up with someone who might fit the bill: Mae de la Concha. And who is she? A Podemos deputy in Congress. The non-Laura wing would rather like Concha to have the conch and lead them into what they hope will be a glorious victory at the 2019 election. Moreover, it would seem as though they are conspiring to try and get Laura farmed out to Palma town hall. Lucky old Palma, and you think two years to come of Noggin as mayor couldn't be any worse.

But as with Lord of the Flies, it's the specs which have it. And Laura has the specs. Feminist, anti-capitalist Jack that she is, the war paint would be donned, the hunters would roam the land and fire would be made. This, at any rate, is the fear of the non-Laura lot. Were she imposed on Palma, things would be tricky enough, such as her imposing a five-kilometre exclusion zone for all cruise ships. But as holder of the conch as well as the glasses and presidency of the Balearics, to boot, The Boot Girl would commence the process of re-order. Magalluf would be nationalised and become part of the Gulag. Hoteliers would be sent there for their re-education, closely followed by dissenters within the Podemos ranks. The conch wouldn't count for anything for La Concha, as she wouldn't have it.

Of course, and you can rest easy, none of this will happen. Yes, Laura might get to hold the Podemos conch, but the lovely and reassuring Partido Popular are coming to everyone's rescue. So certain are they of victory in 2019 that they have already started drafting legislation. Or repealing legislation. Some which hasn't actually been passed yet, namely the holiday rentals' bill.

The PP will thus contribute to the constant state of disorder. A fire will be lit under Biel Barceló's rentals' law (and possibly Biel as well), with the tourist tax to add extra fuel. Or will it? Who wears the specs in the PP? Biel Company? Marga Prohens? Not as such. Come here, Laura, we need your glasses.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 May 2017

Morning high (7.17am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 28 May - Sun, cloud, 27C; 29 May - Sun, cloud, 27C; 30 May - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

More of the same: July temps in May.

Evening update (19.15): High of 29.9C.

The Incoherence Of Rentals' Control

It can appear somewhat contrary that leading hoteliers and left-wing politicians can share the same platform and, in principle, agree with each other. Such has been the result of the holiday rentals' dynamic. Two warring factions have joined forces, albeit they have become allies for different motives. The hoteliers have always had an issue with rentals because of perceived unfair competition and a lowering of standards (discuss), while the left have started to agonise over saturation and resident populations being deprived of places to live.

Exceltur, the alliance for touristic excellence, is an exclusive club. Among its members are leading hoteliers, such as Meliá. It carries a certain amount of clout. Names like Escarrer have the ears of the nation's politicians. And it was the national government which received a unified message from hoteliers and mayors when they gathered in Madrid for their forum this week. The state is the only body which can control the situation: this situation being the proliferation of rentals and the activities of Airbnb and its kind.

José Hila, Palma's mayor who is president of the federation of municipalities and provinces, underlined this message by saying that it is the state which can stand firm against these websites. The state, however, and Matilde Asián, the tourism secretary-of-state pointed this out, cannot establish a single set of regulations. The responsibilities lie with the regional governments and, up to a point, with town halls as well.

Madrid, at least while the Partido Popular remains in control of the government, seems disinclined to involve itself with market regulation. Devolved responsibilities to the regions there are, but these responsibilities produce legislation which, in the absence of umbrella state legislation, bring the regions into conflict with an arm of the national government, the competition commission. Its ultra market liberalism has been rearing its head again this week. The commission's defence of a property owner's rights has meant clashes with the governments in the Canaries and Galicia. When the Balearic government finally publishes its legislation, you can be sure that the commission will be examining the small print in great detail.

The consequence of the state's lack of involvement is legal uncertainty, something which all parties seek. A further consequence is that regional authorities can be undermined if the commission (and the courts) challenge their legislation. The Madrid government, meanwhile, will know full well that anything it might introduce would be booted upstairs to Brussels. The European Commission is lumbering towards some form of directive, though how this can possibly take into account the diversity of needs down to very local levels is impossible to understand.

Meanwhile, though, the Balearic Tax Agency and tourism ministry have been enforcing what legal powers they possess. A campaign of inspections that was carried out prior to Easter has netted eight real-estate companies in Mallorca. The fines for promoting illegal rentals will amount to some 200,000 euros. These companies are based in Palma, Arta, Capdepera, Colonia Sant Jordi and Pollensa.

Back at the Exceltur gathering, at which not all the mayors, it might be noted, were from left-wing parties, there was some consensus that there is scope for growth from rentals. Palma and Barcelona, not represented at the meeting, seem exceptions to the potential for growth rule, but for cities such as Malaga, Valencia and San Sebastian, the issues are those of diversification of the accommodation offer and of its control. It is the latter which is the key issue, but so also is enduring legal certainty. The PP in the Balearics have this week made it clear that when it returns to government - it seems confident that it will in 2019 - it will repeal the holiday rentals' legislation that Biel Barceló will shortly introduce. 

As with the incoherence caused by the state's lack of involvement, so there is incoherence at regional level. Politics change and so also do policies.

Friday, May 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 May 2017

Morning high (7.33am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 27 May - Sun, cloud, 28C; 28 May - Sun, cloud, 27C; 29 May - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Another rocking day. Sun all the way.

Evening update (20.15): High of 29.9C.

Size Doesn't Matter: Protests

How much sand, do you suppose, is there in the Sahara? It's not that, following yesterday's piece, I have made sand the theme of the moment, it's just that it has become the subject of protest. Saharan sand has been imported to Mallorca, several thousand tonnes of it, and there are some people who object.

It's why one asks how much sand there actually is in the whole of the desert. Don't reply that there's lots, because I think we can all figure that out for ourselves. I have asked Mr. Google, who hasn't proved to be terribly helpful. Someone has calculated that there are eight octillion grains of sand, but I'm afraid eight octillion doesn't register - not with me anyway - and more to the point this doesn't give tonnage. If someone else can come up with an average weight for a grain of sand and multiply it by eight octillion, then I guess we have the answer. Or possibly not.

One would suppose that shifting some tonnes of sand and depositing them somewhere else wouldn't make a great deal of difference to the overall Saharan sand volume. There again, if everyone was doing this, the sand would eventually disappear. On balance, therefore, it probably isn't such a sensible idea. Moreover, the protesters, the friends of the Saharan people, say that the sand is being stolen; the desert is being plundered. There is perhaps something a tad objectionable to someone else's sand being acquired when Mallorca has a fair amount of it as it is. This said, if a crane with a scooping device rocked up on Es Trenc beach, there'd be hell to pay.

The sand, as such, isn't what concerns me here. It is the protest that does. Some fifty odd people turned out at the dockside in Palma to express their anger. Among them were some usual suspect politicians - the environment minister and Més and Podemos sorts from the town hall. The coverage and attention given to a) the shipping of the sand and b) its unloading and the protest have elevated the affair to the status of a cause célèbre; at least where some are concerned. But other than the protesters, how many people in Mallorca do you suppose are particularly bothered? The answer is as impossible or as vague as with the question about how much sand there is in the Sahara, except that it would be the opposite. Not many, one would guess, as opposed to lots.

Protests, always allowing for the permission that is given for them or not, obviously vary in terms of scale. The largest ever staged in Mallorca was the one against the Bauzá government's trilingual (TIL) teaching project. It was a subject in which the whole island had an interest and on which it had an opinion. Education, one can conclude, is of greater importance than sand. The coverage given to that particular protest was entirely proportionate. The coverage for the sand import seems disproportionate, based on the strength of feeling.

Which isn't to say that the protest was invalid. Even a small protest can raise awareness that would otherwise not exist, so I fully defend its purpose. The issue is, though, that protests, and the publicity given to them, can over-exaggerate the cause and also the amount of support that there is for a cause.

There was a different type of protest in Palma last weekend. This one involved around 200 people. Dressed as tourists, they were protesting against so-called tourist colonialism and in particular the increasing number of apartments that are used for holiday rental purposes. This attracted a fair amount of coverage as well, but was this coverage disproportionate given the numbers?

In one respect it wasn't. That's because the whole issue of holiday rentals has genuinely become a cause célèbre. But how representative of attitudes was the protest? A small number of people have the power to blow something up out of all proportion. There were plenty of reactions to the protest which suggested just that. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence which indicates how much concern there is about the impact of holiday rentals, and it certainly isn't confined to politicians. There may have only been 200, but the groundswell of support, you can be certain, is a great deal stronger.

It was interesting to note that a similar protest last September didn't register with the established media. An anti-tourist route was followed, but there was barely a mention of it. It's not as if "saturation" wasn't a major issue last summer, but since then there has been a constant bombardment. It never lets up.

The scale of a protest doesn't in itself give an accurate reflection of how widespread (or not) attitudes are. The TIL one probably did. In reverse, the Sahara sand protest may also have been fairly accurate. The 200 in Palma? I don't think so.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 May 2017

Morning high (7.40am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 26 May - Sun, 25C; 27 May - Sun, cloud, 28C; 28 May - Sun, cloud, 27C

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

Yep. Perfect.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.7C.

Sand In Your Shoes

I wonder if Dido still has sand in her shoes. It's some fourteen years since she informed us that she did. Two weeks away and the whole world should have changed, she intoned, adding that she would leave it until tomorrow to unpack. Like so many before and since, Dido was unable to accept her return to normality. Like so many before and since, she had returned home with part of the beach.

Around the same time as Dido was lamenting her lost fortnight, I came across a sign on a beach (Playa de Muro's rustic Es Comú, if you must know), which very kindly asked its visitors to not leave with the beach. In other words, it noted that the sand was valuable and could one ensure that as little of it as possible (if any) was taken with one on leaving.

At the time, I found this sign ever so slightly absurd. Does anyone willingly leave a beach with sand? There is, after all, all that vigorous shaking of towels, etc. that goes on. Yet it is impossible to leave without sand. Is one supposed to add some form of mobile hoover to all the other paraphernalia that makes its way onto the beach in order to vacuum up the sand and then deposit in a nice recycled heap? One might do, but one can also be sure that, having completed this task, the northeasterly will blow and cover the towel with yet more sand.

The last thing anyone wants to take away from a beach is sand. It is extraordinarily annoying and, as Dido discovered, it can linger well beyond the check-in at departures. So, while signs can remind us all of the necessity not to take it away and inadvertently affect endangered biodiversity (or whatever), it's reasonable to suggest that these signs are somewhat redundant.

There again, they do act as reminders of the importance of sand while letting visitors know that the sand isn't theirs. It's our (Mallorca's) sand, and Mallorca is where it should stay, preferably on the beach. A problem is, though, that there are all manner of people other than your normal beachgoers who are getting in on the beach act and then disappearing with sand. More than that, they are taking the beach over, staking it out, treating it as though it were theirs, when it most certainly is not.

A couple of days ago, I drew attention to the fact that one cannot trespass on certain beaches for reasons to do with heightened environmental sensitivity or with the possibility of being shot by the military. Such limitations are fortunately few and far between. Beaches are freely available, and so is the sand. A pleasant sandy cove. Where could be better than to have a wedding?

One is tempted to think that this is all the fault of the Benidorm TV series. There they all were on the beach. The riff-raff tourists (and residents) had clearly been ushered away. Madge and Mel were there to be married and would have properly tied the knot had The Oracle not crash-landed on Mel. Ever since, beaches of whatever type and wherever have become the locations à la mode for uttering the I do's (or their equivalents).

Über-environmentalists Terraferida, for whom I do have some time, have returned to social media with their latest tourist "massification" production. A wedding on a beach at a cove near Colonia Sant Jordi has got them into their latest lather. Now, without knowing the intimate details of the wedding arrangements, I'm nevertheless guessing that there wasn't a great phalanx of security keeping the riff-raff away. I'm also guessing that it wasn't at a time of day when the beach might possibly have been packed ("massified") by other tourists, having away with the sand. I'm also supposing that there was nothing to stop the wedding having been held, because Terraferida have pretty much said this. The Costas Authority, they insist, shouldn't be giving generalised permission for such an event, which comes as news to me as I had thought express permission was needed. Didn't James Blunt get into a bit of bother over his wedding reception on a beach?

Anyway, permission or not, what was the big deal? As far as Terraferida were concerned, the wedding was representative of the takeover of beaches. Moreover, it was organised by a foreign company (apparently). And, not that Terraferida specifically stated this, once the wedding was finished, all the guests plus happy couple would have been legging it with valuable sand. The beach had been massified, it had been ecologically endangered, and foreigners, to boot, were to blame.

Terraferida do make valuable contributions. I often agree with them, but they run the risk of alienating those who might otherwise be sympathetic by potentially trivialising their cause. Sand, it is safe to say, gets in your shoes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 May 2017

Morning high (7.30am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 25 May - Sun, 28C; 26 May - Sun, 27C; 27 May - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Lovely morning. Lovely day to come.

Evening update (20.15): High of 29.6C.

All At Sea: PSOE

So, 231 days after resigning as the general secretary of the party, Pedro Sánchez swept back to power with a landslide victory. He is PSOE's Theresa May (as will no doubt be), though whether he proves to be anything more than a Corbyn will be discovered. One thing is for sure - possibly, perhaps even probably - is that Pedro will take a Jezza jump to the left. That's why he was elected. Wasn't it?

Actually, it wasn't as much of a landslide as Thezza can anticipate in Referendum Mark II, but land slid sufficiently from beneath Susana Díaz that she was hurled backwards from Madrid all the way to her Andalusian homeland and landed with a bump, together with the bruising of only having gained 39.94% of the vote (pity about the 0.6%; round numbers are so much more satisfying).

Pedro won the day with 50.21%. The other candidate, Patxi López, came nowhere, except in his native Basque Country. Once the recipient of the dubious backing of Francina Armengol, even that evaporated as the Balearic president sensed the direction in which the tide was flowing. It was dragging Patxi well offshore. He duly drowned in the depths of the more than 133,000 combined votes for Pedro and Susana. His own tally? 14,571, most of them marked Basque.

An odd thing to note is that Pedro won in every region of Spain except for two - Susana's Andalusia and Patxi's Basque Country. It is odd insofar as Susana got as close as she did: some 15,000 votes fewer. It is less odd when you appreciate that PSOE militants are heavily weighted way down south. Andalusia is socialist land and always has been since democracy arrived in Spain.

One needs to explain that the militants are not necessarily militants of a Derek Hatton type. It's the word the Spanish use for members. And it is, I would suggest, important to understand that, of the nearly 75,000 who voted for Pedro, only a certain (and small) percentage might truly fall into the category of rabid left-wingers. Yes, there was discontent with the cosying up to the Partido Popular, i.e having enabled Rajoy's last-minute investiture in October, but that doesn't mean that all those thousands are like-minded descendants of the nineteenth-century founder of PSOE, the original Pablo Iglesias. The current-day Pablo Iglesias of Podemos might be considered a more appropriate descendant.

It is true that the rank and file felt that they had been sold out. Sánchez got a drubbing at the federal committee and had no option but to stand down. The issue was whether or not to break the electoral impasse and facilitate Rajoy's passage back to the premiership. Sánchez lost. The militants have now had their revenge. Moreover, they have ensured that they will not be delivered into the hands of Diazistas and the Andalusian socialist mafia.

She had former premiers on her side, but the support of González and Zapatero counted for too little in the face of that discontent. For many, once a socialist (even a moderate one), always a socialist: deals with the PP don't comply with this legacy. And deals with Díaz don't comply with how many of the militants feel. Take those in Catalonia, for instance. Recently, I wrote about the longstanding animosity between the two regions (which owes only something to politics). It was there for all to see in the Catalonia vote: 82% for Sánchez, 11% for Díaz. Crushing, one might say.

For Francina in the Balearics, having thrown Patxi overboard and clambered on board the good ship Pedro, 71% of the Balearic vote in his favour will enable her to express solidarity with the militant citizenship of Balearic PSOE. Her good judgement (opportunism) in abandoning Patxi might yet lead her to national government. In her dreams. But with Pedro's win, we return to the uncharted territory in which Spain has been adrift since the end of 2015 and the first of the inconclusive elections. Is another election looming?

Podemos, i.e. Pablo Iglesias, would prefer that there wasn't an election. Preparing to present a vote of no confidence in Rajoy, Iglesias is also preparing to ask Congress that he should be invested as prime minister. He really knows how to stir the pot and how also to try and grasp power at a time when electorally Podemos appear to have plateaued and may only have one future way to go. Sánchez will be cajoled by the likes of Francina into a pact for "progressive" government, citing how good the relationship with Podemos in the Balearics has been. At which point, any sensible observer will burst out laughing.

Pedro, though, will not himself be laughing. He was unpersuaded by Iglesias before. Why should he be any different now, especially if a grasp on the premiership were to be denied him? The good ship Pedro has set sail again, but PSOE remain all at sea.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 May 2017

Morning high (7.39am): 17C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 24 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 25 May - Sun, 27C; 26 May - Sun, 25C

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

Another bright and fine morning, the birds are singing and someone's out there struggling to start his scooter ...

Evening update (20.45): A lovely day, a high of 26.6C, but darkness hung over it. Appalling.

No Trespassing On The Coast

It was the early 1960s. Summer holidays. We'd grown bored hunting for newts and waiting to see the London train rattle along the viaduct that crossed the dusty lane that led to the estate. To pass under the bridge was to enter enemy territory. We lived on an estate, but it wasn't like the other estate. That was council; ours was pretentious posh. The lane petered out into an even dustier narrow track that bordered part of the estate. To the other side was scrub, waste and field. There was a sign in black lettering: "No Trespassing".

Such an order was of little deterrence. We had already mastered the art of trespassing in the dark and mysterious copse with its pond that was as deep as Australia. A gate of greater height than we were served only to be a challenge. A warning of no trespassing carried an assumption of hidden dangers and horrors. The field with its long grass next to the estate, we convinced ourselves, was full of snakes. We climbed another gate. There were no snakes.

Nowadays, and as responsible citizens, no trespassing would mean precisely that. But there are those who have never lost their inner small child. Provide a warning, and the warning will be ignored. Indeed, the very existence of a warning elevates the forbidden territory to a status of seemingly very much greater importance than it might otherwise deserve. However, there is a principle at stake. The right of access, especially if it involves the sea.

The coast is the public domain. When superyacht occupants invade a stretch of beach in Cabrera, they are accused of "privatising" it. Not that they did (this was last summer), but installing luxury tents and what have you amounted, in the eyes of some, to a privatisation. When hotel groups (one in particular) appear destined to dominate beach of a Calvia and beach club variety, this is also privatisation, even if it is not. The coast is free. Unfettered access to it reinforces the unshakeable relationship with the "playa", the playground for all.

Cala Castell in Pollensa is accessible from the sea. It can't, strictly speaking, be accessed from the land, except for special reasons; these mainly being scientific. The cove lies at the end of the finca of Ternelles, and the access to the finca has been a matter of controversy for years.

There was once, during the administration of Francesc Antich from 2007 to 2011, a mass trespass. Famous photos are regularly reused to highlight the Ternelles case, and they show ramblers clambering over the gate to the finca. The reasons for access being denied are twofold. One has to do with protection zones in the Tramuntana region. The finca has such a zone; it encompasses the cove and the ancient Castell del Rei. Balearic law may lead to these zones being removed, thus allowing rambling in areas deemed significant as natural habitats.

The other reason is ownership. The finca belongs ultimately to the March family, the Banca March, March family, the descendants of Joan March. When the mass trespassers, including notable eco-nationalist politicians, smilingly climbed the gate, there was at least some feeling that they were doing so as a gesture against the legacy of the old rogue, March. Gleeful disobedience of no trespass betrayed no fear of hidden dangers: the finca, the estate, was being confronted. How many of those trespassers had an account with Banca March one didn't know.

The legal arguments continue. They are batted back and forth between upper courts. The Supreme Court in Madrid once took the view that there should be right of access precisely because of the coast. The public domain of Cala Castell was being denied. The arguments, though, have been far more complex than just that. They still are.

Had there never been any denial of access, how popular would the ramble across the finca be? One asks the question because Ternelles has acquired its reputation principally because of the "verboten" nature of access; there is access but in a highly controlled way. Is the principle more significant than any mass desire to go wandering over the land? And has this principle been elevated because of the ownership?

Move east along the coast from Cala Castell and you come to the headland that separates the bays of Pollensa and Alcudia. On its tip is Cap Pinar. It isn't even accessible by sea. It's a military zone. There have been arguments about access here as well, but they have never been in the Ternelles league. There is, like Ternelles, the possibility of limited and controlled access. But Alcudia's mayor, Toni Mir, says that since he took office in 2015 there hasn't been a single request.

Why the difference? There are no snakes in Ternelles, but there is greater temptation and challenge. The black lettering is that much bigger and so is the gate.

Monday, May 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 May 2017

Morning high (7.38am): 18.9C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 23 May - Cloud, sun, 25C; 24 May - Sun, 26C; 25 May - Sun, 28C

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

Well, so much for the forecast having suggested it would be cloudy today. Doesn't look like it, certainly not first thing.

Evening update (19.45): High of 26.7C. Cloud did come in but was only light. Plenty of sunny spells.

Who Knows Los Javaloyas?

Well, I put the question to you. Do you know who Los Javaloyas were/are? If not, then I can tell you that they have existed since 1952, they being a pop group who now occasionally get wheeled out (more or less literally) to perform at the odd fiesta. They are, despite the fact that you probably won't have heard of them, pretty famous.

Originally from Valencia, they came to Mallorca in time for the tourism boom. Their heyday was in the 1960s, when they were one of the numerous pop acts which conformed with the sanitised version of pop that the regime was prepared to tolerate. As such, and like other groups, their oeuvre was a mix of Spanish tunes and British/American covers, such as Hippy Hippy Shake and Barbara Ann, while an EP, Buenas Vibraciones, mysteriously included Spencer Davis covers as well as The Beach Boys. There was also the Los Javaloyas Vamos a San Francisco, taken from the Flowerpot Men.

Anyway, it would seem that in Palma town hall there is no one who has ever heard of them. This is the conclusion being drawn from the fact they have had a street named after them but a highly inconsequential street - a short, dead-end street stuck between two schools. Representatives of Mallorca's musical fraternity are mightily offended. Los Javaloyas deserve much more.

But who makes decisions on this at the town hall? Is it soon-to-be-mayor Antoni Noguera, in charge of urban planning? Perhaps he could find them a better street and rename the one they've been given calle José Hila.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 May 2017

Morning high (7.50am): 12.9C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 22 May - Cloud, 24C; 23 May - Sun, 24C; 24 May - Sun, 26C

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

Smashing morning. Clear skies and fresh. Cloudy by the evening and due to be cloudy tomorrow.

Evening update (19.15): High of 26.6C.

Xe-Lo And Montse Denounce Parliament

The office of the president (aka speaker) of the Balearic parliament is - decor-wise - much in keeping with the interior of houses inhabited by ancient Mallorcans. There is, therefore, an enormous amount of wood. Wood panelling, wood flooring, crafted wooden chairs, wooden coffee table and a very wooden desk. The principal concession to modernity is the three-piece with silken yellowish finishing that matches the curtains and what small areas of the walls aren't wood. The other concession is the occupant of the office, Balti.

Given his former life as some form of metalworker, one might have anticipated Balti having performed a metallic refit; even a Metallica one. Out with wood, in with aluminium. Or, in a more traditional (Mallorcan) style, in with some bits of old wrought iron that had been rusting in a shed in Binissalem and which can now be restored by artisan apprentices on youth guarantee schemes, paid for by the vast surplus that parliament turns in, and held up as examples of economic diversification and as a means of tackling tourism seasonality. (All types of alternative employment, you may have noticed, address seasonality.)

Not so long ago, the Balearic government was said to be eyeing up the cash that is sitting in parliament's bank accounts. In other words, the government wanted it. Assuming that the accounts haven't been raided or that finance minister Catalina Cladera hasn't been banging on the glass-pane wooden door to the office and handing in a demand for several million euros, President Balti will have a bit spare to kit out some other offices.

As there are some offices - one, in particular - which need a makeover, surely Balti could get in his new (secondhand) Kangoo and nip down to Ikea for some furniture. He must also, you would think, know the odd artisan office renovation chappy who could be hired, albeit that the process for doing so - in order to prevent any accusations of favouring a mate - would entail a public tender (put out for thirty days of public consultation) and verification by the numerous Podemos citizen councils.

So, getting things done, as in getting new offices sorted out, probably does take some time. Might this, therefore, be the explanation for the discontent being shown by two members of parliament - two former members of Podemos members of parliament?

Xe-Lo, who not so long ago could rattle around the vast presidential suite, and her chum Montse are clearly getting ever more brassed off with their ostracisation. The two fully paid-up members of the Not-Podemos-But-Would-Still-Like-To-Be Party have taken considerable umbrage at the state of their office, if only they had one.

There is apparently a room available, but parliament technicians have told Xe-Lo and Montse that it is barely big enough to swing a cat (not that anyone from Podemos either present or past would do such a thing) let alone accommodate the substantial forms of both themselves (plus two lucky staff), a couple of tables, four chairs and a closet. These same technicians say that the room is not appropriate for working. This being the case and also that Xe-Lo and Montse are having to store vital documents in boxes, they've issued a denuncia against the parliament's board. Off it has gone to the employment ministry's work inspectorate, while they have also raised the matter with parliament's health and safety committee and the occupational hazard prevention officer.

This is clearly an outrage. Here we have a government which espouses dignified working conditions and yet two members of the house are presumably having to make do with sitting on a corridor floor. Obviously things have got so bad that they can't even just have a word in the shell-like of the employment minister, Iago Nicaragua (or whatever it is). He was himself, after all, once a work inspector.

Balti, meanwhile, appears not to have made any comment on this sorry state of affairs. In the spirit of being all-inclusive (in a citizens' style as opposed to a hotel), he must be able find space for Xe-Lo and Montse in his office. And with all that wood acting as soundproofing, no one would ever hear ... .

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 May 2017

Morning high (7.52am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 22 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 23 May - Sun, 26C

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

Cloudy sort of start, not that warm. Expected to clear.

Evening update (21.00): Some cloud on and off during the day. High of 24.9C.

The Survival Of Mallorca's Mediaevalism

Mediaevalism survives in Mallorca. It is buried deep in the soul of the people. It stands on and shapes the landscape. It is the past that characterises the present.

It started with the fall of the Roman Empire. It is taken as having definitively ended - in Spain at any rate - with the fall of the final bastion of Islam: the surrender of Granada in the same year, 1492, that Columbus undertook his first voyage of discovery.

Mediaevalism spanned a thousand years. Over those centuries, Mallorca experienced conquest by Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs and Catalans. Of the Vandals, we know very little, other than the fact that they tended to live up to their name. Byzantine evidence is greater, such as with remains at Son Peretó in Manacor and the fortifications of Alaró, the Castell del Rei in Pollensa and Castell de Santueri in Felanitx. But even this is limited. The Arabs and the Catalans truly defined what we know of Mallorca's mediaevalism.

It is Catalan mediaevalism, above all, which marks the link with the past to the present. Mallorca's pretensions to contributing to a European intellectual heritage emerged soon after the conquest of Jaume I. Ramon Llull embodied this. It was he who was also instrumental in determining a mediaeval landscape that survives, as with Miramar in the Tramuntana, a mountain range that was otherwise shaped by mediaeval cultures. Unesco has recognised how those cultures influenced the mountains with their human intervention - the dry stone structures most of all.

The Catalans brought with them new fortifications, grander affairs than the ancient ones such as the Castell del Rei. Typically, they expanded what was already there. In Capdepera, the original castle dates from the early fourth century. While the Arabs extended it, the Catalans were to increase its size very much more significantly.

The Romans had named it Caput petrae, the head of stone. From this Latin origin came Cap de la Pera. The first documented reference to Cap de la Pera was in the "Llibre dels fets" which chronicled the reign of Jaume I. The proximity of this north-eastern part of Mallorca to Menorca was the reason why it was chosen for an act of formal surrender: by the Arabs of Menorca.

The name Capdepera was officially recognised when the village was granted its "royal" status by Jaume II in 1300, a status that was given to many Mallorcan villages at that time. It was a "vila". It was Jaume II who was the great fortification builder. Along the coast from Capdepera, he ordered the building of the walls of Alcudia. Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull in 1248 by which the parish of Sant Jaume de Guinyent was established. It was later to be known as Sant Jaume d'Alcudia, retaining the name that the Arabs had introduced. Alcudia's walls were to protect the village but they were also the grand fortification for the north of Mallorca. Capdepera's castle was to defend the north-east and, like Alcudia's walls, to also defend the people.

Exposed on the north-eastern tip, the villagers - for their safety and in order to defend the castle - were moved inside its walls. There were some sixty dwellings in all. The castle was one of the principal examples of the building of later mediaeval fortification.

Nowadays, Capdepera recognises its mediaeval roots more than mostly anywhere else in Mallorca. Since 2000 there has been the annual Mediaeval Market. Whereas there are any number of mediaeval themes to fairs, Capdepera goes the whole hog. Over a weekend in May, it seeks to re-create the atmosphere of some 700 years ago. It is probably as well that it doesn't do this with true authenticity - given that sanitary conditions were not like they are today - but in spirit it can be said that the market is to the fore in demonstrating quite how much mediaevalism survives in Mallorca.

Friday, May 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 May 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 16.9C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 20 May - Sun, 24C; 21 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 22 May - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Well, so much for showers. What was forecast 100% slipped to 0%. Pretty much clear skies first thing. Cloud likely later. Not as warm as the past few days. Weekend fine.

Evening update (20.00): High of 23.2C. Clouded over in the morning and wasn't warm, then the sun came out and before the cloud returned.

Touristification Has Landed

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new word. The Spanish language is intent on developing a global lexicon of new concepts for tourism, none of them positive, all of them with overtones of touristic harm with varying degrees of malevolence. The new word, for which I thank Xavier Canalis of Hosteltur for highlighting, is "touristification". It joins saturation, massification and tourismphobia in the dictionary of this new type of dark tourism, not that devoted to things like cemeteries but one for the dark side of just too many tourists and especially too many properties for holiday rental.

The word is being used increasingly. El Confidencial has considered what is happening in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia because of touristification, specifically the bubble in rental prices caused by Airbnb and HomeAway. In El Mundo there was a look at how the digital era is affecting urban character. Holiday rental, a phenomenon that predated digital times (and quite obviously so), gave rise over Easter to plus-90% occupancy of rental properties in major cities. Here was evidence of touristification.

A journalist for El Español has given a first-hand account of touristification in Madrid. The piece is entitled: "Irrational tourism throws us out". In the past year, five entire buildings have gone over exclusively to holiday rentals. In his own building, with fifteen apartments, only five are now for residents. The trend is clear.

The Huffington Post (Spanish version) looks at touristification in greater depth and concludes that the digital economy has taken advantage of neo-liberal deregulation that favours multinationals as part of a new post-capitalist model that lives more off income than from the production of value. Emerging new elites are seeking to redirect and rebuild cities for their exclusive service.

These are just some examples of where this word has been used. They all paint much the same picture. And it isn't a very pleasant one.

The idea of living off income is a principle of the so-called collaborative economy. What it means is that if one has something that another is prepared to pay for, then all well and good. This can be a property, a car or anything else that can be shared, or rather theoretically shared, because the sharing aspect of the collaborative economy (for rentals) has largely gone by the board.

For the individual with one property, it is unlikely that he or she could live off income; highly unlikely, in fact. If it is true, as the University of the Balearic Islands' professors recently stated, that the average income from a holiday rental equates to 395 euros per month, then I think you can take it as read that one cannot live off this.

The individual with the single property isn't really the issue. It is what The Huffington Post has identified. Emerging new elites are seeking to redirect and rebuild cities for their exclusive service. Frankly, this sounds chilling, as does its analysis of the digital economy. Cities, and not just cities, being taken over by interests who wish to convert them into refuges for tourists alone. Not just chilling, frightening.

Those who advocate a virtually unfettered approach to rentals don't care. Or maybe they do. Care about their own interests. Arguing that this type of holiday accommodation is the way forward and that hoteliers and hotels have passed their sell-by dates fails totally in taking into account both the co-existence that has there has been between tourist and resident for years and the breakdown of this co-existence in the future. It is an advocacy of touristification, pure and simple. The Huffington vision isn't only frightening, it is obscene. How in the name of anything that is socially acceptable can entire communities end up being pushed out because tourists have come and occupied? I can't get my head around how anyone can believe this is either sensible or moral.

The use of this new word has the potential to fuel even more the discontent among communities most affected. The narratives of politicians, such as Ada Colau in Barcelona or Aurora Jhardi in Palma (she has been more strident in attacking "saturation" than others at town hall, including Antoni Noguera), do whip this up further. It spills over into what it has - protest, in particular in Barcelona - but do these politicians not have a point? Is it not right to safeguard residents and to also safeguard cities from these new and self-interested elites?

The Balearic government, in planning to limit to four the number of properties one owner can rent out, is trying to address the issue. There will of course be ways round such a restriction, you can bet on that. But it may falter in its attempts to create limits, not through want of trying but because of the forces of neo-liberal deregulation in the courts and the competition commissions. Touristification. You'll hear a great deal more about it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 May 2017

Morning high (7.39am): 13.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 19 May - Sun, showers, 23C; 20 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 May - Sun, 23C

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

Another perfect morning and a fine day in store. Likely to cloud over later on. There is the probability of some rain overnight and into tomorrow morning.

Evening update (20.00): High of 28.3C. Still a chance of some rain to come.

Podemos: The Experiment That Went Wrong?

So, as predicted, Alberto Jarabo will cease to be the general secretary of Podemos in the Balearics. With all Podemos parliamentary deputies plus dozens of others lined up against him and in favour of Laura Camargo, his position had become untenable. He sought to cling to the life raft - rescue from the Madrid leadership and Pablo Iglesias - but that was never going to work. He was destined to sink.

For those of us who are not part of the Podemos apparatus, the party's divisions can seem distinctly arcane. The local difficulty in the Balearics mirrors the much greater one that was played out in March. From the outside, the triumph of Iglesias appeared as though it was the culmination of fighting over the remains of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky, with no one entirely sure what the fight was. How many inside the party really understood either?

The divisions have been styled by some commentators as evidence of a party attaining maturity. After the euphoria of election triumphs that emerged from out of nowhere, the challenge was for Podemos to make sense of those triumphs. The essentially non-political party had to learn to behave like one. In the process, and as is the case with any other party, there were bound to be arguments as to policy and strategy. And if we need reminding of how other Spanish political parties are engrossed by such a dynamic, we need look no further than PSOE and the Lazarus-like rebirth of Pedro Sánchez in the face of the all too PP-compliant (supposedly) Susana Díaz.

There shouldn't, therefore, be any real surprise that Podemos find themselves attempting to reconcile factions. This is the very nature of political parties. But with Podemos there was also the sense that they were somehow different. An aversion to the established order of the political system and indeed to established practices had lulled many into the belief that here was a mould-breaker. They may have shattered the old mould - at least partially - but are now devoting energies in piecing it back together.

The struggles they are having reflect the very essence of the party and those who inhabit it and its support base. This is an amalgam of an egghead university professorial class, of hardline communists, of disgruntled PSOE (and even PP) supporters, of Republicans, of the previously politically frustrated, of the outright opportunist. There is a sense in which Podemos are a current-day manifestation of elements that contributed to and conspired to force the Second Republic into implosion. All the party lacks is a definable bourgeoisie, and Laura Camargo - a defender of the party's anti-capitalist faction - stands as a symbol against such self-interest.

Jarabo, now that he has decided to walk, is urging the party to find a unifying leader. Camargo, where he is concerned, isn't that figure. But who could he have in mind? Jarabo himself is indicative of a Podemos weakness, the inherent inexperience that the party brings to the table. Who, after all, was he when he became general secretary? Who had ever heard of him? The "new politics", the breaking of the mould, conjured up new faces but ones who were unaware of how to proceed.

Camargo has accused Jarabo of "improvisation". But what else could he have engaged in? Podemos are improvisational. They are, as Mariano Rajoy was at pains to point out, an "experiment". This is a party founded in the cloisters of academe, a laboratory exercise of competing compounds exploding in the test tube.

There may not have been a blank sheet of paper - quite the contrary given the hundreds of items that were to find their way on to the Podemos manifesto - but there was a blankness of procedure. Hard though they try to adhere to a new democratisation via citizens' councils, there is always the potential for a leadership to plough its own furrow. Essentially, this has been one of the criticisms of Jarabo. His proximity to PSOE and Més has supposedly been greater than his proximity to the "bases".

Might, therefore, Jarabo have been undone because of pragmatism? Podemos have refused to kowtow to the established order - witness, for instance, their non-support for Sánchez and his pact with the reviled (by Podemos) Ciudadanos - but in certain instances they have. The Council of Mallorca is an example. It may not be a complete bed of roses, but the combination of PSOE, Més and Podemos has worked with comparative harmony. If Camargo takes over, and perhaps this is Jarabo's fear, the semblance of pragmatism would evaporate.

Ultimately, there is a question of what they really are as a party. Yes, there is a certain maturity, and the electorate will now want a firmer indication. Podemos have passed from being new. They are still an experiment, a work in progress, but their divisions could bring progress to a grinding halt and eventual failure.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 May 2017

Morning high (7.14am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 18 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 19 May - Shower, sun, 22C; 20 May - Sun, cloud, 23C

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

Fresher morning. Cloudless. Pretty much perfect.

Evening update (21.30): High of 28.3C.

Blame Madrid: The Timing Of Finance

Timing, as they say, is everything. Or perhaps it is nothing. On balance, I'm sticking with everything.

The regional government has been at it again. Its politics of finance are guided by one principle: blame Madrid. If it weren't for the national government (by which is meant the Partido Popular), the Balearics would be awash with cash. The Balearics lead Spain, lead much of Europe when it comes to economic growth. Yet the Balearics are impoverished. Blame Madrid for its unjust financing system and perhaps a small dollop of right versus left politics.

The impoverishment is of course over-egged. It is over-milked as well. To the eggs are applied great scoops of cream, all of them aimed at the fat of the national government to the detrimental wasting-away of the slimline Balearics. The latest cake with dairy topping that has been baked by the regional finance ministry is one of "liquidity tensions", by which one is supposedly meant to believe there is some form of cash flow crisis.

Madrid is denying the Balearic government spending of nigh on 150 million euros. The spending can't be made because Madrid wants some of its money back from the debt that the region has with the state. Here is another example, therefore, of how Madrid attacks the ever poorer Balearics and the deprived citizens of the islands.

The financing system is, pretty much everyone agrees, including Madrid, somewhat cockeyed. But the 150 million euros haven't got to do with this directly. They have to do with the regional capacity to spend, something restricted and monitored by law - the Montoro Law, named after the national finance minister.

While I am generally inclined to agree with the regional government when it comes to the financing system, the problem I have is with the constant narrative. It is a political one, pure and simple. If services aren't invested in, for example, it's not the regional government's fault. Blame Madrid. I do also have some sympathy because the current government, despite its left complexion, has proved to be pretty decent at financial management. There again, it has to be, because Madrid insists on this. Edging into surplus, which is expected this year, owes at least something, regardless of the Balearic giveaway because of the distributive financing system that props up other regions, to tax revenues. Economic growth swells coffers, even if it doesn't find its way into employees' pay packets.

The timing was everything. Making plain its disgust with Madrid over the 150 million euros and alerting us all to the existence of a possible surplus, the government was making a plea to be allowed to spend all the extra revenue sloshing around. It can't because Madrid won't let it, just like Madrid won't let town halls spend their surpluses. This was the timing. No sooner had the government pleaded for greater spending flexibility, than Congress was letting it be known that there is to be a modification to the Montoro Law.

The Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, presided over, it might be noted, by Palma's mayor, José Hila, had succeeded in getting a budget amendment approved with full-party support. Balearic town halls will, it is understood, be able to invest some 400 million euros from their 2016 surpluses: the Montoro Law is to be partly busted after all. There are 67 municipalities in all. On average, not that it will work out this way, this will mean almost six million each. For the more prudent town halls and those with greater surpluses, the investment potential will doubtless be much greater.

The timing wasn't nothing. It was everything because the government would have known what was afoot in Congress. Or does no one in PSOE in the government, e.g. the Balearic president or finance minister, speak to Hila? Relationships are known not to be great, but when there are 400 million knocking around even the more difficult relationships can be smoothed. Of course the government knew.

So now, the government can say that if there is some loosening of town halls' purse strings, there will be even greater injustice if it is not permitted to have similar flexibility. The politics of finance can thus advance a further step. Madrid can be blamed ever more.

In fact, the government may not wish to harp on too much about this. It plays the siege mentality to its political advantage, while questions might be asked about whether it was aware of the possible modification of the Montoro Law much earlier. The town halls were distinctly miffed at not getting any tourist tax revenue for direct investment this year. They will now be in a position to fund projects a different way, with investment from the surplus allowable this year and in 2018. Did the government know earlier? The politics of finance, as with timing, are everything.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 May 2017

Morning high (7.26am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 17 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 18 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 19 May - Sun, showers, 22C

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

Some white cloud around first thing and may be at times during the day. Otherwise sunny and warm.

Evening update (19.45): Bit of a whopper today. High of 29.2C.

The Lost Ten Per Cent: Tourism Quality

For the first four months of the year, German tourism sales to Mallorca for this year were down by up to ten per cent. The headline to this effect, used by a number of sources, would be designed to surprise or shock: a harbinger of doom for the island's tourism industry.

Figures for increase or decrease in tourism numbers are quoted over and over again. Only some should be taken as being worthy of attention. If a small tour operator makes an announcement, either way, it is of little consequence. If Tui speaks, then far more notice should be taken. But of greater significance still is what is said by organisations which provide aggregate evidence.

Spain's overseas tourism offices are examples of such organisations. They exist in various capital and other major cities. It is their job to provide accuracy and market intelligence. When they speak, they should be listened to.

Álvaro Blanco Volmer is the director of the Munich office. It was he who gave the up to ten per cent news. But was he particularly alarmed? Actually not. The decreasing number was in fact evidence of strategy working. This strategy is to wheedle out the low-spending tourist class in favour of the "quality" end. The disappearing ten per cent seemingly rank among the Cs of the ABC socioeconomic classification.

Who's strategy is this? Mostly everyone's. Tour operators want higher spenders (so long as they can continue to flog volume). Destinations want them. Governments want them. But not all. There are destinations and governments currently desperate for anyone they can attract. Holidays in some places are almost being given away. Tour operators won't like that, much though they might talk up recovering destinations.

You have to therefore be careful with headlines such as the German ten per cent. The wrong conclusions can be drawn if you don't look beyond their surprise value. But there is some surprise insofar as the decrease, assuming it is maintained for the year as a whole, is considered to be a positive because of a greater concentration on the "quality" end of the market. We've been here before, and it was the German market which was once up in arms because of it.

When tourism declined in 2002 to the tune of some half a million visitors, the blame was placed solely on the ecotax. This is one of the great myths about that tax. It might not have helped, but the downturn was predominantly a German one. It fell by 16% (the UK market went down by just over one per cent). The overall decline was 7.6%, which was all but reversed the following year. In addition to the German economy having been in a short recession, there had, just as importantly, been all the outrage over remarks made by Balearic politicians regarding the quality of German tourism - the low-spending end. As a consequence, there was something of a boycott.

Now, however, the situation is different, and as Blanco Volmer pointed out, it is more important to talk about millions of euros rather than millions of tourists. If a low-spending percentage of the German millions doesn't come, then so be it.

His observation was reinforced by the news from the UK. Tourism numbers are up by 3%. However, more doesn't mean better. The hoteliers federation explained that UK tourists spend less than most other nationalities. They aren't quite the poor men of Europe - the French, very much in the doldrums, can probably claim this title - but they are certainly not among the high-flying spenders of, say, the Netherlands. There is, therefore, an issue with the "quality" of part of the UK market.

The hoteliers' president, Inma Benito, gave a presentation towards the end of last month in which she said that Mallorca will never be able to compete on price with the likes of Turkey, once and if they recover. Turkey, it might be noted, doesn't look look as if it is recovering, certainly not where some markets are concerned. The Swedes, for instance, are shunning it. But assuming there is something like full recovery of these other destinations (still a pretty big assumption), the hoteliers won't be taking them on over price. The Benito thesis is multiply rather than add, by which she means that the value of the product has to go up through innovation and competitiveness. And with the value of the product going up, so does the price, thus squeezing out the low-spending end of the market.

The island's tourism industry is heading into uncharted territory. Some politicians would be only too happy to see tourist numbers decrease, but the hoteliers don't see it that way. The numbers can be retained. New markets will compensate for losses in others. Can they be completely confident? How much "quality" will be prepared to back their strategy?

Monday, May 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 May 2017

Morning high (8.04am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 16 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 May - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 May - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Should be sun all the way today.

Evening update (20.00): And sun it was. High of 27.3C.

Real Family And Friends Shouldn't Be Forgotten

The government's housing act is to be used to assist with its tourism regulation. The announcement from the land ministry that the housing bill will include provision for a deposit for rentals of less than a month equivalent to the value of two months' rent can only be interpreted as an attempt to attack the blatantly touristic rentals offered under the tenancy act.

This has to be seen in the context of the government's wish that Madrid reforms the tenancy act so that there is a minimum of one month rental. Madrid may not do this, and the government knows that. It is therefore looking at different approaches to affect legislation - the tenancy act - which isn't its to directly amend: it is a national law and not a regional one.

The two months' requirement, which would seem to also be being contemplated for any type of rental under the tenancy act (bizarrely, given the government's desire to increase access to housing), has been booted upstairs to the Consultative Council, the legal body which is used to check on the regional government's legislation. It normally doesn't get involved, but it is significant that the government should have noted that it is being consulted.

As far as I am aware - and please, if anyone knows otherwise, let me know - more than one month's deposit cannot be demanded according to the tenancy act. If this is indeed the case, then it would seem as if the government is seeking legal opinion as to whether it can proceed.

If it does go ahead with this (assuming there is no legal challenge, which there may well be), part of me thinks that it's not such a bad idea. There again, how enforceable would this deposit be and so how many such deposits would actually be paid? Moreover, and while I'm in full agreement with the government seeking to close the tenancy act loophole, I am concerned about the scope of what it intends to be the legislation (or would like to be the legislation). The deposit idea highlights this and in particular the genuine use of holiday accommodation by "family and friends".

When they were in government and being extremely obstinate in not facilitating some liberalising of the holiday apartment market, the PP did at least make constant reference to the fact that family and friends would of course still be able to have access to accommodation. The family and friends - the genuine ones - seem to have been totally forgotten now.

There are owners whose use of apartments is confined to themselves and to a handful of weeks' occupancy by family (or close friends). Such owners should not have to become bogged down in bureaucracy or indeed be subject to forms of legal (and moral) restraint. They certainly shouldn't have to demand two months' deposit from family members. Nor should, for example, contributions to paying electricity bills be treated as income. It's arrant nonsense that any of this might apply.

The problem is of course knowing who is genuine and who isn't. The government, one has the impression, has given up bothering with any distinction and up to a point one can understand why. That doesn't make its stance any less unreasonable though.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 May 2017

Morning high (8.08am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 15 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 16 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 May - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4, temporarily Southwest.

Another splendid morning. For the week ahead, no change until possibly Friday. The five-day forecast suggests that there might be showers then, though that could all change.

Evening update (19.15): A fair amount of cloud around but plenty of sunny spells. High of 28.5C.

The Spice Girls Take Over Podemos

The sisterhood is rising up within Podemos. I'd like to be able to truly align them with The Spice Girls, but once one gets beyond Scary Spice (Palma's Aurora Jhardi), the comparisons do rather dry up. Not that there isn't Girl Power, just that, in all honesty, who could be Baby? Posh? Most definitely not. Likewise, the leader wouldn't qualify as Ginger. Laura Camargo, the Boot Girl (or Boot Spice, if you prefer), is someone David Lynch could have imagined for Twin Peaks: a Nadine Hurley with specs rather than a patch, possessed of superhuman strength and some disturbing secrets hidden beneath the patio.

Laura, it would seem, is about to strike a blow against the brotherhood. And there is no brother more eminent in the Balearics Podemos than Alberto Jarabo. The current general secretary, Alberto is about to feel the full force of the unleashed sisterhood combined with the support of brothers as well. Basically, he's on his way out, and Laura will ascend to the Podemos throne (metaphorically speaking, because there are no thrones in Podemos-land).

This in part is all the fault of His Royal (sic) Podemos-ness, Pablo Iglesias. He apparently took all good Balearic Podemosites by surprise when he said on telly that there would be primaries for the Balearic leadership next month. This had been planned for later in the year under the terms of whatever citizens' council had determined it thus (and there are any number of such councils inhabiting the Podemos sphere).

It was then thought that this wasn't such a surprise after all, as an early vote would leave the way open for Alberto to be re-elected. Laura wouldn't have time to gather her troops and would in any event prefer to show unified solidarity with Alberto. In other words, it had been a manipulation by Pablo to ensure Alberto could continue rather than allowing Laura to take over. And why would he want this? Well, that's because Laura represents the loony anti-capitalist faction, which received something of a trouncing when Podemos Central were having their run-off to decide the leadership, which Iglesias won convincingly.

Initially, it looked as if Alberto and Pablo would get their wish. Then Laura (or someone on behalf of Laura) dropped hints that she would have a crack at becoming gen-sec. Alberto intimated that, in the cause of unity and solidarity (etc.), he might step aside, before making it clear that he wouldn't be. Meanwhile, the Spice Girls had rallied round Laura.

Their number has dwindled markedly in parliament ever since Xelo and Montse were exiled to the Valley of the Fallen behind the PP and forced to become part of the shapeless Mixed Group. Not, it has to be said, that Xelo and Montse would qualify Spice-wise; they're more on the Susan Boyle popular spectrum. But they are out in force elsewhere, such as in Palma with Scary Spice and the endearingly bonkers Eva Frade. Scary said that it would be very positive to have a feminist activist as gen-sec. Eva declared that Laura has thus far provided a "master class on how to conduct new politics", while Sandra Espeja (who conserves the environment on behalf of the Council of Mallorca) believed that Laura's elevation would "feminise" the party. (She, Sandra, might just pass as Sporty, by the way.)

Feminists among the brotherhood then also pitched in on Laura's side. The latest is that there is a "manifesto" under the hashtag of "unity has the name of woman" which has been signed by some one hundred Podemos sorts, numbered among them being Balti, who hadn't previously seemed to wish to take sides. Now faced with all this demand for unity in the name of Laura, Alberto really hasn't gone anywhere to go. Other than out. If he doesn't go, it's impossible to see how he could command the Podemos ranks in parliament, given that all Podemos deputies are backing Laura.

It isn't simply a desire for a woman to be in charge that is behind all this. Laura, it is generally accepted, is more adept than Alberto. Moreover, Alberto, it has been said, hasn't fully got it with the consultative style of Podemos, while there is a perception that he is too easily persuaded to fall in line with PSOE and Més. Laura is less likely to be, which could make life uncomfortable for the matronly Francina Armengol.

Anyway, while all this was going on, the news emerged of a gaff in Son Serra de Marina that Alberto had sublet. More than just sublet, he had apparently been offering it via websites specialising in holiday rentals. He was doing what!? Adding to tourist saturation? A statement subsequently explained that this was all above board, the owner had given permission and Alberto had declared it.

Was news of this subletting just a coincidence? Who can say, other than "I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want ...".

Saturday, May 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 May 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 14 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 15 May - Sun, cloud, 24C; 16 May - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Sun's out, quite fresh, nice morning for a 70.3 Ironman triathlon. Warmer later though for all that cycling and running.

Evening update (20.00): Very good day. High of 29C inland, two to three degrees lower on the coast.

Transferring Responsibilities For Tourism

Menorca will have 6.3 million euros to spend on tourism promotion next year. Lucky old Menorca, a beneficiary of the magnanimous gesture by the regional government to facilitate islands' own promotion, which is something the islands should have been doing for years.

One says this, but the islands have in fact been engaged in their own promotion in the past and now in the present. They are fully entitled to under the statutes of autonomy which grant rights for tourism organisation to the island councils. At present, though, there is a grand and ongoing ceremony for the transfer of responsibilities, as if these haven't existed. The real meaning behind this ceremonious "traspaso" is money, which is where Menorca's 6.3 million enters the equation. How much does the Balearic Tourism Agency spend on promotion? Not as much as Menorca will be next year. It currently spends around half the amount, and if Podemos had its way, it would be no more one tenth the amount.

There is an additional meaning, the true sense (perhaps) of responsibility. The islands, keepers of their own promotional fortunes, will be able to determine what they promote and how they promote. In marketing terms, they will be able to differentiate and devise products in support of this differentiation. They will become their own brands.

Ibiza, it should be noted, already possesses these official responsibilities. The road to the transfer to all the islands has been a long and tortuous one, with political obstacles and opportunism making it alternatively a rocky or smooth way. Because José Ramón Bauzá had his "issues" with Ibiza (or rather Ibiza had its issues with him), that island acquired its responsibilities when he was president. As attempts go in trying to keep electorates and party members sweet, it wasn't a notable success.

Bauzá, if only in a half-hearted fashion, had intended handing responsibilities to all the islands. He was unable to primarily because of money. Formentera, in particular, was outraged at how little was on offer. Mallorca, under the austere management of Maria Salom, didn't want the responsibilities because of the cost and potential for duplication.

Tourism minister Biel Barceló, when he was a member of the opposition, attacked the Bauzá government over its failure to comply with the legality of transfer. This came back to haunt him when the PP taunted him earlier this year for precisely the same reason. It had been understood that responsibilities were to have been transferred at the start of this year: they obviously weren't.

The financial allocations to the other islands are still a bit of a mystery. Menorca has gone public and its 6.3 million is a substantial amount. The president of the Council of Mallorca, Miquel Ensenyat, said in January that his council might expect some nine million euros. This, however, would be an "outrage", not because it would be too little but because it would be too much. It would be outrageous to spend so much on tourism promotion.

Ensenyat, who has made no bones about his desire to turn the Council into a de facto government for Mallorca, is nevertheless astute enough to recognise the dangers not just of budgets but also of duplication. Under Maria Munar and Francina Armengol, the Council created duplication aplenty: tourism was just one area. When dismissing the nine million euros as outrageous, he also said that the Council was working on trying to establish the framework for the tourism responsibilities. It was a revealing statement. No one was too sure what was to be transferred.

When he made these observations, Ensenyat was in Madrid for the Fitur tourism fair. And why was he there? If, in theory, the Council of Mallorca doesn't yet have responsibilities for promotion, then what is it doing attending a major event like Fitur? But it does have responsibilities and it does its own promotion, such as the cartoon map it produced (which was rather clever) and that was on show at Fitur. Moreover, these responsibilities appear to be divided between the departments for economic affairs and for culture. The Walking on Words initiative, as an example, is a culture department product. It can be dressed up as culture, but it is a tourism promotion device.

Things are a muddle. That much is clear. Or not. Fundamentally, the islands should have responsibilities. They differ from each other. They should be branded according to the attributes that each possesses. The global Balearic brand has never made much sense. But at the very moment when they are to acquire the cash (meaningful cash in the case of Menorca) to do so, there is the political requirement to rein back on promotion because of the horrors of saturation.

The transfers are to be in place for the start of 2018, but one forms the impression - because of this political requirement - that the government would prefer that they weren't.

Friday, May 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 May 2017

Morning high (7.58am): 17.3C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 13 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 14 May - Sun, cloud, 26C; 15 May - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Light cloud cover. See if this lifts or not. It's expected to. Weekend weather - sunny and warm.

Evening update (20.15): High of 26.7C. Very blowy. Sunny but plenty of light cloud as well.

Charlatans And Chambao: Mallorca's Festival

Mallorca doesn't have music festivals. Not the type of music festival, that is, which we associate with the likes of Glastonbury. That festival, gentrified out of all recognition, was a product of the Woodstock era. I remember it well. My first venture forth into the world of the festival was in a field belonging to farmer Ted Askey. It was known as Hollywood but was nothing like Hollywood. I was fourteen. The Grateful Dead performed in the UK for the first time. I was lucky to have survived the weekend without having contracted hypothermia. Happy days.

There are different types of festival in Mallorca. Typically, they can last for weeks. Deya's International Music Festival, which started last week, goes on for months: a concert most Thursdays at the marvellous Son Marroig. Refined it is, classical it is; Ted Askey's farm it most certainly is not. Another, Pollensa's, is shorter - throughout August - but is equally civilised. The classical world locates itself in the cloister of the Sant Domingo Convent.

Because of the time they take and because also of the style of music, these are not festivals in the grand tradition of muddy fields of an English summer. On mainland Spain, there are such events. Benicàssim is probably the prime example. To be held from 13 to 16 July, this year's acts feature Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kasabian, Foals, Deadmau5, Biffy Clyro, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Liam Gallagher. That's what one calls a proper festival line-up. And there's little possibility of any hypothermia or indeed mud.

The Mallorca Live Festival, to be held at the old Aquapark in Magalluf, is about as close as it gets. Two evenings/nights over this weekend and with no camping-out overnight, it may not strictly speaking conform to the criteria for the genuine festival, but let's not quibble too much. There is at least a festival.

One thing that festivals reveal is how enduring groups are. Or how often they re-form and revive. It wasn't a festival, but the lamented Mallorca Rocks Hotel used to do this. New Order, Madness: names almost ancient turned up in Magalluf. This weekend's festival takes us back to the days of Madchester. Although they weren't from Manchester (Tim Burgess was originally from Salford, it might be noted, however), The Charlatans were bracketed with that era. In their current incarnation, they'll be performing material from their new album, Different Days. It has a distinct nod in the direction of Manchester and the Hacienda. The Smiths' Johnny Marr features, as does New Order's Stephen Morris. There again, so also does Paul Weller: Woking was certainly not Manchester.

While The Charlatans and Placebo, who sort of reinvented glam in the 1990s, will have UK indie lovers salivating, the Spanish contingent shouldn't be overlooked. Most notable among the domestic acts, where I'm concerned, is Chambao. If the name means nothing, it may be that you can recall a promotional advert for Andalusian tourism. It was a vibrant and startling video. The music came from Chambao. The song was Ahí Estás Tú, which is arguably what the group is still best known for.

The group has undergone changes over the years. Singer Lamari, who has fought cancer, is the only survivor from the original line-up of a group which did more than perhaps any other to define "flamenco chill". They did so to such an extent that Sony's first Flamenco Chill compilation featured them heavily. The second compilation is the better known. Chambao were on that as well, as also were the Fundación Eivissa, a DJ/producer duo, associated with the club scene as much as with chill. The two teamed up on occasion. The strings remix of Chambao's Verde Mar was and remains an astonishingly powerful crossover of flamenco chill, folk and electronica.

So, Mallorca has its festival. It may not be in the grand tradition, but it is certainly welcomed. One day maybe there will be one, though where it might be held is a question. And also when it might be held. An oddity about this weekend's festival is that one of the two stages is called Stage Mallorca Better in Winter, presumably a promo for the Balearic government's campaign. Winter doesn't quite hack it where a festival is concerned. The other stage, Sol House, does.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 May 2017

Morning high (7.32am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 12 May - Sun, cloud, 25C; 13 May - Sun, 26C; 14 May - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Somewhat cloudy and breezy early on. Mix of cloud and sun to come with highs expected to top 80 in old money.

Evening update (20.00): High of 27.7C. Warm but also windy and with light cloud.

Blue Flags: Time Has Caught Up

Here we go again. The annual Blue Flags' song and dance. It's a story which is annually destined to occupy the front pages. That's only natural. For a society and an economy with the beach so close to their hearts, it's bound to, though once upon a time of course, there was no story. That was because there was no Blue Flag.

Matilde Asián, the national secretary-of-state for tourism, was able to glow in the spotlight of the number of flags fluttering on Spain's beaches. The Blue Flag, at the time of its inception thirty years ago, was ahead of its time. She was right. In the 1980s the world had still to wake up to the imperative of water quality. The world was still comparatively lazy and indifferent when it came to matters of the environment. The Blue Flag was a fantastic initiative.

Biel Barceló, the Balearic tourism minister, has said of the Blue Flag that tourists don't particularly value it. When he came out with this last year, he plunged the government into an argument with ADEAC, the organising association in Spain. There was talk of its legal people getting involved. The government was casting doubt on the Blue Flag and causing damage to it.

My reaction to Barceló was to thank God that someone had officially raised doubts about the Blue Flag. Let me be clear, the initiative does do an immense amount of good, but for a number of years it had been coming clear - to me at any rate - that it had gone way beyond its original purpose (that of water quality). It had started to carve out its own empire, adding ever more criteria and requirements.

At the same time, the general beachgoing public was far less indifferent to quality than it might once have been. Its environmental antennae had been alerted by the Blue Flag in its early years, but it was becoming ever more demanding, regardless of the Blue Flag. Sanitary conditions, good services, rescue facilities, etc., etc.: the public demanded them and expected them. Legislation, local regulations made sure that these demands and expectations were met. The Blue Flag was incidental.

Barceló said that tourists don't value the Blue Flag. In some parts of the globe, I suspect they do. That's because of parts of the world that have been playing catch-up on an environmental front. In the Balearics and Spain there have been laws both domestically and European which over many years have rectified many of the wrongs and which have made Spain a world leader for tourism. Yes, we hear about pollution in the Med, we do hear about the plastic that is washed up, we do hear about the occasional spillages of faecal water or about garbage floating. There isn't perfection, but where there is evidence, something is usually done, and if it isn't there is someone to take a photo or video and post it on social networks and scare local authorities into action.

What do tourists (or residents, come to that) take notice of? A Blue Flag? Be honest, do you? Are you in fact bothered about the various certifications for quality that numerous beaches have in Mallorca? Maybe you are. For the most part, I don't think people pay a great deal of attention. That's because quality is now taken as a given, and it comes about for all sorts of reasons, and generally speaking it is guaranteed, notwithstanding the occasional unfortunate incident. Barceló was right.

Far more notice is taken of what is knocking around the internet. If TripAdvisor reveals that such and such a beach is wonderful, then people will accept that it is. Recommendations are vastly more powerful than a flag. Likewise, if there are bad reviews, then a beach (and resort) may well suffer.

Playa de Muro's beach regularly attracts accolades. They come because of the excellent quality that is guaranteed in different ways. Yes, there is a Blue Flag but it is only one of several quality certifications. That it has been identified and praised by the Blue Flag organisers for its rescue service is even more reason for it to receive accolades. But the outstanding service which exists there is because the town hall (and business) have been so determined to push ever more the quality of the beach. The Blue Flag is nice but it isn't central and nor did it have anything to do with the creation of the medical emergency rapid response team at the beach.

The Blue Flags are an annual event. They are like the Oscars or Baftas without the gowns and bow ties. Or this at least is how they might wish to be perceived. The fact is that the annual ceremony passes many by, such as the municipalities who can't be bothered with the process. They have other means of demonstrating quality. Ahead of its time. Time has caught up.