Monday, July 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 July 2017

Morning high (6.06am): 22C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 August - Cloud, 37C; 2 August - Cloud, sun, 32C; 3 August - Sun, 32C

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

Quite likely that highs inland will touch 40C again today. There are significant variations with coastal temperatures, for which the forecast high of 33C will probably be more accurate. As for tomorrow, there is an amber alert whereas it is yellow today.

Evening update (20.00): Not as hot as yesterday. A high of only 37.4C.

The Very Best Of The North Of Mallorca

The coming week demonstrates just how vibrant popular culture is in the north of the island. It is a week marked by two festivals and one of the grandest of fiesta occasions not only in the north but on the whole island. The Sa Pobla Jazz Festival starts today, the first concert for the Pollensa Music Festival is next Saturday, and on Wednesday - and really needing no introduction - it is the Moors and Christians battle in Pollensa. It is a week during which the north shows itself off to Mallorca and beyond.

The Sa Pobla Jazz Festival celebrates its twenty-third staging. The festival, rather like Pollensa's, ran into some problems during the years of economic crisis. They were financial. The festival has long prided itself on attracting international artists and on presenting them for free. Such a principle was almost inevitably going to run into obstacles at some point, which is what happened. The cost of the artists, of their travel and their accommodation was just one of the financial concerns. So much so that the festival was threatened. Until, that is, sponsorship and collaborative arrangements were put in place. A brief dalliance with charging (a meagre three euros) no longer applies. The concerts are once more free.

This year's festival shows how it constantly evolves. There is a return to spacing out the main concerts rather than their being concertinaed into successive days, but there is also a whole series of "off festival" concerts, which means that the whole season lasts much longer than previously. From today until Sunday, 27 August there will be a concert every evening in the Plaça Major.

Starting things off is veteran saxophonist Ernie Watts. His remarkable CV owes much to legendary drummer Buddy Rich. Watts was the lead sax player in the Rich orchestra. Over the years he has played with various other jazz legends - Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Pat Metheny - and on a broader level with Marvin Gaye, Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones. With his quartet he has more than twenty albums under his belt.

The second main concert is on Wednesday, 9 August. Richard Bona - bassist and vocalist - explores the crossover between African music and American/European jazz in a mix called Mandekan Cubano. He himself is from Cameroon rather than Cuba. Guilia Valle is Italian but lives in Barcelona. She is one of the most creative bassists on the whole international jazz scene. Her trio, which performs on 16 August, includes the top-rated Menorcan pianist Marco Mezquida.

A few years ago, the Pollensa Music Festival looked doomed. Founded in 1962 by British violinist Philip Newman with the help of key figures at the Club Pollença and town hall, the festival lost funding from the regional tourism ministry. The government was cutting back because of crisis, and cultural events took a hit.

A great deal of credit for the festival's survival has to go to its former director Joan Valent. World renowned for his film scores, Valent was brought in as its saviour. He called in favours from his many contacts, who included the British pianist and composer Michael Nyman. The festival's future was secured.

But not everyone was happy with how the festival was developing. Valent broadened its scope, even including gastronomy. It was a Mexican theme one year that attracted certain criticism, not least because Valent spends much of his time in Mexico. The criticisms, however, were very unfair. The festival owes a great debt to him, including the fact that he dipped into his own pocket.

No longer the director, the organisation of the festival is now a collaborative exercise, and its focus has returned solely to the concerts. The first, on Saturday, 5 August, features the Gabrieli Consort, a choir and period instrument orchestra founded and led by its artistic director Paul McCreesh. The Gabrieli mission is "to challenge common and accepted perceptions of classical music, and to re-invigorate and innovate in order to sustain the relevance of these great pieces of art in the twenty-first century".

Amidst all this music, we have the climax to Pollensa's La Patrona. The Moors and Christians will battle it out as they do every year from seven in the evening on 2 August. There is total continuity with the final day of the fiestas - it's the same each year - from the Alborada at five in the morning to the Thanksgiving following the battle and to the fireworks. One of the great days of summer, if not the greatest.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 July 2017

Morning high (6.34am): 21.1C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 31 July - Sun, 33C; 1 August - Cloud, 36C; 2 August - Cloud, sun, 31C

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

Locked into a wind pattern from the southeast which is generating the high temperatures, this may swing northerly by midweek and cool things down a tad. A good night tonight for the fireworks in Playa de Muro.

Evening update (19.15): High of 39.9C inland in Sa Pobla: up to six degrees lower on the coast.

When The King Met Balti

Do you suppose that when the King's packing for his summer hols he thinks to himself who on Earth are the Mallorcans going to drag out for me this time? One guesses that he doesn't need to as he is already well aware. The Royal Household presumably has a sort of regional politician ProZone software analysis replete with video footage to put on DVD for his Majesty. The King will know in advance how to play the Mallorcan politicos.

He's getting used to it. Francina and her ilk are a piece of cake, as they conform to the norm for the smiling photo opportunities. Others are less so. Previously the King was confronted with Xe-Lo. Why doesn't His Majesty, rather than splash out for the Almudaina thrash, spend it all on soup kitchens for the downtrodden citizens of Palma, she inquired of him. The question hadn't, though, prevented Xe-Lo attending the thrash and eating all the pies.

Balti is another thing altogether. How often does the Royal Household arrange audiences for the King and haul in the bass guitarist from a heavy rock band? Not too often, one would think. What do they talk about? Does Balti offer tips on Converse footwear? Might the King (and Queen) think about kitting out the nippers with such informal feet furniture? We'll find out tomorrow when the family does its annual photo pose in the Marivent Gardens (appropriately closed to the general public). If it's anything like last year, Balti will be disappointed. The royal 2016 collection was like a Marks and Sparks summer pastels range with a slight nautical theme for him and her and the kids. There was certainly no sign of any Converse.

The King, you may not know, does Facebook, though one suspects that someone does it for him. If he really did it, one might expect one of those hilarious (sic) interventions on statuses which goes - That awkward moment when you ... (add as applicable). In the King's case, it would be - That awkward moment when you are presented with an extreme Republican with hair down his back and a pair of Converse sneakers. To which, if it were really him and his friends, Tizzy might reply - "You ok, hun?"

In fact, the King might want to have a word with whoever at the Royal Household does his Facebook page. There are four snaps of him with the happy politicos. And they are all obviously happy. Francina is positively radiant and beaming. Balti is clearly delighted. Mick of the Council is pleased enough with himself, while Noggin of Palma town hall bears the contented look of someone who has just been made mayor (which he has). The King on the other hand ... .

But if one looks carefully at the King's status with these photos, one finds in the accompanying texts that Francina, Mick and Noggin are, respectively, D.ª Francina Armengol i Socías, D. Miquel Ensenyat Riutort and D. Antoni Noguera Ortega. They are therefore either Dona or Don. But with Balti it's just Baltasar Picornell i Lladó. No Don for Balti. Perhaps he had requested there shouldn't be. Either way, we should be told.

* The King on Facebook:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 July 2017

Morning high (7.18am): 20.7C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 30 July - Sun, 34C; 31 July - Sun, 31C; 1 August - Cloud, 32C

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

In an especially hot pattern at present, the met office saying that highs next week could reach 42C somewhere on the island.

Evening update (20.15): High of 37.9C (Sa Pobla).

Dying Of Success

The Cercle d'Economia de Mallorca is an entity linked to the Chamber of Commerce. As its title suggests, it concerns itself with economic affairs, but it looks at the economy in a broad way. The thinkers who contribute to its periodic statements consider social affairs and the environment as well as business and finance. It is not a number-crunching body; more a kind of think tank.

Like the Chamber of Commerce, when the "Circle" comes out with something, it merits attention. Here are two entities which are typified by talking common sense. In the case of the Chamber, it backs its views up with solid research. Unlike some other organisations, and especially political parties, they both give the impression of impartiality and of not operating according to a predefined agenda. They are worth listening to.

The Circle, it should be noted, has collaborating members that include banks and companies in the tourism sector - the Barceló hotel group is one. This may hint at a bias, but generally not. And its latest statements are representative of its independent thought. Mallorca, it concludes, is heading towards death because of the success of the island's mass tourism. "There are objective reasons to believe that Mallorca is dying of success due to the massive influx of tourists." There is "unsustainable growth leading to socioeconomic decline with low-skilled occupations and low wages".

The conclusions it makes are that quantitative growth needs to be limited. It has to give way to qualitative growth before the strengths which characterise Mallorca are lost: the environment, the general tranquility and security. The time has come, it says, for public authorities, business and the public to stop thinking exclusively about particular interests and focus more on a common benefit for a sustainable future.

There is of course a familiar ring to all this. A curious aspect of the current debate surrounding tourism is that the hoteliers and some left-wing politicians coincide in their views. They may come at the issue from different perspectives and draw different conclusions, but the quantitative versus qualitative argument is shared. But the debate fails to move on because it is mired in the particular interests that the Circle identifies as being obstructive.

The tourism minister, Biel Barceló, cops for a great deal of flak. Be it tourist tax, limits to tourist numbers or holiday rentals, he is the target for regular criticism. While I may disagree with him, especially with regard to the tourist tax, I will also defend him. His instincts are right. He may himself have contributed to a certain hysteria about "saturation", but he was not wrong to have elevated the issue to the heights that it has been. He should be applauded for having sparked off public debate and not be the constant recipient of brickbats.

The problem with Barceló, naturally enough, is that he is a product of his political views. And so one returns to the Circle's "particular interests", which apply just as equally to other political parties (with Podemos holding the most extreme), to the hoteliers and to Aptur, the holiday rentals' association. It is most unlikely that these interests can ever be broken down in pursuing a pact for the common benefit, but there should be such a coming-together. Otherwise, the dire outcome is one of Mallorca dying from its own success, an idea that has been gathering as much currency as saturation.

The simplistic argument goes that there will be a correction in the distribution of European tourists. Mallorca is undergoing short-term saturation because of the Mediterranean's geopolitics. But if this is true, then it is even more important for there to be a consensual understanding of the future.

I was asked by a correspondent recently if I thought mass tourism will have ceased thirty years from now. On balance, I agreed that it probably will. There again, one has to try and define what is meant by mass. This can only be done by placing a numerical value on it: a limit. Mass is at present growing like Topsy. Barceló and the government are attempting to turn back the tide, but they are doing so with the absence of a global vision for the future. And this embraces more than just tourism: a fundamental vision for the island's economic future and diversity.

Predicting how tourism will be thirty years from now is an impossibility. There are too many factors to take account of, just one of them being, I would suggest, climate change. But it is not impossible to shape the future. Barceló is right, the hoteliers are right, the environmentalists are right, Aptur is right. They are all right in their own particular ways. It's these particular ways, however, that need modifying. The common benefit demands this.

Friday, July 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 July 2017

Morning high (6.34am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 29 July - Sun, 33C; 30 July - Sun, 32C; 31 July - Sun, 30C

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

Yellow alert in place for high temperatures today and over the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): High of 35.6C.

The Annual Excursions' Lament

In the early 1930s, the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) organised island coach excursions which left its central Palma building at a quarter past nine in the morning. For eleven pesetas, tourists could choose from a small selection of excursions: one to Valldemossa, Miramar, Deya, Soller and Puerto Soller; another to the Caves of Drach (with concert) and the Caves of Ham; or there was Pollensa, Puerto Pollensa and Formentor. For an extra two pesetas, there was a trip to the Caves of Arta and Cala Ratjada.

One can only imagine the somewhat perilous nature of excursions using coaches of their time on mountain roads. At least they were more comfortable than stage coaches; once upon a time, they were all there were. Another positive would have been the absence of traffic. No hacking along twisty, narrow roads only to be confronted by a pelaton of cyclists and a queue of hire cars. The primitive coach operators, one presumes, derived profit from these excursions. They certainly wouldn't have had to contend with town hall bylaws on parking. There wasn't a trip to Sa Calobra, but nowadays the operators have to reserve parking in advance or incur a whopping charge, courtesy of Escorca town hall.

The nature of excursions has of course changed. The Tramuntana mountains, for instance, give rise to the island tour, one that combines coach with boat, tram and train in taking in Sa Calobra and Soller. Essentially, though, some of the excursions are much as they were in the 1930s. Some forty years later, the ladies of Coronation Street went to Valldemossa, though it required Hilda to remember the name of the place when Emily was writing a postcard to send back home. The current-day Valldemossa trip has run into similar issues as with Sa Calobra: saturation by coach, saturation by tourist. How very different things are in this regard from the 1930s.

The range of excursions available today includes these old faithfuls. And rightly so. Nevertheless, the Balearic association of travel agents suggests that new life needs to be bred into excursions. Innovation is required. The sale of excursions (by travel agents) has apparently slumped by 50% since 2011.

One hears this lament on a regular basis. A year ago, the association said that there had been a 40% decline over four years: 800,000 lost customers. Only one in three of all tourists was booking an excursion. This said, the association indicated that certain excursions were still holding up. They included the Caves of Drach, the island tour and Valldemossa: the old faithfuls.

A year on, and the percentage has risen by ten points: there's simple maths for you. Now, though, the emphasis has shifted towards a need for excursion innovation, while familiar reasons for the decline in the sale of excursions are still being cited: lower tourist spending power and the proliferation of hire cars.

Innovation may indeed be a factor, though one can point to certain operators who are innovative not just in their products but also in their selling, with a strong emphasis on social media. As with any business, innovation should be a given, but sadly it would seem as if it isn't.

There are of course the other factors. For some years, all-inclusives have been the principal target of the agents and of the attractions' association. The number of all-inclusive places, which rose during the crisis, has dented business. But this number is now falling as hotels and tour operators themselves adopt new products. All-inclusive remains a factor, but does it explain what the travel agents say is the unexpectedly high fall in demand this year? Some agents are reporting falls in sales of 20%.

An excursion, as with mostly all tourist spending, is a discretionary purchase. Holidaymakers' budgets will determine the purchase (or not). Add new costs to this budget and there is a further element in guiding the purchasing process. Is it fanciful, therefore, to suggest that the tourist tax is influencing the sale of excursions?

Lamenting lower tourist spending power flies in the face of what the Egatur surveys of spending suggest is the case: spending is going up. But who really believes this? The statistics are, by the very nature of how they are arrived at, not an accurate reflection of in-resort realities. And these realities include the cost of the holiday itself, which has gone up and which - as one can already see with prices being quoted for 2018 - will be going up further. It's not that there is a "cheap" form of tourism; it's that holidaymakers have forked out so much before they even get here. 

Expect, therefore, to hear more lamenting from the travel agents next year. Oh how they must wish things were like the 1930s, when the only tourists were wealthy and unconcerned by prices. Eleven pesetas, with hindsight, sounds very cheap.

*The video is a short one (sixty seconds) of Valldemossa in 1930.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 July 2017

Morning high (6.34am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 28 July - Sun, 33C; 29 July - Sun, 32C; 30 July - Sun, 31C

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

The cloud and odd showers should now be behind us. The outlook for the next several days is sun all the way and quite hot.

Evening update (20.15): High of 33.3C.

What Do We Want From An Airline?

Having been chained, day and night, to a computer in Mallorca for the last seven years, a recent flight seemed like something of an adventure. Unfamiliarity had bred a lack of contempt. Not that I ever had any contempt for Ryanair, easyJet or indeed any other airline.

One's contempt monitor threatened to be activated by the hour spent in the aircraft on the tarmac in Palma. If it had to be any airline, then it was of course Ryanair, although in the inefficiency stakes it should really have been Vueling. One was prepared to take the pilot at his word that the slot with air-traffic control was missed because of the delay to the incoming flight.

The hour's wait wasn't, to be fair, overtaxing or uncomfortable. There again, I was well armed with liquid (water). Not everyone was by any means. Many was the complaint that they should have been giving out free bottles rather than charging three euros a pop. From my perspective, it wasn't a reason to be contemptuous, though it did make me think that I hadn't been missing anything since 2010. 

Prior to the unfortunate announcement by the pilot, there had been the episode with actually getting onto the plane. I certainly couldn't recall it ever having taken so long (which must have been a contributory factor where air-traffic control was concerned). Why was the queue so long and slow? This became clearer the nearer the plane got. Passengers' luggage was being taken from them, tagged and deposited outside to be placed in the hold.

I, who had checked in a modest-sized suitcase, was both curious and baffled. In the airport departures it had become evident that there were all these people with suitcases. Not huge ones, but suitcases nonetheless. They had these cases, only for some of them (not all of them) to be divested of them.

I had of course totally overlooked the fact that one can take luggage on board, so long - in theory - that is no more than ten kilos. This is all part of what Ryanair's Neil Sorahan (chief financial officer) describes as the airline's niceness. Even had I been aware of this generosity, I wouldn't have availed myself of it. Dragging a case (even of modest size) around departures? You must be kidding. To hell with that: here, charge the credit card for the hold luggage.

What one presumes happened was that someone had calculated just how much luggage was destined to go on board. I say presume; I have no idea. But having not paid for hold luggage, a whole bunch of passengers still had to put up with waiting at the reclaim. What was I saying about inefficiency?

Despite the niceness, Ryanair's Sorahan has been less nice where some passengers are concerned. The airline's niceness has rebounded on it. Passengers, in his words, "are taking the piss". On-board luggage can and does exceed ten kilos. People coming with the "kitchen sink" could make the airline change its policy. Then, he adds, there are two-year-olds wheeling a bag onto the plane. Really? Two-year-olds manoeuvring ten kilos, even if they are on wheels?

But it does seem as if the niceness policy has got out of hand, while the nonsense of transferring luggage just as people are about to enter the plane is, well, nonsense.

In this era of low-cost travel, what do people want from an airline? Everything it appears. Cheapness creates demand for ever more cheapness, be it lugging oversize cases onto the plane or free water. The mass-production nature of the low-cost operation brings its downsides; inevitably, it does. The exercise is fundamentally about getting from A to B in the least expensive way possible: expense to both passenger and airline. Accordingly, not everything can be had. A one hundred per cent satisfaction rate, and certainly on a consistent basis, is not achievable.

Such satisfaction becomes ever more difficult to attain when one factors in the sheer scale of low-cost flights. The UK provides over a third of all low-cost passengers in and out of Spain: getting on for eight million of them who vastly exceed the numbers anywhere else. The Spanish bridle somewhat at the knowledge that a) there is so much low-cost travel, b) Ryanair, easyjet and Vueling (part of IAG) account for more than 60% of it, c) these three airlines account for a third of all international passengers.

This is condemned for contributing to "low-cost tourists". It may well do, but it also contributes to a highly buoyant tourism economy, and about the only Spanish-owned airline of any note that has been left standing - Air Europa - is now trying to play low-cost catch-up.

It is mass-production, commodity travel. It's nice because it's cheap. There would be way more complaints if it weren't.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 July 2017

Morning high (6.29am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 27 July - Sun, 31C; 28 July - Sun, 32C; 29 July - Sun, 31C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3. Swells of one metre.

Quite heavy cloud early giving way to a mostly sunny day. The slightly unsettled pattern of the past three days coming to an end.

Evening update (20.15): High of 29.1C. More cloud around than had been forecast. A couple of light showers.

Magalluf Gets A Bad Rap

Rap. It's been around long enough for, one would think, older members of society to remember their youth and remain aficionados of the art. But as time marches on, so musical tastes change. Rap, more than most genres, is youth music, especially given some of the posturing, the lyrics and the attitude.

In its ability to cross cultures, rap, I have always felt, has the capacity to appear ridiculous when white boys are performing it. Essentially a product of black, urban, American culture, it doesn't fit with other cultures. But such an analysis takes no account of how other genres crossed cultures. In the 1960s, the Americans rediscovered the blues and R&B courtesy of British groups. An American record label, Atlantic, was to have major worldwide hits with a white soul group - the Average White Band.

There has always been a cultural intermingling. And rap is no different. It is another form along the continuum of popular music globalisation. And global is how it is. There was no global in the days of rock 'n' roll or The Beatles. Communications technology transformed everything.

Mallorca has its rap. Famously, there is Valtonyc, still awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court's sentence for insulting the crown, wishing harm on the King and various others, and apparently supporting ETA terrorism. Meanwhile, he turns up at different events, one of which will be in Arta this weekend as part of the town's fiestas.

The fiestas have their mix of music parties. There are those for the more mature members of the local community, which typically feature "orchestras" or "trios". Such groups carry an ominous threat. Not of course because they are in any way dangerous or edgy in a rap style, but because they are so depressingly middle of the road. Other parties, usually categorised as "jove", reflect the word in providing more youthful styles - punk, indie, metal, electronica, rap. Some of it can be quite good; some of it can be absolutely dire.

But such is the way with musical democratisation. Punk is said to have been the first expression of this, though the early skiffle groups were really the first. Musical ability wasn't a priority. With electronica, anyone with a creative flair, a good imagination and the right kit (generally speaking not expensive) can make music. Likewise rap doesn't demand an intimate knowledge of instrumentation. Quite the contrary. Sampling provides all that's needed. Plus a stream of lyrical consciousness conveyed with the appropriate gestures, postures and vocal.

The essence of rap is the lyric. The message is all important. Or at least, in its purest form, this is the case. In Calvia, there is a rap group who recently won the Musicalvia contest. They're called Tabú and are a duo - Yerroh and Nilo - embellished by a DJ/electronica producer who is somewhat older than them and goes by the name of Franbass. 

Tabú have released a short video on YouTube. Its title is Punta Ballena. The video includes clips of fights, of balconing, sex and medics attending to victims. According to the group, they are "street people" taking their rap to the street in highlighting the problems of their neighbours. They will be undertaking musical projects of protest, denunciation and social message.

The rap includes lines such as (with modified translation): "This Molotov cocktail is composed of sex, drugs, alcohol. As they have been for many years, no solution. Punta Ballena is outside the system."

The timing of the video - it was published on YouTube at the weekend - might seem somewhat curious. Just a short time after winning an award with the support of Calvia town hall, Tabú have stung this very administration in suggesting that no solution has been applied to the problems of Magalluf (and Punta Ballena in particular). There again, it isn't so curious. For all the efforts being made, there is evidence of backtracking with the likes of bar crawls and little intervention to prevent them, contrary to town hall bylaws.

At the weekend there was a report of yet another Friday night. Of tourists (British possibly) having passed out because of excessive drinking. Yet here we are in late July, a time when the tourist profile supposedly changes. It is persistent, just as it is in Playa de Palma.

Tabú are criticising this type of tourism, but they are also criticising the permissiveness of administrations. No one, they say, has dared to get a grip, because the interests of a few are more important than those of the people who live there and suffer from the problems.

Rap. The message is all important. And in this instance so are the images. Punta Ballena is not especially remarkable in terms of its musical quality, but it packs a powerful message. It deserves to be seen and heard.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 July 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 23.7C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 26 July - Cloud, sun, 28C; 27 July - Sun, 29C; 28 July - Sun, 31C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing East 3 in the afternoon. Swells at times to two metres.

Some fairly heavy cloud first thing. Should break up, with only a low risk of any rain. Overnight there could be showers, but they'll be hoping in Alcudia that these aren't at midnight for the pyromusical spectacular climax to the Sant Jaume fiestas.

Evening update (20.45): High of 28.8C. Cloud stayed around in the morning. A few spots of dirty rain. Sunny spells as well.

Japanese In Sixteenth Century Alcudia

The Portuguese are credited with having been the first Europeans to have genuine contact with Japan. In 1543, Portuguese ships arrived at the island of Tanegashima. It would seem that the Japanese were somewhat taken aback by these Europeans. They ate with their fingers rather than with chopsticks and they couldn't understand written characters. The culture clash was immense. The Portuguese were to come to be known as "nanban": southern barbarians. It wasn't long before all Europeans were given this title.

By that time in the sixteenth century, there was intense rivalry among the Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch to take control of trade routes. In the Far East, the Spanish were in a rather better position to do so than others. The Philippines were to prove to be an important base for trade with China and other Far-Eastern countries, albeit that the Portuguese dominated China-Japan trade for a time. As important as trade was religion. In 1549, a Jesuit missionary, Francisco Xavier, arrived in Japan. He was already experienced in spreading the Catholic faith. He had done so in Portuguese occupied India. He was responsible for Goa having the Inquisition.

The Spanish, with trade as much as religion and global power in mind, for a brief while contemplated armed invasion of Japan. Felipe II was to heed advice (from Francisco Xavier) that this might not be such a great idea. The Japanese, he was informed, were very warlike. Defeat was all that Spain could expect. The advice was very sensible.

So the Spanish settled instead on a strategy of trying to foster good relations, exploiting their pivotal Manila System of trade. The advance of Catholicism, though it did advance, wasn't to be as successful in Japan as it had been in Portuguese territories. For one thing, the Japanese struggled with the notion of equality of all men before God; their caste system simply didn't fit such a philosophy. To try and get round this, a comparison was made between hierarchies. The emperor and the shogun were equated to the pope and the king in terms of, respectively, divine roots and earthly justice.

Another Jesuit, Alessandro Valignano of Naples, arrived in Japan on this day (25 July) in 1579. It may have been a coincidence, but the significance would have been recognised: the feast of Saint James - Santiago, whose remains lay in Compostela. Valignano was the Jesuit inspector (or visitor) of all Jesuit missions stretching from Goa to Japan. He hit on the idea of bringing Japanese boys, taught by the Jesuits, to Europe. His reasoning was twofold. It would raise awareness of Japan among European elites and it would impress upon the Japanese the glory of Christian religion.

This has been described as a Tensho Embassy (Tensho referring to the Japanese era of that time). It wasn't in fact a formal embassy, though the Europeans took it to be. There was, however, some official element. Two of the four boys, all aged around fourteen when they left Japan, were representatives of Christian feudal lords. The boys, each with a European Christian name - Mancio, Michael, Julian and Martin - left Nagasaki in 1582. They finally arrived in Lisbon in 1584 and returned to Nagasaki in 1590.

This Thursday (27 July) in Alcudia, the Via Fora performance of scenes from the town's history (the second of this summer's series) includes one about the Tensho Embassy. In 1585, while travelling from Alicante to Rome, the boys and their delegation stopped off in Alcudia. Quite what the boys made of Alcudia is anyone's guess. Compared with other places they went to in Spain, Portugal and Italy, Alcudia would have been somewhat less representative of the glory of Christian religion than others. Nevertheless, it was at that time something of a bastion of the Holy Roman Empire in Mallorca, having been made a city - only the second one after Palma. Carlos I of Spain, also Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor, had granted Alcudia the title of "most faithful city of the emperor" because of the defiance of the Germanies uprising of 1521.

As to what happened to the boys, well on this day (25 July) in 1591, this time not a coincidence, they were fully admitted to the Jesuit society. But their fates were not to be entirely blessed. Mancio died in 1612, Martin left Japan in 1614, Michael quit the Jesuit order and may well have joined a Buddhist sect. Julian suffered the worst fate. He defied the 1614 order for all Christians to leave Japan. There was repression because of alarm at the influence of Christianity. He was eventually arrested, tortured and martyred.

* Photo: Via Fora, credit Ajuntament de Alcudia Facebook.

Monday, July 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 July 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 23.1C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 25 July - Cloud, 28C; 26 July - Cloud, sun, 28C; 27 July - Sun, 29C

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

Expect things to be similar to yesterday, i.e. fairly cloudy at times. Tomorrow is forecast to be solidly cloudy with possible showers.

Evening update (20.15): High of 32.7C. Some cloud, especially this morning, but ok.

Out Of Africa: Balearic Environmental Protection

There is no more environmentally correct politician in the Balearics than the government's jolly Enviro Man, Vince Vidal. Vince, who has spent a large part of his time as minister figuring out how to fit car parks into the Es Trenc nature park, has somewhat amplified the Balearic environmental brief. Unbeknownst to other ministers and the citizens, Vince had decided to extend fraternal environmental concern to parts of Kenya and Ethiopia and a good chunk of the Indian Ocean.

All of this - it was revealed - is included in the Es Trenc park, which will doubtless come as a surprise to beachgoers who are more concerned with the desperate hunt for a refreshing chiringuito beach bar. (Their refreshment needs are, it needs pointing out, being satisfied by altruistic illegal sellers, who have spied an opportunity.)

What had happened was that Vince, or someone at the ministry, had got the latitudes and longitudes wrong. Hence, the draft of the nature park's law included part of Africa. Fortunately, someone else at a different ministry - the presidency - spotted the fact that Es Trenc had mysteriously been relocated several thousand kilometres south. This was just as well, because the nature park law was on the cusp of being posted to the Official Bulletin, which means that it comes into force. It would have become legal reality, but in the wrong place and indeed wrong continent.

In the spirit of the holiday rentals' legislation fiasco, the government would still have been able to rectify the error by, for instance, issuing a decree re-establishing Es Trenc as part of Mallorca. But the cock-up hardly inspired confidence. As was commented - this is a government that wants to manage the airport? Yes, this is the same government, with Palma airport where Palma airport shouldn't be and renamed Jomo Kenyatta de Mallorca.

But was it really an error? With administrations such as Palma and Calvia town halls having demonstrated their inabilities to deal with certain matters of law and order, can we look forward to other legislation acknowledging these inabilities and fraternally embracing Senegal and Nigeria?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 July 2017

Morning high (7.18am): 24.1C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 24 July - Sun, cloud, 31C; 25 July - Cloud, 27C; 26 July - Cloud, 28C

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

Fine today, possible showers currently forecast for tomorrow through to Wednesday.

Evening update (20.00): Well, not so fine in that it was mostly cloudy all day. High of 31.4C.

The Drunken Meltdown Of Tourism

While millions of tourists were last week enjoying themselves in saturating every available last piece of beach, pool area and road, tourism itself was undergoing a form of meltdown. The vast majority of these massifying millions were in blissful ignorance of the fact that their apartments - some say the source of saturation - would no longer be there when they returned: they had been airbrushed into legalistic oblivion. This was probably due to most of them being drunk. Those who had some awareness were forming the queues of refugee hordes being processed for repatriation, more normally referred to as getting the flight home after the jollies.

Passport control collapsed (as it has been collapsing for some weeks) and tourists themselves collapsed as a consequence of 24/7 binges at all-inclusives. Nothing was said about beaches and roads collapsing as such, but we have by now come to accept that their collapses are givens: the politicians and the environmentalists keep telling us so.

Drunken tourism was at its most drunken inside Palma town hall. Drunk on his newly acquired powers, Noggin the Més Nog was wielding the mayoral wand in hot and determined pursuit of tourist miscreants. Can we expect him to join police patrols and slap a few Germans on their calves with his wand? Maybe, but given the size of some German tourists, the wand might come off second best.

Drinking was firmly on the agenda as he summonsed all manner of officialdom for a Noggy-style dressing-down. Hoteliers came and went, the national government's delegate was invited in for a chat, and they were preceded by the German consul, closely followed by the British vice-consul. Quite why Lucy was there was a bit of a mystery. It isn't unknown for Brits to avail themselves of the occasional alcoholic beverage in Playa de Palma, but let's be honest, when it comes to Palma drunken tourism the Germans are European champions - and by some considerable distance. It is they, rather than the Brits, who form vast Panzer divisions of Germanic youth armed to the teeth with colossal buckets of Jägermeister mixed with Rushkinoff as they re-introduce lebensraum, only this time at the Ballermann.

Maria Salom was Noguera''s final guest for the week (the tour operators are in for their wanding this coming week, which should be fun). As national government delegate, she's hardly the sort to be cowed by an upstart, new-to-the-post mayor.

So Maria was not about to be browbeaten by the wand. Instead, she somewhat surprisingly confessed that there is a security issue in Playa de Palma, i.e. it's overrun by drunken tourists. But, she was able to announce, this lack of security is being tackled by her having requested (and received) a month's extension to the National Police summer reinforcements. Which is all well and good, but Noguera was probably hoping to hear that there would be significantly greater numbers arriving - like now - in order to stop drunken tourists vomiting into Arenal residents' letterboxes.

Meanwhile, the meltdown - aided and abetted by tropical temperatures - was taking place in the air-conditioned debating hall of the Balearic parliament. Such was the drama of the occasion that some chose to dress for the occasion. Salvador Aguilera of Podemos, normally attired in an array of agitprop t-shirts, wore a tie (either borrowed or acquired from the charity shop). Prior to the meltdown debate, Salvi had tweeted that the government's holiday rentals' legislation was set to be blasted into the far blue yonder of the Mediterranean. Podemos were not for voting.

And once they didn't vote for a crucial article in the bill, no one, especially the government, had a clue what was going on. It was only when the lawyers pointed out that the government would be unable to collect the millions in fines' revenues from Airbnb and others that there was the shattering realisation of what had been done. Apart from apartments having been consigned to a Kafka-esque non-existence of neither authorisation nor prohibition, the revenue from the fines to have been earmarked for establishing illegal street sellers' cooperatives would evaporate. Complete meltdown. There was really only one thing to do: go and get drunk.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 July 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 22.7C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 23 July - Sun, cloud, 29C; 24 July - Sun, cloud, 29C; 25 July - Cloud, 28C

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

Steamy feel to the morning. Steamy day ahead.

Evening update (20.30): High of 34.4C.

The Absence Of Tourism Strategy

“I think it’s better to have those drinking ghettoes, Playa de Palma and Magalluf, where people go, rather than these intellectual types of tourists who tramp over everything in their search for the untouched bit, the original Mallorcan, and the residential tourists, who buy up property, buy a car, usually two, swimming pools, and want gardens with plants and grass like at home but that need water.”

Who said this? It might surprise you to learn that it was a spokesperson for the environmentalists GOB. These are the words of Gerard Hau, quoted from an article in The Guardian in May last year. They are words which encapsulate themes of recent days and weeks and point to different extremes of Mallorca's tourism. At one end of the spectrum is the low-grade drunken tourism and its vandalistic in-resort tendencies. At the other is the high-spending luxury class and its own vandalism of the countryside. Within the context of the furore over the holiday rentals' legislation, residential tourism in the countryside has been largely ignored, and by residential tourism one means second homes that are both for rent and just for use by owners.

Among their objections to the legislation, Podemos were determined to put an end to a savaging of the countryside in the pursuit of the up-market rental. Ideologically, one would expect them to, but otherwise they are on the same page as Gerard Hau. He, however, was going at the issue from a different perspective. At the time he was quoted, Mallorca was in the grip of drought (or at least near-drought). His concern was resources: water, in this instance.

The Hau thesis, coloured by an unnecessarily all-embracing pejorative attitude towards tourists of the mass who go to the principal resorts (only some of these tourists are drunks; the vast majority are not), echoes the philosophy enshrined in the so-called Benidorm Effect. Establish areas of high-density tourism and they are very much more efficient in terms of resource use. Spread tourism with little control into low-density or virtually uninhabited areas, and the resource use is highly inefficient.

For Podemos, there is an obsession with eliminating provisions in law that the Partido Popular introduced in 2012. The Delgado Law (the 2012 tourism act) facilitated touristic development on rustic land: the territory which doesn't have a satisfactory translation in English. Rural is inadequate. But whether from a politically ideological perspective or from economic or environmental perspectives, the arguments about countryside tourism, about drunken tourism, about holiday rentals in general all arrive at the same point. What does Mallorca want from its tourism? And what overall strategy is there for this?

The simple answer to the first question is the vague notion of quality. The word is so loose and woolly as to be meaningless. And who, let's face it, ever advocates tourism without quality?

There are degrees and grades of quality. It has long been known that in Mallorca there is a type of tourism I have described in the past as social-services tourism. This isn't anything to do with the winter, sometimes subsidised tourism for senior citizens. It has to do with the tourism that is provided with a social service by the island. It commonly pitches up in an all-inclusive, extracts the social service benefits on offer, and then disappears, quite probably clutching a false claim form. The net result for Mallorca is a loss.

The evidence of this type of tourism has existed in rigorous academic research for almost thirty years. The drunken tourism of today's headlines is the inheritor of the past. All that time - thirty years at least - and it still has the capacity to shock politicians (and others) out of their complacency.

The degrees of quality are such that the principal tourism market sector - the family - can be stigmatised for being insufficiently wealthy. This is not a social-services or drunken category, it is a normal, regular segment of the market which might choose an all-inclusive on economic grounds. If the offer is there, then why on Earth shouldn't it? There may not be enormous splashing of cash, but there are none of the behavioural negatives that are dogging Gerard Hau's "drinking ghettoes".

More than ever, the current arguments reinforce the fact that there is so little coherence in terms of a strategic approach. The rentals' legislation highlights this. There should of course be some greater liberalisation. Not a free-for-all but regulation that recognises market dynamics and, yes, can generally permit a tourism of "quality".

But political flip-flopping, competing ideologies and competing favouritism (be it to hoteliers, the environment, whatever) erect constant barriers while at the same time shifting the sands of regulation without adequate regard for joined-up strategy. The arguments, one fears, will be the same thirty years from now.

Friday, July 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 July 2017

Morning high (7.20am): 23.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 22 July - Sun, 33C; 23 July - Sun, cloud, 28C; 24 July - Sun, cloud, 29C

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

No sign of any rain overnight, and the morning is bright and sunny.

Evening update (20.30): A cloud and sun mix; high of 31.6C.

Mass Versus Quality: Hotel Jobs

Now here's an interesting point. Workers in the food and beverage sector - chefs, waiters and others - are willing to take jobs for lower salaries if the conditions are more to their liking. In other words, if a hotel (this mainly applies to hotels, but not exclusively) provides a working environment with a commitment to training, to high standards and good professional relations, it will attract talented personnel prepared to accept less money than they would receive at an establishment without these attributes.

The point is made by Antonio de Juan, who is the CEO of Talent Chef, a company which specialises in recruitment for the food and beverage sector. His words have been quoted in an article in Hosteltur magazine. It is a particularly interesting point, given the Balearic government's insistence on employment quality and salaries to match. In certain instances, it seems that workers will forego the quality salaries in preference to the quality employment: the government appears to have its work cut out in pairing the two.

De Juan's conclusion is that a tourism of the masses without quality has repercussions for the quality of personnel and for their availability. The matching of higher salaries and higher standards of employment can be found in some overseas countries. There is therefore a drain of talent from Mallorcan and Spanish hotels because of this.

A problem is, and it is another one that the government would like to deal with, creating tourism of the masses with quality. The notion can seem mutually exclusive. How do you retain mass and also ensure quality? It depends on how mass is defined, but in Mallorca the mass is increasing without a discernible impact on quality. This is the evidence, for instance, of hotels in Magalluf chucking out more badly behaved tourists than ever before. So long as tour operators and hotels operate according to principles of mass and volume, the situation is unlikely to change. The mayor of Calvia might plead with the providers of tourists, but he can't mandate what type of client is brought. This is the very point that the mayor of Alcudia has made regarding spring-break students, the cause - so it is said - of much of the Magalluf malaise this year. Town halls, regional governments have no power over this type of business decision.

One feels for people who work in some hotels in Mallorca. Chefs, who might earn decent money, churn out stuff for the masses. Their talent goes to waste. Their professional abilities are not reflected in their output. The same applies in the bar/restaurant sector.

Clearly, though, this doesn't apply across the board and also doesn't apply solely to the kitchens. One goes to somewhere like the Meliá Palma Bay Hotel and can witness the fine attention to detail and scrutiny in preparing tables. The quality of personnel extends to management. This same attention was evident in a tour of the five-star Palace de Muro Hotel. It was from the now director who, once upon a time, had been on the management at Bellevue in Alcudia. A very different place, during a tour there much time was spent picking up litter. A forlorn task, but at least there was a constant attempt at dealing with the downsides of mass all-inclusive tourism.

Mallorca has the means of developing talent. The university's Hotel and Catering School, to give one example, is where certain Michelin-starred chefs in Mallorca trained and received instruction. Some hotel chains have their own in-house training set-ups. Their commitment to quality has been exported. A reason for high standards elsewhere is the insistence on quality that characterises the likes of Iberostar.

But in Mallorca there is a vast gulf, which is the consequence of the diversity of hotels. In order to satisfy the masses, this is inevitable. So, one wonders if the mutually exclusive notion of mass and quality can ever be harmonised. One very much doubts it, and so there will be an enduring mismatch between the quality of salaries and employment.

The government, of course, is more concerned with an employment quality in terms of contracts: full-time, well-paid, adherence to strict working hours would be ideal. But it also concerned with the nature of jobs, given that they reflect the overall quality (or not) of the tourism offer. The hoteliers' federation is on the same page in this regard. It advocates quality without a loss of quantity. But what quality do they put first? The job or the pay? Is it both? In some cases, yes, but not all. The federation is set for a major scrap over pay negotiations next year. Unions are demanding that their profits go towards significant pay increases. If these are forced through, are passed on to already high hotel prices, have ever more tourist tax added, the mass part of the problem might well be solved.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 July 2017

Morning high (7.27am): 22.9C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 21 July - Sun, cloud, 29C; 22 July - Sun, cloud, 30C; 23 July - Sun, cloud, 29C

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

Bright start but expected to cloud over with the possibility of some rain, especially this evening.

Evening update (19.45): High of 32.1C. Fairly cloudy now.

Holiday Rentals: The Charade Exposed

So, after all the build-up to the holiday rentals' legislation, we remain - or rather, apartments remain - more or less where they were: in legal no man's land. One of the government's key legislative initiatives is a greater shambles than it had appeared that it would be. It was never going to be easy to cobble together satisfactory legislation, but the result is ever further from satisfaction. Apartments, as far as tourism law is concerned, only now exist in the form of an "habitual dwelling". Otherwise, technically they have been airbrushed from the real-estate landscape.

For all the talk of fines, the level of which are hardly any surprise and mirror penalties elsewhere in Spain, of the age of property eligible to be holiday lets, of the zoning of these lets, etc., the core of this legislation was apartments. While the 2012 tourism law keeps being quoted, apartments have been on the legal periphery for very much longer. The time had come for there to be a more definitive status. The time has come and all that is definite is that nothing is definite.

The government (PSOE and Més) is mightily angered. It will, as it typically does, place a political sheen over events in defending the pact with Podemos. But it has suffered a major assault and for a "stellar" piece of legislation, to boot. Podemos bared their teeth and, unlike with previous last-minute wobbles, they were prepared to be wolves. There was no pretence this time.

Podemos had always wanted to prevent the possibility of opening up holiday rentals in apartments. Their ploy of the call for "emergency housing" in Palma and Ibiza was a strategic move to disguise the real intention: the prevention of apartment touristic letting. The government's anger is made that much greater because this legislation has been so complex and so long in the making. When it came to the time to vote, Podemos cuddled up to the Partido Popular. While Podemos were citing citizen rights to housing, the PP were remembering their friends at the hoteliers' federation.

It is said that the government had attempted to persuade Podemos to stay onside by agreeing that the forthcoming housing law would complement the rentals' legislation. Podemos were having none of that, although there is obvious sense in joining up these two legislative strands. But to do so in a totally coherent fashion would demand a different legislative approach. As it is, housing is housing; tourist accommodation is tourist accommodation, even if it is housing. Toni Reus of Més pointed this out to Podemos. The rentals' legislation was neither a housing bill nor an urban planning act.

Out of the mess we nevertheless have a curious situation whereby apartments can be eligible for licensed authorisation. This is if they are owners' "habitual dwellings". This is if these dwellings are in the right zones (which will now take a year to determine). This is if residents' communities give a majority favourable vote (Podemos are still agitating for a unanimous vote). This is if these dwellings are up to the required standards. This is if they are at least five years old (and Podemos want to make this ten).

Agreement for habitual dwellings is apparently a nod in the direction of the reality of the collaborative economy at its most basic level. A family - they always refer to families in a somewhat mystical style - that needs to add some income will be able to do so. But only for a maximum of sixty days a year.

What is it with these habitual dwellings? Will families uproot themselves for the whole of July and August? Presumably they will. Or would. Where do they go? Rent out someone else's habitual dwelling? Or do they go to one of their other dwellings? How many other dwellings do they have?

The legislative process, you may or may not be surprised to learn, has not finished. There will now be "developments" of the legislative detail. Tourism minister Biel Barceló referred to these in hinting that apartments could be salvaged, i.e. be specifically subject to the same rules as other properties for holiday rental. But so long as Podemos have anything to do with the legislation, his muted optimism appears misplaced.

All this does is exacerbate the confusion and uncertainties. These developments could also entail, if Podemos get their way, the likes of properties having to be a minimum of ten years old.

Laws, one always hopes, are designed to create certainties. This legislation does not. It is a dreadful mess. Ultimately, though, the mess has only so much to do with holiday rentals. There are the politics which hover above. Podemos have claimed victory, one to be milked for all it's worth in appealing to the housing-deprived citizenry. It is a victory which finally and transparently exposes the charade of the Armengol pact.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 July 2017

Morning high (6.31am): 24.7C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 20 July - Cloud, sun, 31C; 21 July - Cloud, sun, 29C; 22 July - Sun, cloud, 30C

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

A clear enough sky early on. Wait to see if there is the thin cloud that persisted for much of yesterday. Tomorrow and into Friday, the possibility of showers and the odd rumble of thunder.

Evening update (20.15): There was the cloud, rather more of it than yesterday at times. Quite breezy too. High of 33.8C.

Podemos At The Government Crossroads

Will they or won't they? Alberto Jarabo, for now still the leader (general secretary) of Podemos in the Balearics, says that the party will enter the Balearic government this autumn. He says this, or so it would appear, on the authority of the national organisation, and Pablo Iglesias in particular.

Something of a game-changer has occurred in Castile-La Mancha. The PSOE president of that region - Emiliano García-Page - has been unable to get the budget approved. In order to do so, Podemos are entering the government. In the Balearics, Podemos have already started to set out demands for the 2018 budget, most obviously their call for a doubling of the rate of the tourist tax. If this cannot be agreed, it has been stated, they will not approve the budget. A similar situation to Castile-La Mancha could therefore obtain.

Podemos, once upon a time, had a policy of not joining administrations led by PSOE. The socialist party was as much of a target for Podemos as the Partido Popular was. PSOE was part of the reviled "casta", a corrupt two-party-dominated system. It was also a party from which Podemos could take their electoral pickings more easily. Being ostensibly left-wing, it represented a more direct target than the PP. Already shaky, PSOE suffered at the elections: a reflection of its inherent weakness, the enduring product of the socialist government's handling of the crisis, and of the arrival of a different type of political grouping, i.e. Podemos.

There was never total consistency in this Podemos policy. They became part of the Council of Mallorca's administration in 2015, just as they did at Palma town hall and in other municipalities. Governments - regional and national - were a different matter. However, this inconsistency has enabled Podemos to cut their teeth in lesser administrations and to get the electorate used to their presence. By not being in government per se, they have sought to appeal to the electorate as the body which holds PSOE (and Més) to account while at the same time acting as a sort of shadow element of government. This off-stage influence of the government is one reason why some in PSOE have bridled at what they see as Podemos's undisguised "moral superiority".

Within Podemos ranks, there is still disagreement about joining governmental forces with PSOE. The far-left anti-capitalist faction has opposed the development in Castile-La Mancha. Laura Camargo, who is the likely successor to Jarabo, is part of this faction; Jarabo is not and nor is Pablo Iglesias. Jarabo says that the possibility of Podemos entering the government is not one that he has conjured up; it is the national organisation which has raised the possibility and that the Podemos citizens' council in the Balearics would have the final say. Perhaps so, but if Camargo does become general secretary, the possibility - one would assume - would disappear. No firm decision will be made until the election of Jarabo's successor. Jarabo doesn't really want Camargo to follow him.

In an interview at the weekend, Francina Armengol made clear that she has no interest in there being a remodelling of the government to facilitate Podemos. In 2015, Podemos decided not enter the government because they didn't trust PSOE. Armengol believes that there is greater trust now, but she remains committed to how things are. The problem would arise, however, if the budget for 2018 couldn't be approved. Armengol insists that the situation is different in the Balearics. Budgets and important laws have been approved and passed. They may well have been, but this doesn't mean to say that they will be in the future. She also faces the ongoing matter of the Més contracts, and the possibility of Biel Barceló being cited by a judge. Camargo has said that Barceló's continuation as vice-president and tourism minister is reason alone for not entering the government. Were he forced to resign, though, this particular situation would change.

For Podemos, the ambition is to govern. The dash to power in 2015, although impressive, was not as strong as Podemos might have hoped. They didn't achieve a "Macron" and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that they ever will. As it is, they may well have plateaued; forced, just like PSOE, to join alliances. Neither of the two principal issues which brought them to the fore - fighting corruption and austerity - has gone away. But they haven't managed the real breakthrough they might have wished. Ciudadanos, with the same issues but from a different political perspective, appear to be going backwards. The same might happen to Podemos. Without genuine, direct involvement in government, the electorate might just tire of them and of their influence of policies without responsibilities for them.

If Podemos seriously want to be part of the Balearic government, it might be now or never.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 July 2017

Morning high (7.36am): 23.1C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 19 July - Sun, cloud, 32C; 20 July - Sun, cloud, 30C; 21 July - Cloud, sun, 29C

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

So, according to Aemet, the heat wave has come to an end. All things are relative, it has to be said. Temperatures up to 46C on the mainland were not experienced here. Thank God.

Evening update (20.00): High of 34.4C. A sort of cloud for much of the day.

The Man Who Painted Cala Figuera

They were celebrating the fiestas for the Virgen del Carmen in Cala Figuera at the weekend. This was the Santanyi Cala Figuera (there are others - Calvia, Pollensa), the name of which owes everything to the fig tree. The sea in the cala, the cove, is deep. The formation, a type of Y-shape between cliffs, is narrow. There was a tiny fishing settlement in the nineteenth century. Development, as such, only started to occur in the mid-twentieth century at around the time when Francisco Bernareggi died.

The fiestas were an occasion for remembering Bernareggi and so for highlighting the contribution of the south-eastern coast of Mallorca to the island's painting tradition. The Tramuntana mountains and Palma are most commonly associated with the painters of the last century. Santanyi played its part as well, though this is often overlooked.

This was the coastal area where Pep Costa Ferrer was instrumental in creating Cala d'Or in the 1930s. Don Pep had a similar vision to Adan Diehl, the founder of Pollensa's Hotel Formentor: a haven of artistic and cultural endeavour. He had at one point considered the same promontory as Diehl. Cala d'Or (what was to be named Cala d'Or, that is) was significantly less expensive. Rather than a single hotel, Don Pep conceived a development, one that famously reflected his Ibizan origins.

But before Costa Ferrer stumbled across the coves that were to inspire his vision, Bernareggi had been hard at work. An Argentine, he first came to Mallorca in 1903 at the age of 25. Other Argentine painters were to arrive in Mallorca, most notably Hermen Anglada Camarasa, attributed with having founded the "Pollensa School". But they came some ten years later than Bernareggi. He was therefore more of a pioneer and as the son of a Catalan he had moved with his family to Barcelona in 1895. He enrolled at the school of fine arts - a peer and friend was Pablo Picasso.

His parents were to later spend long periods in Mallorca. They had a villa - Es Corb Marí - by El Terreno in Palma, one of the most important centres for foreign artists and writers. Bernareggi, following the path of the Catalan painters, such as Santiago Rusiñol, initially chose the Tramuntana for his work, capturing scenes of Sa Calobra and Soller.

It was 1919 when he moved to Santanyi, where he was to live - on and off - until his death in 1959. An exhibition the following year confirmed his arrival on a broader Mallorcan scene. There were to be two particularly famous works. The first, in 1927, was Bonanza. This captured the essence of the cala at a time when there was so little development. The narrow entrance, somewhat forbidding to those unfamiliar with it, can be seen in the background. In the foreground is an imposing pine tree, a natural feature but possibly also a nod in the direction of Pollensa and Costa i Llobera's poem about the pine of Formentor. There is a copy of the painting in the town hall in Santanyi.

The second work, in 1934, is more famous. It is also more vibrant than Bonanza and has a special place in the cala's history because of its name - simply Cala Figuera. The colours and clarity of the work were the product of how Bernareggi went about the painting. From original sketches, he would then paint around noon so that shadows were lessened and he could reveal the full character of his subject. It is a work that was undertaken on the terrace of a summer house that belonged to a pharmacist friend.

Bernareggi returned to Argentina at the outbreak of the Civil War, but he was to return to Mallorca and to resume his work in Cala Figuera. Santanyi town hall, in remembering his contributions, says that it was he who opened the door to other artists who were to create their own compositions of the Santanyi coast. As important as Don Pep and the artistic crowd he attracted to Cala d'Or, Bernareggi displayed a corner of Mallorca that was much less known than the more typical subjects of the Tramuntana.

He was to say of his work in Cala Figuera that it was a cove with soft lines. It was "Hellenic", he noted, granting it a place in distant Mediterranean culture. There were "harmonies in the water" of stones and enamels.

Many were and have been the tributes to his work. One of the more astonishing was in the Spanish newspaper ABC. In 1925, as part of a series on Argentine painters, a profile praised him got the "marvellous transmission of his thoughts through his brushes". His work was "unblemished". It was full of light. It communicated the emotion of nature. And it communicated the little part of paradise he had found at Cala Figuera.

* Photo: Cala Figuera by Francisco Bernareggi.

Monday, July 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 July 2017

Morning high (7.14am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 18 July - Sun, 31C; 19 July - Sun, 31C; 20 July - Sun, cloud, 30C

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

Evening update (21.00): High of 33.4C.

Snow White And The Seven PSOE Dwarfs

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most morally superior of them all?" The mirror answered, as mirrors do: "you are, oh Queen of Podemos". With this, Her Royal Bootness, Laura Camargo, cackled as she returned to her plans, plotting governmental domination of Snow White, the sweet and friendly Francina. Meanwhile, the Queen's not entirely faithful Humbert, Alberto Jarabo, was seeking to make amends for not having metaphorically killed Snow White. Podemos will be inside the government come October, he announced to the dwarfs of PSOE. And the tourist tax will be doubled, he shouted. The dwarfs nodded in humble obedience. He stopped short, for now, in cancelling Christmas, though this could be a demand for passing next year's budget, as is the 100% increase to the tourist tax and the elimination of the 50% discount that currently exists for April (and possibly also March).

Snow White and the PSOE dwarfs were preparing to go to their tiny cottage for the party's congress. Snow White told the dwarfs to be less subservient to the Queen. Podemos claim moral superiority, yet this is an expression of populism, she opined. The Queen and Humbert, to say nothing of the Lords of Podemos in Madrid, can engage in "bad practice" and brush it off as forgivable because they believe they are morally superior. PSOE will not bow to such populism, she made clear. PSOE will fight corruption transparently and PSOE will demonstrate that the party will do what it says it will do. The dwarfs all cheered, albeit they weren't entirely sure what she was talking about. There again, very few people are.

At the cottage, the idea will be to plan their own dominance, but the dwarfs were shuffling nervously, looking at their tiny shoes. "Who'll be sleeping in our beds," they asked, mangling their fairy tales. "We'll still have to get into bed with the Queen," one horrified dwarf maintained. "Err. Yucky," the other dwarfs chimed. Snow White replied: "Never fear, for I will one day consult the mirror in strict accordance with the principles of consensus and dialogue. I shall be the most morally superior of them all."

With this, the dwarfs uttered a collective hoorah, still not totally convinced that they had a clue what she was going on about. But it sounded good, and there was more heartening news for them. Snow White explained that a handsome prince is travelling through the lands. His name is Pedro. He will fall in love with Snow White's plans for progressive politics of the left, predicated on pacts and a system of federalism. The dwarfs were now becoming ecstatic, but one noted that this will still mean having to give bed room to the Queen. "Don't we want to govern on our own?" At this, Snow White's sweet and friendly face turned sour. For as and when she looks in the mirror, she knew that she will only see the image of the Queen staring back at her.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 July 2017

Morning high (6.56am): 25.2C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 17 July - Sun, 31C; 18 July - Cloud, sun, 31C; 19 July - Cloud, sun, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4 temporarily 5 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Happy Virgen del Carmen, especially to folk in Puerto Pollensa, where they'll be running with demons and letting off fireworks tonight. And another warm night it will be.

Evening update (20.15): High of 31.1C.

The Sun Always Shines On Magalluf

And The Sun was not only on Magalluf. It was The Sun what did it, along with The Mail (among others). It ventured last week to where no sun in fact shines but where the air-con doesn't work. Thousands of British holidaymakers were being condemned to spend their entire holidays camped out in queues for passport control at Palma airport, deprived of cooling air and even bottles of water.

Does The Sun have a specific strategy for Mallorca? One that it doesn't have for all other holiday destinations? It can appear so. There again, passport control mayhem is a surefire media winner. Vast queues of bedraggled tourists, begging to be released. What could be better? And for the privilege of doing so, they'll be stumping up twice as much tourist tax next year. Rip-off Mallorca, The Sun will say.

Still, one trusts that the interior ministry might have sorted things out by next summer, assuming that Britain hasn't been bombed by the combined forces of the 27 member states. "We'll fight 'em on the beaches," The Sun will maintain. But the beaches will be those of Brighton and Skegness, not Magalluf.

Ah yes, Magalluf. Now where were we? All that high-quality tourism converting the resort into a giant beach resort of high-spending, respectful tourists with as much interest (if not more) in culture and heritage as in lying on beaches. Unfortunately, and much to Calvia's chagrin, not everything is going according to plan, and it was The Sun what told everyone. Again.

This time, though, Calvia took exception. They're considering seeing The Sun in court. Enough was enough. Declaring Magalluf a war zone and defaming the local police was too much. The Sun's special envoys to Magalluf might be advised to go even more undercover.

It's fair enough, the town hall wanting to sue. But where might they file an action? In a UK court? Tricky business taking a Murdoch paper to court or any other paper. Expensive as well. The town hall might consider asking the UK justice minister to change things, just as he plans to do with false claims. But dealing with false claims isn't the same as suing for defamation. The Sun will return. Watch out, Magalluf.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 July 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 23.2C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 July - Sun, 30C; 17 July - Sun, 31C; 18 July - Sun, 33C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 easing 3 to 4 by the evening. Swells of one to two metres.

A sunnier day today. And a fine night for the beach party in Puerto Pollensa and demons in Santa Margalida.

Evening update (20.30): High of 31.5C.

Alcudia's Three Weeks Of Mayhem

The so-called Mallorca Island Festival is over for another year. As each year, it has left a trail of complaints about noise, behaviour and vandalism. Also as each year, it has been studiously ignored by the media. Might this have to do with the fact that it is Spanish students causing the complaints? If British or German counterparts were the protagonists, you can bet that everyone would be told about it.

Some people say, well it is only three weeks, let's have some perspective. True, it is only three weeks, but it is three weeks too many for residents who are denied sleep, for those whose cars are trampled on, for businesses which are robbed, for other businesses which suffer because a regular type of tourist isn't present.

Now it's finished, there is talk that there is just one year left to run on a contract (not that anyone seems to know this for certain), that Bellevue doesn't want to renew it because of all the hassle it causes. And hassle there most certainly is. It is hardly unknown for fire alarms to be deliberately set off in Bellevue blocks, but not with the regularity which occurs when the "festival" is occurring. But hassle isn't the right word for the destruction inside the blocks. Hassle isn't the right word to describe what one understands to be the very low prices paid for the students' all-inclusive accommodation. Hassle isn't the right word to explain the reputation of Bellevue being further sullied on social networks, especially TripAdvisor; and by extension, the reputation of Alcudia.

For BlueBay, which manages the complex, the series of holidays for students does nothing for its reputation. It should be being praised for the long-overdue efforts to try and improve Bellevue. Instead, there are the brickbats that are the consequence of a form of tourism vastly more extreme than anything else which is experienced at Bellevue.

Inevitably, assuming that it is correct that there is just one year left to run, reaction will be to do nothing, an attitude that has prevailed ever since the student holidays started (which was at least in 2013): Mallorca Island Festival has been the name for the past three years; prior to this, it was known as Mallorca without teachers. Timidity is how one might best describe the approach of residents and indeed of businesses. It is a timidity which has been exacerbated by a lack of coordination and mutual support among different groups affected. In a sense, the residents and businesses in and around Bellevue have got what they deserved.

Alcudia town hall is all too aware of what goes on. Numerous have been the individual representations made to the mayor and the town hall. But individuals don't get very far. As with all administrations, they want what they consider to be valid interlocutors, associations with whom they can discuss issues. The failure to create such an association is a reflection of this timidity and of a neglect of community.

The fundamental issue with this festival is the location. Bellevue is probably the only place that could accommodate it. But what has been overlooked is the nature of Bellevue. This became a hotel by accident. It was not originally conceived as a hotel. The campus style of the complex is evidence of what was developed - a single urbanisation named Bellavista. On this urbanisation, as things were to turn out, are hotel apartment blocks and residential apartment blocks. They share the same space.

The principle of coexistence, enshrined in law and for which, at local levels, town halls have responsibilities to guarantee, is an expression of mutual respect. People need to live together. There is give and there is take, but coexistence frowns upon excesses. The principle applies everywhere, but it is especially acute on a single urbanisation and a single space. On the Bellevue complex, the give and take is understood. Of course there is noise. By its very nature there will be. Among the thousands of guests at any one time there will clearly be some who don't behave themselves. But this is, in a way, incidental. It is not organised.

With the festival, there is organisation. And this organisation, because of the offers of ferrying the students to off-site clubs from just before midnight and of ferrying them back again, can only lead to one thing. Noise. Coexistence is one thing. Breaches of bylaws regarding noise are another.

Such was the level of complaints to the 112 service that the call centre, which can geolocate the source of calls, was responding by saying that the local police need to be called. There wouldn't normally be such a response. But what, in all honesty, can the police do? They are stretched enough as it is. Should there be a permanent presence (plus the Guardia)? Both forces have other matters to attend to. They are not to blame, nor is the town hall. The blame lies elsewhere.

* A photo just after dawn on one morning of the so-called festival.

Friday, July 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 July 2017

Morning high (6.59am): 24.4C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 15 July - Sun, 30C; 16 July - Sun, 30C; 17 July - Sun, 31C

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

Cloud early on, already breaking up, though it could linger.

Evening update (20.30): Light cloud for most of the day. A high of under 30 for once - 29.2C. 

Barbarela And Men On The Moon

Tomorrow marks the 48th anniversary of the opening of what for a time was arguably the most famous disco-nightclub in Europe. On 15 July 1969, Club Barbarela in Palma's El Terreno opened its doors, revealing the most up-to-date lighting system and sound equipment. The room was an octagonal shape with the feel of a Roman theatre, the idea of a Catalan interior designer, Xavier Regàs i Pagés. The club, which was the brainchild of Pepe Roses, took its name from the 1968 science fiction film Barbarella in which Jane Fonda starred as the heroine from the French comic series of the same name and involved her pursuing the mad scientist Durand Durand, who was to later bequeath his name (minus the d's at the end) to the group Duran Duran.

You might notice that the name of the club wasn't exactly the same. It shed one of the two l's for copyright reasons. Its logo was distinctive - a female figure in black silhouette with arms raised behind her neck in a type of dance gyrating posture. It is an image which suggests that it was inspired by the American singer and actress Marsha Hunt, who had shot to prominence the previous autumn when the musical Hair opened in the West End. The suggestion is there, though she wasn't the inspiration. It was a local girl.

The logo was designed by an Argentine, Carlos Rolando. There were 311 proposals. His winning design earned him 2,000 dollars, which was a significant amount of money then and indicative of the scale of the business that was anticipated for the club. Rolando said of his image that it was the first time that an erotic image of the human body (female) was permitted by the censors. Barbarela had immediately stamped its mark. It broke rules, and the club itself was groundbreaking.

It has been said of Barbarela that it was very much more than just a disco. It was pioneering, it was special. It was the first "macro-disco" in Mallorca. Its size - 2,000 square metres - was highly ambitious. Go-go girls and boys danced on five platforms. The bar was 34 metres in length. The timing of the opening may not have been wholly incidental. On 16 July, Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins was launched. Barbarela, the club with a sci-fi name and the best that technology could provide, coincided with real science and the first men on the moon. Such was the club's status that the opening was broadcast on national radio. The public couldn't see it and nor could they see the logo, which probably satisfied the censors, but they could hear it. Barbarela was definitely special.

A month after it opened, on 15 August, the club was host to its first great British pop act - The Hollies, by then without Graham Nash - who were that revered in Spain that they appeared on the front cover of Fans, the country's leading music magazine. A report of their concerts, two of them, said that they sounded just like their records: they were "consummate showmen".

Other acts which appeared included Wilson Pickett. He put on two shows, as had The Hollies, with the start times having been mid-evening and in the wee small hours. He attracted some 3,500 people to the two concerts. The punters were overjoyed, though it would seem that local musical professionals were - for some reason - less than taken with him.

Barbarela was to also stage a music contest, which I'm supposing was not long after it opened. This was one of the more extraordinary events that it put on. No fewer than 142 acts took part. They were given fifteen minutes maximum to perform just two songs, one of which was the competition song and the other an example of their repertoire. The winning group was Los Bravos, a name by then already associated with Mallorca for some years. Of the numerous other acts, there are two which even now stand out. One was the Dutch prog rock band Focus, who were to attain international recognition for the yodel sound of Hocus Pocus. The other was Gong, the band formed by Daevid Allen after he left Soft Machine: Allen had been one of Soft Machine to have visited Robert Graves in Deià.

Pepe Roses had wanted to make Barbarela a temple for pop music and a place where young people of all nationalities could come together in Mallorca. When it opened, he said that it was a "young woman of the present day and for the year 2000". But by the time that the twenty-first century arrived, the young woman had passed into middle age and then retirement. Barbarella of the film was of the 41st century. Barbarela the club never made it to the 21st century.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 July 2017

Morning high (8.23am): 25C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 11
Three-day forecast: 14 July - Sun, 29C; 15 July - Sun, 30C; 16 July - Sun, 31C

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

Evening update (20.30): High of 31.7C. Cooler day therefore; all things being relative.

The Podemos Influence On Tourism Policy

Podemos have been threatening to scupper the government's holiday rentals' legislation. They have engaged in brinkmanship grandstanding in the past, as with the tourist tax law, and so have earned the criticism of the Partido Popular for "crying wolf" because they don't see their threats through. Things are unlikely to be any different this time.

The reasons for this latest bout of messing with the PSOE (PSIB) and Més government are twofold. Podemos insist that the government doesn't appreciate the scale of the problems with finding residential accommodation and that the legislation doesn't do anything to bring down the cost of renting or indeed purchasing. Nor does the law guarantee a right to housing. The second reason is that Podemos are demanding that the law includes a declaration of a housing emergency in Palma and Ibiza. This would entail the total prohibition of holiday rentals.

From a legislative point of view, Podemos are blurring two strands - one has to do with holiday rentals, the other with housing. There are two separate pieces of legislation going before the Balearic parliament. In essence, what Podemos would like is a unified bill, but this won't happen, much though - and Podemos would be right in this regard - the two strands are clearly linked. The government, meantime, justifiably argues that there would be encroachment into powers of town halls and island councils. Were there to be, then the legislation could end up becoming mired in the courts. It might do anyway, but for other reasons.

In fact, both Palma town hall and the Council of Ibiza have indicated they will use provisions in the new bill to severely restrict rentals. A specific declaration regarding emergency housing wouldn't therefore be necessary.

Previous experience suggests that when push comes to shove and votes are finally cast, Podemos will allow the legislation to go through. Although Podemos have been engaged in their usual last-minute attempts at horse-trading, the bill will surely be approved. Different alterations to the legislation should enable this. One is to increase the fine on websites like Airbnb for publicising unlicensed properties to 400,000 euros. Another is to give owners the chance of offsetting fines of up to 40,000 euros by providing so-called social rental.

The approval on Tuesday, assuming it does indeed go through, will be three days before PSOE (PSIB) convene for their congress. As mentioned in a previous article, this congress will be crucial for the party in mapping out its strategy leading up to the 2019 election. Central to this strategy will be issues related to tourism.

For Francina Armengol to secure a second term as president, a new "pact" will have to be arrived at. This is a cold fact for PSOE, as it is never in a position to get close to a majority: the Partido Popular is far too strong for this to ever happen. The congress will therefore have to take into account what the relationship with other parties might look like, with the Podemos relationship key to Armengol's ability to continue as president.

The PP could return with a majority, as it has in the past, but this is by no means certain. For all the at-times chaotic appearance of the current government, it has nevertheless presided over a period of improved economic conditions. The PP will attack it on jobs and on pay, but the electorate are unlikely to be convinced that the PP would do any better. In this respect, Armengol will be hoping that next year's wage negotiations and settlement for the hotel and hospitality sector bring about improved terms. Just as important, as mentioned before, will be any agreement on a special economic regime for the Balearics. A good one, and the PP will find it that much tougher to win.

The nature of the current pact or of a future one will, nevertheless, be an ingredient for the electorate to consider. When it comes to tourism policy, the tourist tax won't -as it stands - be a factor. In 2003, when the PP came back to power, it was an issue, as the electorate were concerned by an impact on tourism. Circumstances are quite different now. A Podemos demand for a doubling in the rate of the tax - a stipulation made for the party approving next year's budget - might be something for the public to baulk at. Or it might not be, given the "saturation" narrative.

Podemos do have the power to influence policy, and this can be seen in what the congress will consider in respect of limits on the number of tourists. PSOE, it is understood, is to change its tune. The congress will consider a limit on summer tourism numbers. A "battery" of proposals are to be presented in order to achieve a limit. The tourist tax is likely to be one of them. A doubling, and Podemos will take the credit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 July 2017

Morning high (8.51am): 25.8C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 13 July - Sun, 29C; 14 July - Sun, 29C; 15 July - Sun, 30C

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

Yellow alert for high temperatures, so the forecast for 30C is likely to be well exceeded.

Evening update (20.15): High of 35.3C.

Twenty Summers Of Division

It had been twenty summers since I had last experienced a late June and early July in England. They stressed that it had been hot the week before. I enjoyed the drizzle and the moderate temperatures. They were a surprisingly welcome change to Mallorca.

That last summer was 1997. The spring had heralded a new beginning. England and Britain had an optimism. The glorious weather of 1 May had taken the people to the polls. On 2 May, equally glorious, the people knew that Tony Blair was prime minister. There was joy in the land. Oh how it was to evaporate. The about turn on freedom of information, an early victim of Blairism, was an indication that a pup may have been sold to the public.

Blair, the consummate actor, was to overplay his hand during the service, but he had previously captured the mood. Late in that summer, I had put on Five Live as I habitually did in the morning. Peter Allen was presenting, when Peter Allen wouldn't normally have been. It soon became apparent why. Blair did at least appreciate what Diana meant to the people.

That was twenty years ago. In fact, the last time I was in England (in winter) was seven years ago. It was the last time I had actually left Mallorca. I realised this because of the expiry date on my European health card: the acquisition of a replacement was to prove to be less straightforward than I had remembered the process having been. I now have the replacement, but I travelled without it.

At the time I left England, there was a growing disappointment with Blair. The policies of David Blunkett had been making me uneasy as well. There were mutterings of police state. In my part of west London, there were the signs of some form of breakdown. This was heavily multicultural London. I knew Caribbeans, Asians, Irish, Poles, Lithuanians. There was occasional tension but generally there was harmony. Coexistence had been good. But by 1998, I had begun to wonder.

It was saddening. The Poles, for instance, were long embedded in local society. They had been since the Second World War. When Diana's body was brought to England, it was to RAF Northolt, the one-time base for Polish airmen, with the Polish War Memorial close by. It was a time, in the late 1990s, that predated the outright hysteria of the right in targeting other cultures. Yet one could feel the seeds of the discontent. I was to later discover, while in Germany three years later, how these seeds were being organised. Farage was just one name in a crafted strategic approach that was quite different to the blatant and simplistic thuggery of the National Front or BNP.

I returned, albeit briefly, to the green fields and woods of the northern Home Counties. This is an area where rock musicians live in discreet tranquility, unmolested by neighbours or prying eyes. Everyone seems to drive an Audi, including the twentysomethings. Apparently it's all due to highly favourable leasing arrangements. It is an area largely unaffected by the sickness of England.

Before going, there had been a radio discussion. A German journalist, resident in England for years who works for a German paper, had used the word sickness. She had suggested that there aren't quite the same extreme societal divisions in Germany as there are in England. It was Grenfell to which she was referring and not to terrorism, of which Germany has had its own sickening fill.

Theresa May isn't Blair. She failed to capture the public mood. Grenfell was and is symptomatic of social failure, hastened - it has to be admitted - by the over ambitions of the European project. This ambitiousness - so much expansion, so rapidly - was the root cause of Brexit. Immigration was just one element, but one that lay at the heart of the far-right's strategy that had initially been developed in the late 1990s: a time when it was not paid sufficient attention in exposing. The egghead fascists, Holocaust deniers and others of the late '90s were the progenitors of Steve Bannon: all they lacked then was the technology.

It was, in a way, reassuring to, for instance, be served at the easyJet check-in at Luton Airport by a lady wearing a hijab. What has happened in recent years is a denial of the one-time harmony of west London and of other parts of England. This denial is understandable, but to fully understand it, one has to make reference to the process initiated in the late '90s. The far-right was in it for the long-term.

There was an almost reluctance to talk about Brexit. There were those who had voted to leave but who now questioned why they had done so. The frightening wealth of the northern Home Counties notwithstanding, there was nevertheless an underlying sense of uncertainties. Brexit is only cause. But then, the thinking would be very different elsewhere, including North Kensington. Division. It has been twenty summers in the making.