Thursday, November 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 November 2017

Morning high (7.38am): 8.6C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 1 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 2 December - Cloud, sun, 13C; 3 December - Cloud, sun, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 6 easing West 2 to 3 by the evening. Swells of two metres.

Heavy cloud first thing and expected to linger.

Evening update (20.00): Dull, miserable, wet (not heavy wet though) and a high of only 11.4C.

Students In The Marivent Palace

What an absurd song and dance it is. The annual let's propose amendments to the regional government's budget which haven't got a cat in hell's chance of being accepted charade is with us once more.

Topping the list of the ridiculous is Més Menorca and their cunning plan to wipe off 1.2 million euros from the 2018 spend by booting the royals out of the Marivent and turning the palace in a students hall of residence. True, the palace doesn't belong to the royals and the government could theoretically do with it what its heart desires, but are Més Minority Menorca (fewer than 7,000 votes equal three seats in parliament, go figure that out) seriously expecting that with an alternative purpose there would be a saving?

It's a palace with gardens. Someone has to maintain it and pay for it irrespective of who uses it. And might one suggest that with hordes of students in occupation, the maintenance costs would soar. I can't speak for current-day students from Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, but I doubt that they are that different to students I knew and was one of. Now then, see that fire extinguisher over there ... . The royals, on the other hand, are probably low maintenance (so to speak), unless they misguidedly let Felipe Juan Froilán de Todos los Santos de Marichalar y Borbón, the son of the Infanta Elena, loose with a shotgun.

Undeterred by the pointlessness of going through the amendment proposals game, Més Menorca will nonetheless do their posturing and threaten not to support the budget unless the King, Queen and the two girls are shown the Marivent door and have to pay the tourist tax at a five-star like everyone else does. Actually, they probably wouldn't, if the rumours are correct and Letizia would need little excuse to give Mallorca a summer vacation wide berth. They could always go to Catalonia's Costa Brava instead and pay a lower rate of tourist tax. Although they probably wouldn't, what with Catalonia being Catalonia.

The Partido Popular, who do, by dint of the fact they have almost seven times as many parliamentary seats as Més Menorca, have rather greater credibility when it comes to the budget fandango, have taken their own dim view of our eco-nationalist-sovereignty friends from the northern isle. They want not one but two ministries to be eliminated, both of them with a Més Menorca hue.

One of these is culture. Send culture off to the island councils, the PP suggest. And why not? But again, would it represent a cost saving? Well no, not exactly. Més, both Mallorca and Menorca, and chums in PSOE and Podemos run the councils and would expect at least the same budget if not more. Transferring responsibilities doesn't come at no cost. Transfer does in fact come at increased cost. The councils are moaning about how much cash the government will give them for tourism promotion transferred powers, but it's still more than the government has been spending.

Transfer culture to the councils, and whole armies of civil servants would be required to redact and implement policy documents with regard to "linguistic normalisation", otherwise known as speak Catalan or else. The PP's suggestion is stupid, and they know it, but stupidity is the keyword when it comes to the budget charade. Which helps to explain why the PP also want to see the back of the transparency ministry and spread its powers across other ministerial departments. The ministry is superfluous, the PP claim, and it almost certainly is, and their rationale has to do with the ministry having been an invention to let Més Menorca have something to do in government.

But the fact is, and the PP surely can't have forgotten this, that the transparency ministry has sort of disappeared. It has already been spread and landed on the desk of the minister for the presidency, Pilar Costa, who isn't with Més Menorca. She's with PSOE, and she's from Ibiza, which is why she trousers 22 grand more per annum than Mallorcan ministers. Not that this should be an item for taking the budget axe to.

And so on it all goes. The PP want to cut the salary for the new head of the new anti-corruption office by 25 grand. Why should he (or she) be pocketing 95 grand when mere members of parliament are only on some 55 grand a year? And why indeed, especially as no one has a particularly clear (transparent ) idea what he or she would be doing or indeed the office.

If there is genuinely a desire to reduce spending, why does no one make a suggestion such as let's cut the number of members of parliament. Let's just say that 22 were to disappear. That would pay for the Marivent - royals, students or whoever. No, I thought not. They're not about to make that suggestion, least of all Més Menorca.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 November 2017

Morning high (7.39am): 11.3C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 30 November - Cloud, sun, 14C; 1 December - Cloud, wind, 16C; 2 December - Cloud, 14C

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

A milder morning but also a damp one. Rain at any time today and little if any sun.

Evening update (19.30): Grey all day, some rain. A high of only 12.7C, though it didn't feel particularly chilly.

Reclaiming The Tourism Ministry

Misfortune can sometimes work to your advantage. For Balearic tourism minister Biel Barceló, the resignation of his director-general has delivered unto him an eco-sovereignty brother in arms as a replacement. Antoni Sansó, with hindsight, might have been DG all along. There are reasons why.

His predecessor, Pilar Carbonell, preparing for her Cursach-related appointment with Judge Manuel Penalva today, was not cut from similar cloth to Antoni. Or anything like it. She was neither especially eco nor pro-Balearic sovereignty, if at all (on either count). Her background was with the restaurants association within that institutional edifice of the Confederation of Balearic Business Associations. She wasn't a member of Més. She only really got the job because she knew the tourism sector and because she had her brushes with the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation. She was once responsible for ejecting people from her restaurant who were wearing the green t-shirts of educational protest on the very day that thousands went to Palma to demonstrate against José Ramón Bauzá's TIL trilingual teaching. She also, the most heinous of her sins, habitually spoke Castellano rather than Catalan. Most within Més couldn't understand why Biel had appointed her.

Pilar also spoke in a friendly manner on the phone to Cursach's enforcer, Tolo Sbert - in Castellano, naturally enough. Antoni Sansó gives the impression of not speaking in a friendly manner to anyone. He no doubt does, but conveying a tough demeanour will stand him in good stead with the Més rank and file and with fighting the good fight for the tourist tax and the holiday rentals legislation. And with the latter, he comes into the post well-qualified; he wrote the legislation.

He will also stand Biel in greater stead, as the tourism minister reaches to pull himself out of the vast political hole into which he has descended. Fellow party members will look upon Biel with renewed favour, now that Pilar is no more. Even Podemos might take a belated shine to Biel. Eco-sovereignty, in the right senior official place, can work wonders for doubting so-called government partners, not least when they are seeking an insistence on vetting appointments in the tourism ministry.

Antoni has got off to a rollicking good start. In his first interview since taking over the DG's office he expressed not the least concern that the Balearics might lose one million tourists next year. It wouldn't be a "drama" if the million went AWOL, he observed. Antoni is clearly not a man for turning a non-drama into a crisis. How about losing a second million?

He then parroted all that we are now familiar with. Growth of tourism in the low-season months. Lengthening the season. No more tourists in the summer are needed. A ceiling on tourist places will not allow there to be growth in the summer. All the right stuff. Perhaps it was he who had in fact written Biel's script previously. He was after all "the advisor" to the ministry.

He will certainly be more comfortable in the DG's shoes than Pilar could have been. As someone from her restaurant background, neither the tourist tax nor the rentals legislation made much sense. Still, if you are invited to be tourism DG, then you presumably and willingly accept the shilling. Which she did. Antoni appears to be a more ready-made willing recipient, and would say so in Catalan and not in Castellano. He probably has a green t-shirt somewhere in his drawers.

If Pilar, notwithstanding her history of having rows with the hoteliers federation, may have privately been equivocal on the matter of the tourist tax, there is no such equivocation with Antoni. The greatest catastrophe where the tax is concerned lies not with the current tax but the old ecotax. If it had been retained, he has noted, no one would now be questioning the new one. Which may be true, but then Antoni is perhaps neglecting a little bit of history.

When the ground was being laid for the introduction of the old ecotax, there were dissenting and questioning voices. You would have expected that these were hotelier and Partido Popular voices, but they also came from within the ranks of the government of the time: not PSOE's but the PSM Mallorcan Socialists, Biel's party that is now the main constituent of Més.

The PSM weren't opposed to the ecotax but they did express concern about the timing if its introduction. What were they worried about? Losing tourists, that's what. They looked across the Mediterranean and thought, oh dear, what about the competition. So, things weren't quite as Antoni now presents them. But then, fifteen years ago is a long time, and eco-sovereignty is today on a firmer footing, sponsored by tourists at up to four euros a night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 November 2017

Morning high (7.57am): 5.4C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 29 November - Rain, 18C; 30 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 1 December - Rain, 15C

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

A fairly clear but cold morning. Sunny spells with a slight risk of some rain later.

Evening update (21.30): High of 19.9C.

The Original Nativity Scene

Away from the spend, spend, spend fury of Black Friday in Palma, a tradition was being observed at Palma town hall. The nativity scene was officially opened. It is just one of the very many that will appear elsewhere in the city and across Mallorca over the next days and weeks. These will be official nativity scenes and the unofficial. There will naturally also be the scenes in Mallorca's homes, figures for which may well have been purchased at the market in Palma's Plaça Major. While shoppers were hurrying to get their discounted goods at the shops in the centre of the city, they would also have been able to stop off at this market, which is devoted to decorations for the "belén".

One of the more anticipated of the nativities may well be in the village of Maria de la Salut. Since 2014, a resident of Maria - Nadal Ferriol - has been creating lavish nativities that show the village. For last year's he started working on it in the summer. Two buildings presented him with a particularly arduous task: 6,000 roof tiles of two different sizes were needed. A novelty in 2016 was that the Three Kings arrived by car.

Nadal, appropriately named given what Nadal means (Christmas), doesn't do this all on his own. Many of the actual figures were made last year by Margalida Nicolau. In Maria itself there is a tradition of making nativities. The residents consider it to be something to be maintained. Nadal believes that nativities are an art form, and he's probably not wrong. The end-product of his endeavours has been superb.

He and Margalida are both members of the Betlemistes de Mallorca association (or Asociación de Belenes de Mallorca). Yes, there really is an association for nativity scene makers. Another member is Antonia Tomás. She lives in Llucmajor. Her nativities have included elements such as the Torrent de Pareis in Sa Calobra. She makes one each year, starting work after the last autumn fair in Llucmajor. It goes on show in her house. People travel from across the island to admire her work.

The nativities can therefore be highly elaborate and fantastic creations, and in their loving detail they reflect a very old tradition. It is in fact suggested that the oldest nativity scene in Spain is in Mallorca at the Iglesia de la Anunciación (known also as the Iglesia de la Sangre) in Palma.

So the story goes, in 1536 a ship from Italy was hit by a severe storm that dragged it towards the coast of the island. The ship's captain, Domingo Gangome, apparently made a gift of the nativity to the monastery of Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles de Jesús (Our Lady of the Angels of Jesus). A light had guided him to port and to safety. Domingo made a promise to God that if he and his ship were spared, then one of the seven cribs on board would be a gift. There was just a small light on top of the monastery that guided him to shore. The scene was moved to the church where it now is some three centuries later.

Rudolf Berliner, a German who specialised in mediaeval art, studied the Gothic pieces that make up the scene. He attributed them to Pietro and Giovanni Alamanno, who were active in the final quarter of the fifteenth century and were known for nativity scenes in Naples. So, the one which turned up in Palma was by that time around fifty years old. A mystery was where the figures had been previously and what the destination of the figures on the ship had been. It is hypothesised that they had at one time been ordered from the Neapolitan court by Ferdinand of Aragon, the husband of Isabel. If this was the case, then it took a long time for the order to be delivered (or not delivered); Ferdinand died in 1516.

But was the nativity in Palma really the first in Spain? It is believed that there were others in Mallorca and the Balearics and also in parts of eastern Spain. The Franciscan Order, it has been suggested, had been responsible for arranging their distribution. A few years before the Alamannos were gaining their reputation, there was evidence of a nativity (a basic one at any rate) in the cathedral in Valencia.

The Palma nativity probably wasn't the first, but what can be said with some reasonable certainty was that it was the first with high artistic quality, the work of Neapolitan sculptors.

* Photo of the Iglesia de la Anunciación nativity from

Monday, November 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 November 2017

Morning high (7.03am): 6.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 November - Cloud, sun, 21C; 29 November - Cloud, 18C; 30 November - Cloud, sun, 15C

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

Should be some sun around today and be warmer with some southerly air pushing up.

Evening update (20.00): Average sort of a day. High of 16.3C.

What Tour Operators Really Want

Mallorca and the Balearics are an economic curiosity. Even compared to the principal tourism competitors in Spain - the Canaries, Andalusia, Valencia and Catalonia - this curiosity is at its most extreme. Nowhere else in Spain has the same weighting in favour of the tourism economy in GDP figures.

The dominance of this economy breeds its own curiosities. Just one of these is the high profile given to the manufacturers of this economy. Where economies and societies are more diverse, and so therefore more balanced, this profile is lessened. The words, thoughts and deeds of industrialists, financiers and others are reported, but they do not have the same power. The manufacturers of the Mallorcan economy speak as if they are the scribes of tablets of stone. They don't tend to utter commandments, but their words are spoken with an intention that they are not ignored. They don't command the economy as such, but they hold it within their hands to be able to do so.

This command does, however, undergo phases when it is diluted. Mallorca has experienced such a phase in recent years. Just as the Mallorcan economy would really be better served by not having the 40%-plus direct GDP reliance it has on tourism, so these economic manufacturers don't wish to have a reliance that creeps over the 40% level.

Thomas Cook is one of these manufacturers: one of the most powerful. In 2017, its sales for Spain as a whole have been 42%. Mallorca, despite what was said by tour operators before and and at times during the last season about prices, has been at the heart of this 42%. Thomas Cook was one of those tour operators. It spoke darkly about the upping of prices, as though there were a veiled threat.

The ideal, where Thomas Cook is concerned, would be to have around 30% of its sales in the Spanish market; historically this has been the sort of ballpark. This means a better distribution and a better balance. It also means that it is not being held over a barrel in quite the same way, because that was what happened as a result of the major increase in demand for Mallorca and Spain, which was the consequence of instability elsewhere.

Representatives of Thomas Cook, Tui and other tour operators as well as leading hoteliers are frequently quoted in the local media. They hold a position almost on a a par with politicians. They are a reflection of the curious Balearic economy, one that they manufactured. They demand to be quoted, they demand to be listened to. And they are; in a way that they wouldn't be elsewhere. Mallorca is the perfect publicity patch for the tourism economy's manufacturers, and this publicity spreads beyond the island's waters.

When the tour operators were moaning about increased prices, what were they really after? Well, lower prices perhaps, but by drawing the attention they did to prices, there would have been an underlying hope that they could effect a shift in demand. More stable politics in other destinations are granting them this wish, but they were nonetheless seeking a return to the greater balance that previously existed. When sales were at a balanced 30%, the hoteliers were not holding them over a barrel.

But although they were wanting to reduce this dependence, at the same time they couldn't afford to distance themselves. Consequently, having complained about prices and having dropped the hints about reviving destinations (hints now turning into fact), they then started to praise. Mallorca's hoteliers, Spain's hoteliers have really made an effort. They have invested well and wisely. They can justify their prices.

For all the talk about rival destinations, tour operators know as well as anyone that they can't live without Mallorca and Spain. Those other destinations don't have the kind of capacity and infrastructure. There will also be ongoing holidaymaker wariness. Not about Bulgaria, Croatia or Greece, but about those countries where things could suddenly get nasty again. Three hundred or so slain in Egypt is a reminder.

In 2018, the expectation, the hope for Thomas Cook is that sales in Spain will move back towards that more acceptable 30%. The prices are, nevertheless, still going up, and don't holidaymakers just know it, as the tour operators reflect these in their own margin calculations. But in 2019, so it is said, this situation will change. The prices are not sustainable in the face of renewed competition.

We will see. And we will also hear. It is extraordinary but it is not so extraordinary that there can be the kind of almost weekly feed of what tour operators and major tourism sector players think. The monoculture of tourism in Mallorca allows these thoughts to flourish and to constantly reinforce the curiosity of the economy. But behind these thoughts, we should sometimes stop and ask ourselves exactly why they are being expressed.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 November 2017

Morning high (8.03am): 11.4C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 27 November - Cloud, sun, 18C; 28 November - Cloud, sun, 21C; 29 November - Cloud, 18C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 6 easing temporarily to Variable 3. Swells to three metres.

Damp morning. Some rain around. Staying mainly grey through the day. A yellow alert for rough coastal conditions.

Evening update (19.00): Well, that wasn't much of a day. High of 12.7C.

Sixty Years Later: The Poblat Sold

"This small development has been there for 50 years. It is a dismal collection of whitewalled cottages with green shutters, an open space that once had a small school and now has roads suffering inattention. It looks abandoned, and the people who live in the cottages that are still occupied, are complaining about just that - abandonment by Gesa (Endesa). And there are suspicions as to what Endesa might have in mind for these tenants. If one goes along the road to the neighbouring butane factory, there is open space to the right with a large estate-agency sign saying for sale. Behind this land is the poblat."

I wrote this in 2008. It was about the Poblat Gesa in Alcanada, one of the more interesting developments in Alcudia and not only because of its curious heritage as a settlement for workers at the old power station opposite.

The Poblat dates back to the same time as the power station. The architect Josep Ferragut was responsible for it, as he was also largely responsible for marking out the project was to become the City of Lakes - Bellevue, the canals, the lakes and all that. It is a place that has long intrigued me, and it intrigued me more when I spoke with people about it. There were the odd bungalows that were well-kept, with neat little gardens. These belonged to the last legitimate tenants. Even in 2008, squatters had started to move in.

The rot apparently set in when Endesa acquired Gesa in the 1980s. Maintenance and upkeep fell off. It seemed obvious what the intention was. This became more obvious when Endesa started the process of trying to get rid of the tenants.

It's said that it went up for sale in October 2015. I'm not so sure. Or perhaps that for-sale sign in 2008 had referred to something else. Either way, it was the inevitable culmination. And now there is a buyer, a Madrid-based investor, who plans to rehabilitate the 29 dwellings, the old chapel and social centre. The school is no longer there. What will this rehabilitation be? The Poblat was on sale for 3.1 million euros in 2015. It does have some protected status, but even so ... .

Sixty years after Ferragut's small development came into existence, it will now change. Sad in a way, though given the state it has been allowed to fall into, it has to be for the best.

Meanwhile, there is the ongoing matter of what is opposite - the old power station. It looks like a ruin, and Endesa wants it to be declared a ruin. Endesa would ideally knock it down. The one-time workers at the plant were used to the sight of it. What about new occupants of the Poblat?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 November 2017

Morning high (7.16am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 26 November - Cloud, sun, 17C; 27 November - Cloud, sun, 18C; 28 November - Cloud, sun, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 5 veering Northeast during the afternoon.

Not bad this morning, but rain is likely later on. An unsettled pattern taking over - windy tomorrow with the possibility of rain.

Evening update (19.15): High of 21.3C. Some sun. Not a lot, but some.

Es Murterar - Should We Be Concerned?

Madrid has blocked the regional government's plan for the progressive closure of the Es Murterar power station in Alcudia. The national energy ministry has justified this on cost grounds. The regional government is furious. Més, good eco-nationalists as they are, will be proposing to the Balearic parliament that a defence is made of the islands' energy sovereignty.

The discussion about the closure of Es Murterar, far from reaching a conclusion, has therefore only really begun. Meanwhile, the government's plans for renewable energy (exclusively of a solar variety) and for zero emissions by 2050 are thrown into confusion. The regional energy minister, Marc Pons, says that photovoltaic projects will still go ahead. Even Madrid, with some 60 million euros plus European funds at its disposal, appears well disposed to using part of this cash for Balearic renewables. More confusion, or so it may seem.

Against this background, we now have a report from the International Institute of Law and Environment. This maintains that contamination from Es Murterar is responsible for 54 premature deaths per year. Almost 70% of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production are said to come from Es Murterar. In addition, there are high levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. It doesn't sound too clever, does it.

If we take the institute's report at its word, then there is good reason to be concerned, not least for those of us for whom the chimney of Es Murterar is a constant and ominous presence in the near distance. Without access to the science that has gone into the report and indeed without the knowledge of the science, it is impossible to dispute or verify the institute's findings. But the institute seems convinced, so who are you or I to suggest that it is wrong?

Endesa, it is understood, will be forking out some 100 million euros on limiting the emissions. It will do so in order to comply with European regulations for emission reduction by 2020, the same year that the government wanted to close two of the four production groups. The institute reckons that this investment makes no sense. What does make sense, in its view, are the shutting-down of groups that are over 35 years old and the gradual elimination of coal.

The cost arguments have taken over from the mere environmental or health ones. But it now seems that it is high time for all of these arguments to be presented to the public in a meaningful and transparent fashion. While some will be alarmed at the news of those premature deaths, there will be others who simply fail to comprehend why there should be any further delay in moving full steam (so to speak) ahead with the introduction of solar energy. It seems such an obvious step to take, so why isn't being done? And just what are Madrid's cost justifications for holding back on the closure of Es Murterar?

This latter question is easy to answer. Coal-fired power stations such as Es Murterar are cheap. Renewable electricity generation is not. Electricity from wind farms, it is said, costs twice as much as that from traditional sources like coal. Solar is even more expensive. Or this is the conventional wisdom at any rate. But solar technology is constantly advancing. It is in the interests of societies that it does, except for those wedded to old industries and unpersuaded as to climate change or even to public health. With the advances, so electricity generation from solar becomes cheaper. It is this type of equation that the public should be informed about. We should have the evidence presented, not in a partisan way as one would get from Més, for instance, but in an independent way.

It is a complex subject. No-brainer it may seem to have solar in Mallorca, but there is obviously more to it, and this includes the need for back-up. If the sun doesn't shine for a protracted period, then what? It's just like solar panels for houses. A conventional reserve is still needed. Or other forms of renewable energy are needed. The Balearic government doesn't envisage there being other forms. It's solar and only solar.

For people in Alcudia (and Sa Pobla and Muro), this whole subject needs to be elevated to the highest level of priority. People in the vicinity of Es Murterar live with the power station. An issue is whether they die with it as well.

Friday, November 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 November 2017

Morning high (7.17am): 12.6C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 25 November - Cloud, sun, 23C; 26 November - Cloud, 17C; 27 November - Cloud, 18C

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

A particularly warm day expected but cloudy at times. Change afoot as from tomorrow.

Evening update (21.00): One of those strange autumnal Majorcan days - very damp and humid, quite warm, hazy sun.

What Podemos Really Want - Tourism

Just think about it for a moment. A political party which is not actually in government insists that there should be a "political audit" of a ministry and that this particular party should take part in this audit.

A government should accede to processes of transparency but it should do so without demands and threats being made. This is what Podemos are doing. They have stepped back from voting with the PP and others in censuring the tourism minister, Biel Barceló, but are instead now wanting to control his ministry. Given the issues that have arisen at the ministry, the principle of auditing isn't in itself wrong, but the manner in which it is going to be done is.

Leaving aside allegations of suspicious practices at the ministry, Barceló - as we know - has presided over key items of legislation and of ongoing policy. We knew at the start of the current administration that there would be a tourist tax and that holiday rentals would be subject to new regulation. What we didn't know was the detail. We need to ask ourselves how much both policies have been determined not by Barceló but by Podemos. And the questions are germane. If voting were to go in a certain way in 2019, the current pact could be returned. Podemos, under the new general secretary, Mae de la Concha, have said that they will enter the government. If they were to, a prize - the prize - would be tourism.

Barceló has hinted that there may no longer be the need for a tourism minister or ministry because of the transfer of responsibilities to the island councils. Even if this were to be the case, there would still be a brief, and in the hands of Podemos, I would suggest that tourism in Mallorca and the Balearics would be open to great damage being caused. And if tourism at the island councils were to likewise become Podemos fiefdoms, the grip would be tightened further.

Consider the progress of legislation and policy. Did Barceló himself want to double the tourist tax? His statements suggested that at one time he was undecided as to whether there should have been any increase let alone a doubling. Podemos entered the equation in a forceful manner. Their agreement for the 2018 budget rested with an alteration to the rate of the tax - an upward alteration, a doubling.

With the rentals legislation, it was Podemos who initially blocked it. They did so because of an insistence on including the clause about emergency housing. This can in effect mean that bans on rentals can be enforced on the pretext of there being a crisis in the availability of regular rented accommodation. Palma and Ibiza Town have been specified in this regard, but that doesn't mean that this provision couldn't be applied elsewhere.

The Podemos attitude towards tourism and to its components has been made clear enough in the past. The party's parliamentary spokesperson, Alberto Jarabo, once referred to Balearic hoteliers as "ventriloquists in the shadows". The chief Podemos tourism thinker is a chap called Eric Labuske. His vision for tourism entails a fifteen-year strategic plan that would incorporate "social, cultural and environmental values", however these might be defined.

With the political audit, Podemos would assume virtual ministerial powers. Following the next election, these may no longer be virtual.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 November 2017

Morning high (7.47am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 24 November - Cloud, sun, 25C; 25 November - Sun, cloud, 23C; 26 November - Cloud, 17C

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

A good day in prospect. Forecast suggests we are in for a change over the weekend with temperatures tumbling and rain likely.

Evening update (19.30): High of 22.6C.

The Recognition Of Corruption

I don't expect everyone who reads this to be interested in Balearics politics. I don't expect everyone to be interested in politics full stop, be it Balearics or otherwise. But these politics, regardless of interest or the right to vote, do affect us. Just as they do anywhere. For those with no more than a casual interest, one suspects that knowledge of local politicians will go no further than those who do have an effect. Biel Barceló can probably therefore be taken to be the politician in the Balearics who is the best known among the current crop. He is best known, where most will be concerned, for the wrong reasons. He is the champion of the tourist tax, he is the maker of holiday rentals legislation. If there is a devil among the local political class, then one need look no further than Biel.

In all truth, I can't say that I have always taken much of an interest. I know when I truly started to. The beginning-point was the same one that started to deliver politicians into the hands of the prosecutors - the anti-corruption prosecutors specifically. "Caso Andratx" emerged in late 2006. What at first appeared to be no more than a tale of everyday municipal corruption assumed a life of its own. One domino, then the next, and no sooner had Eugenio Hidalgo, the mayor of Andratx, been the first domino to fall than far more important names filtered through the murk and the sleaze. And it went to the very top. Even now, Jaume Matas, the one-time president of the Balearics, keeps regular appointments with our learned friends.

It became my lot, therefore, to satisfy a curiosity as to who these people were and why they were. Over the years, very few can, in my view, be considered worthy of having any great attention paid to them. If I don't believe this, then I can hardly expect others to. Balearic politicians are generally uninteresting characters. They exude little or any charisma. They are for the most part anonymous beings lifted onto a stage of small-island politics. Small fishes in a small pond. But it has of course been the very smallness of this pond, with its Mediterranean potential for intrigue, rivalry, vendetta, family ties, loyalties (good and bad), fast and looseness with rules, and corruption that has elevated certain members of the political class above the level of the mundane. Has been and continues to be.

The local citizenry, those with full voting rights, are similarly less than totally interested in these people. The latest survey of politician recognition by the Gadeso Foundation proves the point. Which politicians do the citizens know? President Armengol, yes (seven per cent do not). Biel Barceló, yes. He comes second with 81%. Thereafter the recognition decreases. It is perhaps alarming to note that the minister responsible for the largest budget, Patricia Gómez at health, can muster only 44%, two per cent more than Vicenç Vidal at environment, who has the third highest budget.

One fancies that Barceló is as known as he is for the reasons mentioned above. Tourism-related matters have more impact than others. On small islands where tourism is all, then you would expect this. But I would wager that his recognition owes much to the specifics of policy, such as the tourist tax and the rentals legislation; the latter especially. If it is the case, therefore, that tourism bestows on its ministerial titleholder greater awareness than all other members of the government (bar the president), then there should be a rightful wariness as to who that titleholder is. The caprices and whims of policy - tourism policy - affect millions more than the one million plus citizens of the Balearics. It is the only ministerial position that carries a sense of the international. And Biel is that minister.

There is, though, an additional factor. Who is the one minister in the current cabinet to find him or herself under a potential cloud of corruption? It is Biel. For a further wrong reason he therefore finds his recognition soaring. Daily are the developments. A director from the tourism ministry resigns, and then another one resigns. Ranks are closed, and the president publicly announces her confidence in her beleaguered vice-presidential colleague (although there will be only comparatively little interest in the fact that Biel is also vice-president).

The cycle thus continues, the one I set in motion eleven years ago. Is it the case that these islands actually need some corruption (alleged or proven), even if it is insubstantial when compared with Matas's industrial-scale misdoings? Is it corruption that provides an element of charisma where little otherwise exists? Do small islands need to feed off it, if only in a voyeuristic manner?

Maybe it's better to have low recognition after all. High recognition can be for all the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 November 2017

Morning high (7.53am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 24 November - Sun, cloud, 25C; 25 November - Sun, cloud, 23C

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

Some cloud around this morning, but another decent sunny day coming up.

Evening update (19.15): High of 22.2C.

What Is The Other Barceló Up To?

According to those who study such things, the surname Barceló first surfaced in Mallorca in 1232, three years after the Catalan conquest. The original Barceló was a Pedro. He came from Montpellier, which wouldn't have done him any harm at all. King Jaume I was from the same city. Such ties counted for much when it came to the acquisition of power in the newly occupied land.

The surname is common in Mallorca and elsewhere in the Balearics. Amusingly enough, it is believed that the current tourism minister has a close family relationship with the hotel chain of the same name. This belief stems solely from the fact the name is the same. There is no such relationship and nor is there one involving one of Biel Barceló's predecessors at the tourism ministry: Joana isn't even Mallorcan, she's from Menorca.

Biel Barceló and Simón Pedro Barceló occupy very different worlds. Their common link is tourism. The former is not, as it is laughingly claimed by those captivated by the coincidence of the surname, in the pocket of the latter or indeed any other hotelier. Biel is a dyed-in-the-wool, left-wing eco-nationalist. Simón Pedro isn't. Common link notwithstanding, the two otherwise have so little in common that they may as well be from competing planets as opposed to competing sides of tourism policies.

While Biel tries his best to avoid being ejected from the government and tries his best (and succeeds) in antagonising holidaymakers and hoteliers by doubling the rate of tourist tax, Simón Pedro enjoys greater job security and harbours far loftier ambitions than lengthening the tourism season by a day or two. Simón Pedro wishes to rule the world of Spain's hotel chains.

Given the prominence of Mallorca's leading hotel groups (and not just in Mallorca by any stretch of the imagination), we are familiar with their leading lights. None of them, however, conforms with an American style of the business leader as celebrity. They are known, but they all give the impression of being low-key. There isn't any great sense of business machismo, bluster or a craving for the limelight. They just get on with running their businesses and being very successful (and rich), to boot.

It perhaps comes as something of a surprise, therefore, that someone with a meek and mild appearance like Simón Pedro is embarking on what - if it comes off - will be the mother of all hotel chain mergers. And when one says merger, it will of course be a takeover. There rarely is any such thing as a merger of equals.

Simón Pedro is eyeing up NH Hotels. In terms of the number of rooms in Spain, NH is the second largest hotel chain. Meliá has twice as many rooms as NH. Barceló, third on the list, is bested by NH to the tune of some 1,500 rooms, but it has well under half the number of hotels. Internationally, it is the same one, two, three. But they are closer when it comes to rooms. Meliá has getting on 47,000. NH has nearly 42,000 and Barceló over 35,000. NH, however, has 246 hotels. Barceló has 171 and Meliá 170. (These figures all come from the Hosteltur rankings.)

There are a great number of hotel groups in the Balearics and Spain. The history of tourism development has decreed that this should be the case. But this has meant that the industry is highly fragmented, which in turn means that there any number of takeover targets ripe for the picking. These aren't, however, of the size of NH. Hotel chains in Spain don't come any bigger, with the exception of Meliá.

Far more important than the fragmentation of the domestic hotel industry are the opportunities presented by scale and by scope in the overseas markets. A combined Barceló-NH would become not just the largest hotel group in Spain but the third largest in Europe. Critically, its size would give Simón Pedro something that he doesn't have enough of: presence in Asia and North America. Moreover, or so it is said, behind the meek and mild appearance is a determination to be Spain's number one and to become, together with NH, a "national champion" for Spain that can compete anywhere in the world.

Fundamentally, for Simón Pedro there is the need to look overseas. The Barceló Group could swallow up smaller domestic chains, but why bother when the scope for growth in Mallorca (especially Mallorca) and the rest of the country is limited. There is a whole world to grow in, and this is what Simón Pedro needs to do and intends doing.

So, while Simón Pedro makes his overtures to NH (and can apparently bank on the backing of Mariano Rajoy), Biel can only look on from the sidelines. What if Biel really had a close family relationship? Now, there's a question.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 November 2017

Morning high (8.25am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 22 November - Sun, 23C; 23 November - Sun, cloud, 24C; 24 November - Sun, cloud, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 2 to 3 becoming Variable 3 in the afternoon.

Just like yesterday. Cold to start, warm and sunny later. Very fine autumn weather at present.

Evening update (21.45): High of 22.7C.

Communicating The Tourist Tax

As I've observed before, the more times the word sustainable (or sustainability) is used, the more it will be hoped that it sticks. A different way of looking at its constant use is - like its lexicological partner in current Balearic tourism policy, quality - that it ceases to have any meaning. Everything is sustainable. Everything is quality. Meaning what exactly?

There is a desperation inherent to the government's incessant sustainable bleating, the philosopher's stone that is the key to the government's being. The government hopes to sustain itself beyond its natural four years and become a perpetual cycle of sustainable virtue. And at the core of this philosophy is the apparent alteration to a tourism model. This is unsustainable, despite contributing 45% direct GDP, because it is a monoculture. Agreed (the monoculture, that is), but can we please just stop going on about it?

There's little chance of such abatement. Not when there are tourists to convince as well as an electorate. The government, or at least the now deposed director-general of tourism, admitted recently that communications about the tourist tax were not good. Which is why, as I highlighted recently, the government brought in some professionals and came up with an amateurish website that gives some information about tourist tax spending. Actually, one suspects that no professionals were involved. If they were, then they require shooting. More likely, some job experience intern at the ministry with little grasp of website design was tasked with beefing up the rotten information about the tax.

Alerted to the fact that the communications have been abysmal, the government arranged for a communiqué. This informed us that the "tourist board" (sic) has revealed details of its sustainable tourism strategy and its sustainable tourism tax. Sustainable, sustainable, sustainable; and with an upper-case, just to make it all seem that much more impressive. Unfortunately, the communiqué started by shooting itself ever so slightly in the foot. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the history of Mallorca's tourism and indeed the current organisation of tourism will know that the "tourist board" doesn't exist as a governmental body and never has. The Mallorca Tourist Board is non-governmental, and has been for 112 years.

The long-term sustainable tourism model, we are told, is currently being served by 100 vital tourism initiatives. Really? Define vital. And while you're at it, define tourism, because these initiatives are for tourism in only a broad sense, if at all. But then, we knew this. Didn't we? We knew that the purposes for spending sustainable tourism tax revenue owed virtually nothing to investment directly in resort infrastructure or in general promotion. Didn't we? Well, the legislation stated as such. It's there on the statute book and clear as daylight.

Peculiarly, there is the not-the-tourist-tax revenue fund. This is the tourism ministry's stock fund, made up of all the contributions from hoteliers to legitimise hotel places that were illegitimate and to pay for subsequent ones. A nice kitty has grown over the years and the cash is used, weirdly enough, for tourism purposes - actual tourism purposes. The thinking behind it stemmed from the need to modernise Mallorca's ancient and crumbling tourist resorts. This thinking was sustainability, but they never called it that; they having originally been the Unió Mallorquina when they controlled the tourism ministry.

Am I alone in finding it curious that at the same time as the government is seeking to be shown as virtuous by attempting to highlight how it spends the tourist tax, it should also be making much of the latest round of projects from the stock fund? If there is any criticism about the tax not actually being used for tourism (which there is), then the government can always point to a different source of funding, albeit the amount on offer is approximately a quarter of this year's tax spending.

While the fund will therefore go towards, for example, embellishing the main road in Puerto Alcudia (good Heavens, a resort), the tourist tax will do nothing of the sort. Instead it will, inter alia, go towards extending and improving the Inca water/sewage treatment plant (Inca, that thriving tourism centre); sponsoring a mill; supporting technology-based entrepreneurs (whoever they are); providing water conduction between Petra and Manacor; boosting the social economy and "circular sustainable management of tourism waste and creation of jobs for people at risk of exclusion".

And no, I don't know what circular sustainable management means either. And yes, the list goes on: well-managed and energetically (sic) efficient forest management; management and conservation of natural areas by people at risk of social exclusion.

Can we just accept and can the government just admit that the tourist tax is simply a tax? Insofar as most things in Mallorca are associated with tourism, then the government can define the projects any way they want. And it does. But for tourism, as in the lifeblood tourist resorts? No.

Monday, November 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 November 2017

Morning high (7.56am): 8.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 21 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 22 November - Sun, 23C; 23 November - Sun, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3, locally Northeast 2 to 3 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Another chilly but bright morning. Settled pattern predicted for the rest of the week with change possible by the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): High of 22.4C.

Branding Mallorca's Interior

Sa Pobla has a new tourism brand, though new isn't accurate. Nor is brand for that matter. Sa Pobla has a tourism logo; it's first, as far as I'm aware. A brand is quite another thing.

The logo was unveiled at the third conference on Sa Pobla tourism. Three and a half hours, with coffee break, to enjoy the unveiling of the logo and to consider, inter alia, the application of the holiday rentals law and "synergies" between Sa Pobla and the tourism in Alcudia Bay.

In keeping with the vogue for citizen participation, the citizens had been invited to help with the logo design. Well, they were given colours to choose at any rate. And which is the predominant colour? Red. As ever, there was a marketing company on hand to explain the logo. Red denotes fire and also passion, dynamism and strength. Let's stick with the fire, shall we? Sa Pobla's fires of January form a strong association, though fires, it has to be said, tend not to be red.

The common denominator to the logo is symbolised by roots dropping from the base of Sa Pobla's b. These roots are the roots of tradition, of agriculture and of the potato in particular. There are also multicoloured brushstrokes to denote fireworks of fiesta time. There was no explanation as to why the tail on Sa makes the word look as if it is Sax. This would be appropriate. Sa Pobla has a fine international jazz festival. This festival doesn't seem to have featured high, if at all, in the citizens' participatory eyes.

It's fair enough to ask for the input of the citizens. It's fine to find out what they believe is most representative of where they live. But what does this do for tourism? Perceptions of local people and of tourists, such as they are or might be, will be different.

There is an example of this. Asked about the January fiestas for Sant Antoni, 67% of adults identified the figure of Sant Antoni himself as being most representative of the fiestas. While the demons attracted 19%, the demons correfoc fire-run got only two per cent. Sant Antoni exists in the soul of the Sa Pobla folk, but despite all the publicity the likes of myself give to the saint, I would have to question how meaningful he is to visitors. Demons on the rampage are, I would suggest, more meaningful.

Has this branding exercise been undertaken the wrong way round? Should it not be tourists who are pinpointing what's meaningful? Maybe they could in the resorts, but in a town like Sa Pobla, with little tourism and few tourists, there would be no meaningful data. Residents it is, then.

The problem lies with building a brand. A logo is fine, but a brand is way much more. Sa Pobla has a long way to go in even beginning to establish a brand concept. It can look across the Albufera wetland to Alcudia and know that there is a brand, albeit a somewhat schizophrenic one of differing reputations and very different types of tourist.

Sa Pobla has its ambitions for tourism. Hence it stages the annual tourism conferences. Key to these ambitions are holiday rentals. They heard about the ins and outs of the legislation from the now new tourism director-general, Antoni Sansó, but he is not at liberty to give any idea how the rentals' lottery will work out. He may not know, though one suspects he has more than an inkling.

These ambitions for tourism are ones shared with other municipalities in Mallorca's interior. How realistic are they for Sa Pobla and for these other towns and villages? The rentals' decisions may well prove to be an attempt at engineering tourism development in the interior, but for any of these municipalities there have to be incentives for tourists to choose to go there in the first place and then to stay there when they arrive. The "synergies" with the bay of Alcudia form mostly one-way traffic - out of Sa Pobla and to the beaches, to the nightlife, to the much greater choice of restaurants. As for good old Sant Antoni in January, it's a lovely thought that tourists might come in any great number. But for those tourists who are in Mallorca in January, Sant Antoni can be enjoyed mostly anywhere. And then there is of course, you know what. Flights.

Grabbing hold of fiesta traditions and gastronomy are all well and good, but which village can't lay claim to these? Yes, the traditions in Sa Pobla are unmatched in their historical terms, but do these count for a great deal? Enough to form a firm brand in the minds of tourists? Is it not really the case that villages on the Mallorcan plain are in fact just reflections of Mallorca and its traditions and its brand? But does that brand owe much (anything) to the island's interior?

* Photo from Ajuntament de Sa Pobla Facebook.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2017

Morning high (8.55am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 November - Sun, 22C; 22 November - Sun, cloud, 23C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 veering Northwest 4 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Cold start and bright. Sunny and quite warm today.

Evening update (19.15): Yep, nice. High of 20.8C.

Sort Of A Holiday

Little is the time when I am officially not at work. The past three days have been such a time, though as seems normal, it doesn't quite go to plan. Can I do ... ? Yes, ok. It's almost inevitable.

This short break hasn't been in order to get away. It has partly been to do the things that one never seems to ever have the time for otherwise. Like getting a haircut. Or, given the season, to go and get a flu jab. Which is always an entertaining procedure. The waiting area is naturally full to bursting with old farmers and their families. It is a social gathering. Try hearing your name called above that noise. I personally attempt to shorten proceedings by only wearing a t-shirt. The old farmers have several layers. The simple act of the jab is made more complex because of the removal of these layers.

Anyway, having waited while they all trooped in (or were wheeled in) and then out, I still haven't been called. Everyone else has been dealt with? Er, and me? Oh, yes, the name has been added in pen to the computer-generated list. Thought you had been vaccinated, said the nurse. Why having been added in pen should have resulted in that conclusion I haven't the faintest idea.

The health service is, in my view, exceptionally good, but there are occasions when it can seem a touch hit and miss. This was such an occasion. I had almost reconciled myself to the fact that it would be even before turning up at the health centre. The appointment had been made over the phone some two and a half hours earlier. I had a sense of foreboding, and I was right to have had.

Still, all jabbed up, this allowed me to try and concentrate on my main "free-time" task. Have you ever tried writing a script for "Mary Poppins" that turns a twee story into something even vaguely funny or in something form of a panto-style? I imagine you have not. This, though, has been my lot.

The annual Nomads thing is in February. The last two - both of which I re-scripted - were comparatively easy in that the original stories ("Sound of Music" and "Oliver") have very strong storylines, dramatic development and characters. "Mary Poppins", I have discovered (knew in advance), does not. Yes, it won all sorts of accolades, but there are some stories which lend themselves to adaptation and there are others which do not.

Nevertheless, it's not far off being completed. And I'm reasonably satisfied that it has been turned into an entertainment. Fundamental principle, where I'm concerned, is that people pitch up in mid-February and want to be entertained. You can stage worthy productions, but you need to send the punters away with a smile and the knowledge of a good evening out. Whether all the ideas will get used will depend on others. Introducing House of Pain's "Jump Around" (a nod in the direction of "Mrs Doubtfire") might not make the cut. But I shall be lobbying for it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 November 2017

Morning high (8.59am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 November - Sun, 20C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 November - Sun, cloud, 22C

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

Mainly sunny this morning, clouding over the in the afternoon. General outlook for the next few days is at present very good and getting warmer.

Evening update (19.45): High of 20.2C.

Barceló: If The Boot Were On The Other Foot

Biel Barceló is the vice-president of the Balearic government as well as the tourism minister. He enjoys his position of vice-president because of the political arrangement between his party, Més, and PSOE to act as the government with Podemos lending its support. This position was the consequence of having gained a 13.8% share of the vote in 2015. That's PR for you.

Barceló has been around the block for many years. He was within the Bloc of 2007 to 2011, a grouping of left-wing parties that were part of the government of that period. The Bloc predated Més.

Given the fluctuations of electoral fortune, he has found himself in opposition as well as in government. And as a member of the opposition, he made a virtue of attacking corruption - that of the Partido Popular or others - at every opportunity. In a different life, he would now be leading the charge in demanding his resignation.

The contracts affair, as stated previously, doesn't bear the same hallmarks of the outlandish corruption of the past. No one has actually been found guilty of anything, and whatever guilt there might be, it would perhaps lie with a manipulation of the rules as opposed to outright abuse. Contracts were supposedly divided up into different companies in order to get round the maximum limits of contract value at which point the rules say that they must be open to public competition.

The amounts aren't vast. But the whole affair has more than a whiff of favouritism - that shown to the one-time Més campaign manager, Jaume Garau, a friend of Barceló's. It has principally been the contracts affair that has led the opposition (and Podemos) to call for Barceló's head.

Pilar Carbonell, the now ex-tourism director-general, was a later arrival. But even within Més there will be those who are content to wish her on her way. She was not a member of Més. She was in fact firmly a creature of the business association environment, selected mainly, it seemed, because she had confronted the hoteliers on many an occasion as president of the restaurants' association. She was given the post of director-general because Garau supposedly didn't want it.

Give people positions of political power, then they will either abuse them or they will mutate in some form or another. With Carbonell, she has had to involve herself in the rentals' legislation. As a one-time representative of the restaurant sector, an undoubted beneficiary of holiday rentals, this has been an about-face, one caused by her position. Her dealings with Cursach, whatever they may really have been, need to be considered in terms of her role before she was given a political position. It's not an excuse for her, but Cursach, regardless of the charges he and Tolo Sbert face, was a figure from the same "complementary" sector as Carbonell.

Barceló, not cited by any judge, can take this as reason not to resign. But he was the boss of both Carbonell and Pere Muñoz, who was obliged to fall on his sword at the tourism agency because of the contracts affair. As the most senior and recognisable face in Més, he may not have been directly responsible for contracts awarded by the transparency and culture ministry, but this was a ministry of his doing, of his creation. Més control it.

If the boot were on the other foot, he would be calling for heads to roll. His own. But political power alters the perceptions and the steadfast desire to root out corruption, even at a comparatively minor level. The current opposition are demanding that President Armengol sacks him immediately, if he doesn't resign. Bizarrely, because Armengol was unwell, Barceló chaired yesterday's cabinet meeting. One wonders what they spoke about.

Friday, November 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 November 2017

Morning high (8.13am): 8C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 19 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

Fine, sunny day.

Evening update (21.45): Pretty decent. High of 22.3C.

The Curse Of The Balearic Tourism Ministry

Francesc Buils and Miquel Nadal. They were the tourism ministers during the 2007-2011 government who were sent to prison and who are currently still in prison. Things really aren't as bad as they were in those days of unfettered Unió Mallorquina (UM) corruption that wrote its name into the core of the ministry. But they are bad enough. To lose one director may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose a second just a few weeks later looks like the wheels are coming off.

Pere Muñoz, the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency, resigned because of his implication in the Més contracts affair. Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director-general, has now resigned because she is under investigation for alleged corruption related to Cursach Group businesses. The tourism minister, Biel Barceló, is said to be experiencing some bad luck. The bad luck is misfortune turning into ministerial meltdown. History is repeating itself at the ministry, even if the scale of the allegations is not as it was with the UM.

The bad luck might not even have arisen in the Carbonell case, if it hadn't been for the name Cursach. Once the press exposed her apparent willingness in having expedited proceedings for work at MegaPark in record time compared with the normal ministerial bureaucratic tardiness, her days were numbered. The police went looking, and the police suggest that she was a virtual Cursach employee. Bad luck, Pilar. Bad luck, Biel. The tentacles of Tolo Cursach reach out from his prison cell (he's back in Palma now) and they touch with poison anyone whose name is said in the same breath as the fallen King of the Night.

Barceló is hanging on. Just. A motion of censure brought by the Partido Popular and stemming from the contracts affair very nearly succeeded. The vote was a tie. The media enjoyed pointing out that Biel might have been censured had the PP's Álvaro Gijón been in the parliamentary house. What irony. Gijón, up to his neck in the Cursach case, symbolises the enduring reputation of PP corruption but was not there to deliver a fateful blow. It needs saying, however, that President Armengol was also absent. She was unwell. A full house and it would still have been a tie.

Carbonell has been replaced by Antoni Sansó, chief advisor to the tourism ministry. He has been photographed periodically with Barceló or Carbonell. A dour-looking, unsmiling sort of character, he was apparently the brains behind the holiday rentals legislation. Amidst this ministerial musical chairs, the only real thing to be said for Barceló is that opinion polls seem to give him local support for his stellar items of legislation - the rentals and the tourist tax. But as Més see their support in general ebb in other polls, this is unlikely to count for much. He and his party are in something of a crisis.

Barceló has said that he won't be staying on after the next election. He might in any event not have had any choice in the matter. But with his disappearance from the scene, Més are casting around for someone who can assume his figurehead role. And this isn't easy. Prime possibilities either don't want the job of running for president (Miquel Ensenyat at the Council of Mallorca wants to stay put), are needed elsewhere (Antoni Noguera in Palma) or are not products of the PSM Mallorca Socialist party.

Més, a left coalition, has prominent one-time members of the communist United Left. Social services minister Fina Santiago is one. Parliamentary spokesperson and principal advocate of independence for the Balearics, David Abril, is another. Santiago might be advanced as presidential candidate, but it would be with reluctance by the solid PSM faction. Quite how appealing she would be to the electorate is another matter. Not especially, one would fancy.

The party can just hope that Barceló keeps his head down for the remainder of this government and doesn't get his head chopped off. Podemos want him to go, but couldn't bring themselves to have voted with the PP on the censure motion. They will seize whatever chance comes along to force his resignation or dismissal. Such are the workings of this government and the power behind the throne that is Podemos.

Bad luck for Pilar, bad luck for Biel, bad luck for Més, which might go into electoral freefall. The bad luck was having charge of the tourism ministry. That bad luck has passed to many, such as those paying the tourist tax. Bad luck all round. It's the curse of the Balearic tourism ministry.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 November 2017

Morning high (7.59am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 17 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 18 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 19 November - Cloud, sun, 20C

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

Sunny morning and a nippy one. As low as three to four degrees in some areas first thing. A pleasant day for the big fair - Inca's Dijous Bo.

Evening update (20.15): High of 19.9C.

Llubí: A Town Called She-Wolf

The Romans had a name for the place. It was Castro-Lupino. The castro part referred to a fortification. Lupino wasn't a lupin, it was a she-wolf. As such, it was a strange name. There were wolves in Mallorca? Perhaps it was someone's name. Whatever the reason, Castro-Lupino changed over time. It became Castell-Llubí. The Castell was eventually abandoned.

Llubí is one of the places in Mallorca that rarely attracts any attention to itself. It has its honey fair this coming Sunday. Otherwise, it can boast being the only place to celebrate Sant Feliu (Saint Felix). Like other villages in the plain area of the island, it homed in on a saint that no one else was too inclined to honour. Petra is another example. Who on Earth was Santa Praxedis?

It used to be part of Muro. Way back when, at the end of the Muslim occupation, there was a district called Muruh. It also included Maria de la Salut and, doubtless to its eternal displeasure, the highly singular village of Santa Margalida, which has typically prided itself on its difference. A distant recollection of having somehow been subordinate to Muro most certainly doesn't fit with a Santa Margalida self-image. The rivalry between the two continues to this day.

Llubí, on the other hand, has mostly just got on with its fate over the centuries, and this owed a great deal to someone called Ponç Hug. He was among the 1229 conquering force of King Jaume I and was also the Comte d'Empúries. The square in front of Muro town hall was named after this count, and he - generous fellow perhaps - gave some land to one Bernat Descoll, the abbott of Sant Feliu de Guíxols​, nowadays known for being a tourist resort on the Costa Brava. It was this abbott who secured Sant Feliu's patronage of the land - "terres llubineres" - he had been given by Ponç Hug. The first chapel for Sant Feliu appeared some time in the thirteenth century.

The terres llubineres were still referred to as Castell-Llubí into the nineteenth century, but there was a seemingly significant development which occurred prior to that century, and it was all because of a member of one of Mallorca's most important noble families, the Despuig.

Antoni Despuig i Dameto had originally wanted to join the military. The family thought otherwise. He was ordained and in 1803 became a cardinal. But before this, he had developed a reputation unusual for many of Mallorca's nobility in that he really seemed to care about the island. The Raixa finca in Bunyola had become part of the family's possessions in the mid-seventeenth century. Antoni was to establish a museum of classical sculpture at the finca.

Cardinal Despuig is known for having been one of the most important representatives of the Enlightenment in Mallorca. And there weren't that many, if truth be known. One of his various achievements was to appear in 1784. This was the Mapa de Mallorca, sometimes referred to as the Mapa Despuig. It wasn't the first map of the island but it was the first to be generally accurate, which was what he wanted it to be. Previous versions, even one of 1773, had inaccuracies, so Antoni set about rectifying them, and he did this by touring the island with another cleric, Julián Ballester. It is argued that Ballester was the cartographical brains behind the map. And he may well have been, but Despuig was the driving force and the sponsor. The map that was created was actually produced by the engraver Josep Muntaner in 1785, and included in the map was Llubí without the Castell.

It is said that Llubí on its own was in fact first referred to almost two hundred years before in 1609. But the official name always included the Castell. Once the Mapa Despuig appeared, the fortification was well on its way to being dropped, which is what happened. And in 1836 there was a separation from Muro; the municipality of Llubí was officially and definitively founded.

Municipalities in Mallorca have their shields. Llubí is no exception. But there is something curious about this shield. It is based on the original name, so there is therefore a castle and there is also a wolf. Which makes one wonder again - were there wolves in Mallorca? This isn't, however, the most curious aspect. Take a close look at this wolf and you will conclude that it isn't a she-wolf.

There again, it isn't so curious perhaps. Despite the she-wolf origin, it seems that the name had become masculine by the time that the Catalans turned up in the thirteenth century. Aben-Lubi, as it was known in the Mozarabic era, was son of a wolf.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 November 2017

Morning high (7.51am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 17 November - Sun, 21C; 18 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4, swells of one to two metres.

Some cloud around first thing, but a sunny day expected.

Evening update (21.30): Very pleasant. High of 18.3C.

What Is The Alternative, Carles?

The significance of the presence of Carles Puigdemont in Brussels goes beyond the fact that it is the seat of power for a confederated institution which has proved to be toothless in face of political crisis in one of its constituent member states. Brussels is the capital of a country with one of the more peculiar structures in the EU. What is Belgium? Like Spain it is a kingdom. Like Spain it has its cultural and linguistic differences and tensions. Unlike Spain these are even more influential and divisive. The Flemings and the Walloons are essentially separate peoples. Their political affiliations and the pressures for separatism, especially in Flanders, have created a country that in a sense is a country in name alone. It is a form of federal state but one with an appearance of the confederated state - the centre is basically subordinate to the constituent parts, which is the theory under which the European Union operates: theory if not always practice.

Carles Puigdemont was interviewed by the French-speaking Le Soir. This in itself was symbolic. French has far more in common with Catalan than Dutch does. In Belgium, as in Spain, there is a linguistic choice to be made. The language speaks volumes, and it shouts on behalf of one form of political structure or another. In Catalan, however, this isn't as sharply defined as it is with the Flemings. Carles Puigdemont knows this, even if he might not admit it. Mariano Rajoy most certainly knows this. The silent majority will come forth and let their voice be heard four days before Christmas. So he hopes.

Puigdemont revealed to Le Soir that he is not averse to "another relationship with Spain". This would be an "alternative to independence". Back in Barcelona, there would have been the sound of ardent supporters of independence muttering dark comments about a Puigdemont vacillation or climb-down. To others, it might just have sounded like a rare dose of reality creeping into the unreal monster of ill-defined confusion that Puigdemont has helped to create.

But what was he talking about? The independence declaration has some comparisons with Brexit. A total lack of preparedness followed by a search for something meaningful, the need to extract a solution from the havoc caused by the ignorance of consequences. Brexit, replete with its absurd posturing and with its path littered with the jibes, aspirations and ambitions of chancers such as Johnson, stumbles daily more deeply into an intellectual abyss of the unknowing. The extraction of solutions is hindered by mutual exclusivity. Likewise, Catalonia. Until, for both problems, someone ventures the possibility of a third-way solution. Ventures it but can't define it.

A solution of sorts is federalism. But what is federalism? It operates in numerous states, yet even in that most federal of nations, the United States, it has never truly been defined. The Balearics president has made many a reference to a federal model for Spain, but what does she take this to mean? What does Pedro Sánchez, the national leader of PSOE, take it to mean? He is also an advocate, but one never learns what this would look like, what this would be.

The point is that Spain already bears many of the hallmarks of the federal state. At its most basic level it means the sharing of power between the state and its components. Crucially, however, there is the money angle. Can the Catalonia crisis be styled as the result of a disagreement over tax-raising powers? Some will argue that it can be and that had Madrid been more amenable and granted Catalonia a Basque-type arrangement, the independence movement would have been nipped in the bud.

But this is too simplistic. Puigdemont has highlighted the fact that in 2010 the Constitutional Court invalidated certain articles in the Catalonia statute of autonomy. At that time, there were a mere fourteen members of the Catalan parliament who were fervent supporters of independence. Yet he too is being simplistic. What then happened was that Artur Mas, needing to prop up his presidency and under assault for austerity measures, took a risk with an election. This signalled the sea change, as also did the emergence of the alternative parties. Independence took on new life, with Mas committing himself to it because he had no other choice but to, if he wanted to stay in power.

Now that Catalonia and Spain are where they are, the genie can't be put back. There has to be a viable solution. Politicians cannot be allowed to wallow in prison; this is an obscenity. But what possible accord or alternative is attainable? Rajoy is speaking about Constitutional reform to return powers to the state. He has fired a broadside against his own foreign affairs minister, Alfonso Dastis, who has intimated that a different type of reform - one that potentially recognises independence if the vote on 21 December were to hint at this - could be possible.

An alternative, but what sort? Rajoy seems ever less inclined to consider a more sharply defined federal regime or even a confederation which would enfeeble the central government. Carles, what are you talking about?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 November 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 November - Sun, wind, 19C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 17 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 to 7, locally 8. Waves up to seven metres.

Very windy again. Amber alert still in place for coastal conditions. Mainly cloudy.

Evening update (21.30): Wind's down now. High of only 14.9C. 

Port Mayurqa: Another Failed Scheme?

The history of theme parks in Mallorca is a short and undistinguished one. This is mainly because ideas have come forward and been presented only for them to disappear. Much publicity has in the past been given to, for instance, the project of the Theme Park Group, which was supposedly going to have been sited somewhere between Llucmajor and Campos. Representatives were photographed with the then president, José Ramón Bauzá, much was said about how marvellous it would be for creating employment and tackling seasonality, and it was soon forgotten. Planning permission, investment, environmental issues and some mutterings behind the scenes regarding the credentials of one of the principals involved all saw to it that the project for the "Mallorca Experience" sank without trace.

There have also been the proposed dinosaur theme park in Sineu and the Christian theme park "Tierra Santa" that was touted around numerous town halls and failed to get anywhere. Theme parks such as there are, i.e. Katmandu Park in Magalluf, aren't really what one thinks of as constituting a theme park. It is nothing like on the scale of what's to be found on the mainland, e.g. Port Aventura. It never will be on the scale and, moreover, there never will be any theme park in Mallorca that gets anywhere close.

When the Bauzá government came into office, the tourism minister Carlos Delgado was an advocate of theme parks. By the time the Bauzá administration was drawing to a close, Delgado's successor, Jaime Martínez, was admitting that theme parks were pretty much dead ducks. Environmental considerations, foremost, would never permit them. It was an obvious conclusion, as these considerations had scuppered projects in the past.

The current vogue, such as it is, for theme parks in a Mallorca style is essentially that of the large retail complex with attractions grafted on. This is the case with a project still doing the rounds which, when it was first being given publicity in the summer of 2016, seemed as if it would go the same way as Jaime Martínez's other dead ducks.

Port Mayurqa, so we are told, would involve an investment of 500 million euros. It would provide 2,000 jobs for its construction and a further 3,000 once it is up and running. The chosen site would be Son Malferit in Palma right by Ikea and the Atlético Baleares football stadium. In addition to shops and restaurants, it would include a spa, a ski zone, a surf zone and some form of a lake for boats. There would also be cinemas, an amphitheatre for staging concerts, a botanical garden and an aquarium in which visitors would be able to swim with its different types of fish.

The project is the brainchild of Intu-Eurofond, essentially a British concern and one with very solid credentials. There are none of the business misgivings about Intu that there might have been about the Mallorca Experience scheme. Port Mayurqa is clearly a realistic venture which has attracted support from Mallorca businesses like Quely and World2Meet, which is part of the Iberostar group.

One says realistic, but the realities may well be different. When the project was spoken about in 2016, it was said by the developers that there had been positive meetings with the government (President Armengol and Biel Barceló) and with Palma town hall. The hoteliers federation was in favour, as were the leading unions. Almost as soon as these positive meetings were announced, the now mayor of Palma, Antoni Noguera, said that the project did not meet with the model of the city being envisaged under the revised general urban plan.

Noguera also referred to the moratorium on the development of large commercial centres and to the "saturation" of such centres in Palma. The moratorium had come from the Council of Mallorca. It was imposed while the Council considered the whole future of large centres. Its deliberations are all but over, while it is also in the process of revising its territorial plan for the whole of the island. This plan takes account of all development.

The fact is that Port Mayurqa is highly unlikely to be given the Council's blessing. Palma town hall, especially with Noguera in charge, will also probably veto it. The concept, notwithstanding the future employment and the potential to satisfy the government's wishes for tackling tourism seasonality, comes with rather too much political baggage in terms of it potentially further undermining local business and of it causing "saturation". The mere mention of it incurs the wrath of GOB, Terraferida and others.

It had seemed as if it wasn't going anywhere, but in fact the support from business and unions has strengthened, while market research surveys conducted by GfK point to a favouring of the project among the public. Will it come to light? Personally, I would very much doubt that it will.

* Image is of the scheme for Port Mayurqa.

Monday, November 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 November 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 13.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 14 November - Sun, cloud, wind, 17C; 15 November - Sun, cloud, wind, 19C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 7 to 8. Waves up to six metres.

Windy. Amber alert for coastal conditions. Should be a fair deal of sun, clouding over later.

Evening update (19.15): Some sun, some cloud, a lot of wind. High of 16.9C.

Lonely This Christmas Without Catalonia

Álvaro Nadal, the national minister for tourism, energy and the digital agenda, needed to have a good World Travel Market. Here was an opportunity for him to shine in the eyes of any Spaniards who were taking any notice of what was going on in London, which admittedly probably wasn't that many. But the opportunity was presented nonetheless, and Señor Nadal, Mister Christmas, was insisting, among other things, that elections in Catalonia four days before Christmas will help in restoring Catalonia to normality. Most importantly, given that he was at a travel fair, this normality will mean that the streets and hotels of Barcelona are full to overflowing.

Well, he might hope that this is the case, but omens at present don't offer quite the same level of hope. It may well be lonely this Christmas in Catalonia, lonelier still for those who remain incarcerated, and lonely for Mister Christmas if there isn't the hoped-for rebound. You see, Señor Nadal has a slight perception difficulty. One among the citizens. The latest "barometer" of public political opinion placed him rank bottom of all Spain's minister. He had even managed to fall below the chap in charge of the money (and the taxes), Cristóbal Montoro, the Count of the Mount of Gold, for whom last place is normally and deservedly reserved.

What Mister Christmas really needed of course was a pick-me-up in the form of a celebrity rock singer. And where there's a cause, there's normally the frontman for U2. Bono, in all likelihood, will have allied himself with the Pamela Anderson camp in defence of Catalan democracy (what with Ireland and all that), but a bit of a stardust, even of the opposition variety, can work wonders for a minister's ailing approval rating.

So, for a fleeting moment it appeared that Bono, minus The Edge, had cut along to Docklands with the intention of providing the world with his thoughts on the Catalan situation. Unfortunately, the moment was indeed only fleeting. Bono wasn't Bono. He was Octavi Bono, the director-general of tourism in Catalonia and one of the few people in the Catalan administration to not find him or herself in chokey. Things, Bono told Mister Christmas, could have been done better. Which even a member of the Spanish government would surely admit. He, Bono, then went on to hint that information regarding a dramatic fall in visitor numbers was some form of Rajoy government fake news.

Mister Christmas was thus denied the boost to his approval rating, and he wandered off as the muzak at the World Travel Market didn't mangle Elvis but instead trampled all over U2 - "I can't live, with or without you".

Oh Catalonia.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 November 2017

Morning high (8.08am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 November - Sun, cloud, wind, 21C; 14 November - Cloud, wind, 17C; 15 November - Sun, cloud, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 3 to 5. Swells to two metres.

Another sunny day, still pretty breezy though. And tomorrow and Tuesday breezier still with amber alerts for coastal conditions.

Evening update (19.15): Very pleasant. High of 21.9C.

What A Difference A Year Makes (And Doesn't)

"Early holiday bookings to the Balearics for summer 2017 have risen by eight per cent, easing fears over the weakness of the pound and Brexit, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said in London today. And the news gets even better for President Armengol and tourism minister Biel Barceló. According to Abta, the controversial tourist tax has had no impact on holiday sales at all."

"Any fears about Brexit hitting the Balearics hard have been clearly dispelled at the World Travel Market in London. In fact the news just gets better for the Balearics. Holiday sales for April and May have risen by a record 20 per cent on top of the eight per cent growth in summer holiday sales for summer 2017."

"President Armengol has praised the 'magnificent work' of the tourism ministry for its tourism promotion. Speaking in London, Armengol said that a nine-month season is now a reality and that this will allow the Balearics to grow at an increased rate. It will also mean greater employment and more stable work, which are objectives of the regional government."

That was then, this is now. Abta was seemingly trying to say as little as possible about bookings for 2018 other than stressing the strength of Spain as a destination in the face of reactivated competition from the likes of Turkey. The association had, however, let the cat out of the bag prior to everyone gathering in London. Bookings to the Balearics are down on what they have been. More precisely, and the news would not have gone unnoticed, there was that report pointing to a nine per cent slump in the sale of holiday packages. This was being attributed to the rise in the tourist tax, though one suspects there are other reasons. But the tax doesn't exactly help.

At an event such as the World Travel Market, they try and avoid making public displays of differences. It's in no one's interests to do so, be they government, hoteliers or tour operators. And besides, there's no real need to make public displays. Everyone knows that the hoteliers and tour operators oppose the tax. Instead they mainly attempt to get on as well as possible and smile for the public. But you can't keep a good Escarrer down, and the son was at least prepared to break ranks and say that the tax will have negative consequences. Likewise, the national tourism minister, Álvaro Nadal, said that the tax will affect competitiveness, though to be honest he had other things to worry him more than the Balearic tourist tax - Catalonia, for example.

However, the Mallorca hoteliers did eventually break the silence. And in a major way. The loss of one million tourists because of the tourist tax.

Then there was dear President Armengol with her nine-month realities. They were being given an airing again, and for domestic Balearic consumption there are naturally all the efforts the government is making in generating more employment. A slight problem, compared to last year, is that growth - as in general economic growth - is forecast to be down in 2018, regardless of the nine-month reality. The tourism promotion we all know about as we can't avoid it: Better in Winter. But while the government will seek to take the credit, any effort it has made has been a sort of piggybacking exercise.

The greatest impulse, bar none, for an extension of the season has been cycling. This clearly hasn't suddenly happened, it has been a development over many years and it owes very little to successive governments (including this one). Greatly increased interest in cycling and therefore greatly increased demand for cycling holidays have been facilitated by the private sector - tour operators and hoteliers. The consequence has been that hotels have opened earlier and more have been doing so each year. This has benefited the non-hotel trade. Restaurants open earlier, specialist shops have sprung up, and the impulse given by cycling has given the opportunity for other types of tourist to be attracted. I give you Playa de Muro as a classic example of this reality, and it's all due to cycling.

If the president's nine-month reality was a case of no difference from last year, so also was her playing to the domestic market in another way. But and the president of the Canaries were making precisely the same song and dance about demanding a 75% residents' discount on flights at the World Travel Market last year as they were this year.

Why is it necessary for them to go through this ritual on an annual basis? The only explanation can be that it is designed to show the public that they're doing something. But if this issue and others are that important, can't they just phone each other up?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 November 2017

Morning high (8.05am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 12 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 13 November - Cloud, wind, 21C; 14 November - Cloud, wind, 18C

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

Sunny day on the cards and a sunny weekend; good for the two local fairs in Muro and Pollensa.

Evening update (19.45): Nice enough. High of 21.1C.

The Reluctant Artistic Genius Of Pollensa

An exhibition at the CaixaForum in Palma opened last month. The curator is Silvia Pizarro. She has a strong association with this exhibition. It comprises 35 paintings and eight drawings by her grandfather. He was Hermenegildo (Hermen) Anglada Camarasa.

In Puerto Pollensa the promenade between the yacht club roundabout and the start of the Passeig Voramar (the famed pinewalk) is named after Camarasa. He died at the age of 87 in Puerto Pollensa in 1959, having returned to Mallorca in 1947 after several years in exile. A Republican, in 1936 he left Mallorca and eventually settled for a time in Pougues-les-Eaux in central France.

As with all the important artists of his era, he wasn't a native of Mallorca. He was born in Barcelona. It is known that he came to the island in 1908, though Silvia Pizarro believes that he may have first come before then. It was to be a further six years before he made Puerto Pollensa his permanent home. It was 1914, the year that war broke out but which was also the year when a peaceful movement started. Camarasa and the Argentine painter Tito Cittadini founded the Pollensa "School" in that year.

This wasn't of course a physical school and in fact despite the usual reference to 1914, the term Pollensa School was to be adopted later. A journalist called Pedro Ferrer came up with it in a book published in 1916 with the curious title of Flirt. What he was referring to was the style of post-impressionism that was developed in Pollensa.

Camarasa (to a lesser extent Cittadini, who was a disciple of his) thus came to be the artist whose name has most endured over the decades, though his presence in Pollensa owed much to forerunners such as Santiago Rusiñol and Francisco Bernareggi, who himself was associated with a different school, that of Deya. Rusiñol had first come to Mallorca in 1893, and in broad terms of the artistic movement on the island at the turn of the twentieth century it is probably fair to say that he was its leader or at least inspiration.

The artistic legacy of Camarasa and his contemporaries is profound. They pictorially documented an island that was largely unknown. Their points of reference were typically the Tramuntana Mountains, often merging sea and landscapes into fantastic kaleidoscopes of colour that captured the essence of light, which was what so appealed to their artistic sensibilities. An example of Camarasa is his "Acantilado en Formentor", Cliff in Formentor, in which oranges blotted with green descend to the water, transforming the cliff face into a harmony of blues. It's a striking work not least for the rock formation in the foreground of a stony purple that looks as if it has an eye and a hand with one finger pointing downwards.

By the time he came to Mallorca in 1914, he had already gained an international reputation. He had been in Paris at the start of the twentieth century, and the frivolity of life in that city was reflected in his Parisian phase. It seems, though, as if he wished to turn his back on that era. After the First World War he was apparently at his most content living a quiet existence in Puerto Pollensa and exhibiting predominantly in Mallorca and in Barcelona.

Despite this, his global fame was such that he was invited to the United States where his work had been exhibited to grand acclaim. He was, it would appear, reluctant to leave his somewhat reclusive existence in Mallorca, but he was to be awarded a gold medal at the Philadelphia exposition of 1926. In that same year, an article in The Studio excited the London art scene, and the same author and art critic - Stephen Hutchinson Harris - published a monograph on The Art of H. Anglada Camarasa. Exhibitions in London and Liverpool were to follow, but the artist once more went into retreat. At his home in Pinaret in Puerto Pollensa, he was happier with his flowers than with his art.

Camarasa will always be most associated with Pollensa, but his standing in the art world went way beyond the quiet part of northern Mallorca which was his adopted home. His name is not perhaps as fêted as some other artists with strong ties to the island, but for an exhibition of his work at the CaixaForum in Barcelona in 2006 to 2007, the art historian Francesc Fontbona wrote that he was the "most universal Catalan painter" before Joan Miró. "No other Catalan artist of his time had, by any means, a presence as alive as his on the international art scene."

As a footnote, Tito Cittadini, his disciple, also lived in Puerto Pollensa. He died in 1960 almost a year to the day after Camarasa.

The exhibition at the CaixaForum, Plaça Weyler in Palma runs until 2 September next year.

* Image: Acantilado en Formentor.