Sunday, December 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 December 2017

Morning high (8.03am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 1 January - Sun, cloud, wind, 18C; 2 January - Sun, cloud, wind, 20C; 3 January - Sun, cloud, 21C

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

Fog this morning. Will be sunny later and quite warm again. The wind is due to pick up overnight. A good day tomorrow but windy.

Evening update (19.30): High of 20.1C. Pleasant, but the wind was a bit chilly.

The Year Of Balti

One of the Three Kings, aka Three Wise Men, is Balthazar (other spellings are permitted). He was apparently a Babylonian scholar, which should really have set the alarm bells ringing in a Nativity sense, as Babylonia didn't exist as such around 0AD. But this is mere trifling. Balthazar was there, and that's all that matters.

Such wisdom has been passed down the generations and the millennia, and it finally settled on the chair occupied by the president (speaker) of the Balearic parliament. One has to take wisdom to be the principal attribute, as the Baltasar (this is the local spelling) of the Balearics is not someone who you would describe as scholarly. And it was this that helped elevate him to the status of my Person of the Year.

Balti Picornell became president after Xe-Lo Huertas was prised out of the speaker's throne for not having been thoroughly correct in a Podemos style. Podemos weren't about to give up the throne, as holding the parliament presidency was their reward for having acceded to being a complete pain in the arse as part of the so-called agreements for change by which the Balearic government allegedly operates. The party cast around for a suitable replacement for Xe-Lo. This suitability was meant to have been determined by the Podemos fascination with feminism. Unfortunately, they discovered that feminists were in short supply - female ones at any rate.

The closest they could thus get was Balti. This was despite the beard. It wasn't so much the hair, the beard, the sort of lumberjack shirt or his insistence on wearing Converse sneakers that were the problems where some within the government parties appeared to have been concerned. It was what Balti had done before. Depending on reports (or translation), he had either been a mechanic or a metalworker. Normally, the Balearic political class is dominated by those with law degrees or others who have been geography students or have owned (or continued to own) a chain of pharmacies. Balti didn't therefore quite fit the mould. Non-scholarly, it might have been suggested. And it was.

Well of course, they eventually all denied that having been a mechanic or a metalworker was in any way a reason for exclusion from the speaker's chair. Balti was duly anointed, and in a Babylonian manner became one of the more recognisable of all Podemos politicians. He even met up with Natty Dreadlock In A Babylon, the Podemos Tenerife rasta in Congress, Alberto Rodríguez.

Once installed, Balti endeared himself by completely refusing to bow to convention or indeed to bow to the King, to whom he instead gave a present of the book of the life of his namesake, the communist Aurora Picornell, who had been executed in 1937. There was also his Renault Twingo, in which he arrived on his first day as president. This was subsequently traded in for a secondhand Kangoo Van after he had a bit of a prang with the Twingo.

The exchange of vehicle occurred around the same time as Balti was being lauded by Podemos member of parliament Aitor Morrás for having gone on an official visit to Ibiza and having settled for just having the "dish of the day" at a local café. Nothing ostentatious for Balti, though we have still to find out if he has ever eaten balti.

Barely a month after becoming speaker, Balti rattled several cages by working entirely according to his Little Red Book. This was the book of parliamentary rules, one of which has to do with the speaker having the power to request that the media and the public leave the chamber if a matter affecting parliament's "decorum" is to be debated. There was, and it had to do with the PP's Álvaro Gijón. The press and public trooped out, and all the parties had a pop at Balti for having followed the rules.

Meanwhile, Balti was encountering some issues with his predecessor, Xe-Lo, and her sister-in-arms, Montse Seijas, who like Xe-Lo had been ejected from the Podemos parliamentary party. Xe-Lo and Montse were having to slum it in an office which, according to parliament technicians, was barely big enough to swing a cat let alone accommodate the substantial forms of both themselves (plus two lucky staff), a couple of tables, four chairs and a closet. Xe-Lo and Montse issued a formal denuncia, and we never heard any more about it.

Montse, it was to turn out, clearly had designs on something more spacious. And so it happened that parliament's security became aware of noises at night on the third floor of the parliament building. They went and investigated, and who should they find but Montse, who had taken to sleeping in the parliamentarians' common room. Balti was informed, and he instructed security that no one was allowed in parliament offices or rooms after eleven at night. These were the rules.

Balti, who goes by the book. Sometimes. No question, however, that he was Person of the Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 December 2017

Morning high (7.25am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 31 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 1 January - Sun, cloud, 19C; 2 January - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 4 to 5 easing 2 to 3 by the evening.

It was unusually mild last night and still is in some areas this morning - a big divergence in temperatures, though, by almost ten degrees (weird). Expect a fine and mainly sunny day.

Evening update (19.45): Hmm ... high of 22.5C.

From Wind To Wind: North Mallorca's Year

Wind and floods
January is a month in the north of Mallorca which is punctuated by the excitement for the Sant Antoni fiestas. Not everything went according to plan this year. There was weather.

The night of Sant Antoni Eve - bonfires and all - wasn't disrupted, despite the apparent madness of setting bonfires ablaze when the wind's howling. The closest thing there was to disaster was when an 18-year-old in an Audi decided to drive straight through a Sa Pobla bonfire. It was the next day when things went awry. The Formentor pine had to be transported over land rather than sea, and blessings were called off: Alcudia, Muro and Sa Pobla. Still, the pines were nevertheless climbed, which provoked its own spot of controversy - in Pollensa at any rate. Under-greased, the pine was a doddle, and the contest was all over in a few minutes.

The flooding in January led to the road that runs by the Albufera Nature Park from Playa de Muro to Sa Pobla having to be closed for several days. The Council of Mallorca came and had a look. The relevant councillor, Mercedes Garrido, said that there would be a plan for the road, about which nothing more was heard.

Valls and the cockerel

The Valls ice-cream kiosk saga dragged on. Pollensa town hall had said there would be a tender, then it said that there wouldn't be. It couldn't guarantee that the kiosk (whether in the same place or another) would be for the sale of "artisan" ice-cream or that the award would have to be to a local business; and by local the town hall meant from Pollensa.

The Sant Antoni cockerel (the one at the top of the Pollensa pine) was up for discussion. There was a council motion for the cockerel to be eliminated; 1992 animal-protection law regarding the use of animals in the "human environment" was cited. The motion was defeated. "Shameful," said the Alternativa per Pollença. Nevertheless, the mayor, Miquel Àngel March, who had been in favour of the motion, announced that there won't be a cockerel in January 2018.

Alcudia's name and pressure group
Salvem el Moll, the Puerto Alcudia pressure group, was regularly in the news, taking aim at Alcudiamar, the Balearic Ports Authority and Alcudia town hall. Was the fact that it only had 283 likes on its Facebook page (back in March) an indication of support? Numbers who turned out for its periodic protests barely reached double figures.

Muro town hall copped for some flak over a photo taken during the minute's silence for the Westminster terrorist attack. Of twelve people in the photo, only four had solemn expressions. The others were either smiling or laughing. If nothing else, could the town hall not have chosen another photo for its Facebook page?

Alcudia wanted to give its name to a car. The motor manufacturer Seat was introducing a new model and was looking for somewhere in Spain with a name that had to start with an A. The town hall therefore fired off a letter to Seat's president and advanced the case for the car to be the Seat Alcudia. It wasn't.

The bus station and no confidence

The Puerto Pollensa bus station (which we later learned isn't a bus station; just some bus stops) was finally approved, but not without an unholy row. So heated did things get that two councillors - Miquel Àngel Sureda (Junts) and Marti Roca (now unaccredited, formerly El Pi) - had something of a set-to. Denuncias were being threatened, etc, etc.

Miquel Àngel March, who had faced a possible vote of no confidence some months previously, was confronted with another one. This time, he himself threw down the gauntlet. It was all to do with approving the budget. He lost the vote, but there was never any possibility of his being replaced because the opposition was not in a position to muster sufficient votes. March knew this. The deadline for presenting an alternative to him passed, and so was the budget.

The students and wake park
The so-called Mallorca Island Festival at Bellevue, as each year, left a trail of complaints about noise, behaviour and vandalism. Also as each year, it was studiously ignored by the media. Was this to do with the fact that it was Spanish students causing the complaints? It may only have been three weeks, but there had to be some perspective: three weeks too many for residents denied sleep, for those whose cars were trampled on, for businesses which were robbed, for other businesses which suffered because a regular type of tourist wasn't present.

Members of the Spanish Royal Family came to Alcudia's Wake Park. The Queen Mother, Sofia, would have been among family members with no idea that the park on Lago Menor (aka Lake Placid) was the source of a row with the residents. One community had sent off a letter of complaint to the Costas Authority in Madrid about the noise from the zip system.

José's terrace
There was the war of José's chairs - José as in Bony in Puerto Pollensa. Full enforcement of Pollensa terrace and tables law had become an obsession of the town hall administration. The police turned up one evening in September. There were alternative versions. The police closed the bar. José decided to close it. Typically eccentric postings on Facebook only added to the confusion, but the situation was to settle down.

Salvem el Moll reappeared and was pressurising the town hall into closing the Alcudiamar Botel. Apparently, so it is claimed, there shouldn't be a hotel as such. The town hall said it wanted more information and wouldn't be acting in a "drastic" manner.

Catalonia and Monjo's route
Back at Pollensa town hall, the Catalonia referendum threatened to once more break the ruling pact between the Junts and the UMP. There was a compromise which avoided this, but the president of the UMP resigned in protest over a pro-referendum motion.

Santa Margalida's mayor, Joan Monjo, was livid that there was no tourist tax revenue for an archaeological route. It then emerged that this route would pass by an agrotourism establishment in Muro that is owned by the mayor. Monjo denied that this had anything to do with the project and that the route would in any event be some distance from the hotel.

The winds returned

And the year drew towards a close in similar fashion to how it had begun - with weather. The high winds of Cyclone Bruno contributed to the death of a windsurfer in Alcudia and whipped up a potentially disastrous fire in Puerto Pollensa.

Friday, December 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 December 2017

Morning high (8.21am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 30 December - Sun, cloud, 21C; 31 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 1 January - Sun, cloud, 18C

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

Not a bad morning, quite clear, a bit breezy. General outlook at present is good into the start of the new year.

Evening update (20.00): High of 16.4C.

The Year Before The Election

The worst case for growth of the Balearic economy in 2018 is a mere three per cent. The employers' confederation gives this as its forecast. The government is predicting 3.5%. Conservative is not how one would describe the government; its growth forecasts are invariably higher than those of analysts.

Whatever the actual growth, it will still be comparatively strong. It had always been expected that there would be a slowdown from the height achieved in 2016: 4.1% represented a remarkable recovery from how things had been five years previously when there was zero growth. So, a fall in growth can still be viewed in positive terms.

The current government has ridden the wave of economic good fortune, but the factors that have contributed to this have really had little to do with the government. They have been factors of greatly improved economic circumstance, partly attributable - say it quietly in front of a Balearic minister - to national government policies, austerity and all. But one factor stands out from any other - the contribution of tourism. In the Balearics, this has been magnified compared with much of Spain, but as the National Statistics Institute has revealed, the growth of the tourism economy since the dark days of crisis in 2010 has greatly outstripped the rest of the national economy in real terms.

It can seem perverse that the Balearic government is actively pursuing policies that might jeopardise the growth of the islands' most important sector. We all know why it is engaged in this perversity, and we all know how. Whether a doubling of the tourist tax, the rentals legislation, limits on tourist numbers turn out to harm the economy in 2018, I have my doubts. But there is a risk that there might be some harm, and heading towards the 2019 election, the government could be perceived as having willingly sought to undo the good fortune it had amassed through no real effort on its behalf.

The economy and tourism will, I suspect, be ok next year, but tourism is representative of how, politically, things might just start to unravel next year, especially if there were to be a dip. There are five ministries which in broad terms contribute to Balearic economic and competitive well-being. Tourism (and innovation and research) is one, the others are: education; employment, trade and industry; finance; and transport, energy and land (I exclude agriculture as it is of relatively minor significance).

Of these five ministries, four are controlled by PSOE, the major partner in the government. Més run tourism (and agriculture, for what it's worth). PSOE therefore have their hands on the means of moulding the economy, except tourism. Més were determined to keep their hands on tourism; hence, PSOE have had to accept Bel Busquets. They didn't want to accept her, they might even have preferred one of their own to take over from Biel Barceló. But they had no alternative. They had to accept her. If not, Més might have withdrawn support for the 2018 budget.

The politicking that surrounded Barceló's successor merely served to highlight the weakness of the coalition, and it also served as a foretaste of what could well come in 2018. The parties of government, plus Podemos, will be gearing up for the election. Points of difference will need to be made. They cannot just simply sweep the differences under the consensus and dialogue table. There are votes to be had.

The opposition have suggested that the government might not be able to agree a budget for 2019 for the very reason that the parties will be highlighting their points of difference. The opposition may be right, and for PSOE they will be emphasising their sound management of the four ministries. If the need arises, PSOE can distance themselves from tourism and they will have a readymade excuse: they hadn't wanted Busquets.

If Madrid does finally come up with a satisfactory new financing arrangement for the Balearics next year, then PSOE can take the plaudits: they do, after all, run the finance ministry (and the presidency). This financing deal is of immense importance politically. Secured, and PSOE can milk it electorally for all it's worth. All the consensus stuff can be forgotten, what PSOE will want more than anything is to be able to present the electorate with a very good reason for increasing their share of the vote. What PSOE don't want is to be as beholden to Més (and Podemos) after the election.

For Més, meanwhile, the loss of Barceló is significant. Like him or not, without him in a frontline position, Més are greatly diminished. Podemos will sense a weakness and so will PSOE. Exploiting a weakness while simultaneously boasting strengths could well define at least the latter half of 2018. The opposition isn't that strong - the PP might just decide they need a different leader; the real opposition will be within the government pact.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 December 2017

Morning high (8.09am): 12.6C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 29 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 30 December - Sun, cloud, 21C; 31 December - Sun, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 6 to 7 easing West 4 to 6 during the morning.

The wind has eased. In the Pollensa area, there were gusts up to 70kph overnight that weren't helping with tackling the major fire near Puerto Pollensa. A yellow alert remains today for coastal conditions, though these conditions should improve as the day progresses.

Evening update (19.45): High of 17C. Was quite pleasant and sunny in the morning. Took a cloudy dip later.

The Man Who Wrote The Festival Of The Standard

Behind every good Mallorcan fiesta there is a good man or woman, usually a saint. Rare is the fiesta that can call upon royalty, and when it does, the royal choice is limited. Having decided to dump 12 September as Mallorca Day (and shift it to 31 December), one of the royals has fallen by the wayside. Jaume II, whose coronation was the pretext for the former Mallorca Day, has stood aside to let his father reign supreme in fiesta or celebration terms.

Jaume I, Good King James of Aragon, where would we be without him? Had he not engaged in some thirteenth century Aragonese empire building, the course of Mallorcan history would have been different, though one suspects not greatly. If there was going to be a conqueror of the island, then he was always likely to have come from the general Catalan region. There had, after all, been the odd effort prior to Jaume.

Jaume I is obviously the man behind the Festival of the Standard, but in its current form the festival owes as much to someone who wasn't royalty. He wasn't a saint either. He was in fact, and variously, a lawyer, a painter, a draughtsman, a journalist, a teacher of mathematics, a musician, a master builder of fortifications, an urban planner, an astronomer and a mapmaker. He was clearly quite a clever chap. Oh, and he also wrote poetry, and it is this to which the festival owes a great debt.

He was Pere d'Alcàntara Penya i Nicolau. Born in Palma in 1823, he has been described as the finest Mallorcan dramatist of the Renaixença, the Catalan Renaissance of the mid-nineteenth century. Did I not mention that he was also a dramatist? When he was not involved with the theatre, designing a plan for the development of Palma, sorting out the odd railway project, undertaking the building of barracks, hospitals and churches, Pere found time for poetry.

In Barcelona in May 1859 at the height of the Romanticism era of European art, music and intellectualism, the Renaissance was epitomised by the re-establishment of the Jocs florals. Literally meaning floral games, they were in fact poetry contests and had been in long-ago mediaeval times.

Three years later, a work by Pere featured at the games. His poem was not in conventional Catalan; it was in Mallorquí. Its title was Sa Colcada (cavalcade), which he had penned the year before. Pere was to be unaware what impact this poem would eventually have. He died in 1906.

Romanticism represented something of a rejection of modernity. It alluded to times past, especially to mediaeval times. It honoured heroism, emotions and folk art and traditions. In Sa Colcada these various elements came into play and collided. The cavalcade was how things once were with the Festival of the Standard before it went into its years of decline that were attributed to the Bourbon takeover of Mallorca in the early eighteenth century and the Nueva Planta decree of Felipe V.

The poem starts by saying that no one knows the story any more of "our great King James". Very few people can still remember the cavalcade as it used to be. What a day it used to be, the day of the festival. Knights on horseback in procession. All the monks and priests, the regiments. Ladies with gold ribbons. Floats with ladies and gentlemen. There was music from the xeremier pipers, the sound of harpsichords. There was dancing, and everyone was friends on that day, whether they were masters or servants, employers or the employed.

Thirty years after the poem had been presented and received an award at the Jocs florals, it was included in a collection of Mallorcan poetry. It was at this point that it began to become popular. In 1935, it was recited during the Festival of the Standard, but it wasn't to be until 1965 that it was recited again - events had got in the way.

It has been recited every year since then, and the importance that it has assumed has to do with the fact that it is the clearest link to the festival's past if only through its words. The cavalcades of former times have long ceased. The celebration of Jaume I persists, but it is not in the way that it once was. In order to understand how it was, there is Pere's poem. Not a bad achievement for a lawyer, a painter, a draughtsman ... .

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 December 2017

Morning high (7.56am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 28 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 19C; 29 December - Cloud, wind, 19C; 30 December - Sun, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 6 to 7 locally 8. Waves of four metres.

Very blowy, some rain about first thing. The wind will be a factor all day. Should be sunny, though.

Evening update (20.00): Some lulls from the wind, but it is currently fierce. Nice and sunny otherwise. High of 16.7C.

Zombies And Some Stories From 2017

Spain's government has faced some difficult issues this year, none more so than one beginning with C. But things could have been very much more difficult for the government (and for most of us), had there been an attack by zombies. The possibility of such an attack and the defence against it was raised in the Senate by one Carles Mulet of the Compromís party in Valencia.

Carles wanted to know what plans there were for a zombie apocalypse. The government wasn't able to provide a swift response. It needed, among other things, to consult the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy. According to the dictionary, zombies are "people who are supposed to be dead and are revived by the art of witchcraft in order to dominate their will". Given this definition, the government concluded that there was "doubtful probability of such a circumstance arising".

Carles wasn't overly impressed, but it seemed as if he hadn't really believed Spain was in imminent danger of a zombie attack. He was using it all as a metaphor. Hence: "The government has no plan of action for the zombie apocalypse. Its answer can be interpreted as meaning that the government itself is a zombie apocalypse, a human catastrophe brought about by stupefied and automaton people."

The relocation of Es Trenc

The Balearic government, meantime, was finally completing its legislation for the Es Trenc Nature Park. After many months of delay and endless arguments, the legislation was about to be published on the Official Bulletin when someone spotted an error in the nick of time.

This was just as well. Once on the Official Bulletin, things are official and it takes a lot to make them unofficial. In the case of the nature park, had the mistake not been noticed, Kenya and Ethiopia would now be able to boast having the park. The latitudes and longitudes for the park, as noted in the legislation, were wrong - by some several thousand kilometres.

Some might have in fact thought the park or at least Es Trenc beach had indeed been relocated. The promised chiringuitos, to replace the demolished ones, never appeared, while the sunloungers took an age to see the light of midsummer.

Hunt the tourist
There was a spot of anti-tourism agitation knocking around during the summer, but one of the last places that such sentiment might have been expected to have emerged was Esporles. It doesn't really have vast numbers of tourists. Still, this didn't prevent them coming up with a new game for their "jocs tradicionals" (traditional games) that are played during the summer fiestas.

This was "hunt the guiri", as in foreign tourist. It wasn't xenophobic, the organising committee insisted, just a spot of humour with an ironic touch that took "massification" and holiday rentals as its themes. No offence was meant and none was taken, probably because there weren't any tourists.

Kelvin MacKenzie
Even The Sun decided that enough was enough. Its one-time editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, was sacked because he compared footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla. Shortly before this (it was something to do with Gibraltar) he had hoped the UK would say goodbye to all Spaniards living in the UK, that there would be a holiday boycott of Spain, that a special tax could be place on Rioja and that the state visit by King Felipe would be ruined. No sense of xenophobia there, then.

The CIA files
Declassified CIA files revealed that Joan March, Franco's banker, had been involved with the sale of Jewish assets. Michael Olian, who was a contrabandist like March, sold the assets of French Jews at reduced prices through an agreement with a Swiss bank in Madrid. Joan March was a beneficiary of this. The CIA had wanted to arrest March but was unable to as Spain was, in their words, "supposedly neutral" and because obstacles were placed in front of American intelligence by "our diplomats".

The files also pointed to Mallorca having been the focus for what in 1947 was felt might have been the imminent resurgence of the Nazi Party.

Josep Ferragut
Josep Ferragut's name crops up quite regularly nowadays, even though he died in 1968. He was the architect responsible, among other things, for the Gesa building in Palma and the Glass Church in Playa de Palma. In June there was a premiere at Bellver Castle for a documentary on his life and death.

Ferragut was a homosexual. He was bludgeoned to death by two men (supposedly rent boys) and his body left on the Bunyola road, a few kilometres from Palma. The two were arrested, held in custody and then released some eighteen months later. The case never went to court.

The truth about his murder will probably never be known. Was he murdered by two male prostitutes or had there been other motives? Ferragut was outspoken against corruption. His ethics frustrated building developments. He referred to "barbarities", such as ones in Puerto Pollensa. He had plenty of enemies.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 December 2017

Morning high (7.34am): 9.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 27 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C; 28 December - Cloud, wind, 16C; 29 December - Cloud, sun, 17C

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

Occasional sunny spells today, but tomorrow Cyclone Bruno will have an impact - high winds and rough seas.

Evening update (19.45): Was nice in the morning, clouded over in the afternoon, and there were some spots of rain. High of 19C.

Taking A Festival To Court

There really are times when you wonder ... . I have a certain admiration for Ciudadanos in a similar way to having an admiration for Podemos. They occupy different political territories, but both are examples of how the status quo of a political system can be shaken up. Yet with both there are elements of the conservative and even the regressive. With Podemos, there is a Luddite tendency that wishes, for example, for "de-growth", an anti-capitalist return to an undefined era stripped of a great deal of the progress through tourism. For the C's, there is one great conservative non-negotiable - Catalonia. This is an essence of its being. Independence is a total non-starter, as is the advance of any Catalan nationalism beyond the borders of Catalonia.

The C's are doing rather well at present. In Catalonia they have secured the most parliamentary seats of any party. They have benefited, in part, from the electoral destruction of the Partido Popular, but more than this, they are solidly representative of the independence counterpoint. They have hung their hat on union, and there are very good numbers of Catalan citizens who agree with them.

Even before the Catalonia election, it was evident that the C's had been making ground in the Balearics. What happens in Catalonia has an impact here, even if this can at times be overstated. But the political atmosphere generated by Catalonia and by statements in favour of a Balearic independence by Més have done the C's no harm at all. Nor have their complaints about indoctrination in local schools.

The exporting of Catalanist nationalism that the C's attack comes in different guises. One of the more peculiar is what is due to take place on 31 December - Palma's Festival of the Standard. This is a fiesta deemed to be in the intangible cultural interest: not just deemed, is. The official nature of this interest was confirmed by the highest authority of making official - a statement on the Official Bulletin. It is there in black and white. In 2006, the Council of Mallorca declared the festival to be an asset of this cultural interest, and with this declaration came certain stipulations as to its maintenance.

The Council of 2006 was different in its political make-up to how it is today. It was still essentially the property of the subsequently disgraced Unió Mallorquina and Maria Antonia Munar. The UM, although ostensibly nationalist in a centrist sort of a way, was never strident in its ambitions, and its nationalism was one founded on its own version of history. Some years before the 2006 declaration, the Council had decided to make 12 September Mallorca Day. This was a recognition of the true founding of the old Kingdom of Mallorca. It was not a date for which there was wholehearted support. There was - in a Catalanist correct fashion - an alternative date: 31 December, the day in 1229 when Catalan culture can be said to have its origins.

Changing the date of Mallorca Day to 31 December was an obvious move. If there were to be a different date, then 31 December had far greater claim than any other. And so, for the first time, this coming New Year's Eve will be Mallorca Day as well as the Festival of the Standard.

For some, such as the C's, this combination was a form of pact between the nationalists of Més at the Council of Mallorca and at Palma town hall. It might not have generated overly much fuss, if it hadn't been for some consequent amendments to the festival protocol. Until now, and despite the 2006 declaration, the festival has been a Palma town hall occasion. In institutional terms, only the town hall has responsibility. Moreover, the declaration made clear that the responsibility for the maintenance of the tradition and guaranteeing the components of the festival was Palma's.

The pact between the Council and the town hall has, in the opinion of the C's, led to a unilateral decision to permit the Council to be represented in the official committee (retinue) for honouring King Jaume I and the Standard. Moreover, mayors from other parts of Mallorca are to be allowed to participate. The C's point to the fact that the 2006 declaration does not contemplate this additional institutional representation. Only the mayor of Palma and city councillors can form the retinue.

Because of this, the C's have taken the matter to court. They are seeking an injunction to prevent the protocol being altered. It is this that makes one wonder. How can a festival end up in court? Does it really matter who is represented in the retinue? It does if there are the politics of Catalan nationalism at play, which is what the C's are really concerned about. But they risk looking somewhat ridiculous and losing some of the admiration. They might disagree with the change to the festival, but going to court over it ... ?

Monday, December 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 December 2017

Morning high (8.43am): 8.6C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 26 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 27 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C; 28 December - Cloud, wind, 16C

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

Some cloud around early on. Due to clear and be a sunny Christmas Day. Looking ahead to Wednesday, appears as if there are going to be some particularly high winds.

Evening update (19.30): Quite pleasant - high of 18.6C.

Merry Christmas 2017

So, a very merry Christmas to all of you who come here regularly, to those of you who come less frequently, and to others who just stumble across this blog. Twelve years it has been going, and it has been ten years since it went daily, which it has been except for the occasional break, both planned and unplanned. I sometimes wonder if I hold some sort of record.

Not wishing to have my own Christmas message, which would be somewhat presumptuous and indeed preposterous, just a note about King Felipe's. His tone regarding Catalonia moderated yesterday evening; he had been forceful in October in condemning the independence drive. While he referred yesterday to the need to adapt to changing times, he obviously wasn't advocating secession, but there was a hint of recognition that there has to be some move towards a satisfactory accord. Whether there can be will be up to the politicians, and news that there could be further arrests in Catalonia makes one fear that the situation will just be made worse.

Regardless of constitutional and legal matters, putting politicians (and potentially the former head of the Mossos) in jail solves nothing and merely inflames. Felipe was alluding to a maturity in approach. Sticking people in jail is not mature; it is a manifestation of failure - by those on both sides of the argument. And the swiftness with which "justice" has been dispensed raises awkward questions. The comparison with the otherwise slow-moving nature of the legal system - e.g. Urdangarin still awaiting the outcome of his appeal - has been striking.

A Christmas wish would therefore be to resolve Catalonia. But can it be resolved, once and for all? I very much doubt it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 December 2017

Morning high (7.46am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 25 December - Sun, cloud, 19C; 26 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 27 December - Cloud, 17C

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

Christmas Eve - plenty of sun today, light breezes. Christmas Day, the same. Boxing Day, forecast for possible showers later on.

Evening update (19.00): Pleasant. High of 19.2C.

Bel And The Colour Red

They were all dressed up a bit like Santa, or rather Papa Noel to be accurate in a Spanish way. Not that Castellano was top of the agenda. The philologist was being sworn in. It was thus Pare Nadal in a Catalan style, albeit Pare is generally verboten in traditional terms. The philologist's comrade in Palma, Mayor Noggin, had explained a few days previously that it has always been Els Reis Mags d'Orient at Ca'n Noguera. The Kings have it, which is curious if you happen to be a Republican-leaning pan-Catalanist.

Bel, the philologist now in charge of tourism, was resplendent in red facial furniture for the swearing-in act, which itself was all something of an act. The brothers and sisters of PSOE appeared to have ended up with nothing more than an orange and a lump of coal in their Pare Nadal sacks, while Bel had claimed the PlayStation. They had a right hump.

But there were to later be some smiles and even some laughter, as the PSOE collective remembered that there were lenses being pointed at them. "Molts d'anys. Happy days." Not that they were. Still, for appearance's sake, they had mostly lined up in red in order to complement the Bel goggles. Sweet and friendly Francina, who had not wished Bel to darken her door let alone occupy the seat next to her that was formerly reserved for Biel, sported a vibrant red top affair. Pilar Costa, the government spokesperson, had as good as matched Bel with the red rims. Catalina Cladera (finance), otherwise in mourning black, seemed to have had an accident with a government HQ painter; some red starburst thing had been splashed all down the right of her dress.

Of those who had eschewed red, Martí March (education) spent much of the time staring skyward. Was he looking for Pare Nadal? More likely he was thinking oh no, a Catalan hardliner in the vice-presidency, and one who's a teacher as well: the last thing an education minister needs. Patricia Gómez (health) appeared to have been unfamiliar with the woman taking the vice-presidential vows, such was an expression of fierce disbelief mingled with contempt.

Consensually and with dialogue they will now all march forward. Together but disunited. Francina has come to realise that being president of a progressive pact of consensus and dialogue actually means that others insist on having their way. Podemos had done it with the tourist tax, and Més had now done likewise by depositing Bel in a post for which her only qualification is being a member of Més.

Her predecessor, Biel, told the world last week that he doesn't believe in a technocracy. What he meant was that it doesn't matter if a minister hasn't the first idea, in a technical sense, of a portfolio. There are and will be others who beg to differ; such as PSOE.

It had of course all been sown up on the Saturday before the swearing-in. It was a non-contest. PSOE had sent in a triumvirate to bat on their behalf that comprised Pilar with her red frames, meek and mild Iago from employment, and Mercedes from the Council of Mallorca's land department. They never stood a chance in the Bel or not-Bel negotiations, especially because Lluís Apesteguia (Més, Council of Mallorca councillor) was looming over them like a Magalluf nightclub bouncer or that security chap you always see in photos when Jaume Matas is being hauled in to face another court trial.

Ultimately though, they were all kind of united in a United red. But was it red for danger?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 December 2017

Morning high (8.10am): 11.6C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 24 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 25 December - Sun, 19C; 26 December - Cloud, sun, 18C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 6 easing 3 to 4 in the afternoon.

Cloudy morning, should brighten up somewhat later.

Evening update (19.15): Nothing special; high of 16.2C.

The Rivalry Of The Song Of The Sybil

El Cant de la Sibil·la, the chant or song of the Sybil, is performed in churches across Mallorca on Christmas Eve. Declared a masterpiece of intangible cultural heritage by Unesco on 16 November 2010, it is unquestionably one of Mallorca's most important cultural traditions - arguably the most important. And as well as deep-rooted tradition, it is a chant that is the stuff of legend, of prohibition, of rebellion and of rivalry.

Its origins are said to lie with a Greek acrostic poem of the fourth century - the Judicii Signum and its references to the Last Judgment. Acrostic refers to the giving of a prophesy or message, specifically to the prophecies of the Erythraean Sibyl. The "sibylla", this prophetess of Ancient Greece, was capable of all sorts of predictions: the Trojan War, for instance. The fourth-century poem thus relied on a prophecy that had been made several centuries earlier in the time Before Christ.

In mediaeval Europe there were all manner of religious dramatisations. The Sibil·la was very much to the fore in this regard. Liturgical theatre was at one time represented in a procession of prophets, and this ended with the Sibil·la. These dramas were at their most popular at Christmas and Easter, and they caught on across Spain, especially in Catalonia. The first documented evidence of the Sibil·la in Catalan noble circles is from the tenth century in Ripoll, Gerona.

Following the Catalan conquest of 1229, the Sibil·la crossed over the sea to Mallorca. There were different versions, and a codex manuscript of the fourteenth century is the first known evidence of the existence of the chant in Mallorca; and crucially, it was in Catalan rather than Latin or indeed Castellano. By the start of the sixteenth century, there were versions in the Catalan of Mallorca, i.e. Mallorquí. One was noted in the Breviarium Majoricensis of 1506.

The Sibil·la was subject to various bans. There was a belief that it sowed disorder and spiritual confusion. The Council of Trent decreed a general prohibition in 1568, but there was to be a form of popular rebellion against this in Mallorca which was to secure what there now is. With the exception of Alghero in Sardinia, Mallorca was the only place where the Sibil·la was maintained, even if it was in a different form; Joan Vic i Manrique, the Bishop of Mallorca, insisted in 1575 that it should be toned down.

It was not until 1692 that the church in Mallorca relented some more. Pere d'Aragó i de Cardona, the then bishop, approved a version on the condition that it was only to be performed at Christmas. The church was clear that certain "sermons" on the eve of some saints could cause confusion rather than devotion, and the bishop had the Sibil·la in mind. Nevertheless, the chant was given increased legitimacy by the church and it found its way into synodal law of that year.

It wasn't until the nineteenth century that it became clear how popular and widespread the Sibil·la was in Mallorca. The Archduke Louis Salvador was to refer it in 1871. His several-volume opus Die Balearen contains a transcript of the chant. This bore strong resemblance to a version provided by one Bartomeu Torres i Trias, which was to eventually be published in an album of Mallorcan musical compositions in 1894, and his version owed a great deal to a one-time master of the chapel at the Cathedral, Joaquim Sancho i Cañellas, who died in 1863.

The popularity was such that it spawned a certain rivalry over competing versions. Another one is that of Antoni Noguera i Balaguer, one of the foremost names in Mallorca's musical culture of the late nineteenth century. In 1893, Noguera produced a work on popular Mallorcan songs and dances, and his Sibil·la transcript was included. What was to then follow is more or less what there is today: two versions of the Sibil·la, of which the Noguera one is by far the more common.

There were to be further adaptations and also an additional final verse. Oh Humil Verge (humble Virgin) was the contribution of Catalan composer Francesc Pujol. It is the only verse which contains any reference to Christmas as such. But the two versions - those of Noguera and Torres - have survived mostly as they had been, and an odd aspect about the rivalry between the two has to do with location. The Torres Sibil·la has come to be associated with the Tramuntana mountains. At Lluc Monastery, it is the Torres version which is chanted. At Palma Cathedral and mostly everywhere else in Mallorca, it is the Noguera Sibil·la.

Friday, December 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 December 2017

Morning high (8.13am): 10C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 23 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 24 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 25 December - Sun, cloud, 18C

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

A clear morning. Some good sun expected today, clouding over by late afternoon. Christmas Day weather still looking fine.

Evening update (20.15): Not bad. High of 18.3C.

The Last Tourism Minister?

No one from the hoteliers or the tourism sector in general was present at government HQ for the swearing-in of Bel Busquets as vice-president and tourism minister. It was apparently the first time that a tourism minister has taken office without the hoteliers having been represented. Their absence was downplayed. The hoteliers were holding an assembly and they were also having their Christmas lunch. So, no controversy there, then.

Whatever the hoteliers and the rest of the tourism industry in the Balearics think about Busquets, they're just going to have to get on with things and try and get on with her. In pure political terms they do at least know what the agenda is: the same as with Biel Barceló. But even sharp division on policies, such as the tourist tax, can be made to appear friendly enough; it depends on the individuals. Barceló and Inma Benito, no longer the hoteliers president, did at least seem to get on. It was a tribute to both that they did.

Busquets, for her part, has been coming out with the normal stuff about dialogue. In fact, she went one step further than normal; there is to be "maximum consensus and dialogue", once Christmas and the Kings are out of the way and everyone can get back to work. If there was ever going to be a good time for her to take office, it has been now, especially as the hoteliers were tucking into their turkey (or whatever) and donning the hats from their crackers at the very moment she was uttering her oath.

In addition to this maximum consensus and dialogue, Busquets trotted out all the other clichés. For instance, the tourist tax is for improving "the territory and the people"; the tax "takes advantage of benefits from tourism to make policies for protecting the territory". Yes, Bel, I think we've all got that message.

The tourism industry should not fear, or so it would appear, as Bel stated that she is not opposed to tourism. Which was good of her. It would be strange indeed for a tourism minister to be opposed to the very thing she is supposed to be responsible for. But then these are strange times, not least because - and despite the government's "agreements for change" (to which she naturally referred) - most of the government and the whole of the non-government didn't want her. President Armengol had wanted an independent and a "consensual" person at the ministry's helm. So had Mae de la Concha, the Podemos general secretary. The PP and the opposition had wanted anyone but another member of Més.

But Bel is now minister, so all that reluctance - as Biel Barceló has noted - should be forgotten. One wonders if it will be. Hers is a peculiar appointment; there are no two ways about it. Even more peculiar, however, is the possibility that she might just be the last Balearic tourism minister. Barceló has suggested there may not be the need for one in future. This is because of all those tourism responsibilities being transferred to the island councils.

So, maybe this is the point we should all get our heads around. Bel isn't opposed to tourism. She's perfectly in favour of it, with other institutions running it. Bel, the tourism minister who called time on the tourism ministry.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 December 2017

Morning high (8.27am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 23 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 24 December - Sun, cloud, 19C

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

More rain likely at times today. Tomorrow, a pattern of improvement should start that will produce fine Christmas weather.

Evening update (20.00): High of 13.5C. Average, it has to be said.

Biel And The Beanstalk

"Biel And The Beanstalk - A Balearic Government And Council Of Mallorca Pantomime For All The Tourist Family."

The story so far ... Biel is a moderately well-heeled eco-nationalist boy living on the family finca with a small herd of Friesians, which, because of a fall in the price of milk, have not been shown at the annual fair in Campos and, more importantly, have not been yielding the income required to keep an eco-nationalist family in sound financial order and their subscriptions to Catalan satellite channels up to date.

Nevertheless, under a Council of Mallorca scheme to boost the agrarian economy (thus ensuring economic diversification and a lengthening of the tourism season), Biel learns that there's a man who'll take the Friesians off the family's hands and allow the family to invest the money in a whole new line of artisan craft (pots, to you and me) to be sold at markets under another Council of Mallorca scheme to boost local trade.

As things turn out, the man in question, a certain Miquel, whose schemes for the Council of Mallorca have not all amounted to more than a hill of beans, is also an eco-nationalist. Miquel informs Biel that he has a whole load of magic carob beans, which have been grown under yet another Council of Mallorca scheme, this one to promote carob gastronomy (thus ensuring there is another niche tourism product and a lengthening of the tourism season).

Biel exchanges the Friesians for the beans, but when he arrives home, minus the equivalent of several months tourist tax revenue at a five-star hotel, the family are livid. They will be unable to tune in to their Catalan satellite channels and watch the special Catalan Christmas pantomime - "Carles In Wonderland".

The beans are therefore thrown onto the ground, and Biel heads off to the bar and gets quietly drunk. Back home, and having slept off the effects of the Estrella Damm (brewed in Barcelona), Biel wakes to discover that there is a giant beanstalk on the finca. He decides to climb the beanstalk and, to his amazement, discovers a luxury hotel. Unbeknownst to Biel, the owners of this hotel have decided to introduce a touch of Mallorcan tradition. They have acquired their own giants, who are called Carmen and Gabriel in honour of two very important people in the Mallorcan hotel industry.

The audience, naturally enough, warn Biel of the giants' presence. "They're behind you. Behind you." Biel hides and waits for the giants to fall asleep, whereupon he raids the safe. Back at the finca, the family are delighted. Biel has had it away with the equivalent of several months tourist tax revenue after all. The subscription to the satellite channels is swiftly renewed, and the family positively shriek with laughter as Carles outwits the Wicked Mariano and plants a custard pie in his face before reaffirming Catalan independence.

Biel, emboldened by his achievement, climbs the beanstalk again. Goodness, he thinks, what a fine and benevolent fellow eco-nationalist Miquel has turned out to be. And things only get better. The giants are still asleep, and Biel spies a goose that lays golden eggs. "What's your name?" Biel asks the goose. "Tourism," replies the goose. "Are you going to steal me?" "Well, it had occurred to me that I might," explains Biel. "And then what?" the goose wants to know. "Erm, slap some more tourist tax on you, that sort of thing." "You really shouldn't do that," the goose insists.

Down the beanstalk Biel goes again, this time clutching the goose. When he gets to the bottom, he encounters another eco-nationalist, this one by the name of Vicenç. "I'm from environment," announces Vicenç. "I'm afraid that this beanstalk has been infected by the xylella bacterium. You're going to have to chop it down."

"I can't do that," Biel responds. "There's a luxury hotel at the top of it." Blinking into the clear Mallorcan sky, Vicenç considers for one moment. "Was there planning permission for it? Does the Council of Mallorca's urban discipline department know?" "Well, I've no idea," says Biel. "Look, if I were you," advises Vicenç, "I'd chop it down. I mean, the beanstalk is on your finca. You'll be liable for the fine. And another thing. Is that hotel paying the rubbish tax?" "I doubt it," responds Biel. "Ok, I'll chop it down."

And so the beanstalk fell to earth, as did the hotel and the giants. Carmen and Gabriel were no more. Vicenç, meanwhile (because he's also from agriculture), turns his attention to the goose. "Have you got a licence for that goose?" "Not as such," says Biel. The goose looks at both of them. "You're not going to kill me, are you?" Vicenç shrugs. "Not me, I'm not the tourism minister. Biel?" "Funnily enough, nor am I."

And so it ends. It was only a pantomime after all. Oh no it wasn't.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 December 2017

Morning high (7.35am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 21 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 22 December - Cloud, 17C; 23 December - Cloud, sun, 18C

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

Cloudy again. The chance of the odd shower during the day. Looking ahead - an improvement on the cards over the weekend, with Christmas Day at present forecast to be sunny and up to 20C.

Evening update (20.00): Wasn't too bad in the morning. Some rain in the afternoon and windy as well. High of 13.7C.

Philology And Tourism: Bel Busquets

Being intimately knowledgeable of the detail of a portfolio isn't necessarily a pre-requisite for a ministerial appointment. But it can help, as can demonstrable competence for even having been considered for the appointment.

The rules of the "new politics" have thrust into the limelight those whose qualifications for ministerial office are shaky, to say the least; non-existent might also be a way of describing them. The new politics aren't always at play, though. The Partido Popular in the Balearics is representative of the old school, one that has done quite well at keeping its friends in the private sector contented. The new politics eschew such cosiness. New faces are thus presented, and they are representative of greater democracy. Why should ministerial posts, why should government be the preserve of the old and established guard?

All true perhaps. But there is always a but. The old politics can make questionable promotions, just as the new politics can. For both, it is a matter of dogmatic continuity, or in the case of the PP it was the necessity for dogma to reign supreme. President Bauzá sacked Rafael Bosch as education minister. Bosch's crime was that he knew too much. Education was his specialism. He had doubts about a zealous anti-Catalanism. Dogma ruled, and he had to go.

In his place came Joana Maria Camps, an estate agent by background. She was Bauzá's mouthpiece, but unfortunately what came out just helped to make her appointment seem ever the more bizarre. Poor Joana, one felt sorry for her. She tripped up, none more so than when she managed to use the Catalan verb to tread on to mean the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey. Parliamentary deputies were in fits of laughter. Catalan had intruded in a way that Catalan should not have. Such, one might suggest, can be a drawback with Catalan philology (the study of language); however odd this was, given the anti-Catalanism of the time.

Bauzá eventually saw sense and replaced her with Nuria Riera, a generally accomplished and experienced politician who did at least attempt to build the destroyed bridges with the teaching fraternity. It was too late, though.

Balearics tourism has had the occasional individual with intimate knowledge at a ministerial level. Jaume Cladera has been the clearest example. Biel Barceló was not intimate. Forget the name, he is not from the hotel group's family. But he did, as he once explained, have some experience of tourism, though he never offered any detail. Perhaps he had once been a hotel entertainer. Who can say?

He was at least experienced, if not as a minister then as someone who had been on the political stage for several years. If Més were to have a tourism minister, which they were always going to have, then it may as well have been Biel. Other candidates were in any event in short supply, if at all.

Biel is part of the new politics, the new democracy of challenging the old guard, and he has now given way to Bel Busquets. Bel is the new tourism minister. The industry, especially that which isn't based in the Balearics, will be asking who the Balearics have managed to serve up this time. Tourism ministers; there have been a few, too many to mention.

The headline of an article in the Spanish media more or less summed up this appointment: "A philologist fronting Balearic tourism." Bel is a qualified Catalan philologist. She has been a school teacher. She is now the minister of tourism. And the only reasons that she is have to do with Més dogma and with the intrigues of the Balearic government. She will carry on the good Més work at tourism, even if she has no real idea what it entails. She will be presented to the tourism industry because Més wouldn't allow any other outcome. Joana Camps revisited, but wearing a pan-Catalanist, eco-nationalist frock.

Regarding the appointment of Busquets, I asked someone - where do they find these people? At the bottom of the pyramid came the response. Barrel might have been an alternative. It's not that I wish her ill; quite the contrary. But how can it be that the Balearics most important industry is placed in the hands of someone who on the face of it is not equipped for the post? Well, I think we know why. Dogma, power games within the government and the sudden opportunities offered by the new politics.

How PSOE must really wish that there was a return to the old way. It was manifestly obvious that President Armengol didn't want Busquets. At her swearing-in there was a distinct frostiness of body language. But PSOE just have to lump it and hope that Busquets heeds Armengol's words about positive dialogue with the industry. At least with Barceló he did appreciate there is a certain "realpolitik" in dealing with the hoteliers. Will Bel?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 December 2017

Morning high (8.09am): 10.3C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 20 December - Cloud, wind, 15C; 21 December - Cloud, wind, 15C; 22 December - Cloud, 18C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 6 to 7.

Alerts out for wind and coastal conditions. Rain overnight likely to reoccur during the day.

Evening update (21.30): Nothing special. Stiff wind. High of 13.7C.

Taking Photographic Liberties

One of the problems with digital cameras, mobiles, tablets is that they have removed the element of cost. Once upon a time, in the days of everyone using film, a fair degree of discretion was required. Don't go wasting a shot, because you've not only paid to take it, you will also have to pay to print it. There was also the limited number of shots per reel. That little counter would click ominously towards zero. Digital has thus dispensed with discretion, as storage has multiplied astronomically the number of shots at the photographer's disposal. What did it used to be? Typically thirty, something like that?

While there are clearly enormous advantages from digital, there are also the downsides. One of these is if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be the victim of someone who insists on showing you the entire catalogue of snaps of their holiday or simply their day out.

Yes, it's happened to me, as it has no doubt happened to you. Visitor X pitches up, produces the digital device and hotfoots it to the nearest seaside location. On return, there are hundreds of items of evidence of the excursion. How many times can one person take roughly the same photo of, say, Puerto Pollensa's pinewalk or boats in the Alcudiamar? Hundreds indeed. It's not a case so much of familiarity with the subject breeding contempt as of ennui. For God's sake, whatever you do, don't show me another damn snap of part of a pine tree hanging in the foreground against the backdrop of Pollensa Bay.

Among this mountainous archive of the repetitious can occasionally be the unfamiliar. "Look at the composition with the bougainvillea," announces Visitor X with a passion that is sadly difficult to reciprocate. "Oh yes, lovely." It's not the bougainvillea which is unfamiliar - there's enough of that around to fill the entire digital storage capacity of all devices for sale in a large electronics retail outlet. It's what the bougainvillea belongs to. Someone's house.

Although never having been so uncharitable as to say so, my reaction to photos of people's property is always the same: is it not just a little bit intrusive? Often has been the time when I've seen a tourist stop and snap a villa, its garden, its bougainvillea. I have also seen tourists help themselves to conveniently unlocked gates. Getting nearer does so help with composition, doesn't it.

A former neighbour of mine once grew so sick and tired of her property being invaded that she had a wall built. I never found out, but the town hall probably eventually latched onto this and slapped a fine for not having got permission; that's the sort of thing town halls do. But the obstacle of a wall became necessary in the quest for privacy and indeed non-trespass.

While I suppose I can understand the impulse to photograph houses, villas, gardens and what have you - there are, after all, some fabulous properties knocking around - I'm not one of those inclined to do so. It can seem like taking a bit of a liberty, and an even greater one if the photographing involves wandering across somebody's lawn.

It can seem that everything is fair game for the digital snapper, who then decides to take advantage of another great digital downside: the sheer inability to not then share the photo on social networks. Which brings me to Wikiloc.

If you are unfamiliar with Wikiloc, I should explain that it is a social network community for those who wish to share routes (walking, cycling, what have you) and geolocate them for digital devices. Which is all fair enough. Part of this route-sharing frenzy can be and is the use of photos. Well, of course, if you want to show a route, it's not much use if you can't actually see it.

But lurking within this route-sharing is potential intrusiveness, and so into this story enters the case of the Fartàrix finca in Pollensa. The administrator of this finca insisted that an image of the actual building be removed from Wikiloc. A hiker had uploaded it, and the administrator said that it was a violation of data protection law and of privacy. The hiker responded by pointing out that the landscape belongs to everyone and so can be photographed, which wasn't what the administrator was driving at. The photo in question couldn't have been taken from the public way. It could only have been taken from the garden.

I don't know that photographing a property can constitute a breach of data protection law, but sharing it may do; m'learned friends would know better than me. Trespass is another matter. So all in all, good on the finca administrator. The only trouble is of course that people now know about the finca; I, for one, had never previously heard of it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 December 2017

Morning high (8.05am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 19 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 20 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 14C; 21 December - Cloud, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 3 to 5 backing West during the morning.

Chilly, reasonably clear first thing, but rain on the cards later; there's a yellow alert out for rain.

Evening update (20.00): Was pretty decent until some time in the afternoon when it clouded over. No rain, though. High of 15.1C.

The Biel Barceló Legacy

Biel Barceló was in the grand tradition of Balearic tourism ministers. He resigned. Yet resignation after only two and a half years in office can still bring with it a legacy. It may not be a fully fulfilled legacy, but it can be legacy nonetheless. Carlos Delgado bequeathed the "ley Delgado", the 2012 tourism law that Barceló spent much of his period as minister attempting to alter. In the process, he will go down in the annals as the minister who introduced the second ecotax and who incurred the wrath of holiday rentals liberals. In Balearic tourism ministry terms, he achieved much, even if there will be many who would prefer that he had departed without having left any legacy at all.

Tourism was always going to be his job to have, once Més, PSOE and Podemos had struck their agreement for government in 2015. Onto tourism he grafted his pet topic of innovation and research, and thus formed a ministry in his own image, and that of Més. The opprobrium directed towards Barceló regarding rentals and the tax is not justifiable in personal terms. If one cares to look at the Més manifesto for 2015, one will discover that both were on the agenda, although both - it is probably fair to say - have developed in ways that hadn't necessarily been envisaged.

For a doubling of the tourist tax, one really has to blame Podemos and the gun it held to the government over the budget. Barceló had, in the months after the tax had been introduced, been distinctly equivocal on whether it would go up. There was no room for equivocation when the barrels of Podemos were pointed.

As for the rentals legislation, I maintain that this took a course that hadn't been foreseen. Més were committed to legislate, but this was because the Partido Popular had failed to do so. PSOE agreed with them. There had to be new regulations, and these would have been drafted in a different fashion had it not been for the sudden explosion caused by the perfect storm of Airbnb (and others) and the massive demand for the Balearics that stemmed from Mediterranean geopolitics. Contrary to what anyone might believe, Més would have adopted a more relaxed attitude to regulation, if only because the PP had been illiberal.

That the legislation has become a complete dog's breakfast doesn't reflect well on Barceló, but again he can't be singled out. Podemos caused their own havoc, and the involvement of the Council of Mallorca and its incomprehensible zoning has just added to it. Fundamentally, however, Barceló was right. Things had got totally out of hand. Order had to be established, and the Balearics have been no different to many other places where Airbnb has completely disrupted the residential market.

He got things wrong with a failure to make immediate and forceful condemnations of bouts of anti-tourism and with going on about saturation. Both failures merely fed a growing antagonism towards tourism, but a response - setting limits on the number of tourists - was hardly the radical proposal that has been portrayed. Limits have been on the table for years; even the PP (Delgado) alluded to the potential need.

A further response is the frankly laughable notion that tourists will opt to come to the Balearics at times other than the summer. The Better in Winter campaign suffers because of its very slogan, as it begs the alternative - worse in summer. But any gains that might be claimed because of this campaign are questionable. A lengthening of the season has occurred because of increased demand resulting from the geopolitics, because of the ever greater momentum in niche products such as cycling and hiking that owes virtually nothing to government policy, and simply because of a greatly improved economic climate.

The only body which can genuinely be held up as having made a difference is the Palma 365 Foundation, of which the government isn't a part. And it most certainly has benefited from good press. That famous article about Palma in The Sunday Times was by a journalist who is well known to the Mallorca Tourist Board, a private organisation that promotes the island; so not, therefore, the government.

That article just goes to highlight an area where Barceló failed, just as ministers have in the past. Communications are hopeless. There is still no coherent approach to social media. The website for explaining how the tourist tax is spent was and is an utter embarrassment, and when the tax was introduced, he insisted on references to small percentages to be added to the overall cost of the holiday rather than appealing to the tourist's heart.

Has he left a legacy? We may start to get an idea next year, as his period as minister may have been when the mass in mass tourism was put into reverse. He hands over to Bel Busquets, a secondary school teacher by profession.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 December 2017

Morning high (8.10am): 9.4C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 18 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 16C; 19 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 20 December - Cloud, sun, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 5 to 6 occasionally 7 easing Northwest 4 to 5 in the afternoon.

A shower possible this morning, otherwise should be reasonably bright. Yellow alert for coastal conditions.

Evening update (19.30): Quite sunny after a bit of rain in the morning. High of 15.1C.

Més And The Holding Midfield

"Busquets for Mallorca" wasn't the headline. Not quite anyway. The Barcelona holding (aka defensive) midfielder was not being enticed from the Camp Nou with a promise of slumming it in front of one man and his dog when Real Mallorca head for places never previously heard of that host football teams in the Segunda B (Grupo 3). No, it wasn't that Busquets. It wasn't even a male. It was female and it was a Bel.

Finding a replacement (replacements) for Our Man Not In Havana But Punta Cana, Biel Barceló, has been proving to be less straightforward than might have been imagined. It hasn't been a simple case of dotting i's and crossing t's. Oh, that it were. No i has been dotted; instead it has been deleted altogether. From Biel to Bel. Barceló to Busquets. The Més B&B seems destined to continue. Or is it?

It is eminently possible that you have never heard of Bel. If you haven't, I really can't blame you. Bel's possible ascent to the vice-presidency sums up the mess that Més have got into because of Biel's jaunt to the Dominican Republic. Putting it bluntly, Més is not a party overflowing with political big-hitters; it is instead populated with dwarves tossed into a spotlight of slightly less than 14% share of the vote. It has basically been Biel and hardly anyone else. There is the wild man, David Abril, though there will be many who would prefer that there wasn't, and Més also have Mick of the Council. But he is more than content to remain Mick of the Council, president of the self-appointed Government of Mallorca.

Bel, who has been shadowing the wild man as Més joint spokesperson, has risen from rightful obscurity to be the number one for the VP's job: number one where Més are concerned, and no one else. In fact, it isn't really true to say that she's number one throughout Més. It had looked as if Mother Santiago, Fina, was nailed on for the VP gig, but then someone pointed out that she wasn't from the PSM Majorcan Socialists wing of Més. Mother was once with the communists, as was the wild man. The PSM said no to Mother, which must therefore draw into huge question her chances of being Més presidential candidate come 2019.

For Més, Bel would be a safe pair of hands - or safe pair of feet, if you prefer - in a holding midfield role of the unspectacular and indeed anonymous. The party is desperate to hold itself together and hope that it can limp towards the next election having regained credibility, most of which has disappeared along with ministerial and senior official names over the past nine months. In the process, however, it is still doing its utmost to portray itself as a self-interested shambles: say no to Bel and there'll be no acceptance of next year's budget, so there.

It is transparently obvious that neither Sweet and Friendly Francina nor Podemos have been overly enamoured of the Bel proposal for VP. Més have maintained that Bel is non-negotiable. The i must be dotted prior to deletion, and Bel will be the belle of the Balearic government ball - in a holding midfield role.

* And what do you know, Bel does indeed appear to be the belle. The confirmation was made yesterday amidst an undeniable air of reluctance on behalf of PSOE.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 December 2017

Morning high (8.08am): 11.8C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 18 December - Cloud, sun, wind, 15C; 19 December - Cloud, wind, 16C

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

Some heavy cloud first thing. Average kind of a day to come - occasional sunny spells.

Evening update (19.15): Localised storms this morning. When the sun came out, high of 16.2C. 

The Curse Of The Balearic Tourism Ministry

Between 1983 and 1993, the Balearics had one tourism minister. He was the first tourism minister, Jaume Cladera. Such stability at the ministry is something that can now only be dreamt of.

Biel Barceló's resignation bears an uncanny resemblance that of Carlos Delgado, who was the first of two tourism ministers in the Bauzá government. Delgado resigned for personal reasons, though his tenure wasn't without its moments of controversy. There was the infamous photo of him with a deer's testicles on his head, his trophy from a hunting expedition. The photo predated his time as minister. It wasn't a resigning matter, just a bit of an embarrassment.

What was more of an issue was his appointment of his then girlfriend (now wife) to a position within the ministry. The outcry of over this led to the appointment being withdrawn. He didn't resign over this, but it did make life somewhat awkward for the Bauzá regime. When he did resign, it was just after Christmas in 2013. This is the uncanny aspect. Barceló has gone at more or less the same time into a government's administration: two and a half years, and then out.

Before Delgado there had been the revolving door of the Antich administration, which saw four tourism ministers in all. There were also comings and goings among senior officials. Susanna Sciacovelli left her post as director of Ibatur (which was to become the Balearic Tourism Agency) in May 2010. She was replaced by Mar Guerrero, who herself resigned because of budgetary cutback at the ministry. She had been in the post for only eight months.

Barceló is the biggest scalp that the tourism ministry's curse has claimed during the current administration. To his name are added those of two directors of the Balearic Tourism Agency - Miquel Àngel Roig and Pere Muñoz - and one director-general of tourism, Pilar Carbonell.

The ministry has been like no other. Ministers have gone because of blatant corruption (Miquel Nadal), scandal (Barceló), personal reasons (Delgado) and sheer bad luck - Miquel Ferrer lasted one month before his party, the Unió Mallorquina, was thrown out of the coalition government. It really doesn't reflect very well.

But life will go on post-Barceló, just as it did post-Delgado. And there will, despite the upheaval be continuity, meaning the continuity of the incumbent regime (and party; Més, in the case of the tourism ministry). It has been peculiar to read some of the comments about Barceló's departure. While there has been some rejoicing, some anticipation that things will change is wholly misplaced. Why would things change?

I'm sorry to have to tell those who might hope that there will be some change that there will not be. The holiday rentals legislation policy will not alter, and the tourist tax will remain as is. There will still be talk of saturation, of tourist limits and of better in winter. Nothing will change, which for some might be the true curse of the tourism ministry.

Friday, December 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 December 2017

Morning high (8.28am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 17 December - Cloud, sun, 15C; 18 December - Cloud, sun, 17C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 4 to 5 switching East 4 in the afternoon.

Rather grey and mild. May be some sunny stuff later, otherwise mostly cloudy.

Evening update (21.00): Not bad. Felt warmer than a high of 16.9C.

Biel Barceló: Unforgivable Misjudgment

There are worse offences, if you can call going on a freebie to the Dominican Republic an offence. It isn't of course. Anyone is free to go, but the problem can arise when this freedom comes free of charge. You or I would probably bite the hand off of someone generous enough to provide flights and accommodation gratis, but neither you nor I is the vice-president and tourism minister of the Balearics. The largesse of Globalia - Air Europa and Be Live Hotels - would thus be denied us. Shame that. A couple of days in the Caribbean in December might do nicely, being whisked away from any Cyclone Ana which just happens to pummel Mallorca. Happily (one trusts), the hurricane season will have passed in the Caribbean, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic can be enjoyed at its balmy best - #Punta Cana Better In Winter.

Not that being the vice-president and the minister for tourism had anything to do with either the invitation or the free package holiday. Biel Barceló, sporting Biel, had gone in a private capacity, one of a number of contributors to a sports programme being ... being, well what? It was all a pleasant little jolly, even if there was no requirement to take part in the programme to be made in Punta Cana. And there wasn't.

Why did he do it? Seriously, why did he accept the programme's invitation and the generosity of the CEO of Mallorca's Globalia, Javier Hidalgo? Actually, it's most unlikely that Javi knew anything about it. Or anyone in the higher echelons of Globalia come to that, if the trip had all been arranged by the programme. Why would they have known? Rather like President Armengol didn't know Biel was going, there was no particular reason for them to have known. It was a private trip, after all; not an official vice-presidential one.

Biel has explained, indeed emphasised, that there was no direct or indirect relationship with any company. If by this he had meant Globalia, then one is inclined to accept that this was the case; in part, anyway. One understands what he was saying. He hadn't gone because one of Mallorca and Spain's leading travel and tourism companies had directly arranged for him to go, and that he had said, thanks very much and there's no potential conflict of interest. But there was a relationship, whether he agreed with the assertion or not. Globalia paid. Or the programme paid. There was, therefore, a direct relationship with the company behind the programme, even if it was one with which he has been associated for a decade.

There are times when politicians (and others) simply don't get it or are blind to the pitfalls of decisions. The trip to Punta Cana was one such time. Biel had suggested that there was a misjudgment. There was no suggest about it. Swanning off to the Caribbean when there was an important debate to be had in parliament was bad enough. To have missed that debate on account of a freebie was frankly unforgivable. It was a serious misjudgment, and when politicians are guilty of misjudgments they are therefore guilty of an offence of ruined credibility.

Podemos and others were waving the corruption banner. I don't buy that for one moment. Naive, stupid, ill-considered, but hardly corrupt. No, make that absolutely not corrupt. Forget any suggestion of corruption. But there are the ethical codes of Més and the government to consider. These may or may not have been transgressed, but there is a factor as important if not more so. What the citizens made of it all. For some, it will have been evidence of all politicians, despite their fine words (including those of Biel), being in it for themselves. For others, astonishment. There may have been no wrongdoing, but for goodness sake it didn't look good.

Maybe, who can tell, Biel had thought that no one would ever know he'd gone. More fool he, if he did. This is the era of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Wayne Rooney and far too many others to mention. People do find out, and it was on Instagram. He really was naive, and having been naive and made a serious misjudgment, his capacity for other judgment was placed under the microscope. And unfortunately for Biel there had been previous.

He may have had nothing to do with the Més contracts, but he had really only survived that affair because Podemos backed off. They weren't about to now. But there were other questionable decisions, such as the appointments of both Pilar Carbonell and Pere Muñoz, both now no more.

I have no axe to grind with Barceló. I disagree with the tourist tax but I agree with other tourism policies. A generally reasonable and agreeable fellow, but this wasn't enough. He had to resign.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 December 2017

Morning high (7.48am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 December - Cloud, 19C; 16 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 17 December - Cloud, sun, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4 to 5 occasionally 6.

Breezy and clear. Should be sunny and quite warm today.

Evening update (20.00): High of 21.8C.

Something Over 100 Million: The Palacio

So, what do you reckon to the Palacio? Not do you like the look of it - subjectivity is a great thing but not terribly objective - but is it proving to be worth all the palaver after all? To answer this, you'll have to take Meliá's word. No losses for the first year (only nine months), and a decent profit expected to be turned in next year, presumably after handing over the annual couple of million or so to the town hall and government - the Palacio company.

Things do seem to have gone quite well, surprisingly well, some of us may conclude. Volkswagen was a nice way to cap off the year, what with all those attendees being bused hither and thither by German coach operators. Single Market, what Single Market? There are such matters as Balearic regulations on transport operators. Hence the coaches were parked up with nothing to do other than be passed by contented local coach operators, who had apparently failed to secure the original contract because they were too expensive (and whose federation raised the German question with the transport ministry). Hey ho.

Many were the sceptics, many a sceptic may remain, but once the edifice flung its doors open for the first time, it was an occasion to cast aside scepticism. The Palacio was a reality. Let's all back it. Long live the Palacio. Long live Meliá, who weren't presumably all that concerned about how much the place had cost. It wasn't their money after all. It was, erm, well, the taxpayers.

The doors open, however, and the bottomless well of taxpayer generosity was sealed over. How much had it really cost? The figures were somewhat movable. The general consensus was something over 100 million. Something over can mean anything. One report ventured 40 million over 100 million. We might never know.

It was of course explained to our old friend Jaume Matas in the days before the courts took an interest in him that the whole project was not viable in cost terms. Such cautions were not typically heeded by the former Balearic president. Have project, will fork out. Anyone for a metro and a velodrome while we're at it?

One could therefore understand why there were sceptical voices, yet the real rub as to how possibly good the Palacio could in fact turn out to be lay with Meliá's rivals for the management - the Barceló group. They had originally been awarded the contract. They went to court over the matter, sensing - one had to conclude - that there really was profit to be had overlooking the sea.

It was once suggested that the sea views were something of a drawback. Not just because the location upped the cost but also because of running costs, such as those for cleaning the windows and the exterior, having received a good buffeting from Cyclone Ana (or just regular weather and general seaside air). But these costs are clearly no longer a concern. The Palacio has risen and its stock will rise ever higher. And I have to say good if it does. It genuinely could make a very valuable contribution, which is just as well given the 100 million or something over.

Right now, the Palacio is hosting those for whom its angular formations can only be wonders to behold. The Palacio - of men, Meliá and mice. The MICE sector - MICE as in meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions - has been gathering within it. The Balearic Tourism Agency has even deigned to provide its patronage. Well, it would. The Palacio is better in winter, and for once the agency may well be right.

The MICE sector has gone to worship at the shrine to its future wealth. And why not? Its wealth and the wealth of others. I was once among the sceptics, oh most certainly, but not now. One senses that the Palacio is going to prove to be a roaring success, and if this were to rub off in general terms, then it can surely only be good. You never know, it might prove to be the means of unlocking the keys to low-season flights from those parts of Europe cut off from Mallorca for months on end.

There are reasons, however, to quieten the euphoria. One in particular is the nature of competition. A short-term again for Palma may be had from the little local difficulty in Catalonia and therefore the main MICE centre in Spain - Barcelona. But there are other cities. Valencia, for one. And what are they up to in Valencia? They're only going and positioning themselves as a 365-day-a-year city destination, and, moreover, the Valencia Convention Bureau is on the prowl.

The point is that everyone does the same and chases the same sort of markets. For Palma and the Palacio, therefore, the current fashionability needs to be maintained. If it is, then we should be grateful for the 100 million or something over.

* Image from

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 December 2017

Morning high (8.00am): 4.5C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 15 December - Cloud, 20C; 16 December - Cloud, sun, 16C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing Southwest 4 to 5 in the afternoon.

Some rain overnight. Bright and chilly start. A sunny day forecast.

Evening update (19.45): Reasonable. High of 16.1C.

The White Noise Of Balearic Technology

The Balearic government, the current one that is, has its grand projects. One is the anti-corruption office, an agency now scheduled to open some time early next year, assuming there can be agreement on what its director should be paid.

This office, much spoken about as a symbol of the "agreements for change" struck between PSOE, Més and Podemos, has acquired an almost mythical status. This is because many of us had begun to think that it was a myth, that it was never going to happen. Were it not to happen, the government's credibility would shrink, in particular when it comes to corruption. There are voices, some of them close to the government (Podemos), who believe it has been soft on corruption allegations and therefore soft on Biel Barceló over the contracts affair.

Another grand project is largely the brainchild of Barceló. It is easy to forget that he has responsibilities other than for tourism. He is also minister for innovation and research. His ministry is a curious, almost personal interest alliance of tourism and what in former times we would have referred to as R&D.

That old usage is one now consigned to the past along with smokestack industry and forgotten giants of the corporate worlds of chemicals, automotive and metals. These industries remain but they have been re-cast for the contemporary day. They focus on innovation and technology, not dull old research and development. But then, didn't they always?

For governments, innovation and technology are the means to current and future ends of competitiveness. Harold Wilson's white heat has been turned gold, and governments thus expend effort (or at least words) in pursuit of the philosopher's stone of alchemy. Hitherto unknown chemical compounds are to be innovated and from their fusion will erupt the rivers of gold of hot technology and broad avenues with business laboratories dedicated to reincarnating Silicon Valley.

Innovation, innovation, innovation. The Balearic government has spoken of little else. It has a status akin to consensus and dialogue in the on-message statements of the president, vice-president (also Barceló) and others. It matches the message of sustainability, for innovation is the path to economic diversification and thus a diversion on the route marked only tourism. Spoken of little else and done virtually nothing.

This second grand project, you see, is the Balearic Islands Institute of Research. Oddly, and unlike the anti-corruption office, it has barely received any mention since those optimistic days when the agreements for change were being signed. It can appear as if this government is more wedded to a single "tion" - corruption - than to truly putting the "tion" into innovation. This might be thought to be the consequence of the firm Podemos line on corruption, but not so. Podemos, you might be surprised to learn, have a highly detailed economic and competitiveness strategy, one that has hung its hat on technological innovation. A Podemos forebear, the now dimly remembered Partido X, drafted the roadmap.

The institute is, we are told, going to open next year: the second half of next year. The same rigmarole with selecting its director will be gone through as has been the case with the anti-corruption office. Agreements for change are fine, but they can result in virtual stasis through lack of agreement - consensus and dialogue or no consensus and dialogue. There are those who suggest that the institute will in fact not open until 2019; it might never, as there'll be an election to worry about.

Other regions of Spain have this type of institute, the Basque Country for instance, one of Spain's principal centres of industry for as long as there has been Spanish industry, which isn't the case with the Balearics. The Basques of the old smokestack and of banking have a culture of research, one that the Balearics do not. The islands are playing catch-up, in word as much as (?) in deed. The institute is not to be heavily funded, yet it will benefit from 300,000 euros of tourist tax revenue. Seriously, if there is to be a commitment to innovation and technology as the means to economic diversification, why not use all the revenue in the pursuit of innovation?

Technology can perform wonders, such as for the environment, water resources, agriculture and restoration of historical buildings. These are purposes for the tax, so why not let technology loose on them? And in the process, there could come quantifiable benefits in terms of business development and employment. But then, an issue with talk of innovation is what is meant. There has to be a very meaningful bottom line; economic shifts need to be seismic not just a slight realignment of the plates.

Will this institute represent the future? What do you think, when the Balearics dedicate a mere 0.33% of GDP to good old R&D? The lowest amount of all regions. White heat or white noise?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 December 2017

Morning high (8.11am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 13 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 14 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 15 December - Cloud, sun, 20C

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

Grey sort of morning. Sunny spells likely later. Showers possible this evening.

Evening update (21.00): Average. Very little bit of rain. High of 15.1C. 

General Weyler And His Square

In December one hundred and twenty years ago there was a peculiar demonstration in Palma. It was organised by Mallorca's shoemaking businessmen. The targets for their protest were twofold. One was the concession of autonomy to Cuba. The other was General Valeriano Weyler.

The shoemakers hadn't really got it right. Weyler was responsible for autonomy not because he granted it - he was in no position to do so, he was a military man and not a member of the Spanish government - but because he had contributed to the government's need to change tack in Cuba.

The name of Weyler, perhaps oddly given today's prevailing politics and social attitudes, is one that lives on. He has a square named after him in Palma - the Plaza Weyler in which the Grand Hotel, now CaixaForum, was built at the start of the twentieth century. There are other Weyler squares. There is one in S'Arracó (Andratx), for example.

There isn't, however, the same desire to remove memories of a colonial past as there is with the more recent history of Franco. And Weyler, moreover, was from Palma: Can Weyler in the calle Pau is considered to be one of the finest examples of civilian Gothic architecture in the city. He was born in 1838 and lived to the grand age of 92, dying shortly before the Republic was declared. He would surely have disapproved of that.

Ten days before the shoemakers made their feelings known - an autonomous Cuba wasn't of great benefit to them, not least because it would mean a slump in military demand for boots - the town hall in Palma changed the name of two squares (Truyols and Teatre) and created the Plaza Weyler, which is close by the Teatre Principal. The town hall, very different to today's, wished to honour this great general and son of the city.

Six days later (28 November, 1897), Weyler returned to Palma. He arrived on the steamship Bellver. It was noted that he was accompanied by a reporter from El Áncora, a religious newspaper of the era. On disembarking, the general paid tribute to Mallorcan conservatives and supporters of empire.

In truth, Weyler wasn't the returning hero. The Spanish government had relieved him of the command of Cuba during the Cuban War of Independence. Rebel forces defeated the Spanish in various encounters in 1897. It was these which forced the government to reconsider their tactics. And there was also the issue of the "reconcentración".

It is arguable whether Weyler originated the notion of the concentration camp, and in fact the thinking in Cuba wasn't to incarcerate the enemy but to keep innocent civilians alive and safe from the rebels. The policy was to go spectacularly wrong. The rebels then created their own camps. It has been estimated that ten per cent of the island's population died because of the appalling conditions. There were also the dead from warfare.

Weyler and Spain's policy in Cuba had already been under intense scrutiny by the foreign press, especially America's. With the island in ever greater chaos, the USS Maine was sent to Havana with the intention of protecting US citizens. It was sunk, allegedly by a mine. The upshot was the Spanish-American War. Cuba was lost to Spain forever.

Into the story entered a famous newspaper owner. William Randolph Hearst, who was to later inspire Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, was instrumental in what became known as "yellow journalism". It was an equivalent of tabloid journalism and indeed fake news, all designed to inflame emotions. Atrocities by the Spanish were high on the list. Yellow journalism was to exaggerate what happened in Cuba, but it wasn't all false by any means. The Americans dubbed him "Butcher Weyler".

For all this, Weyler was a steadfast believer in maintaining constitutional status quo as much as law and order. He would have disapproved of the Republic, but he certainly disapproved of the first dictator, Miguel Primo de Rivera. He was imprisoned for a time, even though he was by then into his eighties. As such, and despite events in Cuba, there is perhaps justification in today's political and social attitudes granting his memory some sympathy.