Saturday, November 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 November 2017

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

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

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

Es Murterar - Should We Be Concerned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 November 2017

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

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

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

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

What Podemos Really Want - Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 November 2017

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

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

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

Evening update (19.30): High of 22.6C.

The Recognition Of Corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 November 2017

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

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

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

Evening update (19.15): High of 22.2C.

What Is The Other Barceló Up To?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 November 2017

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

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

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

Evening update (21.45): High of 22.7C.

Communicating The Tourist Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 November 2017

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

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

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

Evening update (20.00): High of 22.4C.

Branding Mallorca's Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Photo from Ajuntament de Sa Pobla Facebook.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2017

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

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

Cold start and bright. Sunny and quite warm today.

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

Sort Of A Holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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