Monday, June 26, 2017

A Week Off

I'm afraid you'll have to do without me for a week. A long, long overdue break is in order. No internet, so no being tempted by the quirks and oddities of Mallorca, as I shall be away from the island: for the first time in years.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2017

Morning high (7.58am): 23.9C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 27 June - Sun, cloud, 35C; 28 June - Cloud, sun, 29C; 29 June - Sun, cloud, 28C

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

Forecast now suggesting there may be a shower on Wednesday. Temperature due to decrease midweek, with showers - at present, according to the forecast - also possible on Friday.

Evening update (19.30): There were some spots of rain this morning. Very odd. High of 34.1C.

The Death Of An Architect

Josep Ferragut Pou is one of the more important Mallorcans of the twentieth century. His architectural legacy is still very much with us, even if some of it is crumbling and on the point of demolition. Ferragut was the municipal architect in Alcudia. He worked on the old power station and on the Poblat GESA opposite. The Poblat is to be redeveloped as luxury properties (in all likelihood). Endesa, inheritors of GESA real estate, want the power station to be totally demolished. Purchasers of luxury accommodation don't want such a rusting, abandoned edifice and sight blocking the view. They will probably have to get used to the view of at least part of it.

Ferragut was also involved with the City of Lakes project in Alcudia. It was he who basically mapped out the canals, the lakes and the urban development on which the likes of Bellevue were to rise. Prior to his work in Alcudia, he had worked with another architect, Gabriel Alomar, on the project to redefine the centre of Palma. This involved, for example, the creation of the Jaume III avenue, the Passeig Mallorca and a new municipal market (Mercat de l'Olivar). The Plaça Major was completed as were the steps to connect it to La Rambla.

After the work in Alcudia, Ferragut was responsible for Palma's GESA building and the Església de Nostra Senyora dels Àngels de la Porciúncula, better known as the Glass Church of Playa de Palma. The church was consecrated on 6 October 1968. Ferragut didn't live to experience the moment.

He was active at the time when Mallorca was experiencing its tourism boom. Ferragut is generally characterised as an architect who took issue with uncontrolled development and the corruption that went hand in hand with it. He was also for a time the municipal architect in Pollensa and had fought against high-rise in Puerto Pollensa. His advice was initially heeded, but factors beyond his control were to mean that the recommendation wasn't totally adhered to.

In Alcudia, it might be argued that his work with the City of Lakes contradicted his desire for there to be control. However, it wasn't Ferragut who was responsible for what later emerged, such as the Reinas (now Club Mac). He had been dead for a few years when the Bellvista Urbanisation took shape: what became Bellevue and the Siestas. In fact, Ferragut's vision had been for a development with low population density and abundant green areas.

Another Josep Ferragut - Josep Ferragut Canals - is a nephew. Also an architect, he took over the studio in Palma that his uncle had used. He has said that his relative was a cultured person with one foot firmly in Mallorca's traditions. He had an ethical view of his work. When he was hired by Pollensa town hall, he vowed not to take on any "personal commissions".

The impression formed, therefore, is of an essentially honest man, a rare breed in those days. He recognised the architectural conflicts of modernity and tradition and sought to find ways of reconciling them. But this personal stance was to bring him into conflict with members of the College of Architects, the professional institute, and with the Provincial Deputation's urban planning commission. There was, however, something else that caused conflict. Ferragut was a homosexual.

On 21 February 1968, a body was found along the Bunyola road, a few kilometres from Palma. The press was to refer to his face having been horribly smashed in. Josep Ferragut had been bludgeoned to death with a stone. He was 56 at the time, and according to police he had met two men - one 20, the other 26 - the night before. The two were arrested. In July the following year, they were released due to a lack of evidence. The case was not reopened.

Just after Ferragut's murder, the poet and novelist Jaume Vidal Alcover had been due to give a lecture at what was then the University of Palma. He didn't show up. Instead, he had left Mallorca on the ferry to Barcelona. The historian Damià Ferrà-Ponç has said that Vidal hadn't wanted to appear because of the indiscriminate arrests of Mallorcan homosexuals.

Homophobic paranoia was as rampant as corruption. Ferragut had the misfortune to have been a homosexual in such an atmosphere, while he was adamant in his disapproval of the corruption that had led to uncontrolled development and continued to. It is unlikely that the truth behind his murder will ever be known. The press had portrayed the two who were arrested as "blackmail specialists", but then the press wrote what it was told to or what was wise to report. If there had been a need to silence Ferragut - by then at real loggerheads with the professional body and the government - it would have been simple enough, rather than for him to have been killed, to have blackmailed him. Although he was discreet, enough was known about his homosexuality. However, there were all sorts of interests and a great deal of money at stake.

The version of his murder that was allowed to prevail was that he had been the victim of two male prostitutes, though they were of course never convicted. The other is that he was killed because his ethics frustrated developments. The Ferragut  family hired a private detective. He focused on Pollensa and Alcudia, which were where Ferragut had been at his most outraged. He referred to "barbarities" in Puerto Pollensa and was against the exploitation of unspoiled areas, especially in Alcudia, even if he was partially responsible for what was to transpire. The detective concluded that, although there was no specific evidence, there were enemies who had conspired against Ferragut, angered about his denouncing of corruption.

A work by novelist Guillem Frontera was published two years ago. Its title is Sicília Sense Morts, Sicily Without The Dead (or corpses). Frontera alludes to an epigram that has become distorted: its actual wording is "Mallorca es como Sicilia, pero sin muertos". There is debate as to who originally coined it - either of the journalists Andreu Manresa or Matias Vallés - but it is now mistakenly expressed as Sicily without the guns. Regardless of this, the expression is pertinent. In 1969, Frontera wrote a novel entitled Cada Día Que Calles (roughly Every Day That Remains Silent). It is taken to have been about the murder of Ferragut.

The murder was scandalous, not least because no one was ever convicted and the case was closed. It could well be that Ferragut was killed by the two men and that it was therefore a form of gay scandal that the Francoist regime preferred to hush up. But there was the other possibility. Mallorca is like Sicily and it has the corpses - one at any rate.

* Tomorrow evening at Bellver Castle, there is the premiere showing of the documentary Vida i mort d’un arquitecte. It is the opening gala for the Atlàntida Film Fest and is the work of Miguel Eek. It will be broadcast simultaneously on IB3. It is about the life and death of Josep Ferragut.

** Photo: https://joseferragutpou.com

Sunday, June 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2017

Morning high (9.00am): 24.7C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 26 June - Cloud, sun, 34C; 27 June - Sun, 33C; 28 June - Sun, cloud, 33C

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

Supposedly going to be a touch less hot today, but then cranking up again. Tomorrow is forecast to be mainly cloudy but hot, so could well be oppressive. Looking ahead to the end of the week, temperatures are due to fall on Friday, and there may be the odd shower. This could all change though.

Evening update (20.00): Quite oppressive. August-type weather. High of 32.4C.

Selling A Winter Tourism Strategy

Aviba is the Balearic association of travel agencies. It is forty years old. A new image has been created. In the words of its president, Toni Abrines: "We are Mediterranean, which means being sea, sun, infinite sunsets, the horizon, light. Aviba and the Balearics are blue and yellow."

The association is thus banking on an image that has served Mallorca for as long as there has been mass tourism. The image was officially, in promotional terms, once captured in Joan Miró's Sol de Mallorca. Little has therefore changed, except for Abrines adding that there have to be "tourist interests that go beyond sun and beach". He wants there to be a tourism strategic plan which recognises that there are "political ups and downs" but would nevertheless support the tourism industry by sticking to a plan.

Defining a plan that achieves consensus seems like a pipe dream. It would require agreement from political parties of differing complexions, from the numerous business associations, from unions, from society. Just as one example of how difficult it might be is the fact that Podemos (in the form of Laura Camargo) have drawn winter tourism into question by pointing out that the poor workers would have to work for more than eight months a year.

Aviba itself seems unclear what the strategy might be. In opting for a refreshed image that stresses the essential components of Mallorca's tourism (its summer tourism), it is making off-season tourism secondary. There again, that it is exactly what it is. And to suggest otherwise is a nonsense.

In the Canary Islands, they are working on such a plan, and the government there is opening it up to the public. It is inviting opinion. The Canaries, though, are a different proposition to the Balearics. Those islands have genuine all-year tourism. There is little variance in tourist numbers between summer and winter. But this is not the only way that the Canaries differ from the Balearics. Promotion is innovative, whereas in the Balearics it is not. The Disney-style element to the official promotional website says it all. Here is an imaginative means of selling attractions, including the national parks in the Canaries and their winter appeal. In the Balearics, promotion is almost a dirty word, and what word there is tends to be mixed.

The travel agents association does rather sum this up. It wants winter tourism but at the same time presents an image that can seem at odds with this. The Balearic tourism ministry, meanwhile, has simply stopped any promotion of summer. Its strategic plan is the winter. All promotional eggs are in the low-season basket.

This emphasis on the winter is perfectly reasonable. Indeed, Mallorca has been crying out for a concerted and coordinated winter promotional effort for years. Herein lies the rub - coordination. When there used to be the Winter in Mallorca campaign some years ago, it didn't have the necessary support politically or from business. It was eventually and quietly dropped. Indifference and lack of will had won the day.

Having a strategy is one thing. Selling it is quite another. This selling includes the messages and in particular how they are conveyed. I'm unconvinced that the ministry and its tourism agency know how to go about this in an effective way. Let me give an example.

I am to be working on a promotion for the ministry. Basically, this is a translation from Spanish for something which, as I understand it, is to be distributed on planes from the UK (or on arrival at the airport). It's all about the low season - Better In Winter. The first paragraph of this informs the reader that the Balearic archipelago is some two hours' flight time from central European cities. I looked at this and thought - you're kidding. Firstly, what sort of an introduction is that? Secondly, it's aimed at the UK market. Thirdly, if you're on a plane or have arrived, then you know how long the flight is.

My version will relegate this factual intro, but it is indicative of the kind of mindset that dominates the messages. Facts and information come before emotion and inspiration. It's hard enough to differentiate destinations when they are all essentially selling the same things, so you have to go hard on appealing to the heart and on creating a genuine connection in the minds of visitors (both potential and actual).

The same applied towards the end of 2015. The ministry was on a mission to explain the tourist tax to the UK market. I received some copy and binned it. What resulted was much longer and was written in order to tug at the heart strings. And this was from someone who was and remains no great supporter of the tourist tax.

The strategy for winter tourism is there, and it is unlikely to be altered if there is political change in two years time. The PP had assured us back in 2011 and 2012 that the fruits of its winter promotional efforts would have been realised by the time of the 2015 election. They would not be about to put the strategy in reverse. But far more important is what the strategy says. Far more important is getting all parties (and not just political ones) on board. Everyone has to buy into it - Aviba is right in this regard - but the most important party of all is the tourist. Strategies require implementation, and their messages are key.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2017

Morning high (7.03am): 20.7C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 25 June - Sun, 30C; 26 June - Sun, 32C; 27 June - Sun, cloud, 31C

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

Happy Sant Joan's Day, John the Baptist's birthday. Also day three of Puerto Alcudia's Sant Pere fiestas - sardine BBQ on the fishermen's pier this evening. Remaining hot.

Evening update (20.00): High of 36.4C.

The 64 Commandments Of Magalluf

And lo it came to pass that Alfonso took miscreant hoteliers, bar owners and the Children of Albion to the Mount of Magalluf (sometimes referred to as the Hill). There was thunder, for Alfonso was in a thunderous mood. Although the Great God of Magalluf was otherwise detained at his majesty's pleasure, facing Lord knows how many charges, other gods (of greater virtue) gathered on the Mount and spake unto the assembled masses. While the hoteliers and bar owners were vaguely afeared (not much in truth), the Children of Albion were not in the least bit afeared. Nor did they hear the words that the gods spake unto them.

Given this lack of attention, Alfonso went into the midst of the cloud atop the Mount, which wasn't a cloud as such but more a sort of peculiar ozone created from the accumulated fumes of strong alcohol. For forty days and forty nights, he disappeared. Meanwhile the Children of Albion wreaked merry hell. They had no shame, naked in front of the gods. They fought and they fell, either through drink or because of a fist. After the full forty days, Alfonso descended from the Mount with a tablet. He was going to share all his images on the town hall's Instagram channel, but his thunderous mood had grown even more thunderous. It came to pass that he returned to witness scenes of the Children of Albion that he had thought had been expressly forbidden by the gods of municipal ordinance.

Lo, Alfonso's anger waxed hot. He cast the tablet out of his hands and did break it beneath the Mount. But before doing so, he did utter the 64 Commandments. Were the Children of Albion (and miscreant hoteliers and bar owners) paying attention? Were they to be advised that they could not covet a resident's ox and drive it along Punta Ballena?

Thou shalt not argue or fight in public places; Thou shalt not utter abusive language; Thou shalt respect others; Thou shalt not damage street furniture; Thou shalt cooperate with the police or officials; Thou shalt respect tourist facilities; Thou shalt not cause any interference to public events; Thou shalt not give false information about thy identity; Thou shalt not carry any sort of prohibited weapon; Thou shalt not disrespect police officers; Thou shalt not shine laser beams; Thou shalt respect any physical barriers put in place by the police; Thou shalt not damage litter bins, statutes, parks, gardens; Thou shalt not rip branches off trees; Thou shalt not carve names or initials into tree bark; Thou shalt not climb trees.

Thou shalt not litter the street; Thou shalt not damage flowers in parks; Thou shalt not cause discomfort to others with skateboards or balls; Thou shalt not defecate, urinate or spit in public places; Thou shalt not throw down chewing gum, cigarette ends, cans, papers or containers; Thou shalt not interfere with street lighting; Thou shalt not do any type of graffiti; Thou shalt not scratch surfaces.

Thou shalt adhere to safety rules on beaches; Thou shalt not swim when a red flag flies; Thou shalt not bathe anywhere that is prohibited; Thou shalt not wash any type of garment under beach showers; Thou shalt not place buckets under them; Thou shalt not drink from showers; Thou shalt not use soap or gel under public showers.

Thou shalt not have sexual relations in a public place or anywhere visible from public places; Thou shalt not beg; Thou shalt not drink alcoholic beverages in public places; Thou shalt respect the right of people to rest, especially between 8pm and 8am; Thou shalt not take drugs in public places; Thou shalt not go naked or semi-naked in the street; Thou shalt not commit balconing.

The remaining Commandments were ones directed at the miscreant hoteliers and bar owners. Meantime, the Children of Albion scratched their heads. Had there been any mention of an ox? Not as such. So the Children did covet oxen, not all of which were oxen, as they couldn't tell the difference to bulls. And these oxen and bulls were driven along Punta Ballena and the streets of Magalluf until the combined bovine squadron did spy females with red tops or red leggings. And they did charge at these women, scattering them and making the Jezebels flee, never to return.

Whereupon Alfonso did look favourably on this and heard the cheers of the people, who had been released from the scourge of the Jezebels. He called to the Children of Albion, who had coveted the oxen (and bulls), prophesying that they would inherit the Earth, or that bit of it that was Punta Ballena. Which is what they did.

Happy hour again, and again and again ... .

* My thanks to The Independent, which listed all the various regulations ("commandments") for behaviour in Magalluf and Calvia.

Friday, June 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2017

Morning high (7.40am): 20.6C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 24 June - Sun, 33C; 25 June - Sun, cloud, 29C; 26 June - Sun, 31C

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

Midsummer's Eve, Sant Joan's Eve, so on some beaches there will be night lights and perhaps even the odd bonfire (not that there's really meant to be). Will still be pretty warm come midnight.

Evening update (24.00): High of 35C.

The Hairy Saint John Without Hair



In Felanitx, Pollensa and Sant Joan he is known as Sant Joan Pelós. In Sant Llorenç he is Sant Joan Pelut. The meaning is the same - Saint John the Hairy. In Felanitx, such is the status of its Sant Joan that the dance has been declared a fiesta in the cultural interest. This means that there is an obligation for the tradition to be maintained and promoted in its traditional format. It also means that there is a degree of kudos attached.

The Felanitx John was responsible for one of the more amusing anecdotes associated with Mallorca's traditions. Or should one say not amusing, because a royal personage - Isabel de Borbón y Borbón, daughter of Queen Isabel II - was singularly unamused by him. So much so that when she visited Felanitx in 1913, she demanded to know who the idiot was who was dancing for her.

The dance is all important, and its origins appear to lie not with midsummer but with Christmastime, specifically the feasts of Saint Stephen, i.e. Boxing Day, and of John the Evangelist (27 December). Scholars point to the fact that at least until the sixteenth century there were rituals in the liturgy at Palma Cathedral in which Saint Stephen would appear on Boxing Day in a long tunic with his face covered. The following day there would be a repetition; this time involving John the Evangelist, who would wear a veil of white silk over his face.

Somehow, John the Baptist was added to this ritual. In contrast to the Evangelist, the Baptist had a mask and wore a hairy cape and sandals. In one hand he would hold a lamb. In the other was a cross on which were the Latin words "Ecce Agnus Dei" (Behold! The Lamb of God). Eventually, the combination of John the Evangelist and John the Baptist was incorporated into the ceremony for Corpus Christi, and the image of John the Baptist was the one which prevailed. Nowadays, if one is being strictly accurate, only Pollensa has maintained the Corpus Christi connection. The other Hairy Johns manifest themselves on Midsummer's Day, the feast of John the Baptist.

There isn't total consistency between the Johns and the celebrations. In the village of Sant Joan for instance, he is accompanied by a giant crow, the Corb Nofre, which emits fire. The crow is an entirely modern invention, introduced to add a touch more colour and mystery to the whole affair. The hairiness is generally shared, though this has passed with time to the head rather than the original cape of the mediaeval ceremony. But in Sant Llorenç there is no hairiness. Sant Joan Pelut sports a short back and sides.

Whereas Pollensa can trace its John back to at least the early seventeenth century, the spread of Hairy Johns across Mallorca, but most notably in its eastern part, wasn't especially evident until the end of the eighteenth century. In Manacor, its John first seems to have appeared in 1750 but disappeared some 150 years later. There were Johns in Son Carrió, Son Servera, Arta and Alcudia, but in the specific case of Sant Llorenç there is no documentary evidence of him until 1945. A bachelor of the village, it was explained, danced "furiously" and was accompanied by two demons.

As with other dancing Johns, the intention was to whip up mirth. A Catalan writer on folklore, Joan Amades, writing about Catalan customs in the 1950s, said that "the mission of the character is to plan the maximum possible humour; the more laughter, the better". Isabel de Borbón y Borbón might not have been amused, but the folk of the villages were.

The Sant Llorenç John is believed to have been based on Manacor's. But from the heady days of the 1940s, he went into decline, as did other Johns. Much has been said and written about the abandonment of traditions, with the onset of tourism and a regime not minded to actively promote Catalan customs chiefly attributed with having caused the decline. It has also been noted, however, that there was indifference. The people had, for a time, been amused, but they gradually stopped bothering, as also did those who arranged the traditional dances.

At the start of the 1980s there was the revival. In Sant Llorenç it was due to musicians and the person who became the Hairy John, Toni Santandreu. Today's John, Biel Nicolau, has the two demons as there were in the mid-1940s. But why, unlike others, doesn't he have the hair? Good question. And another is why he wears what looks like a mortar board. Mallorca's traditions are often highly idiosyncratic, and Sant Joan Pelut is a good example.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2017

Morning high (7.35am): 19.4C
Forecast high: 33C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 23 June - Sun, 33C; 24 June - Sun, 32C; 25 June - Sun, 33C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing East 2 to 4 around midday.

Evening update (19.30): High of 34.6C.

#BetterInInstagram

I would have assumed that picture postcard was just a cliché that someone once came up with. Does a postcard not normally have a picture? Or several pictures? According to the Collins English Dictionary (online version), picture postcard merits its own entry as a noun and is defined thus: It is a postcard with a photograph of a place on it. How useful. So, it's a postcard then.

Rather more to the point, when Collins considers the picture postcard as an adjective, it says that this describes a place that is very attractive. Somewhere can be "very picturesque". By adding picture to the equation, the mundane functionality of a postcard takes on a whole different characteristic. Picture postcard settings are for aspiration and inspiration. They present very much greater stimulus to the wishing you were here sloganising of the postcard of yore. And in contemporary social network speak, these are settings to be liked or loved.

Does anyone send postcards any longer? Actually, they do. I received one from Zanzibar not so long ago. It must have taken about a month, which is partly the issue. As with other communications, the postcard has been booted onto the scrap heap of ancient technology. Why bother with a postcard when there is the immediacy, let's say, of Instagram? And with the additional technological aids available, the sharing of picture postcard scenes are even more picture postcard than they once were. These are virtual art forms revealing virtual destinations. Wish you were here? Oh yes: aspire, inspire, like, love.

The Balearic Tourism Agency, whose familiarity with contemporary technologies has often seemed to be non-existent or stuck in a past of postcards with pictures of donkeys wearing sombreros, has discovered Instagram: Turismoislasbaleares is where you'll find it. And goodness, what finds there are. Gorgeous coves, dramatic mountain scenes, quaint fishermen harbours, strange islets surrounded with deep blues of the Mediterranean, appealing streets with clothes of primary colours hanging outside pretty boutiques. Wish you were here? Heavens, yes. Here is Heaven - #MallorcaLover (or the other islands), #BetterInWinter.

The picture postcard instant gratification of Mallorca-gone-Instagram is a delight to behold. However, there is something missing from mostly all these picture postcard scenes. Their picturesque quality would be clearly lessened. This is a quality of Mallorca from a distant time even if it is still visible. This is tourism promotion not from the days just before the boom, it is from before they even started to formalise attempts at promotion 112 years ago. What is missing? Not what, but who. People.

The idyllic imagery is, one might suggest, slightly at variance with the general narrative of the times, one that the tourism ministry has indulged in or even actively encouraged. Coves, we have learned, are saturated with people, cars, rubbish, illegal chiringuitos, lookies, town hall and other authorities shaking their heads, and police attempting to de-saturate the coves. The mountains are overrun with coaches and cyclists. Appealing streets with their pretty boutiques may indeed be appealing, but no one's buying anything except from the ranks of even more lookies with their blankets on the ground just round the corner from the appealing street. This is Mallorca as the picture postcard would love it to always be. And of course it is; just that the images don't tell the whole picture.

There was a recent survey in which tourists were asked what was good and not so good about Mallorca. A staggering (or was it?) 91% said that the large number of tourists in summer was the island's least positive aspect, i.e. most negative. Yes, tourists believe that there are too many damn tourists. And many of them are blocking the view of what Instagram would have us believe is the wholly unspoiled island that Santiago Rusiñol (in 1912) described as calm.

This said, the Instagram hashtags provide a clue as to what this promotion is in aid of. #BetterInWinter is the tourism agency's passionate promotional cri de coeur. In winter, unless it's blowing a gale or hammering down with rain, the coves are gorgeous, the strange islets are surrounded with deep blues. And there indeed isn't anyone to block the view, at least in part because getting here can be as tortuous a communications process as sending a postcard from Zanzibar.

Still, one shouldn't really quibble too much. The picture postcards are lovely. And the tourism agency is finally catching up with technology: it's taken an awfully long time. But are the 12.3k followers of the Instagram channel seekers of picture postcards of the winter or of the summer? Do their likes and loves stem from existing knowledge? If so, they may be among the 91% - in summer anyway.

Wishing you were here? #BetterInInstagram.

* Balearic Islands Instagram: Turismoislasbaleares
** Photo here (mine): Sa Foradada and sea from Son Marroig, Deià.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 22 June - Sun, 33C; 23 June - Sun, cloud, 32C; 24 June - Sun, 33C

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

Summer has now officially started. And what do you know ...? Sun. Heat.

Evening update (20.15): High of 33.1C.

The Tourism Debate Fifty Years Ago

Fifty years ago this coming Saturday, Maria Steiner, a Swiss citizen, received a pleasant surprise. She and her husband Roger were to be treated to a fortnight's free holiday in Palma. They already were on holiday, or were about to be, so the free fortnight was presumably to be arranged some time in the future. The benefactor was the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board. It was represented at Palma airport on 24 June, 1967. Maria was the one millionth tourist to have arrived at the airport that year.

Included in the report of this was a brief mention of the fact that the one million mark had been attained three days earlier than in 1966. There was no comment on it, but it was - one guesses - something in which a certain pride could be taken (probably). It was indicative of the advance of tourism, and one million tourists were worthy of celebrating. 

Some two months later, there was another report. It said that there had been sixty thousand passengers - arrivals and departures - in two days at the airport. This was a "bonita" figure, despite the fact that tourist Mallorca was "invaded". A distinction was drawn between the resorts and the unknown corners of the island, which most certainly had not been invaded.

Today, the numbers are of course vastly greater. A celebration of the multi-millionth tourist arrival is more likely to involve the payment of an airline ticket home, a flight to be taken immediately. Invasion, as we know, is now saturation and "massification". Unknown corners of the island are shared on social media, while environmentalists and politicians get into almighty flaps about the "collapse" of beaches, of roads, of parking areas, of services, of resources.

The invasion of 1967 didn't carry a negative connotation; in the report cited, that is. But fifty years ago, there were already rumblings about the impact of tourism. The press and individuals were not totally cowed by censorship. They were allowed to be critical so long as this didn't cross the line and become an outright assault on the regime. One critic was Josep Alfonso Villanueva. He was to become a member of the Balearic parliament with PSOE when democratic government was created in 1983. In the mid-60s, he pursued a career as an economist and in 1969 wrote a socioeconomic analysis of the hotel and hostelry industries. A conclusion he was drawing at that time was that there should be a limit to the number of tourists.

Another article from fifty years ago began by saying that the tourism revolution was, in spiritual terms, negative. There was a need for there to be a balance or otherwise the new society being created would respond only to materialistic motives. There was a further need for there to be a university, the principal purpose of which should be to consider the sociological impact of this still new industry: the University of the Balearic Islands wasn't to be founded until the end of the 1970s.

The university, it was argued, should assist in guaranteeing social equilibrium, with culture as well as socioeconomics its chief concerns. What is striking about this is that politicians weren't being called on to attend to these matters. That was because, in effect, there weren't any, other than Francoist appointees. Otherwise, there were concerns being voiced about water resources. There was no plan for proper exploitation of water. Moreover, there was criticism of the wholly imbalanced development of tourism. Coming back to the unknown corners, there were any number of them without tourists, without bars, without homes. Tourism was being pressed into confined and specific areas; the economic benefit of tourism was not being distributed. In Palma alone, more than 50% of Majorca's tourism capacity was to be found.

So what you had fifty years ago was something of a divide of opinion. On the one hand there was talk of capping the number of tourists. This was because of the harm being caused to traditional industries - agriculture still accounted for around a quarter of employment but this was falling rapidly - and the harm to the social fabric. Resources were an issue, as was infrastructure: roads in particular. On the other hand there was acknowledgement of tourism's benefits, tempered by economic wealth not being evenly spread.

Lurking behind these acceptable statements in the press was a very much more critical movement. It was concerned primarily with the cultural impact but it found very little public expression because of the Catalan overtones. As for the environment, it was to be six years before GOB was founded. And it was originally concerned only with birdlife.

The way in which issues are nowadays expressed is very different. But the themes aren't. Tourist limits, resources, impact on society, unequal wealth creation from tourism. It was all there half a century ago. They just had to be careful how they spoke about it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2017

Morning high (7.20am): 19C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 21 June - Sun, cloud, 31C; 22 June - Sun, 32C; 23 June - Sun, 33C

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

Bit of a cooler night. All things being relative. Some southerly breeze due to come in later today, which might just add to the heat.

Evening update (20.30): High of 32.7C.

Fifty Years Of The Summer Of Love

At 06.24 tomorrow morning (Spanish time), summer begins. It is a summer fifty years removed from a summer that will always be remembered as the Summer of Love - the original one and so not to be confused with the second, ecstasy-fuelled pretender some twenty years later. It was a summer when the world of Western society appeared to shift on its axis.

In July of that year, the old school closed down. The Edwardian buildings with their collection of prefabs were past their sell-by date. The new school had been built on a council estate some three miles away. On the very last day, something odd happened. The whole school had free time. There were no classes. We could do, more or less, what we liked.

Looking back, that last day was symbolic. The present and future had caught up. The dark corridors of the old school were to be replaced with bright modernity, which was to be the focal point, four years later, of the new equality. Through amalgamation, our school was to become, and remain so for some years, the largest comprehensive in the country. While education was moving into uncharted territory, so was society. A free day to mark the closure of the past hinted at the new freedoms ushered in by the Summer of Love.

The sixth form was given the run of the gramophone player in the music room (music prefab). A group of first formers, myself included, had gathered on the playing field near to the room. Games were played, lemonade was drunk, and music through an open window was listened to. "We skipped the light fandango. Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor."

Procol Harum created just one sound that summer. There were so many more, but A Whiter Shade Of Pale has lodged in my memory for its having blared out from the music room. Even at the time I remember thinking that things weren't making sense. A strict grammar school, where the closest that music got to modernity was the Gilbert and Sullivan performance we had been forced to endure a few months previously, was permitting the playing of a song with distinctly peculiar lyrics. As a twelve-year-old, however, it didn't occur to me that they might have owed something to LSD.

There again, the school wouldn't have been any the wiser. Most of the teachers were firmly of the old school (metaphorically). Like parents, they would have looked upon the societal changes of the 1960s with a mix of perplexity, dismay and horror. Mods, Rockers, Teds and Beatniks couldn't have prepared the parental generation for what 1967 unleashed.

Once the holidays started that summer, we went to Bournemouth. Through the pages of an aghast press, I was to discover that Bournemouth was not unique in having been colonised by strange-looking characters with flowers in their hair. When they moved, bells rang. They all seemed to be very happy. I thought they were funny. My parents thought otherwise.

The remarkable thing was how quickly this had all happened. In January of 1967, the Human Be-In at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park brought Haight-Ashbury to the world's attention. By the summer, San Francisco was far from alone. Hippies had taken over. The axis was shifting, and new attitudes were reflected by legislation - abortion and homosexuality in the UK - by the availability of the Pill, and by technology. Our World was broadcast on 25 June, 1967. The Beatles sang All You Need Is Love. The summer had arrived.

Even Western societies that were trying their utmost to keep modernity and permissiveness at an arm's length were not immune. In Mallorca (as also on the Costas), the Franco regime had, in any event, pretty much lost the battle by 1967. In Ibiza that year, the first hippies arrived. Even before 1967, members of what was to become one of the pre-eminent psychedelic bands, The Soft Machine, had been visiting Robert Graves in Deià.

Local pop groups, quick to imitate imported British and American fashion and trends, looked admiringly in the direction of kaftans. Los Javaloyas, who had carved out a formidable career by, variously, wearing suits like The Beatles or publicising themselves with images of accordion-playing on rocks, covered the hit by The Flowerpot Men: Vamos a San Francisco, they insisted. In Palma's El Terreno district, Sergeant Pepper's opened, replete with psychedelic light show.

At a deeper cultural level, five years before the Summer of Love the English version of Joan Mascaró i Fornés' Bhagavad Gita had been published. His Hindu texts were to inspire George Harrison, with whom the Santa Margalida-born scholar corresponded. Harrison and The Beatles first met the Maharishi in August 1967.

Fifty years on. A whiter shade of pale? No, it still seems as vivid and as vibrant as the posters were.