Monday, February 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2017

Morning high (7.44am): 7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 21 February - Sun, 16C; 22 February - Sun, 18C; 23 February - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3 tending to Variable during the morning.

Nice morning, nice day to come.

Evening update (20.00): Nice it was. High of 18.1C.

The Movable Case Of The Bus Station

The Puerto Pollensa bus stop saga is a consequence of the semi-pedestrianisation: the one-time stop by the tourist information office at the yacht club roundabout had to go.

The permanent solution is the establishment of a type of bus station on the Formentor bypass. It is not a new solution. When the town hall administration of Joan Cerdà attempted and failed in introducing its pedestrianisation project in 2009, the intention had been for the bus stop to be relocated to the bypass and specifically to the area which is now a car park by the roundabout leading into the calle Tramuntana.

So this has long been the preferred option, but of course there has been the stop-gap solution - the stops for both local and Palma buses along Roger de Flor. These became a major issue last spring and summer because of the noise and the fumes. The delegate for the port, Andres Nevado, told me in June that the permanent solution, i.e. the bypass, would be realised within two to three months. He also said that this solution wasn't one that the town hall could provide; it was a matter for the Council of Mallorca.

He showed me a Google Map presentation of where this "bus station" would go. Not where the car park is, but on the other side of the Tramuntana road on what is a plot that would needed to have been developed in order to accommodate it. That, it seemed to me, was rather curious. Buses would therefore be in front of apartments. The issue with noise and fumes would be shifted somewhere else, though admittedly not as intensively, given that the road is open to one side. The problems in Roger de Flor have been exacerbated by the trap created by the church for the local buses.

What has now emerged is a plan which shows the bus station to be sited where it had been intended to go back in 2009: on the car park. This plan was pinned on to the entrance of someone's apartment and then shared on Facebook.

That was almost two weeks ago. On Tuesday last week, the town hall was being taken to task via its Facebook page about the ongoing issues with the buses on Roger de Flor. The town hall's response was that the stops on Roger de Flor had always been temporary and that they will not be there for the tourist season. Therefore, the inconveniences of last summer will not be repeated.

So, some time between now and April or May, it would seem that the stops will move. Will this, therefore, be to a permanent site, as in the bus station shown on the plan with the message that says there is no date for it to be operative but that it will be at some point this year?

Meantime, it was somewhat ironic that the town hall should post a photo of a bit of road repair on Roger de Flor. It had been necessitated because of the volume of bus traffic.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2017

Morning high (7.50am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 20 February - Sun, 16C; 21 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 22 February - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

Cloudy start. Sunny spells later. A mild and calm pattern at present, the next few days fairly warm and sunny.

Evening update (20.00): Pleasant enough. High of 17.6C.

When Palma Went To The Dogs

The announcement last week that the scheme for an "urban forest" in Palma will include a conversion of the former dog track may well have had some scratching their heads. There used to be greyhound racing in Palma? There did indeed, and the "canódromo" is a further relic of a sporting past on the island which is littered with abandoned arenas of some form or another, such as the El Tirador velodrome - right by the dog track and also to be part of the forest - that was opened in 1903.

The origins of the track lie with two men. One was the gentlemanly figure of the Marquis Villagragima, son of the Count of Romanones. Towards the end of the 1920s, the marquis - a regular visitor to England - came across greyhound racing and thought that it would be a splendid sport to be imported to Spain. He was therefore behind the establishment of the Club Deportivo Galguero Español ("galguero" coming from "galgo", the Spanish word for greyhound) and the first track to be built in Spain in Madrid.

The other person was Miguel Rosselló Andreu. From a wealthy Porreres family, he had sought a military career, only to be struck down by typhoid. Seeking alternative ventures and with the aid of military nobles, he got to know the marquis and, soon after the Madrid track was built, so were two more - one in Valencia and the other in Palma. Initially, and prior to obtaining the land for the track, races were staged at the trotting track. Despite greyhound racing being almost totally unknown to the paying (and betting) public, these first races were a great success, thus confirming the commercial value of there being a dedicated track.

Rosselló was to also become a breeder. There was commercial sense to this, as the first dogs to race in Palma had to be imported from Ireland and England, which at the start of the 1930s was far from a straightforward procedure. There were greyhounds but these were ones suited to coursing, which had existed prior to the dog tracks, and not to races of some thirty seconds. Obtaining dogs was just one obstacle. Another was a 1932 prohibition on betting. This, though, was to be lifted two years later. Subsequently, and despite the Civil War, greyhound racing began to flourish. Republican Spain could count on tracks in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, while Nationalist Spain had Tenerife, Las Palmas, Zaragoza, Seville and Palma.

At the end of the Civil War, the former sporting club became the Federación Española Galguera. By this time, greyhounds for stud had grown old, and importing dogs was impossible because of the world war. Breeding in Mallorca and the Canaries did, though, help to sustain the sport, which held the first official championship under the auspices of the new federation in 1940. Legendary studs of the era included Mallorca's Panama, the father of a dog who acquired even grander status, the bitch Costa Rica II, which was to win the first Balearic championship, also in 1940, and the Spanish championship in Barcelona the following year.

Palma was to come to be considered to be one of the finest of tracks in the country. By the mid-1970s there were sixteen tracks, but the sport was never widespread across Spain. Various tracks closed, and so the focus was on the Canaries - where there were once eight tracks - Barcelona with four, Valencia, Madrid and Palma.

The final Balearic championship was held in 1980, the same year that the national championship was also staged in Palma. Two years later, the national federation stopped subsidising the various regional championships, a decision which heralded the gradual decline of greyhound racing.

As can be seen from the fact that tracks were confined to only a few parts of the country, it was never a sport that took off in a way similar to, for example, England. This lack of popularity and an absence of funding were to bring about its end, though just as importantly, if not more, were the efforts of those opposed to the racing of greyhounds and in particular the conditions in which they were kept and the ways in which they were treated.

From the start of 1990s, the British organisation Greyhound in Need, founded by Anne Finch, helped to investigate the treatment of dogs and to bring this to wider public knowledge. One by one, the tracks disappeared. The last one to close was in Barcelona in 2006. Palma's canódromo, meanwhile, ceased to be in 1999.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2017

Morning high (7.47am): 5.3C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 19 February - Cloud, sun, 15C; 20 February - Cloud, sun, 15C; 21 February - Cloud, sun, 15C.

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

Pleasant morning. Decent sun expected today. Tomorrow a slight risk of rain.

The Bus Services PR Game

When are direct bus services from the airport to tourist resorts not direct bus services from the airport to tourist resorts? Answer: when the regional government which dreamt up the scheme for direct bus services determines otherwise.

There seems to be precious little sympathy for the taxi drivers, but neither they nor the government is coming out of this affair with a great deal of credit, and where the government is concerned, it has moved the goalposts from what was originally said. This was that there would be direct bus services to the resorts, an intention which no longer holds good. When the director-general for transport, Jaume Mateu, let it be known that these services will be stopping in "pueblos" with 15,000 or more inhabitants, it was a further red rag to the taxi driver bull. He didn't actually specify which these pueblos will be, but they certainly include Inca and Manacor, because that much is known. Which other ones? Llucmajor along the route to Cala d'Or?

President Armengol, arguing earlier this week that citizens in certain towns have the right to a good system of public transport, referred to Sa Pobla and Son Servera, neither of which have populations of 15,000. So how does this marry with what Mateu has said? It doesn't, and the impression being given is that the government is making things up on the hoof. Initially, there was never any mention of there being stops anywhere other than in the resorts. Had this been decided but not revealed? Or have these additional stops been added as a way of getting the public more on the government's side (the public in the relevant pueblos, that is)?

These bus services are therefore becoming new bus routes, simple as that. In which case, why - and the taxi drivers have asked the question - aren't they going to operate all year? And one wonders how feasible these services are in terms of serving both residents and tourists. Assuming, for example, the service which starts at Cala Bona fills up, then what happens to the residents of Manacor who might be waiting to be whisked off to the airport?

Improvisation is what one perceives, and improvisation in the name of winning the PR game against the taxi drivers, who do themselves few favours by trotting out some of the arguments they do with precisely the same PR aim. They are appealing to a public that may hold anti-hotelier sentiments (and this public is sizable) by suggesting that the hoteliers are implicated with the introduction of the services. It was said that the bus services are a government way of placating hoteliers as it will compensate hotels for the tourist tax. What!? By way of explanation, this is because hotels will save some money because of the bus services. While hotels do incur some cost with transfers, the notion that this has all been set up to appease them is frankly ridiculous.

One of the most sensible observations amidst an increasingly nonsensical situation has come from Bartolomé Deyà of the university's tourism faculty. There are tourist customers for everyone - buses, taxis, transfers - and the bus and taxi markets are different. Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 February 2017

Morning high (7.58am): 5.6C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 February - Sun, cloud, 15C; 19 February - Cloud, sun, 15C; 20 February - Cloud, sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 tending to Variable 1 to 3 in the afternoon.

Fine morning, a bit foggy in areas, but lifting to give a decent day.

Modelling The Green City

Let me say this. One, Palma is given too much attention. Yes, it is the capital, it has around half the population of Mallorca, it is the centre of the commercial and political universe on the island. It still gets a disproportionate level of attention, though. Two, its town hall councillors have an unerring capacity to unleash barrages of statistics designed to doubtless impress the citizens but which instead induce comas of numbed-by-number. Want to know the percentage increase in film shoots for adverts for the past twelve months, the rise in the number of passengers on a particular bus line, the budget elevation for rubbish collection, the percentage of full-time workers in the non-tourism sector in a certain quarter of the year? If you do, then there's a councillor (usually either Joana Maria Adrover or Neus Truyol) who will oblige.

Which isn't to say that Palma councillors are unique in this regard. Or that their utterances are of such a uniquely great abundance in order to ensure attention. As the third government in Mallorca - after the actual government and the one that would like to be, namely, the Council of Mallorca - it has a duty to follow the communication rules of its betters and numb the citizens into servile submission under the sheer weight of percentage points.

The follow-on from all this quantity is the quality. Increases here, rises there, and therefore things are better. More employment, more rubbish being collected, etc. There's nothing wrong with this, but too often the qualitative message is subservient to the quantitative announcement. What people really want to know is how are lives being improved, how is the city being improved. Not by numbers but by physical evidence of action and firm commitments to action that lead to qualitative enhancements.

I come, therefore, to praise the next mayor of Palma, Antoni Noguera. When he first landed the job as one of the plethora of the city's deputy mayors, there was less than clarity as to one of the responsibilities that had been assigned to him. Or rather, that he had assigned to himself. Deputy mayor for the model of the city. What did that mean?

We are now discovering what it means and also what pledges to improve "livability" are to do with. And we need look no further than the scheme for the urban forest to understand where Noguera is coming from. In essence it's about more green space, but it comes with the additional intention of offsetting the impact of rising temperatures by virtue of this very greening. Applause there should be for the scheme. Palma doesn't have enough green space. Providing more is desirable in different ways, not least because of the qualitative value in terms of quality of life.

Noguera has been making other contributions. There is the plan to cut lanes of traffic by two along the Paseo Marítimo. There are further ones in respect of the number of new restaurant and bar licences. In other words, there will be limits, and for once a town hall initiative affecting the city's business has been greeted with seemingly total approval. The thinking is to avoid there being ghettoes of bars and restaurants and little or nothing else. Create a mix of business, and a greater sense of civility is established.

Likewise, and although this doesn't come under Noguera, there are the changes to the use of the public way, the most controversial aspect of which has to do with terraces. It can seem as if certain councillors have it in for terraces (and they may well do), but the principle isn't wrong in wishing to create more space for people just to walk. In a sense, this is similar thinking to the urban forest and to the opening-up of the Paseo Marítimo by creating a real link between the urbanised city and its sea: the perception and reality of more space, of less clutter, of greater quality.

But is Noguera getting ahead of himself? The plan for the forest includes the velodrome and the Es Fortí military club. The town hall says it will expropriate the former. A desire to take Es Fortí out of private hands might prove more problematic. While one applauds what he wishes to create, the actual plan for the forest is still no more than a draft. Yet he says that it will be completed, along with the planting of thousands of trees along the Riera torrent, by the time the current administration finishes.

Has he been spinning as he moves towards the time when he succeeds José Hila as mayor, promoting his projects as means of guaranteeing - were there to be any doubts - this succession? One hopes not. His is a worthwhile project. Palma might just attract ever more attention, and in this instance it would be highly merited.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 February 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 6.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 17 February - Sun, cloud, 16C; 18 February - Cloud, 15C; 19 February - Cloud, 15C.

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

Hopefully some more reasonable sun today. Note the UV rating edging up to three for the first time in a fair while.

Evening update (21.00): High of 17.5C. 

The Vogue For Bloodletting

Given all the shenanigans involving what one tires of being told are "anti-austerity newcomers" Podemos, it has been easy to overlook that pro-austerity oldsters, the Partido Popular, are lurking in the murky political undergrowth ready to pounce on the next unsuspecting electorate - in the Balearics, that is.

Away from the islands, and in the safety of The Land That Time Forgot, the PP's national hierarchy lumbers on, a giant staggering through a forest of political half-light, never turning the torches on the corpses that are strewn across its path or are buried in a court's archives. Seemingly immune to the convulsions and eruptions everywhere else, there is a serenity for the PP, capable as they are of closeting themselves within the contentment of another electoral job done (if only just) and of pulling down the shutters to avoid the inward glares into their Jurassic lair.

The PP were forgotten at the weekend. This was not how Pablo Iglesias had intended it. The Podemos knockout to decide a winner was duly timed to coincide with the PP who were gathering only a short distance away. But because everyone was interested only in the left and even more left hooks being delivered by Errejón and Iglesias, no one took any notice of the PP. Podemos were a show, a spectacular, a political prime-time reality broadcast played out in the real-time of up-to-the second voting intentions. Time had indeed forgotten the PP. Their dullness in this post-modern political world of citizen online councils, speakers with piercings and a long mane of hair tied up in a sort of bun, and election brochures stolen from Ikea is the very thing which sustains them. They seem otherworldly, of another and former time.

Iglesias had hoped that having the two congresses at the same time would enable the citizens to draw comparisons. If the citizens did do this, then the comparison would have been between a tetchy bunch of upstart Herberts and the grim familiarity of Mariano Rajoy. In a world of convulsions there is something to be said for a leader who sports a tie, is attended to by a barber with a certain degree of frequency and can at least attempt to converse with Trump.

The cosiness of the PP's gathering was such that controversy was a distant cousin, one for the sentencing of "caso Gürtel" and for the machinations across the sea in the Balearics. And it is here in the Balearics that the national hierarchy would much prefer that a son, who at one time - now long ago - had been looked upon with benevolent, austere goodwill, would quietly disappear. But the hierarchy is not alone in having been confounded, nay startled by the sheer persistence of he who refuses to lie down - José Ramón Bauzá.

We did all rather chortle when Bauzá made it known that he was intending to attempt to once more become president of the party. There is still some chortling, but as the time moves nearer for a regional congress at least a year overdue, there is Bauzá, steadfast in his belief that he can return as the re-conquering hero of the Balearic PP. Never mind that he did his best, and mainly succeeded, in delivering a sharp instrument into the heart of Balearic society and much of his own party; he seems convinced that all that will be forgiven.

The show that the Balearic PP are planning will be bloodletting on a scale that is biblical in its abundance compared with the streams that washed across the feet of Errejón and Iglesias in Madrid last weekend. The long-time favourite to become the party's new president, Biel Company, should win in the kind of canter suited to a man with his agricultural leanings. But Bauzá has pulled two agrarians out of the hat who are his latest cheerleaders. One says that Bauzá was the best president that the Balearics has had. Both are one-time friends of Company but they no longer share company.

Company was once a friend of Bauzá's, too. It was Bauzá who made him environment and agriculture minister, but it was Company who helped to deliver the knife. Hauling in agrarians is Bauzá's way of showing he's every bit a man of conservative, farming sod as Company is. 

Bauzá was aghast to see that Company had surrounded himself with members of the hierarchy at the PP congress in Madrid. Here was affirmation of what Madrid hopes for and which the temporary leader of the PP in the Balearics, Miquel Vidal, also hopes for - a single candidate who can pull the factions together. There is little chance, not while Bauzá continues along a path that may result in a humiliation greater than the defeat of the PP he presided over two years ago.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 February 2017

Morning high (8.18am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 February - Sun, cloud, 16C; 17 February - Cloud, 16C; 18 February - Sun, cloud, 15C.

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

Cloud and some fog giving way to a bright and sunny day (with any luck).

Evening update (21.30): Pretty good. High of 18.7C.

The Pleasant View From Podemos

The Palacio de Vistalegre in Madrid is not what one might describe as a lovely building. Unlovely might be more accurate. To the sides of its main entrance are two enormous grey slabs with poky windows. They look like some nightmarishly anonymous apartment edifices of a Brutalist East Berlin style. To the front of these are great plinths on which two bulls stand. This is a convention centre built on the site of a former bullring and which has incorporated another.

Symbolically, this curious juxtaposition of highly unattractive, functionalist architecture and national image appears to say a great deal about the occupants of the Palacio at the weekend. The bull, representative of a monarchical, Francoist, conservative Spain that plays fast and loose with animal welfare in the name of honour and tradition, is a manifestation of what Podemos reject. The Brutalism reminiscent of collective dwelling might be said to belong to a political society that Podemos hanker after.

As far as the bulls are concerned, one has to feel that Podemos were playing an ironic joke by selecting Vistalegre for the second time of asking. As for the architecture, rarely has a convention centre been more inappropriately named, but as a symbol of Podemos, is it entirely accurate? Not if you do not consider Podemos to carry the legacy of communism, and any number of "Podemistas" will insist that they do not. But such a legacy helped partly to explain why they all gathered in Madrid at the weekend.

The navel-gazing combined with internal factionalising that have consumed Podemos energies for several months led to Vistalegre II and to the votes to decide the direction in which the party will now head. And one factional aspect had to do with communism; in particular the electoral tie-up with the United Left, which is unashamedly communist.

Podemos, under the combined umbrella of Unidos Podemos, didn't do as well as had been hoped at the June election. This was one reason why Iñigo Errejón had been promoting a less scary Podemos image. He wanted the party to adopt a fluffy demeanour instead of its anxiety-engendering stony face. The Podemistas who went to Madrid or hit the online citizen participation button were torn between a rock and a fluffy place. They chose rock.

There will be those who make an assumption that Podemos are more or less indivisible from communism anyway, but the assumption is far from accurate. In the first place, Podemos do not avow established political philosophies. There may well be strong echoes of these but they are not dogmas as such. And because of this disavowal of established thinking and organisation, there was great unease that the party should have chosen to team up with an established party at the election. And moreover, that it was a party known for its communist leanings.

A key point with Podemos which is all too easily forgotten is that they appealed to a broad spectrum of society. It was pluralist. One only has to look back at opinion polls and actual polls to appreciate that support wasn't only coming from left-leaning society. Partido Popular voters gave Podemos their support as well, seduced by the anti-corruption message and their own disenchantment. In a way, therefore, Vistalegre II was all about Errejón seeking a reconnection with this wider base that had initially served Podemos so well in propelling them to where they had got. The hook-up with the United Left seemed to cause a flight of support.

Pablo Iglesias, having seen off his rival, now has the mandate to move towards what PSOE spokesperson Mario Jiménez has described as "Pabloist-Leninism", a lurch most certainly further towards the radical left. For PSOE, there is an opportunity, it believes, so long as Pedro Sánchez doesn't manage to return as its leader. The centre-left is there for its taking and any thought of accords with Podemos are now firmly out of the window.

But what of Podemos? Are they strengthened or are they weakened? Both. Iglesias has the grip he wanted. He had instilled a certain fear factor by having stated that he would have immediately resigned had things not gone his way at Vistalegre. The Podemistas, many of them, would have sensed a weakening without the most visible face the party possesses. Some may well have been swayed to back him for this reason alone. He is still very much an asset rather than a liability with greater charisma than his rivals.

Nevertheless, there is a weakening. Errejón and his supporters, according to the voting, represent around a third of Podemistas. Errejón himself faces being purged, and it isn't beyond the bounds of possibility that there might be a formal split. In which case - whither Podemos? The next opinion polls are going to be very informative.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 February 2017

Morning high (7.17am): 9.2C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 February - Cloud, 15C; 16 February - Sun, cloud, 16C; 17 February - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4, Variable at times in the morning. Swells of one metre.

Clear sky, moon's bright as sun comes up. But forecast to be mainly cloudy later.

Evening update (22.00): It wasn't cloudy later. It was nice and sunny, with a high of 19.7C.

Saint Valentine's Day Massacring

The Council of Mallorca has been undertaking its version of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. No submachine guns have been involved, only the small fire of a campaign aimed at "dismantling" Saint Valentine, disassembling the old fellow, taking him apart and leaving him divorced of romantic love.

Saint Valentine himself may or may not have been physically disassembled when it came to the act that led to his martyring. One reason for such uncertainty is that there were various Valentines who may have been the saint. The chances are that he was combi-Valentine, made up of components, and moulded into saintliness with legend fully attached. According to the inexact history books, he copped for it in 275 when in Rome. And when in Rome in those days, it wasn't a wise thing to be going around being a Christian. If 275 was the date of his untimely end, then at least he wasn't a victim of Diocletian, who pushed martyrdom to unprecedented levels.

Valentine supposedly got into trouble for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Not each other, you understand, though this might be taken as something of a theme for the Council's massacring. His legendary association with weddings was to come to the aid, several centuries later, of Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1382, Chaucer scribed Parlement of Foules, which wasn't a parliament of fools but one of birds. On Saint Valentine's Day, according to Chaucer, every bird went to choose a mate, and his work was written to mark the engagement of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.

One of his lesser known works, it was to have a profound influence, as it popularised the concept of romantic love. Without Chaucer, it is unlikely that we would have Valentine cards, Valentine candlelit dinners, Valentine city-breaks for lovers or any of the contemporary manifestations of the saint. Indeed, had it not been for Chaucer, I wouldn't be writing this and the Council of Mallorca wouldn't be engaged in its disassembling.

It wasn't as though Chaucer invented romantic love within a courtly setting. Other mediaevalists had done likewise, none more so than Andreas Capellanus with De Amore, which has come to be known as The Art of Courtly Love in English. But it was a combination of this early literary tradition and Chaucer that propelled not only Valentine's Day along its path to eventual full-blown commercialism but also inspired the dominant romanticism of Spain's literature. Despite Cervantes' lampooning of this chivalrous love, the influence remained and did so to an extent that society - part of it anyway - reflected the unreal world of literature more than literature did society.

What this bred (so to speak) was a much broader society based on what the Council of Mallorca now wishes to dismantle. This is the ubiquitous message of romantic love in which love is presented as a utopian state and that love is worth anything that it might take in order to achieve it. The mediaevalists' portrayal of romantic or courtly love placed enormous emphasis on the lengths that had to be gone to, and a current-day view suggests that this persists in creating dangerous situations that foster jealousy, control, possession. dependence and ultimately mistreatment.

Nina Parrón, the councillor for equality, believes that Valentine's Day is a celebration of "unbalanced relationships" in which the "myth" of romantic love dominates and limits love to a single way of wanting. It is this myth that the Council wishes to demolish in promoting "respect-based and equal" relationships. Furthermore, it is couching this against the background of the campaign against gender violence. Valentine's Day reinforces the presentation of a love that is not real and so leads to unequal relationships, in which violence may exist.

In addition, this leads to a stereotyping of relationships that exclude alternative ones - lesbian and gay. All of which has prompted the less than left-wing Balearic Family Forum to denounce what it considers to be the demonisation of love by the Council, which is doing so using public money. The forum argues that the Council is seeking to impose gender ideology in a totalitarian manner. "To try to say that romantic love is the same as imposition, disrespect, submission and dependence is a crude means of imposing gender ideology."

The Council's president, Miquel Ensenyat, accepts that some controversy has been aroused. But controversy is useful in order to engender debate. If the campaign makes people asks questions, then good, and he has placed it in the context of the "serious problem of gender-based deaths".

So, will people today be thinking deeply of the controversy as they head off for their Valentine's meals? What will they believe that the cards they receive really represent? Will they side with the Council's view or the family forum's view? What do you think?

Monday, February 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 February 2017

Morning high (8.02am): 10.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 14 February - Cloud, sun, 17C; 15 February - Cloud, sun, 16C; 16 February - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 5 occasionally six easing South 2 to 4 during the afternoon..

Another mostly cloudy day on the cards. Mild with the possibility of a shower this afternoon.

Evening update (19.45): Glimmers of sun before there was indeed a shower. High of 19C.

This Wounded Land

There is an environmentalist group in Mallorca called Terraferida. The name means wounded land, and the group takes aim at what is sees as wounds inflicted on Mallorca's land. For Terraferida, human intervention is not benign. It responds to population growth, tourism, economic development and speculation. It serves itself at the expense of land, wounding it in the process.

Underpinning the beliefs of groups such as Terraferida is an unstated idyll, a hankering for a time before intervention altered the land. Yet human intervention goes to the heart of the supposedly unwounded land. It goes back to times many centuries ago, which have only recently been honoured by Unesco. The landscaping of the Tramuntana mountains was the product of ingenious intervention which created dry-stone walls, terraces and passages that survive to this day. The mountains are placed on a pedestal for tourism of an alternative variety - cultural, historical, natural - yet the mountains and this alternative tourism owe a great deal if not everything to human intervention. The motivations for intervention were quite different - they essentially boiled down to survival - but it was necessary to shape the land way back when, just as it is nowadays.

The key difference is the aggressive nature of this intervention. And interwoven with this is a connection with the land that can too easily be overlooked or not be appreciated. The connection can also be overstated, but somewhere in the middle there exists a soul in Mallorca that beats because of its land.

Contemporary political and social discourse is littered with references to land, to landscape, to scenery, to natural patrimony. This might be taken to be a consequence of the reassertion of the values of the land that were severely undermined by the process of "Balearisation" which changed coastal Mallorca irretrievably. Although Terraferida and others will point to more current-day evidence of aggressive intervention, it is the collective memory of Balearisation which informs much of this discourse. It hasn't been forgotten, and it hasn't been forgiven.

But if one goes back to times pre-Balearisation, the discourse was much the same. The early twentieth century founders of Mallorca's tourism spoke of little else than land and landscape. They were to be grateful to the publicists - the landscape artists, the writers who introduced this idyll in the Mediterranean to a gradually global audience.

It was landscape and patrimony, both natural and manmade (such as with the Cathedral), that the early movers of Mallorca's tourism promoted. And they did so, at least in part, as a response to crisis. It was one that affected the land - phylloxera.

The damage that was caused to the vineyards of Mallorca served only to reinforce the vulnerability of the island, one surviving mainly on a monoculture economy of agriculture. Tourism, predicated on land, was to provide a solution. Nowadays, the land is looked to as a means of providing a new solution to a different monoculture - that of tourism and principally a tourism of the coasts.

There has been much discussion about how tourist tax revenue is to be spent. Why, it has been asked, should revenue go to agrarian projects. One reason why is in order to recover, maintain or improve the landscape and the natural patrimony. It is too easy perhaps to consider landscape as being the Tramuntana and nothing else, purely because so much is said about the mountains. But this landscape - obviously enough - is everywhere, and it is one that provides, among other things, almond blossom at this time of the year.

The land has been wounded again. Drought and floods have created the wounds, and the land finds itself confronted by another enemy - xylella - which can deepen the wounds further. These are not self-inflicted wounds, like Balearisation was, these are natural and have an impact on the natural patrimony.

But there have been "plagues" before, such as phylloxera. The land recovers, and if human intervention can be shown to be at its most benign by hastening recovery or indeed preventing its need by stopping the destruction of almonds, olives and others, then so much the better. We wish them the very best. They are working with the soul of Mallorca - the land.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 February 2017

Morning high (7.39am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 February - Cloud, 19C; 14 February - Cloud, sun, 17C; 15 February - Cloud, sun, 17C.

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

Some cloud around first thing. Not forecast to be sunny today but looks ok to begin with.

Evening update (19.15): Sun sort of came out in the afternoon. High of 18.7C.

The Balearic Parliament Show Goes On

Sweet and friendly Francina Armengol was apologising the other day for the "show" that has been the Balearic parliament. It's not the sort of display that the citizens - who else - deserve. Oh really? The citizens may not deserve it but, boy oh boy, have they been having a laugh. And things, as a political party elsewhere once maintained, can only get better, and we have Podemos to once more thank.

While many of the Podemos citizenry is away in Madrid or poised over the participation online voting button in deciding the fate of Pablo and The Infant Errejón, some of it has stayed at home in order to prepare for Tuesday's Great Show. Yes, Francina, the show must go on, and you're partly to blame (or to be thanked). Even if you don't understand a word of what's being said, I'd recommend a revision of normal daytime television viewing habits and tune into Tuesday's parliamentary session, during which Balti will ascend to the presidential (speaker's) throne.

It would be nice to think that this ritual could be performed with Balti clad in pure white robes and with angelic Jarabos and Camargos fluttering above him before anointing him with an artisan-crafted halo. "Truly he is the Son of Pablo," the angels would chant. Alas, this will not be. Balti, we can anticipate, will be sporting a checked sort of lumberjack affair and dodgy jeans. Besides which, any even vaguely religious connotation would be severely frowned upon, as much as any monarchist leanings would be, which Balti most certainly doesn't have.

Francina and chums have been asking (pleading) that when it comes to the moment for Balti to speak, he shows "restraint". They are more than slightly concerned about what he might come out with. This being just one of the reasons why they would have much preferred someone else to replace Xe-Lo Huertas. Will Balti take the opportunity to declare war on the Bourbons or some such?

Balti's elevation to the throne was assisted last week by a surprise guest appearance of none other than our good friend Alberto Rodríguez Rodríguez, aka Natty Dreadlock In A Babylon, the rasta Podemos Congress deputy from Tenerife. One had wondered when the two of them might team up, and prayers that they would do were fulfilled. Natty met Balti and there was a selfie (also containing the clean-cut Alberto Jarabo) in which Natty was sticking his tongue out. As you do.

While in the Babylon that is Palma, Natty was asked whether "a long hair" (Balti) and a rasta mark a change in political aesthetics. Appearance is not important, actions are, he explained. It's better that there is a speaker with long hair than one who looks to favour friends, he added. And one knew precisely to whom he was referring - Xe-Lo.

The former speaker was having her day in court. Not that she was in the dock, but rather she was making her case to be readmitted to Podemos. Among other justifications presented by her lawyer was the fact that she had her right to equality denied by being discriminated against in favour of Balti. This was because Balti had supposedly also supported the cause of Daniel Bachiller. It was the funding of his research laboratory which kicked off the whole Podemos crisis. The Podemos lawyer said the situation with Balti was different, so that was all right then.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 February 2017

Morning high (7.16am): 9.5C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 12 February - Cloud, sun, 18C; 13 February - Cloud, 19C; 14 February - Sun, cloud, 17C.

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

A grey day on the cards but quite warm.

Evening update (20.00): High of 16.8C. Average sort of day. 

Price Reductions: Ryanair And Market Dominance

The national minister for development, Íñigo de la Serna, has asked airlines to reduce their prices because of the cut to airport taxes that will come into effect on 1 March and which will be repeated each year until 2021. Although, as he has said, the government has no legal power to demand that they do cut prices, it does have some authority. The airlines are likely to play ball; it's wise to keep the minister sweet.

The first airline to say that it will reduce prices was Air Europa, the Mallorca-headquartered operation that flies the flag for Spanish aviation, a flag that has been progressively lowered to the point that it's almost sharing space with airport ground crews. Other significant airlines are either foreign or foreign-owned. For Juan José Hidalgo, the boss of Globalia, of which Air Europa is a part, a positive response to De la Serna's request was to have been expected: a patriotic statement of aviation intent.

Less patriotic and purely hardnosed was Ryanair's announcement that it will pass on the tax cut. Again, it was to have been expected. Michael O'Leary has constantly called for lower airport charges; they are all part of the low-cost mix. With Ryanair, though, how can anyone be certain that the reduction is being directly or partially applied? This is to not say that it won't be, but is to say that the airline's prices are flexible, and it has demonstrated its willingness to cut prices in order to guarantee occupancy.

In the final quarter of last year, Ryanair achieved 95% seat occupancy. That was some achievement. By coincidence, it also turned in a 95 million profit for the quarter. While this was down - it was attributed to the fall in the value of the pound - it was still a healthy return, given that its prices overall were 17% lower. Taking account of a reduction in airport tax shouldn't pose Ryanair any business difficulty.

The point with Ryanair, and indeed other airlines, is that price fluctuation reflects the application of science and in particular the technology of Big Data. Prices aren't determined on a whim or purely marketing speculation; there is knowledge to back it up. And this information has been gained over years through the analysis of purchasing behaviour and demand. You don't become a highly successful airline just by taking a punt.

By contrast, there is the case of Iberia, which now also has its low-cost brand. Its president, Luis Gallego, has said this week that 2017 is going to be a difficult year. IATA, the International Air Transport Association, is forecasting a fall in profits of the order of 16% because of a slowdown in global economic activity and rising costs. Iberia has yet to say if it will accede to the minister's request, but it was perhaps no coincidence that Gallego was sounding a warning about lower profits at the same time as the request was being made. There are, so it seems, some airlines, such as Ryanair, which have little problem adjusting to altered pricing mechanisms, while there are others which do.

It is the ability of Ryanair to sell places that leaves other airlines, especially Air Europa and Vueling, gasping to keep up. It has been suggested that additional flights in winter between Palma and both Barcelona and Madrid could cause "havoc" with competitors. Moreover, there is increased service between Ibiza and Madrid and Barcelona, to say nothing of other increases to, for instance, Gran Canaria. It's a full-frontal battle with Vueling, Norwegian and others, and one that Ryanair is well-positioned to win. It can get the occupancy, while competitors struggle to fill their planes. Price reductions? Bring 'em on.

Friday, February 10, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 February 2017

Morning high (6.49am): 3.4C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 11 February - Cloud, wind, 16C; 12 February - Cloud, 18C; 13 February - Cloud, 18C.

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

Cold old morning. Not much by way of sun forecast, and the sun due to disappear over the weekend.

Evening update (22.45): Well, it was a good deal sunnier than anticipated. Not bad at all. High of 16.5C.

The Parody Of Valtonyc

Claims as to the origins of rap music are as many as its styles. There are some frankly bizarre suggestions as to elements of rap before it truly burst onto the global music scene in the late 1970s. One, and I kid you not, was from the theme to the sitcom Are You Being Served?, which was clearly a great distance removed from gangsta rap.

As with other popular musical genres, especially the more controversial ones, there have been societal justifications for their development. Gangsta rap has had its, as in being a reflection of urban suffering and neglect that spilled over into crime and violence. Yet it also spawned misogyny, homophobia and serial killings. Rap therefore acquired a self-serving justification for its anti-social messages (not all of it, obviously, given the various styles that exist and have existed). It also attached to itself the notion of art form because of lyrical styles and phrasing. In so doing, rap lost sight of what may have one time been a pure form and wrapped itself within a blanket of pomposity and desperate cleverness in a similar way that rock did with progressive music before punk took such a clear aim at it.

Punk, though, serves as a reminder of how rapidly a genre can descend to the level of parody. Indeed, all genres end up going the same way and sometimes find themselves being satirised, which is what happened to hard rock through Spinal Tap and the Comic Strip's Bad News Tour. Likewise, rap seems endlessly trapped in its parodical urban posturing, constantly straining to maintain credibility through the assertion of the art form.

Art, freedom of expression and imagery, non-censoriousness have long been advanced as the justifications for the ground-breaking. But the art form has also long suffered with being chastised for going beyond the mere ground-breaking and advocating the tasteless. Challenging society's mores and attitudes is both positive and negative, and society occasionally decides that the negative outweighs the positive. It does so by merely rejecting, by excoriating or by going to court.

The test, in a sense, is if there is gratuitousness. Is the tasteless or the offensive being displayed for the sake of it? If so, then the art form evaporates and is replaced by a meanness of spirit. On top of which, one keeps returning to the propensity for parody. Combine this meanness with an "attitude" of the urban gun-fingered style exported from the American inner city to an island in the Mediterranean, graft onto it notions of Republicanism, and you end up with someone like Valtonyc, otherwise known as Josep Miquel Arenas Beltrán.

In August 2012, I suggested that the then 17-year-old rapper was likely to be receiving a visit from someone in the near future. He had, variously, nominated the former king for assassination, the founder of the right-wing Circulo Balear Jorge Campos for death, and the mayor of Sineu for a silver bullet. He was to also have suggestions to make about various Partido Popular politicians and the one-time leader of PSOE, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

The visit came, and Valtonyc has been appearing before the Audiencia Nacional, with the prosecution service calling for a sentence of three years and eight months for insulting Juan Carlos and a further two years for exalting terrorism (e.g. ETA). Whatever society might think of Valtonyc, there is the slight matter of legality: you can't go around insulting kings and the crown and necessarily expect to get off scot-free.

Valtonyc has played the art form card. He told the court that he is both a poet and an artist. His work is designed to provoke rather than to, for instance, humiliate the victims of terrorism. On leaving the court, he announced that he will continue to say that the Bourbons are "mafiosos". There's provocative.

Should he be in court? Certainly under the law that safeguards the honour of the crown, then he deserves to be. He isn't the first to find that a dim view is taken of such an attack and he won't be the last. One of the more celebrated cases of this type was when the editor and cartoonist from the satirical magazine El Jueves were taken to court for insulting the then Crown-Prince Felipe. They were fined.

A few days ago there was a benefit event for him Arta, at which performers made clear their beliefs in his freedom of expression. And it is for this reason that I have some sympathy for him. Moreover, placing him in the legal spotlight fuels the very messages that caused the legal system to take action. Valtonyc has thus been granted a greater sense of self-importance than he merits. He cloaks himself in the art form defence, when he's little more than a mean parody. What's the point of his being in court?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 9 February 2017

Morning high (6.56am): 8C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 10 February - Cloud, 14C; 11 February - Cloud, 17C; 12 February - Cloud, 18C.

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

Expected to be reasonably sunny today but not warm. Forecast for the weekend - cloudy but getting warmer with strengthening southerly winds.

Evening update (19.45): Sunny enough but a high of just 14.7C.

Balti Eats Balti: Mr. Speaker

I have a photo opportunity suggestion for when the new president (speaker) of the Balearic parliament is finally sworn in. He should be whisked off to the nearest curry house, where hopefully they do more than tandoori, in order that the headline can read "Balti eats Balti".

It is just possible that Balti does eat Balti, though his Mallorcan authenticity might possibly preclude this. A hearty dish of organic frito is more likely to be Balti's favoured dish "de jour". Whatever it is, one trusts that it doesn't get stuck in his beard or hair when (if) parliament resumes for the post-lunch session. They have cameras trained on parliament speakers and the speaker, you should take note.

For reasons not entirely clear other than to procrastinate ever longer, Baltasar Picornell will not be sworn in as the new speaker of parliament until next week. It's all a bit like Joe Root taking over as England captain from Alastair Cook. Everyone knows this is going to happen, but process needs to be gone through, which is rather more necessary for electing a parliament speaker than it is an England cricket captain. (Though the social media obsessives would beg to differ; the ones who still hold a candle for Kevin Pietersen and for whom due process was not observed with Cook. The obsessives maintain that Cook sold KP out in order to keep his job.)

Apart from fairly obvious differences between Balti and Joe - appearance, sport, that sort of thing - the one major difference in terms of being lined up for promotion is that Balti only recently became the frontrunner. Podemos had insisted that he would be right for the job but their preference was for another woman to replace the excommunicated Xelo Huertas. Unfortunately, the woman they had in mind, Marta Maicas, has found herself needing to do some explaining to a court in respect of allegations that the digital signature of Montse Seijas was forged - Seijas being the other Podemos deputy to have been terminated. Consequently, it was becoming clear a month ago - because Podemos were saying so - that Balti was "gaining points" in the speaker bid.

But despite assuming pole position, Balti's elevation was far from secure. That was because the Podemos partners in the "agreements for change" - PSOE and Més - didn't want anything to do with him being speaker. They still don't, but their hands have been forced by the Podemos threat to break the agreements and therefore cease to be a "partner".

Having gone through the turmoil of the institutional crisis created by the Huertas affair, the two other partners were insisting that her replacement needed to be able to guarantee stability. In fact, there are still rumblings of this nature, but Balti is being foisted upon them and on parliament because Podemos were never going to give up the parliamentary presidency: it remains for now their most significant position in regional administrations anywhere in Spain.

Why might they be so concerned that Balti will not ensure stability? To answer this, one has to consider Huertas and how she was as speaker. The history books are rapidly being revised, but she was generally felt to have made a decent fist of the job. It is one that does require being evenhanded and also a certain amount of dignity. She may have lost this because of the affair, but even when she was meeting the King and insisting that he spend the money for the official reception on soup kitchens, she didn't come across as being extreme.

This, really, is part of the issue with Balti. Not that he has hippy hair and beard, not that he was a mere metalworker (or whatever it was), but rather that he comes from a background that is strident even by Podemos terms. His membership of the union for the Third Republic and the Balearic civic unit for a Republic should make his meeting with the King something to look forward to, assuming he doesn't boycott it.

Being a Republican, though, hardly sets him out as unusual among Podemos ranks. There has to be something a bit more to the reluctance of PSOE and Més to have not wished to sanction his election. And it may just boil down to the very simple belief that they don't think he's up to the job. Fina Santiago, who is the Més minister for social services, was outraged by the idea that he was being opposed because of his work background. She explained that she believed that there were individuals within Podemos who were better qualified, better suited. She also found it odd that Podemos were backtracking on their aim for the speaker to be a woman.

Such a principle went by the board. Laura Camargo ruled herself out, Maicas was being quizzed by a judge, so there was no other option than a man. Balti it was and Balti it is, unless by some bizarre twist of politicking, the PP's candidate Nuria Riera is elected. Were she to be, then the government's pact would be well and truly busted.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 February 2017

Morning high (8.25am): 9.8C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 9 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 14C; 10 February - Cloud, 13C; 11 February - Cloud, 16C.

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

Grey, wet and windy. And likely to stay this way. Better tomorrow but not particularly warm.

Evening update (20.00): It was a horrible morning. Heavy rain, quite windy and cold. Picked up and there was some reasonable sun, but didn't warm up. High of 13.7C.

The Life And Death Of Trees

It was reported last May that almost 9,000 palm trees had been destroyed in Mallorca as a result of having been affected by the picudo rojo red beetle. The number of trees which had been affected since 2006, when the beetle was first detected in Mallorca, was put at around 11,000 from a total palm population of getting on for 275,000 trees.

Trees can be saved. I know of cases where they have been and where the trees are once more flourishing. Early detection, "shock treatment", as a gardener described it to me, constant treatment, trapping the beetle can help to revive trees and then go some way to eradicating the beetle.

It is a pest which is difficult to eradicate, especially as the beetle has no predator (birds and others shun it), but it can be eradicated. It is now over three years since the last beetle was captured in the Canary Islands (Fuerteventura to be exact). Constant monitoring led the European Commission to declare the Canaries free of the insect; the first region in the world where it has been eliminated.

It was first detected in the Canaries in 2005, a year before it was in Mallorca. From that moment on up until relatively recently, i.e. well beyond that last insect having been captured, more than 700,000 palm trees were inspected. Over 200,000 were treated. Only 659 were actually removed. In a coordinated effort which involved the general public, various administrations, strict import controls, geographic information systems and more, they managed to get rid of it. The cost of doing so was nine million euros.

By contrast with the Canaries, the response in Mallorca was uncoordinated. There was also complacency that bordered on gross incompetence. Latterly, the beetle has been treated very much more effectively and efficiently. Nevertheless, in 2015 the number of trees that were eliminated was almost 1,800.

The incompetence was as detectable as the evidence of the beetle was - trees slowly dying. Although it is generally thought that the beetle first took hold in Pollensa, it wasn't Pollensa where it was first detected: this was in Campos on the other side of the island. Yet Pollensa was to become the initial and most obvious part of Mallorca that was affected, so much so that it was dubbed "ground zero" for the beetle. The response was initially a state of denial. When action was finally taken, trees were cut down and the remains left in the open: a terrible decision. Eventually it was realised that the remains had to be burned or buried, preferably both. And the burning was ideally in an incinerator, not out in the open.

One can only conclude that it was a combination of incompetence and complacency that allowed the beetle to spread. One can add to this mixture a lack of resources, especially money. As the Canaries already had the problem (and were getting on with tackling it), as Valencia and Andalusia most definitely also had the problem, then why was not more done?

The complacency was perhaps because the beetle had first been found in Spain nine years before its presence was evident in Valencia. The first reported case was in a place called Almuñécar on the Costa Granadina in Andalusia. This was way back in 1994. The apparent slowness of the plague may have led some to believe that it wasn't the threat that it turned out to be.

Despite the destruction of trees and the regrettable sight of stumps that remain, in percentage terms it has been modest. But the anxieties and sadness caused should in themselves be sufficient to have administrations in a constant state of high alert in case another threat emerges. It has, and it's called olive ebola (xylella fastidiosa), a bacteria that is far less discerning than the beetle. Its appetite is for various tree species, over 300 it is reckoned, and these are not only fruit trees - oaks, sycamores, ornamental plants; they're all on its radar.

By comparison with the potential that olive ebola has for devastation, the effects of the beetle would be small beer. It is now being said that there were indications of the pest in Mallorca in 2012, so before it started to wreak havoc in Italy. If there were signs, it was only a few months ago that there were confirmed cases. But it turns out that there were more. Has the government been slow to react? Was it in denial, complacent or incompetent? Analysis was needed to be sure, it argues. It would now be easy, says the agriculture minister, to just destroy acres of countryside by cutting down thousands of trees. Instead the bacteria has to be fought. If the fight is lost, the destruction will occur anyway.

But there is hope because there is action, so one trusts that the mistakes of picudo rojo are not being repeated.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 7 February 2017

Morning high (6.54am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 8 February - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 9 February - Cloud, sun, wind, 13C; 10 February - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 2 to 4 backing West in the afternoon.

Calmer, as the wind is down. A sunny day expected but clouding over with the risk of showers by the evening. Wind picking up again tomorrow, and the temperature dropping.

Evening update (21.45): Decent until a spot of rain in the evening. High of 21.2C.

Working Eight Months A Year

Carlos Herrera is a journalist. He has a large following on a radio show that goes out on COPE, one of the most listened to broadcasters in the country. By way of background, it is of interest to note that COPE started out life as an essentially religious broadcaster. It has become very much more general in its output, though it would appear that it is owned by the church in that the Spanish Episcopal Conference has 50% of the shares of the company to which COPE belongs. Dioceses and religious orders are other shareholders.

This does perhaps need bearing in mind, as it suggests that COPE might not be rabidly left-wing. Its politics and its ownership are, however, of only passing relevance to today's theme, which is one that Carlos has offered. On his show there is a slot, the title of which lends itself to alternative translations but which I shall call "fools' defibrillator". Carlos and co-host pick up on particular stories and offer to defibrillate those who have uttered foolishness or nonsense. And so it was that he held up to ridicule Laura Camargo of Podemos.

The travel magazine and website Preferente highlighted her inclusion on the show last week, noting - and this may or may not have been ironic - that Camargo is the only person in Podemos in the Balearics who has the capacity to think. She may be, but then what she thinks and says ended up being the target for Carlos.

This was specifically to do with her views on workers in the tourism industry who, after eight months' work, are knackered and shouldn't be expected to have to work through winter and therefore all year. In fact, she said this before Christmas, so the story is an old one. On 23 December I drew attention to her remarks, wondering why it should be deemed acceptable for workers to do no more than eight months.

Still, better than late never the Camargo eight-month opinion surfaced on Carlos's show last week and also became the focus of a set-to between Podemos and Ciudadanos (C's). Carlos found it hard to understand, given, for instance, that radio journalists work all year. They are not the only ones. If anyone is interested, I work twelve months a year, usually seven days a week and not untypically up to eleven or twelve hours a day. Am I knackered? All the time.

Ah but, this is just sitting down and typing, is it not? Generally, yes. But there is being physically knackered and there is being mentally knackered. Neither state is particularly ideal, but suffice it to say that I tended to agree with Carlos's observation.

Camargo came out with this eight-month business in the broader context of tourism policy. We don't want more tourists in the winter, she said, and used the knackered workers as a reason why not. What of course she was really getting at was that we (Podemos) don't want more tourists, full stop. In fact, we'd prefer that there were fewer of them. Camargo and Podemos are highly suspicious of government attempts to erode seasonality and therefore make the tourism season ever longer. The workers, it can seem (and probably are), something of a smokescreen.

Which is not to deny that there are workers in the tourism industry who put in long hours, day after day over a several-month period with few breaks (if at all) and don't get particularly well paid. Camargo has a point, especially when it comes to exploitation, but only up to a point. Politically, she is very much on the side of the workers and has made her feelings about hoteliers well enough known, and the politics were partly where Carlos Herrera was coming from, as most certainly also was the leader of the C's, Albert Rivera. He tweeted the other day that Camargo is a deputy with a party which proposes gifts of income paid for by the state.

Rivera's tweet brought differing responses. Some accused him of demagoguery. Others took issue with the Podemos view of work and supported him. In the latter camp was a tweet which read: "Some consider work to be a punishment and being on the dole a fiesta."

In addition to stirring up the political ill-feeling between Podemos and the C's (not that it needs much stirring), the Camargo remarks served not only as a statement about her party's views on tourism but also to reignite the whole issue of the unbalanced nature of work and employment.

She was essentially saying that the situation which has been created because of seasonality is as it should be. Tourism is not the only industry affected by seasonality, but there are others which are not. Would she advocate everyone working no more than eight months a year? Police, nurses, firemen just to take three examples. Defibrillate away, Carlos.

Monday, February 06, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 6 February 2017

Morning high (7.32am): 10.9C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 7 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 8 February - Cloud, wind, 12C; 9 February - Cloud, wind, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 7 to 8 easing 6 by the evening. Waves to five metres.

Still very windy. Due to be reasonably sunny, with the wind easing off later. Forecast to get colder on Wednesday with the snow line at 800 metres and more wind.

Evening update (20.00): High of 16.4C. Reasonable amount of sun, and the wind has now dropped.

Telling Fantastic Stories: Mallorca's Folk Tales

They've been holding a week in Manacor, a week dedicated to Antoni Maria Alcover i Sureda. It's the 155th anniversary of his birth. Or if you prefer, the 85th anniversary of his death.

If Rafael Nadal is the epitome of contemporary Manacor and Mallorca - a global name who has amassed fame from a sport largely unknown to the populace of Alcover's era - then Alcover is the figurehead for a Manacor and Mallorca insularity. There are few Mallorcans from history who can hold a candle to Alcover's promotion of deep-rooted and old traditions, ones set in the land of the island's ruralism.

The reverence shown to Alcover could simply have been reserved for his works on linguistics. He was a driving force behind the dictionary of Catalan in its different varieties: its purest form and its derivatives, such as those of the Balearics. Or it may have been for his historical research, as with his study of the times of King Jaume II of Mallorca. It might possibly have been for his place in the religious hierarchy, though one suspects not.

While his linguistic work was sufficient for him to have been placed on the pedestal that he now commands, it was the use of language that means he is unsurpassed in having captured tradition and custom. This was the language of the folk tale.

In 1896, the first volume of "Aplec de Rondaies Mallorquines d'En Jordi d'es Racó" appeared. Jordi d'es Racó was Alcover's pseudonym. His collection of Majorcan folk tales was to stretch to numerous volumes (twenty-four in all). And so many are the tales that it seems fantastic that an island could have provided the number it did. Just as fantastic is the nature of these tales, and it should be noted that in this context "fantastic" means based on fantasy.

Alcover set about collecting these tales in the manner that collectors elsewhere did. An English contemporary of Alcover's was Cecil Sharp. His interest wasn't tales as such but their singing and their performance. Sharp sought to revive the folk songs of English villages and Morris dancing. He did so because he felt that these traditions were all but dying out. Alcover thought exactly the same. If we generally attribute a decline in Mallorcan traditions and culture to the upheavals of the tourism boom and the movement to the coasts, then we do perhaps need to revise our understanding. In the late nineteenth century there was a different type of upheaval, one of emigration forced onto a rural population.

What Alcover and Sharp had in common was the nature of the raw material for the tales and the songs. There was virtually no written documentation. The source of the material was spoken: the oral tradition. In this way, therefore, Alcover combined his work on dialects that was to inform his dictionary (and other scholarly works) with the manifestation of dialect - the handed-down folk tale, which could essentially be the same in different parts of Mallorca but with its own peculiarities in terms both of content and language.

The initial volumes of the "rondalles" included such tales as "L'amo de So Na Moixa" (amo meaning owner). From this tale was developed the bighead character that forms part of Alcudia's S'Estol del Rei en Jaume - King James' group. He is the mad miller who goes around throwing flour over passers-by. This somewhat jovial character does, however, disguise an underlying menace and mean-spiritedness. Alcover's tales are littered with the fantastic - dragons, monsters, crazy people - but these surreal figures have some reality of the times when the tales developed: harshness of the rural way of life; vendettas; superstitions; mistrust; revenge.

The mad miller is just one example of how Alcover's tales have been made physical. Another is the tale of the Muc or Much, a story of giants, treasure and beasties, the setting for which is the "Puig de Reig" near Sineu. The Much has become the theme for its own fiesta, and a weird one at that, which is held each August.

The Mallorcan folk tale has undergone two periods of revival. There was Alcover's own and there is the one that is very much of the present. Storytelling, sometimes musically, is everywhere. And this current-day tradition owes virtually everything to one man: Antoni Maria Alcover. A week of dedication is the least he deserves.

* Photo: L'amo de So Na Moixa, the Mad Miller of S'Estol del Rei en Jaume.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 5 February 2017

Morning high (7.23am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 6 February - Sun, wind, 14C; 7 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 8 February - Cloud, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 6 at intervals 7 veering Northwest 7 to 8 by the late afternoon. Waves to four metres.

Windy old morning and due to get windier. Rough at sea and by the coasts. Possibility of a shower. Better tomorrow but still very windy.

Evening update (20.00): Sunny for a time and quite warm - high of 20.6C - but cloudy later and the temperature slumped. As for the wind, boy was it blowing, especially this morning.

The Playground Of The Balearic Parliament

It doesn't get much better, does it. Aspiring parliamentary headmaster, Vicenç Thomas, took the throne that he covets, if only temporarily, and started to read the register. "Huertas?" "Seijas?" "Has anyone seen Huertas or Seijas?" "They're behind Més," blurted Jarabo. "Huertas, Seijas, why are you behind Més?" "We are of the left," they responded as one. "You may well be, but you were told to go and sit on the naughty chairs behind the PP. So I ask again - why are you behind Més?" "This deputy's going nowhere," insisted Seijas. "Look, I shall ask you only once more to go and sit behind the PP. If you don't, then I'll call security and they will physically move you." "It'll take a small army of security to do that," scoffed Jarabo. "Please, Jarabo, I expect better from you. There will be no weightist or fattist jokes in this chamber. Huertas, Seijas, why are you still there?"

And with that Xe-Lo and Montse arose and plodded off to the one and nines of the public gallery. Rarely, if ever, have the public been privileged to have a former speaker and friend come among them. And the public gallery is to where they will return until such a time as they are granted their wish to be among Mésites, if only in the rear. When might this be? Hell will probably have frozen over or perhaps the arrival of a new headmaster (not Vicenç) will enable a more conciliatory approach. This is unlikely, though, if Jarabo gets his way. Balti is the only man (or woman) for the job, it now seems. And if the Mésites and PSOE turn him down, then Jarabo and Podemos will break the pact. So there. Yah-boo!

They don't want Balti because he's a metalworker, insisted Jarabo. Which isn't strictly accurate as he's a full-time parliamentary deputy. He once was, though. But this isn't of course the reason why PSOEMés don't want him. It's pretty obvious why not. He looks like the one-time bass guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band. That's why. Get a haircut, Balti, and you'll be ushered in no problem.

Once the Xe-Lo/Montse panto was dispensed with, it was the turn of the PP to put on a display. As one they stood up and marched out of the chamber. Normally, in Congress anyway, it's Podemos who are the ones for the walking in response to jibes (typically of a Venezuelan nature) being launched from the PP. The insults were on the other foot (or mouth) in parliament.

Jarabo described a "mafioso relationship" between the PP and Palma police. Illegal trafficking in and possession of weapons, obstruction of justice, trafficking influence, malfeasance, coercion, bribery, threats, extortion, falsehood, insider dealing, crimes against public health, offences against the environment. And there, among the PP ranks, was the alleged "boss" of this network - Alvaro Gijón. Off marched the PP, two of them returning only for formality's sake, while there were heated discussions to a) get them all to go back and b) get Jarabo to apologise, which he didn't.

Vicenç, if he had seriously felt that the parliamentary presidential malarkey was worth it, would have been having second thoughts. Best let Balti handle things in future, Vicenç. Things can only get more ridiculous.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 4 February 2017

Morning high (7.54am): 14.9C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 5 February - Cloud, sun, wind, 16C; 6 February - Sun, cloud, wind, 14C; 7 February - Sun, cloud, 16C.

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

Breezy morning and cloudy. Should be sunny spells later. Tomorrow is expected to be very windy; an amber alert in place.

Evening update (19.00): High of 20.7C. Sunny at times, but clouded up again later.

Palma And 100% Tourist Tax

The Balearic parliament got down to business this week after its extended winter break. The tourist tax was top of the agenda; the spending thereof. The main discussion, brought up by the Partido Popular, concerned investments for the town halls, which had received none directly. Away from parliament, mayors were convening to consider this, and it was mayors from the PP who were the most strident in demanding some action. They were suggesting that the Felib association, which is the town halls' body, should take the matter to court and seek legal review of the way in which the revenue has been spent.

In the end, the mayors decided on a more conciliatory approach, but not without raising the possibility of pursuing an amendment to the tax legislation and establishing a fixed amount which should go directly to municipalities. They also wanted greater clarity and transparency in respect of revenue spending.

For a government which has made so much of being transparent and of engaging in consensus and dialogue (a point not lost on the PP during parliament's debate), the implication of an absence of transparency will sit uneasily. Or it should do, not least because Felib is represented on the committee which decides how the tax is spent. If it felt that there was some opacity, then something was clearly wrong in the decision-making process.

The government, it has to be said, has created a rod for its own back by, on the one hand, wishing to be participative and involving so many organisations on the spending committee and, on the other, totally failing to be more evenhanded with the distribution of revenue. President Armengol accepted that expectations had been raised and had not been met, but she reminded everyone that there had been the priority for water projects and that the actual pot (30 million) was substantially lower than that it will be next time round.

The trouble is that all the various interested parties do expect, and they have every right to expect. Otherwise, why are they participating in the decision-making and getting nowhere? Biel Barceló didn't help to allay their concerns by saying that the tax is not a distributive system, i.e. everyone doesn't automatically get a share. I'm sorry but that's exactly how it is seen, and the government needs to address the criteria for distribution with some urgency. If not, then the arguments will grow louder.

The extent of the discontent could be found in statements such as that of the Farmers Union. While agriculture is receiving some consideration in the revenue spending, the union - especially against the backdrop of drought and floods - was aghast to note that the Balearic Symphony Orchestra will be having money spent on it.

No one is satisfied, especially not Palma. The tourism councillor, Joana Maria Adrover, is waiting on information to show just how much tax revenue Palma contributed. Once the town hall knows this, it will be agitating that, in effect, it keeps all that revenue for itself. A further problem for the government is that it risks appearing hypocritical if it were to totally dismiss the demands of Palma and other town halls (especially those with high levels of tourism). While it is seeking a new financing system which will have less emphasis on the Balearics subsidising poorer regions of Spain, it cannot play the "solidarity" card and insist that Palma should accept a subsidising function. It might sound like greed on behalf of the town hall (and I for one don't think it should be treated in such a preferential manner), but it does have a point. There again, so also would Calvia, Alcudia and other main tourism municipalities.

Palma will doubtless be taking note of developments in Catalonia. The government there has agreed to increase to 50% the amount of tourist tax revenue which goes to the municipalities. Barcelona, while welcoming this development, is insisting that it should have all the revenue which the city generates, which is exactly what Palma is inferring it wants.

The tourist tax spending has opened up a can of worms. The government has some hard thinking to do in order to prevent rows in the future; ones which eventually might find their way to the courts.

Friday, February 03, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 3 February 2017

Morning high (7.11am): 13.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 4 February - Cloud, sun, 19C; 5 February - Cloud, sun, 17C; 6 February - Sun, cloud, 14C.

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

A mainly sunny day expected. Weekend should be mostly fine but at times very windy.

Evening update (22.00): Hmm, well, not as sunny as hoped. Average - high of 18.2C

The Alegality Of Fraud: Rentals

Alegality. It's not a word that's particularly common in English, but it does exist and is generally used, as would be expected, in discussions of legal matters. It also crops in respect of international business and globalisation, and is sometimes spelled a-legality. Its meaning, and I quote from the Urban Dictionary's definition, is "an unambiguously wrong, disruptive and often deliberately committed act for which there is not yet a specific law making that act expressly illegal."

The Spanish word "alegalidad" is much more commonly used. It most certainly isn't confined to arcane analyses of law. It is applied to more mundane, everyday issues, and there is a great deal of it. Alegality tumbles out of many a newspaper column inch. One has to conclude, correctly, that there is an abundance of issues for which law has not determined if acts are expressly legal or illegal, regardless of any ambiguous or deliberate wrongdoing. The mere fact that alegality crops up as often as it does leads one to also conclude that the law is often inadequate, ill-defined or not applied.

There often isn't application. Legislation, be it national, regional, municipal, can sit on the books having been approved and passed by the relevant legislatures without coming into force. This legislative inactivity is most common at the municipal level. Many are the one-time approved ordinances that one hears of which only some time later (several years in some instance) are officially adopted. In the intervening period, and despite there perhaps being previous ordinance, the potential for alegality increases, because no one is quite sure of the legal security.

The definition above is thus not always applicable locally. It isn't necessarily the case that acts are "unambiguously wrong". Yes there may be some taking advantage of a situation, but it is the essential ambiguity of legality that allows alegality to flourish, with responsibilities and powers of competing legislative bodies, to say nothing of the hierarchy of the courts' system, adding more fertiliser.

An example of mundane Mallorcan alegality was the car parking near Es Trenc. Much of what has now emerged after the ludicrously protracted process to arrive at a law for the nature park had to do with car parking. The upshot of the legislation is that plots which were once used for parking will not be, and they had been closed down because of their alegality. They weren't illegal but nor were they legal. The alegality had existed for years.

I was reminded of this legal ambiguity when rummaging through an archive of old newspaper articles. It was one from August last year. It had been kept because of its headline. It was a quote which said that "our tourism is based on alegality, illegality and fraud in law". The person who made the quote was Dr Juan Franch Fluxá from the law department at the University of the Balearic Islands.

His specific references were as follows: the alegality is exemplified by the likes of party boats; illegality can be found in the renting of apartments to tourists; fraud exists with those who use the tenancy act to rent to tourists and do so via Airbnb. "An unacceptable absurdity," he concluded.

What was interesting about Dr Franch's quote was that he didn't refer to rentals in terms of alegality. Yet alegal is how they have often been described. As an example, the CCOO union spoke at the end of 2015 of holiday properties being rented in an alegal fashion amounting to 25% of the regulated (legal) offer. The use of alegal has therefore created its own ambiguity regarding holiday rentals. But another member of the university's law department, Avel-lí Blasco, has also been unequivocal. Tourist rental in apartment buildings is not "alegal", it is "illegal".

The point is that one wonders how rentals of this type ever acquired a description of alegal. They have been proscribed in Balearic law for years, and if they hadn't been, then why was the law being used to fine owners? Perhaps it has been the case that certain interests have wished to promulgate the notion of alegality.

The use of the tenancy act is a different matter. Dr Franch's strident assertion of a fraud in law is something with which one take issue. If owners abide strictly by the terms of the tenancy act - no publicising as tourist/holiday accommodation and no services - then how can there be fraud? But what he was getting at was owners who abuse the law and seek to conceal the real intent, whether the property is being offered on Airbnb or any other website.

Rather than fraud in law necessarily, the tenancy act has created the scope for alegality insofar as it is a loophole. The national government should, indeed must, amend the act. If it doesn't, then legislation, such as that envisaged in the Balearics, will always be open to abuse. And yes, fraud.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 2 February 2017

Morning high (7.25am): 10.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 3 February - Cloud, sun, 18C; 4 February - Sun, cloud, 18C; 5 February - Cloud, sun, 19C.

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

A little breezy with spots of low cloud at dawn. Should be another decent day with some warm sunshine.

Evening update (20.15): Wasn't bad for a time but went downhill in mid-afternoon. Windy and cloudy. High of 19.9C.

The Quality Of Numbers: Tourists

Three weeks ago, the national minister tourism, Álvaro Nadal, announced that the final scores on the doors for 2016 would reveal a 9.9% rise in the total number of tourists who came to Spain. In fact, he slightly undervalued the rise. Rather than the number increasing to 75.3 million, it went up to 75.6 million. Let joy be unconfined.

Nadal said that this was all the fruit of the boost to the tourism sector, which is recognised as the most competitive in the world. The trouble is that the "boost" owed very little to competitiveness but mostly everything to security. Numbers vary as to how many tourists Spain has been "borrowing", but - and you can pretty much pick a number at random - a favoured one bears some similarity to last year's percentage increase.

Competitiveness is one of those concepts like the tedious vogue for sustainability that can mean whatever you really want it to. A ten per cent increase, there's your competitiveness, even if it isn't and even it means ever greater quantity. A further element of competitiveness is price. We are now used to being told that Mallorca's holidays are as if not more expensive than anywhere else's, but of course Mallorca, along with the rest of the islands, topped the 13 million tourist mark for the first time last year. Ever more quantity, and one that was only partially amused by the price.

Yet another element of the competitiveness equation is quality, one being pursued with transformational zeal by hoteliers such as Meliá, whose vice-president, Gabriel Escarrer, has said that the only way to compete with certain destinations is through quality and not through price. Hence, prices will doubtless continue to rise while the quality ante is raised ever higher.

For now, it would seem, a wish to not have to be competitive on price but stress the quality is being fulfilled (assuming one accepts that quality is at least keeping pace with other destinations). But it is a price competitiveness with a fair chunk of Hobson's choice. Moreover, it is current price competitiveness that comes with a sting in the tail. The number of tourists is going up, but their spend is going down.

This was a familiar lament last year, and in their announcement of the annual scores on the doors, the alliance for touristic excellence, Exceltur, said that the average spend per tourist had indeed declined. Furthermore, it was some distance below what Nadal had been talking about three weeks previously, when he had said that the spend had gone up.

The quoting of spend statistics is something which I think - I hope - we all take with a sizable pinch of salt. It is even more sizable given that Nadal's figure was roughly 300 euros higher than Exceltur's. Perhaps there are two sets of statistics, which is news to me, but there you go. Whatever the real (?) figures are, they underpin the apparent discrepancies in what overall competitiveness should entail. Quality is the principal aim, or so it appears, but what about the quantity?

The ever increasing numbers are, as many in the tourism industry believe, not what Mallorca and Spain should be about. Quality should come before quantity. Yet there was the minister, just three weeks ago, praising a ten per cent increase in quantity. As his figure showed an increase in spend, then he would do, but his figure isn't the same as the Exceltur number.

The muddle over numbers reflects the confusion over what the strategy should be: the real strategy, that is. Is it the case that Mallorca and Spain truly want fewer tourists and ones who will be undeterred by price and attracted principally (or perhaps exclusively) by quality? If it is, then it's about time it was stated and expressed unequivocally.

There are parts of the tourism industry who feel like this. Reducing numbers is most definitely not confined to left-wing, environmentalist agitators, and the debate over numbers and the quality-quantity equation has existed for years. Ah, but is it about fewer tourists? Is it not about maintaining the current number (perhaps with those who have been "borrowed") but at a greater level of quality. All 70 million or so of them? Or 13 million or so in the case of the Balearics?

There are certain sectors of the industry which are only interested in numbers increasing. Aena represents one. The more passengers the better, even if a significant proportion fly low-cost, which supposedly means lower quality (which it doesn't in all instances by any means).

The current tourism boom, largely the consequence of "borrowed" tourists, isn't sustainable. If it were, then quantity will beat quality every time. But even without these temporary tourists, is quality about to prevail? It's been spoken about for years. Rather like the statistics, you have to wonder if it's all just waffle.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 1 February 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 6.6C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 2 February - Cloud, sun, 18C; 3 February - Sun, cloud, 17C; 4 February - Cloud, sun, 18C.

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

Should be fine for much of the day but with cloud building up later on.

Evening update (20.00): It was mostly sunny and pretty warm - high of 21.2C.

1903 And All That: Adults-Only

The date was 17 December, 1903. The place was near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The two men involved were brothers - Orville and Wilbur. The Wright Brothers could not possibly have envisaged what they would unleash, not least the fact that 114 years later in a city across the Atlantic which back then they may or may not have been familiar with, their efforts are to be honoured in the form of an airport lounge.

This isn't any old airport lounge. Manchester Airport's Terminal 3 is to have an adults-only lounge, and it will be known as 1903. Despite the name being in memory of Orville and Wilbur, this isn't a year that otherwise carries particular and popular significance. It thus has an enigmatic, quirky, almost mysterious connotation. The anonymity of the year is what grants the name a uniqueness. Clever people, these marketing types; the use of a year is a neat trick that they often play.

The uniqueness will cost 30 quid if booked in advance or 35 quid if you just turn up on the day. This relatively modest sum will be rewarded with complimentary buffet, free booze, free, unlimited wifi and, most importantly, an absence of anyone under the age of sixteen (one assumes that the sixteen and seventeen year olds will be given a discount because of the booze; or maybe not).

Mischievously, one can already sense that a certain category of adults-only will be eyeing up the thirty quid as a bargain means of facilitating lavish pre-flight getting plastered. But adults-only aren't like that. Are they? Well, in other marketing people's worlds, they most certainly are not. The prevailing image is of couples in their late twenties with good teeth etc., looking deliriously happy as they wallow in the spas and fine wines (in very modest amounts) of their adults-only hotel environment. Thank God we booked adults-only, the images shout.

In a way, this prevailing and predominant age image reveals the adults-only to be enjoying their final flings. Rather like the lads and ladettes on tour to Maga (other untransformed resorts are now available) go through rites of passage and the entire card on a happy hour prior to one day settling down (some of them) to marital bliss, so the adults-only is (are) having their final days in the sun before THEY come along. The kids. There'll be no more adults-only for them until they reach sufficient age to qualify for the older person/senior packages and have grown grey gracefully, still retaining the teeth and the delirium.

The 1903 lounge is just a further milestone along the journey towards adults-only touristic domination. Or does it denote a return to days of yore? 1903 was notable - in Mallorca anyway - for another reason, and that was the opening of Palma's Gran Hotel. Styled on the Ritz, one of its ambitions lay with attracting the early twentieth century tourist. And one can probably safely assume that under-16s would have been in limited supply: they hadn't really invented "the family" back then.

Mallorca's adults-only establishments, of which there is an ever increasing number, are something of a throwback to the grand days of travel, when the tourist most definitely fell into the category marked "quality". It is the unabashed desire to attract this quality tourist - one who's loaded and doesn't get rat arsed - which is one of the reasons for the growth of the adults-only concept. Plus the fact that adults-only is that much more profitable. The family is thus being denigrated to a degree, certainly the degree which arrives with three-star baggage and remains cloistered in the confines of child-hell poolside all-inclusive.

One does of course have to attribute the adults-only movement to the so-called "Cupid of the Caribbean", Gordon "Butch" Stewart, who founded the Sandals Resorts and also made them the first word in all-inclusive heaven: Sandals offered first-class AI. It took a fair old time for adults-only to transport itself to Mallorca and Spain. By 2011 there were only 25 such establishments nationally. They're now all over the place, their critical number meaning that TripAdvisor can have its bests-of, and apparently the Grupotel Playa Camp de Mar is the best of the best in Mallorca.

There have been concerned voices raised about the growing proliferation of adults-only, one being that it is a form of discrimination. If societal mores are such that there cannot be discrimination on the basis of gender, religion or race, then why should children be singled out and excluded?

The marketers will say, and do, that adults-only is all about responding to social and cultural changes. And perhaps so, but if the number of hotels becomes that many, where do the deliriously happy thirty year olds go when THEY do finally come along?