The National Statistics Institute, which is housed in a glassy-looking edifice on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid

The National Statistics Institute, which is housed in a glassy-looking edifice on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid.


A few years ago, I could have imagined an imaginary world of catastrophe but also triumph. In fact, I did imagine it. Not that this was in a serious manner, you understand. One of the catastrophes involved the National Statistics Institute, which is housed in a glassy-looking edifice on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. At night, there is a multi-coloured effect. The institute ranges from yellows to reds, from blues to greens, from purples to browns, from greys to blacks. There must be a statistical probability attached to how many colours the institute can be, as indeed there had to have been (was) for the unfortunate catastrophe I had imagined - that of the institute blowing up.

There was to be, I had forecast, an initial explosion of the main mainframe computer, the consequence of the sheer volume of data it was expected to process. This was to result in a chain reaction, with tourist spending statistical data scattered over a one hundred square kilometre area, such was the force of the blast generated by all that data that had been waiting to burst out like a volcanic eruption of pent-up statistical lava. Statisticians, I suggested, had placed a 0.01% greater chance of this catastrophe having happened at the time when it did compared with the same month of the previous year.

There is currently, and sadly enough for the institute, far less of a risk of an explosion. There is perhaps greater danger of implosion for a statistical system inwardly collapsing through a lack of data, although this is doubtful. As one statistical door closes - that of tourism, for example - another opens. Several in fact, each of them analyses to do with the C-words. One such purposeful exercise might be that of the statistical probability (improbability) of any collection of thirty or so words not containing either of the C-words. Such is their ubiquity and the thirst for information that one fears for a situation akin to that which "The IT Crowd" had once advanced. "If you type Google into Google, you can break the internet." No, if you type either of the C-words into Google, you will indeed break the internet.

I am personally attempting to avoid the use of these C-words, glossing over them with another one. Crisis and crisis alone. It is probable that crisis by itself can explain everything. Statisticians would probably place a 98.89% probability on everyone understanding what the crisis refers to without resort to having to mention the other C-words.

One waits with rather warped fascination for the institute to produce its March tourism statistics. There will be greater fascination when it comes to April's, as there won't be any. What happens to those people who the institute organises to ask tourists at airports, ports and border crossings about how much they have spent? Will they have been subject to an ERTE? Or will they have been gainfully reallocated to quizzing members of the public about C-word-related matters? Bit tricky you would think, what with confinement (oops, there goes one of the C-words), social distancing and non-essential activities. Still, statistical gathering is doubtless classified as being essential, even if there's no one in public to ask.

But moving on from the imagined catastrophe, there was the triumph. I placed a date on it - the final day of August, 2016. This was when the transformation of Magalluf into Meliá New Town was complete. The final ever drunken British tourist was afforded a guard of honour by the local police as he staggered along Punta Ballena at six in the morning, his shorts suitably lowered and a tattooed backside being warmed by the balmy dawn air. Accompanied by Calvia's band of pipers and whistlers, mayor Rodríguez was able to announce that Magalluf had been reclaimed and that the occupation by drunken tourism was at an end.

A triumph, most certainly, but the ceremony didn't go entirely well for the mayor. Baz, that final tourist, flung an arm around the mayor, told him he was his best mate before there was the devastating impact of the curry on top of the twenty pints of lager and a dozen Jägerbombs. The mayor was to face a hefty laundry bill and need several hours under the shower. Even so, he was to realise how right he had been about the changing face and backside of Magalluf.

It does now seem all a bit redundant, doesn't it, the business with the tourism of excesses decree, which might have ushered in the mayor's triumph four years after I had imagined it. All in all, you might think that it could now be a case of beggars can't be choosers. So much for the excesses decree, while the National Statistics Institute will need to find someone - anyone - at the airport to ask about their spending.


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