Every week Frank Leavers our man with the dirty Mac and half empty glass of inexpensive vino is looking at what lies just below the sophisticated gloss of island life. Come on folks; tell our Frank what’s really happening in Majorca.
A storm of protest has greeted Palma council’s decision to close certain streets to traffic so as to (in theory) stimulate trade for small and medium sized retail traders. Indeed, last week shop-owners demonstrated against these plans and it seems that at the moment there is a stand-off between these bodies. I have to say that in the past, particularly in the UK, the closure of certain roads in city centres has actually stimulated foot-traffic rather than minimising that flow as shopkeepers had feared. However, that was a couple of decades ago when shopping centres were bustling with business and cars and heavy traffic were seen as a negative influence in these areas. Nowadays, other negatives are plaguing the retail sector as traditional High Street shopping makes way to online and out-of-town options. What to do? I am no expert in this area, but it seems to me that more flexibility is called for as city centre retailers struggle to attract customers at anywhere near the same level as yesteryear. Dare I say it? Well, closing certain thoroughfares may well be a useful option, but not everywhere and not all the time. I remember in the UK, local traders being initially outraged by street closures to through traffic, but generally it worked well, given time, and I suspect that those same traders would protest again if those council initiatives were to be reversed. Such is life! Nevertheless, with takings plunging and streets seemingly emptying, it’s not hard to sympathise with local shopkeepers on this subject. With Palma council appearing to be set on this central policy of ‘driving’ traffic out of the centre of Palma and with parking charges eye-waveringly high, why would your average shopper even contemplate coming into the city for a few hours to shop, particularly if the public transport options in their area were poor or non existent?
SMILE YOU’RE ON CANDID CAMERA
I was fascinated - and slightly irritated, by an item in Saturday’s Bulletin regarding the revenue raised from speeding fines from various ‘hot-spots’ on the island. As a rather selfish man, I won’t grumble about the speed traps on the main roads out of Palma in the general direction of Manacor or Pollensa - but I am outraged that a stretch of the Ma-1 dual-carriageway between the Magalluf and Santa Ponsa turnoffs - which I regularly use, is said to be the biggest money making speed trap on the island.
Last year, it reportedly raised 2,471,400 euros - which apparently is over 40% less than the staggering 4,163,900 it made in 2018. Well, I never did. Indeed, as the road is both straight, properly lit and well appointed, you might well ask yourself whether the speed trap is a safety measure, or - dare I say it, a blatant revenue raising method financed mainly by the unwary or rental car man, who has no idea that the camera is there as he pootles along nicely, just over the speed limit. Ching-Ching! Alas, I am the man who was caught driving ‘in a hurry’ twice in one day a few years ago, I am not a bitter chap, but every time I drive (slowly!) past this photographic abomination I wave my fist at it. Hey, its personal!
THE RETURN OF LYCRA
Early March and our friends and their bikes have once again returned to the island. Personally, apart from the occasional anti-social oaf in Lycra, the pedal-pushers are mostly welcome by all right minded citizens of this island. I say “right minded” because I happened upon a bit of a kerfuffle in my village on Sunday morning when an aforementioned lad, in really loud Lycra, had a falling out with our local idiot who is looking for a village. Something to do with our local hero knocking over this large German chaps expensive looking bicycle with his battered 1963 orange Citroen shed-on-wheels. Naturally enough an interested crowd soon gathered - and from what I could gather, the cyclist was noisily threatening to report our hero to the police and get his Hamburg based lawyer onto him. Good luck with that I thought; no ‘outsider’ in living memory has ever successfully sued a local in these parts, since - never, ever!
Apart from a few shrill British tabloids lurching between our imminent demise in a worldwide Coronavirus pandemic and being rude about Harry & Meghan Sussex, most individuals and governments seem to be taking a sensible, yet informative, stance on the outbreak.
With that said - what about tourism, or more pertinently - whither tourism here in the Balearics? As I often say at this juncture in any crisis - social or political, financial or medical; what does this mean to us here in Europe’s most popular holiday destination and the thousands of us who work in the tourism industry? Is it ‘wait and see’ - or perhaps ‘batten down the hatches’ - maybe even, ‘It’ll be alright on the night’ - let’s hope so.
Reading my friend and colleague Laura Stadler’s column on Saturday, I was interested to note that Laura attended an enjoyable lunch organised by a group named MESA (Mallorca English Speaking Association) where money was raised and generously donated to various island based charities.
This being the case, has MESA been set up in opposition to the similarly named and long standing ex-pat grouping i.e. ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) as the MESA President David Whitney, was at one time the President of - er, er, ESRA? Why don’t you bring me up to date dear reader if you know what’s currently occurring!
A GAME OF TWO HALVES
As a season-ticket holder at Real Mallorca (pensionista division!) I was keen to support the team on Sunday as they took on La Liga rivals Getafe. Suffice it to say that Mallorca lost one nil - and were lucky to get the nil in my opinion. Anyway, I have to say that in all my years watching professional football at all levels, I have never, ever witnessed, a more cynical group of footballers as I did wearing Getafe colours early on Sunday evening.
It wasn’t pretty for most of the game, but the last twenty minutes were marred by over-the-top tackles, blatant time wasting, multiple bookings and what appeared to be shots from a snipers rifle in the stands that had Getafe’s finest writhing around on the ground in agony for no apparent reason. Indeed, it was enough for a person to fall out-of-love with the beautiful game. Pity!