By Ray Fleming
Review of the Majorcan Year
On Thursday six pages of the Bulletin were occupied by Andrew Ede’s series of articles on the Themes of the Year which probably provided the most comprehensive annual overview of Majorca’s events and concerns ever assembled in this newspaper’s half-century existence.
The broad Themes were: Celebrations during the year, ranging from the 300th anniversary of the birth in Petra of the Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra who founded many missions on the West Coast of America, to the 30th anniversary of the death of the Spanish artist Joan Miro who lived and worked on Majorca for many years, to the Bulletin’s own 50th anniversary of publication from its founding by Pedro Serra who received an honorary MBE from Queen Elizabeth on this occasion; the Tourism Themes of the year were Holiday Rentals (frequently a subject of Letters to the Editor) and Seasonality (the never-ending debate on elusive winter tourism); TV coverage of Magalluf was a Third Theme; In Passing, a Fourth Theme of obituaries of local people (which did not overlook the death at twelve of Ajax, the Guardia Civil German Shepherd sniifer dog who had received a medal from the British People’s Dispensary of Sick Animals), and the Great Fire in Andraitx area which burned for almost four days was the Fifth.
The series was completed by “A Government Obsessed; Trilingual teaching” which covered the September teachers’ strike over the government’s introduction of a new formula for language study, an issue that is still not satisfactorily resolved and that goes to the heart of Majorcan political, social and cultural concerns. Andrew Ede was correct to name it as “the main story of 2013”.
Because of the training presence in northern Majorca of some of Britain’s world champion cyclists there is a respect on the island for cycling that nonetheless is hard to sustain when one encounters city cyclists in Palma.
So the Bulletin headline “Cycling on the pavement will be a civic crime” seemed a welcome, if overdue, development even though it will put the offenders in the same category as not cleaning up after your dog has done its business, binge drinking on the street or using prostitutes.
There have been announcements before about fines for cycling on pavements but they have had little or no effect, even if they have been imposed, which seems questionable.
Another announcement about cycling aroused no controversy. This is the planned conversion of the old train track between Manacor and Arta into a cycling and hiking route of about 29 kilometres.
It will have nine resting areas, with benches, tables, gardens and cycle parking space.
The cost will be about five million euros.
The Cost of Electricity
During what was one of most unpleasant spells of winter weather over the Christmas period the prospect of further rises in the cost of electricity loomed into view as the latest quarterly auction of wholesale electricity threatened a ten percent increase.
The Partido Popular Spanish national Industry minister hastened to reassure the country that this would not happen but short of an Ed Miliband “freeze” of energy costs it was not clear how he would hold costs down.
A related topic was dealt with in considerable detail in questions put to the Partido Popular minister for energy of the Balearics by the Bulletin’s Gerry Mulligan.
They focussed on how the use of privately installed domestic solar panels could help to keep down electricity company bills, and also sell back to the supplier any excess energy -- apparently an accepted arrangement in many countries but not in Spain.
Media interviews that do not get very far are not unfamiliar and this one came into that category even though it contained some two thousand words of question, answer, comment, next question etc etc.
For the most part the minister seemed to be answering questions he had not been asked.
Gerry Mulligan wrote in conclusion: “I believe there are still many queries left unanswered...We are all accustomed to price hikes in the energy market, but when electricity is more expensive in Spain than it is in England , there has to be some questions asked!”
(A curiosity of this interview was that the name of the minister was not given. Had the minister asked for anonymity, or was it just an oversight?)
Charity at Christmas
Charitable activities by members of the British and other foreign communities on Majorca are reported week-by-week in the Bulletin but at Christmas and the New Year they get special attention.
There must be fifty or more such charities working to help those in need and it is difficult to draw attention to any one of them without unfairly ignoring others.
However an article by Frank Leavers described the local work of a very long-established charitable organisation active on Majorca and in 128 other countries -- the Salvation Army, of course, which is particularly busy at Christmas as it applies its founding 19th century principle of “the relief of poverty” to the needs of 21st century citizens who have somehow found themselves without homes and good food.
A Children’s Christmas Toy Appeal helped by Radio One Mallorca has enabled the “Sally Army” to distribute toys and gifts to 170 families in the Palma area.
Its regular work involves food distribution and other help on a “homeless run” to ten stop-off points in Palma where the number of people needing help has risen from 20 to almost one hundred in recent months.
The Salvation Army is not alone on Majorca in this kind of humanitarian work but it has long experience, many volunteer workers and an established fund-raising organisation on which it depends and is accessible through its charity shops in Palma, Santa Ponsa and Son Caliu.
The Grup Serra, which publishes the Bulletin and three other newspapers and also operates radio and TV stations, held its annual Christmas staff party at which seven staff with 25 years of service were presented with silver siurells by the company’s founder and chairman Pedro A Serra Bauza.
Among them was Andrew Valente, the Bulletin’s founding editor in 1963, and still a regular contributor to the paper in its 50th year.