Yes, there has been snow - and a good deal of it. | G. R. V.


Political row and harmony

Manoeuvring through the snow and avoiding any shivering Hollywood actors, the past few days have otherwise been notable for some more political shenanigans and a government decree that had the construction industry frothing at the mouth.

Més, who have spent the past few weeks testing the patience of their larger coalition companions, PSOE, and also testing the resilience of the government and Council of Mallorca coalitions, were threatening to quit the government over Catalan speaking - that of temporary staff in the health service. The eco-nationalists argued that there should not be exemptions from Catalan requirements. With their foot pressed on a Catalan-dogmatic election accelerator, they were examining resignations but only of senior officials.

There was greater PSOE-Més harmony when the environment minister, Miquel Mir of Més, detailed a government decree law regarding housing, which is arguably the most important of all election issues. The contents of this decree had been signalled some weeks earlier, so the opposition parties in parliament on Tuesday had had long enough to draft their arguments.

With property developers and others in the construction industry voicing their criticisms, the opposition insisted that the decree will simply serve to further increase house prices and will do nothing to address the housing problems. The decree will prohibit the building of homes (except social housing) on so-called rustic land that is now being declassified in order to bring in the prohibition.

Demolition and conversion in Palma

Rather than building, there has been further talk of demolition in Palma. El Bungalow, the beach restaurant in Ciudad Jardín threatened with demolition under an order from the Costas Authority, was once more a focus of attention. Or was this inattention on behalf of the town hall ruling administration? The main opposition party, the Partido Popular, certainly believed so, claiming that the process to give the restaurant listed status and thus hopefully spare it from demolition hasn't started yet. There was unanimous approval for granting listed status at a council meeting in November.

Elsewhere in Palma, it was a case of conversion. The old Coca-Cola bottling plant is being turned into a Motorworld, one of a series operated by a German company. The manager of Motorworld Mallorca, Mathias Buttkus, explained that restoration will "enhance its industrial heritage" and that there will be a centre to exhibit classic and sports cars, themed restaurants and spaces for events that can be attended by anything from six to 1,000 people. It is expected that Motorworld will open in the middle of 2024.

Being near to the airport is "a great advantage", added Herr Buttkus. And the airport, we learned, looks set to register record numbers this year, with airlines talking of increases of up to 15% in the numbers of flights and seats. Tourism prospects in general are looking very positive, while in Santa Ponsa specifically the hoteliers association reported that reservations for the season are currently up ten per cent compared with January 2019.

How to offset the price of holiday ... and make a profit

A potential check on holidaymaker numbers could be prices. Which? magazine was advising holidaymakers to book early in order to avoid being "ripped off", a somewhat hyperbolic way of saying that prices are going up. In popular destinations, prices have risen by some 19%, but prices were bound to go up because of extra costs - those of hotels and airlines. While there is price sensitivity, which is only to be expected at a time of economic difficulties, an overall impression is that people will still be booking in order to have their summer days in the sun.

A way, an illegitimate way, of offsetting the cost of a holiday (and indeed making a profit from it) was by lodging a false claim for compensation because of non-existent food poisoning. Six years ago, these claims against certain all-inclusive hotels in Mallorca were described as an "epidemic". They were only by British holidaymakers because UK law made it incredibly easy to make successful claims.

In September 2017, the Guardia Civil arrested a number of people accused of having organised these false claims. Eight people are now due to go on trial for fraud.

Star Wars protection at the airport

Back at the airport, and one of the the Guardia Civil's latest means of security has been highlighted. Looking like something out of Star Wars, this is an anti-drone rifle. There are two of these devices at Palma Son Sant Joan. They automatically recharge and can therefore fire as many shots as possible and they can take out multiple drones at one go. They operate by interrupting the communication between the drone and the station from which it was sent.

One reason for these rifles is a concern about Russian drones being used for intelligence gathering. There has been none of this in Mallorca, where the rifles are mainly for targeting drones that fly in the vicinity of or over airports, which is strictly forbidden.

All about yachts

Various security forces were engaged in an operation in Palma last year involving a Russian oligarch's superyacht. FBI and Homeland Security agents, accompanied by Guardia Civil officers, searched Tango, the yacht belonging to Viktor Vekselberg. This yacht is at the centre of an alleged sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme being investigated by US authorities. Last Friday, a Briton who lives in Santa Maria, 52-year-old Richard Masters, was arrested following a US request for his extradition in connection with this investigation.

On Saturday, Masters, who founded a yacht management company in Mallorca in 2002, was released by the Audiencia Nacional high court in Madrid, which rejected both the extradition request and a prosecutor demand that he be held in prison because he was a flight risk. His passport was withdrawn and he will be required to report to the court every fortnight.

A different yacht is at the centre of accusations that have been levelled at mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor. Last summer, he and his wife were on holiday in Mallorca and Ibiza. Much of their time was spent on his yacht, which was moored in Ibiza when he had a birthday party at a beach club.

One of the people who attended this party was an Irish woman who knew McGregor; they are from the same Dublin neighbourhood. After the party, she was among others invited back to the yacht. At one point, she alleges, the MMA fighter attacked her. She "feared for her life", jumped off the yacht and was picked up by a Red Cross boat.

At the time, she didn't make a statement to the Guardia Civil and a court in Ibiza filed the case. This court has now reopened the case in light of statements given to the police in Ireland. Conor McGregor denies all the allegations.

Celebrity revelations

When he was on holiday, the fighter couldn't avoid the camera lenses. Such is the lot of celebrities, of whom there has been a collection in Mallorca in recent days. All on the island for filming the series Lioness, the past week's adventures have been thinner in content than previous ones to do with Morgan Freeman's dining habits.

Nicole Kidman apparently caused a "major sensation" when she was seen in Valldemossa. There was nothing about any restaurants, just that she'd been to some shops and the Charterhouse. Oh, and then she went for a run.

Compensating for this limited detail, we learned that Zoe Saldaña, another member of the Lioness cast, is now a "billion dollar actress", but only insofar as her having become the first actor to have appeared in four films to have each made more than two billion US dollars. Not to be outdone, and in case we had forgotten him, Ibiza resident James Blunt suddenly reappeared. The singer has revealed that while filming the video for You're Beautiful in Mallorca, he cut his lip. Revelation indeed!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

And yes, there was the weather. The big party for the Sant Sebastià fiestas in Palma was at risk of being called off because of high winds. But the concerts in the squares went ahead with no problem. Then snow started to enter the story. There was a flurry of videos showing flurries at sea level. This was snow of no consequence, though in Ibiza there was to be a beach blanketed in snow.

The real weather action was happening in the mountains. On the summit of the Puig Major, the snow depth reached forty centimetres. The Aemet met agency reported that the snow was the most significant since 2018 but didn't exceed this. An "historic" year was 2012, when snow settled at sea level, but February 1956 continues to be when there was last really deep snow at low levels.

The snow in the mountains has been one thing, for most of us the polar front has meant a bitterly cold north wind. Temperatures will begin to recover next week.