Sunday, November 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2017

Morning high (8.55am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 November - Sun, 22C; 22 November - Sun, cloud, 23C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 veering Northwest 4 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Cold start and bright. Sunny and quite warm today.

Evening update (19.15): Yep, nice. High of 20.8C.

Sort Of A Holiday

Little is the time when I am officially not at work. The past three days have been such a time, though as seems normal, it doesn't quite go to plan. Can I do ... ? Yes, ok. It's almost inevitable.

This short break hasn't been in order to get away. It has partly been to do the things that one never seems to ever have the time for otherwise. Like getting a haircut. Or, given the season, to go and get a flu jab. Which is always an entertaining procedure. The waiting area is naturally full to bursting with old farmers and their families. It is a social gathering. Try hearing your name called above that noise. I personally attempt to shorten proceedings by only wearing a t-shirt. The old farmers have several layers. The simple act of the jab is made more complex because of the removal of these layers.

Anyway, having waited while they all trooped in (or were wheeled in) and then out, I still haven't been called. Everyone else has been dealt with? Er, and me? Oh, yes, the name has been added in pen to the computer-generated list. Thought you had been vaccinated, said the nurse. Why having been added in pen should have resulted in that conclusion I haven't the faintest idea.

The health service is, in my view, exceptionally good, but there are occasions when it can seem a touch hit and miss. This was such an occasion. I had almost reconciled myself to the fact that it would be even before turning up at the health centre. The appointment had been made over the phone some two and a half hours earlier. I had a sense of foreboding, and I was right to have had.

Still, all jabbed up, this allowed me to try and concentrate on my main "free-time" task. Have you ever tried writing a script for "Mary Poppins" that turns a twee story into something even vaguely funny or in something form of a panto-style? I imagine you have not. This, though, has been my lot.

The annual Nomads thing is in February. The last two - both of which I re-scripted - were comparatively easy in that the original stories ("Sound of Music" and "Oliver") have very strong storylines, dramatic development and characters. "Mary Poppins", I have discovered (knew in advance), does not. Yes, it won all sorts of accolades, but there are some stories which lend themselves to adaptation and there are others which do not.

Nevertheless, it's not far off being completed. And I'm reasonably satisfied that it has been turned into an entertainment. Fundamental principle, where I'm concerned, is that people pitch up in mid-February and want to be entertained. You can stage worthy productions, but you need to send the punters away with a smile and the knowledge of a good evening out. Whether all the ideas will get used will depend on others. Introducing House of Pain's "Jump Around" (a nod in the direction of "Mrs Doubtfire") might not make the cut. But I shall be lobbying for it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 November 2017

Morning high (8.59am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 November - Sun, 20C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 21C; 21 November - Sun, cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 5. Swells of one metre.

Mainly sunny this morning, clouding over the in the afternoon. General outlook for the next few days is at present very good and getting warmer.

Evening update (19.45): High of 20.2C.

Barceló: If The Boot Were On The Other Foot

Biel Barceló is the vice-president of the Balearic government as well as the tourism minister. He enjoys his position of vice-president because of the political arrangement between his party, Més, and PSOE to act as the government with Podemos lending its support. This position was the consequence of having gained a 13.8% share of the vote in 2015. That's PR for you.

Barceló has been around the block for many years. He was within the Bloc of 2007 to 2011, a grouping of left-wing parties that were part of the government of that period. The Bloc predated Més.

Given the fluctuations of electoral fortune, he has found himself in opposition as well as in government. And as a member of the opposition, he made a virtue of attacking corruption - that of the Partido Popular or others - at every opportunity. In a different life, he would now be leading the charge in demanding his resignation.

The contracts affair, as stated previously, doesn't bear the same hallmarks of the outlandish corruption of the past. No one has actually been found guilty of anything, and whatever guilt there might be, it would perhaps lie with a manipulation of the rules as opposed to outright abuse. Contracts were supposedly divided up into different companies in order to get round the maximum limits of contract value at which point the rules say that they must be open to public competition.

The amounts aren't vast. But the whole affair has more than a whiff of favouritism - that shown to the one-time Més campaign manager, Jaume Garau, a friend of Barceló's. It has principally been the contracts affair that has led the opposition (and Podemos) to call for Barceló's head.

Pilar Carbonell, the now ex-tourism director-general, was a later arrival. But even within Més there will be those who are content to wish her on her way. She was not a member of Més. She was in fact firmly a creature of the business association environment, selected mainly, it seemed, because she had confronted the hoteliers on many an occasion as president of the restaurants' association. She was given the post of director-general because Garau supposedly didn't want it.

Give people positions of political power, then they will either abuse them or they will mutate in some form or another. With Carbonell, she has had to involve herself in the rentals' legislation. As a one-time representative of the restaurant sector, an undoubted beneficiary of holiday rentals, this has been an about-face, one caused by her position. Her dealings with Cursach, whatever they may really have been, need to be considered in terms of her role before she was given a political position. It's not an excuse for her, but Cursach, regardless of the charges he and Tolo Sbert face, was a figure from the same "complementary" sector as Carbonell.

Barceló, not cited by any judge, can take this as reason not to resign. But he was the boss of both Carbonell and Pere Muñoz, who was obliged to fall on his sword at the tourism agency because of the contracts affair. As the most senior and recognisable face in Més, he may not have been directly responsible for contracts awarded by the transparency and culture ministry, but this was a ministry of his doing, of his creation. Més control it.

If the boot were on the other foot, he would be calling for heads to roll. His own. But political power alters the perceptions and the steadfast desire to root out corruption, even at a comparatively minor level. The current opposition are demanding that President Armengol sacks him immediately, if he doesn't resign. Bizarrely, because Armengol was unwell, Barceló chaired yesterday's cabinet meeting. One wonders what they spoke about.

Friday, November 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 November 2017

Morning high (8.13am): 8C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 19 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

Fine, sunny day.

Evening update (21.45): Pretty decent. High of 22.3C.

The Curse Of The Balearic Tourism Ministry

Francesc Buils and Miquel Nadal. They were the tourism ministers during the 2007-2011 government who were sent to prison and who are currently still in prison. Things really aren't as bad as they were in those days of unfettered Unió Mallorquina (UM) corruption that wrote its name into the core of the ministry. But they are bad enough. To lose one director may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose a second just a few weeks later looks like the wheels are coming off.

Pere Muñoz, the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency, resigned because of his implication in the Més contracts affair. Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director-general, has now resigned because she is under investigation for alleged corruption related to Cursach Group businesses. The tourism minister, Biel Barceló, is said to be experiencing some bad luck. The bad luck is misfortune turning into ministerial meltdown. History is repeating itself at the ministry, even if the scale of the allegations is not as it was with the UM.

The bad luck might not even have arisen in the Carbonell case, if it hadn't been for the name Cursach. Once the press exposed her apparent willingness in having expedited proceedings for work at MegaPark in record time compared with the normal ministerial bureaucratic tardiness, her days were numbered. The police went looking, and the police suggest that she was a virtual Cursach employee. Bad luck, Pilar. Bad luck, Biel. The tentacles of Tolo Cursach reach out from his prison cell (he's back in Palma now) and they touch with poison anyone whose name is said in the same breath as the fallen King of the Night.

Barceló is hanging on. Just. A motion of censure brought by the Partido Popular and stemming from the contracts affair very nearly succeeded. The vote was a tie. The media enjoyed pointing out that Biel might have been censured had the PP's Álvaro Gijón been in the parliamentary house. What irony. Gijón, up to his neck in the Cursach case, symbolises the enduring reputation of PP corruption but was not there to deliver a fateful blow. It needs saying, however, that President Armengol was also absent. She was unwell. A full house and it would still have been a tie.

Carbonell has been replaced by Antoni Sansó, chief advisor to the tourism ministry. He has been photographed periodically with Barceló or Carbonell. A dour-looking, unsmiling sort of character, he was apparently the brains behind the holiday rentals legislation. Amidst this ministerial musical chairs, the only real thing to be said for Barceló is that opinion polls seem to give him local support for his stellar items of legislation - the rentals and the tourist tax. But as Més see their support in general ebb in other polls, this is unlikely to count for much. He and his party are in something of a crisis.

Barceló has said that he won't be staying on after the next election. He might in any event not have had any choice in the matter. But with his disappearance from the scene, Més are casting around for someone who can assume his figurehead role. And this isn't easy. Prime possibilities either don't want the job of running for president (Miquel Ensenyat at the Council of Mallorca wants to stay put), are needed elsewhere (Antoni Noguera in Palma) or are not products of the PSM Mallorca Socialist party.

Més, a left coalition, has prominent one-time members of the communist United Left. Social services minister Fina Santiago is one. Parliamentary spokesperson and principal advocate of independence for the Balearics, David Abril, is another. Santiago might be advanced as presidential candidate, but it would be with reluctance by the solid PSM faction. Quite how appealing she would be to the electorate is another matter. Not especially, one would fancy.

The party can just hope that Barceló keeps his head down for the remainder of this government and doesn't get his head chopped off. Podemos want him to go, but couldn't bring themselves to have voted with the PP on the censure motion. They will seize whatever chance comes along to force his resignation or dismissal. Such are the workings of this government and the power behind the throne that is Podemos.

Bad luck for Pilar, bad luck for Biel, bad luck for Més, which might go into electoral freefall. The bad luck was having charge of the tourism ministry. That bad luck has passed to many, such as those paying the tourist tax. Bad luck all round. It's the curse of the Balearic tourism ministry.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 November 2017

Morning high (7.59am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 17 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 18 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 19 November - Cloud, sun, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4 easing 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

Sunny morning and a nippy one. As low as three to four degrees in some areas first thing. A pleasant day for the big fair - Inca's Dijous Bo.

Evening update (20.15): High of 19.9C.

Llubí: A Town Called She-Wolf

The Romans had a name for the place. It was Castro-Lupino. The castro part referred to a fortification. Lupino wasn't a lupin, it was a she-wolf. As such, it was a strange name. There were wolves in Mallorca? Perhaps it was someone's name. Whatever the reason, Castro-Lupino changed over time. It became Castell-Llubí. The Castell was eventually abandoned.

Llubí is one of the places in Mallorca that rarely attracts any attention to itself. It has its honey fair this coming Sunday. Otherwise, it can boast being the only place to celebrate Sant Feliu (Saint Felix). Like other villages in the plain area of the island, it homed in on a saint that no one else was too inclined to honour. Petra is another example. Who on Earth was Santa Praxedis?

It used to be part of Muro. Way back when, at the end of the Muslim occupation, there was a district called Muruh. It also included Maria de la Salut and, doubtless to its eternal displeasure, the highly singular village of Santa Margalida, which has typically prided itself on its difference. A distant recollection of having somehow been subordinate to Muro most certainly doesn't fit with a Santa Margalida self-image. The rivalry between the two continues to this day.

Llubí, on the other hand, has mostly just got on with its fate over the centuries, and this owed a great deal to someone called Ponç Hug. He was among the 1229 conquering force of King Jaume I and was also the Comte d'Empúries. The square in front of Muro town hall was named after this count, and he - generous fellow perhaps - gave some land to one Bernat Descoll, the abbott of Sant Feliu de Guíxols​, nowadays known for being a tourist resort on the Costa Brava. It was this abbott who secured Sant Feliu's patronage of the land - "terres llubineres" - he had been given by Ponç Hug. The first chapel for Sant Feliu appeared some time in the thirteenth century.

The terres llubineres were still referred to as Castell-Llubí into the nineteenth century, but there was a seemingly significant development which occurred prior to that century, and it was all because of a member of one of Mallorca's most important noble families, the Despuig.

Antoni Despuig i Dameto had originally wanted to join the military. The family thought otherwise. He was ordained and in 1803 became a cardinal. But before this, he had developed a reputation unusual for many of Mallorca's nobility in that he really seemed to care about the island. The Raixa finca in Bunyola had become part of the family's possessions in the mid-seventeenth century. Antoni was to establish a museum of classical sculpture at the finca.

Cardinal Despuig is known for having been one of the most important representatives of the Enlightenment in Mallorca. And there weren't that many, if truth be known. One of his various achievements was to appear in 1784. This was the Mapa de Mallorca, sometimes referred to as the Mapa Despuig. It wasn't the first map of the island but it was the first to be generally accurate, which was what he wanted it to be. Previous versions, even one of 1773, had inaccuracies, so Antoni set about rectifying them, and he did this by touring the island with another cleric, Julián Ballester. It is argued that Ballester was the cartographical brains behind the map. And he may well have been, but Despuig was the driving force and the sponsor. The map that was created was actually produced by the engraver Josep Muntaner in 1785, and included in the map was Llubí without the Castell.

It is said that Llubí on its own was in fact first referred to almost two hundred years before in 1609. But the official name always included the Castell. Once the Mapa Despuig appeared, the fortification was well on its way to being dropped, which is what happened. And in 1836 there was a separation from Muro; the municipality of Llubí was officially and definitively founded.

Municipalities in Mallorca have their shields. Llubí is no exception. But there is something curious about this shield. It is based on the original name, so there is therefore a castle and there is also a wolf. Which makes one wonder again - were there wolves in Mallorca? This isn't, however, the most curious aspect. Take a close look at this wolf and you will conclude that it isn't a she-wolf.

There again, it isn't so curious perhaps. Despite the she-wolf origin, it seems that the name had become masculine by the time that the Catalans turned up in the thirteenth century. Aben-Lubi, as it was known in the Mozarabic era, was son of a wolf.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 November 2017

Morning high (7.51am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 17 November - Sun, 21C; 18 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4, swells of one to two metres.

Some cloud around first thing, but a sunny day expected.

Evening update (21.30): Very pleasant. High of 18.3C.

What Is The Alternative, Carles?

The significance of the presence of Carles Puigdemont in Brussels goes beyond the fact that it is the seat of power for a confederated institution which has proved to be toothless in face of political crisis in one of its constituent member states. Brussels is the capital of a country with one of the more peculiar structures in the EU. What is Belgium? Like Spain it is a kingdom. Like Spain it has its cultural and linguistic differences and tensions. Unlike Spain these are even more influential and divisive. The Flemings and the Walloons are essentially separate peoples. Their political affiliations and the pressures for separatism, especially in Flanders, have created a country that in a sense is a country in name alone. It is a form of federal state but one with an appearance of the confederated state - the centre is basically subordinate to the constituent parts, which is the theory under which the European Union operates: theory if not always practice.

Carles Puigdemont was interviewed by the French-speaking Le Soir. This in itself was symbolic. French has far more in common with Catalan than Dutch does. In Belgium, as in Spain, there is a linguistic choice to be made. The language speaks volumes, and it shouts on behalf of one form of political structure or another. In Catalan, however, this isn't as sharply defined as it is with the Flemings. Carles Puigdemont knows this, even if he might not admit it. Mariano Rajoy most certainly knows this. The silent majority will come forth and let their voice be heard four days before Christmas. So he hopes.

Puigdemont revealed to Le Soir that he is not averse to "another relationship with Spain". This would be an "alternative to independence". Back in Barcelona, there would have been the sound of ardent supporters of independence muttering dark comments about a Puigdemont vacillation or climb-down. To others, it might just have sounded like a rare dose of reality creeping into the unreal monster of ill-defined confusion that Puigdemont has helped to create.

But what was he talking about? The independence declaration has some comparisons with Brexit. A total lack of preparedness followed by a search for something meaningful, the need to extract a solution from the havoc caused by the ignorance of consequences. Brexit, replete with its absurd posturing and with its path littered with the jibes, aspirations and ambitions of chancers such as Johnson, stumbles daily more deeply into an intellectual abyss of the unknowing. The extraction of solutions is hindered by mutual exclusivity. Likewise, Catalonia. Until, for both problems, someone ventures the possibility of a third-way solution. Ventures it but can't define it.

A solution of sorts is federalism. But what is federalism? It operates in numerous states, yet even in that most federal of nations, the United States, it has never truly been defined. The Balearics president has made many a reference to a federal model for Spain, but what does she take this to mean? What does Pedro Sánchez, the national leader of PSOE, take it to mean? He is also an advocate, but one never learns what this would look like, what this would be.

The point is that Spain already bears many of the hallmarks of the federal state. At its most basic level it means the sharing of power between the state and its components. Crucially, however, there is the money angle. Can the Catalonia crisis be styled as the result of a disagreement over tax-raising powers? Some will argue that it can be and that had Madrid been more amenable and granted Catalonia a Basque-type arrangement, the independence movement would have been nipped in the bud.

But this is too simplistic. Puigdemont has highlighted the fact that in 2010 the Constitutional Court invalidated certain articles in the Catalonia statute of autonomy. At that time, there were a mere fourteen members of the Catalan parliament who were fervent supporters of independence. Yet he too is being simplistic. What then happened was that Artur Mas, needing to prop up his presidency and under assault for austerity measures, took a risk with an election. This signalled the sea change, as also did the emergence of the alternative parties. Independence took on new life, with Mas committing himself to it because he had no other choice but to, if he wanted to stay in power.

Now that Catalonia and Spain are where they are, the genie can't be put back. There has to be a viable solution. Politicians cannot be allowed to wallow in prison; this is an obscenity. But what possible accord or alternative is attainable? Rajoy is speaking about Constitutional reform to return powers to the state. He has fired a broadside against his own foreign affairs minister, Alfonso Dastis, who has intimated that a different type of reform - one that potentially recognises independence if the vote on 21 December were to hint at this - could be possible.

An alternative, but what sort? Rajoy seems ever less inclined to consider a more sharply defined federal regime or even a confederation which would enfeeble the central government. Carles, what are you talking about?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 November 2017

Morning high (7.45am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 November - Sun, wind, 19C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 17 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 6 to 7, locally 8. Waves up to seven metres.

Very windy again. Amber alert still in place for coastal conditions. Mainly cloudy.

Evening update (21.30): Wind's down now. High of only 14.9C. 

Port Mayurqa: Another Failed Scheme?

The history of theme parks in Mallorca is a short and undistinguished one. This is mainly because ideas have come forward and been presented only for them to disappear. Much publicity has in the past been given to, for instance, the project of the Theme Park Group, which was supposedly going to have been sited somewhere between Llucmajor and Campos. Representatives were photographed with the then president, José Ramón Bauzá, much was said about how marvellous it would be for creating employment and tackling seasonality, and it was soon forgotten. Planning permission, investment, environmental issues and some mutterings behind the scenes regarding the credentials of one of the principals involved all saw to it that the project for the "Mallorca Experience" sank without trace.

There have also been the proposed dinosaur theme park in Sineu and the Christian theme park "Tierra Santa" that was touted around numerous town halls and failed to get anywhere. Theme parks such as there are, i.e. Katmandu Park in Magalluf, aren't really what one thinks of as constituting a theme park. It is nothing like on the scale of what's to be found on the mainland, e.g. Port Aventura. It never will be on the scale and, moreover, there never will be any theme park in Mallorca that gets anywhere close.

When the Bauzá government came into office, the tourism minister Carlos Delgado was an advocate of theme parks. By the time the Bauzá administration was drawing to a close, Delgado's successor, Jaime Martínez, was admitting that theme parks were pretty much dead ducks. Environmental considerations, foremost, would never permit them. It was an obvious conclusion, as these considerations had scuppered projects in the past.

The current vogue, such as it is, for theme parks in a Mallorca style is essentially that of the large retail complex with attractions grafted on. This is the case with a project still doing the rounds which, when it was first being given publicity in the summer of 2016, seemed as if it would go the same way as Jaime Martínez's other dead ducks.

Port Mayurqa, so we are told, would involve an investment of 500 million euros. It would provide 2,000 jobs for its construction and a further 3,000 once it is up and running. The chosen site would be Son Malferit in Palma right by Ikea and the Atlético Baleares football stadium. In addition to shops and restaurants, it would include a spa, a ski zone, a surf zone and some form of a lake for boats. There would also be cinemas, an amphitheatre for staging concerts, a botanical garden and an aquarium in which visitors would be able to swim with its different types of fish.

The project is the brainchild of Intu-Eurofond, essentially a British concern and one with very solid credentials. There are none of the business misgivings about Intu that there might have been about the Mallorca Experience scheme. Port Mayurqa is clearly a realistic venture which has attracted support from Mallorca businesses like Quely and World2Meet, which is part of the Iberostar group.

One says realistic, but the realities may well be different. When the project was spoken about in 2016, it was said by the developers that there had been positive meetings with the government (President Armengol and Biel Barceló) and with Palma town hall. The hoteliers federation was in favour, as were the leading unions. Almost as soon as these positive meetings were announced, the now mayor of Palma, Antoni Noguera, said that the project did not meet with the model of the city being envisaged under the revised general urban plan.

Noguera also referred to the moratorium on the development of large commercial centres and to the "saturation" of such centres in Palma. The moratorium had come from the Council of Mallorca. It was imposed while the Council considered the whole future of large centres. Its deliberations are all but over, while it is also in the process of revising its territorial plan for the whole of the island. This plan takes account of all development.

The fact is that Port Mayurqa is highly unlikely to be given the Council's blessing. Palma town hall, especially with Noguera in charge, will also probably veto it. The concept, notwithstanding the future employment and the potential to satisfy the government's wishes for tackling tourism seasonality, comes with rather too much political baggage in terms of it potentially further undermining local business and of it causing "saturation". The mere mention of it incurs the wrath of GOB, Terraferida and others.

It had seemed as if it wasn't going anywhere, but in fact the support from business and unions has strengthened, while market research surveys conducted by GfK point to a favouring of the project among the public. Will it come to light? Personally, I would very much doubt that it will.

* Image is of the scheme for Port Mayurqa.

Monday, November 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 November 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 13.1C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 14 November - Sun, cloud, wind, 17C; 15 November - Sun, cloud, wind, 19C; 16 November - Sun, cloud, 20C

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

Windy. Amber alert for coastal conditions. Should be a fair deal of sun, clouding over later.

Evening update (19.15): Some sun, some cloud, a lot of wind. High of 16.9C.

Lonely This Christmas Without Catalonia

Álvaro Nadal, the national minister for tourism, energy and the digital agenda, needed to have a good World Travel Market. Here was an opportunity for him to shine in the eyes of any Spaniards who were taking any notice of what was going on in London, which admittedly probably wasn't that many. But the opportunity was presented nonetheless, and Señor Nadal, Mister Christmas, was insisting, among other things, that elections in Catalonia four days before Christmas will help in restoring Catalonia to normality. Most importantly, given that he was at a travel fair, this normality will mean that the streets and hotels of Barcelona are full to overflowing.

Well, he might hope that this is the case, but omens at present don't offer quite the same level of hope. It may well be lonely this Christmas in Catalonia, lonelier still for those who remain incarcerated, and lonely for Mister Christmas if there isn't the hoped-for rebound. You see, Señor Nadal has a slight perception difficulty. One among the citizens. The latest "barometer" of public political opinion placed him rank bottom of all Spain's minister. He had even managed to fall below the chap in charge of the money (and the taxes), Cristóbal Montoro, the Count of the Mount of Gold, for whom last place is normally and deservedly reserved.

What Mister Christmas really needed of course was a pick-me-up in the form of a celebrity rock singer. And where there's a cause, there's normally the frontman for U2. Bono, in all likelihood, will have allied himself with the Pamela Anderson camp in defence of Catalan democracy (what with Ireland and all that), but a bit of a stardust, even of the opposition variety, can work wonders for a minister's ailing approval rating.

So, for a fleeting moment it appeared that Bono, minus The Edge, had cut along to Docklands with the intention of providing the world with his thoughts on the Catalan situation. Unfortunately, the moment was indeed only fleeting. Bono wasn't Bono. He was Octavi Bono, the director-general of tourism in Catalonia and one of the few people in the Catalan administration to not find him or herself in chokey. Things, Bono told Mister Christmas, could have been done better. Which even a member of the Spanish government would surely admit. He, Bono, then went on to hint that information regarding a dramatic fall in visitor numbers was some form of Rajoy government fake news.

Mister Christmas was thus denied the boost to his approval rating, and he wandered off as the muzak at the World Travel Market didn't mangle Elvis but instead trampled all over U2 - "I can't live, with or without you".

Oh Catalonia.