The Other Half

The other day, a commemorative act was held in Portocolom to mark the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Spain’s first civil school for amphibian planes, the Escuela de Hidroaviación Civil. The occasion was reason enough for the President of the Consell de Mallorca, Maria Salom Coll, to descend upon this Eastern harbour town together with a few mandarins in her entourage. The festive act with self-important speeches by the political class was marred by a cacophony of ear-piercing whistles, shouting and booing by up to a hundred mostly young protesters. The audience attending was clearly divided into two groups of pretty equal numbers. The scene was a fair mirror image of today’s society in Spain and more to the point, Mallorca. La Crisis in Spain and here on the island seems to be affecting one half of the population whilst the other half happily pursues a routine of daily life as if everything were normal. I was shocked to see how seemingly far removed the political class present in Portocolom appeared from half their populace. They were all smiling and irritatingly cheerful, totally ignorant of the motives of the protesters who appeared to belong to the 21.3 % (24.6 % in all of Spain) of unemployed, or rather, 48 % in the case of youngsters under the age of 35, which seemed about the age range of the whistlers.

Massive protests have been seen frequently over the last six months wherever the president of the Govern Balear or his counterpart at the Consell de Mallorca made public appearances, either in Sa Pobla, Inca, Felanitx, Sóller, Andratx or Muro. Political decisions effecting cuts and changes in education, language, the health system, paired with effects of inflation, unemployment, taxation and dispossession have caused a lot of ill will amongst many citizens that the ruling body shrugs off without any further discussion. The argument goes like this ‘We have been elected with a majority and will now do as we please‘. A pity though that half the adult citizens did not vote Conservative and seem to feel utterly misrepresented.

It appears only fitting that just two days earlier, the government in Madrid had set up a new Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Ministry of Homeland Security). I think that sooner or later the street protests in Spain will not be restricted to mere whistling.

The photo was taken in Portocolom, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 25th, 2012. The time was 19:27:48.

The Other Half

24 Hours in the Life of an Island

(near Felanitx, at 00:40:23)

Twenty-eight years ago today, I orchestrated an exciting photo event in Los Angeles, California, in collaboration with one Red Saunders. Together, we edited the book that covered that event: 24 Hours in the Life of Los Angeles. All those years ago, we had assembled a team of 145 people, including 103 photographers from all over the world plus 16 local school children, to capture the life in this metropolis in the run-up to the 1984 Olympic Games.

Today, I have the pleasure to invite you to sample a similar adventure, somewhat different but nonetheless exciting, albeit without its results ending up in a glossy coffee-table book. I endeavour the making of a comprehensive portrait of Mallorca, my home for the last 25 years, by taking photographs over a period of 24 hours in the life of this island. This time, there is no team and there are no other photographers involved or invited. I will upload photos every few hours, depending on broadband connection, and today’s post will grow bigger and longer as the day progresses. The first photo was taken this morning at 00h40 on top of Puig de Sant Salvador near Felanitx, and the last one will be captured just before midnight in Plaça d’Espanya in Felanitx. Let’s see how it goes and let’s witness, if I will last the Tour de Force.

(Portocolom, at 01:28:42)

(Porto Cristo, at 02:03:46)

(Son Servera, at 02:52:00)

(near Canyamel, at 03:10:01)

(Cala Rajada, at 03:32:23)

(Cala Rajada, at 03:43:12)

(Felanitx, at 04:39:18)

I made a scheduled return to Felanitx to upload the first photos of this self-set challenge. Quite unscheduled, I fell asleep and had a 45 minutes nap. I was still good on time and schedule, though.

(near Petra, at 07:41:13)

(near Petra, at 08:00:33)

(Santa Margalida, at 09:24:54)

(Muro, at 10:44:09)

(near Muro, at 11:35:52)

At this time, I was still running to schedule, more or less. But it began to dawn on me that the task I had set might be a bigger one than I had calculated. I may have underestimated the challenge and the sheer distance between places, and I may have overestimated my abilities as a one-man-band. I decided that Mallorca was, in fact, a continent.

(near Muro, at 12:11:55)

(Port de Pollença, at 13:59:13)

(Pollença, at 14:18:33)

By now, it was quite evident that I was running late, and well behind schedule. I decided to alter my route plan. Instead of returning south via Crestatx, Sineu and Sant Joan, I decided to go up into the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana to see if I could catch up on time by eliminating some of the planned stops.

(near Pollença, at 14:58:40)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:23:18)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:25:40)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:32:31)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:33:02)

(near Fornalutx, at 15:37:35)

(near Fornalutx, at 15:43:27)

It now was clear: there was no way I could complete the whole island portrait, and comprehensive at that, within the self-elected time frame of 24 hours. For a start, there was no way that I could upload any photos during the course of my parcours. There were just too many kilometres to be driven from point to point. Mallorca is too big an island to be ticked off in one single day by one individual. I realized that I would have needed to employ the good services of a driver to allow me to concentrate on the scene selection and the location, instead of me minding the business of getting there in the first place. And it would have been wise to seek the support of an assistant to keep my back free from the logistics of the task. Me, on my own, doing the driving, route planning, rescheduling, time keeping, scene selection, setting up the tripod, shooting, editing, copy writing, Lightroom-ing, WordPress formatting and what have you, was just too much for one elderly man. And I was getting tired, sleepy, red-eyed, exhausted and anxious. I needed a hug, or a helpline, or something.

(near Sóller, at 15:51:15)

(Sóller, at 16:45:14)

(Sóller, at 17:03:36)

(Sóller, at 17:11:26)

In Sóller, I accepted the inevitability of defeat. It simply was impossible to cover all of Mallorca or at least, all 48 locations that I had scheduled, in one day and on my own. I would barely manage half that number and not even half the total distance. By now I had done some 300 kms, and I would surely need to do the same again, or more, with more than two thirds of the time already gone. I would need to be fitter (and younger), less mad, better equipped, better supported and assisted, and more realistic. I should simply have listened to my wife.

(Alfàbia, at 17:46:32)

(Alfàbia, at 17:54:46)

In Alfàbia I decided to go home. I needed to upload some of my photos and take stock. I might go out again after that to cover some of the Mallorcan hinterland, Porreres, Campos, Llucmajor, Sant Joan, Villafranca, Sineu, Llubi, and so on. For now, I certainly would not be able to cover the western parts of the island, Andratx, Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deià, Orient, Alaró, Bunyola; I might have to have another go at the region at some later stage. Palma, I was pretty sure that I would skip Palma for now.

(Felanitx, at 23:43:43)

Having aborted the project and not having gone out again once I arrived back home after 20 hours on the road and in the hot sun, I was busy photo editing, photo optimizing and uploading. I now did not need to do that final shot just before midnight that I had scheduled from earlier this morning. But I wanted to do it anyhow to have a pair of bookends, so to speak. As it happens, I met my friend John and he kindly agreed to pose as another mad hatter for mad me. No. This is not me sitting there, just in case you wondered.

Good night, and thank you for joining me on this ride and this very long day indeed. I need some sleep now.

24 Hours in the Life of an Island

Playing Monte

I don’t see my friend Jaume very often, these days. He’s getting on a bit, being in his late eighties, and he rarely leaves home any more. There were times when I saw him everyday.

When Jaume was a young chap of 13 years, he started playing cards. Then, he lived in Son Negre, not far from Felanitx. He was one of seven brothers and sisters. He is the only one still alive. Opposite the church in Son Negre there was a bar, long since closed, where Jaume went to play Poqué, a card game probably similar to what we know as Poker. He was good at the cards. From the age of 19, in 1942, after the Spanish Civil War, he took up playing cards full-time. He played Monte in places like Campos, Felanitx, Son Macià and Ca’s Concos d’es Cavaller. Monte is a Spanish gambling card game and the national card game of Mexico. It also used to be played in the USA and in particular, in Texas, known there as Spanish Monte. The game is played with a Spanish deck of 40 playing cards or a standard deck, with 10’s, 9’s and 8’s removed. If you wanted, you could read more about Monte on Wikipedia. The Spanish Monte has nothing to do with a trick game of cards, Three-Card-Monte.

Under Franco, gambling was illegal, especially if you played for money, and so were card games. Jaume was very poor, then, so he had sponsors who associated with him as backers. The bar owner took 10 percent of the night’s winnings. People from Inca, Manacor, Porreres, Campos, Santanyí and Villafranca would all come to Felanitx to play Monte. The police and the Guardia Civil knew what was going on. The bar owner paid them bribes. Now and then, some Guardia Civiles would arrive from Palma who had not been bribed, to raid the bar where cards were being played. Jaume got arrested three times during the many years of playing cards, but, he got away with a warning every time. He kept on playing his cards.

Molts d’anys, Jaume.

Both images were borrowed from the Internet. The (top) one comes courtesy of Wikipedia. It depicts a lithograph etched by Scottish artist, John David Borthwick. The image (bottom) shows the title of a book on El Juego de Monte, edited in 1898, courtesy of

Thank you very much, and

muchas gracias.

Playing Monte

The Fiesta Nacional de España

Yesterday, October 12th, was a National holiday in Spain, the day of the Fiesta Nacional de España, formerly also known as Día de la Hispanidad. As is usual in Spain, the day was used for copious parades of the military in Madrid, attended by King Juan Carlos, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and members of his government as well as leading members of the opposition. In all, some 3,000 troupes, 147 armoured vehicles plus 55 fighter jets and helicopters took part in the commemorative event in Spain’s capital city. Here in Mallorca, there were no such major political or military exhibitions. There was a reunion of the political top brass, though, attending events held at the occasion of the Festividad de la Virgen del Pilar. The Virgen del Pilar is the patron saint of the Guardia Civil in Spain and in Mallorca, and her Fest day coincides with Spain’s National holiday.

Whilst I was at the airport yesterday, I was not allowed into the area where Mallorca’s Guardia Civil celebrated her patron, an area within the old airport terminal building complex where normally trade fairs are held. I shall have to improve my credentials, I suppose.

The photo was thus borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of and the photographer, Jordi Avellà.

Muchas gracias.

The Fiesta Nacional de España

Time’s Up

It was time’s up for Gordon Brown yesterday, but also for some of Generalissimo Franco‘s heraldic emblems in Palma de Mallorca. Of course, there is no relation between the two events other than the timing. Whilst the British Prime Minister lasted in office for just under three years, the franquist and fascist heraldry lasted for just over 70 years. The Spanish Ley de la Memoria Histórica (Historical Memory Law) from 2007 urged, amongst other things, for the removal of names and symbols in public streets and places pertaining to the dark years of Spain’s history, i. e. the years of the Spanish Guerra Civil and the time of Francisco Franco, the dictator.

During the last six months, the offending coat of arm was removed in Palma de Mallorca from the Baleares memorial in Sa Feixina as well as from the army barracks of Son Simonet in Carretera de Valldemossa. The barracks of General Asensio in Palma were renamed as Base Jaume II. This week, it was the turn for the military installations in the Avenidas known as Cuartel de Ingenieros. Last Sunday, the enormous heraldic symbol topped with the imperial eagle was removed and yesterday, replaced with a slightly smaller coat of arms of constitutional symbolism, topped with a regal crown.

The photo (top) shows the new heraldic emblem in Palma’s Avinguda Gabriel Alomar, as it was mounted earlier this week. The photo (centre) shows the removed Franco symbol and the arrival of the new coat of arms. The photo (bottom) shows the old heraldic emblem as it was in place at the Cuartel de Ingenieros from 1939 until earlier this year.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 11th, 2010. The time was 18:27:22. The photo (centre) was taken from the Internet. Thanks are in order to and the photographer, B. Ramon. The photo (bottom) was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 31st, 2010. The time was 16:02:40.

Muchas gracias and moltes gràcies.

Time’s Up

Mountain Rescue Services

The island of Mallorca is a peaceful place, a fun location and, for many, a holiday paradise. One can easily forget that there can be some dark sides to this idyllic setting as well, unfortunately.

The Mallorcan mountains, for instance, are often cause for misadventure and accidents. Luckily, the local fire brigades, the Protecció Civil and in particular, the Guardia Civil and its Grupo de Rescate e Intervención en Montaña are there to help in such adversities. Between 50 and 100 rescue operations have to be carried out every year in Mallorca’s mountains, would you believe it? Often, people are ill equipped for some ambitious hiking. Sometimes, weather patterns change for the worse without previous forewarning. Thankfully, quite a large number of missing people or victims of accidents can usually be found and rescued without severe injuries or lacerations, but five or six fatalities occur every year, give or take a few.

Mishaps can be avoided by careful planning. The Govern de les Illes Balears and its Department of Civil Protection offer a Servei d’Emergències de les Illes Balears (SEIB, Emergency Service). If you are planning on a mountaineering excursion, you could telephone 112 and alert the services of the planned itinerary, timing and other circumstances, and your expedition will be monitored and safeguarded. I understand that the British Consulate has signed a Conveni de Col·laboració agreement with SEIB to assist British tourists and residents alike.

The photo (top) was taken from the Internet, courtesy of and the Guardia Civil. The photo (bottom) was also taken from the Internet, courtesy of

Muchas gracias and moltes gràcies.

Mountain Rescue Services

The Fiestas de la Patrona de Pollença


Pollença may be in a bit of a dilemma today. The Fiestas de la Patrona de Pollença 2009 started last Saturday, July 25th, with activities scheduled to come to their high point and conclusion today, August 2nd.

But what about last Thursday’s car bomb? What about the two dead Guardia Civil agents, and what about the three days of island-wide mourning? Perhaps the Patrona fiestas in Pollença may have to do without their annual battle of the Moros i Cristians tonight.

I could not find any information on the Internet, not even on the Ajuntament de Pollença website, regarding a possible cancelation of the festivities, but I would be surprised if events would go ahead as planned. If you want to go for the procession of the Patrona statue at 18h00, the mock battle at 19h00 or the grand fireworks castle display at 24h00, you have been warned.

Joan Mas and his faithful Mallorcan followers, Dragut and his brave Saracen pirates as well as all of us just may have to wait until this time next year for another big and jolly booze-up.


Post script:

It would seem that the event took place after all. I think it was a wrong decision to have Joan Mas cry “Mare de Déu del Àngels, assistiu-nos! Pollencins, alçau-vos! Els pirates són aquí!” yesterday. A three day of mourning had been decreed by the Govern de les Illes Balears in consequence of the car bombing in Palmanova last week.

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Pollença, Mallorca, Spain. The date: August 2nd, 2005. The time was 19:39:56.

The Fiestas de la Patrona de Pollença