Friday, March 31, 2006
Still we are making progress. Hopefully in a year or so it will all seem a lot easier.
PS Just as an example: I ordered a toner cartridge from a Spanish company. The delivery company have just phoned to say that they can't find my address. Now my Spanish isn't good enough to direct them and they don't speak English. How frustrating. I asked them to try again and find someone in Bigastro who will tell them where our road is. If only they had sent the parcel by Correos.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
They are not difficult to spot! The shorts, t-shirts and sandals are a real give away. The locals still have cardigans and jackets on or at least a long sleeve shirt, trousers and sensible shoes. Even though it might feel warm to Northern Europeans it is cold to those with Mediterranean blood. If they started wearing shorts and t-shirts now what would they wear in August?
I have to admit though yesterday I was sunbathing in the garden most of the afternoon. Even went into the pool for a dip. At 25 degrees in the shade it was hot enough to get a tan. The pool was about 20 degrees which is OK once you have got used to it.
A six-month investigation into the distribution and sale of counterfeit CDs, DVDs and computer games has resulted in 29 arrests, following a series of dawn raids in the Liverpool area. Benefit fraud was also investigated.
The operation, involving police and trading standards officers, targeted 17 addresses in Liverpool, Sefton and Skelmersdale. It was jointly conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the BPI, the film industry anti-piracy body the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association).
For the first time, suspects will face multiple criminal fraud charges, which will be collectively brought by the BPI, FACT and DWP. The operation is described by the BPI and FACT as the biggest crackdown on counterfeiters seen in the UK.
FACT states that 70 per cent of the gang's material was sold at Liverpool's 'two worst piracy hotspots', Stanley Dock and Walton Market. According to the DWP, an average counterfeit stall in Liverpool was turning over £4,000 a day.
Friends who have bought hooky DVDs here in Spain tell me that they either don’t play or have been recorded in a cinema with people’s heads bobbing up and down. I don't suppose those sold in Liverpool are much better. Mind you if a Scouser bought a dud he'd be back down the next week with his Staffordshire Bull terrier demanding his money back.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Each walker was identified by the red baseball caps they were wearing and the long wooden staffs each carried, many also wore blue t-shirts with the name of the poet on the front.
Local schoolchildren were given the task of reading from the port’s work from the town centre stage and refreshments were handed round whilst some of the local people had brought picnics. What was noticeable was the number of young people taking part in the walk and it seemed that the poet’s love of nature and freedom, coupled with his early death, had struck a chord with young people around the world. There was a group of 25 American students, people from Norway, Japan, China and Italy; a truly international gathering which underlined the importance of the work of Miguel Hernandez, a local man who had lived and worked in Orihuela, his father from Redovan.
The first day of the walk would take the participants from Orihuela, into Redovan on to Callosa de Segura, Cox and finally the overnight stay would be at Albatera. The second day would lead them onto San Isidro, Crevillente, and a recital close to the monument of Miguel Hernandez. Day 3, the final day, would start with breakfast at the University of Miguel Hernandez and then lead the walkers to Alicante where a recital will be held at the poet’s tomb.
The school where we have our Spanish classes is named after him.
A Policía Local patrol arrested, on Monday night in Elche, a man accused of abusing his mother and not letting her out of the apartment for four days from Friday the 17th March.
She said he had become aggressive when she refused him money, pushing her and twisting her wrist. It was only when he was not paying attention that she had managed to call the police who came to her aid. She was accompanied by her own 90 year-old mother and stated that they were both terrified by the ordeal at the hands of her son who is an alleged gambling and drug addict.
NB Women do live to a ripe old age here in Spain.
In the afternoon we had our end of term Spanish exam. We’d all decided that we wouldn’t use our books like the students in the other class do. What is the point? The whole idea of a test is to check yourself how well you are learning the work that has been covered. It isn’t as if we would be thrown off the course if we got bad marks. Anyway, in the event, most of the people did use their dictionaries to look up spellings.
The only difficult part of the test was forming sentences. With our limited vocabulary we have to find ways to say what we want with the words and the grammatical structures that we know. Hopefully we will have done OK though. As ex-teachers we have a reputation to keep up!
Whilst we were working on the test Pamela had a phone call from Laura who was panicking because she’d found on the Internet that her flight left Murcia at 17:30 not 22:10. She was looking at the timetable for Wednesday and thought that the times for Tuesday were the same. Panic over we got home, had a cup of tea and drove to the airport. As check-in we were told that Pam’s flight would be going from Alicante not Murcia because the French ATCs strike meant that her flight couldn’t leave before the airport closed at 22:30. Jet2.Com had arranged a coach transfer to Alicante for 21:30. The flight would be delayed possibly until midnight. So there was a long night in store for Pam.
Hopefully she got there safe and sound and Laura will not be too tired after her late night taxi call.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Bringing the Open Golf Championship back to Hoylake is set to revitalise the Wirral in many ways. Local businesses including hotels that have struggled to stay open will be packed and anyone with a house to let will have the opportunity to cash in on the demand for accomodation.
Included in the plans is a revamp of Hoylake's art deco-style railway station in the run-up to the tournament. Merseytravel is investing £600,000 on the project over the next few months. The listed building, which was built in 1937, will see improvements to the platforms, booking hall and ticket counter, waiting facilities, toilets, windows, car park and brickwork. Fortunately they are keeping the period features including the art deco tiles.
There are no planned service closures or changes during the refurbishment which will be completed in time for the Open. Services to Hoylake will increase to every 10 minutes during the sporting spectacular in July, with trains doubled in length to cope with the expected influx of visitors.
In addition the Mersey tunnels could be closed by strike action for five days next month, union officials said last night.
The warning came as the region was today waking up to a transport nightmare, with thousands of commuters facing chaos as the two tunnels and the Mersey Ferry service were shut down.
More than 30,000 Merseyside local sector workers are staging a 24-hour stoppage over a pensions dispute with the Government.
Officials at the local government union Unison threatened longer tunnel closures as they draw up a hit list of services for further industrial action.
Last night, business leaders launched a blistering attack on Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales after he announced he was joining the industrial action.
More than 50,000 Liverpool children will get the day off school as caretakers and classroom assistants join picket lines forcing more than half the region's schools to shut their doors.
No doubt the teachers and students at Anfield where I used to teach will be very upset at the thought of missing a day in school.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Anyway it now seems that the police may have caught the thieves.
From the Costa Blanca News
Elche local police have arrested two Romanians accused of 42 cases of theft from cars at Alicante airport and the surrounding areas.
Police arrested the 25 and 19 year old and have linked them with an organised crime gang dismantled in Campello in February.
The couple operated using a rented vehicle in which they would draw close to another vehicle, mainly driven by tourists, put out a local map and ask for directions. While the driver and passenger were distracted, one of the thieves would open a rear door and grab anything at hand, mainly seeking wallets and purses.
Although several victims tried to stop them, the couple had always managed to escape until their luck ran out last week when their last victims reported they were using a Skoda Octavia (at least they made a decent choice of car). The car had been rented from a firm in Denia and officers were able to track the thieves down and arrest them.
Both detainees are in the country illegally. The 25 year old had already been deported due to previous convictions in Spain and had been banned from returning to the country.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Our first visitors arrive second week in April by which time the water temperature should be OK. Last time Hugh and Angela came was at the end of March 2005. Hugh got up early the first day and jumped straight into the pool. He surfaced looking blue and shivering! The next day he went in with his wetsuit on. Hopefully this time he won’t need his wetsuit to ward off the effects of hyperthermia.
For those have been worried that we are now so high that decent people won't come near us.
Nobody came to tell us that we could turn the gas back on. One of our friends though phoned the guy who came round to do the work and asked him. Anyway the upshot was that we were able to turn it back on the next day. Sods law though - that day the water company were working on the supply and so we had reduced pressure. Fortunately there was enough flow for the boiler to work and for the shower to operate. So we are nice and clean again.
At the same time Aguaest sent us a water bill . Ours was just over four euros which seemed very cheap until we realised that was for three days with water useage of one day.
When we all went onto mains electricity and had to pay for it everyone turned off their lights outside the houses. I imagine now that we are paying for water they will stop watering their gardens and washing their cars. One couple have already told us that they have a bucket which they use to collect the water from their shower whilst waiting for it to run hot. They then use it on the garden. I'd like to say they are being ecological but the truth is they don't like paying for the five litres of water it takes to get the shower hot. Sad isn't it?
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Now the police in Bigastro have found several motorbikes in the river. All of them stripped of the engines etc. They are trying to discover who's bikes they are and who dumped them there.
Methinks it has the whiff of an insurance scam about it.
Friday, March 24, 2006
This in effect will end the current uncertain situation over who needs to apply for a permit or not. Spanish lawyer Joaquín Lomas informed Costa Blanca News that some government administrations and private companies insisting on the permit have been breaching the law ever since the Royal Decree of 2003 was passed, which stated that any citizen belonging to an EU member state who is employed and paying social security contributions is exempt from needing the permit. The rule also applied to the self-employed and students.
He added that a residence permit is a form of ID, but so is a passport and civil servants and other professional people should know this.
The Royal decree excluded retired expats but under the EU directive that comes into force on April 30 they too will become exempt once they have completed five years of residency. This will also give them the same rights as a Spanish citizen except the right to vote in a general election.
Although the law and the EU directive are clear, readers should note that some institutions will take time in putting it into effect, therefore residence permits may be asked for in some instances after the April 30 deadline.
Since we retired people are excluded from the Royal decree, at least we will need our residency cards for the five years that they are valid for. In any case carrying an ID card is preferable to carrying our passports. N.B. Everytime you use a debit card you have to show your ID in Spain.
Taken from the Costa Blanca News
Following the film that I watched on Wednesday which wasn’t at all cultural, Pamela is going to the opera when she gets back from England.
Our teacher has organised the trip for us to go to Orihuela to watch a Spanish opera for the princely sum of 10€ (£6.90). Being a philistine I shan’t be going. I hope they are good seats.
If I show her this poster she will want to go to the theatre as well. I shan't be going to that either. It was hard enough work trying to follow the film!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Now we have to do the same thing again in 2010.
The singer, an improbable confection of false sideburns, dyed black hair and leather, was one of the first acts signed by Michael Levy’s record company. The hit laid the foundations for the rise of “Mr Cashpoint” and Tony Blair’s election victory two decades later.
Now you know who to blame!
From the Times
Plans to impose a 5 per cent consumption tax on both disposable wooden chopsticks and wooden floor panels would help curb the plundering of timber resources and efforts to protect the environment, the Ministry of Finance said.
Disposable chopsticks used up 1.3 million cubic metres of timber each year, depleting the country's forests, the ministry said.Maybe it is time for them to learn to use a knife and fork.
We’d had a note through the gate telling us that the gas would be turned off yesterday. They had tried hard to write the note in English for us which was very kind of them. Their English reads as well as my Spanish probably does. Anyway the note told us to “clouse all the shutoff valves untill we advise you of the service resumption”. Well they never did advise us so we tried out the air conditioning units in heating mode last night. The louvers which direct the cold air upwards in cooling mode direct it down in heating mode. Within minutes the room was warm and comfortable. So no problem heating the house but without the gas we have no hot water! So we might be warm and smelly if they don’t come around today.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Another thing that puzzles me is, why do they go out looking for one thing and come back with something totally different? “I needed a black skirt but I couldn't find one I liked but I saw these green trousers so I bought them instead”. Presumably the black skirt is still necessary and will be bought at a later date. Why do they not understand that it isn’t compulsory to buy something every time you go out? If you can't find what you went for come home with nothing. Walking out of a shop without buying won't make the alarms go off. You won’t be chased by security guards. To return with nothing is legal. The excuse though is that to come home empty handed would be a waste of time. My answer to that is that to buy something you don’t need is a waste of money which in my book is worse.
Why am I telling you all this? Well Pam is going on a shopping trip today. They opened an Ikea near Murcia about a month ago. On the day it opened there were five thousand eager shoppers waiting to go in. Now that the crowds have hopefully gone down the lady who organises our coach trips has organised a trip there. Pam is going with three of her friends for the whole day! Just what do you do at Ikea for the whole day? We certainly don’t need any furniture. Nor do we need crockery, lamps or any of the other gizmos that Ikea sells. She will come back with something though. I can guarantee it!
What am I going to do? Well I had planned a nice quiet day. Once I have dropped Pam and her friends off I plan to go to Ardy and get another roll of fencing to finish the job off. Then I was going to chill. Yesterday though our teacher told us we could go down to the school to watch a film with the other group. The film is in Spanish of course. So Pamela said she couldn’t go go but I could. How kind of her! Then I’ll get a phone call “come and pick us (and our shopping) up”.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Seven of the criminal groups behind fake websites that trick people into handing over confidential information are known to be in the UK.
Phishing e-mails try to make you enter personal and login details on fake webpages made to resemble real bank sites.
Mr Fishenden said phishing had grown enormously over the last couple of years. By the end of 2005 there were known to be more than 7,000 unique phishing sites on the net. But, said Mr Fishenden, this did not mean that there were 7,000 separate gangs at work. Many of the sites were repeat performances by established groups. The numbers of phishing sites in operation was being swelled by the appearance of "kits" that show people how to set themselves up as computer conmen.
A couple of years ago, said Mr Fishenden, phishing e-mails were easy to spot because they were littered with spelling errors and the fake sites did not look authentic. Now, he said, unless users knew what to look for in e-mail messages or used add-on tools for their browser to flag up the fake pages, it was easy to get caught out.
The legal action in Europe, the Middle East and Africa follows similar action in the US in which Microsoft has filed 117 lawsuits against phishing suspects and which has also led to the closure of more than 4,700 phishing websites.
In my case it is easy to spot them because I don’t have an account in any of the banks that they supposedly come from. Nether the less they are a damn nuisance.
From the BBC website
Monday, March 20, 2006
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Last weekend Bigastro celebrated the International Day of the Woman Worker. The Council of Woman and the Association of Progressive Women in the town organised special events to mark the event which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the right to vote for women in Spain. At the Social Centre they gave a talk about the role of women in the 20th and 21st centuries and presented Dña. Nugget Ruiz Lorente, a long serving teacher, with this plaque. She accepted it on behalf of all the women of Bigastro who she said looked after a house, a family and in many cases held a job. The following day a special mass was held at the church after which the Association of Progressive Women organised food for everyone.
On Tuesday in our Spanish class the women were each presented with a red carnation. Maybe next week the men will get something for putting up with the women!
Friday, March 17, 2006
The other tax we will pay to SUMA is Property Tax which is the equivalent of council tax. We’re not sure how much that will be because we didn’t pay last year. Judging from the amounts our neighbours paid though it should be about 160€ or £110.40. Again it can be paid between the 24th July and the 5th October. Now that compares well with the £1,200 we paid in Greasby for sfa.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
The Town Hall are inviting people to apply for what we would call an allotment. They start at 500m2 but could be larger and can be used to grow vegetables or flowers but not trees or shrubs. Although they must be well maintained and kept clean, only approved herbicides and insecticides can be used. You apply for one by filling in a form and paying a deposit of 15€ which will be returned once the contract is set up. If they have too many applicants then there will be a draw to determine who gets a plot. The rent is then 20€ per year for the five year contract.
You know I am almost tempted. Now what should I grow vegetables, fruit or flowers? Mind you with 500m2 I could grow all three. Good job I kept my trusty spade!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Actually I’ve been multitasking which is something Pam tells me only women can do. Laura’s computer was in a right mess when we went back to England. There were loads of viruses, trojan horses and browser hijackers which had managed to find their way into the system. I spent a day last week trying to sort it out but then today I bite the bullet. I’ve re-formatted the hard drive and I’m installing a clean version of the operating system (good job she had the discs). Pam will take it back with her at the end of the month. Hopefully she will keep it virus free until our next visit in July.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Realising the situation was fast developing into a serious matter, National Police in riot gear were deployed to the zone. Their arrival fuelled the situation even further with the alcohol-filled mob turning its attention on them.
National Police in Alicante were called on to send reinforcements to help get the mob under control. During the riot, five national and one local policeman were injured and had to be hospitalised. A member of the public was also taken to hospital after he was set upon and beaten.
A police spokesman said that damage to cars and property in the area was substantial.
Following the riot police arrested eight men believed to be the instigators behind the disturbance. All eight were taken to Alicante pending possible charges and an appearance before magistrates.
After being led, down faced into court, the judge ordered that they pay a total of 16,529€ in fines before being allowed to leave the country. In order to ensure the fines were paid, the judge also ordered members of the National Police Force to accompany the fans to their rooms and ensure that the fines were paid.
Meanwhile another football fan was bound over to appear in court after Ramon Martinez, the director of the Hotel President, lodged an official complaint. It would appear that the fans ripped out the taps of one of the bathrooms of the hotel, leading to the entire floor becoming awash, with water seeping to the floors below, causing around 45,000 euros worth of damage.
Taken from the Costa Blanca News and the Leader newspapers
Monday, March 13, 2006
A quick shower and then round to Ken and Kay’s house next door for Sunday lunch. She did us proud with roast beef, lamb and chicken, sprouts, carrots and broccoli, roasties and Yorkshires. They had Ken’s daughter, partner and her children round along with Ken’s ex-wife and partner. Of course they are all Southerners so we had to keep up with the “watcher cocks”, “cor blighmeys” and “how you doing guvnor”. Apparently they “lawve Ealing” and “Sathark is buzzin” but Brixton – “you hardly ever see a white face there these days” and "you can't wawk daan Dawkin High street wiffowt gettin into a punch up". Ken went off after the meal to watch his team Arsenal beat Liverpool. Not the best occasion to tell people you were from the Wirral.
Unbeknown to us we had booked ourselves on a trip to San Pedro and Cartagena today. Most of the people on the trip will be Southerners. I expect they will be revelling in Arsenal’s win and telling us how they miss their “pie and mash”. Lawvely!
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Where will this all end? Will clothes manufacturers start producing women’s clothes in men’s sizes and vice versa? Which toilet should these people use? Which changing room in shops? Are we now in the position where we should recognise three sexes – men, women and indeterminate?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not homophobic but I can’t help feel that it is almost becoming fashionable to be anything but straight.
With gusts that ranged from 52kph in Benidorm up to 119 kph in Albocásser in Castellón, the winds derailed a train in Albatera, forced aircraft to divert to other airports, brought down power lines and trees in numerous municipalities and caused chaos on many roads as traffic lights and signs were ripped from the ground and sent flying. Many roads became impassable due to uprooted trees.
In Alicante and Torrevieja two buildings were severely damaged. In one incident in Alicante a pallet-load of bricks from a building site was blown onto the roof of an adjoining building causing significant damage, while in Torrevieja a wall was blown over onto a row of parked cars.
Fire crews had to deal with countless cases of fallen trees blocking roads and in Pego and L'Atzúvia it took firemen nine hours to bring a forest fire under control after strong winds sent the blaze close to L'Atzúvia. Fishing fleets all along the Costa Blanca were unable to sail.
As the force of the winds dropped on Monday, councils were left to count the cost of the clean-up operation. In many municipalities council workers and firemen had to work their way through uprooted trees and downed power cables in order to re-establish communications and get vital roads open.
So I guess we were lucky only the cane fencing blew down. It had weathered badly anyway so we are replacing it with plastic cane which should look a lot smarter. This time I’ll fasten it up with plastic ties!
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Does anybody take the Eurovision Song Contest seriously?
Spain has officially named its entry for the Eurovision Song Contest this year. This time, Spain will be represented by The Ketchup Girls, and the song they will sing “Bloody Mary” was composed by Manuel Ruiz Gomez, the man who wrote all their other hits. Hailing from Córdoba, Las Ketchup are the four daughters of El Tomate, the Flamenco guitarist.
Now if only I had the wit to think of something as original as that I would be rich. Even still I can’t help but feel that it might stand a better chance than Daz Sampson’s “Teenage Life” if only because they are better looking.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Maybe someday I'll master HTML and produce my own template from scratch!
We were pleased to see that the old buildings have been beautifully preserved and allowed to nestle comfortably with the new. If it hadn't been snowing we could even have viewed all this from the air by paying £5 to go on the Manchester Wheel.
The only thing we needed was the steely resolve to keep the credit cards in our pockets!
Many apologies for the quality of the photos but I only had my camera phone with me.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
They were obviously just going for a family night out in Bigastro!
We went shopping on Friday. The day started sunny but ended up with a snow blizzard in Manchester.
Saturday we went to the Brook House on the Wirral for Pamela’s parents diamond wedding anniversary party. The food and the company were both superb. On the way back though we heard this horrible grinding noise from the rear nearside of Laura’s car. At first I thought it was the exhaust trailing on the ground. When we got back it was clear it wasn’t that.
Sunday we went back to the Wirral to see Hugh, Angela, Catherine and Andrew in Jemma’s car. Hugh is an excellent cook and produced an exceptional meal for us. Within half an hour it is was as if we had never left. We had such a good time with them and really look forward to their visit at Easter.
On Monday we took Laura’s car to the garage and then went on in Jemma’s car to see my father in Yorkshire. I’m glad to say that he looked very well. In fact I would say that he was walking better than he was when he visited us last August. We took him out for lunch and had a good old natter about things.
Whilst we were in Yorkshire Laura had a phone call to say that the problem with her car was a wheel bearing. Apparently when the mechanic took the brake drum off the bearing just collapsed. It was damn lucky that it didn’t do that when we were on the motorway. So she had to have two new wheel bearings and two new tyres for the front.
Yesterday we left a very grey and dismal Manchester to return to sunny Spain. Once we had boarded the plane, the captain announced that we could be delayed by one hour because the air traffic controllers in France were on strike. As it happened he made time with a tail wind and were forty minutes late.
Ken our neighbour picked us up and told us that for three of the five days there had been gale force winds. We got home to find most of the cane fencing down and a few things moved but no structural damage. So perhaps a bit of rain and snow in comparison wasn’t too bad.
Anyway a big thanks to all those people we saw – we thoroughly enjoyed your company and our apologies to those we didn’t see. Perhaps we will be able to catch up with you in July.
Friday, March 03, 2006
We are staying at Laura's - Jemma is on her way from Wolverhampton. So the family will soon be re-united.
The weather today is sunny, just like in Spain but the temperature is about 14 degrees colder.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
On Tuesday Bigastro organised a carnival for the children from the Day Care Centre, the Infants school and the Public school. They all dressed and paraded through the streets to the park where the Ayuntamiento had set up bouncy castles, ball parks even a bucking bull.
Unfortunately we were at our Spanish class so missed it. We did see the children going home afterwards.
I hope these Spanish children were not playing "doctors and nurses" like we did!
The picture is taken from the Bigastro Digital web site. To see more click on this link MORE PICTURES
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
One thing is sure we will be glad to come back to sunny Spain next Tuesday. Our visits to England so far have been very hectic and there is no reason to suppose this one will be different. Our itinerary is:-
Thursday – fly out in the evening.
Friday – Manchester (probably shopping!)
Saturday - Anniversary party with Pam’s parents on the Wirral
Sunday - visit our ex-neighbours on the Wirral
Monday - visit my father in Cawthorne , Yorkshire
and Tuesday fly back home.
We would love to be able to visit all of our friends but that would be impossible. We will post pictures on our return though.