Monday, August 14, 2006

Any excuse to party

Cartagena goes one better. Not for them a simple Moors and Christians Fiesta, theirs celebrates the Carthaginians and Romans. The events of the fiesta, which is now in its 16th year, are loosely based around events that happened some 2,230 years ago. Hannibal, the great Carthaginian leader had set out from his home of Cartagena to attack Rome with his elephants when the brilliant young Roman general Publius Scipio, junior, attacked and took the city. Around that base of fact, the modern fiesta has a great deal of fun. There are naval landings, ceremonies, night-time oath taking, battles and displays. Of course, plenty of wine and beer is needed to make sure that everything flows smoothly and a large night time camp will be set up, full of ornate tents and stockades erected by the various Carthaginian troops and the Roman legions will be set up next to the football stadium.

Just for three days

I hope someone has told the firework man. I'm not sure he could afford the 600€ fine. Looks lke he will be alright after Wednesday though.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Quiet again

Now that Hugh, Angela and Andrew have gone back the house is quiet again. They were great company and I miss them. Just as a reminder here they are in the pool.

Going going gone 2....

We went down to the Gastronomic Fiesta. Last year there was food to represent the different countries that live in Bigastro including the English. This year the food was mostly Spanish with no contribution from the Brits at all. Worse still by the time we had got through there was very little left. So that was a bit of a disappointment.

Of course the firework man was there letting off his very loud rockets. Hugh, Angela and Andrew were amazed that he observed very little precautions in carrying the fireworks and setting them off but then this is Spain.

Muchas sardinas

As part of the fiesta, Bigastro had organised a "sardines and beer" afternoon - all free of course. We each got a plate of about 6 sardines and a plentiful supply cerveza to wash them down. The sardines were excellent - possibly the best we have had.

Our intention last night was to to go to the Meson de Salada where we had been before. The man at the car park told us they were fully booked so we went to Quesada where we looked at Laurel and Hardy's. After sitting down for a good ten minutes and being ignored we left and drove down to the Waikiki bar for their excellent fish and chips. Not quite the meal we had planned but just as acceptable.

After two late nights it was good to get to bed sober and at a respectable time. Today it has started cloudy just like the first day that my guests arrived.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Update on Pam's mother

It seems that she has recovered from the stroke and her breathing is now fine. She still cannot speak though but worse still she can't swallow. Pam and her father had given the hospital permission to feed her by tube but this was proving very difficult. Trying to insert the tube was causing Marjorie a lot of distress and she indicated to them that she didn't want them to continue. So she is on a drip but of course that will not sustain her for any length of time.

So it is a case of wait and see. In the meantime I have a flight booked for Tuesday to Manchester. I can't say at this stage when we will be able to return to Spain.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Butch Cassidy's

Instead of taking my guests to the tourist spots to eat, I took them down to one of the local bars in Bigastro. The place is full of chattering Spaniards and has an authentic atmosphere. Some of the locals are just calling in for a drink on their way home from work, others have come out for the night. Since Spaniards don't eat until about 10:00pm we have the attention of the cook to ourselves.

We sampled a range of the tapas that were on offer followed by pork fillets, all washed down with several bottles of the house red. Full and very satisfied we moved on to Miguel's bar which was unfortunatley closed so we ended up at the bar in the park for a couple of bottles of their house red.

Angela and Jean went off to look at the new take away so we sauntered through the park and ended up at the VaiVen for another glass of wine followed by a coffee. John, of course, invited us back to his house for more drinks but we politely declined which was just as well because it was 1:00am when we returned home.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Paella Mk5

Last night I prepared paella number 5 under the watchful eye of Hugh. I don't know what points he awarded me for the preparation but the end result was judged a success. There was enough for at least five people because I had bought the ingredients in the hope that Pam would be back. There was only some scrapings in the bottom of the pan when we had finished though.

Tonight we are going to eat in Bigastro in one of the local bars to sample the authentic Spanish cuisine. I know that it will be an experience for them and hopefully one which they will want to repeat.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Light and dark

Whilst Andrew soaks up the sun, Hugh reads in the shade. If you look closely you can see the golden glow of Andrew's special suncream - very fetching!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Weather not at its best

Hugh, Angela and Andrew arrived to a very sunny and warm Murcia. We had a long and relaxed meal outside accompanied by several litres of wine. Just as well because in the early hours of the morning we had a thunderstorm accompanied by heavy rain. It is the first rain we have had since April so in that sense was welcome but the timing wasn't.

Today started sunny with nice blue skies but it didn't take long for the clouds to roll over. That didn't stop Hugh going out for a bike ride nor did it stop us from enjoying a leisurely hour in the pool. In the periods when the sun did manage to break through it was brilliant. The clouds have now darkened and the thunder has started rolling in the distance. It won't stop us enjoying an evening out at the Habenaras though.

Hopefully the weather will be much better for tomorrow especially because we have planned to make my special paella on the BBQ outside. Pride is at stake as is our food for the night!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pam's mother

I apologise to those of you who don't know us or our families for the personal nature of this message.

Pam phoned me last night and told me that her mother is still not very well at all. When she visited her yesterday Marjorie was slipping in and out of consciousness and was having real problems with her breathing. Pam will see the doctor today and get a clearer picture of the extent of the problem.

Just to add to her problems the insurance company that her father uses for his car will not cover Pam to drive it. Apparently, the girl Pam spoke to on the phone was very rude and not at all helpful. Pam neither needed nor deserved that. So she is going down to the local garage to see if they have a car for hire. It is bad enough having her mother seriously ill without having the added complication of not being able to get anywhere.

In the meantime I have to go back to the optician with my glasses. When I had an eye test it was clear I needed new lenses. The first ones that arrived didn't have the anti-reflective coating I'd ordered. The coating on the replacement pair is obviously faulty because they look like they have smears all over them.

They say it never rains but what it pours. Still mine is a very minor problem compared with Pam's.

That was worse

Following Saturday night's party, Pepe across the road took his turn last night.

You can always tell when one of the Spanish residents is having a party because the road is blocked with cars making it nigh on impossible to get in our out.

This party was pretty low key until 1:00am when they set off the fireworks at the top of the road. Even the hardest of hearing person couldn't have missed them - they were loud! Then the disco started and carried on until 3:00am. Closing the windows had little or no effect I could hear every note and word. I have to say though the equipment they were using must have been good because the sound quality was excellent as was the choice of music.

Thankfully when the music stopped at 3:00am there was silence. When the English people on our estate have a party that isn't normally the case. The music stops and the loud chatter continues for at least another hour followed by half an hour of goodbyes and car doors slamming. At least Pepe spared me that.

Please, please, please no-one have a party tonight!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

That was awful

Last night both the temperature and the humidity were lower than they have been since our return from the UK. The air con in the bedroom had brought the temperature even lower so I was set for a really good night's sleep. Even the cricket outside which had been making a row all day was silent.

Just as I got to sleep someone started setting off fireworks. I could see them through the window so they must have been up at the Pedrera. Never mind excitement finished, turn over and go back to sleep.

Once I was nicely asleep, my phone alterted me that I had a message. Jemma was telling me that they were just going to bed at Pam's father's house. It was midnight in the UK but of course 1:00am in Spain. I can't tell you how pleased I was to read that they had had their Ovaltine and were ready for bed.

The final straw though was at 3:00am when I was woken up by a b**** disco. I don't think is was the Metro club down the road. They play hard core clubbing music which comes over as thumping drums and bass. This was more melodic but equally unwelcome at that time of night.

The only course of action was to close the window and hope that would keep the sound out. It must have worked because I slept then until 8:30 without disturbance. Just as well that Pam isn't here - she would be spitting feathers this morning.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A bit of Spain in London

On September 3, Regent Street in London will be covered in sand from Benidorm's beaches as part of a joint promotion between the Spanish Tourism Office and London businesses.

The ‘Un paseo por España’ promotion will consist of flamenco dancers, Spanish bars with tapas, restaurants serving traditional food and wine, and the Colla de Capgrossos de Mataró from Barcelona who will be building a human tower.

Areas of Regent Street will be turned into mini beach resorts so that the public can relax and enjoy the sun while the smell of orange blossom perfumes the air.

The Cataluña tourist board will also be there distributing 3,000 roses and 3,000 bookmarks bearing the emblem of Sant Jordi.

Let's hope it doesn't rain on that day.

Not its best

Just looking at the BBC forecast for Torrevieja for the next five days it looks like it could be partly cloudy every day but Sunday. It was cloudy on and off yesterday and today we have clouds again. The temperature yesterday was a comfortable 32 and I expect it will be the same today.

After a very sunny July without a cloud in the sky, August has brought the clouds back just as it did in 2005. I remember saying last year "if we were on holiday in Spain, like we used to be, we would be very upset". I just hope the BBC have got it wrong!!

July was apparently the hottest on record for 45 years with average temperatures (day and night) of 27.2 degrees C. The current sea temperatures are high at 28 degrees C which means that we could be in for downpous in Autumn - the so called "gota fria".

Friday, August 04, 2006

Good progress

I apologise to those of you who don't know us or our families for the personal nature of this message.

Pam arrived safely back in the UK and went to see her Mum today. I am pleased to say that Marjorie has made good progress. She has her colour back and is breathing much better. She wrote a note to Pam explaining that she couldn't speak ( not necessarily a bad thing for women!). They were conducting more tests on her today so we should know more about her condition later.

Pam is going to stay at her dad's house to look after him. His short term memory is not good added to which he is hard of hearing and doesn't like using his hearing aid. So Pam will have her work cut cut. When she returns to Spain she'll think that looking after me is a breeze.

The fiesta starts Saturday

Every fiesta has to have its Fiesta Queens. Saturday is when the queens for Bigastro '06 are going to be crowned.

There are three lots to be crowned; the infants, the juveniles and the 3rd age couple. It is obviously a huge honour to be chosen as a queen for your pueblo and I imagine the competion is fierce. Note the sultry looks of the juveniles especially the girl on the right!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On her way back

I apologise to those of you who don't know us or our families for the personal nature of this message.

Last night we had a phone call from Laura to tell us that Pam's mum had had another stroke. Her first stroke was eighteen years ago and has left her with very limited use on her left side. We're not sure which side this stroke was on and what effect it might have long term.

Pam phoned her dad who was understandably vague. She then phoned the hospital who told her that her mum was not very well at all. She is having difficulty breathing and can't speak. Naturally Pam wants to go back to England to see her mum so we booked a flight for her to Manchester this evening.

Laura and Jemma have taken the day off work and are going to see Pam's dad to take him to the hospital. They will then meet Pam from the airport and she will be able to go over tomorrow to see her mum. Hopefully she will find her mum a lot better.

In the meantime I am holding the fort. Hugh, Angela and Andrew are still coming out on Monday. We obviously don't know yet whether Pam will be back for then but hopefully she will be back for at least part of their stay. In these circumstances carrying on as normal as possible is probably the best course of action. So for the moment it is just a case of just playing it by ear.

I hope to have some better news for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A home each?

The construction boom on the Costa Blanca is leading to a situation where some towns have more homes than residents, it was revealed this week

A report released by Caja España bank shows the situation is worse in the Marina Alta and the Vega Baja.

Torrevieja has a recorded population of 92,500 residents and there are over 100,000 registered homes.

In Jávea there are 25,000 homes built and a further 1,000 under construction for a registered population of 28,242.

A large percentage of these properties are holiday homes and around 10 per cent are empty, either for sale, to let, or abandoned.

Figures in other Marina Alta and Baja towns are rapidly catching up say experts, with development schemes approved or to be allowed by general town plans (PGOU). In the case of the majority of Costa towns, the figure is of less than two residents for every property.

Problems come with the fact that while every home requires additional expense in matters of public services and maintenance, the number of tax-paying residents does not increase proportionally leaving town halls with a hole in the coffers and local taxpayers with higher rates.

Due to get hotter

For those of you in the UK who claimed that the recent heatwave made England hotter than Spain read this:-

The Health Councillor Says despite “suffocating” heat it is not technically a heatwave yet. The Health Department has announced that temperatures will reach new highs in several municipalities across Alicante province, including Orihuela. Information from the Centro de Estudio Ambientales del Mediterráneo (CEAM) has decreed that temperatures of 38 degrees celcius put the area on ‘level orange’ which is a high alert, with the sea at 28 degrees.

It isn't just the high temperatures though; the humidity has been high at 70%. The air-con unit in our bedroom dried out 10 litres of water yesterday and the one in the lounge a similar ammount.

In Carrefour yesterday their bargain Firstline split units at 168€ were selling out fast. With a D rating for consumption, I hope the buyers were aware that their electricity bills could be very high. Our Sharp Eco-Inverter units have an A rating so our bills should be more reasonable.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

San Joaquín

We had to get back in time for the main fiesta in Bigastro which runs from the 5th of August. There is plenty of entertainment promised for all ages. Lots of partying, lots of eating and drinking. All to celebrate the patron saint of Bigastro.

This year our friends Hugh, Angela and Andrew are coming out to celebrate with us. I just hope they have plenty of Setlers in their cases to survive the week.

Hugh is bringing his bike again but I suspect that between the very hot weather and the late nights he might not be going for long rides this time.

Back home

After a fantastic ten days we are back in sunny Spain. The temperature here is 32 in the shade and it is gloriously sunny. The washing machine is on overdrive and I'm contemplating a bit of weeding!!

As promised some pictures from our holiday in Blighty.

To see more click on this link to go to July in the UK our online album.

Andrew at his 17th Birthday Party

Castleton in Derbyshire

Pam, Peter and Glenys in Derbyshire

Steph, Carrie Ann and Laura as bridesmaids

Kirsty arriving at the church with her father Alan

Kirsty and Ivan leaving the church

Laura and friends at the night time party