Friday, October 31, 2008

Bad losers

The FIA, motor racing's governing body have condemned a Spanish website which contains abuse aimed at Lewis Hamilton. The website, pinchalaruedadeHamilton, features a graphic on its home page in which nails, tin-tacks and hedgehogs are strewn on the Interlagos circuit, where he will attempt to win the world championship in the Brazilian grand prix on Sunday.

The site claims to have had more than 21,000 visitors, and continues the vendetta begun 18 months ago by supporters of Fernando Alonso, who joined the McLaren team as reigning world champion at the start of the 2007 season but found himself in a battle against Hamilton - formula one's first mixed-race driver.

Alonso's departure at the end of the season enraged his Spanish fans, and when the formula one teams went to Spain for pre-season testing Hamilton was greeted by racist insults and the sight of a group of Spanish fans with blackened faces wearing Afro wigs. The FIA's response was to fine the circuit and to institute an anti-racism campaign.

"The FIA's position is very clear," the governing body said in a statement yesterday, reacting to the content of the website. "Discrimination and prejudice can have no place in sport or society. Everyone in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive and hateful comments."

The domain name is registered to a company called Tequila Spain and a note on the website says the owners are not responsible for the comments it contains.

The need to re-think

The economic crisis has hit the Vega Baja hard because between 40 and 60% of the work in the area is related to construction.

In the past construction brought an enormous amount of money to the area and kept unemployment low but those days are gone.

The Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences at the Miguel Hernandez University has conducted a study into the socio-economic makeup of the region. As a result, the study proposes several possible solutions to the problem.

Firstly they suggest a strategic plan for a re-definition of the tourist model. The region needs to consider what type of tourist it wants to attract and what infrastructures are needed to sustain this type of development.

The report is very damming of the area. Beyond the beach, the report says there is very little. There are neither five star hotels nor five star restaurants. There are very few cultural, artistic or other major events that would attract tourists.

Although the Vega Baja occupies 4.1% of the land of the Valencian Community, it only has 2.2% of the natural parks, 3.1% of places of interest and 1.3% of the bird sanctuaries. All of which is difficult to understand when you consider the location of the area in the Segura river basin and its extensive coastline.

Furthermore the study goes on to point out that the Vega Baja has no technology park and therefore very few technology companies based in the area.

Even in commerce, the Vega Baja is poorly catered for. There are small developments in Torrevieja and Orihuela but for important purchases and a wider choice most people would have to travel to Murcia or Alicante.

The Northern Europeans retiring, buying a house, playing golf and lying in the sun model has run its course. The area needs to consider a different model to attract people into the Vega Baja.

As much as we love Bigastro and the people here, we wouldn't consider it a place for tourism. Where are the attractions to lure visitors to the town? In our opinion, the proposed aparthotel with its golf practice ranges would have been a white elephant; as empty as the houses and flats that are currently under construction.

Of course all the scandals involving implied corruption and deceit are currently detracting people's minds from the pressing problems that the Vega Baja faces.

Three of the six released

Three of the six people who were arrested in San Fulgencio have now been released; Trinidad Martinez (the mayoress) , Juan Antonio Guzman (councillor for security) and Ramos Calabria (the lawyer). They are bound over to appear on the 1st and 15th of each month whilst further investigations take place.

The other three will appear in court today; Juan Antonio González (socialist councillor) along with Mariano Martí and Fina Reme (PP councillors).

These six were accused of plotting against Manuel Barrera who had been accused of taking a bribe to allow land developments in the town. The three had been accused of paying the detective agency to produce the video of Barrera taking the bribe and of supplying the 5,000 bribe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is it worth having UK TV?

Many people ask us how we manage without UK television. Well, from what I read about some of the programmes recently, I'd say we were probably better off without it.

The scandal about Strictly Come Dancing and the accusation of racist voting was bad enough but the latest scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on Brands radio show makes that pale into insignificance.

Pam and I both like humour and enjoy a joke but not when it is blatantly at someone else's expense. Sad to say, it seems the vogue these days is for TV and radio personalities to specialise in this sort of humour. Chris Moyles, Ricky Gervais et al - to us they are just not funny.

Peter Kay - now he is funny. He might make jokes about his gran but they are light hearted. Kay proves that it is not necessary to be crude and offensive to make people laugh.

It seems we are not alone in our thinking; 27,000 members of the public have complained about the broadcasting of the phone conversations Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made to Andrew Sachs' answer phone.

I understand that Brand has resigned and that Ross' shows have been cancelled but that is only a partial resolution to the problem. Clearly the BBC regret allowing the programme to be broadcast and are considering what steps they should take to regain viewer confidence.

The trustees are convening an emergency meeting today to hear the results of a BBC investigation into how the calls came to be broadcast. Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, is also conducting a separate inquiry.

Let's hope that the result of their deliberations is a tightening up of regulations at the Corporation. In the meantime, Pam and I will continue to enjoy our Digital + free of this sort of vulgarity and cheap humour.

An all time high

On average, I have  about 70 visitors a day to my blog. Yesterday, the number of visitors hit an all time high of 122. I guess that was people seeking information about the goings on at the Town Hall.

Yesterday morning, my phone was hot with the number of people letting me know about the news they'd heard on REM about the mayor. Thank you to all those who called me. By the time you rang though I'd already posted information on my blog. You have to remember, I get up early to post this stuff!

You'll also notice that I now have three followers who will get regular updates of posts via email.  If you want to get updates sent to your email box please feel free to join these three. That way you won't have to keep coming back to find out if there is anything of interest to you.

It all started in February

Investigations into city planning irregularities in Bigastro started in February according to Raúl Valerio Medina, councillor for urbanism. Medina hasn't specified what information was requested from him but does say that Court No 3 in Orihuela has been in contact with him in person and by fax regularly since the investigation began.

It is now thought that the issue relates to 1,500 square metres  of land in  the Poligono Apatel  (industrial estate), at the exit of Bigastro to Jacarilla. 160,000€ was paid  to the Town Council  for the re-classification of the land from green zone to urban land for building.

It is also thought that there may be further arrests as the net widens to encompass others who may have been involved.

In the meantime, the Alcalde, José Joaquín Moya and the town clerk, Antonio Saseta spent another night in the Alicante gaol awaiting their court appearance which will probably take place tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And now for something different

Apart from his geography lesson, our Spanish teacher also explained some of the history of Bigastro.

The Vega Baja was part of the Kingdom of Murcia until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Valencia by the Treaty of Torrijos.

Following the expulsion of the Moors in the 17th century, the area was repopulated by Murcians. By the 19th century it became part of Alicante.

Bigastro was the summer residence of the canons of Orihuela. It took the land owners in the town until the end of the 18th century to regain possession of their land from the church.

A lawsuit in the Real Audiencia de Valencia during the first quarter of the 19th century was intended to emancipate the town from the clergy. The decision was in favour of the clergy but gradually the land owners won out. The Town Hall in Orihuela demanded compensation for their loss but in the end the State denied them any.

Bigastro was by then a town in its own right.

Obviously there was scandal to report even then.

Update on the Moya case

Sources near to the  investigation into José Joaquin Moya, the socialist mayor of Bigastro, say that there has been an exhaustive investigation into the origin and volume of his personal patrimony, his current accounts and banking movements in Spain as well as  abroad with the help of  INTERPOL.

I'd guess that this business is going to get worse before it gets better. People have asked us, "what do you do to fill your time now that you are retired?"  There is your answer, we move from scandal to scandal.

In their press conference yesterday, Inmaculada Martínez, next in line to the mayor, and Raúl Valerio, councilman of Property, appealed for“tranquillity” and added “because really we do not know what is what is happening".

The governability of Bigastro is not in danger because at the moment the PSOE have  a comfortable absolute majority of 8 against against 5 for the PP.

Developments at San Fulgencio

The Mayor of Bigastro was taken into custody yesterday. In the meantime the lawyer for the City council of San Fulgencio has also been arrested making the total from the council six including the Mayoress Trinidad Martinez and four other councillors; Juan Antonio Gamuz, Juan Antonio González Palanco along with councillors for the Agrupación Popular San Fulgencio y Urbanizaciones (Apsfyu), Mariano Martí and Fina Reme.. The six are to appear in court on Friday.

So who is there left to run the town?

Addendum to the rumour mill

A well informed source now tells me that in fact it is dishes larger than 1.9m rather than 1.4 that are the concern. The same source tells me that, for a larger dish, you need a license from the town hall although I can't find official confirmation for that yet.

However,  with all the shenanigans that are going on at the Ayuntamiento at the moment, I'd guess that satellite dishes will be the least of their worries.

Mayor arrested in Bigastro

Yesterday, the Guardia Civil arrested José Joaquin Moya, the socialist mayor of Bigastro along with three others (the secretary of the town hall Antonio Saseta and two industrialists, Manuel Nortes and José Pérez Moya) for a possible city planning crime.

After a three hour meeting in the town hall, officers of the Guardia Civil escorted the mayor and the three others into a waiting car and took them to the office of the Guardia Civil in Jacarilla.

The Valencian Socialist Party have suspended Moya as a precaution. The secretary of the PSPV-PSOE, Elena Martin explains that this is necessary to protect the party where a case of corruption has been implied.

The local secretary of the PP of Bigastro, Jose Antonio Ricart, has explained that the arrest is the result of one of the six denunciations that his party have made for possible city-planning crimes. However, it is not known yet which of the six the mayor has been arrested for. The most likely are either; the auction of rural land to to build an aparthotel along with 200 houses and a golf course at the Pedrera without authorisation by the Council of Environment and Urbanism or the permission granted to Eurener to build an assembly plant in a green zone.


Manuel Nortes Hernández is a small constructor who has about a dozen employees; brother of Francisca Nortes, ex- socialist councilman in the previous municipal corporation.

José Pérez Moya is also a constructor in Bigastro known to have links with the Eurener who assemble solar panels.

As two of the commentaries in the newspaper Laverdad put it:-

Esto que sirva para todos el que juega con fuego se quema.

El que robe que la pague.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Well worth a visit

Pepa Ferrando, the Councillor for Culture in Orihuela says that work will begin this morning on extensions to the House/Museum of the poet Miguel Hernandez.

Included in the plans is a cafeteria and a souvenir shop.

The work, which should be complete within six months, will cost 56,852 € and is the first of several activities which have been planned for 2010 to mark the centenary of the poet's birth.

As a commentator on one website says, "in comparison to the 700.000€ given to Oriheula football club this is cheap.

Something for the weekend

image image



This group presents “the colours of the senses” with works by Ravel, Roussel, Debussy and Menéndez.
Group formed by Germán Guillén (Clarinet), Ana Belén Sánchez (Flute) and Ramón López(Piano)

SUNDAY, 2nd OF NOVEMBER at 6:30pm


Their repertoire includes works by John Stevens and  Piazolla.

Formed by Javier Serrano, Adrián Albaladejo, Pedro Rodríguez (Bombardinos) and Álvaro González (Tuba).

NB bombardinos is the generic name for the brass wind instruments.

The rumour mill

I've heard rumours that people with satellite dishes larger than 1.4m in diameter are being told to take them down. I was even told by one person that the little plane that is buzzing round day after day is photographing dish installations so that local town halls can pinpoint houses to target.

As far as I can discover, the rumour seems to concern people in Rojales but could of course apply to other areas as well.

One web forum advises, "if you are planning to install a large dish make sure it is located in an area that wont upset your neighbours". If you live in Bigastro, you can read the regulations concerning installations of aerials and masts here.

Installing a huge dish falls into the same category as extending the height of your walls or any other alteration that will affect the appearance of your property.

I've also been told that local councils are targeting houses that have wooden garden sheds but I can't find any information about this.

The yellow route

For those who want to discover something of the past in Orihuela there is now a six kilometre path indicated by yellow markers which should take about a day to complete.

The route takes in; the Templete de la Cruz - the church built in 1788 where in January they used to celebrate San José blessing the animals, the old district of Los Rocamoras, the Torre Murada and views of the Pico del Agudo at 725 metres altitude, the Columna del Rey inaugurated in 1925 by Alfonso XIII to celebrate opening of floodgates which brought water to the Hondo. In addition the route takes in the district of Los Riquelmes. On the route will also find two ovens that were used to make pickle, the old Arab well and vault and visit the district of El Cabecico.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Black Ice

Not a dire weather warning, this is the latest album from Aussie rockers AC/DC.

It's currently topping the UK charts in spite of the fact that you can only buy it on CD or vinyl but why?

There is a theory that AC/DC are like a barometer for the economy. Their most successful albums are released at times of crisis.

1973: AC/DC form in Sydney, Australia.
Economy: Start of the oil crisis, which saw the price quadruple

1980: AC/DC release breakthrough album Back In Black
Economy: Inflation in UK reaches 20% and unemployment nears 2 million

1990: AC/DC score comeback with The Razor's Edge
Economy: Recession in UK imminent

2008: AC/DC top UK album charts
Economy: Biggest world recession in decades looms

The band, who  have been going for 35 years, have never changed their style. Guitarist  imageAngus Young still dresses like a naughty schoolboy; almost every song they write contains the lyric "rock 'n' roll" and there are lots of references to scrotums. It is, to say the least, unsophisticated stuff but when times are bad it is escapism into a world untroubled by sub-prime mortgages, record public finance deficits and the awful state of the FTSE 100. For a brief time you can forget about how few euros you are getting to the pound and just drown in heavy guitar riffs and the screaming vocals.

Pam hates them complaining that they are too noisy but when the mood is right, there is nothing better than cranking up the volume on tracks like "For those about to rock we salute you" .

Mary Poppins is back

It's hard to know what to make of this weather. The heavy rain of Friday and Saturday with minimum temperatures of 12 degrees gave way to warm sunshine and highs of 24 degrees yesterday. People were out on the beaches in Alicante province just like they were back in August.

Unfortunately the weathermen say that will not last.

This week we can expect the worst weather for this Autumn. A polar air mass is moving in which will interact with the warm air to produce snow. Strong winds will make it feel even colder - a bit like the middle of Winter.

So we'll have to keep Summer and Winter clothes out; shorts and T-shirt for one day, fleece and trousers for the next.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Qué interesante

Manuel Barrera, the councillor in San Fulgencio who is being investigated for corruption, says that he was "stitched up". He claims that the video which was used to incriminate him was a fake.

Barrera says that if you examine the video frame by frame you can see that the voices do not match up with the pictures. He says that the audio was taken from conversations that he has had over the last five moths. These have been patched over the video to implicate him. In Barrera's opinion, Trinidad Martínez and Mariano Martí were the ones who plotted against him to discredit his position.

Barrera goes on to say that he is going to fight to clear his name during next the three years and then win his seat again in the next elections.

Just who is telling the truth and who is lying will obviously take some sorting out. As my father used to say, "they all p*** in the same pot". Time will tell whether in this case he would have been right.

Disaster recovery plan

Don't worry, I'm not contemplating the end of the world; I'm simply preparing for the possibility of some major problem with my computer.

A couple of years ago, my previous Windows XP machine suddenly decided not to load Windows. It got so far and then stopped. No matter what I did - system restore etc etc I couldn't get Windows back. I couldn't even reinstall Windows over itself; so my only choice was to reformat the hard drive and start again. It took days to get back to where I was. Fortunately I had all my documents stored on DVDs and I had CDs for all the programs I used. What I didn't have were all the updates to Windows that had been applied since the original installation.

My current machine has two hard drives which work in what is called a Raid(0) array. A Raid(0) array shares data between the two discs. What it means is that everything should load faster as both drives run together. It also means that when one disc fails then I am b*******.

I say when because all hard drives are doomed to fail. Logic tells you that anything which spins at 7,200 rpm with a head microns away from the surface is not going to last forever. You don't always get any warning signs - just one day the disc crashes or seizes up. If you are lucky, then some geeky expert can recover the data; otherwise you've lost the lot.

I have a lot more stored on this computer than I had on the old one.; a lot more programs and a lot more data. For example, all my digital photos are stored on the drives. So sensibly I keep regular backups. Up to now I've used the built in Backup and Restore facility in Vista to make backups to an external hard drive. It is better than nothing but not a complete solution.

So recently, I've been investigating software that would do a much better job and came across Acronis True Image Home. The latest version is 2009 - obviously ahead of its time. You can't buy it in the shops yet - it's available online from Acronis. I've installed a demo version to try it out.

So far it seems to work very well. The program has some useful features. First off you can make a full shadow copy of your hard drive with the software. You can also make copies of just your data, your program settings, your emails and the state of your system in case it is just those that you need to restore.

The program allows you to make a startup CD which you'd use to reinstall a hard drive given that Windows won't load. There are other utilities included in the program e.g. the facility to erase information from a drive in such a way that it can not be recovered (Gary Glitter could have done with that) and a whole host of other stuff.

One particularly useful feature of the software is what Acronis call "Try and Decide". This creates an area on your hard drive (a partition) where you can load new software or updates to existing software. If you later decide not to keep the software or the update you can remove it without it effecting your computer. It is a more thorough than System Restore which just removes the changes to the registry leaving the installation intact.

So will I buy it once the 15 days is up - very likely. If I didn't I might end up regretting saving a few quid at some later date. Just don't tell Pam of my plans yet!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The true picture would be interesting

There is a myth being put about in certain quarters of the UK press that Brits. on the Costa Blanca all live in large urbanisations, shop in British shops, drink in British bars and eat in British restaurants. Whilst that may be true of some, it is a sweeping generalisation that surely does not apply to the majority. Even in areas that have large British communities it isn't true.

Here in Bigastro, as far as I am aware, there is only the Villas Andrea urbanisation which is largely British. The rest of the town is Spanish with British people living alongside other nationalities. There are no British shops nor are there British bars and restaurants. I'm sure the same applies to many other towns in the area.

In a recent survey by Round Town News ( a free newspaper in English) the question was asked, " RTN would like to know your opinion on foreigners integration into Spain."

Yes, I want to integrate into and be part of Spanish life


No - I am happy living my UK lifestyle in the sun in Spain


The number of people taking part is low so you can't really draw any definite conclusions from the survey. It would be interesting to know how people living here at Villas Andrea would vote.

Under the spotlight

Councillor Manuel Barrera and the chief of Local Police, Bernardo Cortijo, both of whom have been investigated for corruption, have now been released from prison without bail.

However, the current investigation into the bribery scandal in San Fulgencio is only the tip of the iceberg.

Apart from other town planning irregularities at San Fulgencio; in Benitachell the mayor and an expat councillor are pending trial after being arrested and released without bail following an alleged bribery case.

Serious doubts have also been cast on construction-related developments at Dénia town hall and this week, Alicante’s new mayoress and former mayor have also been implicated in alleged building-related deals.

You can't help but notice there is a clean up campaign underway which will unearth more causalities before it is concluded.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day of the library

For the last nine years, the 24th of October has been designated Library Day in Spain.

There has been a library in Bigastro for over forty years.

Today, you are invited to visit the present library which is in the Municipal Auditorium to see the important changes that have been made to keep the library up-to-date.

Then at 9:30am on the 5th of November, children are imageinvited to the library to listen to the story tellers "Daisy".

"ABRE LOS LIBROS y sumérgete en el agua de la vida que brota irreprimible desde sus páginas . Déjate arrastrar por el torbellino de voces, de lenguas, de olores, de paisajes. No olvides nunca la fascinación que experimentamos en los años de infancia , cuando se nos revela la dimensión mágica que tienen las palabras y descubrimos que las páginas de los libros pueden contener el mundo entero.

"Open the books and submerge yourself in the water of life that appears irrepressible from its pages......."

DONDE HAY UNA BIBLIOTECA HAY UNA LUZ que atraviesa todos los muros, una luz que se hace más intensa cuando crecen las personas que la incorporan a sus vidas. Las mismas personas que, mas tarde, al caminar por calles y plazas, llevarán con ellas el reflejo de esa luz, la semilla de ese mundo nuevo que algún día haremos crecer. Un mundo más solidario, más plural, más culto, más justo. Un mundo donde no se escuche la voz adormecedora de los poderosos, sino las palabras múltiples y diversas de todas las personas que habitamos esta casa común que es nuestro planeta."

"Where there is a library there is a light that crosses all the walls, a light that becomes more intense when the people incorporate it into their lives......"

Weather warning

The City council of Bigastro  have issued a weather warning for today and tomorrow. According to Grupo de Predicción y Vigilancia del Centro Meteorológico Territorial de Valencia  and the Centro de Coordinación de Emergencias de la Generalitat Valenciana the southern part of the province is on orange alert.

If you have any problems please contact the Local Police on 965350000 Ext. 1 or  607 154 447.

Full marks

Go again to the Ayuntamiento .

The presentation last night wasn't quite what we were expecting. We thought the topic was going to be security. Instead it was about the extension of Bigastel to include the Villas Andrea urbanisation.

The Ayuntamiento had gone to a lot of trouble though. We had two councillors there to explain what was involved along with technical people.

Mª Dolres Andreu Marcos, Concejal de Educación did the speaking. Her presentation was then translated into English for us.

Following the presentation, two British people were in attendance to answer any technical queries that we had.

Finally the Ayuntamiento had prepared letters in English explaining the costs etc. As the letters were given out, our names were checked off against a list. I assumes that was because the remaining letters will be posted out to people who weren't there.

So the Ayuntamiento had worked hard on our behalf. I've written to Germán Martín expressing our appreciation for their efforts.

PS I meant to ask the two guys if they could sort out José's radio mics which are a bit intermittent.

LANs WANs and MANs

Local and national governments face a problem in their bid to provide Internet access to as many people as possible. DSL and Cable modem services are expensive to install even in urban areas. The installation costs for rural areas is exorbitant . So it is necessary for governments and local councils to look for other solutions.

Here at Villas Andrea some of us subscribed to a satellite based system. For an individual to install such a system would be very expensive so what we had was one satellite installation which was then transmitted to individual homes by wi-fi. The limited range of existing wireless technology meant that we had three repeater stations to provide adequate coverage. To say that the system was problematical would be an understatement.

Whilst we were waiting for Telefónica to lay cable up to the estate, a company called Aeromax came and promised a solution to our problems using WiMAX technology. The technology uses microwaves to extend the wireless range outdoors. It is used throughout the world to set up MANs (metropolitan area networks).

For WiMAX to work though you need to have line of sight of the base station. Aeromax currently has base stations at Crevillent, Hurchillo and San Miguel de Salinas. Originally all users were pointed towards Hurchillo but now some users are directed to the other base stations to improve connectivity.

Within a short time of people signing up to the Aeromax system, Telefónica arrived with cables to provide us with landline phones and ADSL internet. However, the cost of a Telefónica package is high. For example; the Duo package which includes telephone line, 3Mb ADSL, cost of local and national calls and ADSL maintenance costs about 74€ per month.

For casual users of the Internet, this was far too expensive. Some people therefore opted for just a telephone line. They use dial up access for their Internet use.

Unfortunately, dial up connections are far too slow for many of today's applications on the Internet. As the speed of connections improves so the demand for speed increases. For some applications even a 1Mb connection, which would have been fine a couple of years ago, is inadequate today.

Whilst all this was taking place, the Ayuntamiento in Bigastro were rolling out a wi-fi system they called Bigastel to offer internet access to everyone in Bigastro.

Bigastel was to use existing 802.11bg wireless technology to provide a 1Mb connection. This type of connection will only work at short ranges and so was confined to an area in the centre of the town. In effect Bigastel is a higher powered version of the wireless access that you get from a wireless router.

To connect to Bigastel all you needed was a cheap and easy to install wireless bridge. After that you'd pay 120€ per year for your subscription.

Clearly, providing access to Villas Andrea via 802.11bg technology wasn't going to work so the Ayuntamiento have now decided upon a WiMAX system to provide us with broadband Internet. The advantages of their WiMAX system to Aeromax's is that this one will be local to Bigastro. The range of coverage and the number of subscribers will be much less thus ensuring a much better quality of service. Bigastel WiMAX will also run at broadband speeds of up to 2Mb in both directions.

The bad news is that the cost of setting up and the monthly subscription will both be higher than for existing clients of Bigastel in the middle of the town.

In their letter, the Ayuntamiento quote:

Broadband installation 98€; VoIP telephone installation 59€ and then a monthly subscription of 29€. Calls via the VoIP phone will then cost 2.9 cents per minute. They will even offer you a UK phone number for an additional 5€ per month.

Actually we use a VoIP phone via our ADSL connection by subscribing to VoIPtalk in the UK. We pay in sterling £4.99 per month for a package which includes a UK landline number and 1,000 minutes of call time to European landlines.

VoIPtalk also offer a free package i.e. with no monthly charges. The call rate for the free package is 1.4p (1.7 cents) per minute to European numbers. They also sell phones from £43.99 upwards and adapters to use with an existing analogue phone from £29 upwards.

PS having a UK number causes some confusion for people in England who can't understand how we can have a Manchester number here in Spain.

PPS For those of you who haven't worked out the acronymms; a LAN is a local area network, a WAN is a wide area network and a MAN is a metropolitan area nework.

A perfect solution

I can usually trust my friend Pete to come up with an answer to my problems.

Remember I told you about the difficulty in getting bayonet bulbs in Spain.

Well Pete has found the answer at Avenue Supplies.

BC to ES Light Fixture Adaptor Brown

£2.46 inc VAT

Bayonet (BC) to Edison Screw (ES) light fixture adapter.
This item will convert an existing BC bayonet type light fitting into a ES screw fitting. Simply plug into existing light fixture socket as if installing a conventional bulb.
As always ensure power is off before inserting fitting or changing the bulb.

PS It's just a pity nobody supplies these things locally.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dirty business

The video, which was published in Laverdad , showing Manuel Barrera recieving a 5,000€ bribe has now been distributed on DVDs to some of the residents in La Marina. Selected individuals found the DVD in an envelope delivered with their post.

The video, which  is subtitled in English for the benefit of the foreign residents, has also been sent to the press. It is thought that the DVDS were sent out by the industrialists whom Barrera was trying to extort money from.

From the conversation in the video, it is apparent that the alleged deal was to continue with monthly payments to Manuel Barrera until May 2011 when the next municipal elections will take place. If this is true, then the total being paid over would amount to between €200000 and €240000.

As one of the  pre election promises, Manuel Barrera said that his party were totally against the construction of any more houses in the area. Barrera had promised that the area concerned would be a bird sanctuary and that only a golf course and the necessary buildings to go along with it would be constructed.

Barrera was out on a limb.

The mayoress, Trinidad Martinez, has defended the other two councillors of AIM, Mike Blake and Mark Lewis stating that they were completely in the dark about the whole affair.

The sun will be back

The meteorological authorities were right to declare the area back on orange alert. Last night we had torrential rain - what we would call a cloud burst. Thankfully, it  didn't last too long and this morning everywhere looks dried up.

Other parts of Spain were much worse off. Gale force winds,  hail and rain hit  Madrid, the Balearics and Girona.

We can expect this bad weather to continue for the next few days and then:-


the forecast is for sunshine to return to the whole peninsula.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More musical treats

This Saturday at 8pm there's  a concert by the bands from Bigastro and  Santa Pola scheduled.

Saturday Sunday

and then on Sunday at 7pm, a choral group will be at the Auditorium to entertain us.

Making sense of it

At our Spanish class yesterday, our teacher explained to us the difference between the "huerta" to the east of Bigastro and the "campo" to the west.

The dictionary defines the huerta as a kitchen garden or orchard and the campo as countryside. However when you visit the campo to the west of Bigastro you find lemon and orange groves much the same as you do in the huerta.

Our teacher's explanation made sense of this. He told us that the huerta to the east of the town was irrigated by a system of canals which are fed from the River Seguro. This complex web of water channels dates back to Arabic times and is described in a leaflet published by the Ayuntamiento in Bigastro. From what I understand, there is one main channel which then feeds into smaller channels. The flow is regulated by gates which are used to direct water to higher land.

The campo, on the other hand, traditionally relied upon rain for irrigation. Agriculturalists on the campo use reservoirs to collect and store water for irrigation which is then fed via pipes to the groves of citrus trees.

Eduardo went on to explain that the Vega Baja was one of three fertile plains in the region. The other two are the Vega Media and the Vega Alta. The huerta is the kitchen garden of the Vega Baja. Apart from citrus fruits, all manner of vegetables and fruit being raised on the fertile land; artichokes, cabbages, lettuce, melons etc etc.

We concluded our geography lesson by listing the principle towns of he Vega Baja: Albatera, Algorfa, Almoradí, Benejúzar, Benferri, Benijófar, Bigastro, Callosa de Segura, Catral, Cox, Daya Nueva, Daya Vieja, Dolores, Formentera del Segura, Granja de Rocamora, Guardamar del Segura, Jacarilla, Los Montesinos, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada, Rafal, Redován, Rojales, San Fulgencio, San Isidro, San Miguel de Salinas and Torrevieja which you can see on this map with the names in Valenciano.


A can of worms

When Manuel Barrera was questioned on Monday about the 5,000€ bribe he'd supposedly accepted to favour certain constructors in the plans for La Cantera in San Fulgencio, the mayoress, Trinidad Martinez denied all knowledge of the golf course and other facilities included in the project.

It now appears that a video describing the plan in full had been distributed at tourism fairs in Madrid and London.

The mayoress claims that she had only seen parts of the video. She says it was solely the responsibility of Barrera who was acting without full authority of the city council.

The current Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (PGOU) for San Fulgencio, which was drawn up in 2006, includes 3.5 million square metres of land to be re-qualified as urbanizable for the construction of 15 - 20,000 houses. Among the projects included in the plan is the one for La Cantera.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Easy to be disillusioned

I don't know what others expected when they moved to Spain. It was easy to be swayed by the promises that the salespeople made on our inspection trips. They would have us believe that Spain was a form of paradise. In order to sell houses, salespeople propagated the myth that this is a land of plenty where the sun shines every day; a place where crime is so low, it is insignificant and that we will be eternally happy living here.

Of course the reality is somewhat different to that which the salespeople described. In truth, Spain is no different to any other country. It doesn't escape economic crisis, nor are its people blessed with a sanctity any different to that of other nationalities. Of course there is crime, the cost of living goes up and - yes it does rain.

Having been here for a few years, it is easy to understand why some people might feel that they were sold short. Take the example of our urbanisation. We were told that the builder finished his devel0pments to a high standard. The reality is that parts of the estate are still like a building site. We were told that we would have telephones - we waited three years for those. Some are still living with cracked walls, gates that won't close and terraces that look like skateboard parks.

Life at Villas Andrea isn't quite what we expected nor is it what we were sold. However, from what I read in the papers, we are a lot better off than other urbanisations that don't even have a proper supply of electricity and water. Perhaps we are being ungrateful. Perhaps we were expecting too much.

The cutting off of Telmicro hasn't helped. People feel that they were conned into paying for a system that was illegal and therefore was always under threat of closing down. Months later and many still have no television to watch.

Neither have the series of break-ins to people's houses helped. Naturally, we are all nervous now about leaving our properties for fear of what we might return to. When burglars start pulling your house to pieces to break in and then trash the place to steal a few euros and some jewellery, you despair. Just what steps do we need to take to secure our homes?

As hard as it may be, we need to try and put these negative aspects to one side and look to the positive benefits of our move to Spain and I don't just mean the sun. There are lots of things to celebrate about our new lives in Bigastro. We shouldn't loose sight of those and become so disillusioned that we begin to regret living here.

Corruption in San Fulgencio

Manuel Barrera, ex- councillor for Property and a member of the Agrupación Independiente del Mediterráneo (AIM) party in San Fulgencio was picked up by the National Police accompanied by the Anti-corruption public prosecutor, Felipe Briones, at 9:15 yesterday morning. At 11am he was taken to his office where officers continued their investigations until 1pm.

The councilman was then taken to his luxury villa in the La Marina urbanisation. There, agents of he National Police , confiscated documents and computer equipment.

At 3pm he was apparently taken under guard to Alicante.

It seems that Barrera is accused of accepting a 5,000€ bribe in exchange of allowing plans for “La Cantera" development to be passed in Council. In a video that was recorded in a restaurant in Valencia he was seen accepting "the sweetener".

Barrera has admitted accepting the money, part of a total of 240,000€ that was discussed, but said that he had been accepting ‘on behalf of his party (AIM). A spokesman for the party has denied any knowledge of both the incident and the money.

The “La Cantera" plan included 4,000 houses, a golf course, hotels, a casino and a marina.

The Mayoress, Trinidad Martínez of the PSOE party, points out that no other councillors are involved in this investigation. She has been praised by the Public Prosecutor for acting swiftly once the alleged corruption had been discovered.

This sort of scandal leads to mistrust of public administration. In this case it is mistrust of the AIM group who some locals feel are "quieren todas las perras para la urbanización". They say, "sólo hay dinero e intereses personales en la política municipal" and believe that the Council should be dissolved, as it was in Marbella where the council is run by an independant manager.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Last night, the Banda Sinfónica Municipal de Alicante played to a packed Auditorium. The area downstairs was reserved for invited guests so we had to fight for a seat on the balcony.

It was well worth it.

As you can see, the band played a varied programme with challenging pieces in the first half followed by the lighter compositions of Francisco Grau in the second.

Francisco Grau took the baton to conduct his two new compositions and then to conclude the concert, he conducted the audience singing the Himno de Bigastro.

It would be wrong to pick out any individual instrumentalist however, the solo clarinetist who featured in the African Dances was outstanding.

So many thanks to the Ayuntamiento de Bigastro, to José Espinosa, Concejal de Cultura, to all those who took part and especially to General Francisco Grau Vegara for a wonderful evening of music.




- VESUVIUS (Poema Sinfónico) ........................ Frank Ticheli

- AFRICAN DANCES........................................ Kit Turnbull
(Para clarinete e instrumentos de viento y percusi6n)

Clarinete: Gumersindo Berná

-LA BRUJA (Selección) ....................................... R. Chapi


- BIGASTRO (Pasodoble) ............................ Francisco Grau

- ESTAMPAS DE MI TIERRA......................... Francisco Grau

I. Fiestas en el pueblo

II. Navidad en la Vega

III. Auroros

** CONCIERTO PARA UNA REINA.............. Francisco Grau

I. Tiempo de Partida

II. Tiempo de Nostalgia

III. Tiempo de, Ilusi6n

IV. Tiempo de Fanfarria Real

- **RECUERDO Y GRATITUD (Marcha Solemne).... Francisco Grau

(** Estreno)

Director: Jose Vicente Diaz Alcaina

Light bulbs

The advice we were given before we moved to Spain was to get rid of any electrical equipment we had.

Obviously we had no intention of bringing large items like fridges, dishwashers etc but certainly there was no way we were going to part with any of the smaller items, some of which were nearly new.

All we had to do was either change the plugs or buy adapters to use them in our house here in Spain.

I had a cable extension reel with British flat pin sockets so I changed the plug on that so that I could use items like my drill and the outdoor vac.

Lights are different.

We brought a couple of table lamps with us. It was easy to change the plugs on these but the bulbs were going to be a problem. We had plenty of spares to keep us going but in time they have run out.

Local DIY shops etc only sell Edison screw bulbs. Our choices were to either bring bulbs back from one of our trips to the UK or scour the British shops to see if they could help.

I'm pleased to say that Johnson's on the Crevillente road (near to Reeves Butcher's) saved the day. The store has been taken over by a couple from Leeds - an excellent reason to shop there! They sell all sorts of goods from Britain including 40, 60 and 100 watt bayonet bulbs.

So the lamps are light again and will last a few more years.

PS This is yet another example of where Britain is out of sync with Europe. It isn't just the big things like the currency and driving on left, it is also the lesser issues like electrical sockets and light bulbs that cause immigrants to Spain irritation.

The Civil War revisited


Picasso's Guernica (1937) was created during Picasso's Surrealist period and captures the horror of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

A Spanish judge has launched a criminal investigation into the fate of tens of thousands of people who vanished during the civil war and Franco dictatorship.

Spain's top investigating judge, Judge Baltasar Garzon, has also ordered several mass graves to be opened. One is believed to contain the remains of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by fascist forces at the start of the war in the 1930s.

In his 68-page ruling, Judge Garzon says that Francoists carried out "illegal permanent detentions" which he says falls within the definition of crimes against humanity. He refers to 114,000 people who disappeared during a 15-year period after the outbreak of war in 1936.

The civil war was triggered by the military uprising of General Francisco Franco, whose supporters are said to have systematically eliminated left-wing opponents, even after the war was won in 1939.

Judge Garzon's document names Gen Franco and 34 of his senior aides as the instigators of the alleged crimes. He even asks that their death certificates be produced, to prove that they can no longer face prosecution.

The judge has also asked Spain's interior ministry to provide names of senior members of the fascist Falange Party, which supported Franco, with a view to possible prosecutions.

An estimated 500,000 people died in the civil war.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cookery on the box

The Spanish satellite TV that we watch (Digital +) has a dedicated cookery channel - Canal Cocina which we watch from time to time. Apart from any other reason, it is interesting to see how some of the dishes that we find in restaurants are prepared. 

22 Minutos

Each weekday at 8pm it is the turn of Julius to present "22 Minutos" where he prepares and cooks two courses in twenty two minutes. He may cook a starter and main course or a main course and dessert. Occasionally, he will cook three courses.

Julius' approach is relaxed and unflustered.  However, elaborate dishes  will sometimes raise a bead of sweat on his brow as he attempts to finish in his allotted time. 

Inevitably, given the time constraint, a lot of the food is fried in olive oil either in a shallow pan or in a deep fat fryer. He does however, combine some interesting ingredients which might not immediately appeal to our English palates.


You can see some of his recipes by clicking on the link.

The other programme which we occasionally watch on Canal Cocino is "Celebraciones con Narda".

Without the time constraints, Narda Lepes' dishes are usually more varied. As the title suggests, her dishes are aimed at parties and other family celebrations.


What we really want to learn is how to cook the superb variety of fresh fish that you find in the supermarkets. We are looking for something more interesting than just a quick fry in a pan.

I have no good news











One of my neighbours phoned yesterday to ask about his VoIP phone. He has the same model that we have and wanted to know if it keeps a record of incoming calls in the same way that the Domo phone from Telefónica does. Sadly it doesn't. It only records missed incoming calls. You can go to your account online and view your outgoing calls but not the incoming ones.

Whilst we were chatting, he asked if it was possible for me to find some good news for my blog and suggested the weather. Sadly again I have to disappoint him. The forecast is not good up to Thursday. Mind you, it isn't cold and even when it is cloudy, it is still pleasant.

New times for the Auditorium

The Municipal Auditorium will be closed Monday and Tuesday mornings; open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30am to 2:40pm. In the afternoon it will be open Monday to Friday - 4pm to midnight; Saturdays and Sundays -4pm until 10pm.

General Grau

On Friday, Francisco Grau Vegara was presented with the Fajin of General by the Mayor of Torrevieja in the presence of  Admiral Antonio González-Aller, ex head of the Cuarto Militar de S. M. El Rey.


Tonight, at 8:15pm  General Grau will present his fajin to the Patrona Ntra. Sra. de Belén in the Parochial Church of Bigastro.

Then at 9pm, in the Municipal Auditorium, there will be a concert of music to honour  General Grau performed by the Municipal Band of Alicante under the direction of D. Jose Vicente Diaz Alcaina .

Friday, October 17, 2008

New school open at last

The new building for the San José de Calasanz primary school opened this term much to the delight of parents and pupils.

There will be an official inauguration ceremony but, in the meantime, those who want to see the new facilities can do so this Saturday between 10am and 1pm.

Pam and I would go but we feel that after 30 odd years at the chalkface, we've seen enough of schools! The only exception we are prepared to make is for our Spanish classes which are now being held in the old San José de Calasanz building.

PS When I was in the Sixth Form we transferred to new school buildings. For reasons best known to the school, they included a photograph of me working in the library in the programme for the official opening. If I can find it, I'll post the picture on my blog to show you how slim and handsome I was in those days.

Router problems

I've had this message from a resident here at Villas Andrea.

Hi Keith
I am a resident of Villas Andrea and an avid reader of your Blog, which I find very informative and most enjoyable.
I too took advantage of the recent Telefonica offer to upgrade ADSL from 3Mbs to 10Mbs. Within a few days the Comtrend CT5361 Router arrived by Courier, that was a couple of weeks ago and since then I have been trying to use it. Each time I try to connect, I end up with the same message, that my Laptop does not recognise the Router. I have tried all the diagnostics listed in the User Manual and the CD which came with the Router. I think it may have something to do with congiguring the Router but I am no expert. In view of your experience have you any suggestions

First of all thank you for your comment about my blog.

Now for the Comtrend router.

I take it that the Zyxel router you were originally supplied with worked fine and still does.

It should have been a simple case of swapping one router for the other and then waiting for Telefónica to upgrade your line. As you have gathered, the original router doesn't support ADSL 2+ which you need for your 10Mb upgrade.

With the Comtrend router connected to your laptop via your ethernet cable, type into your browser window (Internet Explorer, Firefox or whatever you use).


You should get a dialogue box like this one (this is in Internet Explorer). The default username and password are both 1234. Clicking on OK will then take you to the router setup.

If you can get this far, then your laptop is definitely connecting to the router.

If not and assuming your old router works fine, then it is possible that the new router is faulty. Let me know how you get on by emailing me directly at

Stars on TV

The Chairman of our Residents' Committee and his wife appeared on Vega Baja TV the other day.

The station hosts a regular slot between 1and 2pm devoted to the English community in the area. They had invited the couple to appear and talk about their lives here in Spain.

The Chairman also has a meeting with the Mayor scheduled for this week where, presumably, they will be discussing the issues that concern us at Villas Andrea

Let's hope that the topic of security is high on their list.

The price of age

We met a couple outside the medical centre yesterday. She had suffered a minor stroke and had spent a week in hospital. Now, back at at home, her blood pressure is high and causing concern for both her and her husband. Hopefully the drugs that the doctor prescribes will help to control the problem so that she can enjoy good health again.

Later we met another couple in the VaiVen. He'd suffered a major stroke not long after coming here to live. Although he has made an excellent recovery , he still can't walk easily and he has bad and good days. As his wife remarked, we are now paying for the excesses of our early lives.

Both couples were full of praise for the medical system here in Spain. The speed at which the doctors and the local hospital act; the level of care and attention that they show impressed them . It makes us feel confident that, as far as our health is concerned, we are in the best place.

Rob and Karen

Rob and Karen had a great party last night up at the Pedrera. Members of their family were there along with neighbours and friends all helping to make it a special birthday celebration.

The band Sunset were on top form keeping us dancing until midnight. Their repertoire includes many of the favourites from our generation.

The star though was Pete Rafferty who is both an excellent singer in his own right and a great impersonator. His impersonations always bring the house down. Even when you've seen them before, they still make you laugh. Last night he performed as Elvis, P J Proby and Dolly Parton. We haven't seen Pete's Dolly Parton before - it was just brilliant.

Sadly the event was marred when the young daughter of one of our neighbours returned to the house to find two men trying to break in. She only went back to get a painkiller for her toothache but it was lucky she did. Let's hope that her timely arrival averted any loss or damage.

It looks as though the thieves had also tried to get into the house next door because the double gates to the driveway had been forced open. That is a holiday home so I guess the owners will need to be notified.

Most of the people living here have taken a lot of care to protect their houses with high security locks, alarms etc. However, the thieves don't know that and still make attempts to break in. We need to find some way to deter them from coming up here in the first place.

There is to be a meeting up at the Pedrera, Thursday 23rd October at 7:30 pm to address the continuing problems we are having with security.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nice one Google

The Queen is visiting Google headquarters in London today. To mark this special occasion Google has changed its logo for the day


The Queen already has a great Internet presence via YouTube, which is now owned by Google. The 54 royal videos in the Royal Channel have been viewed by 1.6 million people.

If you go to Google's website and click on the doodle it will take you to a list of topics related to the Queen and the QEII.

Definitely not a fish


The good news is that there is a new programme of concerts and theatre for the Auditorium in Bigastro which takes us from October to January.

On Sunday 19th October there will be a concert by the Tuna from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Murcia.

NB as you have probably guessed, a "tuna" is a musical group made up of university students. The word also means a prickly pear.  A "tuno" is either a rascal or a male member of a tuna. Confused? So am I. The word for a tuna fish is atun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The fifth busiest airport in Spain

During September, 944,278 passengers used the airport at Alicante making it the fifth busiest terminal in the country. British tourism, Easyjet, Air Berlin and the introduction of flights by Ryanair have all contributed to the growth of el Altet putting it ahead of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria.

Extensions to the airport will continue.  150 million euros has been allocated to the project for next year. The new terminal is expected to be completed by 2012 at a total cost of 526 million euros.  However, by 2010, the airport plans to start using the new terminal and car park.

The Brits avert the crisis

British  tourists have saved the day for the  hotel industry on the Costa Blanca. Sixty five percent of the available spaces for the winter have been taken up by British tourists who made their bookings before the crisis hit the UK.  The industry is counting on the rest been taken up by Spanish pensioners who still have enough money to afford long stays in places like Benidorm.

The Volvo Ocean Race brought a bonanza to Alicante but that is now finished. Business trips and clients associated with the real estate boom have also largely gone. Inspection trips for people looking to buy second home along the coastal strip between Dénia and  Pilar de la Horadada are at a minimum.

So it is now down to British tourists who still see the Costa Blanca as a much more affordable destination than other Mediterranean areas.  A week in November at a three star hotel in Benidorm, full board, can be booked for 270 € per person or less in some cases.

As for next Summer; negotiations with British tourist companies are complete. Keeping price increases down to the 3% mark has proved successful in filling many of the available places and of course the Tourist Board is still exploring the Russian market by holding fairs in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The cost of progress

In the last week, the Government made bids on twelve projects involving different sections of the planned high speed train route from the Valencian Community -Madrid, which has a total planned budget of 614 million Euros. The section from Valencia to Murcia via Alicante has a budget of 325 million Euros.

Plans for the route of the AVE between Elche and Beniel, passing through Orihuela, Callosa de Segura, Cox, San Isidro and Granja , will require the demolition of 180 houses built on rustic land of the huerta. According to the farming union la Unió-Coag the 20 kilometre section of the new railway will also devastate a million square metres of the traditional kitchen garden. This is why they are having meetings with the those who will be affected before it is too late.

Naturally people are scared and misinformed by what they have heard of reports from the Ministry of Public Works and the Economy. Although they are aware that plans have been drawn, up nobody has officially notified the people in the houses that will be affected. There is already a group “La Sierra no se Toca” which is in opposition to plans to cross the Sierra de Callosa. No doubt there will be other protest groups set up before the railway is completed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The stock market

I received this explanation of how the stock market works by email. 

Once upon a time, in a village in Africa , a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for 10 American Dollars each. The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 !

However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.' The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man or his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock-market works.

Right so I am prepared to sell you mosquitoes, crickets and wriggly worms at 1€ each which you'll be able to sell for 2€ each at the market on Thursday. Could you please form an orderly queue outside my gate.

Jaume 1

Councillor for the Interior, Castilian Serafín, accompanied by the mayoress, Mónica Lorente, commemorated the 800 anniversary of the birth of Jaume I by unveiling a plaque in the Museo de la Muralla in Orihuela. I think I am right in saying that it was Jaume 1 who re-conquered Valencia for the christians by driving out the moors.

Next year there will be a cavalcade to celebrate the entrance of King Alfonso the Magnanimous (Alonso V, King of Aragon) into Orihuela.

Nobody could accuse the city of ignoring its history.

Who'd want to be a councillor?

In Bigastro it is the PP party that denounce the ruling PSOE group for lack of information.  In Orihuela it's the other way round. The ruling conservative party and particularly the mayoress, Mónica Lorente are under constant fire from the opposition socialist group.

The spokeswoman for the PSOE in Orihuela, Antonia Moreno, has announced this morning that they will extend their denunciation presented on the 10th of April against the mayoress for not  providing municipal information to the opposition groups.

The original denunciation contained 16 requests for information, to which they are now adding other 24 for the month of June and a further 20 from the last five days.

The chief culprit is apparently Pepa Ferrando, Councillor for Culture and Tourism who the PSOE claim is responsible for 700,000€ of budget spending without explanation.

A tribute to Francisco Grau

Saturday 18th of October the municipality of Bigastro will pay pay tribute to its Favourite Son.

Francisco Grau, a bigastrense by birth has won thirteen national and international prizes for composition, has been awarded innumerable decorations and composed more than 700 musical pieces, including the official version of the old March of Grenadiers which is the present Official Hymn of Spain.

Recently, D. Francisco Grau was promoted to General de la Brigada del Cuerpo de Músicas Militares. He is the first musician in the Spanish military history to be promoted to that rank.

The City council of Bigastro via its Council of Culture will pay a sincere tribute to Francisco Grau next Saturday, 18th of October with the following programme:

8:15pm - D. Francisco Grau will deliver his fajin* to the Patrona Ntra. Sra. de Belén in the Parochial Church of Bigastro.

9pm - A concert of music in honour of General Grau to be performed by the Municipal Band of Alicante under the direction of D. Jose Vicente Diaz Alcaina in the Auditorium.

During this concert, the band will perform two new works composed by General Grau ; "Recuerdo y Gratitud" (Memory and Gratitude) and "Concierto para una Reina", (Concert for a Queen) dedicated to Queen Sofia of Spain.

* The fajin is the ceremonial belt that denotes Francisco Grau as a general in the Spanish army.

PS For those of you who enjoy military music there are two CDs available online. They feature the musical unit of the Royal Guard conducted by Francisco Grau and include some of his compositions.

España en PASODOBLES: Unidad de Música de la GUARDIA REAL

and Suspiros de España: Unidad de Música de la GUARDIA REAL

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's that time

We had SMS messages this morning telling us that, as over 60s, we are entitled to a free flu jab. All we have to do is go to the Centro de Salud and make appointments.

We're in two minds about this. The vaccine gives you a mild dose of flu to build up your immunity which can be worse than risking catching flu later. Worse still, for some, the vaccine fails to protect them . In other words, they still get flu in spite of the vaccine. So we don't know - maybe next year.

The little b******

We've not been troubled by mosquitoes here for a week or two now for which we are eternally thankful.

Last night though, I went to San Javier airport to collect Pamela. For whatever reason the whole environs of the airport was besieged by the little b******.

Normally I will wait outside the arrivals door and smoke my pipe. You can see the doors from the luggage reclaim area through the windows. As I stood, I could feel the insects on me and you could see literally dozens of them swarming around in the air.

So I put my pipe out and went inside where it was only marginally better. Thebeekeepersre was a couple stood next to me who seemed to be almost a magnet to the little blighters. As fast as they swatted one of them there were more to take its place.

The end result is that I now have bites on my neck, my face, my arm and my back. It was only because I was wearing trousers that my legs escaped.

I would advise anyone visiting the airport to collect passengers to invest in one of those suits that beekeepers wear along with the mask they put over their heads.

PS Pam paid a call to the loo whilst she was waiting for her case and got bitten on her bum!

The bad weather continues

Although this area was dry and even sunny at times yesterday, other parts of  the province were again lashed by heavy rain. 180 litres per square metre fell on the marsh of Isbert, 115 litres in Guadalest, 100 in Abdet, 96 in the Vall de Gallinera, 70 in Marina Baixa and  50 in Beneixama, according to the Metereológico Centre.

The State Agency of Meteorología (AEMET) has put parts of  the province on  red alert, the highest level.

Along with the rain some areas experienced gusts of wind up to the 80 kilometers per hour, which brought down antennas, tree branches and some advertising billboards in the north of the province.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A tad early

It's a bank holiday here in Spain so there will be some partying going on. With a party you expect fireworks but not necessarily at 9am in the morning.

However, the Spaniards do like to start early with these things. At the wine and horses festival in Caravaca de la Cruz they ring the church bells at dawn just to make sure that everyone is awake and ready for the celebration to come.

At Easter, here in Bigastro, we have fireworks at 7am for the "Encuentro" when Mary meets Jesus and realises that he has risen from the dead. If you know that it is going to happen you can prepare for it, otherwise it can come as a shock to the system and leave you with a headache that lasts most of the day.

The fireworks this morning were not a problem for me you understand because I was up just before 8am. For those who stayed up late at the Pedrera to enjoy Tony Francis though, it must have been a rude awakening. I imagine some felt they'd had "A Hard Day's Night" when they were shaken from their slumber by the loud bangs.

Crack down

The Labour parties dream of creating a "cafe culture" with their introduction of 24 hour drinking in Britain has failed. Hospital admissions linked to excess alcohol have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

The cafe culture works in countries like Spain because a) they are used to having longer drinking hours and b) it is regarded as socially unacceptable to be drunk in public. Visit any bar and you will find many of the people are drinking non-alcoholic drinks. Thase that are drinking beer are having it in small glasses. It is not to say that people don't get drunk - they do but you don't find them lying in the gutters at 2am.

The government tried to introduce a voluntary code but that has done little to solve the problem. So now, in a bid to curb public drunkenness, the Home Office and the Department of Health have drafted up proposals which they hope will transform social attitudes to drinking.

The mandatory code of practice rules include:

— Cigarette-style health warnings to be displayed wherever alcoholic drinks are sold. This would include shops, bars and, according to the industry, could force restaurants to place an official “sensible drinking message” on every table.

— A curb on promotional free wine, whisky and beer tastings. No samples may exceed 125ml and “care must be taken to ensure that customers do not return for further tastings and run the risk of becoming intoxicated”.

— Offerings of free alcohol to women to be banned.

— A ban on drinking games, such as downing a glass in one, and “drink all you like” offers for those paying an entry fee will be abolished.

— Wine in restaurants will have to be served in glasses with measures marked on the side.

The practice of selling cocktails called Sex on the Beach, or more sexually graphic names, will also be scrapped. The plan is to break the association between drink and sexual, financial and social success.

Let's hope that this plan works to prevent scenes like this which are commonplace in many towns and cities throughout Britain.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Holidays in the Sun

On the left you will find a new link under Our Web Sites.

Holidays in the Sun takes you to the site I created for our good friends Rachael and David to advertise David's apartment in Formentera del Segura.

This is a great place for those of you looking for first class accommodation at reasonable prices. Please check it out.

When it rain it floods

The torrential rains that hit the south eastern coast have left a trail of old and new problems on the Orihuela Costa.

Deep pools of stagnant, fetid water, tainted with sewage, remained for days after the flooding when, once again, the drainage infrastructure failed to cope with it. The 40 pumps installed on this part of the coast were unable to cope with the demand.

Residents in the urbanisations of La Zenia, as well as the four- star La Zenia hotel, have had to cope with burst sewage pipes, something which happens every time there is a deluge of rain.

Other problems include a lack of drainage on the roads, where water levels can reach over a metre in depth, forcing drivers to zigzag through the streets. The flooding also regularly creates a deep lagoon beside the N-332 highway and vehicles frequently end up in this deep well of water.

In an area which gets heavy rain most years at this time, you would think that the local councils would take preventive measures to ensure that flooding does not occur. OK ,we don't need salt and grit for the winter but we do need better drainage on the roads.

On our estate there is a storm drain that runs alongside Calle Le Vegan which keeps the road clear until it reaches the junction with Calle Cañada de Andrea. At that point the water spills out  onto the road causing severe flooding until it reaches the water collector at the bottom of the estate. 

Would it not have been better to have either built the water collector further up the road or to have continued the storm drain down to meet it?

Orange alert

The northern Costa Blanca is on orange alert this weekend as gota fría downpours, which began on Thursday are threatening to cause serious problems until Sunday.

The arrival of a front of cold air from the Atlantic, which hit Alicante Province saw a sharp drop in temperatures. Heavy rain began on Wednesday night with forecasts saying that it would continue throughout the weekend with expected rain levels of 200 litres per square metre.

Regional officials have warned people to stay away from dry river beds and ravines and in the event of flooding, keep away from bridges. They also say to avoid using vehicles if possible and to use only main roads and motorways. They warn that people should not try to cross flooded areas and if they are trapped in a car, to remove the radio antenna and keep doors and windows closed.

If a severe storm occurs, people at home are advised to disconnect all electrical apparatus to protect them from power surges.

Local councils have been told to put their flood risk plans into operation, to remain alert to the changes in weather and to adopt preventative measures as and when they see fit.

Since the torrential rain on Thursday, it has remained mostly dry here in BIgastro. The wind has picked up though and is gusting to gale force.


Mañana Tarde Noche



Mañana Tarde Noche




The forecast for today

En la primera mitad del día se esperan tormentas. En la segunda mitad del día son probables los focos tormentosos.

and tomorrow

Por la mañana las precipitaciones estarán presentes en forma de chubascos. Por la tarde las precipitaciones estarán presentes en forma de chubascos moderados.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A fishy tale

A British angler has caught the biggest fish on record in Spain.

Alan Melhuish was on a fishing holiday at the River Ebro near Barcelona when he caught the fish of a lifetime. It took him over half an hour to land the giant 102.5 kilogram European catfish. Finally, at 11pm, it was brought to the bank . At that point Alan could see just what had taken him all his strength to haul in. He then had to tether it up and wait until daylight to weigh it.

The largest catfish to be caught in Europe was a 110.2 kg monster in Italy.

In other parts of the world freshwater catfish can grow even larger.


This 293 kg, 2.7m long Mekong catfish was caught in northern Thailand.

If you want to see what it is like to haul one of these fish in click on this link.

The bullring

Plans to remodel the bullring in Orihuela have come under fire from the Secretary General of JSS, Jose M. Torres.

The original bullring had a capacity of 7,500. Plans put forward would reduce that to 5,800 which Torres says would be more appropriate for a town rather than a city like Orihuela. In defence of this argument, he cites the example of Ociopía which Jose says was a mediocre small project unbefitting of a city.

There is also pressure to consider the project as a multi purpose venue for concerts etc rather than as a working bullring. Torres says that the JSS are opposed to the idea of a venue for bullfighting . They argue that bullfighting is neither an art nor is it culture. They want Orihuela to follow the example of cities like Barcelona which has banned the sport.

Meanwhile the facade of this historic building, which the PP considers to be an important part of the cities patronage, continues to crumble. We will have to wait and see.

Grant to pensioners

Pensioners in Torrevieja will be able to apply for a payment of 300€. Last year the City Council received 5,000 requests for a similar payment out of which 3,000 were granted.

To be eligible, the pensioners must have lived in the town for over two years and have an annual income less than 10,854.90€.


Yesterday we experienced one of the worst gota frias that this area has seen. In La Vall de Gallinera and La Marina Alta 96litres of water per square metre fell in just twelve hours. The weather conditions also meant that nine of the ferries running between Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Denia were cancelled due to rough seas.

The whole region is still on high alert for more rain today.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's something in the water

The population of Spain doubled during the first part of the 20th century and then birth rates dramatically declined in the last quarter. In the last ten years these have slowly recovered. The more recent growth in population is largely due to immigration. Records for January this year show that there were 5,220,000 foreign residents here.

Anybody visiting Bigastro though could be forgiven for thinking that the town bucked the trend and has experienced a baby boom which is still continuing. Many of the young women in the town are either expecting children, pushing prams or both. Six percent of the population (479) are under 4 years of age; 20 percent (1,607) are in their teens or younger. This means there are 105 more children than in 2005 and 282 more than in the year 2000.

All these children need educating. First they had to build a new secondary school, then a new primary school; now the infant school is bursting at the seams.

A group of 20 parents along with the Councillor for Education, Maria Dolores Andreu, visited the Education Department in Alicante to protest about the deficiencies that the infant school La Paz is facing. Numerous letters and requests for meetings had failed, so the group went in force demanding some action.

The two main issues to be tackled are the lack of a dining room at the school and the need for another teacher and two support assistants.

What the group were promised, was work to commence in September 2009 on extensions to the buildings.

I don't suppose a spate of bad weather where people are cooped up inside will help ease the situation!

It's not fair

In an area that prays for rain, it's wrong to complain when it comes but timing is everything. After all the gorgeous weather we've had for the last couple of weeks, it decides to pour down on the Valencian Bank Holiday. All those plans for a last trip to the beach or an outdoor party are scuppered. Worse still, those who are going to bridge this holiday with the one on Sunday are going to face a whole weekend of rain and thunderstorms.

At least folks will be spared the traditional Bank Holiday chores - clearing the garden and washing the car.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Return to a healthy diet

As in most European countries, here in Spain the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet is going by the wayside to be replaced by convenience food.

The local school in Hurchillo is trying to get their children there back to eating a healthier diet than they have become used to. The school canteen is therefore weaning them of chips and other fried food in an attempt to cut down obesity and high cholesterol levels. vegetables

By only serving fruit and vegetables which are grown without chemicals, the school are also getting children to appreciate the natural flavours of these products. Fish is served three times a week and chips only once a month.

So far, the scheme is doing well. A third of the children now stay for school dinners. They even have parents attending courses at weekends to learn how to prepare healthy food at home.

For next year the school wants to introduce pasta and yogurt into the menu but they have to consider the cost of this decision.

A great idea

Samantha Bildder, la concejalía de Residentes, in Algorfa has proposed an initiative that would bring English and Spanish speakers together to learn each other's languages. The suggestion is that the people meet twice a week and share some of their daily activities e.g. going for a coffee, shopping or preparing food.

Not only will they benefit by learning each other's languages, they will also get to  understand some of the cultural differences between the two countries.

I know quite a few residents here at Villas Andrea have made good friends with local Spanish people. An initiative, similar to the one in Algorfa, would  take this one step further. Maybe the Town Council should consider  this for Bigastro.

Entertainment galore

Darren promise us a fabulous week of entertainment:- 

Wednesday, 8th October ( tonight ) will be  Race Night  from 8.30pm onwards  ( racing starts at 9pm. )

Remember to bring your loose change

Saturday 11th October - An evening out with Tony Francis from 8.30 pm onwards . Tony starts 9pm to 12pm.

Tony's repertoire includes songs from the Beatles, Tom Jones, the Everly Brothers, Robbie Williams, Elvis and much more.

Don't forget the lottery with 250€ at stake. 

Thursday the 16th October  is Rob ( 65th )  and Karen's (60th ) Birthday Parties. You are all are invited to celebrate with them. There'll be dancing to the band  Sunset  and  entertainment on the night by Pete Rafferty.

The party starts  at 8.30pm.

Let's make it a great night for Rob and Karen

The little biters


For those who haven't seen one - this mosquito was sat on the outside of one of our windows yesterday.

I apologise for the quality of the photograph - I should have manually focused on the window rather than let the camera focus on the houses in the distance DOH!

Lost in translation


I'd give the man who delivered this notice yesterday 10 out of 10 for effort.

Optica Roge are obviously enterprising enough to realise that, if they translate a notice into English, they may get trade from people at Villas Andrea.

Although most of the notice is understandable, some words have not translated well. "Valid" has become "been worth", "reduce" becomes "break", "child" is a "boy", "end" becomes "aim", "insurance" becomes "surely", "opposite" becomes "as opposed".

Phrases like "sees visit to us" and "to that you are good right to come to see us" are just translations from advertising slogans that just come out awkward. We know what they mean though.

You just wonder what our translations from English to Spanish must read like - just as strange I suppose.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Well I never

José Rey-Ximena, a Spanish author, claims that Leslie Howard, the British actor, was killed when returning from a secret mission to keep Spain out of the Second World War.

The actor, 50, was returning to Britain after a trip through Spain and Portugal when his passenger aircraft was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1943.

Rey-Ximena says that the actor had secretly met with General Franco to convey a message to the fascist dictator in a bid to prevent him from joining forces with Hitler and Mussolini.

Apparently, Howard used a former lover to get close to the dictator after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill.

Rey-Ximea says he learnt of the British actor's wartime intervention after interviewing Spanish actress Conchita Montenegro before her death last year at the age of 96.

She claimed she had an affair with Howard after the pair starred together in the 1931 film Never the Twain Shall Meet.

She later married a senior member of the far-right Falangist party and, using his influence, was able to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator.

How amazing.