Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Green light for AVE

The ‘Banco Europeo de Inversiones’ (BEI) are offering a grant of 500 million Euros to finance the high speed railway line, which will carry passengers from Madrid to Murcia, via Alicante, according to the Director of Operations for Spain and Portugal, Carlos Guille Perez.

After signing an agreement with the Community of Murcia to allocate 125 millon euros to improving the road network across the region, the Director revealed that BEI had also agreed the grant for the AVE line, with a term of 30 years.

He said that “The high speed and development of the communications network throughout Europe is a high priority for the BEI foundation, which has financed the majority of existing AVE lines across Spain.”

The President of the Murcian Community, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, also expressed the importance of this contract, and the faith which the Regional Government has in the future of the rail link, which will be initiated through “constant communications with the Ministry for Promotion and Development”.

Valcarcel went on to explain that in a protocol signed last year with the Minister for Promotion, Jose Blanco, “a series of high-priority activities were laid down, which would not be affected by budget cut backs, particularly the AVE and motorway which will connect Valencia with Murcia via inland areas.”

That is good and bad news. Bad because there are some in the region who feel that the money could be invested in other ways which would be more beneficial. Good because it means that Spain is still looking to the future and not sticking to the past. High speed communication networks could prove vital to the financial recovery.

Doing it in style

When pupils leave school in Bigastro, they have a ceremony at the Auditorium to remind them of the important step they are taking.


Even the pre-school children from Bigastrin get in on the act and get to wear a sash and a mortar board for the occasion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another four years of hope

No matter how much we complain that Frank Lampard’s goal should have stood and that might have changed the match, the truth is England were outplayed in every department. As the Telegraph puts it, “Capello’s defence were a collection of hesitant strangers, his midfield painfully less than the sum of their celebrated parts and the attack anonymous”. That just about sums it up.

Blame, recriminations and soul searching – there will be plenty of talk over the next few weeks. Then the country can settle back and remember 1966 and hope things will be better next time.

Summer is over


By all accounts, the weather here in Britain is going to change this week. The lovely summer skies and sunshine are set to give way to clouds and rain. Gardeners and hay fever sufferers will be pleased.

Meanwhile back home in Bigastro, summer is now well set in. Not a lot of chance of rain there until maybe Sunday.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No pleasing some folk

Somehow the weather is never right in Britain. It is either too cold, too wet or too hot. At the moment it is apparently too hot and too dry.

The heat has been building up through the week to reach a peak this weekend. The highest temperature before this week was 28.8C at the end of May: this weekend it may exceed 30C.

For most of this past week it’s been dry throughout Britain. The lack of rain over the last few months is affecting northwest England, where river and reservoir levels continue to decline. The region has had six months of below average rainfall — the driest start to the year since 1929. There is already talk of hosepipe bans and even standpipes in the streets.

Don’t worry though, pollen sufferers and those in need of rain may find relief in the coming week. Many places will still be warm and dry, but Tuesday looks showery, and there are signs of more persistent and useful rain spreading in from the Atlantic later.

Guess what people will be complaining about then!

From an English garden

Some of the plants in the Spanish gardens I have photographed can be found in English gardens for example roses, fuchsias and carnations. Others are too tender to be grown this far north.

However, there is plenty of choice for colour in most parts of Britain. These are a few of the plants I found in the garden of our very good friends, Hugh and Angela on the Wirral.

We went over to see them yesterday and enjoyed a fabulous BBQ. I have to tell you, when it comes to cooking on a charcoal Weber, Hugh is the master.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


A great sigh of relief as Spain got through to the next stage of the World Cup and will meet Portugal rather than Brazil in the next round.

If Spain and Brazil succeed in getting through the next stages then they could meet in what would prove to be a thrilling final.

Follow the band

image The Unión Musical de Bigastro will be playing at the Palau de la Música y Congresos de Valencia on the 4th of July and I should be there! I was invited by the President of the band to go along and take photographs but unfortunately I will still be in England on that day.

The program for the occasion is entitled "Bigastro Municipio Musical" (Bigastro Musical Municipality). It will trace part of the history, the traditions and the personality of a town identified for more than century by music.

Also, in celebration of the centenary of the birth Miguel Hernandez, the band will interpret "Elegía a un Poeta"composed by the the bigastrense musician D. Francisco Grau Vegara "Estampas de Iberia"

Five coaches will be travelling to Valencia taking over 300 people in support and as I said, I should be one of them!

I hope that the band enjoy a wonderful concert and that the audience show their appreciation. Sadly, the photographs they bring back, will not be mine.

Retail therapy

Taking time out from sorting out Pam’s father’s house to enjoy a little retail therapy in Chester. Pam, Laura and Molly scoured the "girlie" shops whilst I took time out to grab more photos of one of my favourite cities.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Work ‘till you drop

It seems that we are now living longer and therefore placing an increasing burden on the pension pot.

The proposal is therefore to increase the age for retirement in Britain every five years to curb the £55 billion-a-year state pension bill.

The new measures would mean that in just 25 years time the pension age will have risen to 70, affecting all workers now aged 40 (or under).

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, also announced plans to force workers to enrol in occupational pensions, to phase out the default retirement age, which allows employers to sack older workers, and to raise the current retirement age from 65 to 66 as early as 2016.

Raising the state pension age will hit the less well-off far more than the rich. Statistically, a sixty-five-year-old men in Kensington and Chelsea could expect to live a further 23 years while those in Glasgow would only last 14 years after retirement.

There are many occupations where it is just not feasible to continue working until you are 70; for example you would not want a 70 year old to come to your house to put out a fire. Added to which, the longer people stay in work, the fewer opportunities there will be for young people.

This is a real mess; a problem that successive governments knew was coming but chose to ignore.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Be warned

It is an old trick. Lady in a parked car waiting for her husband. Man approaches with a map and asks for directions. There are different twists on the story but the result is the same – the lady looses her handbag. It happened to our neighbours in Los Montesinos and now I read about a similar incident in the car park at San Jaime hospital near Torrevieja.

This time the lady was suspicious and kept her handbag over her shoulder. That meant the thief had to knock her over to steal the bag. So she suffered injury as well as loss.

It is a sad state of affairs but if someone asks you for help with directions, you have no choice but to refuse because you could become the next victim.

Lighting up the sky in Torre

image There might be an economic crisis still looming in Spain but that did not stop Torrevieja from celebrating the night of San Juan in style.

Heralding in summer with bonfires and fireworks is traditional in our part of Spain. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much of an excuse for Spaniards to set off fireworks.

This year, the town council had organised a Piromusical extravaganza – music and fireworks together. It took a ton of powder and 80,000 watts of sound to fill the night with colour and sound for 15 minutes.

I bet is was spectacular, I just wish we could have been there. After less than a week, I am starting to get homesick!

Get the towels on the seats ready

As the Spanish paper Información says, “Alemania-Inglaterra, duelo de alto voltaje en octavos”.

For the benefit of my Spanish readers, the title of this post refers to the fact that, on holiday, the Germans always get down to the pool before breakfast and claim their sunbeds with towels.

Having squeezed through the qualifying round, the lads now face their old rivals Germany on Sunday. Although England played with a lot more purpose yesterday, they will have to lift their game further to get through the next rounds especially if they get to meet the likes of Argentina.

Still, you can keep the flags on the cars a little longer in the hope that they bring more good luck to the team.

The good news for Spain is that David Villa will not face disciplinary action for slapping Emilio Izaguirre in the face during their 2-0 win over Honduras after Fifa decided there were no grounds to proceed. Just as well because Spain really need to do something in their last match to be sure of getting through.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The price is right

IMG_4144 What would you expect to pay for a large, three bedroom detached house?
Integral garage, gas central heating, two reception rooms, large bathroom, double glazed UPVC windows in good condition.
IMG_4143 Large UPVC conservatory reached through French windows, well maintained gardens front and rear.
IMG_4149 Best of all it has beautiful views over farmland at the rear giving it an open and private aspect.

This is a location that you would rarely find on the Wirral and so would be most sought after.

I can’t tell you the price it will eventually sell for but I can tell you that three different estate agents think it is worth between £160,000 and £210,000. That is quite a range, they can’t all be right. If I was in the market for a family house in this area, this would be high up on my list.

Coping with a heat wave


Fred the weatherman on ITV said it was going to be very hot in this area over the next few days. He meant that temperatures could reach 24.

I have news for you Fred, 24 is a mild spring temperature for us. When it gets really hot, then you need advice of how to cope and that is what Bigastro provides.

Drink lots of water and liquids without alcohol. Tempting as it might be, to go for a pint or two of beer, that is not a great idea.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. High summer is not the time for stews and casseroles.

Wear light clothing both in weight and colour. Black absorbs heat, white reflects it.

Don’t forget sun protection cream.

Avoid intense physical work when the temperatures are high and of course watch out for children and the elderly.

Valencia publishes a comprehensive guide here which is in English.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Long to reign over us

The present Queen of Egland has been on the throne since 1952. However, her predecessors did not fare as well. These are just cheap pieces of coronation memorabilia from their reigns that we have found at Pam’s father’s house.

IMG_4152a Edward VIII  only reigned from 20 January 1936 until his abdication on 11 December the same year. He’d caused a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the American divorcée Wallis Simpson.

After his abdication, he was took the title Duke of Windsor
IMG_4154a George V  reigned from 6 May 1910  until his death in 1936 a mere 26 years.

George was the first British monarch of the House of Windsor, which he created from the British branch of the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Dingle me dongle

Since I am at the moment in a house with no broadband connection and my netbook doesn’t have a dial up modem, I am using a Vodafone USB dongle to connect to the Internet.

For anyone without a phone line or in an area where ADSL is not available, a mobile phone dongle is a relatively simple way to get on to the net.

Since I only want to use this dongle on occasions, mine is a pay as you go version.  However, I upload pictures to my Flickr album which eats up bandwidth, so my dongle needs regular topping up.

Now the easiest way to top up is to use your debit of credit card but of course mine are all registered to our address in Spain. No problem, I bought a top up voucher – from Asda but that didn’t work. Why, because silly me, I got a £20 voucher and that won’t do. It seems that Vodafone dongles will only accept £15 vouchers. Nowhere in the instructions does it tell you that and the lady in the shop didn’t know either. It took a phone call to Vodafone call centre to find that out.

How good is the dongle? If you can only find a GPRS connection it is painfully slow. So slow that web pages will time out before they download - even mail servers will close their connection. Get onto a 3G connection or better still 3G+ and it is a different story. It doesn’t come near to my 10Mb connection in Spain but it is good enough.

The problem is that the 3G signal is poor here. Once the dongle has connected, it does hold on pretty well so it is useable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A great week in store


It looks like you can expect some good weather this week. Lots of sun, temperatures up to 30 in the daytime and rising to 18 at night.

Mind you, the weather here in England isn’t bad at the moment. We had a lovely sunny day yesterday and today looks to be the same. The difference is that we know it won’t last here whilst it should at home in Bigastro.

Not all bad

 image The recent rains may have caused problems for some but at least they have put water back into the Segura river. The river is currently fuller than it has been for 25 years at this time of year.

This influx of water is beneficial to the environment; it cleans the salt and other pollutants from the land and thus improves crop yields, it is beneficial to fish stocks and adds to the reserves of water in the area.

The dams of the Segura are now at 68% capacity which means there is enough water for two years. Agriculturalists will be pleased and we will benefit from good produce at a competitive price.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It isn’t getting any better

If we were disappointed with England’s showing against the USA then last night they surpassed themselves

Last night’s was a performance as poor as England have shown under Fabio Capello’s leadership, a stumbling, error-strewn catalogue of misplaced passes and inept tactical thinking. Indeed, it was so poor that it prompted a first for this World Cup.

As the referee blew the final whistle you could hear the collective booing of disappointed England fans.  After the incessant honking of the vuvuzelas, it was almost reassuring to hear a sound that did not emanate from the end of a plastic cone.

Statistically, England could still go through to the next round but what would be the point. If they can’t play any better than they did last night, then they don’t deserve to be in the final stages of the competition.

I think it is time for people in England  to take all those silly St George crosses of their cars. England football is no longer something to be proud of.

General strike in September

The two main workers unions in Spain - UGT and CCOO - have called a general strike throughout Spain for September 29th to protest against the labour reforms set out by the government.

The leaders of both unions; Camilo Méndez (UGT) and Ignacio Fernández Toxo (CCOO) had warned the government they would call the industrial action if the cabinet ordered a decree that made dismissals cheaper for employers.

On Monday, after reviewing the draft presented to them over the weekend, Sres Méndez and Fernández Toxo announced the reform does exactly what they had warned against and therefore the strike would be called.

The government are of course between a rock and a hard place. They have to do something to ease the economic situation and whatever they do will be unpalatable. It is all too easy to blame governments for these problems but the truth is we are all at fault for our greed in the past. It is our higher wage demands and our desire for spiralling house prices that have created the crisis just as much as poor government policies.

Facing the issues head on

Our impression is that the young people of Bigastro generally seem to be well behaved. Certainly we have never seen hordes of drunken youths in the bars and the streets like you do in many places in England at weekends.

That is not to say there isn’t a problem though. Particularly in the summer months,  young people flock up to La Pedrera for “large bottle” parties and we have seen people dealing in drugs outside the old primary school building. So there is a problem in the making.

Thankfully, this isn’t a situation that the town council are prepared to ignore so they have started a campaign in connection with ONG to try and nip it in the bud.

In particular, the council are targeting the 2nd and 4th grade pupils at the Miguel Hernández secondary school who have already had talks on the themes given by experts in the field.

In addition, parents have been offered advice and recommendations because the council believe that this is an area where both children and parents need more information.

The work with these young citizens will continue throughout the year so that hopefully, armed with all the facts, they will make the right choices.

The main task

The big job for us is to try and sort out Pam’s father’s home.

This is not being made easy by the fact that Pam’s parents seem to have never thrown anything that they ever owned away including every important piece of paperwork they ever received.

On first inspection, the house is very tidy but then when you open cupboards, drawers, wardrobes etc you find them filled with all the evidence of their lives.

This is a kitchen cupboard that you might expect to hold cups, pans, packets of food – the normal things you find in kitchens. Instead it is jammed full of all manner of things. The motto, “out of sight – out of mind” is fine until you actually come to want something, then it is just impossible to find and very difficult for anyone else to try and sort out.

In our home in Bigastro, we have a policy of going through cupboards like this at least twice a year, throwing out anything which is no longer relevant. Hopefully, if we keep on top of the job, our children won’t face a task like this in years to come.

Growing up so fast

IMG_4070 One of the main purposes of our trip is to see our granddaughter, Molly. During the first year, babies develop so quickly that if you miss seeing them for a few months there is a lot to catch up with.

That is certainly the case with this little charmer. She is not the helpless little bundle that I saw only a few months ago.

Already she reacts to you, she makes noises and plays with her toys. You know that she is going to be a real joy to be with over the years to come.

Pam did not miss the opportunity on our first day to take her granddaughter out in the pram.

It isn’t like the large coach built affair that we had. This one has front wheels that swivel. It is a lot more manoeuvrable but does take a bit of getting used to because it seems to steer itself.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Out of town

As some of you already know, I am “out of town” for a few days. Since my only connection to the Internet is via a Vodafone USB dongle which is a lot slower than my landline connection, posts might be a little erratic.

Vodafone also apply a content control on mobile connections which means that I can’t get to my Flickr album! So uploading of pictures to my Project 365 will be even more erratic.

Never mind, it is a temporary situation which I will have to put up with.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Help at hand

image The Social Welfare Councillor for Bigastro, Mª Carmen Alonso and the Mayor of Bigastro, Raúl Valerio Medina,presented 25 TDT digiboxes to some of the over 80s (in particular those that live on their own) and the over 65s with sight and hearing difficulties.

In total 60 decoders have been delivered to people in Bigastro to help them with the transition from analogue to digital TV broadcasts.

Bitterly disappointed

I seem to have made a bit of a name for myself with the photographs I’ve taken of the town’s band in concert. So much so that they asked me to travel with them to Valencia where they will be playing an important concert. They wanted me to tag along to take photographs for them.

That is a great honour for me and I feel flattered to be asked. Unfortunately, we won’t be here at that time so I can’t help. I know that the President of the Sociedad Unión Musical Bigastro is disappointed but not as much as I am. I would have relished the opportunity to travel with them and only hope they will ask me again in the future.


Each year, at the end of our Spanish course, we have a presentation which is now held in the Auditorium. The format of the presentation changes slightly each year. For this year we were honoured by the presence of Maria Antonio Guil Vegara, authoress of the book "La Olivera", whose house we had visited in May.

image As part of the proceedings, we enjoyed a visual resume of the year covering the work of all three of the adult education classes. Then we had the presentation of diplomas and reports. Some of us were called upon to say a few words about our courses. Finally the tables were laden with food and drink.
IMG_0603 Each of the classes presented their teachers with gifts to thank them for their efforts. Four of us, from the Spanish for Foreigners class, had been to Orihuela in the morning to buy presents for Ana -  our teacher. We’d just got back as the storm was unleashing its fury on the area and had to negotiate the 15cm deep yellow river back up to our house to hurriedly wrap the gifts ready for the afternoon. 

Pam and I would like to take the opportunity on this blog to publicly thank Ana, the Councillor for Education and the Town Hall for continuing with our classes this year. With a budget which is pushed to the limit, it must be very difficult to find the money for our course. However it is of enormous benefit to us and we do appreciate it a great deal.

We sincerely hope that the course will continue next year and look forward to meeting up with our fellow students in October.  

That’s enough water for now thank you


It turns out that the rain storm that we had on Monday was only a precursor to the one that hit us yesterday.

It came in from the salt lakes, crossed Elda and Novelda and eventually left via Alicante causing chaos in the Vega Baja, the Marina Alta and Alicante.  Eight thousand pupils in Denia had to be sent home from school, motorways had to be closed near Algorfa, access to Torrevieja was impossible, flights had to be diverted from Alicante to San Javier and  roads on the coast were flooded.

In Bigastro, 18 people had to be evacuated from a block of flats on Calle Purisima when the accumulation of water on the roof terrace caused two of the floors to collapse.

In just 40 minutes, 22 litres per square metre of rain fell on Alicante. The problem was caused by cold air in the upper atmosphere meeting warm, humid air lower down.Yesterday was the coldest June day in the province since 1938.  In those conditions, storms can develop rapidly and drop significant quantities of water in a  relatively short time. According to experts, this type of storm, which is similar to the gota fria, is a result of climate change in the Mediterranean zone so we can expect more of the same in the future.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It arrived with a vengeance

image We were promised rain at the weekend. It waited until Sunday night when a little fell overnight.

Yesterday though you knew we were in for heavy rain as the skies became decidedly unsettled. Still it waited until about 4:30 in the afternoon when a huge clap of thunder heralded the start of a downpour.

Pam and I were stuck inside the Auditorium where we had attended a talk about Miguel Hernandez. We waited and waited until the rain subsisted enough for us to make it to the car. Then, safely back in the house, we watched as the rain bounced off the pavements around the house and added a good 2cms of water to the pool.

It looks like we could have some more rain today and then the weather will settle back to normal sunshine with light clouds. Our friends are coming out to their villa the other side of the estate. I hope they remembered to pack their umbrellas.

An all too familiar story

It isn’t just the lack of customers that is making Ociopía, the commercial centre in Orihuela, fall apart, it is the great cracks that have appeared in the walls of the buildings, some of which are wide enough to put your hand into. Pavements have parted from walls and paths that were level now slope down. The place is literally falling apart.

The shopping centre was only built four years ago on reclaimed land alongside the river Segura. The engineers, who are examining it, say that the ballast that was used was not suitable to stop the land from moving. That may sound all too familiar to some of the residents here at Villas Andrea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It pays to read the brochure

I remember when we were on holiday in San Pedro de Alcantara, there was a young lady from Manchester who had flown out with us. She’d booked for the same two weeks that we had.

After four days at the hotel, the young lady was desperate to go home. She begged the travel rep in the hotel to find her an early flight back to Manchester, clearly willing to forgo the cost of the room in the hotel. Her excuse was that the hotel and its location were just too quiet, she wanted night life and a beach with all the razzamatazz.

If she had read the brochure properly, it was clear that this was a small family hotel with the occasional party held each week. For something more adventurous, you’ would have to catch a bus to Puerta Banus of even Marbella. Even the nearby town, where you could walk to, was a quiet, sleepy Spanish place which only came to life at the weekends.

In the end the young lady got her wish and rushed to pack her bags. She was last heard cheering as she made her departure, much to the amusement of both the Spanish and British guests who longed for their holiday to never end.

It seems there are some Brits who have come to live in Bigastro who didn’t read the brochure either. They weren’t aware how hot it was going to be in summer or what life in a small Spanish town was going to be like. Some were even surprised to find that very few of the locals speak English!

Some of the disenchanted ones have already returned to British shores, others have their houses on the market waiting for a sale that will allow them to leave and buy again back in Britain. I am genuinely sorry that it hasn’t worked out for them as they expected. Sometimes you follow a dream only to find out that the reality is not what you hoped it would be.

I suspect that a few of those who are keen to leave are used to moving around anyway and having had a stint in Spain are now looking for a new experience elsewhere. I hope for their sakes they find somewhere to eventually settle because moving house is both expensive and traumatic.

People tell me, there are a fair number of houses up for sale on our urbanisation which doesn’t surprise me. It is the same everywhere; in Spain, in Britain and the rest of Europe. I firmly believe that the reasons that people want to leave Bigastro is no reflection on the town nor on its people.

For the majority, who are happily settled here, the thought of returning to live in Britain sends cold shivers down the spine. It isn’t that we wouldn’t want to live in Britain again, it is just that we have become accustomed to our way of life in Spain and we like it too much to give it up.

I dedicate this post to my neighbours from the house below who flew back to England yesterday with the intention of picking up their lives where they left off.

In good voice

The two choirs from Bigastro and Cox were in good voice last night for the Festival de Canto.

The Taller de Canto de la Escuela de Musica de Bigastro were first off with a selection of six songs. Susanna Vardanyan kept the choir in time and Susi Galvez sang a solo part.

choir IMG_3987

In the second half, the Coro Mixto “Virgen del Carmen” from Cox took the stage and entertained us with seven songs from their repertoire. Mariano J. Mula Garcia directed the choir which featured solos from Manoli Lozano and Juan Miralles.

IMG_4003 IMG_4027

Thank you to the Ayuntamiento for yet another very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Let’s revise that forecast a little

AEMET said there was a 90% chance of rain today, now they have lowered that to 55% and describe it as showers. According to WeatherBug, there tomorrow will be cloudy. The heavy rain is now predicted for Tuesday.

Hip, hip hooray

image Her Majesty, the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Colonel Grenadier Guards, rode down The Mall in Queen Victoria's 1842 ivory-mounted phaeton drawn by a pair of grey horses.

Accompanying them on horseback were His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales (Colonel Welsh Guards); His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent (Colonel Scots Guards) and Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (Gold Stick-in-Waiting and Colonel Blues and Royals.)

The occasion was the Trooping of the Colour in Horse Guard’s Parade to mark the Queen’s official birthday.

At 84, I think she looks in fine shape if a little more frail and not so good on her feet as we are used to. The Duke of Edinburgh, five years her senior at 89, also looks in good shape. In fact, Prince Charles who will be 62 in November, looks more like his brother than his son.

We might not have beaten the Yanks on the soccer pitch but we can still lick them when it comes to ceremony.

You would not want to be this man

imageI don’t need to recount the sorry story of last night’s game between England and USA in the World Cup.

The England goalie, Green had no excuse, the ball travelled straight to him. He knelt down to get two hands behind the ball but then he took his eye off it and let it bounce off his palms and spin to his right and then behind him. Slowly, the ball rolled over Green’s line as he scrambled to stop it.

The score line wasn’t entirely Green’s fault though. After the early goal, England looked outclassed in the first half and only rallied around in the second half. However, it was a mistake he will never live down.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Callosa goes Wi-Fi

Callosa is one of the 17 municipalities that are included in the Plan Confianza for telecommunications. For one of their projects, Callosa has spent 100,000 Euros to provide internet access via wi-fi to the town. So far coverage extends to the Plaza de España, de la Bacalá, the Paraje de la Pilarica, the Mercado de Abastos, the Rambla Baja, the Glorieta, San Roque and la Paz schools, the Instituto Santiago Grisolía and the Piscina Municipal.

Apart from the benefit to the townsfolk, the system will allow Callosa to set up monitoring similar to that in Torrevieja.

A perfect day for it

Yesterday, Bigastro held a sports gala in the main park. There was plenty to keep the children occupied and lots of choices for them to make. The girls seemed to go for gymnastics whilst the boys plumped for football and basketball. For the young cyclists, there was a special track laid out for them to go round. And at the end of it all, there were trophies for them to take home.

IMG_3902 IMG_3922
IMG_3913 IMG_3935

Friday, June 11, 2010

Plans for the weekend

imageIf you were thinking of going to the beach this weekend, you might have to think again; it looks like we are in for some rain especially on Sunday.

Nanas de la cebolla

Upon hearing that his wife was surviving only on onions and bread, the poet wrote this:-

The onion is frost
shut in and poor
Frost of your days
and of my nights.
Hunger and onion,
black ice and frost
large and round.
My little boy
was in hunger's cradle
He was nursed
on onion blood
But your blood
is frosted with sugar,
onion and hunger.
A dark woman
dissolved in moonlight
pours herself thread by thread
into the cradle.
Laugh, son,
you can swallow the moon
when you want to.
Lark of my house,
keep laughing.
The laughter in your eyes
is the light of the world.
Laugh so much
that my soul, hearing you,
will beat in space.
Your laughter frees me,
gives me wings
It sweeps away my loneliness
knocks down my cell.
Mouth that flies,
heart that turns
to lightning on your lips.

Miguel Hernandez

World Cup fever

La Pedera has already got in on the act. The large screen there will be used to show all the England and Spain matches with the offer of a free buffet (tapas for the Spanish matches).

In the meantime, Antonio at the VaiVen, has had speakers installed outside his bar in the Plaza Constitución. Supporters there will be able to sit outside and watch the games on a large screen in the window.

For the bar owners sakes, I hope that Spain and England get through the qualifying rounds to make their investments worthwhile! I have no idea whether it is possible for the two teams to meet at some stage. However, if that happened – well that would be a night - the bars would probably run out of beer!

That is Monday mapped out


For next Monday, we have been invited to the library to take part in a chat about the poet Miguel Hernández.

Vicente Pina, a member of the Commission of Acts of the Centenary of the Birth of the Poet and founder of the Codex Bookshop in Orihuela will be on hand to tell us something of of the poet’s life and his works.

Then, ladies from the other adult classes will be reading some of their favourite poems by Hernandez.

Interest in the poet is growing for example, the web site of the Cultural Foundation, Miguel Hernández registered more than 6.2 million visits last year up by a million from the previous year. I imagine that figure will rise dramatically this year.

Who was he though?

Miguel Hernández (October 30, 1910-March 28, 1942), born in Orihuela, was a leading 20th century Spanish poet and playwright.

Hernández came from a poor family and received little formal education; he published his first book of poetry at 23, and gained considerable fame before his death. He spent his childhood as a goatherd and farmhand, and was, for the most part, self-taught, although he did receive basic education from state schools and the Jesuits.

Hernández campaigned for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, writing poetry and addressing troops deployed to the front.
During the Civil War, on the ninth of March in 1937, he married Josefina Manresa Marhuenda, whom he had met in 1933 in Orihuela. His wife inspired him to write most of his romantic work. Their first son, Manuel Ramon, was born on December 19, 1937, but died in infancy on the 19th of October of 1938. Months later came their second son, Manuel Miguel

Unlike others, Hernández could not escape Spain after the Republican surrender and was arrested multiple times after the war for his anti-fascist sympathies, and was eventually sentenced to death. His death sentence, however, was commuted to a prison term of 30 years, leading to incarceration in multiple jails under extraordinarily harsh conditions until he eventually succumbed to tuberculosis in 1942. Just before his death, he scrawled his last verse on the wall of the hospital: Goodbye, brothers, comrades, friends: let me take my leave of the sun and the fields. Some of his verses were kept by his jailers.

While in prison, Hernández produced an extraordinary amount of poetry, much of it in the form of simple songs, which the poet collected in his papers and sent to his wife and others. These poems are now known as his Cancionero y romancero de ausencia (Songs and Ballads of Absence). In these works, the poet writes not only of the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War and his own incarceration, but also of the death of an infant son and the struggle of his wife and another son to survive in poverty. The intensity and simplicity of the poems, combined with the extraordinary situation of the poet, give them remarkable power.

Perhaps Hernández's best known poem is "Nanas de cebolla" ("Onion Lullaby"), a reply in verse to a letter from his wife in which she informed him that she was surviving on bread and onions. In the poem, the poet envisions his son breastfeeding on his mother's onion blood (sangre de cebolla), and uses the child's laughter as a counterpoint to the mother's desperation. In this as in other poems, the poet turns his wife's body into a mythic symbol of desperation and hope, of regenerative power desperately needed in a broken Spain.

Politicians in the making

Students from the San José de Calasanz school in Bigastro visited the Town Hall yesterday. There they were able to see the council chambers and the Mayor’s office, they even got to sit in his chair.

Fourteen of the students were chosen to take part in a mock council session working through an agenda of 13 points with hopefully less colourful language than sometimes happens in the real sessions.

Finally the students had a question and answer session with the the real Mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina who I hope gave them truthful answers!

Who knows, some of these children may be town councillors themselves one day. At least now they will have some idea of what to expect.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Help required

I have a fair bit of camera equipment these days so I thought it would be wise to check on my insurance arrangements. It seems that our existing household policy did cover my equipment in the house but not for accidental damage. Outside the house the situation was worse, even theft was only party covered.

I have now updated the cover so the situation is better but still not perfect.

This lead me to try and research specialist insurance just to cover my camera gear. I found several policies in the UK one of which seemed to fit the bill perfectly. However, a UK policy would not be suitable for me living in Spain. One company did say they provided full European cover but only if you had a permanent UK address i.e. one where you were registered on the electoral roll.

So, for the moment I have drawn a blank. I can’t find a Spanish policy which suits my needs although I’m sure there must be one that provides cover for amateurs like me. I would be ever so grateful if someone could point me in the right direction.

Encouraging signs

In the first three months of 2010, 106,302 houses were sold in Spain, which represented an increase in sales of 1.5% This was the second quarter in a row where there had been an increase.

In this region, the greatest number of sales took place in Torrevieja (3.812) and Orihuela (2.961). There are two factors which are driving this forward; an increase in in sales to foreigners and the lowered cost of houses at present.

This is good news indeed and may be why we are seeing renewed activity on building sites that have laid dormant for the last few years.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Arousing suspicion

IMG_0588This plot of land, just round the corner from our house, has laid vacant for six years. On the plan for the estate, it is designated for building two houses.

Last week, the plot was cleared and this week there is a fence going up to keep people off. What does that mean?

You might assume that building will commence soon but apparently not. The owner has to sell two other houses before he can start to build. When he does though, he intends to build one of the houses for himself. So, when that eventually happens, we will have another Spanish neighbour to practice our language with.

Down the road towards the town, there is similar work going on at the crossroads. The land there has also been cleared and a similar fence is going up. Does that mean that there will be building work going on there as well? Who knows, only time will tell.

Of course it may be that these people are just complying with local ordinances and that nothing further will happen with these plots of land.   

This made me laugh

One of my neighbours has sent me these photographs that he took of the new RM1 motorway that goes from the San Javier to Santomera. As he says, at least the white lines go right to the end and notice those 100km per hour speed limit signs just as you hit the farmland.

RM1 001 RM1 002

Keeping the children busy

The questions in summer for every parent are, “what to do with the children?” and ,”just how do you keep them amused?” The problems are worse for those families where both parents are at work during the daytime. There is only so much help that relatives and neighbours can offer. 

Bigastro has the answer to this problem in the form of two summer schools; the Summer School Città Slow  and the 1st Summer Sports School.

The Città Slow  school, for children aged between 4 and 8, will take place in the Observatorio Internacional de Huertas Mediterráneas and the Polideportivo Municipal. A variety of activities is planned for the participants ranging from art and music to traditional games and sports.

The Sports School, for children aged between 8 and 12 will take place at the Colegio San José de Calasanz  and the Polideportivo Municipal. There, the children will practise their skills in soccer, basketball, handball and swimming.

The parents of the children who join either school can take comfort in the knowledge that their offspring will be safe, fully occupied and will have staved of boredom during the long summer break.

In the meantime, our eldest daughter is in the process of recruiting university students to help with the Summer Schools in Wolverhampton. There, it will be the children from deprived homes who will benefit from the range of activities that the Council is planning for them.


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Boasting the best facilities in the Valencian Community

There is no getting away from the fact that Torrevieja is a much changed city. Every time you visit Torre, there is something new to see.

Far from being just a tourist place dedicated to sun and sand, the city has a wide range of facilities to suit every need including numerous parks. In fact they have just opened a new park this week dedicated to the poet, José Manuel Caballero Jerez Bonald who has a long association with the city.

The big event this month though was the opening of the new Sports City. A total of 300,000 square metres of space dedicated to a wide variety of sports which will attract professional sports people especially during winter when the climate here is more suitable for outdoor events that it is in northern Europe.

With six football pitches, extensive tennis and squash courts, an Olympic size pool and the best rugby stadium in the Valencian community, the Sports Palace ‘Infanta Cristina’ is set to be a winner for Torrevieja.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Great beaches

A visit to the beach is a must during summer. You might struggle to find somewhere to park in August but when you get there it is all worth it. This area does have some stunning beaches to visit, clean white to golden sand, good facilities and a nice cooling breeze to help with that tan.

All the beaches are well maintained, cleaned each day and regularly inspected. The care taken to keep them this way has been rewarded by giving all eleven of Orihuela’s beaches the Valencian Qualitur seal of approval. In total 141 beaches in 42 municipalities have Qualitur status.

Six of the beaches on the Orihuela coast also have blue flags: Playa Flamenca, Cala Capitán, Cabo Roig, Campoamor, Barranco Rubio and Mil Palmeras. Spain has one sixth of all the blue flags awarded for 521 of its beaches and 84 of its sports ports.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sports Day 2010

The Sports Council in Bigastro has organised a Gala to take place on Friday the 11th of June from 6pm in the park.

Games will include: penalty shooting. 3x3 basketball, tennis, ping pong, golf, caliche, abseiling and other traditional games.

Children between 3 and 6 are encouraged to bring a bike or a tricycle to ride around a circuit where they can learn about the various road signs and signals. Hopefully they will learn how to make a proper signal at the same time; then they can teach their parents!

More music for this week


Saturday, 12th  of June at 7pm

Sunday, 13th of June at 7pm


Including two choirs: the Coro Mixto Virgen del Carmen of Cox and the Taller de Canto de la Escuela de Música of Bigastro.

Don’t put the umbrella away just yet.

imageThere could be a bit more cloud about this week with a possibility of some rain even. 

Corpus Christi

You may not have been aware that there was a procession in the town last night for Corpus Christi but I doubt if you would have missed the castle of fireworks that followed it. The amount of powder used would have been sufficient to blow up the Houses of Parliament twice over.

I’ve sent my photographs to Germán at the Ayuntamiento so I imagine they will appear on the  web site Gallery of Photographs soon.

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