Thursday, August 30, 2012

Batten down the hatches

The state agency for meteorology say there is a chance of a thunder storm later today into tomorrow. We’d kind of got used to leaving the umbrellas, the seat pads and the beach towels out. Looks like we need to bring them into the house just in case.

Monuments to greed

Mariono Rajoy and the PP blame Spain’s problems on the previous socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero but in Valencia, it was the PP party who held power so who do we blame for the problems in our region? The regions in Spain are responsible for 40% of public spending covering health, education and other welfare services.

Although many of Spain’s autonomous regions are in difficulty, nowhere did they spend more than in Valencia which is why Madrid ordered the region to cut its deficit by two thirds or face government intervention. Now Valencia is the area with the highest number of house repossessions and the highest unemployment rate at 27%.

We all recall that Francisco Camps was ousted by his own party amid allegations of corruption. No doubt, he was not the only one who was guilty of lining his own pocket at the expense of the region. There would have been countless others who offered generous contracts in exchange for backhanders. These were the people responsible for white elephants such as the airport at Castellon and the the 26m euro hospital at Lliria which hasn’t opened in the 3 years since it was built.

The Victorians were fond of building follies in Britain but at least they never pretended these were anything else but whims. The politicians in Valencia tried to con us into thinking theirs were great works, essential to the growing society of the region. So Valencia has a deficit of 4.5% of GDP and it needs a bailout of 3.5bn euros.

Will the airport at Castellon ever open? The locals think that they landed on Mars before they got to the new airport.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Relief from the heat

For those who have found the high temperatures of this summer difficult to cope with, there is some relief on the way. It will get cloudier towards the weekend and temperatures will drop to the high twenties. There is also a slight chance of some rain but I don’t suppose it will amount to much.

When the thermometer inches up to the mid and high thirties, it starts to get uncomfortable, especially when the humidity is high. Pam and I have spent a lot more time indoors this summer with the air conditioning on than we would normally. A couple of weeks of strong sunshine might be OK when you are on holiday but not when you live here and there are jobs to be done.  

Our daughters, along with our granddaughter, fly out to visit us on Tuesday. We hope the weather is good for them but perhaps a little cooler than it was for our visitors last week. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

If you thought things were bad

The recession in Spain is worse than predicted. The economy shrank by 1.3% in the second quarter of 2012.

There may be a sight surge in spending as Spaniards try to beat the 3% hike in VAT which comes into force 1st September but overall consumer and company spending has been slashed in response to austerity measures. Government spending has dropped and exports from the country have slowed down.

The expectation is that unemployment, currently at 24.8%, will rise during the second half of this year especially when the next round of austerity measures are brought in.

Even if the country gets  support from the European Central Bank, things will not get better anytime soon.

That can’t be right

In this picture which accompanies an article about Ryanair there are two passengers shown carrying both hand luggage and a carrier bag of goods bought in the airport.

From our brief encounter with the Irish company on our flights to Barcelona and back, that would not be allowed. The ground staff are anal about the amount and size of your hand luggage to the point of making passengers put their bags into a cage conveniently situated by the departure gate. Anyone, with even a small handbag, is made to stuff it into their cabin case.

In the article, Mr O’Leary says that neither the public works ministry nor the government of Spain can impose sanctions against Ryanair. As he points out, it is the Irish civilian airline authority to whom his company are responsible. Perhaps it is to them that travellers should make their complaints in future, in Spanish of course!

Bigastrin ready to open its doors

The decision to privatise the pre-school Bigastrin caused a great stir in Bigastro. The dismissal of 11 out of the 17 council workers has cost the town 210,000 euros in compensation, a figure that will rise as others make their claims.

Now that phase is over, the good news is that a cooperative of 10 local ladies won the contract and will be opening the doors to the children on September 3rd. They have already started work though by giving the centre a new lick of paint. The ladies say that the service will be improved to include lessons in English and IT and perhaps more important, will be open on Saturdays. The only downside is the cost per month has risen from 90 to 125 euros. However, when you consider that my daughter and son in law pay £40 a day for nursery care for Molly, that is still very cheap.

The ladies, who all have at least a year’s experience of caring for young children, won the contract that will last for five years which could be renewed for further years. They were up against two other companies offering to take over the service and won clearly on points.

Although, Aurelio Mucia could not put a firm figure on it, he estimates the saving to the council to be around 250,000 euros per year.

When I was in charge of finance at Anfield School, we were able to switch contracts from the local authority to commercial firms. The first contract we switched was for cleaning. The company we chose gave us poor service by skimping on hours and materials so we eventually changed to another company who were much better. We also switched from using the council as the payroll provider to a private company. There were some initial hitches which resulted in staff being under or over paid but eventually things did sort themselves out.

What Aurelio will find is that private initiatives may seem to offer a better deal on paper but still have their eye on profitability which can adversely affect the service they provide.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Photos for you

These are my albums of photos from this year’s fiesta for those of you struggling with the sidebar:

The last night

Comparsa parade


Floral offering

Talent show

Infant parade


Crazy cars


He cost the town a lot of money

There are those who used to say that José Joaquín Moya did a lot for Bigastro. Compared with neighbouring towns, Bigastro seemed to be prospering under his leadership. He certainly had ambitious plans for its development as outlined them an exhibition held in the Auditorium. These included the plans for housing in Sector D-6, a multi storey car park in the town, an aparthotel at La Pedrera and a solar farm in the same area. All have proved to be a drain on the town for various reasons.

We are all painfully aware that the town owes a small fortune to Idearco for the land they bought to create the aparthotel, the problems with Sector D-6 and the failure of the multi storey car park that remains closed but what of the solar farm?

In 2006, the socialist council lead by Moya, granted permission to Eurener to build a solar farm at La Pedrera. The company paid a deposit of 120,000 euros to the council and started clearing the land. The deal was that Eurener would have the concession for 24 years for which they would pay 10,000 euros per year.

The PP party, who were in opposition at the time, objected to the plan as did the environmental group Seprona.  The Ministry of the Environment therefore halted the work and so it was left in abeyance.

Understandably, Eurener are seeking return of the 120,000 euros plus 23,859 in interest along with a further 9,000 euros for the final deposit. The company also claim that 27,000 euros was spent from public funds to promote the project and attract investors. That is an awful lot of money that the town does not have.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


painting-fresco_2316720bI read in the Telegraph about a well meaning 80 year old lady who has tried to restore a 120 year old fresco of Ecce Homo at the Santuario de Misericodia Church in the village of Borja, near Zaragoza, Spain.

It wasn’t valuable but was a part of the heritage and the family of the artist had made a donation to help with its upkeep.

It is doubtful that the original can now be restored – it very much depends on what kind of paint she used. Frescos were normally  painted using tempera paint onto damp plaster; professional restores would use the same kind of paint to preserve the originality.

There is controversy about whether the lady had permission to carry out the work – she says she had. If that is true, then someone made a terrible mistake. Just look at what she did! The lady managed to turn Jesus into Neanderthal man. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It is a matter of choice

The state-financed TV channel is to broadcast a bullfight from Valladolid on September 5th with El Juli and Jose Maria Manzanares topping the bill.The previous socialist government had banned bullfights being shown on state TV effectively relegating it to the paid for Canal+ and cable TV.

The main problem for the previous government was timing because corridas are always staged in the evening, a time when children will be watching. In fact, having seen how late Spanish children are allowed to stay up at night, I reckon it would be near impossible to find a safe time slot when they were in bed.

The conservative government of Mariano Rajoy have not only allowed corridas to be shown but have also decided that tax on entrance tickets to corridas should stay at 8% and not rise to 21%. Both of these decisions will have angered animal rights activists who saw the total ban of bullfighting in Catalonia as a positive step forward.

The fact is that support for bullfighting is on the decline with many young Spaniards showing little interest. Many cash strapped councils have had to cancel  annual bullfights from their fiestas. It is really only the major fiestas that stand a chance of surviving.

As far as I know, all TV sets are supplied with an on/off switch and have a channel selection button that allows you to chose what to watch. Because RTVE are broadcasting a corrida does not mean that you have to watch it.

You know freedom of choice works both ways; you can choose to watch or not to watch – it is your decision to make. By banning the broadcast of corridas, the socialist government effectively removed that choice.

A real mess up

The USA Anti Doping Agency have taken Lance Armstrong's decision not to contest the case as an admission of guilt. They maintain that he used banned substances, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions dating back to 1996, and say 10 of his former team-mates were ready to testify against him.

Now the ball is in the hands of the International Cycling Union (the governing body of the sport). It is their job to decide whether to uphold the decision by USADA to strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles. If they do go ahead, then they will have to choose new winners from those who finished behind the American bearing in mind that some of them are also implicated in doping scandals. 

When Alberto Contador was stripped of his title, Andy Schelck was proclaimed winner of last year’s tour. That was embarrassing for both the UCI and Schleck.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What a dope

It seems that Lance Armstrong has decided not to fight the doping charges laid against him  by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That means they will strip him of the seven Tour de France titles and ban him from racing again.

Armstrong denies any involvement with doping and says that he passed every doping test taken during his career. The agency claim that they have blood samples consistent with doping and have testimonies from at least 10 of his team mates that state he took performance enhancing drugs.

Armstrong’s team mate, Floyd Landis says that, not only did Armstrong take drugs, he also taught others how to take them and not be caught.

So the legend of Armstrong has now been shattered. Let that be a lesson to others who follow him.

Closing the stable door

Prince Harry, third in line to the throne of England, is well known for his wild behaviour so it comes as no surprise to find that he was involved in a naked romp in Las Vegas with a few girls. They were apparently playing strip billiards.

What is surprising is that the prince’s minders allowed the girls to take photos of Harry on their mobile phones. You would expect them to take the phones off the girls when they arrived and only give them back as they left but no. It didn't take long for the girls concerned to publish the pictures on the Internet where millions could see them. What else did the prince and his minders think they were going to do with them?

The Royal Palace and Prince Charles’s royal aides threatened legal action against any British newspaper that published the pictures. The Sun newspaper decided to go ahead in what it calls “public interest”.

Public interest or not, anyone who wanted to see these pictures only had to Google Prince Harry to find them. Media coverage on CNN and newspapers throughout the world had already given us all full access to the pictures.

In my opinion, having the pictures published in the UK is the very least of the problems that the Palace faces.

Controversial fireworks

The former socialist mayor of Bigastro, Raúl Valerio Medina  accused the present council of being irresponsible when they allowed fireworks to be set off during the fiesta without the presence of the fire brigade.

The reason there were no fire trucks in attendance was because the town owes 80,000 euros to the Provincial Fire Consortium. However, as Aurelio Murcia points out, the debt was inherited from the previous mandate. He goes on to say that they do have a payment plan to remove the debt and point out that in fact there were no fire trucks present at the fireworks for previous fiestas when the socialists were in control.

I’ve never been down to watch the fireworks that they set off in the large cage. I did speak to someone who did go down this year. It all took place on the 16th at 4am in the morning after the disco in the park finished. Although the person I spoke to was outside the cage, he still managed to get his hair singed by sparks flying over the top.

I recall that, when we first lived here, they used to set off the fireworks on the main street in the town. The scorch marks were visible on the walls of the buildings the next day. Moving the site to waste land was a good move. At least there was no property nearby to damage. 

Setting off fireworks in this way is highly dangerous but then, like running in front of charging bulls, it is part of the Spanish macho image.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It is quiet in here

After the hectic celebrations of the fiesta with late nights and lots of photos to process we then had our friends Hugh and Angela to stay for 6 days.

Hugh and Angela are no trouble and easily fit in with the normal daily routines. Although the plan was to chill, we did pack in a visit to Almoradi and Torrevieja, three meals out and a trip to the Parque Regional de Sierra Espuña.

You can find pictures from their visit in my Flickr Project 365 via the link in the sidebar. 

Now they are gone and we are missing their company already. Just another week though and we will be picking up our daughters Jemma and Laura along with Miss Molly. Another week of fun in the sun in store for us!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not a recommendation

I've been criticised in some quarters for my recommendations about restaurants in the area. For example, one person told Pam that the vegetables at one restaurant I'd mentioned were frozen. I cannot say whether that is true or not but what I can say is that Pam and I and others we have spoken to have enjoyed all of our meals at the establishment in question.

It would be a strange world if everyone had the same tastes and likes. There is certainly no such thing as one restaurant suits all and my criteria may well be different to others. For me if the service is good, the food is tasty, the ambience is pleasant and I feel the price offers good value then it gets a tick.

Yesterday we went to Rebate, a restaurant we have visited often with friends. It is a place that we like for the location and the food but I am sure there are others who find fault. In fact we took friends there one time and they thought the menu of the day lacked choice.

Normally we would have the menu of the day, which at 14.75 euros represents good value in my book. Certainly, for a lunch there is more than enough food for most people to eat. Yesterday we opted for the 25 euro suggested menu and came away with groaning stomachs.

On the more expensive menu, you get a selection of starters which include 7 tapas. Those are followed by a choice of main courses all of which are substantial and then a selection of three different desserts.

At the risk of getting shot in the foot here, I defy anyone to eat that menu and come away hungry. I also defy anyone to find the food anything but well prepared, tasty and beautifully presented. The choices may not be to your liking but that is another matter. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In trouble again

It seems that everyone's favourite airline are in trouble again.Yes, we are talking about Ryanair who are being investigated for 100 complaints by customers in the last year.

The surprise is that there were only 100 complaints to be answered for.

Pam and I flew by Ryanair for the first time when we went to Barcelona. Both there and back the flights were only part full so we had no complaints about seating.

We'd also been careful to take on hand luggage that would easily fit into the bins they use to check for oversize bags. That was just as well because at both Alicante and El Prat, there were vigilant employees eyeing up anything that looked remotely oversized. The number of people who had to squeeze their bags in just to prove they were the right size was appalling and showed how obsessive the company is about cabin luggage. My airline sized roller case for my cameras would have got stuck in the bins so I didn't take it.

During the flight, nobody bought drinks from the trolly and I am not surprised when we saw the prices.

Ryanair might offer the cheapest prices but that means they also provide the worst service. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

An ola de calor

There are a few phrases in Spanish that I find easy to remember.  One of these is an ola de calor or heat wave. That is probably because we do seem to get a few of them at this time of year.

The week before the fiesta we had one which continued through into the first days of festivity. That was very hot.

Now we are apparently having another one but somehow this does not seem to be as bad. Perhaps we have become accustomed to the heat so much that we just don't notice when the thermometer rises close to 40.

For me, the heat is not the issue, it is the humidity. When it is high you just can't stop sweating. I have to remember to drink a lot more to replace that lost water otherwise I start feeling a pain in my kidneys (not good).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Peace returns

After the fiesta is over, Bigastro usually becomes a haven of peace and tranquility. Many people go on holiday and some of the bars and shops close for vacations.

Last night though, things were different. For one thing there was street entertainment in the form of La Murga on Calle Purisima. That drew a healthy crowd.

We took our visitors down, not to witness La Murga but to eat at Casa Eloina, thinking it might be very quiet and there may only be a few diners. We were so wrong, table after table came out of storage and the street was filled just as it had been on the days of the fiesta.

From the tiny kitchen came plate after plate of tapas and from the bar large jugs of foaming beer. By 10:30 there was a real party atmosphere on Calle Purisima. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

All over for another year

Last night marked the end of this year’s fiesta. The solemn parade of the statue of San Joaquin around the town, accompanied by the townsfolk carrying lighted candles, is the last act or dedication to the patron saint of the town.

If you go the sidebar under My recent albums of photos, you will find the pictures that I took last night.

Before we close the door though, I think we should thank the members of the Fiesta Commission for their hard work and dedication in putting together such a wonderful programme of events for us. In these days of austerity, it must have taken a great deal of imagination and resourcefulness to even have a fiesta at all.

IMG_9604 Without neglecting the contribution of the other members of the commission, I would like to pay my tribute to just two; Aurelio Murcia and Eladia Robles.

On every occasion that I have been down in the town, they have been there working away to make sure that everything ran smoothly – especially Aurelio. I remember one time when I went down, he hadn’t even had time to have a shave that day! I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’d hardly had time to eat let alone sleep during this last week.

In my opinion, the whole town owes Aurelio a debt of gratitude for this year’s fiesta. Without him, it would have been a pretty poor affair.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Another set of photos

Last night was the parade of comparsas so you have yet another set of photos to look at. Before I went off to take those, I visited the 3rd age group to take their photo.  

They did surprise me a little when they jumped up after the first shot ready to leave. You never take just one shot of a group like that. The first one, the poses are all stiff and wooden. It is only after a couple of shots that the faces loosen up and you get the picture you want. In any case, there is bound to be someone with their eyes closed on at least one of the pictures.

FInal pic

Here is the final shot and for anyone who wants a copy – all you have to do is click on it to open the original in a new window ready for you to download.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A busy night for the band

The band accompanied the floral offering to San Joaquin and then played a concert.

Another varied programme of music with some wonderful solo pieces. I have to say though that I found the Suite 1,936 by Jose Vincente Diaz Alcaina hard going. On the other hand, the Suite Hebarica by Miguel Gonzalez was a joy to listen to and El Quijote (Fantasia Sinfonica) by Ferrer Ferran was such a stirring piece with Mateo Marco Amoros narrating the tale.

IMG_9907 This little chappie seemed to agree with me. He was clearly appreciating the music as much as the rest of us.

I’m sure he was impressed by the performance by his cousin Raquel on flute.

You can see my pictures by clicking on the albums in the left hand side bar.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When things go wrong

We all know that fireworks can be dangerous, even in the hands of experts.

Last night in Elche, three people suffered serious injuries and twenty more had to be treated when a rocket launched prematurely. It was the Nit del’Alba and thousands would have been there to see the display.

Two of the seriously injured were taken to the General Hospital in Elche where they were treated for second degree buns to over 50% of the body. The other was taken to the IMED in Torrellano and was treated for first degree burns.

The rocket was due to be launched from the bell tower of Santa Maria which was covered in canvas at the time. The rocket hit the canvas and went down to ground causing mahem.

A little about pools

One of my followers, Maz is planning to buy a house on the beautiful island of Mallorca. It will be the retirement home for Maz and her husband.

It is likely that they will be looking to have a pool and so she asks, “What about the 'salt water' pools are they any better/easier to look after?”

By that I take it she means pools with salt water chlorination rather than a sea water pool.

I have no experience of salt water chlorination which I believe is very popular in Australia. My understanding though is that the system is not without faults and the people who maintain pools tell me it can be a pain in the butt. For one thing, the system does not produce enough chlorine for the summer so you have to add chlorine anyway.

Let me reassure you Maz, routine maintenance of a pool is pretty straightforward; you top up the water, test it for ph and chlorine and add chemicals as required. Keeping the pool clean means netting off any debris that is floating on the surface and vacuuming the bottom to remove dirt that has settled.

Occasionally things can go wrong and that’s when you might need the help of an expert either to give the tiles an acid wash, to change the sand in the filter or to replace parts in the pump house that have failed. 

Possibly the most serious problems occur where the builder has used flexible hose to connect the pool to the pump housing. Flexible hose might be easier to install but it will not stand up to the effects of chlorine. They really should use rigid pipe which is actually cheaper but they don’t because it is more difficult to install.

A number of people on our estate, including ourselves have had the pipe connecting the skimmer to the pump replaced with rigid pipe because that is the one which carries the highest concentration of chlorine. Of course, those who have sprinkled granulated chlorine into the water rather than use chlorine tablets in the skimmer box will probably still be OK. 

My neighbours

The lady on the left lives two houses down the road and the one on the right has recently moved in next door up the road. My neighbour from across the road.
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With Aurelio just down the road on the right and the two footballers next door, Pam and I are now the only Brits on Calle Irlanda.

I thought that went well

The move to the park for the International Gastronomy Day was inspirational. There was a lot more space for the tables to eat at. Most important though, separating the paella, the Spanish tables, the British tables and the bar removed the bun fight element from the day.

People either queued for paella or the other offerings from the Spanish contingent, then they went for the British cakes and biscuits to round off their meal.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Call me prude

There were some amazing acts at the talent show last night, singers, dancers and comedians. One nine year old boy thought he was in with a chance of winning the 1,000 euro top prize when the first judges gave him high marks. Thankfully, the other judges marked him lower.

I’ll admit the young man had a good stage presence and a damn good memory to roll off his prepared repertoire of jokes. For me though, he let himself down by telling jokes that would have made Roy Chubby Brown blush. Don’t get me wrong, in the right sort of environment, delivered by someone older, the jokes would have gone down well. But this was Bigastro and he was just a boy.

The worthy winner was a young lady with a powerful voice and the runners up were a band that opened the show. In fact, all of the contestants deserved prizes because they had put a lot of hard work into their performances. The real winners though were the audience who were given a real treat. I hope they do this again next year.

You can of course see my photos from the night along with those of the infant parade and the tapeo by clicking on the albums in the left hand sidebar. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Two of the smaller comparsas (Los del Saco and Los que no perdonan) have now joined together for the fiesta and here are some of the young men outside their bararraca.


We meet at last

IMG_9546 This bigastrense followed my blog for the four years that he lived in Mexico.

Now he is back in Bigastro and today we met up at the tapeo.

No doubt we will bump into each other again during the course of the fiesta and maybe share a beer.

Muchisimo gracias

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After we’d enjoyed some tapas, Pam and I strolled through the park where we were stopped by members of the comparsa “Los Galanes de la noche”. They were enjoying a lunch together and wanted a quick photo or two.
As a reward they gave us plates of pelotas and drinks. That was very kind of them and we appreciated the gesture.

Thanks for that

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Spaniards love to pose for the camera. Nobody poses better than this young man though.

As you might imagine, he is very popular in the town and takes part in mostly everything that is going on.

As Pam's gran would have said, "he seems like a nice boy".

More loco each year

The designers of the crazy cars that speed down one of the hills of Bigastro as part of the annual fiesta become more inventive each year in order to secure a prize. Some are built for speed, others for pure enjoyment. As far as I know, nobody crashed this year although one car did lose a wheel that came loose on the way down (I hope I got it right that time Charles!)

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See my album of photos from this remarkable event here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Third age

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Last night, Dave and Barbara Mann handed over the reins to the new third age queen, Laura, at the coronation ceremony.

To be fair Dave did look hot and bothered and I’m not surprised; even at 11pm the temperature must have been in the mid twenties.

You can see the rest of my photos from the whole ceremony here.

PS As my reader, Charles Smythe can see, they let me loose to lose myself in the moment last night. I am at a loss to explain how I managed to get those two words mixed up yet again in my post about the sand change:-) I must remember in future lose has lost an o.

PPS And we wonder why Spaniards have difficulty with English:-)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Owning a pool is a commitment

Apart from the routine of cleaning, checking water quality and adding chemicals there are long term jobs that need to be done to maintain that desirable water sparkle in your pool.

The grouting in our pool has become stained, especially in the curves between the walls and the floor. Along with that, the grouting has also come loose in places - possibly because I allowed the ph to drop to 6.8 for a period a year or so ago. The answer is to drain the pool, acid wash the grouting and have it re-grouted. That is a job for late autumn – not now!

What we have had done though is a sand change in the filter.

Each time you backwash the filter, you lose sand. After time, you have to top the filter up with more but eventually it all has to be replaced. That is because the sand wears against itself and becomes rounded instead of sharp. At that stage it will not trap dirt passing through the filter. As you clean the bottom of the pool you can see the dirt coming back in through the jets. Instead of giving you a nice clean pool, your cleaning sessions simply turn the water grey.

Changing the sand is a bit of a job because you need to clean out all of it and the only way is to scoop it out from the top. Then you need to take the filter out of the pump housing and give it a thorough clean with a hose pipe. Finally you re-install it and fill it up with new sand – course stuff at the bottom and finer sand at the top. In our case 100kgs of the stuff.

In order to try and avoid this job in years to come, we’ve had our filter filled with glass instead of sand – coarse grade at the bottom and finer stuff at the top. They say that glass should last for the life of the pool because it won’t break down like sand. The truth is that it is too soon for anyone to say for sure but the theory sounds convincing. The filter will need a top up in a few years because the fine glass will be removed by backwashing.

Opening a gateway

You can’t fly to many international destinations from Alicante. At present the solution is a stop over in e.g. Madrid. You can fly to London Gatwick but not Heathrow.

That will all change this winter when British Airways starts flights to London’s premier airport which offers routes to 180 destinations in 90 different countries. Fares will start at 81 euros one way.

A bit of a cock up

We are used to reading about illegal housing in Spain – homes that were erected by builders before official permission was granted. In many cases, the homes have been legalised at a later date but sadly there are a number which have been demolished because they were built too close to the coast or were built on protected land.

Getting it wrong with an individual house is bad enough  but I read  this morning that the 21 storey twin towers built by Edicicaciones Calpe SL in the Punta Llisera zone of Benidorm have been declared illegal by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Permission was granted by the Dirección General de Puertos y Costas in 2005, the controversial apartment blocks were built and some of the 168 apartments are lived in.

Quite what happens now is anybody’s guess. There will no doubt be appeal after appeal but eventually they could be scheduled for demolition.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Olympic fever hits Whitehall

Britain is doing well at the Olympics, lying third behind China and the USA so sports fever is the current vogue.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has jumped on the bandwagon by saying he wants more sport in schools. More to the point, he wants competitive sports not the mamby pamby everyone is a winner and must get a prize stuff that was thrust on schools in the past.

Now there is a turn up for the books. I remember that schools were told that competition was a bad thing and that all children should be allowed to succeed. Sports days where children competed against each other were banned as being divisive. It seems that they may now make a return.

The Government has sold off paying fields to fund more important projects. The present government scrapped the successful School Sport Partnerships two years ago in a cost cutting exercise.  Now Cameron wants teachers to give up their free time to teach sports. Never mind technology and all that rubbish, lets have more soccer, rugby, tennis etc.  Next thing, there will be a whole scale revision of the curriculum and a drive to recruit more sports teachers.

Of course, when the Olympics are over and things settle down again, there will be a change of heart. There will be another bandwagon to jump onto and teachers will have to go through hoops to embrace the new fad that the government come up with. In the meantime, teachers in barmy Britain need to get their trainers out  and start practising for the new term in September.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My advice

One of my Spanish readers, Alejandro, tells me that his wife has bought a Nikon D3100 digital single reflex camera. That is a great choice. It is a camera that offers a lot of quality for the price and a very good auto focus system.

Now, of course they want a program that will enable them to edit the photos. The Nikon comes with ViewNX 2 software which will enable them to perform basic edits but for something more sophisticated they may need to look elsewhere.

Alejandro mentions Adobe Photoshop CS4 (the current version is CS6) and point out that it is expensive. Not only that but it is over the top for what most people need.

I’ve told him that I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (the current version is 10) which is much more affordable and will do most of what its more expensive sibling can do. It is also a lot easier to understand and work with.

There are other packages that I know work well like Coral Paint Shop Pro. Not being familiar with these, I can’t comment on how useful or how easy they are to use compared to Elements.

One thing I would advise, is that Alejandro’s wife learns how to use the camera in its more advanced modes rather than just stick with program (point and shoot). That way she will get the most out of the camera and start to create pictures rather than snapshots.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Time for the Mary Baker mix?

We have been invited to join in the Gastronomy Day.  This year it is being held in the Main Park, not the previous area near the Social Centre.  It is due to commence about 2.00 p.m.

Aurelio has promised to do better than last year - proper tables, shade, enough plates and refreshments!

In view of the heat we have decided to confine our contributions to cakes and biscuits - sweet or savoury.  All contributions would be gratefully received but please no cream or butter icing etc - i.e. nothing that will melt. 

We plan to be in the Park at about 1.15/1.30 pm to set up.  For ease of presentation if you are providing cakes, can you please cut them up into "wedding cake slices" and wrap them in cling film to stop them drying out. Thanks. (If you don't want to do this we will do it for you).  If you are unable to take them directly to the park then please feel free to give them to either me or Barbara Mann and we will willingly take them down to the park.

This invitation is not confined to Villas Andrea residents.  As I don't have many email addresses myself, please forward this to anyone British to invite them to join in.

Help with the tables is also welcomed.  Thank you all in advance for your help.

Again we have to thank Diane for organising this on our behalf.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

What a golden day for Britain

Normally there is not a lot of incentive to watch the Olympics if you are a Brit. OK, the UK team usually get medals in sports like cycling, shooting and ocean racing but that is about it.

This time round though it has been different, Britain is lying third in the medals table thanks to a slew of gold medals yesterday:

Rowing men's four: Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James, Andrew Triggs Hodge

Rowing women's double sculls: Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking

Cycling women's team pursuit: Dani King, Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell

Athletics, women's heptathlon: Jessica Ennis

Athletics, men's long jump: Greg Rutherford

Athletics, men's 10,000m: Mo Farah

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A little crowded


This picture from one of the local papers shows the central beach in Torrevieja.

Apparently people are going down as early as 7am, before the beach has been cleaned, to stake their claim to a space with a sun brolly.

Those that arrive later have to squeeze their way in to find space to sit.  And as you can see, once they are there, it is impossible to go for a walk along the shoreline without going into the sea.

I should think It would also be impossible to catch the suns rays amongst that sea of brollies. In fact, I’m not sure how you would find your brolly again if you ventured too far away from it. Just imagine if you had young children with you!

Actually, before you even get to the point of setting up camp, there is the issue of finding somewhere to park the car. Most of the people on this beach will have walked there from the apartments nearby but for those of us who live out of town, the logistics of getting to the beach are a nightmare.

I can say with absolute certainty that you will not find Pam and I joining the torreviense on la playa del Cura this August.

Promises, hopes and bluffs

Politics is all about posturing, bluffing and counter bluffing. One day, leaders will say one thing and then the next, the exact opposite. They make promises, raise hopes and then break them leaving every one confused and disheartened.

Not too long ago, Mariano Rajoy insisted that Spain would not be seeking a sovereign bailout. Now things are very different. Borrowing costs for the country have reached new heights and several of the regions are seeking assistance from central government to meet their debts.

At a news conference following a cabinet meeting, Mr Rajoy said that he was ready to do what was best for Spain meaning that he would be prepared to ask the euro region’s bailout funds to buy Spanish debt if the conditions were right.

Everything really depends on how long the European leaders, the ECB and European rescue fund are prepared to wait before making real decisions; putting pen to paper instead of just offering announcements of intent and proposals.

Of course, all parties want the best out of any deal that is brokered but you can’t help but feel that someone soon will have to give in and stump up the cash otherwise Spain will face an even more serious situation than it does now. We thought in 2008 that things could not get worse, they did and could get even more worse in the years to come. There may be light at the end of the tunnel but at the moment it is so dim we cannot see it.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Spare a thought for Spain

Britain are now lying fifth in the medal tables at the Olympics with five gold, six silver and four bronze and there is hope for more medals to come. Poor Spain though only have two medals so far, one silver and one bronze tying with Belarus, Denmark, Indonesia, Mongolia and Norway. It seems that nothing is going Spain’s way at the moment even their football team failed to score goals in the group sessions.

Banks need money not land

The 1,090,000 euro loan that Raúl Valerio Medina had negotiated with Caja Rural Central was apparently to refinance debts that the town had with the bank from 2006. The aim was to reduce payments the town had to make. Land, which now forms part of the sports centre, was used as security for the loan. 

The new government team failed to make payments to Caja Rural Central for the last six months which has triggered off a claim to the courts for 1,480,000 (the original sum plus interest). Instead of claiming the land, the bank are asking the judge to withhold state transfers to the town until the whole debt is paid off.

In order to stave off this action, the mayor, Charo Bañuls  has offered land and parking spaces in the town. Although, this offer will not cover the whole of the debt, she hopes that it will placate the bank. The mayor has already ruled out the idea of renegotiating the loan to extend it and reduce payments because of the excessive interest they would have to pay.

The caja banks in Spain are in a very sorry state. Only they know just how bad their situation is but for sure they hold a lot of toxic debt in the form of land and housing that they cannot sell. I imagine the last thing that Caja Rural Central want is land in Bigastro- what would they do with it other than grow artichokes and melons?

Like a sauna

Pam and I  noticed the difference in temperature as we came out from Alicante airport; it was a lot more comfortable in Barcelona.

Along with the higher temperatures, the humidity has been high which makes you feel uncomfortable. Temperatures reached 40 degrees in Orihuela the other day -it was cooler in Torrevieja at 35 degrees. The humidity by evening though has reached 90% – like sitting in a sauna.  

This phononema is normal for early August and will not last. Although temperatures will settle into the low to mid 30s,  the humidity will remain high. It should feel a lot more comfortable.   

Thursday, August 02, 2012

I make no excuses

It seems that my spelling has yet again gone awry. One of my readers has found several spelling errors in my articles and has kindly pointed them out to me. Thank you Charles Smythe. 

Windows Live Writer does check spelling but cannot detect where you have used “there” for “their” and “loose” for “lose”. I do have a proof reader but she gets up an hour or so after I have posted my items!

As an ex-teacher I should not be making these mistakes but then I’m human and in my defence my background is in art not literature. In fact my wife is surprised that I even  write a blog. Actually, I’m just as surprised.

Anyway, I do apologise to my readers. I have now corrected the mistakes that Charles pointed out.

The socialists appeal

Yesterday, the socialist group presented a letter asking the mayor, Rosario Bañuls to stop "the insults and provocations" made by the spokesman and deputy mayor, Aurelio Murcia, in plenary sessions.

During the meeting on Monday, the socialists asked the mayor to  stop the insults and provocation by Murcia and she refused. They therefore left the meeting and missed the important debate about opening disciplinary proceedings against their group for renewing a bank loan in 2010. They say that, if they had stayed at the meeting, they would have been able to explain the circumstances of the loan which Murcia claims was irregular.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Where did the money go?

In the heyday, towns and regions in Spain spent like a man with fire in his pockets. Their excuse was that they needed to compete for the growing international tourist market.

Nowhere did they spend more than in Valencia. Thanks in part to Francisco Camps, the region built an airport at Castellon which cost 150 million euros which has not had one flight take off or land on the new runway. Then there was the 2.4 billion euro new harbour built for the Americas Cup in 2007 which is now largely empty. The region pays 20.5 million euros to Bernie Ecclestone  each year to stage the F1 race and they built a lavish opera house which  Santiago Calatrava constructed at a cost of 1.1 billion euros.

On top of this, there were theme parks, museums, art galleries and lavish new universities all built at a time when money was easily come by. Cities were connected by new high speed railway lines and new  motorways. It seems that nobody foresaw that this could not possible last, they must have imagined that the property bubble would go on forever.

It wasn’t just the region that spent money like it was going out of fashion; towns like Torrevieja planned and built new facilities for the tourists they thought would flock there. In Bigastro they sanctioned the building of an aparthotel which turned out to be a complex of houses and built a new sports facility along with an auditorium and multi-story car park. The politicians attended tourist fairs in the hope of attracting these visitors. I can only think that the ruling party at the time imagined that half of Europe would want to come and either live in or at least visit the town.  Of course, local people were proud of the party that delivered all this that is until they saw the bills. 

As you might expect, there was widespread corruption at the time and more recently banking scandals have been exposed but in those days nobody cared because everyone was making money. Young people left school to work in construction and bought themselves expensive German cars; carpenters, electricians etc bought lavish new houses with mortgages they can no longer afford. The banks, that were only too pleased to lend the money, are now looking for assistance from the EU. Houses might be cheap but you’d be hard pressed to get a loan to buy one.

So, Spaniards are now licking their wounds and are blaming the Germans for imposing strict austerity. They also blame their own government for accepting the imposition. We face an autumn of discontent as workers strike and revolt against the sanctions.

However, the fault lies, not with the present government but with the people in power both centrally and regionally in the boom years. They were the ones who indulged in reckless spending. They, along with the people themselves, failed to comprehend the misery that their actions would bring in future years. In truth, Spain must largely take the blame for the mess that it is now in. 

We could lose some of the sports facility in the town

The Caja Rural bank are looking to seize assets worth 1,480,000 euros from Bigastro town council. This is because the town took out a mortgage for 1,090,00 euros in 2010 and has defaulted on payments since 2011.
The mortgage was taken out by the former mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina for land at the sports centre so it is possible that the town will lose some of that land.