Wednesday, December 31, 2014

See how it dropped

Untitled-1It might have felt warm in the sun yesterday but out of it was decidedly chilly. As you can see from the graph, the maximum temperature recorded in Orihuela was a bare 12 degrees between 2pm and 4 ‘o clock. It then plummeted down, reaching 0 degrees by 2am.

The central heating in our house is set to come on at 4pm and normally has the place as warm as toast within half an hour. Yesterday it was struggling to reach 20 degrees by 6pm and only really got warm by about 7:30.

This cold spell is set to last until about Saturday after which it should start to become a little warmer.


Earlier this year, George Osborne revealed plans to cut winter fuel payments to 100,000 ex pats. The Prime Minister pledged that the payments would be protected until 2015 but after the next election that could all change.

The original ruling was that you had to have lived in Britain at the age of 60 to claim but that was overruled by the European Court of Justice. That meant that Pam and I, who left Britain at the age of 57, can now claim. For the last couple of year we have received £100 each – thank you.

Like many benefits, the winter fuel payment is not means tested and therein lies the problem. There are some living in both Britain and abroad who do not need to rely upon the payment to keep warm but, by the same token, there are many who do.

For the whole of our working lives we paid National Insurance and we paid tax, more I dare say than the average working Brit. We don’t get any of the other benefits that British pensioners might receive and even pay a proportion of our prescription costs under the copago system in Valencia. Actually, because our works pensions are government pensions, we still pay income tax in the UK so we are still, in effect, contributors to the UK economy. 

The assumption made by Mr Osborne, is that temperatures in countries like Spain average 17 degrees in winter and as you can see from the graph yesterday, that is not necessarily true. Our gas bills for the winter quarters are well over 300 euros each which is probably similar to those for pensioners in Britain. I am not saying that we rely upon that payment but it certainly helps.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A cold end to the year

A wave of cold air has descended on the province causing the thermometers to drop by up to eight degrees. Here on the coastal plane that means lows of about 2 degrees but further inland it is much colder. In Pinoso the low was 0.

In Castellón there were even colder temperatures recorded like –6.7 in Fredes and –6 in Vilafranca. The lowest temperature in Valencia was –5 in Turis.

The cold snap will last until Epiphany when temperatures will rise again and could reach 20 during the daytime.

What would be worse is the possibility of rain. Thankfully, that is not forecast.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Upping the stakes

Diego Carillo Soler, Director of the Bigastro Symphonic Band, moved their performance up several rungs last night.

You may have noticed the inclusion of Thomas Doss’ Sidus in the programme. I had never heard of either him or it until last night.


Thomas Doss was born 1966, in Linz, Austria, into a musical family (both parents were active orchestral musicians). His undergraduate degree was in music education at the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz, with an emphasis in trombone, composition, conducting, and piano. Subsequent studies took place in Salzburg, Vienna, Los Angeles, and Maastricht (Limburg). Doss made his début with the Wiener Kammerorchester in 1988. He held residencies with various opera houses and festivals, working as both conductor and composer with, amongst others: the Brucknerorchester Linz, Philharmonisches Orchester Erfurt, Wiener Kammersinfoniker, Westfälisches Sinfonieorchester, Philharmonisches Orchester Budweis, Südböhmische Kammerphilharmonie, Wiener Kammerchor, Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt, and the Österreichisches Ensemble für neue Musik. Doss is known for collaborating with artists from many different genres, such as Harri Stojka, Chris de Burgh, Thomas Gansch, John Williams, Steven Mead, Christian Maurer, as well as many others. His passion for wind and brass ensembles has taken his expertise and talent around the world. He has maintained a close relationship with Mitropa Music (distributed by De Haske Hal Leonard) since 2001 and has published numerous scores and CDs with them. Teaching and coaching have also become an increasingly important part of Doss’s work. Many of his students are award-winners at international competitions. He also leads workshops and master-classes at institutes across Europe, such as the Konservatorium Groningen (Netherlands), Lemmensinstitut (Belgium), Konservatorium Gent (Belgium), Universität Mainz (Germany), Musikuniversität Wien, and Anton Bruckneruniversität Linz (Austria). Doss has been the coordinator for the “Ensembleleitung des Oberösterreichischen Landesmusikschulwerk” since 2006. He is professor of conducting at the Vienna University Conservatory and at the Monteverdi Conservatory in Bolzano, Italy and has been a consultant for institutes looking to improve and further their conducting programmes. Numerous sound storage media, prizes and awards line his musical way.

Among his many works, Sidus is categorized as a “difficult to very difficult” piece for symphonic woodwind. I think the musicians in the band would agree with that. I believe that they intend to include it in their programme for a forthcoming competition. If it wows the judges as much as it did the audience last night, then they are sure to win a coveted prize.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Batten down the hatches

Along with a distinct drop in temperature, we could experience some strong gusts of wind over the next day here in Bigastro. Unlike Britain though, we are hardly likely to see any snow.

The Daily Mail paints a dramatic picture of the snow that fell over the Midlands and Yorkshire in particular and talks of further snowfall and temperatures plummeting to –10 degrees. The reality will probably be not quite as bad as that. When it rains, the Daily Mail describes it as a torrential downpour; when it is sunny, the Mail says it is a heatwave hotter than Spain and when it snows, the country plunges into Arctic conditions.

The Russians are going

The economic crisis in Russia is set to have a profound effect on this region of Spain. Russia spends over 500 million euros a year on the Costa Blanca, that is a lot of revenue to lose.

First there is the export of fruit, vegetables and quality leather goods from the area which accounts for 106 million euros. The Costa Blanca also exports, among other things;  marble, fertilizer, oils, perfumes, canned vegetables, fruit juice, furniture, lamps and pottery – even musical instruments. 

Then there are the tourists who were on a rapid increase over the last year but are now in decline. !61,000 Russians arrived at El Altet in the last year and they bring money with them to spend in hotels, bars, shops etc.

Lastly, there is real estate. Wealthy Russians were buying homes in the area at prices over 500,000 euros, an average of 918,000 euros per house. Set that against the average investment of other nationals at 126,170 euros and you can judge how important the Russian business was to this area.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Now that I call funny


For the benefit of my Spanish readers, the cartoon puts a twist on the word frankincense (one of the gifts from the 3 kings) and turns it into Frankenstein (the monster).

Pam and I at Christmas


We went for lunch to La Herradura (the horseshoe) restaurant in Los Montesinos. You have the same menu every year but hey, you’d get the same meal in any restaurant in England on Christmas Day. Ours was typically Spanish. Here are just three of the courses we enjoyed.


And here is the entertainment. Two flamenco shows.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Another Christmas has arrived

DSCF0044When you get to a certain age, you’d think that Christmas would lose its appeal. I am happy to say that has not happened to me yet. I am still looking forward to opening the presents under the tree to see what surprises the girls have found for me. I am also looking forward to my Christmas dinner.

Most of all though, I can’t wait to see the excitement on the face of my granddaughter as she discovers what Santa has brought for her this year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My neighbour Pepe

KW5D2650 Having tried the cornet, Pepe decided that a saxophone would be easier to learn. 

Pepe has now become so proficient that he  has joined the Junior Band.

It will only be a matter of time before we see him playing in the symphonic band.
KW5D2680 The musicians parading around the streets to accompany Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

RIP Joe Cocker

joe-cocker1Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer at the age of 70.

Born and brought up in Sheffield, he was for me at the time, a local lad made good. I confess that I’d never heard of him during his early career when he played with his brother in groups which eventually became Vance Arnold & the Avengers. My first recollection of Joe was when he formed the Grease Band, they were popular locally in Northern clubs. I heard of him but never got to see him perform.

HIs was one of the defining performances in August 1969 at Woodstock. He sang With a Little Help from My Friends complete with unearthly screams, hideous grimaces and seemingly uncontrollable body gyrations. Pam and I saw him in much later in Germany during a three day concert. He was brilliant on stage, still gyrating, still grunting and still hammering out the lyrics like he meant them.

Many successful artists at that time were singer songwriters. Joe relied on others to write but gave his own personal interpretation to the tunes.

Among my favourites are: Feelin Alright, With A Little Help from My Friends, The Letter, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, You Are So Beautiful, You Can Leave Your Hat On, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, When the Night Comes, Unchain My Heart and Delta Lady.

I could have sworn that he had an LP entitled Cocker Happy but that is apparently not true.

Was it you?

Every ticket with the number 13437 you bought for the Christmas lottery would mean you were now 400,100 euros better off.

None of our neighbours are likely to be included in that list though because we know that the winning tickets were sold elsewhere.

Locally, one ticket for one of the fifth prizes was sold in Orihuela Costa and another for the fourth prize in La Murada. Three tickets for the second prize were sold in Callosa de Segura. Each of those three tickets are now worth 125,000 euros.

For those who had no luck this year, there is always next or you might want to try your luck at El Nino, the son of El Gordo. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

I stand no chance

El Gordo, the fat one or Christmas Lottery is an obsession for many Spaniards. It is their chance to become millionaires and so they buy tickets like they are going out of fashion. With 2,240 million euros in prizes to be distributed, the chance of winning are a lot higher than in most other lotteries.

Two years ago, the chances were even higher when the pot was 280 million more and in those days you were not taxed on the winnings. Now, every prize over 2,500 euros is taxed at 20%. None of that has put anyone off though. The average spend on lottery tickets in Alicante province is said to be 65 euros per person, lower than last year.

In the past I have bought the odd ticket for the lottery and once I got my stake back because my number ended in a 5. However, I am not a gambling person and never have been. We did buy tickets for the National Lottery in England when it first was introduced and I even ran a syndicate at school for awhile but it soon became obvious that it was just money down the drain so I stopped contributing.

Having not bought a ticket for El Gordo, my chances are nil – zilch, zero, nada. I content myself with the knowledge that I haven’t wasted the 65 euros or more that others have. If one of my neighbours or friends wins, I will congratulate him/her and expect nothing in return.

The draw has been running for just over 40 minutes now and there are no signs of gasps or sounds of champagne corks flying yet. 

There you have it

1526964_403188329835649_513473388060454883_nThe programme for Christmas in Bigastro.

I will be down to see the junior band accompanying Santa around the town in the hope of catching my neighbour Pepe playing saxophone.

I do have one question though. On the posters for the Christmas concert by the band it says 8pm but on this poster from the Town Hall it says 7pm. Whilst we don’t want to arrive at 8 and miss it, neither would we want to be there at 7 and wait for an hour outside.

I will ask my friend Christopher who plays flute in the band and get back to you. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tocomocho and estampita

Two Spanish scams that have been around for a number of years but still catch people out, especially the elderly.

Tocomocho is a lottery ticket scam. Basically you are offered a lottery ticket by one of the scammers. An accomplice then appears and just happens to have a list of winning numbers which includes the one offered to you. Impressed, you buy the ticket for a lot more than its face value. Of course the whole thing is a fake and the ticket turns out to be worthless.

Estampita involves two or more people, one of whom acts dumb. He offers you a high value bank note which he says is just a worthless estampita or holy picture card. He explains that he has many more of these. The accomplice convinces you to buy the “holy cards” but guess what, only the top one is a genuine bank note, the others are worthless scraps of paper.

To those who read my blog

I hope that you all have a very merry Christmas and a a happy New Year. Pam and I are here for both and look forward to a pleasant but at the same time peaceful rest. We will, of course, be in touch with our family via Facetime to keep up with the hectic celebrations back in England.

Santa can be scary

10419041_402394869914995_7771689058893679336_nNot just Santa, but those three Kings can frighten young children to death. 

No matter how much you tell them he is a nice person that brings you presents on Christmas Eve, the sight of a man in a huge white wig and beard can be very intimidating when you are little.

Just look at the face of this young girl in Bigastro taken by Eli Ortuno last night. 

Prize presentation

The prizes for shop window dressing went to:-

FIRST PRIZE SHARED Floristerías Las Calas  and Floristería D'Flor
SECOND PRIZE Estanco Álvaro
THIRD PRIZE SHARED El sueño de Luna and  Mi rincón Exquisito

I tried to get some photos yesterday but it was impossible to avoid the reflections of cars and other buildings in the windows. There are some pictures on Facebook though which were taken at night which show the work that shopkeepers put into this competition.

An unlikely pairing

I’d seen a concert advertised on Canal + featuring Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga and was naturally intrigued as to how this was going to work out.

Tony Bennett is an 88 year old crooner. He has won won 17 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented in 2001) and two Emmy Awards, and and has sold over 50 million records worldwide. His style is smooth, sophisticated and very much mainstream jazz.

On the other hand, Lady Gaga is 60 years his junior and is best known for her wild, often lewd, theatrical style. She aims to shock and achieves that. For example, at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, she wore a dress made from raw beef. Her boots, purse and hat were also made from raw beef. 

How on earth could these two collaborate on stage?

The short concert, entitled Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live!,  was was played to a select audience. The two singers were backed by a 39 piece orchestra which included the amazing Chris Botti on trumpet and David Mann on tenor sax. The setlist of 13 songs included “Anything Goes”, “Nature Boy”, “I Won’t Dance”, “Lush Life” and “But Beautiful”.

And it turned out very well indeed. Lady Gaga has a great voice which matched perfectly that of Tony Bennett. She did tone down the theatricals but still managed to flirt with Bennett in a way that made for good interaction between the two. They sang beautifully together and received several standing ovations from the discerning audience.

The concert is available on DVD for those who might be interested and there are several different CD versions of the Cheek to Cheek project. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Window dressing

Check out the shop windows in Bigastro that have been dressed for Christmas. You will find a mixture of traditional ones with scenes from Bethlehem to very imaginative use of the products that the shops sell.

When Pam and I go down today for the Christmas market, I'll try and capture a few for you to see.

The best will win prizes of 100, 80 and 50 euros.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hands on the controls

10835331_395423917278757_4046054330531156093_oPlaying video games is just as popular here as anywhere.

Especially for Christmas, the town has organised a competition for the young people of Bigastro on video consoles and PCs.

Apart from the fact that I am too old, I am absolutely hopeless at video games. Even Candy Crush Saga defeats me when I get to the higher levels.

Just for you


Here you have the programme for the Christmas concert starting with Francisco Grau’s tribute to Joaquin Perales and finishing with Manuel Moya’s, A Mi Pueblo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another major leak

The two pipes that carry water from the Tajo to the Segura are almost 40 years old. Is it any wonder then that there are leaks in the joints when they are under pressure and are subject to large temperature changes throughout the seasons.

The leak on November 16th caused the loss of 300,000 litres of water. Yesterday, there was a further leak which started spurting water at 3:30pm and continued until 7pm. For the moment, only the right hand pipe is carrying water.

Local farmers are complaining that the leak has stopped them from planting broccoli. It seems they will have to wait for the land to dry out before continuing the work.

The price of fuel

The price of Brent crude oil has fallen below the $60 a barrel mark for the first time since early July 2009. And it is predicted to keep on falling after the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries indicated it will not cut production even if it falls to $40 a barrel.

In countries like England this means that the prices of fuel at petrol stations will be reduced considerably. Predictions show that it could mean the return of petrol at less than £1 per litre – diesel will be about 6p more expensive.

The question is, “will the prices of fuel at the pumps here in Spain be cheaper”.

A few weeks ago we were discussing this very issue in our Spanish class, Our teacher remarked that the price of petrol always seems to go up here in Spain as the price of oil increases but never seems to go down when the price falls.

I filled my car up before setting off to the airport on the 4th and the price then for petrol was higher than in the UK. It will be a few weeks before I need to top up again, I’ll keep my eye on the prices to see if Antonio is right.


One of my readers has pointed out that the price of fuel in Spain is normally cheaper than in England and asks me for the current price.


The graph also explains why the price I paid here in Bigastro was more expensive than the price in England. Between filling my car up here in Spain on the 4th and filling up the hire car in England on the 13th, the price had dropped.

After the turkey is finished

When Christmas Day is over and Boxing Day as well, Bigastro has a treat lined up for you before the celebrations for New Year begin.

Whilst other concerts by the band may be a showcase for important works and new material, the Christmas Concert is set to lighten the sprits during the festive season.

Yes, there will be some well played music included on the programme but we can also expect some light hearted entertainment as well.

PS It might be a little incongruous to sing of a "white Christmas", "let it snow" and "winter wonderland" when the chances of snow here in Bigastro are nil. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A 653,000 euro black hole

Aurelio Murcia says that there is a “black hole” of 653,079 euros in Bigastro’s accounts which relates to payments made between 2005 and 2009 for plots in Sector D-6. This happened when the council was under control of the socialists – first with José Joaquín Moya as mayor and then his successor, Raúl Valerio Medina.

The money was paid by the owners but was not recorded in the town’s accounts and nor was is shown in the town’s bank accounts.

When Aurelio Murcia took over Urban Planning as part of the coalition, the accounts for Sector D-6 were in chaos. He therefore asked the owners of plots for documentary evidence of the payments they had made which is when he discovered the “black hole”. As he says, not all owners provided documentation so in fact the amount may be even greater.

According to Murcia, of the 3,607,472 euros paid during that period, only 2,891,116 was credited to the bank account and recorded. A further 37,768 euros were paid into the bank but were not reflected in the municipal accounts and 25,502 euros were paid in cash. That still leaves 653,079 which cannot be accounted for.

Along with blaming José Joaquín Moya and Raúl Valerio Medina, Aurelio Murcia says that the present mayor, Charo Bañuls  should have made these facts known to the anti-corruption prosecutor.

For his part, Raúl Valerio Medina claims he has not seen the documentation that Murcia refers to but says that, since the owners are not shown as debtors, the money they paid must have been invested in sector D-6. There is therefore nothing to hide.

This kind of issue shows that the town was either run by amateurs who had no idea what they were doing or it could expose a massive fraud. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

We brought the weather back with us

We thought we’d left the rain behind in Manchester but no, there was heavy rain to greet us at Alicante airport last night.

Apparently, the area was on yellow alert for rain and even wind in the north of the region.

The day started cloudy but dry but by afternoon the rain started and continued for much of the night. Elche had 21 litres per square metre, Torrevieja – 16.8 and Orihuela 14.2. There was also hail and lightening along the coast.

The heating in our house was supposed to come on for our return but the boiler had lost too much pressure so it was cold and will now take most of the day to warm through again.

In comparison with Manchester, where our hire car was iced up twice, it is mild but still feels cold to us. The maximum for today is forecast to be 14 degrees rising to a balmy 16 by Wednesday. Minimums should be between 7 and 9.

40 + years on

DSC01507 In the early 60s I went to see the Who at Sheffield University. Unfortunately, only Pete Townsend turned up, the rest were stuck on the motorway.
DSC01510 When Pam found that the band were playing a 50 year anniversary tour and they would be playing at Manchester, I booked tickets.

Last Saturday was therefore the concert to make up for what I had missed.

I’d heard that their Glasgow concert was excellent and so looked forward to seeing one of my favourite bands playing live. They did not disappoint. A two and one half hour set that took us from Can’t Explain to Magic Bus. There were many show stoppers included with some amazing solos by Townsend on guitar and Zack Starkey on drums was just as brilliant as Keith Moon ever was.

The icing on the cake was an unbelievable bass solo played on screen by the late John Entwistle and Keith Moon singing on possibly the only track he was allowed to.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shaky shaky, waky waky.

An earthquake of magnitude 2 occurred near to San Miguel de Salinas at 1am this morning. According to reports, it could be felt in Bigastro but to what extent I could not say because Pam and I are in Manchester.

No earthquakes here, just variable weather. On minute the sun is glaring into your eyes, the next you are being pelted by hailstones. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You do forget

It is a long while since Pam and I had two young children in the house including a very young baby. The sleepless nights and the mental strain are just a distant memory for us.

Visiting Laura and Dave though has brought all that back and we appreciate just how hard it is. Laura, in particular is feeling the strain and having a cold is not helping.

Telling them that it won't last is no comfort, they already know that but that does not help in the run up to Christmas. The lead up to the big day only makes the problem worse. There are cards to write, presents to buy and wrap and of course endless events to attend at school and work.

What they really need is for Christmas to be over so that normality can return. With a four year old in the house that is kind of sad but it it is the reality of their situation.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Catch up time

I am pleased to say that the flight to Manchester was totally uneventful, we even arrived over 20 minutes early.

Since then, it has been the usual world wind that typifies the lives of families with young children.

We did manage to get a session in the pub to "wet" our new grandson's head though - a duty that had to be done.

Yesterday, Jemma came up from Wolves to see us. We had a lovely meal out in a local restaurant and then "the boys" meaning Dave, his father and I went to see the Dylan Project at the local theatre in Sale.

For those of you who have never heard of this, they are a group of well seasoned musicians playing a selection of Bob Dylan's amazing repertoire of songs - something old, something new and many I have not heard before.

So far so good then and there is plenty more to come including a trip to the Christmas market in Manchester and the Who concert.

Just one thing, don't ask about the weather. Suffice it say, it is changeable!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I’d put it on my wall

Turner-Rome-From-Mount-Av-012JMW Turner’s ‘Rome, From Mount Aventine’, painted in 1935 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1936, is considered to be one of the finest works from the later period in his life. It is also considered to be the most important view of Rome ever painted.

There are only a dozen or so major works by Turner in private collections. This one was bought by the fifth Earl of Rosebery in 1878 and has remained in the family ever since.

Although the painting is now over 200 years old, it has been preserved in mint condition. It has never been restored nor relined and the paintwork is said to be as fresh as the day it was painted.

Needless to say, it sold at auction by Sotherby’s at the record price of £30.3m. That is the highest value put on a work by a pre-20th century British artist.  

Unfortunately, we do not have a wall large enough to show this painting off properly which is why I did not make an offer!

Closed down

Two of the markets regularly held in Guardamar del Segura have been closed because they do not have licences.

 The Sunday market, "El Campillo", was launched in 1992. It had 800 stalls and 40 bars. The Saturday market "Altos del Moncayo" had 200 stalls. Both of them were ad hoc affairs held on rustic land.

 Markets are still very popular in Spain where every town seems to have its own. The one in Bigastro is held every Thursday and sells most vegetables, household goods and clothes.

The official Wednesday market in Guadamar, like the one in Almaradi on Saturdays and the one at Playa Flamenco, sells a wider variety of goods aimed at both locals and tourists alike.

 I must confess, I have never been a huge fan of markets. I find them crowded and with very little of interest to me other than the odd stall. My parents, on the other hand, went to the local market in Barnsley every week. They used to wait until near closing time to sweep up the bargains and had to rush from stall to stall where they knew the best produce was available at cheap prices.

I recall that one of the stalls they visited sold tinned food in cans that had either lost their labels or had dents in them. It was therefore a lucky dip in their pantry – a tin might contain peaches or there again it might be beans. Either way, the contents were put to good use.

 True Yorkshire folk, even when they had money, they liked to spend it wisely!

Boy did it rain

Last night at about 11:00pm we could hear the rain battering down outside. I checked in the bedroom to see if it was running down inside the house from the roof terrace but heard nothing. Fortunately, the rain did not last too long and we were able to get to sleep OK.

This morning though, I was rudely awoken by the sound of the rain pouring again. This time it could be heard running in the pipe that takes excess water from the roof down inside the house. There was also the odd clap of thunder. Mrs W. was still sound asleep so I left her where she was and came to my computer to investigate.

When I checked the AEMET web site, there was little chance of rain predicted and there was no indication of heavy rain last night in the data for Orihuela. In fact, the site shows 1mm of rain at 4am this morning and none last night so what we got was obviously very local to Bigastro.

I’ve checked the other weather stations nearby to find that the pattern for the area varies according to the destination.  None of them are reporting significant amounts though – around the 1 to 2mm mark at various times which indicates that the rain was short and sharp elsewhere as it was in Bigastro.

The Spanish phrase for what we have experienced is a “tromba de agua” or downspout which is associated with a “gota fria” or cold drop. Warm, heavily laden air rises from the sea to meet cold air coming from the north which forces the clouds to drop their water in a dramatic fashion. The usual cause is the wind they call the Levante.

Let’s hope that the rest of the day is drier because we are flying to Manchester this afternoon for our pre-Christmas visit and I don’t really fancy navigating flooded roads on the way to the airport. The good news for those of you who are here is that the next few day will be sunny. The bad news is that it will be cold with maximums around 14-15 degrees and lows of 5 or so dropping to 3 by early next week.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Christmas in Orihuela

Christmas is an important time for shopkeepers and to help them out Orihuela has organised some attractions to draw the people in.

The Christmas lights will be lit on the 5th December.

An ice rink  will be installed in Gabriel Miró square from the 5th December. Skaters will pay three euros for half an hour or five euros for a hour to skate.

There will also be cars for the young children to drive at a cost of two euros for ten minutes. This will be located in the Marqués de Rafal Square  from the 20th December.

However, you can get a 50% discount of these prices by spending more than 20 euros in participating shops.

In addition, there will be two free of charge bouncy castles, one at Gabriel Miró and the other at the Plaza del Salvador, on the 20th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 28th and 31st of December.

Multiculture in Bigastro


Just what did he do?

As I said on Tuesday, Carlos Fabra is now in jail but what for?

He was acquitted of charges of bribery and influence peddling in 2013 but then it was discovered that he was guilty of tax fraud amounting to 700,000 euros. He and his wife had unexplained earnings of 3.3m euros.

He is best known for being responsible for the building of the ghost airport at Castellón outside which stands a 24 metre high, 20 tonne copper statue of him. The airport, which cost 150m euros to build has never seen a plane take off or land. It is a monument to his megalomania and reckless spending.

Fabra will be out in four years. I doubt that he will ever take part in politics again but his legacy will live on in that airport and the statue outside it. 

Artichokes in white chocolate?

The chef from the 1 Michelin star restaurant, La Finca says that we should be more inventive with the artichoke. Mostly people, who are not in the know, either boil them and peel back the leaves to eat the tips or they use them in stews.

Susi Díaz suggest other ways to eat them. For example you can fry the white artichoke and use it as a starter or you can cut thin slices, coat them with white chocolate for a dessert.

Maybe I should explore the ways that people in the Vega Baja prepare this vegetable to discover why it is so popular.

I am not a fan

The artichoke has become the most important winter crop for the Vega Baja. This year, nearly 1,600 hectares of this vegetable were planted which should produce over 20,000 tons. That make the area the main producer in Spain. About 50% of the crop will be exported.

Rain in the recent weeks, combined with a drop in temperature have helped to mature the crop which is now ready for picking. Symbolically there is a ceremony where the first head is picked, this year by the president of the Artichoke Association of the Vega Baja accompanied by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Water and the chef from La Finca restaurant.

Afterwards, they retired to a San Fulgencio where they tasted a variety of dishes prepared with artichokes.

I find eating that them by peeling away the leaves to just eat the tips very messy and boiled in a stew, they taste bland. There are many other vegetables that I prefer including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, cabbage, beans even carrots.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A home from home

Carlos Fabra, ex president of the Castellón council and member of the PP is now in prison and will stay there for four years following a judgement on four cases of fiscal fraud.

That may sound like he is in for a hard time but that is not necessarily the case. Aranjuez prison is one of Spain’s modern institutions, opened in 1998 to replace the former Carabanchel prison complex. It was one of the first prisons in Spain to have a family module where inmates can live together with their children. It  also has babysitting facilities, a laundry, shops, meeting rooms, swimming pool, sports hall, 14 classrooms, and even booths for intimate family visits.

Add to that the fact that the inmates are fed and clothed free of charge, sounds more like a home from home without the cost.

Que pasa?

The electricity went off about 15 minutes ago. Normally, it comes back on within a split second but not this time.

Yes, I've checked the panel in our house and nothing has tripped out so the problem is with the supply. Let's hope it gets fixed soon because Mrs W. will want a cup of tea and the house is getting cold!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Christmas Fair Bigastro style

10405354_393789314108884_7057194152465176017_nBigastro invites all its residents and visitors to participate in the CHRISTMAS AND CRAFT FAIR that will take place on Saturday December 20th on  Calle Purisima.

At the fair you will find a variety of local shops offering their products along with promotions, crafts, entertainment and workshops.

Storm watch

10360414_858616104190858_1913919644083786373_nMaking precise predictions about the weather is clearly difficult. AEMET told us that we would have heavy rain on Friday which switched to Saturday but actually happened on Sunday.

Yesterday was just downright miserable all day but no where near as bad as some areas further north up the coast where the gota fria brought deluges of rain.

We have had deluges here in the past and they are not nice. When the rain is very heavy, you can hear it running down the drain inside the house from the roof terrace. Since the drain is in the wardrobe of our bedroom, that makes sleeping difficult.

Looking outside this morning, the sky is not clear but it is a whole lot brighter than it was yesterday.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


2390E7EB00000578-2853540-image-49_1417209296708 Black Friday is an American import that we could well do without.

Scenes in Britain show that the concept brings out the very worst in people.

Shops opened at Midnight to let the huge queues into Asda and Tesco stores up and down the country.

What followed was all out war to grab the bargains, people fighting to get their hands on electrical items like flat screen TVs which in some cases had been discounted by just £60. Scuffles broke out and some shops had to close to sort things out.
23900DDF00000578-2852585-To_me_to_you_People_struggle_to_carry_their_purchases_as_they_ma-75_1417213384301 One women had gone out to buy a flat screen TV but when she saw the mayhem that surrounded the display, bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner instead even though she didn’t need one.

The TVs that people were picking up from Asda were not even premium brands. Hopefully, they all work because I doubt that an exchange will be readily available.

How do you like your coffee?

10440815_294217747443052_8356998815502773493_nSome variations for you to choose from not all of which will be available at your favourite coffee bar.

Friday, November 28, 2014

As it was and is now


This aerial photo of Bigastro was posted on Facebook by FontaBigastro.

I have no idea when it was taken but I am guessing it was sometime in the 60s.

Just to orientate you, I have circled the church in black.

Untitled-1 This is a recent aerial view from Google, again I have circled the church.

Artists in Bigastro

1402446_743782999029679_6807922855578534401_o Entries from the drawing competition organised by the Alzheimer Association in Bigastro.
10699694_743761382365174_1936480060539329477_o Congratulations to Ana Gonzalez Navarrete for her winning picture which will be used on the poster for the Gala this year.

A change of mind

Up to two weeks ago, the Secretary General of the PSOE defended the former mayor of Bigastro but in a press conference yesterday he said that Raúl Valerio Medina is doing great damage to the image of the party  and should consider resigning.

There are six cases in which the ex mayor is involved.

Most recently the town was fined 60,000 euros for the fraudulent payment of contributions for 45 “ghost” workers which enabled them to claim benefits and pensions. This practice dated back to the time of José Joaquín Moya  and continued with Raul Medina Valerio.

He is also accused of spending 24,000 euros using the town’s credit card for travel, dining and meals during his time as mayor.

The Gota Fria

Saturday 29
Precipitation: Strong and persistent rain that could reach 100 litres per square metre in Valencia and Castellón and 60 in Alicante.
Temperature: Similar to today.
Wind: from the east with strong gusts.
Sunday 30
Precipitation: Locally strong in the northern half of the region.
Temperature: With few changes.
Wind: From the northwest.
Monday 1
Precipitation: Possibility of a weak shower first thing in the morning.
Temperature: On the rise.
Wind: Moderate northwest.

There are two phases to this gota fria, the first started yesterday when the province of Castellón was on orange alert for rain and Denia got a soaking along with hail. The second will start on Saturday and will affect the whole region. By Sunday the wind will veer to the northwest which will improve matters considerably.

The last time we had such heavy rain was in 2010. I recall that the roads going into Torrevieja were virtually impassable as water came down from the adjacent fields and flooded sections.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The chickens are coming home to roost

With elections on the horizon, the local parties are considering their options to win the votes.

If you recall, the PP dropped Aurelio Murcia before the last election in favour of Charo Banuls who they saw as a safer leader to gain the votes they needed. As it turned out, Aurelio formed his own party and gained two seats which meant the PP had to form a pact with him to hold a majority in council.

The Socialists are now nervous of going forward with Raul Valerio Medina as their leader. He is involved in several court cases along with the former mayor, Jose Joaquin Moya which could well turn voters away. He, of course, insists that he is still a candidate. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

End of the good weather

Untitled-1Like October, November has so far been unusually warm and dry but that is set to change as the wind veers around and we see some rain coming in.

Expect it to be light tomorrow getting heavy by Friday and then easing off as we move into next week. 

What is going wrong?

For the past few nights, we have had the lights dipping and then coming back. This morning my UPS is going mad as it detects the low input voltage and transfers power to the battery. Nominally, the voltage here is around 225v but keeps dropping to 200 or lower.

I have the high voltage trigger point on my UPS set to 253v and the low to 200v with a nominal transfer voltage of 230v. Each time the voltage dips I can hear the UPS go onto battery and see the orange transfer light come on. If the voltage keeps dropping (or rising) to the trigger voltages set, then I get a warning on the UPS interface.

The UPS is designed to cope with these sort of problems but if they are regular and the UPS has to transfer to battery too often that reduces its life considerably. My UPS is now six years old and on its second battery which is over two years old, I may have to replace it if the problem persists. APC will exchange my UPS for a new one for 218 euros giving me a 72 euro discount off the full price. 

Out of date information

SUMA, the agency that collects local taxes on behalf of towns and cities in the province, uses information from cadastral to assess the amount of IBI that each house should pay.

For Orihuela, it seems that this information is not up to date and the city estimates it is losing out on one million euros each year as a result.

These are not illegal homes, that is another issue, but rather ones that have been extended by adding storage facilities or enclosed terraces. In all there are 1,600 homes that fall into this category. Add to that, 1,200 that have not been recorded yet, between 1,000 and 1,200 that have pools which are not listed, 1,700  buildings that are over 100 years old before Cadastre existed and 2,000 constructions on farm land. The possibility is that there are 7,700 buildings that are not being taxed.

So what are they going to do about it?

Well, the city council  will be conducting a tour of the city using a camera with a GeoLocator to compare the data held by cadastral with the actual data on the ground. In the case of discrepancies, people are urged to volunteer this information so that it can be included on their tax return.

As you can imagine this is going to be a long drawn out process.

Monday, November 24, 2014

That is too kind

"Gracias por su excelente trabajo. Es usted un gran fotógrafo. Plasma como nadie el día a día del pueblo de Bigastro. Y todo de una manera desinteresada. Bien merecido su descanso." Chapeau

For the benefit of my English readers, the comment says – “Thank you for your excellent work. You are a great photographer. You capture, like nobody else, the day to day life of Bigastro in a selfless manner. A well deserved rest." Chapeau.

In fairness, the work that the musicians put in far exceeded mine.  

Still, it is those sort of comments that make the effort taken to record these events worthwhile.

Chapeau, I am glad that you like my photos.

Light diversion

1402174_390494207771728_4086277313241067761_oSunday November 30 at 6pm in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau, the City of Bigastro offers "Jo, Mama" by the musical comedy group Regomello. 

This is a free music and theatre show, aimed at all ages.

I need a rest

Following a long walk around the town on Friday, I was down at the Auditorium on Saturday morning for the final rehearsal. Judging by what I heard, we were in for a real treat at the concert.

Saturday, 8pm, the auditorium was packed, the audience ready for what was to come. First order of the day, introducing new members to the band. Then the presentation of silver pins to three musicians who are long serving members and have made a significant impact on music in the town.

Finally the concert could start. On the programme we had; Suspiros De Espana by Antonio Alvarez Alonso, George Bizet’s Carmen, Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold. the Witch and the Saint ( a German piece) and a composite of music from the film A West Side Story.

Afterwards two thoughts came to my mind. 1) the band were playing with greater precision – hitting the notes just right with immaculate timing and 2) there was a lot more confidence about the solo parts. In the past, the solos have been good and in some cases delivered with panache by the best of musicians. Some of the younger players though have sounded nervous and perhaps rushed. Not so on Saturday, it was all as close to perfection as we are likely to hear.

At the end of the concert, the band were given a well deserved and rare standing ovation by a discerning audience who clearly appreciated the effort that had gone into the performance.

Not able to rest on their laurels, the band were back in action on Sunday morning as they processed Santa Cecilia around the streets to the church for a special mass. I didn’t stay for the mass but I am told that the band’s performance there was equal to that on Saturday night.

After all that hard work, it was time to relax and enjoy a good meal. The lunch that Pam and I were very kindly invited to was definitely special. We came away with very full stomachs and that satisfying feeling that only comes from eating tasty food in great company. 

My albums of photos are available for you to view – just select them from the left hand sidebar. You can also download any photos that you like in a size suitable for printing by going to my Dropbox at

Finally, I would like to thank the band for doing me the honour of asking me to take their photos, for the warm hospitality they showed me and for the wonderful lunch that Pam and I enjoyed. The task I undertook was both enjoyable and exhausting in equal measures.

¡Viva Bigastro, viva la banda y viva Santa Cecilia!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A long walk

Last night, I joined the band in their tour of Bigastro to collect the musicians that are joining the band this year. I was only relieved that we did not have to climb some of the steeper streets of the town on the trip nor did we have to walk up to the estate where we live.

It was an enjoyable journey made special by the reception of the proud parents who came out for photos.

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