Friday, February 28, 2014

Missed that

Untitled-1I wondered where the strong wind we are currently experiencing had come from and then I spotted this on AEMET. Looks like the coast is still calm but inland and to the north in Teruel it will be quite blustery.

The forecast shows the wind dying down later and a much calmer day tomorrow – we shall see.

Paco de Lucía


The flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucía has died at the age of 66 from a suspected heart attack.

Born Francisco Sánchez Gomez in Algeciras, he was an infant prodigy. De Lucía  would practice for 10 to 12 hours per day and first preformed professionally at the age of 12. When he was 14, he joined the company of the dancer José Greco and played on three international tours.

De Lucía's awards ranged from a prize at an International Flamenco competition in Jerez in 1959 to the national Asturias prize for art in 2004. He won Latin Grammies in 2004 and 2012.

De Lucía will probably be best remembered for his role in Carlos Saura’s 1983 interpretation of the opera Carmen. He will also be remembered for the way in which he introduced new instruments such as the cajón, the saxophone, flute, brass, chromatic harmonica and the fretless bass into his band. 

I only have one recording on which Paco de Lucía played with the singer, Camarón de la Isla.

Another one for the diary

1958266_283233471831136_1750948984_nNot to be missed, the second tapas route in Bigastro.  15th and 16th March and again on the 22nd and 23rd, fifteen bars and cafes will be taking part offering their own specialities. 12 of them will be participating in a competition for the best tapas. 

And the cost, 1 euro for a snack or 2 euros for a snack and a small beer.

PS Just as well it is spread over four days, if you sampled tapas and a caña in all of those places at once, you’d be fit to bust not to mention a little tipsy.

The Torrevieja gongs

We regularly dine at  El Muelle  on the seafront at Torrevieja and have taken friends and relatives there. This Italian restaurant, which was founded 20 years ago by Carlos Beduino and Philip Marsal, will be presented with the Tenedor de Oro (Golden fork), the highest honour given by the Asociación de Hostelería de Torrevieja y Comarca at their annual dinner on 31st March.

The association  will also award the Cocketelera de Plata (Silver cocktail shaker)  to the Anfiteatro Gin and Ron Club which opened its doors five years ago. The Bandeja de Plata (Silver Plate) will go to the Cafetería Bar Plaza and Duro Macan director of the Hotel Berlin and precursor of the  Discoteca Pachá will be distinguished as Socio de Honor. The Mención de Honor 2014 will be given to Pascual León Yuste and the Placa de Reconocimiento a la Empresa colaboradora will be given to the distribution company, Montesinos 95 DCP.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One for your calendar

20140225_SOCI On Sunday, 2nd March at 6:30pm there will be a concert to honour the SUMB partners in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.

Each year, the band perform a similar programme of concerts, including this one, the one for Santa Cecilia, the Christmas concert and the one for San Joaquin. Other concerts may be fitted into the programme but these are the important ones.

NB Next year’s concert for Santa Cecilia will be special because it marks the end of our neighbour Pepe’s turn of office as president. At that time, he will hand over the reins to the new president, whoever that might be.

More problems for the PP in Bigastro

Last November, the socialists put forward a motion at one of the council meetings to reduce taxes and fees for businesses in the town. Since the socialists outnumber the PP and the Liberals abstained, the motion was carried six votes to five.

Because these reductions have not been implemented, the socialists sent out a pamphlet to the shops in the town informing them of their rights. The leaflet suggested that traders should go to the town hall and demand their rights. Many did just that and were told that the ordinances covering taxes and fees hand not been changed because of the poor financial situation in Bigastro.

In spite of the misfortunes of the town, Raúl Valerio Medina insists that these reductions should be made and accuses Charo Bañuls of being irresponsible for not carrying out the agreement. He wants to know why the changes have not been reported in the Official Gazette of the Province and says that, if necessary, the issue will be taken to court.  

The problem that the governing party face started when they split with the liberals and so tried to rule the town in a minority. Without the support of the two liberal councillors, the PP risk being outvoted by the socialists on every issue.

It might not make economic sense to implement the changes that were voted through last November but that is the rule of democracy. The socialists are clearly determined not to allow the PP to ignore what they describe as the “will of the people” which they claim to represent by virtue of having one councillor more.

In fact the so called “will of the people” in Bigastro is not that clear cut. Out of the 13 seats, 5 are held by the ruling PP, 6 by the socialists and 2 by the liberals which means that no one party can claim to represent the majority of townsfolk. I do not have the figures to hand but I recall that the socialists claimed they were not far short of the votes needed to take 7 seats which would have given them a majority. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What is good for the Jews is good for the Muslims

Five centuries ago, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled Sephardic Jews from Spain. It is thought that there are now 3.5 million of these Spanish Jews living around the world.

The government now wants to right that wrong by fast-tracking their naturalisation back to Spain. However, sceptics say that the Jews were expelled because Spain wanted Jewish assets and it is for the same reason that the country now wants them to return.

After the Jews came the Muslims:

One hundred and twenty years years later, Muslims were forced to either convert to Christianity or leave and they now say that they want the same treatment as the Jews. In fact, many of the Muslims that were expelled never left the country. That highlights a problem for the government because, if they did offer naturalisation back to the Muslims, they would have to accept that many Spaniards today are in fact of Muslim descent.

There is no denying the Muslim Influence in modern-day Spain:

- The Moors introduced a variety of new crops to the Iberian peninsula including oranges, lemons, cotton and sugarcane. They also introduced rice, a key ingredient in paella, one of Spain's most well-known dishes.

- Arabic had a profound influence on Spanish, with linguists arguing that thousands of words of Arabic origin are used today in Spain. Examples include alcalde (mayor) and alfombra (carpet).

- The architectural influence of the Moors remains the most recognisable legacies in modern-day Spain, from the Mezquita de Córdoba to the Alhambra palace in Granada. Moorish architecture is defined by slender columns, horseshoe arches, serene courtyards and geometric patterns.

- The tangled, narrow street plans seen in many southern Spanish towns date back to Moorish times.

- The guitar, along with flamenco's signature cry of olé, are believed to be derived from early versions of the instruments brought by the Muslims to Spain.

Positive thinking

The president of the Valencian Business Association (AVE), Vicente Boluda, claims that eight out of ten large companies in this region will create new jobs this year. His figures are based on data from a survey of 2013 and 2012. In 2012 only 40% of the companies he represents created new jobs, that number increased to 60% last year.

His survey also showed that 67% thought that tourism would be the driving force for growth with only 17% citing industrial growth.

Against corruption

In his speech, delivered during lunch, Boluda suggested, "that society is more cohesive and the Region now occupies its rightful place in the Spanish and European context", he went on to say that “it is necessary to continue with such things as work, effort, ethics and zero tolerance to corruption." He also urged "be aware of what has gone wrong and not repeat the mistakes of the past."

Monday, February 24, 2014

A work still in progress 10 years on

In 2004 our garden was just a bare plot of soil. It was a mixture of heavy clay in parts and half decent soil elsewhere. As I dug it over, I found lots of buried rocks but surprisingly little builder's rubbish. 

Once the soil was turned over, it was time for planting. We visited several different garden centres in the area to source a variety of shrubs, trees and other plants. We had no idea how some of them would grow because they were unfamiliar. Some of the plants lasted a couple of years, others have survived well –in some cases too well.

We definitely overplanted and are now paying the price by having to cut back some of the most vigorous shrubs and remove those that have tried to take over.

Perhaps we should have followed the example of others and covered the whole area with gravel and then just planted the odd shrub here and there or better still confined the plants to pots. No use crying over spilt milk, the job is done and 10 years on we are not inclined to try and turn back the clock.

We should have known from past experience that there never comes a time when you can sit back and simply enjoy your garden, it is a constant effort to keep things under control. Still, we have time on our hands and the exercise is good for us. 

Garden 3  Bare beginnings!

Our original intention was to have a wall of bougainvillea in different colours along the garden.

Having seen how vigorous those things grow, I am glad that most of them died off.
 Lemon trees P1160702

Did you miss it?

So did we!

Yesterday, they held the carnival parade in Torrevieja. Thirty troupes took part including ones from Murcia. By all accounts it was a very colourful affair. 

You can of course watch the parade again as it is repeated at night. If you go, be prepared for a long stay and wrap up well though because the last time we watched the night parade it was the early hours of the morning before we arrived back home cold!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Showing off

SiteFor those who might be interested, I have now launched a website about my hobby.

On the site you will learn something about what drives my passion and the equipment I use. There are also galleries that illustrate my approach to a variety of subjects from portraits to local events.

One word of caution though, if you are using an iPad the galleries won’t work because they are constructed with Adobe Flash.  Otherwise do drop in, mosey round and I hope you like what you see.

Any comments, good or bad, can be sent to me at

Well deserved acclaim

The 9th Gala of Music, organised by the Regional Board of the Vega Baja and Baix Vinalopó Musical Societies took place on Saturday, 15th February. The purpose was to pay homage to musicians, institutions and those who had played an important part in the music of the region.

20140221_gala1 The Bigastro Music Society decided, unanimously, to give the award this year to D. ANTONIO GÁLVEZ EGÍO, a musician in the band for 42 years.

Antonio Gálvez Egio was born in Orihuela but whist he was a child his family moved to Bigastro, the birthplace of his father. It was in the town that he made friends and was initiated into the academy of music where he decided to learn and discover the world of music.

Easter 1972, he joined the Symphonic Band of the  Musical Union Society Bigastro,  playing the  fife under the direction of  D. Manuel Moya Pomares. His first clarinet teacher was D. José Torres (known as "Uncle Palpo" - principal clarinet player in the band). He also played alto sax during pageants and parades.

In the early 80s, the director of the band, Joaquín Grau Murcia,  appointed him as deputy director of the band for  processions and parades despite not having advanced studies in music.

He also took part in founding the Manuel Moya Pomares choir which often performs with the band in concerts.

20140221_gala2 His greatest virtue is his respect and admiration for the musicians that came before him and his friendship with the current members of the band. He is justly pround of his 42 year association with the Bigastro band.

The town offers his best wishes to Antonio Gálvez Egio.

Book presentation

20140221_sarmi On Thursday, February 27th at 7:30 pm in the Municipal Auditorium there will be the presentation of the book, “Have a request for Friendship” by  José Vicente Sarmiento Illan.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The offending part

KWFU2013 You may recall the issue we had with one of our window shutters.

it turns out that the problem lay with this roller which was hidden behind the plate at the bottom of the window.

The roller has a spring inside which puts tension on the tape and draws it back in when the shutter is opened. Although the spring seems to be still functioning, it wasn’t doing its job. When we tried to open the shutter, the tape just hung down below.

The simple solution was to replace it with a new one which is what Rafa from Grupo Lorquiva (formerly Pepe Lorente) did yesterday.

The socialists won the fight or did they?

After being closed for over a year, the Emergency Health Service in Bigastro will reopen on March 1st.

The President of the Health Council and mayor of Almoradí, Antonio Ángel Hurtado, made the announcement in a press conference yesterday. The night services in Almoradí, Algorfa, Daya Nueva and  Albatera will also be restored.

The news was welcomed by the mayors of these communities along with the mayors of Benejúzar and Jacarilla who share the facilities at Bigastro. Hurtado said that the reason for the change if heart was due to the improved economic situation in Area 21 rather than the pressure put upon them by socialist demonstrations. 

Hurtado went on to strongly criticize the demonstrations led by the PSOE in Bigastro along with the accusations that Charo Bañuls  had shown no interest in restoring the service which he described as being an “adjustment” rather than a “cut”. The mayor of Benejúzar, Antonio Bernabé joined in by accusing the PSOE of promoting a “catastrophic apocalypse” in their protests.  

It should come as no surprise that PP mayors tried to make a political point out of the announcement, using the occasion to damn the socialist party’s actions in this affair. At least Raul can put his banner away now, the fight is over.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A royal gaff

On Sunday, Prince William and Prince Charles made a passionate plea on television to end the illegal trade in wildlife. In the pre recorded programme, they expressed concern about endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

Little did viewers know, at the time, the Duke of Cambridge and his bother Harry were on their way to Córdoba for a hunting trip.  Neither wild boar nor deer are under threat of extinction and I am sure that they will enjoy plenty of action. However, the timing of the trip does seem a little crass to say the least.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bully boy tactics

Manchester City lost 2-0 to Barcelona in the home leg of their tie for a quarter final place in the Champions League. At the end of the game, the City manager, Manuel Pellegrini confronted the referee to complain.  No doubt he will be called to account for his outburst by Uefa. 

Pellegrini claims that the foul committed by Martin Demichelis  on Lionel Messi was outside the box and should not have resulted in Demichelis being sent off nor should a penalty have been awarded.

Pellegrini went on to say that the referee was favouring Barcelona because of mistakes he made in 2012 when Barça faced AC Milan in a quarter final match. He added that these sort of games need more experienced referees and not ones from Sweden.

We understand the frustration that managers feel when their team loses an important game, especially when refereeing decisions may have contributed to that loss. However, that does not excuse the sort of attack that Pellegrini made on Jonas Eriksson.

I believe the only reason that managers make such vociferous criticisms is to try and warn off other refs from making decisions against them. It is blatant intimidation and ought to be stamped out.

The fight goes on


The socialists in Bigastro are planning a new campaign of protest if the 24 hour emergency medical service is not reopened by the end of the month.

Last time they were fined for hanging a banner on Calle Purisima without permission. Not to be caught out this time, they have made a request to the town hall first. 

As laudable as this campaign might be, I do wonder if it is just a smokescreen to deflect people’s attention away from really important issues the town faces like the huge deficit they left in the 2010 budget.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A boat load of salt

Barco Sakura CobeThe largest boat to dock at Torrevieja in five years arrived on Friday. It is due to leave on Wednesday.

The Sakura Kobe is loading up with 28,000 tons of salt destined for Baltimore in the United States.

It is 18 years since the last consignment of salt was sent to America, the record cold weather is the reason for this delivery.

A lick of paint

20140214_audiThe Department of Culture informs us that the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau will be closed on the 17th and 18th February for renovations. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, February 17, 2014

That is some “hole” in the accounts

Failure to finally approve the accounts for 2010 have resulted in warnings and the threat of fines to the council.


 The legacy of Joaquín Moya (left) and  Raúl Valerio (right)

The PP have now say they have discovered a “hole” in the accounts for 2010 amounting to 5,126,899  euros which they have reported to the Sindicatura de Comptes. The anomaly arises from unreal figures regarding the transfer of taxes from SUMA, the auction of municipal land and other issues, some of which date back to 2004. In addition, there is the sum of 339,719 euros to account for bringing the final total to 5.7 million euros.

For a town like Bigastro with a debt of 30 million euros and an income of 3.5 million euros that is an impossible amount to deal with.

Dig for victory


Renting an allotment is a great way to provide healthy nourishing food for your family and at the same time getting fresh air and exercise.

It is five years since Bigastro offered allotments to the locals and according to the ordinances the applications have to be renewed.

There are 25 plots on the huerta available. The only qualification is that you must have lived in the town for at least one year. Deadline for applications is Friday 11th April at 2pm. If there are more applications than plots, a ballot will take place.

British grub

It seems that Brits cannot manage without familiar food wherever they are in the world. Google has responded to this need by creating an interactive map.


Click on the map to find the nearest shop that will cater to your desire for Marmite or any other product.

At the moment there are just two entries for this part of Spain, one in Rojales and one in San Miguel de Salinas (suggested by one of our neighbours, Peter Little).

You are invited to suggest more by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

They have done it

When the current PP council in Redován took over from the socialists, the town was technically bankrupt and on the blacklist of municipalities for intervention by the government.

Two years on and the town ended 2013 with a surplus of over 1.2 million euros which included 256,000 euros for their provider payment plan.

One of the key measures taken to reach this situation was a reduction in council staff which cut the wage bill from 2.1 million to 1.4 million euros per year.

The mayor of  Redován says that they will comply with the laws of budgetary stability and will keep up with their provider payments because suppliers now charge interest after 30 days.  Gone are the times when suppliers would wait years to be paid.

Let us hope that, within this term of government, Bigastro will be able to announce an improvement in the financial situation. However, it is likely that the socialist council in Bigastro were guilty of more reckless spending than the one in  Redován, so the recovery here will take longer. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rubber bullets

Pressure on the borders at the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla has increased over the last few months. Migrants, attempting to leave Morocco for Europe are trying to get in by land rather than risk their lives crossing to Spain in rickety boats. On Thursday, a large group of Syrians gathered at the border to Melilla in a bid to force their way through. Spanish police closed the border until the group had been dispersed.

The other, more risky way, is to swim around the breakwater that separates Morocco from Spanish territory on the North African coast. A group of about 200 tried to do that last week at the border with Ceuta. The police were waiting and fired rubber bullets into the water. At first the police denied firing at the swimmers but video footage shows that was a lie. Fifteen people died but the police insist that this was not their fault because the bullets were fired at least 25 metres from the swimmers.

This is not the first time that the police have used rubber bullets as a deterrent, a British jet skier was shot at in British territorial waters off Gibraltar last June. Spanish authorities now say that the breakwater at Ceuta will be extended in a bid to deter any further problems.

You can only imagine how desperate people’s situations are in their own countries for them to risk life in order to escape.

A commercial success

Valentine’s Day does have a long history in Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages. Sending of cards, flowers and sweets has been a tradition for many years in certain countries but I don’t recall it being so significant in Spain when we first arrived.

It hasn’t taken Spaniards long though to catch on the money spinning possibilities. What better way to fill the gap between New Year and Easter than to promote a special day/weekend in February. It seems that everyone in Spain has gone Valentine mad and anyone who ignores the idea is marked down as lacking in romance.

Hotels in Benidorm boast a 90% occupancy rate for this weekend and are putting on Valentine themed dinners to mark the occasion. It isn’t just hotels though, shops are filled with heart shaped gifts of all sorts, cake shops have promoted the idea to their benefit and restaurants have cashed in on the theme.

The extent to which you get sucked in to this notion of declaring your love depends not just upon how romantic you are but on the depth of your pockets. In England, a bunch of red roses can cost a small fortune if they are bought a few days before and the price of a meal in a restaurant can double. It goes without saying that, shops, hotels and restaurants will look to cash in on the occasion but that does not mean that we should all be drawn in so deep by the hype that we feel the need to empty our wallets. 

A young friend of mine showed us on Facebook the lavish gift that he had bought his girlfriend for their first Valentine’s Day. He went on to show us the expensive lunch he had treated he to along with the extravagant bar bill that accompanied it. No doubt his spending will have impressed the young lady but perhaps he should have considered how he is going to follow that up in years to come. Once the first flush of romance has subsided, a card and a box of Dairy Milk chocolates may be all that he wants to offer but that will not impress her much.

I know that some of my readers will think that I am being miserly about all this but the truth is that Saint Valentine’s day has become a great commercial venture, less about romance, more about making money.

Friday, February 14, 2014

If we all pay, then each will pay less

We are told that there are 300 houses in Bigastro that have not been paying for garbage collection. Since the rate we pay is determined by dividing the cost of the service by the number of houses, that means we are all paying more than we should. The mayor says that the rate we pay will go down once those 300 are included in the calculation. I don’t suppose it will be much but every little helps.

Actually,  our rate was set at 50 euros to be collected bimonthly with our water bill when the rest of the town were only paying 35 euros which did not seem fair. After several years, that anomaly was cleared up and we now pay the same as everyone else except those 300 of course. However, we never got back the amount we had overpaid (six years or more at 90 euoros per year). 

I seem to recall that the council also discovered there were houses that did not pay local council taxes, maybe they were the same ones that didn’t pay for refuse collection. Once that anomaly is cleared up, I wonder if the mayor intends to apply the same principle of sharing the cost to that tax as well.

You may well wonder why certain houses were allowed to avoid paying tax. Was it a simple mistake or was there some other reason? The story I have heard is that, these people were given the privilege in return for their votes by the previous socialist council. Whether that is true or not I cannot say and it would be very difficult for anyone to prove that was the case. There is a lot of hearsay in local Spanish politics!

What is clear though is, if you compare the taxes we pay for our houses, for our cars and for refuse collection with nearby Jacarilla, Bigastro vastly overcharges its citizens. The PSOE and UPLC want our taxes to be lowered but  Charo Bañuls  says that is not possible.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

No end in sight

Those who made the decision to end their dream of a life in the sun and return to Britain must be wondering now if they did the right thing. Nobody seems to know why the Jet Stream is piling storm after storm on Britain with no signs of a let up. Let us hope that this is a one off and not a pattern for years to come.

Yesterday, the storm moved towards the north of the country bringing 100mph winds to Wales and the north west. Motorways were shut and trains were halted. The Met Office issued its first red weather alert for 20 years.

article-2557440-1B71376A00000578-163_964x611Now, the rain could turn to snow and then on Friday and Saturday, much more rain is expected – 100mm in just two days on already sodden ground.

Many must be asking, “when will this all end and when will they see a return to normal winter weather?”. I don’t think anybody can predict when that might be. The forecasters fear that there is a lot more bad weather to come across the Atlantic before that happens as shown in this satellite picture from the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Medieval Market

At last you can view my 2 videos of the Medieval Market at

David Bailey

As a keen photographer, I am interested in the work of others. On my shelf, is a book I often glance through which details the techniques used by the world’s greatest photographers. Among my favourites are, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bill Brandt and Ansel Adams.  However, none of those catch my eye more than the work of David Bailey.

Bailey started photographing for British Vogue in 1960 and he shot his first Vogue cover with Jean Shrimpton in 1961. HIs pictures were stark, simple and dramatic in contrast to the stylised fashion photographs that came before him. Bailey became famous for using a plain white paper background to remove any distraction from the character of his subject.

Now, fifty years on, Bailey has been given free reign to host an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In it there are over 250 pictures ranging from his early work to later photos of his wife. The exhibition also includes those taken on his trips to Papua New Guinea, Sudan, India and Australia along with his series of pictures taken in London’s East End bars and clubs.

 david-bailey-camer_2488318k Bailey in his studio during the 60s.

Although he now has over 60 cameras in his collection, those days he worked with a Nikon F 35mm SLR on location and a Rollieflex  6x6cm TLR in the studio.

His film of choice at that time was black and white, Kodak Tri-X which he push processed to 800ASA to get the heavy grain and high contrast he desired. Later he used Ilford FP4 to get a wider tonal range and then of course colour film.

Bailey still uses film for his work but has also encompassed the world of digital photography for some of his sudies.
KateMoss_2810610k Jagger_2810594k
Kate Moss Mick Jagger

I won’t be in Britain to visit the exhibition but I may be able to pick up the book which accompanies it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The next problem

First it was Somerset that was awash and now the Thames has burst its banks flooding towns along the river. Many have been forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge on higher ground. No doubt they will have secured their properties as best they can but with the electricity shut off, burglar alarms will cease to function. With no neighbours to keep watch and no police presence,  these properties are now vulnerable.

It is only a matter of time before the thieves move in and take their pickings, piling more misery on the hapless victims. Returning home to find your possessions awash with dirty water is bad enough, to find they have been taken by some opportunist thief would be even worse.

I bet the insurance companies are holding crisis talks right now about how they can use clauses in their policies to avoid massive payouts to these people. 

A bumpy ride

Untitled-1 copyIf you had been taking off from or worse still landing at Alicante airport last night, it would have been a bit bumpy.

After a very windy afternoon, the wind calmed by early evening but quickly picked up again to blow even stronger in the early hours of the morning.

Now, at 8:30, it is a lot calmer out there. It is still a little blustery but nothing like it was yesterday. Let’s hope it stays that way.

PS Although the figures on the graph look dramatic, we have to remember they are in kilometres per hour and that 85kms per hour is actually equivalent to 52 miles per hour. Although 52 mph is a strong wind. it pales into comparison to the 80 miles per hour gales that have lashed to south of England recently.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blimey, is it that bad

Notice from the Ayuntamiento de Bigastro.

“Esta tarde, se suspenden las clases en los Centros Educativos de Bigastro así como las actividades deportivas, con motivo de la alerta naranja por fuertes vientos.”

It is blowy out there

The forecast for today showed strong winds of 40km per hour with gusts up to 80km per hour. When I first got up all seemed calm but that has not lasted. In the last hour the wind has picked up and is blowing strong out there. The good news is that the latest prediction shows it should ease off by midday but will continue to be windy through until tomorrow. 

Of course, looking at the weather that other parts of Spain and Europe have experienced, we can hardly complain.

A record year for United

I was asked by one of our neighbours to stop mentioning Manchester United on this blog. As things are this season, there is little good to say about the team that are current league champions.

It has been a record breaking year for United but not in a way that they would like.

Stoke recorded their first win against Manchester United since 1984 last Saturday. In January, Swansea beat them for the first time ever at Old Trafford in the Cup, knocking them out in the third round for just the second time in 29 years.

Several more United records have been broken this season: West Brom beat them at home for the first time since 1978, Newcastle beat them at home for the first time since 1972 and Moyes’s old Everton side beat them at Old Trafford for the first time since 1992.

Yesterday, United could only manage a draw with Fulham who are bottom of the league. For much of the season their two star players, Van Persie and Rooney, have been injured but yesterday they were on the pitch for the whole game. United are rapidly running out of excuses for their poor form.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

“I trusted my husband”

The Infanta Cristina appeared in court yesterday to answer 400 questions directed to her by Judge Jose Castro. Her answer to many of the questions was, “I do not know” or “I am not aware”  and when the questions became more probing, she became vague. Her stock reply was that she trusted her husband and was totally ignorant of the possibility of any attempt to commit fraud and tax evasion.  Even when she was shown the invoices that related to items like the Harry Potter books, the Infanta claimed that she knew nothing of them.

In relation to the Nóos  Institute, the infanta she said that, although she was a director, she was totally unaware of the fictitious employees in their family business. And of the 1.2 million euros that the king gave to her to buy the mansion in Barcelona, she said this was a loan and not a gift. Financial circumstances meant that they had only repaid 150,000 euros back but then she explained the king was her father and he trusted her. According to the princess, everything was handled by either her husband or their tax advisers who were brothers of her husband’s partner, Diego Torres.

Her evasiveness at times made the judge angry who felt that there was an awful lot of money spent that the Infanta claimed to know nothing about. Still, even the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor feels that she should not be imputed because Aizoon was a front company without any real activity. In order to prosecute, it would have to be shown that she knew that the money came from illicit sources, something which the Infanta emphatically denied during her testimony.

At the end of the day, the Infanta Cristina flew to Madrid to be with her father, the king and no doubt gave a lengthy explanation of what had taken place. I imagine she had a hard time  convincing him that she knew nothing about her husband’s shady financial affairs. As our Spanish teacher pointed out, most wives know more about what their husbands are doing than they do themselves.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Give them a chance

This Sunday, February 9th, at 18:30 pm there will be a Festival of New Music provided by songwriters and artists of the Vega Baja. This will all take place in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau. Entry 5 €.

The music they perform could be good or bad, tuneful or discordant, who knows!

Her day in court

Today, the Infanta Cristina will appear in court to answer questions about her dealings with the Aizoon consultancy that she co-owned with her husband Iñaki Urdangarin. Judge Jose Castro will open with a battery of 100 questions related to the personal expenses of the princess which were claimed to be related to the business. In total there could be well over 200 questions fired at the princess.

The claim is that the Aizoon company credit card was used, for example, to to pay for work on the couples Barcelona mansion, to fund a cocktail party, private salsa lessons for the princess, dinnerware that cost 1.741 euros, a painting worth 4,400 euros, children’s furniture that cost 1,800 euros and even a set of Harry Potter books.

The judge describes this type of expenditure as a “double fraud” because, on the one hand,  the money was never declared as earnings for personal income tax and on the other was used to offset the company tax bill. He believes that the items could not be legitimately  described as operating expenses.

How the case will proceed depends upon the amounts involved. If the unwarranted expenditure can be shown to be more than 120,000 euros, then the princess faces the possibility of a prison sentence. A lesser amount would result in an administrative tax investigation and possible fines.

On this occasion, the princess will be chauffeured to the door unlike her husband who had to walk from his car to the courtroom amidst jeers from the crowd. The hearing will be behind closed doors, there will be no video recording and all mobile phones, ipads and laptops are banned from the courtroom. There will, however, be an audio recording of the proceedings but only selected parts of that will be transcribed into writing.

Both the princess and her legal team believe that she is innocent and say they welcome the opportunity to prove it.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Easy does it

Hopefully the problem with the radiator has now been solved. The plumber arrived this morning (thank you Pepe) and he replaced the rubber O ring in the joint. You could see that over tightening the joint had split the ring causing a leak. With this type of joint, it needs to be tight but not too tight!

Not just England

The Atlantic weather systems and storms are not just affecting Britain. The northern coast of Spain has been battered by strong, gale force winds along with waves that reached 3m in height.

Like in Britain, the worst is not over yet, the prediction for the weekend looks bleak with a red alert in place for the north coast.

Problem solved

We seem to be having a run of problems at the moment; a small crack has appeared on the door of the washing machine which I need to keep my eye on, the joint on one of the new radiators has a slight leak which the plumber who fitted it will come and fix and the cord on one of our window shutters won’t retract without assistance. The intercom between the front gate and the house only works in one direction. Fortunately the buzzer still works if you press it hard enough and the gate lock release still functions. Still we need the electrician who came weeks ago to return and sort that out for us.

Yesterday our internet connection cut out at around midday. Since the telephone line was installed, we have had no problems with our connection to the internet so that was a real mystery. Sometimes these things have a way of sorting themselves out which is why we left it until early evening to phone Telefonica to report the problem. That might have been a mistake.

When you phone the 1004 number, you are told to call 11822 instead. I did that and was eventually put on to someone who spoke English. He took my number and name and promised to call back. One hour later, we decided that wasn’t going to happen and so phoned the number again. By this time there was nobody who spoke English and so Pam battled through in her best Spanish. Three calls later we gave up because each time Pam was directed to yet another department who still could not resolve the issue for us.

In spite of Pamela asking them to speak slowly and clearly, the people at the other end of the line insisted in babbling on in Spanish to her. That was not very helpful. We decided that enough was enough and that it would be better to call into one of Telefonica’s shops because at least there we could have a face to face conversation.

As it happens, the internet connection was restored by the time I got up this morning so that has saved us a trip. I have no idea what the problem was or whether the phone calls last night prompted someone to investigate the issue. All I know is that the connection is back and I hope it will stay that way. 

Now my question is, “does anybody know of a person who can repair our window blind?” If so give me a call or send me an email.  

Cause for concern

EU corruption probe points finger at Spain

Look at this map which shows how people in various European countries view the effects of corruption and Spain, along with Greece, tops the list. An in depth study claims that corruption costs the European economy 120 billion euros a year. I would hazard a guess that a fair proportion of that money can be attributed to Spain.

In Spain, the problem mainly centres around political corruption.

Today, we read details of the gifts that were lavished on members of the PP party by Francisco Carrea in return for lucrative government contracts. Mention is made of boxes of Cuban cigars at 450 euros each, of 6,000 euro plasma TVs, a luxury safari in Kenya for one politician and even a honeymoon in Mauritius for another.

The long running Gürtel case into illegal funding of the ruling party has so far only resulted in the conviction of Judge Balthazar Garzon, who was given an 11-year suspension for illegally wiretapping conversations between remand prisoners and their lawyers when he was in charge of the case.

There are many who have been implicated, including the Prime Minister, but of course the process of collecting sufficient evidence to bring these cases to court will take a long time. In the meantime, the whole business of corruption in Spain is a cause of great concern to the majority of honest Spaniards.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

No sign of a letup

The scenes of carnage on the south coast of England follow those of weeks of flooding in Somerset. This winter must surely go down as the worst in memory for Britain as storm after storm batters the country.

There is no comfort in the forecast which predicts even worse storms to come over the next few days that will affect much of southern Britain. Many areas are on amber alert for rain accompanied by gale force winds.

I just hope all of our friends and relatives are safe.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Medieval Market

You can see the 30 minute video I made of the Medieval Market here. My apologies for that, the video started to break up after about 14 minutes so I have removed it and am trying to find a format that will work properly.

Costing out the royals

An interesting article in the Daily Telegraph spells out the cost of the royal family in Spain.

Belt-tightening has seen Spain's royal budget slashed from nearly €9.4 million five years ago to €7.78 million in 2014 – a cut of two per cent from last year under the state-spending plan approved by parliament. This is a fraction of the budget that the British royal family enjoy and a pittance in comparison with the French royal budget.

The salary of King Juan Carlos has been frozen for the third year running at €140,519 plus a further €152,233 to cover the "cost of representation" including the wardrobe needed for official functions.

The 76-year-old monarch's medical bill for three surgical operations at a private clinic during 2013 amounted to €165,189, a figure that also came out of the palace budget.

Crown Prince Felipe who has increasingly stepped in to represent the Crown during the past year while his father battled with ill health, is again to receive an amount equal to half his father's salary and expenses.

But in a new move, reportedly at the behest of King Juan Carlos himself, Queen Sofia and Princess Letizia, the wife of the Crown Prince, will receive fixed salaries of €63,234 and €49,182 respectively for performing official duties plus expense allowances of €68,505 and €53,282.

In previous years their allowances were allocated at the King's discretion but have now been fixed at 45 per cent and 35 per cent of the King's revenue in a move described by a palace spokesman to make the budget "clearer and more transparent".

Princess Elena, the elder daughter of the King is to receive no salary for official duties but is entitled to €25,000 euros for the "cost of representation".

The younger daughter, Princess Cristina, receives no part of the royal budget and has been excluded from official acts since December 201.


The mayor of Bigastro, Charo Bañuls, asks the question, “what does Raul Valerio Medina actually do in his roll as Provincial Deputy?” She goes on to say that he seems to have a lot of free time on his hands and wonders just what are his responsibilities in that position.

In an article in the newspaper, Información, it is reported that the lady mayor has written to the president of the Alicante Council, Luisa Pastor, seeking clarification about the matter. The letter apparently goes on to suggest that, politicians like Medina, should have their salary cut to provide services to the town. Bañuls claims that Medina enjoys  a salary of 70,000 euros per year, a sum which would enable the emergency night service to be restored and could provide early treatment for bigastrense children in need. You will recall that these are two issues that the socialists have been pressing hard for in Bigastro.

I think we can expect a response to that article in a future edition of the paper!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

It is always sad

Our eldest daughter, Jemma, came to stay with us for a few days. She arrived on Thursday, Friday we went to the Medieval Market in Orihuela, Saturday we went into Torrevieja and then on to La Zenia Boulevard where we stayed for our evening meal. Sunday we went back to the market which was, by this time, crowded. On Monday we went down to Playa Flamenca for a stroll along the seafront and stopped for a coffee. Then, all too soon, it was time to take Jemma back to Alicante Airport for her return flight to Birmingham.

Is is lovely to have our family here to stay with us but always very sad when they have to go back home.