Thursday, October 19, 2017

That was complicated

Our eldest daughter, Jemma, planned her 40th birthday party in late January. We booked flights to Birmingham and back with Monarch in February. We also booked to stay in a hotel near to Jemma's house.

As you probably all know, Monarch went out of business on the 2nd of this month throwing our travel plans into complete chaos.

That morning I desperately searched for alternatives and found no empty seats on flights to Birmingham. The only flights I could find were with Jet2.com and Ryanair to Manchester. Since we had no intention of flying Ryanair and risking a cancellation, I opted for Jet2.com. The first flights I tried to book disappeared  during the process and I had to rapidly find an alternative or risk not flying.

In the meantime, our friends from Norfolk were desperately trying to phone us to suggest we fly to Norwich where they would pick us up and drop us off later (they too were going to the party and staying in the same hotel).  Too late, the booking had been made.

Our youngest daughter in Sale offered us a bed for the extra nights and I managed to grab the last remaining seats on a train from Manchester to Wolverhampton and back. This all added to the cost and of course we could not count on a refund from our Monarch booking.

Kudos to the Civil Aviation Authority in Britain who offered us seats on a plane to Birmingham in a email the night before our flight was due. That was too late though, we were already in the UK. I do wonder what the fate was for those stuck in the UK - there was no arrangement offered by the Spanish authorities to get us back to Alicante. 

Was it worth it? Of course, we would not have missed Jemma's party for the world.   

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The true situation

- In the last regional elections, pro-secession parties in Catalonia decided to unite around a single issue - independence. They not only failed to obtain a majority of votes, but also lost votes in relation to previous elections. Surveys, including those paid by the separatists, show that support for independence is a minority and declining.

- Catalonia is not "oppressed". It is one of the most prosperous regions of Spain and its citizens enjoy a high standard of living and one of the highest degrees of self-government in any region of Europe.

- The party traditionally headed by the regional government of Catalonia has used over the last 30 years public money to promote a separatist agenda through education and local media and has been illegally funded with a corrupt scheme in which contractors had to pay bribes of at least 3% for any public work they made bids for.

- The region of Catalonia has never existed as an independent political entity and was part or the Kingdom of Aragon, which merged dynamically with the Kingdom of Castile in 1492 to create the Spain we know today. There is no "union", as in the UK. Catalonia is to Spain what Rousillon is to France or Cornwall is to England.

- Spain is a parliamentary democracy, with a constitution that can be amended. A vote on territorial secession would require such amendment and the support of a qualified majority of Spaniards.

- No country or international organisation (with the exception of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela) has supported this movement.

So why the fuss? As the economy improves and support for independence diminishes, the separatists fear "losing the train" and, breaking with Spanish and regional laws, have embarked on a campaign to present the central government as "evil" for not allowing a regional referendum that does not comply with the constitution (widely approved throughout Spain, including Catalonia). This noise also hides regional corruption scandals and establishes separatists as victims of the upcoming general elections.

The secessionists claim to have won the vote but did they?

The referendum was approved by the Catalan parliament in a session on 6 September 2017 along with a law which states that independence would be binding with a simple majority, without requiring a minimum turnout.

The referendum question, which voters answered with "Yes" or "No", was "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?". The "Yes" side won, with 2,020,144 (91.96%) voting for independence and 176,565 (8.04%) voting against, on a turnout of 42.58%.

It is widely believed that many voters who did not support Catalan independence did not turn out to what was in fact and illegal referendum. It is also said that the organisation of the ballot was so poor, it was possible that many voted twice or more times.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

King Felipe's speech

The King of Spain took the unusual step last night of addressing the nation on television.

Good evening,

We find ourselves at a critical juncture for our existence as a democracy. In these circumstances, I wish to address all Spaniards. We have all witnessed the facts that have taken place in Catalonia, with the illegal declaration of independence as the final goal of the Catalan executive (Generalitat).

For a long time, certain Catalan authorities have repeatedly, consciously and deliberately flouted the Constitution and their own Statute of Autonomy, which is the law that acknowledges, protects and safeguards their historic institutions and their self-government.

With their decisions, they have systematically infringed legally and rightfully approved rules and have shown an unacceptable disloyalty towards the institutions of the State – a State of which, by the way, those authorities are the highest representatives in Catalonia.

They have violated the democratic principles of the rule of law and they have undermined Catalan society’s harmony and coexistence, unfortunately even to the point of driving a wedge within it. Today, the Catalan society is fractured and at loggerheads.

The Catalan authorities have underestimated the affections and feelings of solidarity that have united and will long unite the Spaniards, and with their reckless behavior, they may be even endangering the economic and social stability of Catalonia and of Spain as a whole.

In short, this has been the completion of an unacceptable attempt to take over the historic institutions of Catalonia. Those authorities have unequivocally and categorically placed themselves outside the law and outside democracy. They have tried to break Spain’s unity and national sovereignty, which is the right of all Spanish people to democratically decide on their life together.

Therefore, and in light of this extremely serious situation, that requires everyone’s commitment to pursue common interests, the legitimate powers of the State have the responsibility to guarantee constitutional order and the normal functioning of the institutions, the validity of the rule of law and Catalonia’s self-government, based on the Constitution and their own Statute of Autonomy.

Today I wish to send several messages to all Spaniards and in particular to Catalans. To the citizens of Catalonia —to all of them—, I wish to reiterate that we have been already been living for several decades in a democratic State, which provides constitutional means for anyone to defend their ideas within the law. Because, as we all know, without respect for the law, there is no possible democratic coexistence in peace and freedom, neither in Catalonia, nor in the rest of Spain, nor anywhere in the world. In a democratic and constitutional Spain, they know that they have space to coexist and get along with all their fellow citizens.

I am well aware that in Catalonia there is also great concern and anxiety about the Catalan authorities’ behavior. To those who feel that way, I assure that they are not, nor will they be alone; they have all the support and the solidarity of the rest of the Spanish people, as well as the absolute guarantee given by the rule of law in the defense of their freedom and their rights.

To all Spaniards, who are living through these events full of sadness and distress, I send a message of calm, confidence and hope.

These are troubled times, but we will overcome them. These are very complicated times, but we will get through them. Because we believe in our country and we are proud of what we are. Because our democratic principles are solid and strong. And they are like this because they are based on the wishes of millions and millions of Spaniards who want a peaceful and free coexistence. That is how we have gradually built the Spain in these last decades. And that is how we must go forward, with serenity and determination. On this road, in that improved Spain that we all desire, Catalonia will be there too.

Let me end these words, addressed to all Spaniards, by emphasizing once again the Crown’s firm commitment to the Constitution and to democracy, my own dedication to a climate of understanding and harmony among Spaniards, and my commitment, as King, to the unity and continuity of Spain.

English version by María Luisa Rodríguez Tapia.

An apology

This is the reply I got from the mayor of Bigastro regarding the cancellation of the lunch on Sunday.

You will notice in the second paragraph that the Third Age club has resumed their Sunday night dance sessions. The mayor hopes that some of our English neighbours will attend and teach the local people some typical British style dancing.


Buenas tardes Keith y Pam,

lamento mucho que os haya ocasionado alguna molestia la cancelación del almuerzo del Domingo.
Agradezco vuestra recomendación y tomamos buena nota de ello.

Aprovecho para informaros que a partir del domingo 1-Octubre se ha reiniciado la actividad de baile en el Centro Social organizado por la Asociación de la Tercera Edad. El horario es de 18:00 a 22:00.
Espero que sea de vuestro interés y que participéis de esta divertida y saludable actividad. 
Sería muy interesante que vuestros vecinos y amigos británicos participasen y enseñen bailes de salón típicos de vuestro maravilloso país a los bigastrenses.

Un fuerte abrazo.

Teresa María Belmonte Sánchez
Alcaldesa Presidenta Ayuntamiento Bigastro
C/ Pza. de la Constitución, 1
03380 Bigastro (Alicante)
T. 96 535 00 00 | F. 96 535 08 07

 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Very sad

At first we used to fly to the UK with Jet2.com either from Alicante or San Javier. Then we tried Monarch and found that the timing of their flights suited us better.

Since then, we have flown to the UK exclusively with Monarch and even gained Silver Advantage status which gave us priority check in, priority boarding and an extra 10kg luggage allowance. We also paid the little extra to enjoy more legroom.

As many of you will know, Monarch collapsed on Sunday morning leaving thousands of stranded passengers and many more with booked flights that will no longer happen.

We feel really sorry for the employees who were loyal to the company and only got to know that they had lost their jobs on Monday morning.

The options for us are now limited. As far as I know, Flybe, Easyjet, Ryanair and Jet2.com fly to the UK and if you are prepared to have a stop of in Barcelona, Vueling also operate some routes.

Out of those options, we would be extremely reluctant to choose Ryanair who seem cancel flights at the drop of a hat. That doesn't leave us with a lot more choices.

Of course, someone will want to step in and fill the gap left by Monarch. That may be one of the existing carriers or it maybe someone new to Alicante, only time will tell. In the meantime, a sad farewell to Monarch - you served us well.

It didn't happen

So what was the lunch like on Sunday?

On Monday I told you about the special lunch that was scheduled for Sunday at 2pm. That was to be followed by chocolate at 7pm and then dancing to the group, "El Duo Montana". It was planned to coincide with the International Day for the Elderly.

Pam and I did not have the chance to go down and collect our tickets so we just turned up at the Third Age Centre at about 1:45 on Sunday expecting to find a buzz of people waiting to go in.

What we found was the bar was open but the centre was closed. There were a handful of people enjoying a Sunday drink and chat but no signs of any preparation for a meal.

It turns out that the lunch was postponed and the dancing was just the regular Sunday evening event organised by the Pensionistas Club.

We don't know why lunch was cancelled - possibly from lack of interest or maybe it was just too short notice. We were only glad that nobody from Villas Andrea turned up other than us. It would have been embarrassing to say the least if people had heeded my advice on Monday.

Note to the Ayuntamiento: if you need to cancel an event for whatever reason, please put a notice on Facebook to let us know. The word of mouth system that informed those that live in the town did not reach as far as Villas Andrea:-(


Sunday, October 01, 2017

A standing ovation

I have to say that I was surprised how many empty seats there were at last night's concert. I can honestly  say that, those that weren't there,  missed something very special.

In the first part we were entertained by the Armonica de Cox and they were damn good.

Following a short interval, the band from Bigastro took to the stage and performed as we have never heard them before. As I remarked to Christopher, who plays the flute, Diego has upped the game yet again.

My photos are available for you see via the sidebar. I have also uploaded my recording of the music  at.