Sunday, October 11, 2020
Taken from The Spectator.
From the comfort of your own home, you can take part in The Great Covid Quiz and win! The government is giving away billions and billions of pounds in prizes. Simply answer 10 questions correctly and you could win prizes ranging from a furlough to a wheelbarrow of Rishi cash. Get one wrong and you risk being quarantined and your team sent into lockdown
You have 60 seconds to answer 9 questions. Go!
1. What is a ‘support bubble’?
a) A group of up to 100 people with whom you share an experience of being barricaded into a student accommodation block
b) A group of friends who provide emotional support to each other during intense periods of despair about the Covid regulations
c) The mutually ‘supportive’ relationship between TV news broadcasters and catastrophising Covid forecasters
2. What is a ‘Matt Hancock’?
a) A medical condition, under which the sufferer maintains an enthusiastic disposition resulting from extreme naivety.
b) A small animal that performs in a perpetual circus
c) The word for an unforced error
d) The Minister of Fear
3. What are the rules about going to the pub?
a) You can go with someone from your own household, but you must drink shandy through straws
b) You can meet people from other households, as long as you sit at separate tables and shout to each other and do not sing
c) You can go to the pub on your own, but you must drink yourself into depressed oblivion before 10pm
d) This question is irrelevant; the pub is bankrupt
4. What does ‘Follow The Science’ mean?
a) Assess the full range of scientific opinion and pick the one that is most shocking
b) Do whatever you have just persuaded your advisors to say
c) It’s a phrase you use when you hope that someone else knows what they are doing
d) You have no idea, you studied Classics at university
5. How does the government decide which towns to lockdown?
a) Northern towns where people still talk to each other
b) Northern towns where people still drink in pubs together
c) Northern towns where people still live as families
d) Northern towns, situated in the north.
6. What are the rules about sporting events?
a) You can participate in sporting events that involve shooting things
b) You can stay healthy by watching sporting events on the television
c) You can attend a football match, but you must watch it on the television in the club bar and the windows overseeing the pitch will be blacked out
d) The only sport allowed is guessing which regulations are in place at any one time
7. What is ‘herd immunity’?
a) Population immunity from an infectious disease
b) The government’s policy of treating the population like cattle
c) The herd of government advisors who are protected from criticism
8. Which is the most outlandish conspiracy theory?
a) The Chinese Communist Party released the virus to stress-test western societies
b) Bill Gates wants to inject us with microchips
c) The government has been replaced with green lizards from the Bilderberg Group
9. How will it end?
a) When the last fragment of Covid-19 is finally stamped into oblivion and every granny can roam free
b) When Nicola Sturgeon leads a victorious invasion of England in the final War of Calvinist Lockdown Against The Sinners
c) When some grown-ups are put in charge
d) It won’t. This is it. Forever. This is the beginning of The End
But you said we had to answer 10 questions. Well, true to form Boris' lot lied to you!
Friday, October 09, 2020
The Spanish Cabinet on Friday declared a state of alarm in the Madrid region, in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus and after failing to reach an agreement with the regional government on the measures that should be implemented. The details of the state of alarm were passed via a decree and published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) at 5pm, coming into force from that moment.
The government opted to use a state of alarm to give the new coronavirus restrictions that were agreed on last week by a majority of the country’s regions a new legal framework, after the perimetral confinement of municipalities with a high incidence of the coronavirus was struck down by the Madrid High Court on Thursday.
The restrictions included in the BOE reintroduce the perimetral confinement of the capital and eight other municipalities in the region, and anyone trying to leave these areas for the long weekend – Monday is a national holiday – will face fines. Here are the measures now in place in the cities in question:
No one can leave or enter the following municipalities, apart from if their journey is justified: Alcobendas, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, Leganés, Móstoles, Parla and Torrejón de Ardoz. The city of Alcalá de Henares was included in the lockdowns last Friday, but has been taken off the list after its coronavirus data improved, Health Minister Salvador Illa explained on Friday. Justified reasons include work, visits to the doctor or other reasons of force majeure.
Within the affected municipalities, citizens are able to move freely, but the government has advised against all unnecessary journeys and activities.
The state of alarm will be in place for 15 days, and will have to be approved by the Congress of Deputies if it is to be extended.
A maximum of six people are allowed to meet in public or private throughout the whole region, except for activities where specific limits have been established.
Stores and establishments such as gyms and hairdressers must limit capacity to 50%, and must close by 10pm.
Bars, restaurants and betting houses will be limited to 50% capacity inside and 60% outside, with consumption at bar counters prohibited. They will have to close at 11pm apart from for food deliveries.
The capacity in sports venues, both outside and inside, is reduced to 50%, with a maximum of six people for group sports with the exception of official competitions.
Academies and private training or teaching centers will see their capacity reduced to 50%.
In places of worship, capacity is reduced to a third, with a minimum distance of 1.5 meters. At funeral wakes, there is a limit of 15 people outside, and 10 inside.
Monday, September 28, 2020
It should have been obvious that criminals would find ways to exploit the coronavirus crisis to make money. This story also highlights an issue with the tracing system in the UK. How are you to know that the phone call you receive is genuine?
‘Good afternoon I'm calling from the NHS track and trace service. According to our system, you are likely to have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This means that you now need to self-isolate for 7 days and take a COVID-19 test.'
'OK. Can you tell me who that person was?'
'I'm not able to tell you that. That is confidential information.'
'Right. Um... so ....'
'But you do need to be tested within the next 72 hours. So can I just get the best mailing address so that we can send a kit to you?'
'Ok (gives address)'
I just need to take a payment card so that we can finalize this and send the kit to you.'
'Sorry - a payment card? I thought this was all free?'
'No - I'm afraid not. There is a one-off fee of £50 for the kit and test results. Could you read off the long card number for me, please, when you're ready.'
'No - that's not right. This is part of the NHS so there's no charge.'
'I'm afraid there is. Can you give me the card number please - this is very important, and there are penalties for not complying.'
Puts the phone down.
This is how scammers work. And vulnerable people will fall for it.”
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
In my opinion, Spain has been consistent in its approach to coronavirus. OK, there have been mistakes made. Just as was the case in England, lockdown was too slow and large gatherings were allowed in the early days that should have been stopped.
Since then though the rules and stages have been clear and largely followed. We knew week by week what was and what was not allowed. We also knew that the rules would be enforced by law with fines for those who broke them. We don't have mottos like, "Hands, Face and Space" though.
By comparison, there seems to have been a lot of confusion in England. For example, people were allowed to go out for exercise - how far and for how long was not specified. They were allowed to go to beauty spots and the beach to undertake this exercise.
Being outdoors in fresh air was said to be good for both mental and physical well being and so it was encouraged as long as people maintained social distancing. The result was that we were presented with pictures and news reports of resorts like Bournemouth being overwhelmed. Social distancing was impossible even if people thought to apply it.
It was exactly the same when the pubs were allowed to reopen. It was impossible for drinkers to keep 2m apart. Even if they started out well meaning, by the time they'd have several drinks most would have not even thought about it. Drinkers were also supposed to give their name and phone number so they could be contacted in case someone in the pub showed symptoms of coronavirus. No surprise that there were loads of Donald Ducks in bars and pubs.
The "work from home if you can" message was replaced with, "get back to the office now!". And to encourage people to eat out, they were given a 50% discount off their meals up to £10 - Mondays to Wednesdays.
There have been examples of blatant rule breaking with, for example, illegal raves of up to 100 people. To be fair, two Government Ministers and a Special Adviser were guilty of breaking the rules without redress. Some may well have used that as an excuse to break the rules themselves.
There has been a lot of passing the blame to others. E.g., when there was a shortage of PPE, NHS staff were accused using it inappropriately. Recently, the shortage of tests was blamed on people asking for a test when they didn't need one. Last night, it was the sector of the public who refused to follow the rules that meant Johnson had to introduce harsh measures.
The country has a Prime Minister who likes to be cheerful and rosy, putting a positive spin on everything. He has made many false promises starting with the one where he said it would all be over in 12 weeks. Last night, he tried to placate his message with the notion that by Spring things would be much better, there would be a vaccine and half a million tests a day that would give instant results. It is good to be optimistic but that optimism needs to be tempered by realism.
Monday, September 21, 2020
Joaquín Perales Pérez was probably best known as the the "Perales" in the Perales y Ferrer company who pack lemons to export to France, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany, Norway, Czech Republic, Japan, Canada and USA. and provide employment for many in and around Bigastro.
This is an extract from an article that Pascual Segura, Official Chronister of Bigastro has written on his blog, "Recuerdos de Bigastro".
Joaquín Perales Pérez was a great family man and a model businessman, but above all a man proud of his people and his beloved band. And if Bigastro was his centre of activity and business project, the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro was one of his great joys.
Pascual Segura clearly remembers the last time he listened to Joaquín Perales. It was at a concert of the band promoted by him at the Francisco Grau Municipal Auditorium. At the end of the last work and with the last applause of the night, when the audience left their seats and the curtain closed until the next musical evening, Joaquín Perales took the stage and applauded the musicians. He did it alone and with a big smile on his face. After the prolonged applause, he said: "You have done very well and you are the pride of all the people. Congratulations. I congratulate you and I encourage you to continue working as you have done until now, because the band sounds fantastic." He shook hands with all the musicians close to the place where he was and left accompanied by the grateful applause of the musicians who saw in the gesture of Joaquín Perales a new show of gratitude and humility from this Honorary Member, as he was named by the board of directors of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro when Mr. Emilio Sáez Pérez was president.
Born on March 7, 1940, Joaquín Perales Pérez, father of five children, always felt a special affection for the customs and traditions of his native Bigastro. A man from Bigastro linked from his youth to the business sector He knew the importance of teamwork, and what better example of teamwork than that of a musical group?
While successfully developing his business project, he became a fervent admirer of the band, making the decision to be a member of it as soon as the way to enter the band was formalised. His registration in the membership book occupies one of its first pages with membership number 52. Incorporation that did not go unnoticed by the board of directors of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro which named him a partner of honor. An honorary distinction that shortly after was assigned to great successful professionals of our band, such as Joaquín Grau, José Vicente Díaz, Manuel Moya, Manuel Gutiérrez, etc.
Excited and happy to be able to contribute to the development of our band, and despite having a professional schedule full of responsibilities that reduced his leisure time, Joaquín Perales shared great moments with his band. Like when he postponed his professional commitments to travel to Valencia and support his band at the Palau de la Música, or when he accepted with enthusiasm the tribute that the band gave him on March 5, 2011 at the VI Vega Baja Music Gala - Baix Vinalopó held in the neighboring town of Redován, with Emilio Sáez Pérez being president, who accompanied him and gave an award for actively supporting the Bigastrense musical society.
Distinctions that were happening over time and that tried to return the affection of the first honorary member to his band, as when in 2012 at the concert offered in honor of the members, the board of directors wanted to thank his unconditional support by dedicating a tribute to him in the one that participated his great friend and honorary director, Francisco Grau Vegara, who composed a pasodoble for him.
Acknowledgments in which Joaquín Perales Pérez was moved and grateful for being a participant, through the promotion of his band's projects, its growth, sharing his enthusiasm and affection for the band with his children and grandchildren -now students from the music school-, for whom today Joaquín Perales is an example of aptitude, effort and sacrifice, of overcoming adversity, and of course, of affection for his people and his always esteemed band.
There are friendships that last forever through the years, the difficulties and the onslaught of life. The Bigastro-Joaquín Perales relationship will last a long time, despite the fact that he can no longer reciprocate with his encouragement and affection for his people; only from above, he will watch over his family, his people and his band with his esteem, like a shining star in the sky of Bigastro. Rest in peace.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
When he became Prime Minister, Johnson took a £200,000 a year pay cut. He had to move from a nice mews house to a flat above the shop. All that to feed his burning ambition for the top job.
All Johnson wanted to do was be P M and get Brexit done, he didn't want to have to deal with a major health crisis. He certainly did not want to work long hours, seven days a week.
Now he is struggling. He is paying for four of his children to go through university and his friends say he can only afford a cleaner. Having a baby at 56 without the assistance of a nanny or a housekeeper must be taking its toll.
Worst of all though, his popularity rating has plummeted. Johnson doesn't like having enemies. Facing Keir Starmer each week at Prime Minister's Questions is bad enough, he now has rebellious back benchers to contend with as well.
The book is now open on how long he can last. Nobody expects Johnson to be leading the party at the next election but when will he time his his exit. Smart money seems to be on next Spring.
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Just to make things a bit more interesting today there is a "bit of a hill" at the end of the 36.2 km time trial.
In relation to the other longer climbs that the riders have endured, this is less of a challenge although the sections that ramp up to 11, 13 and finally 20 % will surely test their legs.
Barring accidents, Tadej Pogacar is sure to get the white (youth) jersey but he'd also like the polka dot (climbers) jersey and possibly even the yellow (individual) jersey.
It is unlikely that he will make up the 57 seconds on his fellow countryman, Primoz Roglic but he may be tempted to have a go. However, there are only 2 points between Pogacar and Richard Carapaz in the polka dot competition so that is a more realistic target.
By about 5:30pm we will know the result.
During the past two weeks, Spain has reported more than 122,000 new Covid-19 cases, more than a third of them in the Madrid region. The number of cases per 100,000 people stands at 259.76 across Spain as a whole. In Madrid, the figure rises to 659.41, and in Puente de Vallecas, the district served by the Buenos Aires medical centre, it is 1,241.
The Madrid regional government on Friday announced new restrictions aimed at curbing the rising number of coronavirus cases in the region. The order will go into effect on Monday and last for at least 14 days.
The restrictions on mobility affect people living within 37 basic health areas, of which 26 are located in six districts of the city of Madrid, and the rest in other municipalities in the Madrid region. People will be allowed in and out for essential activities such as going to school or work, or to care for dependents. Social gatherings are reduced to six people and public parks will remain closed. Capacity at stores and other commercial establishments is set at 50% and closing time is 10pm with the exception of pharmacies and gas stations.
The affected areas are home to around 855,193 people or 17% of the population of the Madrid region, although they account for 25% of detected coronavirus cases. “We are aware that if don’t take these measures, the situation will be worse in a few days," said the deputy premier of the Madrid region, Ignacio Aguado.
In the UK, there are 59.3 cases per 100,000, in France, 166.9, and in Italy, 33.
Monday, September 14, 2020
The Spanish TIE card is the new photo ID card that replaces the old green residency certificate or card. It is not essential at this point in time that you exchange your original residency document. However, many people are doing so as the new card can also be used as a form of identification which removes the requirement to always carry your passport with you.
It is very advisable to be up-to-date with the latest Spanish documentation, as you cannot be sure how the requirements for the same process will change after the 31st of December 2020.
There are two types of TIE cards in Spain. For those people who have had a residency certificate for more than 5 years they will receive a TIE of 10 years duration. For those who have residency for less than five years, they will receive a TIE of 5 years validity that can be renewed automatically.
HOW TO REPLACE YOUR GREEN RESIDENCY DOCUMENT FOR THE TIE CARD IN SPAIN
The first stage in obtaining your TIE is to make an appointment at the “Oficina de Extranjería” Calle de la Ebanistería, 4, Alicante.
Once the documents have been presented you will be given a telephone number that you have to call within 3 or 4 weeks to confirm if the card is ready for collection.
When you have confirmation that your new card can be collected then you must go to the “Oficina de Extranjería“ again to hand in the original residency document and to collect your new TIE card.
THE DOCUMENTS YOU NEED TO PRESENT:
Form EX23 - obtained and filled in online
Tasa/Tax 720/012 and proof of payment - again the form is online - take it to your bank to make the payment.
Original passport + copy - the copy only needs to be of the page with your information.
Original residency document + copy
Recent and valid padrón + copy*
Photo ID (passport size)**
* If you are replacing an existing green resident's card or certificate and your address hasn't changed, I understand you do not need a copy of the padron.
** Recent photo, 32 by 26 mm, face camera directly, with full face in view, in color, white plain background. With the head completely uncovered and without dark glasses or any other garment that may prevent or make identification of the person difficult.
Thursday, September 17, the mobile eco-park will return to the Plaza de la Constitución. You can dispose of waste ranging from glass, toner and ink cartridges, lithium and cadmium batteries, CDs, light packaging, used oil from the kitchen, paper and cardboard, button and alkaline batteries, small appliances, mobile phones, aerosols and cans, expired medicines, fluorescent tubes and light bulbs.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
It is now twelve months since the worst episode of bad weather this area has experienced. The DANA produced 500l of water per square metre.
The town may have mostly recovered but the memory of those awful days will remain for a long time.
To see just how bad it was, watch this video. The first part was taken opposite the post boxes at the bottom of our estate.
So far the Tour de France has proved to be exciting with twists and turns in the fortunes of the favourites. It has also taken us through some beautiful countryside with more climbing than I believe is usual.
Today could well be a big day as the riders leave Lyon and head to a finish on the Grand Colombier.
Although the Grand Colombier has featured many times in the Tour, this is the first time that a stage will finish at the top.
Before the riders reach the final climb though, they have 98kms of flat countryside to cover. They also have a couple of mountain to tackle the first of which has a 3km section at 22%. .
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Friday, September 04, 2020
The two projects on CV-95
The first phase be in the Vereda Colín street from where an aqueduct will be built, a passage through the road itself of just over 12 meters that will allow the passage of more than 20 thousand litres of water per second. A second work will also be carried out at the roundabout by the Health Centre where they will carry out the same drainage infrastructure, to avoid flooding due to heavy rains. The third project, that is being worked on, will affect the entire El Molino village.
CV-95 cut off from Monday, September 7
The CV-95 cut-off will be carried out for about 15 days in the direction of Torrevieja-Jacarilla, from the roundabout of the Health Centre, for heavy transport that will not be allowed access to the municipality, from the intersection of the Vereda El Molino towards Avenida Tomás Villanueva, Calle Vereda el Colín heading again towards CV-95.
In the direction of Orihuela, the cut will be made at the La Metro roundabout, where you will take the direction of Bigastro along Apatel Street and Tomás Villanueva Avenue to take CV-95 again. In the same way, the access of heavy vehicles will not be allowed, only buses.
Thursday, September 03, 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020
Sunday, August 30, 2020
My friend Pete is responsible for timetabling in his school - a secondary R.C. High School for Girls in Liverpool.
Like all schools, they have worked hard to facilitate a safe return for pupils next week following Government guidelines.
Then on Friday night, the Government chose to announce the measures that would be taken if there was a local spike in Covid 19 cases - it is a 4 tier plan starting with wearing of masks by pupils from Yr 7 upwards and adults when moving around buildings to full school closure.
It is Stage 2 though that has my friend scratching his head. The notion is that half the pupils would stay in school and half would work from home. Sounds simple but it isn't because secondary school timetables are complex. Do you send home whole year groups or specific classes from various year groups? Which plan would be least disruptive and at the same time best reduce the possibility of transmission.
Just when my friend needed a relaxed weekend to prepare for the difficulties he will already face next week, Pete has the impossible task of sorting out Plan B.
Friday, August 28, 2020
Spain is using an app called Radar Covid to track and trace people with Coronavirus..
Like the ill fated UK app, this uses Bluetooth to record who you have been in contact with. If you then exhibit symptoms, you notify via the app and anyone who has been recorded in contact with you for 15 minutes or more is notified.
The app is available for Apple IOS and Android.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
To be fair, it is a long time since we had major problems with electricity here at Villas Andrea. When we first arrived and were on "builder's supply", it was a lottery. You could have periods of hours without electricity and even when it was on, the voltage varied quite a bit. Once we were connected to the National Grid, things improved a lot although there have been the odd blips.
My Smart UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply or battery backup) has been sending messages to say that there have been a couple of power cuts over the last week or so but generally, there have been no interruptions during the daytime.
Apart from the email messages that the UPS sends, the clock on the oven goes back to 12:00 and needs resetting. They are both sure signs that we have had problems.
Previously, I had my Internet router connected to the UPS and so we did not lose our connection when the power went off. Now that we have a fibre connection though, we have the supplied router in our bedroom acting as a modem and a wireless router in the spare room that connects everything to the network. Neither of these are powered via the UPS and so, when the electricity goes off, so does our connection to the Internet.
Far more serious though, with the electricity off, we can't make that vital first cup of tea in the morning. In desperation, one time I went outside and boiled water on my gas barbecue but that needs cleaning after last night's meal. For now, the electricity is back on and I have my brew by my side, let's hope it stays that way.
The good news is that the electricity is back on, the bad news is that the water has now gone off. The even worse news is that, now the water is back on, there is a leak in the street outside our neighbour's house. The water has found a route from there down to the pavement outside our shed creating a long crack in our walls on the way.
Friday:- we now have two men digging down to find and hopefully repair the leak. Once they have done that, I expect them to come and repair our walls.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
When we came back from England in March, I needed to go to the Medical Centre in Bigastro to have my knee redressed. I went several times and on each occasion there was nobody in the waiting room. The seating had been sorted with tape on alternate seats but it wasn't needed because there wasn't anyone about apart from the staff.
I had an appointment at the hospital for my regular checkup following radiotherapy four years ago but was told that would be cancelled and in any case I couldn't have the blood analysis that precedes those appointments.
Realising it was essential, I made a new appointment at the hospital for next week and went down this morning for my blood analysis.
In the past, there has always been a gathering of over a dozen people waiting for their blood analysis. This morning, I was the only one and the waiting area was still empty.
This leads me to wonder, where are all the people who would normally be filling the medical centre?
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Even in normal times, it is impossible to produce exam results that are perfectly standardised. Exams are marked by an army of teachers who attempt to agree a common standard between them. Although the marks are later cross checked by chief examiners, there is still some potential for errors. The important thing is not that the grades are correct but that the rank order of students is correct – not just in the individual school but across the country as a whole.
What OFQUAL attempted to do this year was to standardise disparate marking by referencing back to previous years' results. They had to assume that each school would perform more or less the same as they had in the past. The problem is that A level groups tend to be small in number and so results can vary considerably year on year. Grades for subjects like Latin, Classics and History of Art, mostly taken in independent schools, were either left untouched or improved; grades in Social Science subjects, taken by state schools, were downgraded.
To illustrate the problem of relying on past performance, I read about two schools that worked together to standardise their marks – each marking the other's candidates work. When the results were published, the results from one school were downgraded and the other school's grades were left untouched. The difference being that the one school had a history of A levels and the other was entering pupils for the first time.
What to do?
At first Gavin Williamson said that there would NOT be a U turn, the grades would stand. Johnson backed him up by saying that the grades were “robust”. Then the poo poo hit the fan, schools, pupils and parents were up in arms. Bear in mind that the affected students were now of voting age and Council Elections are coming up next year.
Scotland had already back tracked, Wales and Northern Island were going to back track. That left merry England out on its own.
Yesterday, Williamson said that he had thought about things over the weekend and had come to the conclusion that, right or wrong, the best thing to do was allow the teacher assessments to be upheld. You could argue that he was a big person for admitting he was wrong and apologising but remember that this mess was not created last week nor the week before, it was known for months what had taken place.
OK, so all is now well but unfortunately that is not the case. Many of the students that were rejected by their first choice University on the basis of their lowered grades have already gone to clearing to find a place at a different University and or possibly a different course. That process now needs to be unpicked in the few weeks before courses begin.
Meantime, like Nero watching Rome burn, the PM is enjoying his holiday in Scotland.
Monday, August 17, 2020
For those of you who missed the concerts by various sections of the band, here are links that will take you to them. To view the videos in full you will need to download them to your computer/iPad.
Along with music, fireworks are an important feature of celebrations here in Bigastro.
Determined that we would not miss out this year, the Fiesta Commission decided to have firework displays at various points in the town. That way, each barrio could enjoy a display and stay safe.
From our roof terrace, I could see at least four different sets of fireworks stretching the length of the town.
When they had finished, we then had our very own display aimed for the residents at Villas Andrea. At the end of the display, you could hear the applause and people cheering.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
You don't need me to tell you that this year has been extraordinary. So many aspects of our lives have been turned upside down.
Possibly the biggest upheaval for people in Bigastro has been the cancellation of fiestas and celebrations. First it was Holy Cross, then San Isidro, Easter, Corpus Christi, Santa Ana and now San Joaquin.
An important part of most celebrations in Bigastro is music. We have not been able to enjoy a concert by either the Symphonic Band or the Junior Band since March.
Undaunted though, the President – Alfonso Banuls, the Director – Diego Soller and the musicians came up with an ingenious idea. They got Telfy involved and recorded four different concerts to be broadcast from the 13th to the 16th at 8pm each night.
The first concert was performed by a saxophone ensemble, the second by a Big Band group mainly playing brass, the third was mainly woodwind and the fourth was the Symphonic Band playing a traditional concert selection for San Joaquin.
The music selections were delightful and memorable, the standard of playing was as usual immaculate and the production by Telfy was professional.
We owe a great debt to Alfonso, Diego and the musicians who took part. You have managed to enrich our lives during these difficult times.
Some changes have been made to the regulations aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19.
You are now prohibited from smoking on public roads unless you can keep a distance of 2m.
Discos, dance halls and cocktail bars will be closed. Hotels and restaurants, terraces and bars must close, at the latest, by one in the morning.
In Bigastro, the police have said that they will clamp down on any attempts to have botellons (gatherings of people drinking) in the streets.
Saturday, August 15, 2020
50 years ago I was putting on a grey morning suit ready to go to St Lukes Church in Hoylake for our wedding. I hadn't long graduated from Keele University and had spent the summer working at Hepworth Iron Works to earn money for the wedding and honeymoon.
My good friend from college, John Wilde and I, had stayed at the flat in West Kirby which was to be Pam and my first home. We arrived at the church in good time to meet my brother Brian who was to be my best man and to have photos taken before we were went to the vestry with Morley Rattenbury who was the Minister at that time.
The wedding ceremony and the reception took place without a hitch thanks to Pamela's careful planning. I can confidentially say that all our guests were delighted and happy to be there to celebrate with us. It was a lovely summer day so we were able to have many photos taken in the grounds of Kings Gap Court where the Reception was held.
Unusually for that time, we had an evening reception as well as the Wedding Breakfast with the Eric Fenton Band playing a wide selection of music. As was tradition, I bought the first round in the evening and was grateful that most were drinking either beer or soft drinks.
The next day Pam and I travelled to Slough with our good friends Glenys and John ready to go to the North London Terminal where we would check in for our flight to Mallorca and our honeymoon at Arenal Playa. As Pam reminds me, I had so few clothes, there was plenty of room in my case for souvenirs. I recall that the lock on my case was faulty and so it had string around it to keep it secure.
When we returned, Pam and I were keen to start our lives together. We had very little money and only the bare essentials for life. It was over a month before we could afford a fridge and several months before Pam's parents let us have their 12” black and white TV. We had to wait until the end of September before I would receive my first month's pay as a newly qualified teacher.
Over the 50 years since then we have had many triumphs and memorable moments. We have two wonderful daughters and two delightful grandchildren. Most important though, we have each other. Our love for each other is as strong as ever even if we don't always express it these days.
Wherever you are reading this, please raise a glass to toast our Golden Wedding with us.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
As a retired teacher who taught both GCSE and A level students, I know what a nail biting time it is when the results come in. It is a nervous time for both pupils and staff. Your reputation as a teacher is at stake as are the pupil's futures.
This year was going to cause major problems because schools were closed during the exam season.
As it happens, apart from GCSE and A Level Photography, the subjects I taught were mostly course work based. Even so, my students would have been short of the assignments scheduled for the Summer term. For subjects that are assessed purely on end of course exams, this was going to be much more of a challenge.
The solution was to ask teachers to provide assessments of how well their pupils would fare if they had taken the exams. These grades would then be moderated to ensure that standards were maintained year on year. This is a process that happens anyway, even when pupils have been able to sit their exams.
However, what seems to have happened is that the results have also been adjusted to take account of the school's previous performances. In the case of schools in well heeled, middle class areas this may have worked - just - but for those from disadvantaged areas it could spell disaster as was evidenced in the Scottish results.
In Scotland, there was a U turn with the teacher assessments, even if they were generous, being carried through.
In England, the idea is that pupils can appeal and have the results of their mock exams taken into account. If they are still not happy, they can take the exams in Autumn.
Clearly, whoever thought this plan out has never taught in schools. Mock exams are used by many teachers to prompt pupils into action. In other words they are deliberately set or marked at a higher level than the final exam. I saw this regularly in the schools where I taught. A pupil who was given a D in their mock would achieve a C or even a B in the final exam. Very rarely did they do worse.
Some say that the opposite is also true i.e. teachers are generous in their marking of mock exams to encourage pupils. I can't say that I ever saw this happen. In Liverpool, if you told a pupil that they should get a C and they ended up with a D, their parents would be at the school the next day. If you told them they's get a D and they were awarded a C, then they'd bring you a present.
How this will all be resolved is hard to say. What I can say is that it has the potential for not ending well.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
One of the saddest things about the lockdown for coronavirus is that families and friends cannot attend the funeral of loved ones.
As I reported, the funeral for Sheila Rowlands was on Monday at the Salt Church in Los Montesinos. I also said you could follow it via a live feed over the internet.
The recorded feed is now available on this link.
Monday, August 10, 2020
Those of you on our estate will have been saddened to hear of Sheila Rowlands passing away.
Sheila was one of the kindest people you could meet and a true Christian. Always willing to help others in need even when she was suffering herself.
Her funeral is today, Monday, leaving the house at 10.00am
Anyone that would have liked to have attended but cannot should know that it will be streamed online by her church,
Thursday, August 06, 2020
Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are often compared for all the wrong reasons. However, in his interview with Jonathon Swan, Trump surpassed his British counterpart.
Johnson has said that the Government's handling of coronavirus had been a “great success”. I don't think most people would agree with that.
Trump though bettered Johnson in his interview.
The coronavirus testing system in the United States has been a disastrous hodgepodge. There is no uniform standard, it is difficult for parts of the system to coordinate or communicate with each other, and even people who do get tests have to wait so long for the response that the signal is useless.
Trump presented this state of affairs as if it was good. “We’ve come up with so many different kind of tests,” he boasted. “The only thing we have now is some people have to wait longer than we’d like them to.”
Swan asked Trump why he would hold a huge maskless indoor rally during a pandemic. Trump’s reply, incredibly, was to boast about the size of the crowd and insist it was twice as large as news reports (and photos) indicated.
Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t like coronavirus testing because it shows how many cases you have, which makes him look bad. This time he attributed this position to undefined manuals and books.
On several occasions, Trump replied to questions about the coronavirus response by insisting the U.S. is containing the virus as well as it possibly could. When Swan points out that 1,000 Americans are now dying per day, Trump replies, “They are dying. That’s true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.”
“They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.”
I read today that Trump has been in discussions about adding his image to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore. Of course he denies this but apparently he was given a 4 foot mock up of what the monument might look like with his face included and did say "it sounds like a good idea".
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Monday, August 03, 2020
Sunday, August 02, 2020
Saturday, August 01, 2020
Friday, July 31, 2020
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
I think you will all agree that 50 years of marriage is quite some achievement. A lot of things can happen in half a century. Thankfully Pam and I haven't had too many crisis to deal with and we are blessed with two wonderful daughters who have helped us enormously along the way. We also have good friends and two grandchildren who have greatly enriched our lives.
So, as I say, time to celebrate.
Plan A: We investigated a “once in a lifetime trip” and eventually agreed that, sailing to New York on the Queen Mary, staying a few days in a 4 star hotel and then flying back would suit us well.
There are any number of companies that offer this trip and many options. With careful research, we discovered the right time of year, the better deck to choose, the luxury options to pick etc etc. Apparently, it is better to sail from Southampton to New York and then fly back to Gatwick.
We then looked at the logistics of getting from our home in Spain to Southampton and back to Spain from Gatwick which, as you might expect was not going to be straightforward. We also considered whether it was feasible to have our family join us. In the end we gave up on the idea.
Plan B: Our son-in law suggested that we might like to combine our celebration with our youngest daughter and his 40th birthdays. So we investigated options for a family holiday in Mallorca where we had enjoyed a couple of luxury villa holidays before. We also considered a Mediterranean cruise but found it was almost impossible to suit everyone.
Plan C: Eventually, we agreed that a city break in Paris in May would suit us all. Pam and I booked a large modern flat in the centre of Paris through AirBnB. We booked flights from Alicante to Orly and the rest of the family made reservations on Eurostar. Everything was paid for and organised and then along came coronavirus. Thankfully, we were able to get refunds for our accommodation and travel.
Plan D: It became obvious that we would have to celebrate here in Bigastro. The decision to impose a 14 day quarantine on anyone returning to the UK though was making it impossible for any of our family to join us. Then there was a chink of light. Spain was considered a safe destination so our eldest daughter and her friend booked flights. Pam made plans for celebratory meals and booked a special one for the 15th.
That was until yesterday when the UK Government made a U turn and decided that Spain was no longer safe and that passengers from our country would have to self isolate for 14 days on their return. Well thank you Mr. Why could you not simply test everyone arriving from Spain and only make those who test positive go into quarantine. Test them twice if necessary. Thousands are already here and many more have bookings to come here – plans, including ours, are in tatters.
Plan E: We don't have a plan E. As Pam said, we spent our honeymoon on our own, looks like we'll be doing the same for our 50th anniversary. As I pointed out, there is a difference!
Saturday, July 25, 2020
As he stood in front of St Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked,
"What are all those clocks?"
St Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on earth has a Lie Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move."
"Oh," said the man, "Whose clock is that?"
"That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie."
"Incredible," said the man. "Whose is that clock?" pointing to the next one on the wall.
"That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have only moved twice, telling us Abe told two lies in his entire life."
"Wow!.. So Where's Boris Johnson's clock ?
"His clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."
Friday, July 24, 2020
It is a tradition in the town of Bigastro to celebrate the patron saint festivities in honor of San Joaquín during the days close to August 16. A tradition that has filled the residents of our town with joy and satisfaction for 227 years.
Every year, the town of Bigastro dresses up and celebrates the devotion to its patron saint with a program of cultural and religious activities that are part of the hallmarks of Bigastrenses.
For months, our nation and the entire world has been experiencing an unprecedented health crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and affected millions of human beings. A crisis that today is still latent and evolving negatively despite the prevention and health security measures that the authorities have implemented.
In the current situation, in which we are aware of hundreds of new cases of daily infections throughout the national territory and especially in relation to the area of influence of the Department of Health of the Vega Baja, it is necessary to take exceptional measures to protect the health of Bigastro's neighbors.
The current conditions of mobility of the population, which allows free movement throughout the territory, make it even more necessary to take preventive measures to prevent the spread of infections in our municipality.
The current safety and hygiene standards published by the competent health authority and which are mandatory for the entire population, require the mandatory use of protective masks, prohibit the celebration of acts of worship in the open air and limit the number of people who they can focus on public and private events.
Given the regulatory scenario described and in application of the principle of prudence, it is necessary to avoid the mass concentration of people who suppose the celebration of the typical public acts of the Patron Saint Festival in honor of San Joaquín.
With great regret I am forced to suspend the celebration of the patron saint festivities during this year for all the above and with the awareness that the measures to be adopted are not desirable, but necessary for the protection of the health of the residents of our town. , and with the hope that next year we will be able to carry out the celebration of the patron saint festivities that are the emblem and pride of our people.
During the last weeks, the festivities council, together with the festive commission, the San Joaquin brotherhood, the parish and the SUMB, have been preparing a program of events adapted to the norms. A program that we must suspend due to prudence.
I thank all of them for their effort and work despite the difficulties involved in carrying it out with the necessary security measures.
With my best wishes for health and happiness to the residents of Bigastro, receive a cordial and affectionate greeting.
Viva Bigastro and Viva San Joaquín
Unless you are in a restaurant, bar or cafe that has seated accommodation, you must wear a mask in food outlets. And of course, you must wear a mask in ALL shops, banks, Post Offices etc.
Here in Valencia, it is simple. Only when you are seated in a bar, restaurant etc, actually eating or drinking can you remove your mask. In all other situations, in shops, banks and in the street, you are obliged to wear a mask. You don't need to wear a mask when you are sat or lying on the beach, taking exercise or swimming but you must wear one on the way to the beach and back including if you go to buy a drink or food.
I know from some of our friends in England that they are not happy about the idea of wearing a mask The plan was to make people feel more secure about going out but in some cases that may have backfired. Some have told us that they will no longer go out to shops if it means wearing a mask.
We know that a mask does not protect you from picking up the virus but it does limit the possibility of you transmitting the virus to others. In other words, masks are only effective if everyone wears them. Your mask protects me and mine protects you.
People with breathing difficulties or other medical conditions that would make wearing a mask difficult are exempt both here in Spain and in the UK.
I read a comment this morning from a reader in one of the UK papers saying that he was NOT going to wear a mask and if challenged would claim he had a medical reason to be exempt. You can imagine the response he got from other readers.
Let's face it, masks are not the most comfortable things to wear and are a nuisance to those of us who wear glasses. However, if they help to limit the spread of this awful virus and reduce the number of people dying, then we will put up with them. It was the same when the law required people to wear seat belts in cars; there were people who objected. It should not take the threat of a fine to make people do the right thing.
Sunday, July 19, 2020
To avoid confusion the mask should cover the nose, mouth and include the chin but not all masks will be authorised, only hygienic and surgical masks can be used. The masks with the exhalation valve are prohibited.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
Barceló says that infections are quadrupling in the age range between 20 and 40 years, as a result of private parties and not maintaining security measures during nightlife. This population group does not usually present symptoms, which leads them to a false sense of security and to the relaxation of preventive measures. Barceló has reported that there are 20 active outbreaks in the region, "which are being followed up so that they remain locked down."
The increase in cases has led the Ministry to take this measure and decide on the mandatory use of the mask, which will take effect from today when the order of the Ministry of Health is published, both on public roads and in outdoor spaces, except in swimming pools, beaches and natural spaces as well as in hotels and restaurants while consuming food and beverages. It will not be compulsory for people who carry out physical activity and people with respiratory problems or in other cases of dependency or disability.
In the Vega Baja, the Ministry of Health has confirmed in the last ten days four new cases of COVID-19 infection, one case in the Orihuela Health Department and three in the Torrevieja Department.
Friday, July 17, 2020
Michael Gove said that wearing a mask should be a matter of courtesy and was then photographed without one on his trip to pick up a take away breakfast. Others, visiting the same take away, were wearing their masks. Who was right?
Matt Hancock, who had previously made no distinction between shops and take away food outlets felt it necessary to back track on his statement. He now excludes take away outlets from the rule.
I hope I have got this right; if you are going to a proper shop e.g. a supermarket, you must wear a mask. If you fail to do so, the shop keeper or assistant can call the police who could decide to fine you £100. However, if you are a Government Minister going to Pret a Manger to pick up your take away breakfast, you don't need to wear a mask.
OK, we need to be clear. For the benefit of lesser mortals, am I right in assuming that a humble fish and chip shop would be classed the same as an upmarket take away? What about going into the newsagent to pick up my copy of the Sun and a packet of Woodbines or to the chemist to buy “something for the weekend”?
Can you see where I am going here? We need to know if what you are buying or the time you spend in the premises are the deciding factors.
Michael Gove might not be phased by a £100 fine but the majority of the country would struggle to pay such an amount.
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Now we know that none of that is true. So far Brexit has cost the country over £130 billion which is more than the total payments made to the EU over the past 47 years. Worse still, that sum is expected to rise to £200 billion by the time Britain leaves.
Apart from intangible notion of regaining control, has anyone actually told us what the enormous benefits of Brexit will be that make spending such an eye watering sum worth it?
The British public were repeatedly told that a NO DEAL BREXIT was not on the cards, that Britain would negotiate a free trade deal with zero tariffs, zero paperwork - no need for a border between the mainland and Northern Ireland because the EU would blink first during negotiations. Now talk is of an Australian style deal in January which is a clever way of saying NO DEAL.
We now know that any hope of fantastic deals with China are off the table because of the U turn made on allowing HuaWei to supply components for the 5G network. It took the threat of a rebellion of back benchers, sufficient to overturn the 80 majority, to bring that about.
Turning away from Brexit, let's consider the response to coronavirus.
The initial plan was to do nothing. Let the virus spread so that a “herd immunity” would build up. Of course there would be deaths but they would be among the vulnerable and the elderly so a saving on pensions and benefits as a bonus.
Because of government cuts to the NHS budget, there were insufficient supplies of test kits. The result was that elderly patients were sent back from hospitals to care homes without testing. Not surprisingly, many were carrying the infection which they then spread to others resulting in an unacceptably high death rate.
Test and trace had to be abandoned because of insufficient supplies, meaning there was no way of knowing how the virus was spreading.
In spite of a ready made tracking app being available, the UK government decided to spend over £100m developing its own app that turned out to be a failure. No matter, change the slogan from Track, Test and Trace to just Test and Trace.
Many countries applied lockdown during the early stages of the pandemic but not Britain. The rules in Spain for example have been clear from the start. In Britain, you could go out to exercise once a day for as long as you wanted and as far from your home as you pleased. You could even go out and sunbathe. It was acceptable to leave your home and go for a drive to test your eyesight but only if you were a special adviser.
In March the wearing of face masks was not only a waste of time but counter productive. A few months on and it is obligatory to wear face masks on public transport and will soon be obligatory in shops.
Almost weekly, the messages change. Is it any wonder that Michael Gove says something different to Boris Johnson and both say something different to Matt Hancock.
Whatever you do in Britain, don't make plans for the future because things could all change before they come to fruition.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
As Dave says, "Although we still seem to be reasonably okay here in Bigastro I know from a friend who is a practising doctor in Albatera that virus numbers are again on the increase and from today she is advising we wear a mask at all times when out and to carry some type of sanitary gel purely as a precaution ......... some people are becoming complacent and are not following the rules."
That is so true. When we were in the early stages of lockdown, everyone you saw in street wore a mask. They would queue outside shops at a 2m distance. People were taking the threat seriously.
Now there are more people in the streets but fewer of them are wearing masks. The young seem to have adopted wearing their masks on their elbows as a kind of fashion statement. Good to see them with a mask but placed on your elbow, it will do nothing to protect anyone.
We need to remind ourselves, coronavirus numbers may be dropping but it has not gone away. The way it spreads is by transmission - give it the means to pass on from person to person and it will soon come back in a second wave.
Sunday, July 05, 2020
If the lack of social distancing was the only issue that would be bad enough but as the night rolled on scenes of carnage in places like Leeds, London, Newcastle etc became the norm.