Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No more headaches

Last night we had our AGM of the Villas Andrea Residents’ Association. It was a well attended and lively meeting where a lot of issues were aired. The Mayor of Bigastro came about half way through and addressed us (in Spanish) about the concerns we have expressed about telephones, the post and the graffiti which appeared in the last couple of weeks. Having listened to him I now understand why he has been Mayor for over twenty years. Sr. Alcalde sounds to be a very committed European who has the best interest of the whole community at heart. We all gave him a rapturous applause when he finished.

Anyway the main thing for me was that I resigned from the committee. I’m afraid that the committee last year didn’t work with the sort of rigour that I had come to expect throughout my working life. I didn’t come here to beat myself worrying about these things so the best course of action was to resign. Of course the consequence is that I will no longer be able to try and influence the way things are organised but I can live with that!

Oh and best of all we understood most of what the Mayor said!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Desperately seeking Spanish

Yesterday we went to the carvery across the road from the Hungarian restaurant we visited two weeks ago. The food was excellent and plentiful and the price was very reasonable but we could have been eating anywhere in England. The food, the waitresses and all the customers were English. You had to look out the window to remind yourself that you were in Spain. Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice to have roast beef, Yorkshire puddings etc now and again but it isn’t really what we came to Spain for.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

You get what you pay for

We only have a few rugs that need cleaning so we didn’t bring the expensive Dyson upright cleaner we had in England. The little cleaner that I used for the car doesn’t seem to have the power that it used to have. So yesterday we bought a small vacuum cleaner from Carrefour. Now they had cleaners priced up to two hundred euros and I dare say the expensive models had features that the cheaper ones didn’t. With only a few rugs to clean though it didn’t make sense to pay a lot. On offer was one of Carrefour’s BlueSky brand cleaners complete with three tools and even a HEPA filter for 34,90€ (less than £24). It seemed like a good buy.

When we got it home though and unpacked it I couldn’t find the filter that protects the motor. A minor problem I thought. I plugged it in and switched it on. The first thing we noticed was that the lights in the lounge dimmed. That obviously meant that something was not right. Before I could switch it off though smoke started to come from inside the machine and within seconds it just died. The smell was awful. I had to put it outside until the smoke had cleared. The HEPA filter had almost melted and was covered with sticky black gunge. The following morning when I tipped the cleaner up this yellow liquid ran out of the place where the filter fits. It seems like like some plastic component has melted inside the cleaner.

Ah well – we will have to go back to Carrefour and perhaps buy a more expensive but more reliable model.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Where we live

I just downloaded Google Earth which is the most amazing piece of software. Best of all it is free.

For those of you who haven't visited us this is an aerial photo of Villas Andrea from Google Earth. This was obviously taken about May 2004.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Forward thinking

Bigastro already had an excellent web site which provided a wide range of information about the town including a very useful interactive map. One of the sections I like best is the one where you can ask the Mayor questions which he answers online. Judging by the number of questions asked this is a very popular feature and one which takes up a lot of his time.

Now the Ayuntamiento has a new web site as part of the Bigastro+ project.

The new Bigastro Digital website offers free email addresses in the form ******@bigastro.es, information sent direct to your mobile phone, free web hosting for businesses in Bigastro, a host of information about new technologies and a wide range of courses aimed at helping people use their PC effectively.

On the Bigastro Digital web site there are also details of the Plan Avanza which allows Bigastrense whether Spanish or foreign to buy an ADSL connected PC or laptop. To encourage people to embrace new technology they are offering a loan of up to 1.000€ to buy the equipment. This loan is to be repaid at the rate of 27,78€ per month for 36 months INTEREST FREE.

However, for those who don’t want their own PC Bigastro has opened a “Telecentro” Mondays to Fridays between 5pm and 9pm.

The website claims that 47% of houses in Bigastro have a PC. This figure rises to 78% in houses where the education level is superior. Apparently 78% of houses with a PC have an Internet connection and of those 67% access the Bigastro web site.

Pretty impressive stuff for a town of just over 7.000 inhabitants.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Another good day

beach house Torrelamata

We are now just one step away from having our residency cards. The process which we started in November 2004 is nearly complete. Yesterday we went to the new Police Station in Alicante to have our fingerprints taken and hand our photographs over ready to go onto the cards. Actually when we say fingerprints it was only the print of the first finger on the right hand that they took. All we have to do now is go to the bank and pay the 6,57€ fee and then next month we can collect the cards from Orihuela Police Station.

There two main advantages for us in having the cards are a) we won’t need to carry our passports around as identification and b) we can elect to pay tax in Spain on our pensions and hopefully save money.

On the way back we stopped at Torrelamata. One of the things that Pamela wanted to do was find this very interesting restaurant that we were taken to on our inspection trip. We walked along the wooden walkway that winds through the sand dunes. This walk takes you by the splendid beach which joins Torrelamata to La Mata itself. Almost in La Mata we found the place we were looking for. The restaurant is at the foot of a large block of flats. The front, which looks like the rear of a galleon, faces the sea in a small cove. The inside is decorated to look like the inside of the galleon and has a huge fish tank just in the entrance. The restaurant isn’t visible from the road nor is it signposted. So if you didn’t know about its existence you would never come across it. Now we know where it is we will go back for some special occasion and treat ourselves.

On the way back along the beach we stopped for lunch at a beachside bar. The tapas they served were excellent and very cheap. We then found this house along the beach all locked up for Winter. Imagine owning a house like that right by the beach and only using it for holidays.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


On Saturday February 18th I posted a message “Not very pleasant” about the graffiti which had appeared on the notice board down the road and on walls going down to the town. That was cleaned up very quickly but then re-appeared further down the road. This time the message “giri go home” had “Spain is not for sale” added to it.

Again it was cleaned off or covered over. So the perpetrators came back on Saturday morning at ten o clock but this time they made a big mistake. They sprayed their message on the stone cladding at the bottom of the wall surrounding the builder’s house.  Not only was it cleaned off but the culprits have now been found. Apparently it was the work of three youths on motorbikes so I suspect my theory about people shouting at them was right.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A spoonful of medicine

The system in Spain is quite different to that in England. You can buy prescription drugs over the counter at chemists as long as you have an original packet to show what you need. However, that is the expensive way to do it. It is much cheaper to go to the doctor and get a prescription.

There in lies the rub though. They do repeat prescriptions at 8:00am on Tuesdays which is very early for Pam. You have to be there on time to hand over the empty cartons of the drugs you want along with your medical card. When the doctor appears from his consulting room the crowd descend upon him. They obviously all want to be first to hand over their requirements. Twenty (or so) minutes later the doctor reappears clutching the prescriptions. Again the crowd descend upon him as though not being first is a matter of life and death. Each item has its own hand written prescription which is why the process takes so long.

The alternative is to make an appointment to see the doctor. Appointments can be made at more civilised times so that is a big advantage for someone like Pam. Apparently you do have to watch though because when your turn comes to go in to see the doctor nobody bothers to let you know. We are informed that the best plan is to look on the list and find out who is before you. Call their name and make a mental note of who they are. Then when they go in to see the doctor you know you are next.

Now the really good news: Pamela’s two prescriptions came to just over three euros = about two pounds ten pence. On prescription in England they would have cost thirteen pounds To have bought the drugs though would have cost about forty euros = just over twenty seven pounds..  

Monday, February 20, 2006

Torrevieja Carnival

First you fix sets of four large speakers onto some vans; connect them to some serious amplification powered by generators on the roofs.

Then you get a lot of enthusiastic people and dress them up in the most elaborate costumes. Close the street for about six hours and you have a carnival. The whole parade lasted about two hours and involved about 30 different groups.

To see the rest of the pictures go to MY ALBUM. I apologise for the quality but I had to reduce them down from the original large scale resolution to make the uploading a lot quicker.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The relentless urge to build

A recent auditor’s report found that Torrevieja and Orihuela stood out as having an excessive reliance on local funding via construction taxes.The report said that towns such as Torrevieja and Orihuela received 34 per cent of their income from the construction industry. They found that Orihuela raked in 26 million euros extra and Torrevieja six million.

Why some of the trees are dead

The 5.000 pine trees that were planted up at the Pedrera make the area special but they hold a hidden menace:-
Processional Pine Caterpillars (Procesionaria de los Pinos) are out in force at the moment around the Costa Blanca. They can be seen from the end of January through to April, although they at their most dangerous mid to late February. As well as causing much damage to pine forests they are a major danger to animals and in a lesser degree to humans.
They are not to be treated like the friendly English caterpillar as the very fine hairs are poisonous and extremely dangerous and they should never be touched. The first signs to be aware of are the silk cocoon style nests in the pine trees which are most harmful to the actual tree. It strips them of the pine needles and when hungry the caterpillars will leave their cocoon to seek out another un-infested tree on which to feed.
The best treatment at this stage when in the cocoon state is to spray with hair spray, then cover the cocoon and the affected part of the branch with a plastic bag. Then the final act is to cut down that part of the branch, place it on clear ground and burn it, making sure of course that the fire does not get out of control and spread. The caterpillars travel nose to tail in a line, hence the name ‘Processional.’ It is not unusual to see then in the evenings walking in lines going from tree to tree. If they drop on you or your pet do not brush them off with your hands as the effect is most unpleasant causing great irritation rash and pain and in some cases dogs, cats and people can suffer from shock. One of the main worries is that the caterpillars are still virulent even when dead so bearing this in mind do not hit them with sticks as the flying hairs are just as dangerous as the caterpillars themselves. If the caterpillars are marching along the ground it is better first to spray them with lighter fuel then set them alight as this method reduces the risk of flying hairs. If you have pine trees in your garden or nearby it is recommended that you keep anti-histamine tablets handy as an early treatment for any problems, as ingesting the hairs is extremely harmful for anyone please be careful with your dogs as they are most at risk by sniffing the ground where the caterpillars may be. Take particular care with eyes of both humans and animals because if affected the result can be very serious causing pain and swelling similar to bad cases of conjunctivitis.
Taken from The Leader – one of several free newspapers for the Costa Blanca.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Win some - lose some

Most of the plants we have in the garden have done really well. The yellow bushes in the second picture have gone wild. Not only do they fill a large space but they are very fragrant and flower for most of the year. On the other hand the palm tree we planted by the pool has turned brown. It came from a warm greenhouse so we think it was too cold at night for the plant. It has got a new leaf coming though so we will have to wait and see. Oh yes - the net you can see at the top of the pot is there because some evil cat was using it as a toilet. The smell was not pleasant.

A few jokes to lighten things up

President Bush is so worried about bird flu that he has decided to bomb the Canary Islands.

Actually I'm worried about bird flu too. I've started dying my hair blond, talking a load of rubbish and I can't seem to park the car straight.

Just to give balance - for any woman looking for a man
1. It is important to find one who helps around the house
2. It is important to find one who makes you laugh
3. It is important to find one you can trust
4. It is important to find a man who is good in bed
but most important these four men must never meet each other.

Not very pleasant

Last week as we drove down to the town we noticed some graffiti on the board which holds a map of the Pedrera. The message said “Giri go home” (giri means “stupid foreigners”).  Further down the road the same message was repeated on the wall of the large finca and then again just before the turning to Bigastro. On the builder’s board where the office used to be it said “No + urbanizaciones” which we assume meant no more urbanisations. Neither of these are considered viewpoints since all we do is add to the town by spending our money there. We don’t steal jobs, we don’t claim benefits and we provide work for the local builders and tradespeople.

I have to say that Pamela and I have been made to feel more than welcome by all of the Spaniards we have met. They even greet us in the streets as we pass by. Clearly though, as a group, we have upset somebody. Anyway a quick phone call to the Acalde (Mayor) at the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) and a van was dispatched to clean it all up.

I know that there are some residents who complain bitterly about the young lads who ride their motorbikes up the main roads at the weekend. Most are underpowered mopeds running flat out to get up the hill so they can be noisy. To us it is a minor disturbance – a few seconds and they are gone but to some it is obviously a challenge. I suspect that one of the residents last weekend went out and shouted at them – probably in English and they retaliated by leaving us a message.

At least the Mayor doesn’t want to upset us. Mind you he is up for re-election this year and by all accounts only just got in last time. I dare say our votes would be useful to him. With this kind of support he has got ours!

Imagine my surprise

Wi-Surf had promised to get us back online on Friday 17th. By 6pm it looked as though they had failed to do this so I abandoned hope. I could look forward to another weekend without the Internet hoping that come Monday they would be able to restore our connection. For Pamela it would be another weekend when she couldn't phone the girls.

This morning (Saturday) I switched my computer on thnking I would do some more of my Spanish homework. Startup was a lot faster than it had been for the last three weeks. Could it be that instead of waiting for ages for Windows to find a validIP address my computer had been given an address by the server? The answer came quickly when first Spyware Doctor then Windows and came up with updates. Wow! I quickly plugged the phone in and second wow - it got an IP address and updated the time from the time server.

So Keith is a happy bunny and so will Pamela be when I eventually take her a cup of tea!

Monday, February 13, 2006

A better class of eatery

Some time ago I helped to sort out my neighbours computer. There was all sorts of junk installed which was slowing it down even preventing it from closing down promptly. I don´t know how he manages to get Windows in such a mess. Still after a couple of hours or so it was runing like a whippet on a coal tip.

To show his gratitude he offered to take Pam and I out for Sunday lunch. We had forgotten all about the offer when last week he checked to see if Sunday would be OK for us. Now Ken eats in all sorts of places and is a master of the quest for a good cheap meal. Seven euros for three courses and a drink is his benchmark for good value.

Ken was not stinting yesterday though. He took us to "the Budapest" - a Hungarian restaurant near to Quesada. I was so pleased that I´d decided to put on a shirt and decent trousers. When we went in it was clear that the Budapest had all the hallmarks of a smart restaurant - waiters in uniform; proper table cloths; china on the table etc. Once we had the first course though it was clear that this wasn´t just smart it was somewhere special. The food was excellent.

Then Ken told us that the restaurant across the road from the Budapest, although different was equally good. So we have booked there for the 26th. I am salivating already at the thought of it.

Tuesday came and went

I had a message from Wi-Surf telling me that my connection would be up and running last Tuesday. In fact I had two messages telling me that we would be re-connected on Tuesday. Now we know from past experience that Tuesday can mean Wednesday or Thursday or any other day in the future. On Thursday I got another message to tell me that our "node" would be re-connected on Friday the 17th. So only ten days later than promised. Still I believe they have agreed to waiver the connection charge for this month so at least we won´t be paying for something that we haven´t had.

Monday, February 06, 2006


When we were teachers back in England it always seemed that the weather would we good during the week. Then Friday afternoon the clouds would start to appear ready for the weekend. It happened so many times that it was almost predictable. Apparently the same happens here in Spain. Our teacher said - work all week in sunshine and then Saturday it rains. Well she wasn´t quite right. Saturday wasn´t too bad but not sunny as it had been all week. Sunday it rained all day. Now people are back to work the sun has come out and it is nice and warm.