Friday, June 30, 2006

Confession time

Number 1:- It was I who bought something. Well three things really. I got two vests to wear in the garden and a pair of flip flops. Total cost 11,70€ (£8.07) - how cheap is that? Wearing a vest, the flip flops and my man bag I look so camp I even fancy myself.

Pam did order a pair of presciption sunglasses though. The first pair she looked at were 160€ for the frame and 230€ each lens for varifocals (total cost £427.80). Thankfully the lady in the shop suggested a cheaper alternative at 132€ (£91) phew!

Pam obviously thought that she had been very frugal. So when we got to the Habaneras she said she was going to the ladies'. Half an hour later she reappeared having just popped into H & M. Sadly for her the shorts she was looking for were not in stock.

Confession number 2:- We made our third visit to McDonald's for a bite to eat. Our excuse is that there is a promotion running at the moment where you get a free Coca Cola glass with every McMenu. Having already got two it seemed sensible to return to get two more. Actually when I think about it six would make a sensible set. Now which McMenus should we have?


Why is it that women love shopping?

I'm sure that most of them would go shopping all day, every day if they could. Just go down to a shopping precinct like the Habaneras and count the number of men there in relation to women. I'd bet we are outnumbered 5 to 1. That is because men hate shopping. Actually that is not entirely true, I imagine blokes like David Beckham love shopping.

Don't get me wrong we men enjoy a quick browse in the DIY shops and the electrical stores looking at useful things. When we need something we'll go out, find it, buy it and be back in half an hour. If we can't find what we need we just come home empty handed.

Women though seem to be far less focussed. They'll go out looking for a skirt and end up buying a pair of shoes. It is almost as if to come back empty handed would be counted as a crime. I used to tell my daughters "you can leave a shop without buying - the door beeper won't go off - the security guards won't chase you." It all falls on deaf ears though. They were brought up by their mother.

Now we do the weekly food shop on Fridays which is bad enough but today Pam wants to go into Torre as well. If I ask her what she is looking for she will say "nothing in particular" but I bet she comes back with something.

We're on the map

Mapping in Spain must be near impossible in areas like the Costa Blanca. Every time you go out you can find new roads and urbanisations springing up. The urbanisation that we live on was completed just over a year ago and so does not appear on any commercial maps although it is on Mapquest's online mapping.

Bigastro has an excellent interactive online map but it didn't include our development. Well I am pleased to say that now it does. So when anyone asks where we are we can point them to the map.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A change of scenery

We enjoy lying on a sunbed by our pool because when we get too hot we can just go for a dip but after a couple of days we need a change of scenery. That's why we like to go to the beach and indulge ourselves in our favourite sport - people watching. Of course by August it will be impossible to park anywhere near the beach so we need to go whilst it is still possible to get there.

Yesterday there were plenty of people who had decided to do the same thing but it is such a long stretch of sand at Guadamar that there is always plenty of space. Most of the people were Spanish who seem to just go down for the morning and then leave for siesta and possibly come back at about 5pm. We just stay all day and get under the sombrilla during the hottest hours.

It is amusing to see how different people behave. Some like us just lie or sit like lizards soaking up the sun. A lot go off for long walks along the shoreline. Near to us yesterday though was one of those blokes who couldn't stop still for more than five minutes. Just watching him was tiring! If he wasn't going off to buy drinks and food, he was going in the sea for a snorkel or burying his son in the sand. He'd brought a thick book to read but never sat down with it for more than five minutes. I reckon he will still be reading that book on the beach in five years time.

Last night our friends John and Jean came up to see us. They've been back to the UK for 12 days so we had a lot to catch up on. Inevitably I drank too much red wine and now have a dull head this morning. Never mind a cup of tea will soon sort that out. We'll pobably go to the market later. The walk down will burn off the last of the alcohol and then after the walk back we'll be ready to go in the pool again.

PS Pam tells me that some of the ladies on the beach were only wearing the bottom half of their bikins - now I never noticed that!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Plan B

Supporting Spain didn't get us very far did it? It did however provide us with a great match to watch. Both teams looked purposeful unlike England who have mostly seemed content to knock the ball around the park.

Although we don't really fancy England's chances against Portugal on Saturday we will give them out full support. Then I suppose we will have to follow the hispanoamericans Argentina.

The Spanish commentary last night was amusing to listen to. Very enthusiastic and not at all biased!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pam's big chance

Last week Pam had a letter hand delivered from the Ayuntamiento which we didn't quite understand. It was actually telling her that Bigastro is fortunate in having the huerta ("traditional orchard") where a wide range of vegetable products are grown. These form the basis of a diverse range of dishes. The Council of Women from Bigastro want to produce a recipe book to ensure that these do not get lost in the "fast pace of modern life."

So the letter was inviting her to send in a recipe or recipes to be included in the book. I wonder if they would be impressed with beans on toast?

Just on our doorstep

The nearest town to Bigastro is Jacarilla. Not very interesting as you drive through because it is just a straight road but it has some hidden treasures. At the back of the town is the church of Nuestra Senora de Belen (Our Lady of Bethlehem), the ruined Casa Palacio and the Jardines. I've put some pictures on my Spanish Album. The one below is of the palace from the gardens.

Monday, June 26, 2006

They say the Irish are lucky

Yesterday it was the turn of England who must have had a few four leaf clovers tucked in their socks. They played a scrappy game with only Rooney really trying to score and the defenders scrabbling about to keep the Ecuadorians at bay. Lampard again missed some good opportuniteis. Thankfully Beckham came up with one of his trademark kicks to give them the the goal that takes them through to the quarter finals.

Saturday I had another go at paella for just Pam and I. Very tasty it was too. I think the secret is to let it cook quite slowly to get all the flavours mingling and just turn up the heat at the end to get the rice sticking to the paella. The pack of chicken pieces we used cost next to nothing and there was enough for a meal last night as well. A few more experiments with the ingredients and I'll be ready to take on the Spaniards. Well possibly not - they have a lot more years practice under their belts than I have.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My camera for sale

This morning I have put my Olympus C-8080 digital camera for sale on Ebay in the UK. I will be sorry to part with it because it has taken some excellent photographs. Most of the pictures on my web album (link on the left) were taken with that camera. Still now I have a Canon EOS 350D I can't justify keeping the Olympus.

I used to have a Rollieflex when I took wedding photographs. That camera was superb but once I stopped doing weddings I sold it rather than just keep it. It's the same with the Olympus. I'd rather someone else got the pleasure from it than store it in the cupboard gathering dust.

With five days left to go my reserve price has been met. So the camera will be going to a new home next Monday.

PS Hi to Les. Les lives on our estate and visits my blog regularly. We saw him in Bigastro on Thursday but didn't have a chance to chat. I hope you are still enjoying reading my little missives. Just think Les we've had 11 days without a loss of connection that must be a record!! I hope I haven't spoke too soon.

Who is going to sell the sunglasses?

Regional government delegate Antonio Bernabé has confirmed that Operación Paso del Estrecho (ope), which began on Sunday, will continue until August 15 and cover the ports of Alicante, Algeciras, Almería, Málaga and Tarifa.

Sr Bernabé added that around 2.7 million people of North African origin and around 700,000 vehicles are expected to travel through the ports during this period.

In Alicante the build-up to the exodus was slow although by mid-afternoon on Sunday the number of people waiting to board the ferry rose considerably. A police source said that the critical time for them will be the end of the month. He added that security has been tightened and as in previous years officers will be checking vehicles and contents before they board the ferry.

The Red Cross has installed covered areas on the dock along with first aid personnel and a play area for children. Portable toilets, showers and drinking water have also been provided.

It is expected that 130,000 people and 31,000 vehicles will pass through Alicante on their way home, a rise of between two and three per cent on last year. The number of vehicles using the AP-7 toll road to travel down from Northern Europe will increase likewise.

So who is going to pester us on the seafront at Torre?

The graduates

Whilst we enjoyed receiving our reports on Thursday, the students at the front were delighted to have passed their "Educación Secundaria Obligatoria" and are now graduates. The qualification entitles them go on to University.

You can just see me on the far right of the photograph. Pam is unfortuantely just off the photograph.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Very pleased

We got our reports last night from our Spanish class. As you can see we got "Very Good" in all the sections and "Very Good" as an overall grade. We're pretty chuffed with that and will heed our teacher's advice to practice during the Summer holiday. We'll also return next October to continue with the lessons.

Pam's report (click on the picture to enlarge it)
Keith's report (click on the picture to enlarge it)

NB She calls me Quique rather than Keith because I wanted a Spanish name for my class.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A game of two halves

The match against Sweden certainly was just that. In the first half we saw a very different England to the one which played the last two games. We thought we were in for a real treat but then in the second half England came out a different team. Just what did they put in their half time drinks?

Actually the only players we really rated were the Coles, especially Joe. Apart from scoring he worked hard throughout the game.

The highlight for us though was Wayne Rooney's sulk as he went off.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Great news

Last night we had a phone call from the neighbours we had back in England to say that they are coming out to see us in August. Hopefully it will not be too hot in the spare room for them to sleep. We have a portable aircon unit in that room but it doesn't work as well as the fixed units and you certainly can't sleep with it on.

We haven't got the programme for the fiesta yet but if it is similar to last year's there should be plenty for them to see. Lots of late nights and siestas at lunchtime.

Of course August is the main holiday month in Spain when industry ceases and people flock to the coast for four weeks. They will notice the difference in Guadamar and Torrevieja when all the apartments are filled and the beaches are crowded.

PS Actually I think they are coming to see how paella should be cooked!!

Computer woes

One of the downsides to living in Spain is that my main computer gets too hot during the summer months to do anything that uses a lot of processor power like rendering a video. I have the BIOS set to warn me when the cpu (in my case an AMD 3000XP Barton chip) gets to 65 degrees C and I also have a program that monitors the temperatures as well. The last thing I need is a cooked cpu.

This morning I tried to render my video of the girls but within twenty minutes the computer overheated. I switched it off and let it cool down. Then I just used the computer to surf the net. It even got too hot just doing that and finally I had to do a hard reset because it wasn't shutting down and I didn't want the alarm to wake up Pam.

A hard reset whilst Windows is running can corrupt programs that are running and even Windows itself. I hope that hasn't happened because my web site and picture album are not backed up onto DVDs. Fortunately all my pictures are on a seperate SATA hard drive so even if I have to reformat the hard drive I won't loose those.

Once it has cooled down I'll just run it briefly to check. Fingers crossed!!!

Update:- I now have the portable aircon unit blowing cold air towards the computer and it sems to be keeping down to 55 degrees C. Thankfully Windows and all of the programs seem OK.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The girls

We count ourselves very lucky to have two wonderful daughters. They brought a lot of pleasure to our lives this last week and we thank them for that. Fortunately we have lots of photographs and video to remind ourselves of their visit. Now we look forward to seeing them again in July.



Monday, June 19, 2006

So sad

Our week with the girls seems to have flown by - they are going home today. We will be very sad to see them leave because we have had such a fantastic time with them.

Last night we took them to Patio Andaluz. Jemma has been before so knew what to expect. Laura hasn't so was in for a treat Thursdays and Sundays they have a flamenco show which is why we picked last night to go. As ususal the place was packed but because we booked early and arrived in good time we got an excellent table.

First off the food: very good quality and generous portions. We all enjoyued our meals and came away full.

Then the enetertainment: first off there are two guys with guitars who come around and serenade you at the table. Then the manager comes round and gives you a sample of liquer from a pouron. Then you are serenaded by a group of three musicians. Finally the two girls give three performanaces of flamenco dancing. The singers come back round between the flamenco performances just in case you missed them first time.

All in all an excellent night and the girls agreed it was a very nice way to round off their holiday.

PS Hi to Dave (Laura's boyfriend) who is reading this blog in Japan.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

More pictures from Elche

Palm forest from the tower

Roof tops


Very old palm

A good way to end a day

After a very lazy day by the pool Jemma and I prepared a paella on the roof terrace. It is normal to cook a paella over a gas ring mounted on a tripod. We cheated and used the charcoal BBQ.

For those of you interested this is how we made our paella.

  • chicken pieces (chicken on the bone has more flavour than the breast fillets but takes a little more cooking)
  • fresh tomatoes chopped
  • a fresh red pepper chopped
  • fresh green beans chopped
  • tinned white beans (we could have used dried beans)
  • chorizo chopped into chunks
  • a large onion chopped
  • several cloves of garlic crushed
  • olive oil
  • rice 400gms
  • water 1.25l
  • the secret ingredient - Carmencita Paellero which is a mix of spices and saffron. This gave our paella a wonderful colour and provided a mouth watering aroma as it cooked.
We heated the oil until it was very hot and cooked the chicken. Removed the chicken and cooked the onion and garlic until soft. Then we cooked the pepper, chorizo and tomatoes and added the water, Paellero and beans. Finally we added the rice and put the chicken back in. Brought the whole lot back to the boil and let it simmer until the rice was fully cooked and caramelised at the bottom of the paella.

Wonderful!! We washed it down with sangria.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Some pictures from Elche

The palm park

Street entertainment



Her name is dame

The Dame of Elche is regarded as the most important piece of Iberian art dating from the 4th -5th century BC. She was found in Elche in 1897, subsequently sold to the Prada museum in Madrid. She is normally kept at the Archeological Musuem in Madrid but is currently back in Elche where she is on display in the museum there.

Yesterday we spent the day in Elche and apart from seeing the Dame we climbed the 163 steps to the top of the Basilica tower, took the train ride round the palm park and visited the shops.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In force

These four have joined the existing eight to make twelve local policepersons in Bigastro. Hopefully they will have more to do than rescue women from elevators.

PS I wouldn't fancy being arrested by a girl who looks a lot younger than my own daughters.

Corpus Cristi

In the excitement of having the girls here we had almost forgotten that this weekend is Corpus Cristi which of course is an important event in the Catholic calendar. Having found the programme it does explain why we have had fireworks this morning.

Note that on Sunday the candlelight procession is followed by a "great thunderstorm". Could that be more fireworks?

Fiestas Corpus Cristi 2006

Programación de las Fiestas del Corpus Cristi de este año que se celebrerán del 16 al 18 de junio.


* 8,00 Horas Dulzaina
* 20,30 Horas Pasacalle Banda Unión Musical de Bigastro.
* 23,00 Horas, Concierto a cargo de la Banda Unión Musical de Bigastro, dirigida por Manuel Gutiérrez, en la Plaza de la Constitución


* 8,00 Horas Dulzaina.
* 17,00 Horas, Juegos Infantiles y Gran Gynkana (Duración desde las 17,00 a las 21 h) en el Parque Huerto del Cura.
* Al finalizar DISCOTECA MÓVIL.


* 11,00 h. Pasacalle Unión Musical de Bigastro
* 19,30 h. Misa Solemne.
* 20,15 h. Procesión del Corpus. Al término “ Gran Tronada”

That was hard

I suppose after a year of Spanish lessons we should have expected a test which stretched us. In any case that is what we got. We had to think and think hard about the answers to some of the questions. Whilst we still have a limited vocabulary it is difficult to formulate the answers that you would like to give. It isn't easy getting your head around the very different grammatical structure of the language either. Still when the "going gets tough.... ".

We got home in good time to watch the dismal performance of England against possibly the weakest team in the competition. We were pleased that the goals came from Liverpool players but were not pleased with Crouch's efforts otherwise. In fact the only player that looked sharp was Lennon who brightened up the play on the right flank. Maybe England will do better against Sweden - we hope so.

After the game we went down to Torre and had an excellent meal at La Muelle. Sitting outside in June on a balmy evening watching the sea lapping against the shore as you eat has to be one of the best parts of living in Spain. We rounded the meal off with an excellent cup of coffee at the old Casino. Come July and more so in August, Torre will be packed at night but last night we almost had the place to ourselves after 11:00pm - nice.

Today the game plan is to go to Elche but only when Pam gets up!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Best laid plans

The plan for today was to go down to the market in Bigastro. It is now 11:20 and nobody is dressed. By the time we get there the market will be closing down. Not a problem though since we bought vegetables at Orihuela market.

This afternoon Pam and I have our Spanish exam. The girls were going to stay at the house and sunbathe by the pool. It is kind of sunny but not cracking the flags so that plan may go adrift as well.

Tonight Pam thought we could go down to Torrevieja and have a pizza at La Muelle. The girls want to watch England play football on the television. The girls bought me a blow up England hand which will be wasted if we don't watch them play. So if we go to Torre it will have to be after the game finishes.

Maybe tomorrow's plans will work out!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Back in business

We haven't got the phone back but at least we have a connection to the internet.

The weather, which according to the reports is not brilliant, is sunny. So the girls are getting the benefit of a tan.

As you can see Pam is very happy to be re-united with her daughters and they are very happy to pick up a bargain (or two) at the market in Orihuela. Even if you have enough shoes to wear a different pair each day morning and night it is hard to resist another pair at 6€,

Last night we took them down to one of the bars in town for a meal. They really enjoyed having tapas in the country where they originated rather than in some posh restaurant in England. Not only were the tapas better but the price was a lot cheaper.

We then took them to the little bar owned by Miguel and arrived back home at 12:30. So rather than the planned trip to Elche we are chilling by the pool today. However to ensure that they don't get withdrawal symptoms we are taking them down to the Habenaras shopping mall later.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Given up the ghost

Finally the satellite equipment that provides us with a connection to the Internet has collapsed. So now we have no internet and no phone until the kind man from the satellite provider company visits our site and installs new equipment. Let´s hope he arrives soon!

On a rather better note the girls arrived last night from England and are here for eight days. We had hoped the weather would stay sunny but this morning there is a bit of hazy cloud. Still it will be better for their pale north European skins.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Not exactly the World Cup

I understand Bigastro's star player, Wayneo Roenee says that he is 300% certain to be able to play.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

See how it grows

A lot of sun, a drop of water, a few euros worth of fertilizer and a good dose of TLC

We even have a decent crop of lemons for next year.


Spain is such a large country that it will take us the rest of our lives to see all the places that we want to.

Cartagena is not far away though and we had intended to go there soon. So when Rosa's Tours offered a trip there including lunch for 19€ we jumped at the chance.

We had a really good day. The city is both beautiful and excellent for shopping. So much to see and only a limited time on our trip. We must go back again and explore some of the buildings that we didn't have a chance to see.

Calle Mejor from the port end

Calle Mejor from the other end

Ayuntamiento from the port

Ayuntamiento from Calle Meyor

A view of the port

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On - off -on

We've had problems with the Internet connection since April. Yesterday it was off and then back on but you couldn't reach any web sites. Then it went off and now it is back on but the telephone is off.

Now the water has joined in. Last night there was very little pressure. First thing we had no water at all and now it has come back but at reduced pressure again.

Next it will be the electricity!!!


We had thought of having a lazy day by the pool yesterday until our friends John and Jean phoned and asked us down for lunch. They had Miguel's family coming round to look at their house and decided there was enough food for another two. Jose Miguel, who is tuly mad, has a bar in town which we frequent. We had a really good day and as a bonus got to practice our Spanish.

Today we are playing hookie from our Spanish class because we are booked on a coach trip to Cartagena. Lunch is included so no cooking for Pam again! Hopefully I will get some more good photos today of the old town.

In the meantime here are some more of my pictures from Aire06

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Aire 06

As you can see a brilliant show presented in ideal conditions.

Frecce Tricolori from Italy.

The magnificent Airbus 300.

Patrula Aquila from Spain (based at San Javier).

The heart was the Red Arrows thank you to the crowd.

Friday, June 02, 2006


One of the questions in our Spanish textbook asked us to write a sentence about José María. The correct sentence was "José María esta hacienda la comida y tú vas a recoger la mesa." No problems there - José María makes the food and you are going to lay the table but how can someone have a boy and a girl's name? I asked our teacher and she told us that whilst José María is a boy, María José would be a girl. The rule only applies to the name María though.

Then I found this picture of a lady at the Feria and wondered whether she was María José or José María. Whatever she is called she seems to be enjoying that cigar. Is it just me or is there something sexy about a woman smoking a cigar?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The meal sounds good

The Progressive Women's Association have organised a trip to the nearby Tabarca Island.

If I wore my pantomine costume do you think they'd accept me as a progressive woman?

Battle of the weathermen

Let's not talk about yesterday when it rained all day. Instead let's look at today. The BBC says it will be sunny in Torrevieja which is 23kms away. Meteo Sam says it will be dull with some rain in both Orihuela and Torrevieja. Looking out the window I'd say Sam has got it right. So thumbs up to Sam and a raspberry to the BBC.

The forecast for tomorrow is much better either way which probably means it will rain.

I wouldn't want anyone to think we are obsessed with the weather. Just that when you are retired like we are you need the weather to be good so you can get outside. Days like yesterday you are cooped up with little to do. To make matters worse our Internet connection was so slow I could have gone to the places and picked up the pages on paper quicker.

I can feel the wave of sympathy wash over me as those of you who are working say a loud AHHHH! Thank you for that.

Town planning.

On Tuesday the Mayor of Bigastro apparently had a meeting with 25 property developers. The idea was that to discuss the criteria for construction and urbanisation in the town. In particular the necessity to develop a joint proposal for the benefit of the people of Bigastro.

At least I hope that is what they discussed. Sounds like more cranes, more lorries, more blocked roads and more flats. Let's hope they get it right.