Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I'm pleased to say that I managed to get all the jobs I had planned to do done. The garden walls are all snowy white again, the pool is clean for the Winter, the garden is tidy, the furniture on the roof is all sanded and re-oiled, the washing is done and the house is clean and tidy.
It won't take Pam long though to find something that I haven't done. Last time she was in England I spent two days dusting and polishing everywhere. Within ten minutes of her return she found the one shelf that I had missed! My excuse was I had to leave her something to do.
In any case I was doing all my own jobs and her jobs as well. If I went to England would I come back to find the pool cleaned or the bougainvillea tied back to the fence?
Update: Pam's flight has been delayed and won't arrive at Alicante until 15:20 (approx.)
Monday, October 30, 2006
Ahead of the game
More teccy suff
Re-installing Windows itself was a pain. It took me three installs to get it working properly . The video driver seemed to be the main root of the problem. Finally I was able to get a new driver from the Dell site which sorted that out. For the satellite connection to work with sites like Microsoft Update you have to set the MTU value of your network card to 1135 (the default is 1500). Fortunately a program called Dr TCP allowed me to do that.
So yesterday I was ready to update Windows. It took all day to download and install all the 80 plus updates for Windows but I finally got there. My reward is a fully restored laptop which starts up like a tiger.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Very seldom people are happy being lonely, so I decided to take my chance and send you a letter. Once I've seen your ad in the internet, but couldn't have the temerity of sending you my note, especially without your interest in me……
But still you were in my mind... And now I am sending my letter to you.
I can say that I am quite happy with my life, but I am missing my one and only special man. Loneliness is what I want to get rid of. If you are looking for a smiling face, sparkling eyes and heart full of love, write me to
Well Karolina sorry but
a) my children call me Wilf, friends at my old school called me Willo, my Spanish teacher calls me Quique and my real name is Keith. Nobody has ever called me Daniel.
b) my wife comes home on Tuesday and she is enough for me to cope with!
c) a smiling face etc. sounds nice but what I am really looking for is a quiet life.
So please excuse my temerity; I've put your message on my blog in case someone reads it who is called Daniel and wants to take advantage of your generous offer.
PS Be warned she might just have an infection or two to pass on to you so visit her at your own peril.
The change of satellite provider has meant we now have a new IP address. The counter was of course blocking the old IP address. I've sorted that now so that my visits are not counted.
Update: Well I thought I'd sorted it but then our IP address changed. It looks like the Wi-Surf router is using a dynamic IP address to connect our network to the Internet. I just can't keep up with this!!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Check out our pictures
The continuing problem
All the town halls of Murcia region, about half of those in the Alicante area and two in Albacete, have been warned that interruptions in supply may be needed. However, the Spanish cabinet is meeting today to decide whether to approve an emergency transfer of water. Recent rains in Spain, although not in the south east, have led to a small increase in water stocks and the environment minister, Cristina Narbona, says she recognises the seriousness of the situation facing Murcia and Alicante. That is why the emergency move has been proposed.
The government currently sees desalination plants as the solution to the water supply problems of Murcia, Alicante and other coastal areas. A second unit at the desalination plant at San Pedro del Pinatar is being brought on stream this week and will soon be pumping water into the distribution pipes. This unit and the existing unit will each provide 24 hectómetres of pure water each year, which is enough to supply just under half a million people.
The argument that desalination will be the solution hasn't impressed local consumers and politicians at all. Desalination requires large amounts of energy for the plants to work and currently that means energy from oil. There is talk of renewable resources, such as wind power and solar energy, contributing but for the foreseeable future the main fuel is going to be oil-fired electricity. As the price of oil goes up so will the price of desalinated water, critics say. It has even been claimed that the cost of the energy to replace current supplies from transfers with desalinated water would equal the entire existing energy bill of the region of Murcia each year. Environmentalists don't like desalination either, saying that the brine discharged into the sea after treatment harms marine life.
Taken from an article in the Round Town News
Friday, October 27, 2006
El buho, el sol y la luna
The moon hatches a plan to take over the job of the sun in the daytime as well as at night. The owl doesn't think it is a good idea but the moon confronts the sun with the plan and the sun agrees. This is OK for the courting couple, the poet and the nocturnal animals but the children are cold and the plants are not growing. In protest the cricket decides not to play his violin. Even the courting couple decide that enough is enough. So it is down to the owl to convince the moon that the plan is not working. By this time though the sun is fast asleep and needs a bit of a shake to get him going. It does all work out in the end though and the sun returns to light the sky in the daytime.
The moral of the story is "cada cual debe estar orgulloso de ser como es y no ansiar lo de los demas". Everyone should be proud of what they are and not long to be someone else.
Fascinating stuff! I just wonder how long it will be before we can progress to adult stories though.
Casa Eloína is not the easiest of places to eat tapas at because there is no menu and no display of tapas on the bar itself. You just have to ask for what you'd like and hope that they can make it. In fact because we have been in there a few times the girl seems to know what we want anyway.
So plenty of food washed down with a bottle of the house red followed by coffees cost us 28€ for the three of us. Not bad for an evening out!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Sometimes the bull wins
PS No animals were hurt during the making of this video
It is named after Francisco Grau Vegara who has been the Director of the Banda de Musica de la Guardia Real since 1998.
Francisco Grau was born in Bigastro and started playing music at the age of 7 in the local band. He has written over 700 pieces of music including the National Hymm of Spain and is the holder of many military and civil honours. The building is a fine tribute to this famous Bigastrense.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Ah well we will have to wait and see. For the same monthly fee I could potentially have a 4Mb connection using ADSL. Sorry Mr Wi-Surf but we originally signed up for 2Mbs not something approaching 512Kbs.
Of course there is still the issue of distance from the exchange as illustrated in this graph. There is not much point switching to ADSL using the phone line if we are too far from the exchange.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Feria de Otono Sunday 22nd October
Last year’s Autumn Fair was very good. This year it was even better with more stalls, more entertainment and more people. Apart from the fair itself, a lot of the shops were open – on a Sunday!
The Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) had set up a stage at the entrance to Calle Purisma especially for the fair where they put on street entertainment including this flamenco dancing class. The entrance archway to the fair was built on Friday and will be knocked down on Monday. As you can see there was a wide variety of goods on sale including food stuff, clothing, cooking pots and jewellery. The herbs in the bags are cures for every conceivable ailment.
Both nights the Ayuntamiento put on concerts in the new theatre including a special tribute to Mozart by a Valencian orchestra.
All the entertainment was of course free.
Hispanamerican day (14th October)
The local free paper told us that the 12th October was the day that Torrevieja celebrated links with Spanish speaking American countries. This year the event was to take place at the Eras de Sal and would include dancing and singing along with food drink and crafts from South American countries. So we went down to Torrevieja only to find that it was in fact the 14th when the event would take place.
So we went back to the Eras de Sal on Saturday. There were a few stalls selling crafts, food and drink but not many. The setup inside though was something else. The event was being televised for broadcast in the Hispanamerican countries so the back wall, as you can see, showed the profusion of sponsors. There was also some very serious sound and lighting equipment.
We stayed until about when the place was becoming crowded. Spaniards, fresh from their siesta were arriving in their hordes all dressed up in their best clothes ready for a night of partying. The acts taking part came from the full range of Spanish speaking countries including
A good night's kip
I don’t understand it. When Pamela is here I sleep well most nights. I maybe get up once to have a drink or go to the toilet but that is it. When she is not here I can wake up two, three or more times. Sometimes I can get back to sleep almost straight away but other times I lie awake for what seems like ages. In the morning the bed is an absolute mess. Even the mattress has moved over to my side and I feel like a wreck until mid morning.
I’ve tried going to bed a bit later, I’ve tried having an extra brandy but neither has any effect. Maybe it’s because I am missing Pamela and worrying about how she is but she would never believe that!
When we came over in November ’04 to complete on our house we stayed in a hotel in Guadamar and met Rachel and David. Just by coincidence they were completing on their house at Villas Andrea as well. So with such a good point of contact we made friends.
Rachel and David are not residents but do come out for several weeks at a time. Normally Rachel will email me to let me know that they are coming but with the Internet down that hasn’t been possible. Anyway we met up with them at the market and they came round to sample my paella the following Saturday. We had a great time catching up on news and events.
We ate outside in the warmth and chatted until it went dark. I knew then that we should either come inside or I should spray myself with repellent. Although Pamela had brought out the citronella candles to keep the mossies away, I still have a dozen bites on my arms and ankles which prove they don’t work. The mossies, like Rachel and David, haven’t been about for awhile but they are obviously back now. I was bitten the week before so I should have known better but there you go.
PS none of the others were bitten. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me feel!
We get a lot of weird insects in the garden. Some of these pests eat the leaves on the palm trees and the hibiscus and are therefore most unwelcome. Others seem to be less harmful.
This little fellow was new to me though. I was painting the top of the wall and noticed him sitting on the new paint. He was struggling to move which wasn’t surprising given that the paint had hardly dried. Does anybody know what he is?
The benefits of living in the town
Of course we love our location on the hill up to the Pedrera. It gives us good views; the plot is big enough for a pool and a garden and it very quiet up here.
A lot of Spanish people though seem to prefer living in apartments and houses in the towns. You can see why when you go down in the evenings to Bigastro. During the daytime Bigastro is very quiet except Mondays and market days. From 2 o clock until 5 during siesta it is deserted but then each night at about 7 it becomes a thriving community of folk. The children play out in the park, the teenagers meet each other in the streets, the parents go out for walks and the grandparents sit outside their houses watching the world go by. The shops are open and the bars are busy. By nine o clock Bigastro becomes quiet again as the people return to their apartments and houses to eat.
The Spanish, like the French and the Italians, love to paseo. Our Spanish teacher can’t understand why we Brits up the hill don’t. She can’t understand why we disappear into our houses during the evenings. Of course our eating habits are different. Spaniards tend to have their main meal at lunchtime whilst we have ours at night. So when they are out socialising we are tucking into our main meal for the day. Mainly though we are not used to going for walks at night. For most of the year in
Maybe in time we will adapt and the park at the bottom of our estate will become a meeting place where we will sit and chat. Somehow I doubt it.
Rolling your “r”s can be difficult in tight pants
We then went on to extend the story about the mouse and say what he did next. Pamela had the advantage there because of her primary teaching background. She explained (in very good Spanish) that the mouse thought there was a man in the moon (el hombre de la luna). She told us that the mouse thought the man was eating the moon because it was made of cheese (la luna está hacer de queso) which made the moon smaller (mas pequeña).Very impressive stuff I can tell you. My best effort was that the mouse closed the curtains and went to sleep.
Anyone who has tried Michel Thomas’ CDs to learn Spanish would be led to believe that you only need to understand about 600 words to read most newspapers. I can assure you Mr Thomas, you’d need a more extensive vocabulary to read that children’s book.
Well I am nearly there with my Spanish driving license. I had a letter from Traffico telling me to go to
Just as well that Pam didn’t get her letter because she could not have used a temporary license in the
Still we had a good day out, did a bit of shopping in El Corte Ingles and had a nice lunch in
The Sony 20 inch Wega screen that we bought looks good, has a surprisingly good sound system and is fine for normal broadcasts. It is hard work watching widescreen films on it though. All you get is a narrow strip of picture across the middle with a black band at the top and bottom. On reflection we should have spent the extra money to buy a 26 inch widescreen set but at the time they were so expensive.
Prices of LCD screens have dropped a lot. The ubiquitous 17inch LCDs have all but disappeared and you can now get sets up to 60 inches. So we bought a Sony 32 inch Bravia V series set and have confined the 20 inch set to the bedroom.
When I first set the new television up in the lounge it looked so big. It seemed to dominate the room and made the hi-fi speakers look so small. Now we are used to it and it fits in well. Movies are a joy to watch; we can even read the subtitles at the end.
It isn’t just the language that she teaches
At our Spanish class the other week we did a bit of work and then we had a discussion (in Spanish of course) about the differences between living in
Inevitably the conversation came around to the girls who offer their services on the roundabouts and alongside the main roads. Actually I have to confess it was my fault because I raised the topic. We explained that this practice would not be allowed in
It isn’t just at night that you see these girls, there is a day shift as well. In fact the day shift is growing in number. Once you might have seen two girls on the way to Torrevieja, now you spot half a dozen. They each have their own patch, presumably with regular customers. Some are well set up with a brolly to shade them and a chair to sit on whilst others just stand in the baking sun. Most are dressed in jeans or shorts but we have seen some in tiny little skirts that do nothing to hide their naked bums. A lot of the girls on the night shift wear just white underwear so you can easily spot them in your headlights. I suppose some of the girls feel that you need to see the goods before you decide to buy.
Prompted by our teacher, we concluded that some men take time out of work to avail themselves of the services on offer whilst others have an extra course at lunchtime. It explains why some Spanish drivers are in such a hurry. They are obviously making up for lost time.
The discussion then moved on to hygiene. Our teacher suggested that maybe they had a bottle of water and possibly some soap to clean up between customers. The idea of being the last customer without such measures was not a pleasant one. We then asked what rates they charged but she said she didn’t know. We imagined it might be anything up to 50 euros but a better informed member of our class suggested the normal price was more like 30 euros. Apparently you pay more for the girls in the clubs but then you don’t have to struggle in a car with them.
It is important to know about these cultural differences.
Getting to grips with it
I bought my new camera when we went to visit
It is only now though that I am getting used to it and finding the best ways to get the photos I want. Like all digital cameras it has a fully auto mode where you just point the camera and shoot. With my
With my new Canon the manual settings are much easier to achieve than they were with the
The simplest way to use the external flashgun is to set it and the camera to auto. The camera sets itself to 1/60th second shutter speed and the widest aperture of the lens. That gives the flash the longest possible range but doesn’t necessarily give the results I want. Like all lenses, mine work best at the mid range of apertures so even for normal flash it is best to set the aperture manually. For fill in flash where the flash is used to lighten part of a daylight photo setting the aperture manually is essential. Fortunately setting the camera manually is very easy to do. Set the camera to aperture priority and then once the flash is attached, the camera selects the right shutter speed to use. The flash then sorts itself out according to the chosen aperture. For fill in flash I can therefore choose the right aperture to balance the flash and daylight exposures.
The biggest improvements over the
There are a lot more features that I haven’t delved into yet. Using these features might take me longer to get my photos but it should be worth it. Hopefully when I have mastered the camera you will see the improvements in the pictures that I post.
We watch programmes on the National Geographic channel and have learnt a lot from them. One of the series they run is about aircraft disasters. Now those are scary especially when the aircraft involved are the same ones we use to fly back to
During the programmes they examine each crash in great detail to determine exactly what caused it. In some cases it is human error but too often it is a design fault or a faulty repair to an aircraft. The other night it was the rear of the plane that had been repaired by Boeing and they had only used one row of rivets to fix the new panel instead of two. On a previous programme it was the cargo door that opened outwards instead of inwards to make loading quicker. A failure in the hydraulics seems to feature all too often.
Next time I fly I might just ask the pilot “has this plane been repaired properly”, “when was it last checked”, “which way do the cargo doors open”, “are all the hydraulics routed through one part of the plane”. Never mind the stewardess telling us “in the event of landing over water” – most of our trip is over land – what happens then? I think I know the answer to that one from the programmes we have watched.
Home alone (19th October)
I took Pam to
PS Pam has phoned to say that she arrived in the
Not for tilting at (1st October)
First we parked at the fishing port at Lo Pagan and walked along the promenade to Santiago de la Ribera. After a refreshment stop we walked back to the car and had some lunch and then set off to the Parque Reg. San Pedro del Pinatar which is a series of salt lakes populated by flamingoes.
There is a very long path which we followed that goes out to sea with the park on one side and Mar Menor on the other. When you get to the end you are only a short distance from the strip of land which separates the Mar Menor from the Mar Mediterraneo. On this strip are the posh hotels and apartments.
On the salinas side of the path we followed, crazy Spaniards (and possibly others) cake themselves in the mud from the bottom of the salt lakes and then let it dry on them. We are told that the minerals in the mud are good for the skin. Even stranger though are the people who sit in a brackish water channel bathing in stinking brine. Note the lady who has even taken her chair to sit on whilst she bathes her feet in the water. Sensible people of course just lie in the sun or go for a swim on the Mar Menor side of the path.
As you can see the molinos or windmills are way past there best and wouldn’t stand any tilting.
The little yellow plane
People tell me that the purpose of the plane is crop spraying for insects. If that is the case, why do we still have hundreds of flies and mosquitoes not to mention grasshoppers and other undesirables buzzing round the garden? The flies are the worst especially when they persist in landing on your face. So get the flies and the mossies Mr Yellow Plane otherwise buzz off round some other people’s houses.
Growing faster than the children
When we arrived less than two years ago and I started to turn over the soil in the garden I couldn’t believe what I was dealing with. At best the soil was heavy loam full of rocks at worst solid clay. My neighbour was so disgusted with his soil he went down to the local garden centre and bought soil to replace the rubbish that he had to deal with. In his opinion nothing would grow successfully in the soil we had been given so the only sensible course of action was to replace it. I told myself if the locals could grow produce in this soil then so could I.
In England I would have rough dug the soil, limed it and let the winter frosts break it up. Without a winter frost that wasn’t going to work. So the best I could do was break it up by hoeing and raking and hope for the best. The soil is still poor in patches but is a lot better than it was. In any case the good thing about heavy soil is that it needs less watering and any fertilizer I apply doesn’t get leached away.
There are still areas of solid clay where nothing will grow well but as you can see in less than two years the plants have done well. These two pictures were taken just about a year apart. Some plants have done too well and I now have to cut them back to stop them smothering the rest of the garden.
The most gratifying plants are the ones that looked as though they were dead or dying like the cycad and he phoenix palm which both have new leaves in abundance. Even the hibiscus which looked as though it was just a bunch of twigs at the start of the year has flowered for months.
You always take the weather with you
Peter Kay tells the story of holiday makers taking the sunshine back in their cases to the
The day that John and Joyce left the skies were blue and the sun shone from early morning to dusk. It was much the same every day for at least the following week. Whilst they were here we had half days of clear skies at best. If it was clear in the morning it had clouded over by the afternoon and vice versa. It might have suited them but it didn’t best please us.
It was the same for the girls in June. We even had a few dullish days when the Hugh, Angela and Andrew came in August.
For next year please leave your English weather back home. Don’t bother packing it in your suitcases to bring here. We don’t mind you sharing our Spanish sunshine just as long as you don’t try and take it back to
Six rashers Johnnie and four balls Joyce
Last year their flight was cancelled and they ended up arriving 12 hours late at in the morning. This year they arrived on time in brilliant sunshine. The excellent weather didn’t last though and so we had a few days when it was cloudy at least for part of the day. It didn’t seem to spoil their time here though. We lazed around the pool, ate, drank and chatted. Generally it was just a relaxed week with a few visits to break up the pace. As you might expect, they left in brilliant sunshine.
Why “six rashers”? Well John likes a bacon buttie for breakfast and is quite happy to make his own. Normally he would have a few rashers perhaps with an egg to make it more interesting. On the Sunday though there were six rashers left in the packet so he decided to cook them all rather than leave some. In fairness we are not talking Danish back bacon slices but even with Spanish bacon, a six rasher buttie is serious business!
Why “four balls”? Joyce was tempted to go for a late night swim the first night they were here but then changed her mind. The deal on subsequent nights was that if four of the floating pool lights came on she would go for a swim. On the last night four of the lights came on but Joyce baulked on the deal. Perhaps on a future visit she might be tempted again!
Thank you for your company. We hope you enjoyed yourselves. We also hope that you have a fabulous time cruising through the
I have to eat my own words. Pam’s father’s hoarding has paid off. When Jemma and Laura looked through the old clothes that Marjorie kept they saw a potential to make money. Apparently there are shops and web sites that specialise in clothes from the seventies and earlier. I didn’t know that.
Jemma and Laura carefully went through the wardrobes at Arthur’s house and selected those items which they thought would sell easily. Jemma photographed them and sent the pictures by email to the owner of one of the web sites she had found. Her reward was a cheque for £300 plus postage for clothes that we would have either taken to the charity shop or more to the point the skip.
I dare say there are even more items that are saleable especially the crockery and glasses which in some cases date back to the 20s. I ask you though, who would have thought that crimplene would come back into fashion?
Beware the voices of doom and gloom
The pipework to carry the telephone cable is laid. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I even asked the foreman who was supervising the job if the pipe was for telephones. It runs to the first Telefonica box at the bottom of the estate. From there the pipework goes round the whole estate. Each house is connected to the boxes and the phonepoints are already installed in the lounges and main bedrooms. If you lift the covers on the Telefonica boxes in the road you can see the cables. They have now put the cable in at the bottom of the road. A friend of ours saw them do it and again confirmed it was for telephones.
Still people are not convinced. First there was a rumour that only the builder was to get a phone. The rumour goes on to say that a vote was taken at the Council meeting which proved 9 to 1 against phones being connected to Villas Andrea. Now why on earth would anyone go the trouble of laying 500metres or more of pipework just to connect one house? More to the point what would anyone in the council gain by denying us our phones? Of course it is election time next year. Could this be an early smear campaign to discredit one of the candidates?
Still the rumours persist. We can only have radio phones at Villas Andrea. That is because two people have just been offered radio phones by Telefonica. One resident already has a radio phone. He didn’t need a cable to be laid up from the village to get it. Then we are told the cable that they have laid isn’t thick enough to supply a line for each house. Oh and yes, there aren’t the green boxes that you find in
Anyway it appears that we should have phones by Christmas. All we need to do is to register our interest at the Town Hall and they will process he requests to Telefonica.
Back on line
Anyway we were then told that we would be reconnected within 7 days (sic) by ADSL rather than by satellite. Now that was good news because an ADSL connection should be more reliable. An ADSL connection would also make the phone useable. The question was then, how were they going to provide us with an ADSL connection? Obviously we would still use the existing wireless setup to connect to the Wi-Surf server up at the Pedrera but how were Wi-Surf going to connect the wireless setup to ADSL without a cable? There is no cable up to the Pedrera and it doesn’t look as if there will be in the near future. Apparently their plan was to use a hybrid system that would relay an ADSL connection from a site where there was a cable via microwaves to our site at the Pedrera. The hybrid system, although not as good as true ADSL, would make the phone useable.
It seems that for the moment that will not be possible so Wi-Surf have had to resort back to a satellite connection with a different provider.Since VOIP is useless over a satellite connection, we will definitely move over to Telefonica for the phone as soon as we can. We will keep the Wi-Surf connection for the Internet though for two reasons.
- Internet providers in
work with much higher contention ratios than Wi-Surf i.e more users share the connection speed. Spain
- Although Bigastro has an ADSL enabled exchange we don’t know where that is. If the exchange is too far away then our potential speed will be limited.
I’d like to see what other people’s experiences are like before making the decision to move from Wi-Surf.The Town Hall has now collated the names and mobile numbers of all the people at Villas Andrea who want a phone. These will be passed on to Telefonica who should contact us to let us know when that will be possible. Since all the cables are now laid we are told that could be before Christmas.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Meantime I will be "home alone" again making sure the fence stays up and the plants don´t die.
We´ll be back soon (we hope)
The good news is that it looks like the phone lines are installed and just waiting for connection. Either way I have a stack of messages stored on my computer ready to upload for you to read.