Thursday, November 30, 2006

Los Altos de la Pedrera

Just look at the damage the builders of this little development have done. The pavement and the lampposts have gone and the road is now leaning down into the hole. Notice that, not content with causing that much damage, they have further undercut the road.

A good heavy rainstorm could see the whole lot sliding into the hole they've dug.

The water at the bottom is from the underground stream that runs under the other side of the estate. It is the reason why the houses on that side are all underpinned. Goodness knows what they will do about the water. I know they intend to build a communal pool but not there!

These are the artist's impression of what the development will look like. It might be very different when it is finished!

You shall go to the ball

It’s pantomime time in Orihuela this coming weekend at Networks Theatre.

Cinderella - A traditional Pantomime, written and directed by Nick Moore with design by Dennis Carpenter.

Thursday 30th November 8.30pm, Friday 1st December at 8.30pm, Saturday 2nd December at 6.00pm and 8.30pm. NETWORKS THEATRE, 1-3 REYES CATÓLICOS, 03300 ORIHUELA.

Tickets are priced at 7.50 euros with a reduced rate of four euros for students. School telephone: 96 530 02 07. You can reserve tickets Monday to Friday, 5.00–8.00pm on this number.

Health cover

If you ask ten people about anything here in Spain you will get ten different answers. It is certainly the case with health care. Although I am no expert in this field this is my understanding:-

If you are a pensioner (or a dependant)or were receiving incapacity benefit in the UK then life is relatively simple. You apply for a Form E121 from England; take it to the Health Centre and you will get a SIP card. At first it will be a temporary card followed later by a plastic version. This covers you for life and in the case of pensioners means you get free prescriptions.

If you are working in Spain life is simple. You pay into the National Health Service and therefore get a SIP card which again provides you with free health care.

If you fall into neither group but were paying National Health contributions in England for 3 years prior to moving to Spain you are eligible for Form E106 which covers you for two years. Alternatively you get an E111 which covers you for a year.

After that if you are neither a pensioner (or dependant) nor working in Spain you pay for your medical care normally via medical insurance.

Your eligibility for free health care has nothing to do with whether you have residency in Spain or not. Previously on the Costa Blanca you had to have applied for residency for them to accept your E121 but since residency is no longer a legal requirement I suspect this is no longer true.

The article on this page provides a fuller explanation:

When we went down to the Centro de Salud yesterday, Pam was seen by the doctor but because her temporary medical card had expired she only got a statement about which medicines she needed. If she takes this to the chemist he will sell her the drugs at the box price rather than the prescription price.

The previous doctor we were assigned to didn't really take much notice of the date on your medical card and just gave you a prescription. The new doctor is obviously playing by the rules. Actually I suspect that he should charge for his consultation but he hasn't gone that far yet.

Since our E106s are still valid we should have gone back and renewed our temporary cards when they expired. That way Pamela would have got a green prescription (one that you pay for) rather than the statement. Come April, Pam and I will be eligible for E121s which will solve the problem for us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The even better life

My best friend at school retired at the same time as me. We had decided that neither of us wanted to stay at the school without the other.

Whilst I bought a house in Spain, he bought a smaller house in the town where he lived and banked the equity along with his lump sum.

He used to have a fear of flying so his wife would go on holiday on her own with the children and he stayed at home. I think you could say he has conquered his fear of flying now. This is the email he sent me this morning.

We spent the whole of September in Tuscany - staying near Lucca. What a lovely part of the world. I would recommend it to you. Very different to Spain - probably greener and softer. At the end of September we drove up to Provence and spent some time near St Tropez. It was lovely and very quiet. The crowds had departed but the weather was still beautiful. Altogether we were away for about five weeks.

Having returned to England we soon got itchy feet again and in mid October flew to Athens for a week. Athens was pretty amazing - lots of good food, ancient ruins (not just us) and retsina.

After this trip my wife went off to Vienna and I stayed home to sort out my broadband connections.

After a week or so at home we went to the USA for a fortnight. We flew to Boston, New York and Washington DC. What an experience, everything from whale watching, eating clam chowder, going to Ground Zero, Times Square, the Broadway theatre and visiting the White House.

We are going to California in March to see My wife's long lost friend - who now lives in Palm Springs!!! I can't wait and will set up some extra trips between then and now to keep me out of mischief.

I hadn't heard from him for awhile and was concerned thay he was OK. Obviously I needn't have worried. I don't think either of us would have believed that retirement could be this good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Coexistence and Multiculture in Bigastro

As part of the debate that The City council of Bigastro started up for the development of the strategic plan " Bigastro Avanza ", they want to emphasize the agreements adopted to foster coexistence and multiculturalism.

This debate, that includes people of different nationalities residing in the municipality, has decided that the "Equipo de Gobierno Socialista" should make the following commitments:

1) To create a servicing platform to share information and communication between all the citizens. This independent organisation will share with the City Council the intelligence targets, communication, integration and citizen coexistence.

2) To develop sport and cultural activities that foster coexistence from childhood. This corporation, which started in 2001, has already developed different initiatives such as the "Festival de Culturas Amigas", "las Muestras Gastronómicas", etc. From now on they want to increase the number of activities by organising matches in various sports, festivals, musical comedies organized by these groups, and establishing a plan of coexistence in collaboration with the Council of Education and the Council of Social Welfare.

3) The City council is committed in addition, to favour integration extending the services of study of our language and, on the other hand to ensure that all citizens are aware of the services provided.

Within its plan of quality, where the proximity to the citizen is fundamental, the City council of Bigastro wants all the new residents to have an exhaustive knowledge of the municipal services therefore enabling them to make a suitable and effective use of the local administration.

My comment

The local council are obviously keen to make people of all nationalities welcome in Bigastro. It is up to us to make sure that we participate as fully as we can in those activities that are planned for us. I have to say that, whenever we have joined in with any events that have taken place, Pam and I have been made to feel more than welcome by our Spanish neighbours.

We also need to be aware of the cultural background of Bigastro and be sensitive to the differences between our culture and that of the Bigastrense. A better understanding of the language and the culture can only make living in Bigastro a more rewarding experience of all of us.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hi there

I don't suppose most of you are the least bit interested in Domo phones, free courses in Bigastro or the like. I suspect that some of our male friends might be interested in a progressive woman but not the sort that meet at the Auditorium. What you really want to know is how are we and what is the weather like.

We are both very well. It is so peaceful here on the hill that sometimes we just have to go out to make sure that there is still a world going on around us. Actually we mainly go out to do a bit of shopping or to see friends. Like last Friday when we went down to look for something to put the old television on and ended up having a "menu del dia" at the Barbacoa Meson Salada. Later on we went down into Bigastro to meet some friends for a drink at the newly reformed VaiVen bar. I made the mistake of asking for the bill when I ordered a round and got the tab for all of the rounds. Still 19 drinks only came to 20€ (£13.60).

Pam says we are going to Ikea on Wednesday. She's already been on one trip there to sus out the lie of the land. Her plans for Wednesday can only mean that she has some serious shopping in mind. I think there is a Primark near to Ikea so she will want to go there as well. I suspect I'll need a stiff drink on Wednesday night.

The weather is pretty good. Plenty of sunshine and nice warm days. It does get chilly later though so we have the central heating on at night. It was interesting to see at the bricolage; the display that was all fans and air conditioning units in the summer has been replaced with electric fires and eschufas (wood burning fires). Local people seriously feel the cold. Although you still see Brits out and about in shorts, the Spaniards have their fleeces and winter trousers on.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Before Christmas please!

I'm getting quite excited about the prospect of getting a phone especially since Telefonica have now upgraded their ADSL package to 3Mbs. There is a site in English which explains the package including costs at:-

Basically there is a one off fee of 162,01€ which includes the optional Domo phone (cost 33,06€). The phone line rental is 15,64€ per month plus 3€ for ADSL until 31st January then 40,90€ per month after that = 56,54€ total per month (£38.45). Not bad when you consider we are paying 40,60€ at the moment for just a 1Mb internet connection.

Mainly for Villas Andrea residents.

The phone comes with instructions in Spanish but you can download instructions in English

One thing that the instructions don't tell you though is how to change the language on the display to English. This is how you would do it.

Your phone has an automatic pass code of "0000". You will need this to change the language to English

Instructions for changing the language [idioma] to English. Pick up the phone and press the [Mensajes] button or just wait
Press 1 to enter personal options
Press 4 to change language
Dial access code 0000
Press 3 for foreign language
Press 1 for English
Press 1 to confirm

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Free courses

It isn't just we "extranjeros" who need to learn Spanish, the Spaniards also recognise their need to learn English.

So the Town Hall are putting on the following free courses.

Directed to people with minimum or no knowledge of English who need to communicate in this language in their daily lives.
Contents: To use suitable dialogue:
- To greet and address people
- To describe things
- To communicate by telephone
- To ask and to respond to basic questions relative to personal data (name, address, telephone number, etc.)
- To include/understand and to translate basic texts in English language

Directed to administrative personnel who need to speak directly or by telephone to people who speak mainly English.
Contents: To use suitable dialogue:
- To greet and address people
- To receive and to take care of the public
- To identify what they need or what they want to know
- To ask and to respond to basic questions relative to personal data, etc.
- To take care of telephone calls
- To include/understand and to translate basic texts in English language

Directed to public in general (depending on the level of the students)

Directed to any person who wants to learn to write correctly.
Methodology: the learning would by means of a program, where each student will have a key which will enable him to follow his rate.

Directed to all the people who wish to learn to create documents with this market leading computer program. The course is for those who have never used Quark XPress before.
- Introduction
- the "Tools" of Quark XPress
- working with text
- working with images
- fitting the image to the picture
- menus
- printing documents

Apparently there is a big demand for courses in English hence the three levels. Let's hope they get a good take up for them. We are enjoying learning Spanish and use it as much as we can but there are times when it helps if we can communicate in English.

PS Apparently there are plans to build a new language school just down the road from us where they will teach English to Spaniards and Spanish to English people. Nothing ever stays still for long in Bigastro.

Progressive women

On Sunday at 17:30, the Council of Woman of the City council of Bigastro will officially inaugurate the new meeting place for the Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro in one of the rooms of the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau".

In this new meeting place, the partners will be able to continue developing all their cultural activities in the municipality.

As long as "Progressive" doesn't become "Agressive" that is OK by me.

Something for the "wrinklies"

To celebrate Christmas, the Association of the Third Age in collaboration with the Council of Social Welfare of the City council of Bigastro, are organizing a series of events.

"La Rondalla Navideña" is a group of men and women who will be visiting the sick for whom they will provide traditional Christmas entertainment.

In addition, the partners of the Third Age will prepare “el mítico Belén” (a nativity scene) in the Centro Social Integrado.

Finally some of the women will be making traditional Christmas cakes and biscuits for an event which they are calling "Merienda Navideña”.

When you consider that 14% of the population were over 60 (1,116 people) including 67 people over 90 in the 2005 statistics, they will have a lot of customers.

Note the graffiti on the building which says "Alfredo is a good teacher". They never wrote anything like that about me in Liverpool.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Update on Pops

Following on from my post on the 15th. I'm pleased to say that Pops is very well and is now much happier in his new surroundings. His mobility has improved a lot, he is being well fed and cared for.

For the moment they are going to keep him where he is. There is no longer any question of him returning to his house in Cawthorne. Once suitable alternative accommodation is available we can consider that as an option but only if it fits all the requirements.

It hasn't been easy to get this far and my brother Brian has had to fight hard to get justice for Pops. The rest of the family therefore owe Brian a great debt of gratitude for all the work he has done not to mention the endless journeys he has had to make from Heaton Moor.

There are still a lot of issues to sort out but at least Pops is in a much better state than he was. As I said to Brian, who knows Pops may still get his telegram from the Queen.

No votes for the new party

CLARO- the new political party for Orihuela Costa, has discovered that over 11,000 of the 16,000 voting application forms sent to non-Spanish residents of the area have been returned undelivered. At a press conference last week they said that the communications from the Electoral Census Office in Alicante were sent in September but did not reach 70% of their intended recipients, according to the postal service, Correos.

Representatives of the party have described the situation as “shocking and shameful,” the blame for which they lay not principally at the inefficiency of Correos, but Orihuela Town Hall, “For allowing a building frenzy to take place in which they have not been able to exercise a proper control of street addresses, house numbers, and street signs as well as leaving the area without proper postal services.”

They argued that if tax demands and bills are able to find their intended recipients then there is no reason for any such difficulty in this case.

When you visit the Orihuela Costa and see the massive building projects that are under way you wonder how the people who buy there ever find their homes once they are completed. The poor post person doesn't stand a chance.

Thankfully we didn't have a problem here in Bigastro. We collected our registration documents from the Post Office and returned them in good time for the 2007 local elections.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Not fishing - phishing

Microsoft has brought 129 lawsuits against suspected phishing gangs and criminals in Europe and the Middle East. Action by the company has already led to the imprisonment of one criminal in Turkey for two and a half years with four teenagers settling out of court.

The local police in Torrevieja caught two Eastern Europeans who were using a bank account with false names to collect money from the people they scammed. The police apprehended them when they attempted to withdraw the 20,000€ they had conned out of people using phishing sites on the internet.

Internet Explorer 7

I see some of you are using the new version of Internet Explorer. As you will have gathered I use Firefox but as part of the Windows Update package I have installed IE7.

It is obviously more than just a "tarting up" with a few new features. I found the interface takes a bit of time to work your way around for example how do you get a menu toolbar at the top? It is supposed to have beefed up security but I don't suppose it will be long before the hackers get to work on the code and we have a slurry of security updates from Redmond.

Ah well roll on Windows Vista and a raft of incompatibility issues with my hardware and software! I'll have to go with it sometime though because it is the future isn't it?.

More fun and games

After all that effort for three half hour performances of Caperucita Roja, I had decided that my career in pantomime was over.

Our Spanish teacher has decided differently and plans to have us perform "Blanca Nieves y el siete enanitos" (Snow White and the 7 dwarfs) for the children from the local primary school.

My part is Cazador (the woodcutter) - at least I don't have to wear a frock this time.

Pam's part is Reina madrastra (the stepmother queen) - the one who talks to the mirror.

Espejito, espejito, ¿quién es la más hermosa del reino?
Es verdad que su majestad es muy hermosa; pero,¡Blanca Nieves es la m
ás hermosa del reino!
¿Blanca Nieves más hermosa que yo? ¡Impossible! ¡Eso no lo permitiré!

You get the idea....

The girl who is to be the narrator is fortunately Spanish.

More teacher battering

From the Daily Mail
More than half of all secondary schools are failing to provide children with a good education, a new report claims today.

Chief schools inspector Christine Gilbert - who published her annual document today - said the failure of hundreds of secondary schools to deliver the quality expected by parents was the "greatest challenge" facing the education system.

Ofsted said that in 51 per cent of comprehensives, standards of teaching and achievement were satisfactory at best. In comments that will ratchet up the pressure on the Government over its education record, Ms Gilbert declared: "Satisfactory can never be good enough." .......

Am I glad that I retired from a North Liverpool Comprehensive?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More network woes

There you go. I should have known it would not be long before we had a network failure. It happened Monday afternoon. Clear Coms were quick to send us a text to notify us which was good because at least we weren’t left wondering what had happened. They have also been quick in resolving the problem. As you can see we are now back (Wednesday).

Monday morning I went down to the Town Hall to complete the registration for a telephone line with ADSL by providing my bank details. Let’s hope that the process gets underway quickly so that at last we will have a telephone and a reliable ADSL connection.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cashing in

Don't you just love Americans!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hanging on

Peseta notes and coins worth the equivalent 1.83 billion euros are still outstanding almost five years after the introduction of the Euro according to data from the Bank of Spain. That is enough to buy 13,000 homes worth 140,000€ each.

Between January and September the central bank exchanged pesetas worth Euro 29 million, although it is thought much of the outstanding cash will never to be changed.

Spaniards obviously loved their old currency which gave Spain its unique identity and so want to hang on to it. I sincerely hope there doesn't come a time when banks won't exchange peseta notes leaving these people with worthless pieces of paper.

Actually when you speak to Spaniards about the price of things, many will convert from Euros to pesetas so they can better understand what they are dealing with. Most items in shops still have the price in pesetas alongside the Euro price and banks show transactions in both currencies.

For us Brits dealing with the Euro is much easier. After all we had to think in a new currency anyway and the numbers in Euros are much easier to handle than pesetas.

Shorter queues

From the Costa Blanca News
The government will open two new foreigners’ offices to cut residence application queues and waiting times in Alicante province.

Government sub-delegate Etelvina Andreu announced on Friday the opening of offices in Calpe and Rojales to take pressure off the Alicante office in a province with 320,000 foreign residents. The first office will be in Calpe giving service to foreign residents in the Marina Alta and Marina Baixa from the first months of next year, and the Rojales office will open in the second half of 2007.

Between 2003 and 2006 the Alicante foreigners’ office was swamped with 70,000 cases outstanding. Now the number of pending cases is down to 9,900 and the average waiting time is down to a month and 10 days compared to waits of more than a year before.

The Alicante province foreigners’ department receives between 8,000 and 8,500 applications a month.

My comment
For those who have yet to apply for residency and for those whose residency is due for renewal this is good news. We waited over a year to have our residency application completed. We were not looking forward to a repeat of this in 2010 when our cards are due for renewal.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on security

For all Wi-Surf customers

I received the following email last night. I suspect that all of Wi-Surf's customers got the same email.

Dear Mr Williamson,

I write to you regarding your Internet Connection from Wi-Surf S.L. I am currently completing an audit of all client data to ensure that our records are updated correctly.

Please could you confirm to me your address, telephone number and 20 digit bank account number. I would be very grateful for the information to maintain our records as efficiently as possible.

Thank you for your assistance with this matter, I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

If you have any comments regarding this message, please do not hesitate to contact me on 961 120 243.

Kind regards,

Lyndsey Keeley
Wi-Surf S.L

I suspect all of Wi-Surf's customers received the same email. The phone number is the same as the one they sent to us by text message so the email is probably genuine. However banks advise customers NEVER to send details by email because it is insecure. I am therefore surprised that Wi-Surf are asking us to do something that would be potentially very stupid.

Update:- I got an email to say that Wi-Surf would send me Direct Debit form which could be posted back. The another saying that they already had my details on file so didn't need me to send them anyway.

Beefing up security

We have had a number of burglaries on the estate in the last few weeks. So last night an ex-policeman, who lives here, gave us a talk about how we can help protect ourselves. He offered us some excellent advice about each of the different styles of house along with some general advice for all of us.
  • Make sure all your doors and gates are locked when you go out. It is surprising how many people leave their gates unlocked which makes it easy for an intruder to get in.
  • If you have an alarm set it when you are out and at night when you go to bed. Again there are people with alarms who have never used them.
  • Hide your valuables in places that only you know about.
  • Close and lock the shutters on the windows when you go away.
  • Fit additional locks to patio style windows.
  • Buy a personal attack alarm and keep it with you - pointing one at intruders and setting it off will scare the living daylights out of them.
  • Leave a radio and lights on when you go out.

There were a couple of products that he mentioned which are particularly good. The first was the barking dog alarm which has a remote sensor placed outside the door of the house. When motion is detected the alarm triggers off a realistic digital recording of a barking dog. The device can be coupled with a light switch so that the intruder hears the dog then the lights go on giving the impression that the owner has been alerted.

He also mentioned secure padlocks and locks which prevent sliding windows from being opened. Lastly he talked about a bar which can be locked across the inside of a door to prevent it from being opened.

All excellent advice which should help us to give the message that Villas Andrea is not a place to bother with if you want to break in easily.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Not reading

Having visited SUMA in the morning we went down to the Municipal Auditorio Francisco Grau in the afternoon for a presentation in the library.

Alongside our Spanish language class for Foreigners, there are other classes for Spanish people wanting to learn to read and write. During the Franco years many children in Spain left school early to work in the fields and therefore missed out on their education. These classes are mainly populated by women in their early fifties and sixties.

The man who gave the presentation was trying to encourage the audience to read more by presenting them with a range of books from early readers to adult fiction. He explained that on average Spanish people read one book per year. Actually that comment shouldn't have surprised us for two reasons.

1. The library where we used to access the internet was always empty apart from the odd student doing research.
and 2. The only bookshops we have come across locally are the English ones.

Libraries in England are usually busy places, certainly the one in Greasby was and every town has a decent bookshop. Cities like Liverpool and Chester have several and again they are busy places.

Anyway with the presentation finished we were given a tour of the new auditorium. It is magnificent and shows that although literacy might be a problem culture certainly isn't. It is hard to imagine a local council in England being bold enough to build a facility like this one.


This is the local property tax which you pay each year and is similar to the council tax in England. It is based upon the rateable value of the property calculated by the Town Hall. The calculation is complicated and takes into account the size of the property, the size of the plot, whether it is rural or urban land etc. and is a fraction of the real value of the property as set out in the deeds.

In Alicante province this tax is collected by an organisation called SUMA based on the information that they are given by the local Town Hall. Their calculation is simple but again varies according to which municipality you live in. In Bigastro the percentage applied is 0.66.

Our tax bill for this year came in early August and we had until 5th October to pay it. There were problems with it though. They had my name as Ketih instead of Keith and our address was incorrect Worst of all though the bill was a lot higher than our neighbours bills. So we have queried it. That process takes time though and having not paid the bill then we got a second one with a hefty surcharge added on.

So we visited the SUMA office in Orihuela yesterday to try and sort this out. The calculation by SUMA is correct based on the rateable value they were given but the man at SUMA agreed that for a property the size of ours the rateable value was too high. So the advice was to pay the bill and wait for the Town Hall in Bigastro to revise our rateable value which apparently they are in the process of doing. This could take them three months to complete. Once that is done we will have a letter to take back to SUMA for a rebate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


We had noticed that my father has become more vague and forgetful over the last year. He has also a lot of problems with his ankles which has made walking painful. Sadly this deterioration has become more rapid over the last month or so.

Visitors to his house would find him either still in bed during the daytime or downstairs in his pyjamas. He was very confused and wasn't eating properly. Nor was he taking his medication on a regular basis. When my brother Brian called to see him a couple of weeks ago he was wearing the same clothes he had worn for a week and was obviously incontinent. It was a struggle to get him showered and into clean clothes.

So Brian called in Social Services who conducted an assessment and decided he needed regular visits from a Social Worker. They also decided that he needed someone to visit and cook his meals for him three times a day. Sadly that regime has not worked so my father was moved to a Rapid Response unit in Barnsley last week.

I'm pleased to say that he is very happy in his new surroundings where he is being pampered and looked after. It is only what he deserves. The problem is that these units are only for short stays and sometime soon they will want to move him to somewhere more permanent.

It is clear to most of us that a return to home is out of the question. Let us hope that Social Services see it that way.

Slow down

Well it didn't take too long for the internet connection to slow down to a crawl. Since we were re-connected we've had a honeymoon period when the speed was pretty consistent. Not the 2Mbs that we we had before but often approaching 1Mb and useable.

This morning though the speed is down to a crawl. Pages appear slowly just like on a dial up connection. One of the speed tests I've tried reports 12kbps upload and 61kps download. A more accurate java based test shows the actual speed is somewhere near 230 Kbs upload and 761Kbs download.

So what does this mean? Well there is nothing wrong with the satellite connection. What we are loosing is bandwidth which means that more than likely someone on the development is using p2p software to share files.

Typically these programs are used to share music mp3s and DVDs between users on the same system. The deal is that you download the files you want using multiple connections but at the same time you allow others to upload your stored files again using multiple connections. Once the pieces of the file are downloaded the software then puts them together to provide you with a free copy of the music or DVD. You are then meant to store the files you collect on your computer so that others can download parts of it from your system. The more files you collect the more users will try and connect to you. People using these systems typically keep their computer switched on and connected to the internet 24/7 and may have tens if not hundreds of Gbs of files stored.

Let us forget for a moment the legalities of file sharing; p2p software will use as much bandwidth as it can get hold of to realise the multiple connections. Worse still, once it has the bandwidth it holds on to it. Web surfing and collecting emails uses bandwidth to upload commands and download page elements but then releases it. On an ADSL connection p2p users are a pain but on a satellite connection, with much more limited bandwidth available, they kill the connection speeds for the rest of the users.

So whoever you are please stop. Buy your CDs and DVDs from the shops like the rest of us otherwise we will ask Clear Communications to disable your connection.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Your choice of music?

From Thursday, 16th to Sunday 19th, the Auditorio Municipal in Bigastro is staging concerts to honour Saint Cecilia (the patron saint of musicians). The local groups taking part are: Cuadruvium, Quantz, Bohemian y Aulide.

Thursday 16th, 20:00h
Auditorio Municipal


A quartet of flutes
Musicians: Ana Belén Sánchez, Pilar Sáez, Raquel Diaz y Carmen Mateo.

Friday 17th, 21:00h
Auditorio Municipal


Saxophone group.

Musicians: Soprano sax: Antonio Pérez, Alto sax: Manuel García, Tenor sax: José Manuel Bañuls, Baritone sax: Mario Ortuño.

Works by: Gotowfky, Ravel, Dborak, Falla, Desenclos y Haydn.

Saturday 18th, 20:00h
Auditorio Municipal


Jazz band
Alfonso Manresa, Antonio Granero, Francisco Giménez, Manuel García y Miguel Sáez with the jazz singer Irene Sams.

A mix of jazz, blues, swing, soul, ....

Sunday 19th, 12:30h
Auditorio Municipal


Wind quintet
Germán Guillen, Mariano Velasco, Ana Belén Sánchez, Luís Miguel Lorenzo y Alberto Velasco.
Music by Baber, Reicha, Bizet, Ravel, ....

So something for everyone's taste and all FREE.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Things we missed

First of all we missed the carriage ride around the Huerta.

Riding in style

The huerta (traditional orchard) of Bigastro

Worse still though we missed the Journada Gastronomica and we don't even know when it took place.

Just look at those paellas

It wasn't just women cooking either

A bigger bang

Twenty-seven people have been arrested in Bigastro after causing 30,000€ worth of damage while setting off fireworks on the 16th of August during the local fiestas.

They ignored police warnings and set off fireworks illegally and when they were confronted by the Policía Local and Protección Civil they turned on them, using the fireworks as weapons. 3 cars were damaged, as were shop fronts, police uniforms and a member of the police force was injured, receiving burns as well as being assaulted. 45 kgs of pyrotechnic material was found after the incident.

After an extensive investigation by the Guardia Civil and the Policía Local, these 27 individuals have been arrested.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Directory 1st phone 2nd?

We spent a very leisurely day yesterday recovering from having had a tad too much to drink on Friday night. I put it down to the hierbas liquor.

Anyway sometime in the afternoon a couple of Spanish ladies kindly slipped a copy of Paginas Amarillas (Yellow Pages) under our gate. Are they trying to tell us something or is this just a bad joke?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Another night - another bar

There is always somewhere new to visit. Last night we went out with John and Jean to eat at Bodegón "Los Cuatro Vientos". This bar is one of those that opens very early in the morning to serve workers' breakfasts. It may or may not then be open at night.

Last night though they were expecting us and had a table ready prepared in the dining room at the back. No menu of course but we understood most of what was on offer. We had serrano ham and manchego cheese, cooked ham, green salad with tuna, slices of fried potato and toasted bread with a dip which we think was made from ham along with a tomato dip for starters. Then John, Jean and Pam had pork fillets with chips and I had pescadita fritas (small fried fish) with chips. This was washed down with two carafes of their best house red. We were too full for desserts so we just had coffees. The lady brought us iced herb liquor to complement the coffee and to thank us for our visit gave Pam and Jean one of their ash trays.

So another excellent night and a good place to eat.

John and Jean at Bodegón "Los Cuatro Vientos"

Friday, November 10, 2006

The whole of this area was on high alert last week

The view from our roof terrace this morning.

As you can see the bad weather we had has past and clear blue skies and sunshine have returned.

We count ourselves lucky that we didn't experience the flooding that some parts of Spain and Portugal suffered. Apparently when other areas have really bad weather, Bigastro often misses it. I put it down to San Joaquin, the patron saint. He obviously has a lot of influence up there.

Sunday market in Bigastro

This will be the 3rd year that the City Council of Bigastro promotes the " Lugareco ". This Ecological and Artisan Product Market will be held on the second Sunday each month in the Plaza de la Constitution in Bigastro.

It is mainly characterized by stalls offering ecological and artisan products for sale, demonstrations of traditional work and environmental displays directed to children and young people.

The "Lugareco" is one of many initiatives that the City council of Bigastro has put into operation to improve the quality of life of the municipality. It also offers a healthful alternative to improve both the way we live and our surroundings.

The next market will be held on Sunday, 12th of November. The City Council hope that the bigastrenses and visitors to the region enjoy the new programme of activities for 2006.

Jack the lads, Jacks of all trades

Every week you read in the local free papers about people who have been let down by hookey tradespeople. There are enough horror stories from our estate to confirm these reports. Our next door neighbours are a good case in point. They have been let down so often you would think they were jinxed. For example, there was the paver whose business cards offered a two year guarantee. Six months later he had disappeared back to England without leaving a forwarding address. Fortunately he did a good job and the paving is still perfect.

The family in the middle of the estate, who were assured by one company that they could have a pool, were less fortunate. They had been told by the builder that they couldn't have a pool on their plot but choose to ignore him. When they started to dig the hole it was clear that the builder was right so they quickly filled it in. Unfortunately the damage was already done and the houses around now have garden walls that are badly cracked. The builder is blaming the pool people who refuse to accept responsibility.

Why does it happen? Lots of English people come out to Spain to live and to find work. Many of them had trades back in the UK but without the language skills it is difficult to find work with Spanish companies. So they find a niche and set up on their own to earn a living. Electricians become air conditioning installers; plumbers suddenly develop the skills to install pools; ; all without the necessary licenses and registration documents. People hire them because they speak English and in any case you can trust an English worker to do the job properly.

The niche that most find to work in is property sales and rentals. Without any experience or knowledge people set up companies offering their services. In the worst cases the properties they sell are not legal. There is only one conclusion if you have an illegal house; at some time in the future a bulldozer will arrive to knock it down. By this time the company you bought from will have ceased trading. At best you could find yourself paying over the odds for the property you rent or buy.

Of course there are perfectly legal and honest English tradespeople in Spain. They do a good job and offer proper back up. In our case though we would prefer to use Spanish companies and struggle through the language barrier. At least we have a good idea where they will be in six months time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pam's new phone

Pam bought a Siemens phone in Carrefour just over a year ago. That was a big mistake! To accomplish the most simple task you had to get the instruction booklet out. For example why did it have a phonebook and an address book and which one should you use? How do you send the same SMS message to more than one person without having to re-write it and where were the pictures that she took stored? The worse feature was the battery which would only hold charge for just over a day.

So yesterday Pam bought a new Nokia because she likes Nokias. Laura gave Pam her old Nokia to use in the UK and she found that a lot easier to use. But not all Nokias are the same - this one has a different menu system. My theory is that they make the menu systems different so that you are forced to spend time with your new phone getting to know it. The menu system on this new phone does seem a lot easier than that Siemens though so hopefully she won't be swearing at it quite so much. For one thing it has just one phone book - that is a relief in itself!

Of course phone menus are a lot simpler to use these days. I still remember how complicated it was to even make a call on my first phone. In those days the menus resembled Microsoft DOS and you accessed them with complicated series of button presses. Now you have a grid of graphic icons and a joystick to play with. Oh the brave new world! Giving you a spanky interface though has allowed them to introduce spanky new features like "Push to talk" , "Flash messages" and "Web connection". Although Pam can be pushy when she talks, I hope she doesn't try flashing her messages.

Yet another

I am Tat'yana. To talk about my personal qualities I`l try to look at
myself from aside. So I`m a charming, feminine, romantic, and sweet
girl. Yet as a person I am open-minded, easy-going, kind-hearted. From
the very beginning I try to behave naturally. I dislike lie and
hypocrisy. Kindness and decency are the qualities that are very
important for me and that`s why I value them in myself. I love my
parents very much as they have given much to me and I am grateful to
I have some questions for you if you want to get to know me closer:
* Are you interested in serious relations with Russian woman?
* Have you ever been to Russia?
* Are you planning to visit Russia?
* Would you like to correspond or to talk by phone?
* I will be waiting for your reply to
* Why are you interested in Russian lady?
* What is important for you in relations and am I right for you?
Hope you will tell me about yourself,
kisses from Russia,
Sorry Tat'yana you sound very nice but I'm struggling with Spanish - I don't think I could cope with Russian as well.

Actually I'd love to know where these girls get my email address from. Does anybody know?

The continuing problem

The Environmental Minister, Cristina Narbona, told the media that the government is looking for ways to encourage 'responsible' use of water and is considering the possibility of setting a new limit to domestic consumption.She went on to say that the new plan would tax 'excessive' use of water. Her interpretation of 'excessive' means that a daily limit per person of up to 60 litres could be applied. According to the new plans, all water consumed in excess of this limit would be charged at a higher rate than the usual price of water.

Reaction to the Minister's declarations has been mixed. The majority of people here are perfectly aware of the serious problem of water shortages and the need to reduce consumption and save water. However, many question the fact that the first measures taken by central government are aimed at domestic use, rather than tackling the hundreds of kilometres of rusty, leaking water pipes all over the country or the continuous growth of new golf courses needing constant watering in some of the driest regions. Agriculture accounts for 77 percent of all water used.

Note: The average toilet uses 12 litres of water per flush and a 10 minute shower uses about 120 litres. Add to this cooking, washing clothes and other similar activities involving the use of water and it becomes apparent that Ms Narbona skipped maths and science lessons on her way to becoming a politician. And anyway, its not a new idea! On 3rd August 1866 the very first 'water law' passed in Spain decreed that every Spaniard would be guaranteed a minimum of 50 litres per day. Such is progress!

Taken from the Round Town News

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Basketball club helps out

C.B. Bigastro is participating with the Association of Relatives of Patients of Alzheimer "Acuerdate de Mi"

The Sports Council of the City council of Bigastro and the President of the Association of Alzheimer of Bigastro, Mª Asunción Mesples have signed an agreement to hold a draw for basketball equipment at one of their games.

Members of the association will sell tickets to the fans at the game. The money raised will be donated to the Association of Alzheimer "Acuerdate de Mi" .

"A pile of reasons to say to no".

As part of its campaign to prevent drug dependency, the Council of Social Services in Bigastro has formulated a competition for young people.

The participants will be pairs of students from the 5th and 6th grades primary (San Jose de Calasanz) and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades of the E.S.O. (Ies Miguel Hernandez).

The participants will be asked to write a document in two parts:

- the first a technical part, where they will have to investigate the subject of the drug dependancy using the Internet or the library.
- the second part, where the participants will have to express their personal opinion on this serious problem that exists in our society.

The competition ends on the 30th of November and winners will be announced on the 4th of December.

The Prize will consist of a trip to Terra Mitica including transport and food.

In addition the winners entries and their photos will be published on the Bigastro web site and in the sport magazine " Bigasport "

Let's hope that this helps to get the message across to these young people.

Police called out in Bigastro

The Local Police of Bigastro were called out to stop a fight in the centre of the town. The two men, one a Bulgarian and the other a Romanian, were taken into custody. The Bulgarian had to be taken to the Vega Baja hospital for treatment.

I imagine that some locals feel that the town was better off when it was populated only by Spaniards.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Only for Villas Andrea residents

When we were connected to the new satellite we were told to use Wi-Surf webmail for emails. Whilst you can pick up emails using Outlook Express (or other email client) via the POP3 server at you can't send emails via the old SMTP server address because it is now the gateway address for the Internet server.

There is a way around this though which will allow you to send emails via your email client. Residents in Spain can get themselves a email address via the Bigastro Digital web site. To save you the trouble of negotiating their site I have inserted the links you need into the rest of this message:-

You need to click on Más información which will take you to information about setting up a email address. Clicking on este formulario will bring up a form which you need to complete and return to obtain your user name and password. Once you have your user name and password click on aquí. to get instructions (in Spanish of course!) which will enable you to set up your new account in Outlook Express. NB it is important that you set the account to require authentication.

You can now send mail using your new account via Outlook Express rather than via webmail! If you are really teccy you can even receive mail via Wi-Surf and send mail via Bigastro from your Wi-Surf account by setting the SMTP address for your Wi-Surf account to Check the box which says the server needs authentication; click on settings and then insert your Bigastro user name and password in the boxes.


My plastic card driving license arrived yesterday.

As you can see I am now licensed to drive cars and cars pulling caravans for five years but for vans or vans towing a trailer up to the age of 62. Does anybody know what vehicles are involved in group btp?

So there you go, in five years time I have to go through the whole process again!

El tiempo

I was asked back in England "do you have seasons in Spain?". Yes of course we do including cold winters. This season is supposed to be otono but feels more like invierno. It rained heavily on Friday, wasn't much better on Saturday and has been poor since. Yesterday I saw people out in fleeces and thick sweaters.

Todays forecast

and tomorrows

but the good news is that for Thursday clear skies and sun are forecast.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A blogger's lot

When we first came to Spain two years ago, it was hard to come to terms with not being able to keep in touch with people, especially our daughters. Within a week of moving to Spain our mobile phones were switched off and we had no idea when we might get a phone installed in the house.

We bought Spanish SIM cards to fit into our phones so that at least we could send text messages back to our family and friends in England. Later on we discovered that there were computers in the local library that we could use. Fortunately I had kept my Hotmail account so we were able to send emails to those people who had internet connections. Once we had our own internet connection it became a lot easier to keep in touch with people with a weekly message. We were by then a lot happier.

It was Pete Brooks from Anfield who suggested compiling these messages into a blog. He explained that a blog would allow people to read our news when they wanted to rather than when a message happened to drop into their inbox. He said I could add photographs and link to articles on the Internet. Fortunately, Blogger made the process of setting up a web diary easy. Just a few simple steps and I had an online presence. Refining the look of the blog and adding in the niceties came later as I gained experience.

I know from my blog's statistics that a lot of people read my stories; some on a regular basis. Many are friends and neighbours who check up on what we are doing but I also have visitors from a wide range of countries. People who I don't know and will probably never meet.

As it says in the profile, the original intention was to keep in touch with people. I hope that I have achieved at least that.

Two years on...

We are celebrating tomorrow because then it will be two years since we flew out to Spain to start our new lives in the sun.

On a cold and damp November morning in 2004 we made an early start to catch our flight from Manchester. Saying goodbye to our daughters at the airport was most upsetting because we didn't know when we might see them again. Our spirits picked up though when we arrived in beautiful conditions at Alicante. We collected our hire car from the airport and one hour later we were booked into the hotel which was to be our base for the next week. Thankfully our English mobile phones still worked so we were able to let the girls know that we were OK.

The next day we called into Euro Anglo Sur offices to start the process of completing the purchase of our house. First we were taken to Bigastro to make sure that everything was in order. Our next stop was at Consulting Services Bureau (CSB) where they already had the paperwork completed for us. We had given CSB power of attorney so they were able to access our bank account in Spain and transfer the outstanding balance to the builder. Within half an hour the house was ours.

CSB then arranged insurance for us on both the property and its contents; arranged for a cheque book, credit cards and debit cards to be available at La Caixa bank and finally made appointments for us to start the process of getting NIE numbers and drawing up Spanish wills. By lunchtime everything was complete and the house was ours. After a leisurely lunch we went to Munoz Espinosa, the electricians, to order our white goods and lights. That evening we enjoyed a celebratory drink at our hotel.

The following day we hurried back to Bigastro and collected the keys for our new home. After a more thorough check we just sat on the front porch and enjoyed the sunshine. It was hard for us to believe that we weren't just on holiday but that this was now our home. By Thursday the lights and white goods had been delivered and installed.

On the Friday half of our belongings from England arrived and the rest came on the following Monday. So by Monday the 15th we had moved in. It was the easiest, most trouble free house purchase we have ever made.

Ah now ve know

The power cuts we experienced on Friday night and Saturday started in Germany.

quote from Euronews

The weekend's power blackouts in Europe, thought to have been caused by a Norwegian cruise ship, have fuelled fears that more dark days are to come if the energy sector is not given a boost. Analysts say a huge investment is needed to recharge the continent's ageing power system. German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel thinks this should be up to utility companies.

"The exact causes are not clear yet, electric utilities have to analyse these, but it shows it's necessary to invest more into the development of the networks. That's one of the utilities' duties and I think there's a considerable backlog demand problem here."

It's thought that when a power line was shut to allow the cruiser ship to pass safely, a "domino effect" kicked in and national grids became overloaded, leading to the blackouts. Although there were no serious incidents recorded, with high winter demand experts warn that secure supply of power in Europe is vulnerable.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cold and wet

I think my theory about people bringing weather with them is true. When Pamela returned from England it was hot and sunny but that soon changed.

For the last couple of days it has rained and rained and rained. Some of the roads are flooded and they were mopping out at the Habenaras yesterday. In spite of that there were tourists about in shorts. Had they forgotten to pack a pair of trousers?

This must be Manchester weather that she brought back in her case. We even had the central heating on last night because the house was chilly. Let's hope the sun comes back soon to warm our aging bones.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New camera

A very wet DHL delivery man arrived yesterday with my new camera.

Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I have a Canon EOS 350D for serious photography. I also had a Canon Ixus I which was so small I could carry it around with me everywhere.

Laura borrowed the Ixus to take to her friend's wedding. So this Fujifilm Finepix A500 is my new second camera.

The intention is to keep it in the car so that it is always available when needed.

How does it compare with the Ixus?
1. It cost a lot less! You can get this blue version from Pixmania for £65 plus postage.
2. It has a 3x zoom lens - my Ixus had a fixed wide angle lens.
3. It has Fuji's 5.1Megapixel Super CCD sensor.
3. It has a larger LCD screen.
4. It has a viewfinder - in bright light an LCD screen is near useless for composing pictures.
5. It takes 2 AA batteries which are therefore easy to replace. Pam took the Ixus to England and the lithium battery died - she didn't have the charger and so couldn't take any more pictures.

but it is larger, it isn't as well built and the LCD screen isn't as sharp. Oh yes, and the manual is in French. (Not a problem I have a downloaded a copy of the English version)

The debate reaches England

A decision by Spanish towns to tone down festivals marking the expulsion of the country's Muslim rulers has prompted conservative politicians to rush to defend the tradition and sparked debate about freedom of expression versus religious sensitivity. The issue echoes the polemic in Europe over self-censorship that followed the cancellation of a Mozart opera in Germany, deemed offensive to Muslims.

The opposition Popular party on Friday called for the government to get the festivals protected by the United Nations' cultural arm, Unesco. Eduardo Zaplana, PP parliamentary spokesman, said: "Under no circumstances can we bend to the demands of people who intimidate us, and we are proud of these festivals." "We don't offend anyone. We've been doing this since the 18th century," said Javier Morales, organiser of the biggest festival, in Alcoi, Valencia.

In recent decades, many towns had eliminated the more provocative elements of the 300-year-old celebrations, including the destruction of effigies of Mohammed. Those who retained them began dropping them this year.

Beneixama, in Valencia, left out of its festival in September the destruction of a papier-maché Mohammed, whose head was traditionally filled with fireworks. In Bocairent, celebrants threw an effigy of Mohammed off the castle ramparts but stopped short of blowing up the head, according to a report in Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Felix Herrero, head of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Organisations, said the aggressive elements of the festivals "had no place in a democratic Spain". Celebrating the reconquest was, he said, comparable to commemorating General Franco's victory over the leftist Republican armies during Spain's civil war.

Mansur Escudero, head of the Spanish Islamic Union, said arch-conservatives in the church and in politics had seized on the current tension over Islam in Europe to create a controversy."They are politicising the issue, trying to provoke a Muslim reaction so they can point and say what barbarians we are," said Mr Escudero, adding that most Muslims had never had a problem with the festivals. "It's a question of balancing freedom of expression and respect for others," he said.
Taken from an article in the Financial Times

Friday, November 03, 2006

No more fish and chips

There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating.

"The way we use the oceans is that we hope and assume there will always be another species to exploit after we've completely gone through the last one," said research leader Boris Worm (unfortunate name), from Dalhousie University in Canada.

"What we're highlighting is there is a finite number of stocks; we have gone through one-third, and we are going to get through the rest," he told the BBC News website.

Steve Palumbi, from Stanford University in California, one of the other scientists on the project, added: "Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood."

On - off -on

First we had rain starting light but getting heavier as the evening progressed. Then when we were going to bed the electricity went off; it came back on; then it went off; then it came back on. We quickly got ready to go to bed because without electricity the place is in total darkness - no lights in the street to shine through the windows etc. The electricity went off again and I fumbled round to find a torch only to discover that the batteries had gone. I found a second torch which thankfully worked and made sure it was by the bed.

The electricity came back on and then must have gone off again sometime in the night because when Pamela got up to have a drink the place was in total darkness. This morning it had come back on but went off again briefly and then returned. It has been on now for about 40 minutes. Who knows how long it will stay on though?

It is going to be one of those days.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Christmas present

The girls have bought me a digital camera for Christmas. I already had a Canon Digital Ixus for that job but Laura borrowed it early this year and I can't see me getting it back.

Actually to save currency problems we buy our own presents so my camera is coming from Pixmania in Spain. Ordinarily it should have arrived yesterday by DHL but of course the 1st November is All Saints Day, a public holiday in Spain. Traditionally on this day families visit the local cemetery to pay respect to their departed friends and family. They take flowers and candles housed in red plastic pots. The older people even take chairs so they can sit. Of course everyone is dressed in their Sunday best.

Last year we decided to go along to see the flowers but felt very much under dressed in shorts and t-shirts. So this year, rather than embarrass ourselves we stayed at home and did some jobs.

Anyway hopefully the camera will arrive today if the driver can find our road.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Have you noticed

There are some subtle changes to the appearance of my blog. These are because I moved over to the new beta version of Blogger which allows me to edit the layout of the blog without having to mess about with HTML.

I had made changes to the previous layout by altering the code but nothing too drastic. For example I added in the links to my other web sites and the link to my Blog Explosion counter.

Now I can move bits around, add bits in, change the fonts etc without having to resort to HTML code. Thank you Mr Google for all that.

The best thing about this version though is that the spell checker works automatically. When you misspell a word a red line appears under the word just as it does in MS Word. A right click on the word brings up suggestions for correction. Best of all it does that as you type. Of course it isn't that I misspell I just mistype!

Update: The spell checker is actually a Firefox 2 add-in and not part of Blogger so it works with Webmail as well as Blogger. Mine now spell checks in Spanish and English - how cool is that?

PS Mozilla Firefox is such a good browser. I hardly ever use Internet Explorer any more. I've now moved over to Thunderbird to read and send my emails. Again it has some distinct advantages over Outlook Express including a spam filter that works.
Get your own copies of the software at Mozilla software