Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Would you believe it?

The first time we wanted to use the new VoIP account we couldn't. I wanted to test it before buying any credit (the Yorkshireman in me coming out) so Pamela could only have made a short call with the 20p free credit. More important though the network was down. You know that just by looking at the phone. When it is connected there is a black rectangle in the top left of the display. No rectangle - no connection. So not only could Pam not call out but Laura couldn't call the UK number we gave her.

I checked with my computer if we had a connection to the Internet. Funny thing was we sort of had a connection and I was able to download emails and even get to Google and my online bank account. I couldn't get to much more though.

Anyway it is working today and I have taken the brave step of topping up my VoIP account.

If you want to sign up for a free VoIP account go to and quote 83462157 as your referrer. The process is painless and costs nothing and I will get a further £2 credit!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not so simple

I've processed all the photographs of the wedding now. Thankfully I use Adobe Photoshop CS which enables me to make adjustments otherwise some of my photos would be unusable.

So why did I have to do this? The Sigma EF-500 DG ST flashgun I bought uses the E-TTL II system to automatically adjust the amount of light required to get a perfect exposure. So I set the camera to ASA 200, the aperture to f8. The shutter speed is automatically set to 1/200th sec. when the flashgun is attached. In theory it should then work flawlessly and produce correctly exposed pictures.

The flash has a guide number of 50 in metres at 100ASA. As I said the camera was set to 200ASA so that would give me a guide number of 100. At my f8 aperture that would give me a range up to 12.5m but only with a 105mm lens. The flashgun has an autozoom facility which adjusts the width of the light beam according to the setting of the lens. With wider angle lenses the guide number is reduced.

I was using my 18 - 55mm lens. So at the widest angle the actual guide number was 60 which meant the range was reduced to 7.5m. That would still have been adequate if the room hadn't been so large with a high ceiling i.e. nothing to bounce the flash back. Changing to 400ASA for more distant shots made some improvement but the pictures were still a little underexposed.

I wonder what if anything I could have done if I had been using a film camera instead of a digital. Without the ability to adjust the pictures I could well have been stuffed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bigastro on the map

It seems that Bigastro will be represented at the Feria Internacional de Turismo (FITUR) along with other towns in the Mancomunidad de Promoción Económica de la Vega Baja for the second year running.

They will have a 40 square metre stand in area 5 of the exhibition where they will distribute the ten thousand leaflets which have been prepared to promote the idea of tourism in the Vega Baja area.

The exhibition will run from the 31st February to the 4th February in Madrid.

Let's hope they don't get too successful because we kind of like it quiet here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back home at last

Another flight that left on time brought us back home to Spain. The weather when we landed was not much better than it was in Manchester. Still that won't last and it is good to have our own space back again. The more time I spend back in England, the more I realise what a good decision it was to move here.

Apparently we missed some torrential rain here on Friday. We can see the effects in the garden and the pool which is almost full to the brim. At least that will save us some water.

Hopefully my next trip to England won't be until July although Pam will be back in April for her regular check up at the hospital.

Now I have to catch up on what is happening in Bigastro.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Almost done

Well we've visited Pam's father, completed the probate on my Father's estate and been up to his house to collect any items that we wanted to keep. We are now ready to return to Spain and hope that it is a long while before we have to visit England again.

We could only bring a few mementos of Pops back in our cases. We have left some at Laura's house in Sale including photographs dating back to the Second World War. My Mother was efficient enough to write on the back the dates when the photographs were taken but sadly then stuck them into a scrapbook. Fortunately the glue hasn't spoiled the photos but will be difficult to remove from the backs. I will scan them when we eventually get them back to Spain to avoid any further deterioration.

We had said that we wouldn't buy anything to take back on this trip but Pam couldn't resist the two for one deal on Cadbury's chocolate fingers in Asda. Nor could she pass by on a pair of boots which she desperately needs. I, being practical, bought some paper to print out the wedding photos I took - again on a two for the price of one offer at PC World. Oh yes and a set of eight fishing DVDs (sad b******). It is the one thing I really miss from English TV - Friday nights watching fishing on Discovery Home and Leisure. Now I will be able to pack Pam off to bed, sit down with a large glass of brandy and watch fishing again.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Our flight on Friday was early and we arrived to blue skies in Birmingham. If we'd chosen to fly the day before we'd have suffered delays and a very bumpy landing.

The wedding went very well and I managed to get lots of good photographs for Lee and Laura's album. Sorting the photos and printing them will keep me busy for at least a week when we get back!

We're now up in Sale for the rest of our stay and again the weather is being unusually kind to us. Mind you we have a trip over to Cawthorne to finish sorting out Pop's house. Fingers crossed we don't get snow over the Woodhead pass.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Using the phone

Wi-Call ceased at the same time as Wi-Surf so the VoIP phone we bought has sat on my desk like an ornament since then. I thought it was time I either disconnected it or subscribed to an alternative service.

Fortunately I found a site called VoIPtalk which allowed me to set up a free account. The process is easy and the site provides details of how to configure a range of VoIP devices to work with the new account including my Grandstream BudgetTone 101 phone.

You get a 0871 UK phone number free as part of the deal which will be handy for anyone in the UK who needs to phone in an emergency. Making calls to other people with VoIPtalk accounts is free. To dial landlines you simply buy credit in one of several ways.

For £2.99 per month I could upgrade to the Silver package which reduces call costs to 1p per minute. This package would also provide me with a geographic UK phone number to reduce costs to our UK callers.

So we now have two cheap alternatives (Skype and VoIPtalk) we can use.

Back to England

I can't believe we are going back to more lousy English weather. Reports show that Britain is in for gale force winds and snow. Flooding is expected in many parts of the country.

In the meantime here in Spain it is expected to continue warm and sunny.

Still at least this trip we are going to a wedding not a funeral and we are staying in a hotel so we won't be disturbing Laura and her boyfriend too much. Even still it will be good to get back here to a decent climate.

There was an article in one of the free papers about 77 reasons we like living in Spain. We could easily identify with all of them especially the weather.

Find out what's going on

Here is an opportunity for us to find out what is going on in Bigastro.

The main content of the meeting will be about the developments of the CV-95 road from Orihuela to Torrevieja.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Connection speed

The speed at which the Internet operates can be confusing.

Because a particular download or web page is slow to load doesn't necessarily mean that our connection to the Internet is slow. It is easy to blame our provider even when the problem lies further down the line.

In fact, since we moved to the microwave/ADSL hybrid system, the speed of our connection has been pretty stable at about 860.0Kbs download and 225.0Kbs upload which means we have a 1Mb connection. With current ADSL over a landline we probably wouldn't get any better than that.

However that could all change according to this article in El Pais.

In essence: 50 Mbs ADSL

The main operator of access to Internet in Spain, Telefónica, has reserved 800 million euros to unfold a new VDSL network in Spain to replace the existing ADSL network. This could be available for the users for end of this year 2007 and will bring Spain in line with other European countries.

We will have to wait and see if other operators can take advantage of this increased speed. In the meantime the best ADSL offer on the market seems to be with who will provide up to 20Mbs connection including free national and local phone calls for 19,95€ (plus IVA). Their package includes a free wi-fi modem/router.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New phone service

Bigastro has begun to modernize its municipal services and now they have a unique telephone number for us to access them.
96 535 00 00

From this number you can access all the municipal services without having to memorize other numbers. You just follow the operator instructions to connect to the extension you need.

* Local Police: Ext. 1
* City council Ext. 2
* Social Services Ext. 3
* Audience and Library Ext. 4
* Educative Centers Ext. 5
* Maintenance Ext. 6

Our only problem is that we still don't have a telephone in the house which we can use to call any number let alone that one.

Apparently some people, including my next door neighbour, have had letters from Telefonica advising them that they will have a telephone installed soon. It is thought that these may be radio phones which of course are more expensive to use and don't offer ADSL broadband.

Telefonica did arrive at one house to install a landline phone but then realised there was no cable from the box outside to the exchange and so they left.

Rumour has it that we may get our connection by February but then we were promised a line by Christmas so we're not holding our breath on that one.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pool problem

The cover we bought doesn't keep the muck out so periodically during the winter I have to roll the cover off and clean the pool.

Normally I vacuum the bottom through the filter which takes out the dust. Then I backwash the filter to remove the waste the filter has trapped. That way I'm not draining lots of water from the pool.

When I tried that yesterday though the dust was just passing through the filter and coming back into the pool making the water grey.

Apart from the fact that it is freezing, nobody would want to swim in grey water.

I'm not sure what the best answer to the problem is:-
  • I could add flocculant which should bind the dust particles together making them easier for the filter to trap.
  • I could vacuum to waste once the dust has settled again. Then top up with fresh water.
  • I could call in John Reed (the pool man) on the basis that there may be a problem with the filter.
Since there is already flocculant in the chlorine I use, the first plan would probably not work. Vacuuming to waste should solve the problem for now but if the filter isn't trapping dust then this could be an ongoing problem.

I think I'll try plan two and then resort to plan three if that fails.

....and you thought that living in Spain was easy!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Safe with a Skoda

Police have recovered five cars; a Mercedes, a Seat and 3 Ford Focus’, stolen from houses in the urbanisations around Torrevieja, one from San Miguel de Salinas and another from Guardamar de Segura.

Two people were arrested in a flat in Beniel and both have criminal records, while a third was caught stealing a vehicle in Bigastro; his companion resisted fiercely and was able to escape. One of them was using seven different false names and had 80 previous arrests for muggings and burglary.

The flat was filled with stolen goods including computers, cameras, music equipment, mobile phones, jewellery and cash. There were also gloves, balaclavas and tools for committing the burglaries.

The suspects have been remanded in custody after apearing in court in Murcia on Saturday. Operation Titanic started in Beniel in November 2006 when a black Seat, stolen from Guardamar, was spotted with 3 men inside. The operation is still open and a further three men are being sought.

PS I hope they catch them before they take a fancy to my Skoda.
PPS Just click on this link for news about Skoda

Friday, January 12, 2007

We'll need our wellies

Jorge Olcina, in charge of the met office at Alicante University, this week warned that Alicante province has entered a period of intense warming that is pushing up temperatures and could lead to torrential ‘Gota Fría’ rainfalls.

Sr Olcina said that climatic conditions at the moment are very similar to those experienced in 1982, 1989 and 1997, which were followed by extraordinary downpours and severe flooding.

He added that three factors were in play that could lead to a gota fría situation: warm water from the Pacific is being pushed our way as a result of the El Niño phenomenon, the uncontrolled release of gasses into the atmosphere adds to the greenhouse effect and there is an increase in solar radiation and a drop in rainfall.

Sr Olcina pointed out that in the 1997 gota fría downpours 270 litres of rain per square metre fell in just a few hours.

Que pasa

These are a couple of the things we missed whilst we were in England.

On Friday 5th the Three Kings; Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar arrived in Bigastro and paraded around the streets finally arriving at the park where they gave presents to the children.

They completed the judging of the cake competition. It looks like there were quite a few entries.

- Consuelo Moya: Soplillo
- Manuel Lorente: Tarta de Caramelo
- Ana Soler: Pastel de Nata y Cafe y Pan de Calatrava.
- Encarna Casanova y Luisa Fernanda Pastor: Tarta de Buñuelos
- Marina Baró: Rosco Flotante
- Celia Riquelme: Crema Catalana
- Pilar Martínez: Tarta San Marcos
- Teresa Martínez: Tarta de Sisa
- María Martínez: Gloria Bendita
- Reyes Esquiva: Copas de Turrón
- Mª Asunción Arques: Brazo Gitano "Tren"
- Conchita Bañuls y Mercedes López: Pastel de Turrón
- Mª Asunción Pérez Arques: Pastel de Chocolate
- Lorena Alfocea: Trenza de Mazapán
- Mercedes Murcia: Tarta de Queso
- Rosario Arques: Salvavidas de Almendra
- Agueda Torregrosa: Flan de café y nata

and the winner was the Brazo Gitano "Tren" which literally is a gypsy arm in the form of a train. Sounds different!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The sun shines on the righteous

Yesterday the weather changed. We left Manchester in rain and arrived in Cawthorne in beautiful sunshine. It did rain again as we went to the church but the skies were blue and clear as we came out.

The Reverend Dakin spoke about my Father well. She summed up his character and his life with two themes; his service to the community as a soldier, a policeman and as the postmaster at Cawthorne and his love of the Yorkshire hills. It was therefore very appropriate that as we left the church we had a clear view of those hills that he loved. Even a die hard non-believer could not deny that God had made his last journey from Cawthorne so pleasant.

Now all that is left is for us to catch the flight back to Spain later today.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Longing for some sunshine

Since we arrived here in the UK we have seen no more than one hour of weak sunshine. The rest of the time it has been overcast and worse still raining.

The trip over from here to Cawthorne via Holmfirth has been particularly depressing. The moors are bleak at the best of times but when the weather is so foul they are awful. Holmfirth was very pretty when it was decorated for Christmas but has now reverted to being just a drab northern town.

Having spoken to our next door neighbor in Spain it seems that the weather there has been very pleasant.

PS Hopefully the weather will be kinder tomorrow for my Father's funeral.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Back to the Wirral

Yesterday we went to see Pam's father on the Wirral and are pleased to say that he was very well.

We then went on to see our previsous neighbors Hugh, Angela and Andrew.

We were delighted to hear that Hugh has put the Dental Practice on the market and so will be able to retire sometime this year. That will mean that they can come out and see us more often and for longer. Hugh is even planning to cycle across from northern Spain to our house. He might need a brandy when he arrives!

We were also delighted to see the progress that Angela has made since her operation to remove a disc from her neck. By the time we see them again we hope she will be running on all four cylinders in turbo mode. Actually, as Hugh pointed out, even when she was struggling to hold a glass of wine she could still speak for well over five minutes without stopping. In Angela's defence she did have a lot to tell us.

I have to tell you that the Parry- Jones once again excelled themselves in the kitchen and treated us to a wonderful meal. Their culinary expertise puts my efforts on the BBQ to shame. Still my excuse is that you can't get the ingredients so easily in Spain. Not true of course but it sounds convincing.

So thank you Hugh, Angela and Hugh for a splendid evening and for putting us up for the night at such short notice.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Making progress

First of all my birthday, although not quite what was planned, turned out to be a very good day. Pam and I went shopping to Altrincham and picked up some good bargains. Then we went into Manchester for a celebratory meal at the Pearl Garden Chinese restaurant.

Yesterday we went over to my brother Brian's house to sort out our Father's paperwork. Fortunately Father was organised and so the job was a lot less difficult than it might have been. Hopefully we will be able to sort out his estate without recourse to a solicitor.

The funeral is to be at 1pm on Wednesday 10th at Cawthorne Parish Church followed by cremation at Barnsley Crematorium at 2pm.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

60 today

I know it is hard to believe just looking at me! It is true though, I am sixty today.

The pile of cards I have just opened serve to remind me just in case my memory has started to fail. If that didn't work though the banner that they have put up in the lounge certainly did.

My only regret today is that I didn't get a card from my father.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Back in the UK

Our plane arrived at Manchester half an hour late. We'd left the sunshine of Spain to be met with overcast skies and light drizzle. There were three Spanish ladies in the seats in front of us on the plane. I did consider that their first impression of Manchester and England was perhaps not the best.

A phone call to Brian confirmed that he had already made arrangements for Father's funeral. Unfortunately because of Christmas and New Year the earliest date he could get was the 10th January. Still that gives us some time to sort out a few things.

So we celebrated New Year at Laura's in Sale and will be celebrating my 60th Birthday here as well. Not quite what we had planned but it is good to have more time with our girls.

We've booked our flight back to Spain for the 11th.