Saturday, March 31, 2007

Our first impressions

We've had the Roomster ten days now. I am now getting used to it and feeling at home with the way it drives.

The plus points over the Fabia are
  • the higher seating position
  • the gearbox which feels a lot smoother - fifth is further away and so can't be mistaken for third
  • the engine noise which sounds less like a diesel (having four cylinders rather than three obviously helps there)
  • the higher torque which translates to fewer gear changes and means you can change up sooner to save fuel (I only changed into 5th in the Fabia on long straight roads)
  • the front seats which are sports style and therefore hug you better
  • the amount of leg room the passengers get
  • the huge amount of luggage space even with the rear seats in place
  • the beautiful colour - as I said bright blue is more us than the sedate grey of the Fabia
On the negative side
  • it does consume more diesel than the Fabia which easily averaged over 50mpg. In fact I used to get better than 60mpg on airport runs without the air con on
  • it isn't as easy to see where the front of the car is when you are parking
  • the insurance cost me an extra 36€ for this year
  • the road tax is 65€ more per year but is still only 125€

How low can you go?

Just look at these latest rates for calls to the UK using VoIPtalk.

(pence / min)
Off Peak Rate
7pm - 7am GMT
(pence / min)
Weekend Rate
(pence / min)
0.90 0.50 0.20
0.90 0.50 0.20

This means that Pam's one hour chats to Laura and Jemma at the weekends will only cost us 12p each. Even her calls in the week after 7pm will only cost 30p an hour.

I've ordered one of the Siemens phones that I mentioned in a previous post.

Michael, who lives round the corner has one and I helped him set up the other day. We did have to go through the process manually because the settings for VoIPtalk are not included in the software and we did have a problem initially getting an IP address from the server. Once we'd altered the settings to those necessary for VoIPtalk though the phone connected and Michael was able to make his first call.

When our new phone arrives I'll know exactly how to configure it thanks to Michael.

PS Whatever type of Internet connection we eventually use, you can be sure that we will still be using the VoIP phone for our calls.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Find out more

Semana Santa or Holy Week is one of the most important items on the Spanish calendar.

For visitors and those outside the Catholic church it provides a spectacle well worth seeing. In particular the parades of pasos accompanied by the members of the cofradias is something that must be seen.

There is a web site dedicated to Santa Semana 2007 in the Vega Baja area which you can find by clicking on this link. The site, which is well worth visiting, provides photographs, programmes and a history of the various groups involved in Santa Semana .

A midnight stroll

If you fancy a late night walk from Bigastro to Guadamar del Segura following the riverside path to the coast here is your chance.

The "marcha" starts from the church in Bigastro at 10pm on Saturday 14th April. The journey, which should take between 4 and six hours, is not recommended for children under 14. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Return from Guadamar will be by coach.

Anyone interested needs to let the Town Hall know so that they can cater for the numbers involved.

The programme for Holy Week

This is the programme for Bigastro


22:00 H


JUEVES SANTO (5th April)


SÁBADO SANTO (7th April)


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Important meeting at the Pedrera

Thursday 5th April at 11:00am

For all those people who are currently connected to the Internet via Clear Communications.

We need to discuss what steps are necessary to keep our connection.

Keith McClure made a number of suggestions yesterday about how we could pay for our connection other than by Direct Debit which will be outlined to you.

In the meantime you should still phone Keith McClure on 671358052 to assure him that you are willing to pay for your connection.

I apologise to those of you who are not involved but you will understand that many of us currently rely upon this connection for our telephone and internet access.

Not just the ducks

The farmers on the Vega Baja will no doubt be delighted with the heavy rain we suffered yesterday. It solves the immediate problem of getting much needed water for their crops.

Thankfully the thunderstorm that passed over us in the morning cleared and the torrential rain subsided to a light drizzle. It is still drizzling this morning and is forecast to continue for the rest of the day.

Apparently there was a lot of flooding in some areas. I'm told that a motorist, obviously unaware of the dangers of the flooded roads, aquaplaned his 4x4 BMW into the ditch on the side of the CV95 . That is the problem with living in a country that doesn't have a lot of rain. We don't have drains in the streets and although the main roads ditches each side, the camber often leaves pockets of water on the surface.

Our friends, Rachel and David arrived yesterday from England for a holiday. They probably left better weather back there! Still one thing we know here in Spain is that bad weather doesn't last and it is only a matter of time before the sun comes out again. The forecast is for a break in the rain on Friday.

At it again

The opposition (Partido Popular) party in Bigastro are accusing the ruling (PSOE) party of using six council workers to conduct a survey which has clear partisan content.

José Antonio Ricart, spokesman for the PP party says that this is why the mayor is not providing his party with invoices and documents. He claims that the PSOE are determined to win the elections in May by any means possible.

The mayor, José Joaquín Moya, has denied this saying that their are two council employees who are working outside their normal hours to conduct the survey.

Roll on May and it will all settle back down.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We'll loose our connection

Call 671358052 and speak to Keith McClure

When we changed over from Wi-Surf to Clear Communications some customers had their direct debits transferred to the new company. Those that didn't have enjoyed a free connection for nearly four months. I know most have tried to arrange payments but have been thwarted because it has proved impossible to get in touch with Clear Communications.

Keith McClure from Clear Communications phoned me today to say that he was planning to terminate our connection this Thursday. After a long conversation he agreed to leave the site connected for the moment.

Those who currently are not paying need to contact him urgently on the mobile number at the top of this post and make arrangements to pay otherwise he will pull the plug.

Keith McClure is prepared to accept payment month by month by credit card rather than going to the trouble to set up direct debits.

So if you are currently using the Clear Comms. connection but are not paying could you please phone him on 671358052 otherwise we will be high and dry until an alternative is available.

Shop 'till you drop

Yesterday we took John and Jean out for a trip to Ikea in our new Roomster.

Pam has been itching to return to Ikea since she went there on a coach trip not long after it first opened. No problems parking because, unlike the Warrington store we used to visit in England, Murcia's car park is huge. We arrived too late for the 1€ breakfast though but did manage the lunch which was equally good value. When we got to the checkout we met three English people with four trolleys full. After seeing that I thought we'd got off lightly with just 78€ worth of goods.

After lunch we went on to the other nearby shopping malls. John and I were keen to to look in this DIY shop but by the time the girls came out of Primark it was 5:30pm and we'd had enough. Six hours of shopping is five hours too long for me!

Ready to vote?

Torrevieja is the city in the Alicante province with the greatest number of EU foreign citizens that have registered to vote in the next municipal and autonomic elections on the 27 of May. Out of the 6,538 EU citizens there are 3,767 (almost 58%) British Nationals registered. You can bet your bottom dollar that the political parties in Torrevieja are geared up to impressing these people with their policies.

Following Torrevieja is Jávea with 4,084, Calpe with 3,007, Teulada with 2,987, San Fulgencio with 2,930, Orihuela with 2,925, Rojales with 2,724, Benidorm with 2,375, L´Alfàs of the Pi with 2,340, Dénia with 2,206, Alicante with 2,093 and Elche with 1,725.

I don't have any figures for Bigastro. In 2005 there were 6,450 inhabitants which was an increase of 849 on the previous year (by far he largest increase the town has seen since 1950). I imagine the percentage of UK citizens though was quite small and still is.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Norwegian dentist

On Friday we paid our second visit to the dentist. In England we were registered with an NHS dentist and so paid NHS prices for treatment. Here in Spain there is no national health dentistry, all the practices are private.

We were recommended to try Smile (a great name for a dentist's) by one of their patients. We could have gone to a dentist in Bigastro but felt that we would have a better experience with someone who could speak English well.

Smile are in the process of moving to new premises close to Carrefour and so are easy to find. Being new, the place is smart, welcoming and very high tech.

Whilst in England the painful part was whilst you were sat in the chair, at Smile the pain comes at the cash desk. I've had two sessions of cleaning and Pam has had a session of cleaning and x-rays taken of a couple of teeth that need filling. I have one more session of cleaning to go and Pam will have two sessions of fillings. So far it has cost us 180€ which could well be doubled by the time we have finished.

Not as cheap as the NHS practice in England but a much better experience and better results.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You did remember didn't you

To put your clocks forward that is.

My computer remembered but for some strange reason my mobile phone didn't.

Now I have to go around and adjust all the clocks including the one in my new car. I might need the Spanish-English dictionary to translate the instructions for that.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

VoIP phones

A number of people have asked me how do you manage to only pay 1p per minute for calls to England and more to the point how did you get a Manchester phone number in Spain.

Easy - we subscribe to a VoIP service called VoIPtalk (if you use this link please enter 83462157 as the VoIPtalk ID of your referrer) and make our calls over the internet. We pay £3.51 per month for their Silver Service which reduces call costs from 1.8p to 1p per minute and gives us a UK regional number which people can use to call us.

The phone we have is a Grandstream Budgetone 100 which plugs directly into my access point. That means that the phone is available at all times whether the computer is on or off.

We could have used an analogue VoIP adapter combined with a standard analogue phone. In fact these adapters are more expensive than many VoIP phones and quite a few people here have had problems with them. Or we could have bought a wireless access point with a VoIP port built in and again used a standard phone.

Buying a VoIP phone is not as easy as buying an analogue phone. Most of the VoIP phones you find in the shops are in fact USB Skype phones or are VoIP compatible analogue phones. A USB phone will work but only when the computer is switched on and a compatible phone needs a VoIP adapter.

Probably the best solution is to buy a phone with an ethernet Rj-45 connection. That is the plug that goes into your router/access point.

Would this work with the Bigastrel system? I can't see why not. It works with the Wi-Fi connection we have to the Pedrera. You would need a wireless access point with more than one port of course. You'd plug your computer into one port and the phone into another port.

VoIPtalk supply a range of VoIP phones and adapters. They also provide clear instructions for setting them up. Here are two examples from their selection:-

The Grandstream is the cheapest VoIP phone they sell. For the extra 54€, the Siemens is cordless and connects to both VoIP and a landline. So one phone for both purposes at about 40€ more than Telefonica's Domo phone.

Grandstream Budgetone 101
70,49€ inc. VAT
19,44€ delivery to Spain

*NAT traversal using IETF STUN and symmetric RTP (compatible with Cisco’s ATA-186, etc)
*Interoperable with various 3rd party SIP end user device, Proxy/Registrar/Server, and gateway products (e.g., MS Messenger, Cisco IP phone and gateway, etc)
*Advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to ensure superb hi-fidelity audio quality
*Advanced and patent pending adaptive jitter buffer control, packet delay and loss concealment technology
*Popular vocoders including G.723.1 (5.3K/6.3K), G.729A/B, G.711 (a-law and u-law), G.726, G.728. Dynamic negotiation of codec and voice payload length
*Standard voice features such as Caller ID Display or Block, Call Waiting, Hold, Transfer, Forward, FLASH, in-band and out-of-band DTMF (RFC2833), Dial Plans, off-hook auto dial, configurable emergency dialing (e.g., 911), early dial, click-to-dial
*Silence Suppression, VAD (Voice Activity Detection), CNG (Comfort Noise Generation), Line Echo Cancellation (G.168), and AGC (Automatic Gain Control)
*DIGEST authentication and encryption using MD5 and MD5-sess.
*Provide easy configuration through manual operation (phone keypad and Web interface) or personalized automated provisioning via central configuration file for mass deployment.
*Support for Layer 2 (802.1Q VLAN, 802.1p) and Layer 3 QoS (ToS, DiffServ, MPLS)
*NAT-friendly remote software upgrade capability (via tftp) even from behind firewalls/NATs.

Siemens C460IP Dect VoIP Phone
123,36€ inc. VAT
20,18€ delivery to Spain

With the Gigaset C460 IP, you don't even need a PC to start making internet phone calls. If you like flexibility, then you'll love how easy it is to switch between internet and fixed-line calls. Just press a button. It's that easy, especially thanks to plug-and-play convenience too.

The Gigaset C460 IP proves that cutting-edge technology can also be brilliantly easy to use. Without the need for a PC, you simply plug-in the Gigaset C460 IP to your phone connection and in a few steps you can start phoning over the internet to your friends and family around the world. Conveniently select the internet telephony provider you prefer, like VoIPtalk on the handset's illuminated display. No matter what, you're assured Gigaset's Quality of Service (QoS) for superb internet telephony quality. VoIP doesn't get any easier than that.

Main Features:
* One phone for Internet and land line calls
* One VoIP and one land line call simultaneously on multiple handsets
* No PC required for phone calls
* High quality colour display on handset
* Purchase and register up to 6 GAPcompatible handsets
* DECT Transfer calls between handsets
* UK Caller ID
* Multiple ring tones
* Personal address book with 100 entries
* Configuration using handset or built-in web server
* Long battery life:
- over 150 hours standby
- over 10 hours talk time
* Typical handset range:
- up to 50 metres indoors
- up to 300 metres outdoors

Handset Display:
* 101 x 80 pixel backlit display
* 4096 colours
* 3-line display

Handset General Information:
* Standby time: over 150 hours
* Talk time: over 10 hours
* 2x NiMH AAA Batteries
* Indoor range: up to 50 metres
* Outdoor range: up to 300 metres
* Dimensions:
- Length: 140.7mm
- Width: 53.2mm
- Height: 28mm

* Ethernet (802.3) RJ-45 connection
* Land line (PSTN) RJ-11 connection
* SIP VoIP support to RFC3261
* Multiple voice codec support:
* G.711
* G.726
* G729 A/B
* DHCP client
* Web (HTTP) server for configuration
* Quality-of-Service: ToS, DiffServ
* PPPoE Termination

We'll have to save up

The British Embassy in Madrid has announced huge increases in passport and other consular fees from April 1.

Director for consular services in Spain, Michael John Holloway, said: “Over the past couple of years the cost of running the consular service has increased considerably. HM Treasury rules require us to recover the full costs from fee income and don’t allow us to make a loss; we do not make a profit from these services. We want to maintain the services we provide and given the increased demand for consular services from the British public, a fee increase is necessary.”

From April 1 the following fees will apply to passports (former prices in brackets):

Adult 32 page £119 (£91)
Adult 48 page £144 (£109)
Child £76 (£59)
Emergency £55.50 (£43.50)
Amendments £97.50 (£75.50)
Temporary £70.50 (£55)

There are 60 other chargeable consular services, all of which will be affected. Some are (former prices in brackets):

Registering of British Nationals’ births and deaths £92 (£64.50)
Charging call out fees £121 (£84.50)
Administering oaths £50 (£35)
Solemnising or attending a marriage £126 (£88)
Arranging a repatriation £121 (£84.50)
Registering a civil partnership £126 (£88)

The biting blighters

The mechanism mosquitoes use to zero in on their targets has been discovered by scientists in New York.

It is already known that the insects are very sensitive to carbon dioxide in exhaled breath. Now a team led by Rockefeller University has found that they sense the gas using protein receptors in the structure extending from their jaws.

Lead researcher Professor Leslie Vosshall said: "Insects are especially sensitive to carbon dioxide, using it to track food sources and assess their surrounding environment.

"The neurons in insects that respond to carbon dioxide were already known, but the molecular mechanism by which these neurons sense this gas was a mystery.

"Though we don't know what other proteins might be involved in the signalling pathway, the identification of the carbon dioxide receptor provides a potential target for the design of inhibitors that would act as an insect repellent.

It is either that or we stop breathing!

Friday, March 23, 2007

How it works

These are the diagrams which show how the Bigastrel system works.

Taking this a stage further by adding more nodes into the system. Once they have created the mesh of nodes then it will be possible to roam between them and maintain a connection.

You can find instructions (in Spanish) explaining how we will connect to the system here.

Users with a laptops or desktops without built in WiFi cards will use a wireless access point and follow Caso 1. Users with a computer with either a built in WiFi card or a PCMIA wirelsss card will follow Caso 2.

PS I should have made it clear that we can't access the Bigastrel system at Villas Andrea yet. The lady from the Ayuntamiento explained that, if 10 - 15 people pre-subscibed, then they would install the necessary aerials within a month or two. I understand that over 20 people have applied, so I imagine it is now just a matter of time before we are connected.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Flattery will get you everywhere

I received this email from Pam Hollowell:-

Just wanted to congratulate you on your website I’ve just found. My husband George is a fellow teacher and we both dream of retiring to the sun. We’ve visited Bigastro and Villas Andrea on numerous occasions and feel this would be our choice as well. We have relatives living in La Zenia but are always drawn back to Villas Andrea.

I will enjoy keeping in touch with the area via your site whilst waiting for our ideal property to become available.(we really liked one on the top road opposite the fir trees which I believe belonged to someone named Carol who was thinking of selling but can’t find any agent who has this one on their books as yet) If you hear on the grapevine of any bungalows coming up for sale, would appreciate any information. In the meantime, well done again on a really interesting site.

and later she added

We are hoping to come out and rent one of the villas at May half-term to get a feel of what it would be like to actually live on the urbanisation but if we buy in the future we would prefer to be on the top line, if you here that Carol has changed her mind we would be very interested in that particular one but feel free to mention us on your blog, it's very kind of you.

In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy your site and catch up with life in Bigastro!

Thanks again, enjoy the sun and take care.

It is nice to receive comments like these and good to know that people find our "Moving to Spain" website and this blog useful.

If anyone knows of a villa which might suit George and Pam please let me know and I will pass the information on to them.

Slow sounds good to me.

Bigastro has been subscribing for months to the movement Città Slow (Slow Cities) of Spain.

This calm, hospitable, cultural and natural movement that is characterized by a slowed down style of life, is settling little by little in our territories as a counterpart to the frenetic rate of life and present development.

As a result of the celebration of the day " Città Slow: A way to live", in October of 2006, Bigastro signed up to join this international network. The agreement was ratified by Roberto Angelucci, President the International of this movement when he was in Bigastro on the occasion of the first Forum of Cittá Slow in Spain.

Just looking at the statistics for the town's population, 10% or 1.116 people living in Biagastro in 2005 were older than us. Imagine how that figure will improve as more people subscribe to a more gentle pace of life.

Clicking on the title of this post takes you to a video which explains the concept.

This is even spookier

We went into Torrevieja yesterday to pick up my contact lenses and to buy some cards. After stopping at McDonald's to try out their new bacon Mc Nifica, we called in to Ardy, the DIY shop, for some bits and pieces.

As we came out, ready to head back home, Pam got a call from Carmen at the garage to say that our Roomster was ready for us to collect. I had considered taking the documents I needed with us in case the car was ready but decided it was unlikely to be available until at least Thursday if not Friday.

Carmen was very keen for us to collect the car straight away. She obviously didn't want other customers finger marking it or dirtying the mats. So we had to come back to Bigastro and then drive back down to Torrevieja to Rubio Mar.

Whilst we were sorting out the insurance, the other salesman went to look at the Fabia we were trading in. It was the first time they had looked at my old car. It would have been too late to change the trade-in price so I imagine they were just confirming where it was. When he came back, the salesman said my old car was better than new. If he looks at it more closely he will see that isn't quite true!

Having completed all the paperwork and had a quick demonstration of our new car, we set off back to Bigastro. I had to drive carefully; not just because it was a new car but because the fuel tank was almost empty. By the time we got back to the petrol station in Bigastro the computer was telling me we had 0 Kms worth of diesel left. The tank is full now and my pocket 55€ lighter.

Our first impressions are very good. The ride is smooth, the seats are excellent, the engine noise less intrusive and the gear box is not as notchy as the one in the Fabia. Don't get me wrong, the Fabia was a great little car it is just that this seems better.

Now this is the really spooky part. We used the some of the money that my Father left me in his will to help buy the car. When I saw the number on the plate I realised straight away that this was meant to be because when he was in the police my Father's number was 638; the car is 0638 FMM.

PS We love the colour. The dark grey metallic of the Fabia was very smart but not really us. We think Ocean Blue suits our personalities much better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Using the lift would be safer

How spooky! We were watching a program on National Geographic last night about the building of the Petronas Twin Towers and then I read this story this morning.

A French climber who calls himself "Spiderman" has been thwarted in his latest attempt to scale one of the world's tallest buildings.

Alain Robert was hauled in and arrested as he reached the 60th floor of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

It is the second time he has tried to climb the building, having failed in his first attempt exactly 10 years ago.

Mr Robert climbs without rope. He has had several serious falls, resulting in fractures and operations.

He has climbed 70 buildings in the course of his career, including the Eiffel Tower, London's Canary Wharf building, New York's Empire State Building, and Chicago's Sears Tower.

I can feel queasy just looking down from our roof terrace. This guy must be seriously mad.

A health warning

Google's blogging website which hosts this blog, is susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks by hackers, according to research carried out by IT security company Fortinet. The company said malicious scripts have shown up on hundreds of blog pages and in some cases, the Stration mass mailer worm is responsible for driving traffic to these sites.

Researchers at the company's threat response team said that the malcode has appeared in many different forms. A 'storefront' for Pharmacy Express, redirects from a link, but the pharmacy site is in fact a phishing site designed to steal personal details and financial information from visitors.

Another script downloads a 1x1 pixel image to track the browser information, such as, IP address, browser type and version. While the Pharmacy Express site is hosted in China, the 1x1 pixel image is hosted on a site registered in the US.

Researchers said the proliferation of the phishing site has been very aggressive in spreading via mass mailers.

The team found that sites that have themselves been compromised with malicious code. One example, a blog site for a Honda CR450 enthusiast, was found to be carrying the Wonka trojan, and it was shown to link to a web tracking website in Russia. Although traffic was not directed to this site through spam, the team said it did show up in blog search engines.

Bryan Lu, of the threat response team at Fortinet who uncovered the vulnerability said that because of the sheer popularity of the blogging site, the effects of this malicious code to the unsuspecting user can be really important.

'Such threats to a social networking tool of this kind, clearly indicates that social engineering activity is continuing to thrive in the cybercrime community,' said Lu.

'Perhaps more worrying than the phishing and spamming techniques used here, is the corruption of the blogging site itself. Creatively, any popular topic - from Star Wars to Christmas - in a blog search engine can be used to inject malicious scripts onto a surfer's machine,' he warned.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Coming up

Saturday 24th March at 8:30pm, the Asociación Levantina Amigos de la Lirica are presenting Zarzuela which is comic folk opera.

On Saturday 31st March at 8:00pm the Theatre Group of Bigastro are presenting 'La Corte del Faraón" - a folk comedy set in the sixties.

The theatre group in Bigastro was first formed in 1998 to perform at the local fiestas. Little by little they grew in strength and now number 30 members of different ages and professions.

This performance has been highly recommended to us by ladies from the Spanish class. It will be hard for us to follow but we hope worth it. We believe that the more we listen to Spanish people speaking and the more we try to engage in conversations with them the faster we will learn the language. We'll let you know how much we understood on the Sunday following!

You know it would be fun

So far there has been very little response to the excellent suggestion for our participation in the August fiesta.

If you remember my friend Pete from England suggested that we form a Morris Dancing troupe. I don't think he was considering anything too complicated - white trousers and shirts for the men and either white skirts or trousers and white blouses for the women. Straw hats with flowers and of course some red and blue ribbons around the arms and knees.

The troupe would need a simple dance routine to perform every fifty metres or so as they processed along the calles. It wouldn't need to be authentic or complicated after all the Spaniards would not be marking the performance on its merit just its fun quality.

If we don't have any takers or any other suggestions we'll just end up going down for the free beer, wine and food again!

Top marks

Go to Sociedad Unión Musical Bigastro for their first concert in the Auditorium Francisco Grau. The concert was in honour of San José because of course yesterday was Fathers' Day.

The band, which comprise musicians of all ages from teenagers to people our age, play a mixture of woodwind and brass instruments.

Their programme was divided into two parts:-

First we were treated to Sinfonía Concertante by Franz Danzel which featured two excellent soloists on flute and clarinet. The band then performed Alma de Dios by José Serrano followed by the overture from Aida by Giuseppe Verdi.

In the second section the band performed the Second Suite by Alfred Reed which comprises four sections:
  • Son Montuno in the style of Cuban music
  • A Tango which was based on the Brasilian style which is apparently less dramatic than Argentinian.
  • An Argentinian Guaracha
  • finally a Pasadoble
The concert concluded with L'Entra de la Murta - another pasadoble by Salvador Giner.

As the Sociedad Unión Musical Bigastro said in their programme 'Esperamos que disfruten de nuestro repertorio'. The audience in the packed Auditorium certainly did.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mañana is good enough for us

Yesterday we went down to John and Jean's house to help them celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary. We also wished the mothers present a Happy Mother's Day.

One of our neighbours, Mary Scott, had made a delicious lemon curd sponge and Jean had baked some tasty mince pies with the last of her mincemeat from England. John played the genial host by keeping the champagne flowing. It was a delightful occasion helped a lot by by the warm sunshine.

When we got back to our house, I lay in the sun for an hour or so then John and Jean came to share a Mexican meal with us. I have to admit my head is feeling the slight effects of a bit too much alcohol this morning but then we don't have to go to work so it doesn't matter!

We had planned to take John and Jean to Ikea today in our new car but of course Ikea is shut for Father's Day and we haven't got the car yet. So we'll go next week - mañana!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Keep on trucking

In a recent survey of lorries, the local police in Santa Polo found around 32% displayed some irregularities such as lack of prescribed signaling, emergency equipment or fire extinguishers

In addition, they also discovered vehicles with defective or worn tyres, trucks with excessive loads and some that lacked the obligatory insurance.

On the other hand, the head of the Local Police, Jose Miguel Zaragoza, stated that they had not found any drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs nor were any driving beyond the allowed hours.

Well there is some comfort there. Even if the vehicles were a bit dodgy at least the drivers were OK.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

All the buses come together

Just to confuse matters further!

When we first arrived we wanted an Internet connection and a phone but there were very few options available to us. Now it seems there are so many it is difficult to choose. These are some of the choices:-
  1. First we have the hybrid Wi-Fi/microwave connection via Clear Communications. Since it seems to be impossible to contact them it would be very difficult for new customers to sign up. Cost 40,60€ per month. Set up cost was originally 600€ including a phone.
  2. There is the Aeromax route which uses Wimax and costs 45€ per month for a phone and a 512Mb connection with a 500€ set up fee.
  3. Then we have the Bigastrel Wi-Fi system which offers 1Mb for 8,33€ per month with no set up fee but you would need a wireless router.
  4. Once we have the phone lines we can take advantage of a offer of 32,90€ per month for 1Mb ADSL including a free router, national calls and line rental.
  5. Finally skyDSL offer a satellite connection for 9,90€ per month which includes 500Mb per month of download at 2Mbs. The uplink is via a mobile phone which is an additional cost. Until the end of April their offer includes a free PCI card, free satellite dish and free set-up.
There are of course other options e.g. there are various phone/ADSL packages from Europa, Telefonica, Jazztel and There are also other providers that use the Eutelsat satellite system and possibly other companies that offer a Wimax connection.

So you pays your money and makes your choice!

Oh how easy it is for my daughter in England. She has a 6Mb ADSL connection which costs her £6.50 per month.

¿Es diferente?

It might be Mother's Day this Sunday in England but it is the Father's who rule here in Spain on Monday because the 19th March is 'el día de San José'. All the shops will be closed for this most important national holiday!

¡Felicidades a los padres y a todos los Pepes!

oh yes ...and Best wishes to all the Mothers in England on Sunday.

PS Pam says I have to wait until June for Father's Day in England to get a card from our girls. I can't see why; after all the Queen has two birthdays and probably gets cards for both.

Speed traps

The Traffic Department DGT are planning to install 175 new speed cameras across the country of which 15 will be placed in the Valencia Region including six in Alicante Province.

The sites chosen for the extra speed traps are in Alfaz del Pi, Torrevieja, Orihuela and Cox.

Cameras will be installed on the N-332 at kilometre marks 46 and 141, which correspond to Torrevieja and Alfaz del Pi, on the N-340 in Cox at kilometres 687 and 694 and at an undisclosed location in Orihuela. The cameras will cover traffic going in both directions.

Once the new radars are installed it will bring the number of speed cameras in operation throughout Spain up to 317.

DGT says it intends to increase the number to 500 by the end of the year but this will still leave Spain with the least amount of speed cameras than any of its EU counterparts.

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's all good news

The waiting is almost over. Telefonica arrived this morning to start laying the cables that will at last provide us with landlines telephones. It will therefore only be a short time before they come to install the phones.

I understand also that more than fifteen people have now registered for the Bigastel Connectate system so that should happen within a month or so.

We will be so well connected up here; surfing and phoning all day long to our heart's content.

We went down to the garage to finalise the paperwork for our new car i.e. pay for it! In Spain, when they put plates on a new car they register it to the owner. Understandably therefore the garage wouldn't register our new car until we had paid for it. Sometime next week I will get a phone call to say that the car is ready for us to collect.

As luck would have it there was a Roomster in the garage in the same colour as ours and one outside on the road which was not only in the same colour but in the same specification. We think the colour is beautiful but then that is a matter of taste.


As it continues to grow, the jasmine that climbs up the fence just gets better and better. You can just imagine the perfume that greets us as we open the door each day from all those flowers.

Not your menu del dia!

This is the meal that was served for the participants in the Gastronomic Journey on the 13th March at the Alborada restaurant in the Almanzora valley, Almeria.

-Coulan de huevo y trufa
-Helado de armotas y torreznos
-Cristal de berberechos y repollo confitado
-Raviolis de pulpo
- Milhojas de anguila ahumada y fruta de la pasión
- Lomo de atún rojo y sopa fría de almendra
- Cabrito confitado con migas del s. XXI
- Contraste de cítricos
- Piña colada en texturas

Cava "Lagrima de Oro" Brut Nature
Vino Blanco "Valdamor" selección especial Albariño
Vino Tinto "Casa La Ermita" Crianza 2003
Vino Dulce "Casa La Ermita" Blanco

I can't translate all of the items but huevo y trufa is egg and truffles, repello is cabbage and berberechos are cockles which seem to be crystallised , anguila is eel which they serve with passion fruit, atún roja is red tuna which is served with cold almond soup, cabrito is kid which also seems to be crystallised and served with fried breadcrumbs of the 21st century, the citricos I guess are lemons and oranges and of course the fourth course is squid ravioli.

The wines sound good and the plates look nice.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Big nights in Berlin

Berliners are being invited to a party thrown by the EU in its own honour, and reportedly setting the bloc back about 1.7m €.

This month's party celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundations for the EU. A highlight will be an all-night clubbing extravaganza, in which ravers can hop between 35 Berlin nightclubs for an EU-subsidised 12 €. There will also be free bratwurst and beer, and museums will open all night.

"We want to create a party atmosphere and awaken curiosity in Europe," said a German government official. "It's a public celebration and we want to remind people of the big idea."

The general public will be treated to a free open-air concert near the Brandenburg Gate by bands from all over Europe. They include veteran English rocker Joe Cocker, Scottish folk band The Unusual Suspects, and Outlandish, a Danish-Moroccan trio, which has a wide Muslim fan base.

Good to hear that Sheffield born Joe is still around to wow the crowds.

Going, going gone

Well it looks like nobody here wants my Epson inkjet printer so we are going to take it down to the Age Concern charity shop at La Siesta in the hope that they will either be able to use it or will sell it on.

I'm hoping to buy a new desktop computer within the next month or so. When I do my current machine will up for grabs. It is possible that when I buy the replacement, I'll get a bundle with a new monitor so I might be parting with the screen as well. Most new machines come with Windows Vista which means that my scanner will be obsolete because Canon have no plans to update the driver for my five year old version. I imagine I will end up taking the lot to Age Concern.

When we lived in England we used to keep stuff like this. We'd find a space in the loft or the garage and just store it. In our house in Spain we just don't have room to store things that we no longer use or need. So perfectly good working items have to go to either the bins or to the charity shop.

Ah well - que sera sera.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Help me, I only speak English

I'm told that some people would like to sign up for the Bigastel service but don't understand the form because it is in Spanish. ¿Puedo ayudarte?

You have three ways to apply:
  1. You fill in the form that was delivered to your door
  2. You go on line to and select Preinscripción
  3. You go down to the Ayuntamiento and apply there
The information required on line is
  • Nombre - your first name
  • Appelidos - your family name(s)
  • Tipo Documento - select NIE
  • Num. Documento - your NIE number
  • Teléfono - can be a mobile phone number
  • Dirección - your street address including house number
  • Población - Bigastro
  • Provincia - Alicante
  • Fecha nacimiento - your date of birth
  • E-mail - if you have one
  • Acceso a Internet - select either 1 (mes) month or 12 (meses) months
  • ¿Desea correo electrónico gratuito? - select yes if you want a free email address (very useful because you can then configure Outlook Express to send and receive mail).
  • ¿Desea alojamiento web gratuito? - select yes if you want free web space to store pictures etc. or even create your own web site.
  • Servicio técnico a domicilio - tick yes if you want help setting it up.
If you fill in the form that was delivered to you they also ask for:
  • C.P. - the post code which is 03380
  • No de ordenadores - the number of computers you wish to connect
  • ¿Dispones actualmente de conexíon a Internet? - do you have a connection to the Internet at the moment and then Especifique cuál - who is it with.
That is it - simple!!

The purpose of our blog

As it says on the left, we started writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Its purpose was to let them know what was going on in our lives, how we were settling into our new environment and to share some opinions with them about life in Bigastro and other issues that concern us. If you like its a virtual form of conversations we would have with them when we lived in England.

I could have set restrictions to only allow our friends and relatives to read the blog but chose not to because I didn't think it was necessary. I know that there are a number of people from Bigastro who read our blog and even direct their friends and relatives to visit it from time to time. Looking at the statistics for this blog shows that there are people from a wide range of countries who have also visited it. We're not quite sure why anyone other than our friends would want to read our blog but we are delighted that they have.

If you find our postings amusing, informative or interesting then we are both flattered and pleased. We have achieved what we set out to do in creating this blog.

However, we don't expect everyone to share our views which is why there is a Comments link at the bottom of each post. Again this is not restricted, anyone can click on it and post a comment. They can add their email address and name or can remain anonymous if they wish. We don't moderate the comments so anything that's posted will be there for everyone to read. Please feel free to use it as long as you are not abusive!

Better still why not set up a blog yourself so that you can voice your own opinions. All you need to do is type into your browser and follow the simple instructions. When you've done this let us know and we'll consider putting a link to your blog from ours.

As it says on the left Muchas Gracias - thank you for reading our blog. We hope you found it interesting. If you didn't then it only takes a few clicks to delete it from your bookmarks.

On the way up

When you see the odd dilapidated building about it is easy to assume that Spain is still behind other countries in terms of wealth. That is far from the truth.

In 1993, the Spanish economy contracted 1 percent. Today, Spain is the continent's economic champion. Since 2002, it has created more than half of the 5 million new jobs in the 13-nation euro area, according to Eurostat, the EU's Luxembourg-based statistics office. Spain contributed more to growth in the euro zone in 2005 than any other country, adding 65 billion euros to the economy compared with France's 51 billion euros and Germany's 34 billion.

In 2006, Spain generated the second-highest growth, after France. Rapid expansion creates booming financial markets. The Ibex 35, Spain's benchmark stock index, was the best performer among 18 West European indexes in 2006, gaining 31 percent. As of February 27th, the Ibex was up 1.9 percent this year.

However financial security isn't everything. The agricultural area of the Vega Baja is still desperately short of water. There is a fear that 30 million kilos of broccolis and 20 million kilos of artichokes could be lost if the Vega Baja does not receive water immediately. On top of that there are hundreds of thousands of citrus trees which are just coming into flower require water.

The potential loss is estimated at 15,000,000 €. The worst affected areas are Rojales, Guardamar del Segura, Formentera del Segura, Dolores, Daya Nueva, Daya Vieja, Callosa de Segura, Catral and part of Orihuela.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Making progress

I had a phone call from the Ayuntamiento this morning in response to my pre-application for the new Bigastrel Connectate system. The lady, who spoke very good English, explained that it was not possible to have a connection at the moment but if 10 - 15 people from our estate applied they would set up access for us in one to two months time.

I currently pay 40,60€ per month for a 1Mb Clear Communications connection which is Wi-Fi from my house to the Pedrera. Changing over to the Bigastrel system would cost me 8,33€ per month (taking advantage of the initial promotion) for exactly the same speed and type of connection. My VoIP phone, for which I pay 1p per minute for calls to Europe, would still work and give me the same call clarity. As the Spanish people we spoke to today explained, the very competitive prices are a gift from the Town Hall to enable Bigastrenses to embrace new technologies.

The only equipment needed, apart from a computer with a network card, is a wireless router which can be bought cheaply from any computer shop. For a small fee, the Ayuntamiento would supply a router and set it up for me.

Those who don't want to pay for a year upfront could pay 3€ per day or 12€ per month. I imagine that would suit non-residents who are only here for a few weeks at a time.

A saving of 32,27€ per month for exactly the same quality of service was too compelling an offer for me to ignore which is why I signed up. Even if Telefonica arrive tomorrow, I would still want to take advantage of this offer. Telefonica's best deal is currently 8,35€ for the first three months and then 40,90€ per month after that for what would in practice be still be a 1Mb connection.

Things we missed

Here is another event that we missed.

The Lugareco market is held every fourth Sunday in Bigastro. Last Sunday the theme was sport under the banner "A Mountain of Reasons to Say NO".

- Manuel Sanchez, lawyer in Physical education, superior trainer of swimming and waterpolo, spoke to the parents and the young people about the importance of a balanced diet and gave advice about the type of foods that constitute healthy eating.

- Jose Mª Toribio, a great athlete and trainer gave his evaluation on the importance of sport in the development of youth.

- and Araceli Lorente, trainer of sportsmen with great national and international triumphs, encouraged the young people to take part in sport.

Finally the students of the Municipal School of Rhythmical Gymnastics delighted the audience with their excellent choreography.

The Lugareco is becoming very popular in the region. Along with the stalls selling beneficial ecological products for our health, every month there is a programme of activities and displays for all the family.

Make a note in the diary - 1st April will be the next one.

Monday, March 12, 2007

For the culture vultures

The programme for the Auditorium Francisco Grau

21:30 H
" The Legend of Zorro " Antonio Banderas at his swashbuckling best.

10:30 H
" Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone " the film taken from the first of the seven books by J.K Rowlings

19:00 H
" Lyrical Group - Jose Chazarra de Elche "
This group has given innumerable performances with great success. The main objective of the group is the promotion of cultural music in general, paying special attention to lyrical music. They also perform polyphonic music with choral interpretations of great works by Mozart, Schubert, Handel, Bach, etc. The group is composed of 14 people, of whom 10 are soloists.

Those who have listened to the local band will know that this is a concert not to be missed.

All about books

Here are pictures of ladies from our Spanish class at the International Womans' Day presentation of 'women in literature' held in the library.

From the left Pam, Carol Hawes (with her back towards us), Carol Thorpe and Maxine

Carol and Maxine going into the library

Listening to the presentation

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why have a committee?

A number of people have asked me "why do you have a residents' committee at Villas Andrea?"

Apartment blocks and developments with communal facilities e.g. a shared pool are obliged by law to set up residents' committees. These are registered with the local Ayuntamiento and follow strict guidelines regarding the composition, financing, auditing, reporting etc.

Our committee has no legal standing and is therefore not subject to these forms of strict control. In essence it is a social committee organising events for the benefit of the residents. Initially, it also provided an essential point of contact between the town and the urbanisation. We now have an Information Board, mail drops and a car which broadcasts news of events in the town. The channels of communication are therefore now much improved.

There are people though who want to see the Residents' Committee extend beyond it's remit to organise socials. This is when we start to tread on dangerous ground. Since the Committee has no legal basis it cannot purport to represent the views of the residents to the Ayuntamiento. There are clear and adequate mechanisms for individuals to voice their opinions and raise issues that concern them. These are available to all citizens in the town.

The truth is that Bigastro provides a lot for only a fraction of the taxes that we used to pay in the UK. We are made to feel extremely welcome by the majority of local people. Trying to assert ourselves collectively can only serve to damage the process of integration into the Spanish community which we have joined.

Mainly for residents

Stephan Bergmann, CEO of aeromax has kindly posted this comment to me which explains the difference between WiMAX and systems which utilise WiFi for connectivity.


the difference between aeromax and clearcom/bigastel is, that aeromax does WiMAX and the other two do Wi-Fi. The difference is the quality: WiMAX is working always at the same high and stable level, QoS including. E.g. the 512kbps of aeromax has a guarantee of 25% and it normally works at 460-480 kbps bidirectionally(!). Telephone service at aeromax is done over TDM, so "real phone connection" giving you a very high quality of speech, incl. Fax service. aeromax offers carrier class service.

Thank you for your attention.

Stephan Bergmann, CEO of aeromax

As Stephan point out, the Clear Comms. system to our estate is a hybrid one i.e. the connection to the Pedrera is via microwaves and from there to our houses via wireless. The speed we get varies but is normally 890 + Kbps download and 190+Kbps upload. Telephony via a VoIP phone is very good but not carrier class.

The Bigastel system will be purely wireless from the town to each house.

It is fair to point out that WiFi connections are used successfully throughout the world to provide access in private situations, in commercial settings and to whole towns and cities. The reason for the popularity of this service is probably because many laptop computers now have a WiFi card built in making roaming access simple. As far as I know, it would not be possible to roam with a microwave system because the antenna used is highly directional. It is also fair to point out that the standards for wireless connection have improved significantly over the last few years and continue to improve.

However, both Aeromax and Clear Comms. will tell you, that for the best quality of service, you need an ADSL(2) connection i.e. via a copper or better still fibre cable as close to the exchange as possible. In those circumstances speeds of 10Mbps and much higher are achievable. A higher speed connection is necessary if you want to watch streaming TV and video at full screen sizes but is overkill if all you want to do is send the odd email.

As the Bigastel site explains, Bigastro are initially providing a service to the centre of the town. The company that are installing the system though can easily extend it. The Ayuntamiento are keen to provide a service for ALL citizens in Bigastro and are therefore prepared to extend the service if there is the demand.

I think even Stephan would admit that a 1Mb wireless service for 120€ per year is the best value for money you will ever achieve. There is no set up fee nor any equipment to loan.

You can indicate your interest in Bigastel by clicking on the link which takes you to the online form.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Apparently the FA finally got the keys to the new Wembley Stadium late on Friday. The building, which was scheduled to be finished January 2006, has finally been completed at a cost of £757m. Just imagine, you could have bought the whole of the Vega Baja for that price!

There are to be a couple of 'dummy' runs to test out the facilities. If they prove successful then the Cup Final will be held there on the 19th May.

So who will be playing Manchester United on that day?

An end to the long wait

Our main bureaucratic headache, the residence card procedure, has been scrapped by a royal decree that finally brings Spain in line with EU directives.

That means that we will no longer have to queue up for hours to obtain or renew our ‘residencia’ cards thanks to Ministry of Presidency Royal Decree 240/2007 published in the BOE official state bulletin on February 28.

The decree states that EU citizens who wish to live in Spain more than three months must personally request their signing on the Registro Central de Extranjeros register – a procedure that can be carried out at the provincial Foreigners’ Office or at a National Police station.

All you have to do is to present a valid passport or national identity card to sign on the register and a certificate would then be issued on the spot indicating your name, nationality, address, NIE number and registration date.

Those of us who already have residence cards will not need to re-register until our residence card expires. When it does we will be issued with a certificate.

A word of caution though:

A press release on this subject from the British Embassy in Madrid recommends British citizens in Spain always carry with them some proof of identity.

Despite the non-obligation of carrying a residence card, residents are advised to carry existing non-expired residence cards or a passport when approaching certain local administrations or purchasing items with credit cards – as formal ID should be requested.

Turning up with the Registro de Extranjeros certificate, although officially sufficient, could prove an obstacle course that will be easily avoided by carrying ID.


If anybody was going to come up with a great suggestion for our role in the Fiesta it was going to be Pete Brooks who I used to work with at Anfield.

He says " Get your tambourines out Keith - it's Morris dancing any day of the week!". How quintessentially English would that be?

The Spanish would love it - they'd laugh their heads off. In fact they'd probably want us to start a Morris Dancing group that they could join in with.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Any suggestions?

It appears that we have been invited to take part in this year's August Fiesta but have not organised anything so far.

Each year different neighbourhood groups called Camparsas parade through the streets of the town in fancy dress. The participants obviously go to a lot of trouble choosing a theme and costumes for the event.

If we are to take part we will have to come up with a theme and start preparing costumes. One suggestion was that we should parade as Guy Fawkes but that might just give the locals the idea that we are about to blow the town up!

So we have to think of something less threatening, possibly English but not trying to overshadow the essence of the parade.

Much scratching of heads followed by a lot of stitching is required.

International Women's Day

Yesterday, ladies from the Spanish classes attended a presentation in the new library about 'Women in Literature'.

The English ladies from our Spanish class were very well received. Following a talk about important women writers, the ladies were offered coffee and cakes and each was presented with a red rose to commemorate the occasion.

This was yet another example of how the Ayuntamiento work hard to make all of the citizens in Bigastro feel both important and welcome.


It seems that I rattled a few cages with my post on Saturday about "The power of telepathy".

Apparently the reason the AGM had not been publicised was because people are worried that a poster announcing a meeting might let 'robbers' know that our houses would be empty. So why has it been OK previously to put up posters advertising dances?

The other reason given was that there wasn't enough time to advertise the meeting because it had been organised in a hurry. I have to ask myself "what is the point in organising an important meeting and not letting everyone know about it?"

It seems that the Chinese whispers about the Mayor being asked to attend our AGM were untrue. However, we were told that a letter had been taken to the Mayor outlining our concerns for the urbanisation two weeks ago. Wouldn't it have been better to have waited until the AGM to get approval for that letter?

The Committee can't claim to represent our views if they don't ask us what they are. For example, we personally would not want to see speed bumps on the roads and I dare say there a quite a few others who feel the same. We are quite happy to go along with the consensus of opinion but definitely not happy to be directed by a minority viewpoint.

Lastly there was the question of how we should spend the ill-fated subscriptions that only a third of the residents paid. The Chairman was very keen to point out that only those who had paid should benefit. The suggestions from the floor of the meeting were; to buy palm trees in tubs to brighten up the urbanisation, to buy books for the proposed monthly Book Club or to buy seats for the park area where the office used to be.

Trees are a good idea but then the questions raised about "where they would be placed" and "who would water them" probably makes that suggestion a non- starter. It was even suggested that people would ask "why have they got a tree outside their house and we haven't got one outside ours". It was hard to believe that we were dealing with mature adults by that stage.

Don't get me wrong, the Committee do an excellent job of organising dances and we are very grateful to them for all their hard work in that direction but......

PS It was very pleasing that Les Rowlands received praise for his hard work in organising the Bigastro Golf Society. The Society is an excellent model of how to integrate effectively with the community in which we live. Les even allows the Spanish to win!!

Very strange

We count ourselves lucky that all we lost was the cane fencing because a lot of people have suffered more damage than that. According to Meteo, the weather channel, the winds gusted up to 117kmph in this area during the period from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning.

We did loose our connection to the Internet at about 9:00am yesterday and I had wondered if the mast up at the Pedrera had been blown out of alignment. I tried phoning Clear Communications several times to alert them and got no reply. Other people on the estate had come to the conclusion that the company were going out of business. Some are already looking at an alternative company which uses a similar microwave technology. We got the answer to our concerns this morning when the connection was back on.

Telefonica will definitely install phones on our estate sometime in the near future so I can see little point in paying out a lot more money for an alternative microwave system at this stage. However, interestingly enough someone delivered leaflets about the Bigastro Connectate system to all of the houses on Villas Andrea yesterday evening. According to the Bigastel website, coverage is only for the centre of town. Maybe they are considering extending that which is why they have delivered leaflets to us. I shall certainly fill in the application and take it down to the Ayuntamiento and see what happens.

For the Bigastel connection you can pay 99,99€ for a 1Mb Wi-Fi connection in the first year. The German company Aeromax, that people are looking at, are offering 512Kb i.e. half the speed for 45€ per month including a phone connection with call costs of 3,9c per minute to the UK. We currently pay 40,60€ per month for 1Mb from Clear Comms. plus £3.51 a month to have a UK phone number with call costs of 1p per minute to all of Europe. If the Bigastel system works out we could be paying just 13,46€ for 1Mb internet including our phone per month.

It is a no brainer really! Now where is my pen?

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Well the wind is still blowing this morning but nowhere near as fiercely as it was last night. The pony tail palm that I tucked into the corner is still there and the furniture seems to have stayed put.

The fence though took a real battering. The strong wires that I had used to hold it up were just about keeping it from ripping off the wire netting completely. The problem was that at least one of the steel posts that hold the netting up had bent with the force of the wind and the top wire that holds the netting straight had snapped. Rather than leave the fence up to possibly cause further damage we struggled against the wind, avoiding the strongest of gusts and snipped the remaining wires. We now have a whole pile of broken fencing to get rid of!

Looking down at our neighbour below; his plastic cane was holding to the fence but then his is a lot more sheltered. I suppose it is the price we have to pay for living on top of a hill with open views.

Everything on the roof seemed to be fine except that one of the pots was rattling the terrace tile it sits upon which woke me up earlier than I would have liked.

So I have a bit of a job on this morning tiding up all the bits of fence that we took down. I'll also have to screw the clothes lines back to the wall. Then we have to consider how we are going to make the garden private again.

Further update

The wind, which seemed to have abated, has picked up again so I guess we will have to keep the hatches battened down until there is a lull.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hey ho

First off the dwarves performed much better this week during rehearsals. There are still a lot of rough edges that need to be worked on but we are starting to get there.

Secondly: hey ho - the wind doth blow. This time last year we arrived back from England to find our cane fencing blown down following gale force winds here in Spain.

Well, after a calm start this morning, the wind has picked up to gale force with very strong gusts this afternoon. The wires that I used on the side fence are holding most of that in place but the back and the front fencing, which was held with nylon ties, is lying on the floor. The furniture has shifted all over the place and the pony tail palm tree has blown over.

Pam decided that her washing would blow dry nicely. Well it would have done if the screws that held the lies to the wall hadn't pulled out depositing the clothes on the patio.

I can probably fix the fence back up but it will look tatty. So we may have to consider a more permanent solution i.e. having the walls at the side and back built up higher to give us our privacy.

Anybody know a decent builder?

Our new van!

I had a phone call on Monday at 7:30pm to say that the Skoda Roomster we had ordered had arrived from the importer in Barcelona. So we went down this morning to Rubio Mar; sorted out the paperwork and arranged to take delivery next Friday.

You may not have heard of the Roomster because it was new on the market last July. This, aptly named car, is Skoda's take on the mini MPV. Like other cars in the genre it has versatile rear seating which can be removed entirely to carry large loads. Unlike some others though it doesn't come with a hefty price tag.

Ours is a 1.9 TDI Fun in Ocean Blue metallic just like the picture above.

For sure you won't miss us on the road in this car!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Alternative solution for some!

The problem of gaining access to the internet without a landline cable is solved for some.

Bigastro City Council are setting up 1Mb Wi-Fi access for bigastrense at very competitive rates i.e. 3€ per day, 12€ per month, 120€ per year with a promotional offer of 99,99€ for the first year if you apply before 31st December.

Sadly the zone covered by their transmitter does not seem to extend as far as Villas Andrea.

Anyone interested in this service can obtain more information by phoning 96 535 00 00 ex. 7, calling in at the Ayuntamiento or by visiting the website.

Home-made-lemonade vicar?

We have so many lemons on our trees it seems a pity to waste them so one of our neighbours took a bagful to make lemon curd. There is only so much lemon curd you can eat though and it doesn't keep very well. So I thought about lemonade - typed "home-made lemonade" into Google and came up with pornography sites.

It seems that home-made lemonade is a term used to describe urine which some individuals apparently have a fetish for. No wonder parents worry so much about their children surfing the net.

Let me reassure anybody who comes to my house that if I offer you home-made lemonade it won't have been passed through my body.

Back to our roots

Even though we have adapted to a Spanglish diet, our taste buds still need to be reminded of our English heritage. We buy Heinz baked beans, Tetley teabags and pork pies and sausages from the English butcher for example.

We don't normally eat in English restaurants though so yesterday was a rare treat.

Ken and Kay, our neighbours have been very good to us, particularly in the last year when we've needed to go back to England so many times. By way of thanking them we took them to the Downtown Quesada restaurant for the self-service Sunday carvery. There you get the usual mix of soup, salad, roast dinner and dessert. For meat we had a choice of beef, pork, turkey and gammon or all four if we'd wished. The desserts, which can often be disappointing at these places, were excellent. I had apple crumble whilst the others had home made trifle. The portions were generous and the quality was superb. Having thoroughly enjoyed our meal, we weren't surprised to find that they had served 200 covers yesterday over the two sittings.

The only carvery we have been to here in Spain that came near to the quality of Downtown Quesada was at Monroe's where a full three courses including half a bottle of wine cost an unbelievable 5,75€.

One incident that amused me yesterday; when we were getting our meat, Kay asked me if I liked "batter". Now Kay lived in London prior to moving to Spain so I thought she was asking me if I wanted "butter" which she pronounces the same. I couldn't understand why I would want butter with my meat. What she really wanted to know was whether I liked Yorkshire puddings. Yes I do but I have to say the ones they served weren't like the ones my mother used to make!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hot it's not

I'm not referring to the weather which continues to be glorious.

I went out on my bike this morning for the first time in ages. I enjoyed the ride but my bum didn't like the saddle very much. Then we did our Spanish homework on the porch in the sun. That was enough work for one day, so we sunbathed by the pool for a few hours. It was so hot I decided it was time for a first dip in the pool. The best description for the temperature of the water is "refreshing". Still it cooled me down and allowed me to lay in the sun for an other hour or so.

We could hear a party going on up at the Pedrera. The music sounded more Moroccan than Spanish though and I thought I heard someone announce "Ponemos hoy la primera piedra de nuestro mosque" which if my Spanish is correct means "we lay today the first stone of our mosque". Only joking!!!

The power of telepathy

We knew that the Residents' Committee were due to call an AGM because it is over 12 months since the last one. We only found out by accident that the meeting is scheduled for this Thursday. There is no notice on the Community noticeboard, nothing on the board up at the Pedrera and nobody has been around to tell us. It's almost as if the Committee are relying upon the powers of telepathy to keep us informed about these things.

Apparently the Mayor of Bigastro has been invited to the meeting to answer questions relating to the development. Well, I have to say he failed to turn up to court last week because he had flu, so I hope he is well enough to attend on Thursday. If he does turn up it might be less embarrassing for him to face a full audience. No doubt he will give the answers you would expect, considering we are just months before the local elections.

Ah well que sera sera.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chinese whispers

Rumours abound about the possible date for installation of our landline phones.

First off we would have them by Christmas. Then it was January - definitely! Possibly by February. Telefonica won't commence work until Calle Escocia is rebuilt. The latest, from someone who apparently knows everything, is that they will be here in two weeks time.

Go down to one of the Telefonica shops and they know nothing about it. Mind you they are just agents so may not be party to that sort of information anyway.

The definitive version is this:- landlines will be installed when the van arrives outside your house and not before. This will be proceeded by people installing the cables to the boxes in the roads; a process that will be accompanied by a very loud cheer audible throughout the development. So there is little chance that you will miss it. If you happen to be out on the day when this happens don't worry because there will be plenty of people eager to let you know.

Once the process is completed and those people who want phones have them, then we will start worrying about when the Hiperber supermarket on the corner of Calle Alemania and Calle Inglaterra is going to be built.

Hot stuff

In 15 days they have sold 5,000 tickets for the Shakira concert to be held on 31st March in the Park Antonio Soria in Torrevieja. The organisers anticipate selling 20,000 tickets by the time the concert is due to take place. The venue has a capacity of 40,000.

Shakira is only appearing at three venues in Spain which could explain the popularity of the Torrevieja concert.

Three euros of the ticket price is to go to the local Association for Alzheimer and a local Association for parents of children with special needs.

Warning: - any male with a heart condition should not even consider going to the concert.