Saturday, September 29, 2007

A great night for a great bloke

Sometimes, even when everything seems to conspire against you, things work out really well. That happened last night at Jim Ryder's 70th birthday party.

I can only imagine the meticul0us planning which must have gone into ensuring this would be an occasion that Jim would never forget. Complex arrangements were made to house the relatives and friends that came specially from Liverpool. A first class singer along with a comedian were booked as entertainment and most important, an excellent buffet was ordered.

Then a management dispute between the owners of the Pedrera and the people who were running it nearly scuppered the party altogether. Jim and Marie are not people to be beaten though. They managed to sort things out including a new caterer for the buffet to make sure that nobody would leave hungry.

The one thing Jim and Marie couldn't control though was the weather. The party was held in the new outside area; possibly because there is more space out there and the acoustics are much better than inside. After glorious sun all day, the skies last night filled with increasingly heavy clouds. Minutes before the singer was due to start it began spotting. By the time he had started singing it was raining. People grabbed the sun umbrellas, normally reserved to give shade and used them to keep the rain off. The singer wasn't so lucky though. He ended up taking his shoes off to avoid slipping on the tiled dance floor area.

It then rained on and off for most of the night. The comedian had to stay on the stage away from his audience just to keep dry. The worst spell was when the buffet was ready. Fortunately it had stopped when the disco started and the tiles had dried up sufficient to make it safe for dancing.

So true British spirit prevailed and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We came home before the end because I am suffering from the bug that seems to be doing the rounds of the estate. When we got back home though we could hear them singing "You'll never walk alone" at the tops of their voices. I'm sure they would have heard it down in the town. There is a lot of support for Liverpool FC here in Spain so they probably joined in.

Jim will never walk alone and certainly won't forget his party in the rain that nearly didn't happen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Or another reason

Maybe the Guardia Civil weren't checking on seat belts when they stopped us last night. The police are apparently carrying out numerous roadside checks for illegal immigrants.

This week, at least five boats full of Algerians have come ashore along the Costa Blanca coastline. Boats were intercepted at Guardamar del Segura, Pilar de la Horadada, El Campello and Benidorm. Local government officials believe that organized gangs are looking for new routes into Spain following the massive increase in security around the coastline in the Canary Islands and the Costa del Sol. Four out of the five boats were found empty but the boast which landed at Benidorm contained six Algerians who the police are questioning.

This summer more than twenty boats have arrived on the Murcian coast whereas previously there had only been a couple of cases. Officials believe that pressure from the Guardia Civil along the Andalucian coastline is causing those who smuggle illegal immigrants into Spain to look to new routes via the coastlines of Murcia, and Alicante. The route from Africa is too far to travel in small boats so the government firmly believes that these arrivals are a strong indication that a larger ship is involved.


In my post "Full marks" posted on the 21st September I credited Mel with the work of collecting the donation on behalf of Ann who died of cancer earlier this year.

I understand it was actually Jim who undertook that part of the task and Mel who contacted AECC to arrange the presentation.

My apologies to both Jim and Mel for that mistake which I have now corrected. We are all grateful to both of you for your efforts - you are stars.


Last night we were stopped by the Guardia Civil at one of the roundabouts on the way back towards Torrevieja. The two officers, who shone their torches to check the occupants in the back and front of the car, didn't tell us what they were looking for. We suspect that they were checking that we were all wearing seat belts.

A buyer's market

The stagnation in the local housing market continues. The latest initiative by promotors to boost sales is to use telephone selling techniques. Potential clients in a data base are contacted directly by telephone to provide them with details of current promotions.

According to the data from the provincial association of promoters (Provia), 40,000 houses will be built this year which is a 20% less than in 2006. The number built in 2006, represented a growth of 3% on 2005 but a reduction of 9% on 2004 when 52.737 houses were built and was the best year this decade.

Promoters are using mortgage offers, free cars, pamphlet distribution and now direct "door to door" selling to try and boost sales. They are also introducing improvements like sport zones, swimming pools or other complements to make their developments more attractive.

It is not just first time buyers homes that are not selling. Provia point out that the slow down in re-sales is also preventing buyers from moving up the property ladder from their first home.

It is interesting to note that the average mortgage in Alicante province is currently 132,443 euros over a 28 year term, nineteen thousand euros less than the average loan in Spain of 151,505 euros.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just a few reminders

For residents mainly - apologies to anyone else reading this.

Enrollment for Spanish classes at the I.E.S. Miguel Hernández on Calle La Paz (at the back of Framon Motors) is on Monday 1st October at 4pm.

The Book Club starts on Wednesday 10th October up at the Albergue, La Pedrera.

and lastly if you are interested in the night out at Benidorm Palace on the 13th December you need to see a member of the Residents' Committee.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A bit of civic pride

The park area is in bad need of tidying up.

I don't know who is responsible but if we wait for them to decide it needs clearing we could be knee deep in weeds . Perhaps a bit of self help/civic pride is called for. Any volunteers?

Not good to see

You can see why folks are assuming that the six town houses may have to be demolished from these pictures.

That is, for the most part, a retaining wall

The cracks extend in to the houses

not just on the paving outside

or on the garden walls

It is hard to imagine that a bit of cosmetic tidying up would solve all these problems.

Some more stories

You may be able to help me with some of these:-

  • We won't be getting telephones at Villas Andrea because somebody in the Town Hall thinks that other parts of the town have a higher priority. Now we all know that wasn't true.
  • Telefonica will not install any telephones until Calle Escocia is repaired. Now we all know that wasn't true either.
  • The Town Hall spent so much money on the election that there was little left for the Fiesta.
  • The people who built the six town houses have gone bankrupt. This one then goes on to say that the houses will be demolished.
  • There are plans to build a Mercadona across the road from the houses on Calle Holanda.
  • They are building a new health centre and a language school on the land to the left coming up from the town.
  • The company that are building Los Altos de la Pedrera have been given the land the other side of Calle Escocia to build four more houses.
  • There is an underground stream that runs under some of the houses.
  • They are going to build a shop on the corner of Inglaterra and Alemania.
  • The solar panels by the playground power all the street lights on the estate.
  • The builders put us on Green electricity because they got a "cut back" from Ibderola.
  • They are building a new road coming up from the cemetery to Villas Andrea.
  • Since the 200 houses on the Pedrera have been blocked, the new school is now too big so they will be bringing children in from neighbouring towns.
  • I thought the best one was that they were building a mosque on the corner of Holanda and Canada de Andrea.
Does anybody know a) where these stories come from and b) which, if any, are true?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Plenty to do

For those who feel the need for some exercise.

Is that Eileen Fowler leading the class?

Or the ladies on the estate could always try:

Activities of the Association of Progressive Women for this new season begin on the 1st of October.

They will let us know when the cookery, painting and restoration courses begin.

To register for these activities go to the Conserjería de Auditorio, or to the Association of Progressive Women who meet on Saturdays and Sundays between 5 and 8pm.

PS Bolillos are lace bobbins. I'd rather Pam went to that than taichi ; she could make some antimacassars for the car!

Even the weather is worse

Up to 11 tornadoes struck the UK today, ripping off roofs and flattening trees as widespread heavy rain led to long delays for rail commuters.

Twisters were reported in Farnborough, Luton, Nuneaton, Breaston, in Derbyshire, and Eye, in Cambridgeshire.

Other freak storms in Northampton, Nottingham, Scunthorpe, Whittlesey, in Cambridgeshire, Long Eaton, in Derbyshire, and Ollerton, in Nottinghamshire, could later be confirmed as tornadoes.

Would I go back to live in England?

Forget the appalling weather we've just had, living in England is much worse than that. Every day I read the English papers online and seldom find anything cheerful that would drive me back there. I read about young children in gangs carrying guns and knives, about the problems of binge drinking. Thousands of children have ASBOS which apparently they regard as "badges of honour". The price of petrol is set to go up to £1 per litre. Traffic jams stretch several miles long every time the sun comes out. Farmers are worried sick about foot and mouth and now bluetongue decimating their stocks. None of this paints a rosy picture does it?

Bigastro might be a bit untidy in parts. Round every corner there's a building site and the local lads kick the service boxes over every Saturday night on their way down from the Pedrera but it still feels like a good place to live.

So the answer to the question is NO.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sporting Spaniards

It is good to see six Spanish riders in the top ten at the final of the Vuelta and Alonso just two point adrift in the F1 championship. It is also great to see Torres and Alonso playing so well for Liverpool.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bad weather continues

Between 9 and 10pm last night 50 litres per square metre of rain fell on the Alicante area causing chaos. Roads were flooded, electricity was cut and police and fire services struggled to cope with the number of calls they received.

In Alicante, roads were closed to traffic, part a building collapsed and patients had to be moved in both the hospitals as parts of the buildings suffered leaking roofs.

The storm, which had developed over the Gulf of Cadiz, was caused by a polar air pocket colliding with the humid westerly wind.  

The forecast is for the storm to continue but gradually abate during the day. As I write this, I can hear the thunder still rolling overhead, the skies are dark but it isn't raining at the moment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just where do these stories come from?

It amazes me how readily some people jump to conclusions. They invent some plausible story which gets transmitted on the grapevine and Bob's your uncle it's  touted as if  it is fact.

The latest one we heard was that the guy from the post office had left to set up in business with the man who runs the hardware shop opposite the petrol station. I can't remember who it was who told us the story but they were convinced it was true.  After all why else would he be gone for three weeks?

NOT TRUE! In fact he'd been on holiday to Cantabria, Principado de Asturias and Galicia in the north of the country. We know because he told us when we went down for the post on Monday. He took all his holidays in one to make the special trip.

We're so glad we didn't pass that story on otherwise we could have ended up looking as foolish as the person who first made it up.

Close to home

"A device has exploded at a school in the Sandfield Park area of Liverpool, according to Merseyside police.It is reported to have gone off under a car outside St Edward's College, a Catholic school."

I visited that school several times whilst I was teaching in Liverpool. I hope nobody was hurt.

ICT courses in Bigastro

As the poster tells you, the Town Hall is running courses in Information Communication Technology at two levels. There is a basic course which includes modules covering using a computer, using the internet and using Microsoft Word and Excel. The advanced course covers Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Power Point and Adobe Photoshop.

I imagine it would be an advantage to be able to understand some Spanish to take advantage of these courses.

PS Just in case you were wondering: Word is used to produce documents, Excel for spreadsheets, Access for databases, Power Point for presentations and Photoshop for image editing.

Making the connection

For ADSL to work over a phone line you need a filter to separate the voice signal to the phone and the data signal to the router. Telefonica supply two filters with their ADSL package.

In England the filters have two ports on them; one for a BT phone plug and one RJ11 for the router/modem. So you plug both phones and routers/modems into a filter.

In Spain it is slightly more confusing because the supplied filters have just one RJ11 port which is the type of connection used for both phones and routers here. The rule is that you connect any phones that you have via a filter. Your router though connects directly to a phone socket i.e. NOT through a filter.

If you get it wrong it won't damage the equipment but it will stop your ADSL connection working properly.

PS You can tell that I'm suffering a little from too much partying last night by the number of times I have had to edit todays postings. I do apologise, it won't happen again - until next time!

Full marks

Go to the Residents' Committee for last night's Presentation Evening.

We were entertained by "Sunset" who apparently also appear as an Abba tribute act. They were an excellent choice. The trio delighted the crowd with their wide repertoire of music from the 60s up to present day numbers.
  • Peter presented a cheque for 1,020€ to representatives from AECC, the local Cancer Charity, on behalf of his wife Ann who sadly passed away earlier this year. Many thanks to Jim who did a lot of the work to raise such a magnificent donation and Mel for organising the presentation.
  • The Ladies' Darts trophies were presented to Pauline and Helen. Pauline, with her typical scouse humour, told us that they won because they were the best and that they would win again next year and the year after.
  • The Mens' Pool trophy was presented for the second year running to Darren who told me that he would play with one hand next year to give the rest of the men a chance!
Allan White announced that the Book Club would start on Wednesday 10th October. I think the idea is that people bring along books that they have finished with and exchange them for ones which they haven't yet read.

Allan also put forward a proposal for a Christmas outing to the Benidorm Palace on Thursday the 13th December. The cost of (approximately) 49€ would include transport, a four course meal and entrance to the cabaret. In order to make a booking, the Committee will need to have a firm confirmation of numbers including payments by the end of this month.

Message from the Mayor

To the residents at Villas Andrea.

He is aware that the heavy rain last weekend has left the roads covered in debris and will be deploying someone ASAP to clear them up.

Muchas gracias Sr. Alcalde

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Residential Flamingo

Those of you who live here will no doubt have seen the signs on the way up to Villas Andrea for "Residential Flamingo" by the Idearco Group. This is an artist's impression of the new development they are building up by the new school.

48 apartments in two four story blocks with prices starting at 114,000€.

Actually if you venture up to the area called Sector D6 you will see that various developers are building detached, semi-detached and town houses, many which look as though they will have stunning views over to the mountains.

Fancy a bit of Pignoise?

This Spanish punk group will be appearing on Saturday the 6th of October at Crevillent as part of the town's annual fiesta. You may have seen Pignoise in the television series "Los hombre de Paco". They've also appeared on MTV España in the live concert programs.

On Sunday it is the turn of "El Pulpo", a popular veteran entertainer. Finally on Monday "D´Nash", who you will recall represented Spain in the Eurovision competition, will take the stage.

The barraca who are putting on all this entertainment have 96,000 euros to spend which is why they are pushing the boat out.

Now where did I put that hair gel?

Anyone for tennis?

You can join the Municipal Tennis School of Bigastro by signing on at the tennis courts at the Municipal Multisport "El Molino" from Tuesday to Friday between 6 and 8 pm up to the 30th September.

Don't forget to take your balls!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taking to the water

The number of registered sport boats in the marine district  of Torrevieja, which includes the section of the coast between the Segura river and  Torre de la Horadada has increased in the last few years to three thousand.
Oscar Villar, marine captain of Torrevieja, predicted that by the end of 2007  there will be an increase approximately fifty percent registered sports boats in the city most of which will be moored locally. 

The completion  of the new Marina Salinas and the extension of the Real Club Nautical of Torrevieja  along with the facilities of the Marine  International in Torrevieja will provide two thousand mooring points to house these craft. 

His head must roll

The Partido Popular party in Bigastro will request the resignation of the mayor, Joaquin Moya at the next plenary session of the Council. They claim that the system for collecting rainwater has been badly managed causing the flooding of two car parks and many houses at the weekend. Aurelio Murcia, from the PP party, says that this shows the mayor is not capable of leading the Town Council.

The meeting of the PP on Monday night called for a press conference for those affected by flooding as a result of the heavy rain last Saturday. The PP party also decided to study all the possible routes by which they could obtain assistance for those who suffered damage.

The Town Council promised that work, both before and after the local council elections to remodel the rain drainage system at a cost of 18 million euros, would prevent flooding in the town. Aurelio Murcia claimed that the town was worse of now than before works commenced. He pointed out that in spite of having only half the normal rain in August, the town has suffered more serious flooding than in previous years. The grids across the roads and the drainage pipes, which were designed to take flood water, simply failed.

Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si

Those who are interested in music lessons can register between 6 and 8 pm at the Auditorium Francisco Grau until the 25th September. Classes are being offered in the language of music, the guitar, the piano and singing.

I know a few people who could help them out by teaching folks how to play the fiddle. No names, no pack drill!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Entering the world of digital photography part 2

See I told you digital photography could be addictive and here you are already reading the second part of my post about these cameras.

In the early days of digital cameras, digital single lens reflexes were the province of professionals, serious amateurs and those who had too much money to spend on their hobby. That all changed though with the introduction of the Canon EOS 300D and the Nikon D40. Both had polycarbonate bodies and were cut down versions of their more high end siblings. At that point the digital SLR became affordable and both cameras sold like hot cakes. Their successors are even better and deservedly command a large share of this market.

The advantages that DSLRs have over compact cameras can probably be summed up in two words; versatility and speed.

Just like the film cameras that proceeded them, these SLRs have a bewildering range of lenses and accessories available to cover every aspect of photography and it's not just the original manufacturer that produces these accessories. Companies like Tamron, Metz, Sunpak and Sigma produces lenses etc at very competitive prices to work with most DSLRs.

The speed advantages over the cheaper compacts are four fold. They are quick to start up and be ready for use. They are quick to write data to the memory card. They are quick to be ready for the next shot; so quick in fact that most will allow you to take several shots per second . Lastly, they are quick to find focus even in poor light. Their speed advantage makes them the first choice for those who engage in action photography.

There are a few downsides though. First; most are supplied with what is called a kit lens. To be fair these are "adequate". Generally they are wide angle to medium length zoom lenses with apertures ranging from about f3.5 to f5.6. To get the best results these lenses need to be used in the middle of the aperture range (f8 - f11) by using AV mode which alters the shutter speed to obtain the correct exposure. Of course you don't have to take the kit lens; you can buy a "body only" and a better quality lens but that hikes the price up.

Secondly there is the problem of dust getting on the sensor. This can happen every time you change a lens and manifests itself as white blobs on your photographs. The sealed body of the compact is designed to avoid this issue. Cleaning the sensor is a delicate operation requiring a certain amount of care. The answer has been to introduce methods of "shaking" the dust off and each manufacturer has different ways of doing this.

Then there is the size. Although they are a lot more compact and lighter than their film predecessors they still are not pocketable in the way that many compacts are.

Lastly there is the cost. Once you have your DSLR there is always the temptation to buy more lenses, a flashgun, a bag to carry this all in etc etc. Good quality lenses cost a lot more than the original purchase and can make this into a very expensive hobby.

Anybody feeling generous enough to buy me a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens? A snip at £5,400 for the camera and £1,150 for the lens. It wouldn't make me a better photographer but it would allow me to kick sand in the faces of Japanese tourists.

A Canon EOS 350D like mine can now be bought for £399.95 and so is perhaps a little more affordable that the 1Ds.

Looking after the old

That is very good but does anybody know which is the actual day?

Entering the world of digital photography

Some people assume because I've taken quite a few photos that I'm an expert on photography. It is true that I taught both O level and A level Photography but that was nearly twenty years ago. I also ran a Photography Night School class but even that ended well before the advent of digital cameras. Still I have owned quite a few cameras including six digital cameras so I suppose I possibly know more than a lot of people. The question people mostly ask me is "what camera should I buy".

Well first of all it depends what you want to use it for and secondly how much you want to spend. I have two cameras; a simple point and shoot Fujifilm A500 which cost me 65€ and a Canon EOS 350D with two zoom lenses and an external flashgun which cost me considerably more. I take the compact out with me mostly everywhere just to get the odd snapshot and the results are very good but if I am going out to take some serious pictures I'll take the Canon.

These days there are cameras to suit every type of user at all price points. For most, one of the compact cameras is ideal because they are small, versatile and inexpensive. The more you pay - the more features you get. Some of these are useful, others you will rarely use. I would guess that most people (even experienced photographers) use their cameras in Auto mode for at least 90% of their pictures. So having lots of different settings may not be as much of an advantage as you think. If you do get serious though it is good to have manual control of exposure, shutter speed and aperture.

A decent zoom range is useful but if it is a long zoom make sure the camera has image stabilisation otherwise your telephoto shots will end up blurred by camera shake. Like most people, you'll probably use the wide angle end of the zoom more than the telephoto so make sure it goes as wide as you need. Don't be fooled by digital zooms, all they do is enlarge a part of the image which is something you can do later on your computer anyway. The other major thing to be aware of is that the built in flash on any camera is only useful up to about 3m or so. If you plan to take lots of indoor pictures get a camera which will take an external flashgun.

Call me old fashioned but I prefer cameras built by camera manufacturers. I know Panasonic, Casio and the like make good cameras and even though Sony make the sensors that others use, I would still prefer something from companies like Canon or Nikon.

The plague of many compacts is digital noise. The small sensors that are used, especially those packed with plenty of megapixels, combined with small aperture lenses, leads to noisy pictures when the light is less than ideal. The other problem, especially with the cheaper cameras, is the speed at which they work. My Fuji is slow to start up and slow to write images to the memory card. Potentially I could loose a lot of good shots because of those seconds of delay. If you are intent on taking lots of action shots or you want to take shots in low level natural light you should seriously consider a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) rather than a compact.

The maxim is to try before you buy and do your research. If the camera feels too small or too large and clumsy or the buttons too fiddly then is not the right tool for you.

As you are reading this on the Internet, you have the perfect source for finding out all you need to know about your intended purchase. Go to for a wealth of information about every digital camera on the market including those that you might find second hand. Phil Askew, who runs the site, is well regarded as an impartial reviewer. The only thing he won't tell you is which camera to buy but he will point you in the right direction.

If this is your first encounter into the world of digital photography, best of luck but be warned it can be addictive.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Flying the flag

The small village of Venta de los Pinos celebrates its annual three week fiesta during September. This year the authorities  asked local residents to organise a British Night to be filmed by a Murcia television channel.

There are only 30 houses owned by people from the UK in the village but that didn't stop them from setting up  a committee to  organise the event. The committee received support and funds from both the town hall and Murcia City Hall to enable them to provide food and entertainment.

Festivals goers were  entertained this Friday by Scots pipers, Morris dancing, a brass band and folk singers who made the special trip from England. There was also an Irish dance performed by the dance classes from the Pensionistas club in Playa Flamenca Civic Centre.  As well as the Irish dance they performed dances to “Singing in the Rain” and “La Vida Loca”.” The morris dancing was arranged by Ian Smith, who runs a folk music club at Monos Bar, Cabo Roig who said that they had been practising since June.

So maybe the suggestion by Pete Brooks, on the 10th March, that we could perform a morris dance for Bigastro's August fiesta wasn't so crazy after all. If the Brits from 30 houses in Venta de los Pinos  were capable of organising a special day,  surely the larger British community in Bigastro could do something as good or even better.

Maybe next year!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Yesterday morning we had clear skies and sunshine. By early afternoon though you could see the skies darkening over Orihuela and hear the thunder in the distance. The heavy clouds were moving this way which meant we were in for a downpour. The wind picked up, the rain started and continued for over an hour. The road down to the town was just like a river. It was barely passable by cars.

As bad as it was though at least we didn't experience the flooding that some parts of the region suffered. In Murcia they had hailstones and in Alicante houses were flooded.

After all that rain, I'm pleased to see that the weekend should be mostly sunny again.



As the Spanish would say though "Llega el fin de semana y cuando pasamos el ecuador del mes de septiembre, el verano se despide hasta el año que viene. "

This weekend marks the middle of September and the end of Summer until next year.

A few changes

Click on the map to enlarge it

The local police inform us that there have been a few changes to the one way system in the town.

Now that the roads around the multi storey car park have been re-opened I suppose it makes sense but you bet your bottom dollar that chaos will ensue. For example; if I am driving past the park (Parque Huerta del Cura) on C/ Moreal how do I then get to Avda. General Banuls?

It looks to me as if I would be stuck in a loop with the only way out to go back to the centre of the town. Previously (if I remember correctly) you could turn left up C/ San Pascual and turn right onto C/ Mayor which then leads onto Avda. General Banuls. It looks from the map as if C/ Mayor is all one way now. Perhaps it is just that they have put the arrow in the wrong place.

You regularly see locals driving the wrong way on one way streets rather than take a longer route the right way. Putting up a few signs won't stop them so maybe I should follow their example.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

As loony as Britain

The city hall of Alicante are proposing to hike the cost of a fine imposed for littering, for example dropping a cigarette butt goes from €6 to €100 once the city ordinance has been ratified.

Other €100 offences include dog fouling, washing cars on the public highway, shaking rugs from windows and balconies and watering plant pots outside certain times.

You could also be fined a total of €500 for putting your rubbish out outside designated times and also if it is not bagged correctly.

In Britain you'd have to commit the heinous crime of throwing a sausage to warrant that sort of justice.

NB This applies to Alicante city only at the moment, pending a vote by the city council but it is only a matter of time before it spreads!

Ultimate security

After the sixth break in the petrol station on the CV95 San Miguel to Jacarilla road has been offered a free alarm by Mar Menor Alarms.

This time the burglars were faced with empty tills because the money had been hidden somewhere safe. So the thieves turned to the girls working there, stealing their personal possessions such as mobile phones, cash and credit cards. They also left a gunshot hole in the roof just to show they mean business.

Dave, from Mar Menor Alarms, went along to speak to the Mayor offering him the very latest alarm which was designed by the military. This new alarm temporarily blinds burglars by emitting a very bright light and stuns the intruders forcing them to fall to the floor. In the process it disables them for 40 minutes giving the police time to arrive and actually catch them.

However, the police said they were very hesitant to send their one available officer to face armed criminals. Eventually the Guardia Civil have agreed to cooperate and Dave hopes the next attempted break in will prove the effectiveness of this latest technology.

For more information call Dave on 902 10 79 49 but whatever you do don't try and break into his premises.

Information of general interest

The Local Police of Bigastro informs us that, on Friday the 14th of September, buses will not be stopping at the Centro de Salud and the furniture shop MEM.

Since there is no timetable for the buses and nobody seems to know when they run, it probably won't be noticed.

¿Habla español?

As many of you will know, Pam and I attend Spanish classes at the local secondary school. We have two x two hour lessons per week during the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms and are almost at the end of the first book of three especially produced for foreigners learning Spanish.

The cost of all this tuition, including refreshments at the end of each term and a party in the Summer, last year was 20€.

For us, learning Spanish and having some conversations with people (even if they are very limited) is very important. In any case it isn't as if we don't have the time to learn something new!

So Pam and I will be enrolling again in October. Apparently our teacher has been given a further two year contract - we may need longer than that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Somewhere to stay

For those looking for accommodation we can highly recommend the following:-

An apartment in Formentera del Segura (about fifteen minutes from Bigastro close to the beaches at Guardamar for£125 a week (October to March), £150 (April and May) or £240 (July to September and Christmas / New Year)

The first floor villa apartment is accessible for wheelchair users and comprises two bedrooms (a double and two single beds), two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and large lounge diner. You’ll probably want to spend most of your time ‘at home’ on the balcony, taking in the sun and taking it easy. And then there’s the added luxury of the gated community swimming pool.

Contact David and Rachael Hyde on (0044) 1452 614115

For more details go to

A villa at Lomas De Cabo Roig (about 25 minutes from Bigastro) close to the beaches at Cabo Roig for £150 a week (October to December), £200 (January to March and September), £250 (April to May) or £300 (June to August).

Briefly the villa offers a spacious lounge, fully fitted kitchen, separate dinning room, master
bedroom with king size bed and a second bedroom with twin beds. For your convenience there is a family bathroom and a separate shower room/utility area.
Outside the grounds are terraced In addition to which there is a private shaded
area, a balcony off the main bedroom and a rooftop solarium accessible from inside the house.
The communal pool, which is adjacent to the property, has a large grassed sunbathing area and shallow and main pools.

Contact Chris and Linda Walsh on (0044) 151 645 4502 or by email at

For more details go to or to or

Or for those who would prefer accommodation at Villas Andrea we can recommend:-

Villa Vista Montana and Villa Bermuda

Taking over

Although 861 babies were delivered in the new hospital at Torrevieja between the 1st of January to the 31st of August only 44 percent (379) had Spanish mothers.

10.45 percent of the total, (89 ) had Morrocan parents whilst 73 had British parents. Although there are significantly more British citizens in Torrevieja most are probably past child bearing age.

Other countries included Ecuador, Colombia, Rumanía, Brazil, Argentina, Armenia, China, Germany and Algeria. In addition,to which there were children with parents from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Arzebaiyan, India, Honduras and Kirguistán.

So the international makeup of the community is set to remain at least for the next generation.

Footnote:- parents receive 2,500€ for each baby born in Spain as an incentive to stop the population decline. There is some controversy about whether this incentive should only be applied to Spanish nationals.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

La Manga

It is one of those places that you have to visit at least once.

La Manga is a very unique strip of land 21km long with an average width of 300m which separates the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean. On either side of the road are endless hotels, apartment blocks, restaurants and shops.

Right at the end though is an amazing hump back bridge which leads to an island currently being developed with houses.

I want to know how they get the cement lorries over that bridge.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Getting it right

Following the very successful "Open Air Music Festival" at the Pedrera, this week there was more entertainment. Two singers and a drag act were booked to appear in the new outdoor area. This time though there were so few people there it was almost embarrassing. Whether it was because there was no offer of free food or because the posters advertising the event were put up too late is hard to say.

It was a risky venture anyway. Drag artists are not everybody's taste and Stevie Spit was no Danny La Rue. He had to work hard to connect with the Spaniards who were there. I got the impression that he wasn't expecting that. We enjoyed his act but understand that others may well have been offended by his language and acidic comments about members of the audience. Stevie's act probably goes down well in the clubs of Benidorm but was perhaps out of place at the Pedrera.

The new owners of the Pedrera are obviously keen to make their new outdoor area a success. They may have to rethink what sort of events are going to achieve that goal.

Hard to believe

"Don’t call it ugly, call it quite brilliant" says Jeremy Clarkson about the Skoda Roomster. Praise indeed but of course he does qualify this headline in the Sunday Times.

Yes. It’s odd. I’ll grant you that. It looks like a cut and shut car. A mangled up blend of Postman Pat’s van, a Wendy house and a Lancia Stratos. But here’s the thing. I loved it. I thought it was unusual without being sweet. Striking without being daft.

It should be fine. The front end is essentially from a VW Polo and the back from a Mark 4 Golf. But the steering is far too quick. You ease the wheel a nad and whoa, the whole thing darts left in a scuffle of tyre squeal and body roll. I liked the car so much I wanted to get used to it. But I never did.

And then there’s the engine. It’s a 1.6 litre VW unit but not one of their best. It’s rough, unwilling to rev and not that powerful. Perhaps the diesel would be better. I hope so because mechanically the only really good bit in my test car was the automatic Tiptronic gearbox.

Ordinarily this would be enough to render the whole car worthless. But sometimes the driving experience must play second fiddle to the whole ownership package.

That’s certainly the case with the Volvo XC90 diesel. It’s a dreadful car to drive, really, but it’s so clever and so well thought out we’re on our second. And about to buy a third.

The Roomster falls into this category. Yes, it’s wobbly and rough, but it’s extremely clever, well equipped and best of all it brought a great deal more light into my life than my new garden lamps. Which, incidentally, are now on eBay.

It is hard to believe that I am actually driving a car that Jeremy Clarkson approves of.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Not building yet

Last night, at the plenary session of the Bigastro town council, Aurelio Murcia presented a communication from the main directorate of Urbanismo de la Conselleria de Territorio which urged the local Administration to suspend the activities in the Special Plan for the Pedrera.

This plan is for the construction of an aparthotel, a golf practice course , and a " solar orchard " on 400,000 square metres of land.

The main argument for "knocking back" the development is that the City council has developed a Special Plan for the Pedrera, within the local General Plan of 2000, without the supervision and the authorization of the autonomic Administration.

The City council auctioned 35,000 square meters of non-urbanizable land from the Pedrera for 2.2 million euros to build an aparthotel but concealed within this was a "plan parcial" for more than two hundred villas which are currently advertised for sale on the Internet.

The City council received 250,000 euros as payment for the concession of the license for that complex. The same company, which paid 600,000 euros for the 40,000 square metres of land to build golf practice courses, has now suspended that plan.

Another one of the activities, which has not been supervised by the Generalitat, is the building of a controversial solar orchard by Eurener who apparently have family ties with the current Mayor, Joaquin Moya.

The Conselleria de Medio ambiente has put a hold on the start of work at the Pedrera.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Open Air Music Festival

They might have misspelt the name of the venue but that was the only mistake they made.

The car park at the Pedrera has been transformed into an outdoor entertainment area complete with stage, lighting, dance floor, bar, BBQ and servery. They've even installed toilets.

Last night was the grand opening by Ciro and Asha who now run the Albergue. Ciro was in charge of the food which meant ample quantities and excellent quality. Gary from the Pantry in Jacarilla apparently organised the music and Asha played the hostess making sure that everything ran smoothly.

By 7:30 the place was filled with people from Villas Andrea (we Brits like to arrive early to make sure we get a good table). The first act to entertain us was an English cabaret singer. He was perfect for the British audience that he sang to.

When he finished at 9:00pm we all descended on the buffet.

The next act was a trio who apparently had recently formed to play in Spain. It is fair to say that they were better musicians than singers. They worked hard though and the audience warmed to them.

Between 9pm and 10 o clock, Spanish people from the village started arriving. The barbecue was ready which meant plenty more food for everyone.

The final act was an excellent Spanish trio. They filled the floor for over two hours with their rhumbas, salsas and pasadobles. It was fun to watch British and Spanish people dancing together in the special routines that accompany some of the tunes.

The Open Air Music Festival integrated people from the estate and the town with a great party atmosphere. Six hours of entertainment and a buffet for 5€ was excellent value for money. We look forward to many more fantastic nights up at the Pedrera. Many thanks to Ciro and Asha, you were brilliant.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Band concert

We tried to get tickets for the Sunday performance by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force who were due to play at Torrevieja’s Fifth Annual Festival of Bands. By the time we went down to get the tickets they were sold out so we made a note to buy tickets earlier next year.

As it happens we wouldn't have seen them anyway. Months prior to the band's arrival, the necessary paperwork was sent from the Ministry of Defence in England to Spain’s Military Attaché to the Court of St James. The paperwork was to obtain permission for serving members of a military organisation to visit Spanish soil and was deemed complete. It had taken the Flight Sergeant five hours to wade through the forms and all was set for the Central Band of the Royal Air Force to come to Spain and play in two concerts; one in Torrevieja and a second in Benalmadena.

On Friday afternoon, as the 37 members of the Central Band were already on a British Airways flight to Gibraltar, the Spanish Foreign Ministry informed the British authorities that they would not be allowed to enter Spanish territory. Under no circumstances would a military unit be allowed to enter Spain from Gibraltar and the lorry carrying their musical instruments and uniforms would also be stopped at the Spanish/French border at Perpignan.

On Sunday night, every ticket having been sold for the performance, the town hall were saved by the Sociedad Musical Ciudad de Torrevieja ‘Los Salerosos’. Los Salerosos got a resounding round of applause and saved the day with a blinding performance particularly with some of the material they were unfamiliar with.

Apparently the Royal Marine Association Band, who had played earlier in the week, had no problems entering Spain direct from the UK. The row is over access from Gibraltar and the Spanish authorities are exercising their right to deny access onto the mainland to make a political point regardless of who suffers.