Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New words

Just to enrich the Spanish language, the  22 Academies of the Spanish Language have added 4,618 modifications to the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE).

There are some colloquial phrases like "animal de bellota" and  "cuerpo de jota" which are difficult for us to translate in a simple way. Is an "animal de bellota" a squirrel? A "cuerpo de jota" could be be the "corpse of folk music" or a "body of words".

Further examples include  "perder aciete" which literally means "loosing oil" but is actually an expression about a man who has homosexual tendencies. "Rebotar" which translates to  "bouncing" means to to vividly get upset by words or  actions of others.

I can see that learning Spanish could be a lifetime's work for us!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You knew it would happen

On Sunday I wrote about the foiled blackmail plot involving one of the members of the Royal family. The judge had set an order preventing the publication of a name in the UK which led to much speculation. Some assumed it was either William or Harry because of their wild party lifestyles. The pair are regularly seen out on the London club scene, often several times per week. Harry in particular spends so little time in barracks that his fellow soldiers have dubbed him "holiday Harry". It is however hard to believe that either of them would be involved in the types of scandal that have been alleged.

Thankfully, royal sources have dismissed those theories by announcing that the person concerned was a minor royal. So the speculation moved to other members of the Royal family. For example; on the Internet, on Fox news and in foreign newspapers; the name Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent has been bandied about. It is purported that he has admitted to cocaine abuse in the past and is openly homosexual. He's a board member of the gay social club Sweet Suite in Soho. Both are cited as reasons why his name came top of the list as suspect.

The trail of gossip may soon be ended though because we are told that in fact "no member of the Royal family was filmed taking drugs, or engaged in any kind of sex act." We are assured that it was a con trick which has blown up in the faces of the blackmailers. The speculation, however, has caused more damage than the allegations which is why the person concerned is now considering waiving their anonymity to prevent further damage to the Royal family name.

I'm not a royalist but I do feel sorry for the Queen who must feel she has suffered enough distress at the hands of her relatives.

A buyer's market

The decade-long boom for the property market in Spain has ended, with prices falling for the first time in many parts of the country.

In the country as a whole, prices inched up by just 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year, the smallest rise since 2000. But prices fell by 1.1 per cent in Valencia and 0.3 per cent in Alicante. The largest drop of 3.2 per cent was in Navarre, in the rainy north of Spain.

This week, the International Monetary Fund gave warning that the slide in house prices could turn into a rout in countries such as Spain, the UK and Ireland. Spain is viewed as being particularly at risk from a downturn. Like Britain, property prices have soared, doubling between 2001 and the end of 2006 and rising by nearly 60 per cent in the past two years alone, according to figures from Halifax, the bank.

But while the UK has barely expanded its housing stock in the past decade, there has been a construction boom in Spain, with about 800,000 homes a year being built recently. Analysts believe there is demand for only about 500,000 of those. The boom has slowed to a crawl, hurting the construction sector. Spanish construction companies began 140,000 new homes between April and July, a 15 per cent drop compared with the year before.

The Spanish Government yesterday played down fears of a crash. Rafael Pacheco, the Housing Director, said the figures showed that Spain was experiencing a “gradual and gentle landing for house prices. You cannot speak of a crisis,” he said.

Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted

Thousands of homeowners could have their beachside properties demolished under new plans by the Spanish Government to clear nearly 500 miles of coastline of illegal developments. Under the new initiative, to be unveiled formally tomorrow, Spain’s Socialist Government plans to pull down homes, chalets, hotels and swimming pools along a 776km (480mile) stretch of coastline.

The areas involved are those most popular with Britons, including the entire Mediterranean coast from Barcelona in the north to Marbella in the south, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, including Majorca.

Under 20-year-old legislation, Spanish beaches are public property and construction is banned within 100 metres (330ft) of the coastline. The law has been flouted widely by construction companies and local authorities, and bribery has been commonplace.

The Government refused yesterday to discuss the specifics of its plan, prompting confusion on all sides. An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, played down the effect on British homeowners. “We’re not talking about mass demolitions here,” he said. “It would be done on a case-by-case basis, and only in isolated cases.” The Government has also admitted that it must secure the consent of Spain’s powerful regional governments and the town halls for the plan to proceed.

Even before the latest initiative, many Britons had feared that their homes could be declared illegal by the courts and demolished. During the latest construction frenzy on the Spanish coasts, many developers went ahead without the proper permits, confident that they would be able to secure them later.

Critics say that this is just an election ruse by the Government to placate the environmental groups. It is suggested that the proposed €5million budget would be totally inadequate to carry out the scheme.

However, this plan, even if it never omes into fruition, will unnerve many potential buyers. The confidence of foreign investors has already been eroded by the controversial "land grab" law in Valencia and the massive corruption scandal that toppled the Marbella city government. This latest proposal could prove to be yet another nail in the coffin for builders.

A bit of rhythm for the weekend

This weekend at El Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau"


The Orchestra Troup combines classic swing and contemporary neo-swing with a solid foundation in Rock&Roll to produce " Swingin Las Vegas".

Music: "LOS TROVADORES" The 22 piece band " Los Trovadores " play a repertoire of Latin music (boleros, cha cha chas, Peruvian waltzes, and Hispanic American rhythms).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Growing concerns

The Province of Alicante has seen an increase in population of 20% in the last six years. Of the 293,290 new residents, 90% are foreigners. The growth has been highest in e.g. Torrevieja which has grown by 56% and Orihuela by 39%. Third age citizens account for the majority of these immigrants.

Alicante airport reports 4.5 million visitors (mainly British) each year.

So why do all these people choose Alicante?

Professor Tomás Mazón analyzed more than 1,000 surveys of retired European Union residents in twelve municipalities.

50.1% of the respondents said that the climate was the main reason they came to Alicante. The benefits to health of a sunny climate with mild winter temperatures was an incentive for 31,3%. The lower cost of the living in Spain and cheaper housing were reasons cited by 21% . Finally, 73.9% of the people surveyed said they already knew the province of Alicante because they had holidayed here.

The Europeans surveyed were moderately positive about their decision to emigrate. 66.3% considered that, in spite of the problems that have arisen in their daily lives, they continue enjoying a greater quality of life. Of the nationalities questioned, the Germans were the most critical with only 52.9% positive replies.

Most significant though; 57.7% were negative about city-planning developments that have taken place after their arrival. It isn't just the volume of construction or the negative effect upon the environment that concerned them; 62.6% said they felt overwhelmed by so much construction.

We can identify with most of that.

In our decision to move to Spain, weather was the most significant factor followed by the cost and quality of life. The health benefits were an important consideration along with the challenge of living in a new country. It does take time to adapt to the way of life and the bureaucracy. The biggest challenge continues to be the language but we are working on that.

When we first started considering the move house prices were still cheap. However, when we came to buy, the house we bought cost almost as much as the one we sold in England. Our utility bills are similar but the cost of food and the local taxes are much cheaper. Telephone line rental (including ADSL) and the Digital+ satellite television monthly costs are more expensive. Taking everything into consideration though, we can live in Spain for less than we did in England.

We are still very positive about the move and are glad that we made it but, like the people in the survey, we are concerned about the amount of construction which can feel overwhelming.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Who could it be?

A member of the British royal family is embroiled in a £50,000 sex and drugs blackmail plot.

The alleged blackmailers claimed the royal, who can't be named for legal reasons, was filmed being given oral sex act by an aide.

The duo allegedly demanded £50,000 not to publicise the video. They also claimed to have evidence the royal supplied an aide with cocaine. They suggested they had video of an aide snorting the drug.

It is the first time in 100 years a member of the royal family has been the victim of a blackmail plot.

After the approach from the men in August, the royal tipped off Scotland Yard.

The police set up a sting and two men were arrested at a London hotel on September 11.

They were arrested as they played what they claimed was the sex video.

The two men, aged 30 and 40, appeared before City of Westminster magistrates last month charged with blackmail.

They were remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on December 12. A judge issued a gagging order preventing the royal or any witnesses being named.

It's claimed the extortion attempt began on August 2. A man claimed by phone that a member of the royal's staff had an envelope containing cocaine with the royal's personal insignia.

The video also is claimed to contain unsubstantiated allegations about senior royals, including the Queen.

The last time a royal was blackmailed was in 1891 when the future Edward VII discussed with his solicitor paying off two prostitutes he had visited in return for letters he had written to them. Details emerged only in 2002 when the letters were sold for £8,220 at Bonhams, the auctioneers.

Does that mean we will have to wait 111 years to find out who was involved in this latest scandal?

PS Never mind that the "boat of Moya is leaking" in Bigastro; the boat of the Royal Family must be near sunk!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A reminder

Don't forget to change your clock tonight to get that extra hour in bed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halt the destruction

The Sierra Escalona is the range of hills to the right of the San Miguel de Salinas to Campomor road and is currently under threat of destruction by developers.

Last Sunday one hundred walkers took part in a protest walk organised by the campaign group Amigos de Sierra Escalona.The group would like to see the PAU21 development halted until an environmental impact assessment has been carried out.

They say that the plans to build yet more new homes and a golf course will, not only damage the natural environment, but will add further strain to the region’s already stretched water supplies. The Amigos are also lobbying the Valencian Government to extend the protected green area from 4,700 hectares to 11,000 hectares.

The PAU 21 development falls within the zone the campaign group believes should be kept safe from the constructors because it is the home to ancient Mediterranean pines and protected palms. It is also home to golden eagles, Griffon vultures, buzzards and peregrine falcons which feed on red-legged partridges and rabbits. The birds will disappear once their habitat is destroyed and their food is gone.

The group argue that the blame for the uncontrolled building in Orihuela sits firmly in the lap of the ruling Partido Popular party, which continues to sanction yet more unwanted housing developments, such as those in Cala Mosca and Villamartin.

The PAU21 development has already had a devastating effect on Sierra Escalona, with roads and roundabouts already carved out, and a half-built bridge crossing a rambla.The bulldozers have also flattened a huge area that once contained hundreds of pine trees, ready to make way for new homes. One of the roads leading to the development runs across the Camino Real, a cattle path and public right of way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The road is going ahead

The contract for the new road between Orihuela and Torrevieja has been given to a Temporary Union of Companies (UTE) formed by the companies; Cyes, Lubasa, Grupo Rover Alcisa and Torrescámara and Co. according to an authorized spokesman of the City council of Orihuela on Monday. The budget for this project is 94.4 million euros.

The 13.1km road will connect the N-340, the ring road at Arneva and Hurchillo and the AP-7 to the residential nuclei of Torrevieja at Los Balconies and Orihuela-Costa.

At the moment the Generalitat has not chosen which of the alternative layouts to proceed with. An opposition group proposed an amendment to the the original layout which would cut the town of San Miguel de Salinas in half.

Tense times

A tense quarrel broke out yesterday between the mayor of Bigastro, the Socialist Jose Joaquin Moya and the spokesman of the opposition, Aurelio Murcia . The mayor ordered the Local Police to expel Murcia from the office of the " municipal groups " during a press conference which he was holding. After he had left, Murcia responded by denouncing Moya at the Guardia Civil office in Jacarilla for denial of fundamental rights.

The press conference was called to officially communicate the resignation of the first lieutenant mayor, Mari Carmen Grau. Murcia along with Jose Antonio Ricart and other councilmen, appeared in the room intending to follow the development of the press conference. Moya asked them to leave because, he claimed their presence was a "provocation". Moya claimed he was dealing with an internal matter for his government team - not a general subject for the municipality - and they " are not only citizen but also councilmen for the opposition ".

According to Murcia, Moya then took the two opposition councilors by the arm and proceeded to push them. Murcia said that as citizen of Bigastro they had every right to be in the municipal building and refused to leave until the Local Police or the Guardia Civil ordered them.

When the press conference finally started: Mari Carmen Grau, in the presence of the spokeswoman of the group, Immaculada Martinez, reiterated over and over again that there is no crisis in the government team. She explained that her resignation is purely for family reasons. It is still not clear who will assume the role of Grau. It could be either Imaculada Martinez or the young councillor for Urbanism and Property, Raul

In a later press conference, Aurelio Murcia claimed that the resignation of Mari Carmen Grau is the result of confrontations between her and Immaculada Martinez. Murcia says that the first months of this term of office show that " the boat of Moya leaks throughout".

Murcia feels that is is possible that there will be further resignations from the governing group. Murcia alluded to the economic difficulties the Council have faced: the dismissal of 11 workers in June, the non payment of the 28,000€ telephone bill and the disappearance of e.g. the ecological market Lugareco.

The opposition party are obviously not going to allow the PSOE any quarter. Whilst that is what you would expect, let's hope that it does not impede the effective running of the town.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A worthy promotion

Colonel Francisco Grau Vegara,  director of the band of the Royal Guard for two decades, is to be promoted to the rank of General. 

The promotion has required a change in the law which will receive Royal Decree and come into force January 1st 2008.  

Grau, who has won13 national  and international prizes for composition, has innumerable decorations and  is responsible for more than 700 works, including the official  version of the old March of Grenadiers which was adopted in 1997 as the Spanish National Anthem.

As I have said before the new theatre is named after Francisco Grau who was born in Bigastro and was a member of the town's band.

I'm sure the whole town would like to congratulate him on his well deserved honour.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Advice comes free part 2

Now he knows where to get his computer but what should he you look for?

First off the screen or monitor. This is the part you look at, not the tower, so it's important. The days of the 14 or 15 inch CRT are gone. LCDs are "king of the hill" now. Buy as large as you can afford. Just go into Carrefour and look at the 24" Apple Display and then compare it with the 15" monitors to see why. With a large display text will be larger and you'll spend less time scrolling around.

LCDs have analogue and digital connections. Digital is better. Again just go and see for yourself. High contrast ratio, brightness and fast response times are also better.

Now for the tower or, as one friend calls it, "the brain box" (would that it was). Dual core (or quad core) processors do work. They allow you to multi task in a way that was not possible with single core. Currently Intel versions are favoured over their AMD equivalents but both are good. One big advantage of the Intel Core2 Duo over previous processors is that it uses less power. Less power means less heat which is vital in a country like Spain.

There are several types of memory in a computer. The main ones to consider though are RAM (which the programs use to run) and the hard drive where everything is stored. Both are relatively cheap these days so there is no excuse for stinting on either.

If you want to run Vista properly you will need at least 2GBs of RAM (1Gb would suffice for XP) and a decent size hard drive will start at 160GBs. That should give plenty of room to store your digital photos, music, videos etc. Newer computers use the SATA standard for drives rather than the old IDE to provide faster transfer times. The current version is SATA 2.

A dedicated video card with at least 256MBs of its own RAM is essential if you want to run Vista and access the nifty aero features. It will also prove its worth if you plan to do any video or photo editing. Remember that gamers will spend as much on a high end video card as most of us would spend on the whole computer. We lesser mortals opt for something a bit more conservative.

These days floppy discs are defunct. You will, however need at least one optical drive. DVD+-/CD-R/RW writers are the norm. One will suffice but it is worth considering a second DVD reader if you regularly copy discs. If you have a digital camera, a built in card reader would be also be useful but do make sure it covers the type of cards your camera uses.

Two components that are often overlooked are the keyboard and mouse. Optical mice have largely replaced the ones with rubber balls. The old mice were a pain because kids at school would pinch the balls and throw them around the playground. We'd end up superglueing the retaining rings in place to prevent this. The mice would then get very dirty inside and stop working. Their other trick was to take the keys off the keyboards and swap them around so when you typed you got gobbledygook . Anyway enough of that: wireless keyboards and mice remove the need to have trailing cables everywhere, look neater on your desktop and don't cost the earth.

There are lots of other components that you might be interested in for example: a quality sound card, a TV tuner card and speakers. One thing you will definitely need are ports. These are used to connect peripheral like scanners and printers. USB2 is the current vogue - look for at least 6 of these ports and expect to have to add a hub later to extend that. Serial and parallel ports are useful if you have legacy devices that need them. You'll also need a Firewire port if you have a digital video camera. You can add these later but that involves taking the cover off and you don't really want to have to do that with a new computer.

So there you go. Do your research on the Internet where you'll find computers in the full price range. Remember though the "law of diminishing return" which says that at the high end of the market you can pay a lot to gain very little but, at the same time, don't expect to get a Ferrari for the price of a Mini.

Advice comes free

A guy who lives on our estate met me in the Post Office last week. After the usual pleasantries he said "you're an expert on computers."

Woooh. Just because, like photography, I taught IT to A level for a number of years doesn't make me an expert. Far from it. Still, all he wanted to know was what should he buy to replace his ageing Windows 95 machine. That is almost like asking, "what car should I buy"? There are so many factors like; how much do you want to pay, what do you want to do with it and would you prefer a laptop to a desktop. We could have been there all morning.

He'd been told, by a friend, not to touch Windows Vista but to stick to Windows XP. Actually, considering that he has some older peripherals that he wants to keep, that is not such a bad idea. It's more likely that there will be drivers for his old stuff that work with XP than with Vista.

I have to confess that my own experience with Vista started out badly but has improved dramatically since. Software that was flaky to start with has been updated as companies sort out compatibility issues. The reliability index for my computer is now 10 out of 10. I would guess that most people, like me, who have Vista are happy with it. Even still XP is probably a better choice in this guy's case.

Actually there is an alternative. If he doesn't relish the idea of making Bill Gates a richer man, he should consider installing Linux instead. The Obuntu version (I know the name is weird) is apparently excellent. It's easy to use, has a great interface and comes with an office suite of word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. There are all sorts of other programs available to download which work just as well as their Windows' counterparts. Best of all though it is all FREE of charge. I have a friend, who IS an expert and he swears by it.

The guy in the Post Office's main concern though, was that he wanted an English version of the operating system. He'd been told that once Windows was installed you couldn't change the language. That was almost correct. You can change the keyboard and input language and you can also change the way your computer displays numbers, currency, dates and times but it is true you can't change the language of the menus. You have to buy the correct language version in the first place to get that right.

Buying an English version of Windows is less of a problem here in Spain than you would imagine. Carrefour, for example, sell Windows Vista in both Spanish and English versions. I'd like to bet that PC City in Alicante do the same. I ordered my Dell in Spain but asked for English software. As it happens, the computer came from Ireland but with a Spanish warranty. I'm sure you can order from other companies like HP with English software.

Failing that, there are lots of little computer shops around that sell machines with English software. The downside though is that most of them sell their own "home made" computers at cut down prices. Personally, I would be wary of buying a home made system. It requires a lot of experience to put together a reliable working system which is something that the local shop doesn't necessarily have. I'm told that some shops even sell machines with non-genuine versions of the operating system. My advice to anybody is to avoid those like the plague.

So the bottom line is. Go to somewhere like PC City and see what they can do or phone a company like Dell or HP (both have people who speak good English) or failing all that, wait until your next trip to the UK and buy a laptop there and hope that it doesn't go wrong.

"Moderation" as my mother in law used to say.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics in England show that:-

Drink-related deaths among women aged between 35 and 54 are almost twice the level they were in the early 1990s at around 14 per 100,000.

Thirty years ago, the death rate for men and women of any age from alcohol abuse stood as just two per 100,000, the lowest in Europe.

One in five 15-year-olds drinks the equivalent of almost a bottle of wine a week. In some parts of the country, one in eight 12-year-olds is drinking as much. Binge drinking plays a part in more than 4,300 teenage pregnancies and 5.5million lost days of schooling each year.

It's no good blaming the Government for changing the licensing laws; these young people need to follow the good example set from the top.

Get the washing on

It poured down again on Saturday night and was dull for most of Sunday. But today will be sunny so make the most of it because tomorrow's forecast is cloudy again.

Change at the top

Mari Carmen Grau, council woman for Health and Consumption and second in line to the Mayor has submitted her resignation to the Alcalde, Jose Joaquin Moya.

Carmen Grau, who has been at the right hand of the mayor during almost ten years, has cited "personal reasons" for her resignation according to municipal sources. The same sources dismiss the idea that her resignation is because of disagreements between her and Immaculada Martinez, spokesperson of the socialist group with responsibility for Promotion, which have been evident during the first months of this term of office

Mari Carmen Grau, whose vote has given validity to the main municipal decisions in the last decade, was apparently prepared to resign during the previous four year term. However, the constant public and judicial denunciations that the opposition party (PP) presented to the Mayor between 2005 and 2007 and the complicated preparation of the socialist municipal list for the elections delayed her retirement.

In England a resignation would prompt a by-election but things are different here in Spain where we have proportional representation. So I presume that what happens now is that everyone moves up the list and the first reserve councilor joins the group.

Something for the weekend

Saturday, 27th October 11:00pm
Contrasts theatre & club: UNDO & VICKNOISE

In response to requests, the Council of Culture of the City council of Bigastro present UNDO & VICKNOISE from Factor City Barcelona who will play their fusion of electronic dance music; first in the theatre Francisco Grau and then at the Metro Club.

Sunday, 28th October. 7:30pm

"A stroll by zarzuela" is described as a vibrant and enthusiastic spectacle of Spanish folk music.

PS It is probably safer if we "third age" people avoid any group who have the word "noise" incorporated in their name.

Least said, soonest mended

In a week when hopes were high, we ended up loosing all three of the competitions we so badly wanted to win.

The defeat of our footballers was almost predictable and probably means that England won't be in the Euro 2008 finals. Even if they do qualify they will need a massive turn around to get anywhere near the final. Let's face it, the last time England won a major International was 1966; long before many of their fans were born.

The defeat by the Springboks in Paris was also predictable. In truth the South Africans were the better side. In any case, England were lucky to be at the final judging by their earlier performances. Still the team fought hard and deserve to be praised for their efforts. Even in the dying minutes on Saturday they didn't give up.

Lewis Hamilton was largely the victim of bad luck but his time will come. Anyone who finishes second in their first year in F1 must have a glittering future ahead of them.

So a disappointing week for England but we live to fight another day. For sure Hamilton will bring glory to the country in the years to come. I wish I could say the same about the England football team.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More than a car boot sale

For millions of Americans, Craig Newmark is a saint. Thanks to him and the Internet site that he founded in the middle of the nineties, Craigslist they have found work, apartments, houses, services, furniture etc. without paying a cent for advertising costs.

The site, which is manned by just 25 people, has around 25 million visitors each month viewing more than 7 billion pages. It is the seventh most visited site in the USA. " We are simply a great flea market, and our main interest has been to help people ", explains Newmark.

Craigslist has grown at an extraordinary rate (more than100% in the last two years). It is not difficult to understand why it is so successful and why people in 50 different countries love the site. There is no charge for placing an announcement on the list and anyone can visit it without the need for registration.

According to Fortune magazine, Craigslist receives an income of about 18 million euros per year which pays the wages of the 25 employees. In the world of the Interrnet, these people are working for peanuts. Analysts think that, if Craigslist inserted announcements of a line or two of text like those on Google, he could increase the income to 350 million euros. Clearly Newmark does not want to go down that road.

Give it a visit and see for yourself what ones man's vision can achieve. You will find a link for Spain on the right hand side of the opening page.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

There's sloppy and just plain stupid

A B-52, inadvertently armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, was flown from Minot, near the Canadian border, to Barksdale in Louisiana, near the Gulf of Mexico and nobody noticed the mistake for over a day.

“There has been an erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and Barksdale Air Force Base,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, after a six-week probe into the incident.

According to ButHans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists a decline in Air Force standards for nuclear weapons maintenance and security was documented by the government a decade ago.

Newton acknowledged that the Air Force needs to: “restore the confidence; lost among the American people after the August incident, which raised questions about the safety of the country’s nuclear arsenal."

And Wynne said: “We are making all appropriate changes to ensure this has a minimal chance of ever happening again."

It must be comforting for Americans to know that there will be a minimal chance of a re-occurrence. Imagine if one had been fired. Who would they find to blame?

Benidorm Palace

In my post "Full Marks" on the 21st September I said:-

"Allan (Allan White, Chairman of the Residents' Committee) 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."

Allan fully expected this venture to be oversubscribed; after all he only needed 49 people to fill the coach and make it viable. Sadly he is 8 people short of that total. As Allan told me yesterday, "the cost with a part filled coach would be prohibitive". So reluctantly he will have to cancel the outing unless we can find eight more interested people.

If you want to go and haven't already given your names to Allan, or another member of the Committee, can you please do so so ASAP. Otherwise we'll miss out on a great night out that many of us were looking forward to.

Allan lives at Casa Blanca, Cañada de Andrea 65. If he's not in just drop a note in his buzon.

PS the singing on the coach back from Santa Pola two years ago was so good we should have probably considered forming a choir. I'm sure we could do even better coming back from Benidorm.

The little plane

Villas Andrea is surrounded by lemon and orange groves which attract the Mediterranean fruit fly. Although the fruit fly is harmless to people and animals, it can have disastrous effects on the crop of citrus fruits. They also very annoying to people living near the plantations. 

Fruit fly numbers are expected to be particularly high this season because growers left the last crop to rot on the trees following the fall in prices of fruit.

The spraying programme to eradicate the fruit flies involves tankers on the ground and light aircraft with spray bars. Hence the little plane that appeared a couple of weeks ago which flies so low it looks as though it is going to take the chimneys off our houses.

I just hope some of the spray drifted over my two trees.

Open another bottle

Earlier this week, UK papers published a damming report which suggested that it was actually older people from the middle classes who were at risk of consuming too much alcohol. It appears that nobody had previously considered that a few glasses of wine each night and the odd gin and tonic was taking these people over the prescribed safe limits. The concern was previously about young people "binge drinking".

So now it was the citizens of towns like Harrogate rather than 20 somethings from Barnsley who were going to damage their livers and add enormous cost to the NHS.

I imagine a lot of people became concerned and like me, did a quick calculation to see just how many units they were consuming. The guidelines of 21 units for men and 14 for women are very easy to surpass if you enjoy a glass or two of wine with your meals.

However, we are now told that these guidelines were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess" and have no firm scientific basis whatsoever. Since they were introduced in 1987, a number of further studies have been undertaken which found evidence to suggest that the safety limits should be raised.

These studies were ignored by a succession of health ministers. One particular study found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

Contrary to the guidelines, recent studies actually show that a drink or two a day improves life expectation. We are even told that pregnant women can safely drink the equivalent of a small glass of wine each day.

I think the time to start worrying is if you regularly feel the need to have a drink and suffer physical symptoms e.g. lack of sleep or sweating if you don't have one. At that point you know that you are suffering from alcohol dependency and it is time to take stock.

Restricting your drinking to night time is apparently a good ploy. The reason is that people who drink in the daytime are likely to also drink at night thus increasing their consumption. It is also suggested that "days off" are a good idea. As one authority put it "you need to be the master not the servant in your relationship with alcohol".

I'm sure the local bodegas will be relieved to hear all this.

PS you can go to the NHS page and perform the calculation for yourself but you must be honest otherwise you will have wasted your time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top marks

As I was dealing with the bird in the lounge I got a text message telling me that I was entitled to a free flu injection at the Health Centre.

"Si tiene 60 o mas años acuda a vacunarse gratuitamente contra la gripe a su Centro de Salud. Es una recomendacion de la Conselleria de Sanidat."

Top marks first of all for offering free flu jabs to over 60s and secondly for sending text messages to eligible people. I am most impressed and will definitely take up the offer.

I have to say that, in our experience, the health service here in Spain seems to be infinitely better than the beleaguered National Health Service in the UK.

What a fright

There was a strange noise coming from the lounge this morning. When I investigated, I realised that we had a bird stuck in the chimney. The noise was the bird flapping its wings desperate to get out.

After a few minutes the blackbird left the chimney and flew into the lounge. It proceeded to do a tour of the room looking for an escape route. I quickly opened all the windows and the front door to let the bird out. After three or four attempts it managed to escape. Hopefully the bird will have learnt not to get into chimney pots. Better still it will warn other birds not to do the same.

Saving the traditional orchard

La Plataforma en Defensa de la Huerta has thanked people for contributing  data and excellent documents to their web site which they forsee will  be decisive in the fight against corruption.  They say that the  "for and against" statements that people have contributed to their the web page have been  absolutely positive. 

This support  demonstrates the urgent  necessity, felt by all of the Vega Baja,  to avoid  the destruction of the Huerta  which the group  claims is "an ecological legacy of irreplaceable  magnitude".  "Those who would seek to destroy the traditional orchard are driven by greed and avarice" says the group that was created in response to the threat of construction of the todavia between  Orihuela and Guardamar. 

I hope it doesn't rain that day

The Bigastrense Association ACNABIG, along with the Council of Deportes of the City council of Bigastro has organized a walk from Bigastro to Guardamar del Segura to take place on the 10th of November.

The senderismo, which follows the route of the river Sgura, should take approximately 6 hours. Note that this excursion is not recommended for children under the age of 14 nor for anyone who is not fit.

ACANBIG suggest that the walkers will need a suitable coat, and hat and should take sufficient food and drink for the journey. The return trip will be by coach.

For more information or to register contact the City council of Bigastro on 96 535 00 00 Ext.132.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't ask

About the weather OK! It seems, yet again, that this is the only area in Spain to have rain. Apart from the North East that is which always seems to have rain.

Although it is raining at the moment, the skies do look to be clearing so maybe there is some hope. On Tuesday the Spanish class was cancelled because the roads from Torrevieja , where our teacher lives, were flooded. I hope she can make it today.

PS Yesterday we had sunshine for most of the day. I spent a few hours sleeping on a sunbed in the afternoon. It was beautiful. It's what we came here for.

Trouble at' mill

More than 200,000 young people aged 16 to 18 (10% of children in this age group) have virtually no hope of getting a foot in the door to the world of work after leaving school with no qualifications according to the Chief Inspector of Schools (OFSTED).

Ms Gilbert said that a large proportion of failing schools were in the most deprived areas and that poorer children still had the “odds stacked against them” in education.

Ms Gilbert said that failures in leadership and management and poor practice in the classroom were the primary causes of school failure. But she was critical, too, of the lack of aspiration often displayed by teachers when it came to vocational education.

But teachers’ leaders said it was “totally unrealistic” to think that schools could tackle socio-economic disadvantage on their own.

Martin Johnson, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Schools cannot compensate for a child’s family background - financial or aspirational poverty – or a local culture of unemployment.”

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that it would not be easy in a society as divided and diverse as England for schools to overcome social inequality on their own. “It requires action from central and local government in areas much wider than education to make this task feasible,” he said.

The report also highlighted concerns over behaviour, which was “just satisfactory” in 29 per cent of secondary schools, and about the failure of schools to give children a clear understanding of “what it means to be British”.

Am I glad to be out of it? You bet I am.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Will it be a black Monday or red and white Monday?

You can bet the only pubs in England that will have customers on Saturday night will be those with big screen tvs as the country settles down to watch the Rugby World Cup. Fingers and toes are all crossed, lucky pants are washed and ready and the beers are chilling in the fridge. The only thing I ask is, please don't drive round with those silly St George's cross flags on your cars. If you want to celebrate our patron saint, do so on St George's Day which, If I can remind you, is on April 23rd.

Follow the Rugby World Cup with the possibility that Lewis Hamilton will win the Grand Prix title in his first season and you can almost guarantee the topics of conversation at work on Monday. That is if anyone is sober enough to go to work on Monday.

Of course, and I may be accused of heresy for saying this, there is the possibility that it will all go wrong and the country will be sunk into despair especially if the England football team get beaten by Russia today. Never mind; if it all goes wrong you can always blame Gordon Brown. Not that it could possible be his fault but it is always good to blame someone and he is as likely as anybody to be responsible.

Incidentally, I understand that some Spaniards are saying it is wrong for England to claim the possibility of victory in F1 with a black driver. I don't want to offend the locals but that is a load of b*******. Hamilton was born in Stevenage for God's sake. His paternal grandparents came from Grenada which was made a Crown Colony in 1877. The man's as English as fish and chips. In any case ask me, "where does the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso live?" In Oxford and his second home is near Lake Geneva. I rest my case.

We want our "pieces of eight" back

A Spanish warship forced a US treasure hunting vessel back into port at gunpoint yesterday as it tried to leave Gibraltar in the latest episode in a battle over what is claimed to be the world's largest recovery of treasure from the sea.

The Odyssey Explorer, a 250ft salvage vessel, was trying to leave Gibraltar, where it had been effectively blockaded for three months after Spain claimed a share of millions of dollars worth of gold and silver coins it had recovered. After setting sail, it was approached by a Spanish navy gunboat and civil guard patrol ship once it passed the three-mile "buffer zone" that surrounds Gibraltar and forced to turn round and head for the Spanish port of Algeciras.

There is debate over the value of the coins that Odyssey has recovered. In May the company valued the 500,000 coins they had found at $2.5m (around $5 per coin), but in a press release put out in June, they said the coins may be worth $500m, or $1,000 per coin. Odyssey said it was not responsible for the higher valuation, based on calculations by an independent numismatist. But they did publicise the higher figure.

Spanish media reports suggest the boat from which the coins were recovered is the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804 after a battle with British warships. Down with it went more than 1m silver coins, plundered from Spain's American colonies. The treasure has entered into Spanish lore as the world's greatest sunken booty and the idea that it might have been whisked away has incensed politicians and journalists.

Odyssey describes its work as "commercial archaeology" and says that, as the treasure was found in international waters, it should keep 90% of the proceeds. Spain's lawyer, James Goold, counters that "Spain has not abandoned its sunken property and it does not permit unauthorised salvage".

Just give them back and we'll say no more about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I don't believe it

The weather forecast is for more rain over the next couple of days.

Today's forecast, "Por la mañana es probable que se registren chubascos. Por la tarde se esperan tormentas" and tomorrow's, "en la primera mitad del día no se descartan precipitaciones débiles. Por la tarde se esperan chubascos moderados." Thankfully Friday's forecast is for sunshine that should last over the weekend.

If it carries on like this I may have to change the title of my blog to "Coping in a wet climate".

PS It is 2pm and I have both the heating and the lights on again.

Who is to blame?

Francisco Camps, Executive of the PP and the socialist Government of Jose Luis Zapatero are blaming in each other for the devastating effects of the floods that have affected the north of Alicante (1,200 flooded houses and 1,500 damaged cars).

University critics and and technical experts have already questioned the frenetic city-planning developments experienced in the Valencian Community. Now the minister of Medio Ambiente, Cristina Narbona, who is on an official trip to China, says, " if the Administrations responsible for the arrangement of the territory and urbanism continue to overwhelm the territory with building, they make it difficult for rainwater to be absorbed, forcing it to create new river channels".

On the other hand, the Economic Vice-President of the Consell, Gerald Camps of the PP party says that the responsibility lies with the Hydrographic Confederation of the Júcar, who he claims have not kept the drainage channels clean. The PP maintains, in their defense of urbanisation, that the problems have not been in newly constructed zones on the flood plain but rather in those areas that were constructed before democratisation.

Cristina Narbona has pointed out that the annual budget for cleaning and conservation of water channels in the Valencian Community is 450,000€. In all 22million euros are spent in Spain annually to create new water channels and clean existing ones. Pictures on the television however show the amount of debris that was blocking the water channels of the Girona.

The main culprit though was the freak weather. This area expects a Gota Frias about once every ten years. The rain this year though has been exceptional, especially in the area of the Marina Alta. Weather experts say that Gota Frias, as devastating as those we are experiencing this year, can be expected perhaps once every 3 to 400 years.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Still they come

Ilegal immigrants are continuing to target the coastline of south-east Spain as a point of entry to Europe.

A total of 75 people - the majority from Algeria – were arrested at different points on Cartagena’s coast between Saturday and Tuesday last week. Some had already reached the shore and others were still in boats when they were detained.

A total of 300 people have now been arrested in the Murcia region in the last ten weeks for entering the country illegally. In the latest incident, Guardia Civil picked up seven Algerians at La Colina urbanisation close to the La Manga resort at around 08.30 last Tuesday morning. The seven were not carrying any personal documents and although their clothes were still wet, they were in good health.

The Portuguese fishing boat, Corisco which is based at Santa Pola rescued 50 Libyans, including five women and three children, from an inflatable boat on Saturday. The boat was already partially deflated when Corisco spotted  it and sank soon after the rescue took place.

Thankfully the Captain was given permission to disembark the "passengers" in Tripoli and so was able to continue fishing. The Corisco is due back in Santa Pola at the end of the month.

More shopping

A new 30-million-euro commercial centre is to be built on land off the CV-940 road that links Benijófar and Rojales.

The Ociothader complex will have shops, a Carrefour Express supermarket, a four-screen cinema, restaurants, bars, a bowling alley and a fitness studio.

The cinema is to show original version films as well as those dubbed into Spanish.

Bars and restaurants have been designed around a plaza which has an area available for live music.

The 40,000-square-metre centre has been designed by architects who drew up the plans for the Habaneras complex in Torrevieja.

It will be spread over three buildings and there will be parking spaces for up to 1,000 cars above and below ground.

Promoter Antonio Cases Andreu of Grupo Capi’s said he hoped the commercial centre would be completed and open by Christmas next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why the changes

You may have wondered why sometimes my posts change from the first time you read them to subsequent visits. 

First off, you have to look at the time when most of my posts are made. I'm pretty good first thing but not necessarily at my best. Often I will rush to get some idea out at that time only to reconsider what I have said  later. I know I shouldn't do it but sometimes I just get enthusiastic about an idea and need to get it down before it leaves me.

I also make lots of typing errors which are not always picked up by the spell checker. In any case the spell checker on Blogger and in Live Writer is set to US English so some words will get through e.g. color instead of colour.  Those of you who read this blog in America must wince at the spelling which I try to keep to UK English. I make no apology for that.

Most times I proof read the things I write before publishing but I find difficult to proof read my own work. The tendency is to read what I think I have written rather than what is actually there. That is why, when I worked in a school, I would always leave anything that was important until later before printing it out. Coming back to a piece after a few hours or even the next  day allowed me  to read it with fresh eyes. I obviously don't follow the same practise with my blog.

There are some critical readers who visit my blog whose understanding of English grammar is much better than mine.  I am always aware of this. I try to choose my words carefully to convey the meaning I intend; at the same time keeping the language as simple as possible. I don't care for over punctuation as you may have gathered.

You will be aware that a lot of my news items are translated from Spanish to English. I generally use a translation program to help me do that. Anyone who has used a translator program will know that they can throw up a lot of rubbish so I have to do a lot of editing.

The structure of sentences in Spanish are very different to those in English. Trying to make sense of  simple translations can therefore be difficult.  Often I have to guess what the original meaning might be by working it out from the context in which the statement is made. Obviously there are going to be times when I get it wrong.

So after all that, can I apologise for any mistakes I have made in the past and for any that I may make in the future. I hope they don't spoil your reading and put you off visiting my blog again.

Their day out

These are the mujeres progresistas setting off on their day out to Murcia to attend the Conference for Rural Women. I'm sure they had a wonderful time, recounting countless tales during their journey.

From one of the other photographs, it looks as if they all collected large carrier bags of information whilst they were there. I bet they had plenty to tell their husbands about on their return.

I can't help but feel sorry for that lady at the back who obviously wanted to be in the photograph but was a little bit too short to be seen behind the others. Never mind she's waving her hand so we know she is there. I'm sure she will recognise herself in the photo but not sure that anyone else will.

The local police warn us of the latest scam

This is a new version of credit card fraud which is very clever because the perpetrator has all the correct information about your card with the exception of the three digit security number on the back.

The scam works like this: You receive a phone call where the caller says:-

" Good morning my name is xxxxx and I am calling from the Visa Security department. My identification number is the 12460. Your card shows an infrequent purchase which I am calling to verify. They will then tell you that your visa card is from (name of the bank) and will ask, "did you purchase a yyyyy for the amount of 497.99€ from a company in zzzzz ?"

When your you respond no, they continue by saying they are going to verify your account. They explain that they have been watching the company for some time since purchases from them vary between 297€ and 497€, exactly below the limit of 500€ imposed by most of the credit cards. They then ask if the address they have is correct.

You confirm that it is.

The scammer then continues by saying that they are going to compile a report of fraud in your file and that if you have any other questions that you wish to ask then you must call the number 902-xxx written to the back of your card .

He or she then asks you to confirm that the number of your card is the correct one. You are given the 6 figure number of your card which you are asked to repeat.

Now the MOST IMPORTANT part of the scam.

The scammer says:
"I must verify that you are really in possession of your card."
He or she explains that there are 7 numbers: the 4 first comprise of their number of card, the 3 following ones are the security numbers to verify that you are in possession of the card.

This three figure number is the one one the back of the card that you use when making a purchase, for example over the Internet, to prove that you actually have the card.

The scammer will then ask you that you read the 3 numbers to him/her and will say, "that is correct".

Following that you will find a purchase has been made from your card for 497.99€ within minutes of your call. Since the scammer used your security number and therefore was ostensibly the owner of the card, that transaction cannot be reversed. If this is the case, you need to phone the credit card company immediately to stop any further use of your card.

The advice is NEVER give that 3 figure number over the telephone or in a fax or by email and only provide it on an Internet site that is secure.

Many thanks to the local police for that information.

PS Of course we have an advantage here over our Spanish neighbours. If anyone phones us, it is unlikely that we'll understand what they are saying.

14 - 9

Anyone who knows me will agree that I am not a fan of sport but when England beat France second time round in a semi final yesterday "I was there" as Max Boyce used to say. Not literally you understand, I wouldn't go that far but metaphorically I was behind the boys.

Wasn't it good to see England come back from 8 - 9 down in the last ten minutes with the help of the nations hero Johnny Wilkinson? Didn't it make you proud to be English? For a brief time we could forget Gordon Brown, the McCanns, the Diana inquest and rejoice.

Of course I couldn't watch the game until last night on Canal+1 so I deliberately didn't check the score online when the match had finished. It was so much sweeter though because once the program had finished, I could go to bed a happy man knowing that the tradition, that started at Agincourt, of beating the French on their own territory had been upheld.

PS I can hear fireworks outside - could it be that the locals are celebrating England's victory.
PPS I've just watched a video explaining that the first ball Johnny was given for his penalty kick was not one of the six match balls. Now how did that happen?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The fiesta didn't go well

First off; those that didn't arrive early at the paseo de la Castellana in Madrid couldn't get a good view because of all the large flags which people had bought for 10 to 15 euros. Visitors complained that they couldn't see anything because of the "war of flags".

Then when the parade started there were shouts of ¡Za-pa-te-ro, di-mi-sión! as the Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero appeared. Apparently the booing could be heard in the Plaza de Colón which was heavily protected to avoid any problems. It didn't stop until the King, Juan Carlos laid a crown of flowers in recognition of soldiers that had died in Afghanistan and Lebanon. Arsenio Fernández de Mesa, spokesperson for the PP party said that the booing was the crowds response to Zapatero's capacity "to put the finger in the eye to half of the Spaniards".

Spain holds its general election in six months time. If Fridays parade is anything to go by, Zapatero and the PSOE may have a rough ride at the polls. It seems that their left wing policies no longer align with the views of many Spaniards. In particular they have been criticised for not taking a harder line against ETA.

As extranjeras, we have no entitlement to a vote in regional and national elections.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Got it right this time

The forecast for heavy rain was spot on. It rained most of yesterday and it is pouring down today. Thankfully, the forecast for tomorrow is much better.

"En la primera mitad del día se espera dominio de cielos poco nubosos o despejados. En la segunda mitad del día se esperan cielos despejados."

We were not the worst hit area. The Marina Alta has had it much worse than we have. They are experiencing serious problems on the roads as you can see in the photograph. Intense rains registered from last night and during this morning have left 240 litres per square metre in Dénia; 140 in Xàbia; 240 in Alcalalí; 280 in Pego; 294 in Laguart... That is an awful lot of water.

Looking at today's weather map, the rest of Spain is basking in sunshine whilst we are stuck indoors with the heating on!

Día de la hispanidad

The 12th of October1492 is the date when Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) landed at Guanahaní in the Bahamas after 72 days at sea. The 12th of October is therefore considered by Spaniards as a memorable day because it was the beginning of contact between Europe and America "the encounter of two worlds ".

In fact, Columbus always thought that he had arrived at India by a different route avoiding the tricky passage around the Cape of Good Hope. Columbus, who was actually Italian, never suspected that he had discovered the American continent.

Although Columbus was not the first European to discover America, his voyages came at a time when the countries were seeking develop trade routes to enhance their prosperity.

There are now estimated to be 1,500 million people living in the countries where Spanish is the main language; Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia ,Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, España ,EE.UU., Filipinas, Guatemala, Guinea Ecuat., Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú ,Puerto Rico, R. Dominicana, Sahara Occ., Uruguay and Venezuela.

The 12th October is therefore a national holiday in Spain. The day was first celebrated in 1918 and used to be called Fiesta de la Raza and was later changed at the end of the thirties to its present title.

Buenas fiestas.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Follow your band

The Delegation of Alicante and CAM bank, in collaboration with the Federation of Musical Societies of the Valencian Comunidad (FSMCV) and the City council of Alicante have organised a programme, "Follow your band".

More than 2,000 musicians will participate in a total of 29 concerts between now and the end of the year.

The Board of directors of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro are inviting us to their concert which will be held on Saturday 13th at 8pm in the recently inaugurated "Teatro-Auditorio Municipal de Torrevieja".

Transport and entrance to the concert will be free. Buses from Bigastro will leave at about 6:30pm from la plaza del Ayuntamiento.

For more information you can email: (who understands English very well). This sounds like an good opportunity to visit the new theatre in Torrevieja and at the same time enjoy an excellent concert.

Alerta roja

The National Institute of Meteorology have put the area on red alert. Cold air from central Europe is again causing instability in the high layers of warm air creating the so called "gota fría" or cold drop.

Today's forecast for the Valencian region is for very cloudy skies with strong or very strong showers, accompanied by local torrential storms reaching 90 litres per hour along the coasts of Castellón, Valencia and north of Alicante.

Friday will be very cloudy with moderate to strong showers which could be persistent along the South coast of Valencia and north of Alicante.

Saturday will be cloudy in the South half of the region with the possibility of local moderate showers.

Sunday will again be cloudy in the South with local moderate showers.

Now the good news. The temperatures will remain moderate as will the winds.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Samper Angel Rodriguez, a 43 year old from Alicante, has been collecting ballpoint pens for the last 16 years. He claims to have 12,550 different pens which weigh a total of 150 kilograms and would stretch over two kilometres if placed end-to-end.

Although most of the pens have been given to him by friends, people all over Spain have sent him pens for his collection.

Although there is no specialist registry, Samper Angel Rodriguez thinks that he has the largest collection of ball-point pens in Spain. However there is a  German collector who claims to  280,000 pens. 

Just imagine how many letters he could write with that lot.


The Progressive Women of Bigastro have organised a trip to a conference in Murcia for rural women tomorrow. The coach for this event leaves Bigastro at 7:45am and returns about 6:30pm. There is a full programme for the day including lectures, discussion groups and a two hour break for lunch.

Not wishing to be sexist but can you imagine the headache you could suffer after spending 11 hours with a group of Spanish ladies!

Give us a job

IRCO, who will be running the new dining room at the Public School San Jose de Calasanz in Bigastro needs: a cook, a kitchen attendant and four educators.

1. The interested people should send or take their Curriculum Vitae to the school before the closing date -16th of October.
2. The company will conduct tests, interviews etc. that they consider necessary to appoint the personnel.

A suitable qualification for the educator posts would be useful.
Suitable experience would be useful for the cook and attendant posts.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An interesting point

Before the elections in May, we had asked both candidates if it is was possible to do something about the discos held at the Metro club which go on until about 4am on Sunday mornings. Then, at the meeting we had up at the Pedrera on Friday, Allan White (Chairman of the Residents' Committee) asked the owner of the site if it was possible to put a 12:30am deadline on any events held in the outdoor area. Allan knows that, having reached a "certain age", many of us need our beauty sleep! It was a sensible suggestion that most seemed to agree with.

However, it was ironic that last week many of us had attended a party, held in the outside area of the Pedrera, which went on until approximately 3 am. It is also fair to point out that recently we have been aware of several private parties, held outside of houses nearby, that have still been in full swing until the early hours of the morning.

Perhaps, before we start asking for other people to show consideration for us, we should consider putting our own house in order. Otherwise we will be open to accusations of operating dual standards

4th programme of musical interchanges

Bands from the different towns in the region are taking part in the programme. Last night it was the turn of Bigastro to host the band from San Miguel de Salinas along with it's own town band.

The Unión Muscal San Miguel de Salinas played the first half. They opened with the pasadoble "Tercio de Quites" by Rafael Talens. They then moved onto a very interesting arrangement of music from Charlie Chaplin movies by Marcel Peeters. Finally they played an arrangement of tunes from West Side Story by Naohiro Iwai.

Then it was the turn of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro. They also opened with a pasedoble - "El Mago de la Muleta" by R. Oropesa. Their second piece was "El Caserío" by J. Guridi. The final piece from the their programme was "Oregón" by Jacob de Haan.

Pam and I preferred the music of the San Miguel band, possibly because it was more familiar. We found Bigastro's second piece, El Caserio difficult to listen to. It was probably difficult for them to play. It did, however, highlight the daughter of our hairdresser on flute and piccolo. It must have been a very proud moment for Juan, who was there to support her.

It still amazes us that in such small towns there is so much talent. Thank you to both bands for an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Just a reminder that there are two holidays next week. Tuesday is a local holiday and Friday is a national holiday. Shops in the area will be closed both days.

Save time

Visiting the Centro de Salud is a real eye opener for anyone used to the relative calm of a doctor's surgery in Britain. Outside each doctor's consulting room is a list which shows their appointments for that day. You would expect people to keep to that list but no. Each appointment is timed to last five minutes. Inevitably as the day goes on the times may vary. In theory, if you can identify the person just before you on the list you follow them in. That doesn't always work though because people arrive late and still expect to be seen. Others arrive early and want to jump in ahead of the queue. The trick, if you want to jump the queue, seems to be to either stand or sit as close to the door as you can and as it starts to open you push your way in. As you might expect this method can cause the occasional argument to break out but that only adds to the din created by loud conversations that are already being conducted across the room.

At least one part of the system has been streamlined though. You no longer have to go down to the Centro to book an appointment because you can do this online by going to Solicitad de cita. The information you need is your SIP number and your date of birth. You then choose the date and the time for your appointment and book it. All you have to contend with then is the actual appointment.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Prepaid mobile phones

Mobile phone companies in Spain have two years to locate more than 20 million clients who use prepaid cards. The companies already have the necessary data about people with contract phones but of course users of prepaid cards remain anonymous. During this period the phone companies have to collect information for inclusion in a free registry. After the two years, mobile phone companies will be forced to deactivate any cards for which they have no information.

The Law of Conservation of Data relative to Electronic Communications, which was approved yesterday, forces the companies to keep the data about users and the calls they make (except for the contents) and make them available in criminal investigations. This law was brought in following the Madrid train bombings and the London Underground bombings where data from mobile phone calls proved vital in obtaining arrests.

The law forces the operators of fixed, mobile and Internet phones to keep the data from users i.e. the name, address and telephone number of both caller and receiver along with the time and duration of calls for a maximum period of two years. At the present time companies keep some data for two to three months for commercial reasons.

The law gives precise instructions to the companies on what to do in the case of prepaid mobiles: they will have to take a " free-registry" with details of first name, last names, nationality and DNI or passport number of customers who bought these cards.

In the case of the 20.4 million clients who already have a prepaid mobile, the companies are going to have to locate them with publicity campaigns and request the data from them. Any card that they cannot trace will have to be deactivated.

Stormy weather

A storm accompanied by hurricane winds battered the island of Mallorca yesterday afternoon.  Worst hit place was the capital Palma.

 The heavy shower began a few minutes after five in the afternoon and and lasted half an hour.  It plunged the city of Palma  into darkness and forced the closure of the airport for 20 minutes with winds up to 109 kilometers per hour.  Eight thousand five hundred homes  on the island had had to spend the night without electricity because of the damages in  the network caused by the storm.  

Rain and the wind swept the island from south to north bringing down roofs, causing damage to many houses and  demolishing  trees. There were many traffic accidents, one of them  involving fifty vehicles. Hospitals were  flooded resulting in the evacuation of patients.  

The situation is not expected to improve today.  The City council in Palma advises people  to stay at home unless necessary and to avoid to using their vehicles. 

The Balearic advisor of Interior, Maria Angeles Leci6nena, presided over a meeting of the Commission of Emergency last night to coordinate  the work of the administration and maintenance companies because parts of the island were still without electricity and phones. 

The new programme

The Unión Musical de San Miguel de Salinas and the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro will be playing in a joint concert on Saturday at 8pm in the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau" .

This concert marks the beginning of the new cultural programme that the Council of Culture of the City council of Bigastro has prepared for us.

According to the Concejal de Cultura, José Espinosa, the Auditorio Municipal must become a point of contact and reference for the leisure in the society of the region but more important should be be the host of cultural activities.

On the 1st and 2nd of December, the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau" is honoured to host the IX Certamen Comarcal de Interpretación Instrumental "Vega Baja – Baix Vinalopó". Over 200 students from 21 Musical Societies of the Vega Baja and the Baix Vinalopó will be participating as finalists in the different categories both as individuals and in groups.

The judges will include D. Francisco Grau Vegara (Colonel Director of the Band of His Majesty the King) and president D. Manuel Gutiérrez Lopez (Director of the Society Musical Union of Bigastro).

PS You may rmember from a previous post that Francisco Grau was born in Bigastro and was a member of the Union band.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not content with littering the planet

It seems that we have deposited up to half a million pieces of debris in space which are currently floating on orbital paths around the earth. These bits and pieces are the remains of old rockets and defunkt satellites. Thousands have already been spotted, but others, which could prove dangerous for manned missions, are yet to be spotted.

Just a day late

When I asked yesterday about the forecast bad weather, "are we to expect it tomorrow", I kind of knew the answer. Last night we were treated to a spectacular show of sheet lightning. Today it is heavy rain, black skies and thunder.

This is the second dose of heavy rain that we have had in fifteen days and has caused widespread chaos in the region. Roads throughout the area, including the AP7 motorway and the N332 coast road, had to be closed, garages were filled with water and sand from beaches was washed away as 56 litres of water per cubic metre fell in just one hour. Torrevieja seems to have been worst hit. This man is standing in the Rambla Juan Mateo which, as you can see was turned into a river.

Although the market in Bigastro still took place, stallholders were packing up early, particularly those selling goods that could be damaged by the rain.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wrong again!

It was cloudy this morning but there was no rain. This afternoon we have had blue skies and sunshine.

Does that mean that the bad weather passed us by or are we to expect it tomorrow?

No se.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More bad weather

El Centro de Emergencias de la Generalitat has declared a pre-emergency because intense rain (50l per square metre) is forecast for the interior and the south coast of Alicante province.

EFE, the National Institute of Meteorology warns that on Wednesday morning there is a 40-70% chance of heavy rain during first half of the day.

The Center of Emergencies has sent a Special Information Bulletin to the city councils of the Valencian Comunity advising them to adopt the necessary measures as outlined in the Campaign of Prevention of Floods 2007.

Stories you could have predicted

Britney Spears has lost custody of her two young children to her ex-husband.

Troubled singer Pete Doherty faces a prison sentence when he appears in court over drugs and driving offences today.

A  poll has found one in three people do not believe the death of Princess Diana was an accident.

Mick Jagger fears Amy Winehouse is heading for an early grave.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Don't try phoning them

Telefónica will suspend the telephone lines to the City council of Bigastro next Thursday if the local administration does not pay the 28,300 euros owed to the company. The unpaid bills go back almost a year to the 19th of October 2006 .

The amount of debt has of course escalated because the bills were not paid during the voluntary period. Telefónica point out that letters sent to the mayor of Bigastro, Jose Joaquin Moya seeking clarification have been unanswered. Thus the company announces that that suspension " will materialize " with the disconnection next Thursday 4th of October. There are three lines affected of which one gives access to the direct telephone of the Local Police and to seven extensions.

This one is not the only economic problem that the City council have faced. The Sindicatura de Cuentas reported 30 irregularities in the economic area of the Consistorio in 2005. At that time there was a debt to the Social Security of a million euros in a municipality of 6,500 people.

According to Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the PP party, the City council hasn't paid these debts " not because it does not want but because it cannot ". He also claims that monies are owed by the Council to other suppliers.

Inmaculada Martínez, spokesperson for the PSOE ,admitted yesterday on the radio station Ondacero that the debt existed and said that the Council were in negotiations with Telefónica to avoid the suspension of services.

In the recent election campaign the PP party pointed out that only by selling off land which belonged to the Municipality have the PSOE party managed to balance the budget for Bigastro. They also claimed that Bigastrense pay the highest rates of council taxes that are allowed.