Thursday, January 31, 2008

and still they try

I've just received this:

Greetings in the name of the lord, Am dave amata, 21 years, male, london in united kingdom.I write to seek for a mutual assistance from you.Well to make you less curious ,I saw your contact in an email directory,So i felt like contacting you if you could be a beneficiary to my late father,So that you could help me claim his assets and funds worth 15 millions of pounds in a company in london,United Kingdom. Being a share holder,he had many valuable assets.I would have claimed the properties my self,but due to my age and my condition being a deaf person,the board of directors told me, am too young to claim the properties.Except a family member of mine who is above 25 years could claim the property.Being an illegitimate child,I never knew any member of my family,So it has been hard for me to cope because am an half cast. When the transaction is completed,I will compensate you with 30% of the funds.My brethren,am not compelling you,I want you to assist me voluntarily.The company will provide the paper work including the documents,all i require from you is your 100% trust and honesty.If you are willing to assist,I want to know as soon as possible so that i can direct you to my attorney cos i will be very busy in school for my forth-coming examinations. I also want you to have your mobile phone number sent to me for my attorneys further communication with you. I also want you to have your mobile phone number sent to me for my attorneys further communication with you, which i will also have my pictures sent to you. My alternative email adress is Look forward in hearing from you. Best Regards. God Bless you. dave amata

Obviously Dave Amata is a very generous man offering me £4.5 just to help him out. I expect he'll need my bank details at some stage so that he can transfer the money to me. Shortly after I sent them, money would start disappearing from my account. Instead of being £4.5m in credit I'd be several thousand in debt.

PS I hope the exams he is taking are not in English because he has a bit of a problem there.

Changes in the law for driving licences

New rules mean that people who have had eyesight correction treatment and no longer wear glasses must renew their driving license to reflect their change in status. They also need to take the psychotechnological test again at a cost of 18€. Failure to renew their license will result in a 300€ fine but no loss of points.

In addition the rule which meant that you had to renew and expired licence within four years has been dropped and candidates for the theory test will be allowed six incorrect answers.

I'm not sure whether these rules will apply to British motorists who have swapped their DVLC license for a Spanish one.

Very colourful

You can't go too long without a fiesta of some sort here in Bigastro.

On Tuesday 5th February there will be a parade for the children from the three junior schools, Bigastrin, La Paz and San José de Calasanz. They'll start in Calle Aureliano Diaz at 3:45pm and will pass through Calle Purisima and Calle San Pascual; finally arriving at the Parque Huerto del Cura. It goes without saying that many will be in fancy dress.

There will then be refreshments in the park for the children at the Infant Fair which will last until 7:00pm. There'll be bouncy castles and ball pools etc. - plenty to keep the children busy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

¡Ya está bien!

Monday's Council Meeting was, by all accounts, a lively one. Matters all came to a head when, after two long hours of debate they came to an item about excavating for an electric cable in the industrial estate, Moya called Murcia a liar. Murcia reciprocated by telling him that he was also a liar. So the Mayor ordered Murcia to leave which he refused to do. At that point Moya called for the local police and threatened to call the Guardia Civil. The public present, severely reprimanded the Mayor for his actions. So the Mayor closed the session and left.

Aurelio Murcia said yesterday that he was sorry that the Mayor had shown so little experience after being in office for over twenty years. The Mayor on the other hand said that he was going to demand a more rigorous adherence to the regulations at Council meetings.

The meeting had started amicably with a discussion about local taxes but then with two denunciations in court by the PP against the Mayor I don't suppose it was ever going to continue in like manner. It's probably not a good time to ask the Mayor why Calle Irlanda, where Aurelio Mucia lives, doesn't get swept very often.


Whenever we have visitors, we try to share with them some of the many reasons why we chose to live here.

For some, the Costa Blanca is just about the sun and the beach. It's a place where you holiday and then leave to return to normal life. However, the area has a lot more to offer than that. There is a rich cultural heritage to explore in the towns that make up the Vega Baja. Discovering and participating in what the area has to offer can provide a much more rewarding experience for the visitor than just a few trips to the beach.

For the third year running, the Mancomunidad de Economic Promoción of the Vega Baja has a stand at the FITUR Tourist Fair in Madid.

Taking part are the towns of Algorfa, Benejúzar, Benijófar, Benferri, Bigastro, Jacarilla, Los Montesinos, Redován, San Fulgencio, San Isidro and San Miguel de Salinas. The aim is to present an alternative tourism to that of "the sun and beach."

In Pavilion 7, stand A27, visitors will find a great variety of advertising material explaining the cultural attractions, the gastronomy along with the festivities organised by the towns that make up the Vega Baja area.

FITUR will be held in the IFEMA (Madrid) from the 30th of January to the 3rd of February.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Some more useful stuff

¡ya está bien!, enough is enough!

¡ni hablar!, no way

no hay de qué, you're welcome or don't mention it - an alternative to de nada.

¿qué tenemos de manduca?, what's for grub? Manduca is a tad less formal than comer

and some other phrases you can just throw in to liven up your conversations

¡mira tú quién fue a hablar!, look who's talking!

beber como un cosaco, to drink like a fish

beber de un trago, to down something in one go

with elections coming up it's useful to have a couple of phrases to describe the parties

panda de chorizos ,which you already know is literally a bunch of sausages but really means a bunch of thieves.

of course you could also use ser uña y carne which really means they are as thick as thieves.

this one is my favourite phrase so far

¡Es que me crecen los enanos! which is a shortened form of Me pongo un circo y me crecen los enanos. literally I open a circus and my dwarfs grow, meaning I have such bad luck.

Now does anybody know what bigastrenenses mean when they say, what sounds like, talor or salor. We think it is a slang abbreviation for hasta luego (until later) but we're not sure and our teacher says she's never heard it.

Reliving your youth

When we lived in the UK, Pam and I would go to concerts to see our favourite groups and singers from the past decades perform. We saw Cher, Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Chris de Burgh, the Eurythmics, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Simple Minds. Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones and a whole host of others as supporting acts.

We even went to see the Victor Brox Blues Train in a tapas bar in Chester. Victor Brox were the support band at a Who concert my brother and I went to at Sheffield University. Only Pete Townsend turned up - the others were stuck on the M6 and never made it so Victor played a longer set. When I found out that Victor was playing in Chester, we just had to go and see him. He looked a little ravaged by the inevitable drugs and the booze that flowed when he was younger but was still bloody good!

Whilst we were going to all these concerts, our girls accused us of living in the past. Now it's their turn. Last month they went to see Take That (sans Robbie ) and last night they went to see the Spice Girls. What goes around - comes around. Apparently Take That were brilliant; we haven't had the verdict on the Spice Girls yet.

Milky expressions

There seem to be a few Spanish expressions about milk (leche).

apart from estar de mala leche - to be in a foul mood

there is also:-

darse una leche - to come a cropper

¡te voy a dar una leche! - I'll thump you

¡qué leche tienes! - you lucky devil

hace un calor de la leche - it's bloody hot

ser la leche - to be unbelievable

ir a toda leche - to go like the clappers

poner a algn de mala leche - to p*** someone off

tener mala leche - a nasty piece of work


PS I wonder what the Spanish would make of "the milk of human kindness"?

"la leche de la amabilidad humana" is my clumsy translation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pricey lemons

Last year, due to two bumper harvests and near perfect growing conditions, there was a glut of lemons on the market. The price fell as supply outstripped demand and as a consequence farmers left citrus fruits of all varieties on the trees to rot. The subsequent neglect, according to Antonio Valero, president of the Valencian community’s farmers and small-holders, has resulted in an unusually small crop of lemons this year.

The small crop is not just limited to the Valencian region with Murcia growers also suffering a much smaller crop this year. Similarly Europe’s other big lemon producer, Turkey, has also been hit by high temperatures during last year’s growing season and is estimating a vastly reduced crop and less lemons to export.

The implications are a year of expensive lemons. Prices are estimated to be reaching 60-70 centimos a kilo for the growers and a retail price, once picked, transported and sold of 90 centimos to a euro per kilo.

The next large crop to reach Europe is the Argentine harvest in May and this is not expected to affect prices as demand outstrips supply. 

Valero has described the lemon trees as “exhausted” after two super-harvests. The demand in the market remains very strong. It is estimated that this season’s harvest will be 70% less than the last two and subsequently prices will rise everywhere.

St Anton

San Anton was born in Egypt in 251 AD.

His parents died when he was 18 or 20 leaving him with 300 acres of fertile land and a young sister to care for.

He sold all his possessions and gave the proceeds to the poor and lived the life of a hermit.
He died at the age of 105 in 356 AD and apart from being the patron saint of domestic animals, he is also the patron saint of basket makers, brush makers, butchers, grave diggers and those who suffer from skin diseases.

Thursday, 17 January, was San Anton's day when, on church steps all over Spain, priests blessed pets and livestock either on his day or the following Sunday.

San Anton is the patron saint of Hondon de los Frailes, a little rural village nestling in the Baix Vinalopo mountains above Albatera and Crevillente in the Costa Blanca area. The little Ermita (chapel) on the outskirts of the village is dedicated to San Anton and on Sunday afternoon a special Mass was said for the village’s animals. Father Joseph blessed horses, dogs, cats and even a canary with holy water and then, true to tradition, San Anton was serenaded, as he has been for the last 40 years.

There was also a ceremony at the Imaculada church in Torrevieja where dogs, birds, terrapins and even teddy bears were blessed by the priest, Manuel Martínez Rocamora.

¡Hazte Cibervoluntario!

The Council of Promotion of the City council of Bigastro wants to further the use of the new technologies in the locality by various courses of action.

Within the framework of the Plan Avanza, the council is promoting a project in collaboration with the Cibervolunteers Foundation which is a non-profit making organization, co-financed by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.

This campaign of awareness is directed towards people who have limited opportunities for access or who are in danger of digital exclusion. This includes those who are excluded from the Information Society for all sorts of reasons; age, professional and social surroundings, material or economic reasons, lack of time, knowledge, ability, motivation and or resources.

The objective is to create a network of volunteers who are able to contribute to the promotion of the Society of New Technologies in a useful, simple and effective day to day way through courses, conversations, conferences, factories, events and seminaries. "We know that you can contribute by passing on your know how to people who need it and thus fill this digital breach in our society. "

It's easy to get involved. All you need to do is contact the Area of Local Development of the City council of Bigastro through or by telephone on 96 535 00 Ext. 132.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hmm nice!

L'Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM) in Valencia is showing 66 photographs and 27 fetish magazine covers made between 50s and 80s by the American photographer Elmer Batters.

Elmer Batters had his debut as a photographer at the end of the Forties in adult magazines. Many of his photographs are of women's legs clad in stockings. His photographs were censored at the time and therefore only available to private collectors. In these more liberated times his work is hailed as having artistic as well as voyeuristic merit.

The exhibition runs until the 2nd of March in "la sala La Muralla at the Institute.

Museum of Modern Art

The new Museum of  Contemporary Art of the Region of Murcia (Mucam) project was presented yesterday in Cartagena. According to the Murcian president,  Ramon Luis Valcárcel, " this is the star cultural project of this legislature ".

The Mucam will be on the site of  the old bullring, behind the hospital of Marín, and will house the restored Roman amphitheatre of Cartagena. 

The Council of Culture will summon  international aid to  designate the director of the Mucam and define the  project. 

The cost of construction will be approximately 22 million euros.  In addition to  exhibition halls, the Mucam will have an audio-visual conference  hall, a bookstore, a shop, a library, a cafeteria, a restaurant, and a facility for 1,200 people. 


Francisco Grau was the first Colonel of Music and is now, following the publication of the Boletín Oficial del Ministerio de Defensa, the first General of Music in the Spanish army.

Francisco Grau Vegara (born in Bigastro, Alicante in 1947). He is the author of more than 700 works and since the 12th October 1997 has been the official author of the Spanish National Anthem (previously Marcha Granadera).

He is also a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, the Real Academia de la Virgen de la Arrixaca in Murcia and the Academia de San Carlos in Valencia.

Since 1988, he has been the director of music for the Spanish Royal Guard.

The City Council of Bigastro, on behalf of the the whole town offer their hearty congratulations to Francisco Grau Vegara on achieving this well deserved honour

(Jose Joaquin Moya - Mayor of Bigastro)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Come on you reds!!

Instead of watching your old team on the box; see a live game on your doorstep!!

Support your local team on Sunday 27 of January at 4:30pm, in the municipal field "El Molino".

The match is between Bigastro CF and Aspe UD (currently second in the league).



Donate blood

On Friday, 8th of February from 17:00 to 20:30 hours in the Centro de Salud (C / Tomás Villanueva).

When you donate Blood, you donate Life.

Comparing costs

I've mentioned before the high cost of broadband access here in Spain. Just to illustrate the comparison though.

For the Duo package from Telefonica we pay 40€ per month. That includes local and national calls ( not calls to mobiles) and a 3Mb Internet connection. On top of that we have line rental, phone rental and ADSL maintenance costs which bump it up to over 74€ per month.

Both my daughters in England live close to their local telephone exchanges and so are able to get high speed access. Jemma, who lives in Wolverhampton could get a theoretical maximum speed of 5.5Mbs whilst Laura who lives in Sale could get a maximum of 6.5Mbs.

So first of all they benefit from twice the available speed for their connections. More important though the cost per month is a great deal less. For example, signing up for Virgin's Unlimited Broadband and Talk package (bundle 1) costs £19.99 per month. For that they'd have unlimited local and national calls and up to 8Mb broadband with no limits on downloads. At the present exchange rate that works out at 26.79€ per month. Even when the rate was 1.5€ to the pound it would only cost 29.99€ per month. On top of that they'd have to pay line rental e.g. to BT at £11 per month.

So for a total of £30.99 (41.53€) my daughter's could enjoy the same service, with a higher speed connection. That is a whopping 32.50€ less per month.

Of course there are other packages available in Spain e.g. Orange are offering a package which includes telephone, broadband Internet and TV from 43.95€ per month. Once the twelve month Telefonica contract expires I'll be looking to change to a more economical package.

PS Without the broadband connection we couldn't make VoIPtalk calls to the UK. Using VoIPtalk saves us a lot e.g. an 11 minute call to our friends in Gloucester at the weekend only cost us 2.2 pence UK.

I'm getting 3402Kbps downstream and 268kbps upstream at the moment which is the limit that Telefonica say my line can support.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Good advice

The Council of Medio Ambiente at the Ayuntamiento offer the following very useful advice to reduce energy costs.

The aim is to conserve energy and help in the fight against the global warming, at the same time reducing the exorbitant cost of electricity and natural gas to yourself.

Start to save energy right now!

Refrigerators and freezers:
* Set the temperature of your refrigerator between 3ºC and 7 °C, and your freezer between -18°C and -15°C. Each extra degree of cooling uses 5% more of energy.

* Leave cooked foods to cool off before putting them in refrigerator.
* Avoid opening the door of the refrigerator continuously, the loss of cold air makes the compressor work more intensely thus increasing the electrical consumption.
* Position fridges and freezers away from heat sources. Remember that the freezer does not have to be as close to hand as the refrigerator. Locate the freezer in a cool room to increase its efficiency.
Washing machines:
* Wash in cold or low temperatures.
* Wash only full loads.
* Make sure the filter on the washing machine is clean.
Dish washers:
* Use only when full.
* Rinse the plates with cold water before putting them in the machine.
* Consult the recommendations of the manufacture with respect to the temperature of the water.
Cooking utensils:
* Use pans that spread the heat well, for example stainless steel ones with special coatings and heavy bottom to avoid deformation.
* Cook larger amounts and freeze the surplus for use later.
* Use saucepans and frying pans that have a diameter larger than the hotplate (a small pan, leaving 2 or 3 cm of hotplate exposed will waste almost half of the energy).
* Iron all of your clothes in one session. Heating an iron up to press just a few items wastes a lot of energy.
* Iron heavy clothes first (or those that need higher temperatures). Finish off by ironing the ones that require less heat.
* Disconnect the iron shortly before finishing to take advantage of the accumulated heat.
* Make sure the plate of the iron is always smooth and clean to ensure that the heat is transmitted in a uniform way.
IT equipment:
* Turn off your computer if it is not going to be used within the next hour.
* Set the monitor to go to a black screen when it is left for more than a few minutes. Just moving the mouse or touching the keyboard will bring the screen back on.
* When you buy a computer or screen make sure it is energy saving.
Air conditioning:
* Keep doors and windows closed when the air conditioning is on. Open them only to refresh the air in the house when it is cool outside. A door or window open for 10 - 15 minutes will freshen up a room sufficiently.
* Tape or seal any gaps in doors and windows etc.
Recommendations for the efficient use of a air conditioning system (air conditioning units use a lot of energy):
* Keep doors and windows closed while it is working.
* When you leave the room switch the air conditioning off.
* Regulate the temperature. Don't try to lower it excessively - it is better to try and achieve a balance between temperature and humidity.
* Clean the air filters regularly to avoid or to reduce dust, insect or pollen contamination. By keeping the filters clean you can save between a 3% and a 10% energy (dirty filters overload the motor and reduce its efficiency).
* Have the equipment maintained annually by a qualified technician.
* Consider installing a ventilator or a dehumidifier instead of a air conditioning. For example, in bedrooms air conditioning can cause sore throats, respiratory problems or headaches. In these situations, the use of a bioclimatizador is sufficient to maintain suitable comfort. They are easy to use and to install, and come at a reasonable price.

I would add to this list the recommendation that you don't leave televisions, videos, DVD players etc on standby when you are not going to be using them for awhile e.g. overnight.

There are other energy saving moves you can make e.g. replacing light bulbs with energy saving ones and buying only A rated (or better) appliances. In particular DC inverter type air conditioning units consume a lot less energy than standard ones.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Double trouble

Yesterday the Popular Party of Bigastro announced that the socialist mayor Jose Joaquin Moya is currently being imputed with two denunciations in the courts of Orihuela.

Court Number 1 of Orihuela is investigating the presumed irregularities in the administrative transaction of the Special Plan for The Pedrera. This is for a project including an aparthotel and golf practice courses on 80,000 m2 of rustic ground. The company concerned paid the Municipality 3.5million euros for the land and licences. This project been suspended by the Generalitat in Valencia because the reclassification of the land had not been approved by the autonomic administration.

In Court Number 4 of Orihuela they are investigating presumed crimes of embezzlement. The claim is that municipal resources are being used to construct a rural hotel in the neighbouring town of Jacarilla. In the same denunciation, presented in 2007 by the PP and Los Verdes in the Anti-corruption Office of the public prosecutor, it appears the concession to operate a solar farm was given to a " relative " of the Mayor. The same "relative" was given authorization to build a plant to assemble solar panels on land which was deemed non-industrial.

The mayor of Bigastro, Jose Joaquin Moya, said yesterday that he did not know the judicial imputations. Moya added that, in the case of the judicial investigation of the special plan for the Pedrera, the court had asked for information from the City council which has been provided.

Between smiles, the Mayor asked what "autoridad moral tienen esa panda de chorizos para pedir que se me apliquen los estatutos del PSOE" (lit. what moral authority has that bunch of sausages to request that the statutes of the PSOE are applied to me). Perhaps, Moya added, the spokesman of the PP Aurelio Murcia " knows them well because up to three months before the elections he wanted to head the list of the PSOE ".

The local secretary of the PSPV-PSOE, Marylene Albentosa, said yesterday that the Socialists have been " honest ". She said the PP should consider the judicial situation of many of the other mayors in the region and the province.

For example, the ex- mayor of Catral, Jose Manuel Loyal Rodriguez, who had been involved in the illegal house scandal in Catral, resigned from the PSOE months before the municipal elections to stand as an independent.

So the war of words continues. The looser's in all this may well be the Town and its citizens.

NB a bunch of sausages is a Spainish metaphor for a pack of thieves.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is there any good news?

These are some of the stories I found today in British papers:-

1. Married couples are being brutally punished by Labour's tax and benefit system, according to research to be published tomorrow.

Experts say that couples where one partner works and the other stays at home are the worst affected, paying a far higher proportion of their incomes to the taxman than in almost any other civilised country.

2. Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith suffered a barrage of criticism yesterday after admitting she would not feel safe walking the streets after dark.

Aides of Miss Smith compounded her gaffe with a desperate attempt to undo the damage by claiming she had recently popped out in the evening to "buy a kebab in Peckham".

In fact, she has round-the-clock police protection . On her trip for a kebab she was accompanied by a bodyguard.

3.The number of crimes being solved by police has fallen or ground to a halt in nearly two thirds of forces in England and Wales. The detection rate has fallen by 1.5 percentage points since 1997 to 30.3 per cent of all crimes reported to the police in 2006/7, not including the British Transport Police.

Police spending in Britain is estimated to have risen from £8 billion in 1998 to £10.1 billion by 2004/5. Over the same period, crimes recorded by police rose from five million to 5.5 million a year.

Last year, every warranted officer detected about 10 crimes per year, the same level as in 2001. For each detection the police spent £10,000 - 10 per cent more in real terms than in 2001.

4. The asking price of a typical home has plunged more than £11,000 since October, research reveals today.

Prices are dropping around £120 a day with experts warning that the year ahead looks bleak.

5. Homeowners hit by last week's floods have been warned they could face further misery with more torrential rains on the way - but spring is in the air in the South as the record for the warmest January night was broken in several places

Heavy rainstorms and persistent drizzle over the weekend have swollen rivers and streams to bursting point.

But forecasters say the danger is not over for those people living close to rivers with more heavy rainfall predicted for Monday evening.

6. Family doctors are being put on high alert for cases of a flesh-eating strain of MRSA that thrives in nurseries, classrooms and gyms.

GPs will for the first time be given detailed guidelines on how to diagnose and treat the highly infectious bug, thought to be even deadlier than the version sweeping through hospitals.

The risk is so serious that the Health Protection Agency and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy have come together to draw up the advice, designed to stop the bug running riot across the UK as it has in the U.S.

and worst of all - 7. The price of a pub pint of beer could soon hit £4 in some parts, drinkers were warned yesterday.

More expensive barley, malt, glass, aluminium and energy could see a £1 rise to cover production and distribution.

A British Beer and Pub Association spokesman said: “The average price is around £2.70. In London a £3.20 pint is not unknown. There are areas where we won’t be surprised to see £4.”

Not in Bigastro

Phone the press office in the Town Hall at San Fulgencio and you'll get the reply " City council of San Fulgencio, good morning" because the Councilperson in charge of that department is British and doesn't speak Spanish.

This is a clear example of the reality of a municipality in which 75.8% of its 10,583 citizens are foreign and 50.1% are British. There are 2,552 Spaniards and 5,311 Brits.

Marimar is a sanitary medical instructor in Guardamar del Segura and knows San Fulgencio very well. " There is no relation between the two communities. Generally, most of the British live in a macro urbanization and rarely go into the town ."

Juan, a neighbor of San Fulgencio, corroborates this by adding, "the people spend their money in British shops, bars and restaurants. They don't see the need to learn Castilian. When they need an interpreter , for example at the doctor's, they use their children to help out".

I sincerely hope that never happens here in Bigastro. It is difficult learning the language at our age but it is very rewarding. Even if you only learn a few sentences, they'll get you a long way with most of the locals and if you get it wrong, they will help you out.

I can't help but feel that those Brits in San Fulgencio are missing out on a lot by not trying to integrate more into the local culture.

Very pleasant

The high temperatures registered yesterday in the province of Alicante brought people out onto the beaches. The sight of people sunbathing in January makes you feel that it is Summer already.

Enrique Moltó, climatologist of the University of Alicante, emphasized that the heat of the last few days " is not something extraordinary ", and that the temperatures " in spite of being high, have been about five degrees below the maximums from previous years". The expert indicated that the early flowering of the almonds tree is a natural thermometer which indicates that temperatures are above average .

We do have to stress that, unlike in Summer, the temperatures drop at night.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A crumb of comfort

To our English readers:-

Last year saw more rain fall in this area than at any time since 1989. The sudden deluge in October, which resulted in 200 litres of rainfall being recorded in less than 24 hours, meant that entire sections of some towns were closed down. The last time the Costa Blanca faced this sort of problem i.e. a gota fria was during the severe storms of 1997.

The National Institute of Meteorology have released figures revealing that rainfall in 2007 was more than 53 per cent higher than expected.

However, it was also one of the hottest years on record, with temperatures reaching their highest levels since 1951.

Men with strong shoulders

This will be the fourth year that International Cofradia in Torrevieja have has taken to the streets of Torrevieja carrying the float of Jesus in the Garden of Olives (Cofradia de Nuestro Padre Jesús en la Oración del Huerto de los Olivos).

It was a great honour, four years ago for the international community to be asked to take part in this very Spanish of events and each subsequent year one hundred or so men dressed in their uniforms of bright green shirts and gold cummerbunds have lifted the beautifully decorated float proudly around Torrevieja.

Accompanying them have been the lady Nazarenos of the Cofradia in their characteristic gold pointed hats (capirotes) and green flowing robes. It has given the residents of Torrevieja a lot of pleasure to see the float being carried so proudly when for years it had to be driven through the streets. Taking the paso to the shoulders provides a much more religious experience for the onlookers..

While some other towns and cities have experienced difficulties in filling spaces with Costaleros, Torrevieja was able last year to include a new float of the Last Supper into the Easter programme with a new cofradia appropriately consisting of Costaleros whose professions are all to do with catering hotels and bars.

The help that the International Cofradia gave to the Cofradia of the Last Supper in their early days was particularly well received and the International Cofradia were given a standing ovation on their return to the Inmaculada Church after the Monday night parade, which was a very humbling experience for those who took part.

The International Cofradia has become an established part of the Easter processions and members of the group also took part last year in the Stations of the Cross parade and the Virgen del Carmen ceremony.

With the parades only being held once per year even the most experienced Costaleros need to get ‘back into the swing’ of carrying the float and inevitably with the numbers involved there are usually some who are unable to carry thus providing opportunities for new recruits to take part and they of course need to be taught the unique marching steps which when properly carried out actually help ensure the weight is more manageable.

Practice dates have been organised as follows. The first meeting, which all are asked to attend, will be a general meeting to establish firm numbers of those who will be able to take part in this year’s parades and also as an opportunity to ask any questions and raise any points of concern. This will take place on Thursday January 31st.

As usual the meeting will be held at the Semana Santa Museum behind Los Arcos in Torrevieja at 7.30 pm for 8.00 pm. It is not intended that there will be a practice as such that night and the first ‘proper’ practice will be held on the 7th February at the same time. There will be no practice on 14th February as it is St. Valentine’s night.

Further practice nights will be held on Thursday 21st February, Thursday 28th February, Thursday March the 6th and on the night of Thursday 13th the float will be taken down to the Inmaculada where it will be parked in the tent behind the church ahead of the actual parades taking place during the following week.

The annual cost of membership of the cofradia will remain at €30 and all members are asked to bring their money along as soon as possible - preferably to the first meeting on Thursday January 31st.

Each year the floats are blessed and the International Cofradia’s float will be blessed in a joint service with two other cofradias, La Convocatoria and Padre Jésus en la Última y Sagrada Cena. The service will be held on Sunday 24th February at the Semana Santa Museum starting at 1.00 pm.

The International Cofradia is looking for a good attendance so as many members as possible are asked to attend.

A celebratory lunch is usually organised to follow the blessing and details of this will hopefully be available at the first meeting on January 31st.

Anyone who is unable to take part in the parades but has a uniform is asked to make sure they return their uniforms for new members.

The cofradia is uncertain at this time as to final numbers of new recruits that may be needed to take part in this year’s parades but anyone who is interested in becoming a Costalero is more than welcome to attend the first meeting to meet some current members and learn a little more about what is entailed in carrying the ‘paso’ or for further information you can telephone David McLachan on 966700056.

If you are interested, then John, who is this year's "Third Age King" and lives on our estate, is a member of the International Cofradia. I'm sure he wouldn't mind answering any questions you may have.

A big boost to Cartagena

Adding almost a quarter of a million barrels a day to the capacity of the Repsol oil refinery at Cartagena will make it one of the biggest and most modern in the world. The massive project will cost 3.2 billion euros, which makes it the largest single industrial investment ever made in Spain. The new facilities are forecast to come on stream in 2011.

The regional government of Murcia and the town hall of Cartagena are delighted at the vote of confidence by Repsol . It is expected that once the expansion is in production an extra 300 jobs will have been directly created with another 400 indirect jobs in companies providing support to the facility. In addition, it is forecast that about 1,500 more jobs could be added by the development of business activities associated with the expanded refinery. It is estimated that a total of 115 million euros will be paid each year in salaries once the project is completed and the plant will represent 18 percent of total industrial employment in the Cartagena area.

Repsol pointed out in its announcement of the new project that significantly increased tax income will be generated for the area by the expansion of the facility. The port will also be boosted by the increased maritime traffic. The expansion will see 30 new processing units constructed on an area covering about 60 hectares.

The new Cartagena project is an important strategic initiative for Spain and it is expected that an increased output of diesel will significantly reduce shortages of that fuel.

Some recent questions and the answers

I hope the true meaning of the questions and answers is not lost in my rough translations.

1. A student from the Permanent School of Adults wants to know why the Town Hall have decided, half way through the Academic Year, to impose charges of 10€ per month without justification.


The Permanent School of Adults of Bigastro is subsidized in a small part by the Consellería de Educación . The City council covers the high cost of professors, managers, cleaners, light, water, gas, etc. The Council budgets are based on calendar years not academic years. As part of its 2008 budget plan, the Corporation has been forced to introduce this rate to be able to maintain the service.

2. The next question is about the rising bollards that have been installed on Calle Purisima. The questioner notes that these are raised during the evenings which prevents traffic from leaving or entering the street.


For several years we have been having a debate about the use and functions of the Calle Purisima. There have been numerous meetings with the retailers who operate on Purisima to try to reach a conclusion. This has not been possible because of the great division of opinions; at opposite poles there are those want the street to be pedestrianised and others want it to be open to traffic indefinitely.

As a temporary solution, traffic is regulated according to the following schedule:
- open to traffic from 7:30am to 2:00pm Monday to Saturday
- closed to traffic from 2:00pm to 7:30am of Monday to Saturday and Sunday all day.

The debate about a permanent solution for Calle Purisima is ongoing.

3. The parents of students at the Colegio Público San José de Calasanz are wondering when the new School will be opened.


Dear parents:
The new building that will house the children from San José de Calasanz is on the verge of being finished. We know that the construction company already has given it to CIEGSA but they have not yet passed it on to the City council. These decisions do not depend on the Team of Government. In any case, it will be the Consellería who sets the inauguration date when they consider it opportune.

4. A cybernaut wants to know when we will be able to have Bigastrel wi-fi without so many problems. He or she also asks if we are going to have enough provision on the part of Iberdrola (the electricity supplier) for it.


The Town Hall hopes that the problems of bandwidth for the wi-fi service will be solved this month. The project and the method of payment is already set up in the zone included in the first stage. The Town Hall hope to extend the service to other zones during the course of this year.

5. Hello, my question is to know when we are going to have the new cultural programme for the Auditorio de Bigastro.


At the moment the new programme is being designed. Once it is ready it will be available for all the citizens and visitors to Bigastro.

Not petty criminals

1. National Police have detained two Chinese men in Elche. These two are accused of selling copies of Puma trainers. In two warehouses the police found 55,000 pairs of the fake shoes which were apparently very good copies of the original designs. Puma calculates that the economic damage from the sale of these shoes would amount to about 5 million euros. On top of that there would be the damage to the brand name.

2. Officers of the Guardia Civil had their suspicions aroused on Thursday when they spotted a boat beached off Santa Pola. Last night the officers caught a Dutch and a Morrocan man attempting to offload 1,400kgs of hashish in 56 packets from the boat into a van.

I hope the trainers Pamela had for Christmas aren't fake. Mind you, they came from the Puma shop in the Habeneras so it's most unlikely. As for hashish - I've never touched the stuff. A pipe full of St Bruno is strong enough for me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New channel

Digital +, the Spanish satellite TV that we watch, has introduced a new 24 hour channel called "Fama". It's like a cross between The X Factor and Big Brother. The chosen contestants from auditions throughout Spain are learning dance routines. The programme follows them through their rehearsals and their daily lives.

The big difference is that, unlike on Big Brother, these contestants are a) talented, b) sober and c) not inclined to take their clothes off at the drop of a hat. I wouldn't exactly call it compulsive watching but it is good for sharpening up our Spanish listening skills.

Not another

First they found a bomb in a hotel in Torrevieja. Now they've found a torpedo in the sea.

The fishing boat Nuevo Pedro Loli, based in Torrevieja found a German World War II torpedo in the waters off Murcia.

The badly corroded torpedo, which was dated between 1939 and 1945, was located between Cabo de Palo and Isla Grosa and was hooked in the boats fishing nets.

The torpedo was taken to Capitanía Marítima by the crew of the Nuevo Pedro Loli. From there it was transferred to the Unidad Especial de Desactivación de Explosivos de la Armada in the port of Torrevieja.

Having analysed the projectile and removed the fuse, they have transferred it to the quarter of Algameca in Cartagena.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A few more

Some Spanish expressions cannot be taken literally. It's one of the reasons why it is sometimes difficult to translate what people mean when they speak to you.

El horno no está para bollos Lit. The oven is not ready for buns. It means you're not in the mood for any nonsense.

¡Vete a freír espárragos!  Lit. Go off and fry asparagus. Basically disappear and do whatever you want as long as it is out of my sight!

Pagar un ojo de la cara Lit. To spend an eye in your face.  To spend "an arm and a leg".

Tener mala leche Lit. To have bad milk. To be very bad tempered.

Empinar el codo  Lit. To straighten up one's elbow like a pine. To have quite a few drinks, referring to your arm's position when drinking.

Guay del Paraguay Lit. Cool from Paraguay. As cool as it gets - a silly rhyme that reinforces the idea of cool.

Estar como unas castañuelas Lit. To be like some castanets. To be very happy.

Tener un cacao mental Lit. To have cocoa in your mind. To have your mind in a mess. Cocoa needs a lot of stirring, hence the feeling in your head.

¡Que interesante!

It blew strong

The strong winds yesterday brought delays and cancellations to flights and shipping. Trees, shop windows, awnings and blinds and broken umbrellas were the main casualties of the winds that blew mainly in the north of the peninsular.

In the Valencian Community , the the 80km/h winds damaged aerials, roof tiles and lampposts.

The National Institute of Meteorology said yesterday that the wind storm will diminish " slowly ". An anticyclone will bring a sunny weekend and with " smooth and pleasant " temperatures.

I'm pleased to say that the green mesh which we put up to replace the last fencing has survived intact.

The mesh is the third lot of fencing we have put up. The first was natural cane fencing which I fastened with garden ties. Apart from blowing down it discoloured badly.

We replaced that with plastic cane which fixed with nylon cable ties. They deteriorated with the sun and snapped so I replaced them with galvanised wire. One night the whole lot started coming down so we went out at 9pm in the middle of the storm and took the lot down.

In fairness though, compared with the flooding that England is suffering again, a day of strong winds is nothing. We feel sorry for our friends who live in Gloucester where they are still recovering from the summer floods.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Dog Laws

Spain has announced new laws No 50/99 which could affect you if you are a dog owner.

Dogs belonging to one of the following breeds and their crosses are considered dangerous:

Pit Bull Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro
Tosa Inu
Akita Inu

It is not completely clear whether German Shepherds and Doberman are included on the list. You are recommended to seek advice from your local vet or town hall, who will be able to give you further information.

Those animals that have all or many of the following characteristics are also considered as dangerous:

Strong musculature, powerful or athletic constitution, robustness, agility, vigor and endurance.
Strong character and marked courage.
Short hair.
Thoracic perimeter between 60 and 80 centimeters (24 and 32 inches), height at the shoulder between 50 and 70 centimeters (20 and 28 inches) and weight over 20 kg (44 lbs).
Voluminous, square, robust head, with a wide and large skull and muscular and pronounced cheeks. Strong and large jaws, robust, wide and deep snout.
Broad, short and muscled neck.
Broad, thick, deep chest, with arched ribs and short and muscled back.
Straight, parallel and robust forelegs and very muscular hindquarters, with relatively long hindlegs at a moderate angle.

Also included are those dogs with a record of aggressive tendencies or prior attacks to humans or other animals.

Potentially dangerous dogs must be identified with a microchip. They also must be registered in the Town or City Registries. The dog owner must have a license, issued by the municipality, valid for five years. In order to qualify for a license, the owner must meet the following requirements:

Must be 18 years or older.
Must have a clean police record showing no convictions for the crimes of homicide, torture, assault, sex-related offenses, drug trafficking, association with illegal armed groups, or otherwise having been banned by court order of the right to own potentially dangerous animals. These requirements must be documented with the appropriate certificates issued by the police authorities with jurisdiction over the owner’s place(s) of residence during the two years prior to the application for license.

Must be mentally and physically able to own and control potentially dangerous animals. This requirement will be documented with the appropriate certificates (certificate of physical aptitude and certificate of psychological aptitude) issued by authorised centers in Spain.

Must have proof of contract of an insurance policy on the animal(s) with a liability coverage of at least 120,000€.
The owner must report any changes to the information included in the license to the Town or City Registry within fifteen days of the effective date of the change.

When a potentially dangerous dog is in a public space, the owner or person responsible for the dog must carry the owner’s license and the certificate of inscription of the dog in the Town or City Registry. In addition, the dog must wear at all times an appropriate muzzle, and must be restrained by a non-extensible leash or chain no longer than 2 meters (6.5 feet). At any given time, one person cannot lead more than one dog.

Potentially dangerous dogs located in an open, delimited space (land lot, porch, terrace, etc.) must be restrained by a chain or leash, unless the space is properly enclosed.

Finally, owners must report missing or stolen dogs to the Town or City Registry within 48 hours after the animal is determined missing.

The thinnest laptop in the world

If the ultra cheap Eee PC laptop didn't appeal to you then maybe this one will.

The MacBook Air weighs just 3lb and is 0.76in, wide narrowing to 0.16in at its slimmest point.It goes on sale in a fortnight priced at £1,199 in the UK compared to $1,799 (£899.50) in America.

The MacBook Air include a 13.3in back-lit screen, a full size back-lit keyboard and a tracking pad which allows users to manipulate images in a similar way to the iPhone's screen.It comes with a standard 80GB hard drive and has 2GB of memory.Its eco-friendly aspects include a fully recyclable aluminium case, a mercury-free display and less external packaging than its predecessors.

The MacBook Air's ultra-slim design was partly made possible by its lack of a CD or DVD drive. Instead users will use a wireless connection to perform those functions.

Steve Jobs has also announced that Apple Inc will start renting movies over the Internet, moving iPhones and iPods into a very competitive market.

Apple will have more than 1,000 movies for online rental through iTunes by the end of February, with prices of £1.50 for older movies and around £2 for new releases.

Users can watch instantly over a broadband Internet connection, or download and keep the movie for 30 days while having 24 hours to finish the movie once it's started.

Apple is partnering with 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony on the service, which will work on Macs, Windows-based machines, iPhones, iPods or Apple TV set-top boxes.

Don't bring it here

Three British citizens, wanted by the English Police for drug  trafficking, money laundering and falisfying documents, were picked up In Torrevieja and Teulada by Agents of the National Police.

In Torrevieja, agents of the Comisaría Provincial, in  collaboration with the Grupo de Localización de Fugitivos,  stopped Gerard S., aged 26 born in Liverpool and  Mark Anthony D., aged 41 of Liverpool, of 41 years, both residents of the town. 

According to the Department of the Interior, they are both accused to belong to a criminal group  dedicated to  drug trafficking (mainly cocaine) and   money laundering  from their criminal activities. The Police found £207,230 in Mark Anthony D.s house. 

Meanwhile, agents of UDYCO of the Comisaría Provincial de Alicante, in collaboration with the Grupo de Localización de Fugitivos, stopped Scott M.,  aged 34 from Essex in Teulada. They fond cocaine and other equipment in his house. 

We don't need people like this here. All they do is give the British a bad name. Let's hope they get the sentencing that they deserve back in the UK.

New vehicle

Yesterday, the Council of Social welfare of the City council of Bigastro took delivery of a specially adapted nine seater Ford Transit 330 M Zombi from the Fundación Caja Murcia .

In the picture are: Francisco González, Director of Caja Murcia in Bigastro; Cristobal Perez, regional head of the organization; Jose Joaquin Moya, Mayor of Bigastro; Mª Carmen Alonso, Councilperson for Social Welfare; Raul Valerio Medina, Councilperson for Patrimony and a group of students from the Factory of Disabled people in the municipality.

Thanks to this type of initiative, disabled people in Bigastro and their dependents will have a better quality of life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tasting as good as they look

I thought you might like to see some more of those delicious desserts.

and the winners

Eyes down - look in

For bingo on Sunday, 20th of January from the 5:30pm in the Sala Polivalente at the Auditorio Municipal . This session is being organized by the Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro.

Better practice your numbers in Spanish from un to noventa first though!

Monday, January 14, 2008

and the results....

On Sunday the judges had great difficulty choosing the winners of the Concurso de Repostería organised by the Concejalía de la Mujer in collaboration with the Asociación de Mujeres Progresistas de Bigastro.

As you can see, the standard amongst the twenty entries was very high.

This year, along with the traditional prizes, there was one denominated for " Slow Food " to be given to a dessert that maintained the traditional flavours of long ago.

and the winners were:

FIRST PRIZE: Marina Baró Martinez with "Abetos de Zanahoria"

SECOND PRIZE: Pilar Martínez Sáez with "Mantecado de Almendra"

THIRD PRIZE: Mª Jose Lopez Robles with "Tarta de Mousse de Chocolate con Galletas"

SPECIAL PRIZE FOR SLOW FOOD: Carmen Perez Moya with "Natillas de Diseño"

It's safer to kiss

The Spanish-style peck on the cheek is far more hygienic than the trusty British handshake, according to health experts.

While a quick air kiss - or two - somewhere in the cheek region is a relatively-germ free affair, hand-shaking it seems is another matter.

No matter how clean one person keeps their hands, unfortunately there is just no guarantee that the person on the other end of the greeting maintains such stringent standards.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, which carried out the research, said: "The hands are critical in the chain of infection as they transmit infections from surfaces to people and between people.

"Shaking hands is the main form of physical contact with each other but you don't know what the other person has been touching before you greet them. People avoid kissing each other when they have a cold, but in fact they are more likely to pass on an infection by shaking someone's hand."

The report details how germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via our hands.

As for greetings. Experts are agreed that the air-kiss which avoids contact all together is best. But tread carefully, kissing etiquette can be thorny.

An earlier study revealed that he way you turn your head when you greet someone identifies how emotional you are.

It found that bout 80 per cent of men and women turned their heads to the right when kissing cheek-to-cheek, a gesture of real feeling. But the rest, who leaned to the left used less emotional parts of their brain and were not really making a warm gesture at all, the scientists said.

Most expensive ITVs in Spain

The ITV test (equivalent of the MOT test in Britain)  vary in cost between the 23.80 euros (including IVA) in Asturias to 57.23 euros for a diesel vehicle in the Valencian Community.

In addition there is the Department of the  Interior tax of 2.20 euros and in the case of the Valencian Community an additional 8.80  euros IVA for the noise emissions test that is obligatory for all the vehicles in this region.

The rates are: 57.23  euros for diesel engines, 41.79 euros for petrol with a catalyst and  34.44 euros without catalyst.

The good news is that a retest is free.


ITV tests are carried out at official ITV centres and not in private garages as in the UK. The centres are not equipped to rectify any faults which they find. 

Vehicles are first tested when they are four years old and then every two years up to when they are ten years old after which they are tested every year. Motorbikes are tested after five years and then every two years.

Any vehicle which has undergone repairs following an accident should be retested to ensure that the work has been carried out properly.

Vehicles are tested to ensure the following things are in proper working order:

  • tyre tread
  • lights
  • emissions (including noise emissions in the Valencian Community)
  • shock absorbers 
  • brakes
  • wheel alignment 

Cars are also checked for the condition of the bodywork and mirrors, windscreen and wipers.

In the event of a failure you have fifteen days to rectify the fault.

100 percent natural

The demand for 100% natural pomegranate juice is such that the only Spanish company that produces it has increased its forecasts for sales from 40,000 litres last year to 70,000 litres for this year., the small company that produces the juice, is based in Elche and last year started advertising the juice on the Internet. They claim that they are the only people producing 100% pure juice in Spain - free from additives an not concentrated like other companies pomegranate juices.

They also claim that this year's juice will have a more intense red colour and a sweeter flavour than previously thanks to improved packaging techniques.

Doctors and chemists recommend pomegranate juice because it is high in antioxidants and is beneficial to health. On their web site Campo de Elche have medical reports which state that pomegranate juice is good for almost everything from erectile dysfunction to a whole host of cancers and is particularly good for reducing hypertension.

The company also advertise oranges and almonds on their site which incidentally has a host of great recipes to try out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Number one city

Does anybody remember Lita Roza? She was the first Liverpudlian to have a hit record when her classic "How much is that doggy in the window" made number one in 1953.

One of my many claims to fame (carefully removes tongue from cheek) is that Sonia, who had a hit with"You'll never stop me loving you" in 1989 ,was a pupil at Priory Community Comprehensive School where I taught.

I'll bet that, whilst many of you will remember Lita Roza's record, very few will be able to recall Sonia's.

Actually, Liverpool has contributed an amazing 56 number ones to the pop charts. To celebrate this achievement, the Number One project is staging a charity concert on the 19th at Liverpool's brand new Liverpool Echo Arena on the King's Dock with a galaxy of stars.

This will be followed by the release on the 28th January of the classic Cilla Black song “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Atomic Kitten. Then on 4th February, "Liverpool - The Number Ones Album" with 28 of the hit singles will be released.

I'm not sure whether either Sonia or Lita Roza's hits have made it into the album. We might have to wait until February to find out.

El Corte Inglés

Literally "The English Cut" are the largest department stores in Spain; they're a bit like the John Lewis shops on steroids. Their flagship store in Madrid at Villaverde 79 occupies several buildings and houses a host of designer brand clothing along with everything else that you might want to buy. We first came across El Corte Inglés in Puerta Banus whilst on holiday at San Pedro and have looked out for their stores ever since.

Friday 16th November, the new El Corte Inglés in Elche opened and of course Pam has wanted to go there ever since. Let the initial rush die down, let the Christmas shoppers finish and the bargain hunters on the first day of the sales get their fill and then we'll go.

So yesterday we went. It is easy to find, even easier to park in and is such a stunning building you'd go just to look at it. It even has direct access to a Hipercor supermarket which strangely sells a lot of the same goods as the store.

Anyway, it is worth a visit even if you just end up having one of their tasty bacon and cheese baguettes and a cup of coffee.

You'll find it at Avenida del Baix Vinalopó 2, Elche. Take the exit from the A7 onto the N340 into Elche and you can't go wrong. When you leave, follow the signs for N340 Crevillente to take you back to the A7.

and there's more...


32 Hurst Street
Birmingham, B5 4TB
United Kingdom.

Ref: OXS/812/07
Batch: 322056Q

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Contact your fiduciary agent to claim your prize via email and telephone:
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Tel: +44704 5716 507

Mrs. Carol Gabriel.

Oxford Sweepstakes Co-ordinator.

Chiesa Cattolica Italiana

We the entire members of Chiesa Cattolica Italiana hereby notify you as the winner of 650,000.00GBP (Six hundred and fifty thousand Great Britain Pounds Sterling only).

You are advice to contact immediately you received this mail for further instruction on how you are to claim your donation prize.

Please quote your qualification numbers to our secretary for security Reasons. Qualification numbers N-222-6647, E-910-56 quote in all Discussions.

Contact information below:
Executive Rev .Sis Tema Ancelloti
Endeavor to contact her with your Bio-data’s (full
Names, address, country, age, sex, occupation, telephone number.

Visit our site for more information:

Best Regards,
Rose Wood
(Foundation officer)

Mrs Gabriel - you are an angel; Rose - you have a blooming cheek.

I'm sorry ladies but, like me, you will have to find a more honest way to earn a crust.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Flamenco night

We often watched flamenco shows whilst we were on holiday in Spain. What we generally saw was a "tourist" form of the traditional dance. The emphasis was on dazzling costumes and carefully choreographed routines.

Since we have lived here though we have come to realise that flamenco is principally a form of singing which can be accompanied by music and dance. Its roots are in Andalucia where gypsy music combined with moorish and jewish influences.

Last night's flamenco show at the Pedrera was in that traditional form. The trio comprised a singer who also played guitar, a young man tapping out the rhythm on an orange box and a third who joined in with the singing and accompanied the rhythm with his palms.

The group were obviously fans of Camarón de la Isla - considered to be the single most popular and influential flamenco "cantaor" of the modern period. They even had his picture on the box which was used to beat out the rhythm.

The trio performed several sets lasting about an hour each. They mixed cante jondo with cante chico and even added in some flamenco style versions of popular Spanish tunes (for example the Los del Rio number Macarena).

Later in the evening, they were joined by a young lady dancer who interpreted the music with fire and passion. Finally the singer performed totally unaccompanied.

Classical style flamenco is perhaps not to everyone's taste but it was well worth going to see. The performance we saw at the Auditorium was more akin to the concert style of flamenco. Last night's style was suited to the intimate atmosphere of the Albergue.

We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Good advice

Bigastro has a Ecoparque located in the Enterprise Park Apatel where you can dump things like wood, prunings, paint, dissolvents, textiles, rubbish, tires, batteries, scrap iron, cables, light bulbs, aerosols, kitchen oil, glass, fluorescent tubes, medicines, etc.

The Ecoparque is open:
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays: from 8:00am to 1:00pm.

The Town Hall are asking us to keep our town clean. They offer some advice to help us achieve this:

1. Always deposit your rubbish between 9pm and midnight in the communal bins.
2. Always use the wastebaskets for litter when you are out.
3. Separate and recycle waste: paper, glass and plastics.
4. If you have a dog, clean up its excrements.
5. If you smoke, put your extinguished cigarettes in a wastebasket.
6. Only dispose of large bagged items on TUESDAY nights.
7. If you want to get rid of special items, take them to the ECO-PARQUE
8. Keep the streets clean
9. and remember that the cleanest town is not the one which is cleaned the most but the one that is least soiled.

I particularly like number nine. When I taught at Anfield the children would often drop rubbish on the floor. When they were told to pick it up they would reply "that is the cleaner's job". I would quickly point out to them that the cleaner's job was to clean the room, not to pick up their rubbish!

Friday, January 11, 2008

100 percent signal strength

On Christmas Eve Pepe, from across the road, very kindly helped me by repairing our connection to the LNB on the satellite dish.

I knew that the original loss of signal was caused by corrosion of the outer copper braid. The installer had just wrapped PVC tape around the connection which obviously didn't provide a long term seal. Just cutting back the wire and using a new connector would work for a time.

What I wanted though was something that would last long term so I ordered a rubber boot, silicon grease and self amalgamating tape. On its own the rubber boot would stop water getting onto the connector. The addition of silicon grease would seal the connection totally.

The advice I had was to unscrew the connector and smear grease on both the copper core and the braid. The theory is that when you tighten the connection back up the copper bites through the grease which of course is a great electrical insulator. WRONG. In my case the grease killed the connection dead.

I had to carefully clean off all the grease and start again. This time I applied the grease just to the outside and then replaced the rubber boot. I'm now back to 100% signal strength and hope that it will stay that way for a good few years.

So if you have a satellite dish, a mesh aerial or a normal TV aerial that is not giving a good signal; it could well be that, like me you have a poor connection. The advice I am passing on is to re-make the connection and coat it with silicon grease; cover it with a rubber boot or, failing that, seal it with self amalgamating tape and enjoy good reception once more.

PS there are lots of other uses for silicon grease and self amalgamating tape. They're the kind of things that lurk in your toolbox for ages just waiting to solve an emergency!

Not all doom and gloom

When you read about bombs, illegal houses, homes without proper electricity and earthquakes it is easy to believe living here is not what it is cracked up to be. Undoubtedly for some it is a nightmare but thankfully they are in the minority.

When you awake most mornings to blue skies and sunshine, when you come back from the market weighed down with fresh vegetables that cost just a few euros, when you are greeted heartily by locals you hardly know; then you realise that moving to Spain was a good decision to make.

Of course there are problems; the bureaucracy would be difficult to understand even if it was in English and it takes forever and a day to get some things done but on the whole it is a good, trouble free life that we lead here.

In particular, Pam and I count ourselves lucky to live in a town like Bigastro where the people are so friendly and helpful; where there is so much to see and to take part in at no cost. The town may look a bit raggy in parts but that is part of its charm and in any case it will be completed mañana!

Muchas gracias Bigastro para la vida buena.

The first one to go

A British pensioner collapsed as demolition men began tearing down his Spanish retirement home after a planning row.

Len Prior, 63, who has a heart condition, and his wife Helen were given just two hours to move out all their possessions. As Mr Prior was rushed to hospital, his wife watched in horror as their house and garden were wrecked by a mechanical digger. Mrs Prior, a retired computer programmer, said: "It was quite horrendous. We have invested so much time, effort and money in it."

The Priors used their life savings to buy two and half acres of land in a quiet coastal village six years ago and build the £350,000 three-bedroom house. They took early retirement and sold their home in the Berkshire village of Hurst because of Mr Prior's heart problem and his wife's rheumatism. But they were unwittingly caught in a major Spanish national scandal involving planning permission during a property boom. Unscrupulous builders and lawyers paid backhanders to corrupt local officials to subvert the rules as vast swathes of coastline were concreted over.

The Priors were told they had planning permission from the local council in Vera, Almeria, but the regional government of Andalucia insists the house was built illegally on green belt land. It is the first reported case of a British-owned home being demolished but there are fears it is the start of a massive crackdown.

The demolition team, escorted by a dozen police officers, arrived at the Priors' home on Wednesday. "It was totally out of the blue," said 63-year-old Mrs Prior. "We live there permanently so the house was full of our possessions. Luckily the neighbours helped us move everything out. "Watching the house being torn down was quite appalling. The garden was my pride and joy and took us years to complete. "I am very, very angry but composed. I think when the anger wears off I will collapse, too."

The couple, who have three grown-up children and seven grandchildren, have been given emergency accommodation by the local mayor, but will have to find another home next week. Mr Prior, who was released from hospital after a check-up, said: "We're devastated. "This has been our home for almost six years. To have it pulled down in front of you is painful beyond belief. "We sold a beautiful house to move here so we could enjoy the weather and the Spanish lifestyle. "Now it has turned into a nightmare. We have absolutely no idea what we're going to do."

The couple say they were never even told of a court hearing at which the fate of their home was decided. Despite threats from the regional government, their solicitor assured them the property would be safe.

Local mayor Felix Lopez said: "Permission for the house was granted in 2002 as it complies with all the local requirements." But the Andalucian government insisted: "This is a clear case of a local authority wrongly granting planning permission. "The judge agreed with us that the house should be demolished."

Of course it isn't just British people who will find themselves in the same appalling situation. Most of the homes that face threat of demolition are owned by Spaniards.

Speaking of bombs

Workers found an unexploded bomb in the hotel Cano in Torrevieja yesterday. It is thought to have been placed there by members of ETA in May 1991. At that time the police received an anonymous call telling them of three bombs. One was found in a building in Santa Pola and another in the Hotel Marbella. Both of these were safely detonated but the one in the Hotel Cano was never found.

Plumbers, removing a false wall in the ladies' toilets at the Hotel Cano yesterday, found a suspicious package which could possibly be the unfound bomb. Specialist Technicians in Decontamination of "Artefactos Explosivos" (TEDAX) took the device to Alicante for analysis. The bomb had a timer, a battery and 1kilogramme of plastic explosive. However, it had deteriorated to the point where it was unlikely to explode.

The province of Alicante and particularly Torrevieja has always been a target for ETA within its strategy to affect tourism. In August of 2002,a hamburger cafe in Torrevieja was damaged by a device planted by the terrorists. The cafe had been evacuated safely before the explosion took place. In the summer of 2003 an activist of ETA, Olaya Castresana, died in La Mata when he accidentally set of a bomb in the flat where he and his girlfriend (also a member of ETA) lived.

The actions of ETA in the province go back to 1979 when they exploded two small devices in Benidorm. In 1981 hotels in Alicante, and Jávea were bombed. Four years later bombs were set off in a hotel at La Vila, in Benidorm, the ports of Altea and Jávea and in Trenet de La Vila. In 1991 a car bomb exploded in Mutxamel. In 2002 a car bomb exploded in front of the offices of the Guardia Civil in Santa Pola killing two people and injuring 30. The following year ETA detonated suitcase bombs in two hotels in Alicante and Benidorm injuring thirteen people. In 2004 another low power device exploded in Alicante and in 2005 there was a bomb in a hotel in Dénia,and another one in Villajoyosa.

In an area where they regularly set off fireworks, where they shoot game each weekend and which is prone to earthquakes it is hard to identify exactly what has caused of all the bangs and shudders that you hear and feel.

Along with the possibility of buying an illegal house or one which relies upon builder's electricity and water supply for years, these are things that they don't tell you about on your inspection trip. Just as well the advantages of living here outweigh the disadvantages!

Hmm que rico

On Sunday the 13th January at the Auditorium Francisco Grau you will be able to see the results of the Concurso de repostería navideña "Christmas cake competition".

Don't expect to see rich English fruit cakes decorated with marzipan and royal icing. Rather there will be a variety of delicious biscuits and other types of cakes traditional to Spain and Bigastro in particular.

There are three prizes to be won:-

First Prize: 120.00 €
Second Prize: 75.00 €
Third Prize: 50.00 €

I don't know whether they allow sampling!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Should be a good night.

This Friday Jose is giving us a break from "Hot Ice". Following many requests, he is putting on a flamenco show and a disco at the Albergue de la Pedrera starting at 8:30.

Let's hope the night is a great success for Jose's sake.

That is good news

Four men believed to be leading members of a gang blamed for the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones have been arrested.

The suspects, thought to be part of Liverpool’s Croxteth Crew, were held in a series of raids on homes across the city.

At one, officers found a sub-machine gun, two sawn-off shotguns and ammunition stashed inside a tumble drier.

Police believe the cache had been hidden for a revenge hit after a shooting on Saturday.

Although the arrests are not directly linked to Rhys’s death they are the first major strike by police against the gang believed responsible.

One of the men held in the raids is 52, while the others are all in their 20s. A woman in her 20s was also arrested.

Imagine living next door to a veritable arsenal of weapons. It reminded me of when we lived in Moreton on the Wirral. One night all hell broke loose. There were police cars everywhere and bright lights shining outside. We found out next day that they were raiding a house round the corner where an Irish couple were making bombs for the IRA in their garden shed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Just a reminder

On the first Wednesday of every month Allan White goes up to the Pedrera between 2 and 4pm to run the book club.

There is a wide selection of books to choose from including novels and non-fiction titles - something for everyone. The books are organised and well presented making choosing your selection as easy as possible.

Put a note in your diary/calendar for the 6th February to support Allan in this worthwhile venture.

PS a recent survey in England revealed that one in four people hadn't read a book last year!

Digital surcharge

The Socialist government managed to get enough support in Congress to maintain and extend the digital surcharge on mobile phones and MP3 players.

This means mobile phones, MP3 players and flash USB memory sticks will be more expensive as of January. Phones will see a 1.5 euro surcharge, MP3 players 3.15 euros, 17 cents on a blank CD and 44 cents on a blank DVD. There will also be charges added to printers, copiers, scanners, CD and DVD recorders and independent hard disk drives.

The Partido Popular leader, Mariano Rajoy, had opposed the new surcharges, saying it presumed that everyone was engaged in criminal activity. While admitting that artists should be compensated, he said another method had to be found.

This is part of a new law designed to promote a society of information in Spain which will also allow the Government to close down offensive websites. The Government denied that this measure breached freedom of expression, but it remains unclear how the closure of any webpage would be decided. The new law obliges public administration to make all public documents available for access online. However, measures to control online gaming have been postponed.

The internet is gaining importance ahead of the General Elections in March, especially among young voters. Both the main parties have produced videos to promote their message, and Mariano Rajoy has launched a website where he reveals much about himself and includes childhood photos.

The Internet and digital communications featured in the local government campaigns here in Bigastro with both parties promising a widening of access to all citizens in the town. However, although free courses and free advice are available,  Bigastel WiFi  is still only in Phase 1 which limits coverage to the centre of the town.

I imagine there are very sound technical as well as economic reasons why access hasn't been extended. A wired connection is undoubtedly more reliable than a WiFi connection but that reliability comes at a price. As I have said before, the high cost of Telefónica and other suppliers ADSL  access must  limit the take up of broadband internet here in Spain.

Shocking stuff

The elaborate lights which have lit up the streets of the city of Orihuela over the Christmas period appear to have been partly responsible for the many power cuts which have occurred in the city.

Los Verdes, the Green Party of Orihuela, issued a statement last week describing how Orihuela council had failed to consider contingency arrangements during festivities which would see electricity use at its peak, and also how the Christmas lights are not the low consumption variety.

Businesses and residents were affected by daily cuts in different areas around the city, and last week, even the Town Hall was plunged into darkness during what was considered to be an off-peak time for electricity use.

In Bigastro it isn't the number of lights that is the problem, it's the way some of them are put up. At best there are waterproof junction boxes hanging in he street for the festive lights. However, I remember seeing one set of lights near the Social Centre where the wires were just twisted together to make a joint. Whoever had done it didn't even bother to tape the joints, he simply seperated the live and nuetral connections to stop them from shorting.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The family album starts early

Ecox 4D in Alicante are offering a service which allows expectant parents to see  images of their unborn child in real time. Previously this service has only been offered by a few clinics and specialist private gynaecologists. 

Now any woman between 20-22 weeks and 35 weeks of her pregnancy can go, accompanied by up to four other people, and see their baby live on screen.

For 70 euros they can take away 10 photographs on a CD. Or for 175€, two DVDs of the captured images.

Gone are the days when you had to wait 9 months to even find out the sex of your unborn child. Ah well - that's progress I guess.

Higher speed - higher price

Telefónica have finalised the migration of two million clients from  1 to 3 Mbits/sec ADSL. 

At the moment, 54% of the Spanish homes  can get up to 10 Mbs.  By 2010 80% will be able to get this higher speed.

The following step will be to 30 Mbs.  At the moment they are running a test pilot of this service in 1,000 homes in Madrid and Barcelona.   Telefónica plan to offer 30 Mbs fiber connections to 40% of the population by 2010. 

In addition, Telefónica is also planning to offer 1 Mb connections with a download limit of 20Gbs per month for  29.9 euros a month (on top of the the monthly line rent of 13.7 euros  plus IVA). That is 10 euros per month less than their 3Mb service. For the majority of people, who are not heavy users, that is a worthwhile saving.

The 3Mb duo package costs us 73.87 euros per month. Apart from the 40.90€ cost of the ADSL/phone call package, there is line rental of 17.78€ (including the phone) and ADSL maintenance at 5€ to add on. Then you have  IVA of 10.19€ to pay. The cost doesn't compare well with the Virgin package of TV, ADSL and phone that my daughter has in Wolverhampton for £30 per month.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Yet another ruse to avoid

I got this email the other day. There are umpteen variations of this on the Net. Although some of the details change, they all have their content written in the same poor English.

The address it came from was Microsoft® Award Team<> showing that the person who sent it didn't even bother to hide their real email address.

10 Great Pulteney Street,
London,W1F 9NB United Kingdom.
Ref: BTD/968/07
Batch: 409978E

Dear Lucky Winner!!!
The prestigious Microsoft and AOL has set out and successfully
organized a Sweeps takes marking the yearly anniversary. You are among five others selected winners under draws 6+J promo program specially organized by the Microsoft Award Department.
Your e-mail address was attach to the ticket number 008995727495 in the Random Computer Selection System (RCSS).
However your email flagged out the lucky numbers 14-21-25-40-40-47(21)
and won you the sum of (£500,000 GBP) in certified cheque credited to File No:SBTD/9080648302/06

You are to Contact our Fiduciary agent Mr.Donald Ray for your claim
processing with the following information

Batch Number_________
References Number_______

Contact Head Winning Claims Department.
Mr.McDonald Ray

Congratulations from the entire member of the Microsoft Promotion Award

Dr.Marylyn Lloyd
Head Customer care Service.
Microsoft Promotion Award Team.

If I'd replied to the email, the scammer would have written back asking for my bank details. If you receive a similar email -  just bin it along with all the others asking you to update your online bank details.

Quite delicious

A special treat for the 6th January is a "Rosco de Reyes". In Mercadona they had a whole range of these starting with unfilled cakes to ones filled with cream and truffle. Ours was filled with "crema" which is a bit like patisserie cream.

Hidden inside the cake are surprises. If you find the little figure of one of the Three Kings then you are to be crowned but if you find the bean then you have to pay for the cake.

Will you pick up a bargain?

Today marks the start of the Winter sales in Spain. Shops have a double mission at sale time. First they need to convince shoppers that spending a few more euros won't hurt the purse and second they want to get rid of those items that have stood on the shelves for long enough.

Just as in England, there will be queues of anxious people outside shops all desperate to grab a bargain. Many will end up buying things that they don't really need just because there is a hefty reduction in the price. We've all done it. As my Mother in Law used to say "a bargain is only a bargain if it's something you really need".

In England the sales start Boxing Day but in Spain they have to wait until after the Three Kings. At least that gives us Brits here a bit of breathing space.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Confession time

I have to confess that, last week whilst I was outside the hairdresser's waiting for Pam, I connected to the Internet with my iPod Touch via someone's wireless access point. I must point out that it was impossible for me to gain access to their computer using the iPod and I was only online for a brief period. Nether the less I was stealing their bandwidth.

Most of the available access points that I found were secured by one means or another. If they hadn't been I would have had a choice. Many people with wireless access assume that it will only work within their house or flat - not true. Whilst the signal strength might be low, with a good aerial, a connection is perfectly possible quite a distance away.

I've been tweaking my wireless access to try and get better coverage. At the same time I've implemented some basic security. First off, I have file and printer sharing turned off on both my laptop and desktop. Even if someone gets onto my network via the wireless connection they won't be able to get to my files.

Every network device has a unique number called a MAC address. You can set your wireless access to only allow devices with the correct address to connect. It is called MAC filtering. Of course experts can spoof MAC addresses and still gain access but there is little you can do about anyone who is so determined.

The most secure way of preventing access is to use WPA encryption but that takes some setting up and is not available on all network products. Most wireless devices support the simpler WEP encryption and although it can be easily got round it is better than nothing to stop people casually logging on to your network. It comes in 64 bit, 128 bit and 256 bit forms. The pay off though, is that with a higher level of security comes a slowing down of your data. In any case 128 bit is only marginally more difficult to crack than 64 bit so you may as well use 64bit.

Of course, if you don't need wireless access, then simply turn it off in your router. That way nobody can get onto your network.

If you have a Telefonica router; you do this by typing as the address in your web browser. The user name and password are both 1234 by default. Under Advanced Setup select Wireless LAN then Wireless and untick the box marked Enable Wireless LAN. By the way this is also the section of the configuration where you setup WEP encryption.

Lastly my tweaking. I've invested in a high gain aerial from Carrefour. For just under 25€ they sell a 6dBi indoor aerial which gives a much better coverage than the 3dBi aerial supplied with the router. The manufactures claim 1Km in open space.

I did try setting up a "repeater" to re-transmit the wireless access in the lounge but it proved difficult to get it working properly so I've given it up.