Friday, February 29, 2008

A long and happy life in Spain

In a previous message I mentioned that there are 22 people here in Bigastro who are over 90 years of age.

It seems that in the city of Alicante there are 2,036 people who are over 90; 68 of whom have turned 100 years with eight of them over 105.

Altogether there are almost 53,000 people living in Alicante aged 65 and over which represents 16.5% of the population.

Women outlive the men by almost two to one.

Imagine if the King of Spain sent telegrams to people over 100 like the Queen does in England, he'd be worn out writing them!

At the Auditorium

The Council of Culture of the City council of Bigastro has organised a new Cultural Programme for the Auditorium “Francisco Grau”. The programme, which includes music, theatre and humour, covers the months from March to June.

This programme commences on Sunday, 2nd of March at 18:30 with the work "LA PASIÓN", by the Cultural Group Jerusalem. "LA PASIÓN" is an account of the passion and death of Jesus Christ portrayed in a simple scene.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Semana Santa in Bigastro

Easter is the most important week in the Christian calendar. It's the time when we commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

This is the Easter programme for the Ntra. Sra. de Belén church in Bigastro.

20:00 H -22:00 H Celebración Penitencial
22:00 H Viacrucis por las calles (Itinerario Procesión de San Joaquín)
11:30 H Bendición de Palmas en el Parque Huerto del Cura - Procesión y Misa.
El domingo de ramos abre solemnemente la Semana Santa, con el recuerdo de la Palmas y de la pasión, de la entrada de Jesús a
LUNES Y MARTES SANTO (17:00 - 19:00 H)
Confesiones para niños y jóvenes
Misas: 09:30 H y 12:00 H
17:00 H Eucaristía
19:00 H Celebración de la Cena del Señor y Traslado al Monumento
22:00 H Hora Santa
09:00 H Rezo de Laudes
17:00 H Oficios de la Pasión y Muerte
18:00 H Viacrucis
23:00 H Solemne Vigilia Pascual
07:15 H Procesión del Encuentro
09:00 H Procesión y Misa

For those not taking part directly; the procession on Friday 14th, the benediction of palms on the 16th and the processions on the 21st and the 23rd are well worth going to see. Note that you do have to get up early for the procession on the Sunday 23rd but it is possibly the most beautiful of the parades to watch. Even if you don't go to watch, the fireworks will wake you up anyway!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not the best approach

I've just been reading the messages to Sr. Alcalde.

There is one from a guy, who writes in badly spelt Spanish, asking how to apply for a job with the City Council. He then goes on to tell the Mayor not to buy 100€ scarves from El Corte Inglés with our money!

Luckily his message was anonymous otherwise he might never realise his ambitions.

The earth moved for some

I didn't tell Pamela that the we are living in is an earthquake zone here in Spain until after we'd arrived. Obviously that fact wasn't covered by her Geography lessons in school.

However it seems that the country we left behind doesn't get away Scott free as far as earthquakes are concerned. The country experienced  a huge earth tremor at 12.56am yesterday morning which was felt by people from Yorkshire to the South Coast.

Thousands of people reported their homes being shaken violently and furniture moving and hundreds more took to the streets for safety and to check for damage.

The epicentre of the tremor, which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale according to the British Geological Survey, was centred on the village of Holton cum Beckering, about 15 miles northeast of Lincoln. According to the US Geological Survey, the epicentre was 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the Earth’s surface.

The tremor is the biggest in Britain since 1984 when north Wales was hit by a quake which registered at 5.4 on the Richter scale.

There was some damage to property but thankfully nobody was reported to be injured.

The bullring in Orihuela

La alcaldesa de Orihuela, Mónica Lorente, ha iniciado el trámite de información pública para la modificación puntual del Plan General número 63 que permitirá "cambiar el grado" de protección patrimonial de la Plaza de Toros centenaria de Orihuela. Esta tramitación "allanará", nunca mejor dicho, el largo camino para la consecución de un nuevo coso con uso polivalente y la construcción de un aparcamiento subterráneo. El recinto en desuso y del que ya queda poco que proteger ya sufrió el derribo del graderío de la parte superior, en teoría protegido con grado 2 en el Plan Especial de Ordenación y Conservación del Centro Histórico de Orihuela.

It looks like work could commence on restoring this Grade 2 listed building and construction of an underground car park so that it can be used, not just for bullfighting but for other purposes as well at a cost of 11,800,000€.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Oscars

For those who didn't watch it:-

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men won four Oscars at the 80th Academy Awards in Hollywood last night on a triumphant evening for British talent, which scooped six gongs.

Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his role as an ruthless oil prospector in There Will Be Blood and Tilda Swinton was named Best Supporting Actress for playing a hard-nosed lawyer in Michael Clayton, as Joel and Ethan Coen’s terrifying chase movie won awards for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor.

It was also a good night for Spain:
Javier Bardem’s on-screen personification of a psychopathic assassin in No Country for Old Men brought him the honor of being the first ever Spanish actor to receive an Academy Award nomination – and he added the actual trophy to the nomination Sunday. The Spaniard had previously taken home the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, as well as the Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award for the same performance.

There were the usual fashion disasters but I'll gloss over those and concentrate on Helen Mirren who we thought looked just stunning in her red dress with Swarovski crystal.

Win, win, win

To celebrate Father's Day, the Association of Retailers of Bigastro “ACOBI” is giving away prizes to customers who purchase from the associated companies.

Visit any member of ACOBI, make a purchase and you'll be given a ticket.

If the numbers on your ticket is the same as the winning number on ONCE you'll win one of the following prizes.

On the 17th of March: 100 €
On the 18th of March: 200 €
On the 19 of March: 300 €

The prizes can be exchanged in in any of the ACOBI establishments.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nontoxic addictions

Project Man in Valencia has had to deal with 26 cases of people addicted to the Internet in the last year. It is the nontoxic addiction that most worries experts.

Some of the cases are people addicted to chat, others to online gaming and of course there are those who are addicted to pornography; all at the expense of relationships with family and friends.

The other addiction which causes concern is an addiction to work.

Profiles of the patients

Addicted to the Internet This affects mostly men aged 15 to 40 years. They usually fail to recognise that they have a problem. They get upset and can become aggressive when they are deprived of access to a computer.

Addicted to work Mainly women over 30 with a position of responsibility in their company. They are obsessed with working all hours, because they spend more and therefore need more money.

I'm worried now that writing this blog may have become an addiction for me. I'll try wriing less and see if I become aggressive.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


We have thoroughly enjoyed the regular events at the Auditorium - music, dance, theatre etc. Since we haven't been able to find a programme for up and coming events, I posted this question on the Bigastro web site.

Pregunta: 6 día 09-02-2008 a las 13:12:44
No puedo encontrar un programa para el Auditorio Municipal Francisco Grau de Bigastro. ¿Puede usted decirme cuando el nuevo programa de acontecimientos estará listo?

and the reply:-

No puede encontrar la nueva programación del Auditorio porque estamos elaborándola. En unas semanas estará lista para distribuirla.

So hopefully the programme of concerts, plays etc will return soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Wednesday we went for eyesight tests and today for hearing tests. So at least we know we can see and hear even if we can't understand!

Those who missed the hearing tests today can go to and take a test online. You'll need a pair of headphones for the test which lasts a few minutes. Once completed you'll be given an assessment and a graph to print out.

I already knew that my hearing was better in my left ear than my right which was confirmed by the results. Pam's results were more or less the same in both ears.

A special exit

Our Spanish teacher, Ana is a member of the Archicofradía del Pilar-Real Cofradía de El Lavatorio in Orihuela. They have organised an extraordinary "exit" with the image of Saint Peter in his repentance for Saturday, 23rd February at 9:30pm. This is a chance to see this beautiful paso with its figures by the famous Murcian sculptor, Francisco Salzillo.

This extraordinary exit marks the 250th anniversary of the Real Archicofradía del Pilar (1758-2008) and the 250th anniversary of the sculptures that form the group of El Lavatorio; the Prince of the Apostles, washing the feet of Christ.

The paso will be taken from the Museo de Semana Santo to the Santa Iglesia Catedral de El Salvador where there will be a special service.

Ana's cofradia will of course be taking part in the parades during Semana Santa.

Bigastrenses win prizes for Music

Such is the high standard of music in the town that musicians from Bigastro regularly win local, regional and national competitions.

At the 15th Contest of Musical Interpretation at Cox, held on the 16th and 17th February; Germa'n Guillén Alcocer received two prizes: the second prize for soloist and the first prize for Musica de Cámara.


QUARTET "ARUNDO DONAX" (Quartet of clarinets) Alicante.

    • Germán Guillén Alcocer
    • Jose Angel Martinez Martinez
    • Elias Serna Candela
    • Eloy Quinto Albero.

The members of this quartet, who've won awards in regional and national competitions, studied with professors of international prestige. They've recorded a CD of works by national and international composers and received much critical acclaim for their concerts.

Winners of 4th National Contest for Chamber Music “FRANCISCO SALZILLO” of Alicante Province (MURCIA) 2006

Interpreting the work:

  • Divertimento........................Alfred Uhl


Andante sostenuto

Allegro con brio


German Guillen Alcocer, Clarinet

Interpreting the work:

  • Concert altar Clarinete, Box and Op.57 Orchestra (Adaptation for Group) Carl Nielsen

German Guillen, Clarinet

Alberto Velasco, Bassoon

Diego Carrillo, Trumpet

Manuel J. Berenguer, Percussion

Ramon Lopez, Piano

The Town thanks these musicians for bringing home these prestigious awards and offers them the warmest of congratulations for their achievements.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

All change at the AGM

I must point out that the following is an unofficial account and as such represents only my view of what took place at the meeting.

At last night's AGM, Allan White opened the meeting by outlining our financial status. It seems that the social events in the last year had made a small margin of profit. He added that the membership fee account still had balance which we would need to spend.

Allan later spoke about security issues following the break-ins last Thursday and announced that the Book Club would run for two more months. He pointed out that support for this venture had been disappointing.

Allan went on to announce that four of the original members of the Committee, including himself as Chairman, were resigning from office. Having completed three years as members, they felt that it was time to make way for other people who may want to bring fresh ideas to the group.

We elected Jim Ryder as Chairman and then went on to elect Mel, Karen and Ethna as new members of the Committee replacing Lynda, Ramon, Lynne (as non-voting Treasurer) and Allan; Ron and Carole were re- elected.

Jose,who is of course the owner of the camp site and the proprietor of the Albergue where we hold our socials, was also invited to join. Although he is not a resident, the majority felt that he could make a useful contribution to the Committee. It wasn't clear whether Jose accepted this invitation.

Jim already has some new ideas which he wants to discuss with the other members of the Committee before bringing them to Residents' Association for approval. He did, however, outline some measures that would be implemented immediately. A secretary and treasurer would be appointed at the first meting next week. Jim went on to say that bi-annual finance reports would be posted, along with minutes of all meetings on the notice board at the Albergue. He also promised that newsletters would be produced to keep residents in touch with what was going on.

We'd already thanked the four resigning members for their hard work so at that point the meeting was due to close.

However, Jose announced that two members of the ruling Socialist group had come along to the meeting to address our concerns. It was probably not the best of ideas because a) that wasn't the purpose of the meeting and b) people were not prepared for that type of discussion.

With Aurelio's house up for sale and following rumours that people have heard about Star Sol's financial status, concern was voiced about whether the builder and his company would still be in a position to rectify the ongoing problems that some people are having with their houses.

In fairness the two Councillors were probably not the right people to answer those questions. It is no secret that Aurelio, spokesperson for the PP party and the ruling Socialist group have some major differences of opinion. In any case I'm not sure whether it is the local Council's responsibility to comment about contractual arrangements between builder and client. They did however assure us that Star Sol have an ongoing obligation to their clients regardless of the financial status they find themselves in.

There was also concern expressed about the general state of the estate. In particular the condition of the roads, the mess left behind by the people who had cleared the green areas and the gravel from the playground that has washed onto the pavement. I would add to that the vandalism to street furniture on the road out of the estate, the mess left behind when the Sales Office was removed and the state of the vacant plots. When we moved to Spain, we were lead to believe that Villas Andrea would be a "smart" place to live. I don't think anyone would describe the estate as "smart" as it is now.

I'm not sure that the two Councillors took account of those concerns, so it is likely that these issues will will need to be raised again via the Committee.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One unwelcome visitor

An angler, fishing for pike on the River Witham near Hykeham, caught a snakehead. This is a monster from south east Asia that can grow up to 3ft long and weigh 44lbs. It can crawl on land and live out of water for up to four days.

As you can see it has a mouthful of razor sharp teeth which it uses to eat anything that comes its way.

Snakeheads caused chaos when they were found in America in 2002, with snipers setting up on banksides to shoot them and entire lakes being poisoned to kill them.

It is thought that the predator, which is on a list of species that cannot be imported into the UK had been smuggled in for an aquarium and then illegally released.

The appearance of this fish in one of Britain's rivers has caused panic among anglers and conservationists concerned that if it breeds it will wipe out indigenous stocks of fish from the rivers.

I'm sure I've seen it (or something very much like it) on the fish counter at Mercadona.

Protecting the charran

The Community have installed seven floating islands in the Mar Menor to provide nesting grounds for the charrancito and the common charrán.

The islands are sand covered wooden platforms anchored to the sea bed. They have a wall to retain the sand and prevent the chicks from falling of and areas of shelter from the sun.

The birds have been competing and loosing out to gulls for nesting grounds. The new platforms will provide them with a safe place to breed.

NB the charrancito is similar to the charrán but has a yellow beak and feet. There is also apparently a variety which have red beaks and feet.

It's just amazing the wealth of useful information that you get on this blog!

Monday, February 18, 2008

I heard that pardon....

It's almost as inevitable as the odd wrinkle. With age, our hearing becomes impaired - I know mine has.

My Father was as deaf as a post without an aid and Pam's Father is just the same. So I'm expecting the worst.

Already I can identify with all the problems outlined; trying to listen to what people are saying in noisy surroundings, having to turn up the television and difficulty hearing people speak on the telephone.

Mel has kindly brought me this leaflet about the hearing tests that are available FREE of charge on Friday at the Centro Social Integrado.

I just hope that the people conducting the test can discriminate between hearing and understanding what they say!

Eyes down again.....

For bingo on Sunday, 24th of February 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.

By now you should be getting used to the numbers!

Update: I've had a message from Germán Martín at the Ayuntamiento to say the the bingo session has been postponed. You should still keep practicing the numbers ready for next time though.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bloody hell

Although I'm no fan of football, I couldn't ignore the results from yesterday's FA Cup games.

First off Bristol Rovers beat Southampton by the odd goal.

Then West Brom slaughtered Coventry by 5-0 in their derby game.

Manchester United destroyed Arsenal by 4-0 but the biggest shock was Barnsley beating Liverpool 2-1.

I have a dilemma; I was born in Manchester, my daughter's boyfriend is an avid fan of United but my neighbour is an equally devoted fan of Arsenal. Should I mention the game to him or keep stum?

Oh and did I mention that I lived near Barnsley for a number of years before moving to the Wirral?

Trees are green

Parties competing in electoral campaigns often make promises of economic reforms, improvements in social infrastructure etc.

María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, vice-president of the Government and socialist candidate to the Congreso por Valencia has gone one better. Yesterday, she announced her formula to combat climate change. In her campaign, she promises to plant 4.5 million trees over the next four years - that's 3,082 trees per day.

Only a week ago the PP candidate for President, Mariano Rajoy announced that his party would plant 500 million trees in Spain over the next four years. That would equate to 50 million trees for the Valencian Community or 32,246 per day.

If both got elected, they could end up having to bulldoze houses to make way for the 54.5 million trees.

For the benefit of my Spanish readers: "trees are green" is a play on words which you read as "Teresa green" referring to her promise to plant trees.

Speed demons

Two motorcyclists, trying to emulate Dani Pedrosa, lost 400 points from their licenses after riding along the Leon motorway at speeds up to 300km/h (186mph). In total they committed 30 different offences.

A witness , who managed to make a recording of the pair on a DVD, reported them to the Guardia Civil. The limit on the CL-631 between Ponferrada and Villablino is 90km/h (50mph). The two reduced their speed to 200km/h (124mph) on sections with a 40km/h (25mph) limit.

The police are still looking to arrest a third man they have identified from the recording.

For those who don't know; Dani Pedrosa (Daniel Pedrosa Ramal) is the youngest 125cc and 250 cc Moto GP champion.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The nanny state strikes again

Government advisers in England have drawn up plans for a smoking permit - similar to the one needed to watch TV - which all smokers would have to carry. Under the plans, anyone who refused to pay for a permit would be banned from buying cigarettes from any outlet.

Although a licence could cost as little as £10 a year, forms would be made deliberately complex to deter people from applying. Smokers could also be forced to obtain a doctor's signature, declaring their health was not at "massive risk" from their habit.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GP representative on the British Medical Association"s public health committee, said asking doctors to police the permits would be "unworkable". For each smoker to see their GP to renew a licence would mean 25million extra appointments a year, he claimed.

So would that mean that when I visit the UK I'd  need a permit to light up my pipe?

Birria - now that's a good word.

El portavoz del PP en el Ayuntamiento de Bigastro, Aurelio Murcia, calificó ayer como "birria" las obras responsabilidad del Ayuntamiento en la rotonda puesta en funcionamiento por la Generalitat en la variante del casco urbano de esta población. Murcia criticó la escasa calidad de la jardinería y el acerado y que los vecinos estuvieran años esperando a que se pusiera en marcha la pasarela que les conduce al polideportivo y a Molins y que ahora queda inutilizada. Indicó que la rotonda solo "facilita el aparcamiento a los trabajadores de la empresa que es socio el marido de una de las concejalas del Ayuntamiento". Murcia lamentó la peligrosidad de la situación del acceso a la rotonda junto al colegio infantil de la Paz, además de pedir explicaciones por la falta de previsión municipal, ya que el Ayuntamiento está señalizando y reordenando el tráfico después de abrir la rotonda. Por otra parte, Murcia reta al alcalde José Joaquín a no escudarse en sus lugartenientes para rebatir en un cara a cara las críticas a su gestión expresadas en un documento distribuido por el PP.

So Aurelio thinks that the work on the new roundabout is (birrria) rubbish. He also thinks that the access from the infant school, La Paz, is dangerous and that the footbridge will now be largely unused.

Furthermore, Aurelio claims that the roundabout was only built to facilitate parking for the workers at Eurener. Finally he is complaining that the changes made to the one way system in the town were only announced after the roundabout was due to be opened.


La portavoz del PSOE en el Ayuntamiento de Bigastro, Inmaculada Martínez, anunció ayer que la administración local está estudiando "investigar" al portavoz de la oposición del PP Aurelio Murcia por presunto fraude fiscal. Martínez enmarcó la investigación en la gestión de fiscalización urbanística que en teoría se realiza en el departamento de Urbanismo a todos los vecinos. Dio por hecho que el Ayuntamiento, como administración local, ha recopilado documentación registral de la casa de Aurelio Murcia en la que figura un crédito de más de uno millón de euros para construirse su casa. La información urbanística municipal sobre la licencia que solicitó en su día figura con un coste de unos 350.000 y ahí estaría la irregularidad. Martínez dijo que esta actuación viene precedida por las acusaciones del PP que abre constantemente "la espita de las denuncias personales" y lamentó el estilo de realizar oposición de Aurelio Murcia que genera una gran crispación en el municipio.

The rule is; if you are going to denounce the party in power, you need to be sure that you're squeaky clean yourself. There is a big difference between a house that was licensed for 350,000€ and was then registered as having cost 1,00,00€ to build. The saying "he needs to get his own house in order" would seem to be very apt in this situation.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Driest six months

If we don't get another 20 litres per square metre before the end of the month, this will be the driest Winter semester (October to March) in 60 years of records here in Spain. We've had just a little more than half the normal amount of rain that would be expected for this period(177millimetres against 316millimetres).

The good news though is that, dues to a package of special measures,  we are guaranteed a normal supply of water in spite of the dry conditions.

Pide me disculpas

In my post on February 8th where I described the process of making an appointment at the doctor's, I forget to mention that when you click on the link to the web site you will get the following message on your screen:-

This is because the site is not on your browser's list of trusted sites yet. Either select "Accept this certificate permanently" in which case you won't get this message again or select "Accept this certificate temporarily for this session" in which case you'll get it every time you go to the site.

Then click on OK. You should now be able to to follow the instructions for making an appointment.

Here's my excuse: You will understand that I had already accepted the certificate permanently. So when I prepared the message I didn't get this screen. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Ron's advice

Can I reiterate the excellent advice that Ron Hawes, our resident ex policeman on site, gave us in November 2006.

  • Make sure all your doors and gates are locked when you go out. It is surprising how many people leave their gates unlocked which makes it easy for an intruder to get in.

  • If you have an alarm - set it when you are out and at night when you go to bed. There are apparently people with alarms who have never used them.

  • Hide your valuables in places that only you know about.

  • Close and LOCK the shutters on the windows when you go away.

  • Fit additional locks to patio style windows.

  • Buy a personal attack alarm and keep it with you - pointing one at intruders and setting it off will scare the living daylights out of them.

  • Leave a radio and lights on when you go out. NB check that the radio can be heard outside and leave the shutters just slightly open so the lights can be seen.

  • The most vulnerable points that he highlighted were the outside doors of the galerias and the concertina gates on patio doors. Ron explained that the euro style lock has a particular weakness if if protrudes from the door casing. The thief uses a wrench to twist the lock and break it. It does require some force but can be done. Where the lock is made flush this is not possible. He also mentioned secure closed shackle padlocks and locks which prevent sliding windows from being opened.

    Ron went on to talk about a bar which can be locked across the inside of a door to prevent it from being opened. As he explained, the high security front doors are made from steel and present a difficult challenge to the burglar. Aluminium doors are much less of a challenge. These can be easily prised open with a screwdriver; even when they are locked - believe me we've seen it done!

    When we first moved here, people had their outside lights switched on at night. Once we started paying for electricity the lights went out. When you looked across the estate last night it appeared to be being deserted. Apart from the street lights and the odd house, the place was in darkness.

    Remember that most thieves are inherently lazy and nervous. If a house looks to be occupied then the chances are they'll leave it alone and look for one which appears to be vacant.

    Timer switches are very cheap (Ikea have them in multipacks for a few euros) and can be used by residents and non-residents alike to give the impression that their houses are occupied.

    If we all work together on these issues we can convince burglar Bill that he's wasting his time coming up to Villas Andrea and hopefully move him on to some other place. Our aim should be to prevent any re-occurrence of the misery that those people experienced last night.


    The Residents' Committee have organised the Annual General Meeting for Tuesday 19th at 7:30pm. ALL residents are cordially invited to attend.

    The seven members of the Committee (Allan, Lynne, Linda, Ramon, Ron, Carole and Jim) have provided us with first class entertainment again this year. They've worked hard for us and fully deserve our support. So please make a date on your calendar to be there on Tuesday.

    In advance of the meeting, I'd like to propose a well deserved vote of thanks to the members of the Committee. Furthermore, I strongly suggest that we should nominate all seven for re-election in the hope that they will accept.

    A great party

    The Residents' Committee get another ten out of ten for the Valentines' Dance last night.

    Tony Kelly was in great form, but found a rival in Jose who sang "My Way" in impeccable English.

    Jose showed all the men up by presenting his wife Maria with a beautiful bunch of flowers.

    PDQ seem to have the knack of guessing our favorite tunes from the 60s which they thump out with a great deal of energy. I always think if the dance floor is full - the band are good. Last night the floor was packed.

    The only downside was the news that there had been a number of break ins to people's houses. Whether the thieves thought that people would be out because it was Valentine's night is impossible to say.

    We sincerely hope that the people who got broken into didn't loose too much and that the burglars didn't leave a mess. Most of all though we hope that the police catch these people quickly to prevent any repetition of last night.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Think again

    Those of you who have central heating here at Villas Andrea will probably have had one of Roca's flyers quoting 95€ for a service of your heating system. Like us, you may have thought that was both expensive and unnecessary on a three year old system especially one that only gets used in the Winter.

    Well, Roca came and serviced our system yesterday and yes, it was expensive for the amount of time it took. But, if you had seen the colour of the water that came out of the bottom of our radiators you'd realise that it was money well spent. It looked like brown Windsor soup.

    It's obviously not good for the boiler to try pumping that around the system so it is best removed. In any case if we'd allowed that sludge to build up, the radiators would have started to warm only at the end where the water enters and leaves. So job done - hopefully we won't need to see Roca until next year.

    Improve you life

    N ext Friday, 22nd of February at 10:00 am, the Council of Social Welfare in collaboration with the Centro Auditivos "Gaes" have organised a day about the prevention of deafness in the Centro Social Integrado de Bigastro.

    Good hearing is indispensable for the total enjoyment of life.

    The most frequent symptoms of the auditory loss are:
    - difficulty in understanding what is being said in noisy places, or when more than one person speaks at the same time.
    - having to set the volume of the television or the radio above normal levels.
    - problems when speaking on the telephone.

    If you are concerned about your hearing, just drop in for a consultation. The audiometric test is FREE.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    News for residents

    Don't forget tomorrow is Valentine's Day. What better way to celebrate than taking your loved one to a dance. Fortunately for us, the Residents' Committee have that boxed off. The Valentine special features not just one act but two. First off we have Tony Kelly in his white tuxedo serenading us with his selection of music from the "Rat Pack". Following that we can rock to the 60s sound of PDQ.

    If you haven't already got a ticket; hot foot to Ron and Carole's, Lynda and Ramon's or Allan's house. For the princely sum of 5€ each you will be guaranteed a good night out.

    Times are hard

    The pound recently hit its lowest exchange rate against the euro since the single currency was launched. For those on fixed UK-based pensions this is a major issue. From a high of 1.5€ to the pound the exchange rate has dropped to 1.34 which means we are getting 11% less to spend each month. Add to that an increase in prices of  basic goods of 7.9% over the last year and it's clear that many people  have a real problem.

    The pound’s weakness is also having a detrimental effect on tourism with many UK holidaymakers shunning countries in the Eurozone.

    and the plan for today is....

    Ministers want pupils of all ages in England and Wales to be offered at least an hour a day of culture during the week. Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, and Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, will launch the scheme at the Young Vic theatre in London.

    At first, the scheme will run as a series of pilots but Mr Burnham will say that, eventually, the Government intends all children to have access to five hours of culture a week as a right.

    A Youth Culture Trust will be set up to encourage children from every school, particularly those in low-income areas, to experience theatre, dance and classical music.

    Opera and ballet companies will be invited into schools to help instil a love of the arts in children of all backgrounds. Youngsters will also be given the option of learning a musical instrument, and taken on trips to art galleries.

    Those taking part in the 10 pilot schemes, which will cost £10 million, will initially come from disadvantaged backgrounds or already display a special talent.

    I don't want to sound cynical but... I'd be very surprised if the children at Anfield react favourably to this idea. They didn't respond that well to Citizenship nor have they taken to Enterprise. Five hours of culture per week could just prove to be hell for the teachers involved.

    Even if any of the children I taught had enjoyed ballet and classical music they would never have admitted to it.

    Climate change

    Britain changed from barmy to balmy yesterday as the country saw the highest temperatures ever recorded for the middle of February. The thermometer reached 18 degrees in Wales which must have made it feel like Summer.

    Here in Bigastro it was damn cold and rainy for much of the day. 

    Last night, people arriving at San Javier airport from the UK in T-shirts were quickly donning coats and sweaters. I couldn't help but feel sorry for those who'd were out here for a break at school half term. The watery sun which is trying to break through the cloud banks this morning will hopefully make them feel a little better.

    Officially opened

    At the opening of the new roundabout in Bigastro, Victoriano Sánchez, Director General of Public Works explained that work on the new CV95 which will link Orihuela to Torrevieja at Los Balcones is due to start next June. Study is also ongoing for the new CV91 which will link Orihuela with Guardamar del Segura.

    The Mayor of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya, choose the occasion to announce that he is working on an agreement with the Murcian Government to improve communications between the municipality and the region. In relation to the new roundabout, built at a cost of cost 300,000 euros to the Conselleria and 60,000 to Bigastro, the Mayor said that it would provide improved road security for the town, improve communications between Orihuela and the coast and would give direct access to the extension zone D10.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Hear hear

    People who illegally download films and music in Britain will be cut off from the internet under new legislative proposals to be unveiled next week.

    Internet service providers (ISPs) will be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material

    Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law.

    Broadband companies who fail to enforce the “three-strikes” regime would be prosecuted and suspected customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The Government has yet to decide if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs.

    International action in the US and France, which is implementing its own “three-strikes” regime, has increased the pressure on British internet companies and stiffened the Government’s resolve.

    I've heard all the arguments about the high prices people have to pay for CDs and DVDs and how the stars and artists are grossly overpaid. In my book,  these arguments  still don't justify what tantamount's to stealing. Not only are these people draining the music and film industry resources, they also take up other users bandwidth slowing down access for legitimate Internet surfing.

    One of the downsides is, that there may well be innocent users who are having their access stolen via “wi-fi piggybacking”. These people could get cut off through no fault of their own.

    Still the best

    Not long ago I foolishly said that Celine Dion's version of the classic Tina Turner number "The Best" might just be better than the original.

    Tina had stopped playing concerts in 2000. Apart from some promotion in 2005 for a greatest hits album and an appearance later that year at the Kennedy Center Honors, she has kept a low profile since then.

    However, the 68 year old diva made a special appearance at the recent Grammy Awards.

    Tina warmed up with a medley of "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Better Be Good To Me" and was then joined by Beyoncé for a stunning rendition of "Proud Mary".

    Tina now has eight Grammys in her collection after picking one up for her part in Herbie Hancock's surprise album of the year winner River: The Joni Letters.

    I take back what I'd said previously - Tina is still "the Best".

    Photographic exhibition

    Have you been to see the exhibition of photographs in Auditorium Francisco Grau?

    The exhibition, which is running from the 8th to 22nd February, records the daily illusion of millions of children fighting for their right to education. It is also a tribute to their teachers who make it possible for these children to progress under the most difficult circumstances.

    Open for business

    The new roundabout in Bigastro will be opened this morning at 11:30am by the Viceconseller of Infrastructures, Transport and Communication, D. Victorian Sanchez Barcáiztegui.

    Helping your best friend

    Veterinarian, Ignacio Torrubia Requena based in Alicante is using to a new technique for operating on dogs and cats who have red eyes or infections using a laser diode.

    Dogs with ocular problems can sink into an enormous and lasting depression: they stop playing, they are sad and they do not want to go out for walks. Sometimes they will become aggressive. However, once the animal has been treated and regained full sight they become happy happy and contented.

    The most prone species are poodles, cocker spaniels and Yorkshire terriers. These suffer cataracts and injuries to the retina l, for example, hereditary optical atrophy.

    Treatment apparently takes about an hour to complete.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    More misery

    A British couple living in Spain will see their dream home demolished to make way for a high-speed rail link.

    Richard and Wendy Kaleta were given permission in 2002 to build their £450,000 home in Turre, on the Costa Almeria, despite the proposal four months earlier of a rail link on the land they had bought.

    Now they and three other British couples have been told their properties will be demolished, with no compensation being offered for their buildings. Their new four-bedroom villa, set in two and a half acres of landscaped gardens, was completed in Jan 2003.

    According to papers lodged at the local planning office, the proposed route of the AVE high-speed link was made public in Dec 2001, four months before the Kaletas were given permission to build. The project was approved last autumn and it wasn't until late last year that the Kaletas learned of the plans.

    The couple feel they were let down when they bought the land from a former mayor of the town, Arturo Grima, who denies any wrongdoing. He sold twelve plots of land to British buyers and helped them apply for building licences, recommending solicitors to oversee the projects.

    Mr Grima said: "I have done nothing dishonest. It is wrong to suggest that I knew about the AVE and didn't tell these families. I have done a lot to help these people and they know I am honest."

    Four houses in the rural development on the outskirts of Turre will be demolished to make way for the project. The remaining residents will find themselves living in close proximity to tracks where trains will travel at speeds in excess of 155mph.

    Return of the blackouts

    The latest news from barmy Britain.

    Thousands of street lamps in suburban areas in England are being switched off after midnight. The blackouts are being imposed by councils to cut energy bills and meet climate change targets.

    Buckinghamshire is carrying out one of the most radical trials of the new approach. More than 1,700 lights, which illuminate 25 miles of roads, will soon be switched off completely. The council claims the scheme will save £100,000 and nearly 600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. I would hazard a guess that the cost saving is more important than the environmental impact.

    Town hall chiefs claim that the policy could halve street lighting bills, as a typical sodium street lamp costs between £20 and £40 a year to run. Many councils have at least 100,000 lights. However, the cost of converting street lights to operate on the new system might outweigh the advantages. Cheshire council abandoned plans for blackouts after discovering it costs at least £100 to add a timer to each lamp.

    Other areas taking part in blackout trials include Maldon and Uttlesford in Essex. Trials are also taking place in Gloucestershire, while Hertfordshire is introducing six-month blackouts later in the year. Cornwall and Devon are considering similar schemes.

    Some local authorities are going even further - and scrapping street lights in the evenings as well as the early hours of the morning. Last year, Buckinghamshire council turned off all lights on the A4128 - a busy rural road running from High Wycombe to Hughenden Valley.

    It shouldn't be a problem though because Jacqui Smith has already told everyone that it's not safe to be out at night.

    It's not safe out there

    Seventy six people have recently been arrested in 15 Independent Communities here in Spain for Internet fraud. Some were deceiving buyers on eBay to part with their money for goods that didn't exist; others were obtaining bank details by using phissing sites. In total they had conned people out of amounts between 40o and 10,000 euros each - a total of more than 2milion euros.

    It seems that Spanish computers are favoured by the mafia gangs that turn machines into zombies by taking control of their operation. These people trawl the Internet looking for computers open for inspection. Once they've found them, they gain control of them via their IP addresses and their open ports. The criminals then use the controlled machines to send emails, to collapse Internet sites with denial of service attacks and of course to spread viruses. In the process they can also harvest personal information including bank details.

    The weak link is almost always the user. Failure to protect their computers properly with up-to-date anti virus software and a firewall is often the root cause of the problem. In other cases the user has, either responded to an email designed to infect their computer and take control, or visited a website designed to do the same thing.

    They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. When you respond to an email offering you cheap software or you visit a warez site to download illegal copies, you are putting your computer at risk. Once these guys have cleared your bank account, the free software suddenly becomes very expensive.

    All banks will tell you that they NEVER communicate with customers by email. So any email, no matter how genuine it looks, asking you to confirm your details is after your money. Similarly all those ridiculous emails telling you that you've won thousands (or even millions) in some lottery are fake.

    Kamikaze driver

    A 44 year old soccer trainer, who was apparently on his way to watch Elche play Sporting de Gijón , drove 13 kilometres in the wrong direction along the A7 yesterday.

    He ended up colliding with an Opel Corsa killing both the occupants. A man and a woman on a Harley Davidson were also involved in the collision. Luckily both came away with minor injuries and are currently helping the police with their investigation into the incident.

    The suicidal driver, who was slightly wounded in the collision, was taken to the General Hospital in Alicante where he's receiving psychiatric treatment.. The alcohol level in his blood was negative.

    Early hay fever

    Even though Winter isn't finished, trees and plants are in flower and are producing pollen. The dry mild weather has fooled plants into thinking it is later than it is. The almond trees have been in blossom for a week or so. Next we'll have the lemons and the oranges in bloom. The Spring flowering jasmine is covered in buds so that won't be long before it bursts into flower.

    Actually some of the plants in our garden have been in continuous flower since last year. Poor things must be exhausted. I'll give them their first dose of fertilizer this next week.

    Luckily neither Pam nor I suffer from hay fever. To those of you who do we offer our sympathy.

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Recibo Único

    When we lived in the UK we used to balance out our spending by paying utility bills and insurance by monthly direct debits. Here in Spain you don't seem to be able to do that. To add to the problem, although the electricity bill comes every two months, the water and gas bills come every three months. So February, May, August and November there are two bills to pay; the rest of the months just the one. Our household insurance is due in November and the car insurance in March. That makes November an expensive month! June is the cheapest because we only have the gas bill which, without the heating on, is buttons.

    However, la Caixa bank offers a service to its customers called Recibo Único which does the same thing as the UK monthly direct debit system by allowing you to consolidate your direct debits and pay the same monthly amount to cover them. It actually works out better because you only have one entity to deal with instead of half a dozen or more.

    This is the way it works: you decide which bills you want to be included; obviously excluding any which are monthly anyway. The total of all those bills over the last year then determines how much you pay each month i.e. a twelfth of the total. You are given a credit limit which is the maximum that would be covered per month. If the bills exceed that limit then you can top up your Recibo Único account to cover the excess. Of course in months where there are no large bills your account would be in credit to cover bills in following months. All this for the princely sum of 18€ per year. Pretty damn good if you ask me.

    Saturday, February 09, 2008

    At last piece of good news from England

    Police in Liverpool said they were still “confident” charges would be brought after the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones.

    The claim comes just days after the prime suspect in the case was released on police bail.

    The 17-year-old suspect, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested last week as part of an investigation not connected to the 11-year-old’s murder in Croxteth Park, in August last year.

    He was arrested following raids at three addresses in Croxteth carried out by Merseyside Police’s gun unit, Matrix, which was investigating gun crime and the theft of wild bird eggs.

    The teenager was bailed on February 1 along with a 20-year-old man to April.

    Last night Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly from Merseyside Police insisted there would be a “successful prosecution”.

    Mr Kelly said: “We have a clear strategy for this investigation and we’re determined to leave no stone unturned.

    “We’re confident with the progress we’re making, and that we’ll be able to progress towards charges and a successful prosecution - the timescale for which will be governed by the evidence.”

    Hopefully the person guilty will be standing trial for more than stealing bird's eggs.

    speaking of ages

    I'm pleased to see from the latest Padron for Bigastro that 1,178 (14%)of the people living in the town are either as old or are older than me.

    Going back to the statistics for 2000 when there were only 449 (11%) in that group and none aged over 74 gives me hope for a long and happy life here.

    It is also interesting to note that 3,813 of the 6,967 (55%) ciudadanos were born here in Bigastro and over 85% of the population are Spaniards.

    As you can see of the 1,013 or 14.5% extranjeros only 226 (3% of the population)are British.

    So thankfully there is no foreseeable chance of Bigastro becoming a "little Britain in the sun".

    Muchas Gracias

    To Lynda and Carole for a wonderful party last night. It is hard to believe. when you look at those two, that they are both 60 years young; they certainly don't behave like pensioners!

    Congratulations to you both. We hope we made the night as special for you as you did for us.

    PS We mustn't forget to thank their husbands, Ramon and Ron whom I'm sure had a big part to play in organising last night's event.

    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Getting an appointment

    A friend of mine has asked me "how do you go online to make an appointment at the doctor's?"

    First you need to go to the web page by clicking this link.

    Once you are there you enter the two pieces of information required to identify yourself i.e. your date of birth "Data de naixement / Fecha de nacimiento" and your SIP card number "Número SIP / Número SIP." Click on the box Validar which will take you to the next screen

    Here you need to first click on the button MEDICINA FAMILIAR and then Seleccionar.

    You will now be able to choose the date and the time for your appointment in the relevant boxes. (desde = from and hasta = until). Note that the date shown in the box will be the first available date. You can of course type in a later date.

    At the next screen you will confirm the exact time of your appointment from the range available.

    Job done - all you need to do then is make sure that nobody jumps in ahead of you when you get down there!

    Courting controversy

    For years people have joked about Britain becoming an Islamic country. Now the Archbishop  of Canterbury wants the country to take a step further in that direction.

    Dr Williams argued, in a speech at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, for a “plural jurisdiction” that would allow Muslims to choose whether some legal disputes were resolved in secular or Sharia courts. He called for “constructive accommodation” over such issues as resolving marriage disputes.

    Earlier, he told BBC Radio 4 that people should approach Islamic law with an open mind.

    Although emphasising that there was no place for “extreme punishments” and discrimination against women, Dr Williams stressed the importance of making all communities “part of the public process” in order to limit any oppression.

    There are nearly 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, representing 2.7 per cent of the total population. Sharia courts do exist, but they have no legal standing and their decisions are not binding.

    Dr Williams said: “It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognised in our society.”

    However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said that British law must be based on British values. “Sharia cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of Sharia be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes,” he said.

    Even leading members of the Church disagree with Dr Williams. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who claimed recently that parts of Britain were no-go areas for non-Muslims, was one of the first to criticise Dr Williams. Dr Nazir-Ali, the country’s only Asian bishop, said: “English law is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and our notions of human freedoms derive from that tradition. It would be impossible to introduce a tradition like Sharia into this corpus without fundamentally affecting its integrity.”

    It seems the country is falling apart since we left. No wonder the weather is so bad - it's retribution for all the barmy ideas that fill the newspapers on almost a daily basis.

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Arrive before you've set off

    A hypersonic passenger plane that could fly to Australia from northern Europe in less than five hours has been designed in Britain. With funding from the European Space Agency, a team of engineers and scientists has come up with the A2, a plane they believe could carry 300 passengers at a top speed of more than 3,000mph.

    The A2 is designed to leave Brussels international airport, fly quietly and subsonically out into the north Atlantic at mach 0.9 before reaching mach 5 across the North Pole and heading over the Pacific to Australia. The flight time from Brussels to Australia, allowing for air traffic control, would be four hours 40 minutes. Do you know, I could almost put up with sitting in the same seat without a puff on my pipe for that long.

    There are, however, a few hitches. For one thing, the A2 might not be great for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia, as it does not have portholes.  One solution Reaction Engines has proposed is to install flat screen panels where the window would be, showing images of the scene outside.

    I can think of others e.g. a crash at hypersonic speeds would be just something else. I doubt if you'd have time to adopt the brace position at those speeds and if you did, your head would could well be propelled up to where your neck once belonged.

    If this scheme gets off the ground (no pun intended); within 25 years 10% of air travel could be hypersonic. Of course you'd still have to be at the airport two hours before and wait up to an hour to reclaim your luggage. The flight time could work out to be the shortest part of the journey.


    One of the ladies in our Spanish class asked the teacher if we could go to watch the children at the Carnival instead of struggling with comparativos. She argued that we would be enhancing our cultural experience.

    Even though the children's costumes did look amazing, watching the parade wouldn't really have enhanced our cultural knowledge and we'd still have had the comparitivos to face later.

    Many congratulations to all who took part and a special thanks to those who organised such a wonderful parade for us to watch.

    You can see more pictures from this event at the Photo Gallery online.

    NB Sadly none of the pictures are mine.

    Stitched up

    I had an email from a great guy and friend I used to work with this morning telling me that he'd just bought a copy of Serif Panarama Plus. It's a computer program that helps you stitch photographs together to make seamless wide angle pictures. Not the kind of thing you do everyday but nether the less very useful for those odd occasions.

    Here's one I did earlier using Canon PhotoStitch.

    Serif, who he bought the program from, is one of those companies that bombard you with flyers and emails offering you some fantastic product which you can't live without for just 99p. The interesting thing though is that the emails are all sent by someone called Natasha Allachina.

    Of course she doesn't exist. I asked Serif once about her and they admitted it it was a made up name which kind of spoilt it for me. I'd always imagined this svelte Eastern European goddess; a sort of cross between Anna Kournikova and Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love. I expect they thought that the illusion would lure sad suckers like me into buying.

    If you respond by phoning them, they try to smooth talk you into buying a complete package of programs. Stuff that you would never even install let alone use. I notice on their website now, they have some fancy Adobe style pricing e.g. £323.25 for a complete Page Plus package which is a far cry from Natasha's 99p offer.

    Once you've contacted them, you're guaranteed a succession of emails and flyers through the door for years to come now. Once Natasha has you in her sights she doesn't let go.

    I use Serif's Page Plus desktop publishing program even though I have a copy of Quark XPress. I hope Natasha doesn't find out that my copy of PagePlus is version 9 because the program is now onto version 12 which they neatly call X2 (I wonder which fruit branded company they got that idea from). The fake Russian goddess would be on to me in a flash and I don't think I could resist her offers anymore. I know I would weaken and hand over my card details

    Wednesday, February 06, 2008

    Planting trees

    The Council of Environment of Benejúzar commemorated the Day of the Tree with the reforestation of the Paraje de La Pilarica by the students from the Instituto de Enseñanza Segundaria. In addition, in Guardamar the day was celebrated in the Colegio Reyes Católicos y Molivent.

    Planting trees beats chopping them down to build more houses!

    The new layout explained

    The new roundabout on the by-pass (in front of the Centro de Salud) will open soon. This will give better access to Molins and the Sports Centre than the traffic lights at MEM.

    The City council of Bigastro has considered it opportune to realize a rearrangement of the traffic in the municipality:

    C/ BALSA: Access to and exit from the roundabout.

    - This street will be two way, with no parking in the section from C/ Tomás Villanueva to Avda. General Bañuls.

    C/ MURILLO: Access from C/ Tomás Villanueva with previous access from the intersection with C/ Goya. Direct exit to the by-pass in the Orihuela direction will be at the roundabout at the Poligno Industrial Estate.

    - From C/ Tomás Villanueva to crossing with C/ Vela'zquez, will be open to two way traffic with no-parking.
    - Traffic will travel in both directions from C/Vela'zquez to C/ Democracia (Parking on one side for loading and unloading)
    - One way traffic from Plaza Ramón y Cajal to C/ Democracia.

    C/ GOYA: will only be accessible from the by-pass which allows it to connect with C/Murillo through C/ Tomás Villanueva .

    - One way until C/ Moreal and the slope from the Plaza de la Constitución to C/ Moreal.
    - Lateral Parking in all the street.

    WARNING: Access to Plaza Ramón y Cajal from C/ Goya, will be via C/ Moreal, C/ 1 de Mayo and C/ Purisima

    a) The traffic in the Plaza de la Constitución and C/ Moreal will be stopped (section Parque Huerto del Cura) when the circumstances require it.
    b) The parking zone in C/ Purisima, the section of C/ Sagrado Corazón and C/ Maestro Grau will be established.

    I hope that is clear and that I've got it right. If in doubt follow the locals - they're bound to understand it all.

    New road layout

    At last the sign that was placed alongside the CV 95 in Bigastro telling us about extensive roadworks is making some sense.

    The City Council is advising parents of children who go to “La Paz” not to park on C/ La Balsa. The new roundabout will open this street to traffic. It is recommended to use C/ Cervantes instead to drop children off at the school.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Spanish to English made easy

    People have asked  how I manage to translate items of news from Spanish to English. Some of you may mistakenly think that my Spanish has progressed so well that I work it out myself. I don't think so!

    Although I do try to work out as much as I can, there are a few tools that help me.

    First off; I'm running Windows Vista which has the Sidebar sitting to the right of my desktop. One of the gadgets running in my sidebar is Systran translator which is a free download. When I get stuck with a word or phrase I simply type it into the box and click Translate. Instantly I get a translation in a pop up box. 

    Sometimes though a word may have more than one meaning. In those cases a simple translation may not be correct. For those words, I use an online dictionary where I can type in a word and get various definitions. For verbs, the dictionary also provides the relevant conjugations (past, present and future).

    In cases where the word is not included in the  dictionary, there is the option to consult a monolingual dictionary and if that fails the RAE (REAL ACADEMIA ESPAÑOLA) - the definitive reference source for the Spanish language.

    Often though, I want to translate a whole document or a web page. For that I use the Systrans Home Translator program installed on my computer. It isn't cheap - the latest version (V6) has just cost me £68 to download - well worth it though for the regular translations I undertake.

    Of course, like with any translation program, I have to untangle the grammar and with the odd word find an alternative definition. Still it is a lot easier than sitting with a dictionary looking each word up only to find that it doesn't make sense.

    Hopefully, in time, I'll use it less and less and not have to buy V7!

    There is a lot at stake

    Lewis Hamilton spoke yesterday about his sadness at being taunted by twisted Spanish racists at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday. He said: “Even though I thought something like this might happen, it wasn’t pleasant.” He added: “I feel quite sad.”.

    Last night there was growing pressure for Spain to be stripped of its right to host F1 events in the wake of the vile display.

    Britain’s former F1 champion Damon Hill called for the country to lose its Grand Prix in May and the European Grand Prix later in the year – while Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe pledged to raise the issue with the Spanish government. F1’s governing body, the FIA, has demanded a full report from Spanish officials on the incident before making a decision.

    Lewis is a hate figure in Spain after bitter rows with ex-McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.

    Don't these idiots realise that a lot is at stake here. The prestige, the income and the pleasure that these races will bring to Spain are all at risk. Surely the Spanish fans hate him because because of his relationship with his team mate and the damage that they feel he did to Alonso's chances of winning last year, not because he is black. Wearing black make up, wigs and T-shirts with "Hamilton's Family" written on the front is neither funny nor clever.

    Longer life fruit

    A group of six investigators from the Superior Polytechnical School of  Orihuela at the University Miguel Hernandez have discovered how to delay the maturation process of fruit and vegetables. The method doesn't use chemicals and so doesn't affect the  flavour, the colour or any other properties of the fruit. 

    The  professor and investigator, Martinez Romero explained that the maturation processes produces a hormone called ethylene  which accelerates its progress.  The  secret is therefore to  neutralize the ethylene. 

    To this end, the team have  devised a system that uses activated charcoal and palladium which  absorbs ethylene and fixes it to the surface. There it is  catalyzed and transformed into CO2 and water. The system, that could be installed in refrigerated transport and on supermarket shelves, would effectively double the life of fruit and vegetables.

    Apart from the obvious benefit of giving the fruit a longer shelf life, it would mean that when there was an excess, the surplus crop could be stored for longer than it is at present.

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Get your frying pan out ready.

    As you probably know tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day - the day before 40 days of Lent and 47 days before Easter Sunday.

    The pancake is featured in cookbooks as far back as 1439 and the tradition of tossing or flipping them dates back at least as far as the 17th Century.

    Supermarket Morrisons estimated 5 million people in Britain have never made a pancake and did not know which ingredients to use despite the age-old recipe being made by families for centuries.

    Just so you have no excuse, here is Delia Smith's recipe to make about a dozen pancakes.

    Ingredients for the pancakes
    110g plain flour, sifted
    pinch of salt
    2 eggs
    200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
    50g butter
    To serve:
    caster sugar
    lemon juice
    lemon wedges

    Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets a airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs - any sort of whisk or even a fork will do - incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
    Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don't worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Now melt the 50g of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake.
    Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you're using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tbsp is about right for an 18cm/7in pan. It's also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it's tinged gold as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife* - the other side will need a few seconds only - then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
    Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
    To serve, sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice and extra sections of lemon.

    * The brave ones amongst you will want to toss them in the traditional way.

    Sunday, February 03, 2008

    Officially old!

    That's it - the die is cast! We're officially members of the "Third Age" now that we've joined the Pensioner's Club here in Bigastro.

    So what can we look forward to? Well Pam has already reaped the benefit by joining the "Keep Fit" class. We'll be asked to take part in the August Fiesta and we'll be invited to the trips out.

    We might not be quite ready for the Sunday evening tea dances yet but I'll be happy to go along and paint some sheep for the Christmas Belen.

    All we need now are the bus passes.

    Saturday, February 02, 2008

    We've forgotten what bad weather is

    Here in Spain we complain when the temperature drops to 10 degrees or when we have an hour or two of rain. A night of strong winds is almost a national crisis. Perhaps we should spare a thought for those people back in Britain where the weather has been appalling.

    Following flooding in the Midlands and the South, the North of the country got hit yesterday by snow storms which caused havoc leaving more than 200 people stranded in vehicles after six inches fell in hours.

    Roads in the North and Scotland were badly hit with drifts trapping the terrified occupants of 130 cars, coaches and trucks on the A66 in Co Durham.

    The blizzards also left up to 3,000 homes in North Yorkshire and 1,250 in North Lincolnshire without power.

    And the Met Office warned of icy conditions over the weekend — with the cold snap lasting until Wednesday.

    Temperatures could hit -10°C in Scotland and -3°C in the Midlands with 70mph winds across the UK.

    For those of you living here, please don't tell the folks back in England that the weather is beautiful here at the moment. They probably won't appreciate it.

    The same problem

    In England there is a serious concern about young people "binge drinking" at the weekends. It really is no different here in Spain.

    In a recent survey, almost 4,000 alicantinos students between between the ages of 14 and 18 admitted to driving a car when they were drunk. Mostly they had been drinking at the weekends at what are called "botellon" (large bottle) parties.

    Out of all the students who admitted to drinking during the last month only 32.4% said they drank occasionally during the week.

    Apart from the problems with alcohol, 40% of the students aged between 15 and 24 years old said they didn't take precautions when having sex.

    Four nurses will visit 47 schools in Alicante, to inform the children about the the risks associated with the consumption of drugs and the practice of unsafe sex.

    La Paz

    On Wednesday the Infant School "Bigastrín" celebrated the World-wide Day of La Paz (the dove).

    The students, aged from 4 months to 3 years, wore doves which they'd made and on the patio of the school lived out the traditional liberation on the white dove (the symbol of La Paz).

    They celebrated after by eating pop corn.

    A cultural trip

    The Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro, in collaboration with the bank Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM), have organised a trip to Xátiva and Anna to take place next Sunday, the 17th of February .

    The trip will take in the Lago de Anna and the la Fuente Negra . In the evening there will be a tourist trip to Xátiva and its Castle.

    Everything is included: the coach, food and a cultural guide.

    The coach will leave Bigastro at 7:45am from the Plaza Ramón y Cajal. (Puerta de Álvaro).

    and the cost:
    - Partners and companions: 10 €
    - NonPartners: 20 €

    * It is necessary to have an account with the CAM bank and to have made a payment to the Asociación or to have contacted a member of the director.

    Friday, February 01, 2008

    May Fair

    I've been asked about the dates for the May Fair for this year. I assume we are talking about the Fair in Torrevieja which is held on the first week in May each year.

    The official Ayuntamiento de Torrevieja web site only shows events scheduled up to March. Unfortunately, the programme for the May Fair won't be available until April when it is too late to book cheap flights.

    However, I've copied below last year's programme which as you can see ran from the first Tuesday in May to the first Sunday. Since the first Tuesday this year is the 6th, it seems likely that the fair will be held from the 6th to the 11th but please don't quote me on that!!

    El martes 1 de mayo se celebrará la típica "Noche del pescaíto".

    El miércoles 2 de mayo, a las 21:00 horas, el alcalde de la ciudad inaugurara la Feria y procederá al encendido del Real de la feria. Posteriormente serán interpretados los himnos por la Unión Musical Torrevejense y el Coro y Orquesta Maestro Ricardo Lafuente. A las 23:00 horas, el escenario del recinto ferial acogerá la primera actuación de la Feria de Mayo 2007, el cantante Valderrama.

    El jueves 3 de mayo se celebrarán las actuaciones de las academias de baile de la ciudad.

    El viernes 4 de mayo, a las 23:00 horas, actuará el cantante José Manuel Soto.

    El sábado 5 de mayo, a las 11:00 horas, habrá una concentración ecuestre y de carruajes en el recinto ferial, con pasacalles. A las 12:00 horas, en la Iglesia Arciprestal de la Inmaculada Concepción, se procederá a la celebración de la Misa Rociera, cantada en esta edición por el reconocido coro Siempre así. Al finalizar la Misa habrá un paseo en carruaje con la comitiva de romeros y carruajes hasta el recinto ferial.
    Asimismo, el sábado, a las 5 de la tarde, Gran Corrida de Rejoneadores en la plaza portátil de Torrevieja. A las 23:00 horas, el escenario del recinto ferial acogerá la actuación de la joven cantante española Rosario Mohedano.

    Ya por último, el domingo 6 de mayo, por la mañana, como viene siendo habitual desde sus comienzos, habrá concurso de enganches de caballos, carrera de cintas y concurso de gymkhana. A las 21:30 horas, se procederá a la clausura de la Feria de Mayo por parte del alcalde de la localidad, realizando el coro Siempre Así el Canto de la Salve Rociera, para finalizar con un gran castillo de fuegos artificiales.