Monday, March 31, 2008

Making the most of your pictures

One of the great features of digital photography is the ability to correct and alter your images before you print them out.

You can, of course, use a program on your computer to achieve this. Professionals mostly use Adobe Photoshop. However, the program is very expensive and requires a steep learning curve to take advantage of all of its features. Adobe therefore introduced Photoshop Elements, which is currently in version 6, to meet the needs of amateurs. It is a much friendlier program to use, costs a lot less and has many of the features of its more expensive sibling.

Now Adobe have introduced Photoshop Express - a picture editor which has most of the features of the Elements version but works online. For the moment use of the program is free and as a bonus you are given 2gbs of storage for your completed pictures.

You can give it a trial by going to:-

A give away

According to Miguel Rodríguez Llopis, in his book General History of Murcia which has been published posthumously; in the middle of the eighteenth century the average height of people in Murcia was 1.6m. Children from rich families averaged heights of 1.65m whereas those from working families only averaged 1.58m.

Rodríguez explains that these differences were due to the poorer diet and the greater incidence of diseases like typhoid and malaria amongst the working classes. There were even differences between people of the same class according to whether they lived in the countryside or in a city or town.

By 1880, at the height of the industrial and commercial revolution, the average height of Murcians had increased to 1.63m and the difference between those who lived in the country and those in towns was reduced to 2cms.

Today the average height of Spaniards is 1.68m (1.74m for men and 1.64m for women). However, it is noticeable that a lot of the young people are taller than their parents so maybe that will have changed by the next generation.

So it's not just our skin colour, the colour of our hair and eyes and the way we dress that gives us away; it is the fact that we are so tall that marks us out as Brits.

Mind you even we don't come near to the Dutch who average 1.79m (1.83m for men) which is a centimetre more than the Swedes and the Norwegians.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Did you remember?

1. To set your clocks forward an hour this morning.
2. That tomorrow is a fiesta day in this area.

I have to confess that I actually went round and set all our clocks back an hour before the mistake was pointed out to me!

Essential card for travellers

From April 1st 2008, British nationals who permanently reside in Spain will have to present the Spanish equivalent of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if they require medical treatment whilst visiting the UK or any other EU member state.

This applies to UK nationals who either: Live in Spain and make Spanish Social Security contributions or Live in Spain and receive healthcare while receiving a state pension or long term incapacity benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions through the registration of an E121.

Failure to present the Spanish EHIC could result in you being considered as a private patient, which may mean you are charged for your treatment.

The Spanish equivalent of the EHIC is called la Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea and can be applied for at your local Spanish social security office (INSS). These cards have to be renewed annually.
(UK nationals who use an E106 do not need to apply for the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea. They can continue to use their UK EHIC.)

For more information, visit or call 00 44 191 2181999

Visitors to Orihuela

According to the City council of Orihuela 20,636 people (1,796 more than in 2007) visited the Tourist Offices during Santa Semana. The exhibition of sculptures by Salzillo, which is open until May, also registered 3,220 visitors during Easter.

The other good news for Orihuela is that hotels in the city enjoyed 100% occupancy during the week.

Our day out

Yesterday we got up very early to join the Pensionistas on a day out to Benidorm for the princely sum of 7€ each.
The usual form for these trips is that you are taken for breakfast then they try and sell you something, you have lunch and finally visit a few places of interest.

So after our coffee and ham sandwich we were taken to this room where there was a display of goods on sale. There were glasses, cutlery and crockery at one end; and various household appliances at the other.

The main items though were a chair and a bed which the sales lady proceeded to describe in great detail. The main virtue of the bed seemed to be that you could tilt the head and foot of it much like you can with hospital beds. For 1,400€ you got the bed, the chair, the mattress, cover, pillows etc etc. There was even a magnetic mat that would cure you of almost every illness and pain known to man thrown in.

However, nobody seemed to be interested in buying a bed which really frustrated the fiery Spaniard. She stormed out of the room several times only to return refreshed ready to try a different pitch. Short of torturing us; that lady tried everything to sell us a bed.

Eventually she gave up and sat in the corner with her head in her hands whilst her assistant sold a few jars of face cream and some throws to put on sofas.

We were then taken to another, altogether more interesting, shop that sold wine, spirits, cheese and cooked meats.

Whilst we were there, several of the ladies from our coach went searching in the scrub land opposite the shop and came back with armfuls of wild fennel. These ladies certainly have an eye for the stuff. You regularly see them walking down from the Pedrera carrying bunches of what look like weeds. Now we know what they are.

Then we returned to the warehouse for lunch and finally we were taken to "Molino" Benidorm for a drag show. The costumes were spectacular and the artistes very polished. It wasn't hard to understand the topic of the humour and we followed bits of the jokes but without a grasp of colloquial Spanish we missed some of the punch lines.

The best part of the trip though was being in the company of such wonderful people. The members of the Pensionistas' Club went out of their way to make us feel so welcome. We look forward to going out with them again in the near future.

Many thanks to John and Carol Thorpe for inviting us and for being such good company.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Yet another annoyance

It is bad enough flying on a budget airline with their cramped seats and lousy food. I can just about put up with the children constantly wanting to go to the toilet and the people who insist on foraging in the overhead lockers throughout the whole flight. Now it seems that we are going to have to put up with people making calls on their mobile phones as well .

"Where are you?"

"I'm on the plane".

"You sound as though you are really close to me."

"I am, you're in the next seat". It's great material for a Peter Kay sketch!

BMI and Ryanair plan to install picocells on their aircraft that will allow passengers to make calls once the plane is at 3,000m. Let's hope the cost of call is so high that it puts people off.

Almost malware

The method Apple used to try to get its Safari browser onto my Windows  computer (pre-selected as part of a "Software Update" to iTunes and QuickTime) was, at best, cackhanded; at worst, downright sneaky. 

The last think I want is three Internet browsers installed, so when the offer appeared I turned it down. The fact that the box was already ticked to allow the download to proceed was cheeky.  Anyone not noticing that would have downloaded the new software along with "Bonjour" for Windows without realising it.

Why did they do it? Well apart from trying to get market share, they were aiming for some extra revenue. Apple and Mozilla both get payments from Google every time someone uses the built in search fields in their Safari and Firefox browsers. Mozilla got 85% of its income in 2006 by this method and Apple obviously wants a bigger slice of this action (they earn about£1m per month from Google at present).

I have always been a fan of Apple and the Mac OS as I have already said on this blog but not when they try tricks like that.

Kings of the runway

Being close to the sea means that there are a lot of gulls in the area of San Javier Airport. When one wrecked the engine of a Boeing 737; the hawks were brought in.

Now there are ten of these magnificent birds that are looked after by Fernando Brizuela and Javier Gallardo, two young Sevillian falconers who have worked at the airport for 12 years.

The youngest birds fly for about three quarters of hour each day and the oldest about ten minutes. To control their flight an emitter placed is placed in one of the legs of the hawk which transmits to a receiver in the vehicle of the falconers.

These hawks can live for 25 years working until they are 15. Although they start at two months, they are only effective once they are a year old. The falconers try to ensure that the birds do not hunt while they are in flight because their purpose is to dissuade other birds not eat them!

Since their arrival there has only been one further mishap and that was on a rainy day when the birds couldn't fly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The best Garden Centre in the area

The Garden Centre in Bigastro helped us a lot when we first came to Spain. They not only supplied us with plants for our garden but gave us a lot of useful advice about what would and would not succeed.

You will have noticed though that the Garden Centre is now closed and may wonder where they moved to. The answer is Benejuzar next to the family finca Lo Rubes. The new premises are much larger and allow them to offer a wider range of plants and accessories.

The easiest way to find them from Bigastro is to follow the by pass around Benejuzar to the third roundabout. Turn right back into Benejuzar and then turn left at the at the sign for the Garden Centre. There is ample parking when you enter the premises.

Eva, the Polish girl who works there, speaks very good English and has an extensive knowledge of plants and garden design.

¿Que pasa?

What sort of Easter weekend did you have? The girls and Laura's boyfriend came over on Friday and returned to the UK yesterday so we were busy enjoying ourselves.

It's always nice to have the house back to ourselves but sad to see the girls go. We miss their laughter and their company. Still they will come again soon.

We visited two of the processions; The Viernes Santa one in Orihuela and the Encuentro in Bigastro. You can see my pictures of these and the Palm Sunday procession by clicking on this link.

No procession would be complete without tambores

or a legion of Romans

some of the Cofradias numbered hundreds of members

At 7:15am on the day of resurrection, these young children lead the procession of Jesus

At the encounter Mary's widow's mantle was removed.
This was accompanied by a shower of white confetti and the release of white doves
which signaled a spectacular display of fireworks.

Mary was returned to the church

followed by Jesus.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brian Wilde RIP

Brian Wilde, a much-loved star in two of television's favourite sitcoms, has died at the age of 80. He was the kindly, gullible prison officer outwitted each week by Ronnie Barker and his fellow jailbirds in Porridge. He went on to play the self-important ex-army corporal, Foggy, in Last Of The Summer Wine.

Wilde joined Last Of The Summer Wine – now the world's longest running sitcom – for its third series in 1976. He joined Bill Owen (Compo) and Peter Sallis (Clegg) for nine years before leaving in 1985. He returned in 1990 and remained for another seven years, appearing in a total of 116 episodes.

Last of the Summer Wine was my favourite show on television. Set in Holmfirth near where I used to live, it was a gentle break from the angst and scandal of Eastenders et al. It wasn't vulgar; the nearest the show ever got to sex was Compo's lusting after Nora Battie's wrinkly stockings. And now in my retirement I can identify with those guys. It is one of the few programmes that I miss now that we have Spanish satellite TV.

It's Easter so we shop

It seemed that everybody and his aunty was going into Torrevieja yesterday. Many would have been heading for the N332 to get away for an Easter break: police reports talk of large tailbacks entering Benidorm and traffic jams around Valencia. The rest though seemed to be heading for Carrefour.

It isn't often that you find the car park at Carrefour full nor do they raise the new barriers to allow motorist in without a ticket. Yesterday though it was every man for himself as I struggled to find somewhere to park. Of course the habit that some have of parking across two spaces didn't help. I tried to park by the garage but the assistant spotted me and moved me on. Eventually, I found plenty of spaces in the area to the side of the shop where Pamela had told me to go in the first place.

Inside the shop wasn't much better as assistants struggled to keep the shelves full and it wasn't just food that was flying off the shelves. I got the distinct impression that people were preparing to lay siege. That was in spite of the notice at the entrance that showed the shop was open on Sundays as well as week days. In fact it was hard to work out just when Carrefour would have been closed.

In contrast Mercadona was relatively normal. It was either the rain or the fact that folks had spent up kept them away in the afternoon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Valencia on fire

The falla of Nou Campamar was the most expensive, the largest and the winner for the fifth consecutive year. Last night it was the last but one to be burnt on the Nit de Foc. as 900,000 euros worth of work was raised to the ground in just ten minutes.

In total 776 fallas were destroyed last night.

Semana Santa procession returns to Santa Cruz

The Barrio de la Santa Cruz in the old quarter with its narrow, Sevillian style stepped streets was the scene of last night's Semana Santa procession in Alicante.

Thousands filled the route and followed as the two pasos were carried carefully down the steep steps. The paso Cristo de la fe "El Gitano" was carried by young ladies and the paso Descedimiento by men. The costaleras at the front struggled to keep control of the heavy weight that was bearing down on them. You could see the agony on their faces and the relief when they reached the bottom.

People hung out from their balconies which were draped with banderas to touch the wooden crosses as they passed by. At each stage there was a cantor singing saetas to loud applause.

It was a very emotional scene which we were privileged to watch on .2 TV.

You can watch a short video bly clicking on this link.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

El dia de los padres

I hope that you've got your tie on , your feet up and are being looked after today as we celebrate the Day of the Father's here in Spain.

Fallas in Valencia

The coincidence of the fallas in Valencia with an early Easter has resulted in a much larger participation in the events in the city this year.

Approximately half of the 400 commisions arrived yesterday to adorn the image of the Abandoned Virgin with red, pink, white and yellow carnations. The rest will arrive today to cover the square with flowers.

The flowers though were not the only spectacle. The people dressed in traditional costume provided an image of Spain that most visitors will never see.

The late night was obviously too much for the girl on the right

.....and tonight most of the fallas which have been lovingly created will go up in smoke.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cost of rubbish collection

I know that this question has already been asked but I'm not sure that we've had an answer.


ARTICULO 5º - CUOTA TRIBUTARIA.- La cuota tributaria será:
a) Tarifa Vivienda: 31,50 euros/trimestre
b) Oficinas y pequeños comercios: 63 euros/trimestre
c) Locales comerciales e industriales: 85 euros/trimestre.
d) Grandes empresas, hipermercados, discotecas y extras: 135 euros/trimestre
La cuota tributaria será en aquellas viviendas donde se presta el servicio de
recogida de basura que se encuentran en el Municipio de Orihuela y Urbanizaciones de
extrarradio (Sector D9):
a) Tarifa Vivienda: 50 euros/trimestre

You will notice that whilst houses in Bigastro pay 31.50€ per quarter for rubbish collection, we pay 50€ because we are classified as being in the suburbs even though the value of our land is the same as many of the Calles in the town for tax purposes ( 210.35€ per square metre).

The question is - why are we classified as "urban" for our Council Tax rate and in the "suburbs" for the collection of waste?

A heated debate

You just knew that the Council meeting last night would end in chaos. They apparently got as far as point nine when the Mayor, obviously fed up with the constant references to the imputations and the newspaper Informacion , asked Aurelio Murcia to leave the meeting which of course he refused to do. The Local Police tried to get the spokesperson for the PP to leave and finally the Civil Guard at Jacarilla were called to evict him.

Out of  the major points of contention; the sale of 30,000 square metres of land in Sector D12 was considered to be illegal by the PP party. They claim that the sale cannot be approved without permission of the Valencian Catalan Autonomous Government and of the Conselleria of Presidency because the value of the land (calculated at 2,000,000 euros) is more than 25% of the anticipated income for the municipal budget. It is rural land at present but upon sale would be reclassified as urbanizable.

Another hotspot in the meeting was the approval of rents to Eurener who assemble solar panels in the new building next to the footbridge. The Council are accused of favouritism because one of the company's partners is the husband of a socialist councillor.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Frustrated shoppers

There are times when you can't find what you need here in Spain. You know just where to buy the item in England but you can't get delivery to Spain.

There is an answer though which is to use the UK Shopping in Spain website. This innovative service sources all sorts of items from a wide range of companies and then delivers them to Spain for you.

It isn't cheap - their lowest rate is 45 euros for items between 1 and 5kgms rising to 100euros for 20kms but possibly worth it for the odd item.

Here is the link:-

If you are after British food then you can try

They will deliver 30kgms of produce for £12.99.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The sun shone for Palm Sunday

When Easter is early, as it is this year, it is a worry that the weather will be kind for the processions. Today it was beautiful allowing the children and their parents to show off their Sunday best clothes.

and of course when you have patiently walked around the town you expect a little reward

I hope Antonio's daughter didn't loose the baloon on the way home.

Semana Santa in Torrevieja & Orihuela

The processions in Torrevieja next week will be shown on live television via Television Torrevieja. You can also watch them via the internet at

Click on this link and then Reproductor to see a clip from the DVD of last year's processions.

NB The Huerto DVD Semana Santo is the paso of Jesus in the Mount of Olives carried by the International Confradia composed of different nationalities.

John, who lives at Villas Andrea and who is the current Third Age King in Bigastro, will be lending his shoulder to help carry this most impressive paso. If you see him - give him a wave but don't expect him to wave back!

There are parades featuring pasos each day from Monday to Friday night next week. They start from the Inmaculada but follow different routes from there depending on the day. On Monday to Wednesday inclusive the parades start at 10.00 pm while on Thursday the parade begins one hour later at 11.00 pm and on Friday which is a very long parade the start time is earlier at 7.30 pm. On Saturday morning March 22nd there is a parade starting at 10.00 pm in which anybody can join to the accompaniment of drums of all kinds and on Sunday there is a parade featuring the cofradia of John the Evangelist and the image of the patron saint of Torrevieja the Inmaculada Concepción is carried through the streets.

The programme for Orihuela is as follows:

16th March Domingo de Ramos at 11:00am Benediction of the palms followed by the parade from the Church of Santa Justa to the Cathedral

18:45 Procession of the Mayordomia of Our Lady of the Delores from the Church of Santiago.

22:15 Procession of the Brotherhood of the Flagellation and the Brotherhood of the Christ of Zalamea

17th March Procession of the Brotherhood of the Samaritan and the Brotherhood of the Predimiento at 22:00

18th March Procession of the Brotherhood of the Pardon and the Brotherhood of the Ecce-Homo at 22:00

19th March Procession of the Mayordomia of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth at 18:30

22:30 Procession of the Brotherhoods of Santa Cena and Lavatoria

20th March Procession of the Brotherhood of the Christ of Buena Muerte 19:00

20:30 Procession of the Brotherhood of Silence

21st March at 6:30pm General Procession of the Passion

22nd March Procession of Santo Entierro de Christo 20:00

23rd March Procession of the Brotherhood of Ressurection at 00:30

12:00 Drums of the Brotherhood of the Resurrection. Followed by the transfer of the Virgin from the Church of Saints Justa and Rufina to the Monastery of San Juan.

Again you can watch them on the internet at

The plenary session

At the Extraordinary Council meeting tomorrow, the Bigastro Town Council will approve the  inventory of municipal property valued at 60,000,000 €.

They will also approve the auction of 30,000 square metres of rustic land in Sector D-12 which located in the surroundings of the Pedrera. This auction of land is included in the Plan General de Ordenación Urbana for Bigastro but will not take place until the Council have approval from the Conselleria de Territorio.The money from this sale is to be used for investments for the town.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Muy bonito

In preparation for Domingo de Ramos we bought a palm display for the house. How they produce these beautiful designs for the price they charge is a mystery.

We hope the weather is fine for tomorrow when they hold the open air Service of Bendiction in the park at 11:30am followed by the parade through the main street.

Protecting your locks

The shortest five pin cylinder lock is 30mm each side (a six pin lock would be even longer). On a narrow gate this leaves too much of the cylinder protruding making it easy for thieves to apply a wrench and snap the lock.

On the 5th of this month I wrote about the Snapsafe replacement lock cylinder but unfortunately have not been able to find any here in Spain. In any case the Snapsafe is only designed to snap on one side which is fine for a solid door but not ideal for the type of gates we are looking to protect.

The sinple solution is to fit cylinder protectors. The one in the picture is from Pepe Lorente whose place is just up the road from the Cepsa garage. As you can see, it's narrow enough to fit on a gate and is deep enough to leave just a couple of millimetres of the cylinder showing.

You can fit them with self tapping screws by drilling two holes like I have in this picture or better still have them welded on to the gate.

The Mayor under fire

Yesterday the Court of First Instance and Instruction Number 4 of Orihuela imputed the mayor of Bigastro, Jose Joaquin Moya, by presumed prevarication in the concession of a licence for the construction of a Solar Orchard at the Pedrera.

This licence for the Solar Orchard, which has now been revoked, was granted to a company whose main partner in Bigastro is the husband of the lieutenant mayor, Inmaculada Martínez.

There are two other cases for which the Mayor could be imputed: the use of Council workmen and resources to build a rural hotel in Jacarilla and the awarding of a licence to Idearco to build on rural land at the Pedrera.

The children at La Paz

Prepare for Santa Semana by holding a procession.

They had costaleros to carry their paso of the Virgin Mary

They had musical accompaniment

and nazarenos in yellow, green, purple and red

not forgetting the ladies dressed in black complete with mantillas.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It isn't just the weather that is getting hotter

The Judge of First Instance and Instruction of Orihuela has imputed to all the previous PSOE councillors of Bigastro in relation to a presumed crime of prevarication and embezzlement of public assets bound to the awarding of municipal rustic land at the Pedrera.

On the 8th of August 2005, the Council sold 35,000m2 of rustic land to Alicante Torrevieja S.L. for 2.1million euros. In the same plenary session they re-classified the non-urbanizable land to allow the company to build an Aparthotel. They also granted permission for 50 years use of a further 45,000 m2 to the company for a golf course. In essence they are accused of attempting to conceal a city planning action without the approval of the Catalan Autonomous Government which is why it was stopped by the Genealitat.

At the same time evidence was being presented in a different court about a further denunciation. This time the Mayor is being accused of using public materials and human resources to build a hotel in Vistabella (Jacarilla). This denuncia also mentions supposed irregularities in granting a licence to build a solar farm at the Pedrera.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stop drinking, driving and smoking

It isn't good news for people in Britain already faced with rising costs of electricity and gas.

In Chancellor Darling's first budget:-

• Beer to go up by 4p a pint
• Bottle of wine to rise by 14p
• 11p added to packet of 20 cigarettes
• Government forces supermarkets to charge for plastic bags
• New showroom tax on gas guzzlers, zero tax on 'green' cars
• Child benefit to rise to £20 a week a year earlier
• Low income families get £50 child tax boost
• Winter payment for pensioners to rise by 25% to £250
• Fuel payment for over-80s boosted to £300
• 70,000 new homes to be built
• Fuel duty rise frozen until October
• £2bn of extra funds promised for British troops
• Darling cuts growth forecast by 0.25%
• Inflation to rise before returning to its 2% target in 2009
• Air passengers face paying an extra £10 on flights

The crisis is starting to bite

Last Saturday morning two Bobcats and a JCB were parked outside Aurelio's house blocking the entrance to where he parks his cars. It appears that they were placed there by order of the Manager of Star Prosol, Ginés Ruiz.

The construction industry is facing a crisis and Star Prosol are having liquidity problems. Aurelio's house is owned by the company in which he has a one sixth share. The house has already been put up for sale but obviously the manager wanted to take matters further.

The diggers were temporarily removed but not before they'd taken the gate from the entrance to the car parking area of his house. The driveway is now blocked off by a temporary fence of green netting.

It isn't just the companies that are suffering though. The lay offs and the slow down of work in the construction industry have signalled an increase in crime in the area. One of our neighbours, who was burgled on the 14th February, has now had his car stolen. The thieves took the spare key on Saint Valentine's night and have now returned to take the car.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

That's a lot of muck

I complain about the mess that birds leave on my garden walls, on the windowsills and on the furniture outside. Then I found this item of news:-

The company Inusa cleans 1,000 square metres of ground covered in excrements from doves and starlings every day in Alicante. That's the equivalent of 73 football pitches full each year. Just imagine Loftus Road Stadium covered 73 times!

The Councillor for Health, Mari Carmen Román, announced that “in May there will be a new capture of doves to avoid the overpopulation. On average they cull 100 doves on each occasion.

They look well

These two ladies were presented with flowers by the Councillor for Women, Mª Carmen Alonso last Saturday at the "Celebration of the Woman Worker" held at the Auditorium.

Teresa Moya Granero is 93 years old and Carmen Juan Ballester is 85. Both are workers, mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers.

They provide inspiration for all of us.

Entertainment in Bigastro

The Perceve group (students from the E.C. secondary of the Severo Ochoa de Murcia) will present "RITMOGRAFÍA DE UNA VIDA", on Saturday, 15th of March at the Auditorium Francisco Grau in Bigastro.

This new spectacle of theatre, percussion, hip-hop and break-dancing directed by Miguel Sáez is an x-ray of Modern Society. Through theatre and music made using everyday objects and their own bodies, they will cover subjects ranging from education, solitude, work, el botellón, sport, conflicts to aid for people with incapacities.

There will be two performances; the first at 5:30pm and the second at 8:00pm.

Following that:-

SUNDAY, 16th OF MARCH6:30pm


SATURDAY, 29th OF MARCH 8:00pm

Presentation of the book “SAN JOAQUIN and BIGASTRO” by The Brotherhood of San Joaquin.

SUNDAY, 30th MARCH 7:00pm


A chance to see the work of Salzillo

From the 13th of March to the 18th May the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Orihuela is exhibiting 27 works by the Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo under the title "Salzillo, a sculptor between two kingdoms". The doors will be opened between 10 in the morning and 2pm and from 4pm until 7pm in the evening.

The statue of San Joaquín, patron saint of Bigastro, is one of Salzilla's works. I don't know whether it will form part of the exhibition though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nailing your colours to the mast

Hopefully by now you've handed in your questionnaires to your Committee Member. Mel collected ours yesterday.

We believe that this positive step by the Committee deserves our full support which was why we thought very carefully about the three priorities we listed.

I dare say your priorities will be  different to ours but no matter; whichever priorities the Committee decide to act upon will surely benefit our Community.

An old tradition

The Serrano Valero family in Elche have been making the traditional white palms that are used for the Domingo de Ramos celebrations for nearly 80 years. They will be making the great curled palm for Pope Benedict XVI which will be almost 3 metres high.

The Pontiff will also have a smooth palm like the ones being prepared for King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. The King's palm will have a medallion with the figure of a dove referring to the Holy Spirit. The children, Leonor and Sofia, not to be left out, will receive smaller branches.

The Carbonell Galiano family, on the other hand, will be preparing palms for the President, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero which will have details of Christ and the Virgin Mother.

The Benediction of the Palms in Bigastro will take place in the Parque Huerto del Cura at 11:30am on Sunday 16th followed by a parade along Calle Purisima back to the Church.

You will be able to buy your palms at the market on Thursday.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Come on you reds

Sithee there's only Cardiff City between Barnsley and their first FA Cup final since 1912. Only a barm pot would have bet on them getting this far.

I lived not far from the town from 1964 until I got married in 1970 and my Father lived near Barnsley until he died last year.

I do hope the "Tykes" make it and even better still take the cup home to Yorkshire.

Byeck they'll sup sum stuff if that happens. They'll have reet do that will probably last for weeks.

Bad weather strikes again

First it is flooding, then heavy snow, tornados and earthquakes. Now it is the turn of the wind to cause chaos in Britain. This is the report from the Daily Mail:-

Winds of more than 80mph have ripped through Britain this morning as police warned travellers to use 'extreme caution' amid fears of heavy delays.

Trees have been uprooted and buildings damaged across the country, with the emergency services bracing themselves after a night of gale-force winds.
Thousands of people in the West Country and South Wales woke up to find they were without power this morning.

A spokesman for Western Power Distribution (WPD) said there were 4,500 homes without electricity across the region after falling trees crashed through power lines.
There have been no major incidents reported so far, but forecasters warn the extreme weather will continue across southern England throughout the day.

Again, we send our condolences to friends and relatives and hope that they are safe and sound.

All over for another four years

Yesterday the PSOE won the tenth general election to be held since Spain became a democracy. Mariano Rajoy, candidate of the PP, failed in his second attempt to win the Presidency but had the consolation of an improved result from the last election.

With 99.8% of the scrutinised votes counted and a 75.33% turnout, the Socialists got 43.72% of the votes (a point more) and will have 169 benches (five more than at present).

The PP party gained five benches (from 148 to 153) and two points more (40.13%).

So both parties gained at the expense of the smaller parties. All this means is that the Socialist party will need the support of seven benches from other parties to have a majority vote.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Polling day

The cowardly murder of the ex- councilman of the PSE in Mondragón (Guip'uzcoa) Isaiah Carrasco, at the hands of terrorist band ETA has marred the election here in Spain just as the Madrid train bombings did in 2004. Both parties agreed to suspend campaigning in the last days before voting takes place today.

Let us hope that the day passes without incident as more that 35 million Spaniards elect the 350 deputies and the 208 senators who will make up the next government.

The 23,106 electoral schools will close at 8:00pm with results starting to come in at around 10:30pm. By tomorrow we will know whether the Socialists under the leadership of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero have retained power or if the Conservatives under the leadership of Mariano Rajoy have won through.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Quieren sus opiniones

El comité de los residentes recientemente elegidos ha designado a sus oficiales como sigue: -

El Presidente Jim Ryder

Secretaria - Ethna Floyd
Tesorero -Karon Diaper
Informatica - Mel Leach
Hospitalidad - Ron Hawes
Diputado Secretaria - Carole Hawes
Enlace - José Lendoiro

Según lo promesa, han circulado un cuestionario a todos los residentes en sitio que pedían que enumeremos tres prioridades para la mejora a nuestra comunidad.

They need our views

The recently elected Residents' Committee have appointed their officers as follows:-

Chairman Jim Ryder

Secretary - Ethna Floyd
Treasurer - Karon Diaper
IT - Mel Leach
Entertainment - Ron Hawes
Deputy Secretary - Carole Hawes
Liason - José Lendoiro

As promised, they have circulated a questionnaire to all residents on site asking us to list three priorities for improvement to our community.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thank you Maria

I received this very welcome comment yesterday.


My names is Maria. I have lived in Bigastro all my life and I have just found your blog. It is quite interesting. I was surprised to find foreigners who are so interated in Bigastro. As you will know, it is not the common thing and a lot of Spaniards complain about that. Luckily I have been teaching Spanish for ove five years and I have known there are a lot of people interested in learning about Spanish culture and history as well as our way of life.

So, congratulations for your blog and please keep on telling people about our little town. Hope to meet you some day.


I can understand your comment about foreigners showing little interest in their adopted town. We felt very strange at first living in a foreign country with little command of the language and no local knowledge and yes it does take time to settle in and find your feet.

It's a gentle process that we needed to take slowly especially in a tight knit community like Bigastro. We have to say though that the process has been made a lot easier by the Bigastrense who have mostly made us feel very welcome.

Joining in by attending Spanish classes, by going to the Auditorium, taking part in the Fiestas, visiting the market each week, eating and drinking in the local bars and becoming members of the Pensionistas Club have helped a lot.

Like many of our neighbours, we wanted to live in Spain - not Britain in the sun which is why we chose to live in Bigastro. We spent a lot of time researching the town and the area before we bought a house here. We came with our eyes open wide and have not been disappointed by our choice.

It is fair to say that Bigastro isn't the prettiest of towns. There are parts that could do with clearing up. Set against that though it is possibly the most friendly place we have ever lived in. It has a heart and a soul that more than make up for the odd untidy corner.

So thank you for your comment and thank you for making us so welcome, I'm pleased you enjoyed reading my blog and hope you continue to do so.

A singing contest

This one was with a difference though because the contestants were 800 birds. Finches, pardillos, verderones and garrafones all participated in this seventh edition of the provincial contest last Sunday in Elche.

The birds will next participate in the Annual Contest of the Valencian Community.

We've seen the mess that a dozen birds can make on the walls around our house and can just imagine what 800 birds could do!

The Proclaimers in Murcia

Do you remember this duo? The Scottish twins Charlie and Craig Reid had hits with Letter from America, I'm on my way and I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) which was the theme song for the film Benny and Joon.

It seems they've got a new album Life with you coming out on the 3rd of September and are ready to tour England but only after they have played Murcia this weekend.

Their thick Fife accents were difficult enough for native English speakers to understand. I'm not sure how their Spanish audience will cope.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Making your home more secure

Most of the burglaries here at Villas Andrea estate have exploited the weakness in the Euro profile cylinder locks. No matter how secure or elaborate the multi-point locking mechanism is, if the cylinder is compromised the multi-point lock can be opened in seconds without difficulty.

All major Lock Manufacturers are now working hard to find solutions to the problem.

Currently there are limited products on the market to combat this form of attack. Two major lock manufacturers notably Mul-T-Lock and Squire have produced a new design of cylinder which ensures the cylinder snaps at a predetermined position leaving the door still secured and requiring the use of the correct key to unlock the door. Mul-T-Locks range of anti snapping cylinders are called ‘Break Secure’ and Squire’s range are called ‘Snapsafe’

Although this design of cylinder is still not 100% guaranteed to prevent all the methods of attack used on Euro cylinder locks, it will prevent the most common methods slowing down the burglars attempts and making it considerably more difficult, therefore increasing the chance of him giving up.

In addition to these cylinders some manufacturers notably Squire and ERA are producing cylinder enhancers or cylinder security devices. Various designs are available to suit different doors. These consist of a metal surround which is secured to the existing cylinder underneath the door handle. ERA’s range is possibly the most secure, with the designs securing through the door to sandwich the cylinder in place making it virtually impossible to remove the ’snapped’ cylinder. These devices used in conjunction with a Break Secure or SnapSafe cylinder will ensure the methods currently being used are ineffective.

Remember burglars always choose the easy option!

Our best wishes

We are aware that there are a few people at Villas Andrea who are under the weather at the moment. Thankfully most have minor illnesses but there are a few who have more serious problems. We won't mention names for fear of missing anyone out.

We hope that you all make a speedy recovery and that we see you about again real soon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Moving Bigastro forward

Over 100 industrialists from Bigastro attended the presentation of the  compeTIC and the Internaut programs.

The presentation was presided over by the Mayor of the locality, Jose Joaquin Moya and  Inmaculada Martínez, Councilperson for Promotion, accompanied by Jorge Baron, Assistant director of the Ovsi Foundation in Alicante, as the Agent of Technological Development for the province of Alicante, Daniel Garci'a.

The Councilperson for Promotion officially presented the directory of companies which already have representation on the website. Inmaculada Martínez went on to emphasise that  anyone can easily access information about these Bigastrenense companies via the world wide web. She pointed out that the Internet is a showcase to the world and that all can benefit from it.

Next, Daniel Garci'a, Agent of Technological Development of the CompeTIC program presented the benefits this program of enterprise support which uses new technologies. He pointed out that 4,381 small and medium  SMEs in the Valencian Community, along with 423 in the Castellón province and 158 municipalities are involved in the project.

Among others services, compeTIC provides free, customised  solutions that industrialists, associations, city councils and other organisations can benefit from.  They assist in the  implementation and use of  new technologies in the productive process and provide a greater presence for companies on the Network.

Jorge Baron, Assistant director of Foundation OVSI explained all the services and programs that they have developed. He concentrated especially on the Internaut Program.

Internaut is a program developed by the Valencian Catalan Autonomous Government which is directed to all the citizens of the Valencian Community who want to acquire a basic knowledge of the  Internet and want to learn how to gain the maximum benefit from  this tool in their daily lives.

Finally, D. Jose Joaquin Moya closed the proceedings by clearly emphasising the importance of knowledge and of use of  new technologies in the present society. He went on to stress that the acquisition of knowledge of these  technologies “will certainly make us more competitive” and “reduce the well-known digital breach”. He acknowledged the "gap" and said that " the City council  will do what they can to foment the Society of  Information and  Knowledge”.

Mujer Trabajadora bigastrense 2008

To celebrate the International Day of the Woman Worker, the Council of the Woman of the City council of Bigastro is organising a gala dedicated to this important and significant group in our society for Saturday the 8th of March at the Auditorium commencing at 8:00pm.

Unwelcome guest

We had a very small pond in our garden back in the UK. It had fish in it at one time until a heron decided to call for lunch. There were, however several large frogs in residence which would cover the surface of the pond with spawn each year.

Yesterday, when I cleaned the pool, I found a frog in the water. He or she must have thought it was the Hilton with so much space to swim in. Without plants and cover though there was no where to spawn.

I quickly evicted the frog to the garden and added a couple more 4 in 1 tablets to beef up the chlorine levels. If the perisher decides to return I may have to evict it further away.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Get it right

As expats we are not entitled to vote in the general election on the 9th of this month. However the result could well have an impact on our lives.

The biggest issue to be debated is the economy.

There has been a huge, continuing building boom in Spain for years. Some of the statistics are staggering. More new homes were built in Spain in the last five years than in France, Germany and Britain put together. Half the cement made in Europe has ended up in Spain. But builders used their profits to reinvest and build more.

Because of the worsening economy, including rocketing food prices, people aren’t buying. And it matters because so much of the Spanish economy is tied up with construction. When the cranes stand idle it means unemployment is going up. Then there is the knock on effect. Furniture shops, garden centres etc etc feel the pinch. The whole economy of towns like Bigastro is largely determined by construction.

Traditionally Spaniards buy houses as investments rather than as homes. In the current situation they are not doing that. It is hard for them to get mortgages and in any case with prices dropping they are not going to take a risk. Foreign buyers find themselves in the same boat.

So whichever party wins on the 9th, they have a big job on their hands. Let's hope they get it right.

Careless passengers

Every year over 5,000 objects are left at Alicante Airport and only 20% of these are reclaimed. The main items that passengers leave are laptop computers, mobile phones, digital cameras and MP3 players. There are also lots of personal items lost like keys, toys, glasses and clothes. Amongst this horde are unusual things like wheelchairs and sex toys and surprisingly  quite a lot of viagra. Perhaps the little blue tablets are left by passengers planning to join the "mile high club".

Items of high value which includes a gold Rolex watch are kept in a strong room.

The "lost objects" are kept for two years in which time they can be reclaimed. After that they are sold off at auction.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A rude awakening

We were awoke this morning at 5:03am by an earthquake. The epicentre of the quake, which measured 3.3 on the Richter scale, was just south west of San Miguel de Salinas.

The quake was strongest towards Pilar de la Horadada, Torrevieja, San Pedro del Pinatar and San Javier. Even still, most people in Bigastro would have felt it and heard the rumble that it made

Luckily there was little damage reported.

Squashing the rumour

The 'Zoco' Sunday Market, near Montesinos is very popular with many Brits living here. Zoco has become an institution, and developed a reputation as one of the friendliest marketplaces in the area. It is one of the few markets of its type which is legally registered.

However, spirits have been significantly dampened recently, amid malicious rumours that it may face closure, due to the construction of a commercial centre on the site. The propaganda allegedly originated from one of the market's competitors, whose intention is to 'poach' both traders and punters from the established opposition.

Planning permission has been granted by Algorfa Town Hall for the construction of a 'Euroski' Supermarket in Montebello II. Further petitions are also being considered for a 'Carrefour' in Dolores and 'Mercadona' in Algorfa and an additional proposal has been submitted to the Valencian Government, for the siting of a multi- million euro shopping mall on the land which lies adjacent to the market place. However, its construction has yet to be approved in Parliament.

So it looks like the truth is that Zoco market will still be there for a long time to come.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

la Procesión del Encuentro

The procession of Encounter is one of the extended religious celebrations celebrated at dawn on Domingo de Passover here in Bigastro.

At 7:00 am the men will leave the church and process along Calle Mayor with the image of the Revived Christ and the women will process along Calle Purisima with the image of the Virgin Mother dressed in a black mantle as a sign of mourning for her son.

The men will turn up Calle del Maestro Grau whilst the ladies turn down the same street which will be adorned with the most beautiful flowers. As they approach the figures will be lowered several times until they come together. This is the moment of encounter when the Virgin Mary meets her resurrected son Jesus. Her black mantle will be removed and finally the two groups can process back to the church together.

The Encuentro will then be celebrated with a display of white fireworks.