Thursday, July 31, 2008

Show your loyalty!

Right it is all systems go on the T-shirts.

Bigastro   Fiesta 2 T shirt

       I love Bigasto  T                                              Fiesta T

This is how it works. Email me with the details of your requirements and I will email you back telling you how to pay. Please remember to include your name and address in your email.

I'm sorry but you understand that I must ask for cash before placing any orders.

T-shirts come in S (pequeño) M (mediano) L (grande) XL (extra grande) and XXL (muy grande).

Prices for either T-shirt are 17€ for S, M, L and XL and 20€ for XXL. Delivery is about 7 days.

The few cents margin I have set and any discounts that I get or savings in postage will be passed on to the Fiesta Committee as a donation.

So, the more you buy - the more I donate on your behalf!!

Email me at

Raquel Diaz

Our hairdresser, Juan Diaz asked us some time ago if his daughter could visit our house to practice her English. Raquel, who will be 16 in October has a busy life. Apart from school and time with her family and friends, Raquel is an accomplished musician. Although her main instrument is the flute, she also plays the piano. Practicing four times a week places great demands on her time. With so much to fit in to her week, speaking English had to take a back seat.

During the long summer holiday, Raquel is obviously under a lot less pressure so she phoned the other day to arrange a visit.

When she arrived on Tuesday, Raquel was a little nervous. She was reluctant to test her skills in English for fear of appearing foolish. She needn't have worried; as ex-teachers we know how to coax students slowly into being confident with their skills.

At first the conversations were in Spanish. Raquel was very gracious and forgiving of our lack of grammatical structure and our awkward pronunciations. Gradually we asked her more questions in English; being careful to choose words that would be in her vocabulary. Clearly she understood us but still gave answers in Spanish.

Yesterday Raquel returned, pleased by the progress she had made the day before. Her confidence was much higher because she gradually answered more of our questions in English. Obviously thrilled by her efforts, she asked if she could return again today. Of course she can; Raquel is a delightful young lady with excellent social skills.

We feel privileged to be asked to help someone in Bigastro, a town that has made us feel so welcome. Being involved, even in such a in a small way, helps us to integrate into local life and gives us focus. We are also learning a lot about the town and its culture.

PS Raquel's father brought us some fresh figs from the campo yesterday. Muchas gracias Juan - they were delicious.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The mosquito bites that I was suffering from have all but disappeared thanks to a new cream that we bought from the chemist.

There was Neosayomol on the shelf but we asked the chemist if there was anything better. He gave us Alergical Crema produced by IQUINOSA FARMA. After only two applications the bites had stopped itching - wonderful! A day later and the inflammation had gone.

The downside is that it is only supposed to be supplied with a prescription possibly because it contains cortisone.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Sometimes I come across "blogs of note" that tickle my fancy. The IKEA hacks was a case in point. The idea that someone should try to make something else out of a lampshade amuses me. The fact that someone dedicates a blog to the process seems to me a little bizarre. It suggests that hacking IKEA items is commonplace. If that was the case, why haven't IKEA thought of it?

Anyway I came across another blog that I like even better.

It is hard enough to sell your house even when it is picture perfect. Using wide angle lenses to make rooms look larger, re-arranging furniture to give the appearance of space are common tricks used to help get visitors through the door.

It seems that not everyone though takes this approach. We've seen photos of houses here in Spain where the sellers haven't bothered to clear the dishes away in the kitchen or where there is washing drying in the lounge. No big deal you might argue but it does say something about how serious the owners are to sell.

This American blog takes shows photographs from Estate Agents brochures where the sellers have either been severely misguided or are just plain stupid.

The calm before the storm

The latest session of the Bigastro Town Council passed by calmly until item fourteen. At this point the Socialist group proposed that all councillors make a declaration of their goods and patrimony on a public web site. They argue that people in the town have the right to know what motivates the decisions these people make on their behalf.

Aurelio Murcia, for the opposition party, took up the challenge of this motion by suggesting those things which are not registered should also be declared. He was alluding to the properties and luxury cars that the relatives of the mayor own.

The mayor, who has twenty years experience in office, was not going to be easily drawn by Murcia's suggestion. Frustrated by this approach, one of the members of the public started shouting "dictator". The local police were called and the session was closed.

The topic of how and what councillors should openly declare will have to wait until another day.

Lack of transparency is an issue for many Councils in Spain. In Torrevieja and Orihuela for example, the same problems that face Bigastro are being hotly debated. In both cases, the opposition parties have commissioned reports of Transparency of City councils (ITA).

Clearly there is progress that needs to be made in this area of local administration.

¡A tapear!

Locals in Bigastro are counting down the days to the Fiesta. There are plenty of activities organised for us to take part in or watch.

New for this year, is an event they've called "el Tapeo" which will take place on the Calle Antonio Perez Gálvez at mid- morning on the 13th and 14th of August.

On both days the Comisión de Fiestas, sponsored by Asemvega and the Association of Retailers in Bigastro are offering folks a caña of cold beer along with a tapa for 1.5 €.

That sounds like excellent value to me. See you down there!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's a small world here in Bigastro

What a small world Bigasto is. It turns out that Susana, who has posted some very nice comments on my blog, is the sister of Evaristo, a member of the Golf Society. Now I'm not in the Golf Society but I've met Evaristo at a couple of the Golf Society dos when I went to take photographs. 

She is obviously a  Moya, so I wonder if she is related to our teacher who is Ana Moya.

Have you got TMI?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the UK say 16 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds suffer TMI or Text Message Injury.

Up to one in six are left in pain because they fire off so many messages. The symptoms include aches and strains in the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and neck.

It is not surprising when you learn that 212 million texts are sent each day in the UK . It is claimed 34 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds notch up 20 or more texts a day.

The CSP claim the repetitive thumb and finger action can lead to hand and wrist injuries — while holding a mobile too far away while typing puts pressure on the arms and shoulders.

The society said: “Mobile phones are not designed for excessive texting.”

It advised: “Keep messages short and use abbreviations and predictive text. Try to restrict text sessions to five or ten minutes and avoid holding the phone if you are not using it.”

Better still go out and talk to people instead.

No let up

It's bad news for those of you don't like the weather hot and for anyone who has to work outside.

The forecast for Orihuela, up to Sunday, is for temperatures to remain in the mid thirties with Thursday as the hottest days at 36.4° C.

The hot dry weather has meant that the Centro de Coordinación de Emergencias have put the inland forest areas on level 3 pre-alert.

Another IKEA


Just like buses, IKEA stores come in twos. First we had the store at Murcia.

Now negotiations to build a store at Paterna in the region of l'Horta will be completed today.


Don't get too excited though. As you can see, Paterna is close to Valencia; a good few hours away.

Coincidentally, I found under Bloggers "blogs of note", someone has written a blog entirely about hacking IKEA items. You can see just what people do with Basik table lamps and other items by following this link.

The melon-lemon

On April 1st I told you about the gin and tonic trees growing here in Bigastro. I explained that the fruit were obtained by ripening a crossing of lemon and quince. That was my "April Fools " joke. This fruit however is for real.

The English supermarket Tesco are going to market a new melon which has been grown for them here in Murcia. What they wanted was a fruit with the characteristic flavour of lemon but much larger.

The 'melon-lemon' is similar to a honeydew with a greenish yellow skin but with the sharper flavour of lemon. The fruit , which is the result of 12 years of experiments, was produced by crossing the bitter white melon from India with the Japanese wild melon.

The melon-lemon has between 700 and 800 milligrams of citric acid per 100 grams of pulp giving it the sharp taste that Tesco wanted.

Tesco expects consumers to use the new melon as a starter with salad or with prawns.

Actually we've had lemons on our trees almost the size of melons. Tesco could have saved a lot of time by just coming round to our house.

Safe beaches

The mayoress of Orihuela, Mónica Lorente and Jose Antonio Aniorte, councillor for the coast, hoisted blue flags on the municipalities beaches yesterday. The awards this year go to the beaches at Playa Flamenca, Cala Capitán, Playa de Cabo Roig, Playa de Campoamor, Playa de Barranco Rubio and Playa de Mil Palmeras.

blue flag

Afterwards they attended a ceremony where the Caja Rural Central bank presented a boat to the President to the Red Cross of Orihuela , Jose Francisco Abbey. The boat will be used to monitor the Orihuela Costa

Monday, July 28, 2008


Saturday evening we decided to eat outside. When the evenings are warm there is nowhere nicer to have your evening meal than the terrace by the pool.

By the time we were finishing our steaks it was starting to go dark. Pam had suggested that we might use the battery powered lamp that sits on the shelf below the barbecue. It wasn't quite dark so I didn't bother. Neither did we light the citronella candles.

What neither of us thought of was to spray ourselves with insect repellent. We bought an expensive one called Halley from the chemists the first year we were here. It's very effective - when you use it!

As dusk settles in, the mosquitoes come out to feed. Sure enough yesterday morning we could feel their bites starting to irritate. By this morning they are starting to itch. It is tempting to scratch them but that only seems to make them itch more.

It would only have taken a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom and spray ourselves.

We have Neosayomol cream to reduce the effects - I think the stuff is out of date though because it isn't working.

So the price we've paid for our lack of thought is a few days of itching. We won't make that mistake again this year.

¡Viva España!


Rafa Nadal and Wimbledon, Euro 2008 and now a third consecutive winner of the Tour de France. King Juan Carlos should probably call another national holiday!

What a summer of sport this has turned out to be.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Making Villas Andrea safe

When there is a lull in the number of break-ins, folks can get a tad complacent about their security. However, for all our sakes we need to be vigilant at all times so that thieves get the impression that visiting Villas Andrea is a waste of time.

There are simple precautions that we can take at very little cost. Just to remind you of the advice from one of our Committee members who is an ex-policeman:-

  • Lock all your doors and gates when you go out - even for a short while.
  • If you have an alarm use it.
  • Leave a light on in your house at night when you are out. Make sure the light can be seen through your shutters.
  • When you go away, use a timer connected to a light to make it look as if you are still there.
  • Leave a radio on when you are out.
  • Putting the outside lights on gives the impression that someone is in the house.
  • Hide you valuables somewhere totally unobvious.

Security experts who have looked at our properties say - the main doors are about as secure as you can get; the grills on the windows are firmly built into the walls and would resist all but the most determined attack.

The weaknesses are the aluminium doors fitted on some models of houses. In all cases these are protected by some form of steel security gate. However, these security gates have revealed potential flaws in their design.

The eurolocks that were fitted to the steel gates protrude out sufficiently to make them easy to snap. The answer to that is to have caps welded on to protect them. Some people have gone a stage further by changing the locks for single sided ones so there is no lock visible on the outside.

The hinges on the gates are simply wrapped around the pins making them easy to open with force. It is a relatively simple job to replace the hinges with more substantial ones or failing that have the wrap around welded to make them stronger.

A further step is to have extra locks fitted to the gate. You can have steel loops welded on to take padlocks or have extra locks fitted above and below the existing one. The type that hook into the frame are probably better than the one already fitted.

The frame for the gate is securely fitted to the wall but is still vulnerable. That can be easily remedied by having lugs welded on to take extra long screws into the wall.

If we work together, we can make Villas Andrea a safer place for us all. I'm aware that many of you have already taken measures to make your properties secure. Sharing your ideas would benefit all of us. You can email me at if you have some ideas that you are willing to share.

Carlos Sastre, virtual vencedor del Tour

Do you remember in 1989 when Laurent Fignon lost his healthy lead over Greg LeMond in the final time trial to the Champs Elysées?

LeMond won le Tour by eight seconds, the slimmest margin on record. LeMond wore an aerodynamic helmet and used triathlon bars; Fignon just got his bike with his blond ponytail flowing behind him. It has been argued that the Frenchman's ponytail lost him the tour. It just went to prove that it "ain't over 'til the fat lady sings".

Carlos Sastre didn't make that mistake yesterday. He rode like a champion giving very little of his lead away to the challenger Cadel Evans. Evans had banked upon winning the tour by putting in a much better time but it wasn't to be. Evans never really got going whereas Sastre rode the time trial of his life.

Sastre's reward will be, barring incidents, riding into Paris as the third Spaniard to win the tour in successive years.

Coverage of the final stage starts at 1:30pm on Eurosport.

La ley de Costas

La Ley de Costas was passed to protect the diminishing coastline of Spain from further development twenty years ago. In this area the law has had little effect. Construction on the coast has continued. The only effect has been to threaten the homes of thousands of people who for twenty years have lived in uncertainty.

Twenty five houses have been demolished on the playa de Babilonia in Guardamar del Segura. Procedures to demolish these houses began in 1995. The rest will be demolished soon with a few exceptions where the owners have paid for a concession to allow them 30 years grace.

In the area between la Mata and Cabo Cervera in Torrevieja there are 2,600 houses that could be affected but only a dozen are in danger unless the owners apply for the 30 year concession.

Demolition of the new Montegira has been pending since 1995. The Lloyd's Club, which is on the beach, was excluded from public dominion even though it was built after 1988.

The proposed spa at Punta La Víbora that was commissioned by the Torrevieja Council has been in limbo for 20 years.

On the Orihuela costa, houses in the Vistamar urbanisation at Mil Palmeras are in theory covered by the law. Three blocks were demolished, the rest are still occupied.

Last month the bulldozers came to clear the construction of illegal buildings at Torre de la Horadada which had been stopped in the nineties.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Calling all cooks

Plans are already afoot for our contribution to the "Gastronomic Journey" which will be held at the Plaza de la Concordia on Wednesday 13th August at 2pm.

Our theme for this year will be "cakes and puds" - anything from a butter cream filled sponge to this delicious lime cheesecake or whatever else takes your fancy.


Last year, by working together - each contributing what they could manage - we made a very impressive display with our English buffet. This year we should aim to do as well if not better.

To avoid a table filled with fairy cakes, Sylvia has agreed to co-ordinate our efforts. Just pop round to her house and let her know what you are planning.

PS Those who can't bake could always cheat by buying a box of Mr Kipling's cherry bakewells!

Great food and good company

One of our neighbours went to the Galician Seafood event that I mentioned on Wednesday.

Here is what he has to say about it:-

Last night we went to the Galician Seafood event in San Pedro. I don't know if you managed to get there yourselves but we were so pleased to make the effort. We were also pleased to have Spanish friends along with us, the Galician dialect is not the easiest to follow, even for Spaniards living in the South. Just in case you haven't been and fancied going on the last night....the event is being held in what I take to be the main square in San Pedro, (through to the left just after the traffic lights in the centre of town, look for the church). Parking was easy, just off the main road, and two minutes stroll from the cooking tent. Choose you choice of food from the lists on the bar just as you go in (all in Spanish) place your order and pay, in return you get tickets to say what you have ordered, which you then take to the various chefs dotted along the bar, who prepare  your food to order. At the very end position you pick up your drinks and if you haven't done so already, find somewhere to sit and eat, wonderful. The place was very busy but not packed, and I think we might have been the only English people there. We left sometime after midnight, passing through the main square which was heaving with local folks still eating, so we found another option worth exploring.
Its always nice to see so many folk having a really good time without any signs of being worse for wear, loved it, we just hope they have something similar next year, we might just end up going most nights.

Happy Birthday

Sir Mick Jagger starts collecting his old age pension today - not that he needs it. Sir Mick is reputed to be worth £225m.


A lot of people would like to know how he keeps going, performing punishing tours with the same level of enthusiasm that he showed when he started out in 1963.

Perhaps it is his philandering that has kept him young. Mick has had two wives, seven children, three grandchildren, and a catalogue of women including the wife of Nicolas Sakorzy. Like Rod Stewart, Mick likes them young - his most recent partner is 29 years his junior.

So many happy returns Mick. Have a great day and don't even think about retiring just yet.

PS There are plenty of folk out here who could do with your pension if you can spare it. A little extra would help offset the poor exchange rate we are suffering at the moment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hola Susana

Bunos dias.

Susana, who lives in Bigastro and works in Orihuela has posted a few complementary comments about my blog. She writes in very good English  which I have to admit is  much better than my Spanish!

Unfortunately Susana, you have posted your comments anonymously which means I can't reply to you directly. I should be grateful if you could let me have your email address so I can thank you personally. 

Mel and Lilian, who will be crowned the Third Age King and Queen at the Fiesta,  would also like your email address to thank you for your comments about their election.

Muchas gracias en la anticipación.

Life on the beach

An exhibition, sponsored by the CAM, is taking place on the Paseo Maritimo Juan Aparicio close to the statue of the ‘Man of the Sea’ at the end of the Dique in Torrevieja. The exhibition which is on until the 24th August is open in the evenings from 7.00 pm until midnight and is about the wildlife that inhabits the sea, shore and even the beaches around the coast. Particular attention is paid to those species that are in danger of extinction.  The main purpose of the exhibition is to raise awareness in people’s minds about the marine environment, the need to conserve the shore and health and safety on the beach.

An end to the confusion

Finding your way around the urbanisations on the Orihuela Cosat should become a whole lot easier. Complaints have been made since 2003 for proper street signs and numbers in the area. Following petitions to the EU Parliament the situation has now been clarified.

Some properties will be renumbered and certain streets, particularly in Los Balcones, may have name changes.

I imagine it will be some time before a definitive map with the correct addresses is published and even longer before the maps for satellite navigators are amended.

and in a related story:-

The town hall of San Fulgencia have attempted to clear up the confusion in La Marina by erecting street signs on new roads. However, they are being thwarted in their efforts by vandals who have already destroyed some of the new signs.

I can see the point of theft, I can understand how some people could be driven to assault but I can't get my head round why people vandalise. What did these people gain by wrecking street signs? It is sad to say but in La Marina it was probably English youths who did the damage.

Vista Alegre reopened

The Paseo Vista Alegre in Torrevieja has reopened to the public following a 3.1-million-euro refit. The project, which was started last year, has now been virtually completed. Traffic flow along the seafront road is back to normal following several months of disruption.

  • Pergolas have been installed to produce shady areas with two sets of benches sited on opposite sides of the walkway.
  • New lampposts provide improved lighting at night.
  • More pedestrian crossings have been installed to allow safer access to the town centre from the promenade.
  • Green areas and gardens have also been constructed to improve the aesthetics of the area.

Some jobs will be completed at a later date. These include installing wood on top of the new pergolas to create the shady areas and the renewal of pavements and street lighting in the vicinity of the promenade.

No resolution yet

It seems that the Mayor of Bigastro, Jose Joaquin Moya, failed to turn up in court on Wednesday to answer questions about the auction of land at the Pedrera. Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the PP party in Bigastro, says that this is a tactic being used by the Mayor to elude justice.

The date for this session was set on April 8th - adequate notice according to Murcia. The declaration could now be delayed by at least six months because of the huge backlog that the courts face.

Murcia has also commented about the use of public funds to provide a lawyer for the six ex-councillors who are also involved.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I could become a Knoller

A few months ago, Blogger announced a new web authoring tool called Knol (short for knowledge).

Yesterday it had its public launch.

Whilst a Blog is great for a producing a daily diary of life, Knols are designed for producing authoritative articles on a single topic. The tone is more formal, and, while it's easy to update the content and keep it fresh, knols aren't designed for continuously posting new content or threading.

Like Blogger, Knol has simple web authoring tools that make it easy to collaborate, co-author, and publish. It has community features as well: readers can add comments and rate articles, and they'll be able to suggest edits that can either be accepted or rejected.

One other important difference between Knol and Blogger is that Knol encourages writers to reveal their true identity. Knols are meant to be authoritative articles, and, therefore, they have a strong focus on authors and their credentials. Blogger thinks that this focus will help ensure that authors get credit for their work and make the content more credible.

¡Hmm, que interesante! That might be a good way to write an account of my life as a teacher in North Liverpool. Then again, perhaps not; Knol is meant to be like Wikipedia - articles about serious stuff. My stories about the brothers Holt and Queenie the Empress of Croxteth may not sit well with items about pediatric sports injuries and the metabolic sysndrome.

Stats return

The eagle eyed ones amongst you will have spotted the item right at the bottom of the sidebar on the left which says Weekly Statistics.

I used to have a free counter via a company called 'Blog Explosion' but that stopped working some time ago. Since then I haven't been able to monitor the visitors to my blog.

Now, courtesy of, I can again see how things are progressing.

When you consider that I started the blog to keep friends in England in touch with our lives, it is amazing to discover that 75% of the visitors in the last week were from Spain. Maybe adding the odd sentence in Spanish is paying off!

Although the vast majority viewed my blog using Internet Explorer 7, I had visitors using a Blackberry and even an iPhone. I can just picture someone in New York on the metro reading about the goings on in Bigastro. Maybe I should send them an "I love Bigastro" cap so they can identify themselves to other commuters.

Wherever you are and for whatever reason you are reading this - thank you. Without you, writing this stuff would be a waste of time.

More glory for Spain

First it was the European Cup, then Wimbledon; now Spain has a rider wearing the yellow jersey in the last stages of the Tour de France.

Carlos Sastre stormed up L'Alpe-d'Huez to win the stage and put him 1 minute and 24 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Frank Schleck and a further ten seconds ahead of the race favourite Cadel Evans.

In fact there were three Spaniards in the first five of yesterday's stage with Samuel Sanchez second and Alejandro Valverde fourth.

Since the seven consecutive wins of Lance Armstrong, the Tour has been won by Spanish riders; Óscar Pereiro in 2006 and Alberto Contador last year. Spaniard, Miguel Indurain was the first rider to win five consecutive Tours between 1991 and 1995.

Cadel Evans is the better time trialer and is expected to do well during Saturday's 53km time trial from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond. We will have to wait and see if Sastre can hold on to his lead ready for the final stage into Paris on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top marks to the Town Hall

We found this leaflet from the Town Hall in our buzon. Actually we don't have a dog; lots of flies and insects that makes sounds like electricity but no dog.

The leaflet provides excellent advice for those who do have a mascota though.
I won't insult your intelligence by translating it. I think you can get the gist of it from the illustrations. Click on the pictures to get a larger version for reading.

I love the picture inside the leaflet of the dog being washed. Like children, some dogs love a bath and others hate it. Both smell a whole let better afterwards though!

A taste of Galicia

The first Gastronomical Fair of Galician Seafood, held next to the Moderno cinema in San Pedro del Pinatar runs until the 26th of July. The fair is open from midday to 4pm and from 8:30pm until half past midnight.

Carlos Padín, manager of the company “Prodega Rías Baixas” who are promoting the event, said at the opening, “Our motto is to take a small piece from Galicia to all the corners of the peninsula”. He added that their cooks use techniques that have been handed down over hundreds of years from their grandmothers. I just hope the ingredients are a bit fresher than that.

A minor earthquake

An earth tremor, registering 3 on the Richter scale, hit Alhama de Murcia and Totana at 4:33am yesterday. There were no reports of any damage or harm to people.

A city of contrasts

We've often said Bigastro will be a wonderful place once they have finished it. The same could be said for Orihuela.

There is such a huge contrast between the refurbished areas and some of the housing on the back streets. Buildings that are in a sad state of disrepair are allowed to just crumble and beautiful little gardens nestle alongside piles of rubbish that look as though they've been there for years. Presumably they will tidy the rubbish up mañana.

P1000392 P1000393

P1000396 P1000395

It is one of the things we love about this part of Spain. The old is allowed to exist alongside the new. When there is time and money they may tidy it up.

We think it is sad when old buildings with beautiful original features are knocked down to be replaced with concrete modernity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Telefoñica web site

How hard is it to do anything on the Telefoñica web site?

When we first got the phone I noticed that I wasn't getting a list of incoming numbers. The only calls recorded were my outgoing ones. No problem - just go to the Telefoñica web site and order the service to be activated. It is a free service so you might as well have it. It took three attempts to place the order. On the third attempt, when I did nothing different to the first two, it worked! A neighbour of mine tried at least five times to do the same thing and gave up.

Yesterday we decided that we'd like to change our Domo 1, which is a big clunky looking phone, for the neater Domo 2 that new customers get. No problem; go onto the Telefoñica site and sure enough you can swap your existing phone for a Domo2.

I tried to place an order on my desktop using Firefox. I got to the order form where you have to put in details of your address etc. The form didn't recognise our street name and came up with a pop up box to let me choose the correct address in Bigastro. When I tried to choose the correct one from the list, Firefox crashed. Each time I tried it Firefox crashed.

No matter, I'll try Internet Explorer. Lo and behold that crashed as well. Actually it simply closed itself. Now I hate being beaten so I cleared the private data, set IE and Firefox to allow pop ups and tried again and again and again - to no avail. Whatever I did, I could not complete the order.

This morning, undaunted, I thought I'd try the same thing on my old laptop just in case McAfee or MS Vista was somehow causing the problem by blocking pop ups. When I tried to fill in the form in IE, I just got the spinning wheel so I tried Firefox. Bingo; after three more attempts I was finally able to place an order.

It didn't matter at this point whether I wanted a new phone or not, nor the fact that Telefoñica are charging me 36€ to change the damn thing - I'd solved the problem so I was muy feliz. I just hope it is worth it when the Domo2 arrives!

Monday, July 21, 2008

T-shirt update

Before I started ordering t-shirts for people, I thought I would check first with the Auntamiento and the Comision de Fiesta. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was muscling  in.

It seems that the picture that I used on the Fiesta t-shirt was taken by a professional photographer so I may not be able to use that one. I've therefore mocked up a new design using one of my own photographs which I hope will be more acceptable.

The photograph on the 'I love Bigastro' t-shirt is my own so there should be  no problem with that.

Once I get approval to go ahead, I will let you know.

In the meantime this is my alternative design for the Fiesta which I hope you like.


Fiesta 2 T shirt

The deal is that I sell either t-shirt at the full price and then any discount that I get from ordering more than one of a particular size or saving in postage I will donate to the Fiesta.

The not so lucky Chinese

Local Police from Orihuela stopped two Chinese citizens who were selling pirate copies of DVDs and music CDs at the commercial centre in La Zenia. The police confiscated 250DVDs and 200 CDs from the young Chinese couple.

People who have bought pirate CDs and DVDs tell me that some work and others don't. I remember seeing a pirate film on VHS tape once which had obviously been shot in the cinema. The colour and definition were awful. Worst still, periodically you could see people's heads bobbing up in front of the camera. I don't know how they make copies these days but by the sound of it the results are not much better.

PS The good news is you can still buy a watch, rug or a fishing rod from one of the Moroccans who visit the local bars.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fantastic Mk 2

The parade of Moors groups was every bit as colourful as the Christian one the night before. Last night's parade lasted a bit longer because there are more Comparsas of Moors than Christians.


It would be hard to pick out a favourite, each group was fantastic in its own way. Some might favour the Scorpians, others the Black Egyptians. We liked the Old Moors - perhaps at our age we can identify better with them!

The best thing is to go next year and see for yourselves. In the meantime you can see my pictures from both nights by clicking here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Easier access

Pictured here, the Councillor for Social welfare, Mª Carmen Alonso and the President of the Third of Age of Bigastro, Juan Gómez checking out the the new lift that is located in Centro Social Integrado.


The councillor explains that the Social Centre serves all the social associations of the municipality; the Third Age, the Association of Alzheimer Patients and the Association for the Disabled.

This disabled group have been asking for the means to allow them access to the facilities of the centre for some time. The new lift connects the ground floor to the first floor, where there will be workshops and the Assembly hall for cultural activities.

Mª Alonso explains that council has made great efforts to meet the needs of users. First there was the re-modelling and opening of the bar, then the lift and soon construction will begin to provide an approach ramp for handicapped people in the entrance of the building.

Juan Go'mez, President of the Association of the Third Age thanked the councillor for the installation of the lift, adding that “we will forget the dangerous stairs”.


Last night we went to see the Christian parade in Orihuela which lasted three hours. Thankfully we were able to rent a seat to sit down otherwise our legs would have been tired by the end of it.


The costumes were unbelievable as you can see from my pictures.

Tonight it is the turn of the Moors. Let's see if they can outdo the Christians.

Friday, July 18, 2008


When we got home from the market yesterday the Telefoñica phone was dead - the screen was blank and there was no dial tone. The Internet connection was still there so obviously the line was working.

I tried the phone in different sockets around the house to no avail. I therefore assumed that the set was faulty.  I went online and reported the fault to Telefoñica.

Within an hour or so the telephone came back on.  I've had no message back from Telefoñica, so I'm still not sure what the problem was. I can only assume it was something at the exchange. Hopefully an engineer won't call out on Monday to replace the set.

PDQ at La Pedrera

José who runs the Albergue at La Pedrera, has tried hard to make a success of the place. He tried Bingo which failed and then booked "Hot Ice", a band that we said we enjoyed. Week after week the number of people dropped. José was spending more on prizes for the raffle than he was taking in. His flamenco night received a lukewarm response.

José then opened a restaurant in the games room which seems to be empty every time we visit the place. However, he must have though he was on to a winner with his outdoor entertainment area. The acoustics inside the Albergue are not good and the room has limited capacity, building a stage and bar outside must have seemed the perfect answer.

José booked acts that he thought we would enjoy, acts that he had seen English people enjoy at places on the coast. Unfortunately, José didn't understand that the tastes of people living here are very different to those of folks living on the coastal strip.

When José booked an Abba tribute band he seemed to have got it right. The venue was apparently packed. Unfortunately he managed to upset people living nearby by continuing until 2:30am.

Undaunted José carries on. This Saturday he has booked a band called PDQ who seem to be very popular with the residents here. They play a good mix of old and new pop music that gets people on their toes. Let us hope he has got it right. José has put his heart, soul and a lot of money into the venture - he deserves to succeed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who owns this land?

The PP of Bigastro claims that 95% of the rustic ground in the inventory of the City council, which was approved in March, is still registered in the names of the original proprietors. This amounts to about 80,000 square metres of land valued at 3,000,000€.

Aurelio Murcia says that the land was acquired between 2002 and 2006 in exchange for allowing promoters to build higher by adding attics onto blocks of flats.  He suggests that,  not registering the land gives the mayor the  facility to "fiddle" i.e. to do whatever he wants without paying taxes for transmission. Murcia adds that whilst this land is not registered to the town, it is also out of the hands of creditors.

Santa Ana

Before we get to the main celebrations, we have the fiesta in the Barrio de Santa Ana.

Throughout the weekend of the 25th to the 27th, there will be a full programme of events to commemorate the saint who was the wife of San Joaquín.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The weather

Don't ask!

Morning Afternoon Night





Rain in the morning with showers in the afternoon. Actually there is also thunder rumbling around and although it is now afternoon, there is no sign of the sun at all.

Tomorrow:- Alternating clear skies and clouds.

But then!!!

Friday 18th Saturday 19th Sunday 20th Monday 21st
16.4º/31º 18.1º/32.1º 18.5º/35.1º


So with any luck we should have Summer back with us by the weekend.

PS At least the weather is actually worse in the UK. That means we won't be subjected to the newspaper headlines "Britain is hotter than Spain".

The state of the nation

A third of primary school children admitted theft, arson, carrying a weapon, drinking, smoking or other “problem” behaviour in a Home Office poll of 6,000 young people in Britain which was published yesterday.

Nine per cent of ten-year-olds surveyed had broken the law in the last six months alone and more than one in seven eight-year-olds had been involved in anti-social behaviour.

Almost a fifth of those between ten and 17 had committed a violent offence. One in ten of those was serious – involving assault, mugging, burglary, robbery or drug peddling.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw last night told MPs the most dangerous kids would be jailed.

He said in the Commons: “For that small minority of out-of-control young people, custody is the answer.

“The crimes they have committed are so serious that there can be no other way of dealing with them. If they deserve to be inside, they will go there.” He added the plan would divert young people from crime. Some would be forced to clean the streets with community sentences of up to 300 hours.

There would also be more Asbos with parenting orders for yobs’ mums and dads. Police would get the power to take under16s off the streets in curfew areas.

And around 10,000 families responsible for crime waves face losing their council homes under the plans.

Fiesta time

Once you get your copy of the programme for the Fiesta, you'll be able to see the full itinerary of events planned.


Just some snippets to whet your appetite:

Saturday 9th August 9pm The coronation of the Fiesta queens including the Third Age Queen and King.

Sunday 10th August 9:3pm A parade of the Christian group Caballeros del Cid from Bigastro and the Moors group Los Contrabandistas from Denia.

Monday 11th August 9pm An exhibition of equestrian skills on the plot in front of MEM.

Tuesday 12th August The children's parade.

Wednesday 13th August 2pm The Gastronomic Journey in the Plaza de la Concordia

9pm Parade of Comparsas through the streets. This is the one where the participants get soaked as people in the flats on Calle Purisima throw water over them.

Thursday 14th August 7:30pm Floral offerings to San Joaquín followed by mass in the Plaza de la Constitución.

Friday 15th August 9pm Spectacular parade of comparsas.

Saturday 16th August 8:30pm Solemn procession around the streets of Bigastro followed by a magnificent firework display.

A bigger bang

Last night up to 400 people took part in the traditional conquering and re- conquering of the castle in Orihuela. They used more than 300kgms of gunpowder during the event which was a re-enactment of the Pact of Teodomiro. In time honoured tradition, the Moors took the castle first only to loose it later to the Christians.


At 9:45 tonight it is the turn of the infant groups of Moors and Christians from Orihuela to parade.

Meanwhile in Torrevieja, the International Music Competition - Habenaras is in full swing with concerts in the Calle Concepción, the wharf at Torrelemata and in the Habenaras shopping centre.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Soy muy feliz

As I have said before, "some days are good others are great".

Yesterday I got an email from Germán Martín at the Ayuntamiento to say:

Hola Keith,
Como sabes, utilizamos tus fotos para ilustrar algunas de nuestras noticias.
No sabemos si tienes copia del libro de las fiestas de San Joaquín. Así que si no lo tienes nos gustaría obsequiarte con uno.
Si vas a venir dime cuando para tenerlo preparado.
Un saludo.

So we went down this morning to collect my copy of the book for this year's fiesta. Sure enough there were some of my photographs included and my name was in the credits on the last page:-

Fotos cedidas por Keith Williamson

I can tell you, I felt ten foot tall (muy orgulloso)! Muchas gracias Germán.

I was wearing my Bigastro T-shirt which drew smiles from everyone who spotted it.


Spanish people we knew inquired about where they could get one from.

Of course it is an exclusive design! However, I can order more - please email me for details at

For the up and coming fiesta I have a new t-shirt on the way. I reckon that will draw a few smiles as well.

Fiesta T shirt

Lastly I received an email from Susana who writes in very good English.

My name is Susana and I'm from Bigastro. To be honest I've got to say that I like very much your blog. I discovered it a week ago and its very good. I was looking for english information about my hometown to explain my friends in UK and I think your blog is the most complete diary about Bigastro I've seen.
I'm glad to know that the british community share their opinions and participate in Bigastro activities. Also I'm glad that another year the Third Age King and Queen are british, that means they loves the town.
Thanks to keep informing in english language with another point of view of everything.
(Sorry about my english, I'm trying to keep improving it.)
Kind Regards,

So now I am ten foot tall with a six foot wide head. Many thanks for your kind comments Susana. I am glad you enjoy reading my blog.


A traffic warden in Torbay was using a calculator to work out whether motorists had overstayed their time. He was caught when one driver parked his car at 2:49pm, paid for 75 minutes and then found a £50 fine on his car windscreen at 3:41pm.

When he questioned the warden, the new recruit tapped 14.49 into his calculator and then added 0.75 giving him the answer 15.24 ( forty minutes short of the correct answer).

I found that teaching children to perform time calculations was difficult. A few calculators have a special function to do this but obviously not the one this guy had bought.

Torbay Council have offered the Warden some extra training!

Flamenco spectacular

The show “Andalusia and its roots” is scheduled for this Saturday at 9pm at the  Municipal Theatre-Audtorium in Torrevieja. Cost of entrance is 7 Euros. If you want to go though it would be best to visit the box office outside and book your tickets ASAP.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fiesta for San Joaquín

La Comisión de Fiestas San Joaquín 2008 y el Ayuntamiento de Bigastro te invitan a disfrutar de las Fiestas Patronales del 9 al 16 de agosto.


The Commision for the Fiesta and the Town Hall in Bigastro invite you to enjoy the fiesta for San Joaquín which this year runs from the 9th to the 16th August.

Apart from supporting Mel and Lilian, who are this year's Third Age King and Queen, we should also  plan for the International Gastronomic event. Last year's English buffet was very well received.

I imagine programmes for the fiesta will soon be available from the second lottery shop on Calle Purisima.

Clean up Britain

The UK government are struggling to contain the rise in knife crime amongst teenagers. Two more men were stabbed to death at the weekend and a third is fighting for his life bringing the total in London alone to 50 victims of knife crime for this year. The annual number of hospital admissions for knife injuries has risen in recent years from 3,000 to 5,000 while the age of those carrying and using knives has fallen steeply.

Tomorrow three senior ministers - home secretary Jacqui Smith, the justice secretary Jack Straw and the children's secretary Ed Balls - will unveil the government's £100m youth crime action plan. Curfews after 9pm, the introduction of a non-military National Service even the notion of making knife carriers visit victims in hospitals have been suggested. These measures have been heavily criticised by opposition groups who say that the only effective way to deal with this type of crime is to enforce prison sentences on the guilty.

Parties in Parliament arguing amongst themselves is not going to solve the problem. Thankfully all seem to agree that in the long term there needs to be a change in culture away from the street gang, binge drinking, drug taking, knife carrying model that teenagers currently follow to something more acceptable. How that is achieved is what they need to agree upon.For sure the change won't happen overnight.

Undoubtedly, schools will be expected to play a big part in this 'clean up' of Britain.

Heads are already able to frisk pupils they believe may be carrying weapons. Now Children’s Secretary Ed Balls plans to allow them to look for stolen goods, alcohol and even cigarettes.

He said yesterday: “I want to build on the powers we have already given teachers by extending these to cover other inappropriate items.

“It will ensure that everyone knows that a teacher’s authority in the classroom is unquestionable.”

That marks a huge change from the 'softly softly' approach that was advocated when we were in the classroom and a major step forward from the protected status that children enjoyed in the 80s and 90s.

Perhaps the powers that be are waking up to the fact that children need to be lead and controlled in their behaviour rather than being left to 'find themselves'. Of course children have rights but they should not extend beyond those of the adults responsible for them.

Fundamentally it is up to the parents to guide their children, supervise them if you like. Clearly that is not happening in a lot of households anymore.

The not so lucky looky men

Following a month long investigation, the National Police arrested a 39 year old man in San Miguel de Salinas on Friday. In his house they found 250 boxes of fake bags, belts and wallets - copies of Tous, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Dior, Carolina Herrera, Gucci and others' designs. Altogether there were 50,000 items destined for sale throughout the Alicante province.

This was the second horde of counterfeit goods uncovered last week. All they need to do now is find the stash of fake sunglasses and Torrevieja promenade will be a quiet place to stroll along once more.

Ultimately it is not the people selling counterfeit products but those that buy them that creates the market for fake goods.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A living fossil

A cycad was one of the first plants we bought for the garden and was also the most expensive.

In the first year we thought we'd lost it but fortunately in the second year it responded by producing a new set of leaves. Each year, at about this time, another new set of leaves appear from the centre and within weeks grow to full size. Our cycad enjoys shade and protection from the elements.


This year's new leaves

What is a cycad?

Cycads are a small group of plants with many unique features, an ancient origin and a very long history. Cycads are known to have lived in the Permian era, over 200 million years ago - even before the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Although once abundant across the globe, the cycads are now greatly reduced in both numbers and distribution. There are now about 250 species in 11 genera, compared to possibly 300,000 species of flowering plants, the group that now geographical range.

The very large divided leaves means that cycad plants resemble palms or tree-ferns in overall appearance. Cycads, however, differ greatly in almost all aspects of detailed structure and reproductive behaviour. Cycad plants are dioecious (i.e. male and female reproductive structures are borne on separate plants), and reproduction is by seeds, which are produced on open carpophylls or seed-bearing leaves. Although technically woody plants, unlike other woody plants, cycads possess a pachycaul stem. This is a thick, soft stem or trunk made up of mostly storage tissue with very little true wood. Within the trunk, leaf traces or veins leading to leaves arise at a point opposite the attachment of the leaf, and circle the trunk within the storage tissue. These are known as with girdling leaf traces, and occur in some ferns but no other seed plants. The coralloid roots of cycads are also characteristics not seen in other seed plants, and the cycads lack the axillary buds seen in other seed plants.

We have no idea whether ours is a male or a female plant and since nobody else nearby has a similar plant we probably will never find out.

Spanish Course

When you call at the Ayuntamiento to register for the Spanish course they will give you this form to complete. Unfortunately it is a catch 22 situation - you are applying for a course to learn Spanish and the form you have to complete is in Spanish.

Never mind. This is the information they are looking for:-


For most of us at Villas Andrea the Profesión will be Jubilado.

Remember to return your completed form by the end of the month to the Ayuntamiento along with a photocopy of your NIE document. .

Keeping the courts busy

Foreigners living here must be confused by the regular reports of denunciations of local mayors in the news. It isn't a practice that we were accustomed to back in England. When a local councillor appeared in court in England it was for something very serious. Here in Spain it can be for something which we would expect to be dealt with in the council chambers.

In the last three years the courts in Orihuela have dealt with about 30 different cases in relation to the management of the Orihuela and Bigastro Councils. These cases range from questions about city planning and the awarding of contracts to the irregular hiring of personnel. That doesn't include the 20 or so requests that the PP party in Bigastro have made through the courts for information from the mayor.

"El problema es que los mecanismos de control los controla el que tiene que ser controlado", says Aurelio Murcia. He is probably right; the self regulating systems of local government allow those in power to make decisions and to take actions without proper scrutiny. Eventually some of these decisions come back to haunt as in the case of illegal building. The sufferers then are the innocent people who trusted the local council rulings. I suspect though, that many of these wrong decisions simply get buried in history.


JOSÉ JOAQUÍN MOYA ESQUIVA, mayor of Bigastro, leaving court in Orihuela

The outcome of these judicial proceedings is rarely anything more than a photograph of the mayor either entering or leaving the court building. It is the way that opposition parties try to force a resignation of the elected mayor by wearing them down. For the people concerned it is harassment; for the perpetrators it is the only mechanism they feel they can use to resolve issues.

I can't help but feel that the whole process is very costly both in time and money; both precious commodities that these people can ill afford to waste.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Moors and Christians

Moros y Cristianos are festivals which commemorate the battles, combats and fights between the two groups during the period known as the Reconquista. The re-conquering of Spain took place between the 8th century and 15th centuries. During this period, towns that had been held by the Moors were regained by the Christians.

The people that take part in these festivals form comparsas (companies that represent the Christian or Moor legions). For several days, these groups parade the streets in costumes which are loosely inspired by Medieval fashion. The Christians wear fur, metallic helmets, and armor, fire loud arquebuses, and ride horses. Many sport the cross of St George on their outfits. In contrast, the Moors wear ancient Arab costumes, carry scimitars, and ride camels or elephants.

The highlight of the festival is when the Christians win a simulated battle around a castle which is fabricated in the main square of the town. The battle is a very noisy affair which involves lots of gunpowder and fireworks and can leave those without earplugs deaf for several days.

Moors and Christians are serious business for the people who take part. The comparsas spend months, if not all year, planning for the event and spend large amounts of money on their costumes and paraphernalia. Attention to detail is everything - you won't find any of the participants wearing trousers or modern shoes. The nearest you will come to modernity are the fat cigars that the men will savor as they parade along the streets.

The Moors and Christian Festival in Orihuela takes place 13th to 19th July with the main parades at the end of the week.

-19,30 h. Desde la Glorieta de Gabriel Miró.

Desfile de Abanderadas, OFRENDA FLORAL en honor de las Patronas "Santas Justa y Rufina" en su I. P. A continuación, Procesión-Traslado de las Santas Justa y Rufina desde su Iglesia Parroquial a la S.I. Catedral.
-21, 00 h. Desde el Paseo de Calvo Sotelo,
Guerrilla Única de Pólvora Mora y Cristiana.
A continuación, en la Glorieta de Gabriel Miró
Apertura Oficial del Castillo por el Alcaide del Castillo, Escenificación histórica del Pacto de Teodomiro con la toma del Castillo por el Bando Moro, Embajada y Toma del Castillo por el Bando Cristiano.
A su final, Inauguración de Cuarteles y Kábilas Festeras y grandes Verbenas en todos ellos.
-11’30 h. En el Centro Ocupacional Oriol,
Representación de las Fiestas de la Reconquista.
- 23,30 h. En la Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Concentración con la presencia de autoridades, "Armengola 2008", Embajadores Cristiano y Moro, Junta Central y Festeros, a la Exposición Pública de la Gloriosa Enseña del Oriol en el balcón principal de la Casa Consistorial. - A su final, grandes verbenas en los Cuarteles y Kábilas Festeras.
-9,30h. desde el Excmo. Ayuntamiento

Traslado de la Gloriosa Enseña del Oriol a la S. I. Catedral.
-10,00 h. desde la S. I. Catedral
Solemne Procesión de las Santas Justa y Rufina, con la Gloriosa Enseña del Oriol, a la I. P. de dichas Santas Patronas.
-10,30 h. en la I. P. de las Santas Justa y Rufina
Solemne Misa de la Reconquista.
-11,30 h. - Desfile de la Gloriosa Enseña del Oriol. (A estos Actos asistirán todas las Comparsas en pleno con vestimenta de Media Gala, presididas por la Armengola, Embajadores Cristiano y Moro y Junta Directiva Central).
-23’30 h. en la Plaza del Ayuntamiento
Concentración para asistir a la retirada de la Gloriosa Enseña del Oriol del balcón principal de la Casa Consistorial. - A su final, Grandes verbenas en todos los Cuarteles y Kábilas Festeras.
VIERNES, 18 DE JULIO -21,00 h.

SABADO, 19 DE JULIO -21’00 h.

Christian Groups

Caballeros del Rey Fernando, Caballeros Templarios, Caballeros de Tadmir, Caballeros del Oriol, Piratas Bucaneros, Caballeros de Santiago, Seguidores de Arum y Ruidoms y Contrabandistas.

Moor Groups

Moros Viejos de Abén-Mohor, Moros Nazaríes de Abén-Humeya, Moros Musulmanes Escorpiones, Moros Almohábenos, Moros Negros Egipcios, Moros J'Alhamed, Moros Abdelazíes, Moros Realistas, Moros Beduinos y Moros Almorávides.

The environmental perspective

Greenpeace is already in trouble with property agents on the La Manga strip for predicting that it will eventually disappear beneath rising sea levels. Now it has issued a new report, 'Total Destruction of the Coast', which attacks the intensive provision of infrastructure for development in coastal areas. In particular, Greenpeace says, Spain’s local administrations have approved no less than 137 new ports largely targeted at recreational use.

Greenpeace is scathing about developments that are often closely linked to corruption and questionable practices. It claims that a huge amount of land has already been declared as urbanisable along the Spanish coast – enough, in fact, to build three million homes.

The environmental group wants a total ban in Spain on any development at all within 500 metres of the beach and for the government to actually apply policies of sustainable development that have already been approved. They say that existing buildings that stand on public land near the coast should be demolished – no matter how long they have been there.

With the current estimate of new housing available for sale in Spain at around the 600,000 homes mark it seems that economic recession may well be the best protection that the fragile coastline can have for the next few years at least.

First blood

The mayor of Benitachell and one of the councillors from the town now have the dubious distinction of being the first on the Costa Blanca to be arrested over alleged construction corruption thanks to the recently created Guardia Civil building corruption investigation squad.

The mayor Juan Cardona Bolufer and his second in command, expat councillor Hanelore Rheindorf, were arrested on charges of trying to get a resident to pay 50,000 euros in exchange for reclassifying land. A police source said a third person, believed to be a German lawyer, has also been arrested.

Following the detentions on Tuesday the official reason for the absence of the mayor was that he was on a trip to the UK.

Although a judge has placed a gagging order on the case, police say that at the moment they are treating it as a single case of urban development corruption but they have not ruled out the possibility that more cases exist.

I don't suppose the problem will be confined to Benitachell either. There are probably a number of mayors and other officials on the Costa Blanca who are now wondering if it will be them next.

PS I have received this comment which adds further detail:

The 3rd person (solicitor) is a German called Kai Wagner (openly named in Spanish news.) Kai, in some quarters, is not well respected and suspect in some of his other dealings. Juan (the mayor) is "well-in" with VAPF developers and I'd bet they are involved somehow. All of them, for one reason or another, have big financial interests on Cumbre del Sol and work together. Still, who knows, Spain is a funny place for corruption within Government- Connie could have been under "pressure" to agree and may well be innocent but under threat if she didn't agree. I continue to watch with interest.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Me gusta las tapas nuevas.

This course for cooks, waitresses, heads of kitchen and head waiters working in tourist establishments is aimed at extending the range of tapas available in local bars and restaurants. .


Hopefully we will all benefit from the results.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dead fish at Rojales

The high temperatures of the last couple of weeks (between 35 and 40 degrees) and the lack of water are killing fish in the Segura.

Yesterday, hundreds of fish were spotted gasping on the surface of the river at Rojales. Many were already dead. The fish congregate in holes in the channel between Rojales and Guardamar. However, due to the hot weather some parts of the channel are dry and there is so little flow that the water is depleted of oxygen.

The CHS is taking measures to prevent further loss by introducing more water into the system by closing irrigation drains. It is a difficult situation though because the river is an important source of water for local agriculture.

The regeneration of the river at Rojales had been a great success. Not only had carp proliferated but several species of birds, varieties of snakes, turtles, eels and frogs have returned.

The last time there was a large loss of fish life in the River Segura was six years ago at Guardamar. On that occasion the problem was caused by pollution.


Last week Rojales celebrated Moors and Christians with a colourful parade that lasted the best part of two hours. Over 1,200 people took part in a spectacle that was watched by over 12,000 visitors.

It is very easy to miss these events if you don't have some indication of when they are taking place. Fortunately, CONVEGA (the Association for promotion of economic development of the Vega Baja) has information online that you can consult to find out all about the various fiestas in the area.

Click on the link above to go to their site and select Fiestas from the menu on the left. Then select the town you are interested in from the menu on the right.

Whilst you are on the site you will find all sorts of other fascinating information (in Spanish of course) about the area.

Lending a hand

Yesterday, one of our neighbours called to say he had a problem with his router. Basically it wasn't working!

He wanted to know if he could buy a router from a local shop rather than having to contact Telefoñica for a replacement. I told him that any router should work but would need to be configured properly first. So I sent him an email providing the settings needed to get his new router connected. It was a simple task that took me a matter of minutes.

I'd set up routers for ADSL in the UK and have a spare one here set up for Telefoñica in case I have a problem with mine. The main thing to watch for, apart from getting the username and password right, is to make sure the VPI and VCI numbers are correct otherwise the router won't sync.

I was delighted when my friend returned later in the day to tell me that he'd managed to get back online with a new router and that my email had been most useful. He brought me a bottle of wine to thank me for my trouble. That wasn't necessary because just being able to help was reward enough for me. Still it was a very kind gesture for which I am very grateful.

Entrega premios de la Asociación de Golf

You can see the photographs from the presentation of prizes for the Golf Society by going to this link: Para ver todas las fotos click aquí.

Please don't try to print from them though because the photographs are reduced in size and quality for the web.

If you want a copy of any of the pictures please contact me at and I will send you the original file to print from.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rain, rain go away

As we settle down for another hot day with just a few puffy clouds to cool us down, parts of Britain face a downpour.

The average rainfall in the UK in July is 70mm, (2.76in). However, forecasters are predicting that some areas will be soaked by a 75mm (2.95in) deluge in just one day.

High ground in the South West and Wales will be the worst hit. Vulnerable parts of the country will be on flood alert.

So it is set to be a typical British summer - the odd day of sunshine punctuated by spells of heavy rain.

Ein bier bitte

The number of tourists in the area has grown by 9.5%  with respect to the same period last year which is particularly good when you compare it with national average increase of 3.5%. Even better, the tourists are spending 17% more money than last year and are staying 18% longer. The result is 80% occupancy of hostels in the area for July and a predicted 85-90% occupancy for August.

These are not British tourists though; the poor exchange rate is keeping them away. Instead it is the French and Germans who are saving the day for the region's economy.

It will be "Welche weise es zum strand ist?" and  "Quelle manière est lui à la plage?" rather than "You know where the beach is mate"?

PS From past history; the Germans are good at commandeering beaches and the French are poor at defending them. So it will be up to the outnumbered Brits to save the day.

Safe to swim in

The water quality tests for 2007 at La Mata, Cabo Cervera, Los Locos, El Cura, Los Náufragos and the sea water swimming pool on the Paseo de Juan Aparicio have been published.


This is good news for Torrievieja which also emphasizes that its beaches are open from March until October - eight months of the year which is  longer than in any other Spanish town.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Learn the lingo

We've said it many times on this blog before but it does bear repeating. "we believe that If you have a home here in Spain, you should at least make some effort to learn the language".

Being able to communicate with people, even if it is only with a few well chosen sentences, makes life here a whole lot easier and much more rewarding.

The Ayuntamiento is advertising their Español para extrajaneros course for 2008/9. It is the course that we attend which ran last year on Tuesdays and Thursdays 4pm till 6pm; taught by a university trained teacher of the language.


In our opinion, you can't learn a new language by absorbing a series of 'off the shelf' phrases'. Nor can you communicate effectively if you don't learn to construct complete sentences. You need to learn the basic structure of the language and then build upon it.

Courses which use CDs and text are useful for tourists who visit Spain for a couple of weeks but not for those living here who need more than these courses usually offer. Knowing how to ask for a cup of coffee and the menu or for a room with a bath won't get you very far in everyday conversations.

We believe that you need a properly qualified teacher who can guide you through the process of developing your language skills just as you were guided through the acquisition of skills in English when you were at infant and junior schools. Being able to speak a language does not necessarily qualify people to teach it.

Ana, the teacher on our course, provides a wide variety of tasks suited to the ability of her students. She mixes oral and aural work with exercises in reading and writing. Ana also uses a range of resources to reinforce those concepts of the language that have already been acquired. Her lessons are lively and interesting which makes the two hours seem more like minutes.

As a bonus, students on the course get to visit places with the ladies from the other classes. You will find that these are some of the nicest and most helpful people you will meet here in Bigastro.

All you have to do is go down to the Town Hall before the end of the month to enrol.

Puedo hacer una inscripción para el Español para extranjeros cursa por favor.

Don't get stung

The Police in Torrevieja and Guardamar del Segura , have been warned about a plague of jellyfish by the Police in Alicante.


These invertebrates arrived at Tabarca yesterday and stung several swimmers there.

The 32 kilometres of coast of the Vega Baja remains on alert. Swimmers are advised to watch out for the flags that warn when it is unsafe to bathe.

The massive presence of jellyfish along these coasts is due to the the temperature of the water which is an effect of climate change.

Nadal frena al rey

Rafael Nadal se declaró "muy feliz" por haber ganado su "torneo favorito" al recibir la Copa de campeón de Wimbledon en una Pista Central abarrotada y en la que el príncipe Felipe y la princesa Leticia disfrutaron con la primera victoria de un español en Londres desde 1966, cuando venció el mítico Manolo Santana.

After the best ever final at Wimbledon lasting four hours and fourty eight minutes, Rafael Nadal put an end to Roger Federer's reign as Champion of Wimbledon.


So we've had a F1 Champion, a Moto GP Champion, Spain are currently Champions of European football and now we have a Champion at Wimbledon. 

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Have you seen my Murcielago?

It must be increasingly difficult for car manufacturers to come up with new names for their vehicles. Some, like Puegot, try to stick to numbers and only let themselves down with the models like the Tepee. BMW have got it about right. You know that the pecking order starts with the 1 series and works its way up to the 7 series. All you have to figure out then is whether a CSi is better than an SE. Seat also have it cracked with Leon Altea etc. It might be sometime before we see the Seat Bigastro though.

Obviously, the car moguls have to be careful not to choose names which might offend people in the different marketplaces. Although Fanny might be a perfectly acceptable name for a car in France it would probably raise a titter in some other countries.

So the creative geniuses at manufacture's HQ come up with a series of made up words which probably have no meaning at all. They try to invent words that convey some sense of the car and its place in the market without any obvious connotations.

Hence we have Vauxhall's Antara and Monaro; Toyota 's Aygo; Suzuki's Jimny; Renault's Twingo and Kangoo and the latest; the Ford Kuga (does sound a bit like a previous model that one).

The one that takes my prize though is the Nissan Qashqai. Just what that name is meant to convey I don't know. It's hard enough to pronounce let alone understand.

I can't help feel that it was all a lot easier when most people drove a Cortina- we all knew what that was and what it looked like.

PS Mel Leach tells me that the Qashqai are a Turkic people living in Iran. I suppose I should have guessed it had to be something like that because nobody would dream up a name like Qashqai. Thanks for that information Mel.

Out of hand

The growing fear of knife crime in Britain is forcing hospital trusts and local authorities to supply body armour to frontline workers, including A&E staff, hospital porters, teachers, benefits officers and traffic wardens.

Stab and bullet-proof vests are being ordered in their tens of thousands to protect employees from increased levels of aggression, a move described as 'a shameful indictment of violence in Britain today'.

The Local Government Association said councils had started responding urgently to staff who 'need a greater level of protection'. Already more than 20,000 sets of Home Office-approved body armour have been issued to local government staff.

The Oxfordshire-based Body Armour Company said it had received about 10,000 orders for protective vests from local government, with frontline NHS staff accounting for most of them. The most popular item requested by councils is the £300 Home Office-approved KR1 stab vest. The firm said it was also receiving more orders for body armour from teachers, whom it views as its 'biggest growth market'.

Peter Warren, a spokesman for the company, said: 'Councils are becoming aware of the need for armour and protecting their staff. We have had many private inquiries from teachers and the rate is going up. Headmasters are aware that teachers are at risk and knife crime is getting worse.'

PS I like my nurses in traditional uniform. You can't fantasise about someone in a bullet proof vest.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Most distracting

The hot weather may not suit everyone but it does bring certain benefits. As one of my neighbours put it to me the other day, "the ladies wear a lot less clothing in summer".

One of the young ladies on the roundabout between the AP-7 and the CV-945 was down to  her underwear yesterday. Better than that though; I'm told by several sources that it is not uncommon to see these girls stark naked when it  gets really hot.

I must get out more!

Calling all saxophonists

The Council of Culture in Bigastro has organised a course at the Auditorium “Francisco Grau” from the 9th to the 13th of September for 20 students to work with three eminent professors to improve their skills on the saxophone.


- CHRISTIAN WIRTH: Professor of the Conservatory XIII “Maurice Ravel” in Paris, Professor of the European University of Saxaphone GAP and Professor of the Havanan Academy Poitiers.

- HILOMI SAKAGUCHI: Professor CNR “Thibaud Checks” of Bordeaux, Professor of piano accompaniment at the Havanan academy, Poitiers and Professor of piano accompaniment at the Conservatori Superior de les Illes Balears.

- RODRIGO VILA: Professor of Saxophone and Música de Contemporary Cámara at the Conservatori Superior de les Illes Balears.

To get more information about this course download this file. To enrol download

this form.

Friday, July 04, 2008


We received a letter in our post box informing us that the Chairman of the Residents' Association has resigned from his position for reasons that he outlines. Since we don't have an appointed Vice Chairman, this effectively means that we have no Resident's Association Committee at the moment.

A bad habit

Valencia is the community with the highest percentage of smokers according to the latest National Survey of Health and the Quitters conducted 2007 in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Three out of 10 Valencians admitted to being habitual smokers with an additional 4% admitting to smoking on an occasional basis. The average for Spain is 24.6% habitual smokers along with a further 3.1% occasional smokers.

Many of the people surveyed admitted to smoking more than a packet a day and claimed to have started between the ages of 16 and 18.

The drive to the coast

Tráfico are anticipating 2.5 million cars to be on the roads this weekend as people start their annual holidays.

The first special operation "Verano 2008" will take place from 3pm Friday until midnight on Sunday when over 900 members of the Guardia Civil will monitor the main roads in the area.

There will also be restrictions on vehicles carrying more than 7,500kgs, vehicles carrying dangerous loads, agricultural machinery and other vehicles for works and services.  Road works which affect circulation will stop at 1pm on Friday.

The DGT has identified 16 problem areas:- in Castellón the work on the N340; access to Alicante, Altea, Santa Pola,  Torrevieja and the beaches in the province; the junction between the A-3 and the A-7; the section of road between Pobal de Vallbona and Valencia; the road past Gandia and the section between Belleguard and Oliva on the N-332.

DGT are recommending alternative routes to avoid congestion e.g. using the AP-7 rather than the N-340 and N-332. Of course it goes without saying, if you don't have to travel this weekend it is probably best to leave the car on the drive.


The Official School of Veterinarians of the Region claims to have vaccinated 70,000 dogs against rabies. However, they say that there are about 40,000 that are not vaccinated and 18,000 that are not identified with a chip.

There has been an  increase, in the last three years, of dogs bought in from Eastern European countries that are not vaccinated. These imported dogs represent 10% of the 110,000 dogs in the Region.

Yorkshire terriers and English bulldogs, bought in  Rumania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, are about 40% cheaper than Spanish bred dogs (240€ as opposed to 400€).

The gypsy camps of illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe such as  as the one which was dismantled in the Murcian district of Patiño pose another problem. These people  bring unvaccinated dogs  into the region which, if they bite people, could transmit rabies.

There have been two cases of dogs with rabies reported in Ceuta and France

Essential ingredient

In response to my item about our arroz con pollo I have received the following email:-

Si le interesa hacer la paella, sabe necesita
un caldo de pescado. Nada mejor que nuestro fumet.
Con un solo kilo, puede hacer 7 u 8 litros de caldo,
lo hacemos con pescado de roca.
Un kilo se vende por 16,50 euros y podemos mandar
(es congelado) en toda la provincia y también por
correo en España. Mínimo son dos kilos.

Para más información:
1302 Distribución
c/. Plaza Gabriel Miró 22
03001 Alicante
tel. 615 824 428
fax 966260290

Of course they are right - a good paella is made with stock as opposed to water. What these people are offering is concentrated frozen fish stock which will make up 7 to 8 litres of liquid which would be enough for 7 or more of my four person servings.

I know that some recipes for chicken paella advise using chicken stock which you can make from stock cubes.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Loony Britain

A demolition team have started work on a £94 million, three-year building project at the West Kent College in Tonbridge, Kent.

Officials at college sent an email to all pupils saying , "It has come to the attention of the college that some female students have been making comments to, or whistling at, the builders both whilst on site and as they walk around the campus. The email warned that the student's behaviour was "totally unacceptable", and saying any those caught harassing contractors would face disciplinary action.

A spokeswoman for the contractors, Galliford Try, said: "We have no registered complaints on this issue. However we do not condone inappropriate behaviour from any parties on our sites."

Meanwhile new laws could see wolf-whistling builders placed on the sex offenders register. The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill will create a new offence of "communicating indecently", punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

The legislation is intended to punish sexual harassment by text, emails and letters, but ministers also aim to include sexually explicit comments to strangers. It is expected that the law would only apply to persistent offenders.

At the moment, workmen who repeatedly make obscene comments to passers-by can be convicted of a breach of the peace.

Since the slowdown in construction, we don't have any such problems here! In any case, to shout "guapo" to a builder would be regarded as a real compliment.

Like Beverly Hills

There are so many celebrities who either live here or have holiday homes here we are thinking of renaming the Urbanization 'Villas Vegas'.

First off we have an ex Chelsea footballer who lives here. Then we have an ex Bolton Wanderers player with a holiday home here. Our new next door neighbour plays for Orihuela football club and of course we have one half of a famous comedy duo with a holiday home here as well.

Who knows what other famous people may be lurking in one of the Calles! Hopefully, not one of those Eastend villains trying to escape the law in England.

No wonder the locals eat so much of it

We always knew that the sandia was good for you. It contains no saturated fat, is low in sodium and is cholesterol free. Because of its high water content, watermelon is also low in calories.


It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C as well as potassium and it contains lycopene, a potential antioxidant which may have disease-fighting benefits. Researchers believe lycopene might have a role in the prevention of some diseases, such as forms of cancer and heart disease.

The fruit also contains an amino acid arginine which is good for the heart, the circulatory system and helps maintain the immune system in the body. This substance also helps eliminate ammoniac and other toxic compounds from the body.

Now to add to that, scientists at the University A&M in Texas have discovered that the humble watermelon contains a substance called citulline which relaxes the blood capillaries and therefore has a similar effect to viagra.

Before you rush out to buy a sandia, here is the catch; the cirulline is concentrated in the white part of the watermelon (the part we generally don't eat). So the next stage for the scientists is to work with new varieties of sandia where the cirulline is concentrated in the red flesh rather than the rind.

So, when you next see someone struggling home from the market with a huge green melon, you'll know the reason why!