Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IKEA in Alicante but not yet

Plans to build the new IKEA store in Alicante have been put on hold. The proposed site between PAU1 and 2 was going to cause problems with congestion on the Gran Vía. Additionally, the land there was very expensive.   IKEA wants 40,000 m2 of land for its new store but the city council estimate that it will take 100,000 m2 of land when access roads and other facilities are added in.

So now IKEA is looking to site its store in the Rebasa plan near the Port and San Gabriel and  the neighbouring areas of Mutxamel and Sant Joan. Access there would be much easier via the autoroute.

This will of course delay the anticipated 2011 opening of the store. For us though, there is no difference between travelling to the Murcia store and the proposed one at Alicante.

Spanish classes

We were delighted to find out that our Spanish classes will continue for this year. Sandra, who is in charge of the EPA (adult education classes), telephoned last night to say that there will be a meeting for students tonight at 8pm at he Auditorium. For those who have signed up for the class but can't attend the meeting tonight I will post details on this blog tomorrow.

Sadly Ana, who has taught us for the last three years, will not be continuing for personal reasons. That is sad because Ana is such an excellent teacher who inspires the confidence in her students to progress in their new language. She is also a very kind and thoughtful person.

Instead, we will be taught by Eduardo who Ana assures us is very good. He is apparently nervous about facing us because he doesn't speak English but Ana has assured him that will not be a problem because we are all so good at speaking Spanish - we wish!

I'm sure that all the students from the class, both past and present, would like to wish Ana all the best and thank her for the hard work and effort she put into teaching us. I will, of course pass on your best wishes to her at tonight's meeting.

Blog link

You may have noticed that I have added a few more links in my blog list. You'll find the list in the left hand sidebar towards the bottom - underneath Search this blog.

Having made the link, I wrote to the author of the blog for La Sociedad Union Musical de Bigastro to let him know what I had done and this was his reply:-

Hola Keith,
muchas gracias por hacer referencia a nuestro blog en su página web. Pronto tendremos una nueva página web con más información sobre nuestra sociedad. Cuando esté en funcionamiento se lo notificaré por si también quiere incluirlo en su página.
Gracias de nuevo y nuestra enhorabuena por el trabajo que realiza y la información que incluye en su página sobre Bigastro.

For those of you who might have difficulty in translating this message, he is thanking me for making the link. He then goes on to explain that he's working on a new web page for the town's band and will let me now when it is ready.

Finally he congratulates me on my work producing a blog about Bigastro.

Actually, Umbigastro has a lot more presence on the web than just his blog. For example, there are quite a few videos on YouTube  that he has contributed which are well worth watching.

I've said it before - the standard of the local band is almost unbelievable. For such a small town to have so many highly talented musicians is just amazing. The bring a lot of joy to the townsfolks lives.

Calling all budding artists

The Association of Painters of Bigastro and the Council of Culture of the City council arepainters organising courses in art, painting, sculpture, model drawing and pottery for the month of October. The Association are based in  C/ Padre Damian, 6 bajo.. Updated

The cost for the 8 hours classes is 40 €. They will take place at C/ Padre Damian, 6 between 6pm and 10pm.

For more information phone 636.233.230

Saving money

The Socialist party planned to request a revision of the cadastral values of houses in Bigastro at last night's Council Meeting. The PP party were planning to oppose this. The PP estimate that a revision of cadastral values would bring about a 15% increase to our IBI (local council tax).

The last revaluation of cadastral values was in 2000. So, according to legislation, they would be due for revision in 2010. The socialist party obviously want to bring this forward by two years to increase income to the town's budget.

We have paid a higher rate this year because the percentage applied to calculate the tax has been increased. The increase last year was due to the change of designation of our houses from rural to urban.

At the meeting, the PP party were also planning to criticise the expenditure that the local council have made on the Città Slow project. They claim that it is the sort of project that the council might embark on when there is plenty of money in the budget but not when times are tight.

Finally, the spokesperson for the PP said that they were going to suggest reducing the council workforce by removing 40 unnecessary jobs thus saving 900,000€ from the budget each year.

I don't know the outcome of the meeting yet but I imagine that the majority vote of the socialist party would carry their proposals through.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Those of you who are using Firefox 3 will know what a great browser it is and will probably have already explored some its features.

One of those that you may not have come across yet are the add-ons. Go to Tools in the menu bar and you will find them there.

To add more you just need to select Get Add-ons which will bring you up a list of a few that are available. There are plenty more to choose from. Click on Browse All Add-ons and you will be taken to the Mozilla site of Firefox Add-ons. Have a look around at what is available -there are loads.

The one you are looking for at the moment though is CoolIris. So, in the search box type CoolIris and you should find it listed. Unfortunately it is for Windows only - sorry Mac and Linux people.

Once you have downloaded and installed it you will need to restart Firefox to make it work. Bear with me it's going to be worth it.

Now to try it out!! Go to my Spanish Album by clicking on this link. What you will see is my picture album in the form that everybody else does. You need to make the add-on work by clicking on the CoolIris button which you should find at the top right of your browser window. This will open up CoolIris in a new window.

At last we come to the cool bit. Move the blue scroll bar at the bottom of the screen and watch all my photographs move as if they are on a 3D wall. I'm told this works even on a slow connection so you dial up users shouldn't be disappointed. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out and click on any photograph to see it large. Now tell me that wasn't worth it - of course I mean the program not my photograph.

Of course CoolIris doesn't just work with my photographs - try it on other pages with images. If you have a Picasso or a Flickr album it will work with those. Call me a geek but I just love this stuff.

Improvement on the way

Gradually the bad weather we have been experiencing is moving westwards bringing a return to sunshine for the region.
















Andalucía experienced dreadful weather yesterday particularly in the area around Cádiz. Pictures on the weather channel Meteo showed people clearing mud from inside their houses.

The storms in Andalucía are forecast to last today but then there will be some improvement tomorrow and a return to sunshine on Wednesday.

The destruction and misery that this weather has brought has been almost unbelievable. However, we should be thankful that at least we don't live in a region of tropical storms.

Hurricane Kyle, the sixth for this season, is moving northward across the western Atlantic toward the Maine coast and Canadian Maritimes. It is expected to approach the eastern Maine coast later this evening, with a landfall in Nova Scotia this evening. This is in an area not commonly impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes, but the threats from Kyle will be much the same as those seen further south.

The Eastern seaboard of North America gets hit badly but China, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines suffers worse. Typhoons regularly hit the area, gaining strength over the warm waters of the Pacific or China Sea.

Jangmi is the 15th typhoon to form this year in that region, following on from Hagupit which brought torrential rain to China earlier in the month.

Typhoon Jangmi strengthened into a Super Typhoon. As of 0200 GMT Saturday, Jangmi was 373 miles (600km) southeast of Taiwan, packing sustained winds of 114mph (184kph).

No comment

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove will unveil the “Troops to Teachers” scheme at the Tory conference tomorrow. He will say: “We’ll ensure ex-servicemen and women who want to work with young people can move quickly to a career in teaching.”

Servicemen and women would be given a £9,000 bursary to re-train as teachers on leaving the forces to boost tough inner-city schools. Other veterans will be encouraged to act as role models in comprehensives.

David Cameron also aims to smash the local authority monopoly over schools. In a huge overhaul, thousands of taxpayer-funded schools would be set up by private companies and parents’ groups. The Tories claim that sub-standard comprehensives would be driven out of business by the new “free schools”.

OK I will make a comment. In my opinion, politics and education make poor bedfellows.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Did you know?

Those of you who are with Telefónica for both phone line and ADSL (broadband Internet) i.e. the Duo package can enjoy a free upgrade of your speed from 3Mb to 10Mb for 3 months. After December it will cost you an extra 4€ per month for the extra speed.

Bear in mind though that, with protocol overheads etc. this will give you an effective download speed of about 8.5Mb. Still that is a lot faster than the 2.8Mb you get with the 3Mb package

You need to go online to http://www.telefonicaonline.com, enter your username and password to get into your private area to order the upgrade.

Some web forums mention the possibility of upgrading from 3 to 6Mb but that no longer seems to be an option.

PS the quoted speeds are megabits per second not megabytes (there are 8 bits in one byte). So in theory on a 10Mb connection you could expect to download a one megabyte file in less than one second. In practice of course this will rarely happen. However you would see a significant improvement from a slower connection.

Personal stuff

Belated birthday greetings to Jim and Maxine (both 21 - so I'm told!). I hope you had great birthdays and enjoyed a little celebration up at the Pedrera last night.

Also birthday wishes go out to Darren's two daughters, Indie and Sharren.

Keith and Pam

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The debate continues

In response to my rant about budget airlines, Pete offers this comment:-

It is miserly Keith, but they do have a defensible argument. Going budget means, as you say, that every conceivable thing they can charge you extra for they will. Luggage is heavy, and weight means fuel. Weight limits are strict. If you want to take hold baggage it needs to be loaded and unloaded. This needs baggage handlers. So if you want to take a bag you pay for it. Is it right that on a regular commercial service where I'm taking only a briefcase I subsidise the person who wants to take 35kg of luggage because they simply can't leave their straighteners at home?
If you think that credit card payment, generous cabin allowances, a pre-allocated seat, decent legroom, something to eat and a 20kg luggage allowance are essentials for your flight, then you can take a scheduled flag carrier. At least the budget lines do, in theory, give you the opportunity to get a cheap price if you are prepared to make sacrifices. If you're not, then you pay for it. In many ways it's fairer, though it is perhaps more representative of the American ideology than the British. You pay for what you use.
To be honest, much as I wince at the cost, I think a little part of me is glad that my most regular flight destination, Finland, isn't available on a budget route. I know I'll get there safely, in comfort, and on time.

Pete has managed to temper my post with a great deal of common sense.

Of course there are some aspects of a scheduled flight that you wouldn't expect from companies like Jet2.com. You wouldn't expect generous legroom nor would you expect to be fed. However there are some basics that I believe should be built into the advertised price. For example, I don't understand why the price online doesn't include the non-optional taxes?

The issues of luggage and booking fees are illustrated in the table below which I hope is up to date.

Airline Price per checked bag online (each way) Price for checked bag at airport (each way) Excess Baggage Fees Booking Fees Price of extras

£8 for first bag, £16 for each additional bag (up to three bags in total)


15kg allowance. £12 per kg over

Credit/debit cards £4 each way. No charge for Visa Electron. £32
easyJet From £5 each way £12

20kg allowance. £7 per kg over

Credit cards 2.5% of fare (minimum £4.95). Debit cards £1.75 flat fee. No charge for Visa Electron. £11.75
Flybe £8


20kg allowance. £9 per kg over.

Credit cards £2.99 each way (minimum £5.50). Debit card £1.50 each way (minimum £1.99) No charge for Visa Electron. £19
BMI Baby



20kg baggage allowance. £6 per kg over

Credit cards £3 each way. Debit cards £2 each way. £19.98
Jet2 From £5.99 From £11

17kg baggage allowance. £6 per kg over

Credit Cards 3.75% of fare (minimum £6.99). Debit cards 1.75% of fare (minimum £1.99). £13.97

It is interesting that the carrier with the least luggage allowance also charges the most for excess weight. Some would see this as their way to supplement competitive pricing. It certainly makes it very difficult to compare prices online. You have to literally go through the whole booking process with each airline to get a true comparison.

As Pete says, you can avoid extra baggage charges by only taking hand luggage onto the plane but bear in mind size and weight rules for these items.

Three of the five budget airlines in the table above will let you take up to one bag weighing 10kg on board, as long as it has dimensions of no more than 55x40x20cm. Jet 2.com stipulates it should not be in excess of 46x30x23cm and Flybe specifies dimensions of 50 x 35 x 23cm.

If your bag exceeds this, you may be forced to check it in, meaning you will have to pay the inflated 'airport check-in' prices.


Did you buy tickets for the ONCE lottery in Orihuela?

Jesus Mestres Almarcha wasn't at his usual place because of the rain. However he still managed to sell the ten tickets with the number 71.712; each of which is worth 35,000€.

Most Spaniards will buy the full block of ten which would mean they could be looking at a prize of 350,000€. That should keep the wolf from the door for some lucky person.

Winning the Euromillions jackpot may be the dream of some people but it is the smaller prizes that put smiles on a lot more faces.

Friday, September 26, 2008


A useful Spanish slang word which covers a multitude of problems. You can use it when something is broken, awkward, bad or is a nuisance. The electricity goes off just as you are in the middle of surfing the net- Se ha cortado la luz, he perdido la conexión. ¡Chungo!

PS be aware that the word has both masculine and feminine forms i.e. chungo - chunga. So, if you are using it as an adjective to describe something as bad you need to know which gender the noun it refers to is.

e.g. Mi coche es muy chungo - Mi moto es muy chunga

How low can people go?

The caretaker opened the graveyard at San Miguel at 8:30 am as usual only to find it had been vandalised.  Graves had been robbed and coffins removed from their niches. One of the niches had been tampered with but had not been opened, while another one had been opened and the coffin removed. The coffin had been placed upright against the wall, with the body still inside.

It was obvious that the clothing of the deceased had been searched for any objects of value.
The robbers had also removed two receptacles from the niche containing human bones, which had been there for many years. The vandals also caused damage to the cemetery in general and had thrown crucifixes and other religious objects on to the ground.

Police say that the perpetrators used tools to break down the stone and brick walls and so had come well prepared. It would appear that they had scaled the wall at the back of the cemetery, which faces onto land that is now in the process of being developed.

Murcia runway to open

San Javier Airport is one of the most popular airports used by British travellers and holidaymakers. Currently, San Javier shares its one runway with the Spanish Air Force which restricts flying times.  However, from March 2009 it will have its second runway open according to an announcement made by Rafael Gonzalez, the government’s representative in Murcia

At the moment, 23 international flights and five domestic flights are available from San Javier e.g. Ryanair is based at San Javier. The airport is also popular with Jet2, easyJet and Air Berlin. Last year, almost two million passengers used San Javier of which 85% were British.

We prefer San Javier to Alicante because it is an easier drive to get there and parking close to departures/arrivals is never a problem. On the downside though, it is much smaller and has few facilities once you are in the departure lounge.

Music classes

Here is something else for you to do during the winter months.


You have until the 26th of the month to sign up for music classes.

Learn Spanish

The local branch of the Red Cross in Orihuela is organising a free, 60 hour, Spanish for Foreigners course between the 6th October and the 3rd December. The classes will take place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 7pm and 9.

To enrol for one of the thirty spaces on the course, you need to either call in at the Cruz Roja offices at 22 Calle San Agustín or telephone 96 530 57 57 .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It gets my goat up

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I am not given to moaning. I might make the odd tongue-in-cheek remark about noisy Spaniards or the weather. Those are observations rather than complaints.

One thing that does annoy me though, is the whole issue of baggage on the so called budget airlines. It is bad enough that you have to pay airport taxes and fuel surcharges on top of the advertised fare. Quite why those can't be built in to an online booking service is beyond me. Oh yes, and an extra 5€ to pay by credit card. How else do they expect you to pay online? As far as I know, nobody has discovered a way to squeeze bank notes down a telephone line yet.

Having paid for all the surcharges, you are then asked if you want to take hold luggage. How many people are able to pack all they need for a trip in one piece of cabin luggage being careful not to include any liquids, creams or anything that might vaguely be described as sharp? Not many. It's like having to pay for wheel balancing as an extra when you buy a new tyre or having to pay for carrier bags at the supermarket. Optional extras only if you redefine the word option.

So, most passengers end up taking hold luggage; for which all the airlines will charge. The 10.50€ that Jet2.com ask for isn't some token sum that you can dismiss, especially if there are two of you travelling. Even worse, if you forget to book your luggage online, they will charge you 18.50€ at the check in desk . The small case, that you thought could be described as cabin luggage, could end up costing 18.50€ to travel with you.

To add insult to injury, not only do they charge you for your case, these airlines also restrict you to a measly weight limit (currently 17kgs with Jet2.com). That might be fine in summer but in winter, when you need sweaters trousers, jackets etc it's far from adequate. Of course you can take extra but then they will ask 9€ per kilogramme for the privilege.

The final straw comes when they ask, "Do you want to pre-book your seat and would you like extra legroom?" Not bloody likely! The blood sucking leaches have already charged me as much as the flight in surcharges. Not a penny more - no way - I'll stand if necessary.

As all of you who have flown recently will testify, the supposedly budget airline flight becomes a darn sight more expensive by the time you get to the payment page. It's enough to turn you to drink (well more drink in my case).

Now I've got that off my chest, I feel a lot better. I can descend from my soapbox and return to normal. That might take me until tomorrow when I hope to be my usual cheerful self again.

Telmicro - the saga continues

The Guardia Civil claim that Telmico are guilty of fraud amounting to more that 500 million euros according to reports in the Spanish press.

Operation “Scimitar was carried out in Alicante, Murcia and Almeria during August to dismantle the network for illegal distribution of British TV channels. The operators had set up three companies with licences to to distribute free to air British TV to the area hence the claim by Telmicro that they are a legal company with all the proper licenses in place.

When Sogecable, who have the rights to distribute certain channels via their cable network, found that Telmicro were distributing the same programmes illegally they denounced the company. However it wasn't just the odd channel which Telmicro were distributing. Their package included BBC, ITV and Sky channels non of which they had rights to.

To make matters worse, Telmicro claimed that they had 17,000 customers each of whom had paid 590€ for installation and were paying between 18 and 22€ per month rental. In turns out that they have in excess of 60,000 customers which might explain why the Guardia seized 5 million euros in cash from their premises. As one of my neighbours commented, "no company would keep that much cash on their premises unless they had something to hide."

The Court of Instruction Number 1 of Torrevieja is the one that is continuing to direct the investigation.

Un poco mas de agua

We can expect the stormy weather here to continue until next Tuesday. In the meantime much of Spain is still enjoying warm sunshine but that is not forecast to last.


Normally we could expect a "gota fria" in Autumn which would start in the Gulf of Cadiz and move rapidly towards Catalonia and the Balearics. This is an altogether different weather system. It is a band of slow moving cold air which is coming from the East of Europe that is causing instability. As the cold air -high in the atmosphere - meets the warm air which is rising from the sea it becomes unstable and creates storm conditions. The effect is similar to a gota fria but slower moving and hence longer lasting.

The last time the area had weather like this was in September 1986 when Alcoy suffered serious floods and storms which deposited 300 litres of water per square metre. The 144 litres per square metre of rain that hit Sueca (Valencia) yesterday was the highest registered in the Valencian Community for 20 years.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's been a good year so far

We've had earthquakes, cuts in electricity (quite a few of those), people have lost their UK TV, it was blisteringly hot in August, some places have had now had torrential rain and we've got a plague of mosquitoes.

So what else is there in store for this year? I reckon we could have four foot of snow in December. Mark my words if I am not right.

Petrus reminds me in his comment:-

You forgot to mention the increase in food costs and the price of a pint of Guinness ..

Never mind as soon as the sun shines you'll forget all the negative aspects of life in Spain.

I also neglected to mention the exchange rate between the pound and the euro but then we don't want to get too depressed do we?

Petrus is right though. We'd still rather live here than anywhere else right now. In any case we need rain to see us through next summer.

Un poco agua

Whilst we escaped the bad weather yesterday, Elche received a deluge.

The whirlwind of water and hail that fell yesterday evening in Elche, caused chaos for the emergency  services. There were flooded vehicles, closed streets and motorways, flooded cellars and schools. Everywhere there were trees and palms felled  by the strong wind. The town suffered electricity cuts, a family had to be evacuated and a laundry  just sunk.

Two schools will have to suspend classes today and several schools will not be able to open at all. Local Police had to evacuate six students and four adults from one school.

Firemen were overwhelmed by the calls and had to prioritise their services - a brigade attended at the Hospital in Elche where there was a a forecast of flooding. Service “112” registered almost 140 calls in the first few moments of the storm.

Alicante suffered less, although rain did close the city centre and caused circulation problems.

Others places affected were l'Alcoià and El Comtat and  the area of Cocentaina and Muro where the rain reached maximum intensity.

In Cocentaina, 46 litres of water fell, closing the old passage to traffic at about four in the afternoon. The roundabout at  Sant Cristòfol was also impassible for about 30 minutes. The problem there was caused by blocked sewers which couldn't cope with the deluge.

In the Vinalopó , it was Novelda which bore the brunt. Local Police there has to drain water from houses and shops. The 21 litres of water that fell there  lifted manhole covers.

A lousy night's kip

Most nights I just fall asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. Last night though I just couldn't get off for what seemed like hours. It wasn't as if I had something on my mind to keep me awake - I really have no explanation.

If that wasn't bad enough, I woke up at some ungodly hour tormented by a mosquito bite which I assume I got whilst putting the cover on  the BBQ late last night. The bite was both itching and burning in equal measures. I admit that, in my half awake state, I resorted to scratching which just made it worse. So eventually I had to stagger to the bathroom to find the cream. Once that had soothed the bite, I drifted back to sleep only to wake again a few hours later with my head soaked in sweat. I reckon I must have only had about six hours sleep at most.

If you meet me today and I seem a little vacant or worse still tetchy, you'll know the reason why.

PS Does anybody know when these bloody insects are going to sod off and leave us alone?

Stormy weather



Some days you can look in one direction and see a bright blue sky and in another ominous black clouds. That is what it looked like yesterday at teatime. Fortunately the storm that these clouds promised never materialised here in Bigastro.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Muy ruidioso

In the region, 55% of  mopeds tested failed their ITV (equivalent of the MoT in England) because of excess noise. The other main causes of failure were poor lighting and excess speed.

No surprise there then. It is common practice to remove the baffles from the exhaust to create a more "sporty" sound and to tamper with the carburettor to remove the restriction on speed.

As I have said before, Spaniards are inherently noisy people. Their love of fireworks amply illustrates my point. Even when they are speaking, they are noisy. A normal discussion between two people sounds more like an argument to our English ears.

As for the children! On Sunday there was some sort of party next door to us in the early afternoon. The children there were screaming and shouting at the tops of their voices; the parents seemingly oblivious to the row they were making. When they left, another party ensued next door but one. The children at that party were being encouraged by the father whose voice you could just about make out above the screaming children. I expect the children all slept well that night.

The only way is up

Pedro Hernandez Mateo, mayor of Torrevieja, used an empty cardboard box to demonstrate his proposed modification to the PGOU (General Plan of Urban Arrangement) for the town in a special plenary session of the town council.

Turning the box up on its end, he explained why he now wants to build 27 tower blocks of up to 30 stories high. The mayor claims that building upwards will save 75% of the land for the use of tourists. Previously, buildings in the town were restricted to five floors in the centre of the town and seven on the coast. Building upwards is the model adopted in Benidorm. Sr Mateo now sees it as the way forward for Torrevieja.

The proposed locations for these tower blocks are the beach at Poniente, in the campico of San Mamés, the beaches at Los Locos, Los Náufragos and in La Mata.

Actually this is the third attempt to get approval to build tower blocks in Torrevieja. The first two in 1998 and 2001 were not approved by the Conselleria de Territorio de la Generalitat Valenciana. So although the plan was passed at the council meeting yesterday, it has a long way to go before it can come into fruition.

With 30,000 houses pending construction, the opposition parties question the wisdom of this proposal. They also point out that Torrevieja is is in a zone of high seismic risk.

Local mayors in Spain are very ambitious with their PGOUs. Just look at the areas of development in Algorfa and San Miguel de Salinas for example. Sadly the plans in those two towns have created huge building sites which may never be completed. Thankfully Bigastro has much less opportunity for such expansion. Even still, we have several building sites which have more or less stagnated.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Buy or rent?

Buying to let seems to be loosing favour amongst Spaniards. That is because, whilst rents have gone up 3.4%, the cost of buying only rose by 1.2% during the year. Even still, many young families prefer to rent accommodation rather than take on a mortgage.

Who can blame them. With house prices falling worldwide, the piso they buy now could be worth a lot less in twelve months time. In any case why pay 1,300€ for a mortgage when you can pay 700€ in rent leaving you with more cash for leisure.

Estimates show that the supply and demand for houses will even out in the first quarter of next year which should stabilise prices. Maybe then, sales will start to pick up again.

Stormy weather

Following the thunderstorm last night which rolled around the area and caused several power cuts, these are the forecasts for today and tomorrow:-











and for the rest of the week:-









So it looks like today will be OK and then we'll say goodbye to the hot and sunny weather for the moment. I just hope that means we'll say goodbye to the mosquitoes as well.

PS We can't rule out the chance of another thunderstorm but hopefully without power cuts this time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cheeky b******

Normally you only get bitten by mosquitoes at night. At the moment we're getting bitten in the daytime. Last week we were out at night and didn't get bitten once.

A quick trip to the shed this morning and I came back with two bites on my ankle.  I'm hoping that a blast with the heavy duty insect aerosol which claims to provide 1 years protection will see them off otherwise we'll run out of the Alergical Crema. 

Speaking of aerials


These are the dishes required to get either Sky or free to air programmes from the UK

You can compare them with the small dish required for Telmicro in the right foreground and understand why that system was so popular.

IMG_0106 IMG_0105

Aerial for Spanish terrestrial TV and the dish for Digital+. Much neater don't you think?


My neighbour, who is obviously a tele addict, has these two small dishes on one side of his house which are pointing to different satellites and a terrestrial aerial on the other side but still can't get BBC! NB For some reason there's no cable connected to the dish on the right.

So you pays your money and takes your choice.

Good news

Crime is down 14% in the Valencian region according to figures released by Antonio Moreno the chief of police in the region.

Newly appointed to the role he went on to say that his priorities remained the fight against organised crime which he said was a complex matter and reducing domestic burglaries and acts of vandalism.

Let's hope he is successful.

Cole Country

By popular demand, the Entertainments Committee booked Coles Country for last night up at the Pedrera. We have to say that country and western music is not our cup of tea. However, the singer was good and entertained us with a wide repertoire of country and western classics both old and new. The line dancing fans had a good night.

At about ten o' clock, the Chairman of the Residents' Committee took the opportunity to present the prizes for the Ladies' Darts and the Men's Pool competitions.

The pool competition is becoming a bit of a one horse race with Darren Yarrow winning it for the third year running. As he said though, it is not about who comes first or last but about taking part.

The ladies' darts is more open. Actually, most of the ladies probably see the darts competition as a social group. Apart from the nights that they play, the ladies go out for meals together. So by a narrow margin, this year winners were Paula and Lynda. Along with the trophies, José presented the ladies with bouquets of flowers. That was a nice touch.

petanqueFor next year, along with darts and pool, there will also be a petanca (boules to you) competition.

José has promised 200€ to each of the three competitions for prizes.

The Grand Prize Draw stood at 400€. First number out of the bag was 3 which narrowed the possible winners down to 17. A zero next brought that down to 2. Unfortunately for those two, the next number was another 3 which meant that neither had won. So next week, the prize will be 450€.

I don't know what entertainment Darren has in store for us next week but with 450€ up for grabs I'm sure it will be popular.

PS Just a little observation. It is understandable that friends and neighbours will want to sit together at these social events. However, walking into the Albergue to find the tables have been joined together could be intimidating for some people. For them it must be a bit like walking into a club where you are not a member and wondering just where you should sit. Whilst Pam and I are happy to sit by ourselves, others (holiday makers possibly) may feel a little uncomfortable about sitting on their own when everyone else is part of a group.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My camera

I didn't get a flurry of bidding in the last few minutes for my camera. The person who won the auction had obviously been lurking though because he came in during the last hour with his bid. His bid obviously took the price above what the other bidders were prepared to pay so they let him have it. In fairness to other buyers, there will always be another similar camera up for sale the next day. To get a real competition going between bidders you need to be selling something that is unique.

Anyway I was happy with the price and I hope the buyer will be happy with his camera. It's time to get down to some serious photography with my new toy.

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is due to start from Alicante on October 11th. Preparations are now near complete for this prestigious event.

They've built a 500metre long footbridge to take people from the Meliá Alicante hotel to the wharves where the boats are moored. The access roads have been widened and a new roundabout has been built. The total cost of all this work is about 15m euros of which the Catalan Autonomous Government has financed 60% - the remainder is from private sponsorship. Such is the prestige of this event though that they expect to recuperate that easily. With an estimated 1million visitors that could well be true.

On Tuesday, the two Telefónica yachts - Azul and Negro were christened by the Infantas Elena and Christina. Since I feel I've contribute a fair amount of money to these boats, I wish them luck!


Last night over 20,000 people gathered in the village they've built for this event to watch the opening ceremony. Francisco Camps, president of the Catalan Autonomous Government started proceedings at 8:30pm. Visitors then witnessed the spectacle, “Alicante Door of the Oceans”, in which hundreds participated. During the ceremony they used more than 1,000 kilos of gunpowder and 50,000 watts of light and sound. So business as usual - lots of loud bangs and plenty of glitz.

From now until the start date there are different events staged for each day including visits to a replica of the Nao Victoria which was used by Juan Sebastián Elcano on the first around-the-world voyage in the 16th century.

The Volvo Ocean race 2008-09 will finish in St Petersburg, Russia - June 2009. The teams will have sailed more than 37,000 nautical miles via Cape Town, Kochi, Singapore, Qingdao, around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Goteborg and Stockholm.


We missed the horse fair in Orihuela again. It seems to be at a different time each year which makes it difficult to predict when the fair will be held from one year to the next.

These photos from the fair on VegaBaja Digital only serve to show us just what me missed.

Next year we won't miss it!

European Elections 2009

The Ayuntamiento in Bigastro has kindly posted this notice informing non-Spanish residents of their rights to vote in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament in 2009.

Basically if you are registered on the Padron you should receive a letter from the Oficina del Censo Electoral. If you haven't received this notice by the beginning of November you should let the Ayuntamiento know.


José Joaquín Moya has now been Mayor of Bigastro for 25 years making this his seventh term of office. Neighbours and friends organised a special tribute for him last night.

Mayor 3 Mayor 2


Friday, September 19, 2008

Wise after the event

As you already know; Guardia Civil officers dismantled Telmicro's huge transmitter and satellite dishes in Los Montesinos. Then a day later, the company itself began dismantling another transmitter in La Siesta, claiming it was for “final checks and preparations.”

So, as I've said previously, it doesn't look as though Telmicro will be back on air in the near future. In fact many are now speculating that they may never return. The company haven't helped the situation for their customers by making announcements promising a return to service in the near future.

It seems that the only way to get UK TV legally here in Spain is to install a large dish and an LNB pointing to either Astra2D or the Eurobird satellite. Installing readily available consumer products and equipment designed to receive these satellite transmissions along with a free to air ‘digi’ box means that you are not infringing any copyright laws or licenses.

Advice from the Astra 2D site is:-

Use the biggest dish you can, bigger really is better, this will dramatically increase gain better than any other link in the chain.
Use a good LNB, a Blueline MTI or Invacom if possible, don't be fooled by fancy low noise claims or expensive "top of the range" LNB's.
Use a good quality cable, change this every few years, as this can become damaged by hot, cold or wet weather.
Choose a good receiver, one with the lowest signal "Threshold", this is the level at which the receiver will give you a watch able picture.

The problem comes when you try to site the large dish that is required (2.4m is suggested for this area). It has to be in the right place. A solarium is usually the best bet but only if you have one and want to give that up for other use.

One group here at Villas Andrea have solved that problem. Rather than each have an expensive dish filling their solariums, they share the signal from an oversize dish between several houses. The households involved shared the cost of the installation of the dish and cabling. Each home has its own free to air box so they can choose which channels to watch. The person who houses the dish then charges rent to the others for use of his solarium. Hopefully the dish is well secured because we do get strong winds here from time to time.

Actually, it's a pity the builders didn't anticipate this problem. They could have sited a huge dish on one of the unused parcels of land and cabled a feed to each house just as they did with the supply of propane gas. It wouldn't have suited those who wanted Sky but would have been legal. It would also have saved those who subsequently subscribed to Telmicro in terms of both money and frustration.

Smart and functional

Those uniforms for the Guardia Civil from China are of course "dress uniforms". Their everyday clothing is much more functional. However, it dates back twenty years and needs modernising.

Officers in Torrevieja, Madrid and Leon are evaluating new two new versions. They have until November to decide upon the pros and cons of the new style before they make a report.


There are seven officers in Torrevieja in the sample. You should be able to spot their baseball caps and the polo style shirts and notice that the green is a little darker.

These officers do look a lot more friendly but maybe that is because they were posing for the camera.

Logo competition

Design a logo for the Asociación Europea del Carnet Jove and you could win 5,000 €.

Click here for details.



Evolutionary process: the aim is to renew the present logo rather than create something totally new. Certain elements would need to be kept so that the new logo is easy to recognise and can be compared with the present one.
· The three more important characteristics are:
1. High value of recognition
2. Lasting, immutable, ie. not something that will date in the short term
3. Harmonious: the logo, the corporative colour and the typography must combine well
· Name EYCA (in capital letters or small letters) must be included in the logo.
· The symbol of Hercules can be used, but it is not obligatory. It can be a streamlined modernised or be an abstraction of the present one.
· At least one of the corporate colours must be used.
· The typography - source of old EURO<26 does not have to be conserved in word EYCA.
· The format of the new logo must be smaller than the old one and square similar to the logo used by Visa or Mastercard.

The finished design should be sent by email in the form of a jpg of not more than 4Mb in size and no larger than 800pixels on the largest side. Entries should be sent to logo@eyca.org by 5pm on the 30th September.

Dimensions of present logo

The width and the dimensions of the yellow frame, in proportion to the height, follow the proportions of the design of classic membership card: height/width = 1.00/0,43
Minimum altitude: 27.5 mm
Minimum width: 11.8 mm
Yellow frame: 0.5 mm

Colours of present logo

Yellow frame: Y 100% M 20%
Stars: Y 100% M 20%
Background of the logo: M 90% C 20%
Figure of Hercules: K 100%
Lettering EURO<26: American Typewriter, target, point 19, width 50%

The little yellow plane

As in previous years, following the instructions of the Conselleria of Agriculture, Fishing and Feeding, the little yellow plane has been spraying the citrus plantations in the area with Malation 50% p/v and hydrolyzed Protein to kill off the Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata Wied) that can devastate lemon and orange crops.

Unfortunately that hasn't killed off the insects that have bitten quite a few residents here. It seems that it is not just Pamela and I that suffered. Quite a few of our neighbours have been bitten just recently.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free food and beer

This Friday, to coincide with the start of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante(Alicantetimes2008.com), El Flamenco Restaurant is offering a free paella and beer lunch, in the restaurant at c/. San Francisco 12.
To find out how to get to us: www.Alicantetimes.com

My new camera

I'm pleased to say that I am delighted so far with my new camera. Of course it won't necessarily take better photographs, that is up to me, but it should make the process of getting good shots easier and more enjoyable.

In the meantime, the auction on EBay for the previous camera is going well. In the first day of the auction I had a message from someone wanting me to close the auction and sell  the camera to him for £180. I declined the offer and now, with 2 days left, the reserve price has been met and I have 15 watchers. Hopefully there will be a flurry of bidding in the last hour or so on Saturday as eager buyers hope to snipe the camera at the best possible price. If not, then the present bidder will get a great camera at a knockdown price and I will regret not taking up that early offer.

I'll let you know.

I don't believe it

We haven't really suffered from insect bites since we were badly bitten at the end of July.

Normally, once the breeding season is over,  mosquitoes leave you alone. Yesterday morning though I could feel the tell tale itches and the red wheals starting to appear. I've got a nasty one on my back, one on each arm, three on one leg and two on the other.  I quickly applied the cream we'd bought which soothed them well for the whole day.

However, the effects of the cream obviously wore off during the night. A mixture of itching and pain kept me awake for an hour or so in the early hours of this morning when I was too sleepy to go and find the tube of cream. I was sorely tempted to scratch them but I know that will only make them worse.

The annoying thing is I have no idea when I could have been bitten. I went outside the night before just to close the shed and lock the gate so I can only assume it was then. Either that or the buggers have started to bite in the daytime.  I was only outside for a few minutes  the night before.  If it was then, the mossies must have been desperately lying in wait to ambush me. Perhaps they have been driven from the campo by the little yellow plane that has been spraying the orange groves for the last week or so.

We're unlikely to to get bitten during the  night because we have mosquito blinds on all our windows which we religiously pull down. Our daughters have just returned from Cyprus where the younger one was bitten. She couldn't sleep with the air conditioning switched on so she slept with the window open with neither blinds nor a mosquito repellent in the room.

The pain and the misery almost makes you  long for  winter when the flies, wasps and mosquitoes all go to sleep. Thankfully it is short lived and I will have forgotten about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I hate being beaten

When we got the digital photo frame I was disappointed to find that some of my pictures wouldn't display.

After a bit of testing and checking in the manual, I found that the problem photos were the ones which I had post processed in Photoshop. Those that were simply transferred from the camera to the frame worked fine.

All well and good but a) I had a number of photos that I wanted to display that I couldn't and b) I post process most of my pictures -reducing digital noise, adjusting the colour balance, cropping, sharpening, even removing elements or taking parts from one photograph and pasting them in another. It is all part of the creative process and the reason why digital images are so good.

Finally, with a bit of experimentation, I have found the solution to the problem. Once I've finished processing the images and saved them, I open them in Canon's Digital Photo Professional, a program which comes with all their DSLR cameras, and then choose Convert and save from the file menu. This restores the file format to one which the Sony digital frame can read. Bingo - problem solved.

Now we can view all of our photographs on the frame regardless of what changes I've made to them.

Those of you with a digital photo frame who are experiencing a similar problem can download the software from Canon's web site.

Digital +

During the first few months after moving here we had no television reception at all. If we had wanted British TV, the only solution would have been a huge satellite dish and a dodgy contract with Sky via a bogus address neither of which appealed to us.

People who had lived here for some time told us the problems they faced getting British TV. They'd spent hundreds of euros moving from one system to another. Even then they found that programs would disappear only to miraculously reappear the next day.

So what other choices did we have?  A simple aerial would have brought us Spanish terrestrial TV but without any command of the language that would have been hard work. We could have bought a freeview box along with a satellite dish pointed to Astra 2 or Hotbird. There are plenty of channels available to watch via either.

What we opted for though was Digital + which is the equivalent of Sky here in Spain. The deal was you bought the package for 10€ and then phoned to arrange for installation. A week later our dish was installed and we sat back to see what was available.

Many of the channels were in Spanish as you might expect but a good few broadcast programmes in both English and Spanish. We could get BBC World News, Euronews, France 24 (in English), CNN, Fox News and even Al Jazeera in English. For weather there was Meteo which although in Spanish is easy to follow.

We quickly found People and Arts which showed BBC series like Spooks, Hustle, Changing Rooms etc. and AXN which shows CSI, CSI Miami and CSI New York along with many other American series.

Canal 1 and 2 show a lot of films in English which are barely two years old. Sci-Fi and TNT also host films in English mostly from the late 90s. Canal 1 also shows excellent series from both England and America e.g. The Tudors and Mad Men.

National Geographic and Viajar are two of our favourites. Both show a mix of programmes in English, Spanish and French. We've learnt a lot about our new country by watching those channels.

For music fans there are VH1 , MTV Spain, Latin and 40 along with a good selection of digital radio stations. Children are well catered for by a host of cartoon channels including several broadcast by Disney. We even have a cookery channel which shows Jamie Oliver's programmes dubbed into Spanish.

With 160 channels, there is a lot to explore including a dedicated high definition channel and the excellent Sony TV channel. Our new iPlus box allows us to receive HD TV and has the facility to record programmes on its 160Gb hard drive. It was on offer at 395€ and was well worth it.

The question we are always asked though is, "can you get BBC and ITV?" The answer is of course NO - neither would be legal. Do we miss them - not as much as you might expect.

Telmicro information

Those of you who subscribe to Telmicro will already know this:-

Updated 15/09/2008

The Telmicro TV system is not broadcasting.

The ongoing legal proceedings require all the relevant technical equipment to be looked at. Due to the secrecy of these proceedings, no further information is available.

Our Technical Support lines are not operational at this time.

Telmicro apologise to its clients and thank them for their patience and support during these difficult times.

We are expecting a statement and an announcement regarding the return of TV service very soon.

Apparently the police dismantled Telmicro's antennae last Tuesday which would seem to indicate that, contrary to their statement, they will not be coming back very soon.

On one of the local forums is this notice which is blatantly a spoof:-

We wish to thank all our clients for their support and financial help which we have found very useful for moving our TV equipment out of the country Further information will be available from our Bulgarian set up.

Such is the power of the Internet, rumours like this spread quickly and are taken by some as fact. Already there are people asking whether they will be able to get a service from Bulgaria here in Spain!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Leave the tinnies at home in future

Enjoy a beer on the beaches of Alicante and you could face a fine of up to 750€.

A new ordinance, which has yet to be approved, restricts the consumption of  alcohol to the areas around the chiringuitos.

The proliferation of Eastern ladies offering massages could also be restricted by the new law as could the playing of ball games if they are deemed to be a nuisance to others on the beach.

It is all very well passing laws but only if you have the means to enforce them. The local police are going to be sorely stretched if they now have to patrol beaches looking for offenders of the new laws. They're also going to be a little warm in their traditional uniform and boots.

The big problem is of course not the drinking but the litter that is left behind - particularly bottles.

The Spanish are a nation of litter louts. Just witness the area in front of the bar in any hostelry to see this for yourself. Everything goes on the floor waiting for the owner to sweep it up. It's the same in the streets and the parks. Following a fiesta, the street cleaners must collect tons of sunflower seed husks along with the rest of the rubbish that is left behind.

A matter of cost

GuardiaThe Guardia Civil have started importing  uniforms from China.

For 164 years the officers have worn uniforms made in Spain by Indyco and Fesca.

Now Sibide, a company based in Tianjin have supplied 10,000 sets of trousers, jackets, shirts and a few of the trademark tricornios hats to the Guardia.

Apparently there are a few problems to iron out though. The sizing's are wrong; the trousers are too short, the jackets too small and the hats, instead of being oval are round. 

Still I imagine the Chinese will get it right in the end and their competitive pricing will win the day. 

The local brew

Last week they finished picking the grape harvest at La Mata. The eight owners there have between them 66 hectares of vines of which 66% are planted with moscatel and 33% with meseguera grapes.

This year's harvest has been very good. It is estimated that the crop will produce 25,000 litres (6,000 more than last year) of the white gold coloured wine which will reach an alcohol content of 15% by volume .

Before the city-planning development on the Torrevieja coast,  vineyards extended from the Alto de la Casilla to la Mata on both sides of Cnn 332 as far as the pine dunes.

The remaining vineyards of the Natural Park have survived from generation to generation only because of the  symbolic rent the owners pay to the salt company. The vines escaped the epidemic of phylloxera because they are planted on sandy soil. That is why these century old vineyards are able to produce wine with such a high alcohol content.

For those who want to try it, the wine can be bought from the the small warehouses you'll find at La Mata.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The belt is starting to cinch

I've never really taken any interest in stock markets. Some of my ex-colleagues would buy and sell stocks and shares and then track their progress. They'd gain the odd windfall here and loose out elsewhere. I saw that as a form of gambling which is something that has never  interested me at all.

These days though we are all so badly affected by what is happening in the world's financial markets. The rate of exchange, the ability to sell or buy a house and the vulnerability of our savings means we can no longer ignore what is going on in the heady world of finance. When the tightened belt starts to cut into your waist you have to sit up and take notice.

It seems that, in the world of finance, there is no good news, only bad and for today...

The American banking system is facing  meltdown following the collapse of  the Lehman Brothers, one of the world’s biggest investment banks. At the same time, Merrill Lynch was rescued by the Bank of America.

Lehman's problems were caused by its exposure to the American mortgage market. The treasury has already rescued Bear Stearns and the two largest mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalised just over a week ago. In the case of the Lehman Brothers though the US Treasury refused to act.

Today we will see the fallout from this as the stock markets throughout the world react to the news. You can't help but feel that things are not going to get better in the world's money markets within the near future and that is bad for all of us.

I just hope I can buy a larger belt.

Another quake

An earthquake of 3.5 on the Ritcher scale shook Hondón de los Frailes  yesterday at 4:03 pm. This is the third quake over 2.7 in the area this summer.

The effects of the tremor could be felt in the surrounding area, especially in Albatera. Police in Orihuela and Callosa received calls from people wanting to know where the epicentre was. There were also reports of the effects in Catral, Guardamar, Almaradi, Cox, Elche and Alicante.

Most of the reports were of crockery and glasses moving rather than cases of structural damage. In the epicentre however,  people claimed that the tremor was proceeded by a loud roar which was more frightening than the actual movement.

Sunday, September 14, 2008



One down and a few hundred to go as our friendly spider finishes of the remains of a fly she caught.

Anyone for chess?

Are there any chess players around?

Mark, from the Restaurante El Flamenco in Alicante, would dearly love to restart playing chess again after a 5 year hiatus.

Here is the deal: if you win, he pays for your lunch or dinner. If he wins, you pay the normal price :-)   

Or course the meal is in his restaurant in Alicante (www.alicantetimes.com).
Don't worry - he plays only medium .... so you stand a (very) reasonable chance :-)

Restaurante El Flamenco

Divided opinion

Just over half of the readers of Vegabajadigital agree with the Socialist party in Orihuela that the names of any streets which bear reference to Francisco Franco should be changed.

A third of the readers said the names should remain and the rest thought that politicians should spend their time and effort on more important things.

La Ley de Memoria Histórica, which condemned the Francoist regime, was passed on 31st October last year.

The main provisions of the law are:

  • Recognition of the victims of political, religious and ideological violence on both sides of the Spanish Civil War and of Franco's regime.
  • Condemnation of the Francoist regime
  • Prohibition of political events at the Valley of the Fallen - Franco's burial place.
  • The removal of francoist symbols from public buildings and spaces. Exceptions may be given for artistic or architectural reasons, or in the case of religious spaces.
  • State help in the tracing, identification and eventual exhumation of victims of Francoist repression whose corpses are still missing, often buried in mass graves.
  • The granting of Spanish nationality to surviving members of the International Brigades, without requiring them to renounce their own nationalities.
  • Rejection of the legitimacy of laws passed and trials conducted by the Francoist regime.
  • Temporary change to Spanish nationality law, granting the right of return and de origen citizenship to those who left Spain under Franco for political or economic reasons, and their descendants.
  • Provision of aid to the victims and descendants of victims of the Civil War and the Francoist regime.

The PP party criticised this law which they say only opens up old wounds.

It's hard to imagine how changing the names of streets would help erase the memory of what happened.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Up for sale


Having just got a new Canon EOS 450D, my 350D is now up for sale on Ebay.

As I've stated in the advert:-

Although this camera is two years old, it has taken less than 2,000 photographs and so performs like new.
It comes complete in original box with all the extras - cables, documents, charger, CDs etc.
I bought the camera in Spain but am selling it with a UK plug for the charger and an English manual.
Also included is a 1Gb Lexar Professional CF card.

I also have the original Spanish manual for anyone who buys it here in Spain.

To be honest, I'll be sad to see the camera go because it has taken some excellent photographs including a couple of weddings and of course my pictures of the various events in Bigastro.

I've got my fingers crossed that the move to the latest model will prove worth it!

Information from Telmicro 10.09.08

The Telmicro TV system is not broadcasting at the moment.

The ongoing legal proceedings require all the relevant technical equipment to be looked at. Due to the secrecy of these proceedings, no further information is available at this time.

Our Technical Support lines are not operational at this time.

Telmicro apologise to its clients and thank them for their patience and support during these difficult times.

There will be a statement and an announcement regarding the return of TV service on Monday 15th of September.

Reducing standards in English

Half of the 4 and 5 year old children in the Alicante province  (over 15,000) will not be getting English lessons this term.

National legislation states that children should learn English from a young age in order to improve the use of the language within the general population. However the Conselleria de Education has not arranged for sufficient numbers of teachers to meet the demand

Insufficient resources in individual schools and lack of money to hire staff are cited as the root of the problem.

In our experience, English is not popular amongst many Spanish children who find it a difficult language to get to grips with. We are told that, even in secondary schools, there is a heavy reliance upon text book learning rather than oral work which would probably make the lessons dull for students.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Art deco

IMG_0043 IMG_0042


It isn't just the windows that are stylish in Cartegena. How about the art deco gates and railings on this building.

Glass curtains

Those of you who think that glass curtains are a modern way of enclosing a balcony or terrace should visit Cartagena.


These don't slide or rotate like the modern ones do but I can't help but feel that they are more stylish.

He can stay


This big spider that has taken up residence in our garden. We don't know what type it is; even whether it is poisonous or not.

As long as it catches a few of the pesky flies though we don't mind it staying. Sadly, where it is positioned on the lavender it is more likely to catch the tiny bees that visit to collect pollen.

Update:- Pete has identified it as a variety of St. Andrew's Cross spider which are non poisonous and non aggressive.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

¿Que pasa?

So what are you up to this morning? What have you got planned for the day?

I'm outside writing this on my laptop. The sun is shining through a clear blue sky. There's a pleasant breeze just keeping me cool. I have a cup of tea by my side and my pipe filled ready for when I've posted this item. Then it will be time for breakfast at the table on the terrace.

After breakfast, we'll go for a steady stroll down to the market. I don't think there is much that we need to buy but it is nice just to go down and meet people. In the narrow street where the market is held, the aromas of spices and cooked hams will mingle with those of the fresh fruit and vegetables. It does wonders for your appetite.

We'll collect the post and then go to the VaiVen bar for a coffee - maybe even a toasted half baguette with olive oil and salt. Refreshed, we'll saunter back up the hill in time for a dip in the pool. The last bit up Calle Irlanda is steep so we'll definitely need another drink or two on our return.

This afternoon we'll probably relax on the sunbeds by the pool maybe taking a further dip or two in the pool.

Tonight we're going to La Finca Eduardo's with our friends Hugh, Angela and Andrew. It is one of our favourite restaurants. The ambience, the food and the service make it special for us. I'm sure we'll have a great meal and a fantastic time in excellent company.

Then tomorrow promises tol be another busy day just like today!

For residents

This Saturday, the 13th September rock guitarist Alan Warden will be taking us through the years playing all our favourites from Pink Floyd, Led Zepelin, Dire Straits etc. Starts 8.45pm (free entry) indoors.

The rollover of the lottery stands at 350€ so please remember to bring your cards.

Also it's Darren's birthday that night. Help the guy to celebrate by being there.

Tuesday 16th will be a relaxing / quiet night playing board games - chess, draughts, dominoes, cards etc. Please bring your board games with you and if anyone has any board games to give away please let Darren know. Starts from 8pm onwards. Who knows, if the groups get big enough this could lead to chess leagues etc.

Wednesday 17th is RACE NIGHT. It's time to have a flutter.

The 20th September - Coles Country and western night with songs from new and old plus line dancing if you fancy a go at it. We'll also have the presentation of trophies for the women's darts and men's pool. Another 8.30pm start (indoors).

On Wednesday 24th September it will be quiz night- back by popular demand. This starts 8.30pm.

So there you go - a full programme of things to do to stop us from getting bored.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Walks in Torrevieja

A new 48 page guide has just been published containing three illustrated walks around the town and neighbouring areas. The walks are designed to be both interesting and informative about local history and the environment around Torrevieja.

Included in the guide is a small DVD which can be downloaded to an ipod or mp3 you playerproviding you with a commentary which can be used as you do the walks.

The first is the"salt route" which explores places and points of interest to do with the salt industry on which the town was founded. The route takes in the old railway station, the Ricardo Lafuente museum of Habaneras, the Salt Industry interpretation centre which contains many exhibits about the salt industry, the Museo del Mar y la Sal, the Eras de Sal and includes the waterway channel between the sea and the salt lakes as well as the Paseo Maritimo.

The second walk is the "sailor route" and starts in the main square in the town ending up right at the end of the Dique de Levante taking in the fishing fleet, the static exhibits of the submarine and the customs boat, the Casino and the port itself along the way.

The last walk is the "nature route" and is a guided walk around the park at La Mata starting at the Visitors’ centre and ending at the observation tower close to the Crevillente road at the Los Montesinos roundabout.

The guide, which is beautifully illustrated and packed with interesting background information, has been published in Spanish, English, French and German and can be obtained from Tourist information offices in the town.

PSOE say no to Torremendo site

The Socialist City Councils of Guardamar, Benijofar, Bigastro, Redovan, San Isidro, San Fulgencio and Los Montesinos have presented their objections to the relocation of the regional rubbish dump to the proposed site at Torremendo.

At a press conference held at Guardamar Town Hall, Deputy Mayor of Bigastro, Raul Valerio, Said: “We have presented our objections to the amendments made to the Regional Plan. We feel that the proposed move has not been planned with any consideration to social or economic factors. The community of Torremendo is just as against this move as people living near the previous location – nothing has changed.”

Snr Valerio also said he could see very little financial gain to moving the site despite claims that there would be a difference of 10 per cent in the payments made by the local municipalities. The group believe that its is wrong to change the location originally outlined in the Plan, which was agreed on the basis of location and price, without further investigation or following procedure.

He finished by saying: “These modifications are going to affect all the municipalities of the region rather than one government or political party. It’s a matter of general interest. For that reason, it’s important to know what the changes are, that they will be made sympathetically and that the location does not adversely affect our surroundings or our region.”

Prevention is better than cure

Since forest fires are a common place in Spain during the hot summer months, a new system has been put in place to pin point fires and potential hazards.

In the emergency room of Protección Civil, Spain’s emergency coordination service point, indicators lights up on the map of Spain as satellites pick up hot spots. Technicians check it out to see if it is a false alarm. At the same time, a computer program combines dozens of variables to produce a simulation of how the fire is likely to advance, minute by minute, without action being taken.

The new satellite fire-detection system, which was being tested last year, is now fully functional together with the fire simulation program, which was started up this week.

The satellite Meteosat can spot any abnormal rise in temperature on the surface of the land using infrared technology. There are some false alarms, but when a point lights up on the map it usually means a fire.

The satellite sends a message every 15 minutes, with a margin of error of three kilometers. Technicians then enter the Meteosat location coordinates into the program, and within 15 seconds, the system has combined ambient temperature, wind speed and direction, slopes, humidity, the type of combustible material in the zone (scrub, forest, degree of dryness) with a number of other factors, and projects the probable advance of the fire on the screen. Towns, highways and gas stations also appear on the screen to show the time available for evacuation, if necessary.

This system is supplementary to the nationwide fire risk bulletins published twice daily on the public information page www.inforiesgos.es It is also additional to the system for follow-up of fire prevention resources, indicating the nationwide distribution of firefighting equipment, such as planes and helicopters.

In 2005, at one point, half the forest fires in Europe were burning in Spain, and the year-end balance amounted to over 172,000 hectares of forest and scrub land burnt. This year, abundant rain has delayed the high fire risk period. But this has a negative aspect because the grass that has grown high with the rain is now drying and will soon be easily combustible.

Of course it helps if people use common sense and don't deliberately create situations where fires can start.

The constant threat of fires

Three blazes, thought to have been started deliberately, were all put out last Wednesday in the Marina Alta area, north Costa Blanca. One blaze broke out at 4pm in Lliber. It had two centres, one in Alcanalí and another in Pedeguer close to the residential Monte Solana area.

The Mayor of Pedeguer, Andrés Ferrer, said it seemed the blaze had been started deliberately. Two fire-fighting helicopters were used and the blaze was declared to be out at 7.30pm.

Two earlier small fires in the region are also both thought to have been started deliberately.

The following day on Thursday, saw another three fires take hold. In Guardamar, firefighters fought all afternoon, against an ever-increasing wall of flames, as they tried to protect a nearby petrol station from becoming engulfed and resulting in disaster.

The fire, which had started sometime around midday, had gone unnoticed until smoke began billowing across the Agip petrol station forecourt, adjacent to the N-332, and the alarm was raised. By then, the flames had taken on such ferocity that three engines were called into attendance but still the fire, fanned by a strong breeze, crept towards the petrol station on the ease side of the road. Guardia, Policia Local and fire crews needed face masks as the smoke completely swallowed up the petrol station. Incredibly, cars pulled in, drivers got out of their cars, choked…and tried to fill up. After three hours, the fire had spread and threatened the petrol station from two sides while firefighters struggled to contain it. However, at four o’clock and with the fire now under control, although still burning viciously, a water-carrying plane was called for and within minutes of it dumping its load onto the flames the fire crews on the ground managed to start winning the battle.

Fire investigators at the scene expect to pin the blame on a stray cigarette or litter that had piled up in the surrounding scrubland catching fire in the heat of the day. Fortunately, no injuries were reported on the day and the services united in warning people of the dangers created by throwing cigarettes and litter into the verge.

Later that afternoon at urbanisation La Marina, a further fire sent thick black smoke billowing in to the sky at around 5pm causing concern amongst residents.

The owner of the Los Pinchos restaurant, opposite where the blaze started, was first to raise the alarm calling the emergency services just after 5pm. Policia Local were immediately on the scene directing traffic away from the fire as fire crews from Santa Pola and the Vega Baja arrived shortly after. The rapid intervention meant damage was limited and the fire was contained.

And in the evening, in El Galan, a forest fire broke out on the road from the urbanisation to San Miguel. The smoke was first notoced at about 6.30pm. Thankfully the wind was blowing the flames away from property. Again, the fire was contained quickly.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mucky rain

The weather yesterday was distinctly British. There were sunny spells but it was generally overcast and dull. Still warm enough to be outside in just shorts but not hot and sticky as it was throughout much of August.

By 7pm it was looking quite stormy and so we abandoned any ideas of eating outside. We went up onto the roof terrace for coffee later to watch the fireworks in the distance. That is until it started to rain.

Normally you expect the rain to wash everything reasonably clean. Not this rain. This was definitely coming across from the Sahara desert. As a result, everything outside is covered in a thick layer of brown dust this morning.

So it is all hands ot the deck with the hosepipe and the brush followed by a thorough clean of the bottom of the pool.

Still we shouldn't complain. According to reports, much of Britain is under flood alert as the rain continues to fall on saturated ground which just can't soak up anymore water.

In any case, the sun is shining through a thin veil of cloud making the job not too unpleasant. We might just have breakfast first though if we can find somewhere clean to sit.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

La huerta

The traditional gardens of the River Segura are shrinking.

In 1998 there were 51,840 hectares of kitchen garden in the three fertile valleys. By 2004, in just six years, that had shrunk by 8,781 hectares and is set to shrink further. The new roads that will link Catral to Murcia, Guardamar to Orihuela and Orihuela to Torrevieja along with the AVE (high speed train) route will eat away further the land under cultivation.

The huerta has Arab roots dating back to the 8th Century. The system of drainage of the flood plains via a network of azarbes makes it unique in Europe. It provides great ecological, economic and cultural patrimony to the area. Let us hope that it doesn't eventually get covered completely by concrete and tarmac.

More than I can drink

The Entertainments Committee have certainly brought new life to the Albergue at La Pedrera. The disco last night was well attended especially considering that a number of people had been to the restaurant the night before for José's "Dinner with Opera" .

We arrived in good time for Happy Hour with its "Buy One Get One Free" offer. Pam then won second prize in the raffle - 15€ worth of drinks. So we had drinks all night for 4.20€ and even brought a bottle of wine home with us. José will not make his fortune out of people like us!

The lottery draw was close. The first number out of the bag was zero giving 17 people a chance of winning. A second zero brought that down to 3 people. Sadly though nobody had chosen 002 which means that the next draw will be for 350€.

I'm told that a similar lottery on the coast stands at 1,500€. It wouldn't surprise me to see ours get up to a similar figure.

PS José had a new strobe light to play with. Just as well there weren't any epileptics there last night. There's now more lights in that small area than the Hammersmith Palais had.