Thursday, December 31, 2009

No more this year

This may well be my last post for this year unless I find something wildly interesting to write about as the day progresses!

It is the 1035th post I’ve written for 2009. That astounds me. In 2006, I wrote just 405, then 597 in 2007. By 2008 I thought I had peaked at 923. Surely I could not keep this up but I have. Maybe next year I will have less to write about or maybe I will have more, who knows.

One thing for sure, 2010 will be a better year than 2009 if only because by February I should  be a grandfather. Everyone tells me that being a grandparent is in many ways better than being a parent because when the going gets tough, you can hand the screaming child back to its parents. I will have to wait and see.

One thing that would really make me happy next year is for the Pound to strengthen against the Euro. In fairness, it has ended the year better than it started but only just. To be honest,  we have got used to the poor exchange rate and cut our cloth according to our means so if it does go up we will have surplus cash that we won’t know what to do with. (that was a joke).

As for resolutions, well I could say I will quit smoking, go out on my bike more and cut down on the amount of brandy I drink but that would be a waste of time. I figure that if I have to go sooner rather than later at least I will have been happy. Let’s face it, without my pipe and a nightcap of brandy, I would be a thoroughly miserable person you wouldn't want to know.

People always say on New Year’s Eve, “I don’t know where the year has gone”. In my case that is true because actually I can’t remember much of it! Increasingly it becomes a strain just to recall what I did last week let alone last month or six  months prior.

On that profound note, can I wish you all a prosperous new year.

Quo join the status quo.

Just to prove that if you stick at something for long enough, then you get recognised, Status Quo's ageing rockers Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi will be awarded OBEs for services to music and to charity in today’s New Year’s honours list.

The surprise though may not be in the fact that they have been chosen for the awards but that they have accepted them. It wasn’t hard to believe that the Beatles accepted their MBEs nor that Cliff Richard accepted his knighthood. However, when Mick Jagger was knighted in 2003, it seemed that becoming part of the establishment was no longer regarded as being incongruous with the “rock n roll” lifestyle.

But for Status Quo though – who would ever have thought it?

"Us, of all people!" said Rossi, lead singer. "I'm not sure that we deserve it, but fuck it, I'm so made up it's ridiculous. You hear about people refusing them because it's not rock'n'roll but that's a dickhead approach. My partner [Parfitt] is even more excited about it – he's probably blubbing. You start off rebellious, a teenager in a band, but you end up being part of the establishment."

Given decades of notoriously wild living, Parfitt doubted that he could be suitable candidate for an honour. "I'd kind of given up hoping. Particularly with my wild past – if they'd reviewed some of my old newspaper cuttings," said the lead guitarist and singer, who has survived an emergency quadruple heart bypass and a cancer scare.

In spite of what much of conservative British might say, after more than 40 years, 22 British top 10 singles, 32 album hits and more than 118m record sales worldwide they deserve the honours. Quo are still lauded as Britain's hardest working band, playing to 250,000 fans at 27 arenas in 2009 alone. They have also raised millions for charity.

Who will be up next for an honour - Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols? In time even Pete Docherty and Amy Winehouse may become eligible.

That is good news

he Regional public works council has set aside 73.3 million Euros to spent on 10 projects that will provide greater safety and security on the roads in Alicante Province over the next four years.

Some of the projects, such as the connection between the Orihuela bypass and the A-7 and the resurfacing of the CV-855 between Elche and Dolores are already underway.

I hope that making the roads safer doesn't mean that they will be made faster otherwise that will defeat the object of the exercise.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Relative calm at the Casa Consitorial

Apparently the extraordinary council meeting yesterday was relatively calm. Seven of the points raised were related to the controversial Sector D-6, the others related to various other matters like the parking at La Paz.

Some of the issues were covered without debate on the part of the mayor who believes these matters have only been raised to keep the controversy alive for political reasons.

One point that was raised referred to an auction of 3,000 square metres of land annexed to Sector D-9 (Urb. VIllas Andrea) where Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the opposition,  would have had had a vested interest. Murcia explained that although the company he worked for, Star Sol, had lost money as a result of the transaction, he hadn’t lost out personally. However, the mayor felt it was still necessary to ask Murcia lo leave the room at this point and not to take part in the vote because of his possible conflict of interests which Murcia refused to do.

Ultimately, in relation to all the issues raised at the meeting , the mayor is of the opinion that the PP are more interested in raking up the past that trying to move forwards. On the other hand, I expect the PP would argue that they are simply making sure that the wrongs of the past are not swept under the carpet as if they never happened. We need to remember that, apart from Sector D-6, there are still the issues related to the previous mayor, José Joaquín Moya that have yet to be dealt with. 

Turn a 9 over and it becomes a 6

image Ginés Ruiz, the major partner in Star Sol has asked the City Council to explain the receipt for payment by the subsidiary Andrea Villas of 350,000 Euros at the end of 2003 for a “canon de urbanización” in Sector D-6. As Ruiz says, city planning in that sector had not been approved by the Consell.  Furthermore he wants to know whey they then went on to pay 27,000 Euros for work licenses in that sector.

Ginés Ruiz has documentation to show that the payments were made in instalments to the city council and now seeks clarification about the “validity, effectiveness and authenticity” of these documents. He says that they were not authorised by him even though they bear his signature. At that time Ruiz and Aurelio Murcia were partners in the company Star Sol.

The present mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina explains that the council have receive the documentation from Ruiz dating back to 1998 and they are looking into the matter. As Medina points out, José Joaquín Moya was mayor during that period.

In the meantime, Aurelio Murcia offers an explanation. He says that the “canon” was in fact for Sector D-9 (Urb. Villas Andrea) and not Sector D-6. In other words the documentation is a mistake on the part of the City Council.

That would of course explain why there have been problems for people selling their houses here. When it came to the point of sale, solicitors for the buyers were told that the the work licenses had not been paid by Star Sol. In each case, as far as I am aware, the matter has been resolved but clearly this has put off some buyers getting involved.

What I find incredible is, not that a mistake may have been made but that it has taken so long for Ruiz and Star Sol to discover it. How on earth could they have documentation for so long and not realise that it was wrong if indeed it is wrong?

This is not the only mistake made by Star Sol. For example, according to Cadastra I owned 40 square metres of my neighbours plot. At some point, the plot boundaries were changed but not notified to the Cadastral offices in Alicante.

Is it any wonder that British buyers no longer have faith in buying property here in Spain. The horror stories you read about illegal properties, followed by tales of corruption, shoddy construction, building on unsuitable land and then issues like this are bound to dent people’s confidence.

I’ve got wind again

imageAEMET have 28 provinces on yellow alert for wind again. They say that in the southwest they will be moderate with strong gusts in mountainous regions.

Yesterday was like a warm summers day in Britain with temperatures reaching 25 centigrade and very little wind to trouble us.

Today we are back to grey skies again but it does still feel mild. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Singing gala


The Municipal Audience welcomes this next weekend the following cultural programming:


The Association of Relatives and Patients of Alzheimer and other dementias "Acuérdate de mí"and the Council of Social welfare have organised this gala to raise funds.

For a small contribution (3 € ), you will be able to enjoy a spectacle produced by the School of Song of Bigastro and the the soloist Susana Vandanyan.

You can get your tickets from the following places:
The Alzheimer Association at the Centro Social Integrado, the Supermercado El Marqués (C/ Purísima), the Auditorio Municipal or the Clínica de Fisioterapia "Bigastro".

Get the oven on


Bigastro has announced the ninth edition of the Competition for Christmas Confection. Now I know that some of you are handy with a mixing bowl and can turn out a great cake and some fabulous mince pies. This could be your opportunity to impress the locals and win a prize.

The judging will take place next Sunday 10th January at 5pm in the Auditorium.

You can sign up for this anytime up to the 8th January.

PS This is not a childish prank like my item about the bus service. The day for jokes is over.

I apologise most profusely

To anyone who thought there was really going to be a bus service into town.

If I can explain: yesterday was Santos Inocentes which is like April Fools Day in Britain but held on the 28th December here in Spain. It is a day when people, especially children, try to trick everyone else. OK, I might have the body of an adult (an ageing one at that) but as Pam will will tell you, I have the mind of a child. 

In many Spanish towns the 28th is a day when the people try to confound innocent strangers by publishing impossible or ridiculous public notices, hence my item about the new bus service to Villas Andrea (apologies to the Mayor here for taking his name in vain there).

In Ibi they take this joking to the extreme. The town has its own council of non-elected persons who throw flour around and play tricks on everyone especially the real Mayor and the town council.

In Ibi it this is called the ‘festa dels Enfarinats’. On the eve of the fiesta some of those residents are designated as Els Enfarinats» whose job it is to parade the streets asking citizens if they have any complaints.

The new council then attack the opposition - the real town council. The council-for-a-day pour forth verbal abuse on all the things that the real councillors have promised to do and have failed to achieve. (does that sound familiar?).

The government for the day then announce new nonsense laws - no drinking, no walking in the sun nor in the shade, no smoking, no walking on the pavement, nor in the street and other similar types of regulations. Those who break these laws are liable to an on-the-spot fine and are then pelted with flour.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Will it snow – NO!

imageThere is not a lot to say about the weather this week. It is going to be milder and hopefully drier than of late although I notice it has rained again during the night.

I won’t mention the wind on New Year’s Eve having warned of strong winds last week. At least it looks as if it should be calm, if a little dull, for my birthday on the 3rd (21 again!).

My Christmas wish

Now that the plan parcial for Sector D-6 has been approved and Iberdrola have accepted it, the street lights can be turned on. This was supposed to happen on Christmas Eve granting a Christmas wish to the people who live there.

Now I have a Christmas wish: I would like the two main parties in Bigastro to try and work together for the betterment of the town.  I know that won’t happen before the extraordinary meeting tomorrow night but maybe this could be a New Year’s resolution for them.

Packed to the gunnels

There are some concerts performed by the Banda de la Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro where you definitely need to be early to get a seat. Anytime the children from the music school are playing is one and the Christmas Concert is another.

We set out a little later than usual last night and couldn’t get in the car park the other side of the main road from the Auditorium. That was a clue as to how many people might already be in the building. A quick glance downstairs and we headed off for the balcony where there were no more than a dozen seats left. By the time the concert was due to start, there was not a seat left, not even a space to stand or an aisle unoccupied. Next to Pam were an engaged couple, she was sitting on his knees and told him to behave!

Scan10011 Bear in mind that we were early and that very few of these events start on time. On many occasions we have seen people arrive twenty minutes after a concert has started and still get a seat. Anyone arriving twenty minutes late last night would have been stood outside in the park.

What of the programme? As you can see the first half was filled with showcase pieces for us to enjoy. Nothing Christmassy there though. That had to wait until the second half when the children filled the back of the stage ready to sing carols to us.

Anyone who has visited a Spanish supermarket in the last week would probably recognise Chiquirritín with its catchy play on words and Rin rin with its impossible chorus. However, I reckon most of our English neighbours would be hard pressed to follow the translation of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” into Spanish.

For the benefit of my Spanish readers the original lyrics are on the left. The Spanish version on the right is totally different.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten, and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

Oh, blanca Navidad, sueño
y con la nieve alrededor
blanca es mi quimera
y es mensajera de paz
y de puro amor.

Oh, blanca Navidad, nieve
una esperanza y un cantar
recordar tu infancia podrás
al llegar la blanca navidad.

Now that’s considerate


The Ayuntamiento in Bigastro are concerned that fewer people from Villas Andrea are managing to get into town and take part in the activities there.

The town hall appreciates that it might be too far for some to walk and at the same time too short a distance to use the car for.

In order to help us, the Council for Social Welfare have agreed to put on a mini bus service from Villas Andrea to the centre of the town running every hour between 10am and 2pm and 4pm and 10pm weekdays and between 4pm and 10pm at weekends.

The service, which will be free, is set to pick up and drop off at the entrance to the estate and then again at the top of Calle Cañada de Andrea; stopping outside the Masymas supermarket in town.

However, I understand that you will be able to stop the bus anywhere along its route by indicating to the driver. In England you would put your arm out, in Spain I understand that you do the same but with your leg.

We don’t have a starting date for this service as yet but I imagine it will be within the next couple of weeks. For more information you can call in at the Centro social Integrado. C/ Acequia; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 2opm or email them at telling them where and when you read about this.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A time for giving

image As is traditional at this time of year, the Council of Social welfare directed by Mari Carmen Alonso, along with the Association of Disabled of Bigastro, visited the elderly and the infirm to bring Christmas to them.

In the picture you can see the mayor along with students who sang carols and brought gifts with them.

When I was a young teacher at Anfield, we used to make up parcels of food for the elderly and get the hardest villains from the fifth year (now Yr 11) to deliver them.

Both parties benefited because, the elderly were very appreciative of the gift and the pupils showed a caring side not evidenced before in school. 

Cold comfort

We may not have cared care much for the cold and the rain over the last week or so but the weather has brought benefits for the winter crops of the Vega Baja.

The main crops in winter; the early artichokes, broccoli and potatoes have benefited from the rain and the low temperatures will improve the spring flowering of the citrus trees.

The 40 to 50 litres per square metre of rain we’ve had has fallen slowly and soaked in rather than just running away over parched soil. Apart from irrigating the crops  properly, it will have washed away the salt and other pollutants deposited by months of irrigating with saline water.

The icy snap has not harmed the delicate growth of most the plants with the exception of the artichokes which have been blackened by the cold. The unseasonably hot weather followed by cold has affected this crop in some areas.

The good news for the growers is that the dreadful weather elsewhere in Spain means that the produce from the Vega Baja should fetch good prices at market.

The other good news is that the rain has swelled the level of the Segura river. With a higher volume of water in the river, the pollutants are diluted and the fish get vital oxygen.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Meat ball stew

This is what I had for my main course yesterday. It may not look very appetising but it was very tasty and is a typical dish of the Vega Baja. It had simple, cheap ingredients combined in a way to provide a filling dish.

The meatballs were made from mainly livers, the large round pelotas you can see were dough balls, the small ones beans. The large chunks were potato and the meat at the front was a piece of chicken on the bone.

There are of course herbs and spices in there to give flavour and that glorious yellow colour.

You find this dish (albondigas con pelotas) in a variety of forms in many restaurants of the area, it is well worth trying if you come across it; I can certainly recommend the Herradura version.

Something different

Yesterday Pam and I went to Restaurante La Herradura in Los Montesinos for our Christmas lunch and boy was it good. Four starters, a main course, dessert with wine, soft drinks and coffee was enough to fill our boots.

image La Herradura serves only Spanish food prepared by the head cook Aurora Torres. Many of her dishes are local or are typical of the Galician region. You can have lobster, crayfish or even hakes jaws from the a la carte menu.

Yesterday was a special menu for the day selected from items on the a la carte version.

There was no roast turkey or mince pies in evidence but what there was instead was just delicious.

La Herradura is a restaurant we have been to before and is one which we will definitely visit again and again.

You can find it on the road out of Montesinos heading towards the Torrevieja-Crevillente road on the right just before the petrol station.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Shush, they are asleep

You would have to be either deaf of a very sound sleeper not to have heard the locals celebrating into the wee small hours of this morning. It is of course traditional for Spaniards to stay up all night for Nochebuena or Christmas Eve. They will have enjoyed a hearty meal and then gone out partying until dawn. I have to say, it did sound like they were having fun wherever they were.

Today, after a long lie in they will get together with family and friends to continue the celebrations but not with a roast turkey dinner followed by Christmas pudding.

PS We hope our Spanish neighbours enjoy their tin of Roses chocolates, we are sure they will. Must remember to ask them which were their favourites.

PPS I know my enighbours are all in bed because my UPS shows 240 - 245 volts. That probably means that nobody is up yet. Maybe I should put the Christmas CD on our Hi-Fi, turn the volume up and open the door to wish them all a Merry Christmas!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

The salt workers in Torrevieja are thrilled to bits that much of Europe is covered in snow because demand in cold winters for their product is at its highest.

The salt company is  currently sending out 3,000 tons a day of the stuff, mainly to the independent communities in the centre of  Spain. One hundred and fifty large trucks are leaving each day to supply the snow bound parts of the country with salt for the roads.

The salt company  also supplies four thousand tons of salt each day to Britain and Scandinavia. In total the Nueva Compañía Arrendataria de las Salinas de Torrevieja (NCAST) supplies seven hundred thousand tons per year of salt for defrosting roads.

The cold snap and the blanket of snow that has come with it means that the salt workers are putting in a lot of overtime including weekends to keep up with demand.

Thankfully, whilst we have access to unlimited salt, it is never used on the roads here which is why car bodies last an awful lot longer. If we ever got snow, there woud be plenty of salt but no means to get it onto the roads.

What wind?

It is a known fact that weather forecasting is not an exact science. There are all sorts of reasons why the forecasters get it wrong even with the highly sophisticated equipment the use these days.

Yesterday the whole province was on orange alert for high winds, it said so on AEMET and the Canal+ weather channel Meteo. However, I am pleased to say it didn’t happen. What we did get instead was rain which of course was not forecast.

Today, they are forecasting rain for the afternoon so it will probably be sunny. One thing I can say for certainty is that we won’t get any snow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On, off, on, off , on, off and on again

My friend Pete reminds me that Spain, like the rest of Europe is on nominal 230v not 240v as I stated in a previous post. With an allowable variation of 10% either way that means that the supply voltage could be anything from 207 to 253 volts so when the voltage dropped to about 208 the other day triggering the alarm on my UPS, it was still within permissible limits.

Even still, if you look at that graph you can see how the voltage dropped by 20volts in the half hour period between 5:45 and 6:15pm.

Yesterday we had a series of very short power cuts one after the other which put our digibox into a funk. Probably because it had stopped, and restarted so many times within a few minutes it didn’t know where it was so I had to restart it properly to bring it back to life.

The wind returns


As our Spanish neighbour said yesterday, “what is it with the weather at the moment, this is not normal for Spain”.

Over the last month we have had everything except snow.

It might be calm and quiet at the moment but according to AEMET (the stage agency for weather) it won’t stay that way.

As you can see from this map (click on it for a larger version) the province is on orange alert for strong winds today.

According to AEMET’s predictions, winds of 40kmph will blow from the south west for most of the day. Then the winds are predicted to drop by tomorrow to be replaced by rain. Boxing Day looks to be the most promising with the chance of some sun breaking through.

Damn it – missed him again


Yesterday, the Giant Menjabollos visited Guardamar del Segura to bring Christmas cheer to the children there.

Legend has it that this giant lives in the forest nearby where he prunes the trees and keeps the place clean. He only appears once a year in the town once a year at this time to give the children sweets and chocolates.

A quiet evening in the Casa Consitorial

imageIt looks like the PP will have their say next Tuesday at 8pm. They have tabled 16 items for the agenda including the ones which have already been mentioned and a few more besides.

Mostly the items are in relation to Sector D-6.

PS Item 16 is about noisy neighbours, surely they don’t mean our Spanish neighbours setting of fireworks whenever they have a birthday to celebrate!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That’s some variation

VoltageIt isn’t just the sporadic cuts that affect our power supply here in Bigastro. The voltage can vay by quite a bit as well.

It is normal for the voltage to drop at peak times when people start cooking meals etc. In England I remember the voltage would drop when the adverts came on the television as people went to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

My UPS that connects the power supply to my computer registers the supply voltage and warns me when the voltage falls outside the specified range. On a few occasions it has been high but more often it is low.

Yesterday it warned me that the voltage had dropped close to the 208v limit which is remarkably low for a supply of average 240v. It could explain why some residents at Villas Andrea have problems with some of their equipment including the larger air conditioning units which run off three phase electricity.

Did you have any luck?

My ticket, number 38345 won nothing. The number wasn’t even close to the winners.

First prize went to 78,294 which was sold in Madrid and the second prize 53,192 was sold in Getafe where one of the eight fifth prizes was also sold.

The first of the big prizes went to 10,104 and was sold in Barcelona, Cantabria, Asturias, and once again Madrid.

So, it looks like the Roomster will have to stay for another year. Ah well, what you have never had you never miss.

Bringing Christmas to Bigastro

image Apparently, the children from La Paz put on a great show for their parents in the auditorium. There was a lot of humour along with the traditional Christmas tales for the audience to enjoy.

It is well worth taking a look at the excellent photos that someone (not me) took of this event.
image In the meantime students from the secondary school IES Miguel Hernández performed their traditional Christmas concert.

Teachers and pupils joined together in a programme which included Spanish carols.

Large men with beards

imageThe Three Kings and Santa went to visit the children at the pre school Bigastrin to take presents for the children.

Apparently some of the children cried which is not surprising when you see those four large blokes with huge shaggy beards (Balthasar the youngest of the three kings is missing here).

Christmas Concert


This Sunday at 6:30pm is the time to enjoy the Concert for Christmas presented by the Unión Musical de Bigastro.

That looks painful

imageThis Saturday, the 26th of December at noon, you can see the students from the sports school performing their gymnastics routines in the covered pavilion at the Polideportivo Municipal "El Molino".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Belen in Torrevieja

Every year we go to visit the Belen which is set up in the main plaza outside the church on Calle Ramon Galud because each year it is different; elements are added and things are re-arranged.

IMG_0574 IMG_0562
IMG_0589 IMG_0579

There is such an amazing amount of detail in the figures and the cameos, you have to take your time to see it all. For more photos of the Belen to see the incredible work that has been put into it click here.

Will you be the “fat” one?

The doors to the assembly hall of the Loterías y Apuestas del Estado will  be open, the gallery will be full and the draw for this year’s Sorteo de Navidad will now be underway. At stake are 1,787 prizes amounting to 2,320 million Euros (70% of the takings) and in the drum 85,000 numbers. The first prize of 3,000,000 Euros will be divided into tenths because there are ten tickets sold with the same number; the second prize is a million Euros, the third 500,000, there are two fourth prizes and eight fifth prizes.

All I can say is best of luck especially if you have the same number as me!!

Councils fight back

Mayors and representatives from the city councils of the Vega Baja met yesterday to protest against the expected 8% increase in cost of water to the region. In the end there were forty seven votes against the increase and fifteen for.

Our own mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina says that it is not a good time to increase the cost of water to families who have been hit hard by the economic crisis. He argues that it is not the increased cost of producing desalinated water that is the cause of the increase but rather the elimination of the subsidy for the transfer of water from the Federation of Channels of the Taibilla. For thirty years, the Vega Baja has relied upon the Segura and the transfers from the Tajo for water.

With global warming predicted to rise teemperatures by 2 degrees over the next 20-30 years and the expected desertification of areas like the Vega Baja, the supply of economically priced fresh water will become more and more of an issue to be dealt with.

A caring town

I have made the point many times on this blog that Bigastro is a very caring town. The elderly, the infirm, the young and the needy are all thought of and catered for.

At a time when most families are preparing for Christmas, New Year and the Three Kings by stocking up with special foods, our thoughts should go to those less fortunate who will not even have the basic necessities to see them through the festive season.

To help them, the Council of Social Welfare in the town have been distributing food to the needy in Bigastro. The items have been donated for the San José de Calasanz school by the social work of La Caixa bank and the European Union Food Bank of Plan 2009. In total, one hundred food parcels containing vegetables, cakes, milk and juices have been prepared for distribution.

Mari Carmen Alonso, the councillor for Social Welfare, explains that the Social Services department had been working to try and enlarge the Food Bank by obtaining contributions from as many sources as possible so that they can provide aid to the maximum number of people.

I am sure that the recipients of this aid will be very grateful, we all hope they enjoy the provisions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A short sighted decision

Under central government's plan Escuela 2.0, children in the fifth year of primary school are to be given access to laptop computers as part of their introduction to IT skills. Funds for these computers have been set aside by the government but Alejandro Font de Mora, the regional education councillor in Valencia, has refused to implement the plan claiming the use of the computers would cause short-sightedness in children.

However, this decision has sparked fury among educators and eye specialists who have called his reason unfounded, baseless, alarming and incorrect. The head of Alicante general hospital's ophthalmology department, José Belmont, said a connection between computers and sight disorders such as myopia has yet to be proved claiming that Sr Font de Mora is using this as a justification for political reasons only.

The road does not finish there

P1010490 Now that the work on avenida Apatel, which was part of Plan E for Bigastro, is complete, the mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina wants to extend the remodelling of the road towards both Jacarilla and Orihuela. He has already had talks with Antonio Rodríguez Barberá, the councillor for urbanism in Orihuela to try and formulate a joint bid to the province for this work which he estimates will cost about 330,000 Euros.

So far, things look promising because the mayor says that there is agreement between the parties involved about the need for this work. Let’s cross all our fingers and toes to try and make this happen because  It would dramatically alter the entrance to the town making it much more attractive to people visiting Bigastro. 

No snow for Christmas

imageThis week should feel a little warmer as the clouds hold in the warmth.

When you compare the weather here with that in much of Europe, we are very lucky. I understand many airports were closed yesterday because of the snow including Manchester where we flew from last week. 

Anyway, as you can see, there is absolutely no chance of us having a white Christmas here in Bigastro. It looks like Boxing Day, even though it promises to be cold, will be the best day to go out for a stroll.

Getting into voice

Darren organised for a section of “This is Brass” to visit La Pedrera yesterday evening to play carols for us.

The band are based in San Miguel and regularly play concerts in the area. They will be at La Zenia on Christmas Day playing to the hundreds of Brits who go down there to start Christmas off on the beach.

It was great to clear the throats and join in with some traditional English carols and to hear the great jokes by the band leader who happens to have come from Saddleworth.

Darren has a full programme of entertainment and fun for the Christmas period. It will be well worth going up there to blow away the cobwebs and dance off some of the turkey!

The Lorente family

Many of the people living at Villas Andrea have jobs done by Pepe and Rafa Lorente and can testify to the high quality of their work.

Yesterday Pam and I had the great privilege to be at the inauguration of the Parque de la Cultura in Bigastro. The first exhibition there was of the highly talented work by Rafa’s sister Lola. (to see Rafa and his sister together click on this link).

Lola Lorente, was born in Bigastro in 1980 and has a licenciada in Beautiful Arts from the University of Valencia and has a formative cycle superior of illustration from the Massana School of Barcelona.

She won the Consolation prize in Accésit en Certamen de Cómic e Ilustración Injuve in 2003; in 2006 she got the first prize in Injuve illustration and in 2008 the prize for infantile illustration Pura e Dora Vázquez.

Lola's drawings are just exquisite; precise but yet concise in a style which is uniquely hers.

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Beauty and talent, what a formidable combination!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

That was close

Someone in Torrevieja is 1,205,678.42 Euros better off now as a result of playing Euromillions. The ticket that won the second category prize by getting five numbers and one star correct was sold by a shop on Avenida Asunción in Los Balcones.

A lucky person in France managed to get all five numbers and both stars right and will pick up 59,459,744 Euros as a result. Four people in Spain and eleven in the other European countries that participate managed to get the five numbers right without a star number and will collect. 93,314.18 Euros each.

Now we all wait with baited breath for the Christmas Lottery draw on the 22nd. Pam and I have just the one 20 Euro ticket so our chances are slim but then you never know. We had the same number last year and it came close, maybe our luck will be in this time.

There won’t be any fireworks, no loud cheer from the house nor an extravagant party just a discreet change in our lifestyles.

It hardly bears comparison

IMG_0465Our Belen hardly bears comparison with the one in town or indeed with some of those you find in other people’s houses. Even our little stable scene though is a reminder to us of what Christmas should really be about – a celebration of the birth of Christ.

Sad to say that the pagan festival has largely taken over from the religious theme in Britain helped in no small part by over sensitive political correctness on the part of some.

In order not to offend Muslims etc. many towns in England have decided to omit the word Christmas from any official notices and use the term Season’s Greetings instead. Even the traditional cards that people send lean more towards the pagan festival than the Christmas theme these days. If this process continues then I can well see that carols will have to be banned and all those cheesy songs will have to be re-written omitting the word Christmas. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” will become “I’m dreaming of a white winter festival” etc etc.

Here in Spain, the religious significance of Christmas is still managing to hold on as witnessed by the banners that people put outside their houses. In this Catholic country, the pagan feast is held on New Year followed by the Three Kings on the 6th. However there are growing signs even in Spain that Christmas as a present giving time is catching on. Papa Noel is year by year making inroads into the role traditionally performed by the Three Kings. You see a growing number of Santas climbing up ladders trying to get into people’s houses.

One of the results of this is there are some greedy children and over indulgent parents who want to play it both ways having presents both on Christmas Day and on the 6th for the Three Kings. The same applies in Britain where many Muslim children expect gifts for Eid and then for Christmas. That is like having your cake and eating it – not on.

Be assured in Casa El Willo, Christmas will still be called Christmas and we will continue to have presents on the 25th rather than on the 6th January. Whilst we will watch the parade in town, in our house, the Three Kings are on their way home by the beginning of January.

PS Just in case you were wondering, the highly polished writing table that the Belen sits on was my GCE 'O' level project from 46 years ago! Unbelievably, 'O' level Woodwork was the one GCE that I failed out of the nine that I took.

A little leak

We have this problem with the box that houses the pump and the filter for the pool.

Whenever it rains, we get water in the bottom. Somehow, the water soaks through the paving and then seeps into the box as it runs down towards the drain.

The water has to get in through one of the holes where the pipes and the electric cable enter the box so I tried to seal them up with silicone which worked for a good while limiting the amount of water to less than an inch when we had a downpour.

When the pipe from the box to the skimmer was replaced, I investigated further to try and stop the leak altogether. That was when I discovered that it was actually the hole where the pipe that supplies water to top up the pool that was the most likely cause of the problem. All the installers had done was to cut a hole in the box and push the tube through. You can actually move the pipe up and down in the hole.

I tried sealing it with silicone again but made a poor job of it. Silicone won’t stick to anything wet so the leak continued. I then tried a different sealant which I hoped would stick and waited for the next rain.

As if to confirm that the sealant I’d used was useless, it poured with rain from Friday afternoon, all night and into Saturday morning. As a result you can see the amount of water in the box which was matched by a good two inches of water added to the pool itself. Luckily I’d isolated the electricity from the box because, as you can see, the pump was halfway submerged.

I’ve bailed all the water out now and left the pump to dry out. I’ve also carefully worked bathroom grade silicone into the joint where the arrow points and will add more to try and finish off the seal and then fingers crossed that I’ve managed to stop the leak or at least reduce it to a trickle,

Of course, my problem is a nuisance but it hardly bears comparison to those people whose houses have been flooded or the shops that have lost all their stock. Even if the pump was ruined, it wouldn’t cost the earth to replace it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Done but not dusted

As it happened, the council meeting yesterday in Bigastro lasted just half an hour and the result was that the modifications to the plan for Sector D-6 were approved by the majority – not surprising since the socialists, who back Medina, outweigh the PP party eight to five. The necessary changes to the layout of avenue Vitorio Oliver were all that was required to meet the requirements of the Conselleria in Valencia.

However, the matter might not finish there because Aurelio Murcia has said that the PP now intend taking the matter to court in Orihuela. He gave the mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, a document before the meeting began so that all the councillors would be aware of the stance that the opposition party were taking on this whole business.

The PP party claim that it was illegal to grant licenses to build on urbanizable land before the plan had been approved and that the council cannot now work in retrospect to put right the things that were wrong. They say this was all pushed through to expedite the building of the new school and that there are in fact two files, one of which leaves reality behind. Murcia adds that Medina was aware of the problems when he was in charge of urbanism under the previous mayor, José Joaquín Moya and should have worked to resolve them at that time.

For his part, the mayor says that resorting to the courts is a ploy that the PP party use when they do not agree with the decisions of the council and that he is is prepared to go with Murcia to Valencia to consult the technicians there to show that everything is now in order. The necessary changes to the original plan have been made and have been approved and that is what matters above anything else..

In my admittedly sketchy understanding of this whole affair, it is not the legitimacy of what is now in place that the PP are questioning but rather the way it has been carried out. Quite what the outcome of all this will be is anyone’s guess.

Snow in France

IMG_0001-1 IMG_0004-1
IMG_0007-2 Those of you who live at Villas Andrea will remember John Reid who used to clean pools here and now lives in a magnificent house in the Dordogne.

Yesterday he sent me a Christmas greeting along with these photos that he took first thing.

If you need to get out and about, snow is a pain in the butt. However it does make every where look rather beautiful especially at Christmas.

Many thanks John for the pictures and the greeting. I’m sure all your friends from Bigastro would want to join with me in wishing you and Gladys all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

‘Tis the season of goodwill

IMG_2767To counter all the bad news on my blog, I thought it would be nice to cheer the day up with this picture of “our girls” taken at Laura and Dave’s house in Sale.

On the left is Jemma who is 32 and on the right Laura who is 29 and is expecting our first grandchild in February. The occasion is the special pre-Christmas meal that they prepared for us whilst we were over in Manchester.

Pam and I count ourselves lucky to have such beautiful daughters who happen also to be very clever, successful and considerate. Over the years, they have brought us a lot of joy and pleasure. You could say we were very proud of them.

Seeing them the other week was the best Christmas present we could receive.

The knives are already out


This photo from the newspaper Laverdad must be of a rare occasion when the mayor of Bigastro and the leader of the opposition saw eye to eye.

I doubt if they will be shaking hands at the moment because the extraordinary meeting of the Bigastro Town Council this afternoon to approve modifications to the plan for Sector D-6 has caused major controversy between the two parties before it even gets underway.

First off, the meeting has been re-scheduled for 2:30pm, an hour later than it was originally set for. The PP claim that the change of time is a deliberate ploy on the part of the mayor to prevent people from attending. Actually, if that was the socialist parties aim, they would have been better setting the meeting an hour earlier. Still you take the point – 2:30 is the time when most would want to be at home having lunch so they may not want to hang about for an hour if they arrive thinking that the meeting is still at the original time. 

More important, the PP claim that, when they went to see the documents pertaining to the discussion on Wednesday morning, they were told that they were not complete. When they returned later, the municipal technicians were not at the councillors disposal to explain the details of the files. The Mayor counters this argument by saying that in fact the documentation contained in the 59 page legal report that has been signed by two lawyers and an architect is all that they need to pass a judgement this afternoon.

One of the complaints that the PP party made against the previous mayor was that he withheld documentation they required to prepare for council debates,  now they are levelling the same argument against the current mayor. They say that, without full documentation, it would be better for them not to attend the meeting. For sure that would make the session short and quiet! We will have to wait and see what happens.

More trees affected

The picudo rojo beetle continues to threaten the palm trees in the Vega Baja. The beetle has already spread to Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada, Bigastro, Jacarilla, Almoradí, Catral, Los Montesinos, Callosa de Segura and Torrevieja. Hopefully , the cold weather will slow down the activity of the beetles and allow councils time to fumigate trees in public places.

However councils are powerless to do anything about the trees on private property. Several people on our estate have already found picudo rojo beetles in their gardens.

You remember that one of our neighbours visited the town hall and was directed to the agricultural supplier on the by-pass opposite the Cepsa garage. They sold her insecticide to use on her palm tree. The instructions were to pour the diluted liquid down the centre of the palm where the insect would be burrowing and laying its eggs. Since she did this, five dead beetles have been found on the terracing nearby. Another neighbour treated his palms and found yet another dead beetle on the gravel by one of his trees.

If you have palm trees in your garden, particularly if they are Canary Phoneix then you really need to treat them sooner rather than later. The beetles love this type of tree with its shorter fatter trunk which contains a higher sugar content than other palms.

Of course there are a number of holiday homes with phoenix palms where the owners are not here and are possibly unaware of the danger their trees are in. If you know of anybody with palm trees in their gardens, it would be as well to let them know. Apart from the fact that they could well come out next spring to find their trees dead, they are in danger of allowing the beetle to spread.

If your trees are starting to die from the centre and the palms are turning yellow, then it is too late, the beetle has already done its work and you MUST inform the Town Hall who will arrange for the tree to be destroyed. Cutting or burning affected trees is apparently worse than doing nothing because the beetle detects this and looks for another tree to attack. Affected trees need to be crushed to destroy the beetle.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trouble at mill

Those of you who tried to log onto the Bigastro web site first thing many well have found it down. Similarly, the town’s email server and the Bigastel servers were not responding first thing. I am relieved to tell you that the service has now been restored so presumably it was a simple issue for the experts in the Bigastel team to resolve.

Like many, I rely upon the excellent Bigastro web site for information about what is going on in the town and the email server for much of my email. My online albums are also hosted on one of the Bigastel servers. Bigastel provides us with an excellent service for which I for one am eternally grateful.

On a non-related issue:-

You remember that I reported that our teacher Ana had a hard disc problem? It seems that the company in Madrid have managed to recover 90% of the files stored on the disc but unfortunately at a huge cost to Ana and her husband. Before they moved to stay with Ángel’s parents, he would regularly make copies of the files on the disc. Since then he has had little time to do this. I imagine he will be making the time to back up his hard drive now though.

Something for nothing

It is only human nature to want something for nothing but that is not living in the real world. The cheap DVD and CD copies that you buy from the street vendors are fake copies which may or may not play when when you get them home. The downloaded copy of a film or DVD that you get from the Internet may be of poor quality.

But even if your downloaded DVD or CD is of good quality, by supporting the pirates, you are depriving the industry of necessary funding to keep producing new material. More to the point, you are supporting criminal activity.

One way of getting current films onto the black market is to take a camcorder to the cinema. Of course, to do this, you need a good quality camcorder to get decent results and you need to be there when the cinema is quiet. After all you don’t want the sound of someone coughing or munching on popcorn in the background. That is precisely what a group of people were doing in Alicante but no longer.

National Police in Alicante arrested four people who were caught recording films in local cinemas to later upload them on the internet. The investigation began when an employee at an Alicante cinema saw one of the detainees recording a film with a high definition camera during a session which doesn’t attract many cinema-goers. Police searches two homes and uncovered a recording studio with several devices for copying and uploading the films, including three desktop and one laptop computer, a high definition video camera and a minidisk, as well as documents and receipts which prove they were being paid for advertising on the websites.

The detainees were found to be uploading the films, which were of very high quality, just hours after they recorded them and normally on the same day the films were released. They would use websites to distribute the links to the films, as well as video games and software, which were on servers in France and Germany. All of these websites linked to each other and could be updated from one of the computers which were seized by the police. They also used remote control programmes to control thirteen other computers.

It has been estimated that they have distributed hundreds of recent films in this manner, each of which has been downloaded some 10,000 times.

Chinese shoes can damage your health

Guardia Civil in Alicante seized 30,000 pairs of shoes made in China, and are holding them as a precautionary measure under judicial order. It was found that bags containing Dimethyl Fumarate, a substance which is forbidden in Europe, had been used during fabrication and packing to prevent fungus growing in the shoes and deteriorating them. This product has been proved to cause severe allergic reactions.

The merchandise was seized in El Campello and Elda and samples have been sent away for testing. Meanwhile, the shoes are being held by the Guardia Civil, and if it is found the toxic bags have been used, a criminal suit could be brought against the importer and the product would be taken off the market.

Dimethyl Fumarate can causing itchiness, reddening, eruptions, burns and eczema on the skin, as well as lesions to the eyes and joints. It can also cause acute or chronic breathing problems. The symptoms generally appear several hours after using the shoes, even with socks, as the substance is absorbed by the skin. However, it can be treated with antihistamines, antibiotics and corticoids.

Anyone who suspects they have bought defective shoes should take them back and demand a refund. If they have suffered any type of reaction, they should report the brand.

This is not the first time I have read about problems with products from China. I seem to recall problems with imported toys which didn’t reach American safety standards. At one time, “Made in China” meant it was cheap and inferior; times have changed and many of the quality items we buy are made there now but surely not shoes. Elda was the shoe capital of Spain turning out very high quality footwear.

Personally, I’d rather pay a few Euros more and buy shoes made here in Spain rather than risk my feet in something inferior.

At last a chance

imageThere are three grand tours in the cycling calendar, the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Whilst I will follow the progress of these on television, I have yet to go and watch a stage live.

Next year will be my golden opportunity to see the end of a stage, perhaps the best part especially if it is a flat stage where there is normally a sprint finish.

The route of the Vuelta Ciclista a España was announced yesterday in Sevilla and includes the seventh stage from Murcia to Orihuela on the 3rd September. With just a third category climb at Hondon le Frailes, this should be a day for the sprinters.

Details of the actual route into the city will be decided in January when hopefully, I will be able to publish them on this blog.

For more information about next year’s tour click on this link.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1,000,000 Euros of debt

imageAurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the opposition party, has calculated that Bigastro owes Iberdrola about 1,000,000 Euros for electricity used in the recreational area La Pedrera and at the Sports Centre on the road to Molins. He says this is the reason why the supply to these two areas has been cut and the council are relying upon two diesel generators for power.

Murcia goes on to explain that the cost of diesel and rents for these two zones amounts to about 3,000 Euros a month and even then there have been cuts to supply at the Sports Centre which the mayor claims were due to work being undertaken. Murcia claims that, even though the work has completed, there have been further cuts in supply to the Sports Centre.