Sunday, May 31, 2009

A new way to pay

With the number of people you see speeding on the roads here in Spain, it is not surprising that the DGT have created an online payment system for fines. Previously you had to to go to a DGT office, a Correos post office or a Santander bank and pay in cash. Now you can use your credit or debit card to pay online.

To make online payments you go to the DGT website ( and click on the link ‘Trámites y Multas: Jefatura Virtual'. On the resulting page go to the section ‘¿Alguna Multa?, and once there select ‘Pago de Multas', and on the next page click on ‘Pago de Multas en Internet'. You will then be asked to indicate whether the payment is to be made with or without using a ‘digital signature' or ‘smart DNI' (it is not necessary to have either of those in order to make the online payment).

The system will then ask for your ID number, full name, citation number and fine amount as it appears on the ticket or notification slip. If the payment is being made within 30 days of the fine being issued, the system will automatically calculate a 30 per cent discount for you – the same as you would get for paying cash. image

I hope the guy who was caught by this camera has a decent credit limit on his Visa card. As you can see his speed was recorded at 216Km per hour.

Lifestyle 09

The organisers renamed the show this year, presumably in the hope that they would attract more interest.

The first year we visited the IFA near Alicante airport, there were lots of exhibitors. Last year there were a lot less. This year even fewer companies were willing to participate. At this rate, the show will be fit into a marquee in a few year’s time.

It was a pity because this year’s show was more interesting. Round Town News had put into a lot of effort to make it interesting for everyone. Apart from the sales pitches, there were demonstrations, displays and a competition for the Miss England model to break the day up all of which were actually quite good.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Every town has one


It is amazing how different the various fiestas and fairs in the towns of the region are.

The  fiesta in Bigastro is aimed towards the young with its nightly discos, pop concerts etc. The fair in Formentera has perhaps a broader appeal much like the May fair in Torrevieja. I suppose it is down to the difference between holding a fair and holding a fiesta. They may both celebrate a patron saint and include various parades but the fiesta has more of a party feel to it. It is good to go to both.

Last night we visited the fair at Formentera del Segura. For a small town, Formentera certainly pulls out all the stops to put on something spectacular for the townfolk and visitors to enjoy. The various peñas had  made a great effort in decorating their casetas; the prizes for first, second and third were well deserved.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Chief scout


I’ve mentioned him a couple of times on this blog and here he is in class – Chief scout Thorpe - known to all in Bigastro as ‘el Principe’ because that was the part he played so well in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

The previous lesson Eduardo asked John to provide an adjective. John thought for a moment and then said, “Sorry but I’ve drawn a blank”. Quick as a flash, Eduardo retorted, “perfecto, blanco es un adjetivo.”

Methinks our teacher has a better command of English than he admits!

Longer than life

Spanish law dictates that, if a person receives just one sentence, he or she cannot serve more than a maximum of 30 years. But where several sentences accumulate, they must be served in full.

The longest serving prisoner in Spain is Manuel Pinteño who started his sentence at Alicante’s Foncalent prison when he was 19 and is not due to leave until he is 108 – a total of 89 years behind bars.

What exactly did this man do to warrant such a harsh term in gaol? First off, he committed a series of robberies,  thefts and attempts to flee arrest. Then in 1990, he was accused of being the ring leader in a prison riot which lead to the death of a prison officer.

However, the case against Pinteño has been reopened because the judge who sentenced him now considers the punishment unjust. He has already served 32 years and that may now be considered enough.

Incidentally, despite having spent most of his life behind bars, Pinteño has fathered seven children, conceived during his ex-wife’s visits.

All in a good cause

The corridors of San José de Calasanz school in Bigastro were turned into a market for second hand goods on imageWednesday. The aim was to raise money to help build a state school in Arequipa , a town next to the Titicaca lake in Peru.

Salomón Rivera, the director of the school explained that helping others was one of the themes that the school were working on with the pupils.

The flea market project managed to raise over 2,000€.

This news fits in nicely with part of our lesson yesterday where we looked at the difference between the adjectives, solidario(a) and sólido(a).The correct adjective to describe the rastrillo is of course solidario.

As the students at Anfield would explain, the correct adjective to describe learning Spanish is sólida! Scousers reading this will understand what I mean.

Whilst we are on the subject of the language; rastrillo, the word for a flea market, is also used to describe a farm or garden rake so you could say, Fui al rastrillo a comprar un rastrillo and nobody wold understand what you meant! For someone who mixes up loose and lose, this is all too much.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Loose and lose

Ah the vagaries of the English language. Loose, loss and lose, there and their – so easy to use the wrong word when you are typing something out. Get it wrong and the spell checker doesn’t pick it up because it isn’t misspelt just misused.

It seems that so many children in schools mix these up, that exam board no longer concern themselves about the issue. Even at university it is accepted that this is a common mistake.

Thankfully my eagle eyed scouts spot the errors in my posts and let me know so I can make amends. Now it isn’t the loose bull that loses the fight, the loss is the bullfighter’s.

PS I promise to try harder in future.

Bluetooth blues

My old phone had Bluetooth connection and the new phones we bought have Bluetooth connections so I thought it would be a good idea to use Nokia’s PC suite to connect the phones to my desktop. That way we can save pictures from the phone, exchange contacts etc etc.

The Bluetooth dongle which I used with my last machine didn’t seem to want to behave with my Vista PC so I ordered a new dongle from Ebay. The one I bought is a tiny little nano dongle, much more discreet than the original.

Yesterday the dongle arrived and I spent a frustrating two hours changing this and installing that getting nowhere in the process. I could see the phone listed several times but it just wouldn’t communicate. In the end, I plugged the old dongle into the USB port and as if by magic, it connected the phone to the software straight away. Ask me why and I will admit I don’t have a clue.

Thinking that the new dongle was now faulty because it was no longer recognised by the computer, I tried it in my laptop and lo and behold it worked. Not only that but my phone would connect to the software installed on the laptop as well.

Luckily the new dongle cost me less than £4 delivered so I’m not too put out to use the old one on my desktop and the new one on my laptop.

The best team won

From the kick off, it looked like United were going to sew the game up within the first ten minutes of the match with some fine volleys by Ronaldo. Then Eto’o scored and United fell apart. Barcelona were better at picking up loose balls and intercepting passes; they took control of the important midfield area with a fine example of continental football. When the breaks came for Barcelona, United were lacking in defence.

So fair dos, it was Barcelona’s night and Spain celebrates.

On a different note, it was clear that Barcelona had better support at the top with the President and King of Spain in attendance. All United could manage was wimpy Prince William who showed no interest whatsoever in the game. Of course the politicians were absent because no longer could they claim the trip on expenses. And did you notice Berlusconi falling asleep?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tonight is the night

As if you need reminding, tonight the final of the Champion's League will take place in Rome.

My daughter’s boyfriend is on his way to Rome right now. He, and his friends set off from Manchester on Monday. They flew to Geneva where they stayed overnight. Yesterday morning they picked up a hire car and drove to Pisa. After a night’s sleep in the historic town, they are now on their way to Rome to watch the match tonight.

They intend to stay in Rome tonight and drive back to Geneva on Thursday in time for their flight back to Manchester.

Ask them why they didn’t just fly to Rome and Dave will tell you that their route is cheaper and in any case their way will be more of an adventure.

By my reckoning the car journey through Italy will be 880kms each way. Yesterday’s drive from Geneva to Pisa and today’s leg from Pisa to Rome are not so bad but the killer will be the return from Rome to Geneva on Thursday. We once drove for over 12 hours from Paris to the South of France and then the same on the way back. It was a long haul!

I hope the lads make it safely and have a great time whatever the outcome of the match.

Supply and demand

Visitors to the area could be forgiven for thinking that the only crops grown here are citrus fruit. When you travel round, orange and lemon trees seem to be all that you see. However, that is far from true.Vegetables are far more prolific as a crop in the area.

Last year, nearly 5,000 hectares of land, which had been used for growing citruses, are now planted with vegetables. The reason for this change of crop are the low price that lemons and oranges achieve at market and the poor quality of the water available for irrigation which over the last few years was often salty.

In the 80s and the 9s, the trend was to plant citrus trees rather than vegetables. Now that trend has been reversed. Thirty years ago more than half of the 24,000 hectares of kitchen garden in the Vega Baja was used to grow lemons and oranges. Today only 8,000 hectares, one third, are planted with citrus trees.

Who knows, in another thirty years the trend might have changed again and we may see fields of cotton where the vegetables are at the moment.

The heat is getting to them

After six months of peaceful council meetings, last night the fireworks returned. Apparently, the debate was forceful but not acidic as it had been when José Joaquín Moya was mayor.

However, some of the members of the public who were present became very vocal and insulting so the mayor decided to expel them. The thorny issue was apparently about who was going to pay for the new electrical cable to the industrial estate. It wasn't just one political party that were being attacked, it was both.

The PP party felt that the problems and the abuse were mainly coming from just one person, a close friend of the ex mayor so the opposition councillors decided to leave along with the members of the public.

The meeting then continued in peace with just the members of the PSOE present who managed to agree to reduce the rates.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A tax rebate

Spain and the UK have a joint tax agreement which means that you should not end up paying income tax in both countries. You can elect to pay your tax either in Spain or in the UK. Some say it is better to pay in Spain.

We have no choice because Government pensions , including teacher's are taxed in the UK. Even still we have to make a declaration to the Spanish tax authorities each year to prove that we have paid the appropriate amount of tax.

This is done for us by the Consulting Services Bureau as part of the ongoing service we pay for. All we have to do, is present our P40s, the notices from the bank here in Spain and a copy of our last SUMA bill and it is all worked out for us.

I’ve just had a call to say that we are due to a rebate this year of wait for it………. one euro thirty cents. Quite what we will spend it on I’m not sure, perhaps Pam has some ideas.

Recognition at last

The Spanish Civil War, in which half a million people died, remains a painful period in Spain’s history. It began when General Francisco Franco, with support from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, challenged the republican government in a military uprising. Spain split between republicans and the fascists in a bloody clash of principles that ended in a fascist victory.

The persecution of anyone with republican leanings continued until Franco’s death in 1975 and it is only in the past decade that discussion of the conflict and its aftermath has become acceptable in Spain.

When the war broke out, Britain and France chose not to help Spain because they were uncomfortable with Madrid’s close friendship with communist Moscow.

Dismayed at the decision, an unlikely group of activists took matters into their own hands. About 2,300 men and women, including trade unionists from Liverpool, Jews from London, a smattering of university-educated poets, and members of the IRA caught boats to France, from where they were helped across the border. Volunteers from countries such as the United States, Canada, Poland and the Soviet Union also joined the fight. Most had minimal, if any, military training and all were poorly equipped. They formed the International Brigades, united under the battle cry “No pasaran — they shall not pass.

Deployed to towns and villages along the front line, the amateur soldiers, dressed in khaki trousers and shirts with a soft hat, dug in alongside the Spanish republican army to face the rebels.

Eventually, the might of the rebels with their German and Italian backers was too great. The end came when Juan Negrin, Spain’s republican Prime Minister, told the League of Nations on September 21, 1938, that the International Brigades must leave, in the futile hope that the rebels’ foreign supporters would also depart. Defeated and despondent, many left, though others were kept as prisoners of war.

Now, more than seven decades after Franco conquered republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, the  efforts of the members of the International Brigade are being recognised.

The gesture is too late for most, but next month Spain will give passports to the surviving members of the International Brigades. Seven British pensioners are due to accept their citizenship at the Spanish Embassy in London on June 9. An eighth, Les Gibson, 96, declined because of poor health, and the offer came too late for Jack Jones, the union leader, and Bob Doyle, both prominent brigade fighters who died this year.

Rude food

I watched a TV programme the other night about an American who was visiting his favourite eateries in Wisconsin. One of the places was a restaurant that changed its menu each day according to what was available locally.

The day the guy visited, they’d taken delivery of a wild boar so that was the meat on the menu. The American had three dishes from the boar which included slices of its testicles which he said were delicious.

The incident reminded me of the tale about the Englishman who visited the butcher’s opposite the bullring in Murcia following a corrida. He asked if the butcher had any ‘delicacies’. The butcher brought out a pair from one of the bulls that had died in the ring the previous day.

Each time there was a corrida, the Englishman would return for more ‘delicacies’. One time though the butcher brought out a pair of testicles that were much smaller than usual. When the Englishman enquired why, the butcher replied, “it isn’t always the bull that loses the fight.”

Monday, May 25, 2009

The more they dig

The scandal over MPs expenses goes on and on and the more the newspapers dig, the more they find.

For example the Telegraph today exposes Alistair Darling, along with others including Hazel Blears, Geoff Hoon and Jacqui Smith who have all claimed for the costs of accountancy advice using expenses intended to fund their parliamentary and constituency offices.

In total, the taxpayer has spent more than £11,000 on accountants for Cabinet ministers. A bill submitted by Mr Darling in February, 2008, included the cost of receiving tax advice for “the treatment of rental expenses against income”. During 2007, Mr Darling rented out his London flat after becoming Chancellor and moving into a grace-and-favour apartment.

In total, the Chancellor claimed more than £1,400 for accountancy bills in two years.

Other ministers who claimed for personal tax advice bills included David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary. The Prime Minister has not claimed for the cost of accountancy advice.

Mr Hoon, the Transport Secretary, who did not pay capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat, was the biggest claimer, submitting accountancy bills totalling almost £3,000. Other more junior ministers and backbench MPs have also claimed thousands of pounds for personal tax advice.

and there is more:-

Three members of the Cabinet claimed for a media trainer to advise them. Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, charged more than £10,000 to the taxpayer for Scarlett MccGwire to offer advice.

Eight ministers, including Yvette Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Miss Blears, bought digital cameras or camcorders using their office expenses.

Several ministers were warned by the Commons authorities for attempting to use parliamentary expenses to fund overtly political campaigning.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, bought a £240 Apple iPhone for her husband on expenses. He works as her assistant.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, attempted to claim for two Remembrance Sunday poppy wreaths. The claim was rejected by the fees office.

You get the impression that, by the time all has been revealed, there will only be a handful of politicians left who are squeaky clean. Following the next election, there could well be a lot of new faces on the benches. Let’s hope they are honest ones.

Some holiday that will be

When Pam and I were teachers, we really looked forward to the summer holidays, counting down the weeks and days until they arrived. Wild horses would not have enticed us into giving up any of that precious time for schoolwork – well not until the last week that is.

Not so for more than 4,200 Spanish primary and secondary school teachers from the Madrid area who will be spending this summer learning English in an effort to improve the standard of bilingual teaching in the region’s schools.

Of the 4,200 teachers, 950 will study in English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States, while 3,250 will take the courses in Madrid. All of the classes will be given free of charge, while those studying abroad will also see the costs of their travel and board paid for by the Regional Government.

What choices for these Spanish teachers, forgo your summer holiday on the beach for a holiday in Sunderland learning to speak macum or possibly worse. learning English in a classroom in Madrid.

Nobody’s happy about this

The plan for the Tuesday market in Orihuela is that it is going to move to the Recinto Ferial Los Huertos whilst work goes on in its present location.

As you might expect, very few people are happy about this. The stall holders feel that they will loose trade, the shops around the zone of the present market will also loose trade on Tuesdays and I dare say the locals will not be happy about having to go out to the Ferial on Tuesday mornings. Still what can you do?

I do hope we find out when the market is going to move. I’d hate to drop Pam and the girls off at the bridge over the railway line only to find that the market has moved.

That’s what we like to see


Plenty of sun, little chance of rain and a nice breeze to keep us cool. It is almost warm enough to sit out at night.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rough justice

Ava Estelle, an eighty-one-year-old grandmother, was devastated when her pretty 18-year-old granddaughter was abducted and raped by a pair of lowlife ex-cons in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Aware of the universal truth that the law would treat the offenders lightly, Ava loaded her 9mm pistol and tracked down the pair to a dingy hotel.

There she tapped on the door of their room. As 31-year-old David Furth opened the door, Ava calmly shot him in the crotch, stepping past his agonised writhings to do the same to his former prison cellmate, 29-year-old Stanley Thomas.

The law abiding granny then surrendered herself and her gun to the police. Furth lost all his manhood and Thomas his testicles but the problem is what to do with Ava. Nobody wants to lock up an 81-year-old woman and most of them want to make her town mayor.

You can’t deny that Ava's methods of dealing with the problems of sex crimes got to the root of the problem and would certainly act as deterrent to would be offenders.

Disappearing markings

According to one of the local papers, several pedestrian crossings located in the streets surrounding  the Glorieta de Gabriel Miró  in Orihuela have lost their white stripes.

There is a good reason for that. Here in Spain, road markings are done with some sort of paint which is sprayed on. In busy traffic areas, the markings can be gone in less than a year.

In England, I think I am correcting in saying, they use hot applied thermoplastic which might get dirty but doesn’t wear away quite so quickly.

Free fireworks

Did you enjoy the free firework display last night?

Even if all the local Ayuntamientos got together and lashed out their joint budgets, they couldn’t have come up with anything as spectacular as that.

Thankfully it all calmed down before about 11pm so it didn’t get to disturb our sleep.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

They will make a big difference

Bigastro Council, has hired 12 agricultural labourers to clean and maintain the parks and gardens, clear up the paths and the vacant plots around the town. The Council are going to use the subsidy from the Local INEM-Corporation which gives priority to hiring unemployed  people from the agricultural sector to finance this project.


Low tech solution

We got our new mobile phones from the Vodafone shop on Calle Orihuela in Torrevieja last week. Using the points that we had accumulated gave us a decent discount on the list price of the new sets.

It always takes a bit of time to get accustomed to the menu on a new phone but being Nokia phones, these did feel familiar. That is until Pam’s phone started coming up with the message, ‘SIM card registration failure’, ‘no service available’. A quick investigation revealed that the card was not firmly seated when it was in the phone. Press lightly on the card and the service would resume.

So we took the phone back to the shop yesterday and I explained that the card was loose in the phone only to be told that they had to be a loose fit. We were then told that the shop only sends phones off for repair on Mondays and Wednesdays. The English lady in the shop explained that, If Pam left the phone there yesterday, nothing would happen over the weekend so we would be best returning on Monday when they would lend her a phone whilst hers was away.

This raises two points a) the phone was only a week old so surely she should have been entitled to a direct replacement and b) what use was it keeping a phone that didn’t work over the weekend? Why couldn’t they just loan her a phone yesterday rather than keeping her waiting until Monday?

It’s OK CM Phones, I’ve solved the problem by putting a slip of paper behind the SIM card making it a more secure fit. The phone works perfectly now so we won’t need to come back to you on Monday or indeed on any other day!

I’m not even on the starting blocks

The world's oldest blogger – a 97-year-old Spanish grandmother introduced to the internet by her grandchildren two years ago – has died. image

Mrs Lopez blogged from the seaside town of Muxia, where she was born in 1911, or from the farmhouse in Galicia belonging to her grandson, Daniel.

Her blog, at, became a global hit, notching up more than 1.5 million visits. As her fame spread, Mrs Lopez became an unlikely campaigner for digital rights for older people, and even took tea with the Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister.

I've got 35 years to go to equal Mrs Lopez's record. Will I make it - only time will tell. Stick with me to find out!

Back to clouds

I don’t need to tell those of you who live here that there has been a change in the weather again. The lovely sunshine and clear blue skies have gone and we are left with grey clouds and lower temperatures.

In some parts of Spain the forecast is for thunderstorms. We should get by with maybe some light rain in Bigastro

Flue jabs this year

Valencia Region health authorities are preparing to vaccinate 2.2 million high-risk people against swine flu. The group includes elderly people, patients with chronic and cardio-respiratory complaints, pregnant women, health staff and children up to five years old.

Since Pam and I are over 60, we are already offered seasonal flu jabs. If the swine flu vaccine is ready on time (October 1) it will be given along with the seasonal one, otherwise authorities will give the seasonal vaccine first followed by the swine flue vaccine later.

A number of people who have had the flu jabs in previous years say they suffered symptoms of flu for a few weeks following the injection. Last year we passed on the invitation to have injections but this year we might have to reconsider.

No replacement

After all the fuss about which route it should take, Sr Ferrer, regional director for public works, has announced that the project to create a four-lane CV-95, passing through San Miguel de Salinas, was no longer viable.

The current CV-95 is classed as ‘extremely busy' with up to 25,000 vehicles a day using the road which has only one carriageway in each direction. The scheme to build the motorway to replace it was awarded to a temporary consortium in October 2007 and the inauguration of the works has been announced several times with great fanfare.

The motorway was to be built and maintained for 30 years by the consortium and the regional government had agreed to pay 172 million euros for the works. However the builders revealed that they were having problems borrowing the 94.4 million euros they needed from the banks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cotton returns to the Vega Baja

They abandoned growing cotton in the Vega Baja eighteen years ago in favour of other more profitable crops. In the eighties, cotton production relied heavily upon manpower and irrigation. Now, with mechanisation and decent irrigation, it is set to make a return.

The target is to have one thousand hectares of cotton growing by September 2010. As an experiment, 10,000 square metres of land at Daya Nueva have been planted with ten different varieties of cotton (American, the superior Egyptian and hybrids) to see which suits the land best.

There is a lot at stake for those agriculturists who choose to be involved. Thirty million Euros of non refundable aid have been set aside for the project. In total, Spain has been assigned a quota of 48,000 hectares with a subsidy of 1,400 Euros per hectare by the European Union.

Yesterday, at a presentation of the project in the campus Desamparados, mayors and councillors from Almoradí, Redován, Daya Nueva, San isidro, Orihuela, Bigastro, Guardamar, Rojales, Benejúzar, Granja de Rocamora and Catral showed great interest in the sheme.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A simple solution

Creating a network in your house can pose great problems. You want to access the Internet in different rooms but how to achieve this?

The best solution is to have network cable laid around the house but with ceramic tiled floors like we have this is a big NO NO. We should have had it done when the house was being built but now it is too late.

The obvious solution is to create a wireless network but with brick interior walls it is difficult to get a good signal throughout the house. I have an aerial with the highest decibel gain I could find but still the signal varies considerably from room to room.

So I considered using Home Plugs. The principle is simple – you use the household wiring as the network cable. You plug one Home Plug in close to your network router and connect it with the Ethernet cable provided. Then you plug other Home Plugs into sockets on the same circuit and bingo – you have a network.

There are a couple of provisos of course a) the Home Plugs must be on the same ring main and b) they work better if they are plugged directly into a wall socket. Plug them in via a surge protected strip and the speed you get drops considerably.

I have one connected to my router in the spare room and another in the lounge which is P1000924connected to a wireless access point. The wireless signal in the lounge is now 100% strength and quality meaning I don’t get drop outs. If I wanted, I could fit Home Plugs into other rooms to extend my network. Sadly, they probably wouldn’t work on the outside sockets because they are on a separate ring main.

The plugs are available from a variety of sources, mine came from Amazon who offer a twin pack of Max Value ones for £41.99 for the 85Mbps version and £64.99 if you want the 200Mbps version.

NB In case you were wondering, all that paraphernalia is hidden behind one of the sofas so no problems with Mrs W.

PS Once you have installed this, you may find that running Speedtest checks the speed you are getting on your home network rather than your Internet connection.

Good exercise

My doctor suggested that I should take more exercise in a bid to reduce my cholesterol level and that is just what I did yesterday.

In the morning, we went to see Eva at the garden imagecentre which has moved from Bigastro to Benejuzar.

By 4pm I had a 1000kg bag of white stone on my drive ready to add to the 1000Kg I’d already laid a couple of years ago.

The stone gives the corner of the garden a more Mediterranean look and makes for easier access to the plants there.

A couple of hours work and the stone was shifted into place ready to be raked out and levelled. That will be exercise for today!

PS Would anybody like a wooden pallet and an empty 1000kg bag?

Free courses in Bigastro

The Ayuntamiento in Bigastro recognise the need to retrain some of those people who might have traditionally found work in the ailing construction industry. They are also keen to develop skills that might bring unemployed people back into work by offering free courses for them.

The Concejalía de Fomento in Bigastro along with the Asociación de Autónomos de la Comunidad Valenciana are organising free courses directed to individuals who are in employment or who are unemployed.

- Basic Office automation: 30 hours (32 students of which 10 can be unemployed)

- Commercial English: 50 hours (15 students of which 4 can be unemployed)

- Food handling: 10 hours (20 students of which 6 can be unemployed)

- Basic English level 1 COMMERCE: 50 hours (15  students of which 3 can be unemployed)

- Basic English basic level 1 HOTEL TRADE: 50 hours (15 students of which 3 can be unemployed).

This might seem like scratching the tip of the iceberg but it is clearly a good start and a worthwhile venture.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Get the maps out

Those of you, like me, who have a TomTom will be pleased to hear that satnav systems could become useless by next year.

Experts have warned that the Global Positioning System, which sat navs rely on, could collapse due to a lack of investment in new satellites. The first replacement satellite had been due to be launched into space in 2007 but will not now be ready until November.

It is unclear whether the satellites currently in orbit will be able to keep the system running until replacements arrive.

Of course it isn’t just motorists that rely upon GPS systems, this could affect all sorts of applications of the technology. All we need now is to find out that the Internet is due to collapse because of lack of investment and we will be buggered.

A can of worms

The debacle over MPs expenses has really opened a can of worms in Westminster. As you will have read, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin has tendered his resignation; the first Speaker of the House to do so in 300 years.

In a bid to curb what could become a constitutional nightmare, the Prime Minister announced plans for independent regulators to take over the financial affairs of MPs. The Commons Fees Office, which approved the expenses claims that have brought the political system into gross disrepute, will be abolished.

Gordon Brown said that Westminster would no longer operate like a gentlemen’s club, making its own rules, and said that the moves would change centuries of history for Parliament.

MPs’ pay is set by the Senior Salaries Review Body and a new body will police expenses and enforce discipline.

On an extraordinary day in Parliament:

  • Douglas Hogg, the Conservative MP who claimed for clearing the moat at his country home, became the first MP to announce that he would stand down at the next election. Others seem certain to follow.
  • The future of two Labour MPs, Elliot Morley and David Chaytor, who were suspended over mortgage claims, looked bleak as Labour set up a “star chamber” with powers to kick out MPs found guilty of misconduct. Many Labour MPs face inquiries.
  • Mr Brown also raised strong questions over the future of Margaret Moran, the Labour whip, and Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, criticising their expenses claims as unacceptable.

What amazes me is not the problem itself nor the extent of it; it’s the fact that self regulation in Westminster has been allowed to continue for so long.

What Parliament needs is something similar to OFSTED, the regulating body which the government imposed upon schools. The first visit with inspectors sitting in the House scrutinising performance, analysing every document and questioning every decision would have MPs squirming in their seats.

PS Mr Martin will almost certainly be rewarded for his nine years as Speaker with a peerage. And he will be able to draw a gold-plated pension of up to £82,000 a year.

The sum is made up of a unique Speaker’s perk of half his final salary plus a full Parliamentary pension as he has been an MP for 30 years. That is a damn sight more than I get after 34 years at the chalkface!

No more Mango

A fire at dawn on Tuesday burnt thousands of Euros worth of clothes in the fashion shop Mango on calle San Pascual in the centre of Orihuela.

Oh dear, that is one of our daughters’ favourite shops, one they have to visit when they come to see us. It looks like the girls will have to settle for the Habaneras when they next visit Spain.

PS It was apparently a short circuit that caused the fire. Remind me, what is it that the Brits say about Spanish electricians?

Would you Adam and Eve it

Last weekend, in Rojales, they celebrated their romería for San Isidro and as part of the celebrations they organised traditional games for the children:-

Carreras de sacos, rotura de vasijas con un palo de madera y los ojos vendados y carreras con huevos sobre cucharas.

In other words sack races, breaking a pot with a stick whilst blindfolded and egg and spoon races.

The only thing missing were three legged races. Do you remember those?


No Nike tops and trainers in those days; ordinary school shirt, shorts and white pumps.

I actually came first in a three legged race when I was a child. It was the only sporting thing I ever did win!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blood tests

I don’t ever remember having my blood tested back in the UK. In fact I hardly ever had my blood pressure checked. I did have a urine test following a nasty urinary tract infection. The first test showed something that the doctor was certain wasn’t a problem so I was sent for a second test. I never got the results from that one and he never told me what the issue was about. The test I had recently in Bigastro was clear so obviously it was something of nothing.

Here, blood and urine tests seem to be commonplace. You regularly see the queue of people waiting down at the Centro de Salud to have these taken. I had mine done when my blood pressure was high and now Pamela has had hers done. The doctor should be able to access the results by Friday and print them off for her.

The two tests reveal a whole host of problems, some which you are experiencing and others which may be lurking  ready to affect you in the future.

If all is OK, you return one year later for your next test. Let’s hope that is the case for Pam.

100 today

I am now on the 100th day of my 365 project where I take a photograph each day and then post it on the Internet.

Some days it has been easy to find a suitable subject, other days a little more difficult.

I have tried to choose a variety of subjects. Some of the photographs I’ve been pleased with, others are just photos. However, they all have a story to accompany them which hopefully makes them more interesting.

If you fancy having a look then mosey over to

Monday, May 18, 2009

Give me a bit of time

I’ve noticed that 45 people have already visited my blog this morning and it is only just past 10am here (9am in England). You are early birds this morning; is it because it’s wash day?.

Whilst I am very grateful that people take the time to read my blog, you do have to remember that it takes a little time to write and then post the items. When I have finished, I re-read most of the posts and make changes to correct my spelling and grammar.

By eleven am I’ve usually exhausted my supply of news and thoughts for the day and hopefully corrected most of the errors. That is probably the best time to pop over and see what I have written. If you visit earlier and find loads of mistakes, I apologise.

Here comes summer


It must be boring for my readers back in England to see week after week the forecast for sun in Bigastro but that is what summer is about in Southern Spain. It is what makes the locals so agreeable and what drew us northerners here in the first place. If it is any comfort, just consider how much water you are saving by not having to turn the sprinkler on to stop the lawn going brown.

Again though, it looks like those of us who are retired will get the best of the week. Still, the cloud and chance of rain that could have marred this last weekend never really happened.


They sting you and are a damned nuisance in summer but when you think about it, the bee holds the key to man’s existence. Thirty five percent of our food depends on the pollination of crops by bees. Without the work these insects carry out, we wouldn’t survive for very long.

In Britain, a third of the bee hives were lost over the last winter. The reasons are not fully understood but it is thought that the problem was a combination of bad weather, insecticides, lack of wildflowers and the varroa mite which has spread rapidly since it arrived in 1992.

The answer to this crisis lies in two directions; the re-introduction of the native black honeybee which has a larger body and thick hair allowing it to cope with the British climate better than the European bee and the planting of bee friendly plants and trees. Flowering trees and shrubs in particular provide an easy foraging ground for the insects.

When we first moved into our house, there were no bees nor were there birds. In fact there wasn’t any signs of wildlife except perhaps the ants. When I first dug the garden over I didn’t find a single worm.

Within the four and half years, our garden has become a haven for all sorts of wildlife; most welcome, others perhaps less so. The bees are very welcome. Without them there would be no lemons on the trees. Fortunatley we have a succesion of plants, including the large lavender bushes that keep the bees busy for most of the year.

Plan for Emergencies

The Local Police in Cox have set out a Plan for Emergencies for the town.

The greatest threat to the inhabitants of Cox and the Vega Baja are earthquakes. Last summer, two great tremors woke people up in Algorfa and Almoradí. However, the towns considered to be at greatest risk of further quakes are Almoradí, Benejúzar, Callosa de Segura, Daya Nueva, Daya Vieja, Formentera del Segura, Orihuela and Rafal.

The risk of flooding in Cox is thought to be low. The town did flood in 1989 but not to the same extent as Orihuela and Guardamar del Segura.

The greatest risk to the town is spillage from vehicles because of the proximity of the A-7 motorway and the N340 trunk road.

Following the strong winds this winter, the Police also considered the damage that gales could inflict but since there were only loose tiles removed from roofs, they consider this a low risk.

It is good to know that the police and other emergency services plan for these contingencies. I hope they share it with all concerned because, worse than not having a plan is having one which nobody knows about.

In the end though what happens, happens and there is little that anyone can do to prevent disasters from occurring.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Come to the fair

Friday night and all day yesterday, hundreds of oriolanos enjoyed the Andalusian atmosphere of the Feria del Rocío located for the first time in the Huerta.

Yesterday, under bright blue skies, the visitors were offered rides on the horses and carriages along the Avenida Príncipe de Asturias and the Puente del Rey y Obispo Rocamora.

At midday the great sardinada took place. In the evening there were horse races followed by a performance by the dance group, Ana Belén and the singer María Gracia.

The romería will take place today. The image of the Virgen del Rocío will be carried from the palace of the marquesa de Rubalcaba to the fairground, followed by holy mass at 11,45.

At 2:30 pm there will be a paella contest, with three trophies for the best ones, and then at 7:30 pm the Virgin, accompanied by the horses and carriages, will be returned to her sanctuary where she will rest until the next year’s fair.

The Orcelitano Casino in Orihuela is open again.


The one hundred and twenty two year old building constructed in 1887 has been re-opened in preparation for the Centenary of Miguel Hernandez next year.

The 170 members have taken great care to restore much of the building to its former glory. The facade of the building has been cleaned; the library, the Empire room, the Red and Black room, the Andalusian Patio and the staircase all look magnificent again.

PS If you visit the casino don’t forget to check out the toilets with their original statues of horsemen that came from England.

Well worth a visit


Whilst we were up at the fiesta for San Isidro, we collected this flyer from the recently re-opened restaurant.

Last night we decided to visit the place and try out the Columbian food. We’re really glad we did.

All afternoon we could hear the Latina rhythms drifting down from the area outside the restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a full scale party going on.

The new owners are great people. He is half Scottish and she is South American – so they both speak English. The food is good and the party atmosphere is intoxicating. We’ll definitely be going there again.



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On the right: Rachael and David try out their salsa skills on the floor.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Not the most stylish way to win the League but won it they have and all credit to them. Manchester United were outclassed by Arsenal for much of the game with a higher rate of possession and more shots on target but they still didn’t manage to spoil the party.

Now we wait until the 27th to see if they can beat Barcelona and retain the Champions League cup as well.

With the onset of summer

Once the weather gets better and it is warmer at night, young people take to the streets and the parks at weekends to take part in ‘el botellón’ (big bottle) parties.

Of course it is illegal to drink alcohol in public places but that doesn’t discourage the young people. who go out on Saturday nights with carrier bags filled with bottles they’ve bought in the supermarkets.

If this was a quiet affair that would be different but sadly that isn’t the case. In the old part of Alicante, on Sundays, the streets are littered with bottles and glasses and the stench of urine pervades the place. It is the same in the parks of towns like Guardamar and here in Bigastro up at La Pedrera.

At night you can hear them up at the barbecue area and then in the early hours of Sunday morning you hear them come back down. The next day their route  back to the town is marked with  a trail of broken fences, kicked over service boxes and torn down litter bins.

You would have to be a brave person to take these people on. In large numbers, fuelled up by alcohol, they represent a real challenge to the police let alone the average citizen.

Camps and Costa to answer in court

You remember the Gürtel scandal which involved several top PP members in Madrid and Valencia who stood accused of accepting bribes to award contracts to event promotion companies including Orange Market? One of these contracts was for the start of the Volvo ocean race in Valencia.

The Valencian regional president Francisco Camps and PP regional secretary Ricardo Costa have now been summoned by the Valencian Supreme Court (TSJCV) to deliver statements as accused parties on Tuesday, May 19th.

Sr Camps and Sr Costa have repeatedly proclaimed their innocence regarding the scandal led by Francisco Correa and Orange Market, represented in Valencia by Alvaro Pérez ‘El Bigotes'. The National PP party have backed up both Camps and Costa.

A big day

Manchester United have the opportunity to clinch their 11th Premier League title today at Old Trafford.

Strangely, if they win today, It will only be the second time they’ve won the title on home ground (the first was in 1999 when they beat Tottenham 2-1).

Liverpool fans will be sorry to see that if United win the title today, they will equal the Scouser’s score of 18 titles.

It was Arsenal who helped break Liverpool’s run of titles in 1989 and 1991, so they aren’t expected to do United any favours today. I just hope they don’t spoil the Mancunian’s day and make them sweat it out until they meet Hull next Sunday.

Controlling the plague

image The plague of mosquitoes which is affecting Orihuela is being described as unusual. The good news is that the insects are the quironómidos* that don’t produce itchy bites. Even still they are a nuisance as you can see in this picture.

Normally fish in the Segura would eat the larvae but there are very few of these to be seen in the Orihuela section of the river at the moment.

The company responsible for eradicating them says that they are confident that the problem will be controlled within three to four days. They have two teams of workers out fumigating areas where the insects are found.

*The name of a group of flies like a tiny little mosquito. Some species can live in polluted stretches with little oxygen, by increasing the concentration of hemoglobin in their hemolymph which gives them a reddish color. When the adults emerge a few swarms are very numerous on the banks of aquatic ecosystems.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The problems with modern life

It seems that once you are diagnosed with a health problem, you find that half the world have the same condition.

I’ve been told that my cholesterol is high. The good cholesterol is fine but the bad cholesterol and the total level of the stuff is higher than it should be.

It seems that some doctors have an obsession with cholesterol levels these days, setting targets that are almost impossible to reach without either drastic changes to your lifestyle, a cocktail of drugs or both.

Thankfully, Dr Cartagena, who we are assigned to, takes a more realistic approach. He told me yesterday, that the target set by the American Heart Association for total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL was too low and that 220mg/dL was more realistic. Unfortunately mine is higher than that. In addition, the level for LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) should be lower than 100mg/dL and mine is considerably higher than that.

When I went to the chemist to get the tablets I’d been prescribed, the lady who served me said she had a similar problem along with half the people in Bigastro. She should know better than anyone the extent of the problem because she hands out the pills!

Spain, with its Mediterranean diet of fish, fresh vegetables and olive oil, used to be one of the countries where cholesterol levels were low but that is all changing now with Americanisation of the eating habits.


As you can see from my diet sheet, Dr Cartegena is recommending me to return to the traditional Mediterranean style of eating. All those comfort foods like chips, hamburgers, cakes and nibbles are in the NO colum. There is no mention of pork pies, Scotch eggs or fish in batter but I think I know which column they would come in!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Red faced – they should be

You regularly read about the corruption scandals that local politicians get up to here in Spain. Now we learn that British politicians from every party have used the expenses claim process to fund their excessive lifestyles.

This is a story that is set to run for some time in the English press. Just to give my Spanish readers a flavour:

Tory deputy chairman John Maples claimed his private members club in London was his main home.

By declaring the RAC club in Pall Mall, it allowed him to spend “lavish” amounts on his second home.

Labour MP Elliott Morley claimed £800 a month for a mortgage he had already paid off — pocketing a total of £16,000.

Tory Stephen Crabb designated a room in a flat rented by another MP as his main home — after buying a new house in Wales and claiming £9,300 in stamp duty on it.

Labour’s Fabian Hamilton over claimed for his mortgage while living with his mother — before flipping properties to do up TWO homes at taxpayers’ expense.

He designated his mother’s house as his main residence while over-charging taxpayers by thousands for a mortgage on his family home in Leeds.

Fabian Hamilton ... Labour MP over-claimed mortgage while living with his mum, then flipped two properties

Meanwhile tearful Government minister Phil Hope vowed to hand back nearly £42,000 in expenses.

The health minister spent the cash on a new kitchen, wooden flooring, a TV, bedroom furniture, chairs, tables and seven doors. The Corby MP said he was “very badly hurt” by the expenses backlash.

More than 20 MPs have returned nearly £130,000 in allowances and there is more to come.

Feria in Orihuela

Chief scout, John Thorpe, has passed this information on which may be of interest to you.

I read in this week's Coastrider that Orihuela has a feria starting Friday evening
at 7pm.

The Recinto Ferial is situated passed the Centro de Salud at the junction of
calle Dr Gomez Pardo Rodenas & Calle Pintor Agrasot in the gardens exhibition area.

According to the paper the feria kicks off at 7pm Friday with a dancing display & ends
with a performance of the Spanish song, 'Alma Cruz'. 

Saturday's events start early with a traditional sardine feast & continues with horse &
carriage displays, ending with dancing & singing until 11pm.

Sunday, Mass @ 11.45 followed by a paella competition with trophies for the top 3.

The event ends with the 7.30pm walk to the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Rocio....
can't find that on my map.

Thank you very much for that information John. If you do go remember to laher yourself with insect repellent (see next item on my blog).

Back with a vengeance

The centre of Orihuela is facing the worst plague of mosquitoes it has experienced in recent years. The Council of Environment has ordered the company responsible for controlling the insects to extend their fumigation from the shores of the river to the gardens of Ociopía, Los Arcos, the Juan García  park, the  Plaza Nueva and other others green areas in the city.

Councillor,  Ginés Sánchez explains that the plague of mosquitoes this year has continued right from from Easter.  The presence of the river Segura, the wet winter and spring followed by the recent warm weather have all worked in  favour of  the cycle of the mosquito. 

The council already spends 50,000€ per year controlling these insects which are now moving to the parks during the day time for shelter which means extending the fumigation to these areas.

A contributing factor to the problem is the flow of water in the Segura. There should be four metres of water per second through the river; at the moment there is half that amount. Mosquitoes proliferate in still or slow moving water.

We have encountered the problem of the orialanos first hand. Pam has a bite on her toe which she says is really painful. At first she wondered what it was, now we know it is a bite from when we were in Orihuela and she was wearing sandals.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last night at Las Ventas


Those of you who have read this blog for a few years will know that the month of May marks the Feria de San Isidro at the bullring Las Ventas in Madrid.

We nearly missed last night’s corrida which was broadcast on Canal + in high definition but managed to see the fifth and sixth bulls on Canal + 30 minutos.

In the picture you can see Iván Fandiño being somersaulted over by the sixth bull at Las Ventas. Yesterday was his confirmation as a torero; his second bull weighed a massive 635kgs. In spite of a cut to the hand, Fandiño went on to execute a brilliant volapié (the most risky method of dispatching the bull with the estoca).


Los aficianados de Las Ventas.

Dishes to try in the area

On the Convega site there are descriptions of typical dishes served in the Vega Baja.

Here is one which we have found in many restaurants including the one at IKEA.

Cocido con Pelotas

Meatballs made with turkey blood and meat, egg, parsley, garlic and pine nuts cooked slowly with potatoes, chick-peas, vegetables all seasoned with saffron and salt.

Be warned though it is very filling. You won't want more than a plateful.

A lot of useful information

If you want to know something about the Vega Baja, then the Convega website is a great starting point.

Apart from a host of general and specific information about the region, the site makes good use of Google maps, to show you places of interest in 27 different municipalities. Included in each section is information about a whole range of facilities in each town including restaurants, places to stay and even where to fill up with diesel.

Although there is a button to change the language to English, the site explains that this page is under construction. Still, as it stands, the site provides some useful practice with your Spanish.


A word of warning

The British Consulate advises travellers to be on their alert when they arrive at Alicante, Valencia and San Javier airports, due to a surge in luggage theft.

The problem has apparently grown to such an extent that it now features on the travel advice sheets issued by the Foreign Office.

The consulate warns people they should be careful when picking up a rental car as they may be followed to their destination. Thieves have been known to let down a tyre and in the confusion of offering help get away with luggage. They are probably not interested in suitcases full of clothes as much as small bags that might contain money, credit cards and the like.

Learning a new skill

Over twenty people they have started on the ‘Auxiliary Help in the Home’ course in Bigastro. This course, which is provided by Fademur (the Spanish Federation of Rural Women) has been organised by the Council of Social Welfare, Bigastro in collaboration with the Council of Social Welfare in Redován.

The classes began on Monday in the Auditorium and will finish in December. The complete course of theory and practise lasting 600 hours aims to provide unemployed people with a new focus.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A mystery

The Town Hall very kindly put up an Information Board at the bottom of our estate which they use to announce forthcoming events and matters of importance to us.

José and Darren also use the board to let us know what is going on up at La Pedrera; something that we requested at several meetings of the Residents’ Association.

You have to be quick to spot the notices about La Pedrera though because it seems that no sooner are they put up, they disappear.

I dare say Darren and José would like to know what happens to them because they go to a lot of trouble and expense to produce the posters.

On a different note; a couple of the residents yesterday were busy swilling down the paving near to their house. When I asked them why, they told me it was to remove the dog and cat fouling. In the hot weather, they said the smell of the urine and faeces was awful not to mention the issue of hygiene and the inconvenience of getting the stuff on their shoes.

I don’t wonder there is a real problem at Villas Andrea because of the number of cats and dogs that people keep on the estate. Of course people are perfectly entitled to keep pets but they do have a responsibility to ensure that their animals don’t foul public places or indeed other people’s property.

Just like the the posters, it is a mystery.

A subtle change


Those of you who have visited Bigastro’s web site since yesterday will have noticed the change to the banner at the top of the page.

The writing under the snail is hard to decipher on my screen but I think it says ‘Red Estatal de Municipios por la Calidad de Vida’ and of course refers to the Cittaslow project which is a network of towns dedicated to quality of life.

Thankfully the rest of the layout remains untouched, otherwise I might have difficulty navigating around the site!

All done with petals

Every year the neighbours of Desamparados  in Orihuela prepare a carpet of petals from flowers and leaves from their own gardens to honour the Virgen de los Desamparados (Virgin of the Abandoned ones).


This year, the abundant rain in Winter and Spring have produced an ample supply of material for this magnificent display.

Monday, May 11, 2009

At the theatre


This Sunday at the Auditorium. The picture shows two men with guitars but the programme lists; violin, cello, piano and clarinet. Still it is for the benefit of disabled people so it is all in a good cause. 

and now for something different


Looks like the settled weather of last week has given way to cloudier conditions – at least until Friday The good news is that it should be fine for the weekend for those poor souls who have to work.

It had to come

La Asociación Cultural Orihuela 2010 has awarded prizes to the winners of the First  Poetry Competition in SMS language. The poems had to be written in tribute to the orialano poet, Miguel Hernandez.

The First Prize went to Irene Quiles Domingo for her poem which has clear hernandianas resonances (or so I am told).

Ntrrare la simient d la gerra
n las aridas tierras
x dond no pastn las reses.
la abonare con los dias d paz
y smbrare +tarde
l trigo dorado q t alimntara.

Bloody hell, just when we are struggling to get to grips with the language, we’ll now have to learn how to write Spanish in text message form.

Just don’t ask me to translate it, I can’t even decipher text language in English!

Not a bad deal

The Valencian regional government has approved a new series of measures to beat the recession which include a 1,000 euros grant for the buyers of new cars and 500 for second-hand vehicles purchased in the region.

From this week, buyers will be able to request the grant from the regional industry department, an option salesmen have been only to keen to point out to their customers.

There are only two basic requirements for buyers to obtain the grant: to be registered (Padrón) as living in the Valencia Region and to scrap a car which is at least 10 years old.

The scheme, called Plan Prever de la Comunidad Valenciana, is part of the regional government's Plan Confianza which has already pumped millions of euros into local government.

Relive the day

You can have a look at pictures from last Saturday by clicking on this link. To see more of my photos of the day click here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In spite of the weather

  The rain that threatened yesterday didn’t spoil the procession of horses and carriages in Torrevieja. 


The people dressed in their traditional Andalucian costumes and flamenco dresses provided a spectacle for the thousands of visitors.

There will be another parade at midday today when the the riders take their horses down to the portable bullring which has been erected for an equestrian spectacular.

Isolated incident

Bigastro is a sleepy town – we like it that way! Only the scrapping between the political parties and petty crime disturbs the peace.

So when there is an incidence of serious crime, it makes the headlines in the local press. Such was the case on the 15th July 2006 when a woman was sexually assaulted at the Pedrera whilst she was attending a birthday party.  The lady also had 100 euros and her mobile phone stolen.

The Public Prosecutor in Alicante has asked that the attacker be sent to gaol for 14 years with bail set at13,700 euros.

Only the weather let it down

When we awoke yesterday, the skies were grey and heavy – not the weather you would expect in May especially after the beautiful sunshine we have had for the last week.

Still at least the rain held off for the parade from the church up to La Pedrera - San Isidro was delivered safe and dry into the Hermitage.

In the current economic climate there had to be cut backs; so there were no refreshments for the pilgrims at Star Sol, there was a lot less free beer and no paella. Neither the cut backs nor the inclement weather could spoil the party atmosphere though.

We were delighted to see Marie Sue with her daughter Africa, the ladies from the other adult classes along with several of the residents from Villas Andrea taking part in the parade. It was also great to catch up with Susanna who regularly reads my blog . The last time we saw her was at Halloween when she came up to our house with some of her friends.

The party continued until 8pm when San Isidro was returned to the town in time honoured tradition.

IMG_0924 IMG_0925 IMG_0936

IMG_0933 IMG_0938

IMG_0949IMG_0973 IMG_0977

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The noria

In our class last week, Eduardo explained that the citrus tree is not a native of this area and in fact is a relatively recent introduction. Previously the huerta, or kitchen garden, would have been used to solely to grow vegetables of various types; beans, and squashes for example which formed the the staple diet of people in the region.

This very much ties in with what the ladies from the other adult education classes have told us i.e. when they were young, they mainly ate vegetables and only had meat on the table a few times during the year – Christmas, Easter and other special occasions.

Eduardo then went on to explain the system of irrigation including the use of the noria.

Noria is a word derived from the Arab phrase, “na’ura”, meaning to weep without reason.

image There are three types of noria used in this region; the wind driven ones which you see around the area of Cartegena, animal driven ones (the so called norias de sangre because the animals that drove them had a short life of about two years) and those that are driven by the flow of a stream.

The ones you see on the coast were used to lift sea water into the salt pans; those inland were used for irrigation.

A water wheel which is used to run e.g. a flour mill has a water race at the top where a stream or river has been narrowed. The water turns the wheel and exits at the bottom.

In the noria, the water comes from the bottom and is deposited at the top – a complete reverse of the type of wheel used for power.

Whereas the conventional water-wheel is used, like the fan of a windmill or the efforts of an ox, to turn an axle and drive a machine, the norias on the Rio Segura are the machine.

The rim of the wheel consists of a series of curved wooden boxes, fitted with holes.

The rims forming either edge of the noria look imagesolid but in reality each one consists of a continuous series of curved wooden boxes. These boxes have small openings at the leading end of their outer vertical face – the leading end being the one which enters the stream first – and they have even smaller openings at the leading end of the curved, outer side of the wheel.

To drive them, the noria have paddles. As the stream meets the paddles set into the wheel between each pair of curved wooden boxes it pushes against them. It does not push hard enough to provide an adequate force for grinding wheat, fulling cloth, or pumping the bellows at a foundry, but it does push hard enough to turn the wheel.

As they descend into the stream,the boxes forming the rim of the wheel fill with water and as the wheel continues to turn, through the pressure of the stream against the next paddle in the cycle, the water-filled boxes are moved along.

On the wind and animal driven versions, rather than bucket, the norias, have clay pots on their circumference which are used to carry the waterimage upwards. Rather cleverly, the pots have holes in the bottom which allow the water to displace the air thus allowing them to fill as they drive through the water.


The noria wasn’t just used in Spain though. On the River Orontes at Hama in Syria, there are 17 huge water wheels which supplied water to the town above.

From the town’s crest you can deduce that Bigastro once had a wind driven noria which was situated near the polideportivo. This function is now carried out by an electric pump.

Calling all Rafas


Looks like Bigastro is to house its first tennis tournament at the Polideportivo Municipal El Molino on the 30th and 31st May and the 6th and 7th of June.

Those who want to take part have until the 28th of this month to register. Cost will be 22€.

The first prize will be 500€ worth of sports equipment.

in 500€ in sport material.

Friday, May 08, 2009

New website

The Neighbour’s Association of San Miguel de Salinas have been given a subsidy of 1,350 Euros by the Conselleria de Inmigración y Ciudadanía for the creation their web page.


The new site makes extensive use of Flash graphics to provide a slick presentation. However, there isn’t a huge amount of content on the site as yet but no doubt it will develop with time.

Of course, as you may know,  the town already had a ‘rough guide’ at


This site is nowhere near as slick in its presentation but does include a vast amount of content for visitors to peruse.

I’m sure my friend Germán at the Dpto. Tecnología Ayto Bigastro has cast his eye over the new site. I hope he doesn’t decide to make changes to the already excellent web site for Bigastro!

A vast improvement but…

Work on the The N332 coast road is now almost complete. The sections of the road along the Orihuela Costa and from Guardamar del Segura to La Mata are being converted into dual carriageways to ease congestion in busy periods.

That still leaves the section through Torrevieja as a bottleneck.

An agreement was drawn up in 1995 which meant that, whilst  the national government had responsibly for the road either side of the town, the Valencian regional government would take care of the 3km stretch through Torrevieja. Sadly, Improvements to the section through the town are still at the planning stage.

The same fate awaits the proposed work on the CF-95 from Orihuela to the coast. Although commitment to this project was signed in 2005 and completion was scheduled for 2010 there is still no sign of work being started.

Quite by chance

When Pam came out of the Centro de Salud yesterday, we stood talking for while to one of our neighbours, Darren. That turned out to be a stoke of luck because as we chatted away, Ana, who taught us Spanish for the first few years, appeared with her sister Marie Sue. They were bringing Ana’s baby, Ángel for a check up.


As you can see mother and child look both happy and well.