Wednesday, March 31, 2010

They’re out to get us

The DGT (Department of Transport) have been accused of taking measures to increase revenue rather than save lives. Motorist groups claim that 95% of radar cameras are placed on busy, fast, safe stretches of road such as motorways and dual carriageways where the fewest accidents attributable to speeding occur.

There are 524 fixed speed checkpoints with an additional 43 to be added this month. Only about a third of these contain cameras but they are all effective in slowing traffic down. Along with the fixed units, there are 240 cars equipped with mobile units to catch the unwary.

Be warned, Torrevieja is introducing a new ‘zero tolerance’ unit on the N332 between Punta Prima and La Zenia. If you pass through that at just one kilometre per hour over the limit then you can expect a fine. It is bound to catch loads of motorists and thus swell the coffers, especially in the tourist season. Drivers, aware of its presence will slow down only to be passed by those who haven’t twigged causing quite a few rear end shunts in the process.

What can the poor motorist do?

One measure that you can take is to use a GPS which shows you where the fixed points are. Or you can buy a radar detector which is illegal to operate in your car and so risk a fine of 160 Euros. Fortunately the newer units send out to weak a signal for the radar detection systems to pick up.

Alternatively you could simply keep below the speed limits but that would not be Spanish would it?

And now for something different


With Easter nearly over and spring well on its way, it is time to lighten up.

This Sunday, at the Auditorium, you can stroll through 40 years of “rock and pop” with the “4MIDABLES”. These four young men enjoy getting together to sing their favourite hits from the rock and roll years.

Tradition continues at La Paz

image Easter is such an important part of the calendar here in Spain.

The parades are the spectacular part of the celebrations, a tradition which hopefully will continue for many years to come.
image It is not just the adults who get involved though, the children from the local primary school in Bigastro hold their own parade.

The pupils from La Paz, aged 3 to 6, dress up as nazarenes with traditional mantillas. There are Romans, musicians and of course costaleros carrying a paso which they have made. It is great spectacle for all the relatives and friends to see.

If you watch the parades on television or visit them yourselves, you will see many children taking part and many more watching with their parents. Since they will be the next generation to carry these traditions forward for the future, it is encouraging to see them taking part.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You are what you eat

It isn’t just your body that suffers when you eat too much junk food, your mind is affected as well. Take school dinners. Children fed on a high sugar or fatty diets tend to be badly behaved and lacking in attention.

When I taught at Anfield, some of the food they served was atrocious. The excuse was that, items like pies, chips, sausage rolls, burgers etc were the only types of food that children would eat. If the canteen put on healthy food, the children would turn their noses up at it.

Then along came Jamie Oliver, well not actually to my school but the TV chef did lambaste the quality of food that was being served in schools. His comments sparked a seed change in what was being served. Out went the burgers and chips, sausage rolls, fish fingers, turkey drummers, chicken dinosaurs to be replaced by proper sausages and creamy mash, chicken and mushroom casserole and roast beef with roast potatoes and green beans.

I don’t suppose that anyone thought that the outcome of the exercise would be to push up educational standards but that is what happened. A two year study showed that scores in national curriculum tests rose in schools which adopted a healthier school meal regime. In fact, the research showed that the effect of giving children decent food was greater than the imposed hour of literacy each day.

Interestingly, the research found that the change in school meals affected pupils from favourable socio-economic backgrounds more that those from deprived areas. That is not surprising really because children from middle class backgrounds adjust better to changes in their diets. They are more used to having fresh vegetables and fruit as part of their daily diet.

I well remember many pupils at Anfield would go out at lunchtime and buy a uncut loaf, hollow out the centre and fill it with chips; that would then be their main meal for the day. When they were offered vegetables like cabbage, sprouts or broccoli, they would turn their noses up. For them vegetables were baked beans and possibly frozen peas.

My father used to say fish was good for the brain and he was probably right. It just wasn’t the cod served fried in a thick layer of batter that we had every Friday lunchtime along with chips, scraps and white bread and butter. With all that cholesterol laden food in my early years, is it any wonder the Wii tells me each day that I am OBESE!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday in Elche


According to the newspaper Información, the parade in Elche for Domingo de Ramos was quite spectacular. Local police estimated that there were 35,000 visitors lining the streets as the  procession passed by.

In this picture, taken from the newspaper, you can see the costaleras of the Cofradia of Santa Mujer Verónica carrying the paso of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem with palm decorations in the forms of flowers and vegetation. The procession was headed by the Band of Bugles and Drums of the Hermandad of the Flagelación and Gloria,

Testing it out

IMG_1663 IMG_1664
IMG_1665 IMG_1666

I’ve been asked to take pictures of one of the performances at the Auditorium in April. It is a tricky place to get decent photographs because the lighting is from overhead. It would be better if they had some spotlights in the hall itself to throw light to the stage.

I’ve seen people using flash in the Auditorium but that just destroys the atmosphere. In any case, the ceiling is so high that the flash has to work hard to get any reach.

I planned to go up onto the balcony last night to get a view looking down to the band. That way you see more of them and they fill the frame. Unfortunately the door to the balcony was locked so I had to make do with sitting as high up in the main body of the Auditorium downstairs.

I just hope it works out for me in April and I get some decent shots for them

A pleasant Easter week

imageIt looks like we are in for a nice dry, sunny Easter this year. The main parade in Torrevieja on Good Friday has been rained off the last two years. Fingers crossed, if AEMET have got it right, the parade should go ahead this time round. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In their Sunday best

IMG_1657 IMG_1645
IMG_1647 IMG_1650
IMG_1651 IMG_1655
IMG_1659 IMG_1660

Click on the images to open a larger version

Palm Sunday is a day to wear your Sunday best and to show off your children. Whether they were British or Spanish it didn’t matter, they all looked stunning.

The disappearing web site

If like me, you are a regular visitor to the Bigastro web site and you use a Bigastro email address, you will have noticed that they have been  some problems lately. Both the web and email servers have been going down only to be restored when the technicians have time in the mornings to reset them. I’m sure the guys at Bigastel are on the case and that normal service will be resumed ASAP.

Hopefully, those of you connected to the Internet via Bigastel have not been affected. I do know that my web albums, hosted by Bigastel are still live so hopefully you will still have a reliable connection.

It’s later than you think

You did remember to put your clocks and watches forward last night didn’t you? It is no use arriving at the Parque Huerto del Cura to watch the palm Sunday parade an hour after it has finished!

Now, having lost an hour, I need to get my chores done so that I don’t arrive too late to see the donkey set off.

Good news for the farmers


The idea of selling your produce at less than the cost of production seems crazy but that is what the agriculturalists on the Huerta (kitchen garden) of the Vega Baja have been doing for the past few years. Prices are of course governed not just locally but nationally and internationally and that has been the problem.

Earlier in the year, one of the ladies in our class was telling us that the local farmer was not harvesting his potatoes because it simply wasn’t worth it. It would have cost him more that the market price to pick them so he was going to leave them to rot in the ground. 

Now though, things are different. The bad winter weather that has affected Europe and other parts of Spain has benefitted the Vega Baja and driven prices up. That, combined with the transfer of good clean water from the Tajo to the Segura have worked in favour of the growers and allowed them to produce artichokes, broccoli, cabbages, lemons and oranges at a profit, especially broccoli. I have some in the fridge, it is firm, dark green and full of flavour – fantastic.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Not gone, just moved on

When we first moved to Bigastro, there was a prostitute who would ply her trade on the junction between the CV-95 (Orihuela to Torrevieja) and the CV-945 that joins the CV-95 to the CV-905 (Crevillente to Torrevieja). She was the first one we had come across and it surprised us how open the young lady was about her business.

Then an English lady, who lives near Torremendo in the house that featured in Grand Designs Abroad, took exception to the young lady's presence. The neighbour was concerned about the impression her daughter would get as she took her to school so she plagued the young lady even resorting to throwing eggs at her. Eventually the young lady gave up and chose another site. The important point is that the problem wasn’t cured just moved on

That is exactly what has happened to the ladies who used to work the roads near Daya Vieja. On the roundabout off the CV-91 between Daya VIeja and Formentera there used to be up to ten prostitutes, mostly Romanians. Since the mayor declared war on them, the girls have moved up the road and only appear in the Daya Vieja area on Saturdays and Sundays.

To be fair, the local police in Daya Vieja have tried to help the girls by offering them help and advice to make a career change. They have also given them phone numbers of local social services but most say they have not been forced into prostitution. They say that they choose to do this to earn extra money, so they are not quitting.

Daya VIeja’s loss is everyone else's gain (or should that be the other way round). Unless all municipalities place a ban on prostitution in the streets, the girls will just move around to find somewhere more accommodating hopefully not too close to my house!

That is some paso

imageThis great picture comes from Euro Weekly News. It shows the paso, Nuestro Padre Jesús en el Huerto de los Olivos (Jesus in the garden of olives) being carried by the International Cofradia through the streets of Torrevieja.

Carrying any float around the streets, especially round the corners is difficult, negotiating this one takes a lot of skill.

The brotherhood was formed in 1984 and first took part in the processions in 1985. At that time the paso was wheeled around. This will be the sixth year that the International Cofradia will take part in the Easter parades and carry the paso on their shoulders.

Originally the throne on the float had the figures of the Angel and Christ by D.Valentín García Quinto (1985). In 1986, D. Francisco Manzanaro Morales remodelled the throne to include his figures of the three apostles, John, Peter and James.

As you can see it does take a lot of costeleras to carry this heavy paso, the tallest are at the front and back to take up the bow in the carrying arms. I'm told that the ones at the side of the paso take very little weight and the best job is Graham Knight's, he gets to walk alongside and give the necessary taps on the paso to signal the manoeuvres.

You have two chances to see the paso; on Monday from 10pm and then again on Friday from 7:30pm (note the Monday parade will be a lot shorter).


Friday, March 26, 2010

Torrevieja is ready

image After a wait of almost nine months, Calle Caballero de Rodas, the main street running in front of Torrevieja’s Inmaculada Church and the Town Hall, is finally open for traffic again.

Calle Caballero de Rodas and all of the side streets leading off and running through it are now open for business just in time for Semana Santa and the Easter Processions. However, attractive through they are, the additional 38 street lamps and posts to stop cars parking, will make life very difficult for most of the larger pasos in the processions to be able to turn safely around corners. There are still a few more landscaping areas to be completed over the next week but this project certainly makes the city centre a much more attractive area for residents and visitors alike, to enjoy. 

The work on Calle Purisima in Bigastro is reaching its final stages but is not yet complete. As of yesterday, there was a section where the existing cobbles had been lifted but the new ones hadn’t been laid. There were also large bags of granite cobbles on the completed section.

The question is, will it be ready for Sunday’s parade and more important, for “el Encuentro” on Easter Sunday?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I was wrong

I said the other day that I couldn’t find any information about the Easter parades in Orihuela, well I was wrong.

There are 500 pages available on the Convega site which detail the programme for the processions, the full itineraries, descriptions of the Cofradías and Hermandades along with a gallery with over 800 photographs for you to peruse.

On the site you will find fascinating information about Easter in the various municipalities including: “Los Cantores de la Pasión”, of Orihuela, “La Hermandad de Nuestro Señor de la Caída” of Almoradí; “La Junta Mayor de Cofradías y Hermandades” of Cox: “La Hermandad de los Pilares de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad”, “La Hermandad del Cristo de la Buena Muerte”, “La Mayordomía de Nuestro. Padre Jesús”, “La Hermandad Penitencial del Santísimo Cristo de Zalamea y de María Santísima del Consuelo” and “La Cofradía del Santo Sepulcro” of Granja de Rocamora.

Just go to to see for yourself.

PS this is the programme for Bigastro from the site

Domingo de Ramos, 28 de marzo

12:00 h. Procesión y Misa.

19:00 h. La Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro realizará un concierto de Semana Santa en el Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau", donde se interpretarán marchas procesionales.

Jueves Santo, 1 de abril

17:30 y 19:00 h. Misas.

Viernes Santo, 2 de abril

17:00 h. Misas.

Sábado Santo, 3 de abril

23:00 h. Solemne Vigilia Pascual.

Domingo de Resurrección, 4 de abril

7:15 h. Procesión del Encuentro. Se trata de una de las tradiciones más antiguas que se celebra en el municipio en Semana Santa. El encuentro del cristo resucitado con su madre. El punto de encuentro es en la C/ Maestro Grau. Well worth getting up early for but if you want a good spot on Calle Maestro Grau, you will need to be there sharpish!

NOTA: Todas las misas y oficios religiosos se celebrarán en la Parroquía Ntra. Sra. de Belén.

and for the main parade in Orihuela on Good Friday:

7pm PROCESIÓN GENERAL DE LA PASIÓN. from the Santuario de Ntra. Sra. de Monserrate to la Iglesia-Museo de Ntra. Sra. de la Merced.

The route

Santuario de Ntra. Sra. de Monserrate - C/ Hospital - C/ Marqués de Arneva - C/ Santa Justa - C/ López Pozas - Puente de Poniente - Plaza de Cubero - Plaza Nueva - C/ Almunía - C/ San Agustín - Avda. José Antonio - C/ Calderón de la Barca - C/ Loazes - C/ Alfonso XIII - C/ Ballesteros Villanueva - Iglesia-Museo de Ntra. Sra. de la Merced.

The Pasos taking part:

La Convocatoria - La Samaritana - La Conversión de María Magdalena - Santa Cena - Ntra. Sra. de Los Ángeles - Ntra. Sra. de la Esperanza - El Lavatorio - Oración en el huerto - Prendimiento - Negación de San Pedro - Arrepentimiento de San Pedro - La Flagelación - La Coronación de Espinas - Ecce Homo - La Sentencia - Ntro. Padre Jesús de la Caída - La Verónica - María Santísima del Perdón - Ntro. Padre Jesús Nazareno - San Juan y la Dolorosa - La Agonía de Cristo - Ntra. Sra. del Consuelo - Stmo. Cristo de Zalamea - Ntra. Sra. de los Dolores.

la Vuelta

I know it is a little while off but it may be of interest to some. According to VegaBaja digital, the stage of la Vuelta on the 9th September will finish on the Avenida de la Estación in Orihuela with the actual finishing line at the station.  That will definitely mean a sprint finish on the straight stretch of road. For those who are planning to go, I will be along there somewhere with my camera.

The market at Orihuela

We used to like the market in Orihuela when it was held in Las Monserratinas. When it moved to Los Huertos, we visited it once. Parking was a problem and the market itself seemed to lack the atmosphere that it had in the city centre.

The reason the market was moved was to carry out work in Las Monserratinas. That was completed about a month ago and everyone kind of assumed that the market would move back to its old location but it hasn’t. The city council are not keen to relocate the market because in its former position it did cause traffic chaos in the city centre.

It seems that nobody likes the market where it is now. The local bars and businesses in Las Monserratinas have lost customers, the people who live at Los Huertos don’t like the market there because they can’t get to their garages but most important, the market traders don’t like it because they get fewer customers.

The market traders have now lodged complaints to the city council. They say that, in its present situation, they can only earn between 30 and 40 Euros for their days work. Let’s hope the city council listen to them and move the market back to where it should be and then everyone will be happy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yet another unenforceable law

image I don’t think that, in the light of evidence shown, that any responsible adult would want to subject children to the effects of passive smoking.

I was brought up in a home where both my parents smoked, I’m sure it must have had an influence on me to start smoking and may well have affected my health. I certainly won’t be smoking in the house when my grandchild comes to visit us in Spain. I would not want to be responsible for any damage to her health nor would I want to encourage her into thinking that smoking is a good habit to take up.

However, there is only so much that Governments can reasonably do to stop people smoking. The UK Government are poised to go beyond that point because twenty of Britain’s most senior doctors have called for a ban on smoking in cars as part of a sweeping expansion of laws to protect children against the effects of inhaling smoke.

The evidence is clear; a recent report by the Royal College of Physicians warns of the toll on health and the NHS caused by passive smoking. It concludes that more than 300,000 GP appointments and 9,500 hospital admissions a year are caused by the effects of smoke on children, costing the NHS about £23 million. Paediatric health problems attributable to second-hand smoke include 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle-ear disease and 200 cases of bacterial meningitis. It estimates that about 40 sudden infant deaths are also caused by passive smoking annually.

The report argues that: “Smoke-free legislation needs to be extended much more widely, to include public places visited by children and young people, and including prohibition of all smoking in cars and other vehicles”. As doctors, the authors call on the Government to take the necessary action to protect our children’s future.

Two questions I would like to ask: are the concerns about people’s health or are they more about cost and secondly; just how can they stop people smoking in cars? It seems utterly pointless to me to put legislation on the statute books that is unenforceable. The reasons for this action are right, the steps suggested though are totally flawed. I believe the UK government need to stop this nonsense, go back to the drawing board and rethink their whole strategy on stopping smoking in Britain.

A plug for Maz

One of the followers of this blog started a website a few months back selling lingerie, basques, clubwear etc. From her blog, I see that the site is going well and she has a lot of satisfied customers. For those of you interested, go to Miss Behaving . As Maz says, “Love and fun is number one”.

I apologise

Try as I might, I can’t seem to find any information about the parades that are due to take part in Orihuela over Easter. I do know that there will be parades each day during Holy Week but as for the timings and the exact routes, I don’t have a clue.

The main parade on Viernes Santo (Good Friday) is usually timed for 7pm but always starts a bit later than that. It is a long parade so it is best to look for a seat somewhere otherwise you cold end up with very tired legs.

The mists of time

From early morning yesterday, the Vega Baja was totally covered by a fog which the locals call “boria”. It hung over the area for most of the morning only lifting slowly by about lunch time.


Just look at the forecast though - proving that the sun does shine on the righteous, the forecast for Domingo de Ramas (Palm Sunday) is blue skies and sunshine. That should make for some good photographs. 

Not to be


The picture shows the  plan that was meant to transform the seafront at Torrevieja. By any measure it was highly ambitious; the estimated cost of 71 million Euros would have taken the company involved thirty years to recover through rents and parking fees.

Now the term allowed for bids for the project  has closed. The Generalitat in Valencia has allowed an extension of two months but in the present economic climate it seems unlikely that a bidder will be forthcoming.

So sadly,  as you approach the town from the west, you will be faced by the same tired looking apartment blocks and the same drab aspect.

Spain - a safe country to live in

It is obviously  of no comfort to anyone who has been the victim of a crime to learn that the crime rate in Spain dropped by 3.7 per cent in 2009 compared to 2008, reaching its lowest level in a decade.

The crime rate in 2009 was slightly lower than in 2000 and a massive 6.3 points below the historic high of 52.1 per 1,000 registered in 2002.

The interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba says "All indicators were down," and added that "Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe, with a crime rate 23.3 points below the European average. The 2009 figures include criminal traffic offences, which came into effect in 2007. "If we hadn't begun to include these, the crime rate would have been lower," said the minister.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It is hard to believe

IMG_0013 Today is my youngest daughter’s 30th birthday; my how time flies. I can still remember the day she was born with the cord around her neck, blue from lack of oxygen. It took a whiff of gas to bring her to a normal pink and long moments before she made her first cry. I needn’t have worried though, Laura was a tough little cookie.

I recall how her older sister, Jemma would try and boss her about but Laura would have none of it and stood her ground well. If anything it is Laura who bosses her older sister these days. Thankfully, the pair of them grew up, not only as sisters but as best friends. When Laura was due to give birth to her own baby, it was Jemma that she wanted by her side with Dave. I like that a lot; I wish my brother and I were such good friends but sadly we are not.

There have been many times when I have felt justly proud of Laura. When she got her examination results, I was delighted, when she graduated at University I was “over the moon”. Then she found her own flat just before we left for Spain and made it a beautiful home. Later she moved to Manchester - a very brave step for someone on their own.

So, now Laura has a loving boyfriend (soon to be husband – I hope), a beautiful home, an adorable daughter of her own and she is thirty today. I think you will agree, she turned out quite stunning.

Laura, have a wonderful day, enjoy the moment and the well deserved presents you are bound to receive!

Modesty is the order of the day


The Junta Mayor de Cofradías in Torrevieja has asked the ladies who take part in the parades this Easter, known as “manolas” to show some modesty in their dress.

The three major directives relate to the skirt length, shoulders and of course the décolleté.

Mini skirts are not really appropriate, nor is it seemly to wear dresses that are sleeveless. As for the décolletage, well this is a religious festival, it is not an occasion to show off your assets! Round or square shaped necklines are acceptable but not “too pronounced”.

Ladies who have sleeveless dresses are recommended to wear a jacket to cover their shoulders. Long sleeves are recommended but to the elbow is acceptable.

Gloves should be worn which can either be lace like the mantilla or plain leather. The type of shoe is left to the ladies to choose but of course they must be black.

I am sure that the ladies wearing mantillas this year will look suitably elegant and in most cases beautiful.

Our class

Yesterday we got our reports for this term’s Spanish - it was time for a group photo.

Sadly there were a few people  missing, so we had to drink their cava and eat their cakes for them.

In the picture from the left are Christopher, me, Irina, Susan, Sheila and Wendy and on the back row, Ana (our teacher), Ana and Geoff.

Now we have a a few weeks of rest before returning to the fray.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Minister seeks an amnesty

The authorities in Spain have been waging a campaign against former officials accused of allowing overdevelopment of coastal regions. The problem stemmed from when local governments issued building licences for the properties, but these were later nullified following court action instigated by a higher regional government. That situation has left many expats, and Spanish, out of pocket and at risk of losing their homes and all because the Spanish authorities couldn’t behave when they saw the Euro signs in front of them.

Chris Bryant, the Minister for Europe, speaking last week during a visit to south-eastern Spain, said that the country was undermining efforts to create a recovery in its beleaguered housing market. He warned that: “The housing market in Spain is not going to recover quickly if pictures of bulldozers knocking down expats’ homes are appearing in British newspapers. Everyone I’ve spoken to in Spain says they want to find a solution but wanting a solution and getting one are two different things but obviously it’s not for the British Government to tell the Spanish what to do. But I’m pushing the message hard at all government levels that I meet here that they have got to put political willpower into these problems, whether it’s an amnesty, whether it’s a change in the law, whatever the solution is that is needed. That is the point I am pushing.   I have to say also that there is an enormous difference between the Britons who just make a cursory legal deal – that is always ill advised – and those who have done everything they should or could have done but still find themselves in deep trouble.”

Mr Bryant had spent the weekend advising expatriates in Andalucía on issues ranging from property rights to health care and he visited Torrevieja, Malaga and the town of Albox, where eight British families are fighting demolition orders issued at the end of last year. He also said that he was able to tell worried Britons that the Andalusian regional government was appointing a full-time official to deal with the concerns of British expatriates. The official will provide advice on property regulations, health care and residence requirements. However, Mr Bryant warned: “People buying property anywhere abroad, not just in Spain, have to take at least twice as much trouble as they do at home to make sure everything is legal. It is so easy to go to a particular lawyer because he’s cheaper. Then later you find out that he wasn’t an independent lawyer at all, but was working all the time on behalf of the land developer and you are really stuffed.”

Rooney jumps for joy

imageAs well he might, Chelsea drew 1-1 away to Blackburn Rovers to drop to third place, four points adrift of United, who came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the day.

Carlo Ancelotti believes that Chelsea must win their game in hand against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Wednesday if they are serious about denying United an unprecedented fourth successive league title. Arsenal are two points behind the champions in second place.

Rafael Benítez's dislike of Sir Alex Ferguson manifested itself again last night as the Liverpool manager responded to another damaging setback to his side's aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League by demonstrating more bitterness towards the man who has become his nemesis in English football.

Benítez was aggrieved by the penalty that set Manchester United on the way to a 2-1 win, accusing Antonio Valencia of diving, and he referred to his previous accusations that Ferguson placed referees under pressure. "We know about the influence of Sir Alex in everything," he said. "I've seen three replays [from different angles] and the last one was suspicious. See the replay for yourself and how he fell to the ground." Asked whether he was saying it was a dive, he replied: "Yes, I think so. There is contact but the way he fell down – it was strange."

So Chelsea had a bad week and Liverpool had a bad week, what a shame!

Well look at that

imageThere is a good chance that we will see some sun today and maybe again towards the end of the week. Temperatures are steadily improving so that at least we can leave the heating off during the daytime.

I have all my fingers, toes and anything else crossed for good weather next week. It doesn’t matter if it is warm as long as it is dry. We really want to go down and watch the Good Friday parade in Torrrevieja this year; remember it was cancelled last year because of the rain.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Preaching to the converted

image Those of you who are in our Spanish class will recognise the ladies in these photographs as the ones from the other adult classes.

We will be seeing them tomorrow when we get our end of term reports.
image They were down at the Auditorium for a talk about equality in learning.

When they should have been at school learning to read and write, their parents sent them out to work to supplement the family income.

These ladies already attend classes for basic education and reading and have done for a number of years.

Banging on

imageTonight, it is the turn of the young musicians in the town to show off their skills in a concert for percussion.

If that is not to your taste,  you might prefer to wait until  next Sunday when the full  band will present their concert for Easter.

But will the signal reach Bigastro?

Residents in Torrevieja have been able to pick up TDT from transmitters in Murcia and Alicante for a while but the new Torrevieja Transmitter will provide stronger signals, less interference and dropouts, optimally greater picture and sound quality, with new additional channels to follow in 2010/2011.

The Torrevieja signal covers the entire municipality and is installed in the upper area of the city on the water reservoir.

Almost all of today’s new LCD and Plasma televisions already have integrated TDT but for less than 50 euros it is  possible to adapt an old set through a decoder that connects to the same TV. You  can even purchase a USB version which allows you to watch TDT through your computer. You do, of course, need a suitable aerial.

Many expats on the Costa Blanca South have never experienced Spanish TDT, due to the rebroadcast of UK TV Channels and satellite systems. Torrevieja’s new Transmitter might be the turning point for them as the system will offer users new benefits, including dozens of free channels to choose from, higher quality picture and sound, the ability to select subtitled programs, an electronic program guide, original version films with or without subtitles and even radio channels broadcast via television.

Of most interest to expats will be the large number of films, kids programming, mostly American TV shows, documentaries and even the Simpsons in English (or Spanish) through the press of a couple of buttons. At present at least 23 channels are available on TDT with the new transmitter expected to add even more, including local content.

I only hope that the signal reaches us here in Bigastro. We have an amplified indoor aerial  which just about picks up a few digital channels on a good day. If the signal from Torrevieja is stronger then hopefully we will get more. At least then we could watch events such as the Fallas in Valencia and the Semana Santa parades in Torrevieja.

Twenty seven Euros is a lot to pay

The volume of traffic using the AP-7 between Valencia and Alicante decreased  by one million drivers (12.42 per cent) last year compared to 2008. The reasons attributed to this are several, but the recession is the one most people agree is the real reason for the decline. More people are saving the toll road charges and opting for the free roads instead because it costs 26.7 Euros to drive the 148.5 kilometre stretch of the AP-7.

However if you follow the alternative routes, your journey increases dramatically especially through Alicante province. One of the solutions is to improve the  alternative roads and widen them as they have done with the N332. Locals though question the wisdom of this; why spend money on improving alternative “free” routes, why not either eliminate or at least reduce the charges on the autopista.

The night of San José - March 19th

Las Fallas is celebrated in cities throughout the Valencian Region, and is designed to pay tribute to Saint Joseph. The general consensus is that fallas were developed during the 15th Century, when the Falla evolved from the wooden candleholders or ‘Parots’ which were used by Carpenters in their Workshops during the winter.

As the weather became milder and spring was on its way, the Carpenters would decorate the Parots with old clothes or even comical masks imitating local characters, and take them into the street to burn in celebration of their patron saint, José. The decorated candleholders became increasingly symbolic, taking an ironic view of life, and often featuring relevant commentaries written in Valenciano. These were placed on a solid base which completed the Falla.


The tradition of creating artistic Fallas boomed throughout the region, and by the 19th century a competition to name the best Falla had been established. In typical Spanish style the organisers saw an opening for complete fiesta so, in 1932, the Fallas competition was extended into the Fallero festival of today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Nowadays the Fallas are elaborate colourful statues, usually made from wood, papier-mâché or polyurethane, and eventually burnt during a dramatic celebration that reaches its peak from 15th to 19th March. Each ‘Casal Faller’, or organizing committee, nominates a theme, usually satirical and often including caricatures of well-known celebrities or Politicians.

They dedicate hours to perfecting their Falla, as the more intricate the design the greater esteem is showered upon the committee and the host neighbourhood as a whole. The effigies have been known to tower up to a staggering 20 metres high, and are situated on street corners and town squares in cities throughout the region, from March15, with some of the most remarkable displays being seen in Valencia, Benidorm and Alicante. In the city of Valencia alone, more than 700 Fallas are usually established, including those made by local school children.


Aside from the burning effigies, the Fallas festival incorporates a selection of flamboyant parades featuring the Falleros and Falleras, who dance and sing through the city streets in traditional costume accompanied by lively marching bands, and a series of extravagant firework displays or ‘Mascleta’. The climax of the Fallas is known as the ‘Crema’, and takes place on the night of March19, when the monuments are set alight and carried through the streets, or left burning until ashen, to mark the coming of new life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dates for your diary

imageClick on the image to enlarge it.

Basically these are the dates for Easter this year

Viernes de Dolores (literally Friday of pain) – March 26th

Sábado de Pasión (passion Saturday) – March 27th

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) – March 28th In Bigastro there will be mass in the park at about 12:30pm followed by a parade along Calle Purisima back to the church. A good occasion for people watching because everyone will be out in their Sunday best.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) there are parades on each day or night from Monday through to Friday in Torrevieja and Orihuela. The main parade (when all the cofradias take part) will be on Friday 2nd April at about 9pm.

For further information about Torrevieja see my post .

Sabado de Gloria 3rd

Domingo de la Resurrección 4th – special interest on this day is the Encuentro in Bigastro which will leave the church at about 7:30am.

Paramount importance

The good news is that Paramount Pictures have chosen the Murcian region to construct the biggest theme park in Spain in direct competition with Disneyland in Paris.

The project will have the added value of some cinematographic studios which will be the centre of all Paramount’s productions in Europe, according to the Murcian Councillor for Culture, Pedro Alberto Cruz.

Cruz has said that the region of Murcia will become the Leisure Centre of Spain, with a 2.5km² complex, 15,000 beds in hotels, creating 20,000 jobs, and attracting 3 million tourists to Spain. The amount of money to be invested will be decided next month. Private investors will be offered the possibility of putting their capital into the project.

The project, which is estimated to be completed within 2 years, comes like a breath of fresh air for Spanish property agents, Spanish real estate companies, and other local businesses in the present financial climate. By the time it is built, It will be somewhere to take our granddaughter Molly on her visits to Spain.

and now for something different

If you are still looking for something to do this weekend, why not pop down to Torrevieja to see the 8th national competition for bonsai?

Housed in the “Virgen del Carmen” cultural centre, the exhibition has more than 160 of these miniature tree marvels on display. There are also other attractions of interest including demonstrations of karate, body painting, Japanese handwriting, games of Wei-Chi  etc.

The exhibition opens today at 11:30am.

Nothing better to do?


One of the things we like about living in Spain is that Saturday afternoons, Sundays and holidays the shops are shut. There are times when it can be frustrating but generally, if you plan ahead it isn’t a problem. Yesterday was a public holiday in this region so the local shops would have been shut.

However, in Guardamar del Segura they had a different idea and opened an “Outlet Fair”. Don’t worry if you missed it though because it will be open again today from 10am until 2pm and then from 6:30pm until 9pm.

On sale is everything from home appliances to fashion and furniture; all at reduced prices to clear last seasons stocks.

By the looks of this photograph from Información, the idea was quite popular. On a day which looked unpromising weather-wise, I suppose it was something to do rather than sit about the house. If you plan to go, just keep your wallet in your pocket unless there is something you desperately want to buy!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pam the professional

Pam joined the ladies' darts club a few years ago and started playing with some cheap brass darts which were very heavy. She was recommended to buy better quality Unicorn darts from a sports shop near to Villamartin which she did.

Then I found a shop online which would deliver to Spain. Their darts were of equal quality if not better and were a lot cheaper even when you factored in the shipping costs.

Whilst I was ordering the darts, I added in extra flights and shafts (Pam was breaking them like there was no tomorrow) and just for good measure a box to hold all this stuff.


Now, of course, everyone admires the darts and more particularly the box. A lot of the ladies want one and asked Pam where they could get one. The online retailer was Tumble Darts, one of the few that would deliver here to Spain. The rub is that their web site no longer exists so sorry ladies I can’t help you other than to suggest that you Google Elkadart (the make of the box) and see if you can find another supplier. Short of that, you will just have to admire Pamela’s professionalism!

Another body blow

The continuing problems with the exchange rate are causing great problems for Brits living here in Spain. The slow climb back from 1 Euro to the pound was halted when the rate started to worsen again; it is currently hovering around the 1.12 Euro to the pound mark. Effectively, those relying upon a UK pension e.g. have seen their disposable income drop by about 27% in the last year or so.

As a consequence, a number of residents here in Bigastro are being forced into reconsidering their position. Many say that the cost of living here in Spain, which was once a great attraction to coming here, is now killing them. However, they are in a no win situation because property sales are still in the doldrums and house prices are still at an all time low. Unable to sell their houses, these people are stuck between a rock and a hard place; they can neither afford to live here nor return to Britain

To add further to the misery, normal rate IVA (VAT) in Spain will definitely be raised on July 1 from 16 to 18 per cent. The government estimates that, in spite of this, prices will only increase by one percent because providers will choose to 'absorb' the hike by lowering their prices before adding IVA. The industry minister, Miguel Sebastián is even more optimistic; he claims only a quarter of the increase will be passed on to consumers - increasing prices by just 0.5%.

Whether this is the case or not, suppliers of electricity, pipeline gas and butane gas have already stated the IVA rise will have to be passed on to their customers because they claim they have 'no commercial margin' to absorb the tax rise.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

They came to see Florence

Yesterday, Torrevieja hospital played host to a group of technicians from Microsoft accompanied by managers and directors from hospitals in Germany, Belgium, Croatia and Russia. They were all potential clients of Microsoft keen to see how the “Florence” database system pioneered by the Torrevieja hospital in 2006 works. In particular they wanted to know how they system had saved the hospital 2.4 million Euros since it was implemented.

Of great interest to the visitors was the nerve centre of the operation, a room where engineers beaver away 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep the system working. They were fascinated to learn that the data is carried along forty kilometres of fibre optic along with one hundred and thirty eight kilometres of copper cable and pleased to discover that the technology will be extended by linking the hospital in Torrevieja with the new one at Vinalopó which will be operated by the same company. The representative from Microsoft pointed out to the visitors that the system used at Torrevieja will also be used in the hospitals at Elche, and at  Torrejón and in 45 health centres in Chile.

It is fascinating that a country that lags behind its European neighbours in many ways, is so far advanced in others. In our opinion, the standard of health care in  Spain is far ahead of that we received the UK. The innovative systems used in the nearby hospital prove us right.

Why Esto es jauja?

When I decided on the title for this blog, I wanted something that sounded catchy and expressed how we felt about life in our new country. Little did I know that I had picked up on an expression that had been used in the past to describe a similar experience to ours.

My friend, Germán Martin at the Auntamiento de Bigastro has kindly sent me a link to an excellent explanation of the phrase “Esto es jauja” which comes from a site called Blogodisea. It is in Spanish so this is my rough (very rough) translation). You can read the full article by clicking on this link.

image It seems that, the phrase was used by Christopher Columbus when he was having difficulty recruiting sailors for his second trip to America because of the hardships, the diseases and the hunger that they would face on such a long voyage.

To create an incentive, America was described as Juaja – a land where everything was made of gold, where doughnuts grew on trees and there were rivers of rich milk and honey. Butter and cheese curds fell into the river of honey and said ““cómeme, “cómeme” (eat me).
image In his book, “La tierra de Jauja”, Lope de Rueda described juaja as a place where men were paid to sleep and they whipped those who insisted on working. It was a land where the trees were bacon with fine bread leaves, the streets were paved with bacon and eggs. There were spit roasting hens and partridges and animals came ready for slaughter reciting: “engúlleme, engúlleme” (gobble me up). There was rice with milk, boxes of marzipans, meringues, custard or barrels of sweet wine all saying “cómeme, bébeme, cómeme, bébeme” (eat me, drink me). It was a land where egg casseroles and cheese were plentiful.
image “The land of Cockaygne”a place with rivers of oil, milk and honey; with ready roasted geese; where monks and nuns dance together and where all the foods are there to be asked for.
image Juaja in the painting by Pieter Brueghel 1567.

Now I am not going to pretend that Bigastro or Spain is the kind of utopia described by these people but is does provide us with a good life in our retirement. After the so called honeymoon period we are still thoroughly enjoying life in our new town. There is an awful lot for us to learn about the area and plenty of places for us to explore. I don’t think we will ever get bored living here because it is probably as close to jauja as we are going to find.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There one minute….

Shopping malls are rarely man friendly places. Amongst the fashion shops, the shoe shops, there are few places of interest to us. The saving grace for the Habeneras was the bar on the way out. It was a great place to stop off for a beer or a coffee and a quick snack from the tapas menu. Pam and I went there often if only for a coffee. It always seemed to be thronged out with customers.

It was open last week but now it is closed, hit by the economic crisis. The problems that the bar faced were three fold; most customers were only spending a few Euros on a beer or two, the rents were high and they had far too many staff.

That is a shame, where is a man to go now whilst his wife is hunting down a bargain in H&M or Zara? There is only so much time you can spend looking at DIY tools in Aki or sports goods in Forum!

More aid for this region

Yesterday in Alicante, the assistant representative of the Government, Encarna Llinares outlined the Government’s plan to  set aside 1.56 million Euros for 25 projects in the Vega Baja region. In total 375 people will benefit from the scheme which is aimed at agriculture workers.

The municipalities which will benefit from this scheme are Albatera, Algorfa, Almoradí, Benijófar, Bigastro, Callosa de Segura, Catral, Cox, Daya Nueva, Daya Vieja, Dolores, Formentera del Segura, Granja de Rocamora, Guardamar del Segura, Jacarilla, Los Montesinos, Orihuela, Pilar de la Horadada, Rafal, Redován, Rojales, San Fulgencio and San Isidro.

This is in addition to eh Plan E money which all towns received in 2009 and will receive again this year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Managing hypertension

Estimates show that e.g in the UK out of the 12 million people that have high blood pressure half of them are unaware of the problem. Since I am one of those, this is a subject that is literally “close to my heart”.

When Pamela was diagnosed as having high blood pressure, I bought a monitor which we used for a while. In her case, the results showed that she did not have a problem to be concerned about. My results were high but not critical so we stopped monitoring. That was a mistake because unbeknown to me, my pressure was going off the scale. It was only when I went for a medical to get a new driving license that I discovered just how high my blood pressure had risen. So now I keep an eye on it by measuring my pressure at monthly intervals.

High blood pressure (hypertension) matters because it prematurely ages the lining of arteries, increasing the risk of problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and erectile dysfunction. The World Health Organisation estimates that it is now responsible for half of cases of coronary heart disease and three quarters of strokes in the UK.

Luckily in my case the heart valves and the arterial linings only show mild deteriation as a result of my hypertension. Hopefully, I was saved in time to prevent more serious problems.

Reports show that, in most cases, hypertension is due to a combination of ageing and lifestyle factors (particularly a high salt intake) but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Identifiable causes, such as kidney disease, are found in fewer than 5 per cent of people. My mother and my grand mother used to ladle the stuff into cooking and we always sprinkled salt on our food especially fish and chips! Now, we don't have a salt cellar in the house and Pam never adds salt when cooking. Still there is a lot of salt, along with a lot of sugar, added to the foods that you buy.

How do you know if you are suffering from hypertension?

A normal reading in the surgery is generally regarded as anything below 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mmHg), where the lower figure (diastolic) is the constant pressure within the arteries, and the higher (systolic) one the peak reached during each beat of the heart. At home, the readings should be lower.

However, it’s not just where it’s taken that matters. Other factors influence the readings, ranging from the time of day — it normally peaks in the evening and drops by as much 20 per cent during the early hours of the morning — to how bad the traffic was on the way to the surgery, which is why it’s standard practice to recheck high readings.

For those of us who suffer from hypertension, the treatment is likely to be lifelong, with around a third of patients needing one drug, another third requiring two, and the remainder needing three drugs to get their pressures down to target levels. The current upper limit for good control is set at 140/90 for most people, but studies suggest that the lower the better, with optimum level for long-term health likely to be closer to 120 for the upper figure.

Of course, taking tablets to reduce pressure is only one part of the solution to the problem. It is necessary to try to reduce your blood pressure naturally by cutting out salt, losing weight and doing more exercise and to take steps to minimise additional hazards that may compound the problem — giving up smoking, for instance, won’t lower blood pressure, but will slash the odds of someone with hypertension going to an early grave because of a heart attack.

Blood pressure facts

•A third of men and a quarter of women in the UK have high blood pressure — at least half are receiving no treatment.

•Eating more fruit and veg, exercising and losing weight may be all that is required in milder cases. Cutting out salt is particularly important.

•The equivalent of two glasses of wine a day may be beneficial, but heavier drinking raises blood pressure.

How time flies

Yesterday we had our end of term exam in Spanish, on Wednesday we will have a little party and then next Monday we get our reports.

It doesn't seem that long ago we were breaking up for Christmas and no doubt before we know it it will be the end of the summer term.

Yesterday we were a few people missing for various reasons. I expect they will catch up with the exam at a later date.

So how are we getting on? Removing my modesty cap, I would say we were maintaining progress but would readily admit that we still have a long way to go. In Liverpool they talked of “lifetime learning”, I reckon that phrase definitely applies to us.

PS You notice that we men are outnumbered. Even with a full compliment of students there would be four of us to nine women.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I don’t want a stomach ulcer

When a doctor prescribes you tablets, you take them. You rarely stop to question whether it is the right thing to do or not.

When I was diagnosed with hypertension, I was prescribed Ixia Plus which is a common treatment for high blood pressure here in Spain. In my case it has been very effective and has reduced my pressure from 200 over 90 down to about 120 over 65 – a good result. Initially, there were side effects though; I started to get pains in my chest which felt to me like angina so I was referred to a specialist in Orihuela , a grumpy man who decided that the level of my cholesterol was the cause of my problem.

I was put on a low cholesterol diet, told to exercise more and prescribed Cardyl, a popular cholesterol reducing drug in Spain. I was also prescribed Adiro which turns out to be junior aspirin specially formulated to reduce the incidence of heart attacks. I recall that my father took an aspirin every day when he was older because he believed it would prevent a heart attack by thinning his blood.

It turns out that my father was wrong and was risking something far worse. New research from Edinburgh University reveals that healthy people who take the painkiller every day almost doubled the risk of internal bleeding, while there was no discernible impact on heart disease.

The study was conducted on 3,350 people whose blood-pressure tests indicated they had problems with arteries in their legs. Over eight years, 34 people who took a daily aspirin suffered haemorrhages requiring hospital treatment, compared with only 20 such cases among the placebo group. Even more worrying, 14 participants on aspirin developed a stomach ulcer, compared with eight who were taking the dummy pill.

Dr Andrew Green, a Yorkshire-based GP who also works with the charity Sense About Science helps to demystify the daily barrage of conflicting health information that we get. “The science part is that we know aspirin reduces people’s risk of heart disease in those who have previously had a heart attack,” he says. “For those people, the potential side effect of internal bleeding is a risk worth taking. But everyone else should steer clear — the risks outweigh the benefits.”

As it happens, more often than not, I forget to take the aspirin, it is supposed to be taken with a midday meal. If we eat out, then I forget it but even when we are at home it often slips my mind. I always remember to take my Ixia Plus first thing in the morning and 99% of the time a Cardyl tablet with my evening meal. It seems that, unwittingly, I may be doing the right thing.

What’s the weather like for today?

image Whilst it might be getting warmer in the daytime, it is still cold at night when the sun goes down.

This week looks as if it will start the same but will be getting milder towards the weekend.

Yesterday, I cleaned my pool out for the first time in a couple of months and I can tell you the water was freezing. It is also very grey now that I have disturbed all the muck that was on the bottom. A couple more cleans should see it right but I reckon it will be well into May before it is warm enough to set foot in.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Relatively safe hospital

I recall many horror stories about the abuse that staff at the Royal Hospital in Liverpool faced particularly in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings. To me it beggars belief that people would be aggressive towards workers in the caring professions but there you go. There is just no accounting for what some will do especially when they are fuelled up on drink or drugs.

By comparison, the hospital in Torrevieja seems to have faired a lot better. In 3 years, they have only brought 24 cases to court against people whose behaviour was deemed aggressive and none of them were considered serious, 80% were verbal involving threats and humiliation.

The staff are trained to back off and not provoke abuse but if they feel it is necessary, call a security guard of which there are four along with one in the Centro de Salud La Loma and another in the Unidad de Conductas Adictivas.

Let us hope that the incidence of this type of behaviour does not increase so that our hospitals remain safe places for both patients and staff.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Messing about with boats

image With its long association with all things nautical, you would expect Torrevieja to be home to a  thriving model boat club and it is.

At 11am this morning. councillors will inaugurate the  7th exhibition of static and radio controlled model boats at the lake in the Jardín de las Naciones just off the Ronda.

Along with the Torrevieja club there are ten other associations taking part in the event.


So there should be plenty for you to see. Opening hours are 9:30am to 1:30pm and 5pm to 8pm.

Housing for the young in Torrevieja

It is almost impossible for young people in any country to get on the property ladder these days. As the price of housing shot up in the 80s and 90s it became more and more difficult for them to find the necessary deposit let alone get mortgages they could afford.

Recognising the existence of this problem has led Torrevieja town council to finding a solution. The Third Vice President of the Generalitat Valencia and Councillor for the Environment, Water, Urbanism and Housing, Juan Cotino have signed an agreement with the Mayor of Torrevieja, Pedro Hernández Mateo, approving plans for the construction of a new sheltered housing estate exclusively offered to youngsters of the municipality aged 18 to 35 years.

The project, which will cost 12,500,000 Euros will provide 116 apartments on four sites with between 16 and 40 houses on each for rent with the possibility for the young people to purchase at some point in the future.

Not wishing to throw a damp squid on the idea, I remember when the council in Moreton provided accommodation for young families in blocks of flats near to where we lived. That policy created all sorts of problems.

At first everything worked out well but then with a high percentage of low income and unemployed youngsters renting the flats, the problems started. Within a short space of time, the flats became a no go area for older people who moved as as soon as they could. Then there was a massive problem with drug trafficking. Eventually the council had to change its plans and move the young people out.

Since Torrevieja plans to only have a small number of these social houses in each area, they may avoid the massive problems in Moreton, I hope so because the last thing the town needs is to create ghettos.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It will get better – trust me!

imageWhenever it is colder or wetter here in Spain, the British press make a lot of it. This winter they have had a lot to crow about because he weather has been diabolical.

That will change though. You could put your life savings on that.

We came back from England on Monday leaving clear sunny skies in Manchester to find grey clouds over Bigastro. Since then though we have had pleasant sunshine, sufficient to get all the clothes washed and dried.

Today we are back to rain and cold but that won’t last. You can see from the chart that it is already starting to get warmer. Not hot enough for the shorts that we saw a few Brits sporting in Torrevieja the other day but certainly good enough to leave the scarves and gloves at home.Let's be honest, 18 degrees would almost be a pleasant summers day in Britain.

Back home

We are delighted to tell you that our granddaughter is now at home. After a long and traumatic birth, as I explained yesterday, there were a few minor complications which needed to be sorted out before Laura and Dave could take Molly home. She is there now and doing well. We know that Laura and Dave will make fantastic parents and will keep us up to date on Molly’s development – expect regular updates on this blog!

Pam and I would like to thank all those people who emailed us, sent us cards or left comments on Facebook. Especially we would like to thank our neighbours Ken and Kay who gave us a baby album so that we can record the events of Molly’s first years and Mel and Lillian who bought us a little picture frame to store one of our many photos in. Their kindness is much appreciated.

At least they know their way there

A mistake in the date on a document sent by the town hall to the proprietor of Sector D-5 (the land opposite Avenida Europa) led eleven members of the council, including the Mayor, Inmaculada Martínez, Mari Carmen Alonso, José Espinosa and the town clerk, Antonio Saseta back to the courts in Orihuela. The ex mayor, José Joaquín Moya, who was also meant to attend, sent a medical certificate to show that he was ill.

The mayor accuses the opposition party of using this issue to once again bring the governing group into disrepute. He claims that, although steps had been taken to correct the mistake, the lady concerned and the lawyer who happens also to act for the PP, insisted upon taking the matter to court.

Not alone

It is not just Bigastro that is cash strapped, many councils in Alicante province are suffering because of the collapse of the construction industry.

A recent report shows that the average income per habitant in Alicante is 935 Euros per year which allows an average investment of 175 Euros. The average deficit in Alicante for councils is 10,505,465 Euros.  As bad as that sounds, it doesn’t compare with an average of 23,049,290 for Castellón. Only in Valencia are councils in the black to the tune of 996,454 Euros.

We know that Bigastro is notorious for not paying its bills. Apparently the average delay in Alicante is 3 months a month longer that in Castellón.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Celebrating women in Bigastro

Last Saturday, Bigastro celebrated its 6th Gala of the Working Woman at the Auditorium Francisco Grau. The gala paid tribute to the Woman Worker for 2010, Mª Dolores Belmonte Segura otherwise known as "Lola la Chuta" (Lola the lucky). The gala also paid tribute to the ladies who have worked at the fruit packing factory. "Perales y Ferrer".

To round off there was a fashion show featuring some of the wedding dresses produced by the bigastrense designer, Elvira Gálvez. Many of the photographs on display at the Auditorium are the creations of Elvira and her family.

Our Molly

The poor little girl had quite a traumatic entrance into this world. Molly’s was a long delivery which entailed forceps in the end - not surprising when you saw how big she was.

St Mary’s hospital, being cautious, put her on an antibiotic drip for five days just to ensure that she was OK and to counter the stress of her birth. They also put her on a glucose drip to keep her hydrated whilst they sorted out a feeding routine.

Starting feeding was then made complicated because Molly had bile in her stomach which meant she was sick after each feed so they inserted a drain to remove that.

We are delighted to say that all is now well. The antibiotic drip has been removed along with the glucose, Molly is feeding well without being sick and is ready to go home today none the worse for her experience.

All of the family (parents , grandparents, aunt and uncle) would like to thank the staff at St Mary’s for their patience and kindness. The attention to detail and the level of care shown by the hospital has been second to none. 

PS Did I tell you that St Mary’s was the hospital where I was born? That makes Molly and I the only true Mancs in the family, something which we should both be very proud off.

A must see

IMG_0333 If you haven’t already done so, go down and see the exhibition of wedding photographs currently on display at the Auditorium Francisco Grau.

The ladies will be bowled over by the range of beautiful dresses worn by the brides, some relatively plain, others quite elaborate. The men will be taken by the beauty of the brides.

The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into forty years of the social history of the town.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hornet’s nests

There is no getting away from it, Spaniards are noisy by nature. For example, we have never lived anywhere where fireworks are set off all year round and in the daytime when you can’t see them!

On the roads they are noisy and aggressive. The mopeds and scooters that young men ride are noisy because they ram a broom handle up the exhaust to break the baffles. A 50cc moped with its baffles removed gains street credibility even though it still struggles to get up the hill past our house to La Pedrera. Madness!

In Torrevieja they have had enough of this and so the local police there are mounting a campaign over the next few months to clamp down on noisy mopeds. Any vehicles fond which do not have an ITV (equivalent of MOT) or are outside the noise limits will be impounded and won’t be allowed back on the road until they have passed an ITV test. 

It could have been oh so different

The plan was to redirect water from the Ebro Valley which would have reduced the risk of flooding there and provided a plentiful supply of water to this region.

However, the idea was not popular with the people living in the Ebro Valley so in a bid to gain votes the Socialist party promised to drop the scheme. Instead they built the desalination plant at Torrevieja. As it happens Torrevieja already had one of the best water management systems on the coast . In any case, the water from the new plant is destined for Murcia, Alicante and inland to Orihuela and so is of no benefit to the town.

Thanks to the short sightedness of the people of the Ebro Valley, it still floods each year and the farmers in this region still have to take whatever water they can get for their crops. A new study suggests that the project to divert water from the Ebro would, not only have solved both these problems but would have created 514,135 jobs directly and indirectly in Valencia, Murcia, Catalonia an Almeria province.

The woodwind section

imageThose of you who go to the concerts at the Auditorium will have noticed the strong clarinet section in the band.

Clarinet is obviously a popular choice of instrument. Apart from any other consideration it is easy to carry around with you and doesn’t take up a lot of room in the house.

Not surprisingly the School of Music therefore has a popular clarinet class. This weekend on Sunday they will be showing off their skills at the Auditorium at 6:30pm.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Curtains for smokers

In 2005, Spain’s controversial Anti-Smoking Laws allowed establishments to decide if they wanted to ban smoking completely or not. More than 90% continued to allow smoking as if nothing had ever happened while others, especially restaurants and nightclubs constructed glassed areas, to allow smoking in an enclosed space. Health Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, has explained on several occasions that the new ‘text’ is currently under study but that preliminary indications suggest that the Government will not offer compensation to anyone for any investment to provide smoking zones for their clientele.

That is all set to change because on June 22nd Spain’s anti-smoking laws are expected to change, according to articles in the Spanish Press and TV.

This action from the Ministry of Health is designed to bring Spain into line with many other European Countries and ban smoking in public areas. The government aims to eliminate all those areas where smoking is allowed at present. This means that there will be no longer be any special areas reserved for smokers and that all bars, restaurants, hotels (which can now have up to 30% of rooms reserved for smokers), nightclubs, gaming establishments, casinos plus the designated zones in airports, bus stations, trains, shipping terminals and anywhere else presently permitted, will now have to close down these areas due to changes in the enforcement of the law. Congress still must approve this but it looks like that will have the approval of all parties.

The irony on the Costa Blanca is that traditional midsummer’s night parties in honour of San Juan (St. John the Baptist) take place on the evening of June 23rd and since 1928 Alicante has celebrated with the Bonfires of Saint John, which have developed into elaborate constructions inspired by the Valencia’s Fallas. No doubt someone with a sense of humour shall build one depicting a smoker going up in flames!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Presents all round

When our children were born, all the gifts were for the baby. The mother would get a bunch of flowers but that was it.

IMG_1571aThat has seemingly all changed. Now all parties concerned get gifts to remind them of the joyous occasion and to thank them for their part in the process.

Jemma, Pam and I bought Dave and Laura a kit which will enable them to have silver jewellery with Molly’s fingerprint and her name engraved. Laura and Dave bought Jemma a charm bracelet with a dummy and we added a butterfly to it.

Lucky Dave got this bear in a Manchester United kit. The furry chappie hasn’t got a final name yet but we think he will be called Eric after the legendary Eric Cantana, Dave’s favourite United player.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The head wetting

Dave’s brother Mathew (better known as Yubson) Dave’s dad BC and Dave.
Dave and his Dad BC.
Pamela, Joan (Dave's mum and Jemma.
IMG_1549a Me, Yubson, BC, Dave, Pamela and Joan.

Dave and Jemma
Yubson and Jemma
Dave and his brother Yubson
Dave and his mum Joan

Dave and Jemma as birth partners have hardly had a drink in the last few weeks in readiness for a call to take Laura in. So last night they were ready for a good session and what better excuse than to wet the babies head.