Thursday, September 30, 2010

Little or no effect in Bigastro

Although there were scenes of mass rallies in Madrid and Barcelona and thousands marched in Alicante, the general strike had little effect in this area.

In the industrial part of Orihuela, pickets managed to stop  90% of the workforce but in the city centre it was business as usual with shops open as usual. In Torrevieja the strikers only managed to muster 150 to protest in the Plaza de la Constitución.

A fantastic job

You can’t have missed the team of workers cleaning up the parks and roadsides. They have done a fantastic job in the park and on the road up to Villas Andrea making the place look a lot smarter.

Many thanks to them and to the town hall for organising the clean up – it is very much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The general strike

image At midnight last night, the general strike in Spain began. Summoned by the CCOO and the UGT, this is only the seventh strike of this type since the country became a democracy and the first one for eight years.

The strike has been called to protest against austerity measures introduced by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's socialist government. Workers are demonstrating against wage cuts, an increase in the retirement age and new labour reforms that make it easier to hire and fire workers – all measures introduced in an attempt to reduce Spain's budget deficit from 11 per cent last year to within the three per cent of GDP limit set by the European Union by 2013.

So, for today, factories are closed, rubbish collections will not take place and the wholesale markets in the large cities have been paralysed. Other services like the buses and the Metro in Madrid will run almost as normal.

As a side effect, the strike will cause travel misery for thousands of tourists and other travellers flying to and from Spain. Budget airline easyJet has cancelled around half its Spanish flights and rival low-fare carrier Ryanair has told passengers they can only bring hand-luggage to limit disruption from striking baggage handlers. Several airlines, including British Airways, warned passengers of disruption and advised them to check their respective websites for further information.

The union leaders are convinced that the strike will have the required impact on the government and make them change their plans for labour reforms. We shall see.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For lovers of cars

Pam and I watch a program on our Spanish satellite TV about a USA company called West Coast Customs. It never fails to amaze us what these people are able to do to transform ordinary cars into something special.

It isn’t just in America that customising is popular. All over the world there are people intent on making their cars “different” including those in this area of Spain.

Of course there is not much point in spending hard earned money and time on your car if nobody else sees it. So a group of enthusiasts in Torrevieja organised what they called a Noche del Coche to provide a platform for people to show off their prized automobiles.

The first Noche del Coche was held in Torrevieja’s new sports yacht harbour, Marina Salinas March 2010. Since then owners of  classic, specialist, tuning and interesting cars and bikes have been  invited to go along, enjoy each others company and view each others vehicles the last Friday of each month.

Last month there were apparently over 20 cars to see but if you missed it don’t worry because there will be a special event this Friday to celebrate Octoberfest.

Octoberfest, which will run between Thursday and Sunday, noon until midnight, has been organised by the local café Ole del Mar. Entrance is free, as is parking outside of the white fence that surrounds Marina Salinas. Visitors can park their cars within easy walking distance of the event, inside of the first barrier.

On Friday 29th October there will be another Noche del Coche and on Haloween Night the Ole del Mar will be holding a special fancy dress night with prizes for the best dressed.

For  more information about the  Noches del Coche please visit or call Dave on 697 198 939. Marina Salinas is located 100-metres past the entrance to the Fairground Car park and past the Pascual Flores and Delfin S61 Submarine.

Almost a moment of accord

According to accounts in the papers, the council meeting last night was, by Bigastro standards, relatively calm. Although there were arguments across the floor, the meeting carried on without expulsions and without police intervention.

One of the hot topics was the implication that Bigastro was somehow involved in the Brugal case which in fact has  turned out be about an alleged payment to the PP by the industrialist Ángel Fenoll. 

Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson of the PP countered the accusation made against him by reminding the socialist group that there are still five cases open against them including four which involve the present mayor. The main case being the alleged embezzlement of 850,000 Euros from the municipal coffers by the ex mayor, José Joaquín Moya.

The other main topic of concern was the lack of “niches” in the town cemetery. The mayor explained that they had requested money from the Caja de Cooperación de la Diputación Provincial to build new niches. Murcia urged that this matter needed attention before 2011 when the town’s debt could well rise to a level where they will not be allowed to spend.  Otherwise there will be nowhere to bury the dead in Bigastro.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A pleasant week ahead

imageLooks like we could be in for a pleasant week weather wise. Apart from today, there is little chance of rain forecast; the winds will be light and there should be plenty of sunshine. Temperatures will be about good for the time of year – nice and warm in the daytime and cooler at night.

Our youngest daughter is due to arrive on Friday with Molly and will be staying until next Wednesday. Let’s hope the weather stays good for her visit.

It’s that time of the month

image I wonder what tonight’s council meeting will bring.

Apart from the regular business, there is bound to be some lively debate about the accusation that Aurelio Murcia received one of the “brown envelopes” from Ángel Fenoll in connection with the Brugal case.

Although Bigastro is one of the few towns that are not involved in the scandal, rubbish collection was still a contentions issue in the town when the contract was awarded to Residuos Sólidos Álvarez for five years. That was at the council meeting on the 4th July 2008, one of the last that José Joaquín Moya presided over.

Sparks flew at that meeting, no doubt they will fly again tonight at 9pm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The mountains

One thing I never tire of are the views we have of the surrounding mountains. As the light changes so does their mood. One time dark and brooding an another deeply sculptured. Even the colour of the rock they are made from changes with the light.

I apologise if you think you have seen these all before – to me they look different every time I l get my camera out.

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The war continues

When Pam and I were down in Torrevieja on Thursday, we saw loads of salesmen trying to flog their “hooky” DVDs, CDs, bags and even fake Calvin Klein pants. I said to Pam, “if the police spot them, they’ll confiscate the  lot”. 

The war between the local police and the salesmen has heated up recently. The salesmen are determined to carry on their trade and the police are equally determined to stop them.  On Thursday this apparently led to another confrontation where two of the vendors got injured along with one of the police officers. 

The story goes that, late in the day, two foot patrol officers came across between five and ten of the Africans who promptly fled only to be found moments later further down the street.

At first the confrontation was just a tirade of insults followed by a retreat on the part of the sellers. Then suddenly the men stopped, a group of them surrounded one of the police officers and started pushing and hitting him. The police officers retaliated resulting in two of the Africans receiving cuts on their heads and the policeman a cut on the arm.

When the police tried to detain the assailants, the gang of black people tried to stop them which forced the police to send for members of the Guardia Civil to act as reinforcements.

The Africans will be claiming that the police used unnecessary force to detain them. Fighting back and getting into confrontation is presumably a new ploy that they hope will intimidate the police into leaving them alone. I doubt that it will work. Now if people stopped buying these fake goods – that would work. Without a market – the Africans would be forced to give up their illegal trade. In my book, people who buy fake goods are just as guilty as those that sell them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Brace yourselves

You have seen the effect of the strikes in France and in Greece. Next Wednesday it is the turn of Spain.

Public sector employees in a wide range of areas including the transport, postal and emergency services, among others, have staged their own partial stoppages over the past several months due to wage reductions and other cutbacks that have left many disgruntled workers up and down the country.

The main unions in Spain have called for a general strike on September 29th so we can expect widespread disruption to a whole range of services.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blooming lovely

A close cut Every year in spring, the council come and cut back the trees alongside the road down to the town.

It does look brutal when you first see it done and you wonder whether the trees will ever recover.
No need to worry though because every summer the trees grow back even larger than before.

This year, not only have they grown back but some of them have burst into flower.

If you look carefully you can see a plume of deep blue crowning  the delicate foliage on a few of the specimens.

Top marks go to Star Sol for planting the trees and to the council for maintaining them so well. 

Off beat Britain

When my father was a policeman in Morley, then Batley and finally a sergeant in Penistone, the majority of his time was spent on "the beat". His main role was to deal with the incidents that troubled people’s daily lives. I am sure that his presence was much appreciated by the majority and feared by those who could not conform to the norms of social behaviour.

However, since my father retired, all that has changed. The refusal by police in Britain to regard tackling antisocial behaviour as "real police work" has led to officers "retreating from the streets", according to a report today by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The study says the scale of antisocial behaviour has been widely ignored, with 14m incidents in the past year, of which only a quarter were reported to the police. Sir Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, says that for 20 years police have increasingly left the public to cope with persistent antisocial behaviour. Victims have suffered repeat attacks and a high level of intimidation if they complain to the police.

One study showed that almost half of almost 6,000 people surveyed had changed their routines through fear of anti-social behaviour, by avoiding certain streets or not going out at night.

This paints a very worrying picture of the country that Pam and I were were brought up in and loved before we move to Spain.

The UK – a good place to leave

The UK and Ireland have been named as the worst places to live in Europe for quality of life, according to research published today.

The UK has the 4th highest age – 63.1 – at which people choose or can afford to take retirement, and one of the lowest holiday entitlements. Net household income in the UK is just £2,314 above the European average, compared with £10,000 above average last year, falling behind Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

UK workers enjoy a week less holiday than the European average and three weeks less than the Spanish, while the UK's spend (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education is below the European average and UK food and diesel prices are the highest in Europe. Unleaded petrol, electricity, alcohol and cigarettes all cost more than the average across the continent.

If it is any consolation, Ireland is even worse off. It has the lowest numbers of hours of sunshine, the second lowest government spend on health as a proportion of GDP and the second highest retirement age of 64.1.

If that's not bad enough, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Italy all enjoy a longer life expectancy than the UK, according to's latest Quality of Life Index.

For the best quality of life France comes tops. France enjoys the earliest retirement age (joint with Poland), spends the most on healthcare (11% of GDP) and has the longest life expectancy in Europe at 81.09 years. Its workers also benefit from 36 days holiday a year – compared with just 28 in the UK – and it comes only behind Spain (second in the rankings) and Italy for hours of sunshine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Carry on as normal

As a smoker, I objected to the heavy handed approach of the British government’s ban on smoking in public places. Regrettably, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before a similar ban was imposed here in Spain.

It therefore came as no surprise when, early in 2010, the Government said that this year smoking in all public places would be banned but up to now, nothing seems to have happened. The minister for health has backtracked and said that the smoking laws will not come into place until 2011.

However, 2011 will be an election year when the introduction of this new law could work against them in the polls and so some observers doubt that anything will happen until after the elections. It will then depend upon which party comes back into power.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

There will be light – soon!

Iberdrola cut the supply of electricity to La Paz school in January, The reason given was that Bigasto owed about 120,000 to the electricity company. They also cut the supply to the sports centre and to La Pedrera.  Since then electricity had been supplied by diesel generators much to the consternation of the parents of the children.

Now it seems that Iberdrola and the town hall have come to an agreement about a calendar of payments that will clear the debt – over half has already been paid.  The mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina therefore hopes that the company will restore mains power to the school before the end of the week and to the Pedrera and the sports centre before the end of the month.

In honour of the patron

image The Brotherhood of the Virgin of Bethlehem in Bigastro will  be celebrating solemn mass in her honour  next Saturday, 25th of September at 8pm in the church.

A caring town


Bigastro is one of those towns that cares about people who are less fortunate through any circumstances.

For example, the Association of Relatives of Alzheimer Sufferers in collaboration with the Council of Social Welfare has organised special events to commemorate the International Day of Alzheimer.

On the 16th and 23rd of this month there will be a special table at the weekly market to give out information about this condition.

On Monday the 20th from 6pm there will be a gymkhana for the children in the park.

On Tuesday the 21st at 5pm they will be serving coffee in the auditorium

On Saturday the 25th the church will hold a special mass to remember those sufferers who have passed away.

Finally, on Sunday the 26th there will be a flea market and a raffle for a ham in the park at 9am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It didn’t rain- much.

imageOur visitors returned to rainy Liverpool yesterday leaving us basking in warm sunshine.

The forecast for their stay was not good – cloudy at best with the distinct possibility of rain. As it turned out, it rained on the Friday morning when we went shopping, the rest of the time it was pleasant mixture of sunshine with the odd cloud.

This week promises to be much the same, clouds and sunshine with maybe a little rain now and then.

I haven’t looked at the forecast for the Wirral but I dare say our visitors would probably prefer to have stayed in Bigastro which would have suited us just fine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Definitely worth a visit

I am usually reluctant to recommend a restaurant on this blog however, La Herradura in Los Montesinos is one which I feel confident will not disappoint you.

Pam and I have been there several times now, we even had Christmas dinner at La Herradura last year. We have taken friends and have been on our own. Each time we have been delighted with both the food and the service.

Last night we went with Hugh and Angela on their last night for this visit. The weather was fair so the flamenco show was held outside in the patio area. What a show it was – different routines to the ones we had seen last time and of course different dresses - as I said - well worth a visit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blue skies return

The weather over much of Spain was dreadful yesterday. In Bigastro we had grey skies for much of the day but only a spot or two of rain – we were lucky, some areas had substantial rain for most of the day.

This morning we have a mixture of blue skies with some clouds. Apparently large swathes of the country will be having more rain but here it might just be a short shower.

Perfect guests

Hugh and Angela are the epitome of the perfect visitors. Conversations between us flow easily, they are totally undemanding and most important – they only stay for a few days :-)

Just to put icing on the cake – here they are helping out in the kitchen. Hugh and Angela are preparing supper. Toasted bread, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic and serrano ham – very tasty and all we needed after a superb lunch out.

PS Pam and I could not work together in the kitchen as well as these two do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mucky business

The Brugal case was opened again at the beginning of this month after the summer holidays were over.

Originally only Orihuela was involved but now other municipalities in the Vega Baja have been implicated. It is alleged that three of the local mayors and two councilmen received envelopes with money just before the 2007 elections. The money came from Ángel Fenol, an industrialist connected to the company who were later awarded the contract for refuse collection in Orihuela and other neighbouring towns.The amounts of money are said to vary between 6 and 9,000 Euros and were made to bribe the candidates into awarding the contract to Fenol’s company.

The towns all became under the control of the PP, no socialist councils were involved. However, it is alleged that Francisco Lancharr (councillor for the PP in Pilar de la Horadada) and Aurelio Murcia (spokesperson for the PP in Bigastro) also received envelopes – presumably because it was possible that they would win the elections in their municipalities.

The police claim that Fenoll and his son had made phone calls just before the elections to organise the distribution of the “brown envelopes”. From the conversations that took place, it appears that this was not the first time that Fenol had offered monies to PP candidates.

Just cook will you

It isn’t often I get caught on camera and even less frequent that I am captured whilst working! The young lady from the Ayuntamiento caught me taking photographs at the fiesta, now Hugh has got me cooking steaks on the barbeque.

As you can see, Pam and Angela are waiting patiently for the steaks to be ready and were more than happy with the result when it arrived.

PS A glass or two of summer wine helped of course.

PPS The ladies complained that I had caught them without makeup - I think their natural beauty shines through without.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cheap skate

As I explained the other day, I’ve spent many frustrating hours trying to make a decent copy of my DVD of the christening. What I mean by that is one that does not jitter part way through.

One or two copies have come close with just a minor jitter or two – not enough to spoil watching entirely but still annoying. Others have simply come to a dead halt on one of the images – totally un-viewable.

Ten wasted discs later, I decided to do some research on the Internet to see if I could find a possible cause. Various forums suggested that it was unlikely to be the DVD burner, the most likely suspect would be cheap budget media. That was a relief – I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having to replace the DVD burner in my computer.

At this point I should confess to having bought budget DVDs from Asda in England which is what I was using for this project. Obviously Asda don’t make DVDs, I have no idea what brand they might actually be. There are apparently ways to find out but that wouldn’t really help solve my problem.

One website in particular was very helpful. Although the information was well out of date, it pointed me in the right direction. Apparently what I needed were ‘premium’ quality blank discs for a jitter free video. At the time the article was written, the suggestion was that any disc manufactured in Japan would suffice and Sony came out as one of the manufacturers whose DVD blanks could normally be relied on.

Armed with that knowledge, I went to Carrefour yesterday to seek out some Sony blank DVDs which surprisingly were similar in price to others. Not only that but were manufactured in India the same as the others. For all I know, they could have all come from the same factory.

Naturally, I was hesitant – had Sony compromised quality standards to remain competitive? Would these discs produce exactly the same jitter as the Asda ones?

Now burning just one disc is not a definitive test but at least the first hurdle has been passed. I now have a copy of my little masterpiece (that is a joke by the way) which plays without jitter.

So no more budget DVDs or CDs for me. The money I saved was far outweighed by the time wasted producing ‘coasters’. With blank media, as with a lot of things, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making planning difficult

imageWhy couldn’t the weather remain settled for this next week? As I said yesterday, we have our good friends Hugh and Angela arriving tonight hoping for some Spanish sun. In the past they have visited us earlier in the month but for this year because of the christening they are visiting us later.

Of course we want to make some sort of plans for what we might do and when we might want to eat out. It all depends upon the weather. According to forecasts, it could be very rainy over the next few days or there could be the possibility of rain just at night.

We remember during September last year when the rain was so heavy that we had to abandon a trip to the dentist because the roads were badly flooded. Even the worst forecast doesn’t paint as bad a picture as that. I guess we will just to wait and see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Keeping the women of Bigastro fit

image The Association of Progressive Women in collaboration with the Councillor for Women have set out their calendar of activities to keep the women of the town fit. To be honest, from what I have seen the women in Bigastro are already fit enough = you regularly find them taking a constitutional walk up to Pedrera whatever the weather.

Activities on offer are:

Yoga:- Mondays and Wednesdays between 9:15 and 10:15 pm starting on the 15th September

Aerobics:- Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 5 and 6pm and 8 and 9pm starting on the 4th October

Dancing:- Mondays and Wednesdays between 6 and 7pm starting in October.

Aqua gym:- At the normal times starting in October.

Glorious sunsets

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One of the things we love about living in this part of the world is the light. At night the skies are inky black and in the daytime deep ultramarine blue.

We particularly love the sunsets where the sky lights up to colours that range from a brilliant scarlet to subtle shades of indigo.

Cooling down

imageLooks like it will be really cooling down this week as we get heavier cloud cover towards the end of the week.

Not exactly the weather we had hoped for our visitors who arrive on Tuesday just in time to miss the tail end of the lovely sunny weather we have had since returning home.

Still, I expect it will be a lot better than the weather they will be leaving behind on the Wirral and at least it will be more comfortable for Hugh when he goes out on his bike.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A labour of love

Having taken lots of photographs of the christening of our granddaughter, I wanted to make a little DVD of a selection from them.

First task open Windows Movie Maker - not the best program I will grant you but it is simple to use and does most of what I wanted. Then insert the photographs in the right order and add the transitions between each one. A few titles added, it was time to select some music and record that into the project.

After a bit of tidying up it was time to burn the video onto a DVD. Now that takes a lot of processor power so it is best to leave the computer to do its thing.

The finished result looked good except there were a couple of changes I needed to make to the titles. That done all I had to do was burn it again. The results though were less than satisfactory -  the DVD stuck when it was played back.

By this time I was getting tired of this project and should have just saved my work and done something else but I didn’t. The results were awful and to make matters worse I had mistakenly saved the project over the original and lost all my work.

So back to the drawing board and start all over again which is what I have done this morning. This time I used Windows Live Movie Maker which is a newer version of the program. The results are better but still not perfect. At this point I admit to being stuck and frustrated to say the least. I hate the idea of sending people something that is not good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to work


October is fast approaching – it is therefore time to start thinking of returning to our Spanish class.

As sad as it might sound to some, attending class is one of the highlights of our week during the winter months. We hate missing lessons and try to arrange our trips to the UK to avoid having to do so.

Those who want to join us can pop into the Ayuntamiento or call in at the old Colegio San José de Calasanz building up to the 25th of this month to sign up.

As Pam and I would argue, if you live in Spain you really should try and learn to speak at least a little of the language.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Most of the pictures I take are shot in JPEG format. I let the camera do most of the processing and just perform a few tweaks in Photoshop to tidy them up.

For important events like the christening of our granddaughter though I take the photos in what is called RAW format. The files produced contain all the digital data unprocessed. This allows me to tweak the pictures without any loss of detail. I can correct the colour balance and exposure to get it just as I would want it to be. Once that is done, the images are converted to JPEGs for a final tweak in Photoshop before saving them to print out or publish on the Internet.

As you can imagine, it is a time consuming process. Hopefully, you will find the results are worth it!

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You can see the rest of my pictures from the Christening here

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Back home safe and sound

It was just a short trip to the UK this time, principally to attend the christening of our granddaughter, Molly Louise in Sale.

It might have been short but it was sweet. We had a fabulous time and enjoyed every minute of our stay. A special thanks to all those who attended the christening, it was great to see you all and meet up again with people we haven't seen for awhile.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Back in Blighty

It almost seems like we can’t keep away from the place.

This time we are here for Molly’s christening. It is just a short trip so we will be back home in Spain before we know it.

The weather is unusually kind. Not in the same league as the glorious weather we left in Spain but still sun in Manchester is a bonus and I don’t feel too stupid wearing my crop pants even if they leave my legs a bit colder than I am used to.

Now, if you don’t mind,  my stomach tells me it is well past breakfast time even if it is still quite early here in Altrincham.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The question on all your lips


What was the response to the Bikini Bash last Saturday?

The organisers, Sol Productions were looking for 2,000 women in bikinis to beat the Guiness World Record.

Well it was good and bad news. It was a beautiful sunny day so the weather was perfect for the occasion. By 7pm, thousands had turned up to watch but only 168 ladies in bikinis were there for the photoshoot.

Still the organisers managed to raise €418 for charity to which will be added the proceeds from a calendar they are calling Bikini Bash 2011.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

I was there

imageAnd just to prove it, here is the picture that the young lady from the Ayuntamiento took of me at the Tapeo.

In a bit of mutual back patting, I told her that I enjoyed the photographs she took for the Bigastro forum and she told me she liked mine.

Thank you very much for posting the photograph – it isn’t often that I get pictured "on the job" so to speak.

PS Lucky I was wearing my special T-shirt for the occasion.

The deserted beach

image The holidays are over now and most of the visitors have packed up and gone home leaving the coastal towns back with the residents.

As they looked out at the cloudy skies yesterday, it would not have been so painful to close the cases and load them in the boot of the car.

As you can see in this picture taken from Laverdad, the Los Locos beach had very few takers in the morning. By the afternoon the clouds have lifted but the waves were still beating down on the sand as if they were saying farewell to the madrilenas on their way home.

It is nice to have visitors but equally nice when they have gone home!