Sunday, October 31, 2010

She doesn’t stand a chance

Just look what Dave and Laura did for Molly to celebrate Halloween (a day early but they are elsewhere tonight).

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The poor child is in danger of being scarred for life!

PS I hope they gave her a treat.

Trick or treat

I hope you are stocked up with treats ready for tonight. 

Last year, a night that is meant to be about fun turned sour for some of the residents at Villas Andrea. When they refused to answer the door bell to the trick or treaters, they got their gates pelted with eggs – that was the trick!

In order to prevent a re-occurrence, two of the ladies from the estate visited the police station in the town to seek their help. The police have promised to send a patrol round on a regular basis.

If anyone does feel intimidated, phone 60715447 and the police will send someone up to the estate straight away.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dodgems in the park

imageFridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Parque Huerto del Cura will be party time for the young of Bigastro especially on Sunday, 21st November when they will pay only 1Euro per ride.

21st century cops

image Local Police in Bigastro now have three PDA devices, along with portable printers, which  communicate directly with SUMA allowing the officers to transact fines and sanctions on motorists in real time. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The all important weather

imageA bit late in the week I know but as you have worked out Pam and I have been in England this last week.

I had my netbook and my Vodaphone mobile broadband dongle with me but in the hotel in Chester it was hard to lock on to Vodaphone’s 3G network.

Speeds on the GPRS network are just about OK for text only pages but uploading pictures is hopeless. Annoyingly I could see 3G connections for O2, T-Mobile and 3G but the Vodaphone one was pretty elusive. So that is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

Anyway back to the weather. First off England was typically Autumnal, bright skies and sunshine one day, rain the next. Still we could not really complain because we did have three good days out of six. Nice to get back to Spain though.

As you can see this week for Bigastro looks good. Very little chance of any rain, warm days but getting distinctly chilly at nights.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A very busy trip

be Pam and I are used to a very peaceful life. We get up when we are want and go out when we are ready. After years of working life when time was not always our own. we enjoy our relaxed existence in Spain.

Trips to England are always hectic though. There is so much to fit into the short time we have, so many people to see and business to attend to.

From when we touched down at Manchester it has been a whirlwind of activity – today should be calmer and then tomorrow we fly home.

So what have been the highlights so far:-

Number one of course is to see our family and especially our granddaughter, Molly.

Joint number two has to Laura and Dave getting engaged and the wedding we attended on Sunday.

As I have said the engagement was a bolt out of the blue. I knew it was going to happen because Dave had asked me if he could marry Laura when they were over in summer but I had no idea when he had in mind.

The wedding we did know about. We’ve been looking forward to it for months now – ever since we were invited in fact.

Pete and Laura could not have picked a better day or venue for their wedding. Rawton Hall is such a perfect location in every way but is even better when the sun shines as it did on Sunday.

The ceremony was delightful, the guests were such good company and the meal was to die for. I took loads and loads of photos which hopefully Pete and Laura will enjoy.

Now for today we are going to see Pamela’s father and sort out a few loose ends on the sale of his house. Then tomorrow back to Sale to drop off the things we can’t bring back to Spain and home for a rest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A wonderful surprise

Pam and I are over in England to attend the wedding of my good friend Pete to his beautiful Finnish girlfriend Laura in Chester today.

First stop Sale near Manchester to see Laura, Dave, Jemma and of course Molly.

Saturday morning – we call round to Dave and Laura’s house for breakfast. The plan is we were going out for the day but before we did, Dave surprised all of us by proposing marriage to Laura which thankfully she accepted. The ring he had bought for her is absolutely stunning – a perfect choice.

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PS The sun is shining this morning – perfect weather for Pete and Laura’s wedding.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

True to character

Well, well, well -Wayne Rooney has really set the cat amongst the pigeons. In March he was saying that he would end his career with United and now he has all but left. It is possible that he will never play for United again and may be allowed to transfer to another club in January.

Rooney questions whether, under the Glazers, United will ever be able to attract good players to the team. He believes that will inevitable mean their run of success will come to an end. Rooney does not want to be there if that happens.

As his parting shot he added, "I know I will always owe Sir Alex a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18. For United's sake I wish he could go on forever because he's a one-off and a genius." That is a nice tribute but it won’t cut ice with either Sir Alex or the fans.

Rooney may have a point about the fate of United but I’m sure the prospect of a £260,000 a week pay packet at Eastlands has more to do with his ambitions to move to the other side of Manchester.

Wayne Rooney’s form has not been that good lately; his value has diminished since the World Cup, where he appeared unfit and out of sorts and he has not scored a goal from open play in seven months. It may be that it isn’t United that are on the wan Wayne – it might just be you. I hope whichever club gets him doesn’t find themselves with a lemon.

As for Sir Alex: quote, "They look in a field and see a cow and they think it's a better cow than the one in their own field, and it never really works out that way." I think you mean - the grass is always looks greener on the "udder" side.

Wearing a pink ribbon

imageIt is disturbing to note just how many women we know that have suffered from breast cancer. Thankfully almost all have been successfully treated and are leading normal lives again. 

Because Bigastro recognises this as an important issue, the Councils for Woman and Health, in collaboration of the Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro have organised a series of activities to mark the World-wide Day for Breast Cancer.

At today’s market there will be, table with advice and recommendations for women. Then at 5:30pm, public health technicians from Orihuela will provide further information about the prevention of this disease.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That is brutal

Yesterday our Spanish teacher asked us if the financial situation in Britain is as bad as it is in Spain. Our reply was “yes and possibly worse”.

The proposed spending cuts in Spain sparked of a general strike, the plan to raise the pension age in France has created chaos so what will happen in Britain?

This is from the DailyTelegraph:-

Leaked documents yesterday showed that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility is likely to forecast 500,000 public sector workers will lose their jobs because of the cuts, the biggest in public spending since the Second World War.

Public sector workers will also have a two-year pay freeze and be told that they face increased pension contributions from next year.

George Osborne will announce more than £13 billion in welfare cuts today. In total, including cuts announced in the emergency Budget, the welfare bill will be reduced by about £25 billion over the next four years.

The reduction will be achieved by stripping hundreds of thousands of people of their incapacity benefit by introducing means testing. Those who are judged capable of eventually being able to return to some work will lose out if they have savings and investments worth more than £16,000. The move is expected to save more than £1.5 billion a year.

Ministers are also likely to tighten the eligibility criteria for tax credits, although details will not be finalised until next month. Mr Osborne will confirm that higher-rate taxpayers will lose child benefit from 2013. Negotiations were continuing last night on whether to scrap child benefit for those over 16. Mr Osborne is understood to have had a late “wobble” over the plan and is studying the proposal again. Winter fuel payments to the elderly will be maintained but, as ann­ounced by the Labour government, will fall by £50 to £200 for the over-60s. Housing benefit payouts will be cut by £5 billion and the right to a council house for life will be scrapped.

Under the spending review, every government department – except health and international development – has had to find budget cuts of up to 40 per cent by 2015.

It is thought that the budgets of the Home Office and Justice Department will be particularly hard hit. Last night, a leaked memorandum disclosed that there are expected to be 14,000 job losses at the Justice Department. It said that the “front line will bear the brunt”, with 9,940 redundancies in the prison and probation service. There is expected to be a reduction in the number of front-line police officers and fewer criminals will be sent to prison.

Transport projects – including the widening of roads – will be abandoned and rail fares are expected to rise by more than 8 per cent a year.

and from The Guardian:-

Osborne acknowledges that his unprecedented spending review will take Britain into uncharted social and economic territory as he announces £83bn of spending cuts over the next four years.

The cuts will involve the loss of thousands of jobs, massive cuts in university funding, wholesale reform of public housing and further cuts to the welfare budget.

The coalition will also announce the state retirement age is to be raised to 66 in 2016, 10 years earlier than previously planned and liable to save billions of pounds in the medium term. It is also expected there will be big cuts to the budget for sport in schools and the abolition of the specialist school network. Some departments including the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Communities and Local Government and the culture department will see cuts of 30%, involving multibillion-pound reductions in the prison programme and to legal aid.

Voluntary groups and private companies operating on a payment-by-results basis will be asked to take over the rehabilitation of released prisoners. As many as 10,000 national offender management jobs will be lost.

Could this be their practical project

We watched as they constructed this plot on Calle de Gabriel Miró.At first we thought it might be another building for Eurener but they filled it with top soil, erected a water tower and then started planting vegetables.

Now I read that Bigastro has initiated a course about the ecological culture of vegetables with 26 students supervised by 7 experts. So could this be their practical project? It seems likely.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Try harder

imageThis is the second attempt by someone to extort money from me by claiming that I have made an error in my tax return to the US Government.

1. I clearly don’t make payments to US Federal tax so sorry but you have got the wrong person in the wrong country.

2. Read the message though and you will find 32 spelling mistakes. Clearly the author does not have a UK dictionary spell checker.

3. The message originates from Russia

This one is definitely for the spam bin but I did receive an email earlier this week purporting to be from NatWest which did look a lot more authentic. Knowing that NatWest would never ask me to verify my login details in an email, I ignored it. It would have been easy to be fooled into following the link to the author’s bogus site though only to find that my account had been mysteriously drained of money.

It should come as no surprise

As good as he might be on the pitch, I find it hard to admire Wayne Rooney as a person. Setting aside his personal life, many Merseysiders remember how he declared that he would never leave Everton. That was until he got a better offer to join Manchester United.

Now he is upset with his manager at Old Trafford because he is not being played as much as he would like. More to the point he is rumoured to be demanding £200,000 a week to renew his contract which I am sure is way more than his boss at United is prepared to pay. So Mr Rooney is apparently contemplating a move to another club but which one?

I dare say there are plenty of clubs that would like to have him on their books but very few who could afford him. Talk is that the favourite at the moment is Manchester City who do have the cash to pay for his transfer and seem to be be prepared to meet his wage demands. If that happens he will need an armed guard to accompany him to local derby matches.

There has been mention of a Spanish club but it is unlikely that Rooney’s wife Coleen will countenance a move to the sun. She will be reluctant to be parted from her 12-year-old sister, Rosie, who suffers from the brain disorder Rett syndrome and whose condition worsened in the week after newspaper allegations appeared of Rooney having a relationship with a prostitute.

I do find it hard to believe that any football player, no matter how good they might be, can be worth £200,000 a week. I can’t help but feel that things were much better when they were paid something closer to the normal sort of wages that any working man might earn. At least then they did not try to rise above themselves in the endless pursuit of greed. They might have driven Ford Cortinas and lived in ordinary houses but they still scored goals and won matches.

Good luck to Mr Rooney, I hope you get what you deserve which isn’t £200,000 a week.

What a difference it has made

The campaign to clean up graffiti in Torrevieja has made a great difference to how the city looks.

Work started in January 2010 to tackle this problem and since then, 8,826 items of graffiti have been removed cleaning up almost 24 kilometres of walls. I dare say there is more to be done but at least you can now see the results of their labour in many of the streets.

Let us hope all this effort has not been in vain and that the buildings remain graffiti free.

Now I appeal to the council in Bigastro to follow the lead that Torrevieja has taken. The problem here is nowhere near as bad as it was in Torrevieja but it is still there. Our town would look a lot nicer without the ugly paintwork that spoils parts of it.

PS I don’t know who VF is but he certainly wasn’t in my art class!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hair and beauty


Next weekend the cultural program continues with a catwalk parade featuring hairdressing and beauty.

The event will showcase the hair creations of Elizabeth Navarrete from the hairdressing salon, Hairmania and makeup and beauty by our neighbour, Eladia Grau.

The price of the entrance to the event is 5 € (proceeds to go to the Association of Alzheimer).

Start with a bang

The cultural program for this season started last night with a concert by the bands from Bigastro and Almoradí.

The band from Almoradí played first:-

Mi Amores (Pasadoble) by J Alfosea

Ireland: of legend and lore by Robert W. Smith

and finally a medley of Michael Jackson songs arranged by Frank Bernaerts

after the interval it was Bigastro’s turn to play:-

Mediterráneo (Pasadoble) by A. Torres Climent

Egmont by L.V. Beethoven

and finally a medley of tunes from Caberet by John Kander

These interchanges are not meant to be in the form of a competition but you can’t help but draw comparisons.

Last night I had both both bands neck and neck – an honourable draw.

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Looks like a good week


Looks like we are in for a good week weather-wise. There might be a bit of cloud about at the end of the week with the chance of a spot of rain but nothing really worth worrying about.

Temperatures are going to be cooler but not what you might call cold.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


In Britain, councils are tearing up cobbles or covering them with tarmac and concrete. Why? Because people trip up on them and then claim compensation from the council. Sixty-six councils admitted to the Telegraph newspaper that they had either permanently removed or resurfaced over their cobbles in the last five years.

For example, cobbles have been removed from part of Liverpool's UNESCO site. The stones were ripped out of William Brown Street - which is lined by St George's Hall, the Central Library, and the Walker Art gallery - and the holes have been filled with Tarmac.

The council said they had loosened and needed to be removed. It insisted that, once funding was found, the cobbles would be restored.Goodness knows when that might be.

Thirty-seven local authorities surveyed said they had received a total of 159 applications for compensation from people claiming to have fallen over on cobblestones or to have experienced some sort of accident caused by them.

While some of these claims have been thrown out, others have are still ongoing and several have resulted in payouts totalling more than £100,000, including one of £25,000 from Worcestershire County Council.

Here in Bigastro, the council is bucking that trend by lining the centre of Calle Purisima with cobbles as part of the refurbishment. Either side of the cobbles there are level pavements for people to walk on. The only time when the cobbles might cause a problem is when there is some kind of parade that needs to use the centre of the road when people will need to take care. Streets leading off from Purisima are entirely cobbled so people will have to take extra care on those.

In Britain it seems that nobody is responsible for their own actions any more. Any accident that people have is always someone else's fault and an occasion to sue. You can’t blame councils for trying to reduce the burden of these claims by taking decisions and actions to avoid them; I blame the people for not showing a bit of common sense.

The perfect mandarin

The aim of the citrus growers in this region is to grow a perfect fruit which ripens early and so fetches the best price at market. To help them achieve this, some of the farmers have been experimenting with high greenhouses and have found several benefits:-

  1. The fruit are protected from the vagaries of the winter weather and so are not spoilt by wind or rain.
  2. The fruit ripe earlier than those planed out in the open.
  3. They need less insecticide because of the protection.
  4. The trees produce a heavier crop.

Of course without any form of natural irrigation, the trees need to be watered regularly but at the moment water is not scarce, it is cheap and of good quality.

The cost of installation of the canopies is high but then they can last for eight years and getting fruit to market early brings a much higher return. The mandarin oranges go to the United States, to England, Germany and Italy where prices are high for early fruit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wed or not wed

Rebate seems, on the face of it, to be the perfect venue for a wedding. There is a quaint little church next to the restaurant, the food and the service are both good, there is ample space for parking and Rebate has the benefit of decent weather for most of the year. It is no wonder that there are several companies set up to offer wedding packages at Rebate and that they fit in close to 100 ceremonies per year. The companies involved all seem to offer similar deals which include everything for a perfect day except one small important item.

If you read the details carefully, what you get is described as a wedding blessing. In other words, at the end of the day the couple would not be legally married. That part of the proceedings would have to be conducted elsewhere presumably in some sort of registry office. That kind of takes the shine of it and makes the deal a lot less interesting.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cultural program starts this weekend


The cultural program at the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau", organised by the Council of Culture starts this weekend with a concert by the bands from Bigastro and Almoradí.

Following the weekend, as part of the program for the coming months, there will be a competition for professional theatre groups.

Six groups will be staging performances. In January the judges will award prizes of 900€, 600€ and 300€ to the best three. José Espinosa, councillor for culture hopes that this will offer local groups the opportunity to showcase their talent and at the same time provide cultural diversity to the people of Bigastro.

It’s where we live

La Pedrera is the leisure zone of Bigastro, a place where people can come and enjoy time in the countryside but it is also a place where we live.

During the daytime, particularly at weekends, people bring their cool boxes and cook al fresco meals on the barbecues, children play and feed the ducks and schools organise galas. In the cool of the evening, ladies take their daily  exercise by walking up to the entrance to the estate. None of this causes us a problem.

At night young folk from the town drive or walk up to the estate to sit and chat in the two parks which again is not a problem. What is a major concern is the litter they leave behind. There are rubbish bins nearby but they choose not to use them, preferring to drop their pizza boxes, empty bottles and cigarette packets on the ground. It is not only an eyesore but is potentially a health hazard.

Annoying as the litter might be, it comes nowhere near the graffiti which has recently appeared. The author obviously came prepared with his or her spray can determined to claim the area as his/her territory.  The indecipherable scrawl doesn’t just spoil the area for those who live here but all the visitors as well.

At the school I taught at in Liverpool we had a policy about graffiti around the school – we cleaned it off as soon as it appeared. We knew that if you left it, the next day there would be more. Clean it off and it makes scrawling it in the first place pointless.

I know there are towns nearby that are a lot worse off for this kind of thing than Bigastro but we don’t want to rival them! For the benefit of the residents and all the decent townsfolk who enjoy using the Pedrera as their place of leisure, we would be grateful if the Ayuntamiento could arrange to have the graffiti removed.

PS I had thought about posting pictures to illustrate what I mean but then that would be giving the perpetrators an even wider audience and  I am not prepared to do that. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nightmare journeys

When it comes to industrial action, the French are masters at it. They seem to be able to organise mass rallies, blockades and strikes at the drop of a hat. More to the point, they don’t care how many people are affected or how much misery their actions create. Over the years they have brought roads, ports and the capital, Paris to a halt for a whole variety of reasons and the French seem to be OK with that.

Most recently, the action of the French air traffic controllers has caused chaos for travellers. French workers had already carried out three strikes since the beginning of September over proposed pension reforms that would increase the minimum retirement age to 62.

On Tuesday they called a further strike which affected our friends Glenys and Peter’s return home to Norfolk. Stranded at Alicante, they were given very little information about what was going on. Finally they were taken to a hotel for the night and flew home yesterday. Glenys said, whilst it was inconvenient for them, it was a serious problem for some passengers who had medical problems or urgent appointments to meet.

In a bid to stop all this misery, last week a number of airlines called on European governments to ban strike action by air-traffic controllers. A Ryanair spokesman estimated that strikes in Belgium, France and Spain this year had disrupted the journeys of more than 2.5 million passengers, while EasyJet estimated that the recent strikes in Europe would cost it about £6 million in compensation to passengers.

Governments facing mounting debts are between a rock and a hard place. Without fiscal reforms they risk bringing their countries to bankruptcy. However, whatever reforms are proposed; be they wage cuts, raising pension ages, cutting public services etc they are not going to be palatable but what other choices do they have?

As I see it, the problem is that none of us trust our governments, we all firmly believe that there may be other ways to make savings that they have not considered.

I have said it before, I would not want to be in politics; local, regional or national for a town hall clock. When times are good, it must be the best feeling ever (the Chilean government are currently on the crest of a wave following the rescue of the trapped miners) but you know that won’t last and something will come up sooner or later to bite them in the bum.

PS I'm not sure how "for a town hall clock" will translate into Spanish - it means that I would not want a job in politics at any price.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A definite change in the weather

IMG_6658 There has been a certain pattern to the weather over the last few days. You wake up to clear blue skies and sunshine. Then by midday it starts to cloud over and by nightfall it rains – well actually it pours down.

When it rains like that, for some inexplicable reason, the lights in the house start to flicker and you hold your breath waiting for a power cut. The last few nights the lights have flickered but the power has stayed on.

The good news is that although it is still cloudy this morning, the chances of heavy rain are a lot less and over the next few days we should see an improvement in the weather. The bad news is that it is getting chillier. From daytime temperatures of mid twenties we will see a drop of a few degrees whilst nighttime temperatures will plummet to around 10 degrees. If you haven't already done so, it is time to get the duvet out!

Road flooded


The newspaper Información points out that on Google Earth the CV-951 which linked the CV- 95 to Torremendo is clearly marked. As you can see, when the Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura flooded the area 25 years ago, this road was partly submerged. Perhaps not a good route to take unless your car is amphibious.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheaper than a luxury car

For those keen to get onto the property ladder or who want a second home, there is surely no better time to buy.

Caja Madrid are holding the third of their five day Real Estate Outlet events in Torrevieja. On this occasion there are 100 houses up for grabs priced between 44,640 and 121,965 Euros . You can have a 100% mortgage or you can rent to buy. Interested parties are taken by taxi for a viewing.

In the first three hours of the event, sixty people showed interest in the idea, many of them from Madrid keen to buy a holiday home at a knockdown price.

This kind of marketing may be great for buyers but not so good for those who have a house for sale.

Monday, October 11, 2010

That is terrible

Will says about the new terminal at  El Altet:-

It should be good when it opens. My fear is, however, that prices in the terminal will go up. Some catering outlets charge extortionate prices, in excess of those at Gatwick or Heathrow. For example, take 'Food Court'. On 15 Sept 2010 I (stupidly?) paid the following:
2 x Atun sandwiches=9.70
2 x Cokes=6.20
2 x patatas fritas=7.40
TOTAL 23.30 Euros. At an exchange rate of 1.15 Euros to the £ this works out at exactly £20.
Shocking, really. A coke =£2.70. The most I've paid in an UK airport is £2.
I always say I will never buy food again at El Altet, but if you are delayed for 3 hours you get hungry!

I must confess, I’ve never bought much more than a cafe con leche at Alicante. I have bought bottles of brandy there though and they seem to be similarly priced to those you would find in a supermarket.

Having said that, when we dropped Laura and Molly off, we did buy a bottle of Sprite from the vending machine in departures which cost a whopping 3 Euros – three times the price you would pay in a shop. 

By contrast, I bought a watch at Manchester airport and saved £28 on the high street prices. It is swings and roundabouts when you shop at airports.

Spoilt for choice

In response to my item about Ociopia my Spanish neighbour says:

I don't totally agree with you Keith, the problem about Ociopia mall for us, its just that there are so many great ones so near from us (such as the ones in Murcia,Torrevieja or Elche) with so many more and varied shops. I think Ociopia cant compete against them and not at all in this crisis moment.

That is a very good and valid point.  There are better places to shop in the area than Ociopia.  Pam and I haven’t been to the mall in Elche but we have been to the one in Murcia and the one in Torrevieja both of which have a far better range of shops than Ociopia.

However, I would still argue that none of these can compete with places like the Trafford Centre near Manchester in terms of size and sheer volume of shoppers. Seven days a week from early opening to closing, the Trafford Centre is busy. During the Christmas period it will be open 24 hours a day and finding a space in the 10,000 capacity car park will be a nightmare. Even the coach park with its 350 spaces will be full. Over thirty million people a year visit it – an average of half a million a week.

From what I have seen, the malls in this area only seem to be busy at night and on Saturdays. The rest of the week you can have the places all to yourself. I don’t have statistics for the centres in Elche and Murcia but I would be surprised if they exceed those for the Trafford Centre. Having said all that, I am not a great fan of shopping malls. They all seem to mainly cater for young people, especially women. Give me city centre shopping any day at least there is fresh air, architecture to admire and more shops for men.

NB The Trafford Centre at 118,766 square metres is only the sixth largest shopping centre in Britain. Larger ones are the Metro Centre near Gateshead – a whopping 195,000 square metres in size, Bluewater in Kent at 155,700, Westfield Merry Hill near Dudley at 154,002, Westfield London at Shepherds Bush – 149,461 and Meadowhall Sheffield at 139,555. However, the largest shopping area in England is still the West End, London which has 608,000 square metres of retail space on three streets.

It’s actually sunny right now

imageAs I look out of the window, the sky is blue, there are just the odd small clouds about and the sun is shining.

According to AEMET though there is a high risk of rain so maybe that will come later.






The good thing about clouds is that they can make for interesting photos like these I took down on the coast yesterday.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

21st century airport

The new terminal at El Altet is is scheduled to open  March next year with a capacity to deal with  20 million passengers per year.

One of the key features of the new terminal is its automated luggage handling system. From the 96 normal check in desks, cases and bags will be transported via an 18km labyrinth of tracks at speeds up to 2m per second to where the handlers will load them onto planes. Each piece of luggage, including large items like golf bags, will be carried in an individual tray. The progress of the trays will be monitored continuously until it reaches its destination. This means the system guarantees 100% of luggage should arrive at the right plane.

Alongside this, there will be a robotised warehouse that can hold 1,048 pieces of luggage that have been checked in over two hours prior to the flight. That means that passengers can arrive at the airport, check their luggage in and then go off to explore the city or avail themselves of the airport facilities.

Nobody likes hanging around in airports for too long. However, the new terminal promises to be a place where you will happily arrive ahead of your flight. Apart from bars, restaurants and cafeterias, there promises to be 31 retail outlets including  two for El Corte Inglés.

For passengers arriving at El Altet there will be 24 points where luggage is collected from aircraft that will lead to 14 normal carousels and 2 for larger items.

Let’s just hope that when they open three check ins for a flight that people form three queues and not one that snakes around the terminal building.

Go granny go

Most of us retired to Spain for a quiet life, not this old lady.

On Monday, 12 members of a major British drugs gang including a 74 year old grandmother were arrested during raids in Torrevieja and Orihuela Costa.

They are thought to have been supplying ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis to punters in various tourist hotspots in Ibiza and along the Costa Blanca, by smuggling drugs on the Dénia-Balearic ferries.

Good news

When you travel around the area you see so many half finished projects. You can't help but feel it would have been better if they had not been started in the first place.

Because of the economic crisis, the fear was that the large projects started by the Government might suffer the same fate but no. It seems they have set aside 555.7 million Euros from the 2011 budget so that projects in Alicante Province such as the final phase of the high speed rail link with Madrid, the new airport terminal at El Altet and the central motorway can be finished.

Government sub-delegate in Alicante, Encarna Llinares, said that despite an average 30 per cent drop in spending in the rest of Spain, investment in Alicante Province will rise by 2.3% in real terms.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Worth a try I suppose

Anyone who has visited the retail park Ociopía, just outside the centre of Orihuela, will have noticed that more and more of the shops have closed. Mr Bricolage and the supermarket are two of the most noticeable closures.

In order to the revive the flagging fortunes of the commercial centre, they are opening a facility for dads which they are calling 'Aparca papá'. It is apparently meant to be somewhere for the men to go whilst their partners and children look around the shops. Open between 10am and 10pm, 'Aparca papá' will have TVs, newspapers and magazines available to keep the men amused. On the lower floor there is also a bouncy castle for the children which is open between 6 and 8pm during the week and 11am and 2pm and 5 to 9pm on Saturdays and fiesta days. For the future, the centre will be installing four trampolines for those who want to just jump around.

I understand the principle of attracting people in the hope that they will visit the place to shop. I do wonder though how long these new attractions will capture shoppers interests. Ultimately, you go to the mall to shop.

From what I have seen, the concept of this type of shopping experience does not seem to have caught on in Spain as much as it has in say America or Britain. It might be the hard times but I suspect that the Spanish are not into shopping malls in the same way as other nations.

Two projects completed


On the 16th of October at 5:30pm and then at 6:30pm the town council will inaugurate the Rincón del Recuerdo (Corner of the Memory )and the Mirador de la Vega (the Viewpoint of the Low Fertile valley), two of its most recent projects located in the surroundings of the Cabezo of the Pines.

The Cabezo de los Pinos, located near to the old San José Calasanz school building, is the highest point of the town from where you get great views of Bigastro and the Vega Baja.

The “Corner of the Memory” is a small space located on the steps up from the the town centre where children can play and take part in cultural activities outdoors.

The “viewpoint of the Low Fertile valley”, has been designed to provide the best views of the Vega Baja. A place where you can sit and contemplate.

Our day in Altea

Pam reckons that you get to a stage in your life when you feel the need to renew old acquaintances. Yesterday we had the opportunity to do just that.

Forty four years ago Pam and I started at Alsager College training to be teachers. One of the first people I met there was John WIlde.

John and I had the good fortune to be placed in the same accommodation, an old house that the college had acquired just outside the campus called “the Orchard”. When it came to the second year of our course, John and I elected to share the same digs. In the third year we were together again, back on campus in a newly constructed hall of residence. Then John and I stayed on to take a B.Ed. degree and again shared the same digs.

After we left college, John was chief usher at my wedding and I was best man at his. We kept in touch by letters and Christmas cards, then later by email and newsletters but somehow never managed to meet up.

John’s career started in Grimsby and mine in Liverpool. John moved to a forces school in Gibraltar and then in Belgium. Although, he and his wife Penny often visited England to see their respective families, we never seemed to find a “window of opportunity” to meet.

Now John is retired like us but still works part time for the Norwegian school on the base in Belgium. Last year his school arranged a course at Albir which is not far from Bigastro. Unfortunately, Pam and I were in England at the time so we still could not meet up.

This year, the Norwegians organised their course at L'Alfàs del Pi and so we arranged to go there yesterday. It was amazing how quickly the three of us relaxed into our conversations and how much we could recall of our heady student days.

After our introduction, we went for a coffee near to John’s hotel and then drove to Altea for lunch together. Pam and I haven’t been to Altea and so we were able to combine two wishes on one day.

It was wonderful to see John again. As we parted, we agreed that we must meet again in another forty years. I think it is probably best that we don’t wait that long!

Friday, October 08, 2010

The figures for 2010

Having finished a rough draft of the municipal budgets for 2010, the mayor has taken the  opportunity to lodge his complaints at the way the town has suffered because of the way it has been financed. He is particularly critical of the way that the Valencian Autonomous Government and the Provincial Delegation reduced its subsidies to the town for local projects. 

Determined not to reduce essential welfare services that the town hall provides, the budget will show an overspent of 350,000 Euros. This is in spite of cutting spending in many areas to a minimum.

The mayor says that there are still further savings to be made notably in the cost of public lighting by adopting a more efficient model and savings to be made in the use of municipal vehicles.  However, he says that the council are determined not to make reductions in the welfare system nor in education.

Socialist candidate confirmed

In an announcement to the press, the Local Executive of the PSOE (Socialist Party) in Bigastro say they have decided unanimously that Raúl Valerio Medina will be the candidate for Mayor in the next elections.

Raúl Valerio Medina became mayor following the resignation of José Joaquín Moya two years ago. The party say they value the way that he has withstood heavy pressure from the spokesperson of the opposition party, Aurelio Murcia.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

From dream to reality

In the boom years northern Europeans, particularly British, flocked to places like San Miguel de Salinas to retire. Many came because of the climate and enjoyed a better standard of living when they were getting 1.5 Euros to the pound.

The constructors, eager to cash in, built large urbanisations where they could live. Then the boom came to an end and the economic crisis arrived. The dream turned sour when the Euro weakened leaving the new residents cash strapped.

Now, according to a survey conducted by the Universidad de Alicante, the people feel isolated and trapped.

Because of the way town halls work, many were left without water and electricity as they waited for builders to finish urbanisations. Those that wanted to return to Britain found that it was impossible to sell their houses even if they had the necessary paperwork to grant them utility supplies. Living on large, mainly British, urbanisations meant that they failed to integrate with the local community and thus get the best out of their lives in a new country.

Pam and I were lucky. Our house has a certificate and so we have mains water and electricity and although most of the residents on our estate are British, we are close enough to the town to feel part of it. Parts of the estate are not as smart as we expected them to be but where we are suits us fine. We have suffered from the poor exchange rate but are still managing to hold our heads above water. In other words, our life in Spain is not quite as we thought it to be - not sour but not quite as sweet as we expected.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Back on the drawing board

The planned work for the CV-95 that connects Orihuela with the coast is back on the drawing board.

The original plan was scrapped when the companies that were given the green light ran into financial problems.

The new project has been modified to take account of the environmental impact of the work. It looks like the plan now is to widen the existing road to two lanes in each direction.

In 2007, the deal was that the company that were awarded the contract would pay for the work up front and would recover their investment by collecting tolls over the next 30 years. Whether that is still to be the case I could not say.

Murcia cathedral revisited

Yesterday we took Laura and Molly to Murcia for the day.

Whilst "the girls" were looking around the shops I took more interest in the cathedral. As the sun moves around,so the different aspects of the building come to life. I need to take my DSLR there to get some better pictures.

On our way back from lunch, Laura and I had a quick look into the Casino at the Arab patio. The Casino is certainly a building that demands a closer look. Maybe next time Pam and I go to Murcia, we'll add it on to our schedule.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Understanding Don Quixote

Anthony Close, who has died suddenly aged 73, was one of the world's leading experts on the early 17th-century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, and particularly on his masterpiece, Don Quixote. A member of the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Cambridge University from 1967 to 2004, he did much to enhance our understanding of the work.

Don Quixote tells of the misadventures of a deranged lover of reading whose passion for chivalric romances leads him to believe that he can imitate the knights of these stories and wander the dusty roads of Castile, rescuing damsels in distress and fighting evil sorcerers. Thus, he quits his quiet life in the countryside and convinces a naive peasant neighbour, Sancho Panza, to join him in his quest.

The book represents better than any work of fine art the thin layer that separates fiction from reality, through offering a series of comic episodes based on the contradictions that arise when Don Quixote imagines himself to be facing giants or armies of soldiers, instead of – as Sancho tries to make him see – windmills or flocks of sheep. The novel therefore explores the power of imagination, the boundaries of everyday life and the pleasure and the risks that arise when we try to challenge them under the stimulus of art. But it is also the story of a friendship that endures failures, defeats and ridicule, and that grows deeper and stronger against all the odds.

The good weather is holding out


Looking out the window, you would not think that the weather would be very promising for today. There is plenty of cloud about and a stiff breeze blowing towards the back door.

The forecast shows that should improve and that we should see some sunshine.

In fact it is towards the end of the week when the weather will start to seem really autumnal.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Life on the huerta

Life as a farmer in any country is hard. In England the climate, long hours and the unpredictable crops provide a real challenge.

You might suppose that, here in Spain, things might be different but of course they aren’t. There might be abundant sunshine which brings crops to market much sooner but agriculturists have to regularly face the problems of water shortage.

When water is scarce, the quality is poor which leads to reduced cropping. This year there is plenty of good quality water and the heavy rains in June have cleaned the fields of contaminants but now prices at market are a big concern. When crops are abundant, the price at market is low and farmers see very little if any profit for their hard work.

Is it any wonder then that very few young people are showing interest in working in the fields. The lure of easier money in the construction industry during the nineties and the first part of this century drew a lot of young people away from the huerta.

With the virtual collapse of construction, there may be a move back to the fields but that will still leave a gap which could mean higher prices all round. In the end though, we still have to eat at whatever cost.

Another look at Torre

In the time we have lived here, they have improved the image of Torrevieja a lot. The seafront, the pedestrianised streets leading from Ramon Galud to the shore and the market are all examples of how the town has smartened itself up.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Help at breakfast time

image The Third Age council in Bigastro are setting up a series of initiaves to help the “senior citizens”. The first of these are what they call “desayunas con memoria” (breakfasts with memory) taking place on Mondays between 10am and 11:30.

I can tell you that these ladies have some great memories that are well worth keeping.

Friday, October 01, 2010

More words for my vocabulary

This last week, I learnt that “huelga” means strike. Today I have added a couple more words to my vocabulary. I already knew that “estafa” meant fraud; I can now add to that “delito” which means crime, “cohecho” which means a bribe and “auto” which is a court order.

It is the PP who are coming under fire and Francisco Camps, President of the Valencian Autonomous Government  in particular. As if he was not in enough trouble already, Camps is now being linked to the Gürtel case along with other high ranking members of the party. In total there are five cases under investigation including:  possible illegal financing of the PP in the 2008 election campaign, fiscal crime, against public property and falsification.

You do begin to wonder if there are any “clean” politicians at all in Spain!