Monday, May 30, 2011

Next Sunday

20110530_audiOn Sunday, June 5th at 7pm

Listening to learners concert by the Musical Union of Bigastro.

Students from the School of Music will demonstrate their musical progress.

Still a bit of cloud about

image There is a chance for a drop of rain which is not surprising when you consider how humid it was yesterday.

It has been a little cooler at night though making sleeping easier.
image Friends from England came to visit us on Saturday. He’d been outside with his shirt off on an overcast day and spent most of his time in the shade. His chest was still red which just goes to show how powerful the sun can be even on a cloudy day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The legendary Frank Evans

Frank Evans describes himself as the last British bullfighter. If that was all that Frank had done in his life, it would be quite remarkable but there is more to him than that – read on….. 

Frank Evans first heard enthusiastic tales about bulls from his father, Ralph, who was stationed in Gibraltar during the Second World War, and made visits to bullrings over the border in Spain. Frank later became friendly with a neighbouring Spanish family in Salford, and from them he heard intriguing stories about Manuel Benítez "El Cordobés"; when he was 20 they invited him to a family wedding in Granada, where he developed his love of Spain further - and at last got to see a bullfight for himself.

Frank worked in his father’s butcher business, and played rugby, both league and union, at a high competitive level (for Sale and Salford), before dropping everything and going to Majorca to rendezvous with English bullfighter Vincent Hitchcock, and learn from him how to fight bulls. Hitchcock didn't turn up. Moving to Valencia, Frank joined a school for hopeful bullfighters, and eventually got to face a real animal in a village fiesta - which turned into a farce - before returning to England, and back to work as a driving instructor. There he got in touch with George Erik, founder of the Club Taurino of London, who agreed to act as his manager in Spain. His first contract was a case of mistaken identity: he was known locally as "El Inglés", and despite never having killed a bull, he was signed up for a fight in France which should have been given to the other "El Inglés" - Henry Higgins, already an established bullfighter.

Marriage and raising a family brought Frank back to Salford, and he found himself in business with the legendary Manchester United footballer, George Best. Frank was given work running the boutiques and nightclubs empire, and thus had to deal with the eccentricities of Mr. Best. Frank then got into boxing promotion, which also led to some colourful adventures, and then bizarrely, he set up a bedroom and bathroom fitting service.

When his father Ralph died prematurely of a heart attack, Frank took a long hard look at himself, and realised that what he really wanted to do was to get back to the bulls. He was fortunate to team up with professional matador Vicente Ruiz "El Soro", who was impressed by what he could learn from Frank's rugby and boxing training methods. The association benefited Frank too, and he finally started to get contracts, and rubbed shoulders with important contacts in the world of bulls.

This period culminated in Frank being upgraded to full matador, but the downside was that there were no contracts offered as a matador. This broke suddenly when a far-sighted impresario offered him corridas in the Costa del Sol plaza of Benalmadena; he could see that an English bullfighter would be a draw for tourists. Then South America called, with contracts in Venezuela and Mexico, and France too; Benalmadena continued to offer opportunities; Frank finally realised that he was being taken seriously, and he watched his name creep up the matador charts.

Serious health problems caught up with Frank; first his knee, and then his heart, and both required major surgery. After a full recovery, he felt better than ever, and planned his comeback. With other partners he became involved in a management and promotion business, and although he is officially retired, he has appeared in several festivals, with a fair degree of success. Frank speculates that until another one comes along, he may well prove to be the last British bullfighter. He has achieved the impossible, and it wasn't easy. At the end of August 2009 he made a successful comeback appearance, and announced his intention of carrying on fighting bulls thus: "I'm not going to retire. I'll just fade away in the distance; I'll do it as long as I enjoy doing it. I can't say how fit I'll feel in my seventies."

They even took the goal net

They say that football is a game of two halves – last night’s Champions League final proved to be just that. The only difference being that the first half lasted less than ten minutes. That was the time when Manchester United looked as though they could possibly win this game and get their revenge for defeat in the Rome final two years ago.

After ten minutes the relentless Barcelona machine had warmed up and from then on they outclassed their opponents in every way. They began with short passes in the midfield which kept United waiting for the return of the ball. Then they started penetrating deep into United’s backfield. After 27 minutes the inevitable happened and Pedro scored. United's defenders just stood there in amazement as if they could not believe what had just happened. To be fair, United did then come back into the game when Rooney scored a clever little goal taking them into the dressing room as equals. However even that was a goal that should have been disallowed because Giggs was clearly offside.

After half time, Barcelona came out looking even more determined and proceeded to make United look like they had no business to be there. Only Rooney seemed to be able to keep the ball for more than a few seconds before being closed down upon. One man against the might of Messi, Iniesto, Xavi and co proved to be an unequal match.

The two goals that followed sealed the result and gave Barcelona a well deserved fourth Champions League victory. They celebrated by cutting down the goal net!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Take That

We were setting off for a camping holiday to France the next day when our eldest daughter Jemma heard out that Take That were going to be in Chester to sign autographs. She wanted me to take her in the car but I was busy loading it up ready for the trip so she went on the bus instead. Jemma arrived just too late to get her autographs but she did see them and managed somehow to appear on the video. I’ve felt bad about that ever since because I’d let my daughter down. On reflection, the couple of hours it would have taken would not have made a huge difference to my schedule. Take That were after all her favourite band.

Now we jump forward to 2011 and for the sake of those who haven’t heard or don’t care, Take That are currently touring with Robbie Williams. This will be the first time they have sung together on tour since 1995 when the band split or to be correct when Williams was sacked.

A mind-boggling 1.76 million people will see the 27 UK dates, eight of them at Wembley Stadium (breaking the record seven set by Michael Jackson's Bad tour).

Getting hold of a ticket must have been like finding gold in your back garden because 1.34 million of those tickets were snapped up within 24 hours of going on sale, more than doubling Take That's own record, set on 2008's Circus tour. However, our girls know how to achieve the impossible and managed to get six tickets for one of the Manchester dates and so they will be there along with some of their friends, one of whom has flown from Hong Kong especially for the show. They even have a ticket for my wife Pamela who will be flying to Manchester next week and have bought her one of those folding seats so she doesn't have to stand for hours before the show starts.

I don’t think Pam and the girls will be disappointed, this tour involves 238 trucks, six weeks of rehearsals, a rumoured £15m budget and the Pet Shop Boys as the support band, whose scaled-down yet typically classy performance has been described as a bit like getting Michelangelo in to do the kitchen ceiling. There will be explosions of ticker tape, elevating platforms, glowing stages, ghost-like dancers wielding flaming torches, dancing trees, roller-skating bees, even a giant caterpillar and Robbie Williams being carried aloft on a glass chariot.

Nobody knows how long the reunion will last. Even though they sing, “Back for Good”, this may be the last time to see the five together on stage again. More important, it may be the only chance for Pam to see Robbie Williams and Take That live – she will love it.

Ready for the summer

There are now eight blue flag beaches along the coast at Orihuela, one more than last year. The beaches are at Playa Flamenca, Cala Capitan, Cabo Roig, Campoamor, Barranco Rubio and the Marina at Cabo Roig.

All along the coast here, the beaches are well kept making it hard to choose one that is better than the others. It all depends whether you want a long stretch of sand or a quiet cove, whether you want easy access and facilities close to hand or are prepared to walk a little way to find somewhere more secluded.

He was right

I originally thought that the plastic birds that my neighbour suggested to keep the real birds away from the air conditioning unit were not working but I was wrong. Within a couple of days, even before I had a chance to put up some reflective tape, the birds were gone. By that I mean there is no sign of bird muck anywhere on the paving by the back door.

That is a great result and at 3 Euros for the three birds from Carrefour, a cheap one at that.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I like it

I always like to read reports of criminal gangs being caught by the police. It is comforting to know that, even if it takes time, justice prevails in the end.

Today I read a report which said that the Guardia Civil have apprehended an organized criminal gang operating in the Vega Baja and Murcia. The gang of three Algerians are guilty of robbing petrol stations, bars, town houses, rural houses , pedestrians in the street and vehicles.

Investigations began in November 2010, when the police first detected crimes that could be attributed to this gang. They started with robberies at petrol stations in, San Bartolomé, Albatera, San Miguel de Salinas and Los Calzones Abanilla (Murcia).

Police knew the robberies were related because in each case the gang used weapons and covered their faces with ski masks. They also connected these incidents with robberies of two women in Rojales and San Isidro, plus another attempted robbery at a bar in Formentera del Segura

The Civil Guard also believes the gang to be responsible for a dozen other robberies in homes and local hostelries in Jacarilla, San Miguel de Salinas, Bigastro and Crevillent and the theft of ten vehicles in other towns.

As part of investigation officers have detained four others (three Spanish nationals and one Colombian) whom they allege were guilty of receiving goods from the criminal group. They found found several televisions, audio-visual equipment, mobile telephones and decorative items believed to have come from the thefts.

No decision has been made yet

Apart from the possibility of the socialists governing as a minority under a non aggression pact with the other two parties, there are three options open for Bigastro: the PP join with the Socialists, the new Liberal Centrist party works together with the Socialists or the PP and Liberals form a pact. Both the PP and the Liberal Centrists say they are keen to end socialist rule in the town but to do so they have to come to an agreement.

The problem is that the members of the PP have been divided into three factions. First we have Charo Bañuls and the councillors managed by the provincial leadership, then then we have the local president, José Antonio Ricart, the Secretary General, Jose Manuel Sanchez and most of the local board and finally, the members of the party remaining loyal to the controversial style of Aurelio Murcia.

In her first appearance on television since the elections, Charo Bañuls along with the local coordinator, held a press conference yesterday to make the situation clear. As far as she is concerned, the only people authorized to negotiate a pact with the Centrist Liberal People's Union are the members of the candidature supported by the provincial leadership. In other words she will not countenance any back room deals made in smoke filled corridors.

There is still a lot of talking to take place before this matter is finally settled.

Bag yourselves a bargain

20110526_rastoThe Association of Relatives of Alzheimer "Remember me" in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare have organized a Flea Market for Sunday, June 5th in the Parque Huerto del Cura. Hours: 9.00am to 2pm.

A great chance to pick up a bargain and  at the same time benefit this very worthwhile Bigastro charity.

PS For the benefit of my Spanish readers, they will not be selling fleas, at least I hope not!  It is the name that we give to a rastro in English!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Did someone turn the thermostat up?

The weather was getting better in fits and starts and then suddenly, it got hot. The temperature today is 32-33 degrees centigrade which is a bit of a climb from the mid twenties we were getting used to.

The good news is that it will get cooler towards the weekend when temperatures should return to something more normal for May. The bad news is that will still be very warm at night making sleeping a little more difficult.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A cloud over travel plans

After the major disruption that the last volcano in Iceland caused for travellers to and from the UK, we did wonder what would be the effect of the second erupting volcano.

Thankfully, the ash cloud from the second volcano left British airspace early on Wednesday morning according to Nats, the air traffic controller, and it is now in place over northern Germany.

Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, said after a meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency planning committee, yesterday that he was "cautiously optimistic" the worst disruption was over.

He also described as "irresponsible" remarks by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary that the Civil Aviation Authority should allow flights in Scotland, after the Irish carrier sent a test plane into Scottish airspace to test ash levels.

Mr O'Leary said the plane had not encountered any ash, but Mr Hammond said the Ryanair test flight had not passed through any high-density ash areas.

A Met Office spokesman said on Wednesday morning concentrations of ash would "reduce significantly" over the next 12 to 24 hours.

However, much of the UK could be affected by the ash cloud on Friday if the volcano continued to erupt at "current levels", he added.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, said British Airways, which forms part of the business, had conducted a test flight through the ash cloud's "red zone" on Tuesday.

He said: "The levels [of ash concentration] we are talking about are tiny.

"We flew in the red zone for about 45 minutes at different altitudes over Scotland. The aircraft then returned and has been examined and the simple answer is we found nothing."

It may be the calm before the storm

The situation at the town hall in Bigastro is still not clear. The Socialist party say they only required 29 more votes to get the seventh councillor that they needed to maintain their majority*. Although there were null votes which need to be reviewed by the Electoral Board, the acting mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina is not pinning any hopes on them changing the outcome.

In order for the Socialist to continue governing with an absolute majority, they would need to form a pact with either of the other two parties. For the moment, the acting mayor is happy to govern in minority but as he says, there are issues which legally require the council to make majority decisions.

The permutations are these: the PSOE and PP form a pact which would give them 11 seats, the PSOE and the UNPLC form a pact which would give them 8 seats or the PP and UNPLC form a pact which would give them 7 seats.

Of those three, I would think that the most likely combination would be the PP and the UNPLC. The stumbling block though may be the decision as to who would become mayor. As strange as it may seem to we Brits, It is perfectly possible that the new mayor of Bigastro could come from the party that won the least number of votes.

There is obviously a lot of talking still left to be done.

* I may have misread that or my maths may be wrong but by my reckoning, the Socialists would have needed another 317 votes to get the 53.85% required to gain 7 out of the 13 seats. If I am right, they only just squeezed enough votes to get 6 seats.

It is a disgrace

Despite the vast investment made each year by the Hydrographic Confederation of the Segura (CHS) to maintain the river, it is still virtually stagnant in the centre of Orihuela.  The river is weed ridden, there are few signs of life and the odour that comes up on a warm day is just awful.

The situation is not helped by people who insist on throwing rubbish into the river. Apart from plastic bottles, there is all manner of debris floating in the shallow water.

Why anyone would want to take a stroll along the banks of the river in this state beats me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

and nationally

image Nationally, the Socialists suffered their worst results since the country became democratic, with almost two million fewer votes than the PP, the PSOE lost 1.5 million votes since the last elections in 2007.The Socialists lost Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón, Baleares and Asturias and Cantabria and the city of Seville. The only communities where they retain control are Extremadura (with the help of the IU) , Andalusia and the Basque Country.

What of the weather?

image As the dust starts to settle on the elections, we can turn our thoughts back to what the weather is going to be like.

image It looks as though it will be sunny for the first few days and then we could see some cloud forming which might cool things down a little.

Still, temperatures of 25 are not bad. I think we can safely put the Winter coats away until next Autumn.

A great turn out

When Pam and I went down into the town to vote, we noticed the large number of people milling in the Plaza de Constitución.

Now Bigastro prides itself on a high turnout at elections compared to other neighbouring towns where figures can be as low as 40% but surely these people were not dressed up to vote.

No they weren’t, yesterday was the first communion, these people had just come out of church!

A mixed bag

In Torrevieja, the Socialists had their worst electoral results ever, they lost 9 percentage points of the vote which reduced their numbers on the council from seven to six. On the other hand, in Orihuela, Mónica Lorente’s PP party lost their absolute majority for the first time in 24 years. She will have to form a coalition with CLR CLARO to maintain control of the council.

Elsewhere in the Vega Baja, the PP increased its share of power by ousting the two socialist mayors in Guardamar del Segura and Redován and has the possibility of negotiating with other political groups to take control in Bigastro, Pilar de la Horadada, San Fulgencio and Benijófar. The PP’s one loss was the council in Rafal to the Socialists. In Dolores, Jacarilla, and Catral Daya Nueva the PP had the most votes but again will rely upon support of other parties to maintain control.

In Callosa de Segura,Formentera, Benejúzar, Almoradí, Cox, Albatera, Algorfa and Daya Vieja the PP have an absolute majority and in Los Montesinos, San Isidro and Benferi, the socialists retained control.

So there will be a lot of negotiating going on over the next day or two throughout the region and most importantly for us, here in Bigastro either the Socialists or the PP will have to form a pact with the UNPLC to obtain a majority in Council.

image Many congratulations to both Raúl Valerio Medina who will maintain his position as mayor because his socialist party got 45% of the votes and Aurelio Murcia Rodriguez who managed to capture 19% of the vote and 2 seats with his new party.

Turnout was 86.25% down a little from 88.82% at the last election in 2007.

Interestingly, in contrast to what happened over the region, the PP in Bigastro actually lost 187 votes from the last election (4.67% of the votes cast) and 368 votes (14% of the votes cast) since the 2003 elections.

We can only speculate what might have happened if the PP had kept Aurelio Murcia as their spokesperson; they could have had an overall majority of 7 seats with him as Mayor.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Last reminder

Today is election day. Leave the Sunday roast in the oven and go down to the town to cast your vote!

Polling stations opened at 9.00 am and will close at 8pm tonight. The Government will provide the first data from the polls at 2.45pm and then again at 6:45pm. By about 10:30 pm we should have interim results from approximately 70% of the vote.

Nationally the PP are optimistic about the result today but at the same time they are being cautious. The party will be watching very closely the votes in Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. They will also keep a close eye on  the count in Seville because if they win there, as polls have predicted, that would open the door for a historic change in Andalucia in next year’s general election.

We will know by tomorrow

A total of 34,681,888 million people will have the chance to vote today in the ninth municipal elections to be held in Spain. That is 444,000 more than in 2007 when elections were last held. In total they will elect 8,116 mayors and 68,462 councillors along with representatives in the Autonomous regions.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of demonstrators across Spain continued their sit-ins and other protests against the established political parties yesterday in defiance of a ban against such protests ahead of today’s vote.

Fuelling the demonstrators’ anger is the perceived failure by politicians to alleviate the hardships imposed on a struggling population. But beyond economic complaints, the protesters’ demands also include improving the judiciary, ending political corruption and overhauling Spain’s electoral structure, notably by ending the system in which candidates are selected internally by the parties before an election rather than chosen directly by voters.

The elections today are expected to result in a countrywide sweep by the Popular Party at the expense of the governing Socialists, whose popularity has plummeted because of the economic crisis. The most recent opinion polls suggest that the Socialist Party may lose in regions and municipalities where they have been in power since late 1970s, notably Castilla-La Mancha.

I was talking about this situation to one of my Spanish neighbours the other day and he said that it was wrong for people to blame the government for creating the economic crisis which after all was worldwide. However, he added that you could criticise the government for being too slow to react to the crisis. As he explained, the economy of Spain was buoyant at that time fuelled as it was by the construction boom. And went on to say that countries like Germany, France and Britain had reacted sooner to what was going on and had therefore suffered less.

The twenty one per cent out of on an electorate of close to 34.7 million who are currently unemployed represents a fair number of disgruntled voters!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It will be quiet today

Yesterday, we had a convoy of cars touring around the estate broadcasting messages from the various political parties. It sounded like a cavalcade of ice cream vans touting for our business on a warm Spring day. Today, peace will return because by law campaigning must cease on the day before the election takes place.

For the electorate, today is a day to carefully weight up the pros and cons of the programmes that the parties have put forward and decide who we are going to vote for. For the parties it is a time to consider how things might go tomorrow when we go down to vote.

Monday will be a time for reflection for the parties, a period when they will either revel in their success or ponder why they failed to capture the votes they needed. There will be winners and losers, familiar faces from the current mandate will be gone and new faces will appear.

Our hope is that the new council will continue the hard work of the previous council to make the town a better place for us all to live. That is the promise they have all made, I hope they can pull it off!

Talk of transparency

There has been a lot of talk of transparency in the programmes for the political parties this time around. However, as I understand it, transparency is not a gift for them to give, it is an obligation that they have to fulfil.

Following allegations in a number of towns throughout Spain of corruption at local council level, the Government have tried to prevent any further cases from occurring.

A decree published by the Ministry for Solidarity and Citizenship, November 24th, 2010, stipulated that local officials and non-elected members of local governing boards have an obligation to make statement on grounds of incompatibility any activity that provided or could provide income as well as an obligation to declare their assets and property rights. The decree required them to do so within three months of taking or leaving office as well as annually during the first quarter of each year.

According to the Official Provincial Bulletin in Alicante, 13 of the 27 municipalities in the Vega Baja region have chosen to ignore this directive. And of those that have complied, many have not provided all the information required: source of income, details of real estate, bank deposits, insurance policies, vehicles, boats, artwork, credits, loans etc. They have just simply stated the total of their income rather than where that that income came from.

I can’t say whether the Councillors and local officers in Bigastro have provided all of this information or not. If they haven’t then hopefully their promises of transparency will mean that they will do so once the election is over!

2nd reminder!

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow and could you please remind your neighbours to do the same!

Why, because all the suggestions indicate that it could be a close run election this time around.

The difficulties that the current council have faced balancing their budget, the electricity cuts at La Paz for example and the lack of favour for the Socialists nationally may signal a change in the views of the local electorate.

The Conservative PP elected Charo Bañuls as their new leader.  By all accounts she is more of a moderate than the previous leader, Aurelio Murcia, who went on to  form his own Centre Right Liberal party which he says lies between the Conservatives and the Socialists. So we have a three horse race.

The Socialists and the UNPLC have campaigned vigorously and kindly provided me with their plans in English which I have linked to from this blog. On the other hand, from what I have seen, the PP seem to have been playing things a little more low key. However, they still remain the main opposition party to the Socialists in Bigastro and are poised to take over control of the town. 

What this all means is that every vote will count.

The turn out at local elections in Spain is normally high (over 80%). With a close run campaign, this figure could be even higher.

Just to remind you again, to vote you need to take:

  • some form of photographic identification along with you i.e. passport, driver’s licence or residencia card.
  • the voting card you got in the post a few weeks ago

Inside the polling station there will be a table piled high with voting slips for each of the three parties. Each voting slip will have the particular party logo on it and a list of their candidates in order. You need to select the appropriate slip for the party you are voting for - PSOE (socialists), PP (conservatives) or UNPLC (centre right wing liberals).

It is very important not to mark the voting slip because a marked slip is a spoiled vote. Remember you are voting for the party of your choice and not any particular candidate.

Once you have the right slip, place it in one the white envelopes provided, take it to the desk, show your identification and your electoral card, get checked off the list and then place your envelope into the ballot box. That is it!

NB Spain has proportional representation so each of the parties will gain seats on the council in proportion to the number of votes they obtain. Bigastro Town Council has 13 seats to be filled. So for example, if the UNPLC were to get 6/13ths of the votes cast, then the first 6 candidates on their list would be elected as councillors.

The party with the most votes cast for them will have the candidate at the top of their list elected as Mayor i.e. RAUL VALERIO MEDINA LORENTE (PSOE), M ª DEL ROSARIO RODRIGUEZ BAÑULS (PP) or AURELIO MURCIA RODRIGUEZ (UNPLC).

Friday, May 20, 2011

A cheap and simple solution

Alejandro Moya Hidalgo read my item about the cheeky sparrows that insist on perching on the air conditioning unit by the back door of our house.

He has kindly offered me a solution that I think should work. He says that all I need to do is hang something shiny like old CDs or metallic tape by the unit and the birds will stay away. I suppose it is akin to the idea of putting a mirror in your garden to ward of cats. Animals and birds do not like to look at a reflection of themselves, fearing that what they see is an enemy.

Since Alejandro has an allotment where he grows the most amazing fruit and vegetables, I dare say he has faced the problem with birds time and again so he knows what he is talking about.

I have to apologise

I am told that the PP did in fact visit Villas Andrea at the start of the election campaign and brought leaflets explaining their programmes in English and Spanish. Unfortunately we didn’t get one of these in spite of the fact that we have a buzon on the gatepost where they could leave it.

If anyone has an Adobe pdf version they could email me I should be grateful.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Damn – that didn’t work!

IMG_0848We have a problem with the cheeky little sparrows that have taken a liking to the air conditioning unit outside the back door to our house.

I first spotted them flying around the box about a month ago. At that time they were going behind the unit and were either planning to build a nest there or were pecking at the insulation on the pipes to line a nest elsewhere. I filled the gaps around the unit with plastic netting to stop them but that has not worked.

One of our neighbours told us that you could buy these plastic birds in Carrefour. He said that others had used them to stop birds perching on the window grills. So we bought a few of them which I have suspended from the unit.

I can tell you now that they do not work. The evidence is there on the tiles that cheeky sparrows have been back and ignored the plastic birds. The biggest problem now is that we don’t know where they are perching because they don’t appear during the daytime. When we went to bed last night the paving was clean so they must have been there early this morning.

Does anyone have a sparrow hawk?

Let’s look at the maths

As I said yesterday, there are 13 seats on the Bigastro council that are up for grabs and three parties hoping to gain them.

To have overall control, one of the parties must gain seven or more seats leaving the other five to the other two parties. In the current mandate the Socialists hold eight seats which gives them a comfortable lead over the PP who currently have four (they originally had five but Aurelio Murcia is no longer a councillor for the PP).

If the leading party were to win less than seven seats, then the other two parties could effectively form a coalition. If that happened, then the mayor of the town could be outvoted in debates. So, in the event of the winning party having either six or five seats, they would need to form a coalition with either of the other two parties to maintain control of the council.

We have all seen the problems that the coalition in England between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has caused. It is hard to imagine, in Bigastro which two parties could happily work together on all of the issues.

That is why, for this election, perhaps more so than in the past, every single vote will count.

Who is missing from this photo?

imageYesterday, the candidates for the major's position in Bigastro held a debate on Radio Cadena SER.

Notice that there were only two candidates present at the radio station, Raúl Valerio Medina (PSOE) and Aurelio Murcia (UNPLC). So where was Charo Bañuls (PP)?

As I said the other day, we have had information from both the PSOE and UNPLC but nothing so far from the PP who are the only opposition party in the present mandate.

Even a copy in Spanish of their programme would be better than nothing. We’d have to pick our way through it with a dictionary at hand but at least then we could make a reasoned judgement about who to vote for. As it stands, our only options are to vote for the PSOE or the UNPLC.

We know that we are very much in the minority but as both Raúl and Aurelio have said, the council represents everyone not just the Spanish majority. Charo, you have only two days left to make contact with us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

1st reminder

Don’t forget to go and vote this Sunday!

By now you should have had your notification about where you go to place your vote. Pam and I will be voting at Table C in the Council Chamber at the rear of the town hall.

To vote you need to take:

  • some form of photographic identification along with you i.e. passport, driver’s licence or residencia card.
  • the voting card you got in the post a few weeks ago

Inside the polling station there will be a table piled high with voting slips for each of the three parties. Each voting slip will have the particular party logo on it and a list of their candidates in order. You need to select the appropriate slip for the party you are voting for - PSOE (socialists), PP (conservatives) or UNPLC (centre right wing liberals).

It is very important not to mark the voting slip because a marked slip is a spoiled vote. Remember you are voting for the party of your choice and not any particular candidate.

Once you have the right slip, place it in one the white envelopes provided, take it to the desk, show your identification and your electoral card, get checked off the list and then place your envelope into the ballot box. That is it!

NB Spain has proportional representation so each of the parties will gain seats on the council in proportion to the number of votes they obtain. Bigastro Town Council has 13 seats to be filled. So for example, if the UNPLC were to get 6/13ths (46%) of the votes cast, then the first 6 candidates on their list would be elected as councillors.

The party with the most votes cast for them will have the candidate at the top of their list elected as Mayor i.e. RAUL VALERIO MEDINA LORENTE (PSOE), M ª DEL ROSARIO RODRIGUEZ BAÑULS (PP) or AURELIO MURCIA RODRIGUEZ (UNPLC).

Dealing with Alzheimer's

20110511_despeThe Association of Relatives of C, Bigastro, in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare have organized a workshop entitled “Learning to say goodbye” - how to overcome the loss .

This course will take place on the 18th and 25th of May and the 1st and 8th of June from 18:00 to 19:00 in the Multipurpose Room of the Municipal Auditorium "Francisco Grau".
Those interested in enrolling can do so by calling  609 168 294
Cost is 3 Euros for Registration and materials. Free for members of the Association and volunteers.

A waste of time

1927_page5_residence_cardA new card for expats is being issued by the government to replace green EU residents' certificate.
National police explain that it will be smaller in size - measuring 8.6cm by 5.4 cm - and has been designed to be portable.

However the initiative falls short of providing photographic ID which would enable expats to leave their passports at home when they need proof of identity.

The National Police say that the Spanish authorities are not allowed to issue ID cards to EU nationals.
They would be breaking the directive governing the free movement of EU residents within Europe. According to this directive, EU residents do not have to apply for a residence license and therefore the former residence card had to be replaced with the certificate.

The smaller certificate is currently being piloted in the region of Castilla y León. It will be introduced progressively in all other regions.

Apart form the painstaking process of obtaining one, the photo ID card was perfect. Pam and I still have ours and even though they have expired, shops, hotels etc will accept them.

The last thing we want to carry around with us is our passports. Apart from the fact that they are too important a document to loose, the replacement costs are unbelievable.

Further trouble for Ryanair

Remember that Ryanair threatened  to ‘cut up to 80 per cent of its operations at El Altet airport from October if the Spanish Airports Authority (AENA) forced the company to use boarding bridges at the new terminal.

Now the budget airline’s  chief executive Michael O’Leary has threatened the Spanish government that they will cut flight plans if the fines levied on the company are not lifted. More than 60 fines were imposed at a value of more than €1.23million between 2009 and 2010.

The fines were for a variety of alleged infractions including refusing to accept identity cards and driving licences as ID proof and disputes over luggage.

O’ Leary says, “Ryanair will not pay these disproportionate or discriminatory fines and should this result in enforcement orders, we will then begin the process of cutting”.

Let the bus take the strain

The long awaited bus service between Torrevieja bus station and Alicante airport will start next Monday 23rd May. Times are 7:00, 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 , 17:00, 19:00 and 21:00 to the airport and 8:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 20:00 and 22:00 return.

Crisis lowers demand for fish

I am told that farmers are having to sell oranges at market for less than it costs to pick them. That might seem to be good for the consumers who are able to buy cheap fruit but in the long term it spells disaster. Unable to continue, farmers either go out of business or plough up the orange groves and plant something more profitable instead. Long term this would create a shortage of fruit grown and therefore higher prices.

It is not just fruit prices that have been hit by the crisis, the fishermen in Torrevieja are feeling the pinch as well. Whilst catches have doubled in the three months since February the price paid for fish has halved.

To make matters worse demand has decreased by about fifty per cent except for sales of the so called luxury fish. Demand for whiting has kept the prices high but whilst sardine catches have increased, sales of the oily fish have dropped.

Most impressive

When you consider just how few Brits there are living in Bigastro, it is very impressive that the political parties take the trouble to print their programs in English for us. 

The Popular Liberal Central party published a document to explain their proposals for the next four years which I linked to in a previous post.


The Socialist party came round the estate the other night to distribute copies of their program in English and have kindly sent me a copy to publish on my blog along with this message:

A very big greeting for the whole neighbours' community of Villa Andrea.

Raúl Valerio Medina Lorente

Alcalde y Candidato a la alcaldía de Bigastro.

12 These are the key points.
In case you didn’t get one, this link will take you to a copy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wow, that was some show!

The show that the Association of Relatives of Alzheimer "Remember me" produced for us on Saturday night was just amazing.

Sad to say we did not win the David Villa shirt but never mind, Pam and I had a fabulous night. We just wish we could have followed the innuendo of the two blokes dressed up as cleaners because they had the audience roaring with laughter.

Many thanks to all of those who took part for providing us with such great entertainment.

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I’ve sent my photos to Germán Martín at the Ayuntamiento who may well put them on the town’s web site. In the meantime, here are all of the pictures. I apologise for the quality of many – there was just so little light in the Auditorium for some of the acts- added to which I had my camera on the wrong setting for the auto focus to work as I would want it!

I don’t believe it!

image It is the middle of May and still the weather is not settled!

We should be looking at blue skies from now through to October but instead the sky is grey one day and blue the next.
image Not much chance for anyone wanting a suntan this week!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


In their manifesto, the new Liberal Central party do make some interesting comparisons between the cost of taxes applied to different towns in the area including this one:

Comparison Bigastro Jacarilla Cox Benejuzar
IBI (council tax) 350€/year 185€/year 285€/year 285€/year
Waste collection 140€/year * 48€/year 61€/year 48€/year
Average car tax 120€/year 98€/year 72€/year 76€/year
Nursery places 110€/month N/A N/A 27€/month

and go on to ask; “why do we have to pay higher taxes than the rest of the region?” and quote these examples of a family with a flat in the centre of the town that own two cars.

Bigastro under the PSOE Bigastro under the UNPLC Jacarilla Cox Benejuzar






I have no doubt that the other parties will dispute those figures, it will be interesting to see what they come up with by way of a reply.


It must have been buzzing in Manchester last night. Two trophies in one day – just brilliant! The 19th League title for United after their 1 all draw against Blackburn and then Man. City beat Stoke in the FA Cup by one goal to nil.

It didn't matter whether you were a blue or a red last night, there was plenty to celebrate.

On behalf of the Union Popular Liberal and Centrista Party

The meeting for English speaking locals will be held  tomorrow (Monday 16th) at 6pm in the parties headquarters on Calle Purisima.














You can read the whole of this parties manifesto in English  here

La Romeria de San Isidro

The sun shone again for San Isidro making the walk up to La Pedrera from the town a hot one. Still, the pilgrims did have a few watering stops on the way to keep them going and regular fireworks to keep them awake. Here are a few people that I met on the way.

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You can see the rest of my photos here

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Public mass for 4 of the victims

The prime minister along with Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia attended the funeral mass in Lorca for victims of the earthquake. The funeral service, led by the Bishop of Cartagena and televised live to the nation, took place in the Recinto Ferial because tremor damage had left all the town's churches too unsafe to enter.

The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said that the government would help the city rebuild and return to normal as soon as possible. "It is my conviction that we are going to meet this test. The earthquake was hard and strong. But this country is stronger. Its desire for solidarity and reconstruction are stronger."

The Spanish cabinet have approved an emergency aid programme for people who lost their homes or businesses. The plan includes money for people to rent elsewhere while their homes are repaired or rebuilt, and €25m in credit lines for people to repair their places of business, farms, factories or vehicles.

Lorca's mayor said on Thursday that more than half of the 550 buildings inspected so far by engineers and architects were uninhabitable.

Parents protest

Parents of the children at the La Paz school in Bigastro protested yesterday outside the gates.

The school was promised a new classroom and a dining room in 2007. In October 2008 the parents, along with the Councillor for Education, María Dolores Andreu, went to the Department of Education to enquire about the state of play regarding the work. They were told that work would start September 2009 and would take about a year to complete.

Because of the lack of classrooms, numbers in classes have risen to 30. The recommendation for children at this age is for classes of 20 – 25 at the most. Parents are already moving their children to schools in Orihuela and to nearby Hurchillo.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A break from the norm

Pam and I decided to take a break from the normal routine and spend a couple of nights at the Hotel Costa Los Narejos which is nearby to Los Alcazares on the Mar Menor.

The deal at the hotel is: free accommodation Sundays to Thursdays on the proviso that you pay for dinner and breakfast on each day of your stay. Dinner is 25 Euros per person and breakfast 9 Euros. That means you get to stay in a four star hotel, half board for just 34 Euros per day – a pretty good deal!

As an added sweetener, if you stay for two nights, you get a free circuit of the spa which includes, a sauna, a Turkish steam room, two Jacuzzis along with a range of different showers.

Pam and I We were expecting a normal room with a balcony for our stay. What we in fact got was one of the best rooms in the hotel.

It seems that when they planned the hotel, the original idea was to build apartments for sale alongside the normal hotel accommodation. The idea was not approved but by then it was too late, the two bedroom apartments had been built.

The solution to the problem was to denominate the apartments as superior rooms. The kitchens could not be fitted with ovens nor hobs, just a microwave oven and a fridge and the two bedrooms had to be open as one. So we had one bedroom with a queen size bed, the other with a double, a large lounge/dining area, a kitchen, a bathroom, a balcony and a huge sun terrace all to ourselves.

I think you could say that we would recommend this deal to anyone, especially if you are lucky enough to get a room like we did!

Many thanks


To all of our friends and relatives who have expressed concern about us. We have had text messages, phone calls and emails all asking if we are alright. The answer is of course yes other wise you would not be reading this!

What had caused all the concern was the news that a large earthquake had struck Southern Spain near to where we live.

You can see on this map just how close we would have been if we were at home. As it happened though, Pam and I decided to take a few days break at a hotel in Los Alcazares which, as you can see from this map actually took us closer to the epicentre of the quakes. I am pleased to say that we felt nothing.

The historic city of Lorca was at the centre of the problem.

Lorca was hit by two major earthquakes on Wednesday evening which shook the city - collapsing buildings and sending falling masonry into the streets.
The tremors left nine dead, including two pregnant women and a 14-year old child. A total of 292 people were injured, three seriously.
The first earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale struck at 17.05, according to the Spanish National Geographic Institute (IGN) - with the more damaging 5.1 tremor hitting at 18.47.

IGN say that a further 26 aftershocks were recorded in the city by 05.30 yesterday (Thursday).

  • Two apartment blocks collapsed killing two women in the Barrio de la Viña, the area worst affected.
  • The bell towers of two historic churches - San Diego and Santiago - collapsed, along with the dome of the Virgen de las Huertas sanctuary and part of Lorca's castle tower, the Torre del Espolón.
  • Lorca's main avenue Avenida Juan Carlos I was left full of rubble.

Rescue services said most of the victims had been killed by falling masonry. The 14-year-old boy died when he was buried by rubble in his family's café

Seismologists reported the quake had been devastating because it happened close to the surface and only seven kilometres from the city centre.
An emergency services spokesman reported around 500 people of various nationalities were sleeping outdoors in an improvised campsite along the Huerto de la Rueda fair esplanade.
"They were given blankets because the temperatures were low and they were queuing early in the morning to get coffee and a breakfast," he said.

Another four camps have been installed across the city, with residents afraid to sleep in their damaged homes.
470 patients from the Rafael Méndez and Virgen del Alcázar hospitals were evacuated by ambulance to hospitals in other parts of the Murcia region for safety reasons.

Additionally the health centres, schools and a home for the elderly were evacuated and no schools opened on Thursday.

The army has been drafted in, with 350 soldiers from the rescue and emergency units from Sevilla, Valencia and Madrid sent to the scene.
They have been joined by 200 Protección Civil volunteers, 30 firemen, 250 members of the Red Cross, and local and national police from all over the Murcia region.

Although the busy A-7 motorway was re-opened several hours after the quake, the authorities have advised people not to travel to the area.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It is all too confusing

Getting to grips with Spanish can prove to be a task and a half when there are so many words that are similar and when there are words that have several meanings according to their context.

Yesterday, I was giving an account of Easter in England and of course I mentioned chocolate Easter eggs which I interpreted as “huevos de chocolate” in Spanish. Due to a mispronunciation on my part, our teacher thought I said “jueves” which is of course Thursday. To my untrained ear they do sound similar as do "casa" and "caza".

We are told that the letters j and h are not pronounced in Spanish however, I understand that they subtlety change the sound of the word they proceed. When you have spent many years telling English children that they must pronounce the “h” at the beginning of words like house ( it is not not ouse!) it is hard to get out of the habit.

Looking at the weather report for this morning, I came across the word "brumas" which means sea mist. I can well see that at some point I am going to mix that word up with "bromas" which are jokes or even "brujas" which are witches. I know they don’t sound anything like each other but then neither do “hormigas” (ants) and “hormigon” (concrete) which I have mixed up in the past much to the amusement of our hairdresser.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A meeting for us

Many of you may already have seen this notice but in case you haven't, here is the information about the meeting organised for us by the Union Popular Liberal Centrista party in English.


It goes without saying that, if any other party wants me to advertise their meetings or to publish their manifesto in English on this blog, I will gladly do so.

I’m really not sure…

….whether the American Navy SEALS going in and killing Osama bin Laden was a good thing or not. It didn’t help that the reports that came out were changed several times so we are still unsure of the truth behind what happened.

I can fully understand why the Americans needed to do it and why, for them, killing bin Laden was better than taking him into captivity for a later trial. However, it does seem to have created a mixed reaction.

The Pakistani government are in turmoil about it following accusations that they knowingly harboured the al-Qaida terrorist. They are also not happy about the Americans going into sovereign territory without their permission.

The Muslim world seems to divide between the minority who have reacted violently to the majority who have shown indifference. Al-Qaida was not the force that it was in 2011 before the raid on the twin towers in New York. After 9/11, the majority of Muslims were agreed that there was no legitimacy for such acts of terrorism in fighting their cause. In fact more Muslims have died at the hands of al-Qaida than Europeans and Americans combined. Little wonder then that is not a great deal of sympathy for the terrorist group.

The Spanish President, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, who at first said that bin Laden had "sought his own destiny" now says, "any democrat would have preferred to see him stand trial." Many other seem to agree with that sentiment by saying that If bin Laden was not killed whilst defending himself then he was murdered.

One thing is for certain, we have not heard the end of this; the risk of reprisals is very high and we have no where idea where they will strike first.

It will be mine!

20110509_alzSunday, 15th May at 7pm

Alzheimer's Charity Festival : Entrance fee: 3 €

The Association of Relatives of Alzheimer "Remember me" have organized this festival to raise funds for their worthwhile cause.

Antonio Larrosa, Efrén Pamies and Toni Ortuño will be performing. In addition we will have a performance of "The Bohemians of the Night" composed by Manuel Gutierrez, Manuel Larrosa and Antonio Gálvez. Finally, a group of people from Bigastro will be showing all of their artistic skills.

And then the moment that many will be waiting for, the presentation of the World Cup final football shirt donated by David VIlla and signed by him.

Monday, May 09, 2011

As an ex-art teacher

I have to say that I like the logo that Aurelio Murcia has chosen for his party. The black line representing the mountains coming down to the coastal plane with a rainbow above is very symbolic and meaningful. The mix of colours, typefaces and upper and lower case also gives the logo a modern youthful look. It works well as a background at the press conference he held and on the posters against the green background. I also like the fact that he has included a picture of the whole party on his posters which reminds us that it is more than one person that we are voting for.

Of course, we are not voting for posters and logos but for what each party represents. That is something we will find out when we receive the policies of each party in our letter boxes. I do hope they have got the translation into English right this time otherwise we will have to read the Spanish version to find out exactly what they mean!

PS In English, as in Spanish, there are many words with more than one meaning, if you get the wrong one, then the sentence does not immediately make sense.

A sad reflection

IMG_1715The political parties only put up their posters at the weekend and look, already someone has torn them, scribbled out eyes etc. To me this is a sad reflection on the attitudes of some individuals. It goes along with the graffiti that they spray on walls and the way they vandalise public property.

These people don’t seek to improve the town in any way, just make it ugly and an eyesore for the rest of us. I’m not sure what their motives are but they are sickening.

I may be tempting fate here

After the match yesterday between Manchester United and Chelsea, United have a lead of six points over their London rivals with just two games left to play. Mathematically it is possible for Chelsea to still take the League title but they would have to win both of their games and Manchester United would have to lose theirs. It would then be on goal difference that Chelsea would rob United of the trophy that they richly deserve.

We weren’t able to watch the match yesterday because none of the Spanish channels were showing it but I did follow in on the BBC website. By all accounts it was a glorious day for United who should have won by a lot more than the 2-1 score line suggested.

Winning the title this year would mean so much for United and for Ferguson. It would take them to 19 League titles, an incredible 12 for Ferguson, beating the record set by Liverpool of 18. It is just amazing to think that it took United 26 years to gain their first league title and that was in 1993. Since then they have just got better and better.

One more point is all that is needed from the next two games! C’mon you reds!

PS Get the beers in Dave for next weekend, I hope you will need them.

A promising week ahead

image After a weekend where we saw a lot of sun but also had periods of dark clouds, a spot of rain and a brief period of strong winds, this week looks to be settled.
image Working in the pool yesterday, doing a bit of cleaning up, I could feel the sun was hot on my back so it is time to get the sun cream out. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Just incredible

imageLast night the Infant Band from Los Montesinos came to play at the Auditorium Francisco Grau. They were followed on stage by the Junior Band from Bigastro.

As you can see, both bands played interesting, varied and challenging programmes of music. They were both delightful to listen to and were lucky to have such accomplished musicians to call upon.

If you had listened to either band with your eyes shut and then opened them, you would have been astonished at the ages of some of the band members.

I find it hard to believe that these young people have such talent and such discipline to play so well.

See my pictures here.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Halving our taxes

You recall that, following his replacement by Charo Bañuls as spokesperson for the PP,  Aurelia Murcia went on to form the Unión Popular Liberal y Centrista party which he says lies between the Conservatives and the Socialist, taking the best from each.

6987472In a press conference yesterday, Murcia outlined his parties policies for the forthcoming election which centre round the reduction of local taxes.

As, Murcia points out, the taxes that we pay in Bigastro are the highest for any municipality in the the area. He says that amount of local tax revenue for the town is 1,746,000 Euros meaning that the average for a Bigastro family is 730 Euros per year, a figure which he proposes to cut by half.

In order to achieve this fifty per cent reduction, without creating more debt for the town, Murcia proposes to cut the council workforce from 80 to 40 and at the same time privatise some of the town’s services.

Murcia goes on to promise that the provision of social services, protection of the environment and education would not be cut and that the fight against unemployment would be a key priority for his party.

Coming from a country where we used to pay twice if not three times as much in local taxes, the rates we pay here seem reasonable to we Brits. However, to Spaniards not used to a high level of local taxation, the promise of a reduction by 50% must be tempting.

I don’t suppose the 40 workers whose jobs are on the line see it that way though!

54 is no age to die

SeveBallesteros2Severiano Ballesteros, one of the greatest golfers of all time, died this morning at his home in Pedreña (Cantabria) at the age of 54, having struggled for the past two and half years in his fight against a brain tumour.

Winner of two Masters, three British Opens, four Ryder Cups and holder of the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports, Ballesteros ended his career in 2007 when he was unable to overcome chronic back pain. He was never able to regain the level of play that he had become world famous for in the eighties and nineties.

In October 2008 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour for which he underwent surgery on four occasions. In recent weeks, his health had been deteriorating steadily.

Seve will be sadly missed by all of the golf fraternity.

The coastal rail link

The regional infrastructure council has started the administrative procedure that will allow it to expropriate land needed to accommodate the future high-speed coastal rail link between Alicante and Valencia.

Apart from the link between Alicante and Valencia, the high sped line will connect with Benidorm and El Altet Airport as well as with the AVE high speed rail line between Alicante and Madrid.

That is good news for travellers but perhaps less than good for those who will loose some or all of their land. There is no mention of the rates of compensation in the report that I have just read.

Pilgrimage of San Isidro, 2011

20110426_sanisidro11The very popular fiesta for San Isidro in Bigastro will take place on Saturday, 14th May .

8am – Firework rockets and preparation of Luis Gálvez and José Nieto streets

10am - Holy Mass in honor of San Isidro the Labourer.

When mass has finished, the procession will start from the church and proceed up to the chapel at La Pedrera stopping at "Carmen de Nino", "Casa Clemente", "Cruce de los Moyas" and "San Isidro".

5pm- mobile disco and inflatables for the children.

8pm- San Isidro returns to the town with a stop at José Nieto for the traditional "Lechugas a la Perdiz". Then the tour will continue down to the Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem, where the saint will rest until next year.

Friday, May 06, 2011

It all starts today

Campaigning for the local elections starts today and will go on until Friday 20th, the last day when the parties are allowed to promote themselves.

Voting will then take place on Sunday 22nd.

By now you should have had your notification about where you go to place your vote. Pam and I will be voting at Table C in the Council Chamber at the rear of the  town hall.

To vote you need to take some form of photographic identification along with you i.e. a passport, driver’s licence or residencia card.

Inside the polling station there will be a table piled high with voting slips for each party. Each voting slip has a particular party logo on it and a list of their candidates. So you need to select the appropriate slip for the party you are voting for.

It is very important not to mark the voting slip because a marked slip is a spoiled vote. When counting takes place all the voting slips are checked and political party representatives who are present will make sure any opposing votes that are marked are discarded.

Once you have the right slip, place it in one the white envelopes provided, take it to the desk, show your identification and your electoral card, get checked off the list and then place your envelope into the ballot box. That is it!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Pearls on the fences

You find thousands of white snails covering fences, electricity boxes, gates and anything else they can cling to in this area. Local collect them to use in the famous “rabbit and snail” paella. What they don’t realise is that these snails can potentially produce a crop which is far too valuable for them to be used to simply adorn a plate of paella.

In the hills above Barcelona, Joan Trobalon keeps a barn filled with 6,000 snails - not for eating but for providing eggs. Why? because snail’s eggs, or “white caviar” as it has been dubbed, is the latest gastronomic trend sweeping Europe.

Chefs throughout Spain and Europe are rediscovering the highly-prized delicacy, which centuries ago starred in banquets for wealthy Romans, Egyptians and Greeks. The tiny eggs, which taste slightly earthy and are recommended marinated in herbs, are also known as "Pearls of Aphrodite" for their supposed aphrodisiac quality. Think of a broad bean, pea and "white caviar" crostini, with an asparagus reduction or rabbit steaks with a beetroot puree and thyme-marinated "white caviar" and you are on the right lines.

After four years of experimenting, Mr Trobalon found that his snails thrive on a diet of grains and green leaves, and are best kept in small pens, raised off the ground and filled with small tubs of earth, with electric wire around the top to stop them escaping. Every spring and autumn each snail will burrow into the soil to lay around three grams of eggs - between 80 and 100 individual “pearls”.

It takes four hours to fill a 50 gram tin, as each tiny egg is selected by hand using tweezers. No wonder then that the eggs fetch 1,800 Euros per kilogramme. Yes you read that correctly!

The case goes on

The Town Clerk from Bigastro, Antonio Saseta, and two municipal workers appeared as witnesses in court yesterday to clarify the alleged crime of embezzlement against the former mayor, José Joaquín Moya.

The Town Clerk said that authorisation was never given, either in writing or orally, to use municipal vehicles inside or outside of working hours for private purposes. He explained that there was no official parking space for these vehicles at that time and added that any permission to use the vehicles must have been given orally by Moya.

The judge, Carlos San Martín, has now ordered that information should be collected regarding the contracts awarded between 2004 and 2008 to Manuel Nortes and José Almarcha. They allegedly gave the former mayor of Bigastro a Volkswagen Touareg as payment for receiving contracts from the town.

In his statement to the Guardia Civil, Moya acknowledged receiving this “gift” and said that it was “a mistake”. He claims that the vehicle was sold within months of it being purchased.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Those of you who were at the Father’s Day concert given by the Unión Musical de Bigastro will recall that the president of the band, Emilio Saez, made his retirement speech on that occasion. I remember it well because he made me very proud by thanking me for my work taking photographs.

Of course Emilio’s retirement meant that the band would have to elect a new president.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that the choice has been made and that the new president will be our very good neighbour, Pepe Robles Grau. I don’t know whether this is meant to be kept under wraps, if it is then I have let the “cat out of the bag” and I can only apologise for that.

I am sure that everyone in the town will be delighted with the choice. Pepe will make an excellent successor to Emilio who did so much to promote the band. I am certain that Pepe will take the band to even greater heights than before.

PS As an added advantage, I will only have to walk across the road to deliver my CDs of photos to the new President; I only hope he likes them as much as Emilio did!

Torrevieja May Fair


On Wednesday 11th, Torrevieja’s May Fair will be inaugurated at around 2100-hrs, with a firework display and the symbolic switching on of lights, which will open the Fair proper. Entrance to the Fair Ground is free although tickets are required for the seated area. The fair includes a display of horses and carriages on Saturday and Sunday, singing and dancing each evening (be warned it starts late!) food, food, food and a drink or two!

Wednesday, May 11
21h - Fair inauguration with performance of local dance academies.
23h - Concert CHASKÍO (FREE entry)
Thursday, May 12
22:30h - Concert Pastora Soler (FREE entry)
Friday, May 13
21:00h - Escuela Municipal de Danza –the local dance school directed by Nuria Girona- academies performance.
22:00h - Final del concurso de copla
23:00h - Concert VALDERRAMA (FREE entry)
Saturday, May 14
21:00h - Performance of local dance academies.
22:00h - Concert Manu Tenorio (FREE entry)
Sunday, May 15
21:00h - Concert Raquel Morey y Antonio El Torero and its Flamenco dance group
23:00h - May Fair 2011 Conclusion with the concert by the Alba Rociera choir of the May Fair Association

An interesting letter

We had an interesting letter from the Ayuntamiento, signed by the Mayor last week. I expect everyone on the estate received the same one.

As the Town Hall points out, Telefónica installed a cable in 2006 from the town up to our estate which meant that we could at last have fixed telephone lines and perhaps more important, an ADSL connection to the Internet.

In the early days of ADSL, you had to be almost next door to the exchange to get even a 1Mb connection. Then they introduced RADSL or rate adaptive ADSL where upstream speed was sacrificed for downstream speed to create greater tolerance to line noise and signal loss. The broadband modem that you use for this automatically adjusts the speed of your connection to adjust for the quality of the line.

What this meant was that houses further away could still enjoy broadband Internet albeit with a reduced upstream speed. Please note that even with normal ADSL, upstream speeds are always significantly lower than downstream speeds - that is the A for Asymmetrical part of the name.

The theoretical maximum distance that ADSL will work over is a little less than 5.5kms however, most would consider a distance of 3km to be the true maximum. This distance is not as the crow flies though but as the cables are routed.

In their letter, the Ayuntamiento point out that many houses on Villas Andrea are in fact over 3kms away from the nearest exchange which I believe is on Calle Apatel and so our ADSL speeds are restricted.

Originally, Telefónica quoted a maximum of 3Mbs for the connections they supplied increasing that to 6Mbs a year or so later. At the same time, they offered an increase to 10Mbs if you paid an additional 4 Euros per month.

Those of us who took advantage of this offer of 10Mbs were supplied with a new Comtrend router that would work with ADSL 2+. Latterly, Telefónica have dropped that extra charge and so everyone should in theory be able to enjoy a 10 Mb connection but only if they have an ADSL 2+ modem of course - 10Mbs is the maximum that Telefónica currently offer. They say that you only need to disconnect your modem and reconnect it to upgrade your speed.

Theory is one thing and practice is something else. So the question is, “what speed can we actually achieve?”. When my modem was first installed it showed 10Mbs but there were regular drop outs. Within a day it had settled down to about 8.4Mbs downstream and 712Kbs upstream. Telefónica say that the loss of 1.6 Mb on the downstream speed is within normal tolerances taking into account computer overheads and line quality and 712kb upstream is close to the 800Kbs quoted.

The letter from the town hall goes on to suggest that we need to petition Telefónica if we are to see any improvement on the quality of our ADSL connections. Whether the town hall are prepared to do this on our behalf is not clear but from past experience individual complaints will achieve nothing. It would take a joint effort on all our parts to make any impression on Telefónica and even then we might have to wait some time for a result. Let’s face it, if their service is as slow as their website, then we will wait forever!