Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hobson’s choice

Something drastic had to be done to reduce the level of debt in Bigastro. The council is hoping to tap into 3.7m Euros of government credit to pay its overdue bills but still has to make drastic cuts to balance the budget. Apparently there are a further 6.3m Euros of debt that cannot be included in the plan for credit; it has not been made clear how those bills will be paid.

As one of the measures, the mayor of Bigastro, Charo Bañuls (PP), announced yesterday that they will be reducing the workforce by about 50%. Thirty five of the 100 employees will be made redundant and a further 16 workers in the nursery will be taken over by a private company. She says that this will save 300,000 Euros from the annual budget.

In the budget for 2012, which will be approved next week, there will be further cuts to reduce the total from 5.9m to 3.5m Euros. Amongst the areas affected will be celebrations, protocol, advertising and propaganda and grants; a total of 100,000 Euros.

The opposition spokesman, Raul Valerio Medina (PSOE ) has criticised the redundancy plan saying that it will generate even more debt because of the compensation that will have to be paid to workers who are loosing their jobs. He says that other measures such as reducing municipal salaries have not been considered.

Making workers redundant is the most awful task that any employer has to undertake. It will not be pleasant for the councillors charged with the responsibility for informing the people concerned and will certainly be a huge blow to those who no longer have a job because their prospects for finding alternative employment are severely limited.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

There will be more to come

There is no doubt that labour laws in Spain needed to be reformed. On the one hand, public service employees enjoyed a privileged position; their unions had negotiated unprecedented protection levels for them. On the other hand though, the rest of the workers in the country had little or no protection at all. Most affected were young workers in the market for the first time who would find themselves in and out of work at the drop of a hat.

It was sensible to make changes and try to close the gap between the two sectors by reducing the privilege for the public sector workers and at the same time increasing job security and rights for the rest. Inevitably though, the privileged have lost too much and the less privileged have gained very little. The only winners in all this are the employers because they have used the changes in the law to make savings. In Andalucía, for example,  there have already been 8 times the number of dismissals than there were last year. Workers are faced with either a cut in pay or dismissal.

Unfortunately, the northern European strategy of austerity has left the government in Spain with very few options. The labour reforms were touted as a means to promote growth. Understandably, workers do not see it that way. The massive cuts the government  have made and will continue to make will far outweigh the benefits of labour reforms and will I fear strangle growth - effectively negating any benefits the country gains from the reforms. 

Today's budget will only add to the pain that many Spaniards feel as they see their living standards worsen. The general strike yesterday may only be the tip of the iceberg.

NB For the benefit of my Spanish readers, the title refers to a saying which English people use when there are no options to choose from. It refers to one Thomas Hobson who had an extensive stable of some 40 horses which he used to rent out. This gave the appearance to his customers of having their choice of mounts when in fact there was only one: Hobson required his customers to choose the horse in the stall closest to the door. This was to prevent the best horses always being chosen, which would have caused those horses to become overused.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More about the concert on Saturday

At the concert, which starts at 9:30pm, the four bands; Unión Musical Torrevejense, Unión Musical de Almoradí, Unión Musical de Bigastro and the Unión Musical de San Miguel de Salinas will each play two pieces.

The Torrevieja band will start proceedings by playing the pasodoble, 'Doña Lola' and then  'Estampas de Iberia'; the Almoradí, band will then play,  'Evocando unas tierras' and  'Capricho Mediterráneo'; the Bigastro band will follow with  the pasodoble 'Nostalgia de ti' and the three part, 'Estampas de mi tierra' and finally the band from San Miguel will play the  pasodoble 'Bienve Roser' and the 'Suite Hebraica'. For the finale, the four bands will come together to perform 'Noches alicantinas' in three movements: 'Noche Mora', 'Noche de Habaneras' and 'Nit del Foc'. By that stage it will be very late at night or more to the point early in the morning.

All of the pieces to be played were of course written by Francisco Grau Vegara.

francisco_grau_vegara_171106_ok   images
 008D5UL-MMM-P1_1 Suspiros de España 2 Unidad de Música de la Guardia Real

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Worth a visit

The International Auditorium-Conservatory of Torrevieja, which was designed by the architect José María Tomás, has a total built surface of 16,166 square meters, over a plot of over 92,000 square meters –ceded by the Town Council of Torrevieja-.

The new infrastructure includes areas of parks and gardens and it has a design similar to a University Campus. It is located in the northern area of the city, next to the Natural Park of the Salt Lakes of La Mata and Torrevieja and the San Jaime Hospital.

The Auditorium itself includes a Symphonic Room and a Chamber Room with a total build of 12,444 square meters.The Conservatory of Music, which  is located in the North-East area of the Auditorium, has a total build of 3,721 square meters.

The Conservatory is planned to be a Higher Conservatory of Music with a minimum capacity for 240 students. It includes: rooms for choir and orchestra, seminars, teaching rooms (16 classrooms for individual instrument teaching, 12 classrooms for chamber music teaching and 16 classrooms for non-instrumental teaching), library, video and audio library, reading room, audio and video rooms, archives and loan system, study cabins,  rooms for the governing boards and administration, toilets, laboratories of electroacoustic music and room for body-dance technique.

Saturday night taken care of

Music Conservatory Torrevieja Maestro Francisco Grau Vergara,  the first and only musician to be elevated to the rank of General in the history of the Spanish Army, will be honoured for his career in a concert on Saturday at 21.30 in the New International Auditorium and Conservatory of Music Torrevieja.

The four bands that will be taking  part are the musical unions Torrevieja, Almoradi, San Miguel and Bigastro, the latter being the  town where Grau Vegara was born.

Note that, apart from his ties with Bigastro, Grau Vegara also has close ties to Torrevieja and its Habaneras Music Contest for which he is is president of the jury.

In all there will be 300 musicians taking part in this special concert. Tickets are 3 Euros each and can be purchased from Servicam and the Teatro Municipal in Torrevieja. Proceeds will go to APANEE (Association of Parents of Students with Special Educational Needs), Caritas and the Association for the Fight Against Cancer.

In case you were wondering, the new building is next to San Jaime hospital off the N-332.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A great decision

I was charged with the responsibility to find a photographer for Laura and Dave’s wedding. There are literally hundreds of wedding photographers advertising their services on the web with prices ranging from the affordable to the astronomical. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

The first criteria was to find someone whose style suited our requirements – a mix between traditional and reportage was what we wanted.

I came across Ian Jardine fairly early on and bookmarked him as someone who fitted the bill perfectly. As I continued my research, I kept coming back to him. There was something utterly  compelling about his pictures that I was drawn to. They were more natural than most, as if they had been tailored to the subjects rather than the other way round. Looking at his blog, you could see that each couple was treated differently – that was very important. 

Once we had decided that Ian Jardine was our best choice, he arranged a meeting with us at which time we could have said no. However, in person he was unassuming, gentle but yet thorough and very professional. At that meeting he showed us more of his images which was enough to convince us to go ahead and book him.

We then had a further meeting with both Ian and his wife Cathy who will be assisting him on the day. We discussed the type of photos that Laura and Dave were looking for and the time schedule for the day. Ian explained that there would be a second photographer working alongside him to capture those moments that he might miss.

As part of his packages, Ian offers a pre-wedding shoot. This is intended to get to know the couple better and at the same time provide them with some memorable shots. That took place last Saturday in an area of Manchester by the canal. Today, I have the results of that session and I can tell you they are stunning. Ian has captured the characters of Laura and Dave perfectly and as a bonus has included a few shots with Molly as well.

Here are some of my favourites. Picking out a few was difficult because they are all just so good. Visit his website to find out more about Ian Jardine Photography. 

Laura & David Pre Wed-1 Laura & David Pre Wed-13
Laura & David Pre Wed-14 Laura & David Pre Wed-21
Laura & David Pre Wed-11 Laura & David Pre Wed-25

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Top of the list


By law, towns have to comply with Royal Decree Law 4/2012 which calls for all local authorities to make plans to  pay outstanding debts to suppliers.

You may have noticed the item on the Bigastro web site seeking information from its suppliers so that the town can draw up its own plan.

Bigastro. 6,788. Has 3.7 million in unpaid bills, 545 euros per resident.

Redován. 7,500. Has 3.6 million in unpaid bills, 489 euros per resident.

San Fulgencio. 2,500. Has 4.4 million in unpaid bills, 353 euros per resident.

Callosa. 8,000. Has 5.5 million in unpaid bills, 306 euros per resident.

Orihuela. 88,000. Has 25 million Euros in unpaid bills, 281 euros per resident.

Guardamar. 6,900. Has 3.9 million in unpaid bills, 231 euros per resident.

Torrevieja. 102,000. Has 16.5 million in unpaid bills, 161 euros per resident.

Pilar de la Horadada. 23,000. Has 2.6 million in unpaid bills, 115 euros per resident.

Almoradi. 19,000. Has 1 million in unpaid bills, 51 euros per resident.

Los Montesinos. 15,100.Has 48,000 in unpaid bills,  28 euros per resident.

Benejúzar. 15,400 inhabitant, Has 53,000 in unpaid bills, 9.8 euros per resident.

NB These figures represent the debt to suppliers. They do not include debts to banks and other financial institutions.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Prepare for the shock

Last October the previous government in Spain froze electricity tariffs; that decision has now been revoked.

What this means is that electricity companies will raise their charges from April not only to bring them into line with present costs but also to recover the monies they have lost since last October. 

For Easter

20120323_pass On Sunday April 1 at 6:30pm in the  Auditorium,  the Asociación Amigos de Jesús de Nazareth de Callosa will be presenting “the Passion” for Easter.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at Town Hall from 9:00am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. The price is 5.00 € to cover the cost of the performance.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jobs for grabs

With nearly 50% of young Spaniards unable to find jobs, any opportunity for employment is not to be sniffed at.

I read this morning that the Catholic Church in Spain is on a recruitment drive. It seems that the number of priests in the country has declined by 25% over the last decade and that some parishes have to share a priest.

Although 73% of Spaniards claim to be Roman Catholics, less than 15% admit to attending mass regularly. In a bid to reawaken Christianity in the country, Pope Benedict XVI has visited Spain three times since 2005 with some success because the number of young men joining the clergy has risen since his visits.

So what is on offer?

Well it is a job for life, there is no such thing as redundancy packages for priests. Although the salary is not great, priests in Spain are paid an average of 700-800 Euros per month, the rewards are described as eternal, it is regarded as a happy job and it beats being unemployed.

Bucking the trend for equality, it is a job which is only on offer to young men.

Easter scaled down

Almost as fascinating as the real thing are the miniature versions of the pasos that are paraded at Easter. Many are produced as models to show what the finished article will look like. They are made to gain approval from the cofradia before embarking on the full scale paso. Others are just marvels in minature made for the sake of it.

At 7:30pm today in the Exhibition Hall at Vista Alegre, a display of miniatures created by Alfonso Pascual Ruiz and Pedro Manuel Grimao Melgar will be on show. The exhibition, which is described as the largest collection of Easter, will be open until the April 22nd.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Well thanks a bunch boy George

Thanks a bunch Mr Osborne. You cut income tax for the rich to 45p in the pound. That was jolly nice of you, I’m sure the 300,000 who pay the highest rate will be thankful.

Those who won’t be thankful are the pensioners like myself and Pamela because you introduced a “granny tax” to pay for your other tax cuts.

It was Winston Churchill, who in 1925, decided that pensioners like us should enjoy a more generous personal allowance against tax once we reached 65. I actually didn’t know that so it came as a nice surprise on my 65th birthday to find that I would be better off.

To add insult to injury, Mr Osborne described the removal of the tax break as a “simplification” that would be welcomed by pensioners who would not have to fill out tax forms. Because we are older does not mean we are too senile to understand a simple form and take the trouble to fill it in. I think it took me all of five minutes to complete the task. It took a darned sight longer than that to fill out the form necessary to claim my state pension.

The increased allowance, which starts at £10,500 and then increased each year, will now be frozen at £10,500. For those who turn 65 next year, the allowance will be £9,205, the same as working people – just as well that Pam and I are 65 this year.

Ps Isn’t it sad that those people with homes worth more than £2 million will have to pay stamp duty at 7%, I really feel for those people!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Now for the good news

image The rain that caused such chaos yesterday along the coast has passed over leaving today as one where things will start to dry out. By tomorrow, it should start to feel a whole lot warmer and more like spring.  

The forecasts said it would rain yesterday

The rainstorm yesterday caused chaos in Torrevieja and on the Orihuela Costa. The rain started at four am and continued until five pm and dumped over 130 litres per square metre of water in Torrevieja. That is half of the total rain that fell during 2011 in just one day. The worst period was between 8am and 9:30 which created huge problems for children going to school and for people going to work.

All four lanes of the CV-905 were flooded between the roundabout at McDonalds and La Siesta. The road had to be closed for five hours. They say that in parts the water was 50cms deep. Many of the other roads in and around the town were affected including the CV-95 by the hospital. 

The combination of heavy rain and winds up to 50kms per hour have spoilt many of the beaches in Torrevieja and on the  Orihuela Costa. With Easter on its way, that is not good.

There are videos of the problem in the local Spanish press.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I heard that, pardon!

20120316_gaes The Department of Social Welfare in Bigastro invites all the citizens of the municipality to take a free hearing test courtesy of GAES. Tests will take place on Wednesday, March 21 in the auditorium of the Integrated Social Centre, during office hours 10:30 to 13:30  and in the afternoon between 16:00 and19:00.

Last time Pam and I went for one of these free tests, the lady told Pamela she had the hearing of a 20 year old. She told me that I had some loss of hearing in the right ear but that no corrective measures were necessary.

You can test your hearing online courtesy of Lloyds at this site. All you need is a computer with an internet connection, a sound card and a pair of headphones. The test which takes about five minutes or so consists of bursts of sound at different frequencies first in one ear and then the other. You click you mouse each time that you hear the sound until the point where it become inaudible.

Just for Pete who may well remember the TV series from whence the catchphrase came: of the three great aunts from Glossop, "You can allus tell when they're coming, cause t'water curdles in t'goldfish bowl"

Spring has sprung a leak!

Today is the first day of spring but you would hardly know it looking out of my window this morning. The lovely weather that we have experienced over the last week or so which brought many Brits out in their shorts and T-shirts has given way to a cold, wet spell.

Twenty one Spanish provinces are on alert today for cold, wind or snow. Four of the areas are on orange alert for snow.

In Almeria the forecast is for up to seven inches of the white stuff and at nearby Albacete they can expect up to 20 inches to fall. Thankfully, snow will only be at 900 to 1,500 metres which means in Bigastro we will just get rain.

Along with snow, the temperatures will be below freezing in parts of Spain like Madrid where the thermometers could record as low as –7 degrees centigrade.

Those who thought they could safely put their winter coats away will have to get them back out again for today. Either that or they wait until tomorrow when the forecast is for the sun to break though the clouds or Wednesday which is forecast to be sunny!

All I ask is please, please – can we have a dry Easter this year. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Put your feet up dad!

Today is Father’s Day or El Día del Padre which happens also to be the Feast day of Saint Joseph.Today, all fathers, regardless of their name are Josés. 

Don’t bother trying to go out to the shops because they will be closed as will all banks and other businesses. It is a day when fathers throughout Spain will open their presents and show great surprise when they find that they have yet another tie to add to the collection.

IMG_6311 Last night we had the special annual concert for fathers which was in two parts. In the first half the Juvenile Band from the School of Music played for us. Their programme included: Agüero, a pasodoble by José Franco, Music from Shrek by Harry Gregson-Williams, Hobbit and a selection from Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore, Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken and finally Lluna Meditrerránia by Teodoro Aparicio.

To be honest, some of those pieces were bold choices to make for the young musicians. They did struggle a little with some of the slower passages and their timing was a little wayward. However, there were some good solo performances and of course the audience were suitably gracious in their applause.

In the second part the senior band treated us to three glorious pieces from their repertoire. Nostalgia de tí, by Francisco Grau Vegara followed by Estampas de mi tierra by the same author and finally a new piece for the band, El caserio by Jesús Guridi.

Again there were some outstanding solo performances including those by the young lady on flute.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The day the world turned green

St-Patricks-Day-celebrati-001 St-Patricks-Day-celebrati-003
St-Patricks-Day-celebrati-004 Sydney-Opera-House-Illumi-001

The Palace at Monaco, the leaning tower at Pisa, the river in Chicago and the Sydney Opera house all turned green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

St-Patricks-Day-celebrati-007 Even the fountain at the White House was green though I doubt that Barack Obama can claim to have Irish blood in him!

Pictures taken from the Guardian newspaper.

At Casa El Willo Pam and I were turned green as we spent the day gardening. After several hours working out in the hot sunshine, we could have done with a pint of Guinness to revive us!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

There may be justice at last for the forlorn mothers

During the Franco regime, babies were removed from families if they were deemed to be politically dangerous. Most targeted were the poor and in particular single mothers. It is thought that there were up to 1,500 cases of illegal trafficking of babies during the 70s and 80s.

Now, one of the nuns who was suspected of being involved, a Sister María Gómez  has been accused of the crimes she committed. Everything centres on the case of María Luisa Torres and her 29-year-old daughter, Pilar.

Torres was pregnant by another man after leaving her husband and contacted the clinic where Gómez worked. She was told that the baby would be put in an orphanage where the mother could visit her but was later told that the baby had been placed with a family.  When Torres complained she was threatened and told she would go to jail and have her other child taken away from her.

Now, years later, Torres has been reunited with her child and is seeking to bring the case against the nun who forced the separation. Let us hope for the sake of all the mothers involved, that the case sticks and justice prevails.

Ah begorra, where did I put my shillelagh?

Since most of the coastal strip from Torrevieja towards San Pedro can hardly consider itself Spanish, the celebrations there are centred on the largely British population. 

One of the most popular causes for celebration these days on the British calendar is St Patrick’s Day. Why the patron saint of Ireland commands more attention than the patron saints of England, Scotland and Wales is due to the fact that a lot of Brits have an affinity with drinking copious quantities of Guiness. Of course, you don’t have to be Irish to join in, you just need a good thirst and perhaps wear something green on the day. I reckon, if the other countries that make up Great Britain had a nationally recognised beer then things might be different but they don’t. 

This year the coastal strip has gone all out to promote its St Patrick Day celebrations with a full programme of events taking place including a rugby match between England and Ireland. They have even gone to the trouble of posting notices about it on our estate and put flyers in our post boxes. Of course we all know that the main event will be drinking pint after pint of the black stuff (Guiness) everything else will be subsidiary to that!

PS A shillelagh is a cudgel (kind of stick) made of oak, blackthorn, or other hardwood. Basically its a club made out of knotty wood.

Five years to sort themselves out

We have read about the level of debt that our town is laden with and of other towns nearby that have no debt whatsoever. Although it is no consolation to Bigastro, there are towns and cities in the Alicante province that are worse off. I read in the Costa Blanca News that three of the main town halls may owe as much as 235 million Euros to their service providers alone.

Benidorm, for example owes 44 million Euros to the company that collects the town’s rubbish. That is a figure far higher than any other town hall owes to a single provider. And the city of Alicante owes 179 million Euros to companies that supply the city and to the financial institutions.

The CB News goes on to explain that the government has ordered town halls to settle their outstanding debts and has offered them a lifeline by way of five year loans at 5% interest once they have produced a list of creditors.

That may seem to be generous but I calculate that if Alicante was to borrow the full amount and pay back monthly, it would have to pay almost 23,700,000 Euros in interest over the term of the loan raising the total cost of the debt to 202,700,000 Euros.

In terms of our town, which Aurelio says owes 35 million Euros in total, the interest paid would be 4,629,600 Euros which represents a huge chunk out of the annual income.  Even if we take the lower figure of 17 million that the ex mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina claims to be the case, the interest would be just shy of 2,250,000 Euros.

I reckon that the lifeline offered by the government could turn out to be a noose around the neck for those towns with the highest levels of debt leaving them with little or no money to provide services over the next five years.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Football in Bigastro

20120315_futbolEspecially for Father’s Day, there will be a football competition organised in Bigastro which will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Polideportivo.

On Saturday it will be the turn of the Bigastro veterans to face the men from Elche at 2pm.

Then on Sunday there will be knockout competition for youngsters from the football schools in the area with eight seven-a-side teams taking part. The knockout games will last 25 minutes and the semi finals etc will be 30 minutes long in two halves.

All the participants will get complementary hamburgers and drinks and of course there will be medals and trophies for the winners etc.

For full details see the Bigastro web site.

Father’s Day or Mothering Sunday

20120315_bandaIt will be Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day as it is now known in England. Here in Spain, we will be celebrating Father’s Day with a concert in the Auditorium.

Of course, Father’s Day is not until Monday 19th March, a day when all the shops and businesses will be closed. 

Rather interestingly, Father’s Day assumes a lot more importance than Mother’s Day here in Spain. That is not necessarily the same in all countries though. Nor of course, is Father’s Day on the same day each year in other parts of the world.

The chart below shows the day in different countries of the world.



Countries 2012 2013
USA, UK, India, Canada, China, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey June 17 June 16
Russia February 23 February 23
Italy & Spain March 19 March 19
Germany May 17 May 9
Australia & New Zealand September 2 September 1
Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland November 4 November 3
Thailand December 5 December 5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On the verge of breakup.

On paper, the Mancomunidad de promoción Económica is a good idea and no doubt, over the years it has proved to be a useful forum for the towns in this area. It has also provided funding for joint courses between them. It does not have any legal standing though and as such is purely voluntary.

Unfortunately times are hard and towns no longer have the luxury to afford another layer of administration above their own. The fact that some of the towns owe money to the Manucomunidad, including Bigastro, is a sore point and has caused a lot of tension at recent meetings. Insults have flown, mayors have walked out and our own mayor, Charo Bañuls has resigned as president. The problems have been made worse by the mix of parties; e.g.,  PP mayors are accused of making remarks about socialist mayors which sounds perfectly possible given the nature of local politicians in Spain.

I dare say that life for a mayor in this area used to be easy; they just planned new and more adventurous projects and everyone loved them. Now they have to juggle between what has to be paid, what should be paid and what they can get away with not paying. Life is constantly about looking over their shoulders to see who is trying to stab them in the back.

You probably have to be very thick skinned to enter local politics in the Vega Baja.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cut down on the T-bone steaks and live longer

During the Franco era very few Spaniards would have eaten meat because it was just too expensive. Little did they know that their meagre diet of vegetables and fruit supplemented by fish was in fact contributing to a longer life expectancy. The so called ‘Mediterranean diet’ came to be regarded as the healthiest in Europe.

Even today, you find a lot more vegetables and fish on sale in shops and supermarkets that you do red meats. And on the meat counters you see more chicken for example than beef. There is though a lot of processed meat in the form of chorizo and other spicy sausages.

Recent scientific studies show that eating red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausages and salami increase the risk of an early death. It is the high concentrates of saturated fats in red meat and the salt  in processed meats that are the killers.

And it isn’t just heat disease that we are risking by eating red meat, there is also a heightened risk of cancer as well.

There are some benefits though to eating red meat so the answer is not to cut it out altogether but rather to reduce the consumption to reasonable levels. As my mother-in-law used to say, “moderation in everything” (she was of course a Methodist). 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Age is creeping up on us

Some of those who participated yesterday in the walk from Bigastro around the Huerta may be looking forward to the Poet’s Trail which will take place on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th March.

This annual event follows a route from Orihuela to Alicante passing though; Redován, Callosa de Segura, Cox, Granja de Rocamora, San Isidro, Carr, Elche and  finally Alicante where the poet is buried. Last year, 4,000 people took part; the organisers are expecting a similar number again this year.

You can be sure that Pam and I will not be joining them. Pam’s knees suffered badly from the walk yesterday so her plans for us to take weekly and even daily walks in order to slim down for the wedding have been set aside. There is not much point in us being an inch or so  slimmer around the waist if that means her knees are blown up like balloons. As for me, well my hips were a little sore after yesterday and my left leg ached a bit.

In my twenties I used to go out on Sundays for 20 mile hikes with my brother and thought nothing of it. Even in my fifties, I would go for 20 -30 mile bike rides and return home refreshed. On holiday, Pam and i would walk for miles leaving others to take taxis or catch buses. In the first few years that we were here, we would regularly walk down into the town and back and I bought a bike that I rode around the Huerta several times a week.

I think Pam and I have to admit that the days when we were fit to walk for miles have long since past.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Worn out

This morning, Pam and I went for a very long walk. We were not on our own though because half of the town were with us. The event was organised to raise much needed funds for the Alzheimer’s Association in Bigastro that helps families with Alzheimer sufferers.

Having paid our two Euros, we set off across the bridge to the Huerta or market garden. There we turned left and then right to follow on of the paths towards the river Segura and its canals.  At the canal we turned right and followed it along in the direction of Jacarilla.

When Pam and I set off, about half of the group were behind us. However, the leaders set a blistering pace that we could not keep up with. One by one the walkers passed us. Actually it was Pamela that was suffering most; first with her back and then her knees. No pasa nada, by the time we’d walked for an hour all but a couple of stragglers had left us behind.

That was when Pam and I decided to cheat. When we reached the Sports Centre we turned right and headed back into  Bigastro. The rest of the walkers carried on towards Jacarilla and then turned right at the next bridge which brought them down to the roundabout. From there they walked back into the town.

As Pam and I reached the park, the people gathered there must have thought we were great athletes who had completed the course well ahead of the pack. No, not at all, I just wanted to be there to capture the leaders arriving*!

When they arrived back at the park,  the participants were in need of refreshments. Fortunately, the Association had thought of this and had laid on a bar with drinks and tapas at 1 Euro each. I tell you, a bottle of San Miguel never tasted so good and as for the meat balls – they were divine. 

You can see my photos of this event here.

If you took part, then you might be on one of them. Barbara, Carol O and Gillian were certainly there as was Raul Valerio, the spokesperson for the Socialists but where was Aurelio? Tucked up in bed I suspect!

* That sounds like a fair excuse for taking a short cut to me.

Get out of bed

Come on get up, it’s time to get your shoes on and go for a walk. Starting at the park at 10am walking in the direction of Jacarilla in aid of the Alzheimer's Association of Bigastro. A 2 Euro donation to the society is all they ask.

And when you have finished, your reward is tapas or a drink for just 1Euro each.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moya will go to court

In 2006, the mayor of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya supported by the municipal technician, María Jesús Ferrer granted a license to build a solar farm at La Pedrera. The PP spokesperson, José Antonio Ricart alerted the environmental group Seprona to what was going on. The licence to build was deemed illegal because there was no declaration of community interest and no environmental impact study conducted.

The project had already gone ahead and thousands of square metres of ground were cleared without permission from the Department of Land. The process was eventually halted and the license was revoked but by that time it was too late, the natural habitat had been destroyed.

The case is due to be heard in the Provincial Court where the Anticorruption Prosecutor, Paul Romera is seeking 15 months in prison and a a ban of nine years from public office for both of the defendants. Moya made an appeal to stop the trial but that has now been rejected so the trial will take place.

As a relative newcomer to the town, it seemed to me that José Joaquín Moya  had been in power for too long.

I have no doubt that Moya was a driving force in the development of Bigastro during his early years of office but after over 20 years he had gained too much power and had become misguided in his judgements. Ultimately, power corrupted him and led to his dismissal from office and a term in prison whilst the cases were being investigated against him.

Now Moya faces a series of cases against him and  is paying the price for believing that he was above the law. It is sad that it should have come to this both for him and for Bigastro. Hopefully, the current politicians will take heed of this and avoid the mistakes that Moya made in the future.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Gala night

20120306_gala The Department of Social Welfare and Women has organized the 8th Gala of Working Women for Saturday, 17th March at 7:30 pm .

Free admission.

In case you were wondering, the messages are “I am not giving it up” and “prohibited not to attend”. 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A wonderful end to our week

Last night we had a tasting session of the food for the wedding. Laura and Dave had already chosen a company called Pink Pepper to do the catering, it was now down to deciding the exact content of the menu.

To be honest, I was just expecting samples of the food that would be served; what we got was a full meal just like the one that we will enjoy on the day.

We started with the canapés; with a selection of fish ones, meat ones and vegetable ones to pick from. Then we moved on to the starter to the main course which must remain a secret for now. Then the main course itself and finally the dessert. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the lucky guests who attend the wedding will be both surprised and delighted with the choice.

Many thanks to Sarah and Neil from Pink Pepper for a fantastic experience. They took over the kitchen at Laura and Dave's house to prepare the food and when they had finished washed up, dried up and even put the plates and cutlery away.  It was the most delightful way to round off our little holiday in Sale.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Hats 'r us

Yesterday was mostly about shopping. We had to take Molly's bike back to the shop to sort out a couple of small issues. We also wanted to call at the hat shop to choose a hat for Pamela to wear at Laura and Dave's wedding.

The lady told Pam that she had over 300 hats in stock and I can well believe it. There was a bewildering array of hats in a range of styles and colours. Mostly they were in pastel shades of beige, creams, pinks, blues and greens. There were also plenty of blacks and greys but very few in the berry colour that Pam was looking for.

Fortunately, there was one that was just the perfect colour and style to suit Pam so she will look the part as Mother of the Bride.

Today, it is the men's turn as Dave and I visit Moss Bros. to be measured for our suits. The choice has already been made so it is just a case of finding a tape measure long enough to encompass my ample figure.

Tonight we have the food tasting to look forward to and there are plenty of choices to make there. It isn't easy for couples these days with a bewildering range of decisions to make. It was far easier for Pam and I.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and men

Yesterday was jobs day, so we got to Laura and Dave's nice and early. Molly had gone to nursery which meant the decks were clear for us to crack on.

First on the agenda was the curtain rail in Molly's room which had been giving Dave a lot of problems. I reckon that the wall had been made up with plasterboard when the house was refurbished. That meant that the holes he drilled were not going into brick. Without cavity wall fixings, keeping the bracket that holds the curtain pole up was going to be difficult. Still we managed it with an oversize screw and a tight fitting plastic plug. I hope for Dave's sake it stays up this time.

That job done, we moved on to sorting out the loft. As I said to Dave, lofts are a double edge sword, great for storing things but also places to harbour junk that you are never going to use. There was a lot of stuff up in Laura and Dave's loft that needed either to be sent to the charity shop or taken to the tip. There was also a lot of great memorabilia which of course delayed the job somewhat.

After a break for lunch, we returned to work and we were making good progress when the phone rang. It was the nursery calling to tell us that they had found a spot on Molly's tummy which they suspected was chicken pox. A couple of children had already gone down with the infection so it was perfectly possible.

Having Molly back in the house early rather curtailed operations and it will mean changing our plans for the next couple of days. Still more time with Molly around will more than make up for a few hours at the shops.  

Monday, March 05, 2012

On the 11th March you will have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area of the town and at the same time benefit the Alzheimer's Association in Bigastro.

Leaving the park at 10am, the walk will take you round the huerta in the direction of Jacarilla. A perfect chance for those who have not explored this area to discover the fascinating agricultural roots of the town and the Arabic system for watering the crops.

The walk will take about 2 hours returning to the park at about 12am. The cost will be a 2 Euro donation to the Associaton.

Having walked for a couple of hours, it will be time for well deserved refreshments. Fortunately, for a mere Euro, you will be able to enjoy a drink or a tapas on Calle Purisima.

Pam and I will of course be taking part, me with my camera and Pam with her walking shoes. 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

More about Molly

That's the thing about English weather, one day you are fooled into thinking that spring has arrived and the next day it turns bad. Yesterday it was lovely, today it is cold and damp.

One thing that was not damp was the welcome we got from Molly when her mother brought her round to our hotel. With a smile that spread across her little face she ran to us with her arms open wide looking for that first big hug and a kiss.

Once the niceties were over, she proceeded to tell us all about the exciting things that had been happening in her life and yes, it was soon to be her birthday which meant a party and lots of presents. Most important though she was having a Toy Story cake with Woody and Jessy on top.

How wonderful it is to be 2 years old, sweet and innocent. We really need to make the best of these years because before we know it, Molly will be a teenager with all the issues that will bring for her.

Anyway back to yesterday, once we had given Molly a few pre-birthday gifts, it was off to the shops. I can remember as a child hating going to the shops with my parents because shopping was a grown up thing. Not so these days, there are all sorts of interesting distractions on the High Street to keep a young person happy especially in places like Mothercare where children are positively encouraged to play with the toys out on display.

Later in the day, we met the photographer who is going to cover Laura and Dave's wedding. What an excellent choice we made there.

I was charged with the responsibility of researching this aspect of the big day and was very much impressed by the photos that Ian Jardine showed on his website. Having now met him and talked to him on a couple of occasions, I am even more impressed by his approach to the task. He does have the benefit of a wife who was a wedding organiser which shows in the thorough way he structures his shoot. I just know that Laura and Dave will be highly delighted with the results once everything is complete.

In the meantime, we have a birthday to cover, and having produced a photo book of Molly's first birthday, it looks like I will be doing the same this year and probably for several years to come. Just as well then that this is going to be a labour of love!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Molly time

We are back in England, Sale, Manchester to be precise to celebrate Molly's second birthday. Is it really two years since we were here, biting our nails, waiting for our little bundle of joy to arrive?

For the first time in a long while our flight was delayed. Still we made good time in the air and got back some of the minutes lost.

The weather is surprisingly mild, not greatly different at night to the temperatures we'd left behind in Bigastro. The main difference will be during the daytime when the sun struggles to break through the clouds. It was 20 degrees in the daytime as we left, I doubt we will see those temperatures here.

Still, we are not here in Sale for the weather. We are here to see the little tinker who should arrive at our hotel room sometime during the next hour. We have a few presents for her to open before the big day on Monday which should keep Molly happy. As for us, we will just be delighted to give her a big kiss and listen to her chat away.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a pot of porridge just waiting to be eaten.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Regaining the upper hand

As if to prove that it is hard to get the upper hand on Aurelio Murcia, he has come back on the remarks made by the socialist spokesman in the press.

He says that Raúl Valerio Medina should worry more about the cases in court against him and the former mayor, Moya and less about what the current council is doing. He added that Medina should think carefully before he makes statements to the press and alluded to the employment status of the  family company which is involved in transport and agriculture (not quite sure what that is about but it sounds fishy). 

Murcia then moved on to the case of the complaint made about the rubbish dump at La Pedrera which was actually closed four years ago, long before the PP/UNPLC alliance came into power. He says the present council would be able to clean it if the previous council hadn’t cleaned out the municipal coffers – touché!

With regards to the complaints about sewerage at Villas Andrea, Murcia reminds us that this is a matter between the individuals and the constructor which the courts will decide upon. In fact, he points out that he did attend to the complaints made and did so in good English! That is a fair point, Aurelio does speak very good English.