Thursday, May 31, 2012

Take the test


According to the Bigastro web site, today is non smoking day.

And just to show you how much harm tobacco does, the town hall  will have a stall in the market where you can take a test to see how much carbon monoxide there is in your lungs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Who is to blame for the mess?

Yesterday, in class, we talked about the economic crisis in Spain and tried to pin down the blame. It seems that a large percentage of the population blames the banks.

You will recall that the former prime minister reassured us that the banks were “solid, controlled and impermeable”. He said that they didn’t need injections of public money because they were “safe and secure”. Even the current prime minister told us that he was confident of Spain’s healthy banking system.

Now we all know better because the Banco de Valencia needed aid, then the CAM bank and most recently Bankia. We are talking about millions of Euros spent to prop up these ailing institutions.

Although Spanish politicians might still be confident that the countries banks are safe, Europe isn’t which is why they are sending in  independent auditors to assess the health of these institutions. What they will find is anybody’s guess. For sure they will discover just how many politicians from both parties are well paid as directors by the banks.

During the building boom, dozens of different banks were formed all awash with money to lend buyers and developers alike. As the builders went out of business and homeowners defaulted on loans, the new banks were left vulnerable.  The Cajas, or savings banks reduced from 45 to just nine and 3,100 branches were closed putting over 15,000 employees out of work. The only people smiling are the executives and directors, many of whom turn out to be politicians. They are still enjoying their “fat cat” salaries whilst over 24% or the population are out of work.

So the answer to the question really is a mix of banks and politicians who are equally to blame for the mess that the country is in. I hope they sleep well at night!

Ex mayor wants his money

In his last three months as mayor of Bigastro, Raúl Valerio Medina wasn’t paid but then neither were the other council workers. Now he has sent a letter to the present council asking for the 7,258 Euros that are owed to him. Apparently this issue was raised in a council meeting last November and is still outstanding.

In reply, Aurelio Murcia said that it was shameful that the ex mayor should ask for his own salary first  rather than the salaries of other council workers. He went on to say that, in any case, there is no money available in the council coffers to make the payments.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Raúl says plan to save money has backfired

According to the opposition spokesman, Raúl Valerio Medina (PSOE), the plan to save money in Bigastro by dismissing 30 council workers has backfired. He says that the council will be forced to pay 100,000 Euros to ten of the employees for unfair dismissal.

This sum includes  68,000 Euros for 8 cleaners and 20,000 Euros for teachers from the Adult School who passed the selection process but had their contracts terminated before classes began.

The socialist says that, even more worrisome, is the fact that there are 11 more cases in the pipeline which could well result in more pay offs. The sums include not only the compensation according to the time the people had worked as permanent staff but also the wages due from the time they were dismissed to the date of the court ruling.

Of course there are times when you have to spend money to save money. In this case, the long term saving in the wages bill was the goal of the ruling parties. Still, I don’t suppose they counted on having to pay out such large sums to achieve their aim.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What mass exodus are they talking about?

I read in the papers about thousands, even hundreds of thousands of ex-pats leaving Spain to return to the UK – why?

Well there are many reasons why those who came here might want to return to their homeland. The main one seems to be that they can no longer afford to live here.

Those of us who are retired with a pension have suffered as a result of the worsening exchange rate. Back in 2004 the rate was about 1.50 Euros to the pound. When it dropped to 1 Euro to the pound we effectively lost one third of our monthly income. Now it has recovered to 1.25 Euros to the pound things are a little better but of course the cost of living in Spain has risen dramatically since the financial crisis hit the country.

The worst off group are those who came to work here. Many sought jobs in property sales which have plummeted almost to nothing. There were plenty of others who, during their 2 – 3 hour  flight to Spain, became experts on home maintenance, building repairs, plumbing and of course pool maintenance. They largely relied on British customers because they did not have a command of Spanish. Cash strapped Brits can no longer afford their services and those that need help seek out cheaper local Spanish craftsmen and women.

Then we have those who bought their houses with a mortgage they can no longer afford or who were lulled into the idea that their holiday home would pay for itself with rental income. Handing over the keys and defaulting on their mortgages may solve the problem for the owners but it saddles the banks with even more toxic debt.

The price of returning to Britain is high. House prices here are about 40% less than they were in 2008 so, even if you can find a buyer, you are likely to see no return on your investment. When the Euro was equal to the pound that might not have been so bad but as the Euro weakens, the pounds you get to set back up in Britain gets less.

It is fair to say though that the majority of people who did move to Spain are happy to stay here and brave out the economic woes of the country. The reasons we left Britain still apply – nothing has actually changed there to lull us back. A few days of unexpected sunshine in Britain does not compensate for the months of glorious weather we enjoy here on the Costa Blanca. A few days back in England makes Pam and I realise we did the right thing.

Chemists have to take action

Chemists in the area can no longer afford to stock expensive medicines and so for any drugs over 50 Euros the customers have to wait,

It costs anything from 60,000 to 120,000 Euros a month to supply prescription drugs and the chemist have not been paid for months so they can no longer afford to keep stocking the most expensive medicines. Most will get them by the afternoon or the next day but only to order and in some cases only if you leave a deposit.

The system of copayment has not been implemented yet but when it is that will cause further problems for the chemists who are just as much in the dark as the patients.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

24 hour medical service goes

The 24 hour emergency health service in Bigastro will be cut from the 1st June. Those requiring emergency care after 10pm will now have to go to the hospital at Orihuela. The estimated saving is 1.8 million Euros.

When I took a funny turn up at La Pedrera, they took me to Vega Baja. Since, I was not deemed an emergency case, I waited hours to be seen and whilst I was taken by ambulance to the hospital, I had to get a taxi back home. My advice therefore is to fall ill during the daytime and make sure you have the fare for a taxi with you at all times.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bigastro sunset

We do get some spectacular sunsets here in Bigastro. Last night, as the sun dipped down behind the mountains, it shot rays of light across the sky through the gaps in the clouds. I went to the roof to grab a shot to share with you. 

A novel experience

2010-05-27_IMG_2010-05-20_01.57.49__J1202VEGA.jpg May 2010, we visited the home of Maria Antonio Guil Vegara just outside Orihuela. The purpose of our visit was the presentation of her book “La Olivera” which was inspired by the olive tree in the garden of her house.

It was a memorable occasion, not only because of the book, but also because tables were laden with all manner of home made food the like of which we hadn’t encountered before.

Later, Guil Vegara came to the Auditorium to present us with our end of year reports.

Yesterday, in the library, the authoress presented her two latest books, “Carta a un rey invisible”  and “El deseo del dragón” which she described as tales from her childhood which are suitable for readers of all ages. 

Pool reopens


The indoor swimming pool will reopen on the 1st June.

Now though, it is under private management. The company, Caselles Laura Lopez have taken over the running of he pool that has been closed for many months.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Symbols of past wealth

One of the symbols of Spain’s reckless spending during the boom years are the airports that were built during that period. Now, the state run company, AENA, is considering cutting operating hours at 30 of them. In all, 20 of the countries airports have less than 100,000 passengers per year.

Some examples:

  • Badajoz airport near the Portuguese border last saw a commercial flight take off in January.
  • In Huesca the airport if full manned and yet had only 2,781 passengers in 2010.
  • The biggest “white elephant” though is Castellon which cost 150 million Euros to build and has yet to see a single plane touch down on its runway. 

Sir Jonathan Ive

It was while he was at university that Jonathan Ive first encountered an Apple Mac. Having considered himself to be technically inept, he was amazed to find a computer that he could use. “I suddenly realised that it wasn’t me at all. The computers that I had been expected to use were absolutely dreadful.”

That experience made Ive curious about Apple and the people behind it. Later, at Tangerine, the design agency he co-founded, he worked for Apple as a consultant. Twenty years ago, he moved to California to join the company full time.

Ive went on to design first, the fruit coloured iMacs, the iPods, the iPhones and the iPads. Each has been a revolutionary product that has changed our whole concepts of these devices in such a way that rival companies often refer to their products as Apple beaters which is of course a huge compliment.

I must confess that our house is not entirely an Apple stronghold because my desktop computer runs Windows 7. However, we do have two iPods, an iPad and I recently bought a MacBook Pro. Pam and I love the elegance of Apple products and the fact you can just use them without having to think about the complexities of how they work.

For his contribution to industry, Ive has now been honoured by the Queen with a knighthood. For all I know, she probably has an iPad herself to surf the net. If she hasn’t then I am sure she will receive one real soon. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An interesting folly

The castle at San Miguel de la Salinas was an old yeso or plaster factory and warehouse. It was bought by Don Antonio Conesa and transformed into a museum of his artefacts. Nothing in the building though is a replica, all the pieces are genuine treasures from around the region.

Inevitably, because Conesa wanted to create an Alhambra in San Miguel, a lot of the decoration is Moorish as you can see in these photos I took yestreday on a brief visit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In summary

This is Aurelio’s account of the meeting:

I would like to thank you all or coming to the Auditorio on Monday.

This is my summary of the ideas we spoke about:

1. One child per English couple.

2.Three days a week, each day from 10am to lunch time. About 15 to 20 days during July this summer.

3. Plan to do one activity each day - examples:
  market, wildlife, museum, beach, golf, bowling, cinema, sports-day, petanca, snooker, swimming, BBQ, lunch-dinner etc.

4. A good start to the day could be a breakfast meeting with the children and their families to discuss the plan for the day.

5. Meetings to see how things are going and planning for further activities.

6. Only children from Bigastro over 12 years old will be invited to take part.

7.- Priorities for the selection of children:

  • Older rather than younger
  • Families with less money
  • Children with a high level of English.
  • Number of children in the family.

8.- Parents of the children will pay something to cover costs: food, petrol, etc.

9. The English people taking part will not be paid because they have expressed their wish to give something back to the Bigastro Community.

10. The Ayuntamiento will arrange insurance to cover the activities and transport for small group activities.

This is the list of those who have volunteered to take part so far:
Frazer, Muse, Mann, Fair, Mottram, Williamson, Pickles, Rowlands, Bruz, Cooke, Rogers, Clark.

If your name is on the list and you would prefer not to take part please let either me or Aurelio know. Similarly , if your name is not on the list and you would be prepared to be involved let us know. or

Celebrating the Queen’s jubilee in Torrevieja

There is a big street party in the park planned for Sunday 3rd June which will all kick off in the Jardin de las Naciones at 4:45pm. The programe is flexible but will include lots of entertainment, fancy dress parades and family games.

In true street party style, you are encouraged to bring along your own food. However, for those who forget or who just get hungry, there will be stalls selling hot dogs and burgers, even an ice cream van! Because it could get warm, there will be plenty of bars selling cold drinks -the profits from these are promised to the Alzheimer's Association.

So, if nobody organises a party here at Villas Andrea, there is still somewhere for you to go and wave your union jack.

Chilli prawns in Guardamar

Guardamar del Segura is holding its fifth annual contest for chefs. The task is to produce a dish using both the nora and the llagosti, in other words strong chilli peppers and prawns. In all there are 23 competitors taking part including amateurs as well as professionals.

The event marks the start of Gastronomic Week in the town which runs from the 4th to the 10th of June.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gas tanks must go

Not the ones on the other side of our estate which are perfectly legal, these are in Sector D-6.

The storage tanks in question are located on land that was designated a green zone close to the San José de Calasanz school where children play. It is an area that should be parkland.

At a recent meeting of the town council, Bigastro decided that these gas tanks have to go and have given the company, Repsol, less than ninety days to remove them.

Permission to locate the tanks there was given by the former mayor, José Joaquín Moya who, along with the former secretary Antonio Saseta, face court cases for their actions.

The local council have already provisionally approved legalizing this zone and now await validation by the Government for the partial plan. The removal on the gas tanks was one of the conditions that had to be met.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A very productive meeting

It was very encouraging to see so many turn up for the follow up meeting with Aurelio and to bring forward many good ideas about how we could make his proposed project work.

I think we can be certain that there will be a very good response to the idea of helping Spanish children from Bigastro to improve their English, both from the children themselves and from their parents. As Aurelio said, there will be more takers than spaces. He will make sure that only those who are strongly committed and capable of benefitting will be selected.  

I personally believe that Aurelio is right to talk about charging for the privilege – not to make any profit for either us or the town hall but to ensure that this is seen as important by the children and their parents. Although we would not want to disadvantage children from homes with little money, I think we can trust Aurelio to find the means to make sure this does not happen.

Once we have got together with the children and broken the ice, I hope that many of us will form good lasting relationships that will be rewarding to both the children and ourselves.

When I get a resume of the ideas from Aurelio, I will post it on this blog. In the meantime, you can either contact me at or Aurelio at if you have any further suggestions or you would like to participate but were unable to attend the meeting. 

Thank you once again to those who made it to the meeting. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What do I know about football?

It seems very little. I did not believe that Chelsea would beat Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions’ League but they did even though they were under intense pressure all the way. I then assumed that Bayern Munich would make mincemeat of them on home territory but they didn’t. A late goal by Drogba put the game into extra time. It was then down to a penalty shoot out and even there, Chelsea were 3-1 down.

Chelsea owe a lot to Petre Cech  for saving their bacon and allowing them back into the game. It is largely because of him and Drogba that they will be arriving home today triumphant.

Football may be described by some as the beautiful game, it is also a very strange game when the better teams loose.

San Isidro

Another hot day to walk all the way from the church to La Predrera, especially if you are carrying the statue of a saint on your shoulders. Plenty made it though and once they were there and had bought themselves a nice cold beer from the bar that was set up ready  for the party to start in earnest.

Tables were laid and food came out of the cool boxes people had brought up. Some had even set up tables outside the main area to enjoy a quiet family lunch. Mind you, once the disco started, things were hardly quiet. It was good to hear the tribute to Donna Summer got a good airing.

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View more of my photos here.

For those who would like a copy of any of my photos from San Isidro, they are available for you to download from my SkyDrive.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No reminder required

Residents at Villas Andrea will not need reminding that today the Romeria for San Isidro will pass by our estate.

The first indication for us was the gang of young people clearing the weeds from the side of the road up from the town. This morning you will hear the rockets going off in the town as the pilgrims gather ready for mass at the church.

Once mass is over, the parade will make its way up to the hermitage at La Pedrera stopping off for refreshments along the way. The main watering spot these days is at the crossing at the bottom of our estate. They will also make a brief stop at the park at the entrance to the estate. Then it is up the steep hill to La Pedrera.

Once they have placed San Isidro in the hermitage, the party will adjourn to the barbecue area where families will enjoy a picnic. Sadly, these days there isn’t the money to provide a free paella and drinks so you have to either take your own or buy food and drink from the restaurant by the swimming pool.

The party will then continue with a disco and bouncy castles for the children until about 8pm when they will collect San Isidro back from the hermitage and carry him back to the town this time stopping at the park by the new school for refreshments. 

We are encouraged to join in and I know that some of our neighbours plan to take food up and join our Spanish friends.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What should we do with them?

Some of our neighbours are curious to know why it is important for the Spanish children to learn to speak English. It is because many Spaniards recognise that English is a universal language which will help their children in the future. Quite simply, a command of English will open doors for them that would otherwise be closed. Although many can read English and understand the written word, they have difficulty with the spoken language.

Our neighbours also want to know, “if we agree to talk to the Spanish children, what should we talk about?”

From our limited experience there are a few things to bear in mind when you are having a conversation with Spanish children.

  1. Most important; you must speak slowly and clearly.
  2. Try to avoid slang words or expressions that will confuse them.
  3. Keep your sentences short.
  4. Don’t use words that young people will not understand and be prepared to rephrase what you say in a different way. For example, you could ask “what is your name” and if that gets no response try “what are you called”.
  5. Ask them open questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” reply.
  6. Get them to ask you questions back.

What to talk about?

Start with basic questions

  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Where do you live?
  4. Do you have any brothers and sisters?
  5. Do you have any pets?
  6. What are your hobbies?
  7. What are our favourite subjects at school?
  8. Do you like playing any sports?

Form those questions, you will find many others that expand on the information they have given you.

The general consensus seems to be that most people would prefer some sort of social gathering maybe once or twice a week for a few weeks during the summer rather than having a Spanish child to stay in their houses.

On that basis, I hope to see some of you on Monday so that we can find ways to make this project work.  

Moody’s – so aptly named

The talk now is of contagion as Greece looks ever more likely to leave the Eurozone.

The countries most likely to be affected by the domino fall are Italy and Spain. To add fuel to the fire,  Moody’s downgraded 16 Spanish banks because they say the government has a reduced ability to support them. The government also had to offer a 6.21% interest rate for its Spanish 10 year bonds. In comparison, German bonds were offered at 1.834%.
The banks affected:

Santander moves from Aa3 to A3, Banesto from A2 to A3, Santander UK from A1 to A2, BBVA of Aa3 to A3, Unicaja Bank A1 A3, Caixa Bank of Aa3 to A3, People's Bank of A2 to A3, Caja Rural de Navarra from A3 to Baa1, Banco Sabadell from A3 to Baa1, Spanish Cooperative Bank of A1 to Baa1, from A2 to Baa2 Bankinter, Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks (CECA) to Baa2 from A2 and Caja Rural de Granada from Baa1 to Baa3.

The agency also revised Liberbank, from Baa1 to Ba1, Cajamar Caja Rural, from Baa3 to Ba2, and Lico Leasing, from Baa3 to Ba3, in all three cases to levels encompassed within what is known as' junk bond ' status.

Luxury accommodation in Torre


The building of Torrevieja’s first four-star hotel was a slow process.

When we first saw the framework going up, Pam and I did wonder what it was going to be. Then nothing seemed to happen and we wondered if this was yet another failed building project.

The answer to our questions came when we went down to the May Fair on Saturday because the building is now complete and it does look rather splendid as you can see in this photo from EuroWeekly.

The Hotel Doña Monse is in Urbanization Los Balcones in front of a nature park and has 70 rooms, a spa, a gym, three event rooms, a restaurant, café, a panoramic terrace and open air pool with a chill-out area, garage and a rental car service.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Still a sore point

There is to be a celebration at Windsor Castle on Friday to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year to which King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain were invited. The King has had to decline his invitation because of his fractured hip but the Queen was all set to attend. She is of course the great-great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and also the first cousin-once-removed to Prince Philip.

The fly in the ointment though was the planned visit of The Earl and Countess of Wessex to the disputed territory of GIbraltar in June. Because of this, Queen Sofia was first told that she could attend the function on Friday in a private capacity but has now been ordered by the Spanish Government not to attend.

Previously, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia declined an invitation to the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer because the couple were to spend the first part of their honeymoon in Gibraltar.

I understand that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is a running sore for the Spanish government but I would have thought there were more pressing issues for them to worry about at the moment like the state of the economy.

Gazing at the stars

20120516_astro Another chance to look at some heavenly bodies.

On Thursday May 24th, at 9:30pm in the former premises of St. Joseph Calasanz School – weather permitting of course!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The meeting

First off, a huge thank you to all who turned up for the meeting with Aurelio this afternoon. I know he was very impressed that  so many had taken the time to listen to his plans.

I believe there is a lot of merit in the idea of helping young Spanish children to improve their English and at the same time teaching them something about our culture.

I think it is fair to say that the standard of English teaching in local schools is not high, mainly because the schools do not have native English speakers to conduct the lessons. So anything we can do will help to improve that situation. However, what needs some thought  is how we go about achieving this.

When our children were at school, they both went on exchanges to France which involved them living with a French family for a week. In return we had French children to stay with us in England.

The difference between then and now though is that Pam and I are a lot older, more set in our ways and most important, we don’t  have a young family living with us to keep company with an exchange student. For us, the idea of having a young Spaniards living with us for any period of time is therefore a no no.

That doesn’t mean though that we have to dismiss the whole idea out of hand. I am sure there are other ways, more acceptable to us and to the families of the Spanish children that we could explore.

As an example-  the daughter of our Spanish hairdresser came up to our house a few days each week a couple of summers ago. Her father, or mother would bring her up, she would stay and chat to us for a couple of hours or so and then her father would return to take her home. It was a very rewarding experience for Pamela and I and hopefully for the young lady. Apart from anything else, it helped to cement our relationship with a Spanish family.

Now Pamela teaches a young boy English twice a week. The lessons are just one hour each so it is hardly an imposition and again the rewards work both ways.

I am sure that many of the residents will have other ideas about how this could work best for them. Hopefully, you  will bring them to the meeting next Monday at the Auditorium at 5pm.

Just a reminder

The meeting with Aurelio Murcia will take place in the restaurant next to the swimming pool at La Predrera at 5pm today. As I said in the original post, Aurelio told me that he has a plan which he wants to share with the British residents.

Charo Bañuls hits back

Understandably, the remarks made by the president of the local party, José Antonio Ricart to the press have angered the mayor. She had already been sidelined as a delegate for the PP conference which was insult enough but yesterday things went too far.

It was the accusations about Bañuls father that caused the most anger. She says that they amount to slander and will take the matter to court.

Bañuls went on to explain that her father is retired, he has nothing to do with politics- the warehouse in question belongs to Bañuls Upholstery and was discharged in 2007. She says that since then,  property tax of 2,000 Euros a year has been paid which is one of the highest rates in the town.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mayor called to account by her own party

The local PP party, lead by the president, José Antonio Ricart, and secretary, José Manuel Sanchez, are calling into question the mayor, Charo Bañuls. They want her to answer, point by point, the concerns that have been addressed to them about decisions taken since the election.
The burning issues are:
  • The closure of the indoor swimming pool
  • The privatisation of the nursery school Bigastrin
  • The decision to make 35 council workers redundant
  • At the same time awarding salaries of 1,500 Euros to four of the councillors and a further part time salary to a fifth
  • Why the father of the lady mayor pays a reduced council tax on a warehouse
The main concern, which has been registered to the party, is that decisions are made day by day without prior planning and more to the point, it seems to be Aurelio Murcia who is making them.

Town honours a great teacher


Today, in the Auditorium, Bigastro will recognise the work of a teacher who was determined to bring culture to rural youth. The City Council have appointed Joseph Nieto Nieto, who served as a teacher in the town between 1947 and 1965, as its adopted son. At the ceremony will be his widow and the authors of a book written about Nieto which includes testimonies from some of his students.

Nieto is remembered for his work in convincing labourers to send their children to school. In his time, he tripled the number of children going to school. Thus he ensured that young bigastrense were not condemned to work on the farm because they were illiterate. He also helped families who had no money and gave private lesson to their sons.

In 1984, the town honoured Nieto by naming one of the streets after him. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Oh dear

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia should have been celebrating 50 years of marriage today. There was to be an official stamp bearing a golden bridal motif but that has been scrapped. The official reason given is that they see no reason to celebrate during these frugal times.

However, royal watchers say that the Queen has finally taken a stand against her husband’s long term friendship with Corinna Larsen (the German Princess). Since the King’s trip to Botswana, which she arranged, Larsen has retreated to Monaco and refuses to talk to the press. 

The palace has released a CD of photographs covering the royal couple’s 50 years together. I suppose there won’t be much joy in the pictures from 2006 onwards.

The scourge of society

Although graffiti is a world wide phenomena, it does seem to be a more serious problem here in Spain that some other countries. A few examples of graffiti have artistic merit, most though is downright ugly.

When I see people’s houses and public buildings with indecipherable scrawlings across them it makes me feel both sick and angry. The perpetrators of this mess clearly have no shame or conscious about what they target.

In Orihuela, they have even sprayed their work on the remains of the medieval wall which is designated a site of cultural interest. The wall dates back to between the 12th and 14th Centuries, it deserves to be left alone.

Now there are four different pieces of graffiti on it, the latest dated 2012. The authors have even had the gall to sign their work which hopefully will enable the police to track them down. 

Meanwhile, the city has to find the means to have the graffiti removed in a way that will not damage the wall. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Damn missed it

Instead of going to watch the horses, I could have gone to watch the rally. Now that would have been a real challenge for my camera skills.
image Looks like there were three stages to watch; one that went to Rebate and back, another that went from Torremendo and a third that skirted the Embalse and came damn close to our urbanisation.
image Looking at the list of participants, there were some classy cars taking part including some old classics.

When did you last see a Mini Cooper or an Escort Mk 1 taking part in a rally?

Many thanks to Ramòn  Grau Martinez for providing me with the information. 

I’m routing for QPR

They do not deserve to go down, we don’t want them to go down. A draw for Queens Park Rangers is all that it would take to be certain of their place in the English Premier League next year.

Incidentally, their opponents today are Manchester City who are sitting at the top of the league above Manchester United on goal difference. So a win (or draw) by QPR would be doing United a favour as well. If they beat Sunderland and City only manage a draw then United will have pulled off the miracle of all time.


That was close, only a late goal in injury time gave City the points they needed to clinch the trophy. 

Did anybody see it?

I spotted five rally cars coming up the CV-95 towards Orihuela as Pam and I made our way down to the May Fair yesterday morning. Where they had come from and where they were going I have no idea. There must have been special stages for these cars but quite where they were, I have no idea.

It was busy!

Pam and I went down to watch the horses parade around the fairground at Torrevieja yesterday. We’d decided to catch them in the fairground rather than by the church. The queue of cars along the road to the  car park put a lot of people off to such an extent that, by the time we got there, there were loads of spaces to park in. There were literally hundreds of people both in the fairground itself and on the top of the jetty looking down.

Again, coming in from the car park, I found a good spot to get some photos. See my album of photos here.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ryanair bend the rules again

Current regulations allow passengers to take a carrier bag of goods purchased in the airport on board as well as their hand luggage. The only reasons for denying passengers this right are based on weight or security reasons.

It seems that some airlines, including Ryanair, have been telling passengers at Barajas that they can only bring one item of hand luggage on board. They are being denied the right to bring an additional carrier bag with goods purchased in the airport into the cabin. 

I can see their issue, some passengers travel with the maximum size of cabin luggage allowed and then purchase more goods in the airport and so have a large carrier bag as well. There is only so much room in the overhead bins and they do fill up quickly, that is why some airlines now encourage you to put your cabin baggage in the hold. Of course, if there are items in your cabin bag that you either need during the flight or do not trust to the hold then that is a no no.

When we fly to the UK for our daughter’s wedding, I’ll be taking all my camera gear in a cabin sized bag. There is no way that I want that precious cargo to be thrown around in the hold. There isn’t room in that bag for anything I buy at the airport so I might just have to be circumspect even though we are NOT flying with Ryanair.

Friday, May 11, 2012

From VegaBaja Digital

imageJust to remind you that the fair in Torrevieja closes this Sunday. Tomorrow is your chance to see the horses as they parade from the church down to the fairground and then continue to parade around until about 4pm.

PS A vineta is a cartoon but you can see that.  

I do apologise

image I did not make it clear – the meeting with Aurelio will be in the restaurant next to the open air swimming pool at La Pedrera (opposite to where the party for San Isidro is held).

That makes some sense

When they opened the new terminal at Alicante, I did wonder what were the plans for the parking area in front of the old terminal which currently stands empty.

When Pam and I fly to the UK, we use a company called Plane Parking to look after our car. The deal is, you drop the car off outside departures at Alicante where you find someone waiting to take it away. On your return, you pick the car back up just outside departures. It is a lot cheaper than leaving your car in the main car park and you get a complimentary car wash on return.

There are a number of other companies that offer long term parking at the airport but in most other cases you drop the car off at their facilities, then they shuttle you to the airport in a minibus. We’ve used Victoria Parking who operate in this way. It works but is not as convenient as Plane Parking’s system. 

However, the answer to long term parking may now be resolved by Aena who intend to turn the old car park into long stay parking. They say  it is in response to what they call “illegal”  long stay parking around the airport. The only issue for me is, the car park is a longish walk from the new terminal. If you have heavy cases to drag, that could be a huge drawback.

A no win situation

The price of fish on the quayside at Torrevieja very much depends on the quantity of the catches.

On Thursday morning, the fleet brought in nearly 19 thousand kilograms of blue fish, mainly boquerón (anchovies). When these fish are scarce, they can bring up to 80 Euros per box  of 12 kilos but on Thursday the price was between 10.70 and 11.40 Euros, less than a Euro per kilogram. There were also good catches of sardines which were sold at 40 Euros per box.

The problem for the fishermen is that there is no minimum price set for fish, it is all left to supply and demand. Either they catch very few fish and realise a good price per kilo or they bring in a bumper catch and get next to nothing – it is a no win situation. Of course the price in supermarkets is much higher than the price on the quayside.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Advance notice

Aurelio Murcia tells me that he would like to meet with the British residents from VIllas Andrea because he has a plan that he would like to share with us. I said I would contact as many people as I could via this blog and that hopefully readers would pass the message on to others.

He did not specify a time and date but said an afternoon would be best. The venue would be the restaurant next to the swimming pool. I suggested a date after San Isidro to give people ample notice but then looking at my calendar, Wednesday 16th looks good at say 5pm. If that is acceptable, I will pencil it in and inform Aurelio.

San Isidro 2012

20120509_sanisidro (1) It is that time of year again when Bigastro celebrates the patron saint of farm workers with a Romeria which means the statue of the Saint will be carried from the town up to La Pedrera in a grand procession which will include people from the town, the fiesta queens etc etc
20120509_sanisidro2 The form is as usual: Mass at 10am. Then the assembled party will make their way up to the hermitage at La Pedrera. 

At 5pm there will be a disco for the adults and bouncy castles for the children.

Then at 8pm, the party will return San Isidro to the church stopping off at the park near the new school for the traditional lettuces and maybe a drink or two.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

That sounds bizarre

20120507_teatrof You remember that the infant school La Paz held an exhibition of work for the little boy Manu who lives in Jacarilla?

Well , on Saturday 12th May at 7pm the theatre group Amamacriajoro Jacarilla are putting on a performance called “Snow White’s dad will not eat onions” and the proceeds will go to help the little boy and his family.

Funky pair

20120507_piano_sax On Sunday 13 May at 6:30pm there will be a concert featuring José M. Bañuls and Elwin Hendrijanto - one on piano and the other on saxophone.

That is a funky photo of the pair! Must have taken a bit of doing to a) get them both in the air at the same time and b) to light them so well with flash outdoors.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

San Isidro

I am reliably told that the programme for San Isidro is now available from the fruit and veg. shop opposite the chemist (among other places). The date is the 19th May.

Thanks to Scout John for providing this information.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Feeding the five thousand

Over the time that we have lived here, the Fiesta de la Cruz has grown in popularity. When Pam and I first went down for the grand paella there were only a handful of tables where people sat. Now they erect a large marquee and arrange dozens of table to accommodate the diners and for the last few years, the neighbours from the district prepare the arroz – five large paellas full!

IMG_7503 IMG_7531
Adding the rice Waiting for the paella to be ready
IMG_7504 IMG_7506
The mix has to be right The chefs pose for a photo

If you look at my album, you will see that they are not all a crowd of smiling faces, perhaps they were hungry waiting!

I’ll pass on that one!

10440560This information panel will show the climbing routes on the Black Wall of the Sierra de Orihuela. In all there are 30 routes but some are only available to the most experienced of climbers.

To open these routes, a great deal of work had to be done to remove the Arizona cactus which covered the mountain. That work is of course ongoing but at least now the wall is clear for climbers.

Once all the routes have been passed, a booklet describing them will be available in the Tourist Office.

Rallying together on the coast

It seems that the Automobile Club Vega Baja Federation in collaboration with the Federation of Motor Sport in the Valencian Community have organised the first Orihuela Coast Rally which will take place on Friday and Saturday. Quite what route they will be taking and where the special stages will be, I have no idea.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Que pasa

Sometimes I post a photo on Flickr which I think might attract attention but only get a few viewings and then other times I post pictures which I think will be of little interest and the viewings go off the scale.  The classic one is of three pens which has been viewed 2,319 times, has nine comments and 8 people have bookmarked it as a favourite. Next up is a photo of a pile of bills which has been viewed 1,572 times and is counted as a favourite by 6 people.

One photo which didn't; attract much attention when it was posted was of the two silver rings that I bought from Boots the chemist - they supposedly cure snoring.  The photo was more of a comment than a work of art so I wasn’t at all surprised.

In the last few days though, viewings have gone mad.  On the fourth May, 140 went to look at it, then a further 133 the next day. So far today, a further 79 people have viewed it taking its total to 451. Quite why there is such interest, I have no idea!

On the up


After a few false starts, it looks like the weather is starting to settle down to what we would expect.

Our friends Glenys and Peter were over for the last couple of weeks and had some mixed weather. Thankfully there was quite a bit of sun but there were days when it clouded over either for the morning or for the afternoon. They even had a few hours of rain to contend with.

The rest of this last week was a lot better but still cold at night and of course yesterday was cloudy and grey in the morning when I went down to take photos of the cross. Today is much better, the skies are blue and the sun is shining so it should be good for the paella later on.

Looking at the temperature chart for this next week – climbing up to 31 by the weekend it just perfect. Pam will be pleased, she flies back from Manchester tomorrow. Today will have been cloudy and cold for her and tomorrow she could well see some rain on the way to the airport. She’ll be glad to get her washing out on Tuesday which will be dry within the hour!


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bum steer

My friend, scout John went down yesterday to see the Holy Cross. However, when he got there, there were no flowers on it. When he asked, John was told that it would be dressed this morning at 10am.

I thought that sounded like a great opportunity for some good photos – people actually fixing the leaves and flowers to the iron cross so I went down at 10am this morning only to find that it had all been done. Still, not to worry it does look rather splendid even though the sky was grey.

I didn’t see any evidence of small crosses on the walls of houses, maybe they will be put up later.

For the moment here is the main cross and some details from it:

IMG_7495  IMG_7498
IMG_7499  IMG_7497

In case you thought that the cross was decorated the same each year, here are a few versions from previous years.

01 IMG_0859   IMG_2579

Friday, May 04, 2012

It’s not all our fault

In a report by the official auditors of data from 2009, it was revealed that millions of Euros had been lost in the health system due to bad administration. In particular it was the administration for foreign patients that produced the greatest losses.

The auditors found a large number of administrative and bureaucratic failures that prevented the correct tariffs from being applied, allowed SIP cards to be issued to foreigners who did not comply with current legislation, the duplication of SIP cards and a total lack of information technology that gave way to people making up what to charge and a major failure in charging patients countries of origin

Now we can’t be blamed for that, it is up to the authorities to sort the mess out and make the correct charges to Britain for our treatment and medicines. Many of us did not arrive with existing conditions, they have developed since we came to these shores.

That’s where the money is

When I was a young art student, many of my contemporaries and certainly my parents dismissed so called modern art as a load of hog wash. They could not understand why anyone should get excited by it.
Obviously there are those who think differently and are prepared to pay a lot to own a piece of art history.
Here is a list of the top ten selling art pieces and you notice that, with the exception of the Chinese vase, they are all from that so called “modern art” period.
  1. Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895), auctioned at Sotheby's Sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art on 2 May 2012 in New York City.  The painting sold for $119,922,500
  2. Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) sold for $106,482,500.
  3. L'homme qui Marche I (1961), by Alberto Giacometti sold for £65,001,250 ($105,182,398).
  4. Picasso's Boy With a Pipe (1905) sold at Sotheby's New York for $104,168,000.
  5. Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), went under the hammer at Christie's New York, 8 November 2006. The painting sold for $87,936,000
  6. Francis Bacon's Triptych (1976) sold for $85.9m to oligarch Roman Abramovich.
  7. A Chinese 18th century Qianlong dynasty porcelain vase, sold for £53,100,000 ($85,921,461) at Bainbridges auction house in London, 12 November 2010.
  8. Dora Maar au Chat (1941) by Pablo Picasso, sold at Sotheby’s for £51,560,080 ($83,429,503).
  9. Portrait of Dr Paul Gachet (1890) by Vincent van Gogh. This painting sold for $82,500,000 (£50,985,692) at Christie's in New York on 15 May 1990.
  10. Claude Monet's Le Bassin aux Nymphéas (1919) sold at Christie's in London for £40,921,250 ($66,212,514).

Every child loves a granny

We read a lot about the problems that the Internet creates and the dangers it poses to young people. Here is a story from the BBC website that illustrates the other side of the coin, where the Internet is providing great benefit to the young. In this case children in the poorest parts of India.

The Granny Cloud

The Granny Cloud project is the brainchild of Prof Sugata Mitra, best-known for his hole-in-the-wall computer scheme which put basic PCs into some of the poorest parts of India. The work is being supported by the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

Prof Mitra installed the first such computer on the wall of his south Delhi office, opposite a slum. He was amazed to see that the children, initially curious about the machine, soon became self-taught experts. Within days the children were able to browse the internet, cut and paste copy, drag and drop items and create folders.

The children liked to draw, discovering how to use the Microsoft Paint programme to create paintings. Then they moved on to downloading games and playing them. By the second month they had discovered MP3 music files and were downloading songs.

Prof Mitra noticed they did best when an adult was present offering advice and encouragement over their shoulders. There was, he reasoned, no-one so encouraging as a granny and so the idea was born.

The grannies are retired people in Britain who volunteered to take part. They use Skype and messaging to talk to the children in India, they read them books and show them photos and apparently the children love it.

It is good to know that “third age” citizens can make a contribution even if they are not totally in touch with current trends.

Will it happen?

Fifty eight percent of the municipalities in the Alicante province have less than 5,000 inhabitants. In total throughout Spain there are 8,116 small towns, each with its own council, mayor, budget etc, each trying to provide the services that you would expect from your local council. Many are struggling and like Bigastro (which lies above that threshold with a pop. of over 7,000) are drowning in debt.

The government has now decided that this is an untenable situation and urges those small communities to merge to produce more viable units. However, as you might expect, there is some resistance to this suggestion. Towns, no matter how small, want to keep their own political make up, In particular they do not want to be merged with a council with a different political agenda.

The plan could effect savings of 10,500 million Euros which is a considerable sum in anyone's books but whether anything will come of it we will have to wait and see.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Put your best foot forward

20120502_baile The Department of Social Welfare has organised ballroom dance classes in collaboration with Recycle Alicante.

They start on the 7th May and run from 5pm until 6:30pm.
There is no charge for this. If you are interested you can register with Social Services on 965350000 / ext. 3 or directly at the course.

Especially for us

Calling all pensioners (that would be most of us at Villas Andrea).  The Department of Third Age in collaboration with the Club for Pensioners and Senior Citizens has organised a Guateque for us on Saturdays starting at 8:30pm. The cost is 3Euros which includes a snack.

For those who haven’t worked it out from the poster, a guateque is a party and picoteo is a snack.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I hope he is alright

I uploaded my pictures of the Gala for Manos Unidos to my friend Germán in the Ayuntamiento and then sent him an email telling him I had done it. I usually get a reply from Germán that day and then maybe later on or the next day he posts the pictures into the Bigastro web site Photo Gallery.

This time though nothing. Maybe he is on holiday, I hope so. 

All to play for

From my meagre understanding, football is as much about psychology as it is about skill. When you are up and winning games, you have faith in yourselves, when you are beat and loosing, you lack confidence.

Several weeks ago, United had eight clear points from their rivals City and what seemed an easier run in to the end of the season. Now they are neck and neck with City leading on goal difference.

Many said the derby match last night would not be a critical match for either team, even my son-in-law said it and he is about as expert on these matters as anyone you would wish to meet. The thought was that the league would have been decided either way before last night but it wasn’t and the next two games will be critical for both teams.

CIty’s boss, Mancini said that United would still win the league even if the two teams drew last night. They didn’t draw though so where does that leave us? Those people who have already printed Champions T-shirts in red may have to go back and change the colour to pale blue.

To be fair, City have lead the field for so much of the season, they deserve to get their first title since 1968 and if United play the last two games the same as last night, they deserve to loose it. Just don’t tell Dave I said that! 

That was some party

The two footballers who own the house next door don’t come up here very often to use the house. Mainly, it is used for parties when they invite friends around for a barbecue. They are usually noisy affairs where the children scream at the tops of their voices.

Yesterday though was something very different. The ladies had been up to the house the week before to clean everywhere up and that should have been a clue. In the morning they arrived with all the paraphernalia they needed to decorate the outside ready. First off was a long table with chairs either side where the forty children were going to sit. Then there was black netting to cover the walls at the bottom. They strung balloons along the fence between the houses and stuck butterflies and other items to it. There was a large poster stuck to the house wall which looked lie a rural scene from a children’s book and posts with ropes to provide an entrance from the main gates. They even put down carpet over the concrete. Of course, a sound system had to be brought in with a speaker on a stand and finally they erected a bouncy castle in the road.

About five pm the guests arrived and they organised sack races and other games for the children. Then the children sat down to eat whilst the adults supervised. Later, more adults arrived and the party by this time was in full swing and was still going strong at midnight when I went to bed. The music had been turned off by that stage, it was mainly the children screaming at the tops of their voices that I could hear. Fortunately our bedroom is on the other side of the house. By closing all the shutters and the bedroom door, I was able to restore peace to Casa El Willo.

When I went out to survey the debris this morning, I was pleased to find that they had cleared most of it up. On our side of the fence there was just a burst balloon and what looked like a cake that had managed to fly over!

So a minor inconvenience really for what I imagine was a superb party for all the invited guests.

Car chase ends in carnage

When the Guardia Civil in Torrevieja spotted an Audi A6 being driven by someone known to them, they gave chase. The driver, who had just recently being released from jail and had a history of burglary, sped off dodging lights and other cars on the road. Finally he hit a parked car, lost control and managed to destroy eight cars in the process, two of which were overturned. 

As the miscreant tried to flee the scene, the agents drew their guns and got him to lie down on the road where they handcuffed him.

Incidents like this  always raise the question of whether the police should give chase to runaway cars. Does the danger that these kind of chases pose to other road users, the risk of someone being hurt outweigh the benefits of catching the criminal at all costs? I dare say the owners of the parked cars have a view on this.