Friday, August 30, 2013

The mother of thunderstorms

There was the threat of a thunderstorm throughout the whole of yesterday and last night it arrived. For the time that it lasted, lightening bolts lit the sky as if it were daytime and the rain lashed down hard putting at least 4cms of water in my pool. Satellite reception wavered between no signal and poor for the duration of the storm and so we turned the television off and prepared to go to bed hoping that the storm would pass before our heads hit the pillow.

We experienced two brief power cuts during the storm but could see that the majority of our estate was plunged in darkness for  duration. Street lighting was out and we could not see lights from any of the houses on the estate.

It is at times like this when you are glad to live on a hill where the water runs down. I imagine that the streets in the centre of Bigastro were awash and it is possible that those with underground garages experienced some flooding.

Apparently, we could have more heavy rain today and then things will quieten down. Saturday, we are going to the wedding of our neighbour Eladia and Kino in Torrevieja. The roads into the town are notorious for flooding during heavy rain. The last thing we want is to be stopped from getting to the venue.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The value of insurance

Remember that Jemma had her bag stolen in Alicante.

Out of the contents, only the 100 euros in cash will be of any use to the thief because the credit card was blocked immediately as was the mobile phone and nothing else would have real value to to him (the camera in the bag was an out of date model that had plenty of signs of wear). 

On the other hand Jemma is faced with a lot of inconvenience and expense. I don’t know how much DVLC charge for a replacement driving license but I dare say there is a fee of some sort. That is the least of the expenses that Jemma faces.

1. She has insurance for the mobile phone but there is a £100 excess on the policy for an iPhone.
2. She also has holiday insurance but that carries a £60 excess for cash and a further £60 for the rest of her loss.
3. Since the camera is out of date, she will only get market value which will be a lot less than replacement cost.  

On balance, Jemma has come out of this very badly. For the sake of the 100 euros the thief gained, she faces having to pay out at least £300 to replace everything. 

Timing is everything

Last night we had a thunderstorm which lasted no more than half and hour to one hour at most.

Pamela was keen to move the cushions from the new furniture on the porch and so opened the door at the precise moment that a bolt of lighting came to ground nearby. The huge clap of thunder that accompanied it took us by surprise (my English readers will know the correct expression to describe this). Pamela quickly closed the door and left the cushions where they were.

I just hope the downpour of rain was clean stuff otherwise everywhere will have a layer of brown dust this morning. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More rain to come

Untitled-1According to the Emergency Centre of the Generalitat it rained heavily in Torrevieja and Santa Pola at about 5:30 pm this morning. The intense electrical storm began in the area of ​​Cabo de la Nao and spread along the coast to the south, although most of the precipitation fell into the sea.

Looking at the forecast and the warnings, we could be in for some more rain over the next day or so.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Not in our plans

 This is not what we wanted. Pamela, Laura, Jemma, Molly and I had been looking forward to this week since June and our holiday together in Mallorca. 

We had hoped for dry settled weather, not too hot but certainly sunny. So far, the weather gods have been good but things are changing from today. 

The sky is overcast and there has already been a shower with a distinct promise of more to come. 

Actually, the long term forecast at the start of summer was for storms at the end of August but then we all know how reliable long term forecasts are. It seems this time that they may just be right. 

Today is not too bad because our plan is to go the the shopping mall at La Zenia and then on for lunch to Rebate. Tomorrow though, we had planned to meet up with friends of Laura's at the water park in Torrevieja. We'll have to keep an open mind on that one and maybe meet up at Habenaras where at least we won't be out in a thunderstorm. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jemma's bad day

The original plan was to go to the Safari Park at Elche. Last year we went there and had a good day except that Jemma wanted to see the sea lion show and we missed it. Yesterday was the time to make up for that.

However, Laura thought that visiting one of the nearby cities would be better given that it was a steamy day and in any case Jemma had never been to Alicante, so we set off to the provincial capital.

The station in Orihuela has been temporarily moved whilst work continues on the high speed train line from Alicante to Murcia so we ended up having to walk quite a way.

When we arrived at Alicante Jemma decided to get some money from the cash point in the station. The first machine was empty and returned her card. The second machine was also empty but refused to return the card so she went to look for the bank to report the problem but of course this was Saturday and the banks were closed.

Jemma therefore phoned her bank in England to cancel the card and arrange for a new one to be sent to her home. I then drew out some money for her to help out.

Time for a drink and so we looked for somewhere and ended up inside at El Corte Ingles. The tables in the Gourmet Experience were pedestals with high stools to sit on. Both Jemma and I put our bags on the floor by our feet.

At some point a man and lady came in and he stood behind Jemma. She felt him push into her but thought nothing of it until she came to collect her handbag which by this time had gone. We can only assume that as the man pushed Jemma he dragged the bag from under her with his foot.

We reported the incident to the security guard who told us that we needed to go to the local police station to file a denuncia. Pamela helped Jemma by acting as a translator and the paperwork was completed.

So that was a lesson learnt the hard way. Jemma now has new cards on the way, has cancelled her mobile phone contract and will have to contact DVLC to get a new driving license. We bought her a new handbag and I am lending her a camera to take pictures but as for the phone, she will have to wait.

The thing is, Jemma is such a good person who always puts others before herself. She doesn't deserve this sort of bad luck in her life. When we go to La Zenia shopping mall, I intend to treat her to a present which hopefully will cheer her up.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bill could be right

One of my readers says that he has being keeping away from commenting about the ongoing saga of Gibraltar.

However he has now found an article about fishing in the harbour area.  Bill kindly sent me a link to a site which claims that the area of the reef is actually off-limits to fishing. So all the bluster could well be about nothing.

Trawling is a very destructive way of fishing. Dragging a net across the bottom of the sea destroys the delicate ecosystem and a fair percentage of the catch has to be thrown back dead.

Bill has also found another site which claim that the whole debacle is a smoke screen by Madrid to take people’s minds of the real issues that Spain faces; the scandal of the B accounts, the rail crash at Santiago and now the massive debts that the regions face this year.

You know there could well be something in this idea. Governments are very good at finding ways to cover up bad news to distract the public. 

I feel sorry for them

Like many of you, I have been following the story of the the two girls accused of trafficking drugs from Peru. Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid were caught at Lima airport with £1.5 of cocaine in their suitcases.

Since then the newspapers have attempted to kept us informed about the background to the story. The Daily Mail, for example, managed to dig up information which indicated the girls lead a wild partying lifestyle in Ibiza hosting drug fuelled parties until the early hours of the morning. Whilst in Peru, the Mail tells us that the girls enjoyed a sight seeing trip and even managed to get in some shopping at the expensive stores in the capital.

Meanwhile, the girls have maintained that they were coerced into being drug mules with threats at gun point along with threats to their families.

Yesterday they were taken from the holding place to find out if they would be charged with drug trafficking. The district attorney’s office say that there is enough evidence to suspect alleged responsibility for both girls. It is expected that the presiding judge, Dilo Huaman will accept the charges and order the two to be held in custody until a court hearing or trial.

That process could take two years and then, if found guilty the girls face a jail term of between eight and 15 years.

In spite of the Mail’s assertions that the two girls were less than innocent, you can’t help but feel sorry for their situation. Far away from home, in a country where they cannot speak the language, they must feel desperately isolated – like their world has just caved in.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Two issues at stake

The first issue is the dumping of 70 concrete blocks into the sea. Spain says that the waters around Gibraltar were never ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht and that therefore they had no right to create the reef which impedes Spanish fishermen from working there.

Before any dialogue can take place between the two countries, Spain wants those blocks removed.

Untitled-1The second is the amount of contraband tobacco that passes across the border into Spain. Spain says that the amount of tobacco imported into Gibraltar is disproportionate with the number of people living there. They claim that most of it is smuggled across the border to be sold in Spain and show figures to highlight the problem. 

Wherever there is a tax difference between two bordering countries, this is bound to be the case.



The real problem though is described perfectly by El Pais

David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy are more alike than we are willing to acknowledge. They're both weak national leaders, who have no real control policy progress. The two are fed up with the EU. The two have a terrible problem of youth unemployment. The two face a nation-regions, Catalonia and Scotland, they do not want fully integrated into the entities that constitute the United Kingdom and Spain Castilian. The two countries had empires, some dreams die hard and persist in the symbols of the monarchy. Both have big problems with the financing of their games, but Rajoy corruption reaches to convert legislators to political donors in order to buy their silence. Both irritate the United States, which has signed a long term agreement for use of the important naval base in Rota, a few miles from Gibraltar. The two have peculiar colonial enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla in the case of Spain, Gibraltar and the Falklands and in the case of Britain. The two have a disastrous banking systems, whose failure allowed because ministers and officials in London and Madrid were enjoying a permanent nap while the bankers took the world to the great recession growth has been interrupted for five years both in Spain as the UK.

Sleeves up for a fight

In relation to the escalating problem at Gibraltar,  a British government spokesman said, "We are still actively pursuing legal action. If we do pursue it, the first step would be for the European commission to investigate the issue. That is why the prime minister spoke to President [José Manuel] Barroso."

At the same time. Spanish papers report that the president of the European Commission (EC) Jose Manuel Barroso today agreed with Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy about sending a Community mission to assess the situation on the border of Gibraltar "as soon as possible".

That means that both sides seem to be welcoming an investigation by the EU into the British claim that there are unreasonable delays at the border which the Spanish say are necessary to control increased smuggling of tobacco.

Having been warned that setting a 50 euro tax at the border would be illegal, the Spanish government is now considering setting a levy on the border with Gibraltar in the form of a congestion charge in Linea de la Concepcion. They claim that such a charge will be fully compatible with EU standards and will be similar to that already imposed in London.

They say that the congestion charge in Linea de la Concepcion would be justified due to, "the large increase in traffic that is recorded in this town and the effects this has on the environment and on the living conditions of its inhabitants." I am guessing that whoever dreamt up this idea has never actually visited London.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy gunboat HMS Westminster, along with other vessels, arrived in Gibraltar yesterday to a cheering crowd on the quayside. Gibraltarians believe that the presence of a warship in the harbour will deter the Spanish fishermen from any further action.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don’t do it

Flip flops may be the most comfortable shoe to wear in summer but are not good to drive in. They can easily get caught under a pedal and also slow down your braking time.

In fact, it is illegal to drive in flip flops in Spain and if caught, you could face a none too healthy fine.

A noble profession

In an interview with Europa Press, the popular party spokesperson in the Valencian Parliament, Jorge Bellver, said  that "corruption is incompatible with democracy". Furthermore, he believes that  those who really believe in democratic representation and the parliamentary system need to make decisions every day to improve the system.

It is reported that 16.5 percent of Valencian children blame politicians for the crisis facing Spain and only 8.3% would choose politics as a profession.

Defending the system, the Ombudsman for the PP says that, politics is one of the noblest professions to which a person can aspire to and that the system of representative parliament is the best possible system. However, he stressed that “we must make daily efforts to improve and incorporate all necessary measures so that each day is cleaner, more transparent, more participatory and more exemplary."

Bellver added that it was unfair to say that the system generates corruption and that the level of corruption was lower now than it was 20,40 or 60 years ago.

He is or course right, the system “per se” is not corrupt, it is the people working within it that take advantage of their positions of power to enhance their own situation. Sadly though, the system has allowed these people to get away with malpractice for far too long and that is the issue for those young peoople. The lack of transparency in Spanish politics at all levels has covered up for the rotten apples leaving the voters unaware of what has been going on.

We live in the hope that there are at least some altruistic politicians who work hard for their town, region or country without attempting at the same time to feather their own nests. They may be hard to find but I am sure that they are there.

Two sides to the story

First the version from the Spanish press:

Gibraltar fishermenFirst thing yesterday morning, the entire fleet of La Línea de la Concepción (Cádiz) departed from the port of La Atunara to sail to Puerto Chico, accompanied by Civil Guard patrol boats.

The fishermen were planning to just concentrate on the area where the concrete blocks had been set on the sea bed, but the Gibraltar Police patrol boats blocked the passage, keeping an eye on the protest until its completion.

For the Confraternity of La Línea (Cádiz), Leoncio Fernandez, said that it was a peaceful protest; an act aimed at defending the rights of fishermen to fish  in the waters.

Fernandez highlighted the damage being suffered by the ships which are unable to carry out their work in these waters and figures that they have lost over 1.5 billion euros since the problems  began over a year ago.

Jose Antonio Gonzalez, the skipper of 'San Juan',  said that the Spanish Government were aware of how Gibraltar is attacking the historical rights of fishermen. 

"It is the bread of our children"

The protesters urged the Gibraltar authorities  to "stop throwing concrete blocks into the sea" and in an  exchange of insults insults with some Rock agents they shouted "stop playing with the bread of our children."

The boats returned to harbour followed by five Civil Guard vessels without incident.

Gibraltar says that fishermen may fish under the legislation of the Rock

The Gibraltar Government said in a statement that Spanish fishermen can continue fishing in waters near the Rock "as long as they do so in accordance with the laws of Gibraltar".

The Gibraltar Executive, headed by Fabian Picardo, claim that the reef was laid according to a fishing report in which Spanish experts participated. The report recommended the adoption of measures to ensure sustainable fishing including the creation of an artificial reef which  was agreed to by environmental groups.

Further more, Picardo says that the area in which the Gibraltar authorities have set the concrete blocks that prevent Spanish fishermen fishing was frequented only by one boat the 'Divina Providencia'.

Now from the UK press:

Spanish boats illegally entered Gibraltar's waters after a stand-off with the Royal Navy on Sunday in an escalation of the bitter diplomatic dispute over fishing rights.  British military and police boats had to push back a flotilla of around 40 Spanish vessels.

The fishermen, some shouting "Gibraltar is Spanish", were protesting against a concrete reef built by the Rock's government to protect its fishing stock.They argue the reef restricts their rights to fish, but Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, said "hell will freeze over" before the barrier is removed.

Cathal Yeats, chief inspector of the Royal Gibraltar Police, said the flotilla crossed into Gibraltarian waters before being "corralled" out again.

"At around 9am about 38 Spanish fishing boats and seven or eight pleasure craft converged in the area of the western anchorage," he said. "We had our own police cordon along with Royal Navy and other assets and we corralled them in the area of the south mole.

"They tried to breach the cordon several times but they were not successful."

Rajoy has said he would prefer to settle the dispute in a friendly manner but at the same time threatened to use all measures available to defend his country's interests.

The row could intensify further on Monday as HMS Westminster, a British warship, and two auxiliary vessels are due to dock in Gibraltar, with crowds of flag-waving residents set to welcome them into port.

British officials have stressed that this is part of a "routine" journey from England through the Mediterranean to the Gulf.Picardo, the Gibraltan chief minister, who has received death threats over the conflict, thanked the British authorities for their "cool, professional and calm" help in fending off the Spanish boats.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hasn’t it gone quiet!

Bigastro always goes to sleep after the fiesta is over. The VaiVen closes for two weeks as the owners go for a well earned  holiday, shops close and businesses shut up. Calle Purisima is unusually quiet as the townsfolk get over the days of partying.

Those who live in the apartments around the main park must feel a sigh of relief that, at last they can get a full night’s sleep without a disco at full volume blasting away until the early hours of the morning.

1175065_416456371806774_379818750_n To wind things down, the Moors comparsa La Murga gave a street performance yesterday with Charlie Sax at the front in his trademark trilby hat. I see that Joaquina also managed to get herself in this photo from the Fiesta Commission’s Facebook page. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Worth waiting up for

After the solemn procession and the fireworks, Pam and I went to the park to watch Bigastro: the Musical.

We were not quite sure what to expect but as it turned out, it was excellent entertainment. Mostly the students from the Estafania Selfa School of Dance along with a few stars who mimed to music and members of the Fiesta Commission who filled in. A great show and very entertaining.

So, the fiesta is done and dusted for this year. Months of preparation and a lot of hard work on the part of a handful of dedicated people. Pam and I would like to thank the Fiesta Commission, the Ayuntamiento, the band and everyone else who did their bit to make this year’s fiesta so enjoyable.

I hope that my photographs provide wonderful memories of some of the events of the two weeks. I’d love to go to everything and take more photos but you know, Pam and I are getting on and we need our sleep at night and rest during the daytime.

Until next year, VIVA SAN JOAQUIN!

The start of San Joaquin’s day

Dawn opened yesterday with the La Alborada, the traditional walk through the town as the neighbours welcome in the day of San Joaquin .

Later in the morning, there was Mass to pay homage to the patron saint. The Queen and her Dames wore white mantillas for the occasion that was attended by no less than seven priests.

Once Mass was over, a mascletá of fireworks was set off in the Plaza de la Constitución.  The ten kilograms of gunpowder lasted four minutes and ended in a blast like thunder.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Muy bien

KW5D7386 KW5D7394
Mary joins in with the dancing Carol, handing out gifts to her loyal subjects
KW5D7451 KW5D7508
The very beautiful Consuela Gordon Mottram gets in the picture

Last night’s comparsas parade was much better organised. We didn’t have to wait for ages for the first group to arrive and there wee no lengthy gaps between each comparsa.

See my photos of this colourful event here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

We nearly stood up

A busy night last night – first there was the Floral Offering to San Joaquin.

This year, the request was for food to be distributed to those in need. Already on stage were countless bags of food donated by companies like Eurener which were then added to by a multitude of bags from others. However, there were still sufficient floral donations to make the occasion special.

Then Pam and I had a break for something to eat.

At 11pm, we were treated to another excellent concert by the town band.

In the past, these concerts were held on Calle Purisima and so this year they reverted to tradition. Although not the ideal location, at least we did not have all the noise in the background to contend with and the atmosphere was more intimate.

The opening number was a tribute to the rock band Queen which of course starts with the National Anthem. At that point, Pam and I didn’t know whether we should have stood up or not.

Apart from the Himno de Bigastro, the whole programme consisted of  numbers we had not heard before. I can only imagine the enormous amount of work the band members must have put in to play these new pieces. 

Today is our wedding anniversary and so we are going out to lunch but we will be back in good time for the parade of comparsas tonight.

Floral offering

Concert for San Joaquin

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Give flour not flowers this year

994495_399173560201722_650466504_n Tonight would normally be the time when people would make a floral offering to the patron saint of the town. This year though, the Fiesta Commission have asked that people donate  non perishable items to help the needy instead – it could be anything from  a tin of beans to a bottle of shampoo.

The flowers were always nice but in these times of hardship for many, the money spent on them could be used more beneficially.

The collection will be made at 8pm tonight by the church. 

A quiet night in Elche

Spaniards do not know the meaning of fear; when they are not chasing or being chased by bulls, they are blowing themselves up with gunpowder.

The Nit de l'Albà in Elche resulted in at least 43 people being treated for injuries, one of whom had to be taken to the burns unit at Alicante for second degree burns on his hand. Eight others were treated at Elche hospital including a three year old who had burns on the hand from holding a firecracker. Many were hit by the sticks from rockets as they fell back down to ground. Meanwhile, fire-fighters were kept busy attending small outbreaks of fires which involved street furniture, awnings and palm trees. 

The good news is that there were fewer injuries than last year when 106 people were treated and one pyrotechnic actually died.

After the firework display came the unofficial fireworks. This year they were contained in a special area set aside. Only those who had attended a training course were allowed to take part. The participants who launched the so called “war trucks” entered the area with heavy clothing, helmets, gloves and boots. Sounds more like going to war than a fun night out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bad news for those hoping to return

A fair percentage of our British neighbours have already sold up and left, many have gone back to their home land with a few relocating to other parts of Spain or France. There are still many whose homes are on the market who would like to return to Blighty.

Sadly, they face two major obstacles to fulfilling this dream:

1. Spanish house prices have dropped by at least 28pc from their peak in March 2008  and face a fall of 8pc this year and 5pc next year as the Spanish "bad bank" Sareb gradually sells its stock of 91,000 foreclosed homes.

Quote from the Daily Telegraph

Experts say the key reason why Spanish prices held up well in the early years of the crisis is that banks held onto foreclosed properties from bankrupt developers rather than take losses immediately and “clear” the market.

This began to change in 2012 as Santander, BBVA and other banks rushed to liquidate their portfolios before the onslaught from the nationalized banks folded into Sareb. The Spanish authorities have ordered Madrid to accelerate the pace of Sareb sales as a condition of the EU bail-out in July 2012.

Madrid consultants RR de Acuna said last December that there are almost 2m properties waiting to be sold, including 800,000 used homes on the market, and 700,000 units on the books of developers, 450,000 seized or in foreclosure and 250,000 still being built.

The group said prices are likely to fall a further 30pc in Madrid, Barcelona and other big cities before touching the bottom in 2018, with even steeper drops lasting a decade in some of the coastal areas that ran wild during the bubble. It said acres of concrete would have to be torn down and returned to pasture.

2. Since the beginning of the year, house prices have steadily risen in the UK. The government schemes in Britain to kick start house sales are having an effect. The Help to Buy scheme gives buyers up to 20% towards the cost of a new build up to the value of £600,000. The effect has been to create a 30% increase in mortgages since last June and has pushed the average price of homes in Britain close to £250,000 (over 290,000 euros).

NB Quarter of a million pounds is the price where stamp duty on houses rises from 1 to 3% so it is a significant figure for both buyers and sellers.

A glum prospect

Even if they can sell their houses in Bigastro, our neighbours face the prospect of having too little in return to buy anything remotely similar to their Spanish homes back in Britain. I joked with one of our neighbours that you could sell your house here only to buy a garage back in London – sadly that is probably true.   

For example, I found a 140 sq m four bedroom new apartment in Bigastro for 72,800 euros and a three bedroom town house of 119 sq m for 120,000 euros. One of the Christina style. three bedroom, two storey houses on our estate is going for 89,000 euros – that is the equivalent of £77,000. For that price you’d get a two or possibly three bedroom terrace house in a somewhere like Bolton or Widnes back in Britain. Even the three bedroom, two bathroom Marias with a pool are selling for the equivalent of £129,000 which is just over half the average price of a house in Britain.

Clean up the streets and the image will improve

The Asociación de Promotores y Constructores de Viviendas de Torrevieja y la Vega Baja (Procosta) have issued a press release asking the Torrevieja council to eradicate prostitution from the streets of the town. They say that the presence of prostitutes is harming the tourist image of the town and they are right.

It was hoped that the traffic control system Vyriato, which monitors main entrances to Torrevieja, would deter the prostitutes from the roundabouts and it has where the cameras are located. As you might expect, the “young ladies” have now moved to areas where there are no cameras.

In addition, prostitutes ply their trade on Avenida de las Cortes Valencianas, the CV-90 and the Ronda Ricardo Lafuente knowing that there are no police patrols there to stop them.

Procosta would like Torrevieja to follow the example of cities like Barcelona where clients face hefty fines if the are caught.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Carrerar las cintas

Strung across Calle Purisima was a wire. On the wire were bobbins with ribbon wrapped around them. At the end of each ribbon was a small white plastic ring.

The contestants then rode along on one of two old bicycles and tried to catch the rings with a tapered wooden stick. Once the participants had caught the ribbon they exchanged it for a sash worn by the fiesta queen or dame whose name was printed on it.

It sounds hard and it was. It required excellent bike handling skills and a steady aim to capture the rings.  You can see how well they did in my photos here

Bloody brilliant

KW5D6793Top marks go the Commission for the effort they have put into making this year’s Fiesta special. Thy have worked their socks off to put on a show in difficult financial times.

Last night’s concert by the trio Social Securidad was excellent. Even if you did not understand all of the words of the songs, the emotion and sentiments were crystal clear. 

Clutching at straws

The deadline for submission of the town’s budget plan to the Ministry of Economy expires on September 30 and so the ruling party  want to gain approval for it before then.

The problem is that the PP only have five councillors and so can be outvoted by the opposition. Charo Bañuls is therefore seeking support from the PSOE and the former mayor, Raul Valerio Medina who she hopes will act responsibly.

The consequences of not having an approved plan could be dire because creditors may then seek compensation through the courts further increasing the town’s debt. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Grand Prix

Grand Prix (8 of 207)It was the sort of event that could only happen in a country like Spain.

Six teams of ten, just one lady participant, several young bulls in a dusty Plaza de Toros.

First job, get the crowd in and seated. That was not as simple as it sounds and it did take some time.

Then the games could commence.

First off the teams had to climb over slippery inflatables carrying buckets of water –that was good fun. The following games were equally hilarious with ladies donating their bras to their favourite team and children whose idea of counting was one – two – ten – twelve.

The organisers must have breathed a sigh of relief that there were no incidents!

Top marks go to the Commission de Fiestas for giving us a night of great entertainment.

My pictures are here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Back in the dock

The next trial for José Joaquín Moya, former socialist mayor of Bigastro, is due to begin. This time he is accused of receiving a “gift” from two local entrepreneurs of a VW Toureg, valued at 60,000 euros. Prosecution are seeking a prison sentence of five years along with a fine of 180,000 euros for the three defendants. 

At the time of his arrest in October 2008, Moya said that accepting the car as a gift was a “mistake” and pointed out that he had sold the car a few months later and bought something more discreet.
Sr Moya has already been disqualified from holding public office for 15 years and still awaits the outcome of the trial related to allowing Repsol to build gas tanks on green land. The case against him regarding the use of council employees and council equipment to do work  at his farm in Vistabella proved inconclusive.  

In May he was sentenced to disqualification from office for 8 years and given a fine of 2,600 euros for granting permission to Eurener to build a solar farm at La Pedrera without permission from Valencia. You will recall that the concession to build was granted to a member of Moya’s family.

In September 2012, Moya was disqualified for holding public office for 7 years in a case that involved selling off 35,000 square metres of protected land at La Predera to allow Idearco to build an aparthotel and golf practice range. In this instance, the selling price was 2.1 million euros representing over 25% of the town’s budget. The town still owes that money along with compensation and interest to the company who bought the land. 

You choose

There are two events tonight which might draw locals away from Saturday night television:

1. I am led to believe that the Albergue at La Pedrera will re-open tonight to allow people to meet the new proprietors.

2. The Fiesta Commission have organised a series of competitions for 6 groups of 10 people along the lines of Grand Prix in the Plaza de Toros  erected  close to  Eurener.

Grand Prix is much like “It’s a Knockout” or “Jeux Sans Frontières” with teams completing a variety of tasks to decide upon the winner. Although it is being staged in a bull ring, it will NOT be a bullfight. I am told that there will be some young bulls in one of the final competitions but without risk of harm to them.

The original plaza that was ordered was going to be too small for the number of people who wanted to attend and so, the Fiesta Commission found a much larger one.

I understand that there will be about 500 tickets left on sale on a first come first served basis at the box office situated by the entrance at 7pm. There will also be stalls selling drinks and food to keep the spectators happy and refreshed.

So there you go, you can be a “Billy no mates” and stay at home, join a few Brits at La Pedrera for a drink or enjoy a spectacle the likes of which Bigastro has never seen before.

I think you can work out where Pam and I will be!

A cordial invitation


The Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro invites you to the concert that the symphonic band will be offering during the celebrations for San Joaquin 2013.

The concert will take place on Wednesday, 14th August at 11pm during which they will present gold and silver medals to some of the musicians.

Viva San Joaquin!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Car rental cartel - busted

One of the biggest complaints that visitors make is the extortionate price of car rental here in Spain.

The base price offered is usually reasonable except in the height of summer, it is all the add-ons  that make it expensive; cost of additional drivers, child safety seats and worst of all – the price charged for a full tank of fuel*. The thing is that you knew that every company was charging the same or similar rates so it had to be a fix. 

At last, the Comisión Nacional de la Competencia has revealed that a cartel was operating and imposed fines of over 35 million euros to 17 businesses and 2 associations. The comission says that the companies involved were fully aware of the illegality of what they were doing and had a control system in place to prevent detection.

Six of the companies involved are based in Alicante.

Spanish car hire cartel fines

* To me, the fuel scam is the worst. You are forced to buy a full tank of fuel which is charged at well above the price paid at the pump. The deal is that you take the car back empty but very few actually do. The next customer is then charged for a full tank of fuel even though the company have only had to top the tank up.

The other major scam is the extra insurance. You either pay it or face the possibility of paying a huge excess if any damage is done to the car.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

It’s not the heat

Untitled-1Yesterday was apparently the hottest day so far this summer but it isn’t always the heat that drains you, it is the humidity.

As you can see from this graph, the humidity rose to 80% by midnight and peaked at about 7am this morning.

We run the air conditioning in the bedroom during the evening until we are ready for bed, then we switch it off and leave the ceiling fan to circulate the cool air throughout the night. That normally gives us a pleasant night’s sleep.

This morning though I woke up at about 6am, not wringing with sweat but still not 100% comfortable. I did manage to get back to sleep after turning my pillow and then slept until 8:45 which is very late for me!

The power of the internet

Traditionally, there has been a costume party at Campoamar each summer. However, this year nobody thought to organise such an event so young people took matters into their own hands. They used social networking sites to gather up to 20,000 young people to the beach, all in disguise and armed with carrier bags full of booze.

Even though this was an unofficial event, organised without permission from the town hall, there were local police, Guardia Civil, Red Cross etc on hand.

Luckily, the event passed by without major incident but it could have been different. There would have been many children there as well as young adults and of course there was always the risk of damage to private property not to mention the state of the beach afterwards.

The council say that there are other ways to have fun and will either close the event down or organise it properly. I am sure that many of the residents of the area would prefer it not to take place at all but faced with the power of the internet to organise such events, that is not going to happen.

Botellón, which translates to large bottle, is a popular summer event at weekends. Crowds of young people gather at predetermined places carrying bags full of spirits and mixers and stay until the early hours of the morning.

As you might imagine, these gatherings are neither popular with bars who lose out on trade nor with locals who have to put up with the noise and the stench of urine the following morning. Police have tried to break up these late night drinking sessions held in public places  but of course, the party simply moves on as the young people use their mobile phones to reorganise themselves. 

Here in Bigastro, La Pedrera seemed to be the favoured venue. The council now have chains across the entrance roads to the area at night to at least prevent the trail of cars going up there. Of course, that does not prevent the young people from walking up the road but then it is a fair hike from the town. Hopefully, they will find somewhere closer to the town, well away from our estate!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Getting ready


The arena is ready for the contestants on Saturday.

The only thing is we are not quite sure of the location now.

Originally, it was to be outside Perales y Ferrer, then it moved to the other side of the by-pass with access by the bridge.

The reply from the Fiesta Commission:

Hola Keith! La plaza esta situada enfrente de eurener bajando al polideportivo 

I’d be hopeless

1098224_411307325655012_805653626_nNot just because I don’t own an XBox 360 but because I am totally useless at videogames.

Two categories; under 12s and over 12s – I couldn’t even compete with the youngest!!

The winners

1094503_411039725681772_33504541_o In case you were wondering which of the crazy cars that raced downhill on Sunday won the prizes, here they are:
946316_411019675683777_349177585_n And here is the Fiesta Queen accompanied by her “damas”.

Photo taken from the Fiesta Commission Facebook page.

The Grand Prix

This new event on the Fiesta calendar has attracted so much interest that the Commission are now installing a larger bullring with a capacity for 2,000 people.

Remaining tickets will be available from the box office outside the bullring on Saturday at 7:30pm.

NB Please note that change of location and timing. Our tickets say 7pm not 8pm as originally stated.

Hypocritical to say the least

The reef of concrete blocks set off the coast at Gibraltar is apparently the cause of the current row and why Spanish customs are inspecting every car, making each driver open the boot to check for duty free cigarettes. It is also why Madrid is considering a 50 euro tax on every car.

Spain does not recognise Britain's right to territorial water around the rock and says that the reef is a violation of international law. They claim that it prevents Spanish fishermen from trawling in the waters.  It turns out thought that the Gibraltar reef affects just one fishing boat, the Divina Providencia, which is moored in La Linea and was the only Spanish vessel to fish the area next to Gibraltar's airport.

In fact, seven years ago, Spain sank a reef of 90 concrete blocks just a few miles from Gibraltar at the request of local fishermen and there are 25 similar reefs of the coast of Andalucía. The reefs are designed to  prevent trawling and thus allow fish stocks to recover.

The whole issue has now been taken up by the European Commission who say that Madrid must discuss the matter with the European Union. They plan to send a team of officials to the border for the purpose of carrying out spot checks. It will be September of October though before this team will arrive.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The thick black smoke


Those of you who don’t visit my Flickr page might be wondering just where that cloud of thick black smoke came from.

I quote from my Flicr picture:

Yesterday, firemen from Orihuela had to extinguish a fire caused by burning stubble on a farm in the hamlet of Correntías.

The proximity of the fire to two warehouses, one with a gas, forced a precautionary evacuation of the area.

Now the Civil Guard and local police from Orihuela are investigating whether the fire was started deliberately.

The pall of thick black smoke filled the air and was carried down by the light wind towards Murcia.

It will feel hot tomorrow

Untitled-2 Maximum temperature tomorrow is forecast to be 34 degrees but it will feel hotter than that. 

In Andalusia it will be even hotter still putting that area on “orange” alert. 
Untitled-1 As you can see, the times between midday and about 7 pm will feel the worst.

Moving on through the week, the temperatures are set to drop back to about 31 degrees by Thursday/Friday.
Untitled-3 From this graph you can see that the sensation of heat will peak at about 38 degrees today.

The advice is to stay in the shade, drink plenty and eat just light food.

This is probably not the best time to be visiting the fish and chip shop in Quesada for a lunchtime plate of cod and chips!

The Rock is a hard place to be

Tensions between Spain and Gibraltar are getting higher as the Spanish Foreign Minister threatens to impose a a border tax, close Spanish airspace to planes using the airport and investigate the affairs of Gibraltarians with Spanish interests.

Jose Garcia-Margallo  says the tax is to compensate for the loss to Spanish fishermen following the placement of concrete blocks in the harbour to protect the fish in the mouth of the Mediterranean.

Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, claims that Spain is acting like North Korea and adds that the rhetoric is reminiscent of General Franco in the 1950s and 60s. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Crazy cars

KW7D1578 KW7D1626
KW7D1590  KW7D1599

What would the Fiesta be now without the “Coches Locos” competition?

This year we saw the return of the “Red Baron” and the “Russian tank” along with a Ferrari, a pirate ship, a cot, a train, a VW camper van, a Pope mobile etc etc.

Top marks go the participants for both ingenuity and bravery.

Sadly, there was an accident this year as one of the cars built for speed, lost control on a bend and ploughed into the crowd breaking the leg of a lady who was standing watching.

August is here


This is the month when Pam and I rarely venture to the coast and you can see why in this picture from the newspaper, Información.

This is one of the beaches at Torrevieja.

Saturday, we went down to La Mata to photograph the “hen party” for our neighbour’s daughter. We really struggled to find any where to park the car.

Although the beach there was not quite as crowded as this, you could not see the sand for brollies and bathers.

Personally, I cannot see any point in lying on a beach cheek to jowl with thousands of others. Taking children down there must be a nightmare.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Murcia talks to the press about the situation

Following his dismissal from the government team, Aurelio Murcia has spoken out to the press.

He told them that the week had been busy for him because every day he’d attended the trial of the former mayor, José Joaquín Moya in place of Charo Bañuls who he says was too afraid to go.

He went on to explain that, on Thursday a policeman came to his door to tell him the news that the PP had decided to break the pact between them and the Liberals and that he would no longer have a position on the Bigastro town council. Murcia says that he was dismayed the news could not have been given to him face-to-face by Bañuls herself who he describes as “cowardly” .

With reference to the pact between his party and the PP, Murcia says that it was never signed by Charo Bañuls because she did not want to commit to conditions set out. In fact, if we refer back to the pre-election manifestos of the two parties, there were irreconcilable differences so it was no surprise that neither party would choose to fully commit to a binding pact.

Regarding his negotiations with the PSOE, Murcia says that Bañuls already knew about them. The differences between Murcia and the PSOE surely prevent any lasting relationship between the two so that was a bit of a red herring.

Murcia concluded by saying that the PP will be looking to set a millionaire budget and take out loans which will endanger financial stability for the town.  

The situation as it stands is that the PP will be trying to rule with a minority of 5 councillors. Even if the Liberals abstain from voting, the PSOE will defeat every proposal with their 6 votes. In Murcia’s view, the decision taken by the PP to rule in the minority will paralyze the town. 

To be fair, the remarks that Murcia made to the press last week about the amount of work he did in comparison with the mayor and his proposed changes in salary were hardly likely to cement relationships between the two of them. In my view, his pronouncements backed Charo Bañuls into a corner leaving her little choice but to take the action she did. Feigning innocence in the circumstances seems to me to be a little far fetched. 

One thing you can say, political life in Bigastro is rarely dull. Now, the ball is back in Bañuls court, we will wait to see if she can continue the rally.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Who should we believe?

We know that the ex treasurer of the PP claimed that the party had a second “B” fund which was used to collect payments from constructors and distribute them to leaders including Mariano Rajoy. The pages from these accounts have been published in various Spanish newspapers.These papers suggest that Sr Rajoy received 25,000 euros in undeclared cash payments in 2010 alone.

Understandably, the opposition party called for an explanation and a resignation when the news of this B fund hit the press. However, since January,  the Prime Minister has kept tight lipped about the whole affair.

Under mounting pressure, Mariano Rajoy has now made a special address to parliament where he said that he made a mistake in trusting Luis Barcenas. He claims to be a victim of deceit and says that neither he nor his party are guilty of any wrongdoing. According to him, there is no second set of books.

The problem for Spain is that confidence in the present government has hit an all time low. Who are we to believe? Should we put our trust in the Prime Minister who says that he will continue to govern until the next elections in 2015 or in the disgraced Louis Barcenas who is currently facing charges of corruption following the discovery that he had 47 million euors stashed in Swiss bank accounts?

I can now shed some light on the Grand Prix

Thanks to Sheila Rowlands and our visit to the Town Hall yesterday, I now know a bit more about this event which is scheduled to take place as part of this year’s fiesta.

First off the location which will be in the car park by Eurener on Calle Gabriel Miro (access by the bridge over the by-pass). Remember it will all kick off at 8pm on Saturday 10th August.

Grand Prix was apparently a TV show much like It’s a Knockout which you recall was hosted by the now disgraced Stuart Hall. 

There will be a series of games, including a venture with some young bulls, that the contestants will participate in.

18690_408735442578867_1859899947_n These are the groups that will be taking part.

Tickets for the event cost 3 euros and should be available from various sources. However when we called yesterday at the Town Hall, the tickets were not ready and although the hairdresser’s on Calle Purisima has a sign outside, they didn’t have tickets. In fact, the Town Hall didn’t have tickets for either the Grand Prix or the acoustic  concert.

Possibly they will be available mañana!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Acoustic concert

1074821_408226245963120_1385337858_oAs part of the fiesta this year, there will be a concert on Sunday the 11th at 10:30pm in the Auditorium.

There are just 372 seats available which will be reserved for ticket holders. Tickets cost 3 euros and are available from the Town Hall.
Please note that all proceeds will go towards providing food for those in need.

NB The poster tells us that they will be “naked songs”, hopefully the singers will be clothed.

Just a reminder

1073718_408226589296419_1703313835_oYou can enjoy a drink and a snack on Calle Antonio Galvez - Sunday the 11th, Monday the 12th and Tuesday 13th.

For those of you who have not been brave enough to try out local food beyond the odd paella, this is a great opportunity to excite your palate.

Even if you pass on the savoury dishes, you must try the desserts which are to die for.

Change of venue

554893_408226035963141_455382395_nPlease note that the jousting for ribbons will now take place on Calle Purisima and not in the park as previously advertised.