Monday, March 31, 2014



The latest official portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge showing off baby George along with the pet dog Lupo is interesting.

It was taken through a window of the Cambridges’ home, Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace, by renowned photographer Jason Bell.

Why through a window though and why are the colours so muted?

The fact that George and the dog are exchanging glances makes the picture special. It is something that neither the photographer nor the parents could have anticipated. We can fairly assume that this was one of many that were taken and has been deliberately chosen for public viewing. This is how the royal couple want us to see themselves. The only happy accidents are the expressions of George and Lupo, everything else is intentional.

The picture is slightly over exposed and the colours have been toned down, something that must have been deliberate because this was not a casual shot by Kate’s father using a compact camera. Bell, who took the official christening photos in October last year, is highly skilled and has access to a plethora of equipment for his photography. We can be sure that he chose to present the picture in this way perhaps to give a kind of 50s look to it.

What the photo illustrates are the changes that have taken place in royal photos over the years and the increasing informality in approach taken to the subject. It is a style that will be copied by many.

Serious stuff

Numerous conferences, scientific reports and hard evidence have done little to convince governments that climate change poses a real risk to the world as we know it. We know that global warming is happening and that the emission of greenhouse gases is making a contribution to the rise in temperatures and yet we do little to ease the problem. A rise of 2 degrees from pre industrial levels would not pose a significant risk but allowing warming by 4 degrees would create a vast difference to the world.

The United Nations have now produced a report which paints a very dim picture of the consequences of continuing on the way we are doing. The evidence is already there, polar ice caps are melting as is the permafrost in the Arctic, coral reefs are being killed off and areas of the world are facing mega disasters and heavy rain.

The report says that climate change has already had an effect on world food stocks, crop yields of wheat are in decline and maize is set to follow suit. If we choose to ignore this and the threat of extreme weather as a result of global warming, then poorer regions of the world will face starvation, the potential for wars will increase and people will have to migrate from the affected countries to safer havens.

The issue is that countries like America, one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas, will do nothing if others like China continue to burn fossil fuels at an alarming rate. Nobody wants to admit to the consequences of what they are doing and accept their responsibility for what is happening and so we just continue on this path to ruin.

Bad habits

The Department of Health in Spain are focussed on the 14-18 year old group and their consumption of drugs. What they have found is that, although the number of young people consuming alcohol has risen, the number who admit to binge drinking has reduced. In 2010, 65.7% admitted to binge drinking. In the latest survey the percentage had dropped to 47.3%. However, it is still worrying that 72.3% admitted to consuming alcohol and that the average age was 14.7.

Of other bad habits, 28.1% said they smoked tobacco, 17.9% said they smoked cannabis, 3% took tranquilisers without prescription and 1.6% said they used cocaine. On the plus side the age that these young people started smoking tobacco was 16.8 years.

Regarding the increase in smoking cannabis, the Department of Health says this is due to the perception that the drug presents a low risk and its ready availability to young people.

Reflecting on my own experience, I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 17 but was not a regular smoker until I’d reached 19. I first went into a pub with friends when I was 17 but again did not drink regularly (i.e. once a week) until I was at least 18. I have never been tempted to smoke cannabis nor have I indulged in any other form of Class A or B drugs. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Did you remember to adjust your clocks?

Every year, Pam sends a message to our girls to remind them to put their clocks forward. Invariably, they need the reminder.

Boots got it all wrong on Facebook when they told people to put the clocks back. Clearly they had forgot the mnemonic we learnt as children; in springtime the clocks spring forward, in autumn, they fall back (fall is the American word for autumn).

Actually, the whole business is a “pain in the butt” because apart from our computers, tablets, mobile phones, the smart TV and the digibox, every other clock in the house (including the ones in our cars and my cameras) need to be set manually.

Here we go again

The Daily Mail tell us that temperatures today could reach 21 degrees in parts of Britain making it hotter than Spain. They go to say that it will be the hottest day of the year so far.  No surprise there, it is only March and winter in the UK was dreadful.

The Mail goes on to show us pictures of people apparently sunbathing on Brighton beach. Most of them have coats on for goodness sakes, that isn’t sunbathing!

Actually, looking at the forecast for this part of Spain, we can expect  the same maximum temperature of 21 degrees today. Admittedly in the north of the country it will be cooler which is where the Daily Mail is obviously making its comparison. 

The big difference between the two countries is that tomorrow, in this area, it is forecast to be 21 degrees again and should rise to 24 by Wednesday and 25 by next Saturday. Will the so called “barbecue weather” in Britain last that long? Nope, by Monday temperatures are set to drop to 17  with showers setting in and that is just in the south of the country, up north they are forecast to be no more than 13 degrees and cloudy even today.

There are aspects of life in Britain where things are better than here in Spain but I am sorry, the weather is not one of them. Tell us that the economy is stronger and we will agree, tell us that unemployment is lower and there is no contest but trying to better us with the climate is just a no brainer.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Diego Carillo Soler

The Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro now has a blog which you can find at : this is one of the first articles from it.

“We start our journey in the new blog of the Musical Union Society of Bigastro  with "Musicians of yesterday, today and forever" and who better to start with than one of the two Directors  that have been invited to join us in the coming months so that we can choose the one to be finally elected to the post of Director of our band. 

Diego Carrillo Soler (Redován 1986) who we would describe as polite, cordial,  a horn player, ambitious, excited about the project, consistent, good presence and musician, especially a musician.

Diego, how did you start in Music?

Well, I started in the music as a little guy, when I was 11, because I went to see a concert by the Redován band  and told my parents to sign me up for Music and the truth was I never thought that I would  get to where I am in today. Gradually I improved, especially because of the teachers and others who have had to have gotten me where I am now.

What is your current activity within Music?

Right now what I am doing is to combine studying and preparing  for the Conservatorio Superior, with my  work in the Orquesta de Elche as principal horn playe. I am  professor of horn at the Conservatoire de Caravaca (Murcia) also teaching horn in Denia, San Bartolomé, Redován and Abanilla.

Your instrument is the horn...

Yes it is the horn (hehe)

What aspirations do you have in the future?

The truth is there are many things I would like to do. I have been a few years perfecting the instrument, studying with different teachers and I am now entering the stage where I want to study more in this very competitive field.  Later, I want to expand my studies of composition which is something I love.

How would you like to develop?

By growing up, all I can.

What would be your goals with SUM Bigastro?

Well my goal, as I said before, is to improve in everything that I can. I would look to making the Bigastro band much bigger  and obviously see it gaining in musical quality. As a specific challenge, I would love to win a contest in second or first section in both Alicante and Valencia, or even in nationwide contests ... and if possible internationally.

Have any individual or group awards?

I have many experiences in the Youth Orchestra of Murcia, a tour in Strasbourg, one in Vienna and Slovenia, another tour in New York and Chicago. Those to me mean more than a prize, better than  winning a plate because these were experiences which were unique and unforgettable.

What do you think of the Union Musical Society Bigastro?

I have known of the Bigastro Band since I was little.  I  always understood that it was one of the most important bands in the Vega Baja. Bigastro is a town with a great musical culture verified by my contact with Bigastro musicians. I have not seen a recent concert  by the band but I have met the musicians in the town.

Favourite meal ...... Rice and rabbit

And to drink  .……. Cold Beer

Football team ...... Barca.                                                    

City. ….. Vienna

Village ..…. Redován

Musical work .….. The 5th symphony of Beethoven.

A musician that you admire ...... Jose Garcia , son of Gabriel. A master musician  from head to toe 

A director to follow ......... My teacher Jose Vicente Pérez Pérez and Carlos Kleiber.

A scenario that you enjoyed playing ....... Auditorio de Murcia and Zaragoza Mozart Room

A work untouchable ..... All are hard work and dedication.

Procession or parade …………procession ............. always. “

Friday, March 28, 2014

That is some profit and subsequent loss

In 2000, Mateo Hernandez seized ownership of three plots of rural land for 180,000 euros. Two years later they were sold for 5.4 million euros to the real estate group, Eden del Mar to build upon. Mateo was deputy mayor of Torrevieja at the time and was responsible for development projects in the town.

Payment was staged and was protected by a clause that said that the land would have to be returned to Mateo in the case of a default. This was annulled in February 2013 when the final payment was made.

Eden del Mar have now sold that land for 1.1 million euros, one fifth of the price they paid.

The cranes are moving again

Yesterday, we visited friends who have a holiday home at Punta Prima and it was interesting to see the hive of building activity on a large plot of land nearby. This area of land has stood vacant for years, waiting to be developed. Now there is a crane working flat out to help construct apartments and terraced housing designed to be holiday homes. 

At last we are starting to see sustained signs of recovery in the construction industry. In 2003 - 52,715 houses were built  and a further 52,737 were built in 2004. By 2008, construction had ceased and very few new projects were started until last year.

In the first two months of this year, 430 new houses were started which is a 24% increase on the same period last year. Of course nobody expects levels to return to those of the boom years but at least the numbers are similar to those before construction went crazy.

It is interesting to note where the new buildings are being constructed; In Elche there are 97 new homes, in Torrevieja - 84, Orihuela -73, Pilar de la Horadada – 46, Guardamar – 23, Rojales – 16, Algorfa 11 and San Fulgencio – 9. Clearly the coastal strip is where the demand for new houses has returned.

Perhaps more interesting is where there are none being built. In Benidorm, no new houses have been started nor are there any new homes in Alicante itself. The same goes for the inland towns of the Vega Baja including; Albatera, Almoradí, Aspe, Hondón, Busot, Bigastro, Castalla, Catral, Cox, Crevillent, Onil, Gata, Pego, Petrer, Pinoso, Rafal, San Juan, Tibi y Xixona. Even in El Campello and Santa Pola. which are tourist destinations, there are no new houses being built.

In Bigastro, there are several areas that were prepared for construction but only one of them has seen any building take place and even there the work stopped several years ago.

The ill fated developments that were started on our estate are now virtual ruins with every conceivable item of any use being stripped out including windows and doors.

I am pleased to say that, at long last, someone seems to be fencing off the two rows of terrace houses that were literally falling down with large cracks appearing in the walls. They had been completed ready for sale along with a communal swimming pool but thankfully nobody bought them because within a short space of time the land around the houses started to fall away and large cracks appeared in the retaining wall. Eventually the wall was taken down leaving the houses standing there on their own.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Some examples

I mentioned fashionable techniques in photography and here are some examples from Flickr:

Untitled-1 This is one where the colours have been exaggerated by the use of HDR and tone mapping.
Untitled-2 For this photo, the photographer used a slow shutter speed which may have been several seconds or even minutes.
Untitled-3 An obligatory lone tree in a landscape.

Fire in Orihuela

A fire broke out yesterday in an area of pine trees and scrub at the foot of the Sierra de Orihuela where the N-340 enters the city. It started at 1:25 pm and took over three hours to put out because of the strong westerly wind. Although it is not certain what started the fire, an explosion in one of Iberdrola’s transformers is thought to be the most likely cause.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The stats look bad

  • The reigning champions, Manchester United, are lying seventh in the Premier League, 18 points adrift of leaders Chelsea after City inflicted the club’s sixth home league loss of the season.
  • This is the first time United have lost so many home games since the 2001-2 season.
  • In nine matches against the Premier League's top five, United have won just once, against Arsenal in November.
  • Last night’s defeat guarantees United will end with their poorest ever points tally in the Premier League era, with their previous lowest being 75.
  • United have now been defeated by their city rivals three consecutive times at Old Trafford in the league for the first time in more than 40 years.

Manchester United supporters have been supportive of the new manager even though this season has proved to be a disaster for the club. However, in the face of a 3-0 defeat by their City rivals, last night they vented their anger at the former manager Sir Alex Ferguson. In the first signs of open revolt at David Moyes, fans furiously questioned Ferguson's decision to appoint the Scot as his replacement. Moyes also receiving verbal abuse from supporters and stewards were asked to guard "The Chosen One" banner that hangs at the stadium's Stretford End.

United have enjoyed a long run of success which you knew would not last forever. However, you could not have predicted such a rapid fall from grace even with a change of manager. 

Football at United is all about making money for the American owners. It is not in their interest to see the team out of lucrative European football nor to see the fans unhappy, many of whom left the game last night before the final whistle.

It comes and blows

Untitled-1Just when you think that the wind has calmed and might remain calm, it picks up again. As you can see, that is what happened last night around 10pm when it was howling around the exposed front of our house. The weird thing is that, when I went outside to check that everything was OK, it was totally calm on the side of the house which faces the road. The wind was coming, as it often does, from Orihuela and the mountains beyond.

Luckily, our bedroom is on the leeward side where the wind was lightest so our sleep was not disturbed. In any case, the wind calmed in the early hours of the morning but has now returned and is set to continue until at least early evening. Tomorrow should be calmer but then the strong wind will return on Friday and continue through Saturday.

The good news for us is that the wind is forecast to change direction to the more protected aspect of our house.

Another one bites the dust

Algorfa had an ambitous plan to build one of the largest shopping malls in the country. The project would have occupied 563,000 square metres of land and provided work for 2,000 people. That was back in 2007 just before the economic crisis hit hard.

The town hall has now given approval for the 1,000,000 euro deposit to be returned to Orishas Trust who will no longer be going ahead with the planned development.

To be honest, even if the crisis had not arrived, the idea of a huge shopping mall in a rural area with only a handful of small towns nearby sounded “ambitious” to say the least. The one at La Zenia made sense because of the density of housing nearby and the relatively easy access by the coast road and the motorway - access to Algorfa is mostly by country roads.

As it happens, we were discussing the topic of ambitious plans during our Spanish lesson yesterday. When money was awash, every town in this area wanted to be bigger and better than their neighbours. They planned and built monuments to their ambition which are now millstones around their necks.

In Bigastro we have the auditorium and multi storey car park that the socialists went ahead with. The car park has never opened and the auditorium is closed for much of the day because the town cannot afford the bills to heat and light it. I believe that the planned shopping mall at Algorfa would have suffered a similar fate. Like Ociopia in Orihuela it would have struggled to survive.

The sad thing is that, whilst towns and the region concentrated their efforts on grand gestures, they neglected the smaller, essential projects. In nearby Rojales, there is a primary school that is literally falling apart. The local children wore hard hats in protest but to no avail. It needs to be demolished and a new school built but there is no longer the money for that.

Instead of squandering money on airports, conference centres and auditoria, Valencia should have been providing cash for projects like that school but of course they would not have gained the same prestige for something small like a new school building.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adolfo Suárez

When the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died on 20 November 1975, nobody predicted the central role that would be played in the country's political development by Adolfo Suárez González, a young bureaucrat of the country's single party, the Falange, or Movimiento. Many expected a bloodbath and only a few hoped that the passage to democracy might be managed through negotiation between the more liberal supporters of the dictatorship and the more moderate members of the opposition. In the event  Suárez led and ensured that transition as Spain's first elected prime minister after Franco, but was not himself able to flourish in the new political environment.

King Juan Carlos joined politicians in parliament on Monday to pay their last respects to Adolfo Suárez who died at the age of 81 on 23 March 2014 after suffering from Alzheimer’s for over 10 years. 

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy and other political leaders stood outside the parliament building as soldiers brought in Suárez's coffin to a slow and solemn drum beat. Flags flew at half-staff as Spain held three days of mourning for one of the key architects of Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s. In his honour, the government announced that Madrid's Barajas airport would now be called Adolfo Suárez, Madrid-Barajas airport.

In the parliament, the king laid a Royal Order of Carlos III gold chain, Spain's highest civilian award, close to the coffin before expressing his condolences to Suárez's family.

Suárez's body lay in state on Monday before a burial on Tuesday in Avila, 60 miles north-west of the capital.

It comes and goes

Untitled-1Yesterday, Pam decided to hang the plates back up on the wall outside the kitchen door – bad move!

Unbeknown to her, the wind was going to pick during the night and rattle those plates on the wall driving us mad. You can see just how quickly that wind increased from the graph – from next to nothing to gusts of 60kms per hour in no time at all.

This pattern of calm followed by strong wind is set to continue for a few days now – the plates can stay off the wall!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A huge improvement

Without wishing to sound critical, the last time we saw the Junior Band in concert they sounded “raw”. Last night though was something different. The Concert for Father’s Day was only short but it was packed with some very interesting music played well by the band. It was small wonder that the director beamed with delight throughout, he was justifiably proud of their achievement.

As we arrived, the new President sought me out to ask if they could still count on my photographs and use them. Of course they can,  it is an honour to provide them with a record of their performances and a suitable way of saying thank you for the pleasure they give with their music.

You can see a small album of my photos by selecting the link in the sidebar.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The British takeover

The Orihuela coast boasts having the largest number of foreign residents in the whole of Spain and most of them are British. The register shows there are 18,834 Brits in Orihuela, 16,645 in Mijas, 13,172 in Torrevieja, 9,083 in Rojales, 8,858 in Javea and 6,364 in San Fulgencio. On the last count there were just 226 in Bigastro, a number that may have fallen since the census was last taken.

When construction began on the coast in the 80s, the houses built were mostly very expensive beachside properties but soon developers saw the potential for lower cost homes to attract the British visitors who wanted to live there. Of the estimated 45,000 who now live on the coast, less than 4,000 are Spaniards.

Since the area lacks a cultural base, the residents introduced their own and have organised events based on familiar events like St Patrick's Day. They have also formed organisations to support charities such as fighting cancer and animal welfare. Of course, many of the shops and bars that you find on the coast are either British owned or are staffed by English speaking Spaniards.

Although there are lessons in Spanish organised for the foreigners who live on the coast, many find it difficult to practice Castilian because when they try the responses they get are in English. That is certainly not a problem that they would find here in Bigastro!

The main complaint that the Brits on the coast make is the lack of facilities provided for them. Quite rightly, they claim to provide a large proportion of the tax revenue for Orihuela but see little in return. They do have their own British councillor but he is just one voice amongst many.  

Catwalk show

Yesterday evening, Bigastro hosted its 4th catwalk show of clothes from local shops. It was due to start at 5:30pm and surprisingly it was only a few minutes late. Pam and I were too late though to get seats and I struggled to even find a place where I could take photos.

The show was in two parts, the first part featured children from almost newborn to teenager. The second half was for older models.

Because we had to stand, by the end of the first half our backs were aching and our legs were numb. I am afraid we can no longer stand for hours on end the way we used to! That meant I only got photos of the children and completely missed the young ladies in beach wear and underwear. I dare say there were some handsome young men that I missed as well. No pasa nada!

As you might expect, there were some cute children involved many who aired confidence beyond their tender years. You can see the full album by clicking on the link in the sidebar but to whet your appetite, here are a few.

KW5D9135 KW5D9143
KW5D9145 KW5D9293

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A bird’s eye view

The Hydrographic Confederation of Segura (CHS) has just completed a project which provides us with a bird’s eye view of the area. They have digitised frames from aerial pictures taken in 1969 of the river Segura between Calasparra and Guardamar del Segura.

To see this you need to go to the web site, click on the tab at the right hand side (GIS viewer) or go directly to the page at Once you are there, it works like Google Maps. Click on the globe icon and select Base Maps to access the 1969 images along with others which date from 1929 to the present day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A good weekend ahead

10011926_290295581124925_798715506_oThis weekend, not only do we have the second instalment of the Tapas Route, there is also a fashion show in the park at 5:30pm on Saturday followed by a concert by the Junior Band at 6:30pm on Sunday.

I’m thinking there will be lots of golden opportunities for a happy snapper like me!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fashion in photography

Most days, after I have posted a picture to Flickr. I have a look at the section on the website entitled Explore – Recent photos. On that page are photos that Flickr has found to showcase for the day. The ones at the start of the page gain the highest acclaim and are visited hundreds if not thousands of times. They also are selected by viewers as “favourites”. 

I have never, to my knowledge, had a picture chosen for this honour (sigh!) even though I am close on three quarter of a million visitors to my photos.

What I find interesting on the Explore page are the fashions that photography goes through. Amongst all the highly competent pictures of birds and pets(there are many) are a smattering of HDR (high dynamic range) landscapes with impossibly overblown skies and over rich colours. It is a sad fact that the technique is overused by some to create unreal photos.

Untitled-2 An example of a picture where water has been rendered smooth by the use of a slow shutter speed.
Untitled-1 An example of the exaggerated colours that you can produce using HDR techniques and tone mapping.
Untitled-3 The obligatory lone tree in a landscape.

Another fashion that seems to prevail on Explore is making long exposures of scenes with water. By placing your camera on a tripod and setting an exposure of seconds or even minutes, it is possible to produce a dreamy effect where moving water is smoothed out to look like mist. With such long exposures, photographers often employ neutral density filters to stay within the aperture range of their lenses.  Waterfalls and jetties reaching out to the sea seem to be the favourite subject for this style of photography.

There are also lots of pictures of lone trees silhouetted against moody skies in black and white and rusting wrecks or dilapidated buildings entangled by weeds.

With millions of pictures being taken every day, it is almost impossible to be original these days and very easy to fall into the trap of employing manipulation techniques to try and produce something stunning out of nothing. The sad fact is that digital photography has almost made it too easy to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

This may sound like sour grapes on my part but it isn’t. I admire those who achieve acclaim when they have been truly creative, I just don’t care for jumping on a bandwagon simply to gain recognition. 

There is good news and bad news

The good news is that a wet spring followed by a sunny summer last year made Spain the top wine producer. Wine production increased by 41% taking it to 50m hectolitres, more than the 42m hectolitres of France and the 47m hectolitres of Italy. Of course, Spain has the largest area of planted vineyards in the world which helps. The lack of efficiency has always held the industry back but that is changing.

Of all the denominations, Castilla-La-Mancha produces half of the country’s wine but La Mancha lags behind the reputation of wines like Rioja and Cava. In fact, my neighbour Pepe, who is an expert on wine, tells me that many of the wines from Ribera del Dura are far better than those from fashionable Rioja. Having tried them, I think he is right.

The bad news is that the wine makers do not know how they are going to sell their product. Six point seven billion bottles of wine is a lot to drink and the domestic market for wine is falling. Eight years ago, Spain consumed more wine than it exported but now it exports twice as much as it consumes. The issue is that young people in the country no longer see wine as fashionable and the international market is very competitive.

Pam and I do our bit to help the economy by drinking wine every evening with our meals. She favours a cold glass or two of rose whilst I sink a couple of glasses of red. I further help the situation by downing a couple of brandies with my coffee. We rarely pay more than 3 euros for a bottle though and my brandy costs less than 6 euros a litre.

Houses under threat

The houses on Babylon Beach at Guardamar are under attack again.

The houses on the seafront at Guardamar are located right next to the beach and as such do not comply with the Law of the Coasts. Strictly speaking, they should be demolished but a concession was made to allow them to stand until 2018. Whether that will be renewed or not is debatable.

1395272229541In any case, the houses are in danger of being torn down, not by the council but by the sea. The recent storms on the coast have forced homeowners to build stone jetties to protect the foundations from being eroded by strong surf. The home made barriers are both an eyesore and at the same time prevent people from walking safely along the beach.

The situation is causing a dilemma for the local council who have now commissioned a study to find out why the sea is gradually encroaching on these properties and what can be done to resolve the problem.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The return of the threepenny bit

_73667988_73667987 The twelve sided threepence coin was in circulation between 1937 and 1971 and was only abandoned when decimal coins were introduced. As children, we grew up with that coin and loved it. Its distinctive shape made it easy to identify even in your pocket. 

The existing circular one pound coin has been around now for 30 years and is increasingly subject to counterfeit. There are an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation. I recall having one once, it was made of soft metal and was rejected by the toll booth at the Mersey Tunnel *.

In a bid to beat the forgers, the Royal Mint have decided to revive the 12 sided design in 2017 with a new one pound coin. They say that it will be the most secure coin in the world and will employ state of the art technologies.

* For my shame, I admit that I did manage to pass it off in a shop.

Not just in Bigastro

The council in Dolores held an extraordinary meeting on the 25th November, 2005 where they voted to urbanise 1,621,950 square metres of rural land to allow building. The project was awarded to San José Inversiones y Proyectos SA Urbanísticos who planned to build 2,600 houses along with a golf course.

At the time, there were 4 councillors who abstained from the vote because they had pecuniary interest in the land. However, it seems that the mayor and two other councillors, who voted in favour, also had interest in the project. The socialists in the town objected but their objection was overruled by the mayor so they took the case to court. Finally, eight years later, the court has ruled that their votes were illegal. Since that meant that there were only five votes in favour out of 13, the decision to award the project to San José Inversiones y Proyectos SA Urbanísticos was invalid.

As it happens, the planned building never went ahead because the company ran out of money. The land is still waiting for a new investor bold enough to continue with the project.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Special concert

1891016_210378225839650_2048956278_nTo celebrate Fathers’ Day, which in Spain is this Wednesday, the Junior Band will be playing a concert on Sunday at 6:30pm. 

A change for the better

British citizens here had every right to feel that they were bring ripped off by the Passport Office. In 2012 the cost of a British passport in Britain was reduced by £5. Not so in Spain, where a 32 page adult passport costs £128 plus the courier fee of £19.86.

That is all set to change though. The Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire, has announced that passport fees will be reduced from next month. From the 7th April the cost of a 32 page passport will be reduced by £45 to £83, children’s passports will be reduced by £28.50 to £53 and 48 page passports will cost £91.

The other change is that applications must now be made via the website and not to Madrid. In other words British residents living in Spain must now make their passport applications online at

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Too dry

We might have enjoyed the dry winter here in southern Spain but it has caused problems for the growers of almond trees. Whilst citrus trees are irrigated by a system of pipes, the almond trees rely on natural irrigation. Without the winter rain, the trees do not come into flower and so there is no crop. Of course, the flowers appear first before the leaves on these trees. 

If you travel to Torremendo where there are swathes of almond trees, you can see that many look to be dead, certainly they are showing no signs of bearing flowers. Our teacher tell us that estimates show 95% of this year’s crop will be lost.

The world in miniature

At the Park of Nations in Torrevieja, the Association of Naval Modelling held their 11th exhibition of radio controlled and static models. Among the 100 boats displayed by 50 modellers was a 3 metre model of the new naval ship, the Juan Carlos.

In the meantime, relations between Torrevieja and Japan are being cemented by the 12th Mediterranean Conference for Bonsai at the Virgen del Carmen Cultural Centre. Apart from the miniature trees and the techniques for creating them, there are planned demonstrations of martial arts, paper folding, flower arranging, plants that accompany bonsai, shiatsu massage, calligraphy and raku pottery techniques.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ferrari Land outside Barcelona

Ferrari-theme-park-to-ope-009 Ferrari has announced plans to open its first theme park in Europe at the PortAventura resort near Barcelona.

Due to open in 2016, the 75,000 metre square Ferrari Land promises to include Europe's fastest and highest vertical accelerator and a 250-room five star hotel in the shape of an F1 front wing.

Andrea Perrone, CEO of Ferrari's branding division, said that after the opening of Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 the luxury sports car manufacturer had received many requests to build new parks around the world.

Perrone said the company welcomed "the opportunity to bring the spirit of Ferrari to Spain, where we have many fans and followers".

The Spanish park will be about a third of the size of the one in Abu Dhabi.

About four million people a year visit PortAventura which is hoping to boost the number to five million once Ferrari Land is built.

The announcement comes as many theme parks across Spain are struggling to cope with decreased domestic demand during the country's economic crisis.

Raúl Valerio Medina and four councillors not guilty

The court number 3 of Orihuela has now archived the case against the socialist councillors, Raúl Valerio Medina, Herminia Juana Ortiz, María del Carmen Grau, María Jesús Torres, María Inmaculada Martínez  and the technician, Carmen María Sánchez. They had been charged with alleged offenses in connection with the judicial inquiry into the redevelopment of a parcel of non-residential  land in sector D-9 which was sold for housing.

The judge ruled that the councillors were simply acting under orders from their leader, Moya and were unaware of the consequences of their vote. The judge also ruled that technician was merely presenting a report and as such had no involvement in the decision made at council.

The other defendants in the case are the former mayor José Joaquín Moya and two technicians. Of them the judge says that Moya was totally aware of his actions as were the former secretary, Antonio Saseta and the technician, Maria Jesús Ferrer.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Oscar Pretorius

As the trial progresses you can sense that Pretorius will eventually be acquitted, not because he did not commit the murder of his girlfriend but because his smart lawyers will pick holes in the testimony of witnesses and cast doubt in the mind of the judge.

There are so many inconsistencies in the story which are made worse by the inept actions of the police. Contaminating the crime scene followed by changes of testimony by expert witnesses could well earn Pretorius the right to walk free.

Like the trial of celebrities accused of sexual assault in Britain, the outcome may not be down to what is right or wrong but by the skill of the defence lawyer.

A touchy subject

The Socialist government in Spain relaxed the abortion laws giving women the right to terminate a pregnancy up to 14 weeks from conception. In cases where the mother’s health was deemed to be at risk or the foetus was suffering from serious abnormalities, that was extended to 22 weeks.

In 2011, Mariano Rajoy pledged to overturn that legislation if he was elected. Now the right wing factions of the PP are pressurising Mr Rajoy to fulfil that promise. The new legislation will mean that only victims of rape or mothers who are at risk will be allowed an abortion and then only with the consent of two doctors. Once it is passed, it will be the most draconian law in relation to abortion anywhere in the world.

I’d rather not discuss the moral issues of whether this change is right or wrong but I would say that it seems to be setting the clock back to a time when women did not have the same rights that they enjoy now. The rights of the unborn child were well rehearsed decades ago and were decided upon then. To return to that era and revisit those discussions seems to me to be a retrograde step.

Let’s face it, having the right to abortion did not mean you had to go ahead with one. Those that were opposed to the idea had the choice; under the new law, those that want an abortion will have no choice.

The move appears to be political suicide for the PP because polls suggest that between 70 and 80 percent of Spanish citizens oppose the change and there are even members of the party who do not approve. One key factor may be the number of women now in the Spanish administration. Under Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero there were equal numbers of men and women (eight and eight), Mariano Rajoy has only half the number of women in his cabinet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Almost ready

After another wonderful week with family and friends, my case is now packed ready to return home this afternoon.

With a couple of hours of video to edit and a book of pictures to prepare for Molly, I will be kept busy on my return. Before I can start on those though I have the pictures from the concert in Bigastro to process. At least I will be kept out of mischief for awhile!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Spoke too soon

One thing you can count on during any trip to Manchester is at least one day of rain. That seems to be today! Luckily, there are no plans for outdoor activity, we still have the giant keyboard that I bought Molly to set up with batteries. Then Molly has a dancing class and later our eldest daughter, Jemma, arrives from Wolves.

With Molly's other grandparents arriving tomorrow in preparation for the party on Sunday, it promises to be a very busy weekend all round.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Spring in the air

Lady Luck must be smiling on us. After all the dreadful weather that the UK has experienced, we have been blessed with mild conditions since arriving in Manchester. Unbelievably, the sun has even shown its face on several occasions.

Today is Molly's 4th birthday and so we were up early to open the many presents and cards she has received. Molly then went off to nursery without a word of complaint. Later, we are scheduled to go to the Trafford Centre where Molly is looking forward to a celebration meal at Yo Sushi.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

It’s Sunday

A day of rest for those who work but no different for those of us who are retired. Don’t forget the concert tonight at 6:30pm, I promise you it will be better than the rubbish on tele.

Tomorrow, Pam and I fly to England for a few days to celebrate our granddaughter’s birthday so things will be quiet on here for the time being.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Nobody will know where to go

How can it be so difficult to decide where a market should be held?

The Tuesday market in Orihuela was moved to the fairground in Los Huertos when the original location was being reformed. The promise was that it would return there when the work was complete.

Last week, we were told that the market would move to Las Monserratinas and the council even went out and painted green lines to show where the stalls would be.

Now the Councillor for markets tells us that it will actually be located at Los Andenes and blames the mix up on a misunderstanding between the Chamber of Commerce and the City.

The change of location will take effect on the 18th March. However, that still leaves the issue of the Saturday market unresolved. It seems that the proposal to move it to the New Bridge does not meet the vendors approval.