Wednesday, April 30, 2014


No wonder we could hear fireworks last night because Real Madrid did the unthinkable and beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final by five goals to nil. They already had a 1-0 lead from the home leg but everyone expected the current holders of the cup to redress that balance back in Munich. 

The Germans had already won their home league in record time and had thrashed Barcelona last year by seven goals to nil in the semi-final of the competition. They were on paper the European team to beat but not anymore.

It might have cost Real £905m in the transfer market to get this far but every Spanish supporter will deem that worthwhile if they win the trophy that has eluded them since 2002.

Ronaldo is unstoppable.

  • This season he has scored 16 goals in European Cup games – two more than any other player before him.
  • He has also scored 33 goals in the Champions League knockout phase – two more than Lionel Messi.
  • His total for this year stands at 48.

Oh how Manchester United fans must wish that Ronaldo had stayed with them, the man just gets better and better each season.

Now, Real Madrid will face either Chelsea or Athletico Madrid in the final in Lisbon and will be hoping to win their 10th European cup. You know, after last night, I rather fancy their chances.



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A sad day for British schools

In 2011/12, 17,520 pupils were suspended or expelled for physically attacking adults in schools and significant numbers of pupils are caught each year carrying weapons. A Sky News investigation found these weapons included guns, a meat cleaver, axes and a cut-throat razor.

What protection is there for teachers and other adults in schools?

Labour introduced powers to allow teachers to search pupils for prohibited items but many are reluctant to apply them probably because of the abuse they would receive.  There is now talk of airport style metal detectors in schools to try and catch those who try to take weapons into the buildings.

The problem is not a new phenomena. In 1985 a deputy head was attacked at a school I taught in. He was called to one of the toilet blocks to deal with two pupils there. When he arrived they attacked him with a meat cleaver, striking him on the head. Although the teacher did not die, he never fully recovered and it took a number of years before the school got over the stigma of the incident. 

Yesterday was a sad day for schools in Britain as it marked the first time that a teacher was killed in the classroom. 



On the attack again

The socialists in Bigastro have called for an extraordinary meeting where they will propose an end to the payment of 100 euros each to PP councillors who take part in the various sub-committees of the council. Since they have the support of People’s Union in this matter, the motion is certain to be passed. According to Raúl Valerio Medina, this will save 5,800 euros of the budget.

Beyond that, the socialists also want representation on various committees to be transferred from the PP to the socialists who Medina says are in a better position to defend the interests of Bigastro. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Great entertainment

Last night’s Gala for United Hands was themed around Eurovision Song Contest hits. The Junior Band kicked things off with instrumental versions of some of the hits. They were followed by local talent miming to the songs. They were very entertaining and clearly had made a great effort to watch videos and work on their routines.

You can see my photos by clicking on the link in the sidebar

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My son-in-law got it right

First of all, he predicted that David Moyes would be sacked the day after United’s defeat by Everton and he was. My son-in-law went on to predict that, having Ryan GIggs as interim manager would spur United on to a 4-0 win against Norwich at Old Trafford.

Giggs promised a return to  passion, speed, tempo, bravery and imagination from United. However, it did take them awhile to get going though and Norwich gave them a run for their money in the first half. In fact Norwich nearly claimed first honours. Sadly for them, a slight push by Ricky van Wolfswinkel on Phil Jones meant the goal was disallowed. From then on, it was United’s day with two goals from Rooney and two from Mata.

Realistically, United will face much stiffer opposition than Norwich before the season is over but if they attack with vigour, the fear that clubs felt when facing United will return.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Object of desire

Those of you with deep pockets, an eye to luxury and a desire to own something unique should look no further.  Leica’s answer to the growing compact system camera market is aimed at those who want to step up from using their mobile phone to take pictures.

The body of the Leica T camera is crafted from a block of aluminium in much the same way that Apple make their MacBook Pro. There are very few dials to worry about, the control is achieved via a 3.7 inch touchscreen at the back.

With the new Leitz Summicron T 23mm f/2 APSH lens, it will set you back £2,700. The case is extra!

What you get is German engineering at its very best. These cameras are largely handbuilt and although the lens is made in Japan, it is not from the Panasonic factory. It is a genuine Leica lens which means it oozes a kind of quality that other manufacturers dream of.

Available to pre-order from Stephens in Manchester. 

Friday, April 25, 2014


Police are investigating the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of euros of funding destined for retraining programmes in the Andalusia region of Spain. Although the investigation is still in its early stages, it is believed that more than 2 billion euros was siphoned off by local officials. 

Regional governors, trade union leaders and employers’ associations worked together to receive the money to run back-to –work schemes which never took place. The companies involved set up the schemes with bogus lists of students and folded before the courses even started. 

In the meantime, unemployment in the region stands at 36%. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Abandoning their dream

The Daily Telegraph tells us that 90,000 Britons left Spain last year. Although the native population grew by 141,361 last year, the total population shrunk from 47,129,783 to 46,725,164.

It is not just Brits who are leaving, Germans and French are leaving as well. It seems that the only nationality to increase their presence are the Chinese.

The reasons for people leaving differ according to age. Whilst younger Brits are having trouble finding work, retirees are faced with changes in their circumstances. Getting older, losing a partner and the rise in the cost of living here are making Spain less attractive for many.

I still believe that the biggest stumbling block for many is the language. Even those who live in ex-pat communities with English shops and bars, have to get to grips with the language to deal with bureaucracy which can be mind numbingly difficult for those with insufficient command of Spanish.

Actually, I have heard of one couple, who owned the house below us, they moved back to Britain and are now looking to return to Spain. The dreadful winter this year has probably made them rethink about the rosy picture of England they had when living here.

When asked, Pam and I always say that we have no desire to return to England but that, if our circumstances change, we may have to reconsider our position. I doubt that we would consider selling up though. Instead we’d possibly rent somewhere in England to spend a little more time there. As it stands, we visit England about four times per year for just over a week on each occasion. After about 8 days in England we are always eager to return to Bigastro.

Benidorm in the future

benidorm-dentro Greenpeace have created photos to show what Benidorm could look like in 2100 if nothing is done to halt climate change.
They say that, without urgent action, there will be a general increase in temperatures between 5 and 8 degrees, a reduction in rainfall and an increase in the intensity and frequency of heat waves.
Their predictions are based on the fact that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as any other place on earth and has lost an area of polar ice three times the size of Spain already. Every centimetre of increase in sea levels equates to a loss of a metre of beach at places like Benidorm. The worst case is that the Arctic melts completely leading to an increase of sea level of 7 metres which would in turn wipe out 700 metres of beach.
Having done the maths, I would have to live to 153 to witness that. Even my youngest daughter would be 118. This is clearly an issue for my grandchildren. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

El Encuentro

For those who missed it and maybe even slept through the fireworks, my 22 minute video of the Encuentro is now available to watch on YouTube at

Summer camps in English

Learning to speak English has become increasingly important to Spanish parents who want to provide the best opportunities for their children. This year there are summer camps organised for those between the ages of 12 and 17 as follows:

Stars Explorers (Alborache) with two editions:
from the 1st to the 8th of July and from
the 8th to the 15th of July
For children born in 2002 up to the age of 14 years.

Summer Camp Benicàssim,
from the 9th to the 16th of July.
For children born in 2000 up tot the age of 17 years.

Summer Camp Teulada-Moraira,
from the 9th to the 16th of July.
For children born in 2000 up to the age of 17 years.

Pyrenean Catalan,
from the 15th to the 29th of July.
For children born in 2002 up to the age of 17 years.

Indiana Adventures - Mountain Range of Cazorla,
from the 15th to the 22th of July.
For children born in 2002 up to the age of 17 years.

Summer Camp Xàtiva,
from the 20th to the 27th of July.
For children born in 2002 up to the age of 14 years.

More Information is available from:
Reservations can be made in the morning from 9am at

Oficina IVAJ.GVA JOVE VEGA BAJA (Edf. PROP- Generalitat Valenciana)
C/ Lopez Pozas, sn ORIHUELA (Alicante)

Many of the children in Bigastro can speak a little English but have very few opportunities to practise the language. Others, who are more competent, feel embarrassed about making mistakes.   Without regular use, their ability to communicate in our native tongue is severely hampered. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Did we wake you?

It was early doors for me yesterday. The alarm went off at 6:15 but it needn’t have bothered because I was already awake. By 7am I was down in the Plaza de Constitución with my video camera ready to film the Encuentro.

4823318528-3948858 As the clock struck 7:15, it all started with the statue of Mary leaving the church, then it was the turn of Jesus. Each was processed along their respective routes until they met up on Calle San Pascual – Jesus arrived first followed by Mary in her widows weeds.

As she saw her son had arisen, the black cloak was removed, she was given a silver corona and the fireworks started.

The two were then taken back to the church via Calle Purisima. At the corner of Calle 1 de Mayo, both were showered with rose petals. As they approached the pathway down to the Plaza de Constitución, there were flares either side to welcome them.

Then there was another salvo of fireworks as the two were taken back into the church. At 8:15, is sat down outside the VaiVen for a smoke and then returned home.


Some of the few photos I took to use in my video.


4702633984-4956532  4708204544-5140097
4719673344-7883177  4768006144-5931053
4782358528-6710115 4797235200-6211585

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is it all about the sweets?

Those of you who have visited different towns for the Easter parades will have noticed unique differences between them. In Cartagena, for example, the parades are more solemn and there are no sweets to give out to the children who go to watch. In Orihuela though, the cofrades hand out sweets all along the route.

You can see the bulging bags of candy hidden beneath the cloaks of the nazarenes as they pass by. Children jostle to be at the front where they stand (or sit) with open carrier bags hoping to collect as many sweets as they can. Inevitably, the children who are taking part seek out their friends on the route to favour with large handfuls. Everybody gets something though ranging from sugary confection to boxes of chocolates and other gifts.

Today is the general procession in Orihuela where all the cofradias with the exception of the brotherhoods of Silence and  Good Death will parade.

The ones taking part will have visited Beumut brothers in the district of San Francisco to stock up on sweets for tonight. The owners say that, even in this time of crisis, they have sold between 40 and 50,000 kilograms of sweets. You know that is an awful lot of tooth rotting sugar to hand out! 

Viva la diferencia

Looking further into the issue of driving licenses, it is interesting to make some comparisons between the UK and Spain.

When I first took my driving test, I was given a full paper license that would last me until I was 70. The only reason to change it would have been if I changed address or lost the original.

Things are different now that the UK issues card licenses. These have to be renewed every 10 years (or five years in some cases)  with a new photo at a cost of £20. Once you reach 70 though there is no fee.

To renew a UK license, you need a valid passport, your old license, your address or addresses for the last 3 years, your National Insurance number and the application can be made online using a credit or debit card. It is slightly different if you are over 70. There is no medical test nor aptitude test to be taken.

Here in Spain, if you speak to three different people, you will hear three different tales. Go online to research the topic on British forums and you will be equally confused.

The official line for licenses to drive a car is that, up to the age of 65 you get a ten year license. After that, you get a maximum of five years which can be reduced to three years if you get more than 17% fails in the test. If you have other classes of vehicles on your license, they will have different terms.

The cost of renewal up to the age of 70 is 23.20 euros plus the fee for the test which in my case was 35 euros. After 70 there is no fee but of course you will still be charged for the test.

A cautionary tale

Jim Ryder, who lives on our estate, called at my house yesterday to pass on this tale so that others may benefit from his shocking and expensive experience.

In February Jim found that he had no water to his house. Since this is a relatively common occurrence here, he wasn’t unduly concerned. However, after a couple of hours he checked with his neighbour who told him that his water supply was fine.

The next day, Jim went out to the box in the street to find a note from the water company telling him there was a leak somewhere on his property. To stop any further loss, they had turned his water off. Turning it back on confirmed the diagnosis, the meter was spinning as Jim says “like a propeller blade”. This was a mystery because there was no signs of a water leak anywhere in his property and the pressure in the house seemed fine.

Jim therefore called out a builder who was able to detect the leak 600mm beneath the paving stones just inside his property. With the leak repaired, he was able to turn the water back on. However, it was three days later that the real shocker came with a water bill of 6,730.67 euros for a total of 2,483 cubic metres of water that had been lost. To put this into perspective, that amount of water would fill almost  52 8x4m swimming pools at an average cost of 2.71 euros per cubic metre*.

Jim emailed the company but received no reply. He then went to their offices in Orihuela several times and even showed them proof that he wasn’t in Spain when the problem occurred. After much pleading, they finally agreed to reduce the bill to 4,264 euros which they said he must pay.

Jim has asked me to pass on his story, not in an attempt to garner sympathy but rather as a cautionary tale to others to check their water meters and to turn the water off OUTSIDE the property if they are going to be away for any length of time. As Jim says, it would be better if the water board supplied us with the triangular key needed to open the box to do this but you can still manage it with a pair of fine nose pliers.

The other twist to the tale is, because Jim had originally stopped the payment of the bill from his bank, he would have been placed on a bad debtors list. Since he has now agreed to pay the reduced amount, his name will be removed from that list.   

*In Spain, the more water you consume, the higher the charge per cubic metre you pay. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Keep your eye on it

I knew that my driving license was due for renewal this year and was expecting a reminder from Trafico to tell me when. Unfortunately that reminder never came and my license ran out on the 16th March. I spotted it quite by accident a few days late and hot footed down to one of the clinics in Torrevieja that undertake the tests needed to renew licenses.

It seems the rules have changed since Pamela renewed her license in 2012. If you wear glasses, you now have to provide an up to date prescription for them. Having had my eyes tested in March, I had that to hand. However, what I didn’t have was an up to date resident’s card and that was a further requirement.

Pam and I completed our residency application in 2005 by visiting the police station in Alicante and  were given temporary cards which lasted until 2010. These had our photos on them and so could be used for payments with credit and debit cards in shops.

In response to a EU directive, Spain dropped the identity cards for foreigners and introduced a certificate instead which did not have a photo on it. Since, all of our bank cards are now “chip and pin”, the need for identification to pay for goods has all but gone. We saw little point in renewing the residency cards until now.

The requirements to obtain a resident’s card have changed. You now need the following:

  • Application form EX-18 filled in. You can pick this up from National Police stations or download it from the Government web site.
  • A valid passport along with a copy of it.
  • A valid certificate from the town hall to show that you are registered on the padron.
  • Proof that you have either medical insurance or entitlement to free health care in Spain (form E121 or E160).
  • Proof that you have sufficient monthly income in Spain to support yourself.
  • A form to show that you have paid the relevant tax for your application (the National Police station provides this for you to take to the bank and make payment).

We exchanged our Form E121s for medical cards back in 2007 but fortunately still had the certificates from the INSS office in Orihuela that confirmed our entitlement. I had to explain that, in my case, the original entitlement was by virtue of dependency. Once Pam reached 60, she had her state pension and the right to free medical care. At the same time, I was classed as a dependant and given the same entitlement. When I reached 65, I got my own E121 but by that time did not need it because I already had a pensioner’s medical card.

Although the bank gave us certificates to show the state of our bank accounts, I knew that would not be enough so I printed out copies of the pension payments into our accounts. That was fortunate because the clerk at the Police Station in Orihuela seemed to want those. I explained, in my best Spanish that we had three pensions, one which was paid into a joint account and our state pensions that are paid into separate accounts. There is obviously a minimum you need each month and we seemed to have passed that.  

The good news was that, after an intense half an hour or so*, we were given permanent resident’s cards which meant I could go down to the clinic in Torrevieja and take the driving test.

Since I have no desire to drive vans, I simply took the test to drive a car. A few simple questions; did I take medicine?, had I had an operation?, did I smoke? and did I drink alcohol? and then it was time to take the little test.

For those who haven’t done this I will explain what is involved.

It is like a computer game. On the screen are two black rectangles on two narrow white lines. They are meant to represent cars on different roads. You have two hand controls which you rotate to control the rectangles and the idea is to keep both the “cars” on their respective roads as they twist and turn independently.

I don’t know about others but I found trying to watch both at the same time and steer them separately a challenge. Inevitably, as you concentrate on one, the other goes off the road and the machine beeps at you. Apparently, you should not worry about short beeps but try and avoid longer ones that show the car has stayed off the road.  

After two attempts, I succeeded in scoring well enough to get a five year extension to my license which at my age is the maximum. I reckon, if I had more practice at the test or if I was an ardent computer gamer, I could have done even better but that is not reality!

* The clerk at the police station was not the most friendly Spaniard we have met. To be fair it was 6pm, the room was warm and his computer was very slow to respond. He shuffled between the various papers comparing one with the other until he was satisfied. My application took the longest because I faced all the questions. Pam’s was over in a matter of minutes. Oh and by the way, he spoke no English at all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stalemate in Bigastro

It is clear that the opposition groups in Bigastro are in a position to outvote the governing PP group on every proposal by sheer weight of numbers. Although Aurelio Murcia agreed with the PP proposal to award the contract for the pool and restaurant at La Pedera, both he and the socialists voted against it. Even with two PSOE councillors missing, they still won the day 6 votes to 5.

Murcia says that, even though he had asked for meetings to be held in the afternoon because he has to work now, the meeting was scheduled for 9:30am. Both he and Raúl Valerio Medina for the socialists  say that, whilst the present mayor shows  such intransigence and remains out of touch, they will vote against her.

Voting against proposals that they agree with might seem to be crazy but that is the name of the game now in Bigastro politics.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lemons for free

I have picked many of the lemons from our trees and as per usual we have more than we can use. If anyone would like some lemons, please call at our house with a carrier bag and take as many as you wish. We have all sizes ranging from normal to footballs. The large ones tend to have thick skins but still produce a lot of juice.

Palm Sunday

Under a blue sky and a warm sun, hundreds of bigastrense gathered in the park for the blessing of the palms yesterday morning. The procession from the church arrived on time and the parish priest gave his blessing. From there they left to return to the church taking a tour around the town. Once back at the church, there was holy mass.

As I said the other day, many of the townsfolk were out in their Sunday best ready to be seen. As you might expect though, it was the beautifully dressed children who stole the show and drew the greatest attention. Spanish people do dress their children well for these sort of occasions and spend a lot of money on the clothes they wear.

You can see my pictures from the day by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

Calling all spies

The people who were installing the fibre optic cable came and went. I last saw a large drum of the stuff on Calle Canada Andrea so I assume that the cable ran all the way up there but where to? Certainly, it wasn’t taken to the boxes in the street which makes me wonder if there is a mini exchange at the top of the main street which distributes the connection to the boxes in the road and from there to the houses.

I guess if nobody knows, we will just have to wait and see what the next development is.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

English cinema

I am passing this on for those who are interested in the English cinema at Pilar de la Horadada.

Hello to everyone who might be interested

At long last definite progress and films booked from and including 24th April.

Tickets will be available in the Library from Monday the 14th of April,Tuesday, 15th, Wednesday, 16th and Friday, 18th during library hours 10.00 to 13.00 . They are NOT available on THURSDAYS.

The following week they will be available on the Tuesday, 22nd,  Wednesday, 23rd and Friday, 25th. Thereafter, on the following Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays until beginning of June unless the Library is closed for fiestas.

Also tickets can be bought in the Duplex (old cinema) in Pilar on Thursdays and Fridays between 19.00 to 21.00 and at the door when the films are being shown.

Further information

I am glad to announce that cinema in English is starting soon.

As we have not achieved an enough number of people interested in being a member of Cine Club, we have thought to stablish a bonus system.

If you are interested in seeing films in English, you can:

1. Buy a bonus for 8 films (30 €).

2. Buy a bonus for 4 films (17 €).

3. Buy a single ticket the day you go to see a film (5 €).

A bonus is not specific for a single person, that is to say, with the same bonus you can go with other people and we would stamp as many boxes as people coming to watch the film. The bonus will be available on Thursdays and Fridays at the Theatre Dúplex from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The English cinema will be opened on Thursdays at 7 p.m. the following days:

- April, the 24th : Captain Phillips.

- May, the 8th : The Hobbit.

- May, the 15th: The physician.

- May, the 22nd: Diana.

- May, the 29th: 12 years a slave.

- June, the 5th: We’ re the Millers.

- June, the 12th: Superman. Man of Steel.

Yesterday at the Metro Club, Bigastro


Judging by these photos taken from Facebook, it looks like the people who went to the Metro Club in support of the Alzheimer's Association in Bigastro had a great time. 

603634_621701561237824_4162372066200328316_n 10257842_621701604571153_3894798030960921451_n
1526680_621600354581278_9203658489522469267_n 10255669_621600447914602_865319655929595536_n
10259743_621600424581271_39652047752232195_n  1977174_621610084580305_8912526739792434612_n
 1554603_621610147913632_3536690971377658217_n   10176159_621610111246969_1972089754885708293_n
 10254018_621616717912975_3680819430503123803_n  10171880_621616644579649_3521806108077307388_n

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Always the threat of rain

Holy Week began last night in the streets of Orihuela with the procession of the Brotherhood of Sorrows accompanied by the band of cornets and drums from Desamparados. This procession is unique in that it is the only one which has people taking the parts of Veronica and Jesus.

Shortly before 9 pm the brothers were looking nervously at the sky and sensibly covered their paso with plastic. The threat of rain continued throughout the procession from the church of Santas Justa y Rufina to the hermitage on the Carretera de Arneva. There were even bolts of lightening as they got to the half way point.

It does not seem to matter whether Easter is late or early, there is always the threat of bad weather which can cause a cancellation of the parades. Some of the parades can be postponed until the next morning but in most cases, they are simply cancelled leaving the people concerned with a year’s work for nothing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A day to be seen

The 1th April is Domingo de Ramas or Palm Sunday as we know it. At 11:30am there will be a short service in the park followed by mass in the church. As in past years, hundreds of local people will turn out in the park but only a fraction of them will then enter the church for the full service.

This is as much a fashion show as it is a religious occasion because what we will see is the townsfolk dressed up in their Sunday best with their children in expensive new clothes. For those who want to compete in this fashion parade, a trip to Primark or even Zara will not suffice. For Domingo de Ramos they need to visit somewhere like  El Corte Inglés and buy the best they can afford.

In addition, many of the children will have palm decorations elaborated with ribbons and flowers to match the colour of their clothes. It is very much an occasion to show off and be seen by others.

Those of you who go down to the Plaza de la Constitución can expect to observe envious glances, false smiles and hear many comments made about the styles on show. Some will be bold and daring, others more restrained and classical. Whatever the style, all will be judged.  It will be a fascinating occasion for those who love people watching.

The dog toilet

Yesterday, the mayor of Bigastro replied to to the comments made by the socialist spokesman regarding the work needed on Calle Acequia. She says that technicians from the  provincial authority and the Juzgado de Aguas de Orihuela  have visited the area and produced reports that highlight the cause of the problem. The estimated cost of repairs comes to 300,000 euros, so an application has been made to the Diputación de Alicante for assistance.

Charo Bañuls went on to say that the problem dates back to the previous socialist council who were only prepared to pave the pathway. She also refutes the claims that the council have paid large sums in compensation. Bañuls  says that they only paid 200 euros in one case and 150 in another, a third case was won but there was no payment to be made.

However, one comment made by Raúl Valerio Medina in yesterday’s paper was certainly true. The entrance to the closed pathway from Calle Maestro Chapi is covered in dog faeces, literally hundreds of them.  Pam and I were down there yesterday and saw that for ourselves. It is both disgusting and a health hazard. Once can only assume that owners of dogs from the nearby flats and houses take them there to use as a toilet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter in Bigastro


This is the Easter programme for Ntra. Sra. de Belén church in Bigastro.

Easter in Bigastro

Let's look at the weather prospects for Easter. In the past we have had everything from glorious sunshine to pouring rain and thunderstorms which have stopped the parades during holy week.
Untitled-1 Untitled-2

Palm Sunday (this coming Sunday - the 13th) looks fine as does Good Friday. There could be a little rain though for the Encuentro on Easter Sunday.

Flooded basements

Untitled-1 When Bigastro was a sleepy little town, rain water would have run down the streets and across to the market garden. Once the by pass road was built and housing sprung up on vacant land, they built a canal in the subsoil which is called the Alquibla. In times of heavy rain though, the canal overflows affecting neighbouring properties. This happens about five times a year. flooding garages and underground storage areas.

There have been claims and court convictions against the council since 2011 and over a dozen more are being prepared. Already the council has had to agree payment of 166.88 euros to one neighbour and 856.36 to another to cover the damage to their properties.

The canal affects Calles Murillo, Acequia, Goya and Moreal. This is the reason why the footpath on Calle Acequia was closed two years ago, there is a danger of it collapsing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A “quack” arrested in Bigastro

Police have arrested a man in Bigastro who was offering his services as an osteopath and physiotherapist from his home. Although there were certificates and diplomas on the wall of his consulting room, none of them were legally issued by competent organisations in Spain. Upon his arrest, the man acknowledged that he was not qualified but claimed that his methods were based on the application of natural medicines and physiotherapy.

This is the second time that the man has been arrested for working in this way.

Estefanía Soriano Ballester operates a fully legal practice in Bigastro at the Clinica de Fisioterapia on Calle Moreal. Pam goes there regularly and can therefore testify just how good she is.

No love lost in Bigastro

Disputes between the opposition and the government team in Bigastro continue as Aurelio Murcia reproaches his former partner Charo Bañuls for hiring a new concierge.

Some time ago the council dismissed 30 of its workers under Expediente de Regulación de Empleo (ERE) and was taken to court. They ended up having to pay compensation to 20 of the sacked workers. Cases for the remainder are ongoing.

Specifically, Murcia complains that a) the new worker is the brother of a member of Bañuls family and so is related to the mayor b) the position was for a concierge in the auditorium and sports centre but the person hired is working in the health centre taking the place of a disabled employee who was dismissed c) the recruitment did not follow regulations because the hired person had not demonstrated their merit above others and d) hiring new staff in municipalities facing debt is forbidden.

Since the town is negotiating for the readmission of the disabled employee, Murcia says they could end up having to pay two salaries for the same post.

There is no love lost between the political parties in Bigastro. The socialist leader is facing charges in court set out by the PP, the liberals now make further accusations of the PP. It is only the socialists and the liberals that seem to be getting on with each other – at the moment that is!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

More acceptable these days

Ask the locals about the original opinion they had of Villas Andrea and they will tell you two things; 1) the initial price of houses on the estate was way too high and 2) the Brits who bought them did not seem to want to integrate into the community.

1) When we bought our houses, we were largely at the mercy of the companies that brought us here on inspection trips. We had no real idea of the price we should have paid and the price that Spaniards would have been prepared to pay. All we knew was that, in comparison with similar houses back in the UK and those in estate agents windows they seemed reasonable.

I can tell you that my neighbour, across the road in a much larger house on a plot of land three times that of ours, paid a similar price to us.

2) When we first came to live in Bigastro, the community of Brits on the estate formed a resident's committee. One of the tasks of that committee was to fight for our rights as a community which, on reflection, probably made us seem aloof. We also organised our own entertainment at La Pedrera which must have given locals the impression we were set on recreating the scene they had observed along the coast here in Bigastro. On the coast, the Brits have their own bars, shops and associations, separate from anything Spanish.

Within a few years, the committee was dissolved and people started to become more involved in the local community.  No longer are we seen as Brits trying to recreate a part of our old country in the sun.

In terms of house prices, we have all seen the dramatic reduction that has taken place since 2007. Surveys show a drop of 52.5% in value for properties in this region, a figure that compares badly with an average of 47.1% for the whole of Spain. The major factor has been the lack of mortgages as banks struggled to cope with huge debts. The average value of properties is now said to be 928 euros per square metre of construction. Since most properties are flats, we can add to that figure for the land surrounding our houses.

Monday, April 07, 2014

We could be high speed surfers

Some time ago, my neighbour told me that the telephone system in Bigastro was being upgraded with fibre optic cable but of course you can never believe these things until you actually see them happen. This morning, there were people laying new cable on the road to the estate. One of our neighbours asked them what it was and he was told it was fibre optic cable to provide us with a 100Mb connection.

I checked with Movistar who could not confirm plans to upgrade the line so I put in a request on their site for a fibre optic connection. They will apparently keep me informed when it is possible to upgrade. When it comes, there will be a price increase for those who opt for the higher speed. For those who simply send a few emails and read the newspapers online, it will not be worth it. However, for those who  play online games or stream video, the increased speed will be worthwhile.

How will they connect us?

Those of you who are tech. savvy will know that there are a number of possible ways to install fibre optic cable.

By far the best method is to change the cable all the way from the exchange right into your house (FTTP – fibre to the premises). You then have a faceplate installed which connects the new cable to a supplied fibre optic router. As you might expect, this is the most expensive option.

The simpler and more common way is to lay fibre optic cable to the boxes in the road and leave the existing copper cable from there to your house as it is (FTTC – fibre to the cabinet). The speed you achieve by this method very much depends upon the length of that copper cable. Even still, the speeds will be a lot greater than those achieved with ADSL2+ and much faster than those with plain old ADSL.

Either way, we will need new modems to work with fibre. The original routers supplied by Telefonica won’t even support the 10Mb that we are currently allowed. I don’t know about here but in Britain you get a one port modem which is of little use to most people. Fortunately, you can connect the modem to a router using an ethernet cable but  the bad news is that not all routers will work with fibre.

A few years back I bought a Billions BiPak 7800N which is one of those listed to work with fibre. You need to check with the manufacturer of your router to see if it will work.

Of course, if you happen to have a VDSL2 modem/ router like the BiPak 8200N then you don’t even need the supplied modem – you can have a one box solution.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Plenty to smile about

KW5D9683At the concert yesterday, our invited director, D.Diego Carrillo Soler, performed with the band for the first time.

With just 15 days to prepare for the task, this was a real test of his ability to pull the band together. We are delighted to say that he proved more than capable of facing the challenge.

The programme included:

Bocetos del Caucaso I Ivanovc

Estampas de Iberia F. Grau

Microtopia B Appermont

and finally the Himno de la Comunidad Valenciana.

A long, long day

Pam and I were up early to go and watch the band competition. As I have previously said, there were 6 bands taking part followed by our own band finishing off.

We anticipated a lot of interest in both sessions and were certainly right about the second one which started at 5pm. By the end of that session, the auditorium was packed with folks standing in the aisles.

Each of the bands played a set piece, Fantasia para banda so we heard that six times but each time was different. The bands then played a pasadoble followed by another work of their own choice. There were some interesting choices ranging from those that were easy to listen to to those that included discord. The bands also showed their individual strengths, in percussion, woodwind or brass and of course, they featured solo parts by their choice musicians.

In the end we were not sure who had won because of the uproar by the members of the bands who had gathered in the auditorium for the results. Actually, they all received plaques from the town hall for taking part but we think it was the band from Aspe that came first.  

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The programme

971315_564898650291399_1833106612_nThis is the programme for the bands that are taking part in the competition today. 

Classy ladies

You can always count on Ladies’ Day at Aintree Races to provide some amusing pictures of scousers having fun.  
article-2596282-1CD5C88600000578-272_964x637 article-2596282-1CD435A600000578-888_964x630
Didn’t they not know the photographer was from the press?
Cava from the bottle – that is classy
article-2596282-1CD592EC00000578-474_470x665 article-2596282-1CD4379700000578-401_470x811
Where do you look first?
Maybe not the best choice of outfit
article-2596282-1CD664DE00000578-287_964x556 article-2596282-1CD4386800000578-571_964x640
Too many drinks girls!
A little worse for wear
article-2596282-1CD6020800000578-516_964x759  article-2596282-1CD6659900000578-315_470x730
There was a lot on show at Aintree
Look at my spray tan

Friday, April 04, 2014

Changes to the polling stations

20140404_mesasI’m not sure whether we are eligible to vote in the forthcoming European elections. Those that are though should take note of the changes to polling stations for some areas in Bigastro.

The dangers of outdoor sex

A young couple met at  an el botellon party in Cuidad Real on Friday night and decided to go for a bit of “rumpy pumpy”. Having found a quiet corner, they started to get on with the job but unknown to them, their actions dislodged a well cover. The young lady fell into the well where she stayed trapped for half an hour. The young man quit the scene but may have called the police to ask for assistance.

The half naked young lady was taken to hospital where she was treated for hypothermia and shock, the police are still searching for the young man.

Moral of the story: ladies; if you are keen on indulging in some al fresco sex, check out the area first and choose a partner with a moral conscience.

The driving force

The driving force behind the recovery in Valencia is tourism. Last year 22.6 million foreigners visited the region, this year 23.6 million are expected - a rise of 11.5%. As an example, in February there were more than 539,000 visitors, an increase of 14% over the previous year.

Tourism accounts for 13.4% of GDP and provides employment for 270,000 people.  

The case goes on

The case against the former mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina continues as 25 neighbours from Bigastro are summoned to testify in court.

The allegation, made by the current mayor Charo Bañuls, is that these people were allowed to get away with not paying local taxes for their property and vehicles. There is apparently no record of any agreement or resolution at council that justifies their non payment and therefore the former mayor is charged with malfeasance, misappropriation of public funds, fraud and illegal exaction (whatever that is). 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The controversial e-cigarette

Wales has decided to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places, why? They say that it is in a bid to encourage smokers to quit altogether but is that realistic? As it stands, there is no law banning the use of these devices although most airlines do say you cannot use them on their planes.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine suspended in a propylene glycol solution. A battery is used to vaporise the solution thus giving off the nicotine. Apart from the nicotine shot, there is also a puff of white smoke which is akin to that used in theatres. Without the tar and other toxins produced when tobacco is burnt, they are healthier for the smoker. There is also evidence to show that there is no harmful effect on others who sit by someone using an e-cigarette.

Of course, there is not enough evidence to show that these things are not harmful in some way but at least they are infinitely less harmful than cigarettes and are a good way to quit smoking -a percentage of people who switch to e-cigarettes eventually give up the habit altogether.

I haven't tried them myself but I did once buy nicotine patches. I went for the strongest ones available in the hope that they would make my journey on planes more endurable.

First issue, I waited until I got to the airport to apply the patch – big mistake! The patches come in packets that need to be opened with scissors. After a real struggle, I did manage to open the packet and applied the patch. Perhaps by then it was too late because I will still craving for my pipe all the way back to Spain and as soon as I got out of the airport, I ripped the patch off and lit up.

The main fear surrounding e-cigarettes is that they may become fashionable amongst non- smokers and particularly amongst the young. For me though, this is just another example of the nanny state hoping to protect us from ourselves.

The big issue for governments is of course tax. In the UK, more than 75 per cent of the cost of a packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes goes in tax – compared with 20 per cent VAT on an e-cigarette. Smokers are realising that they can get the equivalent of a £7.75 pack's worth of nicotine from an e-cigarette costing as little £1. It is inconceivable, with a market for a new drug delivery device on this scale, that governments will resist the opportunity to raise extra tax. Once they have done that, they may decide e-cigarettes are not such a bad thing after all.

Positive signs

The March unemployment figures in the province fell for the first time in five years. There were 4,674 new jobs which, added to the 5,223 in February, means that there were nearly 10,000 jobs created in just two months. In the last 12 months, the number of unemployed in the province reduced by 14,912 or 6.46%. However, there are still 215,418 unemployed people which means there is a way to go yet but at least the signs are positive. The largest gains were made in service industries where the jobs were mostly temporary contracts rather than permanent ones. 

We should take heart from these figures which shows that Spain is slowly getting back on its feet and recovering from the gloom of 2008/9.

No worries about parking

1531535_294311287390021_1503293523_nFor those going to the Music Competition on Saturday because the multi-storey car park will be open all day from 8 am.

Your only problem will be finding a seat because with so many bands taking part, there will be a lot of interest. Remember it starts at 10am. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The real deal


Two historians have identified this goblet as the true holy grail, the chalice that Christ supposedly sipped from at the last supper.

In their book, Margarita Torres from León University and José Manuel Ortega del Rio, say that their three year study of parchments from Cairo's University of al-Azhar show that the upper part of this cup is the most prized object in Christianity.

The goblet of the Infanta Doña Urraca, daughter of Fernando I, King of León from 1037 to 1065, was originally given as a peace offering by the emir of a kingdom in this Muslim part of Spain.

Made of agate, gold and onyx encrusted with precious stones, this is kept at the San Isidoro basilica in León, housed in a small room. Because of the great interest, the curators are looking for a larger space to house it.

No wonder neither Harrison Ford nor the Nazis found the holy grail, they were looking in the wrong country!

They have reached stalemate

The socialists in Bigastro are complaining that the mayor, Charo Bañuls, ignores discussion on their motions to council by simply leaving them out of the agenda for meetings. They claim that seven motions put forward by them have been struck off including those that deal with the modification of taxes and fees. They conclude it is because the mayor knows she would be outvoted by the socialists and the liberals on these sort of issues (they have 8 votes to her 5).

Bañuls  has used reports by the secretary, which show any reductions in taxes and fees would not be possible in the present economic climate, to prevent even a discussion of these issues. However, the socialists counter this by saying that one of their proposals, to use the money saved by expelling the liberal councillors from the governing team to help pay the IBI for needy families, would come at no cost.

The socialists have initiated proceedings in court regarding this issue and will, as a matter of course, oppose all proposals by the PP at council meetings. That means, unless the two UNPLC councillors decide to vote with the PP, nothing will get passed at council meetings. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Nice ones

Did you spot my April Fool’s joke regarding the change of names for the streets on our estate? I hope you didn’t hot foot down to the bank to notify them of your new address!!

In the English papers, Scottish independence was the butt of April Fool’s jokes.

The Mail showed us the new Union Jack without the St Andrew’s cross:

Banishing the blue: How the new Union Jack will look, according to secret Government documents

Banishing the blue: How the new Union Jack will look, according to secret Government documents

Iconic: The flag that has been famous for more than 200 years


A big clue to the lack of authenticity to the story came if you looked at the first letters of the ten key facts.

  • A hand sewn Union Jack contains 27 pieces of material.
  • Poles should be at least four times the length of the longer edge of the flag.
  • Red, white and blue were combined to form the current flag in 1801.
  • In 1606, after James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, it was known as the Flag of Britain.
  • Legislation decrees that the flag should be flown from state buildings on designated dates.
  • Flagmakers has been making flags since 1837, when Victoria came to the throne.
  • Opinion is divided over whether to call it a Union Flag or Union Jack. Both are correct.
  • Only the Royal Standard flies at Buckingham Palace when the Queen is in residence. The Union Flag flies when she is not.
  • Legend assigns symbolism to the colours – red: valour; white: peace, honesty; blue: loyalty.
  • St Andrew’s cross was used as a hex sign to stop witches flying down Scottish chimneys.

The Guardian got in on the joke with this very clever story about changes to the road system in Scotland:

Scottish nationalist leaders will attempt this week to give the trailing yes campaign a boost by revealing a series of measures aimed at showing what an independent country would look like.

Seeking to capitalise on the arguments this week about "bullying" England and keeping the pound, they will unveil an ambitious scheme to scrap the current – English inspired – road signage system. M for motorway will be replaced with a new S – for Scotland and the A trunk roads will become N roads – for Nationalist in honour of the new country. Blue will be the predominant backing colour.

The scale of the scheme is enormous: Scotland has 2,174 miles of road, including the 273-mile long A9 stretching from Edinburgh to John O'Groats – known as the "spine of Scotland".

It is estimated that 58,000 signs will have to be replaced – scrapping the famous road sign font known as "Transport" with a new Celtic-tinged typeface, Proclaimer. And it could be that they may take the opportunity to renumber all of Scotland's roads, beginning at one.

Independence strategists are believed to have sought advice on the plan from the Stirling University professor of transport semiotics, Lana Gocaireachd. "It's exciting, it gives us a clear difference from the English and is a tangible manifestation of a new, vibrant and independent national," said one official close to the scheme. "A more conscious uncoupling, perhaps."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he revealed that if the proposals were seen to swing the needle towards the yes camp then the next stage would be revealed: switch driving on the left of the road to the right – from the first day of independence in 2017.

April fool Scottish independence roadRoad names will change to reflect independence, with M (motorway) becoming S (Scotland) and A roads becoming N roads (nationalist). Photograph: Stephen Finn/Alamy

To ease the transition, Scottish transport planners, under strict conditions of secrecy, have begun drawing up plans for a series of spiral interchanges at the major border transport nodes. These will transition drivers to the correct side of the road – whether travelling south–north or north-south – and avoid cross-border crashes – "a PR disaster worse than horsemeat in haggis", according to one planner.

The campaigners take their inspiration from what Sweden – a much larger country than Scotland – was able to do in a single weekend in September 1967. Adopting the Swedish model, Scotland would need all signs ready, an intensive information campaign, and temporary speed restrictions. Backers say it would be more than symbolic – it would let Paris, Berlin and Brussels know that Scotland was serious about an EU role.

"It sends out an explicit signal: we are part of Europe," said one of the brains behind the scheme. "The little Englanders who want out of Europe are the only ones driving on the left-hand side. We've been the smaller relative dominated and having to copy their ridiculous ways for too long. No more. Just think, this will be an indignity for little England – isolated in Europe and pootling along in the slow lane on the left," he added.

They are concerned, however, that opponents of the move to the right might mobilise under the emotive slogan: "Proud to be left."

Some fear that when the plans go public, the charismatic MP George Galloway would not be prepared to stand on the sidelines but would launch his own appeal: "Stay left, hard left."

It is understood that another proposal involving traffic light sequencing has been rejected. Instead of red, amber, green, it would have become red, amber, blue. But there was a fear that this would be adopted south of the border by the Conservatives and so lose any distinctiveness.

And finally, the Independent came up with this story:

The United Nations is drawing up plans for a peacekeeping mission to monitor cross-border tensions in the event of a Yes vote for Scottish independence, The Independent can reveal.

Senior UN officials in New York and Geneva are understood to have begun exploring a “last resort” intervention following the refusal of the main Westminster parties to share the pound with an independent Scotland and polls showing rising support for separation north of the border.

Sources within the UN said they were concerned that souring relations between London and Edinburgh in the wake of a victory for SNP leader Alex Salmond could encourage “hotheads” on either side of the border to stoke tensions and seek confrontation.

One scenario being taken seriously is pre-arranged “face-offs”, modelled on the film Braveheart, between rival militias who it is feared could travel to towns such as Gretna Green and Berwick-upon-Tweed for weekend showdowns.

There are also concerns that the days leading up to independence will provoke a sudden exodus of economic migrants either from England to Scotland or vice versa depending on which country is perceived to have the highest chance of future prosperity.

Under the UN plans, reception centres will be set up in Dumfries and Carlisle to cater for migrants. The Independent has been told that conflict-avoidance experts are particularly drawing on UN experience with intractable border disputes such as Cyprus for the Anglo-Scottish mission, which has been provisionally named UNPPICT – the UN Prevention Programme for Inter-Caledonian Tensions.

With formal negotiations on separation likely to start within weeks of a vote in favour of independence on 18 September, countries with a capacity for rapid deployment on UN peacekeeping missions, including Argentina, Spain and the Irish Republic, are also understood to have been approached. A senior UN planner said: “It has to be emphasised that this is something we envisage only as a last resort.”

Fears that the traditional “blue helmet” colour scheme of UN peacekeepers could be misinterpreted as a show of support for an independent Scotland have led to a rethink on what headwear UNPPICT personnel might wear. A “neutral” purple beret is the favoured alternative.

Planners have also begun discussions on where the UN mission, which would initially consist of civilian observers but could eventually draw on military resources including drones to monitor movements either side of Hadrian’s Wall, should be based. Coldstream, with its long history as a pivot point in Scots and English relations, is understood to be the favoured location.

Avril Prime, who runs a guest house in the Borders town, told The Independent she had been approached to accommodate a UN delegation. She said: “There was an enquiry last month for a block booking from September. I assumed it was something to do with fishing.”

Going Tibetan

1509921_293977434090073_1020515682_n The Department of Culture of the City of Bigastro invites you to participate in a concert of Tibetan bowls which will take place on Friday April 25 at 8:30pm in the Centro Social Integrado. It is advisable to wear comfortable clothes. Free admission.

PS Don’t ask because I have no idea what this entails!

For lovers of music

10151365_293970154090801_1578670016_nBigastro will be hosting the 43rd competition for bands from the Province.

As you can see, there are seven bands taking part and it all kicks off at 10am this Saturday.

In order they are:


All change on our estate

Bigastro have decided to rename the streets on our estate to honour the present councillors who make up the governing team.

calle Calle Cañada Andrea  will become Calle Bañuls Rodríguez, Calle Alemania will become Calle Belmonte Adsuar, Calle Inglaterra will become Calle Sarmiento Juan, Calle Holanda will become Calle González Perales and  Calle Francia will become Calle Sáez Marcos. Calles Italia, Le Vigan and Cisano Sul Neva will remain the same as will Calle Irlanda which would have become Calle Murcia González if Aurelio had not been expelled from the government team.

The new signs will be in place next month. Residents are advised to notify all interested parties as soon as possible.

Eat more salad

Since 1990, the World Health Organisation has recommended that we should all eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. They said that, consuming 400g of fruit and vegetables each day would lower our risk of heart disease, stroke, type-two diabetes and obesity. This was a reaction to the increased consumption of junk food by people in developed countries.

THUMB Now, as a result of a 12 year study by the University College London, we are told that 10 portions would be even better. We are also told that vegetables are four times healthier than fruit, each portion of vegetable reduces our risk by 14% whereas fruit only manages 4%. The bad news is that canned and frozen fruit actually increases our risk of dying and that fruit juice has no real benefit. There is no mention of frozen vegetables though.

The findings show that eating between five and seven portions a day reduced the risk of premature death by 36% whilst just one to 3 portions reduces the risk by 14%. Health experts have therefore called on the UK Government to subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables, which they suggest could be paid for by taxing sugary foods.

Of course this poses a dilemma for governments because, on the one hand healthy people cost less to the health system but on the other hand people living longer puts a greater strain on the pension pot.

It also poses a question for us. Do we all want to live to be 100? Life in retirement is a great blessing but old age is not. In our minds we can do a lot more than our bodies will allow.