Saturday, May 31, 2014

More padding please

It might seem petty but to many who fly on budget airlines, the reclining seat is the bane of their lives. There is precious little room as it is between you and the seat in front. When the person in front decides to recline their seat, that just takes the biscuit. It is the biggest cause of arguments between passengers on planes which is why 91% of passengers surveyed say that they would like them banned.

When we can, Pam and I book extra legroom where it matters little whether the person in front reclines or not but sometimes they are not available. 

Ryanair have always used rigid seats and now Monarch will join them with a new lightweight design. Not only does the new design offer more space to passengers, it also saves fuel.

The only question I would ask is, “are the new seats better padded than the old ones?”. After a flight to England or back, my backside aches on Airbus seats. The seats on Boeings seem to be more comfortable but not much. After an hour in the air, I often find my self shuffling to get comfortable. After two and a half hours, I am desperate to get off my seat and stand up.

For your ears

10365915_595179400596657_1351656513563834505_nThe programme of band exchanges continues with a concert featuring the junior bands from Bigastro and San Fulgencio. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

The protest vote in Spain

Those who thought that the Spanish indignados movement  had fizzled out were proved wrong on Sunday evening when a fledgling party born from its ashes proved otherwise. Podemos won five seats at the European parliament with 1.2 million votes.

Podemos had only been in existence for 100 days, led by Pablo Iglesias, a 35-year-old political science professor with a ponytail. Still it captured the votes of many.

Iglesias is a former Communist Youth party member with links to Cuba and Venezuela. His politics are therefore very much left wing. Amongst his promises he says that he will do away with tax havens, establish a guaranteed minimum wage and lower the retirement age to 60. He also says that his MEPs will only take home €1,930 per month. The rest of their €8,000 per month salary will either go into party funds or to a chosen cause.

The result has shaken the two main parties to such an extent that Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, leader of the PSOE, says he will resign. At the last European election, the PP and PSOE polled 81% of the votes. This time they did not manage 50% of the vote.

Whether the protest vote at the European election will translate into something substantive at the next General election in 2015, remains to be seen. Like the UKIP vote in Britain, the vote for Podemos in Spain may just turn out to be a protest rather than a sustained change in the electorate. Very few care about what happens in Brussels but they do care about their own country.

When it comes to the crunch, the vast majority of voters in most countries seem to favour moderate politics rather than those of the far right or left. Those of us above a certain age have all heard the wild promises of parties in the past and have learnt to take them with a pinch of salt. Podemos, like UKIP, might have captured the imagination of the young but they will need to work harder to convince the majority that they can deliver on their promises.

For a good cause

10373758_314309438723539_8163876048587728568_nFor those who have been learning Spanish, this is an ideal opportunity to practice their listening skills.

The Alzheimer's Association in Bigastro, along with the Council of Culture, are presenting a play entitled A Bad Day.

Entrance by donation of 3 euros to the Association. 

A summer of babies

Our next door neighbour is expecting a baby this summer as is the daughter of our neighbour across the road. The sister of our first Spanish teacher is also due to have her second child this summer.

Now a bit of gossip for you

Eagle eyed neighbours will have spotted vans coming and going across the road in our street. That is because Eladia and Kinete, who were married last year, have moved in with Eladia’s parents - Eladia and Pepe. Eladia and Pepe now occupy the refurbished basement of the house whilst Eladia, Kinete along with their baby (once it is born) have moved in upstairs. 

If they allow me, I will be honing up my skills as a baby photographer.

May is not out yet

As you can see from the weather prediction we could have a shower or two today. Tomorrow though, that could turn into a thunderstorm.

Sunday should be mainly dry for the bike ride but if the ground is soaked by the rain on Saturday, it could be muddy in patches for the 400 riders who take part.

Entrega de notas

DSC01463 Yesterday, we had the presentation of certificates to those students who had attended adult classes this year.

In the past, the teachers were paid to do the work but since the economic crisis, the town has relied on volunteers.

On the left are two of the town’s councillors along with the lady mayor.

On the right are the volunteers to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.

The man in the group is Antonio who has taught our little group Spanish.
DSC01465 After the presentation, there was a table groaning with food and drink for us to enjoy.

One of the Spanish ladies from the new readers class class made this magnificent cake which was every bit as tasty as it looked.

Well over half of the students were Moroccan ladies keen to hone their language skills.

In comparison, there were only four English students to be presented with certificates and one of them was from nearby Jacarilla. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Should not have to come to this

10255808_10202437787614158_757114206452439489_nYet another reminder to people not to let their dogs crap in the street. For goodness sakes, all you need is a plastic bag to collect the faeces up and then dispose of them hygienically. 

Bike ride on Sunday

20140528_bando Notice about  the Alacrana Bike III event on Sunday June 1.

Take note of those streets where you are not to park cars and those where you can park but not move your cars for the duration of the event.

You can read more about the ride on these web pages:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For your delight

20140528_quent On Sunday June 1, at 6pm you can watch the Ethnic Fusion Dance Show - Purple-Quentum at the Municipal Auditorium. Cost 3 €.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Time to pay

Untitled-1The local newspaper Information is one of my main sources of material for this blog. It is where I obtain all the juicy gossip about what is going on in the town. It is where the political parties spar with each other. 

Now it seems that I will have to subscribe to the newspaper to read the full articles.

A few newspapers already demand that you pay to read them online and I can understand that because there are costs incurred that are not covered by advertising. Some newspapers won’t even let you access the articles at all and others will just let you read the first paragraph or so. 

Flouting the law

It seems that the new owners of the campsite at La Pedrera would like to build a swimming pool. They went to to the Town Hall to seek permission and were told that they first needed approval by the Generalitat Valenciana. However, the owners decided to go ahead anyway and started work on the site.

Unfortunately for them, some of the neighbours informed the police who visited the site. The work has now had to stop and disciplinary proceedings will be taken against the company involved.

Monday, May 26, 2014

European elections

Untitled-1 Look at how both the conservative PP and the Socialists have lost ground since the last European elections. The PP lost 8 seats and the Socialists 9.

The increase in the number of parties may be partly to blame but even still you can’t  help but feel that the main parties have failed to capture the voters attention with their policies.
Untitled-2 The same pattern emerges if we look at Europe as a whole but whereas the Socialists lost just 2 seats, the Conservatives have lost 53 and that with a greater number of seats available.

In Britain, the story is all about the UKip party of Nigel Farage.

The Eurosceptic party's victory marked the first time in modern history that neither Labour nor the Conservatives have won a British national election.

Ukip is on course to win as much as 28% of the national poll. That is a near doubling of the 16.5% it secured in the last European elections in 2009, when it came second to the Tories with 13 seats.

Twenty years ago, in its first European election, Ukip managed 1% of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats suffered a near-total wipeout losing all but one of its 11 MEPs and placing serious pressure on Nick Clegg to justify his leadership of his party as its share of the national vote was 7 %.

The new European parliament will be infiltrated with radical and nationalist anti-EU forces that scored major victories both on the far right and the hard left in every country. With so many MEPs set against the European project and immigration in particular, you wonder just what will happen over the next four years.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

$15m for a wedding

When celebrities get married, budget is not a consideration. The latest to seal the knot are Kayne West and Kim Kardashian who clearly wanted to outdo every other couple who got married this century. 

Kim Kardashian is an American television and social media personality, fashion designer, model, and actress. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she came to prominence after a sex tape with her then-boyfriend Ray J was leaked in 2007. In the same year, she and her family were commissioned to star in the reality television series Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Its success has led to the creation of spin-offs including Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Kourtney and Kim Take Miami. In 2010, Kardashian was named the highest-paid reality television personality, with estimated earnings of $6 million.

In August 2011, Kardashian married basketball player Kris Humphries in a widely publicized ceremony. After 72 days of marriage, she filed for a divorce, which was finalized in June 2013 with an undisclosed settlement. The same month, Kardashian gave birth to a daughter, North, from her relationship with rapper Kanye West, which began in April 2012.

Kayne West is one of the best-selling and among the most awarded artists in popular music; he has won a total of 21 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all-time and the most Grammy-awarded artist of his age.[Time has named West one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He has also been included in a number of Forbes annual lists. Three of his albums rank on Rolling Stone's 2012 "the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.

The wedding

First there was the rehearsal at Versailles in Paris which cost $681,600 including a $20,4480 firework show.

Then there was the wedding itself in Florence. The wedding dress cost $2.1m and the music another $1.7m. The wedding venue cost $410,000. Private jets were hired for the guests along with security and hotel rooms.

The estimated total came to $14.7m and that did not include things like the meal and the flowers. Estimates for the food say it would have been $2,000 per head. 

Am I alone in thinking this is an obscene amount of money even for a couple who have an estimated wealth of $140m? Am I being cynical if I say that it will only be a matter of time before they separate because people with such huge egos rarely stay together in marriage. 

90 seconds away

Atletico Madrid opened the score line in the first half and for a long time looked as though they could hold on to their lead. They defended well against fierce pressure from Real Madrid during the last ten minutes of the game only to concede a goal by Ramos is the dying seconds of added time.

During extra time though, it looked as though Atletico Madrid had sapped all of their reserve. A goal from Gareth Bale gave Real the lead they needed to seal the game. The two further goals that followed just added the icing to the cake.

All credit to Real Madrid for pulling it off but you can’t help but feel sorry for Atletico who almost made it their first Champion’s League win.

So Real have now won this competition 10 times and Ancelotti joins Bob Paisley as the only two managers to have won it three times.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My albums

The eagle eyed ones amongst you will have spotted the new photo albums in the left hand sidebar - these are my pictures from Italy.

The albums show my photos of Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, San Agnello and the Hotel  Corallo we stayed in. There is also an album of pictures from our trip to Cassino.

The Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino) was a costly series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome.

At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri, and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Together, these features formed the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey founded in AD 529 by Benedict of Nursia, dominated the nearby town of Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido valleys, but had been left unoccupied by the German defenders. The Germans had, however, manned some positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey's walls.

Fearing that the abbey did form part of the Germans' defensive line, primarily as a lookout post, the Allies sanctioned its bombing on 15 February and American bombers proceeded to drop 1,400 tons of bombs onto it. The destruction and rubble left by the bombing raid now provided better protection from aerial and artillery attacks, so, two days later, German paratroopers took up positions in the abbey's ruins. Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the Gustav defences were assaulted four times by Allied troops, the last involving twenty divisions attacking along a twenty-mile front. The German defenders were finally driven from their positions, but at a high cost.

Pam’s father was one of those who survived the campaign. He was in charge of a mortar platoon there.

It was sad to see so many graves in the Commonwealth Cemetery and note how young the majority of the soldiers were when they died. Along with the Commonwealth Cemetery, there is also an American one, a Polish one and a German Cemetery – 250,000 lives lost in a bloody four month battle.

The abbey, the town and the surrounding villages were completely flattened during the battle and have been subsequently rebuilt at the expense of the Italian government. 


Voting for the European Parliament takes place on Sunday. You should have received a card and probably a raft of propaganda from the various parties. Apparently you need identification as well as the card and since our residency cards do not have a photograph on them, this means your passport.

The strange thing is that, I received a card along with all that literature but Pamela didn’t. We are off course both registered so why this should be is a mystery.

The other reminder is that the book club will also take place at la Pedrera this Sunday.

Has your dog been injected?

20140522_rabicAs in the past, the Department of Health of the City of Bigastro has prepared Rabies Campaign for the 13th and 14th June.

Common sense really

20140514_quemasThe council remind us that the lighting of fires is banned during the summer months. 

Pool opening


The municipal swimming pool will reopen on June 2nd. This year, there will also be a poolside canteen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Parting is such sweet sorrow

As wonderful as Italy was, it could not compare with the pleasure of being with the family again. The bonus was the weather which was at its very best. Sunshine in May - that must be a first for Manchester.

Still all good things come to an end and today we return home with many happy memories of our time away. Many thanks go to all of our family and friends and especially Laura, Dave and Jemma who taxied us around.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The strangest thing

We left Napoli yesterday in rain to arrive at Manchester with blue sky and sunshine.

At the hotel where we we were staying, there was an English wedding taking place. I imagine the couple had chosen Italy in the hope they would have sunshine, instead they had heavy clouds and rain!

Anyway, it was goodbye to bella Italia and hello to good old Blighty for us. We will be here for a few days before returning home to Bigastro where we will need to resume our diets to shed the weight we must have piled on during the holiday.

For now, arreviderci amicos.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Italian weather

One thing we have learnt from this trip is that May in Southern Italy can be variable. Glorious sunshine followed by heavy cloud cover and even a spot or two of rain.

The other thing we have learnt is that this is no place for faint hearted motorists. Today a Fiat driver decided to overtake our coach without realising there was a car coming the other way. We all felt him clip the coach but neither driver was concerned enough to check for damage.

How the coach driver navigated the narrow roads was a miracle. We thought he was worthy of a generous tip at the end!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A roundabout journey

Thursday, we flew to Manchester but this time not to stay there. After a night in a hotel at the airport, we flew to Naples on Friday for a short holiday near to Sorrento. On our way back, we will have a few nights in Manchester before returning home.

We have never visited Southern Italy before so this is a first for us. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The campaign steps up

Abortion-Travel-011 The Spanish branch of the Women’s European Lobby (CELEM) has set up a website which shows a fake travel agency in Madrid offering trips to Paris, London and Berlin for terminations. They say that, if the PP party go ahead and abolish abortions in Spain, this could become a reality.

The group say that the change to the law sets the country back decades to the time of Franco when women had to travel to other countries to obtain a safe termination. They also claim that 80% of Spaniards are against the change in the law and already have over 40,000 signatures on their site to pass on to the government.

It seems strange to me that the political party in power has decided to reverse this law against such strong public opinion. I  can only presume that the catholic church has a stranglehold on the Spanish conservatives and imagine they will pay for this decision at the next election.

A sign of the times

When we first lived here, the Fiesta at Holy Cross was a highlight of the May calendar. On the Saturday night there was a big party with entertainment and a bar. Then on the Sunday, there was a grand paella to savour. In between was the Holy Mass on Sunday morning.

It wasn’t the free food though that appealed most to me, it was the beautiful floral crosses that people adorned their houses with. The main cross was always the star attraction but then there were over a dozen smaller crosses to see as well. They used to hold a competition for the best with prizes but not any more. Yesterday, I only spotted two crosses on the street going down from the park to the town where previously there would be at least six or seven. Still a great effort and the main cross looked magnificent as ever.

DSC01258 DSC01259

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tissues all round

A big box of them goes to Brendan Rogers and the Liverpool team who believed they could win the Premier League this year. It looked possible until those final 11 minutes last night when their defence fell apart and they lost a 3-0 advantage to Crystal Palace. Mathematically, they could still pull it off if City lose their final two games.

Another box goes to Jeremy Clarkson who got a sound ticking off from the BBC for his racist remarks. One more offensive remark and he could well lose his job. Just to make matters worse, his second wife has now said she will divorce him and could take half of his £30million fortune with her.

Shaky stuff

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On the 9th April, there was a 1.7 magnitude earthquake of the coast of Torrevieja. Yesterday, there was a further quake of 1.4 magnitude less than a mile off the coast which could be felt in both Torrevieja and Guardamar del Segura.

There are no reports of damage. 

I remember reading that, a series of small quakes like these are a good sign. The theory says that regular small movements of the plates are preferable to one off large movements. The truth is that nobody can predict what will happen in the future.

No lifeguards for Orihuela beaches

The lifeguard service for Orihuela’s beaches has been terminated because the company that run it are owed 160,000 euros from last September. They agreed to continue for the Easter period but no more.

The city agreed the contract with Ambuibérica in 2013 at a cost of 311,235 euros per year. Unless the council act quickly, the beaches will be left without the security of lifeguards for this summer season.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Oh really!

We are all used to the Nigerian scam that promised us untold wealth if we helped to transfer money from the country to a bank in our country. It has been going on for years and has taken a variety of forms.

This is the latest I have received:

My name is Sheikh Ahmad Moaz Al-Khatib ,leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. We have a very serious problem that need an urgent attention which I believe you can urgently handle for us. Our difficulty is, we have huge funds that we channeled to a reputable finance and Security company in Europe. We have just concluded at the meeting today that we should contact a foreigner to receive the funds on our behalf as the political climate here in Syria do not support our moving out of Syria, so that you can assist us receive the funds from the Security Company, that was why we are contacting you because the funds is not to be delayed in the custody of the Security Company for longer than agreed. 

There is no risk involved in this matter. Reply me now to enable me give you full narrative of the funds and the Vault Company where the funds are deposited. We pledge to reward you reasonably and we already have all arrangement concluded to swiftly release the funds to you on our behalf.

NB: Be reminded also that all valid certified copies backing up the true existence of the funds as deposited with the Vault Company in Europe is with me and will be forwarded to you upon request as I wait for your urgent response to this mail. Do note that I was linked up to you by an official of the your high commission here in Syria who assured me of your good reputation and credibility in handling this very project since the funds will be finally invested in your Country. I refer you to this website for more information.

I await your email response and be free to respond to my email with any question as I will explain well to your good understanding.

My email program had already picked it up and decided it was a scam. I only found it because I regularly check my junk box to see if anything important has been placed there by mistake. I wonder though, does anyone get caught out by these scams anymore?

What happened on Friday?

I went out of the house at 9pm expecting the first walkers from the charity event to arrive at La Pedrera. There was no sign though and by 9:30pm there still wasn’t a walker in sight. When I looked at the Facebook page for the church the next day, 200 people had apparently taken part. Looking at the photos though, the clock on the church showed 9pm and not 8:30 which was the time they were supposed to depart.

So no photos, sorry. Either the walkers arrived after I gave up on them or they didn’t reach La Pedrera where I was waiting for them. 

The fish on your plate

Farmed fish are these days virtually indistinguishable from wild varieties, we are used to eating them now and enjoy the benefits of lower cost. Salmon and trout are an obvious example but many other species on the fishmonger’s slab are also farmed including tuna, cod, haddock, halibut, turbot, sea bream, sea bass and prawns. Without farmed fish, the supply would be both limited and costly.

At nearby Guardamar del Segura they farm four million kilos of sea bream, sea bass, oysters and scallops per year. It is a six million euro business that is vital to the town.

There are three phases to the production; the hatchery where the fry are reared from eggs, the “pre-fattening” stage where the fish grow to one and a half centimetres and then the “fattening” stage during which the fish grow to about 400 grams ready for sale.

The first phases are handled by Guardamar SL inland. The fish are then passed on to Culmar SL who have offshore cages to bring the fish on.

Although we may wince about the methods of production, the economics are simple, farmed fish cost one third of the price for net caught fish and account for 60% of the total sold.  

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Dying a death

It seems that the Saturday market in the old part of Orihuela is loosing popularity. The intention was to draw trade to this part of the city at the weekends but with only a handful of stalls, it is clearly not working.

Those who live in Bigastro will recall that  the council tried to run a monthly ecological market in the town square which faltered from lack of support. I guess this is not what Spaniards are looking for. Markets that sell fruit and vegetables flourish but nobody is really interested in the likes of hand made soaps.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

La Cruz de la Muela de Orihuela

1399081964350 For the fifth year running, local police from Orihuela have installed lighting on the cross at the top of the mountain behind the city.

They took 200m of LED lighting and a generator up there by helicopter yesterday. It will now stay lit until Sunday.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

A night time stroll

11953_848444605170044_3481396479430056687_n Those of you who missed the Gala last Sunday may want to participate in the walk for Manos Unidos (United Hands) this Friday.

It will start at 8:30pm from the church and make its way via la Cruz and eventually arrive at La Pedrera from where it will be all downhill back to the town.

Although the walk is suitable for all ages, young people must be accompanied by an adult. Participants are advised to carry a bag with something to drink along with a torch.

The cost is 2 euros, payable on the day with free T-shirts for the early birds.

On their return, the walkers will feast on roasted potatoes and a “chatico” of wine.  

My contribution will be to take photos which I will post to the Church's Facebook page.

An all Spanish final on May 24th

  • For the first time ever, the Champions League final will be a derby match as Atletico Madrid beat Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge to face Real Madrid in Lisbon.
  • It is 40 years since Atletico were in a European Cup final so they will want to make the most of it. Last time they lost to Bayern Munich during the replay.
  • I take back what I said yesterday because only a foolish man would now bet on the outcome in Portugal. Real have five times the revenue of Atletico but Atletico are only two games away from winning La Liga.  

First honours last night went to Chelsea when former Atletico player Torres scored. Then Chelsea lost control and in the second half lost sprit. They started with the clear intention of stifling their opponents by putting six defenders on the pitch. The first goal by Atletico Madrid though meant they had to change tactics and that left them wide open.

In the last five years, Mourinho has reached the semi-final stage but only once has got a team to the final hence the Spanish press have now dubbed him “The Semi-FInal One”. Chelsea had been in the final three times in the last seven seasons but not this year. It is looking very much like Chelsea will be without any silverware this season.