Thursday, July 31, 2014

In reply

In reply to the article by Aurelio Murcia in yesterday's paper, Charo Bañuls says that they have tried to cut the cost of garbage collection by 30% but the opposition parties keep blocking the proposal. 

She explains that the reason it is possible to make a reduction is because previously there were 200 houses that did not pay this tax. Once they are brought into the system everyone can enjoy a reduction from 35 euros to 25 euros per quarter. Local industries would have a reduction from 85 to 82 euros and other businesses would pay between 42.5 and 75 euros.

Those over 65, who do not meet the minimum wage levels would have a 60%  cut and for properties which are vacant, a 50% cut. The other change is that the tax will be collected by SUMA.

As I explained yesterday, with an election due next year, each party wants to make the others look bad. Blocking the proposal by the PP makes them look like the party that wants to maintain a high tax burden for the citizens of the town. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We are paying too much

The spokesman for the Popular Liberal and Centrist Union (UPLC), Aurelio Murcia, says that we are paying too much tax for our refuse collection. He claims the actual cost to the town is 328,000 euros per year which is considerably less than the technical report which shows 369,000 euros. For next year, he would like to reduce that figure to less than 300,000.

He goes on to say that citizens in Bigastro pay the highest property tax and vehicle tax in this region and would like to see them reduced as well.

Understand that there is an election coming up next year at which the UNPLC would like to win more seats. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Controversy continues in Bigastro

The argument about the cemetery rages on. Raúl Valerio Medina claimed that the new plots there were on private land and therefore could not be sold by the council. The mayor, Charo Bañuls says that nothing has changed since 2006 when land was exchanged to enlarge the cemetery.

She goes on to say that the whole business is a smokescreen to cover up the fact that the socialist councillor, José Espinosa benefitted from the deal by selling 1,500 square metres of undeveloped land for 85,000 euros which she claims was well above the true value. The development of Sector D12 was put into abeyance once the housing crisis hit hard and has not received approval from the Generalitat Valenciana.

This is not the only controversy that surrounds the socialist councillor. José Espinosa apparently paid 5,000 euros for the Christmas parade in 2008 but there are no documents to prove this was the case, just the word of mouth. That seems to be a lot of money for a simple parade.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Missed it


I spotted an article in the Costa Blanca News online paper about a free online course in Spanish organised by the Diputación de Alicante and thought it might be interesting to investigate. Without a subscription to the paper, there was only the briefest of details.

After trawling the Internet and drawing many blanks I eventually found this:

Courses Castilian ONLINE

To register you must send the registration form and registration certificate, utility bill or phone, by email to:

Online course features:
- Approximate duration of 6 months (July-December) 
- 290 places available
- a level test and a test of progress will be made.
- Each student will receive an email of acceptance to the course, parameters of access to it and headphones to perform oral exercises.
- Ability to access the system in one of the 19 languages ​​available interface

-. Guests can access to you're system where you are, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
. - Access from PC, mobile and tablets, both Android and iPhone and iPad
- The course is tailored to the level of each student. NO you can work off-line
- Also there is a tutorial to learn to use the system (in Castilian, English and French)
- You can customize the course according to your interests and advancement.
- English and French technical assistance in Castilian.

Sounds interesting but wait, the last day for registration was the 6th July.




Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Charge it or lose it

On Saturday, Pam and I will fly from Manchester with our family for a holiday in Portugal. As normal, we will have certain electronic devices in our hand luggage including mobile phones and in my case an iPod, a bluetooth speaker and two cameras as well.

We need to make sure that they are all charged up so they can be switched on because UK airports have stepped up security measures in the face of a “credible threat”. Any electronic device that cannot be switched on to show that it works as it should will be refused.

US authorities have singled out Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices for particular attention because they believe that these are being replicated by terrorist groups as potential weapons. 

Although routes to America are the main target for these checks, the UK aviation authority say that flights to European destinations will also be included but do not specify which.

Second accident on the same day

By an unfortunate coincidence. a four year old Russian boy fell off one of the wooden figures at Terra Natura the same day that the young man fell from the the ride at Terra Mitica.

The boy at Terra Natura, who was accompanied by his family, lost his balance on a 1.5m statue and fell. He was taken to Alicante hospital where he was operated on and is now in an induced coma in intensive care. The operation was a success, it is now a matter of waiting to see how he progresses.

Authorities at the park say that all the necessary safety measures are in place at Terra Natura and therefore this was therefore an unfortunate accident.  As a precaution though, they have removed the wooden statues from that area of the park.

With reference to the accident at Terra Mitica, technicians say that it could not have been down to human error i.e. the young man could not have released the harness that was meant to protect him because the ride would not start if any of the harnesses were loose. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When will it return?

The Tour de France previously visited Britain in 1974, in 1994 and 2007 but only for one day each time. This year, the Grand Depart lasted three days and has been hailed a huge success. With an official estimate of 3.5 million fans on the roadside, it was far more impressive than the normal starts in France.

Yorkshire made its bid alongside Edinburgh which lost out this time. The hope is that their bid for 2018 is successful. There are also plans laid for a three day Tour of Yorkshire to be put on the calendar with top teams being invited to compete.

For the teams, it is as much about the exposure of the sponsors names as it is the prestige of the event. On that basis, Yorkshire stands a good chance.

Let us hope that the technical problems in the Eurostar tunnel did not delay the teams getting to the beach at Le Touquet for today’s stage.

Young man falls from ride at Terra Mitica

70455184 Those who have visited Terra Mitica theme park near Benidorm will have probably ridden “the Inferno”, a roller coaster that turns through 360 degrees at speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour. It has been a popular attraction at the park since 2007. Although many seem to enjoy being turned upside down at speed, it is not the kind of thrill that I have ever been tempted to indulge in.

An 18 year old Icelandic boy was on the ride yesterday when unfortunately the harness came loose and he fell  from it head first between 10 and 15 metres. SAMU rushed to the scene and tried to treat him but one hour later he had a cardiac arrest and died. This is the first fatality recorded at the park.

An investigation is underway as to why this happened. All the rides at Terra Mitica are inspected daily and a record is kept of these checks and the maintenance carried out. This particular ride was certified to have optimum performance and safety by an independent company responsible for such work.  

Monday, July 07, 2014

Jenkin Road et al

If you watched on television, you probably did not get a good idea just how steep some of the last climbs in yesterday's stage actually were.

Jenkin-Road-Sheffield Jenkin Road

So steep that there is a handrail in sections to help people as they go up.

In winter, there can be snow at the top and not at the bottom.
jenkin-road-winkobank-elevation-profile-300x282 This is the profile of the road which has an average gradient of 11.2% but ramps up to 33.3% in the worst section.

Bear in mind that the riders had already faced gradients up to 25% on the short but brutal hills in the final 30kms.

Mihopestones, Mortimer Road to Penistone Road, High Bradfield to Kirk Edge/Delf Road and Jaw Bone all took their toll on the riders.


Vincenzo Nibali wins stage two

Whoever thought to take the Tour de France to Yorkshire should be congratulated.

Normally, the first few days of La Grande Boucle are spent on the flat stages in Northern France. It isn’t until the tour reaches more mountainous territory that things get sorted out and the eventual leaders start to show their dominance.

This year has been different thanks to the inspired decision to start in God’s own county.

If Saturday was a day for the sprinters, Sunday was a test of endurance. None of the hills rated more than Cat. 2 but they sorted out the peleton good and proper. The time gap between the race leader and the last man now stands at 36 minutes and 31 seconds.

The final 50 kilometres was a rare treat to watch. First there was Holme Moss followed by Midhopestones with its tricky descent. Then came Ewden Beck which I know from experience. Outibridge was short but steep and finally there was the brutal Jenkin Road where the contenders tested each other.

In the end it was Vincenzo Nibali that dared to pull away and finish seconds in front of the remaining bunch of 20 riders that had survived the day at the front.

It wasn’t just the racing though that made the excursion into Yorkshire special, it was the huge crowds that came out to cheer the riders on. On the climbs they were packed six of seven deep and even in places like Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge, the people turned out in force. The Tour organisers reckon there were more than the police estimate of 150,000 spectators out on the roads.

For me it was a journey home and I enjoyed every minute of it but even for those who are not from Yorkshire, it was a spectacular event that hopefully will be repeated in the future.

More red faces for RENFRE and ADIF

Not a good week for the high speed train between Madrid and Alicante. Following the line collapse after the downpour the other day, yesterday there was a mechanical failure at Tarancón. ADIF engineers had to fix the problem before the train to Alicante could continue its journey.

The journey, that is supposed to take two hours and twenty minutes, took four hours and twenty minutes. If the train arrives over half an hour late, RENFE refund the full ticket price. Yesterday, they had to do just that for the 262 passengers. Last Wednesday they had to refund 1,500 passengers.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Proud to be from Yorkshire

We watched yesterday’s first stage of the Tour de France on television. The cyclists started in Leeds where there were huge crowds to cheer the riders on but it wasn’t until they got to Harewood House that they started racing. The Duchess of Cambridge cut the tape and the riders set off, led by the Sporting Director until they were on the open road.

They then followed a familiar route that I took as a young man through the towns to Skipton, after which I used to continue though to Gargrave, Long Preston and Settle on route to Horton in Ribblesdale, or take the route to Malham, Clapham or Kirby Lonsdale. The riders though,  headed off towards Grassington and  Kettlewell. From there they returned to familiar territory at Aysgarth, Hawes, Thwaite and Muker. The route turned south just before Richmond towards Ripon and finished at the spa town of Harrogate.

Pam and I  have watched the video we recorded up to where the peleton was about to climb the 7.5km to Buttertubs pass.

What struck us most, apart from the stunning scenery, was the number of people who had gone out to watch the riders go past. In every town along the route, the crowds were several people deep and even on the open roads, the crowds were impressive. At Buttertubs, which is a mere Cat 3 hill, there were thousands. It was as if we were  watching the riders on Mont Ventoux or Alp d’ Huez.

Today the route goes from York to Sheffield and includes the following climbs:
  • Km 47.0 - Côte de Blubberhouses1.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% - category 4
  • Km 85.0 - Côte d'Oxenhope Moor3.1 kilometre-long climb at 6.4% - category 3
  • Km 112.5 - VC - Côte de Ripponden1.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.6% - category 3
  • Km 119.5 - Côte de Greetland1.6 kilometre-long climb at 6.7% - category 3
  • Km 143.5 - Côte de Holme Moss4.7 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 2
  • Km 167.0 - Côte de Midhopestones2.5 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% - category 3
  • Km 175.0 - Côte de Bradfield1 kilometre-long climb at 7.4% - category 4
  • Km 182.0 - Côte d'Oughtibridge1.5 kilometre-long climb at 9.1% - category 3
  • Km 196.0 - VC - Côte de Jenkin Road0.8 kilometre-long climb at 10.8% - category 4
As you can see, Ripponden and Jenkin Road are steep at 8.6% and 10.8% and Holme Moss is the longest at 4.7 kilometres at 7%. I have never walked those routes but I have walked Midhopestones, Bradfield and Oughtibridge.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

How bizarre


Local police in Torrevieja, protesting about the lack of agreement on their working conditions, went a step further last week.

Members of the local police force tried to fill the public gallery of the council chamber during the regular monthly meeting of the council and one of their officers was strapped to a cross and hoisted up outside the Town Hall so that he could be seen from the council chamber. Further officers were shouting from the street below to draw attention to their colleague. The distraction proved too much for the mayor who had to postpone the meeting for quarter of an hour.

After the meeting had finished, the Mayor of Torrevieja said that the police protest was, ‘a regrettable provocation that residents of Torrevieja have had to live with.’ He went on, ‘such actions demonstrate that the officers are little interested in reaching agreement over their claims many of which are illegal.’ He also wondered what sort of example it was setting if the officers are prepared to violate local bylaws by using a crane without permission and without considering the health and safety aspects to themselves and those around them.

Sr Dolón might not agree with the protest but he would have to admit that the police are showing a great deal of imagination in pursuing their claim.

Friday, July 04, 2014

What are the top three attractions in Bigastro?

In a bid to boost tourism in the region, the Department of Infrastructure will be implementing a pilot project on the roads throughout the Vega Baja.

By next year, all 27 municipalities will have a large notice board at their entrances along with parking space for a few cars. There will also be signs on the N-340, N-332, the A7 and AP7 motorways.

Funding for the signs outside towns will come from the region, those inside of towns must be paid for by the towns themselves.

The signs must have no more than three pieces of information for safety reason and each council had to submit the information for consideration by the Ministry of Tourism.

In all, 150 of these signs will be installed describing points of natural beauty, sports facilities, historical monuments and tourist offices.

Like many of you, I am curious to know what will be included on the signs for Bigastro.

Red faces at ADIF

It cost 10 million euros per kilometre to build the high speed train line between Alicante and Madrid so you would expect it to be perfect. With AVE trains travelling at speeds of up to 310kms per hour, it needs to be.

However, a rain storm yesterday caused part of the line between Alicante and Albacete to sink leaving one of the trains tilted at an angle. Passengers had to be transferred to a normal train running on the old line to complete their journey and subsequent trains had to follow that track as well.

The overhead power cable had to be cut and the train lifted off the line by crane to allow engineers to replace the ballast and substrata that was washed away. RENFE and ADIF say that the line will be operational this morning but that there will be speed limitations on that part of the track.

It is not unusual to have storms in that area between the months of June and October with anything up to 120 litres of water per square metre in 24 hours. Yesterday’s storm dropped 70 square litres in just one hour and so was described as “absolutely exceptional”. The fact that the area is largely composed of clay and loam did not help.

The engineers at ADIF must now have red faces knowing that they had made such a mistake by not taking account of the possibility of such storms. 

Incidentally, a hailstorm at Madrid during the afternoon forced the diversion of a flight to Alicante-Elche. Those who believe that Spain enjoys glorious weather from June through to September please take note!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Harking back to the "good old days"

This year's fiesta looks back to the "golden period"of 1979 - 1983.

The book for this year is described as "interactive" - we will have to wait and see exactly what that means. Certainly the cover promises something interesting.

As last year, it is likely that the Commission of Fiestas San Joaquin will want to return to some of the traditional ways of organising events and introduce back some of the features of the past.

For those of us who only came to the town a few years ago, it will be fascinating to see the way things used to be. I foresee a lot of great photographic opportunities come August!

I do wonder

I don't think anyone could condone the things that Rolf Harris and other celebrities did during the 60s and beyond. They were clearly taking advantage of their status to feed their sexual gratification and that was very wrong.

However, the incidents were largely unreported at the time as were a lot of similar incidents that occurred then. Only now, after Jimmy Saville was exposed as a serial molester of underage victims, have these cases come to light and I wonder why that might be. Is it because these people feel that, 50 years on, they will be listened to in a way that would not have happened at the time or is there another reason?

There are law firms throughout the country eagerly prepared to take on any claims against these celebrities. Why? because there is a lot of money to be made for them and their clients. That leads me to ask, "are all of these people anxious to see justice or are they just hoping for a share of the pot?""

In some cases there is no doubt that the victims were traumatised by what happened to them and it is only right that they should be compensated. I am equally sure that others simply brushed off the incidents at the time as something that should not have happened - a lesson learnt for the future. Now that there is money to be made, that may cast a different complexion on things. A quick fondle by a celebrity turns out to be a way of making some cash.

I do wonder where this will all end. I feel sure that many of the celebrities of that time and certainly most pop stars fear that they will be next in line as countless young ladies from that era start to recall what happened to them.   

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Just the oldies are left

In the years before the economic crisis, the population of Alicante province grew as thousands sought a home in the sun. Many northern Europeans came along with those who found work in the thriving economy. They could not build homes fast enough to accommodate the rise in population.

Since then the trend has reversed and last year, 24,621 left against 21,011 who arrived. Of those that left, 3,100 were Spaniards, 10,628 were from other European countries.

As you might expect, many of those leaving are young people seeking employment elsewhere which means the demographics of the province are changing. Of the 1,855,270 who live here, 20% are foreigners and 19% of the population are over 65. The fact is that older people put a greater strain on the health care system.

The continued decline in the population also means that selling your home is not going to get easier anytime soon. Added to which, it is still difficult to obtain a mortgage from the ailing banks making it tough for those who want to buy. The house next door to us, which had been on the market for over a year, has now been rented out to a young Spanish couple. Whilst renting out your property can bring a lot of problems, at least you see some income to offset the running costs.