For the benefit of those planning to go there today I repeat, THE BAR IS FULLY OPEN.
I apologise for the misunderstanding and hope I did not cause unnecessary inconvenience to all parties concerned.
If you live in Bigastro and were planning to go to La Terraza bar tonight to enjoy the live music, you will likely be disappointed. Apparently, Iberdrola cut off the electricity to the bar on Thursday and have so far failed to reconnect it.
Hopefully, there is something good on the television to keep you happy instead!
The annual tomato festival at Buñol took place on Wednesday. Since last year, the town has had to restrict the number of people taking part as they were growing out of hand. Even still, an estimated 20,000 joined the 9,000 inhabitants to throw 100 tonnes of tomatoes at each other.
In the afternoon, the fire brigade moved in to clean up the town. Apparently, the acidic juice of the tomatoes leaves the place spick and span.
Although Spanish banks have eased up on lending money for house purchases, many are finding it better to either pay cash or borrow the money elsewhere.
Whilst some banks advertise a rate of 2% for mortgages, the average is 3.88%, well above the Euribor rate of 0.50%, which means they are being very greedy. The other issues for borrowers are the terms of mortgages in Spain which are far from favourable and the fact that they will only lend a fraction of the amount required.
Statistics show that, out of 12,273 house purchases in Alicante, only 4,483 were financed by a mortgage. Many of the cash purchases were made by foreigners at bargain basement prices but there are also an increasing number of Spaniards who have saved sufficiently to buy their own home at current values.
As I have said before on this blog, I believe that one of the main reasons for the crash in the housing market here in Spain was greed. The builders and promoters got greedy when they thought that people would pay any price for a home and the banks got greedy when they thought that huge profits could be made by lending money for mortgages. Both got their fingers burnt when people would no longer pay the spiralling prices and those that had were unable to keep up with their loan payments.
Under the Spanish mortgage system, even if you hand over the keys to your property, you still owe the outstanding debt (plus interest). Only if the banks are able to sell your property is the debt cleared. That punitive system did not help the banks though because, without a source of income, many could not pay even one cent of the debt they owed.
To make matters worse, many banks had also over lent to constructors who they believed would sell all of the properties they could build and more. As the constructors went out of business, the banks were left with unpaid loans to them as well. Lending to both the builders and the buyers cost the banks dearly.
Is it any wonder then that people are happier to buy their homes with cash and avoid using the unscrupulous banks for the purchase.
Spain produces 50% of the olive oil for the world market and 73% of that comes from Andalusia in the south. Over the last 20 years, the demand for olive oil has increased by 60%, driven by the markets in China, the US, Canada and Australia. Britain lags well behind other countries with the average household only consuming 1 litre per year of the liquid gold.
Last year there was a bumper crop of 1.77 million tonnes in Spain. This year, predictions show that figure will be down by 40%. The reason is twofold; the trees are exhausted after last year’s record harvest and there has been too little rain this year for a decent crop.
Prices of oil will inevitably rise but therein lies a problem for the growers because supermarkets here sell olive oil as a loss leader and so will be reluctant to pay more per litre. When there is a glut of oil on the market, the prices drop sharply but when there is a shortage the prices only rise by a small amount. It is a no win situation for growers.
In a bid to capitalise on a shortage, some growers are hanging on to their supplies in the hope of selling at a higher price later in the year. In addition, speculators are betting on a price hike. Both of these factors are driving market values up now.
For those British who only buy the occasional bottle this is not an issue but here in Spain, where households buy oil in 5 litre bottles, it is akin to a price rise for bread in France.
As the comedian, Peter Kay said, “ I like it hot but not this hot”.
Weeks ago we had a heat wave right at the start of the fiesta and it was draining. The night of the coronation, Pam and I were down in the park to take photographs and by the end my shirt collar was wringing wet.
Since then the temperatures have been more moderate, still too hot to spend much time outside working but bearable if you engage in light activity.
|That is due to change today as the area is on yellow alert for high temperatures between midnight and 6pm|
|Some parts of the coast will see temperatures of 38 and inland that could easily rise to 39. |
The advice is to stay in well ventilated areas, minimise exposure to the sun, wear light coloured clothing, drink lots of water and only eat light food.
Not a good day to take up jogging or decide to do major work in the garden!
When we lived on the Wirral, Pam and I rarely went down to the beach - even on those odd days when the weather was good. Now we live on the Costa Blanca, it is the same. Within 20 minutes or so, we have some of the finest beaches that you would ever want to lay a towel on but we seldom visit them.
In August we have good reason. During this month, it seems that the whole of Spain, along with several other northern European countries descends on the coastal towns for their annual summer holidays. Parking near a beach becomes near impossible and when you eventually find somewhere to leave your car, it is a long trail to claim an area of sand much larger than your sun umbrella. It hardly seems worth it so we choose to stay by our pool instead.
For those summer visitors from Madrid, there is a ritual to be followed. Each morning, at dawn, the men take their brollies and chairs down to the beach and claim a place as near to the sea as possible in spite of the city ordinance designed to prevent people from reserving places. By 9am each day, the most popular beaches are covered with unmanned umbrellas in preparation for the day to come.
By 11am the families arrive with their cool boxes, beach bags and children in tow to take up the spots that the men have so carefully reserved. Any late arrivals have to either cheekily pitch themselves between the regulars or put up with a longish walk through a sea of umbrellas to bathe. Suffice it to say, if you go to the beach at Torrevieja during August, it pays to have a distinctive sun shade or you may never find your way back to your family.
At lunchtime, the exodus to the beach repeats itself in reverse. Some leave their “campsites” and retire to a restaurant for lunch, others pack up completely and return to their apartments to prepare lunch there. Following lunch they all take a siesta, either under the shade of their brolly or back in their apartments. By about 4pm, some of those who left will return for an late afternoon session on the beach. For a large number though, their day on the beach is over and the ritual will not be repeated until the next morning.
For the physically disabled, the beach would be a no no but for the kind services of the Red Cross. Each day they visit the homes of those who call for them, take them down to a specially adapted part of the shore to bathe and when they have finished, take them home again.
Next weekend there will be a grand exodus as the holiday makers return home crowding out the roads between here and Madrid. By the end of the first weekend of September, locals will be able to claim their beaches back. Peace will be restored until next year when the ritual will start all over again.
You might ask, why do Spaniards travel from Madrid to the Costa Blanca when they could equally holiday on the more fashionable Costa del Sol or Almeria. For one thing it is a shorter journey to the Costa Blanca and even shorter to the coast north of Valencia but more importantly, the cost of an apartment in Torrevieja is much cheaper. In fact, during the 80s and 90s apartments in Torrevieja were so cheap that many from Bigastro bought them just too spend a few weeks during the summer on the coast. At that time, a smart three bedroom apartment, close to the beach, cost less than a beach hut on the south coast of Britain. No wonder so many bought a second home near the sea.
During the boom years prices rose steeply making the proposition of a holiday home much less viable. Since then, prices have plummeted but unfortunately mortgages are no longer available and in any case many are concerned about the security of their employment.
We have all seen photos of the deserted cities outside Madrid that were built during the boom years and now lie vacant. Here, on the Costa Blanca, we do not have whole cites but there are plenty of developments that have just been abandoned. Places where nobody lives and the rats have taken over.
In many cases, the houses or flats were completed ready for buyers to move in but of course that did not happen. As the companies ran out of money, so the banks took over the properties but even they could not sell them.
In some cases, the house prices were reduced down to bargain basement levels and they did sell but in many others the banks could not afford to give away their investments. The vandals soon stepped in and stripped whatever they could leaving the sites looking like the war zones of the Middle East. Now the banks stand no chance of recouping their money and we are faced with looking at eyesores until someone either decides to knock them down or renovate them.
It is all a huge Catch 22 situation. Young people, out of work cannot afford mortgages. Even if they could, the banks have no money to lend them because of the losses they made during the boom. The only hope is for foreign buyers but of course they do not want to buy a derelict property and neither do they want a property in a deserted development.
In a handful of cases, common sense has prevailed and the empty houses have been rented out cheap just to prevent damage occurring. That is a win win situation because the people get a house at a price they can afford and the banks see some return on their investment. Sadly though, that is not common place and so the image of Beirut prevails over many parts of the Vega Baja.
Apart from being uncomfortable, the high temperatures and humidity we have suffered will provide the perfect conditions for a ‘gota fria’. A warm sea may be good for bathers now but we could end up paying for it at the end of the month into early September.
As in Britain last winter, the drainage systems here are not built to cope with heavy downpours. Roads flood, underpasses block and basements fill up with water. We all know the areas that are most vulnerable and try to avoid them. That doesn’t help the people who live in those places though who complain every time they are flooded.
Our main problem used to be the pool box which part filled with water every time we had heavy rain. It is impossible to understand why that should happen. My answer eventually was to tape over the holes in the bottom of the box to stop the ingress of water. Of course that also prevents any water in the box getting back out as I have fond out to my cost.
The outlet joint to the pool pump started leaking a little whilst we were in Portugal so I tried to tighten it back up when we returned. I thought I had it solved until three days later when Pam found water gushing into the box. I quickly turned it off but too late the damage was done.
I had the failing joint replaced but alas the water had got into the pump and the bearings were shot. Although the pump still worked, it was very noisy and so had to be replaced. I would not have minded so much if it had been the original ten year old pump but it was a replacement from only 15 months ago.
Over the last couple of years we have spent quite a bit on that pool. First the pipe from the skimmer had to be replaced, then we had the sand in the filter changed for glass. The cover on the filter exploded dramatically one day and it took me three attempts to get the new one to seal properly. Just as we were about to have the pool re-grouted, the original pump seized up and so that had to be changed. Now, as I said, we had one of the pipes in the box renewed and another new pump.
You could say our pool is like money down the drain.
Following a week of hard partying, Bigastro has gone to sleep. Pam and I went down yesterday afternoon to pick up my prescription. It seemed that the pharmacy on Purisima was about the only place open, that and the lottery shop. I wanted some tobacco but that shop was closed for the afternoons, only open mornings until 2:30pm.
We also wanted some paint to touch up the garden walls and so drove on towards Orihuela and TKrom which was also closed. The sign in the window told us they were only open mornings for the whole of August.
To be fair, I don’t blame them. By afternoon, it is really too hot to be working and in any case, there are very few customers about. Mostly they are all down on the coast enjoying a day on the beach as you will find if you try and park nearby. The beaches are covered in umbrellas with barely a space between them. This is August and Spain is on holiday!
Last November a squad went out with pressure washers and chemicals to clean up the graffiti along the banks of the Segura river in Orihuela. They needn’t have bothered because the so called artists have returned to reclaim their canvases and made the area worse than before.
It isn’t just by the river, telephone boxes, the fronts of private buildings, information panels, park benches etc are all targets for this mindless scrawling. Even the Orihuela shield in the river has been a target.
The problem is that it is almost impossible to catch the vandals at work. People complain about the graffiti and the broken bottles that litter the banks of the river but it seems that little can be done to stop it happening time and again.
Spaniards speak of pride in their traditions, in their culture and of their towns and yet there is a minority who just seem to want to trash anything and everything that this pride stands for. They seem to delight in making their own environment ugly and distasteful. I just don’t understand that mentality.
PS the picture is not mine, it was taken from Laverdad newspaper.
A young Nigerian man was suffering from symptoms that indicated he might have the Ebola virus. He was quickly rushed to Sant Joan hospital in Alicante by a convoy of two ambulances escorted by a car from the National Police. A second convoy carried his wife who was also ill but not suffering from the same symptoms.
Samples from the man were sent to the Carlos III Health Institute of Health in Madrid for analysis. Fortunately the results of the tests conducted were negative and the patient has now been taken out of isolation.
The chances of Ebola reaching Spain are slim but nether the less, all precautions have to be taken when anyone shows symptoms of the disease that is spreading like wildfire in Africa.
It hardly seems possible that the Fiesta for this year is almost over. For those of you who can understand Spanish better than me, there is an event today with political satire that I know the townspeople will find very amusing.
For Pam and I though, it is done. All my photos are processed and uploaded.
We would like to thank all those who made the fiesta so special. In particular, we would like to thank the Fiesta Commission who have put in some long hours to prepare all the events that have taken place.
I hope that my photos provide good memories of these special days we have all enjoyed.
And now, if you don’t mind, I am going to enjoy some breakfast.
My dropbox page is at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xl3scp4wu3ydqw8/AADKVqwVC_slSUXMlkRf3YFRa.
There you will find folders for the different events that I took photos of. If you want to download a whole folder, right mouse click will bring up a menu to allow you to do this.
Otherwise open the folder you want with the left mouse button to find individual photos.
|When you open a folder, you should see the photos from that event. |
Select the photo you would like and double click your left mouse button to open it.
You will have to do this for each photo.
|To download a picture, click on the menu at the bottom right (four dots) and select Download. |
You should then be able to open the downloaded file on your computer to print off or send to friends.
The only thing I ask is that you do not try to remove my name.
The photos in Dropbox are reduced from the originals to make uploading and downloading faster. They should still print to a reasonable size though.
It is most unusual for us to have any rain during August. It seems though like we might have a drop or two over the next few days. It will likely be a short shower but even still it is probably best to carry an umbrella if you are going down to the parades and concerts.
As much as we don’t want to get wet before, it is important that there is no rain on Saturday night. The brotherhood of San Joaquin will not risk bringing out the precious statue if there is a chance of rain. Apart from the damage rain could do to it, carrying the heavy throne on the shoulders on wet roads would be too dangerous.
The wet parade was last night – my cameras told me to give that one a miss!
Tonight is the floral offering to San Joaquin where many of the children dress up in traditional Valencian costume.
In these days of austerity, there are fewer flowers on show and in a sense that is not a bad thing. There is nothing that can be done with the flowers after the parade so they get dumped – thousands of euros worth of flowers that end up in the bin.
Then there will be a mass outdoors in the town square followed later by a concert featuring the town band.
Tomorrow night, the comparsas will parade in costume and even though it will be late starting, it is best to grab a spot on time if you want a good view. At about 1am, the townsfolk will gather to walk along the streets, clapping to the Alborada, as they welcome in the day of San Joaquin.
The theme for last night’s infant parade was the circus.
Leading up the hundreds of clowns, acrobats, jugglers etc were professional artists as you can see from my pictures.
As usual though, you can find all of the pictures I took by going to the left hand sidebar.
The madness that marks the end of the fiesta are the fireworks in shopping trolleys which takes place between 3am and 5am on the morning of the 16th. This used to happen on Calle Purisima and then moved to one of the other streets inside a caged area.
For the last couple of years, there has been an enclosure on the waste land in front of Calle Acequia where things are a lot safer for everyone except those mad enough to enter the cage.
Although the cage is very tall, fireworks still come out of the top and those that stand outside still run the risk of getting burnt.
Those who live in the flats overlooking the site and the cafes in the square are advised by the town hall to take the following precautions-
Roll up any sun blinds, close the shutters on windows and don’t leave any washing out. The cafes are advised to take in their chairs, tables and sunshades.
If you do intend to go down to watch, wear a hat to protect your head along with sensible clothing and shoes. If you can manage to get hold of a fireman’s suit then that would probably be best.
For those with more sense than daring, there will likely be a video or two posted on YouTube – rest assured, they will not be mine!
Nobody believes any more that the crazy cars will start at the allotted time. When it says 10am, read more like 11am.
Still there was great support for the event with most standing or sitting in the shade on what was a sweltering day.
Down the hill came a Ferrari, the Red Baron in his biplane, a railway engine, a pink Citroen with nuns, the Pink Panther, the fire brigade, Dora the explorer and a barnyard of hens.
Last year, one of the spectators suffered a broken leg when a runaway car hit them. This year, the injured person and friends appeared wearing T-shirts with the logo “Dangerous Curve”.
The fire fighters were the fastest down the course. The Sor Citroen won the prize for most original, the Ferrari came second. The Corral de la Pacheca was awarded two hams and Dora won a ham for being the funniest car on the course.
My photos can be seen by clicking on the link in the sidebar. Be warned though, one of the nuns wore something very rude under her habit.
PS There are very few spectators in my photos. If you want to see pictures with the crowd in the background, then go the the newspaper Informacion and Tony Sevilla’s photos.
PPS Tony is the bearded photographer in the blue T-shirt that appears in some of my pictures. As you can see, he had to stand in the sweltering heat – that is the price of being a pro!
I’d arranged to go to the house of this year’s fiesta queen at 8pm last night to take some photos of her before she left to take part in the coronation. I was armed with my bag full of cameras and lenses along with a reflector, light stand and soft box ready for an impromptu photo session. I scouted out the patio area at the back of the house as a good location and was prepared to set up the light stand and soft box to take some nice full length and close up portraits.
Patricia though was still with the hairdresser/make-up artist preparing herself. I knew that time was going to be short when it got to 9pm and there was still no sign of the young lady. When she finally arrived, all hell let loose. Patricia quickly changed into her dress and I clipped my flashgun onto the camera with my trusty StoFen to grab whatever shots I could get inside the house.
Although the pictures are not what I was hoping for, they do show an elegant young lady, confident, self assured and happy to be this year’s Queen for the local fiesta. I just hope that her mother likes them.
Having grabbed half a dozen or so shots, Pam and I hot footed down to the park to try and grab seats to take my pictures of the proceedings.
Due to changes that have been made for this year, the seats next to the catwalk on the right were all reserved and those on the left were all taken. Luckily my neighbour Eli spotted me and allowed us to take two of the reserved seats. As it happened they were possibly the most inconvenient seats we could find because the accompanying young men all had to pass by in front of me. Although it looked like chaos back stage, up front everything seemed to go without a hitch.
Thankfully, I managed to get most of the shots that I wanted as you can see from the album in the left hand sidebar.
The plan was simple, set up shuttle bus services between the railway station at Alicante and Benidorm and a similar service to Torrevieja. That way, summer visitors could take the high speed train from Madrid to Alicante and then hop on the bus to their destination. Opposition though forced the service to operate from Villena instead and delayed the start until August missing out on the early season travellers. There was also very little time to publicise the shuttle bus.
Just to put this madness into perspective; the distance from Villena to Benidorm is about 102kms, from Alicante it is only 46kms and from Villena to Torrevieja is 96.7kms as opposed to 51.5kms from Alicante. Almost double the distance – double the journey time.
Anyway that is the way it is to be so journalists turned up to welcome the first passengers on the service yesterday. As the 12:50 train pulled into the station at Villena they surrounded the ten passengers that got off the train. Apparently one of them was wearing an AC/DC T-shirt and thought he had been mistaken for a member of the band.
In the end, not one of the passengers boarded the 26 seater bus to Benidorm. It had to set off with just two representatives, one from RENFE and the other from ALSA (the company that operate the bus service).
Things were slightly better on the trip from Torrevieja where 6 people waited for the 9am bus to take them to Villena. The company said they expected more passengers for the afternoon bus.
The hope is that common sense prevails and the service can operate from Alicante in future.
For those of you who are going to the fiesta by car, your parking problems are sorted. The multi storey car park on Calle La Paz will be open from 9pm on Saturday the 9th until 12am on Sunday the 17th and parking will be free.
At noon today there will be tapeo on Calle Antonio Gálvez for those who fancy a tasty morsel along with a cold beer.
Tonight, at 10pm is the time for the coronation of the fiesta queens. I will be hotfooting down to the house of the juvenile queen to take some pictures for her parents. I’ll then be moving on to the park where I hope to grab a good spot to get photos of the ceremony.
Remember that our friends John and Carol will be handing over to the new “third age” king and queen during the ceremony. I hope they haven’t lost the cane of office this time!
PS For up to date information about the Fiesta, go to the Fiesta Commission Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sanjoaquin2014.
In the programme for this year’s fiesta you will find an event called “Fiesta Taurina” taking place on Monday, August 11th at 8pm and may have wondered just what was involved. The poster and the title gives you a good clue.
It is to be a bullfighting festival but not with a real bull (at least I don’t think so).
To take part you need to be armed with a newspaper to whack the bull and you should be dressed in costume as a bullfighter, or a member of the Civil Guard or as a fire-fighter etc..
This will all take place on Calle Aurelano Diaz and from what I understand the object is to run with the bull in honour of San Joaquin.
Sounds potentially dangerous? Remember this is Spain and Spaniards do not know the meaning of fear!
There was supposed to be a music festival yesterday on the beach at Campoamor, it had been widely advertised through social media sites. Even as late as yesterday morning, the organisers were telling people that it was taking place, in fact artists had turned up to conduct sound checks.
Last Friday though, the local authorities had decided that it could not take place because of security issues and there were barriers and police there to stop people entering the site. So instead, the young people joined the beach party which has become an annual event on the first Wednesday in August since 1999.
At first this was a private party hosted by a nightclub but has since grown much larger as young people organise themselves to be there using social media. They arrive with carrier bags full of bottles, spirits and mixers and proceed to party in large numbers on the beach. Last year it was estimated that 20,000 turned up, who knows how many there were this year, possibly many more.
The local police are powerless to stop these events from happening. Sheer weight of numbers makes it impossible to turn the young people away. The best they can do is to try and contain the events and prevent damage to neighbouring property. No doubt that the beach this morning is awash with empty bottles etc which will have to be cleared before the visitors arrive for their day by the sea.
In Torrevieja, they held a competition for graffiti artists. Their canvas was the glass recycling bins and their incentive cash prizes.
First prize was 1,500 euros, second - 1,000 third 500 - euros and five runners up at 100 euros.
Painting the glass recycling bins is a great idea and a big improvement on the plain green paint that they normally come in. How long the works of art will last though as the bins are emptied is anyone’s guess.
The fiesta here in Bigastro seems to be shortened more each year. The benefit is that there are no longer days in-between where nothing much happens and of course, the town has to try and save money!
The coronation this year will take place on Saturday 9th August at 10pm. This will be followed by the crazy cars the next day at 10am, then tapas in the street. At 9:30pm there will be a Madrid Fiesta for the older members of the community.
On Monday 11th, a parade for people in costume has been organised for 8pm.
At midnight on Tuesday 12th, the flamenco show sounds promising.
Jumping to Wednesday the “carrreras de cintas” at 11am will be good fun and at 8:30pm, the comparsas wet parade for those who don’t mind a bit of water.
Thursday the 14th is when the floral parade will take place at 8pm followed at 1am by a concert of 80s music. Please note there is no concert scheduled for the town band this year.
Friday the 15th is the day when the comparsas parade in the streets followed by the Alborada at 1am.
Saturday 16th, the town band will accompany the queens of the fiesta to the church. Then there will be mass followed by a grand mascleta of fireworks in the town square. Note that these are not colourful fireworks just loud ones set out to form a rhythm of sound. At 8pm the solemn parade will take place followed by the firework display. And for those who missed it, the tribute to Eurovision will take place at 1am.
Finally, on Sunday morning La Murga (satirical humour about politicians and others) will entertain those who are awake.
There are other events to entertain the young and of course, the tractor will be around dispensing free beer during the fiesta. Please see the programme for full details.
In England we were used to house prices rising. Buying a house was seen as an investment, better than having your money in the bank. Pam and I profited from both of the properties we owned such that we had the equity to buy our home in Spain outright and still have money in the bank.
When we bought our home in Bigastro, Pam and I expected the situation to be the same as we experienced in England. Although we had no intentions of selling our new house, we hoped that it would increase in value for us and for our children who will eventually inherit it.
This chart shows what has actually happened.
|2004||+18pc We bought in 2003 and moved here in November 2004. That meant our house was already worth more than we had paid for it.|
|2005||+16pc The price of houses on the estate continued to rise.|
|2006||+15pc Still rising.|
|2007||+8pc Things still look bright but dark clouds are on the horizon.|
|2008||-3pc The first year of the slump but still the price of our properties were high.|
|2009||-10pc By this stage it was difficult to sell houses.|
|2010||-4pc A marginal slow down.|
|2011||-7pc The improvement reversed.|
|2012||-11pc By this stage trying to sell was impossible.|
|2013||-11pc Owners were practically giving their homes away and so sales increased.|
|2014||-3pc Hailed as a turnaround but then we saw something similar in 2010.|
In Spain, prices have fallen by between 40 and 50pc over the six year period from 2008 and in some cases by over 60pc. The fact that the fall has started to bottom out is encouraging but even if the turn around in house prices continues, it will be a good few years before they recover to the values reached in 2007.
Of course, the value of a house is determined by what the buyer is prepared to pay for it and that is closely related to its location.
We had hoped that our urbanisation would have been completed to the standards that we saw in others but that was not the case. There are still vacant plots and two developments of houses that stand as empty, crumbling eyesores. The final stages of building came at the time when the market plummeted.
These factors must weigh against the desirability of our homes to buyers and hence depress their value.
I hope you found it interesting.
Do feel free to comment by clicking on COMMENTS at the bottom of each post to send me an email.