Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Want a job?

10626576_364576920363457_7357023189634765878_nThere is one going in Bigastro.
The Council are looking for a young lady between 25 and 35 years old who lives in Bigastro, is well educated, has a good command of English both spoken and written, has their own car, driving licence and is available for work.

I qualify on six out of eight counts, actually make that five because I am not available for work.  

PS Imagine the furore in England if a Council placed an advert restricting access to young ladies who live in the town.

In England the advert would have to say the job was open to any  regardless of age, race, sex, disability and sexual orientation.

Music for your ears

10644670_364616937026122_8511898161245860497_oThe Department of Culture and the Provincial Council of Alicante are pleased to offer a wide CULTURAL PROGRAM, for the 3rd, 4th and 5th October.

The program consists of various works intended for all ages.

For example, on Saturday October 4 at 20:30 pm,  you can enjoy a performance by the LYRIC NOSTALGIA JAZZ QUARTET in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Photos for you

You can now download my photos of the procession yesterday by going to my Dropbox account at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/eu4i70fxxicqx8f/AACc0U8juVDhtr2wmSIFvbRwa?dl=0

Learning all the time

As I have said before, one of the reasons we wanted to live in a place like Bigastro is because traditions and culture are still alive in small Spanish towns. Live on the coast or in places like Quesada and you could easily miss out on all of this.

Each year Pam and I learn more about the events that take place annually in the town, occasions that increase our insight into bigastrense life and show us what is important to the Spanish people here.

Yesterday I went down to take photos of the procession that took place following mass in the church. It seems that, the last weekend in September, the church holds a fiesta in honour of the Virgin Mary after whom the church is named.

In the procession is the statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus carried by members of the Brotherhood of the Virgin. It is the same statue that is carried during the Encuentro. The fiesta queens also take part in the parade, dressed in the gowns for the coronation but with cream mantillas on their heads. Members of the town council join in along with many of the townsfolk carrying lighted candles. As you would expect, the town band provides the music.

You will find my album of pictures located in the left hand sidebar.

I ought to go

20526_over-a-thousand-flamingoes-nesting-in-the-lagunas-de-la-mata-torrevieja-park_1_largeThe flamingos have returned to La Mata in large numbers as reported by the newspaper Informacion. I really ought to go and take my camera to see if I can get some pictures of these birds. In the meantime here is a photo I found on the internet.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MPs behaving badly

As the Conservative Party conference kicks off, the party has been dealt a double blow.

1. Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood has joined Douglas Carswell in defecting to UKIP.

Mr Reckless lived up to his name when he missed a vote on the Budget just months after taking his seat in Parliament. He was so inebriated after a six hour drinking session that he fell to the floor in the Commons. Mr Reckless had to be bundled into a taxi and sent home by follow MPs.

Reckless said afterwards that he would never be caught drinking in the House again. Let us hope so because, if he is successful in becoming a UKIP MP, Nigel Farange will need him to be there for every session of Parliament in a fit state to vote. 

2. Brooks Newmark has resigned his post as Minister for Civil Society following reports that he exposed himself on the internet to an undercover reporter.

The journalist created a fake Twitter account complete with a picture of an attractive young girl. Under the name Sophie Wittams, the reporter sent messages to to the Minister. The relationship between them became steamy when they swapped sexually explicit photographs. Mr Newmark’s picture showed him exposing himself in a pair of paisley pyjamas.

His final blow was to suggest that the two meet up at the conference this week.

Now, we know that politicians are only human and are subject to the same frailties as the rest of us but you would expect the leaders of your country to behave better and at least show some discretion in their private lives. On the one hand you could argue that the Conservative party will be better off without these two (actually Mr Newmark will remain as an MP) but the timing is not good for David Cameron who hopes to launch his campaign to win the next election this week.

Please, no rain for the procession


AEMET warns us that the coastal region is on yellow alert for storms today. Looking out, the sky is very dark and gloomy but apparently that will change by about midday and we should see some sun this afternoon.

All I hope is that the rain stays off for the procession this morning from the church. This weekend is the fiesta of the VIrgen de Belen when the statue of her will be carried around the streets of the town.

Since the fiesta queens will be taking part in the parade, I have been asked to go down there and take photos. Obviously, if it is raining, the procession will not take place and I will miss my opportunity.

Looking further on, the present weather pattern will continue with a high possibility of rain right through next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A mere gesture

After a heated debate in the House of Commons yesterday, MPs voted almost unanimously to allow intervention in Iraq by British aircraft. It seems that six Tornado aircraft will be engaged in bombing strategic targets.

David Cameron said that the war against ISIL will last for years not months and that future prime ministers will still be facing difficult decisions about this matter.

The sad fact is that he is right, the problem lies in Syria and is so deep rooted that it will take a massive change of culture in the country to defeat the terrorists. Air strikes might curtail the current problem but they are hardly likely to stop it. The people in those countries are the only ones who can eventually clear up this mess.

The good think is that, this time, the people of Britain are not being lied to as they were when Tony Blair told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction they could unleash at any time against the West.

What must they think

We have friends on holiday at Punta Prima. Their first week there was sunny and they complained it was too hot. I don’t suppose they will be complaining about the heat this week though.

Apart from the rain which may well have lashed down on them, there was a minor earthquake yesterday at midday. It was a mere 1.2 on the Richter Scale and was cantered off the coast at Pilar de la Horadada but  I bet they felt it and wondered what was going on. .

More about the rain

Ask three people from different locations in the Vega Baja what the weather was like yesterday and you will get three different answers.The unstable air continues to drop rainstorms on towns almost at random.

For example, we were in Torrevieja yesterday lunchtime on business and it was sunny, there were even people on the beach. We called at Carrefour and Mercadona on our return and it was still sunny. However, it was obvious there had been some rain in Bigastro which had cleared by the time we got home.

This morning I read that towns in the north of the province had up to 60 litres of water per square metre in the morning and that there were floods on the roads of Torrevieja in the afternoon. It seems that the police in the town are so well prepared, they close the roads they know will flood even before it happens. Torrevieja has had twice the amount of rain in a few days than it had all year and there is still more to come.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fancy a castle?

212ebd7c-ea41-4fe2-91cb-fdf73259ce8b-460x276Butrón castle in the Basque Country is up for sale for anyone willing to pay at least 3.5 million euros.

The five storey 700 year old building has four towers and stands in 35,000 square meters of land. It has a courtyard, a chapel, a grand room for banquets, a water well and even dungeons. Sadly though, it only has two bathrooms.

The castle was purchased by a Spanish real estate company in 2005 when the previous owners, who tried to run it as a wedding venue, went bankrupt.

For those of you who might be interested, this is the link to the auction.

Blessed rain

For many heavy rain is a curse, especially those who are here on vacation but for the farmers it is a blessing from heaven.

The rain is set to continue into next week but hopefully will come with less force and without the heavy thunder. That will please those who have almond and olive trees which are very resistant to drought but are suffering after a very dry and hot summer.

The drought this summer has been described as the most severe for 150 years threatening even the pine trees that normally will survive anything.

What the farmers do not want though is a “gota fria” or cold drop because that is often accompanied by hail which damages fruit and other crops.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Storms continue

The presence of unstable air combined with high sea temperatures led to a tornado forming of the coast between Alicante and Benidorm. That must have been a spectacular sight whilst it lasted.

The sun came back out and all was peace again. Not for long though because another supercell formed and dumped 14 litres per square metre of rain on Elche and 3 litres per square metre on Alicante. We could hear the thunder even though it was some distance away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The unused water tank

Remember back in 2007 they built the water tank above the campsite at La Pedrera? Its purpose was to supply water to the houses that were being built in Sector D-6 and at the same time cure the lack of water pressure in apartment blocks higher than 3 storeys. The cost of building was 512,357 euros.

Seven years on and the tower remains unused because the council at the time and since have failed to invest the 70,000 euros necessary to install connecting pumps.

Whilst we are talking of water, the reservoir next to our estate was relined a few years ago. I recall that it took weeks of work with trucks and diggers to complete the scheme and yet the reservoir has only rain water at the bottom of it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A mother of storms raged last night

Well the rain certainly came yesterday as per promise causing flooding in Torrevieja, Callosa de Segura and particularly Almoradi. Forty litres per square metre fell in Torrevieja and 30 in Orihuela.

It was strange though because, after a wet start to the day, the sun came out and shone for much of the afternoon. That sunshine though was responsible for the formation of a supercell between Murcia and Orihuela. Thankfully for us, it was more intense in Murcia where flooding was widespread and they even saw hail.

The immense rotating thunderstorm continued for a good hour or more and knocked out the signal to our satellite box. Thankfully, by the time we went to bed it had all calmed down, the storm had moved out to sea and hopefully today will be more normal.

There is still a risk of showers in the afternoons over the next week but not like yesterday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nasty weather


Saturday, September 20, 2014

On trial again

Another case has been opened in court against the former mayor of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya. He, the Secretary Antonio Sasesta and Françoise Bailen  have been accused of paying thousands of euros to the Vistabella Palace Hotel and the communications company, Vega Baja Media without just reason. Regular payments of over 3,000 euros were made to the accounts of the hotel and the communication company from the town’s accounts.

The prosecutor is asking for an 8 year jail sentence.

The accused and secretary are also required to contribute assets of 280,000 for their civil liability and the other official, 76,000 euros.

Work has started

After six years of complaints, leaks into nearby buildings and allegations against the council, work has started on the Acequia Alquibla in Bigastro thanks to a grant of 34,000 euros and a contribution of a further 8,000 euros from the town.

Catalonia presses forward for a vote

Catalan watched intently as the Scottish referendum progressed. Catalonia has expressed its wish to hold a similar vote about secession from Spain but the central government has denied them that right. The 1978 constitution stipulates that any vote on independence must be put to all Spaniards and so a referendum held only in Catalonia would be illegal.

Although a “yes” vote in Scotland would have helped because it would have shown that issues like EU and NATO membership could be resolved, that is not stopping Artur Mas, the Catalan President from pushing forward with the idea. He plans to hold a vote anyway even though the result would not be accepted by Madrid. It is said that 80% of the population of this prosperous region want the chance to put their view forward and a law, passed on Friday in the region, has paved the way for a “consultation” to take place possibly in November.

We have to remember that things are different here in Spain than they are in Scotland.   Although Catalonia accounts for just 16% of the total population of the country it provides almost one-fifth of the GDP.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Not my photo

Sometimes you find photos online that you really wish you’d taken yourself.


This was taken last night in the Bajo Llobregat, the Catalan region of Barcelona, by Paco Pino.

Whilst I would love to have the opportunity to take similar pictures here, I don’t relish the idea of having thunderstorms this autumn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

First of the season


You know that autumn is on the way by the change in the weather. Yesterday we had the first drops of rain on a day that was generally overcast. Temperatures are starting to drop and there is the chance of heavy rain on Monday.

We also know that autumn is drawing in because the Auditorium, which was closed during August, opens its doors to a series of musical concerts and other diversions.

The concert season at the Auditorium kicks off this Saturday with a performance by the Boehm Clarinet Ensemble. They will interpret works by Mozart, Weber, Piazzolla and others.

Time 7:30 pm; entrance will be free.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brits lose out

Alberto Contador won his third Vuelta a España, his sixth grand tour win, beating Chris Froome into second place.

Meanwhile Dylan van Baarle beat Sir Bradley WIggins by a mere 10 seconds in the Tour of Britain.  Wiggo said before the race that this would be his last tour and therefore he was going all out to win.

The organisers had made the Tour of Britain difficult this year with longer stages, constant climbs and descents, climbs near to the end of stages and a restriction of 6 riders per team.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Political will

At the 2011 elections, the PP promised to reform the abortion laws in Spain limiting availability to those women who had been raped and those that would suffer if their pregnancy continued. In order to obtain an abortion, women would have to gain the consent of two doctors.

The move would have made the law the strictest in Europe and as some women complained, taken Spain back to the days of Franco. The planned changes pitted hard line religious anti-abortion groups against the will of the people (70- 80% of people polled rejected the change).

The reforms were meant to be implemented by the end of September but according to sources in the PP will never make parliament due to lack of consensus. The PP lost out 2.5 million votes at the European elections and are nervous that they may again lose out at the municipal and general elections in 2015.

David Cameron faces a similar dilemma now. When the British aid worker David Haines was beheaded and threats were made against a second UK citizen, Alan Henning, the Prime Minister had to try and reflect the will of the people rather than his own parties dogma.  

In a statement in front of two union jack flags, Cameron said: "We are a peaceful people. We do not seek out confrontation, but we need to understand we cannot ignore this threat to our security and that to our allies. There is no option of keeping our heads down that would make us safe … We cannot just walk on by if we are to keep this country safe. We have to confront this menace.

"Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy Isil [Isis] and what it stands for … We will not do so on our own, but by working closely with our allies, not just the United States and in Europe, but also in the region because this organisation poses a massive threat to the entire Middle East."

In doing so he will be mindful of the backlash that has occurred since Tony Blair led Britain into war in Iraq. Some now claim that the repressive regime of Sadain Hussain kept the region in check and thus the war there has proved counter productive. Cameron will not want to make the same mistake.

A natural disaster

The high temperatures this summer (the hottest in 64 years) and the lack of rain have heightened the risk of forest fires in the Valencian community. Everywhere there are signs warning of the risk of fire, most of which are caused naturally.

In total, 1072.9 hectares of forest have been destroyed this year which compares badly with the 821.95 hectares last year.

incendio forestal  entre el montgo y denia The fire that raged between Javea and Denia on Thursday and Friday last week raised 444 hectares of woodland to the ground - accounting for 40% of the total this year. It is estimated that it will take 30 years for the area to fully recover.


For my photography friends

These are phrases that we photographers come out with from time to time and their true meanings.

“I’m a natural light photographer.”

Translation: “I never actually learned how to work with flash and artificial light.” (Alternate Translation: “I don’t own any lighting gear.”)

“This camera has great dynamic range.”

Translation: “I can fix my poorly exposed photos much easier in Photoshop.”

“I only shoot with prime lenses.”

Translation: “I read an article that said they’re better.”

“I only shoot wide angle.”

Translation: “I can’t be troubled with details.”

“I only shoot wide open apertures.”

Translation: “I have money to spend on fast lenses.”

“There isn’t anything I can’t do at f/4.”

Translation: “I don’t have money to spend on fast lenses.”

“I specialize in portraits, weddings, sports, fashion, landscapes, food, pets, babies, and…”

Translation: “I’m still figuring out what I’m good at.” (Alternate translation: “I’ll shoot anything.”)

“I’m a fine art photographer.”

Translation: “I have no paying clients right now, so I sell prints in the park.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll get it in camera.”

Translation: “I have no vision whatsoever for this shoot, so please stand over there and we’ll figure it out as we go.” (Not to be confused with “We’ll get it RIGHT in camera.” Totally different.)

“I only do minimal post processing.”

Translation: “Photoshop and Lightroom still confuse the hell out of me.”

“I love the way you processed that image.”

Translation: “Tell me how you did it.”

“I capture moments in time.”

Translation: “I see stuff. I shoot it.”

“I really prefer the look of black & white.”

Translation: “B&W is much more forgiving of my exposure mistakes.”

“I prefer street portraits. They’re much more real.”

Translation: “I can’t shoot a studio portrait to save my life.”

“Film is dead.”

Translation: “I never quite got the hang of it.”

“Just stand/sit however you feel comfortable.”

Translation: “I know absolutely nothing about posing.”

“I don’t take photos. I tell stories.”

Translation: “See how sensitive I am?”

“I’m upgrading to full frame.”

Translation: “That will fix everything that’s wrong with my photography.”

“I have to change memory cards.”

Translation: “I just shot 600 frames of a ______, and I’m not sure I got it right.”

“I’m thinking of switching from Canon/Nikon to Nikon/Canon.”

Translation: “The only explanation for my creative rut has got to be the gear.”

“We’re losing the light.”

Translation: “I’m out of ideas.”

“What settings are you using?”

Translation: “HELP!”

“I’ll fix that later in post.”

Translation: “I’d rather spend an hour in Photoshop fixing the background than taking 30 seconds right now to find a better angle.”

“I NEED that new ______.”

Translation: “I want that new ______.” (But the world won’t stop spinning on its axis if I don’t get it.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eagle eyed readers will have spotted the new albums of photos in the left hand sidebar. That means we have returned from Cuenca and I have started to upload the pictures I took.

So what was Cuenca like?

I hope my pictures tell the story of this World Heritage site.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Catching up

I thought it was time to catch up with the readers of this blog and let them know what we are doing.

Pam and I are in Cuenca with our friends Peter and Glenys to celebrate Peter's 70th birthday which happens to be today.

There is a WiFi connection at the Parador where we are staying but it is variable and keeps dropping out so posting anything is a "pain in the butt".

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Change can be daunting

When Pam and I decided to retire and live in Spain, it seemed a simple decision to make. However, the logistics of carrying that through were challenging. We had to find a home in Spain, sell our house in the UK and of course retire from our jobs. There were a host of other things we had to do as well and a mountain of paperwork to be dealt with.

Once we were on the plane with a one way ticket, it all seemed final. There was no going back at that stage, this was make or break.

The reality of what we had done kicked in within a few weeks as we faced life, not just in a different town but a different country with a language that we barely understood. We still recall standing in Eroski supermarket wondering what on earth we were going to buy to feed ourselves. In those early days, we went out armed with a dictionary to help us work out what we were buying and more important, how it should be prepared.

Actually, what helped us through those early days was the fact we had so much to do. Apart from all the procedures for establishing ourselves here, there was a house to sort out along with a garden. Pam and I barely had time to stop and reflect on the life changing decision we had made. That came over a year later.

Pam and I have now lived here 10 years but it doesn’t feel like it and that is a good thing. We’d made the right decision.

Now our eldest daughter, Jemma, has just made a similar life changing move.

Jemma worked for Wolverhampton Council as a Senior Play Development Officer for 11 years, a job which she has mostly enjoyed. The crunch came when the Council decided to move to “single status” a couple of years ago and bodged the process up. Clearly, they needed to save money which meant that cost cutting rather than equality was the order of the day.

Following that, the council decided that the Play Service would have to be cut anyway and although Jemma’s job was saved, there was no way of knowing for how long. This was the trigger for Jemma to become proactive.

With a wealth of experience of dealing with children, the obvious choice was to train as a teacher so she applied for a PGCE course at Wolverhampton University.

Jemma passed her interview as we all knew she would and then had to take the Maths and English tests that all new teachers face. Again, she passed those with ease first time round. Not surprisingly, Jemma was offered a place on the course, originally for next year but later changed to this year. For those who are unaware, places on PGCE course are hard fought for and so Jemma really had to prove herself to be selected.

Yesterday was the big day when Jemma started her course. Like Pam and I when we came to Spain, she had been too busy to think about the reality of the change she was making to her life. That was until the morning when it struck her hard. She sat in the hall at the Walsall campus wondering whether she had done the right thing. Luckily, one of the tutors spotted her and took her to one side for a chat to reassure her. Today, she feels more confident and as the weeks pass, that confidence will grow.

Jemma will make a brilliant teacher, of that there is no doubt. Once she gets into the classroom, Jemma will shine and all those nagging doubts about whether she did the right thing will vanish just as they did for us once we had settled to normal life in Spain.

No matter how old you are and how much experience you have under your belt, major changes to your life can “knock you for six”. They are unsettling which is why most of us would prefer to put them off. It takes a lot of courage to make a decision like Jemma has, it shows great strength of character. I say best of luck to her, although she really won’t need it.

Monday, September 08, 2014

False hopes

When I read an item in La Verdad  under the heading Bigastro which said, “The City closed the accounts of 2013 with a surplus of 1.5 million”, I thought this must have been a miracle.

As I read further though, it was clear this good news was about Rojales. The happy situation there means they can afford to reduce council tax, pay off a loan from 2012 and even invest 610,000 euros to resurface the roads. Sadly, none of these will happen in Bigastro. 

A date for your diary


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Local artist on display at hospital

72456051--575x366 Paintings by the Bigastro artist, María José Torregrosa, have been donated to the Vega Baja hospital by the Praxis Association.

Praxis is a group that works with the hospital to provide recreational activities for paediatric patients.


Vega Baja hospital has received a batch of paintings donated by the Praxis Association Vega Baja. The work, painted by artist Bigastro will serve to decorate part of the hospital facilities.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Time at the beach

As I have said before, Pam and I rarely go to the beach. Our friends Glenys and Peter love the beach though so when we met up with them yesterday, that is where we went.

Boules at Playa Flamenca

Looks temporary, but these props have held up the garden at least 10 years.

Beach bar at Playa Flamenca

Playa Flamenca

From the left Glenys, Peter, Pam, Hugh and Angela.
Pam met Glenys in the 1st year at Grammar School, we met Peter in the late 70s, I have been with Pam since 1966 and Hugh & Angela were our neighbours in Greasby since 1985.

Playa Flamenca

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The heat is one

Temperatures might not have reached the dizzy heights of the other week but they did come close yesterday. According to the State Agency, the temperature in Orihuela rose to 37.8 degrees.
At 6am, it was 22 Celsius and gradually rose from there to the maximum at 6pm. Only then did it slowly drop back down to more comfortable levels.

Looking at other parts of the country, it got to 40.6 in Murcia, 40.5 in Yecla, 39.1 in Jumilla and 38.9 in Cordoba.

For today, the prediction is for a  maximum of a more comfortable 34 degrees, getting a little cooler then as the week progresses. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Busy times ahead

Last night, our friends Hugh and Angela arrived for their annual Spanish holiday. Later in the week, our friends Glenys and Peter will be at Punta Prima for their holiday.

After Hugh and Angela return to England, we have a short break to Cuenca arranged to celebrate Peter's 70th birthday.

End of September, we will be flying to the UK for a wedding and will stay for the birth of our second grandchild.