Thursday, December 31, 2015

The main event

For many Spaniards, the arrival of the Three Kings is still the main event of the festive season.

Santa Claus though is making inroads which means that the lucky ones get presents twice.

The Three Kings in Bigastro is a much lower key event than in places like Orihuela and Torrevieja and so that is where we will be heading.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Do you remember Kay?

Those Brits who live at Villas Andrea may well remember brother and sister -  Kay and Ken Wooden - who originally owned the house next door.

They arrived with four cats, two parrots and a cockatoo. Sadly, one by one, the cats died but were replaced by two delightful kittens along with a couple of feral cats they used to feed.

Although they enjoyed the winter sunshine and the relaxed lifestyle, the summer heat was just too much for Kay. The house had air conditioning installed by the builder but that proved expensive to run and so they got by with just fans.

Ken had a very serious accident some years before arriving which left him with a problem walking, Whilst here, he suffered a heart attack from which he never really recovered. It was very sad because they were good company and very good neighbours.

Eventually, they decided to move to France for its milder summers and rented a house in a small town. From there the pair planned to return to England and found a place outside of York. Sadly, before the move took place, Ken died and so Kay was left on her own with her collection of animals.

Each year we get a Christmas card from Kay letting us know how she is. In this year's card, Kay tells us that she still misses Ken's company but still has the animals for company. She also misses the house in Spain but not the hot weather in summer. I am not sure how close the house in York is to a river, I sincerely hope that she has not suffered during the recent floods that have affected that area.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Calling all gamers

Take your PC or video console along to the Auditorium to participate in a games party competing with others.

The event will take place today and tomorrow between 11am and 2pm and then again between 4pm and 7pm.

My birthday treat

The 3rd January just happens to be my birthday, how kind of the Junior Band to organise a concert especially for that day. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The last Christmas

No point in dreaming of a white Christmas here in Bigastro. You have to go back 89 years to find any real evidence of snow and even then it is only a thin coating - not enough to make a snowball never mind a snowman.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A message from the church

That's Boxing Day evening sorted

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dream to nightmare

Many Spaniards will have their fingers and toes crossed today hoping beyond hope that the Christmas Lottery will bring them good luck.

The newspaper Informacion though warns us of the dangers that sudden wealth can bring.

1. It can generate envy among the people around who want to take advantage of your luck by asking to borrow money or demanding gifts.

2. It can tempt you into buying luxury; cars, houses and fancy clothes. And then what? You end up with a whole load of things you don't need and still you are not happy.

3. You can lose real friends and at the same time gain new ones who are only interested in your new wealth.

4. It is tempting to stop work and become a person of leisure but that can become tiresome after awhile. At least when we are young we need a purpose in life, a reason to get up in the morning.

5. Seizing the opportunity to start a business is a bad idea because inexperience can mean that you can lose money and, most importantly, feel unsuccessful if all goes wrong.

The advice is to:

1. Keep calm and do not tell anyone outside your inner circle. Above all, you must control the urge to tell the world about your news. If you do, it will only be a matter of days before sacks full of begging letters arrive at your doorstep.

2. Do not make radical decisions during your initial rush of joy.

3. Put the money in a bank trust ASAP.

4. Act as if nothing had happened and continue with a "normal" life.

5. Most important;- tell your family and friends that the money is being managed by an asset manager .That makes it easier to say no when they ask for things.

Monday, December 21, 2015


The situation in Spanish politics became a whole lot more complicated after yesterday's elections.

The PP won 123 seats in the election, with 29% of the vote, leaving them far from a majority in the 350-seat legislature.The Socialists came second, with 90 seats and 22% of the vote.
Anti-austerity Podemos finished in third place with 69 seats and 21% of the vote, while the centre-right Ciudadanos won 40 seats and 14% of the vote.

In order to be able to govern for the next four years, the PP will have to rely on other parties, suggesting a protracted process of negotiations for Spain’s political leaders.

Several scenarios are possible. In the lead-up to the election, many analysts had predicted that the new government would be made up of the PP and supported in some way by Ciudadanos. But Sunday’s election result leave the two parties together still short of a majority.

Any such alliance would now require a third partner, a scenario that shifts some of the balance of power to regional parties from Catalonia and the Basque country and will be complicated by Ciudadanos’ vehement opposition to Catalan independence and insistence on eradicating long-standing Basque tax benefits.

Another possibility is a grand pact between the PP and Socialists.  However, this option was understandably rejected by the leaders of both parties during the campaign.

An alternative would be a coalition of the Socialists, Podemos and Ciudadanos. However, Rivera said earlier this week his party would not support what he called a “grouping of losers”, diminishing the likelihood of this option.

Sunday’s results could allow the Socialists to govern with the support of Podemos and several smaller parties, such as the Republican Left of Catalonia, who won nine seats, or Artur Mas’s Convergence party, which won eight seats.

However, even if the Socialists amass enough votes to gain control of the lower house of parliament, their government’s attempts to push forward initiatives such as constitutional reform would likely be quashed by the country’s senate, where Sunday’s election left the PP with an absolute majority.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Keep the Christmas spirit going

After the feast of food and drink on Christmas Day, it will be good to get out on Boxing Day and enjoy some music courtesy of the Bigastro band. Their traditional Christmas concert is always uplifting fun and great entertainment.

PS For Spaniards the important day is Christmas Eve or Nochebuena, a time when families get together and enjoy a lavish meal which traditionally has several courses including starters, fish, seafood,  meat and desserts.

For we Brits, it is Christmas Day with our  roast turkey dinner served with all the trimmings;- roast and boiled potatoes, Brussels sprouts, roast parsnips, pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in streaky bacon), stuffing and lashings of gravy. This is followed by  Christmas pudding with brandy sauce and  later on cold meats, cheese, pork pies and slices of Christmas cake which in Yorkshire would be accompanied by a crumbly cheese like Cheshire, Lancashire or Wensleydale.

On Boxing Day (the 26th) Pamela and I would have left the turkey to one side and  cooked roast pork with a variety of vegetables and of course Yorkshire puddings.

Get creative

Even if some Spanish restaurants recipes seem a little strange to our tastes, I don't think we can fault their desserts.

In Britain  we prepare something special for Christmas,  like mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, yule logs etc, It is the same in Spain with cooks being creative with their ingredients to turn out something just for the festive season.

Here in Bigastro, the Progressive Women's Association organise a competition to find the best on offer and award prizes to the most successful.

I must try and get myself an invite to take photos and maybe even enjoy a bit of cheeky sampling!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Clear out the cupboards

My grandchildren will be getting more toys this Christmas, that is for sure. Like with all children, a new toy can mean that old ones become abandoned and forgotten.

Rather than having them fill up space in the cupboard, the children of Bigastro are invited to take them to the Social Centre any Monday to Friday between 9am and 2pm. From there they will be distributed to less fortunate children who may have to go without this Christmas.

The full programme for the festive season.

What's on in Bigastro

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A tight deadline

You've got until the 23rd to write your letters to Santa Claus. On that day you need to take them to the post box on Calle Purisima to ensure delivery for Christmas.

Actually, if you belong to a more traditional family, you will have to wait until the Three Kings arrive on January 6th for your presents and hope that Santa passes your requests on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A bit of window dressing

Many of the shops in Bigastro make a special effort to dress their windows for Christmas.There is usually a great mix between traditional nativity scenes and more contemporary themes.

Just to spice things up and give extra incentive, the Town Hall are offering prizes for the best efforts.

Open for business

The work at the Holy Cross Park is now complete. With new planting, new benches and games for the children, it all looks very splendid.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Good to be back

The thing that most expats look forward to least when they return to England during the winter is the weather. To be fair, we saw very little rain in Manchester until yesterday. There were even periods when the sun shone and the temperatures were mild.

Yesterday though was wet, very wet. Thankfully we were not outside for long even when we dropped our hire car off at the Car Rental Village just outside the airport.

The flight home was trouble free as indeed was the flight to Manchester eight days earlier. That is more than we can say for the stay though. Once again Pamela was in bed for a day with some form of vomit inducing stomach bug and I had a day when I dare not stray far from a toilet.

We are either susceptible to these kind of bugs, having lived 11 years in a hot climate, or the close proximity to a lot more people brings us into contact with them. Either way, it doesn't make for a pleasant trip when you spend part of it feeling wretched.

We are not fond of the British weather any more. The cold and damp of winters in the UK is no longer a mere inconvenience, it is totally depressing. Neither are we fond of the pace of life in the UK, the roads are too crowded, the shops are too crowded and at nearing 70, we no longer want to keep up with life in the fast lane.

On the positive side though, our family and friends in the UK continue to delight us. Molly is such a treasure to be with and Rory is shaping up to be a real character. Like most parents, we get a lot of comfort from seeing how our children have developed and now our grandchildren are proving to be equally rewarding. Not all families are as lucky as us, we know that. Pamela and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Monday, December 07, 2015

You guessed

It hardly seems anytime at all since we were in England and here we are again for our pre-Christmas trip.

Those of you who keep up with UK news will know that Britain has been battered already by several winter storms. Today we have some respite from the grey sky and strong wind with a nice blue vista out there.

Judging by what we have seen on television though, we have nothing to complain about. Not that far north of us, there are scenes of devastation caused by high winds and severe flooding. It seems that the winter storms have been given names and this one was Desmond. Let us hope they don't as far as Zack.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

We need to catch up!

"Super-fast broadband is now available to more than 83% of UK homes - up from 75% in the same period in 2014.

The research found that only 2.4 million UK homes, about 8%, cannot get speeds of 10Mbps or more. Many of these homes were in rural areas."

Well I live close to a town and my speed via Telefonica is 8.5Mps.

I could transfer to a local fibre optic service which promises 100Mbs but I know from the experience of others that quitting Telefonica can be a painful process and I wonder how long the local service can survive if very few subscribe to it.

I'd hoped that Telefonica might offer a fibre optic service to replace the copper cable but that does not seem likely.

Working with the light

Those of you who have looked at my pictures from the Auditorium will have noticed how harsh the lighting is in there. The directional spotlights bleach out people's faces and at the same time cast very dark shadows. To be fair, it is pretty much the same in any concert venue.

One solution to the problem is to use flash but a) that is so intrusive during a concert b) you need to be close up for it to work and c) it also bleaches out subject that are close whilst throwing further subjects into shadow.

I normally try and sit at the back of the first section so that I can see the whole of the band and point my camera at different parts. I use a 70-200mm lens on a full frame camera and sometimes add a 1.4x extender to give me more reach.

If you were to look at the information about my photos, you would see that they are mostly taken at full aperture for that lens i.e. f2.8 and shutter speeds are nominally 1/120th of a second. At 200mm that would give me many blurred shots but for the incredible image stabilisation system of the Canon lens.

In the Auditorium I set what is called exposure compensation to bring the exposure as far into the highlights as I can without losing them into solid white. In photography speak that is "exposing to the right" because the highlights are shown on the right side of a histogram of light. "Clipped" highlights are impossible to recover whatever wizardry you try to perform later on a computer.

At those settings, I then allow the camera to choose an appropriate ISO (film speed in old parlance) to get correct exposure. In my days with film, 400 ISO was the highest speed you could buy. You had to what was called push process it to get speeds up to 1,600 ISO and the result was then very grainy.

These days digital cameras have a range of ISO speeds up to 100,000 and more. As the speed increases so does the digital noise and with noise you lose precious detail in a multicoloured blotchy mess. Looking at the speeds that my camera has chosen shows the range to be from 1,500 to about 5,000 ISO and sometimes even 6,400.

When I process the pictures in my computer there are several things that I do. First of all I correct the colour to try and bring it close to neutral. Then I reduce any noise without losing too much detail. I crop my photos to achieve a better composition and finally I try and bring back some of lost information in the shadows.

Therein lies a problem though because what I am relying upon is wide dynamic range from my sensor i.e. its ability to record detail in shadows and highlights at the same time. Dynamic range of digital sensors is always at its highest at the lower ISO settings e.g. ISO 100 and progressively gets lower as the sensitivity increases. At 3,200 ISO it is at its lowest.

These days, the cameras with the greatest dynamic range are those that use Sony sensors which includes Nikons. Canon are lagging behind in this area of design. On the latest Sony sensors you can find detail in areas that appear totally black on first sight - quite remarkable.

To make matters worse, Canon sensors also suffer from banding at low ISO settings. Banding occurs when you try to lighten shadows and show up as colour streaks across those areas. Fortunately, banding is not a problem at the higher ISO settings I use in the Auditorium.

So why did I not chose to go with Nikon? Well, when I first bought a full frame camera, the Canon 5D MkII seemed to have a better feature set than the Nikon D700 which was its competitor. Once I had lenses and flashguns to go with the camera, I was pretty much locked into the Canon system and it would cost me a small fortune to change now. In any case, we Canon shooters live in hope that new versions of their cameras will catch up and hopefully surpass Nikon and then we will be the ones with smiles on our faces.

Put this in your diary

One of the director's aims when he joined was to win some prizes with the band. Next year he will have the chance to scoop up the prestigious provincial prize in the annual competition.

Bands for this are selected by drawing their names from a hat. Bigastro was chosen because it had missed out in previous years.

The date is the 5th March, the location is the fabulous auditorium in Alicante where the band played earlier this year.

As it happens, the 5th March is my granddaughter Molly's birthday and normally we would fly over to Manchester to be there on the day. However, this is too important an occasion to miss and so we will make some other arrangements for her birthday.  

I would wish them best of luck but in truth it will be sheer hard work and hours of practise that will get them the result they deserve.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Well, I managed to fulfil my commitment and took photographs of the Relevo last night. It was just as prestigious as it promised to be, the town was heaving with top brass from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Civil Guard, the National Police and members of the Local Police. I did wonder at one point what would have happened if there was an emergency, would they have to disperse and carry out their duties.

You can see my photos in the two albums located in the sidebar.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Does your car need a new coat?

Although we don't have salt on the roads in this part of Spain during winter, there are other elements that damage the paintwork on your car. The chief culprit is the sun which is a blessing as far as we are concerned but not for our cars. The lucky ones who have a garage or car port can protect their paintwork for longer than those of us who have to park on a drive or the road. Inevitably though, the sun, along with all that dust from the Sahara is going to degrade the paint on your car.

If the paintwork on your car is not looking its best then a respray is the best solution but not all paint shops are the same. When I worked in Liverpool there were places that resprayed cars virtually out in the street. The result was paint that had dust embedded in it and a surface that felt rough. I also saw cars that had badly matched colours, resprayed paint that had gone dull and topcoat varnish that was peeling.

When a van ran into the back of my Roomster, I took it to Rubio Movil in Torrevieja for repair. What I got back was a car that looked like new and stayed like that for the rest of the time that I kept it. The colour match was perfect both in daylight and under sodium light at night. The paint felt smooth to the touch and it did not matt over time.

You can see the prices they charge in the picture above and compare them with those offered to you elsewhere.

PS I do not have any commercial tie with Rubio Movil. Like many, I am just a satisfied customer.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A good opportunity

I know there are lots of you who live here in Bigastro who would like to improve your Spanish and at the same time help Spaniards to improve their English. Meeting over a coffee (or a beer) in a bar is a great way to achieve this.

The proposal is that we meet up in the ratio of one English person to two Spaniards because of course there are fewer of us and many Spaniards who would like to improve their English.

Let's get Christmas and New Year over first though and start sometime in January. Pam and I have already put our names down and you can too by visiting the Town Hall, giving them your name and telephone number.

Thank you on behalf of the Town Hall, Keith

No pressure Keith

Just when I thought I was simply going to a concert given by the military band of the San Javier Air Academy, it became much more.

Pam and I went down to the Ayuntamiento this morning to try and reserve seats at the concert. Instead I was given invitations to attend the reception in the Town Hall where they also want photos. Then we will attend the special mass in the church and finally the concert in the Auditorium.

Because of the nature of the occasion, I will have to dust off my suit and don a collar and tie and Pam will have to dress suitably.

Teccy stuff

I now have to rethink my plans for the equipment that I will have to take. Normally I would consult Carol Thorpe about this but there is no time for that on this occasion.

For concerts I normally go with my 70-200mm zoom lens and use available light. For the reception though I will need my 24-70mm zoom and flashgun.  For the mass, where flash would be a distraction, I'll also need my 50mm f1.2 lens which is a low light monster.

Hopefully, sometime on Sunday, you will find a link in the album section of the sidebar with pictures of the event.

Will you join the rush

Today is Black Friday, an idea brought from America to the UK shores and to a certain extent here in Spain. It is an attempt to kick start buying before Christmas and it succeeds in that crowds gather outside shops and go online early desperate to grab a bargain.

There are some good deals to be had but only if you resist the temptation to buy just for the sake of it.

In 2014, police were called to eight Tesco branches in Manchester, with at least one store closing after 30 minutes due to overcrowding. Apparently the queues are a lot shorter this year but there are still pictures of shoppers, like this one from the Telegraph, who were up at the crack of dawn determined to grab a bargain

As per request

I have been asked to pass this information on so here you go.

A pantomime in both languages sounds intriguing

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A bit of wind

You may have noticed that it is a bit blowy out there, not to the extent that we have experienced when outdoor furniture moves but still enough to make it feel colder than it is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A most important event

I was told about this last Sunday when I was preparing to take photos of the choral concert.

It was described to me in no uncertain terms as MOST IMPORTANT which I took to mean that I should be there to record it with both my camera and audio recorder.

In June, the The Honorable and Royal Order of Knights of San Cristóbal designated its highest distinction to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Francisco Javier García Arnaz. He will take  over from the General of the Guardia Civil,  Fernando San Fe Soler on Saturday 28th November at a ceremony in Bigastro.

Following the ceremony, there will be a music concert given by the military band of the San Javier Air Academy. The dress code for the event states, men in dark suits and ladies in cocktail dresses although  I'm hoping that does no apply to photographers and their wives.

Since this will be a popular event, you are advised to make a reservation for seats at the town hall.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A knockout weekend

After photographing the new recruits to the band, we went down on Saturday to listen to the concert for Santa Cecilia. The quality of the performance very much depends on the personnel who are available and on Saturday it was a full team that played for us. That meant it was one of the best concerts that we have attended, everything was simply perfect including the superb solo performances.

As a reward for my work taking photos and now recording audio, Pam and I were invited to lunch with the band in the Sala Polivalente at the Auditorium Francisco Grau.We regard this as a great honour because the invitations are selective.

I can only tell you that our stomachs were groaning after the delicious feast and I needed a siesta when we returned to our house.

Last night, the choir, Manuel Moya gave their own concert with thirteen items on the programme including several in English. Their pronunciation of our difficult language was near perfect, you could understand every single word that was being sung. As for the singing, well even without the superb solo performances, the choir were simply brilliant, the best we have heard them.

I know that the musicians and singers are eternally grateful for my efforts in recording their performances and of course we are more than grateful for the entertainment they provide for us.  Long live the association between us. Actually, I get the better part of the deal because they spend hour upon hour rehearsing, it takes me just a few hours at the computer to process the pictures and the audio files.

You can see my photos from the events of the weekend by selecting the albums in the sidebar.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Music for your ears

This will be the ninth gala produced by the Alzheimer Association in Bigastro. It promises to delight you with a musical extravaganza for a donation of just 3 euros to this most worthy cause.

The new musicians

As tradition dictates, the band toured the streets of Bigastro to collect the young musicians that will be joining the band tonight at the concert for Santa Cecilia. Thankfully the tour was much shorter than normal and we only collected 3 musicians.

Santa Cecilia in the lobby ready for the concert tonight.

The mayor and other officials led the parade around the town.

The three new musicians that are joining the band.

Safely back at the Auditorium, the band pose for a photo together.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The price of oranges

We are now at the start of the season when oranges are picked. The earliest varieties are ready and their price is said to be 22 cents per kilo which betters the 18 cents per kilo last year during the same period. This summer this year has been a lot hotter than last year which is why their are fewer fruit and less fruit equals higher price.

Four cents per kilo more may sound insignificant but for farmers it is the difference between profit and loss. Last year the price dropped to a low of 11 cents per kilo, well below the cost of production which is said to be between 18 and 19 cents.

Now consider the price you pay in shops for oranges. I found an online shop selling organic oranges at 4.20 euros per kilo and Waitrose in the UK selling Seville oranges at £2.29 per kilo (3.28 euros at current exchange rate of 1.43 euros to the pound).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It is going to get cold here

A band of cold air is making its way to Spain.

Read the following announcement from the State Agency.

Aren't you just glad that you didn't chose to live in the north of Europe!

A false warning

Very curious!. Let's stay with the story. Yesterday morning, the coast of Valencia was on alert for the risk of a tsunami caused by that 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Greece.

The sea level rise was anticipated to have been between 0.5 and 1 metre. However, after 22 minutes the alert was called off and there was no problem.

New tarmac in the town

This week they will begin asphalting the main streets of the town with a grant of 80% of the total amount of work from Alicante. Streets and dates on which asphalt is planned are:

C / PURÍSIMA  and C / 1 MAY
Removal of the cobblestones will begin on Friday 20th ready for the asphalt on Wednesday 25th - in time for the next market day. The street will remain closed to traffic during the execution of the work.

SECTION OF ACCESS TO  La Pedrera (near the beginning of the Loma) and Avenida EUROPE San José de Calasanz)
In both sections, the asphalt will be laid on Thursday 19th. (Traffic diversion plan for the execution of the work is attached)

C / RIO SEGURA  and C / DEMOCRACY (From Perales y Ferrer to Más y Más)
The work will take place between Friday 11th  and Monday 20th. The road will be closed on both Friday and Monday with traffic diverted to  Prao and C / Velazquez but open at the weekend (traffic diversion plan for the execution of the work is attached)

Monday 11th.

Tuesday 24th.

The plan is to continue with this work and address the poor state of the roads in the town.

The council apologises for the inconvenience that the works may cause.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Two for one

Next weekend we are in for a real treat with not just one but two concerts.

Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and so Bigastro holds a concert in her honour every year.

This year though, we are to be treated to two concerts because on Sunday the choir, Manuel Moya, will be performing their own.

The wife of our teacher is a member of the choir and I know that she has been practising hard to sing at least one of the songs in English. We eagerly await the result on Sunday when the choir tackle "Unchained Melody" in English.

In the meantime, I need to find out when the band will be touring the town to collect the new musicians who will be joining the band. Then I need to charge the batteries for my audio recorder and camera in preparation for the concerts.

Sitting on the fence

When it came to a vote on whether to adopt the plan to subsidise books and materials for schoolchildren, the socialists in Bigastro voted in favour, Aurelio Murcia voted against and the PP abstained.

The socialists say that this puts Bigastro in a unique situation because every other town in the Province has voted to provide the funds to help children's education, even those with PP run councils.

Nobody would deny that buying books for children's education is an investment in the future and apart from Aurelio Murcia, all of the councillors in Bigastro would agree. Although the PP are not saying no, they are not giving the plan the green light that it needs to go ahead.

A popular crop

As you tour the area you cannot help but notice the huge fields of artichokes. The reason is that this is both a popular and profitable crop here.

This year the farmers expect to harvest over 25,000 tons of artichokes due to the 16% increase in acreage planted. In total it is said that there are 1,800 hectares of artichokes grown in the Vega Baja.

I have to say that it is not my favourite vegetable. We have tried it at home by boiling the leaves twice and then eating just the tips dipped in garlic mayonnaise. This method leaves you with a lot of waste for a minimal return. We have also eaten them in restaurants cooked in various different ways but I always find the flavour bland unless it is dressed in some way and the lower parts always seem to be woody.

Still, there is no denying their popularity with many of the locals.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In praise of UCMA

UCMA (Unidad cirugia mayor ambulatorio), the outpatients surgical unit at Vega Baja, is where I went yesterday to have a prostate biopsy.

In preparation I had already had a consultation with the anaesthetist where he considered a range of evidence including a chest x-ray, an ECG, a blood analysis, my weight, height, medical history and blood pressure before deciding it was OK for me to have a general anaesthetic.

Yesterday I was prepped for the procedure by again having an ECG and blood pressure tests. Only then and with careful monitoring, was I taken into the theatre for the biopsy which I am told took about ten minutes to complete.

Afterwards, I was taken back to the recovery room where I was again closely monitored.

Two hours after I had arrived, I was on my way home with a prescription for painkillers and antibiotics.

Of course I can only make a layman's judgement on the care and attention that I received but it was impressive and fell in line with the general impression that we have of the health system here in Spain.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation, I have every confidence that the follow up will be equally thorough.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Work in the park

As promised, there is work going on in the park at Holy Cross.

The area is being modified to accommodate games, fencing is being replaced and the perimeter wall is being repaired.  New planting will take place, the benches will be restored and those pine trees that present a hazard will be removed.

Removal of the pine trees will take place today and tomorrow and so the surrounding streets will be closed to traffic.

Your first step

Learn how to eradicate those pesky insects by enrolling on this 25 hour basic course.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The case goes on

During the years when José Joaquín Moya and Raul Valerio Medina were mayors, 48 ghost workers were registered under the Special Agricultural Scheme. It is alleged than none of them actually performed any tasks and were not registered on the council payroll.

Out of the 48, 45 are elderly women some of whom have direct ties to the former leaders of the council. The fraud allowed them access to social benefits and even pensions.

When the scam was at last detected, the council were fined 60,000 euros and the Labour Inspectorate cancelled over 750 months of payments which will have to be repaid by the people concerned.

Along with the exemption for 200 households from paying council tax, this was how the socialists ensured they had enough votes to maintain their position in the town.

Ceratitis capitata

To you and me, the Mediterranean fruit fly. Colourful but ugly, this fly lays its eggs under the skins of citrus fruit. The eggs hatch into larva within three days and remain in the fruit until they are ready to hatch into adult flies.

The yellow plane that you spot overhead is spraying the area to try and control this pest.

Monday, November 09, 2015

A moving ceremony

Almost eleven years without British TV means that Pamela and I have been unable to watch the ceremony at the Cenotaph in remembrance of those that fought to keep our country safe. During the two great wars and in others since, countless men and women sacrificed themselves for our good.

Our parents took part in the 2nd World War and our grandparents in the 1st. Thankfully, they all survived but many were not so lucky. However, even the survivors suffered in ways that we find hard to imagine.  

Our new IPTV system allows us to watch BBC1. So yesterday morning we sat down to follow the events unfolding at Whitehall.

Each year the number of veterans from the 2nd World War dwindles but their places are taken by others who have survived later conflicts in which Britain has taken part. Along with them were members of the various associations associated with the military.

It was an impressive piece of pageantry for which Britain is well known. The timing, the precision, the sheer organisation of of over 100,000 people taking part are things that we British can be proud of.

The fact that we take time out on a Sunday morning in November to remember those that have served their country is right and proper. We should never forget what they did and nor should our children, our grandchildren and their children for generations to come.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Still not clear of debt

In spite of all the tax hikes and savings that the PP have made since 2012, Bigastro is still not clear of debt. At the recent council meeting the vote was carried to request a loan of 640,000 euros from the Ministry of Finance which will be used to pay off other loans.

On a more positive note, the council agreed to lower the rate for collection of waste.

Whatever floats your boat

Go along to IFA near Alicante Elche airport this weekend and you can enjoy the delights of the Alicante Erotic Festival.

The show promises over 50 artists and 200 uninterrupted pornographic performances.

Something for all tastes. 

It is not just heterosexuals who are catered for, there will also be shows for gays.

For your delight and education there will be demonstrations of erotic positions, a master class on the G-spot, stalls selling men's and women's erotic underwear, an erotic casino and fetish shows where you can discover the pleasure of the whip and domination. For those who like to participate, there will also be a "swinger's area" where you can let off some steam.

No surprise, this is expected to be one of the most popular exhibitions held at the conference centre this year. In a country where prostitutes are allowed to ply their trade by the side of the road and talk of all matters to do with sex is open and often indiscreet, it is easy to understand how such a show can take place in such a public way.

The show may help to bolster the ailing conference centre which has serious problems with leaks in the roofs of at least two of its pavilions and needs some serious cash to effect repairs. So far they have been patching the leaks but that only moves the problem on to another part of the roof. Actually, a bit of water through the roof may be welcome and help to cool things down this weekend.


Friday, November 06, 2015

The richest man in the world

For years the richest man in the world was Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. However, since 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  has donated over 300 million dollars to charity. That philanthropic act allowed the Spaniard Amancio Ortega to briefly take the top spot.

Ortega's net worth hit 80 billion dollars when his holding company Industria de Diseño Textil reached an all-time high of 33.99 euros per share.

Industria de Diseño Textil, or Inditex, is the parent company to brands Zara , Pull&Bear, Berksha, Oysha, Stradivarius and Massimo Dutti. The $20 billion (sales) enterprise is the envy of the retail world, with its fast-fashion model that can design, make, ship and sell a piece of clothing in days. That allows Inditex to react quickly to changing customer demands and keep its stores stocked with the latest trends.

Inditex shares are up more than 50% in the last year. Ortega’s gains in the billionaire ranks are even more impressive since Forbes measures fortunes in dollars, and the value of the Euro has fallen from $1.27 a year ago to $1.10 today.

The son of a railway worker, Ortega cofounded Zara with his wife Rosalia Mera in 1975, selling bathrobes and lingerie. He still owns 59% of the company today. The couple divorced years ago, and daughter Sandra Ortega Mera inherited Rosalia’s stake when her mother died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage in August 2013. Sandra is now the second-richest person in Spain, with a fortune of $7.3 billion.

It isn't just Ortega though that holds great wealth in Spain. There are 1,390 Spaniards with more than 43 million euros to their name putting the country in the top ten countries for wealthy people.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Could this be the start of the end?

The Spanish town of Villafranca de los Caballeros used to spend up to 18,000 euros per year to stage a bullfight as part of the local fiesta.

Now the council will be voting whether to keep the tradition or spend the money on books and supplies for the school children.

The new socialist council fully expect to win the vote and say that they even have the backing of people who love to watch bullfights.

In these hard pressed times, parents find it difficult to find the money for essential school supplies and so the proposal makes a lot of sense.

Throughout the country, mainly left wing councils, are saying that it is a waste of public money to stage bullfights. It seems that only the PP are in favour of continuing the tradition. Orihuela council recently voted to ban circuses and bullfights in the city on the basis that both involve cruelty to animals.

The proposal to run courses in vocational schools teaching young people the skills of bullfighting has met with widespread opposition, not just from animal rights groups but from a swathe of the  population who consider the practice anarchic and degrading to life in modern Spain.

Your right to vote

Just as in Britain and probably every other democratic country, you need to be on the electoral roll to vote in Spain.

In Britain you get a form through the post to fill in detailing the occupants of your house who are eligible to vote. Here you have to visit the location where you normally would vote to inspect the details on record. This you can do between the 2nd and 9th November.

For Spaniards this is important because there will be a General Election held on the 20th December. We Brits though are not eligible to vote in General Elections in Spain so for us this is not urgent.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Before our time here

Flooding in the Vega Baja is nothing new. Today marks 28 years since the historic flood of November 3, 1987 in the region.

Total disaster, the area was flooded and completely impassable in many places, especially near the bed of the River Segura.

A better day

Having slept for most of 33 hours, Pam felt a lot better yesterday morning and so was fit to fly back home. The fog over Manchester had mostly lifted although it was still quite misty out there.

We took the car back to the depot without incident and for our troubles they offered me a 10% discount off out next rental.

Our plane left Manchester on time and arrived at Alicante half an hour early which was a great bonus. That meant we got home at about 9pm.

Although I can see that the level of water in the pool is higher than when we left, there is no other evidence of the heavy rain that fell on Monday.

So, from the bustle of Manchester we are back to the tranquillity of Bigastro.

Monday, November 02, 2015

To top it all

As if pouring rain and flooded streets were not enough, there was an earthquake this morning just before noon. A 2.5 magnitude quake at Torreaguerra would probably have been felt in Bigastro.

That is some rain

I clearly don't need to tell those of you who are in Bigastro that is has rained heavily this morning. The good news for you is that the worse is over. Hopefully, none of you got caught in the deluge that this picture shows.

The second picture was taken in Orihuela during the early hours.

A few problems

This trip started out so well. We arrived in Manchester in sunshine and apart from the odd patch of rain, it has stayed fine. The birthday party for our grandson went very well and we have enjoyed some good quality time with our family.

Things started to go wrong though when we went to Knowsley Safari Park. Just as we entered the lion enclosure, Molly was sick. She recovered but was then sick again in the car on the way home. After 14 hours in bed that night, Molly seems to be fully recovered.

We'd picked up a hire car at the airport, a brand new Corsa SRi which we were very pleased with. The last few days though it has been running rough once the engine was hot. Then we got a warning message yesterday to say that the engine was overheating - the temperature gauge read 130! When I checked, there was no water in the coolant reservoir so I topped it up with a bottle of water. After that the car seemed OK but this morning the water level is down again. Thankfully, we take it back tomorrow and fly home.

Just to add to that, Pamela woke up this morning feeling lousy. She has since been sick a couple of times and feels drained. Our plan was to go shopping in Manchester today and meet Laura after work. That plan is scrapped and I'm not sure what we can do now because Pamela is still in bed sleeping it off.

So, I have a sick car and a sick wife - things can only improve!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Have you missed me?

As you might have guessed, we are out of the country at the moment. Ardent followers of this blog may recall that, just about twelve months ago, Pam and I were in England for the birth of our second grandchild - Rory James Field.

So here we are again to celebrate his first birthday. He is a handsome chap don't you think?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Vocational education in Spain.

Left wing run Spanish communities are considering joining Catalonia and the Canary Islands in banning bullfighting.

At the same time, the right wing government have drawn up plans to introduce bullfighting as an optional subject in the state's vocational schools. The two year course will lead to a certificate in Tauromachy (bullfighting) and Auxiliary Livestock Activities.

The animal rights group, Pacma says that this makes a joke of the educational system. Teaching children how to torture an animal to death is not something that they consider a worthy course of study.

A new enterprise

Setting up any new business these day is risky.  In this digital age, where printed books are becoming more of a rarity, getting into the world of publishing seems like a real gamble to take. However, that is just what a group of bigastreneses have done.

 José Antonio, Jesús and Consuelo López Moya, Paula Gutiérrez and Augusto Gómez have created Fun Readers to publish books for children. Consuelo and Augusto work in the private sector, the others are teachers at the local primary school,San José de Calasanz .

Their aim is to bring a fresh and creative approach to children's books, to produce titles that they would have enjoyed as children. Good luck to them!

The rain in Spain....

....fell mainly on the coast.

In the early hours of this morning, the coast got a soaking when up to 44 litres per square metre rain fell in places like Torrevieja. The storm lasted about two hours and in that time flooded streets halting traffic and turning out street lights.

In the meantime, we had no more than 5 litres of rain.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I spoke too soon

Just when we thought that the kittens had gone, they reappeared at the bottom of this yucca plant.

Goodbye to the sun

According to AEMET's forecast, there will be some cloud about today again but little chance of rain. The next few days though will see the cloud thicken and along with it a high probability of rain.

We do have to remember that this is Autumn and that we need rain for both the crops in the field and for our source of water for the following year.

Might be too soon to say

The two kittens that were left in our garden by their mother have grown a lot and as they have gotten larger they have become bolder and more adventurous.

The other day we spotted one of them on the roof of the shed. The poor little kitten was crying because it could not find a way back down. Eventually the mother came and she started to feed the distraught feline. The second kitten joined them on the roof and all seemed well until a lorry came trundling down the road. The noise scared the mother off and she scampered back in the direction by which she had arrived. The two kittens though made a leap for the bush by the side of the shed from where they climbed down back to safety.

That was two days ago and since then we have not seen the kittens about. Could it be that the mother has now decided to take them away? Since they will have to fend for themselves and there is no food for them in our garden, it was inevitable that they would have to leave at some point.

Although we did not want the kittens, we wished them no harm. The were cute and fun to watch whilst they were here but still there is no place for cats at our house.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Further update

For the benefit of those of you who may be contemplating an IPTV set top box to watch  foreign TV.

Pam and I resisted the temptation to have UK TV installed for 11 years. When we first arrived there were a number of ad hoc solutions available including the infamous microwave system. The most satisfactory way was to have as large a dish as you could tolerate and a fake subscription to Sky. We did not favour that and so subscribed to Canal + instead.

Since then though things have changed. The rebroadcast companies have mostly gone out of business and people now use their giant dishes to pick up Freeview rather than Sky. Although the TV via the Internet solution is not new, it does seem to have gained in popularity. Instead of having a fake IP address to access UK catchup TV, you can now view the channels live for a monthly or annual subscription.

As I said in my previous blog entries, you do need a good connection to watch streamed TV especially live.  It isn't just speed, your connection needs to be stable.

I was using Powerline connectors to link up the lounge of our house to the router and these worked fine for most applications. Our SMART TV seemed to have few problems, neither did our Apple TV box once Apple had sorted out the firmware issues. The video on demand service from Canal + also worked OK.  Certainly, the Powerline connectors provided a better alternative to wireless which can be flaky at best. We reserve that for use with our tablets and smartphones.

Even Powerline though has its problems when it comes to streaming HD video on a regular basis. All sorts of devices that you may have on the circuit can introduce noise to the signal and disrupt the quality of your viewing. I have read that even something like a mobile phone charger on the same circuit can cause problems.

To try and solve my issues, I strung an ethernet cable from my router to the switch behind the television. It isn't very elegant and the cable is a trip hazard but this is just an experiment. I knew that a wired connection was going to be the ultimate solution and that has proved to be the case. As my friend in the UK says, "copper is always going to be the best way to go".

Back in the UK I would have routed a cable around the house burying it under the skirting board and under carpet and that would have been neat. Here though we do not have carpet and the skirting board is a row of tiles; there is no elegant way to route a cable inside the house.

What I am going to do instead is take outdoor cable from the router through the bedroom wall and then  around the outside on top of the ledge that runs along the wall to the lounge where a second hole will bring the cable to where I need it. A morning's work and £30 should solve our problems and give us a stable TV reception.


For your entertainment

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sea senses

A new development of beach view apartments at Punta Prima. 

Each of the five blocks has nine floors of 2 and 3 bedroom apartments priced from 210,000 euros for 65 sq metres of living space.

These are described as luxury apartments that come with an optional furnishing pack, air conditioning, outdoor space and parking space. The amenities include two large pools (one heated), gym, Turkish and Swedish saunas etc.

 Apartments 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, prices from 210.000 € -3 bedroom apartments on the upper floors from the ground floor to the 8th floor, prices from 260,000 € to 360,000 € -apartment with 3 bedrooms on the 9 (last) floor with the solarium, prices from € 320,000.

Compare that with the 120 square metre houses that are being built here, Each on a 500 square metre plot for 185,000 euros and you can appreciate the cost of having a sea view.

Air show at San Javier

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Spain’s Eagle Patrol, the following will be available to the public.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Open Day at the General Air Academy in San Javier between 10:00 and 17:00 hours.
Aircraft on show: Dornier, Bucker, C-101 Transport, Alphajet, Tamiz, Eurofighter, F-18, Harrier, Helicopters. There may or may not be other exhibition items.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Air Show:  This will be evolving over the Mar Menor, between 10:00 and 15:00 hours.
Participants in the Air Show will be:
Flight of the ASPA Patrol. This is a Helicopter Team from a Military air base in Granada and is an acrobatic team using typically 5 Eurocopters, model EC 120B Colibri.

Also on show will be the PAPEA Team (Patrulla Acrobática Paracaidista del Ejército del Aire) which is the freefall and acrobatic parachute team.

There will also be flights and air displays by a Firequencher UD-14 (Bombardier CL-415) used by Spain’s Forest Firefighters, the AV-8B Harrier, a Wing Walker by the name of Ainoha Sánchez San Jose, and she is a woman.

Also there will be flights and displays by the Frecce Tricolori (Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows) and the Patrouille de France (French Air Force equivalent of the Red Arrows) as well as the Eurofighter, the F-15 Hornet and the Eagle Patrol (The Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows).

Given the Open Day aspect on Saturday 17th, it is likely that there will be thousands turning up during the day, so perhaps it will be a good idea to get there early !

The Sunday air displays, so far as we know, are aiming to be over the Mar Menor in the Los Alcazares/San Javier areas, which will obviously offer the best views.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

An update

A month ago, we had IPTV installed and at the same time, our Canal + (now Movistar) box was replaced.

I am pleased to report that the new satellite box is performing perfectly. We can now rely upon it to record programmes for us. That is a huge improvement on the previous box that would crash each time it started up. A great result - well done Movistar.

There are however issues with the IPTV box. 

Some days it works flawlessly, we can watch programmes, go back and watch catch up and even record programmes that have been aired already to a portable hard drive.

Other days though things start out well and then, for no apparent reason, the picture stalls and a message appears at the top of the screen telling us we have a connection problem. The solution is to switch the box off and then switch back on again to try and re-establish a connection. Sometimes that works instantly, other times it can take up to a minute to get the picture back.

The other problem is stuttering. The connection remains on but the picture stutters. It happens less frequently and usually cures itself within seconds. It happened last night during "Strictly come dancing" a programme that many users of the service would have been watching.

The question is, where and why do these problems arise?


Streaming video live requires a good, stable Internet connection with sufficient speed and bandwidth to cope. We know that we have sufficient speed at our end because I test it regularly and it averages 8.4Mbs. The company that supply the service claim that you only need 2Mbs so we are well above that. I have also tested our connection for other parameters (ping and jitter) and it is rated B+ (one grade less than perfect) - sufficient for good reproduction of video and audio. The only thing I can't check for over the Internet is "packet loss" but looking at the statistics for my modem, there is zero packet loss reported. Packet loss would be a serious issue, not just for the Internet TV but for any other activity on the net.

The connection between the box and my Internet modem/router is via Home Plugs that use the electrical wiring of the house to carry network signals. Not as ideal a set up as having ethernet cable to the box but far better than a wireless connection.  The plugs installed are rated at 500Mbs and are designed for audio visual signals. Behind the TV is an unmanned switch that distributes the signal to the various devices that require a connection. However, when the TV is on, there are usually no other devices that are accessing the Internet in the house so all of the available bandwidth is directed to the television.

The only conclusion I can come to is that there is an issue with the supplier which I will be taking up after the holiday on Tuesday.

Did anybody see them?

Yesterday, Pam and I waited by the roundabout hoping to see the horses and carriages coming from Jacarilla to Bigastro and then on to Orihuela.

They were expected at about 12:00am but of course that was an approximate time so we waited until 12:45 at which time we gave up.

So, were the carriages early or much later? It did occur to  me that they may have taken a different route to the main road but that was not clear in the poster. In any case, I don't know of a different route from Jacarilla to Bigastro.

Whatever the reason, we missed them and so will have to wait until next year when hopefully they will process again around the Vega Baja.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


There was talk of the remnants of tropical hurricane Joaquin heading towards Britain but it seems that the Gulf Stream has changed its course. Instead the dying hurricane will be heading for Northern Spain bringing the possibility of strong winds and rain with it.