Saturday, January 31, 2015


DSCF0404This should have been one of the largest stalls serving food in the market. Situated in an open space on a corner though, it was susceptible to the strong winds that were causing havoc and will likely continue over the weekend.

By early afternoon, the owners had abandoned the idea of opening and had taken most of the infrastructure away.

For those who are selling non perishable products, abandoning means a loss of earnings but for this stall, they would have bought in a lot of food especially for the occasion some of which will go to waste.

A late start

We got to Orihuela for 11am only to find that none of the stalls had opened. The wind was the problem, strong gusts forced the delay with some even packing up and leaving after their stalls had been damaged overnight.

No matter, by noon it had calmed down enough for the market to open.

We nearly missed the inaugural parade at about 2pm and had to hot foot it to the town hall to catch them arriving there.

Today the forecast is for strong wind again accompanied by rain which may mean another delay in opening. Tomorrow should be dry and sunny but that wind will still persist. It could well be calmer on Monday but of course the market will be finished then.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

10942571_420492054771943_5049598398817906974_oPut on your dancing shoes and get down to the Social Centre for an hour’s tripping the light fantastic. Who knows, you may be good enough to feature on a forthcoming “Strictly come dancing”.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bah, humbug!

When we first came here, Antonio manned the Post Office and he did so very well. Since he left, we have had a succession of people in there who do not seem to be as efficient particularly when they first arrive – perhaps they are trainees, I can’t say!

The other day Pamela called to collect a parcel and waited over 20 minutes. The new lady behind the counter had to resort to phoning for help several times and that slowed things down. I understand that some of the transactions are a lot more complicated than just weighing a letter and stamping it and they take time but still it is frustrating.

When Pamela eventually got to the front, she was told that she could not have the parcel – why?

Pamela needed to provide identity. In the old days we had identity cards which were just fine but our new Residencia does not include a photo so that is not acceptable. No matter, she had her driving licence which has a photo and also her NIE number on it but apparently that was still not acceptable.

The new lady told Pam that she must have her passport. Of course we do not carry our passports with us, who would?

Damn, blast and sod it, we have to go back down this morning armed with out passports and hope that the queue today is a lot shorter.

The rise of left wing politics

Victory for the far left Syriza party in Greece has been hailed as a triumph by Podemos in Spain. Both parties have an anti-austerity agenda which has appealed to voters.

There are differences though between the two countries. In Greece the socialist government lost control of the financial situation and sought a bailout which only came with conditions of very strict austerity measures. In return the country has received 240bn euros. By contrast Spain did not ask for a bailout but did receive 41bn euros to rescue its banking system.

No matter, Pablo Iglesias’ party still intends to kick out the so called self-serving, established figures in both the PP and the Socialist parties. In January, the fledgling party won 8% of the votes in the European elections and currently are polling 28% of the votes. Voters in Spain will be eagerly watching what happens in Greece before deciding the fate of their own country.

Could this be the reason?

If you ever wondered why the Bigastro band are so good in concert, just look at their calendar of rehearsals over the next month.

At the moment they are rehearsing for a competition that they hope to take part in.

Apart from Thursdays and Sundays, the rest of the days are pretty well filled.

Look at the timings as well. A lot of the band members work so the rehearsals start in the evening during the week with many of the general rehearsals scheduled between 10pm and 11:30pm.

I go along to the concerts and take a hundred or so pictures and they are very grateful. That is nothing in comparison with the work they put in. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A massive market

Tourism continues to be one of the most important activities on the Costa Blanca.

Figures show that 5,388 million euros was spent by foreign tourists last year, an increase of 3.4% on the previous year. The UK remains the largest spender at 1,537 million euros.

Of the other nationalities, spending  by the French increased by 16.7%, Germans spent 24.1% more, the Italians - 5.4% more and Belgiums – 9% more. The Russian market continues to be strong with a 23.9% increase.

The average spend was 864 euros or 78 euros per day, an increase of 3.1% over 2013.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New York closed down

  • The city that never sleeps, fell silent last night as a travel ban came into force at 11pm.
  • In New York city, the mayor closed the subway system and vehicles were banned from the roads in 13 counties with fines of $300 dollars imposed on those who dared to set out.
  • Around 6,500 flights were cancelled, with most not expected to be rescheduled until Wednesday. Train routes were also cancelled.
  • By 1:30am though, some forecasters had downgraded the predicted levels from 3 feet to 1 foot although they still said that levels in Boston could still reach two feet.
Travel conditions are still hazardous because of the lethal combination of heavy snow and strong winds.

Britain is also on alert for cold weather but the predictions there are only for a few inches of snow to fall.

In the meantime, I am looking out of my window at a beautiful sunny morning here in Bigastro!

Sign up for some training


Bigastro is offering a 20 hour course on bricklaying at the Auditorium on the 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th February (4pm to 10pm).

Having watched the way that some Spanish workmen lay bricks, this could be very useful. To be fair, Spanish brick and concrete block walls are usually rendered so the quality of the finish is not so important. In fact, it is probably better to leave gaps in the cement to provide better adhesion to the render.

Agreement in the meeting

Looking at the agenda for last night’s council meeting, I spotted items 9 and 10 – motions to prevent imputed councillors from appearing on the lists for the forthcoming election. I assumed that the ruling PP would be in favour but would the socialists who have more seats at council?

The answer came in the papers this morning when I read that motion 9 had been passed unanimously by all parties. BIgastro was following the model set out in Alicante where the ex mayor Sonia Castedo, who has also been charged with corruption, agreed not to stand this year. Motion 10, put by the Liberals was in a similar vein.

However, there is a twist to the tale because Raul Valerio Medina claims that he will still be eligible to stand for election on the basis that the alleged offences against him cannot be considered to be corruption.

Tragic accident in Albacete

Two Greek pilots along with eight French citizens were killed and scores of people injured, seven of them seriously, when a Greek F-16 crashed at the Los Llanos air base in Albacete. The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, confirmed in a television interview that no Spaniards were among the victims.

The incident occurred at about 3:18pm when the aircraft, participating in the Tactical Leadership Programm (TLP) NATO program (also known as School Improvement Pilot), fell to the ground shortly after takeoff.

The aircraft collided into five parked aircraft causing a major fire. The planes affected were French Mirage and Italian Alpha Jets.

The four week  NATO training program includes members from Greece, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain and the United States

This was the most serious incident involving military aircraft on Spanish soil since a US Hercules crashed in the province of Zaragoza during 1984 killing 18.

Monday, January 26, 2015

And now for something different

10923762_420415071446308_3846020469006199642_oIt is a long time to wait for San Joaquin in August so the Department of Culture have come up with the idea of a mid-year festival.

Not sure what will be involved but I am certain it will be an entertaining day of fun not to mention great photo opportunities. 

Police thwart a possible attack

Heavily armed police conducted a series of raids in the north African enclave of Ceuta and arrested four men.

The detainees belong to a militant Islamic network which could have been planning an attack on the mainland of Spain.

More about that pine beetle

tomicus-destruensTomicus piniperdais; a black or dark brown beetle, 3.5-4.8mm long with a cylindrical body which is rounded at the head and abdomen. It breeds in recently dead or dying trees.

The adults tunnel a breeding gallery in spring which can be up to 25cm long. There the eggs are laid. When the eggs hatch, the larvae chew their way out from the gallery and emerge as adults in late summer. The adults then feed on the shoots of healthy young trees killing them off in the process.

The beetle does not kill the tree as such but it does damage its growth form.
2014 was the warmest year on record in this area for the last forty years, it was also one of the driest. The pine trees only had 40% of the water that they would normally have received.

It is estimated that 85% of the pine trees in the region have been affected in areas like; Orihuela, Hurchillo, Bigastro, Callosa, Benejúzar, Algorfa and the Sierra Escalona-Campoamor

What is the weather doing today?


Readers of my blog will note that I have a link to the AEMET website in the sidebar which tells the weather over the next three days ( six if you click on the word AEMET bottom left in the box).

AEMET is the State Agency for weather and as such is usually a reliable source of information.

There is however, a more local source of information at MeteOrihuela , a web site maintained by Pedro José Gómez. His Facebook page has over 8,700 followers and is the most popular source for weather information in Spain.


Untitled-2 If you want a forecast of the weather, look to the bottom of the web page where you will find this box.

Hover your mouse over the weather symbol to find out what the conditions will be for that day.

e.g. I have hovered my mouse over today to find that it will be sunny with the humidity at 42%.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let’s look at the weather

With an eye to the Medieval Market next weekend in particular.

AEMET is usually a fair guide as to what we can expect although, like all forecasting, they do get the timing wrong sometimes.

Today should be sunny and dry with a pleasant high of 19 degrees. There will only be the lightest of breezes to cool things down.

Monday could be a little more chilly as we see more cloud cover. After that, it will warm up nicely towards next weekend.

Friday looks promising with a forecast high of 20 degrees even though there could well be a little more cloud about. However, we may find the wind has picked up  but that should not trouble those who go to the market in the narrow streets of the old town.

By Saturday there could well be more cloud about, temperatures should still be pleasant and the wind may well have dropped to give way to perhaps a light shower or two.

There is no forecast for Sunday yet but I imagine it will still be pleasant. Let’s hope I am right for the benefit of those Spaniards out in their expensive clothing. The last thing they will want to do is cover up with an old coat!

Medieval Market

Orihuela Medieval Market
The fifteenth edition of the Medieval Market in Orihuela will take place between Friday 30th January and Sunday 1st February. That is a week earlier than it has been so the organisers have their fingers crossed for fine weather.

The plan is to have more street entertainment than in previous years and to have the various shows and performances distributed throughout the three days.

Seventeen out of the eighteen Moors and Christian groups will be present as of course will the Armengola for this year, Almudena Meseguer.

I prefer to go on Friday when it is less busy because that is a better time for photographs. Saturday and even more so Sunday, it will be packed with hardly any room to move in the narrow streets of the old town. I am told that it is more atmospheric at night.  To be honest,  I have never stayed until after dark because it can get really cold.

Those of you who go will notice a lot of well dressed Spaniards about because this is very much an occasion to show off their Sunday best. You may also notice the well heeled walking past the stalls without giving them a glance because there is nothing on offer that they would want to buy or, more to the point be seen to be buying.

They may stop at one of the various places to eat and partake in some food washed down with a drink. Mostly though they will be promenading, passing greetings to their friends as they move slowly along, hoping that they are seen by those they most wish to impress.

For avid people watchers the Medieval Market is pure heaven.  I shall be there with a more discreet camera than before hoping to get some interesting pictures for you. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Double standards

Over 100 ex footballers in the UK face financial ruin according to the Guardian.

Whilst they were playing, they earned up to six figure and even million pound salaries and sought to gain tax relief through a scheme that involved investing in the British film industry. Their financial advisers sold them the schemes operated by Ingenious Media and the players bought into them thinking that this was a good investment and even more important a way of avoiding paying tax.

Unfortunately, Inland Revenue have challenged the validity of the two schemes, Ingenious Games LLP and Ingenious Film Partners 2 LLP, saying that they did not operate in a way that really qualified. and are now demanding repayment of the tax relief which of course in most cases has already been spent.

Interestingly, the schemes date back to 2000 - 14 years ago.  I say that because, this year we became aware that we should not have been paying tax on our state pensions in the UK.

We filled in the appropriate forms showing we were tax residents in Spain in 2006 and sent them to HMRC. Once we were in receipt of our state pensions they should have been acted upon but weren't. We simply assumed, because we have government pensions that have to be taxed in the UK, we were not eligible.

Once it became clear that we should NOT have been taxed on our “old age” pensions we applied to claim the tax back; in my case two years (plus this tax year) and in Pamela’s seven (plus this year). In reply to my letter, HMRC told Pamela that she could only claim back four years because they only have records going back so far.

It seems if you owe HMRC back tax they can go back as far as needs be but if they owe you tax that should not have been paid in the first place then four years is the limit. The word “crooks” comes to mind.  

Bárcenas speaks out

Having left jail, the ex-treasurer of the PP, Luis Bárcenas, has spoken out and revealed that the prime minister DID know of the B account right from the beginning.

 He also says that the accounting was real , every last payment detailed in the accounts was made in the form of envelopes delivered by Alvaro Lapuerta.

 Bárcenas takes full responsibility for what went on but adds that it was the party that benefited not him.

According to his statement, the B account dates back to the time when José María Aznar was chief executive of the party and Rosendo Naseiro  was the treasurer.

 Regarding the notion that he has personal accounts in places like the Cayman Islands. Bermuda and Singapore, Bárcenas says it is not true. The only money he has is in Switzerland which he claims he earned.

 Is it any wonder that the Gürtel case is taking so long to investigate with so many twists and turns to the story and so many high ranking politicians implicated.

Good news for the Vega Baja lemons

As you are all aware, lemons are one of the most important crops in the Vega Baja. For a number of years the price at market has been so low that some farmers have given up growing them and others have simply left the fruit on the trees rather than waste money picking them.

2015 could be different though.

Turkey is the main competitor for lemons and that country has had bad weather. Even at the beginning of the growing season it was clear that the crop there was going to be down by 14% and then there was snow late 2014/early 2015 to make matters worse.

It is not only lemons that have suffered in Turkey,  a heavy frost in the Maalatya region will reduce the production of apricots.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sign of the times

Unemployment in Spain remains at a very high level, particularly for the young. One option, explored by many, is to move to another country where prospects are better.


They are looking for people aged between 18 and 27 years old;  EU citizens, who have the certificate of secondary education, are available, are motivated to learn German and are willing to move to Germany.

The Department of Public Works of the City of Bigastro tells us that the German Employment Agency, under the program “THE JOB OF MY LIFE”, is offering dual vocational training in Germany.

There are training places with paid internship for the following occupations: -



The deadline for registration is February 6th. For more information call in to the town hall, weekdays between 9am and 2pm.

I have no idea how many places there are available; I imagine they will be swamped with applications from young bigastrense eager to find employment.

A moment of light relief

I was sent this picture by my friend, Scout John. At first it appears to be a photo of a parrot but look closely. The parrot is in fact a female model who posed for Johannes Stötter, a fine art body painter.

Using breathable paint, he spent hours painstakingly turning this woman into the image of a parrot, brushstroke by brushstroke. The model’s arm form the parrot’s head and beak, and her legs form the wing and tail feathers. Once you see the lady in the picture, you no longer see a parrot.



Thanks go to Scout John for this intriguing piece of art.

Luis Bárcenas has left jail

The ex-treasurer of the Partido Poular was released from the Soto del Real prison yesterday following the payment of 200,000 euros bail by his family. Apart from the bail, he will have to meet the other conditions for his release namely that he has surrendered his passport and will have to report to the court three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

So why was he there? First  we need to look at the Gürtel case.

The Gürtel case is a massive bribes-for-contracts scandal unearthing political corruption in Spain. Several high ranking members of the PP have been implicated, some of whom have resigned and others who have been suspended.

The main suspect is Francisco Correa, a businessman who cultivated links with officers of the PP. Investigations into his activities in the Madrid area began in 2007.

The accusations against him include bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, and implicate a circle of businessmen led by Correa and politicians from the People's Party. The alleged illicit activities relate to party funding and the awarding of contracts by local/regional governments in six of the country’s regional governments.

The judge who began the probe was Baltasar Garzón . He was latter barred from the bench for ordering wiretaps on the conversations between suspects held in custody and their lawyers and was replaced by Pablo Ruz.

From the original 200 suspects, it was narrowed down to 45 including three former PP treasurers: Luis Bárcenas, Álvaro Lapuerta and Ángel Sanchís; four ex-mayors: Guillermo Ortega, Alberto López Viejo, Jesús Sepúlveda and Ricardo Galeote; and  the three allleged ringleaders: Francisco Correa, Pablo Crespo and Álvaro Pérez..

Whilst the loss to public finances is estimated to be at least 120,000,000 euros, some of the bribes taken were relatively small e.g. Francisco Camps  “suits”. *

Bárcenas involvement

In January 2013, major revelations came to light about the activities of the former treasurer of the Partido Popular, Luis Bárcenas. Information from Switzerland showed that he was responsible for a slush fund run for the benefit of the PP. HIs account in Switzerland held 48m euros.

It was alleged that money, in the form of bribes from constructors (hence the Gürtel  connection), were being distributed to party officials as backhanders and that Bárcenas was responsible for making the payments.  El Pais even  published pictures of Bárcenas’ handwritten accounts of the party’s B fund which showed e.g. a total of 250,000 euros paid to the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

As the newspaper El Pais has said, it is hard to draw a clear line between the cases Gürtel and Barcenas .

* Francisco Camps was president of the Generalitat Valenciana between 2003 and 2011. He was responsible for bringing the European Grand Prix and the America’s Cup to Valencia. In March 2009 Camps was accused by judge Baltasar Garzón of accepting a bribe of 12,000 euros towards his tailor’s bill. The case went to court several times but on each occasion it was dismissed. Camps maintains his innocence but admits that he may have received presents whilst he was president.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

High rollers

At a time when people throughout Europe are feeling the pinch, it seems at odds to read about the amounts of money that football clubs earn. Note that the figures do not represent profit though because football clubs are also big spenders.


• 1. Real Madrid: 549.5m (518.9m)

• 2. Man Utd: 518m (423.8m)

• 3. Bayern Munich: 487.5m (431.2m)

• 4. Barcelona: 484.6m (482.6m)

• 5. Paris Saint Germain; 474.2m (398.8m)

• 6. Manchester City: 414.4m (316.2m)

• 7. Chelsea: 387.9m (303.4m)

• 8. Arsenal: 359.3m (284.3)

• 9. Liverpool: 305.9m (240.6m)

• 10. Juventus: 279.4m (272.4m)

Source: Deloitte, revenues in euros for 2013-14 season. Note: 2012-13 revenues in brackets

Did you notice?

Apart from that chilling wind, it was a lot milder last night than it has been. If you look at the above graph you can see that yesterday morning it was bitterly cold. By early afternoon the air had warmed up with the sun and only dropped to about 7 degrees by midnight.

By the weekend, the cloud cover that is keeping it mild at night, will have cleared paving the way for cold nights to return.

I dread to think what this month’s gas bill will be like – hopefully with the drop in oil prices (we use propane) it will not be horrendous.

PS That £200 winter fuel allowance will come in handy – shame we won’t get it after next year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A very sad scene

These are the pine trees that clad the Sierra de Orihuela. They should be a lush green colour and exude a wonderful scent of pine but as you can see they are instead brown and lifeless. No amount of rain will revive them because it wasn’t drought that turned them this colour, it was an insect.

The danger now is that the problem could spread to other areas covered in pine trees; the Sierra de Callosa, the Sierra de Benejúzar and Algorfa, La Pedrera Bigastro and the Cabeza de Hurchillo.

This is an environmental disaster on the same scale as the picudo rojo that has seen off so many palm trees.

Back on the atack

In the local papers today, Raul Valerio Medina has set out a  further attack on the mayor, Charo Bañuls.

He says that, throughout the current mandate, the PP have created “ a court of the faithful” using the same contractor every time for work in the town. By keeping the cost of contracts below 18,000 euros, the mayor has avoided the need to put the work out to tender.  Medina explains that the self employed contractor set up a company called "Mediterranean Econet SL” which is used for any work undertaken in Bigastro. 

Following the dismissal of Aurelio Murcia (UPLC) from the local government team, Medina also says that a member of the local executive, who ran the campaign for the European elections in May, seems to have taken over the role of supervising work and that the town has bills for over 1,000 euros a month for which there is no record.

As Medina points out, construction was the main source of employment in the town. Since the collapse of the building industry, the unemployment level makes Bigastro one of the worst hit towns in the Vega Baja. There are plenty of companies who are eager to find work.

In conclusion, the PSOE believes that the mayor could be committing crimes of corruption, influence peddling, embezzlement of public funds, fraud, prohibited negotiations and also says that  they  want to denounce the illegal financing of the PP. Sounds familiar? These are much the same crimes that the PP accuse the ex-mayor of and they bear a remarkable similarity to the accusations being made against the PP in the Gürtel case.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An end to traffic problems on the N-332

The widening of the N-332 either side of Torrevieja has improved traffic flow along the coast. It has however highlighted the problems that the single carriageway through Torrevieja is causing. The section between the CV-95 and the CV-905 records an average of 33,250 cars per day. Things do get quieter from the CV-905 to La Mata which averages 11,000 vehicles a day. Everyone agreed that something had to be done but reaching agreement between the parties concerned seemed impossible.

Since that 8km  stretch of road became a black spot for accidents, the Ministry of Development decided to ban overtaking but that of course has not alleviated the problem of congestion.

Thankfully, agreement has now been reached between the three parties to go ahead and widen the road to two lanes in each direction and work should begin this year.

At least the famers are smiling

Whilst we may not like cold wet days, local farmers see them as manna from heaven. A decent spell of rain means that farmers do not have to use precious water to irrigate their crops and a cold spell improves the quality of artichokes and broccoli. Dew wetting the trunks of citrus trees is also highly beneficial to the fruit.

What farmers don’t want is frost and hail because both of them can ruin crops. Luckily, the cold so far has not resulted in either.

The Vega Baja accounts for 26% of agricultural production in the province. Sixty per cent of the crops are citrus fruits with a worth of 95.7 million euros; seventeen per cent are vegetables worth 71.7 million euros. Farming is therefore vital to the economy of the area.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Que pasa!

Untitled-1What has happened to Bigastro’s web site?

This used to be one of my main sources of information for this blog; my first port of call after I switched my computer on each day.

Today there is nothing to report, is that good or bad?

Whilst I am at it, the other thing I have noticed is that the album of photographs has not been updated since the Festival for Manos Unidos in 2014. There have been many events since then which I know have been recorded. I’ve personally posted several albums of photographs since then which are not included and I am sure others have done the same.

I know that the Ayuntamiento have a page on the social media site Facebook where announcements are made but that is not the same. For one thing, you cannot post albums of photos to the Facebook page. People like to see photos, I know because that is what they tell me!

I ask, can we please have a return to the web site being the great source of information that it used to be. 

Putting it about

When Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son, he gave up his immunity from prosecution. That leaves him vulnerable to at least two paternity suits against him.

The first was made by a Spanish waiter, Alberto Solá Jiménez who claimed that his mother may have had an affair with Juan Carlos before he married Queen Sofia.

The second has been made by Belgian housewife, Ingrid Jeanne Sartiau.

Sartiau and Solá undertook DNA tests in 2012 that showed there was a 91% chance that they shared the same parent. However, their bid to make King Juan Carlos take a paternity test failed due to his protection at that time.

Now though, with his immunity gone, the Spanish Supreme Court will be investigating the case of Jeanne Sartiau; the case for Alberto Solá Jiménez had already been dismissed because it lacked legal basis.

Unstable air

10860844_889097044476097_2996164330749457908_oNo need to tell those who live here that it is heavily overcast this morning. When I woke up it was so dark I had to look at my watch to make sure it wasn’t too early to get out of bed.

The rain started last night and has continued through the night getting heavier towards dawn.

AEMET forecast that it should start to clear by midday and by early evening it will be dry. We can expect tomorrow to be a better day. However, it will remain cold until about Thursday when the temperatures should return to the high teens.

Before some of my British readers start handing out the tissues to me, I know that conditions there are much worse. I have already read about the freezing temperatures and the blanket of snow. Sorry but that still does not make me feel comfortable facing a temperature of 2 degrees at night and 11 degrees in the daytime. 

Double standards

The PP said that socialist councillors who are being investigated for cases of corruption should not be included in the lists for the election. They referenced Los Montesinos, Bigastro, Rafal and Benferri.

However, the PP are not considering applying the same principle to their own party. For example, what about those Conservative councillors in Torrevieja and Orihuela who are being investigated for corruption. Surely the same principle should apply to them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I’m overcome with religion

First off, the procession following the presentation of the manto in the Auditorium.

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Then Father Aurelio Ferrándiz García blessed the animals outside the church this morning.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hard work for little reward

I do not get paid for the photographs I take here in Bigastro, nor do I get paid for the photographs that I post on Flickr that are used regularly on various websites and in publications.  Actually I would not want payment because that would put pressure upon me to produce a higher quality of work. My reward comes from the pleasure that my photos give to people.

For those that rely upon income from their work, things are different and there is a common misconception that photographers are well paid. For example, I was reading an article about wedding photographers that said many now charge around £1,000 and more if the couple require an album. That might seem a lot for what most would think is just a few hours work on the day. However, you have to factor in expenses, insurance, travel, equipment costs and repairs. You also have to take account of the many hours that are needed after the event to process the images.
Most photographers will tell you that for every hour spent taking their photos, they have two to three hours in front of the computer getting them right. The advent of digital cameras was both a curse and a blessing. The main issue with them is that digital sensors do not see the world as we see it. Apart from colour balance, digital cameras have a much narrower dynamic range than our eyes. In bright light, shadows turn to black and highlights get bleached out. There are ways to improve matters for the finished result but they do take time and skill.

At a wedding, the main concern is to get the colour balance perfect. After all, no bride wants to see her white dress showing up with a coloured tinge and none of the guests want to see their faces looking as though they have a dose of palsy. Even the colour of daylight can vary from cold to warm during the day according to weather and time.

Take some shots indoors where there is artificial light and things get a whole lot worse. You might imagine that the sophisticated technology in modern cameras can adjust for these changes but in truth it can only go so far and if the light is mixed then the situation becomes very tricky indeed.

So, apart from those who take weddings, how much do photographers earn?  A few examples good and bad.

  • In 2014, the Sunday Times newspaper paid £200 for a portrait assignment to include 1/2 day shooting and 1/2 day post production. They took 2 weeks or less to pay up.

  • In the same year, the Abaca Press ( a French news agency) paid 0.50 euros per picture and took 3 months to pay up.

  • A British University paid a photographer £6.30 per hour to take event photos at a conference. They took took 3 months to settle the account.

  • On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal in America paid $650 for assignments last year and the BBC paid £499 for 5 minutes work or 15-25 prints for its website.

  • As one witty person has said, “in Alaska exposure is what you die of.  Same with photography.”

Countries at risk

The threat of terrorism in Europe is at its highest. Those countries that are regarded by jihadists as being anti-Islam are most at risk. Although Spain is not on this list, that does not mean there is no risk here.  


Where there are 250 nationals who have fought in Syria, has already suffered recent attacks.


With 700 nationals fighting in Syria and recent incidents in Paris, the threat there is very high.


Has 270 nationals fighting in Syria and recorded one incident this year. Recent anti-Islam rallies will not go down well with radicals who may be based in the country.


With 400 Nationals who have fought in Syria, has already thwarted four or five possible terror attacks.


Has 400 nationals fighting in Syria and is also on alert as they suspect there at least 20 terror cells in Europe with several based in Holland.

Fighting back

Raul Valerio Medina reminds us that the mayor, Charo Bañuls, opted to use outside contractors for many of the jobs that council workers used to perform. Her aim was to downsize the workforce  from the 110 during the socialist mandates and thus save money – 700,000 euros per year.

However, as he points out, the council have had to pay compensation to the sacked workers and in any case, Medina claims that the cost of the contracts often exceeds the wages paid. He says that the monthly bill for services amounts to 50,000 euros and quotes examples like the 3,000 per month spent on electrical repairs or the 3,800 spent on cleaning municipal offices and schools which used to cost a maximum of 700 euros each.

I doubt he will agree

At a meeting in Bigastro yesterday, the Partido Popular set out a motion urging the socialist leaders in Bigastro, Rafal, Los Montesinos and Benferri to withdraw from the electoral lists. They say that this move would  help cut corruption in politics and pave the way to a democratic regeneration.

Here in Bigastro for example, Raúl Valerio is facing seven allegations against him, some of which are serious. It will be up to him and his party to decide whether or not he stands for re-election this year but clearly Charo Bañuls believes he should not. This is of course, pure electioneering on the part of the regional PP and an attempt to cast a slur on the socialists in those towns. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen.

Obviously each party wants to put forward candidates that they think will win votes. If the PSOE decides that Raúl Valerio Medina’s reputation would damage their chances just as the PP decided that Aurelio Murcia was not their best candidate last time, they could well drop him in favour of others on their list. However, putting forward a candidate at the top of the list who is unknown could be equally risky for them. 

Since we don’t have polls before council elections, it is hard to say which party is the current front runner for the forthcoming election in Bigastro. Will the allegations made against the two previous socialist mayors be sufficient to ward off a return to socialism? Have the PP done enough over the four years to convince the electorate to increase their number of seats and thus give them a majority? Can Aurelio Murcia convince bigastrenses that he should continue with his Liberal Party and possibly increase the number of seats? 

Like in any election, the party in power (PP) will set out to show that they have succeeded in improving the situation in the town during their mandate. The PP’s hope is that people will be sufficiently convinced to allow them to continue with their plans. The main opposition (Socialists) will undoubtedly attempt to discredit the achievements of the current ruling party. Then there are the fringe parties; the Greens, the United Left and the Liberals who will try to show that there is a better way for the town than either of the main parties are proposing. Who knows, we may even see Podemos fielding candidates.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

A little bit of research

In the Basilica del Pilar at Zaragoza there is a statue of the Virgen del Pilar adorned with a small mantle. In fact she has many mantles, the first one donated in 1504. Each day the mantle is changed for one of the others from the collection of over 300. The oldest one in current use was given by the City Council in 1762. 

The mantles were donated by various individuals, families, businesses, brotherhoods, political institutions etc. over the years.

I am not sure which of those mantles is coming to Bigastro, we shall have to wait and see.

Bless the budgies

1669597_1011886655492504_7310180987505654285_oA bit of a religious weekend for my cameras. On Saturday it is the arrival of the  mantle of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza. Then on Sunday, the blessing of the animals.

That is always worth seeing just for the variety of pets that people bring along. As you might expect, there will be dogs and cats but also various caged birds and maybe a snake or two brought along to be blessed. There will also be a raffle to win a pig.

I recall that it was a young trendy couple that won the pig one year. They were last seen making frantic phone calls to find some way they could house the young porker. I do not, repeat do not want to win a pig!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A correction

In a previous post I gave the impression that San Jaime was no longer a private hospital. That is not the case. What is true though is that the name has changed to Quirón since San Jaime became part of that group.


o-CHARLIE-COVER-570The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo normally has a print run of 30,000. Following the attack on its premises, this week’s copy was upped to 3 million and seemingly that was not enough so the publishers plan to print a further 2 million.

Those wanting to buy a copy queued outside newstands in France from 5:45 in the morning. When the kiosks opened, their copies sold out within minutes. Then they started to appear on EBay with people bidding hundreds of pounds just to get hold of one*.

Those that are buying copies would say that they are doing so as an act of solidarity to the victims. I would say that it has more to do with curiosity; they want to know what all the fuss was about and why the attackers were so incensed by the cartoons and articles published in Charlie Hebdo.  No doubt, the sale  of future copies will wane and print runs will return to normal.

I wonder, what will those people who paid hundreds for their copies do with them? Having one copy out of five million hardly makes it a rarity. I don’t think we will be seeing them at auction at Christies or Sotherbys any time soon!

* Bear in mind that the 16 page paper sells for about £2.30 at the newstands.

Not for a town hall clock

A number of the Brits that moved here around the time that we came have now returned to their motherland. People ask us if we would consider going back and whilst Pam always says you can never say never, we have no plans to return to Britain. Each time we visit England, we return to our home in Bigastro pleased to be back. Although there are a combination of factors that keep us here; high on the list is obviously the weather.

Yesterday, hundreds of schools and nurseries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had to close because of snow and ice.  Now the UK is bracing itself for several days of gale force winds and a weekend of sub-zero temperatures as a deep Atlantic low pressure system rolls in.

In parts of Cornwall, South Wales, Tayside and Teesside there have been reports of “thundersnow” which is the new name given to a storm which combines thunder and lightening with snow rather than rain. I have to say that sounds thoroughly miserable. 

Much of Britain is on yellow alert for wind, ice and snow. People can expect their travel to be disrupted along with the chance of power lines going down. A large swathe of Scotland has only just been reconnected to power following last week’s fierce storms. They will not be looking forward to the possibility of a further disruption.

I am not gloating at the expense of our friends and relatives in Britain but our weather here has been mild over the last week. Today we are expecting sunshine and a high of 18 degrees. However, that is not due to last – it will get a lot colder after today with highs in the low teens and lows of single figures. There may even be snow over the weekend but it will be at about 1,200m above sea level. To put that into perspective, Bigastro is at 23m above sea level.

PS For the benefit of my Spanish readers, “not for a town hall clock” is another quaint English expression which means highly unlikely. It is based on the fact that town hall clocks are usually expensive items.

The day of the porker

For fifteen years now, La Mata has been celebrating the International Day of the Pig. This year's pig fest will start at midday on Sunday and will continue until supplies of pork have run out.

The event, which is organised by the Peña El Cerdo de La Mata and the Ayuntamiento de Torrevieja, will take place in the Plaza Encarnación Puchol (next to the beach). Thousands of kilos of pork will be cooked to perfection on the barbecues set up in the square ready to be washed down with copious quantities of wine.

On Saturday, in the same square, there will be a traditional blessing of animals (San Antón). I wonder if they bless the pigs in preparation for their demise!

PS If you are intent on going, remember that La Mata is not the easiest place to find a spot to park and this event draws crowds of thousands.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Road closed


Calle Acequia will be closed to traffic from 2pm until 9pm on Saturday 17th January. That is because there will be a reception in the Auditorium for the mantle of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza at 7:30pm followed by mass.  

RIP Carol Hawes

One of our neighbours died recently, her funeral was held yesterday. Unfortunately Pam and I had two important engagements in Torrevieja which we could not rearrange at short notice. We therefore were unable to attend.

We have sent our condolences to the bereaved husband and family.

I always believed that women tended to outlive their men but that has not proven to be the case at Villas Andrea. Since we moved here, there have been more women die than men, we counted at least six. Since most of us were of retiring age and beyond when we came here, it should come as no surprise that there have been a number that have passed away. There are also a fair few few who have returned to Britain or moved on elsewhere and have lost touch so we cannot speak of their condition.
Carol passed away at Vega Baja.

Whilst most praise the health care that we receive here, those that have experience of local hospitals will tell you that Vega Baja is the one that is showing its age and is the one that is suffering from overcrowding. Patients are regularly sent home only to have to return when their condition worsens. I read this morning that there were at least a dozen patients yesterday who had been left out in passageways at Vega Baja because there was no room for them in the wards.

Those who attend clinics at the hospital will tell you of the difficulties in finding a parking space and of the over crowding in waiting areas. On the other hand, the newer hospital at Torrevieja is a much more pleasant experience and of course the private hospital that was San Jaime is almost like a four star hotel.

You cannot chose the hospital that you are sent to, Vega Baja is the local hospital for this area. Only if you need treatment that is not available at Vega Baja do you get sent elsewhere which might be Torrevieja, San Jaime, Elche or even Alicante.  

The case goes on

Charo Bañuls says, in response to statements by Raul Valerio Medina in the press, that it was he and José Joaquín Moya (the mayor before him) that tricked people into thinking it would be OK to make false payments on their behalf. If those people are now unable to claim benefits or pensions, it is the former mayors who are to blame, not the current members of the council.

Bigastro Town Council has now opened a claim for damages from the two socialist mayors for the 60,000 euro fine that it has had to pay. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

He could have to wait awhile

When Bigastro closed the emergency night service at the Health Centre, they fired the concierge to save money.  At first Antonio Giménez was offered no compensation, then he was offered a post at the eco-park. When the emergency service was reinstated, he was given his post back but on a lower grade with less pay. Giménez took the matter to court where is was decided that he had been unfairly dismissed. However he does not know how much compensation he will be given nor when.

Giménez is aware that there were a number of people who were fired two years ago but have not, as yet, received a cent. As the saying goes, “you cannot get blood out of a stone” and as we all know Bigastro is broke.

So glad I went

As I said yesterday, Pam and I had tickets for the concert at the Teatro Circo to see our band in concert. What a fabulous place it is.

The Circus Theatre was opened on May 22, 1892 in the city of Alicante, on the site now occupied by the Central Market (Plaza de Balmes).

The Teatro Circo Alicantino, as it was called, remained open until 1906. The following year it was dismantled and moved to Orihuela where it had been ever since. 

Acoustically, it is very different to the Auditorium in Bigastro. Even though the band played the same pieces as for the Christmas concert, they sounded different. Apart from the acoustics, there were a few band members who could not make it last night.

DSCF0204 DSCF0207
DSCF0209 DSCF0210
For those who would like to hear the Christmas Concert, I have uploaded it to my Dropbox account.
Go to and download the 45Mb file to listen to just how good our band can play.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Significant earthquakes

Just to amplify the information from my previous posts, here is a list of the most significant earthquakes in this area supplied by my friend Fonta Bigastro on his Facebook page.


We moved to Bigastro in 2004 and so thankfully missed the 3.3 earthquake of 2000 centred on the town. We do recall the 2008 quakes in San Miguel and the one in Guardamar in 2012 though.

The theory goes that a regular series of small quakes is a good sign because it means the plates are moving marginally rather than waiting to move in a sudden jump.

We would rather they were in the 1 to 2 region of the scale though!

Untitled-1 Look at this map which shows the most recent earthquakes. The strongest quakes are shown as large red circles; the weakest ones are small yellow circles.

Notice that the strongest quakes are either south of us in North Africa or out in the Atlantic to the west of the Iberian peninsula.  

In comparison with other regions of the world, we are relatively safe.

A rude awakening

Untitled-1The last thing people need is waking up in the early hours of the morning on a Sunday.  For those who work, Sunday is a day of rest and for those who like a Saturday night out, it is the morning after.

At precisely 7:12 and 27 seconds this morning there was an earthquake of magnitude 3.2 near to Los Montesinos.
To put it into perspective, that is the strongest quake experienced in his area since February 2012.

Reports of the quake have come from Algorfa, Benejúzar, San Bartolomé (Orihuela), Torrevieja, Guardamar, Callosa de Segura, Redován, Orihuela Costa, Pilar de la Horadada and Catral. There are even reports of it being felt as far away as Murcia and Elche. The quake has been categorised by the National Geographic Institute as grade IV which means it was widely observed by the public. There are no reports as yet of any damage.

For the benefit of those who haven’t experienced one of these quakes, the sensation is two fold. You feel the movement and you hear the rumble both at the same time. In this case it only lasted seconds but still you knew that it had happened.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Infanta to stand trial

When the investigating magistrate José Castro indicted Infanta Cristina, he set a court bond of 2.7m euros and specified that the decision to put her on trial could not be appealed. The princess’ legal team lodged an appeal anyway. They said that she had suffered tremendous personal and public consequences during the three year investigation.

Yesterday, Castro refused the appeal meaning that the Infanta will be the first Spanish royal to stand trial.

At first the government stood by Cristina. Prime minister Rajoy said that he was convinced things would go well for her. Now though, his party have distanced themselves even to the extent that the spokesperson for the PP told El Mundo that Cristina should reflect on whether she should renounce her right to succession – she is currently sixth in line to the throne.

Sunday night sorted

3404623977_1db82bdd1dThe Teatro Circo in Orihuela is hosting a concert by the Bigastro Syphonic Band on Sunday at 6pm. Tickets for the concert cost 5 euros with the proceeds going to the charity Adis Vega Baja.

Adis is an association that helps disabled people in the area and as such needs continuous funding. In a few months time they will be opening a day care centre in Orihuela thanks to the Town Hall. The centre will provide  a number of hours of care each day to the dependants.

I haven’t been to the Teatro Circo but Pamela has and she says it is every bit as interesting as the photograph to the left. I am therefore looking forward to seeing this magnificent building for the first time and of course enjoying an evening of great music.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Further problems are being unearthed

Investigations into the town’s accounts for 2009 to 2011 continue as it becomes clear that the previous mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, was in the habit of issuing cheques to "bearer" meaning presumably himself. This practice is of course prohibited because there is no way of knowing what the sums of money were actually used for. There are other payments in the accounts that are simply labelled “aid”. Any kind of aid paid for by the council has to be preceded by an administrative enquiry accompanied by reports from technicians. It seems there are no such reports in the records of council meetings.

This type of practice was not uncommon in Bigastro under the socialists. There is a case in court at the moment inquiring into cheques for 3,000 euros that Moya issued to two of his companies whilst he was mayor.

It may be that these payments from the council's funds were legitimate and that there is a perfectly acceptable explanation for them.  That is not the point though, council accounts need to be clear and transparent.

What I fail to understand is how these anomalies were allowed to slip under the net.

When I was in charge of finance at Anfield, our accounts and procedures were thoroughly checked each year by auditors. Any anomalies were reported first to me and the Senior Finance Officer and then to the Governing Body. There were never any problems with the actual accounts, the reports mainly spoke of procedural changes that we were asked to make. Often we would find differences between the demands of an auditor one year and another the next, in some cases they were contradictory.

I was also Treasurer of my Masonic Lodge for a number of years and again my accounts were audited by financial professionals who happened to be members of the lodge. Every penny of income and expenditure had to be accounted for and, like with my school accounts, the issues were always procedural e.g. an item of expenditure placed under the wrong heading. In fact, the main complaint I received was that my accounts were too detailed for many to understand. What they wanted was a simple income and expenditure account rather than the detailed assets and liabilities account that I gave them alongside my account for income and expenditure.

I assume that town hall accounts in Spain have to be audited and that the reports produced have to be submitted to both the council and possibly a higher authority. Surely the government, that provides a large part of the funding, requires some sort of audited account from the towns that it helps to finance. If that is the case, how come the ruling party in Bigastro was able to get away with such obvious malpractice over a number of years?

If it is not, then the government are as much to blame for allowing councils to operate without proper financial control.

An interesting comment

Rafael Valiente Ortiz has written on his blog about the Bigastro case.
He explains that in the early nineteenth century, Spain was stripped of its wealth when it lost the overseas colonies which meant the population were poor, hungry and miserable. This situation gave rise to gangs of bandits in the form of modern day Robin Hoods who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Since you do not denounce the hands that feed you, the bandits were able to carry out their crimes unimpeded.

During the great depression of 1928, Spain was under a dictatorship which lasted until the arrival of democracy. The new regime meant that everything would become OK but was that really the case?

Corruption became rife as mayors, congressmen and senators offered favours and perks in return for votes. Once they had established their power, they were able to line their own pockets knowing that the people could say nothing. They were able to offer prominent positions to their friends and family and thus extended their influence. Even if the people wanted change, it would have been impossible – they were so indebted to the politicians who by then had the upper hand and total control.

PicsArt_1417448156599 In his blog, Ortiz says that Bigastro is a paradigm of this model with the socialist mayors, José Joaquín Moya followed by Raúl Valerio Medina offering favours in return for both votes and silence whilst at the same time lining their own pockets.

That is an interesting theory which has yet to be tested and proven in court.

resizer (1) Raúl Valerio Medina  was at court yesterday to give his testimony.

He claims that it was not him but the technicians who were to blame for the false payments.
resizer José Joaquín Moya, mayor between 1983 and 2008, arriving at court.

He has refused to say anything to the press about his testimony.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Another day in court

Two ex-mayors of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya and Raul Valerio Medina will be testifying in court today. They are accused of embezzlement in the case involving false Social Security payments for 45 workers over a nine year period. Also called to court are ex-councillors; Joaquín Pérez, María Carmen Grau and Maria Carmen Alonso along with the former secretary, Antonio Saseta.

The council have already been fined 60,000 for the fraud which has been admitted by some of the workers. In their statements they said that the payment of their Social Security was a “favour” from the mayor.

In his defence, Raúl Valerio Medina says that there were only two cases during his tenure as mayor and both of them have already said they were actually working for the council. He also says that the report made was incomplete and conceals important data. According to Medina, the original report included 68 people which was subsequently reduced to 45 which meant that there were already 23 workers whose cases have been proved to be genuine.

The basis of the complaint is that there was no agricultural activity to warrant payment under the special scheme during that period. However, he says that the 45 did work work for the council in a different capacity when there was no agricultural work for them to engage in. In his view, the need for these farm workers is more than proven and that the whole case is a witch hunt set out by the PP to discredit his party.

We shall have to wait and see what the court in Orihuela makes of all this.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Does the same apply here?

In parts of London, children in primary schools are taught in their native language. Official  documents are automatically translated into many different languages for the benefit of those that cannot speak English and Boris Johnson says that there are generations of families living in Tower Hamlets who have never spoken English. In London and other parts of Britain, multiculturalism has changed the whole culture of the country.  

Nigel Farage, for UKIP, now says that all staff in public services should be able to prove they can speak English and I dare say many would agree with him. His comments are in response to the fact that many in the National Health Service cannot make themselves understood in English. Recruitment in the NHS has meant that there are many nurses and doctors who do not have a command of the native language.

Johnson concludes that, all those who live and work in London should be able to speak English. Farage goes a step further and says that a basic understanding of the language should be an entry requirement for those wanting to move to Britain.

In 2012, there were an estimated 808,000 British expats living in Spain (that number could be less now). I wonder, what proportion of those are able to understand Spanish even at a basic level. From my experience of expats here in Bigastro, I would say it is a minority. Many get by with just a handful of words in Spanish and rely on shops, bars, restaurants etc to speak and understand English. When they visit the doctor, the hospital, the town hall, the bank etc. etc. they expect the staff to speak and understand English and if not, they rely upon an interpreter.

Of course there is a difference here. Apart from those who work solely in services set up for foreigners, I would guess that most workers here are able to speak Spanish. As many Brits have found, it is almost impossible to find work here anywhere outside expat communities if you cannot speak Spanish. Even those who work with just British people still have to be able to communicate effectively in Spanish with suppliers and bureaucracy.

Lady luck comes to Torrevieja

Those that miss out on the Christmas raffle often buy tickets for El Nino in the hope they will have better luck with the son of the fat one.

It worked for those that bought tickets numbered 43,743 from the the lottery shop overlooking the market square in Torrevieja where ten of the tickets were sold for the second prize, each one worth 75,000 euros.

The shop doesn't know as yet all of the lucky people yet because they do get a lot of visitors calling in to buy tickets. One man though, 48 year old Santiago de la Rosa, arrived in the morning to ask how he could claim his winnings. It seems that he has been unemployed for four years and his children are also unemployed so he says the money will come in handy. That leaves nine other tickets to be accounted for.

For many, the area around the Central Market in  Torrevieja is a place "blessed" by lady luck.  Apart from yesterday’s prize, the office sold tenths of El Gordo in 2008 and have sold many other sweepstake prizes including a 382,000 win on the EuroMillions. A street vendor outside the office also sold twenty tenths from El Gordo which he had bought in Mazarrón. They were worth 8 million euros.

So, if you are into gambling on the lottery, maybe that is the place to go to buy your tickets.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Nobody told us

The last time we went to see the Three Kings parade in Bigastro, they went to the park and there handed out presents. It seems that all that has changed.

First off, all three were on the same float, well that made sense. The parade started off with Sponge Bob and friends, followed by a troupe of people in Medieval costume throwing a large ball about. Then there was a group of dancers who performed to the Mariah Carey hit, “All I Want For Christmas” – they were very good. Finally we had the Three Kings with pages throwing out bags of those cheese puffs and balls to the crowd.

Instead of going to the park, the cavalcade went to the town square. Whilst Sponge Bob and co waited outside, the Three Kings went into the church to offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus which I think was more appropriate.

One note of embarrassment for the town hall. The Christmas lights on Calle Purisima stayed off until the parade had almost finished. The one night when they needed to be on was last night. It didn't spoil the magic and illusion for the young children who were there though.

You can see my pictures in the album linked to from the left hand sidebar. 

Follow the band

10685479_721713974609865_735941370072732366_nPlaying for charity at the Teatro Circo in Orihuela on the 11th January.

Tickets are available from the town hall and one or two shops in the town.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Excited children

Children in most other countries get excited about the idea of Santa Claus arriving on Christmas Eve to leave presents for them. He only arrives though when they have gone to sleep so is never actually seen by them.

In Spain it is the Three Kings who traditionally bring presents on the night of the 5th January. There is no hiding away though because they arrive in a parade held in most, if not all Spanish towns and cities. So in Bigastro, tonight at about 7pm, the Three Kings will parade along Calle Purisima ending up in the park where a marquee has already been erected. There they will hand out presents to the chosen children i.e. to those whose parents have paid.

In the early years that we were here, the Kings’ helpers handed out gifts along the route and of course sweets to the handful of children who followed the floats along the street. These days there are fewer gifts donated and so it tends to be just sweets. There will still be eager children though with bags to collect as much sugar laden candy as they can carry.

We visited Orihuela for a similar parade last year and it was an eye opener. Being a city, everything was on a larger scale. There were troupes of dancers at the start of the parade, then Disney characters on a float. Finally the Three Kings arrived with a retinue of pages to hand out sweets. That was all very civilised.

Right at the back of the parade though was the main event, a flat bed lorry loaded with cheap gifts that looked as though they had come from one of the many Chinese supermarkets. On strategic side roads were vans with further supplies of these gifts waiting to replenish as needed. At the side were children and adults following along with outstretched arms; all eager to be presented with the many toys on offer. It was a well organised foray, they had large carrier bags to stash their loot and even had others walking with them to salt the booty away. The pages, aware that many had already had their quota, were trying to throw the packages over their heads to the crowd that lined the route. The followers had that problem covered though and leapt up to catch the loot before it could reach its intended recipient.

It made us wonder, were these people so poor that they could not afford gifts for their children on Epiphany or were they just greedy. I have to say that some were remarkably well dressed.

For us, the whole business tarnished the idea of the Three Kings just as the handing out of tons of sweets on Good Friday tarnishes the religious concept of the Easter parades. Giving out free gifts in this way might seem charitable but it does bring out the worst in people and the need for police and security guards to keep the whole process safe only highlighted that fact.  

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Taking a tip from my daughters

Yesterday was my 68th birthday. Normally I get a handful of cards, a few e-cards, a couple of messages and phone calls from my daughters and that is it.

Actually, it has never been any different. The proximity to Christmas and New Year meant that I never got many cards even when I was younger. As for presents, well most people have no money after Christmas to buy presents and so I used to get combined presents. “This is for Christmas and your birthday”.  Somehow that never seemed fair because most people I knew, who had birthdays later in the year, got separate presents.

I noticed that my girls always advertised their birthdays on Facebook and so collected lots of messages and cards as a result.  This year I decided to give that a whirl and it worked; I had cards, e-cards and messages galore.

At about 11am our door bell rang. I suspect that was our neighbour Sheila calling to offer her best wishes. Unfortunately, I could not find my slippers and by the time I did, the person had gone. If it was you Sheila, I do apologise and thank you for the kind thought.

My message on Facebook said I had woken to realise that in two years time I would be 70 – a bit of a milestone as anyone who has reached that age will tell you. As my oldest daughter pointed out though, that year she will be 40 and she didn’t want to be reminded of that fact.

Well Jemma, I can tell you that reaching 40 is not the big deal that some make it out to be. It certainly is nothing to fear. You don’t suddenly need a stick to walk with nor a hearing aid to listen to the television. Your teeth don’t start to fall out and people don’t stand up to let you sit down on buses. Reaching 70 though is different, your children still think you can do things the way you did in your 40s and you just can’t. Everything takes longer to achieve, a fact that they don’t seem to appreciate. It is only when you reach 80 that people start to realise you are getting old, make you cups of tea and dust you off.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Needs a bit of TLC

Since Aurelio Murcia was removed from his post as councillor for Planning and Urbanisation, he says the council have left two of the areas of development to go into disrepair.

Sector D-5 is the area on the left hand side of Avenida Europa as you drive up to La Pedrera. It was cleared ready for building 180 houses and the sewerage system was laid. When the development stalled, the area became overgrown with weeds which were cleared and a steel fence was erected to surround it. Since then, the fence has been broken down and the weeds have taken over again.

Sector D-4, alongside Avenida Apatel is in a similar state. The 80,000 square metres of land is also covered with weeds.

In fact, truth be known, any area of land which is not currently built upon is in much the same state whether it is owned by the council or privately. If we were being poetic, many parts of the town would be described as “rural or urban decay”. We might like to think of it as part of Bigastro’s charm but really we would all prefer that it was tidied up.