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.

A lead and a collar

Just to let you know that , if you are taking your dog out for a walk in a public place, it must have a lead and identification otherwise you could be subject to a fine of 100 euros.

If your dog is picked up by the police, it will be taken to Crevillente from where you can collect it.

NB The notice does not just discriminate against dogs, it includes other domestic animals as well.

Friday, October 09, 2015

We missed it

The heavy downpour that was predicted for yesterday didn't happen. Not a drop of rain all day although the sky looked threatening in the distance.

Like with any forecasting, mistakes can be made. A weather system can quickly change direction and that is what happened. The storm front that would have brought us heavy rain veered out into the Mediterranean missing us. North Africa though would have got a heavy soaking looking at the cloud movement and Southern Italy can expect a deluge sometime soon.

Worth a photo or two?

Horses and carriages processing past Bigastro, sounds to me like a good photo opportunity.

We can apparently expect this to happen at about 12:00am on Saturday. The parade is due to leave Benjuzar at 10am and pass through Jacarilla on its way to Bigastro. From there it will move onto Orihuela and Redovan.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

A good tip off

My friend Scout John reminds me that Friday is a holiday when shops in the area will be shut. They will also be shut on Monday but will be open Saturday.

Batten down the hatches

AEMET have raised the threat level of rain to orange and say that we can expect up to 40 litres per square metre in one hour, a total of 100 litres over the course of the day.

To make matters worse, it looks like that rain is coming in from North Africa!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

What a disappointment

We have really enjoyed our lessons with Antonio. Not only was he a good teacher but he became a good friend as well.

This year the Ayuntamiento are putting on their own Spanish course which is at a basic level - not really all that useful to us and it seems there isn't room for two courses.  So when Pam went down for our first lesson yesterday the lady at the Auditorium said that Antonio had to get permission from the Ayuntamiento before she could provide him with a room.

Understandably, Antonio doesn't want that kind of hassle, he just wants to carry on helping his group of friends to better their Spanish.

Is there a way out of this? I hope so!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

No money for books

The Socialist Party in Bigastro say that the town is refusing to take part in the Valencian plan to help schoolchildren by providing money to buy books. They say that is no excuse to claim there is no money for this. The Town Hall say that they are awaiting instructions and that parents should keep their receipts for books pending a refund of 100 euros.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Any suggestions?

When we were in England, one of our neighbourhood cats gave birth to these two kittens on the porch.
Pam found them hiding under the seat pads of the chairs after noticing some rather nasty stains on them.

Having removed the pads to wash them, the kittens have now taken up residence under the garden shed.

We are pretty sure that the mother is returning to feed them because they are growing in size.

Whilst they are clearly adorable, we do not want them to stay and so are leaving them alone and certainly not offering any food. At the same time, we would not want these kittens to come to any harm.

Any suggestions as to what to do would be very welcome.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Another invasion on the mountain

Following the decimation of the pine trees on the Sierra Orihuela, there is now another threat.

Hunters have spotted wild boars on the mountain that have been feeding on the grain that is put out for partridges. Wild boar are not an indigenous species and because they breed twice a year can rapidly increase in numbers.

The hunters have special permission to shoot the boar and are doing so at night to avoid walkers. During the daytime they advise walkers, especially those with dogs,  to stick to the paths because wild boar can be very protective.

The hunting season starts on the 12th of October, a time when you will hear shots ring out at weekends. However, if you hear shots at dawn before then, these are probably the hunters trying to cull the wild boar.

Just to let you know

We are still not sure whether this is a continuation of the classes that we have enjoyed with Antonio or something different.

Spanish humour

As my friend Fonta Bigastro (real name Jose Joaquin Garcia) points out on Facebook, it isn't just Volkswagen who have manipulated the figures about gas emissions. Litoral's Fabada beans (not unlike Heinz beans) can create noxious fumes once they are consumed.