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!