Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Music to your ears

Monday, January 30, 2017


This was a delight last year with some very tasty desserts to sample.

I just hope that I get invited to take photos again!

1st prize - a food mixer
2nd prize - a toaster
3rd prize - an Italian coffee maker

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dates for your diary.

The event returns to the first weekend of February (Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th), after the  controversy last year when it was put back to the spring with various date changes.

The Market will take over much of the historic quarter in the city centre around the town hall, and will feature hundreds of stalls selling homemade food items, hand-crafted gifts including jewellery, toys, clothes etc., and much more.

It looks like the weather should be OK this year. It could be windy but hopefully not so much that the market suffers the disruption of two years ago.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Corruption in Spain is still a major problem

From El Pais

Spain has been given its worst rating in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, coming in at 41st place out of 176 countries with a score of 58. In 2015 it came in 36th out of 168 countries, with the same score.

“We have reached a historic record for corruption in comparative terms,” said a statement issued by Transparency International, which shows Spain falling far behind its EU neighbours. “We are joining a group of countries that have come close to systemic corruption very recently, such as Georgia and the Czech Republic,” adds the organisation, warning: “The time has come to react.”

“In Spain’s case, the experts and the public believe that there is more corruption since the start of the economic crisis. The data is disturbing and almost unexpected. We have never had such a bad position. We have hit the bottom. We cannot fall lower. It is time to react,” adds Villoria about 2016, when Spain was under an interim government that was unable to take specific measures against corruption. “If we don’t reduce it, democracy in the world will start to be endangered and there will be a serious advance in authoritarianism,” he states.

In November 2016, 80% of Spaniards said their government was failing to combat corruption. No other country in the EU registered such high levels of criticism on the part of voters toward their government.

Getting there

From El Pais

The Spanish labour market created over 400,000 jobs last year and unemployment fell to 18.6% in the final quarter of 2016, according to new figures released on Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). While still one of the highest in Europe, that is the lowest unemployment rate Spain has seen in the last seven years.

Data from the quarterly workforce survey known as the Encuesta de Población Activa (Active Population Survey, or EPA) shows that the Spanish economy created 413,600 jobs in 2016, representing 3% growth in the 12-month period. It is the second year in a row that job creation grew at a similar rate.

The number of people willing and able to work fell by over 100,000 which means  the number of unemployed people in the country actually fell by 541,700. This is a drop of 11.3% in a year -  not as large as the fall of 678,200 seen in 2015.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy celebrated the new figures in radio statements on Onda Cero, underscoring that from 2013 to 2016, Spain created 1,750,000 jobs.

“There is still a lot left to do, but five straight years of economic crisis cannot be resolved in 15 minutes,” he said. “If we are able to maintain economic policy (...) we will reach 20 million people in employment.”

The problem of too many tourists

For 25 years Barcelona promoted itself as a tourist destination. Now it is a victim of its own success. The resident population of 1.6 million is swamped by 32 million visitors per year, many of whom are day trippers.

To try and curb this problem a new law will be passed to limit the number of beds along with a moratorium on building any more new hotels.

There are 75,000 hotel beds in the city, 50,000 beds in legal tourist apartments and an estimated further 50,000 in illegal tourist apartments.

The other issue for residents is the price they have to pay to live in the city, rents are the highest in Spain and wages in the tourist and restaurant sector are lower than the national average.

As you might expect, the tourist industry is in fierce opposition to the new law. They point out that tourists account for 12% of the city's GDP. They also claim that the majority of tourists (23 million) are day trippers who spend very little, therefore restricting beds will have little effect on the problem.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Be prepared

Vega Baja Hospital will be adding more staff in the emergency department to deal with the expected increase of patients with respiratory diseases due to the cold weather over the last few days. Forecasts show that flu cases will peak during the first days of February.

This viral disease, which affects a large population and can have serious consequences for those at risk, has advanced in comparison with previous years and has already reached the level of epidemic in the Valencian Community - exceeding 80 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In Orihuela, during the first week of January, there were 64 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which increased to 125 cases in the second week.

The Ministry of Health launched its vaccination campaign against influenza last October 24th.  This will end on Tuesday, January 31st. For this campaign, a total of 51,000 doses were distributed of which 29,500 went to the health department of Torrevieja and 21,500 to the health department of Orihuela,

During the last vaccination campaign 50% of people over 65 years old were covered,  close to that of the Valencian Community, which was around 51%.

Almost 95% of infections identified by the Sentinel network had not been vaccinated which showed that the best protection against contagion was still vaccination.

As it happens, Pamela was offered a flu jab on her last visit to the doctor but I wasn't - go figure!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Snow in the desert

Not the first time that they have had snow but certainly not a common occurrence.

Ace reporter

My good friend Fonta taking a selfie in Torrevieja to show us the impressive waves breaking on the shoreline. The forecast was for waves up to 4 metres.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Normality will return

Looks like we could still get some rain today but thankfully less than yesterday. However, before we start to think this deluge is over, tomorrow looks like we could have another heavy downpour along with a strengthening wind. It could well continue to rain on Sunday but nowhere near as much as yesterday.

The good news is that from Monday not only will it be dry but it will also get a lot warmer.

PS In case you were wondering, I managed to get out yesterday during a dry spell and bailed out my pool box. The water level was well below the pump which, I am glad to say, is still working. Note to self - reseal that gap around where the electricity cable enters the box before we get more rain!

That was a lot of rain

Last minutes of a very rainy day in Orihuela

Yesterday, 80.4 L / m of rain fell in the city. Given that the average January precipitation is 23 L / m, in less than twenty four hours there was nearly four times the normal amount. 

To put this into perspective, 80.4l per square metre is just over 3 inches (or 76.2mm). That is more than the monthly average for Liverpool and a little less than the average monthly rain for Manchester. Either way we had about a months worth of rain in one day. 

Photo by Victor Sarabia Grau, from the New Bridge or Levante.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bring me sunshine

You may be fooled by this map into thinking that the bulk of Spain is basking in warm sunshine. True, the sun is shining in the north but is it still damn cold up there.

Snow around the province.

 What we have instead is miserable rain. I need to wait for a break so I can check my pool box!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snow in Bigastro - I don't believe it!

 This doesn't seem to work on iPads - story about that!

Bless them!

 Snow here is such a rare occurence, when a little falls people rush out to photograph it before it disappears.

Official advice

The forecast for Bigastro is rain and strong wind . In other words,  miserable!!
For those who are planning a journey further afield.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Come in disguise

Advanced notice of the Middle Year festival here in Bigastro.

Well worth going down to see the excellent costumes that the townsfolk have put together.

Those who want to stay afterwards can take their food and drink down to enjoy a meal with the neighbours.

Looks like we will escape

Looking at this map, it seems that we are unlikely to have any snow in the next few days. It will still be damn cold though so take care.

Which is it?

Check out your symptoms to see if you have flu or just a cold.

Snow in Bigastro?

The cold weather this last week was just a foretaste of what is to come this week.

The cold air that affected us came from Iceland. Normally, an anticyclone would  have acted as a barrier to a cold front but this year that system has moved out to the Atlantic leaving us exposed to the cold air mass.

However, on Tuesday things will change and we will be exposed to the Siberian or continental cold air wave.

This is not an uncommon phenomena, it happens every three of four years. This year though the anticyclone has spread to the north and a new air mass, coming from Russia, sitting on its right hand flank, has created a corridor that has covered Poland, Germany, France and eventually Spain.

We are fortunate in that Spain sits at the end of the corridor and so we will not experience the extremes that have led to record lows in the rest of Europe. Although this air mass is dry, it is expected to pick up moisture from the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean leading to widespread snowfall over much of Spain.  

Could we see snowfall in Bigastro? Well, AEMET is predicting rain on Thursday and Friday into Saturday but at the same time a rise in temperature of up to 5 degrees. They predict that Sunday will be dry but colder again.

In truth, nobody is sure either how long this cold snap will last nor whether we will have snow or not here in Bigastro.
This is the forecast from Yahoo. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thinking ahead to Easter

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weather watch

It's going to be colder in the north. 

These maps show why it will be colder next week. Can't wait for the Daily Mail to tell us that it is warmer in Britain.  

The official advice. 

Cheap tourism

Many thought that Brexit would have a negative effect on tourism to countries like Spain. The truth is that numbers of visitors increased by 7.2 million last year, a rise of 9.9% and the lions share came from France, Germany and Britain.

These visitors spent 77 billion Euros, an average of 138 Euros per person per day, contributing 10% to the Spanish GDP.

The only concern now is sustainability of the low cost "sand and sun" model that Spain promotes. The consulting firm Ernst & Young says that the country should really be targeting the high-end tourist market. They point out that the average spend of Chinese tourists to Europe is 960 Euros and Americans spend 672 Euros per day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The highs and lows

Over the twelve years that we have lived here, there have been cold winters and mild ones. We recall even being out in T-shirts and shorts during February. However, this year seems set to be generally cold.

Today and tomorrow are predicted to be mild with a low of 8 degrees and a high of 18. Sadly, that will not last. The forecast for next Wednesday is for a high of 8 and a low of 0.

The low temperatures will then hang around at least until the following Wednesday when things should start to improve.

When we look at the forecast for Liverpool, where we lived, things don't seem to be as bad. At least we should see some sunshine and we are not expecting the strong winds that have affected the North of England.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Feels cold to us

You probably wonder what the fuss is about when other parts of Europe and even Spain are experiencing temperatures below zero (in some cases well below zero).

However, we are no longer accustomed to the cold.

You can see that the coast is a little milder (Pilar de la Horadada, Torrevieja and Guardamar del Sugura are coastal towns). Not sure why Benejuzar is milder though.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

That's what we call snow

Although there are parts of Spain that do get snow., it is highly unlikely that we will ever see snow in Bigastro.

These photos are from other parts of Europe that are buried in the stuff. Spare a thought for those in Moscow where the temperature is-30ºC, in Minsk it is -25ºC and in Krakow -20ºC

Blace (Serbia) still in southern Europe.

Florina (Greece) in the north but apparently there is snow in Athens as well. 

Mesina (Italy) I don't imagine they have ever seen snow like that before in Sicily.

Friday, January 06, 2017

In Orihuela last night

Apart from lots of dancers, children in costumes, pages etc etc, a farmyard of animals took to the streets.

As luck would have it

The second prize in the special lottery "El Niño" went to Orihuela.

A part of number 95379 was sold in Orihuela, The total  prize was 750,000 euros for the series and 75,000 euros for one tenth. It was bought by a syndicate of 100 who will share their winnings between them.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Make the most of it

The last few days have been nice and mild but that won't last. Looking at the forecast for next week, it is going to get Baltic with highs of 12 to 13 and lows close to freezing point. It definitely is not time to put away those winter coats just yet.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Shaking the Yorkshire coast

Pamela was most put out when she realised that we lived in an earthquake zone. The first quake we experienced here made a sound like a truck was hitting the building and we could sense the movement. Subsequent quakes have been less dramatic.

Living on the Wirral as we did, earthquakes were unheard of. However, Britain is not free from the odd tremor.

On Tuesday a 3.8 magnitude quake struck the North Sea 150 miles east of Scarborough. And in 2011, a 3.6-magnitude quake struck North Yorkshire around five miles north west of Ripon. Tremors were felt in the towns of Bingley and Skipton, near Leeds, where people reported doors, windows and heavy furniture rattling.

The most damaging UK earthquake recorded  in Britain was in the Colchester area in 1884. Around 1,200 buildings needed repairs after the shaking, which collapsed chimneys and cracked walls.

Most earthquakes occur on the eastern side of the British mainland, most often in the North Sea.

The driving forces for earthquake activity in the UK are unclear but include compression caused by the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates, and uplift resulting from the melting of the ice sheets that covered many parts of Britain thousands of years ago.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A huge thank you!

First off to my wife and family for the surprise pre-birthday party on Boxing Day. Also to my family and friends for their cards and generous gifts. I have been truly spoilt this year!

Next to all those who sent me messages on Facebook or sent ecards via the Internet. Your best wishes have really touched me in a way I cannot describe.

For those who are reaching the golden age of 70, you have nothing to fear. It is a milestone that is true but one which will enrich your lives in many different ways.

Finally again, many thanks to all of you for your kind words, cards, and presents, you have made me truly happy.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Red days

Red days are national holidays (non working days) - blue days are holidays in certain communities.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

Here's to 2017, which we hope will be a better year than 2016.

Apart from my health issues, 2016 saw Britain vote for Brexit which has already damaged my Spanish bank balance. Then America voted for Donald Trump, the lesser of two evils. We will see how much damage he can do in his four years as President.

2016 also saw far too many great entertainers die including David Bowie, George Michael and Prince - we hope that trend ended with the chimes of Big Ben.

Pam and I saw in the New Year at our home in Bigastro and then watched the celebrations in London including a fabulous concert by Robbie Williams that halted at midnight for the fireworks outside only to continue afterwards for a further thirty minutes.

Let us hope that 2017 is kind to us all.