Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Starting to get real

Last year we were asked if Pam and I would be prepared to be Third Age King and Queen at the local fiesta. Since I was in the middle of my treatment for prostate cancer, it did not seem a good idea and so we asked if we could postpone until this year.

Early on this year, we booked a villa in Molins where the family could stay and they have arranged flights.

We now move on to the next stage of preparation.

This morning, Pam and I are scheduled to visit Pilar who will be making the sashes we will wear. She needs to measure us to make sure they are the right size and most important, check our names so they are embroidered correctly.

Tomorrow, we have an appointment at the photographer's so that he can take the picture of us for the official brochure. Pam already has an appointment at the hairdresser and I may just have a quick trim. We want to look smart!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A bit of a mystery

For those who may be interested, there are several albums of my photos from our trip to Florence available from the sidebar. However, to see them all you need to click on where it says "What's this" and then "keithw.jalbum.net". This will take you to all of my currently stored albums including the 6 from our trip to Florence.

The trip went well. Yesterday, we had a taxi to a railway station in Florence to catch the train to Rome, Then we took a taxi from Rome Termini to the Airport, flew back to Alicante and finally drove home.

As I opened the door to the house, I noticed the alarm had been triggered. Then we saw that some papers had been scattered and there was a pungent aroma about the lounge. It became obvious that we had a bird flown in but it was impossible to say how because the chimney is blocked with cardboard that was still in place.

Eventually I found a dead blackbird hidden behind one of the sofas. Fortunately it had not made too much of a mess. We did however feel sorry for the poor thing.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why is it?

When you are on holiday, time flies by a lot quicker than when you are at home. At the same time, we seem to have been here ages and seen so much. We've certainly done a lot of walking and covered most of what we set out to achieve.

What has impressed us more than anything though is how accommodating everyone has been. That and the superb food we have enjoyed. Anyone who thinks that Italy is just pasta and pizza needs to visit the country and try some of the cuisine on offer. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Where are we?

Last year we missed out on holidays because of the treatment I was having and the after effects of it.

We were determined to put that right and so booked a trip to Florence which is where we are at the moment.

Those of you who have made the trip from Bigastro will know that there is no direct flight from Alicante and so, one way or another, you have to make a stop over. In our case, we stopped over in Rome and picked up a train to Florence which meant we had a long day with a four hour wait in Rome.

Still it was worth it. Florence is everything that people told us and more.

The downside of this trip is that it meant we missed San Isidro for what I think was the first time. On the plus side, we won't miss Corpus Christi this year and of course the Fiesta for San Joaquin where we will have an important role to play.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Coming soon

Pascual conducted a little survey to find out what aspect of the town's history people would most like him to feature on his webpage. The most popular period was Bigastro in Roman times.

I'm not sure just how much evidence he has but I am sure that whatever Pascual presents will be fascinating.

My interview with Pascual Segura

Keith Williamson: "I hope that in the future my photos will help people remember the current Bigastro"

Every documentalist, researcher or passionate of a place knows, that there is no more seductive and faithful chronicle than that of the foreign traveler. Centuries ago hundreds of outsiders such as Richard Ford, Lady Holland, Charles Rochfort or George Borrow visited our country in search of knowledge, social uses or simply an exotic land such as ours, where we could experience adventure that would break into a thousand pieces The rigid mold of his daily life.
The legacy they left on their way through our country was substantial and transcendent. And is that if a villager may be unable to rant to his village, the traveler who comes from outside does not. In this way his chronicles full of details and criticism are highly valued, because in most cases they tell the truth.
Bigastro is fortunate to have a traveler. An English traveler who for years has immortalized our day to day with his camera. Thousands of snapshots that speak of your band, your San Joaquin, your Lady Virgin of Bethlehem, you, your people, your street, your town. After a while there will be no one left now, neither you nor I, our children will remain. And when their footsteps are lost in the backstreets of the older Bigastro they will wonder ... how did everything happen? Then they will not be orphans of history, because they will have the photographic chronicle of an English traveler that years ago, perhaps centuries, dedicated part of his life to portray us as we were, as we are, and I hope that for many years, as we will be . A wonderful legacy, immortalized in time, and only in exchange for the beautiful gesture that provokes his photographs, a smile. Worth from my little blog my greatest gratitude. Thank you for your work, my friend, Keith Williamson.
Keith Williamson. Retired Director's Assistant. Photographer
Pascual Segura: In a moment of your life you decide to come to live to Bigastro. When does that moment happen and why?
Keith Williamson: After our retirement we intended to move to another country and face new challenges. Since we had enjoyed many visits to Spain, this was the logical choice. Bigastro offered us a life in Spain far from Britain. We found a city in which we could integrate and learn Spanish, besides knowing the authentic Spanish customs.
PS: Although you live many years in our country, which is already yours too, you must keep many memories of your city of origin. What was your city ?, and your profession?
KW : I was born in Manchester, I lived in Yorkshire and then in Canada. I returned to Yorkshire, and finally I lived in Wirral. I started my career as an art teacher at a Liverpool high school. I promoted to Head of the Art Department and, finally, Deputy Head in charge of Local Finance and Administration.
PS: We all recognize you next to your inseparable camera. When does your passion for photography arise?
KW: I had my first camera at the age of 11. Then I would buy my first "serious" camera while I was in college. Since then I have had many cameras, the new one always more expensive than the previous one!
PS: Your work with the camera has generated a great photographic legacy. Do you know how many pictures you've made? How much time do you dedicate to this hobby?
KW: At my house I have thousands of photographs and slides in movies. I also have movie reels I took when my kids were young. Now I have an online Flickr account with 6,500 photos that have been viewed more than three million times, and a photo archive stored on hard disks with more than 100,000 digital images along with many hours of digital video.
My wife says I spend all my time in my hobby !. I usually spend two or three hours each day working on my photographs. For every hour I spend taking photographs, I need at least four hours of work to process them on the computer and publish them on the internet.
PS: For many years you have photographed the performances of the Bigastro Music Union. What is your opinion about the musician's tradition?
KW: Bigastro's musical tradition is fundamental to the history and culture of the city. It is the base on which it is built. There is still a great musical tradition in England, but the formation of local bands no longer exists. In the north of England there were many metal bands created by factory workers - especially coal mines - who were acclaimed internationally. Bigastro's band reminds me a lot of that old British pride.
PS: The old street of the village or the use of its garden invite us to think that we live in an ancient place. What do you know about Bigastro's story?
KW: I know a little about the history of the city thanks to your excellent website, but I would like to know much more. The differences between the history of Bigastro and the towns in which I lived fascinated me.
PS: Of its streets, squares, recreational spaces or natural areas. What place of Bigastro would you highlight?
KW: I especially like the area of ​​La Pedrera for its natural beauty and the garden, which reminds me of the horticulture of the villages where I grew up. For me the green spaces in the cities are very important, and that's why I like gardens and playgrounds. Of course, the Auditorium is a great asset to the city, it is a place where we have enjoyed many concerts and other events. Did you know that, my wife and I act on stage for the children of the local schools? We were in two productions organized by the School of Adult Education. We were also involved in a production at the Integrated Social Center and for several years we sang carols to children in local schools before Christmas.
PS: Bigastro is a place where ancient traditions endure to which, over time, new ones have been incorporated. What tradition or cultural aspect would you highlight?
KW: Apart from its musical tradition, I enjoy its religious celebrations, like the Encounter and Corpus Christi and of course the parties, games and other celebrations.
PS: The Bigastro of today must be a little different than the one you saw for the first time. What do you think has improved? What has been neglected?
KW: When we first arrived our impression was that the city was scruffy in some parts and elegant in others. Although much work remains to be done, much progress has been made to improve the city. There are more beautiful cities to live in, but surely there is none as friendly, welcoming and proud as Bigastro.
PS: If a friend from your country asks you to define Bigastro by helping only three words. What three words would you use?
KW : Friendly, traditional and quiet. Pascual, although it is important that Bigastro seeks to progress towards the future, it is vital that he remember his past. I hope that in the future my photos will help people remember the current Bigastro. More importantly, I hope people will enjoy my work. Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The noise you heard

You may have thought that it was an earthquake, a firework or an explosion of some sort but no, investigation shows that it was actually two military aircraft breaking the sound barrier.

A tribute to Elvis

On Saturday 20th May at 7pm, the Union Musical Torrevejense and the John Mencis Band will present a tribute to Elvis Presley - August 16th marks the 40th anniversary of the "King of Rock'n'Roll's death.

The John Mencis Band already pays tribute to Elvis Presley so it will be no challenge for them but for the Torrevieja band, which is roughly similar in formation to our band, this will represent a new direction.

NB The International Auditorium is just off the N332 on the same site as Quiron Hospital.

John Mencis Band

Torrevieja Band in the International Auditorium

Monday, May 15, 2017

Walking in the moonlight

Get a free T-shirt and a ice drink at the end of it.

PS From past experience, the older ones amongst you will have difficulty keeping up with the youngsters who will be taking part. Don't let that put you off though!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Are you up to date?

You have probably read about the latest crisis that has hit the NHS in Britain. A large scale ransomware attack has meant that many UK health trusts have had to shut down their IT systems.

The ransomware got into the systems via infected emails and other internet links. Those affected will have a message on the screen telling them that their files have been encrypted and will only be released upon payment of 300$ worth of bitcoins.

Large companies in Spain have also been affected including Telefonica, Iberdrola  and Gas Natural , along with Vodafone's unit in Spain. These companies have asked staff to turn off computers or cut off internet access in case they had been compromised.

It seems that Microsoft patched the issue earlier this year, but only on version of the Windows operating system that it continues to support. However, up to 90 per cent of NHS computers still run Windows XP which was released in 2001. Microsoft cut support for it in 2014.

Windows XP was very popular because it was robust. It followed in the wake of Windows ME (Millennium Edition) and Vista both of which were bloated and buggy.

Since then Microsoft introduced Windows 7 which stripped out all the bad parts of Vista, the equally unpopular Windows 8 and the latest  -Windows 10.

The issue for the NHS is more than just updating the operating system on its computers. Many of the machines in use are simply not powerful enough to run later versions. An upgrade would cost more than the cash strapped service could afford.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Drumming up support

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Summer activities

In case you were wondering, padel is paddle tennis and I believe fronton is handball.

Well blessed with great beaches

I understand the Mar Menor is not best pleased that it doesn't have a blue flag beach.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

For the cyclists amongst you

This is described as suitable for all ages with no tough sections to hurt your legs.

Coming up

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Froome's bike

Look at the state of Chris Froome's bike after a motorist got angry, followed him onto the pavement and then deliberately crashed into him.

Apparently Froome is fine but his bike is wrecked. The motorist just drove off. This was in France.

PS Understand, this was no ordinary bike. It is (was) a Pinarello Dogma F10 with a full Shimano DuraAce groupset - available from Sigma Sport in the UK for 11,255 Euros (not including the pedals).

Baches galore

Two new words for you, baches and socavones - potholes and sinkholes. These two words have been used to describe roads and pavements in Orihuela but they could equally well apply to some roads in Bigastro.

A lot of work has been done but there is still more to do. For example, the road into the town from the roundabout which leads to Oruhuela, Torrevieja and Jacarilla (Calle Joaquin Moya Martinez0 is in a terrible state.

There are baches and socovones at the side of the road which, if you hit, could easily damage your suspension. Most of the time it is possible to avoid them but if one of those large lorries carrying lemons is coming out of the town, it can be difficult to prevent your car from hitting one. The tarmac itself is also breaking up badly and urgently needs repair.

Apart from the problems that the state of this road presents, it is a poor advert for the town as one of its main entrances.

The shame is that the Socialists did not use the Plan E money wisely. They improved the final section of the road with benches, trees and even a cyclepath that never gets used but left the rest untouched.

I suppose they would claim that the section from where they stopped to the roundabout belongs to Orihuela and so is our neighbours responsibility. That may well be the case but most visitors would not be aware of that and would associate the whole road with Bigastro.

A must for dog lovers

Final Agility Championship at El Molino.

El Molino Polideportivo Municipal will host the Spanish AGILITY finals during the weekend. All animal lovers and the general public can see up close this final test.

The scheduled time is on Saturday 13 May at 17.00 and Sunday 14 May from 9:00 am. Admission is free.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Dust on its way

For those who have just cleaned the paving and washed the car, look up at the sky and you will see Sahara dust creating an eerie orange glow.

There is a chance that we will have some weak showers that will coat everything below with the dust. The good news is that, tomorrow, the cloud  will move away on its route to Italy. As the notice says, best wait until Sunday to clean up.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The May Fair will be in October

The Sevillanas Fair in Torrevieja will be held from 9 to 12 October as announced by the Councillor of Fiestas, Domingo Pérez,

Traditionally known as the May Fair, time has run out to organise it for this month so the date of the bridge of El Pilar has been chosen for this year.

A quick ride into Bigastro and back

 Let's not get carried away, although my electric bike gives me assistance, it doesn't turn me into Chris Froome. The video was speeded up to make it a bit less boring to watch.

Watch closely though and you will see the poor condition of some of the roads in our town, places where the tarmac is breaking up badly.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Bigastro's cardboard coins

Pascual Segura tells us about this phenomena on his blog "Recuerdos de Bigastro"

During the Spanish Civil War, lack of currency was a real problem. In fear of what might happen, many neighbours tried to hoard in their houses all the coins and bills they had to hand. For this reason today it is not strange to find in old or abandoned houses, coins, stamps or bills of this time hidden between walls, false ceilings or holes in the floor.

This caused a considerable reduction of the money in circulation, to the point that it was necessary to produce alternative currencies to respond to the demand.

In the Republican area metal was scarce, since the regions where the main metal productions were located were in the national zone, so the decision was made to issue cardboard coins.

The cardboard coins had a picture on the obverse that made reference to the province to which they belonged ( in our case a fish following the fishing trade of the province). Alongside the picture, there was the name of the place -Bigastro- and a slogan "Cardboard coin of provisional use". On the back was a postage stamp with the value of the cardboard coin.

Like all coins and notes, these had many counterfeits, and the coins were produced with such inexpensive materials (stamps, paper, cardboard ...) that the security measures that prevented their falsification were practically non-existent. Today it is very difficult, if not impossible, to certify if one of those cardboard coins is authentic or not.

NB 5 centimos is 5/100ths of a peseta. In 2002, Spain changed its official currency from the Peseta to the Euro. Anyone with Pesetas could exchange them for Euros at rate of 166.386 Pesetas to one Euro. This coin was therefore worth 0.05 of a peseta which was worth 0.006 of a Euro in 2002 in other words 3 millionths of a Euro.

False claims

British television is populated with adverts by so called law firms that will offer to fight claims for you. Everything from an accident at work to being sold payment protection insurance. I'd not heard of this one though. It seems that the big business now is to claim against Spanish "all inclusive" hotels for alleged cases of food poisoning.

The claims are being led by so-called British 'law firms' who are exploiting legal loopholes and are touring hotspots in vans or sending representatives to stop tourists outside their hotels or even approach them on the beaches.

Hoteliers in Mallorca estimate they have paid out more than 50 million euros in damages over the last 18 months.

As the law stands at the moment, only a receipt for a gastroenteritis product is necessary in order to file a claim once the holidaymakers are back in the UK. The local hotel association wants to force anyone allegedly sick to go to the doctor which, it is hoped, will be a deterrent as this will cost them money or a claim on their insurance.

In some areas, false food poisoning claims are said to have soared by as much as 700 per cent from last year and with the summer season now looming, there are fears of another epidemic.
Benidorm is one of the British favourites most affected by the scam with around 10,000 claims so far.

Recovery is slow

From El Pais
The latest figures from the European Union’s statistics agency highlight how long the road to Spain’s economic recovery actually is. While unemployment fell in 2016 from 22.1% to 19.6% – it currently stands at 18.75% – it is still more than twice the EU average of 8.6%. And as with recent years, several of Spain’s regions are among the EU’s worst unemployment black spots: in fact, five of the 10 worst-affected areas in Europe are in Spain.

The report shows that for most Germans, unemployment is not a problem: seven of Europe’s regions with the lowest level of unemployment are in Germany, with Lower Bavaria leading the way at 2.1%. This overwhelmingly rural area exemplifies the strength of German industry: car maker BMW is one of the biggest employers in the region through its factory at Dingolfing, which employs 17,500 people and produces 340,000 vehicles a year.

Similarly, nine of the 10 European regions with the lowest levels of youth employment are in Germany, with Swabia (4.3%) the best-placed on the continent.

Lower Bavaria in Germany has the European Union’s lowest unemployment rate: 2.1%

The north-south divide shows in terms of long-term unemployment – or people have been out of work for more than 12 months – as well. While no Spanish regions are among the 10 with people who have been out of work for more than a year, seven of them are in Greece, which has the EU’s highest unemployment rate. The European Commission expects Greece to resume growth this year after a long period of recession and stagnation and a debt crisis that has led its creditors to demand deep public spending cuts, tax hikes and privatisation.

At the other extreme are Sweden and the United Kingdom, with four and five regions respectively among the 10 with the lowest number of long-term unemployed (below 20% of the total number of unwaged).

Monday, May 01, 2017

Over three hours

The Gala last night started just after 6:30 and lasted until nearly 10pm. The auditorium was packed as everyone wanted to see their friends and relatives perform. The Jubars started the show off in style and things progressed from there. Many of the performers were miming but it didn't matter because they were damn good.

Our neighbour Manuel brought tears of laughter to the faces of the audience with a great stand up comedy act. We just wish we could tell all that he was saying but I guess we'd have to be born here for that.